Category Archives: milestones

Dear Dexter: Happy 6th birthday

Dear Dexter,

Sorry I am a day late writing your letter, but we have been SO busy having fun this past week that time slipped away from me. That’s nothing new though, I don’t know how many times every week I think to myself (or say out loud to someone else) that I cannot believe how fast time is flying by. Just look – you are now SIX years old and only have 8 days of Kindergarten remaining. You’ve grown and learned and changed so much this year. You are doing so well academically that I feel silly for ever questioning whether or not you were ready to leave pre-school and join Theo at your elementary school.

You are a great reader but the thing that surprises me the most is how much your reasoning and critical thinking have changed. Sometimes, out of the blue, you will say something that just blows me away. You will realize something or make a connection that I haven’t even made yet. You will bring up a memory that we haven’t even talked about in years. More than anything though, I love the things about you that remain the same and are a part of who you are. Your sweet sensitivity and desire to make others happy. Your ability to sense when something is wrong and the way you try to make it right. The way you think of others and how you are almost always willing to compromise, but know when to stand your ground. You know what I know about you Dexter? I know that one day you are going to make someone very happy and lucky because you will be a caring, loving, considerate father and husband.

Your birthday celebrations started last weekend when Aunt Chelle, Uncle Bob, Spencer, Nana, and Pop Pop all came to stay and they spoiled you with presents and hugs and kisses. Your celebrating continued on Friday when mom and dad had lunch with you, you shared birthday cake muffins with your school friends, and then had your pal Layton spend the night. Yesterday, at 7:05am, you officially turned 6 years old and started off the day by playing outside, finishing your YMCA basketball season, having lunch at City Barbecue, and then spending the afternoon at Greatimes. We had dinner at home, swung in the hammock, watched Netflix, and built your new Lego sets. All in all, that was a pretty perfect birthday for a little boy like you!

Today is Mother’s Day and it’s not lost on me how nicely these two special days correlate. Your first birthday happened to fall on Mother’s Day and I sure don’t mind sharing this special time of year with you. Today, we got to do something that I wanted to do and had been hoping you and your brother would also enjoy. We went horseback riding for the first time as a family. Your dad and I had been but it was before we had you or Theo. Today was nothing short of amazing and I have you, your brother, and your dad to thank. Thank you for being adventurous and going along with my wishes to make me happy. Thank you for listening and following instructions- I was so nervous that you would be scared or fall off your horse. Thank you for lying with me in the hammock when we got home and retelling all your favorite parts of the weekend while we compared how big our hands are. Thanks for being who you are.

I am so lucky to be your mom, Dexter. You make me proud every day. I love your sweet smile and big blue eyes. I love that you still have all your baby teeth and am not really ready for them to fall out just yet because I know you will start looking even bigger and older. I love that you asked for a Trolls birthday and that you helped me go shopping for party favors. I love your irresistibly intense passion for stuffed animals and how you consider them lifelong family members immediately upon them entering our home. Cherish your childhood Dexter, this is such a magical time of life! I hope you carry many wonderful memories we are making now far into your adulthood. I have a feeling these are the times I will remember forever as the best days and years of my life. I hope you will remember them fondly too. You make everything more fun Dexter!

I love you so much more than you’ll ever begin to know,

Mommy

Dear Theo: You’re Seven

Theo,

Four days ago, you turned seven! Seven years ago, your dad and I had just been home from the hospital for a day or two and we were trying to get the hang of taking care of you. Flash forward to today and you do almost everything for yourself. We are still trying to figure out how to parent you most days but we’re all in this together and it’s as much a learning experience for us as it is for you. You’re still giving us lessons on how to approach different things and in the midst of figuring all this out, we’re making each other better human beings along the way.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming, raising a little guy. We put a lot of pressure on you to be a nice boy. But even more than that, I want you to be a good man. A caring brother and friend. A respectful student and son. Eventually a respectable man of his word who loves a family of his own. A person who is kind to others. For now though, we focus on today. We focus on glimpses of the little boy that we still see and hope they don’t disappear too soon. We read stories and we play games. We give goodnight hugs and kisses. We watch cartoons and play with action figures. We color and make Perler bead creations. We pack lunches, do homework, cook dinners, and get by as the weeks start and end over and over again.

In the last year, you’ve grown up quite a bit. You can tie your shoes and you read and spell like a champ. You still refuse to learn how to ride a bike. You just finished an 8 week long season of basketball and we saw your confidence grow bit by bit. You got your very own passport and we took a Western Caribbean cruise vacation. We visited Haiti, Jamaica, Cozumel, and Georgetown, Grand Cayman. You climbed a waterfall and went snorkeling. What a fun adventure that was for all of us! You’ve started doing chores to earn a small allowance and are beginning to understand the benefits of saving up your money instead of spending it as fast as you can. Your smile looks different as you’ve lost your 2 front teeth and now an adult tooth is almost all the way in — but you still smile as much as you ever did. You’re looking older, taller, and cooler with each passing day, week, and month.

You’re an early bird like Pop Pop. You’re up before 7 every day and will quietly play at the Lego table or watch a cartoon on Netflix. You LOVE to scare people – especially me when I am getting ready for work early in the morning. You’ll hide in the dark and wait for me to come, then shout BOO!, scaring the crap out of me! We both laugh and I tell you over and over that you’re JUST like your dad!

You may have gotten a little pickier with the foods you like and dislike over the last year but you’re still a good eater. You have decided you don’t like icing or donuts. You’d probably eat cereal 3 meals a day if we let you. You’ve started riding the school bus to school this year – this was a big step for mom and dad, giving up that control and letting someone else drive you and your brother around. I see you growing up in so many ways. I catch you showing genuine gratitude and it means the world to me. You are starting to pick up on more subtle humor. You still sit on my lap, even though your legs hang down to my feet – and I still can’t stop smelling and kissing your head when you do, just like when you were a baby.

You and your brother are still pretty inseparable but that doesn’t mean that you always get along. Sometimes you fuss and fight but when push comes to shove, you’re the best buddies and would be lost without each other. You guys rely on each other and you drive each other nuts. To be honest, I hope you’ll always have the closeness you share now and the comfort level to put each other in your places as you grown into adulthood. You have some pretty awesome friends and family who really love and care for you!

Theo, what would we do without you? The last 7 years have been an adventure that has gotten us to where we are with you. And where are we? I’d say we’re in a pretty great place. You’re sweet and fun and silly and sneaky. You’re big and you’re little. We’re having deeper conversations these days and I hope you’ll always feel able to talk to me. It terrifies me to think about how fast the last 7 years have gone, knowing in another 7 you’ll be FOURTEEN. I can’t stand the thought of you being so grown up because I know the older you get, the more I will lose a little bit of my baby boy.

Here are some photo memories from your 7th birthday!

You didn’t ask for cake – you asked for Volcano Cake Pops (we’ve been watching a lot of Kids Baking Championship on Food Network). Grammy came from TN to visit the weekend before your birthday and we went to the zoo. I forgot to get a picture with Grammy. 🙁

Your birthday was on a school day – mommy and daddy came and had lunch with you. After school, Nana and Pop Pop came over and you opened your gifts.

 

Ended the basketball season on your birthday. You had great coaches!   Chicago’s Pizza for dinner and dessert after the game. No traditional birthday cake for this birthday boy!

Monkey Joe’s this morning after a sleepover with Colin last night. You had a great 7th birthday!

I’ll love you forever

I’ll like you for always

As long as I’m living

My baby you’ll be

xoxo,

Mommy

Our Caribbean cruise vacation: part 1

We’ve been home from our much anticipated cruise vacation for just over 2 weeks now and I’m still in a little bit of a euphoric/bittersweet fog thinking about it. I booked it with 410 days to go on our cruise countdown and much to my disbelief, it has already come and gone.

Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the Atlantic coast of Florida Friday afternoon, October 7th. The day we were supposed to load up and drive down. We were frantically watching the weather channel all week leading up to the 7th as the storm slowly approached the US. By late Thursday night, it started to look as though the eye would not be making direct contact with the shore as the meteorologists, Florida residents, and many vacationers feared. Since there was still so much that was unknown on Thursday night, I cancelled our Cape Canaveral hotel for Saturday night and switched the reservation to a hotel more inland in Ocala, a couple hours from the coast.

Friday we decided not to leave until midnight since our destination was now 2 hours closer to home and since we figured many evacuees would be trying to get back into their homes on Saturday morning. I was so worried about driving all night. How tired would I get? Would the boys sleep? What if there was traffic or construction problems? I pictured the drive down there and back as being as monumental of an event as the cruise itself. The boys were GREAT in the car. They are wonderful road trippers. They really entertained themselves well with coloring, writing, drawing, and sticker books. They didn’t complain a lot and for that, I am so thankful. This was our first really long road trip (16 hours total) so I worried about how we would all deal.

We checked into our hotel in Ocala around 230 or 3 then ate a late lunch/early dinner at a neat local place. We were all pretty exhausted and in bed by 8pm.

Somewhere between the Florida state line and Ocala, it occurred to me that we had to drive through Orlando Sunday morning to get to the port. That must have been around the same time that I found out that our cruise was scheduled to depart a couple hours later in order to allow for some extra travel time. Since we weren’t short on time, I covertly had Ryan check online for breakfast reservations at Disney World. Being less than 24 hours before breakfast, I wasn’t expecting much. I thought we might squeeze in at a lesser known resort and just enjoy the Disney ambiance. The beauty of checking reservations at the last minute is that people get there, change their minds, and rearrange their plans. Lo and behold, we were able to snag 10am reservations at one of the Character dining experiences that has been on my Disney bucket list for quite a while. This one is 1900 Park Fare, located inside of the Grand Floridian resort.

We got to meet Alice and the Mad Hatter, Pooh and Tigger, and Mary Poppins. That’s a lot of bang for your buck and the breakfast was delicious. It was such a fun surprise for the boys. Leading up to the cruise, Dexter kept saying “I can’t believe we’re driving ALL the way to Disney!” We told him over and over and over and over that we were driving to the CRUISE, not to Disney. You can imagine how great he felt telling us “told ya so” when he started noticing the distinct Mickey road signs everywhere. We were all floating on that Disney cloud and it was kind of hard to leave, even if it was so that we could go on a fantastic vacation.

We took a few minutes to walk around the resort. We’d never stepped foot on the Grand Floridian property before so I wanted to check it out a little bit. Honestly, I was curious to see the changes they’d made since little Lane Graves died there in June. I know this is weird, but I wanted to stand there where it happened and try to put myself in his parents’ place. I tried to imagine feeling what they felt, the tension and raw emotion in the air there that night as they waited and in the days following the tragedy. I closed my eyes and felt the same sun on my back. I took my flip flops off and felt the same sand under my feet. I couldn’t do it. I could not even begin to fathom losing a child, so tragically, and during what was supposed to be such a happy time. My heart hurt for them. It still does. Can you imagine leaving vacation with one less family member?

After I had taken a few moments honoring Lane and his family, we moved on and headed over to Cape Canaveral. One good thing about the Hurricane passing through there was that all tolls were suspended. Since I’m not used to tolls, they stress me out and it was nice to skip that. We parked, took our shuttle to the Royal Caribbean terminal, and got checked in without a hitch. The entire process was quick, painless, and seamless. We were on the boat by 1:30 and our luggage showed up to our room a couple of hours later. We were excited to eat at the Windjammer for lunch and check out the ship.

We swam and goofed off until it was time to do the safety briefing. As we were hanging out on the deck, we watched a Disney cruise ship and a Carnival cruise ship head out. As it turns out, we knew people on both of those ships. That was a neat feeling. Royal Caribbean notified us that we would be leaving port at 9pm but everyone must have made it on early because we pulled away around 6 or 630 – right at sunset. It was a beautiful and exciting start to our cruise!

The boys went to a mini-session at Adventure Ocean (the kids’ program) to get a feel for it. Theo was nervous but ended up doing fine and they both had a great time. We tried to go to a show at 10pm and everyone was falling asleep so we headed back to our tiny little cabin and called it a day. The sea was REALLY rough that night as the hurricane winds were still moving out and we were sailing at top speed. I assume anyone who suffered from motion sickness probably would have had a bad night. Theo and Ryan both complained a little but no one got sick.

Pics! Day one – Saturday October 8th.

20161008_083631
We hit Atlanta around 830am Saturday morning and stopped at the most interesting Chick-fil-a on the south side. Part of it was fast food and the other part was sit-down.

20161008_093400

20161008_125043
At some point when I was a kid, we stopped at the Florida welcome center and I distinctly remembered getting fresh-squeezed orange juice. For whatever reason, I wanted to do that with the boys. They also got a free map. Traditions are the best.
20161008_125104
Cheers!

20161008_130156

20161008_152958
The Mojo Grill where we ate in Ocala. Delicious.

20161008_160407

20161008_194037
Two happy, sweet, tired little boys who didn’t know we were visiting Disney (sorta) the next morning.

Day 2 – Sunday, October 9th. Embarkation Day!

img_1961

img_2016

20161009_103118
Mickey shaped food just tastes better.

20161009_102309

img_2050

img_2054

img_2024

img_2048

img_2060
We couldn’t visit a Disney resort without pressing a couple pennies.
img_2100
The Grand Floridian is truly beautiful.

img_2092 img_2088

20161009_133608

Being silly on the shuttle from port parking to the cruise terminal.

img_2116 img_2126 img_2136 img_2173

20161009_184250
Photo cred goes to Theo!
20161009_165217
“We hope we don’t need this safety briefing!”
img_2193
They loved their bunks in our stateroom.

img_2179 20161009_203249 20161009_203143

Oh, all the reminiscing makes me want to go back already! Why didn’t we play the win-a-free-cruise round of Bingo?

xo,

~C~