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Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Julian is SEVENTEEN.

Julian turned seventeen with little fanfare. We woke up in Nashville and spent the day driving towards Texas. We finally crossed the state line around sunset and Julian drove us most of the way to Austin on the very congested and dark Texas highways. He is so close to having all the hours he needs to get his license. After years of being a one car family, we are planning to get a second van so he and D'arcy have more access to a car this summer.

Earlier in the week, we did attend Spiderverse at Clowes Hall with a few of his buddies. The movie was accompanied by a live orchestra. Spiderman has been bringing him joy since he was a toddler. He confessed to me recently that many of his dreams are comprised of him using webs to swing through the air. 

Although both spiderverse movies are some of his favorites, Julian likes all kinds of movies. He wanted to see Barbie and Oppenheimer back to back, but the best we could do was seeing them within twenty-four hours of each other. He said that he cried during Barbie, and he convinced his cousin to see it with him a second time. 

Stephen and I watched Lady Bird with him one evening. It's my kind of movie, funny, quirky, and heartwarming, a coming of age story that focus on the relationship between a daughter and her mom. Not long after, I overheard him mentioning that it was his favorite movie. I think it shows his tenderness. I like that we like the same thing. 

He and I started to watch Haiku together, finding common ground between his love of anime and my love of shows that highlight sports. We only made it through a season, but we will hopefully pick it up again over break. I appreciate that we are finding mutuality, hopefully building a foundation for ways we can spend time together in the future. 

Julian has spent the year learning to advocate for himself. He is figuring out how to care for his mental health and how to trust himself in the face of anxiety. I've appreciated seeing him be introspective and hearing his insights. 

He stepped away from tennis this fall when he got a lead part in the Mean Girls musical. He played Aaron, Kady and Regina's love interest. I really hadn't heard him sing before. Rap, yes. Sing, no. I was blown away by his stage presence and voice. He had to kiss the girl playing Regina on stage a couple of times each show, and her dad joked every night that he had his eyes on Julian. The musical was funny, thought provoking, and SO much work. He spent loads of long evenings and nearly a month of Saturdays working alongside his cast and crew to make it all come together. 

Julian is still playing trumpet and piano. He began a two year, diploma program music theory class. He is interested in listening to and playing jazz. He also listens to a lot of rap music. He asked for an album entitled "Scaring the Hoes" for Christmas. My knowledge and appreciation of rap is growing as I ride along in the car with him and so that title no longer scares this hoe.

Julian convinced us to let him move up into the attic when D'arcy is at school. For nine months out of the year, he and Schroeder will effectively have their own rooms for the first time  in their lives. I was nervous about them being lonely, but they have gotten along just fine. 

Whenever D'arcy does come home, Julian moves his gaming computer and monitor, a computer he earned by working hard to walk with his whole foot, down to his brother's room. He sleeps on the top bunk now that Schroeder has claimed the bottom. 

Seventeen. I feel emotional just saying it. Months away from being an adult, this beautiful, funny boy of mine. 

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.