Celebrating Fathers with a Fatherless Daughter

Simplicity of Grace

‘A mama, a papa, and a baby.’

My two-year-old says as she brings me three different sizes of stuffed animals. This concept of family, what a family is supposed to look like is new to her. After a few movies, she’s realized our little mother-daughter unit is not the same as her favorite characters.

Being a single parent, I didn’t think we’d have conversations like this for a long time. I tell her some families have a mama and a papa, others just have a mama or a papa, or some have two mamas or two papas. And no matter what a family consists of, all that matters is the family’s love and happiness. A lot of that information goes over her head and she reverts back to her mama, papa, and baby pretend play.

As I sit and watch her play like this, I worry about her future and if she will think it’s negative she doesn’t have a ‘dad’ in her life. I think she’s happy with just the two of us, but moms always worry.

With Father’s Day nearing and with my daughter noticing talk of dads, my worry for my fatherless daughter has increased… until I realized family is so much more than a mama, a papa, and a baby.

Through this journey of motherhood, I realize ‘father figures’ are not always biological dads.

My daughter is impacted every day by men in her life that choose her. By widening the scope of what makes a family, she has never missed out on having a ‘dad.’ She has a grandpa who protects and plays with her. An uncle that chases her around and helps her fix things that are broken. A great-grandpa that makes sure she has everything she needs and cheers her on. There are countless of other ‘uncles’ who watch over her, ask about her days, and continually want the very best for her. She might not be ‘theirs,’ but there isn’t a shortage of love and fatherly influence.

So on this Father’s Day and every day, I want to say thank you to all of them for showing my daughter what a dad is supposed to look like. Thank you for choosing her when hers wouldn’t. She has soaked that impact up more than I could have ever imagined.

Thank you to the dads the make a difference in their children’s lives and the others that aren’t theirs too.

To my daughter and other children who don’t have involved fathers, I hope you see that there are so many that love you and want the best for you. A family isn’t just a mama, a papa, and a baby, but a group of people who pick each other and support them unconditionally.

Originally published on Newsymom.

Toddler Activity: Ice Cream Bonanza

With the temps steadily increasing, Mila keeps asking about one thing for breakfast: ice cream. To make her ice cream dreams come true, we had an ice cream bonanza (after lunch) to celebrate life.

I mean… there doesn’t need to be any reason to eat ice cream, but we had to make it special. They’re only three and this excitable once!

The first step was to make an ice cream charcuterie board!

We used all our favorite ice cream toppings for this. M&Ms, Oreos, strawberries, whipped cream, and of course sprinkles. Plus a little more too. Mila was shocked this whole board was for her!

Good thing she didn’t eat everything off of it. That would have been a fun sugar rush.

After she was satisfied with her dessert, we opened up her new Little Bookish Wardrobe box. We’ve been subscribed to this monthly box since last year! It’s a great way to add to your library. Plus, it comes with a dress up outfit AND a few activities to do too.

This month’s book was Izzy: The Ice Cream Fairy by Make Believe Ideas. It’s an adorable book that Mila had so much fun reading.

The story is set at a beach. Izzy and the ice cream fairies run out of ice cream. So, they go on a trip to find more. So much drama! Mila’s face throughout it was hilarious.

Honestly though, the best part of our whole bonanza was seeing Mila dress up as an ice cream fairy.

She thought her dress up outfit was perfect for the day.

After the book, we did the activities on the card. She also answered all my ice cream related questions, which made me happy.

Apparently her favorite ice cream is vanilla. Sprinkles are her favorite topping. She loves the ice cream from The Tusky Dugout and Dairy Queen. Cookies do NOT go on ice cream, but they’re good to snack while you’re eating it.

I love three.

Have you ever had an ice cream party for your toddler? What’s your favorite type of charcuterie board? Sweet or savory? Let me know in the comments.

My Everlasting Flowers.

I always dreamed of Jensen picking flowers for me. We’d have a house filled with dandelion and wildflower jars.

Although I do have a house like that now, it’s not from Jensen. Mila brings as much love as she does flowers into our house. Our life is happy, but we will always be missing a piece.

For a long time, I’ve wondered how I could get the dream of flowers from Jensen. Then I got a random tattoo.

After that tattoo, I talked to the tattoo artist about Jensen and how I’d love a bouquet of forget-me-not flowers on me. I wanted to always carry them, just like how he always walks with me.

So, we scheduled another tattoo session.

In a couple hours, I have my flowers picked by my Jensen. Every time I see blue forget-me-nots, I think of him. Now when I look at my arm, I think of him and the countless amounts of flowers he’ll have for me.

It felt a little radical to get a tattoo on my forearm that can always be seen, but I love it.

He and these flowers are a part of our story.

Most of my tattoos are in remembrance of Jensen. I love knowing that even though he’s not physically with us, I can always see him in my body. No matter if it’s on my foot, wrist, or arm, I can always catch a glimpse of him.

By the way, Mila likes this tattoo way more than the one on my ankle. She loves counting them and telling me how blue is for her brother.

What’s your favorite tattoo that you have? Or if you don’t have one, what would you get if you did?

Motherhood freed me.

Last month, I saw a post by Avery’s Garden asking for submissions of creative grief. The prompt was, “What does motherhood look like to you?”

For me, motherhood has been complicated and full of ups and downs.

In the beginning, I was stripped away from physically mothering Jensen. I will never be able to fully explain that pain and how it will always linger. I’ve tried hundreds of time, but there are no words.

As the months and years have went past, my motherhood has evolved.

I have Mila and we remember Jensen each day. With the two of them, I parent and honor them so different. I’ve changed the way I look at my motherhood too.

Here’s how I see my motherhood this year…

Through the grief and nakedness
of losing the biggest part of me,
planted a seed.

Out of that pain and emptiness
came all the growth and beauty.
Motherhood freed me.

I’m definitely not an artist, but I enjoyed painting and creating. When I look at this piece, I think of how far I’ve come and how much love I give every day.

Motherhood isn’t a pretty thing. It’s hard and is never perfect. Somehow through it all, it’s freed me.

I couldn’t imagine a life without them. Everyday I’m glad they chose me to be their mom.

Making Over Motherhood: My Battle with Maternal Mental Health

With the Mother’s Day soon, everyone is celebrating motherhood. Yet, there is a side of motherhood not a lot of people talk about. It’s the maternal mental health challenges that 1 in 5 women face each year in the U.S. This statistic is why Maternal Mental Health Week is so important to recognize.

Mothers all over the U.S. are sharing their stories of maternal mental health and making over motherhood.

In the picture of Mila and I, you might see me as a mother who is comforting her child. We’re all dressed up for pictures and beautifully done. The things that you can’t see are what makes motherhood so challenging. You don’t see my son who should be five and helping Mila take pictures. There’s an endless amount of tears that I’ve shed to get to this point. You’d never understand the turmoil and challenges it took to get to this one moment.

No one can outwardly see mental health issues. As a mother, we instinctually put our children’s needs before ours. Our mental health can slip and slide away.

I am the 1 in 5 who have faced maternal mental health disorders.

Throughout my time on this blog, I haven’t been shy about talking about my anxiety, depression, and PTSD that I faced after Jensen’s birth. What I didn’t expect was postpartum depression after having Mila.

How could I not be happy and joyous after having a living child? I didn’t have to plan a funeral or never see her again. All the things I had wished for after Jensen’s birth was happening with her. She would be growing and learning. It felt so unnatural to not be in love with the time after she was born.

But, I wasn’t. I loved her and wanted all the best things for her, but I couldn’t be happy.

I think I cried more than I smiled that first year. It was hard to even get on a schedule or do certain things. If I wasn’t sad, I had horrible anxiety.

There were constant thoughts of her dying and all the scenarios that could play out. I honestly felt crazy. It didn’t feel like anyone else had these thoughts with their newborn. It was isolating, just like I felt after Jensen’s birth.

Except, after I had Jensen, I gained a community that helped and uplifted me as much as they could.

With Mila, I felt completely alone.

Now that she’s three and Jensen would be five, I’ve lived with anxiety and depression for quite a while. I’ve talked to my new therapist for a year and she’s been a big help with my mental health. It makes me wish I would have gotten help sooner.

We all live in a world where social media rules all. People can project to you happy faces and times, but there’s a side to a people’s lives we don’t see. Not talking about maternal mental health and the challenges of motherhood can be especially damaging to new moms. They might think their emotions to how they’re handling motherhood is wrong, but it’s not.

As a mother who has lived through their child die and then dealt with intense mental health issues after their living child, I’m here to tell all mothers, they’re not alone.

It’s time to make over motherhood. That doesn’t mean putting our best foot forward on social media or how we present ourself to the world. It means showing the struggle and letting others know there is help out there.

Please know you’re not alone in your maternal mental health struggles. Reach out for help if you need it. You deserve the same love and care you give your child.

I promise, you’re worth it.

Here’s some information about Maternal Mental Health Week. If you can, share some information to help another mom out. If you’re feeling brave, you can share your story too.

You are never alone.

Resources:

Jensen is FIVE.

I always need a few days after Jensen’s birthday to collect all my thoughts.

Five feels really big. He should be half a decade old. That realization is hard to wrap my mind around. Then I remember, I have to live the rest of my life without him. It’s a mix of seeing Mila grow older and knowing five holds so much that really brought me to a dark space this year.

Not that every year isn’t hard because having your child die really sucks.

Anyways, Jensen’s actual birthday was everything it needed to be. We still celebrate his birthday and I probably always will.

This year, I wanted to do an activity a five-year-old would love to do. So, we went to the zoo.

I want to go over how much we loved the Cleveland Zoo in a future post, but it was a huge part of Jensen’s fifth birthday. It would be silly not to share the highlights of the day.

My favorite part of going to the zoo was that all the animals were out. Since it was a cooler day, they were playing and being active. The big cats were all out and not napping. Even the bears were out of their caves and showing off.

Honestly, I thought of Jensen’s birthday eve book. We read On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman. In the book, the animals were all dancing the night the baby was born. It felt like the animals were out at the zoo for Jensen. I know that sounds silly, but those little connections are my only ones to him.

As with anything during child loss, I also wondered what animal Jensen would like seeing the most at the zoo. At five, he’d definitely have a favorite. Part of me felt like he’d have liked the red pandas the most. I wonder if he’d want his face painted too. Just those little things that constantly pop up.

I’ve finally realized it’s okay to have those sad moments in a happy day. Grief and happiness coexist in the strangest way, especially on their birthdays.

Of course we had dippin’ dots at the zoo!

After the zoo, we went out to eat.

There were a few birthdays that got celebrated and it was hard because Jensen didn’t get that. Mila is at an age where she wants to sing along with everyone else’s birthday celebrations when we go out. Yet, we didn’t get one for her brother at the restaurant.

I often wonder what Mila thinks of those types of things. It’s just our life, but it’s just something I think about.

When we got home, we had family over to celebrate Jensen and his birthday. There was ice cream cake, singing, and bubbles. Everyone said his name and that will always be the greatest gift of all.

Just knowing Jensen is remembered and loved brings me such happiness.

Throughout his birthday, I received so many birthday messages and love. I can’t thank everyone enough for that. The love that surrounds him and his memory is so beautiful.

I don’t know what this year of grief looks like. Whenever I try to plan something, it feels like it gets a little derailed.

One thing I want to do in honor of Jensen this year is a backpack drive to donate to a local school. Since he’d be a kindergartner this year, I feel like that would be a beautiful way to honor him. The closer we get to the summer, the more details and information I’ll have on this.

What I do know is that as we dive into year five, he is still so loved and missed.

I think about my little boy every single day. He is the reason I keep going forward and shapes the way I parent Mila. Jensen is a part of our lives in all ways. Even though he isn’t here with us doesn’t mean he isn’t in our hearts.

No matter how many years pass, I’m so proud to be his mom.

April is National Poetry Month…

…and a bunch more too.

April is not an easy month for me and this year feels extra difficult too. On top of my intense grief with Jensen’s birthday only four days away, I’m drowning in my last semester of school, work, and Mila’s birthday too. It’s a dangerous combination. Breakdown probably imploding soon.

Through it all, I’m trying to remain positive, even when it feels really hard.

This morning, I didn’t know if I was going to blog today. Instead, I took the morning easy and painted with Mila. Since it’s National Poetry Month, I thought it’d be fun to write a poem too.

My plan is to write a poem a day, whether I share it or not. It challenges me to think inward and be expressive. In a month where I don’t have a ton of time to self reflect or do a lot of self care, this will be my time.

For the first one, I thought it’d be poetic to write one about April.


April.
you hold so much of my heart,
i don’t know where to start.
you’ve brought me life and death,
promise you won’t take my breath.
your sun shines so hot,
my son comes through forget-me-nots.
you have flowers grow all around,
while my daughter runs all around.
you always tempt me to love you,
and one day that’ll be true.

It may not be the best poem around, but I think it perfectly describes this month for me.

Here’s what’s coming up for the rest of the month. Again, it’s going to be really busy here, but I’ll be around… promise.

  • April 4 – Easter & Family Pictures
  • April 5 – Jensen turns FIVE!
  • Mila’s Birthday Party
  • April 14 – Mila turns THREE!
  • April 22 – Earth Day
  • April 27 – Last day of this semester.

When it’s listed out like that, it doesn’t seem like so much. Yet, behind every single one of those is a lot of emotions and time. So, I’ll be just a bit busy.

Let me know if I should share my daily poems. Maybe I’ll paint too!

What Happened to Laundry Weekend?

It was supposed to be a laundry weekend.

Moms know what this means. We had a long weekend so all the clothes in the house were to be folded. Extra cleaning was to be done too. The chore list doesn’t just do itself. It was all supposed to be neat and tidy for the week ahead.

Even though it was supposed to happen, it didn’t.

All the clothes are still waiting to be folded. The floors are swept and the house is somewhat tidy, but not to the level it could have been.

Instead, I focused on the hardest job: being a mom.

Mila and I played outside most of time. We went to get dinner at a food truck and made new friends. When the weather was it’s nicest, we went on a hike. She made me wear silly headbands, pretending to be a pirate. I played along with all that she asked. At night, we cuddled and watched movies. I listened when she needed to be heard. She showed me her new superhero power. We did what we needed to as a family.

Even though there’s a to do list full of chores, it didn’t seem so important in the moment.

At this time next month four turns to five and two turns to three. Time is continuing on, even when I want to hit pause.

I’ll always think about the should be’s, the moments I missed, and the extra laundry too. The Jensen-size-hole in my heart is just aching a little more. It reminds me of the choices I make on weekends like these.

He reminds me of moments and why I soak them up with her. Things around the house will stay, but she’ll continue growing. I don’t want to miss any more.

So, if you ask how my laundry weekend went just know…

All the laundry that was supposed to be folded will always be there. These moments won’t.

The Unwritten Milestone

To say I wasn’t prepared for Mila’s new and unwritten milestone would be a complete understatement. Not only did it come out of no where, it completely took me off guard.

Usually, Wednesdays are to tell you all about their weird things Mila does. It’s one of the things I look forward to sharing most about. They make me laugh to think about and I know other parents can connect to them too. I’m pretty sure all our kids are somewhat weird.

Anyways, I couldn’t even call what she did yesterday weird. It was more like… touching, heartwarming, and inspiring.

She absolutely made my heart grow with one little sentence.

Here’s what happened.

As I was leaving to go back to work after lunch, Mila did her normal goodbye routine. She has to give whoever a hug and kiss, at least two times. Then tells them she loves them and to have a good day. Just when you’re about to walk out the door, she’ll yell, “I need a hug and kiss!” Then run up to you.

Well, this lunch period was a little different. She ended up walking me out of the house, instead of watching me go. When I bent down to give her a hug and kiss, she said something new. Something no one prepared me about: the unwritten milestone.

You’re the best, Mom.

She has never, ever said that before; especially when I’m about to leave her for a few hours.

As she said it to me, she gave me a big squeeze. Then, she flashed her smile and walked back to the door. She waved and told me to have a good day.

In that big moment, I had to take a deep breath and get back to real life.

On the inside, I melted. I swear if it was any other time, I probably would have cried. With all the leaving her lately, I wonder how she thinks of me. That statement let me know everything I was doing was right.

It might sound silly to cherish this one unwritten rule, but no one told me what that one little saying would feel like when they said it.

There’s a high chance I’m not the best mom in the entire world, but I’m the best mom to MIla and that feels pretty good. One day she’ll learn the power in her words and how I’ll always think she’s the best girl.

For now, I’m celebrating this victory in motherhood and the unwritten milestone.

Always Blow the Bubbles.

In a month, Mila will be three.

Three whole years of learning about and loving her. I’m going to admit, two has been my favorite. It’s a gift that I only have a month more to cherish.

If I could go back to a year ago and talk to myself about parenting, I’d tell myself one thing.

Always blow the bubbles.

When she has her bubble bottle outstretched to you, take that ten minutes and blow them. Even when you’re swamped with work and need to clean, blow the bubbles.

This is the purest time in their lives. The world around them is magical.

With all the worries adults have going on, bubbles are the only thing on a toddler’s mind. That and seeing their favorite smile in the world.

Bubbles are, of course, metaphoric.

They can be singing, or playing, or running, or listening, or dancing. Whatever it may be, when your child asks, try and blow the bubbles.

The years go so fast and in the moments you drop everything, time stands still.

Their laugh is all you can hear. And their smile… well, there hasn’t been a sweeter sight. They’re engrossed in the moment as much as you. All it took was focusing on this second.

Work, a dirty house, and other adults will always be around, but they won’t be little forever.

There will come a time where they don’t want you to blow bubbles. They’ll just do it themselves. The freedom you crave now will come and those toddler cuddles and desires will fade away.

Two and these toddler years are hard, but they go away so soon.

For us, two ends in a month.

If three-year-old Mila’s mom came to talk to me today, I bet she’d tell me the same advice…

Always blow the bubbles.

What advice would you give to toddler moms?