About danielleridgway

Momma to an angel and a rainbow. Journeying through grief, parenting after loss, and living life one day at a time. Want to hear more from me? Follow me on Instagram: @danii_ridgway If you have any other questions or anything else, just let me know. Thanks for reading!

A Letter to the Man Who Helped Save Me.

Dear you, whose name I do not know:

Thank you is all I could say back to you, but I know you didn’t know the depth of those two words.

You helped save me from a twenty-four hours I don’t know how I survived. From a night filled with panic attacks to a little girl who wasn’t feeling her best, I was burnt out. Motherhood, although amazing and all these other great adjectives, can be draining. Days like yesterday was one of them.

So when you saw Mila walk in the store with her princess cup and train themed bear that she just had to take in, you saw it as me being a good mom. I saw it as just giving into a headstrong toddler, maybe a smidge of defeat. When you patiently waited for me to put her in the cart as she pointed to what seemed like every toy in the aisle (love the store in town, but why is the toy aisle the first one you see when you walk in?), I tried to calm down enough to slip her feet through the holes so you could put your cart back in. When I got her in you said it. The sentence that helped turn my entire day around…

You and all mothers just amaze me. 

I sighed in relief first because my anxiety told me it was taking forever to get Mila situated while you waited for me. My head had been playing games with me all day, but you kept going.

I don’t know how you mothers do it, but I’m glad you’re in the world. She looks like a happy girl, so you’re doing a good job. 

Thank you is all I could say. In reality, I could have cried because that’s all I needed to hear. Your kind words saved me. They helped me realize I’m doing the best I can do.

I hope one day I can run into you again and let you know how much your kind words meant to me.

Sincerely,

A mama who’s doing her best.

Goodbye to a Decade I’ll Never Forget.

I told myself I wasn’t going to do it.

Why subject anyone else to a ‘goodbye to a decade’ post? But here it goes…

I started this decade at sixteen. A time where most young boys and girls think they know everything about the world. Now at twenty-six, I realize I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

Since getting my license, I’ve:

  • been in love
  • traveled the world
  • had my heartbroken
  • found myself
  • graduated high school
  • moved away to college
  • traveled the world
  • moved back home
  • began a job I loved
  • worked and ‘colleged’ hard
  • roadtrips
  • made the best of friends
  • fell in love
  • traveled the world
  • graduated college
  • bought a house
  • got pregnant
  • had my heartbroken
  • Jensen was born
  • survived when I didn’t think it was possible
  • traveled
  • fell in love
  • got pregnant
  • learned how to mother a living child
  • traveled
  • learned how to live again
  • made mistakes
  • had my heartbroken
  • traveled the world
  • realized my worth

Plus a whole bunch of other adventures and life lessons I’ll never forget.

This decade has taught me so much about myself and then I had to relearn who I was again and again. It taught me to never give up and to always keep loving no matter what. It made me a mother. My favorite thing in the world. It will forever hold Jensen and I’ll continue to carry him into the next decades of my life. It holds part of Mila too and these crucial first years they I’ll forever cherish.

I don’t know what the next decade will hold, but I do know whatever happens, I’ll be able to keep going. I’m a mother and survivor. That’s what we do.

Goodbye 2019 and all of the 2010’s. Thank you for helping me become who I am today. Thank you for my babies and the memories. I’m not sad to see you go, but can never forget this time of my life. I hope by the end of this next decade, I’ll take every more adventures, love without limits, and be happy where I’m at in our life.

Wishing you all a happy New Years from my family to yours.

Mom Fail: Christmas Edition

Lately I’ve seen this image going around…

Not only do I appreciate everything my mom did for my brother and I growing up around this time and everyday, trying to make that magic happen for Mila has been exhausting but so worth it.

To keep the Christmas magic rolling, Mila, my mom, and I all made cookies. Every time we make cookies I have it in my head that they’ll be beautiful, Pinterest-worthy creations. We’re not the best at cookies, but I was feeling confident. Mostly because we bought pre-made cookie dough!

Mila was so into looking at the different shaped cookie cutters and even snuck a bite of cookie dough. She seemed pretty proud of that. We only cut a dozen or so cookies, which was plenty because she was ready to watch movies instead.

While they baked, I made hot chocolate and Mila ran my mom and dad around my house. Laughter and smiles filled the house. It started to smell like fresh baked cookies too. My confidence was skyrocketing.

When mom pulled the cookies out of the oven though, all I could do was laugh.

Our nicely cut out shapes, turned into blobs you could hardly make out what they were intended to be. One pan of cookies wasn’t even baked all the way. More laughter. I definitely wasn’t going to have the Pinterest worthy plate of cookies for Santa.

The thickest candy cane I’ve ever seen.

We totally failed at making beautiful cookies, but we didn’t on the memory front. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Anyways, I don’t think Santa will mind our Thiccmas cookies one bit.

Santa Encounter #2

We’re back! We had an awesome vacation and I can’t wait to share more pictures and stories soon, but Christmastime is here and there’s so much to tell.

After a fun filled vacation to Aruba, I thought it’d be a perfect time for Mila and Santa to meet again. Mom and I found this outfit, which was my moms when she was a toddler, this fall and I knew Mila had to wear it for her Santa pictures. She loved strutting in her little outfit and gave us the weirdest look when we told her Gigi wore it at one point. That big smile lights up the room and I had hope she would flash it in front of Santa too.

While we were gone, Mila was a social butterfly who gave others hugs and kisses and wanted to talk to anyone who’d listen. I didn’t think it’d be any different with Santa…

Like before… I was WRONG. Obviously.

Well, sort of half wrong. At this initial meeting, Mila did give Santa a hug and said hello. I thought the camerawoman told me she was ready for pictures to start… she was not. The hug would have been the perfect shot and she held on for just long enough to capture it, but the person was on their phone. She caught the moment after Mila realized I had walked away.

Although I may have giggled a little bit, I scooped her up and asked if she would take a picture with me in there too.

And that’s the best one we got.

The Santa actually thanked me after Mila ran straight to my mom when I let her down. He said more and more people get angry at their littles when they start crying and can’t get the perfect picture. I think it’s crazy that he thanked me for not getting mad at Mila because she didn’t take the ‘perfect picture.’

Motherhood is anything but perfect. Why would a picture be?

As much as I hated seeing her cry, I know she’ll look back and laugh and wonder why she was so scared of Santa. After the pictures were taken, she gave him a high five and told him bye bye. No, it’s not the smiling picture I wish it could have been, but it’s real.

Tears or not, Mila is loving this time of year and so am I.

Santa Encounter #1

This past weekend, Mila, my parents, and I walked down to Christmas on the Square. If you’re not local, it’s just a holiday inspired get together with a tree lighting and kid activities. It’s a nice way to see people in the community that you haven’t seen in a while. Everyone’s friendly and it’s one of the reasons why I love living in a small community. Along with all the fun things and people everywhere, the man of the season was there too: Santa Claus.

Seriously just wrote ‘Santa Claus’ in this dooming voice. If that’s any indication of how the rest of the story’s going to go.

Before seeing the big man, Mila was having fun. She’s pretty skeptical of other people, but was enjoying others talking to her and she got a bunch of cookies too. That upped the fun factor. After she started refusing to ride the ponies there, jumping in the bounce house for five minutes, and being over the cold, I spotted Santa.

I was weary she wouldn’t want anything to do with him, BUT there was no line or other kids waiting to see him. A seemingly perfect Christmas opportunity… or so I thought in my head.

It turns out, Mila is extremely anti-Santa and was paralyzed with fear when he went near her. While this was all playing out, my dad made sure to capture Mila’s encounter with Santa this year.

As you can see, it was not a positive one… at all. I’m hoping the next planned time to see him goes a hundred times better, but knowing Mila, it’s pretty unlikely.

Here’s to trying not to scar my child during her second Christmas!

Weird Things My Toddler Does: Part Two

Let’s admit it, toddlers a weird. Mine is no exception.

Like all kids, Mila goes through food stages. The flavor of this month: sliced salami. She eats it for lunch everyday with a slice of cheese and maybe some grapes. Sort of an odd choice of fav food, but that’s not the weird part about her latest obsession… she has to put it on her foot before she eats it.

Yeah, weird and gross. I literally watched her eat for twenty minutes today, while Frozen was playing for the thousandth time (another obsession lately). Every piece she laid on her toes and played with it before she got a nice, footy bite.

Notice how her other toes are glistening. I don’t know about you, but not a lot of people can say their feet smell like salami. At least she’s eating something, right?

I guess I’ll pick my battles with Mila, like her favorite girl Elsa says, I’ll let it go. But not before I share it with the internet.

What weird thing will Mila do next?

Christmas Bucket List 2019

Let’s just take a moment to celebrate the fact I’m finally done with this semester of school! The last few weeks to two months, I’ve been writing nonstop trying to get everything done. It’s been one of the hardest semesters, but I made it! If I’ve learned anything throughout my life, it’s been that I can get through anything.

Usually, I have all my Christmas stuff up Thanksgiving weekend. Even with all my pain the year Jensen was born, I still decorated my house before December started.

This year, well… it eventually got done.

Since I’ve loved doing bucket lists for Mila and I the last two seasons, I thought it’d be a lot of fun to make a Christmas-specific one. There’s a ton I want to share on here of what’s been happening, but I thought it’d be nice to share our Christmas season goals with you all. In case you’d like to do some of them too.

We have a busy few weeks ahead of us, but I can’t wait to make this Christmas special for our family.

And yes, we’re going to Aruba! If you’ve been there, I’m all for tips and tricks for taking Mila on a plane, out of the country, and to a resort!

This week, I’d love to make a post about how I include Jensen in our holiday traditions. Almost all of these items on the bucket list, he’s present and since it’s the fourth without him here, I’ve found ways to help have him close.

As always, please feel free to share any traditions you do with your family that might be fun for others.

One of our family Christmas pictures by Stein Creative Co.

Dear Jensen,

I’ve really slacked this year.

There was a time I wrote a letter to you every night. They were what I depended on – for so long. It felt like my one connection to you. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t write my day or thoughts down, then you wouldn’t know what was happening. When Mila came and I didn’t have a moment to write to you everyday, I felt broken. Like such a failure, but I started to realize… you were with us, always.

My ‘slacking’ hasn’t just been with your letters, it’s been with writing in general. ESPECIALLY for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I used to post and write every.single.day but this year has been so different with what life has in store. Maybe next year will be another story.

As the days, weeks, months, years have passed, there have been constants. I miss you every single day. Sometimes I just find myself wondering what color your eyes were and how you would be with Mila. When I get overwhelmed with her antics, I think of how much I wanted them with you to settle myself. That’s another constant, picturing you. Always. The longing and wondering can hurt, but they bring me comfort too. Most of all, my biggest constant is loving you.

I’ll never be able to accurately describe my love for you. It’s different form loving Mila or family or anyone really. There’s so many levels. The memories. The loss. The remembering. The surviving. The… you. Through it all, you affect every aspect of me and how I handle situations I find myself in. It’s sort of insane how one baby, one son, the one you have changed my life, forever. And all of it’s centered from the love I have for you.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I couldn’t imagine my life without the time I spent with you. Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for showing me how deeply I can love. Thank you for helping teach me how to hold on to the good moment and breathe through the bad.

I promise to keep doing the best I can do, while holding you in my heart everyday. I wish I could’ve had more time with you. I wish I could see your eyes looking into mine and feel your hand holding mine.

You are one of my favorite parts of myself and I’m so proud to call you my son.

I love you so much.

Your mama.

Family Portrait – Capture Your Grief

This is my family: Mila, Jensen, and I.

Our family portraits will never look ‘normal,’ but they’re perfect to me. They’re still full of love and an actual representation of who we are as a family.

Story time.

I was being brave today. This whole month I’ve felt exhausted. In the middle of potty training Max AND Mila (yes, I will post those adventures soon), doing school work, and trying to get back in the swing of subbing, plus everything else, I found myself neglecting what actually means a lot to me… Capture Your Grief. Every October I’ve done my best with it and this one, I just have been doing what I can do.

When I saw today’s prompt, I told myself I was 100% participating and going to get a picture of us. I picked out Mila and I’s outfit and Jensen’s bow. We grabbed our fall stuff and a big blanket to take outside. For like 15 minutes, I was in the backyard finding the perfect spot while rigging a stand up for my phone to sit…

I wanted it to be perfect with a fall background and all of us looking in the camera. Let’s just say… that didn’t happen.

Toddler’s aren’t the best at taking direction and Max wouldn’t sit still and Mila kept taking Jensen’s bow off and it seemed impossible to run back and get us all set up in time in a matter of ten seconds.

Did I feel a little defeated? Yes. But, I looked at Mila and held Jensen bear close to me and realized the most important people in my life didn’t care about a picture. They cared about me and know I’m doing my best. I let grief and stress and feeling like a bad mom get the best of me. It happens to all of us and that’s okay.

After my moment, I squeezed Jensen bear again and got Mila to come sit with us. I was going to get this picture no matter what and what’s wrong with a selfie?

This is our life. It’s three and a half years of grieving and a year and a half of parenting after loss. It’s one full of love and craziness. One that the only thing I’d change is having Jensen physically here with us.

I love our little family portrait today. My littles are in my arms and close to my heart. I’m smiling and everything is going to be just okay.

Kisses for Jensen.

Mom Fail: Escape Edition.

This is Mila and Max.

Separated, they’re both so adorable. Together, even cuter, but mischievous. Fortunately they get along GREAT, which leads them to having a lot of adventures together. Some not completely okay’d with me.

As with many of Mila’s adventures, I wanted to share her latest way she almost gave me a heart attack. After breakfast a few mornings ago, Mila and Max were playing inside of his kennel, so I decided to go do some laundry. Mila was in just a diaper and I was still in my pajamas. It was a quiet morning and while I was throwing clothes in the dryer, I sort of realized how eerily silent it was. Usually when they play, they’re making some sort of sound or Mila is giggling so loud.

I finished up what I was doing and took my time getting back to check on them. It was sort of weird when they didn’t run back to see what I was doing, but I didn’t think anything of it. When I walked back to the living room and didn’t hear them, I started to worry a little. Then I walked to where Max’s kennel is… they weren’t in there. Even worse, the baby gate AND the back door was open.

Insert panic here.

Everything inside of me was hoping they were outback playing. We’re outside a lot so it would make since they were just there, but the backyard was empty. I took off to the front of the house and looked down the alley.

There they were.

Mila was running down the street in just her diaper after Max. They were about halfway up the road. I yelled for them which only just caused Mila to laugh and run faster. Thankfully we live in a small town and on a quiet street. Still, I took off running, barefoot with my back foot still wide open after them.

I caught up to Mila who looked happy as could be. She informed me she was going to ‘Gigi,’ which is what she calls my mom. My parents live around the block and we walk there almost everyday. They know their way and she pointed to the house.

Max kept running. I guess he knows where to go too. We had to look so silly. A toddler and puppy running down the street with the crazy mom catching them minutes later. Mila and I finally caught up to Max when we got to my parents house…

He looked mighty proud of himself for getting where he needed to be and waiting on us too.

Life with Mila (and Max) is always an adventure, supervised or not. The next adventure I’ll be taking on is making sure the back door is always locked.

Caught in the act… when they try to ‘escape’ the neighbors backyard is where they usually end up.