Thursday, February 25, 2016

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.


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