Life

Happy Birthday….in Heaven

My step-son would be 11 today.

Instead of planning a big party with cake and ice cream (and probably a hockey game) we have to visit him in a cemetery.

I never met Riley.

In fact, my husband hardly did either. Riley was “born sleeping” as they say, meaning he was stillborn.

My husband has been through so much, but I worry losing his first son was probably among the worst of it. It is probably worse than a father he never knew, or losing his mom when he was 12. It is probably worse than any loss in Iraq on deployment.

He was deployed to Iraq when he got the Red Cross phone call his son would not make it to be born alive. At seven months pregnant, his first wife had lost the baby.

I won’t get into a blame game, especially since I only get one half of the story (I’ve never met either of the ex-wives, which I’m totally cool with) and because we know where Riley is. He’s in heaven. I imagine (for some reason) he takes lots of walks with my great-grandfather, who never met either of our children. I don’t know why I imagine this…I just do.

They flew my husband back for Riley to be born sleeping. He buried him. He returned to Iraq. Less than three weeks after Riley, my Bill was in a convoy where he lost two guys and almost lost a third after hitting an IED. We are lucky he’s alive…we are lucky all those who survived are alive, my husband included.

I know my husband was mad at God for a long time over losing his son. There’s no rhyme or reason we as humans can understand when it comes to loss, especially one like that.

I just know he’s okay now, and one day my husband will not hurt, but he will see him again.

For now, even though we struggle, he is the absolute best father to our two children (who are too young to understand having an older brother in heaven). He does spoil them, but I let it go, knowing he’s making up for lost time with Riley.

Today we will go to the store, Bill will ask me what I think an 11 year old wants, and we will go leave it next to his headstone.

I know I struggle with it….I cry every time I’m there.

Sometimes I go alone.

Usually I have to give Bill a reason to go there, such as putting up decorations, etc.

I know Riley isn’t there….I know he’s in heaven. I also know there is nothing I can do to make my husband feel better about the loss of a child.

Usually he sits in the truck (my husband) and just stares at the grave. He makes a comment like “no one should bury their child,” or “all these poor families.” (Riley is in a special section of the cemetery for babies.)

It’s painful to look. You see all the graves of parents who are there every week with custom toys and decorations for their lost child, their names embroidered on teddy bears and flags. You also see the untouched graves of the children whose parents can’t bring themselves to go there, or in some cases, even order the headstone, so a marker sits there years later.

So for today, all I can do is pray. It’s hard to lean on God for comfort. I think it’s because we want answers and healing and as humans we want it right away.

Think of my husband today…….

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Advertisements
Life

Getting My (Cake) Groove Back

Last year was a crazy year. So much happened during those 365 days, yet one of the biggest things to happen was closing my little bakery. We did not have a store front, ( we baked out of a commissary kitchen) which made things easier to close down, but emotionally it was still hard. At the time, the decision was the right one. I was exhausted from being pregnant with Liam, had a hard time finding good help, and I still wasn’t taking a paycheck. I sometimes would work 36 or more hours straight. I was going in a million directions with events, restaurant orders, personal orders, etc. It was draining. After almost 5 years of pouring myself into this, I crashed and I crashed hard. I wanted it closed and to move to Illinois to be near Bill’s family, and I didn’t want to look back.

Even though our doors were technically closed, I continued making smash cakes for my photographer friend. Over the past few weeks we have had a LOT of cakes and it made me realize how much I love to bake.

IIWith the smash cakes, I’m usually given colors and a theme and can be free and creative. I love doing it and it made me realize I’m ready to get back to baking after the break I’ve had.

How talented is Selena? These pictures are amazing. You can check her work out at http://www.selenastoneyphotography.com/. It’s pretty amazing. She did both newborn sessions for our kids. I’ll share those in another post.

When I look at the work Selena does, I just want my cakes to measure up. I also admire how hard she works to make her business a success. Basically, I’m really lucky to have a BFF I also look up to as a mom and businesswoman. (Selena is my “IDK WTF I’m doing as a parent and need help,” go to person……like when Talia stuck a popcorn kernel up her nose!)

Back to cake….

Of course for Talia’s cake smash, we went all out on the cake theme.

No, the cakes in the background are not real. They are dummy cakes. I use Styrofoam to decorate! Only the smash cake is real.

So as the life plan keeps evolving, I’ve decided to go back to baking. (I’m still going to write as well…)

When we get to Illinois, I can legally bake out of my house. I’m only going to make cakes, and I’m only selling directly to customers. I’m not going to work with restaurants or try and do events. The money, time, and energy needed for those things drive me to shut it all down before. I needed this time to step back and reevaluate what worked in my business and what didn’t. I think I can make it work again this time, and do it from the comfort of my own (new) home. I also think just doing cakes instead of over 75 pies, 50 flavors of cake, 40 cookie flavors, etc, etc, will help my success.

I’m really excited for this new beginning with cakes again. Follow me on Instagram @TinaRussoKinney to see more cake. I would also really love it if you liked my FB page!

Life

The Love of a (Great) Grandmother

I love my grandmother like you wouldn’t believe! She’s a strong, hard working, caring person, and I just love her to death. I apparently was a complete shit-head to her growing up because she thought a box of musical “equipment” as we shall call it, for my children, was necessary.

Let’s back up.

Over Christmas break we stayed at my dad’s house for a few days. He has a player piano, the type you put the music in and it plays itself. My father probably knows three songs he can actually play, but the music coming out of the piano is impressive because it plays off the player music you put in.

Talia thinks this is cool as all hell. My dad likes to put her up on the piano bench with him and pretend to play. At 2 am on Christmas Eve, when Talia could not sleep for whatever reason, she decided to start playing the piano at my dad’s. My mother (who is divorced from my father) and grandmother think this is hysterical. Meanwhile, my father and his girlfriend think giving Talia a drum for Christmas is also cool….

1224162033e.jpg

I’m not really sure what I did to deserve this  but I must have been a miserable teenager and didn’t know it because that drum was filled with other musical instruments as well.

Anyway, last week my grandmother is out with my mother and she sees a keyboard. Apparently she thought Talia needed said keyboard, based on her 2 am escapade at my dad’s house.

0118171641.jpg

Talia LOVES this thing (apparently Tremor thinks it’s cool, too, as you see in the picture.)

Now look at this picture of my grandmother with Talia and Liam. See how innocent this little, old, Italian grandma looks? Don’t be fooled my friends….

1226161709d.jpg

Not to leave anyone out, my grandmother got something for Liam as well. Here’s where life fell apart last night.

Having to work in the morning (yes, I’ve gone back to work, but that is a whole other post), I was less than happy when Liam decided to wake up in the middle of the night and Bill just would not wake up. I climb over Bill and spend a great deal of time trying to get Liam back to sleep. The toy my grandmother bought him is in the crib with him, so I turn it on. It lights up on the “screen” but it also projects an image onto the ceiling for him to stare at. Liam LOVES this. I set the music mode to jungle sounds, and he drifts off to sleep. Success….or so I think.

I leave the timer on 20 minutes thinking it just shuts off like a normal child’s toy. Oh no my friends…..the toy goes off, and then 20 minutes later it comes back on! The picture is back on my ceiling, and the thing is now playing baby freaking show-tunes. Bill is between us, so after I’m startled awake, I now have to climb over a sleeping Marine to get to my kid…and the toy.

0118171626b.jpg

I don’t even have to get the image going the right way for you to see how annoying this is for me.

0117172155.jpg

Here is the image of Liam’s “friends” on the ceiling. You can see how scary they are, right?

There are at least a dozen buttons and switches on this thing and none of them seem to want to shut the whole thing down. Liam is now awake, and we are back to square one….only now Bill is awake and wants to know why the baby is playing Nintendo. I inform him he’s not helping, the baby is not in-fact playing Nintendo, and Bill rolls over so I can be between them. Once I get the thing shut off, Liam doesn’t want to go back to sleep until I get that stupid image of those smug looking cartoons back on the ceiling. ARGH! Dogs are also now awake and wanting to know what is happening, so they all start rotating on and off the bed.

This whole thing carries on for well over an hour. By the time everyone is asleep and happy, my alarm clock goes off. I honestly thought about calling my grandmother at one point, and just giving Liam the phone to scream into. I don’t want her to miss out on all the excitement since she started this whole thing in the first place. (I’m totally kidding, though she has a cell phone now and can’t work it. It would be a wasted call.)

Thankfully there was a counterbalance in the mail today. I was able to sign both kids up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. As if we need another reason to love Dolly, she has a program for children through age 5 to receive an age appropriate book every month, free of charge. When Talia was born, our zip code did not qualify, but just before Liam came, our zip code was included, so I signed them both up! Talia has received a few books, and Liam got his first one today! Talia came running and sat down as soon as I started reading!

0118171659d.jpg

As you can see, he thought this was pretty cool! We’ve read it a few times, and I’m sure we will be reading it a lot more before the next book comes. He also got a lot of great books for Christmas, so he won’t be tired of any one book anytime soon!

I’m off to try and get some sleep to make up for the escapades last night. Right now I have the toy in the crib, with the directions close by! The moral of the story…be nice to your parents and grandparents because payback comes in the form of musical instruments and

Life

Confessions of A Somewhat Okay Mom

I didn’t plan on another post before we left for Illinois, but in the past 24 hours I have had so much happen warranting another blog post, so here we go.

To start, I met a pregnant mother in a store and during casual conversation she confessed she wanted to breastfeed her son (due today) and had difficulty with it with her first. She said she would probably resort to “just pumping” because she feared what people would respond to her feeding in public.

I was heartbroken for her. Breastfeeding can be tough. I had to pump with Talia because of my own anatomy and it was a bitch to do, but I did it for my kid. This mama feels like she will be mom-shamed if she feeds in public!!!

Then today I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post from another Mama. I look up to her. She is an AMAZING woman! Her post revealed she felt like she was “failing at being a working mom.”

This woman actually helped bring Liam into the world. Again, heartbroken. (By the way, she’s NOT failing).

Finally, my father called. He had bad news. This was the one I cried over….. His girlfriend (who we all love) lost her son today to a drug overdose. I can’t imagine the pain she is in, but I promise she is wondering what else she could have done to prevent this…she probably will wonder for the rest of her life, if there was something she could have done.

So aside from the fact I constantly worry about the type of mom I am, I know mama’s need to lift each other up, not bring each other down. For this reason, I am posting a list of some of my more questionable mother moments. I want other mama’s to see this, get a good laugh, and hopefully not call social services on me! We need to remember we are all human, we make mistakes, and it will be okay!

So here it is, in black and white….my confessions as a somewhat okay mama:

  • I once feed Talia mashed potatoes for dinner because I just couldn’t deal with dinner that night. Mashed potatoes….for dinner.
  • I’ve pretended not to see my child lick the glass at a hockey game.
  • One time, I was grocery shopping and had to use the restroom. There was no place to put Talia and I did not want her crawling on the dirty floor. She was young and small….so I put her IN my tote bag and then hung that on the back of the stall door. It worked, and no, I’m not proud.
  • It took about 6 weeks before I realized the green line on the diapers meant Talia needed to be changed. Six weeks.
  • I was so exhausted recently while home with the kids by myself, I seriously considered leaving them with the dogs so I could go to Starbucks. In my defense, Diesel is about to be 18 years old….he should seriously start earning his keep! Also, they were FINALLY asleep and I REALLY needed the caffeine. I obviously did not leave my children home alone….but I REALLY thought about it!
  • Talia climbed up on a toy and it was quite dangerous. I knew I needed to pull her down to safety, but instead of grabbing her, I stopped and took a picture. As I was setting my phone down, she fell and nailed her head on the floor. I don’t know who cried more.
  • I let Talia feed the dogs from her plate when I’m exhausted and know she’s not going to eat it anyway.
  • One brand of gas relief for babies has a black/grey color to it. I used to take the leftover on the feeding syringe and paint a mustache on Talia.
  • Talia is learning to speak but doesn’t quite make whole sentences yet. I was exhausted from the nonsense questions at one point, I called my mother, handed the phone to Talia, and let my mother entertain her.
  • I’ve given my child candy to make her stop crying when daddy had to leave for school….as a meal. It worked.
  • Just this morning I traded Talia her toothbrush (she’s trying to do everything herself now) for a piece of candy. Again, it worked. Yes, I know candy undoes all the brushing.
  • When I need to write and can’t keep Talia’s attention on anything very long, I turn on the TV and use Curious George and The Cat in the Hat as a babysitter.
  • I once asked “for a friend” if I could tape the pacifier to Liam so he stops spitting it out. Apparently it’s a “NO.”
  • I sometimes use a blanket to prop up the bottle so Liam can drink on his own. Again, not all my fault…..Bill started it…
  • Both Bill and I have dipped pacifiers in things like bacon grease (his idea) and buttercream to help the soothing process along.
  • As long as it is used correctly, I usually laugh when my child says “Shit” instead of correcting her. This usually causes her to repeat the offense.
  • I always make sure to have a sippy cup for Talia with me. This way I know she is drinking from something BPA free and clean….then I let Bill give her Mountain Dew or Pepsi. Pick your battles mamas!

There are probably many more moments like this my tired brain is forgetting, but you get the point. Do you have any parenting stories like this or know someone with a good story? Tell us in the comments!

Military Spouse Life

Moving On Up…To Illinois

It’s really happening. We started packing recently and while it seems like I’ve spent enough time to pack an entire house on just packing one room, it’s ALL books and I’m not done with that one room!

This said, I hesitated several times when I was packing books on or by some of my favorite authors to be included in the book I am working on, Literary Crazy. If I find an agent to work with and can move forward on writing the rest of the book, I’ll need those materials. Knowing I have several other projects I can be working on, not to mention school, a newborn, a toddler, and the zoo of animals I live with, I packed all the books.

THEN BOOM!

Twitter hosted a pitching party where you use certain hashtags used by agents to find potential authors to work with. I found out about it last minute and sent my tweet anyway. Two tweets later, I had four interested agents!!!!!!!

I was beyond excited by which agents had requested more material, but now I must sit and wait. When I told Bill, he said I had better dig the books I packed back out because we rented a trailer to take the packed stuff back to Illinois over Thanksgiving! Now I’m not a superstitious person (well except for hockey…..and I’m pretty sure the Cubbies won the World Series because of my rituals…..in fact, I should call Theo Epstein and see where my ring is!) but I’m afraid to dig out the books/materials because if I do, the agents might not get back to me with good news. I know, I know……you’re rolling your eyes, I’m sure.

Instead of working on unpacking and repacking the mass amount of books to find what I need, I’m just working on other projects needing my attention. This consists mostly of article writing and trying to catch sleep when the kids let me!

I’m sure I will wait until the last minute (when Bill is loading the trailer to go to Illinois) to decide to pull out the books….which will be how the fight starts (just kidding).

Meanwhile, if you don’t hear from me, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving! As I mentioned, we are headed to Illinois so little man can meet the family and we can start house hunting! Sadly, I don’t  care much about the house we buy, as long as it has a room for my writing and a space for my soap making. I’ll leave you with some pictures of what I’ve been working on in that department!

Life · Writing & Publishing

Settling In!

While adding a new member to the family always requires an adjustment period, I’m happy to report things are going well with our new family member.

Talia thinks Liam is hers!



We love how much she loves him. She’s not the only one….


This is Addison. Her mom is one of my BFF’s.


Addison’s brother, Ellison….


Their talented mom, Selena. Selena is a newborn photographer and we were so excited to do pictures of Liam.



So far, this is the only one we have back. She’s so busy with sessions, it will be a few weeks before we see them all. This picture is one of my favorite EVER!

Here Selena was editing AND holding Liam while I used her oven.


So why am I using her oven? Well, she had a session requiring a smash cake. Even though we closed the bakery and are moving next May, I still make her smash cakes. The problem? Our oven caught fire last week.

Thankfully no one was hurt, and it didn’t happen while we were evacuated, but there’s nothing like waking up to the smell of something burning INSIDE your house. 

When I woke Bill, he insisted someone was burning toast. Um, there’s no reason we should be smelling someone’s burnt toast in our house. Sure enough, he went into the kitchen and the INSIDE of the oven was bright red. The oven locked itself shut as if it was on a clean cycle, and the only thing Bill could do was unplug the unit.

It took the fine people at GE almost a week to call us back. Our model wasn’t recalled, but they wanted to come look at it anyway. By the time they tried to finally come out, the landlord had replaced the unit. Pretty sure I won’t be buying any GE appliances anytime soon!

As if all this wasn’t enough, Bill and I started the next semester of school and Liam went to his first hockey game.


He basically slept through it all, even when daddy (Bill) was recognized as the Hero of the Game for his service in the USMC.




So proud of him!!!

I feel as though I can really get back to writing and querying over the next few weeks. I’m still tired, but not like I was when I was pregnant with Liam. November is National Novel Writing Month and it’s time for me to put out another novel! I’ll be sure to put together a bit about the idea and share with you over the next few days. Hopefully I can get out 50,000 words again this November, even with a toddler, newborn, school, and everything else!

Life

It’s a Boy!!!

After evacuating for the hurricane, we spent the first few days this week trying to get home, then both Bill and I had exams for school to make up because of the hurricane.

We then ended the week with the birth of this little guy. At 3:31 am, EST, on October 15th, we welcomed Liam Amos into the world! He’s a peanut at just 5.1 pounds and 18.5″! Everything went great and I managed to give birth naturally in water. We were home a few hours later. Big sister thinks he’s her personal snuggle baby and just loves him. She LOVES snuggling him and telling him about hockey!