You fell asleep with an enormous smile on your face last night.

Your tiny, perfect eight year old face.

I on the other hand fell asleep with tears running down my cheeks from the enormity of the day. Terrible awful things happened in the world yesterday which added such a bittersweet note to such a perfectly magical day in the world you and I had been totally immersed in for the past seven days.

I know I said that other days were the best days ever, but yesterday. Yesterday was the best day ever.

I can’t even put into words what this week was like for me as your mom. Weeks like this don’t exist in real life, they only exist in movies, TV shows and Disney Cruise Ships apparently.

I spent the entire week floating above my body wondering when I was going to wake up. I kept waiting for you to lose your cool and become a terribly overstimulated, demanding, greedy and exhausted child but it never happened.

If anything I watched your heart grow this week from being surrounded by overwhelming magic and some of the happiest, most caring people I have ever come across. You may never remember the hug you gave me last night after dinner, but for me it was the best moment of my entire eight year parenting career.

This Disney magic, it’s no joke.

Tuesday night we watched fireworks launched from a boat in the middle of the ocean.

Wednesday night it snowed in the middle of a theater on a cruise ship.

Last night the most magnificent cake was presented to you as dozens of people who were complete strangers one week ago sang you into your eight year.

Confetti was tossed every day, I cannot stress how much I support liberal confetti tossing.

We laid in bed every night watching bits and pieces of different Disney movies, you even stopped making fun of me when I cried at the end of every single one.

You voluntarily took a nap yesterday, a two hour nap.

I will never, ever be able to outdo your 8th birthday. Ever.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying.

You are spectacular. I don’t know what I did to deserve the honor and privilege of being your mom, but I’m so glad I did it. Everyday with you is an adventure. Your heart only knows how to love and it loves fiercely, I’m fortunate to be at the receiving end of so much of it.

Keeping this forever and a day. #DisneyMagic #HardEarned

Nothing about that ship was ordinary, and I have to believe that with every trip it absorbs just a little more love, happiness and magic from those who are on it. You and me kid, we left our mark on that ship. It gave us confetti and fireworks and we gave it hugs, magic, happy tears and your infectious giggle back.

I worked so hard to get to this point, both as your mom and as a human. This week was my reward for all of it. It was worth every tear, every frustration and every heartache to have your arms wrapped around my neck last night.

I love you baby.

Happy Birthday.

Love, Mama.

(Thank you for capturing these moments Andrea, when I was too busy sobbing.)

seven.

six.

five.

four.

three.

 

For the past three nights, Addie and I have piled in my bed to watch old Disney cartoons with a tray of milk and cookies set out in front of us. Last night she only ate half a cookie because she deemed them “TOO BIG!” so I finished off mine and the other half of hers as well.

I am on vacation after all.

Once her teeth were brushed and prayers were said, I tucked her in with a kiss and and a squeeze. Before I had even finished brushing my own teeth I could hear her little snores from the other side of the room.

This child of mine, I am so in love with every inch of her. Her inability to mask any emotion, her perfect curls, her sprinkle of freckles and the wonder that is so very much alive in her.

THE FACE ON THE LEFT. That is all. #DisneyMagic

Yesterday was another one of those days that will go down as one of the best in our entire lives. I witnessed her branch out and try new and scary things, like swim in the open ocean and dance alone in a giant crowd of people. There have been times when she has wanted to be alone, and I let her. But she always comes back, slides her little hand in mine and says “I love you mama.”

Andrea and Addie have adopted each other as sisters. #DisneyMagic @azimm1200 @azimm

I once heard that “Life should be a series of daring adventures launched from a secure base.” When I see her break away from me and try something new, I realize that my time as her most favorite person is limited. I take comfort knowing she has the confidence to be out on her own, but chooses to come back with me when she needs to feel safe and secure.

As I learn more and more about the person she is becoming, I am learning to let her lead more often. That our relationship is less about me making little decisions for her, but rather me supporting the everyday choices she makes for herself. Only once have I forced her into something, and that something was the Caribbean Sea to pet a stingray, the experience ended with a chokehold of terror around my throat, but I don’t regret pushing her one little bit.

In the last three days she has hunted for fairies, dressed up as a pirate, waved at princesses, marched with toy soldiers, hugged Santa, swam with stingrays, saw fireworks, met an alien, won a gameshow, danced under the stars, and for a few moments forgot that reality even existed, completely immersed in magic.

Addie and I won a pirate game show last night! #DisneyMagic

It’s easy to forget there’s snowstorms and cold weather when you’re swimming in 82 degree water under a 90 degree sun with one of your most treasured people in the world. My heart and brain are stronger than they have ever been recently, and these past few days of enchantment have shored them up and strengthened them forever, for this there will never be enough words of gratitude.

We have a few different ideas when it comes to what makes for a good vacation in this family.

Cody: “LET’S DRIVE SOUTH AND TOUR HISTORICAL CIVIL WAR SIGHTS!”

Addie and Me: zzzzzzz…..

Addie: “LET’S GO BACK TO HO-HI-OH AND YOU CAN ALL WATCH ME ZIPLINE FOR HOURS!

Vivi: Graaargggpppffbbththttt!

Me: “SAN FRANCISCO! PIER 39! EXPLORATORIUM! HAIGHT ASHBURY!”

Cody: “Who’s going to hold the baby on the 5 hour flight?”

Me: “Touché.”

Vivi: “BYE! BYYYEEEE!!!”

Cody: “LET’S GO BACK TO NEW YORK AND EAT PIZZA!”

Me: “PHILLY! CHEESESTEAKS!”

Addie: “UTAH! McDONALDS!”

Vivi: “CHEEEEEEESEEEEEE!”

Guess what? Deciding on family vacations around these parts is a little…tricky.

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Addie has no idea that in exactly 8 hours she will be boarding a plane bound for Houston, Texas.

She will think the two of us are headed down there for the weekend. A work trip I was able to bring her along on, surprise!

At 11:30 am Mickey Mouse will call her and wish her a fun time on her Disney Cruise.

If a window breaks in the lower 48 at 11:31 am CST, I’m sorry, that was Addie’s squeal.

While I am headed to Texas for a work trip, it won’t be just any old trip.

It will be a week on a boat in the Western Caribbean with my heart, my darling Addie.

She will turn 8 on Friday, somewhere off the coast of Mexico.

She wanted to go to McDonald’s for her birthday, I do hope she’s not disappointed with the slight change of events.

Self expression of the seven year old female.

I honestly cannot believe this is my life.

Remember the super cool present I mentioned for Cody? Well it came and it’s pretty amazing.

It's a blanket! Made from t-shirts!

It’s a blanket made out of Cody’s (and some of my) old t-shirts. I have been saving them for years, knowing that I would someday do this for him. I finally found Project Repat who would make it the way I wanted and for a fair price.  Even better, they “guarantee that [their products are] made in the USA in a healthy working environment, where people are treated with dignity regardless of their backgrounds.

I chose a 5×6 blanket and sent in 29 shirts with specific instructions to use the front and back of one shirt. Rather than using the the reverse side of the shirts for the back, I chose to gray fleece for the back. The fleece is super cozy, the blanket is made AMAZINGLY well and it is just about the best snuggle/nap blanket possible.

But.

As soon as I laid out the blanket I noticed that they had used the back of two shirts on the front of the blanket, two backs that I didn’t care about at all. It didn’t take long to realize which shirts were missing from the blanket. Cody’s IU Law shirt from his first year of law school and his ‘Athlete of the Week’ shirt from high school. I triple checked to make sure I didn’t forget to mail the shirts and once I couldn’t find them I contacted the owner via their live chat option on their website.

Nathan Rothstein answered me and promised me an answer as soon as possible. Sadly the answer was that the shirts had somehow been lost somewhere during production and they would most likely never be found or replaced.

Ouch.

Nathan genuinely apologized in our chat, through several emails and in a handwritten letter addressed to me with a check refunding all of my money. He was fantastic to work with, meant his apology and followed through with it. Impressive Nathan. Very impressive.

I completely understand that small businesses are run by humans and humans make mistakes. While we’re bummed those shirts are most likely gone forever, they’re just shirts. We have 28 other shirts immortalized, 28 shirts saved from the landfill and one hell of a blanket to nap with for the rest of our lives.

Does this really look like a guy who is bothered by a couple of missing shirts?

project repat blanket

Nope.

I fully support Project Repat and what they do, they put out a darn fine product and Nathan assured me in his note that my problem has been brought up with his production partners and will be worked on from within. At this moment they have all my faith and support, and I wholly support them if you’re in the market for a snuggly blanket made from t-shirts. (Don’t let me down guys. I’ll hear about it if you do.)

The 5×6 is a perfect size for me, but Cody’s toes stick out just a skosh. If you’re making one for a tall person? Go big. There’s also an option to completely customize your blanket for an additional $50, which means you can specify where each shirt goes on your blanket. If you’re worried about shirts going missing it may be worth the extra investment to make sure they end up how you want them.

Want 20% off? Use the code ‘fairwagejobs’ at checkout on ProjectRepat.com

You know who else approves of our new blanket? This guy:

And he doesn’t approve of much.

Cody’s post is titled “Long Distance Holiday Travel Doesn’t Have to be That Bad.”

Mine is titled “Forget the Road Trip, Let’s Fly.”

You see, we both wrote posts about holiday travel (sponsored by Citi)  with kids in tow over on Babble. Cody’s makes me sound like a sane and competent road trip warrior:

Casey is also very good at putting together a bag full of snacks and treats.  The snacks and treats bag isn’t filled with chips and cookies, and other types of junk food, there are some of those items in the bag, but it’s filled with celery, blueberries, carrots, crackers, and other healthy snacks.  I’ve found that snacking on just junk food during a 30 hour road trip brings about that death like feel much faster than when I snack on celery sticks.  Plus, I hate getting out of the car only to learn that I no longer fit in any of the clothes I brought on my trip.

I on the other hand come clean about the last cross country road trip we made:

I am supposed to be writing about how to survive a long road trip with kids, but the truth is? I can’t survive a long road trip with kids. In fact, there’s a stretch of freeway right outside Kamas, Utah and if you look really close you can still find little bits of my sanity that were lost there in June of 2011.

We were going to drive to Utah for Christmas this year. I was fully prepared to dish out all sorts of advice about the many road trips we’ve survived in the past, but the truth is I am a giant long distance road trip pansy. Cody still sounds pretty optimistic about the whole thing though, aside from all of us looking and smelling dead by the time we made it to our destination. (To be fair, Cody had Vivi and me fly back from our last road trip to Utah, it was THAT bad.)

Are you long road trip warriors or do you hold off your travel plans until you can fly? Let us know over on Babble!

Cody’s downward spiral of football depression has begun.

Last Saturday was the last Saturday of College football until the bowl games begin.

After this past Sunday there are only 4 regular season weeks, 3 playoff weeks and the Superbowl left.

The twinkle in his eye that comes every September is fading fast and eight weeks ahead of us are weeks void of Monday night football theme songs, the commentary of Phil Simms, Dan Diedorf, Tim Ryan and Troy Aikman. Not to mention we’ll soon be without the stylings of Cleatus the dancing football robot and Sports Center will soon be overrun with too much baseball and not enough NFL.

Jersey guy’s jersey will soon be put into seasonal retirement.

John Elway and the Broncos football ornament on our tree will be packed away before the New Year.  John Elway is always the first ornament on our tree, has been for the past 13 years. He gets the top spot of honor, front and center, way up high. It’s as though the branches part for #7, even our Christmas trees are Bronco fans.

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Hi there.

In case you’re here from that list where I am supposedly the number two mom blogger and you’re looking around wondering “Really? Her?” don’t worry, you’re not alone. While I am honored to be included in the list, I’ve spent the day and most of the night shaking my head thinking “What a strange day.” I mean, number two? Out of a hundred? Out of a hundred thousand (maybe more?) Not to mention I’m sandwiched between a hysterical and famous New York Times Bestseller and one of the most famous moms on the Internet who just happens to live in the French countryside and is listed as one of the best websites of the year on Time.com.

No, really. No pressure!

I’m just here in my cat hair covered yoga pants in suburban Indiana, being equally amazing.

While lists are a nice tidy way to present things, they can also cause a lot of ruckus. Nasty yucky ruckus that involves hurt feelings and the occasional high and mighty. I don’t especially like ruckus, hurt feelings or high and mightys, so while I may throw around my title of “first runner up to the best there ever was” when ordering my children around, I can assure you there’s no awards ceremony or giant million dollar check at my door. It’s just a list.

Speaking of lists, remember that 40 x 40 list I made? Turns out I checked a bunch of things off over the past several years and didn’t even realize it. GO ME. Still on that list? Win a trophy. While I may be a top mom blogger on a list, I am a mom blogger without a trophy. So if you’re feeling left out because of a list? Hopefully you have a trophy you can hold over my head, because man, I really want a trophy.

I’ve had this quote from Conan O’Brien running through my head for the past few weeks, “If you work hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.

I’ve commissioned Robin to paint it all huge, big and colorful so I can hang it above my stairs, making sure everyone in my family sees it every darn day of their life.

Countless good things are happening in my life right now, I mean, can I say that without jinxing it? My heart feels all bursty and squeezy with gratitude and happiness, it’s almost unbearable on some days. I purposely try to find things to be sad about but my obnoxiously buoyant spirit keeps bobbing me back up to the top where all the happiness and glitter float on the surface. What interest is there in someone who is happy all the time? It sounds tremendously boring if you ask me.

Part of me wants to yell and scream “I used to be so sad! It’s still here! Lurking under the surface somewhere! It’s just properly medicated for the first time ever in my life! I promise I’m not always this lucky/blessed/happy/fortunate/positive! JUST ASK CODY! I can be SO CRANKY SOMETIMES!

But instead I’ll just stand here, all sheepishly humble and happy, holding my hand out hoping I can somehow help get you here too.

I'm Vivi, I radiate sunshine.

Work hard. Be kind. Amazing things will happen.