Ever since I made the decision to openly discuss my personal journey of pregnancy loss, infertility and the road to motherhood I receive the most amazing emails from people thanking me for my honesty and sharing their own powerful stories. Each story is unique and yet there is a common bond; women struggling in silence because pregnancy loss and infertility are rarely discussed in public. There's no doubt it is a challenging subject in part because the experience is filled with pain and confusion. While some people are not comfortable discussing their experiences I made the decision following the loss of our first baby to openly discuss my experiences. This is how I healed. If my story gives one person hope, or makes one person feel less alone then it will be worth it.
My husband and I were lucky to easily get pregnant soon after we were married. I'll admit it, I remember thinking to myself, that was easy, what's the struggle? I was young and naive and just so caught up in the excitement of being pregnant. As soon as I learned I was pregnant I started knitting this little cute purple hat overjoyed that some day my very own baby would wear it. And then everything fell apart. I was teaching my Kindergarten class and on my lunch break noticed I was spotting. The world suddenly was moving in slow motion. What do I do? I have a room full of 5 year olds waiting for me. I went into my classroom and quietly whispered to my assistant what was happening. I had to go. She gave me a huge hug, and I wiped away tears. I looked up to see a room full of concerned students looking at me. Crap, I can't scare them. I need to make this okay. "Oh I'm so silly," I said, "I forgot I have a doctor's appointment." I left and didn't return for 4 days.
If there is one image that will forever haunt me it is the ultrasound image of my little baby. I could see the head, the arms, the legs, and a small heart, but it wasn't blinking. I knew it was supposed to be flickering. The tech didn't have to say anything. I knew my baby had died. I remember feeling so ashamed to tell my husband (he was rushing in from NYC). I felt like this pregnant was an amazing gift and I had taken it away. Every doctor, every nurse, my husband, everyone repeatedly told me it wasn't my fault and yet I felt so guilty that I couldn't grow a healthy baby.
This guilt continued for the next year as I tried to get pregnant again and was unsuccessful. As a woman I just assumed that getting pregnant was inevitable. I felt like such a failure. It was so hard to watch other women happily walk down the street with their growing bellies. Every pregnancy announcement made me ache inside. Oh, and I swear that if one more woman bragged about how easy it was to get pregnant I would scream. The most difficult emotion I dealt with during this time was the fear that I would never be a mom. This thought debilitated me.
Finally fed up I went to see a reproductive endocronologist. I was actually excited for all the bloodwork and tests. Perhaps they could solve this problem for me. Minor things came up, but I was still given the dreaded diagnosis of "unexplained infertility". That diagnosis is so frustrating! After four more pregnancy- free months my husband and I made the decision to enter the world of fertility treatments. I was emotionally exhausted and content to have modern medicine take over. What a weird experience. When you start working with a reproductive endocronologist you give up a lot of your privacy. We were incredibly lucky to get pregnant on our first round of IUI with Clomid. Every day I look at my little boy and tell him how incredibly lucky I am that I became his mom. Someday he'll understand the enormity of my words.
I always knew I wanted to have children close in age. I didn't want to go through the emotionally rollercoaster of attempting to get pregnant again and went straight to the doctors. We assumed that since the fertility treatments with Quinn were fairly easy so would future treatments. 4 failed IUIs later we were faced with the decision of whether or not to try IVF. Let there be no mistake about it, IVF is a difficult journey. It is emotional and physically exhausting, expensive and time-consuming. We took the plunge. The IVF journey felt all-consuming. It was overwhelming to watch the used needles from the daily injections pile up. On the day of the implantation we had to make the choice- one embryo or two. How do you make that choice? I was told if we implanted both we would have an 80% chance of twins. I knew that in some ways my life would be more difficult with twins, but I also knew how much love I was eager to share with our growing family. We could do this. Those two little embryos they put up on the screen prior to the procedure became my remarkable daughters. It was the best decision I ever made. We followed our hearts and I will forever be grateful. Luca and Charlotte made us whole.
I know as I write this there are so many women still struggling. There are days when a woman contacts me to share her story that I feel guilty that I have three children while many would feel overjoyed just to have one. I know my story can't make that pain go away. I know this because at one point I was that woman. I know this because parts of my story still feel raw. My only hope is that it is clear that I think of you daily. That I support you always. Despite often times being strangers we are connected. There are many journeys we all go on, and if we can support each other perhaps the paths we take, sometimes chosen, sometimes not, will feel a little less scary, a little less foreign and hopefully a little less lonely.
One of the best things you can do for your children is to instill a love of reading. Read often, share in their enthusiasm and you will be giving them a lifelong gift. Part of our weekly routine is to go to the various libraries in our state. Take the time to explore neighboring towns. You never know what hidden gems you will find. Click here for a printer-friendly list.
From Head to Toe Eric Carle 18 months and up
Black is Brown is Tan Arnold Adoff 2 and up
Hello Baby! Mem Fox 2 and up
Little Lost Owl Chris Haughton 2 and up
Big Red Barn Margaret Wise Brown 2 and up
Off We Go! Jane Yolen 2 and up
Sheila Rae the Brave Kevin Henkes 3 and up
Duck & Goose Tad Hills 3 and up
Miss Spider's Tea Party David Kirk 3 and up
Silence Lemniscates 3 and up
Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse Leo Lionni 3 and up
Frederick Leo Lionni 3 and up
The Little Engine That Could Watty Piper 3 and up
And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell 3 and up
Abiyoyo Pete Seeger 3 and up
Leonardo the Terrible Monster Mo Willems 3 and up
When I was little my absolute favorite preschool activity was a large table full of goop, that perfect combination of cornstarch and water that feels solid when you grasp it and then turns to a liquid when you open your hand. Today we will be using the basic goop recipe, the same one used in the Candy Cane Goop
, to make a muddy play area for our plastic animals. Spring is here! It's time for the animals to play! In addition to exploring the senses, specifically touch and sight, this activity aids language development and color mixing knowledge. I would recommend this activity for children 18 months and up. YOU WILL NEED: 32 ounces cornstarch, warm water, food coloring (yellow, blue, red), spoon, 2 large containers (plastic bins or cake pans), plastic animals, dishtowel
Begin by adding about 2 cups of cornstarch to one of the cake pans. Add approximately 1 cup of water and combine with a spoon or hands. If it seems too dry, add a little more water. If the goop becomes too runny, add more cornstarch.
Time to make the goop look like mud! Quinn looked into the food coloring box and said "But Mama, there's no brown." "Hmm, what do you think we should do Quinn? Could we make brown?", I posed the question to him. Now, at this point, I could just tell Quinn how to use the colors to make brown, but this would not be as rich a learning opportunity as Quinn experimenting to solve this color mixing problem himself. "What do we do when we don't have the color we want to use?" I ask. "We mix them," says Quinn. And so we did.
Aid language development by giving words to your child's actions. "You're adding blue and yellow and stirring. Look! A new color! What is that? Hmm, green, not brown yet, what should we add now?"
"Yay, we made brown! What colors did you use to make it?" Giving your child the time and opportunity to explore color mixing will be such a richer experience than saying, "Mix blue, yellow and red together."
Once your child decides he has made brown fill another cake pan or bin with a shallow amount of water. Put the two pans next to each other and add the plastic animals. Time for these animals to get messy! Give your child the opportunity to play with the animals in the "mud". If your child is hesitant model the behavior. Plop a pig in the mud and say in a silly voice "Oh, I love splashing around in the mud! Wee! Cow, do you want to join me?" When your animals need a change of pace, wash them off in the water (Quinn decided ours cows only liked the water).
For 30 minutes we played with the animals, giving them voices, telling stories and laughing. When Quinn decided we were done all I had to do was throw everything into the sink and give the tables a quick wipe. Fun and easy!
Though we have moved 4 times since my son's birth his room decor remains exactly the same. At 4 years old the pastel greens are starting to look a little babyish and my not-so-little guy was really hoping to switch things up and demonstrate his growing independence.
Quinn's old (messy) room
Jumping on Quinn's budding interest in reading and writing, I thought a desk was a perfect first addition to his "big boy room". He happily donated his train table to his little sister's room in order to make more space.
When I began to look at the prices of desks I quickly realized that even the cheapest ones were going to cost us at least $100. While I love being a stay-at- home-mom one of the challenges is that I have to be a lot smarter with money. Then I remembered that I had pinned a super creative idea on Pinteres
t. Some genius mother turned her child's old crib into an art table. And with that I sent Quinn and my husband on a trip to Home Depot for a few supplies.
Crib Desk adapted from A Little Learning YOU WILL NEED
crib (only put together three sides, leave off front part), piece of wood (about .5-1 inch thick) the size of the crib mattress (our piece measured 52.5 x 27.5), 2 pieces of wood (2 in x 27.5 in), wood screws, wood stain, drill Begin by putting together three sides of the crib. Measure a piece of wood to fit into the space where the mattress use to be. Nail a piece of thin wood into each side of the board. Stain the wood and let dry.
Attach the large wooden piece to the crib with three screws on each side and two in the back.
That's it! I completed the big boy desk with a stack of white paper, new colored pens, markers, crayons, pencils, a ruler, tape and post-it notes. All week long Quinn has happily played at his desk sending letters to his cousin, leaving us notes and decorating the house with pictures. He has actually chosen to play at his desk instead of watching a TV show. Such a success!
There are many memories I have of my Grandmother but the two that stand out the most are her contagious laughter and her turkey soup. Whenever my grandma would babysit us she would begin the week with a roast turkey dinner and stretch that turkey to feed us for the rest of the week. The smell of turkey soup cooking on the stove remains one of my most comforting aromas. Even when my grandma wasn't around my mom always had a pot of soup waiting for us. When I graduated from college mastering my grandma's turkey soup was one of my first "I'm an adult now" moments. When I called my mom for the recipe I was surprised at how simple it was to make. 11 years since my first attempt I now make my own version of my grandma's soup once a week. It's the perfect lunch or dinner, and even makes its rounds into our breakfast rotation.
Grandma June's Turkey (or chicken) Soup
roast turkey or chicken (roast your own or buy a rotesserie chicken)
1 onion, diced
6 carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 C rice, uncooked (or barley or cooked noodles)
Place roasted chicken in a large pot. Fill with water almost to top of pot (leave 2-3 inches). Simmer on medium-low for 1 hour.
While simmering cut up the onion, carrots and celery into small, spoon-sized pieces.
Add the vegetable scraps to the simmering pot.
After an hour take the turkey (or chicken) and vegetable scraps out of the water. I find it easiest to put a colander on a second pot and pour the entire contents into the colander. Next add the diced vegetables and rice to the water.
Bring to a gentle boil and then turn heat down to medium low and simmer until vegetables and rice are soft (about 45 minutes). Take chicken off bone and cut into small pieces. Add to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This is the perfect comfort meal! Enjoy!
Do you have a family recipe that was passed down to you?
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One of my favorite discoveries at a library is a new book by a beloved author. If one of the books from my series becomes an instant favorite take the time to explore other books my the same author. With little effort you will have an abundance of books to enjoy! Click here for a printer-friendly list.
Hug Jez Alborough 2 and up
Yes Jez Alborough 2 and up
A Good Day Kevin Henkes 2 and up
It's Bedtime Wibby Pig! Mick Inkpen 2 and up
The Cow Loves Cookies Karma Wilson 2 and up
Pezzettino Leo Lionni 3 and up
Lulu's Pajamas Lucie Papineau 3 and up
Dino Pets Go to School Lynn Plourde 3 and up
McDuff and the Baby Rosemary Wells 3 and up
City Dog, Country Frog Mo Willems 3 and up
I Am Invited to a Party! Mo Willems 3 and up
Should I Share My Ice Cream? Mo Willems 3 and up
Baby Bear Sees Blue Ashley Wolff 3 and up
Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel Virginia Lee Burton 4 and up
It's Hard to Be Five Jamie Lee Curtis 4 and up
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. Thank you so much for the support!
My most inspirational moments as an educator were when I followed the interests and lead of my students. Today I had one of those moments with my daughters. Admittedly, I was dragging a bit and wracking my brain on how to fill the hours until we picked up my son at school when I noticed a ladybug had made its way into our house. "Girls, look a ladybug!" My girls came running, climbed onto the window ledge and became mesmerized.
Though only 2 years old, we had an amazing conversation about the different parts of the ladybug, the colors we saw and the different ways it moved. Luca and Charlotte used descriptive words to explain how it felt when they touched the bug. This is a perfect example of an everyday teachable moment.
Deciding to strike on my daughters' enthusiasm about our new crawly friend I set up a simple, toddler-friendly art project. We made our own crawly bugs that also are beautiful sun catchers.
YOU WILL NEED: contact paper, multi-colored tissue paper cut into small squares, pipe cleaners/popsicle sticks/straws, tape
Begin by cutting out an oval shaped piece of contact paper. Peel the backing off and tape sticky side up to a table. Give your child the opportunity to stick the colored tissue paper shapes on the contact paper.
Stick pipe cleaner legs and antennae on the contact paper and cover with another piece of contact paper (stick sides together). I found it easier to put a large piece of contact paper on top and then cut the oval shape.
Luca added some extra spots on top with a black permanent magic marker (be brave!).
That's it! Hang in a window and let the sun shine on your colorful crawly bugs!
Two weeks ago Quinn and I enjoyed making these pizzas into different type of Spring-themed shapes. Unfortunately, 5 minutes after I pulled them out of the oven and called "Time for dinner!"
Quinn decided to make one last flying leap from our coffee table to the couch only to misjudge his landing, fall backwards, and crack his head open on the table. It wasn't a pretty sight! Sadly our dinner that night ended up being apple juice and cookies from the ER vending machine and six stitches. Quinn's head is healing nicely, and I'm finally ready to share our yummy pizzas (confirmed delicious by my husband and daughters who actually had dinner that night!) YOU WILL NEED: pizza dough (either buy or use this recipe
), favorite marinara sauce (we use Rozanno or Rao's), mozarella cheese, favorite toppings Shape dough into Spring-themed shapes. We made a butterfly, a flower and Quinn thought a lovely house fit the theme too!
Add sauce, cheese and any other choice toppings. We kept it simple that night with plain cheese.
Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Voila! Yummy Spring pizzas for all!
When I originally started Homegrown Friends as a playgroup matching business it was important to me that it be LGBT friendly. Even though I have stopped that aspect of this business
the inclusive message remains essential.
As my final project in grad school I created a Family Study for 4 and 5 year olds that would combat heterosexism (institutionalized homophobia). Out of any curriculum I designed this Family Study remains closest to my heart. A large piece of the curriculum was introducing young children to gay relationships through children's literature. Whether you are a gay couple looking for children's literature that reflects your family, a heterosexual parent understanding the importance of educating your children on all types of families or just a person who loves literature, I hope you will enjoy the following books.
ABC A Family Alphabet Book Bobbie Combs
King and King Linda de Haan
Molly's Family Nancy Garden
Heather Has Two Mommies Leslea Newman
Mommy, Mama and Me Leslea Newman
Daddy, Papa and Me Leslea Newman
The Family Book Todd Parr
And Tango Makes Three Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Who's in a Family? Robery Skutch
One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads Johnny Valentine
The Duke Who Outlawed Jelly Beans Johnny Valentine
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Children's books are a passion of mine. I could spend hours in a library sitting in an aisle searching through the titles. Besides bedtime stories children's literature offers the perfect opportunity to explore your child's interests, delve into topic of study or simply spend a morning on the couch enjoying the bountiful amount of great reads your library has to offer. Every other week I will be providing a list of books that you can check out from your local library. Because these books are based on the actual books I borrow for my children they will be geared for the ages 2-6. I hope this new series, Books to Check Out, will help guide your library experience. Click here for a printer-friendly version
. Happy reading!
Peekaboo Morning Rachel Isadora 1 and up
Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball Vicki Churchill 2 and up
Llama Llama Misses Mama Anna Dewdney 2 and up
Monkey and Me Emily Gravett 2 and up
Is Your Mama a Llama? Deborah Guarino 2 and up
Little White Rabbit Kevin Henkes 2 and up
Owl Babies Martin Waddell 2 and up
Stellaluna Janell Cannon 3 and up
Today I Feel Silly Jamie Lee Curtis 3 and up
A Good Day Kevin Henkes 2 and up
The OK Book Amy Krouse Rosenthal 3 and up
Elmer David McKee 3 and up
G is for Goat Patricia Polacco 3 and up
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat Simms Tabak 3 and up
Bear's Loose Tooth Karma Wilson 3 and up