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 eyes...you'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 veggies...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.

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