3.29.2015

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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3.23.2015

eco-friendly crafting time with re-play recycled

If you follow along on Instagram, you've definitely seen my obsession with posting Ethan's #ReplayMeals (okay, and you've definitely seen my glitter and paint stained table, too). I completely fell in love with Re-Play, an incredible company that offers eco-friendly serveware (made of recycled milk jugs!) for little ones. In addition to some incredible products, I love everything that Re-Play stands for as a company.

Somewhere in the midst of my overgramming pictures of Ethan's food, they asked me to do some eco-friendly crafts for them to feature on their eco-friendly craft blog. Ethan and I were excited to team up with Re-Play to do this craft series which is now on it's third week. All of our new crafts are posted on Re-Play's eco-friendly craft blog every Sunday.

I realized I never got around to posting about the feature on the blog, only on Instagram, so I wanted to make sure I shared it here as well. Check it out!



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3.22.2015

tot school - st. patrick's day - age 3 1/2

This past week was St. Patrick's Day in tot school. It was also our last week of tot school for a couple weeks in observation of spring break. I never do planned breaks from tot school but we have a lot coming up in the next week or two, so I wanted to wrap up our loose ends and enjoy the start of the summer (er, spring) activities around here (the water parks open!). Ethan had been looking forward to St. Patrick's Day but enjoyed our crafting, celebrating and baking far more than the trays once the day rolled around. Next year I may do our St. Patrick's Day trays the week prior so they lead up to the fun.

SHAMROCK SOUND IT OUT WORDS

I found these shamrocks at the dollar store and thought it would make a fun tray. Ethan is becoming increasingly more interested in wanting to read words so I was hoping he would be really into this one, but he didn't spend much time on it. The point of this one was to match the letters to the word endings and sound out what word they spelled.

POT OF GOLD COUNTING

I didn't realize these were Mardi Gras coins until later, but they served their purpose. Ethan got to count out the gold coins that belonged in each pot of gold. He enjoyed this tray, but mostly making his own rules or games with the gold coins. By the end of the week, they had ventured out of tot school and were played with elsewhere.

RAINBOW WRITING

The point of this one was for Ethan to practice more with writing words on lines, but he had no interest in this tray and refused to use it.

LUCKY CHARMS SORTING

This was a fun one because Ethan had no idea these were marshmallows or edible so I got to pull one over on him with that. He enjoyed sorting the shapes and then totaling them up. This was his first experience with writing his numbers which I would like to do more of, since some of them were quite challenging for him. He enjoyed this tray a lot!

RAINBOW BRACELETS

This was another popular tray for the week. Ethan got to have some fine motor practice stringing Fruit Loops along some pipecleaners and then practice twisting the ends together to make little bracelets. He made bracelets for just about everyone he could think of and really enjoyed this tray! Unlike the Lucky Charms, it didn't take him much time to figure out these were edible.

LEPRECHAUN LUCK

Ethan got to independently glue together the pieces to make a little leprechaun version of himself. From there, he came up with three different reasons why he was lucky and we added those on little shamrocks. (He decided he is lucky because his mom makes him tot trays, he is a great artist and he has lots of dolls.)

RAINBOW STICKERS

I colored some reinforcements with rainbow colors and Ethan got to stick them onto the rainbow in color order. This was a fun one for him and he loved making his beautiful rainbow!

GOLD SLIME

Ethan was really not into the gold slime, which was crazy to me considering how much he loves any kind of dough or clay or opportunity to play with something sticky or messy. I paired the gold slime (I made it from a glue, glitter and liquid starch recipe) with some sticks and other things to stretch and poke at it with.

LINKING UP WITH:

Tot School Montessori MondayI Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flash CardsFor the Kids FridayThe Weekly Kids Co-Op

Hip Homeschool Moms




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3.18.2015

the one with the reprieve

It's essentially summer here in South Florida. Each afternoon taps out at ninety degrees with a heat index that convinces you that your flesh will likely melt off. We've been spending a lot of time in the water whenever we can and I keep having to remind myself that it's only March. I have a hint of anxiety about this upcoming summer, with Ethan turning four. We will be redshirting him which means he will not be starting Pre-K with his similarly aged friends this fall. When I first learned I was expecting Ethan and in those first months of his life, the ones where he was an infant who slept in my arms and dirty bottles piled up as the laundry now does, this was the summer that I dreaded. It was the summer that was supposed to signify his last with me, his last one in the safety of my arms and our home and my care. I had been dreading this summer and then eventually shifting that dread to worry. Eventually I learned that it was a choice I had, as his parent, and we were spared for one more year. One more summer to enjoy in it's entirety, one last hot, sticky season to unfold into a fall of familiarity and classes set around our blue Ikea tot school table. A reprieve.

As a parent, we are inundated with silly sayings and heartstring-tugging blog posts that center around a similar message: "please don't grow up." I don't like to buy into the "don't grow up" or "forever young" culture because, well, having a child who is able to grow up and move on and tackle the world is a gift. One that I know what it's like to lose, so one that I cherish immensely. Sometimes my desire to redshirt Ethan is misconstrued as such, as me not wanting to let go of perhaps the only living baby that I will ever have. This isn't true. While, no, I do not want to let go of my baby, I certainly wouldn't be selfish enough to stifle his future. After all, every sacrifice and wish and dream and hope his father and I have ever had is solely based upon our desire to give him the world.

Still, I am grateful for this reprieve. I am grateful for another summer (or spring) with sticky sunscreen hugs and park jaunts and washing sweat out of tangled, grassy hair each night. I spent so long prematurely feeling my heart break in anticipation over this summer that I think it's still trying to understand that it's going to be okay. There's still time.

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3.15.2015

motherhood + criticism

Moms are susceptible to a lot of criticism. Every day (hell, every hour), you're subjected to more articles, more blog posts, more unsolicited advice from family and friends about the way in which you parent. I'm not sure there is one itty-bitty, teeny-tiny bit of parenting that doesn't leave you up for someone else's "IMHO" retort. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

For every ounce of frustration or annoyance I've felt in having to defend my choices in parenting Ethan, it dulls in comparison to the criticism I've felt as a loss mom. Each day, I am blown away by the way mothers who have lost their babies are studied under a microscope while other people -- you know, the kind who have never lost a child -- offer their input.

When I first lost Wylie, my grief counselor told me that people would try to twist my loss and make it about them. Their lives would go on, of course, but they would also take my loss and figure out how to best fit it into their lives so that it could go on. Whether that meant never bringing Wylie up or pretending that she never existed so that they wouldn't feel sad, they would do whatever they could to ensure that their focus was the impact of Wylie's short life on their own. I didn't want this to be true but the sad truth is, it was very true. It has mostly been those I love the most, those closest to me, who have turned the tables and put their own needs above my grief. That, in itself, is a hurdle to get yourself over when you have virtually no support from those who you wish would support you. Along these same lines, people want you to grieve in a way that makes them most comfortable. If you bring up your dead child, if you dare remember your child, you will be hushed, shushed and told that you're "stuck." That you're grieving wrong. That you're doing everything wrong. The thought process seems to be "this makes me uncomfortable. Dead babies make me sad. I don't want to be sad, and you're wrong for making me sad." That's really just the tip of the iceberg.

On a regular basis, I see other women who have been forced to say goodbye to their children brought to tears by the callous words of others. I hear it myself, the horror that I would dare bring up something that upsets so many and why can't I think of other people? This isn't the way those who have lost children want to remember their children. They don't want to think of their babies as scary or creepy or uncomfortable or depressing. They just want to think of their beautiful babies because those thoughts are the only thing that will carry them through all of the missed milestones.

My daughter was sick. She had three severe and extremely rare congenital heart defects. There is no peace you can make within your heart once you've heard specialists you'd prefer to never have to see tell you that your child isn't going to live. The only peace I had is seeing her peaceful, tiny sleeping face and knowing she wasn't a continually tortured victim of her broken body, that she wasn't in pain. This is the part, unfortunately, those who haven't experienced the terror of giving birth to a sleeping baby seem to have the biggest problem with.

I get it. Babies aren't supposed to die. They're not supposedly be terminally ill. They're not supposed to come home in urns. Parents aren't supposed to decorate nurseries that no baby will ever sleep in. Babies are supposed to be born healthy. They're supposed to come out crying. I get it. But what I also get is that for decades, women have suffered silently. They've succumbed to a society who wished to file the death of an infant under things we don't talk about. I've only been a loss mom for ten short months so I'm hardly an expert. However, I understand the severity of breaking the taboo. I understand how important it is to let things be sad, to let them be uncomfortable, to let yourself start to heal at least a little bit as it's impossible to every truly revert back to the you that existed before loss. The silence is dangerous. The criticism is unfair. The pats on the back from people who are convinced they have your best interest at heart when, really, they are tearing you apart -- it has to stop.

The mother who bakes a birthday cake to celebrate the birthday of a child who has died is not grieving wrong. Neither is the mother who reads a bedtime story to the tiny urn that holds her child. Neither is the one that sees a stuffed animal or statue at the store and brings it home because it reminds them of their child. The mother who brings her child's name up in conversation, she's just fine, too. Lay off. If you're feeling good about yourself because you and some other people sat around to talk about how sad so and so is and how it's "enough already" and you need to show them how to "get over it," you shouldn't. You're not being a good friend. You're not being a good person. In fact, it is you who is doing it all wrong.

I understand that it isn't easy being friends with someone who has lost a child. It's hard. Sometimes you are forced to hear about things that hurt your heart, because death is sad. Sometimes you don't know what to even say and so you stumble over words. Sometimes you feel shortchanged that your friend cannot celebrate certain parts of life with you in the manner they would have before their child passed. Sometimes you just don't want to admit that things have drastically changed. Sometimes you just want things to be normal. Sometimes you get upset that someone you care about has been forced to feel this level of pain and terror. Sometimes you don't know what to do or how to act and so you feel useless, or frustrated, or upset, or clueless. It's important to remember that it isn't a test and, even if it was, you would pass with flying colors simply by trying to be there. By not adding guilt or shame. By not listing on your fingers all of the reasons you think this happened or the red flags you saw or the silver lining that exists in the mind of someone who doesn't have to live without so much. (I was told to look on the bright side, at least I no longer had to be pregnant in the dead of the Florida summer. A nice person doesn't say this.)

I like to joke that one of the job requirements for being a mother is an ability to take criticism well, because there is a huge slab of it being thrown at you daily. I was a mother for nearly three years before I lost my daughter and I've been able to feel the perspective shift. I've also been able to feel the criticism being thrown at me from both directions. In light of that criticism, I want to stand on my pedestal and say that I'm an awesome mom. I kick proverbial ass at parenting Ethan and I pat myself on the back for the stellar job I did during the transition from one kid to two kids and back to one (living) kid. I exhaust myself putting every ounce of energy into him and if he's any indication of the job I'm doing, I'm nailing it. I'm also a pretty sweet mom to Wylie. It takes courage and it takes guts and it takes bravery to parent my dead child so openly and loudly. Wylie is breaking many taboos and her legacy, all that her life truly means, will continue to grow with time. For every person who chooses to stand just so out of the shadow of my grief, that's fine. For every person who believes I cannot be all that Ethan needs in a mother for as long as I let my daughter reside in my heart as well, that's fine. But keep your criticisms to yourself because they're silly and I don't need them. Like most criticisms and unsolicited advice, they don't count.

And to all my mamas with kids in your arms who cry all night or who are tearing up your home or the ones with kids in your heart that live only in your memories or the ones with some combination of the two, you are doing it all right. And you're completely nailing it.

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