It’s our anniversary: She’s 14! edition

Her: Mom, four is so bipolar. I wonder if 14 is going to be bad, too.
Me: I hope not. Thirteen was bad enough.
Her: What???

To my awesome first born:
I love you beyond measure. You continue to make me proud and I am blessed to be your mama. Continue to reach for your passions. Never settle. And always believe that God has a purpose for your talents (and there are so many). You have no limit to what you can achieve.


12.19 – – She’s growing into a beautiful young woman. She has talent. She is dedicated. She is sensitive. She loves passionately. She cares about people, animals, and the world. She thinks deeply. She is simply amazing. I am so lucky to have her as my baby girl.

Navigating these teen waters has been challenging, especially when the sea of attitude is choppy and unpredictable.  Though stretching this metaphor is tedious, I’ll say this: I’m glad our ship is solidly built.

Chi has, as the firstborn, been tasked to set the example.    She does.  No matter how often I nag, her room has no visible floor, her art space is creatively cluttered.  But she takes care of Ya and Ri.  She protects them.  She completes her chores with minimal prodding.  She balances a hectic sports schedule with a heavy course load. And she navigates through a world of privilege our family can scarcely compete with.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t also acknowledge her positivity about family.  Ours is an interesting mix of siblings and parents – which number far more than is “normal.”  She is proud of her siblings (close and distant).  She loves her many parents fiercely and forgives their shortcomings.  Even when we fail her, she lifts us up.

And she has never failed us.

Birthday celebration

Yes, she wanted to keep the hat.

El Paso wanted it back. 

This is four (CINCO edition)

“Happy birthday to RiAnne. Happy birthday to you [pause] RiAnne.” She’s downright giddy as she sings.

“Mom, I’m four,” she says, holding out her hand for me to count her fingers. “Not this one,” she says as she folds her thumb against her palm.

For a few days now, she’s danced around sporadically voicing greetings: “Mom, happy Santa Claus. Happy Christmas. Happy birthday to me. Happy holly-day. Mom, merry Christmas.”

This year she’s especially festive — she’s excited about reaching this age.

And honestly, so are we.  She is the tangible evidence of us.  Our unexpected dream fulfilled.

Over the last year, Ri has become a spirited, tenacious little lady.  She gave hints that she would make her own decisions long ago. And now she continues to impress on us that her opinion will be heard. In the mornings, she insists: “no pants. I want pretty dress.” She has made it clear: beautiful is a woman in a skirt or dress.

She chooses her hair ornaments and style. She picks between sneakers, boots, and strappy dress shoes.  She decides on tights, leggings, lace socks, or bare legs. And she smiles in approval when her look is complete. I’m surprised she finds so much personality in her look while at a school where uniforms are donned four days a week.

Despite the determined way she dictates her going-out attire, she’s most content in her underthings and leaves a daily trail of clothes from the front door to the staircase.  Inside, she wants to be comfortably free.

She still has a gnat’s attention span, and yet she can remember landmarks to give directions. She knows countless lyrics (turn it up, Mom, me help me song?) and still hollers “Not you, my song,” when she wants a solo sing along.

She’s fiercely into policing our language. “That’s a bad word” has become her favorite chastisement. Warning: I don’t care is part of the naughty list.

Still a bathing beauty, she’ll sit until the water grows cold in four inches of tub water (with bubbles) crafting elaborate dramas with her dolls. She never did explain why many of them now have scribbled on faces and she’d never tell where their clothes have been hidden.

Ri loves YouTube. Somehow, she finds the most inane videos of people opening surprise eggs and packets,  of skits with people in Spidey masks and Disney princess costumes, of voice over-rich videos of Baby Alive being force-fed.  She briefly enjoyed watching movie trailers, then Masha and the Bear (especially in Russian), but now she seems stuck on these odd finds.  She recently found a short animation about a voodoo doll and has had it on repeat. We’re  constantly cleaning out the recommendations that are based on her viewing choices.

It’s been an interesting year. Now that she’s a returning student, she’s established herself as a popular little scholar. Though she still challenges her teachers (refusing sometimes to complete assignments), she is described as kind, happy, and polite.

She loves her sister and brothers – Rico, Wawa, Yaya, JD. She loves hugs. She pilfers abandoned drinks. She likes to finger paint, read books, and tell short stories while animating them with her gestures.  She likes to go to the movies, to Golden Corral, and to ‘Donald’s for hamburbers and a toy.

And so we begin age four, year five.

This is Seven

seven YANickname: Ya, Non
Favorite Color: blue
Favorite Subject: math
Favorite Animal: “I don’t have one”
Favorite Song: Wings
Favorite Food: “I just like food. Don’t forget I eat like almost everything in the fridge.”
Favorite Movie: Inside Out
Favorite TV Show: “I like all types.”
Most Watched TV: “The Amazing World of Gumball”
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Favorite Activity (at home): Playing outside
Future Career Goal: Dump Truck Driver (“I’m not going on those height things.”)
Favorite Sport to Play: football
Favorite Sport to Watch: football
Favorite Toy: dump truck
Favorite team: Falcons
Favorite Book: (laughs) “I don’t know.”
Current School Grade: two
Wears size 1.5 clothes size 7/8
Quote: “Yeah, whatever.”

Atlantic City, Part Two

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Wish you were here… well, no, I don’t.  I wouldn’t wish this trip on anyone.

As much as we wanted to get away, and as intriguing as AC can be, this trip was not one I’d like to relive.  Brown water in the hotel.  An hour wait for a required timeshare information session – property we won’t buy even if it’s free because of the nasty, nasty agent who “served us” with attitude and frustration when she couldn’t figure out we weren’t that Mr. Smith. Rain intermittently all morning.  (You see my hair, right?  Add wind to wet and viola!)

But hubs and I did get to gamble a bit.  Yessir, invested $20 into those slots and watched the money dwindle.  Big risk takers, we are not.  The funnel cake and diner breakfast were divine (but did they have the same water issue when making my coffee that we had upstairs? Eww.)  All you can eat? It was okay, but we’ve certainly had better for far less. And the shopping?  My goodness, I love the way those hookah pipes look even if I can’t smoke from one.

The lady in the store shopping intently for her son – FOR A KNIFE – might’ve heightened my parenting concerns a little.  I mean, you bought the elementary-aged kid a switch blade with a jagged edge knife?  Probably not the best decision made.

We left in the still-dark evening as my 36th birthday ended.

If we go back? I have to find that little diner on the side streets between the AC Express and the NJ Turnpike. Ah-mazing.

Atlantic City – Part One

Date nights for Hubs and I are far and few between. We rarely get away – are rarely alone.  With five children, including our 2.75 year old gem, it’s not easy to break away.  But I determined that we had to celebrate my birthday as a couple.

I combed the Internet for deals and happened upon a 3 day, 2 night stay at a resort property on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. All that was required, it said, was $99 and a 2 hour tour. And really, what’s 2 hours?

Turns out, it’s everything.  We arrived early (anticipation of quality time alone sped us along the highway, as did the ride through several dilapidated streets with overpopulated liquor stores leading to the hotel’s front door).  Children scurried around cars, swim things clutched in their arms, suitcases piled high on luggage carts. Security guards helped guests label their belongings with destination locations.

I went in with excitement. Room 2804, ready for us already. But no one helped us unload. Instead, we carried our luggage down four flights of the ill-lit parking garage. Then, we waited with several impatient guests for an elevator. It stopped many times before we got to the 28th floor – including once for a tour group, once for a vacuum lugging hotel maid. There was no shortage of disgruntled guests ready to share their “whoa’s.”

Our room’s entrance was blocked by maid carts, but once they parted and we went inside, it looked like we could like it. A modest queen sized bed sat before us. A window overlooking the Boardwalk and beach stretched across the room. A kitchenette was equipped with a 2 burner stove, microwave and fridge. A leather convertible couch sat nearby a small table and chair set. And the bathroom featured a jet spa tub.  It appeared to be one nice studio.

Unfortunately, the TV flickered. It refused to stay on. It seemed cable and video options were unavailable. Considering that we live our lives now with glowing screens as constant companions, maybe this was freeing us from temptation? Frustrated, and not ready to venture into the windy outdoors, hubs powered down the fickle machine.

Below us, the casinos illuminated the wooden walkway. The waves – a white froth on otherwise green brown sea – crashed up on the shore, where lifeguard stands and rescue boats lay askew to dissuade unauthorized use.

The tub beckoned. It was an oasis of massage bubbles. And together, we sat immersed, our legs entwined and we faced one another. In the silence, save the humming jets, the stresses slipped away. The water – a bit too hot for me, but just like he likes it – relaxed. This was bliss.

As the water grew uncomfortably tepid, we reluctantly withdrew. Habit found my husband again fiddling with the television. It flickered. It turned static. And then, suddenly, there was clarity.

Something about that white bedding – pristine and perfectly dressed – called me. I slid under cover and relished in the soft sheets. I stretched out. And I realized that without little miss, we might actually sleep without the interruptions of legs extending into our backs, head pushed into the crook of neck, and fingers finding eyes and nose to invade. We could be lovers again.

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