Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Letter to (Thirty Two Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves,

I used to be near obsessive about making sure to write these letters on the actual day you were born (i.e. the twelfth of every month for you). Then I got a little lax and just tried to get it close. These days, my only goal is to write the thing before the month rolls over. Well, it's December 31st and this thing is coming in just under the wire. It's been a busy month (but per my own tradition, I'm only writing about what was going on with you between November 12th and December 11th). 

You are getting so big! I put you in jeans for the first time last month. They were hand me downs from your cousin and still a little loose, but you looked SO stinkin' cute. I still definitely prefer jon jons on you, but if I'm being honest I've gotten to where I really like soft gingham pants with an elastic waist band the very best of all. Did I mention that you are getting so big??

Let's see, what else?

Well, I went on a little trip back in November and you had so much fun with Papa. He fed you random things and didn't make you nap and made you forts and tents all over the house. You had a blast! 

You have *the* cutest little pouty-grouchy-growly-SUPER SOUTHERN voice you use sometimes (usually when you want something). Technically, it's whining so I know we should work to correct it, but I seriously adore it. 

You and Annie are so hysterical. You conversations and interactions have become funnier and funnier and sweeter and sweeter. The other day Ann Peyton said "I think when God made the stars they just twinkled in his hand. I think God made everything in Laurelwood, too. Like those bushes." You (you've gotten a big argumentative streak lately) said, "God not make the bushes. Graves make the bushes". Then Annie says (pretty forcefully): "Bud, you're just a LITTLE BOY. That's why you don't understand that God made EVERYTHING".  

My favorite from argumentative Graves was this little interaction: Argumentative Graves: "No, Annie not pretty". Momma: "You don't think she's pretty??" Graves: "Annie not pretty....Annie BEAUTIFUL". Oh my goodness, you melt my heart. 

Your heart is so beautiful, darling boy. I just love how much you love. When I was rocking you a few weeks ago, I asked you, "Are you my sweet boy?" You said "I am", then a few seconds later, "Papa my sweet boy". You are  seriously such a sweet kid. I shouldn't be surprised, though, you've got a great example in his own "sweet boy".

You've already found the thrill of trying to disgust Ann Peyton.  Awhile back, I caught you pretending to get ear wax out of your ear and eat it in order to make your sister yell and fuss. I'm thinking that Herrington boys will always consider it a life goal to get a rise out of the Herrington girls. Sadly, it's incredibly easy to do. 

In other (thankfully unrelated) news, you've started sitting with us in church some. You usually get one sucker and you're allowed to have it once we get to the sermon (which in our church is the second half of the service). The first time I took you and AP by myself was right after Papa had taken y'all (I was out of town). I didn't know and told you that you had to wait until after church for the sucker. You still did okay. I think you just really like being with all of us, even though you still love the nursery. I'll also tell you right now that you ain't solo parented a toddler and a preschooler til you've solo parented a toddler and a preschooler through taking communion. I'm just grateful for an understanding and gracious body of believers. And for Shout. That was a rough service. 

In November, we had a "Thankful Board" and we all added to it. Some days you weren't so interested, but several times you piped up and showed us all that you got the idea. One of my favorites was when told us you were thankful for your pacis.  You didn't even call it a "baa". Then Annie told you that God didn't make pacis. I told you both that He made the person who invented pacis. And then I silently thanked Him myself. And I also thanked Him that there's grace for mommas of toddler boys who are closer to three than to two and who still love their baa. =)

One day about a month ago, you missed your nap and took an extra long one the next day. I had to wake you up and then you sat and worked so diligently at setting up as many Little People as possible on the first floor of their castle. I didn't know you had the ability for such concentration and I was very excited to see that you do (WHEN it's something you care about!). 

Speaking of naps, one  I will decidedly will not miss is the six PM car nap. Nobody falls asleep on the subway. Okay, lots of people do. But probably not two year old boys who love people and adventures as much as you do! 

And speaking of New York (wow, I have a stream of consciousness thing going this time!), I really wasn't planning on taking your rocking chair. But you adore it. The other day you fell asleep in my arms! That would have been a true loss (for me and for you). 

In some ways, are the quintessential little boy. Awhile back, we saw not one, but two garbage trucks in front of our house and you were so excited. I thought one might have been broken at first and you kept pretending to be a garbage truck breaking and thew himself on the floor in dramatic reenactments.  

You also (just like your papa) love to experience things to the fullest. We went to the beach this month and you wanted to spend the whole time in the water (even though it was windy and DECEMBER) and experience the new environment with every one of your senses, including tasting the "veh-y salty" water and the sand.

One of my favorite moments on the trip was when a stranger asked your name and you replied, quite confidently, "Baby Graves". 

Sweet Graves. You are such a wonderful baby. Every day less and less so, but you'll always be my baby. I cherish every day I've had with you and I look so, so forward to all the happy ones that await in the new year-- a new city I get to see through your eyes, a THREE year old little boy, more time to learn you wild and precious spirit, and more days spent learning to love life the way you do. 

I love you,
Momma (and Papa) 

P.S. Your Santy jams are 2T-3T, but it's a brand that runs small =)

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I'm Into (December)

On the Nightstand:
I didn't do much reading at all this month. We've been in holiday/getting ready to move gear and I just haven't sat still much. These are still on standby to finish once we get moved:

Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 

Maybe read it three times. 

Immersion Bible Study: Psalms- J. Clinton McCann
About the same, sadly. 

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live- Emily Freeman

I think I read two chapters. 

What time I spent reading was spent starting to tackle these:
I know, I know. But that's what compulsive looks like. Some of them are several years old, too! I will say it's been fun- especially the decorating ones (the beauty and parent mags don't do much for me these days). I've been ripping out pictures here and there for when we're back in a real house :)

Also, we did read through this Christmas favorite. I'm not sure that it's AP's favorite read aloud at all, but I enjoyed it. Too bad we didn't quite finish it by Christmas Eve. Busy season I tell you!

On the Shelf:
NOTHING. Not adding anything until we get moved in and settled. 

At the Theater (or from the couch):
We haven't watched an real movies, per se. But Peyton got me a converter box for Christmas and I'm starting to tackle making the family videos from when Cookie and I were tiny into DVDS. I've loved watching here and there as it records! 

On the Small Screen:
Peyton started watching Alaska: The Last Frontier on Netflix. It's about this family that homesteads and sort of lives of the land. It's a reality show, but it's about really simple people (I mean that in the best way) which I think is so cool. It's not something I would have thought would be my cup of tea, but Peyton and I both enjoy it and it's easy to have on in the background (with something like The West Wing I'm really anal about catching every joke/slice of wit/piece of intelligence delivered to the president). Anyway, it's not bad.

In My Ears:
I just didn't make generating a new playlist a priority this month. Which was fine because I LOVED last December's. It is something I hope to get back to once we move! 
Sufjan = best doctor for the December blues  

Around the House:
I keep it really minimal this year. I actually decorated with only the stuff I had planned to box for New York, which really simplified things. Just bright little pops of happy!

In the Kitchen:
Nothing, basically. NOTHING new or different. And not much in general. I've been terrible. In my defense, we've spent a lot of time with the holidays and such eating elsewhere. Also, we've had food sent over- my mom sent me home with Beagle Bagel chicken salad twice, we got leftovers from Christmas at Granny's that we missed due to sick kids, and we got the leftovers from a fun Farewell (for now)! party some precious church friends gave for us. Also, Peyton's been grilling chicken like crazy and I've been steaming veggies for lunch and dinner for myself and the kids in order to try to "eat through" the fridge. 

Christmas dinner at my parents...so many favorites (steak with crab meat, twice baked potatoes, buttered rolls, pimento cheese in celery, and Waldorf salad). THE best. 

In My Closet:
Let it be known: I do not love Winter clothes. That said, I did okay. Sweater and jeans and boots and jacket with jeans and flats. I liked both of these. And apparently I love stripes!

Also, I think this was the year of the sweater dress! 

In Their Closets:
I didn't even have that much seasonal stuff for them this year (Annie had a couple of Christmas outfits, but that was it). But boy do I love Christmas jams! 

And I adore these little madras pants on Graves. 

I rarely put him in t-shirts, but since he tells everyone this is who he is, I couldn't resist =)

In My Mailbox:
Oh, you know, just one of my ABSOLUTE favorite parts of the season:

In My Cart:
I actually bought these a few months ago, but just started using them. They scream "Brooklyn" to me! 

On My Heart:
Well, a lot. A whole lot, actually. Some days the fears I have about moving are really tough. But there's been a lot of love and light this month, too, and I have faith those things will follow us anyone. Because I have faith in the One who creates, provides, nourishes, and sustains. 

In My Prayers:
- I said this last month, and I'll probably say it for awhile, but I'm praying that God will strengthen my love for the city and that He will show me all the good and all the beauty there. 
- I'm praying the the time between when Peyton leaves (tomorrow) and when we get to move is not terribly long, but is enough time for me to tie up loose ends here. 
- I'm praying that I'll meet my family with grace equal to their needs
- I'm praying for discernment for Peyton as he tries to find our new home. 

On the Calendar: 

Sorry, I'm sharing this again. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT'S HERE!

As always, I'm linking up with Leigh. Go check out some other What I'm Into posts!

What I'm Into  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Weekly Smorgasbord

This week's links, y'all! I know it's hardly anything. With it being Peyton's last week here and with Cookie being home and with the holidays, I haven't been spending as much time on the computer!

On the Duck Dynasty Controversy: 

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 12:01 PM PST
"However, I have also been disappointed to hear so many Christians respond to his suspension by defending him as representing Christian values, and by perpetuating a narrative that Phil is being persecuted for his faith. Let's talk about the first amendment issue for a second. The first amendment gives us freedom of speech. It does not give us freedom from accountability for our speech. It ensures freedom from imprisonment . . . it does not dictate what an employer has the right to address within the workplace. And thank goodness – can you imagine a society where employees could say any hateful thing with no repercussion? Whether you like A&E's decision or not, this is not a first amendment issue, and it's a little frightening how many people believe that it is, including some of our elected officials. Phil Robertson's freedom of speech has not been threatened...he can continue to talk about whatever he wants to talk about without fear of being thrown in jail. But A&E, as a business, has the right to decide that he is no longer a good fit for representing their brand...To reduce a person’s sexuality to an oversimplified and graphic question of where to put the penis is dismissive and homophobic. And honestly, I don’t think it represents most Christians’ views on homosexuality. Even most conservative Christians believe that same-sex sexual attraction is not a sin in and of itself. But Phil depicts gay people as deviant, and that’s a big problem. And if his words above represent “Christian values” then we need to have another look at Jesus...comparing black people to white trash is cringey, but suggesting that black people were happier during segregation? That because Phil never heard a black person publicly complain BACK IN THE ERA OF LYNCHING means that they must have been satisfied with the state of things? This is so racially tone-deaf that it reminds me of the time Paula Deen romanticized the slaves as being “like family”. Not to mention, the subtext of his remarks is that black people nowadays are entitled, unGodly, discontented welfare recipients. So when I see people as “standing with Phil” based on their Christian values, I really have to ask . . . how does an apologist for our country’s ugly Jim Crow legacy represent Christian values?"

Agree. Agree. Agree. 

On Writing: 
Posted: 18 Dec 2013 02:29 PM PST
SO long, but worth it. Pretty much all on my Amazon wishlist now.

On Beauty: 
Posted: 17 Dec 2013 11:15 PM PST
Oh my word. How terribly sad and terribly beautiful.


Grace Equal to Every Need

"God will never give you more than you can handle".

I've never liked this phrase and in recent years, I've grown to like it even less. It's trite, it's cliche, and while almost always spoken by well meaning brethren, to be honest, I think it's a bit backwards.

I don't mean backwards as in backwoods. I mean sort of logically backwards. I think the focus is off, in other words.

Like another popular adage, "God helps those who help themselves" (source: Poor Richards, not Holy Scripture), it feels so man-centered to me. Basically, the onus is on me to HANDLE THIS SHIT.

Sometimes in church we deviate from our standard Apostle's or Nicene creeds and say the Korean Creed, which I happen to love in it's entirety. However, one line has, for awhile now, really stuck out to me- "We believe in grace equal to every need".

You see what they did there? It may sound like semantics, but to me there's a powerful difference. The focus is now on God and how He will provide that grace. I'm no longer in a corner questioning my level of faith because um, I CANNOT HANDLE THIS. I'm resting in the knowledge that grace will show up- even when I don't feel it; even when I'm unsure; even when I know I'm not handling things well, or really at all.

My friend Mal asked me the other day what Jesus was to me in this season. I think she was talking about this season of the church year (at that point we were nearing the end of Advent), but as I wrote this I started thinking of it in terms of this season of my life. What is Jesus to me?

And the answer is found in that favorite line from that favorite creed. He IS grace equal to every need. I'm not even going to say Christ gives us that Grace. He *is* that Grace. He embodies it. And that's a powerful truth during this season of much fear and worry.

Another thing that occurred to me in thinking on all this is that I know the Holy Spirit is at work within me- always chiseling, refining, sanctifying. Even when I push back against His leading, He is there at work. Always. Knowing that gives me confidence for a new endeavor in this upcoming year.

I want to offer my husband and my children, who are also about to enter into a season of unknowns and of stress, grace equal to their every need. Of course, I can't be that for them. I can't embody that characteristic the way our Lord can. But I can offer it. And I know I'll fail. I won't be able to meet that need perfectly any more than I meet any other need of my family with perfection.

But grace will cover it. The Holy Spirit will continue His good work. And the Lord will supply and embody that grace for them when I do fail (and when I don't).

When Mallory asked me that question about what Christ was to me right now, I couldn't articulate it well. But this is it. This is, honestly, the only way I'm doing this New York thing. Because I believe in grace equal to every need.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mind the Light and....

"Mind the Light" was the title of the meditation given by our beloved senior pastor at the Christmas Eve service tonight. Brother Mitchell reminded us that in order to shine the Light into the dark places, we first have to "mind the light", something (along with most everything else) I've sadly been really undisciplined in the recent weeks. However, this day, and every day, Grace abounds and I'm so very thankful for that, as well as for such an encouraging word.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Weekly Happenings Post #247 (December 16-22)-- Fun Festivities with Family and Friends

Graves is asleep and Peyton is trying to smooch. And Annie insisted on having three bears in the pic. Hahaha!

Last week was fun and a little busy. We knocked some things out (haircuts, dentist appointments, ect.) and had some fun with friends, too! Carrie and I went to dinner on Monday, the kids and I went to two birthday parties over the weekend, all four of us ate dinner with friends on Saturday, and spent a lot of time with my family on Sunday. It was great!

The kids slept SO late on Monday, which was such a nice treat.
This is how I found Annie after I got out of my bath!

When they finally did get up, I finished getting ready and started laundry and straightened. We had a low key morning and then it was lunch and naptime. I put Graves down and of course he didn't fall asleep. I bagged up a bunch of Goodwill stuff and got some addresses from people on Facbook for Christmas cards. The kids got up and I did dishes, folded laundry, and went through magazines. I got ready and when Peyton got home I left to meet Carrie. We had to squeze in one last kid free outing before the move! We went to Julep and had such a great time. Wonderful food and great conversation! I got home and talked to Peyton and wrote a post.

I had a big shift at the Children's Museum on Tuesday, but it was my last one! I got there at eight forty five and left around two thirty. I helped with field trips (I ran the slides for the "Santa Institute") and worked at a cart making "reindeer food" and then finished out in the art room. I talked to my friend CC some and I also ran into an old friend who had moved and moved back. The day went pretty fast!

I picked up the kids from my parent's house (Peyton dropped them off on his way to work) and we came home and I put Graves right down for his nap. He fell asleep and I ate my lunch, got on Twitter, addressed more cards, and took a short nap. We all got up and I flipped through magazines while the kids played. I fixed them supper and bathed them and put them to bed and then got on the computer until Peyton got home. We ate supper and I stuffed the Christmas card envelopes. I wrote Annie's letter and went to bed.

Annie had a dentist appointment with the pediatric dentist on Wednesday so we got up and got ready and I took her.
Finally on the way!

The appointment went well and Peyton met us there and dropped off Graves and headed to work. I took the kids home and got to work myself. I made beds, straightened, started laundry, and did dishes. Then I took out the recycling and cleaned the microwave. I bleached some towels which was something I'd been putting off- I just hate having to change clothes, which is something I make myself do if I use bleach. I also talked to Ellis and went through more magazines. We did a craft and then ate lunch and worked on memory work. WHEW!

I got the kids down and I ate my lunch and got on the comptuer. I read a really long article and did my Bible study and texted some friends. I read a few blogs and Graves got up. I folded laundry and played with the kids and packed up most of the homeschool stuff. I flipped through more magazines and we ate supper. I got the kids ready for bed and put them down and got on the computer again. Peyton got home and we chatted and went to bed.

The kids had haircuts at ten on Thursday and we all slept until nine. Nice! We got up and got ready and all went and got their hair cut and then we all went to check into changing cell phone carriers.
Annie's first real haircut. It was SO long- this is after about four inches was chopped. She was terrified she'd wind up with "Snow White hair" and not look like Belle anymore. So I brought in a screenshot of her favorite star to show Mrs. Mandy. It worked really well and she did great! 

We got home and I fed the kids lunch and started laundry and dishes. I put them down for naps and got on the computer and ate my lunch. I ended up getting into a big debate on Facebook over some recent controversy. I didn't do much else, sadly. When the kids got up, I cooked a chicken pot pie and we played outside while it was cooking.
So many things needed my attention inside and there was so little sun left, but it wasn't cold at all and we're about to be a family without a yard at our disposal, so this.

They ate and I took Graves's monthly picture and put them to bed.

I had an awful headache and actually went to bed SUPER early myself.
 Annie called me because Bud was ripping apart her picnic basket. This is what parenting a boy looks like for me. Always and everyday. So grateful for it, though, and grateful that the Lord is, everyday, equipping me for the task at hand. Cannot wait to see how He uses Graves for his Kingdom.

Peyton called on his way home and I told him about my night and he picked up Newks for me. So sweet. We ate and then I made a list and went to bed.

A guy from the moving company got to our house at eight on Friday to give us an estimate. We were still in bed! Ha. We got up and discussed things with him and when he left I vacuumed in the den and bedrooms. Peyton got ready for work and I vacuumed and mopped the kitchen and started dishes and laundry. I steamed some brocoli and the kids and I ate lunch. Mallory came over for a little bit and the kids played and then I put Graves down. He slept for a couple of hours and I uploaded pictures and tried to get a few more Christmas card addresses. We went over to my parents' for dinner and when we got home I uploaded more pictures to the external and read some magazines and went to bed.

We had a birthday party on Saturday morning so I got up and got ready and wrapped the present. I had to wake the kids up!
Annie's obsessed with making sure her and Graves's pjs match in some way (e.g. "We both have animals on our tops", "we both have stripes on our pants", "we're both wearing blue", ect.). After I put them in their room at night, if she can't find a connection, she'll go digging in his closet, find something that coordinates in some way, strip him down, and redress him like he's her baby doll. You were supposed to wear pjs and they don't have any that remotely match this year. She seemed happy though and after a few minutes she told me "I know what we're like. This is like Santy Clause standing beside a Christmas tree and putting ornaments on it. THAT is how we match."

We had such a fun time at Hank's Polar Express party.
We rode on a trolley at the party. Annie gripped my hand the whole time and Graves was totally mesmerized and get this: VERY STILL. If only the subway is this easy, we'll be doing great. Side note: It was one of those rare days of pure, unadulterated excitement. I wish I could bottle it up for when the fear and the darkness come knocking again.

 When we got home it was time for lunch. I cooked some carrots and we ate and I did dishes and laundry. I straightened some and make the beds and then it was naptime. I got on the computer and took my own nap :)
She spent ALL of naptime "taking cover" and making preparations because her stuffed animals get hungry during the night and "we might have to sleep in the bathroom all night", but she didn't seem too scared and was having fun. 

When the kids got up, I folded laundry and went through magazines.
One of Annie's rainy day activity she orchestrated for herself and Graves was "hanging ornaments". Best part is that I said "Oh, that's so cute" and Graves said "ACTUALLY, that's DANGEROUS". He doesn't always make sense, but at least he says words now :)

We played and then Annie got even more scared about the weather. She was literally shaking she was crying so hard. We were supposed to eat dinner with friends and somehow I convinced her it was fine. Peyton got home and we immedietly headed to the Roberts' house. We stayed late and had such a wonderful time. We had to run by Walmart on the way home and it was SUPER late by the time we got in bed. Peyton and I both fell asleep around two.

We got up and got ready and went to Sunday school and church on Sunday. Brother Mitchell mentioned us in his sermon- it was called "God Willing" and he said "Oh, you know. Some people might say "God willing, we'll move to New York. I don't know why anyone would do that, though ;)". It was sweet :)

The kids and I got home (after some awful behavior from AP as we were leaving children's church) and had lunch and I did a lot of picking up, cleaning up and starting laundry. I wrapped a present and redressed us all and we headed to another birthday party. It was Mallory's little boy's first birthday and it was so cute- Mickey and Minnie even made an appearance. We had to leave early, though, so we could go visit my grandmother at the nursing home because it was HER birthday. Whew! We had a really nice visit and the kids behaved SO well. We headed straight to my parents' after that and hung out all afternoon since Cookie and Conrad were there. Peyton came over after work and we had hamburgers for supper. We left around nine thirty and Graves fell asleep in the car. AP had a hard time going to sleep, but it happened pretty fast. I got on the computer and we chatted and went to bed.

This week is our last full week before Peyton leaves for NYC. I CANNOT believe it. I'm hoping it will be a mix of productive and special.

Friday, December 20, 2013

You've Got Mail: 2013 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter

Happy Holidays from the Herringtons!!!

Hello, dear friends! You might want to get comfy. I’m not usually this wordy, but I have so much I wanted to share! Okay, who am I kidding? I’m always this wordy. I love to write and to share stories and this is my once a year chance with many of you!

I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by and all that’s happened over the course of it. In one way, this year hasn’t contained as many milestones as previous ones (it seems like for a bit we were Getting Married! Announcing a Pregnancy! Having a Baby! Announcing Another Pregnancy! Having Another Baby!). The year has, in many ways, been quieter. I’ve been reflecting on that some.

I started the first of the year in a different way last January. Instead of resolutions, I made a list of basic priorities that I wanted my days to reflect (time spent serving sacrificially, mothering intentionally, playing outside frequently, and writing vulnerably, to name a few). For a gal who operates better with concrete goals, this was hard for me. But it was so good. I coined them “resolutions wrapped in grace” because I knew I would fall short many times. And, during those those Spring months, I did. But it was great to have an (albeit blurry) picture of what I wanted our days to look like. It was certainly a time of growth.

Our Summer was amazing. It was full of love and life and beauty and we lived at exactly the pace I was comfortable with. It may well have been the most relaxed season I’ve experienced since having children. I was aware, even then, what a precious gift those days were because I knew we were about to move into a more busy season, and to be blunt, a more stressful one. I considered it an extended Sabbath and it refreshed and rejuvenated the way a Sabbath should.

This Fall, we added back in activities, but I felt like Peyton and I made decisions more deliberately- we didn’t do every single thing every single time there was an invitation or an opportunity. We almost always chose relationally, we chose mostly intentionally, and sometimes we chose sacrificially. And I believe we chose well.

So much has happened these last few months. Again, not big, grandiose things like adding an additional family member, but little ways I’ve watched the four of us grow.

It has been a wonderful time in our marriage. I think that, more than ever, we sought to understand each other’s needs and desires and we both tired to sacrifice some of our own comfort for the other person. It took us a couple of years to really learn one another’s ways (which was sometimes challenging as we were learning to be a husband and wife at the same time we were learning to be a papa and a momma) but the last few have been delightful. After the five year mark though this Summer, we’ve found ourselves in an especially sweet season. I’ve come to better understand Peyton’s need for adventure and for a life not ordinary and I think a TINY bit of that has rubbed off on me. And he’s come to better understand the things that nourish my soul and help me in the hard places.

Ann Peyton, our now four year old, has this amazing, ever increasing pool of knowledge that she draws from during conversations. I know every parent probably feels this way, but it’s exciting to me to hear all that she’s learned and watch her turn it over and make connections and puzzle piece it all together in her little mind. The things that is even more exciting than watching a repertoire of facts inside her tiny head grow is watching her hunger for knowledge grow. I was an inquisitive child myself, and while it’s exhausting being a small person’s primary encyclopedia, I love being on this side of the exchange. Finally, I’m the answer giver, instead of the question beggar and it’s enchanting. With increasing frequency I end up telling her “momma will have to look that up for you”. It’s been an exciting year, too, as I’ve watched her make strides in things that are difficult for her (for example, writing the  letters of the alphabet) and I’ve watched her gain confidence in an incredible way.

As much as I’ve loved watching these processes with Annie, I’ve equally loved watching our two year old, “Baby Graves“, gradually grow into a little boy. I’m thankful that, well into this third year of life, he still clings to a lot of baby things (his blanket, paci, stuffed animals). He loves to be rocked still and that provides me, I think, with as much comfort as it does him. At the same time, he’s changing so much. Most notable are his verbal skills. I’m still amazed, often, by the things he says. This has been a wonderful season as far as learning about him socially and emotionally, too. He’s such an affectionate child, so even tempered and happy and pleasant. It seems like, as other children hit two and become obstinate and irritable (heaven knows his sister did!) he grows increasingly amicable and easy to please. And he truly want to please us, too. With words have come a lot less frustration for him (and for us). We’re letting him do things in his own timing (the paci and potty training, for example) and that seems to work for him. I will say that I’m thankful for this easy nature he seems to have, not only because it’s a bit foreign to me, but because it counteracts my tendency to get frustrated with his lack of impulse control and extreme busyness and desire to break, stain, tear up, or otherwise destroy anything that could possibly be broken, stained, torn up, or otherwise destroyed. Honestly, I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve been able to take his boyish behavior in stride. It seems so unnatural for me and I credit it (aside form the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, which I do, in all seriousness, credit it mostly) to his own easy, laid back nature.

One big event, if there was a big event this Fall, was visiting New York City. Some way, some how, my eyes were opened and I saw the city afresh. The people and their stories, the amazing conglomeration of cultures, even the grit and grime, became a thing of beauty. I’m still clinging to my happy memories of the sun drenched pavement of a city that, during the bitterness of December, I’m often very much terrified of.

Which brings me up to present day. By the time this letter hits your mailbox, our family will be weeks away from our transplant to the big city. I still often can’t believe we’re doing it! It’s forever (well, since I’ve known him which has been around a decade- you know, a third of my life!) been a dream of Peyton’s to live in New York and while we always knew it would be temporary, it’s something we’ve known all along would be a part of our family’s stor at some point. Years ago, when we only friends (the closest of friends, though) I remember laying under the stars in my parent’s backyard and talking about our greatest dreams in life. One of my biggest was  having a family (I never imagined he’d be part of that reality) and staying at home with my children and one of Peyton’s huge ones was living in the Big Apple. It gives me chills to think that we’re here, ten years later, combing the two. I never would have thought that my best friend and I would play such a huge part in each other’s dreams and adventures, let alone as husband and wife (and as a papa and a momma to those two blessings that I REALLY never could have imagined).                  

The hardest part of leaving is not the uncertainty of the things there (though that is scary!), but all that we’re leaving behind, namely really wonderful, faithful communities. The little home school program Ann Peyton attended twice a week is so close to my heart and at Walgreens Peyton has had an amazing team of coworkers that he‘s loved. Our church has changed and flourished so much in the last six months and we’ve watched the Spirit move in ways we’ve prayed about for years. We have so many other cherished friend here, too,. And I can’t even write about leaving our families without doing the ugly cry. I’ve never lived more than thirty miles away from my parents for any real length of time and I’ve never parented without huge amounts of tangible support. BUT, I know New York is a big part of the story God is writing for the four of us…and in some small way, the world.

I’m so thankful for all the big and little joys the Lord has brought our way this year and I’m very excitedly, VERY nervously, awaiting what he has in store for the four of us in the city!

Biggest blessings to you and yours!
Sarah Denley (and Peyton, Ann Peyton, and Graves)

2009 Card and Letter
2010 Card and Letter
2011 Card and Letter 

2012 Card and Letter

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Weekly Smorgasbord

This week's links:

On Friendship:
Posted: 13 Dec 2013 07:56 PM PST
Love this.
On the Power of Words:
Posted: 13 Dec 2013 08:07 PM PST
Whoa. So beautiful.

On Santa, Saint Nicholas, and Race:
Posted: 12 Dec 2013 09:54 PM PST
One of those awesome forensic guesswork things of the real "Santa Clause".
Posted: 12 Dec 2013 09:53 PM PST
No, Fox News, Jesus was not a white man. And Santa (not Saint Nicholas) is IMAGINARY and can be whatever race you want him to be. While you can't really choose what race a particular saint was, you're allowed to view/create an image of Santa you want for yourself and your children. As an aside, this isn't a hill to die on for me or anything, but guy was Greek. Quite a few Greeks do not self identify as white. Kinda doubt this guy would've. Anyway, my point is let's not fight over what color a mythical holiday man is and let's not claim silly things like that a first century Palestian Jew was white. Also, I guess it's just so ironic to me that Megyn Kelly was trying to say "you don't get to just remake historical figures to fit what you want them to look like", when that's clearly what we've done with both these figures for centuries.

On Red Heads:
Posted: 17 Dec 2013 08:25 PM PST

On Talented Kids:
Posted: 12 Dec 2013 12:25 PM PST
Love this.
Posted: 12 Dec 2013 12:25 PM PST
One more.
On Stuff That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud (for real maybe):
Posted: 17 Dec 2013 08:01 PM PST

Posted: 14 Dec 2013 09:53 PM PST
Such a strange existential dilemma. I spend hours looking at this hole and poking at it with my fingers. I know that I cannot "have" a hole, as a hole is not a thing that can be had. A hole is an absence. And yet this is supposed to be a list of the things I want, and I want this hole in the hardwood floor the way Gandhi wanted peace. The way the dog wants to lick my face. The way my mother wants me to stop pulling off her eyeglasses." Hahaha.
Posted: 14 Dec 2013 09:50 PM PST
Oh my goodness. Hilarious.


Letter to (Four Year and Eight Month Old) Ann Peyton

Dear Ann Peyton,

It's been another wonderful month with you!

We spent the month of November being intentional about thanking the Lord for the blessings He's given us. You really loved thinking of things and having me write them down and put them on our "thankful board". I love watching your heart soften and grow as you observe the world and I love watching your eyes being opened to God's beautiful work in the world. One specific day we were talking about our thankfuls and you told me your were thankful for the train you had made with blocks. I started telling you how neat it was that God made us where we can create beautiful and amazing things.You said you wanted to change your thankful to "thankful God tells me I can make beautiful things". That was a very special moment for me. 

You also told me recently that "Cinderella just said she would acknowledge God. I think she knows that praying was her time to talk to God". [That was Cinderella the pretend princess, of course. Who you have decided is also one of your "little children".]

I love watching your vocabulary expand. The other day Papa was trying to distract Graves and told him to look at the tent y'all had made. You told him "Papa, he's walking toward it. I think he already noticed it". Well then. 

I took you to a fun event at Mistletoe this year. You got to eat a snack, see Santa and do a craft. The craft (which was just sticking little pom poms to a cardboard "tree") was absolutely your favorite. Since then, you've been very into crafting. You love to color and cut out decorations to put on your Little People's castle. 

We've had a pretty fun filled month. We visited Granny and went to the Children's Museum. You loved the museum so much. I went on a trip for a few days last month and it was so much fun and Papa took great care of y'all. But I missed you guys so much. Coming home to my little loves and your sweet smells and soft hair and precious voices was just the best ever. 

You and Graves are so funny, as always.  Y'all do have your disagreements. The other day for example-- You: "I think when God made the stars they just twinkled in his hand. I think God made everything in Laurelwood, too. Like those bushes." Graves (who has gotten a big argumentative streak lately): "God not make the bushes. Graves make the bushes". You (pretty forcefully): "Bud, you're just a LITTLE BOY. That's why you don't understand that God made EVERYTHING". Hahaha. 

You are so perceptive about certain things. When we go to Kroger and get the little Cozy Coupe cart that has  only one steering wheel, you always want Graves to drive. Because Papa always drives when he's with us. Some day I'll have the energy for a discussion about gender and driving (and how I hate to drive and am more inclined to "bumping into" things). Another day even further down the road, Peyton will teach you o change a tire and drive standard , things I shamefully still don't know how to do.

You seem to be getting better about regulating your emotions. We still have some hard days and lot of hard moments, but you're doing better. Awhile back, we were at Minnie's house and  I told you that Minnie wasn't reading another book to you, but you could look at one until I finished getting stuff together to leave. You got out this huge bear, sat in his lap, 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." I guess that was one solution. 

I have to share this hilarious story. You love to create nonsensical rhymes ("Peyton, Beyton" "Buddy Puddy") and the other day it was "Ricard Scary, Bitchard Scary". I about died.

Annie, you keep me laughing so much and you push me to be more patient, more empathetic, and more knowledgeable. Your are such a sweet, precious girl!

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your outfit is a 4T. I bougth it thinking it was just cute, comfy clothes, but Papa thinks it's pjs and now I'm pretty sure he's right.