Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Arriving on the Teen Scene

Max--

I cannot believe it, but you are a teenager now! It's been a wild ride to get to this point, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. You and I have been teaching each other about life, and I believe we've both learned so much and are better for the knowledge we've gained. It has been a delight to watch you grow and learn and mature throughout the years. This last year was probably the most challenging year we have ever experienced--as a family and as a world--and I have been so impressed with the way you have handled every stressful situation and disappointment with courage and resilience. You are an overcomer, and I am so proud of you!

Just before the world shut down due to COVID-19, you had the opportunity to travel with Nana on your 12-year trip to Pigeon Forge, TN and The Ark Experience in KY. You had a wonderful time and got to do so many neat things, and you experienced the world going into lockdown mode in real time. As the world slowly started to open back up in the summer, you got to travel to California (with stops at the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas) and Florida. You also got to spend some time at Mimi and Grandpa's during the summer and Nana and Papa's during the winter break. And we began the New Year with a little trip to Kerrville, where we stayed at a cool Jellystone campground.

During quarantine, you decided to revive the barn project and took it upon yourself to figure out how to install all of the electrical outlets and the tv, creating a super fun place to hang out. In December, we added a PS3 to the mix, making the space even more fun. It was a challenging project, but you stuck with it, watching YouTube videos and chatting with experts (your dad and grandpa) until you accomplished your goal. 

Another thing you became very interested in during quarantine was coins, especially pennies, and you have taken on the role of our resident numismatist. You have spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos to learn about coins and pouring through piles of change looking for oddities and rare treasures. 

When you aren't engaged in these specialty hobbies, you can be found with your nose in a book (on weekdays) or your eyes glued to a screen (on weekends). You might also be found playing with Ollie, who joined our family late in the summer. You mostly love him, but sometimes you feel he plays a little too rough, and you don't appreciate it when he tries to interfere with the electricity in the barn by either chewing on or unplugging the extension cord. He does seem to be in tune with the feelings of everyone in our household, and he has been a comfort to you many times when you were feeling kind of down or upset. 

You are back at the iSchool this year for 7th grade, and you are thriving there. You have some good friends and are making excellent grades, and you enjoy the whole environment of the school. It's a good place for you, and I'm thankful you have the opportunity to go to school there. 

While you have struggled with the occasional emotional outburst this year, I have seen you make significant progress in managing your emotions and reactions. It is becoming more natural for you to take a breath, create some space, redirect your attention, and use your words to convey what you need and want. As I previously mentioned, you are an overcomer. I'm proud of the ways you are maturing, and I'm thankful for the ways your brain is developing to relieve some of the internal stress and anxiety you have experienced during most of your 13 years. 

You are an amazing kid, Max, and I'm so thankful to have you in my life! You are kind and generous and thoughtful. You believe in justice and standing up for what you think is right. You are courageous and creative and curious. You are a problem solver and a hard worker. You teach me many things and help me become a better person. I love you so much! Happy 13th birthday!

Love,

Mom

Arriving on the Teen Scene









Thursday, November 26, 2020

Fifteen

Well, you have managed to survive one of the most bizarre and difficult year of your life so far, enduring disappointments and heartache in your personal life, as well as wrestling with the effects of a global pandemic along with the world at large. So much of this year has felt ugly and hard, but I hope when you look back on this year, you will also be able to see the undercurrent of beauty and light that have been woven into it. Even though I know you wouldn't want to repeat this year (and neither would I!), I have seen you grow and mature in numerous ways as a result of having lived through it. I have seen you bravely face disappointment and chart new courses. I have seen you stretch yourself to try new activities, create new relationships, and think about things in new ways. I have seen you lead by example with your brothers and your friends. I have seen you show compassion, humility, initiative, flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience, dedication, integrity, composure, and self-confidence. I have been awed by you and inspired by you on many occasions throughout this year. I'm so proud of the person you are and the man you are becoming. 

You were just at the beginning of your speech and debate season around your last birthday, and you threw yourself into it with everything you had, which led to much success. Your passion and enthusiasm for it were contagious and delightful. Your arguments and speaking matured throughout the season and you became more and more comfortable, charming, and capable. You earned enough green check marks to go to state, and one of the disappointments you had to face was the loss of that opportunity due to COVID. Still, you learned much during the season and performed to the best of your ability, which is something you can be proud of. We also got to travel to tournaments across many states, and we had so many good times along the way. I'm thankful for that time with you, and I'm grateful for the skills you developed by participating in speech and debate. 

When the pandemic shut down schools, activities, and social outlets in the spring, you struggled to find motivation. But you've stepped into your high school years in a new school, and you have been thriving academically and socially. You have rediscovered your love of playing team sports and have been thoroughly enjoying participating in football and basketball. You have made many new friends and had lots of new experiences. You even have a particularly inspirational World Geography teacher that has tapped into your sense of adventure, and you are looking forward to traveling abroad with him and a group of other students in the summer of 2022.

Speaking of travel, despite the pandemic, you still had several opportunities to travel during the last year. We spent time with family in Lake Tahoe last Christmas, and you were thrilled by the snow and cold, as you always are. You got to participate in speech and debate contests in Georgia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, as well as several in different parts of Texas. We had a mini vacation to the Jellystone Campground in Tyler, and you got to spend time with your grandparents in Belton and Lake Buchanan. You also took summer trips to California (with stops at the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas) and Florida.

You attended a church camp with your youth group last December and had an experience that really solidified your faith. You have continued to be involved in youth programs at Rockpointe and have been particularly thrilled with a class that started in the new school year called Man Up--a class designed to teach guys your age more about the Bible and some useful life skills as well. Earlier this month, you also made a decision to get baptized. You have said that your faith is what has helped you face the many challenges of this year, and I'm thankful you have it to lean on. 

Weston, this year hasn't been easy, but in so many ways, you've used it as an opportunity for growth. I'm proud of your character and your perseverance. I'm thankful for your ability to roll with the punches and to not let the difficult things keep you down for too long. I'm constantly entertained by your hilarious sense of humor. I'm often educated and encouraged by our conversations. It definitely feels like one of my greatest privileges is getting to share this life with you. You make the world a better place, and you make my world a wonderful place to be. I love you so much, and I wish you all the best on this, your 15th birthday. 

Love,

Mom





Friday, May 29, 2020

Eighteen

Congratulations! You are officially an adult! Eighteen years seems like a long time when you're just talking about it, but I truly cannot believe how quickly eighteen years have passed in real time. I'm so thankful you made me a mom and that you have been patient with me as I've tried to figure this parenting gig out. I think we have both learned a lot along the way. It has been one wild, crazy, heartbreaking, exhilarating, challenging, joyous ride that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world! You are such an amazing person, and I'm grateful to have you in my life!

You have really grown into yourself in the past year and I think you are more than ready to enter adulthood. About a year ago, you got a job working for Ruff It, the grooming and boarding side of City Vet. You were recognized for your hard work by being awarded employee of the month a couple of times, and it wasn't long before you were ready to move into a vet tech role with more challenges and responsibilities. You acquired many new skills and a greater degree of confidence, and you even took the lead on coming up with ways of making the clinic run more smoothly. And, you got pretty good at dealing with people and animals of varying temperaments. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, you were furloughed from your job in late March, and then they decided they weren't going to be able to bring you back. It was a tough experience on many levels, but you handled it with grace and didn't let it get you down for long.

Because of work, you had the opportunity to stay home by yourself a couple of times during the summer and during the winter break, which is another reason I know you are more than prepared to enter adulthood. You are quite capable of taking care of yourself. And you are responsible and trustworthy...and thoughtful, as you even cleaned up the house before our return.

You had the opportunity to attend a CAP powered flight academy last summer, and you took a leadership position at one of the Encampment events, as well as attending and leading at several events in the fall. You also rose to an officer rank within the Nighthawk Squadron, achieved the title of 2nd Lieutenant, and received the Billy Mitchell award. I'm so proud of your hard work in this organization and of the wonderful skills you acquired! 

This was your senior year of high school, but you took all your classes at NCTC, so it was a bit of a non-traditional senior experience, which I guess was an appropriate ending to all your other years of non-traditional schooling. You enjoyed your classes and made excellent grades, and even wrecked the curve for the rest of the class from time to time. Your academic achievements earned you a nice scholarship to UNT and a place in the honors college. You are so smart, and you are an incredibly hard worker, and I'm so proud of all your accomplishments!

You have struggled, as all teenagers do, with what you want to major in in college and the path you'd like to take for your life. For now, you have settled on majoring in Psychology and possibly pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy. I think this is wonderful, but I want you to know that it's absolutely okay if you change your mind. Despite what society might have you think, you don't have to have your life figured out at the age of 18 (or any particular age). I know for sure that you have within you everything you need to become who and what you want to be on whatever timeline makes sense for you. And you have the power to change and grow and continue becoming all the days of your life, so don't ever think you are locked into something that no longer serves you and your happiness. I am excited about the journey that awaits you and will be here cheering you on every step of the way!

This year has brought some difficult changes and circumstances to our family and to the world at large, but I have watched you handle them all with grace, forgiveness, strength, and dignity. You are the kind of person who tries to see the good and make the best of the situation, and you have learned through therapy and life how to manage your mental health in a way that allows you to rise rather than sink. And because of this, you have so much to give to others. You have been a shining example and a wonderful comfort to your brothers, to myself, and to others as we have all navigated these choppy, unfamiliar waters. 

Ruth, you have the most beautiful heart and a wonderfully brilliant mind. And you truly have so much to offer the world. You make me proud and bring me joy every single day! I consider these last eighteen years with you a rare and amazing privilege, and I'm thankful for all of the big and little moments that have brought us to this point. You are now and will forever be, not only my favorite daughter, but one of my favorite people on the planet! Welcome to adulthood! You are going to rock it! I love you more than words can say!

Love,
Mom








Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Whoa-oh, we're halfway there

Sweet Clay,

I truly cannot believe you are already nine and halfway to being an adult! They say "time flies when you're having fun," and it really rings true when I think about how much fun the last nine years have been and how quickly they have gone by! I love being your mom, and I'm so thankful to have you in my life. You make me smile every day, and you inspire me to continue to strive to be a better person. I love your sweet hugs, your happy disposition, you fabulous sense of adventure, your incredible imagination, your unfailing curiosity, and your deep love. You are an absolute joy, and every day with you feels like a special gift!

This year has brought some difficult changes to your life, but you have taken them all in stride, and I'm proud of your bravery and resilience. Change is always hard, and no one ever really wants to go through hard things, but usually the hard things in life make us stronger, and I believe you have an opportunity to grow in unique ways as a result of the challenges you have faced.

Last summer, we had the opportunity to spend some time in the Florida Keys and in Barbados. And even though you ended up with a terrible sunburn, you loved finding treasures on the beaches and riding around in our cute little open-air vehicle, even when we got caught in a major rain storm. You and I also got to spend some time together on our own after that trip, while everyone else was busy with other activities. We did some cool things together in DFW and also made a trip to Granny's and a trip to Nana's. Later in the summer, you and your brothers and me took a road trip to Washington D.C. On the way, we stopped to see the gigantic Bass Pro Shop in Memphis, visited the Corvette Museum and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and toured Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, in Virginia. We spent the 4th of July in the nation's capital, which was really a special experience. We also visited several of the wonderful museums in D.C. but your favorite, by far, was the Spy Museum. On our return trip, we stopped at the Louisville Slugger Museum, which you enjoyed tremendously. You were especially impressed with the 120 foot tall baseball bat the greeted us when we arrived. You and Ruth and I traveled back to D.C. by plane a few weeks later to attend Dad's flag ceremony. And then you spent some time out at Campmeeting. Somehow, you also found the time to attend a week of Cake Camp, which you really loved. It was a pretty amazing summer, full of lots of wonderful memories!

You continued doing homeschool and Arrow this year for school, and you had a very successful year. You are so very smart and are able to accomplish anything you put your mind to. We switched to Khan Academy classes for math and grammar halfway through the year, and you enjoyed getting to do those lessons on the computer. You also loved the DIY Science videos we found and some of the cool science experiments we did. We did realize early in the school year that your eyes were getting fatigued when you would read, which led us down a path of several months of vision therapy. We found out your eyes weren't really having a problem, but your brain was having trouble processing what you were asking it to do. You worked very hard with Ms. Debby and just recently passed your re-evaluation, so you don't have to do the therapy any more and reading has become much easier for you. But even though you enjoy reading books, your favorite thing is listening to audiobooks. Among other stories, you listened to all the Harry Potter books this year (and rewatched all the movies), which inspired the theme for your birthday party.

During this school year, you continued to participate with Cub Scouts, though we switched to a pack that seems to be a better fit for us. You and I had fun building your Pinewood Derby car and attending the Blue and Gold banquet together.

You moved into your "little apartment" (my closet) early in the school year, and you really love having your own private place. In fact, I recently asked if you were looking forward to moving out and into one of the other rooms when Ruth goes off to college at the end of the summer, and you told me you thought you like to just stay because it's just so cozy.

We spent Thanksgiving at the ranch with Mimi and Grandpa and Christmas in Lake Tahoe with them as well as Alan and Bekki and the girls. And you spent the first week of the new year at Nana and Papa's. You are blessed to have so many people in your life who love you dearly and who you love in return!

During Spring Break, you and Weston and me went to Tyler and stayed at the Jellystone Campground for several days. We had a blast learning to play pickleball, jumping on the giant pillow, trying to start a campfire, making tie-dye shirts, and enjoying being in nature. You and I also hiked in Tyler State park, where we found an "army or turtles," a sneaky snake, and tried our best to locate a beaver. The park was beautiful, but seeing it through your eyes was a real treat.

Right after Spring Break, our world got turned upside down by the Covid-19 (Corona) virus. We suddenly found ourselves under "stay at home" directives, and all the schools, activities, playgrounds, and most of the businesses shut down. We didn't leave our house for a couple of months, and certain things like meat and toilet paper (to name only a couple) became hard to get at the stores. It was weird and disappointing in some ways, but we also had some really great times and made some wonderful memories. We did chalk art and regular art, went on nature scavenger hunts, cooked and baked lots of yummy food, watched lots of movies/tv shows/videos, played tons of games, learned to use Zoom, and participated in lots of video chats. The world is opening up little by little now, but we are still certainly not back to what we would think of as normal. We had to make lots of adjustments during this crazy period, but as always, you have just rolled with it.

Clay, you are my favorite nine-year old! I adore listening to your stories, seeing all the weapons you invent, watching you become completely immersed in an imaginary world of play, experiencing all your new kinds of hugs, and observing a rare kindness and love in you that few people possess. You are an absolute treasure, and I'm not sure how I was lucky enough to be picked to be your mom, but I'm thankful that I was. Happy birthday, sweet boy! I love you more than words can say!

Love,
Mom



Sunday, January 12, 2020

Twelve

It's a new year and a new decade, and you are twelve. Time flies, for sure! It has been a pretty great year, and I have enjoyed watching you grow and learn and become more of who you are. You are such a great kid, and I'm glad I get to be your mom!

This year, you joined Boy Scouts, and you have enjoyed making new friends, learning new skills, and going on many campouts, including two week-long camps during the summer. You have completed many merit badges and have advanced in rank. You were even elected by your patrol to be the their very first Patrol Leader, and you have been the Grub Master for several campouts. I'm proud of the the things you have accomplished during your time in Scouts and for the ways you've stepped up to lead when no one else was inclined to do so!

Aside from campouts, you had the opportunity to travel Florida, Barbados, Washington D.C., and Lake Tahoe. You thoroughly enjoyed the beach and the snow and pretty much everything in between, and you delighted in our visits to lots of cool places like The Coca-Cola Museum, Mammoth Cave, The Corvette Museum, Monticello, The Louisville Slugger Museum, and The Spy Museum.

You played baseball in the spring and really enjoyed the season, though sports don't seem to be your true love. You tend to prefer to spend your time reading, building, playing with friends, inventing, and solving interesting problems. You have also gotten really into music this year and can often be found curating and jamming to your Spotify playlist. Currently, The Git Up is your favorite, and you can nail the dance from the video in a most impressive way.

This school year, you started attending the ischool STEM Academy, and it has been such a great fit for you. You have made many new friends, and you seem to truly enjoy your classes and teachers and the structure and opportunities the school provides. And once you got the hang of the way assignments are turned in and graded, your grades have been fantastic. Your teachers also really love you, and Ms. Hyde has pulled me aside on several occasions to tell me what an asset you are to her classes and to the whole 6th grade. She has talked about how helpful, attentive, and eager you are, and it made me super proud to hear these glowing reports. You really seem to be blooming in that environment, and I'm so thankful you have been given the opportunity to go to school there.

Shortly after school started, you started having lots of headaches, and we realized you needed glasses. I think you look very handsome in your new eyewear, and I think the glasses have made reading even more enjoyable for you. You also developed a wild case of blood poisoning in the fall that was scary and uncomfortable for a bit and required you to miss a day of school. Fortunately, you avoided being admitted to the hospital, but you discovered that you are definitely not a fan of IVs. I think you also learned the importance of thoroughly cleaning even minor cuts and scrapes.

You started attending the youth group at The Village Church, and you really love it. You are enjoying learning more about the Bible and about prayer, and you are especially enjoying the social interactions you have there.

We had the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at the ranch, and you were able to shoot a small 8-point deer, which you were very proud of. You also got to get some more practice driving the Ranger on your own, and you are getting to be a pretty good driver.

Max, you are such an amazing kid! You have a big heart and often show so much love and care and thoughtfulness for the people around you. You are generous and kind and so creative. Your mind is always churning with curiosity and new ideas, and I love to hear about the things you think about and see you working to make the ideas in your head into realities. You still struggle sometimes with controlling your big, intense emotions, but you have matured so much in the last year, and I can definitely tell it is getting easier for you to manage them. I'm proud of the way you keep working to improve your happiness and make yourself stronger. I love you so much and I'm so thankful for these 12 years with you! I look forward to seeing what the next year brings! Happy birthday!

Love,
Mom

My favorite 12-year-old





Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Fourteen

Dear Weston,

Somehow your fourteenth birthday has managed to sneak up on us. It kind if caught me off guard, to tell you the truth, and I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. What a privilege it is to have known you these fourteen years! You are smart and sweet and funny and charming and thoughtful and resourceful. You are a good friend, an excellent leader, a shrewd investor, and a delightful person. You have made my life fuller and richer in so many ways, and I'm thankful I get to be your mom!

You have continued to work hard on your Scouting journey throughout this last year. You have attended many camps, held several leadership positions, and are just on the cusp of completing your Eagle Scout rank. Some parts of this journey have not been easy, but you have learned some important lessons and have carried on with your integrity in tact. You should be proud of all you have accomplished.

Your new loves this year have been speech and debate, and you have thrown yourself into them with passion. You competed and performed well in one tournament in the spring, which kind of gave you the bug. And you have just finished the first tournament of the new season, with another trophy for your efforts. You have a real talent for speaking, persuading, entertaining, and forming reasonable arguments, and I hope you will continue to develop these talents and use them for good in the world.

You have had a lot of great opportunities this year, which you have taken advantage of. You invested in the stock market and are quietly letting your wealth grow in the background; you won first place in a state PSIA speech contest; you spent a week crewing a boat in the Florida Keys; you traveled to Washington DC by yourself to visit Dad and navigated the city for a couple of days on your own; you met with city officials while planning your Eagle Scout project; you made new friends and tried new activities and set goals to push yourself. I love the way you embrace life and the way you give it your all. You are brave and bold and one of the best people I know!

We had a big change in our family this year as Dad went to work first in DC and then in New Delhi. I am sure this has not been an easy adjustment for you, but you have handled it bravely and with grace. And, you've been a tremendous help and encouragement to me and a great example for your younger brothers during this time, and I want you to know you are appreciated. I'm so very thankful for you!

Weston, you are such a wonderful young man, and I love getting to do life with you! I appreciate all the ways you have matured in the last year and the many amazing ways you show up in the world. I'm so proud of you, and I hope the year ahead is your best on yet! Happy 14th!

Love,
Mom

My favorite 14-year-old


Friday, May 31, 2019

May Memories



Rangers' Game

Max acted as a math tutor and
also came up with a creative way to
do his own math scratch work.

We celebrated Clay's 8th birthday!

Jeff and I got to have a series of dates
in McKinney while the kids were
doing end-of-year teasting.

Jeff was officially invited to join the
199th training class of U.S. diplomats!

Clay and I got take a little trip to
my sister's to visit with family.

Mother's Day

We had some fun playing around
with our new ice cream maker.

Clay loved getting to launch rockets
with the Cub Scouts.

Ruth had a fun swim party with her
 friends to celebrate her birthday.

The last Scout meeting of the year
was a big one. Weston received a
couple of merit badges and was elected
SPL (leader of whole troop), even though he
  wasn't even running for the position.
Max received his Scout status and
was elected as Patrol Leader for his patrol.

Clay's last Scout meeting was also
fun, and he got to go through the face
painting ceremony recognizing that
he completed all the Wolf requirements
and is ready to start down the Bear path.

Our little baker was busy all month
making cookies, monkey bread,
and a birthday cake for his cousin.

We were thankful to have family
in town to kick off the Memorial Day weekend.

We had so much fun hiking and
hanging out on the Katy Trail.

A fun evening at Pokey O's

We were delighted to discover Earl's.

We had a blast celebrating Weston's
half-birthday at Main Event.

Ruth turned 17, and we celebrated in style.



We got to spend some quality
time in the closet waiting out a tornado.

After a busy month, we were
glad to begin our vacation in Florida.