Two?!

I’m reflecting on the last two years. On this day two years ago, my husband and I were checked into the hospital awaiting the arrival of this sweet boy. We watched him grow from a fragile newborn into a smiling, happy infant and now a daring, funny, curious toddler. This day last year, we were surrounded by family and friends celebrating his very 1st birthday. This year, he woke up to snuggles from us, his cousin, aunts and uncles. He has been loved so much from before he was born.

This boy has changed our lives in ways that I never imagined possible. He lights up our lives each and every day. Though it has not always been easy and I make mistakes daily, I wouldn’t change it for the world. There have been tears of happiness, joy, frustration and sadness. There have also been more smiles and laughter than I could ever have dreamed of having in my life. 

These two years have flown by. There have been a lot of firsts and I know there are many more of those to come. He loves cheese but not more than blueberries. He has a passion for water, the beach and boating that makes me grateful for this beautiful state we live in. He wakes up singing and has a knack and rhythm music like I’ve never seen. His love for reading seems to grow daily and his creativity shows through already. Still learning to speak, his vocabulary grows regularly and he does not hesitate to express his feelings towards an activity or food.

Above all of these things though, Jacob is a kind, loving, sweet boy that loves snuggles. Almost always happy, he brightens any room that he wanders into.

Happy birthday to my little man! Here’s to a generation full of laughter, snuggles and memories together with our family of three. 

Rachie

When we were younger, my little sister and I shared a room. I remember when that room was filled with a full size bed that we shared and we all traveled to the local furniture store to pick out bunk beds. I was so excited to have the top bunk! This lasted a while but eventually I moved into my own room. Wanting to embrace my newfound dependence, I refused to let Rachel sleep in my room at night. She would try to tattle on me to my parents but would eventually retreat to her room.

Most mornings though, I would awake to her sleeping in my bed.  Her feet would be next to my head and she would be snuggled up to my legs. Some nights I would even find her and my baby sister tucked into my twin size daybed!

I remember being so angry at the time, but looking back, it is a memory that I cherish. Last night, my sister traveled to Florida to celebrate her birthday. We spent the day together and shared many laughs.  Neither of us could remember the last time we spent her birthday together!

The day was filled with lots of dancing with our boys, fishing (Joe taught us lots!), delicious food, walks with our momma and of course sister snuggles. What a great day!

Each day I find myself more and more  grateful for the everyday moments that make lifelong memories.

New traditions

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Over the years, Thanksgiving has taken on many different forms.  When I was a child, my family would sometimes spend the weekend in Rhode Island & Connecticut with my father’s side of the family. All of the cousins would stay up late the night before, sharing stories and giggles. We would sleep in on Thanksgiving morning and wake up just in time for appetizers at noon. The adults would sit at the main table and the kids would have their own table or two.  We would eat all day, having second and even third dinner, with naps & snuggles on the couch in between.

Other years, my family would spend the day with my mother’s side of the family. We would all gather at my grandparents house for dinner promptly at noon. There were so many aunts, uncles and cousins that we ate buffet style. We would line up with our plates and serve ourselves heaping helpings of food and then sit wherever we could find the room. Sometimes the table, sometimes the couch and sometimes the stairs going up to the second floor.

The first Thanksgiving after I met Joe, he wasn’t planning on celebrating the day because his family was in Florida. Him and his roommate were going to stay home and order a pizza. I immediately invited them to my grandparent’s house and after a little hesitation, they both agreed. “The Joe’s”, as my uncles called them (something they laughed at for years), were welcomed into my family gathering without question.

After moving to Florida, we spend the first few Thanksgivings at my in-laws, with the exception of the year we bought our house when we hosted for the first time ever.

The last four years though, we have taken on a new tradition that has been named the Brown-Hall-Rivers-Thanksgiving-Extravaganza. It started with my younger sisters coming to spend their first Thanksgiving in Florida with the windows open and wearing tank tops. This first year was also the infamous year that I dropped the freshly baked apple pie that my little sister made for dessert. The following year, we decided to head to Georgia and experience a cooler fall Thanksgiving, where we were able to bundle up and snuggle to keep warm in the chilly air.

Last year, my baby sister and her (now) fiance traveled back to Florida to spend little man’s first Thanksgiving with us. Jacob, despite only eating milk at the time, was the head of the table (something that seems rather fitting!).

This year, we caught an amazing sale on plane tickets early in the year and we are back in the beautiful late fall that Georgia offers. Though, instead of celebrating today, we are waiting until tomorrow so that my soon-to-be brother-in-law can join us. Today, he is in uniform protecting this wonderful city.  Tomorrow ee will join his aunt & uncle, who are kindly hosting us in their home for a feast and celebration.

So today, though we won’t have turkey and fixings, we are thankful. We are thankful for all of the amazing Thanksgivings that we been blessed to have, for the incredible family & friends who love and support us more than we could ever have imagined, for it being a “good” week that allows us the ability to travel and eat well, for this gorgeous fall weather, for each other and for each year that brings a new spin to our Thanksgiving traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy this beautiful day with loved ones! I’d love to hear what traditions you share!

Pumpkins

Behind their yard, my grandparents grew a vegetable garden. My grandfather would plant rows and rows of all types of vegetables and they grew like weeds, thanks to the love and care that he gave them. I’ve never seen such a massive vegetable garden. My grandfather would send home anyone who visited with a basketful of the freshest vegetables. Toward the end of the vegetable season in New York, he would grow pumpkins.

Every year, a few weeks before Halloween, all of the cousins – dozens and dozens! – would venture over to my grandfather’s house and pick out their absolute favorite pumpkin. The one that would be theirs this year. There were dozens upon dozens of pumpkins to choose from; more than enough for everyone. But there was always that one…the one that we each knew was perfect for us because we were able to pick it out ourselves.

I remember running amongst the rows of pumpkins, determined to find the one that I loved the most. Sometimes it was small and round, other times it was fat and heavy. I would move it around in the dirt to see if it had any imperfections. I would try to lift it and it would take all of my might to pick it up – and it wasn’t even done growing yet! Once I was convinced that I found the perfect pumpkin, the one that was just right for me, I would let my grandfather know. He would pull out his pocket knife and carve my name in it. Not too deep, as to pierce through the pumpkin, but just enough for my name to be visible. Over the next few weeks, the fresh carving would start to heal and the pumpkin would continue to grow with it.

When it was time to start carving our pumpkins for Halloween, my sisters and I would return to the vegetable garden. We would run through the pumpkins once again, past the names of all our cousins etched into the bright orange skin, trying to remember exactly where our perfect pumpkin sat. By this time, our names had become a part of the pumpkin. No longer an open wound but instead a brown scar, healed by time.

Today, we cut open one of the pumpkins from our hayride (late, I know). We scooped out all of the seeds and set them out to dry overnight to bake tomorrow. The other pumpkins? They’ll be placed out on the side of the house to decompose, with the hope of growing new pumpkins next year. Perhaps one that is just right for Jacob’s name.

The hayride

Hayride

My grandparents had 11 children so our family is quite large – aunts, uncles and dozens of cousins. As a child, the central meeting place for all of our family was always my grandparents’ house. Their doors were always unlocked so that anyone could stop by whenever they felt like it. We spent many Sundays eating a large dinner at noon, while sitting on a wooden bench and drinking ice cold milk. During the warm months, we would sit on the picnic table outside, under the shade of the maple tree that hung a tire swing. My grandmother took great pride in her yard and garden. It was always filled with colorful flowers, decorations and beautiful smells.

One of my favorite memories from childhood is in the fall. When the air cooled and the night came early, my entire family would meet at my grandparents’ house to celebrate Halloween. We would dress up in our costumes and load up in my grandfather’s wagon, surrounded by bales of hay. He would hop onto his tractor and we would ride all around their property. Past the vegetable garden that my grandfather grew – now filled with leftover pumpkins, past the old dilapidated barn that us cousins were too afraid to explore in depth, behind the neighbor’s house where we often played. We would splash through the mud tracks where the dirt trail was a little bit lower. The wagon would sway through the divots in the road and we would giggle as we bumped all around. The tractor would pull us farther and farther, until we couldn’t see my grandparent’s house anymore. We would pass the massive maple tree that had lost all of its leaves and steer away from the pond that was surrounded by muck. The hayride seemed to last for hours until the sun went down and it was time to head back.

Today we visited a farm and Jacob experienced his very first hayride. Although the weather was much warmer in Florida today, the bouncing seats and bales of hay brought back incredible memories. Jacob sat tall on a bale of hay with his buddy from birth and smiled big. I couldn’t help but feel content. These moments in time, where I am able to take an experience that I loved as a child and pass it along to Jacob makes my heart smile. I hope to continue this tradition every year and I hope that Jacob will grow to love it as much as I do.

What tradition from your childhood do you hope to pass along?

A little food and a little wine…

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I love food. I love wine. I love food and wine at the same time. During the time following treatment, there isn’t much food that I find appealing and wine isn’t an option. I take a lot of medicine to try and curb the nausea but the food aversions are quite strong. I still have an appetite, which makes eating especially challenging because of how unappealing everything is. I have consistently been able to eat cheese, eggs, crackers and popsicles. Lots and lots of popsicles. Water is a challenge too but I work past it because I know how important water intake is to flush my system.

Today, we spent a few hours at Epcot with Grandma and Grandpa exploring the Food & Wine Festival. Despite the heat, which has been getting cooler and cooler each day, it was such a wonderful day. We visited many countries around the world and shared different appetizer sized plates and small beverages. Since it has been a few weeks since my last treatment, I am able to eat pretty regularly. And I did just that today. I savored many delicious treats.

I’ve been to the Food & Wine Festival before but this visit was a little more precious. Every moment with my family is precious. Seeing Grandma & Grandpa smile while little man dances to the music in Morocco makes my heart smile. Enjoying the fabulous food around the world, knowing there will be a time again in the next week where the thought of food is completely unappealing, makes me grateful for each and every bite while I am able to enjoy it.

While I sip a glass of red tonight, I am savoring the moments of today. The carefree joy of time with family, the ability to relax and the spirit of innocence while my little man met Mickey and Goofy…makes for a memorable and amazing day. Happy Friday, my friends.