Best. Day. Ever. The middle child's 5th birthday.



For Gabby's Birthday this year, I wanted it to be special. Increments of five are a big deal in our society, and there's nothing quite like reaching a whole hand. All that to say I took the day off of work, sent Faith to school and dropped Calvin off at daycare so it was just the two of us.

Every morning, we listen to Sirius XM's "Kids Place Live" channel. In case you ever need to know what songs are in the children's top 10, Rob and I are your lifelines. Anyway, each weekday they make a big deal about birthdays and assign kids "birthday missions" in order to turn another year older. When I said I was going to call in and request a song for Gabby, she immediately turned shy and said she didn't want to talk on the phone. This one. So different than her sister who has already determined her stage name will be Crystal Rose. (Rolls eyes to the heavens.) I made the call anyway but got voicemail. We listened to it at home for awhile. And then it happened. The host Absolutely Mindy wished Gabrielle a high fiver birthday and played the song Somebunny Loves Me! It was one of those moments I'll always remember.

Next up we headed to her preschool for snack time. This will be her last birthday she can skip school with me. But we still wanted to bring treats for her friends. It was neat to see her in her element during "group time" and when the class sang to her, those tears came back again.

Five years feels like five minutes with this one. Best sleeper. First to potty train. And a mama's girl through and through. She still comes up to me and says "Hug-eeee" and waits with her arms out. I can make everything better and I want that job as long as she'll have me.

Next we moved onto the library where we played Connect 4, put on a puppet show, pretended we were going to Disneyworld for the day in the dramatic play center, and checked out 5 books because of course we did.

This is going to sound like bragging because it is. Gabby can read. Not just sight words. All the words. She does need help on the longer ones, but I am just in awe of how good she is at it. Of course we share the achievement with her amazing preschool that she's gone to for 3 years. She even had the nerve to graduate last month.

After the library, we went to Chic-fil-A, her favorite fast food place, which I don't hate because of the waffle fries. I read her all her birthday wishes from Facebook, and she played in the play area. When we got home, she and I both took short naps, and then it was off to the splash pad. Thankfully it was a pretty hot day, but with school in session, it wasn't crowded. Secret to the splash pad: always bring buckets. This girl has loved the water since day 1. Never afraid to put her face in or be dunked by her dad, she could swim forever. H20 brings her so much joy it brings me joy by association.

At this point in the day, it was time to pick up Faith from school and go home. Out of nowhere, My brand new 5 year old started crying on the way there. Oh no, I thought, and asked her what was wrong. Her response: she didn't want the "Just mom and me" day to end. Bless. Her. Heart. I told ya she was her mom's favorite -- I mean, a mama's girl. ;)

Just like her infancy, toddlerhood and preschool years, the day flew by. I remember so many moments over the past five years, but the older she gets the hazier the details become. I know I'm late posting this (despite the backdate for record purposes) however, it was so important to me to get this down on paper/the internet. I want Gabby, and all my kids to know how much I'm enjoying the ride and being their mom. There are certainly trying times, but I laugh daily, smile constantly, and literally cannot get enough of them most days.

How would I describe my middle child? Smart! FUNNY! (Best. Laugh. Ever.) Musical - girl can memorize lyrics like a boss. Tempermental. Nite owl. Mature when she wants to be. Homebody. Imaginative. Kind. Independent. Beautiful (but don't call her cute). Bummed she's not the baby. Bashful, yet LOUD. Strong. Articulate (since age 2 - she comes by the name honestly!) Fun. Friendly. Rule follower. Fast. Gifted. Lovable and LOVED. 23 adjectives for my girl born on the 23rd!

Happy Birthday, Gabby Grace!

And now for some pics from your Emoji birthday pool party!

Super Cal turns O-N-E

Happy 1st Birthday! My gift to you is this 8-minute video of the past 12 months .

While it captures many milestones and moments from your first year, it doesn't and cannot convey just how much I love this job as your mom.

From the time you wake up in the morning and reach your chubby lil arms out for me to lift you out of the crib to the time I rock you to dreamland and roll you back into your bed at night, I try not to forget how lucky I am to be in this line of work --

* to hear you giggle as I chase you from one room to the next
* to watch you destroy folded laundry (piles of papers, boxes of tissues, shall I go on?)
*to smell your perfectly round, red head
* to feed your face full of yogurt (macaroni, meat, milk - though you spill most of it on the floor)
and last but not least (and my personal favorite)
*to snuggle you close and feel just how right you fit in my arms whenever I darn well please!

Thanks for hiring me for the job. Can we talk contract extension sometime?


p.s. Here are some pictures of the photoshoot from your first birthday. You were so smiley and these are the best family pictures we've ever taken. I should quit while we're ahead, but what's the fun in that?

The photo of our family sitting on the floor is the precise few seconds right before your dad completely threw his back out. The photographer and I were sympathetic for approximately 30 seconds and then it was "on with the show." Poor dad, he had to crawl over to a chair and couldn't move for the rest of the session. (Don't worry, he's OK now!) I knew it would mean I was on solo overnight binky replacement/rocking duty and was prepared for plentiful wakeups that night. Wouldn't you know it, that was the first official time you slept through the night. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I will never be able to repay you in baby cheek smooches enough, but that won't stop me from trying...

That's a (Nursing) Wrap

I'm officially done.

Nearly eight year later, including approximately 30 months/2.5 years total, my breastfeeding journey has come to an end.

And oh what a journey it's been. From my mother massaging my breasts with cabbage leaves to help with engorgement when Faith was 4 days old to my last uneventful nursing session during which Calvin drifted back to sleep at 11 months old, I've experienced it all.

There were blebs (don't Google it), bites and blisters. Cracking and bleeding (sorry, were you eating?) Clogged ducts and very active tear ducts. Lactation cookies. Fenugreek. Water. Gatorade. Dark beer. And some nasty AF Mother's Milk Tea.

I've pumped exclusively. I've nursed exclusively. I've supplemented. I've mixed formula and breastmilk together.

I've fed my babies in parks, restaurants, churches, cars, vans, and even in a concession stand (just outside the beer cooler mind you - brrr).

I've pumped at work and at school, from Mexico to Memphis to Miami, and inside an airplane lavatory while the flight attendant knocked on the door alerting me it was time for takeoff.

As I look back at the past eight years -most of it hazy from raising young children - I don't have one single regret. I don't feel guilty for stopping when I stopped. I don't feel jipped for all my lost sleep. I just feel proud.

Was it hard sometimes? Oh hell yes. (Please see above.) But I don't say that to discourage anyone. When I took "the classes" they only talked about how things could go right. The truth is, many things can and do go wrong. However, with the support of my family, friends and online communities I was able to keep going. And that doesn't make me special. It just makes me stubborn, probably one of the most common traits in breastfeeding mothers!

Sure there are scientific benefits. And savings benefits. But the number one reason I would encourage someone to breastfeed is because of the bond. There's just something so powerful about being able to comfort and nourish your baby only using what God gave you.

Faith, my pumping and bottle fed babe.
Gabby's first time nursing successfully, and my first (of MANY times) seeking help.

Calvin doing his thing and me feeling confident enough to have it photographed.
As this chapter of my life comes to a close, I just want to thank everyone who supported me in it. 

Cari, Ericka, Summer - you are gifts from God. Your friendship, sage advice, horror stories, and the words your pump is saying to you on any given day, kept me going.

Mom - I can't believe you bought cabbage, chopped it up, and rubbed it all over my chest in the name of love. You are unrivaled. 

Rob -you are the reason I was able to do this as long as I did. Thank you for being my rock.

(Sentimental moment over.)

And now for some new bras! Followed by a large consumption of chocolate, alcohol, and the spiciest foods I can handle!