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.

Dinner Date at the Lake.

I feel like I just talked about how quickly summer is coming to a close, but it really feels like the days are going faster. Even though there isn’t really any pressure to get the remaining bucket list items done, I’m still trying my best.

Last night, I thought would be a perfect night to combine two of them: lake day and go on a picnic. It sort of turned into lake evening and eat our dinner on a picnic table. Either way, it was a beautiful night.

Mila’s ate outside before, but she was loving the picnic bench. She thought it was cool that the seats and table had holes in it. Then we got to eat Subway for the night, which meant she got a juice box and a cookie. Absolutely wild for her.

It’s not a normal night without Mila falling or getting hurt some way… she did fall off the bench once and bit her cheek. No ER visit thankfully!

One thing that was persistent throughout the night was feeling Jensen with us. It’s a feeling I don’t know how to describe other than just knowing he was there. First it was in the cookie to make Mila feel better.

He always shows up in orange and blue. His colors showed up in the sunset too. It felt like he was surrounding us and watching Mila and Max play while letting me know it was all going to be okay.

Even though we didn’t get a full day at the lake, Max and Mila were loving it. They got their feet in the water and climbed in the rocks. I showed her how to skip rocks, which she thought throwing them was just as fun too.

I know I keep saying I can’t believe how big she’s gotten, but it’s crazy. She’s so strong and smart. Her independence is mind blowing to me. She soaks everything up around her and seeing the world through her eyes is something I’ll always be thankful for.

Through everything we go through life like loss and situations you can’t see the end to, these moments are the ones that keep you going. I miss Jensen so much and can see where he’d be everyday. This bucket list was something to give us things to do for the summer, but it really turned into so much more. I know that probably sounds lame, I just see all these items as memories that’ll never go away.

I’ll never regret the time I get to spend with Mila and I’ll always wish Jensen was here with us. Sometimes dinner at the lake puts everything in perspective… and a lot of beautiful pictures.

The Toddler Bed.

I would love to say Mila has finally graduated from crib to toddler bed, but I’d be fibbing a little. Mila has never spent a night or nap in her crib. I know there will come a time where she sleeps in her new ‘big girl bed,’ but we haven’t gotten there yet.

One of the hardest things I had to do when I was pregnant with Mila was to put Jensen’s crib up in her room. It was always his. I remember picking it out for him and pairing it with orange and blue. His bedding fit perfectly with it too. So a little over a year and a half ago when I put the crib up with pinks and golds, it was hard. It was even harder seeing it up, wondering if a baby would ever make it to sleep there.

The answer to that was no. When she finally came, I couldn’t let her out of my sight. I didn’t listen to typical ‘safe sleep’ and we co-slept.

I did get to see her in it though. From the first pictures I took of her at home, to her learning how to stand, and eventually jumping every time she got in there. Jensen’s empty crib gave Mila a safe place to grow. Now it’s transformed into a toddler bed. A toddler. A stage I never thought I’d encounter after Jensen died and even those first months after Mila was born.

She really is a ‘totally amazing sister’ and an ever better daughter. Even when I had my moment of looking at his/her toddler bed, she flashed her infectious smile at me letting me know it was all going to be okay.

Jensen truly handpicked her for me. No one could ever tell me any different.

These moments of parenting after loss can really knock me down, I’m just glad I can be mom to both of them.

Weird Things My Toddler Does: Part One.

Little humans can be so strange. Mila is exploding the world around her and finding out everything she likes and dislikes. Since she’s been walking, she’s began this HUGE love for shoes. It’s one of her new words too. Every morning she wakes up, gets her Crocs, and either asks me to put them on for her or does it herself. Let me just say, knowing she can put her shoes on and is starting to dress herself makes me so proud. Such a good mom moment when she came to get me with her shoes on and on the right feet.

I let Mila wear her Crocs everywhere, but I didn’t realize how much she was obsessed with them.

A couple nights ago, I got her ready to take a shower with me and when I went to take off her shoes, she screamed. She ran away from me, only to come back to the bathroom and walked into the shower with her shoes on.

It’s so weird how much she loves these shoes and never wants to take them off. If I’d let her sleep in them, she probably would.

She loved showering with them cause she could make big splashes. I think it lets her feel more sturdy too, since the tile is so slick. Anyways, even though I think it’s so weird, I was just happy she let me clean them off since she won’t any other time. I’ll take my little victory.

I’m sure she’ll be doing something new and just as cute next week. For now, the Crocs are here to stay… in the shower, in bed, and everywhere else she goes.

Toddler Friendly Summer Bucket List – Bubbles

This world is but a canvas to our imagination.

Henry David Thoreau

In the thick of motherhood, I can get caught up with trying to carry the world on my shoulders. Between being a mom, writing papers for school, working, and trying to keep up with housework, I sometimes forget how the world must seem to Mila. She’s helped bring the color back in my life and smile at the little things, but I wish I could slow down.

We’ve been super busy the last few days. Mila’s routine is all out of whack and our sleep schedule is way off. Yesterday we were able to slow down a little bit. After a typical morning and midday walk, she took a long two hour nap. During that time, I was looking at pictures from last year and realized how fast everything’s going. She’s gotten so big in the last month and is saying so many words. Mila is all the things I dreamed about, but I want time to slow down… just a little bit.

After waking up, she pointed to the door and wanted to go outside. She played with the neighbor kids until it started storming. We had dinner and instead of just rushing our nighttime routine, I just wanted more of her.

I showed her bubbles last week, but didn’t have the chance to really play with them. They’ve been on my counter and she points to them while I make breakfast in the mornings. When I showed them to her last night and told her we were going outside, she was so excited.

When making this bucket list, I didn’t really realize how each item would make me feel. They’re all different experiences that she’s briefly or never encountered. Although we’re only on the second one, I love being able to introduce her to the world around us.

I loved watching her try to blow bubbles out of the wand. Spoiler alert: she got more in her mouth and all over her body than actually making bubbles. Then with every bubble I blew, she loved chasing them. I wonder what her thoughts were with them. It really brought me back to being a kid again with all the wonder and imagination that’s little ones have.

One day she’ll think blowing bubbles and hanging out with me is lame. She won’t be as surprised or intrigued in these little wonders. They grow up so fast and the world doesn’t let them stay young for long.

I hope that day doesn’t come for years and years, but for now, I’m going to try and slow down with her. I want to be amazed by the bubbles in the world and slow down time for us both. When that day eventually comes, I hope she remembers these type of memories we created because I know I’ll never forget them.

Two out of many experiences are checked off our bucket list. If you created a summer bucket list, which items have you checked off?

Toddler Friendly Summer Bucket List – Pool Day

After the turbulent week we had with the two Mila injuries, I’m HAPPY to say that the first weekend of summer went wonderfully for us!

Fortunately, Mila has had no problem with her eye and has been her usual busy self. I’ll quickly say that most of the swelling around her eye and forehead has went down. Her eyelid is still a very dark purple and a little swollen. It’s starting to turn green on the outside, but she’s really doing awesome. Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and prayers, I know she was feeling them!

Although I was content with staying home and letting her rest the last few days, she was determined to go outside. In true summer fashion and wanting to mark items off our summer bucket list, we turned out pool day to a pool weekend.

I’ve always said water is so healing. After Jensen was born I liked to just float or go kayaking. It helped me calm down and focus my energy. Last year with Mila, the pool was the one place where we could both just take a break. She’d stop crying as soon as we’d get in and that brought me relief too. Before we opened the pool, I was afraid she’d not like it as much this year and I’d have to warm her up to it.

Boy, those fears were way off.

This weekend Mila was jumping to me from off the deck and the steps. She’s kicking her feet and trying to move her arms to swim too. There were a couple times I let go of her by the wall (she had a swimming life vest on) and she swam right to where she needed to grab on to. I’m pretty impressed and so glad she likes it as much as I do. Two of the days, we had her big cousins come over. She liked to ‘race’ them to the duck and then throw it to race again. When they left, she liked to try and keep it away from Finnick, my parent’s dog). She’s such a ball of energy. The only thing she absolutely refuses to do is let me float her on her back. She rolls and throws a fit, so I’m not pressuring her too much.

All in all, this specific bucket list experience was a success. I knew we’d get to it pretty quickly and we’ll probably have many more pool days this summer. As of this moment, I’m not entirely sure what the next box we’ll check off will be or really when either… Hey, it’s summer so we’re just going with the flow. Fingers crossed to no more ER visits and that Miss Mila’s eye will get better soon too.

I hope everyone had a great first weekend of summer. What fun things did you get into?

Our Toddler Friendly Summer Bucket List.

This Friday, June 21, summer officially begins. Even though it’ll probably be raining or storming, I am so ready for warmer weather and sunshine.

Last summer, Mila and I were inside for a good portion of the time. I wasn’t super comfortable nursing her in front of people and at that time she was nursing every two hours on the dot. On top of that, she had horrible allergies last year. It felt like every every time we ventured out, she wheezed and her eyes would get so red; my poor girl. BUT this year, she’s been outside constantly and cries when we have to go inside. Since I know how much she enjoys getting out and doing things (minus the car ride, I have the one child who absolutely hates the car), I’ve decided to do something I’ve never done before: a summer bucket list. 

With it just being Mila and I most of the time, I came up with a super toddler friendly list that I would feel 100% comfortable doing with just the two of us. A lot of activities aren’t costly and can be done anywhere. I have local places in mind to take her to, but I feel as if this could be adapted no matter where you live.

To be able to see our bucket list daily, the most obvious place to hang it up was on the refrigerator. Technically the side of it, but what better place, right? Anyways, the goal is to check every box on the list and document with pictures. I’m hoping to be able to make a photo book inspired by this little list and to make it our family tradition.

I know the picture can be kind of hard to read so to make it easier to see, I’ll list them here.

Summer Bucket List 2019

  • Beach Day
  • Blow Bubbles
  • Bonfire
  • Drive-in Movies
  • Feed Ducks
  • Fireworks
  • Go on a Hike
  • Lake Day
  • Visit a Library
  • Rainy Day at the Mall
  • Market Vibes (Go to a Farmer’s Market)
  • Museum
  • Random Act of Kindness
  • Outside Story Time
  • Visit Parks
  • Parade Time
  • Go on a Picnic
  • Pool day
  • Plant Flowers
  • Photo Booth
  • Paint Outside
  • Root Beer Stand
  • (OG) S’mores
  • Water Park
  • Zoo

I think the only one I will REALLY have to plan in the beach day. We did go to the beach in May, but I want to go back so bad. This will probably be a little tricky and hard to do just her and I, but I’m remaining positive and am going to start planning now. Maybe a birthday present to myself?

Anyways, cheers to summer finally being here. Of course I’ll be posting through every item we check off. Let’s hope by September 23, the end of summer, it’s complete!

Have you ever done a summer bucket list? Or have a bucket list in general? What other activities would you add to yours?

Intention.

Each day, I wake up with the hope to make each day the best it can be.

Four days into the new year, I’ve really thought of resolutions and goals for myself to achieve. The problem is since I’ve had Jensen huge chunks of time feel completely overwhelming. For me to set a resolution for the whole year is not possible. It causes me more anxiety than motivation and quite honestly, I don’t need anymore of that in my life.

When I was pregnant with Jensen as 2015 turned to 2016, I only made one resolution: to be the best mom I could be to him. I never imagined leaving the year without him physically with me. My goal for the year seemed impossible since I couldn’t mother my child the way I wanted. As everything with loss, this changed my outlook on how I would ‘celebrate’ all the following new years. Last year, I didn’t even make any. I stayed at home by myself and cried the entire night. Nothing could bring me the happiness I once had and it felt silly to even try to plan for a year knowing how differently they can end up.

This year, I wanted it to be different. I wanted to feel different to how I approached the upcoming year and take control. It’s the one thing I haven’t had throughout this journey, and a huge part of me wanted to take it back. So, since Christmas I’ve taken the time to really think about what I needed out of the year or even just through the day. The word that kept popping up in my head was intention.

Now this may seem like a broad word when it comes to a resolution or word for the year, but it’s what I need to live this life after loss. Each day I want to set my intentions and commit to them. No matter how small or big they seem.

Intention. 

I intend to be the best mom to Jensen I can be.

I intend to be the best person I can be.

I intend to find moments full of him.

I intend to do great things.

I intend to try to find something to smile about every day.

I intend to say his name and share his story whenever I can.

I intend to be.

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Photo by Roxana Soriano Rebolledo

Christmas Traditions.

Throughout the year, I love being able to go to different events that support parents who are journeying through pregnancy and infant loss. The holidays can prove to be very difficult and isolating; especially since Christmas is mainly focused on children and New Years marks a different time (or more time away from your child). I am so thankful there is a rich support community near me to offer Christmas and holiday programs.

Last year, I found two that really called to me. One through a children’s hospital that has an amazing support group and the other through the Angel of Hope Christmas Box organization. Both are very different, but still so meaningful. I know it can feel very nerve wrecking to attend an event like this, so I want to share my experiences to give an insight of what happens.

Akron Children’s Remembrance Service

The first service I went to of the holiday season is a more formal one. It was in a theatre with quite a bit of seating. Before the actual day, parents are encouraged to preregister their child’s name and send in a picture so they can be presented in the program and on screen.

There is a huge range of ages in children, which I think is really special. For me, it brings confirmation of other for my motherhood. My son is grouped with children who are young adults. In the service they’re not valued any less or looked on differently just because of their time on Earth. They also have one set of parents each year share their story of loss and love. The past two years, I’ve uncontrollably cried throughout this time. It’s something about being able to connect with another person and know how they’re feeling throughout it.

This year’s was about an hour to an hour and a half long. Every baby’s name was read out loud with a bell that chimed after. It’s grounding to see the big list of name and to see their faces on the screen. So many stories and so much love that remains.

During the service, I sat with my mom. We got there a little late and by that time they had already ran out of candles that were to be lit during one of the songs. Well, my mother decided Jensen couldn’t be the only one there without a light, so she pulled out her lighter and had it shining instead. Little moments like these really let me see how much my family cares. Of course I know deep down they do, just making sure she felt like he wasn’t left out made my heart smile.

Overall, I really enjoyed this service and to see the fact that I’m not alone throughout this.

Angel of Hope

This is my favorite event of the year. Every second Sunday of December this group gets together to honor our children gone too soon. This is where Jensen’s brick is too. The idea is the angel protects those around her while providing hope to those that need it most. I absolutely love reading all the names on the bricks and the little sayings. It’s heartbreaking to see them, but somehow it makes me feel like they’re all connected and together. Since Jensen is cremated and I always have his urn, it’s actually nice to have a place to go too.

The event is outside, so yes it was very cold and windy. My mom and dad went with me, which is always awesome to have both of their support. They need these days as much as I do. Everyday they grieve Jensen’s loss too.

We all meet right in front of the angel and are giving candles to light. This is actually a task in its own to keep them lit with the wind. They go through their program of their background, poems, and stories. I can’t even remember what was said because I was so in the moment. All their words just settled inside. There were tears shred, lots of hugs, and of course flowers given to the angel.

I know I always say this, but seeing the amount of people there and feeling what I am in that moment makes me feel less isolated. It was beautiful seeing everyone’s light too. Lets me know that when they looked down over us, they could see the light just for them.

On Jensen’s brick, I left him flowers. Which I leave because I know he would have always picked them from me. My dad leaves pennies every time he visits too. These are the traditions we have started because of him and I know he will forever be remembered.

How I Honor My Son on Halloween.


Halloween is most definitely a kid’s holiday. They get to dress up and be whoever they want to be, while they get all the candy their hearts desire. It’s full of fantasy and fun. Just what little ones love. 

For some, like myself, our children do not get to traditionally partake in the festivities. It’s the first holiday of the season and the start of complex grief. Even if a loss parent has living children too, they will always see their missing trick-or-treater. For mother’s without living children, it feels like they could hide away and avoid the entire night, which is perfectly fine if that’s what they choose. 

Last year was my first without Jensen. There was a lot of mixed emotions, but I felt like Jensen and I needed to be apart of the night. Honestly, I didn’t know how to pull it off. With a lot of thought I came up with an idea that I used again this year. 

Last year’s candy bowl including Jensen’s first Halloween ‘walk.’

I had a graphic made with Jensen’s name on a pumpkin that said, ‘Happy Halloween to Heaven.’ Above and below the picture says thank you for letting Jensen walk with your child and to check his story out here. It was a great way to give back to neighborhood children while sharing Jensen’s story. I felt like this was a perfect option for me to be involved. 

As I said above, this year I did the same concept, but a different graphic. My mom and I packed the candy with the slips. It’s a way we can feel closer to Jensen and not let this night overcome our grief. 

This year, I also decided to carve a pumpkin for Jensen. Of course I used a big J to represent him on it. I love that I’ll be able to sit near his pumpkin and be able to pass out a little of his light with the candy tonight.

It’s not a huge gesture, but it makes me feel a little more in control of my grief while making sure Jensen’s name never fades.