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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Julian is 15!

 Julian finished his time at CFI2 in the midst of a global pandemic. There were no big trips or dinners, but he did get to play soccer with his friends. Although, he missed the last game when he had a strong reaction to his Covid shot. He was chosen to give a graduation speech, and instead of being sappy, he was downright funny. I was so proud.  

He transitioned pretty smoothly to high school in the fall. When I was in high school, there was a clear school path, but in downtown Indianapolis, in 2021, there are choices. Shortridge had felt like the clear decision for our kids, but it was still a decision I agonized over. Julian wasn’t interested in agonizing which felt like a relief. It’s been lovely to have D’arcy and Julian in the same school again. They joked that they were planning an epic sister vs. brother, senior vs. freshman fight in the hallway.  It must still be in the planning phases because it hasn’t happened yet.  

He rides the Redline (the first rapid transit line in Indy) with his friends and sister taking it directly from our neighborhood to the front door of their school. He joined the tennis team as a novice player, is playing trumpet in the band, and started piano lessons again. I love to hear him play. 

Julian has always had a great group of friends. Despite going to several different high schools, they all still meet up regularly to walk around the city. Their meet up point is usually the playground of their old K-8 school which I find sweet. It’s been interesting and sometimes uncomfortable for me to watch Julian have conflict with friends, though. In some instances, he has set boundaries which limited or closed the door to certain friendships.  

We’ve also had several serious conversations about the role of God, faith, and church in his life.  Parenting teenagers seems to be about finding a balance between continuing to apply your influence and expectations and giving them space to exert their independence. Maybe that’s what all parenting is about, but the topics seem to have gotten more serious.  

Julian is all about anime.  It’s what he is reading, watching, listening to, and wearing for Halloween. His love for anime is influencing all his younger siblings. He asked me to buy him a specific straw hat this summer, something an anime character wears. I was so amused that I didn’t question the purchase and just bought it.  

For his birthday, he finally got his first official phone and phone number. With after school commitments and friend hangouts, it had gotten hard to communicate without being able to just text him. He could have gotten his birthday present early, before school started, but he had STRONG opinions about which phone he wanted and held out for the Google Pixel 6. 

I found out this year that Julian thinks folding clothes is worthless. Also, he was surprised to find out that his first name, Edward, happens to be his grandpa and uncle’s middle name. How is this new information?! 

We love this kid!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Maggie is 11!

Maggie turns eleven tomorrow.  She is all long legs, quick temper, and thoughtful card maker.  A dream combination.  She is quick to scream at Schroeder, but she won’t neglect making him a birthday card. At Christmas, she proposed that the siblings draw names and make each other a gift.  Most of her siblings were resistant.  D’arcy said, “This idea will NOT bring me joy.”  Maggie sewed a little purple felt stuffy for Schroeder well in advance.  D’arcy drew Maggie in her Pickle (a stuffed dinosaur) Halloween costume.

Maggie chose aviator style reading glasses that make her look like Gloria Steinem in all her feminist glory.  She doesn’t know who Gloria is, but she knows she looks good. She is deeply committed to curating her look.  She often braids her hair wet to get a solid wave after two days.  Her braces have come off...for now.         

In the spring, I asked her if she wanted to play soccer.  After a year of being secluded due to Covid, I was ready to get the kids outside around their peers.  “No.”  She told me she “wasn’t a sporty girl”.  And, yet, this fall, she decided to play volleyball.  

She worked her way through watching “Boy Meets World”, one of my faves when I was her age, and has moved on to watching “Grownish” and “Blackish”.  She is definitely ready to be grownish.  She is coding and playing piano and listening to musicals on repeat.  Maggie is passionate about LGBTQ+ rights and committed to wearing a rainbow necklace and bracelet throughout Pride month.  

She attended a sleep away camp for the first time this summer.  Twice actually.  She went once with her siblings and cousins and then attended a different camp with her friend, August.  At the second camp, I dropped her off and dumped all my friend baggage on her.  “Give your friend space.  Don’t talk her ear off the whole time.  Read the room.  Be open to making other friends and taking space apart during the week.”  

For her birthday, she wanted to take a group of friends to Color Me Mine, a pottery painting studio.  We have a van full of kids heading up there tomorrow.  She asked for art supplies, fidgets, and mascara for her birthday.  She’s been going to my bathroom for a month to use my mascara.  I find myself squinting, trying to remember how old her sister was when she did such things.  They are just far enough apart that I seem to have forgotten.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

D'arcy is 17!!

D'arcy is seventeen and a senior.  She's back in school full time (for now) after a year of Covid craziness.  We are hoping this virus gets under control so she can finish up her year and go on her senior trip to Belize. 

She has a permit, a bank account, and a check book.  Her full schedule doesn't allow for a steady job, but she's out their busking and babysitting to earn some money. 

She's a night hour away from getting her license.  Her flexible schedule while doing virtual school allowed me to take her out every Wednesday last winter, and we let her drive all the way to South Carolina for vacation.  She conquered driving in downtown Atlanta and the Tennessee mountains.  She was not great at turning or staying in her lane when we started, but I think she's almost ready.  I've been the kind of driving coach that yells, "Is that how you want to die?" when she pulls out without being able to fully see what's coming.  We haven't been in too much of a hurry because she will still be predominantly taking the redline to and from school and practices. 

The redline and friends with cars has given her a lot of new freedom.  I no longer have to plan activities to fill her summer.  Instead, I'm just trying to keep track of where she's going, with who, and how she's getting there. We use an app to track her and it even gives us an idea of how fast her friends are driving.  But that doesn't replace a good ol' text from her communicating her whereabouts.  She has asked questions recently like, Can I have a beer too? and Can I sleep over at a boy's house with a whole group of friends?  She's trustworthy but I'm learning how to maintain boundaries unemotionally with teenagers.

She has a great group of friends that survived some relational challenges last winter.  They come to each other's sports games and exchange baked goods at Christmas and birthdays.  They play tennis, picnic, swim, watch movies, and play frustrated games of monopoly.  It's beautiful to see your child loved. 

It delights me to watch her hit serves playing JV volleyball and lose with class on the tennis court.  She ministers to me when she sings up front at church.  She is toying with the idea of going to IU (Indiana University) next year.  She wants to major in a math or science, minor in music, and have some sort of cross cultural experience.  I want her to really consider the financial implications of college without closing her mind to possibility.  It's fun to feel the change coming but not have it fully revealed yet. 

Until then, you'll find her in her third floor walk up attic apartment (that happened this year!) writing essays to finish IB, watching New Girl or Gilmore girls on repeat, listening to musicals, making delicious macarons or playing Olivia Rodrigo on the piano.

I have been rewatching Friday Night Lights, and when Tami Taylor said this, I teared up. "I got my dream.  I went to a good school. I got the degree I wanted. I met your dad, and I had you.  You're my dream, baby.  I got what I wanted.  I got it all.  And now it's your job to dream up whatever you want, and I will support you to the ends of the earth to do that." Excited to see what's ahead for this gal.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Penelope (DaBaby) turned 8!

Penelope turned eight at the end of May.  She's a little thing with a confident, independent spirit.  She likes a good anime and often turns on her lo-fi hip hop music to chill.  She (briefly) started studying Japanese on Duolingo so she could eventually stop using subtitles. She thinks her bangs hanging in her face give her an anime look, but they make me crazy! 

She loves to draw.  I find her often with a sharpie in her hand.  And she wrote the sweetest little book that I think is good enough to publish. She prefers a cold can of sparkling water, and tells some seriously bad jokes.  An example would be, "Don't be sad because sad backwards is das and das not good." She plays a whole lot of Roblox, and is always wanting to spend her money on Robux which to me is the equivalent of flushing money down the toilet.

Like all her other siblings this year, she celebrated with a backyard movie party.  She wanted to watch Dumbo live action because her siblings never want to watch it with her.  She invited a few of her fave friends from school including a couple of boys she became better friends with during Covid.  While we waited for the sun to go down, they got some Nicey treats and tattoos and played at the park.

Penelope played soccer for the first time. She played defense, and it was so thrilling to see her stand her ground with boys much taller than her as I screamed from the sideline.  She said winning makes soccer more fun and would often have a gut feeling about whether they would win on the way to a game. 

All her siblings went to sleep away camp this summer, but it still makes me nervous to think of my littlest bit swimming in a lake without me.  She was happy to be an only child for the week, though.  She angled me into buying her some new shoes while they were gone.  She wanted Crocs and I thought if I bought her the exact shoe she desired (with clouds and rainbows), she might keep them on.  Keeping shoes on is an ongoing fight with Penelope   Unfortunately, she is just as likely to take them off and complain that her feet hurt or are too hot.

She did get to host a bearded dragon in her room for a week this summer.  Her second grade class pet was taking a summer tour around Indy.  P was already familiar with holding and feeding him mealworms.  We kept him in her room so Georgia wouldn't lose her mind.  Nacho decided to shed his skin while he was at our place.  I secretly loved him.

Despite Covid, Penelope rocked second grade.  She was proud to "finish" dreambox (a companion online math program), and her reading exploded.  At the beginning of the year, she only wanted to read graphic novels.  Other books "didn't have enough pictures" she said, but she decided to reread a book I had read aloud to her about a pig in the city.  Then, she read the follow up book. Plain ole novels became appealing, and she also decided she would add pigs to the list of animals she loved.  Now she has two stuffed pigs, a cork pig that she made at craft club with our neighbor Rebecca, and two ceramic pigs that used to be my mom's.  (My mom collected pigs in the '90's.)

All the older kids can't believe she's feels so old for someone they remember being born.  Forever that baby we all love.  

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Schroeder is twelve.

Schroeder's eleventh year of life overlapped almost exactly with the coronavirus pandemic.  School was cancelled just two weeks before he turned 11.  He will finally go back to school full time on April 5th as a twelve year old.

Last year, we had a zoom party.  This year, we had a handful of his masked buddies over in the backyard for snacks, video games, sardines, and other general nonsense.  

We scootered over to Dairy Queen for some dessert.  Schroeder was showing his friends how fast he could ride his scooter, how he could lead the pack.  Then he hit a bump, flipped off and rolled his wrist.  I thought it would derail his party.  He wasn't crying, but he was clearly in his head with discomfort. After some ibuprofen, he rebounded but two days later we are looking at taking him in for an x-ray to see if he has a fracture. 

He has really sweet friends.  Friends who will say hello to me, will let his little sisters play sardines, and will notice he isn't recovering from his spill and sit with him and ask him questions about how it's feeling.  I always feel really grateful that my kids have peers to connect with.

This year, most of that connection has come through screens.  It makes it even more challenging to limit screen time because I'm essentially saying "stop playing with your friends who you never get to see in person".  

For his birthday, we repaired his Nintendo switch.  In December, I found him crying on the couch.  I sat down beside him with a whole helping of concern and empathy.  What happened?  Did a friend hurt your feelings?  I soon discovered he was crying because, in a fit of anger over his video game, he smacked the screen with his controller and busted it.  All my concern and empathy dissolved.  A busted switch screen was a pretty perfect natural consequence.

Schroeder entered middle school in August without much fanfare.  Middle school paired with virtual learning created the perfect practice ground for time management.  I try to check in with him at lunchtime.  I have him write down his open assignments in his planner for us both to see.  Then I ask him what his goals are for the day.  "What will you get accomplished before 3:30pm?" At 3:30, I'll ask, "How did it go?" Childhood is for practicing.  

He always prioritizes his math first and leaves art for last.  Math is easy, but he says he's no good at art.  I'm trying to help him reframe his words.  "Maybe you aren't good at it because you don't enjoy practicing drawing.  It's okay to not prefer an activity." But also, "Just finish your damn art assignment."

Schroeder is a beautiful kid.  Quick to smile and laugh.  Quick to give me a hug.  Quick to be excited about an adventure.  Quick to tear up when he's feeling tired or overwhelmed.

I'm realizing this is his last year, really, as a little boy.  Next year, on his birthday, he'll likely be taller than me.  I can already see the baby skin on his face becoming less smooth.  Motherhood is constant mourning and gratefulness and dreaming of the future.  

On his actual birthday, we played a game as a family.  He and Maggie were giving clues.  These babies of mine, just 17 months apart whispering to each other and giggling and strategizing. I wanted to bottle it up.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Everyone is a year older.

I've been working on this blog post for about six months.  Slowly adding more kids as their birthday passed.

Written in January 2020
D'arcy turned fifteen this past August.  She's awake an hour before us all, and the newly opened Redline takes her from around the corner to the front of her school.  She had been resistant to the idea of public transportation and was talking about Drivers Ed and getting a car.   But after one practice bus trip with me, she saw it for what it was, freedom.  Now we have to remind her that even if she has an independent form of transportation to get to an event, she still has to ask and inform us.

Giving her freedom feels pretty easy, though.  She's deeply responsible and motivated and has earned our respect.  Her report card came in the mail and it listed her class rank as #1.  But we do have conversations about value though.  It's great to strive for great grades, but, ultimately, the learning will be the value you carry with you.  It's fine to be competitive, but comparison steals joy.

There seems to always be clothing flowing from her closet door. When three girls share one room, it's challenging for it to ever feel clean.  Now that she's in high school, I have more of a desire to give her her own space.  We are strongly considering turning our attic into a live-able space.  It's definitely something we want to accomplish by the time she's in college.  I think it would be hard to push her back up into her bunk "apartment" once she becomes an adult.  But until then, I see the beauty in her still sharing a childhood room with her sisters.

She and Julian are teenagers together, now.  Once, this fall, they asked me, "Have you seen the Birds work for the bourgeoisie on TikTok?"  "What?  Are speaking English?"

D'arcy asked us to buy her $250 Apple EarPods for Christmas.  She assured us that we could combine our gift budget with grammy and grandpa's to afford them.  It could be her only gift.  I asked her how many times her cheap earphones had been taken at school.  Twice.  Then I thought about how angry I would be if we bought her $250 EarPods and they were taken in, say, February.  I think I would be pretty frustrated.  So we gave her a few small gifts and some money.  If you want to spend that much on a tiny little item, feel free.  She ended up buying $40 ones from Amazon.

Maggie turned nine in August.  She is living this year in the '90s, a scrunchie (or two) around her wrist and choker around her neck.

In July, she asked to cut her hair to her chin.  I watched a youtube video to get the technique right.  In September, Penelope asked for her hair to be cut just like Maggie's.  Maggie sat in her oversized Ed Shearen pajama t-shirt, and cried in Stephen's arms.  To be copied was devastating.

At the beginning of second grade, I wondered aloud to her teacher if dyslexia was playing a part in her reading challenges.  She made huge strides that year, but was still struggling with some letter combinations.  Her teacher just recently tested her to give us more information about where she was at risk.

Her emotional life feels very similar to my own.  She wants people to see that she needs help without always asking.  When something doesn't come easily, she becomes frustrated and quickly angry.  She'll dash out of a room with tears in her eyes and slam her door.  When you say something deeply true about her, she will begin to cry, I suspect, with relief that she is being seen and fear of being exposed and vulnerable.

In November, she came downstairs to say, "Mom, I can't bend my thumb."  It was the same week the dentist said, "She really needs to see an orthodontist." and the same week the eye doctor reminded, "it's time for your next appointment."  So we took a medical tour that led to outpatient surgery and braces.  A first for us as parents.

She's drawing.  Portraits.  Right now, she is having an eye period.  Last night, she was telling me how she understood God's seven days of creation through the eyes of an artist.  You start with a concept and come back daily to add details.

Julian turned thirteen in October.

Parenting tip...puberty requires a larger clothing budget.  He told me recently that I should buy him only black pants for school.  "It's simpler to have all the same color.  Also, they don't show dirt as easily."

As a thirteen year old, we are diligently trying to help him create a habit of hanging up his towel.  Also, we are introducing him to the oven and stove.  Tackling the fine art of frozen pizza, mac and cheese, and one pot spaghetti.

He's a really sweet big brother to Penelope.  She sits on his lap or his shoulders and watches youtube.  They play video games together.  She urges him to "go easy on me".  Lately, being a big brother to Maggie has looked like tackling and fake punching her back.  Less sweet, but Maggie seems to like the pseudo affection.

Our friend Billy who occasionally teaches the kids lesson always tells Julian to give me a hug.  So he obeys.

He's going on an Art Club trip in June to South Dakota.  We had to find different ways for him to earn money besides sitting on a city corner playing the ukulele.  We had a yard sale, and he worked to price items and haul what was left over to Goodwill.  He sat outside on our stoop, drinking coffee, and peddling used goods.  He likes coffee.

March 2020
Schroeder turns eleven today.  His birthday looks a little different due to our coronavirus quarantine.  Breakfast delivered instead of out with Dad, and a virtual happy birthday sing along instead of a party.  

I asked him what life was like for him this past year.  He said school is harder than it's ever been.  He's currently working on his exhibition project, a culminating project to finish out his elementary years.  He selected the challenging topic of police brutality.  This is my third time supporting a fifth grader through this project.  In February, a first time parent asked me what to expect.  My response was, "Most of it is completed in school and is supported by the teacher."  That is proving to not be true this time.  

It is interesting...even beautiful...though, supporting a child as he learns to research and take a position on a hard topic for the first time.  

In November, Schroeder decided to run the Monumental 5k.  He got up before sunrise on a super cold Fall morning and ran through the streets of our city in his thermal leggings.  I cried when he crossed the finish line.  No one in our family had ever done something like that before.  I was so moved that he would have the courage to try something hard and new all on his own.  

He has lots of little hobbies.  He learned to solve ALL the rubix cubes...cube ones, triangular ones, ones with a million sides.  It's all he asked for for Christmas.  He rides around the house on his ripstick, getting more and more bold with his speed.  He got a new scooter for his birthday because he wants to learn some jumps.  We also got him a helmet and pads.  

May 2020
Penelope turned seven at the end of May.  

She finished her last three months of second grade learning from home due to coronavirus.  She took a heads down, get 'er done approach.  She got on clever at 9:45, did her math and reading and extra activities and moved on with the day.

"It's official everyone in our house can read."  I made this declaration one night at dinner.  After ten years, I'm so relieved to be past this stage of parenting. Penelope's reading EXPLODED this winter, and I give all the credit to her kindergarten and first grade teachers.  

Penelope started hip hop club this year after not wanting to join anything as a kindergartner.  In February, her coach asked me if she is enjoying herself as she tends to have a very serious look on her face.  My response was, "Yes, she enjoys it quite a bit.  Don't worry, she didn't smile at me the whole first year of life."

She is a gamer.  She asked for her own pro controller for the switch for her birthday (And also a super soft blanket and stuffed animal.)  She told me recently that Schroeder is her favorite sibling.  She said, "We play together and like the same things.  If we were the same age we would basically be twins."

Penelope tends to disappear when chores start to happen.  I have to say, "Don't talk like a baby." at least once a day.  But when she scrunches up her nose, she has the cutest nose wrinkles.  

We recently decided to leave our church of ten years, the same church we showed up to with Penelope in an ergo carrier when she was 40 hours old because I'm ridiculous.  I read a statement to the church on our zoom meeting at 11:30am.  Then, at 4pm that evening, Penelope looked at me and she said, "I really like our old church because it didn't have that many people.  A new church is going to have SO many people." She started crying.  The type of crying where you can't catch your breath for several minutes.  I felt like Penelope showed me exactly who she was in that moment...a little shy and easily overwhelmed in light of change.  


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Urban Dwellers

It was October, and my friend invited me to a local meetup of women who had aspirations of being intentional influencers. One of the topics that emerged at the meeting was social media.  Women were vulnerably sharing how certain feeds can leave them feeling less than or jealous.

I came home and declared, “I don’t think I have ever felt that way, Stephen.  I am not duped by those perfect feeds. Everyone has a messy life in some ways, they just don’t share it."

That same month, some friends who have a bluegrass band asked me to take some band pictures.  We went out mid-day to this empty lot with a cool mural painted on the adjoining building. There I was with my single camera and step stool.  I’m 4’10’’ in the morning. They say you shrink a little bit during the day. The step stool helps me photograph people’s faces instead of their necks.  I can tell you, I strike a pretty unimposing figure.

We are there, and what I can only describe as a supremely confident photographer came over with a bride and groom.  Could her bride and groom pose with the band? Would they play for the couple? Would one of her assistants hand her the 80mm lens?  Would the other assistant take a photo of her taking a photo? Yes, yes, yes, yes. 

Days later, this photographer posted the photo of the bride a groom with the band on Instagram.  One of the bandmates brought the picture to my attention. I scrolled through the photographer's feed and discovered prettier people, better light, more creative angles, and a familiar face. 

Our children’s principal and her family were there in this photographer's feed.  I really didn’t know much about her at the time. She has two daughters. One the same age as Schroeder, the other the same age as Maggie.  I knew that she dressed well, and I knew that I didn’t like her tone when she called me to talk about Schroeder’s behavior. Did he go to preschool?  Is he young for his grade? Are you as good of a mom as you think you are? She didn’t ask the last question. There’s a solid chance that she didn’t have a tone, either.  She may have just been doing her job. We might never know.

I found out a few more things about her from her instagram feed.  It has since become private, likely because of stalkers like me. She recently sold her four bedroom home in exchange for a condo downtown.  They were no longer trapped on evenings and weekends cleaning, maintaining, and improving a home. They were now urban dwellers. The city was their backyard.I had fallen down the rabbit hole, and my mind began to churn.  In our move to the city, why hadn’t we considered moving to a condo instead of a 130 year old, beige, moth-ball filled house?  A house that had consumed a good portion of our expendable income over the last five years.

It occurred to me that one difference in her situation and mine was she has two kids and I have five.  Why did I have five kids!?  My life decisions no longer made any sense.

Just after Christmas, I tore up our upstairs hall bathroom and slowly began to put it back together.  I pulled down a grate and found it was hiding a big hole in the ceiling. I pulled out the vanity and discovered there was no wall behind it.  It was a slow process. My mom asked me, “Who are you hiring to lay the tile?” No one. I’m doing it myself. She outright laughed. I reminded her that DIY projects are as much about the process and what you learn as the end result.  I’m still clinging to this truth.

I spent a grueling mid-winter Saturday laying down tile.  I had started in the corner which was the wrong strategy, and all the poorly spaced seams were converging in the very center of the floor.   Mortar was coming up through the cracks, and I wasn’t doing a fantastic job wiping it all away.

Stephen had decided to forego the home improvement life and took D’arcy to the historic Women’s March.  While I was slugging away on my hands and knees in a bathroom with no windows, he was updating me on his day. Ran into your cousin’s family. In a strange turn of events, my cousin’s wife had just become the assistant principal at our kids' school. They are going to the principal’s condo for lunch, and have invited us to come. Is that cool? I guess. Eating butternut squash soup.  Of course you are.

The irony of this turn of events was not escaping me.

Days later, I would call Stephen crying that the thinset mortar I neglected to thoroughly wipe away had dried on the top of the tile.   Also, it was really all his fault since he was pretending to be a free wheeling urban dweller when in fact he was the kind of downtown dweller with a really big old house which required him to spend his Saturdays helping his wife lay tile in a windowless upstairs bathroom.  He refused to accept the blame. However, he took the next day off work, and we spent seven hours slowly chiseling off the excess mortar.