12.07.2016

getting into the holiday spirit with pear tree greetings

I love holiday card season and not just because it's the one time of the year where my mailbox is regularly packed with something other than bills and junk mail. The first thing Ethan and I do every year once Thanksgiving passes is plan our holiday card display and get it all ready to start hanging photos and cards from our loved ones as they start trickling in. (This year, we duplicated last year's idea to make a washi tape tree to hang the cards on.)

I put a lot (read: way too much) thought into our cards every year, but this year just felt extra special. After all, this is Carmen's first holiday season with us. When I think back to last year, I was still trying to will myself off the couch and scrounge up enough hope to keep believing that the very idea of her was possible. And now, here she is.

I've dreamed of sibling photos for a long time, so that was a given. I knew I wanted to order from our favorite greeting card company yet again, Pear Tree Greetings, so that was another given. We get so many compliments on our cards from them every year and the quality makes an impeccable keepsake. But what kind of card did we want to commemorate this extra special holiday season? There were just so many choices!

Both my husband and I come from mixed religious families. We have Jewish relatives, we have Catholic relatives and we have friends who are all and none of the above. Something inclusive to everyone is always a must, and in the past this has been difficult -- but never with Pear Tree. There are always plenty of options for those who need to include a whole slew of beliefs in their holiday cheer. Immediately, the real foil cards caught my eye. I mean, real foil with bright, shiny, sparkling goodness -- it was a hard attraction to shake as I continued to browse the website. "I like the blue one with the shiny words, it looks like glitter," piped Ethan from where he sat next to me building Legos. I like his style. We did decide on Be Happy, a fun, minimalist design that added a beautiful pop with your choice of real foil. Blues, silvers, glittery-arctic-sparkling whites -- it was too good to pass up. I decided on a bright blue which complimented our taken-at-sunset photographs beautifully.

I chose my favorite photo of the two kids for the front and then started customizing the size, font and color for our names.

The back of the card also presented many options for customization. Seeing as how I had some more favorite solo shots of each kid, I decided on a collage style print to include them all on the back. For the optional message, I included one of my favorite inspirational quotes from Cory Booker and signed our family's name. Easy, simple, and totally magical.

Another favorite thing about Pear Tree is the quick processing and delivery. The cards arrived and were even more gorgeous in person than they were in the preview. The beautiful, professional matte finish gives the card such a classic touch against the bright, shiny foil. (Still obsessed with the foil. Ethan and I spend way too much time making the cards glisten under the lights.)

As I begin addressing and popping our cards into the mailbox to reach their destinations (a process delayed by the scrooge of a stomach flu infiltrating our family's house this past weekend -- bah humbug), my heart is just so happy. Last year, I didn't think we'd have the opportunity to snap a photograph of our two sort-of cooperative children and include it on a holiday card, but this year we do. This year, I get to proudly send a card with my sunshine and rainbow sort-of smiling (or yelling, but work with me here) on the front to all of our friends and loved ones, and then tuck a copy into the pocket of our family's photo album to remember this year always. Carmen's first Christmas, documented so beautifully with the perfect pop of blue foil.

What's your favorite quality in a holiday card? Check out Pear Tree Greetings to build your perfect holiday card!



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12.05.2016

regular mothers

When Ethan was first born, I signed myself up for every mommy and me class I could find in the tri-county area. Every playgroup. Every meet-up. On Tuesday mornings, I would drive thirty minutes away just to participate in a library story time. And every other day of the week, we had another activity or adventure or playdate. Never someone to socialize willingly or reach out to meet new people, I found it easier when I entered the phase of my life that is motherhood: we were all in this together. It's like someone pushed the reset button on life and, in a room of 20 strangers, we were all suddenly standing on the same starting line. No one knew why the babies cried for hours on end, and everyone worried about screen time and what finger foods should be started first.

Once Wylie died, I stopped being able to relate to everyone. Other mothers continued on with their subsequent pregnancies: second, third. Other mothers shared memes about wanting a silent night during the holidays when all I wanted was the chaos of two children fighting over who could see Santa's gifts first. This want became a compulsion that made breathing difficult, and living next to impossible. Other moms shared first day of school photos as I held onto my ever-growing, brilliant boy and wondered how this phase of my life could be over. Was it over? I didn't know. As other mothers sat and debated the pros and cons of having more children, I slipped deeper into grief and loss and infertility, unable to even have a choice in the matter. I was no longer able to relate to anyone, even those I used to relate to. "Are you going to have another?" cuts your body open like a knife. "Don't you want to give him a sibling?" spills your blood all over that library carpeting.

I've come a long way in my loss and infertility journey. At some point, we made the decision that I did not want my body to ever carry another pregnancy. While permanent birth control measures were our choice, it was a choice made by circumstance and a perspective I wish I never had. It was a choice made because it was the only one, and there will always be mourning and longing for the dreams that died with our first daughter. I nod and smile and make my way through the murkiness that is other mothers laughingly sharing their birth stories and diagnosing themselves with baby fever and swooning over their friend's big, pregnant bellies and squishy newborns. At times, it feels like I am unfamiliar with the language being spoken when I'm surrounded by other mothers. I can no longer relate to them.

When Carmen was placed into our arms for the first time, I felt pieces of my body coming back to life again. She is here, and the brilliance and magnitude of that is not lost on any of us. When I see my first born off to school this January, I will still retreat home and diaper and care for my miraculous daughter. I will still take her to mommy and me classes and playgroups. I will be soaking in every ounce of her brilliance and hope and beauty because her smile is what fuels me. While I am still a mother in a room of twenty mothers, I am still unable to relate to most other mothers. Sometimes I catch myself calling them regular mothers.

"She looks just like you," mothers reassure their mom friends. "He has your smile," they say as they admire their children. I am the mother who receives stares when out in public with my two children, the ones who receives friendly banter at the park by nosy parents trying to figure out our dynamic. I am mistaken for a nanny often, or it is assumed one of my two children isn't truly mine. Once, I was asked nonchalantly if my children have different fathers. Well-meaning friends and relatives meet our lack of shared physical characteristics with pity, which I do not understand. When it comes down to family, little is less important than who a child resembles.

On my journey into motherhood, the rough and sharp edges and dangerous turns and twists that got me to where I am now in current day, I was fortunate enough to meet many others who find themselves unable to relate to regular mothers. Some have experienced heartbreak and loss. Others have had to rely on science so intricate it is hard to fathom. Others also have little ones who don't have their hair or eyes or smile. I am grateful for the others, these others. I have been many things over the last few years but alone never had to be one of them.

As this holiday season begins and there are gifts for two children under our tree -- two children sleeping soundly in their beds, two children who shared Santa's lap this year -- I am beside myself with love and gratitude and disbelief that life can be as beautiful as it is in this very moment. I am complete and whole in ways that I never thought possible. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that although you cannot relate to your peers, you aren't broken. Different is not broken. Different is not hopeless. Different is not doomed.

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12.01.2016

santa baby

Carmen turned nine months old on Sunday, the day we were driving home from a three-hour-drive-turned-six-hour-drive (due to holiday traffic and impatient bladders and a five year olds insatiable appetite). We had spent Thanksgiving a few hours north at a lake house my parents have, which is one of those places where you go to relax if you’re not going to be chasing small children up and down a marble staircase and desperately trying to shield them from snakes and bears and alligators, oh my. In other words: my parents can relax, and we did once upon a time before we had kids, but now it’s just exhausting in that “the baby won’t sleep in the travel crib, ohmygosh, have my eyes even closed at all?” kind of way. And while someone like my father revels in what he refers to as “clean country air,” I whine that it shouldn’t take a thirty minute drive to find a Starbucks. In all seriousness, I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since the election about leaving my blue bubble of South Florida and retreating north to a part of our red state that was celebrating its redness. We were greeted by many signs that made me bite my lip and try to turn away, hoping Ethan wouldn’t read them from the back seat. (“What does ‘re-elect god’ mean?” asked Ethan as we drove. Too late.)

In all of our exhaustion, our children got to sit on Santa’s lap and Ethan got to ask the jolly guy for an electric toothbrush which is one of two items on his wishlist this year. (The other is a game of Yeti in my Spaghetti, which he’s been begging me for since he saw it on the shelves at Target a few months ago.) Carmen decided that Santa was pretty much the only human being she doesn't want near her and pouted through the process, but there was still magic in seeing my children step up and having the photographer let Santa know there would be two children in this family. Last year, the sting of Ethan being the only child without a sibling in the Santa line stung especially hard and I had to excuse myself to the mall bathroom to cry. This year, there they were, my two children clad in matching outfits. For once, Ethan was the one with the smiles and cheer while Carmen stared with a wrinkled brow at the guy in the red suit.

The pictures just kind of mean a lot more than just being pictures, if it makes sense at all.

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11.16.2016

redshirting: an update

We made the decision to redshirt Ethan, which essentially means hold him back a year. While the rest of his similarly aged peers have begun Kindergarten this year, Ethan is in Pre-K. Because of his summer birthday, holding him back a year will make him one of the oldest in the class instead of one of the youngest. This was not a choice we made for any academic interest, but simply because we feel like true enrichment is still happening at home. I don't feel modern day Kindergarten is biologically appropriate for a young five year old and I just wanted to tack on some extra time to his carefree childhood.

So how's it working out?

Pretty spectacular, actually.

Last year, Ethan wasn't ready for school. He was working through attachment and coming into his personality on his own time. I'm a firm believer in following the child, and I didn't feel like school should be any different. This year, Ethan is ready for school. While we hit a little road block after pulling him out of a preschool that wasn't a good fit and then getting snagged on a waitlist until January, Ethan cannot wait to start preschool again after the holidays. Seeing him ready and excited instead of apprehensive and unsure has really eased a lot of stress that I've been prematurely carrying around for years. It has also helped me to feel pretty confident that he will be ready and excited for Kindergarten next year, which is the best thing I could ask for.

Ethan is reading, writing and thirsty for knowledge. I try to follow his lead by balancing fun outings (the park, the museum, the zoo, etc.) with structured homeschool activities in the theme he's interested in at the moment. However, knowing he's academically ahead of where he should be leaves me with more wiggle room to plan more fun stuff. Or not plan anything at all. Hours of backyard play? Baking and cooking and painting and coloring all morning? Of course. There's nowhere else to be!

There is a huge noticeable con, however, and that is the fact that all of his friends are in school. The kids he's spent the past few years playing with are mostly all gone Monday through Friday. For Ethan, that has been the hardest adjustment in the sense he's trying to understand why his playmates have suddenly all disappeared into thin air. Making new friends at the park is tricky when they're all three or younger and he's the only five year old who isn't in school at the moment. This has forced our mornings to slow down a little bit.

I've enrolled Ethan in extracurricular activities of his choice every afternoon, which he is ecstatic about. It sort of takes the bite of all of the children his age being in school away and helps him feel like part of a group or a class. He takes engineering, art, yoga, gym and music and it's been amazing for me, as his mom, to see his independence blossom. He is fascinated with his classes, his classmates and getting that time to be around other children in a group setting.

People ask a lot how it's going at this point and I really have no regrets. Actually, I'm so happy that we made the decision to redshirt. While it totally stinks that Ethan is now in Pre-K limbo until January when his spot opens up at his new school, I'm excited that his entrance into school is age appropriate and on his own terms. Beginning school again is something he's excited for, which makes all of the difference to me. We'll see how our journey goes the further we delve into school but as for right now, we're just taking it day by day.

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11.15.2016

diy dinosaur christmas tree topper

On the last visit the kids and I made to the beach, we were strolling downtown (looking to see what time Ben and Jerry's opened, I'm just saying) and found a little boutique selling the cutest dinosaur tree toppers. For $60 each. Ethan and I promised one another we would actually attempt this project but then everyone got sick, and life happened, and our dino topper just sort of got pushed to the back burner.

Until today!

This was pretty inexpensive to create. Our dinosaur came from the dollar store, the spray paint was $5 and the spring -- the most expensive part -- was eight bucks on Amazon. I'm sure you could find the spring for cheaper if you, you know, actually went to a craft store instead of ordering online.

First we gathered our supplies and used hot glue to fasten the dinosaur to the spring.

During Carmen's naptime, Ethan helped me spray paint. Spray paint with kids is sort of a nightmare, so in hindsight, I wished I just bought acrylic paints and let him sit and paint it. Either way, our drippy, gloppy dinosaur only adds five-year-old charm, which is what will make it so special in the long run.

Ta-Da!



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