Weird Things My Toddler Does: Part Eleven

At the beginning of the year, I made a jar to document the good things we experienced that week. It’s been fun reflecting, but knowing Mila, she has to make it a little weird.

That’s just what toddlers do!

I will admit, this one is more cute than weird, but I thought it’d be perfect to share with Valentine’s Day coming up.

Mila has had the same thing that makes her happy every week… ME!

When I go to our jar, I date it, then make an “M” for what makes her grateful. Then I ask her what made her happy this last week.

The second time we did it, she just said, “you.” I thought it was the cutest thing ever.

When it came to ask her again, she replied with the same thing. Admittedly, I felt a little bad. I was writing down things I wanted to remember at the end of the year, not just Mila or Jensen. Maybe it was a fluke of her just saying me?

On the fourth week, she said, again, said I was what made her most happy. Still feeling sad, I asked her to elaborate and she said, “playing with you.”

Since that fourth week, I haven’t re-asked her what made her happy and accepted this cuteness.

As much as she loves Pizza, her grandparents, Max, and Mickey Mouse, I always find it a little weird that she consistently chooses me as her happiness. Of all the things in the world and her lame mom is her answer.

Honestly, I’m going to love looking back and remembering that I made her smile for weeks in a row. I know one week she won’t say me and that’s okay.

For now though, I guess she’s just a weirdo, with a big heart for her mom.

The Next Stage of Toddlerhood.

Potty training… a journey that’s not for the weak.

Last year, I introduced Mila to her little potty. She did okay on it, but would rather go outside like Max. It’s okay. It’s funny and you can most definitely laugh. She’d sit on it through fall and most of winter, but she really was not interested.

Around when COVID hit and when she turned two, we really hit potty training hard. I bought her underwear and she did a good job of letting me know when she had to go. All summer, she’s been amazing with it. When I started working full time at the end of August, she had a few mishaps, but is back to no accidents. She can nap without having one and has slept through the night a few times too.

I’m so proud of her.

The last time I bought diapers, I told myself this was it. It’d be the last time I ever bought them and I’d only buy pull ups from then on. Honestly, I thought it was a lot of wishful thinking. Then, last night she wore her last diaper and were in the land of panties and pulls ups for night time and long periods away.

This is a huge deal. She got a coloring book today to celebrate and a popsicle after school. I tell her she’s my big, good girl so she knows how good of a job she’s doing.

Lasts of anything are hard, even the last diapers.

Ever since losing Jensen, the first and lasts with Mila have been monumental. I know they have a bigger meaning, but I try not to put it all on Mila. I just hope she knows how proud I am of her and all that she does.

Tonight, we’re celebrating being diaper free and the next stage of toddlerhood. I’m so happy to be her mom and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Adapting to Different.

This summer has been different from all others.

I mean, we all know this. We’re living in a COVID world where we wear masks, constantly are sanitizing, and are stuck home. It’s a huge difference to spend summer this way for me. I’m used to concerts, beaches, and adventures.

When I realized summer wasn’t going to be the same as I had in my head, I worried about Mila. She wasn’t going to experience summer in the way she had the previous two years. Last year we had a bucket list and constantly were on the go. We went to the beach, quite a few times and I wondered if she’d be sad. Like most things, she’s helped show me the bright side of things.

Summers different in many ways, but not all just bad.

We still get to jump in the pool and she’s learning how to swim. I’ve found a new appreciation for dirt; probably because Mila looks so cute with it smeared across her face and it’s constantly stuck under her fingernails. Vacations have been (safety) visiting friends and the lake has became the beach. Home cooked meals are much better than going out to eat, although we still love to go get ice cream or slushees.

It seems to be a lot different, but summer has still felt the same. If she’s taught me anything during this time, it’s to adapt.

One more month of summer until my last year of classes begin. I’m not sure what the worlds going to be like in the near future, but we’ll adapt and take it as it comes.

For now, we’ll be soaking up these last few weeks of dirt and pool filled days.

April… We Meet Again.

Amidst everything happening in the world and the personal things too, I’ve not been looking forward to April. It’s the fourth one since everything changed. That feeling of grief climbing out of my chest is present.

Some part of me thought this April would be different with the coronavirus, Mila being a lively almost two year old, and dealing with things happening closely to me that I can not control. Yet, here I am. The last few days, it’s weighed on me more heavily. I just can’t believe it’s been another year without him.

I’m trying to be positive, but it’s just unfair. All the things I ‘should’ be doing for Jensen are more present around these days. I keel thinking about how much different quarantine would be with him. Life in general just would be… different. It’s so hard to explain. There’s no word or explanation that would make sense to other people. Here we are almost four years later and I can’t quite find the words to describe how sucky it is to not have your kid with you.

Mila helps. I’m weary of typing that because it’s unfair to her and parents who can’t or choose not to have more children; but she helps me. She makes me smile and I remember April is her month too. Jensen wouldn’t want her to be sad or for us not to celebrate how beautiful this month is even though it’s filled with sadness too. I know Mila senses the sadness. She’ll come over and flash her smiles, stroke my face, and just give me a kiss. I know deep down he picked her out for me.

One thing I’ve learned through it all is we’ll make it. Somedays you just have to take it second by second, but we’ll survive.

Like I’ve said in the past, the days leading are always worse than the actual day. Grief makes anticipation feel like dread. This past weekend, Mila hasn’t felt well and I was scared that it’d roll into April. So when she woke up fever free and happy, I knew it’d get easier.

We actually went and picked up a picnic table/bench that we’ll probably use frequently in the next few months (social distancing was practiced). She’s immediately taken a liking to it and it just makes me feel better. Finding happy moments when everything feels heavy makes the day a little nicer.

I’m hopeful April’s will get easier. I’m hopeful that I’ll start celebrating them again. I’m hopeful that Jensen’s day will be seen as happy and I won’t be as sad. I know I’ll always carry the grief and heaviness of losing him, but I’m getting to a part in my journey where it can coincide with happiness simultaneously.

Today I’m just grateful for Jensen, Mila, and watching her cheesy fingers throw Cheetos to Max. I’m hopeful for peaceful April’s and breakfasts our on our new picnic table. This year, I’m ready for April and going into year five of grieving.

New Adventures in Parenting After Loss.

Parenting after loss is full of ups and downs. There are a lot of days I think of the what if’s and wish to see Jensen and Mila playing together.

Lately, Mila’s been more explorative in how she plays. I showed her how to make a tent by putting a blanket over her little table and she thought it was the coolest thing ever. She’ll play under there for so long and evening puts her animals to bed under there. It’s the sweetest thing ever.

In the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking of Jensen’s teepee I got for him. It was supposed to go in the corner of his room for a little reading area. Since it never got to be put up, it’s been packed away in my basement. This morning, Mila was begging me to get under her little kiddie table and with her, the dog, and I, the table wasn’t cutting it. I decided to be strong and go in Jensen’s corner of the basement to get the teepee.

Honestly, it’s hard. It’s hard to see his stuff that’s never been used and is just there in boxes. Knowing that there’s a live that should have been lived in a corner in my house, truly breaks my heart. I don’t think I’ll ever have the right words to describe what it feels like. But I bet a lot of loss parents know the feeling I’m talking about.

Anyways, I got into his corner and knew right where I was looking. Mila and I brought it back upstairs and I sort of just went into mom mode. Her and I put together this huge 5 foot tall teepee in the middle of the living room. She was shocked to see it and as soon as it was up, she ran right in. Her smile was so big and it just warmed me up.

It turns out Mila, Max, a hundred stuffed animals, and me all fit in this big tent.

Any time Mila has used something of Jensen’s, I’ve never felt regret doing it. She wore some of his clothes, has his crib up, and used his car seat and stroller too. On the other hand, there hasn’t been anything super sentimental she’s used yet. We changed that today and I’m happy to have done it. I let her know this was Jensen’s tent too and he would’ve loved playing in it with her. She nodded and said Jensen’s name, then continued playing.

Jensen will always be her big brother and I’ll always be both of their moms. I don’t think being a loss mom will ever get easier, but I hope learning how to juggle both will. I don’t want Mila to ever think bringing Jensen’s name up or asking questions is a bad thing. Or I don’t want her to be afraid to look at and use his things makes me upset because it doesn’t. It’s just another part of this journey that I’ll figure out.

For now, I’m so proud of the little girl Mila is becoming. She has a brother who will always guide and protect her. Although he might not be here to physically play with her, I know Jensen’s spirit flows through our home. I’m just happy to be here through it all, learning to be the best mom I can.

Parenting after loss isn’t easy, but I’m thankful to be their mother.

Adventure on Mila Rae. There’s so much to see.

A Reminder that Healing Takes Time.

I’ll never forget this time last year.

My life had changed again and in a way I didn’t expect. I was hurt and confused and wondered how everything would turn out. Even though inside of me was going crazy, I had to keep everything together on the outside: for Mila and me.

It’s funny because in the beginning of the month I knew these memories would come back to me. If I learned anything from Jensen’s death, I learned how I grieve and heal. So although this was different experience, I still lost a big part of my life and myself. Mila lost a huge part of herself too and she’ll never get that back.

For months, I sort of put everything on myself. I was angry and upset. It wasn’t until the last few weeks, where I actually talked about my trauma and described it to other people where I realized how messed up everything was/is. Honestly, I can say, I’m healing and on the right track. I’m choosing not to put myself in vulnerable and damaging situations. This sounds like such an easy and clear minded thing for someone to do, but it’s been such a journey for me.

I saw this picture today and started crying…

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Last year I posted this on Facebook and Instagram with the caption:

Happy to be ME

Let me tell you, people are facing battles that they hide from the world. I can’t imagine my world without Mila’s ability to brighten any room she’s in with her smile or never hearing her laugh. No matter what she faces or who tries to bring her down, I hope she remembers that she continues touring me happens I never thought I’d have again.

I’ll never forget that day and how I felt. I was told that Mila wasn’t important and that person didn’t want to do anything for her or know anything about her. She was nothing. It was hard completely breaking down in front of her, when she was just trying to make me laugh. I can’t tell you how infuriating and heartbreaking it is to hear that about your own child. Obviously I know not everything thinks the world of Mila like I do. She’s one of the many children of the world, but in her own way she is special just like every other child.

But reading those messages and feeling that hurt in the pit of my stomach. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone either.

Last year, I heard more of this stuff about Mila and my mothering. I was told to put her up for adoption because I wasn’t a good enough mom. She’s been made into a bargaining piece and not valued as the person she is. All kinds of things were said and I listened. I internalized it all and let it surface when things pop up.

People face battles that they hide from the world. I said that last year and it’s still true to this day. No one can be completely transparent about their lives; it’s just impossible.

All I can say is, I’ll never let Mila be a game piece or let anyone steal her or her smile away. Never, ever, ever, ever.

But let me tell you, I’ve grown since last year and gotten so much stronger. I know when I look back on pictures taken this year, I won’t look back and feel sadness.

Progress is the best thing about growth and healing.

 

She tried to forget him, but never could…

Last year, I wanted to sort of take my blog into different directions. I write a lot to heal offline and I wanted to bring it online; mostly because I know it helps others.

So here is me in 2020, branching out and sharing things that are sort of vulnerable to share. We had to write a little blurb for one of my classes this semester, I turned it into a short story, and I thought it needed to be shared. Hopefully you guys enjoy!

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One Text: A Modern Love Story

She tried to forget him, but never could.

He was always there, right in the back of her mind. Last year, she promised herself that it was over. The mentally abusive nature of the relationship only put her in a dark space. She had crawled out of it many times, but she felt it pulling her down once more.

“I heard our song on the radio today,” the text read.

Instantly, she heard the melody and the lyrics out of thin air. There was no need to specify what song he had been talking about. It was the only one that still took her breath away and let her memories come forth.

The night they danced in the middle of his kitchen to this song played out in her mind. Things were lighter then; the damage hadn’t fully been done. They held each other close as the first notes started on this song. She rested her head in the close to his neck and he rest his lips on the top of her head. He would whisper the words to her like he was telling her a secret. She would smile and hang on to the sound of his low voice.

Her eyes never closed during this dance. She took in his dimly lit house and saw through the big, bay window that his neighbors were having a fire. Instead of being embarrassed they might be watching, she smiled because he wasn’t afraid to show her off in that moment. The smell of their beer from after dinner hung in the air and her whole body was electrified from his touch. This night felt perfect and she wished it could be every night of her life.

She snapped back to the present. A single tear was falling down her cheek. It was months since she last heard from him and she truly starting to feel some kind of peace in her life. He had hurt her beyond repair and there was no apology that could make everything all better. She knew this was just a part of his game, yet all she wanted to do was text him back.

It was easier for her to focus on those moments she never felt more alive than the ones that had crippled her. She had to force herself to remember all the nights she cried herself to sleep and all the bad thoughts he made her think.

“Maybe it’ll be different this time,” she whispered as she started typing.

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.

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.

Our Family is Growing…

On Friday I turned twenty-six and the weekend has been action packed. Before sharing all of that, I have something especially important to tell you guys. On top of getting another year older, my family has expanded by four paws.

Everyone, meet Max! He’s an Old English Yellow Lab. He’s super good with Mila and follows her around. Comes and gives me kisses when I pat on the ground. Last night he did amazing in his crate, but was super happy when it was time to start the day. Potty training a puppy and starting to notice Mila being ready to start is going to be a challenge, but I’m happy with our little family.

Max and Mila already love playing together. I can’t wait to see how they grow up and become closer. For now, I’m soaking up every moment… even through all the madness.

And hey, it’s National Dog Day to boot. A perfect way to celebrate the second day with our new pup.