Featured

12 for 12 for Erin’s birthday

Happy 12th Birthday Erin!

For your birthday blog, I’m going to switch things up a little bit this year. Instead of writing on and on and on about what a great kid you are, and how much you’ve accomplished in the last 12 months, I’m keeping it simple. Not because you suddenly turned into an awful tween who dropped out of middle school, (you haven’t) but sometimes it’s nice to try something different, you know, get out of your comfort zone.

So here it goes in no particular order…. drumroll please….. the first (and probably only) top 12 List of things I love about Erin!

Erin’s top 12 List

  1. You’ve got a unique sense of style. This year for Hanukkah, you noticed I bought you a fair amount of clothes, but were not exactly thrilled with what I picked out. Instead you turn to your big sister to help you. I’ve got to admit. I kind of loved it. 

  2. When you’re into something you’re really into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s your favorite sweatshirt, Taylor Swift, or sporting event, when you get obsessed, you get obsessed. It’s actually kind of cute.

    IMG_9405
    The favorite sweatshirt, one that gets worn at least 5 times a week.
  3. You take pride of ownership. You’re a kid who works hard at everything you’ve done. Whether school, soccer, or art, you give it 100%! You know I love that about you, but I do sometimes worry that if you don’t get 100%, you take that a little too personally.
  4. While you are a high achiever, you also LOVE your downtime. You’re definitely a kid of extremes. You’re just as happy practicing soccer out in the rain as you are to spend hours vegging out and watching YouTube. In fact, during the week, you set your alarm just to make sure you get in your YouTube time.
  5. You’re a creature of habit– and routine. You don’t love cooking, but you love having an easy go-to breakfast. So what did you do? You decided to make a big batch of breakfast burritos… with rice-o-roni. That stuff is awful, but you love it.

    IMG_9493
    A girl and her burritos
  6. You’re big on current events. This kind of goes along with your routine. Without fail, at 7:00 a.m. every morning during the school year, you flip on the TV to watch the Today Show. Then, on our drive to school, we usually talk about what you watched. Other times, we listen to the Sarah & Vinnie Show on Alice radio, and I’m usually forced to have an awkward conversation about something that’s not meant for 11 & 9 year old ears.
  7. Speaking of awkward conversations, you don’t mind talking about all sorts of bodily functions from farts and poops, to periods and other parts of puberty. Oh to be a fly on the wall during some of our dinner conversations. Poor Dad.
  8. You’re willing to get out of your comfort zone. I never figured you for a public speaker. You tend to shy away from the limelight, so imagine my surprise when you submitted a speech to give at your graduation. It was so good, your classmates chose you as one of two speakers. You wouldn’t let me read it in advance, (plus it was all in Spanish) but you killed it! 

  9. You’ve got a silly side to you. You may take your studies seriously, you don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re quick to giggle with that adorable laugh of yours, one that makes you squish your nose and shoulders shake. But you also love making other people laugh, usually by telling them “uncle jokes.”
  10. You’re gritty. No, not in the dirty kind of way, but in the “I’m going to muscle my way to figure it out,” kind of way. You may like to relax, but you very rarely take the easy way out.
  11. You support Dad in HIS obsession with Mizzou sports, even when they have horrible years, which have been many.
  12. You have one big ♥️!

I could continue this list, but 12 is a good number. As with every year, I know you have more surprises in store for me. You and your sisters do a great job of keeping life interesting!

I love you kiddo!

Mom

Carrie enters the double digits

Happy 10th birthday, Carrie!

This birthday is a milestone for many reasons. Yes, you’ve left behind your single digit days and are well on your way to becoming a ‘tween, but more than that, this means I no longer have any “little kids” in the house. Sure, you’ll always be the youngest, but you’re growing up right before my eyes. I swear, when you get up some mornings rubbing the eye boogers out of your eyes, it appears like you’ve grown overnight. I know it’s not fast enough for you as you’re still the smallest of your friends (at least you were at last check), but trust me on this. You’re growing leaps and bounds.

Some things about you will never change though, like your ability to spontaneously start singing and dancing in the kitchen for no apparent reason. I’ve said it before, but your musical and dancing skills are an anomaly (that’s a fancy word for not normal) in our family.  After a short stint in musical theater, you’ve declared you’re done with the theater, but I’ve got a feeling you’ll make a return to the stage. You’ve got a talent, my dear, one that more than just your friends and family should see. For now, you’re putting your talents to good use with the guitar. You started lessons last summer and you’re still going strong. I won’t lie. When you first started playing, the practices were hard on my ears and a little cringeworthy. But what a difference 9 months makes! I now love listening to you practice. You’re also not just content to simply play the songs your teacher assigns you. You’re now going to YouTube to learn new songs. Since one such song is Happy Birthday, I think it’s only fitting that you serenade yourself for your birthday. 🙂

IMG_9919

While the differences between you and your sisters are as vast (that’s a fancy word for big) as the Pacific Ocean, you do have a few similar interests. With Erin, it’s soccer. You’ve made big improvements over the past year and for a short while, played on three teams! I don’t know who’s happier that you’re now just down to one team, me or you. You may be small, but you’re fast on the soccer field, putting your short stature to good use with those lickity quick legs.  You don’t like cheers or coaching from the sidelines, and let me and Dad know it when we get too loud for your liking.

IMG_9774

With Olivia, you’ve found similar joys in cooking. Right now, you’re specialty is pancakes, but I’m confident you’ll expand your repertoire (definition: a big box of skills) in the coming year. Come to think of it, I remember some really tasty chocolate muffins you made, although you have to admit, they’re really cupcakes without the frosting. Next up, we’ll have you making dinner, maybe even working together with Olivia. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)

IMG_9507

I’m still trying to figure out the similarities you have with me and dad, but one thing is for sure, you love the great outdoors just like we do. You hardly complain about going on hikes with us (unlike one of your other sisters who will remain nameless), and have fully embraced your inner National Park ranger. I’m happy to report that you’ve gotten your badges in the two National Parks we’ve visited this year.

No matter if you’re more like Erin or Olivia or me or Dad, the most important thing is for you to be you. You’re seriously one of a kind. You love to laugh and love making other people laugh, especially with your funny faces and endless supply of selfies. I wouldn’t want you any other way!

I love your crazy antics even when they sometimes drive me crazy!

IMG_8627

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

Olivia turns 15!

Happy 15th Birthday, Olivia!

15! 15! 15!

To take a look at you, you look every bit your fifteen years. You hold your head high, you often have a mischievous look in your eye, and yes your phone pings incessantly with Snapchat and texts. If that doesn’t describe a 15-year-old, I don’t know what does.

IMG_8946

But. And this is a big but (No, not the Sir Mix-a-Lot song), you’re a good kid. No. Scratch that. You’re a great kid. I’ve written before about your prowess in the kitchen and we’ve taken full advantage of those skills, highly encouraging you to whip up dinners for the entire family and baking birthday cakes for your sisters or anniversary cakes for me and Dad. Thanks for that, by the way.

IMG_9100

We’ve all started eating not only pretty phenomenal meals and desserts, but also a lot more vegetarian dinners. In October of 2017, you decided to go a month eating vegetarian. Truth be told, I didn’t think you’d stick with it come November first. But here we are six months later, and you’re still eating meat free meals.  The only time I remember you mentioning you missed meat was when we had Chinese takeout and the smell of the orange chicken made sticking with your convictions a little difficult. You did it though. I think you said something to the effect of it would be pretty lame to give up on your new vegetarian lifestyle for mediocre (my word, not yours) orange chicken.

I’m pretty sure Dad and your sisters would like a few more meals with meat, but I’m good with it. They’ve also found pretty creative ways to add meat into the vegetarian dishes. It does make family dinners a little more challenging, but you’re content to make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or big bowl of pasta if we opt for a meaty dinner.

The PB&J and pasta meals help fuel your athletic endeavours, which currently revolves around swimming for your high school swim team. You’ve worked hard to improve all your strokes, but most notably your breast stroke. That has always been your strongest stroke, but you’ve made it your mission this year to really take it to another level. This is where I get to brag about you. You’ve become a breast stroke beast, literally clawing your way to a couple of first place JV wins by your fingertips. It just goes to show that hard work does pay off.

That’s one of the things I love and admire about you. Once you get an idea in your head, be it becoming a vegetarian or making a name for yourself on your swim team, you fully commit. Now don’t get me wrong, in other areas, you’re Miss Wishy Washy and are far from committed, but for the things that you’re really passionate about, you give it your all.

I know your last year of middle school wasn’t the easiest, so I worried how you’d acclimate to high school. Clearly, there was no need. So far, you have slayed your Freshman year! You put yourself out there and made friends with a new group of kids without batting an eye. That’s far from a simple feat, but like so many things you do, you just dive right in. (Yes, I purposely put in the swimming analogy).

IMG_9611

Anyone who knows you, knows that you like to talk a mile a minute when you get excited about something. Recently, there’s been plenty of excitement and fast talking about your new friends, whom you I assume I know, but don’t.

A typical conversation will go something like this:

Olivia: “Alexis said the funniest thing today. (Olivia tells a very long involved story about said funny exchange)”

Me: “Who is Alexis?”

Olivia: “You don’t know her.”

Me: long sigh and exasperated look.

With your after school practices and your sisters’ soccer practices and Hebrew School, our dinners start much later than they used to, but more nights than not, all five of us sit around the dinner table and go through our days. Usually, there’s plenty of jockeying to get a word in edgewise, so maybe that’s why you talk so fast.

Whatever the reason, please don’t stop talking. Keep telling me your funny friend stories, whether I know them or not.

I know that many parents complain about the many moods of their teenage kids, who sullenly slam their doors and answer questions with little more than grunts. That’s not you and that’s not me. Truth be told, I love your run on sentences that go on and on and on. It’s really better than the alternative. Much better. I mean, sure you have your moody moments, where I don’t want to be near you, and vice versa, but I’m thankful those days are few and far between.

IMG_9612

I love you kiddo!

Graduation Day

img_7485.jpg

To Olivia on what I hope will be the first of many graduation days,

You’ve got the ugly green graduation gown and one final Friday before you say adios to Kennedy Middle School. I think I can safely say you’ve made it through relatively unscathed. Sure you had a few rough patches with friends and shed more than a few tears along the way, but you worked through it.  That’s an accomplishment in itself!  If you can get through middle school still smiling on the very last day, which I know you will, you’re doing something right.

I still remember your first day of middle school. I’m not sure who was more nervous, me or you. (Ok, it was probably me.) It seemed so much bigger than elementary school where there was so much more unknown. You embraced that unknown and found your way, making new friends, but still keeping many of your best buds from Adelante.

Your classes got harder, especially when it came to math, and there may have been some more tears shed as the minutes ticked by as you tried to figure out your homework. Somehow kiddo, you persevered. I also learned a few important lessons along the way, mainly to stop nagging you about your grades. My calming down made the entire house calmer, and I hope resulted in less stress for you. Did you get all A’s? Nope, but you did just fine. More than fine, actually. You made the honor roll almost every trimester, but what I care about more than any honor roll is knowing that you’re doing ok emotionally.  Be sure to remind me of this in high school next year.

Speaking of high school– you will soon head off to a brave new world that’s less than a mile away from our house. Sequoia High School! I know you’ve mentioned several times over the last few months about how “you’re so over middle school.” I can’t blame you. Remember though, high school will have many more land mines you’ll have to try and avoid.

You’ve done a great job up to this point of surrounding yourself with good friends. You’re a pretty good judge of character and that trait will go a long way in high school. You’re also a kind soul. I started to write gentle too, but realized there’s nothing gentle about you. When you do something– whether it’s cooking a meal, creating a collage on one of your bedroom walls, or writing letters to your friends– you do it with gusto!

You’re also pretty hilarious, and you’ll be the first one to tell someone how funny you are! I love that you don’t take yourself too seriously, but make sure you show people you’re full of substance, not just silliness.

A big, bright future awaits you. I can’t wait to watch you seize it with wide open arms.

I love you!

Mom

 

A promotion for Erin

To Erin on your 5th grade promotion:

img_8296.jpgWhen you end your elementary school days, you don’t graduate.  You get a promotion. I don’t really get why, but for you, my middle child, it’s fitting.  Up to this point, you’ve treated school like a job. You’ve worked hard, gained lots of knowledge and now you’re ready to move on to something bigger and better.

Instead of a new job with a fatter paycheck, which definitely would motivate you, your promotion is to middle school.  Lucky you! At least Olivia won’t be there to harass you and your friends.

Middle school won’t be easy and I’m not just talking about getting good grades. You’re going to find yourself facing a whole new set of challenges navigating the social pitfalls and hurdles that come with 6th grade. You’ve already gotten a glimpse of it this year, but it ramps up tenfold in middle school. Have I scared you yet? I hope not because I know you know how to navigate around drama. Just like there was no drama Obama, you’re no drama Meak. (I know it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but you get the idea) You may like to know what’s causing drama in your friends’ lives, but you avoid it in your own life. That’s a good thing. You’re a no nonsense tell it like it is kind of kid. Stay that way and continue to stay kind. Kids can be cruel in any grade, but especially middle school. I’ll say the same thing to you that I said to Olivia. Don’t be a mean girl. I’d be shocked if you all of a sudden turn into one, but it doesn’t hurt to put it in writing.

Now back to this promotion ceremony. I’ve got mixed reactions about it. On the one hand, I’ve beamed with pride watching you go from not knowing a word of Spanish when you started kindergarten, to writing entire reports all in Spanish.  You’ve also got a way with the English language and use your smarts to figure out common core math problems that stump me. That’s definitely something to celebrate and commemorate.

On the other hand, isn’t it every parent’s expectation their kid will make it past 5th grade? Yes I’m proud of all of your accomplishments and accolades these past six years, but couldn’t we celebrate with pizza instead of a big ceremony filled with pomp and circumstance?

While my skepticism about the ceremony remains high right now, I’m sure I’ll change my mind as soon as I see you deliver your speech to hundreds of people– all in Spanish. Yep, I’m that Mom. One that sees the ridiculousness of rewarding kids for something that’s expected of them, but also one that can’t wait to see her own kid hit another milestone in life.

I love you kiddo.

Congrats!

Mom

 

She’s 9 and fine

Happy 9th Birthday, Carrie!

Your name inspires many nicknames, like Care Bear, or Carrie Berry, or CJ — although that last nickname, derived from the first letter of your first and middle names, never really stuck.

IMG_7448

You may be known as many things, but to me, you’ll always be my sweet youngest daughter, who can swing through a flurry of emotions in a matter of minutes. You may wake up in a foul mood because we’ve run out of bagels for breakfast or you can’t find your favorite Missouri Tiger scrunchie for your hair. I know well enough just to wait a few minutes and you’ll inevitably light up the room with your grin and a giggle as I dare you not to crack a smile. Try as you might, it’s just not in you to stay angry and upset.

While I know what I can do to turn your mood around, you’ve also got a surefire way to make me laugh. All you have to do is start speaking with an Italian accent, which you can do at the drop of a hat. I don’t know what it is about a 3rd grader sounding like Geppetto from Pinocchio, but it gets me every time. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that you do it just to make me laugh, and if it’s that’s the case, please don’t ever stop. I love that you love entertaining me and others.

You’ve got a flair for the dramatic, but usually save it just for your family and best buds.  Theater goers got a glimpse of your talent in this year’s school production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

IMG_7228

While the audience saw an incredible performance of a “squirrel” and a “wall,” at home you really shined. You belted out all the songs and proved you could have stood in as Veruca Salt if she ever went down with the flu.  That didn’t happen, so only a select few heard you sing “I want it Now,” over and over and over again. It may have been a little too good at times. Where you got your singing and dancing talents, I’ll never know. It certainly didn’t come from me or Dad.

You’re a special kid who’s slowly coming into your own. Don’t be afraid to let others see how awesome I already know you are!

In last year’s birthday blog, I wrote about you fretting over not losing any teeth. Well, I’m happy to report you’ve lost a ton of them in your 8th year. Are you now up to 5 teeth? See, I’ve lost count.

All I know is at one point it looked like you had more missing teeth than remaining ones in your mouth.At least your two front teeth are now coming in, although one is dropping at a peculiar angle. I’m pretty certain you’ll follow your sisters with a mouth full of metal.

This has also been the year of Harry Potter. After going to Universal Studios and walking through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you became hooked.

You were Hermoine Granger for Halloween (a great choice I must say) and we’re slowly making our way through the books and movies. As of now, we’re on Book #4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). We’ve renewed the 734 page monstrosity of a book 3 times from the library and I just got the notice today that we’ve maxed out and the book must go back. We’ve hit a temporary roadblock, but nothing a good spell can’t solve.

As I think back to your eighth wondrous year, Carrie, I can’t help but beam with pride. I know I say something similar every year, but it’s true. You’ve filled our home with so much joy and laughter, and maybe a few (actually 100s) shouts of “shut-up Olivia.” You’ve crushed this last year and I’m sure your 9th year will be filled with many more surprises and adventures with you playing the starring role.

I love you Care Bear!

IMG_7669

xoxo

Mom

14 and Fabulous

Happy 14th Birthday, Olivia!

Last year, I skipped out on the annual birthday blog tradition, using my speech to you on your Bat Mitzvah as an excuse. This year, I really have no excuse, except maybe laziness, and that probably won’t cut it.

So… here we are… you are… a year into your teenage years. I’ve got to say, so far, I like what I see. Don’t get me wrong. There are moments, plenty of moments, sometimes hours, when you drive me to the brink of insanity. Usually it has to do with you terrorizing your sisters.

Most of the time, however, the teenager I see before me is kindhearted, generous, and awkwardly quirky in the best possible way.  Last year, I worried about you not feeling comfortable in your own skin. That’s not the case this year. I’ve seen you embrace your goofiness and find your own style, which almost always includes a hoodie and a humongous bun on top of your head.

How you’re able to keep it from falling out, I’ll never know, but it’s a skill that I envy.

Your cooking skills continue to improve, which is good since you always seem to be hungry. If you’re home, there’s a good chance you’re in the kitchen either whipping up a birthday cake, a batch of cookies, concocting something for dinner, or making a big pot of popcorn or pasta for an afternoon snack.

Most kids are content with maybe some chips or fruit, but nope, not you. Why stick with three meals a day when you can have four? I used to dread your culinary creations in the kitchen since your cleaning skills were severely lacking. While I still find some food clinging to pots and pans long after you’ve cleaned them, it’s a vast improvement from your early days of cooking.

As a teenager, you spend lots of time on your phone snap chatting with your friends and it seems like your phone is beeping and chirping dozens of times a minute. It’s a lot, but I do also see you consciously leaving your phone at home. I like to think it’s to give yourself a break from the nonstop online chatter with your friends, but I know better. It’s because you’re afraid of taking it somewhere, only to lose or break it. As you’re prone to falling simply by walking, I’m glad you know yourself well enough to take precautions against a catastrophic destruction to your phone. Or maybe it’s because you’ve already had to pay to repair the phone once and you’d rather spend your money on your volunteer abroad fund instead of screen replacements.

IMG_7908

You’re a typical teenager beyond your phone being attached to your hand for many hours a day as you take random photos to snap to your friends. On any given weekend, there’s a decent chance you’re hanging out with your friends either downtown or taking the train to the mall with them. I’m glad you are always with friends since you  inherited my sense of direction.

I’ve also enjoyed seeing you start to experiment with make-up, not that I think you need it, but I love seeing you continue to find your own look, even though you not so long ago told me you’d never wear make-up. Make-up or no make-up, you’re a beautiful girl inside and out.

It gives me so much joy watching you grow and mature. Bubbie mentioned to me how much older you seem to her. At first, her comment surprised me, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with her. You are more mature. You now stand a little taller, hold your head a little higher, and laugh a little louder. Your laugh is infectious by the way. When you laugh, you do so wholeheartedly with a wide open mouth and your head thrown back. How can people not join in with you, especially when you’re often times laughing at yourself.

IMG_7447

You’re a pretty incredible kid and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for you as you approach your next big milestone– high school!

I love you to pieces and wouldn’t want to be with anyone else skiing in a blizzard!

IMG_7711

Mom