2018 in Retrospect

This has been another crazy year. It never sounds like it until you sit down to post about it, but wow.

In typical fashion of a combined family as large as Tony and I’s, we had a wedding. We were invited to two, but were only able to attend one, my cousin’s. Don’t we look spiffy?

In what is becoming a sad tradition, we attended a funeral as well. It seems for every wedding we attend there is a funeral to pair with it. An amazing woman, who has been deeply involved in Tony and I’s lives since we were teens passed away unexpectedly over the summer and it is still hard to process that grief.

At the beginning of the year, we built our beautiful new kitchen, still not complete, even though we’ve been using it since March.

It has been just over a year since my brother, Josh, moved in with us and he has been an amazing addition to our home. Tony and I have been able to enjoy more nights out together, the kids have enjoyed him immensely, so there is really no downside to having him here as he attends school.

Half way through the year I adopted a habit tracker system to help keep me organized, which worked brilliantly until November rolled around. I’ve been taking the dog for more routine walks, which has been good for both of us. Getting out in to the air, spending quiet time with the silly Zuko, has been great for me personally.

I completed my first reading challenge on Goodreads, 120 books this year, with no rereading. I have found so many amazing series, Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, some embarrassingly delightful smut novels, etc. I’m looking forward to next year where I can continue my “no rereading” policy.

I was able to attend a Halloween book signing at Turn the Page bookstore, Nora Roberts, obviously, and the amazing Karen Marie Moning, another author I discovered this year. One more signing off that particular bucket list!

The family and I took a fall trip to New Jersey to visit Tony’s grandmother and had an amazing time. The boardwalk, the ocean, and time with family are always a fabulous addition to the year.

This year promises to be just as amazing. Italy coming this summer. Meet and greets with more authors I’ve fallen for. Putting the finishing touches on the kitchen, and who knows what else!

I hope your year was meaningful. Just remember that a year doesn’t have to be about checking off boxes on your bucket list, or visiting exotic locales. It can be about time spent with family, achieving a personal goal, or even something as small as how many books you read. Perhaps you survived another year at a job putting you through college. Whatever it is, celebrate the year that has past, and embrace whatever is coming. It’s going to be good, I know it!

Gabriel Michael


I’m sure many of you have seen the posts on Facebook about October being pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to write about this, as it is very personal to me and can make some people uncomfortable.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child? There is nothing you can say to help, so all you are left with is “I’m sorry”. That doesn’t help, but it’s all you can say.

I got pregnant in December of 2008. I knew right away, as I had always been hyper aware of my body, I knew almost right after Arthur was conceived and had to wait two weeks to take the test. I waited until I was actually late to discover I was pregnant this time too.

I had used a midwife with Arthur, one attached to an actual doctor, and I loved the relaxed way of dealing with my pregnancy, but having the comfort of knowing a doctor was on standby for any problems. It was such an amazing pregnancy and birthing experience that I found a doctor in Ohio with the same ideals.

Everything seemed to be bopping right along, I was growing the way I should be, the heartbeat was strong when they did the checks, so we had no worries.


It’s hard to tell in this picture, but I was just over three months pregnant. Arthur and I flew out to CA, with my doctor’s ok, for my brother’s boot camp graduation. That’s why I’m wearing the Marine hat!

April rolled around and it was time for my ultrasound to get approximate size and weight and maybe discover the sex of the baby. Tony and I went in, ready to know if we were having another boy or getting our little princess.

The ultrasound tech had barely started when he called in a doctor. The doctor took a quick look and said he wanted to refer us to a specialist. We didn’t think too much of this. While pregnant with Arthur I was referred to a specialist too. That had been because he was so cramped in there that one of his tube was a little more kinked than it should’ve been. He came out perfect, so no worries, right?

It seemed a little odd that they wanted us to go directly to the specialist, but still not a big deal in our minds. We made the drive to the specialist, a little miffed that we didn’t know what we were having, but not worried.

This doctor was a very straight shooter, which I can appreciate, even though he ripped my world apart. Their tech did a check, didn’t say anything and then we were put in the doctor’s office.

Our child, sex undetermined, was not going to live. The first words he actually said were, “This baby has a serious problem and will not make it.” What do you say to that? He went on to explain that there had been a blockage in the baby’s ureter, the tube that goes from the kidney to the urethra and it had burst, leaving waste inside the babies body and polluting the amniotic fluid as well. There was nothing we could’ve done to prevent it, again no comfort in that, and we should induce and deliver right away.

Leaving the hospital that day, after agreeing to set a date very soon, Tony broke down in the parking garage, devastated. He was fixated on the fact that even though we were losing the baby, we didn’t know what it was.

We made the calls to our parents, also determining the date of April 8, so that my mom could come and stay with us. It also allowed us a weekend to go and see Tony’s parents for more emotional support before we had to do this.

Before making the quick trip to NY to see Tony’s parents, I had to go back into the doctor’s office to sign paperwork. This was it’s own tragedy. Inducing labor at 20 weeks, constitutes abortion. I had to sit through all of this paperwork, they had to show me by law, and sign that, yes, I understood that this could kill my child, yes, I had been informed of the option of placing the child up for adoption. It was killing me. I was also given the horrifying decision of going through normal labor and delivery, giving me a baby to at least see and hold, or abortion procedures, meaning my baby would most likely be in pieces. I chose labor and delivery.

While in NY, I didn’t even want to be around anyone. My brother-in-law’s bride-to-be was having her wedding shower and I couldn’t stand to go. I laid around the house, cuddling my almost two year old.

When we got home, it all went so fast. My mom arrived and suddenly it was April 8th. We left Arthur with our sitter, made the drive to the hospital and began the medicine necessary to induce labor. They came in at one point, while mom had gone to check on Arthur, to check the baby’s location through the heartbeat and drain some excess amniotic fluid to speed up the process. The baby’s heart had stopped. That was when I had to stop hoping for a miracle.

The hits just kept coming as they probed my stomach with a giant needle. If you’ve had an amniocentesis, you know what I’m talking about. The drained a large amount of fluid.

My mom returned to me in tears. My baby was actually dead inside me. Not dying, but already dead.

The delivery went quickly after that. My child was born and taken from the room so they could get him cleaned up for me. They brought him back in a little basket.

They were able to tell me it was a boy, my little Gabriel Michael. He was 10 1/2″ long, 1lb 5oz. Half the length and a tenth of the size of Arthur at birth. I could hold him in one hand. They warned me before hand that he was discolored. When he died, his oxygen levels depleted, changing his color.

This image may be disturbing, but this is my son, the only way I’ve seen him, so please be kind:


Here was this tiny little boy that I would never get to raise. I would never breastfeed him as I did Arthur. He would never grow up and replace this one image I will always have of him.

The staff at Akron General was amazing. They gave me a memory book, containing his stats at birth and his footprints.


This and a few other things are in my Gabriel Box. There are hospital bracelets that he never wore, a blanket that he was never wrapped in and a hat that never sat on his head.

I had the option to stay overnight in the hospital, but all I wanted to do was get out of there. I wanted to go home to my living child and hold him tight. I wanted to grieve in private. Before leaving the hospital there was more paperwork to sign, allowing the funeral home to take Gabriel’s body for cremation.

After a night at home, we went to Things Remembered to find a container for his ashes. I found a beautiful container, intended for first communion.


Inside this tiny container are the remains of my son. It is engraved with his name and the day he was delivered.

The grief is hard enough to deal with. Unless you have lost a child, either a stillborn child you have held in your arms or a living child who has been lost, please do not tell anyone experiencing this that you understand. I’ve had a miscarriage, before Gabriel, and that is a sad and terrible thing. I would never take away from someone’s grief over a loss. A miscarriage is still a loss of a child, but to me it was the loss of the idea of a child. Tragic, yet undefined, is how it felt to me.

Losing Gabriel, knowing his heart stopped before he came into this world felt like a failure on my part. It didn’t matter what the doctors said, what my friends said or even other parents who had dealt with this said; this was my failure. My job as his mother was to let him grow, safe and warm inside me. My son never developed beyond 20 weeks. What had I done wrong?

There is no answer. It has been 6 1/2 years since I held Gabriel in my arms and I can tell you there are no answers. If you’re going through this, wondering when the grief will stop, it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s supposed to stop. Don’t worry, it doesn’t destroy your life.

I don’t think about him every day, not even every month anymore, but every once in a while, I will see something and he’ll pop into my head. It could be someone with 2 boys the right age, or it could even be meeting someone named Gabriel. Anything can trigger it and I don’t know what will bring it on.

You reach a point where you don’t want to talk about the loss. People don’t want to hear it, not out of meanness, but because they don’t know what to say. You learn to bring out those memories and grief in private. I’ve recently added to my back tattoo, the one with my children’s names, it now includes Gabriel.


The Celtic owl is the Guardian of souls, so that is why I chose that image, but it felt empowering to put his name on my body. He is my son, not was, but is my son. Whether he is here with me now or already gone from this world, he will always be my son.

If you have lost a child, I can sympathize with you. Do not let anyone tell you how to grieve. Do not let anyone even imply that you should be moving past your grief. If they have not experienced the loss first hand, and are offering anything other than sympathy or condolences, ignore them.

For all the parents dealing with loss, my condolences. You are not alone in your loss.

Fili and Kili


How many of you have seen The Hobbit trilogy? It’s amazing! If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend it! The world that J.R.R. Tolkien created is vast, rich in both detail and history, making all of us long for a chance to visit Middle Earth. Preferably after Sauron has been defeated anyway!

One of the most amazing things about this works, at least from my perspective, is the characters and the relationships they form with each other. While there are love interests, Aragorn and Arwen, Kili and Tauriel, most of the relationships in these stories are those of family and friendship. In particular, I’d like to talk about Fili and Kili.

These are two brother dwarves, they are part of Thorin Oakenshield’s company, on a quest to reclaim their home of Erebor. They are descendants of the house of Durin, Thorin’s nephews.


When we first meet these brothers, it is at the home of Bilbo Baggins, during Gandalf’s arranged party. I love this picture because it shows Fili, completely confident, ready to do what comes next. Kili on the other hand looks almost nervous, which we quickly learn is not his default. He’s usually self assured and ready with a joke.

Kili was a personal favorite of mine, partially because of his love of Tauriel, but mostly because of his upbeat attitude. Even when locked in an elvish prison, he’s making jokes and flirting. Fili is a little less in the forefront of the movies, but he is a steady presence, always there for the others in the company and especially his brother.


When the company arrives in Laketown, Kili is deathly ill after being hit with a poisoned arrow. Even though they are so near their destination, the home of their ancestors, Erebor, Fili refuses to leave his brother.


Then here we have one of there last moments together.


On Ravenhill, where Thorin has brought his best fighters, including the brothers, to hopefully kill their enemy, they’re still a team. They are ready to face whatever danger there may be together. I was devastated when Fili was killed, his body tossed to the ground like it was nothing. Seeing his brother dead, Kili leaps into a fight he can’t hope to win alone.
Luckily he is not alone, Thorin and Dwalin joining the fray, along with Tauriel and Legolas. Of course Mr. Tolkien and Mr. Jackson give us enough hope, so much that we think he may survive, only to have us see him die, right before Tauriel’s eyes.
The only solace I can take from this if that he would not want to live on in a world without his brother. Even with Tauriel’s love, he would have mourned the rest of his life.


So many books or movies today focus strongly on love stories, there are of course exceptions (Harry Potter), but being so rare, it makes these tales so much more endearing. Out lives, after all, are not strictly about romantic love. Or lives are the sum of all the love we have, from that we feel for our parents, love of siblings and friends. Romantic love should be important, but not all. Fili and Kili are the perfect example of how love can be all consuming without being romantic. Would you be willing to die for your brother (or sister)?

A Year in Review

Well, 2015, what will you bring? Tony keeps saying he’s ready for the new year, last year not being the best. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to seeing what the new year holds for us.

Last year was a great one for me professionally. I was promoted to assistant manager, I’ve had the opportunity to work with, and learn from, a fantastic team.


I get to dress a little more professional too!

The kids have been amazing, as always! Arthur is starting to speak so much more clearly. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but he suffers from a speech impediment, something most men in my family have as children. He’s become quite the chatterbox, which I’ve really been enjoying.


He’s such a big boy!

Chiara is really coming into her own, asserting herself, sometimes more than I’d like, but really showing us who she is!


Quite the little diva!

Tony and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary. I’m even more in love with him than I was the day we said “I do”.


My honey and I on the Skywheel in Myrtle Beach.

I was also lucky enough to see a dear friend of mine from high school say “I do” with a man who I have come to love as much as I do her.
Kevin and Mia saying “I do” on Surfside Beach, SC.

We did say goodbye to my grandmother this year, but I am able to accept that she’s at peace, and in a much better place now.


Grandma, many years ago.

We celebrated another family wedding, always full of fun for everyone.


The new Mr. and Mrs.

So all in all, I think 2014 was a fantastic year! If 2015 is half as great, I will be quite pleased!

Why the Hate?


Ever since Twilight was released, the movies at least, there have been haters. Anything that rockets to the top that fast will of course be subjected to criticism.

The first thing that annoys me about this fact, is that you should never put down what someone is reading. There are so many people in this world who can’t read, and even more yet who don’t want to read. If someone chooses to read, no matter what it is, it should never be put down. I don’t care if it’s Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey or War and Peace, if you want to read it, read it!

The second thing that upsets me about the Twilight bashing, is the fact that everyone is so quick to compare it to other books. Yes, the Harry Potter series is amazing. I’ve read them all and love them all! Why are people so quick to compare the two? The plots are different, the character base is different the intended audience was different. Yes, they both launched to the top of bestseller lists, yes they both become popular outside of their intended audience, but that’s about all they have in common. There are a lot of people that love both series, leave these people (including me) alone. I would never say that one is better than the other. Does Harry Potter have a deeper message? Yes. You know what though? Sometimes I just want a simple read where I can have some feel-good moments and that’s all. Reading for the sake of reading is sometimes enough!

The third and final bothersome thing about the Twilight haters is the assumption that Bella and Edward are everyone’s favorite characters. Are they the main characters? Of course they are. No one has a problem accepting that Harry, Ron and Hermione aren’t necessarily your favorite characters. If you’ve actually seen the movies or read the books, you can understand that there are other amazing characters to look up to. Is Bella a great role model? I don’t think so. I would never get that depressed over a guy, even my husband, who I love second only to my children!
As you may have realized from the photo I attached, I’m a huge Jasper and Alice fan. Both of these characters have traits to be admired. Alice was alone when she woke to her new life. Instead of falling into despair or going crazy with her new vampire life, she picks herself up and moves on, knowing something better is coming. Yes, she had inside information, but that could also have led to the crazies….. Jasper started out as a traditional vampire, killing humans and even other vampires. He chose to change himself, try and be better. He was doing ok, but when he met Alice, he understood that he needed her help. Sometimes in life we need to realize that accepting help doesn’t make us weaker.

The next time you or someone you know starts bashing Twilight, or any book really, ask them to stop and think. Do they even understand the story? Have they read the book? Are they basing their opinions on what reviews or society in general has said about it? Don’t be the one that says something hurtful and makes someone question their choices about reading materials. Especially if you’re not an avid reader yourself.
If you’ve actually read the book and didn’t care for it, make it a debate instead of a put down. Try to be mature about it…….
All I’m saying really is that what appeals to you, may not appeal to others or vice versa. You’re not always right and despite what I say, I’m not either. Let people read what they choose.
Read on people, read on!

My Fatal Flaw

So tonight isn’t about Pinterest. It’s not about an awesome recipe I want to share, or some awesome craft I did with the kids. It’s not even about someplace cool I was able to fill out. Tonight is about a realization I had about myself.


I have a fantastic life. I have a husband that tells me I’m beautiful, and shows me how much he loves me every day. I have two amazing kids that irritate and amaze me all the time. I couldn’t ask for more.


Yet more I have! I have wonderful parents, who are loving and willing to help out however they can. They love spending time with and spoiling their grandkids and we manage to see each other a few times a year, despite the distance.


My blessings continue with the best in – laws a girl could have. They are also supportive and loving people who stay an active part in our lives despite a great distance. Most people complain about in – laws, but in almost eight years of marriage, I’ve had no problems!
Amazing life, right?
Self awareness kicked in slowly over the last few days. I’ve been devouring the Percy Jackson series (blog to follow), and one of the problems these young heros are faced with is the fatal flaw that all heros have. It can be anything from the obvious (such as pride) to the unexpected (devotion, which can be bad if it goes too far beyond rational).
I was playing through plot lines in my head, like I do sometimes, and it hit me, like a bolt of lightning, what my fatal flaw is.


I deal with life situations, or hear people venting about things, usually annoyances, and I feel superior. I do my best to be supportive and give valid advice, it’s almost always appreciated, so I can feel good about the advice I give. This leads to a certain amount of superiority. I mean, I’m the one that gives all this amazing advice, that helps people with their lives.
The part I am really not ok with, is the part of me that thinks silently

This would never happen to me

The one side of my brain registers this as something that’s ok because it means I appreciate what I have. The other half is saying, this will lead to the dark side.
I hate feeling this way, and that means I have to make a change.
Starting today, I will be eliminating some things from my life that lead to these feelings of superiority. Certain things have been consistently causing me to embrace my fatal flaw.
I’ll try to avoid backsliding, focusing on things that give me good feelings and general contentment.
After all, good heroes must beware their fatal flaw. It always leads to their downfall.



This photo was taken last Christmas Eve, but it’s one of my favorite family photos. It felt like we were the only ones in the world that day. All the snow was fresh and clean, the air was chilly, but not too cold to be out and everyone was in a happy mood. I was able to use one of the posts to set up the camera with the timer, so yeah me!
When you work retail, it’s so easy to let the consumerism that takes over the holidays ruin it for you. It seems like every year, they start playing the music a little sooner, the Black Friday sales start a little earlier and it becomes more and more about, buy, buy, buy. If there is one thing I hope to teach my kids, it’s that the holidays are about family.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids get some fun things from Christmas! After all, they have grandparents! LOL. They get so excited about their new toys, like all kids do, but they are so excited when we are spending time with each other, and actually focused on each other.
I do try not to judge how other people raise their kids, and when I can’t help it, I vent to Tony in the privacy of our home, but so many people are worried about showing their kids how much they love them with things, or society is teaching our kids that they HAVE to have this or that to be cool. I’m so afraid that my kids will ever develop that attitude.
Thankfully, Tony and I both come from families with similar feelings toward the concept of family. You spend time together, you do things together, you experience things together. Even the day in the photo, it was chilly and obviously there was snow, but we had so much fun walking around, watching the ducks and playing on the frigid playground equipment. I think part of the reason I’m such a photo nut is because they capture memories. Once a moment has passed, it’s gone, except for the memory. I hope one day the kids will look back on these photos of their childhood and remember that we spent time together as a family. They may not have had the most stylish clothes or the newest game system, but they will always know how much we love them.
I am just so thankful all the time, but especially around the holidays, for my family, the one Tony and I have together and the ones we came from that allowed us to forge such a strong one of our own. Our friends who help enrich the lives of our children and us by sharing these experiences with us. Take some time this holiday season to step away from the commercialism and appreciate what you already have. Enjoy the moments before they pass you by. Snap mental pictures, or real ones, to savor the memories long after the day has passed.
I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the food and companionship and if you must shop during the insanity, or work as I do, please be safe, but don’t forget the real reason of Thanksgiving. It’s not the sales, it’s a time to slow down and appreciate what you already have.

Tu Me Manques


I took five years of French in school. I’m primarily French and German descent, and let’s be honest, German is such a harsh sounding language. I took a year of that too, but French just rolls off the tongue and sounds beautiful. Ten years after high school, the conversational stuff has stuck with me, but I have a few sweet and romantic phrases I’ve learned for random occasions.
Normally, ‘I miss you’ doesn’t sound super sweet. Depending who is saying it, it can be annoying. I’ve always found translating phrases from English to another language, then back again, mildly amusing. Seriously, go to Google translate, and type in key phrases from the national anthem and see what happens.
However, if you translate ‘I miss you’ to French, you get ‘tu me manques’. When it translates back, you get ‘you are missing from me’.
I know that that invokes all kinds of romantic ideas. True love, forever love. How sweet!
Whenever I think of this phrase though, I think of my baby brother. My baby brother, Joshua, is about to be 27. He’s a Marine and an all around great guy. He’s a typical guy, in that he doesn’t talk on the phone much, and these days I’m lucky to get a weekly email!
When I first moved out, I was living with or near people who were all but family, so I missed him, but not as actively. Since he joined the Marines, he’s been away to boot camp, completed a tour in Japan and is about to come home from Afghanistan. These days I can’t help but think about my little brother.
Growing up, we fought, not constantly, but pretty consistently. We were also each other’s best friend. Being an army brat, you learn to make friends quickly, but no one is a more constant friend than a sibling.
He’s been my friend from Kentucky, where we were born, to Ohio, the last time we lived under the same roof. He’s still my friend, but the distance sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit down and think, gee, I really miss Josh, but every once in a while, it’ll hit me.
That’s why the phrase resonates with me. I do miss him, but once in a while, it feels like he is missing from me.
Original pin on this one takes you to a weird site, but feel free to check out the lovely and original pin on my board INTERESTING, just look me up under Stephanie DeSantis

Growing Babies


Yes, these are piles of folded laundry. More specifically my kids’ laundry. Tony washes clothes, but I don’t like him folding them because I have my system. We all have our OCD moments. I’ve been a complete bum the last few days so it built up a little bit.
So tonight, as I was folding laundry, it occurs to me that my kids are growing up. Every once in a while, as a parent you have the moments of ‘OMG, when did they grow up?’ I had one of those today.
Arthur has been in preschool since he was three, so kindergarten was just the next step. Exciting and new, but not really sad.
Chiara has her first day of preschool tomorrow, so I’m not really sure how I feel. I’m happy that she’ll have some socialization time with other kids, but a little sad that she won’t need me as much. Everyone will always need their mom, I know I do, but the distance gets a little bigger with every one of these steps.
While folding the clothes, I’m mentally planning to go through their drawers to pull the small clothes out. I’m remembering when we picked up a particular shirt or outfit, thinking about how big it was when we first picked it up, and now, before I know it, it’s getting too small.
Just feeling a little mopey tonight. A little pathetic I know, but I am still so proud. Just realizing, that while they will always be my babies, they can’t stay my little babies forever. That’s both comforting and sad. Why can’t mom feelings be simple, at least once in a while?!

Love Clears the Vision


I’ve posted about Nora Roberts / JDRobb before. She’s a brilliant author and one of the few that I can read over and over again. I may borrow her books from the library, but I pick them up to own more often than not. My goal is to own them all, and there over 200 novels written under Nora Roberts and that doesn’t touch on her JDRobb series!
I can usually pick up on similarities between books, but each story manages to be fresh and unique. Her characters may have similar traits to those already written about, but everyone has a uniqueness about them.
I think the most amazing thing about her writing, is her understanding of life and love. I’ve been reading romance since I was 13 years old and, I’m not going to lie, I started with Johanna Lindsey style writing. Big, burly heros. Plucky females, in need of a man to save her. I enjoyed them, but Nora is great for writing strong and confident female leads.
The women she writes about are both delicate and shy or strong and confident. In Chasing Fire, her heroine, Rowan Tripp, was a smoke jumper. You know, those brave firefighters who jump out of airplanes to fight wildfires? Can’t exactly be delicate to do that! Then she also writes characters like Tia Marsh, in Three Fates, who is a hypochondriac, nerdy to the extreme and insanely delicate.
Reading her books now, as a married woman, mother of two kids, some of the things she writes hit a little closer to home. As a teenager, the phrase ‘love is blind’ seems romantic. From where I’m looking now, it’s a little childish. I love the way she phrased it in Memory in Death. The shot above is near the end of the book and I think sums it up perfectly!

“Love clears the vision. You see better, sharper, because you feel more than you did before.”

I can’t even imagine having those insightful thougts just come to me. Once you read something like that, it never leaves you, kind of like, real love.
A little more philosophical than I usually get, but I finished reading that book tonight and it was winging around in my head. Where better to express myself than right here?