October 5th

I remember the day vividly. Of course I do.

Over time, its events have transpired into a movie in my mind, playing on a continuous reel that occasionally makes its way to the forefront. In it, I am watching myself as though I wasn’t a part of it, as though it wasn’t me living those moments.

I see myself as I get the news, as I cry, as I process.

I remember all the details; even the blurry ones.

So on the morning of October 5th this year, I was transported back to that day ten years prior, the day my Dad passed away.

There was my mind made movie, playing all morning as I recalled those things that I already know so well; the events of the day that changed everything.

This October 5th, I woke up in sobs and let the tears stain my pillow as the toddler slept peacefully beside me.

The anniversary of this loss is hard every year, but ten years seems so significant. Ten years. A decade. A milestone.

I miss him everyday. I grieve all of the momentous things he has missed in my life. College graduation. My wedding. Meeting my son.

But there is so much I have missed seeing of him. The way he would have loved seeing the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. The way he would have loved the historical election where Obama became President. All of the Christmas presents I missed getting to see him open and Father’s Days we never got to celebrate. Getting to see him be a granddad.

He is forever a part of me. I see it every time I look in the mirror as his eyes stare back at me. I hear him every time the Beatles song “Imagine” is played, even all of the bad cover bands. I feel him every time I say my son’s full name, because we gave our son my Dad’s name, Richard, as a middle name. I smile every time I pass a chess set, or watch my son play soccer, or stare into my son’s eyes, because, luckily, he has those same big eyes, too.

Yes, I remember that day. But I remember so much more of him as my father and I missed so much more of him in these ten years since he has been gone.

So on October 5th, rather than transporting myself back to that day, I let my mind movie play and I let my tears fall. Then I got my little boy dressed and we had a play date at the Botanical Gardens, surrounding ourselves with butterflies and flowers.

And then I think my family gave each other the greatest gift; we gave each other a weekend of each other.

Leaving the husband and toddler at home, my mom, sister, brother and I went away for a weekend to Charlottesville, VA. We immersed ourselves in laughter and conversation, scenery and adventure, and no shortage of extravagant food.

Nothing will change the significance of the loss, the way his presence is missed daily, the way my heart grieves eternally for the man that I was lucky enough to have as my father.

But this year, on this tenth year of the day we lost my father, we celebrated my Dad with love and laughter, just the four of us.

I know for certain that there were still five of us there.

“Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Spending time with my family, remembering and celebrating my Dad who helped create it.

My Dad

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The Third Birthday

After eventful first and second birthdays, and a lot of planning for the third, I had high hopes that this birthday party would be perfect. This year, his birthday fell on a Saturday, a perfect day to host a party. So on September 1st, we hosted a yellow birthday party at our house. Here is the big reveal; Noah’s third birthday party!

This year his birthday was all about his favorite color; yellow. Throughout the summer I diligently planned, bought, and made yellow items. We covered our home in yellow decor and invited his preschool class over for some fun. We were able to celebrate with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law, too.

The Yellow Birthday Party

Mommy, Noah and Daddy

The Invitation

The decor: kitchen chalkboard, living room streamers and balloons, entry table with pictures of Noah at ages 1, 2, and 3 and favor bags and birthday hats, dining room decked in yellow

Dining room. The food was all yellow: bananas, Goldfish, cheese, pineapple, doughnuts, popcorn, and yellow cupcakes and candy.

Beverage station featuring lemonade and lemon water, striped straws, and lemons. There are also homemade cookies shaped like the number 3 in the cake plate for each child to decorate with yellow frosting. Close up of homemade birthday banner.

Cupcakes and candy jars.

Cupcakes with yellow striped liners, yellow cupcake flags, and the number 3 candle, looking out into the back yard.

The back yard ready for the yellow party

The birthday boy.

Party details: my artsy shot, striped straws and lemons, the three cookie cutter and yellow icing…all of the 3 cookies were eaten!

There are a lot of pictures of all of the children and family at the party, but I’m not sure they would like being included on a blog. The children played outside on the swing set and I had set up bowling, bubbles, t-ball, and a yellow bucket of toys. They had a great time playing outside and decorating number three cookies. We all enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to Noah.

Happy Birthday Noah! Blowing out the candles and making a wish.

Look at that beautiful three year old.

The favor bags. Cat not included. 🙂

A boy and his balloons.

After party cuddles

Mommy, Noah, and balloons. My favorite yellow birthday party picture.

The Yellow Birthday Party was a great success. Noah had a wonderful time and I was so happy to host a party at our home for his friends. I think the third birthday was the best one yet.

Turning Three: A Birthday Letter

My sweet boy,

The first year of life brings so many changes, but it has been this year between two and three that I have seen the most growth in you.

It has been this year, my sweet boy, that you have stopped nursing, have fully potty trained, and started sleeping in your own bed. (Some nights.)

It has been this year that you have stopped referring to yourself as “baby” and instead say “Noah.” You have even learned how to spell your name and proudly walk around saying “I am N-O-A-H Noah!” You have even learned to write the letters “O” and “H.”  My heart swells every time.

It has been this year you have decided you want to be a “digger man” when you grow up, and in the last few months you have changed your aspiring profession to “actor.” I will be proud of you no matter what you choose.

It has been this year that you have gone to your very first year of preschool, two mornings a week from 9 to 12. It was the very first time that you had ever been away from me, and though it was hard for both of us at first, we have both thrived with the expansion of your world.

It has been this year that I have seen you develop real relationships with your friends as you have moved from parallel play to interactive games.

It has been this year that you have mastered your motor skills. I’ve never been more proud of someone jumping in puddles or riding tricycles.

This year, you have established family roles. “Daddy is the cooker, Mommy is the cleaner, and I am the helper.” ~Noah summer 2012

Though you have always been a strong verbal speaker and communicator, this year your vocabulary has expanded and your thoughts are always expressed in complex sentences. I am often amazed at the way your mind works, and especially at the way you are able to tell me about it.

“Mommy, I have a story. Once upon time, there was a kitty cat and it got up up stuck on the roof. And the helicopter came and got the kitty cat and put it down. And then everybody was happy. The End.” 

“Wow, Noah, that was such a good story! It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It also had a conflict and a resolution.” 

“Yes, Mommy, it did.” 

~August 2012

I love hearing your stories, your thoughts, and your opinions. I trust your judgement and often include you on family decisions. I want you to know that I value you, always.

It has been this year that I have seen you cross over from baby to boy, and this year that has challenged me the most as a parent. (So far.)

But it has been this year, my sweet boy, that I have delighted in your growth. As you continue to grow and branch out away from me, I want you to always know that I will never be too far away, standing in awe of wonderful YOU.

I love you forever and always, my sweet three-year-old baby boy.

Love,

Mommy

(meant to be published on your 3rd birthday, September 1st, 2012)

My sweet 3 year old boy

The Second Birthday

In honor of my son’s third birthday on Saturday, (which I’m only kind of freaking out about), I am sharing the stories and pictures of his first two. In case you missed it, here is the story of his first birthday.

By the time the my son’s second birthday rolled around, I was in a much better place emotionally. It also coincided with my sister’s wedding, which took place in GA. I was a little distracted from my usual emotional vulnerability as I did maid of honor duties, prepared to sing at her ceremony, tried to prepare my little guy to be the ring bearer, and planned another large family gathering party…this time to take place in GA the weekend before my sister’s wedding.

The first year, I did not really know what “theme” to do, so I went with the colors blue and green and did cupcakes. The second year, my son had fallen in love with a character named Curious George. His loveys are two little Curious George stuffed animals. Though we have since moved on from his obsession with the TV show, the loveys are still a constant presence in our home and at the time Curious George was pretty much the only TV that ever got watched in our home.

So, naturally, the second birthday was all about George.

I meticulously planned all of the details, including shipping items to my in-laws house in GA where the party would take place, and prepared to throw a second birthday party with all of our family 10 hours away from our home.

The day of the party was flawless; family gathered together at my in-laws, some of my girlfriends from high school were able to stop by, and my in-laws helped with all of the set up and clean up.

Here’s a peek at the Curious George second birthday party in Georgia:

The invitation

The decorations

The birthday boy

The amazing cake

Family birthday pictures

Blowing out the candle, digging in, and opening presents.

After a very successful second birthday party in Georgia, we enjoyed my sister’s wedding. She was a stunning bride and my little guy was an adorable ring bearer.

My beautiful sister and my sweet boy

Me, my husband, and our sweet boy at the wedding

After an incredibly busy week in Georgia, we headed home to Richmond where we were met with the surprise of a massive power outage and a ton of debris in our yard. Richmond, VA was one of the many areas affected by the 2011 Hurricane Irene. We were one of the lucky ones who were not harmed and whose house was still standing, but we were without power for TEN DAYS.

On my son’s actual second birthday, September 1st, 2011, we were in a home with no power, and when the mailman arrived he delivered an IRS audit and an $11,000 bill for a dental surgery my son had that insurance was refusing to cover. (I will have to tell you that whole story one day.) So, similar to the first birthday, I spent most of his actual second birthday in tears.

Luckily, our power was restored after ten days and by the next week we had a small play date with his two best friends in Richmond.

The second birthday party play date. Two parties for turning two.

Two birthday parties for turning two, with a wedding and an eventful actual birthday thrown in.

The First Birthday

As a countdown to my son’s third birthday party, I thought I would share the first two.

The first birthday was the hardest one for me. I was an emotional wreck with the realization that my son was turning one, and had an incredibly difficult time with the one year anniversary of my difficult birth experience.

To add to my emotional anxiety, we had also just moved to Richmond, VA when my son was 9 months old. As soon as I had unpacked boxes I was throwing a huge birthday party.

All of our family flew up from GA to celebrate the only grandchild on both sides’ first birthday. It was a huge milestone. My mom, brother, sister, and all of their significant others as well as my husband’s parents, two brothers, sister-in-law and grandmother were there. We piled 15 people into our newly bought house and admired our sweet little boy.

The grand celebration was a four-day affair of family visiting, but the actual celebration was taking place on the Saturday after he turned one. This turned out to be a very good thing since I spent most of the day of his actual birthday crying.

We enjoyed the company of family and suffered minimal drama, though there always seems to be some at large family gatherings.

And then on the morning of the day of his party, my little boy started having trouble breathing. My husband and I weren’t terribly worried, but as the day progressed and his condition didn’t, we decided to head to the emergency room.

While we endured our first emergency room visit with our little boy, a scary experience that resulted in a diagnosis of croup, a steroid shot, and a nebulizer treatment, our family used their nervous energy to decorate the house for the party. My father-in-law even mowed the lawn. It was incredibly sweet, and when we got home from the hospital we had a party celebrating the first year of our little boy’s life.

Capturing Me

Once a month, two of my favorite bloggers, Galit from These Little Waves and Alison from Writing, Wishing, host the Memories Captured link up.

I adore this chance to choose a moment to focus on. A moment to cherish the growth, the fleeting beauty of my son’s childhood. This chance to choose one of the many pictures I snap of my son and showcase it; showcase him.

Mostly, I identify myself through my motherhood. I thrive in my role and I always use memories captured to capture the center of my world; my son.

But this month, this link up coincides with another at Just Be Enough, with the surprisingly challenging task of focusing on a self portrait. This month, I am capturing me.

My husband took this picture of me in our front yard last week. I had spent the day taking my son to a playdate and doing my regular chores of dishes and laundry. When my husband got home from work a little early, I asked him if he could take some pictures. We played in the front yard for a little bit, launching my son’s model airplane into the sky and sitting in the grass to observe the crickets crawling over the blades. In this shot, my son is sitting in my lap, right out of view of the camera.

Maybe it’s the striking colors of the green grass against my pink shirt, or maybe I just like the way my hair fell that day. But, in a somewhat rare occurence, I really love this picture of me.

Me in all of my moments of confidence and insecurity, of strength and weakness, of human frailty. Me with my sometimes conflicting roles of mother, wife, and self. I may not always know who I am or where I am going, but here in this picture I feel perfectly captured. A memory of my own complexities, on a random day in the grass with my son in my lap.

Stop and See

Often, in daily life I forget to see my son. I see him every day, but my view of him is hindered by the constant toddler tornado I see as he runs around and busies himself with the exploration of his world. My view of him is muddled in the daily “Mommy I need this” and “Mommy come do that.” I lose sight of him as I put away toys and wash dishes and try to scrub the strawberry stain out of his favorite shirt. I forget to just enjoy him as I fix his juice and warm his food. As I wipe his mouth and bottom and drive him to activities. As I play with him while thinking about the things I have waiting for me on my grown up to-do list.

A few weeks ago, we had a family photo session. When we received the pictures, I got teary. There he was. My son. And in this captured moment of stillness, I SAW him.

He is beautiful. 

In these pictures, I saw him for who he is. I noticed the redness of his hair that I often take for granted. I marveled at the deepness and darkness of his eyes. I delighted at the sweet smile that so often plays across his lips and the sometimes mischievous look that lights up his face.

I saw his smallness and his bigness all at the same time. I saw the beauty and wonder and blessing that is my little boy.

I saw the way he loves us, his Mommy and Daddy. And I saw the way we love him more than anything else in this world.

In these captured moments, these captured memories, I stopped and saw our family. I saw my little boy and the love I so often forget to see in the chaos and monotony of daily life. I got to stop and see my life, and remember what a beautiful thing it is.

Linking up today with the lovely Galit and Alison with my favorite link up; Memories Captured.

*The pictures were done by Amy Robinson Photography located in Richmond, VA. If you are in or around the Richmond area, you should definitely look into hiring her! We adore her both for her talent and personality. You can find her here: http://www.amyrobinsonphoto.com/.

Building Blocks

The age of two is so complex. This time of in between. Caught between the world of a baby and a big boy, between a world of needing help and doing it “all by myself.”  Growing, reaching, climbing, achieving. You can do this. You are doing this. Reaching higher and accomplishing more with every breath. I stand in awe of your growth, and watch as you climb into this role of a person you are. I love you, I cherish you, and I capture these brief moments in time when you are still in between.

I am so proud of you, my sweet in between boy.

Linking up today with the lovely Alison of Mama Wants This and Galit of These Little Waves for Memories Captured. What memories have you captured lately?

Memories Captured: Two and a Half

Today, I am honored to link up with two of my favorite bloggers; Galit Breen of These Little Waves and Alison of Mama Wants This. I have been so inspired by both of these talented writers and am thrilled that they are holding a link up for Memories Captured. This genius idea encourages you to capture a moment with words and photos. I love this project, and found the task of finding a beautiful picture of my son and reflecting on it to be fun and challenging. I was so enthralled with this idea, that I could not decide between two of my most favorite recent pictures. I decided to include both. I’m not sure if I was able to capture his essence with these photos and words, but it allowed me to reflect on him and who he is right now, at this precious age of two-and-a-half.