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Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post written by my sister, Tiffany. This is the fourth time Tiffany has been featured on my blog. In July 2012, I shared Tiffany’s six-year journey through significant addiction and mental illness; it was the first post I published on this blog. In December 2013, I posted an update and shared why I felt called to continue writing Tiffany’s story from my perspective as sister. Later that month, following the birth of her second child, I published another post loaded with pictures of the special day. Today, I’ve invited Tiffany to share about her life from HER perspective, in her own words. My hope is that readers will gain a heightened awareness of and sensitivity to mothers and families facing unique life circumstances.


They’re angels. Nobody is hurting and everything is ok. I drop from a plane through the floor, drift at a rapid speed through the clouds. Knowing I’ve been told I’m not going to hit the ground, but not trusting that fact until my parachute comes out. And slowly, I fly back to that quiet place of no hurting or pain, just being.

I am a 34-year-old single mother to two beautiful children. My daughter is almost four years old, and my son is five months old. I have a mental health diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, Unspecified Neurocognitive Disorder, ADHD and Panic Disorder. I dealt with some significant traumas between 2004 and 2010, but life seemed to fall into order when my daughter, Raegan, was born. A sense of genuine purpose was now in my life. Since having kids, I’ve realized I must be strong for them.



I rarely have moments when life seems perfectly clear and obvious. The struggles I have on a daily basis are in my mind. My mind is typically racing in a million ways, with a million thoughts. I’d say my biggest struggles are trust and fear. These are personal downfalls I hope to overcome because I can’t do everything myself. I do trust a few people, but I need to develop an even greater sense of trust. Fear seems to run my life; the constant voices in my mind tell me something horrible is going to happen. My psychologist says that my anxiety helps me be a more cautious person, which can be both positive and detrimental. That being said, I’ve never wanted to change the life God gave me. Never have! I’m able to control my mental illness through medication and proper support. I have learned to understand my mental illness, its triggers and cycles. I apply this knowledge to my daily schedule, taking one day at a time.

The best part of the day is waking up to my kids, eager for another day. The typical day consists of waking up, feeding the kids, making coffee, then taking my medications. We usually talk, sing, dance and play. We tend to find humor amongst our daily duties. We then attend appointments and school and hang out with family and friends. We have a routine, and we’re used to our life. We know no different than what we have.

I live for my kids – for them to be happy, for them to experience life in a way I was never able to because of my mental illness. To know that you’ve been told that everything is going to be fine, just trust that safety will rescue you in any situation. So many nights I wait on call, kind of like a nurse, listening for every breath. Me as their safety, as long as I can be.



The most difficult aspect of being a single mom with a mental illness is wondering if I should have or could have done something different. Though I am doing my best, was I selfish to bring two souls into this world? I feel they selected me to be their mom, but am I everything I could be? Anxiety fills my life, including the thought of losing the kids, them being out of my control, them getting hurt and not being accepted. My kids have been through a lot during their short time on earth, and I only see them growing stronger through each experience. They seem to know just what to say and do. I did not chose to be single or mentally ill. I am living with what God gave me, and I will continue to teach my children to do the same.

I often feel as though others are watching me a little closer and may have negative assumptions about how I am parenting or acting. The extra responsibility that comes with being the only provider, the only nurturer and the only disciplinarian results in additional stress. I never hesitate to ask for help, and I connect with others all the time. Having time to vent is not just a luxury, but a necessity. Prioritizing is key. I focus my energy on what’s important for my family. I always let my children know that I love them and face my mental illness with courage.

I am always working on becoming a stronger person. The support I receive and have chosen to utilize keeps me moving forward.

My dad and mom are consistently there for me. They help physically, mentally and with my finances. They are in the process of training me to be a good parent and to run a household. They are there when I need a few hours in my own world, or need help organizing, cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry. I started receiving disability years ago and mom helps with my finances; she gives me money when needed and pays my bills each month. There is an agency in charge of taking care of financial issues as needed. My mom and dad have also, by example, taught me how to be a nurturing parent. While my mom helps with my laundry and some cooking, she is mostly there for emotional support. My mom and dad both enjoy playing with my kids. My mom enjoys teaching the kids and my dad enjoys the play. Raegan’s favorite activity with grandpa is swinging in his man cave in the garage. My parents don’t like to take on the role of disciplinarian because they want to be grandparents. I never expected to be so dependent on my mom and dad, but I am. They are, in turn, training me. One day, I will have to take over all duties on my own. For now, we appreciate and love them for all they are and all they do. My mom and dad add additional love to our lives and help us in ways unimaginable.




Annie is a tarot card reader and likes to be called “intuitive.” She balances my energy. She seems to always reassure me that everything is going to work out. I see Annie when needed. She always tells me to give what I can. Recently, the lovers card appeared on the bottom of the deck; the bottom card may elude to an issue that is on the client’s mind. She also confirmed that my mom and dad and kids are going to be ok, a worry I often have. She has brought light into my often dark mind.


Michelle is my mental health worker. When she first started working with me in 2008, she thought of me as an introverted, self-absorbed hippie. Years later, I am somewhat of an extrovert, with a reason to live. Years later, I consider Michelle a good friend. She has been there for me once a week for years. She is there to listen to me vent and to give feedback, to attend appointments, to hang out and to help me prepare for life. The goal is to eventually stop utilizing the service she offers, but I am not prepared for that at this time. Maybe in the future?

MichelleJen and Courtney work for Greater Minnesota Family Services. They provide extra support for struggling families and focus on social-emotional well being. We have home visits with them weekly. Raegan will be attending sessions with them once a week this summer.


Jessica works for Early Head Start. She worked with me through pregnancy and now with Xander. She comes to our house once a week. Raegan was in Early Head Start until she was three. She now attends Headstart preschool and will go there until kindergarten.


My kids are my strongest support system. They teach me to never give up on life!

In my world, I fear rejection. Maybe it all comes from not getting invited to a party when I thought I would be? Maybe it’s hearing no, when I thought it’d be a yes. Maybe it’s the fact that sometimes we win, and yes, sometimes we do not.

I hold on to what I can.

I follow my heart in whatever I do.

What I’ve learned from my experiences in life, I hope to pass down to my children. There is a place for everyone in life. You may not always be center stage, nor want to be. Try everything. Be scared! Be scared of consequences, but do not live your life scared.

So I move forward with optimism, knowing that I am someone and I am loved. Knowing that people need me and want to be around me. My mental illness and being single are part of me, but they do not define who I am as an individual.

We were at the laundromat doing laundry with mom. Mom said my laundry looked like a schizophrenic person, so much piled up. I need to work on that. Smile. There was a guy in the laundromat that appeared to be interested in our situation. We talked a bit and I ended up leaving the place. Raegan wanted to stay with mom and was running around and climbing on high chairs. My anxiety heightened, but I tried to stay calm. The obsessive thought of her falling backwards and cracking her head open persisted in my mind. I’ve been thinking about her drowning all day. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children in the United States. I’m not labeled as OCD but the thoughts are intense. Relief, each and every time that no accident occurs. Waiting for disaster. That guy, he continued to ask my mom about my interests as Raegan was screaming at me to leave the laundromat and I’d checked on her three plus times. Mom was inside our place helping put away the laundry. She helps us a lot, and I know that I’m learning from her. We learn, we figure everything out. Two kids scream in the back seat. “Xander stop,” says Raegan. He keeps looking at me. Tears flow out of my eyes. I think of the friendly guy in the laundromat who said “you look like you need some help.” Or the smile from the person beside my car today. The car ride is now over. Raegan gets out and says, “Mom, I love you.” It makes everything worth all the madness. The feeling again, dropping at a fast speed, knowing everything is going to be fine.



I have worked with Tiff for over four years. When we first began, she was single and a free spirit. She had little to no focus to her life. She was in several relationships but was not committed to any one of them. She moved to Mankato, and we lost contact. Approximately one year after she moved, I ran into her at a coffee shop. Her entire demeanor had changed. She told me she had a baby and wanted to work with me again. She had changed her life completely. She has her focus, which appears to be her family (her children and herself). She continues to have her glitches at times, but she asks for help when she needs. She has matured and grown into a loving, caring mother and person. Written and contributed by Michelle, Tiffany’s mental health worker 

*This post wraps up a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled where we’ve explored the joys and challenges of mothering. To check out the series, click here and read to the bottom where all the posts are listed and linked. If you’re new to the blog, welcome! I’m glad to have you here! Feel free to explore the rest of the site at your leisure.














There comes a time when you realize your babies aren’t babies anymore.

Remember when it first happened, mom? That moment you realized your baby was growing up before your eyes? You went to lift him out of the crib and suddenly he seemed much bigger than he did before nap time. You wondered what happened. How in the world did he get this big without me noticing?

Remember that first day you dropped her off at daycare, that first time you left her with a babysitter, that first time you left her at grandma and grandpa’s house overnight? All the days she’d lived flashed before your eyes. You wondered if things would ever be the same. When you returned, she seemed bigger, a little more independent than she did before you dropped her off.

Remember those open houses and first days of school when you met his teacher for the first time? It took all you had to keep those tears from flowing down your face, didn’t it, mama? The way the teacher kneeled down right at his level, the way she showed him around the classroom, the way he peeked inside his desk and locker for the first time, it made you realize he was a big boy now, all grown up, ready for anything big boys do.

Remember the most ordinary of days, when your baby plopped down on your lap and you realized she wasn’t a baby, she wasn’t a toddler, and she wasn’t even much of a little girl anymore? Her feet were nearly as big as yours, and she’d been asking when she could wear a sports bra. It was a little easier to envision her all grown up now; you caught a glimpse of what she’ll be like when she’s driving, dating, going to college.

Remember the day you got that letter from school saying it’d soon be “the day?,” the day they had “the talk?” And he came home with a brochure stating in clear English that he’d be turning into a man soon? And you noticed some of the girls his age are wearing bras and it scared you to death? Ya, that.

Remember the moment you realized you’re going to spend the rest of your life realizing your babies aren’t babies anymore?

How in the world do I have a son old enough to drive a car…by himself?!

And why, oh why, do I suddenly find myself the mother of a teenage girl who’s going to prom?

Where did the time go? My baby’s off to college. And now, instead of baking after-school chocolate chip cookies, I’m sending care packages.

And please tell me, how in the world am I supposed to not break down sobbing when my baby girl stands in front of the mirror with a wedding dress on? Or when my son stands at the end of the aisle smiling at his bride-to-be?

Oh, sweet day. Where did the time go? Those grandbabies, so sweet and precious. How is it possible that my baby’s having a baby? What’s a grandmama to do but love on those little ones to the moon and back? Because who doesn’t love a second chance to love on your babies all over again?

Time. It goes on.

Love. It never ends.

We wonder if we’ll ever get the days back. We won’t.

For most of us, our babies aren’t babies anymore.

But we love on them dearly, even so, even more.

Because we’re moms for such a time as this.

We suffer, we sacrifice, we ache and we cling.

We love and we dote, we treasure and we sing.

For our babies aren’t babies anymore. But our babies, they’ll always be.


*This post is part of a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled. To read more from this series, click here and read to the bottom where all the posts are listed and linked!







I have zero tolerance for brat behavior from my children. Period.

I have no patience for it, none at all.

Want to offend the core of who I am? Demonstrate brat behavior.

Want to risk having all privileges stripped from your life? Demonstrate brat behavior.

Want to make me cringe to my bones? Demonstrate brat behavior.

Want me to be embarrassed beyond belief? Demonstrate brat behavior.

Want to humble me, make me realize this motherhood thing is serious, serious business? Demonstrate brat behavior.

Harsh, I know.

But brat behavior is something I don’t take lightly. The slightest offense and the most outright one are all the same in my book.

I’m fully aware that my children are privileged. They have everything they need. And between Christmas and birthdays, they get a lot of the things they want.

Sure, the 11-year-old wants a Xbox, a television in his room, and his own phone. Sure, the 9-year-old wants an iPod, her own iPad and another American Girl Doll. But let’s be realistic, these things are NOT necessities! And I’m not interested in getting them for my children anytime soon.

I want my children to be kind, humble, grateful, giving and other-oriented.



So moms, how should we respond when our children demonstrate even an ounce of brat behavior? Let me suggest five ways.

1. Determine an appropriate consequence for your child’s brat behavior. In other words, do not ignore the offense, but instead determine the best way to let your child know their behavior was unacceptable. Did they leave their birthday present on the ground and neglect to say thank you to grandpa and grandma? Well, maybe they don’t get birthday cake then, and maybe they need to spend the night in their room. Did they demand you get them that bowl of cereal or glass of lemonade? Maybe they need to try again using kinder words, or maybe they need to get the bowl of cereal or glass of lemonade themselves.

2. Put your child to work. Get them helping around the house. Enlist them in helping with dinner, setting the table, cleaning up the table, and picking up the snack wrappers they left all over the house. Make them clean their room, even if they don’t like it. Make them help you with 20 minutes of yard work, even if they think it’s the “dumbest thing ever.”

3. Get your child outdoors. As far as I’ve observed, children are most creative and least bratty when they’re outdoors engaging in child play. Bring them to the playground, give them some chalk and let them write all over the driveway, buy some water balloons from the dollar store and let them fill them up to their heart’s desire, encourage them to take their scooters and bikes out for a ride, or maybe, just maybe, let them get bored for once and they’ll come up with something really cool to do!

4. Encourage your child to serve others. And if it doesn’t come naturally, set up a service opportunity. Is there garbage all over the road leading to your neighborhood? Get garbage bags and go clean it up with your child. Is there an opportunity to serve others in need through your church or a local nonprofit? Sign up. Does grandma need someone to wipe the table and get buns from the freezer? Assign your child to those tasks.


5. Create space for margin in your life. Perhaps your child is tired, worn out, overstimulated. Stop doing. Stop going. Stop buying. Get quiet. Get close. Get near. Wonder, just wonder, what it would be like if you and your child chilled out and just enjoyed life togetherwithout things, without special activities, without once in a lifetime opportunities. What if it’s not MORE they need, but LESS?

Moms, I certainly don’t have this problem solved, and I’m most definitely NOT a perfect mom. My goal is simply to reduce (and ideally eliminate) the undesired brat behaviors my children exhibit from time to time. Because even an ounce of brat behavior makes me realize that motherhood is serious, serious business.

We’re raising human beings who will one day become adults. And the last thing we want to create is entitled adults. Right?

If nothing else, may this post help you realize you’re not alone. Or maybe you’ve read something that will make you think twice next time your child demonstrates brat behavior and you’re wondering how to respond.

As moms, it’s our privilege and responsibility to raise children that are respectful, honoring, giving and grateful. So are you ready moms? Let’s fight to instill these values in our children. Because it’s worth every ounce of effort we’re willing to give.


*This post is part of a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled. To read more from this series, click here and read to the bottom where all the posts are listed and linked!



When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a ballerina one day. Ballerinas were graceful, beautiful and precise. Something about that combination was alluring to my little girl heart.

There was just one problem. I’d never taken a day of ballet in my entire life. And I wasn’t about to anytime soon.

While I didn’t get to do ballet, I did do dance. Mom enrolled me in dance line. And for that, I’m grateful.

All my friends were in dance. We kicked and grooved to good old 80s tunes like “We Built This City,” “Splish Splash,” and “Uptown Girl.” We wore skirted royal blue leotards with a white stripe and matching gloves, because groovy tunes require groovy gear, you know!

My memories of dance were positive. In fact, I don’t have one negative memory from all my years of dance. Somewhere along the way, however, my participation in tennis, band and choir prohibited me from continuing with dance. But my secret desire and passion for dance never went away.

In high school, I loved school dances. I never understood why people wanted to leave early, and hated when dad set my curfew before dances were done. In college, I had no problem literally dancing the night away at fraternity parties, and took my fair share of Jazzercize classes. When I went to graduate school and became a wife and mom, I missed the dancing life because truth be told, it was nonexistent at that point. So when I joined a gym shortly after our second baby was born, I found a hip hop class and faithfully attended once a week for a couple years.

Eventually, reality set in. While in my heart of hearts, I still thought it would be amazing to be a ballerina…well…now I just fantasized about being a professional backup dancer for big name singers like Britney Spears and Ricky Martin, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Realistic, right? Because THAT was ever going to happen?!

So when our oldest daughter indicated interest in dance, I had no problem enrolling her promptly!

In preschool, she took dance all year. She was with all of her friends, and was perfectly happy. But from my perspective as a parent, I wasn’t so pleased with the professionalism and organization of the studio, nor were some of the other parents, so most, if not all of her friends left that studio.

DSC03136The summer before kindergarten, I moved her to a different studio that was much larger and more established. She started out loving it, but her enjoyment waned quickly. The simple fact was that NONE of her friends were at that studio, and since she’s a social butterfly, she needed connection with friends in order for it to be a positive experience. By Christmas, she was burned out and wanted to quit. It took all I had to let her drop dance after the Christmas recital (particularly since we’d already paid $150 for two spring recital costumes that were non-refundable) but I allowed it anyway, because it seemed silly to force a kindergartener to do something she didn’t enjoy all that much.


In first grade, she took the year off from dance. I have to admit, it was an unprecedented parenting moment to realize my daughter’s friends were continuing with dance at other studios while my daughter sat idle.

The summer before second grade, she connected with one of her neighbor friends who had started dance at another large studio nearby. Our schedules meshed, so we enrolled my daughter in the same class as her neighbor friend. They took dance together all year and this time around, she enjoyed it very much. I was convinced, yet again, it was all about the friendship factor for my daughter (this, something I TOTALLY didn’t understand as an introvert)! And did I mention I loved most everything about that studio?


This year, in third grade, our family schedule didn’t mesh with our neighbor’s schedule, so the girls weren’t able to enroll in class together. Still, I was able to convince her to go ahead and try it on her own since she had acclimated to the studio and had gotten to know other girls. Fortunately, a couple girls from her class last year were also in her class this year; I’m certain that made all the difference. But still, dance this year has been okay, fine. She hasn’t complained a ton, but she hasn’t loved her teacher either. While she’s improved at dancing by leaps and bounds, she hasn’t seemed totally overjoyed by it either. And the past couple of months, she’s talked about wanting to quit.


So I surrendered to reality, yet again. I wasn’t going to be a ballerina. I most certainly wasn’t going to be a professional back up dancer. And now, there was a great possibility I wasn’t even going to be a “professional” dance mom.


But just as I’d surrendered to the possibility of her quitting dance next year, just 10 days before the spring dance recital, she says she might want to switch dance studios next year. “AGAIN,” I say?! “REALLY?” Yep. She might want to go back to the studio she was at in kindergarten, because it turns out a few of her friends go there now, and she’d like to dance with them on the competitive line.

Alrighty then.

So I call the studio, the one we were at when she was in kindergarten, and ask about their programming for fourth grade girls. My daughter promises she’ll talk to her friends and get their parents’ phone numbers so we can see which preparatory camps they’re taking this summer.

And that night, I hear her in the shower. She’s dancing, repeating the names of dance steps “shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change.”

I smile to myself.

I wonder, maybe I’ve gone about this all wrong. Maybe for her it’s all about friends first, then dance. For me, it’s all about dance first, and if friends happen to show up on the radar, then fine.

And I realize, motherhood isn’t an opportunity to live vicariously. In fact, the blessing, the beauty of motherhood, is that you have the opportunity to help your child realize their hopes and dreams for their life (and every once in a while, their dreams might happen to coincide with your dreams).

So I sit in a place of peace and resolve, understanding it’s all about friends for my daughter. She’s a social butterfly. And while I don’t understand her extraordinary need to socialize in every thing at every moment, I do need to work within that frame of reference to help her flourish as an individual. Always. Yes, always.


The high school girls are dancing; they’re wild, free, in synch. As I pass by with toddler in tow, I linger by the window, peering in, just as I’ve done so many nights as I wait for my daughter’s dance practice to end. I hear the beat. I feel it down to my bones. The toddler toddles on and it takes every fiber of my being to pull myself away from that window. Because all I really want to do is step right in.

Let me dance. Let me be free. Let me get lost in the rhythm, in the beat. Let me live the life of a dancer.

But I move on, step away. Because now’s not the time. So I set another goal. One day, I’ll try on ballerina. One day, I’ll try on back up dancer. And I won’t be much good at it, but I’ll love it. I’ll absolutely love it.

Then, in heaven, when I’m hangin’ with all the writers and musicians (just like I told you I would), I’ll put on my real dancing shoes and join all the dancers, too. Then, yes then, I’ll be a professional. Wild, free, in synch with the One who creates all the rhythms, all the beats. It will be awesome, everything I imagined and more.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find my daughter dancing right along with me.   


*This post is part of a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled. To read more from this series, click here and read to the bottom where all the posts are listed and linked!


When she breaks out the tubes of chapstick and it’s all good and dandy fun until you walk by the front door to discover the chapstick’s all over the window….bless the mess.


When it feels like you just wiped that stainless steel fridge door clean, and then you look down to white handprints all over it…bless the mess.



When your dear husband put the shoes away neat and tidy in the shoe bucket and in rows on metal shelves in the mud room closet, and then you find them strewn all over the place all over again…bless the mess. 


When you JUST got all those toys picked up – back in the basket, back on the shelf, back in the toy box – but before you know it, they’re everywhere, all over the place…bless the mess, just bless the mess.


When there’s laundry to do, like piles and piles of laundry that just won’t stop, and pieces just keep showing up here and there and everywhere, and you keep pushing it through and pushing it through but it never seems to end…bless the mess.


When you can’t seem to get out from under that kitchen table – it’s where everything goes that just came in, where everything goes that’s gonna go back out, where everything goes that’s gotta go somewhere – it’s just a table full of things that need to be managed by a mama…bless the mess.


When there’s peanut butter globs and crunched up crackers strewn with orange pieces, and the chairs are full of it too…bless the mess, just bless the mess.


When the sink never seems to clear of half-eaten cereal bowls, unrinsed yogurt cups, peanut butter knives, milky sippy cups, greasy pans, and used up coffee grains…bless the mess.


When the grass stains, mustard stains, mud stains, chocolate stains, marker stains, grease stains, red kiddy lipgloss stains, and just about everything else stains won’t stop…bless the mess, just bless the mess.


When the mail pile never goes down, and you keep working and working at it, but for some reason, it just never, ever goes away like you want it to…bless the mess.


When you finally do manage to get that mess picked up and it’s all clean just the way you want it (let’s say once or twice a year?!), but it’s back to mess in a matter of minutes anyway….bless the mess, mama.


When you realize the mess for what it is – proof you’re living, proof you’re human, proof you’re mama, proof you have beautiful little and bigger ones roaming the halls of that home…bless the mess, just bless the mess.


*This post is part of a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled. To read more from this series, click here and read to the bottom where all the posts are listed and linked!

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