Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Weekly Smorgasbord

Well, the format got all weird when I was working on this, but there are some great links in here. A couple of great posts on kindness, one really fascinating one on the idea of "concept creep", some cool infographics, a hysterical video, some beautiful encouragement, and a couple of lovely poems, plus more!

On Faith:

Seth Haines | Your Offering to the World

"There is a trick to this life that I haven’t yet learned. It’s the trick of seeing the world as something more than a giant scoreboard. It’s the trick of seeing each individual as a soul composed of eternal stuff instead of competitor on the gridiron of life. The trick is something more than just saying “you are the beloved of God,” or “God loves you just the way you are, bankruptcy, zits, and frumpy body aside.” The trick is allowing those phrases to work me over, to whip me into shape. The trick is allowing those things to permeate me like yeast, to grow, to puff up the way I live. The trick is really meaning what I preach, quantifications be damned. Seth, 0. Everyone else, 0. We’re all 0. And yet, we’re all everything. This is the trick."

Yes, I think this is the trick. 

On Kindness:

Mother’s Day Kindness | Brain, Child Magazine

"We’re in the store now and moving at a decent clip for a mud-smeared forty-something who may or may not have something wrong in the left breast she is now palpating surreptitiously under the inadequate cover of a pyramid of oranges and may or may not be in the initial stages of the audit she has always dreaded, not because she cheats—she doesn’t, let the record show—but because, shit, what a pain, and with two writers and two home offices, she always knew it was a risk. I realize I’m narrating this sad story about myself in third person as I scoop up my last item from produce—asparagus, on sale."

I loved this post on a stranger's kindness. 

When Jesus Brings Cheerios: A Memory for Mother’s Day | Mockingbird

 "To this day, that is the closest thing to a miracle I have ever witnessed. Anyone who has had a fidgety toddler knows that a tiny, random box of Honey Nut Cheerios is not only food, but at least 20 minutes of entertainment. And so we all began to look in our book bags, and slowly but surely, a table full of undergraduate students helped to keep a toddler busy while still having class. We passed our car keys down to her. We folded up paper and handed her pens. But mostly, because our professor had welcomed a mother and child into our classroom, we were able to welcome her too."

If one kindness post is good, two is better. 

On Creativity:

Lifting the Veil ⋆ The Mudroom

"Yet, the fact is that the artist is an ordinary person who carries with her into those lonely chambers of toil seeds germinated in society, fruits formed by fellowship, ideas incubated in dialogue. Only God creates out of nothing. Human beings create from the materials given—and received. In other words, creativity comes from community."

This was a great post about two things that are really important to me and so intertwined- creativity and community. 

Michelle DeRusha | Sing Your Words {Thoughts on Overcoming Your Life’s Block}

"We all fall victim to the shiny stupid happy. Family portraits where everyone is wearing shades of blue. New books written by people we know. We are envious and sad. But why? Why do we care so much about how we rank? Because other people are so damn funny when we are just sitting around in our pajamas. How can they always be so wise or witty when we are not? We are just average, slumping around with our half-finished manuscripts writing articles in a gardener’s magazine. Going to work at the insurance company. Brewing average coffee. What losers we are; everyone will tisk-tisk at our averageness. Now that that’s out of the way, you big fat joy-sucker weirdo, snap out of it. Write for you. Sing for you. Dream your big crazy nutzo dreams for you. And then be bold about them, because they are beautiful, and unique, and creative. You made them, the words and the strokes on the canvas and the notes that hang in the air. They are yours! The way you string them together is a beautiful thing. I am so proud of you.  So extremely proud of you for doing it anyway, even if you don’t have a family portrait shrouded in sea foam or a book deal or a re-tweeted whatever."

I needed this encouragement the first time I read it and even more so on the re-read. 

On What Matters Most:

Shawn Smucker - What Matters Most

 "Here we are, sifting through two decades.
This has been the way
of these years, the keeping and the casting off.
The sense that somehow, that which matters most
will find its way to the surface."

Simply beautiful. 

On Parenting:

R.I.P. Naptime. — Coffee + Crumbs

"When you force your kid to play alone for a little while every day, a shift happens. Without a baby brother to distract him, or a mom to talk to, he learns to be resourceful. He learns to entertain himself, to use his imagination, to be creative and figure out things on his own. He learns to become a Master of Play instead of just a student."

This is not a novel concept, but I loved how well written the post was. 

On Concepts:

Don’t Look Now But Your Concept Is Creeping | Mockingbird

"It can be a very good thing, in fact, a way of incorporating fresh breakthroughs in the study and experience of human beings. In the case of war veterans, for example, expanded understandings of what it means to be “traumatized” have led to considerably more effective (and humane) methods of care. Expanding our notion of “prejudice” to include less conscious forms of racial bias allows for deeper compassion and greater opportunity all the way around. And so on. As you might surmise, though, concept creep has plenty of downsides, not the least of which being children who are never permitted to exist unsupervised."

This is one of the most interesting things I've read in awhile. 

On Busyness:

Is Busy-ness a Drug?

"Busy is both my drug and my defense. By that I mean that I use busy-ness to make me feel numb and safe, the way you use a drug, and I use busy-ness as a way of explaining all the things I dropped, didn’t do well, couldn’t pull together, as a defense." 

A great reminder.

On America:

Killing Off the Mythos of America ⋆ The Mudroom

"Maybe our national character should change, should in some way not even be the same country anymore. We lay claim to this rich history of settlers, pilgrims, and immigrants, while denying an equally as expansive history of refusal and exclusion. In order for there to be resurrection and renewal, something has to die. There is no way around that process. And maybe it will leave us staring at each other, wondering did that really happen? Is it really dead? What will happen next?"

I'm ready (I hope I can say that honestly) for this kind of death.

On Infants Over-Heating:

The Story of my Infant Overheating and What I Learned from It - My Life Well Loved

 "Always touch the infant when you are checking on them every few minutes. Touch their legs, belly, arms and head making sure they are not abnormally warm or profusely sweating. If they have fallen asleep, mess with their feet, jiggle their arm and/or rub their belly every few minutes. Do they rouse easily? Also, listen to their breathing. Is it fast or at a normal pace?"

I thought this was worth sharing, especially with how hot it is here! 

On Fashion:

Outfit: Rainbow Brite



 
 I love this skirt!
Poetry Worth Sharing:

Once Again | the beautiful due

"Thankfully evenings stay lit longer now
and we built of lazy bones and lazier cartilage
can stoop-sit poor-postured while
the radio remembers Summer Wind.
These golden duskings are incantatory, and
its so good to feel slightly foolish once again."

I loved this. 

Art Worth Sharing:

Mark Dingo Francisco — Wes Anderson Postcards

1.jpgpic2.jpg 

These are amazing!

The Alluring Art of Fake Food in Japan | Messy Nessy Chic

 sampuru9
Fakefood1
"Sampuru, derived from the English word “sample”, is nothing short of an art form in Japan. Picking out a restaurant can be like viewing an art exhibition of fake food so accurate it really does look tempting enough to eat. To compete for customers, restaurants go all out with their window displays, hiring the best craftsmen to turn their menus into a parade of palatable plastic...Food presentation plays a huge role in how we experience mealtimes and calculate whether we’re going to enjoy the dish. A lot of work goes into making items as small as a grain of rice. During the molding process, the imitation ingredients are often chopped up and combined in a manner similar to actual cooking."

Max Factor’s Clown Contouring Make-Up of Early Television | Messy Nessy Chic

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 "Green lipstick and rouge replace the customary red in make-up designed for actresses appearing in television broadcasts. The television camera, it is explained, does not record the red coloring in the human complexion, leaving the transmitted image flat and unnatural. When green is substituted, however, the lips and cheeks of a performer appear in accurate relation of tones with other facial features as the image is projected on the screen of the receiver."

Noteworthy Quotes:
"Coming from an orthodox pastor: it is perfectly okay to mourn the loss of life in Orlando without having to qualify our statement with what the Bible says about homosexuality. By mourning such violence, you aren't approving of something. So my advice to everyone: When you say "This is a tragedy" don't feel the need to say anything about what the Bible says about certain sins. Just acknowledge the tragedy and pray for those who are injured and for all of their families. Let now be a time of mercy and mourning, and simply that." -0wen Weddle

Noteworthy Images:

How Americans Spend Their Time Infographic
 [infographic on How Americans Spend Their Time found here.]

 
[multiple infographics about flags- so interesting!- found here


yoga
[from The New Yorker]



Twenty years ago today, Keshia Thomas was 18 years old when the KKK held a rally in her home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hundreds of protesters turned out to tell the white supremacist organization that they were not welcome in the progressive college town. At one point during the event, a man with a SS tattoo and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag ended up on the protesters' side of the fence and a small group began to chase him. He was quickly knocked to the ground and kicked and hit with placard sticks. As people began to shout, "Kill the Nazi," the high school student, fearing that mob mentality had taken over, decided to act. Thomas threw herself on top of one of the men she had come to protest, protecting him from the blows, and told the crowd that you "can't beat goodness into a person." In discussing her motivation for this courageous act after the event, she stated, "Someone had to step out of the pack and say, 'this isn't right'... I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me... violence is violence - nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea."
Thomas never heard from the man after that day but months later, a young man came up to her to say thanks, telling her that the man she had protected was his father. For Thomas, learning that he had a son brought even greater significance to her heroic act. As she observed, "For the most part, people who hurt... they come from hurt. It is a cycle. Let's say they had killed him or hurt him really bad. How does the son feel? Does he carry on the violence?" Mark Brunner, the student photographer who took this now famous photograph, added that what was so remarkable was who Thomas saved: "She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her. Who does that in this world?"
In response to those who argued that the man deserved a beating or more, Pulitzer Prize-winning commentator Leonard Pitts Jr. offered this short reflection in The Miami Herald: "That some in Ann Arbor have been heard grumbling that she should have left the man to his fate, only speaks of how far they have drifted from their own humanity. And of the crying need to get it back. Keshia's choice was to affirm what they have lost. Keshia's choice was human. Keshia's choice was hope."



Noteworthy Videos: 

An old friend sends you a Facebook request
You only find out they're racist after you accept
There's free office cake on the first day of your diet
It's like they announce a new iPhone the day after you buy it
And isn't it ironic, don't you think?

It's like swiping left on your future soulmate
It's a Snapchat that you wish you had saved
It's a funny tweet that nobody faves
And who would've thought it figures

  Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sarah Lamar: Naming Our Sister Baby



Sarah Lamar. Our Sallie Girl.
 
I can't believe she was alive in the world for five hours before she had a name. Once it was settled I couldn't imagine her as anything else. Of course, our plan  is to go back and forth between Sallie and Sarah Lamar until she tells us she has a preference, just like we did with Annie (even though I know it's not quite as seamless). I know some people probably think her double name is weird and they can call her Sallie (or Daisy, Avacado, or Sister ) exclusively and I won't mind one bit but I love her real name with all my heart. I think it's a little quirky and Southern style while being genuinely pretty and classic. It's also incredibly special because she's the fourth in successive generations of Sarahs (me, Minnie, and my grandmother who was truly one of my best friends) and the fourth in successive generations of Lamars (Peyton, his daddy, and his grandfather). Clearly, Minnie and my father in law are some of the most special people we know but Bump and PopPop were some of the very biggest influences in our young lives and we carry so much we learned from them into our lives now so it feels so perfect to honor them in this way. I cannot wait to tell her about their strong legacies of hard work, tenacity, faith, spunk, overwhelming love for their spouses and children, humor, and integrity. As far as Sallie, I knew I HAD to pick a name with a cute diminutive and when I realized not only the "ie" but the double consonant (linguistic nerd, sorry!) matched Annie's name it seemed beyond perfect. I love that it's "cutesy" but also a little old-fashioned.

And it fits her SO well.

Names have such strong connotations. Several of my teacher friends had such a hard time with them because of knowing a million kids with every name. And Minnie originally told me she thought of a graveyard when she heard Graves's name. Where did I get my lack of a filter, you ask.

I have a baby names book and one of my favorite features is that it tells who/what image the name brings to mind for most people. See: Lamar. Peyton's grandfather's name was Clarence Lamar. For me, Clarence brings to mind Clarence from The E Street Band and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A strong, intelligent, handsome black man. Pssst...a secret. If we ever adopted transracially and ended up with an infant boy, I'm pretty sure he'd be our Clarence .

A friend of mine told me the other day that every time I mention our girl she thinks of Sally Brown, Charlie's sister. I never realized it, but this too, is how I picture a Sallie. Our Sallie will likely be a bit darker featured but I associate it with a happy little sunshine person and always the color yellow. I really wanted something that was cute, but classic- not something that felt trendy. It's funny because several people have mentioned how Sallie seems like an old-fashioned name, which I love, but hadn't realized the extent of. I think Sallie/Sally is less common that I realized. I must have known a disproportionate amount of Sallys growing up!

I've been thinking back a lot over our first few days with Sarah Lamar and one of the most special moments was finally, decisively, settling on her name. The more I think about it the more I realize that there are things about her birth and first few hours of life that I wish were different but I told Peyton that, as long as it took us to pick her name, there are not a lot of things I've ever felt so sure about in my life. I know that sounds downright stupid in a way. I mean, it's not an issue of eternal significance. But I second guess myself most of the time, replay every situation, and analyze things to death. But I haven't with this. Not once. And that feels like a gift. To be able to just rest in something and enjoy it.

Much like her very babyhood. As I've said, she is such a gift and for the most part, I've been able to just soak it all up.

It gives me such pleasure just to say her little name and think on it and the person who will carry it for years and years. These days, I think Sarah Lamar is just such a pretty name and I just love hearing myself- and other people- say it ( which is terribly funny because P and I both hated his middle name- Lamar- for as long as I can remember). And, as Carrie says, she is a Sallie "through and through".

Some things are harder to let go than others and if I never get to name another baby, I think I'll be okay because I enjoyed the process so fully and so completely this time and I'm so satisfied with the result.

As far as that process, we talked about her name for months and months and I thought about it a lot more than we talked about it. It was a huge thing on my mind and I actually really enjoyed not having it nailed down. We knew we were going to keep it a secret anyway and it was fun that for a long time, it was sort of like it was a secret from myself. With Annie, we had her named before we even got married and then when I got pregnant with Graves, it was more of a process, but we settled on his name pretty early after finding out he was a boy. I really, really loved just thinking about and talking about this baby's name so much. I loved that she was "Sister Baby" to the world and to us.

Whenever Peyton seemed like he was over the name conversation for a bit, I'd turn to Carrie and gosh, she was patient with me about it. I wonder how many discussions we had on it over those months? She was truly a pivotal player. Haha. When I finally did start getting pretty anxious she told me "Make a list and scratch out any of them that EITHER of you don't like"-- seems pretty common sense but I clearly needed some advising on this process. We ended up doing that one night at the dinner table with Annie and Graves.

I remember one of the last conversations I had with Carrie about the name after Peyton and I had narrowed it down to our top three. I was texting her from the OB and we had been talking about it for half an hour probably and I was fretting about if it was too weird and she texted: I think most people will be surprised and it might have to grow on them. Although maybe not, because that's such a Southern thing- to take a man's name that nobody really likes and use it for a girl as part of a double name. And then everyone loves that name. Haha.

I screenshot it because a) best friend honesty b) analysis on point c) it was just hysterical to me for some reason.

I really think that was the point that I knew in my heart it was Sarah Lamar. And I think that was the point she knew, too. Which is, in retrospect, really special to me. She wasn't at the birth (and as I've said, I'm beyond okay with that!) but I'm sort of glad she did really play a big part in the endless conversations about this baby's name.

My dad was texting me at the same time about some different options and when I told him about Sarah Lamar he said "It's just so pretty". I could hear him saying it and it almost brought tears to my eyes. He has this sweet, sensitive side that I never knew until I saw him with his grandchildren and it stirs up so much in my heart and I could just hear him saying that in this soft voice. And then Carrie's text really solidified it, too. As much as I was worried about everyone thinking the name was nuts, I hadn't even thought of it as falling in line with a long tradition of Southern people who have named their daughters using last names and maiden names and men's names and all kinds of things to form a unique double name and the idea really appealed to me. My dad also mentioned that Annie, Bud, and Sallie sounded so cute together and that was one of my hang ups with another name I really liked. I feel like Ann Peyton, Graves Jackson, and Sarah Lamar sound really pretty together and them being a cohesive unit was important to me. Those two conversations didn't make my decision, but they did help me feel very affirmed in going with something that felt a little risky at first.

So...the list. First of all, years ago after Graves was born I really thought that if we had another girl it would be Francis Ruth or Sarah Ellis and we'd go back and forth between the double name and Francie or Sallie, respectively. [Sarah, Ruth, and Francis are all family names and for those that know me well, Ellis might as well be and Francie is the main character in my favorite book.] Well, I have a friend that very recently had a Sarah Ellis and I have a best friend that has a Francie. Back when the Howies were in the adoption process, Carrie talked to me about using the name and I told her to go right ahead. At that point, Peyton and I really thought we were likely done with biological children ourselves and I had very little hope I'd ever get to name another baby. Plus, we knew if it did happen it would be a good ways down the road and we might have a boy. And Carrie assured me that if I wanted to keep the name on the table, she wouldn't care one bit. As time went on, I ended up deciding I was really glad we did take it off the table because the Francis in my family is not someone we were particularly close to and thus far, with Annie and Graves's names we had used only names of people who were incredibly special to us.

Anyway, at one point, after we found out the baby was a girl, I made a huge master list. These were all our name combinations that I liked:


The other name that Peyton and I loved was Vaida. It was my grandmother's mother's name. But I couldn't figure out a middle name I like and I certainly couldn't figure out how to twist it into a double name. And besides that, not only did I not know her personally, my mom didn't seem particularly fond of this woman and actually Bump, whos momma she was, really hadn't seemed to have much for her (she told Minnie that she told the maid about her first kiss instead of her own mother).

We also added a few (Lucy, Daisy, and Ava) that weren't family names but in the end I just couldn't go there.

About a month before the baby was born, my mom had suggested the name Lamar Mayfield and call her Ellie (like "L-ie", but spelled Ellie). I thought that was a bit of a stretch and kind of strange. Frankly, I was surprised Minnie had come up with something so quirky and unusual. But I guess I shouldn't be (see: Sarah Denley).

I talked that one over with Carrie, even though Peyton had nothing for it. Carrie pointed out that a) Peyton and I both always hated the name Lamar and b) Lamar just seems a little weird for a first name for a little girl. I reminded her of Denley and Whitten and she said she thought it was different since those were mine and Cookie's middle names, even if I did go by Denley at some points in my life.

A few weeks before she was born, we narrowed it down a good bit. Our top contenders were Vaida and Liza May. I can't remember exactly how it happened (I so wish I could!) but we were discussing Lamar Mayfield again and Peyton suggested Sarah Lamar. He had often said he wanted to use Sarah and deep down I did too but I never found anything I felt like it was unique enough with. I love Ann Peyton's name but I really prefer Annie because her double name is not quite unusual enough for me these days. Not that Annie is just unheard of, but I just think it's more...original? Even though it's clearly more common than Ann Peyton. I guess because separately Ann and Peyton are pretty common and also I ended up knowing an Anna Peyton and knowing of another Ann Peyton and I don't know, good grief that was a tangent. Also, I wasn't one hundred percent sure I thought Sallie was the cutest of the nicknames we were considering.

So, basically we had it down to those three. I talked to Minnie, Mickey, Cookie, Carrie, and Ellis about it. Literally all of them "voted" for Sarah Lamar.

But...I told myself I would not be swayed by public opinion =)

Backing up, when we decided to go back to the drawing board (before I was even pregnant) I was thinking about family names and a name combination that had never occurred to me before came to mind. I thought if we had a girl we could name her Elizabeth Mayfield (after Peyton's sister and my grandmother whose maiden name was Mayfield) and call her Liza May. I was absolutely obsessed with it for awhile. LLOVED Liza and I LOVED May and I loved them so, so much together. Peyton never fully got on board but he wasn't opposed. When we did find out the baby was a girl, I was pretty sure that was her name. I fell more and more in love with it throughout the pregnancy but I also felt a lot of peace about leaving our options open.

I'm not going to lie, it was hard for me to let it go. I thought about it for days leading up to the birth. I just couldn't really decide, even though I knew Peyton's preference was Sarah Lamar, I also knew he'd probably defer to me on this if I pressed him.

I didn't tell Peyton, but I really came to peace with Sarah Lamar a few days before she was born. It was the last thing I desperately wanted to have mentally settled before I went into labor. I gave myself the option to revisit other names in the delivery room and Peyton and I purposefully left it open ended, but I felt confident in it.

Fear of regret is a big motivation for me, I've realized. When we were picking Sarah Lamar's name, it's finally what helped me decide. Truthfully, even in those last days, I was more "drawn" to Liza May, the name I'd been in love with for much of the pregnancy, but I knew in my heart I would have regrets about not naming her Sarah Lamar, regrets I wouldn't have about not using Liza May. That's what really helped me finally decide. I forced myself to look at it ten days, ten months, and ten years down the road and tried to take a long view. I knew I might grieve Liza May at two weeks out and at a year I might still question my decision but when I thought about being a decade out, I realized I would probably be much more content with Sarah Lamar.

Mostly, I think I prefer it because it's so significant. Not that Elizabeth Mayfield wouldn't have been special, but Sarah Lamar is just so meaningful because it honors two people who were incredibly influential in mine and Peyton's formative years. Secondly, it feels more traditional and not as cutesy. And while Liza May is debatabley cuter than Sallie (I mean, I don't think it is but I think it's debatable), Elizabeth Mayfield is not as pretty to me as Sarah Lamar. And Carrie also mentioned that if I went with Liza May and she decided she wanted something more formal, she'd likely go with Elizabeth and asked me how I felt about that. I think Elizabeth is a pretty name and I adore my sister in law but I really wanted this baby to have a functional double name that wasn't a nickname and ain't nobody gonna go by "Elizabeth Mayfield". The other struggle I had with it, as I mentioned above, is that I felt like it didn't really fit with the other two children's names and for (probably ridiculous) reasons that was important to me.

So back to where we were. We went to the hospital. We had a baby. It was a bit chaotic and out of control. We were tired. Five hours later she didn't have a name. P posted something on Facebook and I immediately had him jerk it down. I was a little peeved and I did not want anything out there until she had a name (at that point, only Carrie and our families knew she had arrived). So I was like "IT IS TIME. WE NEED TO NAME THIS BABY".  Peyton said "Let's go with Sarah Lamar". I asked about the other big contender and he shook his head and that was it. I felt very relieved. It was one of the most special moments, just the three of us there in that room, and it was so different from the naming of our other two.

This post was so SO analytical but that's so me and I'm glad I wrote it all out so I'll remember all those thoughts and feelings and can tell her about what a sweet gift it was to get to name one more baby years from now when she's thirty and naming her own little babykins.

This probably sounds weird and vain and I think it's a combination of things- how incredibly important names are to me and how long we waited to find the perfect name for our daughter (or how long we waited for it to find us)- but not a day has gone by that I haven't thought at least once about how much I love her name and how unbelievably perfect it is for our precious girl who was Sister Baby for so long.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

As Magic as the Smell of Baby Shampoo


I've never enjoyed a baby so much.

With AP, we struggled with the reality of unexpected parenthood and carelessly thwarted plans until the moment we held her in our arms. My anxiety became really difficult to manage and we were trying to learn to be a husband and wife in the middle of learning to be a papa and a momma. I fretted about schedules even though she slept beautifully and I tried to determine what her cries meant even though she rarely cried. I imposed dumb rules on myself- like not doing anything else while I nursed her. Partly, I think, because I was ashamed by my reaction to the pregnancy and wanted to bond with her so badly. And partly because I was, every day, trying so hard to prove my worth as a mother. To the world, to Peyton, and to myself.

With Graves, while he was very planned, two kids was a hard transition and I struggled to learn his ways and bond with him initially. It was a full year of survival mode. I spent a lot of time exhausted, anxious, and paranoid everyone was judging what were my very best efforts. And I wasn't honest about it with myself or anyone else.

This time I've worked incredibly hard to be honest with myself and with P. I've tried to be transparent in all the spaces it helps me to be so. I've realized it's an extremely worthwhile use of my limited energy to process all of this in real time instead of down the road.

And I'm in my early 30s instead of my mid 20s. I know the hard times (and good times) are just a blip in the span of a lifetime with our Sarah Lamar. If she's asleep, she's asleep. If she's awake, she's awake (and typically in one of our arms- I ain't worried about Babes getting spoiled). And if she's crying, I almost always nurse her. The time when the solution to life's problems is that easy is unbelievably short. I'm able to be present in organic, non artificial ways. My lifestyle is much more simplistic, my anxiety is better managed, I more often notice ordinary wonders all around me, and I know where my worth lies (and it's not in how well I mother them, as important a vocation as it is).

Those things are about as magic as the baby shampoo I'll be in the corner sniffing for the next thirty years.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Letter to (Five Year and One Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves,

As I wrote Annie in her letter, I'm catching up on a couple of months since Papa wrote y'alls birthday letter last month. We've been having lots of fun lately!

You wrapped up the season with blastball and I really think you enjoyed those last few games the most. You LOVED having Papa as your coach.

On the Sister Baby front, someone told me awhile back that she felt like her family was complete at present because she didn't think she could be as good a mom if she had one more. I've thought about that a lot and especially lately I've been thinking that even if I could handle parenting a large number of children, there's no way I could do this to you and Annie (and now our New Girl) again. I know it's only nine months, but it feels like nearly a year of y'alls lives that I haven't been physically or emotionally present at all in the way I want to be. I'm glad I did it one more time but I also have such a strong peace as the door closes on biological children. And I've been SO grateful for this because Papa was very emphatic that round three was the final round.
In April, Papa and I took a week long trip to New York. You and Annie had an AMAZING time here. DeeDee and Grandpa Randy and Mickey and Minnie split up the week and y'all had the best adventures.  

DeeDee and Grandpa Randy took you guys to story time at the library with your cousins, the science museum, the Ag Museum, and Dairy Queen. Plus y'all did art projects and enjoyed your uncle's sugar gliders. Mickey and Minnie took y'all to Pump it Up, made chicken pot pie per request, spent three hours at the McDonald's play place, and visited the playground with ducks.

While y'all were at Mickey and Minnie's you spent a ton of time doing one of your favorite things- fishing! (I'm so sure Mickey was pleased that his "fishing buddy" (that's why he's always called you "Bud") dream he's had since he found out he was getting a boy are coming to fruition!). This is why we could never leave Mississippi for good!

Oh, y'all found a dead armadillo in the water floating face up, bloated, and with a very obvious enlarged "private area" that you kept calling attention to. A good friend was talking about how he could write a book of New York stories, but I think I could write a damn good one full of Mississippi stories. I'm so, so grateful I've gotten to live both.

Apparently DeeDee let you wear pajama shorts around town. Papa would do (and has done) exactly that. I'm glad for them- and you- who have taught me how to relax a bit.

The trip was so fun and it felt like a long break but I was so glad to see y'all after a whole week!

[As an aside, I was still so amazed by the kindness of New Yorkers. There were only a couple of times we got on a train without someone promptly hopping up to offer me their seat. While I was surprised not to be as sentimental as I thought I'd be, watching these folks take care of Sister Baby the same way they showed such gentle kindness to you and Annie for a full year and a half did make me tear up.]



After we got home, Papa got sick with the flu. You and Annie were so sweet and helpful while he was down with the flu.

I was a little sad the day we left for the trip because it was your birthday. But we made up for it! The last two years in Brooklyn they didn't have birthday parties so we had "birthday days" where you and Annie each got to (mostly) pick what we did all day. Y'all did have a party this year but we loved this tradition so much we kept it, too. For your big day, you picked pancakes for breakfast, a trip to the Children's Museum and the Dollar Tree, Primos for lunch, and a visit to Mickey and Minnie's house. We ended the day with Darth Mal face paint and a movie!

Y'alls joint birthday party was so much fun, too! You guys agreed on a Jungle Book theme and I thought it was pretty perfect for y'all (Papa took you to see the movie just the two of you because Annie didn't want to see it and it was your first time to see a movie at the theater!).

I asked you and Annie what y'alls favorite part of the party was and you  said "hugging that baby". I asked you which baby you were talking about and you patted my tummy. I really think she's the best present we could ever give you (just as I think you were the best present we could ever give Annie).

I'm glad you guys are both so easily satisfied. I was telling Papa that I hope y'all don't outgrow these backyard family parties (as in not drop offs because y'alls friends parents are our friends anyway so it's a good excuse to all get together). And I hope your friends don't get bored with them. It works so well since y'all aren't school and your friends spread a pretty wide range of ages. I really like uncomplicated things.

I've never had activities before and we kept it SUPER low key this time- chalk, bubbles, a sticker craft I ordered for less than $5 for twelve, some fresh sand for the box, and these fun elephant stilts I made that you continued to enjoy well after the party. I think it was plenty and SO easy!

Mickey and Minnie gave y'all fishing rods and tackle boxes for your birthday and ya'll were both so excited, but especially you. Along with riding your bike, fishing is probably the activity that you love the most.

You actually told me "I still can't believe I have my own tackle box". Mickey and Minnie did so good.
Our Sundays are sort of stressful between having to drop off and pick Papa up so I've streamlined them about to death and ask VERY few things of myself and now I actually enjoy them a lot and it feels like a real Sabbath. But it was so worth it to cut rest time short and hustle you guys through dinner and teeth brushing so we could fish and spend time with Mickey and Minnie the weekend of the party. Two folks at Northside asked me if I had family in town- they're starting to get concerned for me- and it was just another reminder how glad I am to be close again.

Recently y'all also enjoyed having a little party eating granola by flashlight in Mickey's work room. You guys love Friday nights so much! 

A few facts about you at five:
1. The other day you came up to me and said "Ma'am, I'd like to snuggle with you". Hope you're always such a gentleman when you're making advances on the ladies.
2. Insomuch as possible, you love wearing pajamas shorts under your clothes as underwear and calling them your boxers. I actually love this system because when you promptly strips down upon returning home from anywhere it feels a bit more appropriate.
3. As you were going to sleep the other night you said "Annie, I like you even when you smell like Cheerios and I really would be sad if you died". (Death has been a big topic with you lately.)
4. For some reason, I think male friendships have become more important to you. Of course you have your BFF Jude, but lately you've been talking about your best friends Mickey and Uncle Andrew even more than usual and then one night recently you started talking about your little buddy John Stuart Roberts. You said "he's very playful".
5. Awhile back when a third baby was still very much a hypothetical, we were talking to the kids about it. You were so excited and said that you really wanted a brother but you'd be happy with a girl, too. You folded your arms and said "I'll just hold her all the time". I mentioned that you wouldn't be BABY Graves anymore and you said calmly "Oh, I'll just eat her then" and did a crocodile snap. We had a similar conversation after we found out we were expecting and he said you were still going to be Baby Graves; you'd just be the bigger baby. Sounds about perfect to me. You actually told two different people recently that your name is Graves Jackson Herrington but you like to be called Baby Graves. Also, I love that for our last lit tee order Annie picked out animals and you picked out a shirt with a baby on it. So typical!


You are one of the kindest people I know.

Oh! One more fact about our five year old Baby Graves:  you occasionally get weather headaches like I do. In the obvious ways, you're much more similar to Papa and Annie is a lot like me. But the older you get the more I notice little quirks in you that mirror me and in Annie that mirror Papa. It's so fascinating to me.

So one Sunday you wanted to to wear your super hero cape and accessories to Sunday school and church and I decided to let you. It made you so happy. And honestly, I think it made the tons of older people we church with happy, too (sidenote: there is nothing like sharing a pew with a kind, gracious older person who has raised his or her own four year old boy). At the end of the service, Stan (the preacher) was saying the benediction right beside us (we sit on the very back row for obvious reasons) and you walked right to the edge and held up a stuffed manatee the way Rafiki holds up Simba in The Lion King. Annie asked me that day why everybody says "you've got you're hands full!!" Hahaha.

Also, you call the little super hero arm bands ear tuffs. I think you've gotten pretty immersed in your role as Midnight's papa.

You recently outgrew your church shoes. I found some precious white Oxford shoes that I had bought ahead but they're hard and slippery and understandably you're sort of over that. I asked you what you'd like for your church shoes (I'm trying to do that more!) and you said red Converse. Surprisingly, they go with most of your stuff and the atmosphere at Northside is pretty casual. So you had regular tennis shoes (that you call your "play shoes", which makes me smile), still a little big Star Wars shoes, too small Crocs, and Converse for church (and wherever else; they wash so easily). Then this Summer, you have a pair of Saltwaters and a pair of athletic sandals. Annie still has about nine million pairs, but this feels like another good step. I really like the concept of a "uniform" and when we phased out the jon jons last season we sort of accidentally stumbled into a church uniform for you- you had about three button up shirts and several pairs of pants (either thin corduroy or flannel gingham) that I could mix and match. The converse and suspenders made the outfit, though. And you had a couple of sweaters/sweater vests to wear in lieu of the suspenders when it was cold. I really loved how well it worked!  

There are actually still a couple of jonjons in the attic that fit you and it taken everything in me to resist but you look really adorable in a button up and nice, pleated gingham shorts.

Speaking of church, we were singing a hymn recently and you told me "This sounds like pirate music". Your proclivity for high church Protestantism never wanes.

Oh and awhile back a sweet, older person asked if you might be "a little" autistic because you're "so active". Um...I don't really think so. You're a very busy almost five year old who refuses to leave church with the other children your age and who doesn't have a lot of of other opportunities to practice sitting still- which was a very intentional choice made by your parents for a myriad of reasons. Older, folksy, homegrown type people are so dear. Truly. [I told him that your father has a TOUCH of ADD. And by that I mean that he's extremely active for a grown man and was basically uncontainable as a child. So if you have anything, it's probably that. But you're really too young for me to feel comfortable pursuing a diagnosis. 

You got some new bedding! We picked it up at IKEA. I loved it but was tentative at first. Even as progressive as I am about colors not being gendered, the pink house threw me off. But it reminded me of a cross between Richard Scary and The Two Little Gardeners (FAVES). And Papa loved it. I got it and said we could use it later for the baby and ordered a navy bedspread with red sharks in it. It was too dark. I'm just not ready yet. This felt much better. I also got the crib set up and y'alls room looks so cute. You'd love it if I let you play in the crib all day. Funny how you didn't like it so much as a toddler!

You are so creative and inventive. Awhile back you used a broken toilet paper dispenser thing and some rubberbands to make a  "Squirrel Scarer:" Annie got upset and told you "That's never going to scare a squirrel. THEY'LL JUST THINK THAT'S AN ORDINARY LITTLE BOY THING" (caps because she was literally tearfully yelling.) [She also expressed that while she's opposed to eating wild animals, she's totally okay with eating farm animals- like sausage.] Can't make this stuff up.

You also set up a "special grooming station" where the person takes off everything but your panties and you used your wet toothbrush to "groom" him or her. I decided I'd pass on that one. 

You know how they say some people never meet a stranger? Um, that's you. This is a conversation you and Papa had on a walk home from the park:
Graves: I asked my friend if she was a stranger and she said no, so I knew she wasn't a stranger.
Papa: Oh, had you met her before?
Graves: No
Papa: But she wasn't a stranger?
Graves: Nope! She told me she wasn't.


Awhile back, you announced that if we didn't name the baby Avocado, you'd call her Mean Baby. Annie said "Bud, just because they choose the wrong name, that doesn't make her a mean baby". Minnie legit suggested we throw him a bone and name her Ava. And Annie is holding out for Daisy.  


Do you know who is a boy's best friend?? (A cat who thinks he's a dog but is still low maintenance enough for owners- besides the boy (and girl)- who aren't pet people.) I'm so glad you and General have each other. He is one of the most affectionate cats I've ever met and you are one of the most affectionate humans I've ever met. Y'all are such a pair! [ETA: Since I started this letter, General has gone missing. He's so friendly and now that he's been gone a few weeks and we've become kind of resigned to the fact he may not return, my hope is just that he found a nice family who has welcomed him in as their own.]

As an aside: awhile back you were pretending to be a "cat catcher" and I walked in the laundry room and you had General's head in your bug catching net. For awhile, your best friend was understandably terrified of him and he'd split immediately when he saw you holding the net in the backyard. Annie suggested putting the net up entirely for a bit but also going in to change clothes "so he wouldn't recognize us". Glad y'all are back on good terms!

You and Annie also LOVE to catch lizards. The other day I heard you say "ANNIE! This lizard could have DIED. He was left alone in the treehouse." (About five minutes later) "Annie, I have a plan. You have to stay up all night and watch him. I have to get some sleep."

School is going great. I've ordered your kindergarten curriculum and we've talked a lot about it and you are so excited. Recently Annie did an "Around the World" project with the homeschool group we're a part of and you did SUCH a great job dressing up and telling everyone how you were a vanilla bean farmer and most of the world'a vanilla comes from Madagascar. 

I'll end your letter the same way I ended Annie's. April, which brings the anniversary of both yours and Annie's births and the anticipation of another year of life with both of y'all, always seems to have me very introspective. Over the past seven years, being home with you guys has meant a lot of different things to me and in different seasons I have had different reasons for doing it. Awhile back, during a discussion with Papa, I realized one of the main things I find value in is the hours upon hours each week that I get to devote to being a student of you two. Being a student of other people- analyzing them and learning their quirks and what makes them tick, their fears and passions, the driving forces that make them do what they do- is so exciting and fascinating to me in general. And those extra hours I get for this favorite task with these favorite people? Is a big part of my purpose right now. When I thought about it that way, it also gave me an even stronger impetus towards our financial independence goals. I want Papa to be able to have more long hours devoted to knowing y'all deeply and learning your secret hurts and deepest dreams. It's not that it's a burden I want share with him, although it is a hefty responsibility. It's a great joy in a very deep place and it would feel wrong for me to keep it only for myself when I could do otherwise.

I love you so much and I couldn't possibly be more grateful that you are ours, sweet boy.

Love,
Momma (and Papa)

P.S. You are ovbiously wearing no clothes of any size in this month's pictures (well, some 2T undies, I think!). It was crazy hair day at swim team and you decided you wanted crazy body hair. Hahaha. You keep me laughing, funny guy!












Sunday, July 17, 2016

Letter to (Seven Year and One Month Old) Ann Peyton

 Dear Ann Peyton,

It's been a great couple of months (I'm updating you on the last two since Papa wrote your birthday letter and he doesn't really get as detailed as I do).

We've been having lots of fun! 

After your party you planned for Midnight, we also  a party for Sugar Pie (the unicorn Beanie Boo). You and Graves got up that morning and immediately started crafting. Then y'all packed the trunk of the Mazda full- paper crafts in gift bags, other stuffed animals, and already blown up balloons and we celebrated at Mickey and Minnie's house. You were so excited to include more guests this time. Oh, and Sugar Pie is the second to youngest Beanie Boo and you and Graves are working hard on helping her learn to walk and say new words. You said Midnight would have to be in charge of her flying lessons, though, since we humans have no idea how to so that. We didn't have any parties in April which I was kind of grateful for because we needed to plan hers and Graves's. And in May, "Foxy" (y'alls youngest) and Papa had birthdays within a day of each other so you started planning a joint party. You did a great job of thinking up commonalities between Papa and a baby Fox (apparently, they do have a lot of similar interests).

As an aside, y'all love the weekly Beanie Boo viewing and papa visit at his store on Sunday mornings. I had gotten to the point in pregnancy where I couldn't make it the whole hour from when we drop him off until when Sunday school starts without going in to use the bathroom.


In less exciting news, I also ended up going to the hospital one night because I was having a lot of pain related to the new baby. The night when I was in the hospital you were the only one of the four of us who was up the entire time (from about 1:30 to about 6:00). You had such a hard time falling asleep and Papa didn't want to pressure you about it so he handed you the iPad and let you enjoy about four hours of uninterrupted screen time. At one point, he also handed you his phone and told you to wake him up if I called or texted. You went back to sleep when y'all came to get me but didn't sleep much past your normal wake up time and were such a trooper at soccer practice the next day. You stayed up until midnight doing the English schoolwork you requested because I couldn't turn you down, especially after having really neglected school the few days prior. Then you got up early the next morning to greet Minnie at the door when she came to keep you and Graves while Papa and I volunteered. You were a bit of a "grumpitty grump" as you yourself would say, but overall I'd say that's some incredible stamina I've never had. Maybe I can pump some bottles to hand off to you after the midnight school lessons? [You finally crashed one afternoon around five.]

I also had a hard couple of weeks back in March. I know it sounds crazy to lots of people, but I really think a lot of it was the weather. One night I started throwing up and couldn't stop and Papa said he might need to take me to the hospital that time, too. I took a whole Phenergan (I only ever take half!) and it helped but it knocked me out! I could barely get off the couch until lunch the next day. I'm so grateful you and Graves were such good sports. Y'all did paper crafts, played with homeschool manipulatives, planned upcoming Beanie Boo parties, and you pretended Graves was your puppy dog and trained him so he was as well-behaved as Louie (something I've yet to manage to do).

 Your actual birthday was such a fun day We had such a great day with our little botanist/zoologist. We planned yours and Graves's joint birthday for later, but we like to give y'all each a special day to just pick fun, simple things you'd like to do. That day, you had waffles made by Papa, then you had back to back soccer games attended by your grandfather and uncle, you watched some sort of docu Papa found for you, and enjoyed another grandparent visit. You received three books, ten dollars, and a church dress with an animal motif from your grandparents. One of your little friends and your aunt called to tell you Happy Birthday and then we got Newks and went to a park you've never been to before (which had the friendliest ducks I've ever seen). You did a little Beanie Boo shopping at the drug store but ultimately held off on any impulse purchases and had a mint chocolate chip milkshake. And Papa's partner offered for him to work two extra hours on Friday so he wouldn't have to come in that night. I looked out the window that evening and you had switched your sneakers for boots and were swinging your butterfly net around trying to catch some kind of bug. Childhood is such a beautiful thing.

Later in April, Papa and I took a week long trip to New York. You and Graves had an AMAZING time here. DeeDee and Grandpa Randy and Mickey and Minnie split up the week and y'all had the best adventures.  

DeeDee and Grandpa Randy took you guys to story time at the library with your cousins, the science museum, the Ag Museum, and Dairy Queen. Plus y'all did art projects and enjoyed your uncle's sugar gliders. Mickey and Minnie took y'all to Pump it Up, made chicken pot pie per request, spent three hours at the McDonald's play place, and visited the playground with ducks. And you made the most beautiful little "bunny salad" with leaves and flowers from Minnie's yard. 

You told me y'all saw the duck with a limp that we saw last time at Strawberry Patch Park and the other ducks were pecking at it. Minnie shoo-ed them away and the disabled duck stayed near them the whole time. You told me "I think it was because he felt protected".

Here was your list you made for the things you wanted to do at Mickey and Minnie's house:
Your list from this week:
- fish
- chicken pot pie
- play stuffies
- play piano
- Strawberry Patch Park
-  Chick Fil A
 - McDonalds
 - Pump It Up
  - our backyard

Whew! Minnie told me that you're "her mother's daughter" because as y'all were leaving CFA you said "I'm not going to cross this off my list because we didn't stay long enough!"

When we got home, you asked me to tell you and Graves some New York stories. Papa had made up a cute story when we gave y'all your little souvenirs and I thought that's what you meant. Actually, you wanted me to just tell y'all real stories ALL about the trip. You had asked me to tell y'all two stories but then you said "I know! You tell me about your days and I'll tell you about mine!". You literally spent about ten minutes getting to where y'all had breakfast Tuesday morning as we were flying out of Jackson and said we'd pick back up there today. Your memory and attention to detail (when it's what you care about) is CRAZY! The timing of the trip was perfect. We got so much in and it felt like a long break but I was so glad to see y'all after a whole week!

[As an aside, I was still so amazed by the kindness of New Yorkers. There were only a couple of times we got on a train without someone promptly hopping up to offer me their seat. While I was surprised not to be as sentimental as I thought I'd be, watching these folks take care of Sister Baby the same way they showed such gentle kindness to you and Graves for a full year and a half did make me tear up.]



Recently y'all also enjoyed having a little party eating granola by flashlight in Mickey's work room. You guys love Friday nights so much! 

A few days after we got home, Papa got sick. Y'all were so sweet and considerate while he had the flu. You guys are at such a nice stage where you're very helpful and sweet.

Next up a few quick "facts" about you at seven:
- You can read and comprehend the jokes on the Laffy Taffy, but you can't open it by yourself (Graves's fine motor skills have long been superior to yours).
- Your absolute favorite "game" is when we all just pretend to be animals. Graves loves it, too. However, there is so infighting when you want to play wild animals and Graves wants to be extinct animals or mythological creatures. Recently you decided different rooms could be different time periods (present day, dinosaurs, time right after the dinosaurs- mammoths and saber tooths, ect.) and the kitchen could be for imaginary creatures. You often say "let's play that new game that prevents arguing".
- You asked me specifically if I could do my best to find you animal things whenever you need new clothes.   You are extremely confused by why it's so much easier to find boy clothes with animal motifs.
- Papa has a Snoopy shirt that I had generally been wearing only around the house (as none of mine fit at that point) but you asked me "Momma, don't you think it'd be cute to wear our Snoopy shirts together one day??"
- I've started letting you go get your own snacks during rest time and I love the concoctions you come up with. You told me "Momma, this Cheerio tortillo (yes, you pronounce it with a long o) was amazing. I mean, it was so amazing. Can you make me them for breakfast? You simply put Cheerios in a tortillo instead of a bowl".
- You call the baboon in The Lion King (whose name is Rafiki) Grafiki. You're still an urban girl at heart.
- When you get out a pencil and the lead has broken off, you refer to it as a "rotten" pencil.


School is going really great!


Papa signed you up for this "Around the World" project with the homeschool group we're in. It was really the first big thing like this we've done (you had to have an authentic dish, a craft for the other kids, a poster, a fact sheet, and a "passport" and stamp for everyone else's passport). For the day after the night our flight got in at 8:00pm from New York. Of course we had done about a quarter of it before we left. We both helped you with it a bunch that night (you were up until one) and then Papa really helped your with making the food that morning and putting a bunch of finishing touches on things. Most everyone else's posters were more advanced but I was so proud of you because you did so much of it yourself (Mick helped you some with the drawings). And you didn't say nearly everything you meant to but you did her presentation in front of everyone without any coaching from us. It's SO hard for me to step back and let go of wanting things to look polished and perfect (and as "good" as everyone else's) but I'm so glad when I do! And you had the best time working on it and visiting the other countries!

Some days teaching you math is like pulling teeth. But some days it's really fun. You were working on a graph on a worksheet one day and you told me that you used gray for zero because it means "nothing" and yellow for one because it's like a first place trophy. Then to figure out how many letters are in Papa's name you subtracted three (Ann) from nine (Ann Peyton) instead of just counting. The best was when you added a column for people whose names have zero letters and wrote in the baby since she didn't have a name at that point.

A different day, I totally underestimated the amount of prep work for our math lesson. You had to build these three dimensional geometric shapes out of basically cardboard two dimensional shapes and rubberbands. Actually, to be totally honest it was something the parent is supposed to do ahead of time and I just didn't even look at it. Luckily, I had some fine helpers and you and Graves were more than happy to help with the construction work once I figured out what the directions were saying (which again, being honest, took the bulk of the time). 

You are SO into The Magic Treehouse book series. The main characters are named Annie and Jack (Jackson is Graves's middle name and he was originally going to be "Jack"). The first one was your first chapter book to read all by yourself and you literally started it during rest time and finished it that day! A friend recently said that you are a "go big or go home kind of girl"; that when you love something, you LOVE it. That is such an accurate assessment. Several days later at naptime you got mad at Graves so you spent the whole time alone and I wouldn't let you use the iPad because you had already used up all your screen time. So you just decided to read THREE Magic Treehouse books. I really, really hope you don't burn yourself out on reading. Awhile back you got upset because you read that the next one didn't come out until the Fall. I showed you the copyright date (1995) and explained a bit about what it was and you felt better!

Interestingly enough, I will say that the math lesson where I picked a random page of a book and you had to guess which side it would be on, based on if it was even or odd, was a winner The lesson also discussed how to say years in regards to copyright dates. Real world extension (albeit a bit obscure) meets involving books and you probably could have done it all day. 

You recently showed me where in a reference book it said dromedary camels were extinct. You told me that "the should have put "extinct in the wild" rather than "extinct" since the dromedary camel STILL EXISTS". 


Your wardrobe has changed a lot lately. I know that's such a shallow thing, but it's been a big deal to me. I've really been trying to give y'all (especially you) more wardrobe autonomy. This was decided after MANY tears over Graves having so many animal outfits and having only a few yourself. The injustice of gendered clothing! Anyway, you finally calmly asked me one day (you're getting so self-aware and really good at articulating your desires) if whenever it was time to get you new clothes could I look for animal things. It was much easier to just shop online and take you to Target with me and I didn't even end up doing a consignment sale this season. Who even am I?!

I did get you a few things at the Brooklyn Flea. I got you a shirt that was actually for a little boy because it had foxes and hedgehogs on it. We can't get enough of whimsical animals! I also got you a little yellow dress with daisies on it because a) it looks like something I would have worn at seven b) it looks like something an "Annie" would wear and it looks like my Annie, in fact c) you are still determined that the baby's nickname is "Daisy" and when I saw it I immediately pictured your wearing it to the hospital to meet your baby sister (which you did!).  

Speaking of hedgehogs, I got this dress for you ages ago when I was still into buying ahead a bunch. And it ran really big so we waited even longer than I expected. I loved the color and the hot air balloons. But you were delighted by the !!!hedgehog!!! print at the top. Which I'm pretty sure I didn't even notice when I got it!

I do love watching your little style develop and the choices you make. Whenever it rains, for example, you love to wear your dress with umbrellas. You also like to do goofy things like wearing your soccer socks with blue jean shorts. You are so much fun! 

You are so creative. I told Papa not to take away your screen time (because right now I really need that time, judge me if you want to). So one night he needed a consequence and he took away all your Magic Treehouse books. Of course I felt TERRIBLE. Anyway, you did have some bursts of creativity during rest time that day and pretended to be a "pizza girl". You went to the fridge and made this hilarious concoction- a tortilla, a cutie, and a piece of a half eaten sandwich) and then served it to Graves in y'alls room (usually not allowed but you did ask first and I was tired). After awhile, y'all got tired of playing Pizza Girl and Graves set up a "special grooming station" where you take off everything but your panties and he uses his wet toothbrush to "groom" you. I decided to pass on that one.  

You also told me awhile back that you came up with a new game. You sid "It's called "Find and Make". You get a bunch of trash things that would likely be thrown away, such as my gum, and make a picture with it". 

In other adventures, I heard you telling Graves, in regards to his Squirrel Scarer: "That's never going to scare a squirrel. THEY'LL JUST THINK THAT'S AN ORDINARY LITTLE BOY THING" (caps because you were literally tearfully yelling.) [You also expressed that while you're opposed to eating wild animals, you're totally okay with eating farm animals- like sausage.] Can't make this stuff up.

A couple of months ago, Graves was pretending to be a "cat catcher" and I walked in the laundry room and he had General's head in this net. For awhile, his best friend was understandably terrified of him and he'd split immediately when he saw Graves holding the net in the backyard. You suggested putting the net up entirely for a bit but also going in to change clothes "so he won't recognize us". Thankfully, y'all are all back on good terms!

 I've mentioned before that I'm a night owl and you are my little sidekick and we have such a wonderful time together after the boys go to bed. One night a couple of months ago, I was doing dishes and making egg salad at 11:30 (per usual) and you told me that you wanted to get together books for our day trip to Granny's the next day (you've been helping me get their stuff together for church on Saturday nights). You did that and then collected some stuffed animals to take. Then you said "okay, all that's left is our clothes". And the most precious part was when you picked out outfits for yourself and Graves and hung them on the bookcase. It's such much fun when they become little teammates and it's happening at just the perfect time with you! 

Another night you told me "Momma, there's a moth in the den. Come move your laundry quick!!!" I didn't do it right away and you started bringing it all in the study yourself. You smoothed out the hanging clothes and said "I tried to do this as neatly as possible". You are so, so helpful! 

You are really kind and helpful but you're also a feisty little gal. At one of Graves's blastball games, you found this nine year boy and practiced soccer with him nearly the whole game. He was super good, too! You fell down and he asked you if you were okay and you said "Sure! It happens all the time in soccer". And then he said "is everybody taller than you on your team?" That would be a yes. Ha!

Graves announced awhile back that  that if we don't name the baby Avocado, he'll call her Mean Baby. You told him "Bud, just because they choose the wrong name, that doesn't make her a mean baby". Minnie legit suggested we throw him a bone and name her Ava. And you are still holding out for Daisy. By the way, who knew Daisy is a nickname for Margaret??

Someone told me awhile back that she felt like her family was complete at present because she didn't think she could be as good a mom if she had one more. I've thought about that a lot and especially lately I've been thinking that even if I could handle parenting a large number of children, there's no way I could do this to you and Graves (and now our New Girl) again. I know it's only nine months, but it feels like nearly a year of y'alls lives that I haven't been physically or emotionally present at all in the way I want to be. I'm glad I did it one more time but I also have such a strong peace as the door closes on biological children. And I've been SO grateful for this because Papa was very emphatic that round three was the final round.

April, which brings the anniversary of both yours and Graves's births and the anticipation of another year of life with both of y'all, always seems to have me very introspective. Over the past seven years, being home with you guys has meant a lot of different things to me and in different seasons I have had different reasons for doing it. Awhile back, during a discussion with Papa, I realized one of the main things I find value in is the hours upon hours each week that I get to devote to being a student of you two. Being a student of other people- analyzing them and learning their quirks and what makes them tick, their fears and passions, the driving forces that make them do what they do- is so exciting and fascinating to me in general. And those extra hours I get for this favorite task with these favorite people? Is a big part of my purpose right now. When I thought about it that way, it also gave me an even stronger impetus towards our financial independence goals. I want Papa to be able to have more long hours devoted to knowing y'all deeply and learning your secret hurts and deepest dreams. It's not that it's a burden I want share with him, although it is a hefty responsibility. It's a great joy in a very deep place and it would feel wrong for me to keep it only for myself when I could do otherwise.

I love you so much Annie and I'm so incredibly thankful for the past seven years with you.

Love,
Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your dress is a 5T and you're holding up your swim team ribbons this month!