Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carter says...

"Keezus (Zacchaeus) was a wee man and Jegus look up in that tree and say, 'chug chug, toot toot, off we go!'"

Our songs get shortened and mixed around here! Who knew Jesus and Zacchaeus took a train to his house to eat that day! ;)

After running and falling...
"Oh no! I derailed!"

In the car:
"Go! Go, go, go Mama!"
I whirl around to see what has gone wrong. Carter stares back at me and points to the traffic light.
"Light green. Go Mama."

Runs to Samuel, who is playing quietly in the kitchen.
Hugs Samuel and gently pats his back.
"It's okay baby.  You feel better.  What you need Sam-ool?"
Long pause.
"Oh!  Okay Sam-ool."
Turns to me, "Mama, Sam-ool need cookies!"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: John Denver Dance Parties

When I was a little bitty boy girl, just up off the floor, my daddy used to play this song by John Denver for us on his guitar.  Carter loves, loves, loves this song.  Carter specifically loves to jump on his bed, the same bed that I sat on to listen to my Daddy sing the song, while I belt out the lyrics.  His favorite thing about it is watching himself in his dresser mirror.  Samuel thinks it is the funniest thing in the world to bounce around on the bed while Carter jumps, laughing his head off.  It's good times.  I have great video, but they feature my solo and I just don't have the self-confidence for posting that on the world wide webs.

I love this.  I love the memories of that old song on that old bed getting new life in a new generation.  I love that toddlerhood isn't all tantrums and potty training, but also millions of laughs, smiles and fun dance party adventures to music older than me.  

Dance on little man, dance on.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A boy, a brother and a baby

I was a freshman in college.

I went to FCA with Kyle in a building off campus and felt slightly overwhelmed and excited by all the new people and new chances.  I chatted with a few familiar faces from classes and other organizations and introduced myself to a few more.  Finally, the music started up and the lights dimmed.  I settled into my seat and worship began.  There was a curly-headed kid with a guitar.  He sang earnestly and with his whole heart.  I don't remember the songs or even the quality of his voice or acoustics.  But I do remember his sincerity and feeling a bond with that boy.  He seemed not to be concerned with a performance but just his Jesus and the worship of Him.  I remember thinking, "Yes...he's my brother.  I know it in the way he loves our Father."

I felt like I should thank him for his sincerity when the time was over.  That I should tell him how much I appreciated the way he stepped aside from his own enjoyment of music to lead a group to worship with a sole focus on the King.  But...I didn't want to come across the wrong way.  I was a freshman girl walking up to some older boy, and I didn't want him to think I was flirting.  I remember even thinking about trying to convince Kyle to walk with me before dismissing that option in my mind.  I talk Kyle into a lot...but I knew that I wouldn't have a lot of success with that particular mission.  I felt the Lord push me along, so I walked up the aisle at the end and thanked the curly-headed boy simply for the way he played.  I told him my name and he pointed to my shirt and said, "Camp McCall?  Like RA camp?"

I looked down at the tie-dyed shirt Travis had given me from his summer at camp.  Travis had been to RA Camp at Camp McCall every summer since 1991 and had just worked his first year as a counselor there.  "Yes," I said, "McCall, RA Camp"

The curly-headed boy grinned and said, "My name is Rique, and that camp changed my family's life."  (Another really good story for another time.)

We didn't have a lot of time, so that was the extent of our meeting and were then pulled away to other people and places.

A few times here and there that year, we would see each other on campus.  We would always stop and talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.  Kyle spent lots of lunches and dinners listening to us, before he would give  up on either of us ever stopping and excuse himself.  Eventually, Rique invited me to worship with he and his friends at a house church in his apartment.  I met some of the dearest friends there with whom I shared an immediate bond of brother and sisterhood.  And then, it was summer and time to go home.  I packed up for India and waved good-bye to my new friends till fall.

When I came home, Rique had been spending a good deal of time with a sweet princess-girl, Sarah, over the summer.  When we met over a "back to school picnic," I instantly felt the warmth of her smile and the kindness in her words  She exuded gentleness, and I wondered just then if I'd met the other side of Rique's heart.  As Rique and I caught up from the summer, he reminded me to keep praying for his brother who was preparing to come home from Iraq.  I had been praying all summer and was so excited that he was almost safely home.

In late September, Rique called to tell me his brother was home.  A few weeks later, he came over to see if I wanted to come to his house and meet him.  Rique got pulled over on the way home, so I ended up walking up to Rique's door on my own...and met my future husband.

The boy I thought seemed just like a brother is in fact my brother today.  The sweet princess-girl I met at the picnic is his bride and the dearest sister a girl could want.  Sarah has loved my boys and been an example to me of truly great aunt-hood.  She has been a confidant, friend, and true sister to me as we have grown into the Castillo family in the last five years.  And now?  Now Sarah is carrying my sweet nephew, Grayson Alexander.

I am beyond excited for little Grayson.  He will grow up with two of my dearest friends as his parents.  He'll be surrounded by music, kindness, and family that loves him and Jesus.  He will have boy cousins coming out of his ears to get him into trouble and lead him into adventure.

And his Aunt Teri Lee is so ready to cuddle his little round self, she can't even handle it.

Sweet Grayson, we are so blessed that you are coming.  Sarah and Rique, I am so excited for the precious joy of parenthood to be yours.

I'm so glad I met that curly-headed boy with the guitar that day in FCA...and I can't wait to meet his little curly-headed son!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Thank You Letter

On my eighth birthday, I received a white, plastic box the size of the palm of my hand.  I couldn't get it open, so I just jumped up and down saying, "Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!"  

Of course, I was even more excited when I realized that there were two small earrings inside the box.  Earrings that meant that I could have my ears pierced.  Even before I knew what was in that box, I knew it was a good gift from Mama and Daddy and I wanted them to know how much I appreciated it.  

It's always been that way for me.  I've always been slightly obsessed with making sure people understood how grateful I am when I am given things.  It's actually not just good manners.  It's a little bit of a compulsive problem.  As I've gotten older, I've wondered how I could repay others when they help me, give me gifts, or are just available to me.  But there comes a time when people do so much for you that you don't know how to repay them.  There's nothing you have that you could give them that would make things "even."  What do I offer a couple who meets with us regularly, gives wisdom carefully, prays over our family, and accepts our late night calls and questions?  How do I repay parents who have stepped in when we got sick, needed a date night, had walls to paint, cars to fix, and financial questions?  What do I do for someone who offers me all of her son's hand me downs at no cost to me?  How do I catch up?  How do I show them adequately what their help means to me?

Mama used to wave off people's repayments with, "It'll come out in the wash."  As I've learned to graciously accept others help/gifts/time, I've learned that, in the Body of Christ, "coming out in the wash" is the only form of repayment we need.  The young church in Acts pooled all they had so that no one lived in want.  I don't know what that means about capitalism and socialism..but I do think pooling resources is the way the Body was meant to work.  I can't repay the couple that has stood by my marriage and counseled us through these early years, but I can offer my time to teach fourth graders who don't have a fair shot at home with their school work.  I don't have a good "thank you" gift to offer our parents who have given us so much, but I can make myself and my home available to others who need a place to recoup, rest or recover.  I don't have anything to offer my friend who freely gives what she has, but I can, in return, freely offer what I have to others who cannot repay me.

In this, we become stewards of what we have, instead of being owned by our possessions.  Instead of seeing our time, our stuff, and our lives as ours, we see it as investments for which we have temporary custody.  We are charged with the responsibility to use it wisely for those who need it most.

So while I tutor on Thurdays, there is another woman who watches my boys.  I can't pay her back for all the time she invests in Carter and Samuel, just as the fourth grader I help can't repay me.  We just trust that, in Christ, "it all comes out in the wash."  He will care for each of us through each other.  

My friend Mandolyn has cared so kindly for Carter and Samuel, even as her health has deteriorated over the last months.  She has suffered for many years with different health problems, but things have been particularly difficult in the last several months.  Mandolyn suffers from constant pain and fatigue (among many other symptoms), and has not been able to get a diagnosis after years of poor health and appointments.  She is also without health insurance or a job because of her health.  It is a frustrating situation.  I find that I want to fight.  God put us in families to care for each other, and I want to fight for my sister to get good health care, a diagnosis and relief.  But I can't do much.  

But I've found that just because you can't do everything doesn't mean you shouldn't do the thing you can.

Just before Christmas, Mandolyn started crocheting perfect little hats to raise money to have MRIs done as she found herself using a cane, a walker, and then a wheelchair as her condition worsened.  I quickly ordered two for the boys, happy to have a way to do one, small thing.  Mandolyn had lots of orders before Christmas.  I wanted to let you know of this chance.  This chance to order a custom-crocheted gift from Mandolyn while supporting her quest for a diagnosis, but I didn't want to overwhelm her with orders to accomplish before the holiday season.'s your chance.  Here's your chance to do your one small thing to help our sister.

I am praying.  I am praying that Mandolyn will text me in the next few days about the overwhelming number of orders she has received from you.  I am praying that these hats, scarves, diaper covers, slippers, etc that you are about to order will be able to pay for the trips to her doctor in Augusta, a new wheelchair and the medical tests she is currently raising money to pay for.

You know that person that gave to you when you had nothing to offer them in return?  This is your way of paying them back.  That Sunday School teacher, RA leader, friend in school, mom who saved the day, colleague who rescued you...this is a way to give back from what you have been richly given.

So...after the longest introduction ever recorded, (Why use ten words when ten thousand will do the trick?) I present to you...the merchandise: 

That little Elmo hat is the one Mandolyn made for Carter. She made the cutest little owl hat for Samuel, but I didn't have a shot of him in it handy :(  As you can see below, she makes a wide variety of hats, custom to your size, color choices, and design.  When you message her, just let her know what you would like and she will message you back with the price.  Her prices are extremely reasonable and are her sole source of income to pay for her medical bills.

Though I just showed hats, Mandolyn makes beautiful scarves, blankets, slippers, diaper name it!  If you would like to donate to Mandolyn directly, but do not want a croteched creation, Mandolyn has set up a PayPal account (through the e-mail account listed below), monitored by a friend for accountability, for donations.  Please feel free to give in this way as well.

When you message Mandolyn, please tell her I sent you.  I would love to happily rejoice when she tells me of all the friends that gave out of an overwhelming, overflowing joy in what they themselves have received.  

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
(Acts 20:35 ESV)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Level 10

Carter had a Level 10 Meltdown today (There is absolutely no science involved in the determination of tantrum levels at our house.  Totally subjective.  This was a Level 10 mostly just because I say so.  Or totally because I say so.) in the tub.

Because the sides of the tub were wet.

And also because the toys in the tub with him were....wet.

He screamed and screamed for me to "clean it!"

He literally wanted me to dry off the sides of the tub as well as each toy.  When the toy got wet, his highest desire was for me to totally dry it again.  Once he realized that my answer was definitely "no," he totally lost his sanity.

Then he realized (for the 43rd time today) that losing your sanity isn't an effective means of communication or persuasion.  So he abruptly stopped the tantrum, patted Samuel's head and said, "You are so preshus Sam-ool," and smiled at me.

Bi-polar much?

Carter had a similar experience in Publix a few weeks ago.  As he lost his marbles that I was going to pay for something he wanted to hold, an older lady behind me asked how old he was.  At this point, Carter was screaming, and Samuel was starting to poke out that lower lip because of all the chaos and noise.  Scrambling to load the groceries, keep Carter from hurting himself or Samuel, remain calm and pull out money to pay the cashier, I tossed, "He's two!" over my shoulder.

Her warm response?

"Just wait.  Three is so much worse."

I stopped and looked at her.  In my head I said, "Thank you.  Thank you so much for the solidarity fellow-mom.  I feel so reassured and encouraged in my, as I'm sure you can tell, highlight moment of life with two year old.  Rock on with that bright sunshine, lady."

Instead I just said, "Um, thanks for that," and thanked Carter who decided, again, that the tantrum wasn't working and used kissing Samuel to try to get some positive attention to balance out the ignoring he had been receiving.

I love two year olds.  Especially mine.  But tantrums?  They stink.  And so does that lady in the grocery store!

Toddler security net: Level 10 cuteness

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Samuel: 8 months

Samuel is 8 months old...a few days ago.

When he went in for tubes, he weighed 19 pounds.  I haven't measured him, but he is certainly growing, growing, growing.  He had a few bad nights just after the tubes were put in because of a cold he caught.  He couldn't sleep well laying on his back or stomach, so I got a lot of snuggles like the one above.  Didn't mind that one bit.  His tubes, on the other hand, seem to be doing well.  We got a lot of discharge out of one that went away by itself.  We go for a check-up in a week, but I am grateful that his ears have a way to drain through this cold he just had!

Samuel got this sweet hat for Christmas.  He's the cutest owl we've ever seen.  I have a friend who is crocheting these to raise money for medical bills.  There's a post coming on that soon...stay tuned!

Samuel still loves to sleep on his tummy....except when he gets to sleep with us.  Then he loves, loves being on his side with his forehead against ours.  I know.  When he is awake, he likes to be sitting up.  He is leaning a lot, smacking at the ground.  I know he is thinking about pulling onto all fours to crawl, but the motivation to actually get isn't strong enough yet.  If he lets us keep him on his stomach, he does like to push himself backward.  It's really unintended scooting though.  He just gets excited, goes backwards, and then tries to figure out how to go forward as his toy gets farther away!  Carter had a similar problem :)

Samuel is obsessed with the basket on the changing table.  I almost never change his diaper here...and when I do, I usually regret it because he stays in the above position the entire time!  He loves to laugh, and Carter is the best at getting his giggles.  He still loves watching Carter do everything, save Carter's tantrums in the car.  He hates those ear-piercing screams as much as everyone else. 

Samuel loves playing with toys now.  Especially Carter's toys.  Oh, let the fun begin.  

In all seriousness, Carter is doing a great job learning to share.  It isn't natural or easy, but he is learning.  Samuel doesn't quite understand.  He loves Carter's toys.  He doesn't take them from Carter, but if they are free on the floor, he will grab hold.  If we/Carter take that toy away, his whole face crumbles slowly and he cries the cry of a unrequited fun.  He's pretty laid back, but Samuel doesn't appreciate having things taken away!

Samuel is not a huge fan of baby food.  He'll eat what I give him, most of the time.  He tolerates vegetables, and he will eat fruit most days.  He just isn't that into the whole idea.  That's okay with me.  He's a great nurser, and that really is all he needs.  He'll like real food in time...all babies do :)

For now, I must admit that I like him feeling more like a baby than not.  He's a happy soul that brings joy everywhere he goes with his big, open-mouthed grin and gravity-defying hair.  I'm so blessed to spend my days with him.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Samuel had tubes put in his ears Monday.  We woke up together at 5 am, got ready, and reported to the hospital at 6:30 sharp.  Samuel laughed and smiled happily with all the nurses, even though he hadn't eaten since midnight and was sleepy.  He received lots of cuddles and smiles in return and seemed altogether pleased with himself.

Our pediatrician's husband is an ENT and was so kind and gentle with Samuel.  The procedure took about 5 minutes (I know!) and then I got to go back to hold and nurse Samuel.  He was happy to see me, but highly annoyed by the twins next door who got their tubes at the same time.  The four year olds on the other side of the curtain were agitated coming out of the anesthesia and cried a good bit.  This loud noise on eardrums that could finally REALLY hear for the first time was a bit too much on top of being tired himself!

Once he was in the car, Samuel fell straight to sleep and slept the entire ride to my friend's house who so graciously kept Carter for me, through a fill-up at the gas station, and until we pulled into our driveway.  

He's a little happy champ...and I hope that the tubes will keep him that way!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas

This is the last of Christmas.  I know.
The blog can catch up to real time now...if I can!

A snapshot of Christmas morning:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Christmas Eve

I know, I know.  Christmas will be over here soon.  Promise.

At least by Valentine's.  I kid, I kid.  

This week!  Pinky.

We got home from the hospital mid-morning on Christmas Eve.
Grandma Carter needed to drive home, so we opened presents with her before she left.

Samuel was so excited to get his very own "Buddy."  We are calling him random names here and there, waiting to let Samuel name him when he can :)

Fresh from the hospital.  Not even bathed and in the same clothes he wore into the ER.  That smile makes me happy.

The drool is just so crazy.  Holding him is liking living in the splash zone.

He still has the hospital bracelet on and the IV tape on his arm.  Minutes later, he just stood up and hobbled away.  

After nap, he was playing with Abuelo and chasing Tia G.  I'll never totally understand it.

A precious day with healthy boys...what more could you want? Our house was rather dirty, I missed some traditions, and things were not at all planned...but the day was just right.  A day rejoicing in the sweetest salvation and the deepest grace.