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