Mila Turns 2 At Her Trolls Party

Well, I will be honest with you. When my daughter showed interest in the Trolls movie we all got pretty excited. Simply because the movie is just too darn cute and the message really hits home as choosing to be ‘happy’ is something Dan and I strive for on a daily basis. With that said, if you haven’t seen the movie you must! At the risk of getting to deep over a kids movie, every scene carries with it some emotional weight that really promotes the idea that happiness is found within. Which I couldn't agree with more. 

Quickly Mila became Poppy obsessed and the Trolls made their way into into the music we listened to in the car, Mila’s book collection, toy collection and so on. Like most obsessions, it snowballed until the entire household knew all the words to all the songs and honestly we were all pretty happy with it all. When starting to plan Mila’s 2nd birthday it was a no brainer her party would be Trolls themed. It also dawned on me that while having a Trolls party would be great, having a Trolls costume party would be greater! And like most kid birthday parties, things snowballed until I found myself covered in glitter hanging tiny Trolls in a tree and making sure there were enough twinkling lights for the tables. 

Birthdays in our family are celebrated at large and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except Mila’s birthday falls during an already jam packed week (Christmas), so by the end of it all I’m left breathless and so tired my eye balls hurt. But we do it all and we do it all to the best of our ability because our child’s smiles are worth it. Right? Though, Dan did say “Next year lets go on a trip and celebrate small” to which I said “Sure!” … but between you and I, come next December I doubt thats what we’ll do. I can’t help myself and as Mila gets older she’ll have more say and remember more and more. I have this obsession with wanting to make her party dreams come true. Which I know I won't be able to once she is older. At some point she’ll want a fancy dinner party with friends and her parents far, far away. So, if Mila asks for Poppy and pink donuts I’m going to deliver big time! 

Setting the party aside, I truly can’t believe Mila is two! I honestly don’t know how fast time goes by with out me really knowing it. It is wild to look back just a few months back and see so much growth. I know I say it all the time but the best way to describe the feeling I get when reflecting on my kids growing up is, bittersweet. Bitter because it brings on a bit of tears to look back at the sweet baby days. Sweet because it is such a privilege to have a hand in helping this tiny person grow up into the incredible human being she is destined to be. Time goes by fast, but we sure are making the most of it all. 

Here are a few photos from our night celebrating Mila turning two! 

You can see her 1st birthday party here

All photos by Lily Ro Photography

Special Thanks To - Jesi Haack Design for creating the cute backdrop, DIY Troll hair headbands and for being all around incredible + beyond helpful. Guelaguetza for having us two years in a row, we adore the food at this restaurant in Los Angeles and the space is the best!


Ryan's 7th Bday And The Fight For Happiness


You know, these last few weeks I have been seemingly happy. Trucking along through out the days and not really noticing how extremely anxious I've felt deep inside about September approaching. I have this really awful habit of forcing feelings down, down, down until they get masked thick with other things. Before I know it I am drowning, my mind goes to mush and instead of happiness coming easy I feel like I have to walk through quick sand to find it. It happens fast and I honestly don’t know until I know. I look back and I’m like “oh! this is why I’ve felt so damn numb and now I feel awful!” Then I tell myself, remind myself that I must feel the things I need to when I need to … or else this incredible fight to feel happiness will rear up again.

My issue is, my son would have been seven years old this September and he isn't physically here to celebrate. Which quite frankly has been the case for his sixth birthday, fifth birthday and fourth. Every year I go through this crashing wave of anger over the fact that my son isn’t growing before my eyes. I now have to imagine what he would be like, the things he’d be into at this age and what exactly life would be like with him by my side. I typically feel more anger around his birthday than when I miss him during the holidays because birthdays in our family are a big deal! We have small traditions that have huge impact and most of the time our celebrations last a few days. So, I feel angry Ryan isn’t here. Though, I hate feeling angry for two reasons 1. because he wouldn’t want me to feel angry and 2. I can’t do anything about it so feeling angry sometimes just is a waste. Also, I feel guilty about feeling angry when I look at Mila and then look at my son’s face in photos … my kids are great I can’t feel angry right?!

Anger is the feeling I mask the most and you’d think that after nearly three and half years with out Ryan this whole grief monster would get easier to slay. It doesn’t. In fact, the monster stays the same I just learn knew things about it, develop strength against it and so on. I mask my anger and I’m like “oh! this is why I’ve felt so damn numb and now I feel awful!” Then I tell myself, remind myself that I must feel the things I need to when I need to … or else this incredible fight to feel happiness will rear up again.

This past week I licked my wounds so to speak, let myself feel what I needed to and teetered on the decision to celebrate big (like we always do) or take it easy this year, do something small and let the day pass. See! This is why I want to mask anger and sometimes sadness because when I let those emotions in and rule the roost negative thoughts take over. We nearly didn't do anything for his birthday. But I soon realized that that wouldn’t be fair to Ryan. I pushed negativity aside and decided to go big because turning seven is fun and this family deserves to have fun even if it hurts a little.

I never really know how to explain what goes on in my head. I try to. I believe my husband can read it on my face sometimes. I am sorry if this sounds like a jumbled up mess. Though if you’ve lost someone you love, I think you know that life with out them is a jumbled mess. A mess that you strive forever to make sense of.

“Ok! Enough already!” says my kids (and probably my husband too) get to the fun stuff! My family and I ventured to - surprise surprise - Disneyland for two days and stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. We’ve been staying there and celebrating Ryan’s birthday since the beginning and it just wouldn’t seem right to not. We spend one full day playing in the pool and drinking fun drinks poolside and the next playing in the parks. This trip we did a little bit of adventuring and found a fun fireworks viewing area on the top of the Paradise Pier hotel. That night will forever be burned in my memory. The three of us huddled together high atop the hotel watching the fireworks was just the best. What is it about fireworks?! On Ryan’s actual birthday we made it to the park before open and the cast members let us open the park for everyone! (I posted the video on my Instagram) The rest of the day went by so fast, but in a really good way. We celebrated Ryan the way we knew he would have loved. Truth is, even as his age grows with out him, we’ll continue to celebrate our three and half year old the way we remember him. Which again, stinks because I look at my friends boys growing older and get jealous. But I have to let those feelings go I guess. Well, I need to feel them and then let them go.

And with that Ryan’s birthday has slipped by and I feel proud looking back at it. I tell myself, remind myself that I must feel the things I need to when I need to … this incredible fight to feel happiness will never cease. I learn that and re-learn it often. Though it is a struggle to feel happiness, once I feel it, I understand the worth of the fight.


A Little Chef Birthday Party

I recently had the honor of teaching ten little ones all around the age of 4 how to bake tiny pies! My good friend Kelly has the most adorable twins and for their birthday they requested a cooking birthday party. Kelly texted me if I knew anyone who could come and teach the littles, since she thought I'd be too busy. I quickly told her I'd want no one to do it, but me and we set out to plan the cutest party ever!

I decided that my November We Cook kit - Tiny Pies would be the perfect little treat the children could bake up. I brought a We Cook kit for every child, which gave them each the tools they needed to create their pies and tiny boxes for them to take their pies home to share later. Kelly purchased craft aprons that each little got to decorate prior to their voyage within the kitchen. (There also was a bounce house which wasn't chef themed, but necessary for a child's birthday party!) I set up ten individual prep stations around a table so each child could work with their own items. I also had them work with store bought dough instead of making our own from scratch, to save on time and curb meltdowns. Too many cooks in the kitchen can be a bit scary, but all the littles were so intrigued and determined to create their own pies.

I truly believe the kitchen is such a great backdrop for learning. I worked in tiny teaching moments with the children such as; why we use lemons with apples and where cinnamon comes from. I gave them each a cinnamon stick and had them smell it, then I showed them the cinnamon powder. Some littles thought it was too spicy do they decided to omit that ingredient from their creation. I thought that was great! It was really something to see their brains working, creating and enjoying themselves. You can see little Stella's creation down below, she balled up pie dough and stuck one apple slice on top. It was the cutest, and actually pretty tasty. When you let your little lead, magic happens. With ten littles, I did have to have a few parents step in which I adored. One of the main reasons I created my We Cook kits was to foster parent-child involvement within the kitchen. Seeing it first hand like that was something really special.

You know me, I am quick to get emotional. After losing my son Ryan I was convinced I'd never have the desire to be around children ever again, simply because it hurt so badly. I separated myself from children as I tried to heal. I never thought I'd be here. My anger or grief I thought would keep me away from ever enjoying life alongside little ones similar to my son. But, here I am. Suddenly immersed with all things child and helping them learn and develop a love for cooking. It is my dream! Truthfully, I feel Ryan so fiercely close during it all. It is so amazing to see myself back then and now. Time is a funny thing and it always goes by so quickly. Though time is just what I needed to be re-born into the mother I am today.

I had the most fun celebrating at this birthday party! Thank you sweet Kelly for having me!

We are using my November We Cook kit in the photos below ...

Photos by Beauty In The Bite


Happy 4th Birthday Ryan

It definitely wasn't something I was totally looking forward to.

Sometimes it takes every fiber in my body to just get out of bed and look semi-presentable. How would I have the energy or courage for that matter to celebrate my son's birthday?

My son who is no longer physically with us.

How do you muster up all the qualities necessary to 'celebrate' when all you are currently equipped with are qualities of grief and sadness? It is hard I tell you. The hardest thing I've ever had to do. So hard, but yet, with the grace of God and Ryan by his side we were able to do it. Like really do it. Dan and I blew celebrating our son's birthday our of the damn water! (enter fist bump emoticon here)

Happy Birthday to our dear Ryan Cruz.

Our baby sure did love Disneyland. I love Disneyland and it was a pure joy of mine to share that love with my son. We took it to the next level by going at least once a week...but seriously the smiles and laughs (and copious amounts of churros) we shared within those Disney walls are priceless. They bring tears to my eyes now, but I hold onto those memories so tight and think of them often.

It was a no brainer that we would celebrate Ryan's birthday at Disneyland. We planned a few things, but really we just all donned our Ryan shirts and let the day fall into place. It was truly magical. My son had saturated Disneyland...I mean he seriously was everywhere. I saw him in everything and most importantly we all saw him shinning through our smiles and laughter. We did everything Ryan would have wanted us to do and then some. We bought bubble guns and ate lots of churros. We rode Ryan's favorite rides and never waited in a line longer than two minutes. We ate his favorite candy, Ring Pops. We ran through the park flashing 'Happy Birthday Ryan Cruz' signs. We hugged one another tight and looked up into the bright blue sky, constantly wishing our little man a Happy Birthday.

In the afternoon we sang Happy Birthday to Ryan and released red balloons. We all cried. We cried and held on to each until we couldn't see his red balloons in the sky anymore. There were a lot of tears swept up with waves of calm and happiness. It was as if Ryan had his little hand on each of us. He kept saying " Guys, it is ok to cry, but I want you to have fun too. I want to have fun."

Overall, it was Ryan's biggest birthday yet. I'm so proud of my Ryan, he is finally four. He has been wanting to be four since he turned three. "When I turn four..." he would always lead with that and then ask for something outrageous. I'd always say "We will have to wait and see once you turn four dude." Oh wow, what little did I know then. Never did I imagine this...

Up in Heaven Ryan is telling everyone "When I turned four my parents celebrated me at my favorite place, with my favorite people doing all my favorite things."


We all had 'Ryan' leather bracelets made. That poor lady deserves a medal for dealing with all of us! She had twenty of us all asking for different things and they were all perfect. A few of us also got Olaf keychains because Olaf is Ryan's favorite. Ryan sings 'Suuuuummmmmeeerrrrr' and just adored that dorky little snowman. And now we love Olaf too.


Ryan's favorite candy are Ring Pops. We had them at his service and we had them on his birthday too. My sister brought a giant bag and we took a group photo with all of us eating them like he used to. Of course I can't find the photo...I'll have to share it when pops up.


Happy 4th Birthday Ryan Cruz.

Mommy and Daddy love you and will continue to celebrate you with every step forward we take.

Dear Mila, Happy 1/2 Birthday

Dear Mila,

Little miss, you are pure joy! It has been six months with you by my side and I am trying to soak up every moment. Just six months and we have had so many adventures! You have mastered the art of travel. With five flights under your belt, others are impressed with your ease up in the air. You make mama proud! So far we've been to; Nashville, Kentucky, Utah and San Francisco. This Summer holds a few more trips for you too. These last six months have proven to your daddy and I that life with you is magic. Sweet magic that laces our days with adventure. I hope we are doing you justice as we show you all that this beautiful life has to offer.

When I sit and count the cute things you do I am quick to find it is impossible. Though to say I love everything about you is too vague...Let me try and count the ways.

I love the way you smile at me when I'm about to feed you. You scrunch up your nose and kick your feet when you are really excited. I love how it takes something REALLY funny to make you laugh. (Just like your daddy!) I love the way your hair is starting to curl up, but only in the front. I love the way you fake cough to get attention...Dramatic. (Just like your mama!) I love how your tiny body moves with fierce determination as you roll over and scoot to reach a toy. Just recently you rolled to follow me to the kitchen and laughed when I stopped to turn around and look at you. We can tell already you have a stubborn streak, though what woman doesn't? I love your curiosity and constant need to check in and see what everyone is up to. I love the way you pull on your daddy's beard. It hurts him so bad, but he still lets you do it. Mila, I love you and it is clear that our life gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by.

How is it you eat constantly and yet you are still long and skinny? Right now you eat solid food, love all fruits and loath carrots. You love drinking your bottle and your pacifier is your most favorite. You can find it yourself in the middle of the night now. Thank you for that! One last thing, when you are tired you fall asleep best in my arms. You nestle your head in the crook of my left arm. Right when you get into that position you close your eyes and hum your self to sleep. Honestly, it doesn't get much better than that. Of course, on some days you fight your sleep because you still want to be awake with party.

When I look at you I can't believe you are mine. If I let myself get carried away I start to cry over how grateful I am for you. How'd I get so lucky?

Mila. Mimi. Sister. Scooch Booch. Meemers. These are the names your daddy and I call you. We are a funky bunch and we love this life with you. You saved a little part of us that was hurting so bad. You are teaching us how to be a family of four. A family of four in our own special way. You are teaching us how to live again. Plus the many ways to style a hair bow.

When mommy was going through her darkest days I always told myself it was OK. It was OK to be dark, because there will be light at some point. There will be light some time soon.

Mila, my light, it's you.

Happy 1/2 Birthday,

Love Mommy.


Cheers To 31 Years


Birthdays are always an exciting time. We all have our various ways of celebrating and almost always there is a thoughtful card or gift given. I have always loved my birthday, but after having children birthdays took on an even more exciting feel. When you have children your birthday becomes better as tiny hands create cards from the purest of hearts. I love how they tend to get wildly excited for your birthday. Most little ones will be sidled up next to you to "help" blow out candles and open gifts. Celebrating my birthday with Ryan was always magic. The first time he sort of grasped the idea I celebrated by taking him to the zoo. It was sort of like my Mother's Right Of Passage. Gone where the days of grabbing drinks with girlfriends and dancing till our shoes came off. Enter birthday bashes while strolling the zoo with my chunky toddler and sharing my love of birthday cake with him. Honestly, the later is way better. There is something about turning a year older as you look into your child's eyes. It gives you a glimpse into what life is all about. One year older, one year wiser, one year more for adventure together.

Last year I turned 30 and tried to incorporate Ryan into my celebrating as best I could. I even had Olaf cookies made to serve at my party. Hoping that those would make him happy as he looked down at all of us together. My closest friends gathered around me and lifted me so high that night. As I blew out my candles I remember wishing for the chance to be a mother again. I remember craving the feeling of physically being needed by my child. Exactly a year ago I sent a wish, or prayer rather, up to Heaven asking for Ryan's sibling. As I write these words I have Ryan's little sister wrapped up next to me. It is incredible to see how far I've come in just one year. God is good and his plan should always be trusted. Even if at times things seem to crumble and go wrong. There is promise of light after the dark. I have to remind myself of this daily.

Here I am, 31 years old. In efforts to incorporate Ryan into my birthday this year I decided if he were physically here with us we'd most likely end up at Disneyland. So he could run around with Dan as I nursed Mila in different sections of the park. We did just that actually. Ryan was warm within us as we walked around. The entire day I felt emotional. I kept looking back at my time spent with Ryan walking down Main Street and pushing his stroller through the always crowded Tomorrowland. I also remembered the past few times we celebrated Ryan with out him at Disneyland. How painful it was to be there with out his chubby hand directing me where to go next. And now, being able to look down at Mila in the very places her big brother enjoyed before her. It is a surreal feeling to actually see how great God is. I feel overwhelmed with gratefulness that He chose me for this life.

I know most people will say "She is a baby. She doesn't know where she is!". Someone so kindly pointed out on Instagram that we wasted our money taking our baby to Disneyland. Thank you to that kind soul who felt the need to say that. (Insert me rolling my eyes) Honestly you guys I believe in greater things. Mila may not have expressed her excitement for Mickey, but she was indeed happy. And no one will EVER know how it felt to be there again with a child of mine. Wearing my girl while waiting in line, dreaming of when she can walk and I'll hold her hand as we wait. Little things like pushing a stroller again . . THAT felt beautiful. Since the day Ryan was born I've been a mother. Since the day Mila was born I've been a mother reborn and the feeling is unexplainable. Being able to celebrate my birthday with both my children this year was the best gift I'd ever received. I can't thank God enough.


Happy 5th Birthday Ryan Cruz

I can't believe Ryan is five! When you have your first baby, at least for me, it was always hard for me to imagine my baby growing older. It was hard to imagine, but fun at the same time. I thought, Ryan is so wild I wonder how nuts he will be once he is five or older! One of the things I was looking forward to most was him starting elementary school and organized sports. He would have been incredible. It breaks my heart when I think about those thoughts I used to have. It makes me realize that when we lost our son, we lost all our hopes and dreams for him too. That is hard to get used to.

We lost Ryan when he was three and half years old and very set in ways. He knew what he liked, what he loved and what he didn't. Moving forward we will forever remember Ryan as he was and what he loved when we lost him. Frozen in time. I wish I knew what he would have liked right now or in a few years. I wish I could still see him grow. We've now celebrated two birthdays with out Ryan and it doesn't seem to be getting any easier. Though celebrating Ryan is something that is extremely important to me and my husband no matter how hard it may be. So from here on out we'll celebrate our boy each year as we remember him with lots of Disney and sugar.

Turning 5 is a big deal and I was so happy to have had our family and friends together at Ryan's favorite place. I brought along party favors and we let Ryan's spirit lead us the entire day. When we sang Happy Birthday to Ryan there were a lot of tears, but I know he was there with us and had a really fun time. You can see him in our smiles.

Below are just a few photos from our day. You can also see more on the #happybirthdayryancruz hashtag on Instagram. Seeing everyone and how they celebrated Ryan on his special day was is incredible. We are so grateful for each and everyone's birthday wishes!