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,


Dear Theo: You’re Seven


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



Our Caribbean cruise vacation: Part 2

If you missed part one, read it HERE.

Day 3: Monday, October 10th. This was our first full day on the Freedom of the Seas and a Day at Sea. There were so many things going on at all times but the only thing the boys really wanted to do was play at the pool. We were pretty okay with that.

As a side note, I thought it was interesting when we’d tell people that we were going on a cruise, many reacted with an “oh, you’re not taking the kids.” Ummm yeah, we’re taking the kids! “Oh, then it’s a Disney cruise?” Ummm nope. That cost twice what a Royal Caribbean cruise costs. “Oh.” It really threw me for a loop and I wasn’t sure if everyone else knew something I didn’t. There were fleeting moments during the cruise when I thought in the back of my mind “ohhh, this is what they meant.” For instance, there would be something Ryan and I wanted to do at 1pm but that would mean dragging the kids away from the pool at noon to get them back to the room, get them dressed, and drop them off at Adventure Ocean. It just wasn’t worth it. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy hanging out with them – we did. There were just a handful of times that we thought, okay, it would be really nice to take a cruise as a couple sometime too.

We had 5:30 dinner every night and Monday was a “formal” night. This was something I really stressed over in terms of getting ready for the trip. I worried over what to buy and what to pack – and did WAY too much of both. I was afraid people would give us dirty looks if the boys weren’t wearing suit jackets etc. We don’t have jobs or lifestyles where we have to dress up so this is totally our of our element as a family. Of course I had some dresses, but the guys had little to nothing to wear before I went out on a mad spree two weeks before the trip. Ultimately, we didn’t go too over the top and I was happy. We could have packed way less but there were men at formal dinners wearing everything from polo shirts with slacks to full-blown tuxedos. The boys thought they were pretty fancy and handsome…however they had no desire to get dressed up like that again.

Apparently I didn’t take any photos at the pool that day. I can’t say enough good things about the Adventure Ocean program. Every night after dinner, we dropped them off there for about 3 hours so we could catch a show, have a drink in the hot tub, or just try to figure out excursions for the next day (big mistake not booking in advance). They absolutely loved going. They met friends who they would then play with at the pool the next day. The kids’ club provided them with entertainment, physical games, crafts, and so much more. It was great for all of us.

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Leonardo’s Dining room – such a big part of my memories of our family time on the cruise ship!

img_2242We all enjoyed the towel animals that greeted us when we returned to the room after dinner every night.

Day 4: Tuesday, October 11th. Tuesday was our first port of call and we docked at Labadee, Haiti. With Hurricane Matthew making a direct hit on Haiti just one week earlier, I wasn’t sure if we would still be going there but there was never an update to our itinerary. Turns out Labadee is a small section of the island on the northern coast that is privately leased to Royal Caribbean in an area that was not directly affected by the storm.

Monday night while the boys were at Adventure Ocean, we spent some time trying to figure out our shore excursion for Labadee but we couldn’t decide what to do. Unfortunately, the excursion we’d hoped to do had an age limit of 5+ but a height limit of 48″+ and little Dexter just isn’t there yet. We ended up having no plan and decided to wing it the morning of. WELLLL let’s just say it turned out to be a good thing because somehow, somewhere, this gal lost 3 of our 4 Seapass cards. We were in the gangway when I went to get them out and they weren’t in the pocket in our bag where I thought I put them. After about 45 minutes of sheer panic, I went to guest services like a puppy with his tail between his legs and told them I lost 3 of our cards. The dude definitely seemed annoyed but within 5 minutes we had new cards and were on our way off the ship.

I was stressed, I’d been lugging 2 bags and dragging my now-grouchy kids all over the ship looking for those dumb cards, and I was ready to relax. We went up to a golf cart and said something along these lines: “please take us to a cabana that we can rent so that we will have a place to sit all this crap down and start enjoying our day.”

Had we taken 10 minutes to check out Labadee, we would have discovered that we could have hung out on the beautiful beach (beach chairs provided) for free. However, we did enjoy our cabana, the beach, the floating beach mats, the cocktails, and the private buffet. I have to admit, I kept thinking about the locals. The people that were serving us fruity drinks and food and cleaning up after us faster than we could clean up after ourselves. I felt like a jerk. I felt like a stupid spoiled American for being there on this beautiful little piece of their island that was in utter ruins on the other side of the mountain. People died…probably family members and friends of the people who were serving us. People lost their homes. We were crabby because we were inconvenienced by misplacing cards and hauling around heavy bags full of cameras, sunscreen, and beach towels in the Caribbean heat. Yeah…jerks.

Despite being a loser (of SeaPass cards) and my guilty conscience about being a privileged American, we had a great time. It was gorgeous. I was not expecting to be as impressed as I was but we loved it there. I wish we could have stayed longer and explored the area a bit more.



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We were back on the Freedom for a 330pm departure from Haiti so we got ready for dinner and then rushed the boys to Adventure Ocean because they didn’t want to miss out on the “Pirate Parade”. Those brave childcare staff took all the kids down to the Royal Promenade to sing pirate songs and dance pirate dances. I was impressed at how organized it was and how well all the kids did – you would have thought they’d been practicing for a week. It was kind of adorable how excited they were and then multiply that times one hundred when they realized we were there, watching the parade!


Better believe I rushed down to the gift shop and bought some lanyards after getting our SeaPass cards replaced!



We went to bed happy, ready for a big day in Jamaica on Wednesday.