Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Letter to (Seven Month Old) Sarah Lamar

Dear Sarah Lamar,

What a fun month the last one has been with you. Your first Christmas was just delightful and low key and perfect. Your only present from us was this set of periodic table blocks that Papa bought ages ago because he thought they were so neat. We ended up not giving them to either of the big kids and we found them in the present box we keep in the attic the week before Christmas. I'd say they've been a hit so far!

We had the best time seeing Cookie and Conrad and Cookie has started calling you Sissy, which I think is just the sweetest nickname.

I had SO much fun putting you in all of Annie's old Christmas outfits. FYI, your momma might have a slight Etsy obsession and your grandmother may spend a lot of time at antique malls if you're wearing chenille Christmas trees with chenille booties while sitting on a chenille blanket. I still love that one, but I'm not as enamored with it as I was with Annie. Mine and Papa's favorite play outfit was a little gingerbread romper.

The day after Christmas I was trying to get you to bed for the night. You were screaming at the top of your lungs, having epic bridge club levels of over stimulation (that reference comes from the fact that Minnie used to go to bridge one night a month and come home so wound up she'd have to play three hours of solitaire and watch two hours of crime dramas before she could go to sleep). One of my kids very clearly gets people hangovers like I do and has now gotten to the point where she (mostly graciously) just removes herself from the situation. That happened today. One of my kids acts like he's got a literal hangover. That happened today, too. Second holiday that he's gotten a headache. Could be the junk food but I think it's also the energy output he's sustaining. My third little cub- I think you gets withdrawals when you have to detox from being around people who love you. Okay, I'm done with the alcohol/drug analogies.

You are very tactile. You love to scratch (not rub!) different surfaces, like the upholstery on the couch. I think you like how it feels and I think you like the sound it produces. It makes your HSP momma want to shake back and forth in a corner.

You have also started to rub your own hair when you're sleepy and especially when you nurse as a soothing strategy. Annie did this too! It makes your momma want to melt.

You pull hair and earrings (and swats at nose studs ) and pinches our faces SUPER hard. You've got a grip! One time I was taking a nap with you and you grabbed my hand in your sleep and pulled it to you and I woke up thinking it was Papa, you used such force. Your momma mostly loves this too, even if some of it's a bit painful.

I've mentioned it before, but you love screens. You have a hard time nursing when I'm looking at my phone. Your momma is thankful for the gentle nudge to put it away at certain moments for a season.

You've gotten to where you are a lot happier to let other people hold you. Your momma is deeply grateful.

Everything about you (and your family) is weird. You put the "nut" in peanut. You play in your crib and sleep in her play pen. You stay up until past ten a lot of nights. It's not unusual for you to take ONE nap but it often lasts four hours or even a bit more. Other days you sneak in a cat nap around five or six but it's only about half an hour. This strange schedule works pretty well for us and you're surprisingly pleasant. You also really like engagement and interaction and we are thankful it's in no short supply. I cannot imagine Papa and I being tasked with providing enough stimulation to keep you happy on our own. Grateful you're the third!

I keep thinking you and Graves are going to be so much alike- but you may well be tougher and rowdier. Papa always says that Annie set the tone for Graves and if the roles were reversed (i.e he was the oldest) they would be very different children. So here's to Graves being a tone-setter. I have a feeling it's gonna be a wild ride and it's only just begun.

If somebody gets you in position, you can sit up by myself. I had been predicting you would enjoy this, but you LOVVVVE this new trick. So much so you are taking your crazy lady smile to the next level.

Oh, and you try to sit up in the bouncy seat. Soooo that's out.

In addition to sitting up, you are obsessed with making motorboat sounds with your mouth!

You also sat in the high chair at a restaurant for the first time and CRAWLED recently. It was really more of a scoot, but it blew my mind. Annie walked at seventeen months, so this type thing is one hundred percent nuts to me. Speaking of restaurants, you LOVE them. You are the sweetest little party girl. I recently took you to Chick Fil A in your jammies and Annie said "Are you really going to let her wear her PAJAMAS? To a RESTAURANT?" Yes, yes I am.

Your sleep schedule is still pretty crazy the other night I noticed that it was eleven o'clock and you had gotten
your second wind, per usual. You are definitely a night owl like the other girls in our family. The boys are more high energy and they go hard and conk out earlier (and typically get up earlier). Now that I'm thinking about it, though, your up with them, are pretty high energy, go hard, *and* are a night owl. Which is kinda weird, since you are, you know, seven months old.

We finally got the Exersaucer out, which it was past time for but my house- and more importantly, my mental space- can only accommodate so much baby gear.

You are an amazing little person and I love my days with you so incredibly much.

We love you, Little Sallie Sunshine!

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. You pjs are a 6 mo.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Healthy Ambirtions: 2017 Goals

As I shared, my word for 2017 is well. So that, of course, is what I'm trying to structure many of my 2017 goals around.

I want to do simple, silly things that it feels ridiculous to be in my thirties and not be doing (like washing my face before bed). I want to do things for my physical health (like figuring out how to get on top of my headaches) and I want to do things for my mental health (like making sure I don't get isolated and finding the balance between some personal, introvert time and pushing myself to engage and even initiate). And I want to  do things for my physical health (like exercising and prioritizing sleep) that also help keep me mentally healthy. Honestly, when I think about it, there's not a physical thing on this list that won't help me get, and stay, in a better place mentally.

I really liked my focus areas last year so I'm keeping them and adding adding a new category at the end. My eleventh focus area is

Half the list is repeats- some need more work and some are things that are on-going and I want to remind myself to keep including them in my monthly goaling. They may well appear year after year. 

Focus Areas for 2017:
1. Faith
2. Family
3. Relationships
4. Health
5. Creativity/Passion
6. Education/Edification
7. Organization
8. Travel
9. Finances
10. Joy/Gratitude

I want to focus on God's unconditional love and live a life aware of his grace.
1. Join Northside.
2. Get in the habit of reading a devotion in the morning and in the evening.
3. Search for God in the everyday.
4. Study the Bible more.
5. Alternatively, simply read the Bible more.
6. Ponder the mysteries of faith.

I want to value those closet to me and help them to feel how valued they are.
7. Maximize the time Peyton and I spend together.
8. Set specific goals for the children.
9. Further cultivate relationships with Cookie and Peyton's siblings.
10. Observe my family member's unique personalities, gifts, and weaknesses and use that knowledge to serve them.
11.  Practice patience and flexibility.

I want to elevate people above activities, obligations, and most importantly possessions.
12. Prioritize people over "accomplishing things".
13. Spend time with people in ways that are meaningful and that make sense.
14. Send snail mail more frequently.
15. Prioritize our children's friendships.
16. Refuse to allow myself to get isolated.
17. Find  the balance between introvert time and social time.
18. Be proactive in connecting with people. 

I want to form long term, sustainable habits that will help me become, and stay, physically and mentally well.
19. Work on altering my lifestyle to try to significantly decrease my headaches. 
20. Go see a doctor (or doctors) about these headaches. 
21. Establish patterns of silence and stillness in my day.
22. Get in some sort of exercise routine.
23. Continue to make more and more healthy food choices.
24. Cut back on sugar and caffeine.
25. Eat a big breakfast on the days when Peyton is home.
26. Wear sunscreen daily.
27. Wash my face every morning and every night.
28. Color occasionally.
29. Burn seasonal candles. 

I want to make time and space for the things that make me feel happy and alive.
30. Search for, and surround myself with, inspiration.
31. Determine which hobbies and passions are worthy of my time and how much time is appropriate to devote to them in this season.
32. Continue to write regularly.
33. Submit my writing to publications (online or otherwise) I admire.
34. Enjoy Instagram as an outlet, while not letting it become consuming
35. Try to get dressed for the day more frequently (*).

I want to be a life long learner and model this well for my children.
36. Read three memoirs.
37. Study personality theory.
38. In addition to my devotions (a few minutes each), daily read Scripture and spend at a minimum fifteen minutes reading something else interesting (that's not online).
39. Most days. read aloud to the children for half an hour (combined) at a minimum.
40. Work hard to complete books that I start (assuming I am enjoying them).
41. Read at least two books with Peyton.
42. Participate in quarterly book club.
43. Watch five documentaries.
44. Find and listen to podcasts more frequently.
45. Learn exactly one new skill that I can do with my hands. 
46. Teach myself how to use this the curling wand Cookie gave me for Christmas. (**).

I want to create, and maintain, more physical and mental space.
47. Continue to improve my time management skills.
48.  Back up everything on the computer and wipe it out.
49. Get back in the habit of organizing pictures when I upload them.
50. Organize pictures into Facebook albums a couple of times a month.  
51. Continue to purge our possessions.
52. Make time each week to plan activities for the coming week, plan school for the coming week, and plan meals for the coming week.
53. Be very discriminating in the activities we commit to and the purchases we make.
54. Figure out ways to make cooking more manageable and organized.
55. Become more systematic in my approach to my wardrobe.
56. Further improve my notebook/listmaking systems. 

I want to enjoy the beautiful world God has created.
57. Plan extremely well for our month long trip to New York.
58. Enjoy our month in New York and find ways to experience as little stress as possible in an unfamiliar (in some ways, for some of us) setting.
59. Take frequent trips to the farm to camp and play and visit Peyton's parents, who are moving down there.

I want to live simply and not let money dominate my thinking.
60. Stay within the parameters Peyton and I set for my discretionary spending.
61. Be very intentional about staying on top of documenting my spending.
62. Continue to zero in on my "strategies" as far as spending money.
63. Treat myself to once a month Target visits and dollar bin splurges (under $20 for the whole trip).
64. Treat myself to one eating out experience alone each month.
65. Purge socks and sports bras and buy new ones to restock. 

I want to cultivate a spirit of joy and experience gratefulness for all I've been given.
66. Be vulnerable in telling others how thankful I am for them.
67. Surround myself with words, music, and people that bring joy.
68. Challenge myself to hold things loosely.

* This one seems a little weird, yeah? Two things- one, I always hear how getting dressed can help people be more creative and productive and efficient. I'm not sure this is the case at all, but I'm curious to experiment. Two, and this is more important, I have a ton of clothes in my closet that are, in my opinion, cute. This is because I think getting dressed is a fun, creative outlet. Then why don't I do it? Because it's hard? So is everything worth anything. Because it takes effort? So does everything worth anything. If I'm going to only wear gym shorts around the house (and lets face it, right now a lot of life is occurring "around the house) then I might as well get rid of a TON of stuff. And I really don't want to. So I'm trying this.
** This also seems quite shallow, right? Here's the thing- it's a skill. Imma have to watch a few YouTube videos and practice it. I think it'll be fun to try a new hairstyle but it's going to take some effort and I'm not ashamed to be goaling it.

So there are my 2017 goals. I say this EVERY year, but I am going to try to do some updates throughout the year. Hopefully that will happen this go round!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Slow Ambitions: 2016 Goals Recap

In 2016 my word for the year was "slow" and I picked ten focus areas to work on and then came up with around fifty small goals that I tried to work into my monthly goals. I feel like overall, I did pretty well with the slow theme and the pace of our life feels really good. Some of my goals were met and some weren't, which is completely unsurprising, of course. It was fun to look back and assess myself!

Focus Areas for 2016:
1. Faith
2. Family
3. Relationships
4. Health
5. Creativity/Passion
6. Education/Edification
7. Organization
8. Travel
9. Finances
10. Joy/Gratitude

I want to be reminded often of the scandal of Grace and I want to live an authentic life that points to the Gospel.
1. Pray daily. You know, this became a pretty organic thing. I really wanted to develop some "patterns" of prayer and that didn't happen this year, but what did was even better!
2. Read at least one short devotion daily. I was off and on with this again this year.
3. Find a substantive but not overwhelming Bible study to commit to. Not really and I hate that. I was thinking of doing one with a group I used to be in this coming year, but I decided against it. I do need to find something for myself. I think I'm going to try to really commit to She Reads Truth for January and maybe February and then see if I want to do something else in the Spring.
4. Begin the process of joining Northside as a member. I began the process (really just talking to the pastor about a few things) and the children and I actually joined on the first day of 2017! So special.
5. Look for ways to serve others. Hmmm, I think I did pretty well with this. It wasn't necessarily in the way I thought I would, though. I find my work at the grief center incredibly fulfilling and I've realized how much it means to send someone a note, or make them a meal, or even just listen to them share something difficult they are facing.

I want to love those closest to me in a fierce and selfless and practical way. 
6. Prioritize my relationship with Peyton. I asked him about this one and he said he felt good about it but that it's hard to qualify. I purposefully make these yearly goals kind of open ended, but that does make them hard to measure. I'd say overall I did pretty good with this one, especially for having an infant. I find during that particular season it's inevitable you won't be able to prioritize your marriage as much as at other times (at least that's the case for me), and while it doesn't mean it has to suffer, it's good to just acknowledge that and move on.
7. Set specific goals for the children. I did this exactly once, I think. So not a total fail, but not what I had hoped for. I'd like to try again this year!
8. Observe my family member's unique personalities, gifts, and weaknesses and use that knowledge to serve them. This is such a hobby of mine, so it was an easy and enjoyable task!
9. Practice patience and flexibility. Key word there is "practice" and I sure still need a lot of it! It did help to try to keep it in the forefront of my mind this year, though.

I want my lifestyle to reflect my priorities- PEOPLE above activities, obligations, and things. 
10. Spend time with people in ways that are meaningful and that make sense. I think I did do well with this, too. There are some friendships I need to be more intentional with, but I did make some progress in this area (starting a quarterly book club with friends with similar interests, for example).
11. Be intentional about keeping connected with our close friends. I'd say I was pretty successful here- again, there's always room for improvement but things like emailing with certain friends and texting more with others have helped.
12. Be intentional about cultivating new-er friendships. I'm not sure. I've enjoyed a lot of "acquaintance" type relationships that have somewhat developed into a bit more but I'm not sure they'll ever move into "good friend" territory, more because people (ourselves included) are just busy. There are a handful of people I've had every intention of reaching out to about getting together this year and it just never happened
13. Prioritize people over "accomplishing things". Whew. I know this will always be a struggle for me. I would say some months I did well and some I got overwhelmed and didn't.
14. Continue to make space to communicate over email. As I mentioned, I have one friend this works really well with. I have a couple of others that I do it sporadically with.
15. Prioritize our children's friendships. This one is tough and it's one of the areas where I probably failed pretty hard this year. Besides weekly cousin dates and stuff with the homeschool group (which are really more acquaintances for Annie and Graves), we haven't done all that great. Annie did start taking piano lessons from a good friend several months ago and it allows her and Graves to get together with a lot of their close friends since one of their momma teaches the lessons and another friend of Annie's is learning at the same time.
16. Challenge myself to form and cultivate friendships that are outside my comfort zone. I'd say this goes along with number twelve. I did some forming (outside my comfort zone) but very little cultivating (further outside my comfort zone).

I want to train myself in habits that will lead to a (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) healthier me in a way that is not burdensome and can be practiced longterm.
17. Take smalls steps toward more healthy food choices. I honestly probably made better food choices when I was pregnant than I ever have before. It's just what I craved. Not to say I was super healthy, but I ate more produce and that kind of thing than at any other point in my adult life. I wouldn't say I've reverted back, but I don't think I eat as well as I did.
18. Exercise more frequently. Hard nope. In my defense, I was pregnant half the year and then had that post-partum period. But that's six months plus six weeks, so there was a good bit of time to have done something.
19. After the baby comes, do some real work on altering my lifestyle to try to significantly decrease my headaches. Yeah, no. Which is another thing I'm really disappointed in. I know you can't do it all, but this is something I NEED to prioritize.
20. Establish patterns of silence and stillness in my day. Whew. Not really. And I would be so well served to do so.
21. Daily practice some form of self-care. I didn't always do it daily and I never really tracked it even though I meant to, but I think I did better than I have in some past years.
22. Explore the things that "center" and relax me. Lots of room for improvement here, too. I kinda forgot about this one.

I want to lean into and further discover the things that make me feel alive and understood and devote time and energy to those things.
23. Search for, and surround myself with, inspiration. YES. I've set up my Instagram feed where I'm following more "inspirational" accounts. I know some people hate those because it doesn't feel very real. And I do love some grit. But when I recognize that it's highly curated and just enjoy it, it relaxes me. I've also collected lots of good quotes. One area I'd love to improve is music. I stopped doing my monthly playlists and I miss them.
24. Write more in a creative, imaginative way (rather than just documenting). I shared a good bit about this in a recent post. I didn't write creatively so much as reflectively. Both are important, I think and I feel good about it.
25. Read more books. Not really. This may well be the on going struggle of my adult life. Okay, that was dramatic. An ongoing struggle, how bout? I want to read so much and I know it's about making time, not having it so I really have no excuse.
26. Enjoy our camera more. Peyton did this for me some. He was really good about taking "action" shots and videos of the big kids doing fun things. I was really good about documenting the baby sleeping ;) I'm sure I will cherish both more than we can comprehend right now.
27. Think through my passions and outlets and how I make time for those. Yeah, I think I did that, actually. More in the later part of the year but I do think I'm becoming better at organizing my time and figuring out what is worth dedicating it to. 

I want to be a woman who is always learning and I want to teach my children well.
28. Think of ways to make school more fun and engaging for the children. This was not, in fact, the year for this kind of thing. We've had a REALLY fun school year and I've seen so much growth, but a lot of it has been picking up a curriculum and doing it. Ever so grateful we, with the help of many amazing friends and mentors, we've chosen really, really wonderful engaging curriculums that do a lot of that work for us.
29. Read together (with Peyton and the children). With P, we've read together basically nothing. With the children, I've had a less than stellar year. That's...heartbreaking. Again, not to be dramatic. It is what it is and I have the gift of knowing I've done well in the past and the confidence I'll do better in the future. 
30. Read twelve books on varying and diverse topics.Well, I totaled it up and I read parts of eight books this year. As if that weren't bad enough, I completed exactly two of those. I already touched on this with number twenty five so I won't belabor the point.
31. Watch twelve documentaries. No. I watched exactly one. Pitiful. Actually, the bulk of this project would be making a list of the twelve I want to see. I found this list recently and decided it would be a good starting place. So on next year's list it goes!

I want to work on things that will help me gain mental space and free up energy in the long run.
32. Back up everything on the computer and wipe it out. No. But I'm very determined to do it this month or at least by the end of February. It's a SUPER daunting task to me.
33. Get back in the habit of organizing pictures when I upload them. Sort of. I need to figure out a new and more efficient system.
34. Continue to purge our house, though to a lesser degree. There's a lot left to be done, but I'm proud of what I've accomplished in this area.
35. Consistently work to keep things (closets, drawers, cabinets) clean, organized, and minimal. I think I've done a much better job here, too. I still need to retrain myself some more, though.
36. Make time each week to plan activities for the coming week, plan school for the coming week, and plan meals for the coming week. No. We do okay and then drop it. I wish we could figure this out because it benefits us so much.
37. Care for the house (CLEAN) in a way that is sustainable and practical but also thorough and frequent. I feel like I've kind of found the balance with this. Sometimes I go too long. Sometimes I get too obsessed and let it take the place of more important things. But overall, short of hiring a cleaning service (which is never gonna happen in this house), I think we've found the sweet spot. It helps to have Peyton's help.
38. Examine ways to better manage my time. I've analyzed this a lot lately and really it deserves it's own post or two. But yes!
39. Be very discriminating in the activities we commit to and the purchases we make. I think we did well with finding the balance here, too. I did mostly only things I wanted to and bought mostly only things I loved.
These may seem counter-intuitive to the overall theme, but I want to live small and slow near home and I also want to challenge myself to be open to adventure elsewhere.
40. Take friend trip to Nashville in February. We did this and had a great time! It was a nice catch up with Ashley and I always enjoy a road trip and Carrie's a great friend for one!
41. Take "babymoon" to NYC in April. We did and it was definitely one of our best couple trips we've ever taken.
42. Plan small camping trips and other close, low cost, family focused excursions for the four (and later five!) of us. Praise God that I do love road trips, because instead of a few small ones, we took one big twelve hundred mile, many many hours, long trip. We hit five (I think?) national parks. WITH THE BABY. Can you tell I felt accomplished with number forty two? Ha!

 I want to continue to work toward a more frugal lifestyle and push back against what the culture says is important.
43. Spend the money I make in a careful and thoughtful way. Well, I didn't make a lot but what I did I was pretty careful with. 
44. Make the most of opportunities that are free or low cost. I think we've gotten pretty good at this. We try to take advantage of free things (hello, NATURE!) and we've gotten really good at eating out hacks where we split things and order appetizers and such.
45. Appreciate the ways the Lord will use this sort of discipline to sanctify me. I haven't dwelt on this a ton as it's been easier than I thought, but yes, I know He is using it.

I want to focus my mind and heart often on the things I am grateful for and the things that bring me joy.
48. Make thankful lists at times other than the month of November. I didn't do this and I so should have.
49. Find other specific ways to express thankfulness. I mostly just worked on trying to tell people I appreciated them.
50. Learn how to be content without buying things. It, like everything, is a work in progress. And, like everything, it's not a linear journey.
51.  Be vulnerable in telling others how thankful I am for them. As I mentioned, I think I'm doing this more.
52. Surround myself with words, music, and people that bring joy. Again, I did well with the words and people. I want to work on incorporating more music into our days in 2017.
53. Challenge myself to hold things loosely. This is getting easier and easier for some reason. And I think it's something outside of myself. Maturity? Perspective? I dunno. But it feels real good.

So, now my thoughts:

- This was my third year to organize goals this way (focus areas and goals for the year that I tried to incorporate into monthly goaling). I think I'll always do it this way and each year it's fun to tweak it and make it work for me a little bit better.
- I do feel like I'm getting better at goal setting and pinning down the things I value and want to prioritize and accomplish. I'm excited about doing my 2017 list later in the week!
- It's interesting, because I noticed the same thing last year, but with the more fluid, relational things that are harder to qualify I felt good. With the the concrete, measurable tasks, I didn't do as well. Now, that could be my bias because with the former I don't have a clear way to measure it and I just have to go with my feelings, whereas with the latter, it's clear when I don't succeed. Or, it could be that the former are just easier for me personally. Or it could be that they are easier goals in general. Or it could be that I'm prioritizing relationships more than to-dos, which is a focus point itself! I think it's probably a little bit of each.

Next up, 2017 goals! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: The Year in Headers

This is typically my third and final year's end recap post. I still need to write on how I did with my 2016 goals and I'm planning to do that, as well as share my new goals for this year, this week. I love looking back over the pictures and fonts and colors and quotes and enjoying these twelve little collage crafts one more time!

2011: The Year in Headers
2012: The Year in Headers

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Best of In the Warm Hold (and Elsewhere): 2016

{Annie reading the first ever letter I wrote to her almost eight years ago}

Even though these posts are a bit of a labor of love, I enjoy them immensely each year. The reason is twofold.

First of all, even at times when I think the very best writing in this space is mediocre comparatively, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Because these words represent hours of my life. It's something I've worked hard on and I've given myself to it. It used to embarrass me, and I suppose it's a bit vulnerable to admit, but it's a hobby- and if I'm doing well with it, a craft- that I love.

More than once this year, I asked myself if this was worth my energy anymore, worth my limited mental resources. Especially with little to no compensation- even in the form of comments. But the truth is, now more so than ever, this blog is its own reward. 

Secondly, each year, these posts allow me to analyze my writing. This year, I realized my writing leaned even more analytical and introspective than usual. I love creative writing and more essay/memoir feeling posts that read like a story, but this wasn't the year for that. That said, I like to challenge myself to go beyond recaping events and think about what's going on behind them and I certainly think I did it in 2016. It was a very reflective year for me. SD gets meta, WHEW.

I think I often offer some sort of caveat, and really I don't know why I do, because like the blog itself, these posts are mostly for me. That said, I'm linking to more than I feel like I "should". I did try to be discerning and there were some posts I liked that fit what I wanted to share, but I left off because they weren't my favorite. But there are also some posts here that aren't necessarily the "best", I just wanted to include them because they were interesting to me and this is basically where I go when I want to look back at the posts that were important to me. It ends up being a collection of most of the substantive things I've written, rather than truly the best of the best. Maybe next year, I should think of a new way to title this.

I always start the year out doing exactly what I'm doing, so a lot of January on the blog is recaps and goal evaluating and determining. As I mentioned in another post, the focus this past January was on Sister Baby, and on finding out that she was, in fact, a sister baby.
Another Sister or Another Brother?- I wrote about finding out that Babykins #3 was a girl and about our varied reactions to that fact.

In February, I was really trying to shoot out Weekly Happening posts, and monthly letters to the kiddos, and weekly pregnancy posts, and a some Smorgasbords. But I got in a couple of more analytical posts.
13 Things That Are Saving My Life- I wrote about Amazon Prime, my planner, alone time, and God's sovereignty.
Babykins #3: Halfway Home- This was my first "reflection" type pregnancy post. I shared about my thoughts on naming her, on how I was grateful for how difficult the pregnancy had been, and on attempting to find the balance between fully immersing myself in things happening for "the last time" and not obsessing over it.

I finally felt Spring in March and I was able to document it a little. I was also finally able to really share some of the intense emotions having to do with missing New York and how that related to Peyton's disbelief and some of life's other difficulties.
Sidewalk Supper- I wrote this tiny little post because it was one of those nights I wanted to remember for always. It felt good to stretch my writing muscles, if only for about ten minutes.
Darkest of Nights: On Fear and Peace and Welcoming People in Their Pain, Sin, and Disbelief- This was one of the most important posts I wrote this year. I ended up incorporating most of it into a post I submitted to a blog I love. I wrote about Peyton's (lack of) faith and my kids' awful behavior and my own debilitating anxiety and how our church in New York was so kind to meet us right in the midst of all those things.

April was the month we were gone to New York on our babymoon trip and I wrote almost nothing especially insightful. What I did write was clearly exclusively about the trip and the city.
Feelings On Visiting Our Old Home- I shared my feelings on visiting our old home and analyzed if maybe I curated an image of New York to impress other people or even as self-preservation when we lived there.

It's funny I got so much writing done in May since things would have to be put on the back burner for awhile starting in June and just recently experiencing a bit of an upswing. Anyway, in May I wrote some more about my pregnancy and
Babykins #3: Comparisons and Reflections at Thirty Weeks- I shared how hard I was working to be present with the kids but how I felt like I was neglecting them, how I had a big come apart one afternoon and really got myself worked up, and how I asked Carrie to be in the room when the baby was born!
 Life Expectancy (In a World of Expectations): A New York Conference Review (over at MBird)- Having a piece published on Mockingbird was a really big honor. I wrote about NPR, the conference, more on Peyton's disbelief, and the restorative power of a declarative word spoken over oneself.
Live- This post found it's origin in a writing prompt from a friend who suggested choosing verbs that encourage one to live.
Babykins #3: Reflections and Comparisons at Thirty Five Weeks- I wrote about being anxious about not having a doula or a name for Sister Baby and about Annie and Graves's thoughts on the baby.

June was a sweet month to write about some of the most important relationships and events.
God's Continued Provision in Our Marriage- I wrote about all the ways I had seen God bring me and Peyton to agreement on things and how that gave me increased hope for the work He can do in P's life.
The Amazingly Difficult and Beautiful Story of Sarah Lamar's Birth- I shared about the chaotic, terrifying, amazing story that was behind our sweet girl's birth.
{Throwback Thursday} Babykins #3: Reflections and Comparisons at Forty Weeks- It was important to me to remember, so I went back and wrote about that last week before Sallie came.
Baby Blues: Things That Hurt and Things That Comfort- This was the first post that I wrote processing what was going on with me emotionally after Sallie's birth. I shared the hard stuff and the amazing stuff.

The focus, in July, was, predictably, our New Girl.
As Magic as the Smell of Baby Shampoo- Even thought I was struggling in a lot of ways, I was enjoying Sallie's babyhood so much and I wanted to share about how different my perspective was this time around.
Sarah Lamar: Naming Our Sister Baby- This was similar to a birth story in that I wanted to make sure to share it before the details got fuzzy. I went through a long explanation and analysis of the circuitous road that led us to Sarah Lamar's name.

In August, I wrote a lot about my own mental health, as well as about nursing and an opportunity that I was thankful didn't come to fruition even though I wanted it to desperately.
Drowning- I finally shared how much I was struggling emotionally. It did give me quite a bit of relief to write about it.
I Shall Be Well- I wrote about my decision to get on medicine and my feelings surrounding it.
Feeding a Baby the Third Time- I wrote a short post about nursing this go round.
The Best Laid Plans: Remix- I realized, yet again, God had provided for me and I was thankful for a decision I didn't have to make.

In September, I started a monthly process of kind of taking inventory of my own thoughts and feelings, largely relating to our family and family size, as well as my own health and self-image and eulogized one of the greatest women I've had the privilege to love. The post partum reflections became one of my favorite disciplines and I hope I figure out a way to continue this type of "checking in" with myself after Sallie turns a year old.
Post-Partum Check In: Three Months Out- I shared about depression, and how much I love the baby stage, and how I was grateful I had been able to so fully immerse myself in Sallie's babyhood.
Granny: Remembering a Life of Love and Labor- I wrote a post about Granny and how perfectly time her funeral was in that it fell on Labor Day and she was one of the hardest working, and the strongest, women I have known in my life.

We took our big family vacation for the Fall in October, but I managed to write a bit about motherhood and my feelings on family and time.
Heart Attacks and Heart Explosions- I wrote a quick, numbered points post about Sallie and Graves and motherhood.
Post Partum Check In: Four Months Out- another bit of inventory taking, this time about how attached Sallie was, the way time moves, and the sense of closure I was feeling as the chapter on biological babies was closing.

In November, I analyzed the election outcome, talked about messes (those weren't the same post, actually- haha!), and shared more post partum reflections.
Post-Election Ramblings- I shared my thoughts on the presidential election.
Inviting Others Into the Mess- I talked about trying to get comfortable with allowing others into our literal, and figurative, messes.
Post-Partum Check In: Five Months Out- I shared more about feeling a sense of closure; about becoming more healthy; and about how; in my experience, babies get harder with age.

I closed out the year with my most recent self-reflection and my yearly Christmas letter which is always one the hardest things to write and one of my most favorite things to write.
Post-Partum Check In: Six Months Out- I wrote about how six months felt abrupt, how I was surprisingly at peace with it, and more about how I was seeing God's provision.
You've Got Mail: 2016 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter- I shared a lot of the ups and downs from the year. I love these partly because it's a challenge to figure out how I want to articulate everything I want to share in a simple letter.
An Orginization I'm Proud to Be a Part Of- I wrote an impassioned defense of the Junior League. I love it so much and it hurts when people know it.
SD Is Thankful 2016- I finished up the year by sharing my Thankfuls from November.

As I said, it was fun to wade back through these and look back over my thoughts and feelings and all the things we experienced in 2016. I'm grateful for another precious year in the books and for the way I've been able to document it in this space.

The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2010
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2011
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2012
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2013
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2014
The Best of In the Warm Hold: 2015

Saturday, January 7, 2017

In the Gentle Evening Breeze: 2016 Year In Review

In the gentle evening breeze
By the whispering shady trees
I will find my sanctuary in the Lord

I feel like I'm finally, finally getting my blogging mojo back. And part of that is making wise decisions with my time. It's helping me to not get burnt out, and not get overwhelmed, and also to actually get more done. All that to say, in years past, these posts have looked different. I included a ton of pictures from my phone and the big camera (I think one year there was an average of ten per month) and I hyperlinked basically every word to reference back to the posts about specific events and occasions. I was about to start uploading pictures and I realized half or more would be ones I used in the slideshow at the end and that's redundant and silly and a waste of my time and everyone else's. Blogging has changed and I doubt anybody has any interest in all that (if they ever did) but more importantly our lives have changed and what used to be a several day process would now probably take me weeks. Mostly importantly, while I certainly still have my compulsions, I'm much more interested in the big picture. I want to hit the highlights here, but if I leave out a big event but do a good job using my words (and the slideshow!) to convey the overall sense of thankfulness and fear and heartache and abundant joy that we experienced this year, that is what is most important to me now.

Last January was a lot like most- we packed up Christmas, I chose my word of the year, and I determined my big goals for the year. It was different, though, and the biggest highlight of the month (and one of the biggest of the year) was finding out that Babykins #3 was a girl. It was tough on Graves at first, but it was an exciting time. It's so sweet to look back over the year and realize she went from Babykins #3 to Sister Baby to (after being in the world for five ours) our Sarah Lamar. Six months from that point and she's gotten a million nicknames- Babes, Sissy, Little Sallie Sunshine- and her personality almost seems too big for a six month old's body. It blows my mind that just a year ago, we didn't even know she was a girl! I also started my Book Buddies placement with the Junior League in January of last year and it turned out to be an amazing project.

In February, Cookie and Conrad visited and Carrie and I met Ashley in Nashville for a weekend. I was SO thrilled I wasn't really sick much at all on the trip. I got super tired and threw up one time but it was nothing like what I had been dealing with- passing out and barfing to an extent that seemed a little excessive for the second trimester. That's also crazy to look back on- it's only been a year, but I've largely forgotten how sick and miserable I was feeling so much of the time. It was a hard, hard Winter.

The kids were able to get outside more in March and they both started another season of soccer and blastball. Peyton coached Graves's team that season and that was really fun. I think he enjoyed it a lot more than he expected. I really struggled to know how much I could and should push myself physically, just in day to day activities. I had never experienced a pregnancy like this one and it wasn't easy, but I tried to maintain some perspective. I could feel Spring in my bones and that's always a good feeling, but especially last year knowing that Spring would bring Summer and Summer would bring our baby!

April was a pretty busy month! I had an interview for a job I was considering for the Fall (which clearly didn't come to fruition) and Peyton and I took a week long "babymoon" to New York. Being in the city brought up so many amazing, and complicated, feelings. But it was also a really precious time with Peyton. I realized what a beautiful work God was doing in our marriage, bringing us to agreement on SO many things, and it gave me a confidence like never before that He has the power to bring us to agreement on the biggest of things and more importantly to bring Peyton back to Himself. The Mockingbird conference probably had a lot to do with this, as well. It was one of the most fun, and in my case one of the most restorative, things we did all year! Annie and Graves had the time of their lives as well, splitting the week between grandparents' houses.

May was our last full month as a family of four and we really enjoyed it. We had the big kids' joint birthday party and it was just a really wonderful celebration with most of our dearest friends. Book Buddies finished up and Peyton picked up quite a few extra shifts to prepare to take all his Fridays off in June so he'd only be working Saturdays and Sundays once Sister Baby got close. At the end of the month, the big kids got to kick of the Summer with the start of their first year ever of swim team, which was so special since the pool has such significance to me and Peyton. I also got a piece of my own writing published on a blog that has meant so much to me these last few years.

June, of course, was largely dominated by the arrival of Sarah Lamar. Those last couple of weeks before she came and especially the few days past my due date, seemed long and hard, but it was also really amazing to actually get done so many of the things I wanted to accomplish before she got here. I remember being so uncomfortable in the heat and also really anxious about not having a doula present at the birth or a named picked for our daughter. It was a really crazy night (really, a few hours), but she made her incredible arrival on June 12th and I just fell in love with her instantly. The hospital stay was magical and we came home and the transition seemed, at first, very effortless. We got sno cones and took her to the pool before she was seven days old. I remember Peyton saying "you take care of her and I'll take care of you", which was one of the kindest things he's ever said to me, and which mostly meant I needed to feed her and he'd make sure I and everyone else was fed.

July was really wonderful in that it was our first full month with Sallie and because I just love Summer. But it was also a LOT. Looking back, I don't think I realized how tough it was on me. Peyton had signed up to work some extra shifts, which seems very counter intuitive with a newborn, but we both wanted to get them out of the way when I was already taking a break from homeschooling and knew I'd want to stick close to home a lot. Well, then he had a bike accident and broke his collar bone. He couldn't even lift the baby or change a diaper for a few weeks. He ended up working all of of the shifts he signed up for after taking one day off and decreasing two of his twelve hour shifts to six hour ones. I was so proud of him. But I got really tired and isolated. More than anything, I got pretty emotionally depleted. I really wasn't expecting that either. I was expecting to be stressed, not sad. In the midst of all that, we had a lot of fun, too, though. We welcomed our Cousin Baby just a few weeks after Sarah Lamar and we took a little overnight trip to Oxford for one of Peyton's extra shifts! It was a BUSY month, clearly.

We started to settle in a bit more in August. We closed down the pool for the Summer; got back into our homeschooling routine and; knowing Granny was nearing the end of this part of the journey, we took weekly trips down to visit her. The biggest thing, though, may have been that I made an honest assessment of my own mental health and decided I need to, at least for the time being, get on some medicine. I felt like I was drowning in sadness and while most of it was a low level kind of depression, I experienced some terrifying emotions. It was an incredibly hard decision for me, but I knew I owed it to myself and my family not to let Sallie's baby days be a fog.

September ended up being one of our most low key months all year, which if you know me, you know means it was one of my favorites =) I started my new Junior League placement at the Grief Center, which would become such an important work to me this Fall. I learned how to really function with three kids and we experienced a little bit of sickness and celebrated Granny's life after she died in late August.

October brought the craziness that is a twelve hundred mile road trip that includes tent/car camping with an infant. I still need to write a full post on that one! Suffice to say, we learned a lot about ourselves and each other on that trip. We also began the month by spending a few days living in my parents' house, taking care of my elderly grandmother, while my parents' were in Nashville helping my sister and brother in law move. I learned a lot from that, too!

I did my Mistletoe shifts in November and did my first purge of baby clothes, which wasn't as emotionally depleting as I expected. Peyton also had his vasectomy, which I thought was going to be hard in all kinds of ways, but it ended up feeling very much like the right timing. A friend's mother died and we went to Alabama for the funeral and spent time with her and her family as well as with Peyton's aunt. It was a good trip, even if it was for a heartbreaking reason.

December was one of the most relaxing ones in recent memory and I loved that. We didn't stress about presents or events and focused mostly on our immediate and extended family and that felt really, really nice. The big kids and I enjoyed Advent at Northside and I realized how much it felt like home and (spoiler for next year's post!) we ended up joining on the first day of 2017. What a way to enter the new year!

He is so faithful to provide those gentle breezes and shady trees, even in the most gale-like years.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Janurary Goals and Happenings

I love this header/background more than I have in quite a while. I thought the mustaches seemed a little immature but I think they're pretty cute and I loved the color scheme and they felt like me. I'm really trying to embrace just doing what I feel like in my 30s. Anyway, I adore how the header turned out. The colors actually match really well and I think the font is so fun (another thing I often resist because it seems too out there and silly). I often try to pick an MLK quote in January and I really liked this one. And those two girls and that boy. Gosh, I couldn't ask for sweeter people!  

So I'm not nearly as behind as I've been on these the last couple of months- yay! The fifth isn't the best, but it isn't the worst, either! December was just like I expected- relatively low key and super enjoyable. Our Christmas was really lovely- we spent Christmas day with my family and the day after Christmas with Peyton's. It was nice not to try to break it up and rush between houses, especially since Christmas fell on a Sunday and Peyton, Sallie, and I went to church. The kids and I went to a New Year's Eve Party and Peyton and I (and again, Sallie) went to the Pharmacy Association party earlier in the month. December was a great way to end the year! 

January is going to be mostly low key, too. There are a few things on the agenda:
- We're starting back with some activities- piano and some things with the homeschool group we're in. 
- Peyton's working a bunch next week. He picked up a shift and then one of his co-workers is taking vacation and needed him to cover some shifts. I'm going to try to do a couple of projects and do some low-key stuff with homeschooling.
- Speaking of school, Graves finished the first semester of his English curriculum and Annie finished the fourth, and final, level of hers. We've been working on it for two and a half years (with some breaks to move across the country and have a baby and such!), so it was really exciting. She's about to finish up her math semester too and we'll start the new material in both subjects this month! 

Here were my goals for December. My theme was "finishing well"

1. Practice a simple Advent with the children. We did this but not as consistently as I wanted to and not as consistantly as in years' past. It's a lot of factors but a big one is that, with the baby, nights are harder for me and that's when we've always done it. I'm going to try to really commit to Bible story/read aloud time with them each night. (Faith)

2. Immerse myself in family time over Christmas. I absolutely did this and enjoyed it so much! (Family)

3. Bring dinner to a friend who had a baby. I did this and had so much fun catching up and meeting my precious friend's sweet new girl. (Relationships)

4. Start exercising and gradually build up. Welp. We've done it a couple of times. I guess that's gradual. (Health)

5.  Continue to blog more regularly and more substantively. Yes! For fun, I looked back to see what my average amount of posts was in Decembers past and it was very comparable to this year, which hasn't been the case the previous few months, I'm sure. (Creativity/Passion)

6.  Finish Simply Good News and start The Righteous Mind by Jonathon Haidt. Did the latter, not the former. (Education/Edification)

7. Organize and back up my pictures on two hard drives. Nope. SO determined to do this this month. (Organization)

8. Read The Righteous Mind by Jonathon Haidt. Um, this was on here twice, as was the category. (Education/Edification)

9. Get caught up on personal finances. I worked on it with Peyton some. And we developed a plan for next year. That counts for something, yes? (Finances)

10. Enjoy good Christmas music. Some. Not as much as I'd have liked. (Joy/Gratitude/Perspective)

11. Finish my closet changeover and do a major purge. Did it! I mean, I still need to donate the stuff to the Jumble at the end of the month, but I've done the actual change-over and purge. (Additional Goal)

12. Get a peppermint milkshake from CFA. Yes! I went one night and got fries and a milkshake and read for an hour while Peyton watched the kids. I may make this a monthly treat for myself =) It was glorious. (Fun Goal)

15. Take all three kids for their check-ups and get the two big kids haircuts. Obviously, Sallie still has pretty regular well baby visits, but it was nice to check it off the list for the big kids for another year and to get their hair taken care of for a couple of months! (Bonus Goal)

16.  Brainstorm goals for 2017 with Mallory. This was SO much fun. I didn't nail down all my goals by any stretch but it was fun to bounce ideas off each other and discuss. (Bonus Goal)

And here are my January Goals. My theme for this month is "a fresh start".  I'm one of those people that LOVE a new year and making lists and picking a word and that sort of thing.

1. Read at least one of my devotions a day. I got in a good habit and then let it go and it's been awhile. I have two I LOVE and I want to make time for that. (Faith)

2. Make a chore/daily to-do chart for the big kids. I want to help them get off to a great start this year, too! (Family)

3. Reschedule a date for hosting book club. I had to postpone because Sallie had pink eye this week. I was super excited, but the timing really ended up being better for most people, I think. (Relationships)

4. Continue exercising. We're going to really try to be more consistent. (Health)

5. Finally finish a post about Sallie's birth that I've been adding to here and there for months. I told myself I'd do it by the time she was six months old and she's about to be seven months and I just really want to finish it. A lot of processing has gone into it and it's time to just finalize it and hit publish. (Creativity/Passion)

6. Read The Righteous Mind by Jonathon Haidt. It's dense, but I'm loving it! (Education/Edification)

7. Organize and back up my pictures on two hard drives. I'm actually having lots of trouble with my computer and I need to get a new one, so I'm finally to the point where this really has to happen. (Organization)

8. Start to really plan our NYC trip in April. Clearly, I have some time, but I'd like to get a head start. (Travel)

9. Blog about financial goals we met in 2016 and about Voluntary Simplicity. I've realized I enjoy writing about this and I should do it more! (Finances)

10. Focus on the big picture as I look ahead at 2017. (Joy/Gratitude/Perspective)

11. Determine 2017 goals for the year. (Additonal Goal)

12. Treat myself to some fries and another milkshake ;) (Fun Goal)

Here's to January, a month of newness and fresh starts. Let us great it gratefully, and look forward towards the future with great intention and hope. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What I'm Into: December


Time to share what all I was into in December!

On the Nightstand:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion- Jonathon Haidt

So book club is this week and I've made some good progress but I'm not going to finish it. There's no way. Fortunately, most of the people in our group are in about that same boat. It's really good and I'm planning on finishing it, of course. It's so interesting and it's not like the hardest thing I've ever read. But I'm really having to/wanting to take my time to digest it all. I mean Haidt says a LOT. I do think he's really good at expressing his points in a clear way, though. Like better than a lot of writers I've read.

On Their Nightstand: 

Annie got this book and activity book (and the little states' capitols wraps) as part of her Christmas from us. They are fantastic books and were a steal on Amazon! She's been pouring over them and on Christmas Eve Cookie even quizzed us with trivia on the states! It worked out really well because she has a states app on the iPad that she loves so we've been meaning to start learning more about them anyway!

On the Shelf:
I'm going to finish up the Haidt book and then I want to pick back up my two old trusty devotionals:
Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 
The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)- Ethan Richardson, Sean Norris
Those are going to be my only reading goals this month. 

At the Theater (or from the couch):
I feel like maybe I watched a movie but I can't remember what it was!

On the Small Screen:

Law and Order: SVU
Y'all. I almost never binge watch shows. It's not my thing. For one thing, there are just other ways I'd rather prioritize my time (and before you think I'm saying I'm good at time management, in part I mean there are other ways I'd rather waste my time- like scrolling through Facebook or IG). Secondly, with a lot of shows, it's not something I feel comfortable doing when the kids are awake and when they are asleep there are DEFINITELY other ways I'd rather use my time. Finally, I just don't seem to enjoy TV as much that way. I prefer to watch slowly and savor shows I really love. All that said, I spent a few nights binge watching the most recent season of SVU that's available on Netflix.

I always say I much prefer character driven stories to plot driven ones and I guess SVU has been the sole exception, really. But lately it's gotten to be SO much more about the characters- specifically the detectives personal lives. Peyton thinks it's really gimmicky and to be honest, I do agree. But I love it anyway. I was really sad when I finished the last one, which I know would not have been the case in previous seasons where the episodes are stand alone style, more plot driven, and don't have the same soundtrack or vibe.

The West Wing
Since I finished up SVU, I've actually been watching more. I've watched quite a bit in December!

In My Ears:

My dad has this mix CD he made (hahahaha!) and he had it playing at their house the other night and I loved it so much and so he gave it to me and told me he'd make himself another copy. It's all great, folksy pop music. These two are my favorites from it:

Let Her Go- Passenger

I mean, it's just so good. It reminds me of the singer-songwriters we used to listen to in his car on the way to the pool!

Ophelia- The Lumineers

Gosh, I love The Lumineers. So pretty and haunting.

I love the Sorta Awesome podcast but I don't listen to it nearly as much as I'd like. This topic peaked my interest, though, and I decided to listen. It was a really good one, full of great insight, and I'm so glad I did.

I've also been listening to Annie practicing piano. She set up these "prizes" (a crayon and a sticker) for her two friends and herself after their piano lesson (a good friend of mine teaches Annie and two of her good friends) the other day. She also has a bird watching box with binoculars, colored pencils, paper, and bird books and a bag of "tools" to do magic tricks with. Age Seven and a Half is absolutely amazing and I'm so glad we get to spend do much of our days together

Around the House: 

Minnie got me these adorable napkin rings and table runnerfor Christmas. Think she knows my style? 

We're kinda backwards and she sleeps in the play pen and plays in her crib but I lovvvvve the bedding I picked for her so much!

And we got out the old school Johnny Jumper! She's so big. She loves this thing. This was at like eleven o'clock one night. Our party girl!

In the Kitchen:

Not a lot. Same old, same old with lots of treats and junk from the holidays mixed in! My mom did make the best meat and potatoes Christmas dinner with Waldorf salad and rolls and stuffed eggs, but I can't claim any of that.

Beer in hand, Christmas music on, baby in the Tula, and he's kicking my tail at Winter Soup Challenge this year.
Second time for her to try baby food and I already passed the task off to this guy. I was doing dishes and I heard him say "Too cold for you, Babes?" And then he blew in it to warm it up (which I guess does have a warming effect as well as a cooling one).

One of the pages in Annie's BrainQuest book recently had her read recipes and make up a name for them. One of them was basically a peanut butter and banana sandwich and she titled it "Graves's Great Dish". One day she came skipping into the room where I was and announced with quite an unusual amount of enthusiasm for her "We did it! We made the dish! We used a not-sharp knife and sliced the banana and spread the peanut butter and put the banana on the bread and (she finally took a breath) TA-DA!!!"

In My Closet: 

Lots of grubby grubs! Ha! It seems like it's been such a rainy, yucky month and when we haven't had holiday stuff, I've been in cozy hoodies and comfy jeans or leggings!

In Their Closets:

Love her in the white corduroy and smocked Christmas trees.  Annie had this dress in a 2T and I ADORED it and I found it on eBay in a 6 mo. The bidding ended literally like two days before we found out Graves was a brother. I went back and forth but finally bought it on the chance we were having another girl (Annie was eighteen months and the 2T was hanging in the "buy ahead closet" so I knew the sizes would line up for them to match). Of course, we found out he was a boy but I had seen several people using too short bishops as tops with jeans. No way I could go there (she got her first pair of jeans- and they're jeggings with an elastic waist THIS Fall) but I found some precious pink Gymboree gingerbread leggings (again, thank you eBay) that matched perfectly and she wore it at twenty months.

I also had fun putting her in matching double seaters with a smocked Christmas tree on her tiny bum. This is so many levels of ridiculous, but eyelet-trimmed, coniferous panties are my jam. 

Love me some polka dots and gingerbread men.

You momma might have a slight Etsy obsession and your grandmother may spend a lot of time at antique malls if you're wearing chenille Christmas trees with chenille booties while sitting on a chenille blanket.

Sallie in another Christmas outfit Annie wore at twenty months (it's a 12 mo.). Peyton dressed her here. This is actually WAY too funky for my sweet little baby and I much prefer this kind of thing on a toddler. At least she's wearing her quintessential Sallie smile!

Love these Christmas jammies that Annie wore at twenty months. Ha!

It feels really, really special to put Sallie in pjs I bought her big brother before he was even born, mostly as a present to their papa- a tangible gift to tell him that his dreams of city life were becoming my dreams at the same time as my dreams of motherhood were becoming a reality. It blows my mind all that's happened since Graves wore these half a decade ago. Even though she won't remember it, I can't wait wait for April when I get to show one of my favorite people in the world one of my favorite places in the world for the first time 

And a few of the big kids! Annie in Bailey Boys top that, despite being from last year's collections, still fits like a dress and creature boots that she wore when she was FOUR in New York, are each missing an eye, and have long been relegated to the dress up bin. And Graves in a too big top passed down from a cousin, 5T jeans that have the waistband elastic cinched to the very last holes and a stuffed caterpillar in the pocket, and Star Wars light up shoes sans socks. Cuties though they're are (and I love that they wear their clothes FOREVER) Momma's really enjoying Sal having no opinions yet.

On the final Sunday in Advent, a frigid and rainy morning,Annie wore these whimsical icy reindeer, panda mittens, and striped velcro sneakers.

 Annie in a reversible jumper we're on our third Winter in and leggings because she lost her solitary pair of church tights playing dress up in them. Nobody but me cares, and certainly nobody at Northside cares, but man, this stretched my creativity. [Also, she and Graves share that turtleneck. White turtlenecks are clearly gender neutral and there are about six billion things I'd rather spend money on, I just have to plan accordingly in Saturday night to make sure only one outfit requires it. If that ain't Voluntary Simplicity, then I don't know what is.]

I probably shouldn't share this publicly. Doesn't bode well for my chances in the never ending thermostat battles. Practicing piano in her swimsuit!

When it's below fifty degrees, Graves pulls out a hat and mittens.
Well, sometimes. Here he is in Annie's old polka dot rainboots with bows on them and 3T pajama shorts he mostly wears in lieu of underwear and calls his "boxers". When you are married to a health care professional and you know sickness doesn't come from not bundling up. It comes from being holed up inside with a bunch of sick people and their germs...you know, like at a pharmacy. 

Minnie got everyone some new accesories. Cutie enjoying his new hat even if it was 75 degrees.
Graves and Annie both got fuzzy reindeer socks with skid proof bottoms.

Baby's first Christmas! How cute is she in this little hat Cookie got her?

In My Mailbox:

 This is outgoing mail, but it still counts, yes? I love sending our Christmas card each year and recieveing them from our friends. It seems like less and less people do them now and I hate that!

In My Cart:

Christmas present to myself arrived. Super excited!

Around the Town (and At Home):  

Look, sometimes you just need to take your very attached five month old to the dressy holiday work party at the fancy restaurant.
Christmas Eve. Wine in the diaper bag. This seems like as good a metaphor as any for the day. It ended up being a good one once we got to my parents' house =)

Christmas Eve at home!

The theme for this Christmas was The Force. The Perrys and the Reynauds nailed it!
Mick snuck a picture of me taking a Christmas afternoon nap with Sallie! What a great present!

We had lots of fun at home this month, too!

One day recently Annie did her math with zero complaints and she asked me if she could do a craft. She got the big craft book and picked out this shoe box aquarium. It seemed a bit ambitious to me, but she gathered her supplies, followed the directions, and worked on different steps- painting the box, cutting and coloring the fish- throughout the day and we assembled it and added the plastic wrap after supper. After this she thought to add pink pipe cleaner for an oxygen pump! She's like me and enjoys a good project but the finished product doesn't always turn out well so I was skeptical. I think it ended up so cute, though!

"Hey guys. If somebody gets me in position, I can sit up by myself. My momma's been predicting I would enjoy this, but I LOVVVVE this new trick. So much so I'm takin' my crazy lady smile to the next level."

Peyton bought the big kids each some candy at Walgreens for their stockings and made these tickets to put in them (for the grocery trip they each get $50 to spend in whatever they want- I can't wait to see the results!).

Sallie's only present from us was this set of periodic table blocks Peyton bought ages ago because he thought they were so neat. We ended up not giving them to either of the big kids and we found them in the present box we keep in the attic this week. I'd say they've been a hit so far!

Graves already cashed  in his movie ticket to see Rogue One (what else?). (Peyton already saw it and decided it was okay so now there's only one he hasn't seen/isn't allowed to see yet.) And Sissy took her first nap not in her momma's arms since Christmas. Annie wanted to play a game and she and I had so much fun with her new candy dominoes (another prized I'd been saving in the attic for years). Super blurry of her little face but she had so much fun!

That same day she was getting so restless spending two hours without her brother (we're a tad co-dependent). When she kept asking me what she could do I told her that a friend of mine is coming over later to talk about our goals for 2017, so it might be fun for her to think of some for herself (I had been meaning to talk to her about doing this). She came up with three big ones and I asked her if she could be more specific with "be more healthy" so she made another list. She also told me "I did the little dots like you do. I think they help to avoid confusion." I love that she loves a list like her momma

Annie has saved up a good amount of money (I used to do the same thing- I wish I was more like her now- and Mickey told us over Christmas about how one time when I was a little older than Annie he snuck into my room and checked my concession stand style money box and there was $500 dollars in it). Anyway, we took them shopping tonight and it was so unpredictable (which was so fun because she's typically anything but) Annie picked this Darth Vader that's a few inches taller than herself.

At the Schoolhouse:

We finished the fourth and final level of the curriculum we've been working on for two and a half years! I HATE phonics but Foundations has been one of the most fun things I've done in my life. I could not love Logic of English more and I don't think Annie could either. A short break to catch up on some other things and then on to Essentials (LoE's older elementary curriculum) in January!

Math has been a joy lately with her which is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Recently I gave her this challenge problem and prepped her by saying it might be a little tough. She immediately told me the right answer without writing anything down. I asked her how she did it so quickly mentally and she told me that "an abacus just popped up in her head" and she figured it would be forty if she used ten eggs and then halved it. It felt VERY rewarding that I had gone with what I felt was best and used curriculums that encourage higher order thinking rather than worksheet based approaches that I know she would have preferred and would have been a much lighter burden on me. After that I taught her the word "metacognition"- thinking about thinking- one of my favorite things I learned about in the School of Ed. It took me literally an hour to get Sallie to nap that day(she's at least become consistent with her morning naps but it's hard to get her settled some days). Most days I don't mind it but I was losing my patience and feeling like I needed a nap myself. A wonderful morning of school made me feel so much better, though!

I went to a funeral the other day and I left Annie specific instructions on independent work she could complete without me. But I didn't tell Peyton and she forgot about it. So I told her to go do it when I got home. She got to work but she missed my note and just started doing exercises in her textbook. She went through four lessons I hadn't taught and and finished the unit on multiplication and only missed a couple. I really don't want to hear any more about a certain someone not being good at math! And I just love how she wrote "the study" for class and "homeschool" for school.

On the Blog:

What I Learned in 2016- I shared what I learned over the course of the year and it was really good to process a lot.

SD Is Thankful- I posted my thankful list from back in November.

You've Got Mail: 2016 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter- As always, I shared our yearly card and letter.

One Word: 2017- I decided on and wrote about my one word for the new year!

On My Heart and Mind:
- As I mentioned, I love Annie's age right now and I love Graves's, too. It's such a fun time and I want to enjoy it. I'm very aware of savoring Sallie's babyhood, but I want to make sure I savor these years with them, too. Far too often, I rush things with them and don't give them my full attention.
- In some ways, I feel like I'm finally organizing my time so that I can accomplish something. I never, ever get everything I want to do done and it's often just the tip of the iceburg but at least I don't feel like I'm going backward and I can somewhat stay on top of school, the house, things I enjoy, and whatever else. But then, some nights I'm so tired and it feels as overwhelming and exhausting as ever. I used to try to do a bunch of stuff when I felt like that, but usually now I just make a list for the next day and go to bed and assume I'll find the time for the important stuff.

In My Prayers:
- I'm praying that God will give me the strength I need for each day and will help me focus on the things I want to prioritize most.
- I'm praying and thanking God that he brought us to Northside. I truly believe he did go ahead of us, as Jake prayed before we left New York, and the children and I have found a home there. We finally joined this past weekend and it was such a special day.
- I'm praying that God will guide me in more conversations with the big kids. I want topics of faith to be a comfortable for them and I want to be able to discuss it organically and naturally.
On the Calendar: 

We have a pretty low key month, which is always nice after the holidays. We have some routine doctor's appointments scheduled and Peyton's picked up a few extra shifts, but nothing big!

As usual, I'm linking up with Leigh!
What I'm Into