Thursday, February 9, 2017

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

 These things aren't really current, but I know you don't care since it will be awhile when you read them anyway. This letter is from back in the Fall- October, to be exact.

Early in the month, we moved into Mickey and Minnie's house for a few days so we could help with Grandee while they helped Cookie and Conrad move into their new house in Nashville. It was much easier than I expected- caring for her and caring for y'all. [To be fair, they have a nurse who is PRECIOUS and who comes twice a day to prepare her for bed and for the day so all I was really doing was fixing a few meals and refilling her ice water.] Both you and Graves were so obedient and were really polite to Grandee (she's usually in bed by the time we get here when we come over in the evening). Once, you asked me what time of day it was and then told her good afternoon. You were also so sweet to Sallie and held her while y'all watched They Might Be Giants music videos, which you both love. There were some meltdowns as well, but overall it was a grand success.

One of the days while we stayed there, Papa took you and Graves out on the kayak. On the trip, Papa saw a raptor pluck a fish out of the water and he pointed it out. You being the bird lover that you are, were enthralled. Y'all noticed the white stripe down the front of the bird and a possible white head. Y'all kept your eyes on the bird and saw the tree where it landed. After about ten more minutes of paddling, y'all we about twenty yards from what Papa said he was nearly certain was a bald eagle. A BALD EAGLE- freely roaming in nature. You guys saw fish bits dropping down from the tree as it finished its meal and then watched it soar off to the next cove on the Natchez Trace. Y'all played with some lily pads and brought home a dead fish to scare Minnie with after they arrived home.

 Another favorite memory with Papa is when you asked him if you could have more of the vegetable soup he cooked for breakfast the next day. You love soup about as much as your momma.

 A week or so later you really wanted to cook more of it with Papa. He was exhausted that night but y'all ended up doing it. It's hard to tell a 7-year-old no when she's begging for vegetables and willing to cook them herself.
You are definitely getting more proficient in the kitchen. One day when I had a terrible headache and Sallie and I were resting and Papa was lunching with a friend, you made Graves a sandwich. It had turkey, lettuce, cheese, and peanut butter and jelly on it. And he ate basically all of it

We also finally caught the attended officer and  got you and Graves registered for second grade and kindergarten respectively.You had creatively made a math sheet for Pinky (the pink owl) and the attendance officer asked you the answers (for fun- she was just making conversation while I filled out forms and I was so nervous you'd get them wrong because you're so terrible at math and I'm so self-conscious in these situations- "damit, I am doing an okay job schooling them and teaching them manners and nursing this baby every ten minutes so she'll hush"). But I was just happy to have it done. 

We went campaigning door to door for Gary Johnson one weekend while Papa was working. My friend Mallory and her little boy, Brennan, went with us. You and Graves did such a great job hanging signs on doors. 

You and Graves also distributed all the literature; I just pushed the stroller with Sallie in it. And y'all both picked up the slack for each other when the other one got tired. Y'all also both insisted on wearing your backpacks, so that was good hiking prep! 

After we got home, you got kind of upset with B for messing up some things in your playhouse that you  had been decorating for a Halloween party that you insisted on really having and had been prepping for for weeks. You did really good controlling yourr emotions and I explained that I understood it was hard when we had company and it wasn't something that you could put up so it wouldn't get lost or damaged like a special small toy. You said "I know it would get messed up at my party but I don't want guests to come mess it up before the party". I told you that one day when Papa was off he could take care of Bud and Sallie and I'd help you get it perfect. I was really proud of how you handled the situation and your emotions. 

Since you're so into planning these parties, one special thing we did was plan a little celebration for a friend.
We weren't going to be in town for your friend Maddie's birthday and we were meeting for an evening park date anyway, so you and Graves just threw her one there. You loved planning it and you decided to go with a bee theme since Maddie's daddy is a bee keeper (as well as a pharmacist). You crafted and made placemats and we made cupcakes with lemon icing and used our little bee bowl. A bonus was that we got to use up some of the yellow Laffy Taffy that's not my fave and have fun with and then trash some party poppers and hats. It's fun to purge and bake and craft and even more fun to celebrate our friends' special days!

Another big highlight of the month was our huge Fall camping trip. We drove over a thousand miles and hit five national parks. You were a little complainy about the driving part of the trip (which to be fair was a big part of this trip). I found the Magic Treehouse activity book I brought, though, and you worked through it with a headlamp for hours. That night the campground we were planning to stay at was full and Papa said something about how he felt bad we were going to have to drive back an hour to where we'd just been since everyone was so sick of the car. "Actually, the driving isn't bothering me anymore. I'm enjoying my activity book now", you told him. And you LOVED the part of the trip where we got to get out and explore nature and visit the different parks. A few days after we got home, you told me "I stopped making my bed. I didn't want to wash my hands and Papa said there were maggots in it". File that under things I hope to live the rest of my life without ever hearing again. I made to start monitoring you so you didn't bring too much "nature" into your bed after that. 

Halloween was so much fun this year. With very little prompting from me, you guys decided on a theme. You and Sallie were parrots, Graves and I were pirates, and Papa was a prisoner! We love a theme and we love alliteration!

That said, it's basically Halloween every day around here. One of y'alls most creative outfits was Darth Vader (Graves) in soccer socks and a storm trooper(you)  in tights. You were wearing Graves's church shirt and (clean) panties on your face. Also, you've been pretending to be Graves's pet turtle and he named you Mashed Potatoes.

School is going really well. I know lots of people wouldn't agree with it, but I have a new strategy for math this year. Basically, you typically has two to three workbook pages after I teach the day's lesson plus about fifteen "mental math" problems. Our agreement is that you are allowed to pick one of the workbook pages to save for the following day and you do the rest, including the mental math, with zero complaints. It's actually usually a pretty good system- you start math each day by reviewing the previous day's lesson, your written work is broken up and your doing part before the lesson and then has a break for instruction and more hands on learning, and I love that I can get you going and then have a bit of time myself to prep your actual lesson or do some school with Graves or feed a baby or whatever. I could not have come up with anything better even though my only prerogative initially was to give you a bit of autonomy and cede a fraction of the control we both hold so tightly. It's like so much, I'm realizing- I certainly want you to be able to function in the real world where actual deadlines abound but I also want to give you ownership of your time so that you'll know how to do just that. It's interesting to note what has worked with you, in general, over the years- giving you lots of autonomy (perhaps ceding control more than most would advise), big long discussions where you're allowed to voice your opinion in a respectful way, and strong consequences when you make a choice we've told you is unacceptable (which happens pretty infrequently but you're a real "go big or go home" kinda girl and don't do much halfway so when it's bad it's VERY BAD)].

You are, as always, asking lots of (hard) questions. One recent one was "What is something that's not replaceable that's not a human or an animal, you know not a living thing". Okay, photographs and my writing. Done and done. But you make my brain hurt. And Bud asks about six million questions a day now, too. I'm paying for all those times I did things like when Mick gave me a very detailed description of what a frog was and after asking him twenty more questions said "Okay, I think I understand exactly what a frog is but what is it not?" I actually love this so much. I'm just tired. So tired.

Shortly after Graves was born, I was having such a hard time. He was not the easiest baby but the harder part was what a difficult transition it was for you. You were exactly two years old at the time. I second guessed everything, even wondering if it would have been more wise to have waited until you were a bit older for another baby. One of my dearest friends told me something that I still consider one of the wisest things she's ever said to me. She said "SD, she will never remember her life without him and that's a very special thing". I've told that to countless friends struggling with having two "babies" and more than one has commented how meaningful it was to hear that. Of course, most people know that you and Graves grew up to be each other's best friend. One of my favorite things lately has been telling you about memories and just things that sit in the deep parts of my heart. When we got to the page in "Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour Tea" (which is such a darling book, by the way) that talked about how Mr. Putter and Tabby didn't remember life without each other I had you stop and I said "That's interesting. Do you know what Miss Carrie told me about you and Graves when you were two years old..."

Gosh, I love the person you are and the person you are becoming. Our conversations, our days, or time together are all so precious to me.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your dress is a 4T. It's more like a tunic now, but you love it, so I'm letting you hold onto it a while longer. And I love your goofy face. As an aside,  I realized recently how many pictures I have of Sallie now compared to y'all and it made me sad (not even because of how it looks to other people, though that did occur to me, but just for myself) especially since I clearly used to take plenty of you guys. But honestly Annie you don't love taking pictures anymore (you don't care if I post them anywhere; you just don't want to stop what she's doing for a photo op). 


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