Monday, August 14, 2017

7 Years with Ruth

Happy Birthday, Ruthea!

This year we are spending your birthday in Alabama.  You loved the idea.  Asking to spend the day playing croquet with Grumps and Ahna, Unca Benji, Unca Matthew, Grandmother and Granddaddy, Unca Nick and Aunt Alex and Knox, and Unca Clint, Aunt Melanie, and Aunt Maghen.  You wanted to then go to Applebee's with all of them and have birthday cake.  It's not going to work out the way you wanted, between the rain and everyone else having to work.  But I hope you have a fun day anyway.


You are growing so much.  We packed up all the size 6 clothing a couple of weeks.  All the tops were getting too tight and short.  You played t-ball again this year, and really enjoyed it.  Daddy was your coach, and you were one of the best on the team.  You are also learning to ride your bike with training wheels.  You made such strides this last year in school.  You and Britt are starting on the third grade math book when we start back to school in 2 weeks.  You have learned all the phonics rules for reading, and are picking out more and more phrases when we are out and about or when you see signs on the tv.  You have also finally quit taking naps during the day.  This year I suspect we'll be starting speech therapy back, because I feel like you really need it.

9-6, School
4-5, School

You are still my sunshine, and when you are happy you can light up a room.  You seem to find joy in every day things, which is something you already surpass me in.  You love the rain and to run and play in it.  You love lizards and have named all of the ones at our house.  You never cease to believe that one day your Daddy will let you have a black and white kitten that you will name mittens.  But when you are mad (like you are at the moment) it is like a thunderstorm of epic proportions.  When you think you have been slighted in some way, you will stay made for ages, with your fist clenched, a look of pure rage on your face, but not making a sound.
3-6, Showing a Lamb at the Strawberry Festival
You still have a tender heart for others.  Something in you that I never cease to be amazed about.  A few weeks ago, you met a new little girl just a couple months younger than you, you wanted to go up to her and talk to her and be her friend, because you said she must be lonely being new here.  When you overheard that her momma and daddy had just gotten a divorce, you told me that she couldn't imagine how sad she'd be if her momma and daddy didn't live together anymore, and that your new friend would need extra love.  You seem to be so sensitive to the feelings of others.  By the same token though, it seems to be easy to hurt your feelings.  I suppose it comes with your sensitivity to others.  Sometimes the smallest things seem to set you off, and leave you in tears for days.  I have great sympathy for you in this.  We rarely seem to know how easily we can hurt others, even though we don't mean to.

3-30, Our Egyptian Supper

The two biggest change in you this year were joining the Church and becoming a big sister yet again.  In December you began almost out of nowhere taking notes, and asking about being a Church member.  In January you were baptized, and ever since then have been so happy about Church things.  Your desire to join the Church and serve others has brought your Daddy and I more joy than you can imagine.  We have also had a roller coast year finding out that we were going to have another baby, finding out that our baby would be another sister, being scared of the possibility of losing another baby, to finally bringing her home.  You were overjoyed that she looked like you.  You have high hopes for her.  Love to baby her, talk to her, and hold her.  You don't even mind helping me change diapers.

5-25, Meeting Kate

We also bought our first home in the last year.  Since that time you have designed and bought plants to make your own fairy garden, with very little input from me.  You have done alot of fishing with Daddy and are even beginning to help him clean fish.  You are sharing a room with Rebecca, one that you helped chose things for -  a purple fairy room with a real crystal chandelier.

4-1, Ruth's fish.
Ruth in some ways you are so old for your age, in others you are obviously still our little girl.  We love you so much, and are thankful that we get to raise you.  Daddy and I love you.


4-16, Easter Sunday.
8-14, With her hair up in braids.

Monday, July 24, 2017

2 Months with Katherine


Today, though it hardly seems possible, you are two months old.  Or at least you will be in 12 hours, but I don't think we'll make you wait till your birth minute for your happy birthdays.  You are such a content baby.  You fuss very little and only in the evenings.  You love to be held, and even though your brother and sisters are back, I try to make as much time for cuddling as possible.  You really love the swing, and anytime you are fussy in the evenings and nothing else will help, we put you in there.  Some nights you sleep in the swing.  You don't mind riding in the car,and usually fall asleep pretty quickly.  You seem to like the vibration.  You like baths, and you really love to have your hair washed and then brushed.  I brush it every morning, just to watch you move your head around and grin like it's the best feeling in the world.  You also like to lay on the changing pad, and look at yourself in the mirror while I change you.  Sometimes you look from your reflection to mine, as if trying to figure out who those people are.

7-24, Happy 2 Months, Baby Doll!
You still don't have much of a routine.  Most nights you are sleeping through the night.  If you go down too early for the night you wake up to eat in the early morning hours.  But for the most part we are getting you down between 10 and midnight and you are staying down till somewhere between 6:30 and 8:30.  In the mornings, you still eat and go back to sleep, but you are usually up for the day around 10.  You don't usually eat again till noon or 1, and then sleep until mid-afternoon.  Sometimes you go back to sleep a little bit, and sometimes you stay awake till you eat again.  But you are always awake from about 5ish till bedtime.

I'm a little concerned already as to whether or not I'm producing enough for you to eat.  In the evenings in particular, you are more fussy, and often seem to be on and off eating for the rest of the night.  But you never seem to be particularly satisfied.  You had gained weight at your 1 month appointment, and grown 2.5 inches.  I'll be curious to see how you've grown on Friday at your doctor's appointment.  I have packed up the newborn onesies this past week, and some of the 0-3 month sleepers.  I'm starting to use the 0-6, sleeping gowns on you, because even though you seem to be very long, you aren't that wide, so you just seem to swim in the bigger sleepers.

You have the biggest smile in the world, it seems to take up your entire face, and you coo at us alot these days.  You still grunt quite a bit too, but I'm still waiting to hear that first laugh.  You smile most, when we sing to you.  And you seem to find your siblings funny faces and voices amusing, because you smile for them alot.  They are all convinced you are trying to say "hi" back to them.   They will lean over and say hi, and giggle and talk to you, and you coo back with a sound that almost sounds like an "i".

You had two other firsts this month.  You had your first beach trip to Anna Maria Island.  You mostly napped, but seemed to like the water.  I guess it was just like a giant bathtub, but with us to hold you.  You also, went to your first Rays game this past weekend.  Everyone complimented, your "retro" onesie.  You didn't nurse well while we were there, every noise had you turning and looking around.  You seemed really interested in all the sounds and lights though.

You really detest laying on your stomach, and you still aren't a fan of laying flat on your back.  We have propped up the cradle mattress by putting blankets with all of you kids, but we also have a crib wedge from Sis. Lydia that we are using with you.  Otherwise, you won't stay in your crib for your afternoon naps.  The only time that you will lay in the floor is when I get out a few of your toys and let your siblings play with them by you.  Even then you will only lay on your back not your stomach, and then only to watch them for a short time.  So, as you might have guessed, you aren't rolling over any yet, because you won't spend anytime laying down to practice it. ha!

But that's just fine, since it's a very real possibility that you will be our last baby, I'm content to baby you for a while yet.  No, rush for you to start racing through milestones.  Rebecca was insistent on doing everything as early as possible, you don't have to follow her lead in that.  Even though you seem to fit so perfectly into our lives, as if you've always been here, the newness hasn't worn off.  You are adored and loved by everyone in this family.

I love you,

Saturday, July 08, 2017


We had a wonderful day today.  Bro. Mark Quarrels was blessed with a really amazing sermon.  Kate slept through the entire thing, so I got to focus and take notes.  Gary and I had a great visit over lunch with two of my favorite people Bro. Randy and Sis. Paula, no matter what we are talking about I never fail to feel better about life after being around them, and they are always good for laugh.  We also got to visit with the Quarrels over lunch.  We then took the kids over to the Lakeland Fun Center between services.  A lot of the other families went, so we got to visit with more of our Church family, and other Church friends from Sister Churches that we don't get to see too often.

The best part was tonight though by far.  Though it is always a somber service, I came especially full of thanksgiving, because of the blessing of Kate.  For the first time in my life though I've seen both of the ordinances of the Church in one service.  We had two join the Church this morning.  And we were able to see Brother Chris baptize them, and then straight away enter into communion service.  Which was really joyful.  But then, for the first time I sat in communion with my daughter and I was surprised just how moving it was.  Ruth's first time, was last month while she was in Alabama.  We had talked about the service before, and she's seen it many times.  But getting to wash feet with her tonight, was unexpectedly emotional.  And it made me think of the times I've been privileged to wash feet with my Mother, and I wondered if it struck her like this.

Here was this sweet little girl, that what seems like a very short time ago I was holding in Tampa General.  A tiny, very round, helpless baby with dark hair.  This little girl who has grown from being able to do nothing on her own, to a girl who more than any child I've ever met is selfless and giving, who tonight was washing my feet.  After I washed her feet I told her that I loved her.  That I thank God He gave her to us, that I get to be her Momma.  That I'm thankful for her sweetheart, for her giving spirit.  I'm thankful that she loves the Lord, that she chose to follow Him.  That I hope she always choose to follow Him.  It was really beautiful service tonight, and my heart is just overflowing.

Letter to My Wife

I love you honey.

I try to show you everyday even through I fail often to be a better husband.  You always seem to think that you are a burden or a cause for distress.  But you are my greatest blessing in life.  You are a godly mother and a great wife to us.  When I was looking for a wife I had certain standards or qualities that I was looking for.  I wanted someone who loved the Lord and his church as much as I did.  I wanted someone who knew what she believed and understood the scriptures.  I wanted someone who is kind and sweet.  I wanted someone who needed to be in church not just going because your father told you to. I wanted someone who turned me on, who I passionately love and want.  Honey you meet and exceed these qualities  I am so blessed to have such a loving and Godly wife.  I love you more now than Ten and half years ago when we first met.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

1 Month with Katherine

My beautiful Katherine,

You are 1 month old today!  And the time has flown.  I love this newborn period, and you have been no exception.  I love the warm cuddly feeling of having you on my chest tucked up under my chin.  I love the excuse to just sit and cuddle all day long.  Seriously we have been doing laundry once a week, and washing dishes every other day, and that's been it.

You don't really have a routine yet.  I am hoping you'll find one pretty quickly after your siblings get back, because it will help the craziness stay to a minimum.  So far you have spent the afternoons alternating between quietly alert and cat naps.  As the evening comes on, and Daddy gets home from work, you have several hours of on again off again eating and insisting on being held.  You don't like to be put down that time of day.  Despite all of our best efforts, we aren't getting you to bed, till after you eat between 12:30 and 1.  Though twice this week we managed to get you down around 11:20.  You wake up once or twice to eat between then and Daddy leaving for work.  Then you eat and sleep hard from then till around 10:30 or 11.  And I go right back to bed with you, piling up pillows on Daddy's side of the bed, to block all the sun light that streams in the big windows by my desk.  For the obvious reason, that your siblings will not sleep till 11 am, this isn't going to work for us long term.

You seem to have a fairly laid back personality.  You don't really like laying flat, whether that's on your belly or back.  You prefer the rocking cradle or being propped up with a pillow on the bed, or laying on my chest.  You really love to sit in the swing during the day.  You have been a good rider in the car.  In fact the only night in the last month that you've gone to bed at a decent time, was last Sunday night when you went to sleep in the car seat and stayed asleep till 3 am.  We just brought you in and let you sleep in the car seat.  You seem to eat well, though it's fairly short and frequent burst.  You don't mind having your clothes or diaper changed.  You don't seem to mind baths.  You love to have your hair brushed, and to hold on to my finger when I'm holding you.  You are smiling more, and I think you might be figuring out how to do it on your own, not just as a reflex, or involuntary thing.  You don't coo or laugh yet, but you do grunt alot.  You are growing, as I have had to put away the newborn sleepers this week, and we moved up to size 1 diapers on Sunday.  You are trying your best to figure out rolling over, and often when you are on our bed, you work your way onto your side and sleep that way.

Though you may feel like an only child, I have promised you this week that you aren't really.  In someways this is alot like when Britt was born - only having one child to take care of.  And lots of quiet down time in the day between feedings, during naps.  But you really have it better than he did.  Back then I still felt like a kid pretending to be an adult most days, and we didn't have a clue what we were doing as new parents.  This time around, we have been so much more low key and after raising the other 3, we have more confidence in our parenting skills/style.  Plus I have the good sense now to take naps with you, and just do what really needs doing around here, not try to catch up on every project or clean everything under the sun.

I've told you about your siblings, but I will again.  You only have one brother, but Momma thinks he's pretty special.  Britt has always been remarkable good with his sisters, I don't think you'll be any exception.  In fact, he's already asked if you can sleep in his room once you start sleeping at night.  He is loving and affectionate.  He likes to sing and has the best imagination.  He wants to take care of others, fight off the bad guys, and share everything he knows.  I'm sure he'll start teaching you about dinosaurs and superheros as soon as he gets home.

Ruth is the oldest of you girls.  She more than any child I've ever met has a giving spirit and a tender heart.  Don't get me wrong, she can be just as stubborn and ornery as the rest, but she wants to do things for others, worries about the feelings of others, and spends her time trying to come up with surprises for others.  She loves anything to do with art and creating things -  drawing, painting, planning a faerie garden.  She's especially happy that you look so much like her.

Rebecca is the wild card, you never know what to expect with her.  She can be loving - hugging on you and serenading you one minute, and then in the next second she can be angry - yelling, stomping and telling you that she doesn't "like you at all."  She is alot of fun, and she has been looking forward to your arrival more than any of the others.  She has talked to you and sung to you the last several months every morning.  She is convinced that you will "be the best sister ever, way better than Ruth."

You have one more sister, one that I only told you about on Sunday.  One who came before you, but who you can't see.  Abigail was born almost two years before you, but she couldn't stay with us.  We have no idea what she would have been like, but I'm sure that she would have been as wonderful and unique as each of you children have been.  She's burried at Little Union, and I like to walk out to see her when I particularly miss her or it's a special occasion.  One day I'm sure we'll get to meet her too.

Katherine, you are the baby.  And while, you have all been very special, very much wanted children, you might be a little better appreciated than your siblings have been.  Britt is my boy.  Ruth we call Sunshine, and Rebecca Starshine.  But you, you are our Rainbow.  And, Momma and Daddy love you so very much.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It is Well

For almost a year now, I've been coloring in a coloring book that Joan Ellen found for me.  It has the words to "It is Well, With My Soul" in them.  Each phrase has an accompanying picture.  Most of them have been nature pictures, which are always my favorite.  I have trouble just sitting still.  I have always wanted to have a book to read, or sit and crochet in the car.  Even just sitting with Gary in the evenings when he is watching tv, I feel like I need to keep my hands occupied.  Lately I've been doing that by coloring.

I stress alot and over think things, so the coloring has often been more than just keeping my hands busy.  It's been a good stress relief.  Some days I've just sat and colored and watched tv with Gary, it's been just something to do.  Other days, I've sat and colored and talked to God when I'm missing Abigail or been worried about Katherine.  A few times it was just a good time for me to sit and try to not worry about whatever I was worrying about, or to at least organize in my head what I was stressing over and then put it away in there.

I've been through alot with this coloring book.  We grieved Abigail.  Gary decided that we should buy a house, and I eventually came around to his idea.  We searched for a house while I worked on this.  We found out that we were pregnant again during this book.  We found a house and endured the ridiculously long back and forth to buy the house.  After taking a long break during which I poured alot of time and work into the house, coloring helped me deal with the anxiety of pregnancy.  And now, finally the last couple of pages have been completed after bringing Katherine home from the hospital.

Monday, June 19, 2017

My First Letter to the Newest Cunningham


You are almost 1 month old.  We are so happy and thankful that you are here... finally.  Momma has been worried a long time.  You were our first birth at night, coming at 11:30 at night.  Daddy thought you'd stall out and not come till after midnight, but you kept rushing on out.  It's been nice and quite since you've been born, except when you want to eat at 1 in the morning.  You see all your siblings, especially the loud ones have been up in N. Alabama with your Grumps and Ahna.  But that will change in a week, as they bring home the grandkids.

I can't tell anything about what your attitude or demeanor will be.  You seem to be calm for the most part.  You are starting to get more and more facial expressions.  You are starting to smile a little more here and there.  You wave your tongue back and forth and stick it out.  You have been very good at riding in the car seat for us.  We've made a long trip and a few couple hour trips, and you seem to travel pretty good for us.  Which is going to be very important in about 3 more weeks, as we are going to be taking your first long road trip - to Texas.  With us taking such a long trip, we hope that you will be able to ride so that we can enjoy driving through the countryside.  Momma's real excited because this will be our first vacation trip together as a family.

You are definitely going to make things different around the house - having a newborn, homeschoolers, and one just causing trouble.  I hope the kids are excited about helping Momma take care of you.  When Britt, Ruth, and Rebecca gets back here, all this wonderful peace and quiet will be extinct like the dinosaurs.   In fact, we might have to buy you some baby ear plugs to sleep with.

There will be alot of changes for me and Momma as well.  It's been a long time since we've had to change diapers, dress someone top to bottom, and hand feed someone.  It's going to take us a little longer to pack everything up, because when it comes to babies, it requires extra equipment.  We bought a larger vehicle just so we could carry more children, than our old little Sportage could.  And it's still not enough room.

In the next year there will be so many changes for you that it's not even worth listing.  A great trait to start out with though is to be loving with others.  You can show them that you love them not just in words, but in actions and deeds.  Loving also sometimes means you have to do hard things, things you don't want to do, but you do them because you care about someone.  I write these letters every year, just because I love you.  Being loving also means sometimes you look over others faults and failures.  You look for the good, and it makes you a better person.  You will have plenty of opportunities to practice this over the years with three older siblings.  The best example when it comes to loving, is Jesus.  Not only did He love us unconditionally, but He died so that we could live and love with Him.

We love you, Kate.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

To Trouble From Trouble Maker


Well, things have changed a lot since my last letter 15 months ago. You are definitely becoming a big girl, in fact you don’t like being called a little girl or a baby, even though up until 3 weeks ago you were the baby of the family. You still are the slowest eater of the group, but you are definitely the least picky. You are our fruit bat of the family, you eat more fruit than anyone else in the family. Now, being much older, you have more responsibilities. On a daily basis you wash dishes, Momma dries them and puts them up for you. We still need to work on you actually helping with picking up on the back porch and in your bedroom. You might pick up one item, but then play with the next which actually defeats the purpose of you picking up. It’s quite obvious that your last name is Cunningham, because you are very strong-willed and hard headed. It can be a good thing, but it causes quite a bit of friction between you and Ruth.

You are no longer the baby of the family though. You have the new responsibility of being a big sister to Kate. You are still a bit on the small side, to help Momma with daily things and the baby. But you can help by doing your normal chores (washing dishes, cleaning your room, making your bed) without complaining. It’s going to be interesting to see with you and Ruth being different from each other, how Kate will fit in. I’m always surprised just how different all of you children are.

You try to always show just how much bigger you are. You get upset when Britt and Ruth can do something like a certain ride at the fair, but not you because of your height. You seem to enjoy casting your blue fish in the water, and reeling it up again. You’ve gotten very good at it. You’ve also gotten better at riding your big wheel and the tricycle. This year was your first year of t-ball. But it seemed to be difficult to keep you motivated and interested in playing, unless you were batting or playing “in the middle” (what you called pitcher’s mound). To be honest, you were my most difficult player to coach this year. You were one of the youngest, but because I was your father, you just ignored me, or did the opposite of what I said, as the mood took you. You also have your very own butterfly garden full of weeds to attract butterflies. You told Momma what you wanted and she helped you find the right kinds of plants, that you then picked from.

You still have one more year of freedom from real school, or homeschool, enjoy it. The little bit of school work you have been doing is learning to trace the alphabet, and coloring pictures that go with the letter like coloring a boat for letter b. Numbers on the other hand, need much more work. You always leave out the number 5 when counting. You beg to do school, and on days that you don’t want to wash dishes Momma threatens you “Fine, then I’m not going to let you do school.” And you cry. You are right there at the age, where things are going to start changing quite a bit – school work and education, more responsibilities, and those things aren’t fun, but there are also things like learning to ride a bike, learning to fish, being a big sister, getting to ride roller coasters, or being able to drive on your own in a bumper car.

There are some things that I want you to work on for next year. The biggest one is patience. You seem to get very frustrated and aggravated, when someone isn’t immediately there and attentive. With Kate coming along, Momma will have to provide her with a lot of attention to care for her. I want you to have more patience particularly with your sister Ruth. It concerns Daddy when I come home and hear that you and she have been fighting on a regular basis. Another major thing that I want us to work on this year, is to use our inside voices – to whisper. I know that our family can be very loud, and that we can have fun and laugh, but it’s also important to not be so loud that you are hollering or screaming at the top of your lungs.

I love the way that you come up to people and tell them that you love them. It’s sweet, a bit manipulative, but sweet. I love that it doesn’t take much to make you laugh and smile. I like the way that you seem to just bounce when you move from one thing to the next with lots of happiness and energy. You seem to be a very happy little girl. Stay out of Trouble.

We love you,
Daddy aka Trouble Maker