Peanut is 12

Today is what’s called a “Golden Birthday”.

Peanut, this last year started with a big change for you; a move to middle school. You did well, though, through the learning spots. You were on time all year with assignments, you pulled good grades, and stayed reasonably organized. I’m impressed at your transition, as we knew you were apprehensive,

From your teachers and other staff at school, we heard consistently you are a good kid, with a good head on your shoulders.  You work hard, did your best, and generally were fun to be around. As a parent, it is those compliments that mean more to us than anything.

Your 6th grade class headed off to Camp Widjiwakkawinkawo. (I know, I know, Camp Widji). You were so excited for these 4 days away to see and do things the rest of us didn’t. When you came home (and the tiredness wore off), it was so fun to see your face light up as you talked about what happened and what fun you had, and what you learned. I’m so grateful you were the kind of kid who was excited to try this challenge and not scared. You have been independent, and that makes us proud.

I love how you have been trying out new hairstyles, particularly the shorter ones. It’s been so much fun to see you step out of the ponytails-for-everyone, and try the different ones. So many people have commented positively on your strength to be unique and how awesome your hair cuts are. I wish you to take that strength forward in everything you do.

You have been a great big sister; attending the Nutcracker and Dance Recital and complimenting your sisters.  You have attended a fair amount of Bug’s and Jiggs’ activities, and mostly watched/encouraged. You have celebrated their achievements and have been supportive of their goals. I know you are stoked, as well, that your cousin is going to college here in MN.

Your sense of sarcasm, being finely honed by your cousins, is coming out and getting to be such fun.

Peanut, I think you are such fun to be around (well, mostly, you are a tween!). I love how responsible you have become, and the kind of role model you are to your sisters. Your sense of family, and wanting to spend time with your extended family has also been appreciated. I have loved to watch you push your own boundaries, gain in strength and independence. I am proud of you, and I am excited to see what next year’s adventures include.

Alexbats

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Dancing

Bug had her two competitions for dance recently.

Prior to Bug taking our family on this competition dance adventure, I had a lot of opinions, misconceptions, and well, bad ideas about what dance meant. I thought it was frou frou and all about looking pretty with makeup and hair. I didn’t consider it a sport, and thought it was just silly .

I STAND COMPLETELY CORRECTED.

Bug spends hours in the studios for about 9 months learning her routines, working with her teammates to get it right. It matters if they use their left or right foot to leap, and whether or not they are in sync enough to do it. She will spend time this summer working on her ballet technique (of which I understand that all dance is based). Her team will work to stretch and become more limber, they will be asked to tap their feet; fast, in rhythm, and without looking at them.

She will come home and try to practice at home. She will avoid dogs who skitter around trying to figure it out. She will practice her tap without tap shoes because mom isn’t okay with her fake hardwood getting tapped on. She will practice ballet and jazz and try to make the living room work with props and sisters walking and mom moving, etc. She will beg to stretch instead of going to bed. She will deal with parents who aren’t so amazing at dance family thing.

After 9 months of practice, this girl will then go on stage in front of three judges. Those three judges will do as their title suggests and judge them. The judges will talk through the entire performance and tell them what they did well or not well. Personally, the idea of someone watching my entire performance of anything and commenting on every step would be super frustrating and hard to take.

The next practice, this girl will then listen to the teachers tell them their opinion and listen to the three judges critiques. I am impressed at that skills she will learn from this: work as a team, work individually at home, take constructive (or not) feedback and keep going, learn to work through pain (ask me about her tap costume at the first comp). This kid will be responsible to know 3-5 routines at a time.

Through all of this, Bug begs me to do more dance. They did Daddy Daughter dance, and she wanted to do Hip Hop. We had to plan in a third day of dance so she could do recreation Hip Hop. Turns out she loved that style also. (She alternates between Hip Hop and ballet as her favorite). When her school had a 4 Saturday dance practice, we added that on.

I am grateful for her teachers who pushed her to do better, and didn’t accommodate “tired” or other excuses. I am grateful for her teachers who taught her to have fun while learning, and enjoy what she’s doing. I am grateful to the studio who gives the kids an opportunity to learn how dance can be incorporated into a program like the Nutcracker. Instead of 2 minutes on stage, there’s this whole cohesive program telling a story. I have no doubt for the older kids it is exhausting, but for the littler kids who may only otherwise dance on stage one time, it’s pretty awesome.

Watching my Bug on stage, it’s where her heart seems to soar and shine. I’m grateful for the lessons she’s learned, and the people we’ve met along the way.

And I was wrong. So wrong. Thanks for teaching us, Bug!

Bug is 8!

Last birthday of the year, I present Bugaboo is 8!

Bug, we’ve had so much growth this year. It’s your second year of competition dance, and you are stepping up to lead a little more. You’re a little more confident in your abilities, and still working hard. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’ve only been dancing for 3.5 years. It’s been fun watching you do Hip Hop, too. You come out smiling ear to ear, and sweaty! Day to day, the answer changes on your favorite form of dance, but never that you love it.

Softball is another theme in your life. Momma coached you this Spring, and I had fun. (I hope you are a better ball player after our season, but either way, I had fun!) Then, this fall you tried travel fall ball, and had a blast with Daddy as your coach. I can’t tell, though, who had more fun, you or him! I’m proud of how far you came in pitching, because when I first had to catch you, I didn’t sit on the bucket for more than 2 pitches. Now, I barely get more than 2 times in 30 minutes of pitching.

And then we get to school. Man, when your teacher says “I wish I had a class of your daughter”, Mommy and Daddy are thrilled. Thank you for constantly being kind, helpful (but not overbearing), fun, and generally just a good person, and a great student. We’ve played a lot of hangman, made up some worksheets, and generally just watched you thrive in school.

Bug, you are sad that you haven’t yet seen your sister wrestle. I love that your heart is so big, you are excited to support your sisters interests. Today, my beautiful girl, you told a young man when he said “hate”, that “hate is a strong word”. I can’t remember what he hated, but you quietly and strongly held your ground that hate isn’t okay.

Baby girl, you have a strong and kind heart, a brain that’s capable of learning, a mindset that learning is fun, and a work ethic that will take you places. I’m so excited for the next year to see where it takes you. Daddy and I will be here for everyone of your goals, so let’s go

a) get multiplication memorized

b) get better at ballet

c) try out for the Nutcracker

Taliabike2

Exuberance

Toothless

you will make this world a better place

Taliasecondgrade

Getting big

Taliaslides

Sliding safely into home

 

More will be demanded

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Luke 12:48

This is my political philosophy. I have been given much by living in this country. I have great parents and a fun childhood marked with a good education. I am raising my kids in a good community and my kids are pretty awesome humans (but I’m biased).

So when I vote, this drives my vote.

It means I want an equivalent education (particularly through high school) for all regardless of race, poverty levels, gender, religion. It means we make sure that our people entering adulthood have the skills necessary to be productive members of society. (Whether they use those skills or not is up to them!)

It means I think we should have health care regardless of race, poverty levels, preexisting conditions, religion or parental employment status, gender, religion. No one should be denied reasonable health care at reasonable costs, and the options to make their best choices with their doctor as their guide, not a for-profit insurance agent.

It means every citizen over 18 is afforded the ability to vote. And the barrier to vote is low. Whether I can read or write. Whether I can drive myself to the polls or whether I need a ride.

It means that People of Color are not demonized. That the sheer numbers of young black men in prison for nonviolent crimes is unacceptable, particularly when compared to the white individuals for the same crimes. (Read Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” if you want the numbers.)

It means our military is treated with respect. They and their families are provided enough to eat and be housed. Families are provided adequate support while their service member is deployed. Veterans are treated with respect and have access to all the tools needed to retire, or be re-integrated to the private workforce.

We were given this great big earth that provides so much our needs. We must treat that the environment with respect, and we should not treat it as a means to an end. Businesses must be required respect the world within which we live, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and so on.

I don’t want walls keeping people out. I want to offer them the opportunities I was given by the location of my birth.

Much was given to us. Much is demanded. 

 

Jiggs is 6!

And here I am, same as every year, trying to figure out how we got through those 365 days so quickly… Jiggs is 6!

This year, we have finished K-readiness, and started Kindergarten. We have learned to ride a bike without training wheels, played T-Ball, and two seasons of soccer. We danced our way through the Nutcracker and a recital.

Your teachers constantly send us praise for you behavior choices at school, and that makes us proud. We hear that you can be counted on to use your manners, follow the rules, help your peers, and be respectful. Way to go Jiggs.

Watching you play sports has been incredible. It’s clear you’ve had to sit on the sidelines too long, and when you get a chance to be on the field, you shine. In your first year of soccer, you scored a lot of goals, set people up to score, and had fun running the field with friends. In T-Ball, you somehow made the play of a lifetime with a full on tackle, while wearing a skirt! In dance, they put you up with the older kids last year and you stepped up and learned more.

I like watching you take on challenges head on day in and day out. While I will never know what’s going to come out of your mouth at either your sisters or I, your joy in playing with them is evident. You’ve enjoyed your role as the baby of this family, and sometimes I’m absolutely stunned that we got to 6 already. Other times, it’s hard to imagine you haven’t always had this ability to fill a room so completely.

And, this year, I think you came into your own as a Jiggs rather than a Bits. Your personality is so vibrant that Bits just doesn’t cut it anymore. So world, I present Jiggs. We are grateful for your presence, and your life and your full belly laugh! Your energy at whatever you are doing (singing in church, playing sports, or throwing a temper tantrum) will serve you well for the rest of your days.

While I sometimes wish for life to slow down, I know that you are ready to have life go a million miles an hour and see what’s down that road. And so Jiggs; enjoy 6. Enjoy Kindergarten and whatever else takes your time, energy, and love this year. I will do my best to watch, appreciate, love, and cheer you on! I love you Jiggs.

Peanut is 11!

I present Peanut at 11.

Its been a big year here. Starting and ending 5th grade, and becoming a middle schooler. Making the B team in softball. Working out hard. Volunteering at the library. Visiting Pennsylvania without parents.

I have to say your tenacity has shown through time and again. Over the last year, there have been times when a lesser individual would have quit. And you didn’t. You stuck through, kept trying, and never gave up. Sure, we had some tears and frustrations, but then you got a taste of success, and off and running you are. Many times I have said “There’s no excuse for you not to be the hardest worker out there”. “Out there” can refer to sports, academics, and so much more. And by God, Peanut, you are a hard worker.

You have also been a great sister. You supported your little sisters by watching them at soccer at sports. Sitting through the Nutcracker at Christmas and 2 recitals in June. The first time you saw your sisters after they performed, you immediately told them they did a good job. Watching you sit through the Bug’s first competition was priceless. You, along with Dad and I, had no idea how this worked. But you sat through a bazillion dances and told her how well she did.

You’ve been stepping up your responsibility game. Helping shepherd your sisters to where they need to go when Dad is working at the school. We were able to leave you alone with your sisters in a stressful situation, and you did well. You’ve also been working with Tasha on getting her trained. Both of you are doing well, and it will get better as both of you age.

Let’s talk to your goals. Last year you wanted to:

  1. Move downstairs ♥
  2. Read a 500 page book ♥
  3. Get bat on ball ♥
  4. Have fun. ♥

Checked those off! Job well done!

This year:

  1. Put ball in outfield/hit a double (or higher)
  2. Do more service hours than required every quarter
  3. Reach out and make 1  new friend
  4. Push myself in something (I think you decided your goal was to get someone out who bunts)
  5. Read 50 books this summer (might be hard to track this, but we’ll see)
  6. Babysit

I love you Peanut. I’m proud of the kid you are; kind, hard working, and an overall great human!

 

Watching Youth Sports

We currently have 3 children living at home, ages 5, 7, 10. All of them are crazy busy in the Spring. One plays travel softball. One plays in-house softball, and does competition dance. One does rec soccer and rec dance. All of this is their choice; I don’t make them play a specific sport at a specific level, and I can promise you that I don’t make anyone dance. They are required to be active in some way, but they define the path.

We have received their basic schedules from about May 1st through mid-July. Peanut plays 8 double headers, mostly on Tuesdays, and a few Thursdays.  She also has 5 tournaments over weekends. Practice will be whenever they can get fields. Bug has two dance competitions and one recital. Her in-house games will be Tuesday and Thursdays. (There’s a trend about to happen). Her dance practice will continue to be Mon/Wed. One of her competitions is the same weekend as one of Peanut’s, but only about 9 minutes from each other. Bits has dance on Wednesdays and soccer on Thursday and Saturdays. Her recital is the same as her sister, so there’s that.

What this means is that I will have three kids at three different fields/gyms at the same time on some Thursdays and Saturdays. We only have two parents so we will have to get creative on the how. The wildest part is that we are also each coaching a different team so we can’t drop and run and return and… We’ll figure it out because that’s what we do.

Mike’s birthday weekend – at a dance competition (and more), his actual birthday, practice. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and our anniversary. We’ll be at a competition the weekend of Mike’s birthday, and his actual birthday will be at practice. Mother’s and Father’s Day will be spent at the ball fields, as will our anniversary.

And while you might think I’m complaining “so busy” or “overwhelmed”, I’m not complaining. (I’m certainly, at times, overwhelmed!)  I chose these 3, I chose to allow them sports and activities. I am however, unable to determine where else I’d rather be on Mother’s Day, Father’s day. I’m thrilled to be on the sidelines cheering these kids on. It gives me great pleasure to watch them interact with teammates, make a great play, turn a pirouette, etc. Spending my time watching my kids have fun and laugh and try and succeed is nothing short of amazing to me. I’m grateful for this time in my life with these kids.

I’m just hoping they are prepared to eat a lot of meals on the go.