NINE

Here she is, our amazing NINE year old!

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And here is a snapshot of our beautiful Annabelle, on the brink of tweendom.

  • She has never been bored, not once in her life. Annabelle’s mind is so busy, active and imaginative that she always has an idea or plan, book she wants to read, new made-up mythical creature she wants to draw, challenge she sets for herself (like learning to draw anime, or perfecting a cartwheel), activity she wants to involve us all in, or research she needs to do. I absolutely love this about her!
  • She is fierce on the outside, sensitive on the inside. Annabelle loves all things fierce – big cats and wolves, warriors (she loves bows and arrows and nerf guns), mythical titans like the Greek and Roman gods, and tribal gear. She turns her nose up at flowers and dresses and needs to be convinced to dance. But I think she has become this deliberately, because inside she is sensitive. Whenever something doesn’t go her way, she does something seemingly “wrong,” or is nervous about trying something new, you can watch the complex reaction. Her fierce exterior has turned her from a teary little thing to a stoic kid who takes deep breaths so she won’t lose her cool. She has intellectually willed herself into being brave.
  • She loves a challenge. I used to think she’d only ever sign up for challenges she knew she’d win, but she has gotten a lot better at losing and improving – everything from the slide races in Hawaii, to drawing contests she sets up for any willing participant, to fitbit goals, to ensuring she’s the top math kid in the 4th grade.  And to making sure she gets into all of the best schools, camps, programs, clubs and opportunities (she’s currently on the tech crew and photojournalism team at school).
  • She is incredibly social. For a girl who used to have trouble fitting in in preschool, Annabelle is the belle of the 4th grade ball. She has a big group of great friends who love her, look up to her, and are generally game for whatever adventure or activity she creates for them. She’s always happiest when there are other kids around (even younger and older) and didn’t want to do any activities in Hawaii without all of the other kids. But she’s also very content to hide in her room reading books for hours, so our little preschool mouse hasn’t completely left the building.
  • She has it all planned out. She wants to go to Kealing for middle school, LASA for high school (these are both the most challenging magnet public schools in Austin), and Stanford for college – because that’s the biggest challenge she can think of. She wants to be an inventor and an architect. This has taken the place of her past planner-behaviors, where she used to map out Halloween costumes and birthday party themes 2-3 years in advance (and generally stick to them!).
  • She needs the numbers. If you tell her we’re heading out “soon” she’ll ask in how many minutes. If you tell her a handful of people are meeting at the park, she’ll ask how many and exactly who.  If you tell her the boat fits more than a dozen people, she’ll ask if you mean 13, 14, 15 or more. If you can’t give her an exact answer, she’ll ask you for how confident you are, in percentage points. It’s safe to say this girl is metrics driven!
  • She’s surprisingly physical. Annabelle loves a long, challenging bike ride, a swimming race, and as much roller skating as she can get. She is constantly practicing gymnastics, enjoys her YMCA soccer team, and is always trying to stretch to become more flexible. For a kid who always seemed so much more cerebral than physical, it’s nice to see her so active and focused on overall strength and health. And she loves her Fitbit from Santa, which ties the cerebral and physical worlds (and challenges) together!
  • She is so GOOD. Annabelle will occasionally get a little wild and crazy when her friends are around, and she doesn’t always listen. She can also be stubborn (and negotiate), and her room is kind of a mess. But in general, she has always been so unbelievably well behaved and simply GOOD – so far beyond any other kid her age (no matter what age she has been). She totally spoiled us as parents (and it makes me feel bad for Clementine whenever Clem behaves age appropriately and we are appalled!). Every parent always wants Annabelle to come over.
  • She is so special. Anyone who gets to know Annabelle can see how unique and wonderful she is. She doesn’t charm people like her sister, but is such a rare, beautifully complex human – a profoundly gifted brainiac who has taught herself social intelligence and leadership skills that she certainly did not have at a young age. A cerebral, self-conscious kid who steels herself to step up to public and physical challenges. And a logical girl who can convince her whole class of the presence and magic of fairies and mythical creatures. She is a gift.

HAPPY NINETH TO OUR BEAUTIFUL ANNABELLE!

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SIX

Here she is, all 6 years of her. Amazing.

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  • She is our empath, and looks out for every living creature. She’s the first to run up to someone who is hurt. She has to put every broken flower in water. And when she got a fish tank from Santa, instead of picking out sparkly fluorescent gravel and accessories (as is her style), she created a very natural looking habitat (so the fish wouldn’t be sad that they weren’t in a lake or river anymore.” She still wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up (I think she’s been saying this for 2+ years now).
  • She is affectionate and loving, to a fault. She can’t resist hugging and snuggling up against friends, family, parents of friends, teachers, etc. She can see a good person from a mile away and “attacks.” It’s who she is at her core and is incredibly sweet and endearing… though in public school, we’re having to work on a little more “ask first” and “keep your hands to yourself.”
  • She is thoughtful and wise. She’s smart too (the best reader and math kid in the class!), but her mind goes beyond that. She’s the first to point out, when other kids are talking about marrying each other, that chances are none of them have met the person they are going to marry yet. She (innocently) pokes holes and finds mistakes in Santa’s delivery of gifts. She gives “sandwich feedback” (good, then bad, then good) when she has feedback for someone, because she understands the importance of delivery.
  • She is self-confident, not self-conscious. She’ll wear a ballgown whenever allowed, no matter how inappropriate it may seem. She notes that while other kids want hair they don’t have (curly kids want straight hair, etc.), she has “the exact perfect hair for her.” She points out her unibrow but has absolutely no problem with it. I wish I had more of this in me! I’ll also note that she’s not a showman – she doesn’t have a desire to be the center of attention at all. But it doesn’t scare her if it happens naturally.
  • She doesn’t stop moving. Her legs, her body, her mouth! Even when others would be silent, she makes funny little sounds – while you’re talking or reading to her, while she’s eating, etc. She stands up from her chair a thousand times at every meal. She takes her time bringing up topic after topic after topic – mostly observations and fairly deep questions. She’s a great conversationalist. And her preferred mode of transportation is a scooter (even from one room to the next) or roller skates. Or on Eddie.
  • She can focus when she wants to. The only time she DOES sit still is on arts and crafts projects. She’ll spend an hour coloring or designing the perfect card. She loves to draw and has some real talent for it! She also has a way with color. Currently, her favorite color is fuchsia. She’ll also sit on the toilet for half an hour, singing songs – usually when we are in a rush.
  • She subsists on air. She does not like meat, or any food where ingredients are mixed together. Aside from snacks like crackers and bites of cheese or nuts, her favorite food by far is red pepper. She also usually likes pizza, chicken nuggets (the only meat she doesn’t make faces at) and plain buttered pasta. She’ll swallow our nightly meals of salmon, shrimp, grilled chicken, pork, steamed veggies, etc. but she’s not a fan of eating in general.
  • She gets afraid and shy when you least expect it. Our budding marine biologist hated putting her face in the water to snorkel and look at the fish in Hawaii. She REALLY doesn’t like talking to Santa. But then she’ll hop on a scary ride or sidle up to strangers at the airport, no problem. It’s hard to tell when she’ll be social and brave and when she just wants my lap.
  • She can be stubborn and fiery, especially when she’s tired. Clementine’s emotions are just below the surface, and she has trouble not whining or crying when she’s offended (she is easily offended) or thinks something is not fair. And yet, she’s a terrible listener, so we find that we do need to get pretty stern to get her to do things like sit at the table, finish her meal, get ready for bed, put on her shoes, etc. I’m sure there’s a better way to “parent” this and that it’s very age appropriate, but it’s frustrating in an otherwise very harmonious house.
  • She charms all in her path. This girl is so special that sometimes I feel like I’m managing her fan club. And the fans come in all ages – from kids younger than she is to a whole slew of adults! A combination of her affectionate nature, engaging conversation style and adorable physical presence, no doubt. And a trait that will clearly come in handy as she grows from the delicious 6 year old she is today to a full grown human. She is a gift to all who know her, and we are so proud to be her parents!

HAPPY SIX, OUR DARLING CLEMENTINE!

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