I’ve moved

I realize that I didn’t post anything on this site yet so just in case there are any of you that read my writings here, I wanted to share with you that I have moved.  It was time for something new – a new format, a new direction and new inspiration.  I was finding it hard to write in this space so I tweaked my direction a little and am trying something new.  Please come and join me at http://www.tomydearest.com/

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2013 Family pictures

I wanted to share our 2013 family pictures with all of you that follow my blog. Our 2013 photos were taken by the very talented Jenni Kupelian from Jarfly Photographs.  Thanks Jenni!









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2013 letter

So, Jim wrote our family Christmas letter this year and let’s just say he is going to have to do it from here on out – it was a whole lot better than mine from previous years!!  For anyone curious about our 2013 year in review letter, here it is:

Dearest Friends & Family,

OLIVIA LAINE: For those of you who have children, you understand how much change occurs between 6 months and 18 months. It’s difficult to describe the transformation from an infant to a toddler.  Olivia started the year a helpless sitting baby with sleeping issues, and ends the year a vibrant running toddler (with sleeping issues:-). We have yet to crack the Olivia-sleeping-code, but she has blossomed into a silly, cuddly, beautiful little lady with curly blonde locks, a contagious grin, and a heart melting hug. Olivia is fashionably late to everything: crawling, laughing, walking, teething… and she has yet (at 18 months) to clearly speak any meaningful words. But she is brilliant in her own observant way, always watching her older sisters and patiently learning how to take full advantage of being the baby. Most of you who have seen pictures need no explanation: she is a doll, and it is impossible not to love her.

MAYA LOUISE: This year has been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sort of year for Maya. For the first 8 months of this year we were worried about her. Her temper was getting out of hand, and we were beside ourselves on how to help her remain calm.  She would completely lose it at the drop of a dime and this girl really packs a punch! It really wasn’t until the start of preschool (and Maya’s 4th birthday just before that) when the tables finally turned.  After the first month or so of school, we asked her teachers at drop-off how she was doing, terrified of what we might hear. But what they told us completely shocked us: Maya was an angel. No problems. None. In fact, she was a leader and a great friend to all the little girls at the preschool, and was always helpful and volunteered whenever she could. I think Robin cried a little and I could not stop smiling when we heard this. When you’ve endured the storm and the sun shines again – there is no greater feeling in all of the world (you Californians wouldn’t understand:-) Maya can be the sweetest girl in the world (every morning before I leave for work she needs her “hug and a kiss”).  And she can also be very intense. We wouldn’t want her to be any other way and we are very proud of who she has become (and is becoming). On the lighter side, Maya is funny. Really funny. She is witty and creative and says things that make us all laugh out loud. (She takes after her father in that way:-)  She enjoys drawing, playing on the computer, singing and dancing, and trying to keep up with her older sister.

AMALEA LORAYNE: In the moments when I stop to remember that Amalea is blind in her left eye and is on anti-seizure medication for epilepsy – I am blown away at this girls resilience, her unrelenting joy and love of life, her creativity and wild imagination, her infectious and unique laugh, her never ending energy and her downright scary brilliance.  Most of us have not experienced half of what Amalea has in her 6 years on this planet, and yet most of us could not boast of the qualities that she contains. Amalea is constantly teaching us about life: enjoying it (through play and laughter), creating it (through art and make believe), sharing it (through empathy and love), and giving it back (through generosity, compassion, and teaching).  She definitely has her weaker moments (like any 6 year old girl) and her medication makes her very emotional – but she also possesses a wisdom that transcends her age.  She has always been this way. Surprising. Special. Unique. Gifted. As far as what she’s been through this year: she had her second major seizure in March (her third, maybe fourth overall) at which point we started her on Keppra (the miracle drug). We recently took her to a Neurologist at OHSU whom we really like and feel will help us understand her epilepsy and possible causes.  We will continue to hope and pray that ultimately she can get off of the medication and lead a life without the constant fear of spontaneous seizures. She started first grade at a new school this September, and although she moved states and said goodbye to friends she made in Santa Cruz, she picked up right where she left off and is thriving in school. She thoroughly enjoys reading, drawing, playing make-believe, riding her bike, playing with her neighbor friend, Stella, and our new cat Rojo.

ROBIN DAWN: For the record, this is Jim writing. And the reason this is Jim writing is because by 8pm every evening, Robin turns into a pumpkin and heads upstairs; exhausted. Only full-time parents can understand the exhaustion that comes from a full day with kids. And not just kids, three girls (whom hopefully you have read about:-). On a typical day, Amalea wakes up at 6am (guaranteed and on-the-dot), which, may or may not be before Olivia wakes up. Then there is the whining about breakfast and getting dressed and what to wear and diaper changing and lunch making and floor mopping and laundry cleaning and dish washing and food shopping and school drop-offs (which she walks most days, rain or shine) and more whining and Olivia planking and tantrums and crying and crying and crying, more pooping and NOW there’s a cat – so more pooping. You get the idea. Robin is a hero, and a role model, and the best darn momma and wife that ever existed (that may be a slightly biased opinion). Most of you who are women, and closer to our age, can understand how hard it is to give up your life and your career to become a full-time mom. Yet Robin, over the last year, has not only let go of her career as a respected and sought after teacher but also worked so hard at Mothering: understanding her kids and how to communicate with them, sleep schedules and meal plans, strollers and bicycles, breaking up arguments and getting two strong willed girls to coexist. Robin has embraced the title of “Mother”, and although I know she doubts herself in the hardest moments, I can confidently say that there is no other woman on this planet that I would rather have at home raising my daughters and whom I would want to parent with than Robin. There may not be a ton of academic or professional accolades to list for Robin this year, but I can only begin to describe the mother that she has become. Our girls are lucky. I am lucky. We are so proud of you – keep fighting the good fight.

JAMES KENNEDY: I will speak as myself here.  This year has been difficult. One of the hardest yet. At the start of the year I had recently taken a full-time position with petfinder.com as one of their main web developers.  It was a very stressful and difficult situation that demanded a ton of my time (and since the rest of the team was East Coast, some pretty strange hours at times).  At the same time, things seemed to be falling apart at the seams for me in Santa Cruz and we were beginning to prepare to move back to Portland.  Santa Cruz was exactly where we needed to be for the two years we were there (and I am so thankful to my in-laws for all that they did for us), and I can honestly say we tried to make it home – but you know a place is home when it beckons you and haunts you and you can think of nothing but it while you are away. That is what Portland did, for me and for Robin.  We decided to move back after school let out and I started to look for jobs in Portland. A month before we were to move, I was contacted by Jive Software (a Portland based software company) and offered a job I could not turn down. Given the circumstances (Amalea’s medical needs) it was the perfect opportunity to have something that offered amazing medical benefits and consistent pay.  It also meant that I would have to be gone from 7:30-5:30, Monday through Friday (something I was not used to, having worked from home for so long).  In the end, the good outweighed the bad and I started at Jive three days after arriving back in Portland. Immediately, there was a new wave of stress as the newly formed web team dove into redesigning the marketing site for Jive. It was a whirlwind of a first three months here in Portland, but now that it is over I can say with some certainty that I am in a very good, healthy, prosperous place. I am still getting used to the long hours (especially now that I leave when it is dark and get home when it is dark) but I am learning to carve out “special” time to spend with each of my four beautiful girls. Our house feels like a home again, and our family has settled into a routine. Life is good and as winter settles in, we are thankful for the rain and the wind that batters and beats us, that carves and shapes us, into stronger individuals and a closer family – and we long (as all NorthWesterners do) for when the Sun returns to us in Spring (I mean Summer. I mean hopefully before next Autumn.:-)

May Peace be with you,


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I’m not a fashion blogger. I’m probably not even a very stylish person, but for whatever reason when I turned 32 I had a little bit of a life crisis and during that time I started paying attention to fashion a little more. Even though I am a stay-at-home mom full time for the first time in my life, I want to feel good about my health and my body. I don’t want to live in sweats (not that it’s bad if you love sweats, but I’ve noticed its easier for me to feel “blue” if I don’t feel somewhat put together). So, my wonderful (and fashionable) BFF Nicole came over and I tried on every article of clothing I have. She told me yay or nay and I ended up with a giant bag of clothes to donate. Next, I went shopping! My mom, who spoils me even at age 32, bought me some new clothes and my husband, who loves me no matter what I wear, got me some stuff too. It’s been really fun to reconstruct my wardrobe and style. And it’s helped with my little life crisis (I’ve also organized weekly cleaning, chores and daily meals as well as began the deceptively delicious cooking for our family).

I also signed up for Stich Fix which is a really fun way to get help without having to leave home.  Let me be honest, shopping is not easy for me at all.  I usually have very limited time before one child starts to melt down so don’t really get to see if I like clothes or not.  Stich Fix assigns you a personal shopper and after filling out a fun (and for me, very enlightening) survey they send you 5 items.  I chose not to get jewelry and I did not ask for dresses.  I determined that my style is casual with a tiny bit of classic thrown in. I was nervous about the sizing, but was so pleased when I got my items and they all fit perfectly!  How is it that I spend 45 minutes trying on clothes and cannot find one thing that fits right and my stylist has never met or seen me and she finds me 5 things that fit perfect?!?

So, here are my 5 things.  First was a navy color blouse and while initially I thought “no way” I ended up really liking it.  I don’t own a blouse.  It’s not my style and I was really hesitant about the design on it.  I thought it looked a bit old lady-ish. Nicole, who came over as soon as I got my box, agreed, but when I put it on it fit really well and was super comfortable.  When Jim saw it he really loved it and pushed me to get it and try something new for me.


Next, was a diagonal striped sweatshirt.  I love that this is basically a hoodie, but just done a little different so it adds a different feel to a very relaxed style.  Apparently it is also slimming in the mid section!!


I love scarves and living in Portland I wear one often.  Last year I was very into the big chunky scarves, but this Fall I’ve gotten into the lighter look.  I also am obsessed with infinity scarves.  This nude colored scarf is so soft and not too bulky, yet super warm!  Loved it so much.


When I saw this top I was so excited.  It’s totally my style – loose and baggy, but still cute!  It fits awesome and is super soft.  I also love the dark green as I don’t have any of that in my closet.


Finally was the item I was waiting for.  I hate shopping for jeans.  I truly never find anything that fits and I have two pairs of jeans that I actually like and a few others that I wear because I need to, but I do not like them.  These skinny jeans are very comfortable and just the right size.  That blew my mind because really I try jeans on all the time and never find anything that fits right.  My stylist nailed it on the first attempt and I’ve already worn these jeans twice!


Ok, dorky self shot in the mirror with terrible lighting and not knowing what to do with my face, but here I am in the jeans, green top and scarf with my black boots.  I was so comfy.


I enjoyed my experience with Stitch Fix and will definitely do it again in the future.  If anyone is interested in trying it out, the cost is minimal and you are not obligated to do it more than once if you decided it wasn’t for you.  Here is a link you can use: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3251431





Cystic Fibrosis


When I was fairly young a family that my family knew well lost their child to Cystic Fibrosis – she was in high school.  I grew up knowing that her lungs had failed her and that even though she had a lung and heart transplant her body rejected those and she passed away.   I didn’t understand much of her disease, but I knew it was called Cystic Fibrosis or CF.  I remember thinking it was sad, but really it seemed so far removed for me.  In college, I was introduced to someone who would come to mean a lot to me, Emily Haager.  Emily also had CF and from her I learned all about her treatment, her medications and the severity of CF.  She taught me how to administer her treatment where I would literally hit her as hard as I could over and over until she started coughing and spitting up mucus.  It was so hard to watch, but I knew that hitting her actually helped.  After college she got a vest that helped to shake her and release that mucus.  She went on to be a public speaker and advocate for finding a cure for CF.  She lived a beautiful life, but it was cut way too short when she passed away in 2010.


My kids never had the chance to really get to know Emily and that makes me sad.  But I am committed to teaching them about CF so that they too can do whatever they can to find a cure.  While my kids did not know Emily, they have come to know a beautiful young woman by the name of Tess Dunn.  Tess was our neighbor in Santa Cruz and her family was a huge support/resource for me when Amalea started having seizures as Tess has epilepsy. Along with epilepsy, Tess also has diabetes and CF.

In July Tess and her mother and two other friends came to Portland as Tess was playing two shows (she is a beautiful singer/songwriter). It is so important to me that my kids have the chance to spend time with people who have a much different story from them and I am so thankful for the time they had to catch a glimpse of a life affected by CF.


IMG_3438The girls getting autographs from Tess

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Friendship: quality vs quantity

It used to be important to me that I had a lot of friends. In high school I prided myself on being accepted by multiple groups and if I’m honest I was proud to be on homecoming court because that meant a lot of people liked me. I was all about quantity and really I think I’ve been that way until recently. Even when we moved to Portland the first time, we got plugged into a church community and met a lot of people. When all those friendships fell apart I think I started to really look at the people around me with different eyes. I no longer craved being surrounded by lots of people and activity and instead I longed for a few who I really could share life with. When we then moved to Santa Cruz I really struggled with not connecting deeply with many people. I felt really out of place in many of my relationships there and that was hard for me. So, now here we are in Portland again and I finally see my friendships truly being about quality rather than quantity. Of course I understand that some people are fueled by having lots of friends and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But I do know that doesn’t work for me. I’m a person that needs to be known – not just the surface me, but the deep soulful passionate me. I need to be able to share all aspects of life with others. I need to be able to have shitty days and know that’s ok. I need to be able to talk deeply and honestly. That is where I get my fuel. So I look at my life now and while I may not be surrounded by a huge crowd, I’m so fulfilled by my few closest friends. I’m certainly open to making more friends and welcome all opportunities, however I’m looking for quality. Because for me personally quality is vital – it’s what I need.







I’ve had an interesting time transitioning to my role as a full time stay at home parent.  I’ve always worked at least part time, but after Olivia was born I left my job managing a tutoring company.  I decided to teach an online class and I am not really sure why.  It added more stress to my daily life and I honestly don’t think it was the best decision.  It’s hard though because I love teaching.  I truly believe that education has the ability to transform a person.  I believe that my role as a teacher goes well beyond just teaching reading and writing, but it is in my role as a teacher that I am able to mentor adolescents; to help them find their path in life, to help them discover their passions.

Through some amazing opportunities in Mexico, Dominican Republic and Kenya I have grown to really value the experience of a culture other than my own.  I want so badly for my kids to grow up serving in other countries – I do not want them to ever think that their life is the norm.  For much of the world, living in a nice home with two cars, a closet full of clothes and more food than they could even consume, is not the norm.  I want my kids to know that.  I want my kids to see that.  I want my kids to help those who are like them, but so different.  We are all humans, created and loved equally (don’t even get me started on how much I dislike the phrase “God Bless America”) and it is important that in the same way I work to provide the best for my three girls, I also work to provide the best for others.

These passion and convictions of mine are exactly why I am so excited about KUZA program.  Their motto is “Transformation Through Education”.  They provide scholarships to put kids in top schools to help break the cycle of poverty.  Their goal is to “release empowered and equipped young people back into their communities to affect change”.  They not only provide funds for schooling, but they provide emotional support and leadership training.  I love all of this.  It combines my love for education for young people (yes, I love education for kids too, but my passion is adolescents) and my love for developing nations and my passion to end poverty.

I share all of this because I am excited, but also in case any of you are looking for a way to give back – to make a difference in Uganda.  KUZA is always looking for more sponsors and a small team is actually headed to Uganda next week to visit the students.  My kids had a blast drawing pictures for the young man we get to sponsor.  We have had great conversations about him, his life, our lives, and why we are participating in this journey with him.  I am excited to see how I can further help KUZA and I would love to have some friends join me in helping to transform Uganda through this program.  Go check them out.  Sign up to sponsor a student.  Julius, pictured below, still needs a sponsor!!  Look at that face – help a brother out.


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A new chapter

I know it’s been awhile since I posted and it’s not that I don’t think of things to blog about, but sometimes it’s hard to sit down and actually write.  It’s been especially hard since we’ve been in the middle of a big move.  Not only the logistics of moving (packing, unpacking, purging), but all the emotions that go along with such a move have left me feeling like I needed a break from blogging.  I guess I didn’t want to process through everything so openly yet.

But, here I am.  I am good.  Really good.  We are back in Portland, OR and it feels like we are home.  It’s hard for me to put into words how that “home” feeling feels, but it feels good.  It feels natural.  It feels like we can settle and put down roots.  It feels like this new chapter for us is exactly the right chapter to be writing.  Jim has started a new full time job with a really great company.  I am staying home full time for now and as the girls get older I get to take them to a variety of activities that  excite and challenge them.  It’s been really neat to see their excitement and flexibility with our move.  I am constantly impressed with how they can go with the flow so well and how they never complain about all the changes.  I have so much to learn from my kids. I have decided that I will not teach this Fall.  I have been teaching an online class, but the break this summer has shown me that I need to and want to focus all my energy on the kids and helping them transition to new schools this Fall. I don’t want the extra stress of needing to grade papers and provide feedback to my students.  While there is still a big part of me that looks forward to that stress in the future, I think it is still another year or two away.  However, I do miss teaching reading and writing.  I love teaching and I love teenagers and I do miss it a lot.  But I know that this is not the right time. Not yet.

I am excited to sub and help out at Maya’s preschool and I am thrilled to support Amalea’s  year in first grade.  I am ecstatic about the time I will get with Olivia to help her continue to thrive (for those of you curious, she is a very happy little girl – we have come such a long way from the days of screaming and crying all day).  I have a lot to work on as a mother; being more patient, yelling less, letting things go, playing more with them.  I am looking forward to focusing on my parenting and not having the stress of teaching get in the way.

For those of you that know me well, you are wondering how I am going to not have an outlet.  Well, of course I will have an outlet!!!  I am super excited about the KUZA program I got connected with that works to provide quality higher education to young leaders in Uganda.  I will blog more about that in the next few days.  I also have the opportunity to return to wedding coordinating with Champagne Wedding Coordination and I am looking forward to that fun outlet on the weekends here and there.

Thank you to everyone that has supported us in our move. Friends and family from Santa Cruz and Portland have been so wonderful and we are incredibly thankful for all the love!

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Fear in parenting

Recently, I was taking a walk with a girlfriend talking about all the stuff we were dealing with regarding Amalea’s health.  We had two big appointments (yearly check-ins with her vision doctor and her seizure doctor) and I was in the midst of researching the use of essential oils in treating seizures. She had just started taking anti-seizure medication and we were monitoring her really close to see how she would react to it. It hit me all of a sudden that my daughter has some special needs. Yes, her needs are not very severe at all, but she does have special needs that we have to be aware of.  Her epilepsy and blindness have not slowed her down at all and she is a thriving and fantastic little girl. I guess it is because of that, that I don’t even realize she has anything extra that we need to be watching.

It hit me again the other day when my wonderful neighbor in Portland sent me this text, “Can you recommend a book or website I can check out so I can be as educated as possible about Ami and her health? I want her to be able to be over here and in the best possible situation to take good care of her”.  Right after Amalea’s third seizure I connected with another mom at her elementary school who has a daughter in 5th grade with pretty severe epilepsy.  She gave me some advice that has really stuck with me. She told me that she wished she allowed her daughter to spend more time with her friends from school and that she had not been so afraid to educate other parents.  She had allowed her daughter to do sleep overs at family members homes, but she was never allowed to stay at a friends house and she said she can tell that her daughter is not as close to the kids from school.  It struck me how much fear drives how we parent.  It’s the same fear that causes me to sit on the edge of the swimming pool during Amalea’s swim lessons – just in case. It’s the same fear that has caused me to only leave her with people I really trust (4 people to be exact) and even then only very rarely over night (well, and her teachers at school – I trust them, but I have also filled out a lot of forms and told them exactly how I want any emergency handled).

I don’t want to hover over my children and I don’t want my fears to drive how I parent.  I want them to be free.  I want Amalea to live just like any other 5 year old.  That is who she is.  I don’t want her to be defined by her blindness or by her epilepsy. She is a spunky, quirky, ocean and beach loving, incredibly friendly, sweet natured, artistic, music and dance loving, video game playing, swimming addict, total book worm kid.  Those are the things that define her.  Her love for people drives her.  The other day she asked me if when we move we could rent our house here for free so that all the people without homes who don’t have money would have a place to live. She loves.  She cares deeply and she can’t stand to see people hurting.  If I am too afraid to let her live and experience life then she won’t understand that injustices exists and that it is our job as humans to fight injustice and to love.  If I am too afraid she won’t be allowed to pursue the things she is passionate about – books, the ocean, music, art, video games.  She is at that age where I can sign her up for day camps and drop her off, where she can spend they day at a friends house without me – but I have to let my fears go so that she can truly live the life she wants.

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1 year, but really 5.5

Today marks one year since Amalea had her first seizure.  I call that night the worst night of my life (I posted about it here) and one year later I still consider that to be true. Even though she has had 2 more seizures that first one – one year ago today – will forever be etched in my memory.  I was reading my post about it and realized how I still remember every little detail from that night. My dad standing in the kitchen holding Maya, my mom standing in the street waiting for help, Jim cradling Amalea as she seized, me clutching the phone frantically talking to the 911 operator hoping that my water would not break.  All of us worried and panicked and so so scared.

Every time I see an ambulance with it’s lights on, my stomach drops.  I know that feeling of waiting for help to arrive.  I’ve waited 3 times.

Today is not a one year anniversary I am particularly happy to “celebrate” and yet it is a day that is significant for our family.  We still have so many questions and there may not ever be answers (I heard that 70% of the time you never know what causes seizures).  The thing is, this fear about Amalea’s health did not start just one year ago.  Her journey and special health needs actually started when she was just 2 weeks old.

When Amalea was just 2 weeks old her pediatrician found that a light did not reflect when shined in her eye as it should. They sent us the next day to the hospital for a CT scan as it was possible that she had a brain tumor.  I will forever remember that 30 minute drive on a Saturday morning (my 26th birthday – October 20) to the hospital as I sat next to my beautiful 2 week old baby.  I was so scared and confused.  My body was still a wreck from her traumatic birth and now there was a possibility that she had a tumor. Luckily, the scan was clear.  Further testing showed that she had a retinal hemorrhage and that hemorrhage was removed through surgery when she was 6 weeks old.  I will forever remember sitting in her hospital room as they wheeled my 6 week baby away to put her under full anesthesia.  Then we sat and waited – waited for her to return, waited to hear how it went, waited to hold our precious baby girl.

I share all of that to say that Amalea has had quite a journey in her 5.5 years of life.  There are scary moments that I will forever remember, but they are all moments that we have come through.  That she has come through.  She is resilient and truly if you didn’t know this part of her story you may never know she has seizures or that she is blind in her left eye.  I am so thankful for that.  I am thankful that she won’t remember a lot of the scary parts of her journey.  They are more of a burden for Jim and I to bare at this point. And that is ok. She doesn’t need to deal with all these scary realities yet – she just needs to play and be free and fall more in love with life.  That is her job for now.  It is our job to research medicine and treatments and determine what is best for her.  We are her parents and we will do everything we can for our sweet Amalea.

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