Monday, January 15, 2018

Sisters From the Same Mister

Just when you think you've officially stopped blogging, life happens and makes you rethink just how beneficial having your own blog can be. I mean who needs to overshare on the Facebook when you have a blog?

So much of me doesn't even know where to begin this post- there is so much to tell, so many nuances to this story- that the thought of getting it all down, let alone accurate, is an overwhelming one. I've felt like a detective the week-long process of putting this together, searching for answers to tell a piece of my own story- which is weird, let me be the first to say it. Writing this has been so different from anything I've ever blogged about because I've needed other people to fill most of it in for me. It's been perplexing yet intriguing all at once.

So sit down, grab a hot tea, maybe even a beer... Hell this might even call for a few shots! Join me on this quest as I figure out: mi vida loca...


This story has unfolded for me since 2007, and we'll get to how that happened in a bit.

But in actuality this story began back in 1961, 19 years before I was born, when a baby girl named Amanda (nicknamed Amy) was born in Inglewood, Ca. She was immediately placed in the arms of a loving adoptive family who had known about her while her biological parents (just teens) were pregnant. They took her home to be the 3rd of their adopted children (they went on to adopt 1 more child). Amy's biological mother was 16 and her biological father Dennis, was 17.

Amy (top middle) & her siblings
In 1964 another baby girl named Pamela (Pam) was born in Los Angeles and at 2.5 months old was placed with an adoptive family out of an LA based adoption agency. Her adoptive parents could not have children of their own and so Pam was the start of their family, rounding it out with an adopted son a year later. Pam's biological mother was 18 and her biological father Dennis was 20. Dennis however did not know about Pam until 2017 when she uncovered the mystery of her biological parents/family members using we'll touch on that more later.

Pamela's family

In 1974 Tamira was born to her mother and father Dennis, 30. Dennis actually named Tamira (Tam-ear-a) and raised her together with her mom on a boat in the Redondo Beach Harbor until she was 3. At that time her parents separated and Tamira and her mom moved out, loosing complete contact with Dennis, other than a phone call at age 14. After a series of moves from the West Coast to the East Coast with her mother and at times grandmother, Tamira settled with foster guardians at age 14 in Idaho. She didn't see Dennis again until she was 31.

Wonder Woman's biggest fan Tamira 

In 1980 I was born, and I'm sure you've put together by now, I also share the same biological father in Dennis (37 at the time) who was in a relationship with my mom. The man had no shortage of relationships in his life! My mom set out to raise me as a single mother and in the process ended up in a relationship with my dad (Roger) who was renting a room from her when she brought me home from the hospital. He was actually a friend of Dennis'- NO, you really can't make this stuff up. Roger and my mom ended up becoming a couple, marrying when I was 3 and that is the only dad I ever knew. Through the good, bad and the ugly- he was my dad.

My dad and I, circa 1984
I'm going to touch on this next part because it's important for me to round out my portion of the story. While the photos are cute and somehow still manage to bring a smile to my face, I don't want to romanticize them too much because my childhood with my dad (Roger) was very hard and very dysfunctional. He most likely suffered from undiagnosed bi-polor disorder, which made things very unstable at home. I grew up walking on egg shells in his presence, always trying to avoid setting off a ticking time bomb. The one thing I will say is that even though he had serious issues, he never treated me like I wasn't his own. He was dead set on screwing up me and my two siblings (his biological children) equally! (sarcasm)... TOO BAD WE'RE ALL AWESOME.

RIP Dad, 10 years ago this month he died after battling Hep C.

From as early as I can remember I recall my mom telling me that the man I knew as "daddy" wasn't my biological father- but that he was my dad for all intents and purposes. Though I was young, I understood. I was always braced for my parents to divorce, because even as a child I knew their relationship couldn't/shouldn't be sustained... but somehow they forged on. There was no secret about the fact that this man Dennis was my father. I know it was important to my mom to always be truthful with the information even though we never discussed it with my dad- or siblings for that matter... It was just handled like a family secret we all knew about but didn't talk about. I think looking back we were scared to mention the knowledge of Dennis in front of my dad. This sort of thing would cause his temper to explode and no one in their right mind would purposely poke the bear.

My siblings: Joanie, Nathan and myself circa 1988

As a child, the knowledge of Dennis caused a good amount of confusion as I knew enough about where he lived (not far) and I remember having questions around why he never reached out and asked to meet me. I grew in to my teenage years still not meeting him and ultimately making the decision myself that I wasn't going to meet him. I'm sure if I'd have asked, my mom would have arranged it... But I'd already had a less-than-perfect relationship with my dad and figured I didn't need to add another one. So I grew in to adulthood without ever meeting Dennis, even until this day at age 37, we have not met.


In 2007 I was contacted by a woman named Tamira, who knew enough about my mom through some cousins on Dennis' side to get ahold of her. She told me I was her half-sister. The news of an older sister came as a total shock to me. I was 26 at the time, newly married to Shawn and trying to adjust to that adventure as well as running a newly opened clothing store. Not that there would ever be a normal time to receive the news of an unknown sister, but this seemed like a crazy time. Not only did Tamira bring the news of her being my older sister by 6 years, she also told me about Amy, another half-sister, 19 years older than me! If my memory serves me correctly, I was entirely freaked out by the situation, you know as one might be. I came to find out that Dennis had impregnated 4 woman over a span of 19 years, producing 4 daughters: Amy, Pamela (who's name we didn't know in 2007), Tamira and myself. I didn't know how to process the news then... And still in some ways don't know how to process it now!

Tamira and I

Amy and I

Tamira flew in from Idaho shortly after I got the news and the 3 of us half-sisters met for the first time at a restaurant in Redondo Beach. I also met their children (my newfound niece and 3 nephews) and they met Shawn, whom I'd only known about 6 months myself (marriage story). His head was spinning I'm sure.

The new-sisters discovery brought about more questions for me- ones I didn't even want the answers to until it was too late to say I didn't want the answers. I came to find out my mom knew about Tamira my whole life, which is something I both understand as a mother myself, and yet as the person it's impacted... I'd be lying if I didn't say I wished I had this information as a child. To say the sisters complicated things in 2007 is an understatement. After meeting them, I'd get upset if Shawn asked too many questions, and upset when he didn't ask enough. I didn't want my mom involved and she wanted to be involved. My dad was on his deathbed and we were on a journey of our own for healing. Everything around the subject of the new sisters made me feel a different way. I remember a range of emotions from anger to excitement and all of them feeling weird. Ultimately it was easier to just sort of put the entire meeting behind me and move on with life.

So I did. 10 years went by and other than "liking" the occasional Facebook post, for the most part we lost touch.

That is until this May when a woman named Pam reached out to me on Facebook while I was taking my lunch break at El Pollo Loco just tryina eat my pollo bowl. I got an alert with an option to accept or deny a message from someone who was not my friend. All I could see of this person's profile was that she was a blonde real estate agent from Sierra Madre, Ca. I thought maybe she was going to ask me about a party I'd done in my past party planning years, which is somewhat normal, so I accepted.

I accepted. As it turns out... another sister.

Pam and I

The missing sister. Tamira told us about another sister in 2007 but from what I thought I understood at the time, she had "closed adoption papers", lived in the South and possibly didn't want to be found... I liked her already! I will say that between the 4 of us, there still seems to be some confusion on whether or not Pam is THE "missing sister" Tamira knew about. Dennis thought another woman had a baby girl and again he never knew about Pam's mother being pregnant. He could be wrong, I mean... I'm not putting my trust in his memory after this many years and who knows how many woman (could. not. resist.) BUT if I update this in a year with a 5th sister... Well... We better get a book deal at that point.

The irony is that Pam couldn't be farther from a "closed adoption papers" person. If I thought Tamira was excited to bring us together in 2007, Pam's energy surrounding her new half-sisters was almost contagious. She'd found her 3rd cousins using, which lead her to her mother, which lead her to Dennis, then Tamira, Amy and myself. Much like Amy until she was found by Tamira in 2007, Pam also hadn't known any biological family. So I was trying my best to understand the excitement from Pam's perspective...

But internally I did a freak out, a la 2007, all over again  (hey... if Britney can survive it). I postponed talking on the phone/meeting her as much as I could even though we're an hour apart by freeway. In these last 7 months I was really trying to get to the root of this question: WHAT DO I WANT FROM THESE SISTERS? I couldn't answer it. I didn't know what I could possibly need or want from them and I think part of that has to do with the relationship I have with my brother and sister, whom I'm very close with. Another part of it is that I hate feeling needed, this comes up for me in my personal life as a wife and mom all the time... You don't think I could have this life without some issues do you?!

In early December Pam extended an invite for January for us all to come to her home. Tamira was flying in from Idaho and given that I had a month's notice I thought, "Hey, I can prepare for this!". Little did I know when I accepted the invite a month prior that the night before we'd meet I'd lay under the covers in my bed having a full blown panic attack. I told myself that night that if I still felt this way in the morning, I'd bow out and apologize saying, "Sorry, I'm just not ready for this". I mean really, who can argue with that? I was just plain loosing it at the thought of digging up all the old emotions again. Emotions are like so time-consuming!

That same anxiety-filled night Shawn asked me about my motivation for meeting Pam and reuniting with Amy and Tamira. I told him I didn't have any expectations or motivations that I could even think of. And when I said that, I meant it. I was going because I woke up far less anxious and I committed to it, however reconnecting with now 3 half-sisters wasn't exactly in my immediate comfort zone! But sometimes we've got to get past the uncomfortable and last Sunday (Jan. 6th, 2018) was that day for me. I got out of bed, put on my big girl pants and I drove the hour out to Searra Madre. The 4 of us met (reunited in some cases) and we also met Pam's daughter Danielle, 26. It was a great day. It wasn't weird or forced which I'd told myself it would be. Everyone was interesting and dare I even say fun to be around. We laughed a lot, we told stories, we tried to piece timelines together. We noticed similar likes (both Pam and I love home decorating) and personality similarities and differences (let's just say Tamira is a HUGGER, I almost had to run from her at one point). We even noticed we have similar feet, cute ones I might add.

When I look at the 4 of us, one thing that's so obvious to me is that we're all strong-willed, accomplished woman. While the 2 who were adopted had pretty much cookie-cutter childhoods, we've all faced our share of adversity in life. Whether it be childhood trauma, divorce, etc. somehow we've all managed to come out on top. I like to think of us as a rather resilient bunch.

Amy (above left) is an Information Technology Manager in Yucaipa, Ca. Pam (second to left) is a Real Estate Agent in Sierra Madre, Ca. Tamira (third to left) is a VA Clinician and Photographer... and as you probably know, I design Barbie concepts for Mattel Toys. Danielle, the new niece (below center) graduated with a degree in Fashion Design- just like me- how freakishly weird/cute is that? She's currently a designer for Paige Denim.

After so much thought and consideration I can say I'm proud to be associated with this group of women and I'm excited for our future as friends and sisters. First on my list of things to do is explain the new aunts to my kids, which I'm working my way up to. I'm sure they'll be surprised and have 1,000 questions that I'll be super awkward at answering. My backup answer to everything is going to be, "Auntie Amy owns horses 1 hour away from us!" which Birdie is going to just love. Horses help with all sorts of confusion.

In closing, I will say being "the baby" is a fun twist from being the oldest... Suddenly I feel like I should go sneak out the back door and wreak havoc in a bar- like a youngest child should... Someone pass me a beer! After this blog, I'm gonna need a few.


Monday, January 23, 2017

A Burger Themed Birthday Party!

My first born, my sweetest boy, turned 8 this weekend. On inauguration day to be exact. In a way I was so happy to have his day of birth as a distraction to a day I'd rather pretend wasn't happening... But that will be my only mention of politics on the subject- I promise you!

I took his birthday off from work so Shawn and I could break Cormac out of school for a birthday lunch, and I could work on some last minute party details. Instead of returning to school, Cormac joined me for a Costco party run, yelling my list to me in an isle, "MOM, DON'T FORGET TAMPONS... WHAT ARE TAMPONS ANYWAY?!" 

Bless it.

Choosing a party theme with Cormac is always a bonding experience for us. Themes are something we both enjoy hashing (and hashtagging) out and this one was no different. Well, it was slightly different in the fact that Cormac is till nursing his broken elbow injury and so I knew we had to revolve the party around something mellow, instead of our typical wild party games and pinatas.

I thought of the burger theme because our family cracks up that after each burger (Cormac's favorite food) he's eaten in the last year he proclaims every time, "That was the best burger I've ever had!" Whether it's a gourmet food-truck style hamburger, or Fatburger... It's his best YET. This is essentially how this kid lives life, excited about everything with positivity exuding him. So when I told him I think we could really rock a burger theme, he was all in. I got to work on eBay, Amazon and Etsy scouring burger decor- which came easily being as though fast food prints are trending like crazy right now. (Hence me and Birdie's burger print tees from Forever 21)

For the invite and graphics, I called on my #1 party girl Elena at World Wide Party. It's been about a year and a half since we worked together and I just knew it was time to reunite. As always, I gave her the "flavor" of the burger party (wink) and she just nailed the graphics... Some things never change!

Being as though I had MLK Jr. Day off, I was able to bake all of the cookies for the Cookie Burger Bar (using the same cookie recipe since his 1st birthday!), as well as all of the layers to the burger cake a week early which was a huge help. People always ask me how I get everything baked for the dessert table and it's all about doing it in advance, freezing it and using the night before the party for assembly. Time management is huge when planning a custom party and I've learned you've got to plan at least a week in advance with baking!

Friday night, my 2 besties from the Central Coast came down with their kids and we stayed up, the 3 of us until 2:30am stuffing favor boxes, snorting coffee out of our noses from laughing so hard and reminiscing on how many times we've done this between our 6 kids. Those late party nights give me life and I am always so grateful to have friends who share this party passion of mine and love my kids like their own.

The party was this past Saturday at noon and as far as I'm concerned it was a hit! The kids all loved the theme and seemed to have a blast at our custom Cookie Burger Bar where they could create a burger out of sugar (cookies, brownies, icing and fondant). Although some kids still refused fondant onions and pickles (they just couldn't get their head around it!!)- in the end, every one of them loved chowing down on a sugar burger. We played backyard games (including a fave from my own childhood: string the Fruit Loops on the Red Vines!) and I also had a little beading table set up complete with burger beads! In total we hosted about 60 people in our backyard under beautiful weather which seemed to clear up for us just in time providing a perfect day of family and school friends celebrating Cormac's 8th birthday. I seriously couldn't have asked for a better party- and if you know me, I'm very hard to please when it comes to judging my own parties. I can now see that stepping away from the event planning industry has allowed me to not care as much about ironed linens and symmetrical table designs. I can honestly say that even though there are still small stresses in throwing a party for my child, having that "business" aspect of things removed is a lot of stress relieved. My own husband even noticed, which is huge. Not that he didn't still call me "Miss Party Mom!" for a week before, every chance he could... But hey, the nickname is mine and I'll never be ashamed of it!

Enjoy our Burger Birthday...

party or die,
xo kenna xo
(aka Miss Party Mom)






Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Gift Giving Guide for Procrastinators!

Last minute gift-buying... It's what I do best! When I hear about these ladies who are like DONE with gift-giving in October I feel bad that they don't even know the rush of a packed mall in December and the thrill of procrastination gift finding! Exhilarating... Am I right?!

Agree to disagree?

After studying the Tiny Prints website for a good while, I present to you my top finds... Items I'm proudly (really!) gifting this Christmas! Be sure to check for Tiny Prints coupon codes here, as they're usually running pretty great deals. Until tomorrow, a ton of items are 40% with the code JOYTOYOU. In this post, prices listed are original prices.

Check order placement dates here to ensure Christmas delivery!

The Mom/Grandma Gift:
Personalized Notepad & Matching Note Cards, $14.99 each
These are just a sweet little personalized gift for the lady in your life who still loves to pen a good letter or write a lovely thank you note. With so many designs to choose from, you're sure to find one that your mom or grandma will love. The note cards are printed on thick, high quality card stock- they're very high-end looking- I know my momma is gonna love these!

The Couple Gift:
Custom Photo/Year Zinc Keepsake Ornament, $34.99
By logging on to Facebook and dragging a photo of my brother and his boyfriend Hector on to my computer, I was able to create this truly beautiful keepsake ornament of them. It comes nestled in a sweet little pouch for safe storage and the weight of the ornament gives it that super high quality feel. I'm really happy with this gift and can't wait to see it on their tree!

I got Shawn and I a different style Bracket Metal Ornament, $29.99 to hang on our own tree- and I love it!

The Newlyweds:
Custom Letterpress & Thank You Cards (20) $87.99 & Photo Stamps (20), $27.99
Since my brother is hella fancy, I decided to splurge on these crazy nice letterpress cards. If there's one person I know who will appreciate them, it's him. The photo stamps are just the cherry on top!

The Teacher Gift:
Personalized Name Notebooks, $14.99
I'm really happy with how quickly these shipped and how great they look. These are the perfect teacher gift, either on there own or in a cute little gift basket.

The Spouse Gift:
Acrylic Photo Block, $49.99
These are absolutely beautiful and way over-exceeded my expectations. Not only are they quick and easy to create online, the finished product is just fabulous- everyone who sees it just loves it. It's a unique way to showcase a special photo or collage and has some nice weight to it... This is the 3rd one I've ordered! Since Shawn and I are going simple on Christmas gifts for each other this year, I'll be gifting him this as a little reminder of all the fun we had for our Christmas photo shoot this year... In a way I'm hoping offers it to me, because man would it look great on my office desk!

Now that we have some gifts checked off the list... Don't forget the amazing custom wrapping paper you can create through Tiny Prints. Not only can you easily upload your fave images in to a prearranged graphic (with loads to choose from), but you can add your families names as well! I am so stoked with how ours turned out- the glossy paper is super thick, the images print beautifully and I swear if people tear our beloved Christmas photos, I'm gonna be pissed! I can't wait to see people open our gifts!

Have an awesome Christmas or whatever else you celebrate! I hope it's filled with love, cheer, no family politics and a ton of great presents!


While I was compensated for this post, these are my true thoughts and #feelings on the product, swear.

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