A few weeks after Thomas was born in June of 2011, I embarked on a quest to connect with other mothers of children with Down syndrome. I needed to not feel so alone in our family’s new journey. A few coffee and lunch dates later, I started to feel like having a child with Down syndrome wasn’t so rare after all. There are lots of people out there living (happily and fully!) as a parent of a child with Ds. The women I met with will never know how much it meant to me to hear their words of encouragement and, honestly, to see how their lives seemed pretty normal (whatever that means, right?).

Two of these women said something to me that I’ve thought about A LOT since then, especially lately. They both told me that they wouldn’t change their children for anything. At the time, it took me aback. How could you not wish your child didn’t have Ds?

Let me get something straight here: Chad and I have accepted Thomas EXACTLY as he is from the moment he was born. Before we even knew his Down syndrome diagnosis, we loved him for the person he is and the person he was going to become. The Ds diagnosis that came a few hours after he was born didn’t change that. I say this from the deepest part of me. There has not been a single moment in his life that I didn’t accept him.

That said, when he was a teeny, tiny baby, before I knew his awesome personality, before I’d seen his winning smile, before he had hugged me or blown me a kiss, I often wished he didn’t have Ds. It was going to cause such challenges in his life. People might not understand him. He was going to be “different.”

It made me mad that these women told me they didn’t wish their sons were any different. How could they say that? How could they be so naïve? Down syndrome can cause intellectual delays, physical issues, muscle weakness, heart defects, and the list goes on. How can you wish that on your child?

Well, I get it now. And I’m totally on board. I fully accept Thomas for who he is, as I always have. But now, I wouldn’t change a thing about him. {Ok, that’s a lie. I wish he didn’t have Hirschsprung’s Disease. Google it. Another story, another day.} But, I truthfully don’t think about him not having Ds. I don’t wish he didn’t. I’m not mad that he has it. IT’S WHO HE IS. And, I love him…every part of him…every chromosome of his…even that 21st one. They make him. And, he’s amazing. And Thomas wouldn’t be Thomas without that 21st chromosome.

I get it, ladies. I get it. And, I agree with you now. I wouldn’t change my boy for anything.

Thomas - age 3.5

Thomas – age 3.5


A Very Merry Raphael Christmas

I’m sitting here sipping hot apple cider and reflecting on the last couple of weeks.  It has been such a wonderful mix of Christmas merriment, relaxation, QT with my family, and getting some items knocked off my always-too-long to-do list. As much as this holiday has served to recharge us all for the first quarter of 2015, I think we’re going to struggle to get back into the swing of things (What do you mean I can’t sleep until 9a and wear my jammies all day?,” says every member of the Raphael family … well, except Chad, who actually went to work for a few days last week.).

Here are some of our photos from the holiday. I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season like we did!

The Raphael kids on Christmas morning

The Raphael kids on Christmas morning (best I could get)

Campbell loves to help in the kitchen -- here she is making Christmas cookies

Campbell loves to help in the kitchen — here she is making Christmas cookies

Decorating Christmas cookies

Decorating Christmas cookies

Cleaning the carrots for the reindeer (can you tell she's a little excited?)

Cleaning the carrots for the reindeer (can you tell she’s a little excited?)



Santa came!

Santa came!

Campbell and the Barbie 4-wheeler

The playhouse

Campbell deemed the new playhouse “the condo.”


Baby 4-wheeler

See saw

Caroline and her little wagon

Caroline and her little wagon

Delta wants Santa's leftovers sooo bad

Delta wants Santa’s leftovers sooo bad

My sweet niece, Sadie

My sweet niece, Sadie

Thomas getting some good cuddles from Uncle Joe

Thomas getting some good cuddles from Uncle Joe

Lots of eating is Caroline eating Granddaddy's Christmas cake

Lots of eating happened…here are Caroline and Sadie eating Granddaddy’s Christmas cake

We also had a great family date on New Year’s Eve! The Raphael Five went to dinner and then came home to play games, watch movies, and ring in the New Year together. Campbell and Thomas even made it to midnight!

Girls ready to go to dinner

Girls ready to go to dinner

New Year's Eve games

New Year’s Eve games

A Frozen New Year's Eve

A Frozen New Year’s Eve

Working mom guilt…and why I don’t have it

What is this working mom guilt everyone speaks of? I hear about it often – in the articles flooding my Facebook newsfeed, in the parenting blogs that seem to post about it constantly, in the chitter chatter among my friends.

I don’t have it. I feel like the oddball, but I simply do not feel guilty for having a career. I am a working mom of three kids, and I don’t for one second feel guilty about that.

For me, working is part of being a good mom. I work FOR my children…to be responsible for them…to give them a better life. I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve gotten the pity stare when I tell people I have three young children AND I work full-time. I don’t understand this, and I certainly don’t need pity. I’m proud of what I do, and I’m confident in the kind of mom that I am.

Here are the reasons I have maintained a career while (gasp) also being a mom.

Setting an example for my children: I know my kids are a long time away from understanding this, but I’d like to think that, over the years, I’ll be showing them through my actions that women are a critical and valuable part of the workforce. I also hope to instill some work ethic into them…the same work ethic my parents instilled in me.

Multitasking: I enjoy having lots to do. Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! Well, I’ve certainly achieved this and then some. I honestly have much more on my plate than I can even manage, but I really do need lots going on to feel successful and engaged.

Satisfaction: I like to work. Really, I do. Now, I’m not saying that I’d be working if I won the Powerball, but since my chances of winning that are one in a bazillion, I will stick by my statement that I like to work. I need a challenge outside of the home to feel satisfied. And, I like my job. I get to work with some really fun, really smart people who teach me something new everyday.

Thrill of the challenge: I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I get from working. I don’t get this same sense from housework or craft projects (uhhh…not sure I’ve ever even done one). Sure, I get all kinds of thrills being with my kids, but they are at preschool all day. I need the challenge of my job to keep me going.

Sanity/relaxation: I used to think I had a super stressful job. Then, I had three kids. Now, sometimes being at work is relaxing. I can dress in nice clothes that (most of the time) don’t have spit up or mashed-up food or worse on them and drink a cup of coffee in my quiet office. I might as well be at a day spa.

Money: Hello? I work for money. Don’t most people? I need a paycheck. We are more comfortable as a two-income family. It makes us feel more secure. We crave security because we have three little ones running around who are 100 percent dependent on us. I sleep better at night knowing we have two paychecks coming in.

My family is my priority in life. They know that, and I am confident of that fact. My kids are not deprived because I have a career. They are loved SO much. I truly enjoy my children and spend pretty much every moment with them when I am not working. We’re eating dinner together, reading bedtime stories, going for walks, swinging on the playset, swimming in the pool, watching movies, doing all the things kids love to do. Our evenings and weekends are filled with memorable moments (and, yes, tons of chores and errands).

Love and fun. This is what I want my kids to remember about their childhoods, and I know they will. And, hopefully, they will remember that their mother (and father, for that matter) worked really hard to make it happen.


Help me spread the word to end the word

The R word.

I’ve said it. You’ve said it. It’s OK. I don’t beat myself up about it, and you shouldn’t either. But let’s get educated, stop staying it, and encourage others to do the same.

The first Wednesday of every March is Spread the Word to End the Word Day. It’s a day to raise awareness of the many, many reasons you should stop using the R word.

Here’s a little background on the word “retard.”

Retard is slang for “mental retardation” which used to be an acceptable term. In fact, it was official medical terminology. Now, because society began using the word as an insult, it is no longer used medically. Today, the more appropriate term is developmental or intellectual disability or delay.

Speaking as the mother of a child with Down syndrome, here are my reasons you should no longer use this word.

It’s offensive. Most of the times I hear the word “retard” or “retarded” used, it’s for comedy’s sake. I cannot even explain how offensive this is to someone like me, who so deeply loves someone who was born with an intellectual disability. Thomas cannot help that he has Down syndrome, just like people can’t control their skin color. What if someone singled out one of the ways you are different from others and made fun of it to get a laugh? Not cool. Every time I hear this word, I have an emotional AND physical reaction to it. It hurts. I used to think words can’t hurt you (stick and stones, you know?). Not true at all. Words most certainly can hurt.

It’s hateful. The R word is hate speech. It’s just as hateful as any other derogatory word used to describe a minority. Watch this PSA featuring a couple of Glee stars. It explains very well why the R word is hateful.

It’s simply not true. People with intellectual disabilities are not stupid. If you think that or assume that, then you’ve probably not been exposed to many people with IDs. Listen, it’s OK. I was sheltered before Thomas was born, too. But, let me tell you, Thomas is NOT stupid. He is a very smart, loving, fun little boy.

I could go on and on about all the things Thomas does that prove he has a lot going on in that brain of his, but here’s the bottom line. Yes, he may learn at a little slower pace than a “typical” child and need a little extra help along the way, but he is a very smart, very sharp kid.

He understands every word that is said to him. He may not be able to speak words back to you quite yet, but he absorbs and processes everything that is said to him. He is a pro at imitating, and he picks up sign language so fast I can’t keep up with him. He’s communicating in a different way right now than a “typical” 2.5yo might, but he’s communicating nonetheless.

My point: If you think you can say something derogatory toward a person with a disability and that person won’t recognize that you are being mean , then you don’t understand people with disabilities. My child is only 2.5yo, and he knows when someone is being mean. You should see his pitiful pouty face when I have to discipline him for hitting the baby or throwing his food on the floor or coloring on the coffee table. I assure you that a 10yo, 15 yo, or 40yo understands when someone is being hateful.

So, next time the R word is on the tip of your tongue or if you let it slip out of your mouth in conversation, think of my sweet Thomas. Think of the hurtfulness of the R word to him, his family, and others like us. And, please don’t use it again.

Happy boy

My sweet, happy Thomas

Join me in helping to “spread the word to end the word.” Lack of education on the matter is the ONLY excuse to use this word. Educate yourself, and others.

“Everyone has a gift, and the world would be better off if we recognized it.” -Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

I have been making this yum-o pumpkin bread all fall and winter. I’ve taken a break from it for a few weeks – pumpkin bread burnout – but I’m over that now. Ready for more!

My girl loves to "help" in the kitchen.

My girl loves to “help” in the kitchen. She’s ready to help me bake some pumpkin bread!

I used to make a version that had tons of oil and sugar in it. It was good, but I didn’t make it often because of all that oil/sugar. I love a good quick bread for breakfast and snacks, so I looked around for a healthier recipe. This is the one I found, and we all love it. It calls for whole wheat flour and honey for sweetener. Every time we run out, my 5yo asks me to make it again. It’s so easy…so I keep making it. Bonus: it can be made using only one bowl, so there’s very little cleanup when you are done mixing it together.

A whisking fool

A whisking fool

Spiced goodness

Spiced goodness

Crackly-topped finished product

Crackly-topped finished product


Here ya go.


1 ½ c. whole wheat flour

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp. allspice

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 eggs

½ c. oil

½ c. honey

½ tsp. vanilla

1 c. pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

½ c. chopped pecans or walnuts (optional…I never use them and don’t miss them)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (from the flour down to the salt).
  3. Make a well (hole) in the center and add the eggs, oil, honey, and vanilla. Mix together.
  4. Fold in the pumpkin puree and nuts (if using).
  5. Grease a loaf pan and pour in the batter.
  6. Bake approximately 35 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick (or, if you are me, a metal kabob skewer) in the center and making sure it comes out clean.
  7. When done, let the loaf cool in the pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack before turning it out of the pan. Then, let it cool completely on the wire rack.

Recipe adapted from 100 Days of Real Food

Ode to Maternity Leave

Oh, maternity leave. Sweet maternity leave. How I love thee.

I really enjoyed my four-month maternity leave after having Baby Caroline. It was very different than my other maternity leaves. Leave after Campbell was born was oh-so-calm (in retrospect…at the time, of course, I was trying to figure out how to care for a baby and it didn’t always feel calm). Leave after Thomas was born was crazy – going through all the emotions his diagnoses brought on, lots of doctor visits, lots of learning, lots of time spent trying to get my bearings…it’s really all kind of a blur.

My leave with Caroline also was crazy but for much different reasons. Let me tell ya, having three kids under 5 is intense! Wonderful, but intense.

In my typical style, I created a huge to-do list including all sorts of projects to complete while on leave. Paint an outdoor table/chairs set? Go through our storage closets which include boxes of stuff that have yet to be unpacked from when we moved into this house 3.5 years ago? Plant perennials? I’m laughing as I type this. What is wrong with me???? I had obviously forgotten that the ENTIRE reason you have a maternity leave is to care for a brand-new baby who needs round-the-clock attention. So, basically nothing on that silly list got done, but I accomplished a ton while I was off work. Here’s a little recap. Also, I went through the photos on my phone recently and noticed I had a bunch of fun ones that help sum up my leave. They follow.

Recovered from child birth. I think it takes a long time to really, truly feel like yourself again after having a baby. Truth be told, I’ve been all moody and weird even recently…and Caroline is five months old. Pregnancy and child birth jack your hormones up. Am I right? In particular, the first two months after child birth are hard on your body. You’ve got to give yourself a break and take some time to rest and recover.

Adjusted to having not two, but three babies. Or, started to adjust. I’m not sure I’ve got this one figured out quite yet. Having three young children is nuts. People who say having three is no different than having two because you are already used to multitasking – they are crazy. It’s three times the work, for sure. Someone is always needing a diaper change, to be fed, to be cuddled, to be put down for a nap, to get some attention from mama. Having three littles is exactly what we wanted, and I wouldn’t change a thing…but it’s hard work.

Established a relationship with the newest little Raphael. I took the time to establish a bond with Campbell and Thomas, and it was very important to me to do the same with Caroline. I knew that once my leave was up, it would be hard for me to find time to be with just Caroline, and I think babies and their mamas need lots of time for just the two of them to get to know each other. For me, breastfeeding is a natural way to establish an extremely strong physical and emotional connection. While Campbell and Thomas were at school, I spent lots of time feeding Caroline, holding her during naps, and answering her every beck and call. Those few quiet hours at home alone were really the only times I could respond to her every need, so I spoiled her rotten. Babies deserve to be spoiled, you know.

Picked up older kids early from preschool. We dropped the after care at preschool while I was on leave, so Campbell and Thomas got out every day at 3 p.m. I loved having them home early, and I think they really enjoyed the extra time at home, too. When I am working, we are on the go so much that it was nice for the kids to do simple things like play in their rooms, swing on the playset outside, watch a movie…all in the middle of the afternoon. We also had fun enjoying afternoon pool time when the weather was warm. {Can winter please hurry on out of here so we can open our pool up again?}

Established the concept of “Girls’ Days.” I’ve learned that once you have three kids, you sometimes can’t take all of them on outings without it 1) being a complete disaster, or 2) taking away from someone’s fun experience. As my oldest, Campbell should have the opportunity every now and then to enjoy activities just for her without the distractions of both a toddler and a baby. So, there were several days when we took Thomas to school (he has therapies at school multiple times per week anyway, and I don’t like for him to miss those), and Campbell, Caroline, my mother, and I would set out for a “Girl’s Day.” Campbell ate this up. We shopped, we went to lunch, we even went to Disney On Ice: Princesses and Heroes {in the middle of the day…on a Friday…weird!}.

Participated in therapies. Thomas has five to six therapy sessions each week (combination of speech, feeding, physical and occupational). Many of them he receives at school. I went to as many of the sessions as possible. I like to be a part of them so I can get tips from the therapists on ways I can replicate what they are doing at home.

Visited Saddle Up. This place is awesome…and who knew there was such a thing as therapeutic horseback riding? When Thomas was born, I had multiple people tell me to look into Saddle Up and to get him on the long wait list as soon as possible. At the time, I couldn’t even think about something like this. There were much more important matters at hand related to Thomas, so this fell by the wayside. But, I didn’t forget about all those recommendations. So glad I visited to learn more about it. Thomas is on the wait list now. They think he’ll be able to start in about three years. If he likes it, it seems like it would be a great (and fun!) way to supplement any other therapies he might be getting to keep his muscles strong. Think about the core and hip strength it takes to ride a horse.

Worked on beefing up my boy. Thomas is a little guy, and it’s hard to get weight on him. I have been focused on his weight gain pretty much since the day he was born. For quite a few months, he had been hovering around 20 pounds. Thomas can’t quite handle finger foods yet – he’s still eating pureed food. This is due to his hypotonia, which is a lack of muscle tone that is characteristic of Down syndrome. This limits the sorts of foods he’s eating. Also, he’s grown into a very active fella – always on the move. These two things combined meant I couldn’t get weight on him no matter how much I seemed to be feeding him. While I was on leave, I met with his pediatrician, a nutritionist and his feeding therapist to assess his weight and his food/calorie intake. We put together a plan to beef him up. I’ve been pureeing table foods rather than giving him the packaged baby foods to get more fat and calories in him (and to provide him with more variety in flavor/spice). I’ve been adding butter and olive oil to his food. For example, I’ve been feeding him oatmeal every morning with a healthy slab of butter thrown in. His new favorite snack is banana mashed with some whole milk and about a tablespoon of peanut butter. The results have been great. At his last weight check, Thomas was up to 23+ pounds. Woo hoo!

Went to our first University of Tennessee football game as a family. Oh, yes. We did this. And, we actually had a really great time. We set low expectations for the experience and far exceeded them. We took the kids to Calhoun’s on the river (a Knoxville staple) the night before the game to meet up with some friends. The weather on game day was beautiful. We tailgated a little bit with some friends and took advantage of a kids’ area on campus (bounce house, obstacle course, etc.) before heading to Neyland Stadium to watch the pre-game activities. We made it all the way through the third quarter. Thomas was enamored by everything and really watched the game. Campbell didn’t particularly care about any of it. In fact, her favorite part of the entire trip was staying in the hotel. {I love how kids take such pleasure in the little things.} We made some memories and had lots of fun.

Celebrated Campbell’s 5th birthday. I feel like someone should have warned me that the 5th birthday is such a milestone. It’s the first birthday Campbell has had when I’ve looked at her and not seen any traces of a baby. She’s all girl now. I’m very proud of this little girl and enjoyed celebrating her birthday at a party at our home with her friends and our family.

I am so thankful for the time I had during this maternity leave. Lucky girl, I am.

Poolside with Baby Caroline

Poolside with Baby Caroline

Afternoon pool time

Afternoon pool time

Pooltime #selife with Campbell

Pooltime #selfie with Campbell

Afternoon movie snuggles with my boy

Afternoon movie snuggles with my boy

Quiet baby snuggles while big kids were at school

Quiet baby snuggles while big kids were at school

Practicing tummy time (not a fan)

Practicing tummy time (not a fan)

Thomas says "touchdown" in his Peyton Manning jersey

Thomas says “touchdown” in his Peyton Manning jersey

"Girl's Day" lunch date with Campbell

“Girl’s Day” lunch date with Campbell

Lots of beautiful walks were had while on leave

Lots of beautiful walks were had while on leave

I actually get to look at this scenery while walking the trails that I can hit right outside my front door.

I actually get to look at this scenery while walking the trails that I can hit right outside my front door.

Campbell joined me on her bike for a few of my walks

Campbell joined me on her bike for a few of my walks.

Bike ride/walk #selfie

Bike ride/walk #selfie

Thomas with some of his ground table food

Thomas with some of his pureed table food

We skipped school here and there and stayed in our jammies. Sometime, they even matched.

We skipped school here and there and stayed in our jammies. Sometimes, they even matched.

Merry and Magical Christmas

We have had the merriest of Christmases in my home. As sappy as it sounds, I feel like I will carry the magic of this Christmas with me for the rest of my life. It was THAT great.

Christmas Eve with my baby girls

Christmas Eve with my baby girls

Lots of stockings across our mantle now

Lots of stockings across our mantle now!

Let’s be honest – Christmas can be a lot of work and stress. It can be hard to balance all the holiday prep with the everyday responsibilities of taking care of a family. In my book, it’s worth it. I love the Christmas season, and this one didn’t disappoint. There are so many reasons I feel this way. Here are just a few.

Baby’s First Christmas: There is something so sweet about introducing a baby to her first Christmas. I’m so grateful that we had another little Raphael to spend Christmas with this year. Now, I know Baby Caroline didn’t understand what was going on, but that doesn’t matter. Her first Christmas gave me such special moments to store away in my memory bank.

Christmas 2013 165

Christmas 2013 176

My little elf helped me wrap gifts

My little elf helped me wrap gifts

Christmas 2013 023

Even Elfie was thrilled to have Caroline around to celebrate Christmas with us this year. He spent a little time in her stocking on Christmas Eve before flying back to the North Pole.

Even Elfie was thrilled to have Caroline around to celebrate Christmas with us this year. He spent a little time in her stocking on Christmas Eve before flying back to the North Pole.

The 5yo and Santa: This was SUCH a fun Christmas for Campbell, and it was awesome to watch her experience it. She’s been singing in the church choir and got to be a part of a Christmas concert. She has been enamored by Christmas light displays, big and small. We’ve been watching Polar Express, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol over and over and over again. She is old enough to truly understand the joy of giving and has been making special crafts for us all season. She unquestionably believes in Santa, and it was just so fun to believe with her. This girl brought the magic of Christmas into our house in a big way.

Campbell is such a big helper now. She helped me decorate the tree this year!

Campbell is such a big helper now. She helped me decorate the tree this year!

Decorating Christmas cookies

Decorating Christmas cookies

Reading Twas the Night Before Christmas with Daddy
Reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ with Daddy
Santa brought Campbell a HUGE dollhouse!

Santa brought Campbell a HUGE dollhouse

She got an American Girl doll that looks like her. A big hit!

She got an American Girl doll that looks like her. A big hit!

The 2yo and Magic: Speaking of magic, I think Thomas is a magical little boy. He is so full of life, love and joy. I am thankful for him every day of my life, but that feeling of gratitude is magnified at Christmastime. I am so lucky to be living life with him. I don’t know how he does it, but he managed to bring so much additional joy into our home during an already joyful time of year. My favorite “Thomas story” from Christmas: We had A Christmas Carol on the TV yesterday (see above about our viewing frequency of this movie this year). He is practicing walking around holding one of my hands instead of both (he’s getting good at this!). Ebenezer Scrooge’s image pops up on the TV. Thomas pauses his walk to look up at the television to wave at Scrooge. This boy loves everyone…even ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Cannot even begin to describe my love for him.

Handsome guy on Christmas Eve

Handsome guy on Christmas Eve

Santa brought my little buddy a train/car track set and garage. He loves it!

Santa brought my little buddy a train/car track set and garage. He loves it!

See...he loves it!

See…he loves it!

Very busy...

Very busy…

Enjoying Christmas dinner in his jammies

Enjoying Christmas dinner in his jammies

Chad: I’ll keep this short and sweet so as not to completely embarrass him. Let’s just say I married well. Chad is loving, thoughtful and very family-focused. I know all these things about him, but Christmas was a sweet reminder.

Campbell LOVES her Daddy

Campbell loving on her Daddy on Christmas Eve

Daddy and baby at Christmas dinner

Daddy and baby at Christmas dinner

Family: We were lucky enough to share Christmas with my mom and dad, as well as with Chad’s mom and step dad. This is the first year we’ve had both these sets of grandparents with us at Christmastime. Very special. {We missed my brother, SIL, and niece. They are soaking up the sun in Mexico.}

And, last but certainly not least, Health: I had a health scare recently. I’ll spare you the extreme details, but I had to have a complete thyroidectomy. I had two nodules on my thyroid gland – one very large and the other much smaller. I had the large one biopsied a few months ago with benign results. Because the nodule didn’t decrease in size over the course of a few months, the doctors recommended having my entire thyroid gland removed to ensure  no cancer was present (supposedly a biopsy is not definitive when a nodule or mass is larger than a certain size…which mine was). I had the surgery as quickly as I could schedule it on Dec. 9 at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center at Centennial Hospital. It was surreal. How could there be a chance I have cancer? I’m young. I have three very young children. I have my whole life ahead of me…and the lives of others.

The results came back benign. I am beyond relieved and oh-so-very thankful. But, the situation was very scary. As I’m sure many of you did, I saw the viral story about the photo shoot a young dad and his daughter did where the photos mimic the wedding photos he’d had made with his wife. The wife passed away from a rare form of lung cancer at age 31. Tragic. I totally broke down when I saw this. Others have not been lucky like me and received a clean pathology report. Don’t take anything for granted, folks. As you can imagine, absolutely every sweet thing that happened this Christmas brought tears to my eyes.

Clearly, I am overflowing with gratitude this Christmas. As I listen to my children in the other room playing with their new toys, I have a feeling of peace and happiness that I know will last well beyond the holiday season.

And...even Delta got a Christmas treat! See...we don't ALWAYS forget about the dog.

And…even Delta got a Christmas treat! See…we don’t ALWAYS forget about the dog.