Third Eleven

Owen, Quinn in a party hat, and Gabe standing next to each other in the kitchen. Owen's birthday gifts are on the table in front of them.

We arrived back in America four days before your birthday last year, so you’ve officially completed your first trip around the sun back in the U.S. and I think it was a good one. You’ve grown what seems like 6″, although you haven’t gained an ounce I don’t think. Still skin and bones and protruding ribs and kneecaps. You’ve also grown UP quite a bit, too, and have become so much more organized, responsible, dependable, and mature. I can count on you to DO things now, mostly without being asked, and to do them generally well. You even NOTICE when things need doing and either mention them or do them, which is…amazing, to say the least.

This past year has been the year of cousins. In the whole last year I don’t think you’ve gone more than a week without seeing your cousins, and it has been awesome. Your little gang is nine strong now – with the latest addition having made her entrance shortly after we moved back – and it is so funny to watch you all. From age almost-one to almost-fifteen, it seems like it could be too big a span for you to all really hang out, but you guys all seem to get each other in a way that just makes my heart happy. THIS is why we moved home.

Our travels this year weren’t quite as far-flung as they were in Europe, but we’ve made an effort to visit new places. Back to NYC, Maryland and Virginia. Your first ever trips to Cape Cod and New Hampshire last fall, then we spent half our winter weekends skiing in New Hampshire and Maine.

me and Owen standing cheek to cheek in front of a blue sky and fall foliage at the top of a mountain in NH

We visited Nana and Pappy in Florida and had a bit of an adventure kayaking on the Weeki Watchee. You and Pappy made the absolute most comical kayak pair of the day, and I think you’re lucky he didn’t toss you overboard with the number of erroneous alligator sightings you made. That was topped only by you stepping out of the kayak on the left onto a river bank and Pappy stepping out on the right, expecting to step on the same river bank, but falling right in because the kayak was centered over where the bank dropped off a good ten feet.

You’re quite American again, completely obsessed with football (the NFL kind) and baseball. But your European side comes out on weekend mornings when I come downstairs to find you watching Premier League games on TV. You spent last fall glued to the couch watching football games alongside your dad, and I don’t know which one of you was more excited to be able to watch American football at a reasonable hour again. This fall you’ll play your first season of flag football and again, it’s hard to say who is more excited about that.

You also just finished up your first season back in serious baseball and it was SO much fun. Even though I complained about being at the baseball fields literally every weeknight from April through the end of July, I do love watching you play. You made it to your first Red Sox game this spring and although I haven’t quite gotten you to switch your allegiance away from the Orioles, I’ll keep at it.

And you had quite the year in soccer. You made the Select U12 town team as a 10 year old, and, although you didn’t have quite the breakout year you had our last season in England, your team eventually made it to the state tournament and won. State Champs! Not a bad first year back.

Your first year back in American schools was good too – school went well, you made new friends, and you got absolutely excellent grades. You’re heading into 6th grade in a few weeks and I hope all that continues. I’m confident that you’ve got a handle on the school thing now, but as always, as your mom, I want to remind you that you are SO FREAKING SMART and if you put your actual best effort into your school work, I think you’d exceed all our expectations and do even better than you already have.

One thing I do want you to think about this year is how you can apply your success and confidence in school in a different way. Last year you were the new kid. I know that’s tough. You made friends, but I’m sure you can remember what it felt like to not know anyone, to not have someone to sit with or talk to or play with at recess. You’re confident and mature now and I want you to try to notice those kids who need someone to say hello to them. And then be the kid who says hello.

You’re my third preteen. Yikes, what a world we live in now. It’s absolutely bonkers that our family is so skewed toward big kids. I think your dad and I spent much of this past year adapting our parenting style to this weird new truth we live in where there are not even really little kids around; it took our brains a few years to catch up to reality. But here we are, with all these awesome people who are fun and funny and smart and capable and I really think this is the sweet spot and I want to stay in it forever.

On your 11th birthday, my bug, I want you to know that you are as awesome as ever and just getting better all the time. You make me happy and I’m so grateful I get to be your mom. The whole wide world is open to you and you’re just coming up to the most fun ages where you’ll get to explore it all and decide who you’ll be and what you’ll do. I can’t wait to watch and I know you’re going to thrive.

Happy birthday, blondie baby. I love you the most.

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