I’m not sure I’d ever have what it takes to be a photographer. Oh sure, many people comment on the pictures I take with my phone and post on Facebook, but they are far from professional.
There is a local photographer close by that has never disappointed us with her photos. She took Ella’s First Birthday pictures, Andrew’s helmet pictures, and recently Andrew’s First Birthday pictures. Her name is Beth and she owns Enjoy the View Photography.
I am always amazed when I look at the pictures she gets. I know the chaos that was happening when the pictures are being taken, yet she is able to grab that perfect split second in time that makes it frame worthy.
For Andrew’s session, she set aside some time for us to get a few of both kids and the family. The autumn colors were not at peak, but the outdoor photos still look fantastic!
She got pictures of the whole family sitting, standing, with Ella on my shoulders, and more. It is hard to pick a favorite and which ones to put on canvas.
Then there were photos of the two of them together. Some truly amazing shots of them sitting, but the one that both Sam and I love is them running from the camera.
There is one of Ella grabbing Andrew and hugging him that makes me laugh …
…and one that makes me tear up….
Beth got a couple solo shots of them, which wasn’t easy with Ella. She was way past being done, however, there is one that just came out perfect…
…my favorite solo picture of Andrew captures him in all his sweetness…
We headed inside to get birthday and cake pictures. Again, Beth was able to get these split second moments perfectly. Andrew was not really about sitting still, but you’d never know it by these pictures.
As far as a cake “smash,” we didn’t really get that for pictures. We got some at home on his birthday, but he was just to careful during the photo session. It was almost like he was saying, “I’d rather not make a mess…”
My kudos again to Beth and Enjoy the View Photography for these wonderful pictures which we will look back and enjoy for years!
It is truly hard to believe that Andrew turned 1 today! It seems like just yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital. Yet here we are one year later. A lot has transpired in 365 days.
For new followers to the blog, you can relive all the excitement of his delivery and birthday here:
He didn’t go to bed any later than normal last night, but he slept longer than Ella today, which is not the norm. Ella was up and playing in her crib and I got up to get her. We came back to my room where Andrew was still sleeping. As much as she tries to whisper, every now and then she forgets and just gets loud. When I reminded her that it was his birthday, she screamed with excitement … and of course, woke him up.
When Sam got home from work, we whipped up some breakfast and had some well deserved family time. We snapped a few first birthday photos and then got ready for a day at the park. It was just beautiful today with temperatures up near 70. The sun made it feel a whole lot warmer.
We drove through and grabbed lunch and brought it to the park for a picnic lunch. There is a small park about 20 minutes away and it was just perfect. There was a playground with playscape and swings and a pavilion with picnic tables where we ate. There is a trail that you can walk with a small creek and fall colors.
Sam and Andrew explored the tennis courts and playground while I sat with Ella as she finished her lunch. When she was finished, we walked over to them. Sam asked if Ella wanted to show me where she had seen some ducks the last time they were there. She said she’d rather play on the playground, so Andrew and I took a walk over.
There is a little bridge that overlooks the creek and he loved just walking on it and looking down at the creek.
We were at the park for quite a while enjoying the day. We didn’t leave until it was close to nap time. Andrew wound up falling asleep in the car, which worked out because Sam wanted to stop and pick up some balloons for him. When we got home, Sam wanted to take a short nap before dinner.
Her mom stopped by to drop off Andrew’s birthday gift and brought their dog Toodles! We all love that dog! The kids loved that she was here and we all went outside and ran around with her. I wish I had gotten some pictures of that!
We had planned on making a chicken and rice dish for dinner, but I neglected to pull chicken out to thaw, so I wound up running to the store and picking up a rotisserie chicken. We made some green beans and mac and cheese to go with it.
After dinner, Andrew opened his birthday gifts and played with his new Little People School Bus before it was time for cake. We sang Happy Birthday and we gave him his cake.
Unlike the day of his cake smash pictures, this time, Andrew REALLY chowed down on this cake!!
It was very fun to watch. He just kept grabbing chunks of cake and stuffing his face. I swear, he ate 3/4 of that cake! I’m surprised he fell asleep tonight after eating all that sugar!!
He snuggled up with mommy and fell asleep on her tonight. It was just beautiful. Sam mentioned to me last night, she never really understood just how different it is in regard to the mother/son bond. She loved them both the same, but that bond is a little different. I explained that I totally understood what she was saying because I feel the same way with Ella. That daddy/daughter bond is really special.
Sam, Ella, and the birthday boy are all asleep as I write this. I think back over the last year and remember so many wonderful memories. He certainly has given us a run for our money. Plenty of after hours urgent care visits, a few months with his helmet, fracture of his foot, and all kinds of other things.
His sleep study showed he had sever sleep apnea. He was diagnosed with Laryngomalacia, which is some extra tissue on the larynx which can cause apnea and other issues. He goes in for surgery on Thursday to correct this. His sleep doc is also worried about whether or not the apnea caused some heart issues, so next week we have to go for an echocardiogram for him. We’re praying that all goes well with the surgery and the echo.
Before he has surgery, he had to get a COVID test. I had to take him in for it and I was totally prepared for a lot of crying. I just knew that it was going to be awful for him to be swabbed. The nurse came in, swabbed him, he made a face and there were no tears! I literally snapped this picture like 20 seconds after the swab.
What a blessing he is to us. As I said on Facebook today:
One year. 365 days. What an amazing trip around the sun it has been for our Andrew Joseph! He is unique and wonderful in so many ways!
This amazing little guy has brought even more happiness to our home. His bright blue eyes light up the room. His smile is contagious. His laughter is joyful noise.
His happy dance makes us all giggle with delight. He is a good little brother, even though Ella has said that he “drives me crazy!”. I have no doubt these two will be best friends. Thank you, God, for allowing me to be “dad” to these two amazing kids!!
Happy birthday, AJ! Thank you for a wonderful year of memories and milestones. We can’t wait to see what the years ahead will bring….
I love you, son.
Sam posted this:
Today you are ONE! This momma might be in a bit of denial that you aren’t my tiny baby anymore. Even though you are my second baby, you have definitely taught me how to be a momma in a whole new way. You taught me to listen to my momma gut when something isn’t right. You have taught me to fight for answers and pray harder then ever.
Andrew you are fierce and determined! You will not let anything stop you. Your sister might be bigger but you have no issues pulling her to the floor by her hair if it means getting your toy back. You will find a way to get to whatever you want. Even if it isn’t always the safest. There is a reason we call you Bamm Bamm.
You are brilliant! There is not a single gate, or baby proof tab or lock that you haven’t mastered. All it takes is one time of you watching and you know how to do it.
You are so loving! You have always been busy, but you are the first to always snuggle your momma. You still have yet to ever nap somewhere that isn’t in my arms and 99% of the time that is where you are all night too. You fall asleep with my lips on your forehead every single night. And it is secretly my favorite part of the day.
You have the best smile and the brightest eyes and we love you more than you know! Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!
I have said it before, but it is worth repeating – I am a truly blessed man.
Saturday I got to spend some time with my wife and celebrate her birthday. I arranged for Nana and Papa to watch the kids so we could have some time together. I am so grateful for them.
I worked Friday night, and when I came home, I went right to bed, so I could catch a few winks before our date day. The time I was asleep was rough for Sam as the kids were a bit crankier than normal. We almost called the whole day off.
Thankfully, all fell into place. We dropped the kids off and went to our favorite steakhouse for lunch. The weather was absolutely perfect, so we asked to eat on the patio. When the greeter walked us out there, I was surprised to see no one else there. We had the whole patio to ourselves for most of the meal!
What a wonderful afternoon! We sat in the sun enjoying conversation and each other. It was so nice to just be together.
Because we got a later start than we had planned (and because showtimes didn’t really line up with our plans), we decided to skip the movies. There were a few things we wanted to do, so we just spent the rest of the time doing them.
We had recently bought a two camera baby monitor from Target. It was a nice one and expensive. We set up the cameras and for whatever reason, one of the two cameras would have trouble connecting. We could see one, then it would go out and we could see the other. It never seemed to be able to show both cameras at the same time. This bothered us because we were on wifi, and no matter where we were, it should connect. There was an app you could download on your phone and you were supposed to be able to check from anywhere. I never really did get that to work. We decided it was best to take it back.
So we walked through Target just looking around and talking. We ended up buying a few things for the kids while we were there. Then we wanted to walk through the Christmas Tree Store. They always have a lot of holiday type stuff. The Red, White and Blue wreath we put on the door for Memorial Day and the 4th of July was looking pretty ragged and faded. We hoped to find something there for the door. We did.
It was getting close to the time we told Sam’s folks we’d be back for the kids, so we jumped back in the car and drove to get them. I held Sam’s hand on the way there and was just so glad to have had a day with her.
When we got the kids loaded up, we started to head home. It was getting close to Andrew’s bedtime. He started to cry a lot in the backseat. Sam crawled over the center console and squeezed between the two car seats and made him a bottle to drink on the way home. She had to be extremely uncomfortable! Once we were home, she had to climb back over the center console to get back in her seat to exit the car. I joked with her that I should have taken video to get her back for posting a video of me trying to hop the fence in our backyard! It was a humorous way to end the night.
Sunday night, Sam had to work. I took the kids out to Sam’s Club to pick up a few things we needed at home. Ella found some beautiful flowers and wanted to get them for mommy. Sam’s loves sunflowers and roses, so it was almost as though she knew exactly which ones to get.
We hoped to get a cake while we were there, but they didn’t have any. On the way home we stopped at the little grocery store around the corner from us. There were three cakes there and Ella picked the one with a sun on it. When I asked the girl at the counter if she could write on it, she asked what it should say, and Ella just spouted off, “It has to say ‘Happy Birthday, Mommy’ on it!” The woman asked Ella what color she wanted it in and she told her it had to be pink.
When we got home, we decided to make mommy a birthday card. I wrote on it and she “colored” in it. I helped both her and Andrew “sign” their names. She was so excited to give it to her this morning.
When Sam got home this morning, we went out to breakfast. This would mark the first time that either one of our children has been in a restaurant to eat! Hard to believe, but it is true. Sam and I prepared for the worst. We expected Ella to be running all over the place and Andrew to just cry through the whole thing. We were surprised at just how well behaved they both were! It was a very nice breakfast.
The restaurant wasn’t too busy when we got there. It was mostly retirees and older couples eating. It was a tad busier when we left. Ella said that she had to say goodbye before we could go. So she stopped in the middle of the aisle and yelled, “Goodbye, friends!” It was priceless. We were getting the kids in the car and the waitress came out to stop me. I thought maybe I paid the wrong bill or something. Nope, she just wanted to give each of the kids a plastic duckie.
Sam needed to head to bed when we got home. She had to work tonight, too. Before she did, she only had one request – a photo with the kids.
This was like the fourth or fifth picture. It’s hard to get Ella to sit still long enough for one now! The first three Andrew was smiling like crazy, but he obviously only had three takes before the smile went away!
What a wonderful weekend to celebrate, Sam! One thing is for sure, I’m gonna be diligent to keep scheduling monthly date days/nights!!
Today is the 13th anniversary of my 39th birthday. Jack Benny said he was 39 for years and got away with it. For some reason, today I realized just how silly that is. I will certainly continue to lie about my being 39, as a homage to Jack, but I know I’m not fooling anyone.
Because Sam had to work tonight, we sort of celebrated yesterday. I came home from work, caught a couple hours sleep and we went to the Saginaw Children’s Zoo. We met Sam’s sister and my nephew there.
It was quite hot out, so we took Andrew’s helmet off for the visit. Ella and I got a kick out of watching the otters, who were extra active yesterday. The were enjoying swimming around and she loved that one kept swimming by the glass window. It was too hot for the penguins to be outside, so we missed them. The wolves were also curled up in their den where we couldn’t see them either. We had fun anyway.
We always have to ride the train when we go. We bought a membership, so train rides are free. It’s a short ride, but the kids love it.
The kids love to ride the carousel too. Andrew was so hot by the time we got there, we figured we’d just keep him in the shade. Ella, of course, had to ride it like three times. Each time she rode a different horse/bunny. She loves it! It was great to watch her from the sidewalk and take pictures as she rode past me. Poor Sam, though. She was ready to throw up by the end of the third ride!
When we left to go home, Sam asked what I wanted to do for dinner. I told her I would be happy with something simple. I hadn’t used my grill yet this year, so I told her to pick up some hot dogs or brats and we’d grill them up.
We stopped at Meijer and Ella went in with Sam while I drove around with Andrew, who was napping. When they were done shopping Ella was extra excited. She helped pick out a birthday cake. I guess Sam told her my birthday was coming up and she kept asking about birthday cake. They stopped at the bakery and Sam asked if they could write “Happy Birthday” on it. Ella said it needed to say, “Happy Birthday, Daddy,” so that is what was on it.
After dinner, Sam put some candles on the cake and Ella not only sang, “Happy Birthday” to me, she helped blow out the candles!
This morning, I woke up feeling no different than yesterday. I don’t feel older, but I am. I received calls today from my dad, my brother, my oldest son, and my best friend. There are hundreds of Facebook wishes from friends. Some are long and heartfelt, others short and sweet. I have messages from Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram with birthday wishes, and many text messages, too. There is no way I’ll be able to respond to them all!
I certainly felt special the past couple days. I’m one very blessed man!
Yesterday, I blogged about it being Ella’s last night as a one year old. Today (2-10) she officially turned two! On one of the Facebook “dad” groups I am a part of, someone posted that “Time is a thief.” That is so true. I am still scratching my head and wondering how she could be two already!
On my way home from work, I stopped off and picked up her birthday cake. It came out perfect. I thought it was neat, because they hadn’t written the message on it in frosting. It was actually printed next to the Minnie Mouse design.
The store also had balloons, so I made sure to get a HUGE number “2” balloon to mark the occasion. I helped Sam hang the banner before work last night, and she did the rest of the decorations before bed last night.
She put up streamers and blew up balloons. She then set up Ella’s gift. I guess it is called a “nugget.” It folds, stacks, and such. I can totally see her and I having some fun with this thing.
When I got home, she was still asleep. I was surprised, because she is usually up when I walk through the door. It made the day even more special to be able to sing Happy Birthday to her when Sam brought her out to the living room. She was probably not really ready to be up, so when she came out she wasn’t quite sure what to make of everything. It didn’t take long and she was playing around with the balloons and her “nugget.”
Nickelodeon has a “Birthday Club” where you can schedule calls to your kids from their favorite characters. I had a call scheduled for her from the Bubble Guppies. She smiled when they said her name and wished her Happy Birthday. It was a pretty cute bonus to the morning.
I whipped up some birthday scrambled eggs for her with some cheese on top with a side of blueberries. As she enjoyed her breakfast, I headed to bed because I knew I would be up in a short while.
Ella had a doctor check up this morning and afterward, Sam took her to the Peppa Pig World at the mall. I slept from about 9:30a to noon and got up to head out and meet them there (about a 50 minute drive). She was excited to see me when I got there and she was running from one thing to the next playing!
Because of Covid, Sam and I have been very careful and really haven’t taken her out much. When I walked in, the place was loaded with moms and their “piggies” who were all over the place! My anxiety was through the roof. We must have been hitting the hand sanitizing stations every time we saw one.
She had a blast! We didn’t stay too long, and when we left, we hit the gift shop. Boy, are THEY raking in the money! We saw this Peppa Pig car that we have seen before at Walmart. That was the toy that she picked out. We plopped it on the checkout and it was like $35!! At Walmart, it was like $22. What a markup!!
There is a Build a Bear in the mall and we went to get her Birthday Bear. We did this last year, too. Personally, I like this year’s bear better. It seemed much softer than the one from last year. It is such a cool thing for kids. You pay the price of your birthday. She is 2 – the bear was $2. By the time we got done, the fact that it was naptime was apparent. She was getting cranky.
Sam stopped at Carter’s (which was right by the Build a Bear) to see about an outfit for her birthday pictures this weekend. Sam found an outfit for pictures and some St. Patty’s outfits for them. Surprisingly, she was unable to find a good Valentine’s Day outfit for them (which is probably a good thing and saved us like $60!).
Andrew was at Nana and Papa’s so Ella could go to the doctor. When we left, I drove back home to try to sleep a bit more. Sam and Ella left to go get AJ. Ella fell asleep on the way, so Sam (as most parents would do) drove around awhile in hopes of getting her some sort of nap. I finally got into bed about 3:15-3:30.
Ella got to pick what she wanted for dinner. She loves tacos from one of our favorite Mexican places. Sam picked it up on the way home and woke me about 5pm so we could eat and have cake.
After dinner, I grabbed the “2” candle, put it on the cake and brought it out so we could sing Happy Birthday. What was the first thing she did? She starts to grab the flame of the candle! Sam did the best she could to keep her still as we sang to her and then she blew out the candle.
I had a Microsoft Teams meeting I had to call into on my way to work. Normally, I would be there in person, but because I wanted time with Ella, I decided to leave later and just call in on my drive in. By the time the meeting was over, I texted Sam to see if the kids were still awake. (I usually do a video call before they go to bed.) She texted back that they were already in bed and asleep. Both were pretty wiped out from a busy day.
I still cannot believe that my baby girl is 2 years old. Time is a thief indeed!
Happy Birthday, my sweet Ella! I snapped this picture of you today and it is probably my favorite. There stands a little girl pondering what to do next. She is a little girl full of potential. She is a girl who is smart. She knows she is going to do amazing things – and she is planning just how to get those things done! God has blessed mommy and me with you. We love you as big as the world! We look forward to the many wonderful things you will do in the years ahead!
On Saturday, I celebrated birthday 51. I worked the night before, so I came home and literally went to bed. Sam and I had plans, so I wanted to get some sleep before we left.
Even before the clock struck midnight, my Facebook was blowing up with countless birthday wishes. When I woke up, there were over 300 wishes and more continued throughout the day. I always joke that without Facebook I might not remember somebody’s birthday. Remember when we used to put them on a calendar and actually made a phone call or sent a card to someone? Not that it bothers me, it is nice to be remembered.
Anyway, Friday night, my coworkers helped me celebrate with home made brownies and cannoli from my favorite Italian bakery (Tringali’s). Another co-worker bought me an instant ticket and it actually was a winner, which never happens. It wasn’t the $500,000, but enough to buy another lottery ticket…
Visit to the Zoo
For Ella’s birthday, Aunt Margaret got her a year membership to the Detroit Zoo. The weather was going to be perfect, so we decided that we’d celebrate both our birthdays there! We almost weren’t able to go, because you have to reserve tickets in advance. There were only two times available on Saturday and I took the first available, which was 4:30pm. That only gave us an hour and a half to walk the zoo.
It actually worked out perfectly. We didn’t stand in line for the kangaroos (it was quite long), and we didn’t do the reptile house. Instead, we walked and saw the animals that were outside. We saw lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, monkeys, and the polar bear. Sadly, the penguin exhibit is closed for remodeling and the otters were off sleeping somewhere (those are Sam and my favorite animals).
Every so often, we’d take Ella out of her stroller and tried to get her to walk with us. We tried holding her hand, but it wasn’t gonna happen. As soon as her feet hit the pavement, she was off like a shot! She was running everywhere. She was so excited to see other kids and other people. She just wanted to roam around! We got our exercise in chasing her around the zoo!
Sam had asked me what I wanted to do for dinner earlier in the week. Our favorite steak house is almost impossible to order a carry out from these days, so I thought we’d try Mexican food. After a few attempts, and getting a busy signal, I was at a loss. Then Sam reminded me of the Roadhouse up the street from us. They have the best burgers! That actually sounded really good, and I was excited to order. Sam was craving nachos, so she got an order from there (it probably could have fed 4 people – that thing was huge!). The burger itself was a treat, but I also decided that I’d splurge and get an order of fried pickles! Yummy!!!
Ella was exhausted by the time we got home and pretty much went straight to bed. Earlier in the day, she helped Sam make my birthday cake. She cracked the eggs and helped mix it all up. Because she went to bed, we never really got to sing Happy Birthday and I didn’t get to blow out the candles and make a wish. However, my wish had already come true that day – I got to spend my day with my two favorite girls!!
My wife made the observation that last night we laid our 11 month old daughter down to bed for the last time. She woke up a one year old! She’s no longer our baby. She’s our toddler! My wife also noted that today she realized the truth in the old saying “The days are long, but the years are short.” It is hard to believe that it has been a year, already!
I posted this picture on Facebook today, and it is truly amazing to see how much she has changed and grown in a year.
Sam’s Facebook post really nailed it on the head:
“Ella, you are so strong willed. You are mischievous. You are bold and fearless. You are not afraid of new things or new people. It is even safe to say that you are boisterous and loud. You are already speaking up a storm. You are inquisitive. The only time you are quiet and still is when you are observing or are asleep. You are always alert – your eyes don’t stop moving and your head turns at every new noise. All it takes is watching someone do something and you are right there to copy it and do it by yourself. Ella, Keep being you! Because that is who we love dearly!”
One thing Sam and I chuckled about today was how easy the “monthly” pictures of Ella used to be to take. We could just lay her in the crib and snap a few. She is SO busy now, it is hard to get her to sit still for them! We were able to nab a couple this morning before heading out to celebrate.
One of the hardest things to deal with over the past year has been Covid. Because of it, we spent most of our time at home. So many people STILL haven’t had the chance to meet Ella. Quarantine babies (and kids in general) have really had it difficult. The malls may be open, but the playscapes are closed. Playgrounds at the parks have been closed. Many of the interactive stuff at children’s museums are closed. There was NO WHERE to take her except on walks through the neighborhood and occasionally playing outside.
We decided to take her to the Sea Life Aquarium about an hour from us. Legoland is also there, but we figured we’d do something that didn’t require too much “touching.” We were the first in line and got to walk through the aquarium and look at all the cool fish and sea life. She really enjoyed it. There were a lot of fish to observe and the lighting inside was very cool. There was even a place where she could reach in and touch some of the sea life. It took about a half hour to go through, and she really loved it.
We walked the mall for a little bit after the aquarium visit and remembered that they have a Build A Bear there. For your birthday, you get to chose a bear and you pay whatever your age is. She she picked a bear, picked a heart to put in the bear, and walked out with a new stuffed friend for just $1.00! I have a feeling we’ll go back and get a birthday outfit for the bear in the future. For now, she seems pretty content with her new buddy.
Later this afternoon, our plans changed a bit. We were going to have cake here at the house, but we ended up going to Sam’s mom and dad’s for pizza and cake. Yes, I got emotional as I took pictures and everyone sang “Happy Birthday.” I think we all hoped that she would just rip into her cake, but she was rather reserved. She picked frosting off and ate that mostly. Someone eventually gave her a spoon and I think she ate a little cake, but it was mostly frosting. By the time she was done, she had as much frosting on her as the cake did.
It really was a perfect day.
So now, before I close, I need to say something to my baby girl:
My sweet Ella Bella –
Today, you turned one year old. Mommy and I have enjoyed every second of your life. We have watched you grow up so fast! It really seems like yesterday that we were waiting for you to arrive. Now, you are walking and saying words. In the past year, you have brought us so much joy and happiness.
I’m sure that you think daddy’s phone is always ready to take pictures of you, and you’re probably right. You very well may be the baby with the most pictures on Facebook! You have been a bright light in a very dark and scary time, sweetheart. A pandemic, political nonsense, violence, and hatred were prominent throughout the world during your first year. However, your smiling face brought smiles to so many people. I guess daddy thought I might be overdoing it with all the pictures of you I kept posting. You have no idea how many people have told me how YOU helped them get through these tough times! Your smile brought smiles. Thanks to social media, people you have never even met are watching you grow up, and smiling at the new things you are doing. You are loved by more people than you can imagine!! There is something extra special and magical about you. Your personality is one that brings happiness to everyone.
You are our miracle baby. There will never be enough words for me to tell you just how much I love you. I only wish that everyone could experience the joy that I feel when I walk into the house after work and you see me and scream with delight that “daddy is home!” I wish everyone would experience the thrill that I get when you wake up and I walk into your room to get you and you smile at me as you reach for me to pick you up.
Mommy and I were going back through pictures of you over the past year, and it is amazing to see how fast you have grown. With each picture, we relieved special moments and milestones. We laughed and cried. We thanked God for sending you to us. A year’s worth of memories and this is only the beginning. There will be many more milestones. There will be countless new things for you to learn. You will continue to be an amazing little girl. Mommy and daddy will be there every step of the way, cheering you on in whatever you do! We will help you accomplish what your heart desires.
We have so much to celebrate today, and there will be much more to celebrate in the future. Thank you for being my little love bug. Thank you for making daddy feel so loved. YOU are special and I love you so very much.
Happy First Birthday, Ella. May God continue to bless you today and always.