Amber and I found out today that it is never easy delivering bad news. Today was the first time that we had to break the news to Kaitlyn that a family member had passed away.
I knew something was wrong when Amber called me at 7:23 this morning. When I saw that she was calling as Kaitlyn and I were walking out the door, I figured/feared that she had gotten into an accident or something. I was way off. I could tell by her voice that it was something way worse than an accident. Amber let me know that her granny, Kaitlyn’s great granny passed away this morning.
We agreed that there was no way that we were going to let Kaitlyn know before school, so I did my best to not let on that there was something wrong.
Unfortunately, Amber had the task of telling Kaitlyn the news. It was as bad as we feared it would be. Kaitlyn was crushed. As I write this, she is still a mess.
Kaitlyn had become very fond of her great granny over the last several years. She loved going to visit her and staying in her big house on the lake, and just spending time with her. They would talk about how Kaitlyn was doing in school, what granny was up to, politics, and so much more; it was quite fascinating to sit back and listen to an octogenarian and an elementary school student talk politics as good or better than most “experts” on TV.
Kaitlyn lost a wonderful great granny today, and the world lost a caring, often stubborn, always thoughtful woman today. There will be a void for Kaitlyn for quite some time, but Amber and I will make sure to ensure that she thinks about of the great times the two of them had together.
Amber and I appreciate the outpouring of support via texts and phone calls, and that one very special delivery of flowers. As Kaitlyn works through her emotions, we are so grateful that we have so many friends and family we can count on to be there for us.
Summer is just about over. Kaitlyn had a rather busy summer between going to camp, going on vacation, and spending time in Iowa. It seems like the last day of school was just yesterday, and now the first day of school is less than a week away.
This past Sunday, Kaitlyn was Skyping with my parents, and the subject of the first day of school came up. They asked her if she was excited that school starts soon. Her answer was classic Kaitlyn.
“No, not really,” she said. That was an odd response given how much Kaitlyn loves school, so the logical follow-up question was posed. Why? “There’s no real learning the first week.” Makes sense. Kaitlyn went on to explain that, sure, you learn about your new classmates and your teacher, but you don’t really learn too much else.
Kaitlyn is not a real fan of wasting days not learning anything, which is the entire point of going to school in the first place. Despite the fact that Kaitlyn won’t be learning much (apparently) the first week, she’ll be there every day, paying attention, doing her best to learn about her classmates and teacher, and on any assignments she is given.
It’s hard to believe that fifth grade is right around the corner, but Amber and I are excited about what the year will bring for Kaitlyn. We know she’ll be challenged and she will grow, and she will work hard and excel. Most of all, Kaitlyn will continue to do her best, and Amber and I will be with her every step of the way, supporting and encouraging her.
For the first time in 28 days, Kailyn is home. She had herself quite the adventure over the last four weeks, too. During the last 28 days, Kaitlyn visited 12 states and saw so many amazing things, and had a great time doing it.
We left for our vacation on June 18, and our trip took us from Florida, through Georgia and North Carolina, and stopped in Tennessee for a week. Kaitlyn spent her 10th birthday at the Grand Ole Opry, which set the bar for future birthdays (she already wants to go back to Nashville and the Opry soon).
From Nashville, we drove up to Paducah and met Amber’s mom, and Kaitlyn was off to spend three weeks in Iowa. While she was in Iowa, she helped in the garden, played with new born kittens (they all stayed up there thankfully), baked, sewed, and hiked through the woods. She also had the opportunity to visit the Minnesota Zoo, and took a trip the Mall of America; she was in awe when she walked into the two story American Girl store.
During the three weeks she was in Iowa, I think it is safe to say that Amber’s mom got to see every side of Kaitlyn, and it was a learning experience. She had to deal with Kaitlyn’s grumpiness in the mornings, her non-stop talking, and the fact that it is really difficult for her to sit still. Dealing with the Full Kaitlyn Experience is not as easy as Amber and I make it look sometimes, that’s for sure.
There were moments when Kaitlyn was extremely homesick, too, and they came up before bed for the most part. Her stay in Iowa was not only the longest she had been away from us, but also the furthest she had been away; she had spent full weeks during the last few Spring Breaks in Central Florida, and the occasional weekend in Orlando or Atlanta, but those places are all within a few hours of us; Iowa was a full 20 hour drive away, so it wasn’t like Amber or I could just go get her when she needed us. She survived though.
It’s important for Kaitlyn, and it makes things better for everyone, when she is involved and on-board with what is going on. She likes to be a part of the planning, and likes her input to matter. She almost always has to be engaged in doing something; sure, she enjoys playing the occasional video game, but that is usually a short-term answer because she thrives on actually doing things. Amber’s mom is fully aware of that now.
Amber and I left the house yesterday around 5:00am to start the journey to meet up with Amber’s mom and bring Kaitlyn home. While they were heading south through St. Louis, we made our way north through Montgomery and Birmingham, over to Memphis, and to Marion, Arkansas. Once the package was secured, we retraced our route and began the trek back; we made it back to Montgomery, where we stopped for the night. Instead of coming straight home today, we drove down to Destin for some back-to-school shopping; it was a somewhat fruitful trip since Kaitlyn came home with the backpack she wanted. We finally made it home around 4:00pm today after logging right at 1,200 miles in the car over 20 hours (the back roads in Alabama slowed us down some).
For Kaitlyn, the last 28 days were quite the adventure. She saw a lot of the country, too, from here in Florida, to Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. She saw the Smoky Mountains and visited the Grand Ole Opry; she crossed the Mississippi River (twice) and saw the Gateway Arch, and so much more. What a summer adventure.
As parents, one of the things that means the most to Amber and I is when other people take notice of something that Kaitlyn does or how she behaves. We work hard on a consistent basis trying to teach Kaitlyn life skills and things that will help her now and in the future.
One area where we really focus is on manners. Our expectation is that Kaitlyn will be polite a vast majority of the time, knowing that by having lofty expectations, she will strive to continue to be better; Kaitlyn’s competitive streak works to our benefit here.
Two times on our recent vacation, once in Gatlinburg and once in Paducah, people specifically commented and complimented Kaitlyn on her manners, even stating that it is rare for them to encounter a child with manners like they had witnessed. It is baffling to us that at two establishments in two cities would be shocked by a child with good manners.
Amber and I are proud of the manners that Kaitlyn has and continues to work on. We are happy that she made quite the impression on some folks on our trip.
For Amber and I, it had been 11 years; for Kaitlyn, she had never visited, but that is all behind us now. What an amazing week it was, one that took us from Florida, through Georgia and North Carolina, and into Tennessee. Our first stop was Gatlinburg, with a visit to Pigeon Forge mixed in, and we had a great time!
After spending a majority of the day in the car Saturday, we arrived in Gatlinburg just after 3:00 pm. During our drive from Cherokee, North Carolina through the Smoky Mountains and into Gatlinburg, Kaitlyn was just in awe of everything she saw. We stopped at Newfound Gap at the Tennessee/North Carolina border for some amazing views.
It wasn’t long after arriving in Gatlinburg that we made our way to the Funnel Cake Company for a funnel cake and some fresh squeezed lemonade, and Kaitlyn was covered in powdered sugar by the time we were done (of course!).
For Father’s Day, we walked to the Pancake Pantry (best breakfast in Gatlinburg), and Kaitlyn was extremely impressed with her choice (M&M pancakes). After that, we spent the day just strolling around Gatlinburg, which drove Kaitlyn crazy since we didn’t have a plan or itinerary. We hit the mini-golf courses, of course, and ate dinner on the rooftop patio of a Mexican restaurant.
Kaitlyn and I rode the aerial tram to Ober Gatlinburg, and she got a thrill each time the tram passed a tower because it would dip a little and pick up some speed; as long as that sucker stayed tethered to the steel cable, I was good.
We also enjoyed just lounging around the hotel, and Kaitlyn could not get enough of the hot tub.
On Thursday, it was time to head west to Nashville for a few days. For her birthday present, Kaitlyn wanted to go to the Grand Ole Opry, and Amber and I were more than happy to oblige. We got to our hotel plenty early Thursday, so we had to find something fun to do; it didn’t take long for us to decide to head downtown to Music Row. It was really cool to see all of the Honky Tonks, and each one had an aspiring artist performing. We walked to the Country Music Hall of Fame and also to the Ryman Auditorium (Amber was in heaven).
Sadly, our vacation was quickly coming to an end, and Saturday we left Nashville to drive to Paducah, Kentucky, to meet up with Amber’s mom since Kaitlyn will be spending the next few weeks there; Amber and I will miss her a ton, but this will be a great experience for her and for us, and will hopefully set the table for future years and her spending time away.
Vacations are always fun, and we really cannot wait until next year’s.