Congratulations & Thanks, Little Brother

Yesterday my little brother graduated high school.

*takes a moment to process this*

At 5 o’clock, the school staff ushered us in single file. I walked passed smiling siblings and proud fathers and anxious mothers; aunts and uncles and cousins and teachers; girlfriends and boyfriends and best friends. I knew almost none of them, and yet I knew how they felt when they woke up in the morning, and I knew how they felt walking in the school gates that afternoon. We all shared the same look in our eyes. We all had those smiles that were hard to suppress. We were all so proud.

For me, it was strange more than emotional. As the ceremony started and tissues were shuffled through the audience, I couldn’t help but sit silent, thinking. How is it, I thought, How is it that the infant who used to laugh when I tickled him, the toddler who used to call me “Supergirl”, the boy who used to wake up early to watch me play video games on Saturday mornings, and the teenager who used to ask me for a ride to karate class, how is it that they’d all grown up into this man that stood before me in a cap and gown? How had they become someone I look up to, that makes me laugh, that is my own personal superhero?

As the name of each student began to be called, cheers came in bursts around the audience. Families and friends stood and shouted, hoping to showcase their pride and spread it outward. We were no different. When my brother’s name was called we waved our fists and wooed our “woos”, hoping to let my brother know we were proud of him, and to let the crowd he was ours. And as dozens of other families followed suit, I began to realize why I didn’t feel sad so much as dizzy.

Yes, it was crazy to think that my baby brother, the boy who, over the years, has led people to believe he was my son (which we took advantage of and pulled pranks), my stepbrother (which made no sense because we are essentially the same human), and—after a colossal growth spurt—my boyfriend (which, ew), this boy was graduating high school and could now legally drive, vote, and serve jury duty. Yes, this was off-putting, but not sad. For I had known the baby who grew into a boy who grew into a teenager and then into a man, and seeing him take this next step forward was like accepting an invitation to meet the man he will soon become.

So as the caps began to fly, my heart began to swell. The dizziness had been overtaken by anticipation. I walked through the crowd to find my brother and gave him a big hug, anxious to tell him of all the things I know he’s yet to accomplish. I wished him “congratulations” but what I really meant was “thank you.” Thank you for letting me be a part of your world, and thank you for offering me a front row seat to watch you conquer it. May the future only hold good things for you, crazy things, preferably things that include pizza and In N Out Burger. May you always be brave enough to be yourself and kind enough to let others do the same. May you never stop letting me call you Bub, and may we never stop taking this picture.




Maslow’s Hierarchy of What Other People Think We Need

Like the skills required to dissect a frog, there are many lessons from my K-12 education that I’ve found a way to forget. However, there are also those I can’t help but remember: Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, the symbol for silver on the periodic table, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Often showcased in a pyramidal diagram, Maslow’s theory recognizes the 5 essential needs of the individual, starting at the bottom with the most essential: physiological (i.e. food and water), and working its way up to safety (i.e. health and home), love/belonging (i.e. friendship and intimacy), esteem (i.e. acceptance and self-respect), and self-actualization (i.e. the understanding and achieving of one’s full potential). The needs are ranked on importance, assuming an individual cannot obtain higher, more complex needs before first satisfying the most basic. For example, an individual with a consistent supply of food and water would focus on their need for health and home, and only after those needs were met would they worry about friendship and intimacy. Simply put: One only feels the need for something when they have the time and resources to realize they need it.

Learning about Maslow’s theory in high school fascinated me. It made such sense and seemed so obvious. However, I quickly came to learn how far people tend to stray from its logicality.

After I graduated college, every conversation I had was based on my future plans. Did I have a husband yet? Did I have a career path? Was I going to become successful?

There I was a well-fed, well housed, and well-loved human being, proud of myself for pursuing and completing a formal degree and beginning to consider my full potential. I was reaching the peak of Maslow’s pyramid, drowning in the plenty, and yet my peers only identified what I lacked. Granted, there is a large difference between motivation and criticism, and I know that many questions came with good intentions and genuine support. They wanted me to be hungry for more, and I was, I just didn’t know quite what I was craving.

In today’s society, with the constant presence of social media, the discovery of what one lacks is an everyday occurrence. Be it a job, a significant other, or a bikini body, individuals yearn for what they lack without realizing the wealth in what they have that allows them to do so.

We all impose our own hierarchies, both in our lives and those of others around us, setting standards for what we believe a person needs in order to be x. (x being successful, happy, of value, etc.) But who can truly determine a level of success and happiness besides the person in question? Who is a better gage of our wealth than we who live off of its riches?

Maslow’s theory works under the simple assumption that we are all humans with needs and some of us will thrive where others lack. And while time and self-growth will continue to morph our own hierarchies, it is important to look back at Maslow’s original 5, appreciating the most basic and essential needs we have met that allow us to focus on the deeper and more complex. For with a basis of gratefulness, we can create a healthy hunger for progression, not only in our own hierarchy but also in those around us.


30 Good Things That Happened in April

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened in that 30-day (or so) span, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy April to you!


1) Pink posted this reminder about weight, especially post-baby weight


2) This article was posted about the proven benefits of baking for others


3) This otter learned to swim


4) National Burrito Day



5) This girl got into all 8 Ivy League schools


6) Pioneer Woman (a.k.a Rae Drummond) released this recipe for Triple Layer Confetti Cake


7) This puppy got moving


8) This girl celebrated Crazy Hair Day in the best way



9) Chrissy Teigen paid this woman’s tuition for esthetician school

cruzanchoklate: “Something absolutely amazing happened last night. Many of you know how much I love skin care and my plans to attend esthetician school next month. Last night I posted my tuition fundraiser on twitter and something I never in my wildest dreams happened. My paypal alert went off, and as I looked at my phone, there was amount of $5605. I thought it was a glitch. I then look at my email and realized it came from my fundraiser. @chrissyteigen donated my entire tuition money for school. I have been crying all night and I cried in the office this morning as I paid my down payment for esthetician school. I haven’t been this happy in a very long time. Thank you Chrissy and thank you to everyone else who voted or rtd my link or have supported me this entire time. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.”


10) This dad finally got to meet his son


11) After his daughter had an accident at school, this dad picked up her in the best way.



12) This baby had a bunch of great mornings


13) This boy became the first person with his type of heart condition to complete a marathon.


14) This pilot went above and beyond the call of duty.


15) This girl’s whole family showed up for her game



16) This easter egg hunt ended with one student learning he received a scholarship


17) This husband found a way to keep his wife company during her isolation cancer treatment


18) This grandpa saw color for the first time


19) This girl found a really great stick she wanted to share with the world


20) This guy set a new World Record by bowling the fastest 300 game ever


21) This three year old packed the lunch of his dreams


22) This marathon runner gave up his own race to help a fellow athlete finish


23) This little girl tried whipped cream for the first time


24) This brother put together a surprise princess photoshoot for his 5-year-old sister


25) This little boy was mesmerized by his mommy


26) These dogs hugged it out.


27) This little boy gave his Nintendo Wii to the officers at his local police station


28) Johnny Depp, dressed as Jack Sparrow, surprised Pirates of Caribbean riders at Disneyland


29) This boy got to meet his hero, John Cena


30) April the giraffe had her baby! (which you can vote to name here!)



Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what May brings!


Spring Break Road Trip (Day 1 & 2: Vegas)

Thursday started out normal. It was just your average, run of the mill Thursday, complete with an aggravatingly early alarm, a satisfying lunch break, and a 1:30 pm food coma. But then, we escaped.

At around 5:30, me, my sister, and our cousin Ashlynn packed up the car to head to Vegas, a.k.a Stop #1. The drive was pretty standard: lots of desert and budding anxiety. One highlight included us getting off the freeway to get gas, where we passed by a “motel” that, while open, was completely pitch black. It looked like the kind of place that might feature a guy walking around asking, “hey, you wanna see a grave sized hole I dug out back?”

We arrived in Vegas around 11:15, and immediately rallied ourselves into public appropriate attire, went downstairs and lost a few dollars playing craps. Then, in an attempt to put off the impending mouth-open exhaustion sleep, we went upstairs to the Toby Keith country bar and danced our hearts out for a solid few hours. Ashlynn and I hit it especially hard, here’s a picture of us chugging pints of straight up H20.

FullSizeRender 11

Let’s just say we woke up the next morning feeling prettttty, you know, hydrated

One thing that always takes a little getting used to about being in Vegas, is that it’s an afternoon to night type of town. So when we all started to move around at a normal time the next morning, despite being out late, my cousin Cory countered the movement with an appropriate, Vegas-themed argument: “Is there a reason why we’re awake right now?” And after thinking about it, we realized the answer was “no.” Thus, we commenced with prolonged lounging, and only gave this up to find food around 12:30.

After lunch, we walked around a bit, taking in the (mostly sun faded) sites Vegas has to offer during the day, before eventually settling on outlet shopping as the afternoon’s desired activity. One valuable lesson I learned there:

“High heels are good. The higher the heels the closer you are to God.” – Amanda

Later that night, after my Fitbit was thoroughly satisfied with all the steps we’d put in while shopping, my mind took that as a sign to go ahead and do Vegas up right for the remainder of the evening. And by “do up right”, I mean “do it as best I can because Vegas isn’t really my thing but I want to be a good participator.”

So, I lost money at keno, I lost money at craps, I bought a slushy alcoholic drink called a Fat Tuesday and shamelessly walked around with the souvenir cup. I stared confusedly at a Willy Wonka slot machine my cousin played on and then went nuts when it lit up lots of colors and somehow calculated that he won $500. We walked to the Bellagio to get a crepe, we took touristy pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and made bad jokes about “going to Paris for the day”, we went back to the Willy Wonka machine with high hopes, only to walk away disappointed and kind of nauseous from watching it spin for so long, and then finally we decided to call it a night.


Back in the hotel, I packed up my suitcase and gathered all of the miscellaneous items I’d managed to volcano around the room in only two days, then I got in bed and looked up our driving time for the next day: 12 hours 30 minutes. We didn’t really know what to expect from the drive. Would it be smooth? Would it feel quick or slow? Would it be scenic? But as I lay awake in bed, I realized that the whole draw of a road trip is the unknown. It’s a learn as you go, think on the fly, be totally vulnerable and free type of an experience, which is exactly what we were looking for.

When Your Brother Plays Lacrosse…

I have a very sports oriented family. We’ve all played a sport, and we all love getting together to watch sports. Any sport. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, you name it.



“Lacrosse,” my brother, Troy, said after school one day, “I’m going to try out for the lacrosse team.”


My mom, dad, sister, and I exchanged a glance and shrugged our shoulders. “Okay, lacrosse it is. We know lacrosse.”

We didn’t know lacrosse.

Watching Troy’s first few games, I felt like someone walking into a mall on Black Friday for the first time. Wow, I thought, this seems chaotic. And complicated. And violent. I love it.

But even after we found ourselves glued to the “this is Sparta-esque” charging and slicing and dodging, we still had absolutely no concept of what the rules were. As a result, my family and I often yelled inappropriate (and by inappropriate, I mean probably undoubtedly frowned upon) things from the sidelines.

Some too innocent: “Hey, don’t do that!”

Some too violent: “Chop his damn legs off!”

And some Troy (understandably) vetoed: “Poke him with your stick!”

Over time however, we’ve learned (most of) the rules and have spent long days sitting on turf in fold up chairs, fully capable of having discussions about different calls or strategies, while still remaining fully invested in, and attracted to the violence. (TBD on whether you should be worried)

My brother’s school season is set to start up again next week, and though it is still a relatively new sport to the west coast, it’s growing fast. So, if you are someone like me, who likes to have all the knowledge about all the things, here are 5 things I’ve learned, both about the game and about myself as a fan:


1) Lacrosse is essentially the love child of field hockey, football, soccer and aggressive butterfly catching.

Pro tip to get your kids training early:



2) Girls lacrosse is non-contact.

Which is a bummer, but would have come as a relief if I ever played, because I know myself well enough to be sure that the second an opposing player rammed into me in an attempt to get the ball, I’d undoubtedly go into self-defense mode and probably be dragged off the field for “unnecessary roughness” or “attempted murder.”


3) The necessary hand-eye coordination is real.

I played softball for 7 years, but the moment I tried to play catch with my brother using his lacrosse sticks, this became a moot point, and remains one to this day. I’ve honestly never felt less coordinated in my life than when I try to toss a lacrosse ball two feet in the air and then catch it. I always end up feeling like…you know those chefs who cook in front of you in Japanese restaurants and can crack eggs on the side of their spatula? Yeah, I feel like one of them, if they showed up to work completely and totally hammered. (Or you know, what I look like dead sober trying to do any of those tricks.)


4) There is more to the equipment than meets the eye.warrior-lacrosse-complete-stick-evo-universal-color-chartIn short, I look at my brother’s lacrosse stick the way he looks at one of my makeup brushes. It seems good enough to do its job and could probably make a great substitute microphone if the right song came on. On the reverse side of that, my brother looks at his stick the way I look at waffles. Honestly, I think he would 100% consider trading me in for a new stick, head, or pair of gloves if the opportunity arose. (As I would him for an authentic Belgian waffle) (Just kidding, Troy) (Kind of)


5) Bucket hats are the new black.

My brother and I went to the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) All-Star Game last year, and upon arriving, I quickly noticed and awed over the intense amount of bucket hats worn by the fans. It’s not that I have anything against bucket hats, I just feel like, you know, I missed the mark on popular lacrosse fashion. Had my baseball hat at a lacrosse game been the equivalent of a guy wearing shoes at the beach? Again, TBD. Though if my brother plays in college, I’m totally buying one, because history proves I can ROCK one:


A true style icon.


Oh, and one more thing, “lacrosse” is often abbreviated to LAX, like in laxative, which works, because it moves quick…


…Come on, Troy, that was a good one.

Sometimes They Just Know (feat. My Sister)

My sister has always been good with kids. She has the patience and the kindness and the key voice change required to get them to both listen and understand you. When she was 16, she started working at a summer camp where she quickly became highly and widely adored by all. They called her, “Miss Natalee” and the name fit.

A few years later, after she graduated high school, she entered college as a Child Development major and got a job as a Preschool Teacher’s Assistant while she finished her degree. It was hard. She worked hard. But even though some days at the preschool were exhausting and some night classes were worse, she still managed to get up every morning and put a smile on her face, because she knew those kids deserved it and that she loved them with all her heart.

When my sister got out of school, she started to specialize her zone of work to kids with special needs. She wanted them to be known rather than just sympathized for and nervously looked at. About a year ago, she took a job as a shadow for a little girl named Tess who was born with sensory processing disorder and apraxia as a result of being born extremely premature. Many people might have been intimidated by a case like this, but my sister took in stride, understanding that no matter how hard a day was for her, it was 10 times harder for Tess.

Last fall, my church hosted a Harvest Festival for Halloween and invited families to come out in their costumes to play games, exchange candy, etc. My sister and I signed up to run a face painting booth where we spent the evening creating subpar masterpieces on children’s cheeks.

One 6-year-old reviewer of my work called it, “Okay.” Another said, “Thanks, I guess.”

After we were done, when the last kid walked away with an average amount of satisfaction, we made our way to the buffet to overeat. With our plates stacked high and our hands still cramping, we took a seat around one of the tables and ate and shared stories of our failed face paintings with our fellow churchgoers. Once the meal was finished, the MC announced it was time to reveal the winners of the pumpkin carving competition. My sister and I turned our chairs forward and as we awaited the winners, we saw a little boy turn around in his chair. He glanced at me briefly, then looked at my sister and smiled. A few seconds later, the MC announced the winner to be none other than this little boy. He went up on stage and collected his prize, then walked back to his table to hug his mom, all the while glancing over at my sister with a smile.

My mom made a comment about how cute all of the pumpkins had come out and was about to suggest we start cleaning up, when suddenly a little voice interrupted her. The little boy walked up to the table with caution, his eyes on the ground, and my sister immediately greeted him with a smile and congratulations. He blushed and said thank you and then immediately looked back down at his feet. The group of us exchanged a smile, then we all watched in amazement as the boy slowly walked towards my sister and climbed up on her lap. We were stunned. Had she met him in the preschool room where she volunteers on Sundays?  Had he been in her group for Vacation Bible School in the summer?

“No,” my sister said after he left, “I’ve never talked to him before.”

Later that week, when we were back at church on Sunday morning, a woman came up to my mom and I to talk about the Harvest Festival and what a success she thought it was.

“Not to mention I saw little Aaron sitting on Natalee’s lap at the end of the night.”

“Yeah, he really latched on to her out of nowhere, it was so cute!”

“He’s not usually like that, but sometimes they just know.”

“What do you mean?”

She went on to explain that Aaron had a few different learning disabilities and was often very shy and slow to take to other people. But there must have been something about my sister, some sort of undeniable goodness that made him trust her instantly.

“Sometimes they just know.”

They know, I know, & I hope you know.

Happy birthday!

10 Christmas Gifts I Loved/Hated (As Told by Old Photos) (List-Cember #6)

We all know that it is incredible to receive a gift, of any shape or size, from anyone. And while oftentimes that gift is marvelous, we’re all occasionally going to get pink bunny pajamas (or the figurative equivalent.)


Regardless, there will always be a family member close by waiting to take your picture, and asking you to show off said marvel and/or bunny pajamas.

For me, my dad is always that family member. And it turns out that when you take my general disdain for having my picture taken and mix in the pressure of having to instantly love a gift that’s been given to me, it makes for some pretty amazing photos.

Here are 10 of my favorites:

What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: HECK YES, Mom & Dad! An Abu stuffed animal AND an Aladdin book?!? I’m so happy I might…well…actually, can we take a bathroom break?



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Honestly, has anyone ever seen me wear yellow? Soooo not in my color wheel, y’all.



 What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Do any of these amazing ladies have bangs quite like mine?



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: OH NOW THIS IS A COMFY CHAIR. Dad, I know you like your recliner, but this makes my butt feel like it just won the Superbowl and is now going to Disneyland. Seriously, you should get one of these for yourself.



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Awww yeah, baby. One step closer to completing my collection, which will no doubt be valuable FOREVER.



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Does this jacket make my hips look big?



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: At what point did I grow a beard and start taming reindeer? What in the ho ho ho am I supposed to do with a plate?



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Woody!! Buzz!! Forget “Andy’s coming!” because Kim. Has. Arrived. and I will totally accept you for the talking toys you are.



What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Mom, Dad, you get me. You really, truly get..zzzzzzz


This next one isn’t a post-gift reaction, but more of a strategy to make sure the photo of which will have no reason not to be outstanding.


What I’m (Probably) Thinking Here: Ignore her big guy, I’ve been good and I’ve got a long list for you. You might want to grab a pen…


Here’s to another wonderful season of gift giving and incredibly unflattering photos taken way too early!

Miss a List-cember post? Find them all here.