7.30.2014

the attack of the threenager

I finally drifted off to sleep last night somewhere around 10:30 and woke up shortly thereafter to the sound of Ethan's toy lawn mower being revved up in the living room. I climbed out of bed, zombie-walked myself into the living room and was greeted by a bright eyed three year old who had likely been there for some time. "Oh, hi, mommy!" He was busy playing with his toy lawn mower and his toy cars, blocks and Hungry Hungry Hippos game that were all dispersed across the floor led me to believe that he had been there for some time. "It's the middle of the night, Ethan. We have to go back to bed." He thought about it and then let out a big "NO." He waited for my reaction. I quietly took his hand and began leading him back down the hallway towards his bedroom. "When the light is on, it looks like daytime. I am pretending that it is day time," he said, slapping the lights back on as I turned them off on our walk. "We can't pretend it's daytime, Ethan. You will be so tired in the morning if you don't sleep when it is nighttime," I tried to rationalize. "It is good to pretend. I am using my 'mag-nation." After about forty-six attempts to climb over me to exit his bed, twenty-eight attempts to sit up and read a book and thirty-nine attempts to "accidentally" kick me in the nose, sleep happened at around 2:30 in the morning. Of course, Ethan decided 7:00 was still an ideal wake-up time and that there's nothing else I wanted to do on virtually no sleep than pick up hundreds of toothpicks off of our floor. Three year old terrorism, man, it's real.

Parenting a three year old is challenging so far. It's been the first time I've ever felt helpless, the first time I haven't been kidding when I send my husband a barrage of text messages pleading for him to come home, please come home. I slather myself in the guilt that a pregnancy and baby loss have put a huge roadblock and detour in the smooth sailing of our everyday life, but in my heart I know that's not fair to do. Ethan would be three whether or not I had gotten pregnant and whether or not I lost Wylie or brought her home. Age three is how toddlers soul search. It's how they come into themselves, find themselves. It's a miniature identity crisis and sneak peak into the teenage years all at once. "I don't love you anymore, mommy. I just don't." "I'm sorry you feel that way, but I love you very much." "Well, I don't love you." It's five minutes after I'm about to be emancipated from my parental obligations by my three year old that he climbs onto my lap and throws his arms around my neck. "I was kidding, mommy. I love you so much." Age three is hot and cold. It's little bodies flung onto the floor and the sputtering sound of hysterical sobs, breaths needed to be caught. It's basically being kicked out of Barnes and Noble, because that definitely happened this afternoon.

This afternoon, a little boy was already playing at the train table at Barnes and Noble. Ethan decided he wasn't going to share and the little boy had to leave. As I explained to Ethan why that wasn't nice or going to happen, he decided he was going to scream so loud that other parents actually began to rush over to help. Help, of course, because they thought he had injured himself -- what else could prompt such deafening screams? The store never seemed so big as I ran out holding my screaming child, his body convulsing from the power it took to let out such powerful screams. "Some kids," muttered a woman on our way out. "Some parents," muttered her friend. For twenty five minutes, Ethan refused to bend so that I could buckle him in his car seat. For twenty five minutes, I sat in the backseat of my car in a thunderstorm while he rolled around the floorboards telling me how it was the worst day he ever had and it was all my fault. After twenty five minutes, his body was weakened enough where I could strap him in and head home. Eight minutes into our ten minute drive, I heard an "I am having a rough time now, mommy. If you sing me a song, I will feel better. I wasn't being a nice friend but I am going to be a nice friend now. It's just a little rough day, mommy."

Age three is a whole new adventure because now not only can he not control his emotions, he realizes that he cannot control his emotions and that causes him to lose his little mind even more. My challenge lays somewhere within getting him to calm down enough to try to regain the control he is well aware he is lacking and, you know, preventing him from laying down in protest in the middle of a busy parking lot after I tell him he can't go for a ride in a parked police car two spots over. It's teaching him to stay in control when I feel like I've already lost control. It's a challenge for me to both empathize with the confusing way he's feeling and teach him how to master it while wanting to call my husband, curl up in a corner and cry myself into oblivion -- very obviously not mastering it myself. It's a little voice piping up from the depths of the couch cushions, "I am not going to stop hitting. And I am going to My Gym. I will just go without you." I am learning as much as he is learning and I have to try my hardest to not buckle under the pressure and anxiety of having to be the one leading by example.

It's the moments in between the freak-outs that still give me the sweet peace of knowing the baby boy who has been my unwavering sidekick since his birth; it's reassurance he's still in there and an exorcism isn't totally necessary after all. We take our deep breaths, exchange our hugs and spend the rest of the afternoon playing hide and seek or dancing in the living room like my ears weren't still ringing from the screaming that happened five minutes prior. In a weird way, it's reassurance that he's growing up. He's finding himself. He's figuring out the big, scary world -- and it's a second chance for me to do the same while still being his safe place. His judgment-free zone. The arms that will still scoop him up after he requests cucumber slices and then throws them on the floor in dismay upon realizing he doesn't, in fact, want cucumber slices.

These days are a learning experience for all of us. Just like eight o'clock bedtimes. These days, those are for all of us, too.

7.28.2014

woodzee bamboo sunglasses review and giveaway

I'm so super excited to introduce you to Woodzee today! When I first received an e-mail from Woodzee, I was immediately intrigued by their products. Their collection of glasses are absolutely gorgeous, with each pair crafted from wood or bamboo. After completely swooning over just about every last pair of glasses in their collection, I started to read more about Woodzee as a company. The more I read about Woodzee as a whole, the more I fell in love with their company and their commitment to sustainability and the Earth!

Oh, and my teenage sister actually agreed to model a pair of Woodzee glasses for the photos in this post -- that's how you know they're cool.

The pair of bamboo sunglasses I chose to review are the Daphne collection. The Daphne collection sunglasses are crafted from 100% sustainable sourced bamboo with a light, natural wax coating. The lenses are CR-39 polarized smoke lenses with 100% UV400 protection. I'm not used to wearing sunglasses (terrible, I know!) but I knew this was something I needed to get better at, especially living down in Florida. When the glasses arrived, they were absolutely gorgeous and I was also really excited to see that they are lightweight and super comfortable to wear. The "barely there" feeling they have makes it a lot easier to get used to wearing them. On a superficial note, I really love the detail in the bamboo. The lines and "natural design" from the bamboo make each pair really unique and gorgeous in a way that you can't just recreate. From a functionality perspective, they do a great job at keeping out the glare. I can actually drive without squinting, which is probably something I should have remedied a long time ago. I wore these sunglasses during Ethan's hour long swim classes out in the heat and soaked them in sweat in the process and the glasses went unphased. Being made from bamboo, they are fragile -- but they are also pretty durable.

Woodzee offer a collection for everyone, from gorgeous prescription eyeglasses to sunglasses in all sorts of wood finishes, including pear wood, rose wood, zebra wood and several more. Woodzee takes the guess work out of shopping for glasses online by their great detail and specifics, even noting the size of the frames (the Daphne bamboo glasses featured here are a small-medium). Woodzee's entire collection can be found on their website but, be warned, it feels impossible to pick just one favorite!

I would also like to point out the affordability of Woodzee's glasses, especially given their high quality materials. Other similarly styled glasses on the market can cost upwards of $120 per pair, while the Daphne glasses pictured here cost just $75. Actually, you won't find a pair of Woodzee glasses that cost more than $100 in their entire shop, which was really cool to see. Their beyond reasonable price point really ensures that there is, in fact, something for everyone and it was great to see such a natural, sustainable product that was also budget friendly.

I mentioned earlier about falling in love with Woodzee as a company, so let me specify what I mean:

The recycle program. Tired of your old pair of Woodzee glasses? Looking to upgrade to a new pair or swap them out for a different style? Woodzee actually offers a recycling program that grants you 40% off your next pair of glasses by sending in your old pair to be recycled. I think this is such an amazing stride in reducing waste and creating something new out of something old! This is just one of many commitments that Woodzee offers the Earth, which I think speaks volumes about them as a company.

They plant trees. A portion of every single purchase made will be donated to a select group of non-profit organizations that conduct tree planting projects around the world as part of The Trees Project. Upon check-out, you, the customer, get to select which part of the globe you would like to plant trees in by selecting which organization you would like the proceeds from your purchase to go. Woodzee currently assists tree planting non-profits in North America, South America, Europe, Asia-India and Oceania. They are currently looking to lock in a non-profit organization in Africa as well. It is Woodzee's hope by allowing the customer to specifically choose where the proceeds from their purchase goes to, will be inspired to take further action to help nurture our planet. It's all part of the giving back process and to be able to give back to the trees that gave Woodzee the opportunity to create their beautiful products.

Even Woodzee's packages are constructed using 50% recycled paper and printed using soy ink. The glasses are also packaged in a triangular shape to be able to cut down on paper needed for packaging. I absolutely love the measures Woodzee takes to ensure sustainability and the fact that their glasses are gorgeous -- every last pair -- is just an added bonus. We are definitely hooked on Woodzee glasses around here and I'm excited that I get to share the Woodzee love with all of you!

To shop: Shop online at Woodzee's website and stay connected with Woodzee on Facebook and Twitter for more great updates and news. Speaking of news, keep an eye on Woodzee's blog for great sneak peeks at future styles as well as more news on all of the goodness Woodzee is spreading back into the world!

How To Win: When you think Woodzee can't get any cooler, they decide to take it a step farther by very generously offering one of my readers the opportunity to win a pair of women's Daphne bamboo glasses for themselves, too! This giveaway is open to US residents and closes on August 11th! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

7.26.2014

no sugar added carrot pumpkin zucchini banana peanut butter muffin bites...

...okay, that's the working title. A better (shorter) name is pending. We've just been calling them Ethan's Breakfast Muffins because they're a delicious, healthy, no sugar breakfast snack for Ethan, who prefers grazing and isn't otherwise a big breakfast eater.

I made these in mini-muffin tins so they're super tiny. Perfect for a quick snack or packing in little lunchboxes, too. Ethan helped me bake these this morning. We originally were following a recipe for carrot muffins but I had a half of a banana and half of a zucchini that I had to use before they went bad, so we decided to improvise a little.

Here's what you need:

Approximately 1/2c pureed carrots (I just threw some raw carrots into the Blendtec and pulsed until smooth!)
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1/2 banana mashed
1/2 pureed zucchini
1/4c honey
1 egg
1/4c softened butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4c natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 cup flour of your choice (we used gluten-free all purpose flour)

1. Combine the banana, zucchini, carrot and pumpkin purees on low speed in a mixer.
2. Add the peanut butter, butter, honey, egg and combine until smooth and mixed.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients and fold into wet ingredients.
4. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (for the mini muffins -- big muffins likely would bake longer!)

7.25.2014

when love wins

My sweet little boy,

When I was a child in school, we frequently had guest speakers come present to our classes who were Holocaust survivors. Growing up in a predominately Jewish area, it wasn't that uncommon to know someone with a relative who had in fact survived the Holocaust. (Actually, your father's paternal grandparents were both Holocaust survivors.) The speeches were tailored to our age, of course, but even from a young age we understood the atrocities that had happened -- at least as much as we could. Growing up as part of a Jewish family, the Holocaust felt equal parts real and also unimaginable. It was one of those events we learned about in school, listened to survivors recount horror stories from but something that felt so far away and surreal. No matter how much we heard or learned, it was just too impossible to fully grasp that so much hatred and intolerance could exist to the extent in which it did.

My point is, when you came into this world I was worried about the world that we were bringing you into. I was worried about how I would explain to you how your mother and father could be married but many of our friends and loved ones weren't equal in the eyes of the law. How do you explain to a child why it is illegal to love, why it is illegal to be who you are? I have held on to hope that in your lifetime, we would watch equality trump inequality. It has been my hope that one day you would be reading a history book in social studies class, read of marriage inequality and think of how antiquated and unfathomable it was. It has been my hope that you will close your schoolbooks but keep that awareness alive in your heart while never really being able to understand how humanity can hold so much hatred and ugliness. I want it to be real for you, what people are capable of, but I want it to be something that in your heart you could never imagine happening. I want it to be something so far away that you're never really able to truly grasp it, something that makes you shake your head and say "that's ridiculous. I can't even imagine."

It feels that is how history works. It is packed with events that make us shake our heads and say "I can't even imagine" because we can't even imagine. We can't, in our wildest dreams, imagine a time when human beings were bought and sold like property, when mass genocides of human beings occurred, when segregation and discrimination were an everyday part of life. As your mother, I wanted your heart to understand that the world can be so cruel, but I also wanted you to shake your head with the unbelievable nature of it all. And I was worried -- I still am worried -- that one day I will have to explain to you why love is illegal. Why some people still aren't free. Why some people aren't allowed to be who they are. And, my love, I don't know how to explain that to you because it is something that I don't understand.

Today, a judge in Miami-Dade county overturned a same-sex marriage ban. We don't live in Miami-Dade county, although I was born there, but we do live in the county right above. The fact that equality -- even a little taste of it -- happened to Florida and so close to us, it makes my heart happy in ways you cannot imagine. By the time you read this, I hope you are shaking your head with the inability to imagine a time when all people were not free, when love was illegal, when our loved ones were not able to be married in the eyes of the law. I want you to remember what hatred is capable of, but I want you to have disbelief in your bones that something like this was ever the way things are. Today, my sweet boy, a little piece of freedom came to Florida. Miami-Dade is the second county to overturn a ban that breaks my heart to think about, a ban that makes so little sense to me I don't know how to explain it to you. A ban on love. It's ridiculous, isn't it? It's insane that in a world with so much pain and tragedy, that people have worked together to place a ban on love.

Today I am proud to be a Floridian, which is something I've struggled with a lot lately. I am proud to have been born in Miami-Dade county although it's been two decades since I've last lived there. I am proud to see that we are making strides towards love, towards good, towards freedom. Sometimes it feels like the steps we are taking are too dreadfully small but I have to admit I'm grateful these steps are being taken at all.

If there is something you take away from this, if there is something you walk away from when you read this, I want it to be a lesson on why hatred should never be allowed near a human heart. It's easy to fall apart, to ask ourselves why things like this keep happening, why humankind never learns from our mistakes. I want you to understand love. I want you to cherish love. I want you to celebrate love and understand why it is so important to love. Love is all we have, as people. I want you to understand that who you are is perfect. Who you are is amazing. Who you are is someone that I am so proud of, I can't even put into words. Always love yourself. Always be proud of yourself. I want you to understand that everyone deserves to love and to be loved. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

I want you to understand that kindness can defeat anger, love can defeat hatred. Perhaps it's a slow battle, an agonizing one that leaves us exhausted and overexerted, but it is a battle worth fighting. We always have to fight on the side of love.

Love,
Mommy

7.24.2014

sock monkey puppets

We are on day three of being cooped up indoors due to a yucky little virus Ethan came down with. Between his illness, the zillion-degree weather and the constant thunderstorms, we are as cooped up as two people can be and going a little stir crazy. We've been relying on art projects to get us through the hours (and snot and coughing and misery) but there's only so much painting we can do before that leads us in the direction of stir-crazier. This morning Ethan gave me a challenge: he wanted to do a monkey craft.

All you need to complete this project from start to finish: paper lunch bags, glue and construction paper. I forgot to snap photos from the start, but this is how we began: two paper bags, some cut-out monkey clothes ("mommy, monkeys don't wear clothes"), some eyes, ears and a mouth. I pre-made these pieces earlier in the morning and then let Ethan have fun gluing them on and building his little puppets.

This was super simple to make and I was thrilled to find a worthwhile, time consuming project from materials we had laying around the house!

7.23.2014

rivers 'til i reach you

Ethan was never one of those overtly independent kids. He was always the child tucked behind my knees, chubby fingers gripped firmly onto my clothing. "Come with me, mommy," if a child asked him to play at the park. "It won't be scary, right, mommy? Maybe only a little scary? But there's nothing to worry about. Right, mommy? Right?" With his third birthday came the tiniest streak of independence, one he keeps dusting off regularly so that glimmers of it appear exposed to the world. A little bit braver. A little bit more curious. A little bit more in tune with his confidence and abilities and the notion that mommy is never too far behind. With his third birthday came the likelihood that, 8 times out of 10, maybe, Ethan would answer you if you asked him his name.

With his third birthday came the "I want to do it myself, mommy" that fills me with both pride and sadness. Pride in his confidence and development and, yet, sadness because I fall into the ol' mommy trap of thinking he doesn't need me anymore. "Myself. I can do it all by myself, mommy. Let me do it. I want to help."

It's moving to the side and letting his capable hands take over, sloshing water onto the floor as he gulps it down without a straw. It's watching gobs of paint splatter on the floor as he struggles to screw the lids back on his paints, biting his bottom lip with determination. It's waiting patiently, armed with a hug and reassurance when the inevitable "I can't do it, mommy. I just can't do it myself" rears it's head. It's taking two steps back as he pushes his way into the bathroom and turns the bathtub on. "Make sure the hole on the floor of the tub is closed, mommy. I'll do it."

Age three. My home has never been messier. My mind and body have never been more depleted by the end of the day. My 'fridge has never emptied so quickly.

My heart has never been more full.

7.22.2014

put your dreams away for now, i won't see you for some time; i am lost in my mind, i get lost in my mind

This blog has been a little quiet and maybe for good reason, or maybe not for any reason in particular. I've been struggling with finding words to write (or think or say or live by) that are more than just filler. As a writer, I'd prefer this space to be quiet rather than overrun with filler and so I've let the days pass without putting too much pressure on myself. Life returning back to normal -- or as normal as it can ever be, from here on out for the remainder of our existence -- is an equally eerie feeling. I expected to find relief upon our full dissent into normalcy and, in a sense, I have found just that -- but I have also found a little more than that. Or maybe a little less than that. There is a little bit of an unnatural feeling that follows you whenever you find yourself existing like normal, following the same schedule and social guidelines and even showering or mopping your floors as regularly as before. Before. Before Wylie, After Wylie. Two totally different worlds and yet once the normalcy sets in, once the regularly scheduled family life falls back into place, they feel even more different. I struggle with feeling like myself and then, more than that, I struggle with the nervous breakdown that follows in the moments when I actually feel a little bit like myself. It's not guilt so much as it is some other kind of disconnect, something that feels a little more like denial.

People often ask how I'm doing and I'm never sure how to answer that. I believe I never will be able to reach the same level of I'm doing good as I would have should I be bringing home a healthy baby next month so everything sort of gets measured to a different scale. A learning curve. Some bonus points for making it through an entire day without a panic attack or some tears. Some days are harder than others. I find myself increasingly anxious for the 23rd of each month, knowing it was both the day Wylie was actually born and the day her birth date, my c-section, was supposed to be. Last month I had Ethan's birthday to distract me a little bit but this month I am well aware that tomorrow will be two months since we kissed her goodbye forever and I am acknowledging that might be difficult. Ethan was supposed to be born on the 23rd, too, but he decided to come the night before and was born on the 22nd with only a few minutes to spare. Maybe that was the first time he saved me from hurt without realizing it. He's good at that, my child, the three year old human band-aid that fits all of my wounds.

The thing with having a baby who has passed away is eventually there are no more stories to tell. There will be no more funny anecdotes to share on Facebook, silly quotes or even firsts to document. Eventually the only memories you have will be ones that feel redundant to share and remind of you of both a time when you had everything and the bitterness of knowing the memories are few. Most times my pangs of anxiety happen when it feels like the world has forgotten about her or somehow moved on. It's an unfair argument to make or, worse, to have with yourself in the middle of the night when you can't sleep, but I've lost grip of my rationalization months ago. People reassure me with their solemn promises of healthy future children, and while I will love all of my children the same, it won't numb the love I have for Wylie. It won't bring her back. That missing piece will always be missing because there is no way to fill the void of saying goodbye eternally to your child. There is no magic that can invalidate the certificate of stillbirth tucked into her baby book where her first photos were supposed to go. I will always love all of my babies the same just as clearly as all of my babies will never be here all together ever again. I'm not happy when people bring her up, I'm not happy when I expect people to recount the memories that only I have had with her and they don't, because they can't. Sometimes I slip into my bedroom and crack open her baby book and stare at her photos, of her little face that looks just like her father's face, breathe in her tiny hat and then slip back out into life. Into real life. And I guess for all intents and purposes I am doing good in real life, but measured by a different scale. Maybe with some partial credit for good measure because I still wake up at the crack of dawn to get my ass handed to me at Orange Theory before the sun comes up.

For the first time, Ethan has referenced Wylie's bedroom. Twice, actually, he has asked if he can use his easel that we had stored in there for no reason in particular but can't bear walking into the room to remove it. "The baby's room," he called it once. "The room for a baby," he called it the second time. This is perhaps the only time I feel guilt. Guilt that Ethan is the only one of his friends without a sibling, the only child who doesn't have a baby to dote on and I feel that perhaps he wants that as much as I wanted it when I was a child. It's imagined guilt, but it's guilt nonetheless. The guilt of, for the first time in his life, not being able to give him something that he wants.

I never really want to stop writing about her just as I will never stop writing about Ethan. It only makes sense. What greater love does a mother have than for her children? What greater joy than to watch them grow up? And what greater pain than to lose it all forever? It's why I write. Because the feelings of love my children give me are too great to not share, to not document, to not capture because there is a dire need for love in this world. And I have a lot of it to give, and my heart has a lot of healing to do.

But life keeps going. "My mouth hurts, mommy," Ethan says with a hoarse, scratchy voice. "All the way back here on top of my tongue, my mouth hurts." It's another reminder to slow down, to breathe in the sweaty smell of his hair, to let him spend the day on my lap sucking on popsicles and waiting for our pediatrician appointment. It's normalcy, it's real life. Real life with a layer of fog laying flush on our skin, but real life nonetheless. And this sweet little boy is a reminder of all the living that we have to left to do.

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