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.

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!

Weird Things My Toddler Does: Part Two

Let’s admit it, toddlers a weird. Mine is no exception.

Like all kids, Mila goes through food stages. The flavor of this month: sliced salami. She eats it for lunch everyday with a slice of cheese and maybe some grapes. Sort of an odd choice of fav food, but that’s not the weird part about her latest obsession… she has to put it on her foot before she eats it.

Yeah, weird and gross. I literally watched her eat for twenty minutes today, while Frozen was playing for the thousandth time (another obsession lately). Every piece she laid on her toes and played with it before she got a nice, footy bite.

Notice how her other toes are glistening. I don’t know about you, but not a lot of people can say their feet smell like salami. At least she’s eating something, right?

I guess I’ll pick my battles with Mila, like her favorite girl Elsa says, I’ll let it go. But not before I share it with the internet.

What weird thing will Mila do next?

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.

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.

Guess Who Ran Barefoot Through Fields of Sunflowers…

I know a little girl who ran barefoot among the sunflowers.
With the wind in her hair and dirt on her feet, she laughed freely.
Only looking back to see who follows, she knows she holds all the power.
No matter how wild and free, I’m proud to say this girl belongs to me.

I’m not the best poet in the world, but Saturday was so magical that words flow through me when looking back on pictures. Mila and I had a day full of adventures that I could not predict what all was going to happen.

A few weeks ago, I saw that Ramseyer Farms near Wooster had a sunflower festival going on. I had never been to the farm before or really knew what to expect, but I thought it might be cute for Mila and I to go. Well, it turns out this place is HUGE. There’s so many playgrounds, big slides, farm animals, corn mazes, food, and more that people of all ages can enjoy.

We started off our time at the playground designated for little kids. There was a huge play set that had slides everywhere. I thought Mila was a little too little to go by herself, so of course I went down them with her, check out the video at the end. We unfortunately probably didn’t wear the best clothes, but we rocked it anyways. She loved that I got to play with her and was smiling the entire time. There was also a baby corn maze. She thought it was hilarious and ran right through it. Then, we got to this wagon full of corn that kids could play in. We didn’t leave there for a long time. It was relaxing to just float on top of the corn and I could definitely tell it made her sleepy. So after thirty minutes we went off to the next thing.

I swear Mila was supposed to grow up on a farm because she thrives in this setting. She absolutely loves animals and has no fear of them. They for some reason respect her and are all gentle. I hope she always stays curious and keeps her love for them. Unfortunately when trying to see the little chicks closely, Mila fell of a few steps and hit hard. Of course, right? She’s accident prone, what can I say… Instead of sticking around, we did a little random act of kindness and our quarters by all the animal food so others could have a turn in feeding the goats and pigs too. (By the way, that’s one of our bucket list items we checked off! Only a few more to go!)

Mila and I tried to get to all the playgrounds and big slides, but time went really quick. We went through one corn maze, ate kennel corn, and drank apple cider. I was hoping she’d get some type of sugar rush before we ended our time at Ramseyer Farms in the sunflower fields. Thankfully it worked.

I have never seen anything as cute as Mila running wild in the fields. She refused to wear her shoes after a little while and it just made her look like she belonged there. Lots of people just looked at her and smiled. I think watching a child just be so innocent and carefree brings adults back. With everything I’ve been through, I really live in moments like these. Mila’s taught me to smile and love life again. For that I’ll always be thankful for her.

After picking our sunflowers and getting back to the car. Thank you to the random man who helped me carry everything back. I brought the wrong stroller and no bag… not good planning on my part, but thankfully there’s good people in the world. On the way back home, Mila finally passed out. I didn’t realize we were there for four hours, but loved the day.

As we drove through Strasburg, I noticed that people were sitting really close to the road. They were having their own festival going on and there was a parade! One of the items I didn’t think we were going to get to on the bucket list was a parade. So, while she was still asleep, I found a parking spot and waited until she woke up to walk to a spot. It felt like such a lucky day.

We found a spot next to some people and just enjoyed the rest of the evening. It had felt like Jensen was with us all day, then we got a balloon that was blue and orange. They were everywhere, so it was a nice visual reminder that he’s everywhere we are too. Mila absolutely loved the parade and watching everything go by. She got candy and chocolate, which of course was great to her. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the day.

I know this post was a really long round up of Saturday, but it’s a day I don’t ever want to forget.

Complete picture overload, but it was too perfect not to document and share. Enjoy this little video of us going down the slide. I wish I had one of us on the huge slice, but maybe that’ll be what we do next time!

Dinner Date at the Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom Fail: Summer Toddler Bucket List Edition.

“Good try mom.”

Mila and I have been outside 70% of the day throughout the summer. When it rains and we’re stuck inside, it makes for a long one. One thing we do everyday, rain or shine, is read books. Before bed we read and any time I need her to settle down. I thought the combination of outside and reading would work out beautifully…

Turns out, I was wrong.

Technically we got to read outside, Mila just wasn’t anywhere near me. I read loud enough where she could hear, but who knows if she was listening.

This was the closet picture I got of her near the book.

My little, marathon runner got a good workout in running circles around me and going up and down the stairs with Max.

Although it didn’t go as I thought it would, I laughed so much and she had just as much fun. We got to read the books later that night and everyone was happy. Which is all I could ever ask for.

The Toddler Bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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