Travel Nursing: Minimal Travel Required

This is an article I wrote for a journalism class. Though I didn’t end up successfully publishing it, I wanted to post it here. Writing this was a great educational experience, and I could not have done it without the gracious help of many healthcare providers. To everyone who shared their story with me, I am so grateful.

Before COVID-19, travel nurse Brooke Gozdiff says there were three types of travel nurses: “the young and fun, the empty-nesters with motor homes, and the diverters.” But now? Now, it is “Anybody and everybody,” she says. ” If I’m going to work short-staffed in a shitty job and have a crummy work-culture and work-life balance, why wouldn’t I do it greater than one hour away and make a ton more money?”

Brooke and her husband James Gozdiff both began travel nursing in 2014, a couple of years before they met. Brooke left her position as a floor nurse at Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota, and James left his job as an ICU staff nurse in Idaho. Since then, they’ve leveraged travel nursing to fit around their lifestyle rather than mold their lives around their career. And they understand a part of travel nursing that the general public doesn’t: nurses don’t need to travel far to receive travel pay. The Gozdiffs are part of a growing number of people reaping the benefits of travel nursing without much travel.

The boom in travel nursing didn’t take a rocket scientist to predict. According to a study conducted in 2015 by Montana State University healthcare economists, almost 40% of nurses were older than fifty. So they were well on their way to retirement by the time the first group of patients presented with shortness of breath and fever in Wuhan, China in December of 2019.

Initially, hospital censuses decreased as people who would ordinarily seek treatment stayed home. And staffing was stable, with some nurses even able to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to protect their families during the hospital mask shortages of 2020.

Jennifer Higgins, Chief Nursing Officer at Lee Health located in Southwest Florida, explains that when the initial shock of a global pandemic wore off, Lee Health was bombarded with volumes of patients they had never seen before. And these weren’t your stay-a-night-for-observation kind of patients. These were your, holy-crap-she’s-gonna-crash, in need of an ICU bed, kind of patients. Higgins says that while they expanded their ICUs, they didn’t have the ICU-trained nurses they needed to run the units.

They needed more nurses, but so did every other hospital. Desperate, hospitals began offering increased salaries to lure in travel nurses. According to, a job search engine, the average salary for travel nurses in 2021 was $113,600, whereas the average registered nurse made around $80,500. Not only were hospitals paying their travel nurses more, but this pay was structured differently than that of the staff nurses.

Brooke Gozdiff explains that travel nurses receive two different kinds of income: their paycheck and their tax-free stipend. The tax-free stipend covers the secondary living expenses that the nurses accrue while traveling. This money is, just like it sounds, not taxed. So when travel nurses negotiate their salaries, they want their paycheck to be as low as possible, lumping as much money as they are allowed into their tax-free stipend.

But not just anyone can take advantage of the tax-free stipend. According to the IRS, if a nurse needs to sleep and rest outside of his or her tax home between shifts, he or she can qualify for the tax-free stipend. Joseph Conte, a tax-certified public accountant for travel nurses, says that a tax home is typically where a person accrues their income. But because travel nurses frequently move around, their tax home is often where their permanent home is located. Per IRS rules, the nurse must also continue to pay bills on their permanent home and visit it at least once per year, as the tax-free stipend is meant to cover duplicate living expenses.

Conte explains that often companies simplify matters by using a specific mileage rule to determine whether or not their employee can take advantage of the tax-free stipend. The Gozdiffs are familiar with “the 50-mile rule”: the nurse needs to live more than 50 miles from the hospital where they are travel nursing. Conte confirms that the 50-mile rule is not an IRS rule, and he points out that by IRS standards, nurses could live even closer than 50 miles to the hospital if they need to stop to sleep at a spot away from their tax home.

Conte says the volume of nurses taking advantage of local travel assignments has increased significantly over the past two years. This short-distance travel is known as local travel nursing, and it gives the nurses the best of both worlds.

The Gozdiffs are among the increasing number of local travel nurses. While they initially traveled across the country for job opportunities, they are now traveling close to home. Brooke explains their journey with travel nursing in her rapid-fire speech pattern while their one-year-old son naps. Back in her young and fun travel nurse days, Brooke met James, also a travel nurse, at a hospital in Puyallup, Washington. After that, they were inseparable, working together in Arizona, Nebraska, Maine, and Alaska. James proposed in Minnesota, and they married in Oregon.

Before COVID-19 hit, Brooke explains they couldn’t be too picky about placement for travel positions. But now she says, “Every hospital everywhere is hiring travel nurses because every hospital is short. The career is now nurse-driven vs. hospital-driven. You get to pick and choose. You lay out your demands and expect them to be met.” James ballparks that the average travel nurse rakes in $4,000 per week, while staff nurses bring home around $1500. So it is no surprise when he says, “The draw for everybody for travel is just the pay.”

But sometimes, money isn’t everything. After having a baby, the Gozdiffs wanted to be closer to family, so they settled down in Duluth, MN, where they took a break from travel nursing. James took a staff position as a nurse supervisor at Essentia Health. It was there that he watched as nurses from Duluth left their staff positions to cash in on travel positions 154 miles south in Minneapolis, MN. And sure enough, guess who showed up to fill the travel positions now open at Essentia Health in Duluth?

None other than the Minneapolis nurses.

Back at Lee Health, ICU nurse supervisor Betsy Groendyke confirms that the same trend is occurring. Many of their travel nurses come from Tampa, FL, and drive two hours south for their shifts. During COVID-19, her unit doubled the number of travel nurses they were utilizing. When the Delta wave hit, she says, “There were multiple shifts where every nurse had three vented COVID patients. When you have vented ICU patients on multiple drips, you want a two to one [patient to nurse] staffing ratio. And actually, we’ve read things where the best practice for these proning patients [patients who are on a ventilator and need to be positioned lying on their stomachs] is a one-to-one ratio. Well, that wasn’t even a remote option.” Beyond the logistics, they faced an emotional impact. Groendyke recalls a weekend when her ICU lost fifteen patients, “If that doesn’t impact you, then you don’t have a heart.”

And while nurses are used to shouldering the emotional burden, Higgins says, “Many nurses began to evaluate whether they wanted to continue in the profession, be exposed, and have their families exposed to this new variant that was very unknown.” She watched as nurses retired early or left the field of nursing entirely.

Higgins estimates that Lee Health brought on 350-400 travel nurses in 2021, compared to the seventy seasonal travel nurses they typically bring on from November to April when there is a seasonal population increase. She admits, “Most organizations are not going to be able to sustain a model like this. The only reason we were able to is because of the [high] volume [of patients] that offset that cost. But in the long run, long term, it’s not going to be the solution. We are going to have to figure out ways to make sure we keep our core people.”

One way Lee Health is doing this is by offering bonuses and extra shift incentive pay to their staff nurses. They also started bringing in a different food truck each day to prevent cafeteria food burnout and giving $5 gift cards to the hospital coffee shop to recognize staff members for a job well done.

Higgins thinks, “the market will settle down a little bit, but I think there will always be an increased pool of people that are willing to take the risk of being a travel nurse- taking advantage of the money aspect of it.”

Others are not so optimistic. Julia, a nurse who left Lee Health to travel two hours north, and requests to only be identified by her first name, says, “A lot of nurses are tired of being staff. We’ve set ourselves up for, at least, a few years of a complete disaster when it comes to staffing, even if the pandemic ends.”

Now back in Oregon, Brooke Gozdiff drives just over 50 miles away from their home in Keizer to work as a travel nurse. She makes triple what she would if she worked as a staff nurse in Keizer, Oregon. She supports the family on a single income, while James takes care of their one-year-old son and his mom, who was recently diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Travel nursing provides her and James with flexibility, adventure, and a cash flow that few other careers could provide.

But the Gozdiffs believe that travel nursing should be the exception, not the rule. James says, “I hope that people come back to the hospital systems because having a core staff that is highly qualified and highly trained and has worked together for years is ideal. The hospital and the unit run so much better when they don’t have a high percentage of travelers. Healthcare is better when you have a high number of staff.”

Weekly Update

Vast, Like the Trees

After making our descent over the orderly grid blocks of Minneapolis containing houses and trees with changing leaves, we touched down on the MSP Airport tarmac.

Our suitcases were packed with a contrasting mix of dress clothes- black, for my Grandma’s funeral, and white flower girl dresses for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding.

I was anxious about this trip: the last time we flew into Minneapolis was disastrous- Alice puking on the flight and dry heaving in the rental car, which prompted Avery to faint, and then sympathy puke.

But as we pulled out of the rental car lot, I exhaled. The trip had gone without a hitch.

The first thing I always notice when driving out of the rental car lots in Minnesota is the trees. They are tall and wide, expanding, the antithesis of the skinny palm trees that linger awkwardly, mop heads blowing in the wind. The oak and maple trees are wild and audacious– a stark contrast to the manicured trees of Florida, who are hesitant to grow just an inch outside of their preconceived outline. And I like that a lot. The trees of Minnesota have a lot to teach.

My Grandma passed away over a year ago, yet with the timing of COVID, we were unable to have a funeral. I was beyond the waves of tearful grief hitting at unexpected times, I could talk about her without crying, and it seemed as if grief had run its course.

Her zebra print swimsuit is framed in the bathroom that leads out to our pool. Her blue flowered china is neatly stacked in my cabinets. I have voicemails from her saved, asking if I could please, for the love of all things holy, deposit the check she gave me 3 years ago so she could balance her checkbook. She is no longer here- but she is remembered daily.

It seemed odd, gathering so late after her death, to mourn something that had ripped our hearts apart long ago. The wounds had scarred over and it seemed as if there was nothing left to heal.

But as the pastor delivered the sermon at her memorial, grief washed over me again- filling my chest and eyes with the heavy, crushing feeling.

I tried to hold back the tears, but they still found a way to slip out. And in case you haven’t tried it yet, crying in a mask is messy business.

When it came time to bury her ashes, I had a chance to hold the urn containing the grains that made up who she was. It was odd- holding every ounce of the feisty, vivacious person I knew, now a silent mound of dust.

But there was an indescribable peacefulness.

As we stood in a half circle around her urn, with the pastor uttering the final blessings, a warm wind that was powerful yet gentle wrapped around us. And I knew, that she was there.

I remembered a long run I had gone on soon after she had passed. I could feel her presence deeply, and had talked to her as the miles ticked by. “Hi, G,” I had whispered on an exhale. The wind gusted around me.

The pastor reminded us that Grandma or as we fondly refer to her- G-Dizzle, would live on through us. We all carry different aspects of her from the imprint she left on our lives.

For me, it is the love of pinot grigio, a dry sense of humor, and the pointer finger that comes out when I get fired up.

As I said my final goodbye, hand pressed against the wooden box containing her earthly remains, I was reminded that pain is rooted in love. That the heartbreak I was experiencing was because of the deep love we had shared.

And I wouldn’t trade an ounce of the pain in exchange for the beauty that my world holds because she was in it.

Two days later, I watched my brother and sister-in-law exchange vows under the silver maple trees lining the Mississippi river. I watched a leaf float down from the tree, released from its duties. The wind caught it and guided it to the ground in a zig-zag, fluttery pattern.

I was sitting between my nieces and nephews- little Abigail, less than 2 weeks old. The moment contained it all. Love, new life, loss, joy, peace, and beauty, oh the beauty.

And it was vast, like the silver maples.

Weekly Update


Country music gains a new dimension when listened to while driving through the country. The dirt roads, open fields, and endless blue sky add depth to the music; a new understanding. It’s one thing to hear it, another thing to be in it, completely submerged.

As we drove up and down country roads, the should-be exhaustion from a day filled with travel melted into calm. Our view was lit by a pastel sunset, hay bales, and cemeteries backlit by a gradation of colors. Black tree silhouettes stood firmly in the fading light. And I found my anti-country-music-self, humming along to Garth Brooks.

Dusk fell, and my eyes widened, trying to catch a glimpse of the fireflies that I knew were in the fields.

We took our annual trip to Iowa and Missouri, where Chad’s family has a farm and lake house.

Again, I found myself running up and down the endless hills of Missouri, trying not to die on the uphill’s, and distracting myself with views that only country roads can supply.

I was surrounded by open fields of wildflowers with farmland in the background, dotted by hay bales- a stark contrast to the houses that sit 4 feet apart in Florida, every inch of ground being developed and marketed.

The flowers gave me a good excuse to pause and catch my breath as I closely examined them. I ran among the milkweed, chicory, Carolina horsenettle, and wild carrots.

Coming from flat Florida, my legs were not ready for the rolling geography. I ran, fully present to a moment that contained both pain and beauty, focusing on just getting to the next patch of red clover, the next crack in the sidewalk, the next.

As my legs whined over-dramatically, I tried to distract myself.

I wondered how long it took for the flowers to spread across the fields. I wondered if certain wildflowers are more likely to grow next to each other- like friends.

I wondered if they were scared, when they took root. I wondered if their end goal was covering entire fields, or if they just focused on the beauty of the square inch they occupied.

One wildflower is beautiful. But a whole field? It’s next level.

It wasn’t until we were back in Iowa, bumping across the dirt roads that I spotted one, then many, fireflies rising from the ground. After tucking the girls into bed, I stood at the window, watching as they lit up the night.

One firefly is awe-invoking. But a whole field? Next level.

These moments, for a suburb girl, are pretty magical.

On the plane ride home, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t have noticed the wildflowers if I hadn’t been stuck in the oxygen-deprived, gasping search for air as I ran up and down the hills. I wouldn’t have seen the fireflies if it wasn’t dark out.

Sometimes, I purposely put myself into these uncomfortable situations. Like when I laced up my running shoes and coaxed one foot in front of the other. Other times, I find myself in these situations as inevitably as day transitions to night.

Dark, but with beauty.

I’m intrigued by the combo. It seems they are often paired together, dark moments the perfect backdrop for the beautiful ones. Darkness, accentuating the light.

I don’t know what it means exactly, but I do know that we all experience darkness in one form or another. So the next time you find yourself in the dark; whether self-inflicted, or inevitable, find your wildflower or firefly to focus on.

Find your light.


PS- including links to my recent work published outside of this website:

You Don’t Need Another Parenting Book

Mom Jeans

I’m Not the Mom I Intended to Be

Weekly Update


I stepped out of the car, inhaled the fresh mountain air, and experienced the tingly joy of the crisp molecules filling each tiny alveoli in my lungs. I surveyed the autumn colors on the trees surrounding the cabin and I heard the unexpectedly loud roar of the water from the creek behind the cabin.

In this moment, despite the global pandemic, a tense election, and depressing news each night, all was right in the world.

When we first drove down to Florida last year, we were surprised and inspired by the beauty of the Appalachian mountains running through Tennessee. I vowed we would return with the girls.

We found a breathtaking spot in the mountains of Northern Georgia; a little town by the name of Helen. This trip was a risk. We decided to make the drive with the girls, which was 10 hours from Florida with good traffic.

I’ve learned from parenting to go into things, especially vacations, with really low expectations. There will be whining. Someone will get carsick and puke. Despite perfect planning, someone won’t be pleased with our choice of activity for the day. And it’s a guaranteed fact that despite being labeled a vacation, it will not be relaxing.

But for some reason, the stars aligned and the girls traveled perfectly. I guess I packed enough stickers. And Benadryl.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a love for road tripping. Which is always surprising to me, probably because when we were younger, 3 hour car rides felt like an eternal hell.

Road trips carry with them a serenity that the hustle and bustle of the airport does not. When you fly, you are literally catapulted through the air at 500 mph and come to a screeching halt when you reach your destination. Driving on the other hand is much slower, but allows you to take in the views and stop when you feel inspired. It has a calming, almost meditative impact.

My breathing slowed as I took in the giant loblolly pine trees lining the road, occasionally dotted by bright red sumacs. We drove through cotton fields which were stunningly beautiful, and I wondered, if that land could talk, what it would say.

The town of Helen, Georgia is quaint. There are no fast food places or chain stores. The internet sucks. I was delighted to find myself free from the pull of my phone, the news, and social media happenings.

We stayed at a little cabin about 5 minutes from downtown Helen. It was everything we needed for the trip. It had a fireplace, at which, I taught the girls the Minnesotan skill of sitting close to warm your back. There were bunk beds: an extremely exciting fact for Avery and Alice. Out back, there was a fire pit overlooking the river.

Coming from a gated community of perfectly manicured lawns, this cabin was a great reminder that things don’t need to be perfect to bring joy. Unruly bushes, un-raked leaves, dirty windows, moss covered deck; none took away from the charm, or the breath of fresh air that this cabin held.

We drank endless cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows, warmed ourselves by the fireplace, had bonfires, struggled to get thumbs into mittens, explored, ate s’mores, got marshmallow stuck in our hair (Chad didn’t have this problem), and took in the vast beauty of the mountains.

We let our guards down and giggled as a family as picky eater, Alice, shocked us all and ate a dried cricket that I had purchased for my Dad as a gag gift. She then went on to eat two more, as Chad stared at me in horror, wondering what sort of mother would let her child eat crickets. They are a great source of protein, okay?

Not as addicting as Sour Cream & Onion Chips

I faced my fear of heights and went on the “Mountain Coaster”, that took Avery and I screaming down the side of the mountain. For Avery, the screams were of pure joy. For me; pure terror as I saw my life flash before my eyes.

On the last night of our trip, I dreamed I was a high school senior, coming to terms with the fact that I had to leave my cross country team. “But all that I know and love is over. How can my life move on?” I asked, with tears in my eyes.

It was a familiar scene that comes into play at most major life changes. Most recently, I commiserated to Chad that life couldn’t get better than holding a fresh baby in my arms. I wouldn’t be able to top it. I was going to get old, become a grandparent, and die. The best parts of life were over, I concluded.

Little did I know what was ahead.

Appalachian Mountains

As Chad reminded me as we drove through the mountains to visit a nearby town, “You gotta drive up the mountain to get the good views.”

And I think this perfectly summarizes life.

Mountain driving is terrifying, especially if you have a fear of heights. There are plenty of places you could easily die. There are some stretches of road that you have to pray your car up, and other stretches that you too easily careen down, giving your car’s brakes the workout of a lifetime.

2020 certainly hasn’t been easy. The pandemic has changed a whole lot. We know a couple people who died of COVID. We know many people who lost a family member during COVID times and were unable to say goodbye, or attend a funeral for closure.

The holidays are going to be different this year. It feels weird and uncomfortable; sad and strange.

And yet, time will continue to pass. Eventually there will be a vaccine that comes out. Hopefully it will be effective, and life will go back to some semblance of normal.

For now, we just need to focus on getting up the mountain. And while the view on the journey up can’t compete with that of the top, there is plenty of surrounding beauty.

So wherever you are on your mountain, stop for a second to take in the view. To soak in the great miracle that is life. Things aren’t perfect, but as the cabin reminded us: things don’t need to be perfect to bring joy.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving,


Weekly Update

Year One

Dear Readers,

It has been a year. One full year of Florida living. A year filled with sand everywhere, sunsets, tons of ice cream, unbelievable amounts of sweat, missing home, new friends, laughter, tears, and every conceivable emotion in between.

This year was a risk, an adventure, a “who am I and what am I capable of” kind of year.

Rewind back 18 months and you would find Chad and I in the middle of long conversations about what direction we wanted to point our future, about how much change and loss we could handle, and mainly about how to escape the snow.

There were endless lists of “pros and cons” that we reviewed each time, trying to weigh our options and make a logical decision.

But the more we circled the topic, we eventually realized that we could circle the topic forever. There was no right answer. Any decision we made would involve loss, but also, positive gain.

We finally agreed that we should stop wondering and start doing.

I laced up my shoes by the light of my phone flashlight. I recently discovered that if I don’t turn on any lights, I’m able to sneak out of the house for a morning run without waking our lightest sleeper, Avery.

I quickly opened the badly in need of WD40 door and stepped out into the early morning. The humidity immediately hugged me, as if I was covered in a blanket.

The neighborhood was quiet, and the houses themselves took on the personas of sleepy giants. After I completed my usual gaze at the stars, I slowly walked out the front gate.

Once I was through the gate, I began my slow shuffle. My body groaned and my brain tried to warn me that this was not what it had hoped for this morning.

I watched the first glow of morning light tint the sky while I waited for my heart to catch up with the self-inflicted increased oxygen demands. Breathless, I reflected on a podcast I recently listened to called, “The Happiness Lab.”

Shout out to my lifelong friend, Regina, for getting me hooked on this podcast.

The podcast is narrated by Dr. Laurie Santos, a psychology professor from Yale. The topic is obviously, happiness. The episode I recently listened to talked about how sometimes… often, your brain thinks you can achieve happiness by doing things that won’t cultivate happiness: sleeping in late, skipping a workout, watching 8 hours of TV, scrolling endlessly through social media, wealth.

She argues that happiness takes work. It is not a state you can reach and stay at forever, nor can you buy it. And sometimes, oftentimes, it is putting in tough work that doesn’t feel fun that will lead to an end result of happiness.

I knew this was true from a running perspective. I am not a fan of waking up at 6 to get a run in, nor am I usually a fan of running while I’m doing it. But the endorphins I get at the end, or the feeling of finishing a long run… those make it worth it.

While I continued to let my brain ruminate on the topic, I watched as the sun rays broke through the humid atmosphere of Florida. The sun rising here looks exactly like the pictures 5 year olds draw of the sun; the big ball with rays of light streaming out.

How sunrises look. Also, what my family looks like.

I was struck by the beauty of the sunrise. A moment I would have easily missed had I listened to my brain and slept in.

I shuffled on, realizing that this entire year has been reflective of the fact that happiness is something to be worked for.

Selling our Minnesota home was a lot of work, saying goodbye to my family was a wrenchingly* hard decision, being outgoing and making friends in a new state was not within my comfort zone, etc.

BUT, the people we’ve met here have been so gracious, kind, and welcoming. Southern charm, I guess you would call it. We love being minutes away from Chad’s parents and grandparents for 5 months of the year.

We have enjoyed the ability to get outside every day in a t-shirt and shorts, no matter what month of the year it is. We love our family swims after dinner, the way that sunsets and rises involve a lot of pink and purple, the summer storms, and the chance to be on an adventure, together.

What I learned from this year is that we are never stuck. Nothing is holding us captive in one situation or another. Change is always possible. And sometimes the best way forward is to simply start moving forward.

Perhaps my favorite part of this whole year has been rediscovering my love for writing. I have loved reading all of your comments and feeling connected by words. Thank you for being the best bunch of fans.

Love to all,


*I’m aware that “wrenchingly” is not a word, but you know what I meant and it sounds right.

Weekly Update

Hitting Pause

I’ve never had any desire to pause, rewind, or re-live any part of my life. However; recently, I’ve been wishing for a pause button.

I have hit a sweet spot in life. All of the change that has taken place over the years has slowly but surely fit all of the puzzle pieces into a beautiful picture.

It is scary to acknowledge that life is at a peak right now. I know that life isn’t all peaks, and eventually we will encounter a valley. But I’m soaking in this sweet spot.

When I stopped working to stay at home with the girls, I feared that I would become less. I wouldn’t be as valuable since I was no longer bringing in a paycheck. I would be stupider since I wasn’t interacting with patients and providers on a daily basis. And what was I going to say when people asked what I do?

Sure, some of it is true. I can’t rattle off oncology drugs like I used to be able to. I am not bringing home a paycheck. And people frequently ask what I do. The answer? “A helluva lot more than when I worked.”

Here’s the thing though: I’ve never been happier.

Our days feel endless- sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a bad way. They are filled with unprovoked dance parties, singing the same three songs over and over, and stopping to watch the ants.

We have entered the stage of exploring the world while sunlight streams through the trees. We experience wonder on a minute by minute basis, stopping at any moment to admire whatever nature treasure we find.

We take care of baby (doll), read an endless stack of books, and try to find answers to life’s biggest questions: Where can we find a butterfly to catch? How can you tell if a woman has a baby in her tummy vs food? <important life skill for survival> How can we go to Minnesota?

Sure, our days are peppered with skinned knees, the occasional tantrum, and slivers from climbing the slanty palm tree with bare feet. While the joy we experience is beautifully un-masked, the sadness, anger and pain also remain un-hidden. We cry about bonked heads because, dang it, they hurt!

There is dirt under our fingernails. Our house isn’t Pinterest perfect clean. Heck, it isn’t clean… period. And we haven’t quite nailed down social norms.

We are working on keeping our dresses down at dinner, because although tempting, the restaurant is not an appropriate place to compare tummy size. Church isn’t really a spot for yelling. And sadly, comparing poop sizes really isn’t ever appropriate.

Our days end with family prayers in bed. Our little people have big prayers, and nothing makes my mama heart happier than hearing them.

Because, what I’ve learned from my kids is this: life is beautiful.

Somewhere in my adult years, I forgot to look at the world with wonder.

But these little people have patiently taught me to pause and watch the meticulous choreography of an ant colony, to watch in awe as the sky turns pinks and purples after its last rays have dipped below the horizon, and to always, without fail, accept gifts of smashed flowers from little dimply hands.

They taught me that life isn’t about climbing the career ladder. That joy isn’t derived from a paycheck. And that love wins, always.


I was able to sneak home for a little less than 24 hours this past weekend for a surprise birthday party for one of my friends.

I wasn’t sure how a 24 hour trip would go, but given that I was able to travel without kids (thank you, Chad & in-laws), I was able to enjoy beautiful, uninterrupted conversations with my family. I left Minnesota refreshed, and so happy to have been able to squeeze the people I love.

In other news, we are all well.

Coronavirus is slowly but surely beginning to impact us, first and foremost through the toilet paper shortage we are experiencing. Luckily I stocked up a while back, so we should be set for a few months. And I’m not below using diaper wipes if necessary. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Sending love to all back home,


Weekly Update

Oh, the Magic

Hi all,

You may notice that my blog posts are fewer and farther between. I’ve noticed too. You see, we are slipping into a lovely new normal. Our days aren’t filled with as many “firsts”, our weeks have begun to develop routine, and our new world doesn’t feel quite so foreign.

And with this, I feel like I have less to write about… less to report. There are less moments bookmarked as “blog worthy” in my brain, yet our days are equally enjoyable.

Our days aren’t filled with as many new experiences, but we’ve continued our adventure.

Blog worthy bookmark: Kayaking Date with Chad

Shells from our date

Chad and I ventured out on a tandem kayak to explore the channels off of the ocean. We paddled through tunnels of mangrove trees, checked out an island only accessible by boat and found some great shells, and enjoyed a beautiful sunny evening on the water.

Like any good date, it involved adventure and teamwork. I insisted on sitting in front of the kayak so I got the best view, but this provided Chad with the unfair advantage of being able to stop paddling and mooch off of my hard work unbeknownst to me.

We quickly learned that tandem kayaks work best when you paddle together and are on the same page about where you want to head (much like life, in general). So we paddled “Left, right, left, TREE CHAD, TREE!” together while discussing what we would do if a python dropped from a mangrove tree or a gator arose from the water.

I told Chad that if an alligator attacked us, I would become frozen in fear. “Sorry,” he said with a sheepish smile, “but if we get attacked by an alligator, I’m running and leaving you behind.” I wasn’t surprised… 5 years of marriage has us communicating on a much more honest and unfiltered level.

Blog worthy bookmark: Disney

The magic.

Like any All-American family, we had Disney on our bucket list to check out. We wanted the girls to experience a magical moment, and what better than Disney World.

Growing up, I heard about all of my friends’ family trips to Disney. I jealously wondered why our family (filled with 8 kids) never went.

My sister was in Orlando for a conference and brought her daughter along, so we decided to check out Disney together and give our kids a magical experience. And boy, was it ever.

Admission cost $400 for one day for the three of us (Alice is under 3 so we didn’t have to pay for her). Lines for experiences were 1+ hours. The introvert in me cringed in a park packed with touristy, stroller pushing (me included), whiny kid wielding (also me included), selfie taking, hoards of people.

Alice had been telling us in the weeks leading up to our trip that she was going to see Mickey, Minnie and Pluto and Mickey was going to let her pet Pluto.

And much to Alice’s chagrin, Minnie, Mickey and Pluto were not walking around the park to interact with the kids. Oh, no. If you wanted to see Minnie and Mickey (no Pluto) , you had to wait in line… for an hour.

We left the park with the understanding that magical moments do not occur in over-priced amusement parks. We realized what we knew all along, the magical moments occur while watching the sunset, or during bedtime prayers, and in the unexpected and oh so welcome hugs and slobbery kisses from the kids.

Magical moments cannot be bought or for that matter, planned, and I am extremely grateful for that.

Blog-worthy Bookmark: Kid Updates

Alice continues to live a great life full of attitude and spunk. While she is generally an easy kid to parent, our days are becoming peppered with a few tantrums that only a 2 year old could throw. After today’s tantrum, she informed me, “I’m forgiven” rather than saying “I’m sorry”. Girl gets to the point.

The other night after she’d been tucked in, she shouted to me to bring a kleenex because she had a booger. When I arrived to her room, kleenex in hand, she said, “Oh sorry, Mom. I put it on my blankie. Let me get you another one.”

I still can’t believe Avery is 4. She inherited the introverted side of my personality, but is slowly coming out of her shell with her cute group of friends who we spend time with on a weekly basis.

In November, Avery blew a hole in her ear when she had a bad ear infection. Unfortunately, the hole did not heal on its own and we learned that she will require surgery to repair the hole.

My mama heart was not prepared for the news. I think sometimes I expect that I will act like a nurse instead of like a parent when I learn medical news about our kids…but there is a hard line in the sand. Mama emotions always overrule the logical nurse in me.

Luckily, the surgery will only take about 30 minutes and there is an 80% chance of success. If it fails, we have other options. But… we are putting our energy toward the positive. When I asked the surgeon if it would be hard or painful for her, he replied, “It will be for you, but not for her”. Oh so true. Her surgery is on February 4th- keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

That’s all for now, friends. Sending love and prayers to all back home.


Weekly Update

“Recovery” Week

We are just about at the 2 month mark of our Florida adventures. This upcoming week we will be heading to Minnesota (again) for my friend Jill’s wedding. Jill and I have been friends since high school and I am so excited for her to tie the knot with George!

This past week has mainly been a recovery week for the Onstot clan. As included in last week’s report, I came down with a cold when we returned home from Minnesota, so I’ve been trying to get some extra rest. The girls went through their usual “return from travel” adjustments, which include a few extra meltdowns per day along with increased clinginess. They adjusted much faster this time around. Yay!

Chad’s grandparents are now in Florida for the winter and we are loving having them nearby. Avery and Alice played shuffleboard for the first time, surprisingly not resulting in any injuries of themselves or others.

The mall near our house has a farmers market every Thursday. I took the girls for the first time this week. I thought it would be a really fun experience but the girls were pissed that it was not air conditioned. “That’s the thing,” I tried to tell them, “the fun thing about a farmers market is that it is outside!” They gave me a look that I only envisioned they would give me when they turned into teenagers. So…. we will check that one off the bucket list.

We made it to three beach sunsets this week, which were gorgeous and left us all feeling calm at the end of the day. We saw two washed up jellyfish- we aren’t sure if it was related to red tide, or simply a random occurrence. Avery and Alice received the “Do not touch the jellyfish” education, and actually followed the advice.

A tropical storm blew across us yesterday and experienced our first almost full day of rain. The gloomy weather was welcome as it gave me a chance to catch up on housework and prepare for the week ahead. Coming from Minnesota, I have this mindset that we MUST BE OUTSIDE when the weather is nice. But since the weather is nice every day, we spend a lot of time outside… and sometimes it is lovely to have a day where I don’t feel guilty about being inside.

We still found a rain-free window to get to the pool. As expected, it was empty so we enjoyed the pool to ourselves. We ended our evening on the perfect note with a game of Dominoes with Chad’s Grandparents. We played boys against girls. Helen and I let the boys win so we didn’t have to listen to them whine for the week.

I regret teaching Alice the phrase, “Today, Junior!” as she yelled it in church today while waiting for people to finish going through the communion line. “Today, guys!” She had important two year old things to do I guess.

The girls and I spent this afternoon at the beach while Chad golfed. There were huge waves (result of tropical storm) which washed up some neat shells. Our plans to watch the sunset were dashed by a rain storm and a diaper blow out. At the same time.

As I am reading through this post to check for typo’s, I realize this was not a “recovery week”. We packed in a lot, in keeping with the Onstot pace.

I have some exciting news to share! All of the positive support I’ve received from readers of this blog has inspired me to start a legit blog that will cover the topics of parenting & travel. I’ve been working on setting it up for the past 6 weeks and am excited to announce that my planned launch date is November 1st. I will give you more info next week! This blog will remain intact because it is perfect for giving more family/ friend geared updates.



Weekly Update

A Minnesota Wedding

As promised, last week’s update is late as we were in MN for my sister Amelia’s wedding. The trip was a whirlwind and we did not stop moving from the moment we left Florida until we returned home. I am surprised and proud to report that the girls traveled like absolute champs.

I think my pride over their traveling well is finally a combo of me having realistic expectations from them when we travel, and the fact that they are actually getting better at it. When I first started traveling with the girls, I had really high expectations- no tantrums, good listeners, and that they would go to bed without complete meltdowns.

Now when we travel, I expect tantrums. And sure, we get a couple- always on the airport floor, which is teeming with germs. But because I’ve come to expect them, I’m able to calmly wait it out without getting all feisty myself and in turn riling up the girls even more.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will snuggle with the girls until they fall asleep when we are traveling (and maybe have even come to enjoy it).

Minnesota greeted us with dreary weather and snow, confirming the fact that we are happy we moved to FL.

The wedding was beautiful. I could not be happier for my sister, Amelia and her husband, Brian. As I stood at the altar, I had my eyes glued on Brian when Amelia started processing down the aisle. Of course, Amelia was looking absolutely stunning and radiant. He sighed when he first saw her and his eyes began to tear up. “That’s right!” I wanted to yell, “You got a good one!” We danced the night away and my calves are still sore (like, literally more sore than after I ran a marathon). I take weddings seriously, okay? Also, my dance moves are pretty horrible so I’m sure my bad dancing form contributes to my sore legs.

Avery and Alice were flower girls for the wedding. None of us expected that they would make it down the aisle gracefully, but they did. I was shocked. Did someone drug my children? Why were they behaving so well? It is still a mystery what their motive was for behaving well, but I will take good behavior when I get it.

<<side note: It is possible that the good behavior was related to the fact that I told the girls King Kong would come and eat them if he heard them whining.>>

It was so lovely to be able to see a lot of our MN family and friends. While we love living in Florida, it is really sad to be so far away from our peeps. I was able to get my hair cut and styled by my favorite hair stylist who has been cutting my hair since I was 6 days overdue with Avery. We danced the night away with our childhood neighbors growing up- and while we haven’t seen each other in a LONG time, it was as if no time had passed.

I got to see one of my favorite aunts (who religiously reads this blog and always leaves a nice note)- shout out to Aunt Kris! And my Grandma, who is way cooler than anyone else’s Grandma as she goes by the name “G-Dizz” a true gangsta at heart (who graciously accepted this name I gave her back when I was in middle school).

Not too surprisingly, I came down with a case of the sneezes on the plane ride home, which quickly morphed into a full blown upper respiratory cold. Yesterday I spent the day on the couch, napping away most of the day while letting the kids watch an insane amount of TV. But it was so worth it- though I’m still tired, I feel a million times better today.

We are happy to be back home in our Florida digs. The Florida weather is now a bit cooler, with highs in the upper 80’s. This week should be a quiet one, allowing catch up on laundry and cleaning and hopefully some time to relax before we travel back to MN in 2 weeks for my good friend, Jill’s wedding.

Sending love to all,


Weekly Update

Week 5 update: Frogs & Vomit

It is hard to believe we are over a month into this Florida stay. When talking to my Mom on the phone the other night, she asked, “Does it feel like home yet?”

We are at the “we feel comfortable and can relax here” stage of adjusting to our new place but it doesn’t feel homey quite yet. I created an infographic to show where we are in the process. I’d say we are right between stage 2 and stage 3.

This week was spent readjusting to being back in our Estero place after spending last week in Palm Beach, FL. As we were settling in, Avery and Alice were playing with their blocks. Avery came over and reported, “Mom, there is a frog in our block box.” She tends to be a bit over dramatic and anytime she sees a black piece of fuzz, she freaks out and tells me we have an ant in the house. With this, I never take any insect/animal reports from her too seriously.

Anyway, I went to check out the situation because I am a good mom. Initially, it looked like a turd on the block box lid. And I was about to ask who pooped in the block box when I noticed that the turd had beady eyes that were staring at me. What happened next can best be described as chaos as Chad and the girls panicked that the frog was going to escape the box and live in our house forever. Due to my training in emergency situations, I was able to calmly carry the lid outside and thankfully the frog did not hop off until we were outside.

the frog/toad….looking guilty

We went to the Children’s Museum in Naples, FL. The museum was incredible. It was built off of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) thought process and incorporated a lot of science and creative thinking activities. The girls favorite part was a fake orchard/ garden they had, where they could transport the picked food to the grocery store, where they could pretend to buy the food and take it over to the restaurant where they could cook and serve it. We spent a whopping FOUR HOURS there. I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Naples area with kids.

We played our weekly round of mini golf. I’d like to report that I got a hole in one (accidental) and at one point in the round I was beating Chad (on the 2nd hole). There was a fake gorilla on the course that Alice was terrified of and refused to pose for a picture with it. After our game, we went to the beach on a whim to watch the sunset. It was beautiful.

Sunset at the Beach

A few days later, Alice caught a stomach bug similar to one Avery had 2 weeks ago. It was the dreaded middle of the night wakeup, where I found Alice sitting in bed, covered in vomit, reporting “I peed”. Because, hey- if you’ve ever puked before it kind of is like peeing… out of your mouth…with chunks. So I spent the night in Alice’s room, bolting out of bed every time she uttered the words “I need to pee in the bucket.” I’ve never been so terrified of pee.

I’m experiencing a bit of cabin fever after spending 2 days inside with the sick kid. Today we ventured to target, which was glorious. The girls are obsessed with the large red balls outside Target. Every time we get there, they yell, “Mom, can we touch two balls?” And then I internally laugh. Last time we were there, one of the girls said, “Mom, these balls are so HOT!”

I’ll end on that note.