My oldest child came home from school with a permission slip for his first ever field trip. "I don't want to go," he says, "because you're supposed to get on a bus without a parent. I want to go if you take me." The weight of this field trip with it's taunting permission slip that sits on my table unfilled out (as there's no way I'm putting my Kindergartener on a bus and sending him off on a field trip without me) -- well, it's crushing. I stop thinking about it just long enough to watch my 18-month old pull a stack of paper onto the floor, following it up with an avalanche of crayons that never made their way back into the container in which they were supposed to be put back into yesterday. My youngest is more independent than my oldest ever was, even now at eighteen months when she'd rather eat ice-cream with her fingers than ask me for help with the spoon that keeps getting stuck in the thick, white scoops of vanilla Ben & Jerry's. My oldest remains more attached still, just slightly seeking out enough independence to give me anxiety in that "what do you MEAN you don't need me to walk you all the way into your classroom?" kind of way. My oldest would sit and paint for hours, even as a toddler, but my youngest will humor me with a fifteen second crayon drawing before moving on to color the floor or walls or whatever is closest by. I'd say they're a perfect balance but maybe only if you replace the word balance with chaos and throw in a lot of love and laughter and high-pitched shrieking because that's apparently my toddler's favorite tone to speak in lately.

Still, the bassinet that I carefully picked out when my Kindergartner was an embryo inside my uterus sits in the garage. I've humored my husband that I'm going to sell it, listing it for way more than it's worth and acting surprised when no one bites. We could use the space in the garage, of course, and I'm sure there are new parents out there who could use a bassinet but I cannot part with it. For most other mothers, this often means "we don't know if we're finished having babies yet." It's probably the hottest topic of playground conversation: how to know if you're done having kids while surveying other moms to figure out who still has reproduction on the table. The thing is this: we're done having babies. We're done having babies because life told me I had no choice but to be done having babies, whether from my womb or someone else's. The extra room I always said we would have a closet built into to turn it into a bedroom will forever remain some mixture of a playroom, Lego workshop and Room To Keep Clutter. We'll never get to pluck any of the baby names we've stuffed up into our brains and see them in print on another birth certificate. We'll never get to decide who gets to make the bottle and feed the baby at 2 a.m. and soon, before we know it, I'm sure, we will never buy another box of diapers.

I've been thinking about this a lot: the lasts. When did it become the norm for my oldest to walk alongside the grocery store cart and not ask to ride? When was the last time he sat in the cart, balloon in one hand and cookie in the other? When was the last time he wore a diaper, even? The lasts all blend together underneath the mess of the chaotic days and eventually you adjust to the sleep deprivation and you just sort of accept the new normals as they come. I'm there now, facing my issues of permission slips and field trips and open houses while juggling a toddler's dance classes and gym classes and no-longer-monthly well-visits. Never will I ever bottle feed a baby again, or have that moment where I get to see my baby for the first time and think this is it, here you are. Never will I ever get to sit through another mommy and me class with infants sprawled across blankets as tired new moms discuss milestones and how much (or how little) sleep they got the night before. That phase of my life is over, even if by no choice of my own, and as much as this phase of life is beautiful and wonderful and perfect, I will always be able to feel the ache.

I will forever miss the normalcy that was robbed from me when my baby wouldn't make it. I will miss the children we never got to have, the ones I had in mind when I insisted upon bench seating for our larger than life dining room table when we were just twenty-one years old. And, I know, one day I will look back and miss -- with the same dreadful ache -- the Kindergarten years, the toddler years, the high-pitched dance parties to DMX and Andrew McMahon in my living room while dinner burns in the oven. I will miss permission slips and field trips being my biggest worries. I will miss having to clean crayon off of the walls and the floor and the mirror and the side of my car (I'm still not sure how that happened). The ache will be there, buried underneath the memories from this phase of life, too. I put a lot of stock into being present in the moment but I'm realizing each day just how very valuable memories themselves are.

Onward. With the unbelievable joy, the laughter, the chaos and the aches that become a part of you -- onward. Because that is the greatest gift life can give you.

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hurricane days

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, schools are closed in our county through Monday. Ethan was devastated to hear the news, wishing instead that he could be back at school with his classmates and his teacher and having specials ("I didn't even get the full week of art class!"). He was excited to turn in the sentences he'd written at home and he wanted to return The Polar Express and check out a new book at the school library. He is a serious Kindergartener now, of course, and I think he feels a little frustrated for this bump in his sweet, enjoyable Kindergartener day. A break in routine is hard for kids, which I know. He was finally into this wonderful groove at a new school and making new friends and, bam, hurricane. Selfishly, though, I am loving having both kids home. It would be a little more interesting if things were open -- like the zoo, museums or even the parks, which are all closed save for one -- but we're doing the best with what we've got.

It's hot out. Everything is closed, the traffic lights are out and a bubblebath is basically the best idea for fun around here these days. Carmen, however, is loving having her brother home and despite his deep concern for being out of Kindergarten all week, I think Ethan might be having fun, too. In so many ways, he is like me: a planner, down to the last detail. He makes lists and schedules and spontaneity kind of freaks him out. All that said, I'm pretty proud of him and how he's gone with the flow on our post-hurricane week at home.

Carmen has been waking up early, seeking out her brother from the moment her eyes open (usually hours before his). The bond that they have is unbreakable and, if nothing else, it gives me a little bit of peace as a mother. I'm enjoying this week of downtime and sibling bonding and making our own fun out of backyard treasure hunts and finger paint projects. I always think of how long I believed Ethan would never get to be a big brother and then now, here he is, being the big brother dreams are made of. That feeling is one I've gotten to carry close to my heart all week, and it's been the peace my days are rooted in.

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To my children:

I will love you every one of your days. The bad ones, when your heart aches and you haven't showered in days and your hair is matted and sweaty and unkempt. The good ones, when you land that new job or win that trophy or any of life's little victories that make you beam in the wonder that is your worth. I will love you for these and for all of the days in between: the mundane, routine days of wake and dress and school and bedtime and repeat. I will love you when you fail, when you falter, when you make mistakes that in hindsight you knew were mistakes all along. I will love you through all of these things because I have breathed in your wonder, because you are my children, because there is nothing in life more incredible to me than you.

You both have needed me to feed you and hold you and rock you to sleep and help you learn to sit and walk and read; for so many years, I have been so very needed by you. It has been me who holds the power to kiss away your boo-boos, to hold your hand when you visit someplace new; it has been me who gives you the bravery to sleep in your room at night when it seems too dark. You have needed me for so long that some days I feel depleted from being needed so much, the fullness of every moment of every day stinging at my eyelids until they simply must close. This being needed fulfills me and fuels me as well. Motherhood is complex and intricate because it matters more in my life than anything else in the world. You, my children, matter more in my life than anything else in the world. But one day you will not need me as much and I know this to be true, even if it's a truth so very far from my current reality.

When you look back on me, your mother, I hope you see strength. I hope you remember someone who never settled or made excuses. I hope you remember me as having fight in me that I struggle to find most days but know is there. I know it's there because of you. I've never felt particularly strong and I cower more than I stand up for myself in most situations but all I need to do better is remembering that you're watching me and that, as intimidating as it may be, I am the example you base your entire lives around.

When you are grown up, in the days when you don't need me quite so much anymore, I hope you are who you are because of your childhood and that that is a good thing. I hope you are happy and free and proud of your truest selves because of your childhood and the roots I gave you, the dreams I helped you form and the wings I insisted you soar with. I hope you are the strong, well-rounded, kind souls as adults that you are now as children because of your childhood, not in spite of it.

Tonight you both sleep soundly, the hum of your sound machines permeating from underneath your bedroom doors into the quiet of the living room. Tonight I hope you both dream with every bit of your imagination and heart. I hope you wake with not a care in the world and know -- truly know -- your worth as people. I hope you never question your talent or beauty or intelligence or grit or that you have what it takes to move mountains. May you wear that confidence and love in the same places I wear my own scars of insecurity. May your smiles always beam as bright as they do now, your eyes twinkling glimmers of hope into a world that feels dull more often than not. May you always run to me the way you do now, falling perfectly into my arms and knowing my embrace will hold you even when you're adults who are bigger than I am. I hope you go to sleep each night knowing that you are perfect the way you are, that you are unique gifts to this world and that we as a society are better for the dreams and kindness that you bring forward into this world. May you know that mistakes are worth making and that your stumbles give way to stepping stones that will take you to places greater than you could have ever imagined, but places that I've always known were meant for you. You have amazed me, both of you, since the days when you slept swaddled in my arms and slept for three hour stretches. You have amazed me since the day I became fortunate enough to be your mother and it is my greatest wish that you never stop amazing yourselves.

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Hurricane Irma made her way slowly through Florida over the last couple of days. For us here in Southeast Florida, her impact wasn't as scary as originally predicted. At the very last minute, she veered west and we were spared of most damages short of downed trees and light poles. When we still expected the storm to hit as a category 4 or 5, we packed up the kids, the pets and our valuables and headed to my parents house about ten minutes down the road.

Packing up your stuff is hard. Deciding what to take and what to leave is tricky when there's a good probability you'll return to ruins, or close enough to it to forever scar your children. I spent most of the days leading up to the storm packing up the kids rooms and worrying they would return home to floods and debris. Ethan decided all he needed was his teddy bear, a ball he won at Monster Golf and a box of graham sticks. For a child prone to anxiety and worry, I was surprisingly pleased with how carefree he remained through the entire ordeal, even going to sleep without mentioning the wind that was howling outside the window.

We came back home to no damage and we still had our power on. The west coast of Florida, the Keys and the Caribbean weren't so lucky. My heart breaks for all of those who have returned home to ruins, who have lost their loved ones or their belongings in this horrible storm. I've heard a lot of people complaining about no power or superficial water damage or even branches that have dinged up a car on the driveway, but we were spared. We are lucky. And over the next couple of days when everyone's yards have been raked and the uprooted trees have been removed, it's our job to help others who weren't as lucky in Irma's aftermath. Onward, South Florida.

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unicorn bark

Both kids are sick, it's a long weekend and we are holed up in the house trying not to spread germs or drive each other totally nuts. Unlike during the week when I make myself crazy trying to get something that resembles dinner on the table so that everyone gets to bed at a reasonable hour (hello, school days), I now have some more time to try out recipes. As it turns out, I still loathe cooking even with all of the time in the world to properly measure out ingredients without worrying someone will fill up on veggie straws in the meantime. But the silver lining in it all is I had some more time to figure out the fun stuff, like snacks I can make for the kids since snack time is their favorite meal time, duh.

I made this unicorn bark without using any food coloring, just fruits. It was easy and fun -- except for the whole waiting-for-it-to-freeze part, which my six year old let me know was ruining his afternoon.

You'll need:

Yogurt (I used Stonyfield's organic vanilla yogurt)
Fruit (I did blueberries for the purple, strawberries for the pink and peaches for the orange)
Sprinkles for the topping (well, you don't need this, but I kind of think sparkles and glitter when it comes to unicorns)

I colored the yogurt by adding 2/3c of yogurt along with the fruit in the food processor. 2/3c yogurt + 1 handful blueberries, puree, pour into a bowl. 2/3c yogurt + 1 handful strawberries, puree, pour into a bowl, and so on. I added fruit until I got my desired shade of colors.

Add each color yogurt one heaping spoonful at a time onto a cookie tin lined with parchment paper. Don't forget to add some plain vanilla yogurt for the white! Once your colors have all been added, use a knife or a toothpick to pull the colors together and marble them, a little.

Add your sprinkles on top! If you want.

Cover the tray in plastic wrap and pop it into the freezer for a while. Ours took about 40 minutes to get fully frozen. Once frozen, break the bark into serving-size pieces.

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I created this blog the month we decided to try to have our first child. My first entry came shortly thereafter, when I learned I was pregnant. That was how life worked then: obnoxiously according to plan. There was nothing I couldn't plan and nothing I didn't know about pregnancy and childbirth. Of course, life happened and our little world and family spun a bit off course (to put it a little softer, anyway). I stopped being able to plan for anything at all and now, six years into this blog, that kid who began as a couple pink lines on a test is now an elementary school student.

Like most things in my Life As I Now Know It, I worried about elementary school for a myriad of reasons. There were the articles shared like wildfire on social media about the horror of school, of course, but there was also the fact that this sweet little precious baby was my baby and how am I supposed to bottle up six years worth of bonding and memories and fun and pass him off into the next phase? How, life? How?! Despite digging my heels, this one had an easy answer: because he wanted to go, and I had to follow him. Kindergarten came and in walked Ethan to a beautiful classroom in an incredible school with a magnificent teacher and he felt at ease. He goes in with a smile and he leaves with a smile and if I'm really lucky, I get a "guess what I did today?!" the moment our eyes meet at dismissal time. And that six year old? That tall, beautiful, incredible six year old boy who I had the privilege of spending six years teaching, nurturing, caring for? He's still my baby.

Kindergarten has been a lesson, for me, in soaking in the transitional period of childhood. That scary time when your toddler-preschooler hybrid loosens your grip and slowly begins morphing into an actual child who isn't as reliant on you as they once were. You see, there's still so much to take in during this phase. It's not all woe and sadness and longing for the meandering afternoons of cuddles and stories you've read again and again and again (and again). At this phase, I remember his Dallas Clayton hi-top Vans and the way he still needs me to tie them for him. I remember the after-school smell of sweat and the way he asks me to add things to the grocery list all of the time now ("next time you go to the store we definitely need more of this peanut butter"). While I miss the nights of laying with him until he fell asleep, which ended with his sixth birthday, I don't want to cry too much and miss the way he still needs me to check on him every few minutes until sleep comes. "Come back in one minute," he will say. Or "three minutes this time." Eventually I peek in and whisper I love you and he is fast asleep. At this stage, he loves puns and writing stories and asking questions that make you feel as if you're part of an interview of some kind ("what is the second best day of your life?" "Which do you like better, The Lumineers or Iron and Wine?").

Parents of older children are always assuring me that each stage is priceless. As each stage comes to an end, it seems so hard to believe that anything will be as precious and sacred as the phase we are about to leave behind. But that's the thing with children: they are made of magic, and every phase simply fades into a new one just as beautiful as the one that preceded it.

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starting over

Today my oldest child started Kindergarten -- but I can't even talk about that yet. I'm still trying to keep my mind focused on how adorable he looked at his table, nametag around his neck, coloring pumpkins with the fresh crayons tucked inside his little pencil case. The thoughts of him eating lunch in a big cafeteria or walking to and from specials inside a big elementary school are too scary, so I'm trying to keep them at bay. Anyway, like I was saying. Today my oldest child started Kindergarten. I swear he was born yesterday, but in actuality he is six years old. He has two adult teeth already and he asks for privacy in the bathroom and he can read third grade level chapter books on his own, but he still climbs into my lap when he needs to feel safe and he still needs me to kiss his boo-boos when he hurts himself and in so many ways, he is still my little baby. Of course, I also have an actual baby who is still getting in her first teeth and learning the ropes of the world, like not to pick things up off the floor and stick them into your mouth. She still requires a nap on most days and still falls if she walks too quickly and she's still learning to communicate using words. After school drop off this morning, I took my baby to the mall to walk the interior perimeter as I used to do when her big brother was an infant and I didn't know anybody. It was exercise and it was air-conditioned and no one would talk to me, because I was one "hello, how are you?" away from losing my mind. (Kindergarten hurts, guys. It just does.)

Sometimes people say that I'm starting over. That Ethan goes off to school and instead of truly moving myself into this next phase of life, I instead move myself right back to square one. Diapers and feeding schedules and all of the chaos that accompanies a baby-baby, not just a Kindergarten-baby. Is it hard to move back to packing diaper bags and packing snacks and making sure the minivan is equipped with a baby carrier or stroller at all times? Is it hard to give up spontaneity for a nap? Well, yes. But harder yet is the thought of not having it at all. Any of it.

There was a great deal of time when I thought that I would never get to hold a baby of my own again. There was a large chunk of time when I thought that the two children I would have to parent would be my living one and my dead one; parenting one with attention and affection, and the other with memory and heartbreak. While my days of belly bumpdates and fetus-to-fruit comparisons died with Wylie, I would in fact get to be a parent again. It would take fight and grit and strength that I dug out of my brokenness, but it would happen nonetheless. Holding my daughter in my arms for the first time was magic, but seeing Ethan smile as he held her in his arms for the first time was vindication. It was joy again, rising up from the dead and pressing the resume button on a life that felt painfully paused. I am grateful for every minute of it. I'm grateful that I showed up to Kindergarten drop-off with a stroller in tow and smashed-up sandwich on my shirt. I'm grateful that I am waiting out naptime writing this, a load of wash in the washing machine and tonight's dinner already in the oven, and when I press publish I will return to creating tot school curriculum just like I used to do during naptimes five years ago. I'm grateful for all of it because it's real life and messiness and goodness and stepping-on-yucky-fruit after feeling so numb for so long.

I couldn't imagine starting over, either. I couldn't imagine dusting myself off and starting over in an entirely different life than the one I thought I knew for 30 years. But thankfully I don't have to. I just got to press play after a little pause.

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In the six years I've been a parent, I've always believed in following the child. Attachment is often frowned upon, although in six years I've grown used to people's eyerolls when I say Ethan hasn't been left with a sitter or that I still lay with him until he falls asleep at night. I'm used to the way people like to lecture me that I coddle him or spoil him and need to "cut the cord." I've always believed that he would tell me when he was ready to seek out a little more independence and that's been true, as he always has. Still, independence burns at my heart despite me knowing it's on his terms and happening naturally (and confidently) thanks to our attached bond.

I remember the exhausting days when he refused to detach himself from my leg or wouldn't so much as look at other children who approached him on the playground. I blinked and he became the child surrounded by a crowd of eight other children on the school playground, holding hands and laughing and immersed in a game that they created together. Before bedtime, we talk about things that made us proud or made our hearts feel good (and sad, and mad, and all the other range of emotions one can feel in a day). The other night, he remarked that he felt "proud to be Ethan" and everything in me was overcome with peace. I remember just a few short months ago when he would lament how he was terrified no one would like him or would hide the silly riddles and big thoughts that his mind would think up. Now he runs up to children at the park and asks them if they want to hear a joke and, despite stumbling over the punchline, laughs through the entire delivery. The tremendous growth and the strides he has made in finding himself have made me feel peaceful and proud and have also made me realize the intricacy of motherhood at a level I hadn't before.

But it also hurts. Because this weekend, he went into the kitchen and made both of us lunch. He carried the clothing from the dryer to the couch and "folded" the towels before putting them into the linen closet. He asked for privacy as he washed up before bed and reemerged in his pajamas without even needing me to lay them out for him onto the bed. He turned down a trip to the museum on the start of his last week of summer to instead spend a day at his gym camp.

And these are good things. They are wonderful things because he has found his confidence and himself and he is growing! He is thriving! He is becoming the child he is meant to be at his own pace. He is excited for the future and letting me know that he is ready for more independence now, at age six. These are wonderful things! And they are the outcome I hoped for when I first cradled his newborn body in my arms and promised him I'd always be here, that I'd always be by his side, that we would nurture attachment and my job as his mother would be to follow his lead. But they still hurt because in all the ways he is ready, I am not ready.

I am not ready to drop my oldest child at Kindergarten despite the fact he is eager to see his classroom and meet his classmates, who he refers to as "my new friends." I am not ready to kiss him goodbye and watch him, backpack strapped to his back, walk into a classroom in elementary school. But he is, which he lets me know each day, multiple times a day, as he opens his organizer bins and double (triple, quadruple) checks that he has socks or clean underwear ready to go for his carefully planned out first day outfit. I am not ready for him to turn 7, or 8, or 17 and drive a car or have his heart broken or any of the other milestones that are to come. But I was not ready for him to turn 2, or 3, or 6, and still he does and still I follow him, letting him know I'm here as he should need me. Because that's my job, in all of its glory and sadness, and there is no better job in the world than to be his mommy.

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almost but not quite yet kindergarten

Every so often, I make a promise to myself to write more. I don't feel quite like myself in times when I don't write, but it gets complicated. Sometimes it's weird knowing my words are read by people I actually have to see in every day life (and when they don't like what I say, I get the awkward grocery store cold shoulder) -- or by people whose children my kids have a desire to play with. As Ethan gets older, I have to protect his privacy more than in the good old days of his tot schooling and potty training when his milestones were cute and universally understood by new parents everywhere. He is my number one support system when it comes to writing ("you should write books about Carmen and I, mommy") but he's also six. Still, writing gives me this feeling of peace that is unattainable anywhere else. I joined a boot camp, I've been slowly committing to decorating rooms in my house and staying on top of my laundry, but nothing compares to putting words and feelings down. There are just so many big feelings here, dying to come out.

Summer is basically over. I'm taking this extra hard because Ethan starts Kindergarten soon and I'm pretty lousy at changes in routine. I bought Carmen a shirt that says "say yes to new adventures" and cursed myself out under my breath as I tossed it in the cart because hello, I'm a hypocrite. New adventures are terrifying and scary and should be avoided at all costs by embracing sameness and hiding under the covers to avoid reality. Just me? Ethan is pretty stoked about Kindergarten and doesn't really seem nervous whereas I wake up at three in the morning having panic attacks about having to send my precious baby to a gigantic, actual elementary school. There are things that I don't like to admit to myself, and one of those is that unlike me, Ethan loves the idea of a class and being a part of a team. He's also pretty good about giving things an honest try, which is a quality I severely lack. So far his only apprehension has been that PE is a part of the curriculum (see? He is my child!) but he's even accepted that he may enjoy it after all.

Today, I cleaned out the drawers in a filing cabinet that has been stuck in a corner of our tot school classroom since we began, when Ethan was just 16 months old. I spent an hour bawling my eyes out as I combed through the artwork and projects that we had spent five years making. Ethan loved sitting with me and going through his old drawings and projects but "I'm not sure what you're crying about, mommy. I'll still make art at Kindergarten and when I get home, too." I try to explain to him the depths of a mother's love and pride and the bittersweet feeling that is a child growing up and becoming more independent, but he's six and so he doesn't understand. He hugs me and assures me that if I want to make him lessons and trays, he will humor me and do them so I don't have to cry.

I'm a little bit of a mess. That's nothing new. Time hasn't really made me bolder but regardless, children get older and I'm doing my best to put on a brave face and be convincing in my cheering from the sidelines.

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It's 5:03 a.m. and Carmen is barreling down the hallway holding a metal whisk in one hand and a plush baseball in the other. "Bruh bruh! Bruh bruh!" All the white noise machines in the world won't be able to stop her shrieks from waking up her brother, but still I try. "He's still asleep. He has to get some sleep, he has camp today." I redirect her to the living room. To the doll house. To the play kitchen. To her bedroom. To a pantry full of crackers and a refrigerator full of cheese and anything else she wants, oh my god, just take anything, as long as I can get five minutes to put on my pants and let Ethan sleep until at least 7. But she won't put down the whisk or the baseball. Not for anything will she put down the whisk or the baseball or give up her determined trek to the end of the hallway where her big brother (somehow) sleeps with the quiet humming of his white noise machine permeating from underneath the closed door.

Last week, Ethan invented a game called whisk ball where Carmen pitches him the ball and he whacks it with a whisk. The rules are still quite unclear, but they both run the bases (mulch, leaves and twigs found in our front yard) around the driveway together and then start again. Every evening in the lull after dinner and before bathtime, Ethan grabs the whisk and the ball and Carmen is right there at his feet eager to play. It's a little like magic, in those moments, even though the tired is usually burning at my eyes. Sometimes it still feels surreal to look up from where I'm sitting on the front doorstep and see these two playing their beloved game together, the laughter, the "I love you's," the nicknames. It's become normal, by now, the two of them and the chasing and the feeding and the chauffering and the classes and the naptime and the schedules. The newness has worn off and every day life becomes just that: every day life. At 5:03 a.m., as I'm chasing a wide-awake toddler down a hallway as she clutches a whisk and a baseball, it's hard to feel the magic over the exhaustion.

We made it to 6:50 a.m. without waking up Ethan, but soon he rolls out of his room with bedhead and a yawn. "Why is Carmen yelling?" He sits on the hall floor and wipes the sleep out of his eyes. She's yelling because she loves you, I think. She's yelling because she loves you so much and because her heart is so happy when she's with you and because she so very much cherishes the memories you make together. It's in the middle of these thoughts that I am able to feel the magic. These two. Despite the exhaustion and need for Starbucks and inability to find two minutes to put on a clean shirt, despite all of it, this is my greatest dream come true over and over and over again. Each time the whisk hits the baseball and two children collapse on the driveway in fits of laughter, it comes true again.

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I had all of these big plans for summer. That's how it always goes, right? Places to go, things to see and all that. Ethan, on the other hand, simply wanted to attend camp at his preschool. I understood his heart, of course. He is sad to leave his preschool and summer is for playing with your friends, which is what he gets to do at camp. The beach is still the beach in the fall, the zoo is still the zoo, the museum passes are valid all year -- but his preschool friends? Well, in the fall they all disperse to their respective schools and for many, that means Kindergarten. Like most things, Ethan is taking this short period before Kindergarten in stride (and I am not at all, like usual). He is excited to meet his teacher and see his classroom and while he says he is a little bit nervous, I am trying to follow his lead. This is just the next phase in the adventure.

Sometimes I feel like my kids are this mature, wise example that I'm supposed to follow. I'm clumsy and tripping and screwing up, but they've got this living thing down and transition from milestone to milestone without flinching. (And I fall on my face trying to follow them.) Carmen wakes up from her afternoon naps calling "bruhhhh bruhhhh" from her crib, knowing that it's just about time to pile into the minivan and pick him up at preschool. The sunniest part of my summertime is watching her face light up when she sees him on the playground.

We've been making the most of this summer, despite the chaos. The hypogylcemia and the hospital stay and the flu and all of the other nonsense that decided to tag along for a little bit. Mostly it's been hot, and mostly we've been spending time together trying not to melt. With the fall will come more regularly scheduled posts, and tot school, and routine...and Kindergarten. (Remember when I created this blog the day I learned I was pregnant with Ethan? Yeah, me too.)

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turning 6 is awesome: ethan's lego themed 6th birthday party

Ethan had his sixth birthday party this past weekend. He asked for a Lego theme and (because I'm his mom, duh) was very hands-on in the planning this year. This was his first year in school, and so he had so many friends to add to the guestlist. Having a summer birthday is hard because you never know if your school friends will be in touch or if they'll be traveling, but he was so excited that so many of his friends from school showed up to party. Our venue was My Gym in Coconut Creek, Florida, as it is year after year -- it's our home away from home and you can't beat a My Gym party (we love you, Mr. Lee!). Instead of the Lego-printed plates and decorations, I tried to recreate my own primary color scheme and go from there.

My best friend's dad and my sister collaborated on these awesome wood cutouts. Ethan was so excited to have them at his party!

The favors were primary color play-doh tubs with custom Lego mini-figure shaped cookie cutters, which I ordered from Etsy seller Cookie Cutter Supply. I packaged everything up in bags that I morphed into Lego bricks with the help of a craft hole punch.

I had the banner printed on Vistaprint. The cupcake tower and the cake stand were both inexpensive Amazon purchases that I painted and decorated with Lego Duplo blocks. My sister drew the Lego faces on the two glass jars (the held hummus and ranch) that I had also painted yellow. Ethan built the napkin and silverware Duplo structures and I love that he added his own little touch to everything! For food, we had pizzas delivered but I set out an array of snacks in different primary colored bins and containers.

My sister donned a Lego Ninjago costume for the first half hour or so of the party as a special gift to Ethan. All in all, it was an awesome (see what I did there?) party!

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"Don't worry about the worst case scenarios."

I was told this four times within the first three hours we had been in the emergency room with Carmen. Machines beeped and buzzed around us, kids cried in stereo and I was holding the body of a toddler unrecognizable as my own. Carmen never stops -- "she has no chill," her big brother will say -- but in the ER, she was laying still in my arms, drifting in and out of sleep. The doctor came in to either deliver results or calm me down. She dabbled in a little of both. I quickly identified myself as the mother of a child who lost one baby already to a fatal heart defect and immediately, everyone understood that I knew that worst case scenarios can and do happen. What no one else could understand was the pit in my stomach at the prospect of it happening again.

Around me were mothers who listened to the doctors orders about their child's febrile seizures or stomach viruses with clarity and understanding. In my daily life, I refer to these parents as naive. Not in a bad way, either. I was naive once and I miss it all of the time, especially during those times when my child is laying across my lap hooked up to machines and tubes and catheters. I miss the ability to not panic, to stay calm, to wait to see what the doctor says in order to find a treatment plan. Instead, where my second baby should be sits my ability to replace calmness with the sight of the room in a funeral home reserved for children-sized urns and coffins. The crowded room with the gray carpet and cheery fluffy teddy bears stuck upon the shelves next to ceramic baby blocks and angel wings, a short perimeter to walk while deciding which box should house your child's remains forever. "She's going to stay in the PICU," explains the doctor but not without sitting by my feet and staring me in the eyes in hopes to zap up a little bit of the devastation I'm screaming into the room. I feel numb and cold and then the cheerful endocrinologist walks in and everyone is giving me a speech about Nick Jonas being a diabetic, too, and look at him. Look at Nick Jonas? This is the best we can do for parents who are just told their child has a 90% chance of being diabetic but the official diagnosis will come in the morning, but don't panic, because Nick Jonas.

We are admitted to the PICU and this is when Carmen comes back to life, and by two a.m. they have to close her into the PICU crib like a cage. A kind nurse with a gentle spirit rocks Carmen for me so I can pee and splash my face with water and shovel a fistful of contraband -- Pringles -- into my mouth, thanks to a friend who made sure I was equipped to adequately eat my feelings in the hospital. The morning comes and diabetes is taken off the table. Thoughts of Nick Jonas in all of his glory have been replaced by a suggestion it may be epilepsy, and I am flung into a whole new world that has no celebrity spokesperson. "They even have dogs! Kids love dogs," offers a nurse trainee and I resist the urge to throw Carmen's entire breakfast tray at her face.

Moments later, they are strapping electrodes on my child's head to test for epilepsy. The doctor is cold and quick and won't answer my questions. I promise myself I will eat Doritos from the vending machine later if I don't google epilepsy. "She might not die from it, you know, there are safety precautions in place," says the doctor on his way out the door. She might not die from it, I think, is the new Nick Jonas.

The next day they take epilepsy off the table and the cold doctor is again replaced by the cheerful endocrinologist who believes it is ketocic hypoglycemia. It ends up being a correct diagnosis. We are moved from the PICU to the regular peds floor, which means Carmen can walk the halls and play in the playroom and I can have visitors. I never want the visitors to leave. "Get some sleep," my mom would say before she left and I would resist the urge to throw myself in front of the door and beg her to not leave me. "It's my son's birthday soon," I would tell the nurses as they came in, "we have to get home." Some nights her sugars were low, but not as low as they were the morning she couldn't wake up at home, and I'm told I'm going to be shown how to test her sugars at home. I can't even put my own earrings in because I'm too squeamish, so I prematurely just cry.

But then the time comes when she is able to be unhooked from her IV fluids for 24 hours without it affecting her sugars. We are given a feeding schedule from a dietitian, and the endocrinologist calls us in a glucometer. I practice the finger pricks on my husband and we are sent out into the world with a list of times to test her sugars at, all night long. All. Night. Long.

My husband and I haven't slept in two weeks and I think my body has just adapted to the sleeplessness. My phone alarm sounds at 2 a.m. and we roll out of bed, a routine in place, washing hands and waking up a baby that just wants to sleep. If her sugar is too low, we have the daunting task of feeding her until it rises -- yes, feeding the toddler who just wants to go back to sleep. Some nights this is easier than others. Some nights we are awake from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. because she is just so confused as to if it's morning or not or why she's being forced to eat yogurt or drink a smoothie or juice. Once you let yourself fall back to sleep, it feels like seconds before the alarm sounds again. And repeat (and repeat and repeat).

She is doing well, and (not to jinx it) hasn't had an issue with low sugars for the past two days. We recheck with the endocrinologist on Monday. Life has morphed into normal, or a new version of it, one with scheduled snack breaks and blood sugar tests. I'm still trying to adapt and figure it all out, day by day, with lots and lots of coffee in hand. It's summertime, and we're soaking up the sunshine as best we can.

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mother's day

Mother's Day rolled in with it's (thankfully broken) promise of all-day thunderstorms and accompanying chaos. We made it to the beach before nine o'clock in the morning, thinking we would have to beat a rainstorm that never actually ended up being more than looming black clouds on the horizon. We ventured to a beach just minutes away from where Carmen was born, and it was hard to not think of the woman who will always bear the c-section scar from the surgery that pulled my daughter from her body. I certainly couldn't answer any of the cutesy Facebook questionnaires about peeing when I sneeze or epidurals or if "daddy" was in the room during my delivery (also, no thank you on that heaping helping of heteronormativity), but none of that is what it means to be a mother. In my own heart, birth is the least of what makes someone a mother and that much is apparent in the day-to-day moments that come with mothering Carmen. Yet a little over one year ago only minutes from where Carmen splashed in the Intracoastal yesterday, another woman had only her birth to claim her motherhood.

Life and all of it's intricacies, all of the constant remolding we go through to be humans -- some days it's all more apparent than others. Perspective shifts and feelings that tap at your heart but for which you have no adequate words to explain to others.

Sometimes I pee when I sneeze, but the cause of that is not my son born via c-section as much as it wasn't my daughter born to another woman's body. It was thanks to the delivery of the child who died and was born nearly three years ago on a date that is creeping up quicker than I'm ready for. My wedding anniversary and also the day that we said goodbye to the baby who never got to come home with us. Motherhood -- it simply cannot be defined in saccharine Pinterest quotes or graphics about coffee consumption. Motherhood throbs deep inside my veins and defines who I am despite the journey that spun me around until I was too dizzy to really answer that for quite some time.

My babies. These babies. These beautiful, fierce world-changers with their laughter and stubbornness. I can't get enough of them.

They are joy. They are peace. They are love. They are my motherhood journey, the roots that hold me in place.  photo signature_zps5tftxxmn.png

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