Saturday, June 25, 2016

Camping {in a tent}

I'm alive! 

We're alive!

We just completed our first camping trip with kids in tow. Before kids, NZ and I would camp at least once a year, but a move overseas and having babies have stalled camping trips up until now.

We joined a couple of Nick's cousins at Jalama beach last Sunday and stayed through late Thursday night. I admit, I was a buzzkill for a good portion of the trip. It wasn't dirty kids that got me stressing-it was the heat and long term exposure to the direct sun that we had overlooked when planning this trip. An easy fix for next time will to bring an easy up / canopy so that we can escape the sun without having to hunker down in our tent or search for shade trees on the camp ground. 

The older kids had so much fun galavanting around the campground with their cousin. They spent hours on the beach, digging for sand crabs, making drip castles and fishing with their dad. Gino spent a lot of time eating sand and battling yellow jackets (next time we will bring yellow jacket traps) but I think he still enjoyed getting dirty and following the big kids around. 

Naptimes were tough-I finally figured out that wearing Gino was the only way we could guarantee at least an hour of midday rest for the littlest guy. We brought our pack and play, which is later transfer him into if our tent wasn't too hot. Carla and Sal enjoyed snow cones and playground tag every afternoon with all the kids at the campground. 

We split dinner duties with the other two couples. It was nice to only have to prepare dinners a couple times! 

Now we're back and unpacked and trying to catch up on missed sleep. We've also got chapped, wind / sunburned faces, but a whole lot of memories to go along with it. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Carla, lately.

Current age: 2 years, 5 months 

My sweet little sass is starting "school" this month! It's just one morning a week, for 90 minutes, but she can't wait! She's been asking to go since she turned two, but I used potty training as leverage, telling her she couldn't go until she wore skivvies. She took it to heart and has been day trained for the last month. She still poops outside, but that's another story. 

She wants to do everything Sal does, whether it be riding skateboards or building a Lego house. Her Lego houses are always horsey houses- built for her horse figurines she totes around in her backpack everywhere we go. 

Carla loves to sing " twinkle twinkle" and " you are my sunshine", which she just calls "sunshine song". She will tell me to be quiet when I sing in the car, and has no shame in telling us to "turn dat song ooooooff!" followed with her request that I play "widing duty" (riding dirty). 

While she still follows Sal around with admiring eyes, she's developing quite the mischievous relationship with Gino. They're my little Bonnie + Clyde. Double trouble, partners in crime. It's fun to watch how she balances the little sister and big sister roles. With Sal, she does the grunt work. Anything he tells her to do, she does. When she's with Gino she gets to test out her bossy voice and assert her place in the sibling chain.

She loves to wake G up in the morning, so earlier this week, she asked to wake him while I was still in bed. I told her she could go in and play with him while I got out of bed and dressed. A few minutes later I walked into a butt pasted crib and kids. Lesson learned. Never, ever trust a toddler.  

Especially when they're this cute!

Carla Denise, thanks for keeping us on our toes and adding some sweet sass to our household. You ARE my sunshine. 

School is out for summer

As of last Friday, Sal is officially on summer break and looking forward to beginning the preK program in fall. 

He may not have grown a lot this last year, size wise, but his speech has improved and he has a knack for puzzles and pattern making. He can write his name (but won't), and he recognizes most of the letters in the alphabet and can sound out the majority of them. 

He loves all things scientific--choosing to watch "How it's Made" and YouTube videos of wastewater treatment plants over cartoons these days. He's enamored with manhole covers and storm drains and nothing makes his day more than figuring out how things work. 

He and Carla have a special friendship, that is somewhat love/hate but mostly love. They play for hours on our upper terrace, digging dirt and playing make believe. 

Four is a fine balance of emotional meltdowns and quirky conversations. We talk about life, friends, sewers, cats, when he was a baby, and everything else under the sun. I love listening to his chatter. The flip side is dealing with meltdowns and his emerging sense of embarrassment following said meltdown. If we are in public and he realizes people may see him (say, we are on our way to school drop off), he tries to suck his quivering lip up and get himself together because "I don't want them to see me cry, mama." A few deep breaths and a knock knock joke later, he usually redeems himself and we get on with our day. At home though-it's no holds barred. Tantrums go on and on and on.  That's tough. It's the only part of four I'd like to fast forward through. The rest of it is so much fun. 

He's still working on riding a two wheel bike (he realllly doesn't want to-but we keep trying), and he has been more tolerant and receptive to swim lessons this summer. He put his whole face in the water today--that's HUGE for a kid who spends all morning on swim lesson days lamenting over having to go to swim lessons later. 

I'm looking forward into soaking up summer with him and joining our local library's summer reading program. While it's nice to have him busy three mornings a week during the school year, I am happy to have a break from school drop offs and having to get out the door on time. 

Here's to summertime!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Meet Gus. 

Our new kitty joined the family last week. His mama was a rescued feral (pregnant at time of rescue), and I called dibs on a kitten before they were even born. 

We scored well with our first feral rescue, Earl, and as you can see, our kids can't get enough of him. We thought adding one more might give Earl a break from the endless pats, scruff carrying, tail pulling and chasing our kids seem to put him through on the daily. 

Welcome to the family, Gus! 

Friday, May 6, 2016

The one before

I've long pondered how much I wanted to/ should tell my kids about the one that came before them. I've read my fellow baby loss mom's blogs and realized that we all have our own level of comfort in talking about our losses to our children. 

I've always released balloons for Denise on her birthday (which is coming up quick). Sal has always been a part of it, and Carla was present, but not a participant last year. With another balloon release on the horizon, I wondered if they would ask questions this time, since they are older (and Sal is very inquisitive). 

Sal and I have had discussions in passing about Heaven (which he actually thinks is someone named Kevin's house in the clouds), but being that we aren't religious at all, I kind of just stopped at ,"Heaven is a place we like to think that good people go when they die." He seems okay with that, and actually named some of our deceased relatives and told me they're at Kevin's. 


I have talked about Denise here and there over the years. We have a few " D" ornaments for our Christmas tree, and there's a few keepsake pieces of jewelry in my jewelry box with her initials that he's asked about. 

He knows his mom and dad had a baby before him, and that the baby wasn't healthy enough to stay alive and come home. He knows we let balloons go on her birthday in hopes that they reach her in Heaven and let her know we love her always. But that's it. He's never seen any tangible evidence of this said "big sister". 

Until last night. 

I keep baby books for my kids. They're up in our linen closet, stored just a bit higher than my fingers can reach. Last night Sal asked to see his baby book as we scrolled through my Instagram feed reminiscing on all the good times we've caught on camera...I could just barely get my fingers on the book, and as I pulled it out, all of my albums fell down at our feet. Sal helped me pick them up and put them back away, and asked me about each book as he handed them to me (yes, before the era of iPhones, we actually took pictures, developed them and arranged them in albums...I've got scrapbooks upon scrapbooks of mama 'fore she was mama). He came across one with a Z in the little square frame on front and opened it. 

He saw little footprints and asked if they were Gino's. 

" No, honey. Those are Denise's footprints."

"Mama, they're so small!"

"Mama, what's this? (Pointing at her ultrasound pictures) this Denise in your belly?"

"Yes, that is a picture of her in my belly."

"When she was alive,mama?"

"Yes, when she was alive."

"But then she died because she was sick, right mama?"

"Yes, baby. She was sick"

" But not me, right mama? I'm healthy. That's why I'm alive."

"Yes, honey." 

"Good. Cause I don't want to go to Kevin's without you."

***conversation over because I couldn't contain my laughter at his mention of Kevin, yet again ***

So yeah, we're getting through life after loss, and I suppose this is what it looks like while explaining it to a four year old, seven years later.

 I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, or if there really even is a right way to teach kids about life and loss. I'm just letting my kids lead and I will follow. While there are many people who would try to protect their kids from the ugliness of life, I feel like age appropriate discussions will keep conversation going as they get older and have more questions--at least that's my hope!

And on this Mother's Day, where I feel more than lucky to have my three healthy babies here on earth, I miss the one that made me a mother first. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Yosemite 2016

We took our annual trip to Yosemite National Park a couple of weeks ago. Every year, my husband's side of the family makes the trek up there for a long weekend of hiking, climbing, biking, cribbage playing, reading, eating and hanging out together. This year, a grand total of 34 of us were there. That's a pretty good turnout, considering most don't live in state anymore. 

I won't lie. I was anxious about how well five of us would be able to share one hotel room without killing each other, but to my surprise, our kids did an excellent job calming down and being quiet when it came to nap and bedtime. Gino even slept through the night every night there (don't get excited....he hasn't slept through the night since!). 


This year was magical for Sal. He's been twice before, but this year, the magic of Yosemite clicked. He wanted to climb every rock, see the waterfalls, dig in the dirt, and spy on some wildlife. He'd run from Boulder to Boulder requesting we take his picture on top of it. It was so cool to watch him enjoy nature. 


Carla was a trooper, tagging along behind Sal everywhere he went, but she was still more interested in playing in the hotel room with her cousin Gianna. I had taken some activities for the kids to keep them busy in case of poor weather (which was forecasted), but thankfully, we had no rain or snow--just some chilly mornings. Gianna and Carla hit it off and spent most of our trip asking for one another when they had to be apart. I love that our kids have a chance to get to really know their extended family.


Gino had started walking about a week before we left, so that changed the game a little, as he wanted to walk everywhere versus being carried or put in a stroller. We let him down to explore a bit, and he was all over climbing the logs at one of the picnic sites. 


We took a few family hikes-one was easy, and the other kicked our ass. We did The hike to the bridge at vernal falls with the two big kids in the double stroller and Gino in my ergo. It was one steep climb! After many, many stops to catch our breaths we finally made it to the bridge and it was well worth it. I've never seen so much water in the falls as I did this year. We also vowed to get in better shape if we ever plan to push a stroller or carry another child on that hike again. It was no joke.  The easy hike was to Mirror lake. I packed lunches and we found a nice sunny spot to sit and eat before heading back to the hotel for naps. 

                                        [ gorgeous. It gets me everytime ]

                                        [ family hike to the lake for lunch]
Every evening one family would take charge of the main course. We took on Thursday night, and Nick made a family recipe, named " Dego" burgers.  These Italian sloppy joes, topped with mozzarella were originally created by his grandmother many moons ago when Nick's grandfather requested something "different" for dinner and all she had was Italian sausage, tomato sauce, cheese and bread.  They've been a Zentil family hit ever since. It was really cool to listen to the stories from Nick's dad, aunts & uncles that had to do with their mother and the creation of these burgers. 
                                        [Carla & a few of her "girl" cousins]

I say this every year, and I'll say it again. Having a family that loves each other enough to keep coming back, year after year, is so so special.  Many of us have children-mostly school age, and jobs. Time off isn't easy for anyone...but to have so many people willing to do whatever it takes so we can all be a part of each other's lives and carry on such a fantastic tradition is not lost on me.

I'm already looking forward to next year!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A day in pictures

It's been a while since our last day in pictures. In fact, last time I did a post like this, we were still living in Wuxi. 

 So, here's our Friday in pictures. 

6:45 am- I woke up and showered before the kids got up. Hooray for getting in three showers this week!

7:15 am- time to pack Sal's lunch for school and warm up everyone's morning milk. I prepare lunch the night before and just throw in a juice box before putting it all in his backpack. These Sistema brand boxes are perfect for preschooler lunches. No baggies or Tupperware lids to waste and lose. 

7:45- breakfast. Today they chose toast. After breakfast comes brushing teeth, taking our vitamins and getting dressed so we can get out the door and get Sal off to preschool. 

9:30 am- Sal is safely delivered to school and the little kids and I are off to the gym. This is MY time. Weights, then cardio. Thankfully my kids love the gym daycare. 

10:45 am - back home with the little kids for an hour before we meet Nick and his dad for a Friday lunch date. I spent the better part of the hour trying to keep this little guy out of my appliance cabinet. Anyone know what kind of locks work on corner cabinets? 

11:45- Gino passed out on the way to lunch. I hate waking sleeping babies...but tacos were waiting. I can't pass up Mexican food. Ever. 

3:30 pm- little kids are napping and Sal wanted a snack. Is it bad the first thing I thought of when I opened the door was if it was too early to crack open my Mike's?  I even texted NZ and he replied with " is the afternoon". 

4:00 pm- Gino is up and I need to tackle our pile of laundry. I turned on a cartoon for the boys while I started folding. 

4:05 - Carla is awake now. In a matter of minutes, my living room has become a jungle gym. Our sofa cushions are on the floor and I'm throwing in the towel. (Edit: this turned out to be a good thing- Sal vacuumed under all my cushions and I was able to wipe off the snot trails and ground in goldfish crackers that had accumulated)

4:30 pm- Amanda is home! The kids love our neighbor/ babysitter and they saw her car parked in the driveway and ran out to greet her. They also begged her to see our new kitty (yep, we are getting a new kitten in a couple weeks), to which she obliged. 

5:00 pm- the kids came back from the neighbors and I talked them into doing a paw patrol puzzle versus watching Shimmer and Shine for the second time. 

5:45 pm- the big kids help me separate a head of cauliflower into pieces and put green beans into a steamer. Dinner prep is under way and they love helping. 

6:00 pm- in an attempt to keep this one out of my appliance cabinet and off my sofa, I carry him EVERYWHERE. I love this crazy boy even though he wears me out. 

6:30 pm - NZ is home and dinner is on the table. Caulifredo and green beans tonight. And Mike's. 

8:00pm - kids are asleep and it's time to play our "Life Below Zero" drinking game. We drink every time Sue says "predator", Jessie talks about his dogs, or Chip says "my wife" as well as anytime one of them talks about "subsistence". This leads to lots and lots of swigs of beer and cheersing between us-and usually an early bedtime because we aren't as young as we once were. 

And there you have it. A day in the life of our crazy circus.