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


Dear Ruthea,

I guess it’s going to get more crowded in the girls’ room with the new addition of little Kate. But I’m sure that you will be excited to have another sister-playmate. You were probably too small to help much with Rebecca when she was born, but now that you are six years old, almost seven, this will be a great chance to learn about taking care of a baby and help out Momma when you can. But also, you are going to have to be a little bit more independent and work harder on your school work, because Momma will have to spend a lot of one on one time with Kate, a newborn just needs more attention. I think it’s going to be interesting or fascinating to see how Kate’s personality fits in, with you being the outdoors best friend type, and Rebecca being the independent strong-willed child. It seems like you and Rebecca seem to be polar opposites, I guess that just goes with sisters. If one likes pink best, the other one is going to prefer purple. You like to catch lizards and be outside, while Rebecca hates to touch the fish she catches.

We had a fun time playing t-ball this year. Daddy is very happy that you know all your field positions, that you field the ball and throw it to first base, and when you hit you run as hard as you can. You did very good for me as your coach. You helped pick up equipment, listened to me when I tried to explain things to everybody, which is important because sometimes the coach’s daughter doesn’t always do what she’s told (Rebecca). There will be some changes next year, because it will be your first year of softball instead of t-ball. So not only will you be pitched to, but you’ll be hitting and fielding a much larger ball. Momma found a bike for a good price so we bought you a bike, and got you some training wheels. You picked out a Ninja Turtle helmet. You’ve started riding your bike, but we’ll have to work on your strength, particularly riding up hill. The other day, Momma went walking with you with your bikes, and she had to walk really slow for y’all to keep up.

Your fishing skills have very much improved. I guess it helped to live for a year near a canal to practice in the evenings. Aunt Manna got you a new fishing rod, your first real rod. We had fun doing the Belle Glade children’s fishing tournament. A few weeks ago, when you, me, and Mr. Perry went fishing in his boat, I think you had more fun playing with the fish in the live well. You are good at picking up worms and touching them, but we need to teach you how to bait your own hook, that would free up time for me to do some actual fishing, but also help me to focus more on helping all you kids get your fish on the bank after you catch them.

You and Rebecca are sharing your own room in our first house that we’ve actually owned. And of course your excited because you got the two things you asked for a purple room with a chandelier. You also have a faerie garden in the back yard, but since you’ve been gone for 3 weeks, it might be faerie woods by now. You were very excited and worked very hard on your faerie garden. You put in lots of different fun plants like the hibiscus tree, you put down rocks and mulch to help with the weeds. You did a very good job.

We had another full year of homeschooling. Momma says you are improving on your math, that you are really starting to take off on your reading skills. I know sometimes when I spell out words to Momma that you are starting to sound it out, which is not very good… for me. Now, I have to come up with another code or spell the word very fast so that you can’t hear all the letters. I’m going to need you to start being a big sister, and helping out with Kate. I know you help out with lunch for everyone a lot of times. With Kate being so young, Momma’s going to need some additional extra help around the house.

I think the biggest thing we need to work on this year, is for you to be nicer to your sister Rebecca. I know y’all are very different from each other, but it’s important that you have a good relationship with your sisters. They can be your best friends and strongest supporters. It hurts Daddy and concerns me when I come home from work, and Momma tells me that you and Rebecca have been fighting and bickering all day. With you being the oldest, it’s your responsibility to be kind to your sister. We will try to work on Rebecca as well to be more loving. One of the big changes we had this year is that you joined the Church. You also got to participate in your first communion last Sunday at Mt. Olive. It makes Daddy very happy to see that you try to pay attention, that you try to pay attention to our Bible reading and take notes during preaching. I think you like the book of Ruth a little too much. With joining the Church, there are a lot of great things that go along with that – closer fellowship with the Lord, kinship with people who are not naturally your family, but who can be closer spiritually than your own siblings. But there are a few things that are now our responsibilities as members of the Church – work together, serve others, spending time in prayer, and living our life in a way that would honor our savior the Lord Jesus Christ. You seem very happy and excited when you got baptized, you smiled so very big. I hope you will remember and enjoy your baptism for years to come.

We love you, Ruth, and hope that you keep that tender heart and giving spirit that you show quite often.


Happy Father's Day to Me

Good Morning, Britt,

Eight years old, wow. Momma’s too young for an eight year old. We are in our brand new house, and to your disappointment you have your own room. You have a room full of Transformers, super heroes, angry birds, all of your American flag and Texas stuff. It’s all in one room for you.

The biggest new change in our life, is that you are again a big brother. This time to Katherine Hope – Kate! I knew you were excited to hopefully have a brother, but we are thankful to at least be blessed with a healthy baby girl. This gives you the opportunity to be really helpful to Momma. Whether that’s just as simple as throwing away diapers, or picking up the floor so that Kate doesn’t choke on anything, or keep her entertained like you did when Ruth and Rebecca were little. It will be interesting to see how you interact with the youngest being 8 years apart. But I think you’ll be a great brother, just like you have been to Ruth and Rebecca. I think this coming year you’ll be able to help her eat, maybe change some diapers, read to her, and tell her stories. I think this will be an opportunity to grow and mature, to be more of a leader. I think if you can be a good example, particularly with Rebecca, you can help a lot.

We’ve had another year of baseball. For the first time we had you and both of the girls playing t-ball, and Lord help us, Daddy being the coach for t-ball. I personally didn’t get to work much with you on baseball, because I coached your sisters’ team, but you continue to show improvement in your throwing and hitting. We still need to work on catching and not being scared of the baseball. You’ve started riding your bike in the last few months. Maybe this year we’ll get the training wheels off.

You’ve had another full year of homeschool. And you continue to do great in your math. And you have improved considerably on your handwriting. When you can focus, your reading too has improved. I would like you though when Momma works with you on school, that you focus and try to do your school work efficiently. So, that you can have more fun doing fun things like science projects or playing outside or getting on the wii. That would also give Momma more time to help Ruth and Rebecca with their school projects.

There are things we want to work on this year. We want to focus your energy and excitement on improving your reading. Momma tells me that this time last year you were only reading short vowels and learning long vowels. Now she tells me that you have learned all the phonics rules, that you just need practice for speed and fluency. We know you have lots of energy and a great imagination. I think it’s important that we help you focus that on something constructive. Another thing we want to really work on this year, is our volume inside the house. There is now going to be four kids in the house, and it’s going to be important to try to not holler and scream, particularly so you don’t wake the baby, but also to be courteous of one another. If you can keep your voice down inside the house or car, then that means Rebecca won’t be trying to scream even louder to be heard over you and Ruth.

We love you son, and look forward to tackling the changes and challenges coming down the road. It’s also exciting and fun to be able to do bigger things with you like fishing or camping.