Nine.3

We need to slow this girl down. She just got her third-quarter report card (all A’s, as usual) and I realized she only has one more year before heading off to middle school. Too fast! But man, is she growing up into an amazing young woman.

Annabelle’s version of heaven would involve gymnastics, archery, cheeseburgers (with onions), a pile of fantasy or “warrior” books (she snuck her way into the Hunger Games trilogy and is loving it), and her best girl friends. And man, she is putting in her 10,000 hours to be a master in all of those categories (okay maybe not the cheeseburgers). She is most often found upside down working on a new gymnastics move – only because we don’t have an archery range at home. And she lives for playdates – cannot get enough of her school besties Roisin, Charlotte, Indigo, and Adeline but is generally happy in any room with any kid within a couple years of her age. And even the most hard-to-befriend kids warm up to her – because how can you not be won over by Annabelle?

Annabelle is still forever dreaming up ideas and projects. On Sunday morning she woke us up by coming into our room and asking if I could help her sew a button because she was designing a wrist guard to wear while holding a shield in case someone’s shot (arrow? nerf bullet?) got around the shield and hit your arm.  And the number of times I’ll be in the middle of something and she’ll ask for twine, or a large adult sock, or a stiff piece of cardboard… it’s endless (and always entertaining). Very few of the ideas are “marketable” (“I want to make hand shoes for people who want to walk down rough terrain on their hands”), so Marc in particular is curious when the ideas will take a more… practical shape. But I figure practicality is easier to learn than creativity!

Speaking of creativity, Annabelle’s mile-a-minute mind is still causing some sleep problems. The other night, after having a funny conversation about data points that look similar but have nothing to do with each other (correlation vs. causality) that included extreme love of cheese with dying by being tangled in your bedsheets, AbCD got so worried about her cheese-loving sister Clementine that she was terrified she’d die that very night. We had to go together into Clem’s room and see her sleeping peacefully (and have another conversation about correlation vs. causality) to calm her anxious brain! Even she thinks her brain is funny sometimes (we can laugh together about the tricks it pulls on her) – even when she can’t control it – which to me is just so completely Annabelle and so completely Awesome. I wouldn’t change a thing (except how quick this childhood is whizzing by). Happy 9.25, sweet fantastic girl.

Six.3

Look at this six-and-a-quarter-year-old. While some of her behavior reflects her mother as well as these shades do, so much of Clementine is so uniquely Clementine. Mostly, the conversations. Tonight she was trying to work out how she could have a baby that’s “made from her” while still marrying her friend Emilia. I dodged the details, but this is what she thinks about before bed (when not going over every little detail of the latest Harry Potter chapter)! At dinner she talked about wanting to visit the Great Wall of China (but flying around the earth to get there, not digging through its core because that’d kill her), and at breakfast we discussed the differences between coincidence, correlation and causality. In other words, every conversation with this child is delightful. Which is not to say that SHE is always delightful – she still whines and blames and refuses to answer you when she wants to (after Spring Break she yelled at me, “WHY did you make us have such an adventurous trip, didn’t you KNOW that we were going to be EXHAUSTED when we got back?”).

In fact, this girl is reluctant to go to school any morning, but that’s just because she isn’t a morning person. It turns out that she’s quite the academic! This last report card was pretty awesome – all 4s (like A’s) in academics and all 4s except for a 3 on the behavior front! She got the 3 in “Respects self and others.” I’m just going to guess that it’s the “others” part that was lacking here, because Clementine has plenty of self-respect! Here she is learning to be a badass from an awesome book called, “Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls”

Clementine continues to be more academic and artistic than she is athletic, although she continues to improve in swimming and is really enjoying the new little after school gymnastics program she and her sister have started going to. Her best moves are more theater than coordination, but it’s worth it to ask her to demonstrate her “flying butt slap” for you. Mostly, she’s active when it interests her. For example, she wept when we told her we had a steep mile hike out of Carlsbad Caverns (but then did great), but couldn’t get enough of running up and down the sand dunes at White Sands National Monument!

In general, Clementine is an absolute joy to be around… when things are the way she wants them. We’ve given up on forcing meat at dinner, for example, alternating between a cheese quesadilla and scrambled eggs (and lots of veggies) for her in the interest of a more peaceful evening. I even ordered special socks without seams so we could stop our daily 10 minute morning “my socks don’t feel right” ritual. We spent years trying to get her to bend to our will and improve her ability to “deal,” but frankly, life is a lot more fun and interesting now that we’ve started picking our battles more. She doesn’t get away with rudeness or leaving messes, but we’ve come to accept her quirks. The truth is, this kid is a natural born leader. And I look forward to the day when she is running the show and has actual hired help to scramble her eggs and remove all lumps and seams from her socks!

Nine.2

This kid blows me away nearly every day.

From her deep questions (in the car the other day, “Do you think humans will evolve into a more advanced species? How, and when?”) and thoughts (at breakfast, “I’m never going to be younger than I am right now. Or now. Or now! It’s amazing!”) to her surprise presentations (this week she sent Marc and me a powerpoint – which I didn’t even know she knew how to do – about why we should get her a dwarf hamster), I never know what she’ll come up with next. And I love it.

Annabelle had some big accomplishments the past couple months, like being one of only a few kids accepted into the Duke TIPS program for gifted children, to winning 4th grade gold at the school science fair (and going to her first regional fair), to making great strides with backbends and walkovers in gymnastics (both kids started gymnastics in January), to getting a couple of bullseyes in archery (her new favorite activity). That last piece is especially impressive since we recently took her to the eye doctor and found out her eyesight has deteriorated significantly since we got her new glasses in August. We can’t wait to see how she does with her new glasses at this weekend’s lesson!

Annabelle’s teacher conference a few weeks back was hilarious. We walked in and they immediately started laughing, “BOY do we have a lot to talk about,” they joked – and then went on to say that Annabelle is an absolute joy. She is clearly at a level of intelligence far beyond others, constantly participates (they often say, “does anyone other than Annabelle want to answer this?”) but never calls out the answer or is rude about her proficiency. She always helps others in class, and they generally just worry about how to challenge her. She rushes through work too quickly sometimes and could write with more detail, but all in all they couldn’t stop gushing. It was a pretty proud day for us parents J

Over the past couple months we’ve seen a little moodiness in Annabelle, especially when it comes to putting up with her sister and even in some instances with Diane (she knows she can get away with more with Diane vs. her parents). We hear this is very normal for tweens, and it is pretty minor in the grand scheme, but it serves as a bittersweet reminder that our little girl really is growing up. I can’t believe that we only have one more elementary school year after this one (and the only reason she’s not going to skip it, she told us, is because 5th grade has the best field trips). Also worth noting – according to her 9 year well check, that “growing up” will likely be all the way up to 6 feet – she is getting SO tall! We’re beyond curious and excited about the adult Annabelle will one day become, but it’s all happening WAY too fast for our liking.

Six.2

I don’t think I’ve known a six year old that was a bigger combination of sweet, smart and sass as our girl.

SWEET
All you need is a Clementine hug to know what I mean by this. But, for example, she also ALWAYS says “I’ll take the smaller half” when she splits things, even her favorite treats (chocolate, cookies, candy – a note that she still doesn’t like anything donut-related, not even Café du Monde beignets!). And when we told her a sitter was going to take care of her during the school day while she had the flu, her response was, “Yay I love Emily!” and then a second later, “But I’m really worried that I’m going to get her sick!”

SMART
Clementine is really starting to blow us away both in her math abilities (mental math that comes up in conversation as well as the Dreambox online math she does) and especially in her reading. Over the past couple months, she has become OBSESSED with Harry Potter. We read it together before bed, but she reads extra chapters after we tuck her in and has even started bringing it to school (her kinder teacher told us she has never had to say to a kindergartener during recess, “Put the book down and go play!”). We were skeptical that she was comprehending everything when she read on her own but she has proven it by telling us what happened in the parts we weren’t there for. Oh – she also got first place in her first science fair – her analysis of cat, dog and human hair of all ages was fantastic!

SASS
Let’s just say that the first couple weeks of January were… rough. That girl had more tantrums and meltdowns in a couple weeks than she’d had in the past 6 months! Luckily this appears to have been a short-lived phase (the bummer of getting back into the school year after too much winter vacation fun? She also shot up an inch or two in that time, so it could’ve been growth-spurt related). Now, to see her sass you just need to watch her walk. I don’t know where she got her little waggle, but I do know that neither Annabelle nor I (nor any of my sisters or my mom) have ever managed to pull it off!

To focus on one more “S” word, man is this kid special. It was so nice to hear her kindergarten teacher talking about her at our teacher conference a few weeks back. Ms. Dunbar kept using the word, “Amazing” to describe both her academics and the insightful participation she brings to class. She also said Clementine’s behavior & listening has improved considerably since the beginning of the year, which we were a little nervous about (we’re assured it is “age appropriate”)! She mentioned that once Clem matures a bit (like in the next year or two) she could ABSOLUTELY handle skipping up a grade like her sister, which is something we won’t push but will keep an eye out for in the future.

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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Five.11 and Eight.11

Look at these girls, swinging into their next birthdays as the world seems to turn faster and faster each year.

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I thought things would slow down, but they still seem to be changing in leaps and bounds. Take this kid, for example:

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The grown-up haircut isn’t helping matters, and neither are the HILARIOUS one-liners that come out of her mouth. While her emotions are still wildly age appropriate (in that they vary WILDLY, in any given hour), her insights are so smart and spot on that Marc and I are constantly giving each other “did you hear what she just said” eyes. And… then she turns into a Kindergartener again, doing things like re-learning how to ride a bike (success!), smothering the dog with love, refusing any foods that are mixed together in any way, thinking it’s perfectly reasonable to wear earmuffs to school in 70 degree weather, etc.

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There are other aspects to Clem that are so undeniably HER that they were her as a toddler and will undoubtedly be part of her as an adult. First, she has a generous heart. When we talked about selling our used books to Half Price Books, she suggested donating them instead to people who need them, because we really don’t need the money. And on Thanksgiving, while Annabelle opted to get some pre-feast exercise with her dad instead, Clementine was all about scootering over to “Operation Turkey” to make (and decorate) plates of food for the homeless.

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Clementine is also incredibly focused when it comes to anything art-related. She can’t seem to sit still in her chair for more than 30 seconds unless she is drawing, coloring, stamping, writing, etc. She does this work incredibly slowly and carefully, almost never scribbling or taking shortcuts. You should have seen the care she took to stick all of our holiday card stamps on perfectly… even if she had the wrong corner!

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It’s these moments that give me hope that one day, she’ll make it all the way through dinner without falling off her chair or spilling anything. A girl can dream! But truthfully, it’s a small price to pay for getting to interact with the awesomely beautiful (inside and out) little girl before us!

And then there’s this beauty:

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That bright face and even brighter mind is so “big kid” now. She still has her silly, loving, giggling moments, but more and more we are seeing more subdued, older behavior. While we know this is also perfectly age appropriate, it’s a little bittersweet! At the same time, she’s still the creative, always-with-a-plan kid she’s been from the start. Her plans usually extend to what she wants to do/bring/show/share with her friends at recess, which cause her backpack to weigh as much as she does (I remember my mom saying the same thing about mine!). Lately, the most common activity is Pokemon, which Marc and I find mind-numbing – but appreciate that it’s a non-screentime, interact-with-others activity that is generally positive!

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Whether studying Pokemon card collections, challenging friends to a drawing contest (she’s been practicing endlessly and has gotten SO MUCH better in the past few months!), or telling us about tests and assignments at school, one change we’ve seen in Annabelle lately is that she’s become incredibly competitive. While of course this can be taken too far, we are happy to see her pushing herself and noticing that whipping through things is not always the answer. We think skipping up a grade caused this change – suddenly there are actually other kids who are sometimes sort of close to her level! She can’t have that 🙂 Thankfully she doesn’t seem to be cut-throat about it with her friends, who still love her beyond words.

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We love the new, more grown up Annabelle, even if she is a little harder to read, a little less goofy, and a little more opinionated. She has always been complex, and now we are starting to see how her complexity is unfolding into (gasp) young womanhood. A lot of the energy she used to use up on making fairy houses and stuffed animal schools (though she can still be convinced to jump back in with her sister) is used working on her favorite piano songs (like the theme song to Harry Potter) or rereading her favorite books (mainly Rick Riordan or JK Rowling) to dig deeper.

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It’s amazing to watch the little changes, and it’s helpful to reflect on them monthly in the blog. Plus, it’s a good excuse to post photos that show how ridiculously sparkly and amazing they are!

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Five.10 and Eight.8

It’s a good time to be a smart, strong girl with big dreams – at least, we hope it is (the girls helped me push the ballot buttons and we’ll find out for sure in less than a week – come on, Hillary!!). And at nearly 6 and nearly 9, I think we can say with full confidence that this house is lousy with smart, strong, big-dreaming girls!

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Clementine, nearly 6:

This child – so much sass, sensitivity and smarts in one little package! We had her teacher conference and got her report card, which verified what we knew – she is among the (if not THE) most advanced in her class academically, but needs to still work hard on listening, paying attention, keeping her emotions in check, and keeping her hands to herself. On that last point, we knew she was an enthusiastic (bordering on aggressive?) hugger at a very early age (I saw it as a positive trait!). Sadly, this is not appreciated in public school! And especially not appreciated with lice going around the kindergarten class. See this photo of her and her kinder bestie Kosmo? Those little heads passed lice to each other just last week – woohoo!

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Less obvious from a young age, Clem is also a worrier. She had a nightmare that she swallowed gum (screaming, crying herself awake), burst into tears because she let a toy fall down the sink drain (what if it clogs our water and we can’t brush our teeth and we all get terrible cavities and our teeth fall out?), and often takes little concerns to the nth degree to show how a small action can create big problems. We love what an empath she is… and hope that one day that empathy will extend to her teacher and parents, who are sometimes at our wits end dealing with her disinterest in listening to us and doing what we ask her to do! To her credit, whenever we lose our cool, she gives us big hugs and tells us she WANTS to make us happy… she just forgets sometimes. OH Clementine, you are going to make an incredible adult if we survive raising you over the next decade or two!

Annabelle, nearly 9

This child is half smarts, half social chair. She prefers to spend ALL waking moments with her close girl friends (and seems to be the leader of the pack in many ways – organizing activities, influencing group Halloween costumes, participating actively at school and being a huge asset to every team, according to her teacher).

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And you should have seen her leading her sister and bestie Roisin at the Children’s Business Fair. Our previously shy girl was SUCH a salesperson, pushing past any social discomfort in the interest of PROFIT! (and it was worth it – they sold >$250 of “Cutie Pooch” dog accessories!):

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One thing I love is that her smarts actually make Annabelle MORE popular at school. She has been helping friends out in math (there’s only 1 other kid in the 4th grade who she competes against academically in math, with the others far behind – impressive considering she skipped a grade!), and her buddy Adeline declared that she’s “full of brains from the tip of her toes to the top of her head.” And it’s nothing but a positive thing! The only subject she could use a boost in is Spanish, where she is understandably behind others in her grade since she’s had 1 less year of immersion than they have.  Honestly the only negative in Annabelle’s world right now is her continued night wakings and sleepwalking. Last night she woke up crying, walked downstairs, used the in-fridge water dispenser to spray water on the floor…. twice… and then went back upstairs to bed! Luckily this doesn’t seem to affect her days in any way – she has just as much energy as everyone else, even on days she’s depended on by her soccer team, the fire foxes:

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These girls continue to blow me away on a daily basis. Sure, some parenting days are easier than others, and I could stand to never have to use a lice comb again… but I can’t help but burst with pride about the young women they are (too quickly) becoming!

FIve.9 and Eight.9

Tonight at dinner, the girls went deep into serious discussion:

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Clementine (dressed in sequins and a crown) spoke about why she wants to be a vegetarian – she loves animals so much, and doesn’t know why anyone would want to eat them. Annabelle (in a t-shirt, shorts, and some “tribal” bracelets) replied as the yin to Clem’s yang:

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“I only eat herbivores, because if I didn’t eat them, there would be too many, and they’d leave our earth barren.”

And that sums up these two in a nutshell – both trying to rationalize their taste preferences but through (Clem) empathy and (AbCD) logic. Both are thinkers and feelers, but Annabelle leads with her brain whereas Clementine leads with her heart. Of course, it didn’t take us till 5/8 and three quarters to see this! Speaking of which…

Clementine, five-and-three-quarters:

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She has a sassy new haircut to go with her kindergarten sass. One week into school, her teacher asked “Does she go by Clementine? Because she doesn’t seem to hear me when I call for her. I’d say she isn’t paying attention, but she is ALWAYS the first one to point our when I make a mistake…” – greeeaaat. It may be a very long 12 years of school for this one! In good news, she really does enjoy it. It doesn’t hurt that she has a new school bestie – Kosmo:

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Clementine is doing really well with her reading and math (she’s at a 2nd grade level these days!), and keeps trying to convince us to “skip her up” like Annabelle. We keep explaining that some of the most important things to learn in kindergarten are less academic subjects such as how to sit in your chair, pay attention, and do to what grownups tell you to do. She swears she is working on it, but it definitely does not come naturally! We’re very curious about what Ms. Dunbar will have to say at her first teacher conference in a couple weeks.

Annabelle, eight-and-three-quarters:

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This kid has always had a style that’s all her own. These days, it includes a tool belt that she sewed herself (she has finally become a good little machine sewer, 9 months after we got her that machine for her birthday!), a sporty t-shirt, often a backwards baseball cap and commonly, a strategically placed bandanna (alternative placement below):

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Annabelle is more obsessed than ever with mythology and the Percy Jackson series. She’s now read all of the books over again and is being main character Annabeth Chase (demigod of Athena) for Halloween. She has built a full (cardboard and aluminum foil) armory in her room, and her closest friends (these days Roisin is the bestie) are as obsessed as she is. She seems to also be doing great in (and loving) 4th grade, where the teachers are stressing self-led work, homework only if you feel the need to practice something, and plenty of teamwork “since that’s what the real world is like.” She even won a “Super Citizen award” last week – although we are hearing about math grades in the 85 range vs. the 100 percents she has gotten in the past, so we are curious to hear more at the parent-teacher conference. Annabelle’s only challenge remains with sleep – she is STILL waking up at night, needing us to tuck her back in. This has gotten to the point where we will likely start taking her to a psychologist to help get to the root of (and hopefully fix) the problem. Poor kiddo is doing so incredible in every other way – but she needs her sleep!

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One new development in both the kids’ lives is Sunday School at Temple Beth Israel! Call it guilt or an obligation to my parents, or the fact that Clementine in kindergarten is a rational time to start, but I’m doing it. So far I can’t say we’re feeling like part of the community, but the girls actually seem to enjoy what they are learning! Clementine is downright enthralled with the Torah (she got to see one up close and personal last week) – between the “animal skin paper” and the crown, breastplate, and fancy velvet robes, it’s the fanciest “book” she has ever seen – and “fancy” and “books” are two of her very favorite things! She plans to ask Santa for her very own Torah for Christmas… might be a first for Old St. Nick!  We’ll see where this experiment takes us, but I’m glad I’m at least exploring it this year…

Speaking of which, we about to enter the year 5777 (we ate our weight in apples and honey tonight), so I’ll leave with a hearty L’Shana Tova! And joyful wishes for a sweet new year!

 

Five.8 and Eight.8

With Annabelle temporarily taking over AustinDavises for our trip, I wasn’t able to give my last monthly update! So here we are, back to school, with a lot to catch up on, blogwise. Even so, I think it’s only fitting to do this one as a joint Annabelle & Clementine post, since not only did they spend a month on the road joined at the hip; they are now going to the same elementary school! Which seems like a fine place to start:

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As our nanny Diane stated after seeing that picture, Annabelle looks like such an elementary school veteran at this point, while Clementine looks like a shiny new penny. Both had a great first week and seem to have really wonderful teachers and friends in their classes. But to break it down:

Clementine, five and two thirds and just starting kindergarten:

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This kid is so delicious, it’s dangerous. Sometimes she’s unaware about the effect she has on those around her (her response when a little girl ran up to her and gave her a hug before school started: “I don’t really know her, she’s not in my class. She just likes to hug me”). Other times she knows it, but it just rolls right off (her buddy Travis has decided to have an entirely platypus-themed birthday party because Clementine will like it so much). Unfortunately, she has gotten accustomed to her magical powers, which has made parenting her a challenge. We’ve been working hard on getting her to listen more and understand that our demands are not suggestions. It’s starting to sink in… sort of. The funny thing is that she seems to reserve this behavior for us – her new teacher has given her nothing but high praise and treats from the treasure box!

Speaking of which, if one week in is any indication, Clementine is going to rock kindergarten. She seems to be the only full-on reader in the class (though it’s hard to tell from her descriptions) and she has already completed kinder and 1st grade level math on Dreambox. She may not quite be at the level Annabelle was when she started at Travis Heights, but she is not far behind – and with a self-assuredness that her sister (or Marc or myself for that matter) couldn’t have dreamed of at this age. Marc thinks she’s on path to skipping up like big sis. We’ll see… but I wouldn’t put it past her. Clementine is up for anything Annabelle has done, is doing, or plans to do. She’s such a devoted little sister – no matter how great the day is, Clem’s reported “favorite part” is always seeing Annabelle in the lunchroom.

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Annabelle, eight and two thirds and just starting 4th grade:

This kid is just SO. GOOD. She is so happy at school, has so many great friends, and loves learning so much. And she’s still using all of her free time to invent, imagine, research, design… her combination of creativity and straight-up smarts is plain delightful. Her two favorite things on earth these days are “making” (this weekend she convinced her dad to help her make a birdhouse) and riding horses (we’re still putting off lessons in favor of some concentrated camp weeks, but I’m not sure how much longer that’ll last):

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I have absolutely no doubt that Annabelle will rock 4th grade just like she rocked 3rd – actually, probably more since she’ll get a full year of it (hard to believe she did 3rd in only ~3 months!). This year she wants to be on the photojournalism team again, the tech crew, and possibly choir and dance. She wants to take gymnastics on the side (my poor gigantic kids and their desire to be gymnasts!) and is continuing to plow forward in piano. And all of this, unfortunately, is on very little sleep. Poor Annabelle developed some sleep anxiety on the tail end of our summer road trip and has had a rough time falling asleep and staying asleep ever since. We’re working through a sleep workbook and talking to some child psychologist friends, hoping she’ll get back into the groove in the coming weeks.

I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that this stunning little human only has 2 more years left of elementary school. Only 2 years to overlap with her adoring little sis and let her in on all of the secrets of the world. Although, little sis seems to know some secrets of her own…

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There’s nothing like a month on the road and tons of time with other families to make parents introspective about their kids. At the end of our big trip, Marc and I were more grateful than ever for the sweet, interesting, curious and fun girls we are lucky enough to parent. Sure, we had our moments (and nothing like a giant lice infestation halfway through the trip to try your patience!), but wow. These little ladies were perfect car companions and pretty remarkable house guests, dealing with no personal space of their own as we flew through 18 states in 30 days – and slept in 10 of them. This is a trip we’ll never forget – and I bet it won’t be our last.  But first… time for 9 months of “regularly scheduled programming!”