Friday, April 10, 2015

Gotta write that down...

Carter, absentmindedly talking to himself during lunch, "Samuel, can I have that sand pile?"
**obviously, no sand piles or anything resembling sand piles on site**
Samuel, shrieking: NO! You can't have my sand pile! No! It's special to me! It's too sharp for you! No! You can't have it!
Carter calmly looks up and replies: I was talking about something from Daniel Tiger Samuel."
Samuel: "Oh. Well.  You still can't have it."

Every time Samuel does...anything: "Well, I'm getting to be a grown up Mama!"

Samuel calls all girls, "grills", sunscreen "summerscream" and bar-b-que "gar-b-que"....I'm a fan of all of it

Samuel playing hide and seek...instead of ready or not, here I come!: "Here I come! Or not!"

Samuel...apparently in a very two year old mood told the television one afternoon after nap: "Daniel Tiger, I don't want to be your neighbor!"

Carter looked out the window and yelled "Elephants!"

Then, sheepishly, "Oh, I mean cows."

Samuel in the library heard music coming from a far room.  He tilted his head to the side to listen and then shook his head and sighed, "Mama, I hear music. I really should dance."

Overheard from the porch:

Samuel: "I bet mama won't expect us to be playing this game. She probably isn't going to enjoy this"
He was right.

Lately when I hand Carter something he asks for, I hear, "Thanks man."
Yeah.  Sure dude?

Samuel in the van:

"Mama, Sometimes I taginize (antagonize) and sometimes I don't taginize. You just never know."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ella: 9 months (and some change)

Weight: 20 lbs, 6 oz, 80th%ile
Height: 28 inches, 57th%ile

Carter at 9.5 months
Samuel at 9 months

Now that the sun is just beginning to warm us again, Ella's rolls upon rolls are emerging from all the layers of legwarmers, jackets, cardigans and leggings.  Gracious this girl is a squishy delight.  

So far, Ella is capable of moving all about...without crawling.  She squirms, wriggles, and twists and can move a good bit about the room without anyone ever being quite sure of how she does it.  She does get up on her hands and knees to rock some, mostly resulting in pushing herself backwards across the room.  She still puts her hands in front of her when she is sitting to go in reverse.  Forward?  Forward is not a direction she can go without help.  She doesn't seem to care a blessed bit.

Ella has just discovered how to clap her hands and delights in the sound and sensation of the skill, though she hasn't gotten good enough to be able to consistently complete the task.  She loves practicing anything with her fingers.  She takes great delight in picking up the small food she can eat on her own, opening containers, pulling bows from her hair.  

While she is certainly still my main sidekick, she is growing less frightened of other people around her. (sort of)  She is more apt to be held, especially if she is allowed to hold whatever toy she has her eye on at the same time.  She has developed strong opinions on being allowed to hold what she has a mind to...and lets out irate opposition to things being taken from her hands.  (Dear Carter and Samuel, you caused this)

She does this thing now where she smiles...for lack of better hard as she can.  Like...eyes squeezed closed, gums bared, clenched hands smiling.  You can see it a little in the picture below when she was dancing with Boo.  It is on the list of my favorite things right now.

People still comment all the time about what a happy baby she is.  She really does exude joy.  However.  If you take something out of her hands.  The horror starts with the fast drop of the smile lighting her face and ends with a scream that requires all the force those twenty pounds can muster.  The boys can tip her over and she may cry.  Someone may frighten her and she will whimper.  But if you take her toy?  There is a special scream she saves for the occasion.

Ella-girl loves to eat.  (The rolls tell the story, am I right?) She's a champ nurser and eats everything from baby food I puree to food straight from the table.  The first bite always elicits a scowl, but she is willing to keep trying most foods.  I don't think there has been much of anything she has outright refused.  She does remarkable things with those two bottom teeth and gums!

Ella loves for Carter, specifically, to "read" to her.  He likes the important job and reads to her with the gusto that is so much a part of who he is.  She takes in his animation with big grins and happy, kicking feet.  While Carter is part of the reason Ella will grow up to be as tough as nails, it is also true that he cares for her with such tenderness.  He is always looking out for his girl...and she lights up to laugh the fastest when he is around.  What a gift they are to one another!

Samuel has a different dynamic with Ella.  He tells her on repeat, "Elllllla, you sooooo cuuuuuuuuute!"  He also is the typical culprit for toy grabbing, inciting her angry scream.  Samuel knows how to get a rise out of his siblings and relishes in the pleasure of doing so.  He is also the first to jump to her defense in a social setting, the first to offer her bites of anything he deems tasty (danger!) and the first to run to find me when she is upset.  

I rocked Ella for her afternoon nap yesterday.  When I put her in her crib, she woke up, so I rocked her again for the remainder of her nap. She woke several times, realized she was in my arms and dropped back to sleep.  Her sweaty sleep head against my chest, dimply arms wrapped around me, and bare feet dangling down my lap made me sigh that deep sigh of complete contentment.  It is such a bittersweet contentment though.  It is hard for me to enjoy such moments without mourning a bit that it won't last forever.  It feels hard to believe it will always be as lovely as it is now to parent as it is in these dear, small days.  It is hard, to be sure.  But it is so very good, spending my days teaching and rocking and loving and guiding.  I feel as though these might be the very best years of my life in some sense, and it is hard to know if I am enjoying them as much as I think they are due.

I suppose to the future I will leave the future, with both it's joys and worries as I leave the past.  To rest in today....with a small boy of the verge of his childhood, a preschooler meandering through his sweet world, and a baby girl cradled in my arms, today is full of enough joy and work and love of its own without borrowing anything at all from another day.  Our girl, it seems, has just arrived and always been here...and we are so glad of both.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cut from the same cloth

They share a name, a smile, laughing eyes, and dresses cut from the same cloth. 
Two of my very favorite ladies.

Genella Kennedy Hancock, 1987

Ella Kennedy Castillo, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday

I wrote this last year, and it is a blog I have returned to more than once, which is rare. I could have scarcely known what the next year would hold for both my family and the Neeleys. And yet.  Just as I claimed on Holy Saturday last year, I claim this year that to look brokenness full in the face is to be able to see more clearly the redemption Jesus brings. Walking in His way is both a way of suffering and redemption and the prize is always Him.  He preserves hope over despair.  


The restoration of Mrs. Karen's body and soul for this Easter. What a miracle. What a gift in all our mourning for her in the here and now. What a hope for us. 

Holy Saturday. The day between death and resurrection....the day that can span whole seasons in our life. The day that always precedes knowing with our eyes what we have always knwn to be true in our hearts. 


We don't like Lent.

We don't like the giving up and the inevitable failure.  Or the giving up, keeping the rules and then the strange realization that it doesn't feel like celebration to get it back when Easter morning dawns. 

We don't like how much we need grace.  We hate being reminded how how much we would never earn salvation, never grasp redemption without the life and death of Jesus.  I don't think we will every really understand how much grace we have to have as long as we walk every day in the blindness this world allows.

It makes us want to jump to Easter, past Lent, past Good Friday and certainly past Holy Saturday.  Who wants to mourn?  Who wants to sit and grieve?  Who wants to look at brokenness without turning their head?

I want to rush right into Easter celebration every year.  I want to celebrate redemption without remembering my sin without Jesus.  I want to put away the hurt that is the result of living in a broken world and think of the way He is healing.  I don't like living in the hurt of brokenness while waiting for a redemption when I have no idea how it will come.  I don't.

In one of my most recent favorite albums, Rend Collective has produced a song that captures how I feel on these waiting days.  The first time I heard it, I thought of Mrs. Karen.  How she has been given unbelievable strength to conquer the unconquerable battle in her life.  How she hasn't bowed to a burden that would have made most to lie down in despair but has fought with strength she could never have summoned on her own.  With Christ in her, nothing has been impossible, nothing unconquerable.  When I hugged her this week, the joy of Christ was almost a tangible thing you could see and feel in her as it always has been.

And yet.

And yet for her cancer is not a battle, but a war with more battles to face.  And how do you conquer something like that?

It stunned me to realize recently that Mrs. Karen's greatest victory in this war cancer has waged on her body is the conquest she has made over her heart.  In the deepest sadness, most difficult seasons, seemingly unredeemable situationsChrist has preserved hope in her heart.  Who can do that besides our Lord?  Who can face life-altering illness with hope in their heart?

"We will declare
Over despair
You are the HOPE"
-Rend Collective

Only one where Hope Himself dwells deep within.  In this, there is no battle on Earth that can claim victory.  Mrs. Karen, oh how I hope even I, can claim that "nothing is impossible, every chain is breakable...that God is greater than our hearts and the dark"...that we are more than conquerers over all the brokenness that surrounds our bodies and hearts because He preserves our hope.

He is our hope.

Our only hope.

"So we will not bow to sin or to shame, because He is the power in our veins."  We can sit in mourning today.  We can feel the weight of our burden because in feeling the depth of pain, the joy of the morning is that much brighter.

Mrs. Karen has said that she prefers to wear her scarves and hats or just go without than to wear a wig. In a way, it seems that to hide her head hides her battle and the great healing the Lord has brought in her body and heart. Because  diminishing the pain of the battle diminishes the joy and power of the victory. 

On our long Saturdays in life, waiting for redemption, our hope is always preserved because our hope is Christ and HE IS OUR CONQUERER.

So today, I gather with my entire family and the entire Neeley family for the culmination of a Spring Break trip that is the picture of hope and redemption after the year that has followed their last Spring Break.  I can't think of a better way to spend the Saturday before the greatest celebration of my year than with one of the greatest heroes of hope preservation I know.

Celebrating hope in the unknown and darkness of Saturday, knowing it will make the bright light of Easter morning that much more beautiful.