Rory Emerson

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Dear Rory,
Just when I think there is nothing left that could possibly surprise me, Life throws us you.

When we saw those two little pink lines, your Papa and I sat around in a sort of stunned stupor for 2 full days. We just couldn’t believe it

“Just don’t get too attached,” I said to your Papa. I did not see how you could possibly exist and I wanted to brace myself against any heartbreak. But, several weeks later, I walked into a doctor’s office and saw your heart beating, strong and perfect. You were determined.

Belly Shots

It took forever to get things worked out and find a doctor and by the time I saw you on that screen again, you were viable.  I just stared at the miracle of you. There had been  no time to rub my belly and daydream the way I did with your brothers. The most thought I had given you a day was the 5 seconds it took to wash down a prenatal vitamin in the morning and to scold you a bit when you jabbed me in the ribs with your tiny, dangerous feet. But you had been there, all along, growing into a perfect little person in spite of my thoughtlessness. You were determined. 

And then…one day all too soon…they told me they were taking you. They rushed us to the hospital by ambulance and within 15 minutes had things ready to snatch you from me.

I am not going to lie, sweet pea: I totally lost it.  No one would listen to me. Everything was noise and chaos and pain.  I have never felt panic the way I felt it in that moment and I hope I will never feel it again. It was consuming. And ugly. And even now, I cannot name anything I want to remember about the day of your birth… except this:

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Through it all, I could hear your heart beating on the monitor, strong and steady. I kept my eyes closed and just listened to your heart. As I sat on the operating table, the nurse said I should open my eyes and try to take everything in and I told her there was nothing at all I wanted to see. It was true, too. I am glad I don’t know what the ceiling looked like as it rolled by, or how the needle looked going into my arm, or the expressions on everyone’s faces when I begged them to please, please, please stop. I am glad I kept my eyes shut tight.  And I hope that one day the beautiful sound of your beautiful  heart followed by your beautiful cry  is the only thing left in my mind at all about that horrible day.

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They did not let me go see you. It took 5 days for me to be released and 10 days for you to join us. Those days seemed endless.

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PicMonkey Collage[Photos by Liam]

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But every day, they told us how strong you were and how well you were doing. We never once got a bad report. Your heart stayed steady. You learned to breathe. You learned to eat. You figured it all out and you grew and grew. You, Rory Emerson, are determined. 

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Now, you are home with us and life is a total mess. I did not get to plan a nursery or fold your tiny clothes and place them carefully in your drawers. It is not at all what I wanted for you- for any of you. We are all just sort of existing and we move you from place to place while you sleep and eat and continue to grow.

As much as I hate it, I think you will probably be just fine.

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If there is one positive thing I can take away from this experience (aside from you, of course)… it is how amazing people really are.

I have never felt more taken care of than I have since your birth. Nana took off work and stayed with us through everything, cooking and cleaning and shopping, playing with your brothers and keeping me company.  Papa’s brand new company let him stay with us even though he had only been working for a week and they sent us beautiful flowers. Ms. Rachael picked your brothers up from the hospital, no questions asked, invited them over play, fed them and helped with responsibilities. Grams and Gramps let us use their car. Friends brought us delicious food, special treats; they sent tiny, adorable clothes for you to wear and beautiful cards. Our family even helped us pull together a birthday party for your brother in the middle of it all and now they are letting us stay with them while we figure out the rest. And people called and told us they were there if we needed them and told us how beautiful you were and every single thing meant so very much to us.

I never, ever dreamed we would be so lucky to have such an amazing village to support us when things got tangled. Every minute of every day since you were born I have felt grateful and blessed and completely humbled. And that is worth something. It is worth a whole lot. 

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I stare at you a lot, still in a stunned stupor.  Who are you? Where did you come from? Why did you choose us? I can’t figure it out. I don’t even have a guess.  You are a complete mystery to me.

What I do know though is that, for whatever reason, you are meant to be here, little boy… and…

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…you are very, very loved.

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Once I Caught a Fish Alive

The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old. Joan Kerr

” You shouldn’t play with guns!” he declared this morning, “Guns are dangerous and you could really hurt someone with them.”

“Very true, ” I replied.

“….Mama, what if I shot you?”

“Well, that would be pretty sad,” I answered, doing my best to not sound totally creeped out, something I have gotten quite good at over the last year.

He fell silent for a moment, cutting his eyes to the side, the way he does when he is thinking.
“Yeah… it would be… because then there would be three boys around here without a mother. And you really need a mother!”

“Why exactly do you need a mother?” I asked, laughing.

He answered without missing a beat, “To bring you milk! And to cuddle. Sometimes, I need a cuddle and Papa doesn’t really like cuddles. But you do. So, I won’t shoot you, Mama. You’re welcome.”

Oh, this boy. November Pic December Pic January Pic February Pic March 037 April Pic May 073 July Pic July 010 September 068 September 204 kisses for bro Five years old feels really, really old. Do you know what my newly minted 5 year old is doing right now? Right this very second? He is sleeping… at a friend’s house… without me.  He is having a genuine, sleepover.  Because he is old.

This year has gone by so fast my head is spinning.  Another move. Another brother. Life is changing. The chaos never ends.  I am so not ready for any of it…but Liam takes it all in stride. He never seems to mind much when things do not go according to plan. As long as he can bring along a couple of action figures.

This kid is smart and quick-witted really quotable. He is mischievous and easily distracted and slightly annoying.  He is crazy about wild animals, human anatomy and computer games. He is an awesome big brother. He asks tons of questions and is genuinely interested in the answers. He has more energy than we know what to do with.  He is always surprising me…. and I do not see that stopping any time soon.

Happy 5th Birthday, Liam Eliot.
I love you more than bacon.

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Brothers Three

Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds.
Terri Guillemets

Growing up, when I pictured the family I would go on to have, I never, ever pictured myself surrounded by men.

When I really stop to think about this, I am not sure why. Girls have always been scarce in my life. But, for whatever reason, I just always knew I would have a daughter.

Until I was 8, our closest family friends had a set of 3 boys. I specifically remember wondering how their mama could stand not having a girl around the house.  I loved those boys with all my heart (and was pretty convinced I had to pick one to marry) but they also made me cry a lot.  I have this really specific memory of the middle son hop-skipping down the hallway after his older brother.  His leg was in a cast, having been broken in some trampoline accident or other high-energy antic, but it was only slowing him down a tad as he was intent on killing his older brother over some quarrel they were having.  I ran away as they landed in a dog-pile on the floor, yelling and shoving,  absolutely sure blood was about to be spilled.  It was too much for my sensitive heart to handle. Their mama must be scared all the time, I thought… and also lonely.

Me and those boys(Those boys and Me– 1991)

When Ryan and I got married, I teased that he was contractually obligated to provide me with a daughter. I was only half-joking.  When we discovered our first-born would be a boy, I reminded him of his obligation and when we discovered another boy would be joining our family 3 years later (even though I had genuinely hoped Dexter would be a boy) … I simply gave him a knowing look. He knew what it meant.

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Now, we are unexpectedly expecting yet again and we have been informed that more snips and snails will be entering our lives.

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The truth is, it is exciting! At the same time, however, it  is suddenly dawning on me, as I find myself waddling through life once more, that it may take more pregnancies than I am willing to endure to add a daughter to our family. For the first time, I am entertaining the idea that I may, in fact, be a mother of sons.  Even stranger for me is that I am also entertaining the fact that this may end up being our last baby entirely. I want a large family and so that never seemed an option before, but I also want to be the best mama I can be to the children I have and, for practical reasons, that may mean stopping before I am ready.

I have been asked how I feel about another boy and I always give a pretty generic answer. “Oh, it would have been fun to have a girl to dress up, but boys are so awesome!” However, as I really attempt to process my feelings, only one word genuinely seems to describe my true feelings on the matter: bittersweet.

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There is a part of me that is always very aware that every day my children are moving away from me. My job as a mother is to hold them close- nurture and love them- while simultaneously easing them toward the day they will be pushed from the nest and told to fly on their own. While I think this is a universal truth for mothers of both boys and girls… there is just something so final to me about that inevitable separation when raising my sons. I am teaching them not to need me.

A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.
Or so they say.

Being the mother of a son means preparing my child to belong to another. Being the mother of a son means perfectly the art of letting go.This has never been a strong quality of mine and so I have a lot to learn.

Please know that I am not making any assumptions about what it is or is not like to raise a daughter; I am, in fact, simply acknowledging that I may never know what it means. I only know what I know about these boys of mine.

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It is sometimes hard for me to watch my boys’ eyes light up as they watch their Papa. They soak up everything he does like a sponge. They want to be just like him.

Liam will often run into the room to show me the outfit he has chosen to look “just like Papa.” He asks me when he will be big enough to go work at the office where his Papa is. “That is what my Papa says,”  he declares a million times a day, to anyone who will listen.

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When Ryan walks in the door at the end of the day, Dexter face explodes in happiness and devotion. He crawls as fast as he can to his Papa’s feet, sits up on his knees and reaches his hands in the air to be picked up by his big, strong Papa.

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And, I know enough by now to know, this third little one will be just the same.

It is beautiful and I love it, of course…but it can also sting. There is no little one to want to be just like me, no one trailing me all day or begging me to play the games I remember from my own childhood.

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It is disappointing to accept that I may never buy a dress for my little girl or help to plan a wedding. I might never get into a screaming match with my daughter or listen to her gush about a new boyfriend. I might never share make-up tips…and have them ignored, or create fairy-princess tea parties, or have mama/daughter dates. I can admit this.

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I think that to be completely honest with myself, I have to admit this.  If I do not have a daughter, there is a lot I may miss out on… and that if I do, I will feel that loss.

But… of course, there is a but…

There is also something so incredibly beautiful about being the mother of a little boy. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade these boys of mine for the entire world.

As a woman, men are really quite a mystery to me. Yet, here I am, privileged to witness the tender beginnings of three of them. I rock Dexter to sleep and his little body melts into a puddle against my chest. I hold Liam as he cries over a skinned knee.  They throw themselves into my arms with reckless abandon. They open-mouth kiss me right on the lips. They lose themselves in laughter. They scream in fright. They dissolve in tears. There are not many other women in these boys’ lives that will witness these moments of vulnerability as I have. And I will always be the first.

I am the first girl that will ever love these boys.

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And, oh, how I love them! (Shut up… you knew it was coming.)

They are so sweet and curious and full of adventure.  We are always fighting bad guys, digging for insects, and going to the moon. Liam knows endless interesting facts about almost any living creature. Dexter has taught me that anything is edible if you only put your mind to it. They never, ever stop exploring. They smell like sweat and earth and somehow the two mix into what has to be the most amazing smell on the planet. They test my patience and challenge me daily…but they are endlessly forgiving of all my short-comings. My life is so full of laughter and joy and fun and it all bubbles directly from their little hearts. They love me completely. I am the luckiest.

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I feel so much responsibility to protect their hearts, these tiny men of mine.  I want to shield them from a world. I want to preserve their tender spirits. I don’t want them to be “toughened up” or have anyone tell them not to cry or squeal in delight. It breaks my heart… but I also know that in some ways, in spite of my best efforts, it is inevitable. One day, my soft-hearted boys will probably bite their lips and hold back the tears, so even as I do my best to protect them, to teach them to be true to themselves… I also wipe those tears that stream down their faces so easily now with purpose, knowing that one day, I may never do it again. I listen intently to every giggle, savor every freely given, slobbery kiss on the mouth. I hold them in my laps while I can, folding their legs and arms up in mine, trying my best to remember what their little hearts feel like beating against me.

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They change so completely, don’t they? Their voices crack and deepen, their arms and legs grow long and their jaw gets wide. They will tower over me one day.  When I look at baby pictures of the men in my life, I can barely see the resemblance and so I am careful to soak in all of who my little boys are at every moment; everything from their button noses and chipmunk voices to their tender, exposed emotions and open expressions of affections.

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We don’t get to keep them.
And it is all very precious because it is all very fleeting.

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As I feel this new little life inside of me flutter around, I am happy… and also a little bit sad.  He is going to be the perfect addition to our family, but perhaps the final one.

My children really are my greatest teachers. I am learning that even when things do not turn out the way that they expect, they might still be pretty great. I am learning to expand my vision for my life and even the definition of “daughter.” Perhaps I will never give birth to a little girl…but that relationship may be filled in other ways. And in the meantime… I have a lot to be thankful for.

I have also learned over the last few years that a  mother to boys honestly does not have any time to feel sad or lonely. She is way too busy making mud pies, fighting dragons and flying to save the day. Yes, perhaps she is a little bit frightened from time to time…but honestly, aren’t we all?

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Previously on Weird Bird…..

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
Cary Grant

I only have about 23 posts sitting in my drafts folder, waiting to be published. Our lives have been busy and in spite of how quiet it has been around here since…well, pretty much since the birth of Hurricane Dexter, I do have a lot to say!

Before I go there though, I feel it is only fair to play catch up on what our family has been up to lately.

I suppose I might as well start with the biggest news first:   Freaking OutYes, my friends…that is actually a positive pregnancy test. 

Big Brother CollageDexter Keats will be a big brother at the ripe old age of 15 months. Baby Boy Haddock the Third will be gracing us with his presence sometime in November. 

It was a surprise and I will admit that it is taking me a little while to warm up to the idea. I am bracing myself for a tough couple of years as we navigate the uncharted territory of 2 under 2, in addition to the equally uncharted territory of 3 BOYS.  I am just a little bit outnumbered around here.  As Liam says, “I guess you are just going to have to get a poofy dog.”

Speaking of Liam, our little guy is going through some pretty big changes this year:

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The Friday before his very first day, we went shopping.

Back to SchoolWe went out to breakfast, got his brand new Spider-man backpack and all his supplies, hit up the Goodwill for some awesome school clothes (as well as our dependable Old Navy for some skinny jeans that will actually fit) and got a rad new haircut! It was exhausting and also awesome. We had so much fun and Liam Eliot was beyond excited for his first day.

First Day of School CollageLiam’s first day went very well. I was proud of him. This tutorial is based on the classical model of education. We chose it because, after attending an open house, Liam could not stop talking about it.  He seems to really thrive on the challenge of the memory work and we have been amazed at how quickly he is learning.

Our homeschooling is very eclectic though and we are also enjoying a weekly co-op at our house based loosely on the Waldorf method of education. Both groups are adding so much to our lives and I am very grateful for them.  In addition to these groups, Liam is learning to play the piano with Papa and also how to read. We are working through a kindergarten math curriculum and are slowly realizing that our kid is a math and science whiz! It is pretty incredible. Mostly though, we are just hanging out with friends a lot, going cool places, reading lots of books, enjoying life together, and sometimes saying “the heck” with all of it, and spending the day with a big bowl of popcorn and Netflix.

Basically, homeschooling rocks.

Silly FacesI have to admit, as we get ready to say good-bye to 4 year old Liam… I am really looking forward to 5.  This is the first year that I can honestly say I will not really miss; four was hard.  Over the last few months, I have started to see glimpses of maturity in Liam that I am so, so, SO ready to embrace. He is getting easier to talk to and he knows so much! His sense of humor is evolving and he can genuinely crack me up, which I love. Not often, but occasionally, he will even do something that we ask him to do without arguing. And sometimes, when he asks you, “Why?” he will genuinely listen to what you say. And there are moments when he ACTUALLY LISTENS TO REASON. For real.

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Dexter, on the other hand, is pretty much the same chubby bundle of joy. 

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He has 8 teeth now and he isn’t afraid to use them.  He is taking hesitant steps but nothing worthy of the baby book, which, of course, he does not have because he is The Second Child. He is loud. He is cheeky. He isn’t afraid of anything. He keeps us on our toes. He is also absolutely the most delicious baby you have ever nibbled…and he is nibbled frequently.

Lastly, Ryan and I are making it.

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A few weeks ago, we were able to swing a simple babymoon/delayed anniversary weekend. It was wonderful.

August 036We really did not do much at all.  The Bed and Breakfast, which was less than an hour away from Chattanooga, was lovely.  The food was delicious and the room was adorable.

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Of course, this isn’t even remotely all our news… but it is a start. Life has been challenging recently, but I am feeling pretty optimistic about the future. I hope to have- or perhaps MAKE- the time to share it all here.

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One day, I’ll be a year…

On Saturday, my baby turned one.

Day One

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He is funny and opinionated and he loves to eat.
He is an expert cuddler.
His lips purse up when he is concentrating and it is the cutest thing you have ever seen.
He is sitting, crawling, rolling, cruising and standing independently for a second or two.
He babbles non-stop and already talks with his hands.
He waves hello and bye-bye and says, “dye-dye” if anyone looks like they might be possibly thinking about leaving the room…but doesn’t say it if you ask him to.
He is cheeky and he is a dare-devil.
He says, “Mama” and “Papa” and he knows exactly who we are.
He is the world’s happiest baby… most of the time.
When he isn’t happy, you are going to know it.
He is pudgy and round… everything about him is perfectly round: his head and his eyes and his perfect fat toes, his ears, his button nose, his chubby knees. He is like a perfect circle of baby sweetness that you just want to nom all day.
He thinks his big brother is probably the coolest thing to ever happen to the planet.
He likes to bang on things.
He loves to laugh.

If I had to pick one word to describe this boy of mine… it would be expressive. He is the most expressive baby I have ever met. I could watch him explore the world all day as his eyebrows wiggle or his eyes grow wide, as he sticks his tongue out of the side of his mouth or flashes his dipples in pure joy or scrunches up his entire face and shrieks in frustration.

I just love his face.

So happy to have had this kid in my life this year.
So, so, so happy.

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You Are My Sunshine

You make me happy, when skies are grey.
“You Are My Sunshine” — Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell

We still have one more week before our littlest little turns one… but we had his party this Saturday.

We kept Dexter’s first birthday very simple.  I remember wanting Liam’s first birthday to be perfect. I planned every last detail, stayed up way too late hand-making invitations and favors,  spent loads of money… and it turned out to be pretty much like every other first birthday party that has ever been thrown: fun and adorable and not even remotely perfect.

So this time around, being the seasoned mother that I am, I just didn’t. I did not plan every detail. I did not even send invitations. And we spent very little money. And guess what?  Dexter’s first birthday party was fun and adorable and not even remotely perfect as well. And it was a lot less stressful!

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This year, I used a Facebook event to announce Dexter’s birthday celebration. I do not think I will do it again though as it was much easier to miss people that we wanted to invite, but it was simple and got the job (mostly) done.

We had the party at a park in Mt. Juliet.  It is a great park. There are several playgrounds and a splash pad. We rented a pavilion for the entire day for a very reasonable fee. It gave us plenty of time to decorate, have a leisurely lunch and clean up without having to worry about anyone else needing the space.

Auntie Kayleigh brought her cousins up for the party. They arrived a little early and were total lifesavers! Liam had come with me to set up the pavilion and was feeling less than cooperative. This coupled with a mishap or two had kept me from getting much done. When they arrived, they did the majority of the decorating and had they not been there, nothing would have gotten done!

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I kept the decorations pretty simple: a few handmade signs, some free printables I found online, balloons, fresh flowers and paper fans.  We covered the tables with yellow plastic and include a white butcher paper runner with buckets of crayons so everyone would have a chance to be creative.

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…or, you know, eat them.

I have always found outdoor parties nerve-racking because of the threat of bad weather and it looked like it was going to be pretty nasty. In the end though, we enjoyed a cool, overcast day and it turned out to be perfect for spending so much time outdoors.

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You know I tend to be pretty dedicated to the theme, so for lunch we served pizza (because it is round like the sun… or maybe because it is easy), a veggie tray that included mini sweet peppers, carrots and tomatoes, with homemade ranch dip, as well as clementines, bananas, and peaches. (Full disclosure: the fruit was supposed to be made into adorable sunshine “ray” kabobs…but it just never happened.) We also had homemade lemonade, Sunkist, Sundrop and water.

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We had some friends coming to the party that live with severe food allergies. We wanted them to be safe and included so I was careful to avoid any food they were allergic to on the menu (or for the mild allergies, such as dairy, simply provide an alternative they could enjoy).   This wasn’t terribly difficult.  I ordered a couple of vegan pizzas, and stuck to fresh fruit and veggies and that was really all it took.  I was, however, slightly intimidated when it came time to make Dexter’s birthday cupcakes without any dairy or egg products.

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I ended up making vegan chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with coconut oil and they were AMAZING. They did not hold up terribly well and I probably should have had some forks on hand.. but the taste more than made up for any texture issues. They were by far the best cupcakes I have ever made.  In the end, I was glad I chose to make the effort to make our menu allergy-friendly.  I learned a lot and have a wonderful new cupcake recipe as well.

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All the kids seemed to have fun.  We had bubbles and chalk on hand at the pavilion and there was, of course, the playground and splash pad to enjoy as well.

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Everyone ate and played and then we all came back to sing Happy Birthday to Dexy-K and enjoy some cake with him. He responded adorably.

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Liam turned up his nose at the smash cake I made him so this year a friend made Dexter’s. She did a phenomenal job.  As you can see, I have gotten a little less “virtuous” about what enters Second Baby’s body and his cake included food coloring and plenty of sugar.  He thoroughly enjoyed it!

Cake Collage

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As everyone gathered up to head home, we let Dex open his presents.  His favorite part was the birthday cards.

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A few of my very favorite parts:

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My friend Jodi with Tutu Kute made Dex this adorable birthday shirt.  I love it so much. It is a little big on him, which I am thrilled about, because this means I can dress him in it for a few more months and continue to enjoy it!  She is incredibly talented and if you are even in the market for a shirt for a special event, please consider checking out her etsy shop!

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Chelsea made Dexter’s smash cake and I have to say it is probably my favorite thing in the whole world. It hurt a little bit to watch Dex destroy it.  It will live on in my memory. If you live in the Nashville area and are looking for someone to make a tasty and beautiful cake for your special event, let me know and I will give you her contact information!

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Riley, Kayleigh’s cousin, decorated Dexter’s high chair. I had not really had a plan for the high chair but when she was finished it was one of my very favorite things at the whole party. The sun balloon makes me smile and it was the perfect finishing touch. Unfortunately, Riley lives in Chattanooga and is not for hire. ;)

My Other Half

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So many people made the long drive up to Nashville to celebrate Dexter’s day with us. It would have been so easy of them to say the drive was too long or their weekend was too busy and we would have completely understood… but they didn’t. They woke up early and packed up their cars and took the time to come celebrate with us. Also, our new friends in Nashville braved the gloomy weather to join us as well … and that was definitely my most favorite part of all.

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It was a very nice day spent enjoying our friends and family and, of course, Mr. Dexter Keats.  Thank you to everyone who joined us!

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Filed under Dexter, family life, holidays, parties

July Fourth Shenanigans

Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own. 
Seneca

It was Dexter’s first Independence Day! (And my 28th, of course.) We had a great time.

Parade CollageWe started off the morning with a trip to Pegram to watch the parade. It was a fun, small town parade, and we enjoyed it a lot.

After that, we had some visitors! Our friends came to celebrate with us and it was so much fun.

July 018editWe had a yummy cookout at home- Ryan made some awesome hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill-  and then we headed to Franklin to enjoy some festivities.

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July 053We had so many July 4th events to choose from but we decided on Franklin because it seemed like they would have plenty to do without being too crowded and we were right. It was perfect.  We listened to some good music, browsed some booths and the kids had lots of fun on the inflatables.

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July 047When we started to get hungry, we headed over to the farm where the fireworks were going to be and set up our picnic. It was beautiful! Everyone had plenty of space to spread out, the kids played soccer and Frisbee, and we took a walk around the lake and caught fireflies while we waited for the show.

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July 061My camera died just as the sun set, but we did snap a few pictures of the fireworks with our phone.  It was a great show. It lasted a long time and was set up far enough away that they were not too loud. Dexter loved them! He was pointing and yelling and giggling like crazy.

Fireworks CollageAll the kids were asleep before we made it out of the parking lot. It was such a fun day. I loved having our friends here to celebrate with us.

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Filed under family life, holidays