Tuesday, December 3, 2013

November 2013 - newsletter

Riley: My right hand, my best friend, you see me at my best and my worst, but you never stop being there for me.

You are the most mature 5 year old I know. Are all five year olds like you? I've never lived with one, but Ella and Nolan have a lot to live up to when they are five years old. Your conversations can be very serious. You are very conscious of things you can do to help me out around the house and you try and do those things.

Maybe more than anyone else, you are ready for your daddy to come home. You always talk about what you and he are going to do together. When I mentioned Daddy might be able to go to your field trip with you, you just about went crazy. You were glowing with happiness. I have no doubt that you will be the happiest girl on the field trip.

Riley, you love to play with your brother and sister. You and Ella spend a lot of time in your room, and most recently, on your bed. You're happy if Ella play with you all the time. I know this stage won't last, but I do hope you and Ella are best friends.

Ella: Spirited. That's how I would describe you. You're usually either really happy or really mad. There isn't much in between.

I've put off mentioning anything about your speech development, like what words you are saying. The main reason for putting it off is because you haven't been talking. At your 1 year and 15 month check ups, you weren't hitting the speech milestones that most kids hit. At first, I was confident that there wasn't a problem and just kept waiting for you to pick up talking. It never really happened. The end of October came and other than Paw-paw and Dada, that was all you would say. According to your doctor, you should have been saying about 5 words. You had tubes put in last May and I assumed your hearing had been thrown off, and that had contributed to delayed speech. I think I felt the need for reassurance and I wanted to know if there was a problem that we could do something about to help you start talking, so I had a speech therapist come evaluate you.

I wasn't sure how much you would cooperate, and you mainly played in my lap the whole time the therapists were there. They asked me questions and observed you for about 45 minutes. And the results? Well, you do have a 2 month delay in your speech. Your perception and comprehension were also measured, and turns out you are advanced in those areas. You're just not talking! I'm relieved to know that there isn't a significant problem. The therapists said to keep watching and waiting for you to start talking, be more explanatory when I talk to you, and read picture books more often.

After a week home from day care over Thanksgiving, even your care giver at day care noticed the progress you made while out. For some reason you started saying several words over the break. No, Mommy, puppy, Ri-ri, Nolan, No-no (short for Nolan), and a clear no. "Do you want to get out of the bath tub?" "NO!" "Do you want to get down?" "NO!" "Do you want to eat?" "NO"! "Do you want to go bye-bye?" "NO!" Basically, any question I ask you the answer is and emphatic NO! I'll take it! You also like to point your finger while saying no. I don't know where that came from.

Nolan: Last week I attempted introducing cereal to you. You are at the point where your bottle doesn't really fill you up. You even have to be topped off after I drop you off at day care. I feed you right before we leave for school, and then you have to be fed one hour later. A little snack. Riley and Ella both ate cereal really well right from the beginning. Not you, buster. The first bite is about all you can manage. Anything after that and you clamp your lips completely shut. You refuse to even let the spoon in your mouth. I'm kind of at a loss about what to do next. I've tried sweetening the cereal with bananas, but nothing seems to appease you. Another factor is the chaos in the mornings before leaving for school. I don't have time to sit and mess with spoon feeding you. I just don't have the time. I'll try again in a couple weeks.

Your sisters are crazy about you. They both love to give you hugs and kisses. Ella is still a little rough with you, but she is so loving. I think she's your biggest fan. Won't things be fun in one year?

You've been very handsy lately. Your hands are always in your mouth. Consequently, they stay cold most of the time. Riley hates your hands being so cold and always asks why they are cold. You are starting to play with rattles. Most 4 month olds are rolling over, but not you. You can get to your side, but you have absolutely no desire to roll. You never even try. Honestly, you don't lay in the floor very often. Ella is just too rambunctious for me to let you lay around. She already steals your pacifier at every given opportunity. If you are in the floor, she likes to climb all over you. You get knocked around a great deal! Therefore, I hold you. A lot.

So last week over Thanksgiving break I made sure to let you lay around, thinking you would probably start rolling over. I guess you need a little more practice!

Mornings are pretty hectic; nights are fine after 5:30. Trying to have a supper cooked (quickly, since Ella likes to eat at 4:30) and kids bathed is a little intense. Once I've got the babies to bed I can do my chores and maybe relax a little. Riley and I spend our evenings reading and coloring. It's nice to have alone time with her. She's easy to talk to. When she goes to bed at 8:00 I really start relaxing! Most of the time I'm in the bed at 9:00. Worn out!

I don't think I will be able to write another newsletter if Henry isn't in it. I feel guilty when I tell Riley I can't play with her because I know her daddy would play with her all night if he were here. When he's gone I try to make decisions and discipline like he would want me to. He's always in the back of my mind around here. He should be home in less than a week, but I've said that more than once. I'm really hoping that this time, he will be home in less than a week. I need him!

To my kids: I'm so happy God chose me to be your Mommy. Riley, I couldn't make this life without you. Ella, you keep me on my toes every minute. Nolan, you're my handsome devil and sweet baby boy. Love you all so much!

Love, Mama (Ella says, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!")

Sunday, November 3, 2013

October 2013 - Newsletter

Riley: Two words: Monster High. You are obsessed. I saw a news story the other day that talked about how Monster High dolls are projected to replace Barbie; this has definitely happened in our household. Monster High is the only thing you want to talk about. I think it's also one of the main things you think about. You want to own every single Monster High doll made. There are only about 20 of them, but at $20 each you can imagine why you don't own them all yet. Keep working on Daddy; he will cave in.

When not consumed by Monster High dolls, you love to play with your brother and sister. You like to chase Ella around the house. With Nolan, you just like to coo and talk to him. He laughs like crazy at you.

You had a pair of shoes at Grandad's house in a back bedroom. You were supposed to wear those shoes today so I told you to go back there and get those shoes. It's sort of dark back there and the door is shut and when you go to the hallway you ran back to the living room, too scared to go any further. You ran right into Ella and apparently came up with a brilliant idea. The next thing I know you tell Ella, "Come on, Ella. You can come with me." I cracked up and there you and Ella went to the back bedroom after those shoes. You held her hand the whole time. I'm not sure how much Ella could do for you if something were to have gotten after y'all. With you sister by your side you can do anything! I hope it's always like that for you and Ella.

You've started spending the night at Grandad's house. It's no secret that there are no rules over there, so spending time there is fine with you. You take your videos and Allie and blanket and I don't think you think much about me while you're there. I'm so happy you love Grandad like you do, and that he is able to have you over for the night. He appreciates you being there, too. You're great conversation.

Thanks for not being mad at me when I sent you to school with crazy hair a week too early. I am trying so hard to give you every experience you deserve, but it's hard with the two babies. I don't want you to be cheated out of anything just because you have a little brother and sister. It does get pretty crazy around here though. Mondays are kind of our day. I take you to tumbling for an hour, and it's just nice to be able to go do something with just you. Those were the days! What did I do with all my time?

Ella Rae: Sweet big sister. You absolutely love to give Nolan attention. Hugs, kisses, and even holding him are some of your favorite things to do. I've even caught you leaned over him talking a little baby talk. You can't talk either so it was a bunch of jibber jabber, but really sweet and funny. 

You've gotten the door shut in your face so many times this past month. Riley's room is off limits to you and she does a good job of keeping you out. Sometimes you'll see Riley going back to her room and you do your best to keep up with her and get in the bedroom. It just doesn't happen! Sometimes you'll scream and bang on the door and other times you'll just toddle back out and find something else to do. Riley has too much small Monster High paraphernalia and puzzle pieces for you to be in there. The first thing you go for is her the cabinet where puzzles are stored. Merely pulling the puzzle pieces out and strewing them everywhere isn't the object: You need to sit inside the cabinet. 

You love to get new clothes and shoes. You like pretty things.  

We went to the fall festival at church. There was a bounce house for the kids to play in. I waited until the big kids were out and in you went. You thought you were really jumping around in there, even though you were on your hands and knees. After about 15 minutes a bunch of 12 year old boys got in there so it was time for you to go. Ha! No. Someone finally had to crawl in and get you out. 

If not following Riley around the house, you are right behind me. You like it best when I carry you around with me while I'm doing chores. Ha, I'm sure you do. 

Nolan: Sweet baby boy. I know I'll never have another baby so I'm just trying to soak you up. I don't want to stop breast feeding you because I know I'll never be able to feed a baby like that again. I couldn't ask for a better baby. You're a pretty good sleeper, even sleeping on your back most of the time. You're the only one who I've ever had any success with doing that. 

You take a lot of abuse from your big sister, Ella. Toys hit your head, she pushes on you to stand up, and she steals your pacifier and bottles. Constantly. I try my best to protect you, but it's hard because she is so little and determined. She does however dote on you a lot and if you are crying she's been known to put your pacifier in your mouth. 

You just love to watch Riley. You love to smile. You've got lady killer eyes. 

Even though taking care of you three kids is very hard and mentally and physically taxing, what your Daddy does is even harder. He works over 24 hours away from his family, lives in a hotel for months at a time, misses his family, and never complains about it. He takes care of his family. We both want to give you three kids what we didn't have when we were growing up. Your Daddy works hard to give you that. Henry is my hero, my best friend, and I couldn't have picked a better man to be my husband and father of my kids. There's not one day that he is gone where I don't cry, want him home with me, or miss him. It's so hard!

We both love you kids so, so much. I'd do this 1,000 times over just to see your smiles.

Love you, Mama.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

September 2013 - Newsletter

Riley: You had a very big September; you turned 5 years old! No one was more proud than you. You were telling everyone you were almost 5, and now that you are 5, you proudly hold up your little hand and spread your fingers out when asked how old you are. You are so happy to FINALLY be five years old.

Your birthday party was at a local park. You've seen this park from the road many times but we've never been able to stop and play. So, to have your party there was a wish come true! You had several friends who were able to come and celebrate, most importantly, your best friend Mollie.

I took cupcakes to your classroom on your actual birthday. This was a big deal.

You are extremely mature, generous, and smart. You help tend to your brother and sister more than most five year olds would. You love to play with both of them. With Nolan, you like to play pat-a-cake. He cackles when you play with him. Seriously, he thought it was really funny and it's just about the only thing he laughs at. You are a tremendous help with him, whether it's running to get his pacifier, getting me a burp rag, or picking out his outfit, infants are so much easier to care for with you around! With Ella, I don't even know where to start. She is your shadow and you are hers. You love to play with her and you are very watchful over her. For instance, the street we live on gets very little traffic. It's only used for the four houses that live on it. We were outside raking and Ella wondered into the street. I was watching her and thought it was ok for her to be in the street because you and I were both right there. You almost had a heart attack running to get her from the street.

You take the role of Big Sister very seriously. Sometimes I do have to tell you to mind your own business or remind you that I'm the mom. I don't want you to feel pressured to take care of either of the babies. I know sometimes in the car and at home I do ask you to do a lot, but I want you to know it's ok to be just a kid.

Ella Rae: Sister, you are a handful! You are definitely the child that I will turn around for just a second and look back to see you hanging from the ceiling fan. You are a climber. Your newest favorite is to climb on the hearth and toddle back and forth. You're smart, and mostly only do this when I'm feeding Nolan and can't get to you. You don't play with toys. We have a basketful in the living room and for the most part they go untouched by you. You will play with them if Riley play with them. But only then. You just don't play with toys. You like to play with non-toys: my breast pump, my keys, phone chargers, Nolan's bottles, etc. So this creates an issue and you do not like to be told no.

You are at your sweetest with Nolan. Some days, you will spend 10-15 minutes just kissing him over and over again. One day last week you and he were in the same room all day at daycare. The ladies said if he started crying you would run over there and put his pacifier in his mouth. You're so sweet! But in the same breath, if you find his pacifier laying around at home, it goes straight to YOUR mouth. I guess you thought you were in charge that day at day care.

Mostly because you are always on the move, I have fewer pictures of you. If I do take a picture of you, it's usually very blurry like the one above. You are a busy little girl! Your favorite place to play is Riley's room. With her new birthday presents she isn't as willing to let you play there. You sat right in the middle of her doll house and this really upset Riley. Because of this, she keeps her door shut all the time, even if she's not in there. You will toddle back to her room and find the door shut. Enraged, you come screaming back to the living room. After this, you want to be entertained by me and I'm usually messing with Nolan. Thankfully he's started going to bed on a regular schedule and I have 20-30 minutes of alone play-time with just you. It's really nice and you love the attention. It's your favorite thing to sit in my lap but that time is hard to come by.

Nolan: You are growing like crazy. It's easy to see just how much when I look at pictures. I take the most pictures of you, mainly because it seems like I am always holding you. You require a lot of attention! I try and remind myself that both the girls got this much attention when they were little.

I snapped this picture of you during tummy time. You hate tummy time. It's fine with you to be held where you can watch your sisters, and really, that's about all you do at home. I don't have many opportunities to lay you on the floor and watch you wiggle around. By the time we get home it's time to cook, then baths, then feed you, and then you go to sleep. Your nights are getting better with each passing week. Sometimes you wake up and need your paci, but you usually go right back to sleep. You don't wake up to eat anymore. It's nice!

You get drug around everywhere we go. Riley's friend's birthday parties, Ella's doctor appointment, the grocery store, etc. As long as your paci is somewhere near you are usually pretty good on our outings.

While it is hard taking care of two babies and a 5 year old, it's not all that bad of a job. There is a good deal of work involved, but there's beginning to be more free time. Mornings are my weakness. I rarely oversleep and we are still late sometimes. I just have a hard time making myself wake up at 5:00 a.m. just to work, work, work before I go to work. Getting 4 people ready in the morning is hard. I like to sit down and eat breakfast but am not always able to. I like to put my make-up on at home, but that doesn't always happen either. Today, I had to paint my toe nails when I got to work. I've learned to put Ella's shoes on when we get to day care because she will just take them both off when we get in the car. When we get home, usually around 4:15, I have to start cooking. Ella likes to eat at 4:30. Demands is more like it. Hopefully things are going in my favor and Nolan is asleep while I get supper ready and eat. When he isn't, I just have to ignore a little crying from someone. Once supper is fixed and we eat, I give Riley and Ella their bath. They would prefer to sit and play for a while, but that doesn't always fit the schedule. I am sometimes able to fold clothes or clean the kitchen up just a little bit while they are in the bath tub. After they are out and dressed, it's Nolan's turn for a bath. He likes baths and is very calm. His is a short one and all business, though. He gets fed for the last time after his bath and is usually ready to go to sleep about 6:30. Then for 30 minutes or so I can play with Ella. Sometimes she is fussy and has to go to bed at 6. I hate putting her to bed that early but have to remind myself that it's better for her to be well rested. (And sometimes better for me to not deal with the constant whining.) When the babies are down for the night at 7, I get the cleaning, laundry, and yard work finished. Yes, I have time for yard work some nights. I shower after my chores are finished. Next, I can watch a television show, read, or start a movie in my room. Most of the time I go to bed around 9:00. At the end of most days I am exhausted. My floors don't get mopped or vacuumed as frequently as I would like, and there is quite a bit of dust build-up in different places, but I am happy and have a happy family.

Love my husband.
Love my kids.

Love, Mama

Friday, September 20, 2013

August 2013 Newsletter

Riley: you're now the big sister of a little sister and a little brother. You were made for this role. You love to play with Ella. You create mountains out of pillows, put all the toys together for "pre-school," and otherwise entertain Ella most of the day. 

You also started back to pre-k. You love school! 

You're very responsible and dependable. One of your fvrite things is for me to leave you alone with Nolan and Ella. For instance, if I run a trash bag to the dumpster outside, you proudly proclaim, "I'm in charge!" I can also leave Nolan on the couch with you and take a quick shower. You are my extra pair of hands. 

Ella: Whew! You are definitely the handful! You went from taking a few steps and falling down to running around the house! It's so much better than carrying you everywhere. This is the first newsletter since Nolan was born; a lot changed overnight for you. You've come a long way since we first brought him home. At first, you wanted to lay on him or sit on him, just trying to get a closer look. Now, you like to give him kisses and rub his head. Sometimes your rubbing is quiet rough but it's obvious you love him already. You don't like to hear him wail. 

You really like to read books and put lotion on. When you bring a book or a bottle of lotion to us, you throw it in our laps. You have a great arm already. 

You haven't started talking yet but communicate through whining and grunting. Lots of whining. You get really frustrated easily especially when we can't figure out what you want or if you want something you can't have. Telling you no starts a battle. You will shake your whole little body in anger. And scowl! 

We took a trip to Mamaw's a few weeks ago. It was her first time meeting Nolan. You marched over to him and kissesd him on the head and then looked back at Mamaw. You were so proud to be his big sister in that moment. 

Nolan: Mr., its time you start sleeping through the night. Or at least just waking up once. I guess you're still a little bit too young but I am more than ready. You like to eat frequently and that ties me up for a while. You still sleep in a bassinet in my room, and some nights you wind up in bed with me. 

You're a good baby overall. You don't cry much. Napping and sleeping in general could be better but I won't complain too much. You're definitely the noisiest of all my babies. You toot,  grunt and moan, sometimes throughout your whole nap. You are bad about spitting up too. Riley spit up some, Ella none, but you most of all. I go through almost all of our burp rags. 

People love your name. I do too.

You have the whitest tongue. 

I took two extra weeks of maternity leave with you. You will be starting day care when you are 8 weeks old. That's pretty little! I am ready to settle into our school routine and have a few minutes to myself. 

It's a lot of work raising three of you. When we go anywhere alone I have to carry Ella on my hip and Nolan in his car seat. That's a workout! It doesn't happen much either. 

Love my family! You are all my life's pleasure. 

Love, Mama

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nolan Henry: The Day You Were Born

Dear Nolan,

I can't decide if you will want to read my letters. Maybe your wife will!

I knew you would be born on July 22 for several months. All I had to do was hope my c-section wouldn't be rescheduled. It wasn't! I had a hard time towards the end of my pregnancy with you. I was huge and tired, plus had to take care of Riley and Ella. All by myself. It wasn't easy!

On Monday, July 22, your daddy and I had to be at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. We were very excited! Actually, we fussed the whole way to the hospital. I can't even remember what it was about, but it ended once we got to the hospital to get ready for you.

We showed up and waited for things to get going. I was hooked up to monitors for about two hours before the c-section started. An old friend from high school was my nurse and took great care of me. She was also the one to "catch" you. It was nice knowing someone in the operating room.

Finally, around 7:30 my doctor came in and said it wouldn't be long. With Ella I was extremely nervous and ended up having a panic attack on the operating table. I was nervous this time around and had heavy breathing, but it wasn't as bad with you. Things seemed to move faster when I had you. Looking back, I can tell the panic attack with Ella was a prolonged event. Looking back with you, I was so much more calm while in the holding room.

Having an epidural isn't all that great. It's hard to relax knowing a long needle is going in your back. When the needle was inserted in my back, a very sharp pain radiated down to my knee and actually hurt. I yelped as my knee reflex shot forward.

I'm always relieved when your dad walks in the operating room. He has the biggest smile but I can never see it because he's wearing a surgical mask. 

At 8:16 a.m. you came out crying. 

While you were being cleaned up I went to recovery. This is always the hardest part for me! I hate being separated from everyone! There was a clock on a nearby wall and I kept my eyes on that clock. I knew I wouldn't be in recovery for more than an hour, and I was keeping track. When it was finally time for me to leave recovery I was wheeled to our room. No one was there either! I finally asked a nurse to let everyone know I was in my room. It wasn't long before your daddy walked in with you. 

I was happy to see you! You looked like the girls! 

You were by far the most painful delivery. Everyone said that getting my tubes tied would hurt. How true that was! The worst pain of my life!

We had several visitors. I remember April coming in and holding you. Maybe before or after you, Paw-Paw, Aunt-Ma, Riley and Ella came in to see us. My Dad dropped Ella right onto my bed and the first thing she did was lunge for me. Maybe you can imagine the pain! Riley oohed and ahhed over you, and claimed you were the cutest little thing she had ever seen. You were so handsome!

I love you Nolan Henry Smith. It was worth it all to get you here. 

Love, Mama.

Ella Rae : 13-month newsletter

Dear Ella

This month finds you in a brand new role: big sister. When you first came to the hospital you were definitely unsure of the situation. You wanted me to hold you, but less than an hour after a c-section and tubal ligation was a little soon for me to try and wrestle you. You didn't like that! Since then, you've definitely warmed up to Nolan. You love to give him kisses. But the best part for you is when we praise you for being so sweet. You are so sweet! 

And at that time you wanted nothing to do with Nolan. The two nights I spent in the hospital were also the first nights you had spent away from you. You gave Paw-Paw a run for his money! You're very rambunctious and rough. You love to tussle and are still trying to walk. You can take just a few steps but you're still timid.

The physical difference between you and Nolan is astonishing. It's like you grew up overnight. You are very plump and round and soft while Nolan is skinny and little.

You won't talk but you communicate by grunts and whines. Oh the whines!  You're sort of fussy. And you will point to whatever it is that you want. We are left to read your mind, usually incorrectly. 

You had a great birthday party (almost a month late). Lots of friends were here and you got lots of new toys that you love.

You and your daddy are pals. You like to sit with him when he plays the guitar. You love to dance and laugh to his music.

You are a sweet little sister and a loving big sister. You love it when Riley plays with you. You've just started giving Nolan huge wet kisses.

We love you so much Ella Rae. You're my little baby.

Love, mama

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ella Rae - 1 year newsletter

Dear Ella

Happy 1 year birthday! It's so hard to believe you are already one. You're my baby and I'm not sure I'm ready to let you grow up!

We have had a great summer and I love watching you learn and play with Riley. You've started cruising around the couch and it won't be long before you take a few steps. Several people have commented that you need to be walking before your little brother comes. I agree, but you can take all the time you need. I doubt I'll go out much with all three of you very soon anyway. To be honest, I think we all need some down time at home. We've traveled quite a bit this summer and spent several nights away. You love coming home to your bed.

When we are home, you hang right with Riley all day long. She loves to make a mountain of pillows in the living room and roll around on them. Turns out you really like it too. I love to hear your giggles during this time. Riley is
Definitely your favorite person to play with. You regularly crawl away from me to go play in Riley's room. Riley watches you like a hawk. She was made to be a big sister.

You have the sweetest smile , especially when you have something you're not supposed to have.

People want to hold you all the time. You don't mind this most of the time, however if its someone you aren't familiar with you do the sweetest thing. It's really just because you don't want them to hold you. When they pick you up, almost every time you will lay your head on their shoulder. You will stay that way until i get you back.  It melts people's hearts.

You do have a little bit of an attitude. If I take a toy away it is an immediate fit. A huge fit. You get uncontrollably mad. You have a serious frown you don't mind using. You also hate to change clothes or have your diaper changed. I know... All kids hate this. But Ella, you severely hate this. You will thrash and kick and scream. It is a real wrestling match, and one that I don't always win.

This will be the last newsletter you get before you're a big sister. It's very hard to imagine you with a little brother. I doubt you'll want much to do with him.

I'm ready, though. I feel like I'm about to climb Mt. Everest. I've had 6 months to prepare for this and still don't think I'm ready. My house certainly isn't ready! It is getting there slowly but surely. I hope to be much better prepared with food this time around. When Ella came home we had to go from the hospital to Brookshire's to get supper. I'm not going to do that to myself this time around.

And, I'm ready for Henry to be home with us. It's hard without him right now, so I'm really looking forward to the extra help. Henry is amazing in the hospital after the c-sections. He does it all, from helping me to caring for the baby. He's a great decision-maker when I've had pain medicine.

So, here we go!

I love you Ella! You're my little angel.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ella Rae: 11-month newsletter

Dear Ella,

A few days ago you turned 11 months. I can't believe you're almost a year old. You went from crawling to pulling up really quickly. Walking is another story. You hate to move your feet. Even if I stand behind you and hold your hands, you don't like to take steps. Crawling gets you where you want to go so you stick with that. You're getting so big!

Anything Riley does, you want to be right there with her. Riley is ok with that, as long as you don't go in her room. She's gotten into the habit of shutting her door anytime she goes in her room. Not a bad idea either, since she has all kinds of small things on the floor. Riley plays with you a bunch. She gets on your nerves sometimes though, because she won't leave you alone. Your favorite game to play with Riley is "chase." Riley crawls around on the floor and you "chase" her. You're not actually after her but don't tell Riley that.

You had your ear surgery a few weeks ago and everything turned out fine. The whole family went: me, Daddy, and Riley. It was a long morning! When you came out of recovery you had the meanest look on your face. You were mad! And probably a little groggy, too. When you saw me you started to cry. We had a bottle ready and you drank it while I held you. Then for the longest time you just laid in my arms wanting to be close to me. It didn't take long for you to be back to your old self. 

We bought a little swimming pool for you and Riley to splash in. You hate it. Riley loves it. 

Ella, you like to be where the action is. If I'm in the kitchen cooking, that's right where you want to be. You love for someone to sit in the floor and let you climb all over them. You already have a favorite book: 

You love this book! The ladybugs are hard and stand out from the pages. You like to rub your fingers over them. 

You are very facially expressive. You frown most often, but you also love to laugh and smile. Your smile is so cute with your bottom two teeth. 

Riley adores you. I hear her say to you all the time, "Best sisters!" She's heard "best friends" from movies, so she changed it to suit the two of you. She loves to make you laugh. 

Riley has just about finished her first year of pre-k. Her birthday is two weeks past the cut-off for Kindergarten, making her have to repeat pre-k. It's not the end of the world and I know she will be extra-ready for Kindergarten. Riley loves to read and color. I've got some things to keep her busy on this summer and to help her read and learn. She gets bored quickly so I hope we get to go to the local libraries and to a few museums before the little brother gets here. 

I'm not sure how things will work when there is one more to take care of and tend to. I feel stretched pretty thin already so I don't know how I will handle it all! Without a doubt I couldn't do it without Riley. She's a huge help to me. I'm trying to remember how it feels to have a baby inside my belly moving around because I know this will be the last time. I took care of that paperwork at the first appointment! I'm ready to meet the little fella, though. We all are.

Ella, you're the sweetest little thing I've ever met. I'm so ready for school to be out so I can spend every day with you. Love you so much. 

Riley, you're my best friend. I couldn't make it without you, ever. 

Love you both,


Monday, April 29, 2013

Ella Rae - 10 month newsletter

Dear Ella Rae,

You've blossomed into the smiliest, happiest baby here lately. You love to laugh and smile at anybody. Riley makes you laugh the most, with Daddy following at a close second.

In one short month, you've just about gotten over the being left alone in a room. Maybe because you started crawling! You can crawl anywhere you want, which is nice but also gives me more to do. Riley has had to adjust as well. She's not used to keeping her small toys picked up off the floor. If she finds anything small she picks it up and lets me know that "Ella can not play with this little thing." Riley is very conscious of your well-being and it still hurts her feelings so much if you are hurt because of her. She tried to tickle you the other day and you fell back and hit your head. It scared you more than anything, but it absolutely broke Riley's heart.

Ella, I still can't believe you are my baby. You are my baby. You are so perfect in every way. I love to play with you and snuggle up with you. You and I both love to let you try out new foods. There isn't anything you don't like. You'll eat anything!

One of our favorite games to play is "No, no." Anytime someone says "no, no" you shake your head and sometimes say "no, no" back at us. You really shake your head! All the way to one side and back again. I'm not sure how you picked this up, because we haven't gotten to the point where we tell you "no, no" all the time. Maybe you're smart like your Mama! ;)

You've also got two top teeth coming in. Your mouth is a dangerous place to stick a finger now-a-days!

We had some pictures made a few weeks ago, as you can tell. I desperately wanted you to have something to look at to prove you were the baby, if even for a little while. Kim Fisher came to Grandad's and took these for us. I was shocked there was even one good picture! Between you and Riley, Kim had her work cut out for her! All you wanted to do was crawl around on the blanket and Riley wanted to do her silly poses. I was stressed! They turned out great and I'm so happy to have had these made. 

Ella, in a couple of weeks you are having a procedure done on your ears. You have to go under anesthesia. I know everything will be fine, but most likely I will be by myself with you during this time. I hate for anything to be wrong with my little baby but I know this procedure will help you out so much! The pain you've been in since December isn't fair and I don't like it happening. We will both have to be big girls that morning!

I love you so much, Ella. You're my heart's beat.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ella Rae: 9-month newsletter

Dear Ella,

This month I want to talk about your likes and dislikes.

attention - From me or even a stranger, you just want someone to talk to you, tickle you, or play with you.
kisses - You LOVE to be kissed on the neck. You just lay there and let it happen, giggling the whole time.
Skype with Daddy - When we Skype with Daddy, you begin the jumping or bouncing routine. You are so excited to see him.
feeding yourself - You love finger foods. The best are Cheetos, English peas, and Mandarin oranges. You do your best to pick everything up.
baths with Riley - You watch her the whole time. She gets a little irritated because you always scoot over close to her. You really don't leave her much room in the bath tub.
sleeping with Mama - Mama doesn't like it so much.
rides in your wagon - We've only had a couple rides because of weather, but you love it. Riley rides her bicycle alongside and you look at everything.

being left alone - I have to put you down in the living room when I'm getting ready for work. I am in and out of the room and Riley is usually around. But no one is sitting with you entertaining you, and you can't stand it. You don't like being left out. 
getting your nose cleaned - I know most babies don't like this either, but you've taken that to a whole new level. Your cries are almost enough for me to let you go with a snotty nose. Almost. 
food not getting to your mouth quickly enough - Generally we all sit down at the table and eat together. So that means I have to feed you and myself at the same time. You, however, see no reason the spoon should take a quick break in order for me to eat a bite. If you see me eating anything your mouth starts watering. 
getting out of the bath tub - You would stay and play for hours. I already let you stay in until your water gets cold. 
having your shirt taken off - You act like I'm skinning you alive when I take your top off, or put it on for that matter. 
the time after your bath until bedtime - I guess you're really tired at this time of day and all you seem to do it whine and fuss. I just don't have it in me to put you to bed before 6:00 p.m., no matter how good of a sleeper you are. 

Riley has likes and dislikes, too. 

new coloring book - A new coloring book or activity book will keep you occupied for weeks. 
playing with Ella - You love to make her laugh! She loves you, too. 
learning - We've planted a few plants and I hope they continue to grow. You loved seeing them the day little green shoots popped out of the soil. And, when the herbs are finished growing we're going to cook with them. You're really excited. 
asking questions - 1,000 per day, easy. 

getting in trouble - You want to please and usually you do. There's just a few times when you get in trouble now, and I can't remember the last time you were punished. 
not being noticed for something - For instance, you got new shoes in West Virginia. You want people to notice and comment on your new light-up shoes. It hurts your feelings and you feel personally slighted if someone doesn't notice. 
when I tell people something funny you said - I usually hear a, "You're not supposed to tell people that!" While dropping you off in front of your school one day last week, just as the principal was about to open your door you said, "I've never seen Mrs. Hurst look so beautiful!" It was so sweet I just had to tell her. You were embarrassed! 

I'm at the point where I just can't stay caught up with anything. My house is a disaster most of the time. I have no time for my yard. Feeding and bathing two kids is taking up all of my energy. I guess I'm overwhelmed and needing a break. I think missing Spring Break at home really hurt me but I'm looking forward to being off on Friday! It's much needed and well deserved in my opinion. So, I can't imagine what it will be like with three littles instead of two. How will I ever?

I do try and remind myself of what is important and what can wait until tomorrow. I try to spend time playing and reading books with both of you, instead of running around trying to steam clean carpets or dust ceiling fans. Riley and Ella, you both bring me so much happiness and pleasure, and just feeling and knowing that is enough to keep me going.

Love my girls so much.

Love, Mama

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

West Virginia

Dear Riley and Ella,

Last week was Spring Break and we went to see Daddy. He's been working in West Virginia since the beginning of the year and hasn't been home since. We really missed him and had to go see him on our week off.

But West Virginia is half-way across the country from East Texas, or 1,200 miles. We could have flown, but I would be by myself with two kids, plus I'm pregnant. I just didn't think I could do it alone. So we chose to drive.

Our first stop was Mamaw's house in Louisiana. We spent the night there and resumed our trip the next morning. My goal was to get to Kentucky. We stopped for lunch in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I try to find places to eat that are different from what we have here. This Mexican food restaurant we stopped at was quite different, and not that good. So from there we made it to Tunica, Mississippi. Out of nowhere, Ella you started screaming. This was the kind of scream that I knew something was really wrong. I asked Riley, "Riley, what's wrong with Ella?" From the backseat Riley yells, "Call the ambulance!" I knew I needed to see what was going on anyway, but what Riley said really made me worried.

I navigated to the side of the road, jumped out, and discovered that you had vomited your entire lunch all over yourself. What a mess I had on my hands. I got you out and took your clothes off. You were still crying and whimpering, so I just held you and rocked a little. Pulled over on the side of the road is not the place anyone wants to be when something happens to a child. But there I was. A man pulled up asking if I had car trouble. And then a couple pulled up and the lady would not take no for an answer. It was hard accepting help from a complete stranger, but I soon realized I needed someone. You were clean and changed but then I looked at the mess in your car seat. She held you while I cleaned that mess up. Her name was Casey. I'm so thankful she stopped and helped me. It was just what I needed. Soon we were back on the road.

From there we stopped just once for a bathroom break and drove to Bowling Green, Kentucky. We found a great hotel and camped out there for the night. The next morning we were on the road to Grafton, West Virginia.

Stopping to use the bathroom was hard on me with both of you. Riley, you can handle yourself just fine and I can change Ella with no problems. But that leaves me trying to hold Ella while I use the bathroom. It's hard work! We stopped at a gas station in Hurricane, West Virginia, and this station actually had a little seat in the stall for a baby to sit on while the mother used the bathroom. It was the best thing! More gas stations need this. There were several places we stopped that didn't have a changing table in the bathroom. That was inconvenient.

We made it to Dad's at around 6:00 p.m., even losing an hour because of the Eastern Time Zone.

It was so nice to be together as a family again! The next day, Monday, Dad was rained out at work so we were able to spend the entire day together. 

We made a trip to the local mall and had a nice dinner at Outback Steakhouse. 

The next day Daddy had to work and I decided us girls needed a break. We lounged around in Dad's hotel room the whole day. 

On our last full day in Grafton we tried to get a little sight-seeing in. We had lunch at Tygart Lake State Park. The restaurant overlooked the lake and it was really nice. We ordered chips and queso to start with, and it was nothing like what we were used to. 

I greatly underestimated the terrain in West Virginia. The hills were everywhere and towns were built right into the side of the hills. The roads were extremely curvy and hilly with a  55 MPH speed limit. I had a hard time maintaining the posted speed limit. And the locals didn't seem to care that I was white-knuckling the roads. They would get right up on my bumper and stay there. It was all I could do to pull over and let them pass.

When we left on Friday morning the goodbye was really hard. We didn't want to leave Henry and he didn't want us to leave.

We made for Bowling Green again and were happy to be in a familiar place. Riley, you had a little episode here. I know you felt like you would never see home again. We had been gone a week at this point. You wanted Mrs. Sanders (your pre-k teacher) and Grandad. I was ready to be home, too.

After we left Bowling Green on Saturday morning, I thought I would get a little historical sight-seeing in. There were several times on this trip that I wanted to stop and visit a site, but with both of you, it was impossible. So, we stopped in Franklin, Tennessee, to visit the battlegrounds of the deadliest 5 hours of the Civil War. There is a gift shop, museum, plantation home to tour and a cemetery to check out. Well, we made it through the gift shop before we had to leave. Turns out, you girls didn't really care for my idea of fun.

Forty-five minutes south of Franklin is Athens, Alabama, were my great-great-great grandfather is buried. We were able to stop there and take a picture. Ella, you missed out because you were sleeping in the car.

Riley, I told you who Colonel Gaines C. Smith was and you liked my explanation of the Civil War. You said, "My great-great-great-great grandfather was defeated?" when I told you his side lost the Civil War. You said defeated. You're so smart.

And we barely made it to Pearl, Mississippi that night. I was so tired and I know you girls had to be. Even though we were just five hours from home, I was too tired to drive any farther. We stayed in yet another hotel room. The next morning we left bright and early. PawPaw met us at home at 2:00. You were so happy to see him, Spots, and your room. You disappeared into your room and stayed.

We had a great Spring Break. I never thought I could have driven that far with just you girls. And the truth is, with out you, Riley, I couldn't have. You completely took care of Ella in the backseat. From holding her bottle to giving her toys to finding a missing pacifier, you were my rock.

Love you girls. Thanks for making the trip with me and being so sweet.

Love, Mama

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ella Rae: 8-month newsletter

Dear Ella Rae,

Happy 8-month birthday! You're growing up so fast. But you're still so sweet.

You and Riley usually take a bath together (if I can persuade her). It's so much easier on me to get you both bathed at the same time. You two play and have a good time in the bubbles. Your favorite toy is a turtle. Every time I put you in the bath tub, you grab for that turtle. And it goes directly to your mouth.

Riley loves taking a bath with you. She watches to make sure she doesn't splash water in your face and doesn't like it if you fall backwards. In the bath, she is uninhibited. She doesn't seem to remember her nakedness when she is out of the bath tub because she won't undress in front of you. I've reminded her that you take baths together but she doesn't care.

Speaking of Riley, she is growing up to be a sweet, smart, young lady. She is your number one protector, too. It hurts Riley's feelings more than it actually hurts you if she bumps you or drops a toy on you. She was trying to give you a kiss in the bath tub and it knocked you backwards; it just about killed her soul. You had long past quit crying, but not her. She hates for anything to happen to you that might hurt you. 

She is trying her hardest to teach you to crawl. You're there and you're ready, with lots of rocking back and forth, but you just haven't taken that first crawl. Riley crawls all around you trying to inspire your movements. It won't be long until you've got it figured out, no doubt in part thanks to Riley. 

We're all so tired. Our weekends aren't long enough and our weeks too long. At least weekly, Riley asks to stay home from school. You're tired too, because on Saturdays you sleep most of the day. 

You're loving your new high chair and eating in it. When I put small pieces of food on your tray you really concentrate to pick the food up. You take eating very serious, unless Riley is eating at the same time. When Riley is eating at the table with you, all you do is watch what she is doing. You will open your mouth sideways for the spoon so you don't have to look away from Riley. 

When Riley was about your age her nose turned orange from the vegetables I fed her. My cousin once told me Riley's nose was dirty. I even made sure to mix her foods so she wouldn't have orange foods two days in a row. All to no avail. She just had an orange nose. Well, Ella, you do too. The end of your nose is just orange. I was extra pre-cautious with you because I knew what had happened to Riley's nose. It will go away in a few months. 

Well-meaning strangers still mistake you for a boy, maybe because you don't have any hair. You've got some, just not enough to really notice. I am starting to notice where it's grown in at the back of your head, but you've got a long way to go. Riley even asked when you would have long, curly hair. 

Our whole family loves you so much. You are the happiest, most congenial baby I could have ever asked for. 

Love you, Ella Rae. 

Love, Mama