Welcome to our occasional series The Mom Blog by Baltimore Fishbowl contributing photographer Lee Kriel. Lee has been shooting Sartorial Baltimoreal, our feature on personal style, for the past two years. Her captivating blog on mothers and motherhood can be found here, but she has agreed to let us re-publish it below for our readers. -The Eds.
meet sue mead. a mom raising two beautiful, active girls with her lovely husband alex. the mead family had some challenges early on when their oldest daughter julia was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three. avery was just turning one. julia is now in remission and sue and her family continue to help those in need, especially by supporting families who are making the same transition they made years ago as they embarked on living with cancer. one way is by organizing a swim-a-thon each summer to raise money for child life at johns hopkins children’s center as well as arranging meals for families who find themselves in the hospital over thanksgiving and christmas. she gathers all the neighborhood kids and encourages them to get sponsors and swim laps in the river. it is one of my children’s favorite events — they love to compete with the other kids and make hashtags on the dock to mark their laps. even the adults have a time to swim (with cocktails too, of course, for those not swimming)! she has raised thousands and not only has made a difference for johns hopkins but also for our neighborhood, where she has given us all an example of how to give back. enjoy her story in her own words below (or as she says “off the cuff words” which is what i love about her!) and her continued journey through motherhood.
WHAT ARE A FEW OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR GIRLS?
Cooking, sailing, skiing, traveling and doing activities that show them things about the world.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST HUMBLING MOMENT AS A MOM?
I don’t know if this makes sense, but it was coming to the realization in the last few years that my girls are not me, they will not like many of the things I liked, they may not like to read like I do, they will make their own path, and I have to have the patience and respect to set them free to do that. Also, I think when Julia was sick, the amount of help that came from neighbors and friends near and far was a very humbling experience–a true lesson in accepting help and seeing the value of letting people share their kindness.
LIST A FEW OF THE GIRLS FAVORITE THINGS.
Their Build-a-Bears, Eleanor and Bella, Avery’s blankie, their American Girl dolls and fairy collection. Julia loves Irish dance (which involves a lot of clomping on my hard wood floors!) Avery loves to talk, like all the time, to anyone who will listen.
WHEN IT CAME TO DECORATING THIER ROOMS…
Avery’s room is the same color blue we painted when we moved in 12 years ago. For her 8th birthday this year she has requested a color change to green. She sleeps in her grandfather’s old bed, now painted white. Julia’s room, once yellow and blue, was transformed in a makeover by Maine Cottage when she was diagnosed with cancer. Almost seven years later, it remains much the same, beautiful as ever.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN AS A MOM?
Standing outside post-op recovery a few minutes after hearing the words, “You daughter’s brain tumor is cancerous,” my mom grabbed me, her arms on my arms, and made me look straight into her weepy eyes and told me “You are strong like me. You can do this, you can do this.” Then I turned and walked through those doors and saw our baby bandaged and sick and I just kept muttering that mantra to myself. Some days, even 7 years later, I still do.
HOW DO YOU CREATE BALANCE BETWEEN MOTHERHOOD AND CAREER?
Easy, just don’t work. No seriously, I went back to work part time last year after 9 years of being home. It was rough. This year I am still part time but working two full days instead of every day for a half day has been much better. Plus, I am working at a new school this year which is one of the most positive places I have ever worked. So that helps.
WHAT IS YOUR BEAUTY ROUTINE?
Don’t have one. It also helps to not really give a shit about what other people think or say about you…make-up or no make-up, who the hell really cares at this point!
WHAT IS YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE?
ditto the above.
SOMETHING YOU WISH YOU COULD DO BETTER AS A MOM…
Not to be as nit picky and short with the girls and fewer “mommy dearest moments” would be nice, but I don’t ever beat myself up about it. I know I am trying my best at the moment and sometimes I fall short, we all do, get over it and move on.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT AS A MOM?
When I see my girls being good to each other and worrying and taking care of each other, I know I am doing something right in raising kind and loving young ladies. Also, seeing Julia as an orphan in the school production of Annie just took my breathe away. Here she was, six years to the day of having brain surgery, dancing and singing and looking beautiful–she could have sung off key for all I cared–I couldn’t watch her without getting weepy just marveling at how far we have made it when so many other kids didn’t.
DO YOU HAVE DATE NIGHTS?
A date, what’s that? We are bad at this. Have only ever used a babysitter a handful of times. Leaving our kids after what we have been through is not our strong suit. That being said, we tend to cash in our chips all at once and leave the kids with the grandparents for weekends away, a trip to Jamaica, we went sailing for 10 days in the Grenadines when Julia was a baby, does that still count as a long date?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE DAY?
Snuggling the girls to bed and awake in the morning. I know the time will come when I won’t be allowed in and I will miss this so I try to remember that.
HARDEST PART OF BEING A MOM?
Taking care of me as I come last in the pecking order.
A FEW THINGS THAT KEEP YOU SANE…
Alex (except when he acts like my 3rd child). My mom, my close group of girlfriends, reading a good book (which helps me take my mind off all the bad stuff) and escaping on our sailboat (even if we are only anchored across the river).
do you have a favorite recipe?
chili ala cooking light
1 lb ground turkey
1 c chopped onion
4 minced garlic cloves
1 T oregeno
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 15 oz kidney bean (drained)
1 14 oz stewed tomato (chili style)
1 16 oz tomato sauce (chili style)
coat dutch oven with pam. add beef, onion, garlic, cook until meat is browned and drain well. add oregano and next 8 ingredients.
stir well. cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 min. uncover if you like thicker. double or triple it to freeze for leftovers.