When you are tired, I'll be strong arms. When you forget, I'll remind you of who you are. When you cry, I'll dry your tears, and when you are afraid, I'll be brave until you are.
My dears, when you are happy, we will laugh together and when you grow, I will celebrate your wins. When you feel content, I will stay there with you. When you have courage to move, I will believe with you.
When you are confused, I will help you learn. When you are tired, my arms are yours. I will bandage your wounds when the world sends arrows flying and help you see the sunshine when the clouds threaten to overwhelm.
Wherever you go in this big world, I will be home when you need to return. No matter who you become or what you are like, I will always be the one who has known even the little person you won't be able to remember. I have always loved you...before anyone even knew you were on your way. No matter who you become, I love you.
If you need an anchor in a stormy sea or a push into a brave new voyage, I am yours. When you need wind at your back or a soft place to land, I am here. The world is an unsteady, uncertain place, but my arms and heart are always open, a safe haven for you to land.
I have always known what it is, my dears, to be loved this way. I would have never guessed what a gift it would be to be on the other end. To be your person is a treasure. To teach you how to do all the little things that make up a life is, truly, my deepest joy. I love watching you learn and teaching you, in all the small things about the great, unstopping love of Jesus. In it, I have discovered layers of His love I didn't even know existed.
There are so many ways I mess up, my littles. So many apologies to you every day. So many times I look back and realize I have been missing big things, go about it wrong ways, or holding on to the craziest perspectives. I wonder what parts you will remember and how you will see it all when you are grown-ups yourselves.
I'm not doing this thing perfectly, my loves. My prayer is that, in the end, you will be able to look at these years and hear, "I love you" echoing louder than anything else.
I pray that the things I say will leave you with an ear for truth. That you will hear the lies of the world and not be able to listen above the truth ringing in your ears.
I'll just keep saying the same things over and over and over my dears, because it can be easy to forget. I love you. I have always loved you. I will love you til the end. You are treasures in this world, and I am so, so glad for your lives.
All photos by Laurin Lee Photography. This girl is magic...someone was literally crying almost the entire time we were at this shoot. I don't know how she got any shots...much less so many! I am so grateful for the memories she captured of me and my sweet littles.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, a kind lady dropped this by the toddler nursery at our church because it was too small for the girl it was purchased for. My friend thoughtfully ran it down to my nursery and made my day one hundred times over. What a precious little dress on such a precious little girl. I gobble her up all the time...but when her leggings prescribe it so succinctly? It was just too much.
Ella is just the most content little gal and has more smiles than could be hoped for. She smiles when I talk to her, smiles when I ask her to, smiles when we play peekaboo, smiles when the boys laugh, smiles and smiles and smiles for days. The only thing she doesn't like? Not being close to me. When Carter started this phase, I wondered how long it would last. When Samuel entered it, I just toted him along, knowing there was no way it would be as intense as Carter's. With Ella, I am enjoying the sweet time, savoring the closeness. I know this time it will be short lived, and then gone forever. I will enjoy every moment, knowing that this bond of trust we are building will give her the confidence she will need later to face things without being nestled in my arms. Plenty of time for that...later.
On Thanksgiving morning, at 5:38, Ella learned to blow raspberries. I know this precisely because Carter was snuggled in our bed with us and she blew them directly in his ear for a few minutes before I consented that the activity wasn't going to end and would eventually result in two awake children instead of just one if I didn't get up. She blew them happily for the next half hour and hasn't repeated the activity since.
Ella's favorite game seems to be peekaboo...with Boo. It's how he earned his name from Carter, so I suppose he is rather good at the game. She thinks it is hilarious and always gives him her little giggles that we prize so highly.
Ella is at the rolliest phase, and I just can't get enough. She is quite an efficient eater but isn't yet moving enough to really burn the calories. The result is the delicious roly-poly nature of this phase. I can't even handle how much I love it. Her cheeks, little belly, dimply thighs...they are just too sweet.
This girl loves her brothers. Samuel is learning to be more gentle and slightly less terrifying. Carter is still her protector and sweet helper. She thinks they are both hilarious and loves to watch them play...especially when she in on high, safe ground.
Ella loves to sit in the high chair these days, where she can play with toys and see all the action. She also loves the Bumbo and lying on her back where she has a good angle for playing with her toes. Those seem to be on the top of the list of favorite things these days.
Her hair still draws all the comments with it's length and crazy rebelling against gravity. She has a deep, serious look that makes us laugh as much as anything.
She is so very ticklish already, and I know this will be quite a danger to her when her two older brothers discover how to use this against her. For now, it is one of the best things to do with her.
Our Ella girl is sleeping longer stretches all the time, reminding me of how quickly everything changes in this season. She still wakes with smiles, unless it is gas. Mostly it isn't, but when it is, she lets us know. It's a distinct cry that we can all identify immediately. It reminds me of the way Carter cried when his tummy hurt so often...and boy am I grateful every time that she doesn't have the same pains her oldest brother suffered.
Ella. Our little ray of sunshine. When I was in college, some sweet brother/friends gave me a card that said, "You give us Jesus-joy." I still remember...and isn't it crazy the mark other's words can leave on us, both positively and negatively? Anyway. Almost daily, I see my littlest one's face light up with a smile and think of the joy Christ has given me in her. His deep, steady joy that her big, gummy smile represents in my world every day. Oh how I love Him and her. What gifts.
My cousin Brady got married this past weekend to a girl we are all SO glad to have in the family. Olivia is a sweetheart, lovely in every way, and a perfect fit in the Hancock family. We had so much fun at their wedding festivities and are so happy for them.
The best part about a wedding for preschoolers is apparently the dancing. (and, obviously, the cake.)
It was wild, reckless, and really fun to watch.
Samuel was really into spinning. And now he wants to do the cha-cha slide all day, every day.
Carter and Henry had fun swinging each other into oblivion...and the hard, concrete floor. There were, miraculously, very few tears.
Throw my hands up, they're playing my song...
Does it get cuter than this?
Samuel wants to wear the shoes he wore to the wedding every day now because, "they are good for dancing."
Leave it all on the dance floor. Except your brother. Don't leave him on the floor. Definitely drag him off while he laughs like it's a great time.
The very best shot possible. Ella looks petrified because Carter insisted on holding her and it was slightly terrifying.
So grateful for my three wedding dates. They were so much fun to be around, gave me lots of good kisses and were so cute it was hard to control myself. Great dates, indeed :)