10 Years of Parenthood: An Open Letter to Our Sweet Girl on Your 10th Birthday

Ten years.

That’s how long daddy and I have been parents. You, our sweet baby girl, Addison Grace, were born on this day in 2008. You came into the world a week before your due date, and only about six hours after you decided to make it obvious you were arriving. My contractions started late at night, and they were only 2 minutes apart in under an hour. You arrived less than six hours later – and I just barely made it to the hospital in time for an epidural and delivery! I haven’t forgotten that, kiddo.

I’ll never forget that moment. We got to hold our sweet baby for the very first time. Only 10 months before, we sat at our resort in Hawaii enjoying a bottle of champagne and celebrating my 24th birthday when daddy asked me if I wanted to have a baby. We’d been married three years, we’d traveled constantly, we’d built a house and then a home, and we were ready. Well, it took me a few days to decide I was ready, but you get the point.

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It was six weeks later when we woke up at 6 am. The pregnancy test box said I could start taking tests that day (six days early). I’d never taken one before, so I didn’t know what to expect or what might happen. A few minutes later, I was officially pregnant. That afternoon, we were at the University of Florida for a football game (it was November 17) and we went down to the sports shop, bought shirts that said “Gator Mom,” and “Gator Dad,” asked the family who were at the game with us to take a photo of us standing in front of our seats, held up our shirts, and waited while they all took a moment (we literally did not have any clue that you didn’t announce your pregnancy at three weeks and one day at that point…).

The next 36 weeks flew by so quickly. Our lives changed so much that year, and it was the most beautiful year of our lives. You came into our lives, and our entire world changed for the better. You were the easiest, sweetest little thing. We took you everywhere. Before you were six months old, you’d been to the Bahamas, Boston, Texas, Mexico, and Ohio. You spent your first birthday riding in your first limo, cruising Newport Harbor in an amazing boat, and enjoying a week in Orange County, California. You were the best baby (thank you for sleeping through the night and following our schedules and routines so well. I’m not sure I would make a great sleep-deprived human.)

{You when you turned two weeks old, you when you came home from the hospital for the first time and we put you in your swing, and you on the day of your first birthday}

You’ve given us so much. Laughter, love, happiness, joy. You are the sweetest girl, and you make us so proud.

You are the best big sister your sisters and brother could ever ask for. You are just like daddy in terms of your personality. You’ll do anything for anyone, you’ve got an unlimited supply of patience, and you are kind. You have a good heart and the sweetest soul. You’re a rule follower, and you never get in trouble. You are, quite simply, a complete joy.

It’s because of you we are parents. It’s because of you we have three more beautiful babies. And it’s because of you we have so much to smile about. Happy Birthday, Addison Grace. You’re 10 today, and that is huge. You are the most special little girl (almost big girl) in the world, and we love you more than we could ever put into words. You’ve taught us so much about being parents, and about love, and I want to share with you what you’ve taught me and what I want you to know on this day 10 years after you changed our world.

{Your first trip to the Lowry Park Zoo, on a boat cruising through Newport Harbor in Orange County, CA on your first birthday, and your first trip to Disney}

It’s the little things that matter the most

If you’ve taught us one thing above all else, it’s that it really is the little things in life. It doesn’t matter how many times we take you to Disney, or how many places we travel, or what we do, you are happiest when we sit down with you at the end of a day and play a game of cards or watch a movie with you. The big things are amazing, but you’ve taught us that it’s the simplest moments in life that are the best. We can sit down with you and google knock knock jokes and have the best time, ever. You make everything amazing.

Snack time is all the time

I just hope you always love being so active, and that you always love to join us in the gym for a run. Because, girl….you eat a lot. My parents always told me they one day hoped I’d have a daughter just like me for karma purposes (that would be Ava, if you’re wondering) and even though no one wants to hear their mother come out of their mouth, I hope you one day have a child who spends 11 weeks every summer asking if it’s snack time every 2.7 seconds. You’ll understand a fraction of my crazy, perhaps. Don’t worry, I won’t say I told you so.

{You and Ava when you were the very best of friends as babes, us when we were a family of four hanging out on Emerald Isle in NC, you and Ava in North Carolina, you and the babes in North Carolina, you and Carter on a flight to Texas)

What we do, you see, emulate, and believe

Our behavior is important to you, and we work very hard to make sure you’re getting the best of us all the time. We know you see what we do more than you hear what we say, and we are so inspired by that. We work so hard to make sure you learn how to be kind, gracious, and generous. We want you to learn to give back, to treat others with kindness even when they don’t deserve it in the moment, and we work very hard to make sure you know what’s right and what’s not.

Your daddy is the role model you’ll look up to when you take an interest in boys (which you better not do until you’re 76). He is what you want to look for in a gentleman. Someone who treats you with kindness and respect. Someone who opens your doors and stands when you walk into a room or leave the table. Someone who makes you laugh and smile, but someone who is also perfectly fine when you’re a mess. Look to daddy, sweet girl. He’s everything and then some when it comes to the kind of man you want to spend your time with. Anyone who treats you as anything less simply isn’t worth your time.

What we say is so important

You hear everything we say, even when we don’t think that you do. We hope you hear us when we tell you that you’re beautiful inside and out. We hope you hear us when we tell you how intelligent you are, how smart you are, and how amazing you are. We hope you hear those things, and we hope you know that those are the things we mean the most.

{You driving the boat in Tennessee, enjoying the only cow in Texas that doesn’t smell one fall, searching for shells two summers in a row in NC (I hope your future kids love doing that as much as you do every summer), scalloping, paddleboarding at the river house, and hanging out with our favorites on a summer evening}

Your love is unconditional

When we have bad days or my patience is wearing thin (usually with one of your younger siblings) or a stranger in public, you always love us. When I have a moment I’m not proud of, you still love me. Your love is unconditional, sweet, and so innocent. And I love that. I want to be more like you.

Life is better with babies

Like, really, really better. I never knew how much I enjoyed eating cold food, taking 7 hours to complete one conversation with another adult, or how much I loved spending time at Disney World until you came along. I could watch you do the same roundoff back handspring a million times a day and still think it’s the coolest thing ever. Life was beautiful before you, and it’s still unbelievable to me how much more of everything beautiful it is with you.

{You and G…because I know these pictures embarrass you, and we can’t get you to pose together anymore. Let’s see…Halloween, hanging out in North Carolina, bowling, at a resort in Orlando, and walking to dinner during another Orlando trip….I left out all the kissing pictures. I didn’t want to make it weird.}

We will always worry

It doesn’t matter where we are, where you are, who you are with, what we are doing, what you are doing, or how old we all are – we will never not worry about you.

When you’re in school and daddy and I are at home in our office working, I randomly worry that you’re eating enough at lunch (and your dad side eyes me and tells me that you have more food in your lunchbox than Publix has in one aisle). I worry that you didn’t hear me tell you I love you when I dropped you off. I worry how other kids behave and how you’re responding to them. I worry that you’re feeling sick or sad or confused or excited or what. And yet, every single day, I pick you up from the best day ever, and your smile is contagious. But, sweet girl, we will always worry about you.

We will always miss you when we are not with you

Always. Even when you and Ava and the babies make us so insanely crazy with your bickering that we cannot wait for a break, we miss you. We aren’t giving up our date nights or weekends away every few months, but we do miss you like crazy. We are always so excited to come home to you when we land.

{You make us so proud dancing, cheering, being Baptised, and choosing such sweet friends to surround yourself with}

There is joy in everything

Oh, Addison. You have taught us so much, and I love how much you’ve taught us about joy. With your smile and your sweet laugh, there is joy in every moment. You taught us that every moment is a good one, and that there is some sort of joy even in the saddest moments.

When I cried thinking about how hard it was going to be saying goodbye to great grandma when we left Texas last week, you put your sweet arms around me and told me it was okay and that you miss her, too. Even in one of my most difficult moments, you found a way to show me joy just by being you.

You are the best parts of both of us

Well, you’re the best parts of your daddy. I think you ended up with all my worst qualities, but you really do make them work. Never stop being like daddy. He’s the best person I know, and following in his footsteps is a very good thing. I’m sorry you somehow ended up with my OCD, and my anxiety about messiness and imperfections. I love that you have my perfectionism, but I hope you keep it a healthy situation unlike your crazy mama. Don’t let it make you cray, but if you want to keep thinking you want to be just like me when you grow up, I won’t argue with you. Just be like, 75% better than me and you’ll be all right.

{The summer you turned 7. We began your birthday month on the lake in Tennessee with our favorites. Remember when you jumped off that bridge holding Uncle Geremy’s hand like a champ?! We ended it at the Omni with all of our favorites, and the royal treatment for you, birthday girl. You and all your friends/cousins had your own table at dinner, your own waitstaff, your own cake, and your own fun}

Addybug, thanks for making us parents. Thanks for being the best. Thanks for being our family. Thank you for bringing so much light and laughter and love and happiness in our home on a daily basis. And thanks for not being too mad at us that you ended up with two little sisters and a little brother. We know they make you crazy, but it’s only because they love you so much because you’re so lovable.

Thank you for being a shining example of class. You might only be 10, but you are one of the most elegant, classiest people I have the pleasure of knowing. Your kindness shines through your eyes, and you are such a good person without even trying. I love how you always cheer people on, how you are so excited about their excitement, and how you always look to help when someone needs it. I love that you are such a class act. Never change, ever. The world needs about 7 billion more people just like you.

{That one time you and Ava asked us if you could join me and daddy the next time we went to NYC. Riding to dinner in a limo, taking photos with Lady Liberty, snapping quick pics in the hotel lobby before dinner, and shopping at American Girl. That was probably our favorite trip, ever. Daddy and I have spent 2-3 weekends a year in NYC for the past decade, but there was nothing like seeing it through your eyes for the first time}

We love you so much. All the time. No matter what. You’re our baby, and you will always be our baby. You are our greatest joy and every piece of our hearts.

Happy 10th Birthday, our blue-eyed beauty.

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Summer Bucket List: Per My Kids

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Summer is here.

Oh, who am I kidding…we are Floridians. It’s always summer. But it’s really summer now that the humidity is back in full force and the kids are out of school for another 10 weeks (yes, I’m counting).

I don’t love summer. I don’t love saying that, but it’s true. I’m not a fan of sweating, humidity, frizzy hair, choking while trying to breathe outside…and mosquitoes. I’m also not a big fan of the beach, believe it or not. I’m a 35-year Floridian, and it pains me to go to the beach. I don’t like the feel of sand or the feel of salt water.

Don’t get me wrong…I love to look at the beach. I’m a big fan of sitting on the balcony at the Loft at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach and looking at it. I once spent 10 glorious days overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific from our suite balcony at the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu – and never once touched the beach.

I could sit at the indoor/outdoor bar at the Ritz-Carlton Ft. Lauderdale with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc watching the ocean all day long. But don’t ask me to touch it. The problem is having kids who love the beach. And they love it from up close and personal. Oh the sacrifices we make for our kids.

Summer isn’t my favorite season for so many reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is all my mom guilt. I have a serious case of mom guilt in the summer. My husband and I both work from home. He works set hours for his company, and I work for myself. While I do get to choose my hours and when I work because I am the owner of my company, I still have to get the work done – and I’m not a fan of working late nights or afternoons. I like to work early in the morning and get all my deadlines met by noon each day so I have free afternoons.

However, this means boring mornings for the kids, and I don’t love that. Don’t get me wrong; they don’t mind it. They like to read, they like to play outside, and they love to create art and play games. But I always feel like I’m not giving them enough. I like for them to be bored…it gives them creativity and teaches them to use their imagination. My job is not to provide them with endless entertainment every moment of every day. That’s not good for any of us. But…I can’t shake that guilt from time to time.

That’s why we create a bucket list every summer. I let the kids choose what they want to do, and it never fails to warm my heart. My kids want the simplest things in life, and I love that. They get to do so much and experience so many of the ‘big’ things in life, and I secretly love that they really love the little things. I do feel guilty about that, too, however. Are we doing too much with them and sacrificing the littlest things? I don’t know…but I wanted to share their bucket list with you for our summer.

  • Have our cousins over for sleepovers so much
  • Have sleepovers at grandma and grandpa’s house
  • Swim
  • Go to the beach
  • Have ice create dates
  • Make cookies
  • Do more art
  • Read more books outside
  • Play hide and seek
  • Go somewhere we’ve never been
  • Visit great-grandma’s farm in Texas
  • Go to our favorite hotels for the weekends
  • Have more movie nights
  • Make s’mores (after the twins’ go to bed because they are dangerous little people)
  • Get a sprinkler to play in
  • Go bowling
  • Play cards
  • Ride our bikes
  • Stay home more often

How can you not love something so simple? I love it.

You’ll note our bucket list is not filled with things like “Go to Disney,” or a lot of other outdoor activities that don’t involve water. We’re annual passholders, and the last thing we will ever do during the summer months is go to Disney. You’ll see us there all the time between September and April, but May through August is like pure torture for all of us.

We are already making a lot of fun summer memories a week into it. We’ve had card games every night after the twins are in bed, and we spent four days out of town last weekend swimming every single day. We also had the entire weekend to have a sleepover with the cousins as they came with us – the grandmas, too. We’ve made a ton of art, and we are going bowling with our friends this morning. We fly to Texas next month to see my grandmother, and the kids are excited to visit the farm. They love it, but probably because our niece and nephew are going with my parents and they just get more time with them there.

We’re off to a good start. What are some of the things you do with your kids during the summer? Do you feel the same mom guilt as I do? I try to remind myself that it’s fine for my kids to feel bored, and that we don’t need to go do something exciting and amazing every single day. Fortunately, we do a lot and our kids beg for time home. They like to be relaxed, and that helps when I’m feeling the guilt!

6 Surprising Things I Love About Being A Mom: The Mother’s Day Edition

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas!

If you’d told me 9 years ago when I was celebrating my first Mother’s Day as an expectant mommy-to-be that Mother’s Day would become a day that’s so bittersweet, I never would have believed it. I was high on life, on the baby we were expecting, and on everything else. Life was just so good. It is so good. I have no complaints; we have our minor issues, but our problems are the epitome of first world problems, and I’m constantly reminded how spoiled and ungrateful I sound when I complain about them. I try hard not to, but some days get to me.

I never would have believed Mother’s Day was going to be a day I’d celebrate with tears of sadness mixed with tears of joy, but God has other plans for me than the ones I create for myself. My plans are laughable, and they’re nothing in comparison to what my God has in store for me. That’s why when 7 years ago I woke up on Mother’s Day to celebrate my second as a mother, I had tears in my eyes, a puffy face, and a broken heart.

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You see, the day before was just another day. Until it wasn’t another day. I was almost two months pregnant with our second baby – except that second baby wasn’t meant to be. Our second baby wouldn’t make it another day to Mother’s Day. I miscarried that night. My heart hurt in a way that I can’t put into words. It still hurts each time I think of that beautiful baby I will one day get to meet in Heaven. I didn’t know it then, but I’d experience the same pain a few months later as I quickly became pregnant again and lost our third baby, as well. It all began on Mother’s Day – and it hurt. Two babies we’ll one day meet – but haven’t yet gotten to know.

It’s true we were blessed again about 6 weeks later with yet another pregnancy, and that pregnancy resulted in the birth of our feisty, silly, intelligent, sweet, kind Ava Cathryn. And we ended up pregnant only two years after that with a set of twins. Coincidence after losing two babies? I think not.

Like I said; I have no complaints about life. We learned very quickly that Mother’s Day 7 years ago that our problems aren’t real problems when faced with actual, real life problems. We learned very quickly to appreciate the little things. To be very grateful for the little moments. To embrace the imperfection of ourselves and our kids, and to laugh as many of the parent-problems we have off. We appreciate so much more since then, and we practice (and sometimes fail) to really take pleasure in the smallest things.

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I didn’t know then that Mother’s Day would be a bittersweet day for me. I always find a moment in which I wonder what life would be like if that baby had been born. I wouldn’t have had a second miscarriage, but I also wouldn’t have Ava Cathryn. And we might not have the twins. I couldn’t see then why something so tragic could happen to us, but God’s plan is often much clearer when it’s been revealed. He had a greater plan for us, and that leads me to my actual point today.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s a lovely day in which we will entertain our extended families, spend time with the kids, and open many cards, smell many flowers, enjoy a lovely church service, and probably have a few too many glasses of Sancerre. It’s a good day.

A really good day. I mean, it could be a great day if it involved Sancerre on a beach or at the spa without the kids or the extended family over, a good book, and room service – but that’s not what made us moms, so a day with the kids it is.

Nine years a mama, four kids, two angel babies, and a lot of love, laughter, and tears later, I’m still shedding a few tears on Mother’s Day, but they’re not all sad tears. It’s a day for me to really just honor the little people who call me mom (entirely too many times, if we’re being honest here) by sharing 6 surprising things I love most about being a mom. I chose 6 because of Addison, Ava, Charlotte, and Carter, and for the two babies we so sadly lost before we ever got to know them.

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  1. Early Morning Wake-Ups

It’s a 5 am alarm on weekdays for a few hours of work and coffee and vanity before the tiny humans wake up, and it’s 7-8ish on the weekends. It’s not the leisurely 10-11 it once was, but I love waking up early. I love that time. It turns out, I’m a morning person; but I really just love those weekend wake-ups with the kids come running into our room all kinds of excited to see us, jumping into our bed, and cuddling with us for a few moments before we begrudgingly drag ourselves out from the warmth of our duvet to the hard-knock life of breaking up fights and arguing over whose pancake is bigger.

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  1. The Mess

Anyoen who knows me is dying right now. I hate messes. I don’t allow them, I make sure they’re cleaned up in about a half a second. But…the mess I’m cleaning up after the kids means I have a full, happy home of little people who enjoy life. That’s something pretty spectacular.

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  1. The Noise

I don’t even know what quiet sounds like, and I don’t really want to. Our house is L.O.U.D. at all times. It’s six people all trying to be heard, and it’s a lot of screaming, laughing, and fun. That noise might bother some people, but I really love it. I love it because that noise means family. It means love, and it means happiness. I love that.

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  1. Big Grocery Bills

I remember the day we’d spend all of $50 at the supermarket in a week before we had kids. Okay, so half that was wine and the other half was maybe a package of chicken and some veggies – because we never ate at home. Now we spend $500+ every week at Publix (at least) and I don’t hate it. It means my house is full, our bellies are full, and we will never have a lonely dinner table, breakfast nook, or meal. It means I’ll always have a house filled with people I love an awful lot on holidays, Sunday evenings, and random nights even when they’re all grown up and on their own.

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  1. Sticky Kisses

When a messy, snotty, sticky baby puts his or her hands on your cheeks and turns your face directly to theirs and plants a loud, mushy kiss right on my lips – it is every single thing ever in life. You learn as a mom not to complain about kisses you might consider nasty and gag-worthy from anyone else. Those kisses might be the best thing that ever happened in life.

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  1. No Free Hands With Which to Do Anything

I never have a free hand. Handbags, diaper bags, kids hands, or even the twins in both arms is my go-to, and I love it. I love that I can’t answer my phone when it rings while the kids are with me. I love that I can barely get the keys out of my bag to unlock the car when they’re with me. I will always have my husband’s hand to hold when the kids are grown and gone off on their own, but I’ll always have a free hand. Right now, my full hands (and my fuller heart) mean I have four little people who love me so much, all the time, forever, and they want nothing more than to be close to me.

I’m a mommy, and it’s kind of the most awesome thing ever. I love the love I see between my kids and their siblings, my kids and my husband, and my kids and everyone else in their lives. They love hard and when I see how much and how hard they love, it makes me smile. Because their ability to love that hard and that much comes from us. They can give that kind of love because that’s the kind of love we give to them. And that makes me feel like a total badass.