Sunday, April 24, 2016

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

 Dear Ann Peyton,

You've actually already turned seven and Papa always writes your yearly letters on your birthday so hopefully he'll do that in the next month or so. In the meantime, I'm still a bit behind, so here's a catch up of some of the last bits of your year as a six year old!

I went on a little girls' trip with some of my friends to Nashville and you and Graves had a fun time without me. Papa worked the weekend so DeeDee and Grandpa Randy kept y'all and then on Friday and Monday, you had so much fun with him!

Another fun thing was that you planned this great party for your stuffed owl, Midnight, for her birthday.  True story. A friend asked me what our plans for the kids for Valentine's were. And I told her that, to be honest, we were in super planning mode for Midnight's birthday on the 15th. You decided we were legit having her a party. So most of my creative efforts went toward that.  The narrative that is this owl's life is incredible. So much of your mental energy is used on her. I think it was literally more important than y our own birthday to you.

On the day of the party you kept hiding Midnight's presents/cards from her in the laundry room. I'm so, so not one to bake. I burned myself and spilled the batter and that one side of the pan apparently wasn't greased well enough. BUT, you and Graves and I made Midnight a cake from scratch, complete with the make your own buttermilk using vinegar trick. The phrase Mickey used for you when you were still a toddler- "one with a strong determination of purpose"- continues to be one of the best descriptors of you to date- you iced those cupcakes with such precision. We also had little sliders with random toppings (Papa's idea!) for the party. You had pepperoni on hers and Graves had peanut butter!

Your card for Midnight was so beautiful. It said: "Happy Birthday, my little owl. Note: I love you. You are my little owl and you are so special." You are my little girl and YOU are so special. Grateful for every day with you, Annie!

One thing I discovered about myself from the party is that while I'm so not a crafty mom, I can be a creative mom. It doesn't need to look perfect to be fun and we had such fun doing this!

Oh and Midnight now has a "brother", Freeze. When you go your  Christmas money from DeeDee you told me IMMEDIATELY you wanted to buy another Walgreens stuffie with it. Originally, you had planned to buy one of the smaller animals because "they go in purses better" but then you realized Freeze and Midnight could share Midnight's clothes (some random doll clothes we founds in the attic and gifted to you for Christmas) and it was decision made. Of course, just like every member of this family besides me they still like to romp around in as little as possible.

The weather was so nice for February. After a few days of somewhat nasty attitudes, you and Graves were particularly delightful once the sun came back out and I can't help but attribute it to the abundance of sunshine and fresh air y'all got. It certainly improves my own disposition.

There were some tornado warnings and when there is one you always sleep in the tub. Ha! 

We did have a bit of sickness around here. You and Graves and I all had bad coughs and I threw up everything I'd eaten one day. You told me that you had figured out why you were coughing so hard that morning-- "there was so much dried up snot in front of my nose it was making it difficult to breathe". Well, of course.

You are so sweet and considerate. One morning Papa went to the grocery store, dropped off groceries, and ran to the library. He woke me up and asked me to put up the groceries but I stayed in bed a bit longer. I heard you say "Oh! We already had cream of chicken soup". I got up to go see how you figured that out and what you were up to. You were standing on the counter and said "I was putting these groceries up so you could sleep a little bit longer".

You are such a big reader and recently you got your own GoodReads account! You've been recording and rating the books you've read for awhile now. You even review your favorites- you dictate to me or Papa. Teaching you to type is on the agenda soon! Then you discovered the "currently reading" shelf on your own and started recording what page you're on. It is actually a nice feature because it occurred to me recently (as you were tearing up scraps of paper to use) that there aren't enough bookmarks in the world for your habit.

This was your first review, by the way: "I liked it and they started to be my favorite animal, especially since Uncle Michel has pet sugar glider. They're a little like flying squirrels. It was a little hard to read, but I kinda figured it out.  It teaches me a little about sugar gliders but not a lot, lot, lot!"

One of my favorite things lately was when you said "Now that's what I call so beautiful." in reference to a Walter Anderson turtle in the coffee table book we checked out from the library.

Also, our friend Darlene keeps finding these cool bird videos online for you and you absolutely love them. You're such an animal girl!

You also told me that "You know a lot of animals seem creepy because they're misunderstanded. Like bats. People think they're so scary and they're really not. They're really just shy little animals. People just don't understand." {heavy sigh} Also, as an aside, you have a favorite author now-- Gail Gibbons.

Lit tees went on sale and you picked The Origin of Species because of all the animals. Hahaha. Also, for what it's worth, I cannot look at you in it without thinking how grateful I am for the multiple science teachers I had at Prep who explained to me that being a faithful Christian and believing the data supporting evolution did not have to be mutually exclusive. I'm excited about helping you understand that as well.

I read Annie three chapters the other day and told her she'd have to wait until after rest time (which they now call break time "because nobody rests anymore but you, momma") for the final two. She was slightly indignant and subsequently finished the book herself and summarized it quite adequately (interjecting a bit of her own thoughts on it as well). [She's definitely not truly on a fourth grade reading level in every sense, but she did knock this one out of the park and I'm so very proud of her.] Book reports are next!

Speaking of science-ish stuff. You and Papa and Graves had this priceless conversation awhile back:
(speaking about Mr Popper's Penguins)
Papa: Why do you think he was sent a second penguin (it said in the book because the first was likely lonely)
AP: Probably to mate, they usually do that
Graves: Yeah, to mate.

I've been thinking recently yours and Graves's imaginations, especially now that Graves's has really started to develop. One factor among many, I think (and I think this is the case with your reading too) is just the sheer amount of time y'all have that you are allowed to choose how to use. Recently, I've noticed that in busier seasons you really struggle to "fit it all in" and often what you choose for your few hours you have 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. Graves found some empty Coke boxes and decided to be Santy Clause. He filled them with toys, set up a sleigh, found you some reindeer antlers, and then dressed himself in a red gingham dress of hers and put on a white leotard for his beard.

It seems like you get so stressed and anxious on Papa's days off and like you can never have enough of his time and attention (which is ironic because you have WAY more time with her father than most six and seven year olds). You just really worried we won't fit in the things you want 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, you even protested going to the Children's Museum (which you love!) because you were scared you wouldn't have enough time to play pretend at home with Papa. So, we're trying something that helps manage my days-- lists. We make a list of about five things you'd like to fit in and we try to accomplish them all. Often they're easy things, as I said- buying grapes from the store or playing action figures and often they are activities that are GREAT for you and your education (science projects or cooking activities) and it's nice to have the extra motivation the list gives us!

I'm not sure I've come out and clearly mentioned it in your letters but Papa finally told y'all about the changes in his faith (he's been dealing with a lot of uncertainty and at this point no longer identifies as a Christian). One night at Mickey and Minnie's 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 y'all to pray when you 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 happier note, I am so excited to see you as a big sister again! One night we were discussing where the baby would sleep and you suggested attaching a cradle to Graves's bed. "They would love that", you said. He's definitely more of a baby person and you and Papa like older children but in the past couple of months you've started hugging my tummy at least once a day and saying "love that baby". It makes me so, so happy.

Annie, you are such an intense and complex person but that's part of what makes you so amazing. I wouldn't change a thing about you! 

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. I got you a BIRD DRESS from Target for your Easter dress. It's a 6/6X.  I would have probably preferred something a little more traditional but I knew you'd love it. And you did. You had the biggest grin on your face when you put it on and I could tell you felt absolutly beautiful. Which is NOT the most important thing, but it's fun every once in awhile. You're also holding up your most recent favorite Magic Treehouse book and have Midnight right there with you. All your very favorite things!

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