Perfect Moments.

I wanted to post this yesterday, but, like this story, my Christmas was filled with Mila. This was my final story for my creative writing class this year. I’m proud of it and I wanted to share it with all of you.

I hope all of you had a very, merry Christmas. Enjoy.

My eyes blink open and everything seems so bright. The morning air feels chilly as I search for her in bed.

I realize she’s not here. Being alone can be so scary.

In the mornings, I typically love to cuddle up beside her. She is my safe place. Anytime I’m cold, she warms me up. When afraid, she shows me there’s nothing to fear. The mornings she’s not here, I try to tell myself she hasn’t gone too far.

The longer I wait in her big bed, the more I worry she’s forgotten about me. I let out a little whimper, then I call her name wondering if she’ll hear me.

“Mama?”

I hear the sweetest voice coming from the bedroom. Her footsteps start silently and get louder the closer she gets. All morning I’ve been up preparing for this moment.

It’s still snowing outside, as it has all night. My coffee has long been cold, but the hot chocolate on the stove is at the perfect temperature. There are only crumbs on the Santa plate and the milks all gone in the reindeer cup. All her presents are wrapped in shiny, red paper with big bows on top. The fairy lights around the living room and the Christmas tree are shining bright.


There will never be a perfect moment, but this is as close as it’ll get.

She’s running through the doorway at this point and there’s only one thing I can say.

“Merry Christmas!”

I can’t believe my eyes. Santa came and left presents at my house, just for me. The cookies Mama and I made are all gone and it looks like he loved the milk we left him too.

Mama is smiling at me as she holds her arms open for a hug. This is the safety I was looking for this morning. I look up at her and smile. She looks beautiful with the lights twinkling in her eyes. I tell her Merry Christmas back. I’m still in shock. Santa brought presents and I can’t wait to rip this paper off of them. Mama and I are going to play all day.

When she puts me down, she pours us hot chocolate and I guess I should take a drink first. It tastes extra chocolatey with peppermint! Maybe Santa left some for us.


“Santa brought me presents and hot chocolate!”

The only thing I can do is smile at her. Her innocence and awe of everything in the world has impacted me more than she could ever imagine. She sees the magic around us and I wouldn’t want it differently.

I wonder if she notices the dark circles under my eyes or that my hair hasn’t been brushed. Wrapping presents all night while trying to be quiet was no easy task.

She asks if she can open them up and I nod at her.

With every quick rip of the wrapping paper, she smiles even bigger. The presents she wanted and circled in the Amazon toy book are now in her hands. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile bigger.

I pull out my phone to capture this moment.

“Say cheese!”

Mama pulls out her phone again. I don’t know why she’s been on it so much lately. We have plenty to do here, but I say cheese as loud as I can. Can’t she understand that Santa has brought me these presents.

I go back to unwrapping. In the background, I hear her tell me if a present is from her or someone else I know. Between each gift, I look want to figure out how I can get them out, but Mama just tells me to give them to her.

We’re back to being a team.

She gets the first present open and it’s something I’ve never seen before. There’s still presents under the tree, but when Mama explains what this thing does, I want to play with it.

I run to get my snow coat, pants, and shoes. Mama gets my gloves and hat. She puts them all on me and I run out the back door.

The cold air stops me in my tracks. No wonder why I was so cold this morning.

There’s more snow than there was yesterday and it keeps falling. Where is my mama? She will love all this snow.

“Come on, Mama!”

This surprise gift caught her off guard. It’s one I don’t think she’s even ever seen one before. Her face when she saw it out was priceless.

She hurried outside and I have to get warm quick.

I’m moving more slowly than normal; the tiredness form the night is wearing me down. She’s yelling for me as I slip some boots on and wrap my big, winter coat around me. I rush out the door as she’s saying my name more.

It’s so bright out. The fresh snow is crisp under each step. There’s beauty all around me, but I can only look at her.

I lay her gift down and almost naturally she jumped on top of it. The rope feels rough in my hands, but I hold on tight. Its blades cut through the snow and her laugh somehow fills our whole backyard.

Who knew an old school sled could bring a toddler so much fun?

Time went by so fast. All I could hear was her yelling to go faster. I went as fast as I could for as long as I could. When I looked back, her cheeks were red and I knew it was time to go in.

“Let’s go get warmed up.”

My cheeks hurt from smiling and maybe cause it’s cold outside.

Mama scoops me up from my new toy, a sled. Instantly I’m warm again. We go into home and I remember something important.

I try to squirm out of my mama’s arms, but she’s holding me tight. Somehow, I kick enough for her to let me down. She’s saying something to me, but I don’t listen. This is way more important and my mama needs it right now.

Santa didn’t forget about me this morning, but I didn’t see him bring anything for her. She needs to know she’s been a good girl too.

In my room, under the rainbow Christmas tree, I uncover a pretty box. Then I run out to her.

“Mama! Mama!”

She’s so impatient. As soon as I get her in the house, she has to run off. Now she’s running back in here. There’s something in her hands.

Quickly, she pulls my hand to the couch and as I sit, she puts a box in my hands.

There’s a tag addressed to me in her writing. The present is wrapped with a lot of tape. She looks so proud of her little surprise to me.

I don’t even need to open it. Whatever is inside will be my favorite gift of all time.

This Christmas morning has been full of perfect moments. The dark circles under my eyes feel like they have vanished and the cold has left both of our bodies. I never want to forget this.

She is my safe place and always makes me feel warm. Anytime I’m afraid of what’s going to come next, she helps me realize there’s nothing to fear. She’ll never know how thankful I am for her.

I open the present from her and without even seeing it, I wrap my arms around her and she squeezes back.

“Thank you, for everything. I love you.”

Toddler Activity: Salt Dough Santa

Okay, okay. I know it seems like we’ve been making a lot of ornaments around here, but they’re fun!

These salt dough ornaments are easy to do and make great, last minute DIY gifts.

Here’s what you’ll need for these:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • Water (no set amount. I’ll explain!)
  • Paint
  • Glue *optional
  • Glitter *optional
  • Yarn/Ribbon
  • Knife

Admittedly, I have not had the best track record with salt dough. I think I’ve added too much water in the past. This time, they turned out great though.

First, preheat your oven to 250°.

Then, if your child likes to help mix ingredients, they’ll think this is really cool. Add the flour, salt, and a little bit of water together. Then start mixing with a spoon or your hand.

Here’s where the water ingredient is tricky. I just kept adding a little bit at a time until it got to a play-doh consistency.

Next, Mila and I rolled the salt dough out into circles. To get the Santa shape, I told her to keep her four fingers together and she kept her thumb held a little out.

For this part, just press their hands in there. It will imprint nicely. I trimmed around her hand to get more of the shape. All I used was a knife!

I ended up getting four hand Santa’s, a ‘snow globe’ with two of her hands, and two little circular ornaments so Mila could paint however she wants. Then I stuck them in the oven.

They’ll need to bake in the oven for two hours. Then take them out and let them completely cool before you start painting.

If you’re child is older, they’ll be able to paint the Santa’s on. Mila likes to paint crazy right now, so I did this for her. I used red, white, and tan paint.

After the paint was dried, I put glue and glitter down where I wanted it. Then, I used yarn to complete it. You could use ribbon too!

Honestly, I think they turned out so cute. They were simple to do and Mila just loves them.

Happy creating and making with your child.

Mila’s Easter Basket 2020

Easter is tomorrow and since Mila is napping (finally today), I decided to put together her Easter basket and share it with everyone! I might have went a little overboard this year… I’m blaming it on her birthday and Easter being so close together AND I went to this new (to me) store in a nearby town that I went overboard in.*

*Although getting Easter/birthday presents for Mila might not ‘seem’ essential, it made me feel better to keep the magic alive. We were safe! Social distancing and lots of hand sanitzer were used!*

Why did I go overboard in this store? They had really cute little wooden toys for not a lot of money. I’ve been into wooden toys instead of plastic the last few months for environmental reasons and I’ve noticed Mila plays for longer amount of times when she plays with simple toys. Wooden toys can be super expensive so just finding these small ones made me happy and it was nice to my debit card. Last year, Mila got a book, stuffed animal, and maybe one or two small things. I don’t really like making gifts a huge deal and she doesn’t need anything, but I think the lockdown has inspired me to get new toys and stuff for her rotation.

ANYWAYS, here’s all the items in her basket laid out.

  • Black and white ‘M’ leotard – Witts End Design
  • Pete the Cat: Big Easter Adventure Amazon
  • Bowling Game – Legacy Learning
  • Chocolate Bunny, Pink Bunny Chocolate Sucker, and Small Chocolate Bunnies – Eiler Candy Shop
  • Other Random Chocolate and My Little Pony Chocolate Egg – Local Grocery Store
  • Bath Bomb, Sticker Sheets, Chalk, Wooden People, Wooden Puzzle/Blocks, Stuffed Animal – New Local Consignment Shop

Honestly, this is everything Mila loves in a basket. The two items I ordered from Etsy and the Pete the Cat book were ordered before the lockdown. Once I realized everything was going to take a long time to get, I just hurried and ordered. I love her leotard and got her another one for her birthday (WHICH IS ON TUESDAY!!!). The material is so nice and I love the fluffy sleeves. I can’t wait for gymnastics to start up again so Mila can wear them, although she’ll probably wear them before then when we do at home practice moves. The toddler bowling game is made so nice. I absolutely love it and Mila’s really been into figuring out how games work, so I know this will be fun for us to play tomorrow. Legacy Learning’s Etsy shop has so many different learning toys and activities. I actually bought her a threading toy for her birthday too. They came in these cute little storage bags that we’ll use to keep everything together. Would so recommend them!

I’m a tiny bit worried about all the chocolate, but she obviously won’t eat it all in one day. She’s obsessed with M&Ms, but I think she’ll be super excited about the little ‘bun buns.’ Can someone come hide all the chocolate in my house so Mila AND I don’t eat it all.

When I find out the name about this local consignment shop, I’ll make sure to add it in here for my local friends. I got the wooden people (and there’s two dragons too), the wooden puzzle/blocks, the bath bomb, the stuffed bunny, and sticker sheets for under $15. I did snag other things for her birthday too, rolling my eyes because I’ve went overboard this year, but I didn’t spend more than $30 for everything I got her.

Tomorrow morning is going to be so magical when she has to hunt for her basket. I think she’ll be so excited when she sees it too. We’re going to be coloring eggs tonight and I have another craft I want to do when she wakes up from her nap. I’ll try to post our craft tonight because it’s definitely Easter appropriate and might be nice to do tomorrow.

If I don’t get to sharing the Easter craft tonight, I hope you all have a happy and peaceful Easter. I know it’s way different than past Easters, but we can do it.

I’d love to see your Easter baskets too. If you’d like to share, feel free to in the comments.

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!

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.

Oh, Christmas Tree.

Christmas has snuck up on me this year. All the days a jumbling together and I feel like the world is spinning way to fast. Jensen’s stocking is hung and all his ornaments are adorned on the tree. I have a new book to read on Christmas Eve, which I scribbled, ‘Christmas 2017 – Jensen’s Second Christmas in heaven.‘ The lights are twinkling throughout my house and his candle shines bright in front of me. Yet, even though I’ve tried to make this time of year a little more gentle on my heart, I can’t help but focusing on how he’s not here.

I would love to have him sit on Santa’s lap and immediately framed the picture when we got home.

I would love to see him get excited for ‘Ho Ho’ to come and put presents under the tree.

I would love to see him around his whole family tomorrow evening, playing and smiling like he should be.

I would love to just hold him and tell him how much I love him every second of the day.

Grief during the holiday season is not talked about a lot outside of the bereaved. It is so hard to be surrounded by joy when you feel like your insides are breaking down and dying. This time of year will never be the same again. The memories of his time in my belly and opening up his first Christmas book on Christmas morning will always be bittersweet. I just wish it was different for me and so many others.

One of the things that’s gotten me through the last month has been the amazing community that continues to support us loss parents. We all feel so broken, but so many of us are there to help each other power through.

It was my intention to share an ornament the last few days, but obviously I didn’t get to that. I wanted to share the ones I received this year today. They each have touched my heart differently, but have filled my heart. I also want to say, thanks to everyone who has sent Jensen a card. The cards I sent out will probably be late, like I said, it’s been a rough time. But, you are all in my hearts every day. I know there are so many others feeling the way I am, just wanting to make it to the next day.

Without further ado, here are this year’s ornaments to honor the little boy who has my heart:

My favorite mistletoes, handmade by me.

From Xander’s mom, Hayley. From Scared Sidless ornament exchange.

Made by Kathleen. From the Remembering Together Ornament Swap.

Made by Jasper’s mom, Amber.

From Evelyn’s mom, Erica.

From Daniel’s mom, Joan.

Not on my tree, but in my heart:

From Dorothy’s mom, Rachel.

Everlee’s mom, Sarah, honoring Jensen and Huxley.

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.

5 Tips to Tackle Grieving This Season.

Tackling Grief
The upcoming holidays can seem like a daunting task to anyone who participates in them. They’re even more so when you’re grieving the loss of your child or children. I know just thinking about spending another Thanksgiving and Christmas without my son, Jensen, brings me such heartache. In my first year of grief, I wished there was a guidebook in how to journey through the long winter days.
We all know this book doesn’t exist.
What helped me tremendously was reaching out to other loss parents to talk, vent, and just share about my child and what was going on around me. Sometimes, I found myself in vulnerable positions without being able to reach out. Grief had tested me again. Through a lot of tears and running out of family-filled rooms, I learned a routine to help combat the mix of my grief and the holiday cheer.

These are my 5 tips to tackle grieving this season.

Breathe.

This may sound like a simple task, but in the heat of the moment it can be hard to catch your breath. For me, not seeing Jensen at Thanksgiving dinner or opening up presents really let reality hit me square in the face. I felt like I was hyperventilating in those moments. The world was spinning around me and grief was the one pushing it faster and faster. Then, I remembered to take a deep breath in and out.
I was still living in the nightmare that is my reality, but focusing on my breath allowed me to take care of my mental and emotional needs.

Recognize what you’re feeling.

Grief has made me feel more emotions than I ever thought I had. I used to want to hide away some of the forceful ones like anger and envy. They made me feel like an ugly person. By ignoring those feelings, they were more likely to come back and in a much stronger wave.
Recognize what you feel. In that moment, you’re feeling what you need to and maybe it will help you understand why. When I saw the little ones in my family with food all over their face, I was so angry. I wanted to project it on them, but I wasn’t angry at them. As I took my feelings in, I was able to understand I was angry Jensen wasn’t here with food all over his face.
The more a person is in situations like these, the better it is to recognize the emotion and tackle grief before it snowballs.

Take the moments as they come.

This has always been my biggest challenge. When I think about living through the holiday season, I don’t see the days in-between the big ones. Everything is weighing down on me and I feel like I have to live through two months in one moment.
Obviously, this isn’t true.
We have lived through the worst days of our lives. No matter how different our stories are and how time feels when we look back on those days, we each took the moments as they come. That’s how we get through each and every day, before and after loss. Don’t take on these next weeks all right now. Take them as the moment comes.
Small victories make big differences.

Celebrate when you can and break down if needed.

As hard as it seems, don’t feel guilty to celebrate or break down.
It feels hard to think we’ll ever truly celebrate after loss and if we do, it’s not as full as it used to. That’s perfectly fine. Just don’t be afraid to smile or attend an event because your child isn’t there. Take something that reminds you of him or her and talk about them when you can. Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy a day.
On the other hand, don’t feel as if you have to attend every holiday event or get-together. You are the only one who knows your exact grief. Don’t mistake this as a sign of weakness. If you do decide to attend and feel overwhelmed, I hope you remember to breathe, but it’s okay to breakdown too.

Always know you’re doing the best you can.

If none of these tips to tackle grieving this season help, I hope you can take away this very last one. You are doing the best you can. It might not feel like it in certain moments, but it’s true. No matter if you decide to stay in bed untilJanuary 2 or go to every get-together possible, you are a super hero.
Wishing you all a gentle holiday season from my grieving heart to yours.