Painful Flashbacks

It was late at night as we headed to the hospital. I called my mom to sit with my kids. We drove in the dark to the emergency room. We walked in and told them what was happening. It felt hauntingly like the last time.

But thank heavens there was no tragedy this week.

We were only there to fix my son’s right thumb – he got a fishing hook stuck deep into his flesh.

This time I wasn’t going to have to hear that my unborn baby had died.

I couldn’t help having flashbacks Monday night as my husband and I took a trip to the ER. I was taken back six and a half years to when we headed there April 22, 2010.

That’s when, in the early, early, morning hours, we found out that our little Luca had died; and that I would have to deliver him stillborn.

The human mind amazes me. Some things it won’t let me remember, others it won’t let me forget. Then some forgotten things resurface at the most peculiar times. That’s when I remember things I thought I had forgotten.

Like how dark, cold and lonely it felt in the middle of the night driving to the hospital to be checked with Luca.

Like how terrible I felt calling my mom to come sit with my kids when I knew she needed her sleep.

Like the look and feeling I got from the nurses when I told them I thought something was wrong.

All of that, and more, washed over me as I sat in the emergency room waiting room this week.

I’ve been melancholy ever since. Did that all really happen? Did I have to say goodbye to my baby boy?

Losing a child has forever changed me. The farther away I get from his loss, the more I realize I will never be far enough.

No matter how well I’m doing, no matter how much I have to look forward to in life, deep down there will always be an immense heartache that is constantly healing inside my heart. And sometimes that heartache will pop back up and surprise me.

Sometimes when I least expect it.


A Flame of Hope

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-6-57-33-pmI have always been afraid of the dark. When I was a little girl I was terrified of the basement. I got a pit in my stomach every time my mom sent me downstairs to fetch something. It wasn’t necessarily the going down that scared me. It was the coming back up – in the dark.

I’d gallop up the stairs like a racehorse; screaming by before anything could capture me.

For a while I would make my younger brother go down with me. I figured that he couldn’t run as fast as me so if anything came chasing after us, it would get him first.

But then my mom clued in to that and made me go all by myself. Sometimes I would sing really loud. I thought that the creepy, scary things would hear how good I was at singing and they wouldn’t hurt me. They’d ask me to keep singing. Hahaha.

I still don’t like going downstairs. I still don’t like the dark.

I’ve been thinking a lot about darkness and my fears this week as I get ready for the Wave of Light this weekend.

On Saturday, Oct. 15 – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day – I will set out a special candle and light it. I will let it burn for one hour in memory of my stillborn baby boy Luca.

The idea is that if someone from each time zone all over the world lights a candle at 7 p.m., and keeps it burning for an hour, there will be a continuous wave of light over the entire world, honoring all of the babies who have gone too soon.

I don’t know why or how this tradition started but I’ve been thinking all about why I will light a candle in memory of my angel son.

Why is light so important to me? When I was little the light gave me strength. As I said earlier, I was always scared of the basement because I hated coming back up. Why? Because I had to turn off the light and walk (or run like a crazy person) for a few steps in the darkness before I made it upstairs.

When I had the light on it showed me where I was going and it illuminated where I had been. It shined on all of the shadows and dark spots around me and made things seem less grim. It warmed my heart and gave me hope.

I think that’s what light does. It sparks hope.

When I lost Luca my light went out. I was scared. I felt alone. Things seemed very grim. I couldn’t see my future – where I was going – and I was heartbroken by where I had been.

Time, amazing loved ones and many, many special events have led me back to the light.

I had to walk for a few steps in the darkness and there are still cloudy, dim days, but my light is growing. And so I think about my path as I find my candle and prepare to light it in a couple of days.

I light a candle to remind myself of how far I have come. I light a candle to help me remember that the dark spots and shadows can be flung aside. I light a candle to foster hope.

Hope that I will live with my baby boy again.

Hope that every other mother who has felt the loss of her child will hold on until the sliver of light appears.

Hope that someday no more mothers’ lights will be extinguished by the death of a child.

Hope that my light will blaze on.

Hope that I can share it with others.

My Carry-Me Baby

Me and my carry-me baby two years ago.

Me and my carry-me baby two years ago.

We got a family dog a few weeks ago. Since then it’s been a juggling act with the puppy, my kids, housework, PTA and church responsibilities, my husband being out of town and all of the other things I want to try to do.

My hands have been full and I’ve been busy, busy, busy.

The craziness has gotten to my sweet, independent baby girl. All of a sudden all of the things she has wanted to do “by herself” the past six months have turned into “mommy-help-me” chores. Things like climbing up and down the barstools, walking up and down stairs, getting into the car. She keeps saying, “carry me mommy.”

I am ashamed to say that up until this week I have been frustrated with it all. I felt like I haven’t had the time or the energy to “carry her” when I know she can walk herself. Why do I need to drag her and the dog down the deck stairs each and every one of the 18 times I take the pup to the potty every day?

But then it dawned on me that my carry-me baby will be two years old this week. My beautiful, well-mannered, happy, spunky baby will be two years old. Two years!!

It breaks my heart. It makes me smile. I am torn between wanting her little and loving watching her grow.

It has been so fun to have her in my life after nine months of sickness, pain and torture wondering if she’d make it here safely. I remember telling my husband that I didn’t know if I would even like her because she was making me so stressed and sick.

But I love her. More than words can express.

Her pigtails are now about 6 inches long – each. She surprised us the other day by counting to 10 on her own. She knows all the words to her favorite church song “I am a Child of God” and when I rock her to sleep she sings “Baby Mine” and “Hush Little Baby” along with me. Sometimes she’ll rock a baby doll of her own. She’ll kiss my cheek when I have an “owie” and hug me when I’m sad.

It is so fun to see her grow.

But it’s also so bittersweet. My baby, the last of our lot, is not going to be a baby anymore.

Soon she won’t want me to help her get dressed, she’ll style her own hair, and she won’t need any lullabies to go to sleep.

Earlier this week when all her brothers were at school I sat down on the couch and held her while she napped. I should have been getting dinner prepped but I opted to make sandwiches that night instead. I should have cleaned my kitchen and bathroom to get ready for her birthday party. But I just couldn’t do it. I sat and held her in my arms and kissed her forehead. I snuggled her cheeks and I stroked her hair. She is beautiful. She is mine. I am so blessed.

I have forgotten how lucky I am to have her. And so the past couple of days I have happily picked up my “carry-me” baby and squeezed her tight. I have cuddled to her as we have wrestled the dog to go outside and go to the bathroom. I have grabbed her and hauled her downstairs while doing laundry. I have picked her up and toted her all around the house.

I have held on a little tighter than normal and I have tried to soak it all in. After all, I don’t know how many “carry-me mommy”s she has left.

Project ADD

I don’t know what my problem is. Here I sit in my messy living room with project after project scattered about my house. I’ve started a dozen crafts and left them half done. I’ve started sorting through closets and drawers and left them half done. I’ve half cleaned my kitchen. Half folded my laundry. The list just keeps going.

I’m afraid I am suffering from project ADD.

It happens a lot when my husband goes out of town like he did earlier this week. I think about all the time I’ll have in the evenings to do things when the kids are in bed and he’s not around.

I plan and plan and then get super tired and depressed when I stay up way too late because my kids don’t go to bed on time, there’s mess all over to be cleaned up and I don’t get to my projects until well after 10:30 p.m.

It’s exhausting.

So here I sit wanting to get some crafts and decorations done but I’m too tired.

Why do I do this to myself?

Maybe it’s because I went to a fall boutique last week and LOVED everything I saw. All the cute witch hats and owl hangers inspired me to get my craft kits out and work on a few things myself.

Add a 20 percent-off-your-entire-purchase at Joann’s coupon to the inspiration from the boutique and I’m in serious trouble. There are just way too many cute Halloween things to be made. Oh, and my baby girl turns 2 next week. I’ve got Minnie Mouse decorations to get done.

So my kitchen table looks like this:


My countertop like this:


These sytrofoam wannabe Minnie Mouse ears are chilling in my bedroom right now:


Here’s the banner that I am working on that has letters falling off:


And that is just a few of the things going on right now.

I’m not proud of all of this but it is what it is. Thank heavens my husband tolerates my crafty outbursts.

Hopefully I’ll calm the heck down soon and get some of these projects done.

For now I’m going to sign off and tend to my ADD. Maybe I’ll cut out my daughter’s Minnie Mouse costume I need to sew. Maybe I’ll finish the sign I’m painting for my porch. Then again, maybe I’ll start something new completely. Please tell me I’m not the only one who gets like this.

Puppy Patience – What I Didn’t Realize About Having a Dog

20160921_213910I am not a patient person. So why I thought getting a puppy would be a good idea is beyond me.

I have wanted a little house dog for a long, long time. I keep reminding myself of that when I’m tired, and tired of cleaning up after her.

We’ve had our first family dog, Fia, for almost two weeks now. She’s a small, black Cockapoo. She’s playful, she’s cuddly, she’s beautiful. And she’s a LOT of work.

There are many things I didn’t think about when getting a dog, things I didn’t realize.

First of all, I didn’t realize it would take her forever to go to the bathroom. It seriously takes her forever. I can’t tell you how long she sniffs and wanders around the yard looking for a spot to relieve herself.

After having five kids, I can’t comprehend waiting that long to pee. I can’t even sneeze or jump on the trampoline without needing to go. So the fact that it takes her 15 minutes sometimes to pick the perfect spot just blows my mind.

Second, I didn’t realize she’d turn into a demon dog when we were playing with her. She is the sweetest puppy. She really is. But there were a couple times at first when she totally flipped.

It was puppy Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. She’d be sleeping soundly on my lap, then get restless and turn into a raging maniac.

Thank heavens my sister and her husband taught us a few tricks to put her in her place and tame her inner demon dog. I was scared of the cute little fluffy ball for a while.

Third, I didn’t realize having a puppy is so much like having a newborn baby. She’s always going to the bathroom. She needs help getting her food. And she cries. All. Night. Long. We finally put her kennel in the basement at night so we can try to get some sleep.

Fourth, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep her safe from my four and two-year-olds. They think she is their puppy plaything. They pick her up whenever they want. They feed her treats whenever they want. They swing her kennel around whenever they want. And they try to sit on her whenever they want. It has been exhausting keeping her safe from them.

Finally, I didn’t realize how much my kids would adore her. My oldest giggles like crazy when she wrestles with him. My eight-year-old loves teaching her tricks. My four-year-old loves to sit “criss cross applesause” with her in the middle of his legs. And my little baby girl who gets nervous around all other animals loves to let her lick her fingers and cries, “Fia, no,” every time we leave her home.

We have all fallen in love with her.

It has been an adjustment having a puppy, and will still be an adjustment for a long, long time, but I can already tell we are going to learn a lot from this little pup.

Maybe she’ll teach me a little patience along the way.

Tips for Traveling With Kids

20160805_173516It’s no secret that I am a paranoid parent. I like to have a plan. I like to have a handle on things. And I like to keep my kids safe by my side whenever possible. So when we decided to take our family to a foreign country to live for a month this summer it nearly sent my controlling, OCD nature into a stressed-out frenzy.

I did a lot of research before we went left and found tons and tons tips for traveling with kids. Here are a few things that put my mind at ease and helped all of us better enjoy our trip.

1. Tag them – The thought of losing my kids was probably the thing that made me the most anxious about our trip.

If you have ever been near the Trevi Fountain during the heat of July or August you’ll know it’s absolute chaos. There are swarms and swarms of people all trying to get to the center of the monument to toss a coin in over their shoulder. There are vendors thrusting goods in your face and groups snapping pics with giant selfie sticks. And everyone seems to be speaking a different language.

20160816_111909I didn’t know how I’d keep my kids from getting lost in places like that and felt really stressed about it until I stumbled across this idea. I tagged each of them on a regular basis. I ordered some of these wristbands and a couple of sharpie markers. I wrote some personal information on the back of the wristbands in Italian before strapping one onto each of them. They said: “Help I am lost. Please call my parents Travis and Natalie at XXXXXXXX.”

Then we practiced a couple of scenarios with our kids on what to do and who to talk to if they got separated from us. It wasn’t a perfect plan – luckily we never had to put it to the test – but it was a plan.

The wristbands seemed to last a few days before the writing blurred together or they started to fray. When that happened we’d strap on a new one. Luckily my kids LOVE wearing these type of bracelets. They always have contests whenever we go to the fun park or the school carnival, to see who can keep theirs on the longest. They wore them proudly and that made this mama sleep better at night.

2. Pack light – What does a month’s worth of luggage look like for a family of six?

20160719_112330No matter how light I thought I packed, it still seemed like a lot. Especially when we were towing it along cobblestone streets while looking for our apartment the first day.

My suggestion to anyone traveling with kids is TRAVEL LIGHTLY. Bring outfits that can mix and max. Bring jeans that you can wear a few times before washing. Only bring one swimsuit per person. Don’t bring towels or blankets. Bring two sets of pajamas per kid – then have them wear them several nights in a row. Take one jacket per person. Only bring one, maybe two pairs of shoes each. This will really reduce the amount you have to tote around.

One of my friends gave me the best advice when she gave me this tip. She told me that she has resigned herself to the fact that when she travels she and her family will be in the same few outfits in all their pictures. It’s worth it not having to worry about extra bags.

We had access to a washer and dryer where we were staying in Rome, so we only took a week worth of clothes for each person and it still felt like we had too much.

But I was proud of myself. I stuck to the bare essentials and rolled all of our clothing into gallon Ziploc bags. I usually pack WAY too much. I always think I need to have extras in case someone has an accident or someone spills gelato all over everything – which happened to us more than once. But in all honesty with the exception of someone having an accident, we didn’t change clothes while we were out sightseeing. So what if my baby girl is wearing her red sauce on her sleeves? At least we knew she liked it!

3. Fi20160726_184213nd Some Comfort Food – We were living in the pizza, pasta and panini capitol of the world. Luckily our kids have grown up eating Italian food so they were pretty good eaters.

But there was the occasional melt down where one or all of our kids were crying for a cheeseburger or fries. Thank heavens for McDonalds. We ate there several times. And although it probably nearly killed my husband to do so, it helped them feel like they were at home.

20160805_203944 4. Allow Electronics – Finally, we allowed our kids to use their electronics more than we ever would have at home.

We gave our kids Kindle Fires for Christmas. We got a really good deal when they were on sale for Black Friday last year. At home they can play on them for 30 minutes a day. We set the parental controls to automatically lock them out when they have reached their limit – unless they are reading.

But that 30-minute limit went right out the window on our trip. We let them use their electronics unlimited while traveling. They could watch movies, play games or read books for hours while we flew in airplanes or rode on trains and buses.

They were in heaven. Which made traveling even easier on all of us.

20160805_203959Like I said earlier, we didn’t want to pack a lot of extra things. So rather than bring a giant toy bag, we invested in our electronics. Right before the trip we bought some new games and videos that they played and watched over and over. They were new and exciting and definitely worth the extra money.

But our kids didn’t just use them when we were on the go, they used them in our Rome apartment. They played them a lot while their dad was working.

And as much as it goes against everything I would normally do, it was one of the best things for us.

I am sure there are many, many more worthwhile ideas that help parents enjoy vacationing with little kids, but most of all I would say that being patient and realizing that a family vacation is very different than a couples or solo vacation is key.

When we took the time to look at things through the eyes of our kids and help them learn about what we were doing and seeing we all benefited. It was so fun to watch them listen to a tour at the Colosseum or try to pretend they were tipping over the leaning tower of Pisa. I’ll never forget my four-year-old running through the streets of Pompeii pretending lava was going to come down.

Those were things I would never have experienced without having them along. We had an amazing time. Traveling with kids can be a great experience.


Marriage Matters – Something I Didn’t Expect to Realize in Rome

20160721_181432You think you have your act together. You keep the house fairly picked up. You cook dinner a few times a week. You juggle baseball, scouts, homework and swimming lessons.

You have things semi-under control and do a lot of things on your own.

Then suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a hot, foreign street dragging three suitcases behind you while you wander with your entire family searching for the place you will call home for the next few weeks. Your husband’s cell-phone GPS is the only thing that knows where to go.

Suddenly you aren’t Miss independent, I-can-take-care-of-myself-and-my-offspring alone anymore. You have been plucked from hometown suburbia and flicked into the heart of ancient Rome – a busy bustling city full of excitement and anxieties.

And you realize you need your husband more than ever.

Our family lived in Italy for one month this summer. I learned many, many things while over there. I knew it would be an amazing experience, but what I didn’t know is that Rome would make my marriage stronger.

Why? There are many reasons.

We relied on each other for everything.

We helped each other rig a makeshift laundry basket out of a towel to carry all of our clothes down three flights of stairs to pay three Euros to wash and 3 Euros to dry each load of laundry.


Then we had to figure out how we were going to find enough Euro coins each week to run as many loads as we needed for our family of six.


When I saw a mouse scurry across our apartment floor, I knew I couldn’t easily call our exterminator company from back home to come and get it. We worked together to trap it in the hallway late one night under a plastic garbage can.


We helped each other figure out what food we could find at the store that our kids would eat.

We charted our adventures and then bought train tickets together.

We kept all four of our kids safely by our sides in Italy for an entire month.

I can’t ever remember a time when we worked so closely together for every aspect of our lives. I can’t ever remember a time when I needed his help so much.

20160722_191206I needed him to speak fluent Italian for me. I needed him to show me how to buy a train ticket and pay for my gelato. I needed him to carry and push my little children along when their traveling legs got tired.

But more than needing him for basic survival – eating, staying safe, finding our hotels and apartments – I needed him for company and companionship.

We were on our own in a very far away place.

We were together all day every day.

And it was really good for us.

We laughed together. We stressed together. And we cooked the meals and did the dishes together.

No we probably won’t have an opportunity like this ever again – most people never get to take their family to Italy for four weeks.

But I’m hoping that although we are back in America, that we keep needing each other. I hope we keep consulting with each other on all the minor and major parts of our lives. And I really hope we keep doing the dishes together. (It makes them get done much more quickly.)

I knew we would have an amazing time living in Europe, I just didn’t realize I’d come home with a new appreciation for my spouse and the time we get to spend together.


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