Sponsored: The Hart Home│With Christmas Came Big News

Shortly after my grandmother passed away in November, we got the surprise of the year. I had been feeling off, tired and I was eating everything I could get my hands on. For someone who doesn’t eat a lot, even my husband thought it was weird and looked me dead in the face and told me I was pregnant. And I laughed and then proceeded to take a pregnancy test wherein, I was in total shock to see two pink lines staring back at me.

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The day before Christmas Eve, I had my first ultrasound and our little life puff was growing and had a strong heartbeat. We were so incredibly excited! Our Logan might wind up sharing a birthday, but I know that he is going to love being a big brother and having someone to grow up with. I still can’t believe that by this summer I will be a mom of two. I have a strong feeling that I am having another boy, but we won’t know for sure until February and it’s only slightly killing me because I can’t wait to shop for a newborn again. In honor of our big news, and because I can’t buy anything yet, I am hosting the following sponsorship. Goumi Kids is one of my favorites stores to order cute clothes from and with the code and link below you will be able to snag yourself some free shipping with your order:

Goumi Kids

The Hart Home│A Year Ago Today

A year ago today I was waking up heavily pregnant. I was exhausted. We were also passed the second week that my aunt was told that she had left to live. She was an hour away from me. I had planned on going back that day, but I was just so pregnant and tired and really was not in the forgiving mood for other family members that would be there.

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I laid in bed for a good hour, staring at the ceiling weighing out my options. If I didn’t go and I waited, I would probably miss seeing my aunt for the last time. While I had seen her the previous weekend, she was still up and talking, but according to my brother, she was going down fast and was sleeping most of the time now. I would also regret that for the rest of my life. If I did go, it would be exhausting and I would have to deal with a lot of things.

I pulled the cover over my head.

My husband found me soon after. He made me sit up.

“If you don’t go today, you won’t get tomorrow.”

Damn it, I really hate it when he’s right.

“And we both know that if you don’t get another visit in before she passes, you’re going to regret it. You have to go.”

Did I mention, that I really hate it when he’s right?

I threw on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and slipped into my sandals. I texted my cousin and asked if they needed anything. I went on a hunt for glutenfree pizza from one of the many pizza places around me. When you live in Virginia and have a gluten intolerance, you rely on your jersey pizza. I finally found it at the pizza place we don’t usually go to and was on my way home.

When I got to the house that so much of my life had transpired in: birthdays, holidays, bringing home my husband– I wasn’t prepared to see my aunt so far gone already. It was clear that within the next day or so, she would be with Jesus. She had been talking to my uncle who had died when I was 12 when she was still awake and was talking about seeing other people who weren’t there. If I ever questioned if we lived after our physical body dies, it was this that gave me hope that there is more after this.

In some ways, it turned into just another visit. We sat talking about life, the baby and my teaching life. It must have been a comfort to her to know that we were all there and that life would go on even if she was missed every single day. My mom and I had looked over at the same time to see my aunt struggling to take her last breaths. Surrounded by my mom, myself, my grandmother, my cousins, my brother and my uncle, my aunt quietly slipped away. And just like that, it was over.

We sat with her for a couple of hours as the reality didn’t even sink in that she was gone. The hospice nurse came and pronounced that she was gone. It still didn’t feel real. My mom and I sat with my cousin as we watched the funeral home take her. The men were there too, but there was something about that moment between us women. It was always us four, even when my cousin and I were younger.

After that everything was a haze. My grandmother had to be moved to assisted living. The house was being sold, my uncle was leaving with my cousin for Virginia. I suddenly had all of these family things in my own home and I was slowly coming to accepting the idea that my aunt would never get to meet my son even though she had been looking forward to his arrival so much. Then it was the funeral and then it was like everything that was my aunt was suddenly gone– my aunt herself, the house that had been my center for many years and with it, was the last of my childhood. I would become a mom 2 months later and life has not been the same since.

It would take more time for me to realize the impact that losing my aunt would have one my life. It was my aunt and my grandmother who I would go to when I needed help and advice and suddenly, my grandmother seemed 20 years older than she had been last year and my aunt was no longer here to call or visit. My aunt was like a mother to me in many ways, she always made sure I had things– new clothes for sorority life, makeup, jewelry, etc. She was also the first one to read my manuscripts and avidly read all of my blog attempts and then would drive me crazy with her commentary to my grandmother about my blogs (usually ones about dating).  Christmas was always a huge deal at her house so was every other holiday including our birthdays. She was the heart of our family and since she left us, it’s been strange trying to rebuild that center.

A year ago today, life had changed as I had known it.

Note: This was scheduled to appear yesterday, June 10, 2019, on the first anniversary of losing my aunt, but I couldn’t get through writing it. So, it appears now, after writing and revising this many times over since yesterday afternoon. 

The Hart Home │ The Girl That was Gone at the Crossroads

In my early 20’s I had graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in art history and journalism. I was set to go to graduate school for art business. I saw a world of possibilities in Europe, and art and everything that lay before me. I had finally ended things with my high school into college sweetheart and was ready to embrace the life that I had been building for myself.

And then I collided (there really is no other way to describe it) with the first person I ever truly loved. That love was steeped in such a part of me that was that artsy girl who loved life and reading and traveling. And then after many months of being together, he turned the tables on me and I ended it because I thought I was protecting myself from him and from my feelings. To go from having someone who would call me ten times a day and talk to me for hours, send me flowers and court me in every sense of the word to then flip the way that he did hurt me in ways that I wouldn’t even realize for years.

It derailed me from my life as it was. I fell into a deep depression, it took me years before I felt like I could trust anyone again and to stop encompassing bad habits that I thought were making me get over it all, but in reality, were just causing more damage. He took from me that artsy girl I was and it’s a piece of me that I have never quite recovered. This was a turning point in my life where I abandoned the life I had and I pursued education and went full force with that instead of becoming the art history professor that I had wanted to be. I pursued education because it felt good to me to take all of that hurt and do something good in the world with it instead of allowing it to fester and become something I used to hurt someone else with.

Only now, I am finding myself again at a crossroads in my life. I am graduating this summer or fall depending on when I get to defend my dissertation and then I am done with my Ph.D. I will have gone as far with it as I had wanted to do with art history and I also know that I am at the point where I am ready to leave the classroom. In my heart, I know I have done as much good as I am going to do and to stay would just make me bitter. My husband and I were talking about all of this last night and he told me that while he has gotten glimpses of that girl that has been gone every once in a while, he never really got to know that side of me because the side he did get was a woman trying to save the world and growing angry when she couldn’t get funding and couldn’t make something better for her students and when you teach in high poverty like I do, this is a frequent if not daily occurrence. He told me that he would love to meet the girl that has been gone, she seems pretty cool.

With this time of my life and my time as a classroom teacher coming to a close, it’s also a chapter of my life closing that began 10 years ago with that collision. I am looking out on that future that lays ahead of me again where I am completely finished with school and have countless options ahead of me. And this time, I have my real true love by my side and our handsome little boy along with me for the ride into the next chapter of my life.  Thankfully, my boys are just as goofy as I am and we take really great family photos at weddings:

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We decided last night that as we look for our family’s forever home we’re going to add to our list of wants a space that I could make a studio so that I could start painting and doing pottery again. My best friend also started to send me jobs closer to her so that we can find ourselves together and start going on adventures again like we used to. I am thankful that this is going to be a very blessed season of my life filled with love and support from those who have known me the longest and have been around for this crazy ride. I am also excited to embrace that side of myself that I buried when my heart was completely broken. I would like to see who that person is now that she is older and in a much better place in her life.

Book Review │ Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel

With school winding down for the year and having finally finished writing my doctoral dissertation, I am all about looking for books that offer me an escape from my own reality. I am very much into books that are full of great plot and drama as well as those that take you to places that are far away from your everyday life. I am thoroughly enjoying escapism through reading.

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Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel gave me all of what I have been seeking in a book lately. At the heart of a novel is an old truth: lies within families will fester and boil over in unexpected and shocking ways. They will trickle down among generations and touch lives that weren’t even yet considered when the lies began.

Beginning with a deathbed wish, family secrets spill over through the voices of two siblings as scandals emerge in the family. Several plots lines run throughout the book involving financial crimes, PTSD, addiction and secrets so scandalous they cannot be spoken about. Sometimes other people’s choices and actions will shape us even though we think we are consciously avoiding being taken in by them. Also, sometimes good and bad go together and are not often so clearcut, but rather survive in our world as a gray area where distance sometimes means the difference between the two.

Overall, Barbara Taylor Sissel delivers with Tell No One. She creates an immersive world where you remain the entire time that you are reading her book. As you read, you feel as though you are part of her story, watching as a family comes to terms with things long buried and ultimately meets a dramatic, action-fueled end at the conclusion of her narrative which in turn, will hopefully lead to what everyone is searching for: forgiveness both of other people and of themselves.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel shows the complexities of families and of the demons we both acquire from our families as well as though that we create for ourselves and in turn, unleash onto our families both consciously and unintentionally.

Tell No One by Barbara Taylor Sissel will be available for purchase on May 14, 2019. It will be published through Lake Union Publishing with ISBN 9781542040457. This review was written after receiving an advanced electronic galley from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Baby Led Weaning is a Life Saver

It is a fact that my son did not want to be born.

I did EVERYTHING I possibly could to start labor.

I walked, ate hot food, bounced on a ball, did all kinds of stretches…everything, but I would not dilate and the moment the doctor said they were willing to induce, I jumped on it because being 42 weeks pregnant with a nearly 10 pound baby is life’s slowest form of torture.

Only once he was born, all our Logan wants to do is grow up. Physically, he is ahead of every benchmark. He was already trying to roll over in the hospital and was picking his head up. By 6 months old, he was using his play stroller and taking steps. There is no stopping him.

Baby-Led Feeding

I started him on home made purees at 4 1/2 months by almost 6 months, he was grabbing the spoon from my hand to feed himself. I did pre-loaded spoons for awhile that he would take and eat from, but then we reached a point where even that was frustrating for him so, I began to research baby led weaning.

It really freaked me out at first because I was terrified that he would choke. However, it has been such a life saver. He is so much happier when he has strips of food in front of him and he tries so much more food now. This morning he ate more than half of his breakfast.

It’s also teaching me more about foods. It makes me have to cook for my family even on nights when I am exhausted from work and school. I know what’s in food now and I have finally shifted over to a almost completely organic food list. We replaced cow’s milk with fortified almond milk. Even the cleaners I have used have gone from whatever name brand my mom used to get to plant based products. Logan continues to change us everyday and it’s almost fun to see what new challenge he’s going to give me and how quick I can figure out how I’m going to be the best mom for him.

Somewhere Between Sanity and Motherhood

I didn’t mean to take such a long break from writing, in fact, there is SO much I have wanted to write about, but I never seem to have the time anymore.

Our son was born a week before my birthday in August. I want to eventually write my birth story, but the entire ordeal was so traumatic that I still have problems even thinking about it. However, our little prince was absolutely worth it all:

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I had thought our boy would be my husband’s carbon copy, but he surprised me again in being mine with my husband’s dark brown eyes. He came into the world at almost 10 pounds and was 12 by his first doctors appointment. He is 5 months old this week and he loves to laugh at our dogs and snuggle. He talks up a storm and loves to be around people. I love watching him with his toys and how he figures out how to use them or how different sequences or choices make different noises. He is so incredibly smart.

I went back to work just before Thanksgiving and that has been the hardest part. I hate being away from him and I find that I just get through my days to get back to him and his smile.

I wrote my dissertation the entire time I was pregnant with him and then continued after I delivered and was half out of my mind recovering and learning how to breast feed him. It has been a wild ride for sure, but a of today I am half way through my dissertation journey and am eager to graduate next year. My PhD will take me to one last stop and that will be to Minneapolis for my graduation. Phil and I plan to take Logan and have our first family trip.

I am off for the holidays and I am enjoying every minute of being home. So, I guess I am now back to somewhere between my sanity and motherhood as we gear up for our next big adventure of selling out tiny house by the sea. I am excited and nervous for that move. I am ready to be in a big house and not have an hour commute, but I am also nervous about change and how much more work a big house is going to be.

Bring in on, though.

News for this Week.

The Baby: He’s getting big and strong. I read to him Berenstain Bears books and I started to play classical music to him at night. It makes him get super active so I think he either loves or hates it. He kicked my phone off my stomach on Friday. Last night, he found the area of my body that he has yet to really explore: the area known as the land above my belly button. He also kicked me so hard he bounced my hand off. I think to think he’s saying hello. Though it’s probably more like stop poking me, mom, I’m fine. Either way, it’s been pretty cool to see him interacting with the world outside my uterus a little bit.

Overall, I am still pretty calm about impending motherhood. I was very ready to become a mom, and while I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it did, I am thankful that it did. I am also thankful that my 20-something-year-old self was responsible enough to get disability insurance as well as put into plastic containers the few pieces of baby things I wanted to save from my own infancy for my kids. I recently moved all of my stuff out of the house I grew up in and was shocked at how well I took care of things when everything else was left in shambles by other people.

 

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Sandy Hook, New Jersey…early 90’s.

 

The Doctorate: Whelp, I am eagerly awaiting to hear back from the IRB about whether or not my study is approved. It can take up to 7 business days. They have currently used 2, so hopefully, it will happen sooner rather than later. I’ve begun writing my first couple of chapters including the much-hated literature review. I have found that in going through the process of the doctoral comprehensive exam as well as writing the research plan that you submit to the IRB, a lot of your dissertation is already begun for you. You just need to re-write and re-work it a little to fit the needs of the dissertation requirements.

The House Hunt: We’ve entered the point where we have outgrown our little house. After months of thinking and working towards what turned out to be complete BS which a large part of me knew it would, we’re now left trying to figure out where we plan to live long-term as well as what kind of house we want to invest in for the next 30+ years. Weekends have become open house weekends and after visiting many, I think I may have had my life figured out right years ago. I had always wanted to live by the water and for the last 3 years, I have. I was reminded of that the other day when a storm blew in and while you can’t see or smell the ocean from our house usually, you can smell it during the storms. The entire air fills with salt and seaweed and it’s the most calming scent for me. Funny to think that I was ready to leave it thinking it would be better for my son, but I think that too may have been a mistake. I think as long as our kids are with us, in a stable, non-toxic environment with two parents that love each other very much, that they will turn out to be good, productive adults.

I am hoping we find something soon that pushes us to list our townhouse and we get to move on to the family house that I would really like to one day hand down to one of our kids. I know, it’ll be the cliche generational beach house, but there is something to cliches.

Looking Forward to: The summer, mostly. We’ve entered the phase of the school year where it is full-on testing and test preparation. It’s boring to me, I’d rather be reading good books and teaching. I’m also finding it hard to be standing all day at this point and am happiest in my recliner. I am looking forward to being home this year and for Logan to finally get here.

I think most of the big transitions and craziness have already happened for this year and now we’re entering into a calmer period. Probably the calm before the storm that will be Hurricane Logan this summer, but after such a crazy year, I will take the peacefulness for awhile.

Is it really April?

I don’t know where this year has gone. I remember spending much of it being very stressed out about my wedding and then more recently, being hyper-focused on my pregnancy and dissertation. And then BAM, somehow it’s April.

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Speaking of my pregnancy, he’s getting so big and he’s measuring tall which makes me happy because that means he hopefully got his dad’s tall genes. From the blurry images that we do have, he does look like he got my pug nose and his dad’s button chin. I really can’t wait for him to get here just so I can stare at him for hours and smell his baby head.

I’m almost all ready for him. I would be further prepared had people not started yelling at me to stop buying things because they wanted to buy them, we do have a good family and friends that is for sure. My baby BBQ is the next big event and then after that, I am looking forward to a low-key summer of not working other than my dissertation and you know, pushing out a baby and taking care of him.

Even that though, sounds like an amazing summer as opposed to what my life has been like since we moved to the shore several years ago. I was always working and traveling and now, it looks like Logan is forcing me to slow down for a little bit and enjoy being his mom.

And I strangely, don’t mind at all.

The Kind of Mom I Want to Be

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, especially over the last couple of days about the kind of mother I don’t want to be.

I spent a lot of my dating life looking for my other half and within him, making sure that he was going to be a good father who loved me and his children and most importantly was someone who wanted to be involved in the life we built together. That was always extremely important to me and I know that I had found that in my husband. Phil is with me without being asked to every doctor’s appointment and ultrasound. He only has ever missed one appointment and that was because he had class, but he sat there texting me the entire time and got teary eyed when I played him the video of our baby’s heart beat.

Now, I want to make sure that I am the kind of mother that I want my children to have. I think most importantly is that I don’t want to be the kind of mother that manipulates and plays games with her children. I don’t want my love to come with contingencies. I also want to be present in my children’s life and I want them to always know that they could come to me with anything and not have to go through their lives alone. That’s the biggest one for me, I think, because I have always felt I was going through life alone which I think made me the sort of driven person that I am, but at the same time it would have been nice to feel like I had that kind of support where I could have gone to someone without judgement and contingencies had I really needed to, especially with the big stuff.

I have also become really fixated on the idea of buying a new house and selling our townhouse. I would like to find something that is our forever house and becomes something that we can eventually hand down to our kids. I always have liked the idea of a house that is shared among generations of the same family. I guess I can no longer deny how much of an old soul I really am…oops.

Anyway, as I stress over all of this like I do with anything in my life, my husband looked at me as I was hand painting the name plate that we picked out and out together in AC Moore for our son, and told me that I was the most loving person he had ever met and how many people would sit there knitting baby blankets and hand painting name plates for a baby that wasn’t even born yet? Not many, I guess. He reminded me that if I love our kids and am present for our kids, our kids are most likely not only going to be okay and successful in their lives, but also will love me back just as much and have solid relationships with me. I mean, I know they will be total monsters during their teen years, but once the hormones of adolescence calm down and they become normal people again, I would love very much to be close to all of my kids.

I’d like to be the kind of mom that makes her kids Halloween costumes and birthday cakes. Whose kids have memories of baking cookies every Christmas and watching A Christmas Story on repeat. And when life got hard or uncertain that they had a mom (and dad) that they went to and who made things better for them.

And it all starts this summer with our first born, Logan Philip. I’m slowly getting ready for you, my little love. I am in love with your name and am relieved that your dad and I finally agreed upon a name and it’s a really good name too:

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The Week That Was: Oh Baby & Doctoral Comps

My week started off with a trip to the ultrasound place. We both were looking forward to it for a week because we would have gotten the envelope that had the sex of our baby in it.

Only, baby had other plans. The moment that she put the wand on to my stomach, we looked up and saw that our baby is very much, in fact, a boy. Phil’s heart had been set on a gender reveal party next weekend, but after that, we pretty much called and told everyone our news.

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I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant. Sometime in my late teens/early 20’s I had a dream that I was in a room with all of these babies. They all looked too small to even walk, so I was shocked to see them running around. I followed them up a flight of stairs until one fell backward and into my arms. I was amazed by how beautiful he was with his soft blond hair and huge blue eyes. A voice from behind me told me that his name was Dylan and that he “wasn’t ready for me yet.” Then I woke up.

I knew I had met my future son, and I knew eventually he would be ready for me. I just knew that this was him when my 5 pregnancy tests all turned positive. Only, Dylan never really fit him and for the longest time, I wanted to name my son John Dylan, John for my grandfather and Dylan for the dream. Phil is on this Phil the third thing, but I really feel that it’s too much to put on a kid and kids need their own names and their own identities.

We’ve been kicking around John Philip which I really love because it honors both grandfathers who are no longer with us and it gives our son his own identity. We have time to decide, but I’m really rooting for the latter choice. I was very close to my grandfather when he was alive and I know that I was his favorite. I took his death really hard in high school and in a lot of ways, I think losing him really put me on the path I took as an adult. He would be nearly 100 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all of this and how he must be up there smiling thinking about becoming a great-grandfather.

I thought this was going to be my big news for the week, but it seems that life also had other plans. Yesterday as I checked my phone for the time, I saw a gmail notification from my university. I didn’t breath the entire time the e-mail loaded. Coming in a whole FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to receive my results, it was the email containing my pass/fail notice on my doctoral comprehensive exam.

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And…I PASSED!!! I am officially a doctoral candidate and am now only waiting for my university to assign my doctoral mentor and committee before I plunge into dissertation. If I follow my plan, I will be done in a year and a half. I really can’t wait. I even hope I get there sooner because I am ready to be done and moving on with my life and career.

Pretty crazy week, eh?