Stories from a Mom with Soul....

Are you a Mom with Soul? Send us your stories, triumphs and epic fails! 
This week's story submitted by Jama Smith from Fort Wayne Indiana. Jama is a working mother of 5 and a freelance writer. 

I always thought my oldest son was exactly like me. 

I heard it all of the time as he grew up; how much we looked alike, how we laughed alike, how his happy-go-lucky character was just like mine. 

Which is why I dreaded the summer ending for him. He was leaving elementary school.

As I dropped my son off at the curb for his first day of middle school, I rendered this advice: 

"Middle school is quite possibly the most horrible time of a young person's life. Everyone's hormones are raging, everyone is insecure. Everyone is picked on for EVERYTHING because everyone's hormones and insecurity are raging. So here's what you do: brush it off and remember that everyone is going through the same thing. Be yourself. Be able to laugh at yourself. And above all, don't be like them. Be kind."

Looking back, it may have been a tad doomsday-ish. I just wanted to prepare him, as I wish someone would've prepared me. 

Memories flooded through me all day as I was at my desk; the sinking abandonment of sitting alone in a full cafeteria full of kids who didn't want to sit with me, holding my books against my chest as a group of boys made fun of my "baby fat boobs", a catty group of girls who asked me daily why I wore my jeans were so tight (I had hit another growth spurt and my mom just hadn't had the chance to get me new ones yet.) 

The worst was that the new boobs and tight jeans somehow branded me with a reputation for being a young lady of ill-repute, or in middle school terms, a slut. 

I had no idea how I had come across this title, as I had never even kissed a boy. Not from a lack of longing, of course. My dreams of Cory Haim and Christian Slater were quite vivid in my head.  It was because elementary school hadn't been any kinder to me than middle school, and there was a consensus among the boys in my class that I was both unattractive and obnoxious. At least, that was what the song they made up about me implied.

My lack of attention from boys also managed to circulate a rumor that I was a lesbian. It was a constantly confusing time for me; the contradiction of being told that boys didn't like me so much that I had turned gay, but at the same time I was with so many boys I was now a whore. The numbers don't have to add up in middle school society; it's really more of a dictatorship of a mass of cruel twelve year olds. 

The result of my harrowed middle school days was a hardened high school girl with a "Go F&^% yourself" shell. I grew real boobs (rather large ones), grew into some curves and did my own fair share of bullying, which I realize now was my own way to ensure I held the power and not the other way around.

Maybe it's different for boys, but based on my own humiliation-streaked memories of that time period had me on edge for my little boy to get home. I wanted to comfort him from what awaited him, for what he surely experienced that first day. 

I picked him up and waited a thirty seconds before pouncing. "How was your first day???"


I waited for expansion, but it didn't come. Oh God, I thought, they massacred him!

I prodded. "Just okay?"

He shrugged. "I have a favorite teacher. He's pretty cool."

"How was lunch?" I held my breath.

"We had mozzarella sticks." 

I waited. And waited. "And?"

His brow furrowed. "And they were okay." 

Damn it, how could he not get what I was asking?? I finally asked the question that would reveal all. "Did you sit with your friends at lunch?" 

I wanted to know if he was ostracized, if he was suddenly in a world of loneliness, if he was scared or hurting. 

I wanted to know if he was really like me. 

He shook his head and I wanted to bawl. I wanted so much better for him than the three years that I foresaw ahead.

I realized then he was staring at me. Obviously, my face betrayed my thoughts because he said, "It's assigned seating, mom. We don't get to pick where we sit, so I didn't get to sit with my regular friends." 

Assigned seating? At lunch? So everyone has to sit together. Why the hell hadn't someone thought of that when I was his age? It was brilliant!! (I can only dream that it's also an end to those asshole gym teachers doing the"pick your own team and lets see who gets chosen last,' practices. Do you people have any idea the anxiety you cause to the non-athletic??) Still, I asked, "Were the kids at your table nice?"

There was that shrug again. "A lot of them are. Two are really mean. They make fun of everyone."

My ears were perked, my muscles were tense. Two of "those kids" at his table. "Were they mean to you?" I tried to sound casual, but I wanted their names, I wanted addresses of where they lived. I wanted to drag their parents into the streets and shame them for raising kids who thrived on the misery of others. A bit dramatic, maybe, but that's my mothering. 

"I told you," he said, now past the point of irritation with me. I was interrupting Minecraft and he had amused me for long enough. "Those guys are mean to everyone. Like, everyone. So I don't care what they think. Why would I?" 

Why would he care what people who were mean thought? Why would he care about the opinion of two people who are obviously beneath him by evidence of their behavior? Why would he care if people tried to hurt him? 

The answer was, he didn't. And not in that way that I do: I SAY that people's opinions don't matter, then I work harder for them to like me. 

I looked into his eyes and realized that he was one of those people who liked himself enough that no one else's opinion mattered, especially the opinion of people like that. 

And then I knew I had been wrong all this time.

My son was nothing like me. He was so much better. 

Soul's Spotlight




Q: Maggie, tell us a little about yourself.       

What is your family like?

Maggie: I have a little brother named Spencer, and I live with my mom and dad. 

Q: What do enjoy doing in your spare time?

Maggie: I dance a lot. I take ballet, lyrical, modern, jazz....

Q: Sounds like you're a really well rounded dancer! 

Maggie: It takes a lot of time to learn all of the different styles. But I love it. One day I want to learn how to do a double fouette! 

Maggie, modeling A&S Baja Breeze Dress
Q: Are you planning on making a career out of your dancing? Or is this just a fun hobby for now?

Maggie: I hope that I can grow up to become a dancer. That's the only thing I really want to do. Like, travel and dance in different places.

Q: So, if you could dance anywhere in the world, where would you want to dance?

Maggie: Washington D.C. I was there when I  was little, but I don't remember it. I'd like to go back there now that I'm older.

Q: Was this your first time modeling?

Maggie: I've modeled for fashion shows before, for charity. It's fun.

Q: What did you like best about modeling your dress for Art and Soul?

Maggie: I loved the trim of the dress, and especially the apron. It reminds me of dresses I used to wear when I was little. Fun and pretty!

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Back to School Recipes

Summer days are driftin' away, and your kids can't help
but feel a little melancholy for those lazy afternoons. 
Perk up their lunch time with a surprise meal, healthy
enough to keep them smiling throughout the day. 

Fruit Kabobs
Courtesy of
Turkey Wrap Bento Boxes,
Courtesy of Taste of Home
Apple and Grape Turtles,
Courtesy of
Bunny-Butter and Jelly
Courtesy of

Banana Crunch Wraps,
Courtesy of Weelicious
Deviled Chicks in Eggs
Courtesy of 

DIY- Teacher's Pet

It may not get you to the top of the class, but you'll definitely be teacher's pet if you use this DIY sweet treat pencil idea,
courtesy of Thrifty and Thriving. 

What you will need:
  • Rolo’s
  • Hershey Hugs (or Kisses)
  • Yellow and Pink Cardstock
  • Foil
  • Glue Dots
  • Ribbon or String
  • Craft Scissors w/ Pinking Edge (optional)
Pull the Hershey’s label out of the Hug, and use the Glue Dots to attach the Hershey’s Hug to one of the ends of the Rolo. If you aren’t familiar with Glue Dots, they are the best things EVER!!  Everybody needs a box or two or three in their house.  I usually pick them up at Michael’s with a 40% off coupon.
Cut about a 1″ thick pink strip to add to the top of the Rolo to resemble an eraser.  I cut a circle and attached it to the top to finish it off.
Next cut a piece of yellow cardstock to wrap around the Rolo’s.  Fold it about an quarter of an inch over and over to create the crease marks for the pencil, and then attach it to the Rolo’s
Cut a thin piece of foil to cover the part where the yellow and pink overlap, this works as the metal portion of the pencil. Lastly, you can attach a note to the finished product with a ribbon or string. You are done!
Optional: You can cut one end of the yellow cardstock with pinking scissors so it has more of that sharpened pencil look.

Stories from a Mom with Soul

Are you a Mom with Soul? Send us your stories, triumphs and epic fails! 
This week's story submitted by Jama Smith from Fort Wayne Indiana. Jama is a working mother of 5 and a freelance writer. 

My husband rides a bike like a girl. 

I can happily announce this, and although I should have checked with him on the wording before making such a proclamation, I think he would agree with me on it.

I hope he will agree with me on it. 

Before I launch this one, my usual "blog disclaimer" is necessary to ensure I don't receive the normal, "But not ALL of us...." emails. 

Who am I kidding, I'm going to get them anyway. Which, thanks to the scrambling my brain has been through after five kids, leads me to a completely different tangent.

Yes, I am aware, like with every blog, that NOT ALL of whom I'm speaking of are applicable.

Not ALL camping enthusiasts are judgmental, condescending nature freaks who insist on converting the masses to their sick, outdoor fetishes like a twisted organic cult. (But I stand by my opinion that if you begin to find wildlife sexually appealing, you're venturing down a moonless path.) 

Not ALL mothers who defend their right to stay at home are judging me for working a full time job while raising my children. (But I must take this moment to remind you that if you say things like, "Well, I just believe in putting my family before my own career choices..." in your argument, you're being a jerk-face.) 

Not ALL mothers of multiples have crying fits, anxiety break downs, grown woman temper tantrums, wine binges, and solitary rocking in a corner on a monthly basis. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who handles it so poorly.) 

Thus begins this disclaimer: NOT ALL MEN....

Having started my career in an industry dominated by men, I was maybe one of two females. And always the youngest. As such, I had a tremendous opportunity to see how men mentored, trained, and co-existed in an environment while dealing with the opposite sex. Eventually, I left this area of the work force and found an environment ridiculously pink and feminine in a fabulous retail chain (Yes, NOT ALL WOMEN are overly feminine or like pink, have to like pink to be feminine, I know.) Which gave me an amazing comparison to being surrounded by women and the vast differences in how they work together verses their male counterparts. 

This long winded and insanely wrong-turned explanation leads me back to the beginning statement: My husband rides a bike like a girl. No doubt.

A few months ago, my husband purchased me a bike as the warmer weather set in. I had been moaning about how I needed to find a workout that didn't take me from the kids for too long but still delivered some results, and I had to like it enough to not want to set myself on fire when an upcoming workout came to mind. Bike riding it was. Strapping a trailer for the little ones to ride, then bringing the older kids riding behind was perfect for our family.

When I say "perfect", I mean I struggled with it but had no excuse to give up. It was everything I had asked for...but it was still a workout, and my thighs protested loudly with every pedal. Working my way up from one mile, two miles, steep hills, through traffic filled streets or thick mud, a few more's definitely an endurance builder. My husband was right beside me, biking it like a woman. Here's how:

1. Women Identify the Struggle.
As we were riding up "Bitch-Ass Hill" the other day (That's the land-given name for it, really.) my calves were in a particularly grumpy mood, and not at all cooperating with the 100 pounds of child and trailer I lugged behind me. And somehow I think that hill had gained a few feet of incline with the rainfall...I'm sure of it. I was gargling my heart half way up and my husband said from behind me, "You're doing good, doing good. You're almost there....almost done..." and immediately after I finally got to the top, he hailed me with, "Way to go, baby! That hill's a killer but I think you're even getting faster at getting up it."

From my experience with male co-workers in positions of authority, the number one objective of any effort is to just GET IT DONE. Doesn't matter how. Doesn't matter at what lengths it took, what sacrifices were made, what grueling leg work had to be done to get there. Just that the job was finished. And in some respects, that makes a very effective leader who looks at the simple, unemotional bottom line. 

Whereas when I worked with women, I found them as equally vested in the involvement of what it took to get to the end of the line. What made it hard? Did it improve you or damage you? And most importantly, the encouragement throughout the process to validate that you're struggling but you're supported. Not everyone likes or needs this. But I do. And my husband knows it.

2. Women Identify the Success
So my husband and I alternate between who has the kids to pull along behind them. The last time we went our usual distance, and when we got home I remarked about how that uphill boardwalk was intense. He agreed and added, "You did awesome, though. You didn't even break stride." 

I DID do awesome, but that's not what the part that I found interesting. What I found most interesting about this was that he had done the EXACT same thing a few days before when it was his turn to haul the twins. He had every right to say, "Um, yeah....remember a few days ago? That sucked for me too." 

In fact, most of the time in working with men in large corporate settings, I found that any issues I had would be most likely met with "Yeah, I did that. And I did it better. And, might I add, faster." or "You found that hard?? I hate to see how you weather the next year!" 

Mind you, they don't mean any offense. It's their way of telling each other they can do more, better, faster, stronger. In a way of challenging each other to be the best, maybe. Even an encouraging "You can do it!!" with a huge splash of machismo. 

Whereas females I worked with were much more likely to take that path of, "Oh, that was tough, wasn't it? I had that project last year and I barely survived it." Even when I under performed, fellow co-workers gave me the benefit of the doubt. "Well, yeah, we had a higher volume. But you're average dollar is up, isn't it? See, that shows a greater investment per customer and that's a great thing to build on." 

You can see it as sugar-coating, or empathizing. Either way, I need it. And my husband knows it.

3. Women Understand Silence. 
Then came the day when my bike was jacked up. Something happened with my gears and  a few miles into the ride, they stuck in the highest most anguish-filled resistant state imaginable. I couldn't make it to the end, had to turn around and head those awful, stretched out miles back home, pulling the girls in a condition that made every second feel like pure torture thanks to the unyielding chain. 

I was panting, straining, pushing against the pedals with all of my might to get enough motion going to create a movement. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst was the humiliation of people who passed me; I imagined that since they didn't know the situation, they merely saw a fattie mom who was so weak she couldn't muster enough energy to pull her kids on a bike down a flat path. Tears started to well up in my eyes. That wasn't me! It wasn't my fault! I WAS strong, physically stronger than I had ever been, but this was impossible! I wanted people to KNOW what was happening...but I just put my head down and pushed until I got home. Once there, I had a meltdown in the kitchen, sobbing and shaking as I conveyed what had happened to my husband.

"Hey, it's okay," he soothed. "Look, it's not worth getting this upset about. I can go out right now and fix your gears." 

I screamed back, "It's not about THAT!!!!" And he clammed up.

He understands, unlike a lot of men, that when females have a problem, we're not always looking for a solution. In the cases of many men I know, it's in their nature to be a fixer, a supplier. A problem solver who can help us through things; that when we bring them something broken, it's in their nature to want to patch it up. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all. Things need fixed sometimes.

In this case, I didn't want a fix because the bike wasn't what was most broken at the moment. My self-esteem was broken; my sense of worth. I felt weak and judged. I couldn't express to others that what they were seeing wasn't actually what has happening under the surface.  But I was helpless against it. I was hurting, and I just wanted someone to feel it with me. That's all. Just sit with me and feel what I felt. 

My husband knew that. And most women do too; they understand that silence is not only necessary to healing, it's essential to one's growth to administer to another person. So instead of giving me explanations for how I shouldn't feel that way, how the situation would be remedied, how it wouldn't happen in the future...he just listened. I ranted, cried, blamed him a little for messing with the brakes in the first place, apologized, sighed and finally stopped. When I was done, he quietly grabbed his tool box and headed out to the garage to fix my bike. 

Like I said, things need to be fixed. But things need to be given attention first. My husband knows it. 

While I understand that not all women stick to the above when dealing with others, I'm very happy to say that they are qualities that I've seen when working with so many of them over the years. And I'm even happier to say that I have a partner who follows the approaches of my fellow females.

So I can happily say this again: My husband rides a bike like a girl, and he should be very proud he does. It's the only thing that keeps me pushing forward down the path, that keeps me headed home. 

Soul's Spotlight



This Week: EMILY 

Q: Emily, how old are you now?

Emily: 11, almost 12.

Q: What do you do in your spare time, 
especially over the summer when school is no longer in session?

Emily: If I'm not hanging out with friends, 
I'm probably at cheer practice.

Q: Can you tell us one ambition or goal you have for yourself? 

Emily: One not too ambitious goal is to get taller!

Q: That's a great starter! Do you have any causes or charities that you're really passionate about?

Emily: Yes, the March of Dimes. I like that they help so many babies with their health.

Q: They're a great cause, making the world a better place. Speaking of which, what would you do to make the world a better place?

Emily: I think the best way we can make the world a better place is just by being more accepting of others.

Q: Sounds like the words of a role model. You've actually modeled before Art and Soul, haven't you?

Emily: Yes, I've modeled for Vera Bradley.

Q: So, being a seasoned model, we have to did you like modeling clothing for Art and Soul Boutique?

Emily: I loved modeling for Art and Soul Boutique! It was quick, fun and the dress fit super well!

Q: We hear that a lot. And we never get tired of hearing it!


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