Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Howell Cordell Beach Fest

After going to the beach with the Cordell family for the last thirty years, this was going to be the first time that the Howell family didn't go.  My mom had cancelled our reservation because of my due date, which is why we went to Seagrove in April for a week as a family.  After all the events that transpired, Clay and I thought it would be good for us, and for George especially, to take a little vacation.

I'll go through the week in case you don't follow me on instagram :)
We got down to the beach on Sunday afternoon.  While we were unpacking, George found his way into Katie's room.  He came out absolutely BEAMING with this little Woody get-up on.  I mean...could there be a cuter cowboy in existence?

After we got unpacked, it was that magical beach hour when the sun is behind the buildings but it's still daylight.  The kids ran all over the beach and got so excited about what we would do the next day.

George is in absolute heaven at the beach with his dad.

The only family picture of the three of us!

Everyone except Scooter and Pop.  Saty was behind the camera.

We had a few rainy mornings, but the place we stayed had an AWESOME indoor pool.  I think George liked it just as much as the outdoor pool because there were little ledges all around the pool that he could jump off of and swim around on his own.  He's become quite the little swimmer this summer.

Clay FINALLY made it to Doc's for dinner.  After coming to the beach off and on for the last thirteen years, he's never actually eaten at Doc's.  Dreams came true.

Pop gets excited about few things the way he does a Big 'Un from Doc's.

This was taken on Wednesday (I think...) just before we rented a sea kayak.  It was such a beautiful day and we packed as much fun into it as possible!  Somehow I don't have any pictures from the actual kayaking activity- but it was so fun!

Wednesday afternoon Pop, Clay and I went deep sea fishing.  Thanks to this little patch, Clay was able to actually enjoy it.

We had SO much fun being out on the water!  Here Pop is reeling in a mackerel of sorts.

These are two of our eight fish we caught.  We've never done an activity like this on our weekly beach trip, but it was such a great way to shake up the normal beach routine.  It was pretty mindless fishing- and we were able to just relax on the boat and hang out just the three of us.  While we absolutely love being at the beach with George, there's also something really wonderful about uninterrupted adult time.

Thanks for such a fun memory, Pop!

Meanwhile, back at the condo...Saty is up to all kinds of tricks of her own.  Here she is in the tunnel, and George and Rogers are going bananas over her.  The two of them would just sit outside her bedroom door calling for her while she was getting ready for the beach.  Those boys LOVE their Saty, and I can see why!  She makes the beach all about them, and what would be the most fun for everyone else.

For about a Dolphin Cruise?!  
While we were deep sea fishing, Saty, Katie, and Erie took the kids on a Dolphin Cruise.
I think this picture is pretty sweet.


They even got to catch little fishies of their own while they were waiting on the dolphins.

Since we had cancelled our condo reservation, the Howell's stayed at the Turquoise Place about 4 miles down the road from where the Cordell's stayed.  It was so sad not to be in the same building as the Cordell crew, but we made the best of it.  Here is just about everyone for a Generation 2 dinner at the Cordell condo.

Since Bradley and Sara are in town this summer from Ukraine, I had to make my special cookies for them.  Sara had baby Ben just two weeks before this trip, so we tried to pack in as much of the 'beach experience' for her since they are headed back to Ukraine in mid-September.

George sleeps REALLY hard at the beach.  He woke up with some crazy bed head, and this one was my favorite.  I love morning snuggles with my Georgie.

The kids would tolerate the beach as much as they could, but everyone can only take so much sand, salty water, watching our for jellyfish, etc.  These kids came alive at the pool.  Here, Rogers is demonstrating his 'cannonball'.  He would yell 'CANNONBA--' but wouldn't get to finish the word because his belly flop would interrupt it.  He just kept doing belly flop after belly flop.  It was hilarious.

Here, Saty and Clay have Rogers and George on their shoulders.  Yes...that would be a grandmother with a three year old on her shoulders.  As I said before- Saty's goal at the beach is for everyone else to have the best possible time.

Something about this picture just makes me laugh so hard.  Savannah has the bubble gun going full blast, Owens is trying to pop each individual bubble, and George is in an absolute euphoric state because he is just about enclosed in bubbles.  

Saty and Georgie!

I call this...Ping Pong Georgie.
Notice George is holding on tightly to this little Elmo Car.  He never let it go.  This tossing of George back and forth went on for so long that I was able to get my camera out and take a video of it for about 15 seconds.  George could have gone on all day, but Scooter and Clay's arms got a little tired.

Sara, baby Ben (in the bjorn) Becca, George and me on the beach in front of the Cordell condo.

George, Clay, Kevin and Lucy

All-in-all, it was a good trip.  It was the first time that Clay and I had really been around people for any extended amount of time, and it's been good to learn how to do that again.  We had some hard moments, and some really really fun ones, too.  But for where we were in this season of life, I think a getaway was just what we needed.  

Thanks for such an awesome week, Saty and Pop!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Finding Joy

After two weeks of being a pretend stay-at-home dad, Clay went back to work at the beginning of August.  I know he must think George and I live the life between going to the zoo, McWane Center, daily park visits, and more lunch dates than I can count (or probably should confess to...).  And the truth is, we do have the sweetest life.  And I will be forever thankful for the way Clay provides for our family so I can stay home, and not miss a second of it.  There is nowhere I would rather be.

We went to the beach all last week...that's for another post altogether.  And then Monday came.  This was the most dreaded day for me, because Clay was going back to work 'for real', and George was starting 'school'.  I was bracing myself for George to cling to my hand, or crawl up my legs for me to hold him.  I knew he'd just fall apart when I said goodbye.  I was 100% convinced that it would be the most emotional separation for both of us- for so many reasons- so I asked Clay to come and 'help me'.  

It could not have been more opposite of what I was anticipating.  We got to George's classroom, and George let go of my hand without even looking back.  He went up to a girl who was in his class last year and even said 'hey' to her.  I looked at Clay, and felt so silly that I thought George was so attached to me that he would have an emotional come-apart without me by his side.

We walked out, and I realized that maybe I was the one with attachment issues.  

Who wouldn't have attachment issues with this kiddo?  
I mean...his love for life makes me so, so happy. 

So, the fog is lifting.  I think we will miss Nan for the rest of our lives, but we are learning how to function, and possibly- one day- thrive in our little family.  I'd say George has restored so much of our 'normalcy', for lack of a better word.  He's taught us how to laugh- really laugh- again.  He reminds us daily that we have to cling to the Lord now more than ever.  He is the most tangible evidence of God's love and mercy to us.  

Maybe it's because we've both been around him for such a concentrated amount of time, but there is a whole new slew of 'George Quirks' and catch phrases he's developed.  I thought I'd record them somewhere so as not to forget them.  

 George loves his friends.  That love is the same for human friends as it is for his stuffed friends.  Every morning he gets to pick one 'friend' to take out of his bed to go with us throughout the day.  You'd think I was asking him to cut the others in half with the way he agonizes over who he'll take that day.  As you can see in the picture above, on this day, I didn't care how many friends he took out.  So he decided that no friend would be left behind, and I think the joy in his face says it all.

 Again, pure joy that he can have both Woody and Buzz together.  

 I think we might have a problem here.

 George has gotten really into...girls.
He has some friends that are girls, and he loves them all.  I didn't think it was a big deal until all he could remember from Peter Pan was Tinkerbell.  And he knows how to say her name exactly, which I would think would be a pretty hard word to say for an almost-two-year-old.
We also saw a girl at Shoal Creek who was a nanny for some kids out there.  George stopped dead in his tracks just to stare at her.
I'd say we have a long road to haul with this one.

 George got a bouncy house recently, and not surprisingly, is obsessed with it.

 A new 'George Quirk' is his obsession with balancing things.  This was about a month ago, but I walked in to find George trying to balance his shoes on Harper.  She is such a trooper with him, and didn't budge an inch the entire time.

 He's started to really try to figure out how things work.  For example, today he was playing with a toy car that Clay has taught him how to make it go.  He couldn't get it to 'go', but I heard him saying, "Pull it back, and push the button!" just like Clay had taught him. the picture above he's trying to figure out how the 'Cause and Effect' exhibit at the McWane Center makes the balls go all the way through.  I enjoyed sitting on a bench nearby.

 Again...I think he's trying to figure out how to make the 'rocket' go.  He's very literal.

 Maybe his literal sense comes from the 100 books he reads on a daily basis.  Clay and I were getting ready for church this past Sunday, and I noticed it was really quiet in the house.  I walked into his room and found him like this.  He had pulled out every one of those books and was just 'reading' them to himself.

Just a few of my favorite conversations with George:

We've been really trying to instill the concept of 'please, thank you, yes/no ma'am, yes/no sir'.  We've also had an ABUNDANCE of sweets around the house from people bringing us meals.  
George: Cake please, Daddy.
Clay: Good job buddy!  [gives him a bite of cake]
George: [after finishing his bite of cake] More cake please, Daddy!
Clay: Oh the cake's all gone.  What do you say when it's over? [hoping for a 'thank you']
George: I want more cake!


This morning I let George pick out his 'friend', and he chose Mickey and Goofy.  He propped them up in his high chair, and then we had this conversation while I was getting breakfast ready.
George: Mickey and Goofy eat breakfast!
Me: Yeah buddy, you want to sit with your friends? [I put him in his high chair and put Mickey and Goofy on the table part of the high chair].
George: [to Mickey and Goofy] You gotta thank God!  Fold your hands. [puts Mickey and Goofy's hands together].  Thank you God!  Say AMEN!

I almost died.  I couldn't decide if i wanted to cry or laugh.  


I think the hardest question we get on a daily basis is, 'How are you doing?'.  It's not because we aren't doing the best we can, but it's because we really don't know what to say.  Everyday we are doing great, terrible, fine, and everything in between.  We are so sad.  But we have not lost hope.  Nan's life may be over, but the Lord has started a great work in us through her, and we are thankful to be a part of it.

Here is what I do know:
I know we love each other better because of Nan.  I know we know the Lord in the deepest and most intimate way we have ever known Him.  And I know that Heaven is a very real place to us, because Nan is there.  Those are some sweet fruits to come out of such a terrible pain, and we are thankful for all of it.

To glory bring me Lord at last
And there when all my fears are past
With all Thy saints I'll then agree
God has been merciful to me!

Hear, gracious God, a sinner's cry,
For I have nowhere else to fly;
My hope, my only hope's in Thee;
O God, be merciful to me!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nan Cochran

July 22 was the greatest day of our lives, and the worst day.  When I think of the sequence of events that filled up those 24 hours, it's hard to believe they were contained in a single day.

George has been sleeping later than usual this summer, so when he woke up around 8am, I went in to snuggle with him, and talk about the day we had ahead of us.  He loves to tell me what he wants to do, and who he wants to see.  When I went in there, he was singing "happy birthday to you!  happy birthday to you!" over and over, and it made me laugh.  I texted Clay that I thought maybe he was telling me that Nan's birthday would be that day, and we both laughed, knowing we had a week or two before she would join our family.

I started having some intense contractions, but I didn't want to overreact so I just grit my teeth, and started cooking dinner during George's nap, and while Clay was on his way home from Auburn (he had to visit a plant in Auburn on Monday for work).  Clay was about 2 hours away from home when I called to tell him that I thought I was starting labor.  I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, so I told him not to rush, and that we'd eat dinner together at home before we headed to the hospital.  

We ate dinner, and laughed at George's commentary of everything going on, and talked about what we needed to pack for him, and for us before we left.  My contractions were coming quicker, and we were getting more and more excited as we realized that this was, undoubtedly, the day our daughter would be born.  

We headed to Saty and Pop's house where George would spend the night.  Saty and Pop were waiting at the edge of their driveway with excited faces.  We gave them George, and they gave us waters (I remember getting SO thirsty during labor and delivery with George, and ice chips just don't cut it), and we were on our way to the hospital.  Clay prayed over me, and over Nan the whole way there.

We got checked in pretty quickly, and they told me that I was 4.5 cm dilated already- I could even have an epidural immediately!  This made so-very-happy.  Once the epidural was set, I got pretty chatty with our nurse, Charity.  I really bonded with her, and told her Nan's whole journey, and why this night was the culmination of so many prayers.  She was the most perfect nurse for us- more than I realized at the time.  After a few hours, and little progress, they told me that they wanted to move to an OR, to be ready for a c-section.  Nan's heart rate was dropping, and they didn't want to take any chances.  I was so disappointed, because I had prayed for months to avoid a c-section.  Our doctor checked me 'one last time' before we were going to head out, and I went from 5 cm to 10cm in about 30 minutes.  There wasn't time to get to an OR, because Nan was ready to come into our world.  

After three big pushes, she was here.  

The moments that follow are moments that Clay and I will treasure forever.  I know that sounds strange, to treasure such hard memories.  They are, without a doubt, the most intimate moments of our marriage.  Clay and I clung to each other.  We prayed unceasingly together.  And in the end, we wept together.  

A little over 30 minutes after being born, and Nan was with the Lord.  

As I look back on her short life, all I can see is God's mercy.  His mercy allowed us to carry her to full term- against all odds and doctors' opinions- and celebrate her life with baby showers from friends and family.  In His mercy, He let us hold her as she took her last breath.  His mercy saved her from ever knowing this broken world, and the hardships of this life.  

Never have Clay and I longed for Heaven as we do now.  

We had to make a million decisions the next day, and in the days soon after.  But the best decision we made was to have a funeral service to celebrate our daughter's life.  Our friends and family came- and just about half of our church- and it reminded me that the littlest life can have the biggest impact.  Nan meant so much to so many people, and she has surely brought so much glory to the Lord.  There was so much peace, comfort, and real rest that afternoon after her funeral.  Our hearts are still broken, because we still live in a broken world.  But Nan's is not.  Nan doesn't need our prayers anymore, and, I think she's praying for us now.  

Planning Nan's funeral was the hardest, and most surreal thing we've ever done.  But the actual planning took about 20 minutes, because everything we needed to choose was sort of already chosen for us.  I started a journal for Nan in March, and there were so many scriptures that the Lord gave Clay and me throughout this season of waiting for Nan.  The three songs we chose were songs that were so dear to us throughout this season of our life.  Clay and I loved them because while they are so real about the heaviness of emotions and brokenness, they are just as real of the hope we have in Christ.  Here are two of the three songs we used- I think they are so beautiful, and so full of hope and truth.  

Clay has been home with me and George for the past two weeks, and it has been so good to have him near.  I was talking to a friend, and she was telling me how amazed she was that we are getting out of the house and doing things.  I told her that there isn't anything for us to do at the house- we have people who have arranged for our house to be cleaned on a weekly basis, men who are cutting our grass, and meals planned for the next 3-4 weeks from friends and family.  We are literally just existing- and everyone around us is taking care of our 'life'.  Then we started talking about how that is, in the truest sense of the phrase, what the "Body of Christ" is.  Our community here- and from California to South Carolina- have rallied around us and reminded us of Christ's love in the midst of the most unspeakable pain.

We have a lot of healing to look forward to in the days to come.  Clay and I went to church today, and on our way home we were talking about the sermon one of our friends gave about knowledge versus love.  We've been Christians for several years now, and have 'known' the Lord's great love for us.  We've known its attributes, its fruit, and even what it looks like in our everyday life.  We talked about how we experienced the True Love of our Lord in that teeny tiny hospital room, and it was all because of Nan.  I'm not sure we will ever experience that intense Love again in this life, but I do know that we will never be the same because of it.  I know that we have experienced the Lord in the deepest way, and we love Him more because He gave us Nan.