somewhere over the rainbow: announcing our adoption journey

Yesterday, I took to social media to announce the secret that's been swirling around our little family. It's hard to keep your mouth shut when, for the first time in so long, your heart feels like it's about to burst -- in a good way.

When we lost Wylie in May of 2014, I begged my doctor to tie my tubes. I was finished. There was no part of pregnancy I wanted back. We decided not to tie my tubes. It was an emotional plea that didn't lend itself kindly to the fact we wanted another child, eventually. We made the momentous decision to try to conceive again in November of 2014. My body likely wasn't healed yet, and neither were our emotions, but I was numb to much else other than I wanted to fast forward through the next nine months and start breathing again once my baby was in my arms, alive and with a heart that beat so perfectly and strong. Both Ethan and Wylie were "first try babies" as I jokingly referred to them as in the days when pregnancy wasn't comparable to a knife fight. All I had to do, of course, was sneeze and find myself pregnant a couple of weeks later when I would smugly watch the second pink line pop up on the test. However, that didn't happen this time. As each month passed, I grew more convinced that something was wrong. I can tell you with great certainty that "are you going to try again?" hurts when you've lost a baby and then being asked once you're grappling with infertility, well, it's like acid being poured onto your wound. We began to seek treatment from a reproductive endocrinologist who performed every test in the book on myself and my husband. Though it could be perceived as good news, the reports that nothing was wrong with either of us felt more like bad news. We started seeking assistance from fertility drugs -- pills and shots and suppositories and supplements -- that began to make me feel like a swollen basketcase who was either doubled over in abdominal pain or crashing into bed over the sheer hopelessness of my life. With each negative test at the end of the month, I found myself questioning my ability to keep going on. And, yet, there was the disgust I carried at the mere thought of being pregnant again. I didn't want to be pregnant again and, yet, I wanted it with every fiber of my being.

When the infertility drugs failed, we were left with a lot of thinking to do. At this point, it had been a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive with nothing whatsoever wrong with me. I was tired. I was tired of being bloated, achy, swollen, sore and miserable. I was tired of canceling plans with Ethan and his friends to rush to a doctor's appointment. I was tired of wanting to punch someone in the face when they said they were excited for me to be trying to conceive again -- as if anything is exciting about pregnancy. I didn't want to be pregnant. But I wanted my baby.

My husband and I decided immediately we were done. We wanted to adopt. We had always spoken of adoption in the past, but as a fairytale-type of wish, want, dream that didn't feel appropriate discussing just yet. The timing, however, was now. And the timing was very right. I wanted no part of invasive, painful tests. I wanted no part of forcing my body to do something that I didn't entirely want it to do (and, yet, wanted it to do more than anything). We spoke the word "adoption" and suddenly the rain cloud over our house floated away and the sun came out and I was smiling and meaning it. Adoption. We spoke the word and we already so very much loved the baby who we didn't even know yet.

We've selected a local agency to work with and we've begun dreaming again. This adoption journey is going to be a long one. It isn't going to be easy, by any means, but it's going to be worth it. There's a prize at the end of the journey now, a light at the end of the tunnel, a feeling of peace after learning to survive with uneasiness forever cramped into my stomach.

I wanted to document this journey here, too. We are eager for this adventure to unfold and to meet the baby who is the missing piece that completes our family.

We love him or her so much already.

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hatched from your heart.

Ethan is sick. Croup, ear infections, nasty respiratory virus -- you name it, he seems to have contracted it (but, thankfully, after Halloween was over and gone). We've been spending most of the week laying on the couch immersed in Daniel Tiger or making Christmas ornaments to lift our spirits (and pretend it's not 100 degrees outside). Yesterday, Ethan laid his hand on my stomach, feeling the ridges of stretch marks and soft skin.

"Mommy? Why do you have wrinkles in your belly?"

"Well, buddy, those are called stretch marks. They are from you and baby Wylie being in mommy's tummy."

"Do you like having wrinkles in your belly?"

"Yes, I do. I love them. Whenever I see them, I remember carrying you in my tummy and how lucky I am to have you."

"But daddy doesn't have wrinkles in his belly and he loves me, too."

"That's true. But you were in mommy's tummy, so I have the stretch marks."

He thought about it for a few seconds, silently and intently.

"But mommy, you can still love someone even if they weren't in your belly. Sometimes babies come from your heart, not just your tummy."

I felt the tears start to sting behind my eyes. How does he always know so much of what the adult world cannot see?

"Yes, baby. That's so true. A family is who loves you, and families are made all different kinds of ways."

"Yes, mommy. I came from your tummy but sometimes other babies are hatched from someones heart. And mommy? Then maybe we all just get wrinkles on our hearts."

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not only

I am asked often if we plan on having more children. This comment stings coming from unknowing strangers, those who don't know our story or history or that there is a second child they can no longer see. More than that, though, is this comment coming from those who do know. Those who were there through Wylie's diagnosis and death, those who feel like it's been an acceptable period of time for them to begin prying about when we will be attempting to bring another child into our family. Those comments hurt the most. The prying, the questioning -- it is suffocating at best. It is, if nothing else, a complete trivialization of the pain, suffering and soul crushing trauma that we endured and continue to go through.

I don't know if I will ever be bringing home another living baby. I don't know if I will ever get to swaddle another newborn or cheer on an infant taking it's first steps into toddlerhood. I don't know if I will be able to pour my heart into tot schooling another child or if the boxes upon boxes upon boxes of Ethan's old clothing will continue to sit in storage or find themselves being worn by another sibling down the line. I don't know and, like any good control freak, the not knowing makes me anxious and clammy and stressed out.

What I do know is, there is no stopping people from referring to Ethan as an only child. While technically he isn't, as I am his mother and my body carried and birthed another child, I understand. I understand that he does not know what it means to share parental attention or toys with anyone who lives under his roof and that day in and day out, he is the shining star of our universe.

It's the word only that gets under my skin.

There is no only. Maybe one day we will bring home another living child. Maybe we won't. Regardless of how many children are in our holiday photos at the end of each year, there is still no only. It isn't only Ethan. He isn't an only child. You see, I gave birth to Ethan but it was him who began my life.

I have spent every waking moment of every day with Ethan since the day he was born. He is this magnificent force of intensity and beauty and wonder, this full throttle four year old ball of energy and curiousness and life. He is the life sewed onto my bones, the purpose in all of this. He is the hope and the future and the only thing that makes sense at the end of the day. When he sleeps, it is his soft breaths that bring me to tears because this? This is love. This is love at it's deepest.

There are the days that I can only watch him in wonder, that I can only bask in his beauty, his wisdom and wonder how. How am I so lucky? How do I get to watch this amazing child grow up and blossom as he continues to do before my very eyes? There is never any only. It is never only Ethan -- but Ethan, my yellow bird, my shining star, my motivation to do and be and see everything that this world has to offer. I stay up at night sometimes piecing together our adventures from years past and realizing that every day is in itself an adventure. He is my adventure. Being his mother is the greatest honor, watching him grow and morph into this smart, sweet, headstrong little boy is a gift that surpasses priceless even on our hard days, our long days.

My life is navigated by this whirlwind of a child, this inquisitive and compassionate little boy who has taken everything I know about life and bettered it to the point where even the most mundane days feel surreal.

You see, he is everything.

Not only.

No matter what the future holds.

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october is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month

October is Prengancy and Infant Loss awareness month. Of course, I feel that I must recognize that October also brings awareness to several great causes (there is no competition here). I have tried to sit down and put together a post on why awareness is important but between time constraints, the stomach flu and, well, my general tendency to be rambly (I do that, you know), nothing has really come out the way I intended.

So I decided to start over.

After Wylie had died and as I waited for labor to begin, the word stillbirth was thrown around and it knocked the wind out of me each time. I'd heard the term before, of course, but I never understood the magnitude. Wylie was born silently into this world. I tried so hard, even knowing that she was gone, to hear the screams that her big brother had let out at his birth a few years prior. In the days, weeks and months following life without Wylie, I didn't know how to try the term stillbirth on for size. To me, it felt awkward and trivial, or at least that is how it was perceived. "I know how you feel. I had a miscarriage, too" people said to me. "I know how you feel. When my grandmother died, it was the worst day of my life," they would insist. "Hey, at least you can get pregnant," people would celebrate before my post delivery bleeding even stopped. I felt as if I was pieced back together incorrectly at this point, and I never knew what to make of anyone's words. Everyone would assure me that everyone else meant well. It isn't as if losing a child is natural, of course, and so everyone was doing the best that they could, I was reminded. Everyone. In the days, weeks, months following Wylie's death, it very quickly became about everyone else and their level of comfort and grief. In an attempt to not drum up an unnecessary game of my loss is greater than your loss, I bit my lip and said nothing.

But that's the thing. That's why awareness is so important.

Each time I see a carefully planned pregnancy announcement appear on Facebook at the start of the second trimester, the safe zone, I cringe. And each time I get another private message from a friend's cousin's neighbor's co-worker's sister mentioning that they were told I would be a safe place to turn to after their child receives a fatal diagnosis in utero, I cringe. "It's too sad," people remark on Facebook, and I cringe. This isn't about fear. It isn't about pessimism or terror or emotional warfare. It's about equipping people with the tools they need to comfort those around them, to make this world a gentler place.

There is no shame in loss. There is no shame in Wylie's diagnosis. Her congenital heart defects were not caused by anything I did or didn't do. For far too many years, women who delivered stillborn babies or who miscarried were made to feel shame. They were told to keep quiet. I see this trickling down into 2015 in each "grieve in private" plea left on a Facebook comments section. Grieve in private. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the screams I let out into the night on the evening Wylie was born. I can still feel the body shakes and the terror that pulsed through my veins as I watched the doctor hold my dead daughter close, my body equally frozen and on fire, engulfed in flames of loneliness. I can still feel the numbness of returning home no longer pregnant, but with only a certificate of stillbirth to show for her existence. That numbness is forever a part of me, even on days when I feel particularly thawed. I won't use the world normal, because nothing will ever really be normal again. After all, like I said earlier, there is nothing normal about a parent losing a child.

It is 2015 and women in their 50's, 60's are finally giving names to the stillborn children they were made to forget about, forced to get over at face value because of shame, because of stigma. We need to do better. And, in many ways, we continue to do better as time goes on. Still, I've seen far too many comments of "that's private," "get over it," "what sick person wants to see their dead baby" and so on (and so on and so on). Somewhere out there, someone is receiving a fatal diagnosis. Someone is miscarrying. Someone is choosing to induce an incompatible with life pregnancy. Someone is choosing to terminate a fatal diagnosis pregnancy. Someone is making the decision to carry to term knowing their baby won't make it. Someone is reeling in pain at the unexpected stillbirth of their beautiful newborn. And we need to be there for all of the someones. We need to hold their hand. We need to throw platitudes in the trash and offer our true, raw selves because that is what friendship is all about. That is what being human is all about. We need to keep an open dialogue. We need to remember that these are wanted pregnancies and babies, not a political tool. We need to remember what it means to be human, what it means to be kind, what it means to be aware. We need to stop burying our heads in the sand and hushing anyone who dares tell a pregnant woman anything other than that a lack of fetal movement is nothing a little orange juice can't fix.

On May 12th, 2014, the day after Mother's Day, I learned that my beautiful baby girl was going to die. On May 23rd, 2014, my wedding anniversary, she was born silently into the darkness. I will never stop remembering her. I will never stop speaking her name. I will never stop pouring myself into being there for other women who are faced with the same soul crushing pain. I will never stop honoring my daughter, nor will her honor ever stop making this world a kinder, gentler place. Congenital heart disease will go on. Stillbirth will go on. And I go on, despite it all, honoring her with every move that I make.

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homeschool preschool - age 4 - around the world (part one)

We've had a busy week in general (so many Halloween festivities!) and a busy week in tot school, too. Our Around The World unit will probably be spread over three weeks just to cover all of the material without a rush. This past week, we wrapped up our first week and it was so much fun! To kick things off, Ethan and I began with a talk about where our family history began. Using our classroom map, I mapped Ethan's family history as well as those of some of his best friends. He enjoyed seeing the places on the map where he and his friends "came from."

From there, we began our activities. For this unit, I checked out a book from the library to correspond with each activity. This was a fun way to learn more about different countries and cultures before diving into an activity. We have a whole bunch more countries to learn about over the next two weeks, but to recap what we went over during our first week:


The book we used was "The Road to Mumbai" by Ruth Jeyaveeran. For our activity, Ethan made some clay diyas and learned more about Diwali. While a traditional diya has a cotton wick, we improvised with some small candles from the dollar store. Ethan loved using the modeling clay to create the base for his diyas and then had a blast decorating them once they dried.


The book we used was "Gabriella's Song" by Candace Fleming. For this activity, we learned all about Roman mosaics and Ethan created his own mosaic art using cut up squares made from paint swatches. He absolutely loved this activity!

A flower and a camel


We read "Rechenka's Eggs" by Patricia Polacco. For our craft, we made eggs like Rechenka's using some wooden eggs I found at Michael's, paint and glitter -- lots of glitter!


We read "Ten Mice for Tet" by Pegi Deitz Shea and learned all about Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. For our craft, we made our own Li Xi, or red envelopes embossed with gold. For this one, Ethan got to use gold embossing powder to create designs on red envelopes. He plans on handing them out to his friends to celebrate!


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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chasing childhood

It's October which means, for all intents and purposes, it's Halloween. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas -- this is the time of year where the days blur together into a festive mess of decorations and Pinterest projects. Lately I've been going to bed wondering how it's possible to be any busier than we already are but I know what's coming. I know what lays ahead in the coming days and weeks. It's a good kind of chaos.

Ethan is four. Almost four and a half. This is the first Halloween he's had an opinion over his Halloween costume and he refuses to go to bed at night without checking in on the progress. He is part control freak, part worrier; part anxious, part perfectionist. I see so much of my personality in him especially the older he gets. His mind never seems to shut off and, for that reason, our conversations are entertaining and exhausting and inspiring all at once. He is stubborn, selfless, warm. He has seemed so much more like a real boy lately as opposed to a baby or a toddler and I'm left wondering when that all happened.

We've made the decision to redshirt Ethan academically, meaning he hasn't joined his similarly aged peers in VPK this year. Instead, he will begin a part-time pre-K program next year, when he "should" be beginning Kindergarten. We've found a wonderful homeschool co-op to join and it's been a fantastic experience for Ethan so far. He and I are both loving these days of continued adventure and play and childhood.


At four, Ethan is bigger than most children his age. With the territory comes the remarks from strangers: "he's so big!" "Are you sure he's only 4?" "He's so grown up for 4!" Ethan has decided to become anxious about growing up. With the anxiety came a week long sleep and vegetable eating strike, in an attempt to halt any potential growth. "I don't want to eat vegetables. I don't want to sleep. I don't want to get big and tall. I just want to be a kid!"

I have promised him his childhood. I have promised him that his childhood belongs to him and that he is, and will continue to be, a child because it's simply not time to grow up yet. I am grateful for the attachment and relationship and adventure chasing that we get to share.

It seems to be what we both need.

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checking in

This blog has been sorely neglected and not due to me having nothing to say. I've begun, stopped, continued so many posts that continue to linger in limbo while I wait for the time (and patience and energy) to complete them all. October is here and Ethan and I have devoted this month in it's entirety to pumpkin painting and pumpkin patches and Monster Mash and just soaking it all in. This time of year -- though still a hundred degrees here in Florida -- is our favorite.

I'll let this post sit as a placeholder for me to pick up where I have left on and work through the posts that I've yet to have the time to finish. Soon, though. Soon.

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homeschool preschool - age 4 - bug week (1/2)

This past week was week one of two of bug, insect and creepy-crawlers week! This week was extra special because we also got to host our homeschool preschool co-op at our house, which was a lot of fun!

During our co-op, the kids got to learn about worms...

...as well as release some ladybugs!


This was an activity we did with our co-op and that appeared in Ethan's weekly tot tray rotations. In the past, Ethan has tended to be disinterested in lacing activities, but he really loved this one and did this activity several times over the week! I printed out the Very Hungry Caterpillar on cardstock, punched some holes and threw in some shoelaces for the kids to do their lacing.


This was another activity that we featured with our co-op (as pictured here) but also one that stayed in our weekly rotation. Ethan loved this activity! When doing the activity with the co-op, each child got to take a turn rolling the numbered dice. Whatever number was rolled is the number of dots each child got to place on their ladybugs.


For our co-op, I boiled a whole lot of pasta and placed it into Ethan's water table along with some toy spiders and some tongs. The kids got to have some slimy fun playing in the spaghetti and picking out the spiders!


The Bug Math activity was hands down Ethan's favorite of the week. I cut out two jars, a plus and equal sign and some bug cut-outs. Ethan would place bugs in both jars, count them and then practice adding them up.


For this one, Ethan got to practice sounding out each word and filling in the missing letters. He really enjoyed this activity, especially solving the missing letters in the middle of the words as opposed to just the starting letter.


For this activity, we learned about centimeters vs. inches and practiced measuring some inchworms. Ethan was really fascinated with this activity and spent a lot of time working on it. Of course, this slowly morphed into measuring everything laying around our tot school classroom.


For this activity, I placed some masking tape (sticky side up) on a tray and paired it with a tub of pom poms. Ethan got to practice those gross motor skills by tossing the pom poms onto the tray and hoping they get stuck in the sticky spiderweb! He absolutely loved this game and it'll definitely be rolling over into part two of bug week!


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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