2k + w = love

This blog has been a little quiet, I know. The older Ethan gets, the harder it is for me to keep this blog as detailed as I did when he was a baby. I try to keep this blog an honest representation of our lives -- of my life, as messy at that feels at the moment. My promise to myself is to just keep this blog for me, for it to be a place to spill my guts (and help others) and, of course, to share my tot school curriculum because I've signed on for an additional year of homeschooling come the fall when Ethan will not be joining his similarly aged pals for pre-K. Anyway, I'm rambling. There was a point to this post, I swear.

This weekend, we had a visit from a few really special people. When I first lost Wylie, my grief counselor warned me that grief was isolating. At the time, I was surrounded by a support system who was reeling in shock, horror and sadness about what our family had gone through. The support felt endless. As time went on, most people returned to their own lives or were just unable to reach me. I say often that it feels like I now speak an entirely different language from the general population. This aided in the isolation, the fact that it felt there was always some kind of barrier in between myself and whoever was speaking to me. On one particular desperate night, I reached out to a stranger on Facebook because their profile photo was one I recognized, one with a quote about pregnancy and infant loss. One that said that this person, too, had been through what I had. This stranger was kind and seemed to also speak the language that I was sure that only I spoke. She invited me to a Facebook support group where each member was also fluent in this same language. I'm rambling (I do that, if you haven't noticed), but the point of my meandering little story is that I met these two incredible ladies and they drove for hours this weekend to be able to join me for the Healing Hearts Angel Walk, the first memorial walk we were participating in for Wylie.

Krissy and Rebecca have been continual sources of inspiration, joy and strength in my life and in my own struggle. They are people I can vent to, people who respond with "I know" instead of "that's not what they meant" or "they meant well." Although Team Wylie was registered today at the walk, I was walking for not just my little girl but for Katy and Kenley too.

We spent this weekend as if we'd known one another forever (and eating ridiculous amounts of junk food, too, but that's allowed) and tonight I'm feeling a little renewed. My heart feels a little lighter. As time creeps closer to what should be Wylie's first birthday, I feel as if this weekend was an outlet and a time to be a kindred spirit instead of an outsider. I felt a little human this weekend. I felt a little, well, normal again.

The Angel Walk is an annual walk put on by the Bobby Resciniti Healing Hearts Foundation. I can't thank everyone enough who donated on behalf of Team Wylie or those who came out to walk in her memory today. It meant more to us than you know to have your support. There really isn't any greater gift than keeping Wylie's name alive. One of the speakers at today's walk, Mitch Carmody, said something that resonated deeply with us: "turning loss into legacy." That's all I want, my daughter's legacy to live on and be as beautiful as she was. As I've said before and continue to say, she may not have had her whole heart but she will always have mine. It's never going to be good enough, of course, but I will make it the best it can be. I know I speak on behalf of every parent who has lost when I say it's what we all want. We want our children's names, memories, legacies to live on and shine brightly. Thank you to everyone who helped Team Wylie do just that today.

I heard a lot of people mention sadness today, as they usually do when someone speaks of loss. Death is sad always, and the death of a child is senseless and tragic on top of everything else. I get it, I do. While I am devastated that anyone else has to know the feeling of living the rest of their life without their child in it, I still somehow found immense comfort in today. I found hope and joy and the ability to breathe a sense of relief in that I'm still able to fit in somewhere. Before today I was beginning to question if it would ever truly be possible to feel like I fully fit in somewhere again.

And in case I didn't say it enough, thank you to these couple of crazies for taking the trip down here to South Florida to be with me at the walk. We share something in common that no one wants to have in common, that I don't want anyone to ever have to feel, but I'm so grateful to know you. I love you both more than cookies and cupcakes and ice cream and, well, even more than Doritos. That's love.

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eco-friendly crafting time with re-play recycled

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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the one with the reprieve

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

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

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

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motherhood + criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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mending the broken spirit

Somewhere around age 1 1/2, Ethan began swim lessons for the second time. We tried swim classes when he was an infant but the dunking and aggression just didn't jive well with him (or us). We gave our city's local aquatic complex a shot when we re-enrolled him that second time and, by dumb luck, were matched with a teacher that just spoke to Ethan's heart. His swim teacher was incredible both in terms of personality and what she did for her students. Within a couple of weeks, she was able to turn my timid, nervous wall-clinger into an actual swimmer. Ethan was swimming -- honest to goodness swimming -- and it completely blew my mind. Most importantly, he was loving his time in the water. The more his teacher helped him hone his swim skills, making way for new achievements such as diving to the bottom or perfecting his "swimming arms," the more time he desperately wanted to be in the water to practice and work at it harder. We can swim for survival, but neither my husband nor I are swimmers so this love of Ethan's was such a shock to both of us. Still, as his parents, we encouraged him to do what he loved. At around 2 1/2, he was swimming with his teacher three times a week, sometimes four. Once he turned three, he was required to be bumped up into the next age bracket. This meant losing Ethan's beloved swim teacher (despite my begging and pleading). It ended up working out okay, because Ethan hit the swim instructor lottery in the next class as well. His new swim teacher quickly formed a special bond and they became instant friends for the two sessions he had with her -- and then she moved.

It was all downhill from there.

Ethan was assigned a new swim instructor who just didn't mesh with his personality. Let's be real, she didn't mesh with ours, either. I was only a couple months out from having lost Wylie and we were all feeling a little fragile, Ethan included. Her "tough love" and firmness wasn't working for him. Months earlier we were discussing swim teams and private lessons and then I sat there listening to my child scream and start to resent the very hobby he loved so much. Week after week, he would plead with me to not make him go. As I listened to this new teacher inform my child that big boys don't cry and other shameful disciplinary measures that don't fly in my book, I made a decision that I felt was right: I pulled him out of swim class. There were many parents who didn't agree with me and that's okay. The very activity he loved the most was quickly becoming something he dreaded and feared.

That swim instructor broke Ethan's spirit that summer. He refused to get into a pool after that, screaming and becoming hysterical when I even proposed the idea of a swim playdate with friends. It was a frustrating time for me as his parent, not knowing the right thing to do and desperately wanting to fix it.

After taking a year off from swimming, I asked Ethan if he wanted to visit one of our local community pools this afternoon. He was really excited to go, but became immediately timid when we walked up to the water. "Hold me, mommy. Don't let go." I held him in the shallow end for a half an hour, the smile on his face growing into fits of laughter. "Mommy, let go of me." His request came out of nowhere but, a half hour in, I let go and watched him swim the length of the pool to the other side, coming up midway for a breath of air. He swam for an hour and a half until the pool closed, the sky growing dark and the water feeling uncomfortably cold (to me, Ethan didn't seem to have an issue). "Mommy, I want to do this every day. I want to live in the pool. I want to live in the pool and do this every day."

It seems silly to feel so joyful about two hours in a community pool, but there is peace in my heart tonight in knowing Ethan's spirit has healed. It was broken, but it has healed. It felt so good to watch him rediscover his love for the water.

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every minute of this

On some nights when it's quiet and I'm about to drift of to sleep, I begin to think about the way I parented before loss as opposed to the way I parent now. Curiosity calls me to try to weigh the differences, try to detect any changes in the way I do or think or feel things when it comes to being a parent now versus then. I haven't been able to pinpoint many differences but there has been the slightest bit of change that sprouted up in the moments following us saying goodbye to our daughter: I know I'm right. It isn't about arrogance so much as it is clarity, so much as it is about confidence and tuning out the static and letting love take the lead.

I've always nurtured Ethan to the point where others felt it their place to scoff. "You coddle him," they said. "He'll never sleep on his own," they said. "Are you going to rock him when he's in college?" I'd disregard their words and yet still hear them, maybe the tiniest bit, ringing in my ears as I held my baby in my arms. As his long legs fell over the sides of the rocker, as his soft breaths served as the bass line to the Jewel songs I would sing him, I would think, "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this." When he turned two and a half and asked us to stop rocking him, to instead lay by his bed and rub his back as we sang him to sleep, people would ask me if I sleep trained him yet. They would ask me when enough was enough, when I would let him learn to soothe himself to sleep. "You're making a huge mistake," they would say. As I kissed his messy, wavy hair and let my fingers gently scratch his back as he slept, I thought the same: "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this." It was the same for homeschooling, for redshirting or for keeping him home with me in general well past the age most children stay at home with their mothers. "Don't you think he needs time away from you?" "Don't you think some separation would be nice?" "Don't you think he needs school?" Sometimes the floor would be laden with Legos and I would hear the stress pounding in my temples and there would be an overturned cup of water on the dining room table and there would be a three year old little boy asking me to reassure him that accidents happen, mommy. I didn't spill the water on purpose. And I would take him in my arms and feel his quick, tearful breaths against my clavicle and I would think "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this." There would be the trips to Target with the bartering (yes, you can bring the Lego boy with you but no, you cannot take an entire box of crackers in the car) and the mid-aisle tantrums and the "go away, mommy" that would turn into a "I have the best time when I spend time with you, mommy" just seven minutes later. And I would let those words speak to my soul and sop up the tears in the corners of my eyes that I was intently trying to ignore. I would take my three year old boy in my arms and kiss his forehead and I would think "I love every minute of this. Maybe I am making a mistake, but I love every minute of this."

But then I held my daughter's body in my arms and her skin was fair and cold. Her eyes were closed and I would never see them open, I would never see them glimmer with joy or tremble with sadness. I took in all the nevers in the moments that we held her: I would never hear her laugh, never hear her cry, never rock her to sleep, never sing her Jewel songs, never trade her some patience for a cake pop, never feel her soft breath into my clavicle, never know the her that would never develop -- the favorite songs, the sense of style, the favorite hobbies. I would get one day to take her wound up, coarse curls -- just like her daddy's -- in my hand and hold her close to me, breathing in her scent and memorizing the way her skin felt against my fingers. And as we walked into our home without her, I realized that I wasn't making a mistake.

Tonight my nearly four year old asked me to hold his hand as he walked down our dark hallway to use the restroom. He asked me to sing to him, to scratch his back as he fell asleep. He asked me to tell him about tomorrow and all of the adventures we could have when he felt better as he drifted off to sleep, slowly and softly singing along to the Jewel songs he'd come to know by heart by now. Got my eggs, got my pancakes, too. Got my maple syrup, everything but you.

And I thought I love every minute of this. My god, I love every minute of this.

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homemade all natural bathtub crayons

While I'm fairly certain Ethan and I are both 99.9% healthy by now, I'm waiting it out a couple of days just to err on the safe side and not share our germy germs with the outside world. It doesn't take much for us to both go a little stir crazy when stuck at home, and, well, this isn't our first rodeo being stuck at home sick this year so we've about reached the height of our cabin fever. Ethan was coloring at the dining room table and asked if he could take a bubblebath when he finished his drawing. I obliged and then randomly had an epiphany: tub crayons!

On occasion, I let Ethan pick some bathtub paint or bathtub crayons out of the dollar spot at Target. This is a rarity because the ingredient list on these items makes my skin crawl a little bit, but he loves to take his art to the tub whenever he can. I surveyed my cabinets for a few minutes and threw some things together to see if I could create a more natural bathtub crayon void of unknown chemicals and toxins and shaving cream and other gunk.

I'm not sure who was more surprised, Ethan or myself, when the end result actually worked out -- and worked out great! Because I was winging this, I don't have the best measurements in place but if it's easy enough for me to wing it, it's not too easy to mess up. I do have a ton of empty lipbalm tubes because last year I decided I was going to start making lipbalms (spoiler alert: I didn't end up doing this) but if you don't have any lipbalm tubes (which are super cheap online and are great additions to our crafting), some silicone baking cups would probably work just as well, too. I liked having these in tubes because Ethan could twist up for more crayon when needed.

Here's what you need:
- Castile soap (I used Dr. Bronner's)
- Coconut oil
- Vitamin E oil (optional)
- Shea butter (optional)
- Essential oil (I used Auracacia's lemon oil for a bright, happy scent)
- Food coloring (the least natural part of the whole thing, I know)

To make:
- Add 1/4 tsp shea butter (optional) and 3-4 drops vitamin E oil (optional) in a small jar or glass (I used two baby food jars for this project)
- Add 1 teaspoon castile soap and combine
- Heat some coconut oil (I placed the jar in a pot of simmering water) until it melts to liquid
-Once liquid, add coconut oil to the mixture. Here's where my improvisation and non-exact measurements come in: I poured in enough coconut oil to fill just about half of a baby food jar -- I'd guess around 1/4c.
- If you're using silicone baking cups, this is when you can pour in your oil mixture into cups and stir 2-4 drops of food coloring in to each one. For my tubes, I used a medicine dropper to add 1 teaspoon of the oil mixture to another jar, add 2 drops of food coloring and then suck back up with the dropper to add to a lip balm tube.
- Pop tubes or cups into the 'fridge and let harden for about 45 minutes-an hour.

That's it, and then you're ready to go!

The best part of these is when Ethan colored the inside tub walls and inevitably the tub water washed the crayons away, the bath water became more like a luxury spa treatment. When Ethan was ready to get out of the tub, his skin was so soft!

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