the most wild thing of all

Tee by The Blue Envelope

The past few weeks have been pretty difficult for our family. We've had a lot of unexpected expenses and issues pop up, some of which have felt awfully hard to tackle. I think I spent most of yesterday crying as we tried to recoup after one of our cat's emergency vet visits and her new diabetes diagnosis. Life, in turn, has been super hectic and most of our days have been filled with plans and appointments (and car accidents) and chaos. I'm fairly certain Ethan has been feeling the secondhand stress as much as I try to shield him from it all, because we've had some rough days lately. (Today has been no exception.) You know the kind of days. The ones that leave you emotionally zapped and exhausted and in tears if only you had energy enough to cry. The ones that drain you completely. The past few days, I've felt like it's impossible to even sleep because the exhaustion aches in my bones and the apprehension towards the next day causes anxiety. Yesterday I stayed up until midnight mopping my floors and, please believe, I'd rather give myself a lobotomy with a plastic spoon than spend whatever free time I do have cleaning, but stress makes you do weird things. Staying busy is as much a coping mechanism as I have.

The older Ethan gets, the more I've wrestled with how much of his everyday life is fair to share on the blog. The days of potty training and temper tantrums and cutesy infant stories that make people giggle and cringe and say "I've been there" no longer seem as appropriate the older he gets, the more little boy he gets, the more he sheds the toddler phase as he goes and grows. This little dude, he keeps me on my toes. In contrast to the weird limbo life has us in right now, that's sort of refreshing.

I've been busy planning our year of homeschool preschool and getting the lesson plans in order. My plan is to start when the public schools nearby go back to school but taking the summer off from tot school has only made us miss our classroom so much. Ethan has been begging to help me get our space situated for tot school to begin again. We're both eager. We're both ready...and something tells me we'll get started a lot sooner than anticipated. For now, forgive me if this little space gets a little quiet. Summertime and all it's accompanying chaos beckons for now.

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why i talk about stillbirth

I talk about stillbirth not because I'm stuck in some sort of fog where life is passing me by and I'm forgetting to live. I talk about stillbirth not because I want to make someone uncomfortable, though I'm slowly realizing that is inevitable. I talk about stillbirth not because I enjoy feeling like Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club which is basically how others treat you if you dare mention your dead child in conversation. I talk about stillbirth not because I want to be the source of everyone's pity, the one everyone looks at with sad eyes and the one whose Facebook statuses are met with :( emojis. I talk about stillbirth not because I enjoy being the one who is constantly told "you made me cry" whenever I mention my child who passed. I talk about stillbirth not because I enjoy being told to "appreciate the child I have," which is basically the worst insult someone could give me (no, really, cut off my arm next time, it would hurt a lot less).

I talk about stillbirth because someone has to. I talk about stillbirth because it happens and someone has to train the masses to deal with the unthinkable. I talk about it so that one day people will realize that you're not running for the razors simply because you remembered a pregnancy craving or the way childbirth felt. I talk about stillbirth because one day, someone will know someone who loses a baby and they'll be able to react in a way that leaves a grieving parent feeling comforted rather than ostracized. I talk about stillbirth because my pregnancy happened, Wylie's birth happened and there's no shame in either of those things. I talk about stillbirth because there are still women who will e-mail me and say "I lost my child at birth and was too shameful to hold her or name her or remember her even on her birthday" and that's not okay.

I talk about stillbirth because it is an abnormal, wrongful tragedy that happens in a modern day society more than anyone likes to or wants to believe it does and, like all things that are sad and tragic, it has a layer of shame across the top. I talk about stillbirth because I want to peel the layer off. I talk about stillbirth because I want people to know that while it is devastatingly sad that I have a daughter I will never be able to raise or see again, I am so happy to be her mother (and, no, I don't wish your baby was my own). I talk about stillbirth because I want people to know that "you make me appreciate having healthy children" isn't a nice thing to say, either. Piggybacking off of someone's tragedy isn't helpful and I talk about stillbirth so that people know that mentioning Wylie without wide, panicked eyes or a prefaced statement about their own sadness and discomfort feels like a really warm hug.

I talk about stillbirth because I want people to understand that I can love both of my children even if one is dead and I want them to realize that it doesn't change how I parent. I talk about stillbirth so people can see how someone can live their life for their children, the one who is here and the one who isn't. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I'm going to do it because my kids have one pretty awesome mom, if I don't say so myself.

I talk about stillbirth because nothing in life should carry such a stigma, especially not something that no one is at fault for. I talk about stillbirth because we, as a society, have a long way to go until we get it right and, well, if Wylie's legacy can change the world in that way, I'm gladly along for the ride.

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my oldest

Tonight my husband and I were at a party for his dad's birthday. We were surrounded by people who I'd never met before and, for the most part, people who my husband himself had never met before, either. Ethan and another little boy were splashing in the pool and, as little kids tend to do, garnering a lot of attention. "Is he your only one?" The question was fired at me first and I felt my stomach tense up in the way it does moments before you vomit. You know the feeling. When your flesh feels clammy and your stomach is squeezing itself together ready to expel everything. "Well. I mean. Sort of. I guess. Yes." It was the yes that did me in. A wave of guilt flood over my body. I felt lightheaded in that moment, fighting back tears as I remembered my pregnancy with Wylie and her silent birth. I remembered holding her in my arms, staring down at her with sadness and pride as I memorized all of her features. A year and change later, here I was at a birthday party for my children's grandfather saying that Ethan was my only child. The question came again, twice within five minutes, both times directed towards my husband who stumbled for an answer as uncomfortably as I did. We discussed it on the way home, the guilt, the sadness. I thought about how if only things were different, we would have a one year old splashing on the step alongside her brother. Instead, here we were, trying to validate our daughter's brief life.

I never want people to walk on eggshells around me. Sometimes it gets said without thinking that Ethan is an only child because his behavior is that of a child who doesn't have siblings to share with, who is used to being the center of attention. It's true that Ethan is the only child living in our home. It's true that he doesn't have to share toys with a sibling, true that he's used to our entire schedule being dictated by his. But an only child? He isn't. I carried his sister in my body and delivered her tiny body as I did his. Her stillbirth certificate remains tucked in the same safe that houses Ethan's birth certificate. Ethan may be the only child living in our home, but he isn't our only child.

If you're lucky after loss (I know, those two words hardly seem to go together), you'll find yourself a support group where they really get you. I found that. And as my husband made small talk and I played Thomas trains with Ethan in the foyer of a crowded house, I was able to vent my heartbreak and guilt to people who face that question every day, too: "is this your only one?"

Tonight, with the help of those who have walked this same road, I made myself a mental cue card with my answer:

"He's my oldest."

It's the truth, after all. Ethan is still a big brother. He's the oldest, but not the only.

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zipzicles zip-top ice pops review and giveaway

We love popsicles around here. What I don't love are the yucky colorants, sugar and syrups found in the popsicles you buy at the grocery store. Making our own popsicles has been a perfect way to keep treats healthy and, let's be real, there's little better than a cold popsicle treat after a crazy day of play out in the Florida sun. At this point, we've tried so many different popsicle molds and I come to the same consensus: they're more hassle than they're worth. I lose the sticks, the molds take up way too much room in my already too small freezer, I never remember to wash them out and you can't exactly pack up your popsicle molds to take to the beach or the park. When I discovered Zipzicles, they seemed like the perfect solution!

Zipzicles are made from BPA-free, freezer grade plastic and feature a durable zip top design that allows kids to easily push up the ice pop from the bottom. A package of 18 pouches is only $3.99, making Zipzicles pretty easy on the wallet, too. Zipzicles are perfect for big batch popsicle making. I spent twenty minutes one afternoon making a freezer full of Zipzicle ice pops to have on hand. I also love how compact they are for freezer storage -- no clunky molds to move around and find a vacant space for.

Of course, the best part is being able to choose exactly what ingredients go into your homemade popsicles.

Of course, the fun isn't limited to just the kiddos, either. I'm a self-proclaimed coffee addict and having my favorite ice coffee frozen into ice pops was the perfect save for long afternoons when I needed a pick me up. Zipzicles are fantastic for parties and their website offers a huge array of recipes -- including some for adults who like to drink things a little stronger than coffee.

I especially love the portability. I've been able to bring along stacks of Zipzicles on play dates, to the pool, to the park just by placing them in an insulated lunchbag with some ice packs.

We've had some great afternoons sharing our Zipzicles with friends, even in the Florida sunshine. The portability may tie "no sticks to lose" as my favorite part of Zipzicles!

Last week, Ethan came down with a yucky virus -- fever, vomiting, the whole nine yards. I quickly threw together some Zipzicles to keep him hydrated.

Zipzicles are a total game changer! A package of Zipzicle ice pop bags are definitely a must-have to keep around the house if you have little ones.

TO BUY: To buy some Zipzicle bags and other accessories (their neoprene ice pop holders are perfect for keeping little hands from getting too chilly!), visit their online store.

TO WIN: The awesome folks at Zipzicles have offered one of my readers the chance to win a package of Zipzicle ice pop bags for themselves! We promise, you're going to love them!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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letting them be little

We keep a growth chart on Ethan's bedroom wall. Truthfully, I wish we started earlier but I figure I can always manually add in the heights based on the doctor records that I've kept over the years. Once a month, I take a Sharpie and add a little line (plus the date) so he can see how much he's grown. The leap from May to July has been substantial, which I have to say I've noticed just observing him in every day life. Suddenly his shorts have all become short-shorts and his shirts expose his belly and we've officially traded in the 5's for the 6's -- and even some 7's -- when it feels like I just adjusted to the 4/5's and having to shop in the big boys department in general. Ethan's no stranger to hearing how big he is, something that happens when you're twice the size of the other kids your age (and have a father who is 6'4") but lately he's had many questions about his height. There have been a couple of times when he's asked if he can stay a kid and stop getting bigger, or that he didn't want to grow up just yet.

Four has already been so different than three in many ways. There has been physical growth and emotional maturation as well. And there has also been this push from society to thrust him into adulthood now that he is four.

"Oh, he's adorable. How old is he?"
"He just turned 4."
"Oh, time for school! Is he ready for Kindergarten?"

I watched my child shyly follow around a six year old girl on a playground as a camp counselor asked me this. Too shy to ask her name, he pretended to fall down instead in hopes she would help him up. (She did.) As he ran around the playground with a new friend and no agenda to adhere to, no schedule to follow, no rules to worry about breaking, I failed to see how the answer wasn't so completely obvious. No, he wasn't ready for Kindergarten. He's a child. He's four years old.

I remind Ethan of this when he expresses his concerns about growing up and getting taller. "Mommy, am I still a kid? Am I still a kid even if I'm taller?"

This is when I tell him that his childhood is just beginning and that I'll never let anyone take it away from him. This is when the heat stops bothering me and I let these hot, sticky afternoons be just what they are: freedom, magic. Childhood.

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the baby wylie's room playroom

Right before we received Wylie's diagnosis, Ethan and I were busy at work with her nursery. If you asked me the very best day of my life, it would be the day he and I carefully selected paint samples and painted them upon her wall. Watching him paint the walls with such pride and excitement and joy, well, nothing really compares. It was a messy and beautiful and wonderful day and one that I think of often whenever I walk past Wylie's bedroom. For a while, the door remained closed. Then, I decided I was ready to keep the door open. From there, it became a place to store things that I couldn't bear to look at (the crib, changing table and so on) and a place to hide my cats whenever people came over. People have always seemed especially interested on what would become of Wylie's room and I've never really had an answer. I figured that when I was ready, I would know what to do with her room and I never felt ready. Worse, I never even felt capable of thinking about it.

On Monday, Ethan and I came home from a playdate as the thunder boomed and the skies opened up. It was a dull, rainy day and Ethan sat down to play with playdough. In that moment, I felt ready. Compulsively ready. I wanted Wylie's room to be one that was filled with joy and happiness and laughter, not a place that felt like a dungeon. I didn't want it to be The Room That Shall Not Be Mentioned where we stored things but never spent any time in. I wanted it to be a room that we went into to smile and soak up the little bits of goodness that life is able to offer. My shirt was completely drenched with my tears but I sat on the floor of her room and packed up her things that afternoon. Most fit in the closet, perfectly stacked underneath the racks of her clothing. Wylie's room quickly transformed into a play room for Ethan that relieved our living area of it's toddler play area duties at least a little bit.

Of course, having room to walk through the living room is no silver lining for the need to refinish a room that was supposed to be Wylie's, but Ethan was excited by the change. "The Baby Wylie's Room Playroom" was what he quickly referred to the room as and, though not without tears, I was doing okay until I stumbled upon those samples of paint that he and I purchased just days before the world came tumbling down.

Someone in a loss group I belong to suggested taking that paint and creating some kind of art to remember Wylie by. I loved that idea and quickly enlisted Ethan's help to do just that. I mean, if you're going to have a joyous, irrationally happy playroom, you may as well paint on the walls.

There are the ubiquitous reminders of the way things were supposed to be, of course. The crib rails and the bassinet and the glider and things that I don't know what to do with just yet, the closet filled with diapers and wipes and baby clothes neatly hung. One day, I will know what to do with those things. But for now, they're part of the room that is bringing joy back into our hallway. Happiness and laughter and play and love. After all, that's what we want to feel when we think of Wylie, not sadness.

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my daughter isn't in heaven

The first time I heard someone mention the word "god," my tweenage self was glued to the screen watching a boy band accept some award on a televised award show. This was in the days before I discovered punk rock (and the depth of my angst) and sat clutching the Claire's bracelets that were in the process of turning my wrists green. Each member of the group thanked god for their win and, from the kitchen where she stood at the sink doing dishes, my mother muttered something sarcastic about how silly it would be for their moms to get thanked first for the hours of driving back and forth to classes and sitting through all of their recitals. (This probably also came at the tail end of one of the many lessons I'd begged my mom to let me start and, a few hours later, begged her to let me quit.) That night I sat in my room writing fake award acceptance speeches for the songwriting successes that I predicted I would have, especially once I married my favorite boy band member (Brad from LFO, I'm looking at you, buddy) who was madly in love with me. This was also the time I asked my mom about god and religion with a confusion that stemmed from something so unimportant in our family somehow being so important to so many. In my fake acceptance speech I still thanked my future husband Brad from LFO over my mom (who I added in as an afterthought -- sorry, mom) but I didn't see where god fit in. Even the woman who developed photos at Walgreens earned herself a mention, but god? I mean, what did that even mean? My mom calmly explained that children cannot simply be whatever religion their parents are by force. Religion, she declared, is something you must be educated on before you can have an opinion. It isn't something passed down, but something that must be chosen carefully once someone is educated enough to make that decision.

That's basically the story about how my Jewish mother and Catholic father raised two atheists.

By college, I'd vacated the cushy Jewish suburbs and found myself smack dab in a Bible belt where people felt that you couldn't be good without god. People cared so much about religion that they stood on street corners with big signs promising eternal damnation and chased girls trying to pick up their birth control pills outside of Planned Parenthood. I took religion classes in college to educate myself and defend my godlessness against those who glued wooden crosses to my car in some backwards attempt to convert me (my marriage equality bumper sticker gave me away, apparently). The years passed by and I got married and settled our family back into a place where diversity runs rampant and you can buy your birth control pills in peace. But there's still hatred in the world. Once in a while, a synagogue is desecrated. Once in a while, a SCOTUS ruling brings the people to our street corners with their big, damnation-promising signs. Once in a while, I find myself reading promises on the Internet about how blood-thirsty atheists are shooting up schools and eating babies for lunch, basking in the depths of their evil simply because they reject the idea of god. Although diluted these days, society still leans towards god being good and godlessness being bad.

It's these times that I remember what it was like growing up under my mother's care. We were raised to do good, we were raised to be kind. We were taught that no child was bad. "You know," my mother would say, gesturing towards the homeless person standing in the median, "they were once someone's baby. Someone handed that baby all bundled up to their mother. Someone loved them so much. That's someone's baby." And we always gave something -- a dollar, some water, kindness -- to someone's baby. When I brought home friends with empty bellies and broken hearts, friends who came from shattered homes and dim futures, my mother fed them. She let them find a safe space in our home. She watched their bands play when their parents didn't show. I'm a parent now, and my child knows my arms are his safe space. He knows his ideas are never wrong or stupid. He knows that someone's hair color, skin color, tattoos, language spoken, religion, economic status -- these aren't things that define a person. He will grow to know that we don't give up on people no matter their appearance, their past mistakes, their addictions or failures or successes, because love and kindness are magic on Earth.


My son, too, will grow up saturated in kindness -- and not because if he is unkind he will be punished eternally, but because kindness, love and being a good person is the way everyone should be. You know, on principle. Because everyone deserves an equal shot at happiness and everyone deserves to be loved.


Sometimes, my godlessness feels like a secret. A dirty one. The kind of secret you can only tell your closest friends who have known you so long that they have no choice but to like you forever at this point. The thing is, it's not a secret and it's not a point of shame, but a point of pride. For every person who tells me what a great mother I am, what a great person I am, what a great friend I am, how inspirational my family is -- it is because they see me and feel that way still. They see me for who I am, the outspoken mama who isn't afraid to be a voice for someone who has lost theirs, and they feel that way because you don't need god to be a good person. Because even though Brad from LFO grew up to be an anti-choice evangelical, antagonistic pain in the ass (it wouldn't have worked out anyway, Brad, sorry to break it to you, dude), I'm going to opt to be the friend who holds your hand when you walk into Planned Parenthood to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and I'm still going to hold your hand when you carry a fetal anomaly pregnancy to term. I'm going to give the homeless what I can and teach my son the power of love, the power of kindness and the power of holding others up. I'm going to keep living my life, with my clear conscience, as I always have because the world needs more kindness. It needs more warmth. It needs more goodness and gentleness and friendship and acceptance. That's my goal, as it always has been. More love. More Kumbaya.

You see, my daughter isn't in heaven. I've had to explain this a lot lately, an automated response to people who blurt out these painful statements disguised as comfort based on beliefs that we don't hold. She's not in heaven, she's an in urn on the mantle. I'm looking at her photograph as I write this, her tiny urn to the left of it, silver with blue teddy bears etched on the sides. She's here with me. I don't believe in heaven. I don't believe I will see her again, or ever see her alive for that matter, and that is why her short live matters so. If you believe in heaven, I will hold your hand as you mourn the life of your loved one and I won't tell you where I believe your loved one is, because it's irrelevant to your comfort. Oftentimes, I find myself in a disagreement with others over who is right and who is wrong when it comes to my daughter. "But she is in heaven, she is." "Please, don't do this. Don't say that. She isn't in heaven." "Yes, she is, whether you like it or not, she is." "Stop." "No, because she is." And then I am supposed to nod and thank someone for crushing my broken mama heart into pieces tinier than I already believed it to be, because they're making me feel better even though they're not and then I feel it: the anger. I don't want to feel the anger anymore. I want to feel the impact that Wylie's life made on my own, and on our family, and raise up her memory with pride and kindness and strength and to let her legacy stitch together a blanket that brings more warmth to this world. Kindness has always been the backbone of our family and Wylie's life and legacy are no exception. Kindness first, love always. With or without god.

...And with Brad from LFO.

Because let's face it, you never forget your first love.

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lost time

It's been quiet around here on the blog and it hasn't been intentional. Summer is in full swing around here. Our days are long and full and we're also in the throws of what can only be described as a time of chaos at my husband's job. It's been just me running everything around here and it shows. My husband is the organized one in the relationship (and the piles of laundry and tumbleweeds of cat hair exemplify that). I've had many posts to write but am trying to not eliminate sleep completely from my schedule so I'm letting the posts come as they're able to. As the chaos winds down around here, hopefully I'll have more time to write.

In my absence, Ethan turned four on the 22nd. Watching my baby grow into this beautiful, inquisitive little boy continues to be the greatest experience. Lately the child in him completely sweeps up any little crumbs of baby that have been left behind. At this point, I don't know if our baby having and raising days are numbered and my inability to cope with the unknown helps me to stay in the present. I am very much enjoying being a part of Ethan's present. His strong will oftentimes feels like my backbone and his laughter is like medicine to my soul on days where I feel like I don't know what I'm doing. Already, four has thrust me headfirst into so many scenarios where I find myself questioning if I actually do know what I'm doing and, more often than not, I decide that I don't. Deciding to redshirt Ethan in school is the first big (and socially unpopular) decision I've made as his parent; the first time I've felt like I'm swimming upstream while everyone else is headed in the opposite direction. While most of Ethan's peers will begin VPK this fall, Ethan will be headed into another round of homeschool preschool with me and I'm relieved and confident in the decision (and also secretly glad that many of his closest friends have birthdays after the cut off so he isn't entirely losing his entire realm of playmates).

Most recently, Ethan has added music class to his repertoire and is loving it with the intensity that I always knew it would. For a year he has been begging to start music classes and after trial and error, we have found ourselves the perfect fit. The bulk of our days are usually still spent in the water which remains Ethan's happy place and ensures that we usually always smell of chlorine and sunscreen and that my car typically reeks of wet towels baking in the Florida heat. You get used to the latter, I swear.

Ethan's actual birthday was spent at Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach where he fed animals and braved the heat and showcased a new development of his four year old self: his bravery, as he hopped up on the rides without hesitation. At four, there's a solid chance Ethan will answer you back if you say hello to him and, even if he still requests my presence as he does so, he even enjoys making new playmates at the park. Most recently, Ethan spent a solid hour playing with a little girl at the park who only spoke Creole. When asked how he managed to play with someone who didn't even speak the language, Ethan sighed knowingly: "we both laughed!" I lose count of the times he makes my heart flutter with pride, with joy, with peace in knowing that he's so much more precious and beautiful than he knows.

I'm ready for four, for another year of adventure and Ethan's reassurance that I've got this. Even when it doesn't feel like it.

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