Monday, November 19, 2018

More Reflections: On Meeting, and Loving, Our Teddy

I was going through my September pictures and figured Teddy needed his own post! So here was our first month of loving this little baby! 

The week he was born, I couldn't stop staring at the pictures of him and tearing up.

He's perfect.

His momma looks like a super model, post birth (we knew this would be the case).

His name. Also perfection. It was a secret until he was born and it just about killed me.

Cutest family ever. We love you more than we can stand, Baby Bear 

Teddy has quite the fanclub. Graves said he couldn't wait to snuggle with him and he was going to be better than an actual teddy bear. Again, obviously. Sallie kept screaming "Baby! Cousin! Teddy!" as loud as she could when she saw his picture. 

When he was a couple of weeks old, we all headed up to Nashville to meet Teddy and then Peyton and the big kids went camping while I stuck around and helped with the baby for a few days! It was an absolute joy. 

We made it to Nashville and here was the long anticipated cousin meeting. Annie made Teddy a decorative banner for his room and wrote Cookie and Conrad the sweetest note. Graves was SO happy. And so calm. Haha. And Sallie was way more eaten up with Teddy than I could have imagined. She loves Bitty Baby, and Baby Huggums, and Bathtime Baby, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. She could not stop patting him and talking to him and saying "hat", "baa", "hands". Teddy, you are so loved!

Took our buddy to get some groceries. It was the first time we've left since I got here. The trip was even more fun than I imagined it would be- helping pick out his outfits and burping him and holding him a ton. It's been really surreal, too, which I wasn't expecting, in that it reminded me so much of my early days with just Annie. We watched The View in the morning the first day (and then two documentaries and a feature length film, haha) and I remembered how I used to do that EVERY weekday before I had older children that I didn't necessarily want hearing all of Whoopi and Joy Behar's ramblings and before we canceled cable. It was SUCH a nice break but I did enjoy putting up all Cookie's groceries.

King Louie and I both holding Teddy. Cookie calls Louie "Nanna" (like from Peter Pan) and it almost does me in. A boy and his dog 

Already looking more like a baby than a newborn. I teared up one morning and Cookie wanted to know if I missed my babies but it was because I was sad about leaving my Teddy Bear the next day. The trip has been so sweet and so restorative for me. Cookie and Conrad neither one knew the extent I'd "tethered" myself to Sallie for the past two years and frankly, I think they thought I was a little insane. And I probably was. I was SO glad to see our babies and get back to our normal routine, but gosh I miss this dude when he's not around. 

Because I love a little comparison study, and because I hope this is the first of many cousin comparisons: Teddy at sixteen days, Sallie (bottom right) at twelve days, and Graves (top right) at three MONTHS all in my favorite duckies. Teddy and Graves look like real serious boys (Graves was like "I'm a *very* complicated baby", lol). And Sallie looks like Jabba the Hutt or as P would say like she ate our other two babies! Haha!

It took me awhile to recover from on and off crying all day- just missing Teddy and his momma so bad and wishing they were closer. Newborns are exhausting (and spending a few nights getting up with this guy and his momma was my great privilege) but this trip was one of the most restorative, rejuvenating things I've done for myself in years. I hope I gave the Reynauds half as much as I got.

I'm so grateful I got to spend this time with my best friend since as far as my memory goes back and my newest little love (and a bonus brother who I *really* enjoy bickering with). I had no idea it was possible to love a baby that wasn't my own this much. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Twenty One September Reflections

Super behind again, per ususal, but here are my September reflections! Twenty one reflections in eight categories for September!

On Scouting and Camping:

1. I've already been mistaken for a Webelos.

2. Hymn Sings are fun, but probs not a good bear deterrent. 

Stuff Herringtons Say on the way home from church, when discussing their their upcoming camping adventure.

3. My kids are gonna be a lot tougher than their momma and much more prepared for life's literal and metaphorical storms and know that happiness don't hinge on sunshine.

While I was hanging out with Teddy and Cookie for a few days, Sallie has been sleeping through the night in the cabin and woke up with a dry diaper. Graves has been having fun being allowed to use the frog potty since the cabin has no running water and midnight bathroom trips are a bit too much of a hike. And sweet Annie-- P told them "I miss momma" send Annie said "I miss her too but I keep telling myself she's having the best time with Cookie and Teddy and she needs this" (sob). Their rockstar Papa has a cold but his voice still sounds full of enthusiasm and love. 

On Mental Health:

5. Since Teddy's entrance, I've been thinking a lot about the old newborn days. I heard a dear friend say recently that she wants to tell people that it's okay if it's hard and it's even okay if you hate it and I think that's SO important to validate people in that way. I think we all have stages we don't love and maybe even wish we could fast forward through and that's totally okay. At the same time (and honestly, as I shared recently I'm thinking about this for myself in the present day), there's this line and I think it's so important to know when it gets outside the realm of normal (or I guess outside the realm of what a person is comfortable with and is able to function through). 

On Annie Banani:

7. Sometimes I hardly recognize this sporty, stocky, feisty little person and wonder what she did with my itty bitty not even six pound baby who Peyton describes as "catatonic" most of her first year? 

8. I couldn't find Annie about twenty minutes into the two hour event that is "baby bookclub" and someone said "there's a little girl on the other side of the building sitting by herself and playing with grass". Found myAnnie Introvert and texted my BFF because she did the same thing recently when playing at their house (without telling her friends and acting like this was totally normal ). She was like "she don't like people" and I was like "she gets it from her momma". Baby Bookclub is crazy. Baby Bookclub is lovely. 

9. Annie is super basic and was real ready for fall. Hate to break it to you, Sis, but we had about another month before the temps dropped and sleeping in the fox hat in a seventy eight degree house was probably pretty mis.

10. Facebook facial recognition software may try to tag pictures of Annie as Peyton their facial structure is so similar, but she gets her expressions from her momma. 

If looks could kill....Bud, Sallie, and Cookie would be goners 

On Our Precious Bud:

11.  He's FASCINATED by any injury or illness (he got a (adult) book from the library about Phineas Gage, this dude who got a railroad spike through his head in the 1800s and had a TBI and was sooo obsessed and would not hush about it ). 
Stuff Herringtons Say aftertheir momma explains not to put their hands in a newborn baby mouth (much needed with Bud who was having Sallie stick out get tongue so he could kiss it the other week). Yes, drama loving is right, Annie.

On Little Sallie Sunshine:

12. TFW your brother let's you hold his action figure is, well, pretty intense with this one. 

13. When your baby loves The Boss as much as you do....well, that's also pretty intense. 
The ties that biiiiiiind.....
This is Two. This is Sallie. This is THE BEST. 

14. While momma's still in charge of dressing this tough little thing, Sallie gets dressed in ruffles, lace, and ribbons (and vintage length dresses which is probably my favorite aspect of the whole ensemble).
So, a HUGE thing happened and Sallie has started sleeping through the night. I know, I know. It took two years, but I don't care. For a long time, it hasn't even been hard to me. She'd wake up every night between eleven and midnight (PERFECT because that's when I really needed to be in bed myself anyway to actually get enough sleep) and we'd grab her and put her in our bed and she'd go right back to sleep. I loved snuggling with her and Peyton did, too, and it had virtually no impact on our "married people time". Co-sleeping was really, really special. I do think sleeping all night is a nice skill to have, though, and I wondered if this would be our routine when she was five. But I've really been intentional about living in the present with her and that's been so healthy for me.

Anyway, girlfriend don't do anything half way. I'd been listening to her sing her little songs to herself for about twenty minutes when I took this. I'm not sure she picked the ideal time, though (same story with potty training which she very much decided on her own she's ready to work on), since she was about to go tent camping for the first time. (She also slept through very loud playdate during naptime and didn't even wake up when Annie FORGOT SHE WAS IN THEIR ROOM and took her cousin in there and they talked in normal voices for like ten minutes. Basically what I'm saying is I did everything "wrong" sleep wise, and she's still the most fantastic third baby.)

15. I usually pair her t-shirts with her little striped shorties, but sometimes I like a more traditional option and one of my favorite things to do is pair them with some bloomers or panties and make a diaper set, especially in September when it's still hot as molasses but I've put up most of her summery diaper sets. The yellow gingham probably is a bit rule breaky, but whatever. The pink and white panties are a 9 mo. and went with a dress I loved that got stained and is obviously too little anyway. 

This has been Sallie's September uniform (unless she's wearing just a diaper, I told somebody the other day "she's always naked" and they said "yeah, she really always is"; maybe that's why I so passionately document when Sallie Gets Dressed).

On Terms of Endearment:
16. I realized this month how much I love terms of endearment. I will never be that girl who gets offended by being called "Sweetie" (unless it's done in a VERY patronizing way by a man and then HOLD MY PEARLS). But probably a good ninety five percent of the time when someone calls me "darling" or something like that, I just feel awash in love. It's very comforting to me.

On Faith:

18. Both big kids told me separately that God wants them to love Him more than our family recently. Tough stuff. Graves seems to be dealing with his own anxiety (and it surprises me that it's him, not Annie). Every night there are hard, anxious questions about why God hasn't "granted his wish" about Peyton believing, about who goes to heaven and hell, about if clowns have guns, and about who will take care of him and his sisters if P and I both die. He talks about how he's angry too often and is afraid he's going to the dark side and Sallie is the only one who keeps him from it. He gets scared he's not a good enough friend and asks if God will be upset if he doesn't say his prayers one night. I am grateful that I have come to a place where I'm not near as worried when I don't have any of the answers he needs- that my, nor his, salvation is dependent upon right answers and that as I tell him nearly every day, "all you can do is your best- that's all I ask" and all I can do is my best to raise an emotionally healthy child. I feel like it comes in waves, but overall I'm in a good place right now but answering some of these questions by myself is lonely sometimes (I'm sure being on the other side by himself is lonely for Peyton, too, at times). One thing it does do is make me so grateful for our church family and our friends who love Jesus. I don't think I'd appreciate them as much if I weren't in this situation. My therapist was talking about how one person CAN'T meet another person's every single need, and though it's a unique situation, I'm glad I have other people who come alongside me to help me in my need to raise these children in a faith tradition I believe in. (It's always a little emotional to share songs from our wedding, but I know God is as present now in our family as He was then.)

19. AP told me that Graves told her that and asked if it was true that God wants us to love Him more than each other. We haven't talked specifically about this but it shouldn't surprise me that Graves came to the conclusion on his own. It's actually something I spent most of my adolescence and a good bit of adulthood struggling with anxiety and guilt over. I'm trying to find the line of being honest with them but not making this burdensome because I don't think that's what Jesus wanted for children (or anyone). 
I told Peyton and he said "he's not wrong, according to the Bible". I told him that of course I had told them that, gently. I told them both that yes, God does want us to love Him more than anything. That he created us and He loves us more than we could ever love. I told them that it's also really, really hard to measure love. It's hard, if not impossible, to know who you love more and it's not something I'm going to fixate on. I told them that a long time ago I did and I felt really guilty and that's not what God wants for us. I reminded them that EVERY night I pray that we will all five grow to love God more (this is one way I gently pray for Peyton; sometimes I pray more specifically but not every night). And I told them that God never wants us to try to love each other less, he just wants us to love Him more and that's not something I figured out until I was much older. And I told them that no matter what, we WON'T love Him perfectly but he always, always loves and forgives us with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love that even our love for each other can't compare to. I reminded them of how I tell them every night that P and I will never stop loving them or forgiving them no matter what they do (this is especially important with Graves who sometimes thinks he's "the worst boy ever") and that as true as that is, God's love is even stronger and more powerful and that matters much more than how much we love Him. That, I think is the most important thing to remember- for them and for me. We are forever making idols of things (even really good things) and He is forever lavishing us with grace.

20. Being an inclusive church is hard, and not always in the ways you think. A few years ago, right before we joined, Northside came up with a simple statement-- "all are welcome". It was purposefully vague and didn't talk about gender or race or sexuality; in an effort to be even more inclusive. But recently for the very first time I thought about how that would include welcoming a Neo Nazi skinhead or an unapologetic misogynist. That's a hard thing to think about, but a necessary one. 

On Weaning:

Reflecting on mental health, each of my children, scouting/camping, faith, terms of endearment, and weaning my last baby was quite enjoyable and gave me lots to think about!

Monday, November 5, 2018

10 Things to Tell You

I'm finally getting my September pictures and such up on the blog now that it's November. Well, back about six weeks ago I participated in this challenge on Instagram. It was really fun to get introspective and reflect on some things and I always love a good prompt. Here are my ten things!

My childhood didn't feel very easy at times (I completely related to what Laura, who hosted the challenge, said about fearing death and thinking there must be a REASON and that these anxieties were inevitably real premonitions of actual future events-- I remember finding a tissue my momma had blotted her lipstick on one night when we were staying with a babysitter and clutching it and smelling it, terrified I'd never see her again).
But I also felt abundant love and like I was so valuable to the people in my life. I have so many memories of playing in my backyard, which was on par with a storybook garden; riding bikes in our neighborhood; having really beautiful, deep conversations and hysterical interactions with my parents and my little sister; discovering so many books that would change my life;  and spending precious days at a really delightful  school where I learned to love learning.

I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of really wonderful influences on my life, but probably the biggest one outside of my parents was my grandmother, who I called Bump. She was the kindest, most nurturing, most encouraging person but she was feisty and a total spitfire. She was wise and humble. And she was brave. 

She's the Sarah our Sallie is named for.
She was a widow the entire time I knew her. And she ached for my grandfather every day. The older I got the more I realized it. I don't think I've ever known a person so in love with their spouse. And he had been gone decades.

She was just generally a bad ass. She went with me to my best friend's heavy metal concert where he yelled the F word on stage. She took me to see American Pie and commented on the actual pie scene. There was NOTHING I kept from her. A lot of people have special relationships with their gandparents, but most people can't say that.

When she met my grandfather, he offered her a cigarette. She told him she didn't smoke and he grinned and threw the whole package in the trash (during the war, when those things were rationed and expensive). Later, when he was dying, a nurse told her they would calm her down and she started smoking. I asked to try one when I was about Annie's age. She let me, I gagged, and later, in every situation with my teenage friends, I refused them like she did on that first date.

She used to make me and my sister these plates of lots of little different desserts right before bedtime at her house and she called them "Midnight Snacks". It's one of my favorite things from the whole of my childhood.

Nothing surprised her and she had such a strong, steady faith.

Maybe the biggest way she's influenced me in my current day to day is that I'm not sure we would have moved back to central Mississippi after Brooklyn if it weren't for her and the knowledge that I wanted to prioritize my children's relationship with their grandparents above alot of other things I cared about deeply.

Since volunteering at the Grief Center, I've processed losing her much more than in previous years. I miss her more than I realized, and I knew I missed her really badly.

I can't think of anything that has changed my worldview more than our sixteen months living in Brooklyn did.

I worshiped, for the first time, in a truly multiracial church. More than that, I became friends, on an actual deep level, with a black person. I listened, for the first time ever, to the stories he told about what it was like to live in his brown body. I realized the depth of my prejudice. I challenged myself to meet the eyes of every black man I passed on the street and I realized, to my utter shame and disgust, that it was difficult.

My children saw poverty and learned how to interact with homeless people...and I did, too. They learned about so many different cultures and about people with very, very different lifestyles than us- men dressed as women and Hasidic Jews who wouldn't make eye contact with us....and I did, too.

I watched people I had stereotyped as cold and hardened and unfriendly reach out and help strangers. Time and time again, I watched them give up their seat on a crowded bus or train for my children. And on Easter Sunday, in a bus about to burst, I watched an elderly black woman who simply could not risk standing for him, put three year old Graves in her own lap and some scales really fell off my eyes and I wept.

I realized that my view of the world- the view from my really happy, but really naive, privileged vanilla life in the suburbs in the 'Sip- was a very small view of the world.

Those sixteen months broadened it exponentially in ways I could have never imagined.

I have a hard time with acknowledging what I'm good at (or even coming up with it). And part of me wanted to say "burning toast" or "ignoring laundry", but each of these prompts are so full of thought and care, and I want to do that justice.

Something that I'm surprisingly good at is encouraging vulnerability. I say surprisingly because it's not something I've worked too terribly hard at. I'm just a very transparent person (some would say an over-sharer). It's not so much that it's always easy, but I feel unsettled when I keep things in. It just helps me to drag things into the light, as I often say. That said, I've slowly learned that it's okay to keep some things private, especially when they involve other people's stories.

I've shared things I'm sure I shouldn't have, I've left unsaid things I wanted to share/take a stand on, and I've struggled with feeling the fatigue that vulnerability brings after pushing publish. Every so often, Minnie will be like "I always find out you had a hard week on Instagram" and it's like she thinks I'm this horribly depressed person who's holding on by her fingernails based on what she sees on here but in real life she thinks I've totally got my crap together and am a fantastic mom (hopefully the realest me lies somewhere between those poles, eek). Mostly, I just can't articulate things out loud the way I can in writing.

But more importantly, I like to think that I'm good at validating and encouraging people when they share deep pain and heartache (and also importantly, truly celebrating with people when they share their joys and successes-- this has been one of the hardest things to learn in marriage: Peyton Herrington ain't here to be anybody's cheerleader). I feel like the directive to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn is often such an overlooked Scripture. Honestly, I think because we're scared of that level of emotion and vulnerability within our own hearts, let alone taking on someone else's. But I think that it's important because being present in a person's pain and joy can truly change a life. I know because I've been the grateful recipient of this gift many times.

I have mixed feelings about quite a lot. As an important aside, I've been meaning to ask this for ages. Does everyone realize that the word "ambivalent" means basically this-- having mixed or complicated feelings about something? I truly thought it meant the same thing as indifferent and like you just couldn't care less about something. As has most everyone I've discussed this with. Tell me if you knew I was wrong (or do like a dear friend of ours and argue with the dictionary)

I know a honeymoon baby isn't the biggest deal in the greater scheme of things, but an Uh Oh Baby (or really the anticipation of her- she was the easiest baby in the history of ever) rocked our world and the moment she was born, and a mother was born before she meant to be, was certainly a defining one.

I'm not proud of it, but even though I had always wanted to be a mother more than anything, P and I were devastated when we found out I was pregnant with Annie. We wanted to enjoy a carefree newlywed life. I wanted to teach school and we wanted to move to New York and those things seemed like they might be impossible (spoiler: we did live in New York and I am very much a teacher, but in a different way than I had envisioned). Nothing was lost (except those carefree newlywed days, which I'm not sure we would have had anyway- more on that in a minute) and everything was gained.

For some reason, even after dating for four years, P and I went into marriage with very different expectations. I had lost my grandmother two months before we got married and the job I finally got accepted for two months after we got married (enrollment was low and I was the last one hired and first to go) and I had gotten off the antidepressant I had been on in college and was struggling. I was inexplicably exhausted (read: how I do all forty weeks of a pregnancy) and when he got home and asked what I did all day I would list episodes of SVU I had watched as accomplishments and that irritated him. Also, he wanted to like actually have sex after waiting for four years. Our marriage was a clustercuss and I feel that God used Annie to save it. I remember laying in the bathtub and wishing I was dead (no real thoughts of acting on that) and thinking I had to keep going for the baby inside me.

A few months later Annie was born. God was gracious to give me a kind and gentle teacher (our "play baby" as Minnie called her) for the first couple of years in the classroom of unexpected motherhood and almost immediately after she was born, something shifted and the broken places in our marriage began to heal. She was the best wedding present we could have given each other.

I had to think harder about this prompt than any other and I feel like it's the fluffiest. At first I thought it was talking about a product or a book or tv show/movie or a system. And while I love Target and Amazon as much as your next basic girl, the things I'm drawn to are just cutesy and fun- they're not life changing, or even "game changing". And when I do buy make up or hair stuff, I kind of hate spending money on it. I'm at a point in my life where I don't prioritize books and shows (I'm so not a movie person) like I want to and I really, really want to. And I LOVE a good system (like personality stuff, for example) but I haven't really discovered anything lately. So in true SD style, I decided to deep dive this one.

Something I discovered recently started with a phenomenal Hidden Brain podcast months ago. Basically we have incredibly high expectations for marriage- we think that it should be the thing that helps us find fulfillment and grow into the most authentic version of ourselves. They talked about Mount Maslow- a theory of how our expectations of marriage have basically ascended from the bottom to the top of Maslow's hierarchy over the course of American history (from needing a spouse for survival to needing one for to love to needing one to help you find your truest self).

I told some friends that I'm realizing more and more we place marriage/romantic relationships on way too much of a pedestal in our society and we expect marriage to take the place of all relationships. The current narrative is to try to find a "soulmate" who will meet every need. I think Peyton will always be my very best friend and the person who understands me the most and the person I'm least afraid to share things with. But I think I've put too much pressure on him to meet literally every need I have- that's not real healthy.

Recently at therapy, I started with expounding on this- something we had touched on last time- and then talked about a bunch of other stuff. At the end, my therapist observed that this was the first time I had ever mostly just talked about ME- not about Sallie getting older or Peyton not believing in God, but about me personally.

Of the ones I will dig deep into publically, the biggest thing I'm struggling with is being well- physically, mentally emotionally, and in my soul.

Too many days, I feel one of four things. I feel sick (headaches, sinus stuff, back pain(??), hormonal (not pregnant) issues to level I'm throwing up). Or I feel exhausted. Or I'm dealing with some depression episodes (not life and death, but a difficult level of sadness that I can't even pinpoint the origin of). And if I'm not dealing with one of those things, I just feel totally overwhelmed by our life; which I really, really love.

Most of this came to the surface after Sallie was born. I told P that it was a good thing I'm so obsessed with her because she has done a number on me (really the pregnancy with her did) that the other two did not. She left me worse off in a lot of ways. Things that were going on intensified-- my headaches are much worse, my bladder issues (ahem) are much worse, and I've had to fight much harder for my mental health (it's probably a good thing she brought that to the surface). Deep down I know that no matter what she was like, I wouldn't resent her. But I can't picture being more infatuated with a baby. I don't love her more than I did the big kids as babies, but I think I appreciate everything she is more. A lot of people don't get this other thing she gave me- an ability to jump head first into each stage with a perspective of five and seven years down the road. So I guess it all comes out in the wash- she's kind of wreacked havoc on me but she's brought so much goodness to my heart.

Truly, it's not every day and I have good days. But the bad ones feel really bad and between all of it, it just feels like a lot. I just want to figure out how to make things manageable, sustainable, and maybe even enjoyable. Maybe not every single day, but almost every single day.

I guess my struggle is figuring out how much of this is normal life homeschooling with small children and also forcing myself to do the things I know will help (run, get a healthy amount of sleep, prioritize my own friendships and activities, and go to therapy).

My magical reset button time. Y'all. One of God's greatest gifts to me in this season of life is a close friend who still makes her big kids have "rest time" (i.e. play quietly in an area she's not in). It feels very validating to know I'm not the only one who has to enforce this to keep her sanity. I KNOW it shouldn't matter what works for other families, but especially with other homeschooling mommas I watch as they power through the baby's nap to get their big kids' school in or just...go all day without a break. And I just cannot. I literally think I'd have a nervous breakdown. I NEED my introvert time in the middle of the day and I'll be vulnerable here, if I had to give it up successfully homeschool, I'd give it a real try but my kids might end up in traditional school. I think it's just that important of a boundary. Peyton doesn't need it and loves to power through the day and I know sometimes it's hard for him to understand as a high energy extrovert. For awhile, before Sallie was born we didn't have a real rest time (away from us time) for the big kids and I kind of regret letting it go. Graves STILL has a hard time playing independently, but we do media time for half of Sallie's nap and usually, he can entertain himself for an hour. I'm going to make Sallie have a mandated rest time even when she drops her nap and I really struggle on days when we're out and about during her rest time and I don't get my time. I know that sounds very entitled and it sort of is, but more and more I'm realizing I have to do the things that will set me up for success and not apologize (even to Peyton) for them or think I need to justify them.

This was difficult because it's hard for me to figure out how to take care of myself, what (of all the seemingly very important things) merits being an actual priority, and where I need to be drawing boundaries. But maybe in three months I'll be closer. This was one of the most challenging prompts- the past and present are so much easier to reflect on, for me. But what a cool idea about "closing the loop" (circling back around to touching base with a friend on something from months ago).

And there they all are! 10 Things to Tell You was such a sweet ride and I think I learned a lot about myself, actually!