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.

7.21.2014

the great car trunk organization of 2014

My car has always been a mess. Always. It's always been my weird comfort zone, my place to let my Starbucks cups fill up the floorboards without anyone telling me to pick them up or throw them away. (No, you have hoarder tendencies!) On a recent car clean I found some appointment cards for my college adviser and on the most recent car clean (last night) I found some boxes of film in one of the trunk pockets leftover from my high school photography classes. True story.

While remembering to take in the wet swim suits and empty lunchboxes will take work -- and I'm trying! -- I knew the biggest problem area was the trunk (the film boxes sort of reiterated that). It was too easy to throw things in the trunk and forget about them. Heck, there were sweaters there from our trip to Central Florida over Thanksgiving. This is problematic because I never have any place to put groceries (I've had to keep the bags in the front passenger seat before, embarrassingly enough) and because I can never find anything ("No, Ethan, you can't play in the splash pad at the zoo because I can't find your swimsuit because they're all soaking wet on the bottom of my trunk!"). I had seen a pin on Pinterest featuring a trunk overhaul and have been waiting to do it for a while. Last night Ethan was having trouble getting to sleep so while my husband read stories, sang songs and pleaded (unsuccessfully) with Ethan to go to sleep, I stood outside in the muggy, unbearably hot Florida heat and organized the night away.

Behold!

The first thing I did was text a photo to one of our good friends who remarked that it couldn't be my car and I must have bought a new one. The original pin on Pinterest that I had seen (here for reference) had way more space than I have in my tiny Mitsubishi Outlander and also had the promise that this was a dollar store project. It wasn't, at least for me. I had spent a week making my way to every nearby dollar store in search for the mesh shower caddies while striking out at each one and then expanding my search to Wal-Mart and Target where I also struck out. I ended up ordering the mesh caddies from Amazon where they were a little more money but well worth it for the sake of my sanity. I found the clear tote bag at the dollar store, however, so it wasn't a total bust.

To attach the mesh caddies, I took the headrests off of my seat, put the headrest poles into the shower ring holes on the caddy and then stuck the headrests back on.

The clear plastic tote bag contains all of our beach toys. We go to the beach a lot and the toys always wind up floating loose around my trunk or the backseat of my car. Usually I keep them in plastic grocery bags that tear over time which is the culprit of them being loose and I knew I needed a better organizational system for them. I like to keep them in my car so I don't forget them when we go to the beach (or the splash pad) or if we go on a whim, and this was the perfect way to keep them all in one place.

On the right side, I have our sunscreen, a spare pair of swim trunks, Benadryl, mosquito spray, cortisone lotion (Ethan has a mosquito and ant bite allergy so this will prevent me from having to run to the nearest CVS whenever he gets bit and adding yet another tube of Cortisone cream to the collection in my kitchen cabinets), a spare swim diaper, a spare regular diaper, baby wipes and a spare outfit (shorts and t-shirt). Already I've alleviated the "hey mom, can you drop off a spare pair of shorts? We're sitting outside of My Gym and Ethan had a little accident" problem we experienced a couple of weeks ago! Score.

The left side has spare pairs of socks (because I can never remember to bring any to My Gym after all of these years), band-aids, Polysporin, bottles of bubbles (a park playdate must!), markers and a coloring book (car ride boredom buster).

Not going to lie, I'm pretty excited about this project. Excluding the time it took me to clean out, organize and vacuum (the fifteen layers of sand out of) my car trunk, the whole thing took about five minutes. Can't beat that, or the sheer glory of having a trunk once again.

7.19.2014

tot school - letters q, r & s - age three

This was a great week in tot school! Ethan really loved most of the trays this week and we spent just about every second of our free time doing tot school (which, in the summer, isn't very much but it was still nice to have him interested in tot school after a long day!). He was really into most of the trays we did this week and we kicked off many mornings in our tot school classroom.

Like the past couple of weeks, by Thursday Ethan tends to be bored with the current trays but I'm guessing that is coming with age. As usual, this is our recap of the alphabet after running through individual letters previously. This week we recapped the letters Q, R and S!

QUARTER OBSERVATION

We ended up adding a few more quarters to this try after snapping this photo, but for this activity Ethan got to use the magnifying glass to observe the quarter and talk about what he saw (letters, numbers, etc.). He always loves anything with the magnifying glass, so this was a big hit.

CIRCLE WHAT IS DIFFERENT - LETTER Q

Ethan was really into the "what's different?" tray this week. He had fun circling the item that didn't match the others in it's row. He'd do this one as intended while alternately writing the letter Q around all of the images. He had a lot of fun with this one this week!

LETTER R BALL TOSS

I got a package of ping pong balls at the dollar store and wrote both capital and lowercase letter R on them. I included two different buckets, one marked with a capital and one marked with a lowercase R. Ethan got to practice tossing the balls into the coordinating buckets. He started off just dropping them in but really started to have fun with stepping back and trying to toss them in. This was a fun tray that held his interest the full week, and by the end he was doing great with making all the shots!

ROBOTS

I got these robots at the dollar store and have been waiting for a reason to use them. I knew Ethan would love them and he definitely did -- a little too much. Somehow by midweek they were being taken out of tot school and I was finding them all over the house. Still, he had a lot of fun with this tray. I included tongs and tweezers so he could practice with both. He did a lot of work with tongs this week which was a nice switch since he usually prefers the tweezers. I painted some cups coordinating colors so each robot had a match.

SHAPE PATTERNS

Ethan is really into shapes lately so he had a lot of fun with this one. I had printed some different cards with varying shape patterns as well as having cut some big shapes from construction paper. Ethan got to lay out the shapes in a pattern matching the one on the card. Some were difficult and some were a lot simpler. He had a lot of fun with this tray and got more and more into it and tackling the more intricate patterns as the week went on.

SUGAR SEARCH

I filled a bin with sugar and hid some foam letters (Q, R and S) inside. Ethan got a little make-up brush to dust away the sugar and uncover the letters. He really liked this bin and had a lot of fun with it!

SNAKE THREE PART CARDS

The snake three part cards got no love this week. Ethan absolutely refused to touch them, unfortunately! I'm going to try to introduce three part cards again in a couple of weeks but so far he isn't a fan!

Q, R & S SOUND IT OUT

I put some different Q, R and S words on paper and Ethan got to sound them out and guess which cup they went into. He did surprisingly well with this tray and really seemed to enjoy it!

LINKING UP WITH:

Tot School Montessori MondayI Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flash CardsFor the Kids Friday



7.16.2014

because people live here. really. they do.

It is summertime in Florida.

If you're not from Florida, please promptly disregard any subliminal message your mind is playing for you that includes sunshine, blue skies and a day spent sunning yourself on the white sand of a pristine beach. Not happening. It's hot, for one. The kind of hot that leaves your clothing stuck to your body from sweat, the kind that makes you question if you're crying, bleeding or just sweating down your face even on a short walk to your mailbox. It's the kind of hot that leads you to believe even your internal organs are being sunburned and your flesh may melt clear off. And it rains all of the time. But not just a nice, cooling drizzle, because that wouldn't be Florida summertime weather. Instead it downpours every single afternoon, complete with lightning and thunder that rattles your windows. Even the rain is hot and you swear you can hear it sizzling on the sidewalks. It's pretty miserable weather that leaves us stranded in our house every afternoon going a little stir-crazy because we -- as in Ethan and I -- do better on the go. Which is maybe why we sat in the car waiting out a half hour downpour so we could go to Wal-Mart this afternoon.

I've been making mental to-do lists of all of the things that I want to accomplish but can't find the motivation, beginning with repainting our kitchen cabinets. Almost a year ago we went through our great house disaster which, on the plus side, got us freshly painted new walls. My intent was to repaint our cabinets because after six years in our house, I realized I was super tired of the original owner's coral pink cabinets. Then I got pregnant with Wylie and promptly forgot about our hideous kitchen. Now I can't stop remembering about how crazy it makes me. With dreams of our sweet new kitchen cabinets dancing in my head, I realize I'm bit by the home renovation bug. Which is likely one big delayed reaction since it's nearly been a year since our walls were repainted and not a single thing has actually been hung up on the walls since. We're basically existing in a blank space. After a year. (I mean, excluding tot school and Ethan's room because, go figure, those are the only two completed rooms in our house.)

Here's what we don't have:
- Space.
-Money.
- DIY skills.

Where's what we do have:
- My stubbornness.
- A Pinterest account.

That said, I'm a little bit excited about doing some major DIY overhaul around these here parts and getting our house to look like, well, like people live here. Since I'm in a little bit of a writer's rut these past few days, I thought I would instead share my Pinterest inspiration for Operation: Stop Neglecting Your Living Quarters.


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I am all about the black cabinets. Our kitchen is a light shade of gray with black appliances. Our kitchen cabinets are some coral-colored pieces of fake wood and I would love to paint them black. (Ten bonus points if you're singing The Rolling Stones right now.)


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We have a big, empty wall in our living room (which is a little bit darker gray than our kitchen). It's basically the first thing you see when you walk in our front door. I would love to do a black and white photo wall there!


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I really love the idea of a chalkboard hanging in our kitchen on our big, empty wall. It could be a cute place to write little family notes or appointment reminders as Ethan gets older. I basically turn everything into a chalkboard now as it is, so why not have one hanging in the kitchen?!


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I am a little bit obsessed with pallet art and would love to make one to hang in our living room above our couch along with some sort of mismatched photo collage, like so:


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I still haven't found anything that moves me for our super long hallway wall that the bedrooms are down. I was thinking something to display children's artwork but nothing really popped out at me just yet. I'm open to suggestions from anyone who has better taste in things than I do (which is, you know, the bulk of the world's population). Also, feel free to send any tips and suggestions our way, because we'll need them.

We'll need them desperately.

7.13.2014

tot school - letters n, o, p - age three

This past week in tot school was nice. After taking so much time off during our loss, it felt nice to sort of ease back into a sweet tot school routine. It actually felt a little normal, which was nice. We picked up where we left off before everything happened with a recap of the letters N, O and P. This is our second run-through of the alphabet. After having completed an individual letter each week, we started running through them three letters a time as a final recap.

I'm noticing the older that Ethan gets, the less content he is to constantly do our activities over and over again. Midway through the week, he starts to look for new tot trays and lets me know he's sort of bored with the ones we began at the beginning of the week. I made a mental note to add more variety or maybe a second group of trays in our upcoming weeks, so we'll see how that goes. Regardless, this was a nice week of tot school.

NEST NUMBERS

There were five nests, each numbered, and different eggs. Ethan got to identify each number and then count out the corresponding number of eggs. I think by now the challenge involved in recognizing the numbers up to five and counting out five objects is a little easy, so he sort of lost interest in this one really quickly once the thrill of new trays wore off. I know he can also recognize and count out all of the numbers through 10, so I may breeze through those before moving onto the teens in the upcoming weeks.

NUMBER LINE UP

Ethan got to put these number cards in order from 1-10. He enjoyed this activity a lot and loved practicing counting backwards down to 1 as well.

N, O, P TRACING

This was the only tray that totally bombed this week! Ethan wanted nothing to do with this one. I think after repeating it so often week after week, the thrill of the tracing of letters also wore off pretty quickly.

OCTOPUS MAGNET TRAY

Ethan really loved this tray this week! There was an octopus attached to our magnet board and a little cup with varying images. The words that began with O had a tiny piece of magnet on the back so that they would stick to the octopus' legs. The ones that didn't begin with O didn't have a magnet and so they didn't stick. Ethan had fun sounding out each word and trying to figure out if they began with O and then seeing if he was right by seeing if they stuck!

ORANGE JUICE MAKING

This was a fun one that we actually did back in color orange week when Ethan was 18 months old! As Ethan got older, this activity got a little different. When he was a baby, I pre-cut the oranges which he then squished in a bag with his palms before sipping the juice. This time, I gave Ethan a cutting board plus his little knife from the Montessori supply store. He was able to practice his cutting with a knife by slicing the orange. I included a little funnel for him to stick inside the bag to make it a little easier to squeeze the oranges into. He needed a little help holding the bag with the funnel but other than that, he was able to do this whole activity by himself and he really loved it! I loved seeing how proud he was to make fresh orange juice (which he happily shared with his daddy before he went to work).

PIRATE SHIP TRACING

For this one, Ethan got to trace along the dotted lines to create a pirate ship. He really enjoyed this one -- if you can't tell by his PJ's in these photos, he's sort of into pirates (and pirate ships) right now.

PENGUIN THREE PART CARDS

This was our first go at three part cards. I thought penguins would be a fun place to start since Ethan loves anything with animals. He was initially excited about this new activity but a little overwhelmed and didn't want to do it more than once. Still, I'm excited to use more three part cards in the future as I'm sure he'll warm up to them.

LINKING UP WITH:

Tot School Montessori MondayI Can Teach My Child

No Time For Flash CardsFor the Kids Friday



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