Monday, May 22, 2017

More Than Enough

 
Awhile back, I very nearly had a mild heart attack. I brought Sarah Lamar some books to look through and I realized I couldn't remember if I've EVER read to her. It was such a huge component of Annie's infancy- it was one of THE only things I did consistently, I was so paralyzed by so much. I didn't do as well with Graves, but I prioritized it. Annie reads to her a good bit, but....part of me felt like I was being way too dramatic but part of me was devastated (and part of me feels like it's huge that I'm admitting this.) I know it sounds absurd but it was one of those "I can't believe this is me" moments. I realized I had read to her some when I've read to the big kids while bouncing her in my lap or nursing her. But never really for her own sake. In many ways I feel like I've given much more of myself with her than with them, but in others I know the opposite is true. I've taken much better care of myself physically this time- getting enough sleep and eating much better- but with homeschooling and just the incessant, often deep, dialogue that comes with school age children, I'm much more mentally drained than I was when I had an infant and a toddler. I thought about it and I don't sing to her nearly as much as I did to them, either. When I hold her I mostly want to snuggle her, not read her a book and I mostly want the silence when I can have it. 
I whisper over and over that "I love you, Sarah Lamar. You're such a special girl, Sallie." I trace her features and I stroke her soft, thin baby hair and I make little circles in her palm with my thumb and she still often drifts off to sleep with us holding hands. That's enough. That's more than enough. She will know she's loved. I'm sure of it.
But it's time to start reading her some books.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May Goals and Happenings




I love this month's design. It feels a bit juvenile, but so be it. May is mine and Peyton's birthday month and we're having the big kids' party so the cupcakes felt appropriate. I love the color scheme and the checked design. My favorite picture this time, I think is the middle one of all three kids probably followed by Annie doing schoolwork in the yard. I love the quote and think they're so much truth to it. I hope that I'm showing that lovely light in my life.
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Well, I don't think I've ever been this behind on one of these. I mean, the month is half over! It's just taking me some time to really get back in a routine after New York. I worked so hard to stay pretty caught up on my blog, so it's kind of stressed me out, but I think I'm settling back in and getting back on track with that and other stuff.

So...this is obvious from any reading you happened to have done here, but April was super fun...and super hard.
- MBird didn't exactly turn out as planned since Peyton didn't get to go and making it to church was more difficult than I expected, but every time I was there I felt tremendously blessed and thankful. It was so good to be back.
- We made it several times to the Museum of Natural History, once to the Bronx Zoo, once to the Children's Museum, to Central Park a couple of times and to Prospect Park once, to Coney Island, and to lots of our old favorite restaurants and to tons of playgrounds.
- We saw a good many of our friends and that was really wonderful and fun.

As I said, May is halfway over. But...
- We celebrated P's birthday in New York and mine is today along with Mother's Day. We went over to my parents' and had the best time. I'd love to sneak in a date with Peyton at some point before the month is over.
- Next Friday is the big kids' birthday party and we're going to be getting the house/yard in shape for that.
- We're also working on helping get Briarwood looking nice next week. It opens at the end of the month and swim teams starts!
- And I'm hoping we'll get down to the farm sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Here were my goals for April. I wanted it to be a very low key month so we could just enjoy our time in New York. My prayer at the end was that I'd be positive and patient and energetic and unafraid. I certainly failed in all those areas at points, but I do think God gave me joy and patience and energy and courage in a time when all those were hard to muster.

1. Attend MBird and Sunday services (plus hopefully a couple of extra during Holy Week) at Calvary-St. George's. As I said, none of this went exactly as I pictured, but it was everything I needed and more. (Faith)

2. Try to stay patient and joyful in my interactions with the children (and Peyton) during this month where we are a bit out of our element. Again, I think I did mostly (supernaturally) well with this. Of course, there were times I slipped, but overall I think I was pretty patient.  (Family)

3. Schedule and spend time with friends in New York. Yes! We saw friends from both churches we attended, our friends from Long Island came to Brooklyn to visit with us, another friend dropped by our Airbnb on the way to catch a flight, I caught up with a high school friend who lives in BK that I haven't seen in a decade, and we met up with Annie and Graves's swim team coach from last summer who is just a really neat, special person.  (Relationships)

4. Care for myself mentally and emotionally (e.g.- email friends at home, go out for breaks by myself, ect). I think I did pretty well with this. A lot of this was just doing a lot of reflecting on the trip in real time. I think that was super helpful to me. (Health)

5. Prioritize writing and reading. Eh. Yes on the writing, sorta on the reading. (Creativity/Passion)

6. Don't lose momentum with homeschooling but also don't allow it to be a source of stress. I think we did as well as we could here. It was hard to find that balance, though. In the future, if we take a trip like this, I do think we'll keep schooling (it's so hard when Annie gets off her routine and Graves would forget like ninety percent of what he's learned if he took a month off) but I'd like to streamline it ALOT so we wouldn't be taking as much or trying to accomplish as many different things. (Education/Edification)

7. Work on relabeling some blog posts. Well, no. I actually didn't look over the list like I do most months and totally forgot about this one. (Organization)

8. Relax and enjoy our days in NYC!!!! YES (as much as was possible). (Travel)

9. Get caught up on finances. Maybe never? Teasing, but no. Didn't do it. Not one bit. (Finances)

10. Immerse myself in a city that changed my life. Yep. So very special.  (Joy/Gratitude/Perspective)

11. Go out to eat/get take out from our favorites in NYC and maybe find a couple of new ones. We hit our faves and that was super fun! (Fun Goal)
And here are my May goals:

1. Read both my devotions daily. I do this for awhile and then get out of the habit. I got out of the habit in New York. This is a good one for this month. Since I only have half the month and it's sort of a habit already, it's a good fit because it's more just about becoming disciplined again than truly forming a new habit. Another reason I have varying success with this (and a lot of things) is because our lives seems to change so often and our routine does with them. The seasons with babies and small children are short (I don't mean the years; I mean the actual stages where you get in a routine with one thing and "find your normal" and then it abruptly changes the next day). Anyway, all that to say, I need to figure out what time of day works best for this right now. (Faith)

2. Prioritize my time with Cookie while she's in town. For whatever reason, I've really been missing my sister and wishing she was closer. She'll be in town this coming weekend (mainly for the big kids' birthday party) and I just want to soak up the time with her. (Family)

3. Enjoy the sweet friendships we've been blessed with at the kids' party this week. The way we've always done their parties is to invite our families and the families we are close to, which ends up being a lot of their friends (who are their friends because their parents are our friends) and their families. Anyway, it's just a really fun time for me and Peyton, too, and I want to try to not let stress overtake me and just enjoy it. I did pretty well with it last year but I didn't have three kids and I was probably more organized with it. We do super low key parties, so there's really no reason to get worked up. (Relationships)

4. Be intentional about self-care and document it. I'm actually planning to report to a friend each night. Can't wait to update on how this goes. (Health)

5. Get back in a writing habit. As I mentioned, I worked really hard to get back on the blogging train and these last few weeks I really let it go. It's a hobby I enjoy but it's also a discipline and I want to carve out time for it. (Creativity/Passion)

6. Read for fifteen minutes a day at a minimum. This is another one that's good for this month because it's a daily thing rather than some big project that I only have half a month to tackle. It wouldn't matter if I had three days or thirty with this one. (Education/Edification)

7. Continue to work on organizing the attic. I've actually already gotten a lot done this month, but I want to make a bit more progress. (Organization)

8. Make a trip to the farm. I'm not sure this will happen, but I'm hopeful. (Travel)

9. Get caught up on finances. Again. (Finances)

10. Surround myself with words that bring joy. I need to change up my monthly quote in the kitchen and I want to redo the one on the chalkboard in there. (Joy/Gratitude/Perspective)

11. Start Annie's new writing curriculum. I'm super excited about this one and she is too. (Additional Goal)

12. Plan my "special day". We do a special day for each of the big kids' birthdays and this year Peyton had one, too. It's nothing big, just going to your favorite restaurants and that kind of thing. I'm thinking it will include a date with P, a day off school, a family walk, and I'm not sure what else. Maybe CFA for lunch so the big kids can play and we can get two uninterrupted conversations in? (Fun Goal)

13. Watch the new season of Master of None with Peyton. We actually started it last night! (Fun Goal)


Here's to May, a month to celebrate life and family and motherhood. Let me think on the small things I have to be grateful for, let me take joy in the monotonous tasks, and remember that neither my vocational failures nor successes define me.

Friday, May 12, 2017

What I'm Into: April




I'm so behind on everything on the blog, but I'm finally sharing what I was into in April. It was obviously a very different month since we were in Brooklyn the whole time!

On the Nightstand:
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis- J.D. Vance

I started this and I'm really enjoying it. It's our bookclub book this time, so I'll share more about it next month.

On Their Nightstand: 

Trumpet of the Swan- E.B White

We're still enjoying this one!

On the Shelf:
I'm not even sure what's next.

At the Theater (or from the couch):
No movies this month, but I watched lots (see below).

On the Small Screen:
One great take away from our trip (there were so many) is that cancelling cable a few years back was a really great decision. I knew that, but this was a good reminder. I actually really, really enjoyed having it for a month. It was a fun "vacation perk". But I also wasted SO much time and it's time I really don't have to spare here where I'm trying to keep on top of more things (cleaning, cooking, obligations away from the house). I watched a handful of things that were really interesting, a few things that I enjoyed but were big time sucks (SVU marathons) and a number of things I didn't even get any pleasure out of. We also had the news on a ton in the background and I think that was more mentally draining for me than I realized.

Anderson Cooper 360
I used to watch Anderson all the time when we had cable news and he was my favorite. Honestly, I don't love it as much as I did, but it's still a good show with less spin than some others.

Lockup
This is just a show on MSNBC about prisons/prisoners. It's documentary style and honestly, I was interested but it was so not well done and I wasted more time on it than I should have.

Law and Order: SVU
Like I said, we caught a couple of marathons. It was fun to see some of the old ones again.

One and Not Done
This is one of those ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries. Y'all I'm SO not even a sports fan but this was fascinating. This one was about basketball coach John Calipari. I think it was just so intriguing because it really analyzed her personality and persona.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
This was another favorite. I just love watching Anthony Bourdain's adventures all over the world and I love the way he narrates them. It's just a beautiful show. It was probably the best use of my time.

In My Ears:
Less than usual since I wasn't in my van, which is where I mostly listen to music.

Around the House: 


As I said, this was different since we were in NYC the whole month. Anyway, I loved our Airbnb. Super bare bones and a little tacky in some places but it was really clean and basically baby-proofed. This is the room the big kids shared- it was so tidy because they each brought like six toys. 

We pulled out the sleeper sofa because Sallie was sick and was content in our room one night. It was such a reminder of our old days in BK when we slept on a pull out couch every night!

In the Kitchen:

Peyton did a clean out the fridge/cabinets project before the trip and sometimes those suck so hard but this time he knocked it out of the park.Yum!


As I mentioned, Peyton found some steaks left by the previous guests at our Airbnb and he was not gonna let those babies go to waste.

In My Closet:


Operation wear real clothes, half way. Minnie got me a new top because I wear cookies old Tri Delt t-shirts​ all the time and "they're like ten years old and have been washed two thousand times". I was sort of having an anxiety day and asked her if it was because she thought it was pathetic for people who went to a Christian college and weren't in a sorority to wear them (my ST t-shirts are too little now). She said of course not but then moved on to my gym shorts (which I realize this is a weird look but she was saying in general). She thinks the "tri-color" looks "dated" and that I should just get some "SOLID color cotton ones like Annie's that are SMALLER". LOLOL. I told her then I might as well just wear my khaki/denim ones and that I feel like those give me wedgies and I *am* pathetic because I sort of miss my maternity shorts and maybe I should just wear dresses every day. Baby steps to dressing like a grown woman.
Or not.   Annie tried to tell us she was going to wear these (size 4/5) pjs when she was seventeen and I decided to try them on to illustrate that they wouldn't fit. Except that they kinda did.


I did a terrible job of documenting (too many experiences and reflections!) but Operation Wear Real Clothes went really well in the city. We got out more and I felt weird wearing t-shirts and gym shorts here for some reason (strange, because ANYTHING goes) even to the park or on an errand (exception: the washateria ^^^). Plus, my closet was so much more functional since I only brought things I really love.
 In Their Closets:

 Oh my gosh, I cannot overstate how much I love Spring colors.


 In her bunny duds for the Easter Celebration. This was one of my absolute favorites from Annie's first winter (I haven't loved a lot from this past Winter but the 12 mo. summer stuff that's coming is some of my favorite of Annie's clothes period.)
Sallie in her very own Peter Rabbit jammies. I try not to make it too much of a habit, because Annie's closet was extensive (excessive?) but sometimes I just need to splurge on her. And anything Beatrix Potter is kinda my jam.


Bunny (and turtle) OOTN. These sweet pjs a friend gave me before she was was born are so precious! 


 He didn't really love his bow tie. I hope it grows on him. I had already decided I was going to start getting him one each Christmas and Easter and start him a little collection for weddings and special occasions.


Annie in her beloved bird dress for the second Easter in a row, this time with pink Chuck's instead of Saltwaters because I had no idea it'd be 82 degrees in New York in April. Truth be told it's more age appropriate and certainly more "Annie" than what I picked and it actually looked cuter on her.


I love it when Annie gets dressed in this fancy lady hat one of Minnie's best friends made her and her jams that legit look vintage inspired circa 1987. 


Sallie sporting her heart jams for the last time and it seemed appropriate to match her.

 These little sneakers are on their last leg (no pun intended), but gosh I still love them.


 
 Annie was super excited to wear her new bird dress to the museum!

 Love Sister in baby toile. This was one of my favorite outfits for Annie because it functions like pjs but feels like real clothes. Basically the sweetest loungewear ever. AP wore it a ton. Sallie hasn't as much because she started pulling up so much earlier and it's gross to me when she's actually standing up. And also because she's so busy and two piece things just don't stay on her as well. But it's perfect for days where it's cool and she's in the Tula all day because when she wears normal pants they ride up and there's a big gap between them and her socks.

 Sometimes, Annie still wears the sweetest things. I got her and Sallie this outfit when they went in major sale and she loves the floral print (I get away with ALOT with her because "plants" are second only to animals) and pockets. Peyton said it looked to "young" but since she truly doesn't care and even prefers certain stuff as long as it fits her little model, I'm gonna enjoy it just a little while longer.

And on the other side of that coin, Sarah Lamar looks WAY TOO GROWN here. I heard Annie say "Oh Sallie, I love your tortoises." When I asked for clarification (because I certainly referred I to them as turtles when she wore them) she said "Well, they seem to be on land." And Annie may have to just be disappointed because she looks way too big in shorts and I don't think I can take it.
In My Mailbox:

We weren't here! I had quite a few packages when we got back, but I'll share those next month.

In My Cart:
I really didn't buy anything while we were in NYC, which was nice.


Around the Town (and At Home):  

 Well, one of the most eventful things wer certainly our flights. We literally sat in the plane, on the ground, in Jackson, from seven in the morning until close to noon. The flight kept getting pushed back more and more due to horrible weather in Atlanta and we realized that with all the delays there was no guarantee there would be a flight into JFK and we might end up stuck in Atlanta over night. I'm pretty stubborn, especially with Sallie, about car seats, and it would going to mess up our car service booking, too. So, we called Peyton's parents to come get us, got our millions of bags "unchecked", and came home and set back up the Pack N Play. I was really  exhausted. But, I was SO proud of how well the children and they are not kids who are used to sitting in chairs much of the day. And the crew was incredibly lovely and accommodating.


 We finally made it! Enjoying a family stroll to the neighborhood library one of our first days there!

A bit of "jedi training" in Central Park, per Graves's request.


 This one's not scared of much. We had a blast at the TGC Easter celebration. So much fun getting to visit with old friends!



 Brooklyn blooming.

 I got to share my favorite brunch- the blintzes fro Cousin John's- with my favorite baby girl. She's a real big fan of whipped cream and she's real rotten.

 We've hit up SO many parks and gosh, this baby loves a swing.

 Big day back at the Bronx Zoo.

 We came back to our old friends the Southeastern and Woodland Plains Indians. Like many things this month, it felt so familiar and so different. Annie can read herself (and for the most part, understand) the information that's part of the displays. I've read each tiny clothing label and each lengthy explanation of their various abodes to her two or three times at least another lifetime ago when she was five years old and we lived here. This day, I sat back and asked her to report to me the things she found interesting and we discussed them. Here we were talking about how the Indians gradually began incorporating European styles and fabrics into their dress. We were discussing which thing looked original to the Native Americans in style and material and I asked her which ones she liked. She said "I love his hoodie. And I definitely think he used an animal to make it".

Laundry day! We did it three times while we were there and it was MUCH easier than I expected to deal with hauling it all to the laundry mat and such!  


 Grace. The Mockingbird Conference was definitely a highlight from our trip.

 It's certainly been my experience that it is. 


 If you hate sleep anyway, you might as well be at the EpiscoDisco at ten pm. 

I had decided not to go back the last day. But I realized Nicole Cliffe, co-founder of The Toast, was speaking. A friend and I used to message each other links and when I found out it was ending I felt pretty emotional about that, actually. Another relevant factor is that Nicole was not a Christian until recently when "God messed up her happy atheist life", which, for obvious reasons, interests me. It was extremely comforting. She shared how people email her asking "how to convert atheists" and how she tells them that God's going to do it or it won't happen and how one sweet, sincere young man told her he had been debating atheists on Reddit and that wasn't working. She said she doesn't argue with unbelievers because frankly, the story IS nuts. She said that what she did tell people is that she knew where to go when God began prompting her. She knew people who loved Jesus and loved her dearly and would be happy to talk. She said that when people tell you their deepest fears and doubts, work on your face and don't make this horrified expression like when Indiana Jones grabs the wrong chalice. I have no idea what that reference means but it resonated. Sometimes I get the impression that people- kind, well intentioned people- literally seem more distraught over Peyton's disbelief than if he had died. Which I GET and don't fault them for (it can actually an indication of how central faith is to them) but it's also...isolating. It's hard for me to feel like people can/do understand. That is NOT anyone's fault. I was telling a friend that sometimes I feel more comfortable talking to my friends who have (for example) addiction issues or spouses with them because it's easier to relate. But as I've​ said, we all have areas of our lives where there is pain and brokenness. This trip certainly had it's dark moments, but it also had an abundance of rainbows and while it's so counterintuitive in some ways New York is where I feel safest.
 For Annie's special day, she wanted to go to Coney Island. They had so much fun riding the carousel, playing in the sand, eating junk, and strolling on the boardwalk. Annie and I also went on her first little roller coaster ride. It was faster than I expected and she LOVED it. I did, too (Peyton's scared of them!). 


 Babes on the boardwalk. 

 I think we can call it a successful first trip to Coney Island. 

There were Dippin Dots at the zoo the other day but they were $6 for a small and I just couldn't go there. Coney Island has knock off Dippin Dots for $4 and (though absurd) I decided to splurge.

At the Schoolhouse:

 It's​ so interesting to me how Annie's mind works. I FINALLY got Sallie to sleep (Peyton said he thinks she sleeps about ten hours in twenty four on average and I pushed back but I'm starting to think maybe that's not undershooting it) one morning and Graves and Peyton were running errands so I had some time with just Annie while we did school. I didn't rush her as much as I often, regrettably, do. Anyway, she told me that the "ers" have different personalities. "Ur" is mean and burns things, cuts fur off animals, and turns away when people are talking to him. Really the only nice thing he does is going to church. "Ear" is kind and searches for his lost sheep even though he has ninety nine more. He loves the earth and yearns for it to be better and everything is heard by him.❤️"Ir" is more ambiguous and can be good or bad. As I mention often, she's not near as vocal as Graves (Goodnight, who is?!?) so I love it when I really get some time to hear her imaginative, delightful thoughts. 

 In this activity, I read one of the the two words that are next to each other and Graves picked the correct one. He told me another halfway down the page that he didn't need to actually read both words he just knew that "a or whatever says it's long sound when there's an 'e' on the end". I really, really thought he'd more or less internalize all the rules and understand them but not be able to explain them whereas Annie would be the one who could describe why a word works the way it does. Honestly, I'm confident that when she was at this point, she could not have articulated this so well and certainly it wouldn't have occurred to her to save herself the trouble of actually reading the words by just listening for the vowel sound and looking for the silent e. Getting such a great look into how their little minds work is such a delight.

Annie saw the peregrine falcon and immediately said "Look! Like Frightful!" (from My Side of the Mountain- probably one of her very favorite books she's read this year). I'm not like huge Charlotte Mason aficionado (I just need more structure) but I think there's SO much merit in a "living books" approach. Several recent interactions with Annie have really confirmed this for me.


On the Blog:
Honestly, I mostly just tried to keep plugging away at the Weekly Happenings posts and not get more behind on the kids' letters. I did write a couple of reflections on the trip (and I still have one more I need to write).

Belles and Beaux Back in Brooklyn: Reflections on Getting Here and Getting Settled
I shared our initial (eventful) first few days.

Belles and Beaux Back in Brooklyn: Reflections on the First Half of the Month
And then here I reflected on the first two-ish weeks.

On My Heart and Mind:
- Goodness. I feel like we learned so much. I shared it mostly on my What I Learned post and that's basically most what's been on my heart and mind.
- I'm really in disbelief (denial?) that Sallie will be one next month. I just can hardly wrap my head around it. It's been such a sweet, precious year and I've enjoyed it more than I even knew I could.
- I keep really thinking about first and third grade. I feel like it's going to be a big jump for both kids. I'm nervous but I'm also SUPER excited because I feel like third grade is when I think the content really gets interesting.

In My Prayers:
- I'm praying about school and time management and how we'll make it all work.
- I'm really praying about talking to the kids more about Peyton's unbelief. For a long time, it just felt too hard and I didn't think I could do it without getting emotional and also I wanted to figure out how to navigate it without making it too big of a burden to them. But I think we're at the place where I need to talk to them (and pray with them!) about it more.
 
On the Calendar: 

We have a low key month this month and we needed it sandwiched between our trip and June, which will be full with swim team stuff. We are having the big kids' joint birthday party in a couple of weeks but otherwise

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What I Learned in April


So, this month was different from most in that we were away from home for the entirety of it. I learned so much on our month long trip back to Brooklyn. This is one of my longest lists ever and that feels perfect because this was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life!

Home and Routines

1. I cannot have a really good productive school day and a major cleaning day (and have a baby) on Saturdays anymore. I know I can do two of the three because I did pre-Sallie. Sallie's not going anywhere (thankfully) and I really like having a solid school day, so I'm just going to try to figure out how to get more cleaning done during the week.


Voluntary Simplicity

2. Voluntary Simplicity has put us in a really incredible position. Sometimes I have a really hard time with it.  My current discontent is that the house I've worked so hard on and took such slow, steady steps with for near bout a decade now has got me self-concious again- I started wondering if our friends think "this is kinda cute but it's also kinda falling apart" because our chairs look TERRIBLE from when we had indoor cats. But when I think how fortunate we are to have this adventure and more than that to have all this TIME with P, I'm really grateful that he decided financial independence was something he wanted to pursue and work towards.  

3. It's time for another purge. I only brought my favorite things to New York and it was fun to have such a consolidated closet. I'm ready to get rid of some more stuff now that we're home!


4. Eating the previous guests' steaks at your Airbnb isn't a totally bad idea.
It's one thing to use the plates, utensils, bath towels, and bed sheets at your Airbnb. I mean, obviously. That's what you do. But it's a whole 'nother level of Voluntary Simplicity when you find unopened steaks in the freezer from the previous guests, double check the date, and then cook them for your fam. But it was damn delicious.


Travel

5. Month long trips with three kids are a rollercoaster. I'm not sure if it was the great weather or having the kids with us this time or what but the trip started out so great. It's funny because, for the most part, we weren't doing anything especially exciting but I love the vibe in the neighborhood so much. But we had some rainy days where I really struggled emotionally with a ton of stuff and it was hard. And then it ended on a high note and the last few days were really magical.

6. Flying doesn't work for us
 
I actually made an executive decision that in the foreseeable future any time with travel withing the continental United States (which is anytime we travel in the foreseeable future), we're driving. The kids did SO well on our big camping trip last Fall and the big ones did great when we moved home from BK. I love flying in theory- it's cool and fun and as bad a driver as I am, it's never scared me at all. But it does a number on me physically every time and on this trip I realized how much it effects Graves (he and I are so similar in our sensitivity to pressure changes). He was squeezing his eyes so hard in so much pain on the descent and trying not to cry because his ears hurt so bad. And I took Annie to the bathroom in Atlanta and she was in the stall next to me...until she wasn't. She had gone to wash her hands but I had such a panicked moment. I was terrified someone had grabbed a her and she was about a to be human trafficked. This is such a major anxiety trigger for me right now. And then when the car came to pick us up, Sallie's straps were SO loose. I was cringing the whole time but I barely had time to get Annie buckled before the driver pulled off. I just feel so much more in control of the situation when we're driving. And yes, it's important to let go of control and God calls me to do it often. But in this stage of the game, I feel like I'm letting go of it in so many daily ways and this was too much.

7. When you are creature of habit and a lover of routine, a month long trip is really, really difficult. 
 
I think Annie has definitely had the hardest time this month of all five of us. Many of my biggest flaws are her weaknesses- she can be inflexible and rigid and stubborn and entitled and she wants so desperately to be in control. But she's also really special and one of the most fascinating people I know. Quirks abound and I will always be grateful I get to know the intriguing little person she is. And ironically she also often reminds me what it is to be delighted by small, ordinary wonder. She told us her special day (the day that she got to choose what we did to celebrate her birthday) was better than she expected because she didn't know how fun the roller coaster would be, she didn't think we would let her take her shoes off and play in the sand, and she didn't realize that the F train would go above ground. I'm glad we're back to having a little more space and I know she is, too.
 

8. Outfits that are not pajamas but have footies are perfect for days where it's cool and Sallie is in the Tula all day because when she wears normal pants they ride up and there's a big gap between them and her socks. 
 
This was one of my favorite outfits for Annie because it functions like pjs but feels like real clothes. Basically the sweetest loungewear ever. AP wore it a ton. Sallie hasn't as much because she started pulling up so much earlier and it's gross to me when she's actually standing up. And also because she's so busy and two piece things just don't stay on her as well. 

New York

9. One of the things I've missed most about living in Brooklyn is the everyday banter on the street.  
 
I love how people will visit with strangers on the sidewalk. One of my most favorite things about Brooklyn is the murals. They are everywhere and when we lived here I loved finding new ones. I just think they're amazing and add so much color to an already beautifully vibrant place. I think ones depicting famous people are interesting but I'm often more drawn to the murals that represent the ordinary humans who together make a community. And I love that those two folks at the front of the truck got to be part of it again for a month.

10. Some things feel a lot easier here, some that I didn't expect and some are as hard or harder than I expected. 
 
Like laundry. I was REALLY dreading it but it's actually been easier doing it at the laundry mat. The second time I did it, I did a week's worth of five people's clothes plus the sheets from both beds. I was there for a couple of hours but I got to read and be by myself and I folded a bunch while I was there. So it was two hours plus thirty minutes of folding and putting it up and making up the beds when I got back. I spend WAY more than two and a half hours a week on laundry at home. All three times I fit everything I needed to take in our medium size suitcase. Another thing I was a bit terrified about was the housing. I didn't know what to expect. But I LOVE that we don't have much stuff. I just don't feel like I'm constantly cleaning and picking up like at home. Our apartment feels small but the park across the street feels provisional. But other stuff has been exhausting and anxiety inducing. Mainly transit, I guess. It still stresses me and taxes me mentally. Peyton actually apologized to me because the other day he was wearing Sallie and was way ahead of us and started to get on a train and I had the two big kids. I was holding onto Graves but Annie was just beside me. If I hadn't basically pushed her on the train, I'm not sure she would have gotten on it. Those situations are easy to replay in my mind over and over and it's a hard won victory when I can get my mind to rest.

11. In some senses I feel happier and healthier here. I'm still working on putting my finger on why but I think it's that I get out(side) more and exercise more and that our stuff and our commitments are VERY streamlined.


12. Here one more child feels like an exponential increase rather than an additional one.  
 
I'm also still trying to put my finger on the thing(s) that were so hard about this trip. One big component is that at home adjusting to three kids was a transition but it was it was not like this. We know a couple of families here that have three or more children so I know it's possible. But for us, I don't think it would have been sustainable. And honestly, I had the foresight to anticipate this would be the case. Even if we controlled all the other factors (grandparents, our yard, ect.), this was significant in and of itself. A large part of my motivation to move home was the desire for the baby who would be Sarah Lamar. 


13. There's room in my heart to *deeply* love two places and that it's very clear where our family will thrive the most right now. When we moved here, I had no idea that intense love was possible and when we moved home I had no idea that intense clarity was. This was probably the biggest take away from the whole trip. The trip was a lot of things. My friend Lauren said it so sweetly "you guys will always have a place here and can move in and out of this community freely, but it's great this trip solidified what you knew- that home is in Mississippi right now". Several other friends have shared similar sentiments and and Peyton and I have talked about it alot.


Parenting

14. I'm gonna be real sad when Sallie discovers that I'm not the fun parent. She is SUCH a momma's girl and if I'm honest, she's kind of my security blanket in some ways, too. Both the big kids just adore Peyton so much and said a couple of things that made me feel like they were partial to him. None of it devastated me, which I'm really proud of, but both interactions did sting a little. And Sallie is becoming more and more of a papa's girl by the day. Peyton reminded me that their preferences will change a lot over the years and Minnie did the same- I think there were plenty of phases where Cookie and I preferred one of them and also many phases where they preferred one of us and I'm so glad that was a normal thing and not something any of us obsessed about. So I I'm just holding out hope for when the hormones hit and they need a sweet, sensitive parent more than a fun parent again. Cause I'm that one.

15. It's nice to feel confident about a few things and to be comfortable enough to do things in a way that's easy, and to be honest, very natural; instead of nursing Sallie on a toilet. 
 
 I certainly don't have it all figured out and here with my third baby, I'm more cognizant of that than ever, but it's such a joy to be able to serve her this way. And I'm so grateful I get to do it this last time. In the past few weeks I've nursed Sarah Lamar in so many places, many of which I never have before- probably at least six times on an airplane, in multiple airports, sitting on the sidewalk, on playground benches, while riding the train, and in a church service. I figured out how to nurse her in the Tula and Peyton thought she was sleeping when he came out of a store. I've nursed her in a crowded train and had to unzip my dress and pull it off one shoulder to do it. She had literally thrown her paci onto the tracks and was screaming so hard and Peyton suggested getting the little applesauce squeeze thing out of the bottom of her backpack which was full of the big kids' Easter eggs. Yeah, no. She was exhausted and hungry and there was a much easier way to take care of that. And one that I knew she'd find a lot more comforting than an applesauce pouch. She needed me and it didn't matter much that I hadn't worn the most accommodating dress or that the train was pretty full. Peyton told me later how proud he was of me. When he says that, it always means the world go me.

16. Having your own child on social media makes you much more cognizant about what you post. 
We decided to give Annie an old Android we had, mostly to use as a camera and we put a few apps on it. I told Peyton I thought it was inappropriate to call it a phone since it doesn't function as such (and also because I didn't want her to tell people she had her own phone). So, she started calling it her LC for "little computer". Then Peyton asked me if I thought it was a bad idea to set her up an IG account. I was hesitant at first, but I really couldn't think of a good reason not to as long as it was closely monitored and we established good boundaries. We're keeping the circle REALLY small and only letting grandparents, godparents, very close friends, and our own siblings follow her and she has to check if she has a request or wants to follow someone. She's had so much fun with it. She loves scrolling through (she follows lots of zoos and national parks and looks at accounts I used to let her check on my phone) and often sends us messages of her favorites that she finds during her hour of media time. We respond and tell her our thoughts. And of course I let her follow me. It's already made me think more carefully about what I post about her and her siblings, which is a great thing. I told her that I already tried to think about that but to tell me if something bothered her that I shared and she said "Is this kind of like when you ask my permission before you tell Minnie something bad I've done?". She's pretty unphased by most of that kind of thing, though. (I asked Peyton what we'd do if we did have a very private child and he said he didn't that someone could grow up with me as their mother and turn into a private person just because I talk about EVERYTHING and I've made him and them that way, too.) I love seeing what she thinks is work photographing and then of her pictures what is worth sharing. And (predictably) I most of all love reading her captions. It's all happening so fast and (this time unsurprisingly) I don't hate it.

17. I know that I could not have (healthily) given more of myself to Sallie or this season and that's an incredible feelingAs we get closer to celebrating a year with SL, I've been thinking about how different her infancy has been from her siblings'. I've mentioned it before- how much of the responsibility I took on myself. P said to me "you know you basically raised this baby yourself up until now". That's a gift itself but the bonus gift is that it has released me from a lot of "what ifs" and hypothetical regrets that I know I'm prone to. When I am tempted to say "gosh, I wish I had been more present during her babyhood" I can face myself in the mirror and say, with great sincerity, "well damn, if you had been any more present you'd have well been present at a mental health facility somewhere". 

18. Trips are a great time to repurpose things. 
 
Guys, if your janky eight year old stroller breaks at the handle sometime after you've checked it on the airplane, don't call it a total loss, it will still function as a perfectly good high chair for the baby who's been eating off the floor in your Airbnb for two weeks.

Homeschooling

19. Motherhood in general, but specifically homeschooling, will never stop being full of surprises.  
 
In this activity, I read one of the the two words that are next to each other and Graves picked the correct one. He told me another halfway down the page that he didn't need to actually read both words he just knew that "a or whatever says it's long sound when there's an 'e' on the end". I really, really thought he'd more or less internalize all the rules and understand them but not be able to explain them whereas Annie would be the one who could describe why a word works the way it does. Honestly, I'm confident that when she was at this point, she could not have articulated this so well and certainly it wouldn't have occurred to her to save herself the trouble of actually reading the words by just listening for the vowel sound and looking for the silent e. Getting such a great look into how their little minds work is such a delight.


20. I'm not like huge Charlotte Mason aficionado (I just need more structure) but I think there's SO much merit in a "living books" approach. Several recent interactions with Annie have really confirmed this for me.

Doing Hard Things and Pain and Brokenness


21. Hardly anything worth doing is easy and often it's worth is in proportion to it's difficulty. And I know of things more important than keeping myself healthy.It's been a great month, but I've had some hard days. One day I just had a total come apart. All the ordinary things- I felt like I was going to blink and she'd be fifteen and I was so worked up about Peyton's disbelief (which comes in waves; it's always hard but some days I have a distinct peace and some days it threatens to undo me). My heart felt like it was literally breaking and my mind felt so sick. I had to think through the old list- am I sleeping enough? eating good things? getting exercise? enough water? am I taking my medicine? have I let myself get isolated? conversely, have I overextended myself? Self-care is so much more than lighting a candle. The checklist feels awfully long in the hard moments I don't really believe any of of it makes any difference. But I know that's reality even when I can't see it.

22. People's lives aren't always what they appear- there's brokenness under the surface just about everywhere. There will be a time when that's not true and I have great hope for it, but it's not this time and it's imperative we acknowledge it. There is beauty and there is pain and often they are intertwined right in the same moment. This trip was certainly a microcosim of that. And there are people who are firstly doing the work of paying attention and secondly taking the time to acknowledge the tension and encouraging the leaning in. I'm glad we've had this time and I'm glad we have those friends.And I'm glad there's sunshine and glad there's rain. They are both necessary for growth and we are the type creatures who don't notice the sunshine without the rain.
I've posted so many bright, fun pictures these last few weeks. And there was nothing forced or fake about them; they were very true to our experience. But this trip has also been really, really hard. Moreso than I was prepared for. I'm not totally sure why. But it's felt like every behavior issue, every mental health struggle, every source of contention has been right at the surface. And I felt a little bruised and raw. A friend I met up with that I haven't seen in a decade really affirmed me in acknowledging how hard something like this might be for a highly sensitive person with anxiety- to push myself so far out of my comfort zone. Her words meant so, so much and I've held them in my heart and returned to them over and over these last few days.


23. This trip certainly had it's dark moments, but it also had an abundance of rainbows and while it's so counterintuitive in some ways here is where I feel safest.  
 
Clearly MBird has been a huge tool God has used to help me "trace the rainbow through the rain" and this weekend I've felt that so strongly. I know I'm in good company- at the conference, I saw grown men I respect greatly weep over what God has done. I had decided not to go back the final day. But I realized Nicole Cliffe, co-founder of The Toast, was speaking. A friend and I used to message each other links and when I found out it was ending I felt pretty emotional about that, actually. Another relevant factor is that Nicole was not a Christian until recently when "God messed up her happy atheist life", which, for obvious reasons, interests me. It was extremely comforting. She shared how people email her asking "how to convert atheists" and how she tells them that God's going to do it or it won't happen and how one sweet, sincere young man told her he had been debating atheists on Reddit and that wasn't working. She said she doesn't argue with unbelievers because frankly, the story IS nuts. She said that what she did tell people is that she knew where to go when God began prompting her. She knew people who loved Jesus and loved her dearly and would be happy to talk. She said that when people tell you their deepest fears and doubts, work on your face and don't make this horrified expression like when Indiana Jones grabs the wrong chalice. I have no idea what that reference means but it resonated. Sometimes I get the impression that people- kind, well intentioned people- literally seem more distraught over Peyton's disbelief than if he had died. Which I GET and don't fault them for (it can actually an indication of how central faith is to them) but it's also...isolating. It's hard for me to feel like people can/do understand. That is NOT anyone's fault. I was telling a friend that sometimes I feel more comfortable talking to my friends who have (for example) addiction issues or spouses with them because it's easier to relate. But as I've​ said, we all have areas of our lives where there is pain and brokenness.


So, there you go! TWENTY THREE things. Holy moly. I was super, super introspective on the trip and I'm really glad I was. It was a great trip in and of itself, but I felt like I really payed attention and partly because of that, I learned a lifetime's worth of stuff about myself and our family and traveling and how we best flourish. I'm really, really grateful we had this experience.