Taking Time to Grieve

My Facebook memory was pictures from a visit to the Children’s Museum last year. It was the last day of the Paw Patrol exhibit. I promised my son I would take him. We almost missed it. Thinking back to that day, I remember him running freely through the Paw Patrol exhibit. Touching everything! Exploring! Having a blast, without a care in the world! We continued to roam the museum, brushing shoulders with other kids. Eyes wide, he took in everything around him. That was a great day!

That memory reminded me how care free life seemed before coronavirus gripped our world. Sadly, we aren’t planning any visits to the museum or very many places, for that matter, anytime soon.

Our youngest is too little to wear a mask. The oldest doesn’t technically have to wear one according to our local mandate, but we would feel safer if he did. He is just now coming around to the idea of wearing a mask since we purchased new ones from Target, but we haven’t tried them in public yet. He says he will wear one, but knowing my son, I don’t see the mask lasting very long. He’s 4!

Those pictures got me thinking of all the things we have missed out on. The freedom to move freely, without masks and sanitizer on hand. Impromptu store runs. Family vacation. The trip to California that I always dreamed of. Face to face connection with friends and loved ones. These things may seem trivial to some, but I have to admit it pains me to sit with the reality of all the that we have lost or missed out on because of this pandemic.

When this all started, our pastor invited our entire church to take the time to grieve what we had lost because of coronavirus. Back then, I didn’t take the time to do it. Maybe I was in denial, maybe I was still trying to come to grips with what was happening. Regardless of what it was, I didn’t take that time to grieve.

So here I am now, processing, grieving. Will you join me? Will you take the time to reflect on what this pandemic has taken from you? I’ll give you a few minutes. Take more time if you need it.


Lessons Learned in Quarantine

Within the last month, our lives have slowly started to return to “normal.” Our kids returned to daycare and I am now working from the office one to two times a week. We have also resumed visits with our immediate family and a handful of friends.

From the middle of March to the beginning of June, our family of four was quarantined together, spending all day, everyday with no one else but each other. There was the occasional drive by to see grandparents, but those visits were few and far between. With two parents working full time, a preschooler, and a newly walking toddler all under one roof there were plenty of lessons learned. Today, I’m sharing four of the most important lessons quarantine taught me.

Lesson 1: It takes a village. 

The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” couldn’t have become more clear to me than during quarantine. In March, we made the decision to pull our kids out of daycare. Social distancing meant no visits with grandparents, no play dates with friends, and no church. We were now the sole caretakers for our children. While I understand that is my role as a parent, we rely on so many others, like their daycare teachers, our parents, friends, and church community to help raise and guide our children as they grow and develop. In a matter of days, that village was ripped away from us. We wore the hats of parent, friend, playmate, teacher, and chef. Sometimes all at the same time. Let’s not forget our other responsibilities of spouse and employee. It was very exhausting. Needless to say, I have a greater appreciation for our village.

Lesson 2: Community is essential. 

I’m so grateful for my friends and church family. Just like our village was torn away from us, we were no longer seeing our friends. Thank goodness for all the tools we now have available to connect with others virtually. Under stay-at-home orders, I connected virtually with friends and my small group at church almost weekly. Those check-ins filled me with encouragement, hope, and joy. They also gave me a safe place to vent and share my frustrations. Even though quarantine changed what community looked like, it remained essential and will always be important to me. I don’t know what I would have done without all of my friends.

Lesson 3: Enjoy the ordinary, everyday moments. 

Quarantine was filled with ordinary moments that I sometimes took for granted before stay-at-home orders went into effect.With nowhere to go and nothing to do, it was easy to find the joy in the everyday experience of doing life with my family. Tickle fights with my one year old. A midweek movie night with my oldest. Staying up late, binge watching the latest Netflix series. Sleeping in (sort of…if you have young kids you know that sleeping in doesn’t really happen). Eating meals together as a family. Midday walks in the park. All these ordinary moments seemed to be magnified during quarantine. As things begin to return to “normal,” I don’t want to take the ordinary, everyday moments for granted. It’s in those moments that the best memories are made.

Lesson 4: It’s good to slow down. 

Our calendar was suddenly empty. There were no evening commitments that required us to leave the house. No weekend events to work around. At most, my husband continued the weekly grocery trip, but outside of that we literally had nothing to do and nowhere to go. Our lives took on a much slower pace, which if I’m honest was much needed. As a working parent, I was starting to feel the pressure of trying to “balance” it all. With an empty calendar, I suddenly felt a little sense of relief and freedom. I actually hope this slower pace is something that we can continue to cultivate as life returns to “normal.”

When COVID-19 began to spread, I could have never imagined we would be where we are now. I could have never imagined I would be working from home with my kids for over two months. I could have never imagined that I would be isolated from family and friends. I could have never imagined I would be forced to slow down. I could have never imagined the sweet moments I would experience with my family. I could have never imagined any of this. But I know now that if, or when, we are forced back into our homes for an extended period of time, the lessons I have learned over the last few months will guide me through.

Photo by cottonbro on

Mama Spotlight: Caitlin

Welcome back! This week’s Mama Spotlight is my friend Caitlin. Caitlin and I met within the last year after our four year old’s became best friends. Through play dates, FaceTime calls and other conversations, I have had the opportunity to get to know Caitlin a little bit more. One thing that I admire about her as a mom is the gentle and positive approach she takes in parenting her daughter. She also shares some amazing, nutritious meals on her Instagram account that often inspire me to try new, healthy recipes for my family. I know you’ll enjoy Caitlin’s perspective on motherhood!

Tell me about yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How many children do you have?

I’m Caitlin Schmidt. I am Mom to Lucy (4) and Theo (Still growing this one! Due in August) and wife to my best friend, Will. I am a registered nurse and work part time as a Quality Specialist for the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at IU Health. I have my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Purdue University and my Master of Science in Nursing Leadership from Benedictine University. I love cooking, nutrition, exercising and reading as many books as I can get my hands on. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but my family now resides in Fishers, IN. We have been here for 8 years and it feels like home.

How do you define motherhood?

A beautiful, sometimes ugly, turbulent, sometimes surprisingly smooth, scary, often miraculously confident ride. Entering motherhood is when I really settled into myself. I spent my early 20’s figuring out what I wanted my adult life to look like. What kind of career am I going to have, what kind of home would we like, what matters to me, what kind of human do I want to be? Looking back, it was a bit of a selfish period of life. And then, at 28, still feeling like a child myself, we had a baby. All I remember thinking when they let us leave the hospital was, wait… do they think I can take care of this human? Like, me?? And then slowly, over the next year, my mindset shifted to: I GET to nourish and influence and shape the life of this child? Cool! The confidence and intuition starts creeping in. You still have a roller coaster of easy and hard with every passing month, developmental leap and erupting tooth, but suddenly you feel like you were meant to do this and you CAN do this. Four years later, I still feel like I am growing and learning in motherhood. It has been an amazing journey and I know the best is yet to come.

What has it been like to be pregnant in the middle of a pandemic?

My pregnancy anxiety is already very high after suffering two miscarriages after our daughter. In the initial stages of pandemic uncertainty, I was very worried. I kept Googling “pregnancy outcomes Covid-19” to see if any new data had been released. Luckily, the research, though limited, is reassuring. Now, I hover somewhere between anxious and grateful to still be sharing an immune system with this little one. Focusing on trying to keep our mental health in check has helped my family during this pandemic. So that is something I will strive for throughout the rest of this pregnancy. We are all in uncertain times, but I think it is important to practice gratitude. We continue to be grateful for healthcare providers who show up to work everyday despite risks so that I can have prenatal care, the means to fill our fridge with immune boosting foods, sunshine, two stable jobs, and a hilarious, bright 4 year old who innocently distracts us from the worry. 

Describe the stage of motherhood you are currently in.

The preschool stage has been so fun for me. I absolutely love seeing my daughter’s mind work. I am sometimes astonished at what she knows and what she can do. Is this normal? I find myself looking at her in awe most days. We are getting ready to welcome another child into our family and I cannot wait to witness the dynamics between a 4 year old and an infant.

What do you enjoy most about this stage?

I love the honor of exposing our daughter to different experiences. I’ll never forget something my high school health teacher told our class once. She had just come back from maternity leave after having twins and she was telling us how she cut open an orange to eat and was so excited for her babies to smell an orange for the first time. It is a privilege to be able to show my curious, inquisitive daughter around in this life. 

What is most challenging about this stage?

Am I doing this right? I ask myself that question everyday. Most parents want to set their kids up for success in life. I’ve been feeling a little bit more pressure now that we have entered the final year before Kindergarten. As a deep thinker and feeler of every emotion, I can be hard on myself in this regard. Am I limiting her screen time enough, feeding her the right nutrients, reading her the right books, giving her enough independent time, letting her work out her own problems enough? I read something recently about the benefits of seeking stillness and looking inward for the answers. This has really helped me cope with my constant questioning. In this age of technology and information, it is so easy to turn to Google, blogs, or moms groups on Facebook for the answers, but the only people who know what is right for your family is you and your partner. No one else has lived this life, with your challenges, your gifts, your past, your people. (Concept from “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle).

What does self-care look like for you right now?

If I can find time each day to do something for my body and something for my mind, I am a much happier person. A lot of times, this means getting in a workout and having time to read or concentrate on a non-obligatory project or goal. My husband and I work hard to communicate to each other when we need moments away from the daily parenting grind, realizing that it makes us calmer, happier and stronger in the long run. 

What has had the greatest influence on you as a parent or your parenting style?

My parenting style has definitely been influenced by the Positive Parenting style. I believe that children respond better to calm, loving discipline and connection than punishments that cause feelings of blame or shame. Do I always keep my cool? Definitely not. But we work hard at it every day. The books “Positive Parenting” and “The Gift of a Happy Mother” by Rebecca Eanes and “Buddhism for Mothers” by Sarah Napthali have been transformative for me. I still have a lot of reading to do.

Also, I am so lucky to have the most amazing in-laws in the world. My mother-in-law, though recently retired, had a successful career in child behavior and social-emotional learning. We often text or call her and say “Lucy is doing (insert challenging behavior here), what should we do?!” And she is able to give us a thoughtful, science-backed technique to stop the behavior. And they always work like a charm! 

Where do you find support as a mom?

I’m going to answer this question very honestly. This is something that I struggle with. I have always been a “do it yourself” kind of person which is kind of self-sabotaging as a pregnant, working mom! I often find myself desiring more support, but I am terrible at asking people for help. I often find myself thinking “This is supposed to be hard, suck it up.” Or “You’re too sensitive, be stronger.” Or “Stop thinking so hard and long and just do it.” It’s an area of motherhood that I continue to work on.

I do have a few very good friends who I call upon for advice or venting. As an introvert who pretends to be an extrovert, I do not tend to enjoy moms groups or events, etc. We live away from both of our families so it is not easy to rely on family for physical support, but they certainly provide a lot of emotional support via phone calls and FaceTime. One of the coolest things we discovered during quarantine is an app called Together. My mother-in-law would call my daughter through the app and they could play games and read together while seeing each other’s screens and faces. I would highly recommend this to anyone who lives far away from loved ones!

Tell me the most important thing(s) you hope to pass on to your child(ren).

A love of continuous learning. Knowledge helps us see the world with open, inquisitive minds.

What’s one thing you have learned as a mom that you would tell your pre-kid self?

Focus on what really matters. At the end of this life, what do I want to say I spent my time doing? For me, that answer is creating memories, seeking happiness, spreading kindness and helping others. I don’t claim to be perfect at it now, but it’s certainly become my #1 priority now that I’m a mother. The crumbs on the floor, the mismatched decor, the weeds in the yard don’t REALLY matter at all, do they? 

What’s one piece of advice you want to share with other moms?

Am I qualified to give advice? Here is my daily mantra: If my child goes to bed tonight feeling loved, I did a good job.


Happy Father’s Day!

Hey friend, welcome back! If you’ve been following the blog, you may know that I started a series called Mama Spotlight this summer to give other mom’s the opportunity to share a bit of their journey through motherhood. For Father’s Day, I am switching things up a bit and interviewing a dad, one that I happen to know very well. Today, you’ll get to hear from my husband, Tommy! I’m excited to allow him to use this space to share his thoughts on one of his most important roles, dad!

Tell me about yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How many children do you have?

My name is Tommy Sullivan. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN, but currently reside in Fishers, IN with my beautiful wife, Sierra and my two children, Jaden (4) and Skylar (1).

I attended Purdue University for college, where I majored in Financial Counseling & Planning. I currently work in the data analytics field after spending a decade in internal audit. As you can probably tell, neither of these career paths have anything to do with personal finance. While I really am passionate about my own finances, and even helping others with theirs, I wasn’t ready to enter that field when I graduated.

I love spending time with my family and friends, watching suspense-filled TV series and documentaries, running, and growing with God in my faith journey. I’ve been DJing as a hobby since 2003 and have always enjoyed music, although I never learned to play an instrument or read music.    

How do you define fatherhood?

Fatherhood is one of the greatest responsibilities and blessings you can experience as a man. It’s hard work for sure, but it is filled with unimaginable joy and it is so rewarding. While the costs (financial and opportunity) may not always make sense to an outsider, as a father you know you wouldn’t have it any other way. It is worth every sacrifice. Each day you have the opportunity to pour into your children, make memories, show them the love of Christ, and help them grow and develop. Fatherhood also teaches you a lot about yourself. You can literally see the fruit of what you put into it before your eyes.

Fatherhood gives us an opportunity to experience a glimpse of what God experiences with us as His children. For us, He is the source of life, He lovingly corrects us, He provides for our needs, He gives us His wisdom, and He always welcomes us back.  

Describe the stage of fatherhood you are currently in.

I am in the young child stage of fatherhood. I am constantly chasing after the kids, picking them up/putting them down, preparing food, cleaning up messes, playing along with them, trying to make them laugh, watching cartoons, answering questions (studies show this can be > 200-300 per day), repeating myself, and getting them settled down for bed before I run out of energy.   

What do you enjoy most about this stage?

I love seeing the kids reach milestones (i.e., walking, talking, learning new things). Also, nothing compares to the way your child greets you when they haven’t seen you for a few hours. Their smiles, excitement, and the way they run to hug you is pure joy! It is a really fun stage overall, especially now that both kids are walking and talking (somewhat). 

What is most challenging about this stage?

I would say the most challenging thing about this stage of fatherhood is the level of dependency the children have on you and the amount of personal attention they require. It can be exhausting. Some days you just don’t feel like you have anything left in the tank and want to crawl in bed right after you put them down. At times, you feel guilty because you don’t feel like you have given them your undivided attention because you are busy with other things. And some days, they just aren’t in a great mood and don’t want to listen to you.  

I feel like self-care isn’t a term we often hear associated with men. Would you agree? 

I would agree, you don’t hear the term self-care associated with men often, but it is important. It is usually branded as something that sounds more masculine, like “man-time”.

But we all know that taking time to care for self is important. So what does self-care look like for you right now?

For me, self-care (“man-time”) is having time alone to refresh, reflect, or have a chance to not think about anything. Typically, this looks like taking a nice extended run, doing yard work, taking a drive, listening to music/podcasts, having time with God, meeting friends for coffee, or spending time with my wife without the kids.

What has had the greatest influence on you as a parent or your parenting style?

I would have to say that my parents have had an incredible influence on me as a parent. I’ve learned so much from how they loved us. Family and faith always came first. They prioritized us sitting around the table together for meals every day, going to church together, and basically doing everything together. It set the tone, created a bond, and built trust. Our family operates that same way. We literally do everything as a family.

I catch myself reflecting back on my childhood frequently. Many of the decisions my parents made and lessons they tried to teach us didn’t make sense to me then, but they now do. Other things were learned through their actions, not just words. I saw the way that my parents handled their finances. They lived below their means in order to provide for our education and set us up for the future, rather than spending money on things that would fade away. That has shaped the way our family handles our finances. We have prioritized generosity and funding our children’s future (and ours) by making daily sacrifices.

I am still learning from my parents (and in-laws) today. I love and appreciate spending time with them and I want to have that same connection/bond with my children when they get older. 

We were also not the first in our circle of friends to have kids, so we have been blessed with the opportunity to witness how others that we deeply respect parent their children. There are lessons that can be pulled from so many places.  

Tell me the most important thing(s) you hope to pass on to your child(ren).

Faith – I want my children to come to know Jesus and feel his love in this household. Without God, life just doesn’t make much sense. My relationship with God has been the driving force in my life and point of calibration/re-calibration. It has formed my worldview, given me strength/hope, and helped me make key decisions in life.

Family/Friendship – I want my children to understand the value of family and having strong friendships. There is so much love and support there. This will be something we try to model for them as much as possible.

Finances – I hope to pass on the importance of being a good steward with the resources God has entrusted us with. Life is stressful enough as is, being a good steward with your money can help reduce one of life’s greatest stressors. Healthy finances don’t just happen, you have to put in the work, make sacrifices, and most importantly understand who provided the resources.

Diversity – I want my children to understand the importance, value, and beauty of diversity. It has played a significant role in my life. I cherish the relationships I have made, the experiences I’ve had, and the perspective it has given me. My life would not be the same without it. I hope that we are able to provide that same type of environment for our children. I want them to see it in our lives. 

Where do you find support as a dad?

I try to regularly meet with a few friends who are also dad’s, husbands, and men of faith. It’s a safe place where we can just talk about what is going on in our lives and share what has worked/not worked. We usually meet for coffee once or twice a month and I always walk away encouraged.

What’s one thing you have learned as a dad that you would tell your pre-kid self?

Nothing will fully prepare you to be a parent. You will learn on the go, and this is okay. Don’t beat yourself up when you feel like you have missed the mark. Children are incredibly gracious with us and forgiving. While they do have great memories, they do not keep score of all of the times you messed up. They just want you to be in the moment with them.

Also, get some sleep while you still can and enjoy your freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Life gets a little more complicated, but you wouldn’t trade it for the world.  

What’s one piece of advice you want to share with other dads?

I would say, don’t ignore the promptings your kids are giving you. When your children need attention, they tend to begin acting out. A full meltdown about something so small may be an indicator. A little attention goes a long way. Sometimes you just have to stop what you are doing, put down your phone/work, and be in the moment with them. I had this revelation during quarantine when we were working from home and with the kids. Get down on the floor with them and just play. 


Raising Mixed Children

Our bedtime story, “Skin Like Mine” by LaTashia M. Perry, promoted conversation about skin color last night. As we talked with our four year old about different skin colors, he mentioned that he and his best friend both have white skin. He wasn’t completely wrong in his observation. At his fairest shade, their skin color is very similar. His dad and I tried to explain that he and his friend are actually a little different because he is mixed.

This conversation brought me back to thoughts I shared on Indianapolis Moms, a locally-focused parenting resource for moms and families.

I am black. My husband is white. Before becoming a mom, I always wondered what my kids would look like. We now have two beautiful mixed children. As we are raising them, I am beginning to wrestle with questions about their identity. How will the world see them? How will they see themselves? The answers to those questions are not so black and white.

Sierra Sullivan

To read more, check out the the entire post.

Raising Mixed Children: It’s Not So Black and White