Sunday, July 17, 2016

Letter to (Seven Year and One Month Old) Ann Peyton

 Dear Ann Peyton,

It's been a great couple of months (I'm updating you on the last two since Papa wrote your birthday letter and he doesn't really get as detailed as I do).

We've been having lots of fun! 

After your party you planned for Midnight, we also  a party for Sugar Pie (the unicorn Beanie Boo). You and Graves got up that morning and immediately started crafting. Then y'all packed the trunk of the Mazda full- paper crafts in gift bags, other stuffed animals, and already blown up balloons and we celebrated at Mickey and Minnie's house. You were so excited to include more guests this time. Oh, and Sugar Pie is the second to youngest Beanie Boo and you and Graves are working hard on helping her learn to walk and say new words. You said Midnight would have to be in charge of her flying lessons, though, since we humans have no idea how to so that. We didn't have any parties in April which I was kind of grateful for because we needed to plan hers and Graves's. And in May, "Foxy" (y'alls youngest) and Papa had birthdays within a day of each other so you started planning a joint party. You did a great job of thinking up commonalities between Papa and a baby Fox (apparently, they do have a lot of similar interests).

As an aside, y'all love the weekly Beanie Boo viewing and papa visit at his store on Sunday mornings. I had gotten to the point in pregnancy where I couldn't make it the whole hour from when we drop him off until when Sunday school starts without going in to use the bathroom.

In less exciting news, I also ended up going to the hospital one night because I was having a lot of pain related to the new baby. The night when I was in the hospital you were the only one of the four of us who was up the entire time (from about 1:30 to about 6:00). You had such a hard time falling asleep and Papa didn't want to pressure you about it so he handed you the iPad and let you enjoy about four hours of uninterrupted screen time. At one point, he also handed you his phone and told you to wake him up if I called or texted. You went back to sleep when y'all came to get me but didn't sleep much past your normal wake up time and were such a trooper at soccer practice the next day. You stayed up until midnight doing the English schoolwork you requested because I couldn't turn you down, especially after having really neglected school the few days prior. Then you got up early the next morning to greet Minnie at the door when she came to keep you and Graves while Papa and I volunteered. You were a bit of a "grumpitty grump" as you yourself would say, but overall I'd say that's some incredible stamina I've never had. Maybe I can pump some bottles to hand off to you after the midnight school lessons? [You finally crashed one afternoon around five.]

I also had a hard couple of weeks back in March. I know it sounds crazy to lots of people, but I really think a lot of it was the weather. One night I started throwing up and couldn't stop and Papa said he might need to take me to the hospital that time, too. I took a whole Phenergan (I only ever take half!) and it helped but it knocked me out! I could barely get off the couch until lunch the next day. I'm so grateful you and Graves were such good sports. Y'all did paper crafts, played with homeschool manipulatives, planned upcoming Beanie Boo parties, and you pretended Graves was your puppy dog and trained him so he was as well-behaved as Louie (something I've yet to manage to do).

 Your actual birthday was such a fun day We had such a great day with our little botanist/zoologist. We planned yours and Graves's joint birthday for later, but we like to give y'all each a special day to just pick fun, simple things you'd like to do. That day, you had waffles made by Papa, then you had back to back soccer games attended by your grandfather and uncle, you watched some sort of docu Papa found for you, and enjoyed another grandparent visit. You received three books, ten dollars, and a church dress with an animal motif from your grandparents. One of your little friends and your aunt called to tell you Happy Birthday and then we got Newks and went to a park you've never been to before (which had the friendliest ducks I've ever seen). You did a little Beanie Boo shopping at the drug store but ultimately held off on any impulse purchases and had a mint chocolate chip milkshake. And Papa's partner offered for him to work two extra hours on Friday so he wouldn't have to come in that night. I looked out the window that evening and you had switched your sneakers for boots and were swinging your butterfly net around trying to catch some kind of bug. Childhood is such a beautiful thing.

Later in April, Papa and I took a week long trip to New York. You and Graves 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. And you made the most beautiful little "bunny salad" with leaves and flowers from Minnie's yard. 

You told me y'all saw the duck with a limp that we saw last time at Strawberry Patch Park and the other ducks were pecking at it. Minnie shoo-ed them away and the disabled duck stayed near them the whole time. You told me "I think it was because he felt protected".

Here was your list you made for the things you wanted to do at Mickey and Minnie's house:
Your list from this week:
- fish
- chicken pot pie
- play stuffies
- play piano
- Strawberry Patch Park
-  Chick Fil A
 - McDonalds
 - Pump It Up
  - our backyard

Whew! Minnie told me that you're "her mother's daughter" because as y'all were leaving CFA you said "I'm not going to cross this off my list because we didn't stay long enough!"

When we got home, you asked me to tell you and Graves some New York stories. Papa had made up a cute story when we gave y'all your little souvenirs and I thought that's what you meant. Actually, you wanted me to just tell y'all real stories ALL about the trip. You had asked me to tell y'all two stories but then you said "I know! You tell me about your days and I'll tell you about mine!". You literally spent about ten minutes getting to where y'all had breakfast Tuesday morning as we were flying out of Jackson and said we'd pick back up there today. Your memory and attention to detail (when it's what you care about) is CRAZY! The timing of the trip was perfect. We got so much in 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 Graves for a full year and a half did make me tear up.]

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 days after we got home, Papa got sick. Y'all were so sweet and considerate while he had the flu. You guys are at such a nice stage where you're very helpful and sweet.

Next up a few quick "facts" about you at seven:
- You can read and comprehend the jokes on the Laffy Taffy, but you can't open it by yourself (Graves's fine motor skills have long been superior to yours).
- Your absolute favorite "game" is when we all just pretend to be animals. Graves loves it, too. However, there is so infighting when you want to play wild animals and Graves wants to be extinct animals or mythological creatures. Recently you decided different rooms could be different time periods (present day, dinosaurs, time right after the dinosaurs- mammoths and saber tooths, ect.) and the kitchen could be for imaginary creatures. You often say "let's play that new game that prevents arguing".
- You asked me specifically if I could do my best to find you animal things whenever you need new clothes.   You are extremely confused by why it's so much easier to find boy clothes with animal motifs.
- Papa has a Snoopy shirt that I had generally been wearing only around the house (as none of mine fit at that point) but you asked me "Momma, don't you think it'd be cute to wear our Snoopy shirts together one day??"
- I've started letting you go get your own snacks during rest time and I love the concoctions you come up with. You told me "Momma, this Cheerio tortillo (yes, you pronounce it with a long o) was amazing. I mean, it was so amazing. Can you make me them for breakfast? You simply put Cheerios in a tortillo instead of a bowl".
- You call the baboon in The Lion King (whose name is Rafiki) Grafiki. You're still an urban girl at heart.
- When you get out a pencil and the lead has broken off, you refer to it as a "rotten" pencil.

School is going really great!

Papa signed you up for this "Around the World" project with the homeschool group we're in. It was really the first big thing like this we've done (you had to have an authentic dish, a craft for the other kids, a poster, a fact sheet, and a "passport" and stamp for everyone else's passport). For the day after the night our flight got in at 8:00pm from New York. Of course we had done about a quarter of it before we left. We both helped you with it a bunch that night (you were up until one) and then Papa really helped your with making the food that morning and putting a bunch of finishing touches on things. Most everyone else's posters were more advanced but I was so proud of you because you did so much of it yourself (Mick helped you some with the drawings). And you didn't say nearly everything you meant to but you did her presentation in front of everyone without any coaching from us. It's SO hard for me to step back and let go of wanting things to look polished and perfect (and as "good" as everyone else's) but I'm so glad when I do! And you had the best time working on it and visiting the other countries!

Some days teaching you math is like pulling teeth. But some days it's really fun. You were working on a graph on a worksheet one day and you told me that you used gray for zero because it means "nothing" and yellow for one because it's like a first place trophy. Then to figure out how many letters are in Papa's name you subtracted three (Ann) from nine (Ann Peyton) instead of just counting. The best was when you added a column for people whose names have zero letters and wrote in the baby since she didn't have a name at that point.

A different day, I totally underestimated the amount of prep work for our math lesson. You had to build these three dimensional geometric shapes out of basically cardboard two dimensional shapes and rubberbands. Actually, to be totally honest it was something the parent is supposed to do ahead of time and I just didn't even look at it. Luckily, I had some fine helpers and you and Graves were more than happy to help with the construction work once I figured out what the directions were saying (which again, being honest, took the bulk of the time). 

You are SO into The Magic Treehouse book series. 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 your first chapter book to read all by yourself and you literally started it during rest time and finished it that day! A friend recently said that you are a "go big or go home kind of girl"; that when you love something, you LOVE it. That is such an accurate assessment. Several days later at naptime you got mad at Graves so you spent the whole time alone and I wouldn't let you use the iPad because you had already used up all your screen time. So you just decided to read THREE Magic Treehouse books. I really, really hope you don't burn yourself out on reading. Awhile back you got upset because you read that the next one didn't come out until the Fall. I showed you the copyright date (1995) and explained a bit about what it was and you felt better!

Interestingly enough, I will say that the math lesson where I picked a random page of a book and you had to guess which side it would be on, based on if it was even or odd, was a winner The lesson also discussed how to say years in regards to copyright dates. Real world extension (albeit a bit obscure) meets involving books and you probably could have done it all day. 

You recently showed me where in a reference book it said dromedary camels were extinct. You told me that "the should have put "extinct in the wild" rather than "extinct" since the dromedary camel STILL EXISTS". 

Your wardrobe has changed a lot lately. I know that's such a shallow thing, but it's been a big deal to me. I've really been trying to give y'all (especially you) more wardrobe autonomy. This was decided after MANY tears over Graves having so many animal outfits and having only a few yourself. The injustice of gendered clothing! Anyway, you finally calmly asked me one day (you're getting so self-aware and really good at articulating your desires) if whenever it was time to get you new clothes could I look for animal things. It was much easier to just shop online and take you to Target with me and I didn't even end up doing a consignment sale this season. Who even am I?!

I did get you a few things at the Brooklyn Flea. I got you a shirt that was actually for a little boy because it had foxes and hedgehogs on it. We can't get enough of whimsical animals! I also got you a little yellow dress with daisies on it because a) it looks like something I would have worn at seven b) it looks like something an "Annie" would wear and it looks like my Annie, in fact c) you are still determined that the baby's nickname is "Daisy" and when I saw it I immediately pictured your wearing it to the hospital to meet your baby sister (which you did!).  

Speaking of hedgehogs, I got this dress for you ages ago when I was still into buying ahead a bunch. And it ran really big so we waited even longer than I expected. I loved the color and the hot air balloons. But you were delighted by the !!!hedgehog!!! print at the top. Which I'm pretty sure I didn't even notice when I got it!

I do love watching your little style develop and the choices you make. Whenever it rains, for example, you love to wear your dress with umbrellas. You also like to do goofy things like wearing your soccer socks with blue jean shorts. You are so much fun! 

You are so creative. I told Papa not to take away your screen time (because right now I really need that time, judge me if you want to). So one night he needed a consequence and he took away all your Magic Treehouse books. Of course I felt TERRIBLE. Anyway, you did have some bursts of creativity during rest time that day and pretended to be a "pizza girl". You went to the fridge and made this hilarious concoction- a tortilla, a cutie, and a piece of a half eaten sandwich) and then served it to Graves in y'alls room (usually not allowed but you did ask first and I was tired). After awhile, y'all got tired of playing Pizza Girl and Graves set up a "special grooming station" where you take off everything but your panties and he uses his wet toothbrush to "groom" you. I decided to pass on that one.  

You also told me awhile back that you came up with a new game. You sid "It's called "Find and Make". You get a bunch of trash things that would likely be thrown away, such as my gum, and make a picture with it". 

In other adventures, I heard you telling Graves, in regards to his Squirrel Scarer: "That's never going to scare a squirrel. THEY'LL JUST THINK THAT'S AN ORDINARY LITTLE BOY THING" (caps because you were literally tearfully yelling.) [You also expressed that while you're opposed to eating wild animals, you're totally okay with eating farm animals- like sausage.] Can't make this stuff up.

A couple of months ago, Graves was pretending to be a "cat catcher" and I walked in the laundry room and he had General's head in this net. For awhile, his best friend was understandably terrified of him and he'd split immediately when he saw Graves holding the net in the backyard. You suggested putting the net up entirely for a bit but also going in to change clothes "so he won't recognize us". Thankfully, y'all are all back on good terms!

 I've mentioned before that I'm a night owl and you are my little sidekick and we have such a wonderful time together after the boys go to bed. One night a couple of months ago, I was doing dishes and making egg salad at 11:30 (per usual) and you told me that you wanted to get together books for our day trip to Granny's the next day (you've been helping me get their stuff together for church on Saturday nights). You did that and then collected some stuffed animals to take. Then you said "okay, all that's left is our clothes". And the most precious part was when you picked out outfits for yourself and Graves and hung them on the bookcase. It's such much fun when they become little teammates and it's happening at just the perfect time with you! 

Another night you told me "Momma, there's a moth in the den. Come move your laundry quick!!!" I didn't do it right away and you started bringing it all in the study yourself. You smoothed out the hanging clothes and said "I tried to do this as neatly as possible". You are so, so helpful! 

You are really kind and helpful but you're also a feisty little gal. At one of Graves's blastball games, you found this nine year boy and practiced soccer with him nearly the whole game. He was super good, too! You fell down and he asked you if you were okay and you said "Sure! It happens all the time in soccer". And then he said "is everybody taller than you on your team?" That would be a yes. Ha!

Graves announced awhile back that  that if we don't name the baby Avocado, he'll call her Mean Baby. You told him "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 you are still holding out for Daisy. By the way, who knew Daisy is a nickname for Margaret??

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 Graves (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.

April, which brings the anniversary of both yours and Graves'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 Annie and I'm so incredibly thankful for the past seven years with you.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your dress is a 5T and you're holding up your swim team ribbons this month! 

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