As you may recall, Charlie was born 10 weeks early and weighed three pounds at birth. He spent over a month in the NICU but since then, he has really grown and is doing so well. Just by sake of being our nephew, we already adore Charlie, but given his unexpected early arrival we were especially excited to celebrate this milestone with him, and with his parents. I can attest that the first year of parenthood is difficult under any circumstances, but I'm certain that having the stress of a premature delivery and NICU stay and all that accompanies that adds more of a challenge than I can imagine. I said on Ellie's birthday that I really feel the first birthday is a time to celebrate the parents for having made it through one year, and I know Ronnie and Stephanie are putting quite a year behind them. Congratulations to them for making it through, and with a healthy, happy, handsome little man to show for it!
We left for St. Pete as soon as we got up and moving on Saturday, which got us to my dad's house just in time for some lunch and a (short and much-protested) nap for Ellie before the party. The party was held at Largo Central Park, and it was a gorgeous day for a party in the park! The pavilions were adorned with red, yellow and black balloons to match the Mickey Mouse theme, and there was one balloon for each day Charlie was in the NICU. There were two tables stacked high with presents, plenty of food to go around and awesome goodie bags for the kids (the contents of which kept Ellie entertained on our drive back to Jacksonville the following day, so thanks to Ronnie and Stephanie for that!).
The pavilions all decked out for the party
Lots of gifts for Charlie!
Upon our arrival, we said our hellos to family, and the birthday boy himself. He seemed so much bigger just since we saw him last month!
He reached for me right away and made my day!
Ellie made herself right at home on her Great-Gramz's lap
Charlie and his Uncle Eric
Fun times with family!
The first Saturday of every month, Largo Central Park gives free train rides to the kids, and Ronnie and Stephanie chose this date for the party for that reason. So, right away Ellie and I went off to ride the train along with Eric's sister Kelley and Charlie. The ride was much longer and considerably more delightful than I expected, although the kids seemed unimpressed. Hey, at least the adults liked it. Actually, I do think Charlie enjoyed it, because he was happy as a clam through the entire ride except for when the train slowed down or stopped, and then he would fuss. Apparently that boy has a real need for speed.
On the train with Kelley and Charlie!
They're totally loving it.
After the train ride we did a little eating and visiting, and Ellie wandered all over the place (often with balloons in tow).
Ellie and Aunt Kelley off for a walk
Hanging out with her Nonnie
More fun with Auntie Kelley (and balloons, of course)
Walking with Great-Gramz
Apparently, Ellie really enjoys walking around with her Great-Gramz at birthday parties:
At her own birthday party in March on the left, and at Charlie's on the right!
Then, it was time for the cupcake smashing. We all sang to Charlie and then he went to work on a couple of cupcakes. Once again, my cake-phobic child was put to shame. These kids know how to eat cake!
Blowing out the candle!
Charlie and his proud parents
It may make me a terrible aunt, but all I can think of when I look at this adorable frosting-faced picture of my handsome nephew is, "why so serious?"
Charlie and his daddy
By that time, things were winding down a little bit and some people had to get going, including my mother-in-law Toni. Before she left, we made sure to get a nice photo of her, Gramz, and the kids and grandkids. After her stroke in 2009 every event like this just reminds me how lucky we are to still have her around so she can be a part of these great family events. I know it means the world to her, and it does to us, too.
Love these people!
Then it was time for presents. Charlie received a lot of great gifts, including lots of toys and clothes. He got a toy dump truck and book from Ellie and a walker, Yankees book and birth record cross-stitch from us. I made the birth record for Charlie, and spent a ton of time on it. In fact, I had planned for it to be his Christmas gift, but needless to say, I didn't quite get it done in time! It meant a lot to me to make something for my little nephew, and I'm glad that his parents seemed to like it. We just love that little guy, and that was the best way I could think of to show it!
Opening gifts with his mommy
Opening the birth record
The birth record. I wish I had taken a better picture of it, but I did snap this pic with my iPhone after having it framed.
After presents, we just kind of hung out for a bit longer and snapped some pictures of the cousins in the grass. One of them was more excited about this activity than the other.
Ellie: "WAAAAAAH, THIS IS SO AWFUL!"
"Girls! Am I right? Always with the drama!"
Charlie may have been having flashbacks to Christmas...
"Hey, cousin, what's the matter?"
"There, there. I will dry your tears."
Look at these babies with blues!
And that wrapped up Charlie's birthday party! We had such a nice time celebrating with family. Once again, I have to say that this is definitely the one positive aspect of living in Florida that New York just can't beat. I imagine that even if we had still been in New York, we would've done everything we could to fly down for this party, but to be able to be so close and have there be no question that we can be there is a really nice thing. I'm especially thankful to be able to give Ellie the opportunity to form bonds with her extended family, and I can tell she's doing just that.
We were so happy to celebrate this little guy. We love him to pieces. Happy birthday, Charlie!
The birthday boy!