It seems I’ve skipped a month again. Have I mentioned that work and life and the start of school and everything else have been busy? Hooo-weee. But I can’t let too much time slip away between updates, as these girls are forever changing and growing and becoming even more amazing (in my completely unbiased opinion).
Let’s first take a look at this girl, who I recently realized is my puzzle soulmate (lucky since Marc and Annabelle aren’t interested!):
This slightly more than 7.5 year old girl (the other day she asked me – “I forget, am I 7 and a half yet?”) has always been such a beach lover. We took a quick weekend away at South Padre island and there was one day she didn’t set foot inside (hurray for outdoor restaurants and peeing in the ocean) for more than 8 hours! She can jump waves and make dribble castles indefinitely, with the excellent concentration you see below.
Aside from the weekend in South Padre, Clem has been attending nature and art camps this month. She likes them, but they are full day camps (9-5) and she is wishing for a little more free time to be with her own thoughts, read book after book, and snuggle. It’s hard to remember she’s still such a little girl when she has such big, wise thoughts, and lately those big thoughts have been a little more anxious than strictly observant. She’ll whisper to me that her wrist suddenly hurt and then stopped hurting, or that the skin on her shoulder feels different, or that she swallowed a cherry pit a few days back and thinks it may still be inside of her. She also notifies me (usually at night) when there’s a strange sound or Eddie does a funny twitch, etc. I was hoping Annabelle would be our only anxious girl, but Clem appears to be following in her footsteps a bit… or maybe it’s just the age.
I think part of Clem’s anxiety comes from her incredible empathy, which I know I’ve written about for ages. The other day she asked me if I thought she’d become an artist, a musician, or a marine biologist. I told her that given how much she cares about all living things, I think she might do well in a career that focuses on others, like becoming a veterinarian or a therapist. Her response:
“Mama – do you know that I don’t just have empathy for living things? Yesterday I cut a piece of string because I thought I was going to use it to make a bracelet, and then I didn’t end up needing it, and I felt so bad for the string because it didn’t have a use anymore! Luckily another camper ended up needing it, so I felt better.”
I always say Annabelle is all head and Clementine is all heart, but of course they both have enough head and heart to go around! Switching gears to 10.5 year old Annabelle, she pulled a classic Annabelle move the other week and decided that if we weren’t going to get her a horse or riding lessons (which to her dismay, is non-negotiable), she’d make her own horse. We were skeptical but for 3-4 days, she worked her tail off with old recycled cardboard, bubble wrap, and other things she found around the house… and out she came with Winston!
She eventually added full facial features and a stand, and kept Winston in her room with her. One day, Annabelle set off to nature camp and left a saddle on Winston… and when she returned 8 hours later, poor Winston had been crushed under its weight. She got very upset and we understood, because she had put so much time into him. But we convinced her that this was just Winston 1.0, and now she could make 2.0 much sturdier – maybe even something she could mount. When the tears didn’t dry up, Marc finally got the truth out of her – she had come to see Winston as a friend.
My heart. Again.
These girls. Growing up so fast but still so vulnerable and complex and beautiful and tender. I can’t get enough of them. Luckily next week I’ll get an extra dose, as it’s Annabelle’s turn for Mama Camp – and we are READY for adventure!
And then they were 7.5 and 10.5. Milestones were missed because we were up north visiting family, but there’s nothing like a whirlwind trip like that (shuttling these girls between grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends) to realize just what great, resilient little people they are. And little is becoming relative – Annabelle is now taller than Great Gram and Clementine can pick up Gramma!
The girls got along with each other and with countless cousins and friends, making their own fun when they needed to (drawing contests, horse-jumping over creative obstacles, card games) and going with the flow when the activities were laid out for them. They each have their social strengths and play off of each other incredibly well. Clementine hopped off the high dive without hesitation while Annabelle looked on in fear, and Annabelle pulled Clem along with her at Playgrounds and parks, helping her jump right in instead of observing from the sidelines as she does without a big sis to motivate her.
Speaking of Clementine, I had the BEST time with her for a week this month as we embarked in our first ever installment of “Mama Camp.”
Getting a week to focus on all of Clementine’s favorite things – from animals to art, being “fancy” and helping others – was so fantastic. This 7.5 year old tries so hard to be and do her best, whether it’s focusing on a piece of pottery, cleaning up her accidental messes (I think she still averages a spill a day), or making sure that the people she loves (or even people she doesn’t know, or even non-people such as animals and plants) are okay. She cannot be rushed and likes to make sure you fully understand every rationale for everything (there’s a lot of explanation when hanging with Clem), but man that heart of hers just makes me burst with pride… even more than her hugs make everybody burst from… extreme squeezing. She is such a joy and a love… I think she makes everyone around her a better person.
Of course, big sis at 10.5 is no slouch either.
If you’re lucky, she’ll occasionally come in for a hug (especially after nonstop vacation going), but mainly this girl can’t be photographed because she is a blur! A blur of activity and ideas and leadership and creativity and doing. She is not warmth and snuggles like Clementine (unless she’s REALLY tired or her anxiety rears its tricky head) but her “action” is starting to mature a bit and lately she has been more helpful (with little kids, or with reminding you of something you’d otherwise forget), more understanding (there’s less “but Clementine got to do X” in our house… finally!), more directed (she FINALLY uses recipes to bake cakes!) and generally more of a “partner” in my world. Tween-dom is nothing if not complicated, so I’m trying to be more mom than friend as she navigates her changing perspective, but I am so enthralled by the marvelous person she is morphing into by the day. Needless to say, I cannot WAIT till my chance at Mama Camp with Annabelle in August.
This summer is flying by too fast, much like life does with kids who happen to be at a perfect age that makes you want to stop the clocks forever. But we’re doing our best to soak in the magic of it day by day!
Do you know what this is?
It’s a middle schooler. GULP. Well, technically it’s a girl on her very last day of elementary school. While it’s hard to believe her time at Travis Heights Elementary is over, we are 100% sure she is ready. She ruled that school this year, and the graduation awards ceremony was almost comical with how many times she was called on stage and recognized (she swears it was only 10) – for academics, art, music, PE, tech crew, photojournalism, student council… or and did we mention that (after a steep competition and a school-wide vote) she and her friend Adeline won the t-shirt contest, and their design will be the official 2018-2019 shirt?
In other words, Annabelle is ready for anything… or more appropriately, everything. Lately she’s decided to become a contortionist. Along with an olympic archer, fashion designer, architect, inventor and entrepreneur (I’m sure I’m missing some). She’s also constantly baking, reading, dog training, drawing…. basically, always doing SOMETHING, and leaving a mess in her wake. She is messy, occasionally aloof, and still not always aware of those around her (in this way she is the opposite of her little sis), but this doesn’t seem to deter her giant group of super-close girl friends, whom she loves to pieces.
These girls are amazing – 8 of them, and I’ve never once heard of fights between them or rifts among them. Only one of them (her buddy Roisin) will be joining her at Kealing Middle School next year, but they’ve all made a pact to stay close with monthly get-togethers. Luckily they almost all live within walking distance of our house, and a bunch of them will join Annabelle in some of her camps this summer.
It really feels like there’s nothing this girl can’t do if she sets her mind to it… which means we can’t wait to see what she ends up setting her mind to in the coming years as she goes from tween to teen and young adult. It feels so far away right now but if her elementary school experience is telling, it’s going to fly by in a flash! Ready… aim…. here we go!
It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s … Clementine!
(yes that’s her – fearlessly leaping through the air in a challenge that had her sister trembling in her boots)
I apologize for skipping an update, but these past couple months have flown by! As of 3PM yesterday, Clementine is officially a rising second grader, having finished her 1st grade year with awards in math (she’s now well into 4th grade math) and writing (you should have seen her report on water buffalo… in Spanish!) and a gaggle of friends (Hudson, Micah & Stella below are probably her favorites):
Clementine has grown academically this year, but she still continues to blow us away even more in her emotional intelligence and awareness. The other day when she experienced something scary, she asked to draw what happened so she could better deal with her emotions. And when she watched her best bud Charlie almost get hurt, she told me she felt the “grandmother feeling” – when grandmothers say to kids, “I just don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.” She surprises us with her wisdom almost daily, but she has a good explanation for it. She recently told us, “I think the reason I know more than so many kids my age is because when people die, they are born again. And I’ve probably been born 5 or 6 times, but most of my friends are only on their first or second time.” I’m not a firm believer in reincarnation, but if anyone has been there… it’s this girl. I’ll never forget when she came out of me and instead of crying, just looked around. The nurse exclaimed, “it’s like she’s done this before.” She may be a few years behind her sister, but she is an old soul, to say the least.
Clementine is following in her sister’s footsteps in so many ways. She has been reading voraciously (hours every night to the detriment of her sleep – we had to employ some of Annabelle’s old “relaxation techniques” after she told us that she thinks she “just wasn’t meant to sleep”) and mispronouncing her new vocabulary adorably in conversation the way Annabelle used to. Yesterday she told me about someone who was ho-style (how she reads hostile), for example. She is also getting frustrated with her peers and getting along better with kids a little older than she is (we are wondering if grade skipping is in her future – we’ll keep an eye out in 2nd since that’s when we skipped A).
There’s one big way she is different from Annabelle though – her comfort with performing!
While Clementine really likes all music (she has always loved classical and now has a newfound LOVE of show tunes, with the Sound of Music being the latest obsession), she recently realized that pop songs are where it’s at when it comes to piano. Out of nowhere, she signed up to sing “Havana” at the elementary school talent show, rocked it, and is now working on “On Top of the World,” understanding that with a few chords and a strong voice, you can belt out a pop song… far more fun than those boring tunes in her “Piano for Beginners” book!
We’re not sure if we’ll be able to continue to fit in piano lessons over the summer, but we’re working on it. Clementine will be busy going to horse camp (first time she’s old enough!), nature camp, art camp, maker camp, waterpark camp… and the one I’m looking forward to the most, “Mama Camp.” Which means in a couple weeks (while Annabelle is at art camp) we’ll be spending our days together (I’ll catch up on work in the evenings), taking on dozens of activities, projects and visits she has requested (or I’ve wanted to show her) for months. I can’t wait, and she is CLEARLY ready.
What a month! I’m a little late in posting – my excuse is 2 San Francisco trips, a girls weekend in Dallas, a nasty cough/bug, and most importantly, our first Davis Family international trip! Before I get into the details for each kid, just a note about that trip – what an adventure! I kind of love that the girls’ first passport stamp was not to some resort or English speaking vacation. We hit the experience head on visiting one of the largest cities in the world, full of beauty and danger and confusion and simplicity – Ciudad de Mexico, or CDMX as we now know it. And yes – Clementine survived only on the cheese inside of quesadillas (she didn’t even like real Mexican tortillas or… gasp… churros!), yes – we may have briefly found ourselves in the middle of a playground gang fight (note – some playgrounds are friendlier than others), and yes – Annabelle got an insane nosebleed in the middle of the city that actually shot blood out of her eyeball (did you know how high altitude and polluted CDMX is?). BUT we also climbed the 3rd tallest pyramid in the world, spent the afternoon on a canal “party boat” in Xochimilco, haggled our way through many mercados, ate some ridiculous $1 tacos, and practiced our Spanish to hilarious but generally useful effect.
Now onto these individual wonders:
Clementine, Seven and a Quarter
Keeping with the Mexico City intro, I was really impressed with how Clem handled this trip. She walked and climbed and rarely complained about being tired or subsisting on cheese or not getting certain souvenirs or treats. The Thornbughs joined us, and when those boys had near daily meltdowns about things not going their way, she rolled with it. There was the occasional tear or whine, but for the most part she knew her responsibility to “suck it up” and keep on keeping on.
In other Clementine news, this happened!! It’s a very light prescription, really only needed to watch movies or shows but since it was covered by insurance, we decided to get a pair made. She loves them!
On a more social/emotional front, Clem has been having a little trouble with some friends lately. Two examples – she has one friend who is a classic “mean girl” and queen bee – and calls Clem her best friend. This is EXACTLY what happened to Annabelle in K, 1 and 2 and is one of the reasons we were excited to have her skip a grade. This girl makes Clementine say she likes her best, stops talking to her for no reason, and even secretly causes damage to her things when she comes for playdates! We’ve spoken to the teacher and to other parents who have had trouble with her, but it really weighs on Clementine because when things are good, they get along great! We’re hoping the situation will diffuse and we can make sure not to be in the same class for 2nd grade, but the complex social conversations coming out of it have shown a real struggle, especially because Clementine is such an empath.
Another example is that some boys she was playing with stuck a penny in an electrical outlet, causing flames and scorching! The boys’ parents scolded them, but Clementine was horrified and told me it brought up “gramma feelings” of how worried and scared she was that her buddy could’ve gotten really hurt. She was so scarred by the experience that she asked if she could draw a picture of what happened to get out her feelings. How new age is that?
I don’t remember 7 being so complicated. But I’m so proud of our wise girl for navigating the emotions and intricacies as they come!
Annabelle, Ten and a Quarter
I know I’m late on the post, but if I hadn’t waited I wouldn’t be able to announce that Annabelle just lost her LAST BABY TOOTH. Everyone celebrates the first one, but the last one definitely brings mixed emotions! I guess our baby really is growing up. She even fit into grown-up glasses at Warby Parker!
Speaking of growing up, the most anticipated decision of the year has been made – Annabelle is headed to Kealing Magnet Middle School in the fall! Kealing is the most academically rigorous school, focusing on all subjects but known for their math and science opportunities. Marc and I are sure this is the right school for Annabelle, but it has been a tough process because most of her best girl friends are going to different schools (a lot of them going to the same one). FOMO is TOUGH at this age, but she is handling it well.
In other growing up news, Annabelle just had the “puberty talk” with her friends (it’s not taught in Texas public schools so one of the moms organized it on the weekend). YIKES! Granted, most of these girls are a little older since she skipped a grade, but still… it’s on the horizon. She has even started wearing athletic bras under her clothes! Ack!
All that said, she’s still mostly the quirky kid we know so well. For example, she’s currently on a mission to get a pet rat, and you should see the work she is putting in (stepping up chores, giving use presentations, trying to train Eddie). Our current party line is “no more living things till the fish die.” After that, we’ll move to “no more living things till we see whether you actually have time to care for them in middle school.” I’m not sure where we’ll go from there. I hate to say it, but her lobbying has started to convince me! That should show you what a great negotiator she is:
We’ll see where that goes. In the meantime, we are busy wrapping up the school year (girls), working our tails off (parents), and looking forward to all of the chaos and fun the summer will bring!
The Davis Daughters (and their parents) have been busy as ever this past month! Here’s the update:
No major surprises from this love bug, but she is growing into her older self so beautifully. Her teacher conference was adorable this month. Ms. Nuncio basically started laughing about how wonderful she is. She’s about 3 grades ahead of the next-nearest 1st grader in Math, and is even doing really well in her Spanish reading and writing. When we mentioned that Clementine was a little bummed she hasn’t yet won a “super citizen” award, the teacher laughed – the problem is that Ms. Nuncio tends to award that prize to a kid who is uncharacteristically great one week and Clementine is ALWAYS great. When we asked Clem if she wanted us to discuss anything specific at her conference, she told us that her worksheets are way too easy and she’d like harder ones, but she understands “Ms. Nuncio has a LOT of kids to work with so I don’t want to make extra work for her – you can tell her not to worry about it.” Ms. Nuncio laughed even harder at this – she’s just so aware of and empathetic toward those around her. And ethical! The other day she told me, “Mama, Diane told me not to tell you something but I just CAN’T keep it from you – we always get hot cocoa while Annabelle’s at her Hebrew lesson.” Not the best secret keeper, but an A for honesty!
Of course, Clementine isn’t ALL roses. She still gets bored and impatient when we’re doing something she isn’t keen on (like staying at a restaurant when she’s done eating), especially if she’s tired. There is only one brand of socks and shoes that doesn’t drive her crazy, and lots of clothes are too scratchy for her to wear. And she still is terrible about trying new foods (or any foods mixed with other foods, or involving a condiment of any kind), which gets annoying. And she still gets distracted SO easily when you ask her to complete a task. If I didn’t call up “Almost ready?” 3+ times while she’s getting ready for bed, she would spent an hour doing everything BUT get ready, forgetting that this was the task at hand.
But all in all… she’s the best 🙂
And then there’s this one:
Annabelle’s teacher conference was equally, comically wonderful. Same thing – Mr. Bustillos laughing, saying there’s really nothing negative he can say about her. Other parents telling me they spent a long time talking about Annabelle at THEIR conference, as a role model for their children. At school she is a leader, a participator, a great friend, a top student, and just FUN. She’s still not the empath that her sister is (she is SO stuck in her own head), but she gets better at this each year.
Annabelle always dives deep into her interests, and lately the top two (while gymnastics and reading are still up there) are fashion design and archery. She finally took a 2-part tunic-making class at JoAnn fabrics and learned everything that actually goes into garment making. It was humbling (I think she had to create and scrap her collar piece 4 times and needed a LOT of instructor help), but it did not discourage her – she’s sewing more than ever now!
In Archery, being “in her own head” has definitely been a great thing, as she advanced into the 18 meter class last week – indoor tournament distance. This is actually a really big deal according to others at the club. She is one of the youngest ever to make it to this distance (you’re not allowed to even start archery till age 8), and the coaches are very excited about her progress and potential. They think if she’s really serious, she could work toward a national ranking, want us to get her a good bow, want her to start coming 3-4 days/week, and want her to enter her first tournament in November! Of course, this is all exciting, but also expensive and logistically challenging. So we’ve been talking with her about it – does she like it more than all of her other activities? Does she really WANT to put in that time? Is she ready to be as patient as you need to be at this level? We’re giving her a few months to figure this out before we start investing too much time and money…. so stay tuned!
This next month should be a big one Chez Davis. On Saturday we’ll take the kids to Mexico City for spring break – their first international trip. And by the time we get back, Annabelle will have heard from the middle schools she applied to! Stay tuned…
I’m a day late and a dollar short (or at least, only offering a short blog post since last month’s were big) but at long last, here is a monthly for both of our astounding children! In good news, the wait means you get actual DATA about these girls, since today was their Well Child Checkup. As per usual, Annabelle is off the charts for height (~98th percentile) and Clementine is at the 80th percentile, and they both are at a healthy weight.
Clem (after hearing Siri completely botch adding dish detergent to my shopping list): “I bet we’ll be dead by the time robots destroy the world.”
Clem: “I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t like these French fries.”
Me (not really thinking): “OK, eat 3 more and you can be done.”
Clem: “and I never thought YOU would ever say that!”
The quick wittedness was born in her, but it has to be helped by the reading. We now have to force Clem to go to bed ~3 hours after we tuck her in because she cannot stop devouring books. Getting her an online subscription to the Austin Library (the girls’ favorite place) means she can download books at any hour, and she does. We’re hoping soon she’ll learn how to gauge when she is tired, because there have been some ZOMBIE mornings after reading marathons (that we only discover the next morning because WE’VE gone to bed).
Reading is clearly Clem’s superpower (like her sister), but she seems good at just about everything in school. She won the Science Fair (1st grade) by a landslide (“Turbo Taters: How many potatoes would it take to power a car?”), and here she was proudly displaying her mid-year “Star Student” award – given to the top 2 kids in each class:
I got a call from the principal the other day – Annabelle had invented a game called “Humanback riding” at recess and had dozens of kids participating (even boys!), which her old teacher didn’t mind. Well, her new teacher apparently found the activity dangerous and told the kids they had to stop “because if you get hurt your parents will think it’s my fault.” Annabelle decided to “fix” this problem by creating forms parents could sign saying it wouldn’t be Ms. Salinas’s fault if something happened. Frankly if I’d thought about it, I would have asked more questions before signing the form (there was a lot going on that day – it was also science fair, work was crazy, Grammagarmpacharlie were visiting, etc.) but I just went ahead and signed it and next thing I knew, the principal was asking me to “please respect the teacher’s wishes.” Oops.
Along with Humanback riding, Annabelle has been even more gung ho about fashion design lately. I helped her rearrange her room to turn her nook into a sewing studio, and she has already made herself some clothes (including a neoprene cape she wore to school). She is very reluctant to use a pattern (much like she usually refuses to bake with a recipe) but we are forcing her to take a class at JoAnn Fabrics in a few weekends, to save her from herself (we try to explain that she needs to know the basics before improvising, but this is not in her personality).
Annabelle also continues to rise to the top of her class (5th grade version of Star Student is A Honor Roll). In about 6 weeks. we’ll know whether all of this excelling gets her into one of her top choice magnet schools. Applications are in, so now we just wait!
Time seems to be flying by as these girls are in such a beautiful age sweet spot. Funny and fun and interesting and loving, and very rarely challenging. It feels like they are growing up fast, though. The other day, they wanted to hold a meeting – because booking one of the state-of-the-art meeting rooms was one of the few things they HADN’T taken advantage of in the new library. So Annabelle booked the room but I had a surprise for them – an actual topic to meet about:
“Where should we go for Spring Break?”
The day before, we’d had a surprise – our house was booked for 4 days of SXSW (which meant we both have the budget to travel and are required to vacate). With March coming up soon, all flights booked or crazy expensive out of Austin, and limited budget/time to do something interesting, Marc and I figured out 3 options that we posed to the girls – see the Texas sites (NASA museum in Houston, Doseum in San Antonio, etc.), visit Uncle Robbie in LA, or take our first international trip to Mexico City (flying out of Houston). Marc projected images as I explained – LA would not include Disney (budget!), and Mexico would have to be a real “big kid” trip – seeing the stuff we ALL wanted to see, not going to trampoline parks and pools and zoos for kids). Texas would include staying at fun hotels with pools.
To our surprise, they dismissed us as they discussed amongst themselves (Gramma & Grampa Charlie got to be flies on the wall). When we returned, they’d written up their own questions on the whiteboard – “What will Clem eat?” for example. The whole process was adorably grown up, and we were thrilled when they decided on Mexico City. And even more, we are thrilled that our kids are at an age where an adventurous trip somewhere only Annabelle speaks the language feels totally manageable! Clementine will probably spend 4 days eating nothing but tortillas, but that’s part of the adventure 🙂
We blinked and this happened:
I can hardly believe that Annabelle is a decade old – though she has long been the most responsible person in our house! At 10, she has really come into her own as a leader and loyal friend in her beloved group of 5th grade girls (impressive since she is younger than all of them). She’ll do anything for these kids – and has been less focused on academics lately because of it – but we don’t mind (grades slipping more toward A- than A; she’ll survive). These girls are some of the kindest, brightest and most interesting we’ve met, and shockingly all get along without drama, push each other to achieve (they all want to go to the coveted magnet middle schools together!), and introduce each other to new adventures on a daily basis. It will be so bittersweet when the gang “breaks up” for middle school, though we are hoping at least a handful will end up wherever Annabelle does.
Speaking of middle school, we’re about ready to turn in her applications to Kealing (the most academically rigorous), Ann Richards (a girls’ leadership academy) and Fulmore (continuing Spanish immersion and studying humanities and law). She’ll be thrilled to get into Kealing or Ann Richards. We’ll know in March (she still needs to do testing, interviews, and in-school essays) and once we do, I’ll post her application essay here for posterity.
When Annabelle isn’t at school, doing her two favorite activities of archery and gymnastics, or playing with friends, she is always working on her latest idea. She wants to be an inventor and entrepreneur when she grows up, and is constantly taping / gluing/ sewing/ planning her next product, completely trashing her room in the process. We got her a dress form for her birthday because her favorite show is Project Runway and we couldn’t take another day of recycled pastry container / cardboard box / metal tubing mannequins. Speaking of which, when I asked her what she wanted to work on as a 10yo, she replied, “Neatness.” But when I asked what skill she’d ask for if she could have any, she replied that she’d like to be “the smartest and most cunning person in the world – and also the tallest Olympic gymnast in history.” I love her answers to my questions almost as much as I love the questions she asks me. Since she could talk, she’s hit us with “What’s your 3rd favorite animal” or “Would you rather have no teeth or one arm” or “What is your ideal biome to live in?”
Despite my occasional exasperation over the nonstop talking and gigantic messes, I hope Annabelle never stops asking questions, dreaming up ideas, or making messes full of inventions or projects. I don’t think we need to worry – it’s pretty clear that this first decade was simply a warm-up for what’s to come. And while I don’t want to rush a single second of it, I can’t wait to see what happens next because I have no doubt it will be spectacular!
Happy decade day to the one-of-a-kind, beautiful, bright Annabelle Claire!