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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Maggie is a teenager.

 Maggie celebrated her thirteenth birthday with a long awaited slumber party. There was a heat wave in Indiana that week so I suggested we tuck everyone in the van and drive down to grandpa's to have an evening swim. I loaded the cooler with drinks, fruit, and ice cream and we stopped along the way to pick up pizza. The girls spent the car ride singing along to Taylor Swift at the top of their lungs. They kept the jam session going in the pool, making requests to the DJ (my dad).

Her party was on a Friday night which also happened to be D'arcy's birthday. In years past, Maggie would have had to arrange her birthday plans around her sister's, but now that D'arcy is away at school, she doesn't have to share her birthday weekend.

Maggie's wish list included art supplies, jewelry, leggings, and a kindle. We gave her a kindle. She tends to be a faithful reader. She started Little Women recently but confessed that the language was old which made the reading slow going. However, she is blowing through The Summer I Turned Pretty series and is firmly team Conrad.

She continues to be an extremely thoughtful person. For Mother's Day, she filled a jar with little slips of paper that describe why she loves me. Some of the reasons include my little lavender tattoo, because I am a substitute teacher, and because I love her. What a gift to be seen.

She also says she "loves me for correcting her grammar". I regularly point out her excessive use of the word like. I've always felt she is frustrated with me in those moments, but the paper says otherwise.

Over the past year, she has taken improv classes and continued to play piano. She is working on the song Cardigan by Taylor Swift. (What era is your favorite?!) She plays flute in the band and jumped back into hip hop this fall. They are doing a routine to a song from the Barbie movie. She already has her outfit planned per usual.

We went to France this summer and she looked regularly fabulous. I gave her the jean jacket I bought for my honeymoon. It's a size too small now and she wore it draped over her shoulders in Paris which made me deeply happy.

We love this girl so much.

Penelope is TEN!!

 Penelope turned ten in May.

She plays soccer during the fall and spring seasons. We call her a defensive specialist. She's a strong student and got to join a reading group that met with the media specialist weekly. She has WAY too many squishmallows. They fill her entire bed. She has a group of good friends at school and has even started to make some friends at church. A year ago, she was reluctant to go to her children's ministry class on Sundays, but now seems to look forward to it. She's addicted to seltzer waters and chips and salsa.

Based on Julian's influence, she is catching up on One Piece. I've never watched One Piece so I have no idea if it's age appropriate. That's sort of the rub when you have sisters and brothers significantly older than you, you get early exposure to older content. A couple of times this year, though, I've been surprised to find out she is still oblivious to the meaning of certain words or phrases.

We spent two weeks as a family in France and England this summer. I had initially planned this trip for summer 2020. I'm not sure that seven year old Penelope would have been able to keep up, but ten year old Penelope was able to hang.

She walked everywhere we walked, pushed her way into the metro, and climbed and counted all the stairs of the Eiffel tower. She did want to hold someones hand most of the time, usually me or Julian.

She also carried her own backpack and pulled her own suitcase through the airport, train stations, and city streets. She had won a stuffed otter at Dave and Busters a few nights before we left and insisted on bringing him with us. Too big to be stuffed in her suitcase, he rode on top, arms wrapped around the handle. It was a sweet reminder that she is both big and little at the same time.

Penelope was eager to go swimming in the English Channel as redemption for Hawaii. Unfortunately, unlike the ocean around Hawaii, the water is cold and shallow and the tide goes out really far. Plus, Steve kept us hopping leaving little time for the beach.

Penelope has her own unique style. A little bit tomboy. A little bit athletic. But she has a feminine flair. She seems to either choose a tight, short top with baggier pants or a big t-shirt with shorts. She loves a pair of overalls. Mostly she wears whatever she finds at the top of her drawers, forgetting what's buried underneath.

She hates to put her hair up and is usually unprepared for those hot soccer games when it's necessary, running over to the side to ask me if I happen to have a hair tie. Recently, she asked for curtain bangs, sending me inspiration pics through kids messenger app.

Happy Birthday Penelope!

Schroeder is fourteen.

Schroeder turned fourteen in March. He celebrated by inviting a dozen boys and girls over to the house for pizza, a trip to DQ, and some sardines despite the cold, rainy, dark conditions. I was nervous about someone slipping and cracking their head.

I was reading Schroeder's birthday post from last year and realized not much has changed. He's still that competitive boy who is eager to get better at sports. He's playing on two soccer teams this spring. I hear him often in the backyard kicking his soccer ball against the fence. He's hoping to make the Shortridge team in the fall.

He still prefers math and neglects his art assignments. He's still growing, now taller than his oldest sister.

He still has a strong voice when he's in front of a crowd or cracking a joke and a voice that falters in a more emotionally charged situation or asking for something he wants. He was loud and clear when leading community meetings and during his community project presentation. Sometimes, though, he'll come into my room and pause and I'll have to invite him to spit his thoughts out and then repeat them louder. 

He told me recently that he really just wanted to be the best at one thing among his peers. I relate to this desire, but I've also discovered it's a trap.

He's headed to high school in the fall. It was clear where he would go, but I fretted over it anyway. Did he want to tour other options? Would any of his friends join him? Schroeder made his comfort in the choice clear by wearing the Shortridge bracelet and T-shirt he received regularly. It turns out that quite a few of his friends and classmates will join him.

A week before his birthday, I had the chance to chaperone his trip to Camp Tecumseh. I'm grateful he was happy to have me along. While we were there, his gym teacher told me that he was always up to play any game or invest in an activity...even the dumb ones. His kindergarten teacher and fellow 8th grade mom said he should earn a scholarship for his high ropes course skills.

At Christmas, we bought him a phone. We normally wait for High School to start, but there was a sale. Also, his birthday doesn't happen to fall at the beginning of the school year, and I wasn't going to buy him Christmas and birthday gifts AND then a phone. He's playing a lot of chess on it. He also has a 150 day streak on Duolingo. Both sound like smart uses of time but not when they distract you at school.

We love this boy.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Julian is 16!

 Julian turned  SIXTEEN on October 7th.

This last year felt like a negotiation. As someone who grew up in conservative evangelical churches, training for parenting doesn't include negotiation. I heard a lot of messages about authority...laying down expectations and demanding they be done or face consequences. But each kid has their own thoughts, desires, inclinations, hopes, and wills. All of that needs to be taken into consideration as we form our expectations. Therein lies the negotiation. 

Last year, Julian was telling us more about who he was becoming and we tried to listen. We negotiated his level of church participation, academic and extra curricular expectations, and what our role as his parents should be in the next few years. 

It feels like we emerged with a peace agreement. 

He was always such a silly, easy going, no nonsense kid. We would occasionally see his temper. These days we are seeing more emotional and creative sides of him. It's a privilege to watch. 

Julian managed girls tennis in the spring and played tennis in the fall. He is taking piano lessons once a week and playing trumpet in the Shortridge band. He has worked on crew for the theatre productions, and this year he tried out for the musical and got a part! Most nights, we can hear him upstairs lifting weights. 

He has a group of friends that attend various high schools. They make plans to see movies, go to the zoo and baseball games, and have sleepovers. They support each other well. He credits them sometimes for his well being, and I wonder "what about those awesome parents you have?"

This story makes me laugh. Julian had Spanish in middle school so as a freshman he took a placement test which put him in Spanish 2. He breezed through the class. At the beginning of his sophomore year, he found himself in a Spanish 3 class. He felt immediately intimidated because he was one of the only non-native speakers in the class. I took a little joy in him finding himself challenged at school. He wasn't so sure, and ended up asking the teacher if he could be put back into Spanish 2. He confessed that the placement test he took was a Google doc with a translate button... which he maybe he really shouldn't be a year ahead. His teacher told him she couldn't put him back in a class he had easily passed last year! Oh, the natural consequences!

He's done great, though, in Spanish 3 and all his other classes. He's up and on the redline to school before anyone else in the house is awake. He's doing his own laundry these days and learning to drive. He got his permit in September. He has emerged from middle school a responsible kid. 

And funny. He's always sending me a good meme. He doesn't have a sense of humor about me taking his picture, though. If I ask him to smile, I get a kind of I-hate-you look. He still looks handsome, though. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Maggie is twelve.

 If Penelope is nine going on nine, Maggie is twelve going on twenty. 

She shared her birthday with my dad's wedding. She wasn't bothered, just excited to dress up and eat good food. We found her an extra small dress from the Juniors department. She fixed her hair and makeup and kept mentioning how grown up she felt. 

Maggie declared that she wasn't a "sports girl" this summer. Instead, she is artistic and musical. She plays piano and, inspired by Lizzo, started learning the flute. Her desk is always covered in dry paint. Still, she decided to join volleyball this fall. Maybe she's learning she doesn't have to define herself so rigidly, that she can always choose to learn and play a sport if the urge strikes. 

She uses words like "aesthetic" and "facts". She reads tween novels especially those with LGBTQ themes, and proudly displays her pride flags in her room. She enthusiastically utilizes Pinterest boards. She sent me one for her birthday, in fact. She had pinned all the presents she wanted; bath and body works soaps, a tortilla blanket, delicate beaded jewelry. '

A couple of months ago, she messaged me on Facebook messenger asking if she could start shaving her legs. When I didn't notice the message for a few days, she left me a sticky not by my bed asking me to check messenger. My response was sure, go ahead and start a task that will never, ever be done or done well. There will always be that pesky spot on your knee, ankle, or on the back of your calf that you missed. 

Our school district has just put out a plan to move and merge her K-8 school. The transition with have her at four buildings in four years. She will tentatively spend her eighth grade year at the middle school just blocks from our home, within easy walking distance. She already has plans that her and her friends will cross the street to the Dairy Queen at least once a month for a treat. 

I joke that if there is an argument in our house between siblings, there's a 99% chance that she is involved. I appreciate that she has quick access to her emotions and words. 

This weekend, a friend was sharing that she had a first date but was tired of the same old first date questions. Maggie pulled out her sticky notes that she keeps in her purse in case she needs to draw and began creating some new questions. What kind of grapes do you like, green or red? Who would you say is your best friend? She advised our friend that if he says "my mom", you should walk the other way. Maggies said, "You never want a guy who will choose his mother over you." Her book of dating advise and questions will be out next year...when she's thirteen.

D'arcy is eighteen.

This will be my last birthday post for D'arcy. As the family historian, I've assumed the job of documenting her childhood, but her childhood is now officially over. Her life is hers to record and share...which doesn't mean she won't end up on my instagram feed. 

It's been such a joy to watch her this past year as she wrapped up high school and made plans to step out independently into the world. I loved watching her jump and serve the volleyball as a Blue Devil and carefully preparing macarons for each of her friends' birthdays. I loved hearing her move around in her attic bedroom, pounding the keys of her keyboard. Her steps above me were my alarm clock each morning. I loved listening to people's reaction when they heard her sing in the musical. "I had no idea she could sing like that!" I did. 

I loved helping her pick out three yellow dresses, one for easter, prom, and graduation. Several of her friends gathered to get ready at our house and descended two flights of stairs in their long dresses and high heels. Stephen drove her and a friend to prom in his old convertible, but I secretly drove past to see the beauty of a hundred teenagers standing on the library steps in their formal attire. I parked around the corner and cried at the beauty of it all. I loved screaming her name as she crossed the stage at Clewes Hall and seeing her siblings run to hug her as she came out on the lawn after graduation.

There were hard moments as well. She grieved the loss of a couple of close friendships. She struggled to know and accept her part in the breakdown and set healthy boundaries. In late March, she tearfully told me that Notre Dame, her reach school, had officially declined her application. She decided to go to Indiana University, and this summer was mostly a joyful time of getting ready. The night before she left, though, she came into our room crying, feeling scared. And, so, I petted her hair as she laid in our bed and just had a moment. 

She has a great support system at IU, a best friend for a roommate and plenty of high school friends to help her feel less alone. When we dropped her off, we knew we would see her soon. We were picking her up in just ten days (the day after her birthday) for my dad's wedding. I left a gift with her roommate, asking her to put it on her bed on her birthday morning. Her friends surprised her with a sushi dinner out in Bloomington. 

While I didn't see her on her eighteenth birthday, I picked her up the next day. She looked beautiful at the wedding. D'arcy and Julian performed a duet during the ceremony and she gave an impromptu speech. Then she put her tennis shoes on and asked the DJ to play The Wobble. That's my girl. Always my girl. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Schroeder is 13.

Schroeder turned thirteen in March. We spent his birthday at the City Museum in St. Louis. We had our nephew with us so we paired up, someone older with a cellphone and someone younger without. Schroeder was my buddy. I followed him all over the museum, through tight dark tunnels, down slides. He doesn't give me as many hugs these days, but he seemed to enjoy spending his day with me. 

I wish I could have seen him as he is now five years ago when he was struggling in school. He has always been smart, but now he is more focused and responsible. I don't worry when the school calls anymore because the feedback I'm getting about him is usually positive. Math is still his jam. He transferred into band this year. He's playing the trombone and his teacher is thrilled that he is easily making up the two year gap as his peers started in the 6th grade. 

He has been cycling through sports; fall is volleyball, winter is futsal, spring is soccer, summer is tennis. He is competitive which means he is hard on himself when he doesn't do well. 

This summer, he and Stephen went on a backpacking trip. Our church youth group has these programs to help kids connect with significant mentors and God. They often involve intense trips in nature. The leadership is encouraging parents to be intentional about the "coming of age" process. Stephen and I have had many discussions about how we can help both our boys as they enter manhood. Manhood doesn't have anything to do with sports or extreme outdoor adventures. It has everything to do with being kind and curious. It has everything to do with them knowing their worth and the worth of others. It has everything to do with identifying values that will guide their lives. 

Schroeder struggles at times to vocalize his desires and emotions. When I ask him questions, I need to give him time and a safe place to share. Sometimes, though, I just yell "SPEAK UP!"

Schroeder is growing, growing, growing. On his birthday, he was my height. Now, six months later, he is several inches taller than me. I'm eager to see how much he continues to grow in all areas.