Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ella: 7 months

Carter at 7 months
Samuel at 7 months

Our Ella-girl is developing her own little personality these days.  She smiles all the time.  When we look her way, her whole face lights up, she kicks happy little legs, and her eyes dance.  This isn't always true of "strangers," but when we smile, she smiles too.

Ella has also started doing things purposefully to make us react and respond.  She'll make eye contact and lean her head way over to the side and wait for us to emulate her action.  When we do, her face crinkles into a smile and she'll slowly bring her head back up, wait a few minutes and repeat.  She also loves to make kissing sounds and waits for us to respond to her trick.

All of the sudden, Ella is an expert sitter.  She made the transition so quickly from not really sitting at all to sitting with no fear of her falling.  She likes being up and able to see what is happening around her.  She also gets a kick out of pushing herself backwards with her arms.  She'll slide around the room on her bottom, until she inevitable backs into furniture, a large toy, or the wall and is stuck.  She's quite pleased with this mobility, and it makes me laugh to see her happily in reverse throughout the room.

This girl is SO ticklish and loves to be tickled.  Her laugh is still a choked up seems that she is waiting to really let the giggles out.  Still, the tickling is a funny thing that brings big smiles, and I'm laughing loud even if her mirth is silent.

This girl loves solid food.  So far, she's tried peas, pears, sweet potato, apples, carrots, black beans, blueberry, quinoa, and banana.  She's had some trouble with her digestion system making the transition to real food, so we've taken things much more slowly than she would like.  She wants to have bowls and bowls of the stuff...and perhaps the spoon as well.  I'm glad she is so interested and eager.  As her digestion system gets used to the new normal, it'll be fun to see what her favorite foods become.

Ella's hair is still wild and crazy all over.  If she doesn't have a bow in, it's all in her eyes.  The back has long pieces that form an mullet down her back, and the sides are still fairly short.  It's fine, so it tangles when we so much as look its direction.  The rat's nest in the back is an every morning occurrence, and her hair is still her most consistent compliment.  Even when we are just at home, she always has a bow, just to keep the hair out of her face.  She will have enough for legitimate pigtails before too long.  Dude.  Pigtails are going to be fun.

As evidenced, Ella loves baths.  She smashes the bubbles, splashes her hands wildly and loves to run her hands in the water around her.  She really is my only little that has loved these soapy endeavors so ardently, so early.  I don't know if she is just that laid-back or that much of a water-bug, but either way...

Carter is still fastest to make Ella smile, and Samuel seems to have finally hit a good rhythm for using gentleness with his sister.  They both really enjoy helping her, and she loves to laugh at their antics.  

I am still Ella's favorite.  I enjoy the time, knowing it won't be long before there will be many others she enjoys.  For now, I generally tote her around everywhere I go as I did with her two brothers.  It seems like a special gift to me, being the one who can quiet her tears so quickly just by being hers.  The time will pass quickly, and I am grateful for these moments of being her leading lady.

I know I've said it over and over, but Ella-girl is a deep, deep joy for me.  Just as I admire Carter's determination and passion, enjoy Samuel's humor and sweet, sensitive spirit, I am grateful for the bright joy that seems to be an integral strand of who God made Ella to be.  I'm so grateful for her big, gummy smiles, her contended disposition, and the miracle of her little life in mine.  She is our joy-girl, and I am so grateful to spend my time with her.

6 months
5 months
4 months

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Great ideas and laundry baskets

Apparently some things don't change much around here.

Like great ideas.  And laundry baskets.

Different babies...same laundry basket.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Letters to Samuel

Dear Samuel, 

When your Uncle Travis was little, Andi and Boo could always count on one thing every time they went to a parent-teacher conference.  Almost without fail, the teacher led with, "Oh we just love having Travis in our class.  He is so funny!"  

They may talk about his obedient nature or his ability with math, but they always talked about how funny he was.  You are like your uncle in a lot of ways, and your sense of humor is maybe the biggest similarity.  You have an innate sense for timing and delivery.  You are hilarious in a silly way that you are not always even aware of, but also in a purposeful, trying-to-get-a-laugh way.  You light up our worlds with laughter.

You meander through life, sweet one.  I have never seen you in a hurry.  Ever.  While your brother rushes to clean all the toys so he can get out a new basket, you lay on your back on the floor, watching your feet sway above your head.  While Carter rushes to the table to eat, you walk backwards, staring at the ceiling.  When everyone is moving toward the door in a rush of jackets, hats, socks and shoes, you army crawl on your belly, oblivious to time, space and voices around you.  One day, you were "racing" from me to Uncle Travis with Henry and Carter.  While the two bigger boys raced to their uncle, you jogged along, getting distracted at least three different times, trailing off somewhere in the middle to play with a toy.  Trying to rush you seems like a pointless affair, and thankfully your sweet little spirit eases the annoyance of a mama and older brother who are forever in a hurry.

You still love to be held, dear one, and don't I love to hold you.  You still put your head on my shoulder, and since you outweigh your sister by only 7 or so pounds, I can hold you for hours.  You're a pixie with eyes the diameter of one twice your size and a spirit three times as large.  As much as you love to cuddle and be held, you equally love to pound your brother and roll all over your sister.  Your sister is not fond of this trait, but your big brother thrives on wrestling over and over with you.  The two of you hurt each other much less than I expect and enjoy the wrestling much more than I understand.  You are as tough as nails, only crying when you sense you are about to get into trouble for hurting someone else.  When they start crying, your theatrics instantly begin in hopes on gaining the prestige of victim instead of antagonizer.  

Somewhere in this world, my dear boy, you have a black hole.  In this black hole, you hide random items, only to pull them out days, weeks, months later to all of our disbelief.  I can't tell you how many things we have lost, looked for diligently for days, only to see you casually walk around the corner with it one day.  When we ask where you found it, you giggle and give us answers about whales, trains or some other unrelated subject.  I don't know Samuel, but it is just one of those things about you that is really, really funny.  And odd.

You are loud.  So loud.  Everything you do is so incredibly, enormously deafening.  I bought a drum set for you for Christmas, and it was so much fun to watch you parade around the house, proud as a peacock, slamming the sticks to the beat.  You love them so much.  They are loud, but it is at least a thing that is safe for you to beat.  So much safer than the remote drumming the TV, a butter knife on the table, a train to Ella's face, a shoe on the get the idea.  Plus, no matter how loud it is, nothing beats that happy look on your face that comes from drumming the stew out of your little drum hanging from your neck.

On the other hand, you are now able to sit with us at church, quiet as a little mouse.  I am so surprised and impressed with your self-control during the service.  You LOVE the music, obsessing over the drums in particular.  But during the preaching, you sit quietly with some crayons, or just quietly in our laps.  It is perhaps the only time during the whole week you are still, but you sure do well during that hour. 

You are also doing so, so well with manners.  I am having to remind you less and less of how to say things nicely and you are using kind words first more and more often.  There is still a lot of reminding, but you are particularly mindful of using manners, and I am grateful for that.

You love to be upside down far more than you like to be right side up.  You are fearless and there is hardly anything we can do to you that makes you scared.  You follow along with whatever is in front of you and make me laugh harder than anyone I have ever met.  Of all of my children, you are the least like me.  But I think, had we not been a generation apart, you are most likely to have been my childhood pal.  You are everything I have never been, but admire deeply.  You have been sweet grace to me your whole life, my dear one.  The contentment you find in my arms has always been such a gift, and your laughter is one of my deepest sources of joy.  

My little Samuel-monkey, I am grateful, so grateful, for your life.  

Love, Mama

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ella: 6 months

Height: 27.5 inches
Weight: 19.5 pounds

Carter at 6 months (pictures and stats)
Samuel at 6 months

These are both approximate because we are putting off her well-visit this go-around.  We'll reschedule.  There is so much flu and strep going's not worth the risk of taking three healthy children who love to touch ALL THE THINGS! to the doctor's office.  Nope!

Ella is 6 months old and is the bringer of all the smiles.  Andi and Boo come home from work, glance over at our girl, and their faces break into a grin.  Carter and Samuel make her laugh and then break into smiles themselves.  The lady at the store, the man passing us in the hall, the kid standing next to us at the one can resist responding to her big, open-mouthed smiles.  This girl is such a gift of joy...especially to me.  I honestly can't even stand it sometimes, it's just so good.

Ella is practicing sitting up...she still topples herself over a lot, but she's getting it.  Her rolly little belly and humongous thighs provide a solid base to prevent tipping to the front, but she throws herself backwards and tips sideways pretty frequently.  She loves to stand, holding our hands and is in the phase where she moves all over the place though she certainly isn't crawling yet.  Ella loves playing on her mat with the dangly toys above it, and is quite content in her exersaucer.  

We haven't given solids a real go yet, but we let her play with her spoon at Christmas and she thought it was interesting.  She tried a few bits of applesauce and a little pureed sweet potato.  She was interested, a bit, in the applesauce and not at all convinced by the sweet potato.  It'll be fun to see her favorites as her palate expands in the next months!

Ella loves to pull off her socks for the express purpose of eating them and is definitely slobbering, chewing and putting EVERYTHING in her mouth.  She loves to "talk" to us, squeal, laugh, and hmmmmmm herself to sleep.  She is drawing the comment frequently, "Oh, I bet you're going to have a talker on your hands!"  Apparently I will be 3/3 for children who have plenty to say.  Not that I haven any idea where that could have come from.  

When my brother found out they were having Cora, his first daughter, my dad looked up from the pink cake we had just sliced into and said, "You'll never be the same again.  Little girls...they change everything."  I remember being excited for Travis and thinking of how sweet it would be to watch him with his daughter.  It was only later that it struck me that Daddy said that based on his experience  Everything was different for him after he  I remember it hitting me again that the feelings I have about my children, my parents have experienced for almost three decades.  I couldn't really understand until parenthood was in my hands the enormity of their love toward me.  

I don't know if I even understand still, because I can't fathom that Ella will understand the gift she is to me.  I don't know if she will ever know the grace it has been to me to have her big smiles, curious eyes, crazy hair and sweet, sleeping self curled in my arms.  This tiny girl has given me such joy, and I am grateful to hold her hand, dry her tears and teach her how to walk in this big world.

My dear girl...happy half birthday.  I'm so glad you are ours.

Photographs by the ever-talented Melissa Aldrich of Quiet Graces Photography

Monday, January 5, 2015

Letters to Carter

Dear Carter,

Perhaps it is because you are my oldest.  My first.  My introduction to every new season and my learning curve to this parenting gig.  

I feel like I'm a kid with swimmies in the deep end every time with you.  Unsure of what I'm doing and even what step to take first to figure it out.  I spend a lot of my time studying you...thinking about you.  Trying to figure out the very best way to do this or that, the ideal perspective to guide my choices, the correct approach to all the ways of teaching you to love, learn and live.

I ask the parents I admire who have gone before me one hundred questions that are common sense from their front seat positions.  I am so grateful for their wisdom.  Their opinions that help me shape mine.  I want to give you the best, the most ideal childhood.  I want your days filled to the brim with margins of time to get bored and think, your lap filled with books to be savored, your mind filled with truth, your heart filled with the peace of Jesus and your home filled with people who love you.  

I know I don't always get it right, and I know I won't tomorrow.  But I really hope we can look back on this season together one day and see evidence of all the grace that parenting in community offers.  That the seeds I am fostering in you now will bloom into attributes that point to our Redeemer.

Sweet guy, this is the truth: I have no flippin' idea how to be a great mom.  I've been loved by several really phenomenal ones, I'm friends with some great ones, and I have watched and am watching lots of others.  The thing I've noticed?  The really great moms are available and love their kiddos like Jesus loves His people.  I'm trying to emulate that big guy.  Trying to put my desire for order under your need to create messes to learn.  Trying to put my impatience to get it done under your need to learn to do things at the pace of a boy.  Trying to quiet my wavering heart to let you try big things when I want you to be careful.  Trying to think of what's best for you instead of what makes me feel like a "successful mom."

And you?  As selfish as I can be, you make it easy to want to take the backseat.  You amaze me with your ability to sing and recite songs and book/movie lines from months ago.  You are genuinely funny and your brown eyes with your curly, long lashes are just too much.  You are fast and strong, but your are my gentlest when it comes to caring for the smaller around you.  You are insistent on being a gentleman, throwing your whole weight into a door to hold it open for me or anyone else approaching a door.  You beam when we thank you and scoff when adults try to shoo you through the doorway instead of accepting your help.  You love to chase and tickle, and you adore when I hide and jump out to scare you.  You love to play with pretend food and can identify more sounds and letters than I give you credit for.  You are really capable of following directions, and you are phenomenal at getting toys put away.  You are interesting, kind and helpful.

I don't understand all the ways you think.
I like that.

I don't know what phase will be next or how I'll work through it.
I trust we'll find a way.

I can't comprehend all the ways the two of us will the next month, year, decade.
I think it would overwhelm me if I did.

I don't know what to do to be the mom I want you to have.

But you know?  The thing about swimming in the deep end...the thing about learning to read and getting to be a faster runner, figuring out how to do long division or fixing a car...the thing about learning any new skill is just doing each step, one at a time, over and over until it feels like muscle memory.  You can't wait until you understand perfectly to start trying because you can't get it right without practice, messing it up, and practicing some more.

My sweet little learning curve who throws me curve balls all the time.
I'm really glad to be your mom and share your days.

And I love you.
A whole stinkin' lot.