Vacation recap.

Our vacation ended Sunday morning in the 70 degree ocean air and we landed in Chicago pleasantly surprised to a beautiful 70 degree temperature and loads of leaves everywhere.  Maybe it was the 5 days away that made me stop and notice the beautiful reminders of fall in the midwest, but I got it.  Windows were rolled down almost immediately, we drove from house to house retrieving our furry family members and home we went.

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It was good to spend time with my family without distractions.  Very little work and a lot of play.  Early morning donut runs, followed by football on the beach.  We saw family and friends and did a whole lot of exhaling.  It is funny how I seem to forget to do just that exhale.  I charge through my days and nights with my head down and my checklist on the counter.  Dog bath (check), laundry (check), work (check), schooling (check) I could keep going but you get the point.  I never take the time to stop and just be.  I am constantly pushing myself for more ideas, inspiration and goals but come up short handed.  My pot has been empty for a lot of different reasons.  What I realized in Florida was that I never take the time to fill up, to experience the weather…..really experience it, like walk outside.  I mean how do I expect myself to grow and create if I don’t fill my heart and mind up with experience?  Instead fear and insecurity just take the front seat and I remain in my conundrum.4Q3B5492 2 copy 4Q3B5504 2 copy 4Q3B5508 2 copy 4Q3B5515 2 copy 4Q3B5516 2 copy Untitled-1 copyThat is why vacations are good for the soul.  There is nothing else to do except experience and then think about those experiences.  I did that.  I felt the air, soaked in as many different palm trees as possible (did you know there is 100′s of varieties?) and had real conversations with my kids, my husband as well as friends and family.  I grabbed all of that stuffed it in my heart and brought it home with me.4Q3B5530 2 copy 4Q3B5528 2 copy 4Q3B5540 2 copy 4Q3B5533 2 copy 4Q3B5546 2 copy 4Q3B5552 2 copy 4Q3B5553 2 copy 4Q3B5555 2 copy 4Q3B5566 2 copy

Tuesday morning was back to reality.  I was up early making coffee and starting the bacon for the kids.  Moms with 6 kids generally make bacon under the broiler but not that day.  I cooked each piece like it was a science experiment.  Savoring the way the iron skillet cooked that bacon and the way the kitchen smelled.  Today I took time to step foot outside.   Not just to run to the car for errands or to grab the mail, I really stepped out with the kids and a whole lot of leaves.  We raked and burned leaves for about 2 hours.  The smell and crunchiness of the leaves as well as the huge fire we created brought more thoughts of possibility then I have had in months.4Q3B5560 2 copy 4Q3B5564 2 copy 4Q3B5573 2 copy4Q3B5589 2 copy 4Q3B5598 2 copy

I am enjoying real life.  Home rearranging, cooking, baking and just being.  But being with the intention of remembering and appreciating.  We are entering into the month of gratitude.  We all have it, but tend to forget about it.  I read an article on the plane in O Magazine talking about how to remember to be grateful.  It is really pretty easy,  If you are grateful let people know it.  She them a note, the real deal, with a stamp and an envelope and let them know what you appreciate about them.  It is sad we have to read something as simple as that in order to actually pick up a pen and find out note cards but it works.  Being grateful reminds us that we are grateful and that is a good thing.  It is important to wrap our gratitude around the ones we love.  It helps and it keeps me checked in and that is exactly where I want to be this holiday season.

Happy Gratitude. OX  Katie


I have spent the last 2 days packing, organizing and planning for a little trip we are taking for the kids fall break.  I think a lot as I grab, fold, refold and organize my kids clothes.  I usually come across the t-shirt that never got filed to the bottom of the pile this past summer.  Instead it was worn 5 out of the 7 days of the week.  The t-shirt that I tried my hardest to loose and always found its way back home.  Everytime I run into those relics a flood of memories come back to me.  The stains from afternoon pop cycles and the little hole from getting caught on the fence as one of the boys tried to fetch a ball.  I always think about how big I thought they were then and how old they are now.

That whole thought was only magnified by the process of changing out my hallway photos of my kids.  I do it every fall.  New head shots for each of them!  The pictures greet me every time I open my front door or come down the stairs in the morning to make lunch.  Some days I notice them more then others.  The changes in their hair, face and features, but one thing I always notice is how young they looked “back then”.  How young they looked on that day that I thought they were so grown up.

AH3A6155-2 copy AH3A6182-2 copy AH3A6164-2 copy AH3A6169-2 copy AH3A6152-2 copy AH3A6209-2 copyI have witnessed friends and family saying good-byes to their children as they head off to college or off to start the next chapter of their life.  The chapter that doesn’t include their hometown.  I mean I did the same thing to my own parents.  Off to college I went, returned home only for short stints until I started my job in the big city.  What I have realized is that all the pushing, expecting, fear and encouragement ends up creating confident and independent young adults who move out.  Adults who look at the world as an opportunity instead of a scary “what if”.  And we are left questioning why.  Missing the yesterdays and wondering where the years went.

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I know my time is coming.  It isn’t long till I will be waving good-bye to one of my boys.   I mean next year I won’t even have a child in footie PJ’s.  I have been buying them for 12 solid years.  There has always been a child in need of 3 pairs of carters, snuggly, warm footie pajamas every year.   I threw the traditional 3 pairs in the cart this afternoon I knew next year I would be looking at those Pj’s and wishing I was where I am right now.  Holding the hand of a little girl who wears 5T snuggly, warm and soft Carters PJ’s.

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I am happy to be at a place where we can travel.  Pick up and go on a road trip or visit my family a little more freely then I could in past years, but it doesn’t mean I don’t miss those memories.  Last years Christmas and birthdays.  All of it.  They were so big but now they are even bigger.  Yet another reminder to slow down and be more deliberate.  Instead of crossing out a tradition, I am going to start new ones.

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I am happy to share with you a designer that I have watched grow over the past 3 years.  I have absolutely adored her raincoats since the moment I set my eyes on them and am so excited Grace finally has her own.  If you are not familiar with Oil & Water you must visit their site.  You will fall in love, instantly.  They are so unique and practical.  We got stopped 3 times in one afternoon to find out exactly where Graces coat came from! Best part is that it is lined! Perfect Christmas gift!

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PS….if you ever need a pick me up.  Give a girl a balloon. You are bound to smile.  More on our little vacation here.

OX Katie

I’m home…..

I have returned…..  I am back home after a long weekend in the city with my friend Michelle.  This is becoming a bit of a tradition.  I think it has something to do with 40.  40 years of experience, raising kids, growing, learning and loving.  Life evolves and the wants and needs of ourselves and our children change.  I have finally reached a stage in my life that I give myself permission to grab my bags, kiss my babies good-bye and head out the door for a weekend with my girlfriend without guilt.  Honestly I am not sure why it takes 40 years to reach this point.  My Mom has whispered in my ear many times over the years to take time out for myself but I thought, “What does she know? I am a Mom and I can’t be selfish like that.”  The sad thing is she knew it was selfish not too.  Every time I leave I come back a relaxed, inspired and a grateful Mom.  A better Mom.

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This trip could not have come at a better time.  The last couple months have been a roller coaster with tons of good and tons of reality.  All of it wrapped together leads to some sleepiness nights as well as pushing myself to limits I didn’t even know I had.  There are a lot of lifes worries that I tend to shove right back down when they surface themselves and my heart questions what the future holds especially when it comes to my kids.

Insert – We baked Cookies

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Being this is Down syndrome awareness month my friend, Kelle, wrote a beautiful piece about raising a child with Down syndrome and how it relates to siblings.  It was beautiful and it raised some hard questions for me.  I have been struggling with them for the past week.  Truth is I tend to not even think what the future holds for Grace and her siblings because one thing I have learned while being a Mom for almost 13 years is that you can not control the way your children think about anything.  When I was a new Mom and raising toddlers I worried that one wasn’t feeling loved or I would question if I hugged one boy more then another.  I would make sure I included all of them all of time.   It was a vicious circle of worry that never was satisfied.  It was and still is impossible to make everyone was happy all the time.

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As we were blessed with more children our rooms filled from one child to 2.  Moving them in together stressed me out.  I grew up in a house where everyone had their own room, their own toys and virtually shared very little except our parents.  Our parents took us on vacations every year.  We made it to Disney at least 3 times!  We wanted for virtually nothing.  I was the only child in our family who was a product of divorce.  I never remember my biological parents being married but I always had a Mom and 2 Dads that loved me unconditionally.  But guess what?  I have good memories and bad.  I remember feeling insecure and scared.  I also remember feeling loved.  Everything I felt are my feelings and there is really very little my parents could have done to change those feelings.  They did the best they could and they loved me.  I know that.  Yet still there are memories of wishing my parents were together.  Questions about how my life would have been if they never divorced.  As well as dreams of what type of family we would have been.

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I thought  a lot about that this weekend.  I thought a lot about how my kids will feel when they are my age.  What will they think of their childhood and will they look back on having a sister with a developmental disability and find it a gift or a burden.  It stings to  even think about.  So here are my thoughts and what I told myself.  I don’t care.  Honestly as you read above, even though my parents divorced before I can remember them being married I was given 2 sisters and a brother.  I was given a second man to call Dad.  I was given a whole other extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles and even grandparents!  I mean really?  How lucky am I?  You know that is a whole set of additional Christmas and Birthday presents, right?!  And guess what?  I still have insecurities.  There is nothing my parents could have done to change that.

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So all I can do is love my kids.  Remind them that they are important and encourage a whole lot of “love your siblings”.  What they do with that is up to them.  The road to adulthood with my 3 siblings has not been a smooth highway.  It has been more of an old, bumpy country road with pot holes and a lot of dust.  Put us in a room for longer then 3 days and nerves are on high alert. But you know what?  I love them.  I would do anything for them and I can’t imagine my life without them regardless of the differences each of them have.  Regardless of the differences I have.  They are my family.

Down syndrome is just that Down syndrome, nothing more.  Grace is our daughter and their sister.  When questions arise from the kids, such as “Mom how long has Grace had Down syndrome?” I answer, “since she was born.” “Oh”, they say, “she is so cute Mom.” Ahhh that she is.   They are right, she is cute.

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So I am laying this to rest.  I am giving myself a break.  I don’t care if someday my sons think it is a burden raising a child with a developmental disability, because for me, it is not.  For me it will never be.  The sky is the limit in my mind for her and the boys.  I expect greatness from all of them and the definition of greatness is not the top of their class and the captain of their sporting team.  I expect each of them to leave their mark on this world.  I want them to busy themselves with caring, loving and experiencing life.  I believe that is the only way to true happiness anyway.

XOX Katie

Our house.

We spent the weekend finishing things up and preparing for new things.  I didn’t pull out my camera once.  It was freezing on Saturday and after spending 4 hours in sleet, rain and SNOW (yes you read that right, it snowed!).  The couch and a fire was where it was at for the rest of the afternoon.  So tonight when I looked out the back door and saw my family laughing and playing I knew these moments are few because they usually start out all laughter and turn into he did, she did…..its not fair Mom.

Not tonight.  The boys and girl played for a good hour chasing each other while playing a made up game called “peek – a – gettem” or “pooka – boo”.  There were 3 or 4 names for it but basically the gist of the game was run around the yard dodging your brother and sister with the noodle and bat.  No rules just go gettem.

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So I grabbed my camera and captured some of this.  I will look back on these images a year from now and my heart will hurt because they will be a year older.  The laughter in the backyard.  The dirty feet at dinner.  All of it.  If just goes so fast.

I had the pleasure of photographing the sweetest little family yesterday.  They are parents of 2 little ones.  The oldest 3 and the youngest 6 months.  I saw them walking toward me with kids in their arms and diaper bag slung over the shoulder.  Years flashed through my mind.  I remember those days like they were yesterday.  Those days of no sleep and juggling life around, lunch, nap and snacks.  I suddenly missed my babies.  I missed when by 2 oldest were small and we had play dates and met at the mall so the kids could play in the center play areas.  Those days.  It seems like a 100 years ago.

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So these moments are captured and forever saved on my hard drive and soon to be put in a book.  I appreciate the Monday afternoons filled with laughter and not tears.  I look forward to looking back and seeing a realistic view of our house.

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I am super excited to announce the winner of the cape and panel pants for Kana!!  Congrats to Tiffany Orr!  You are the winner!  Please email me at so that I can pass your information on.

Ox Katie

A camera, a girl and a cape AND a giveaway!

It has been awhile since I pulled down the background paper and created something just for Grace.  I have been so busy with work that grabbing her and having some fun with the camera was just not on the list of things to do.  She has grown up in front of the camera,  posing and just being.  It has always been a special time we share together.  Shut the door, crank the music and dance.  Don’t forget the cute outfits.  Those are always the best part.

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Recently a very special box came from Kana, a clothing line that I might have a little crush on.  Inside that box was the sweetest cape and panel pants you might ever see!  In love.   What can I say I am a total sucker for capes.  They are so Mary Poppins and frankly I want one for myself.  The best part of this one is the lining inside. Its WARM.

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Grace loved the feel of the pants and the fact that the cape suddenly made her feel like she could fly.  Really.

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The best part for YOU is that Kana will be giving this whole outfit (Cape and Panel Pants) away to a deserving follower! (They have sizes 2-10) You need to go here  and follow along (like the page is what I am trying to say) and go here and let Kana know what you think about their gorgeous outfit as well as leave a comment on THIS BLOG telling me your favorite outing in the fall!  I need some new ideas. This cape will look amazing on your little one playing in the leaves, I promise!  Ready set go! You have till Monday! will be choosing the winner but I will check to make sure you followed all the steps.  It is super easy!

TGIF friends!

OX Katie

At home…

Beautiful flowers brought to you by myself.  This “self” decided that she deserved a vase of pretty orange flowers to look at.  It makes the whole process of breakfast, lunch and dinner special.  So there you have it.  I felt I was deserving of these beauties because well I deserve them.  A little fun fact I do this every week!

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Believe me there are many days and weeks that I am not deserving of such a beautiful little reminder of “your special” but this week just happens to be different.  This week I feel like we climbed a big mountain and are resting at the top enjoying the beautiful fluffy clouds.  Things just seem easier this week homeschooling, therapy, cooking, schedules all of it.  I seem to be in the car instead of running behind it.  Now forget about the part where we made it to Tae kwon do without the belts.  (that is not allowed btw) or the fact that I had to run to the store twice for two different ingredients for the cookies we are making in these pictures.  I gave myself yet another pass and some how things still seem a little easier.

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I think it has a lot to do with a lighter work schedule and just being here.  My focus is solely on my job as a mother.  When the slates are clean (and that is not often) and the extras are cleaned out life just is easier.

This week I will savor it.  We are working on new things and I see little buds growing on the brains of my children.  Struggles we have had in the past are now not as big of a concern. It feels good to know that your hard work is paying off and there is a bigger foundation to grow from. So we celebrate with a cookie.

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We made cookies together.  They are like therapy for me and probably a big reason I go up a jean size every year.  They are my staple.  Friends and family can rest assured they will be there waiting when they come for a visit.  My kids get them for good grades, half days and just a late night, there is nothing to eat in our house.  I can whip them up in 10 mins flat.  In the oven they go and they transform the whole atmosphere in our house.  Happier is happier and frowns are turned upside down.  Its a fact.

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We do this so much I wanted to capture some of the feeling that goes into each batch.  It has been a bucket list thing to pull out the camera and use the remote so that I could be in the images with my kids too.  I love these because they are who we are.

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This family loves cookies, home, a good show on TV and our friends and family.

Check back this Friday for a great giveaway!  Girl moms you are not going to want to miss this! More to come on Down syndrome awareness month!

Happy hump day!  Heres to easy weeks.  I love them!  OX

I’m a Mom, for real….

Remember the days your mom met you at the breakfast table with a “Go get dressed lets go shopping.”  Well for me those mornings were the best because it usually meant I was spending the afternoon with my Mom all by myself.  My Mom wasn’t one to drag all the kids through the mall unless it was absolutely necessary.  When  I got older I did the same with my sister.  I used to bribe her to go with me to the mall with a cookie taco.  It worked like a charm BTW.  It is not that I love shopping, it was the whole outing.  Chats in the car, lunch at Olive Garden the whole event.  I now prefer to do most of mine online but unfortunately my boys are growing into young men and my method of no longer works.  I actually have to take them to the store so they can touch and feel the clothing along with try it on.  Otherwise the articles that come in the mail hang in the closet till seasons change and I bag them up with the tags on.  I have learned my lesson.

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I took my oldest to the mall this past Saturday.  Him and I and well…..his little brother and sister.  I am one of those moms that drag others along. HA!  3 is a lot easier then 6!  So we  leisurely took in store after store and landed in Hollister.  You walk in that place and must immediately take off sunglasses it is so dark for fear of tripping over a rack or loosing a child.  We were on the hunt for jeans and knee deep in 30×32, 28×30 you get the point.  Mens jeans and their numbers. I did not even know where to begin so I tapped a cute sales girl and asked her to help us get started.  Thinking she would have a tape measure.  No such luck.  ”What size in sweats does he wear?” she asked.  ”I have no idea.” I respond.  We started in the middle and worked or way down.  Grabbing skinny, straight, relaxed on and on.  In and out of the dressing room I went pulling, grabbing, pinching you get the drift.  My son was red as a beet and asked me more then 4 times to stop opening the door when he was half naked.  Never mind his littlest siblings playing a game of tag under the door. HA!  In a 12 year olds mind we were a complete embarrassment.   I forget  the sales reps are his peers and he would rather fly under the radar as opposed to have a siren over his head.

Yep, those days.  I am that Mom.  The one that forgets that her kids are standing among friends and asks if the jeans feel good in the behind.  Strike one.

I can’t believe I have reached this point in my life where I have a teenager.  It seems impossible to me.  Through all the embarrassing moments he still asks to ride along.  I guess that is good.  I am sure there will come a day when I will suggest a trip to the store and he turns and asks for some cash instead.  I am enjoying this transitionvand I am excited to see what the next 5 years bring.

Not sure what happened to the lady with the double stroller and 2 toddlers cruising behind her but she is long gone.  Her kids grew up!

A little behind the scenes of our weekend.  BTW I literally lost a whole week.  Even after my son told me it was the last week in Sept I believed it was the first weekend in October.  So pumpkin patch comes next week.

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Bonfires are a must when you drive all the way to tae kwon do and you missed the class by and hour.  I wish I could say it was the first time. UGH.

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I love this picture of Grace so free and herself.  She is as wild as her brothers and I love that.

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This girl did a dance in the parking lot when I handed her this muffin the size of her head.

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Happy Monday friends! OX

Its here! The most wonderful, colorful…..time of year

So I am on my 5th pumpkin latte and 4th batch of pumpkin bread and 100% in fall.  Its colors, smells and textures.  All of it!  I am a bit delayed in marking things off the “leading up to the holidays” list and apple picking just happened last weekend.  It will be shortly followed by pumpkin picking but I am good with that.  Sometimes I start too early and pumpkins are sagging by Thanksgiving.

My heart skips a beat when you wake up in the morning and as we are loading kids on the bus we can see our breath.  I am much more a put more clothes on person then a hot and sweaty (you don’t want this lady to take too much off) person.  So I welcome the cool temps and the fires at night.

We are on the mend over here and looking forward to decking this place out with a bit more festive color.  More to come!  For now here is our family weekend.

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Silly puppies and smiles.

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Big brothers.

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Street baseball.

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Mudpie in a cone, anyone?

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Chilly morning wake-ups.

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Michigan neighbors and friends.

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Carmel apples on the bumper of the car.

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and apples…..made into fresh apple butter.

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Speaking of apple’s I have been reading about all the benefits of this stuff.  I put it on my salad every day but they say to drink it.  I am day 3 into it (I add some water to it).  I have not contracted the germs flying around this house.  Maybe it is working!  Does anyone else do the same?  I am interested in your success stories!

The coolest part of sifting through these pictures on Wednesday is that we are already half way to another week.  Looking forward to more fall festivities.  I am pulling out the boots and sweaters today!  It feels good to point my lens at what is most important to me.  These gorgeous kids that I am very grateful for.  Taking them in before the October craziness begins!

PS if you are local to Chicago or Michigan and planning family pictures with me this year.  Make sure to get on the books! The only weekend available in Oct is the 18th and 19th.  Feel free to email me at if you want one of those days.

Happy Hump Day! Katie

Changing the Face of Beauty with Mighty Acorn Foundation…

It is difficult to put into words the magic that happened just down the road from my house a week ago.  So many emotions wrapped up in those 2 days and for me one of the largest projects I have had the opportunity to be a part of.  From beginning to end, I have to say, every step was a learning experience that I am grateful for.

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I met Denise DeMarchis, founder of Matilda Jane and the Mighty Acorn Foundation five short months ago.  She immediately understood what it meant to be seen in media and advertising.  She is a big dreamer and knew right away she wanted to do something to push the envelope.  She wanted to challenge her friends and the companies she worked beside for so many years to get on board and think about changing the way they advertise their designs.

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These companies not only got on board but they actually showed up!   None of us will forget those 17 girls who represented their designs with true and pure beauty.   I was asked what my hopes were for this project and a flood of emotion came over me.  There are so many hopes that run through my mind during every project but the outcomes are always far beyond what I could have ever imagined.  This project was no different, 17 girls left feeling strong, beautiful and important and 9 companies left questioning their future advertising campaigns.  That is pretty amazing.

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I know I talk about it all the time but I believe opportunities like these matter because what we see every day matters.  Although we might feel that imagery is superficial we are still influenced by it.  I know this world is a big place and the opportunity for change is vast.  I have to believe that each and every situation we have to influence another person’s perception and open their mind to something they never even thought about before is important.  That person might just take what they have learned and share it with someone else.  They might even consider hiring a person living with an intellectual disability.  That is what this is all about you know.  Futures, independence and opportunity for all people living with a difference.  I believe advertising is that powerful.

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all the worlds problem’s at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

I hope the mission behind this project grows and brings inspiration to others.  Individuals living with disabilities are the largest minority in the world and remain the most under represented in the media as well as the work force.  That needs to change and I believe it will change as long as we continue to talk about it.

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I can not thank Mighty Acorn Foundation enough for believing in the future of my daughter and yours.  I appreciate them standing up and investing in a cause that will change the world for our children.  They will be compiling the pictures into a beautiful look books that will be given to each participating company so they too can share the mission of inclusion with their consumers.

A special thanks for Kelle Hampton for attending the event and capturing on video the beauty and interactions of 17 girls from all backgrounds and abilities.

chicago from ETST on Vimeo.


Look for updates on Mighty Acorn’s website in the coming weeks.  They will be auctioning all the clothing and shoes the designers so kindly donated to help support future projects as well as help GiGi’s Playhouse Oak Forest rebuild after loosing their building they moved into last fall.  The gifts keep on giving!

OX Katie

I’m back!

This past week was a growing experience and today I am nursing a pretty sick little girl.  I think life just caught up with us today and we have spent a good portion of our day on the couch.  Me catching up on season 2 of The Fosters and her sleeping.  I have 100 things I could be doing but somehow this is where I should be.  Believe me I pushed the envelope but the moaning just finally got to me.  She needs her Mom and I am here.

I keep hitting the rewind on my memory bank.  Scrolling through all the memorable moments of this past weekend.  Friends from near and far coming together for one reason to help “Change the Face of Beauty”.  It really was a beautiful experience for all of us.4Q3B2548 copy

Just to push the anticipation of the event to the next level we invited Kelle Hampton and her 3 kiddos here for the weekend.  We were all sitting on the edge of our seats to see them including my friend and babysitter Molly.  So much so that we welcomed them with a hug and then threw the keys and said see you at 11:00pm my nephew is getting married tonight!  That was the prelude to our entire weekend.  I feel like it was a movie.  We packed in a trip to the American Girl store so the girls could have lunch with their babies, then we splashed in the fountain at Millennium, swung through Garretts and hit the road home to prepare for the 17 girls that would be on set Monday morning.

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These 2 were stuck in the seventies.  The lights, the egg, who would’t be.

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No one was leaving Chicago without memories to take with them.

Sunday night we had friends, volunteers and designers back to the house.  There were hugs and tears before the project even began.  Everyone was there for one reason to support a change.

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I can not tell you how many times tears flooded my eyes.  If you ask Mitzi, owner of Livie and Luca she will tell you that she cried 57 times on Monday alone.  I would have to say I was right there with her.

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Right now I have a 4 year old that needs her Mamas undivided attention but I promise you more will come on Monday from not only me but Kelle and Mighty Acorn as well.  I think we are all forever changed by these 17 beautiful girls who are just that sweet little girls with big dreams.

TGIF friends! OX Katie

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