A personal story on sibling loss and explaining death to your children.
December 12, March 14, July 25, October 16
The date of my brother’s birthday
The date my brother became a father.
The date I became a Mom.
The date of my brother’s death.
Since the death of my brother Steven, I’ve become a student on surviving loss and trying to deal with the loss of a sibling. I have an ongoing lesson on how to explain death to my daughters. Each year as the girls get older, their questions about Uncle Steven get harder and harder to answer. Parker wants to know “exactly how he died.” Peyton has asked, will she get to meet him one day when she goes to Heaven? And with each question and with every answer, no matter how many years have gone by, no matter how much I have tried to learn and understand, I am paralyzed and unprepared for their innocent questions. I will never get over the shock and loss of Steven, but through my children and my niece, I have learned to heal my heart, to seek out my own answers, and to take another step forward, while clinging to memories and a powerful part of my own childhood.
If anyone knows me, they know how much I adore my niece, Abby. My sweet Abby turns TEN today! Double digits. She is so special to me, and this blog post is so special to me too – We love you Abby. Have the best birthday ever!
A Letter to my Niece on her 10th birthday
To my brilliant and fearless niece on your 10th birthday,
On the day you were born, I had no way of knowing just how much your sassy and strong presence would impact our lives. It felt like eternity waiting for your arrival. But in true Abby fashion, you were born when you were good and ready, and on your own terms. I couldn’t wait to see you…to hold you. Jokingly, I kept asking your mommy and daddy when I could paint your nails. Now, ten years later, it’s one of our favorite things to do together. This is ten.
You were complete perfection wrapped in a blanket with an adorable pink hat on – I wanted to hold you- Like. All. The. Time. – I even took off work after your mommy got home from the hospital. I sat on the couch holding you and staring at you for hours. Mommy and Daddy said I could lay you in the pack n play, but I wasn’t giving you up. This was my day to snuggle you. All your aunts took off a day of work to help out mommy and daddy. Daddy was probably so sick of us being there all the time, but we wanted as much time with you as possible.
I had no idea I could love anything so much. I may have my own girls now, but you will always be a very special fourth daughter -and I know your other aunts feel the exact same way.
My Abby girl, you have been a gift to everyone since the day you were born, but we had no idea just how much of a gift you were until 7-months later. You became the core of this family. You became the light that kept us going. You made us smile and you made us laugh on our hardest days. I would have loved you with my whole being, even if your daddy didn’t go to Heaven, but now I get to love you extra for your daddy too.
Your life has been a series of beautiful, BLUE, dragonfly signs. When you were a baby, the wallpaper and decor in your room were dragonflies, the hooks for your dogs’ leashes were dragonflies, and at Mom Mom and Pop Pop’s house, you would stare at a fan with dragonfly lights and giggle and smile. It confirmed what we knew all along, that your daddy is always with you.
At the age of ten, you are the oldest of ten cousins and your brothers who look up to you. You are a role model for the younger girls, Peyton, Parker, Piper, Kami, Lexi, and Jordyn. And you are a leader among the boys in the family, PJ, Brayden, Zach, and Jaxon.
In honor of your milestone 10th birthday. Here are just a few of the reasons why I love you so incredibly much.
My blog is a little over a year old, but only in the past month have I actually “published” my writing. When I hit the blue publish button, I cringe, hold my breath, and say a few expletives — I am not a shy or introverted person, but writing exposes you in different ways.
Ironically, my first “successful” post was about my brother’s death and how I managed life, marriage, and motherhood after a tremendous tragedy.
Friends and family responded by sharing personal stories of Steven. I received messages from people I didn’t know, thanking me for my courage in sharing. I even received a private message asking if I needed a therapist. Don’t we all?
I was “new” to blogging at that point. This particular topic made me vulnerable. It is raw, it is real, and it is my life.
Criticism is scary. When publishing anything publicly, there is always the risk of negative comments and negative exposure, but there are also compliments and encouragement There are people that don’t understand what blogging actually is and think it’s a cute “hobby”— there are people that don’t understand the purpose of writing — and the importance of giving voice to your thoughts.
Even more so, there are people that can’t publicly compliment because they privately criticize. But, since venturing into the blogging world, I have learned —
I. Just. Don’t. Care. I care about what I write —not what people think.
You write for YOU. Write because you have a passion for the topics you write about. Write because you want to tell your story —share your story.
Fortunately, there’s been more compliments than criticism, for which I am grateful, but there’s still plenty of people that don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m sharing—and YES, you can SHARE my posts. In this absolutely insane world of social media, anything shared publicly is fair game.
Simply scroll through Facebook and you will see friends sharing articles all over social media. Some from Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and NY Times…Those articles and posts are blogs, videos, and websites that have gone viral.
Why I love blogging…
It’s My Story: I can share experiences, likes, and dislikes — and the beauty is… it’s my story. Not everyone cares about Disney and there are readers who don’t care about parenting and motherhood posts —but there are people that do. It’s simple, don’t like it, don’t read it. Small disclaimer: there’s plenty I write that I don’t actually publish. I’ll wait for retirement for those stories and I promise, they will be good—Real good.
I’ve developed an eye for meaningful things: I don’t have time to read articles that don’t matter or don’t have meaning — my eyes search for credible and interesting topics and writers. Anyone can post, publish, and deem themselves a “writer.” It’s an important lesson and one I teach my students. Find things that matter and have credibility. Connect that to real-life, it’s a good motto to follow — find genuine people and steer clear of the opportunistic ones —find purpose and find meaning.
I want to write to inspire and entertain: I am inspired by other writers and I am entertained by some super funny people like The Truth Bomb Mom and Cat and Nat. I vicariously live through their humor and inappropriateness. I follow Disney bloggers to learn and stay up-to-date on Disney News. I also follow some serious and not so serious motherhood blogs for tips and tricks on surviving motherhood — I swear, I’m just winging this motherhood gig and hoping I don’t screw my kids up too much. Mostly, I want my readers to laugh, to cry, and to feel as though they are living my story and can connect to my story.
Writing Creates Opportunities:Writing is freaking hard.Sometimes I spend upwards of 10 hours getting a post “just right” and I still hate it —Currently, I have 28 articles in my drafts. I don’t sleep, my laundry is always at least two weeks behind, and my two-year old has been known to raise havoc with markers – mostly on herself while I am writing. I just “don’t know” how that happens! Writer’s block strikes more often then I care to admit…and when it hits, it’s like the flu, hard to shake. I’m learning new things every day: SEO, Google Analytics, Tailwind — I didn’t know what any of those were a few weeks ago and I haven’t mastered them yet, but I will. I also don’t know what opportunities writing will bring, but I’m hopeful and excited.
I am eager to write and to tell more stories — to show my daughters that they can do anything and everything, like run half marathons or stand up paddle board in the ocean. That they can survive tragedy and come out stronger. To show them to stand up for themselves, and to respectfully speak up when it matters. To show them that life is a lot like writing…
We don’t always get it right, it’s definitely not perfect, it can be frustrating, but we learn…we improve…and we keep looking up… that’s the secret to life.
Still thinking about that fabulous vacay to Florida? To ensure an enchanting vacation is to seek a travel agent who specializes in Disney Vacations, and I’m not just saying this because I am one. I wish I had used someone on my early trips. We are trained and experienced in how best to schedule your precious holiday family time. We consider your interests and ages of family members and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo… we are wizards and fairy godmothers who can get those impossible reservations that fulfill all your wishes! Here are some more tips I wish I knew on my early trips!
#5: Don’t let your kids fly off to Neverland: Be sure to have the “what to do if you can’t find mommy and daddy” chat. Nobody wants to think about this, butbe sure to have a plan if your child is distracted and loses you for a bit. It happens to the best parents. Disney has amazing protocols in place for this, but YOU should also make sure your kids know what to do and say. TIP: Write your name and cell phone number in Sharpie and cover with clear nail polish on the inside of their magic band. There are also Etsy shops that sell safety ID stickers. Getting lost can be a bit terrifying and your child may not remember the carefully practiced and memorized phone number.
#4: Better than a magic wand to make the perfect attire appear: Don’t forget to coordinate and pack those cute matching Disney shirts — and pack smart! A packing tip I swear by, is inserting one outfit a day for each kid in a large zip-lock bag — Underwear, shirt, shorts —label and squeeze out the air. I also have extra zip locks with spare outfits in case of accidents, ice cream spills, and more. This trick also helps you keep clean and used clothing separate.
#3: Just whistle while you work and use My Disney Experience: Get familiar with My Disney Experience before you leave for your vacay. Download the app and learn how to navigate the various tools and resources. My Disney Experience enables you to manage your dining reservations, change around FastPasses, check wait times for attractions and shows, and gives you the ability to download your Memory Maker pictures right to your phone. Ask your travel agent to help you with this before you go!
#2: Don’t get lost heading to the ball: Have a dining reservation in a park, or at another resort? This is where you need to do planning. Dining reservations are made 180 days out — especially to secure those coveted ones such as, Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Round Table. You should also know how to get to your dining reservations. You cannot take transportation from resort to resort — Know what to do to get there, so you don’t miss that sought-after reservation. Rule of thumb is to schedule in at least two hours travel time — especially during peak weeks like Spring Break or Christmas.
#1: The sky’s awake, so I’m awake: Hit the parks early and enjoy the pool in the afternoon or better yet, plan a pool day. Parks are most crowded during the hottest part of the day — and that’s when toddlers are exhausted and parents go into full melt down mode. If you’re staying on site at a Disney Resort, be sure to check for Extra Magic Hours for each respective park — Remember it’s your R&R too and so it’s important to have fun, relax, and take a break. Disney really is brilliant at accommodating the needs of adults, such as a Baby Care centers, spas, and drinks at the pool — Adult time is non-negotiable. Take advantage of Disney babysitting services… cause you know they have the perfect nannies! Work this into your trip — and follow through. You can always head back to the parks for fireworks.
BONUS TIP: Even Jack Sparrow needed a map: As a Disney planner, I tend to plan my client’s vacation better than my own. Because we have been to Disney multiple times, we have learned to acclimate to high crowd times. Every time I’m there, I look around and see anxious parents diligently reading itineraries and micro-managing their day. “We have to get to the next FastPass NOW!” Those are not the Disney vacation memories you want to bring home. Cast members are everywhere and are more than willing to help. The most important message is Hakuna Matata…You MUST enjoy the time as much as your children!
Check out my website:My3peasinapod.com for more Disney tips and articles, as well as other articles and content on parenting and life.
Here are links to some of my favorite shops to order those adorable matching Disney shirts!
This is Part I of the article that I wrote for The Toms River Macaroni Kid!
Know Before You Go – Tips and Tricks from a Disney Mom
Flying off to Disney for Spring Break 2018? Thinking about a fabulous vacay in Florida during the November break? As a Disney fanatic and vacation planner, I have been traveling to Disney World — nearly every time of the year. And as a mom to three princesses, I have polished my own Disney experiences into some magic tips to make ours the best trips EVER!
Here, in no particular order, are a few ideas to get you started!
#10: Ditch the glass slippers: I am the queen of cute shoes. I own more shoes than I am willing to reveal, but in Disney, it’s all about comfort. You will walk…A LOT…Wear shoes that you know you will be comfortable in for a long day — Nothing ruins the magic like aching feet and blisters. #9: To infinity and beyond: Disney provides complimentary FastPasses and allows three FastPasses per day. You can secure them 60 days before your trip. After you scan your magic band for the third FastPass of the day, you can log into My Disney Experience and snag a fourth. Then there’s rider switch. This is the best! Missing the height
requirement? Use rider switch. With rider switch, one adult can wait with the non-rider, while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, switch! This is better than pixie dust!
#8: You want thingamabobs, I got 20: Purchase a portable phone charger —when I am in Disney, I am constantly logging into My Disney Experience. The battery gets drained — and fast. Between checking FastPasses, checking memory maker, and snapping my own pictures and videos, having a portable phone charger is essentialfor those long park days. Disney also has stores where you can purchase “fuel rods”, that are good for one full phone charge. Once that pack is drained, you can switch out for a new one, free of charge. There are also charging stations, but who wants to be tethered to a charger and miss out on all the fun??? #7: There’s a whole new world of Disney merchandise: If you’re like me, you might say yes to every adorable Disney item. Then of course, you probably won’t want to carry your items around the parks, even more so, you don’t want to lose it or forget it somewhere. Trust me when I tell you that Disney thinks of everything, and so there is the fabulous feature that they will deliver your purchase to your hotel. #6: Every princess needs a coach & every pirate needs a ship: Even if your kids are older, if you have to ask, “Should I bring a stroller?” The answer is YES! (unless, they are like 10 – no stroller…) Bring a stroller or rent a stroller. I’ve used Kingdom Stroller my last few trips and they are fabulous. Take advantage of the convenience. Most days you can walk up to 10-12 miles (in those comfortable shoes, see tip #1), so let your kids sit in a stroller, even if they are a bit older. It will make the experience much easier.
Here are links to some of my favorite shops to order those adorable matching Disney shirts!