Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Letter to (Five Year and One Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves,

As I wrote Annie in her letter, I'm catching up on a couple of months since Papa wrote y'alls birthday letter last month. We've been having lots of fun lately!

You wrapped up the season with blastball and I really think you enjoyed those last few games the most. You LOVED having Papa as your coach.

On the Sister Baby front, someone told me awhile back that she felt like her family was complete at present because she didn't think she could be as good a mom if she had one more. I've thought about that a lot and especially lately I've been thinking that even if I could handle parenting a large number of children, there's no way I could do this to you and Annie (and now our New Girl) again. I know it's only nine months, but it feels like nearly a year of y'alls lives that I haven't been physically or emotionally present at all in the way I want to be. I'm glad I did it one more time but I also have such a strong peace as the door closes on biological children. And I've been SO grateful for this because Papa was very emphatic that round three was the final round.
In April, Papa and I took a week long trip to New York. You and Annie had an AMAZING time here. DeeDee and Grandpa Randy and Mickey and Minnie split up the week and y'all had the best adventures.  

DeeDee and Grandpa Randy took you guys to story time at the library with your cousins, the science museum, the Ag Museum, and Dairy Queen. Plus y'all did art projects and enjoyed your uncle's sugar gliders. Mickey and Minnie took y'all to Pump it Up, made chicken pot pie per request, spent three hours at the McDonald's play place, and visited the playground with ducks.

While y'all were at Mickey and Minnie's you spent a ton of time doing one of your favorite things- fishing! (I'm so sure Mickey was pleased that his "fishing buddy" (that's why he's always called you "Bud") dream he's had since he found out he was getting a boy are coming to fruition!). This is why we could never leave Mississippi for good!

Oh, y'all found a dead armadillo in the water floating face up, bloated, and with a very obvious enlarged "private area" that you kept calling attention to. A good friend was talking about how he could write a book of New York stories, but I think I could write a damn good one full of Mississippi stories. I'm so, so grateful I've gotten to live both.

Apparently DeeDee let you wear pajama shorts around town. Papa would do (and has done) exactly that. I'm glad for them- and you- who have taught me how to relax a bit.

The trip was so fun and it felt like a long break but I was so glad to see y'all after a whole week!

[As an aside, I was still so amazed by the kindness of New Yorkers. There were only a couple of times we got on a train without someone promptly hopping up to offer me their seat. While I was surprised not to be as sentimental as I thought I'd be, watching these folks take care of Sister Baby the same way they showed such gentle kindness to you and Annie for a full year and a half did make me tear up.]

After we got home, Papa got sick with the flu. You and Annie were so sweet and helpful while he was down with the flu.

I was a little sad the day we left for the trip because it was your birthday. But we made up for it! The last two years in Brooklyn they didn't have birthday parties so we had "birthday days" where you and Annie each got to (mostly) pick what we did all day. Y'all did have a party this year but we loved this tradition so much we kept it, too. For your big day, you picked pancakes for breakfast, a trip to the Children's Museum and the Dollar Tree, Primos for lunch, and a visit to Mickey and Minnie's house. We ended the day with Darth Mal face paint and a movie!

Y'alls joint birthday party was so much fun, too! You guys agreed on a Jungle Book theme and I thought it was pretty perfect for y'all (Papa took you to see the movie just the two of you because Annie didn't want to see it and it was your first time to see a movie at the theater!).

I asked you and Annie what y'alls favorite part of the party was and you  said "hugging that baby". I asked you which baby you were talking about and you patted my tummy. I really think she's the best present we could ever give you (just as I think you were the best present we could ever give Annie).

I'm glad you guys are both so easily satisfied. I was telling Papa that I hope y'all don't outgrow these backyard family parties (as in not drop offs because y'alls friends parents are our friends anyway so it's a good excuse to all get together). And I hope your friends don't get bored with them. It works so well since y'all aren't school and your friends spread a pretty wide range of ages. I really like uncomplicated things.

I've never had activities before and we kept it SUPER low key this time- chalk, bubbles, a sticker craft I ordered for less than $5 for twelve, some fresh sand for the box, and these fun elephant stilts I made that you continued to enjoy well after the party. I think it was plenty and SO easy!

Mickey and Minnie gave y'all fishing rods and tackle boxes for your birthday and ya'll were both so excited, but especially you. Along with riding your bike, fishing is probably the activity that you love the most.

You actually told me "I still can't believe I have my own tackle box". Mickey and Minnie did so good.
Our Sundays are sort of stressful between having to drop off and pick Papa up so I've streamlined them about to death and ask VERY few things of myself and now I actually enjoy them a lot and it feels like a real Sabbath. But it was so worth it to cut rest time short and hustle you guys through dinner and teeth brushing so we could fish and spend time with Mickey and Minnie the weekend of the party. Two folks at Northside asked me if I had family in town- they're starting to get concerned for me- and it was just another reminder how glad I am to be close again.

Recently y'all also enjoyed having a little party eating granola by flashlight in Mickey's work room. You guys love Friday nights so much! 

A few facts about you at five:
1. The other day you came up to me and said "Ma'am, I'd like to snuggle with you". Hope you're always such a gentleman when you're making advances on the ladies.
2. Insomuch as possible, you love wearing pajamas shorts under your clothes as underwear and calling them your boxers. I actually love this system because when you promptly strips down upon returning home from anywhere it feels a bit more appropriate.
3. As you were going to sleep the other night you said "Annie, I like you even when you smell like Cheerios and I really would be sad if you died". (Death has been a big topic with you lately.)
4. For some reason, I think male friendships have become more important to you. Of course you have your BFF Jude, but lately you've been talking about your best friends Mickey and Uncle Andrew even more than usual and then one night recently you started talking about your little buddy John Stuart Roberts. You said "he's very playful".
5. Awhile back when a third baby was still very much a hypothetical, we were talking to the kids about it. You were so excited and said that you really wanted a brother but you'd be happy with a girl, too. You folded your arms and said "I'll just hold her all the time". I mentioned that you wouldn't be BABY Graves anymore and you said calmly "Oh, I'll just eat her then" and did a crocodile snap. We had a similar conversation after we found out we were expecting and he said you were still going to be Baby Graves; you'd just be the bigger baby. Sounds about perfect to me. You actually told two different people recently that your name is Graves Jackson Herrington but you like to be called Baby Graves. Also, I love that for our last lit tee order Annie picked out animals and you picked out a shirt with a baby on it. So typical!

You are one of the kindest people I know.

Oh! One more fact about our five year old Baby Graves:  you occasionally get weather headaches like I do. In the obvious ways, you're much more similar to Papa and Annie is a lot like me. But the older you get the more I notice little quirks in you that mirror me and in Annie that mirror Papa. It's so fascinating to me.

So one Sunday you wanted to to wear your super hero cape and accessories to Sunday school and church and I decided to let you. It made you 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 you 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!!" Hahaha.

Also, you call the little super hero arm bands ear tuffs. I think you've gotten pretty immersed in your role as Midnight's papa.

You recently outgrew your church shoes. I found some precious white Oxford shoes that I had bought ahead but they're hard and slippery and understandably you're sort of over that. I asked you what you'd like for your church shoes (I'm trying to do that more!) and you said red Converse. Surprisingly, they go with most of your stuff and the atmosphere at Northside is pretty casual. So you had regular tennis shoes (that you call your "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). Then this Summer, you have a pair of Saltwaters and a pair of athletic sandals. 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 last season we sort of accidentally stumbled into a church uniform for you- you 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 you 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!  

There are actually still a couple of jonjons in the attic that fit you and it taken everything in me to resist but you look really adorable in a button up and nice, pleated gingham shorts.

Speaking of church, we were singing a hymn recently and you told me "This sounds like pirate music". Your proclivity for high church Protestantism never wanes.

Oh and awhile back a sweet, older person asked if you might be "a little" autistic because you're "so active". Um...I don't really think so. You're a very busy almost five year old who refuses to leave church with the other children your age and who doesn't have a lot of of other opportunities to practice sitting still- which was a very intentional choice made by your parents for a myriad of reasons. Older, folksy, homegrown type people are so dear. Truly. [I told him that your father has a TOUCH of ADD. And by that I mean that he's extremely active for a grown man and was basically uncontainable as a child. So if you have anything, it's probably that. But you're really too young for me to feel comfortable pursuing a diagnosis. 

You got some new bedding! We picked it up at IKEA. I loved it but was tentative at first. Even as progressive as I am about colors not being gendered, the pink house threw me off. But it reminded me of a cross between Richard Scary and The Two Little Gardeners (FAVES). And Papa loved it. I got it and said we could use it later for the baby and ordered a navy bedspread with red sharks in it. It was too dark. I'm just not ready yet. This felt much better. I also got the crib set up and y'alls room looks so cute. You'd love it if I let you play in the crib all day. Funny how you didn't like it so much as a toddler!

You are so creative and inventive. Awhile back you used a broken toilet paper dispenser thing and some rubberbands to make a  "Squirrel Scarer:" Annie got upset and told you "That's never going to scare a squirrel. THEY'LL JUST THINK THAT'S AN ORDINARY LITTLE BOY THING" (caps because she was literally tearfully yelling.) [She also expressed that while she's opposed to eating wild animals, she's totally okay with eating farm animals- like sausage.] Can't make this stuff up.

You also set up a "special grooming station" where the person takes off everything but your panties and you used your wet toothbrush to "groom" him or her. I decided I'd pass on that one. 

You know how they say some people never meet a stranger? Um, that's you. This is a conversation you and Papa had on a walk home from the park:
Graves: I asked my friend if she was a stranger and she said no, so I knew she wasn't a stranger.
Papa: Oh, had you met her before?
Graves: No
Papa: But she wasn't a stranger?
Graves: Nope! She told me she wasn't.

Awhile back, you announced that if we didn't name the baby Avocado, you'd call her Mean Baby. Annie said "Bud, just because they choose the wrong name, that doesn't make her a mean baby". Minnie legit suggested we throw him a bone and name her Ava. And Annie is holding out for Daisy.  

Do you know who is a boy's best friend?? (A cat who thinks he's a dog but is still low maintenance enough for owners- besides the boy (and girl)- who aren't pet people.) I'm so glad you and General have each other. He is one of the most affectionate cats I've ever met and you are one of the most affectionate humans I've ever met. Y'all are such a pair! [ETA: Since I started this letter, General has gone missing. He's so friendly and now that he's been gone a few weeks and we've become kind of resigned to the fact he may not return, my hope is just that he found a nice family who has welcomed him in as their own.]

As an aside: awhile back you were pretending to be a "cat catcher" and I walked in the laundry room and you had General's head in your bug catching net. For awhile, your best friend was understandably terrified of him and he'd split immediately when he saw you holding the net in the backyard. Annie suggested putting the net up entirely for a bit but also going in to change clothes "so he wouldn't recognize us". Glad y'all are back on good terms!

You and Annie also LOVE to catch lizards. The other day I heard you say "ANNIE! This lizard could have DIED. He was left alone in the treehouse." (About five minutes later) "Annie, I have a plan. You have to stay up all night and watch him. I have to get some sleep."

School is going great. I've ordered your kindergarten curriculum and we've talked a lot about it and you are so excited. Recently Annie did an "Around the World" project with the homeschool group we're a part of and you did SUCH a great job dressing up and telling everyone how you were a vanilla bean farmer and most of the world'a vanilla comes from Madagascar. 

I'll end your letter the same way I ended Annie's. April, which brings the anniversary of both yours and Annie's births and the anticipation of another year of life with both of y'all, always seems to have me very introspective. Over the past seven years, being home with you guys has meant a lot of different things to me and in different seasons I have had different reasons for doing it. Awhile back, during a discussion with Papa, I realized one of the main things I find value in is the hours upon hours each week that I get to devote to being a student of you two. Being a student of other people- analyzing them and learning their quirks and what makes them tick, their fears and passions, the driving forces that make them do what they do- is so exciting and fascinating to me in general. And those extra hours I get for this favorite task with these favorite people? Is a big part of my purpose right now. When I thought about it that way, it also gave me an even stronger impetus towards our financial independence goals. I want Papa to be able to have more long hours devoted to knowing y'all deeply and learning your secret hurts and deepest dreams. It's not that it's a burden I want share with him, although it is a hefty responsibility. It's a great joy in a very deep place and it would feel wrong for me to keep it only for myself when I could do otherwise.

I love you so much and I couldn't possibly be more grateful that you are ours, sweet boy.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. You are ovbiously wearing no clothes of any size in this month's pictures (well, some 2T undies, I think!). It was crazy hair day at swim team and you decided you wanted crazy body hair. Hahaha. You keep me laughing, funny guy!

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