Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What I Learned in June

A little bit of reflection on what I learned in June:

1. There is such a thing as too much Mumford. Now that we're back home and I'm driving around but have yet to curate a playlist, I've been listening to all my favorite CDs. The trouble is, I just don't change them often enough. I get in the car and right before we arrive at our destination I think "I should pick a new CD. Oh well, next time". And then I don't. All that to say, there can be too much (old) Mumford. I don't know that there can be too little new Mumford. Eeek, sorry. From what I heard (not the whole album) I wasn't impressed with the new vibe. I had to say it. 

2. Nat Geo Wild is incredibly epic if you happen to be fascinated by predators and prey. When we went to the beach (which happened to be the murky waters of the Mississippi coast, which happened to be full of flesh eating bacteria, which happened to not even matter because it rained so much anyway) Annie literally watched hours of hyenas and wild dogs and orcas chasing, capturing, pulverizing, and eating their prey. Nobody tell me she's a sociopath, okay?

3. My little circle is so incredibly supportive. Now that everything we're going through is out in the open, I can't stop thinking about the people who were here when it wasn't. Who showed up in my life, day after day- filling my ears with the Gospel, texting me Indelible Grace lyrics, engaging in Brene Brown level breaking down/building up, fixing me breakfast on a Monday morning because of such a deep investment in my life it was clear I had had a hard weekend, reminding me that all I can do is pray and love hard, telling me on Fathers Day that my children are very blessed regardless of how anyone in this family self identifies, hurting deeply when I hurt and being protective over me and the children, helping me identify in a very real way my own feelings as grief, letting me compartmentalize enough to just laugh and be ridiculous and for a few minutes not think about any of it, pointing me again and again toward the cross where God's character is seen most clearly, and being unafraid to be present in my pain. Surely I would have kept breathing in and out (I think?) but I know I would be despairing deeply without these saints.

4. My decorating style leans HEAVY on the whimsy these days.

5. Words have such power in my life. Words of affirmation are so life giving to me. I've known this for awhile, but I really realized it recently when several people told me what our family, my writing, and my friendship meant to them. At the same time, I struggle really hard with harsh words. They do a number on me and I sink into deep valleys. I feel like this is cause for further exploration- of my own personality, of my identity in Christ, and of the way I navigate spaces that are safe and spaces that are not. 

5. When dealing with grief, it's OKAY to compartmentalize some. Sometimes I need moments where I'm just focused on being silly and remembering a funny thing that happened a hundred years ago in high school or enjoying the sounds and smells of Summer. 

What have you learned this month?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

he is Silent

    “Coming out” is a phrase often reserved in our day for homosexuals who’ve felt unable to express their sexuality much of their lives. It seems, however, that it also has a place in the religiously skeptic community as well. I didn’t realize the full extent of this until recently, but the manner in which we pursue religion in this country, specifically the Southeast US, can stifle  conversations concerning objections to Christianity or uncertainties present in a person’s personal spirituality. Much of this surrounds how one’s faith community approaches belief and how open they are to discussing dissent within their community.
     I must admit that I’ve not often felt this way. I’ve been lucky enough to have a supportive faith community throughout my personal faith journey. My uncertainties in my faith began, so far as I recall, when I was going through confirmation classes in High School. I was absolutely not vocal concerning my thoughts of the inconsistencies that seemed present in my Catholic faith, but it wasn’t due to any more intimidation than a typical high school student trying to fit in will place upon oneself. I had a vague discussion with a priest that was helpful, but unfortunately didn’t go deep enough to really help very much. Later in college, once I was able to separate my faith from the distraction of working furiously to get into my desired professional program, I was able again to flesh out some of my worries with the weaker areas of Christianity. This time I was able to explore a bit more and hone in on the specifics that seemed difficult. I gave myself time to explore and didn’t give into peer pressure quite so much. BUT I never fully withdrew from the chuch. I still attended weekly. I basically stuck to a similar moral code, some of which doesn’t really make sense apart from a Christian background. I came back to my faith towards the end of my senior year. I did so based on an experience that I had, but nothing really outside of that. Looking back I have to wonder how much I forced an experience to occur based on a compulsion to fit in, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
    Whatever my motivation, or lack thereof, I can happily say that I didn’t experience any type of over-the-top intimidation such as the hell house phenomenon of some churches. But really it doesn’t stop there, I’ve been at a youth retreat where a preacher basically “scares the hell” out of young persons to “offer conversion”. I have to wonder how much of an offer it really is with all the authority play and peer pressure mixed into the situation. This is all beside the point. What I’m trying to express is that I am, retrospectively, quite happy that I didn’t have to experience any of that leading up to this point. What I have experienced, from pastors and ministers close to me, is a deep sense of empathy and openness with me when discussing matters of skepticism. Not all have had similar thoughts or insecurities, but many have. This has been comforting, and I hope it’s the experience of most Christians.
    Since my conversion, or more serious confirmation of my faith, in college I’ve gotten married, enrolled in seminary classes, withdrawn from seminary classes, been quite active in my church, held lay leadership positions in my church, led sunday school classes, led youth group classes and assisted in retreats, gone through Cursillo (which was amazing), been a part of a cancelled Kairos, been involved in various other ministries, read, watched, and listened to way too many apologetics related materials, and generally tried to dedicate my life (with consistent failings) to my faith in every way possible- some a bit too legalistically for certain. All of this has brought me to where I am today- back at the beginning, but perhaps a bit more distant from the faith that I pursued. I’ve met amazing persons who’ve dedicated themselves to valliant missions which are desperately needed, I’ve experienced beautiful art and ceremony, and I’ve seen true demonstrations of open community. All of this has changed my life in so many positive ways. However, I can’t say it’s made my faith any more assured. I feel no deeper spiritually than when I was a junior in high school wondering what all this fuss was about, if you’ll excuse the use of such a light phrase for such a deep conundrum.

So this 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).

    I wrote an email to some of my close friends and family a few months back explaining the specifics of my struggle and where I was. It was a good thing to get off my chest, and I received nothing but support and encouragement from my community. It was refreshing. No, that’s not the right word really. It was assuring. Assuring to know that I am surrounded by the right persons who care deeply about me and where I’m going in my personal journey. Everyone from my priest in NYC to my father-in-law were encouraging with their comments and thoughts. However, conflict is still present. I am separated in a deep way from much of the community close to me. I don’t share the same ultimate view of reality that they do, and this is difficult. But more difficult is the fact that I feel quite separated from my immediate family a bit.

It may, perhaps, be a bit easier if my children were not 4 and 6.
It may perhaps be a bit easier if we were not planning a third child soon.
It may perhaps be a bit easier if my wife were less personally invested, concerned, and anxious about my decisions in this area.

It may perhaps be easier without these complications, but it seems that conflict often sows the seeds of growth within us. I can only hope that this will be the case here as well.

It’s odd for me to write on this blog. Primarily because I’m rather lazy. But also because I don’t write near as well as my wife, nor would I write about subjects that fit into this space very well. However, it seems only appropriate for me to introduce this great conflict that has arisen in our lives. Many of you care about us on some level and it only seems fair to present this part of our story here. I do hope that going forward this can be a place for Sarah Denley to sift through some of her thoughts and feelings concerning our family’s spirituality here. This blog is a public place for certain, but it has also become a place for SD to work out issues by reflecting upon them through writing. So I expect that in the future some of the issues, such as how we approach this with our kids, will surface here from time to time. I hope that this can be a place of both support and reflection as we go forward on our journey.

Letter to (Four Year and One Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves,

As with Annie's letter, I have so much to catch you up on! Papa writes y'all a yearly letter, but I like to include more details so I'm recapping two months. The last six weeks in Brooklyn and the first couple back in Mississippi. 

We had some great adventures right before moving back. Near the top of the list, I think were making HUGE bubbles at the New York Hall of Science (bubbles are your favorite, still) and seeing a real live "Crocodila" at the Bronx Zoo. 

I think your absolute favorite thing, though, was when Cookie and Conrad visited. Right before they got to our apartment the day they were arriving you go so nervous and were talking ninety miles a minutes. You could not contain your excitement and you told me that Cookie MIGHT have a tail like a mermaid and you asked if she'd be wearing her wedding dress. You literally did not stop talking, except to sleep, the entire time they were there. 

You also enjoyed our more low key days, though. You and AP made cookies with Papa on several really cold days that were technically part of Spring, but felt nothing like it. Papa also helped y'all make your own volcano out of play dough and make it erupt. That was fun because you had gotten really fascinated by a temporary natural disaster at the Museum of Natural History. And we introduced you to Shel Silverstein. I think it's been your favorite reading experience so far. It's just enough silliness and boogers and potty humor to be perfect for a four year old boy and I still find it enjoyable myself.

Also, speaking of Papa, he's no Miss Mandy, but he put the Russian barber TO SHAME with his skillz. Noway was I risking a trip to a barber up here this late in the game, but you literally had a mullet.

Now some more about you personally...

You crack me up. It's always fun when kids mimic spousal dialogue, but the best yet may have been the night you looked at AP and go "You doing okay, Sweetheart?"

One night I called you Darlin'" and you said "Hey, wait a minute, you're not Minnie!"

Another day at lunch you said "Annie, take deep breaf-ez (breaths). You need to calm down, stop laughing, and eat lunch". The height of irony right there! 

One night we were discussing the possibility of having another baby and Annie was saying she did not want it to be a sister because she did not want to share her clothes (that she had already outgrown). You told AP "You know Minnie gave me those dinosaurs we have. ALL of the dinosaurs. And I shared the plant eaters with you. ALL of the plant eaters. You should share your clothes with our new baby". It was one of the most coherent and well formulated sequence of thoughts we've ever heard you share. *VERY IMPORTANT sidenote: a new sibling is entirely hypothetical at this point 

Oh, I hope you have a STRONG moral compass when you get bigger. You're such a charmer and such a flirt. You were sitting in my lap (facing me) one afternoon and you grinned at me and go "Come to Gravesy" and then gave me the hugest hug ever. Oh my!

You've gotten a lot more independent just in the last few months. One morning I woke up congested and with a headache and sinus nausea. I knew wearing you in the carrier would pull on my reserves and just make me feel worse and more exhausted. Plus I had just told someone that it's less about my fears now and more about how it's just frustrating because you want to smell every rose (or pick up every rock and stick) in Brooklyn. Anyway, we gave it a shot. Three trains into and out of Gramercy and you did GREAT. I don't give you enough credit. Someone on the train let you play with a toy and you even gave it back right away, the first time I asked you to. 

You are a man who loves the liturgy, but your church speak still shocks me at times. You were talking to me this morning about how Jesus died on the cross. I asked you if you remembered why He died and you said "to atone for our sins" in your sweet baby voice. And then you said "And after that, he rose again to DEFEAT DEATH". I may not sound like much, and I know you don't understand nearly the full extent of the Gospel, but it brings me so much joy to hear you articulate these truths. Especially since you're the type of four year old boy who can hardly articulate what he would like to eat for lunch.

It's very interesting to watch your faith develop. One night you thanked God for Smashburger but then sad "Not thank Him for walking, though". We didn't bring the carrier or stroller today (we were mostly on transit anyway) and you did great, but you tripped on the way home and skinned your knee through your jeans. It wasn't bad at all, just scrapped and a TINY bit of blood. You actually recovered really quickly, but then when we got home and you looked at it, you got upset all over again. Anyway, I said "Oh Bud! Don't say that. God gave you great healthy legs for walking". And you just pointed to your knee and shook your head. I said "The Lord will take care of you and it will be better really soon. It will heal don't worry". And you go "I WANT HIM TO HEAL ME *NOW*". Who says boys can't be dramatic?

By the way. Look. Next time I hear someone telling a mother of (only) boys that you are "sorry" (even if it's in in jest) I may come out with my dukes up. I understand that they are loud and rowdy, that they stink, that they think that their own boogers are awesome and their own penises are even more impressive, that they are constantly making things dirty or broken or otherwise unusable, and that they think all of the above are hilarious. My field experience (and despite not having a brother of my own, I've had a good bit over the years) says most all of this only gets worse with age. But I get defensive with comments like that because of my own little boy. You break my heart with how sweet you are. You make me laugh life nobody else. You've taught me so much about patience and grace and letting go of being in control. I'm grateful for your sister in equal measure, of course, but boys are such special beasts.
And as an aside, while it's a whole other set of issues, girls ain't always easy, either. Just FYI.

More about your little faith journey- you remember when we used to tease you and call you Brother Graves? At this rate, I think we're going to have Father Graves before it's over. You told the priest at a church we visited shortly after moving home "Thank you. That service was GREAT" and shook his hand. It  was a good bit more high church than the service we typically attended in Manhattan (my friend who is a member prepared me beforehand) and I think you loved it- that's just part of how you already encounters God (you're super kinesthetic). You did sass me a bit when I told you to turn down the volume and said I "wasn't letting you worship!!!!". Of course I told you there were more respectful ways to talk to me, but if Imma get sassed while solo parenting at an unfamiliar church on Mother's Day, at least sass me about interfering with your worship.

I shared these last thoughts in AP's letter, but they are some of the most important things. Sometimes, I have so many "Share, dammit!" moments, I forget why I'm even trying to teach y'all what I'm trying to teach you guys. Which, most importantly in this case, is thinking of others before yourselves. Our last few weeks in BK, with such a limited amount of "stuff", I saw very clearly that my muddled efforts haven't been in vain. One sweet example: you won a little prize at Coney Island and when you  got to pick it out you immediately picked a pink stuffed fish and thrust it into Annie's hand. We asked you about it and he told us he knew pink was HER favorite color and "we share things". You two are; like all children; very, very far from being perfect. But y'all are amazing humans and it's a priviledge to know and love you.

I had a sort of tough day with the kids one day before we moved (moving is no joke, moving without Mick and Minnie is ROUGH). I overheard Annie telling you "You know no matter what you do, Momma will NEVER ever stop loving you. I mean, she will NEVER." I was simultaneously so happy that she knows that and so sad that she felt like she needed to tell it to you that. But I hope that is something you carry within your heart forever. Forever forever. 

Lastly, I wanted to tell you about the LONG trip home. You and Annie were FANTASTIC. Y'all fifteen(!!!) hours in the car the first day and about seven the second without any movies (because dumb momma was dumb and shipped them all ahead to Mississippi), limited snacks when we were actually driving (because we were in a rental), and a pretty small amount of toys (because we purposely didn't keep much in BK when we shipped our other stuff). There was very little fussing and complaining and shockingly we didn't hear much from the kitties either. You guys are so much more flexible than I was as a little girl. Honestly, you're often more flexible than I am at almost thirty. I'd love to take credit for parenting practices that encourage this, but more than that I think it's your sweet spirits and God's good grace. 

Once we moved home, we set up camp for you two little adventurers in our closet and we all lived mostly in the master bedroom (and at the grandparents' and in the backyard, let's be honest). Again, I was so proud of how y'all roll with the punches! 

It's been a wonderful couple of months and I am so proud of you, sweet guy.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your shorts are a 4T and your literature tee is a 4/5. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

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

Dear Ann Peyton,

This might be a kind of lengthy letter. I'm way behind and Papa did your letter for April for you birthday but ALOT happened the month prior to your sixth birthday and the month of it and I wanted to share some more specific details from March and April. So here we go! 

March and April were our last two months in New York (we actually moved home the last day of April). We had SO many adventures those two months and experienced even more new things. We went to a Chinese New Year celebration at The Met, we made one last trip to Coney Island once it got (barely) warm enough, we visited the Bronx Zoo for the first time. Birds are a big fascination for you right now and at the zoo you were able to see two bird exhibits, including an impressive birds of prey exhibit which I'm pretty sure is a fairly unique zoo experience (one of the birds happened to be one of yours and Graves's all time favorite creatures, an Andean Condor- something I never imagined getting to show you guys in person). It was an AMAZING day! We ventured out to Long Island to spend the day with friends and made a trip to The Museum of the American Indian since that culture is of huge interest to you. 

We also spent some days inside the apartment just enjoying each other's company. On several cold days that didn't feel much at all like Spring you and Graves made cookies with Papa. It snowed the first day of Spring and we stayed in and read lots of books, did some math lessons, and made our own volcano

Cookie and Conrad visited in March and that was just the best. 

We made several trips to The Met and The Museum of Natural History before our memberships expired. The Met is typically not my favorite museum. Papa always talks to you and Graves about artistic techniques, which is just not my thing. But on one of our last visits you and I were back in Contemporary and Modern today and we started talking about the *meaning* of the pieces. We talked about this bizarre hand and how Surrealists liked to portray irrational things (like a hand with no body attached to it) sometimes. I explained what that meant and asked you to come up with an example you could draw or make with Play Dough. You said "a zebra making pancakes". I showed you a beautiful pastoral paintings and told you about modern artists who were influenced by a desire to escape their chaotic, urban surroundings and I asked you to think of a place where a city girl can run free ("Prospect Park, Momma!") and what a great feeling that is. It was a very special trip. 

Another item on our agenda before moving home was another something off your NYC bucket list. You had let us know many times that you'd like to spend some time riding as many of the trains that go outside as possible. The J is almost totally elevated (as opposed to being below street level in the tunnels) and it was a tri-borough affair. We rode it from Downtown (Manhattan), all across Brooklyn, and into Queens! I enjoyed the bird's eye view of different neighborhoods myself! We also rode several other "outside" trains. 

With the exception of one lesson that required an already packed measuring cup set, we finished math. And just like that Kindergarten (Round 1) was in the books. (We had finished English months ago.) Educating you this past year has been one of the most interesting, fulfilling, and joyful things I've done in my mothering journey so far.

Now that I've told you about some of your magical experiences from the past couple of months, I need to tell you about YOU (which, I always say mothering you and Graves is by far my greatest adventure). 

First of all, I don't think you've ever looked more like a Herrington than you do at six. I know we've been saying from day one that you're yourr papa's twinkie, but it's even more obvious these days. Actually, in my opinion, you look just like a six year old version of Papa's sister, Aunt Elizabeth. I also see Grandpa Randy a bit in yourr sweet face. The funny thing is- and I say this often- while you resemble Papa and Graves looks more like me- the parallels are the exact opposite with your personalities. One of my favorite recent examples: you were telling me about a costume and you didn't want to put part of it on yourself. You said "One is because it's hard for me to reach the back and two is because the velcro pulls my hair". I told you that I loved when you gave me more than one reason because it showed me that you were really thinking. You said "oh, what are some examples...like ones not from today?". This is so funny to me I have a friend who teases me all the time because any time she says something about her own personality, a tendency of mine, a characteristic of one of her children, or really an other general reflection or observation she makes she knows I'll demand an example. We are so alike! 

There are some special things I want to remember about you in our last months in Brooklyn. One small thing I think I'll always remember you coming right to the edge of the hall so you'd have enough light to look through your books and then falling asleep there.

You are getting so big and strong. One morning we were trying to catch a bus and you walked/ran HALF A MILE in snow boots. I can't remember what it was, but Papa said your pace was good for a healthy adult. I was so very proud of you. 

You are also getting very stubborn. You did NOT want to have your hair washed in the bath one night and Papa told you that was fine, he'd wake you up right before he went to bed. Right after two in the morning. And he did it. You were all smiles and fell right back asleep. Most painless hair washing in probably four years. We actually did it that way for awhile. 

One thing that drives me NUTS is when adults talk to kids and they ask a million questions and don't give them time to answer. I know their intention is so sweet and I appreciate them acknowledging you guys. And I get that waiting for an answer can feel awkward. Anyway, this woman asked you awhile back what kind of dinosaur your toy was. You said "she's a stegosaurus". Then she asked if she had a name "Is it Jane? Mary? Ellis? Linda?...oh, does he not have a name?" When she FINALLY stopped talking you looked her directly in the eye (something you're not always great about) and said "Yes ma'am, she does have a name. Her name is Steggie". It was so good to see a combination of polite and assertive from you.

It's so very wonderful watching you come into your own. We found a new playground before we left NYC. It was in Central Park and it's themed after "the ancients" as it's right by the Egyptian wing of The Met. I think it's one of the coolest we found. Also: at the playground some older boys asked you and Graves if they wanted to play tag. There was a long pause and then you put your hands on your hips and loudly said "No thank you!". You reminded me of one of those dorky kids in the movies, but it was precious. You talked to Papa after that and decided you did want to play, after all. But you told us "I'll give it a try. But if I don't like it, I don't have to keep playing".

Dinosaurs and (present day) animals are still your favorite. 

One day awhile back you took the end of my nightgown that you were wearing and wrapped it around the leg of your bed and told me it was your prehensile tail.

You also told me another day that "The dinos are using good manners and sitting on their babies- they're incubating them like birds do" (I was thinking "how is this MANNERS?") Then you said "They said 'Come on, I have to sit on you, so I won't take up much room'...that's also good manners for the train". Worlds collide- subway etiquette and Kindergarten zoology combine for the win.

Steggie (the plastic dinosaur) is still just about your absolute favorite thing in the world. You told me recently that "Steggy's grandfather is a Spit Triceratops. He lives in the desert where there's not much rain so he has to drink his own spit."

Steggie also went to "The Pink Hat Store" in our apartment back before we moved. You made her some hats and boots out of play dough. You tried one on her and said "Ahh, that looks AMAZING!" I asked you if her shoes were for the rain because we see dogs here in little rain boots constantly. You looked at me like I was nuts and said "They're just to be fancy!". Then you saw me getting ready to Instagram the picture and I got to a paticular filter and you gasped. You said it looked like a candle was shining on Steggie and oohed and ahhed so I obviously had to use it. You make me laugh.

Birds are your new fascination, though. You were so sad when we finished up the massive section on birds in this big library book we got on animals. (Honestly, I was pretty relieved.) You told me that you just loved birds and how beautiful they are (you're very observant of real ones in nature, too) and that maybe we could get a book about just birds next because they are some of your favorite creatures. Bless yourr heart. A few pages after the end of the bird section, you stopped me mid page and asked if I could save reading about the warblers until tomorrow. [This is also a relatively recent peculiar quirk- you also love to save part of your lunch. Most every day I put a plate with a small slice of cheese, a fourth of a sandwich, or some plantain chips in the fridge and add your dinner to it. You also will ALWAYS only eat half an Oreo and save the rest. I hear things like: "Did you remember my other things-like my cornflakes and my seaweed?" Wish I had your self-control!]

Awhile back we had this conversation: AP: "I can't have a pet bird because the kitties would eat it, right?" Momma: "Yes" AP: "What if it was a pet eagle?" Momma: "It would eat the cats". There was no way to win that one, Girlfriend.

You and Graves are the best buddies, of course. You told me one night right before you fell asleep: "Graves decided he wanted to play in his bed and he let me play with him. Then I realized we needed some rest. He said I could stay and sleep beside him". (Then he started snoring and you left for your bed- you're so not a snuggler.)

One day he was being mischievous and put his underwear in the (wet) bathtub and you told me "I was able to to make sure he didn't get my panties, but I couldn't catch him before he snuck away and got his underwear".)

It's always fascinating to hear your take on things. You asked me "Why does Papa's carmel apple suckers have just one kind and Dum Dums have lots of different flavors?....I think because Dum Dum brand wants kids to have more choices." Well then. 

You crack me up. I've been having more headaches than usual lately, but I had mostly been attributing it to "April Showers" and stress. Then recently, I've started being super tired in the afternoons and taking power naps alot of days. I was kind of getting worried because a lot of times it had been after I got a good night's sleep. I told Papa I was scared something was really wrong with me. He told me he wasn't worried and then one day he was like "hey, does that allergy medicine I got last time not bother you at all- like no drowsiness? That's weird". So that was reassuring. 
Until that evening at church. You were telling someone about yourr day (or really yourr days, it was clear she was talking about her routine in general) and you mentioned naptime. The girl goes "So, did you have a good nap today?" And you says "Oh, I never really nap anymore. Actually, Graves and I both just play. Momma is the only one that sleeps." I was MORTIFIED and hoping you wouldn't mention how I love to doze while y'all watch your two shows and eat breakfast (which I first get up and fix, of course) every morning. Lest the chick think I was like some kind of drug addict or something.

Oh! My first effort in free range parenting: you loved to go up and down the stairs at our apartment. Graves hated to. For the last month in Brooklyn, you went up and down the two flights of stairs by yourself while we took the elevator up or down two floors. I did it (nervously) the first time and told Papa and he was SO proud. [Of both of us. But me mostly.]

The move did bring some Big Feelings to the surface. You had two screaming fits in one day leading up to the move.  You're a child given to a lots of intense emotion, but at this point, that's a bit much even for your. Several of our precious TGC friends told us that very morning that they were praying for the transitions we were experiencing. And we had a GREAT conversation with you about what transitions are and how we can deal with them in a healthy way.

I have, for awhile, watched you use one of your greatest strengths-your imagination- as your most prominent tool for dealing with sadness or anger. Today I watched you use it for dealing with fear and worry. You told me and Pap that "Steggie" (your toy dinosaur) had moved TWICE today (each move occurring within her room) and that she had a special person called a "Checker Becker" who comes and makes sure she didn't leave anything behind at a particular place. It was more than obvious to us that leaving something behind is a fear you were trying to process. And I was so proud of your creativity and intelligence. As an aside, I remember the first time I cried because I was afraid you had anxiety like me- it was the Christmas you were three years old and didn't want to take any of her new Little People on a trip because you were so terrified of loosing them. I am so, so very proud of how far you've come in these three years, Sweetheart. 

You are a tough cookie, though. Papa and I upset you one night with a conversation about how you'll be sharing your clothes with our next child (if we have another one) and it ended up turning into a general conversation about the value our family culture places on sharing. After the conversation, you showed us you were upset by coldly ignoring us. You did a great job of being obedient and responding when it was a safety issue or concerned respect or some other things we require. However, when Papa complemented you and offered you a fist bump or when Graves tried to make conversation, you totally ignored them. You moved your plate across the room and avoided Graves- all very quietly. It seemed weird and not really age appropriate for a six year old. The teenage years are going to be ROUGH with you, I have a feeling. 

Sometimes, I have so many "Share, dammit!" moments, I forget why I'm even trying to teach you guys what I'm trying to teach y'all. Which, most importantly in this case, is thinking of others before themselves. Our last weeks in the city, with such a limited amount of "stuff" (it had mostly all been shipped home), I saw clearly that my muddled efforts haven't been in vain. You were looking around at Target for some candy to spend the last of some birthday money on. You picked up some Oreos and I asked you if that was what you wanted. She got a funny smile on your face and said "They're for you- I was going to suprise you". You and your brother are; like all children; very, very far from being perfect. But you are amazing humans and it's a privilege to know and love y'all. 

I had a sort of tough day with the you and Graves one day (moving is no joke, moving without Mick and Minnie is ROUGH). I overheard you telling Graves "You know no matter what you do, Momma will NEVER ever stop loving you. I mean, she will NEVER." I was simultaneously so happy that you know that and so sad that you felt like she needed to tell it to him.

The last thing- I have to tell you about the actual move, like the drive home. You and Graves were FANTASTIC. We spent fifteen(!!!) hours in the car today without any movies (because dumb momma was dumb and shipped them all ahead to Mississippi), limited snacks when we were actually driving (because we're in a rental), and a pretty small amount of toys (because we purposely didn't keep much in BK when we shipped our other stuff). Very little fussing and complaining and shockingly we didn't hear much from the kitties either. You guys are so much more flexible than I was as a little girl. Honestly, y'all are often more flexible than I am at almost thirty. I'd love to take credit for parenting practices that encourage this, but more than that I think it's your sweet spirits and God's good grace.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your literature tee (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble!) is a 6/7 and your gingham "shorts" are actually a romper that's a 5T. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Chronical of our Court Jester: Letter to (Four Year Old) Graves


     You're so full of joy, energy, and spontanaety....and I LOVE IT. You're our little jester who always keeps things light. If things get too serious, no matter if it's because your sister is being a bit too obsessive about justice (read, "it's not fair! What's the punishment?") or if she's just generally asking too many consecutive deep questions; we know we can depend on you to poke your head in and say something as if it's within the scope of conversation ("purple, because the sky has mushroom food"), though it's utterly indeterminable to us how you think it fits in so well, so we all just laugh with your little smirk leading the way. Without joy, life seems dim. With your presence we can be fully assured we'll always have joy. Thank you for your gift to us.

     You've grown so much over the last year, but still have the charm of a young child. You're sweet, explorative, and impulsive. You love it when your sense of touch is stimulted. What does that mean? Well, let's just say if there's no fuzzy blanket to be found at bedtime we'll all be suffering together. I don't know that you still have an attachment to a specific blanket (usually), but it MUST be soft and fuzzy to the touch. Similarly you also enjoy people holding or snuggling with you, especially if you're hurt or sleepy. We love the sweet young boy you are, and we hope we can hold onto this aspect for a bit longer (especially mama).

     In Brooklyn you made many strides towards independence. You walked ahead of us a bit on the sidewalks when AP was with you (to remind you to stop and to generally be your control officer), and you often took on this new responsibility with a corresponding seriousness. It's exciting to see you beginning to become more independent. You don't venture out into new relationships with others lightly. You have a scowl that you present when you first meet someone new or when you see someone you're a little scepticle of (read: most people). Josh Encinas and you had a great stare-down on your way to communion at Calvary St George's. Josh said you won quite handily! After you meet people and become comfortable, you're basically the energizer bunny of talking. It's difficult to slow you down or even interject a word in the conversation.

      You're also our little explorer. You're a bit daring and you talk a bit bigger than what you can deliver. Last time we went to the pool, you declared that you'd go off the diving board! When we arrived you backed of- no big deal. Last night you told me you'd go off the diving board "all the day at the pool". You presently believe this I have no doubt. Confidence abounds within you and this is great, it's charming, and it keeps up your joyful demeanor from becoming over-run with doubt and uncertainty. I look forward to more years of your charming and joyful nature my young son. We love you!

Papa (and Momma)

P.S. Your t-shirt is a 3T and your jeans are a 2T (they were getting too short but were finally perfect around the waist).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Weekly Happenings #322 (May 25-31)-- Purging and Uncovering

Well, it's almost July and I'm finally at the end of May with my Weekly Happenings. I'm sure I'll get caught up at some point and I feel good that I'm at least not dropping further behind! This particular week, we really started to purge some stuff and we uncovered some treasures I hadn't seen in YEARS!

Monday was Memorial Day. I got up and took my bath and had some oatmeal. I went through some pictures and decorations and just piles for a lot of the morning.
voluntary simplicity

Peyton cooked for his dad's retirement party that was that afternoon. Mid afternoon we got ready to head to Elizabeth's. We had a great time seeing everyone and Peyton's whole family was there. I can't remember the last time all his brothers and Elizabeth were together. It was great! After that, we got gas and came home and put the kids to bed. I worked on putting up homeschool stuff and some of the kids' cups and plates. I organized pictures on the computer and went to bed.

I woke up with a headache on Tuesday and the kids watched their shows in bed with me. I got up and cooked them oatmeal and started some laundry and put up dishes. Then they played and I took my bath and got on the computer really quickly. They played outside and I organized the last of their books and got a basket out of the attic. They had lunch and I went through pictures and tried to decide what to hang in each room. I cleared off some shelves (they had picture frames and other decorative stuff on them) and then put our books up. The kids rested and I ate my lunch and got on the computer. I took a short nap and Peyton got home. We visited and then he cut the yard and the kids played outside some more. I organized the boxes better and took some pictures of some armoires to sell. I uploaded the pictures and posted them in a yardsale group on Facebook.

The kids and Peyton came in and all took baths and then ate supper. I did dishes and texted with a friend. I uploaded all my iPhone pictures and got ready for bed.

I got up pretty late on Wednesday (I had actually planned to meet a friend for breakfast early but she ended up getting sick). Peyton cooked breakfast and then got ready to go meet his brothers to hang out. So rare, but they were all three in town at the same time! I stared laundry, organized some, and took my bath. Around noon Minnie came over and helped me figure out some things around the house.
I found this sweet canvas my precious friend Ashley painted for Annie on her first birthday. I loved it so and am determined it will hang somewhere even if we don't have a real nursery again. Many people know this, but The Runaway Bunny is one of my very favorite books of all time ever. Finding this reminded me of another, still more beautiful, story. The one where the devoted shepherd leaves the ninety nine others and searches tirelessly for the one lost lamb. The one where the gracious father awaits the return of prodigals far less wholesome than that rascal runaway protagonist. The one where we see a father who waits patiently and also pursues relentlessly as we foolishly try on different identities and run from the one who loves us most. 

Annie got so upset because she had wanted to show her some chalking she had done outside and I hadn't understood what she kept asking about and then it started raining and washed it away. Poor thing. Minnie ended up staying while I ran to the grocery store and Old Navy.
Annie has been so upset because Graves has animal pajamas and she doesn't. And actually she only has one legit pair of pjs that fit (she's been wearing random tshirts and her clothes to bed). We're flexible about gender roles with stupid stuff like jams (which anyone who thinks dinosaurs are just for boys can excuse themselves from my life right now). Plus, financial independence goals mean I'm going to pick things she can hand down to Grave Train when I can (sidenote: she finally agree if we eventually have another girl she'll share her rompers but not her dresses, um...not your decision, Girlfriend). 

She left when I got back and I fixed the kids lunch. They had rest time and I got on the computer, ate my lunch, and took a short nap. I cooked supper when rest time was over and washed a bunch of dishes and finished clearing stuff off the buffet and organizing it. The kids ate and I finished cleaning up the kitchen. We did their bedtime routine and I got them to bed. I got on the computer and Peyton got home. We watched Parks and Rec and I folded laundry.

We got up and got ready met our friend Owen for breakfast on Thursday. We hustled and made it just in time. We spent a LONG time visiting at Chick Fil A and had a great time. And the kids had a lot of fun and didn't get restless until the very end (I mean, the play area helped). We came home and Peyton got ready for work. I started laundry and the kids had lunch outside. I played with them a little and then they had rest time.

Annie set up her little play camera on top of the dragon and said that it takes pictures of anyone "coming up to the castle" and then Socks (the sock monkey) "reviews them for safety". Feudal society meets twenty first century technology and it looks an awful lot like co-op living in Brooklyn. 

I got this print (and some others) for the study. Graves asked me if it was Darth and then told me she was resting and she'd hiss at him if he bothered her. But the he said that the picture was "totally cute" (fwiw, I think that's Peyton's big fear with what I'm doing in the study). 

 I wrote a blog post and laid down for a few minutes and then the kids got up.
Annie set up her sleeping bag and sit it's the water and the wood floor is the mud and you do NOT want to get in either. I guess kids are all the same because I remember playing a variation of this with Cookie in our childhood kitchen on Minnie's blue and white checkerboard tiles.

They played outside some more and I fixed them supper.
She's a redneck but at least she's a redneck in a big bow.

They've eaten two of three meals that day outside and I ate one of mine out there. Probably would have been three but we had breakfast at CFA. We had to seize the (sunny!!!) day. Also, their new favorite thing is eating meals in their fort. An easy yes that makes the no's more tolerable. 

One more of my little thinker. Favorite quote that day was when I asked her if she wanted a pink Pop Ice and she said "well, I've had the pink ones multiple times". 

I hung out outside with them some and then gave them baths and got them to bed. I got on the computer a bit and then I cooked a tomato tart and some brussel sprouts for me and Peyton. He got home and we ate and chatted and went to bed.

Peyton worked a double on Friday. The kids got up around eight thirty and they watched their shows in bed with me. They had breakfast and then I took my bath and started laundry. They played outside a bit and I organized some and went through boxes.
stuff we're getting rid of

Finally did it. Got rid of my old college binders. Or actually not. Just the notes from inside of them. Because Peyton Herrington is the type of sick indidual who wants to make darn sure there is absolutely not possibility he will EVER have to buy binders or Tupperware again. So to the attic they go. Along with the approximately fifty already up there. Voluntary simplicity would be a whole lot easier if he's let go of the damn binders. 

Guys! Look what I found! College doodles. I'm keeping them forever. 

Even better! Documentation of the most wonderfully perfect abysmal failure of my life. I teared up, truly. So thankful I was the absolute worst at NFP. And so thankful for Peyton not being able to take it and saying "Sweetie, you think EVERY night is a risky night". Annie was the best wedding present we could have ever given each other! And the Lord knew just when we needed her. 

 I fixed them lunch and then they had rest time. I got on the computer and also finished putting books on shelves. When they got up, I did some dishes and we got ready to go to my parents'.

We had such a fun time visiting and having beans and we got home late. Graves fell asleep in the car. I got on the computer and Peyton got home soon after us. We talked and I finished a blog post and emailed a friend. Graves woke up a ton in the night and was feeling awful. I knew we weren't going anywhere the next day and it was going to be a long one.

Peyton worked on Saturday and Graves did in fact feel awful. It wasn't as long of a day as it could have been, though. The kids and I slept late and then had a slow morning. Graves actually did okay most of the morning but complained a lot about his head. I gave him some medicine and he moped around a bunch. He didn't really want lunch and he played some during naptime and then fell asleep.

I couldn't tell if he was legitimately sick with something or if he had a weather headache. But he was in a lot of pain and was as pitiful as this picture is hysterical. My poor little boy! 

Annie cleaned her whole room by herself (since Graves felt too bad to help) and then we snuggled up on her bed and and watched the rain fall out her window and she told me all about the birds she saw that morning before Graves and I got up. I really enjoyed the time with just her while Graves took a rediculously late nap that I was hoping would just turn into bedtime since he was up so much the night before. 

Well, that didn't happen. When he got up, he seemed to be doing a lot worse. He moved from bed to couch to chair and fell asleep off and on for the rest of the night. Annie had supper and he had a popsicle and she did a "show" with her stuffed animals for me and I got them to bed. I got on the computer and Peyton got home and we talked and ate supper. I helped him get his stuff together because he was going to Natchez after work the next day and we sorted more stuff and went to bed late.

Besides the NFP charts, the best thing from the purges is AIM conversations with old boyfriends-- "I had to leave Metalfest it succked so bad. I got really bored and also there were some really really weird people there (tryin not to be judgmental) and alot alot alot of second hand smoke...and then to make things worse I fell in a puddle"- SD, 2002 [Look, there's gonna be smoke at Metalfest. And weird people. But I'm not judgmental.]

Look! It's Baby Graves getting into mischief at the end of the table! (Just kidding, it's Peyton.)

Good grief, who even are these tan, attractive young people? All of sudden, thirty feels old. But at least I learned scrapbooking is not a skill set I have. And man, I had a smokin' boyfriend. 

Peyton worked on Sunday and of course we opted not to go to church anywhere with our germs. Graves did seem to be better and I think it must have just been a fever virus. He and AP slept late and watched their shows and then we all had breakfast. I had a pretty productive day. I got my bath and got on the computer and then while the kids played I moved a bunch of stuff to hang out of the back of the den and the stuff to hang in the kids' room off their closet shelf. I got all the toys we're rotating put up in their closet and got all the stuff to hang in the study in two small areas. It made such a big difference! I also put our china back in the china cabinet and organized some things in the buffet.

 The kids had lunch and rest time and I got on the computer and ate my lunch and then worked on clearing off the kitchen table (a pretty big job). I went through a pile in the den and Graves got up. I played with the kids and texted my mom and then fixed them eggs and oatmeal for dinner. I broke the glass lid of a pot and had to clean that up and I did all the dishes. We did their nighttime routine and I bathed the kids and while they were playing in the tub I got the last of our books put up in the study and set up a few decorative things. I was tired! I got the kids to bed and talked to a friend online and then started putting a bunch of stuff in the attic. I got a lot more stuff up there than I thought I could and Graves woke up in the middle of it because he had a bad nosebleed. I finished up, ate something and went to bed.

Like I said, it feels good to have wrapped up May. Onto June next!