Thursday, March 31, 2016

What I'm Into: March


On the Nightstand:
I read nearly nothing this month. Here and there in my two favorite devotionals, but that's IT. Pitiful. I'm going to try to pick it back up in April.
Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 
The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)- Ethan Richardson, Sean Norris

On Their Nightstand: 

Magic Tree House Series- Mary Pope Osborne
Annie loves these books! The main characters are named Annie and Jack (Jackson is Graves's middle name and he was originally going to be "Jack"). The first one was her first chapter book to read all by herself and she literally started it during rest time and finished it that day! A friend recently said that Annie is a "go big or go home kind of girl"; that when she loves something, she LOVES it. That is such an accurate assessment. Several days later at naptime she got mad at Graves so she spent the whole time alone and I wouldn't let her use the iPad because she had already used up all her screen time. So she just decided to read THREE Magic Treehouse books. I really, really hope she doesn't burn herself out on reading. A few weeks ago, she got upset because she read that the next one didn't come out until the Fall. I showed her the copyright date (1995) and explained a bit about what it was and she felt better!

Monsters Lover Underpants- Claire Freedman 
The other day while I was gone, Peyton read the kids this book and then for a craft they made construction paper underwear (that they uses as bookmarks). Graves LOVED it. They are both at such fun stages!

On the Shelf:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms How We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead- Brene Brown

Um, still didn't finish so goaling it for this month!

At the Theater (or from the couch):
Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope
So, I told Peyton I'd watch these things at some point with him and he's showing them to Graves, so now seemed as good a time as any. It's not really my thing, guys. I could have almost gaurenteed as much, but I knew Peyton really wanted me to give it a shot. However, there is one aspect that I sort of enjoyed. I'm sure anal about movies- I rewind, turn on the subtitles, and pause them so Peyton can clarify things. But because I was so not invested in it, I was a lot more relaxed about it.

On the Small Screen:
Show Me a Hero
By the end of the series Peyton was not all that impressed. I loved it, though- the plotline was interesting and I felt like it was artistically well done, but mostly what drew me in were the characters.

The West Wing
I'm enjoying watching it again. I was rereading some OLD posts and apparently I've been working on this series since like 2012 or something. I need to go see how far back it really was. It's nuts that that's the case because I LOVE it, I'm just not great at prioritizing TV shows, especially if Peyton isn't watching with me.

In My Ears:
I broke out Wrecking Ball recently and the kids have a favorite song now- Death to My Hometown- which also happens to be one of my favorites. Graves literally wants to just listen to it on repeat over and over. 

Around the House:
We finally finished ups the sunroom! We got everything hung and I put fresh sheets on the swing!
 I love the hymn calendar and Annie's little vintage chalkboard desk in the corner!

In the Kitchen:
I've actually been cooking more than ever. Just simple meals- parmesan tilapia, tacos, that sort of thing. But I'm proud of myself!

In My Closet: 

More of the same!
 Goodness. I love color so I have no idea why I'm wearing so much black and gray- except that well, that's what fits. I'll be ready to enjoy other options soon!

In Their Closets:
Easter outfits!
Gosh- Bud's first time to wear a jacket. I can hardly handle it. And the bird dress wouldn't have been my first pick- I really prefer something a bit more classic- but I loved the color and it made Annie SO happy. So it was worth it a hundred times over. 
 Also, I still love this little raincoat so much. She's worn it for a good couple of years and I think it's adorable.
Love how she also dressed Midnight for the rain and purposefully wore a dress with umbrellas on it! 

I totally let him wear this to Sunday school and church one week and it made him so happy. And honestly, I think it made the tons of older people we church with happy, too (sidenote: there is nothing like sharing a pew with a kind, gracious older person who has raised his or her own four year old boy). At the end of the service, Stan (the preacher) was saying the benediction right beside us (we sit on the very back row for obvious reasons) and Graves walked right to the edge and held up a stuffed manatee the way Rafiki holds up Simba in The Lion King. Annie asked me that day why everybody says "you've got you're hands full!!" Haha. Also, those things on his wrist? He calls them his ear tuffs. I think he's gotten pretty immersed in his role as Midnight's papa.

I mentioned this but Graves recently outgrew his church shoes. I found some precious white Oxford shoes that I had bought ahead but they're hard and slippery and understandably he's sort of over that. I asked him what he'd like for his church shoes (I'm trying to do that more!) and he said red Converse. Surprisingly, they go with most of his stuff and the atmosphere at Northside is pretty casual. So now he has regular tennis shoes (that he calls his "play shoes", which makes me smile), still a little big Star Wars shoes, too small Crocs, and Converse for church (and wherever else; they wash so easily). Annie still has about nine million pairs, but this feels like another good step. I really like the concept of a "uniform" and when we phased out the jon jons this season we sort of accidentally stumbled into a church uniform for Graves- he had about three button up shirts and several pairs of pants (either thin corduroy or flannel gingham) that I could mix and match. The converse and suspenders made the outfit, though. And he had a couple of sweaters/sweater vests to wear in lieu of the suspenders when it was cold. I really loved how well it worked!
 In My Mailbox:
Nothing too exciting except a check for subbing =)

In My Cart:

I finished up the kids' Summer wardrobes! 
I've been really trying to give the kids (especially Annie) more wardrobe autonomy. This was decided after MANY tears over Graves having so many animal outfits and having only a few herself. The injustice of gendered clothing! Anyway, she finally calmly asked me one day (she's getting so self-aware and really good at articulating her desires) if whenever it was time to get her new clothes could I look for animal things. It was much easier to just shop online and take her to Target with me and I'm not even doing consignment sales this season. Y'all, who even am I?!

Around the Town (and At Home):

We had a really low key month and I was very, very grateful. The kids have both been playing soccer and we squeezed in some other fun stuff, too!

Peyton and I went to see Governor Kasich speak! Since the debates have basically turned into episodes of the Jerry Springer Show (I liked you, Marco, until you started making those locker room "hand" jokes I made to my guy best friends in like eighth grade), this was such a breath of fresh air. The incredible icing on the cake was hearing a Republican presidential candidate speaking of us being "centers of healing" and "centers of justice". I'm exhausted and hormonal and easily give to emotion in general, but it made me teary.

It seems like Annie gets so stressed and anxious on Peyton's days off and like she can never have enough of his time and attention (which is ironic because she has WAY more time with her father than most six year olds). She just gets really worried we won't fit in the things she wants to do- and they're mostly small, easily doable requests. But a lot of times we do get to the end of the day and have neglected to fit them in. Last week, she even protested going to the Children's Museum (which she loves!) because she was scared she wouldn't have enough time to play pretend at home with Peyton. So, we've been trying something that helps manage my days. It's worked really well- I think she loves a list as much as her momma! 

 We had so much fun with the last one, we had another Beanie Boo party this month! This time the birthday party was for Sugar Pie (the unicorn Beanie Boo). The kids got up that morning and immediately started crafting. Then they packed the trunk of the Mazda full- paper crafts in gift bags, other stuffed animals, and already blown up balloons and we celebrated at my parents' house. Annie was so excited to include more guests this time. Oh, and Sugar Pie is the second to youngest Beanie Boo and Annie and Graves are working hard on helping her learn to walk and say new words. Annie said Midnight would have to be in charge of her flying lessons, though, since we humans have no idea how to so that. We don't have any parties in April which I'm kind of grateful for because we need to plan hers and Graves's. And in May, "Foxy" (their youngest) and Peyton have birthdays within a day of each other so Annie is planning a joint party. She's done a great job already of thinking up commonalities between Peyton and a baby Fox (apparently, they do have a lot of similar interests).

And we've been playing outside a lot more! My chair was in a position where I became genuinely hot after about five minutes. It was the happiest I've been in some time. 

Gosh, I love this crew so very much!  It was so much fun to have the Howies over for dinner. The kids and the grown ups had a blast! 
We made a couple of day trips to Granny's! 
And unfortunately, I made a midnight trip to the hospital for some bad abdominal pain. I was a little dilated and our girl is super low. But they didn't pick up any major contractions on the monitor and the tests came back with results that showed it wasn't preterm labor so I got an IV of fluids and got to come on home.

At the Schoolhouse:
School was great this month! Even though we had some extra business with soccer and I had a rough week one week (with the abdominal pain), we've been doing a lot of fun projects and busting through some math and English lessons!

On the Blog:
 I felt like I got in a lot of catch up posts (Weekly Happenings and Weekly Smorgasbord) but I also gave myself permission to just write some. I want to- NEED to- do that more.
Sidewalk Supper- This was my first post in a long time where I just sat and wrote about an experience. It was nice to do that again.
Just Out Back- Our yard has grown to mean more to me than I ever thought it would and it was time to write about it.
Darkest of Nights: On Fear and Peace and Welcoming People in Their Pain, Sin, and Disbelief- Whew, this post was hard to write but it means so much to me. I'm so grateful for the people in our lives who have loved us well and pointed us to the Cross.

On My Heart:
- I've actually been thinking alot about writing lately and about this space. What I want- and as I said, need- from it. Now that I'm getting closer to being caught up with the posts that are less creative, I really want to try to invest some time in ones that are.
- April may be kind of a whirlwind. Or it may not. Who knows? I'm determined to enjoy it even if I'm not very comfortable.
- I have a pretty big decision coming up in the next couple of weeks and I've really been thinking a lot over what is best for myself individually and for our family. 

In My Prayers:
- I'm praying for my own health and sweet Sister Baby's. Not to be dramatic, but this pregnancy hasn't been the easiest. I'm so ready to meet her but she needs to stay put awhile longer!
- As I mentioned, I'm praying about some big decisions for our little family.
- I'm praying for our trip to New York- that Peyton and I will be refreshed and that it will be a time of growth and relaxation and that the kids will do okay here with their grandparents.
On the Calendar: 

April is going to be so fun with both kids' birthdays and mine and Peyton's trip to NYC. I can't wait!

What I'm Into

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What I Learned in March


 As usual, I'm linking up with Emily to share what I learned this month!

1. Small things can feel like really big things.
I mentioned that for my goal pertaining to "faith" this month I just wanted to get my hymn calendar hung. It seems like a sort of silly thing, but I knew it would be really meaningful to me. And I was right, I've loved catching a glimpse of such good words- and such pretty art- when I walk through the door or relax on the swing.

2. When someone is struggling, it might be helpful to ask "Do you just need me to listen or would you like me to troubleshoot this with you?" I recently read a post that was talking about raising teenagers and advising parents not to dish out unsolicited advice, which of course is sort of a good general rule in life. BUT. I always hate sitting there not saying anything worthwhile (even though I know that, at times, that's just the right thing to do), especially because sometimes people do want help. At least I know with myself, it can really vary- sometimes I want help problem solving and sometimes I just really need some empathy and a listening ear. A friend of mine was struggling with some stuff recently and it occurred to me for the first time ever to start with this question. I have no idea if this was particularly helpful to this person or not but I told Peyton about it because I thought it could really benefit me in certain situations (for what it's worth, he said he'd feel really awkward actually asking someone that and he'd rather just try to pick up on cues; also for what it's worth, he's way better at picking up on cues than I am). To be clear, I say it *might* be helpful because I can only speak from my own experience but I know that discovering this was really a neat insight.  

3. I'm really drawn to the concept of a "uniform" for the kids (and for myself, but it's hard to purge my stuff and they need new stuff as they grow so it's an easier adjustment to just buy less rather than get rid of stuff). 
 For example, Graves recently outgrew his church shoes. I found some precious white Oxford shoes that I had bought ahead but they're hard and slippery and understandably he's sort of over that. I asked him what he'd like for his church shoes (I'm trying to do that more!) and he said red Converse. Surprisingly, they go with most of his stuff and the atmosphere at Northside is pretty casual. So now he has regular tennis shoes (that he calls his "play shoes", which makes me smile), still a little big Star Wars shoes, too small Crocs, and Converse for church (and wherever else; they wash so easily). Annie still has about nine million pairs, but this feels like another good step. As I said, I really like the idea of a "uniform" and when we phased out the jon jons this season we sort of accidentally stumbled into a church uniform for Graves- he had about three button up shirts and several pairs of pants (either thin corduroy or flannel gingham) that I could mix and match. The converse and suspenders made the outfit, though. And he had a couple of sweaters/sweater vests to wear in lieu of the suspenders when it was cold. I really loved how well it worked and the simplicity of it!

4. If I put a tiny bit of alcohol in my ears the sensation helps with the sinus pressure I have. This is so weird and out there but for some reason when Peyton was putting it in the kids' ears after swimming, I wanted to just try it. I was feeling really congested and often I feel that in my ears, too. I guess it's sort of like how a Neti Pot clears out your nose. It's just...refreshing?

5. It's amazing when your children start to feel like teammates. 
I've mentioned before that I'm a night owl and Annie is my little sidekick and we have such a wonderful time together after the boys go to bed. Last night I was doing dishes and making egg salad at 11:30 (per usual) and Annie told me she wanted to get together books for our day trip to Granny's the next day (she's been helping me get their stuff together for church on Saturday nights). She did that and then collected some stuffed animals to take. Them she said "okay, all that's left is our clothes". And the most precious part was when she picked out outfits for her and Graves and hung them on the bookcase. It's such much fun when they become real helpers and contributors and it's happening at just the perfect time with her.

6. The more tasks I can accomplish sitting down the better! Um, duh. But at seven months pregnant this has been a little life changing. It started when I realized it would be a nice gift to myself if I would just take um, three extra seconds to sit down when I put on my shoes. I may never bend over to do it again! And the last two times I've vacuumed I've sat down on the couch while I recoiled the cord. There are tons of other examples, but I'm trying to do little tiny things that help make my days more sustainable.

7. Many (most? all?) of the stories from Sally Lloyd-Jones's The Jesus Storybook Bible have been made into YouTube videos.

It's basically the art from the book with a bit of motion- nothing fancy- but my kids have loved them. It's one of my favorite books ever- not even just in regards to children's literature, but period- so I loved making this discovery!

8. Too often I make joy an adversary. I read this post this month and I felt like the writer nailed it and I related to it so much. I feel like one thing I am pretty successful with is helping with the hurts, hardships, and disappointment. In fact, Peyton I were discussing this recently-I feel like one of the great accomplishments of my LIFE, let alone my mothering, has been teaching Annie to articulate her needs and desires and reach within herself to find solutions. But simply being present in their joy? THAT is so much harder for me. Too often, I'm afraid that I too have made joy an adversary- for me too it's an "emotion that is hard to inhabit comfortably"- and I too want to work to change that.

 It's always such a fun exercise to reflect on how I'm learning and growing and what is really working for us right now.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Letter to (Four Year and Ten Month Old) Graves

 Dear Graves,

As I was writing this it occured to me (as it often does) that you are truly one of the kindest, funniest people I know. Sometimes I get so impatient with you, but I really could not love you more. You are the best little fella.

We had a fun second half of January and beginning of February.  You've been playing blastball (like soccer for really little kids) but it's not really your thing. Papa and you and Annie were out practicing awhile back and you just started climbing a tree and told them "I'll get the ball if it comes to the tree." We also watched Inside Out, and while I think Annie connected more with it, you LOVED the characters and took away more from it than I realized you would.

 The big thing, though, was finding out that our new baby is a girl. To be honest, that day wasn't an easy one for any of us really, but most of all for you. You had a really hard time and got so sad when you found out- you just buried your head in Papa's chest. I think partly because you truly wanted a brother badly but I think partly because you just very much expected this to be a boy. I KNEW you will love "your baby" regardless because your love for big sister is one of the deepest loves I've witnessed in my life. That said, I got teary in the car myself, just so sad over your disappointment. I'd gone back and forth over which I wanted but I hadI really been hoping for another girl for some reason (probably mostly shallow ones) but really thought it was a boy. I was excited but it was a little bittersweet with your reaction. As an aside: I am SO grateful we had the wisdom not to do this to you in the delivery room.

Later I figured out that this runs deeper than just wanting a boy because you're a boy. After some discussions, I realized that girls sort of intimidate you. You're wild but you're also VERY sensitive and most of the little boys we know have less dominant personalities than the little girls we know and it's clear you're less threatened. Annie reminded you that "your baby" will be very young and you responded "well, she WILL grow up". Navigating your personality is interesting because it's very different from mine, Papa's, and Annie's. It's also made me aware that I need to focus on how to validate your feelings while helping you not to feel like a victim or like other children (or adults!) with a different personality are being "mean" to you.  

For example, like I said you're a spitfire but you're so sensitive, too. At the playground one day you ran over and buried your head in my jacket because some big kids laughed at you for not playing on the playground equipment "the right way". Um, there's no right way. You do you, Bud.

I said in this letter's opening that you are are the best little fella and I'm truthfully a little glad that I can, at least for now, keep on saying that. I'm sure I would have loved another son, but I love you filling that special role of being our only little boy. 

That said, I would kind of love it if she has "chicken hair" like you did that sticks straight up. I ran across an old picture and I got a little lump in my throat.

Another big thing that I haven't mentioned yet is that Papa finally told you and Annie about the changes in his faith (he's unsure if God is real and doesn't identify as a Christian anymore). The other night at Mickey and Minnie's you kept insisting everyone pray before dinner. It was a great opportunity to talk to you 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 you that I NEVER force you or Annie to pray when y'all 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.

You are so sweet and funny, as I said. Awhile back you saw this picture of me and Papa from the Summer. It was from a date we had gone on and I had really short hair and it was up in some kind of wrap. You said "I want y'all to look like that again". I said "oh, do you think we were pretty cute?" and you said "cutest day ever".

Annie has such an acute sense of smell and most things that are different really bother her (like the brisket I was cooking all day a few weeks ago, which is pretty much the best smell in the world). You have a pretty good sense of smell too but most things don't bother you much (sort of the case with y'alls personalities in general). Anyway, you developed a MAJOR aversion to the smell of Cheerios, of all things. Annie loves them and recently I've started letting you sit on the floor all the way across the kitchen because it upsets you so much (you've almost cried about it). Then the other day on the way to church y'all were sharing a water bottle and you took a sip and swallowed and then made this funny sound you make when you taste something awful. Like sort of spitting/gagging. And you go "Ahhh! That tasted like a CHEERIO smells!".

Witnessing yyour relationship with Annie continues to be one of the great joys of my life. You were all over the place during y'alls joint "morning school" time and Annie finally took it into her own hands and tried to distract you by telling you "there's some really amazing carrion over there". She's also started calling you an Irratator, which was apparently a type of meat eating dinosaur.

She is certainly not baby obsessed likeyou but she is such a caregiver in a different way. She had a bit of a sore throat one night and she said "maybe someone could boil me some tea while I read to Graves and try to get him to sleep". Then she told me about a conversation she had with you in which she reminded you that y'all "have all of naptime" to play in your room and suggested she just read to you at night.  

One day I had been really upset with you and I asked you  if you knew how much I loved you and you said "eighty five??" I told you more than that, more than "a hundred thousand" (your favorite number and an expression you love to use about anything that merits its greatness in your mind). 

And I do. I love you more than any number in the world. I'm so thankful for you and the ways you teach me and make me laugh.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your monster shirt is a 4T and your shark shorts are a 3T. You are also- clearly- obsessed with light sabers.

Friday, March 25, 2016

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

Dear Ann Peyton,

This letter seems shorter than most. I really have no idea why. It mostly encompasses January, which wasn't an especially busy month if I remember correctly. I do have some fun anecdotes to share with you, though.

Besides finding out that our new baby is a girl, it was mostly an uneventful, ordinary month. I actually really like those, though, and you seem to thrive during more laid back times with a consistent routine yourself.

The weather was weird (it was such a mild Winter even for Mississippi) but one night when it was still pretty cold, Papa decided it would be a brilliant idea to bring yours and Graves's jams to the Y since y'all went to the late Family Swim. Then he decided it'd be even more brilliant to just get y'all to wear your pjs. Of course you chose the Tail End flap jacks and Hello Kitty knock off crocs. You looked hysterical and I definitely took a picture. 

I also took a picture of you turning the page of a book because your hands were sticky because you were mid banana pancake DeeDee made for you but you just couldn't bear to stop reading.

We watched Inside Out and it was such a gift for all of us. We had some BIG emotional outburst over having to finish math before going to the park/library and we decided to let you cool down (and pretend to be getting dressed to walk there alone) while the rest of us watched the movie. As you undressed in a bit of defeat and asked us to help you pull off one of the 6 pair of pant layers you'd suited up in, you were immediately captivated by the movie. You sat on the couch beside Papa and watched the entire thing. It was probably our first real "family movie" experience where we laughed, cried, and discussed the movie in depth. Papa mentioned that Inside Out does a masterful job of providing parents (and kids) with a tool to discuss emotions. You often move away from showing sadness and are pretty good at being angry and the movie gave us some jumping off conversations to that subject. You finished up your math thanks (in part) to that great tool Pixar gifted to parents like ourselves.

Recently, you said to me "The other day at naptime I spent most of my time on history. Which, I don't usually do history in the Picturepedia book. I usually do nature." You gave a little chuckle and said "No wonder, right?" Yes, Annie, no wonder. Also, I DO wonder how many hours you've clocked in that thing. It is an amazing volume.

You also told me recently 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".

As I mentioned, we found out that the baby is a girl. Graves was so upset and I got upset myself and the appointment had been so, so very long. As excited as I was in many ways, I was so tired. Between your exhausted, out preformed yourself  with good manners at the doctor's meltdowns over television shows and mittens you realized that you didn't even really want baby kittens because "the momma cat might get sick" (you had told yous previously that you were only having kittens, no human babies when you grow up) and subsequently began talking about the parrot you will have as an adult women in lieu of children while going back and forth between telling us that maybe we can adopt a boy sometime down the road because you "just want us to be happy" and reminding us that our sadness is perfectly okay. You are so kind and so wise. 

It's so funny because a few days later I ran across an old picture where you had been telling me you wanted to trade Graves for a "sister baby". It was years and years ago, but I'm glad you're finally getting one of those. I sure loved mine!

School is still going really well and recently, I had the task of explaining to you (my sometimes stubborn thinker) why poetry is classified as nonfiction (because "sometimes, Momma, poetry can be a pretend story, you know?"). Aside: we had exactly ONE fiction book in our collection for the "pretend to be a librarian and sort these books". You such a little researcher! 

Oh, and Graves was all over the place during y'alls joint "morning school" time one morning and you  finally took it into your own hands and tried to distract him by telling him "there's some really amazing carrion over there". You also started calling him an Irratator, which was apparently a type of meat eating dinosaur.

You are certainly not baby obsessed like Graves but you are such a caregiver in a different way. You had a bit of a sore throat one night and you said "maybe someone could boil me some tea while I read to Graves and try to get him to sleep". Then you told me about a conversation you had with him in which you reminded him that y'all "have all of naptime" to play in your room and suggested that you just read to him at night.

You also told me that "Graves and Papa just, like, go to sleep much earlier than we do". I've started letting you hang out with me after the rest of the house goes to bed. You in the study and read mostly to yourself, telling me the most interesting things. You follow me to the kitchen and laundry room. You get yourself a drink and I hear every light switch click off on her way back. You are so, so old now.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. The kitty dress you're wearing is either a 4T or a 5T. I got it ages ago from one of my favorite vendors at the Brooklyn Flea. It's fair trade and made in Brooklyn and you have loved this dress to pieces. Papa loved it so much, too. It became one of my favorites, partly, I think because it's so "you". Before we moved back last Spring, I had gotten you some black and white leggings (now that I think about it, I actually got them so you could wear it in some family pictures we had made that Fall- over a year ago). It's pretty much become a tunic and you can only wear it with leggings and it still be appropriate. We've gotten two solid years of wear out of it, though! Also, you'll notice that we keep adding more and more Beanie Boos to these shots (in this one you have Midnight the owl, Freeze the penguin, Sugar Pie the unicorn, and Slick the Fox).