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,

Sep 10, 2015

Le Munch is 12

Oh, Munch. HOW I LOVE YOU. My whole heart adores every bit of you. Those freckles, those eyes, that contagious laughter. You are love, light, and happiness in true form.

As ever, you are the most loving kid. You still climb up into my lap and snuggle...at every chance you get. People have just accepted that you are often with me--no matter where I am.

Wait, who am I kidding? You're ALWAYS WITH ME. Kid, I can't even poop without you sitting there. I mean, come on, man.


I still love you.

Rarely unhappy, you bring laughter to all those around you. Bad mood? It's okay, The Munch is here. Awful day? No problem, The Munch is on her way.

Those beautiful, maple-syrup eyes are so full of sparkle, that people are automatically drawn to you.
And I can't blame them. You love people, and happily spread that love through hugs. When you enter a room, there is always a happy chorus of, "Munch!!" As a mom, that just makes me happy. Of course, i'm happy that people like you, but i'm even more happy that people recognize you for what you are: JOY.

Indeed, you are the happiest kid I know.

Please always let that smile lead you.

Please always see the light in people.

Please always laugh.

Please always know that Life Is Good for so many...because you're in it.

Happy 12th birthday, my little pumpshkin!

I love you all the stars,

And i leave you with....The Llama Song.

Aug 6, 2015

God bless Claireyisms

The other evening, while watching TV, Clairey announces: "I'm so glad i'm not from Virginia."
"Why?" I ask.
"Because then i'd be a virgin."

Chris and I just paused and looked at her.
"Well," she continued, "I like meat, and if you're a virgin, you don't eat meat. Man, I could never be a virgin."

And...this belief remains uncorrected because that's just funny.