Friday, December 19, 2014

Weekly Smorgasbord

I've got a few links to share this week and I also decided to add a couple of new sections:

On Ferguson:
Posted: 03 Dec 2014 11:37 PM PST
"For some people, "justice" depends as much on seeing Brown and family in this light as it does on any true evidence from the scene. We need a boogeyman Brown to assuage our collective conscience about what happened to Brown. And if we can calm the inner voice of righteousness in Brown's case, then we give ourselves permission to conveniently forget that Michael Brown's name is one in a long list of unarmed men killed under suspicious circumstances by police officers....If at the beginning of their encounter Wilson saw Brown as one made in the image of God would Brown be here and would Wilson still be an officer, neither man harmed in any way that day? I don't know. It could have all gone terribly wrong because Brown didn't think Wilson was made in God's image. I don't know. But I do know this nightmare usually features the demonizing of persons rather than celebrating the fact that they're image bearers. And I know that when society does that it's not justice for the demonized; it's a it’s a nightmare.

 I rarely link to The Gospel Coalition. If I do, nine times out of ten it's something written by Thabiti Anyabwile. He's probably one of my top three Evangelical voices. And I think he nails it here. I've seen this graphic floating around and it bothers me a good bit. He addressed that well, but hit on so much more. My friend Yolando, who linked to this said "I remember back in August when the "Mike Brown would have started college next week." narrative was being thrown out by people as if that added value to or validated his life. Whether Mike Brown was a college freshman to be or a petty thief, his life was infinitely valuable because he was created in God's image. Whether Darrin Wilson is a upstanding police officer who acted in self-defense or whether he is guilty of murder, he is also an image bearer of God. When we believe that truth about people, it changes everything." She is so right. And it brought tears to my eyes. That truth does change everything. One thing that makes my heart less heavy is being surrounded by such faithful friends who teach me so much.

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 11:06 PM PST
"Let me make one final point that the social science is abundantly clear on. Many of you know I'm a recovering social psychologist whose research interest included procedural justice. That's the study of procedures (usually legal) and how the perceived fairness of those procedures affect satisfaction with the outcomes. The theory, over-simplified, goes like this: In situations where there are perceived winners and losers in a dispute, when people view the procedure for resolving the dispute as fair they have higher satisfaction with the outcome. So, if the process is fair, they tend to feel some level of satisfaction with the outcome even when they lose. That's why this matters. It may not have averted the sinful aftermath of property destruction and looting, but it would have positioned many reasonable persons with greater confidence in the system and better footing to work with others."

On Torture:
Posted: 17 Dec 2014 11:13 PM PST
"Another detainee, Majid Khan, a legal resident of the United States and accused confident of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was also subjected to rectal feeding. According to a CIA cable released in the report, his "'lunch tray' consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was 'pureed and rectally infused'"."

Raise your hand if you think it's okay to shove hummus and raisins up someone. Even if they are a terrorist. NO. America, you're better than this.
On Holiday Fun for Bearded Hipsters:

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 11:19 PM PST
Decorate your beard!

Powerful Quotes for the Week:
If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children.
- J. Piper
“The heart of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power.”- Tim Keller 
"Seeing comments that conversations about racism and torture are “too heavy” for the season.… Nobody tell them what Advent is really about." -Preston Yancey 
The ideas "seeing injustice = hating cops" and "denouncing torture = supporting terrorism" are stupid. Evangelicals, reject false dichotomies- Jared Wilson 
 “Having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.” -Noel Coward
You can't love Jesus without loving Scripture. But you can love Scripture without loving Jesus. -Sammy Rhodes 

Powerful Images from the Week:

 (via Upworthy)

 (via UCatholic)

Hope you found something enjoyable or insightful here! 

Navigating (Annie's) Big Emotions

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, I've been making a big deal of the emotional growth I've seen in Annie recently. I've probably mentioned it a good bit here, too, in her letters and in passing in my Weekly Happenings Posts.

It's been a neat transformation to watch, I have to say.

First, a little background- she is a lot like her momma. ALOT. She's sensitive, stubborn, and dramatic. For the past couple of years, she's struggled a lot with difficult emotions (not in an extremely unhealthy way or anything, just in the way I'd imagine most highly sensitive children would). When she'd get sad or angry, it was a BIG DEAL. And it lasted for a good while.

I was unsure how to handle it for awhile and then I read this book about a parent's role as an "emotional coach" and it really transformed my thinking. It was very similar to what my mom did with me, which is one reason I think I'm as emotionally healthy as I am. I did decide that I wanted to work toward her taking ownership of her emotions and figuring out solutions on her own (which the book totally advises, I just don't think my mom really knew how to do that).

I recently posted a picture of her recently from last year around this time. It was the first time I watched her really find a solution when she was relatively upset. We had been at my parents' house and she said she wanted my mom to read her another book. I told her Minnie wasn't reading anymore but she could look at one while I finished getting stuff together to leave. She sat down in the lap of this huge stuffed bear they have, squeezed his cheeks, and told him "Look me in the eyes. I need you to read me this book. Don't just look at it, READ". And that worked for her.

Well, almost a year later, when we were in Mississippi a couple of months ago, I watched her problem solve while in INTENSE crisis mode for the first time. It was amazing. I've shared in other posts, but she cried for a solid hour over something that was (to me) very silly (a really large, heavy flashlight I wouldn't let her hold in the bed). I tried to help her think of solutions for a bit and then just held her while she sobbed. Finally, she came up with her own solution. It was the first time she's ever done that when she's been so worked up. I know doing it the way I do isn't for everyone and it's been really hard at times, but I got my reward that night, watching her problem solve through tears and exhaustion.

After we got back, a few weeks later, we had another big incident (we probably had many small ones, but this one stood out). She was upset because Peyton had told her he wasn't going into her room to rebuild a bed sheet "tent" that had fallen down. We tried to let her come up with a solution, but over an hour later we were all exhausted from the tears of frustration. I finally showed her how to built a "nest" by putting some pillows and things around her. I figured it wasn't caving to going back and building the tent and plus it was a skill she could use going forward since it was much easier than building a tent. She calmed down quickly and after a few minutes of Peyton and I being able to talk and breath again, I went in to talk to her, even though it was late.

I asked her to tell me, now that she was calm, if she could think up two or three solutions. She came up with three!

Her solutions:
- she could have shared Graves's tent (he offered many times- sweet soul doesn't like to see his sister hurting)
- she could try to build a tent she could make herself (i.e. using lower thing and not making it as impressive as Papa's)
- she could (forget about the tent entirely and just) look at catalog

I was impressed, but not overly. She's a bright, creative kid and I know she's able to solve many of her own problems. The issue is mostly getting there. So after that I asked her if she could come up with some strategies to calm herself down.

Her strategies:
-  make up a "peaceful" song. This was her example. "Swing so high. Up to the sky. I can almost touch the clouds."
- take two deep breathes.
- count to ten

I was pretty impressed with those ideas and I made a mental note to try to remind her of them when necessary. Our talks have really changed a lot over the years and it's so amazing to watch her grow in the kind of discussions she can have with me. Another day we neither one did a great job handling our angry emotions. We resolved the problem mostly, but then I spent the first part of Graves's naptime with her, brainstorming ways to prevent it from even occurring. We both came up with our own lists. Our combined lists looked slightly similar to the calm down strategies above. Here they are:
1) breath
2) pray
3) hug
4) sing

In our impatient moments we're trying to slow down and take a few breaths because sometimes I'm just so caught up in my frustration, I need something to bring me back around. These breaths are more like sighs for me and sometimes I think a sigh can solve a world of trouble. It just helps to push the gross stuff out of me or something. We're trying to pray because I know that helps me refocus my heart and soul the way deep breaths help me refocus my body. We're trying to hug each other because even in our angriest moments; we are each other's best people, brightest fans, and biggest loves and sometimes physical touch reminds us of that in a way nothing else can. And we're trying to sing because as terrible as I am at it, it seems to soothe them and me and it also forces me to get over myself a bit.

The last little anecdote I'll share came last week when we hit another milestoneAnnie's favorite high heel dress up shoe broke while I was cooking supper. She cried for maybe ten minutes, then went to her room came back with a huge smile and said "There's only one thing that will fix this. I'm going to have to be Cinderella tonight". It was so clear to me that she is making huge strides in learning to manage her emotions. Six months ago this would have been an hour in tears and me having to give her a lot of assistance with coming up with possible solutions. I am SO proud of her! (And proud of me for not punishing her for things I knew of didn't want to punish for.)

I feel really fortunate to get to spend my days the way I do. Typing all this out together reminds me of that and reminds me that her and her brother's education is so much more than the books and manipulatives that fill our homeschool cabinet. It's about learning how to process difficult feelings when the world seems ugly and cruel. It's about finding different ways to connect to each other even when we're volatile and tense and agitated. It's about having a sense of humor and realizing that one man's broken shoe is another man's opportunity to reenact a favorite fairy tale. It's about teaching a five year old self care and it's about loving each other well. 

How wonderful it is to watch another person grow and learn and how wonderful it is to help her!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly Happenings #297 (December 8-14)-- New Schedules

Not only is it a day late and I have on NO make up, but I hadn't even had my bath yet. I told Peyton this is what "hiker SD" will look like. UGGGGH. 

Peyton started at his new store last week, with his new schedule. It's hilarious because the kids and I have gotten ourselves on the most insane schedule. I'm not sure how they transitioned into staying up so late/sleeping so late, but they were practically teenagers last week! 

Monday was a good day at home with the kids. They got up around nine and then we watched their shows and had breakfast. They played and I folded up the couch, scooped liter, ate my breakfast, planned school, and took my bath. I played with them for a good while and then we did their catechism, devotion, and memory work. We picked up toys and then I fixed them lunch. 
Sweet Annie. She is so special. I think she wants to be a minimalist about as bad as her papa does. The other day I was asking her about what she wanted for Christmas. She said she only wanted two things (remember how she wants to put her toys in the attic and rotate them when we move home)- and she wanted one to be for later (like a bike for when she's older). She thought awhile and them said "I don't really mind if y'all get me a present that's not something I really want. I'll like whatever y'all pick out". Then she had an idea that we could look through some of her catalogues (she keeps her beloved collection under her bed and LOVES to look at toy/costume/doll/ect. catalogues, and though we've worried about it making her more consumerist, she's *never* asked for anything). We looked through it and Graves keep saying "we need that" and she'd reply by saying how similar it was to something they already had or saying it was too big and would take up a lot of space or something like that. She said she guessed there really wasn't a present she wanted and she didn't seem to phased by it. I'm SO proud of her, because being honest- that's very different from me. And truthfully, I'm also a little sad. Letting go of the big magical Christmases I had growing up is hard for me even though Peyton and I deeply desire something much simpler for her and her brother. Like I said, though, she's so special. And I try to celebrate that every day.

They ate and then I put Graves down. I got on the computer and had some lunch and Peyton came home for a bit. He had his book club that night, but he was home for about an hour. I finished uploading pictures and did English with Annie. Peyton left and I got Graves up. We did math and I the printer messed up and the paper got stuck as I was trying to copy something to for math. I spent thirty minutes fixing it. We finished math and then I did some tracing and critical thinking with Graves. We were making a list of ways God has provided for us and a mirror in the closet fell down and busted. Scary. I cleaned it up (or thought I did) and we started a little craft (making Christmas trees from cardstock). Graves cut his foot on a piece of glass and I helped him with that. I fixed the kids supper and cleaned up a bit. I organized some in their room because I had gotten a new big bin. I read to them and ended up talking to Annie for like half an hour about sin and Christ and salvation. Whew. I bathed them separately and it was ten thirty by the time I got them to bed. I got on the computer and ate my supper and Peyton got home. We talked and I finished a post and went to bed late (like almost three).  

Tuesday was so weird. The kids did not get up until TEN THIRTY. Then we did our shows and breakfast and it was noon before I got going. OMG. I ate breakfast and took my bath, planned school, and did my morning chores. I got on the computer a bit and played with the kids and then we did their devotion, catechism, and memory work. I got them lunch and they ate and then Graves had rest time. I got on the computer, ate lunch, and rested a bit. I wasn't that tired physically, but I felt impatient and emotional. A power nap helped! I started baking some chicken and did English and critical thinking with Annie and then got Graves for math. I did his critical thinking and he worked on cutting and then they did a little craft (making cards to send my parents) and I fixed them supper. They ate and then we did a little science experiment (at nine at night) to see what objects would float and sink in the kitchen sink. We read a bunch and did our Advent stuff and I got them to bed. I got on the computer and Peyton got home. We chatted and ate dinner and then I blogged some. I stayed up way too late again. 

Peyton had to work the afternoon shift on Wednesday. We all slept super late and then the kids made pancakes with him. I folded up the couch, cleaned the tub, and took my bath and he got ready to go. I played with the kids and did our morning stuff with them (catechism, devotion, memory work, read aloud) and we picked up toys. I scooped liter and then fixed them  lunch. They ate and I did dishes. Graves had rest time and I ate my own lunch and got on the computer and then did English with Annie. Graves got up and I did critical thinking with both of them. Graves practiced cutting and Annie and I did math. I fixed them supper and while they ate, I organized a bit. I had ordered some new bedding for when we move back and  I got it put away and then I bathed them separately and cleaned up dinner and dishes. I got them ready for bed and read to them a lot and by that time it was nearly ten. I got on the computer and did a few things and Peyton got home. We ate dinner and talked and then I worked on our Christmas letter for a long time and finished a blog post. I went to bed at three thirty. 
P is so irritated that I bought them beds when we moved. And yeah, it was 3:30 AM when I took this. They've been going to bed around ten and waking up at nine thirty or so. Weirdest family in Brooklyn. Eh, probably not. 

The kids slept until ten and then watched their shows and had breakfast on Thursday. After that, I hurried through my morning chores, laminated some school stuff, ate my breakfast, and got on the computer. I took my bath and played with them and we did our morning school stuff (devotional, catechism, memory work, read aloud). I fixed them lunch and started getting ready for Annie's ballet class. After they finished, I helped them get dressed and we left. It was a good class and went by pretty fast. Graves did really well. We got home and I let them play and do puzzles a bit and then I played an English game and a math game with Annie that had been part of the previous day's lessons. We cleaned up their room and then I fed them supper.

Signs it's been a long work week for Peyton: I was using a bath towel to dry dishes. [I do not haul the children to the laundry room unless the situation is DIRE.] [And I always feel like I should clarify that we are so thankful for laundry in our building. Because that's not a given here. At all.]

 I read to them a good while and got them to bed. I got on the computer and cooked chicken and brussel sprouts for me and Peyton. We ate and I sent an email and did a few things and then went to bed. 
I know it's overkill, but I could not stop laughing! 

Peyton was off on Friday and we kind of blew the day to be honest. I don't mind that occasionally (especially when we get stuff don't around the apartment) but it seems to be happening a little too much. Anyway, we woke up late and showed the kids a movie we were excited about- The Nightmare Before Christmas. We all watched and it was SO good. 
snuggling with her kitty cat 

We had lunch and got baths and then just spent a lot of the afternoon with the kids playing. Peyton and I had some good conversations, but we could have done that on a walk somewhere. Around four thirty (when it gets dark!) we took the kids to the playground. We looked like morons, but we had told them we could. We made a trip to Target and when we got home, I had a headache, but my energy kicked in. We all had supper and Peyton and I got the kids ready for bed and read to them. I started laundry and backed up some pictures on the hard drive. I finished the laundry way after the laundry room was supposed to close because I really wanted one of the big dryers. I folded a bunch of stuff while I waited for my last huge load. It was good I did, because I don't think I could have gotten it all across the courtyard and upstairs if I hadn't! I unpacked groceries and put the comforter I washed back on the bed and did some dishes. I wasted time on the computer and Peyton and I chatted. I did more dishes and went to bed late.

The kids slept even later on Saturday. Like ten thirty. Hahaha. We had breakfast and watched their shows and then they played. Since it was late, I tried to hurry through my chores. I planned a little school for the day, scooped liter, and folded up the bed. I got on the computer and ate breakfast and took my bath. I played with the kids and then read to them and we did their memory work, catechism, and devotional. They ate lunch and Graves rested. I got on the computer and uploaded pictures to FB and then Annie and I did a little exercise in English that we hadn't gotten to earlier in the week (and I knew it would be time consuming so I wanted to do it on a day without a full lesson) and her critical thinking. I got Graves up and we did math and then I let them help me make these peanut butter bars from a mix. 
Annie's favorite high heel dress up shoe broke while I was cooking supper. She cried for maybe ten minutes, then went to her room came back with a huge smile and said "There's only one thing that will fix this. I'm going to have to be Cinderella tonight". I know I've been sharing about it a lot lately, but Annie is making huge strides in learning to manage her emotions. Six months ago this would have been an hour in tears and me having to give her a lot of assistance with coming up with possible solutions. I am SO proud of her! (And proud of me for not punishing her for things I knew of didn't want to punish for.)

We cleaned up their room and they ate supper and then we read. Annie took a bath and I cleaned up the kitchen and I got them to bed. I got on the computer and Peyton got home. We talked and I wrote a blog post.  

Sunday was a good full day. Peyton was off because we were scheduled to serve at both churches so he had switched his schedule around. We got up just in time and hustled to get ready and out the door. He helped with the kids' ministry at TGC and I went to the service. It was great. We headed home and the walk took forever- Peyton had promised the kids bagels and we stopped at several places but couldn't find any. We finally just bought some cereal bars at a drug store. We looked at Christmas decorations some on the way home, too. When we got home, we all had lunch and I took a nap. 
Back in my day as a Consignment Sale Queen, a dear friend of mine bought this jon jon on the chance she'd one day have a boy. She turned right around and handed it to me and told him she wanted Graves to use it first since he was well...already here (though tiny at the time). I've had it tucked away all this time and now he's finally wearing it. John Stuart, your polar bears have been frolicking through Brooklyn today, but we're taking good care of then for you! 

Graves had rest time and Annie played and Peyton got on the computer. We got up and got ready to head to Calvary early. We passed out programs and ushered but we left right after the offering/communion because Peyton had a work Christmas party. He rode back with us to our neighborhood but stayed on the train to go back into the city.
This guy and his tree were also on our train. Hysterical.

 I got the kids home and fed them supper and straightened some and read to them. 
I've done TERRIBLE with taking pictures with our real camera since we moved. We do have horrible lighting in the apartment, but still. Not okay. 

It was late by the time they got to bed. Peyton got home and we talked some and I got on the computer a bit and then we went to bed.  

We started another week getting up late today. Peyton has a little more off time, so that's a good thing! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Letter to (Three Year and Seven Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves, 

I'm a little behind on your letters and I have so much to tell you! 

First of all- Cookie's wedding! You were the most precious ring bearer ever and you took your job suprisingly seriously for such a silly little guy. 

You just stared at Cookie with this mesmerized look all night. I told Conrad that some guy was staring at his wife and it was a little creepy. She was so beautiful and your weren't hiding your feelings one bit! 

One of the most special moments later in the evening was seeing the groom sitting at a table visiting and motioning for his mom to sit on his lap. They snuggled a little and it was such a precious moment between the two of them. A couple of years ago when you were a baby, I had a conversation with some friends about that stupid saying "a son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter's a daughter for the rest of her life". It devastated me to think about the possibility that one day we might not be particularly close, but I knew it wasn't uncommon. I teared up realizing that it wasn't a certain fate.

Mississippi was full of many other adventures- trips to see Granny's, eating snacks on Minnie's counter, and playing with lots of old buddies. You had the best time visiting your cousins and dressing up in an old Big Bird costume Granny had made. 

You and Annie staged your own little wedding while we were at Mickey and Minnie's. After y'alls big smooch, there was a small reception and then onto the beach for your honeymoon. You spent time relaxing in your "bathing suit" (twenty five year old Colonel Reb boxers) that the bride picked.

It's funny to watch you observe things. Cookie and Con brought y'all some shells from their honeymoon and you told us that one resembled "bery long shredded wheat".

While we were staying at Mickey and Minnie's you also got scared of the half naked Jim Morrison poster in Cookie's room. Annie told you "Bud it's just art. He can't talk or anything. Just try not to look at him anymore".

The trip was wonderful, but there were hard moments. One day you just lost it in the car, full on scream sobs. I truly thought you were hurt. I quickly got off the phone with Papa and asked you what was wrong. "I don't want to live at our home in New York. I want to be with Mickey. You know the house with stairs? I just stay in his Mickey house." That's the part that hurts the most.

You also told me, regarding Mickey, "He your Rob Papa. I got a Peyton Papa." I love watching you make connections. 

And a bit of TMI but Mick kept y'all one night by himself and he wiped his first bum ever, excepting his own. Minnie said "only for his little boy!" 

Besides wonderful times, and sad times, we also had a couple of scary times. One evening I heard you crying and went to check on you and you had an elastic string wrapped TIGHT around your neck. Because we left you unsupervised for a like two minutes in a not totally baby-proofed house. Terrifying. As soon as you realized you were safe (I was still unwrapping it) you said "I'm soooorry". You know better. But impulse control is not your strength. You are almost never defiant (Annie frequently is) but you are sooooo naughty. Remember when you jumped in the lake there, too? I hope you survive your own antics. Precious boy, you are your own biggest hazard. Maybe four will bring more wisdom. I really thought three would. 

The next day you proved me a little wrong about exercising self-control.. We visited Batte and you came up with the idea of tucking your hands in your jon jon so you wouldn't be tempted to touch things.

That said, you also fell down the stairs head first (you managed to catch yourself and I was a little in front of you with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches). Obviously the nurse lanyard was a good bit scarier but my nerves were shot and it was getting exhausting. (I feel like I should clarify that we've loved being home and it's been every bit worth it. Actually, that pretty much could be applied to your entire life.) 

"I have TONS of accidents"- this from you one Sunday morning. You, who at three and a half is actually, finally, potty trained. Except when ypu uncharacteristically teetee in the bed and I put a diaper on you. And you poop in it promptly upon waking up. I'm thankful you're so cute, so sweet, and SO happy. TMI I know, but so much of your life is right now.

Papa had to get back to Brooklyn to work, but we had stayed on a bit and I was a little nervous about the plane ride with you. You did great, though, besides getting upset when your ears popped and not wanting to wear a seltbeat some of the time. You even fell asleep on the longer leg of the flight! 

We had a wonderful Halloween and you loved it so much. You enjoyed trick-or-treating but I think the decorations were your favorite. 

We also ended up getting rid of your baa on the trip home after you fell asleep a few nights without it and then told us you didn't need them anymore. Poor guy, though, you thought you'd get them back "at our Brooklyn home". You cried and cried for while and said "Okay, I'll never take a nap again" (which has been mostly true). But we made it. The nights have really been easy. I was mostly worried about naps. But we had a good 3.5 years of them. I was also worried about your morning snuggles. You were waking up like a fire cracker at my parents'. Turns out, I think that was just the allure of grandparents and you're back to morning cuddles. And this happened just the way we wanted it to- you said you were ready to be done. Once you decided, we gently pushed. But it was much easier than I predicted.

One thing that's really hard with you is that it's difficult to know how much you know about things since you hardly ever seem to be paying attention. One morning Peyton was reading the kids a story and you were the couch the whole time, per usual. The story mentioned the main character slipping on "yak butter". Peyton did not stop and make a point of this. Much later that night you slipped off the toilet and almost fell into the potty water and said "WHOOPS! Yak butter!". THIS IS WHY I CONTINUE TO READ TO You WHILE YOU RUNS CIRCLES AROUND MY LIVING SPACE. It seems to be an exercise in futility, but THEN THIS.

I love watching you with your papa and sister. One day you told us that"I have a creature power suit that change me into a helps me pick up heavy things and help people." Which is exactly what you see your papa doing all the time. So thankful for both of you! 

I came in y'alls room the other night because you were screaming about "having a bleed". Annie told me that"He was messin' with Hippo's nostrils and then he just started digging in his own nose." Hilarious, as always! She then told you "I'm your nurse. My name is Cookie." After that, she started barking at you to hold yopur head up and be still. It will be amazing if you find another girl who will care for you like this and put up with you. Of course, you're a charmer and a flirt and ridiculously sweet, so I think he will. Usually how it works, right? Ask me how I know ;)

Great example of how you are not really (usually) defiant, but you're SO mischievous: you stuck your hand down your own pants and "tricked" your sister by telling her to smell your hand, that it smelled really good. Papato Annie: "That was wrong, but you should have had enough sense to know his hand would smell like a booty". Another night you convinced Annie to try tasting her own boogers and then she worked herself into a frenzy over needing to brush her teeth again.

The other weekend you had a rough day. You hit your head, pinched your finger in a door, and bit your tongue in the span of about fifteen minutes. I was trying to do dishes so your nurse (Annie) took over on the third incident. She brought you blanket and cuddled you in her lap. I was saying what a kind little girl she was and she said "You know, he's a very kind brother. At lunch when I was fussing because you said we couldn't have more than one brownie, he offered me his". Y'all are so good to each other.

Graves, you are such a fantastic, special boy. You bring so much joy to my life! 

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your smocked robot outfit is a 3T. The pants are a little long and I had them rolled so you could play. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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

Dear Annie,

I'm really behind on these, so the things I'm about to tell you happened about two months ago. Obviously, by the time you read these (if you choose to), that won't make a difference, but I had to note it.

Prospect Park, the wedding, Halloween. Some of the amazing things you got to experience in October were Prospect Park in the Fall, Cookie's wedding, and Halloween.

Prospect Park is so beautiful and you seem to appreciate it as much as a five year old possibly can. You love to go on nature hikes and see the waterfall and you LOVE to go to the big open field and just run and run. It sort of surprises me that you enjoy that so much, because you're not a super energetic child but I think you appreciate big open spaces in the city and it seems like it does you so good to be out in one.

Halloween was wonderful this year. We took y'all trick-or-treating around our neighborhood, which actually has a reputation of being awesome on Halloween. This year Papa and I dressed up, too. Papa was the Wicked Witch, Graves was one of his evil monkeys, you were Glenda, and I was Dorothy's red slipper. It was a fun night.

Of course, all that pales in comparison to your aunt's wedding. She was beautiful and you and Graves did amazing with your duties (flower girl and ring bearer, respectively). It was such a beautiful, magical time and I'll remember it forever and your huge part in it.

Obviously, the wedding necessitated a trip to Mississippi, and we were very thankful for it. We had a great flight there with you guys and y'all were troopers because we had such a busy, crazy schedule the weeks we were there. 

When we got there, DeeDee and Grandpa Randy had the room ya'll were staying in set up with adorable new dinosaur and mermaid sleeping bags, a pile of books, your own little suitcases, and a couple of new outfits. Such a fun surprise for y'all since you guys don't get to spend birthdays and Christmas with their grandparents during this season.

Papa was home in Mississippi with us for about a week and a half and then he flew back to Brooklyn to work and you and Graves and I stayed another week and a half. We moved over to Mickey and Minnie's and set up house there! 

So, you love to turn over a storage cube and set up a "nightstand" up here so you were thrilled to have a real table at Mickey and Minnie's. You set up a cow kitchen timer as an "alarm clock". It was really cute and clever. We are talking about the possibility of a two day school when we move back. We discussed it with you and you were adamant that you wanted to do your naptime "activities" like coloring before school. Papa said he'd wake you up early but not like fight you to get up. I think it's so funny because I know what will happen. Papa will gently wake you up. You'll run to get her coloring done and probably fix your breakfast and then Bud and I will get up. Papa said he as going to get you a little alarm clock, so I know that's where you got the idea to snag the kitchen timer! 

While we were there, Graves got scared of the half naked Jim Morrison poster in Cookie's room. You were so sweet and said "Bud it's just art. He can't talk or anything. Just try not to look at him anymore".

You guys also staged your own little wedding. Y'all dressed up in hats and lace nightgowns and Graves gave you a great big kiss. After the smooch, there was a small reception and then onto the beach for your "honeymoon". There was a wardrobe change into y'alls "bathing suits" (twenty five year old Colonel Reb boxers that you picked) and a real swimsuit of mine dating back to circa 1990. 

Mississippi also brought wheelbarrow rides and time to play on your very own swingset in the toasty October afternoon sun. You guys discovered Mickey's secret sanctuary where his made-by-his-own-hands Adirondack chairs sit and lounged in them as we watched probably the last ski of the season on the lake in front of their house. You dressed up in handmade costumes and ate roasted corn with your cousins while we visited with your other aunt and uncle. 

You got a "Snow White haircut"- a bob that fell just above your shoulders. [You did ask if we were going to dye it black like Snow White, too. Um, no. We aren't that authentic.] It's so cute and sassy and suits you to a tee. I struggled with cutting it because I felt your long hair was so sweet and very little girlish. I had long hair for until I was pretty old and it just seems so classic to me, while a bob seemed sort of mature. And I knew we'd be trading in big bows for little clips and headbands. Like I said though, it fits you perfectly. It still looks cute and sweet and Southern. I actually love it. In one way I think you look more grown up. But other times, I think it makes you look more like a baby. You face seems so much rounder and and it reminds me of the days before your hair even grew long. Another benefit is that I feel like it has a bit of a retro feel. Nothing like a shoulder length page boy. [P.S. Snow White is my favorite princess and her hair has a good bit to do with it, I think.]

I actually sort of had to talk you into the haircut. I persuaded you with the clips and headbands (you don't love a ponytail holder in your hair and the prospect of no more rubberbands put you over the edge). And of course I brought up Snow White. I've also had a TIME getting you to wear leggings with dresses this Winter. You are so stubborn and so analytically (um, like yours truly). You were convinced that princesses either wear leggings with a top (like Jasmine) or dresses with tights or socks (but NO PANTS). I finally had a brilliant idea and appealed to your love of all things Native American, explaining that Pocahontas did wear pants and a top. You went for it, but would only wear leggings with a dress when I braided your hair like hers. After the cut, I had to think fast and we discussed how the princesses on Frozen (which you've only seen part of with a babysitter, but are obsessed) probably have to wear leggings with everything. That worked, too. Whew. It's so nice when I can figure out how to make something work creatively without tears and discipline. 

One really painful part about our trip back was  getting to see, and having to leave, your best friend- "I don't want it to be the time we come home for a visit, I want it to be the time we move home to stay." you told me while bawling your eyes out as we left Aubrey's house. So hard, but it blesses me to see you value relationships so much. 

A funny story from Mississippi- we had been out a bunch one day and you were tired and cranky. You told me that your carseat was bothering you. I told you that we were almost back to Mickey and Minnie's. You then started arguing with me about how we should leave the car and call a tow truck to come get it and just walk home. 

You have such cute quirks and I love all of them. For the past couple of years you have been very insistent that yours and Graves's pjs coordinate in some way each night. It's fun to see how creative you can be when there isn't an obvious way to match. One night awhile back Graves was wearing gray stripes and you were wearing a top with a bird on it. You said, very matter of fact, "Momma, did you know? I'm a little pigeon and he's a man in the city".

I have to be honest. We've had some emotional struggles lately. But I'm watching you learn to navigate things better and better and with less and less help from me. I will admit that one afternoon during Graves's rest time we snuggled up under a quilt and had a great conversation about ways we can handle our (angry) emotions better because neither of us did a great job of that earlier that day. 

While we were in Mississippi you had a few hard bouts, too. You were bawling in the backseat one afternoon (so tired, so stressed). This was because I didn't want you to wear your "bride dress" (Minnie's forty five year old negligee) over your real clothes to DeeDee and Grandpa Randy's house.  "But they're my grandparents" you contended and I relented. You were already strapped in your car seat, so I said you could put it on when we arrived. You sobbed and I got angry. Then you told me I had to obey her. I, of course, cleared that up...and got angrier. Then you said "It's up to you to take care of the things I need because I'm your little girl." I still didn't pull over, but it changed the direction of my heart toward you and my tone, subsequently. I don't know where I'm going with this. But the whole thing seemed like a conversation with a much older person (minus the manic sobs).

Our last day there was especially difficult. You told me so many times that she wants to go back to New York, but not yet or that you wanted to take your "Jackson friends" with you. That night you cried for a solid hour over something that was (to me) very silly (a really large, heavy flashlight I wouldn't let you hold in the bed). I tried to help you think of solutions for a bit and then just held you while you sobbed. Finally, you came up with your own solution. It was the first time you've ever done that when you've been so worked up. I know doing it the way I do isn't for everyone and it's been really hard at times, but I got my reward that night, watching you problem solve through tears and exhaustion.

One thing about the trip that really burdened me was your conflicting emotions. You're a resiliant child and you have thrived in both places, so I know you'll be okay. But it's hard watching you process it all. 

One night you told us that you wanted to stay in NYC and not move back for good. I asked you why and you said you didn't like her bedroom in MS as much. We talked more and you said it's because you'll have even MORE toys to put up than in Brooklyn (we had left some things in Mississippi). We discussed and you said you'd be so happy if we put some of your toys in the attic and rotated them. Needless to say, your papa was PROUD!

Another hard part of our wonderful time was being apart from Papa for the second half of the trip. I really think you did fine mostly because we stayed pretty busy and it really kicked in once we got back. At the airport you were SO sweet and funny- like a little lovesick puppy. You kept smiling shyly and ducking your head and giggling and you kept wanting to pat his hair (he did get a new cut). After we got back when I asked if you were happy to be here or did you miss Mississippi, you told me "I just want to live where Papa is". He had to work the day after we got back and you took a picture of the door on his iPad and "drew" him coming through it. It was so good to all be back together. 

You challenge me so much and sometimes the Lord uses you to convict me. We decided on a little project where we're going to really work on saving for a few years so Papa can have more freedom and flexibility with work. At first I was pretty hesitant. We talked to you about it some and our conversation really helped make things more clear. So back story: You LOVE eating out. It's a big thing to you right now. Well, we asked you if you would wound rather not eat out much and have more time with her papa or go to restaurants a good bit but not have any more time with him. you didn't even blink- she chose more time with your papa. And it was convicting. Real convicting.

Annie, I love you so much. I can't tell you how much all these small interactions and experiences I get to enjoy (or wade through) with you mean. They are priceless to me and I could not be more thankful for them or for you. 

Momma (and Papa) 

P.S. Your dress is a 5. Not a 5T, a 5. So that something. Oh and Ms. Carrie found it for you at a consignment sale since I don't get to go to them these days. Also sort of special.

Sunday in the City

Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease.

This past Sunday was possibly my very favorite Sunday since we've lived here (which is saying a whole lot).

It reminded me of how INCREDIBLY worth it, despite a lot of transit time and a lot of effort (particularly on the weekends that I'm by myself with the kids), it is to be part of two communities of faith. Our two churches here meet very different needs and both are so very important to us.

This morning we worshiped with our TGC Crown Heights friends. It is a very diverse congregation, very dedicated to social justice while never placing it before the Gospel. There was a lot of talk about celebrating the newborn baby while also exalting the man on the cross. The sermon spoke to the importance of these things in spite of the recent events that have our (can I call it our? I always hesitate to do that) city hurt and broken. There was a palpable collective grief, evidenced powerfully when our pastor's voice broke a few times. And the conversation I had with a dear friend after the service is one I will take with me wherever we live for the rest of my life.

This evening we attended a wonderful candlelight service at a beautiful historic church (Saint George's) in Manhattan that we are also very proud to claim. The priest started his meditation quoting the stanza of "O Holy Night" above and preached on our great hope in the midst of pain and sadness. How the eternal became temporal so the temporal could be eternal and what great hope lies in just that there.

This year (and specifically this season) has not been without hardship. But it has been inexplicably worth it. And so much of it's worth comes from these two bodies of believers we are so blessed to be a part of.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Weekly Happenings #296 (December 1-7)-- Getting in the Christmas Spirit

I still can't believe that December is HERE. We kicked off the month with several fun activities, which was wonderful. We also participated in the protests one night and that was really powerful.

Peyton had switched days and was off on Monday and it was a super low key day. I had been feeling under the weather and I think I needed it. I slept late and then got my bath and had breakfast. I spent most of the later morning and early afternoon working on our Christmas card. Our WiFi was messed up so I kept having set backs. Around mid afternoon, Peyton took the kids and went grocery shopping. I cleaned around the house and finished the card. They got back and we all relaxed and played and then I let them open some presents my mom had sent them.

We try not to make a huge deal of presents at Christmas and Minnie has been so sweet to honor that. She sent the kids a big package and a note telling them how thankful she is for them since we just celebrated Thanksgiving. Annie got dress up shoes, a tea set, hair clips, and paper dolls. Graves got some dinos, an airplane, and a tractor. And they both got books. I got some Peppermint Bark and a beautiful little Christmas surprise from Batte. Peyton got their blessing to move their favorite people twelve hundred miles to chase a dream. So they're no longer obligated to give him gifts for anything ever again. 
AP: "I never want to go to a circus. Too crowded." Peyton: "but some crowded things are sometimes really a Bruce Springsteen concert." AP: "Well, I would love *that*". She's the best. We were debating a Christmas festivity in the city. In the rain. Like I said, she's the best. 

We fed and bathed them and got them to bed. I uploaded pictures, did laundry, and blogged some.

Peyton was actually working Tuesday since he had switched it for Monday (we had planned to have dinner with friends but it fell through). The kids got up around eight thirty and we watched their shows and had breakfast. They played and I planned school, got on the computer, scooped liter, folded up the bed, and took my bath. I read to them and we did their catechism, devotion and some memory work that I decided to add in. Then we cleaned up their room and it was time for lunch.

 I was planning to take them both to Cumbe (a parent has to participate in Graves's class), but there was rain in the forecast so I decided we wouldn't. I got Graves settled and did a few things on the computer. The rain seemed like it wasn't going to happen after all and I decided we'd go to the "children's tableau" at Calvary. I wasn't planning to partly because there was a potluck afterwards and there was noway I could manage bringing food on the subway. Well, I got an email reminder and it seemed way more low key than I realized. I hustled and did English with Annie and then we all got ready and left. It was sprinkling and for some reason the carrier was really bothering my hips (maybe it was too low, that's never happened before?). We made it though, and it was really fun. The kids just dressed up in whatever (Annie was a unicorn and Graves was a fox) and Jake told the story of the first Christmas in a really sweet, beautiful way. After that, there was caroling and desserts.
 You can be anything you want in the impromptu live nativity- even a mystical creature and a tie clad fox. "Revend Jake" as Graves calls him shared the Christmas story so beautifully + communion + sweet treats and fellowship afterwards. Pretty great night!

We stuck around a bit and then headed home. It was close to nine when we got home and I really wanted to get math in. We did than and then I fed the kids. Peyton got home and I got the kids ready for bed and read to them a LOT. It was ten thirty. I made chili for us, did dishes, and sent an email and went to bed.

Peyton was working on Wednesday. The kids got up around nine thirty and then we watched shows and had breakfast. I did my chores and planned school, ate breakfast and got on the computer, and took my bath.
They're looking at a "Find Curious George" book Minnie sent. I heard Annie say "Yeeees! Very good job, Graaaaaves!"

I played with the kids and then we did their morning stuff (devotion, catechism, and memory work). We picked up and I fed them lunch. I printed out some Advent ornaments and put up dishes and put Graves down. I got on the computer breifly and took a short name and then did school with Annie. English took longer than usual so I let Graves get up and do some with us. We did math next and he cut AND traced. We did his critical thinking and read some in our Five in a Row book and then I fixed them supper. I cleaned out the microwave and worked on glueing the cards I had printed to cardstock. We read some more and did their Advent reading and I got them to bed. I cleaned up their table and did dishes and then I ate supper and watched China Beach. Peyton got home and we talked and then I finished the episode. We chatted and I got on the computer.

Peyton was off on Thursday and we had a great day. We got up early and got ready and headed to the Bronx. They were really low on help so Peyton and I had the babies by ourselves. It went well, though. We had lunch at our favorite Mexican place and Graves fell asleep on the way home.
Nothing like your first {virgin} daiquiri! And we enjoyed amazing food, per usual, at our favorite Mexican place in the South Bronx (and the city).

We all rested and I got on the computer and took a short nap. Peyton took Annie to ballet and I did a few things and got ready and then woke up Graves. We met Peyton and Annie at the train station near ballet and headed into the city for a protest. We stayed awhile and ended up meeting up with some friends.
Peyton and I neither one took any pictures. We talked about it afterward and had both felt similarly convicted about it without having discussed it. But I think it's another New York memory I'll have forever. It was really powerful telling our small people that our friends were hurting and that we want to use our voices (and our ears) to help them. 

We rode the train home with them and fed the kids dinner and got them to bed. I talked to my mom and Ellis and ate supper and got on the computer a bit.
So we got the Ann Voskamp Advent book and I am LOVING it (if you dig The Jesus Storybook Bible, you probably will). To be honest it's a little to "metaphorical" and literary even for AP. I asked her the question about God helping her in a flood and she asked me to explain what it meant a little more. I told her it was just a very deep pain, a strong sadness. She looked at me very seriously and said "I have felt that way before....when I had to say goodbye to Aubrey when we visited Mississippi". Whew. Guess she's been dealing with a little homesickness, too.

Peyton was off again on Friday and we ended up having another low key day at home. He went to a men's prayer group but the kids were still watching their shows in bed with me when he got home. We had breakfast and I got my bath and we just had a slow morning. We had lunch and then I folded a bunch of laundry and Peyton went to the storage unit.
You know how some people are guilty of using the TV as a babysitter (we've been at times)? I think we're guilty of using the bathtub as a babysitter. It was another dreary day in Brooklyn and the kids had passed the two hour mark of playing with dinos in the tub. We recently stopped joint baths, but they wanted one so bad. I was going to suggest swimsuits, but Peyton insisted underwear would be sufficient (he used to bathe with Annie in his boxers for funsies when she was about Graves's age).

We did our "morning" school stuff and Peyton made hot chocolate and we had a little dance party and then I did English and math with Annie. It took WAY longer than usual and I was doing laundry in between. The kids had super around eight and I had promised Annie they could help me decorate for Christmas. We got it all out and they helped some and then we got them ready for bed and I read to them. After they went to bed, I got on the computer and ate dinner and cleaned up around the house. I finished decorating and sent an email and went to bed.

Peyton worked Saturday. The kids got up and we watched their shows and had breakfast and then they played while I did my morning chores, took my bath, and had my breakfast. I played with them for a good bit and then fed them lunch. I put Graves down and ate my lunch, rested a bit, and got on the computer. He got up and we did math and read and then cleaned up their room. I fed them supper and then started getting them ready for bed. Peyton got home and we read to them together. I got on the computer and uploaded pictures to Facebook and wrote a blog post.

Sunday was so great. We got up and all got ready and headed to Trinity Grace. It was a great service. We came home and rested a bit and ate lunch and then got ready for the candlelight service at Saint George's. It was also really wonderful.
Truly beautiful candlelight service at the gorgeous historic Saint George's. Enchanting setting, perfect lighting, amazing music. And of course, the bold proclamation of the Gospel. 

We stopped by the grocery store on the way home and Peyton made a pizza with dough from Trader Joe's.
When it drops below forty, your papa squishes you into the carrier in your puffy coat. But sometimes your fam gets in a in a hurry and doesn't put sister's old leggings under your jon jon and everyone has failed to take care of your baby legs.

We read to the kids and got them to bed and watched a movie. I straightened around the apartment and got on the computer and went to bed.

It was a great start to the month and I can tell it will be such a special one.