Conversations with my toddler

Recently Mon Cœur (MC) and I have shared some conversations that have been very meaningful to me.  I have decided to share this post and pictures not to sensationalize our situation, nor to make anyone sad for us, instead to share how we are navigating our lives amidst our loss.  This is our reality.

Where’s Poopa?

MC has recently been very curious and interested in Poopa and Millie.  

“Where is Poopa?” she asked on a recent car ride.

“He’s in heaven with your sister, Millie,” I said as levelly as I could, knowing I had to drop her off with Mom and keep myself together for work.

“I want see Poopa in my house.”

“Okay, when we get home we can see Poopa. You can see Poopa at Mooma’s house too, when we get there.” Mom has a very nice bookcase with various pictures of Daddy and our family throughout the years, sort of like our little spot we made for All Saints Day.

Silence. A few quiet tears. “Mommy, you not feel well?”

“Mommy’s okay, thank you, Baby.”

I save you

The other day, she hugged me and said, “I save you.”  Whenever she wants a really nice snug, she’ll say, “Save me!” and so I snug her.

But on this day, we were just at the kitchen table, and she came up to me and said, “I save you!” with a big smile and huge open arms that enveloped me.  

I picked her up in my lap and said, “You don’t even know how much you have saved Daddy and me.”  We just sat there and “saved each other” for a few moments at the table.

You got somebody in your belly?

She asked me this the other day, and I shrugged it off.  She asked me again yesterday, so we chatted.  I shouldn’t take this as any toddler clairvoyance – I mean she’s super smart, and I’m super biased, but this is a little above and beyond.  

We did just have a few spoonfuls of Nutella the other day, so that’s probably what’s in my belly.  I still have to wait a little over a week to see if we were successful this month, which to anyone who has tried, knows what an eternity that week feels like.  

To me, it feels like eternity and a day, but what can I do but wait? I don’t want to get my hopes up or put too much stock in this question from MC, every other month we’ve tried, I’ve been hopeful, and then crestfallen that it didn’t take.

“You got somebody in your belly?”

“I don’t know, MC, maybe?”

“You got A in your belly?” A is my niece to be, who MC kissed in my sister’s belly last week.

“No it’s not A.  A is in Sissy’s belly. Remember how I had Millie in my belly?”
MC continued to ask questions. “Millie’s there?” she said, pointing to our little corner.

“Yes, Millie’s over there. Do you want to say something to Millie?” I asked.  Well, she asked if she could shake her first, to which I explained no, we can’t shake Millie, we have to hold her gently, like a baby.

So I went over, and got Millie down from her spot, and let MC hold her.  She couldn’t resist trying to shake her, but once I reminded her, she just held it.  Then she noticed the sunlight reflected on the urn and was in awe for a few moments.

I asked again if she wanted to say anything to her, and she smiled and whispered, “I love you” into the urn.  

I was surprised at how well I was making it through this.  The whole situation of the stillbirth still upsets me to my core, however we can’t do anything to change what’s happened. We have to accept this as our reality, and we will continue to include those passed on in our lives regularly.  Still, I didn’t want to sit too long with MC and Millie on the couch.  After all, this is not at all what I had planned for our family, and I felt it was time to put Millie back in her spot.

I asked MC if she wanted to sing a song to Millie before we put her back.  She replied, “I want sing happy birthday.”  A little ironic as far as choices, although we did. Then I let MC put Millie back in her spot on the shelf.

This is our life and how we are choosing to live it.  I hope that I’m doing the “right thing” by MC. I’m doing what I know feels right, so to me it must be right, despite what others may think. Although I miss Dad and Millie incredibly, it is comforting that we are remembering them through small conversations peppered in our everyday lives.

We’re leaving on a jet plane…

With a toddler! In less than two weeks! Should we be excited, anxious, cautious? Until last week when I was discussing with Maman (Mom), I had been feeling happy-go-lucky, and totally under control. Then she told me I needed to make sure to prepare Mon Cœur (MC) for going through security, customs, etc.

I was most worried about her kicking the seat in front of her and had plans to work with her on this, based on advice I had read from my favorite parenting book (really the only one I know).

So began my dive into YouTube, and I found some really great advice and tips from moms on everything from preparing for a flight with a toddler to how to pack. Below are the videos I found most helpful and my takeaways:

What’s Up Mom’s: Tips | Flying with Baby & Toddler

  • Loved the bullet point list of tips; super organized video!
  • Bring a stroller. We originally were planning on not bringing a stroller, but since now I know that we can take it right up to the gate and it’s checked from there for Free ninety nine, we’re going to pack one. It will be a plus to have going through the airports and also walking through Paris.
  • Book at nap time, not red eyes. Oops. I was kind of proud that I picked a 5:30 direct flight – we’d get on the plane, have dinner, then (fingers crossed) sleep, and wake up in Paris. I still think this is a solid option among the choices we had when we booked. I’ll keep you posted as to how well this goes.
  • Make a snack bag in a gallon ziplock for easier security check. I’ll be packing a gallon ziplock with some snacks, and we can bring a “reasonable amount of liquids.” Not sure what that really means, but I will be packing those liquid snack packs for MC.
  • Get on the plane last. Send your partner on the plane with carry ons to get settled; while the other partner waits with the toddler and boards last. Common sense, right? But in our haste to start this amazing adventure, I know we would have boarded as soon as we were able. So I’m so glad for this suggestion – yes, MC, run, run, run those little legs until last boarding call, and then maybe you’ll sleep or at least sit still until the safety belt light goes off.
  • Suck on take offs and landings. They say that for take offs and landings, toddlers should suck on something for the ear pressure relief. MC no longer takes a bottle or her pacifier, but the Munchkin 360 cups we are packing require suction for drinking, and I’ll have those handy snack packs that also are also consumed in the same fashion.

Life of Reilly: Flying with a baby or toddler long haul | Travel tips

  • There are many accommodations for kids on flights. Plan ahead for these amenities: a toddler bed or bassinet in plane and kid’s meals delivered first (so that MC can eat and be done before our meals arrive, hopefully!). We are flying Lufthansa, and although I’ve only flown with them once, they had really made a positive impression on me. Very customer service-centric. I am going to call them tomorrow to see if I can schedule MC’s dinner to come out earlier and if they have a toddler bed – that may help her sleep during this evening flight.
  • Plugging in? If you’re bringing a tablet, practice with headphones and tablet before the flight, and make sure to download any shows.
  • Walkabouts. Anytime the seat belt sign is off and MC has the wiggles, we’ll do laps to get those legs moving.
  • Remember why you’re on the flight. Thinking positive. I am hoping we will have a fairly uneventful flight. Even in the worst-case scenario, just remembering the purpose of the trip will help keep us positive and more upbeat!

What’s Up Moms: Pack with Me! Family Routine and Tips

  • Assess needs. We’re going on an international trip, for two plus weeks. Although we’ll be gone for a while, everywhere we are staying has access to a washer, so I don’t want to pack clothes for every day. I’ll probably pack for about eight days for Chouchou and myself and a few more days for MC.
  • Lay it out. Lay everything you want to take out. Take note of the visual landscape of your wardrobe. Overpacking? Missing something? Are there enough complete outfits for the trip’s duration? [This is totally irrelevant to our trip now, but I love how this mom supports kid’s independent packing by letting them try, them reviewing together, and the kids taking a second shot at it. Super amazing, filing for future reference.]
  • Packing cubes. I’d never heard of them, but they really seem like a game changer. I did splurge on a couple of sets – I hope these help us all stay organized!
  • Medicine bag. I was wondering at first if it was a little overkill to pack a thermometer for MC. Then this mom mentions preparing a medicine bag, thermometer included! It’s just better to be prepared.
  • Carry ons. I liked the idea to bring trash bags, I’ll be stashing a couple of plastic grocery bags in our carry ons.

After seeing these clips, I felt reassured that we do have a pretty good handle on our upcoming trip, and I also noted new information that will help make the trip even smoother.

I still haven’t worked with MC on not kicking the seats in front of her, or how to be patient despite a long security line, and how to survive customs after a red eye and while adjusting to a different time zone completely. We’ll get there…

What tips do you have for traveling with toddlers or packing?

5 Reasons I’m grateful this week

Although I have not taken a moment to blog about my gratefulness recently, I do try to note something each day for which I am grateful. It always helps me to remember those little moments and helps keep a positive mindset. This week has given me many opportunities to feel grateful:

  • Finding my voice and strength to say, “No, thank you.” I can say I tried this opportunity, and I think both sides could foresee that this wasn’t going to be a good fit.
  • Reconnecting with old friends. I am so grateful to have two pals who I have known for so long- they are like brothers to me. We had drifted apart over the years, but when Daddy passed, they stepped in immediately and wanted to help however they could. We’ve been trying to keep in touch better, and we enjoyed coffee together this past week.
  • Time with Mom and Mon Cœur (MC) – we had a special bonding time at the library last week for story time. I would love for us to make it a weekly routine for us three. MC simply adores her Mooma, and I love the time that we all get together.
  • More time to spend with Chouchou – we spent a couple of family days together and got in some nice walks as a family in the mild temps. It poured down rain the last couple minutes of our last walk, and that added some extra adventure, a sprint home, and something to laugh about later! Chouchou was able to accompany us to story time today which was another bonus.
  • More time to create with MC. We’ve painted two canvases and tried collaging this week! I think collaging may require a little more patience and focus – we were frequently side tracked by the amazing trick of spinning a glue stick and it lowering and rising!

What are you grateful for this week?

No and other boundaries

I’ve always been a “Yes” person, I’ve always found it hard, or impossible to say “No.”

This past year, when I finally decided to take a step back, reprioritize, and focus on what matters for our family, I felt like I was being inundated with multiple employment offers. While I am so grateful for these opportunities that I said “Yes” to, I also had to learn to say “No, thank you.”

I recently had to step back and say, “No, thank you,” to a job, that while I was honored to have been considered for, I realized was not the right fit. It was going to require more time than I could afford while still being able to cherish those precious moments with Mon Cœur (MC) and Chouchou.

These past couple of months, specifically, I had felt pulled in many different directions for others’ needs. While I was exploring those options, and sometimes having options pushed on me, I forgot why I had taken the year off. I felt stressed and pressured to be the person that people knew and expected.

I needed the time and space to grieve, to watch MC grow, to have family time together, and to be a positive force for Chouchou as we navigated our life. With his unique work schedule, it would be very rare to find time to spend together as a family if I continued in the traditional nine to five job I had.

I also found myself involved in situations that I realized were toxic and not helping me achieve what I was wanting for myself and our family. I felt pushed upon, and for the first time ever, I pushed back.

I have always been self-critical, and so naturally whenever I begin to be realistic about a situation, I wonder, “Am I being a pessimist? Should I be more positive and upbeat about this?” I have finally come to understand that it’s not me being unreasonable, and that when I find myself in these uncomfortable situations, I should extricate myself.

I recently read a Smarter Living article through the New York Times, titled Thinking about a job or career change? Read this. It discussed the importance of being introspective – and knowing your values so that as you are seeking a change you are keeping your core values in mind. As much time as we invest in our careers, this is a very valid (yet often overlooked) detail. It also mentions that we should routinely be in check with ourselves and not just at moments of crisis or loss (which, to be honest was the first time I realized I should check in). The article really resonated with me as I was considering whether I should pursue opportunities or not.

Understanding myself better, and what I will and won’t endure in both professional and personal situations has helped me to create boundaries and learn to say no.

Being back at home, I have plenty to focus on: MC gives me many reasons to laugh and smile daily, I have various projects I am wrapping up, and we are preparing for a big trip soon.

How do you create boundaries for your well-being?

New Year, New Organization

As I cleaned up from Christmas and tucked away the last of the decorations, gears began spinning for new organization of old spaces. I have quite a few ideas for small pockets of space which are currently under utilized.

One such spot is in our kitchen area, where Mon Cœur (MC) currently has an activity table and bookshelf. I absolutely love the bookcase because I can use totes to stash toys, stuffed animals, and dolls and I can also keep some of her books.

Originally, I was just putting books wherever, with no organization method other than French books, top right. I hated that there wasn’t much organization and that I had separated the French books just because. As I thought more and more, I decided I wanted to group toys and books into themes.

5 Reasons I grouped books by theme:

  • By grouping books and toys by theme, it allows MC to build background knowledge through repeated exposure to the same vocabulary and similar illustrations of those themes
  • Exposure to and building of vocabulary is crucial and the more exposure that MC has to the same words in a variety of contexts the better
  • It’s easier to organize and rotate books and toys in and out
  • It provides a common theme for making crafts, reading stories, and play
  • Research shows that by reading widely about one topic greatly boosts one’s vocabulary

The idea is that by hearing … words in one context again and again, students will attach deeper meaning to them and be able to use them in other contexts.

So during naps for a couple of days I completely emptied the bookshelf and began organizing books by theme: ABCs, numbers, colors, gardening, seasons, miscellaneous life, farm, forest, and underwater animals. I boxed some books to bring out later, and I started restocking the shelves.

Then I found corresponding toys or stuffed animals that went with those themes and stuffed them in the totes.

So far, it’s been amazing to watch MC grab two or three of the same theme books and bring them to me to read. She is getting the repetition without me feeling like I’ve read the same book three times and without her getting bored, because they are all different while exploring the same idea.

It also gives me good ideas for corresponding craft ideas and play – more on this later!

How do you organize your bookshelf?