Maybe I'm a nerd, but I just love old pictures. When those old pictures have someone that I know now in them, they're even better. I almost got all misty-eyed looking at these sweet pictures of my friend Jen and her family when she was growing up. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Please introduce yourself to us! 

I am a stay at home Mom to three and a wife to one. I am a former travel agent who still adores travelling and have lived in California all of my life. I prefer the mountains to the beach and feel most at home when in Northern California, where I was born. I live in a walnut orchard about 3 miles from town and am slowly but surely becoming a country girl. We have horses, goats, cats and dogs. We have had cows and will again…maybe when the goats are gone. I grew up in the Forest Service and have one younger sister.

What is your earliest memory? 

My earliest memory is when I was 3 or 4. My Dad was the District Ranger with the US Forest Service. He and my Mom were going to some sort of party that Dad was dressing up as Smokey the Bear…I think I remember hearing it was a retirement party or some such thing. Anyway, I walked into my parents’ bedroom and saw my father’s head sticking out of the top of Smokey’s body. As a little girl, I KNEW Smokey had somehow eaten my father and I ran screaming from the room. Me, gullible? A bit.

What important experiences have you wanted for your children? 

I wanted to be able to give our children the gift of travel. I wanted them to experience new places and different people. If they decide to live in their hometown as adults, I am fine with that. But I want them to know there is a big world for them to explore. We have been very fortunate in making the dream of travel a reality for all of them.

What did you love doing with your family as a kid? 

As a child, we used to take drives as a family. We would pack a picnic lunch and usually head to the mountains. We would find a lovely river or meadow and just be. We did this whenever company came for a visit too. Some great memories and stories.

(I lived here from 4 years old until 5th grade. We used to sit on the fence (which sadly is gone now) and see how many trucks we could get to honk at us. I also got stuck upside down on it once. I sent my sister home for help...meanwhile my Dad came home from work and she was so excited to see him, that she forgot me!!!!)

Why, in your opinion, were your parents the greatest? 

Oooh, this is a good question. As a teenager, I would have bet money that I had the worst parents on the planet! They, have, however gotten so much smarter and more wise as they age…or maybe as I aged. J They were, and are, great role models to my sister and I. They instilled in us kindness and love. Family came first and still does.

Have you ever worried about having inadequacies as parent? How have you overcome that? 

This was the toughest question for me to answer. Inadequacies as a parent is my biggest fear. Did I do “that” right? Did I say the right thing? Should I have been as hard…easy…on him or her. I am really struggling with these fears right now. Our son will be graduating from high school this month and then moving away to attend college. I worry if we have addressed everything that needs to be addressed. Will he make the right decisions when put in difficult decisions. Will he fall back on the moral foundation we instilled. Did we build the foundation strong enough? So…in a nutshell, I worry and as far as overcoming those fears…I am a work in progress. Ask me again in a couple years…no wait…in a couple years, I will be going through the same thing as I send out daughter out of the nest. Sniffle, sniffle….

What helps you get through hard days? 

I have a wonderful relationship with God. Knowing that He is in control helps me a great deal on the hard days.

What do you do as a kid that drove your parents crazy?

I talked back AND I had to have the last word. I have a son who does that now…drives me as crazy as I drove my folks crazy. I also was a slob…

As your children grow, what do you already miss the most? 

Snuggles with the older ones. Crawling into bed with them at the end of the day, looking at the stars on the ceiling and just talking…no subject…no judging or correcting…just talking and listening.

How do you wish that your kids' childhood was more like yours? 

I wish the innocence of childhood lasted longer now. I find myself having to explain “bad” things to my kidnicks and it makes me sad.

(On a family picnic)

How do you wish that your childhood had been more like your kids?

At the time, I wished we had been able to take summer vacations…with Dad being a fire fighter, it wasn’t possible. Looking back, we didn’t miss out on much. Mom was creative and fun…we were involved and we actually had a summer of fun at home.

What do you hope you are teaching your children? 

I hope we are teaching our children to trust in God. I hope we are teaching them honesty and hard work and how to be happy in their own skin.

What advice would I give to new or overwhelmed parents? 

I know it sounds cliché, but savor every moment and not just the milestones. Video normal everyday life. It might seem mundane at the time, but in just a few years’ time, you will marvel at what has changed. Take photos and put them in albums for the kids to look through as they grow. I have boxes of photos that I didn’t do that with. I always thought I would sit down and “do it right”. Just do it! Now! You can always change it and “do it right” later.

What do you love most about your kids?

Each of our children is so very different. Our son made me a Mommy. He and I are very much alike. I adore his kindness and compassion. He is sensitive, although as an 18 year old young man, he is still learning how to best show that to the world. He is not afraid of trying new things and being the center of attention…I envy that sometimes. Our oldest daughter tells me everything. I am very blessed that at 16, she trusts me with her heart. Our 8 year old is the sweetest child ever. She is sensitive and bright. She adores animals and still thinks I am the cat’s meow.

I love that Smokey the Bear story! Mostly because I had a fascination with Smokey the Bear as a little girl, and I know my kids do too (maybe all kids, everywhere??). Imagine how awesome it would be to live with Smokey the Bear! (Although, believing that he ate your dad would make him less awesome.)

Have any of you guys ever been forgotten by a sibling you were depending on? I have, and it wasn't fun ... Glad you got off that fence, Jen!


Interested in doing a Darndest Days interview? Just let me know!