Gifts for Mom, Grandparents, Besties and YOU🎄 ➔

My daughter is just shy of her ninth birthday. In her eyes, this is old. Old enough to have her ears pierced. Old enough to ride the BIG roller coaster. Old enough to go to the park alone. Or not. 
The other day she asked, “Mommy, when are you going to let me go to the park by myself?” The park in question is around the corner and down the street from our house. In my head I was screaming, “Never!” Out loud I gave her the universal noncommittal answer, “When you’re older.”
As a parent I want so desperately to protect my kids from the big bad that is out there. To keep them sheltered in an impenetrable bubble. But I also want to do my job. A large part of which is raising them to be independent. I remember as a kid having free-run of the neighborhood with all of the other kids on our street. It was an age before cell phones and organized play dates. Our parents had no idea where we were half the time but trusted that when the street lights came on, we would come home. And we did.
Unfortunately my desire to give my kids increasingly more freedom is being hampered by the terrifying stories circling social media. While I realize that you cannot live in fear and sometimes you just need to step out in faith, I admit that part of me would love to just hightail it out to the middle of nowhere. A place with no internet. No cable. No social media. No scary people.
Recently Diandra Toyos garnered attention for her Facebook post (which can no longer be accessed) about her trip to Ikea with her mother and three children. She stated that two men were stalking them and that, “I am almost sure that we were the targets of human trafficking.”
A few days later Katt Marie posted of a similar experience with a potential predator in a Walmart in Beloit, Wisconsin. She took a photo of a man who allegedly followed her family for almost an hour, keeping a close eye on her daughter, Kinsley. 
“He picked up random kids clothes acted like he was looking at clothes with no kids or anything with him.”
After Katt made an attempt to approach the man in question, he took off.
“We later asked the head of security if this man was an employee and told him what happened . He said no that man is absolutely not an employee n he immediately got on the phone with police and notified the workers never would i ever think we would have to worry about someone trying to steal our kids. I been reading a lot about human trafficking but never did i ever think this would happen to us. Be careful and keep your eyes on your babies please. This happened at Walmart in Beloit wi.”
Okay, I am never taking my kids out in public again. Except… What are the chances that human traffickers are trolling my local stores, waiting to pounce on my children as soon as I turn my back?
I turned to Dr.Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco for her expert opinion. She holds a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society and is specialized in human trafficking. She is also the author of the forthcoming book on the realities of human trafficking, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: America’s Slaves of the New Millennium.’
She feels that there is a danger in taking to social media to address the issue.’
“Given my experience as a human trafficking expert witness, I believe this story perpetuates common misconceptions about how human trafficking happens in real life. Although kidnapping is possible, experienced human traffickers are skilled in recruiting victims through false promises, deception, faux relationships, and other forms of fraud.”
She has conducted over 2,000 interviews with human traffickers and victims and discovered that kidnapping is very rare. In addition, her research has not come across any instance of someone being taken from a public place, such as Ikea or Walmart.
In an interview with CBS News, she further states, “It’s not happening overnight or as some people have described ‘in a matter of seconds or minutes,’” she said. “I’ve seen them take as long as a year or two years before they lure their victim away. It’s a long-term process.”
This is not an excuse to allow your children to run wild and free with no adult supervision. It is important to use commonsense, be aware of your surroundings and listen to that mama bear intuition when it unleashes warning bells in your head. It does however, give a bit of perspective into the paranoia that is being perpetuated on social media.
Perhaps I won’t go live in the bush after all.

Heidi Hamm

Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife and mom of twin boys who are nothing alike, and their older sister, who won’t admit that she really does like 80s music. She loves bookstores, Starbucks and peanut butter. You can find her on Facebook

10 Lessons I Hope You Learn Playing Youth Sports

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boy dribbling down basketball court, black-and-white photo

Last night was my sixth grader’s last basketball game of the season. He played with many of the same gang of boyhood friends he has known since kindergarten. This year, however, they were introduced to a traveling team, older players, and much stiffer competition than they had encountered in the past. They stood the test and played their little boy hearts out. I am proud of my son, his team, his coaches, and all the familiar faces we came to know in the Greenwood Laboratory School cheering section each week, sometimes two to three times in one week!  Here’s to...

Keep Reading

I Love You At Every Stage

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three children at park, color photo

Confession: I love the 1-year-old phase. Our youngest is one and such a joy to be around. He’s still so cuddly, finds such joy in the smallest things, is learning new things every day, and smiles at every little thing his big brother and sister do. I love the 3-year-old phase. Our only girl is three. She has a flair for the dramatic, but she is very forthright with her feelings. “I’m having a hard time.” “I just miss my daddy when he’s at the Fire House.” “I’m a princess.” “God made me beautiful.” She is quick to be a...

Keep Reading

Simple Moments Shape Childhood

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy in shallow water of beach

Sometimes it’s the little things that can turn out to be the biggest things. Motherhood has made me appreciate the everyday moments, the simple moments, differently.  Being outdoors with my boys can be simple in theory, but I absolutely love the adventures we take. Whether we are hiking, biking, swimming, exploring, or checking out a new park, this momma knows it is time well spent.  RELATED: I’m Watching You Grow Up in the Little Moments Because whether they realize it or not, these memories being made are the special ones. The ones my boys will carry with them in their...

Keep Reading

I Promise to Show Up for You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in garden

My child, I hope you know you can count on this: I will show up for you. I will show up when you wake in the middle of the night, when you get up too early or stay up too late. I will be there to make your meals, read you a story, and tuck you into bed. I will show up when you are sick—taking time off work, bringing you to the doctor, cleaning up your throw-up, and sitting up with you. I will show up at every game, sitting in the stands or a camp chair, freezing or...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Growth Is Tangible, and When It Is You Hold On Tight

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom putting bike helmet on child

I never expected my sign to come in the form of a plastic bag. As a parent, you’re told over and over how fast it all goes, to cherish these times because they’re gone in a blink. You see the gradual changes in your kids as they move through milestones. One day, they can hold their own spoon. They begin stringing words into sentences. Their ages are counted in years and no longer months. You watch these things happen every day, but I didn’t realize some transitions would come in tangible ways, like a grocery bag filled with wet swim...

Keep Reading

Some Nights They Need You a Little More

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy sleeping, color photo

Some nights they need you a little more, mama. Because of the bad dreams or the bogeyman they are adamant is under the bed. Because firefighter daddy’s schedule leaves him missing goodnight tuck-ins and bedtime stories several times a week, sometimes leaving them a little needier and more emotional. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. RELATED: I’ll Lay With You As Long As You Need, My Child Because they are sick. Because they feel safe in your presence. Some nights they need you a little more, mama. It’s not always easy. It’s not always (okay, hardly ever)...

Keep Reading

Sweet Babies, I’ll Be There

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two children lying in bed, color photo

When your world is calm and peaceful, I’ll be there. When your world is chaotic like an ice cream shop on the hottest day of summer, I’ll be there. When you need a Band-Aid applied and a boo-boo kissed, I’ll be there. When you want to perform in your Frozen microphone like you’re performing for a crowd of 20,000 people, I’ll be there. When you feel lost and alone, I’ll be there. When you feel you have nowhere to go, I’ll be there. RELATED: I Will Always Be There When You Need Me, My Son When you need a pep...

Keep Reading

I’m in the Big Little Years

In: Kids, Motherhood
black and white photo of little boy and little girl standing in a window together

I’m in the big little years. It’s when you’re no longer in the tender season of babies and toddlers—those sweet, smothering, exhausting years of being constantly touched and needed . . . . . . but you’re not yet in the big kid years—navigating boyfriends and driver’s licenses and bracing your heart for the impending ache of an empty nest. I’m somewhere in between. I’m in the years of having littles that aren’t so little anymore, but still need you for so much. They have big feelings. Big ideas. Big dreams. But they have mostly little problems (even though they...

Keep Reading

1-Year-Olds Are Wonderful

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
1 year old baby smiling

Newborns—who doesn’t love them?  The captivating scent of a brand new baby, their fragile little bodies laying so delicately on your chest. Everything that comes with a newborn baby is just absolute magic. But have you ever had a 1-year-old? I used to think the newborn phase was my favorite, nothing could ever be better than having such a tiny helpless little human rely on you for absolutely everything. I could hold my newborn for hours, soaking in every tiny little detail before it became nothing but a beautifully distant memory. But I’ve realized it’s 1-year-olds who have a special...

Keep Reading

My Kids Are All in School Now and It’s a Little Lonely

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman looking out window alone

I had just dropped my children off at school. All of them. My youngest has just started full-time. It was my first full day on my own since she began, and I had really been looking forward to it, so I took myself into town to do a bit of shopping and grab a coffee. Just me. The kind of days dreams are made of, right? I could suddenly breathe again.  I only had myself to answer to.  I got my latte and something to eat. And then I cried.  My eyes filled with tears as I sat in the...

Keep Reading