Erin’s 11!

24 Jan img_6136

Happy Birthday, E!

You’ve crushed your first year into double digits, kiddo. Way to go!

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This year you’ve been ready for whatever comes your way, be it school, soccer, or plowing through the entire series of “Lemony Snickets and a Series of Unfortunate Events.” As I’m a book lover too, I loved seeing your enthusiasm as you’d finish each book. You’d come into our bedroom way past your bedtime with the biggest smile on your face, talking a million miles a minute about how good the book was, and how you couldn’t wait to read the next book in the series.

And as Daddy is a huge lover of binge watching Netflix, he loved how excited you were counting down until the Lemony Snickets TV series became available to stream online. I got to admit, I took great joy in it too. I’m not sure what I liked more; the show (which was quite entertaining) or watching it with you. You find joy in simple things and it’s infectious.

At the end of this year, you’ll say adios to Adelante, a school you’ve called home for six years and move onto middle school. Middle school! I had to write that twice because I really don’t know how your elementary school career is almost over. I don’t want to say that it happened in the blink of an eye, but it really feels that way. As I write this in the kitchen, I’m looking at your 4th grade class photo hanging on the fridge, and I can’t help but smile. It brings back so many memories. From your decision sometime in 3rd grade to wear only shorts to school, a record that continues to this day, to your anxious excitement waiting for your report cards, you’ve re-written the code for how to do school.

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You’ve got a great posse of friends who have your back, and you’ve got theirs. I remember back when you were in kindergarten, making friends didn’t come easy for you. I even blogged about it, back when I wrote more than just birthday blogs for you and your sisters. You’ve come a long way since then, Erin. You’re comfortable in your own skin and you’ve found a great group of friends who like you just the way you are.

I think one of the reasons why they like you so much is for your kindness. You’re just kind. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got opinions and you don’t sugarcoat them. But….but. Those opinions are never expressed to hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel bad. That’s just not in your DNA. You’re simply a keen observer of people and life and you share those observations in a very matter of fact way. It’s a great trait to have. I hope you don’t lose it. Too many people tend to tell people what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Staying honest while at the same time staying kind will serve you well. I think our current President could learn a thing or two from you.

You’re good at expressing your opinions, but I’d love to see you express more of your feelings. That’s a hard one, I know. I’m not always good at that either. Happy and silly feelings, you show no problem. It’s the other ones you tend to hold tightly inside of you. But as the Frozen song goes, “Let it go.” Ok, maybe I should have saved that one for Carrie, not you, but you get the idea. I couldn’t think of a good Lady Gaga song that fit.

Now that your braces are off, how about doing your Mom a favor and show off your pearly whites a little more often?  You’ve got an awesome smile and I like seeing it without metal. Let’s just hope you don’t follow in your big sister’s footsteps and have to go for round number two.

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Erin, in this last year, you’ve made me laugh, smile and shake my head in wonder more times than I can count. While you’ve given me lots more laugh lines, you’ve also given me plenty more gray hairs. Thanks for that. As you move full on into your ‘tween years, I can only imagine what’s in store for both of us. One thing’s for certain. It certainly won’t be boring, not with you leading the way.

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I love you, kiddo!

Happy Birthday and I’m glad it finally stopped raining for your birthday!

Mom

 

 

 

Carrie’s 8!

17 Apr

Happy 8th Birthday, Carrie!

I could say it happened in a blink of a eye, but in reality that’s not really true. I’ve watched you from near and far, taking in most of your memorable milestones. Even if I’m not the one documenting these oh so important events with pictures and video, I know that you’ve got me covered. I’ve got the huge number of your selfies on my phone to prove it!

You’ve got a way of making sure we take notice of you. You’re no wallflower (that’s a fancy word for shy) with us, and I love you for it. In school, that’s a whole other matter. If anything, you try at all costs to avoid getting noticed. I’m still trying to figure how you turn into a completely different kid the moment you step foot on school grounds. Your Dad and I have become used to hearing from your teachers that you need to speak up more often in class, so we were not surprised when your beloved 2nd grade teacher Maestra Usha said as much during our first conference with her. We thought you’d stay mute (that’s another word for silent) the entire year, but you’ve surprised us. You’ve not only raised your hand on occasion, you’ve spoken up when a certain classmate made fun of you. Sure it took a couple of days of our “closet talks” to get it out of you, but you not only had the guts to tell me, you bravely told your teacher.

You may still be small in stature, but you are growing. You really are. Remember your favorite bright yellow pants that you sadly had to give up since they were way too short on you? That’s proof right there, my dear. It’s doubtful that you’ll ever be the tallest kid in your class, but it’s also just as unlikely that you’ll be the smallest. Close, but not quite. Plus, I can speak from experience that being short isn’t so bad.

Now let’s talk teeth. Baby teeth, specifically. Many kids start losing their baby teeth in kinder and first grade, but why should you be like all the other kids? You still have every one of your baby teeth and you’re not at all happy about it. You want missing teeth just like so many of your friends, but with the exception of one tooth, they’re not budging. You were so hoping to lose that one loosey goosey before you turned eight, but alas it was not meant to be.

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As I look back on this last year with you I see a girl who almost always has a twinkle in her eye, a kind word for a friend, and a plan to get out of eating her entire dinner but still getting dessert. You’re the perfect mix of naughty and nice. Some days I’d like to see more nice than naughty, but at least this way I know you’ll always keep me on my toes.

I love you, Care Bear! You’ve had a sensational seventh year and I have no doubt you’re 8th year will be great!

Mom

 

 

 

Mazel Tov and Happy Birthday Olivia!

3 Apr

IMG_0868Happy 13th Birthday Olivia.

It’s not every day I get to wish you a Happy Birthday and beam with pride on your Bat Mitzvah, but today is that day!

I know it’s tradition for me to write a birthday blog, but with all the craziness preparing for your Bat Mitzvah today, I’m posting my Haftorah Drash (also known as parent speech) instead of the typical blog. I know, so lazy of me.

So here it is:

Shabbat Shalom Everyone —

First off– Congratulations are in order Olivia. This is a huge accomplishment.

I’ve watched you over these last several months studying and practicing– leading up to today. It paid off kiddo, in a big way. Your approach to your Bat Mitzvah is similar to how you approach many things. You start out a little fearful…. A little hesitant. You’re not always sure of yourself so you pause– you start again– and then eventually you find your voice.

One thing I want you to know is that you’ve got an important voice. On one hand your voice is full of innocence and wonder– which are great traits to have. I wish I still had them. But on the other hand– you have deep convictions — sometimes some would say to the point of stubbornness. Hmm. I wonder where that comes from? As much as we may butt heads– I don’t want you to ever lose that voice.

Fear is a major theme in today’s Haftorah portion. Uzzah was in charge of guiding the cart– which was carrying the Ark to Jerusalem. But during the journey, the Ox pulling the cart stumbled. Uzzah touched the ark to steady it. That was a big no no in the eyes of God– and God killed him on the spot for his mistake.

Understandably, this freaked out David— and he asks  “How can I let the Ark of the Eternal come to me?” He fears that if simply touching the Ark killed Uzzah– bringing it to Jerusalem could mean his own demise, so he changes course parking the ark in a different city for three months. It’s this fear I want to talk to you about today.

In this case, David let fear guide his decisions– and while fear is a good emotion to have because it prevents you from ending up in the ER on a weekly basis– I don’t want fear to guide you in life. I want you to face your fears head on. I’ve seen you do that already today. Standing in front of all your friends and family and leading the service is not for the faint of heart– but you’ve done it.

You’ve also faced the fear of the unknown when it came to your multiple hospitalizations a couple of years ago. Doctors had a hard time figuring out exactly what was making you so sick. Not knowing what was causing your terrible headaches and inability to keep down food and water terrified me. I know it scared you too, but you soldiered through it like a champ. Your first “meal” in the hospital was a piece of toast with strawberry jam. That toast will live in infamy as the best toast ever. Eventually, doctors diagnosed you with migraines– and your illness is now mostly in check. When a migraine strikes, which still happens, it doesn’t scare you as much as it used to. You’ve got a way to attack it.

When there was still a lot of unknowns with your illness, I know one of your biggest fears was you didn’t want to be different from other kids. You didn’t want people to know how crummy you felt, so you hid that from a lot of people…. Even me and Dad at times. I want you to know that it’s ok to let people know when you’re not feeling 100% or even 50%. Sometimes, the best way to confront fear is to let others help you. It’s more than ok– not only to let others help you– but to ask for help when you need it.

While you don’t want to be different from other kids when it comes to your health– when it comes to your unique cultural background you don’t fear it at all. In fact, you embrace it.

I love that you’re not embarrassed or afraid to share your Jewish and Cambodian sides with others. Because of your Dad’s and my backgrounds, you not only look different from us– you look different from your friends. That could strike fear in some kids, but not you. You are proud of your heritage– and you should be! There’s a lot to be proud of.  Your ancestors on both sides fought discrimination, oppression, and persecution to give future generations a better life. Millions of Jews died at the hands of Hitler during the Holocaust and millions of Cambodians died at the hands of Pol Pot during the Khmer Rouge.These chapters are some of the darkest moments in history, but it’s important to never forget.

You come from a long line of some of the strongest and most resilient people in the world. While Cambodians and Jews may look different on the outside, I’d say we have more in common than people might think.  Never forget where you come from– but don’t be afraid of what happened in the past. Use both your Cambodian and Jewish identities to help guide you to make good choices.

When I was your age– and feel free to roll your eyes at this point– one of my favorite authors– if not my most favorite author was Judy Blume. You’re not a huge fan– even though I’ve tried to get you to read a bunch of her books, but she wrote this in one of her books,

Each of us must confront our own fears… must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure… or to be limited by the fear.”  

I love that quote. Letting go of fear means taking risks– and getting out of your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable, Olivia because I don’t want you to be limited by fear. You’ve shown so far that you can do that. Keep it going–  otherwise you’ll miss out on so much life has to offer.

Continue to embrace your uniqueness, kiddo. You’re truly one of a kind and I wouldn’t want you any other way.

And by the way– Happy Birthday, too!

I love you.

 

 

Erin Hits the Double Digits

24 Jan

Happy 10th Birthday Erin!

You’re 10! You’re quite excited about this double digit milestone birthday.

You may be a year older, but you’re still the same Erin with your quirky sense of humor, love of superheroes, comics, and cheating at board games. None of those things have changed from last year.

You do look a bit different, most notably with your smile.

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Brace Face

You know how to make the best out of the braces, choosing ahem… creative colors for your bands. You’ve always had a megawatt smile and the new hardware adds to it. I think you might secretly like the braces, not the expander mind you, but you’re able to rock the braces like few others.

You continued with the trifecta in sports; soccer in the fall, softball in the spring, and swimming in the summer. After the softball season though, you informed us you were hanging up your bat. Why? You’re not keen on the increase in practice time to an hour and a half.

While you’re retiring from softball at an early age, you’ve definitely been digging your time on the soccer field.

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You played on an awesome team this year with a great group of girls. I watched with pride as you improved exponentially in the last year. You even scored a goal! Your skills were good enough to get an invitation to try out for a select team, but not quite good enough to make the team. You learned a hard lesson, one that you won’t forget. You’ll face plenty more disappointments and while they likely won’t get any easier, the disappointments will make you a stronger person. Trust me on this one.

You also made great strides on the swim team. This year, you actually wanted to swim in the meets. You may not have come in first, but I don’t think there was one time when I didn’t see a smile on your face when your fingertips touched the wall at the end of the race. Keep that enthusiasm going. Learning to love a sport just for the fun of it will serve you well when you’re old like me.

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As a 4th grader, you’re still loving school. You’ve got great study skills and I rarely (if ever) have to remind you to do your homework. By the time I get home from work, it’s almost always already done. Well, except for reading. You save that for bedtime, just like me. Right now, your favorite books are the Lemony Snicket’s series, although it’s hard to tell, given the mini library that you’ve created in your bed. I love that you love reading, and when you get into a book, you really get into it. There’s been countless nights when you should be fast asleep and you come out of your room to tell me how good a certain book you’re reading is. You risk my wrath for staying up way past your bedtime just to share your joy.

You’ve accomplished a lot in this last year, and I’m just scratching the surface. I’m sure after you read this, you’ll remind me on what I’ve forgotten. That’s one of the many things I love about you, kiddo. You’re so self assured and comfortable in your own skin.

So happy birthday and congratulations on turning a decade. It has been a pure joy to be your mom!

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I love you!

Mom

 

Summer Skin

9 Aug

We’re now in the twilight of summer vacation and the start of school is just on the horizon, but there’s a sign of summer that will linger for months to come.

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It’s these lovely tan lines my beautiful daughters sport every year. Thanks to months in the pool for swim team and two weeks spent on Minnesota lakes, my girls have some mighty deep and dark lines criss crossing their bodies. They’re lines I look at with admiration and envy. I know even if I spent twice as much time outside and slathered on baby oil (like I did back in high school), instead of SPF 50 sunscreen, I wouldn’t even get close to them.  I am and will always be a very white chick. I’ve got two shades. White and red.

I remember spending an obscene amount of time laying out on my best friend’s floating dock in high school, and at the end of the day, the two of us comparing tans in her dad’s mirrored closet doors. Since we’re similar shades of whiteness, it was always a toss up who would come out on top.

These days I’m much more inclined to seek the shade instead of the sun. While I do envy my daughters’ Cambodian skin coloring, the fear of skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots keeps me out of the spotlight. It’s another reason why aging sucks.

The lines also serve as a litmus test of sorts. They prove they jumped into pools, jumped into lakes, and did some of the exact same things I did as a kid. For all the complaints and consternation that kids today don’t have the freedom like I did back in the 70’s and 80’s, these lines show otherwise, and for that I’m smiling big- laugh lines and all.

7 and Sensational

16 Apr Off and Running

Happy 7th Birthday, Carrie!

There’s no way I could ever forget today is your birthday and it’s not just because I gave birth to you. Nope. You’ve been counting down to this day for the last 47 days. That’s quite the countdown. I hope no matter your age, even when you’re as old as I am, you’ll always find joy in your birthday.

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Off and Running

You’ve got a way of not only finding joy in the little things, but making that joy contagious. Seeing how excited you’ve been marking off the days until your birthday gave me a smile each and every night. Thank goodness, after a brief disappearance, the birthday countdown magically reappeared.

You can be fiercely independent, spending hours by yourself watching some terrible YouTube videos, but at least for now, you spend your weekends sleeping in the same bed as Erin. Sometimes you want to be as far away as possible as your sisters, but it truly is a sight to see the two of you curled up next to each other. How you two bed hogs manage to sleep an entire night without getting banged and bruised I’ll never know, but please don’t stop.

As loving as you can be with both of your sisters, you’ve got a temper on you, and you’re not afraid to let it loose. When you lose it, it’s a sight to see and hear. You scream. You cry. You throw things. When you’re mad at your sisters, you call them poopy heads. I hope that’s the worst you’ll call them, but I’ve got a feeling as you get older, the choice of words will change.

Last year, you struggled with reading in English. You’ve gone from getting frustrated as you worked on sounding out the words, to actually looking forward to reading to me at night. Your favorite books right now are the A to Z Mystery Series.

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For many kids, the rainbow loom phase has come and gone. Not you, though. You’ve not only mastered the basic bracelet, you’re stepping it up by making everything from soda bottles to super heroes. The only problem? We’ve got tiny rubber brands all over the house. I find them in the strangest of places.

You’re one creative, smart, and charming kid. I’ve seen you grow and learn things at an amazing speed in this last year. You’ve surprised me in so many ways this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how you surprise me in your 7th year.

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I love you kiddo!

Mom

Happy Birthday to a (Mostly) Terrific 12 Year Old

2 Apr IMG_4208-2

Happy 12th Birthday Olivia!

I know I say this every birthday, but this year I really can’t believe how quickly you’ve gone from a tiny baby to a beautiful ‘tween. Sure, some days when you’re rolling your eyes, slamming your bedroom door, and terrorizing your little sisters, time can’t move fast enough for me (and probably you too), but as I sit here writing your birthday blog, it does feel like like you’ve grown in an instant. You’ve grown in size too, although you have not yet passed me up, but I’m expecting it to happen in any moment.

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As fast as this year has flown by, you’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things. First and foremost, you’re no longer an elementary school student. You made it to middle school!

You not only made it, you’re thriving. From running cross country and playing soccer, to getting elected to student council, you are a kid who’s a doer.

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If given the choice, you’d participate in even more activities. Dad and I don’t give you that choice, not just because we’re worried about you wearing yourself out, we’re worried about wearing ourselves out.

You did manage to wear us down when it came to getting your own bedroom. You begged and begged for months. Your Dad and I finally relented when you came home with all A’s on your report card your first trimester of 6th grade. That proves hard work can bring you big rewards.

You’ve also entered the world of a texting ‘tween. It drives me nuts, but I do see the use in it, and there’s no shortage of amusement at some of the funny texts you send me. From misuse of know vs. now, to writing in emoticons, I will admit the texts do put a smile on my face. Plus, it’s a way to keep tabs on you, even if you’d rather be Miss Independent.

For all that independence, I see glimmers of altruistic acts of love towards your little sisters.

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You carry them when needed and feed them with any number of your culinary creations. You’ve got a good heart, even with your sisters. You may not show it all the time, but it’s there. I know it. Your sisters know it too. Why else, when given the choice, do they always choose you to babysit them?

This year hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our differences and we’ve had our fights, but when all is said and done at the end of the night, there’s nothing more I love to do than tiptoe into your room and see you sleeping so peacefully. It takes me back to your newborn days. Days that are long since gone, but feel like they could have just happened.

I know you’re growing up, but try not to grow up too fast kiddo. You’ve got a unique and special sense of childlike wonderment. Try not to lose it. It’s a pretty great quality to have.

So on your 12th birthday, I have many wishes for you. I wish you lots of joy and happiness, but most of all, I wish for you to stay true to yourself. You’re an amazing person. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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I love you!

Mom