Years ago I pinned these pipe cleaner crowns to my Pinterest. Way back before I had Mila, in fact Ryan was probably Mila's age at the time and had zero interest in princess crowns. I thought, "how cute!" and then moved on to playing cars and crashing monster trucks. Which I still do to this day because as much as Mila loves girly things, she loves getting into it with cars too. Especially after she found out that the cars we were playing with were her big brothers. She immediately said "No! Mine!" and keeps a close eye on them now. You know, I don't know if they would have fought over things. I bet Ryan would have complained that Mila never left him alone, or maybe she'd crush one of his lego builds. Then again, we lost Ryan before he even got into legos. So all these things I imagine. Here is what I do know ...
Mila knows she has an older brother and his name is Ryan. She calls him Ry Ry as most of us did and still do. Mila recognizes his face in photos and can tell herself apart from Ryan in their baby photos. Mila says that Ryan lives in the sky but she has also mentioned that Ry Ry makes her laugh. Which when she said that it immediately made me cry and my heart pounded so loud in my ears. In that moment I felt so close to both my kids. That moment was so fleeting, so damn quick. When I think back on it, my skin starts to tingle even still. I've never made it a point to hide my tears from Mila either. When we watch certain movies or hear certain songs my eyes well up and I can't help it. It isn't like I'm falling apart and can't control myself, but I do cry and then move on. When Mila sees me cry she now simply says "Momma, you miss Ryan?" and I just tell her "Yes baby, I miss him so much." She sometimes gives me a hug or comes and sits by me. She never tries to fix me or make me stop. I haven't thought too much on how this will impact Mila as she gets older. But what I do know is that in our home we never shy away from emotions and I feel it is OK to see your mom cry at times and still be happy at the same time. Which is important to note. I never thought you could be sad and happy at the same time. Once I began to understand that I could feel these two emotions simultaneously it made me feel guilty at first. Though now, I know it is OK for sad and happy to coexist within me. That is just my new normal. I'll never stop being sad about never seeing my son again.
Mila is pretty smart and understands that Ryan was once here and now he lives in the sky. Mila has only once so far asked "Where is he? I want to go see him!" Which we had to explain to her with broken hearts that we can't see him, we can only feel him. We told her he lives in the Heaven up in the sky and also in our hearts. She didn't give it much thought and then asked to go to her Aunt's house who has a pool so she could go swimming. We are very open with her and as she gets older I'm sure more questions and explaining will have to be done. But for now, my kids have a pretty good relationship. You can believe what you want, but I whole heartedly believe that Ryan and Mila know each other personally. I like to think that Ryan comes and visits her ... I'm sure he does make her laugh pretty often when I'm not looking.
A lot of you have asked about how we talk about Ryan with Mila and that is it in a nutshell. It feels right to us and keeps us all happy. Talking about him openly keeps Ryan alive within our home.
Now back to these pipe cleaner crowns! I bought all the supplies at Michaels which is a craft store two blocks from my house. I bought pipe cleaners, colored feathers, gems and various pom poms. You basically need anything that is colorful and fun to decorate with. I had Mila come with me to the craft store (which was a little hectic) and help me pick out some things. I also bought some hot glue for my glue gun. Once we were ready I set everything out and we began crafting!
First I measured two pipe cleaners around Mila's head and twisted them together to make a base. Then I added more pipe cleaners to the base in pointed shapes, rounded shapes and any which way to make it look like a crown. Mila helped me add the pipe cleaners to each other and loved going through all our decorations. We played music and chatted. It was pretty fun and really a great way to connect with my daughter. Since Mila is too young to work with the hot glue I had that by me. When it came time to use it I had Mila direct me. She told me where to glue the pom poms, gems and feathers to her crown. I offered some ideas but mostly she thrived off telling me what to do ;) The hot glue dries pretty quick so we were able to wear the crowns while continuing to make others. Plus a special one for Daddy! We also made a few heart wands with the pipe cleaners.
This is such a great activity for little ones who are too young to go back to school or for kids like Mila who only go a few times a week. I always try and do a fun craft with her two or three times a week. If you follow me on Instagram you saw we recently made homemade play dough. You can also find older blog posts of crafts I've done with my son Ryan :) This Toddler Painting 101 is one of my FAVORITES!
Here are some photos from our time making pipe cleaner crowns ...