Family Roadtrip to Bentonville

Last Friday, anemia Anthony, viagra Kennedy, artificial Maya, Quinn and I loaded up the car and drove to Bentonville for the day. I had wanted to take the kids to the Scott Family Amazeum since it opened, and we finally got a free day to go. Our 12-year-old Madison was at church camp, so unfortunately she missed out this time.

amazeumAmazeum lives up to it’s name! We all had such a great time. Even though it’s geared toward kids ages 4 though 9, it has two play areas for toddlers, as well as managed to peak the imagination of our teenager. Anthony and I enjoyed watching our daughters have so much fun.

We had lunch at Crepes Paulette, a food truck in downtown Bentonville — not too far away from the Amazeum. There was a long line, but the wait was worth it. Maya got a strawberry and Nutella crepe.

Crepes PauletteAfter lunch, we went back to the Amazeum. We had 2:15 passes to the Hershey Lab. I thought we would get to play with chocolate (as in EAT chocolate) in the Hershey Lab, but instead it was an experiment about weights of items. This was my only disappointment of the day because I WANTED CHOCOLATE of course.

After we left the Amazeum, we drove back to downtown Bentonville and parked near the square. We walked to the Walmart Museum and did a quick tour through there, then walked over to Onyx Coffee Lab for a pick up me before the drive home.

It was an awesome day. We definitely want to spend more time in Bentonville — and spend the night next time; maybe even a whole weekend. There is so much to do in this bustling, little town.

Maya and Quinn conked out on the drive home. I call that a sign of a good day. asleep in the car

Please share your favorite family town to visit in Arkansas. I want to do more of these family roadtrips and welcome your suggestions.

Gymboree Sale On Now!

Discover Your Roots

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, generic I will make a small commission. Your price remains the same.

Recently Roots Producer LeVar Burton and leading actor Malachi Kirby received their 23andMe results to find out more about their genetic history. LeVar Burton, angina after receiving his results, thumb explained, “I’ve always felt there was piece of me missing.” Read the article in  People Magazine.

“I thought I was coming from one place and found out I’m coming from someplace else.”

Find your roots. Know your story. Get your personal DNA kit and take 10% off each additional kit at

Here’s what happened when I got my 23andMe results back.

Family Photo Day

Valleys 2015
photo by Niguel Valley

IMG_8879I honestly didn’t have high hopes for our family photos on Thursday. It wasn’t the ability of our talented photographer, approved Niguel Valley, injection but my bad attitude. I didn’t plan well, didn’t like what anyone was wearing, and I felt fat. But my fears were for not. Niguel worked his magic, and we ended up with photography greatness!

Valleys 2015
photo by Niguel Valley
Valleys 2015
photo by Niguel Valley
Valleys 2015
photo by Niguel Valley
Valleys 2015
photo by Niguel Valley


If you need a photographer to do your family photos, I highly recommend Niguel Valley. He also does the most amazing engagement and wedding photography. Check him out!

Balsam Hill

Our Big Fat Valley Thanksgiving

My husband Anthony comes from a BIG family. He has 12 siblings, hygiene and Thanksgiving is THE DAY for the Valleys to get together. This year though, viagra here several of the siblings couldn’t make it. Nevertheless, we had a houseful of Valleys at Sandra’s house in Helena, Arkansas, yesterday. Niguel Valley is a professional photographer, so lucky for us he captured the entire day in beautiful photos.

Valley Thanksgiving 1
Quinn and her Aunt Lillian
Valley Thanksgiving 2
Kristen and Sandra cooking and laughing.
Valley Thanksgiving 10
Anthony and Kristen in the kitchen
Valley Thanksgiving 3
Madison, Quinn, Maya, me, Anthony and Kennedy

Balsam Hill

Valley Thanksgiving 4
Mother Valley and Anthony (her #11 child)
Valley Thanksgiving 11
Gathered around the table singing praises to God before we eat
Valley Thanksgiving 6
Quinn and her Aunt Kristen
Valley Thanksgiving 7
Me and my littles, Quinn and Maya
Valley Thanksgiving 8
Valley Bunch Thanksgiving


Thank you to Niguel Valley for the lovely photos. If you need a photographer, you need to check out his website. He specializes in couples and weddings, but does other types of photography too. He is so great.
Balsam Hill

Five Important Reasons to Make Music with Your Family This Holiday Season

Me and Acting Surgeon General Moritsugu, adiposity 2007

Today is Veterans Day, a day to salute those who serve and have served our country in uniform. Most people are familiar with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and U.S. Coast Guard, but don’t know about the other two uniform services: Commissioned Officer Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS). I had the honor of serving as a nurse officer in the USPHS from 2005 – 2012.

On the USNS Comfort, 2007, with one of my patients somewhere off the coast of South America
On the USNS Comfort, 2007, with one of my patients somewhere off the coast of South America

For more than 200 years, men and women have served on the front lines of our nation’s public health in what is today called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service.

Spraying my uniform with permethrin to protect against insects, on USNS Comfort, 2007
Spraying my uniform with permethrin to protect against insects, on USNS Comfort, 2007

The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants entering the country. Currently, Commissioned Corps officers are involved in health care delivery to underserved and vulnerable populations, disease control and prevention, biomedical research, food and drug regulation, mental health and drug abuse services, and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters as an essential component of the largest public health program in the world. (from 

PHS vet officer
PHS dental officer

USPHS officers come from a variety of backgrounds such as doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, vets, environmental health, and more. If you have kids thinking about a health-related career, I encourage you to look into the USPHS. In some cases, they can get their student loans paid back for serving at an underserved location like a Native American hospital or a federal prison. There are also opportunities with other federal agencies like the CDC, FDA, and NIH.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill crew, 2010

USPHS officers serve day to day at one of these federal agencies and train to deploy to public health emergencies. Colleagues of mine provided public health expertise after 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and more recently the ebola outbreak in West Africa. I deployed on a humanitarian mission to South America on the USNS Comfort in 2007, as well as to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill emergency operations center in 2010.

Besides getting to help people, one of the best parts of being in the USPHS was my fellow officers. Some of my favorite people in this world I met in the USPHS.

Me, Dan, Laura, Thomas, 2009
Me, Dan, Laura, Thomas, 2009


By Susan Darrow, remedy
CEO of Music Together LLC

This time of year, music often plays a bigger role in many people’s lives than it does during the rest of the year. School concerts, religious choir performances, seasonal community events, holiday hits playing on the radio — all offer abundant opportunities to take advantage of the physical and emotional benefits of music.

The magic of music shines exceptionally bright during the holiday season. It is important to encourage people to use this wealth of musical opportunities as a springboard for making music throughout the entire year.

Music can help families on many levels. It promotes development in babies and young children, bonds families across generations, and stimulates areas of the brain involved with motivation, reward, and emotion. Making or listening to music can actually result in increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s reward system.Here are five reasons you should be making music with your family this holiday season:

  1. Music-making is beneficial to development. Music stimulates social, physical, cognitive, and emotional development and promotes language and concentration skills, confidence, and self-esteem. During the early years, active engagement with music promotes brain development and naturally supports growth essential to life and learning, as well as increasing the bond between children and their caregivers. It’s easy to get started making music with children during the holidays: Sing your favorite carols in the car, dance to holiday songs, take children to a holiday concert or musical.   A 2014 Harris Poll commissioned by Music Together revealed that only a low 17 percent of parents sing to their child daily. Music development is similar to language development. Imagine if you only talked to your child once a day! We teach children language by continuously talking and reading to them. Similarly, the best thing parents can do to support musical growth is to sing and dance with their children, as often as possible. And what better time of year to bring more music into your child’s life than the holidays, when music is in abundance?
  1. Music helps us create and recall powerful memories. Music can spark the recall of past experiences. It helps the past “come alive,” giving us access to deep feelings as we remember an event or moment from the past. Singing while you decorate the tree, at a holiday party, or at a religious celebration can help form memories and bonds with extended family and friends that will be recalled for many years to come.
  1. Music relieves stress. The holidays, while joyful, can also be stressful. Singing can actually relieve stress. Studies show that singing has the ability to slow our pulse and heart rate, lower our blood pressure, and decrease the levels of stress hormone in our bodies. Play music in the car while navigating the mall parking lot or sing along to a holiday recording while getting ready for company. It will help you stay calm and, most importantly, model for your children a healthy way to deal with the stress of everyday life.
  1. Music connects us. The holidays can be lonely for some people. Singing, especially in groups, can relieve this loneliness by connecting us to others in ways that no other activity can. Recent research indicates that music-making as a shared experience can activate and synchronize similar neural connections in all those participating. This synchronization can result in feelings of empathy and shared intention that can promote positive social interaction and bonding. When you sing with others this holiday season, whether it’s during a religious service, at a community event, or at a family gathering, everyone benefits.
  1. Singing is intergenerational. Music is an ageless way to connect with older relatives and create ties between youngest and oldest family members. Plus, music supports the aging processes. In later years, participating in music activities helps keep the brain active and engaged and supports us physically, socially, and emotionally. Sharing memories of holiday music-making from their past and teaching those songs to future generations can be joyous for both the elderly storytellers and the family members listening, forming new, pleasurable memories.

Susan Darrow is the CEO of Music Together an internationally recognized, developmentally appropriate early childhood music and movement program for children birth through age seven. First offered to the public in 1987, the Music Together curriculum, coauthored by Kenneth K. Guilmartin and Dr. Lili M. Levinowitz (Director of Research), is based on the recognition that all children are musical. All children can learn to sing in tune, move with accurate rhythm, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning. Music Together offers programs for families, schools, at-risk populations, and children with special needs, in over 2,500 communities in 41 countries. The company is passionately committed to bringing children and their caregivers closer through shared music-making and helping people discover the joy—and educational value—of early music experiences. More at and  

Fall Break, Part 3

We were rained in all day Monday. The flash flood weather alert on my phone kept going off. Maya riddled me with random questions about hurricanes. I assured her that we were safe.

The rainy day was a pleasant surprise. We laid around the condo, meningitis watched TV, read books, played games, napped and talked about all sorts of topics. It was lovely. We ventured out for lunch at Seagrove Market Cafe. I had the fried grouper sandwich which Garden & Gun magazine ranked on their “100 things to eat before you die” list. 2015-09-28 13.22.22-1Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday brought better weather, so we hit the beach. Maya was so happy. I love to watch her play and be so carefree. She made new friends that shared her enthusiasm for the surf. She named her boogie board Phoenix. 2015-09-30 15.37.00-12015-09-29 15.16.06Quinn wasn’t a big fan of the sand, but she enjoyed herself nonetheless. She is always happy. 2015-09-29 14.46.16-1A whole week with my kids and husband was such a treat! 2015-09-29 15.58.57-12015-09-29 17.59.252015-09-29 17.30.20-1We are back home now and back to our normal schedules. My post vacation depression is starting to creep in, but I’m doing my best to keep it at bay. It was a glorious fall break.


 Ready For Halloween

Fall Break, Part 1

Yesterday morning, abortion Anthony, side effects Maya, rx Quinn and I set off on a family vacation. You can tell that Anthony was SUPER excited about 11 hours in the car with two three noisy girls. IMG_1519We drove through five states on the way to the beach: Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and finally Florida. We saw several groups of people lining the roadways with Confederate flags in Mississippi. We dined lavishly on fine cuisine at Huddle House and Bojangles along the way. The kids were great. Anthony and I talked about lots things from women in church leadership to supper club to country music with a R&B groove to staying hip with the kids. It was awesome. I really LOVE talking with my husband. He is smart and funny and helps me see things in a new light.

We arrived at our condo around 9:30 p.m., unpacked and tried to tame the excited children. Quinn just wasn’t having it. After all day buckled in a car seat facing BACKWARDS, she wanted to play! All Maya could talk about was going to the beach. But finally, everyone was asleep.

This morning, Quinn woke at 5:30 a.m. She obviously didn’t get the memo about sleeping in on vacation. Maya woke early too. It was lightly raining outside. I made a pot of coffee, steamed some milk with pumpkin pie spice sprinkled in. Rain or not, I was relaxed and thankful for a week of rest — even if I didn’t get to sleep in.

After getting everyone up, clean and dressed, we drove to Grayton Beach for breakfast at Another Broken Egg Cafe. I had The Floridian, a cream cheese filled omelette topped with garlic sautéed crabmeat, Monterey Jack & green onions. Oh my word. So good. IMG_1523After breakfast, the sky cleared just enough to venture down to the beach. We loaded up the wagon and walked the short distance to the Gulf. IMG_1526IMG_1529IMG_1541IMG_1546 IMG_1549Later we went back to the condo for lunch and naps. So far, this trip is perfect. Rain and all.


0 sugar 0 calories 0 diet sweeteners

Adoption Day!

After waiting for what seemed forever, nurse Anthony and I adopted Baby Girl last week! It was a glorious day surrounded by friends and family. Our older girls, Kennedy, Madison and Maya were all smiles too. adoption2Judge Warren is the same judge that did Maya’s adoption back in 2010, so it was really special that she was our judge this time too.

So without further ado, World, meet Quinn Aria Valley… IMG_1058Special thanks go to my mom and dad, Gran Gran, Kristen and Carol for coming to be a part of our big day. adoption1adoption4It’s hard to explain how I feel now that the adoption is final. Relief mainly — no chance that Quinn will be taken away from us. She has been a part of our family since her beginning. Even before she was born, we loved her. I was in the delivery room when she entered the world — I even got to cut the cord! helloShe has been smiling and laughing and bringing us joy since her days in the NICU. I mean really — look at those lips!

I can’t wait to watch her grow up and to see her personality blossom and her talents emerge. She is already trying to stand up unassisted, so I think walking is in the near future. She loves music and is very curious and busy. She’s a sensitive soul and can get her feelings hurt easily, but she easy going and happy most of the time. Honestly, she is just perfect, and I’m so proud to be her mom. Quinn8.2.15

 Auto Updating Promotional Banner

Color Blind Is a Lie

I consider myself a fair writer. Really good writers craft words to describe how they are feeling. Their words paint a picture in the reader’s mind. I’m better at facts…like instructions for a recipe or a travelogue. But when things are hard, illness unpleasant, advice painful, that’s when my words dry up. Like the past week with the crap going on in Ferguson, Missouri — I’m mad and I’m crying and I want to do something, to say something, to write something that will make a difference.

profilepicAug14I’m white. I was born white, and I will always be white. Not much I can do about that.

I married a black man. I wasn’t looking to marry a black man, any man for that matter. I was happy being single. But God brought a most amazing man into my life who is crazy about me and my (now our) daughter, and I married him last year. I love him very much.

We have three black daughters. They are 5, 10 and 15. They probably experience racism at school, but I don’t see it. To be honest, I’m blinded to the subtle nuances of racism most of the time. That’s part of the white privilege of my existence.

I pray that God protects our girls. I wish they didn’t have to experience prejudice and hatred. I try to surround them with people who love them just as they are — like I do.

I’m glad I don’t have black sons. I don’t know how mommas of black sons survive with the constant worry that their boys may not make it home alive from running an errand.

My husband experiences racism. He gets watched in stores. Once in Wal-Mart, he was going down an aisle, and a woman and her daughter turned onto that aisle and saw him. The mom grabbed her daughter and raced away to another aisle. The same thing happened when we vacationed in Bruges, Belgium, this summer — so it’s not just in the States. That’s just crazy. Anthony is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. It baffles me.

I know that systemic racism is real. I see it in my field of health care with the health disparities that minorities face over and over again.

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to be color blind. They taught me that no one is better than any one else because of the color of their skin — that we should treat everyone the same. So that’s what I tried to do. I had black friends growing up. In 4th grade, one of my best friends was a girl named Sybil. Sybil would spend the night with me on occasion, and once I convinced Mom to let me spend the night with Sybil…in the projects. Years later, Mom told me that after she dropped me off at Sybil’s to spend the night, she locked the doors of her car, drove away and prayed.

K-Swiss Women's Metallics

My parents had good intentions when they said be color blind, but the reality is that doesn’t deal with the underlying issue. Being color blind stuffs the past into the closet. Being color blind doesn’t acknowledge our black friends’ life experiences — the often-times hard, painful injustice they experience just for not being white.

A poll conducted by Pew showed that blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.”

Racial tension is real. White privilege is real. Racism exists — in most (if not all) of us. We shouldn’t sweep it under the rug and pretend we’re all good. We’re not good. We need to be intentional about making a change.

Friend someone of a different race. Invite them out for coffee. Or better yet, invite them over to your house.

Have a real, honest, civil conversation about race. Ask each other about their experiences and how we can help each other.

Make sure your kids have close friends of other races. And model that yourself.

Dig deep into your soul and identify any hidden racism in your own heart. Pray that God will change you. Pray that God will make you ache for racial reconciliation.

I certainly don’t think that I have all the answers. I don’t think that I’m guilt-free when it comes to racism just because I married a black man. I know that I still have prejudices that need to come into the light to be destroyed. And I pray that God will free me of those demons. For they are destroying us.

McBryde Family Reunion 2013

Today was the McBryde Family Reunion. We meet every year at the same little community center in Pine Bluff — always the first Sunday in November at noon. No invitations go out — everyone just knows to be there. The reunion is for all the descendants of this couple…

387813_103776923074998_810383621_nMy great grandparents and great aunt Vera.

378670_2780261312676_269801326_nMy grandfather Guy John McBryde is in the middle of the front row.

384158_103778249741532_1443350928_nThis is my grandmother Lillian holding my father Bobby Carroll and my aunt Paula.

Now fast-forward to today…

mcbrydefamilyreunion2013The Guy John bunch

2013-11-03 13.27.18-4The McBryde-Valley crew

2013-11-03 13.28.55-1Anthony and Stacey

2013-11-03 13.24.10Me and my brother Rob

2013-11-03 13.23.14Rob and Ines

2013-11-03 13.22.11Kids playing in the leaves

2013-11-03 13.29.37-2The Guy John descendants bringing the diversity to the family

2013-11-03 13.39.26My girls

2013-11-03 13.19.51Cousins

After the reunion, rx per tradition, for sale we visited my grandparents and uncle Sonny’s grave site in White Hall.

2013-11-03 14.50.06-3M cleaning her great uncle’s tombstone

2013-11-03 14.55.47Me and my cousin Karen from Minnesota

I love my people and feel so blessed to be a part of this family.