Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Carter says:

Steven was making Samuel apologize to Carter for slamming his big brother in the head.  Samuel wasn't really cooperating, so Carter finally butted into the "kind hands conversation" with, "It's no use Daddy, this is a DISASTER!" and planted his face in anguish into his open hands.  The drama runs thick around here for all the boys in the house.

All four of us are gathered around trying to figure out what Carter did that made Samuel cry.  Samuel can't calm down to tell us, and Carter is trying to keep the truth in the dark.  Finally, there's a break in the conversation and Carter says, "Ooooookay well, everybody's sad now.  That's probably good enough!"

Samuel fell down.  Carter rushes over, kisses his head and says, "Well, bless your heart!"  Dear, southern boy.

Smelling something from the front seat, I asked, "Carter was that you!?!  Did you poop in your underwear?" 
In a deep, indignant voice with a perfect British accent, Carter responded, "Indeed not!"

I am holding Carter's hand, leading him off to time out for not sharing.  He frantically and blindly swings his arms behind him as we start walking saying, "I need a train for time out!"  When I go to get him out and talk about what happened, I asked, "Carter, why were you in time out?"  He answered matter of factly, "Because I didn't share and it was a hot mess."
Well.  Yes.  Okay.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Letters to Samuel: There was poop in your ears

Dear Samuel,

I'm sure there will be much competing over the years between you and your brother.  I'm sure I will say, "Boys!  This is not a competition!" more than once as your mother.  There are, however, some things I would like to, you know, forbid from becoming a competition.  For instance: how big of a blow-out you can create.  While Carter has ended up with poop in his armpits, you took it up a notch this morning when I discovered your ears.

I try not to talk about poop too much on the blog, on Facebook, in general conversation.  The truth is, no one wants to chit chat about excrement, and the other truth is the aforementioned topic takes up a vast majority if my life right now.  Every now and then, I have to break my rule and tell a good terrible poop story.

I was scurrying around this morning, getting ready for a belated Valentine's party at our house.  In an hour and a half, we were expecting 5 moms and 7 littles to join us to play and exchange Valentines at our house after being twice thwarted by snow and stomach bug.  I heard the two of you chatting and laughing, so I went to tell you guys you could get up and help you get dressed.

I smelled it walking down the hall.

Boys, you were casually playing in the bed, like it was no big deal.  The smell in the room was gag-worthy, and I was the only one who seemed to be affected.  I realized immediately it was you because the stains had you surrounded.  When I got closer to assess the damage, I realized it was not just a run-of-the-mill blow-out.  The poop was up your back, down your arms, in the bottom of your hairline and in.  your.  ears.  I don't know it managed to get so many places, but it required a full strip down and washing of all the linens, pajamas, stuffed animals and blankets in the room and a bath for you and your victim brother.  All before our guests arrived.  Because the smell.  And the grossness.  And it was poop.

I'm blessed to have good friends.  Two came early and helped me set up.  Everyone stayed after and helped me clean up, putting toys away, cleaning counters, sweeping floors.  It was truly cleaner when they left than when they came.  What could have been a crazy stressful morning was a fun, encouraging one because I have new and old friends who are much more concerned about me than my house.  I didn't have to keep a guard up or cover things, but was able to just invite them right into the mess.  Our kids played, we chatted, shared hearts, exchanged Valentine's plastered with the truth of the Gospel...

and I was able to laugh at the poop freshly washed from your ears and nod understandingly when other moms said, "Sorry, we had one of those mornings."

Whew.  Me too, sister.  Me too.

So Samuel, you have the poop contest trophy.  No take-backs, best-out-of-threes, play-offs or tournaments allowed.  You win.  Forever.  Amen.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

22 weeks

22 weeks
(A little comparison when I was pregnant with Carter at 22 weeks.  Just so you know to never compare yourself to others, or in my case, my own self: I've gained half as much weight with this pregnancy by this time (mostly due to sickness...lame) and my belly is significantly larger.)

Weight Gain: +7 pounds.  I went backward when I should have been going forward thanks to the worst stomach bug ever.  I'm sure I'll majorly make up for it next week since I'm, you know, keeping fluids down and eating and stuff. 

Sleep: Perfect

Gender: Carter was right...we're having a girl!
Feeling: Amazing.  Super.  Really, really great.  Nesting all over the place.  Running, cleaning out things, decorating other things, cooking things...all the things.  This is my favorite part of pregnancy. This is everyone's favorite part of pregnancy, I think, but I truly love it.  I also know to take advantage.  With both of my pregnancies with the boys, I had no nesting urge in the least before labor kicked not a lot of cleaning or happened in that last trimester.  Granted, I mustered up the energy to work out, but not clean, so maybe it's different for everyone.  :)  

Cravings: Nothing out of the ordinary. 

Health:  Just getting over the worst stomach bug of my life.  I couldn't keep any fluids, much less eat, for five full days.  It was as lame as it sounds.  Then, the next few days have been slow eating as my body seemed to have forgotten what to do with food in its system.  Sweet Ella has taken every piece of my immune system...hopefully this means she will have a kickin' one.  

Movement: She is really moving now.  Again, this is the most fun part.  She is really moving, and you can just barely feel it from the outside, though no one has caught it yet.  However, she isn't doing those third trimester kicks that make you think a rib might break.  During the stomach bug, she was super active.  It was nice to know she was okay in the middle of feeling like I was potentially dying.

Next Appointment: March 6...and I need to reschedule my ultrasound appointment.  It got canceled in the crazy snow we had last week.  I am so glad we already knew the gender...I would have been so disappointed if my appointment had been canceled after counting down the days!  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Carter's side eye

Carter uses peripheral vision much, much more than the average guy.  He's not that sly with it...but he takes in a lot of the world through the corners of those big, brown eyes.  As always, Carter's got his own little path to beat.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Letters to Samuel

Dear Samuel,

Oh my sweet, dear boy.  You melt me into a little puddle.  There is something about you that I can't put my finger on that brightens every corner of every room you enter.  It's not just your little smile that crinkles your entire face until your eyes squeeze close.  It's not just the way you say, all day, "Mama, hold me...peeeeeeeeeeeease?" drawing out vowels in undulating tones you're are finally scooped up.  It can't just be the way your laugh floats in the room when Carter does something funny. It can't just be any of one of those things, and while I know it's the magical combination of them that make you who you are, there is still something I just can't put my finger on about you that just lights my heart like a switch turning on the current in a dark room.

Your favorite things right now are mopping, vacuuming, washing dishes and cleaning out the dishwasher.  Our floor is actually cleaner than normal right now because I can't turn down your pleas to mop.  The funny thing about all this love for cleanliness is that you HATE cleaning up toys.  You love the machines and splashing water, but it is not a desire for order that makes you plead with me to vacuum or empty the dishwasher.  

You love to be our buddy.  You love to do whatever we are doing, right beside us.  Since you hang close to me so often, you've picked up an affection for cleaning and all the assorted gadgets that accompany those chores.  Carter runs in and out for things like this, but you usually remain, content to be held while I pump the mop along the floors.  It's not the easiest, lightest way to mop, but your sweet companionship makes the job a happy enough task that our floors are much, much cleaner than normal.

You're talking up a storm these days, saying more words than I can possibly count, though I am the only one that can understand half of them.  You are stringing three and four word sentences together, and you can finally really communicate your ideas (and also what offense Carter just committed against you...finally a defense!)  My favorite thing you say right now is, "That tickles!"  I can't put it on paper, the way you enunciate it.  I can assure you, though, that I tickle your toes on the regular to hear it.

You love to play "firefighter" with Carter.  Carter yells out, "Samuel, come on firefighters, we have fire to fight!"  And off the two of you tear across the house, Carter pushing his big dump trunk from Aunt Thia and you the firetruck you got for Christmas.  You die laughing when you run into a dead end and then you both turn to run the next direction over and over again.  I truly don't think there is a thing better in this world for a mama's heart than to see her little loves loving each other.  It's enough to explode this heart of mine.

You're getting heavy on my hip, and sometimes I insist that you hold my hand or sit on my lap instead.  It's not your first choice, but you are usually willing to give up your way without the fight I am accustomed to from your brother.  If you do fight, you do it with the shrillest, highest pitch scream I have ever heard, followed by a shocked look at your own fury.  The look is one of your cutest, which is good since I actually sometimes have trouble hearing just after you scream like that.  Even so, you shock me with the way you sit in time out obediently and apologize the first time you ask.  Though, you scare me in the way you creep along, doing things so quietly and sneakily that it is rather hard to catch you in the first place.  It's all ups and downs learning to parent you, but it's a fun ride.

 Samuel, the more I learn about you, the more I discover there is to be known.  It's like the cave Tom Sawyer and Becky get lost in.  Just a turn here and turn there, and suddenly there is more cave than you'd ever dreamed.  It's exhilarating and interesting, peering into all the unknown.  But it is frightening in ways too.  It's so much easier with you because you are not first...but it isn't easy.  There are so many parts of you that are inaugural journeys into parenthood for me because you are so very different from you brother.  No, the parts that make it easier aren't the parts of you that are the same, but the parts of me that have grown.  The ways I've grown into being a mother.  You are a brand new adventure with all its thrill and fright alike.  Proverbs 20:5 says that "The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out."  It's complicated, parenting, because hearts are not straightforward matters.  I remind myself of this every single day when I feel so overwhelmed by this parenting task.  It is good for me to know that it is normal to not understand you at first glance.  It is normal to have to work really hard to wrap my hand around what works for you and what most certainly doesn't.  I want to be a woman of understanding, who draws you out patiently.  Psalm 139:12 says, "even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." There is no depth of you that God does not understand.  There is no part of you He does not intimately know.  So, even when you are dark waters for me, you are understood by Him.  I can parent you knowing this.

My little smiley guy,  I love you.  I say it a million times, I write it every time I put words down...but it bears repeating in our world that you will discover is fallen and a broken apart mess.  I.  Love.  You.  I love you not for what you've done or haven't, what you're like or aren't, but because you are mine and my heart is yours.  You are my son, and I will love you always.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Snowmageddon 2014

The snow came...and came...and came.

There is something funny, exhausting, telling, and perfect about the fact that we have a shot of Carter crying in a picture of almost every life event since 2010.  Sweet boy and his roller coaster emotions.

It's really never the wrong time to give the yard a little seasonal trim.

We didn't have sleds, but our kind neighbors shared theirs.  Later we shared soup.  It was a good arrangement.  I like that you can't tell where the road and yards start and end.

Sledding down the big hill: great idea.  Sledding while sleeting: not toddler-approved.  At all.

 Snowman building.  I was mostly the only one that cared, but Carter got into after a bit and liked helping me build.

As it turns out, packed snow is legit heavy.  This pregnant girl is going to be SORE tomorrow!

Everyone has a job.

Feeding his little brother snow.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Letters to Ella: What's in a name?

Dear Ella,

In the very southeastern corner of Alabama, there was a lady named Nell Kennedy that lived in the beginning of the century that came before this one.  I don't know very much about her except that she had four children.  I knew three and deeply loved one.  Nell stretched her name and gave it to her only daughter, Genella Kennedy.  Genella Kennedy grew up in that corner of Alabama, fell in love with a boy named Billy and married him.  There's a lot more to that romantic story, but I can only tell you details.  The entire chronological order of how the romance progressed is an absolute mystery to those of us still here today.  Billy and Genella had two boys, the youngest of which you will call, "Boo."  I called her, "Ma" and she was one of the best friends I ever had.

Before we ever knew you and before we knew your brothers, your Daddy fell in love with Ma the way only a boy can fall for a grandmother.  He'd not had grandparents before we joined hands, but after we were married, he knew the love of three.  Your daddy looked in Ma and found something he'd never known how much he'd missed.  He looked in Ma and found something I'd treasured my whole life.  He looked in Genella Kennedy Hancock, and found Ella Kennedy, the name he wanted to give his little girl one day.

When I hear your name sweet girl, I can almost taste warm biscuits, smooth as your bottom is sure to be and soft as I can imagine your cheeks will be under my fingers.  I can feel the spray of lake water kicking up in my face, watching Ma ski well into her sixties.  I can smell Oil of Olay on her cheeks.  I feel quiet.  The way I felt when I laid down on the carpet beside her with my feet propped on the couch, listening to the two clocks ticking in opposite time on either side of the room.  I can almost hear her telling me to close the door I just entered through even though she was on the opposite end of the house.  I can taste sweet lemon cheese cake, made just for me, with cold milk chasing it's white crumbs that Ma always worried were too dry down my throat.  I feel her arms around me, arms that worked hard and loved sacrificially.

When I hear your name, I see her floating in the pool, completely asleep.  I've never met anybody else who could do that.  I can feel the gnats in my eyes at the Fourth of July party they always held down at the pond, under the camper shed.  I see a little white church that was home for me long after we moved away because she was always there, and everywhere she was felt like home.  When I hear your name, sweet girl, I see a living room full of family and friends that might as well have been filling up that white house and making it home.  People dropped by and honked as they drove by when they didn't have time...I don't know if there was anyone who ever rode down County Road 3 who didn't drive away with a fuller stomach and heart.  When I hear your name, I think about peanut fields and more fields of cotton, and picking up endless pecans off the ground.  When I hear your name, I remember her.

Ella, your great grandmother was the hardest working, toughest woman I've ever met.  Like you, she had two brothers and a crew of cousins close as brothers that she as much raised as anybody.  She was outside picking peas in the stifling August heat of Alabama when she went into labor with her first.  I saw her slice her arm open with a ski rope that busted while she was skiing when I was in middle school.  She never flinched, just held her arm above water until the boat circled around to get her and bandage her up.  She touched the hottest parts of the oven and somehow was above getting burnt.  Ma could cook meals that I am devastated you will never taste, because I can guarantee nothing I ever make will have the same flavor.  She took care of everyone she ever met.  Ma had the best laugh, but especially when your great grandfather brought it on.  Pa was so funny, and his humor was best appreciated by Ma.  She was always beautiful, but never as much as when she was smiling at him.

Ella, I don't know what you'll be like.  I don't know if you'll have the Kennedy eyes that close almost completely when you smile or their thin legs that support tiny statures.  I don't know if you'll have Ma's dark hair or ability to render regular ingredients into the best meals people have ever enjoyed.  I don't know if you'll share her no-nonsense ways or her compassionate spirit.  I don't know what you'll be like, but I hope there will be traces of Ma I recognize in your little life, because anyone with traces of her is sure to live a life of beauty.

I hope you'll be as brave as Ma was when life doesn't go the way you expect.  I hope you'll be the giver of adventure and love to the ones around you the way she did.  I hope you'll find the same deep joy that gave Ma the most unmistakable beauty.  I hope you'll love someone as deeply as Ma loved Pa.

When I hear your name, I think of Ma.  I think of a hundred memories and feel all the love and security one person can bring another.  Soon, when I hear your name, I will have new memories.  New visions of a little girl running through the house with her brothers, making other people light up in smiles, and a love deep enough to make me catch my breath.  Ella Kennedy, your name stretches back as far as I remember, and with you, it will bring new life and joy.

What's in a name?

Nell's name became hers.  In hers we found yours.

In Genella Kennedy, I found the kind of woman I want to be.  The kind of woman I hope you'll be one day.

In Genella Kennedy, I found someone I've loved as long as I can remember and the name of a little girl I will love as long as I live.

I love you Ella Kennedy Castillo.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Expressive

Steven is the photographer.  I'm the editor and the organizer.  And usually the one that says, "Can you grab a few shots of the boys while we clean up from making brownies?"  I am so grateful for the thousands of faces he has captured...and for the little boys who make them.