Sunday, February 28, 2016

What I Learned in February


A few thinks I learned this month. As always, I'll be linking up with Emily!

1. I appreciate simplicity in my wardrobe so much these days and I realized recently that it's completely acceptable to wear whatever I wore to church on Sunday to my Junior League placement on Thursday.
Because it's put together, ironed, marginally professional, and mostly because I know that it fit four days earlier. It's so a little thing but it makes life during this season so much easier.

2. Not being a crafty mom doesn't mean I can't be a creative mom.
I'm not crafty. I'm just not. Sometimes I try to be, but it's not something that comes naturally at all. That said, I do enjoy doing creative things with my kids. The end result doesn't always look Pinterest perfect, but we enjoy it! Case in point: Annie decided she wanted to have a birthday party for her stuffed owl, Midnight (those Beanie Boos have tags with their birthdays listed and Annie puts them on the calendar). We decided to really let her run with it and we ended up having sliders with weird toppings (peanut butter and pepperoni were among the choices!), baked a cake from scratch, made her cards, and collected random little gifts (e.g. Mardi Gras beads) for her. It was so, so much fun and Annie loved it!

3. Signing your kid up for a Goodreads account is as easy and as fun (probably more fun!) than signing up for one yourself. I can't take any credit for this one- it was Peyton's idea- but recently we got Annie her own account and she's loved rating the books. With her favorites, she'll dictate a review and we'll type it up for her. Typing is one of the skills that's on my list to start working on soon!

4. I've become a better shopper.  
I'm realizing more and more that this house growing to accommodate five people is deeply dependent on my being incredibly discerning with what I purchase. Gone are the days of throwing half interesting, this might be useful, somewhat cute stuff in an overflowing buggy mostly out of boredom. We went to Target last week because Graves still had Christmas money and we desperately needed new bed sheets. I looked over nearly the whole store and especially scoured my favorite areas. Y'all, the ONLY thing that really interested me was an adult coloring book. To be fair, I think it was partly just not a good week for Target but I also think I've taught myself to view things differently. It isn't so much that I don't still buy things, I'm just forcing myself to be more conscious and disciplined. I don't go to Target and places like that near as much but when I do, if something catches my attention, I've trained myself to look at it hard once and make an assessment and then not turn toward it again. If I LOVE it I take note; if not I move on. Some days Voluntary Simplicity hurts a little and some days it feels so good. Today it felt really, really good. 

5. My journey with money/things/simplicity is much more cyclical than linear. I say that as a bit of a caveat to the above. A lot of days (a lot of them!) I'm pretty content with what I have. But there are still days where I waste money and buy things we have no need for. And honestly? the worst part is not really the wasted money, it's the time and energy I sometimes waste thinking so much about material things. I guess that's the drawback of becoming more discerning. Taken to an extreme it can become really obsessive.

6. In fact, I'm coming to understand that most of life actually is this way- not a smooth, linear progression. My friend Sarah touched on this in a wonderful post recently in regards to faith and it was so on point. And then another friend I heard speak described her faith journey as "circuitous". I loved that and so admired the transparency in her speaking. And truly, I see it everywhere- with my views on money, with my faith, with parenting, and with anxiety- things are not linear. I just don't think that the thinking of "tomorrow will be better than today" (or "tomorrow I'll do better than today") holds true. And I think we do ourselves a disservice when we make it our expectation.

7. I enjoy social media so much more when I'm not trying to "keep up". I actually realized this writing about the things that are saving my life right now. I do try to stay on top of my Reader and I try to check TimeHop daily, but I don't worry about what I'm missing on IG, Twitter, and Facebook. I just check in when I can or when I want to.

8.  One of the huge gifts of homeschooling I've noticed how much time it gives the kids to focus on things they love. I've been thinking recently about our kids' imaginations, especially now that Graves's has really started to develop. Their imaginations amaze me and one factor among many, I think (and I think this is the case with AP's reading too) is just the sheer amount of time they have that they are allowed to choose how to use. Lately, I've noticed that in busier seasons Annie really struggles to "fit it all in" and often what she chooses for her few hours she has autonomy over is not what I'd prioritize (e.g. television shows). As with most things there are advantages and drawbacks (and I try to be very honest about those) but this is definitely, in my opinion, one of the perks of homeschooling.

9. For me personally not being able to put words to something is one of the worst feelings in the world and I have this fear (that I know is rooted in my anxiety) that the "off" sensation I'm feeling with this pregnancy won't get better once the baby gets here. I can do this relatively easily (and joyfully) for a few more months but I'm scared it's not the pregnancy and is actually just my new normal and it terrifies me. 

10. For some reason, the River Oaks Post Partum Jug is a great comfort and a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel symbol.  
When you're all out of sorts and weather headache-y and you've self medicated with everything you can think of that's safe and appropriate, you decide to get holistic and just drink a shit ton of water.
11. Each pregnancy is different. I mean, duh. But I gained ten pounds with him at twenty five weeks by twenty three weeks I had already gained seventeen with Sister Baby.
[Same dress, same gestation. Very different pregnancies.]
Several people (my husband and one of my best friends included, so it might just be people who love me) have told me that it'll probably all even out in the end. Let's hope so because by the end I was contracting every time I walked and he felt like he was about to fall out every time I stood up.

These are such fun to write and I always enjoy reading them as well! 

Letter to (Four Year and Nine Month Old) Graves

 Dear Graves,

 What fun months December and January were. We celebrated Christmas, of course and enjoyed a visit from Cookie and Conrad.

One other really fun thing was that Papa took off two days over a weekend (he tried for all three but couldn't get one) and because of his weird schedule, he was off nine out of ten days in a row. It was so incredibly wonderful, partly because I had been feeling like the days when he works long shifts feel not just exhausting but particularly lonely. So it came at the perfect time. What a great Christmas gift for all of us!  That said, I have two damn good teammates and I'm so thankful for my time with you and Annie. But four is more fun than three (and I'm counting on five will be more fun than four).

 It was unseasonably warm back in December and we drank pineapple and blueberry smoothies and went on several bike rides, it was so warm!

 Lately, you've really enjoyed wearing some Colonel Rebel boxer shorts that Cookie and I used to wear under our school uniforms. I sort of can't believe the elastic has held up for twenty five years. You say you love having boxers like Papa. You're pretty stinkin' cute in them, too.

Also, your "new" (from your cousin, via the attic) shoes are a different brand, they don't *seem* that much bigger to the eye, and you do have a good bit of room in them. But there's a certain amount of mom guilt inherent when your baby goes from an 8.5 to an 11. I really felt terrible about it and it made me all the more thankful for the manger baby who takes all the guilt away. 

You had a fabulous Christmas and I'm grateful that it takes so little to make you happy. Minnie was so proud of herself with how she did with your presents (you're very laid back but your preferences are near as distinct as Annie's, typically, so you are harder to buy for). She got you a Tinker Toy set, some foam pirate swords, and a super hero cape that you are enamored with. It's become one of your go-to outfits.

DeeDee and Grandpa Randy gave you some money to spend yourself and you chose a dragon that makes noise and spits plastic "ice" as well as a scooter that was on major sale.

The morning after you got it, the first thing you said when you woke up was "e forgot to do my scooter-thing this morning like you said Papa". Papa said there was no forgetting, just enjoying some quiet work whilst everyone else in the house slumbered.

We are always so late decorating but this year is a record. Good thing I've become more liturgical and now have an excuse for keeping it up roughly two weeks into January. With the attic project and having hardly any energy, it took me forever to get to it. However, I was very excited because this is the first year since you've been mobile that we've had a full size tree in the living room. In Brooklyn we didn't even get one, the year before we were trying to move and got a tiny one, and the year before that you were one and everyone assured me I could "tell him no" and gently discipline and you'd stay out of it Yeah, no. THIS year you knocked over two trees in the fifteen minutes we were at the tree stand and there were three adults watching you. We've had a few "look me in the eyes and listen" discussions and knew the rules. Self-control is still not an area you're  super strong in, but you did GREAT. I will say that one of the biggest thing you've taught me is about doing things on your time. Wanna nurse past a year? Fine. Want to have a paci until you're three and a half? Sure. Want to potty train when you're almost four? Okay. Need to wait on the full size living room tree until you're four and a half? I'll survive. You've made me a lot more flexible and gentle and kind. Nearly half a decade without a real living room tree? Small price to pay for that. 

Also, we read aloud The Mouse on the Motorcycle and I don't think you've ever loved a chapter book so.

Minnie had a special present for Annie recently- this beautiful little golden bird was damaged at Batte and she brought it home and repaired it and gave it to AP. At first, Annie decided we'd put it in the shadow box in their room with their other breakable treasures (there are two LARGE shadow boxes in our house, one in the den and one in the master; I've always just ignored them but awhile back we decided to use the one in y'alls room for soccer trophies and such- basically important things that you might break). But then she decided last night she needed her bird closer. I tried to find a safer spot but she insisted her bathroom drawer (which to be fair, is one of a few areas you are not supposed to bother) was the perfect spot.The next morning however she had her out and y'all were both carrying her around. Annie and I both gave you clear instructions on being careful but I also told Annie I would not punish you if the bird accidentally got broken. She gushes to me every few days about what "a good papa" you are to Midnight the Owl and honestly we are going to HAVE to start teaching you some more restraint in just a few months anyway. Hopefully, this will just be the beginning of loving things (and you know, people) GENTLY for you.
Eventually she went in the shadow box, but it was good for y'all both- her to hold things a little more loosely and you to be a bit more careful than usual.

Speaking of Annie, ecently, the kids were cleaning their room and I was redirecting and reminding you of a specific task for the third time. "Annie distracted me" you aid and sighed. And then Annie goes "Gosh momma, it must be SO hard to be Graves and get distracted all the time". And hard to be your momma. And hers, too.

Papa told Annie one night that if she cleaned up her room that night rather than the next day, he'd finish a chapter book y'all were reading. She darted to her room and finished it in less than two minutes. Of course you passively enjoy reading but you mostly enjoy the opportunity to interrupt every few minutes, so you decided to keep playing in a pile of your mess and proclaimed that you'd just clean up tomorrow.

You are certainly excited about the new baby. One night I found you snuggled up in bed asleep holding bath time baby (who was currently dried out and functioning as a regular baby doll). That day had sort of kicked my butt, physically and emotionally. But then I kicked its back. I can't even articulate the place this pregnancy has put me in emotionally- the other night I walked into Mickey and Minnie's house and I teared up and told Minnie "Y'all's food smells so good. I wish I had never had to leave". Um, what??? If I'm super honest sometimes I struggle if this was the right decision- we're so far away from the baby stage and this has been so hard (which is crazy talk because I wanted this baby so desperately). But I know when I hold this sweet baby number three in my arms for the first time, I won't question it at all. In the meantime, I need little reminders and God usually uses you to send them to me. You've been the most wonderful little brother but it would be a cryin' shame for you not to get to be a big brother at least once.

Graves, we love you so very much!

Momma (and Papa)

P.S.  Your little sweater vest outfit is a 4T. And I love how you insisted on the hat and mittens. You are such a ham!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekly Smorgasbord

Here's some of my favorite links from the past little bit. Lots of stuff on simplicity, snow, being a fun mom, and real recipes that are just downright outlandish!

On Faith:
"This question has demanded all of me, and it is one to which I sometimes willingly, other times unwillingly, submitted. The question is accompanied by an answer, and the exciting aspect, for me, of this question and its answers has been figuring out what that means in my contemporary context, and the spaces, places and extraordinary people to which this question, and my exploration thereof, has led me. Exploring this question, combined with my studies, changed my understanding of God from one who was solely interested in how many souls I led to the Lord, how many hours I prayed and read my Bible, how faithful I was in doing my quiet times early in the morning, etc. I learned that God cares deeply about this world; God is constantly working towards the healing and transformation of this world; God invites us to participate in God’s work towards healing and wholeness, towards shalom."
"I think the questions we ask ourselves when it comes to these kinds of things not only reveal our hearts – I think they also proactively create who we are becoming. I want to ask better questions. I really do. Questions like: Wouldn’t it be great if someone who really needs a good parking space finds mine empty? What can I do to help an elderly person or a sick person find my spot tonight when I’m gone? 5 This is the blessing of living in the city, of living in community. No matter how much we want to, we can never completely isolate ourselves from our neighbor. No matter how hard we try, we cannot claim these public spaces as our own. We have to learn to live side-by-side, to offer grace, to think the best of one another. This is a gift, this snow, these “stolen” parking spaces. Trust me. This is a gift."
"These aren’t so much audible voices as inklings, rephrasings of the wind that come from the heart not the head. In the quiet, I knew the truth: we’ve not been left alone in our pain. We have a truer, consistent, and abiding bonded love. I listened for a few minutes, let it all sink in. 3. Cultivating the practice of listening in prayer is a difficult sort of husbandry. What does the voice of God sound like? How do we know it’s his voice and not our own? What of the distracting thoughts that interrupt our prayers? The voice of God sounds an awful lot like peace, patience, and love. It sounds a lot like constancy. Should it come as any surprise?"
"As you read through this list you likely felt a lot of it as familiar. Obviously, if God is giving the gift we expect that gift to be "perfect." Consequently, we expect a lot of these perfections to be applied to God's gift of grace. For example, God's grace is extravagant and a product of God's love for us. That is, God's grace displays superabundance and singularity. We also believe that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. In this grace displays priority (God loved us first) and incongruity (while we were undeserving sinners). You don't get a whole lot of debate about the first four perfections. By contrast, there has been a lot of debate about the last two, the perfections of efficacy and non-circularity."
On Gratitude:
I’m pretty sure she was hoping to catch the small toys and candy that Pastor Scott always brings, just like the rest of the kids. And I couldn’t blame her really. But then she leaned over and whispered, “If I catch anything, I’m going to give it away to the other kids,” and I wanted to shout, “Yes!” Looking around at her peers without shoes and coats, she could see her hands were already full. I wasn’t reminding and prodding and nagging her to be grateful—she knew she already had everything she needed. Nothing makes us more grateful than perspective. Nothing. I think it’s the key to loosening the chains of entitlement in our culture.
Why I Want My Kids to Be Grateful More Than Anything Else {Giveaway & Link Up} - Kristen Welch 
"Gratitude starts with a P. When we can step back and change the way we look at what we don’t have, or that bad day, or what other people have or don’t, that small seed of gratitude will begin to grow. Perspective is a gift we need to give our kids."
"My bent up heart veers toward disappointment and frustration as the wind slaps against my exposed face. The sun is out, and the waves are crashing, and I still have to choose it – the practice of gratitude. I am grateful for the sun. I am grateful for the kisses, for a little boy who still names inanimate objects, for 10am margaritas, for the aquamarine ocean, for the waves. Practice, practice, practice. And then practice more…because things will never be perfect, the reality will never match the postcard, the cracks will always show in a world that has been broken."
On Parenting:
"The Psalms told me that my children were a gift from God–as they were, with their color of eyes, their color and texture of hair, their various personalities, desires, loves–and weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Each of my little ones wanted to be known, loved as they were, and honored as a child made in the image of God who was designed to fulfill a purpose in this world, a part in His greater play in history. This they were created to find in our home."
"it strikes me that I’ve probably been saving too many of my favorite pleasures for moments when the kids aren’t around. I go out on restaurant dates with Daddy, or watch movies or shows with him after bedtime. I get together with friends and laugh. I treasure my solo time doing Pilates while they’re at school or reading books in bed before falling asleep. I blissfully lose myself in my writing work. Although I’m a happy person overall, the kids are not there so much for the most relaxed, easy-laughing side of me. Maybe I’ve just drawn too hard a line between on-duty and off-duty. When I’m with the kids, it’s a bit like I’ve punched the clock and I’m at work, mothering. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun at work—don’t all the best jobs have their fun side, and what could be better than working with these three amazing, silly, exuberant little people? They feel my love, yes, but they should also feel my joy. Not every moment—let’s be realistic—but  in our house we could all use a little more lightness and laughter, from me in particular. More yeses."     

Help! These Moms Won't Stop Bragging About How Smart Their Kid Is! - Enjoying the Small Things 
"I will remember the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In conversations about learning or smartness or school, we talk a lot about reading, math and science and their respective test scores, but did you know there are at least 9 types of intelligence–all equally valuable? Did you know interpersonal intelligence–your child’s ability to recognize and respond to other people feeling sad or scared or in need of a friend–is a recognized form of intelligence in childhood psychology?"
On Small and Simple Living
"There’s something about the proximity of everything in a small space that I find really comforting and, honestly, easy. The other day we had friends over for dinner and James and I got into pajamas as soon as they left. Our dressers are right next to the kitchen table, so we hadn’t even cleared the dishes yet. It occurred to us that in a larger house you’d likely stay downstairs, cleaning up dinner and getting the house back in order, and then get cozy. We were in pajamas before our friends made it down to street level. I’ve said this before, but I think the most important survival tip for living in a small space is to embrace it joyfully, every last square inch." Love these tips.
Love these inspiration images. And two of the thirteen have our beds =)
"It’s a small circle life. Not just the yurt, but all the rhythms of our simple life. We walk over the same ground many times a day, the same patterns each day of the week. We make small circles. But if the discipline of spring and summer is to be planted, then the discipline of winter is to wear bare branches. We try to use the word “enough” as if it were a blessing and not a compromise. We have enough. We have enough time. We have enough money. We have enough love, to go around. And here we stay."
"When life hands me one of these weeks, I do the opposite of what the world around me is pressuring me to do. I actually take more time to slow down, to listen, to sleep, to read for pleasure. I paddle upstream from our culture that worships the word “busy,” and I take time to become even stronger to handle the to-do list in front of me. Hear me out: I don’t jettison my responsibilities and go running off in the sunset. No, I still do my “have tos.” But in between those things, I fight the urge to panic and stress, and instead, do things I know will recenter me."
On Busyness:
"I was talking about reaching our limits with a friend recently. She shared that she can always tell when she’s over capacity because she can no longer control her emotions."
On Not Attaching:
"I'm interested in a practice that stems from the Buddhist and Hindu tradition, called “non-attachment”. It means that rather than clinging to certain outcomes (visions of what could be) or certain people (or what we imagine they could be), we should remain grateful for, but unattached to, what currently is. Count your blessings, but hold them loosely. Our culture doesn’t endorse this philosophy. The secular voice would tell us that we have needs to be met and wants to be satisfied and that, by all means, we should attempt to meet and satisfy them—and then hoard them like trophies doomed for dusty shelves in the McMansion to which we are entitled."
On Snow:
"And yet, perhaps that’s why the blizzard remains the best natural disaster there is, theologically speaking. The snow falls everywhere, irrespective of our plans and designs–or our response to them being disrupted–yet remains stunningly personal, burrowing into eyes and hair and nostrils. Yes, the storm puts our attempts to assert ourselves in merciful perspective. Yes, to those who like sledding, it is an occasion for joy, and yes, to those who are tired or guilt-ridden, it brings rest. But that’s not all."
On Claiming a (Somewhat Negative) Identity:
Interesting story and comments.
 Humor Worth Sharing: 
First, Catch Your Jellyfish - The New York Times 
Y'all, these are from actual cookbooks. OMG.
" Discuss how you successfully conquered a First World Problem, White Girl Problem, Overeducated Problem, Stoner Problem, or another exaggerated obstacle of social, racial or habitual origin."

Photography Worth Sharing:
"For his series called Textiles, the architect and photographer documented twenty-five of the last textile mills in New England, some a century and one dating back to the Civil War."

These photos are amazing and so vibrant.
Made in USA: Textiles
Made in USA: Textiles

Noteworthy Images:
LOL for days....

Noteworthy Videos:
No, Bern, you won't get my vote by using beautiful Simon and Garfunkel songs about hitchhiking the country while showing wonderful montages of happy faces, cottages with flags painted on them, swing dancing in the grass, and adorable children and livestock. But it was a damn good shot. You do pull my heartstrings.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Babykins #3: Twenty Five Weeks

Yep, that's how Peyton bikes in the Winter =)

Pregnancy Highlights:

How far along: 25 weeks
Size of Baby: (via BabyCenter) Babykins #3 is about thirteen and a half inches and weighs in at about half a pound (the size of an average rutabagga)! Her skin is smoothing out and she's probably growing hair!
Total Weight Gain/Loss: seventeen pounds. 
Maternity Clothes: We didn't have Book Buddies this week, so y'all can see what I look like the majority of the time!
Gender: It's a girl!
Movement: Like I've been saying, she's super active. Especially at night!
Sleep: It's been another rough week. Last night was really, really good but the night before was MISERABLE. I think I was up at least once an hour and couldn't get comfortable.
Cravings: I figured out how to get my favorite sushi roll (the ro was the only raw part and I just told them to leave it off) and it was SO good.

Symptoms: I've had some terrible heartburn lately and the weather has been awful and I was feeling it- I had several days where I was almost not functional from headaches and such. I got so upset about it. Then yesterday, I started feeling this pressure in my lower abdomen and it really freaked me out. It wasn't painful but it was a lot of pressure and it reminded me of when I had some pre-term labor with Graves. That was a lot farther along, though, and honestly it was nearly five years ago so it may have felt completely different. I really can't remember. I ended up calling after five o'clock and talked to an on-call doctor and she didn't seem too concerned. She just said to monitor it and if it did become painful I should come in. I have an appointment in about a week and I'm going to run it by Dr. Shiflett then.
What I Miss: I know this is redundant, but I just feel so "off" literally ninety percent of the time. I can't even find words to articulate what it is and for me personally not being able to put words to something is one of the worst feelings in the world. And then there's this-- this fear (that I know is rooted in my anxiety) that it won't get better. I can do this relatively easily (and joyfully) for a few more months but I'm scared it's not the pregnancy and is actually just my new normal and it terrifies me.
Best Moment This Week: Honestly, when that dumb weather front finally passed through and I got some relief today. I still don't feel great, but I'm so much better. Oh, and this was so funny- Graves had this little butterfly sticker he was playing with and he was making the butterfly talk and all of a sudden he made his voice get all squeaky and goes "Oh! Oh! I have HEARTBURN". I had to laugh. 
What I Am Looking Forward To: I got the last little thing I've ordered for the baby's corner of the room and it got me excited about fixing it up  for her in the next couple of months!
Comparison to Graves:

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

Dear Ann Peyton,

December was a fun month for us and you seemed to love it. Although Christmas in New York was magical, it was nice to be back home. Cookie and Conrad were here for a bit and we also took you to see our friend, Haydn (Mary Milton's daddy) get sworn in as Chancery Court Judge. We got a new swing for the sunroom and you have loved reading books on it from day one.

 One other really fun thing was that Papa took off two days over a weekend (he tried for all three but couldn't get one) and because of his weird schedule, he was off nine out of ten days in a row. Unbelievable. I had been feeling like the days when he works long shifts feel not just exhausting but particularly lonely. So it came at the perfect time. What a great Christmas gift for all of us!  That said, I have two damn good teammates and I'm so thankful for my time with y'all. But four is more fun than three (and I'm counting on five will be more fun than four). 

We had so much fun that week! Since you're almost always up at 11:00 PM anyway, Papa had you helping him pull wood our of his work room to use to floor more of the attic the next day. Of course you loved it. [You had this head lamp thing on and told me "Momma I'm wearing this little light on my head because I almost tripped on the bike trailer. Haha!]

As a related aside, you've been struggling with some insomnia. Hard for a six year old. You've always taken a LONG time to fall asleep, but lately it's started to bother you. I know the problem is that you're just like me and have trouble "turning off your mind". Minnie used to sit in my room for HOURS talking to me and trying to get me to relax. (I'm so, so thankful it's less anxiety for your and more just trying to slow your little brain down.) Graves and Papa are the exact opposite. Graves falls asleep with a toy in his hand mid play, most of the time. And Papa has literally been known to fall asleep during conversations with friends and at CEASARS PALACE in Las Vegas. One particular night you and read a ton of library books and the I resorted to getting puzzles out and then busted out Where's Waldo. ["Get in the bed and close your eyes and count sheep, think happy thoughts, ect. results in more stress. We've tried it. Trust.] 

I have to say, I know the late nights are catching up with you when you can't even stay awake for a new book about bald eagles from the libary. I found you on the couch one day with it beside you.

It was a weird month, weather wise. We drank pineapple and blueberry smoothies and went on several bike rides, it was so warm! Oh, this is random but you've decided that you love to pattern mix- polka dots and stripes on your dress, hearts on your socks, and more polka dots on your leggings.

We had a low key Advent this year. We have this wonderful Advent calendar that is also a magnetic nativity and you and Graves love it. Other than that I didn't really have anything else planned (last year, it was a little more involved but this year- with the new baby on the way- I was just tired). I saw something that mentioned that there are exactly twenty four stories leading up to the birth of Christ in The Jesus Storybook Bible- which is one of my favorite books of all time ever. I realized that it'd be okay if we didn't craft a Jesse Tree every year- there's grace for that. And a series of nightly stories that point continuously to a Rescuer who is overwhelmingly for you is plenty sufficient. As is the Rescuer, praise God!

[In all honesty, I think y'all gained more from it than from the previous year's more elaborate activities.]

One night we read about Abraham taking Issac up the mountain to sacrifice him. This story had always been one of my biggest struggles in Scripture but even more so now that I have my own "son of laughter", who surprisingly to me- just like his big sister- is starting to ask hard, serious questions when we read the Old Testament. I've read this many, many times and I have not ONCE been confident I could have acted as Abraham did. I do take comfort in the fact that I think he either knew God would intervene at the last minute (as the text of course says He did) or that he thought God would raise Isaac from the dead (as many commentators believe). I'm sure he didn't think it was the end, which is convicting because I'm often much less trusting in not near as seemingly hopeless situations. I also take comfort in the humility and transparency of a minister who told me that if Christians were being persecuted and his son was about to be killed, he'd very likely bow the knee to the emperor and renounce his faith. This same man helped me to realize so deeply that our standing with God is not conditional upon our obedience and that the ultimate sacrifice has been made. I'm grateful for Abraham's faith but I don't live in fear of the consequences of my imperfection anymore and my anxiety doesn't permeate my reading of the Bible. I'm also grateful for Sally Lloyd-Jones and how gently she leads us toward and away from such a terrifying altar and also points ultimately to the greater sacrifice. I hope that I am helping you and Graves understand the unfolding of the great Rescue Plan in the way these two individuals have helped me.

Onto Christmas!

We are always so late decorating but this year was a record. Good thing I've become more liturgical and now have an excuse for keeping it up roughly two weeks into January. With the attic project and having hardly any energy, I just didn't it happen until pretty far into December. I have to say that holiday decorating is literally one of your favorite things in the world and since we've tried to downplay the consumerist part of Christmas, I love that you takes so much joy from this part of the magic. You helped me a ton this year and I'm sure in a couple of years you'll be taking the whole thing over entirely!

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day bouncing back and forth between the grandparents' houses. Cookie asked you on Christmas Eve if you wanted to be Santy and pass out presents this morning and you said "Well, I'd rather be Rudolph and Graves be Santy. Usually I'm the animal and he's the person."

Papa and I are every kind of ridiculous.We knew you'd be so excited when we found some doll clothes in the attic that would fit your beloved stuffed owl Midnight so we wrapped them up as a Christmas present for her. You did love it!

Oh and Minnie had a special present for you recently. This beautiful little decorative bird was damaged at Batte and she brought it home and repaired it and gave it to you. At first, you decided we'd put it in the shadow box in y'alls room with their other breakable treasures (there are two LARGE shadow boxes in our house, one in the den and one in the master; I've always just ignored them but awhile back we decided to use the one in y'alls room for soccer trophies and such- basically important things that Graves might break). But then you decided that you needed your bird closer. I tried to find a safer spot but you insisted your bathroom drawer (which to be fair, is one of a few areas Graves is not supposed to bother) was the perfect spot.  The next morning, however, you had her back out and y'all were both carrying her around. You and I both gave Graves clear instructions on being careful but is also told you I would not punish him if the bird accidentally got broken. You gush to me all the time about what "a good papa" he is to Midnight the Owl and honestly we are going to HAVE to start teaching our wild boy some more restraint in just a few months anyway, so I went with it. Eventually she went in the shadow box, but it was good for y'all both- you to hold things a little more loosely and him to be a bit more careful than usual.

Another day, y'all were cleaning your room and I was redirecting and reminding Graves of a specific task for the third time. "Annie distracted me" he said and sighed. And then you go "Gosh momma, it must be SO hard to be Graves and get distracted all the time". And hard to be his momma. And yours too. Ha!

Homeschooling is still going really well. Math is still sort of difficult some days, though. Know how some kids hate word problems (I was one of them)? You're our little English lover and you always want me to turn the regular problems into word problems. Whatever works! It's been a bit better lately.

You're also starting to develop strategies yourself that help you get through math and recently I told you how proud I was of you for calming down (you were in tears) and figuring out ways to help yourself be successful. You get so overwhelmed. Which is so, so me. I gave you this worksheet awhile back and it WAS a lot of problems, but when we were practicing it your were doing them super fast. In fact, you had basically moved yourself ahead to the next day's lesson and was doing them in your head after just the first couple. I was super proud because the book had you like putting the first addend on the abacus and mentally doing the second and you were just doing the entire thing in your head. Anyway, then we got to the worksheet and you were like "THIS IS TOO LONG". We finally got through it but it took some discussing. 

I was telling a friend recently that usually being really gentle and hand holding works best with you. And I did okay, but I was super close to LOOSING IT that day. This is different with Graves, especially now that he's really at the point where we can reason with him and I feel like he understands a lot more that his actions have consequences. Although he loves and REALLY benefits from lots of praise and physical affection and that's a big part of parenting him, I'm also really trying to buckle down with him and be KIND but FIRM. Honestly, if I don't, I end up loosing my temper and just being downright mean to him. Which is unfair to him. With you, I certainly think you boundaries, but I think a more gentle approach works better for you and sometimes what works with Graves really just exacerbates the situation with you.] Back to math-- after discussing and discussing you finally did the first four in less than two minutes. The very next thing you did was divide the rest of the problems into (manageable) sets of fours. I love seeing you and Graves grow and mature, figuring out what works for each of them, and watching them figure things out themselves.

Your favorite subject is definitely English and you still LOVE reading and being read to. Recently, we read The Mouse on the Motorcycle and it was such a hit.  One night Papa read about thirty pages from it (that's an accomplishment for him as he has little patience for reading, though he loves the idea of it). After finishing Chapter 12, he suggested y'all finish the next day. You were not happy at all with the idea. So he decided to strike a deal that would benefit everyone and suggested that if you cleaned up your room that day rather than the next as planned, he I'd finish the book that night. You darted to her room and finished it in less than 2 minutes. Graves, who passively enjoys reading and really enjoys the opportunity to interrupt every 3 minutes, was happily playing in a pile of his mess stating that he'll just clean up tomorrow. 

Papa has also been doing some science with you guys and one day you arranged your pancakes like a super nova or something. It was really funny and clever!

One night we noticed y'alls light was still on. Papa walked down the hall to turn it off and you looked up from behind a book and said, "look at all these books I've read!" We counted 13 books, some of which we didn't know you could fully read (because of the level of the books). I asked you what you did when you came to a word you didn't know. You responded that you flipped to the glossary in the back and it sometimes has the pronunciation for the words as well as what they mean. We were really proud of you!

Your animal love is growing even stronger, I think. One night you and Papa had this conversation:
AP: Tonight I want to play
Papa: Ok, what do you want to play? (obviously some version of "animals")
AP: I want to play Florida Panther
Papa: Ok....
AP: One person is the scientist and the others are panthers. The scientist has to put a radio-collar on the panther so they can track it.

Papa noted that at this level on intricate play that's obviously mixed with reading too many detailed animal books, I don't think it's too much to say that we may be raising a scientist, park ranger, or someone with strong naturalist tendencies.

Oh, we've been super particular about what y'all watch and the vast majority has consisted of PBS shows and animal docu's. So I think it's sort of hysterical that y'all watched your first PG-13 movie recently. It was Jurassic World and we knew you guys wouldn't be scared and would love it. Y'all did!

I looked back over all the pictures we have of you from each month and it's amzing that it's been almost seven years we've had you in our lives. We love you SO much.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S.  Your little reversible puppy dog dress is a 4-5.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Weekly Happenings Post #355 (January 11-17)-- Book Buddies Begins and Friday Night Thoughts on Trusting God in the Seemingly Impossible

 Ummm, I noticed we went a whole two weeks between family pictures recently and was SO upset. Apparently it's happened twice (I didn't even realize it with this one until just now). UGH. It upsets me so much.

Peyton and Graves woke up a bit before me and I woke up around nine thirty on Monday. I got my bath and got dressed. I ate breakfast, got on the computer, and planned the day. I did some math with Annie and then Peyton took the kids swimming. I planned the school week and packed them lunches. They got home and we dropped the kids off with his parents and then left to meet a friend who is doing some curriculum counseling for us. It was a great discussion and really helpful. We picked up the kids and visited a bit and then came home. I ate something and the kids had a snack. Annie was supposed to finish math and then Peyton was going to take her to the library but she didn't want to do it and was really in a state over it. We ended up calling off the library and after she calmed down we all watched Inside Out and had popcorn (Graves had oatmeal; he can't STAND popcorn). He actually fell asleep right after the movie and Annie and I did finish math. I got some maternity clothes down from the attic and then read a bunch of blogs for a long while and wrote a post and got things together for the next morning.

I got up pretty early Tuesday morning and got ready really quickly and left for MDO while everyone else was still asleep. It was a really fun morning, as usual. On the way back, I stopped at Walgreens and picked up a prescription and then ran by Hobby Lobby. I came home and visited with Peyton and the kids and ate lunch. They had had a great morning and done some school, baked bread (more for a lesson than actual eating), and had baths.

bread baking aftermath!
I got on the computer for a bit and then straightened some and made up the bed. Peyton took the kids to the library and I took a quick nap. When they got back, I did math and critical thinking with Annie. Mallory came over and picked me up and we got Chik Fil A and drove around and visited for an hour. So good for the soul! When I got home, the kids were finished supper and watching the State of the Union with Peyton.

I brushed their teeth and read to them and we read a Bible story and prayed. I read some blogs, straightened around the house, and wrote a post. I did my Bible study and washed dishes and went to bed.

Peyton went with his dad down to his grandmother's house to work on the farm on Wednesday. I got up around nine thirty when Graves did and hurried to get ready for story time. I made the bed and then handed the kids clothes and they got dressed while I got my bath. I fixed them breakfast and they ate and I finished getting ready and ate something myself. We hopped in the car and drove to the library. We had a fun time and Graves got really into the craft (he doesn't always even want to do them). I made some copies I needed to make and then we went to the grocery store. The kids were so sweet and well-behaved.

We came home and they had a snack and I put up the groceries. They watched their shows and I ate lunch and got on the computer a bit. We did morning school after that (calendar, devotion, and read aloud). Then we did a fun little tape resist art project. We cleaned up and they had lunch and I did dishes.
Graves saw this picture and said "I want y'all to look like that again". I said "oh, do you think we were pretty cute?" and he said "cutest day ever". He's so funny and sweet!

 They had rest time and I read a few blogs and started a post. Minnie dropped by and we had a fun visit with her (and I hung up some clothes in the kids' room while we were in there) and then resumed rest time. Peyton and his dad got back and we visited a minute with him and then Peyton and I ate some BBQ he had picked up and the kids had another snack. I did English and critical thinking with Annie while Peyton and Graves watched some Star Wars and then the kids had supper. I did dishes and collected and started laundry. Peyton brushed and flossed them and I read to them and we read their Bible and prayed. I folded a ton of laundry and Peyton and I talked a lot and then I went to bed.

I got up a little late and hurried to get ready on Thursday. Peyton and I had our first Book Buddies day. My mom is going to start watching the kids in February but she works on Thursdays and couldn't switch until the next month. Anyway, our favorite non-family babysitter, Claire, was still home from college so she kept the kids. We hurried out and made it in plenty of time. I had a good time reading and Peyton filled out some paper work. We ran by the grocery and got home and Claire left. We had lunch and then I took a little nap. Peyton took the kids to the Children's Museum and I read a few blogs and then straightened the house, organized and put up some dress up clothes, and started washing all our sheets. They got home and I fixed the kids supper and then did math with Annie. We got them to bed and ate supper and talked some. I finished up two posts and read some more blogs and then did my Bible study. I put sheets on all the beds and went through two boxes of maternity stuff and one box to donate.

I woke up Friday with a TERRIBLE headache. Such a bummer because this week had been better. I took some medicine and laid back down after I got Graves some cereal. Annie got up and I got her something to eat, too. I ended up staying in bed through their first show and it was pretty late once I got up. I let them watch an extra show and got my bath, made the bed, ate something, and got on the computer and sent an email and a FB message. We did morning school (read aloud and their calendar and power cards and then a devotion and the craft that went with it). While they were working on their craft, I straightened and put the sheets on Graves's bed (he had been asleep in it the night before) and made up Annie's. I collected and started laundry and dusted in the bedrooms and study and cleaned a raisin out of the sole of my shoe with a toothpick. Haha.

I fixed the kids lunch and while they ate, I vacuumed under the table where they had been crafting, in our room, and in the study (their room was a mess so I waited on it). I put up dishes and washed a ton and then they had rest time. Well, Graves did and Annie did for a bit. Then she worked on math. Between her questions and him having a hard time with it, it was pretty frustrating. I started a post and read a few blogs and Peyton got home. Annie finished her math and Graves cleaned up his toys and then we actually sorted some more of them.

We got ready and headed to Mickey and Minnie's. We dropped a book off at the library and then went over there. Minnie was still at work when we got there. We had a nice time and left sort of early.
 I haven't said anything on here yet but Peyton had told the kids recently about the changes in his faith. That night at my parents' Graves kept insisting everyone pray before dinner. It was a great opportunity to talk to him about not pressuring people to do something they don't want to do/are uncomfortable with and I'm so glad I was in a frame of mind where I didn't just start sobbing. I also reminded him that I NEVER force him or Annie to pray when they don't want to. It went well overall and I am trusting God to use this all for good in all our lives, but navigating this is difficult and exhausting to say the least.

On a much lighter note, Annie told me that I should NEVER run with an ostrich. Because humans run so much slower than ostriches and then I'd be behind the ostrich and he would most likely kick me. It would only be okay if I was in a "motor vehicle".

 Peyton ran by Walgreens to get a refund on something because I hadn't had the right card earlier in the week and then we came home and got the kids to bed. I did dishes and got on the computer and finished the post and read some more blogs and then went to bed.

Saturday turned out a little differently than I had planned but it was a fun day! Mallory was sick and texted me the night before to see if Brennan could come over for a bit. Graves woke up around eight thirty and we snuggled and played and then I fixed him some cereal and got a bath and breakfast myself. Annie got up and the kids played and I dozed on the couch a bit and then Mallory dropped Brennan off.

They played some in the end and then I took the three kids outside. I read some while they played and pushed them on the swings. We came in and had lunch but Brennan wasn't really hungry. I had a snack and did dishes and the kids played a lot more. I folded some laundry, organized some books in the kids' closet, and did a few things around the house. Brennan had a little snack and Annie watched her show and Graves and Brennan played in their room and then Graves watched his show. Mallory picked him up and Graves and Annie had rest time. I worked on a post and took a nap myself and ate something. The kids were hungry and they ate supper while I straightened a bit. We cleaned up their room and then read and did our Bible story and played. They took a bath and I vacuumed. I got them to bed and talked to Peyton and then read a bunch of blogs and finished a post. I got everything ready for church and ate something and went to bed.

I woke up on Sunday and was SO sick. I mean, I threw up a lot. Somehow, Peyton helped me a ton and we were able to leave on time. I kept going back and forth about if we should even go and I'm so glad we did. We dropped him off and ate breakfast in the car. Graves needed to teetee so we ran into the store. Sunday school and church were wonderful.

We got home and I fixed the kids a snack and they watched their shows. I changed clothes and ate lunch and then fixed them lunch. They had rest time and I took a good nap. When rest time was over, we discussed their devotion from the week and talked about Winter and did activities to go with both. I started laundry. I cooked some veggies for supper and they ate while I did dishes. I changed over the laundry and then we got ready and picked up Peyton. They both fell asleep in the car. I had to run in and use the bathroom myself and then we came home. Annie woke up for a bit and talked to Peyton. I called Minnie and read a bunch of blogs. I planned about half the week of school and went to bed.

So, after this next one I'll just be a month behind =)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Babykins #3: Twenty Four Weeks

Pregnancy Highlights:

How far along: 24 weeks
Size of Baby: (via BabyCenter) Babykins #3 is almost a foot long and just over a pound (think of an ear of corn)! Clearly, she's pretty skinny, but she'll start packing on the chub soon. Her brain is growing quickly and her taste buds are starting to develop more.
Total Weight Gain/Loss: seventeen pounds. 
Maternity Clothes: Mostly just dresses, but that was the last wear for those specific tights in the picture. I had a hard time keeping them up.
Gender: It's a girl!
Movement: Peyton's been able to feel her move a good bit lately and then this week the kids were able to feel her a couple of times!
Sleep: Ugh. This is somewhat of a sore subject, I'm afraid. It hasn't been great for awhile, but this past week has been really ROUGH. I think it's several things- lots of sinus junk that's making it hard to breathe, plus I'm just starting to not be able to really get comfortable.
Cravings: I still really want some glazed (and powdered) doughnuts. 

Symptoms: heartburn, headaches, throwing up, ect. (although the throwing up has gotten better, but I already said that once and had to eat my words). The heartburn has gotten increasingly worse, though, and I've started having some BAD back pain. Like really sharp pain. I had some of that with Graves but I'm pretty sure it was much later. That's one things that's really been making it hard to sleep. That said, I haven't had as much dizziness and my headaches have been much more manageable and like I said, no barfing this week so I'm very grateful.
What I Miss: Okay, so last night we went to get sushi with a friend and Peyton realized that my favorite roll had an asterisk meaning "raw or undercooked". I had NO IDEA and always say "oh, I don't eat the raw stuff". I still haven't figured out what is in it (a crunchy roll) that's raw. I mean, it has shrimp but I thought it was cooked. Anyway, that's on the not supposed to eat list and I was so upset. I was really craving it and I'm so disappointed to have to wait until June to have it again!  
Best Moment This Week: the kids getting to feel their sister move! 
What I Am Looking Forward To: Oh okay, another weird thing that happened this week. I started cleaning up a kitty mess without even thinking about it. I'm pretty sure it was throw up, not poop, but I couldn't be sure. Poop is off limits for pregnant women and I got so scared when I thought about the baby getting a life threatening infection. Anyway, I Googled and read some and it helped me be less worried- usually the opposite of what Googling does. Basically, it takes like twenty four hours for the poop to become infectious, if you've been around cats your whole life you're not very high risk, and honestly handling raw meat is really more dangerous. But the point is-- I'm really looking forward to not having to think about this crap (pun intended)
Comparison to Graves: