A Letter to My Son, Who Died, on National Son’s Day.

Dear Jensen,

It’s National Sons Day and parents are posting pictures of their favorite little guys.

When I see everyone’s post, I smile because every child is so special and worthy of being shared. They’re proud of their sons and when it was National Daughter’s Day, they were all proud of their daughters too. Just like I was when I posted Mila’s picture.

On that day, I paused and thought about all the grieving moms and dads whose daughters died. I know that sting of seeing other kids grow.

It helped me prep myself for this day, because I wish I had pictures of you at five.

Instead, I get to post my favorite pictures of you when you were born. It’s my day to share how proud I am of my son, of you. I get to talk about how you made me a mom and how even though you’re not here with me, I get to love you more and more every day.

You and Mila both know that every day in our home is kid’s day. In different ways, you and Mila are the focus of everything I do.

I still get to buy the ‘boy’ things and Mila brings them to your bear. She still talks to you all the time at home. Sometimes she even talks for you, with her deep Jensen voice. It always feels like you’re right there with us and I know you’re there. Just as much as Mila is celebrated, you are too, my sweet boy.

On this Son’s Day and all the future ones, I want you to know that you are never forgotten and that I’m so proud to be your mom.

You were the one to teach me how to love unconditionally and to show me the meaning of life.

I love you and miss you always.

Love,
Your Mom

From Preschoolers to Princesses: Atwood’s Princess in the Park

This weekend, Mila and her friends were transformed from their fabulous, preschool selves to beautiful princesses. Atwood Lake Park hosted Princess in the Park for area girls and it was a fairytale for everyone involved.

Naturally, Mila took the afternoon napping and getting ready for the event.

There were two sessions for it, but we went to the later one at 5:30. Thankfully that nap came in handy. To get her ready, she got her hair curled, put a little bit of makeup one, and was dressed in her favorite princess dress.

She was too excited to take pictures before we left, even though she made me and my parents dress up for the occasion.

It only made sense since we were going to be in the presence of a ton of princesses!

When we got there, the girls were divided into four groups: red, purple, silver, and blue (or maybe pink, we weren’t in that group). You could tell their group by the necklaces they gave them when they were registered. Mila was in the purple group, so that’s the timeline of the night I’ll be following.

There were four different princess activity stations: craft, carriage ride, story and snack time, and nail and hand painting.

The first station Mila went to was the crafting one. Here, all the princesses decorated a frame and a princess wand. Mila absolutely LOVED the wand and it turned out so cute. She held it most of the night and pretended to have magic powers too.

They had all the craft supplies ready for us. There were wooden skewers, stickers, ribbons, stars, and the frame. I think Mila tried to put everything on her wand. It turned out adorable.

It seemed like all the other princesses enjoyed their craft too!

After craft time was the carriage ride.

Cinderella brought her magical carriage with her beautiful horses for all the little princesses to ride. Of course she joined in too! They had six girls at a time join Cinderella and they took a carriage ride around the Atwood Lake Park. It took about fifteen minutes, but it probably seemed a lot quicker for the little ones.

Honestly, this part was just as magical for the parents as it was the kids. The carriage was breathtaking and I hope it made Mila feel so special. Her smile was radiating.

When the carriage ride was over, the other half of the group of kids went on and Mila’s got to meet Mrs. Ohio from 2011. Her name is Mrs. Melanie Miller and she did amazing with the little ones. Mila was so happy to meet another real life princess for the night!

She instantly wanted to give her a hug and sit and talk with her. I think Mila was a little awe-struck because she didn’t say a lot, but kept looking at Mrs. Miller and her crowns. I think she loved her sparkly dress too. They discussed how their favorite letter was “M” and how Mila should always follow her dreams. It was so adorable. Mrs. Miller also gave Mila an autographed picture that she talked about and showed us on the way home.

Mrs. Ohio, if you are reading this, thank you so much for being patient and so caring. It truly made an impact on our girls. I know Mila enjoyed meeting and talking with you.

Next it was story and snack time!

They had cupcakes there for the kids to ice and decorate. Although they didn’t have tea, they had apple juice that were perfect for princesses.

As the kids decorated their cupcakes and ate them, a man (whose name I didn’t catch) read a story to the kids. He let them name the princess and unicorn. Mila came up with the name Aveena for the princess and another girl names the unicorn Sedine. They really gave him tricky names to remember. It was pretty comical.

It was a really cute story and gave the kids time to calm down after all the carriage and Mrs. Ohio excitement.

I love watching Mila decorate her cupcake too! She gets better at it every time.

The next and last station was the nail and hand painting. Although a lot of girls sat and got theirs done, Mila had other plans. She’s not the “let’s get our nails painted” princess. Instead, she decided to play.

Since my parents went with us, she had my dad play on the playground with her. They had so much fun on the equipment and the swings.

It also was nice that she got to get really tired before we left!

I love watching her play and interact with other kids and her grandpa. I swear every time I look at her it looks like she’s grown up more. It’s one of the most bittersweet feelings that all parents (I think) feel.

After the last station, we could leave. Instead though, Mila got to meet up with her friends. They, again, went to see Mrs. Ohio and took pictures with her. It was so cute watching them listen to her and wanting to see her crowns. I swear us parents looked like the paparazzi taking a ton of pictures. It was just so exciting.

The princesses took more pictures and played for some time after too. I loved seeing them all dressed up. They’re usually beautiful, but they looked extra cute all dressed up.

I am so thankful for everyone at Atwood Lake Park and the princesses that made this happen. Mila and the rest of their kids really enjoyed themselves. I know she will be talking about this event for days, especially when we go and print pictures out!

Since we live in such a small, tight community, it’s amazing to get our kids together and interacting. It’s truly special and amazing.


If you live local, what are some events you’re looking forward to this fall? If you don’t live local, what are some fall events that you think Mila and I should do? Let me know in the comments.

My Preschooler’s Question About Her Absent Father.

“Mom, is my dad dead?”

When Mila started preschool, I knew there would be questions about our family unit. She knows her brother died and can obviously see she doesn’t have a dad.

I’ve been preparing myself for questions, but I never thought she might have thought he died.

For the last year and a half, I’ve let her know it’s her and I against the world. That it’s okay to just have a mom. All families are different. Some have just one parent: mom or dad. Some have two: a mom and dad, two moms, two dads.

She seems to understand and tells me she is happy. If you talk to her, you can see that too.

There is no shortage of love for Mila. Our extended family is amazing. She has men in her life that show her how guys should act and treat others. I think she’s balanced in what she does and who she’s around. And again, most importantly, she is happy and healthy.

I couldn’t ask for a better daughter.

BUT, no matter how happy or how much love she has, there’s still a missing piece in her life.

“Mom, is my dad dead?”

“No, he’s not dead. Why do you ask that?”

“At preschool, I told my friends I didn’t have a daddy, just a mommy, and someone asked if he died. Like Jensen.”

“He didn’t die. It’s just you and I. When you get older, I’ll tell you more about him. Promise.”

Then she gives me a hug and let’s me hold her for a while. I don’t know if she cried because I couldn’t look. When she let go, she told me she loved me and went along her way.

I can’t tell you all the emotions that conversation made me feel.

If I could have screamed, I would. There was so much anger and sadness in me, on top of wanting to protect Mila from the world, from her dad.

It honestly makes sense that she thought that. She knows she has a brother that’s not here anymore. Jensen died and whew not here. She doesn’t have a dad, so in her head it makes sense he died too.

I’ll never understand how one person is okay with leaving a little girl, their flesh and blood, with so many questions… especially in the most impressionable years of her life. Okay with never knowing her or wanting her to succeed. Okay with not keeping her safe: emotionally, socially, and physically. Okay with her wondering if he died. Not that I even want him or his family involved with her, it’s still unfair to Mila not to know and wonder if he just died.

Sometimes I think that would have been an easier explanation for her. Death would make more sense than just being an abusive, neglectful, and cruel person to a child.

I don’t even understand it, how could a three year old?

It was one of those times as a parent when I had to separate my feelings and just had to focus on Mila. She needs to know that no matter what, her mom will always be there for her.

Being a single parent is hard. There’s so many questions I know Mila will have in the future that will feel like a hurdle when we get there.

This was just one of those times.

The next few days after the big question, she seemed a little down. I tried to make those days special and read books to her about different types of families. We also made a little book of our family to show her how many people love her.

I can’t change the fact that Mila’s dad is a terrible person who’s abandoned her. What I can help is how she views the world and her situation.

She is the most special girl. No one can ever take that away from her.


Usually I ask for advice or a question at the end of every blog post. I know Mila and I’d situation is unique, but if you have any book recommendations about single parent families, positive and helpful suggestions, or other resources that would help, please let me know.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Play Dough Recipe

It’s almost fall, so that means it’s time for autumn themed play. This week, we made pumpkin spice play dough.

Not only does it smell amazing, it’s a ton of fun to play with… for kids and adults!

One BIG thing about this recipe is that it makes a lot of play dough. I was actually really surprised with how much there was after I made it. Honestly, I would suggest cutting this recipe in half. Unless you want to gift some to others!

The best part of this DIY play dough is that it’s only four ingredients and you don’t even need to cook it like other recipes.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • Dash of pumpkin spice

It’s crazy that you can make good smelling play dough with only four ingredients… really only three main ones if you don’t want it to smell like pumpkin spice.

Mila helped make everything! We measured out all of the ingredients and she helped pour everything in. At first we started stirring it with a fork, then it got too thick and we had to start mixing it with our hands.

For the pumpkin spice, we poured a lot more than a dash. We poured it in until we could smell it!

She ended up playing with it for a long time. I think play dough really calms her. It’s also fun to watch her do pretend play with play dough. Another way you can challenge your toddler or preschooler to play with play dough is to have them make different shapes. It’s fun to watch them try to figure out how to make the shape with their hands.

To store this play dough, just keep it in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Mines in a ziplock baggie with all the air pushed out.

Before Mila plays with it, I just have it on the counter to warm up a little bit.

I’ve been trying to take more videos, but I’m forgetting to take pictures… oops. Thankfully I can share them on here.

It’s fun to watch the memories live instead of just pictures. I’ll try to do both!

I can’t wait to see all the times Mila plays with the play dough throughout the season. If we think of more fun ways to play, I’ll share them here with you.


Have you ever made play dough before? What’s your favorite type to make?

I definitely want to try different scented ones!

Toddler Activity: Dinosaur Activity Box.

No matter if your little needs to stay busy after school or during the day, activity boxes will help! This week, Mila has been enjoying a Dinosaur Activity Box.

Filled with books, educational worksheets, sensory objects, and dinosaur toys, Mila has been engaged with this activity box all week. Every time she goes to pull something out, she can explore a new way to play. That’s what makes these boxes so intriguing to kids.

I’m actually really happy that Mila is interested in dinosaurs. Here’s a little secret… dinosaurs are one of my weird fears. I mean they’re extinct. Since Mila is interested in them now, I’ve learned a ton about them. Thank you to all the authors who have simplified the terms and information to toddler books. I really think the dancing dino books have been a huge help into getting Mila interested in them.

Anyways, since Mila is in a weird in between of waiting for preschool while I’m at school, I thought putting together activity boxes would be perfect.

This is a low prep solution to keeping her engaged while she’s with my mom. I can imagine babysitters would love this idea too. All my mom has to do is grab the box and take it. Next week, I’ll have a different theme with similar activities.

Here’s what’s in the box…

Dinosaur Books

Mila learns best with books and activities. We’ve collected a ton of books in her three years, but they have paid themselves off with all that she’s learned.

A few months ago, we actually did a fun activity with Dino Dance by Sandra Boynton. Mila actually remembered it when she saw her activity box and flipped to their dances. It’s so nice to know she has that information stored somewhere.

The other books are just as valuable. We love them all and read them even without talking about dinosaurs…

Dino Dance by Sandra Boynton

Night, Night, Dino-Snores by Nicola Edwards

Five Dancing Dinosaurs by Little Hippo Books

Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett

Let us know your favorite dinosaur books in the comments! We’d love to grow our library.

Workbook Pages and Crayons

It turns out, Mila loves worksheets. She loves the idea of ‘working,’ so it’s made learning a breeze.

I went through all her different workbooks and found the dinosaur themed ones. Some of them talk about the letter ‘d’ and others are working on prewriting. Either way, they are her level and she’s learning.

I’d definitely recommend starting your toddler or preschooler with worksheets at home. Target and Amazon always has amazing options!

Resin Letters

Resin letters are a must to add to any activity. I love that they help familiarize kids with the alphabet in a fun way that they can hold in their hands.

For this activity bin, I obviously put ‘dinosaur’ in an egg for Mila to explore. She matched them up with the letters on the books and we went over them too. This particular set was made by one of my students. However, I love Beags and Bubs‘ resin letters on Instagram. I bought a custom set a few weeks ago and have used them a ton. They’d be a great Christmas or birthday present!

Dinosaur Toys

Pretend play is Mila’s favorite way to play. She likes to make up different voices and scenarios. I HAD to include them in her bin.

Not only did the dinosaurs dance, they played all types of different games with them too. Mila likes to make the dinosaur toys act out the books as well. She could pretend play for hours. This was no different than usual!

Play-dough and Slime

I also added some sensory play items in there for her too. She loves the different textures of the play-dough and slime. In this bin, I only put in ‘dinosaur colors,’ which are greens and blues. This way she can make foot prints, try to make dinosaurs, or just give her brain a little break.

Some of the other sensory items I added were beads, a dinosaur egg, and play-dough moulds.


Overall, this activity box was a success! Mila loved it and I love watching her learn.

I have a few ideas for future boxes, but would love to hear what you all would like to see too! Let me know in the comments!

Then check out these dinosaur inspired activities:

Back to School Success Backpack.

It’s back to school time! Before I know it, Mila will be starting her first year of preschool. To help her start the year off right, I compiled a Back to School Success Backpack for her.

Although we didn’t get a supply list, I figured there were some must haves that Mila needed. I want her to feel comfortable going away to school for the first time ever. It’s a HUGE change. She’s going to thrive there, but if there’s a chance she’ll miss me or be a little sad, I wanted her to have things that made her smile.

Everything personalized I ordered from Etsy, but you can find non-personalized things at a ton of local stores. Mila loves personalized things because she’s familiar with ‘her letters.’

If you love any of these items, I’m going to list the shop and the item link below. That way you’re able to check them out. All of these shops have different colors and styles that will be perfect for you child. This is just what I knew Mila would love.

Hello Preschool Shirt

For every first day of school, you need a fresh look. I just loved how cheerful this shirt was. It reminded me of Mila the first second I saw it. I mean, hello rainbow!

Another thing with this shirt… it can be customized to whatever grade a child is going into. If you’re not into pink, you can pick another color too.

Personalized Rainbow Backpack

BIG surprise here… Mila just had to have a rainbow backpack. We love what rainbows symbolize to us. Plus, it’s pink. I know Mila will love taking this to school everyday and will remember to bring it back filled with goodies too!

Mama – Mila Rainbow Bracelets

This is my FAVORITE item in her first day of school success backpack.

Not only do we get matching bracelets, it’s super meaningful. I miss her all day when I’m at work and I have a feeling she might feel the same. Whenever she looks down, I hope she knows I’m thinking about her too.

Mila actually loves bracelets and I know she’ll take really good care of this one. Probably until it breaks!

Pop It

Mila loves Pop Its. They calm her down when needed and they’re a ton of fun activities to do with them outside of school too! I know this will be a familiar tool for her to use when needed.

Morning and Night Time Checklist

One activity that really clicks for Mila are scavenger hunts. To help prepare her for school, I downloaded these really handy morning and night checklists from Celebration Stylist. They have a TON of different printables for almost any occasion you can think about. I’d definitely recommend their website for busy moms who don’t have the time to make decorations or items, but still want to incorporate them in their lives.

Anyways, we’ve been using these to help her understand what we have to do to make our days successful. At night, she’s already remembering what should happen next and is enjoying this routine.

If you’re looking for page protectors, I got this specific one from Target! They work so nice and let us reuse these every day!

Daily Affirmations Sheet

This affirmation sheet is also from Celebration Stylist. For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading them all to her and they make her smile. These types of affirmations can really help boost a child’s confidence.

I’m putting this in her folder to take to school so she can remember them. My hope is if she is feeling down, she looks at this list and remembers who she is.

Snacks and Water Bottle

The last two items I’m making sure she has handy for her first day of school is a snack and one of her water bottles. I cannot go through the work day without drinking or snacking throughout. Even though I know her teachers will provide her with that, this is just an ‘in case of emergency’ type of deal.


I am so excited for Mila to start this new journey. Every part of me knows she will succeed and love learning and playing with her new friends.

It’s my hope that Mila will have all the tools she will need in this Back to School Success Backpack. In her three years, I’ve done my best to help prepare her for this step and now it’s time for her to shine. This will be another part of her life that I’m just insanely proud of.

I can’t wait to hear all her stories… and maybe share a few here too.

In the comments, let me know what you did to be successful. What did you send with your preschooler on their first day? Do you have any tips or tricks?

After that, check out how these other moms are prepping for back to school:

Mother-Daughter Self Care Night Ideas.

There’s nothing more special than a mother daughter date night! Instead of going out, Mila and I stayed in and practiced self care.

Since this first week back to school has been hectic, staying in and relaxing felt right. We both needed the rest and the together time to recharge for the upcoming week. Plus, we got to just focus on what self care we needed.

To begin the night, I took a hot shower where I put on a hair mask (seriously the mask I linked does wonders!) and used sugar scrub.

I never have enough time to do these extra steps! Setting aside this time made my skin and hair feel so soft and new.

Mila, on the other hand, had a bubble bath beforehand. She spent her time doing her own makeup. I didn’t know this, but she definitely was feeling herself and all the glitter.

We kept it on until right before bed because she liked it. When you have a self care night, you have to feel like your best self.

I can’t blame her for wanting to be covered in glitter.

After my lotion dried, we put on our favorite jammies. Then, we got our self care essentials for the night:

Mila choose to read Unicorns Are Real! by Holly Hatam. I got to read a few pages of my fav The Great Gatsby.

As a busy mom, I don’t always get to read as much as I’d like. Just even being able to read a few pages felt so nice. It’s also amazing for Mila to see me reading and enjoying it! I hope so loves English and language as much as I do.

The book she picked out is adorable! She often asks me to read it to her before bed. Now she makes up the story when she looks at it herself.

Throughout watching movies and reading our books, we snacked on our cheese balls and jello.

Mila asked for water, without Mio. I’m so proud of her positive choices. I told her she could have anything to drink and that’s what she chose.

We ended the night taking selfies and I painted Mila’s nails. I love that we both have dark purple polish on now. Anytime we can match, I feel like we try to do it. Even when we stay in.

It wasn’t long after her nails dried until Mila fell asleep. We had wiped her makeup off and she was just relaxed.

I ended the night watching dance moms and maybe had a few more cheese balls too.

Our night was pretty perfect.

We love being together and doing the things we enjoy. I can’t express how much joy Mila brings me. Hopefully she’ll be able to see the importance of self care as she gets older.

We all deserve to love and cherish ourselves.

Have you ever had a self care night with just your or with your little? What was your favorite activity?

Toddler Activity: Cake Decorating Sensory Bin

Cake it till you make it with this Cake Decorating Sensory Bin.

Shaving cream is such a fun ingredient to use during sensory play. It’s cheap, versatile, and easy to clean up. That makes this bin perfect for kids and their parents!

I also loved seeing Mila’s creativity again and again. She did a lot of different designs and pretended she was a cake decorated the entire time.

It was a sensory bin success!

Here’s the only things you’ll need for this one:

I feel like I always say this, but putting this bin together took no time.

The longest part was cutting up the straws into sprinkles. For this, all I did was randomly cut it in small pieces. I didn’t measure or make anything exact.

Then, I put shaving cream in the bin. There was a decent sized layer there, but I didn’t fill the bin.

After that, I set it in front of Mila and told her the goal of the sensory bin. She did everything else without me having to monitor it.

The only thing I did have to mention that this was shaving cream… not whipped cream.

Mila played with this activity for way longer than I set it up. Which is always a win in my book. When she wanted to clear off her cake, we put the sprinkles in a colander and cleaned them off.

This Cake Decorating Sensory Bin really was such a simple and fun activity for her!

I’m the future, I can see this activity expanding into her spelling words or having her make certain images. Mainly because it was so easy!

Let me know in the comments your child’s favorite type of sensory play. I think Mila’s might be water!

Check out these other sensory play ideas too:

25 Self Care Activities for August.

Hello August!

I’m completely shocked August is here. Summer is flying by, but there’s always time to focus on self care.

As parents, we sometimes forget to take care of our mental and physical health. It’s hard to fit it all in. Here are twenty-five self care activities that you can do all August long.

They can even be fun if you have littles with you too!

1. Take a walk

2. Read a book

3. Do a paint by number

4. Journal

5. Bake a cake

6. Listen to a podcast

7. Binge a new series

8. Go swimming

9. Take a drive

10. Tend plants

11. Visit a market

12. Go kayaking

13. Call a friend

14. Go to lunch

15. Buy your favorite coffee

16. Look at the stars

17. Pick flowers

18. Dance

19. Volunteer

20. Go on a walk

21. Cuddle an animal

22. Put new sheets on your bed

23. Take a phone free day

24. Go fishing

25. Try something new

No matter what you decide to do this month, make a little time just for you.

You are so important.

If you feel selfish for taking you time… your kids will benefit from your self care too! A happy mom or dad leads to happy kids.

You and your happiness matters.

What self care activity do you plan on doing this month? Any that you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Support Local: Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market

On Wednesdays, we go to the market. More specifically, we head to the Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market in Dover, Ohio for food, entertainment, and a fun time.

Open every Wednesday from 3-7pm during the months of June to mid-October, the Market sets up at the Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds. It’s open rain or shine.

Anytime we can support local farmers, makers, and businesses, we do! So, we grab our canvas bags and go shopping.

Mila loves interacting with all the people and I love knowing where our food is coming from.

It’s a perfect combination.

It’s so fun watching Mila interact and explore different foods. She loves to pick out zucchini, all fruits, and flowers. I love that everyone is patient with her (and me too!). Somehow I feel like this is only going to strengthen her relationship with food.

My favorite part is trying out different vegetables than what we would normally pick out.

We’ve tried different squashes, baby carrots, and a vegetable called a kohlrabi. Kohlrabi looks like an alien vegetable, but tastes like cauliflower. I have a recipe I’m going to share soon with it.

We also love the homemade jams, puff corn, hot sauces, and flowers too. I guess you can say we like everything there.

Every time we go, Mila enjoys picking out fresh cut flowers to take home.

They add so much beauty to our home and are different every week we go. That’s the magic about buying local, it’s whatever is growing or read that week.

When you go to the Market, you’re not just going to get produce and leave.

The library brings crafts for kids every other week to do. You can either make them there or take them home to do later.

There’s usually entertainment, such as local bands and musicians too. Mila and her friends danced for a while one week. They had so much fun, as well as everyone else around too. It’s so special to watch a community come together and enjoy the moment.

Another added bonus is the food trucks and stands that join in on the fun.

I don’t know if anyone else is like me, but after I get back from shopping I get tired. Instead of rushing home to make food, we love ordering food and eating there. They usually have brick oven pizza that tastes so good!

Mila usually had sampled all of our produce by the end, but never turns down macaroons or ice cream!

Once you do get home to make meals, you won’t be disappointed.

Last week, I made an amazing BLT with all local ingredients. It honestly tasted fresh and so much better than usual. I definitely need to pick up more tomatoes and bread this week!

We hope that you can make it to the Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market this year!

It’s a great event for our community, way to educate our kids about food, and help grow our local commerce. You might even get to try an out of this world vegetable too!

Just watch out for Mila pushing her cart!

If you’ve ever been to the Tuscarawas Valley Farmers Market, what’s your favorite thing about it?

My faraway friends, do you have a local farmers market you like to attend?