I’m both proud and sad to announce the last post of our “Extraordinary Families” series. When Allstate and I first talked about the idea for the series, I was a little worried that a lot of the stories would be sad. In hindsight, I was so wrong to be afraid of that. Yes, these families have incredible challenges, but each one is inspiring and uplifting and relatable and makes me want to rise to the occasion and be a better parent as well.

My greatest thanks to everyone who participated.

This was our first time including video and I really hope you felt it brought the families and their stories even more to life. It was a learning process for us and proved to be an interesting challenge to capture real-time daily routines when you are also dealing with the logistics of a larger production capturing an entire day. To streamline, the production team usually shot the interviews and bedtime routine the night before and then shot the morning through the afternoon the following day. We also had to move the story along through the exact narrative of the parent without my writing to help bridge the different parts of the day. There was no going back to ask more questions or fill in spaces. In the end, this meant that the videos felt less about the exact routine and more about a general idea of the family’s day. I say this because one participant felt her day wasn’t represented correctly (particularly since it was shot on a weekend) and I’m curious what you all thought of the structure so we can continue to improve if we get the opportunity again. Personally, I loved the addition of videos and want that aspect to continue!

To pay homage to each of the participants, I asked them each a few additional questions about their experience being featured on the blog— both positive and negative. Often I find that the feedback and support from my readers after the post is published is what ultimately creates the biggest impression of all.

The Bennetts

What was your favorite moment in your video?

I have so many favorite moments but the best is when Austin drops the silverware in the kitchen. It seems to be everyone’s favorite.

How did you feel about the response to your post?

Opening your heart, home and family to the world wasn’t easy at first but the amount of support I got from complete strangers was incredible. We all come from different walks of life but have so many similarities. People privately messaged me and thanked me for sharing my story. Knowing that it touched so many people makes my heart heavy and happy. Heavy that others have the same struggle but happy that they have one more person to talk to. I hope people learn that being vulnerable and sharing your story can be therapeutic. You never know who you’ll reach or who you’ll inspire.

Do you want to share an update on your treatment?

As for now, I’m doing incredibly well! I met with my oncologist November 11th and got my results from my most recent CT scan. I received the best news I could ask for. The ablations worked and there are no new tumors in my liver. My liver function is good. The radiologist didn’t note anything of concern in my lungs. However, my oncologist saw some small spots (like before). So he’ll follow up with the radiologist. So great news for me! I’m NED (no evidence of disease) and I am cautiously optimistic.

Read about The Bennetts’ full day here.

The Johnsons

What was your favorite photo?

I love the one of both kids hugging me. It serves as a reminder of our love even on the hardest days.

How did you feel about the response to your post?

The response was really empowering. I honestly think it helped me break out of my little bubble of our family that I had been stuck in. To know there were other families who felt the same and were dealing with similar things was just awesome. I have made a lot of friends and even started a business since then. Sometimes you just need that little push to break out of your shell.

Read about the The Johnsons’ full day here.

The Lees

What was your favorite photo or moment in your video?

The arena scene with Levi helping Samantha rope on the back of her horse. I like the photo of Sam and Levi roping as well. It’s candid and really captures the success I think she felt in that moment.

How did you feel about the response to your post?

It was nice that it was mostly positive and not too judgmental.

Anything you would like to add about the experience in general?

I didn’t feel like it was really an authentic view of our daily life. The filming schedule— doing the bedtime scene Saturday early evening and then filming the rest on Sunday, and then labeling it as a normal Friday was surprising to me.

Read about The Lees’ full day here.

The Parks

What was your favorite photo or moment in the video?

In the video, I loved watching Joe play with our boys. The happiness of those moments is a reminder that life will return to normal soon. My favorite photo is the one with Joe and I hugging goodbye because it’s not one we could have taken ourselves. It captures everything about him leaving all in one picture.

How did you feel about the response to your post?

Most people were incredibly supportive and I hope it was able to make other deployed families feel less alone.

Read about The Parks’ full day here.

The Estes’

What was your favorite photo or moment in the video?

My favorite picture is the one of all of us together. It’s almost impossible to get all six of us in one frame AND find someone to shoot a pic, so we have very few images of our whole family. And I know I mentioned this before, but I love the moment in the video when Owen laughs with Joel. He is such a sweet, happy, determined little kid and it’s priceless to have that moment on video.

How did you feel about the response to your post?

I was overwhelmed to see people in our own circles and beyond like and share the video. The moments that showed our care for Owen and our whole family are so intimate and so often hidden. I realized that even some of the people closest to us may not have known what our routine looks like. Sharing the video and seeing their support made us feel very known and loved.

Anything you would like to add about the experience in general?

The process of shooting the video and photos was a bit crazy— it was Joel’s first week at his new job, Liddy and Clara were so little, and Owen was on a school break. That 24 hours was a bit of a blur. We shot the “day” as two half days, with a Sunday afternoon/evening and a Monday morning/daytime. I actually remember thinking that a lot of the parts I was doing didn’t get documented, like feeding the babies during the night.

Read about The Estes’ full day here.

The Schutts

How did you feel about the response to your post?

I was extremely nervous putting our story out there and felt greatly supported by the responses. What surprised me the most was the in-person responses and compliments from our friends, who despite knowing us, learned more about what makes our family unique.

Anything you would like to add about the experience in general?

The boys have already changed so much since the photos were taken. Kyle transitioned into a full-size bed and Christian is no longer using a bottle. The day of the photo shoot was when Christian first started taking consecutive steps and now he is running around everywhere! The photos and blog post are something we will treasure as our children grow up.

Read about The Schutts’ full day here.

The Freemans

What was your favorite moment in the video?

I really enjoy watching their sweet smiles and personalities while we get ready for the day. It’s so rushed and frustrating to get three three-year-olds (now four-year-olds!) to cooperate, but when I watch the video, I see love, not stress. The other part is at the end of the day, when they go crazy before bed. In the moment, you are just ready for them to go to sleep, so you can breathe, eat, and to try to relax. But in the video, they are so happy! I love their laughs and want to watch over and over to take them in!

How did you feel about the response to your post?

I loved the support and enjoyed reading so many positive comments! Having triplets can be stressful. To know that people are cheering you on or have been there too was really great.

Anything you would like to add about the experience in general?

This was an awesome experience, and we are grateful to have this snapshot of a day that we can look back on. The kids love to watch “the family video” and have asked when the cameras are coming back!

Read about The Freemans’ full day here.

The Swanbergs

What was your favorite moment in the video?

I absolutely love the shot when Caleb is playing piano and Rosie is dancing in the living room. This happens in our house literally every night. Now that Maddie is a few months older, she is starting to join in on it as well! We’re all together, the phones and tablets are put away, and we are just enjoying each other’s company. You guys perfectly captured my favorite time of day.

How did you feel about the response to your post?

There was not a single negative comment! We took a chance by putting our family out there, and we were so relieved when people accepted us and were so supportive. My favorite comment is from a reader who said that she has a big sister with special needs, so she has to play the role of big sister and nothing brings her greater joy! It was such a relief to read that. Sometimes I get overwhelmed about the future and all of the unknowns that it holds. This reassured me that there is nothing to worry about. My girls will have a special bond, even if it looks a little different than the typical sibling relationship.

Anything you would like to add about the experience in general?

We are in such a unique stage of life right now. We’re over 2,000 miles away from our families, Caleb is working insane hours in residency, and we have two kids in diapers who barely talk. Despite the challenges, there is so much about our time in Utah that we will miss sorely when we move back to our home state of Maine. THANK YOU for selecting my family and taking such a beautiful snapshot of us in this season of our life. I can’t tell you how much we will cherish this video and blog post for years to come!

Read about The Swanbergs’ full day here.

Thank you to Allstate for making this series possible and for trusting my team to bring it to life in video. If you enjoyed the series and want it to continue, please let Allstate know in the comments below!

I’m hoping this post is more like a season ending, as opposed to a series finale.


This post is part of the “Extraordinary Families” series sponsored by Allstate. “Extraordinary Families” aims to show what life is like, sun up to sun down, for families facing (and overcoming!) unique and challenging circumstances. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated to protecting what matters most.