Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I Learned in 2015

 

Instead of doing a "What I Learned in December" post this month Emily is doing a link up of "What I Learned in 2015". As usual, I find it such a delightful and fascinating exercise. For the big year end post, Emily broke hers up into categories and (y'all know I love that kind of thing) I decided I'd follow suit create my own.

 Lifestyle
1. I am much happier and have less anxiety when we are deliberate and disciplined in decisions about things, money, and time and when we preference a slower, smaller lifestyle. I really actually learned this in New York, but it's been interesting seeing the difference it's made here and I'm hoping to spend another year focused on this sort of thing.

2. Incidentally, it's very hard to find the balance between play dates, school, family time, and other necessary obligations. I mentioned this in my goals recap post for the year, but it's just hard (for us) to find the right balance. I felt like we hit it really well this Summer, but Fall wasn't ideal. I'm hoping we can recapture that balance this Spring with some intentionalality.

3. Getting outside does amazing things for my mental health.
Peyton used to try to tell me this all the time, but I've finally learned how true it is. Obviously, the kids benefit hugely from it, too. And now we're back to having our own backyard, so that's really nice!

Personality
4. I'm not a big picture person at all. I get really overwhelmed when I look at a big project or try to think too long term. I'm much, much stronger in the daily details of things.

5.  If I'm successful with something small (cooking a new recipe comes to mind) it can sometimes just give me such a boost. But the converse is so true of me and when I fail at something even if it's not a big thing, I just want to shut down.
I've learned this about myself from observing it in Annie, especially with math. If she's successful with something, it makes the next few lessons so much easier but when she struggles she really shuts down. I think this is pretty normal, but Peyton isn't this way at all and I sort of doubt Graves will be, either.

6. I think my personality naturally leans toward a strict and structured in some ways. I think it's the teacher/lifeguard/ect. that comes out and I'm naturally a little bossy. However, that isn't really how I parent right now. I think Graves and Annie both, in very different ways, forced me to loosen up a bit. Annie just really benefited from that "emotional coaching" style parenting. And Graves just needed me to relax and lower my expectations for the first few years of his life. Both of which I think were positive things for me to learn just personally. It's interesting how much those little people can change you.

Struggles and Joys
7. Pregnancy is hard.
 
I'm so, so grateful I get to do this again but honestly, I'm also really grateful we already decided this will be our last biological child. I'm finally at a place where I can say that pregnancy is difficult for me (not dangerous or debilitating but really, really hard) and it seems to get progressively more so each time.

8. Newks is hands down my favorite restaurant in Jackson. Probably in the Southeast. Possibly in the world. I had so many restaurants that I was excited about eating at when we moved home. One of my absolute favorites closes, some are just a little too high end to eat at more than once or twice a year, and several we've gone back to but I was so disappointing. However, I don't know if I could ever get sick of Newks. I think I could pretty much live on their soup and salad combo, but since we've been back I've discovered my love for their cobb salad and Mediterranean pizza. I feel like it's ALWAYS super fresh, I always have several choices I know I'll love, the staff is always really friendly, and it's pretty much the perfect price point (definitely above fast food but inexpensive enough to eat there pretty regularly).

9. It's totally acceptable (and really amazing, though also sort of heartbreaking) to call more than one place home. I don't think I'll ever stop missing New York and a piece of our hearts will be there forever.

10. Truly trusting in God's sovereignty and Christ's sufficiency has simultaneously been really hard, really important, and really amazing. This has been the biggest take away from this year. In so many ways, I still grasp for control but I feel like I'm learning a lot about resting in God's faithfulness.

What did you learn this year? I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Focused Ambitions: 2015 Goals Recap



Last January, I did my goals for the year a little differently- a little more strategically. First I picked my "one word" (it was the first time I've done this) and then I picked several areas I wanted to focus on. From that list I made some yearly goals and I used those to inform my monthly goals that I made each month. 

My one word was FOCUS. I said in my post where I shared my goals that it would be a list of things that would "hopefully help propel our family into a  year where our actions, our commitments, our bank accounts, and our time reflect our priorities." And you know? I think in a general sense, we did do very well with sort of realigning ourselves. It was a hard, stressful year in many ways and I'm thankful that I had a list of things to strive for that helped center me in a way and helped me not to lose focus on the things I think are important.

And here were my focus areas for the year...

Target Goal Areas:
1. faith
2. family
3. relationships
4. health
5. education/edification
6. finances
7. simplicity
8. joy/gratitude 


Faith
I want to grow in my knowledge and love of the Lord and I want to reflect His love and grace to my family and community.
1. start my day with a devotion I did well with this some months and some months not so much.
2. establish patterns of prayer and keep a prayer list Well, I didn't keep a prayer list but I do think my prayer life grew I established better prayer habits.
3. engage in Bible study consistently Again, this was less consistent than I'd have liked, but I would so it was an improvement. I did one organized study with a group and then I've started trying to do She Reads Truth most days.
4. prioritize books and blogs that nourish my faith I would say I definitely did great in the blog area =) less so in the actual book area and I hope I can improve that in 2016
5. once back in Mississippi, establish ourselves in a faithful church community This was a difficult journey (as I somewhat expected) but the children and I have found ourselves a lovely home at Northside. We still miss our faith communities in NYC so, so much and sometimes it's a very deep hurt.
6. serve our city in some way I didn't do much of this outside of Mistletoe but that will change in January when I start my full placement with the League.

Family
I want to nurture and encourage those closest to me and serve them joyfully.
7. pray for Peyton and the children daily- with boldness, authenticity, and faith I wouldn't say daily and if I'm honest, that's a source of great shame and guilt in my life. However, I'm learning that there's grace for that and as I said, I would say that my prayer life has improved overall.
8. pray for our extended family I did this when I felt compelled to but I wish I had been more intentional about it.
9. set specific goals for each of the children I did this this Summer (I realized I never recapped those goals) and it was a real benefit. The Fall has been decidedly more laid back but I plan to set some semester goals for them for the Spring soon.

10. get out with Peyton alone once a month We did pretty good with this one! It's been really nice to take advantage of having grandparents close by again.
11. read three books together with Peyton Um, no. I may keep this (or something similar) on the list for next year.

Relationships
I want to be a loyal and faithful friend, daughter, and sister. I want to prioritize people above activities and high above things.
12. spend time with people in ways that are meaningful and that make sense I did pretty good with this one. Carrie and I have been having a girls' night every couple of months and it's been SO nice to have some time to hang out apart from the children. And Mallory and I went walking together weekly this Summer and earlier in the Fall, which was a fun way to get some exercise in, as well as enjoy time with another close friend.
13. establish and execute a tangible system for keeping connected I didn't really do this and I think it might benefit me, but I'm not sure it's necessary.
14. prioritize people over "accomplishing things" and never let a dirty house hinder issuing an invitation There's a learning curve on this one, but I think I'm getting a lot better at it.
15. continue to make space to communicate over email Yes! I still have a handful of friends I email with regularly and it's such a blessing to me.
16. have our parents over to dinner at least twice Nope and nope. I really would have loved to do it, but it never happened.
17. prioritize our children's friendships I think I did pretty good with this one but I know I could do better. I learned (again) this year that it's very hard to find the balance between play dates, school, family time, and other necessary obligations. 
18. write a handwritten note once a month Sadly, I hardly did this at all.
19. write our sponsored child monthly We actually ended up totally reassessing our charitable giving and decided to stop sponsoring a specific child. The main reason we did it, instead of just giving to an organization, was because we wanted the children to develop a bit of a relationship with the child and understand what we were trying to do and the ways we were trying to help that child, her family, and her community. However, we were rarely intentional and we just felt like, for our family, other avenues of giving made more sense. 
20. make every effort possible to attend each and every wedding we're invited to We did really well with this one, I think! I'm pretty sure we went to all the weddings we were invited to.

Health
I want to work toward healthier habits in all areas- physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
21. continue taking weekly food challenges We did this for awhile and then stopped when we moved and I just didn't feel like it over the Summer and then it just didn't seem to very realistic when I got pregnant. So, no.
22. plan meals and cook regularly This one (as it always seems to) goes in spurts. I really did pretty good over the Summer and I sort of felt like (for the first time ever!) I had found my stride. But again, once I found out I was pregnant, and subsequently started getting sick (all day, every day at first it seemed like) it didn't happen. I'm okay with that progress, though.
23. exercise three times a week Um, I'd say for awhile I was averaging two to three times a week, but again (I sound like a broken record) Babykins #3 sort of killed my motivation.
24. establish patterns of silence and stillness in my day I did establish some (in the morning, around naptime, and at night) and I think it helped my mental state tremendously.
25. daily practice some form of self-care I wasn't as intentional about this one as I could have been, but I have been taking care of myself better than I have at some other points in my life.
26. explore the things that "center" and relax me Yes! I did pretty good with this in the Summer. I read my devotions, read poetry a bit, explored my personality and had good conversations with friends on this topic, and tried to determine practices that helped ease my anxiety
27. continue to create monthly playlists Nope, not at all. And it's a shame. I need to get back on it.
28. search for, and surround myself with, inspiration I love this one and I think I did really well with it. Especially in November when I was thinking about and writing about Ordinary Wonder, I really felt inspired.
29. practice patience This is something that I've thought and prayed a lot about. I have been so impatient with the children these last few months of trying to navigate a (somewhat) difficult pregnancy. I try to take a lot of deep breaths and I ask God (and them) to forgive me alot.

Education/Edification
I want to learn new skills and strengthen my mind. I want to contribute to society and I want to teach my children well. 
30. Ready twelve books on varying and diverse topics I definitely didn't read twelve books. I went back and looked and I read eight books (and I counted my two devotions which is not really fair since I missed days and didn't read them cover to cover). So six if we're being conservative. I guess half isn't terrible, but it's not where I want to see myself as a reader.  A couple were spiritual (Restless and Law and Gospel, some were very practical (For the Love), and some were totally fascinating (One Writer's Beginnings). I also read one classic (Their Eyes Were Watching God). So I will say it was a pretty diverse mix.
31. watch twelve documentaries Apparently this was really ambitious (I mean, for a person who doesn't watch many movies, which duh). I watched four documentaries. Could have been better. Could have been worse =)
32. learn some form of hand sewing Uh, no. It's still a goal, but maybe a longer term one.

33. use my sewing machine I did! I think (?) only once, but I made some pretty cute curtains (if I do say so myself) for Annie's little play kitchen
34. use my big camera weekly (in addition to weekly family pictures) We got better at this for awhile (and were even taking videos on it) but we've sort of slacked off lately
35. set educational goals for each child Again, I did this this Summer and it was really beneficial. I plan to do it again.
36. decided what I want our homeschooling curriculum to include, in addition to math and English, and execute Yes! We had a great Summer and a nice, but rather slow paced Fall semester. It seemed sort of backward but it worked really well during a season of business and early pregnancy.
37. be specific in my read aloud goals I was with a few things, but this is an area I need to pay more attention to next year.
38. teach the children a hymn each month This didn't happen. I may keep it on the list.
39. sign Annie and Graves up for one extra curricular activity each They did soccer and blastball, respectively, this Fall and loved it. I think we're going to do it again in the Spring and we're thinking about if we can handle the swimteam commitment this Summer!

Finances
I want to practice good stewardship and save like never before with an end goal in mind.
40. spend money on necessities, with a few exceptions Hmm, I don't know that I can honestly say that I did this. I DID however become a lot more disciplined and a lot more intentional in my spending.
41. discuss even small purchases with Peyton Yeah, I didn't do this if it was the money I made subbing or whatever and he didn't care. I DID discuss clothing items and such for the kids with him.
42. make the most of opportunities that are free or low cost I think we did pretty good with this. Especially on our date nights during the Summer, we went to a street fair several times. That was really fun AND free (except what we wanted to buy to eat).
43. appreciate the ways the Lord will use this sort of discipline to sanctify me I think I really am learning that this way of life can be hard, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Very similarly to our Brooklyn move, I feel like it's something I never thought I'd be EXCITED about, but I am.

Simplicity
I want our lives to be marked by simplicity and I want to be satisfied by a life that is distinctively simple
44. do a complete purge of our house in Mississippi shortly after moving back Whew. We did our whole house this Summer and just this last month we did the attic. Both were HUGE projects but I'm so glad we tackled them.
45. be very discriminating in the activities we commit to and the purchases we make Peyton and I both learned some lessons with this over the first few years of our marriage and even more so maybe in New York. I think we really used what we learned to make wiser decisions for our family this year.
46. challenge myself to hold things loosely Hmm, the purge definitely helped with this. Also, our time in New York helped with this more than I realized. I came home with a renewed sense of what matters in this world. Heads up-- it's mostly relationships.
47. examine ways to better manage my time I started keeping a planner a lot more consistently and more meticulously and I think it's helped in almost immeasurable ways. I've also tried to structure my days in a certain way that seems effective. That said, I think I could still stand to improve a ton in this area.

Joy/Gratitude
I want to cultivate a more thankful spirit and live with joyful abandon.
48. make thankful lists at times other than the month of November I did it in November and it was a wonderful practice, per usual, but not at any other time.
49. find other specific ways to express thankfulness I have tried to just be more cognizant about gratitude. I'm the type of person where if I'm aware of something, it's usually expressed, so it's really just keeping it forefront in my mind. Sometimes this was hard when I felt like I had a few good reasons to feel "down" about things, but overall I think it's in those moments that gratitude helps the most.
50. learn how to be content without buying things This is a journey I'll probably be on for the rest of my life, but yes, I think I've learned some valuable things in this area as we've tried to simplify and budget more.
51.  be vulnerable in telling others how thankful I am for them Again, I'm pretty much one to express what I'm feeling, but even for me, this can be awkward. I really did try to tell the people I love how much I love them and also WHY I'm thankful for them and I think it benefited my relationships on every level.
52. surround myself with words, music, and people that bring joy This is such a good one and a good place to end, I suppose. I think that I did surround myself with words that brought me joy- through the books I did read, through blogs, through a few podcasts I've come to love, and through quotes around my house. Certainly, I surrounded myself with people who bring me joy and that may be one of the most important goals I accomplished this year. And as a bonus, it was nice to have the car stereo back (I could never do earphones on the train, mostly because it wasn't practical with the kids).

When I look back over these a few things stand out:

First of all, I think with relational goals and goals related to my mental/emotional health and overall attitude, I did pretty good. With more specific, tangible goals I didn't do as well. That COULD be me misjudging, but I'd really like to think it's where my focus naturally gravitated this year and that feels good. I'd take the former over the latter any day.

Secondly, I mentioned this already, but I do think that we were successful in working toward the overall theme that I wanted to focus on this year. I think we lived our priorities much better than we have in the past and that's huge to me.

But, perhaps most noticeably, I feel like I did pretty alright with these goals this Spring/Summer but then here lately I've been relatively terrible. I know I have a good excuse, but it's still hard for me to accept. I think, for me, that's part of the merit in making these lists and tracking my progress. It's just another reminder that I AM going to fail and fall short and there's abundant grace for that. I think being honest with myself, and with others, is really helpful and ultimately (though this may seem bizarre to some) leads me to the cross where I encounter, yet again, my own inadequacy and insufficiency and see that before the throne of God my "lists" don't matter a hill of beans and I am justified apart from anything I can accomplish on my own.

I'm so thankful for this year and all it's taught me and I'm looking forward to coming up with some goals for 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Babykins #3: Sixteen Weeks

 

Pregnancy Highlights:

How far along: 16 weeks
Size of Baby: (via BabyCenter) Babykins #3 is about the size of an avocado (four and a half inches long and weighs three and a half ounces). His or her legs are more developed and eyes and ears are close to their final position. 
Total Weight Gain/Loss: definitely over five pounds, but I'm not sure how much 
Maternity Clothes: I still haven't busted out the real stuff yet.
Gender: Okay, so we're finding out and it'll probably be in a little over a month (my appointments are sort of off, so I think the anatomy scan will be at twenty one or twenty two weeks instead of twenty). A lot of people keep guessing that it's a girl because I've been so sick, but I was a lot sicker with Graves than with Annie. That said, I think maybe my body just handles pregnancy worse each time.
Movement: Nothing for sure yet
Sleep: It's been okay. But I am getting up a lot. I'm thankful that I can go right back to sleep.
Cravings: mainly I've just been enjoying all the good food other people (my parents and in laws) made for the holidays =) Oh and I really like sushi but lately I've been loving it even more.

Symptoms: same-- low iron, lack of energy, still some morning sickness early in the day, clumsiness, and some all over aches, and headaches. And I've already started getting indigestion. I think that happened a good bit later last time? Oh, and also, I passed out on Monday of last week. It happened at the reception after our friend Haydn's swearing in ceremony for her new position as Chancery Court Judge. I'm fine and it was no big deal but I was sort of mortified and it freaked me out so badly while it was happening. I grabbed Peyton's arm and told him I was so dizzy all of a sudden and then everything got so blurry and I literally thought I was dying (which seems so stupid and dramatic but I've never fainted before). Then when I woke up on the floor I thought "this can't happen; we have so much to do today". Then I PANICKED and was like "where's Annie?" (Haydn had grabbed her and distracted her but honestly she's six, she's pretty self-sufficient, and things like that don't really scare her.) Then I finally started fretting over my spilled drink, making sure my dress wasn't pulled up, and telling deputy guy who called the ambulance he could cancel it and every one else how far along I was. That's when I knew I was back to my old self. I am really glad Peyton was right there and that Graves was with my in-laws because I think it would have scared him a lot. I hadn't had hardly anything to drink that morning and I think I was just dehydrated and got overheated. I've been trying to drink a lot more water.
What I Miss: Just being able to eat what I want and not thinking about if it will make me sick. Mickey grilled this sausage yesterday and they were AMAZING. But not so much on the way back up. 
Best Moment This Week: Just spending a lot of time with our families (especially my sister and her husband who were in town for a good bit longer than their usual short visits). I was so sad that they went back to Nashville today. 
What I Am Looking Forward To: Well, I looked at my posts with Graves and apparently I didn't really stop having morning sickness until about eighteen to twenty weeks. I'm excited that the halfway mark is in view and I'm also cautiously optimistic that I could maybe turn a corner with the sickness.
Comparison to Graves:
 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

You've Got Mail: 2015 Herrington Christmas Card and Letter


 Happy Holidays from the Herringtons!!! 
 
The past year held so many things for our family- some hard and discouraging, others beautiful and restorative.

Knowing they were our last ones in Brooklyn, we spent the first four months of the year trying even harder to “suck the marrow” from the city as one of our friends there phrases it. We FINALLY made it to the Bronx Zoo and experienced deep regret we hadn’t done it sooner. We rode almost all the above ground subway lines because Annie loved them so. We re-visited our favorite museums and parks and restuarants and squeezed in some new ones. We took one last very cold, windy trip to say goodbye to Coney Island and we spent our very last full day there enjoying the sunshine and the bagpiper(!?!) and the wonderful flavor of the city in our precious Fort Greene Park. Then we loaded up several weeks worth of stuff we hadn’t put in the moving cubes, two cats, our children, and ourselves and drove (over two days) nineteen hours HOME.

It was everything I had hoped it would be and all the things I had missed were at once mine again but there was a gaping hole in my heart that caused a degree of pain I never anticipated. I turned thirty and I felt thankful for many things but I also felt  a significant ache for the city we had grown to love and it took me a good while to feel resettled (sometimes it’s still a deep hurt).

Also, before we moved home Peyton revealed something to me (something he has since revealed to most of our friends and loved ones). For years (the entire time I’ve known him) Peyton has struggled with spiritual doubt and this really came to a head in NYC. Because I find it pretty difficult to articulate it any better than he did, I’m sharing what he wrote on my (our?) blog over the Summer-- “[T]his brings me to introduce the place where I am presently. I am not a Christian. I am not an atheist. I am somewhere in-between and really I find it rather uncomfortable. I’m rather tired of searching only to return to the exact same place. So, for the present time, I’ve stopped pursuing the larger questions that most belief systems try to answer (metaphysics, etc).”

This Summer was, to be honest, a season of deep grief. I’m thankful for the pastor and friend who gave me permission to use that term. The grief was twofold- as I said, I missed New York much more intensely than I had imagined I would. I also really had to come to terms with a different reality- one in which some very foundational aspects of mine and Peyton’s relationship ceased to be.

However, I found that many of the lessons learned and many of the sanctifying things experienced previously in our marriage to be helpful in that context. I learned (and am learning) a lot about rest, about letting God carry me, and about trusting His timing (which we know that a thousand years to us is like a day to God and the excruciating moments that seem to last forever are just a blip in the span of eternity and even the span of mine and Peyton's lives). I'm learning that when my anxiety is managed, I give Peyton space to think and grow rather than exacerbating the problem and putting pressure on him to be something he can't be right now. Most importantly perhaps, I’m learning more than I ever have before in my life, what trusting in God’s sovereignty really looks like.

Over the Summer I listened to a sermon given by our beloved priest in New York, one that was so incredibly transformative for me. In this message, he said "The profundity of the Christian message is not your experience. Because at the center of that story is you. Our story is "I am weak. My life is a disaster. Let me tell you where my strength is found- in God's grace". Ultimately, I can still find a lot of joy if I remember that I'm not at the center of this story. Just a few weeks later, at the church we (the children and I) are currently attending, the pastor preached on David and his sin with Bathsheba. What if David was at the center of that story? It would be an entirely different ending, yes? Praise God he is not! Even before Christ was born, He was at the center of the story of this distance ancestor of His. And praise God I am not at the center of my own story, nor is Peyton. Jake (the priest from New York) ended his sermon by saying "All of us have wounds that are gaping, but Christ promises to be sufficient." Jake's favorite word, I think, is "profundity", and if that's not a profound word I don't know what on earth is!

I’m trusting more than ever before in the sovereignty of the Father and the sufficiency of the Son. And I’m assuming the Holy Spirit is the one that’s making any of that possible =)

I’m also immeasurably grateful for the time we had in New York, specifically at the church we attended in Manhattan- Calvary-St. George’s. I tell people often that had this news come before our move, and before our experiences at this church, I think it might well have broken me. But, the truth is I am (most days) in a pretty good place. That is what a Theology of the Cross will do for you. Years ago, I think I would have been much more angry and anxious. But these days I have a “lower anthropology” as one of my favorite priests/authors/speakers, Paul Zahl, likes to talk about. In other words, I am less concerned with what Peyton (or I) do, think, or say and more concerned with Christ’s work on the cross. I heard an old song on the classic rock station (how I love having my car radio back!) that says “there ain’t no good guy, there’s ain’t no bad guy…” and more and more I’m convinced we’re ALL the good guy and the bad guy, all in need of the Cross so much more than we know.

What else, though?

So much!  After we moved back, Peyton adjusted his schedule. He is now working four days worth of hours in three days and obviously getting paid for four days worth of hours (he's home with us Monday through Thursday and Friday evenings). Four days worth of hours in three days because we've both decided we like the marathons better than the sprints. Four days worth of pay because Peyton *loves* this stage the kids are in and I don't think it's fair that I get the monopoly on it. So we decided that as long as he's eligible for FT benefits, nobody actually needs to be working forty hour weeks. We don't need that money and we want to prioritize time together and time to pursue (all four of) our interests. We totally realize (like with Brooklyn) that we are in a unique position, but it's also amazing to see the wonderful opportunities our approach to finances and simplicity is bringing.

Also, my car broke down and in an ongoing effort toward a more simple lifestyle, we just have one vehicle now (well, and we ordered a bike trailer). This required me to learn to drive standard and being a terrible driver anyway, the learning curve was STEEP (pun intended, I had a good handful of cries at stop lights on hills). But, like giving birth naturally and navigating public transit in a city of eight million people, it’s being amazing for my confidence.

In October, I wrote daily about “Ordinary Wonder” and in November, per usual, I documented my Thankfuls. These small disciplines simultaneously really helped my mind to feel more open and my heart to feel more full.

Ann Peyton and Graves have both adjusted really well to being back. While they talk about their memories from New York constantly (something I’m so thankful for) they are quite happy to have been reunited with their grandparents and friends.

We are homeschooling again and I’m happy to announce that, halfway through first grade, we have a true reader on our hands. AP devours books and spends many a night reading to her brother in bed for as long as he’ll sit still. Math is a bit of a different story! Besides reading, her interests include bird watching, playing in the backyard, light hiking, and coloring and crafting. She’s got just the right amount of spunk and recently she decided she wants to go by Annie. Although I love her double name, I think Annie is about the most precious name in the whole world and am happy to go with that.

Graves continues to be one of the kindest, most considerate, and most selfless people I know. Which is to his benefit, because he’s got ants in his pants, is such a typical four year old boy, and drives me up the wall on the regular. Just the other day, in an interaction with his sister, Peyton had to remind him to “treat himself fairly”. He’s so much more likely to look out for others than himself. He changes clothes about twelve times a day, he’s recently been introduced to action figures and is captivated, and he loves to eat nuts, cheese, and bananas. His true joy right now, though, is his bicycle. We recently acquired it when a neighbor put it on the street and with a new tire and some duct tape, it was as good as new (or good enough). I have never seen him take such enjoyment in any one thing or be so dedicated and focused. He will ride for ours in the morning and then hours in the afternoon if we let him. I’m sure it won’t be long until we shed the training wheels!

Oh, and some more big news- we will be welcoming a new baby this Summer. I found out I was pregnant at the very end of September and it’s been by far my hardest pregnancy but I’m so glad we get to start all over again and this time we have two other people along for the ride who are very cognizant of what is going on. Graves is convinced that this is “his baby” and that it was “his idea”. He’s very protective of him or her and is always making sure that “his baby” doesn’t get too much Coca Cola or candy (usually by finishing off my glass or piece for me!). Annie is less overwhelmed with emotion (which is the case in almost every situation with them) but is also excitedly anticipating who she hopes will be a sister.

I love being at home with these guys but another great perk of Peyton’s schedule is that it’s allowed me some time to sub and it’s been a delight to be back in the classroom several times a month while still being confident of where I want to spend most of my time.

As we wrap up the year, I truly am grateful for it all. Brennan Manning, another favorite, challenges us to “Each day, take a little time to pause and pray ‘Jesus, I thank you for everything’ (emphasis mine). He goes on to say “in this simpler prayer, there is humility, a deep trust in his love, surrender, and thanksgiving. It glorifies Jesus and pleases the Father. It is a cry of abandonment”. I am slowly learning to lean into this way of thinking and feeling and praying and truly be thankful for everything, trusting in His perfect plan and knowing that He loves and cares for my best people more than I ever could.

With Love,
SD, Peyton, Annie, and Graves

Weekly Smorgasbord (Christmas Edition)

I know these have been more frequent lately, but I glanced in my drafts and realized I had ALOT of Christmas posts I wanted to share. I don't usually (or ever?) do themes with these, but I decided it would be fun to try. I'm planning on posting our Christmas card and letter tomorrow (it's all ready in the drafts folder!) and then taking a few days off. I'll probably post my weekly baby update on Sunday or maybe next Monday.

I will say there's a lot of posts here with a good bit of sadness. It's been a mostly happy season for me, but I was thankful for such brutal truth telling. 

On Hope:
Posted: 18 Dec 2015 02:23 PM PST
"The pristine, fair-haired baby Jesus and his glowing blonde mother set in glazed ceramic—fragile and beautiful and perched on a shelf—is not an image that helps me see hope in my world. The perfect baby child no crying he makes does not help me when all I have are tears. What causes me to hope is that God incarnate joined humanity in the very worst way. And it is still miraculous."

Posted: 30 Nov 2015 06:58 PM PST
"Then, in those days, we fling the windows wide open even though it's still a bit too cold outside and the wind sweeps into our homes, the cold swirling into the corners. A few short months ago, this very temperature sent us running for our mittens and heavy coats, now after months of deeper cold, that number on the thermometer feels like a balmy day, worthy of t-shirts. We feel a compulsion to clean and to sweep and to make our spaces sparkle like the light. We prepare our homes for the arrival of the light and the warmth like fancy people prepare their homes for big parties. Doesn't someone have a bottle of champagne somewhere? We are all unbuttoning and unwinding and unfurling and then we are tipping our faces up to the light with our eyes closed against the brilliance, still seeing the light through our lids, feeling the promise of warmth and growth and life again."

On The Mundane and Magnificent:
Posted: 20 Dec 2015 10:53 PM PST
"I forget that, like Mary, I am a portal. My body carries Resurrection Life. My spirit is at one with the One and the responsibility and the glory is close. It's here. It's in the kitchen. It's in the minivan. It's bent over before the laundry. The One I am looking for is always ready to meet with me. But I can find Him only when I pause and am present. When I am ready to open the door into Eternity and step across the threshold.
On Fear:
Posted: 18 Dec 2015 10:53 PM PST
"When you hold bravery in one hand and vulnerability in the other, you hold wholeness. The wholeness of true humanity."

On Sadness:
Posted: 16 Dec 2015 08:08 PM PST
"I give the minor key its due because even sadness has a sort of sheen and darkness a kind of insight. Melancholy songs can soothe my soul, offering space for truth telling which allows me to acknowledge that all is not yet well. Feeling it all unlocks something inside me."

Posted: 20 Dec 2015 10:57 PM PST
"This is the paradox in which we still live today—this liminal space of the already and the not yet. Rachel's is the cry of women everywhere who grieve the loss of the children they love because of human greed and the injustice it creates. These women cry out against poverty, preventable deaths, wars in which the poor lose their lives and the wealthy reap the benefits. The Kingdom proclaimed by the Prince of Peace has already begun, but still the world suffers, and we suffer in it. We wait in desperation for the day that Jesus' Kingdom will be revealed in full."

Posted: 20 Dec 2015 01:30 PM PST
"The paradox I'm wrestling with is that finding joy and beauty in this season in no way dilutes the anguish I hold in my heart for this world."
Posted: 07 Dec 2015 10:50 PM PST
"I would have flown to the ends of the earth to dodge the flash of steel that ended my young son's life, snuffed out to satisfy the jealous angst of a paranoid king. Tricked out of a positive identification of his rival by the stealth of the wise men, Herod reduced a precious population of baby boys to a disposable demographic: male child, in Bethlehem and its districts, two years old and under."

Posted: 11 Dec 2015 12:53 PM PST
"We moved into a cramped, loud, chaotic apartment complex. Our upstairs neighbors drove their car into my daughter's bedroom. My husband got a job but it is taking forever to get back on our feet financially. Every month we hope that this time we won't qualify for food stamps, but it hasn't happened yet. My anxiety got so bad my body decided to get depressed in order to "fix things." I wrestled with my book manuscript, but it's hard to edit when you are sad and aren't sleeping and have little people to care for. We became very isolated, partly on purpose, partly because we didn't have the energy to reach out to old friends." I love this blog, in general, for the brutal honesty and transparency but this particular post really struck me. Perhaps because I had a particularly hard time writing our own Christmas letter this year. We've had a lot of really good, happy things happen and it's been a year of great growth, but if I'm honest it's been our (or at least my) "hardest year yet", without question and it was deeply important to me to actually share that with those who will be receiving our card and letter. I'm thankful for talented writers who show me that I'm not alone in this desire. Or in my fear and loneliness and anxiety.

Posted: 19 Dec 2015 01:19 PM PST
"I learned a long time ago that before I can engage in Christmas celebrations, I first need to clear some space for the melancholy before the merry. My faith tradition helps with this. Advent unfolds slowly over many weeks, beginning with the slender candle of hope and growing one flame at a time. In recent years, my church has offered Blue Christmas services around the solstice – a time of prayer and contemplation set aside to bless and comfort those who mourn."


On Tradition:

Posted: 30 Nov 2015 07:57 PM PST
"But sometime between childhood and adulthood, tradition became less gift and more obligation. I realized I have a propensity ­to value the tradition more than the very people the tradition serves to make feel loved and known. "

On Feasts:
Posted: 16 Dec 2015 12:25 PM PST
"No doubt you have been at a feast that was an act of war. Perhaps you didn't realize it at the time, but you have. Anytime you sit at a table with those who share your conviction that Jesus is returning, you declare war on the lies of this world — this mixed-up, passing-away, broken world. You reinstate the truth of creation, joy, and all things made new."

Posted: 07 Dec 2015 07:18 PM PST
"You indict me, no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explanation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half of earth's gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself—and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetittes, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great." [Good grief, more tears. Tired, pregnant SD who has undergone the emotional labor of a ten-ish hour holiday is insufferable.]

On What Our Children Don't Need:
Posted: 20 Dec 2015 01:23 PM PST
"Fun stocking stuffers never hurt anyone, but filling our home with the latest fads and trends only sets a precedence for more fads and trends. Years ago, we missed the beauty of Christmas Eve trying to hunt down that hard-to-find toy that ended up going unappreciated. It only ends when we let it." This is a GREAT list, in my opinion.
On Gifts:
Posted: 16 Dec 2015 12:59 PM PST
"For the young-at-heart spouse who lacks for nothing you can buy on Amazon: Tickets for Home Alone with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on January 3rd or, of course, earlybird registration for The 2016 NYC Mockingbird Conference (now open!)" Young at heart spouses in this family are getting the latter. OMG, can't wait. Can't wait. Can't wait. Pretty sure it's the ultimate item on the list. [The sad part was telling Graves he isn't going to Coney Island with us. Next time, Bud, next time.]

Posted: 07 Dec 2015 06:57 PM PST
Really cool ideas!

Posted: 18 Dec 2015 01:52 PM PST
"Cinnamon Roll–Infuser Water Bottle: For those who are tired of drinking bland, flavorless water, this new bottle from InFuzeH20 features a slick colored-glass design and extra-large infusion chamber to accommodate even the largest breakfast pastries."


Noteworthy Images:

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Letter to (Four Year an Seven Month Old) Graves

 Dear Graves,

We've been having lots of fun lately!

Papa took y'all on a few nature hikes, complete with binoculars and colored pencils for sketching. And then we took a whirlwind trip to North Mississippi. We left one morning, drove up the beautiful Natchez Trace, meet my aunt and uncle for lunch and enjoyed a bit of Main Street in New Albany, drove by my grandmother's old house and laughed out loud thinking of her, then checked into our cabin at Tishomingo State Park and, with just enough daylight left, went on a gorgeous two mile hike including this swinging bridge we all loved. We ate a frozen pizza and enjoyed the cottage with no Internet and no neighbors to have to alter our night party routine for (I told Papa that was a huge benefit to a hotel and you said "or an apartment!"). The next morning we got up and drove to Oxford to meet our friends who were in town from Chicago. We ate a wonderful lunch at Ajax and spent a little time on the square and headed home around four thirty. It was such a great little trip and I think you had a delightful time.

I will say that when you bite through your lip on vacation it's nice when your papa conveniently brought along a whole bottle of ice.

We also had a fun Halloween. You was a knight, Annie was a dragon, Papa was Wicked Witch again and I was Jane Goodall (you enjoyed holding my stuffed chimpanzee I brought along some of the time). 

Something I will never take for granted- having two "babysitters" for y'all that raised me and that have admitted to loving you and Annie as much as they love me and Cookie. Papa and I went to a little party awhile back and y'all stayed with them. I don't know who had more fun- us, Mickey and Minnie, or the babies. We ate yummy snacks, visited with friends, and enjoyed a fun band. Y'all made shadow puppets, watched Keyboard Cat on YouTube, and drank Canada Dry.  

What else?

Your not near as much of a creature of routine and ritual as your sister and I, but almost every afternoon these days you ask for "pecans, peanuts, raisins, and craisins" for a snack.

Parched peanuts are your FAVORITE though, and awhile back, he go "Can I have some more peanuts? They'll calm me down." Apparently I now have two kids who have my number.) 

This was another thing I heard myself say recently: "Graves, you ate FOUR donuts?!?" And your response? "Well, I didn't know what the number was. Counting isn't our strength, nor is paying attention but I have NO IDEA why you're still in the bottom percentiles. 

You're transitioning out of jon jons, but I didn't have it in her to buy your first belt just yet so you've been wearing some little suspenders and also sweater vests on cooler Sundays.

We had been using a devotion I LOVED as part of "morning school", but it's honestly always been way over your head and lately it got to be a bit much even for Annie. I heard about this one year curriculum for first graders that also seemed like it would be more appropriate for you and, after reading some of the book that explains the whole program, I took the plunge. After the first week, y'all both seem a lot more engaged. The first week we spent reading about the parable of the lost coin. One day we searched for numbered/lettered coins in sand to help us figure out the answer to an important question. And we listed to a little Rain for Roots (per Annie's suggestion). It's been really low pressure-- I get the whole week to talk about how much that coin meant to the woman and how that's just a small picture of how much you guys mean to God. That's all. That's all I want you to learn and I want it to be y'alls favorite part of the day. Some Rain for Roots lyrics I love: "Say you had ten silver coins and one silver coin got lost. Your treasure, your wealth; in the cracks, in the filth...light the lamp, sweep the floors; then call up all your friends, Rejoice with me, I've for my silver coin again! // If God had a child who wandered far astray...He'd say, go get the lost one, he's who I came to see, he thought he was an orphan, but he's coming home to me...the angels are rejoicing, the sinner is my friend, Rejoice with me, my child is coming home again!"

One of your absolute favorite thing is building. Honestly, the only time when you're content during rest time for more that a little stretch is when you're "working on" something at your toolbench. Recently you made a "vehicle" by attaching Wheely Bug to your suitcase (just using the handles!) and adding your sleeping bag and a balloon. You and Annie are SO different and I love watching your unique interests develop. 

You've also taken to climbing up the door facings, which was something I LOVED to do as a little girl.  


Awhile back, I found Annie going over this print out we got at Tishomingo, trying to determine if this stuffed snake y'all have is venomous. Hysterical story about how we came by him-- you traded best friend Jude one of Papa's old trucks for him (thankfully nobody was very sentimental about that one and we did end up having a talk to make sure we didn't accidentally trade any prized Star Wars figures or Beanie Babies from Cookie that are on loan until she has her own kids). Anyway, it's been months and you and Annie are still pretty enamored with this snake the Howies bought at a garage sale and we found in their van.

Speaking of stuff people in this house are pretty sentimental about. Back when we were making trips to Mickey and Minnie's storage unit , Papa had to dig Hushpuppy and Teddy Graham out. I'd be damned if I was going to let his childhood stuffed animals burn down with the house (because I have anxiety and was sure our house was going to burn down while we weren't living in it). Annie got pretty obsessed with Teddy Graham, like strangely obsessed (like talked about him in a weird voice obsessed) but that's mostly worn off. And for awhile you may totally have decided "Hush" was a real dog that belonged to you (although AP is the one who kept his treats and dog toys in her purse). You've gradually moved on to other things too, but it's so funny to watch what y'alls interests change and develop, especially quirky ones that become all encompassing.

It's been interesting and different lately since we found out we were expecting a new baby. You guys have enjoyed many an evening full of Planet Earth (hey, at least y'alls excess of screen time consists of large portions of a five hundred and eighty minute long BBC bird docu).

One night I threw the you guys in your room and got in bed myself, so sick, by about 8:30. Then I heard the most perfect bit of Ordinary Wonder to end my long day. Annie has started reading to you in bed more and more and I just closed my eyes and really listened. She read you your tiny set of Maurice Sendak books that you've come to love so much. Her little voice was so soft and soothing but I could tell every time there was an exclamation point by how it raised a bit higher. Y'alls giggles were such sweet music. Sometimes, when I feel like everything is crashing down around me God whispers to me through your little voices.  

You are adamant that the baby is YOURS; it just needs to grow in my tummy. You tell anyone who will listen that the baby was your idea but that you will share him (you're convinced it's a boy) with the rest of us.
AP is just our little pragmatist. I was telling you that you're going to have to start being more careful and not being so rough so he won't kick my tummy. You asked why and before I could answer Annie goes "Well Graaaves, it would be just like kicking a very young baby. Does that sound like a good idea to you??"

I overheard you telling Annie that "Tootsie Rolls are too spicy for babies". Hysterical because you were so on point. Found out the hard way after I had a couple and they came right back up.

One of the hardest things I've done lately is when I had to apologize to you for being much too hard on you. You are truly possibly the kindest person I know and I had treated you so terribly. Just because you have so much energy and I'm so ill-equipped and anxiety prone and some days I feel like I'm very much drowning. I could never tell you how much I love you or what a gift you are, sweet boy.

You, saying your prayers: "Thank your for Annie, General, Darth, Momma, and mostly Papa". I wish my prayer life was as earnest and sincere as yours.

You and Annie are hysterical together. One night you got banished to your bed for the duration of the night. You became thirsty and we observed AP wetting and rewetting a single piece of dental floss and bringing it to your bedside to soothe you. Guys, we allow y'all cups.

Papa found this "party light" (disco light) online for $4 and night parties just kicked it up a notch. Actually, unsurprisingly, you are obsessed with the rave scene in your room but it's given Annie a little bit of anxiety. 

The other night I also came in y'alls room around one in the morning. You were both wearing a clearance 6-12 mo. (purchased this year) monster costume from Walgreens and creating dramatic productions with Steggie and your circa 1960 cowboys and Indians.

Here's another recent interaction:
(9:45PM National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers quiz)
AP: "Is this a gulf?"
You: "No"
AP: "Is this a gulf?"
You: "No"
AP: "Actually, that *was* a gulf"


Follow up:
AP: "Is this a wiver (how Graves STILL pronounces river)?"
Look, you may need speech or something but plans are in place to have you start kindergarten at a fourth grade geography level.


And then this:
"Hold it by your trunk and then put it on"-- in the day's adventures of Elephant and Elephant Trainer, you were teaching Annie to dress herself.

Or this:
Graves: "Hey Momma, come look! I put my dinosaur to sleep!" (I found AP in dress up clothes pretending to be asleep in the bathroom cabinet....where you had put her).

Papa may just get his wish- maybe we'll never end up buying this third baby a bed. You and Annie love to pick one of y'alls beds and fall asleep in it together. Also, that owl they're both cuddling with? It was the first stuffed animal we ever bought and also the first toy Annie ever even asked for in a store. Most of y'alls toys are hand me downs/our old stuff (lately, y'all have been playing with some cowboys and Indians from like the 60s that we discovered )/things we picked to surprise y'all with. 

This is such a sweet spot in so many ways. She now quizzes you on the BrainQuest cards herself. And she totally gets your active learning style and just follows your around the house doing it.

And I guess that's where I'll conclude this month. The way you and Annie love, serve, and protect each other and the way it inspires me to love harder and more fearlessly.  

Love,
Momma (and Papa)

P.S. I'm pretty sure you just have on undies under your covies and they are a 2T. We REALLY need to get some new ones!









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

Dear Ann Peyton,

You had your first soccer game and you had so much fun.

You also had your yearly check up and and no surprise, our babies are amazing (like didn't blink at the shots amazing), but...we're back to every few month weight checks for you and Graves. I had sort of forgotten just HOW tiny you guys are. Papa said it would be obvious at your soccer game (he had been taking you to practices). Um, yep. [All the other parents call you the MVP because you're such a spaz and skip all over the place and have your head in the clouds and your coach was constantly yelling "ANN PEYTON, stay on your man". Red team = the best team.]

 Papa took y'all on a few nature hikes, complete with binoculars and colored pencils for sketching. And then we took a whirlwind trip to North Mississippi. We left one morning, drove up the beautiful Natchez Trace, meet my aunt and uncle for lunch and enjoyed a bit of Main Street in New Albany, drove by my grandmother's old house and laughed out loud thinking of her, then checked into our cabin at Tishomingo State Park and, with just enough daylight left, went on a gorgeous two mile hike including this swinging bridge we all loved. We ate a frozen pizza and enjoyed the cottage with no Internet and no neighbors to have to alter our night party routine for (I told Papa that was a huge benefit to a hotel and you said "or an apartment!"). The next morning we got up and drove to Oxford to meet our friends who were in town from Chicago. We ate a wonderful lunch at Ajax and spent a little time on the square and headed home around four thirty. It was such a great little trip and I think you thoroughly enjoyed yourself.

We also had a fun Halloween. Graves was a knight, you were a dragon, Papa was Wicked Witch again (which you loved), and I was Jane Goodall (which you also loved).

You certainly still love your books. You told me "Sometimes, I want to save some of my Sea Creatures book for later, but then I just get too excited". I asked you if you'd be very sad when it was over and you said "Nope, I can just read it again and again all over again, because I own this book".

And then you did finish it! Over the last year and a half or so, I've read so many of this type of informational book to you, cover to cover, omitting nothing. I've learned a lot myself and I'd never say it's been entirely unenjoyable. But like so much of motherhood, and teaching, and life, it's been tedious work. Which is all the more reason why I'm SO proud of you for reading this book- eighty pages- cover to cover. Although, I don't think it was tedious at all for you. I think it was pure joy. You would decide each day the number of pages (or a specific section) you wanted to finish that day, and then you'd do it. Every day for weeks. You intentionally slowed down to savor it toward the end. Your love of knowledge inspires me!  

Also, we had to get you a brand new (to you) 600 page (and $.01 Amazon used book) animal encyclopedia. You legitimately have trouble dragging it around.

One of my great pleasures of late is watching you rediscover the books you loved as a toddler and a preschooler and seeing you read them to yourself (and your brother) countless times.

 I talk a lot about your reading because it's been amazing to watch one of my great joys become one of your great joys. But I don't want you to think it's all sunshine. And honestly, in two years when I'm doing this again with Graves, I want to look and remind myself it wasn't. So...math has been horrible lately. So many tears. Such stubbornness. I love the program we use and how it's very hands on, uses few worksheets, and has a focus on understanding rather than rote; but it's time intensive and doesn't come as easily for you as some other things. So we're indulging in the Perks of Homeschooling and doing it in our cheetah jams in the peddle car sometimes. Which is hopelessly inefficient when dealing with the abacus, but more efficient than the alternative.

We had been using a devotion I LOVED as part of "morning school", but it's honestly always been way over Graves's head and lately it got to be a bit much for you. Obviously, I think you're very bright but you're also very concrete. It was abstract but also very focused on detail and it got confusing for you. I heard about this one year curriculum for first graders and, after reading some of the book that explains the whole program, I took the plunge. After the first week, y'all both seem a lot more engaged. You said you loved that part of school the first day. The first week we spent reading about the parable of the lost coin. One day we searched for numbered/lettered coins in sand to help us figure out the answer to an important question. And we listed to a little Rain for Roots (per your suggestion). It's been really low pressure-- I get the whole week to talk about how much that coin meant to the woman and how that's just a small picture of how much you guys mean to God. That's all. That's all I want you to learn and I want it to be y'alls favorite part of the day. Some Rain for Roots lyrics I love: "Say you had ten silver coins and one silver coin got lost. Your treasure, your wealth; in the cracks, in the filth...light the lamp, sweep the floors; then call up all your friends, Rejoice with me, I've for my silver coin again! // If God had a child who wandered far astray...He'd say, go get the lost one, he's who I came to see, he thought he was an orphan, but he's coming home to me...the angels are rejoicing, the sinner is my friend, Rejoice with me, my child is coming home again!"

We had these old Babies R Us gift cards (probably from when Graves was born) and so we took the y'all to Toys R Us and picked out some fun games they can both play. We got three for about $30 (the value on the gift cards almost exactly). Your favorite is "Guess Who".

You make me laugh so often. You asked me recently if I knew what was Peace Bear's favorite part of church. Passing the peace, of course. Wonder if he spent a few of his formative years as a Methodist/Episcopalian.

Another day, I was in a light fleece and you were in a sleeveless Tinkerbell dress. I asked if you wanted to come in to do math, since the temperature was dropping and I was getting cold. You shook her head and said "Just get a stronger jacket".

It's been interesting and different lately since we found out we were expecting a new baby. You guys have enjoyed many an evening full of Planet Earth (hey, at least y'alls excess of screen time consists of large portions of a five hundred and eighty minute long BBC bird docu).

One night I threw the you guys in your room and got in bed myself, so sick, by about 8:30. Then I heard the most perfect bit of Ordinary Wonder to end my long day. You have started reading to Graves in bed more and more and I just closed my eyes and really listened. You read him his tiny set of Maurice Sendak books that he's come to love so much. Your little voice was so soft and soothing but I could tell every time there was an exclamation point by how it raised a bit higher. Y'alls giggles were such sweet music. Sometimes, when I feel like everything is crashing down around me God whispers to me through your little voices.  

You are our little pragmatist. I was telling Graves he's going to have to start being more careful and not being so rough so he won't kick my tummy. He asked why and before I could answer you go "Well Graaaves, it would be just like kicking a very young baby. Does that sound like a good idea to you??"

Speaking of you and Graves, one night Graves got banished to his bed for the duration of the night. He became thirsty and we observed you wetting and rewetting a single piece of dental floss and bringing it to his bedside to soothe him. Guys, we allow y'all cups.

Papa found this "party light" (disco light) online for $4 and night parties just kicked it up a notch. Actually, unsurprisingly, Graves is obsessed with the rave scene in his room but it gave you a little bit of anxiety.

Also, here's a little conversation I recently overheard between you two:
(9:45PM National Geographic World Atlas for Young Explorers quiz)
You: "Is this a gulf?"
G: "No"
You: "Is this a gulf?"
G: "No"
You: "Actually, that *was* a gulf"


Follow up:
AP: "Is this a wiver (how Graves STILL pronounces river)?"
Look, he may need speech or something but plans are in place to have him start kindergarten at a fourth grade geography level.
 


And then this:
"Hold it by your trunk and then put it on"-- in the day's adventures of Elephant and Elephant Trainer, Graves was teaching you to dress yourself.

Or this:
Graves: "Hey Momma, come look! I put my dinosaur to sleep!" (I found you in dress up clothes pretending to be asleep in the bathroom cabinet).

And speaking of nighttime, I have to tell you that one night I woke you up at two in the morning to ask if I could use your "special honey" from yourr special bee adventure for a recipe I needed for the next morning.

You are such a sweet girl. I told Papa that our house was so cold. You overheard and said "Just put on some warm pjs, then". "No sympathy from that one," Papa said and I agreed. But a few minutes later you returned with your own favorite leopard jammies. I hugged you and said they might be a little small. "But they're the biggest ones I have," you responded.
This is such a sweet spot in so many ways. You  now quiz Graves on the BrainQuest cards yourself. And you totally get his active learning style and just follow him around the house doing it.

You love leaving little notes around and this was possibly the sweetest to date:
"green
MandM
SD"
You told me you picked the M&Ms out of your Halloween treats because they are my favorite (and that you wrote the word "green" because it's my favorite color). I've had quite a few challenges with you lately and you're not our child whom sharing comes easily for, so it makes these small acts of kindness and generosity all the more special.

I love you so very, very much, Annie.

Love,
Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your owl pjs are a 5T, as are nearly all you jammies.