Fall Fun 21

Fall Fun 21

Before I can start writing about winter (it’s December 27th) here is a blog about our Fall.

Millie started ballet classes through Ballet Met. She is a “Mini Mover”, a class for 3 and 4 year olds. Maw, Mill, and I went to Opening Night, a store that sells dance attire, to try on and purchase her dance uniform; a pink cap sleeved leotard, a pink skirt, white socks, and white ballet shoes. (We got a sequin dance bag and a pink scrunchie, too.) While a sales woman was helping Millie try on ballet slippers, Mill was talking her ear off about the catfish in our backyard. The owner heard Mill talking and peaked out the dressing rooms, “I just had to hear who was saying that!” I was mortified. She must have thought we were such hillbillies. We found out that her feet are two different sizes; a half size difference. Millie leapt around the room when she had on her full uniform on and she was glowing.

1 day a week Millie attends dance class. There are 6 students total, all girls. Her teachers name is Miss. Sarah and they have a pianist that plays their rehearsal music. I asked Millie what the piano players name was and very matter of factly she told me, “Issac”. Come to find out his name is not Issac at all. It’s Gabe. The students are encouraged to wear masks during class. I thought this would be an issue for Millie but she never fusses about it and keeps it on. A month into classes, I asked Miss. Sarah how Mill was doing to which she responded, “Mia has a lot of great ideas.” This told me that Millie is probably trying to teach the class herself. She likes having “Mommy and Millie” time together after class when we get doughnuts or run errands. This ballet season has been really special.

We walked over to the high school to attend a Friday night football game. This was Wells’ first football game. Members of the OSU marching band who were GC alumni performed at half time. The kids enjoyed the music and clapped when appropriate. Wells wanted to sit independently between Chris and me, instead of on our laps. Once the game started, Wells wanted to be up and moving. He made a loop; down the stairs, under the bleachers, up the stairs, through the bleachers. He did this probably five times and when he’d hit a straight away, he would run. We bought a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and snacked on the way home.

Maw took a walk with the kids one fall afternoon and Millie took note of the many houses that were decorated – ours wasn’t one of them. That weekend I took both kids to a farmers market where I pulled them around in a wagon and they got to pick out their favorite pumpkins. Wells loved the mini pumpkins and Millie loved them all. We also got a delicious bag of apples and two bundles of corn for the columns on our front porch. The stalks barely fit in the Jeep; they were probably 7ft long! The kids laughed on the way home as they played with the corn above their heads. They helped decorate the porch and Wells cried when he realized we were leaving the pumpkins outside.

We went took our annual trip to Zassys Vendor Markets and brought Lindsey along with us. The kids tried kettle corn for the first time and they ate it up! Millie flossed to the live music. I bought way too many plants including Millie’s first plant, a pink algaonema that we put on her book shelf. She named the plant, Leafy and sang it Happy Birthday. We came home with way too many kids in the car after picking up Lindsey’s boys.

We took our family Christmas pictures at the end of October. My cousins boyfriend is a great photographer and doesn’t mind coming to us to take pictures. Millie wore a green dress that paired well with mine. The ribbon belt that came with my dress looked perfect around her waist. Wells looked so handsome in his sweater, jeans, and boots. Wells was beyond his nap time so we didn’t get a lot of smiles out of him however, we were able to get a couple shots for the Christmas card. We quickly changed into our Halloween attire and took pictures on the front porch dressed as Wendy, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, and a lost boy (skunk). We like to get into our costumes and take pictures before Halloween because the night of trick-or-treat is always so busy and the lighting is always terrible. Maw and I tweaked Mills costume and I bought Wells’ from an Etsy shop. Millie was so excited to blow “pixie dust” out of her hands and Wells was excited to throw his slingshot around. Thankfully, the pictures turned out super cute and Christmas cards have been mailed out.

On a rainy night in October, we decided to brave the Circleville Pumpkin Show. Neither Chris or his brother, Uncle Nick (who now lives in Ohio) had ever been to the pumpkin show in Circleville. We parked where we could find a spot, a few blocks away from the festivities, then Chris pushed the double stroller down the city sidewalk as I admired the architectural elements of the quaint houses. Wells wanted to walk around on his own so Chris and I stayed close to him as he explored freely. His smile was contagious; he was so happy to be out on his own. At the end of the night we watched a parade with floats, terrible sounding bands, and tons of beauty pageant queens. A man running for Congress asked Millie her name from his float, she told him and he waved back and used her name; she was on cloud nine.

This was the first year our family has participated in going door to door for Trick or Treat. Millie helped pass out candy her first Halloween. The weather was awful for her second. Her third Trick or Treat was canceled due to COVID. This Halloween, Uncle Nick came over and passed out candy so that we could take the kids to a couple houses. Beggars night in Ohio is the absolute worst, so of course it was raining. Millie dressed as Tinker bell carried her candy bag and an umbrella. Wells, happy to be walking independently, was a drenched skunk by the end of the night. Millie was very polite to the neighbors passing out candy and Wells was mostly interested in their dogs. Most of the candy in their bags was chocolate so we swapped the candy bars out with vegan candies.

Then Millie turned four. (I seriously don’t know how time has moved so quickly. She was wiping her mouth with a napkin the other day and I was like, “How does she know to do that?” I took the day off of work so we could spend her birthday together. We kicked off the day by icing some of the cookies for her birthday party. Then, we went to see a movie and it was the first time Millie had ever been to the movie theater! We had slim pickings on the movie choices but we decided on The Addams Family 2; we watched the first Addams Family the week before so she was excited to see the sequel. We ordered popcorn, pretzel bites, and fries – most of the food was gone before the movie even started. The movie was showing in theater number four, which of course was super special for the newly 4 year old. We had the theater all to ourselves, I guess no one else wanted to see The Addams Family 2 at one o’clock on a weekday. After the opening credits, Millie asked if she could sit on my lap. I reclined the seat back and we snuggled during the entire movie. What more could a mama ask for? It was the best.

The movie ended and per Millie’s request, we got doughnuts at Krispy Kreme. She picked out her favorites from behind the glass and even got a birthday cake doughnut. I let her eat a mini doughnut in the car and after she finished it, she fell fast asleep in her car seat. She had an awesome birthday and couldn’t wait for her cat themed birthday party with her friends and family.

Millie and I watched the musical, Cats together and were both equal parts mesmerized and creeped out. When I asked Mill what party theme she wanted, she was adamant she wanted a Gabby’s Dollhouse party, a children’s Netflix series about cats. Gabby products were difficult to find with Christmas right around the corner so the party was a more generic, “cat” theme. Kitties on the table, cats on the cake, felines in the flowers, and kittens on the plates! I ordered some decor off of Etsy and had the kids decorate kitty faces onto cookies. Millie got so many presents including a ballerina sleeping bag, a backpack full of craft supplies, new clothes, new crocs, and leg warmers.

We saw two spectacular light shows; Conservatory Aglow at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo. The conservatory had animal topiaries wrapped in lights and both kids were amazed to see their favorite animals, the elephants (Wells) and giraffes (Millie). They both enjoyed the rainbow arch, walking through a candy land house, and playing on the ropes in the children’s garden. We knew it was time to leave when we caught Millie laying down on the sidewalk by the wooden xylophone. We grabbed free cookies and a craft at the exit. The cookies were eaten on the car ride home and the ornament craft was created that night but destroyed by morning.

We went to the zoo lights with Uncle Nick, his new girlfriend Megan, and our engaged friends Dru and Katey. Both children fell asleep on the way to the zoo. We barely made it through the front gate before Uncle Nick bought them both flashy, light up wands. Santa was there but because of COVID, the kids couldn’t sit on his lap (I’m not sure the kids would’ve wanted to anyway). Millie was not a fan of the elf that introduced her to Santa. They continued to ask her if she was from the North Pole and she did not like that at all. When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas she very definitively said, “A Gabbys Dollhouse” to which Santa replied, “That’s a very popular present this year”. Wells signed, “thank you” to Santa and then blew him a kiss. It was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen and Santa said he’d be giving Wells a very special gift under the tree.

On Thanksgiving, we ate biscuits and gravy while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Chris accidentally turned off the tv during the Rockettes routine! Millie was excited to see the balloons. We went over to my aunts house and saw my dads side of the family. Then, we went over to my grandmas house and saw my moms side of the family. Facebook marketplace helped us find a Gabbys Dollhouse (triple the retail price) and Chris picked that up while we watched football. After a full day of traveling, we enjoyed a vegan Thanksgiving meal the next day.

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

Would the Owner of the White Car Please GTFOH

Would the Owner of the White Car Please GTFOH

As we settled into our new home we noticed a car that seemed to never move, parked outside our house. My friends assumed we bought a used car; it was always there, on the curb. One morning as I was watering the plants, our neighbor introduced herself to me, “I am 72 years old and we will never leave this home.” … our initial interaction was odd but I chalked that up to her age. The next morning as I was watering my hydrangeas I asked my neighbor if she knew who’s car was parked in front of my house, “Yeah, it’s mine”. After that, the car moved for about a week but then it was back for good.

I was chasing Mill up the sidewalk when I ran into a neighbor who was all too eager to gossip about everyone in our cul-de-sac. She told me that her neighbor was socially awkward (like he might keep women in his basement – her words not mine) and that the boys who ride their bikes around are autistic. Between her assumptions and fabrications she did spew some interesting information about my next door neighbor, “If the white car is out front, that means her son is living with them again”.

The interactions with those neighbors were minimal. We’d wave to the old man as he mowed his grass. I would talk to the woman about the weather as we watered our flowers. As the weather got colder and snow covered the streets, I would shovel their sidewalk along with mine. Millie and I made them a plate of cookies for Christmas; an assortment of cookies with a card that she signed. We bundled up and walked over to their house but left the cookies on the porch because nobody answered. (We assumed it was because of COVID.)

March rolled around and the kids were desperate to get outside. On a particularly nice evening, after dinner, we took a family walk. Chris pushed the stroller and we let Millie run around in the grass by the pond. As we were headed home, we ran into a friend of mine, a sales representative for instruments and repair. We knew that he lived in our neighborhood but had never seen him out before. As we were chatting, Mill and Wells were playing with his dog. During our conversation about home values and mulch fundraisers, he mentioned that he thought we lived in close proximity of a child sex offender; he thought the man lived on our street and that he might in fact be our next door neighbor. The conversation moved onto back patios and football then oddly enough, his neighbors lawn mower caught fire right in front of us. Even an explosion wasn’t enough to get my mind off of the potential threat to my family.

I sat on the couch, pulled out my phone, and frantically began searching the internet. Our county has a website that allows you to search for sex offenders near you. I typed in our home address and my fear was confirmed. We had five offenders within a two mile radius of us, with the closest being the house next door. The mugshot associated with the address was not of the owner of the home, but their son. The site listed his name, age, employer and his work address, crimes committed, vehicle description and license plate number. This confirmed that the white car in front of my home was his, a man convected of pandering a juvenile male.

My anxiety heightened as the night went on. “The children played outside in their bathing suits this summer! I literally walked Millie over to their porch to deliver Christmas cookies!” Chris and I knew that we had to have more answers before we started to assume the worst. The following day, Chris walked over to speak with the neighbors. I could see him from the window above my kitchen sink. The old couple sat with Chris on the porch for what felt like an eternity. When he came back home, the news was not comforting.

Our neighbors were incredibly forthcoming with information. They assumed we knew about their son, the sexual predator. Chris explained to them that we were unaware and that we were concerned for the well-being of our children. They commended Chris for wanting to protect his family and told him that he was the first person in the neighborhood to approach them with questions. They told Chris about their 46 year old son who had his doctorate in French studies. What started as one glass of scotch a night became two, three, four, etc. He began downloading child pornography – they claim he didn’t realize that the children in these videos were being abused. According to his parents, he went to court, lost everything, and was living with them because he was suicidal. He struggles with the guilt of knowing what he had participated in. He was assigned a probation officer and a physiatrist that he spoke with daily. He chose to do his grocery shopping during the school day while kids were at school, he limited his time spent outside, his internet rights were taken away – but in the six months his probation would end.

I feared the worst. Could my children ever play outside without me worrying? What if he hacks into our WiFi and illegally downloads filthy things and the police thinks it’s us?! I couldn’t wrap my mind around him watching the 15+ children on my street. Why wouldn’t his parents move him away from the temptation? I called the non-emergency police line and spoke with a deputy about my options. His words verbatim, “We protect those bastards and because he registers as an offender, he continues to have the same rights as everyone else.” I was advised to not say anything in the form of signs or fliers because I could be sued for defamation of character. The officers advice to us was to move away. He said, “Don’t play Russian roulette with your children.”

Watering my plants was no longer enjoyable. I was on high alert whenever I was outside. I was uncomfortable getting my mail, playing in the yard with the kids, and eating dinners on the patio. I knew it was time to get serious about moving. We contacted our realtor, who swears she had no idea about the proximity of the sex offender, and she put a for sale sign in our front yard. That sign was a visual representation of taking control of a dangerous situation. The market was insane but we sold our beautiful home (that we only lived in for eleven months) and we were able to move out of that neighborhood and into one with two schools within a mile (so no sex offenders can live there).

I remember the first interaction I had with that neighbor, telling me that she’d never leave – what a bizarre thing to say to someone you just met. Now I realize why she said it. She thought we knew about her son. She thought I was curious if the sex offender on the street would be moving any time soon. As I walked into the post office for a change of address form, I noticed a sign hanging on the lobby cork board with fines and penalties for sending illegal mail; $50k for reusing postage. $10K for sending child pornography. My eyes have been opened in a whole new, terrifying way.

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.

Love and Loss

Love and Loss

My Millie,

This post has been so difficult for me to write because my current reality is incomprehensible. When you are able to read this, time will have lessened my waves of sorrow however, right now, it’s all very raw and emotional. I’m going to try my best to write through my grief so you can see your mother’s honest vulnerability.

On September 22nd 2019, your aunt, my only sister, completed her battle with bi-polar depression. How can I begin to explain the person she was? Words cannot describe her contagious laugh. The mere stories I will tell over the years will never give justice to her vibrant life. No longer is the person who would sing to you in your car seat to make you smile. How can I possibly make you feel just how much she loved you?

Your aunt was the sun, our Shani-sunshine.

Bright– Shani was so incredibly smart and she was such a good student. I teach with women who taught your aunt in grade school and they all loved her personality and work ethic. They refer to her as one of their favorite, most memorable students of their careers. Throughout her schooling, she had completed her masters degree in psychology and was working towards a Psy-D, Shani was always the “teachers pet” and proudly, the top of her class. I always thought, if Shani was in school, her mind was in the right place. I knew nothing about the mania that accompanies bi-polar disorder and what she felt necessary for the success in her prestigious, doctoral program. Her energy source was the same disorder that would lie to her and put her down.

Nurturing Our bodies need the sun’s vitamins and you could call Shani, my vitamin D. If I was having a bad day, or I was walking alone in a parking lot, if I needed someone to talk to, Shani was only ever a phone call away. She loved to FaceTime with you and we would, daily. She was the first person to babysit you while I went to my six-week OB appointment and she took the sweetest pictures of you inside of your stocking. During the last phone conversation we had together, she commented on how sweet your little voice sounded and how much she missed you. We were making plans for her to come visit for your second birthday and how she thought I was ridiculous for wanting to rent a kangaroo.

Shani and I would talk about our futures with one another; pool side, on the porch, sitting on her bed in the early hours of the morning. She always said she would carry children for me if I wouldn’t have been able to. She was so excited when I told her I was pregnant for you. She said that she would be the “cool aunt” that you could go and live with during your rambunctious, teenage years. She wanted you to be able to talk to her about your crushes and all the awkward things you wouldn’t want your mom knowing about. She threatened me by saying that she’d tell you all about my years in high school. She had plans to help pay for your college. She had plans to care for you and her future family.

Your aunt knew a song for every occasion and she had an incredible voice. When she auditioned for women’s chorus in high school, she sang, “Lean on Me”, which is incredibly fitting for the friend that she was. If we couldn’t spend Thanksgiving Day together, she’d call me up and we’d sing the turkey song over the phone. On the day you were born, she kept singing, “Edelweiss”. Small and white, clean and bright. You look happy to meet me. She listened to all genres of music; gospel, show tunes, rap, country, etc. She even dabbled in recording. Her range was great and she had an ear for harmony. I had amazing opportunities to hear Shani sing; beautifully at a wedding reception, in the church at Bridgewater, and my favorite memory of her voice – singing to you cradled in her arms.

Shani cared for everyone. It didn’t matter race, sexual orientation, social status, etc. When we were kids, she would find dead mice in our garage and make beds for them out of old shoeboxes and try to keep them as pets; completely disregarding Gams wishes to throw the dead rodent away. In high-school, she started an equality club for the LGBTQ community (sorry if I didn’t use the correct acronym, Shani – she would be quick to correct me if it’s wrong). She got a speeding ticket in college while taking her sick roommate to the hospital. Shani had no money to give but she gave freely to friends and causes, despite what I had to say about it. She had clients who clung to her every word and had her cellphone number incase of emergencies.

Shani would make sure everyone was well fed. She loved tomato sandwiches in the summertime. Shani was always the one to cut up the fresh pineapple. Your aunt worked at Johnny Rockets, a diner where she would dance and sing in between serving milkshakes and she had so many regulars because of her bubbly personality. She had so much fun baking my bachelorette party cakes; one black and one white, you’ll understand that when you’re older. Shani was always first to try my vegan recipes and was supportive of our family’s lifestyle. Last year, she urged everyone in the family to stop using plastic straws for the sake of the sea turtles.

She took you to the beach when you were six months old and bought you toys to play with in the sand. She always bought you things that would help grow your brain. The Veggietales DVDs and Noahs Arc toy were gifts from her for your dedication because she wanted you to grow in Christ. She wrote you a book and bought you so many books; she didn’t just read them to you, but she encouraged you to read them aloud. Shani cared about the students that I taught, too. My second year of teaching, Shani bought my entire classroom clipboards for my birthday. She helped run a fundraiser for my class to get ukuleles. On her spring break, instead of sleeping-in, Shani ran the music for my choir concert.

I desperately wish that she could have turned off the voices inside her head that told her she wasn’t good enough. To everyone else, she was vitamin D.

Dazzling – Her beauty was effortless. We are so fortunate to live during a time where pictures and videos can be retrieved in seconds because some of her radiance was captured in those quick moments and short clips. She exuded confidence. (Now, I question how much of that was a facade due to her disorder.) Men wanted her and women wanted to be her. She would talk about getting her ears pinned back, having an eyelid procedure, and needing a boob-lift; I vetoed the surgical nonsense every time she brought up because your aunt needed none of that. She had the most shiny hair, the quirkiest placed dimple under her eye, an hourglass figure, a pixie nose, and most petite hands and feet. The Friday before Shani took her life, I told her that I wished she could see herself the way that I saw her, but now I know that the darkness of the disorder would prevent her from feeling that way.

Consistent with the rising sun is unforgiving darkness and unfortunately, Aunt Shani experienced that, too.

Your aunt struggled to find men who were worth a damn. There were plenty of men interested in her and she would date them when she felt like it but she was notorious for falling for the guys who needed, “fixing”; the divorcee, military men with ptsd, her exes. I told her many times, you can’t force someone to change and that we only have control of ourselves – but the disorder kept her from having control of her feelings. Shani told me that she would never, “settle” in a relationship and that she believed in soul mates; I argued with her about this. I wanted her to find stability in a relationship. Now, I wish I could have done more to help her obtain stability within herself.

We shouldn’t stare directly at the sun. I would wait for the “right time” to tell my sister things, not knowing how she would react. If you would ask Shani a personal question about her love life, significant choices, or her mental state, she would quickly change the subject, get irritated and defensive, and remind you that she was, “fine”. My sunscreen was you. No matter how frustrated she’d be with me for asking too many questions or how upset she’d get when I wouldn’t agree with her on a political stance, I could change the subject to you and her entire attitude would change. She always agreed with my parenting choices and would never tire of the stories I’d tell her about you.

I don’t remember life before my sister was born because as far back as I can remember, shes been there. Shani has always been there just as the sun has been burning for 4 billion years. I never thought I’d have to live life without her. Life ceases to exist without the sun and I’m having an impossible time without mine. Learning to navigate this changed world is incredibly difficult; the finalization of death. There are nights when the tears won’t end. I no longer listen to the radio or watch television for the fear that something will remind me of her. I have to push myself to speak to my friends, do anything outside the house for myself, and celebrate the holidays. And I’m sorry for the times you see me crying in the kitchen – I just hate that you’ll never get the opportunity to be in your Aunts wedding or to hear her beautiful voice at Christmas time.

But you, my love, are a light and I need you to know that during this time of heavy darkness, you will forever be my saving spark, my energy source, and the illumination that keeps me going. I pray that God will carry us through this time of heartache and that Shani is resting in paradise with our Heavenly Father.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

I love you, Ashani Leigh Pompey and I’ll never stop. It sucks that we can’t make any new memories together but I know that one day, I’ll get to see you face to face and tell you all about this crazy, beautiful life. On the other side, my baby sis, my sunshine.

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.

Toddler Fracture

Toddler Fracture

“Does your grandmother always use the restroom in the afternoon?” What kind of question is that? On that particular Tuesday, while my grandmother was taking care of business, Millie slid on a book and fractured her tibia. There was no swelling, redness, or bruising however, she refused to put any weight on her left foot. I could touch her foot and she could move it, so I knew nothing was broken. I had no idea the process that is healing a toddler fracture.

After two rounds of X-rays, neither of which I could be in the room for because I was pregnant and Mill cried for me the entire time while I waited outside the door and my heart broke into a million pieces, the doctor didn’t seeing anything unusual. The doc explained to us that because of her age, her bones would show healing calcification clearer than it would an initial injury.

It had been eight hours since Mill put any weight on her left foot and she could communicate very clearly which foot had the, “boo-boo”. The doctor wanted her in a full leg splint for one week. She explained to us that Millie could not get the splint wet, walk, or take it off. The doctor referred us to an orthopedic specialist that would retake xrays after she’d been in the splint for a week and would re-evaluate from there; hard cast or boot. I was upset for her because trick-or-treat was one week away and her second birthday was the week after.

Mill was miserable in the splint; longest week ever. She couldn’t walk around or play. She couldn’t sleep in her own bed for fear that she would wake up and stand on the splint. She loves taking baths but those were out of the question. I caught her pulling out the cotton underneath the ace wrapping so we had to cover the splint with her dads sock. The splint made her foot so large that she didn’t fit well into her swing, highchairs, or shopping carts.

One week later, I was so relieved to find out that Millie would be given a boot and not a cast. The orthopedic doctor took an X-ray of his own and saw a tibia fracture above her ankle. Thankfully, the doctor referred to the fracture as, “stable” which meant it was unlikely for it to get worse. By staying off of it, she would heal quickly. The boot was clunky but she would eventually learn to walk with it for the duration of her healing. We were able to remove the boot for bath time and outfit changes. The boot was a part of our fall festivities but was able to be taken off just four weeks after the incident. We met with her pediatrician, who gave us his blessing to remove the boot, and he put her on a calcium supplement due to our vegan diet, just to make sure that she is getting enough calcium for her bone development. Once the boot came off, she walked differently for about a week – like her left foot was still booted.

Needless to say, my grandma hasn’t used the restroom since.

Sweet Summer Time

Sweet Summer Time

“PSA to parents – you only have 18 summers with your children, so make them count.”

Talk about pressure.

I don’t know where I heard that quote but it has definitely stuck with me. I love that I can spend fourteen weeks of summer with Millie but here we are, two summers deep and I already can’t remember what we did during our first summer together! Thankfully, this blog helps to jog my muffled, mommy memory. Leaving Mill every weekday is rough. I love teaching music and the start of a new school year is always exciting but I miss our snuggle time in the morning, eating lunch together, and I especially miss taking mid-morning naps. So, here’s a post to commemorate our summer (because God knows I will forget by fall).

Millie’s favorite breakfast was a bowl of multigrain Cheerios with almond milk and a side of fruit, usually strawberries or blueberries. She’s gotten really good at using a spoon! Her go to lunch was veggie chicken nuggets (dipped in ketchup), steamed broccoli, and black olives that capped her fingers before they went into her mouth. She breastfed twice a day; before her afternoon nap and bedtime.

It was impossible trying to keep the living room clean. I’ve heard, “You can have a clean house when the kids grow up and leave the house but once they do, you’ll miss them in your house, messy and all.” and my OCD does not care about that for one second. Every time one mess would get organized, Mill would have two more activities out, while playing with something totally different! Then inevitably, it would be meal time and I’d have to walk away from the mess in the living room, just to make a new one in the kitchen! It was definitely one step forward and two steps back when it came to cleanliness this summer. It was best just to clean everything at night, after we put Mill to bed, so we could start fresh the next morning. BTW- she started sleeping in her own bed, in her own room, and through the night this summer..so there’s a win!

Traveling to Texas and Washington DC were easily some of our most memorable adventures this summer. (You can read all about our Texas vacation in the previous blog post.) We went to the DC Zoo with my mom, step-dad, and sister. We drove about two hours, braved the heat, and saw pandas for the first time! Mill loved them. Her paw-paw Kev got her a panda book and stuffed animal panda bear. She’s gotten pretty good at saying their Chinese names, too! On an episode of Daniel Tigers Neighborhood, (that’s a regular show in our house now) there was a quick clip of an actual panda playing in his enclosure and before they said the bear’s name or even the name of the zoo, I was able to identify both. Needless to say, we got a little “panda crazy” this summer.

“Pool?” Mill’s little voice would ask constantly because she loved being in the water this summer. She rotated between a striped, watermelon bathing suit and a hot pink, pineapple suit. To dry off, she used the cutest, hooded Daniel Tiger towel. We set up a small, blowup pool in our backyard, which ended up being more work then fun; it would only stay clean for a day or two before getting slimy and gross, the hose water was freezing, and the pool killed our grass no matter where, or how much we moved it. Next year, we’ll be getting a sprinkler. Mill loved going to her Gam’s pool while we were in VA; she would play with other kids, go under the sprinklers, and go swimming in the deep end with her Aunt Nani. At Zoombeezi Bay, a waterpark connected to the Columbus Zoo, Millie enjoyed going down the water slides (she was too little for some of the slides and would end up with a face full of water). On two occasions, Mill got to play in splash pads. Although she loved it, I was a nervous wreck with the possibility of her slipping and falling on the wet concrete; thankfully, that never happened. She liked playing in her water table, especially on the day that her dad and I attempted to power wash the house; we all got soaked.

We did another session of Zumbini this summer with an instructor that Mill loves. The class was early on Monday mornings and every week, Millie was excited to get dressed and go. Mill surprised me with her dancing and instrument playing; she can play the triangle with great technique and started to twirl and stand on her toes. Frustrating to me, some mothers would bring their newborns with them to class, which of course distracted Mill because she loves babies. She would want to touch the babes and play with them instead of listening to the instructor. And sometimes the moms would get irritated with Mill wanting to see their baby – hello don’t bring your newborn to a toddler class. My grandma made Mill a scarf like they used in class so she could continue to practice her Zumbini dances at home. This girl loves to dance.

Millie loves people, being outside, and anything loud so we decided to take her to our community’s firework show. Her patriotic outfit was absolutely adorable and her pigtails had sequin bows. She rode in her wagon and waved at children we passed finding the ultimatum viewing spot. Mill and her daddy kicked around a soccer ball while we waited for the sun to go down. Once it got too dark to see the ball, I tried my best to explain to Millie the loud booms the fireworks would make. I showed her a fireworks video so she would know what to expect from the show. During the fireworks display, she bounced between mine and Chris’ laps, completely unafraid. Mill was interested in the fireworks for the first three minutes and then asked for baby videos; she loves babies.

We found out in July that we will be having a baby, expected in March! Good thing Mill has taken such a liking to them. Next summer will be different but I’m sure just as memorable.