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Forced reflection.

Normally my favorite part of FB is checking out my “on this day” posts. I adore looking at photos of J and C when they were little, reading about what ridiculous things they said or did, catching up on what the Army had in store for us. But for the next few months I’m dreading them. Seeing all of my blogs about how damn hard it all was. Months of being in a fog, not knowing (or caring) what was going on. Feeling like Zoe’s death was unsurvivable. Barely functioning. The numbness. The pain.

I know I should go back and revel in how far I’ve come. That life went on and I survived it. But that goes completely against my avoidance personality. I don’t like to think about my feelings and I especially don’t like talking about them. (Not to be confused with talking about Zoe. That I have no problem with…in fact I love to talk about her. As long as it doesn’t lead to how I am/was feeling.)

Here’s a specific example for you. Jeff called this morning bright and early, which he never does. Did I know the reason for this odd change in routine? You betcha. Did I acknowledge it? Of course not. That wades into dangerous territory for me. Do I feel guilty that I can’t talk about it? That he may want—may NEED—to talk about it? Absolutely. But does that change anything? Nope. Even reflecting on the last two years in this blog was hard enough today. I forced myself because I know that I shouldn’t be in COMPLETE denial about it all. That the tears I will eventually force out of me by the end of this entry are healthy and a necessity. Not a weakness.

There’s so much that I don’t remember. That I don’t WANT to remember. I like to think about the days sitting by the incubator, my hand barely grazing her arm, talking to her for hours. Telling her stories from my childhood, how Jeff and I met, the day we got married, her siblings (both human and four legged); every detail about our lives that I could think of. Telling her the things I was most excited for her to experience in her life—losing a tooth, first days of school, new homes and friends, first date, her wedding, etc. Reading “Baby Bear Baby Bear What Do You See?” a trillion times. Singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. Getting to hold her that one time in the first hospital. Releasing the butterflies at her memorial. Planting a tree with her ashes. I want to skim through my blogs and remember all the good details that I’ve forgotten. But it’s impossible to do that without remembering all of the awful things. How we thought she was going to get better. How it felt to make that final decision. The mind-numbing grief that seemed never ending. The absolutely heart wrenching, punched-in-the-gut pain of seeing a baby in public those first few months. I don’t want the memories like that to resurface. The ones I do remember are enough.

On Zoe’s birthday Jordan asked me why we don’t do anything on the day she died. I told her because unlike Zoe’s birthday, her death day isn’t a time for celebration. It’s a time for reflection. To be thankful that anything can be overcome given time. Not totally, but enough to survive. To acknowledge how you’ve changed and will never be the same person again. I’m not a better or worse person—just different.

But mostly it’s a day to be thankful for everything we have. The health of myself, husband and remaining children. Love. Happiness. Life isn’t perfect—far from it—but that’s what makes us appreciate the parts of it that are just right. No matter what, I’m thankful for every moment of every day. Thanks Zoe Bear. Love you forever and always.

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Happy Half Birthday Zoe Bear!

One and a half today.  Insane.

I tried writing the post a different way at first–writing a letter to you, talking all about how things are here and what everyone is up to (yourself included).  But that was just too damn hard.  With so many changes it’s nearly impossible to imagine exactly how you would fit in.  Would we have kept the layout the same, with the downstairs master bedroom as the playroom and the tiny Jack and Jill room yours?  Would I be stressing about the deployment as much since I would have a 7, 5 and 2 year old instead of having to go through the birth and the first six months with a newborn alone? How would your being here effect things like going to the pool and beach?  (Although I have a feeling that wouldn’t change anything–I love the beach too much that I’d be more than willing to sacrifice your nap time to do it.  Sorry kid).  Would you have more of your brother’s personality, complete with the ability to play on your own, allowing me to have some sanity or would you be super needy like your sister? Millions and millions of what-ifs that are always there, but triggered even more so by the change of scenery.

In some ways being pregnant makes it easier.  Because if everything would’ve worked out with you, we never would have this baby.  To Jeff’s chagrin, we probably would have completely abstained from any kind of …. extracurricular activity …. once we knew about the possibility of a deployment just because there’s no way in hell I would want to risk even the slightest possibility of being pregnant while he was gone.  And I am so incredibly grateful to be pregnant after it taking so long and being so fearful that it wasn’t ever going to happen again that it helps to overshadow the insignificant detail of doing it alone.  But, because of the circumstances, in some ways it makes it harder…. if you were here with us then there would be no need to be pregnant.  Jeff wouldn’t have to miss out on the birth and the first six months.  (Not that the first six months are all that exciting.  But still).  And with the pregnancy progressing and the deployment looming that single “what if” is beginning to consume all positive thoughts.

It seems like I’ve been wallowing, but I really haven’t been.  This day, unsurprisingly, just brings all of the thoughts to the forefront.  Instead of just brushing away the questions, today I’m taking the time to actually think about how different everything should be (as much as I don’t want to.  And will probably try to stop doing as soon as I’m finished writing.  Because you know, denial/ignoring the issue is obviously the answer).  Compounded with how close to a move this is–and all of the change and loneliness just moving itself comes with–it’s extra hard.  That being said, this transition was still a million times easier than the last move.  I mean, I haven’t cried so that’s got to be progress.  Or, you know, unhealthy.  Potato, po-tah-to.  But I think that on your next big milestone I will be able to write that letter to you.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

In honor of your half birthday, I made you half of a peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting.  Beautiful, isn’t it??  Seriously I should decorate cakes for a living.  People would totally pay for that. Typically your sister was full of tact as she proclaimed, “Um Mama?  Maybe I should help you decorate my cake.  So it doesn’t turn out so ….  …. …. …. mushy.”

But (as usual) I digress.  I just know that you’re not allergic to PB–along with hatred of the beach, that’s just not allowed in this household.  It may not look pretty (my MO), but it sure was delicious.  Happy half birthday Zoe Bear.  Love you, today and every day.

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Acceptance.

Well, we did it.  We survived an entire year.  And I think hitting that daunting milestone, and not just alive-but-barely like I figured, but actually doing well, is why yesterday wasn’t devastating like I thought it was going to be.  I was actually in a good mood!  I mean, not dancing around singing “The hills are alive with the sound of MU-SIC” good mood (although come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever done that…), but definitely okay.  No tears were shed.  I didn’t fly off the handle irrationally (at least not any more than a normal day).  It’s now been a year and a day since our lives completely fell apart and we’re still standing.  I have a mouthy 6 year old whom I vacillate between loving to death and wanting to strangle; a 2 year old shithead who loves being put in timeout, even though he’s locked shut in a closet with the light turned off (can you say large therapy bills in his future?); a 2.5 month old puppy that is lucky he’s adorable because his teeth are sharp, he loves chewing on anything that doesn’t belong to him and his favorite pastime is peeing in the house, but has finally shown us why owning two dogs is the best thing in the world; a 4ish year old dog who talks while he knocks Lurch all over the house (who then comes running back for more.  Dumbass.) and spends 90% of his day slobbering on my couch; and a husband who has finally stopped complaining about school (mostly…), bought a Jeep and continues to be an amazing father and husband, managing to piss me off an average of only one day out of the week–quite the accomplishment.

Of course my good day is due to more than just how marvelously, astoundingly, shockingly awesome I am (see, I am returning to my old self!).

It’s the weather.  The sunny 60-75 degree days we’ve had for the last week have been a true godsend.

It’s the visitors–my brother and his fiancee couldn’t have picked a better time to come out and visit for 4 days.

It’s this military lifestyle, this post, this building.  Having such unexpected support after such a short time here with a bunch of like-minded families means I’m where I’m supposed to be.

It’s the girl scout cookies.  Hey, I need to give credit where credit is due.  Even if this baker is not nearly as good as the other one (Peanut Butter Sandwiches are not Do-Si-Does–anyone who tells you they are is a LIAR.)

But mostly, it’s everyone I love.  Your support throughout this last week, your wishes, your thoughts.  Facebook messages, comments and posts.  Texts, phone calls, gifts.  It’s you guys.  It completely blew me away how many people remembered not just Zoe’s birthday but also the anniversary of her death, without me saying a word.  I can barely remember my own children’s birthdays, let alone the children of friends and family!  You guys are the true reason I made it through.  Especially since you continue to be supportive throughout my silence.  I’m still unable to acknowledge anyone’s comments about Zoe.  Even hitting the “like” button FB is too much for me.  And yet, you still keep coming back.  And that’s what keeps me going.  My almost-equally marvelously, astoundingly, shockingly awesome BFF couldn’t have said it better in her latest blog post:  it’s the people who were there and the people who continue to be there.  That’s all it takes.

Last week when Zoe’s birthday hit, I figured I would spend the next week documenting what I remembered every day of her 8 days with us.  My post would be filled with “today one year ago this something awful happen”  “today we thought things were going well, but they weren’t actually”, etc. etc. etc.  But I never had that urge to relive it.  Do you know what I think this feeling is?  The final stage of grief.

Acceptance.

This isn’t to say that I’m “healed”–not by any means.  That Zoe’s second birthday won’t be awful.  That I am suddenly able to look at all the babies of friends that were born within a week of her.  That I believe that any of this was “meant to be” or “right”.  That I wouldn’t give anything in the world to change the outcome.  That this will be my last blog post about Zoe.  That I will never be set off by some seemingly small and random event.  That I suddenly and magically want to talk about my feelings to anyone.  That I am able to acknowledge that you’ve read my inner thoughts.  That I’m still not incredibly selfish and self-absorbed.

But I’ve made a lot of progress in the last 366 days.  I’m a lot further along than I would’ve ever believed that I could be.  I don’t want to say that I’m “at peace” with it–because I’m not, and never will be.  I think this definition of acceptance on some random psychiatric website sums it up much better than I can:  “Acceptance does not mean that you have to forgive, ignore, go into denial, or excuse what has happened. Acceptance means that you are at a place where you can recognize what has happened, process it without denying what has happened, and are at a stronger place than before.”

As the horribly selfish person I am, I can’t remember who sent me the quote featured above back in May.  But the moment I read it it resonated with me and I saved it on my iPad for the last 9 months, hoping that some day the storm would be over–or at least as over as it ever can be.

Love you Zoe bear, forever and always.  I’m glad you came.

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Happy First Birthday Zoe Bear!

Before going to bed last night I told myself that today would be a positive day.  Zoe’s birthday is a joyous occasion–a day to celebrate her entrance into the world.  The 22nd is a day to mourn; the 14th a celebration.  Obviously I didn’t exactly feel the same way when I woke up this morning.  I vacillated between angry and depressed two dozen times between 7 and 830, going from crying to wanting to cursing everyone and everything, back to crying.

But you know what?  Today was actually a good day.  Tuesday is usually a non-gym day because Carter has music class in the morning and it’s nearly impossible to squeeze both in.  But last night I made the decision that as soon as C woke up we’d drive to the gym so I could get a quick but brutal 45 minutes on the elliptical in before heading straight to music class.  I knew I would need it.  The entire way there I cursed my decision–I should’ve just stayed at home in my pjs, preferably in bed, crying.  I even debated dropping Carter off at playcare and then hiding in the handicap bathroom upstairs at the gym and just crying for my 45 minutes instead (sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time I did something like that).  But I forced myself to exercise and it was the best decision I could’ve possibly made.  Climbing off of that machine, red-faced, out of breath, legs rubbery and sweaty (choosing to go an extra 10 minutes instead of showering–I’m sure the moms at music class really appreciated that decision) I never felt so good.  Those endorphins really did their job.  I was able to listen to my cool down song twice without crying.  After grabbing C, I climbed in the truck and listened to “Three Little Birds” on the way home without crying (but with C bitching the entire 3 minutes–“I want Carter songs.  I don’t want Mama songs.  I want Carter songs.  I don’t like this song.”).  I got through music class with the 5 week old baby right next to me without crying.  I got through pretty much the rest of the day without tears.

There were a ton of other things that got me through today besides the endorphins.  Like the amazing necklace my 323 moms got me.  It’s a purple butterfly with Zoe’s name and birthday inscribed on the back, along with three little birds to represent her song.  A wonderful heartfelt birthday card with personalized messages from each family was included.  Everyone’s texts and comments and messages letting me know they’re thinking of us today.  A friend from college is getting married in May and I spent naptime today making plans with two of my other college friends for a mini-reunion that weekend, child-free.  It’s the first time I’ve felt truly excited for something in a long time.  My bi-weekly chat with my Irish twin just happened to be today and we had a great talk.  The weather was gorgeous.  Lurch didn’t pee in the house, and if he popped then he ate it so at least I was never the wiser.  The kids were good (even if C was a complete asshole since he decided to not nap today).  My favorite Girl Scout cookies finally arrived, so I helped myself to a row of Tagalongs (merely because they’re amazing, not because of depression).  I made a delicious birthday cake for Zoe, even if it did turn out crumbly, lopsided and ridiculous looking.  We released a paper lantern in honor of Zoe’s birthday (which Jeff had the brilliant idea that instead of each of us releasing one, each year we should light the number of years she would be.  He’s so brilliant).  

It was a good day.  It was a fitting way to celebrate Zoe’s birthday.  No moping, no crying, no wallowing in self-pity or punching things–just cherishing the things we do have, the things that are going right.  It’s not the way that I thought today would go when I woke up this morning, but it’s the way I hope every February 14th is.

My favorite part of the day?  When we went outside to light the lantern and J saw a star in the sky.  She chanted, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight.  Wish I may, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”  And instead of her usual wish to be a fairy or a princess, she wished that Zoe was still alive and celebrating her birthday with us instead of as an angel.

It’s moments like that.

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Happy New Year

On New Years Eve I got to thinking.  At first I started to get depressed and angry.  And then I started broadening my thinking.  Instead of focusing on the one main event, I remembered all of the little things.  The things that made the year good, not bad.  What made me happy.  All of the billion of little things that I don’t want to forget.

Like our move to Fort Leavenworth.  I’m not going to think about the complete shitshow that move was, but focus instead on the end result.  Not only was a move exactly what the doctor ordered after everything, I absolutely adore this house.  Hands down my favorite house out of the last 10 years.  High ceilings, a one story floorpan, hardwood floors, big open rooms; it’s to die for.

Huh. There was a time when we had a clean, organized house. Who would’ve thunk it?

Even a ghost to add a little bit of character!  Not to mention the community our building has established.  13 kids, ranging in age from 2-9 crammed into our postage stamp backyard; it’s perfection.  And the icing on the cake?  Not only do I get along with all of the adults, but none of the kids are annoying!

Or that there was a huge VW scandal and now I get to sell my car back for a profit after driving it for 2 and a half years!  I thought I was going to be saddled with the worst car on the face of the earth until Jordan turned 16 and got to destroy it the rest of the way (by doing things like accidentally putting gas in it, like her mother), but instead we’re saying goodbye and good riddance and replacing it with a Wrangler.  Now that’s happiness.

Actually my annual Florida trip with my best girls and without kids–now that’s happiness.  It never ceases to amaze me how it doesn’t matter how much time has passed since we’ve last seen one another–it never feels like more than a week.Our annual beach trip with my favorite non-blood-related family, which was made all the better this year by my brother’s sober appearance.  The kids got to spend some quality time with their uncle and fell in love with him.  It’s been six months and yet C still runs around the house randomly yelling “Uncle Buuuuuuuccck!!!!”There are all kinds of good memories with Jeff, but since he refuses to be photographed, they’re a lot more difficult to remember.  Seriously, it’s like pulling teeth to get him to take 3 family shots during the kids’ annual school photo shoot.  This is his “I’m going to f*cking kill you Amanda if you make me take one more picture” face.And yet, he still manages to have brilliant ideas.  Like asking our photographer to impose a butterfly in our family photos to represent Zoe.  It’s on Carter’s back in the top picture.

Then there’s Jordan.  First her second half of Kindergarten (at the end of which she received the “Rule Follower Queen” award from her teacher) and now 1st grade.  FIRST GRADE!!!!  She is a girlie girl through and through.  Princesses, dressing up, absolutely no sports, wants to get married but not have kids or work, loves anything sparkly, hasn’t put on a pair of jeans or sweatpants in over 2 years.  And she definitely has the crafty gene.  That kid adores making stuff.  Sometimes the ideas she comes up with blow me away. She’s my little clone (“Whatever floats your boat chick pea!”)–minus the girlie girl stuff.  I have no idea where she got that from.

Jordan can be accurately summed up with this exchange:

“So tomorrow you have to pull out all the stuff we don’t want the packers to take. You can pick 3 dress up dresses, 5 Barbies and a few other toys. Then you need to pick 10 dresses, 10 pjs, 10 pairs of underwear.”
“Okay!”
“Oh and 3 pairs of shoes.”
“What?!?! NO NOT THREE!!!! I need TEN–one pair for each outfit!!”

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her and see how old she is.  And then she opens her mouth and not just an attitude, but an ATT-I-TUDE, comes flying out.  Along with a perfect replica of my death stare.  Then I flash forward 10 years down the road when the two of us are going to be at each other like cats and dogs and try to treasure the fact that she actually likes me now.

Only Jordan dresses like this to go fishing.  Or, just yesterday when we pulled out the science experiment kit she got for Christmas she asked me, “I want to dress up like a scientist while we do it…wait, what do they wear?”  She put on her tan spring jacket, made herself a pair of glasses out of pipe cleaners and was ready to go.She’s showing random glimpses of unselfishness this year, thankfully.  Every time we passed an Angel Tree in December she insisted on picking an angel and buying a present for a little girl (always a girl, never a boy) in need.  She’s made countless cards, pictures and treats for our neighbors.  No worries though, she’s still herself.  Like when she bought “me” a witch for my birthday. She lost her first tooth this year, a day before her 6th birthday.We visited her best friends and my Irish twin in Californiaand followed it up with a fantastic day at Disneyland,during which time Jordan became obsessed with the Les Miserables soundtrack.

The magic brush.  That discovery just might be my favorite part of 2016. 

And then there’s Carter.  He is every bit of a boy’s boy as Jordan is a girlie girl.  Like when he was in the bathtub at the hotel last week and wanted me to help him “put this cup on my penis.  No, I want this cup on my penis.  Help me put this cup on my penis!!!!!!That kid is obsessed with trucks and trains.  Like a serious obsession.  He will sit down and play with trucks all by himself for hours.  Literally hours.  One of my favorite memories was right around his second birthday when we went to Barnes and Noble just so he could play with their train set.  After 45 minutes, and not a single sound out of him, I told him it was time to go.  This was his reaction.  As obsessed as he is though, he hates it when they’re on.  We took him to Touch a Truck for his second birthday.  He was in absolute heaven for the first ten minutes…until “horn friendly” hour started.  Then he wanted out of there and now.And as much as Jordan is my little clone, Carter is Jordan’s.   He copies everything she does, from repeating everything she says, inflections and all, to wanting to skip the same songs she does, to putting on makeup.Except he’s a giant shithead to boot.  Like when we’re all playing in the backyard and he gets bored.  He steps onto the road and just waits.  He waits and waits and waits, until we make eye contact, waits until I open up my mouth to yell at him, and then he makes a run for it, his little legs taking him as fast as they can go down the street.  When he gets into those moods there is absolutely no way to get the kid to listen to you.  Like when he rides the vacuum,  and eats sandor shaving cream.The more you tell that kid to stop, the more he does it.  I honestly don’t know which one of the two are going to give me more hell when they’re teenagers.

He’s also a bottomless pit.  This kid eats as much as Jordan and I combined.  And it always tastes better when it comes off of someone else’s plate.  Like when he threw a fit the other morning because Jeff only gave him one bite of his breakfast sandwich.  “I wanted three bites!  I wanted THREEEEEEEE BITEEEESSSSSS!!!”  Or the time when he refused to eat the chicken I cooked for dinner, instead climbing down off of his chair and running away.  When he came back 5 minutes later he had an entire mouthful of dog food.

Regardless what he’s eating (and nine times out of ten it’s not something that’s made for human consumption), he makes a mess out of it every time.

Then there’s how Carter used to squint at me whenever I said, “Look at me!” “Look at me!”. And called Jeff “Deedee”, blocks “dada”, tires “babas”, balloons “beebees” and sewer lids “blllbbllll”.

Then there was the time he burnt his arm on a lightbulb in a chicken coop.  Still has the scar to prove it! Or how C just didn’t “get” trick-or-treating.  Thankfully we hit the safe trick or treating event downtown the day before Halloween, where we quickly discovered that C wanted his candy and he wanted it NOW.  10 businesses (and 10 temper tantrums later) we were done.  Needless to say, C did not go trick or treating Halloween night.That Jordan and Carter have learned how to play with each other over the last year.  Don’t get me wrong, there are A LOT of fights, but in the last month or two they’ve really discovered how much fun they can have together.  Not only am I able to actually get stuff done now, but things like this happen. And, of course, he’s thankful for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

And then there’s this guy.  Who does nothing but this all day every day.  And whom Jordan still hates.

This moment right here.  This was the morning after we came back from the hospital and we were all together again.  Not complete, not right, but it still felt good. So I can’t say that I’m glad 2016 is over.  The kids are growing up so fast.  I look at Carter and remember how much fun Jordan was at that age and think that it won’t be too much longer until he’s running around, 6 years old.  And by that point I’ll want to murder Jordan even more than I do now.  I know that 2017 will bring tons of memories, all just as good (if not better) than these ones, but I’m not in any rush for the days to go by.  I’m treasuring each moment that passes.  Well, as much as I can with a 6 year old filled with attitude and a 2 year old shithead.  Never a dull moment, that’s for sure…

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Thankful.

Today marks 9 months.  Right now at this exact moment in time 9 months have passed since we sat in that tiny conference room surrounded by the best doctors we could ever hope for, doctors who did everything they could for Zoe, doctors who were giving us our pitiful options.  9 months since we had to make the most impossible and devestating decision of our lives.  9 months since the moment our lives changed forever.  9 months since experiencing the most excruciating and indescribable pain.  9 months since being told we made the most selfless decision a parent could ever make and that it was the right decision.

For the most part we’re all doing okay.  Sometimes it’s hard to think about how things should be…to try to make sense of why it happened.  That’s something that I grapple with every day—why?  If everything happens for a reason I still can’t puzzle this one out.  And I have to come to terms with the fact that I’ll probably never know why.  But this post isn’t about how I’m doing; it’s about being thankful for every single thing that I do have. Without everything on this list, plus millions of other things that I’ve forgotten or never even realized, I never would’ve made it through these last 9 months.

I’m thankful…

  1. …for my family.  Jeff is the best husband and father, hands down.  The kids and I are so lucky to have him.  I have two amazing, wonderful children (who are complete shitheads.  Like the one who was up at 545 am, dancing and twirling in her room.  Or the one who is supposed to be taking a nap right now, but instead is in his crib belting out a hilarious rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle”) that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  I have a dog whose face just makes me want to smoosh him.  It’s not complete…it’s not perfect…but it’s mine.
  2. …for the Army.  Moving was one of the biggest factors in healing.  Being able to have a fresh start, especially so soon after everything, helped tremendously.
  3. …for my friends.  For the ones who have been through similar stuff and the ones that haven’t.  For the ones near and far.  For new ones and old ones.  My support system may be small, but it is powerful.
  4. …that I can hold a baby.  I held my first baby about two weeks ago and I honestly didn’t know how it was going to go.  I knew for weeks beforehand that it was going to happen and I didn’t know what to expect.  But I did it, and not only did I survive it, but it felt good.  There was sadness, sure, but there wasn’t any anger or jealousy.  It felt good to hold a teeny tiny baby.  It felt good to see him smile and coo.  To sing to him and cuddle him and kiss him.  But mostly it felt good to have that monumental hurdle over with.  To now know that I can hold a baby without falling apart.  To have that trepidation dissipate.  It just felt good.
  5. …for the gym.  In the beginning that was all that held me together.  To put on a pair of headphones, blast music and workout so hard that I couldn’t think about anything at all beyond taking my next breath.  Now the days that I need that are few and far between, but they still happen.  And every single day I end my workout with the same song, one that makes me think of Zoe.  It’s my favorite part of the day.
  6. …for my tattoos.  I love both of them.  I love their location.  I love their meaning.  I love being able to look at them and think of Zoe.  I love when people compliment me on them.  I love when people ask me about them because it gives me a chance to explain them without it seeming awkward.
  7. …for this blog.  I still don’t like talking about my feelings.  I’ll talk about Zoe, about the situation, about anything else except how I’m doing.  And that holds true for absolutely everyone in my life, in person and online.  I really need to go back to writing more often.
  8. …for my life.  Every single part of it–good and bad, big and little.  It’s our experiences that make us who we are.  Ever since Jordan’s health scare 6 years ago, I’ve appreciated the little things and have been grateful for what I have.  I try to see the good in everything and everyone.  I try to not complain or sweat the small stuff or dwell on things that can’t be helped.  I try to not judge.  I try to have a sense of humor.  Because at the end of the day we only get one life.  Bad shit is going to happen to everyone; it’s inevitable.  It’s how we handle it, what we take from it, that makes the difference.  The very first time I watched Friday Night Lights the voiceover from Coach Taylor at the end of the first episode gave me chills.  Who would’ve thought it would have such a large impact on my life 8 years later?  I know I post it all the time, but truer words have never been spoken:  “Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives… fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts… that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.”
  9. Mostly though I’m thankful that I’m still here.  That 9 months have passed and we did the impossible:  survived.
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Happy half-birthday Zoe Bear! And yes Jeffrey, half birthdays are a thing on this house, no matter how much you try to deny them.

6 months. Wow does time fly. So much has changed since we lost you. The big things–a new home, a new state, a new car, new friends, new adventures. A ton of little things–your brother now talks just as much as your sister; J started first grade; a billion and one other things I can’t think of at the moment.

How are things up there? Have you started crawling yet? Both of your siblings were very late with all of their gross motor skills. I didn’t think either of them would crawl, that they’d skip right to walking instead since it was taking so long. Turned out they were just a bit late to the game, that’s all.

What makes you giggle? For J it was the sound of a zipper going up and down. Man, that used to crack her up! C loved (and still does) any funny noise we make. Nonsense words are his favorite. That and tickles. Tickles are an easy way to get a spectacular giggle out of both of them.

Are you happy? I don’t think you could possibly beat your brother on that one. Carter takes his Canadian roots very seriously and is the happiest, most laid back kid ever. Your sister on the other hand is…well…fun. Let’s go with fun. Are you a mix of the two? Are you a people-lover like your siblings were at your age? They definitely didn’t get that trait from your father 😉

Any teeth? I’m an awful mother and am unable to remember when either of your siblings started sprouting them. How dare I forget something so significant?! It’s recorded somewhere…I’m just too lazy to look. Especially since your brother and sister are actually playing very well together at the moment and I’m terrified that if I move they’ll notice me and the peace and quiet will stop.

Are you sleeping through the night yet? You would be if you were in this household, that’s for sure! Cry it out starts at 6 months here and doesn’t end til you know only to cry if you actually need something. Mama values her sleep. If you can’t get on board, then you get sold.

Please don’t tell me you hate riding in the car. I’m still traumatized by months and months and months of your brother screaming every time he was strapped in his car seat.

How about food? Found anything you enjoy yet? Your brother loves food so much that the very first time we put that spoon to his lips and he got his first taste of “people food” he started shaking like an alcoholic craving a drink and he hasn’t looked back. We made you half a birthday cake since today is your half birthday (even though your father doesn’t believe in half birthdays. Which is why I don’t think he should get a piece of your incredibly-messy-but-hopefully-very-delicious half birthday cake). But let’s be honest–I wouldn’t let you have a bite of it any way. No desserts til you turn 1! Both of your siblings destroyed their first birthday cakes at their photo shoots and are now sugar-holics. No idea where they get that one from 😉 And then you can follow in your brother’s footsteps and start screaming “WHOOPER!!! WHOOPER!!! WHOOOOPPPPERRRRRRR!!!!” the moment you’re strapped into the high chair for dinner. That phase lasted a good 3 months and I do not miss it one bit.

Hopefully someone is singing songs and reading books to you. Both your brother and sister love books and songs and can’t get enough of either. I’m a bit sick of princesses and trucks though, so hopefully your tastes are a bit more diverse.

The details don’t really matter though. What matters is that you’re happy and no longer suffering. Although I would give anything in the world to know every single detail of your personality, I never will. And it is what it is. Just know that we love you and we miss you. And although disastrous looking, your half birthday cake was absolutely delicious. Happy 6 months Zoe Bear!

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Okay so Felt Mats are Just as Addicting as Quiet Books…

After making a road felt mat for C for his 2nd birthday I wondered if I could make a princess version for J.  In case you’ve forgotten (oh, if only I could forget…) she is completely obsessed with the Disney Princesses.  She has a bunch of these pop up board games that came with tiny princess figurines to play.  I think we played the games about a dozen times before she completely abandoned them and now just carries the princesses around with her everywhere.  Between those and her sets of felt people, I thought it would be fun to make a princess mat for her to play on!

I started off like I do with all projects:  Pinterest.  Unsurprisingly these aren’t nearly as popular as the car mats are.  I found three possible inspirations.  First, a Tangled one on My Decoupaged Life.  Although I loved it, I didn’t want to focus on just one princess story.  In retrospect I do kind of wish I would’ve got this route instead–made a small felt mat for each princess.  I just might do that down the road…

The second one I found was a little bit different.  Instead of focusing on the outside, All the Joy made the inside of the castle.  I stored this idea away for the future.

The one I relied on the most for ideas was A Girl and a Glue Gun.  I decided to make a mat that included something from each princess story.

One mistake I made was to make this project while J was home sick from school for a week.  I got a lot of input from her, which was both good and bad.  Like she wouldn’t let me include anything for Mulan, Pocohantas or Merida, even though that had been my original plan.  She’s only had the mat for a couple of weeks and she’s already complaining that they don’t have a home.  I knew I shouldn’t take advice from a 5 year old!

When making all of the buildings I referred to Google images for pictures of what they looked like in the movies and then did my best to replicate them.  I did a better job on some…  The animals especially turned out rather interesting…

I started off with a piece of dark green felt for the background.  I added a square of white for Elsa’s kingdom and dark brown for the woods.  Together those two were the same length as the dark green.  I cut a strip of light blue for the sky that was the same width as the dark green/white.  Last, I cut some dark blue for Ariel’s ocean.  I cut the top so it resembled waves.

I also wish I would’ve made it bigger.  I didn’t realize just how much larger C’s mat was until I had already cut the background felt for J’s mat and it was too late to make it bigger without having to scrap the pieces I had.  It didn’t need to be much bigger, but a little bit would’ve been nicer.

But here’s the final product, warts and all!

J requested the North Mountain first…no surprises there.  I made an Ice Castle for Elsa.  I used blue and white puffy paint to embellish it a bit and glued just one side of the door down so it “opens”.  I cut out a sleigh and Sven, a bunch of white triangles to represent mountains or snow mounds or something.  The light blue is a path for the princesses to walk on (J requested markings on the part leading up to the castle for stairs).  Marshmallow is guarding the castle and Oaken’s Trading Post is in the bottom corner.  diy-princess-felt-mat-north-mountainNext we worked on the woods.  I made a stream that leads to the ocean.  There’s a bridge that crosses over it.  The woods are supposed to represent Pocahontas, Merida, Snow White and Aurora all at once.  J requested a bench, an owl, squirrels and the three fairies from Aurora (just in case you were wondering what the hell those shapes were, hahaha).  The orangish/brownish felt is the path.diy-princess-felt-mat-woodsThe ocean scene was up next.  This one turned out to be waaaaay to spacious.  I should’ve made Ariel’s castle a lot bigger, but I didn’t realize how small it was until I had already glued it together and I didn’t feel like starting from scratch.  But this section has Ariel’s underwater palace, Eric’s ship, sunken treasure (I just needed something to throw in there!), Sebastian, Flounder (not sure where he is…), Ursula and her lair.  I also made Flotsam and Jetsam but by the time I was ready to glue the underwater scene down I had lost them.  I think they ended up getting swept up with all of the other felt scraps.  I haven’t gotten around to making another one set of them yet.  diy-princess-felt-mat-ocean

And then the rest of mat all crammed together.  Aurora’s cottage and spinning wheel.  A bookstore and fountain from Beauty and the Beast.  The Snuggly Duckling, tower and cave from Tangled.  The Wishing Well from Snow White (J had me add a blue sapphire ring at the bottom.  There’s a short story about Cinderella we read once where she lost her ring in the well and the mice had to retrieve it).  A pumpkin and carriage from Cinderella.  Tiana’s Palace (which I had to fight J tooth and nail so I could add it).   The magic carpet from Aladdin.  And, most importantly, Cinderella’s castle.

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I also added a back to the mat.  Since I used a bunch of different felts to make the different backgrounds I figured it would help to make it roll up easier.  Although really this mat isn’t large enough to roll.

I finished the edges of the front and back with some ribbon.

Voila, finished!  J uses it all of the time, just like I thought she would.  I really am considering making a different mat for each story.  Hmmm, maybe I’ll start that right now…

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The Original Quiet Book, Part Four. Hooray!

Okay, this is it!!!  My last three quiet book pages I made for J’s original quiet book (check out parts one, two and three if you haven’t already), the cover and some general musings about the whole process.

Mailbox page is up next.  quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-2 quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-3 quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-4This one is a two-parter.  The left page has a pocket to hold a few markers/pens and a pocket for a small notebook.  The opposite page is the mailbox.  These pages are everywhere so you really shouldn’t have a hard time finding one you like.  I modeled the pocket page off of this post and the mailbox from this one.

do not like these pages.  The pen and notebook both fall out of the pocket all of the time.  And the mailbox is junk.  Which is due to my novice quiet book making status and sewing skills, not to Imagine Our Life’s instructions in the slightest!  As you can tell from the picture below, my button and ribbon combination did not work well.  J was never able to loop the ribbon behind the button, which I’m not sure if that’s due to the button being too small or the ribbon too thick or what.  Either way the ribbon is falling off now.quiet-book-original-mailbox-page-1Technically the rest of the page works but I just don’t like how it looks in general.  I made a similar page for Nolan’s quiet book, which I think turned out much better.  You can read about it here.mailbox-supplies-quiet-book-page-2 mailbox-quiet-book-page-2I need to ask Amanda how everything is holding up, and if it’s good then make a carbon copy of that page for C.  And in J’s new quiet book just include a place for a small notebook and pack of crayons to be stored somewhere.  You’re never too old to color!

The next set of pages are two that I added a bit down the road.  When she was 3 she was absolutely obsessed with playing doctor for about 6 months.  And I mean totally obsessed.  The moment Hubby walked in the door until bedtime that’s all she wanted to play with him.  She has a My Life doll we named Wendy and poor Wendy was constantly in fires and needed to be fixed up.  It’s been two years since she’s asked Hubby to play it with him and I think he’s still burnt out on it.  But I thought a Doctor’s Kit would be a great addition to the book.
quiet-book-original-doctors-kit-page-2 quiet-book-original-doctors-kit-page-1Ugh, this is another one that makes me cringe when I look at it.  I couldn’t find anything online that I liked and apparently this is what happens when I design a page myself.  On the left page I figured out a way to attach the stethscope.  I took four rectangles of fabric about the same size, added velcro to each end and sewed half of each one directly onto the page.  And then you simply slip the stethoscope piece into the flap and fold the other end over and secure the velcro.  It works really well.  The thermometer doesn’t actually go there (all of the loops are for the stethoscope) but J must’ve popped it over there at some point.

The opposite page is just three pockets to hold doctors supplies.  The only thing that I found in there now is some gauze, but it used to hold a thermometer, a medicine dropper, a reflex hammer, an eye-checker-thing (obviously that’s it’s official name), gauze, two of those huge bandage things that you can use as a cast/wrap your ankle/sling/etc, and some bandaids.  Oh and a few surgical masks.  All of the stuff I either bought from the Dollar Tree or was duplicates of what she had in her doctor’s kit at home.  And let me tell you:  bandaids are a brilliant idea for keeping toddlers occupied either at home or in the car.  J would spend hours putting bandaids on herself, her stuffed animals and us.  Of course she was a good kid and all we had to do was tell her one time that bandaids don’t belong anywhere else except those three places and she remembered (and followed) that forever.  Other kids may not be so good…

Although this page is perfectly functional I hate the fabric that I used.  I tried and tried to find some doctor’s-type fabric but to no avail.  I had a bunch of this crappy yellow stretch knit and figured it’d work fine, which it does…it’s just not appealing.  And this is another example when it was a waste to use up two pages.  One would have been sufficient.

I made a similar page for Nolan’s quiet book, which turned out much better.  Minus the fact that I majorly messed up the pocket so all of the stuff is going to fall out, hahaha.  If C gets into the doctor thing I’ll make a page like that for him instead.  You can see how I made it here.quiet-book-doctors-kit-page-6Last but not least, the rainbow and name page! quiet-book-rainbow-and-name-page-2 quiet-book-rainbow-and-name-page-2 quiet-book-rainbow-and-name-page-1This one is okay.  I got the idea for the name here.  I saw a few sites where I could’ve used velcro instead, but that seemed too easy and there was a ton of velcro throughout the rest of the book, so I wanted something else.  I think the buttons were too hard for J though, because she only ever laid the letters on top.  And although I liked the idea of felt rainbow and thought it looked really neat, she only put it together once or twice.  Either because she didn’t care or it was too difficult for her.  Obviously she knows how to write her name now so this page can go into the garbage.  I’ll probably make one for C down the road but find a different way to attach the letters.  Maybe snaps?  Nolan will get a page like this first so I’ll experiment on him 😉

So that’s it for the pages.  Let’s talk cover now.  I researched the crap out of how to make a quiet book cover.  It’s been so long since I’ve made it that I really can’t remember much about it…except that I cried and seam ripped a lot.  One thing I know for sure is that I did not like the ribbon for handles.  It isn’t sturdy enough.  Otherwise the cover is okay.  I put a ton of pockets on there, which is good since a lot of my pages wouldn’t actually hold the pieces so I needed some extra storage, haha.  j-quiet-book-cover-4 j-quiet-book-cover-5 j'-quiet-book-cover-1j-quiet-book-cover-3 j-quiet-book-cover-2This one and this one are two of the four blogs that I have saved that the links still work that I used as a reference…I have no idea what I took from where.  However, you can read all about how I made Nolan’s quiet book cover here.  That should help tremendously if making your own.

General thoughts:

  1. Hate the ribbon as a handle for the cover
  2. The pages are too big.  I think I went with 12×12?  So once they were finished about 11×11.  Although great when spread out on the floor, it’s just not practical in the car.  Way too big.
  3. Felt, iron-on Heat n Bond and muslin are not friends.  As you probably noticed while looking at my pages, a bunch of the felt letters fell off.  Which is fine…in retrospect the pages didn’t need titles anyway.  Now ironing fabric on with Heat n Bond works great.
  4. Close/secure all pockets.  It doesn’t matter what’s being stored in it or how big it is, it’s going to fall out.
  5. 3/8″ grommets are way too big for the pages.  I couldn’t find anything smaller until I finally bought my Crop-a-Dile, which uses eyelets instead.  Game changer.
  6. Making quiet books is extremely addictive.  Going through and writing these posts have made me itching to make some more pages.  We currently have three books:  J’s Original Quiet Book, the ABC Quiet Book and a mini Baby Quiet Book (that C never played with even though I tried my hardest to get him to.  Bastard.)

I think that’s it!  Hope you learned lots of what-not-to-do things and got some ideas on pages that might work for your little one!  Check back to see future posts about the ABC and Baby books!