This mom's journey through divorce and illness reminds us why single moms are heroes.
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Kraft Family Greatly

Being a single parent can be tough. It can be even tougher when you're coping with serious health issues.

Allison Brown and her husband have been separated for some time, but they co-parented their son, Jed, equally up until two years ago.

Simultaneously she has antiphospholipid syndrome, which makes her prone to blood clots, and as such, she's already had two pulmonary embolisms — one right after Jed was born.


It was also recently discovered that she has a genetic oddity on the BRACA2 gene and a family history of breast cancer, so she's made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2018.

Allison and Jed Brown. All photos via Allison Brown.

Jed wants to be with her in the hospital, and while she's always been open with him about her health issues, this feels like uncharted territory. He's been with her through illnesses before, but this surgery will change how she looks and no doubt have an emotional impact, so she's apprehensive about letting him see the aftermath.

"I'm not entirely sure what the 'right' thing to do is," Allison writes in an email, "but I go back to one of our family reminders: We can do what we can do. And sometimes we can do hard things."

As it turns out, Allison isn't alone in her concern. Many families struggle with knowing what the "right" thing to do is, but they still manage to #familygreatly.

Family Greatly

Myth: There’s one perfect way to family. Truth: There’s a billion ways to #FamilyGreatly.

Posted by Kraft Brand on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The truth is, there isn't one "right way" to be a parent. And, through her relationship with her son, Allison's come to realize that.

She cherishes Jed, and together they've successfully navigated some difficult times. But mostly she tries to savor every moment with him that she can.

"He is kind, he is moral and thoughtful, he is just a lovely person a lot of the time," writes Allison. "He is working hard to be responsible and I really appreciate that. I think we are very close, in part because we are a household of two, in part because I'm pretty unflappable."

Jed on the soccer team.

Of course, as Jed grows up, she's realizing he doesn't need her as much. It's a hard reality, but she knows it's what needs to happen.

"I know I'm not all he could ever need nor should I be anymore," explains Allison. "Life is bigger, and his world is wider."

But even though Jed's a teenager now, they've maintained their tight bond thanks to a few unique traditions.

For example, every night at dinner, they hold hands and share a "moment of gratitude," which can be anything that happened in their day that they're grateful for. Since Allison can't be there all the time, it's a great way for them to reconnect.

She also makes sure to be there for all the big events, like Jed's soccer games and choir concerts.

She wishes she could be around more often to encourage him to stop staring at phone/computer/television screens all day, but that's likely a struggle that would exist whether she worked or not.

Jed and Allison Brown.

And really, at the end of the day, Allison believes she is enough for Jed because she's proud of the man he is becoming.

"The world is big, and there are a million ways to be successful and measure success," she writes.

Time with your kids goes by fast — Allison knows this better than most. So instead of worrying about the future, she hopes parents, like herself, can stay in the present with them as long as they can. After all, that's what truly matters with family.

Life may throw you curveballs along the way, but as long as you can come back and share a moment with your kids, you're nailing parenthood.

It doesn't matter if you're a family of two or 10, if you're celebrating around a big Christmas tree or eating leftover pizza while watching your favorite show — if you're spending time together, that's what makes a great family.

This holiday season, Allison and Jed will be taking their traditional trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to see the lights festival. It's just something that makes the month of December a little more special for them.

Families are made by these traditions that make them unique, no matter how big or small they are. And that uniqueness outshines perfection every day of the week.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


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