Nine.2 and Twelve.2

The past two months flew by in the blink of an eye! And yet, these phenomenal girls managed to accomplish so much!

Clementine:

Oompa Loompa #3 with two of her biggest fans – Micah and Travis

Clementine was disappointed in the fall when, after she was shockingly cast as Jane Banks in Mary Poppins for her first ever theater performance, she got the part of “Oompa Loompa #3” instead of Charlie in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” But after a few tears, she completely got over it and took on that role with gusto, having a wonderful time and (grandparents in attendance will confirm) becoming the most adorable darn Oompa that has ever Loompa’ed.

Our skater girl, with the adorable Tversky “Tvins” Hazel and Leo

Clem’s other extra-curricular passion continues to be figure skating, where she made another big leap over the past couple months! She worked hard at new skills such as bunny hops and spirals and ended up passing out of the entire “Basic” program at the rink (one of only a handful of kids who passed through so quickly), which means things are about to get much more challenging and more fun. Starting next week, she’ll get to participate in multiple lessons, including training that will improve her strength and endurance.

School days with some besties Leo and Darley (and Eddie & Leo’s dog)

With all that focus on the extra-curricular, Clem isn’t letting school slip. She had a beautiful teacher conference that confirmed she is not only doing incredibly well academically (it turns our our modest little brainiac is halfway through 7th grade math as a 3rd grader!), she’s a leader, excellent participant, extremely inclusive of others and just an all-around awesome student.

Time for the tooth fairy!

And she’s down a tooth! After a long hiatus, it seems the next round of teeth are on their way out. And we confirmed everything else is on track for this girl health-wise. At her 9yo check up she remained in the shrimpy 80-85th percentile (well, shrimpy for a Davis). Emotionally, she still struggles with getting distracted (we set a lot of timers these days) and letting big feelings overcome her (the latest: she feels SO guilty for being jealous of kids who are better than her at something. And it’s not the jealousy but the guilt that is eating her up inside), but over all she is truly having a wonderful year – which we feel extremely lucky and grateful for.

Annabelle:

Starbucks, her guilty pleasure on the way to Mounted Archery

Isn’t it crazy how old this girl is? She is a true tween, going between extreme maturity and being our little girl, but the maturity is starting to win out. She has been managing her (intense) school work beautifully (latest report cards are straight A+ at the hardest middle school in Austin) without nearly as much stress as last year, has started taking on more responsibility such as cooking us gourmet dinners several time, and has been working on building strength and skill with archery at home during the week so her weekly mounted practices continue to improve.

Photo Credit: Grampa Charlie

In fact, you are looking at a girl who will be the youngest mounted archer to compete as part of the U.S. Cultural Heritage Team in the Texas International Archery Festival in April! It’s going to be a very tough event (especially since it’ll be her first competition) but she is very, very excited and her coach continues to be amazed at the rate she is improving.

Hello Fresh meal kit for dinner

Annabelle’s focus on health and nutrition has deepened, but in a healthy way. She makes herself gourmet breakfasts each morning (think: acai bowls with fruit and seeds), batch cooks her school lunches (example: pork bibimbap) and, as I mentioned, cooks us dinner often. She is always experimenting, too – this week she made several attempts at boba tea, with some very odd boba results… but she gets credit for effort! Not nearly as much effort for tidying up the kitchen after, but messy has never been/will never be her strong suit

All in all, we are feeling really thankful for the year both of these girls seem to be having, and how much we’re enjoying not just raising them, but spending time with them. As we’ve encountered an uptick in friends and family dealing with tough stuff lately (not to mention the scariness of the political climate, Coronavirus, etc.), we are trying to be present, embrace opportunities (how do I not have pics of Mardi Gras from last month – we all had a blast!! Perhaps part of my goal of being present instead of just photodocumenting?) and not take life too seriously. And occasionally blog about it for the 3 of you that still check this thing 🙂

Twelve and Nine

Holy moly, our tiny girls are now 12 and 9, and how spectacular they are! Because I am either too busy or too lazy or both, I’m going to borrow some already-created content rather than attack the challenge that is summing up these incredible humans from scratch.

First I’ll “borrow” the social media posts I used:

9 years ago, this amazing presence completed our family. She shows us the beauty in the tiniest details, teaches us the power of fierce compassion, and helps a family of rushers slow down. She is wise in a way that catches you off guard, and when she grabs your hand or holds you tight, you realize you must be special. Happy birthday, Clementine Jane. We are so lucky you are ours!

12 years ago this sweet face started sizing up the world and decided that anything is possible, and she has been working hard to turn possibility into reality ever since! The world needs more Annabelles, but there is only one and we are so lucky she is ours. Happy birthday to our brave, brainy, beautiful, funny, focused and fierce @horse_warrior !

Then I will add this video where they tell us about themselves in their own words for a change. Yes, perhaps this is the easy route but I’ve also realized lately that we’ve all but stopped taking videos of these girls other than to record their various ice skating spins or mounted archery runs – maybe the occasional award ceremony or musical performance – but nothing that will make us laugh and tear up about what they sounded like and acted like and felt like at every age. Without further ado:

They were a little low energy after a night of partying till past midnight to ring in the new decade, but I won’t hold it against them.

Eleven.10

This kid. The other day I actually said, “Man if she wasn’t mine, I’d find all of her accomplishments kind of annoying.”

Also if she wasn’t so darn cute…

Annabelle has been tearing up life in general. She’s got an A+ average in every school subject (although she is working her butt off to achieve that – it’s not coming easy) and continues to completely blow away her mounted archery coach (who has invited her to train with the United States Cultural Heritage Team – the youngest kid by 5 years):

Now she rides in open fields, shooting multiple soccer balls in <20 seconds)

She was also selected to be a contestant in a reality TV show, which I’m not allowed to talk about but will take us to LA all next week. This is one of the crazier experiences we’ve ever had and I’m just crossing every finger and toe that it will be a positive one for her… since there’s no doubt in my mind that this footage will be watched by everyone she knows (and will know in the future).

Because this is how everyone she knows spends their time

She’s been able to keep her anxiety at bay, and is somewhat managing her extreme focus on healthy eating (borderline orthorexia) and no longer losing any weight. She also has great friends who are as adorable and interesting and goofy and awkward as she is, which I absolutely love. She’s still not (nor will she ever be) warm and fuzzy, but she and I are as close as ever, partly due to my willingness to drive her 45 minutes away for mounted archery (and both her gratefulness and the sheer amount of time the means we have to chat). I know the scary teen years are knocking at our door, but so far, so good.

Where’s Waldo? And Woof? Cute last minute Halloween costume for both!

Eight.10

I’m a little delayed on the update for this girl, but it just means she’s been able to accomplish even more. Like making it to the next level in ice skating! She’s now in “Basic 5” which involves crossovers, lunges, hockey stops and more. It is so much fun being able to help her improve and more importantly, share this love with my little girl! She’s even having an ice skating birthday this year – something I distinctly remember choosing myself (having flashbacks to the best day ever, when I had an ice skating birthday party AND got a cabbage patch kid)…

She passed on her first try!

Clem is also doing the children’s theater, though she was disappointed to get the role of Oompa Loompa #3 in Willy Wonka when she was going for Charlie. She got over it quick, though, especially when she became besties with O.L.#2. And she’s had enough to do with the business fair (Whatacorn made nearly $400 this year!!), her piano lessons (she’s working hard on Kasey Muskgraves’ “Rainbow” currently), and her various other projects, which mostly involve coloring, reading and writing her own little books.

3rd grade school photo. She threw on the peacock feather fascinator at the last minute

At school, Clem is doing great. She lost her core group of friends to private school, so she doesn’t have a “posse,” but she has lots of close friends and is always inviting different ones (often boys) over for playdates. At her parent teacher conference, her teachers said she’s doing great – A+ grades across the board, lots of friends, and just a lovely kid. They said she has the same challenge focusing that we see at home, which we should watch over time, but it isn’t impeding her ability to do great and have fun so we’re not too worried for now.

First classic Halloween costumer in a while – though she switched out her black dress for a swimsuit at the school carnival and came as a “sand witch”

All in all, Clem’s school year has been smooth and supportive – just what she needed after last year. She is getting sad FAR less often (although as an extreme empath, sad things in the world hit her hard). Her only (mild, quiet) complaint is that she seems to be living in her sister’s shadow these days — everyone wants to hear about Mounted Archery, the reality TV show Annabelle was cast on (more on that later), etc. But we gently reminded her that the spotlight will shift again… and again and again… whether it’s about Willy Wonka or Whatacorns or Whatever the next exciting adventure holds. And she seems pretty okay with that. Because, you know, she’s the best.

Eleven.8

Have you ever seen a more fierce 11 year old girl?

Our Mongolian Warrior (lesson #5)

In case the photo above isn’t clear, Annabelle has found her “true life’s passion” – mounted archery! She took one lesson as part of “mama camp” and it was an instant two-way love affair. The coach (who is an international champion) said he’s never seen anyone pick it up so quickly, and Annabelle can’t get enough. I mean, what 11yo would beg to wake up before 6AM on Saturday AND Sunday to get in as much training time as possible? While it’s not especially convenient or practical and seems to have no potential for future scholarships, it’s tough to deny a kid who has fallen so deeply in love with an activity that has to improve strength, focus, confidence, and bravery – especially in a girl who is prone to anxiety and (scarily) began wasting away over the summer.

Learning to make tempura bananas – yum!

Annabelle’s springtime focus on healthier eating became fairly obsessive in the way that she tends to go deep into EVERYTHING that piques her interest, and suddenly with summer came a few inches growth along with surprising weight loss. Luckily we caught it right away and have been combatting it with the help of her pediatrician, encouraging her to cook (which she loves – she makes dinner as often as Marc and I do these days!), and reminding her about the importance of strengthening and fueling her body if she wants to become the warrior she plans to be.

Trying Salade Nicoise in Quebec

Along with Annabelle’s focus on health and transforming into a centaur before our eyes, she is gearing up for a successful 7th grade year. Her teachers and classes all seem great, but because she’s heard from so many people that 7th is the toughest year at Kealing, she equated it this week to “being told you’re going to get punched at some point during Christmas Day.” She’s enjoying her teachers, her friends, and everything else but is waiting for the work to pile up and overtake the joy. We’ve seen inklings of that anxiety creeping back in, but we’re cautiously optimistic that we can keep it at bay for as long as possible, ideally using mounted archery and cooking as a calming distraction when things heat up.

Driving the Duck boat in Boston Harbor

Annabelle is never easy to predict and rarely easy to parent, but never ceases to amaze us. So we’re just buckling up and seeing what this school year will bring. And beyond this school year. Like for instance, if there’s ever an apocalypse – she’s totally the one you want nearby if that happens!

Eight.8

Driving our Duck boat in Boston

I can’t get enough of this smile. And I am feeling so optimistic about the smiles ahead, now that she’s gone from such a tough 2nd grade school year to one that should be the complete opposite. To add insult to injury, Clem didn’t quite pass the 3rd grade test this summer, which means no skipping up like her big sis did. But aside from the unfortunate disappointment she felt, we are relieved on a few levels – namely (1) the 3rd grade teachers are FANTASTIC – and most importantly, are warm and encouraging and really like Clem, (2) being at the top of her class should get her self confidence back up where it was before the crappy last school year, (3) her living on ClemenTIME – namely, spending 20 and 30 minutes lost in her thoughts on a daily basis while she should be getting dressed, going to bed, following directions, etc… well, having another year to work on that before entering a less forgiving middle school environment probably won’t hurt! Plus, you know it’s going to be painful when she heads off to college, so another year of this face in our house is okay in my book!

High tea – a Mama Camp tradition

While Clem is starting to get back into the flow of the school year, she is having a fairly hard time coming off the high of such a fantastic summer. The dude ranch was magical, overnight camp was a total blast (she’s already in for next year), our Massachusetts and Canada adventures were fantastic, and the handful of weeks in between were spent in awesome camps, endless playdates, and a lot of late nights, lazy mornings and more sugar and fewer baths than would be advisable. That said, we’re about to start up ice skating again, have applied to the children’s business fair (Whatacorns again) and she has another audition (Willy Wonka!) in a few weeks, so while things won’t be lazy again for a while, they should be fun!

Brushing up on skating before the lessons start again

Ice skating, theater, piano, choir, and Whatacorns should keep Clem busy, which is especially good because when she isn’t busy, our sensitive girl tends to get a little depressed (is it called that when you are 8?). The other night, she cried to me about her friends who no longer attend her school, the fact that it’s impossible for her to impress her sister, and a concern that maybe we’re not even actually alive – we’re just characters in a story that an old man has thought up in a daydream… and as soon as he’s done, we’ll disappear. How does one respond to that, exactly? Some nights she tells me she really needs a good cry but can’t think of anything sad enough. It makes for tricky parenting, to say the least! Luckily, with sunrise comes more sweet smiles, like this one:

Enjoying Old Port of Montreal

I’m crossing fingers and toes that this school year will bring a happier and more confident school girl. A stretch goal would perhaps be a kiddo who doesn’t drift off into her own daydreams quite as often. Annabelle might throw in a goal to reduce her car puking tendencies and Marc would vote for faster, less picky eating. But in the end, we’ll take this girl any way she wants to be, because as Mary Poppins would say, we find her to be “practically perfect in every way.”

Annabelle: 11 and a HALF

This face! If this is her awkward stage…

What a summer this girl is having! After 3 weeks of horse camp, she set off for the dude ranch and came back a western rider – the whole experience was “life changing” and her big goal now is to ride enough to become a junior wrangler at the CM ranch when she turns 16. It seems far fetched, but this girl is nothing if not goal oriented! She is also continuing to grow – up, not out. She has a newfound focus on eating healthy and exercising which I’m watching carefully (since these days, eating disorders are not uncommon at this age), but so far, she seems to just want to be as fit as one needs to be to wrangle, among other things…

Long, tall Texans… in Colorado

Annabelle took a long break from archery with all of our summer adventures, but seems interested in keeping up the hard work and staying on course for her 2028 Olympic dreams (you won’t ever accuse her for thinking small). I like to think archery has a calming effect on her, which will be important as she tackles 7th grade. She has already had a few minor anxiety moments where she’s gotten nervous about her summer homework and her upcoming year of algebra (a high school level class, as an 11yo – daunting). I do love that limiting her screen time seems to have rekindled her love of baking (you should see her most recent “sushi cake” – and the 48 chocolate chip cookies she baked for our beach trip) and reading – both calming hobbies for sure.

Lounging, reading, relaxing – a good break for our girl in motion.

This should be an interesting year in general for Annabelle. We’re already seeing the beginnings of puberty, so I’m guessing she might look a bit different by this time next year. Hopefully the hormones won’t kick in too hard and we won’t have too much in the way of mood swings beyond her current occasional sullen, short answers. She can be a tough nut to crack without any of that (unlike her open book sister), so my goal for the year is simply to be around, ready and willing to talk about anything and everything without scaring her away. Simple, right?

Clementine: 8 and a HALF

Dude ranching

What a month this girl has had! Out of the grip of her challenging school situation, she has had a fantastic summer of camps (wet & wild adventure camp! horse camp! ice skating camp!) and a week with her cousins at a Wyoming dude ranch that she described as “heaven on earth.” She has been an absolute joy, while also staying on top of basic math and social studies (and reading a book a day at least!) so she’ll be prepared for her grade-skipping test that happens next week.

Hanging with a suffragist at the Colorado History Museum

It was hilarious hearing about Clementine from Nichole and Glenn, who’d never spent so much time with her. They learned quickly about “ClemenTIME”, e.g., after 20 minutes of showing, they asked how she was doing and she mentioned that she didn’t have any soap or shampoo. By the end of the dude ranch week they were waking her up 30 minutes before everybody else, moving her showers to the final slot, and generally alotting for plenty of daydreaming interludes. This girl does not know what it means to be in a rush, which drives us up a wall but is a small price to pay for all the care she takes to love everyone in her life.

Swimming with Dada in South Padre

Clem’s latest camp is far away and picks up at rush hour so we have plenty of chatting time. I think of it as “filling up on her” before she heads to overnight camp in a couple weeks. Yesterday she told me she feels bad for mail carriers because most people don’t talk to them, and they must get lonely. “I try to talk to every mail carrier I see,” she told me. That’s just Clem.

Summer is flying by (which I hate) but I am excited for what the next half-year will bring for our little girl. Will she be in 3rd or 4th grade, for starters (we probably won’t hear until right before school starts). Will she make a new friend group at school since so many of her besties have left? She wants to try out for her next musical production – Willy Wonka. Will she nail her second audition and get another big part or will she learn the fun of the ensemble? And will she continue with ice skating (she is HOOKED) and piano (less so these days) throughout the school year? All of those answers will be so obvious in the blink of an eye – I’m just glad that no matter how much she grows as time speeds ahead, she’ll always be our baby.

Big and little and a Texas Coast sunset

Eleven.5

Riding her bike to school on the last day

It feels like yesterday that Annabelle was embarking on her first year of middle school, nervous and wide eyed and seemingly less prepared than the kids who got into her fantastic magnet program from more academically rigorous elementary schools. But here we are with our newly minted rising 7thgrader, and she absolutely killed it! Annabelle’s final grades were laughably great – her lowest one being a 97 in Science. She has also made a group of wonderful, funny, quirky, sweet and brilliant friends whom I hope will remain as her “pack” through middle and high school. And she is now shooting archery six days per week, has become a major fitness enthusiast (you should see her nose-to-ground push-ups), and loves playing her trombone in the middle school band, cooking and baking (this week: perfecting salt water taffy), reading, trying to train the dog, and more.

Taffy takes muscles and she’s been working on both!

Sure, she can be a very age-appropriate tween, sneaking screen time (something we never had to worry about before, but now have strict rules around), giving sullen one-word answers to her parents and nanny on occasion, blowing off her adoring little sister, and hanging out in her room more than with us. But most of the time, she remains joyful and interested in interacting with all – a guest whom parents always tell us they LOVE having over.

Such a great set of girlfriends!

Annabelle’s bout with anxiety back in January was scary, but it has now been under control for a while (she sees the therapist occasionally for help). She seems to be managing her stress smartly, such as agreeing to the major challenge of taking High School Algebra next year in 7thgrade (you have to be invited by the teacher, but with a 99 for the year, that wasn’t tough), but asking the band director to put her in the least advanced band group next year so she won’t be required to stay and practice after school, and taking French instead of Spanish, which she hears is an easier language at Kealing.

Convincing both of her siblings to get their fitness on at the park

Annabelle is SO excited for this summer, which she will spend primarily on horseback (a month’s worth of riding camp + her trip with Clem and her cousins to a dude ranch). She is also looking forward to tons of friend time – she spent her first 3 nights after school ended at various sleepovers and headed out at nearly 9PM last night for a night swim at Barton Springs with another friend. She’ll keep up with her archery and has a decent amount of summer homework (to prep for Algebra and keep reading and writing for language arts) but she isn’t worried about it. Kealing is so rigorous that she is mostly looking forward to some brain rest and carefree fun. And I’m thrilled to be off of work so I can enjoy a lot of it with her! Her bouts of tweeniness can be annoying, but they never come out when we are on an adventure together (even if that adventure is going shopping or cooking fried rice together) and I want to fit in as many of those moments as possible with this joyful, quick-witted and quirky girl!

Annabelle making everyone laugh in San Antonio (our Hamilton trip)

Eight.5

Walking to the school – the final week!

The best part about being Eight.5 for Clementine is that she has finished up what has been a really challenging school year. I’ve alluded to it before, but her favorite teacher (who adored her) left and the teacher she was left with was extremely challenging for a bunch of reasons – to all of the kids. In fact, there are 7 classmates of Clem’s that are not coming back to our school next year (including many of her besties such as Charlie, Micah, Stella and Kosmo)! But for whatever reason, Clementine got the brunt of her teacher’s frustrations. I won’t go into the details here, but the situation was so bad that other parents noticed, and Clem came home many days absolutely crushed. There was only so much we could do, fighting a brand new Principal and Assistant Principal in a situation where they were in over their heads – although with much pushing they allowed her to spend half her days in 3rdgrade due to her advanced academics. 

Stage makeup – getting ready for her theatrical debut

But here’s the thing: through all of it, Clementine never told us she didn’t want to go to school, always worked her hardest (her report card was perfect), and kept her head up, counting down the days and making the most of what she could control (and loving her time spent in the grade above). It was heartbreaking and inspiring and I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of her. We spoke about the characteristics that were getting her through – perseverance and grit, which would come in even handier in life than the big brain she was gifted with. We talked about the fact that there would be challenging situations and people in her future (there always are) and she was lucky to learn how to deal with those situations at such a young age. And we showered her with love and extracurricular fun and a wonderful therapist… and the combination seems to have worked out fine.In fact, this past month was more than fine on the extracurricular front! Clementine passed into Intermediate ice skating (and is still loving every minute of it) and did a fantastic job singing, dancing and acting her way through her theatrical debut as Jane in Mary Poppins! She was so adorable to watch – the youngest one on stage – feeding lines and stage cues to the bigger kids who weren’t as on top of it as she was.

So many adoring fans

And now she is so excited for a fun summer full of her favorite camps – ice skating, tinkering, horseback riding, “wet and wild” (where they go to a different waterpark each day) and her first stint at overnight camp! Three months of so much fun, with the added bonus (for both of us) that I won’t be working and can spend more time with her between all of those activities. We’ve already snuck a little bit of extra time (this is my last week of work) putting together puzzles and playing Boggle and laying together reading and chatting and singing, and I am soaking up every single second of this special time with this special girl. She is an absolute gift.

First official day of summer = morning at Big Stacy Pool