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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. 

Penelope is NINE.

Penelope has four older siblings who are all teens or preteens. This year, parenting them has been an onslaught of decisions and discussions about faith, dating, high schools, colleges, money, sexuality, driving, and independence. Comparatively, parenting Penelope has been a reprieve. Parenting Penelope has felt easy. She is nine going on nine, joyfully content to just be the age she is.

In the spring, I named a worry I had for each child but when I got to P, I couldn't think of anything distinct. She enjoys school and is excelling at reading. She plays soccer and likes to draw. She has friends that she loves and love her back. She climbs trees. She would scamper up the tree by the bus stop many mornings and then drop down when she saw yellow turning the corner. She plays video games with her brothers and watches Survivor and Big Brother with me. This year, I noticed how much of a giggler she is, the sound of it filling our house daily, hourly. She finds me regularly just to give me a hug.

I mean, she's not great at cleaning her room. She abandons the task and declares she forgot (insert eye roll) but, otherwise, in this season, she is not making me flex my parenting skills very much.

Well, until June when a little friend cried out, "Penelope hurt her wrist" and then I see her walk up the hill with a shockingly NOT straight arm. She snapped both her ulna and tibia radius when she fell off a ladder which according to Maggie was the height of a refrigerator. A pediatric nurse was in our company at the time and gave her a sling and us instructions for where to take her. That nurse woke up the next morning with the discovery that she had Covid, but I was so grateful she was there face to face with my babe, calming us all.

And so parenting Penelope looked like sitting with her during x-rays and castings and telling a nine going on nine year old the worst summer news, you can't swim for a month. A month turned into seven weeks when they removed her long cast and discovered they had burned her arm when they cut her original cast to allow for swelling. The nurse tried to make it up to her by offering her sparkles on her new, shorter cast. Penelope wouldn't even look at her, wouldn't even pick a color for her cast.

Seeing how this happened four days before our trip to Hawaii, she was a pretty good sport. She found joy in experiencing her first plane ride (that she can remember). When the rest of our family went zip-lining, she and I went into the city to find mochi, a Japanese candy. I'm so grateful for the resilient, beautiful soul she is.

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!