13 going on…. 13

To Erin: on your 13th birthday

This birthday blog will stay short and sweet. It’s not that I’m lazy or you’re a terrible child with no redeeming qualities to write about. Neither could be further from the truth. Well, sometimes I can be lazy, but you my dear, are one of the coolest kids I know, full of wit and wisdom, spunk and sass.

But while today is your birthday, tomorrow is another big day. Your Bat Mitzvah!!!! I know it’s kind of hard to forget, but in case it slipped your mind, you can thank me for reminding you. So, I’m saving much of my advice and effusive praise for tomorrow. But I can’t let today go without telling you what an amazing human being you are becoming right before my eyes. You’ve always been a quirky funny kid who is comfortable in her own skin, but with each passing year, I’m getting glimpses of who you will become, and I’ve got to tell you, I love what I see.

You’re usually most comfortable in a certain sweatshirt; a bright orange tie-dye one from a State Cup Soccer Tournament. If I had my way, I’d get rid of it, but that would mean it would actually have to come off your body. I don’t think I’m exaggerating in saying that you’ve probably worn it at least 350 out of the last 365 days this last year, and those 15 days were probably either above 95 degrees or the sweatshirt was in the laundry. As of now, there are rips and stains, but you refuse to retire it. It’s kind of awesome, actually. Gross, but awesome.

You are confident and walk tall. Sure, some of that may be to reach to my height, which will happen any day now, but you’ve got a self-assuredness that is rare for someone your age. I hope you never lose that. You can read a situation fairly quickly and can normally navigate around the landmines that can trip up other middle school girls. You don’t ignore the drama, but you tend to observe, rather than put yourself into the middle of things. A bit of advice: stay out of the middle when it comes to middle school drama. That’s where you’ll find most of those landmines.

I’m beyond excited for this upcoming weekend and to have people see you shine! I love you, kiddo!


Let’s start talking about suicide

Why? Why? Why? That one word keeps rattling around in my brain after hearing about the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. Celebrity deaths are always shocking, but his death has hit me hard. I’m so very sad for his loved ones and the loss of his one-of-a-kind storytelling that would make you want to immediately hop onto a plane to a far-flung country, and eat and drink in the sketchiest restaurant imaginable. He not only changed the way people thought about eating, but made the world a much smaller place by showing that no matter where you live, humans share a commonality through food.

His apparent suicide and the suicide of Kate Spade, show that outward appearances don’t show what’s really going on with a person on the inside. We make assumptions. We see a rich and famous person smiling for the camera, (or in Bourdain’s case, looking straight into the camera to make an astute and snarky observation) and think they lead a charmed life, but depression and other mental health issues don’t discriminate.  These high-profile deaths prove it.

Statistics prove it too. Just yesterday, the CDC released a report showing a sharp rise in suicide rates across the United States. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people died by suicide, more than twice the number of homicides. Think about those numbers. Let those numbers set into your brain. Now think about this. For people between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

This public health crisis breaks my heart. These are preventable deaths, but the stigma around suicide make people fearful about talking about it. I know I’m only one person, but I’m doing what I can to shatter that stigma. For the last couple of years I’ve been working on a documentary about teenage suicide. The documentary, called The Edge of Success, looks at this issue from the kids’ perspective. I’ve learned so much from the amazing teenagers we feature simply by talking to them, and maybe more importantly, just listening to them.

Too often, we see someone and don’t ask this question. Are you ok? Once again, we make assumptions. But there is help. There is hope. Repeat after me. There is help. There is hope.

You are never alone. If you can’t go to a friend or loved one, there are plenty of suicide prevention resources. First off is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Here’s the number available 24/7. 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There’s also a Crisis Text Line. Text  741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.

My heart will be heavy today. I know I’ll be asking my family and friends if they’re ok. And I’ll also be raising a glass to honor Anthony Bourdain. I hope he is able to rest in peace.


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. 🙂


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.


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?)


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!







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.


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.


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).


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.


I love you kiddo!


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.

    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.

    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!


Graduation Day


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!



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.