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. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Gino turns ONE!

My very last baby turned ONE last Friday. 

On Good Friday.

Which meant NZ was off work and able to BBQ some delicious lamb for a birthday dinner to celebrate Gino's birthday with our family and our neighbors. I made a small smash cake for him, and cupcakes for the rest of us. My sister never fails to deliver--the cutest surfer themed cookies arrived in the mail a couple days before--so I was a good girl and saved them for the big day. 



He enjoyed his cake smashing to the fullest. His sister waited for him to share with such restraint!



He eventually flipped it over and tears ensued. He took the whole, "it's my party and I'll cry if I want to" to a whole new level. 


Turns out, poor boy had a fever of 103 and spent the rest of the weekend on a cocktail of Tylenol and Motrin. Despite him being sick, it was really nice to celebrate the fact that we have all survived his first year (even though he has yet to sleep through a night!). Here's to year two! 

We love you, Gino Mario.

                       [ yep. Best family shot out of six. Always awkward, always funny]

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


There's no secret that I'm a Facebook and Instagram junkie. 

I try to quit--and I just.can't.stop.scrolling. 

There's an app on Facebook called "on this day", that shows you all your posts from this date in previous years. From time to time, I like to see what my life was all about way back when, and I've gotten some good laughs out of status updates I had posted, and enjoy seeing photographs I may have otherwise forgotten.

Then today. 

The date was March 22,2009

16 weeks pregnant with my first big baby bump. 

I was so freaking excited to be pregnant after a miscarriage the year before. This was OUR time--OUR turn to have the baby we'd been trying for and I had been aching so badly to care for. It was happening. We were having a baby!!!

This photo was taken at our family's annual Yosemite reunion. I was so happy to turn down offers of beer and lounge my pregnant ass in a chair while listening to the river flow by. I remember talking to Nick about how that would be our last trip just sitting quietly by the river...because next year, you know--we will have our little girl crawling around out there. We talked about how the baby would change our Yosemite experience, and all of the things we looked forward to showing her on future trips..biking, hiking, enjoying the scenery. 

And then came May. 

And Denise.

And the end of my pregnancy and dreams for her.

The next year at Yosemite was a quiet one, with Nick and I resuming our "reading books by the river" tradition of all the years prior. That was a hard year for me-and because it was hard for me, it was hard for US.  I had just looked forward to it so so soooo much with a baby in tow.

And here we are March 2016, on the cusp of another Yosemite reunion, and I'm making mental notes of all the gear and food and things we will need to take with us. I'm working out logistics of sleeping arrangements and meals, and containment of a super busy little baby, along with two curious and talkative children.

Three kids.

In Yosemite. 

With Nick and me. 

My dreams have come true, three fold. 

So I guess what I'm saying in a long winded way, is that hope is a powerful thing. I am so thankful that Nick never gave up hope in me, and I never gave up hope in bringing a baby home. We never gave up hope, that someday, we'd have kids who we'd be able to share the magic of Yosemite with. They get to grow up going year after year, seeing cousins and relatives and making memories. I'm still amazed that we get to call them ours, and that they get to partake in such a cool family tradition for years to come.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Goodbye, one. Hello, two.

I feel like I should title this post, "goodbye, one. Hello, naughty nelly" 

'Cause guys, she's full of spunk and sass and ideas of her own. 

I've got to say though-- watching Carla evolve from a mindful little one year old into a naughty nelly, also gives me peace.

  You see, when Carla was born, Sal's world was flipped upside down. I felt guilt for bringing another baby into our lives. I blamed the changing family dynamic for his naughtiness--while now it's clear to me--it was just TWO. 

Two is the year of finding a balance between autonomy and mommy. Two is the year of pushing every single limit and figuring out just how far they can go. It's learning about cause and effect, and so so soooo many social lessons. 

So here we are. 


 I know someday I will look back and laugh at the things my kids did that at the time really got my panties in a bunch. 

Since I don't want to forget how cute the naughtiness can be (shhhh, don't admit that to my daughter!!!), here are a few of our recent naughties:

- she dipped her toothbrush in the toilet and sucked the water out of the bristles. (This happened while I ran to my bathroom to brush my own teeth). 

- she climbed up on her dad's workbench where I had our faux horse head, Beyoncé awaiting a fresh new coat of paint. She threw Beyoncé to the ground, where Beyoncé suffered a fatal blow to her head. I'm pretty bummed about it because it was my favorite part of Carla's room. She's a big time thrower, this girl. 

- she took a full plate of food, looked me in the eye, and dumped it behind our super-heavy-to-move sofa on a week that NZ was out of town. This left me to get creative in retrieving the food with Sal's grabber stick toy. 

-she escaped her crib fifteen times in one night. (We've since ditched the crib and she's now in the bottom bunk bed...but as you can see below, she isn't so keen on sleeping in it)

- she likes to color on the floors. Washable markers and polished concrete for the win. 

But then you know, there's the really cool parts of being two. The "I love you/ I love your eyes/ I love your hair/ I love your nose/ I love your..." that she so sweetly says many times a day. She greets her dad with an " I missed you!" each and every night, and welcomes her brother home from school with the same enthusiasm. 

She's a great helper in the kitchen, and likes to help me sort socks from our laundry. 

I guess I'll weather out the naughty nellies and hang on tight since she's so darn cute. It's sure to be a long ride. And hey, once she's out of them, it's Gino's turn!