Summer of 22

Summer of 22

Adventures from June-August; kinda like a list, more like a diary entry. A post to remember this summer.

We kicked off the summer with a trip to Louisville, Kentucky. We were visiting friends, Kristin and Kyle (Wells’ Godparents), and planned to see a botanical garden along the way however, it poured down rain. We changed plans to an indoor adventure instead. We stopped at the Louisville Slugger Museum to see the worlds largest baseball bat. The ivy on the wall and the hall of fame stars on the sidewalk were super cool. Millie picked out a pack of Chicago Cubs baseball cards and Wells loved swinging his blue, souvenir bat. We stayed the night with the Merkle’s, where the kids loved playing baseball in the basement with Uncle Kyle, and in the morning we left for the Cincinnati Zoo.

We used our Wonderfold Wagon at the zoo. There were a lot of hills so Chris was the one doing the pushing. Many people complimented our wagon and asked us questions about it. Millie and Wells have the freedom to move around while also being safe; I love it and wish we would’ve bought it sooner. We fed the giraffes expensive pieces of lettuce, ate at the food court, and saw the sifakas jumping around. Both kids love Fiona, the premature hippo who’s basically a celebrity now that Cincinnati needed some positive press after the death of Harambe (R.I.P).

The next weekend we went strawberry picking. I was inspired by a friends Instagram story; I never knew Ohio had strawberry fields. Chris has fond memories of strawberry picking as a kid and both Millie and Wells love to eat strawberries so I figured this was something fun we could do as a family. We were given two buckets and were told the best area for the ripest strawberries. We were surprised by how small they were compared to the strawberries we buy from the store. Wells was not interested in picking but he was interested in eating them! He sat down in the strawberry plants and turned the caboose of his khakis, pink. Millie was not enthused about touching the berries, especially the over-ripe ones that felt “squishy”.

Unfortunately, both Millie and Wells started this summer with a nasty cold; the snot was never ending. We seem to catch every germ. We wanted to play with friends and explore new places but we also wanted to keep everyone safe. Monday, Wells took his first bath in the sink. While Chris and I attempted a tile reno, I sat Wells on the counter to play in the sink water. Before I knew it, Wells had sat in the sink, fully clothed. I stripped him down and let him play in the water. On Tuesday, we roasted marshmallows using our tabletop fire pit. Neither kid enjoyed the taste of burnt marshmallows. Wednesday, we went to the thrift store and bought a water table, two ladles, and a new bathing suit for Millie. Wells tried to feed me octopus soup! We had a great time playing outside and eating strawberries! Thursday we ran errands, Millie had a fever, Aunt Lindsey came over, and Grandpa came into town. Friday we went to the library and signed up for the summer reading program. Wells very clearly said, “library”. I am so proud of how hard he’s working to communicate.

Here were some of their favorite reads:

No Pants by Jacob Grant

1, 2, 3, Jump! by Lisl H. Detlefsen

Goldfish on Vacation by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Flower Man a wordless book by Mark Ludy

June went by entirely too fast. The kids enjoyed finger painting, chalking, and bubble blowing. We saw lots of family members at my cousin Carson’s graduation party and afterward both kids got to order their own pizza from Mod (Millie says she won’t be putting cucumber on her pizza again). We went to Hobby Lobby to get a decorative welcome mat for my mom who just bought a condo in Ohio and while I pushed Wells in the cart, he scared an old lady who was passing by! He said, “Ah!” and pointed at her as soon as she turned down our aisle. He’s a rascal. My in-laws came to town and we went out to eat at BrewDog to celebrate the closing of their new home. (The kids are getting ready to have all of their grandparents in Ohio!) Millie ate a vegan hamburger meal and Wells ate a soft pretzel. Wells enjoyed playing ladder toss, outside, after the meal.

July started with COVID. I went to a worship concert, unmasked, and another woman I went with tested positive after, too. The worst part of it was we were sick during the Fourth of July and my cousin Donaven, who’s currently serving our country in the Navy, came home to visit. Thankfully, we still got to see him (from six feet away). The kids watched Red, White, and Boom on the T.V while eating banana splits in their sleeping bags. Our town set off fireworks at the local high school that we could see from our backyard, too!

We have season passes to the Franklin Park Conservatory and explored the children’s garden with Lindsey, Logan, and Ben. The kids enjoyed pushing the hula hoops down the hill, watching and performing puppet shows with mangy-looking puppets, playing restaurant with the plastic food in the mud house, and pretending like they were birds making a nest of sticks. Wells spent time at the koi pond watching the fish. He was fascinated by the toy train. Wells was apprehensive about wading in the sandstone creek and wouldn’t let go of my hand but he grew confident and explored on his own.

Food competitions are regularly watched in our home – we’re currently undertaking Master Chef. We decided to have a baking competition of our own. Millie, Wells, and I mixed the cupcake batter and of course, they licked the beaters. We’re vegan. No raw eggs were consumed. Mills were topped with hot pink icing and Wells’ were blue. Of course the icing stained their lips and teeth. I let them add sprinkles and we tasted both cupcakes. It was decided that Millie’s tasted better because her sprinkles were less crunchy than the ones that Wells used. The cupcakes were served on Mickey and Minnie Mouse plastic party plates that the kids wouldn’t let me not buy at the store.

I got the feeling like we weren’t doing enough with the kids this summer. (Now that I’m typing everything out I can see that was absurd and just my anxiety.) I think because last summer we spent a week at the beach – financially, that wasn’t in the plans this year, I still wanted to do something special. I looked for activities relatively close so that we could plan a day trip. I had friends go visit the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and really love it. Chris was on board with the trip so we left on a rainy, Saturday morning. What better weather to visit the Ark? The car ride was three hours long but the kids rode perfectly. We took Noah’s Ark books to read along the way and we ate Tim Hortons; they love the birthday sprinkled Timbits.

When we got to the Ark, we had to take a charter bus to get on location. Wells thought he was hot stuff getting to sit in his own bus seat. Millie was so excited to see the beautiful, bright rainbow arch (Gods promise) entering the complex. The Ark was insanely massive; bigger than I could’ve ever imagined (the dimensions are actually listed in the Bible). I thought the kids would be overwhelmed by the size but they were excited to see the different exhibits inside. Millie thought the ancient animals (wax models) in the cages were creepy.

There was a petting zoo on location with lots of goats. Millie did not touch the goats (I don’t blame her – poop pellets were everywhere.) We got to watch a live, animal show with a scorpion (which glows under a black light – who knew?) a sugar glider (which made us miss Cooper), and a pig named, Festus that the kids got in stuffed form at the gift shop on the way out. The buffet on location was delicious and super accommodating to our vegan diet. There was a really awesome playground but Amelia got knocked over and the fun was over. Both kids fell asleep as soon as they were strapped in their car seats and slept the entire way home.

The next week of summer vacation was packed with fun activities. Millie and Wells made crown crafts from the library and decorated them with gems and stickers. We went to the pool and Millie went under the water with MawMaw (she did not like it). We took a trip to the Columbus Zoo with my friend Katey and saw the elephant baby, Frankie for the first time (He was so fuzzy!). Uncle Nick’s girlfriend came to town and we all went out to eat at CapCity Diner; it was our first time eating there, they gave us a private room, and the food was delicious!

Our last weekend of July was spent in Ligonier, Pennsylvania with our friends, and Millie’s Godparents, Jane and Todd and their two children, Maisey and Luca. Of course Mille and Wells were excited about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood but they were most anxious to see their friends. The night before we were supposed to leave, Wells tripped in his crocs while helping me water the neighbors flowers. I could tell by his cry that he was in a lot of pain. He wasn’t bearing any weight on his left foot. Immediately, I knew he could have a toddlers fracture. We let him sleep it off and examined him the next morning. He was putting weight on the injured foot but was still limping. We decided to go forward with our PA trip and keep him mostly in the stroller. If his foot got worse, we’d have no choice but to get it checked out.

To start our road-trip, we grabbed Tim Hortons and I entertained the kids by putting Mickey Mouse characters on Chris’ seat (it’s the little things). Once we got there and met up with our friends, we went to the water park and the girls immediately ran to the kiddie splash area. Maisey wasn’t afraid to put her head under the water but Millie wasn’t trying it. Maise ended up drinking a lot of the water and was sick later in the evening, poor girl. Wells and I ended up standing under a bucket that poured an intense amount of water on my back. We had a great time swimming together. Luca dirtied a diaper and we put on dry clothes to enjoy the amusement park.

We grabbed a soft pretzel and some lemonade before watching the end of a Daniel Tiger show. There was a meet and greet afterward with Katerina and Daniel – Wells stayed on my hip and Millie was just curious enough to wave to them from afar. We rode on Trolley through the neighborhood (Millie informed Maisey that all the characters were made out of cardboard) and the weather shifted. Just before the sky opened up, we ran back to the parking lot and managed to stay dry while it stormed the rest of the afternoon.

After a thirty minute drive, we checked into our hotel. We met up with Jayne, Todd, Maisey, and Luca for dinner at a restaurant called, Sharkys. Wells loved their aquarium and we loved the food. That night, we all changed into our pjs and played games in the hotel lobby. The kids exchanged gifts, colored My Little Ponies, played with clay, ate sprinkled popcorn, had a dance party; it was awesome.

In the morning, we shared a breakfast table with the DiMascio’s and said our goodbyes. We left for the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum where they had a Daniel Tiger exhibit. The exhibit was amazing; it looked just like the show had come to life. We saw some of the original puppets from Mr.Rodgers’ Neighborhood and Mr.Rodgers’ red sweater. Wells enjoyed building Daniels neighborhood with blocks. Millie added a leaf to the “thank you” tree. The kids loved the interactive clock shop and the musical radio.

The rest of the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum was also loads of fun for the kids. Millie climbed up a super tall rope web, they launched balls on a track with a pulley system, they made car ramps, and created a musical assembly line. Wells and I went into a room at an angle. I literally ran us both into a wall (my knee caught the brunt of it.) Millie loved playing with the sand art and Wells liked the seesaw that blew bubbles. We grabbed a snack at the cafe before we left; Wells loved the bite-sized pancakes. The yellow bridges leaving Pittsburgh were cool. We definitely will visit PA again.

August was a blur. I started to have back-to-school meetings and by the 22nd we were all in. I tried to make each day we had left together, special. We visited the Columbus Zoo with my dad; the kids always have a great time with Papa. He rode on the carousel and bought them blue and pink cotton candy. Wells tried to feed the baby gorilla popcorn and the baby fell backwards! It was so sweet. We went to the Ohio State Fair with Chris’ parents (Grandma and Grandpa), his brother (Uncle Nick), and my friend Shauna. Both kids enjoyed riding on the rides and eating pineapple whip! We even watched a pig race. We swam a couple more times at Mawmaw’s pool; Millie was brave and went down the water slide! At home, we made cement garden stones, played with modo (a fragrance free play-dough), baked banana bread, and completed craft kits.

For my 30th birthday, Chris took me to Chicago. This was the first time that I spent a night away from Wells and we were gone for more than 48 hours. Chris’ parents stayed at our house and we FaceTimed them often. Both kids slept well for them! I was so impressed. My babies are growing up and it’s hard to believe that they won’t stay 4 and 2 forever.

Weekend Getaway

Weekend Getaway

Chris had a week off of work before he started his new job at Boeing and to spend some quality, family time together, I planned us a two-day mini getaway. Through Groupon, I booked a night at Great Wolf Lodge for $119 (I was amazed at what was included for that price. That’s how much a regular hotel room would cost and this one had an indoor water park!). I packed up the food, buckled the kids into the Jeep, and when I checked our reservation to GPS the address to the hotel, I realized I booked the wrong one. (Insert face palm here.)

We were supposed to be headed south for one hour however, I booked our reservation at the Great Wolf Lodge two hours north of us! I quickly called Great Wolf’s customer service and they were extremely accommodating. Within ten minutes we had everything figured out; I cancelled my incorrect reservation and made a new reservation at the correct lodge. Thankfully, this resort had rooms available and because of COVID, they were not charging cancelation fees.

Walking into the lobby at Great Wolf was like entering a log cabin mansion. There were carved tree statues and signs, taxidermied animals, log stumps for chairs, etc. Ropes led the way to check-in and because it was a weekday after 4pm, I walked right up to the counter. We were given wristbands that doubled as our our room keys and a schedule of all the children’s activities at the lodge. I met Chris back in the parking lot and we lugged the kids and our overnight bags up to our room. The room was decorated like a hunting lodge; antlers as light fixtures and moose prints on the carpet. The room itself was incredibly spacious. It had a sitting area, a table and chairs, a mini fridge, and a microwave. The kids were so excited to be someplace new. Millie picked out her bed, our room had two queens, and we got our bathing suits on for a night in the water park!

It was 6pm when we walked the kids down the hall in their hooded towels, looking like baby Jedi, to go to the water park. The children we passed were melting down, “I don’t want to leave the pool!” Chris and I nodded at the parents for emotional support. Every family there looked like us; frazzled, tending to children’s needs, and over weight (No judgement – I felt comfortable letting my stretch marks show!). We felt like we found our people. Many families were leaving the water park when we were just arriving. We were grateful to be getting there at a less populated time.

As we walked into to the water park, we were confronted with humidity and the smell of chlorine, both of which we welcomed compared to the frigid, weather outside. The sound of rushing water and children shouting made it hard to hear Wells saying, “wow” as he was taking in his surroundings; I could read his lips and paired with the astonished facial expression, it felt like a mom win. We started in water that was knee deep and it was the perfect temperature. Millie saw the slides and fearlessly slid down them with Wells and Me at the bottom to catch her from going under. Reluctantly, Wells went down the slide but after he realized it was fun, we couldn’t tear him away.

It was nice to be able to let the kids play in water without coating them in sunscreen. Wells loved the water squirting out from the fountains in the floor. He would put his foot overtop of the holes and blast himself and others with the water pressure. Millie didn’t want to go down any of the big slides and we didn’t push her to. Both kids liked the warmth of the “hot springs” which we called, the hot tub for babies. Wells laughed each time he felt the warm water (Maw said that meant he was probably peeing). Hindsight, I have read some disgusting facts about hot tubs and there were way too many strangers sharing that water.

I was so anxious watching Millie and Wells play on the water structures. The bigger kids, water buckets spilling over, slippery stair steps – it was enough to give me a heart attack but both kids loved the adventure and independence. There were basketball hoops and balls and we enjoyed passing the basketball through the water to each other. Millie and Wells were not fond of the waves in the wave pool but that didn’t surprise me because both my kids have a tendency to get motion sick, like me. I remember feeling motion sick as a child treading water in the wave pool at Wyandotte Lake, I’m aging myself; it’s Zoombeezi Bay now.

After two hours of playing, their lips were turning a light purple hue and their toes and fingers were shriveled. We went back to the room, changed into dry clothes, and went down the the arcade to play some games. Chris loaded money onto an arcade card and the kids went wild. Millie and Wells got to play a game together where they sat in a firetruck and used squirt guns as hoses to put out fires. They also got to ride on little motorcycles and race. The tickets they compiled were enough to get some smarties, a package of car stickers, and a mermaid pen (it was the last mermaid pen in the bunch and Millie was very excited about it).

As we walked upstairs to head back to our room, we heard music coming from the lobby. We stopped in and joined a nighttime dance party! It was so funny, Wells walked straight into a group of kids and started dancing without a care. When the dancing was over, Wells decided he was going to get on the stage. I chased him down and in the meantime, some boys with bubble wands were putting their bubbles over Mills head. She was showing some annoyance with getting soapy and Wells saw this and decided he didn’t like what was happening. He grabbed Millie’s hand and walked her away from the boys after giving them a serious, baby babbling talking-to.

Before we went back to our room, we let the kids get rock candy at the candy store. Of course Wells chose blue and Millie, pink. The store looked like Willy Wonka’s factory. We walked back to our room and ate a late night snack before bed; potato chips and Oreos. The bed felt sandy from all the crumbs that landed on the blankets. Mill chose to sleep with her dad and Wells slept with me. He dream-fed basically all night so my sleep sucked and morning came early. Bananas, grapes, and vegan sausage sandwiches were for breakfast.

Checkout was at 11am. Chris packed up our things; our singular suitcase full of the clothes we no longer needed. He packed a tote bag with our water park needs and clothes to change into after. (This was the only part of the trip that I did not enjoy because of the hustle and bustle of trying to check out in time. Not to mention, changing ourselves and the kids at the water park was chaotic.) If we do this again, we will not go to the water park on the day we leave.

The kids were just as excited to be at the water park the second time as they were the first. We met a nice family in the hot springs that reminded me of the Newport Aquarium only thirty minutes away from the resort. While the kids ate lunch on beach chairs, I bought tickets for Wells to see some sharks. Changing the kids from their wet bathing suits into dry clothes in the damp, resort bathroom was not fun. Also, because it was going to be freezing outside, we were changing into sweaters in the heat of the humid park and that felt gross. Walking out into the thirty degree weather actually felt refreshing.

Both kids fell asleep in the car on the way to the aquarium. Finding parking in a new place is always stressful for Chris and me but once we did, we woke up the kids, and made our way across the Levee. We found the aquarium and I was irritated before we walked through the doors; the listed operating hours differed from the automated machine I listened to before I bought our tickets. We had less time to explore the aquarium than I expected and when I spoke to the ticket office about the discrepancy, they admitted that they had not updated their automated service and the manager refunded us half our money back for the inconvenience. I was impressed by the customer service and was ready to have a good time with Millie and Wells at the aquarium.

The fish in this aquarium were unlike any we’d ever seen; different species of seahorses, prehistoric-air-breathing fish, stingray sharks, etc. The most breathtaking moment happened when a giant sea turtle made eye contact with Wells and started swimming to him. We were the only ones in that exhibit and it was magical. We were lucky to catch this moment on video. Months later, Wells still watches the sea turtle video with amazement.

One of the exhibits had a coloring station where you would color a fish, scan it into a machine, and your colored fish would show up, swimming on a digital aquarium screen. It was really cool! I colored a fish with eighth notes but the technology mirrored the image and the note heads were backward (that still bugs me a month later). A little girl at the penguin exhibit asked Millie her name, and Mill proudly stated her full name and her age. She held up the correct number of fingers and then she asked the girl her name. The little girl introduced herself as Ry-Ry. Wells put his hand on his chest and very clearly said, “Wells”. I looked over at Chris and started to tear up. Not only did he understand to introduce himself in that social setting, but he did it with such clarity and confidence. My whole heart welled with pride.

Both babes slept the two hour car ride home. I was exhausted from the trip but managed to prepare and eat dinner, bathe the kids, unpack the over night bag, and crawl into bed by ten. It was difficult waking up for work the next morning but the trip happening mid-week made the weekend come quick. Millie was so excited to call the grandparents and tell them all about her experience. She wants them all to be with us the next time we go to Great Wolf Lodge. A quick vacation with lasting memories.

We Forget

We Forget

I don’t know why our brains can’t remember the details of the good stuff. Actually, I do. I learned about it at a professional development meeting on trauma and stress. I hate staying late at work and being late to Millie, Wells, and Mawmaw. Alas, I did pick up one thing from the seemingly useless meeting; our brains remember the traumatic memories to best protect us and because our brain doesn’t need to protect us from the good stuff, it doesn’t retain it. What a load of crap.

Tonight’s good stuff is laying on the couch, way too late, on the Eve of a snow day. Wells is next to me, dream feeding, peacefully. His foot isn’t any bigger than my hand. His little body is so soft and squishable. I feel his legs and arms lay over mine. I listen to him breathe. I hold his hand and rub his back all while thinking about his future, who he will become, and how I fit in it. I pray over him and kiss him and tell him I love him.

As much as I want it to be, this blog post will never be the real thing. When I read this again, it’ll be because I’m missing my babies. I’m sad for future me. I’m sad because I know that I will want this time back. But for now, I sign off to live in the moment I have, no matter how fleeting it is, to hold my baby while he sleeps because my children are the greatest blessings of my entire life.

Summer 2021

Summer 2021

I write with Wells sleeping next to me. I listen to him breathe and I thank God for my beautiful, healthy children. I don’t want to forget the memories we made this summer; when Millie’s thirty, asking me questions about her childhood, I pray I’ll remember but if my memory fails, there’s always this blog.

We would sleep in every morning, all three of us. Wells was still breastfeeding so he’d sleep next to me and I’d kiss his little hands. His feet would curl up and rest on my stomach. That boy would sleep all day if I laid next to him. Millie would wake up to the sounds of her daddy getting ready for work, come into our room still half asleep, and crawl into our bed for another hour or two. Millie insists on putting her own toothpaste on her toothbrush and she received a fantastic dental report at her first dentist appointment this summer.

Both kids enjoyed playing on Mawmaw’s back patio this summer. Millie loved redecorating the fairy garden and Wells loved to destroy it. Maw had a faux pond made of blue stones that Wells would put in his mouth, sometimes three at a time. Maw would fill up a plastic, clear tote with water and they would splash and play; Wells’ head being in the 100th percentile made him a bit top heavy so his head would go under the water anytime he would bend over the edge. Maw bought guest passes for her neighborhood’s pool and we able to enjoy that this summer. The first time we went, Wells stuck his index finger out to a wasp who was trying to escape the water and it repeatedly stung him. It swelled up pretty bad but maw got him some children’s Benadryl and it was fine. Millie made some new friends and even braved the water slide by the end of the summer.

The trampoline park was a good time for the kids. We went once with Lindsey and her boys and once with Papa. Wells couldn’t really bounce on the trampolines but he enjoyed running around. He didn’t like keeping his socks on. One older lady saw him and said, “He looks like a football player!” Both kids liked throwing the balls. Millie met a worker there named Isla that she referred to as her “big sister”. Isla was sweet with Mill and played with her on the trampolines.

We went to the zoo many times this summer. Twice with Lindsey, Logan, and Ben. Once with Mawmaw, and once with Papa. Giraffes are Millie’s favorite animal and Wells loves the elephants (he can buzz his lips together to make a trumpet sound). When we went to see the elephants, I held Wells in front of Hank, the male elephant. Wells held out his elephant stuffy like he was giving it to Hank, it was so sweet. Millie did an excellent job being brave and riding the camel this summer. Both babes rode on the carousel; Mill wasn’t a fan of the up and down motion of the horse and poor Wells was terrified when we started moving (he was shaking, wasn’t breathing, his eyes were wide, and he was turning red). I held him until he was ready to get back on the horse and by the end of the ride, he didn’t want to get off!

Zoombeezie Bay was an unforgettable outing. This adventure with Lindsey was planned “day of” and it was doomed from the start. Dublin, Ohio had a 15% chance of rain but we figured we’d chance it and maybe less people would be there. I had one swim diaper. Lindsey forgot her stroller. We went straight to the kids splash area; my kids loved the slides but Lindsey’s boys were not into it. Wells amazed me with how brave he was getting wet and maneuvering around the other children. We enjoyed the water for maybe an hour before the sky opened and it down poured. While we waited for the storm to pass we watched the stingrays in their new exhibit. Millie did not want to touch the stingrays. The rain continued despite the iPhone forecast so we saw some more indoor animals (we called it the ghetto zoo because this enclosure had crows and cats lol). As we were heading towards the exit, there was a seal show about to begin. The kids really enjoyed the seals. Wells chose to sit by himself on the stairs and he clapped along appropriately which was cute. We got drenched on the way back to our cars – I used napkins from my glove compartment to wipe myself off. Millie loves to say, “We’re going to Zoombeezi Bay!” when playing make believe so maybe for the children, it wasn’t so bad after all.

Going to the Franklin Park Conservatory was always a good time. We went many times; Maw, Lindsey, Logan, and Ben, Katey, and we had a “girls only” play date with Brooke (a friend of mine from work) and Mya her four year old daughter. The kids loved to explore the children’s garden. They climbed on rope webs, played in the water, made music with sticks, watered the flowers, played in the mud house, had puppet shows – Mill used the owl puppet and told a joke, “Who turned the owl upside down?” She held the puppet upside down and the answer was the owl! It was so cute seeing her come up with a joke like that on the spot. Wells fed the Coy fish his puff snacks. They both loved seeing the banana plant and climbing to the top of the tree house. They enjoyed watching the toy train with Charlie Brown characters on it.

We moved into a new house this summer. This is the third house that Millie has lived in, in her three years of life. Maw watched the kids while we moved the majority of our things into the new home. Millie slept in bed with us the first two nights we were in the house. When we did our final walk through of our previous house, Millie was with us and had to go potty. “Mommy, I don’t remember where the potty is in this house!” Both babes adjusted to the new home just fine.

We went to the Outer Banks with Chris’ family for a week vacation. Instead of driving straight there, we broke up the drive and stayed a night with my mom in Virginia. From there, it was a four hour drive to the beach that we caravanned down with Chris’ family. We made a stop at a farmers market along the way and picked up some corn on the cob and blueberries for the children. The man sitting on the porch cut up a peach with his pocket knife and gave us slices to try with the dirt still on it. Both children traveled well, between downloaded episodes of Pete the Cat and the Chipmunks movie, they slept, and ate snacks to pass the time.

We stayed in a beach house with his parents, his grandparents, his aunt, his uncle and his family. Our room was on the first floor and together we shared a king sized bed. Wells was particularly fond of the bed because he could reach the light switch. He thought he was cool stuff, “eee” every time he flipped them. Wells also would wave at the pelican and lizard statues every time we’d use the staircase. Wells wanted to be included in everything; corn hole, bocce ball. He was overwhelmed by the beach initially but once he experienced the waves and the sand over the course of the week, he warmed up to it. Millie was still hesitant to swim on her own but she loved jumping into the pool to her daddy. She got to bury Michael’s girlfriend in the sand, make a sand castle with her daddy, and fly a kite on the beach with her grandpa.

Thankfully, I didn’t watch any shark documentaries before we went. Apparently, the sharks are attacking much closer to the NC shore and Chris took Mill out into the ocean many times to his waist level. (Definitely won’t be doing that next summer.) Since the beach, Wells has been particularly fond of sharks; he wants to watch them on tv and makes growling sounds when he sees one. He got a Baby Shark Outer Banks shirt and every time he wears it, Millie sings the song, “Do do do do”. On a rainy day, we took the kids to the aquarium in Manteo and they had a blast. Wells would wave at the fish and Millie loved the interactive touch screens. Grandpa bought Wells a baby shark sing along book from the gift shop – which continues to annoy us months later.

Our last summer hoorah was a trip to PA on Labor Day weekend. We went to an amusement park called, Idlewild that has Daniel Tigers Neighborhood attractions. Millie wore her Daniel tiger shirt and brought along her character stuffies. We got there just in time for a performance so we found seats in the shade and waited for Daniels appearance. Like the wind leaving a balloon, gone was Mill’s excitement upon seeing, “big head Daniel”. She hid behind my back peering over my shoulder for the remainder of the show. Wells chose to sit by himself, just like he did at the seal show, and watched curiously. At the end of the show, we all took a picture with Daniel and seriously, he must have been 6 foot 5 in that costume. When you watch Daniel on TV he’s supposed to be like 5 years old. What five year old could start for the Chicago Bulls?

We rode on an interactive trolley ride and both kids liked that. The characters along the trail were made out of cardboard and Mill did not let that detail slide. We found Daniels house (also made out of cardboard) and Millie was afraid to knock on the door, but not Wells. Wells particularly loved the children’s only trolley ride. He sat across from Millie and through the windows, we could see them holding hands. Wells’ arm rested on the window sill and Chris and I laughed at how grown he looked. We stayed the night in a hotel and ate breakfast in bed the next morning.

Things I’ll miss most from this summer:

– taking walks with the kids and my dad

– watching the new season of Bluey, listening to both kids sing the intro

– Wells’ love for corn on the cob

– knowing when I went to sleep that the next day I’d get to spend it with my children all over again

Pandemic Parenting

Pandemic Parenting

On March 3rd 2020, I delivered Wells with my husband, grandmother, father, and photographer in the room. If I would have had him on his due date, just two weeks later, I would have had to birth him alone. While we packed up our bags from our hospital stay, breaking news declared a mask mandate in Chicago and we feared Ohio would be next. We asked my nurse for masks; “I’m sorry, we are down to our last two boxes on this floor.” Chris immediately regret discarding his mask from labor and delivery.

My mom planned to stay with us for six weeks; helping with Millie and the housework while I focused on healing and bonding with Wells. Chris didn’t get any paternity leave so my moms help was a Godsend. A week after we came home from the hospital, the government shut down the state boarders around New York; my mom couldn’t stay with us indefinitely if Ohio chose to follow suit. Selfishly, I wanted my mom to stay and help but alas, my mom went back to Virginia.

Planning for this pregnancy, we knew that I would not get paid for the entirety of my maternity leave. My sick days accrue; if I work a month without taking a sick day, I earn a day of sick time. I had proudly saved twenty sick days which meant I would get two pay checks during my six-week maternity leave. After my sister passed in September of 2019, I used three weeks of my sick time, grieving her loss. On top of being pregnant and losing my sister, I was definitely stressed about the amount of unpaid leave I would have to take. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a weeks worth of sick time from myself so we would receive at least one paycheck during my six-week, maternity leave.

I had one sick day left to use when I got a phone call from a friend and fellow teacher that we were going to start teaching, virtually. Could I also work virtually (make money) while still on maternity leave? I was able to convince my OB that I could, “return” to work as long as work meant teaching from my couch. I fed Wells, Millie watched Mickey Mouse Club House, and I was posting music assignments at the same damn time. The pandemic allowed me to stay home for 21 weeks without a single, unpaid day.

As if new mothers aren’t paranoid enough, add a global pandemic to the mix. Thankfully, Chris’ company assigned his department to work from home so we weren’t getting germs from his job. Groceries were bought through delivery services and bags were sanitized at the door. Once Wells gained back his birth weight and was no longer jaundiced, we didn’t take him to another pediatric appointment until he was six months old. I should have gone to my six week OB appointment – I didn’t. I had a terrible, terrible pain in my right nipple from a latch issue – I didn’t receive outside help. My cousin unexpectedly passed away and we didn’t attend her funeral. I wasn’t comfortable breaking our “bubble”, so we stayed in.

Chris working from home turned out to be a blessing. He was able to hold Wells during his lunch hour and help change diapers between meetings. Wells definitely got more time with daddy due to the pandemic. I had planned on spending quality time watching Cubs baseball during my maternity leave, but the season was postponed and there was no baseball to be watched. We used this time at home to potty train Millie. She didn’t like feeling poop in her diaper so she would take the diaper off and the poo would get everywhere – it was time. We stripped her naked, packed away the diapers, gave her tons to drink throughout the day and constantly encouraged her to sit on the potty. We rewarded her, even if she sat on the toilet just to toot. We bought her cute undies with Frozen characters on them. We experienced more victories than accidents, but there were many accidents, especially when we would play outside. Within the month, she was completely potty trained.

The week before Wells was born, our realtor called wanting to show us a house that checked every box on our “wish list”. We dropped Millie off at my dads and I waddled through the open house. It was in a neighborhood with better schools, gave us a thousand more square feet, and had a fenced in backyard. Also, homes in our neighborhood were selling quickly at above asking price. The market was right, the house was perfect, but I was doubting how the timeline would work for us. The same day Wells was born, our offer on the house was accepted.

The worst part of selling our home during the pandemic was having to leave the house during showings; there was no where to go because everything was closed so we would load both kids in the Jeep and drive around, praying that no one entering our home was COVID positive. I would sit my postpartum butt between the two car seats and read to the kids while we ordered French fries through the Burger King drive through. The house inspectors and appraisers were weeks behind because of the shutdown. The contractors that installed our new floors had to break for two weeks because they had been in close contact with COVID-19.

All of our activity memberships expired; COSI, Franklin Park Conservatory, the Zoo. Zumbini went virtual and we tried classes through Zoom but Millie lost interest. She was getting stir crazy staying home; heck, I was too, so we would do at least one activity together everyday. It was nice to spend some one-on-one time with her because well, Wells. She loved when I would ask her to wash the dishes in the sink or when I’d let her scrub her toys. We made multi-colored foam in her water table. I taped shapes on the floor for her to organize her blocks. She loved to finger paint. We colored eggs for Easter. We became quite the bakers; she loved watching the baking competition shows and trying new recipes. We jumped in puddles on rainy afternoons and watched for, “sworms”. We would adventure in our yard where she found some fallen pine cones which she called, “coconuts”. If we were blessed with good weather, Chris would take Millie to the park across the street on his lunch break; until yellow caution tape was wrapped around the slides and the playground was off limits to promote social distancing.

The holidays were different, to say the least. We celebrated Palm Sunday by fanning around artificial leaf decorations left over from Millie’s second birthday and blowing bubbles in the back yard. Thankfully, I bought Easter gifts early because most stores were shut down. Church was virtual and we watched Easter service from my phone. Maw surprised us by decorating our tree in the front yard with eggs shaped like rabbits and ducks. She didn’t come in because she knew she’d want to hold the kids and she just couldn’t. (She had been in and out of the hospital after our cousin’s liver transplant and it just wasn’t safe to be around each other.) There was no Fourth of July parade and although we heard fireworks all through the night, we could not see any.

In November, Millie turned three and our governor had given clear instructions that no more than 10 people were allowed to gather together. Realizing I couldn’t throw Mill the birthday that I wanted for her, made me empathetic towards those who had to cancel their events due to the pandemic; weddings, trips, graduation parties, etc. It broke my heart to tell family members and friends that they could not come over to celebrate with us. So on Millie’s third birthday, my parents and the in-laws came over to celebrate and we FaceTimed others while she blew out her candles.

One very ordinary evening in December, Chris had a sore throat. Neither of us thought anything of it until he had chills throughout the night. He called our family doctor who then scheduled him to be tested for COVID. By the time of his test, he felt like he had been hit by a truck; even sitting was painful. Chris received a positive covid test and two days later, Wells and I had symptoms; body aches, fatigue, and a fever to follow. Wells slept the worst he ever had in his life. I could tell by his cry that he was in pain. Following suite, within the next two days, my grandmother who watches the kids during the week was symptomatic. Her and I both lost our taste and smell. Covid had infested our family.

Five days after Chris tested positive, Mill still had no signs of the virus. We were so impressed with her immune system! We must not have knocked on wood quick enough because without warning, my energetic fire ball was melting into the couch. Millie was lethargic and had a fever of 100.3. We called the pediatrician and she told us to give her children’s Tylenol and monitor her symptoms. We put her in the bath tub and encouraged fluids. Once the medicine was in her system, she was back to her normal self. You could tell when the medicine would start to wear off – she’d slow down, get rosy cheeks, and her eyes would gloss over. She took her medicine while I sang, “Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Sweet girl didn’t fight it at all. Her symptoms lasted 48 hours.

The virus did not keep us from:

  • Worshipping the Lord
  • Celebrating birthdays
  • Going to VA
  • Playing in the snow (Millie makes the best snow angels)
  • Moving my grandma into a new condo
  • Making Christmas cookies and giving them to our neighbors
  • Sending Valentine’s cards
  • Going to the zoo
  • Dedicating Wells

Not everyone had our same comfort level for socialization during the pandemic. We were not fearful of a virus with a 98% survival rate, we had faith in our immune systems, and we agreed with Pastor Doyle when he spoke about togetherness. Unfortunately, many family members missed out on important birthdays, holidays, and other once in a lifetime events because of their own anxieties about safety. The thought process was, “I want to be around for the holidays that they’ll remember.” but no one can guarantee tomorrow. [Millie (3) and Wells (1) just because you might not remember this year, doesn’t make your experiences any less valuable. I’m blogging so that if one day you don’t remember, my words may be enough.]

“If you’re a pandemic baby and you’ve been in quarantine your whole life, you get overstimulated by everything ’cause all the strangers that you see have masks on, and you’ve never really had a playdate in your life.”

I worry about how much this year has affected our children. One year out of my thirty is nothing, but one year to my three year old? That’s a third of her life. Wells? His entire life. Children aren’t as resilient as we like to think, you know? Why do so many adults find themselves in therapy – childhood trauma. We have absolutely no idea the ramifications of living this closed off, pandemic life. Millie was supposed to start dance this year and Wells doesn’t know what it’s like to be around other children. I’m heartbroken and concerned for our children, this generation now labeled as, “Gen C”.

Crazy things about COVID:

  • This started during an election year.
  • People hoarded toilet paper and sold it for obscene amounts of money on the internet.
  • Your Great, Great Uncle Bobby, who is bedridden in a nursing home (suffers from strokes) survived the virus!
  • There were directional arrows on the floors of stores and MawMaw became the aisle police. Although, she told me if I needed to go down an aisle with an arrow facing the opposite direction, to just walk backwards and act like I “forgot” something.
  • Millie was told she had to wear a mask upon entering the Disney store.
  • People were also concerned about murder hornets (I’m still not positive about the murders – were they murdering bees? People?)
  • The sports stadiums were empty (they broadcasted with fake audience cheers, it was bizarre) but some stadiums offered fans to buy cardboard cutouts of themselves to place in the seats. Gam got Millie a cutout for the Shoe so she was “at” the Buckeye games.

I thought I’d finish this blog post months ago (I began writing in August of 2020) but the pandemic trudged on. Ohio is now in a state of “purple” meaning we are worse off when we were in the “red” during our initial shutdown (the colors are arbitrary). Children are back in school full time, sporting events are being held with spectators, vaccines are being administered through drive-thrus – I don’t know what’s next for parenting in the pandemic but I’m glad this blog can be updated because I’m sure it’s not over.

Millie Met Wells

Millie Met Wells

My father being in the delivery room was not in my birth plan. He bought a “little brother” onesie from the hospital gift shop and to his surprise, I was mid-push in active labor when he came to show me. He watched as Wells entered the world and was placed upon my chest. My dad went out into the waiting room where his wife, my step-mom, was watching Millie. She asked my dad how I liked the onesie and was completely surprised when he told her that baby Wells was born! He explained that the baby had been delivered while he was “delivering” the outfit. Together, my dad and step-mom brought Millie to the delivery room to meet her baby brother.

Millie stood nervously at the entrance of the room until her daddy welcomed her over to my bedside. She ran with great two-year-old-gusto into his arms. He kissed her on the head as he lifted her up to see the new baby. Millie saw Wells sleeping in my arms. “Oh, baby Wells!” After the many months of telling Mille that she was going to have a baby brother, she finally was able to meet him. Chris and I were given matching hospital bracelets that linked us to baby Wells and the nurse gave Millie a bracelet that said, big sister. It was purple and adorable but Mill didn’t like it around her wrist and had the nurse cut it off. Sitting on the bed, she sang him, Happy Birthday”.

The nurse took Wells to get his measurements and Millie followed; she wanted to be where her little brother was. Millie demanded her daddy, “pick me up” so she could have a better view of Wells. She informed the nurse that she was the big sister and made a comment about her stethoscope (a word she picked up from watching Doc McStuffins). The nurse was very impressed with her vocabulary and let her wear the stethoscope around her neck. To my surprise, Wells weighed over eight pounds! I was in disbelief because my ultrasound the week prior, the tech said he was weighing in at less than seven. After having Millie, a 4.8lb baby, Wells was giant! As Wells started to fuss, Millie got upset. She was already protective of her little brother.

Millie was to come back to the hospital the next day to take “fresh 48” photos (pictures taken within the first 48 hours after birth). I found out that Millie had gotten sick after eating breakfast. She had never thrown up before. I blame the puking on her grandparents because I guarantee they gave her way too much sugar. The hospital pediatrician said it was okay that she come up as long as she wasn’t running a fever. (The world was very different a week before the lockdown.) Millie bulldozed into the room and no one would have ever guessed that she got sick earlier in the day. She had on an outfit that matched her brother’s.

We laid Wells on some pillows next to Millie in the hospital bed. She was so curious; she kept trying to pull his hair up to see how long it was. “I hold him, daddy?” She rested her cheek on his head and it about melted my heart.

Welcoming Wells

Welcoming Wells

At 33 weeks pregnant with Millie, my OB instructed me to go to labor and delivery. I felt miserable; pounding headaches, swelling to point of discomfort, dizziness and fatigue. I left the OBs office completely unable to accept the reality of induction. Instead of rushing to the hospital, I had my husband take me to Arby’s. As I pumped ketchup onto my tray, a lady grabbing napkins said to me, “If you have a girl and see blood in her diaper, don’t be alarmed, it’s her hormones.” What? Suddenly, I had lost my appetite for ketchup.

33 weeks came and went during my second pregnancy yet, everyday the thought of preeclampsia was a very real concern. I checked my blood pressure with an at-home monitor, I constantly analyzed the size of my ankles, and I actually iced and elevated my feet at night. 34 weeks into my pregnancy, we lost my step-father due to a massive heart attack, just four months after unexpectedly, losing my sister. I was fearful that the grief and stress would throw me into labor but thankfully, the baby stayed put.

37 weeks of pregnancy is considered full term; something I never was able to experience with Millie. I still feel a tinge of guilt for not being able to carry her longer. I was ecstatic to have made it to term with this pregnancy and also surprised I didn’t feel entirely miserable. Don’t get me wrong, the pelvic pressure was painful and sleeping comfortably was a challenge, but life wasn’t completely intolerable; nothing like what 33 weeks pregnant with preeclampsia felt like. My OB said we made it to term because of the daily dose of baby aspirin but I like to think that he was comfortable in my sisters arms, in heaven.

At 37 weeks and 6 days, I started having contractions seven minutes apart. Laying in bed, I would check my phone with each pain; 3:07, 3:14, 3:21. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I was being woken up by my alarm. As I was getting ready for work, my husband urged me to stay home and call the doctor. Wanting to save my sick time, I went in to teach. During my planning period, I called my OB to tell him I had contractions through the night. He responded, “get to labor and delivery”. I drove home, snuggled with Mill on the couch, and waited for my baby daddy to come home. My husband packed the car, we kissed Millie goodbye, and this time, we didn’t stop for a cherry turnover.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were sent into triage where a nurse took my temperature, blood pressure, checked my lungs and pulse, and she gave me a sani-wipe and cup to collect my urine. As I sat down on the toilet, I opened the wipe and simultaneously, it jumped out of my hands! The wet wipe flew through the air, nearly six feet, before hitting the tile floor! Reactively, I screamed and then I couldn’t stop laughing! My husband and the nurse thought I was crazy but it kept the atmosphere light; labor terrified me after my experience with Mill.

My vitals were normal except my blood pressure, 118 over 96. The nurse explained that the reading was a mistake; the bottom number “didn’t match” the top number. She checked it again; 135 over 95. She seemed concerned that the readings were slightly elevated so she was going to consult the resident doctor on duty. Of course I was stressing thinking that the pre-e had returned but there were no traces of protein in my urine, so that kept me sane. Waiting for my blood pressure to go down, I ate a bag of mini pretzels, watched an episode of Friends (ironically, it was the episode where Rachel and Ross are at the gynecologist), texted my parents, and peed again. The nurse returned, checked my BP, and it was even higher than before! Over and over again, the cuff would squeeze my arm, release the pressure, and I would dauntingly peek at the numbers on the monitor; my blood pressure remained high. The resident doctor, who looked younger than me, asked about my birth plan. I explained to her that if the preeclampsia had returned, I wanted a c-section, which had been discussed numerous times with my OB. She began explaining to me why she would not give me a c-section, even if the pre-e had returned. I stopped her and said, “I know that I am able to elect for a cesarean birth.” I was no longer interested in speaking to this resident. My blood pressure reading was highest after that conversation.

My OB was in the hospital giving a tour to a newly hired doctor in the practice, so he stopped by my room to discuss my, “options”. He told me that he was admitting me for gestational hypertension. He explained that my history with pre-e made him too concerned to send me home with an elevated blood pressure. The doctor informed us that there were risks to induction, especially premature lung development, particularly in boys. A day before Millie was born, a steroid shot was administered into my leg to better develop her lungs. Unfortunately, there is no evidence shows the steroid being effective after 34 weeks of pregnancy, so the shot was not an option this time around. There is a fine line between gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia and my doctor thought the induction outweighed the risks, given my history. Gestational hypertension is a form of high blood pressure and it occurs in about 6 percent of all pregnancies. Delivery heals the mother from the hypertension.

I was being induced for a vaginal birth, with a c-section as plan B if my blood pressure continued to rise. The doctor promised me that this delivery would be different than my first and that I was being closely monitored. I signed some papers, shoved my underwear into my purse, and tightly held my husbands hand as we left triage. I was full term. This baby spent weeks longer in utero compared to Millie. I’ve done this before; affirmations I told myself walking to labor and delivery.

We started the induction at 4pm with a twelve hour dose of cervadil; a vaginal insert that ripens the cervix. Like a tampon, the medicine is attached to a string. Unlike a tampon, it is placed super far up the vaginal canal (I swear, the nurse was elbow deep). The first four hours on the cervadil were a breeze – mild cramping. My grandma brought Millie to see us before her bedtime. This was the first night that I wasn’t sleeping under the same roof as her. It broke my heart when she didn’t want anything to do with me. She was scared of the machines and my IV.

I was uncomfortable during the next four hours as the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Around 3am, I wanted the epidural but I was only 3cm dilated. The resident OB wanted to wait on ordering the epidural until I dilated further so he offered to give me pain meds through my IV to take off the edge. I urged both him, and the nurse to consult with my doctor because we had discussed this exact situation after my traumatic experience with Millie. I had dilated so quickly with her that I was unable to get the epidural and I did not want that to happen again. Thankfully, they consulted my doctor who approved the epidural.

I gave birth to Millie without an epidural and I was not about to do that again. Although, I was scared that the epidural would hurt, that I would move during insertion and become paralyzed, that it wouldn’t take, or that the baby’s heart rate would drop, I was terrified of another natural labor. I was overwhelmed with the pain from the contractions so I pulled up a video of Millie on my phone, to focus my energy on her pure joy. As I watched, tears rolled down my cheeks; partially due to the pain I was experiencing but also because of my love for her. I was assured that the anesthesiologist was the best they had. He was an older man who talked me through everything he was doing. My husband was asked to wear a mask and a hair cap while the procedure took place. He held my hands as I sat up straight, at the edge of the bed. The medicine felt like a bead of cold water rushing down my spine. I do not remember any pain during insertion. Slowly, my legs started feeling heavy and I knew the epidural had worked.

Pitocin was administered and for the next two hours, 4:30-6:30am, I experienced some mild cramping. The epidural provided great relief to the clinching pain of the earlier contractions. My grandma had joined us in the birthing room. Her presence was calming as she rubbed my legs. My birth photographer, Sarah Shambaugh, arrived and began taking pictures of the process. Around 6:30, it felt like I needed to poop; nothing hurt, I just felt a sense of urgency. I remembered feeling that way before Millie was born and I knew it was time to push. The nurse examined me and sure enough, I was fully effaced and 9.5cm dilated. The nurse called my doctor, who was twelve minutes away. Longest twelve minutes of my life.

I was instructed not to push until my OB arrived. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks in response to the discomfort I was enduring. I told my husband that I didn’t care to wait for my doctor any longer, as long as someone would catch my baby, I needed to start pushing. My bed was raised, nurses helped lift my legs into the stirrups, and a resident doctor began dressing to do the job. In that same moment, my doctor entered the room and prepared for the delivery. I breathed a sigh of relief while grimacing through a contraction.

Pushing was difficult because I couldn’t exactly feel what I was supposed to be doing due to the epidural. I was anxious to push and didn’t like the wait time between contractions. I forced all of my energy down and with every push, the baby moved further through the canal. My doctor was so supportive; using words of encouragement and massaging the tissue so I wouldn’t tear. My father snuck into the room and held up a “little brother” onesie as a means of encouragement. The thought was endearing but I also didn’t want my dad to see my vagina. My husband helped lift my head up towards my chest and my grandma pulled my legs back while I pushed. I could not understand why this labor was taking so long – comparatively to my three push labor with Millie. My OB used his hands to turn the baby’s head in a more opportune position. Impatient, I decided that I didn’t want to wait for the next contraction to start pushing again and that is when the baby progressed enough that my doctor could see the hair on his head. My husband looked – gross. My doctor predicted that the next push would do it; I would meet my son.

Clinched teeth, chin to chest, toes curled; all of the tension released when Wells was born. It is absolutely amazing how exhaustion and pain evaporate away the moment of birth. A wiggly, slime-covered, baby boy was placed on my chest and my entire being began taking him in; he was heavy, he was pink, he had hair, and he was crying. My husband cut the umbilical cord as nurses suctioned fluid from his mouth. We stayed skin-on-skin while my family met him. When it was time to feed him, he latched quickly and correctly, which made nursing simple. While he was on my breast, I felt the bottom of his little feet; so soft.

My sweet, perfect boy. Life may be unpredictable, but my love for you will forever be constant. Welcome to the world, Wells.

Big Sister

Big Sister

I only know myself as a big sister; I don’t remember being an only child for the first two years of my life. I am a big sister to, two awesome people who I will always see as, kids. I cherish the memories of helping my brother get ready for school in the morning and talking through the bunk beds with my sister at night. Running to the car we’d yell, “shotgun!” to see who was going to sit in the front seat. I remember sticking up for my siblings at school; I about pounded a kid for calling my sister fat and I wasn’t very nice to the bully taking my brothers lunch either. My sister would keep my secrets and my brother could always make me laugh. I am proud of my siblings and I am grateful to be their big sister.

I always knew that I wanted to have a basketball team amount of kids, if the Lord would allow. The preeclampsia that I experienced with Millie scared me of the birthing process but never out of wanting to expand our family. To allow my body time to recover, my OB asked for me to give myself two years before getting pregnant again but when Millie was 20 months old, we found out we were expecting. I was still breastfeeding Mill and continued until she was 22 months old, when I entered my second trimester of pregnancy. I was instructed to take a calcium supplement as my vegan diet didn’t allow much calcium to go around for myself, a breastfeeding toddler, and a growing fetus. That aside, we were excited that Millie was going to be a big sister come March!

The first person I told after seeing the positive pregnancy test was my little sister. We had been talking about how I felt fatigued and she encouraged me to take a test. She was at work when I called to tell her the news and she startled everyone in her office by screaming in excitement. From the very beginning of this pregnancy, things were different than my first. The pink result on the pee stick was much more prominent this time around. I was pleasantly surprised that this pregnancy didn’t come with the hyperemesis gravidarum that I experienced with Mill. Due to all the puking during my first pregnancy, I had to miss my sisters college graduation, hospitalized with dehydration. This time around, I was pregnant but also was able keep up with an energetic toddler. We had a gender reveal with our family where we cut into a cake that spilled out blue candy – no surprise that this pregnancy was different, we are having a baby boy.

Millie is a little mommy; she loves babies. At Zumbini, she would rather spend time putting her face in baby carriers of the siblings of her classmates than dance and play instruments. Millie will give her baby dolls stroller rides, she feeds them bottles, and she puts them to sleep by covering them up and kissing them on the head. Anything small is a baby to her. I love her caring nature. There was never a doubt in my mind – she would be an awesome big sister.

I do not think Millie understands that there will be a new baby in our house come March. She is aware that there is a baby in my stomach and that we are preparing our home for his arrival however, how can a two year old comprehend a new life? I still am in awe of the miracle that is a new baby. So here I am, enjoying my time as a one child mama for a little while longer. I will never forget Millies time as my only child however, she will. She’ll forever know herself, like me, as a big sister.

Memories of Millie in TX

Memories of Millie in TX

“The stars at night, are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap) deep in the heart of Texas!”

My little family was invited to my friend Amber’s cruise ship wedding, ported in Galveston, Texas. I love weddings and I had never been to Texas so I was eager to propose this trip to my husband, Chris. Unfortunately, I cannot stomach cruises. “Rock the boat, don’t rock the boat, baby!” (My thinking is being interrupted with musical interludes; bear with me.) I have been on a cruise once before. It was a five-day, Carnival cruise that sailed from Florida to the Bahamas. I was green the entire time, even when taking motion sickness medicine, and bedridden for two days because of the nausea. It was safe to say that there would be no cruising for me but thankfully, the wedding took place while the ship was docked. I called Amber’s travel agent and got to work planning our Texas vacation.

Columbus to Houston:

  • We flew Southwest on a flight with many others attending the wedding including one of my best friends, Shauna. The plane had almost forty unmanned seats so we were able to take Millie’s car seat on board with us, even though we had not purchased her, her own seat (funny what brings me joy in my adulthood). Millie fell asleep and I watched, “How to Train your Dragon 3” (I don’t always adult) using the Southwest app – hooray for free video streaming!

Houston to Galveston:

  • The humidity in Houston was aggressive; I felt sticky from the walk from the plane to the terminal. My ears perked up hearing a string quartet playing live music in the airport lobby. We grabbed our luggage, packed up our bright, blue rent-a-car, and went to Walmart to grab an umbrella stroller to use throughout our trip. (We did not bother bringing both a car seat and a stroller on the plane.) Chris picked a Minnie Mouse stroller for Mill and I found a cute, Texas tank top for six bucks.
  • We stopped at Fuddruckers to eat dinner. There aren’t Fuddruckers restaurants in Ohio so it was neat eating at a restaurant that we never been. There were arcade games and while we waited for our dinner, Chris attempted to win Millie a stuffed animal from the claw machine – he was defeated. There was also a “test your strength” game that measured how tight you could grip two metal rods. Of course, Chris thought it was hilarious when my strength measured, “wimpy”. We ate our veggie burgers and left for the hotel.
  • The roads in Texas are atrocious and I was so thankful that Chris was the one executing them. I felt like we were constantly merging. It didn’t help that some of the roads in Galveston were flooded from a storm the night prior.

Galveston:

  • Our hotel room had a balcony with a beautiful view of the gulf. Seeing the water got us excited to get to the beach, so we packed our towels and left for the boardwalk.
  • There was a strong wind coming off of the water but that didn’t stop us from having a great time. The gulf was warm and the sand was packed down from the high tide. Mill was so light she didn’t leave footprints when she walked. I stood in amazement watching Millie brave the water. Looking out into vast ocean didn’t phase her; she ran to it.
  • The next day, as I was taking pictures at my friend’s wedding, Chris watched Millie and they ate free food (the staff didn’t know that we weren’t cruising). It was hilarious when Millie started a babbling argument with the cocktail waiter when he didn’t hand her an alcoholic beverage at the reception. The wedding was absolutely beautiful.

Houston:

  • After the wedding, we met up with my friend, Alicia, at the Kennedy Space Center. We were impressed with the amount of exhibits with interactive learning. Millie loved exploring the space center. We bought Millie an astronaut doll and named her, Sally Ride. Strong women raise strong women.
  • Best tex-mex in the world, PapaCito’s Cantina. Fact. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Our waiter, J-rod, was amazing; he brought us free food to try because it was our first time eating there and he gave Millie a ball of dough to play with while we waited for our meal. The food was beyond delicious; Chris had fajitas and I ate nachos – the flavor was out of this world! I wish a PapaCito’s Cantina would open near us.

Waco:

  • Shoutout to the Fairfield Inn and Suites for having veggie sausage in their continental breakfast buffet. Us vegans were extremely appreciative.
  • Chip and Joanna Gaines definitely put this city on their back. The hotel receptionist said that the Silo District brought Waco back to life. We spent three hours at the silos; eating cupcakes (Oh. My. Gosh. Yum.) shopping at Magnolia, drinking sweet tea from a mason jar, and playing in the garden with Mill – she had to smell every flower and whisper, “ahhh” in admiration.
  • Waco has a National Park with preserved mammoth remains. A park ranger walked us through the excavation site and apparently Millie already knew everything because she would interrupt the ranger to address the group with her baby babbles and hand gestures.
  • We stopped at Magnolia’s, Little Shop on Bosque, the Gaines’ original home decor store, to pick up a new shirt for Millie after she spilled the sweet tea down the front of her. The store was so small – I’m sure it must be humbling for them to see how it all started. The shop currently sells discounted items so we were able to get her a nice, linen shirt for cheap.
  • If you are wanting to shop in Waco, look no further than, The Spice Rack. This building houses hundreds of vendors selling the cutest stuff. I was able to pick up Millie two new pairs of Burt’s Bees pjs for less than $10 a piece. Mill left with a rubber duck wearing a cowboy hat, that we named, Dolly Duckton. “Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition.” Unfortunately, I took a tumble walking up the stairs to the bathroom…so that was embarrassing; praying that not too many people saw. Good news though, I was not hurt, only my pride.
  • We visited Cameron Park to hike Jacob’s Ladder, the infamous country club climb. It was a steep incline and the steps were uneven stones. I was grateful that Chris carried Millie up because I struggled to keep my balance. The view from the top was just okay which was disappointing after reading such rave reviews and not to mention, the mosquitos were atrocious. I’m sure if we lived in Waco, we would visit this park often because it was spacious, shaded, had picnic tables and play gyms for the kids, hiking trails, etc.
  • Waco has a walking bridge with larger than life, longhorn sculptures to memorialize the cattle trade that took place there. Millie was excited to be able to run around and she was fascinated by a beautiful girl and her sparkly heels, taking her senior pictures. There was a large gap below the railings of the bridge that a toddler could easily tumble through and fall into quick-moving, water. Needless to say, we kept Mill close to us on this adventure.

Fort Worth:

  • Experiencing the Stockyard was like being in an old Western film, sans the bar fights and shoot outs. Mille and I sat on the back of a longhorn (she didn’t care for that) and she went on a pony ride. The man administering the rides told us the horse she rode was named, Lil Sebastian. He later admitted he heard Chris and my conversation about Parks and Rec, and he couldn’t help himself; the pony’s actual name was, Peanut. “He’s 5,000 candles in the wind”.

Dallas:

  • Our COSI membership had reciprocity at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Amazingly, there were tons of fossils, not just casts displayed. The gemstone exhibit was beautiful and the children’s area was a lot of fun for Mill. It was designed to look like downtown Dallas and for an out-of-stater, I appreciated the personal touch. At closing time, Millie still wanted to play, so she enjoyed the splash pad at the entrance of the museum. She was soaked but wasn’t cold- Texas is so hot.
  • We spent our final evening swimming in the hotel pool (we saw a woman’s boob completely out of her swimsuit), watching a Cubs baseball game on tv, and ordering sushi for dinner that we ate in bed.

Our trip to Texas was another grand adventure for my little family. I’m so grateful for the memories we made and the moments I won’t soon forget.

Millie Met Mickey

Millie Met Mickey

Fair warning, this is an elongated blogpost about an an affluent, American family taking a Disney vacation. I am definitely not a “Mouseketeer”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Disney movies and their musical scores. It’s just so commercialized; Disney is everywhere. Name a children’s movie that isn’t Disney. I don’t dress Millie in Disney clothes because I think its tacky when children wear characters on their clothing. As a child, I liked the princesses but I loved Max Goof (bizarre character to be fascinated with, I know) Max was actually with me through my labor (see previous blog post, “laboring love” for more details). I went on two family vacations to Disney World under the age of five and I don’t remember them, sorry mom. When I was in high school, I skipped on the opportunity to go to Disney World with my marching band. Recently, my in-laws mentioned wanting to take Millie on a vacation to Disney World with the full princess experience; the gown, makeover, sash, carriage ride, etc. ($$$) Call me selfish, but I wanted the first time that I would remember experiencing Disney to be with my little family; my husband, Millie, and me.

With the help of our travel agent and the advice of friends, I planned a spring break trip to Disney World. I surprised my husband with the trip on Christmas morning. Initially, he was not thrilled about the gift of the vacation because he assumed an astronomical price tag however, I informed him of the details and as the trip drew near, he became more excited. I created a Disney trip countdown as a visual aid for Millie comprised of construction paper links, to look like Mickey and Minnie. Each day we removed a link from the chain and March came quickly. (Time moves so much faster with a child).

6am flights are the absolute worst. We did not originally have such an early flight however, the plane we were scheduled for was grounded due to numerous deadly crashes using that same model aircraft (I’m grateful for the switch). We arrived at the airport at 4am, eager to leave the 38 degree, Ohio weather. On the plane, Millie could be a lap-rider because of her age. We had to show the airlines a copy of her birth certificate; we took her original birth certificate without knowing we could bring a copy. Apparently, the airlines would have even accepted a picture of her birth certificate on my phone. (Praise God nothing happened to her original.) Not buying Millie a plane ticket saved us over two-hundred dollars. I was able to book direct flights to Orlando, which was a two hour trip. I wish I would have known that I could have kept Millie in her Ergo-carrier throughout the security and boarding process because having both of my hands free would’ve made things a lot easier. The flight went well and Millie was great on the plane. She was so excited when we landed in Florida and saw pictures of Mickey Mouse everywhere.

Millie loves dogs so I decided the Dalmatian wing of Disney’s All Star Movie resort would be the perfect place for us to stay. The price of this resort was more reasonable than I expected and by staying at Disney, transportation was taken care of to and from the park, as well as back and forth from Disney Springs, and the airport. The shuttle transportation system allowed us to not have to lug Millie’s car seat around. We did however, bring her stroller from home along with us; it did not cost extra money for the stroller to be stowed during our flights and the park had ample stroller parking. I was later informed that the stroller policy at Disney World would be changing soon so if you’re planning a trip with little ones, check that out.

Our vacation commenced by eating Mickey waffles from the resort food court, which were equal parts adorable and delicious. Millie thought the waffles were funny and chose to not eat Mickey’s face. Before we were able to check into our room, we participated in our first family activity; the splash pad at the resort. It was almost 80 degrees in Orlando with little cloud coverage and the occasional breeze. Millie did not want to have to wait to have her sunscreen applied. Advice for parents of a toddler: put the spf on their little bodies before they see the water. Millie had so much fun splashing and dunking her head under. We had the splash pad all to ourselves and it was a blast. The trip was worth the money the moment we saw the joy exude from Millie, playing in the water.

Mill fell asleep on my lap as we soaked up some sun on the beach chairs. We were watching the palm trees sway when the Disney app notified us that our hotel room was available. As we walked by the many Dalmatian puppies in our wing of the resort, Millie would bark and wave. We were pleased to find our room was on the first floor. The room was comfortable; two full beds, a mini fridge, working air conditioning, and Disney decor. Unfortunately, the walls were extremely thin and we could hear every word that our neighbors said (although we couldn’t understand it because they spoke Spanish). I asked the Lord to grant me grace because their screaming baby almost woke my sleeping baby at 2am.

Our first evening in Orlando was spent at Disney Springs however, we found it underwhelming. It was comprised of highend, Disney boutiques and sit down restaurants. We ate delicious, coconut sorbet and returned to the resort.

The next morning, we excitedly boarded the shuttle to Magic Kingdom but on the way to the park, it started to down pour. We had not prepared for rain so we made the decision to ride the shuttle back to the resort and wait out the storm. We ate brunch at the resort and were pleased with the quality of the veggie burger. Once the rain had stopped, we boarded the shuttle to Magic Kingdom for the second time that morning. I was disappointed in the security process because I had to leave Millie in her stroller, unattended, to go through the detectors on my own, as instructed. I was never more than six steps away from her however, Disney is terribly crowded and for a first-time mama with anxiety, I wasn’t having it. Luckily, my husband stayed with her while I went through the metal detector and pushed her over to me once I was through and then he went through himself. What if I was a single mom and didn’t have anyone to stand with her while I went through the metal detector? I expressed my concerns to the security guard who was more concerned with the growing line than my frustrations.

Entering Magic Kingdom was like going through a time warp set back 120 years; the buildings were colonial style, women were dancing with white gloves and parasails, and a barber shop quartet, dressed in stripes of red and white, harmonized in front of a deliciously fragrant candy shop. Main Street had a quaint, small-town feel with shops adorning each side of the road. To our right, we noted a “Meet Mickey and Minnie” sign, which was where we needed to be to utilize a fast pass we scheduled for later. A man asked me to take a picture of his family and for the first time that day, I saw Cinderella’s magical castle. I took a picture of his family and he took a picture of ours.

Large, decorative floats with dancing and singing Disney characters paraded down Main Street. We followed behind a float carrying a dancing, Max Goof until we made it to the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statute. Millie was apprehensive about viewing the parade as she buried her head into my shoulder for most of it. My husband recorded the parade on his phone and even though Millie might not have enjoyed the parade then, she loves watching it now.

Similar in ride concept, I chose to fast pass the Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. These rides did not have height requirements, they were categorized as, “slow moving”, we would be able to sit as a family, and they had great reviews for children under two. Millie sat on my lap on the inside seat of the ride car. My husband took control of the car’s height lever which would raise and lower us upon his discretion. Millie was hysterical because she kept a straight face the entire time we rode both rides. I couldn’t tell you if she loved them however, I don’t think she disliked them because she absolutely knows how to show discontent.

We stopped in our tracks upon hearing a screaming trumpet from the Main Street Philharmonic. This small ensemble sounded fantastic and played everything from old circus marches to modern pop. If you are planning a trip to Magic Kingdom, you need to make time in your schedule to listen to this group play good music for fifteen minutes. Another worthwhile venture is finding a stand that sells Mickey pretzels – delicious!

Millie had the opportunity to meet Mickey and Minnie in a small, poorly lit room. The characters were wearing “party” clothes to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary. I held Millie on my hip during our wait but upon locking eyes with the large, plastic Mickey head, she wiggled up my body and hid her face in my neck. The characters tried their best to get Millie to smile; Mickey played peek-a-boo with her and danced when I sang the, “Hotdog” song. My husband took a video of this event and again, Millie treasures it even though she wasn’t quite ready to enjoy the actual moment.

Millie’s fear of costumed characters didn’t stop at Mickey Mouse; Daisy Duck had no luck making Millie smile nor did Pluto. They were set in a gypsy theme, which I found unsettling. After taking pictures of Millie looking absolutely horrified, Disney tried to pull a fast one by putting the exit through a souvenir shop. Naturally, Millie was intrigued and wanted everything she could get her hands on. Miraculously, we left the gift shop/exit empty handed. The princesses however, were not as scary to Millie. It could have been because even in costume, they look like actual people. She met Cinderella, who looked like a sloth, and Elena of Avalor, who? While Millie might not have been scared of them, she definitely had no interest in seeing them.

We spent an hours time on Tom Sawyer’s Island. A short raft ride takes you to the island, which was unnecessary. The bumps while docking the raft were abrupt and a walking bridge for the short distance would have been suffice. Once on the island, Millie really enjoyed being able to walk the trails. The terrain was not ideal for a sixteen-month old, so she reluctantly held our hands through most of it. I held Millie while crossing a bridge of barrels that bobbed up and down with each step. There was a small play ground that Millie played on that was overruled by older kids.

I was concerned how nap-time would work while adventuring in the park, but Millie was exhausted by lunch time and would fall asleep in the stroller. Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen was our favorite lunch spot; the air conditioning was on blast, the staff was great, and the food was delicious – I highly recommend the Shiriki Noodle Salad, yum. Eating vegan while at Magic Kingdom was a breeze with the help of amazing chefs.

The Swiss Family Treehouse was our next adventure. There was not a line for this activity and that was refreshing. I was unfamiliar with the story of the Swiss Family Robinson’s however, my husband filled me in as we ventured along. The treehouse had bridges, ramps, and stairs which were fun for Millie to navigate through. I held her hand through most of it because her balance was still wobbly.

I used the My Disney App, week’s before our vacation, to make food reservations at the park. On our first night at Magic Kingdom, we ate dinner at The Crystal Palace, which is a buffet-style restaurant with mingling characters from Winnie the Pooh. Millie hit Piglet in the face, twice, wanted nothing to do with Eeyore, and was scared to death of Tigger. The food was great but not worth the bill. The next morning we ate breakfast at Belle’s Be Our Guest Cafe, which is where I was told was the only place that you could see Belle and the Beast. Unfortunately, neither showed up during our breakfast. We had a terrible time in the line; a staff member told us to return closer to the end of our reservation time yet, while trying to talk us out of the line, four other families got in line before us. The computers were down and they weren’t accepting Magic bands as a form of payment. The food was subpar but that was to be expected from a French menu. The aesthetic of the dining hall was spectacular. It looked just like the ballroom from Beauty and the Beast.

Mickey’s Philharmagic was an interactive, 3D mini-film. I guess you could call this Millie’s first theatre experience and I was surprised when Millie kept her 3D glasses on the entire time. She laughed when Donald Duck came on the screen (she adores him) and when things would come flying at us, she would reach out to try to touch it. Her reactions to the film were the best part.

My travel agent, friends, and colleagues all advised me to not use a fastpass on, It’s a Small World because the line was never long. We chose not to fastpass that ride, but we totally should have because the line was forever long. Due to our terrible line experience at the Be Our Guest Cafe, the staff gave us an additional Fastpass to use that day in the park. After seeing the line for Its a Small World, we updated our magic bands and skipped the longest line that we had seen at the park. We rode in the first car that had plenty of leg room and a bar that Millie stood up and held. She was rocking the boat trying to get the ride to move faster. She loved the singing and the scenery; I thought the dolls were super creepy.

We rode the infamous Teacups – I felt sick as a dog. Mill sat in my lap. My husband spun with one hand and was recording Millie with the other. She proceeded to have the most serious look on her face as we spun around and around. When she realized that the wheel in the middle of the teacup was controlling the spin, she tried to turn it herself. I think if the ride would’ve been twice as long, she would’ve enjoyed it more but boy, I sure was ready to get off!

The shuttle ride back to the resort was amusing as we sat next to an animated, little girl with a blue, Stitch stuffed animal. Millie had acquired a Lilo doll from one of the gift shops outside of the princess meet and greet (she wouldn’t put it down). The two girls played with their dolls together, Lilo and Stitch.

I know I’m forgetting so many details like, Millie and her daddy howling before bed, Millie sitting on Walt’s lap our first evening in the park, the nursing mother’s room that was busting at the seams, the sound of Millie’s feet as she walked with such purpose through the automatic doors to get to the pool..our vacation was amazing. Millie won’t remember it, but with the pictures, videos, and this blogpost I hope she will know how much fun we had – fun that would not have existed without her.

Until next time, Disney.