BIG NEWS!

Without lots of pressure from me, Mila has finally decided to start using the potty!

After a few months of her yelling NO anytime I mentioned using the potty, she finally told me she needed to pee. Then ran to get her potty and went.

After she showed me that she went, we did a dance, high-five’d, and said yay about a thousand times! She’s so proud of herself, and I’m so proud of her! Hopefully she keeps it up and within a few weeks we’ll be done with diapers.

The last time we really tried potty training was last summer; she’d rip her diaper off and go. She had zero interest in sitting, but it did bring a lot of funny moments. Hopefully this go she’ll just keep her momentum, plus have a few laughs here and there too.

I’ll just be over here celebrating her potty journey (aka poop and pee) with her. Parenting is so weird.

For Mama.

One of my top priorities in raising Mila is to make sure she becomes a decent human.

I always tell her please and thank you so she can catch on and do the same. When she does something ‘wrong,’ I explain what could happen and tell her other ways to do something. If she spills something, I have her help me clean up. When she plays with Max or other kids, I encourage her to share. I do my best to try and model the behavior I want her to pick up.

Most days, I worry I’m not doing good enough. She only has me to look up to at home and I’m no where near perfect. I can lose my patience and need a minute to just sit with my thoughts. There are times I raise my voice, then go to her to give the biggest hug and tell her I’m sorry.

I’m a human and I know none of us are perfect, so I’m aiming to be decent and for her to grow up the same.

Mila is nearing TWO! Crazy, right? She’s full force in all things toddler and sometimes I wonder if anything I’m trying to teach her is sticking. Either way, I wanted to celebrate her and my love for her on Valentine’s Day. I got her all the chocolate, a book, flowers, and a HUGE unicorn. She was ecstatic and loved everything.

All she kept saying was OOOHHHH with the most amazing smile. When she realized I was going to let her eat a piece of chocolate before breakfast (gasp), she quickly asked me to unwrap one.

Instead of digging into it, she grabbed another piece.

You haven’t even ate the first piece, Mila. You don’t need two!

Then, as if she was confused why I said anything, she held out the piece of chocolate to me.

For mama. 

Two little words melted my heart. So, I unwrapped a piece for me and took a bite. After she saw me take a bite, she smiled and took a big one herself.

That was the moment I realized everything’s going to be okay. All my fears of not doing good enough for her or not being all she needs went away. She has no idea how much her words and actions affect me. And I don’t give myself enough credit for what mine do for her.


As much as I wanted to leave this on a heartwarming note… I had to show you Mila’s latest reaction to certain “smelly” things. She always knows how to make those around her laugh and smile.

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.

 

Thoughts on Taking a Toddler to the Dentist.

A couple months ago, I noticed something up with two of Mila’s teeth. I could’ve sworn they were cavities, but it didn’t make sense that she would have them so young. Or the fact I’m sort of crazy about making sure her teeth are brushed and she takes her fluoride supplement each day. I mean, don’t get me wrong… she drinks juice and has sweets every so often, but not enough to damage her teeth, right?

Since this summer, I’ve been keeping a closer eye on them and they haven’t gotten better.  I’ve honestly had sleepless nights researching what to do for her and how I could do better for her dental health. It’s been a sore subject for me and I know how silly that sounds. I do my best for Mila everyday and I’ve felt like I’ve failed her teeth.

So, last week, I decided to finally call and make an appointment with a dentist. FIRST OFF, it is difficult to find an office to take a child under two to get their teeth checked and potentially worked on. With determination, I did find someone. Thankfully, they were able to get Mila in almost immediately.

Then the anxiety hit.

I thought the dentist would think I was a bad parent. I thought Mila would scream the entire time. I thought they would have to pull her teeth as soon as we walked in. I thought the appointment would be anything but good.

Fast forward to the day of the appointment (Monday), I have to wake Mila up from her nap to get her to the appointment on time. Snow is falling and it’s way too cold for anyone to be going to the dentist. My mom, Mila, and I file our way into reception and they are greeted with a very grumpy toddler.

After checking in, Mila goes to explore her surroundings, but finds herself at a loss when she isn’t able to go in the back. For a little while, she just laid on the ground, protesting to cooperate. I can’t say I blame her as the minutes ticked by during our wait. Finally she gets distracted by the snow and eventually mama cuddles.

Once we’re called back, Mila decides to cheer up and let her happy presence be known to everyone she passes. When we get back to our little area, the anxiety for me starts to set in again. While Mila played with the dentist’s ‘toys,’ I just kept picturing having to pin her down while they pulled all her teeth.

Yes, my brain is so amazing at producing vivid images at the worst possible times. Thank you brain for giving me that beautiful gift.

While waiting, again, Mila discovers she can see inside the room beside us. She sees a family getting their teeth cleaned. At first, she thought she was just crashing on their nap, she soon discovered they were doing anything but going ‘night-night.’ The dentist tools whirled and made so many noises in the other person’s mouth. I wish I could have listened to Mila’s thoughts while watching this somewhat horrifying event for her, take place. The good news was, I didn’t need to hear her thoughts, I could just look at the pure confusion (and slight terror?) on her face. Her big, compassionate heart kept prompting to ask my mom and I if they were okay. I don’t think she believed us, at all.

She then made herself comfortable on ‘the chair.’ The dental assistant soon came and tried to brush Mila’s teeth. She was welcomed with a firm no. I was happy my girl could stand her ground, but terrified knowing what came next.

It all led up to this moment. Mila’s dentist came to check her teeth. She was somewhat intimidated by this man, but weirdly laid down to let him see her teeth. He had me lay her down across me and hold her arms. Her head was placed in his lap and as he tried to brush her teeth and put some kind of coating over them, she awkwardly laughed and I could tell how truly uncomfortable she was. Big crocodile tears fell from her eyes as she looked for me to help her. My heart broke, but I knew this was for her benefit.

As he finished cleaning her teeth and checking her our, she really did such an amazing job. Honestly, I was so proud of her. As a parent, it’s so hard to take your child to the doctor or dentist and not be able to explain why they’re getting a shot or why some random stranger is looking in their mouth. She did call him a meany multiple times after, so I guess she got her revenge too.

I know this is a long post, but this was a big day for her and I. Unfortunately, we found out Mila’s two teeth do need further assistance. Quite frankly, I didn’t know if I wanted to share this with all of you. I still feel like it’s somehow my fault, even after the dentist promised me that her teeth are just soft and prone to cavities. He even told me that he thought I was a great parent and to keep brushing her teeth to the best of my ability. But, Mila has to get caps on two of her teeth and will be under anesthesia for it.

I’m terrified.

This isn’t anyone’s ‘business’ besides Mila and I’s, but after making myself believe I’m a bad parent because she has two cavities and needs to get them fixed, I needed to share. If I think this, I know another person has had the same thoughts too. I just want them to know that you’re doing what you can and sometimes stuff just happens. Now I just have to make myself think that too.

The day didn’t end up in a negative place. Right after her appointment, we took her to Build-A-Bear for the first time ever. The pure joy of being able to make her own bear (dog) and pick it out an outfit made Mila’s world just right again.

I’ll never forget her holding her little dog in the middle of the store out from her and just screaming ‘yaaaaaaay!’ Her smile lit up the whole entire place and let me know everything’s going to be just fine.

Everyday motherhood teaches me something new and on this day, I learned that we have to be brave in situations that make us ultra uncomfortable. If this little toddler of mine can take on such a big day, not knowing what was going on, I can take on hard things too.

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.

Mom Fail: Christmas Edition

Lately I’ve seen this image going around…

Not only do I appreciate everything my mom did for my brother and I growing up around this time and everyday, trying to make that magic happen for Mila has been exhausting but so worth it.

To keep the Christmas magic rolling, Mila, my mom, and I all made cookies. Every time we make cookies I have it in my head that they’ll be beautiful, Pinterest-worthy creations. We’re not the best at cookies, but I was feeling confident. Mostly because we bought pre-made cookie dough!

Mila was so into looking at the different shaped cookie cutters and even snuck a bite of cookie dough. She seemed pretty proud of that. We only cut a dozen or so cookies, which was plenty because she was ready to watch movies instead.

While they baked, I made hot chocolate and Mila ran my mom and dad around my house. Laughter and smiles filled the house. It started to smell like fresh baked cookies too. My confidence was skyrocketing.

When mom pulled the cookies out of the oven though, all I could do was laugh.

Our nicely cut out shapes, turned into blobs you could hardly make out what they were intended to be. One pan of cookies wasn’t even baked all the way. More laughter. I definitely wasn’t going to have the Pinterest worthy plate of cookies for Santa.

The thickest candy cane I’ve ever seen.

We totally failed at making beautiful cookies, but we didn’t on the memory front. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Anyways, I don’t think Santa will mind our Thiccmas cookies one bit.

Dear Jensen,

I’ve really slacked this year.

There was a time I wrote a letter to you every night. They were what I depended on – for so long. It felt like my one connection to you. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t write my day or thoughts down, then you wouldn’t know what was happening. When Mila came and I didn’t have a moment to write to you everyday, I felt broken. Like such a failure, but I started to realize… you were with us, always.

My ‘slacking’ hasn’t just been with your letters, it’s been with writing in general. ESPECIALLY for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I used to post and write every.single.day but this year has been so different with what life has in store. Maybe next year will be another story.

As the days, weeks, months, years have passed, there have been constants. I miss you every single day. Sometimes I just find myself wondering what color your eyes were and how you would be with Mila. When I get overwhelmed with her antics, I think of how much I wanted them with you to settle myself. That’s another constant, picturing you. Always. The longing and wondering can hurt, but they bring me comfort too. Most of all, my biggest constant is loving you.

I’ll never be able to accurately describe my love for you. It’s different form loving Mila or family or anyone really. There’s so many levels. The memories. The loss. The remembering. The surviving. The… you. Through it all, you affect every aspect of me and how I handle situations I find myself in. It’s sort of insane how one baby, one son, the one you have changed my life, forever. And all of it’s centered from the love I have for you.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I couldn’t imagine my life without the time I spent with you. Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for showing me how deeply I can love. Thank you for helping teach me how to hold on to the good moment and breathe through the bad.

I promise to keep doing the best I can do, while holding you in my heart everyday. I wish I could’ve had more time with you. I wish I could see your eyes looking into mine and feel your hand holding mine.

You are one of my favorite parts of myself and I’m so proud to call you my son.

I love you so much.

Your mama.

Mom Fail: Escape Edition.

This is Mila and Max.

Separated, they’re both so adorable. Together, even cuter, but mischievous. Fortunately they get along GREAT, which leads them to having a lot of adventures together. Some not completely okay’d with me.

As with many of Mila’s adventures, I wanted to share her latest way she almost gave me a heart attack. After breakfast a few mornings ago, Mila and Max were playing inside of his kennel, so I decided to go do some laundry. Mila was in just a diaper and I was still in my pajamas. It was a quiet morning and while I was throwing clothes in the dryer, I sort of realized how eerily silent it was. Usually when they play, they’re making some sort of sound or Mila is giggling so loud.

I finished up what I was doing and took my time getting back to check on them. It was sort of weird when they didn’t run back to see what I was doing, but I didn’t think anything of it. When I walked back to the living room and didn’t hear them, I started to worry a little. Then I walked to where Max’s kennel is… they weren’t in there. Even worse, the baby gate AND the back door was open.

Insert panic here.

Everything inside of me was hoping they were outback playing. We’re outside a lot so it would make since they were just there, but the backyard was empty. I took off to the front of the house and looked down the alley.

There they were.

Mila was running down the street in just her diaper after Max. They were about halfway up the road. I yelled for them which only just caused Mila to laugh and run faster. Thankfully we live in a small town and on a quiet street. Still, I took off running, barefoot with my back foot still wide open after them.

I caught up to Mila who looked happy as could be. She informed me she was going to ‘Gigi,’ which is what she calls my mom. My parents live around the block and we walk there almost everyday. They know their way and she pointed to the house.

Max kept running. I guess he knows where to go too. We had to look so silly. A toddler and puppy running down the street with the crazy mom catching them minutes later. Mila and I finally caught up to Max when we got to my parents house…

He looked mighty proud of himself for getting where he needed to be and waiting on us too.

Life with Mila (and Max) is always an adventure, supervised or not. The next adventure I’ll be taking on is making sure the back door is always locked.

Caught in the act… when they try to ‘escape’ the neighbors backyard is where they usually end up.

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.