Saturday, October 31, 2015

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: A World Starving for Want of Wonder (Week 5 Quote) and a Wrap Up

Well, here we are and what a good reminder to end on. There are so many wonderful, beautiful things in the world. But sometimes we starve ourselves of wonder (I know I do). 

It was much, much easier to write this series than I anticipated. I only had one more thing I wanted to write about in my drafts and that was the wonder found in the written word.

I don't guess I really have a ton to say about it- just how it frees me and how I'm so grateful to God for it. This series has been a good place to exercise those muscles by making it a daily discipline and it's been nice to focus on the positive, beautiful things around me. To write about small things that are important but not necessarily weighty

And I think this month has trained me to view the world a bit differently and to take notice. It's been a good ride and a journey I want to continue on for the rest of my life. 

What I Learned in October

Per usual, I'm linking up with Emily and sharing what I learned this month! 

1. Summer is for sockless Chucks, chalking, annnnd starting all over again at the beginning....

2. The Junior League of Jackson is the sixth largest Junior League in the WORLD and it's getting more and more diverse- they even let chicks with facial piercings in ;) I had no idea it was one of the biggest in the world and my mind was blown! I've had so many conversations over the years with people who think it's a pretentious, elitist organization full of affluent, tone-deaf women. And honestly, I understand where the stereotype comes from. I really do. But that has never, ever been my experience. My experience has been being part of a group of women who are so dedicated to working their tails off for a better Jackson. Peyton actually teased me after I told him I teared up at the first meeting I went to after we moved back because I used to always cry over things at the meetings before we moved.

3. Related, one and four children in Jackson go to bed hungry every night. This is staggering. I knew food insecurity was a huge problem for our city and state, but I had no idea that 25% aren't eating enough supper to feel full as they fall asleep. I'm actually tearing up now.

4. Ordinary Wonder is all around us.

5. Pace, priorities, self-care, and perhaps most importantly the Gospel making noticing the wonder possible for me.

6. These are near the top of the list of the Things I Can Eat:

7. I do not do pregnancy well and it seems to get worse each time and I'm finally at a place where I can say that openly. I'm not one hundred percent sure this is our last child, but I'm fairly confident this is our last one we'll come by this way. I didn't say much about this the first two times because I know other women have much more intense struggles than morning sickness/fatigue/back aches and also, it's kinda par for the course. But it's also been a lot my pride and me not wanting to look like I need help or can't do it all. Same tired trope of wanting to prove something. Reminding myself over and over that my worth doesn't lie within these confines.

8. Polar bears are not actually white. "Each hair shaft is pigment-free and transparent with a hollow core that scatters and reflects visible light, much like what happens with ice and snow." Who knew?

9. Tishomingo State Park is not only beautiful, it is (according to my biology inclined friend) the most biodiverse area in Mississippi.

10. The older I get the more I consider myself an introvert, but my mental space becomes dark when I don't spend enough time with my support system. I become sad and distant and anxious and my life feels overwhelmingly frightening.

Whew. That felt really good, actually. I thought I just mainly made it through a month of human growing, but apparently I actually learned a couple of things!

Friday, October 30, 2015

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: How the Gospel Frees Us to Notice

Towards the beginning of this series, I wrote about how pace, priorities and self-care help me see life's little wonders, something that I personally have to be very intentional about. Today I want to talk about how the Gospel frees me to see those wonders.

Some days (most days recently) I barely skim the surface of my to-do list. I envision a farmer with acres of land he's responsible for, who on a good day makes it into his backyard and tends his little vegetable garden. He is never, ever enough. These days that farmer looks a lot like Brennan Manning or Robert Capon and he just rests in the fact that his labors were never enough to earn his own merit even on his very best day anyway.

The Gospel frees me to know exactly where my worth lies. And exactly where it doesn't (hint: the list).

I am free to linger longer in a conversation with a friend or in a moment with the most slow fast moving forces of nature I know, my children, who can never ever get in a car to go somewhere quickly. I am free to enjoy a cool evening outside and let the dishes sit in the sink an hour longer. I am free, most of all, to know that what needs to get done will get done and I'm right where I need to be.

{Take the back roads and get lost, be inspired by the conversation at hand, fully trust that you are where you need to be.}

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Sweat and Sweet Smells

I took these a couple of weeks ago as Graves practiced riding his bike for several hours for the third day in a row. Unlike Annie, I'm not used to seeing him concentrate and focus on something so. And to be honest, while he loves life more than almost anyone I know, I rarely find him so interested in a specific thing. It was a pleasure to watch.

He was drenched in sweat and so of course that afternoon he had a bath. That evening he cuddled up with me and his hair smelled so wonderful. It's not often I get a whiff of him that doesn't smell like a stinky little boy and it was such a refreshing gift.

I'm so proud of him and the ways he's growing up but I'm so grateful for those sweet smells on occasion.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Fall Trees

This tree on our yard has been the dullest brown all month. Then this week it finally added some yellows and deep browns. I love watching it out our laundry room window and it's a great reminder to me of how I need to be more patient in seasons of waiting.

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Something Bright in All

Those creek pictures I posted the other day had me sort of wistful for my favorite season, so I did what I do when I get scared or lonely or sad. I filled my house with good words.

Something bright in all!

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Days of Wonder: Summer Creek Days

I've actually had these pictures loaded up in a draft since before I even started this series, but they just fit so perfectly within it. They're from back in the Summer when it still seemed hot enough to fry bacon on the sidewalk. Today it's cold and rainy and these days seem so far away. So it's good to think back on them.

Peyton took these one afternoon when he took the children exploring in the creek behind our house (or more accurately the drainage ditch behind our house). To me, they seem magical and like the stuff childhood is made of.

I'm glad for the way they explore. The way she leads him (mostly) with gentleness and the way he follows unafraid. 

He looks like a wild animal here, The General. And so do they all, really.

A boy, a superhero, and a cat. 

When he closes his eyes mid embrace like this, it's a reminder to me to love the way he does- fiercely, and without fear. 

Instructing the class, per usual. Apparently, there was also a bit of profane graffiti that Peyton was able to steer them away from. Brooklyn taught me a lot. One of those things being that profane graffiti is really not something worth me doing much fussing over. 

Well, it's a good thing you wore your pajama shorts, I guess. It's very, very hard for him to be in the presence of something that could make him dirty and not actually become dirty himself. 

This may be my favorite. That little drop of mud combined with the "thinker tongue", I can tell something is going on behind those eyes. I don't think I'll ever stop thanking God for giving me a little boy even though I never knew I wanted it and even though it sort of undid me at first. 

And now we've gone to painting with the mud. 

The end of a wonderful adventure. 

And just in case you wanted the video footage. 

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Toast

This past month, due to Babykins #3, I have been so much more in tune to (or more accurately, held captive by) the smells around me. They've had a powerful, powerful effect. And some have not been so delightful.

One of my very favorites was my single breakfast item for two straight weeks- lightly buttered toast. I'd wake up (often throw up), make my way as quickly as possible to the kitchen, grab a knife, the butter, and bread, and prepare it. Then I'd continue to the laundry room where our toaster oven resides, pop it in, and attend to something else for a couple of minutes.

When I returned, and the toasty air greeted me, I felt a little bit of peace come over me and a confidence I just might make it through the day.

I have a feeling I'll always associate that smell with October and with this sweet new life.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: The Sweet Simple Things of Life (Week 4 Quote)

What is real? What is important? What is valuable?

The sweet simple things of life.

Look for them today!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Letter to (Four Year and Five Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves, 

I'm behind on these, so this is kind of like your end of Summer letter. We've had a great time and a lot of adventures. Near the top of the list was probably our night excursions to the park. Papa would get y'all to go up the slides and called them the "dark, dark cave". It was magical. One night while there you said "Aw these mayfwies, they so cute, ahhh!" "They're my specialest toys", while five or so crawled on your hand.

Also, on a recent trip from Clinton (Clinton! It's like a half hour drive) you had to tee tee on the side of the road on the way home from CLINTON (less than half an hour). We did the thing where you open two doors to form a stall beside the highway. Basically, you and Annie are recreating my childhood and it's just delightful.

Also, when you're too loud for the library- the monkey grass outside is always a welcoming spot. Sigh.

My consignment goals have changed a lot in the six years I've had children. This time I've tried to spend a fraction of what I used to and as you guys get older I'm trying to think about what YOU care about. I got you this cool monster shirt and it was a little more than I wanted to pay for a used t-shirt, but you told me "this is so awesome" and then you named them each and told me what kind they are (i.e. cave monster, google monster, alien monster, water monster). Also, you put it on before I had a chance to wash it and I just didn't fight it- I guess I've changed in a lot of ways!

I also got you some pjs (the dress code for homeschooling consists mostly of jammies). There was a point in my life where I'd buy ahead even cute pjs if I found them. Well, I got some several years ago in a 5T for you.  Annie found them when I was sorting stuff after we moved home and was obsessed. Of course, I told her she could wear them this Winter and you were disappointed he didn't have any. I grabbed these 4T ones at another sale you started wearing them that week despite the fact that according to Papa, with our new AC unit, "82 is the new 80". I won't be surprised if there's a picture in matching dino jams on our Christmas card.

As a somewhat related aside, entryway rugs make great royal robes for tiny kings. 

Also, Papa Mad Men-ed his hair to go out one night and you wanted in on the action. I know I'm biased, but you were the cutest thing ever with YOUR date, "Snugglie" (your stuffed bunny rabbit). 

One night I told y'all we might go to the grocery store after we picked up Papa, and you let me know you were "afraid you'd bump into things at Kroger" and needed these "insoles" (shin guards) to protect you. I'm sure the cleats you wore had a purpose, too. Also you brought a green eraser and the stuffie named "Mayfly Mayfly Gorilla". The only thing that makes this story better? the anxiety you were giving your sister because you threw up in your mouth multiple times from "eating too much toilet paper". 

A fairly large villain (he hits just above my knee) moved into our house recently- The Joker. It's hysterical because you love him during the day but insist he stay in our room (or better still, the laundry room) at night. He is a little frightening, to be honest.

I love watching your friendships. You and Jude have become such good friends in your own right. Boy friendships are so different and you sometimes have a hard time in social situations (which surprised us so much because you really do seem, in a lot of ways, to be our more extroverted child). But you and Jude have really formed your own little friendship lately, after years of playing side by side. So, so sweet to watch!

You are so sweet and silly. You ask me almost nightly "Momma, will you please tuck me in my pillowcase?" but usually you end up out of it before you fall asleep. 

I almost tripped over you going to the bathroom one night. Bless your heart, you wander without your baby gate. Also? I just went ahead and took you to our room because babies don't keep. 

I also caught you sleeping totally upside down laying over a stool one night- snoring like a freight train.

Awhile back, I heard a little voice say "I just wanted a bell pepper" one night. I thought "that's strange they both said they were finished with supper and that sounded like it came from the den". Came in and found you sitting on the couch chomping on one. I was a little annoyed because one: eating on the couch and two: there was a cut up one in the fridge. But I guess I can't be TOO angry when you were devouring a bell pepper with such joy.

In a lot of ways, Annie is more like me but in some ways, we're alot alike. Annie, her namesake papa, and her Mickey get up ready for the day and ready to read, learn a language, and study Scripture, respectively. You and I wake up hangry, annoyed at the world, and some mornings not without a few tears. 

You have a new catch phrase- "I don't mind". You say it all the time (for example, I say "it's rest time, go to your room" and you say "I don't mind"). It is so indicative of exactly who you are. And I know I've said it before but praise God! We have enough people with Big! Opinions! In this house. Of course where it does bite us in the butt is with discipline because, with almost any consequence, you guessed don't mind.

Also, remember when you named your dinosaur Podcast? Papa brought home a couple of dragons from the "under a dollar" bin. Graves's first name suggestion was "Consequence". Love and Logic parenting fail.

An example of how consequences don't really phase you- during rest time one day you ate a bunch of soap on your own accord. To the best of my understanding you thought it would turn you "night glo" and to your credit it is bright green and I guess looks pretty enticing if I can get inside the mind of a mischievous four year old boy for a minute. I'm assuming this is why you also used his toothbrush to cover your hair in it, though the conversation didn't get that far. The silver lining to having a kid like this (besides the laugh track that's become the never ceasing playlist of our lives)? Not a word of protest when I turned you upside down in the sink and scrubbed your head with cold water. But you're a hard egg to crack.

Awhile back, I heard this exchange:
You (after Papa told you that you couldn't play with toy guns until you understood more about actual guns): "I know everything about everything"
Annie (without missing a beat): "WHAT'S A HABITAT?"
You (in a very matter-of-fact way): "A kind of raptor."
Annie: (laughed, shook her head, rolled her eyes...she was done for the day)
You, the overconfident statesman, who never fears being wrong. She, the overzealous prosecutor, determined to find and expose all the wrong in the world.

I was thinking about Brooklyn recently. I tell people all the time that if you doesn't retain a single memory, I have absolute confidence it irrevocably changed your worldview for the better. It will be with us forever!

You love babies more than ANYTHING. You tell us often that you want to have "a hundred thousand babies". But truly I think your number one career ambition is to be a papa. Awhile back, I came in the room and your were rocking a baby doll in Minnie's old cradle and singing to her. I will never, ever understand anyone who would discourage something as beautiful as this. Even if they believe strongly in gender roles, I can't understand any harm that could come from it. I was so thankful for the countless times Papa rocked you and your sister as babies and I certainly don't think it made him any less of a man. I will continue to praise your nurturing spirit whenever and wherever I see it.

 Also, you found the Gerber Baby on your church underwear and got so excited and said "oh, I found my child!". Guess Avocado had a lost sibling we didn't know about 

Recently you started saying "Mommy" and I asked you what happened to Momma (as an aside, if Papa refers to me as "your mom" AP becomes indignant) and you said "Oh, I just thought 'Mommy' was a cute little name". And you, Sir, are certainly a cute little boy and we couldn't love you more.


Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your outfit is a 4, we are back to wearing Converse to church on occasion, and apparently I'll let you have a Tupperware full of raisins in your bed in order to try to get a good picture!

Friday, October 23, 2015

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Swinging Bridge

What a fun whirlwind trip! 

We left yesterday 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 Peyton that was a huge benefit to a hotel and Annie said "or an apartment!"). 

This 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. 

I'm glad I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday on the couch because we have two soccer games, a birthday party, and dinner with Mickey and Minnie tomorrow while Peyton is at work and he picked up several shifts this coming week. 

Grateful for little adventures and ordinary wonder. The smell of a forest in the Fall, the sound of Graves's feet as he ran through the fallen leaves, and the perfect coolness of early evening. And all the uninterrupted time with my best people and some other special folks we don't see nearly enough. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Links and Listens

We're going to be out of town tomorrow (just a little overnight trip to North Mississippi) and so I thought I'd do something a little out of the ordinary (pun intended) and share a couple of things I thought sort of fit really well with the series.

First of all, my friend Megan pointed me towards an episode of The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. This is a new podcast to me and I'm adding it to my list of ones I love. Anyway, Megan told me that she thought I'd enjoy listening to the episode with Emily Freeman because it reminded her of my series! (I can't wait to get my hands on Simply Tuesday). Anyway, I don't want to give away too many spoilers but count on hearing about the beauty of making soup and the wonder of a bench near the road in your front yard! 

Also, this post on Story Warren (and actually really almost anything on Story Warren), Magical Ordinary. I love how Helena describes the beauty in something that is so easy to consider mundane. 


31 Days of Ordinary Wonder: Whispers in the Darkness

Last night I threw the kids in their 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 Graves in bed more and more and I just closed my eyes and really listened. She read him his tiny set of Maurice Sendak books that he's 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. Their giggles were such sweet music. 

Sometimes, when I feel like everything is crashing down around me, God whispers to me in the darkness through their little voices.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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

Dear Ann Peyton, 

I'm behind again on these letters, but alot happened in August, the last month of Summer. Papa started a new schedule where he is me with us ALOT more. You are loving that. We've had some indoor camp outs and one of your favorite things from the end of Summer was the night trips we took to the park. We'd climb up the big slides, which Papa called "the dark dark cave" and it was eerily beautiful and so nice to have it mostly to ourselves. On the first trip you told Papa "There's no one at the park but us, the bugs, and the tennis-ball players". Peyton got a trailer for his bike to go to the Y and the grocery store and close places. I guess it's sort of like a second vehicle. You kept telling us that riding in it reminded you of the rides at Coney Island when Papa went fast. Minnie also chalk painted her own old baby doll cradle for you and your room got a lot closer to being finished. 

I love your personality and how, though we're so alike in many ways, we're different in some. You, your namesake papa, and yourr Mickey get up ready for the day and ready to read, learn a language, and study Scripture, respectively. Bud and I wake up hangry, annoyed at the world, and some mornings not without a few tears. We redeem the time in the evenings, though! I have no problem homeschooling someone at seven pm or cleaning baseboards at midnight. Hmm, could be why I'm not a morning person....

People bring you a lot of joy and you're more relational than I anticipated you'd be when you were younger. You snuggled up under my arm on the couch one evening at Mickey and Minnie's and said "Momma, I loved today". I asked you why and you told me it was because you got to see your best friend and your grandmother. There are a lot of things to say about this but mostly I am thankful that you value relationships so much more than a lot of other unimportant things that often make children your age happy and I am glad we made the decision we did- in large part because of these relationships for you and your brother- about this being home for now.

You are pretty self-aware. After a couple of different days of plans changing you told us: "I need you and Papa to stop saying 'We're going to the pool today.' Y'all need to say 'We MAY go to the pool today, Annie''. You've gotten very good at articulating your needs.

You are very dedicated. Ten o'clock at night, after a FULL day, and we just finished up school a few weeks ago. I had planned to let it go for the day cause perks of homeschooling, but again, you do NOT like it when plans change. You had heard me tell Papa much earlier that we were going to do English and as I was clearing the supper dishes you requested we still do it. Who am I to turn down a tiny person with a huge thirst for knowledge?

Papa and I have been having lots of conversations about what first grade and pre-k 4 look like at our little schoolhouse at home and sometimes it feels like we're not doing enough. But recently you've been reading these pages in y'alls dinosaur book by yourselff to Graves. I was especially impressed when your showed me how you were using the pronunciation key at the bottom of the pages (you've seen me use it I guess, but I never discussed it with you). I'm not overly impressed with your reading level, but here's what I do observe: you have SO many hours in your day to figure out exactly what YOU want to do with your education (like learn to pronounce dino names and read to your brother) and you've had such a soft, gentle place to be wrong and I think (for you) that's been paramount in you being brave enough to try things in which you might fail.

I also overheard you sharing a library book with Graves: "His habitat is getting destroyed. And also people are throwing yucky stuff in his water...that's what pollution means."

You love animals and nature and most of all birds. You learned recently that a flamingo feeds by sucking up muddy water in the front of its beak and then pumping it back through the sides. You attempted to demonstrate this process for us with refried beans. Gag.

You were also SO excited to realize that "Early" is an American Robin.

You saw this tiny not great quality image of a bird in yourr English workbook and said "look! I think it's a black-capped chickadee" and then ran to look it up and see if you were right (pretty sure you were). I just love watching how you pursue your passions!

Unsurprisingly, you were enamored with the nature themed bathroom at the park. Who needs Disney World when you're this excited about an animal mural in the bathroom? I have a feeling it'll be a regular attraction at park visits now.

Recently I heard this conversation between you and Graves:
Graves (after Peyton told him he couldn't play with toy guns until he understood more about actual guns): "I know everything about everything"
You (without missing a beat): "WHAT'S A HABITAT?"
Graves (in a very matter-of-fact way): "A kind of raptor."
You: (laugh, shake your head, roll your're done for the day)
He, the overconfident statesman, who never fears being wrong. You, the overzealous prosecutor, determined to find and expose all the wrong in the world.

We finally finished the bird book. It's about a hundred pages, relatively detailed, but very age appropriate for an early elementary student. We read every single page and when you were feeling generous, you let me get away with not telling you all the scientific names. You did mention that we forgot to read the forward. You can read a lot of it by yourself and you spend good stretches of time paging through it on your own. Your absolute favorite game to play is for us all to pick a bird to read about and then to pretend to be that bird (for example, you will get "nectar" from my floral curtains when you're a hummingbird, you will "steal" costume jewelry when you're a magpie, and you makes sure Graves helps care for the babies when y'all are penguins). It's been such an adventure and I've learned a LOT myself!

You are also getting more and more serious about her part in the instruction. You created an original tracing sheet for Graves. It read "a baib (baby) ran awae frum its momma". You explained that he needed to get back to his momma dinosaur and it needs to not bump into the meat-eaters on either side of the path.

We had this little ten dollar activity book that provided you with HOURS of naptime fun. It was all different paper crafts- animals and objects. You finished the last one and and I had a new one ready for you! (And yes, you have a box of paper crafts in your closet and keep your favorites on your windowsill).

I found these "power cards for teens" with neat little encouraging sayings that I used to love about eighteen years ago. We checked to make sure they're all appropriate and I couldn't wait to share them with you. You've loved them and we've incorporated them into our mornings some. 

One big thing lately is your notes. It's pretty much your new communication style.I found a note that said "Do not say that" on Graves's bed for when he yells "Rude Girl!" (his favorite insult when he's beside himself angry). Clearly, this is becoming the preferential way to communicate. I was thinking of maybe needing to add some supplemental "composition work" this Fall because handwriting isn't an areas you're strong in, but I guess you got it handled.

Another sign said "Calshin" (Caution). Graves slipped and told you it was "all your fault" because you had just gotten out of the bath and dripped some water. You didn't even fuss back, just ran to the kitchen to create the sign. I love the way you've used art to help you deal with your emotions in the past, and it makes me grin wide to think writing might be a similar tool for you)

You also wrote one to the garbage men one day warning them of some particular messy (leaky) trash and you made the cutest sign where you drew this funky little version of yourself with a finger over your lip saying "Shhh!" to remind us when you were in your closet "calming down". 

And you wrote on the menu chalkboard in the kitchen that on Saturday and Sunday we were having "regler" supper. I asked for clarification and you said "um, like NOT cooked stuff". Guess that has been the norm most of your life.

You could sleep through ANYTHING. I often pluck your unibrow for ten minutes and you just stir a little. The best times are when you fall asleep in your little soft chair in your reading nook. [About the unibrow: when you were an infant I bleached it with Hydrogen Peroxide but I stopped when you got old enough I knew you'd ask for an explanation. Plus, it didn't seem so bad to me. This past year, two people have mentioned it. The first was a gorgeous Guyanese girl who told you that she had one when she was your age. The second was a little boy in the South Bronx who asked Peyton "why you daughter have a unibrow?". Papa realized the little boy was probably used to a different cultural environment and had different expectations of beauty than our then five year old. He told him "Well, she's always had it and I think she's beautiful. She's just a little girl and we don't want to do something that will make her self conscious and worried about her appearance". Such a good and wise Papa. (And, FWIW, I don't think it was a deal breaker for the little guy- he told Papa the next week "your daughter's cute"). Lately, though, it's gotten INTENSE. When I uploaded your monthly picture a couple of months ago I was shocked how strong it was. And Minnie let me know that she and Cookie were "concerned". Peyton was still adamant you not know anything about it for now and I agree. But the midnight plucking procedure seemed like a good work around.] I wish there was such an easy fix for my thumbs I mutilated became I but them so bad when I had anxiety at your age. Too bad that's a permanent condition.

Awhile back you said, in the sweetest little voice "Momma, I like your polka dots". It's one of my favorite things when you compliment something I'm wearing but it makes me feel like you're so grown up.

You are all about creative solutions. You made Steggie a protective building out of Tupperware in case there's a meteor (different from a meat-eater, you explained, but it seems this could be helpful with those, too). Because "We do NOT want Steggy to go extinct!".

Recently, there was a fly in the house and you and Graves put out these half eaten sweet peppers to "attract" him so y'all can catch him and put him outside. Totally unaware they're not everybody's favorite food.

Perhaps most impressive of all, one night you were DISTRAUGHT when you realized we had gotten rid of a bunch of your(falling apart) dress up shoes. I don't usually do that without telling you, but we purged a lot when we got home. I'm thankful you're so creative and that I already had my hot glue gun out. You requested some cardboard, traced your foot to make sure it was the right size, used the big adults only scissors for the first time ever after a papa lecture about how you *could* cut your finger off but it was you decision if you wanted to try them, and gave me directions on how to glue the pieces together. No fingers were lost but Graves did burn himself in the approximately two seconds I had my head turned.

You also told me that "dinosaur town is such a good town" and then explained that they have alarms that go off if someone is coming through who is a bad driver. Another day I may have to explain to you that big government isn't always good but for now you seem to be running things with a lot of wisdom.

We found a tiger in Mickey and Minnie's storage unit and you decided it was Shere Khan. One weekend he turned twenty five today and had a teacup birthday party (complete with pin the tail on the monkey because he's a jungle animal).

I have a picture of you in a cardigan at a reception celebrating your godmother's ordination. This has been me at every function for most of my life- always winding up in someone else's oversized sweater or "wearing" some sort of blanket from someone's car, most often in the past decade it's been the four times too large coat of Papa's suit. As an aside, Graves had to pee on the side of the road on the way home from CLINTON (less than half an hour). We did the thing where you open two doors to form a stall beside the highway. Basically, you folk are recreating my childhood and it's just delightful.

Recently I had to figure out the most developmentally appropriate way to explain an Amber Alert to you (fortunately you eventually fixated on Googleing what a brown Altima looked like). It's so much fun to be on the other side of every hard conversation I forced Minnie to have all those years. Or not. But I can hope I'm raising a very engaged and empowered little person. (Also: be warned friends- I narrowly diverted the risk that, along with Santa and sex, the little homeschool chick might tell your kids about pedophiles. But I dunno if I can do it much longer.)

Also, you hear EVERYTHING we say. In the last little bit, you've told me about hearing a conversation where I told Peyton about a book you were reading that was based off a Pixar movie (you did great except for the character names which I assume most kids reading the book would be more familiar with) and another one about cutting up a watermelon (that happened at about midnight and after a much more argumentative talk with a bit of strong language...whoops). I mentioned to a friend that her kids were much more generous than mine and your ears perked up. You were quick to remind me of an incident a month ago where you told me to use the last of the milk for my cereal. You also like to ask Papa if we can "speak louder" when you're supposed to be going to bed. Most recently, we were discussing jealousy in y'alls devotion time and I shared that I used to be jealous of people with bigger houses. You go "well, there ARE good and bad things with big houses...a bad thing is all that extra cleaning you'd be doing". I had just complained about housework and told Papa I never wanted to live anywhere bigger for that reason. Whew! You are every bit as exhausting as you brother, just in a totally different ways. Keeping me on my toes, both of you!

I'm thankful for your honesty and transparency. Awhile back we were reading the kids' devotion and it was the story of Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain because God told him to sacrifice him (which, as an aside, is pretty much my least favorite thing in the whole Bible and I used to have such anxiety over that story). One of the questions was "How would you feel if God asked you to kill your child?" and you said "It would be hard to believe Him and trust Him....because God doesn't raise people from the dead in real life". We talked about how the stories in the Bible ARE "real life" and He really has that power and we talked about how it would be very, very hard to trust Him if we were Abraham. We also talked about how Abraham told his servants he and Isaac would both return down the mountain and how the writer of Hebrews shared that Abraham believed he would really kill Isaac but then God would raise him. Belief and trust and faith can be so hard and I hope you always feel like you can be honest with us about those things. 

You saw one of our weekly family pictures and told me that you love this picture and that you think it's so sweet because "the kiss!" (Papa was kissing me on the cheek). You are honestly one of the least (physically) affectionate people I know. It doesn't bother you, but it's not super natural for you. You show people that you love them in lots and lots of other ways. But I think it says something that you enjoy the photograph so much- children gain a lot from watching the people they look to and admire the most love each other well. There are so many imperfect things about mine and Papa's relationship and honestly we are careful TO let y'all see that some too. But I hope you do see, often, how deeply we love each other and how deeply we love you guys.

Momma (and Papa)

Your little bird dress is a 5.