Happy Birthday, Ella Louise!

My baby is two today…
I’m not sad…just in disbelief that it has really been two years since:
Two years ago I discovered love as I never knew it existed.
Ella Louise Cronin!
We had her party this morning.  It had a ladybug theme & the whole place was red & black.  Even the tables got decorated as ladybugs.
Two Years ago there was no cake…this year, I baked & decorated a cake:

And since we had another cake left over after we altered the design, we decorated a 2nd cake: 
 Each cake part/layer had a different flavor.  The “Ella Louise is 2” was French Vanilla Cake, the head and top of the ladybug were Chocolate cake and the bottom of the ladybug was Fudge/Vanilla swirl.
It was a lot of fun filled with family & friends.
We are blessed:
Ella, today as you turn two here are some things you need to know:
You love to play.
You LOVE to sing and dance.
You like ladybugs, but this was your bday theme because your mom found that costume cheap and decided it would be great for your party.
You almost know who Cinderella is.  (This is very important.)
 You like to kiss your friends goodbye – this causes a great stir.
You like to sing the ABCs and make me sing it faster & faster.
You love “Where O Where is the Red Stop Sign” and insist I sing it over and over as we ride in the car.  You’ve gotten good at pointing out stop signs, too.
You love to run and laugh when you fall down (most of the time).
You are learning your right from your left.
You love all our pets and never hold Monkey’s crabbiness against him.
Your playmates are Jackson West, John Kottmeier, Becca Hatcher, Juan Esteban, Nate Brown, Hannah Shelton, and Taylor Boothe.
Of those playmates, we call Jackson your “boyfriend”
You adore Katie Quinn, Charlotte Rich, & Caity Brightwell and never mind that I leave you with them.  You just say, “Bye Mommy” and never cry.
You also adore your “Aunt” B.Jo – who loves you just as much.
Your Pop dotes on you like there is no tomorrow.
Your Mac thinks the sun rises and sets on you.
Your Papa becomes a teddy bear of a man like we’ve never seen.
Your Nana loves to find the cutest things for you
 (like the ladybug socks you’ve worn this week.)
Your Daddy thinks all day about coming home and playing with you.
Your Mommy can’t imagine a better life than being your mommy.
Your aunts & uncles adore you.
Uncle Warren & Aunt Ray-Ray can’t wait to live close enough to be at your parties every year and to visit you often.
You are blessed to have three great-grandmothers living: your G.G. (mommy’s grandmother), your Nanny (daddy’s grandmother), and Grandma Cox (daddy’s other grandmother).
You also have a couple of Aunts who would treat you like their own grandchild instead of as a Niece – Aunt Margaret & Aunt Carla.
And you have a great-great-aunt who never misses anything you do – your E.E.
You are one incredibly LOVED child.
Happy Birthday, Ellabean!!!
Mommy loves you.

Charmed Life…

I have lived a charmed life.  Can I admit that here?  Yes, there have been dark times (years spent fighting with my dad who is now one of my closest friends…a divorce…friendships lost), but when I look back over my life so far…I have led a charmed one.

It started in Richmond, VA but at just over 1 year of age my parents packed up and moved to Roanoke Bible College.  There I led a life of beauty and fun.  Finding my dad in the towering shelves of the library…eating lunch in the cafeteria…climbing in the Crape Myrtles along the main road…  I loved being a child on campus.  I am still friends with a few people who were my playmates (check out Neal Alligood’s blog) and the adults who adored me then still make me feel as adored as ever.

That is NOT Neal in the above photo…

While a student at RBC, my dad also preached at Roanoke Acres Church of Christ in Manteo, NC.  I grew up during those years with my feet firmly planted in Outer Banks sand on the weekends.  I loved the people there and still do love them.  We go to see them as often as we can.  Jeff often teases me that I act like a princess…well, honey, the people in Manteo started that.  There exists no other place on earth where I walk in and I am still the center of attention…though Ella has started to steal my spotlight on visits.

There was plenty of charm between Kindergarten and 8th grade, but you may fall asleep so I’m going to fast forward to my high school life.  Oh, how I LOVED HIGH SCHOOL!  Today on Richmond Mommies someone posted asking us about who we were in high school.  Here is my response:

I was friends with everyone. I was the DD for the getting-drunk rich kids and I could kick some boy butt in a game of Magic with my geeky friends. I went to every dance but the prom of my freshman year. I also won the School Spirit award two years in a row!   I LOVED HIGH SCHOOL! If I’d be promised that I’d have Ella all over again, I’d go back and do it again in an instant.

It is true…if I knew I would get to have Ella all over again, I’d head on back and relive those four years.  Sure, there was heartache and some shed tears (always over dumb boys), but I was in the band and friends with every sort of person in the school…even the girls with thick eye makeup who normally might have pummeled me.  Here is one of my favorite pictures with my band uniform:

Oh, how I loved being in the band…being a good student (but not so good that I made it into NHS – just wasn’t a goal for me)…having friends…going on trips…DISCOVERING STARBUCKS!!!

You know, there was a group of us who frequented the Starbucks across from Innsbrook (the first one in Richmond) that they CLOSED THE STORE and threw a graduation party for us when that time came.  We invited our friends and got to drink a lot of free coffee and eat anything out of the case that hadn’t be purchased that day.  What fun!!

Then I went back to RBC…for one year.  It was as wonderful as I ever imagined it.  Some of my childhood friends were there, too – two as students and one a high school senior who would be attending the next year.
But I got my heart broken and ran home that following summer.  You know, if I have any regrets in my life it would be that I left RBC.  I had made Master’s 12 as a freshman – my dream since childhood.  What a dummy.

After that I worked in a really fun job waiting tables in a bar here in Richmond.  While I’m not proud of everything that occurred in that year of my life, I learned a lot from that time and I had a GREAT TIME!  All of my “wild” stories in life come from that year.

And then I hit the motherload of joy.  I was hired part-time to run the youth program at Parham Hills.  I got new license plates “PHCC YTH” (which stood for Parham Hills Christian Church Youth and not for what it says phonetically).  I wore out the church van driving my middle and high schoolers everywhere they wanted to go.  Not only did we go to at least five states for youth conventions, but we had more lock-ins than I care to remember.  When a kid had a game, I took as many other kids as I could with me to see them play.  We had so much fun together.  The two SonicFLOOd songs playing are two of our favorites.  We had big plans for the future…
My teens were the best and it was great to be so young that I was close enough to their age to have fun, but old enough to know where the lines needed to be drawn.
I remember Rebekah phoning the mother ship with her braces…and Timmy nearly getting us kicked out of a Target (he wasn’t doing anything bad, I promise)
I remember standing in a room of 2000 people with my teens around me singing “Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble”…I remember how it felt when we got to the line “Swing Wide You Heavenly Gates…Prepare the Way of The Risen Lord…”  How moving it was to hear that many voices singing those words.
I was so sad to give up my position as youth director, but I had taken a full-time job and my time was so stretched that I was no longer meeting the needs of those teens.  I’ve always missed leading the way…someday I’ll get to do it again.  As soon as Ella is old enough to tag along.

Then, I met Jeff (see previous post for more on that)…and had Ella.

Ella who will be two years old tomorrow.

Ella who helped me bake her birthday cake:

Does it get any better than this?  I think so…and I can’t wait.