Tag Archives: birthday

Happy First Birthday Sweet P!

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Oh my Sweet P, my little baby, where has this year gone?

I remember anxiously awaiting your arrival as you took your sweet time to greet us. I remember wondering how you would fit in to our family and how my heart could expand to love another child. I remember questioning my ability to be the best Momma to both you and your sister, meeting both of your constant and often conflicting needs. I still question this.

I remember how, after making us wait a whole week, you burst into our lives at lightning speed. I remember holding your tiny wet and warm body against my chest. I remember the crushing worry and loneliness when they whisked you away to the NICU to make sure you could breathe. I remember my overwhelming joy and relief when you returned to me, perfect and beautiful, taking my own breath away.

I remember bringing you home on Easter Day, our very own blessing of new life. I remember how you then became our own symbol of hope as we received difficult news. I remember how we loaded you into the car, tiny and just ten days old, and drove halfway across the country so you could meet your Yia-Yia. I remember the abundant joy you brought to the hardship, the light you brought to a dark time.

I remember how you seamlessly melded into our family and rolled along with our busy life. I remember how you went with the flow on our endless adventures, even though you hated your car seat with a fiery passion. I remember how I wore you close, feeling your breath on my chest, watching you drift off to sleep under my chin, as we went about the day together. I remember how my heart swelled beyond measure to make room for all the love I had for you.

I remember how you made your sister’s eyes light up, and how you tolerated her poking and prodding you with toddler fingers. I remember how you watched your big sister in awe as she attempted to entertain and soothe you. I remember when you found your smile, and later your laugh, you used them to delight in your sister’s wild antics. I remember watching as you girls learned to play together, trying to manage to push and pull and ultimate support of sisterhood.

I remember how you would light up a room with that gorgeous gummy grin, how you made our world sing with your lovely laughter. I remember how you paid attention to the world around you and honed your focus on what you wanted – reaching and grabbing and enjoying your own accomplishments. I remember how you took your time learning to crawl, but then became a happy and unstoppable explorer. I remember how you danced in your highchair between bites as you filled an appetite that rivaled your father’s. I remember how you found your voice and began to assert your desires with shrill screeches, much to the disappointment of my eardrums and sometimes sanity. I remember how you would use that squeal in excitement to welcome me whenever I returned home.

I remember pacing creaky floors with you in the dark of the night when you were sick or teething or merely restless and sleep just would not come. I remember how your tiny toes pushed against my soft tummy and your head wriggled in the crook of my arm until you found a comfortable place to snuggle into my body and rest. I remember the synchronized rising and falling of our chests as we slumbered together.

I remember worrying if I was overlooking you, if I was able to give you enough attention as I strived to meet all the demands of motherhood. But then I remember how you would command my attention, swatting the phone from my hands, crying out or clinging on, or simply staring at me with your dark, soulful eyes. I remember how we would remain, locked in a gaze together as you filled my soul with all your love.

There is so much I probably have and will forget about this first year with you, my second baby. Your milestones may not be as meticulously documented as your older sister’s and I may have skipped a few of your monthly photos. But these things I will not forget. I will remember, forever and always, how in just one year of life with us you have brought so much more love, laughter, and heartwarming happiness to our family than we ever could have imagined.

Happy birthday Sweet P! I hope you always remember how much your Momma adores you.

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To my Firstborn on your Third Birthday

(Photo: Apple Snaps)

Three. How did we get here? How is it possible that three whole years have passed since you burst into our world, filling our lives with your fire and fun, your laughter and love? How have we already watched in wonder as you’ve grown from a breathtaking baby to a tenacious toddler to a lovely little girl?

They say the two-year-old year is terrible. They warn that it will be full of tantrums and defiance, unreasonable requests and inconsolable emotions. This year has certainly held its share of trials and tests, but it’s also been filled with terrific times and teaching experiences. If there is one word I could use to describe this past year with you, it would be transformational.

I’ve joyfully watched you transform from babbling random words to eloquently expressing yourself in complex sentences. I’ve watched you transform from searching for the steadiness of your own two feet to confidently running and climbing. I’ve watched you transform from being overcome by your own big emotions to helping me manage mine. I’ve watched you transform from focusing solely on your own needs to growing rich empathy and recognizing and responding to the needs of others. And, most beautifully, I’ve watched you transform from our one and only child to blossom into the most incredible big sister.

I’ve seen you learn and grow by leaps and bounds this year. In each ordinary moment, I’m amazed at how your brain absorbs every little thing, and you take that new knowledge and make it your own. Every day you delight me with your wise insights about the world around you and your stunning use of words to describe thoughts and feelings. Time and again I’m surprised by the depth of your compassion as you never miss an opportunity to soothe your sister’s cries or give a hug to someone feeling hurt or frustrated. You see and feel the world, with all of it’s wonder and complexity, in ways that I can hardly comprehend. Daily you are teaching and transforming me as well.

You’ve transformed me from feeling flustered by your demands to softening to hear your needs. You’ve transformed my focus from checking off tasks to enjoying the slow flow of life. You’ve transformed my mind to think in new ways as we tackle new challenges together. You’ve transformed my heart to be more open and giving.

This past year of change and transformation hasn’t always been easy for you, or for me. There have been too many days when energy was drained and voices were raised. There have been countless moments where emotions felt too big and frustrations seemed to overshadow the fun. Sometimes, I’ve found that my default reaction was “no” and you responded in kind by creating your own new, oft used, word: “nomomma.” And I know your little soul aches for my attention that now has to be divided between you and your sister.

But even on the hard days, even in the moments that others would see as terrible, you have become a beautiful overcomer. You’ve overcome personal and physical hardships and waded through difficult feelings. You’ve found the strength of your own voice and body to heal hurts and mend mistakes. You’ve shown me what it means to practice grace, loving me even after I fail you, and inspire me to do the same.

This two year old year has been many things – transformational, teaching, terrific, trying, testing. But terrible? Never.

I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for you and for us… Happy Birthday my sweet!

Love,

Momma

(Photo: Apple Snaps)

Weekend Wandering: Cheesy Trails to You

There are a few things I love in life – my family and friends, my dogs, travel, the mountains, and cheese. I feel like that list really defines me as a person. So what happens when you combine all of these great things? Only the best birthday surprise ever! Otherwise known as the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail.

If you’ve never heard of the WNC Cheese trail, join the club. Only in it’s second year, the trail showcases local artisan cheese-makers from across the Western Carolina region. Andrew just happened upon an article in an airline magazine featuring the cheesy excursion. In hindsight though, I’m amazed I didn’t come up with the idea myself – what could be better than a day spent driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains sampling some of the regions finest dairy offerings?

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We began the trek with a night in Asheville, one of our favorite weekend destinations. After an evening dining on tile fish, lemon thyme risotto, scallops, and coconut custard cake at the incredible Black Bird restaurant in downtown Asheville, we set off to explore.

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As we left the city limits, I had no idea where we were going or what was in store. Winding down country roads, the options became ever more limited – based on the road signs we were either going to one of a dozen Freewill Baptist churches or we were going to a creamery. I’m happy to report it was the latter. We pulled up to a small farmhouse with the most beautiful view of the mountains in the distance and a couple goats and sheep standing guard.

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Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview, NC was our first stop. Upon entering the small shop, we were greeted by the delightful Ashley, who didn’t hesitate to offer us endless samples their dairy delicacies. Their soft creamy chevre goat cheese served on local Roots & Branches crackers invited us to indulge. The plain chevre is fantastic, but the unique flavors they offered really took the cheese to the next level. Not wanting to choose between sweet and savory, we picked a chevre flavor from each category – delicately sweetened coconut chevre and tangy garlic & chive. The real standout cheese, though, was their signature award-winning Ellington. This lovely pyramid of goat cheese covered in a thin layer of ash tastes to me like the most delicious hybrid of goat cheese, brie, and blue cheese and is perfect on it’s own or paired with a freshly cooked steak.

Beyond cheese, Looking Glass has a few other tasty treats. Most tempting for me was their Bourbon Vanilla Carmelita – a rich sweet caramel sauce expertly balanced with the unbeatable flavors of bourbon and fresh vanilla. It’s my new favorite addition to coffee, but I would also gladly eat it by the spoonful on it’s own.

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After our tasting session we went outside to meet the goats of Looking Glass and thank them for their goods. Apparently they were interested in what we could offer them to eat in return.

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As much as I would like too, one can’t survive on cheese alone. So we went to find lunch at the Local Joint. The Local Joint is a Fairview, NC gem hidden in plain sight – it’s connected to a gas station. But don’t let it’s location fool you. They serve up some of the freshest, most delicious homemade food with a side of southern hospitality. I ordered The Local, an impeccable burger with bacon and blue cheese embedded into the patty on a fresh bun smothered with garlic aioli – truly one of the best burger’s I’ve had in a while. Andrew got the pastrami sandwich, which is made with local Lusty Monk mustard on a pretzel bun – also a delectably great option. And Bella certainly enjoyed the sweet potato fries and house-made chips.

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Fully satiated, we headed on to Hickory Nut Gap Farm to explore, and of course buy more food.

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Hickory Nut Gap, also in Fairview, NC, is not just a farm or store, but a full experience. Spanning endless acres across a beautiful valley intersected by a fresh mountain stream, we could have spent a day just enjoying Hickory Nut Gap.

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We wandered around the farm picking blueberries, meeting baby chicks and piglets, and tromping through the cool stream (Bella’s favorite).

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Back at the Hickory Nut Gap market, the friendly and knowledgeable staff welcomed us and didn’t hesitate to make recommendations on their favorite cuts of meat and other local treats.

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While Hickory Nut Gap is not a creamery, they offer some of the region’s best meats to accompany your cheesy finds. I could easily make a meal of their flavorful Sweet Sopressata salami and any choice of cheese.

Stocked with a cooler full of our fresh finds, we wound further east to Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, NC.

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As a fully functioning goat farmstead, dairy, and creamery, as well as home to it’s owners, visiting Round Mountain is by appointment only. Fortunately the passionate owner, Linda Seligman, was kind enough welcome us to her farm on short notice.

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Round Mountain is the only producer of Grade A goat milk in all of North Carolina, so we knew their milk and cheeses were bound to be great. Linda gave us a private tour of the creamery, walking us through each step of the painstaking process – from prepping the goats to milking to processing the milk, and finally to making a delicious assortment of cheeses. Round Mountain Creamery has been a labor of love for Linda, 12 years in the making, so it was incredible to see the work and detail that goes into every aspect of making the highest quality goods.

After the tour she set us free to explore the farm and meet the hard-working goats before rejoining us in her tasting shop.

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Like a loving mother, Linda offered us endless samples of Round Mountain’s fresh cheeses, giving us the rundown of what ingredients were added and the process for making and aging each variety. To top it off, we got our first taste of goat milk, which is fairly similar to cow milk, but with just a bit to that tasty tanginess that makes goat cheese unique. We took with us a bit of everything – goat milk, various flavors of soft goat cheese, and (at Andrew’s request) a whole wheel of their award-winning Amber Moon aged goat cheese.

Bidding farewell to Linda, we headed north to enjoy the afternoon light and view of the mountains along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Andrew had one final birthday surprise in store – going to one of my favorite places in the world, Valle Crucis, NC, to visit my dad. Upon arrival my dad greeted me with the most delicious birthday cake from Valle Crucis Bakery and Cafe, with none other than cream cheese icing!

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What a wonderfully unique birthday! Those who know me certainly know that cheese is the way to my heart…

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There were a few other creameries we wanted to get to, but you can only do so much cheese in one day. Next trip we hope to make it to the cheese cave at Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery, as well as English Farmstead, OakMoon Farm, and maybe even the Western Carolina cheese mecca of Ashe County Cheese. For a full list of cheese trail participants, visit www.wnccheesetrail.com.

Happy Birthday to Me!

I love birthdays. I love the joy and anticipation and celebration. I love the idea that every single year, every single person gets a day to celebrate the simple fact that they were born into existence. I also love cake.

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My love for birthdays was born at a young age. My first memories of birthday joy surrounded my third birthday. In the summer of 1990, I was a vivacious little lady. I wore my yellow “pearls” and purple sunglasses with confidence, rocking my shaggy red-headed bowl-cut like it was nobody’s business. And there was one thing I loved more than anything else in the world – the Happy Birthday song. I would pester my parents to sing it to me throughout the day, and when they tired of my birthday enthusiasm, I would take up the task and sing “Happy Birthday” to myself.  At the risk of sounding like a self absorbed child, I truly believed that there was no greater day than June 14th.

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For many, it seems that the magic of birthdays dwindles as they grow older. Instead of celebrating this joyful occasion, I often hear others dwell on what they haven’t yet accomplished, lament the fact they are another year older, and complain that their looks, health, or life aren’t what they used to be.

But why does getting older have to be viewed as a bad thing?

Each year I live is another year I learn. With each passing year I gain infinitely more experience and wisdom. I’m smarter than I was at 5, happier than I was at 15, and wiser than I was at 25. Though my life may be another year shorter on June 14th, it’s also another year richer; which I think is a worthwhile trade-off.

Wrinkles and gray hairs are the beautiful battle wounds of adventure – of a life well lived. Scrapes and scars mark lessons learned. And another year older is a whole new story to tell. So I celebrate getting to live this amazing life.

I know I’m still young, and there may come a day when I view my age as a negative. My body may start to fail me. The view of life ahead may seem short. But I hope even then, when my birthday rolls around, I can still pause to appreciate all that life has offered me. If my life thus far is any indication, there will be oh-so-much to celebrate.

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The Fountain of Youth

This weekend I got to visit my grandparents for a couple days of rest and relaxation by the lake. While I spent most of my time lazing around, there was someone who did not take a break from all her delicious cooking and running around taking care of us…

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Just watching my beautiful grandmother, Mama, keep up with everything exhausted me. What makes her gorgeous looks and incredible energy all the more amazing is that she turned 82 years young today!

While there are surely many secrets to her success and graceful aging, one gem that she was kind enough to share is the magic of apple cider vinegar. After brushing off grandparent advice for years, I’ve recently become wise enough to realize that most of what they tell you is truth. And in the case of apple cider vinegar, there seems to be an endless list of benefits to this old remedy.

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From weight loss and detoxification to clear skin and repelling insects, Mama’s little cure seems to be quite the powerhouse. Yet, there’s still the issue of taste when consuming apple cider vinegar. Choosing to take a note from Dr. Oz, I mix my apple cider vinegar with grapefruit juice.

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Sip of Youth

  • 1 cup 100% Grapefruit Juice
  • 2 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Honey (optional – if the taste is still too sour)

Drink before a meal once a day, and be sure to rinse with / drink pure water after to prevent any acid damage to teeth.

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I find this simple combo quite refreshing between gym and dinner. Besides, who am I to argue with the health advice of such an ageless beauty as my Mama?!

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Ever the picture of beauty and grace…

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Happy Happy Birthday Mama!

Thanks for always inspiring.

The Blessing of Babysitting

The last couple weekends, I have spent my rowdy evenings babysitting. While this would be a burden to many people, for me it’s an absolute blessing.

You see, I’ve always loved babies and children. Through the years, as my family and friends thought (hoped) this fascination would fade, it’s remained constant. Just last weekend, as I was proclaiming my philosophy on cloth diapering, my aunt remarked, “Well I guess you never really got over that baby thing did you?…”

Nope, not one bit. And while I don’t yet have children of my own, I have been so incredibly blessed over the years with the many many children I’ve gotten to care for and their kind parents who trust me with this task. As with ones own children, of course I don’t have favorites – each child and family is wonderful and unique and has taught me something different. But there is one family, one set of boys, who will always hold such a special place in my heart, for they were the first ones for whom I really truly babysat.

And today is a big day in our intertwined lives, because this happy little fella, Parker, the very first child I babysat, is turning sixteen. Sixteen!

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While it does make me feel old, it also makes me feel so very proud. So proud to see him grow from baby to boy to amazing young man, and so thankful to be a part of it all.

Our relationship started early. Shortly after Parker was born, I would wander over, a shy ten-year-old, to my new neighbors’ house and hesitantly ask his parents, “May I hold Parker?…” They never turned me away or told me I was too young; they welcomed me into their home, trusting me with their first sweet little baby. My visits became more and more frequent, often daily, and as time went on, his parents eventually began paying me to watch Parker. I was simply amazed that someone would actually pay me to do the very thing I loved most in the world – watch over little ones. I would, both then and now, happily do it for free. Yet, the fact that they paid me, that it was a real job, brought with it responsibility. So while I was watching over Parker as he grew, I hardly realized the growing I myself was doing. How this little boy was shaping the adult I was slowly becoming.

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When I graduated from high school, Parker’s momma, Julia (who has become a dear friend), wrote me the kindest note that said, among other sweet sentiments:

“You’ll know what you’ve meant to me when you have children of your own. When that time comes, I hope that you are lucky enough to live next to a ten-year-old girl just like yourself.”

Though that is the most amazing thing to hear, I already consider myself the lucky one. Lucky to be part of such an incredible child and family’s lives. Lucky to be trusted with the most sacred task of caring for their babies. Lucky to be taught so many invaluable lessons on life and parenting that only a child can impart.

So thank you Julia, Taylor, and all you other wonderful mommas and poppas who have blessed me over the years with taking care of their children. I am forever grateful for the the blessings and joy that you and your lovely little ones have brought to my life.

And happy birthday Parker – you rock!