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A Summer Adventure

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.

 

Great Compliments

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.

A Grand Ole 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!  20160618_145124

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 IMG_2551cool 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).

Friday, we spent most of the day around the Opry.  We went to Opryland Mills and just killed time until the curtain went up at the Opry.

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.

 

 

A Perfect 10(th Birthday)

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Amber and I let Kaitlyn decide what she wanted to do for her birthday this year.  If she wanted a party at the house, we were good with that; a party somewhere else was fine, too.  Of all the things she could have chosen, Kaitlyn decided that she wanted to spend her 10th birthday in Nashville.  At the Grand Ole Opry.  We were more than happy to oblige her.

We spent the day Friday exploring everything there is around the Grand Ole Opry.  We circled the Opryland Mills mall and walked around the Gaylord Opryland, all as we anxiously waited for the doors to the Opry to open.

20160624_190009A full slate of artists entertained us during our first (and surely not our last) visit to the Opry.  We saw 12 different artists, including newer artists like Carly Pearce, Tara Thompson, and the Fiddlin’ Carson Peters Band, which is fronted by a very talented 11 year old.  We also saw Opry legends John Conlee and Roy Clark, along with Shenandoah and Darryl Worley.

As we made our way to our seats, we were handed a program of the night’s schedule.  Also in the program was a list of those celebrating special occasions such as anniversaries or birthdays, and Kaitlyn was very excited to see her name in the program.  She “officially” turned 10 right before the curtain rose for the start of the show, too.  The kicker for the evening came right before the final artist of the night, Darryl Worley, performed, and that is when host Eddie Stubbs announced her name to the crowd of 4,400 in the audience and a bunch of others who were listening on the radio or online (including my parents!).

Kaitlyn told us, as we were making our way to the car, that she had the “perfect 10th birthday.”

Not The First Time

One of the hardest things Amber and I have had to do as parents is sitting with Kaitlyn and trying to explain why horrible things happen to people.  This morning was no different (this conversation would have happened yesterday if we had let Kaitlyn watch the news) as Kaitlyn and I sat and watched Today Show coverage of the horrific shooting in Orlando over the weekend.

What do you tell your 9, almost 10-year-old child when she asks why bad things happen to people?  What do you tell your child when she asks why someone would want to kill innocent people?  How do you convince your daughter that one of her favorite places to visit, Orlando, is safe?  How do you keep your loving, caring, and trusting child from losing hope in society?  13432241_10154357540384015_53458963382503514_n

I don’t know if what I told her was right, but I handled it the same way that we have handled discussing these types of atrocities in the past, and that was to be honest.

First, I told her that I don’t know why bad things happen to people, and I don’t have an answer for her as to why someone massacred 50 people at a nightclub over the weekend.  I told her that I don’t know what could drive someone to hate people so much to commit such a horrible act.  I told her that, despite what happened, Orlando is safe, because I don’t want her to be afraid to be there the next time we go there.  And I told her that overall, society is filled with kind and caring people like her.

What Amber and I hope is that Kaitlyn’s generation will be filled with kids who are like her, kids who care deeply about others and about the world around them, people who cannot fathom being filled with such a level of hate that they would commit mass murder.  I told Kaitlyn that the best way to change the way people are is to always be kind; yes, there will be times where she is angry and upset at someone, but she should never let hate fill her heart.  Most of all, I told her to keep being herself.  Maybe one day, Amber and I won’t have to talk to Kaitlyn again after the next Aurora, San Bernadino, or Orlando (we never did talk to her about Sandy Hook when it happened since she was in first grade at the time and most of those killed were her age).

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