Two Big Milestones

We’ve had two pretty big milestones around here in the past two weeks and I’m a mixed bag of emotions about both.

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Turning 13

My daughter Tess turned 13 a few weeks ago. THIRTEEN! This felt like a significant birthday. Entering the teen years…..getting her first phone. Gah!

Speaking of the phone, in the first day, a mere eight hours into phone ownership, I already loved my daughter more than my son. Daughters text. Daughters send updates and ask questions and send you out-of-the-blue, “I love you guys and appreciate all you do for us” messages.

My son sends monosyllabic responses. If the sound could translate, it would be a grunt. He forgets to tell me he arrived somewhere. My daughter told me she arrived and all about the trip, complete with 27 emojis. I love her.

Now, perhaps her enthusiastic texting will become a problem. She may end up needing some boundaries with friends down the road, but not with me. She can text, text, text away….

But, back to turning 13. When our kids turned ten, we took them on an individual, ten-year-old trip with just mom and dad. (I wrote about that tradition HERE.)

The ten-year-old trip tradition is one we kind of stumbled into, but turned out to be one of the best parenting things we ever did. In fact, we’ve decided that we should do this every five years, so we’re implementing a new, 15 year-old trip tradition.

(Pay no attention to the fact that our youngest turned 10 and took his trip last year – insert hot wet tears – and so we’re feeling sad. What better way to get over the sadness of a final tradition that to start a brand new one!)

Which kinds of explains our tradition when the kids turn 13. Two years ago, when our oldest turned 13, my hubby yanked him out of school and took him around to leaders, mentors, and wise men in our community. The men would share their advice about life, goals, navigating the teen years, and preparing to become a man, similar to what Jewish boys would have received from rabbis back in Jesus’ day. They spent the day getting a vision for where he would be heading in his teen years.

This was so impactful and memorable, that a few months back in anticipation of her impending 13th birthday, my daughter asked if I would be doing this for her. And my response was, “Er, of course, I will be…..” Flash forward to a mere five days before her birthday when I was scrambling to figure out how to pull a day like this together.

Her school schedule was going to be tricky due to a show choir competition on her actual birthday, but the day before might work, in turn, deleting one more day from my preparations.

I made calls and sent texts to the wise women in both my life and hers to try and line up a day of visits. But, because there were so many important women and only one day to fit all the appointments in AND because my daughter is more of a visual learner than an audible learner, I asked dozens of women if they’d be willing to share their thoughts via email. I asked if they would send their advice for her teen years, their vision for who she is today and where God is taking her in the future and any prayer or blessing they had for her.

Oh….and could they get back to me in three days, pretty please?!?

But, despite the quick deadline, goodness did these women come through. Their emails started flooding in and each one brought tears to my eyes. I was amazed at how specifically well they knew Tess and how beautifully they captured God’s design of her. They described a beautiful future for her coupled with practical advice which you could tell was fought for and gained through their own teenage experience. And they prayed and blessed and welcomed her into womanhood. All of this reminding me once again, how incredibly blessed I am to have a community of women to belong to and for Tess to witness as she begins forming a tribe of her own. Women really are the best.

Despite one day to do it and limited crafting skills on my part, I was able to assemble these words of wisdom into a book for Tess. On the morning of our adventure, I presented the book to her. We brought the book with us as we met with various women in our community and she read each entry aloud as we drove in the car. Tess brought her journal along and would write down things that stood out in the book – themes, bible verses, words about her identity, and vision for her future.

Some of the entries made her laugh. Some made her cry (her older brother’s and daddy’s, specifically). They all filled her heart.

And the beautiful thing about having them all gathered in a book is that she can go back to those words whenever she needs them. When life seems confusing….as it often does in the teen years….or she’s forgotten her gifts or purpose or can’t remember a vision for her life, she can open the book and be reminded. Or when she had a question about what she’s going through, the advice can save the day.

But, most of all, she’ll open those pages and instantly know she’s part of something bigger than her current circumstance. She’ll know she belongs to a whole tribe of amazing women who see her, know her, celebrate her and believe in her. She’ll know that part of a being a woman is cheering each other on, helping each other get up, and reminding each other of who we are.

And that’s better than all the emojis in the world.

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Final Basketball Season

It’s always bittersweet when a chapter ends, especially a chapter you’ve enjoyed for seven years with some of the very best people around. But, I gotta admit it’s a little less bitter and a whole lot more SWEET when you play as a team, fire on all cylinders, and end the journey winning it all - Eighth Grade 3A/4A State Champs!!

So incredibly proud of theses boys and grateful for their faithful coaches who invested hundreds of hours into them as players and young men.

A fun recap:
• 254 total games in seven years
• 173-81 record, most of those losses coming in our 2nd and 3rd grade seasons (we were awful) and our 7th grade season (when we tried adjusting to both school ball and tourney ball and it was all a bit too much)
• 4th grade - State runner-up (USSSA Div 3)
• 5th grade - State champions (USSSA Div 3)
• 6th grade - State champions (Div 3)
• 8th grade - State champions (Div 2)
• 20-7 this year winning the Valley HS tourney, All-Iowa Attack Basketbrawl Tourney, DC-G Tourney and the 3A/4A State Tourney
• More laughter, memories, weekends in Cedar Rapids, and meals at Hickory Park than we can possibly count.

More basketball ahead for all of these boys, but what a wonderful chapter this has been. Cherishing and remembering every moment. It’s definitely more sweet than bitter.

PS: as we prayed with York in the parking lot before his first game today, I started crying with joy and gratitude. I’m sure he felt thoroughly motivated and pumped up. 🙄 But, as we hugged after the final game and he teared up, I knew. I knew it was his joy and gratitude pouring out, too.