Tuesday, May 31, 2016

on nursing...

Sweet baby Ellis, 

It's been more than three days since you nursed. I fed you Saturday morning, cuddling extra close, knowing that it was probably our last morning session. I was afraid you would be devastated, and though there have been a few rough moments, you have been mostly fine. I guess it really was the right time for us.

Dear boy, I have truly treasured feeding you. I loved our cuddly mornings. I loved watching you drift to sleep at night against my chest. I loved that when you were sad, you wanted me. I loved the way you looked to me every few hours. I loved the quiet moments we had, just the two of us. And oh how I loved your little hand. The hand that would stroke my chest...reach for my hair...play with my shirt...grab a necklace if I dared wear one. That precious baby hand, still so plump and dimpled. Still figuring out how to accomplish its goal. Watching that hand throughout your whole first year was probably my favorite part of nursing you.

I remember being pregnant with the twins. The thought of breastfeeding honestly freaked me out quite a bit, but I knew I wanted to do it. Then they came early and spent weeks in the NICU on the bottle, and despite our best efforts, never figured out the whole nursing deal. Then I was pregnant with Shepherd, my full-term singleton, who I just knew would be a breastfeeding champ. But somehow, despite all the help we could find, he and I could never get it right. It just didn't work. Then came you. After pumping for all of your siblings, I decided to lower my expectations for nursing. Yes, I wanted it to work, but I had three healthy, attached children that never nursed. If it didn't work, it would be fine....but oh how I hoped. The day you were born you had no interest in the boob. None. Zero. Then, after landing in the NICU, you started eating via bottle, and I saw my hopes of nursing my final little one drift away. But on day seven we brought you home, and on day eight you latched like a champ. We gradually shifted away from the bottles, and we never really looked back.

When I pumped, I was constantly counting down to the next milestone, willing myself to make it as long as possible, so I expected to feel the same way this time. But it was so different. We found our groove. You loved nursing, I loved feeding you, and the months ticked by. I wanted to make it to six months, but then suddenly we were staring down your first birthday. One year. One whole year of mom's milk. When we started this journey, one year was my secret goal, the goal I only whispered quietly to myself in the dark. And now we made it to that dream goal, my little love. I am so thankful for you, so grateful for all your dad did to help us, and so honored to have nourished you this long.

Sometimes I have trouble understanding the Gospel...how God could redeem mankind by sending a tiny baby. Being my child, I have a feeling this is something you will grapple with as well. Here's the thing, Ellis. God hears our questions...He anticipates our need to be reminded of His goodness. For our sake, He rewrites His story all over creation. How can a little baby bring redemption? How can God move through something so small and seemingly powerless? I'm not sure how it all works in the big picture, but I can tell you this for certain--four times now, I have experienced true redemption come in the form of a tiny baby. Redemption that was so needed, even if I didn't realize it before finding it. When Barnes and Frances were born, they brought healing and redemption to my soul, which had been deeply damaged by the loss of our first three babies. They made me a mom. Then Shepherd came along, with a picture perfect birth story, redeeming the inadequacy I held regarding the twins' early and difficult birth. And then you, Ellis. You came to our family and gave me another missing piece, the opportunity to nurse my baby, redeeming a deep desire and feeling of failure. You came and showed me that it had never been my fault before, something I so desperately needed to know. 

I love you, little one. And I have loved feeding you. Thank you for this precious experience.


happy birthday to my fav

Happy (two days late) 33rd to my boyfriend for life, the best dad and husband I could ever imagine. Love you lots...and so do these four.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

pancakes and pajamas party

If Ellis had to pick a favorite meal, I am pretty sure he would choose breakfast, so for his first birthday party, we had all of our little friends over for pancakes in their pajamas!

The invitations were just perfect, and no first birthday is complete without mimosas and personalized cups!

Donuts and biscuits and pancakes (with sprinkles and chocolate chips of course)...pretty sure no one left hungry!

The cake. Seriously amazing. The pancake topper looked so real, the smash cake was a perfect replica,
and it tasted as good as it looked.

From the stat board to the hat to the cereal bowl favors, we loved how sweet Ellis's little celebration turned out.

The birthday boy! He would not even touch his cake!

And no party is complete without lots of friends. We were thankful to be surrounded by Nana & Papa,
Aunt Bec and Aunt E, and so many long-time friends, both big and small.
And even though he was one of the youngest kids at the party, Ellis joined in on all the fun!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ellis is One!

birthday morning- May 13th
 Sweet Ellis, 

Somehow you are a whole year old. It doesn't seem possible...you are still my tiny baby, my littlest little, yet you have been in our family for a whole year (plus two days now).

Ellis, there are no words for the depth of my love for you. You are our fourth baby, but everything this year has felt so new and special. God made you so uniquely, and you are so uniquely loved. I have loved watching you grow, and taken special pleasure in seeing you learn new things...rolling, sitting up, eating, and in the past few weeks, walking. Your face lights up when you realize you have accomplished something--your pride just shines!

Your absolute favorite thing to do is play with your siblings. You think they hung the moon. You were clearly not designed to be an only child...in fact, when it's just you and me, you seem completely bored. You look for Barnes, Frances and Shepherd and smile your biggest smile when they come in the room.

You love your dad. Now that we are nursing a little less, you whine for him as soon as you see him. Though you spent most of your first year as a momma's boy, you now prefer to split your time about 50/50.

You are walking like a champ! You can wobble across a whole room, and you are getting braver and more sure of yourself each day.

You love riding toys. We got you a car for your first birthday because you kept stealing your siblings cozy coupe's. You love climbing in and out, and you especially love it when Barnes or Frances pushes you.

You are still not a huge fan of sleeping. Though you usually sleep through the night now, you are a bit of a challenge to get down, and you are still not a terribly good napper. I joke that you are always afraid you will miss something, but I honestly believe it's true. You want to be in the middle of everything all the time. You are definitely not content to watch life from the sidelines.

You give the sweetest little hugs. You lay your head on my shoulder and just keep it there for a few seconds. It's one of my absolute favorite things.

You still like to nurse a few times a day. I am so thankful for the hours I have spent feeding you this year. You will never know what a joy and privilege it has been. I love that I am what you fall asleep to at night and wake up to in the morning. I know that our nursing relationship will be ending soon, but I can truly say that it's one of the most special things I have gotten to experience in my life.

Ellis, you are such a doll. You are a climber, an adventurer, and a ball full of energy. I could write about you forever, but the most important thing is this--you are loved. You are loved by me (mom), your dad, your sister and brothers, your grandparents, your whole family, so many friends, and most importantly, by God. God loves you so, and I pray that over your life you will come to know Him and His deep love. I pray that, by God's grace, you will grow into a kind, gentle, servant-hearted man who is marked by compassion and empathy. I pray that I will be the mother you need, that I will love you well and ask forgiveness when necessary, modeling a life-giving relationship to you.

Sweet Ellis, thank you for being my baby, now and always.

Love you so very much,

while in Florida for our nephew's first communion, we made a quick detour to celebrate with Mickey...
your last baby only turns one once!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

my princess boys

As we stood in line for our reservation at Cinderella's table, my three big kids shimmied into their costumes--a Cinderella dress, a Rapunzel dress, and a Snow White dress. The family in front of us looked a bit puzzled. The Disney workers, of course, didn't bat an eye. Yes, we brought three princesses to eat at the castle, two of whom were boys.

Barnes loves his Cinderella dress. We gave it to him for Christmas because he had outgrown his old one. This one is "fancier" than the last, with sparkles and pearls and a little photo. He thinks it's the most beautiful gown in the world.

Shepherd returned from Disney World smitten with Belle. Yellow is his favorite color, and he just HAD to have a Belle dress. He literally asked multiple times each day when he could get a Belle dress. So shortly after our return, Andrew drove to Target after bedtime one night to surprise him in the morning. It's now his most prized possession.

At least three times a week we play princesses. Sometimes it's a princess tea party, sometimes princess super heroes, sometimes a dance party, and sometimes a sword fight. No matter the scenario, though, we don our dresses, gloves, shoes, crowns, and occasionally extra jewelry.

Why do we play princesses? Because that is what my kids choose. With an assortment of dress up options presented to them, they choose the princesses almost every time. It makes them happy. It makes them feel special. It ignites their imagination.

Do we care that our boys like to dress up as princesses? Not one bit. Honestly. Not at all. First of all, they are kids. We want them to have fun and explore and not worry about worldly expectations. Second of all, I firmly believe that allowing them to dress as princesses now will have no affect on who they become (other than to possibly make them more loving and accepting, which would be awesome). If our children are gay, they are already gay. If one of my boys still wants to wear dresses in 5 years or 10 years, he was going to want to wear them no matter what we played.

So what's my point here? Every so often, I print this blog into a book. While I enjoy writing, this entire endeavor is primarily a love letter to my children. I hope that one day they will look back and be able to relive their childhood through my words. That they will gain insight into the choices we made as parents and who Andrew and I were as people. Most of all, though, I hope that they will be able to hold these pages and see how much they have always been loved.


To Barnes and Shepherd (and Ellis when you're old enough to dress up)-- One day you may look back at pictures of yourselves in princess regalia and be embarrassed. Or one day you may look back and laugh. Or perhaps you will see your true self in these old photos. No matter, here's what I want you to know. From the day you were born, your dad and I have loved you without reservation. We adore you. We know that God created you, and that who you are is exactly who you were intended to be. There is nothing you could be or do that would make us love you more or less--you already have our whole hearts. Right now, you think that sparkly dresses are special and beautiful. Your dad and I think that you are special and beautiful. Whether you keep donning these gowns for 30 more years or decide next week that "boys don't wear dresses," we couldn't love you more. It's been an honor having dinner with princesses so many evenings, and it will continue to be for as long as you choose.