My oldest turns six today. Six years old. For six years, this child has roamed the globe. I can't believe it. Birthdays are always filled with mixed emotions for me.
I am so proud of him and all he's done this past year. It's been a crazy life and all things considered I think he's handled everything pretty fantastically.
When he was three months old, we drove to Michigan to visit before Matt was deployed.
Then when he was five months old, we moved back to Michigan after Matt left.
He flew back to North Carolina with me to visit old friends.
We flew to Tennessee for a military funeral.
He celebrated the first birthday getting reacquainted with his "Da-da" for the two weeks R&R mid-deployment.
Six weeks later, he moved to D.C. with me.
We lived out of a hotel and hospital while Matt recovered from his injuries.
He was the constant reminder of the love Matt and I had together. The life we had made together.
After leaving D.C., we spent another month living out of a hotel in Richmond, VA.
He learned to walk at a day care center I had put him in during the days I spent helping Matt through rehabilitation.
When we moved back to North Carolina, he was in tow, happy as ever.
His second birthday was spent at Chuck E Cheese, surrounded by our military family.
We moved twice while at Fort Bragg, drove and flew back to Michigan twice before his third birthday.
He was my companion, my travel partner.
At his third birthday, I had started working at Barnes and Noble (the first time I worked since he was born) and he started day care. He hated it and it broke my heart.
This was his first birthday party with a theme (Transformers) and friends. I couldn't believe how big he was then. How much we'd been through and how happy and well adjusted he was.
When Matt came down on orders to South Korea, we had no idea what would happen or how it would change our lives.
Before we left for S.K., we spent the summer in Michigan again, knowing we wouldn't be visiting friends or family for a long time.
He has always traveled well, but I was surprised how well he handled the constant car trips.
When we left our homeland for the foreign adventure of living in South Korea, he was there, always encouraging us to be positive and keep an open mind.
We found out I was pregnant shortly after arriving and he was over the moon.
His fourth birthday was a hard one. The winter in South Korea was long and we hadn't met any friends yet. All he wanted for a present was to meet some kids his age. It broke my heart.
Once the spring hit, we enrolled him in tee ball. He was so pumped to be around kids his age!
Shortly after that, his brother was born and they were instantly friends.
He was born to be a big brother, so helpful and caring.
As our time went on, he made more friends and before we knew it our time in South Korea was over.
The military life was starting to wear on him.
Flying internationally 25 weeks pregnant with both boys (alone) was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was no sweat for Gabe. He was so helpful and patient in every way.
And then, he started Kindergarten. My heart swelled with pride as he entered the Elementary in Kansas on his first day.
With no hesitation, he fit right in with new friends and a new life.
Shortly after Matt came back from South Korea, we welcomed our baby girl into our lives and Gabe loved her instantly.
And then we moved (again) to Texas, he transferred schools and had to make friends all over again.
But it didn't stop him.
Gabe is the same little boy he's been his whole life. Ever so kind and caring. Always friendly and smiling.
He is the definition of resiliency and constantly reminding me to be positive.
I am so grateful to have him in my life, to have the honor of watching him grow into a man. I have a heavy heart today because I know that day he becomes a teenager and then man is coming faster than I am ready for it to. With a blink of an eye, he'll be graduating high school and moving on with his life, and I'll be here wondering what just happened.
I know it's coming (my head knows anyway), so I am here today, enjoying that's it's only his sixth birthday and not his sixteenth.
Not yet anyway.