Eighth Grade

This girl started her eighth grade year last week.img_3305

Because I am a bad mom, and because she was completely impatient not nearly as patient as her sister, I only got a couple of photos.  Actually, I only got this one because the other one is not very good and I have been forbidden to post it.  Even though I already posted it on Facebook.

Like this:

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I think they are both good.  Oh, well.  I’m just the mother.

I am praying HARD that Anna has a better year this year than last year, and I know she  is a little nervous too, but I am so proud of how she handles herself–how she works through her fears.  She is excited for eighth grade.  It’s going to be a good year.

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Just Smile, Take Two

Since the first moment we paid the down payment and applied braces to Hayden’s teeth the clock has been ticking toward the moment when we would be able to pay them off and begin the orthodontic process with Anna.  Double payment was out of the question, out of our financial reach, and we simply could not afford to have both girls in braces at the same time.

Steve enjoyed joking with Anna that when the orthodontist removed Hayden’s braces we would have them put the same brackets on Anna’s teeth thus saving a boatload of money.  Anna always laughed at the joke, but, occasionally, she did so with a look of horror on her face as if wondering whether that might be a possibility.

We thought Hayden’s braces would be paid for this coming fall, and we (ok, me, it was me) were eager to get Anna started because it appeared to us, dental professionals that we are, that her teeth would be more involved than Hayden’s, taking longer to complete, and we wanted her process to be finished before any of the major high school milestones.  (She’s going into eighth grade in a few weeks)  So, I called to inquire as to the pay-off date and as to whether or not it was possible to start her now, and simply continue the payments, tack them on to the end of Hayden’s?

The monthly payment was an automatic debit from our checking account, and because we, clearly, don’t spend a ton of time *ahem* balancing our checkbook, we did not realize that Hayden’s braces have been paid off since last December.

Last December.  As in, eight months wasted with no braces on Anna’s teeth.

Although, let me just say here that eight months ago, at the height of the bullying situation, it would probably not have been the best timing to put braces in the poor kid’s mouth.  Everything happens for a reason, and in it’s own time.  I truly believe that, and this is another example.

So, I made an appointment for Anna’s consultation, and to discuss the new financial picture for July 28th, and I promised her that she would not be getting braces that same day like her, apparently still traumatized by the right-this-minute of it, sister.  Steve didn’t even join us for the appointment because we were just checking things out.

As returning patients we received a small discount, the required down payment was somehow much more reasonable, and they had time to get started that morning.  I saw the blood drain from Anna’s face when they said they could start immediately, so I assured her that we didn’t have to, that she could come back another day to have the braces put on, but she smartly decided she didn’t want to deal with the building stress of anticipation for a few days, and bravely chose to get her braces that same day.

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She was a trooper, but she had a severe case of buyer’s remorse after they were on and didn’t want to show them to anyone for a day or so.  Also, she was in much more, and much longer, initial pain than Hayden seemed to be when she first had hers.  But, she soon adjusted to her new look and how to take care of them.

I love her new smile already.

Fifteen to eighteen months.  Here we go.

Run like the Wind! Or like random people are throwing ground up chalk at you

The girls did their first Color Run June 25th in Hartford.  It wasn’t the best weekend for a color run as we had about four thousand other things happening that same weekend, but since they registered for it in March, and it has been on the calendar ever since, I suppose it’s just as fair to say that we didn’t have time for those other four thousand things because it was Color Run day.

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We were confused by the dark t-shirts, but the race organizers assured us that the chalkboard gray is best for absorbing the colors, so who were we to argue?  Also, color absorbtion or not, I think, the darker shirts make a more attractive keepsakes, so it’s a win win.

A little pre-race color prep:

There were lots of festivities, lots of chalk being thrown around, and lots of anxious 5Kers ready to run this untimed fun run.  The girls started the race in the second group, and then Steve and I found a great place in the shade at the end of the route to wait for them to finish.

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We are not new to 5Ks and we know approximately how long it takes our girls to run them.  Usually, they wear something that doesn’t necessarily stand out, but that we can easily recognize, so that we can see them coming towards the finish.  This was a wee bit more challenging because of everyone wearing the same color, but we were confident that we would be able to spot the trio.

Until Hayden walked up behind us and said, “Hi!”

Little whippersnapper had separated from Anna and Morgan (they were running too slow for her) and ran right past us to the finish!

About ten minutes later, the younger girls finished.

All three of them had a blast and were covered in color.

And, then much celebration and silliness ensued.

But, these have to be my three favorite shots of the day:

We’ll be back next year.

Summer

Summer is here and we have been busy, busy, busy doing almost nothing at all.  That picture up there at the top is from the last day of school; Hayden’s last day as a junior, and Anna’s last day as a 7th grader.  We are so happy for summer.

A little bragging

Officially, the last day of school will be Tuesday, the 14th, but today is worth celebrating.  Today is the last full day of school for Anna this year.  Hayden is in the midst of finals, so her schedule is all over the place depending on when she has an exam, but Anna has been plucking away, and today is, finally, her last full day.  I made the last school lunch of the year this morning.  Summer is a heartbeat away.  And, it couldn’t come soon enough or be more welcome than it is this year.

I’m so proud of Anna.IMG_2282

Middle school can be a rough time for kids, and that certainly has proven to be true for her this year, but she has overcome everything that was thrown at her, and she is emerging on the other side of seventh grade smarter, more confident, more compassionate, more grounded than ever.  She has re-established an amazing friend group, she has maintained near perfect grades, and she has become a true leader in her school.

Recently, Anna was chosen to be a S.A.F.E mentor for next year.  Obviously, SAFE is an acronym for something wonderful, and, just as obviously, I should know what that acronym is, but I don’t, so let’s just all acknowledge that it is something special and cool and quite an honor to be chosen for, and move on.  Although, I do want to mention that in order to be chosen you must first be nominated by a teacher; Anna was nominated by two. Words don’t do justice to how proud we are of her.

Six months ago, I could never have imagined we would ever get her to enter that building again.  As a SAFE mentor, she will help sixth graders transition into the building.  Everything happens for a reason.

Because the Mean Girls can’t win

Last week, Anna returned to the lunch room after nearly four months of eating her lunch with a select few friends in the guidance office every day.  It was the last piece of the putting-her-school-life-back-together-after-being-bullied puzzle, and though she tried to act as if it were no big deal, she also couldn’t refrain from talking about it non-stop the previous weekend, and it was evident that she was both motivated and terrified.  I held my breath all week praying for kids to sit with her as they had promised they would.  I knew it was potentially the most prolonged contact with the bully and her crew since the initial incidents, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I worried that as soon those girls saw her happy, surrounded by friends, it might be a signal for them to ramp up and restart the bullying.

There was a fair amount of staring at Anna while whispering to one another, but, I’m told that, one of the friends at Anna’s table waved to her while she stared and that made her look away quickly.  By the second day, Bully McBitchface was attempting to contact Anna on social media several times a day.  Anna ignored her the first couple of days hoping she would get the hint and go away, but by the third day it was apparent that Anna had to block her completely.  Blocking is a difficult decision for a middle-schooler as this can sometimes anger the bully and make things worse, but so far, so good.  Fingers crossed.

It’s been a long, curvy, uphill road.  I feel like it’s the equivalent of trying to bike up the road to the top of Whiteface Mountain.  Backwards.  And shoeless.

Anna missed a lot of school when the initial bullying was going on, and there was a point in time when we were so concerned about her returning to that building at all that we considered pulling her out of school and homeschooling–like seriously considered it, to the point of having all of the credit card information typed into the site only pausing before hitting “submit” because the washing machine suddenly went out of balance and was shaking the entire house requiring it be dealt with immediately.  Had it not been for a misguided attempt at washing a oversized comforter, and our fear of her ending up in total isolation, we would have returned to the computer to hit that “submit” button, and I would be homeschooling my kid as I type.

Instead, we got her a counselor, and we rallied her support system: teachers, guidance counselors, the assistant principal and friends who began to emerge from the woodwork.  Anna’s friend group has almost completely shifted since this has happened, and it’s all I can do not to hug and kiss every one of these new girls when they enter our home.  It’s hard to stand against a bully and support the bullied, and I am so proud of them.  All of them.

We started by getting Anna to school every day, no matter what time, just getting her to school.  She would sit in the guidance office and do her school work.  Slowly, she started to attend her classes, one at a time, adding another every few days–or, sometimes, a week.  Because she was so far behind we had to get her on a temporary 504 plan which allowed her teachers to dismiss some of her assignments and focus on the ones that were the most important.  The plan also allowed her health teacher to grade her on a pass/fail because being only a singe trimester class, she had missed almost the entire course and could not possibly catch up.

Meanwhile, Bully McBitchface and crew made gagging sounds at her in the hallway, and once threw a water bottle at her when she was standing by her locker.  Though these things infuriated me and Steve (and Hayden) Anna considered them an improvement compared to what she had endured earlier in the year, and chose to simply ignore them or laugh.  Typing that sentence makes me sad; my kid, NO kid, should have to make that choice.

The lunch room was the last hold out.  I think partly because she was worried about returning and partly because she had grown comfortable in the guidance office.  So, I was actually quite surprised when she told me she was going back.

I can’t even begin to tell you what goes through my head every day when I drop her off at school.  I know that each day is a new exercise in courage for her.  I know that she worries about what could happen next, but she leans over and lets me kiss her on the forehead then she holds her head high and walks into that building toward those horrible girls, and disappears from my sight until I pick her up six hours later.  I am so awed by her, so proud of her, and so very blessed to be her mother.

 

Thirteen

My dear Anna Cecelia,

In a few short days you will be thirteen years old.  Thirteen!  Whole!  Years!  An honest to goodness teenager.  I’m not at all certain how that happened, my baby, my sweet last child, my cuddly Anna Banana Belly Bean Snickerdoodle Boo, but it’s true; you are every bit of thirteen and so much more, and it makes my heart ache with joy and anticipation to watch you grow up, and to see the amazing young woman you are becoming.

There is no getting around it: Twelve has not been kind to you, and it would be a gross understatement to say that this has been a rough year.  Middle school can be the worst of years and, most especially for you, seventh grade, so far, has been terrible.  You were bullied, and not only that, but you were bullied by someone you thought was a good friend. I can’t imagine how confusing that must feel to you, it’s difficult enough for me, as an adult, to try and comprehend, and it angers me that you have had to endure all you have had to endure and how much you have lost along the way.  BUT, through it all, every single step of the way, you have handled yourself with such unwavering courage, such incredible grace, such astounding determination, poise, and maturity that to watch you has been a daily lesson for your father and me.  Through the pain and frustration, it has also been an absolute privilege to watch you, and to witness you teaching even the adults in the situation how to better behave. We are so proud of you.

I want to be sure you understand though, my sweet girl, that these months, these experiences, don’t define you, don’t even come close to explaining who you are, and, I promise you, someday this time will be nothing more than a blip on the radar screen of your youth.  That day is not today, I realize, and not tomorrow either, but it will come, and when it does, I hope you are able to see it as the growing time it was, because you have grown so much this year.  Leaps and bounds you have grown, and you are so much more, so very much more than this time and this experience.

You are so smart, and I’m not talking about your consistently perfect grades, which, don’t get me wrong, are great, but you have this unteachable intelligence, some people call it common sense, but I don’t think it’s all that common.  I think it’s rather rare actually, and the fact that you possess it so flawlessly astounds me, and continually reminds me just how remarkable you truly are.

You are kind, also not in a common manner, you are kind above and beyond, you think of others and their feelings, you think things through-almost to a fault, almost too thoroughly-sometimes you overthink, and this overwhelms you.  But, it comes from such a genuine place that it is difficult for me to try to curve it because it is so much a part of you.

You have the best sense of humor.  Holy cats, you are funny, and only sometimes do you seem to understand just how hysterical you are.  As easily as you get the joke, it seems just as hard for you to see your own talent for humor, and you look at us while we are laughing at something you have said, some action you have made, like we have full-out lost our minds.  This usually makes us laugh even harder.

You are generous; with your humor, your time, your talent, and your desire to make things right, to balance the world.  You know right from wrong so clearly that you cannot see gray–only black and white–things are either right or they are wrong, and, if they are wrong, you will work to make them right again.  You struggle with this because not everyone sees the difference so clearly as you, and it frustrates you.  You are big on accountability for everyone, including yourself, and I love this about you.  More often than not, almost always, you do the right thing, and you expect those around you to do the same; you raise the maturity level in the room; I can always count on you to work it out.

We hope you always know your dad and I are here for you; we will always have your back, we will always fight for you when needed, sometimes even when you are not certain you want us to; but you, my sweet girl, are your own best advocate, and you own it.  I am so very proud of the way you stand up for yourself, the way you are able to explain your thoughts, your feelings, your needs, to those in authority.  You are calm, cool, thoughtful, and articulate.

Now, there have been, and I’m certain there will continue to be, occasions when we are reminded by your sass that you are truly a teenager.  But, as much as those times make us cringe in the moment, they also never fail to make me smile, secretly, because a little sass, a little spunk mixed with a slice of rebellion?  Those are okay in my book.  They tell me you are confident, that you are going to be a strong woman.  This is not to say it’s okay to be disrespectful, not by any means, it’s simply to recognize how self-aware you are, and how much I love that about you.

And, I love so much about you.

  • I love that you can laugh at yourself.
  • I love that you know every word to every song you have ever heard, and that you are able to sing those songs at the top of your lungs, even hitting the highest of notes, no matter who is around to hear you.  And, I love, that you choose your own favorite music, searching out songs you enjoy, ignoring the charts or your friends.
  • I love that you sing in the shower.  You are a musical genius, I think, but, then again, I am your mother.
  • I love that your grades in school are important to you, and that, when given the choice, you decided to earn your points rather than an easy pass.
  • I love that you are still willing to cuddle with me, that you even initiate the cuddling.  That you “check in” with me, and that we can talk about stuff, any stuff, all stuff.
  • I love that you are beginning to be so fashion forward, that you are starting to love and “borrow” so many of your sister’s clothes.
  • I love that you are so in love with your personal history, that you love to hear stories, sometimes over and over again, about your childhood.
  • I love that you are adventurous, that you are so willing to try new things, that you will attempt things you may fail at, but that you really want to experience.
  • I love that you fiercely love your sister, and your father and me, and your cousins, and your entire family.  But, mostly, I love how much of a Daddy’s Girl you are; your relationship with your dad is so special.
  • I love that you love water, the ocean, and most especially Maine.
  • I love that you play sports, and play them with intensity.  You are a joy to watch play.
  • I love your sense of design; how you can look at a room and know where things belong or see a wall hanging or a knick knack in a store and understand it’s purpose in a certain room.
  • I love how great you are with animals, that you think there is not such thing as too many pets.
  • I love that you love to cook and bake (although it would be great if you could learn to love to clean up after these endeavors).
  • I love that you haven’t outgrown kissing my goodbye every day when I drop you off at school.
  • I love your smile, the way it squishes up your face, and how you throw your head back when you laugh.

Anna, you are, quite simply, the love of my life, and until the day you were born I had no idea how incomplete I had been.  I love being your mom, and I am amazed every single day by what you accomplish, and who you become.  I hope thirteen is good to you, that every bit of your future is good to you.  I know this a foolish hope on my part; I know there will be more ups and downs to come, but I also know that you are so prepared for them, that you will tackle each and every one with courage and grace because that is who you are.

Happy Birthday, my girl.  I love you to the moon and back-past all the stars and galaxies.  You are my heart.

Mama