Eight.4 and Eleven.4

Short, joint post alert! Just a quick check-in to tell you that:

A) Clementine is now a full time glasses wearer and practically doesn’t remember life without them, and

B) Annabelle is currently growing at an alarming rate. 5’4.5″ in February, 5’6″ today!

While this is usually the part of the year where we’re all limping across the school-end finish line, barely doing what we need to get by (and, for the record, Annabelle’s socks don’t match and she’s lost 2 water bottles this week alone), the energy is different in our house than usual!

First of all, there was the addition of this brilliant piece of furniture – my “graduation gift” to myself as I near the end of my 4 year “term” running marketing for Kinsa (last day: May 31):

With that one piece of furniture, we’ve turned the least used room in our house into one of the most-used and it’s glorious! I’m sure our enthusiasm will wane as the days hit triple digits this summer, but for now it’s rare that only one of us is in the hammock at a time, and I’m especially loving the conversations I’m having with these girls as we gently rock and relax. Eddie seems to be enjoying the fresh air too and is out there any chance he gets, now that we’ve gotten him some cushion for the slate sunporch floor.

Second, both kids are doing much better with their anxiety/worries/etc. We know by now that these things ebb and flow, and this school year was especially tough with both girls dealing with some challenges (Clem’s extreme empathy exacerbated by a bad 2nd grade teacher situation, Annabelle’s anxieties just rearing their head as they do every few years).

These days, we’re all getting our work done (including Marc, who is pushing through big challenges and exciting opportunities at Moment), Clem is loving ice skating and preparing for her big Mary Poppins debut, and Annabelle is all about horses and archery. That is, when we’re not having fun with our visitors (HURRAY FOR THE WINTERS VISITING!!) or visiting ourselves (Marc is off to Jazzfest this weekend – his happy place).

Most of all, I can’t believe that by the next time I write, it will be SUMMER – and ALL THREE OF US GIRLS WILL BE OFF! We are literally counting the days.

Eight.3 and Eleven.3

After some coaxing, I’ve decided to keep this blog going for a while longer with a to-do to figure out better password protecting in the future. So now I have a little catching up to do!

Clementine:
This girl has had a couple months of “wins” at a time when she really needed them. She passed out of the “blue frogs” in gymnastics (with some impressive backbend-kickover moves!), passed into the second level of her new love, figure skating (I must admit I’m a proud mom here!), got the lead role of Jane Banks in the children’s theater production of Mary Poppins, and even “passed” out of going to therapy with Dr. Laura to talk about her sadness and worries! Which is not to say that she is sadness/worry free – but she is doing a lot better at coping with those big feelings (animal hugs always help, for example):

Clementine is now 8 and a quarter, and she continues to get more complex. She gets completely wrapped up in books and artwork and music, but has trouble focusing at school sometimes (her behavior isn’t always stellar for this reason). And she cringes at the thought of upsetting or disappointing anyone, but then makes a giant mess and forgets to clean it up, or doesn’t complete a task no matter how many times you remind her. Going camping with friends last week, we’d often find her digging alone in the dirt or mixing up pretend concoctions, sort of forgetting that she was there with a friend who wanted to interact with her.

Clementine continues to excel academically (quote from the latest report card: “Clementine continues to perform well in all academic areas, is always attentive, and her contributions are accurate, enthusiastic and frequent”), especially in the areas she’s allowed to do with the 3rdgraders, and still wants to try to skip a grade this summer, but I’m torn because I think maturity-wise, she is pretty age-appropriate. That said, it seems she acts MORE mature when hanging with older kids, so perhaps that’s still the right answer. We’ll see in a few months when it’s time for her to take those district tests (and she’ll see those tests better with these new glasses!)

In the mean time we’ve figured out other ways to challenge Clementine – like her big Whatacorn.com launch this past month! She has learned so much about revenue, expenses and profits and is determined to raise money for charity with this endeavor. And her commitment to quality in everything she does is shining through as it always does (funny watching her scold her employee Annabelle when big sis’s work isn’t up to snuff) – she is determined to sell a high quality product and make her customers happy!

Annabelle:
At 11.25, the anxiety is still pretty strong with this girl, and she has taken over Clem’s weekly appointments with Dr. Laura. But she continues to excel in school (all A+ grades), have many friends, and (when the anxiety doesn’t rear) and continue her joyful, creative and fun way of tackling everything head on! She’s constantly getting friends and neighbors in on her plans, whether it’s a slime-making extravaganza, a fake horse supply catalog, or Whatacorn’s social media presence. Yesterday, no joke, she said, “I have an awesome idea. Let’s make a family-wide banana challenge. We’ll see who can go the longest having ONLY bananas as food.”

In more serious challenges, Annabelle’s archery coach finally gave her a very specific training plan and the kiddo got Marc to make room for garage shooting, so now she is pushing herself there 6 days a week, too. She has a color coded 10 year plan in place to get to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, which she will gladly show you. In other words, Annabelle is “killing it” at life… when her anxiety isn’t making her sure she’s going to pick the wrong foreign language to take next year which will no doubt result in the earth stopping spinning.

One more thing to note about Annabelle – she is suddenly TALL. She measured 5’4.5 in February and I’m pretty sure that spurt was just the beginning. She wears a 9.5 shoe, and while we’ve still been shopping for her in kids’ sections (except for shoes), I think this is about to end (tricky because she is still mostly shaped like a kid). I wouldn’t be surprised if by this time next year, she is 5’8. And stunning. At least, when she remembers to shower or at least brush her hair. She does seem to need a larger pony to ride (especially according to the current pony)

All in all, the girls are doing really well. They are counting the weeks till summer vacation – 8 more! – but I love how much they’ve fallen in love with passions outside of school in the meantime (Clem: acting & ice skating; Annabelle: archery & horses). And with only 9 more weeks of work on my end before I take the summer off and then re-start Alkali Marketing, I might be the most excited of all. I can’t wait to have more time with these kiddos while they still like having their mama around!

Checking in with our adoring fans…

Hello family! As you know, I’ve been using this site partially to connect with family and partially as my own personal “baby book” about the girls as they grow up each month. But they’ve been getting older and more complex, and I’ve been getting a little more concerned about sharing their “big kid/tween” lives in such a public way (despite the fact that we have maybe 3 readers, this site can be found). Plus, I’m able to share a lot these days on Instagram and Facebook, so I’m not sure these blog posts are as necessary.

So I think I’ll either archive this blog (and just keep some journal notes for myself) or keep writing, but password-protect it. If you wouldn’t mind, please email me to let me know if you still love reading it and want a password, or if you think it’s okay to let this one slide as the girls are hitting an age where their inner lives should be more private.

Thanks so much for the loyal following – we love you!

Lauren

UPDATE! Getting some mixed response so I asked Annabelle if she cared and she said she did not. So I might not be AS regular, and I’m going to figure out a way to password protect it, but the blog will go on for now. If you are a reader, let me know so I can get you a password!

Eight.1, Eleven.1

These girls have had quite an exciting first month at their newly minted ages! First I’ll discuss a certain 8 year old:

I’m very happy to say that Clementine’s worries have gotten a little less worrisome lately. Maybe it’s the therapist, maybe the phase is waning… all I know is we will take it! We’re getting less “Why do humans destroy the earth” and more “Annabelle gets mad when I borrow her stuff but then she borrows my stuff without asking” – I had to explain that our nighttime ritual is called “Worry time” not “Tattle time.” I haven’t seen too many tears in the past month… with the exception of the rollercoaster ride that has been her new loft bed.

Begged for, carefully chosen and then put together for hours, she loved everything about it. Except for when she tried to sleep in it. The mattress feels funny, the walls feel to constraining… and now she’s SO SAD because she wants a loft bed but can’t sleep in it and her old bed broke and now she doesn’t know what to do because she wants her old bed but she wants her loft bed but she will never sleep again but but but but…..

She’s currently sleeping on her old mattress under the bed (so far not hitting her head on the built in desk) and I think we’ll give sleeping up top another go over spring break.

Other than this, Clementine is busy with school (the half 2nd grade/half 3rd grade thing is great in theory but proving to be tough logistically), with extra curricular activities (she thinks she wants to switch from gymnastics to ice skating but hasn’t quite decided so is doing both for a couple months), with biking (new bike for her birthday – she LOVES it!), and with turning her Whatacorn business into a Whatacorn website, which has been SUCH a fun project for me to work on with her! (not quite ready for primetime but we’ll let you know when it is). In other words, it’s been a nonstop month for our sweet girl!

And then there’s this fabulous tween:

What you are seeing here is a pic from Archery Nationals, where Annabelle competed this past weekend. She went in confident despite being sick and not practicing the week before (and not really kicking up her practicing in general over the past couple months), and she started off strong. Unfortunately, things took a tough turn and she lost her focus, lost her nerve, and kind of choked in the second half of the competition. But her sweet older buddies came to the rescue, sitting with her, encouraging her with every arrow, and regaling her with their own choking stories – it is definitely a part of archery and by the end, I was thrilled when the whole experience made her want to practice more, not less!

One reason I was especially nervous as things went south was because poor Annabelle started out January with some pretty severe anxiety attacks. First it was about a new elective, then it was about a different class, then it was about… anything that swirled into her brain when she woke up in the morning or went to bed at night. She was getting top grades (seriously, like straight 100’s) and still worried about academics… and it quickly became clear that this was about her own anxiety, not some external force. It was quite a shock after an amazing first semester (and literally 2 days after the epic celebration that was her birthday party!).

Thankfully our fantastic therapist (who was already working on Clementine) had time to take Annabelle back in (the first time since she had those sleep problems at age ~8) and it has definitely been helping. But it is also reminding us that no matter much Annabelle is winning at life, her anxiety will likely show itself to her every few years… probably forever. We’re so glad to have someone helping her find the tools to manage it.

While not specific to one kid or the other, another notable and fun highlight of this past month was Gramma and Grampa Charlie visiting! They got to watch Clem ice skate and do gymnastics, ride her new bike, and more. They didn’t get AS much fun time with Annabelle since she came down with a pretty rotten fever upon their arrival, but there were still plenty of quality experiences… like trying out conveyer belt sushi, meeting Winston the paper mâché horse, etc. We love when they visit and can’t wait to see them again this summer!

ELEVEN!

We have an 11 year old. Not a teenager, not a kid, but a middle schooler who is making middle school seem WAY better than I remember it. She’s got great friends, deep passions, killer grades (straight A+) at a phenomenal school, big goals and an aura around her that just makes people want to stick close.

Annabelle is fairly self-aware these days, so I’ll jump to the part where I tell you what SHE told me today, 1 day into being 11:

  • Favorite food: Chinese
  • Favorite animal: horse, alpaca
  • Best friend: Ava
  • Favorite hobby: Archery
  • Favorite thing to play: legos, hobby horsing
  • Favorite school subject: Math
  • Biggest fears: Heights, vomiting
  • Capability she’s most proud of: Leadership
  • Thing she needs to work on: Compassion
  • Favorite song/movie/etc: Hamilton
  • Favorite color: Maroon
  • What she wants to be when she grows up: Mounted archer entrepreneur
  • Place she wants to visit: Costa Rica
  • Thing she wants to achieve this year: High score at Archery Nationals

On my end, really I just hope I get another year of this sweet girl who is still more kid than teen (boys are still gross, pretend play is still fun, Santa is still out there) – not yet moody, sad, angry and generally a mess like I hear she’ll become soon enough. Here she is rolling her eyes, but we honestly don’t see a lot of it yet (and it’s mainly directed at her sister):

I also hope Annabelle continues to want to work hard in archery, because I love this unusual passion of hers where she strives to achieve something that requires incredible focus and work ethic. And I hope she really will grow her empathy and compassion – she tries (and doesn’t have an attitude about it when we call her out) but it really isn’t easy for her because she is always stuck in her own head (much like her dad, he’ll admit). But mainly, I hope Annabelle continues to do whatever she is doing, because I am blown away by just about everything about her, daily.

Happy birthday, my beautiful tween!

EIGHT!

I can’t believe my youngest child is 8. Seriously! Today we swung by Ikea and I bought new daily kid drinking cups that were GLASS instead of colorful plastic. That’s how old my kids are. But let’s speak specifically about this fantastically wonderful eight year old:

I remember when I used to think she’d be my less complicated one. I should’ve figured that her compassion – compassion that started out with extreme hugging before she could walk or talk – and her wisdom (early on in the form of “zingers” out of nowhere that made you laugh and think) were coming from a deep, complex little heart and mind. And here she is. As complex and deep as they come, I think, especially at age 8.

I like to get the facts from my girls around their birthdays – the things that are important to them. So, since I’ve already talked for months about Clem’s worries, her academic achievements, her talents and her “areas for improvement” – I’m going to turn it over to her for this post. I interviewed her this morning and here’s what I got:

  • Favorite food: bell pepper
  • Favorite animal: Panda, white tiger, platypus, dog, llama
  • Best friend: Charlie
  • Favorite hobby: reading
  • Favorite thing to play: legos/reading
  • Favorite school subject: math
  • Biggest fear: Darkness and accidentally swallowing something
  • Think she’s most proud of: compassion
  • Thing she wants to work on: worrying too much
  • Favorite music/movie/etc: Hamilton
  • Favorite color: periwinkle
  • What she wants to be when she grows up: A marine biologist with 1000 pets
  • Place she wants to visit: Japan because they treat dogs like gods there
  • Goal for this year: Get over carsickness

Now – if you were to ask ME about my hopes for Clementine in her 8-year-old year (aside from my cornerstone “happy and healthy” wishes), here are my top 3:

  • I hope we can sort out school for her. She’s an outlier compared to her peers, is not especially challenged, is not happy with her teachers (her favorite teacher left in November), and the new principal isn’t as tuned in to her and flexible in making school work for her as the past one was for both her and Annabelle. She’ll be doing this hybrid half 3rd/half 2nd grade experiment starting next week and I just worry that she’ll fall through the cracks and/or miss some key 3rd grade elements that will set her up for success as she finishes up elementary school. I can’t help feeling guilty that Annabelle’s elementary education worked out so perfectly, and things started falling apart right when it mattered for Clem.
  • I hope she can get a handle on her sadness and worries. Tonight she told me she was reading an awesome book (5000 Amazing Facts!) but accidentally started reading a page about tapeworms and now can think of nothing else. And she slammed the book shut as soon as she got to the page titled “diseases.” I hate that our once easy going girl is now so delicate and sensitive. I vacillate between wanting desperately to protect her and needing to thicken her skin.
  • I hope she finds/nurtures a passion or slice of life that is only hers. So much of what Clem does feels like it is somewhat in Annabelle’s shadow. She seems to really enjoy music and has been composing little songs on the keyboard we got her for Christmas, but there’s nothing she’d do all day if she could (other than possibly reading). I am excited that Clem is going to overnight camp this summer – something A has never been brave enough to do. I love that she won’t be “Annabelle’s little sis” at camp.

Is that so much to ask for the most perfect 8 year old on earth (what bias?)? I don’t think so. Happy birthday to my sweetest toontsie, our heartbreakingly wonderful, beautiful Clem de la Clem!

Ten.11

This girl has always been special, but we cannot get enough of the new middle school her. While it is rare that she remembers to shower on her own, seldom matches her socks and often forgets to brush her hair (photo below was after we had to do some major tangle triage), she has become so incredibly responsible at school, and is continuing her straight A+ streak through lots of hard work and accountability (she stays for office hours several days a week to make sure she’s prepared for everything).
Last month when Annabelle’s archery coach told her she wasn’t progressing fast enough, she started setting her alarm for 5:40 every morning to do strengthening exercises for her arms and back… and sure enough, she ended up going to the state championship yesterday and blew away all of our expectations, shooting her personal best (224 for her second 30 arrows) coming in 7th out of 15 in her division against girls who’d been shooting FAR longer than she had (all we were hoping for was that she would be able to shoot all 60 arrows, with a stretch goal of not coming in last):

Even better, the competition far from intimidated her – it made her want to shoot MORE. She is now BEGGING Marc to move one of his cars so she can set up a shooting area in the garage. The national championship (also at Texas A&M) is on February 2nd and she is determined to improve her score the next time we are back on campus sipping Starbucks:

As much as she loves archery, Annabelle is far from one-track these days. She is still obsessed with horses (last weekend she baked horse treats and distributed them to everyone she knows who has any access to horses) and asked Santa for nothing but horse tack. Her ultimate goal is to do mounted archery, which sounds like possibly the most dangerous activity on earth… but it’s good to have goals. And there’s more along with archery and horses! She now spends free time making stop motion animation lego movies and practicing trombone, and is 100% fascinated by World Cultures (this afternoon she created a traditional Saungok instrument out of cardboard as an extra fun element for her presentation on Myanmar). And then there’s her incessant dog training…

How could you not love this kid? I never thought I’d say this (and I may bite my tongue in 6 months), but this tween age may just be the most entertaining and fulfilling yet.

Clementine Seven.11

I swear my goal is to write these monthly… but time is speeding up as usual, so here we are. And here’s our nearly 8 year old, grubbing together a fairy house in her good dress – how very Clementine of her!

Clementine has had a pretty big couple of months. She has been doing great in school – so great that her teachers recommended skipping her up to third grade just like Annabelle did halfway through 2nd. Unfortunately, the new principal has decided not to allow this to happen (to anyone in the school), but upon testing Clem in math & reading, agrees that it’s a waste to have her fully in 2nd. So while it’s not ideal, this kiddo will be spending Math & Language Arts with 3rd grade each day beginning in January. Then we can have her do the official district testing to skip 3rd grade this summer. In the meantime, we’ve been supplementing her learning with fun projects like the Children’s Business fair, which she CRUSHED this year selling “Whatacorns” (tiny shell-horns glued to plastic animals and painted metallic):

One reason we really want Clem to advance and be challenged is because her worries have gotten worse in recent months – and have turned more into “waves of sadness” than worry – so much so that we’ve begun taking her to see the same therapist who was so helpful to Annabelle a couple years back. Dr. Laura is helping Clementine deal with her extreme levels of empathy so that she doesn’t internalize every pain and injustice in the world…. because that’s a lot for an almost-8-year-old. This kid is so wise and aware that she lies in bed at night pondering things like, “Why were humans created if all they do is destroy the earth? Did God create them one way, but then they evolved in a way he didn’t expect to bring harm?” Luckily, she can usually spend her school hours acting like a regular kid, where she has lots of sweet friends who adore her.

When Clem isn’t playing with friends or having an existential crisis, she spends most of her time reading. She’s blazing through the Little House series just like Annabelle did a while back, and also reads anything and everything by Erin Hunter (books about animals in the wild). She also loves sleepovers, and even tried out Jewish Overnight Camp last month through our synagogue, which she loved! At her request, we’ve signed her up for 10 days away this summer, which she is nervous and excited about already. Interestingly, she loves the Jewish aspect of camp as much as she loves the overnight camp. It was hilarious watching her get just as excited about nightly prayers on the agenda as she did about s’mores and ziplines… I may be the only 100% Jew genetically, but she is definitely the spiritual one in our family.

This is a complex time for Clementine, but we’re confident that she will get through it, and are so blown away by the young lady that she is becoming as she works through her big thoughts and contemplations. Mainly we’re just proud that she is ours and are doing everything we can to help her on her amazing journey as she marches toward EIGHT.

Annabelle Ten.9

I can’t believe this is my first post about a middle schooler! In the two months since I’ve posted, she even got braces!
This kid has taken middle school by storm. I don’t know what it is about her, but she seems to have a fantastic group of friends, got almost all A+ grades in her first 6-week marking period, and says some of her work is hard but doesn’t seem stressed about it. Not exactly how we thought the middle school move (especially to a school with REALLY bright kiddos) would be but we’ll take it! The coolest part is how much she has taken control of her own life – a big shift from 5th grade. She has hyper-organized backpacks (has 1 for A days and 1 for B days) and folders, is constantly looking at grades, figuring out when she should stay for office hours, and organizing rides with friends’ parents if/when she stays late. She’s also loving the trombone (let her know if you’re in the mood for “hot cross buns”) and was VERY EXCITED to finally “earn” her own competition bow for archery (it took months of work, but her coach felt she was ready this month).
One update I missed with my lack of August post – Annabelle’s incredible work on “Winston II” (after Winston 1 collapsed)! This horse really did turn out amazing – and it even earned her a spot in an art gallery showing!  We ended up spending a ton of time on it during her “Mama camp” week, paper mache’ing for hours together (along with some fun excursions for indoor skydiving, cookie decorating and even an escape room). She is now putting the finishing touches on a sculpture she’ll be showing this weekend and hopefully even selling… we’ll see!
Annabelle is still that anxious kid deep down (her nighttime routine, while reasonable, is not without concern and she double checks exactly who is bringing and picking her up from school at exactly what time every day) but she is not shy. In fact, there’s something about her unique exterior that is truly magnetic. I think she had 3 different friends that were interested in going in with her on a Halloween costume, and is constantly being invited with freinds’ families to dinners, sporting events, etc. She’s also been sweeter and more welcoming to Clementine lately, which is ALWAYS a good thing. I know the whole middle school attitude will come soon, but we’ll take this version of Annabelle for as long as it’ll last!

Clementine Seven.9

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!):

Clem has had a pretty good start to the school year. She has continued her “worry phase,” but we read a book about how to work with it and now she sticks all of her worries “in a box” during the day and opens it up before bed, giving me the rundown on anything that has made her feel anxious, guilty, uncomfortable, embarrassed… It feels a whole lot like what I imagine confession to be, but it seems to be keeping her from dwelling too much on things during the day. Some of Clem’s worries have had to do with school – she was concerned that even though she’s trying to be really good, sometimes she can’t help but talk to a friend, wiggle in line, blurt out an answer, etc. and she was getting the feeling that her teacher was not a fan. Turns out that her teacher is pretty strict, but not at all concerned with Clementine. There’s a lot of “Can someone other than Clementine tell me the answer” though, which brings me to…
We’re considering moving Clem up to 3rd the way we did when Annabelle was in 2nd. There are a few differences that we are looking into, both internal and external, so the process could take some time, but we (and most importantly, Clem) feel it’s worth pushing for. Clementine is not quite as mature as her sister was at this age (she’s very wise and aware beyond her peers but still acts like a 2nd grader). Also, the school has a brand new principal and assistant principal who are pretty focused on following exact protocol and policies, including Clem taking a pretty significant placement test (involving an official proctor, etc.), instead of just “trying out 3rd grade” as the principal had Annabelle do. But Clem is up for that because she wants to be more challenged. So we’ll keep you posted on that front!
Other than that, Clem is her usual crazy, lovable self. She’s decided to be a “unicorn slug” for Halloween (an animal she invented this summer and has been drawing, sculpting, painting, etc. ever since – because even slugs should have the opportunity to be magical!). She is growing out her hair and working extra hard in gymnastics and reading reading reading up a storm. And loving on everyone and everything as usual.