this season

For whatever reason, this spring has felt hotter than summers past and our days have felt so chaotic and hard to schedule. I go through these phases where I feel so behind on everything and then those where I feel like I actually have at least an hour of free time at night before I inevitably pass out. Right now I'm in one of those "so behind" phases which is unsurprisingly coming off the tails of my husband's busy time at work. Ethan has had some issues with sleeping the past couple of weeks (which, not to jinx it entirely, seem to have ended two nights ago) and our house is really just one big state of chaos.

This blog has been quiet and it bothers me so. I feel like I have so much to say but no time to say it and, when I do find the time, I'm seriously lacking the energy to stay awake another minute. You know, something about balance which is really a foreign word to me and I'm afraid I'll never understand the meaning or, at the very least, how to achieve it.


As Ethan steps even closer to turning four, I find myself so blown away by him. All of him. He's been my buddy since birth, my partner in all that I do. These days, though, he just feels so much like a real boy. I never mind the eight hundred times per night wake-ups or the early mornings because I know they're fleeting. Exhausting as they are, even the days that fall after the sleepless nights -- the ones that feel like a complete shitshow of tears and tantrums -- require me to scoop up my little boy and hold him until the tears stop. I know I'm on the verge of losing these moments and I cherish them all.

Sometimes I wonder if parenting after loss has changed me in this way. I like self-deprecation and exhausted mama jokes as much as the next person, but give me these moments. Give me these no nap days and sleepless nights. Give me this time to actually feel my baby boy breathing and hear his wants and whines. Give me these stretch marks and eye bags and this caffeine addiction because it means that I am parenting this whirlwind of a child who is still so surreal to me. It's hard to get behind the jokes and memes and blog posts about sending kids back or to grandma's or wishing kids were somehow different than they are (slept more, cried less). Maybe if things were different, I could laugh, too.

It's been almost a year since I've begun feeling like I'm living in a parallel universe. I'm always wondering how much of what I do has begun to be shaped by loss and this new perspective I've been carrying around for just about a year now. Regardless, I am overcome with disbelief and gratitude that I get to parent Ethan and watch him grow. Four. I cannot believe he is nearly four years old.

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be in my heart

It's April and that means our garage, living room and dining room table have all begun to be buried with odds and ends that, at some point, will hopefully transform into Ethan's birthday party decorations. As soon as April rolled in, I've found myself doing the "this time last year" comparison a little too much. We're sort of at the cusp of that point in time where life went from awesome to terrifying to tragic and unrecognizable. Somehow focusing on Ethan's birthday party helps with the mood around here. At least mine. My husband remains sweet and patient as we're forced to eat dinner around Ethan's Lego table because the spray paint cans and homemade cake stands and other odds and ends take up our entire dining room table at this point.

Ethan has come to share my enthusiasm towards party planning or, at the very least, his own birthday plans. He's so concerned with the little details and the guest list and the cake and the decorations and everything else that we've pinned and admired and thought up and attempted to recreate. I see you, "parents throw these parties for themselves" grumps, and I'm laughing back at you now.

Anyway, the time is ticking on. I'm caught between the now and the this time last year a lot. Sometimes grief makes it impossible to stop comparing, even when it's past midnight and you just want to fall asleep. This time last year, we were painting her nursery.

To survive the long afternoons and the already unbearable heat, we have joined our city's pools. Ethan could spend hours in the water and managed to befriend a little girl who is a couple of years older than he is. She asked him, innocently enough, if he had any brothers or sisters. "No. Just cats," he explained before asking for her help in perfecting his backfloat. These are the exchanges that catch me off guard and bring reality to the fantasy world that I like to create in my mind. In actuality, Ethan had no concept of pregnancy or birth or death or anything that happened and so, as far as he knows, it's just him. Just him and I during these long days, these amazing days, these hard days. Just him and I.

I may or may not have pinned twenty additional projects to Ethan's fourth birthday party board that night as a result, though.

These days feel somewhat smooth and rehearsed and yet also like each hour is part of some adjustment period. These days are the same and yet so vastly different from anything I imagined. Sometimes all I can do is look up at the face behind those little hands meticulously selecting the best postage stamps for his birthday party invitations and know that it is his heart keeping mine beating, his heart keeping mine whole.

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easter 2015

Easter has come and gone, more or less. Ethan is combating the inevitable meltdown that occurs from too much chocolate and too little sleep. There are little bits of the Easter Bunny's visit still scattered across the house, on the table; eggs and plastic grass and matchbox cars and other goodies that Ethan couldn't wait to pull out of his basket this morning and while smiling at the very thought of the bunny having paid him a visit. As a nonreligious family, Easter, to us, is about the bunny and spring and the joy of surprises -- and I stayed up well past my bedtime last night ensuring there was a little bit of each of these components scheduled into Ethan's Easter today.

The holidays are hard. Perhaps they will always be hard (I don't doubt they will always be impossibly hard), but I've dreaded all of the firsts. This is the first Easter that Wylie should have been here and wasn't. It was the first time that the table was void of an Easter basket for Ethan's little sister, no eggs filled with puffs or teething biscuits or bubble bath or all of the things that I stuffed into Ethan's basket during his infancy. I know that moms who "do it all" get a lot of flack on the internet. We get lots of angry HuffPo articles skewed towards us, letting us know the way that we ruin Easter for the other moms who maybe don't find so much joy in the little details. For me, more than the joy that I happen to find in the over the top intricacies, is the joy that paints itself on Ethan's face. It's the way he turns the plastic eggs over in his hands. It's the excitement when he pops an M&M -- contraband -- into his mouth and lets the chocolatey spit run down his lips. It's the way he turns his new books over in his hands and holds his new stuffed animals close and the way he squeals with unrivaled excitement at the thought of the Easter bunny having hid the eggs he colored in his front yard. These are all simple joys that Wylie will never experience. She will never come bursting out of her room at the crack of dawn in desperate and frantic excitement to see what the bunny has left for her on the table. She will never twist open a plastic egg and remove vials of glitter or chalk and plot out future masterpieces. She will experience none of it and, so, letting Ethan experience all of it is some kind of therapy for my heart. My heart that aches and weighs down in my chest a little more on days like these. Firsts, and always.

As the one year anniversary of Wylie's birth and death approaches, I find my anxiety level higher than it has been in some time. I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life but have been able to more or less control it during the course of my adult years, at least until now. Now I feel the stress throb in my temples as I realize that I cannot stop May from approaching. I cannot stop May 23rd from showing up. And more than the firsts, I wonder how the holidays feel during that overlap, the time when they are no longer firsts. When they become routine. When my world is so very without her, again.

Ethan spent his day immersed in bunny pancakes and chocolate and toy cars and egg hunts and a trip to the movies to see Home with his daddy and just joy. So much joy. The level of joy that causes toddlers to max out and give in to the sugar crash and exhaustion. His joy is worth so much and even more so on holidays when no one will convince me that the world doesn't revolve around his laughter. Mine does. Oh, does mine ever.

It's a strange place to be, this limbo. I can laugh with Ethan and experience the joy of his happiest Easter ever (which he says it is each year right before the sugar crash kicks in) while also feeling lost. I can feel both complete and incomplete. Full and also empty, watching my beautiful boy run around the yard while his sister sits as ash in an urn on top of my mantle missing every moment of the celebration. I usually feel as if I'm able to steer this wayward ship straight enough to fool an outsider but on holidays, on the days leading up to holidays, I often feel back at square one. And somewhere in the mess of missing my baby girl, I am able to say that it was a wonderful Easter having lived through Ethan's joy. I am living solely for his joy as his happiness is my own. His happiness is everything. And, for that, it was a wonderful Easter.

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what's in ethan's easter basket, 2015 edition

I make an "Ethan's Easter basket" post each year, so I can't let the opportunity slip by this year -- even if I'm a little later posting than in years past. Bear with me -- it's been a little hectic around here and I'm trying to ease back into the blogging thing.

I try to keep Ethan's Easter baskets as candy free as possible. This is the first year where it's been a little trickier since he's almost four and knows a thing or two about candy (like how much he loves chocolate). He asked for a chocolate bunny specifically so I made sure to include one plus another small piece of chocolate which seems enough. I know he'll get plenty of chocolate and candy at grandma's house later in the afternoon plus I had fun filling his basket with some other fun goodies instead.

Jump rope, some Hot Wheels cars and playdough.

T-shirt and eggs filled with craft supplies (hooray for glitter tubes!).

A stuffed Daniel Tiger and Miss Elaina.

A few Daniel Tiger books, too.

Chalkk and some more eggs filled with dinosaurs and animal figures.

More little cars and some fruit and veggie growing kits (strawberry and bell pepper).

Two Lush Easter egg bath bombs.

Some coloring books, watercolor paints, dinosaur coloring set and water balloons.

Spiral art, magic paint posters.

Straw cup, toothbrushes, floss picks.

I also filled a bunch of eggs with Pirate's Booty and some Annie's animal crackers.

'Twas the night before Easter and Ethan broke his shoes at the park, so the Easter bunny found some time to grab a new pair at Ross before bedtime.

The holidays are hard for our family and a part of my heart is extra heavy during these days. I'm excited to see Ethan's smile when he wakes up and realizes the bunny dropped by.

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2k + w = love

This blog has been a little quiet, I know. The older Ethan gets, the harder it is for me to keep this blog as detailed as I did when he was a baby. I try to keep this blog an honest representation of our lives -- of my life, as messy at that feels at the moment. My promise to myself is to just keep this blog for me, for it to be a place to spill my guts (and help others) and, of course, to share my tot school curriculum because I've signed on for an additional year of homeschooling come the fall when Ethan will not be joining his similarly aged pals for pre-K. Anyway, I'm rambling. There was a point to this post, I swear.

This weekend, we had a visit from a few really special people. When I first lost Wylie, my grief counselor warned me that grief was isolating. At the time, I was surrounded by a support system who was reeling in shock, horror and sadness about what our family had gone through. The support felt endless. As time went on, most people returned to their own lives or were just unable to reach me. I say often that it feels like I now speak an entirely different language from the general population. This aided in the isolation, the fact that it felt there was always some kind of barrier in between myself and whoever was speaking to me. On one particular desperate night, I reached out to a stranger on Facebook because their profile photo was one I recognized, one with a quote about pregnancy and infant loss. One that said that this person, too, had been through what I had. This stranger was kind and seemed to also speak the language that I was sure that only I spoke. She invited me to a Facebook support group where each member was also fluent in this same language. I'm rambling (I do that, if you haven't noticed), but the point of my meandering little story is that I met these two incredible ladies and they drove for hours this weekend to be able to join me for the Healing Hearts Angel Walk, the first memorial walk we were participating in for Wylie.

Krissy and Rebecca have been continual sources of inspiration, joy and strength in my life and in my own struggle. They are people I can vent to, people who respond with "I know" instead of "that's not what they meant" or "they meant well." Although Team Wylie was registered today at the walk, I was walking for not just my little girl but for Katy and Kenley too.

We spent this weekend as if we'd known one another forever (and eating ridiculous amounts of junk food, too, but that's allowed) and tonight I'm feeling a little renewed. My heart feels a little lighter. As time creeps closer to what should be Wylie's first birthday, I feel as if this weekend was an outlet and a time to be a kindred spirit instead of an outsider. I felt a little human this weekend. I felt a little, well, normal again.

The Angel Walk is an annual walk put on by the Bobby Resciniti Healing Hearts Foundation. I can't thank everyone enough who donated on behalf of Team Wylie or those who came out to walk in her memory today. It meant more to us than you know to have your support. There really isn't any greater gift than keeping Wylie's name alive. One of the speakers at today's walk, Mitch Carmody, said something that resonated deeply with us: "turning loss into legacy." That's all I want, my daughter's legacy to live on and be as beautiful as she was. As I've said before and continue to say, she may not have had her whole heart but she will always have mine. It's never going to be good enough, of course, but I will make it the best it can be. I know I speak on behalf of every parent who has lost when I say it's what we all want. We want our children's names, memories, legacies to live on and shine brightly. Thank you to everyone who helped Team Wylie do just that today.

I heard a lot of people mention sadness today, as they usually do when someone speaks of loss. Death is sad always, and the death of a child is senseless and tragic on top of everything else. I get it, I do. While I am devastated that anyone else has to know the feeling of living the rest of their life without their child in it, I still somehow found immense comfort in today. I found hope and joy and the ability to breathe a sense of relief in that I'm still able to fit in somewhere. Before today I was beginning to question if it would ever truly be possible to feel like I fully fit in somewhere again.

And in case I didn't say it enough, thank you to these couple of crazies for taking the trip down here to South Florida to be with me at the walk. We share something in common that no one wants to have in common, that I don't want anyone to ever have to feel, but I'm so grateful to know you. I love you both more than cookies and cupcakes and ice cream and, well, even more than Doritos. That's love.

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