Archive by Author

Moms can still be cool!

26 Apr

My mind is still racing from my marathon Dominican Republic article-writing (due tomorrow), so I thought I’d just keep it going and post some thoughts on my blog before I try to go back to sleep.

Maybe I started thinking about motherhood because Mother’s Day is only a couple weeks away, and I’m still taken aback every time I remember that I get to celebrate it now. Or maybe it’s because I’m in my last year of my 20’s, and I’m starting to get a little anxious about it. I don’t know, but for whatever reason, this is what I started thinking about as soon as I went to bed:

The fact that I’m a nearly 30-year-old wife and mother has not escaped the minds of some of my younger classmates, and because most of them are single and don’t have children, we seem to see each other a little differently.

I find it funny when they are shocked to hear me use swear words at school. How dare a mother cuss in public! 

I also laugh when they apologize for swearing in front of me, as if I’d be offended! 

I’m amused when they are surprised to see the tattoos on my ankles or when I mention that I once pierced my tongue. Me? A tattoo? Piercings? 

Yes, I push a stroller and drive a “soccer mom” SUV and read Tikki Tikki Tembo and watch Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 at least once a week.

Yes, I get excited when Hannah spells her name on her chalkboard or learns a new song or goes “pee pee in the potty.”

Yes, I listen to “relaxing” music like Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Coldplay, but I also like Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

Yes, I argue with Sean about money and fret over other petty “married people” issues that never used to matter to me.

Yes, I drink wine instead of beer, and I enjoy it!

Instead of going out and partying until I crash on someone’s else’s couch, I fall asleep on my own… and sometimes before midnight.

But yes, I also get very excited about being in school and learning new things about journalism.

I stress over getting A’s in my classes and went into a panic waiting to find out whether I’d be accepted in to the summer fellowship program I was competing for (and I was accepted, by the way).  

Yes, I still like to be social, and I love gossip and drama—as long as it doesn’t involve me.

Yes, I want another tattoo…or two!

Yes, I’m a mom and a wife, and I’m almost three decades old. That doesn’t mean I’m uncool, though…does it?


The benefits of being bilingual

28 Mar

Well, I made it to the Dominican Republic and back, and I had a wonderful time! (You’ll find a few photos from my trip throughout this post). Although I had to leave Hannah while she was still suffering with a nasty cold, I managed not to catch it and tried not to feel too awful leaving her while she was sick.

I quickly learned that Skype is the greatest thing ever invented. Actually, Skype and FaceTime, which serve the same function, were both equally valuable to me during my trip. When Hannah stayed with my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law pulled out her iPod Touch so I could set up a video chat from my iPhone. When Hannah was at home, Sean and I set up Skype—again, from my iPhone. Ok, maybe what I meant to say is smartphones are the greatest thing ever invented. It came in very handy not only for video chats, but also for the iTranslate app I downloaded before I left, which helped me look up various words in Spanish when I was struggling.

Dancing in the streets of Santo Domingo


Yes, the language barrier was a challenge because most people who live in the Dominican Republic speak Spanish. I took several years of it in high school and college, but I never put it to good use, so I forgot most of it. Fortunately, quite a bit came back during my trip, so I’m hoping to hold on to what I’ve learned and share it with Hannah. This is something I haven’t discussed in my blog yet, but now seems like a good time to do it.

I think teaching children a second language is invaluable.

As I said, I didn’t start learning Spanish until high school, so it was easy for me to forget it. Growing up with it seems to be the best way to retain the information. According to this article by Diversity in Education Content Contributor Linda Halgunseth, “There are many cognitive benefits for young children who are simultaneously exposed to more than one language,” including “greater neural activity and denser tissue in the areas of the brain related to memory, attention, and language than monolingual learners.”

I met 11-year-old Jose in Cabarete, a city on the north coast of Santo Domingo. Photo by Carie Gladding

I found that the schools and orphanages I visited in Santo Domingo and Cabarete encourage bilingual teaching as well. Many of the children spoke Spanish but were learning English. I also met two sisters who came to the DR from Haiti last year. They both spoke Creole when they arrived but are learning Spanish and English in their school. Their interview was even conducted in Spanish. Some of the children also practiced speaking English with us during our visit, which was certainly impressive. Meanwhile, I practiced my Spanish and watched the little kids laugh at me because I couldn’t understand their responses. It was totally worth it, though.

Clearly there are some benefits to taking on a second (or even third) language. If nothing else, being bilingual is a valuable asset in many professions, including, as I’ve recently learned, journalism.

These children at the Dominica Orphanage and School in Santo Domingo lined up to give us hugs during our visit.

Here are a few other articles about teaching your child a second language:

How to Introduce a Second Language to a Child

Raising Bilingual Children: The Best Parenting Methods

Children Can Learn a Second Language in Preschool, Study Finds

Going from point A to point B

5 Mar

Last November I mentioned in my blog post, Should I Stay or Should I Go, that I would have an opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic with a group of my classmates. Well, I’m leaving for the DR on Wednesday. The semester is flying by, so I can’t believe it’s already time to pack my bags. With the packing, though, comes the explanation to Hannah that I’m going away for a while. I told her last week that I would be gone for nine days, just to see if she would understand. Her response? “Oh, my!” Then she started talking about something completely unrelated.  A few minutes later, though, she said, “I’ll take care of the animals when you’re gone.” She meant our pets, Macy, Kramer and Lulah. I laughed, but hearing this made me realize that maybe she does understand to some extent that I’m going away. I plan to bring this up each day until I leave, just to make sure. I also plan to utilize Skype as much as possible, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes every day or two.

I’ve been pretty apprehensive about this trip since about December because flying makes me nervous, and I’m going to a place I’ve never been. Doing research and interviews, as well as talking about the trip with my classmates, has helped me become less worried and more excited about it. Or I was until yesterday. Hannah started coughing in the afternoon, and today it’s pretty clear that she has something going on. It’s probably just a cold, but I feel bad for leaving while she’s sick because I know I’ll be exposing her to her caretakers—my mom and my mother-in-law. I’m also concerned because I CANNOT GET SICK. The story I plan to write for this depth reporting class is about children in the DR, and I do not want to go there and get a bunch of kids sick. I’m sure my classmates wouldn’t appreciate it either. I feel bad for being so selfish because I know my primary concern should be Hannah’s health and not my own, but I can’t help but think that the timing is just terrible. Needless to say, I’ve been taking vitamin C and Zicam all day (I swear by Zicam). I’m hopeful Hannah will feel better before I leave and that no one else will get sick.

If all goes well (meaning I don’t get sick in the next four days), I’ll post another blog upon my return—hopefully one with plenty of photos and wonderful stories!

3 going on 30!

29 Jan

I’m back in school now, working on my second semester at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I have plenty of homework to occupy me this weekend, but I thought I’d take a moment to share a couple funny examples of Hannah’s eagerness to grow up before getting back to my assignments.

On Sept. 26 I posted a blog called “I Can Do It Myself!” in which I discussed how independent Hannah has become. I also discussed why it is important to allow your children to learn on their own and to have patience. Well, I recently found that there can actually be some entertainment value in this often frustrating situation.

A couple of weeks ago Sean was searching for job opportunities online. Hannah came over and asked what he was doing. He said, “I’m looking for a job.”  A few minutes later, he noticed that Hannah had started sifting through the trash can in our office, which was just full of paper (not actual trash, don’t worry). He asked her what she was doing, and she replied, “I’m looking for a job.” If only it were so easy to look for work…

Then a few days ago Hannah was in my room with me while I was changing, and she looked up at me and said, “I wanna wear a bra when I get older.” Where does she come up with this stuff? She had me cracking up!

Hannah has also been going into my closet to find my shoes, and she’ll walk around the house in them for hours at a time. I’m amazed by the things she picks up on that make her feel more like an adult. She’s in such a hurry to grow up! I won’t deny how much I enjoy seeing what she’ll come up with next, though!

By the way, in my “I Can Do It Myself” blog, I mentioned that Hannah was having trouble understanding that she needed to speak in first person and not third (“Hannah can do that,” she’d say). She’s got it down, now. All day long, I hear, “I can do that all by myself!” I’ve also gotten better about having patience and letting her do things on her own. We’re learning together.

Coping with Loss

12 Jan

The recent shooting in Tucson, which took the life of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, as well as  five others, made me think that since my blog is about raising children, it might be important to talk about how to cope with the loss of a child. I have been very fortunate not to have endured a tragedy like this, but as I mentioned in my blog post on health care, Crisis Brings Clarity, I came very close to losing Hannah on several occasions, and I was surrounded by other people in the hospital who did, in fact, lose their children. I wrote the following in a memoir about Hannah’s medical crisis, which I hope to someday publish:

When we were in the hospital for Hannah’s first surgery, we saw two families lose children. Again, we did not know the families or the patients, but we had seen them in the halls. In both cases, we could hear them calling people to let them know what happened. I remember sitting in the waiting area eating lunch with Sean and his family, and all of a sudden, several people ran by yelling and crying hysterically. I put down my fork and just watched them. It was like a car accident. It was horrible to watch, but I just couldn’t help it. It made me so sick to my stomach to see how clearly distraught they all were. I looked at Sean and said, “We need to get Hannah out of here!” He agreed. I’m sure I won’t ever be able to get that image of those people out of my head. It was very upsetting for both of us because every time we saw someone lose a family member in that unit, we couldn’t help but picture ourselves going through that.

It has been three years since that incident, but re-reading  that excerpt still leaves me verging on tears. I can only imagine what that family went through, or what many other families go through when losing a child. I thought it might be useful to provide a few suggestions that may help you or someone you know.

Diana Biorkman, mother of Noah Biorkman, is an amazing example of a parent who turned the loss of her child into something positive. In 2009 I learned through an e-mail that she had asked people to send Christmas cards to her 5-year-old son, Noah, who had been diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma in 2007. He said he just wanted cards, and since his family expected that it would be their last Christmas together, they celebrated in November instead.

At the time I also learned that a Care Page had been set up for Noah, which is something Sean and I had done for Hannah when she was in the hospital to keep people apprised of her condition. I began following Noah’s Care Page updates and sent a Christmas card to him. He passed away in November 2009, after receiving more than one million Christmas cards.

Diana wasted no time in starting the Power of Noah Foundation to help other ill children. She continues to have fundraisers and updates Noah’s Care Page to let supporters know how the foundation is doing.

In her updates, Diana is also very candid about her feelings, which continually impresses me. It seems as though in the aftermath of such a tragedy, for some it is better to be open about feelings. Perhaps for her it is cathartic. I work the same way, and during my struggles with Hannah’s health, I found that talking about my fears was more helpful than holding it all in.

Another parent who is currently working to create a foundation is Daniel Marco, whose son Zachary was murdered in Tempe last year. He’s setting up the Zachary Marco Foundation and has since been very vocal about ending violence in the community. He, too, seems to be coping through opening up about his loss.

There are other ways of dealing with the loss of a child–some find it helpful to look toward religion, family or friends. Others prefer to cope on their own.

My oldest sister, Cathy, passed away in 1986 at the age of 18. Although it has been almost 25 years since her death, my mom still feels the loss. She said for about a year she tried to hide her feelings from people and deal with them on own, but it wasn’t very effective in helping her recover. She then sought the help of a counselor, but that, too, was ineffective for her. She said what helped the most was attending the Centre for Living With Dying, where she talked about her loss openly with others who could understand her pain.

They say time heals all wounds, but time hasn’t made my mom forget. I’m certain that Diana Biorkman and Daniel Marco will never forget either. As my mom told me, “You never get over that.” But it has helped her move forward.

Here are a couple of articles that may also provide help to those who have suffered a loss:

How to Help A Friend Deal with the Loss of a Child or Loved One

Coping with the Loss of a Child

And here are a few other resources for those in Arizona:

Arizona Counselors Association


Grief and Bereavement Support Group: 602-678-1313

Grief and Loss Seminars and Groups: 480-433-4182

Success! (And holiday ideas, part 2)

20 Dec

Ok, I apologize for slacking a bit on blog posts during the past couple weeks. I was trying to finish up final projects for the semester, so I got a little distracted. In any case, I’m on break now, and I’m eager to catch everyone up on all the excitement of my parent/student life! What excitement? First of all, Sean and I made it to our holiday break without any major disasters. Hooray! Oh, and the other part of the excitement is confirming that being a successful student and parent simultaneously is possible indeed! Why? Because Sean and I just got our grades back, and both of us have straight A’s! Not only did we survive, but we excelled! Of course, we probably wouldn’t have done this well if we hadn’t had help from our family, so we’re both very thankful to all who helped us with Hannah (special shout out to Nana and Grandma Jan!).

And now, to continue with my previous blog post, I have a few more ideas to add to the list of inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays. For starters, last week we took Hannah to see Santa at Chandler Fashion Center. Yes, the pictures are pretty pricey (we didn’t buy any this year, so I’ve included one Sean took instead), but a short visit with Mr. Claus is free. He also handed out little books to the kids, and elves were standing around reading to the children while they waited in line. Hannah was a bit nervous around Santa, even though she talks about him nonstop. I think she’s in “stranger danger” mode right now, which probably isn’t such a bad thing!

We’re also planning to take Hannah to see the huge Christmas tree at the Outlets at Anthem. I’ve read that it’s the tallest in Arizona, but I’ve also read it’s the tallest in the nation. I guess I need to do a little more research on that part. In any case, it may cost a few dollars in gas to drive to Anthem (assuming you live in the Phoenix area and not another state), but there is no cost to see the tree and walk around the shops. Whether or not you decide to actually shop is another story…

Another idea: baking. Tomorrow we’re taking Hannah to my sister’s house to decorate Christmas cookies. Holiday treats can be pretty expensive, but buying the ingredients and making them yourself is usually not as damaging to your wallet–and it’s a lot more fun. As I mentioned in my last post, is a great place to find fun projects, but I’ve actually found some great recipes on, too. I’ve also learned through the years that frosting can easily be made from powdered sugar, milk, butter and vanilla rather than investing in the expensive cans of it. Then you can just add food coloring, and you have a bunch of different colors from just one box of powdered sugar. And the nice thing is, a little goes a long way. Can you tell I’ve done this before? I’m kind of a fan of do-it-yourself baked goods.

If you do nothing else, go check out the holiday lights in your neighborhood! Walking around the block is free, and you might see some cool displays. Hannah just loves to see all the houses lit up, and frankly, so do I! We (finally) put ours on the house yesterday, and she was eager to watch–and help.

I hope some of those ideas are helpful! Now, back to enjoying some family time while I still can!

Ornaments and window clings and nail polish! Oh, my!

30 Nov

Hannah’s quote of the week:

On Thanksgiving, we went around the table to say what we’re thankful for. When it was Hannah’s turn, Sean asked, “What are you thankful for, Hannah?” Her response: “Turkey!” I can’t help but love her honesty. Now let’s transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas…

‘Tis the season to spend lots of time on holiday celebrations and lots of money on gifts. Well, maybe not this year. My husband and I decided to have a lighter Christmas to save a little of both.

I figured it would be fun to find a few simple and inexpensive holiday activities to do with Hannah since she is now old enough to begin grasping the concept of Christmas. I’m nearing the end of my first semester in grad school, too, so I’ve been trying to do quick projects with Hannah in between assignments. Here’s what we’ve done in the past few days:

Project: Christmas tree ornaments

Purchased from: Target

Price: $2 for a package of two ornaments

I found felt ornament and garland kits that require minimal instruction. Hannah and I made two Christmas tree ornaments one night, and then we made slightly more complex Santa ornaments the next night. We started on the garland, but that seems to be a bit beyond her age range, so I plan to finish that one myself. Overall, this project was enjoyable for both of us, and it didn’t take long at all.

Project: Winter window clings

Purchased from: Wal-Mart

Price: $2 for one sheet

I’m eager to decorate my house for Christmas, but I don’t have time right now to spend a whole day doing it. I figured sticking a few snowflakes on our front window would only take five minutes but would start to create a holiday feeling at our house. Although we had some trouble getting them to stick, the clings were still a fun and easy way to get in a holiday mood. Hannah loves to help, so this was a good project for her.

Project: Holiday nail polish

Purchased from: Wal-Mart

Price: $2.50 for a 0.40 fl oz bottle

Wearing festive nail polish is another way I like to celebrate the holidays, and as you might expect, curious little Hannah has taken an interest in this as well. While we were grocery shopping, I found some green nail polish and thought painting our nails would not only be inexpensive, but also entertaining and simple.

There are dozens of other inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays with your kids. Here are a few websites worth checking out:


This Nick Jr. site has printable holiday activities, including Wubbzy’s Hanukkah Menorah, Umizoomi Placemats and Dora’s Thanksgiving Tree.


The Raising Arizona Kids site has a calendar of events with a variety of activities you can enjoy with your children during the holiday season.


Michaels is probably my favorite arts and crafts store, and their website has tons of great projects for many holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

4. has a section dedicated to food projects for kids, so if you and your kiddos prefer to eat your art rather than hang it on the wall, this is the place for you!

Let me know if you’ve found any other great holiday project ideas or websites, and I’ll mention them in my next blog post. Happy holidays!

Should I stay or should I go?

23 Nov

I recently learned that several exciting journalistic opportunities may be heading my way. Some say every challenge creates an opportunity, but in this particular situation, my opportunities are creating a challenge. So what’s the challenge?

Spending time away from Hannah.

Next semester one of my classes will include a nine-day trip to the Dominican Republic. When have I ever had an opportunity like this? And when will I have it again? Answer: never and probably never. But nine days away from Hannah? Will she be ok? Or, more realistically, will I be ok? A week and a half isn’t that long, so I’m trying not to worry…too much.

The other opportunity, though, is to spend next summer in Washington, D.C. Yes, the summer–that’s 12 weeks. I really want to take advantage of this because I absolutely adore the idea of being able to explore Washington as a journalist. I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing it would be. But…12 weeks away from Hannah?

I have consulted some friends and family members about my predicament and have received a variety of answers. As of today, I still don’t know what I should do. Fortunately I don’t have to decide right away. Any advice would be welcomed at this point, though. Hint hint.

I have, however, come to the realization that objectivity is key here. In addition to consulting those who know me, I decided to do a little homework on parents who travel. Here we go:

1. “How to Stay Connected to Your Kid When You’re Not Home” by contributor Patty Onderko.

This article gives great tips on how to make the distance easier to bear. One tip was to utilize Skype, which one of my friends actually mentioned to me recently as well. This way we could see and talk to each other, even though we’d be far apart. Calling home was another suggestion, which I would probably do a bit more frequently than using Skype.

2. The Traveling Parent: Take the guilt out of business travel and have fun with your kids!” by Genanne Zeller of

I felt a little relieved by the time I finished the first paragraph, which said, “ Nearly 90% of business traveling parents say it is difficult to cope with being away from their home and family.” Ok, well at least I’m not alone!

The article goes on to provide activities you can do with your child to prepare for the separation, such as an itinerary swap and travel place mats. The ideas in this article are very creative and probably quite helpful, especially for young children.

3. “Better Business Travel While the Family Stays Home” by Erin Kane, a work-life balance contributor for

Organization seems to be the main component of this article, which provides ideas such as stocking the kitchen before you leave, preparing a daily schedule for the caretaker and utilizing an online calendar to log travel dates and important events that may take place while you’re gone.

When push comes to shove, this decision will primarily fall on my shoulders, but I also have to think about those who will be left to help care for Hannah if I go. My husband thinks I should do it, and I certainly appreciate the support. It’s a lot to think about, but as he reminded me, many journalists travel. Might as well jump in with both feet. Definitely something to consider.

Multitasking in Kazakhstan

16 Nov

On November 2nd, Election Day, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a journalist from Kazakhstan who was visiting ASU with a group of professionals in the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists. I initially spoke with this woman, Olessya Ivanova, about how our election process differs from hers, how she feels about social media and what she learned during her trip to the United States. I then got a little more personal and asked about her family. I learned that not only has this woman been a successful journalist for more than 10 years, but she is also a mother of two. I couldn’t help but wonder how she manages to find success in both her career and at home, so we talked about it for a while. Her response to my questions helped confirm my belief that I can, in fact, have the best of both worlds.

After our interview, I created an audio-only podcast as part of a group project for my broadcast journalism class. I thought this would be a great place to share it, since the goal of my blog is to show that multitasking as a parent/student or parent/professional is entirely possible. Olessya is a wonderful example of this idea.

Click here for my interview with Olessya Ivanova.

Crisis brings clarity

9 Nov

Update: Proposition 302, which I discussed last week, did not pass. This means the funding for the First Things First program will not be reallocated, at least for the time being.

Also, I received several messages on Facebook regarding my interest in preschools, and the advice was greatly appreciated. Thank you to those who contributed!

As I mentioned last week, retention of health and wellness programs is a huge concern, and having the right kind of help to get your child through a difficult time is essential.  I never thought I would know this from experience, but I learned all about it a few years ago.

Hannah was born with a serious congenital heart defect in October 2007. We lived in Albuquerque at the time, so at one day old, Hannah had to be flown to Denver for surgery because the doctors in Albuquerque did not believe they could repair her defect.

We spent a total of five months in the hospital with Hannah before her first birthday. During this time, and up until this past February, Hannah was still receiving help from health programs, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and in-home nurse visits, as well as medical supplies delivered to our home on a pretty regular basis. By the time we moved to Phoenix last year, Hannah had “graduated” from all of the programs, except for physical therapy.

When all was said and done, between the lengthy hospital stays, all the tests, the surgeries, the supplies, etc, we would have had to pay somewhere in the $2 million range. We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance, and we were later able to add Hannah to a Medicaid plan, so a huge portion of this was covered.

I’m not going to go into the whole health care/insurance debate because I don’t want to keep you here all day, but I do want to talk about the help we received from the various therapies Hannah needed.

Hannah received in-home visits from a nurse, a physical therapist and a feeding/occupational therapist through Presbyterian Home Healthcare Services. You don’t realize the value of having someone come to your home for medical care until you really need it, let me tell you. When we first brought Hannah home, nearly three months after she was born, she was on several (six or seven) medications about every four hours, and she was also being fed every four hours through a feeding tube in her stomach, called a gastronomy or g-tube. Taking her out was a huge strain because of all the equipment needed to go anywhere, so having a program like this to relieve some of the stress was tremendously helpful.

For several months we also utilized WIC, which stands for Women, Infants, and Children. This program, which is intended for low-income families, helped cover Hannah’s very expensive formula and several food items for me after we came back from the hospital and were struggling to regain financial stability. One of my colleagues has a fantastic blog about receiving government assistance for his family, which I recommend visiting.

In addition to receiving help once we returned to Albuquerque, we were also provided with assistance from The Children’s Hospital in Denver. It was not only financial (such as meal vouchers for the hospital cafeteria, which was wonderful), but also emotional. Everyone was always willing to help us with anything we needed. We could not have been sent to a better hospital. At one point a staff member recommended a blog site utilized by many hospitals that gives parents the opportunity to keep loved ones informed while they’re away. This saved us from having to make a lot of phone calls while we were gone! I still occasionally update the blog, which is specifically about Hannah’s medical condition and how she is doing (the page name is HannahBananaIngram). Within the blog, I also talked about another place we received assistance: the Ronald McDonald House.

Ronald McDonald House Charities provided us with a place to stay while we were in Denver, which removed a huge burden. Sean and I alternated most nights—one of us would stay with Hannah at the hospital while the other would stay at Ronald McDonald to get a decent night’s sleep. When we weren’t at RMH or in Hannah’s hospital room, we also had the option of staying in a “sleep room,” which was another service for parents provided by the hospital. This way we could sleep comfortably, but we would still be in the hospital. Sean used to say he felt like he was homeless because we would have to get on a waiting list each day for one of these sleep rooms, and we would have to wait to find out where we’d be sleeping that night. Clearly, we have no real concept of what homelessness is really like, but this is the closest we ever came.

Also, if we had not received financial help from friends and family during this time, we would have been homeless when we returned to Albuquerque because we would not have been able to pay our mortgage. That being said, asking for help from loved ones may feel awkward (it was for us), but it may be worth it. In crisis situations, sometimes you have to do things you would normally never do.

Without the in-home programs, the financial assistance and help from our loved ones, we could not have survived this medical crisis. If you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, utilize your resources. There are plenty available.