Oct 18, 2017

How is she 14?

Just when I thought there was no possible way you could have a busier year than the last, you prove me wrong. First of all, HOW are you 14?? It seems so...crazy. And, it makes me sad; however, I couldn't be more proud of the young lady you are.

You're still doing a fabulous job of balancing gymnastics, theatre, and school, but we learned from Oliver! that you will NOT be playing a lead role before your season opens again! That was a TOUGH one! However, you somehow managed to make it work, and ended up having a fabulous run of Oliver! and a solid season of gymnastics!

Then, to our surprise, you were cast this past summer as a lead in a workshop show in NYC. Well, we
were surprised, but NOT surprised--I always knew you were capable of doing it! For over 2 weeks, we lived in NYC out of a hotel. And, as expected, you killed the role. You were beautiful, and strong, and funny--such great comedic timing. Plus, you had the opportunity to work with and see some pretty awesome people (cough...Thayne Jasperson...cough)!

And while there, I learned even more about you: How confident you are. How sure of yourself you are. How you're a born leader, but you're also so open to learning from others. You are empathetic towards people, and you use that empathy to encourage and build up others. These are all things that will carry you so far in life, sweetheart. Always be an encourager. Always acknowledge the good in people. You are a natural at this--keep it going.

I am so proud of the young lady you are. I am already proud of the woman you will become.

I say this every year, but you truly are sunshine. You bring so much light wherever you go. People are drawn to you, Clairey. People love you, and want to be with you. It's because of who you are. It's because of the light you bring.

Please keep bringing that light. Please keep shining.

I love you all the stars,

16. God help us all.

On 9/30, my first baby, my sweet Jenna, turned 16. And it's been downhill from there. The End.

Just kidding.

Sweet J,
When you were a baby, I often dreamed of the day you would be 16. The day you would pull out of the driveway, and go down that street without me. Well, good for me, that still hasn't happened--you
know, since you hate driving--but you're still 16.

This has been nothing short of a whirlwind year for you. This past  summer, you visited Africa for two weeks. This has been your dream since you were a tiny little girl. I have to admit...I was a tad scared. Scared because you were going to be on a plane for 16 hrs, scared that you were going to be so far away, and scared that you'd be disappointed. I had nothing to fear.

You are a world traveler, my pumpshkin. You flew to NYC with your Gamma, got on a plane to Africa with a group of your friends, and conquered the world. For two weeks, you traveled all over Namibia, experiencing the Africa that you have dreamed of visiting. And I could not possibly be more proud of you. After Africa, you flew to New York--and conquered that city, too. However, I know that you were so very happy to get back to Texas and sleep in your own bed after being away for so long.

You got a car for your 16th birthday. You are a CAREFUL driver, but you have a lead foot--just like your mama. It won't be too long until you're yelling, "KITTEN BITCHES!!" out the window and blaring 80s hairband with the windows open. #WeAreTheSame

This fall, you began classes at the community college. You're taking History and English. This first semester marked an important day in your life: You got your first B on an assignment. It was an 87, if I remember correctly. You thought you were going to die. I thought it was hilarious. You think that you'll have a hard time getting into A&M because you got a B on a paper. You're a nut. I can't wait to do college visits with you. Any school is going to be so lucky to have you, Jen. You are such an amazing advocate for cheetahs. You are so smart, so driven, and so REAL, all at the same time. I love you for that.

You are an enigma--you truly are. You're so puzzling at times--yet, I wouldn't trade you for the world. You have such an amazing head on your shoulders, and you are such a beautifully confident young lady. Thank you for not wanting to grow up too soon. Thank you for not conforming to what society thinks you should be or do. Thank you for being who you are.

Know that your teenage years are going to be...weird. There are emotions and there are new things and there are struggles...and it's all normal. Embrace these things--because all of this is shaping you and teaching you and helping form you into the adult that you'll become. Please keep talking to me. Please keep asking me to "sit" with you while you have a snack--because I know that's when you want to talk. Please keep asking me all the questions you think are silly or embarrassing--I will answer them. Please keep being honest with me, because I will always be honest with you.

There are so many things right now that you feel, in your head, are a 'big deal.' I promise you--they're not; even though, right now, you feel that they are. I was a teenager once, and although it's been a while, I remember those same feelings. I remember those same worries. I am here to tell you all the things--even about my generically named high school boyfriends (or lack thereof). I'm here to help you get through these weird years; help you to navigate the crazy emotions and random stress. Please continue to lean on me. If you don't, I will hop into your bed at night, breathe on your face, and pin you down until you tell me things, because that's how I roll.

I hope that you always dream big. I hope that you don't settle for less, and always go after what you want. I hope that you always know how much I love you. Also, quit being a butt to your sister.

All the spots,

Oct 12, 2016

Happy 15th birthday, Jen!

I'm not sure where time has gone. You were just 5 years old yesterday, and now you're 15.

Jen, when you were 4 years old, you announced that you were going to be a Cheetah Geneticist when you grew up. Your goal was to save the cheetahs from extinction. And, here we are, 11 years later, and you are well on your way.

Your drive, when it comes to cheetahs, never fails to amaze me. (I wish you had the same drive to clean the cat litter.) At 15, you have accomplished so much. I think---no, I KNOW--the highlight of your summer was going to DC and meeting with both the Smithsonian Center for Conservation cheetah keepers, and the International Caucus on Conservation. I will never forget the excitement in your voice when you called to talk about the Smithsonian keepers, and the fact that they knew who you were. Your voice for the cheetah has traveled so far, my sweet girl. Conservationists around the world KNOW YOUR NAME. They KNOW who you are. They VALUE the work you're doing at such a young age. Now...if we can just get the damned Girl Scouts to recognize your hard work (that Silver Award WILL happen). One day, you will understand the breadth and depth of what you're doing, and you'll be proud of yourself, too.

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm nervous for you to go to Africa next Summer. Actually, I'm not. I know that you will be in your element--with the cheetahs, with the geneticists, with the keepers--you are going to have the time of your life. I am so proud of you. You are unbelievably amazing.

I love you for being you. I love that you're not a cookie-cutter teenage girl. I love that you march to
the beat of your own drum, that you value art and music...and that you think wearing tight clothing and showing too much skin is a travesty (WOO HOO!!). You keep rocking your band tshirts and jeans. I'll buy you all the large tshirts you want. #MomApproves

I love that you've found a home in theatre. My heart is happy that you have another family there--that our theatre people accept you and love you and respect you--and that you give those same things back to them. That's what life is about, sweetpea, living and loving and respecting those around you. Do the things that make you happy. Hang out with those that fill your heart. Love those that love you. Life is good. Remember that. And, most importantly, don't be an asshole, Jen. Seriously.

It is my pleasure being your mommy. It truly is. You make me so proud. I am SO overwhelmingly proud of you. I love you so much, that it's indescribable.

Now, please clean the cat litter.

I love you all the spots,

Oct 7, 2016

The Munch is a teenager!

Sorry this is late, Munch! But, here's your annual birthday letter!

You turned 13 this year. THIRTEEN. I had a hard time with 10...now you're a teenager. Sometimes, I don't know what to do with myself. You're my baby, my last little bundle, my teeny-tiny...and now you're a teenager.

Clairey, you are growing into an exceptional young lady. I'm pretty certain there is not a person that knows you that doesn't adore you, that doesn't love you...and if there is, you don't give a flying crap--that's how you roll. You are 100% Clairey: Funny, loving, and brilliant. As I've said in all of your birthday letters, you are sunshine. Our friend was right when he gave you your nickname, June. You ARE June: yellow, bright, warm, happy, and glowing. You are summer.

At 13, you have your stuff together more than most adults I know. You are at gymnastics 25+ hours a week, and you are at theatre around 20 hrs per week. And you have a full load with school, on top of that. Through all of this, you are an excellent gymnast, a stellar actress, a brilliant student, and a remarkable person.

A few weeks ago, someone made a comment to you about your priorities, and it hurt your feelings, so we had a discussion about it. I asked you, "Where do your priorities lie, Munch? With gymnastics or theatre?" Your answer is one that everyone should strive to. You answered, "My priorities are with my commitments." You explained that you are committed to gymnastics--you are at your gym every single day and working hard because you want to be an elite gymnast. You explained that you're committed to theatre--you only audition for shows during your off-season of gym, and when you know the rehearsal schedule doesn't conflict with your gym schedule. You make every single rehearsal--just like you make every scheduled gym practice. And, what I think is amazing about this, is that you give each of these commitments ONE-HUNDRED percent. I don't know many adults that give anything 100%. But you work hard. You are a positive force in the gym. And you are also a positive force in the theatre. You keep shining, Clairey. Don't let anyone dim your light. Don't let anyone tell you you're not good enough. You keep giving 100% to your commitments--keep working hard and always, ALWAYS value your commitments.

I hope you always keep your light about you. I hope you always keep your fabulous sense of humor. But my biggest hope, is that you always keep your kind heart. I am exceedingly proud of you.

I clearly remember holding your hand when you were a tiny baby, and thinking, "One day, this hand will be as big as mine...I want to remember this moment forever." 13 years later, that moment seems like yesterday. Today, as much as I make the 'grossed-out' face when you grab my hand with your sweaty, calloused, often-bleeding hands, I love every moment. I love your little hand in mine. I will always hold your hand. Now, as a teenager, and forever. You are my baby.

I love you all the stars,

Oct 2, 2015

Getting close to cheetah 'woman'

Our amazing cheetah girl is 14. That's getting closer to cheetah 'woman' than cheetah 'girl'--and we're none too happy about it.

At 14, you are still so much a little girl. And we love you for this! We want you to continue to live as a child as long as you can--because before you know it, you will be an adult. And you'll have to....adult. And...bleh.

So, play your music, draw all day, write songs, sing loudly, and enjoy it.

I love you more than my heart can hold. I love when you wake up, and quietly come up behind me
and just rest your head full of messy curls on my shoulder. I love that, even though you're as tall as me, you still want me to hug you as if you're a tiny girl--and i will gladly do that for the rest of my life. I love how you lean into me, and just 'noodle' so I will hold you tighter.

Here's a secret--you know how I always get on you to brush your hair, make sure there's no mascara under your eyes, and ensure you don't look like a homeless drifter? Yeah, THAT conversation. I actually love that you don't care; that you think it's incredulous that anyone would judge you for not brushing your hair, or for wearing a wrinkly shirt.
There are so many moments where I want to burst with pride. You, working at the zoo; your conversations with conservation leaders at CCF meetings--and when you shaved the side of your head (I know, weird). But right after we had the side-shave done, I said, "I just want you to be prepared that some people may look at you weird or judge you."
"Why?" you asked.
"Because that's a very 'risky' haircut."
"Why? It's just hair."
"True, but many people will assume you're a certain kind of person because of your hair."
"Why? That's stupid."

And my heart was full, and to be honest, I gave myself a little pat on the back for that one. Because, girl, you are the LEAST judgmental person i've ever met in my life. You fully grasp that looks don't make a person, nor do they define a person. I LOVE THAT. If more people had your heart, the world would be a better place.

You made me a mommy. You created a part of my heart that I didn't have before. You showed me a way of loving that I didn't know existed. How much do I love you? All the spots. All the spots in the world.

You are my baby, and you always will be.

All the spots,