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Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Tim in front of our rowhome, right before we left for the airport, our van in the foreground

Today is May 2–exactly one year ago today my husband and I woke up from a night spent sleeping on an air mattress in an otherwise empty bedroom. Adelaide too slept on an air mattress in her bedroom, mattresses borrowed from friends who lived around the corner. The girls and I had a flight to catch, but we first had to return the mattresses at our friend’s house and say good-bye. I knew it would be hard, the last good-bye in what seemed like an endless stream of them over the six weeks since I got the job and we decide to leave Philly and relocate to Tallahassee, Florida to be closer to Tim’s family.

Tim took us to the airport and finished cleaning up the house we had called home for nearly six years. The house we returned to when both of our daughters were born. The only home they had ever known. He cleaned, made one final trip to the recycling center/landfill, and somehow managed to fit the rest of our belongings in our minivan before locking the door and heading out on the Philly-to-Tally drive. Our POD left the day before with all our other earthly belongings and would meet us at our final destination once we determined where it was we’d be living.

*    *     *

Here I am one year later sitting on the couch in our new apartment having just returned from a two-mile run (something I couldn’t have done without stopping a year ago), and it all feels surreal. It’s feeling more like this is our home, but it still seems so strange that it’s been an entire year. I don’t love it here. Not yet. (For some reason, on Instagram I can’t bring myself to use the popular hashtags #ihearttally or #iheartFL because it feels inauthentic.) But, the days are getting easier and we’re into a routine, for better or worse.

The good things:

  • My girls like their preschool/daycare. We really lucked out with a great place for Adelaide to spend this year preparing for Kindergarten. It was hard to leave the school she had been at since she was 12 weeks old, but we found a school in Tallahassee where she could continue to grow. Juniper started daycare in January and has adjusted nicely as well.
  • Daycare costs are less here and by living near family, Junie was able to spend weekdays with her grandparents from age four months until right before she turned one in January. It was a blessing to have this cost savings, and (I think) the bonding time between granddaughter and grandparents was mutually beneficial. Papa and Gram, it was fun, right?
  • I like my job. I took a pay cut in moving here and sure, I wish I was paid more. Plus, I don’t know if there’s much room for advancement (at least within my department), but I like my co-workers and what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. That’s more than a lot of people can say.
  • I’ve made some good friends and am continuing to find “my people.” Making new friends as an adult is hard. I joined a knitting group and am slowly getting to know them and meet others through activities and friends of friends. It’s an ongoing process that will take time, but I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in “putting myself out there,” letting people get to know me, and deepening relationships with the few I already knew here. I’m thankful that I have an understanding husband who knows friendship is something I value and has supported me in making this time for myself.

In addition to friends, the things I thought I’d miss most about big city life were the cultural opportunities–the children’s museum, the zoo, art museums, theater. It’s definitely different here, but we’re making the most of what’s available. I am proud to say that just in the month of April Tim and I saw Jason Isbell play at an outdoor amphitheater, I got free tickets to a conversation with James Franco at FSU, we took Adelaide to the FSU Flying High Circus (no animals, just Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics), we went to the beach and to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab (where we are members), and Tim and I saw a production of “Once” the musical at the civic center.

There are many other good things about moving here–the weather (in the winter at least), the gulf coast beaches, the pool at our apartment complex, family support, public schools–I know it was the best decision for our family. It’s the beginning of our second year in Tallahassee, and I’m wondering what this year will bring. What will I be thinking next year as I look back on how far we’ve come?

Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Selfie on the plane to Florida, May 2, 2015

Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Girls enjoying the pool at our apartment last Sunday, May 1, 2016

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When I first started this blog, I named it “Next Life Chapter” because I was starting the new chapter of motherhood. Plus, I liked that the blog could grow with me. There will always be a next chapter.

I started a new chapter in January with the birth of Juniper, our second daughter. However, that chapter will be titled “The fourth trimester,” and it will be superseded by another exciting new chapter that’s about to begin.

Philly LOVE necklace  |  nextlifechapter.com

I gifted myself this special “LOVE” necklace as we prepare to leave the City of Brotherly Love.

Tim and I have been thinking about moving to Tallahassee, Florida for a while now. Tim’s parents are there, and with the arrival of Juniper we’ve dreamed of being closer to family. It’s a huge decision, but we are officially moving! I have accepted a Communications Coordinator position at Florida State University, and Tim is interviewing as well.

We told Adelaide last week, and she seems excited. Since I’ve accepted a new position, things are happening fast! The idea of moving to Florida has always been just that, an idea. It’s all happening much more quickly than I imagined. I’ll be starting my new job on May 8, so we’ll be leaving Philly on May 2. I’ll still be returning from maternity leave next Monday and working for two weeks. My official last day at work is Friday, April 24. Then, we’ll have a final week at home before heading out. (I’m flying down with the girls this time. We drove down when we went to Tallahassee to interview, and I don’t want to make that road trip again anytime soon.)

There’s so much to do and sort and pack. I go back and forth between feeling excited and feeling overwhelmed and sad about leaving. I’m going to miss my Philly friends immensely, and I feel dumb/scared/crazy for quitting a job that’s been good to me for the last seven and a half years. I know part of it is just the fear of the unknown. I’m comfortable in my job here and at a time when I’m trying to navigate the waters of being a new mom of two, starting from scratch somewhere else is a lot to bite off all at once. I’ll miss being so close to NYC (although we don’t take advantage of it as much as I’d like), and I’ll miss all the culture and opportunity that comes with living in a large city. Tallahassee does have a better cost of living, but it’s not THAT much better.

It’s all so bittersweet. I have to remind myself why we’re doing all this, and there are a lot of factors. One being that Adelaide will start Kindergarten next year–what!?!–and the Philly public schools (at least in the neighborhoods we can afford) are struggling. Plus, putting two kids in daycare is ridiculous. Tim’s parents are going to watch June this summer and then there’s the possibility they will continue to watch her two days a week into the fall and winter. It’s also going to be nice to have a free babysitter once in a while when Tim and I just need a date night. I think this will be really good for our marriage as well as our girls growing up near some of their extended family. Hopefully not having to travel to Tallahassee will allow us to visit my side of the family in Illinois more often–or *gasp* dare I say, take a vacation that doesn’t involve visiting family.

Overall, I know it’s a good move for our new family of four to be closer to Tim’s parents (they’re newly retired and ready to help), and the sunshine won’t hurt either.

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She’s here!!

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

I’d like to formally announce the birth of my second daughter, Juniper Love. June was born at 3:01 am on Tuesday, January 13. She was a surprising 9lbs 4oz and 20.5″ long. (Birth story coming soon!)

She looks like Adelaide’s twin as an infant, with the exception of a lighter hair color. Big sister is doing well. Adelaide was a little apprehensive when first meeting her at the hospital, but she’s now full of hugs and kisses. It melts my heart when she calls her “sweetie” or “sweets” (pet names I often use for Adelaide), and “my June.”

We’re completely exhausted in the newborn survival haze, but I’m trying to enjoy the newborn snuggles and squeaks and sighs. June is nursing like a champ, and she not only gained her birth weight back but she’s now up to 9lbs, 8oz–gaining 13oz just this week! (Makes me feel less guilty about those biscuits and gravy I had for brunch today.) Since we’re nursing on demand, I’m constantly at the ready and not spending much time in front of the computer. If it was easier to create blog posts from my iPhone I’d be posting more, but for now I’ll settle for checking email, Instagram and Facebook, even if in the middle of the night.

Tim’s parents have been visiting from Florida for the last week and have been very helpful in entertaining Adelaide and keeping us well fed. I know we’re in for a lot of changes in the upcoming months, but I’m feeling so blessed for our family of four. I know it’s cliche, but I feel as if our family is now complete. It’s incredible how even a full heart can expand when a new love enters your life.

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

Newborn hospital photograph  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

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Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.comChristmas 2007 was my last Christmas as an unmarried person. Tim and I became engaged that summer and although we had already taken turns spending the holidays with each other’s family, we decided that for our last Christmas as single people, we would be apart. Tim flew down from Philly to see his family in Tallahassee, Florida. I flew to central Illinois to spend Christmas with mine.

While visiting home, my mom took me to the C.H. Moore Homestead in Clinton, Illinois. I vaguely remembered touring the historic mansion in my youth, but it had been many years since I had been there and touring historic homes was a mother-daughter activity we had always enjoyed. While visiting the home, I remember our guide describing the Victorian-era tradition Americans had adopted from Germany of having a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. The way I remember him explaining it, the parents moved the ornament after the children had gone to sleep on Christmas Eve. Whichever child found it first on Christmas morning got to open the first present.

Pickle Ornament Christmas Tradition  |  nextlifechapter.com

C.H. Moore Homestead as decorated for Christmas during my 2007 visit.

I came home very excited to introduce a pickle ornament to the holiday traditions of my newly forming family. When the next Christmas rolled around, I looked for  pickle ornament knitting patterns (the only ones I could find looked a little, how should I say this, un-picklelike). However, the girlfriends in my knitting group knew I wanted one, and I received a traditional pickle ornament in our gift exchange that year.

Recently, I tried to research the origins of this tradition and everything I’ve found has be inconclusive. In fact, the tradition may not have started in Germany at all. Also, different accounts say different things about the child who first discovers the pickle ornament on Christmas morning. Some reports say the child is given an additional present, or is just said to have good fortune for the next year.

Fast forward to 2014 and our daughter is now three years old. I think this is the first year she’s old enough to understand the concept of looking for the pickle ornament before opening presents on Christmas morning. Since she’s an only child (at least for a few more weeks), she won’t really be rewarded as the first to open presents–she’ll likely be the first to open presents anyway–but I look forward to introducing the Christmas pickle ornament tradition for years to come. “Hiding” it on the tree is a little something fun for Mom and Dad on Christmas Eve, and I hope our children will enjoy searching for the pickle on Christmas morning just as I imagined the children of the beautiful C.H. Moore Homestead doing so many years ago.

25 blogs of christmas button 2Looking for more Christmas ideas? Over the next week, 25 bloggers will be sharing their creative ideas with you for recipes, decor, crafts, printables, and holiday traditions. Each day 5 new posts will go live so make sure you come back to check them out! At the end of our 25 Blogs of Christmas, we will be hosting a HUGE giveaway for a $250 Amazon Gift Card!

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The following is a post I wrote last October 15th, shortly after discovering it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wanted to publish this post then, but I chose not to. Part of me wanted to share what had been going on with me and I’m a big believer that raw, vulnerable writing is powerful writing. However, raw, vulnerable writing isn’t always good writing. I guess I just decided to write about my experience on my own terms and not post just because it was some internationally recognized day. As this post sat waiting in my drafts folder, I wrote about loss a couple of times on this blog. Still, I never shared the details of what happened.

Since this October 2013 post, I went on to have another early miscarriage in January. And then, my much anticipated current pregnancy. I’m almost 28 weeks pregnant now, and everything seems to be going well. I feel so blessed, and in some ways my losses seem like bad dreams. Still, I worry. I will worry until I hold this baby in my arms (and then I’ll continue to worry for other reasons). I’m glad people are sharing their stories on this day and every day. Here’s mine:

pregnancy loss

October 15, 2013

This morning on Facebook I discovered that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I guess it’s a good thing, but boy if I didn’t have to close my door at work so I could cry for a few minutes. You see, the end of summer was a tough one in the Pannell household. When we should have been sharing the news of a new pregnancy–a baby to arrive in mid-March, I was instead telling the few we had shared our happy news with that it wasn’t going to happen.

At around 11 weeks, at my second doctor’s appointment, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. Later that day, from an ultrasound, it looked as if the gestation sac was empty–as in, the embryo didn’t grow beyond a few weeks. I only had five weeks to get used to the idea of bringing a new baby into our family, but I was making plans, getting excited, talking myself into the idea that a March baby would be perfect, that he/she and Adelaide would be the perfect age difference. I bought a winter maternity coat (although used and very inexpensive), I was planning the way we would announce the news to our parents.

The day we found out was an awful day. When I replay the day’s events in my head, I just feel sick to my stomach.

I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly. I was thinking three years apart would be good for us, but I was kind of hoping to be due a little earlier than July/August so I wouldn’t have to go through another hot summer being eight months pregnant. I thought being due in May or June would be perfect. I figured it would take a few months of trying so we started trying in June. I got pregnant right away and was due March 15 (the Ides of March). When we were due in March I really worried that the kids would be too close together. I had wanted them just shy of three years apart and they were only going to be about 2 years 6 or 7 months (depending on whether or not this second kid was early like Adelaide). Anyway, I had spent those five weeks of being pregnant convincing myself that this March due date was perfect. I thought about a maternity leave in March/April/May and how nice the weather would be. I thought about how we would all have our own birthday months and wouldn’t have to share a joint birthday party. At first I was worried that I had so many summer-ish maternity clothes, but then I bought that winter coat and just planned to wear leggings and cardigans with my summer dresses.

People who are due right around the time I would have been due are now announcing their pregnancies on Facebook and coming out of the woodwork. It sucks because we would have been making the same announcement to all our family and friends and people don’t even know that I would feel sad about it because very few people knew I was pregnant. (And of course, I’m happy for them, just sad for us.) This whole experience has made me more empathetic. My friend H has been struggling with infertility for years now. She finally got pregnant and then had a miscarriage at around 11 weeks. I remember her saying how hard it was as the due date approached. I totally didn’t get it then, but I understand more now. I also understand more now how hard it’s been for her to see so many pregnant women around her all the time (including close friends and co-workers). She’s a great sport and has been supportive, but I know she is hurting too.

I had only known I was pregnant for five weeks, but I was simply heartbroken. I was really starting to get used to the idea of adding that fourth someone to our family.

For two weeks I went through tests (they wanted to make sure that my hormone levels were going down and that the pregnancy wasn’t just much earlier than I thought). I waited for something to happen naturally. On Tuesday, September 3, I had a D&E.

After the procedure, things started to get a little better every day. I still got waves of sadness when I thought about the “what ifs,” and I was still bleeding a little from the surgery so that was a constant reminder. I so wanted to have it all behind me so I could start looking forward to the future. Of course, my head told me we would try again soon and I knew everything would be okay. My heart felt differently some days.

I immediately told my sister and we told our parents (although we hadn’t even told them yet that we were pregnant). I told a few close friends who hadn’t known I was pregnant either. I had to tell a few people at work because I was missing days and closing my door when I got calls from doctors and needing to cry and just not being myself. I’ve received a few nice text messages checking in with me and a couple of cards (thanks, Mom!), but after a week or two had passed it was just like everything was supposed to go back to “normal” when it really hadn’t for me.

At knitting I saw myself making jokes and talking to people about what had been going on that week and it was almost like an out of body experience. Only a couple of people actually knew what was going on, and I didn’t really feel like talking about it with the whole group. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, and I didn’t just want to sit and cry in front of everyone. I came home feeling like I had been so fake because there was this HUGE thing that was going on with me and I was just pretending to be okay. Tim was super supportive throughout the whole thing, but he just grieved in such a different way than me. And I think a big part of it is that since it was early in the pregnancy, it wasn’t as “real” for him in the first place. It very much felt like something that happened to “me” and not to “us.”

Now that a month has passed, I’m feeling a lot better and I’m excited for what the future may bring. I’ve leaned on a dear friend who has also experienced loss, and I’ve felt empowered by talking it out with her and doing a little reading on the topic. I thought I might wait to share my story until after we were pregnant again. I didn’t really want to break the sad news until after we had something new to celebrate.

However, I’ve also been reading a lot of personal blogs lately and like with memoir, I am the most touched by the writing that is so very real and raw and honest. I tell my students to make themselves vulnerable in their memoir writing, and last weekend I felt ready to share my story on the blog. I didn’t get around to actually writing about it–sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to bring all those feelings back to the surface when you’ve been doing so well to keep them at bay. Then today, seeing that it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and seeing other people post articles like this one from Dear Julesy about what not to say to someone who is grieving or this one from Kathryn Catalino, I was motivated to share my story.

I know that first trimester miscarriages are unfortunately common, but I don’t hear many women talking about them. I guess it’s in part because we don’t know what to say to one another. So, for a weird day of remembrance (there’s a day for everything isn’t there?), I’m glad to share my story if not to just help one other person feel less alone. I’ll take the opportunity to break the silence and stand together to honor and acknowledge all of the lost babies and the wounded parents left behind.

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new baby announcement  |  nextlifechapter.comIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (or have seen me recently) you’ve already heard the news, but our family is very excited to announce we are expecting a baby in early January, 2015. Adelaide is especially enthusiastic to be a big sister. I don’t think she quite understands how long it is until “after Christmas,” but she knows that baby still has a lot of growing to do inside Mommy’s belly.

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Six!

wedding anniversary love letter | http://nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Tammy Bradshaw Photography, November 2013

Today is our six-year wedding anniversary. For those following along at home (or new to this blog), you can review the posts I wrote for our five-year anniversary, four-year anniversary and three-year anniversary. As I said last year, I realize I’m not going to be able to top the previous year’s post every year. I’m not going to be able to summarize my feelings and say something new about marriage every year.

However, this last year has been a meaningful one for Tim and me. It’s been one of the most joyful, as we’ve watching Adelaide go from a nearly two-year-old to a nearly three-year-old. She has so much personality and can have me so frustrated one minute and smiling with pride the next. This has also been one of the most challenging years of my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve suffered two miscarriages since we celebrated our anniversary last year. While it’s so easy to feel alone in those situations (as something that happened to me, not something that happened to us), I know that Tim has been right next to me providing support to get through each devastating day. While I know men and women deal with emotional issues differently, I always felt as if he was on my side.

Marriage isn’t easy and this year has shown us the rollercoaster of ups and downs. I tend to get motion sick on rollercoasters and avoid them if possible. But sometimes, they can’t be avoided. There’s no one else I’d rather be on this ride with, and I feel blessed to celebrate this day and every day with my coaster buddy. As I wrote last year, “I know I don’t have to one-up each and every holiday or anniversary post on this blog. But, I think it’s good to pause and remember, to acknowledge where we are in life’s journey and remember how we got here and why.” I’m here because I chose to be here, and I choose it again each and every day.

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fathersday2014_collage

Happy Father’s Day!

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Mothers Day   | nextlifechapter.com

My sister posted this image on Facebook earlier this week. If I had to guess, I’d say it was taken Mother’s Day 1984–exactly 30 years ago.

I wish I could make out the writing on the letter I’m holding up. A Mother’s Day poem perhaps?

Happy day to my mom, my mother-in-law and all the moms out there. Also, happy day to the women who are not moms, whether by choice or not. Happy day to anyone who has been a mother figure when someone needed them most. This week I was proud to be quoted in this, “What I Learned from My Mom” post on Mom’sRising.org.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Last week Adelaide and I flew to Texas for a vacation and family reunion. She was super excited to fly in an airplane and see Papa Eugene, Grandma Ruth, Aunt Gina and her cousins. Although this was technically her third trip via plane, she doesn’t remember the other two. So, on Wednesday we flew to Dallas-Fort Worth to see cousins I haven’t seen in over 10 years.

My dad’s brother, his wife and their three kids (and their kids), as well as my dad’s sister and her four kids (and their kids) all live in the DFW area. My sister flew in from L.A.  We flew in from Philly, and my parents and grandpa flew in from Central Illinois. The whole group of us hadn’t been together since my grandma’s funeral in 2003. Even then I remember thinking how much Grandma would have loved to have seen us all together and how it was too bad that it took her death for us all to be willing to make the trip. Since then, there have been several weddings, but it was only death that brought every single one of us together. Until now.

Around Christmas my sister and I were talking about getting together at the end of March when the school she works at was on Spring Break. She wanted to get together somewhere other than where we live–somewhere in between that wasn’t at our parents house in Illinois. She thought, wouldn’t it be fun to fly to Dallas and see our Texas cousins. Mom and Dad and Grandpa could fly down too. Gina thinks it’s pretty wild that we took her crazy idea seriously.

My grandpa got to see all three of his kids, all nine of his grandchildren and all eight of his great-grandchildren in one place. It was a wonderful afternoon with lots of food, good conversation and beautiful weather.

My aunt Debbie brought old photo albums with her, and my cousin Kelly had another crazy idea that we all took seriously. Inspired by Buzzfeed’s 21 Family Photos: Then and Yikes (and others like it), we somehow roped everyone into reenacting several old photos. Some were more successful than others, but they were all a lot of fun. At one point, I looked to my cousins’ spouses lining the back wall, varying degrees of mortified.

“What were you guys thinking?” I asked. “You married into this family–you chose to be part of this. We were just born into it.”

My cousin Natalie’s husband just shook his head and said, “We didn’t know what we were getting into.”

 

Reenacting family photos  |  nextlifechapter.com

This photo was the inspiration for the series. Saturday was my Aunt Debbie’s birthday. This photo was taken on Debbie’s 29th birthday, some XX years earlier.

 

Reenacting family photos  |  nextlifechapter.com

The eight cousins (sorry Jenny, you weren’t born yet). I’m the second from the right.

 

Reenacting family photos  |  nextlifechapter.com

The oldest cousins with their respective siblings on their laps. This one just turned out super weird.

 

Reenacting family photos  |  nextlifechapter.com

Kelly, Natalie and Gina. The ones with the “crazy” ideas.

 

Everyone was such a good sport (it wouldn’t have worked otherwise). I highly recommend getting out old photo albums and giving it a shot at your next family reunion. It’s a great way to break the ice for people who haven’t seen each other in a long time.

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