Remy Hatmaker & BFF Ella on Middle School: Juggling Friends, Homework, & Smartphones

Episode 03

We’re winding back the clock and revisiting one of the most pivotal times in our lives: middle school. And guiding us through the junior high hallways of 2019 are Jen’s daughter Remy and her very best friend Ella! These girls have weathered middle school and all its new responsibilities, social commitments, and shifting dynamics with so much grace and heart. And they give us the inside scoop on what’s in (TikTok and Snapchat) and what’s out (*gasp* Instagram!), their best advice to their younger selves (if someone gets mad at you for trying to make new friends, that’s their problem) and what they wish their parents knew (everything is, um, a lot—so maybe give us some space?). Remy and Ella’s friendship is giving us life goals, and the girls remind us that good relationships help make some of the weirdest times not only navigable, but tons of fun.

Episode Transcript

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.

Jen:   Hey, everybody, Jen Hatmaker is here, your host of For the Love Podcast. Welcome, welcome, welcome to the show.

This is fun, man. This is the third episode, in a series called For the Love of Back to School. We started first off with college edition, Gavin and Sydney Hatmaker. Last week we had the high school edition, Ben and Caleb Hatmaker. And this week, I bring you the middle school edition, with my youngest daughter, Remy Hatmaker and her best friend in the world, Ella, who feels like a daughter. So that’s just no lie. I feel like I know and parent Ella as much as I do my others. And so this is a kid that just is a part of the family. The two of them are quite a duo, and they’re in here today talking about all things middle school. They’re adorable, they’re hilarious.

I do want you to know that they say the word like around . . . I’m going to say around 10,000 times. Do gird your loins. Be prepared for the word like constantly, they’re so funny.

I asked them all kinds of questions, and they did brilliantly. We talked about, what’s going on in middle school right now? What were their expectations, versus their actual experience. They’re in eighth grade. This is their last year in middle school. What are some things that are going really right in middle school? Or what are some things that are hard? Subjects, feelings, emotions, friend drama, it’s all in this episode.

You guys, they told me what’s up from the middle school sector, including this comment from Remy Hatmaker when she said, “Look, Mom, pretty sure Instagram is going downhill.” That’s what eighth graders think, that if you’re not on Snapchat, you might as well just have one foot in the grave.

They tell us what they’re into, what they’re watching, what they’re listening to, what their friends are saying. You’re going to love this conversation, if you have a middle schooler, if you’ve ever had a middle schooler, or if you’re going to have one. This is great to hear, like, from the front lines.

I mean, we got two girls coming in hot, straight from actual middle school. It was so wonderful, to hear them talk about their experience firsthand. These . . . I’m telling you right now, these are two good kids. They are dear girls. They love each other well. They love their friends. They’re nuts. I mean, they’re absolutely nuts. They drive us crazy. They drive us wild. We love them to pieces.

I’m so pleased to share my conversation with the darling, wild, hilarious, my middle schooler Remy Hatmaker and her very best friend Ella.

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Jen: Everybody, I am absolutely delighted to welcome to the podcast, my daughter Remy and her very best friend Ella. Hi, girls. Welcome.

Remy: Hi.

Ella: Hi.

Jen: It’s so cute that you guys said yes to this. Thank you so much.

Remy: No, thank you.

Ella: Thank you for having us.

Jen: Are you a little bit nervous?

Ella: Kind of.

Jen: It’s kind of strange, right? Well, I would like you just to remember how much you talk in my house, all the time. That should give you plenty of confidence, that you are like first-rate talkers. I’ve never heard either of you be silent.

You all just tell everybody, one at a time, a little bit about who you are, kind of in your own words. What’s your name? What grade are you in? Maybe what’s your favorite subject or subjects in school? Then, I’d like to hear how you think your friends or your family, would describe you. Like, what would they say about you? So everybody can kind of get a feel for what your deal is.

Remy, you want to start?

Remy: Sure. Hi, I’m Remy. I’m in the eighth grade. My favorite subject, I don’t know, I think I like science right now.

Jen: Ella, how would you describe Remy?

Ella: I feel like when she’s around friends and family, she’s very outgoing and likes to talk a lot.

Jen: Yes.

Ella: Then in other occasions like at school, when she was just around a lot of people that she doesn’t normally talk to you. She’s very quiet and shy.

Jen: That’s what Remy has said about herself, which is very interesting, because I’ve never ever seen her quiet and shy.

Do you think that’s true, Rem? Are you a little bit quiet in a big crowd?

Remy: Yeah, but I’m trying not to. I’m trying to, like, expand right now.

Jen: Okay, well, I like that.

Okay, Ella, can you introduce yourself a little bit?

Ella: Yeah.

Hi, my name is Ella, and my favorite subject would probably be either ELA or history, probably history.

Jen: Those were always my favorite.

Ella: I just like . . . history is one of my stronger subjects. It’s just, like, I feel like I can enjoy it more because I don’t have to, like—

Jen: Work so hard?

Ella: Yeah. So I feel like it’s just easier. I like a little facts that go into it. I like learning about what happened a while ago, so yeah.

Jen: Are you guys in eighth grade? Are you in Texas history, or was that seventh grade?

Remy: That’s seventh grade.

Jen: Okay.

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: Okay, so right now it’s a broader history. I love history. I cannot get enough of it.

Ella, how do you think your friends and family would describe you?

Ella: I don’t know, actually.

Jen: Okay, Remy, then you better have to answer for her too.

Remy: Oh yes! Ella is definitely outgoing.

Jen: Yes.

Remy: Also she helps you in, like, if something happens to you, she’ll be there for you no matter what.

Jen: Absolutely.

Remy: She stands up for you, like, she definitely stands up for you.

Jen: She’ll defend you?

Remy: Yeah.

Jen: That is very true. That is exactly what I would say about Ella also. Those are great descriptions, you guys, I think you’re right on.

Also, one thing that neither of you said, that all of your friends and family would say, is you’re both real, real goofy. You just are. You’re just a couple of goofballs. That is also something that we all like about the both of you. They act so nuts sometimes.

Remy, I’ve got a very important question for you.

Remy: Yes.

Jen: Everybody wants to know what does it feel like to be you, the very famous, critically acclaimed introductory voice to the podcast?

Remy: How do I feel, or—

Jen: How does it feel? How does it feel to be you? The voice-over girl?

Remy: I don’t know, honestly. I mean, it just like, I don’t really think about it, because—

Jen: Do people ever say it to you?

Remy: No, not really, because I hang out with kids and not . . . most people who hear this are grown-ups.

Jen: It’s probably true.

However, when Remy and I recorded the introduction that you hear every single week, this was two years ago, a little about two years ago exactly.

It probably took 20 takes, would you say that’s right Remy? Probably 20 tries?

Remy: Yeah, it was really fun though.

Jen: Yeah, it was. Then I paid you $20.

Remy: $10, you paid me $10.

Jen: Was it $10? Well, I paid you for your work, all right? It’s probably $10 an hour, and at the time you were 11. That’s pretty good cash.

Remy: Yeah, it is.

Jen: All right, let me ask you girls this.

School’s just started, this is about the third weekend. We’ve really just gotten back. This year as eighth graders . . . and the girls go to the same middle school. What have you liked most about going back to school? And, did you get to do everything that you wanted to do, or hoped to do over the summer? And, if so, what was your favorite thing you did this summer?

Ella, why don’t you go first?

Ella: So far in school, I like projects a lot. Like rather than doing book work, or watching a . . . what are those things called? A PowerPoint, watching those. I like actually doing the projects. And so far I feel like we’ve had a decent amount of projects, and that’s just really fun and-

Jen: Let me ask you this. In addition to sort of the workload shifting a little bit towards projects, which . . . excuse me, I do too, I like also.

Do you feel different this year being an eighth grader? You’re the oldest kid in the school. Like you’re kind of at the top of the heap this year. How’s does that feel?

Ella: It doesn’t. It kind of feels different, but it kind of doesn’t. In certain ways it does, but it doesn’t. But, I feel like for the most part, it doesn’t really feel that different.

Jen: It’s not all that cracked up to be, is in other words.

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: Just feels like another year of middle-school?

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: How about what you did this summer? Did you get to do what you were hoping to do? What’d you love this summer?

Ella: Yeah, I definitely did. Oh, I loved going to Colorado with Remy. That’s probably my favorite part. That was so fun.

Jen: Can you tell everybody about that, just a little bit?

Ella: Yeah, so my grandma lives in Colorado. This year I got to bring a friend, and I chose Remy and we had a great time.

Jen: It was a big trip. You went for almost three weeks.

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: Okay. Remy, you ready?

Remy: Yeah, okay.

Jen: What did you like most about going back to school?

Remy: My friends. Honestly, school kind of is not hard. It’s just like, I just can’t concentrate on boring things. So, I like having my friends around. Yeah, like Ella said, projects are really fun.

Jen: Like what? Give me an example of a project you’re working on right now.

Remy: Right now, me, Ella and Abby, we are doing this US history project, like about the colonies. Right now we have the New England colonies.

Jen: Yeah.

Remy: Yeah, we’re kind of like decorating and researching about it. Also, like what other questions are there?

Jen: The other question was, did you have a fun summer? Did you get to do what you were hoping to do? And, what was maybe like one of your favorite things that you did this summer?

Remy: Okay, so I actually have more than one.

Jen: Okay.

Remy: Yeah, I loved going to Colorado with Ella. I thought that was like a really special opportunity and a good new experience. Also, the lake. The lake with Ella was really fun, and tubing was really fun, how we fell really hard.

Jen: Oh, you did.

Remy: Do you remember that, Ella, whenever it flipped?

Ella: Yes.

Remy: That was so fun.

Ella: Yes.

Jen: That always makes me nervous when you girls go rolling off the back of that tube. But I’m always happy when you pop up out of the water laughing—which is every time.

Remy: It was fun.

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: Yeah, you guys are slowly going faster and faster on the tube. Like, you’re getting a little braver every year. These girls have been tubing together for years.

Remy: I was honestly hoping to go to Six Flags, because I’ve never been there.

Jen: Oh, yeah.

Remy: I’ve been asking if I can go with Landry or Ella, but it just never came, because it’s always hot.

Jen: Yes, what do I always say every time you ask to go to Six Flags?

Remy: I do not remember. It’s been a while.

Jen: Well, I say, “It’s too hot. The lines are too long, and it’s too crowded.” Your mom’s real cranky about that.

I like rides. I actually like roller coasters.

Remy: Really?

Jen: I love them, and I love to go upside down. I like them to be terrifying. But I cannot stand to stand in a line in the Texas heat for two hours for a four-minute ride. I just can’t handle it.

So maybe one day all your dreams will come true, and somebody will take you to Six Flags.

Remy: Yeah, maybe like January.

Jen: I would take you in January.

Remy: Yeah.

Jen: Unfortunately, it’s not open then. I’m sorry, this is hard. This may just be one of your life’s regrets, honey.

Remy: Yeah, I know.

Jen:  Let me ask you girls this: each of you have older siblings. One of you more than the other. And, you are both the youngest in your families, the youngest girls.

What did your older sibs tell you that middle school was going to be like? What are some of the things they told you? And, did those turn out to be true? Ella, you want to start?

Ella: Yeah, so I have two older brothers. One just graduated high school, and one just got into high school, so a freshman.

He pretty much told me there’s a lot of kids, and that there’s more crazy, loud kids, than there are quiet kids. That it’s just . . . I don’t know. I guess he didn’t really tell me that much thinking about it now. But, he was right about the things he told me, there’s definitely a lot of kids.

Jen: Is middle school, Ella, what you thought it was going to be like? I mean, if you kind of think back to your sort of self in fourth and fifth grade, as you’re kind of wrapping up elementary school, and you’re getting ready for middle school. Did middle school turn out to be like kind of what you were thinking it would be?

Ella: Yeah, actually it kind of did. I was . . . actually, no it didn’t.

Jen: No, like in what way?

Ella: I was expecting it to be a lot scarier, and like, for all of the sixth graders to be trampled in the hallways, like in the movies. That’s kind of what I was expecting it to be like.

And, it’s definitely not like that at all, so yeah.

Jen: That’s actually a great thing to talk about and to say, that there’s sort of this almost very inflated, exaggerated idea of middle school that kind of gets handed to fifth graders. But really, it’s still kind of all the same kids you’ve gone to school with, your whole life. You’re just all in middle school now. And most of those are kind of stories for movies, and not really stories for real life.

Ella: Yes.

Jen: What do you think, Remy?

Ella: It’s definitely not that scary.

Jen: What did your big sibs say to you about middle school? Then how did it sort of actually shape up for you?

Remy: They said that like . . . they said that people were mean. How they can be . . . sometimes bullies. Then like their experience in middle school, like, all the stories. But, whenever I got there, I was like, “Well, that’s completely different.”

Jen: How so?

Remy: Well, I mean we went to different middle schools and all.

Jen: Well, yeah, that’s true.

Remy: Like honestly, it depends on the year and who it was. And mine, I made a really good friend group.

Jen: You did.

Remy: I love my friend groups. Like, I hope we can stick on for when we’re grandparents and all.

Jen: I do too. I think that really matters. I think you’re making a really good point, because certainly, I mean, you guys would probably both say there are some bullies at your middle school, right? Like that can occasionally or sometimes happen.

But I think that both of you girls were really kind of careful about the friends that you chose, and sort of who you decided to pal around with. So because of that, you’ve both had pretty good middle school experiences. Would you say that’s true?

Remy: Yeah.

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: Yeah, I really love your group too. I hope one day you’re old grandmas on the porch talking about, “Remember that time we did a podcast on your mom’s show?”

Let me ask, did you have anything else to add to that, Remy?

Remy: Yes.

Jen: Okay.

Remy: Well, the thing that was different. Well, actually it’s like in movies, how the bullies are like, “Give me your money,” and all that. I didn’t see any of that.

And the classes it was like what I imagined. What was really different, and like very nerveracking is, whenever you’re in sixth grade, or like seventh third or any grade, and like lunches, it’s A, B and C.

Like you don’t know where your friends are. Then it’s like, pick a lunch, like find people.

Jen: Yeah.

Remy: And, I’m like, “Where’s my friends? I guess they’re in a different lunch than me.” That’s pretty sad.

Jen: Oh yeah. That’s no joke. I can remember just like it was yesterday, when I was your age, walk into the cafeteria . . . especially at the beginning of the year, before you kind of know what’s what and who’s where? Just not being sure where my friends were. It’s just a terrible feeling, just looking all around the room, trying to figure out, “Where am I going to sit? Do I have anybody in here that loves me?” I remember that feeling.

And I’m going to be honest with you. Whenever I go up to the middle school now, for whatever reason, and I’m either in the hall or I’m walking to whatever, and all those kids around, I still feel nervous. Middle school makes me nervous, and I’m 45. It’s kind of a nerveracking place, to be honest with you.

This is my next question, and I hope you feel free to answer it as honestly as you want to. I’m curious right now, you girls are both 13, eighth grade. What is challenging for you right now? What’s hard? Like maybe, it’s something in school? Maybe it’s just something in life? Maybe it just has something kind of specifically to do about your age? Or where you’re at.

If you had to say like, “Right now at 13, this is something that’s kind of hard for me or that I’m worried about,” what would you say? Which one of you wants to start? Remy, you want to start?

Remy: No, thank you.

Jen: “No, thank you.” How about you, Ella?

Ella: I know it’s not specifically . . . actually, like, towards my age that all of this is happening.

Jen: Okay.

Ella: I mean, next month I’m getting braces. My mom’s moving. Volleyball. Remy and I are both in pre-AP classes. It’s just hard to juggle pre-AP and volleyball, plus a performance group. It’s like the drill team at our school. Plus the other stuff I said.

So, getting my braces on and moving. It’s just like a lot at one time.

Jen: Does it just feel overwhelming to you? Like there’s not enough hours in the day?

Ella: Yes, for sure. Sometimes, yeah.

Jen: Yeah, I can understand that. I feel like middle school, seems to be about the time when kids schedules, start getting really piled up.

Ella: Yes.

Jen: Most of you guys have done sports or activities in elementary school too. Both of you guys did. But in middle school is when your homework load shifts, so there’s more schoolwork to be done, and some of your responsibilities feel a little bit older.

And I remember too, that kind of being the time thinking, Whoa, this is more than I used to juggle in third grade. This kind of feels like a lot. 

What do you think, Remy? What would you say is kind of challenging to you right now?

Remy: Homework. Honestly like volleyball homework, and then like your bedtime and stuff like that, it’s just very exhausting because you have to make sure that, Oh, I have to do this, before I have to do this.

Like volleyball game nights. I just realized the first night, I was like, Oh crap, I have tons of homework to do. And then, I also need to include volleyball, and like getting ready for bed and—

Jen: Dinner.

Remy: Like before, I did everything well. That’s just overwhelming.

Honestly on top of that, like I said earlier, I wanted to expand out. It’s kind of really hard, whenever you just don’t know what to say to people and how to become friends. Then I guess that’s very also overwhelming, because you don’t know what to say.

Jen: Yeah, that makes sense. There’s some weird social pressure, that you start to encounter I think in middle school, that you have to learn also how to navigate.

By the way, speaking of volleyball, which the girls just both mentioned. Listeners, you should know that these two girls have been in middle school all day long. They went straight to their volleyball match and played two games. And then I drove them straight to our house, and put them in front of these laptops to record a podcast. And they’re still in their volleyball clothes.

This is what they’re saying about being too busy, especially when they get asked to record a podcast after school. So bravo to both of you for squeezing this in today.

Here’s something I would like to ask you. Just a reminder, like I said earlier, got a lot of parents listening today. I would love to hear, what do you think that parents should know about what it’s like to be in middle school today?

This may be something that parents don’t see. Maybe these are things that kids are nervous to talk to their parents about. Maybe these are things that kids are seeing at school, but they don’t know if they can talk to their parents or whatever? I’m not really sure, you can answer it however you want.

But what would you say, “Okay, this is something I wish that parents really understood, about our middle school experience right now?”

How about you go first, Ella.

Ella: Okay, I would say that, well, like we just talked about. Our schedules are very busy, and everything just being overwhelming.

And, on top of that, there’s stuff like drama, and other stuff related to that at school. Then we have to go home, and then our parents are like, “Okay, do the dishes.” Like, on top of everything, then we have to do chores.

I’m sure most parents disagree with that, because I mean, we got to help out around the house. But that’s just something I wish my parents understood.

Jen: You wish that parents understood a little bit that you just maybe need to sit on the couch and veg out for a minute?

Ella: Yes.

Jen: It is a lot, you handle a lot. The amount of emotional juggling that the average middle schooler has to do every single day, just to get to the last bell, is a lot. It tires out not just your body, but also your mind. I do remember that kind of exhausted feeling.

Sometimes when you guys walk in the door at the end of the day, you look like zombies. You just look like zombies, like you could sleep . . . Well, the first week of school, Remy would come home and sleep for three hours. Right, Rem?

Ella: Oh.

Remy: Yes.

Jen: Could not keep you awake.

Remy: I loved that. And then after that, I would just do my homework then go to bed.

Jen: Again, yes, exactly. You were sleeping 15 hours a day.

Okay, Remy, how would you answer that question? What do you think parents should know, about what it’s like to be in middle school today?

Remy: Dress coding.

Jen: What do you mean by that?

Remy: That honestly dress code is just very annoying. Like yeah, there should be some boundaries and all. But honestly, we should also have like some freedom to wear what we want to wear.

Like, sorry, my voice is cracking right now. It’s like this is America, it’s like a free country. Well—

Jen: It is a free country.

Remy: It is a free country. Why can’t we have some more freedom at school and wear what we want?

Jen: Yes.

Remy: I think that’s just kind of frustrating and I wish parents could just know that it’s just . . . like some days when you just go home and then you bought something that’s really cute and then you come home and you just can’t wear it again because you get dress coded.

I know it’s not definitely the question you probably were like wanted me to get for, but that’s one thing that—

Jen: It’s just your current grievance? It’s the current thing that’s bothering you?

Remy: Yeah.

Jen: I know you’re saying this from experience.

Ella: Yeah, it’s very annoying.

Jen: Yes, have you both been dress coded this year?

Remy: Yes.

Ella: Okay, I was just asked by my science teacher to just go change your shirt. I don’t know if that counts as dress coding because it wasn’t by an assistant principal or anything. But I mean, I’ve been asked to change my shirt.

Jen: Yeah, I recall that dress coding.

Well you girls are next in a long line of student who hate their school’s dress code, you’re not the first generation. We used to say the exact same thing when I was in middle school and high school. We thought all the rules were garbage. So you join a long line of disgruntled students who want to wear what they want to wear because it’s a free country, right, Remy?

Remy: Yes, it’s ridiculous!

Jen: Okay, this is my next question for you.

This is it, next fall, it’s high school. Can you believe it?

Ella: No.

Remy: No.

Jen: Same. I cannot believe it.

So I want to know, are you excited? And, do you think that your friend group is going
. . . You guys are all going to the same high school, I think. Are you excited about sticking together? Do you think that’s really going to be a big key factor in your success there?

I want to hear what gets you really pumped about starting high school next year? And what makes you nervous? Because you probably feel both ways.

Remy: I’m excited that I can meet new people, but also I don’t want to lose my friendship with people. Like Ella, I don’t want to lose our friendship. Like I said I want to be like grandparents and growing up. But also, I want to meet new people and try to see how . . . Like know about them, but also I’m really not excited about piles of homework.

Jen: What would you say to that question, Ella?

Ella: I would say something I’m definitely excited about is getting to meet new people. And from both of my brothers, and from Remy’s brothers, I’ve heard that there’s a lot more freedom in high school.

Jen: Yeah, I think that’s a really great answer.

Ella: Yeah, and then—

Jen: In a lot of ways, everybody kind of lightens up.

Ella: Yeah. Something I’m kind of nervous about is also like Remy said, homework. I hear from a lot of freshmen that I talked to last year that there’s a lot more homework than there was in middle school. And . . . I’m definitely scared for losing friendships also, especially with Remy.

Remy: Aww.

Ella: I hope that I can kind of keep my same friend group while also being able to expand it and add more people to it.

Jen: I think that’s a great call, and I’ll just remind you that yes, you girls are moving up to high school, but you’re just still the same girls, right? We still live two blocks a part from each other, and you’re still together like as far as I could tell about 7 days a week. And some ways does change a lot of things, but in other ways you kind of realize, We’re just all the same people, just in a different school. We’re just a grade up, we’re just in high school now. 

And I think if your middle school experience has been any indicator that you’re going to have a great high school experience. You guys seem to really . . . One thing that I like that you both do, or at least as far as I can tell—feel free to correct me if I just don’t know—but it seems like that you both either work hard or you just naturally do this. I’m not sure which it is. But you avoid a lot of drama, I don’t see a ton of it. I don’t see a ton of friend drama.

Now, you guys can get real snippy with each other, that’s for sure. But, I don’t see a lot of . . . Like for example, Sydney’s middle school experience was different than the middle school experience you girls have had. There was a lot of friend problems and a lot of shifting around and one day these people were friends and then the next day they weren’t. And one day there was this group, and the next day it was a different group. And it was all very, very emotional and dramatic, and I haven’t seen that in your experience.

Would you say that you have avoided a lot of that middle school drama?

Remy: Yes.

Jen: Mm-hmm, why do you think that is?

Ella: I feel like, well for me in sixth grade there was a lot of drama, and I feel like it was kind of like what I’m scared for in high school where it was just between meeting new people but trying to balance keeping my old friends at the same time. So in sixth grade there was a lot of that happening, and it definitely wasn’t handled in the right way.

So, I’ve just kind of learned in seventh and eighth grade to just kind of go with the flow. Like, if someone is mad at you because you’re trying to make new friends, but still keep them as your friend that’s their problem. There’s nothing you can do about that. You’re just trying to do both at the same time and that can be hard.

So I just kind of learned stuff like that. Just stay away from little things like that, that don’t really matter that much.

Jen: I think that’s great advice, I think grown women can take that advice and save themselves a lot of heartache. Would you add anything to that, Remy?

Remy: Honestly, I really wanted to help Ella whenever she had a lot of drama, but I personally had never really had that much drama at all. But from my . . . like for me, watching what’s happening with drama from sixth grade to eighth grade, a lot of people have matured.

Jen: That’s good news.

Remy: That’s a really big thing and that means since people didn’t gossip each other. Like a while ago, last year that stuck to me was what Ella said, like, “Why should we all be gossiping and not having drama whenever we’ve all been together from beginning to the end, which is when we’re going to graduate.” And, I was like, “Wow, that’s . . .” In my head, I was like, “That’s really big and . . .”

And people have matured a lot from sixth grade to eighth.

Jen: Yeah, that’s a great point. Sometimes the sort of struggles that you start out with in middle school, you kind of outgrow by the time you’re wrapping up middle school. And you get to moved into high school a little bit more mature, a little bit more healthy. You’ve learned some lessons . . .

I like how you said, Ella, that you hit some of that in sixth grade, but then you learned some stuff. You kind of learned, All right this is sort of the way to maneuver through this in a way that’s a little bit more healthy for me and for each other, and for my friends.

Middle school is a big, big time for learning, isn’t it? There’s so much you guys are figuring out between sixth and seventh and eighth grade, socially. Like forget everything that you’re learning in the classroom. Socially, this is a huge, huge season of learning how to be in really strong and good friendships and while still making new ones. I think you guys have done a really good job. Do you feel proud of the way that you’ve managed your middle school career thus far?

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: Yeah, I think you should.

Jen:  So Remy, I have a question to ask you, and see if you’re comfortable talking about this a little bit.

I’m curious, you have a unique experience because you are adopted, you’re Ethiopian, and or an Ethiopian until you were four. And so, of course, you’ve been in America since then for a long time and how has your experience been? Because I asked Ben this last week because I was curious to hear his perspective too. What has your experience been like thus far, because you are in an interesting category. You’re a black girl in a white family. But, you are also an Ethiopian in American world, right? So you have these interesting origins that both slide right into the life you’re in and in other ways are different, even in your own family that you live in, in your own house.

I’m just curious how you would talk about your experience being, in some ways, like, unique in your own family, and even unique in your peer group. I mean you have very, very few friends from Ethiopia. So how has that been for you? How would you talk through your experience?

Remy: Honestly, I forget that me and Ben are adopted. When I walk in, I’m like . . . I never really think that, Oh my gosh, I’m adopted. No, I’m like, “Hey, Mom. Hi, Dad.” I don’t even think about me coming from a different country. And I’m definitely big-time whitewashed.

Jen: That’s what Ben said, honey! He said the exact same word.

Remy: I love the way I live. I’m so glad that I got adopted here, because if that never happened, I would’ve never met Ella, you the family and my friends. And I just can’t imagine what it would be like living in a different world, a different family, different friends, because I just never thought of it that way.

Jen: Do people ask you about being adopted still? I know they did a lot when you were younger. Because for a lot of people it’s just kind of a fascinating life. Do your peers or your teachers ever talk to you about it?

Remy: I believe it was like sixth grade or something like that, my teacher was like, “We’re talking about this. Can I use you as an example of . . .” And, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t mind.” She said, “Oh, Remy is adopted.” But, you know what I mean, not like that way.

Honestly, a lot of people sometimes don’t know I’m adopted, because I’m just like, “Hey, I’m just adopted.” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s cool.” But they don’t really ask anything sometimes because I mean I’ve lived here most of my life.

Jen: Yeah, you have. Well, something that’s interesting about your age group too is that your peers and fellow students . . . Families look all kinds of ways these days. Like there’s just step-moms and step-dads, some of your peers live with their grandparents. Some are adopted, some are in foster. There’s just a lot of ways to be a family now and if it used to be a little bit more common to have a family one certain way, now in your generation, families come in all shapes and sizes.

So that’s not really all that unusual anywhere. Both of you have families that have a different sort of structure than what would be ever considered, This is kind of the ordinary way. So I think that your generation is really great about holding a lot of space for all kinds of families and whatever they look like because love makes family.

Remy: Mom.

Jen: Yeah?

Remy: One thing that people ask me all the time—and yeah, I always respond back sometimes the same thing—they always ask me, “What was it like there?” And they’ll ask me, “Do you remember Ethiopia?” And, I’m like, “Not really, I was four.” I always wondered, “Do they remember what they were like when they’re four?” They probably wouldn’t.

Jen: That’s true, I don’t have a lot of memories from that age either. And, you know one thing that you and I have been talking about is that you feel ready to go back to Ethiopia with us and sort of explore your family and your history over there too, which we’re excited about. Ben went when he was about your age.

Remy: Yeah, we should bring Ella.

Jen: Ethiopia would be a lot for Ella.

Remy: Yeah.

Jen: I do love Ethiopia, and I’m excited for you to go back and see it too, Rem. So that’s something that we have coming up in our world. We just said, “You let us know when you feel like you’re ready,” and you’ve said that recently, and so I’m excited about that.

Okay, back to the both of you.

When you and your friends hang out, you’re up stairs giggling and running around, being crazy or whatever. What do you like to do together? What do you and your friends like to do when you’re together and then what’s your favorite way to talk to each other or communicate with each other when you’re not in the same room together?

How about you, Ella?

Ella: I don’t know if this is a known thing for adults. But, like, all of us make TikToks.

Jen: Oh, this is just the new thing I’m hearing about all the time right now.

Ella: We love making TikToks. That takes up a lot of our time. Like two or three hours for a few TikToks.

Jen: These are like little, like, weird videos, right?

Ella: Yeah, they’re . . . Most of the time it’s like little dances, like little weird dances that will go with whatever the song is, and it shouldn’t take that long, but it does.

Jen: Then you’ve lost two hours to TikTok?

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: And then how do you . . . What’s your main way to communicate when you’re not together?


Jen: Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s what the boys said too.

How about you, Rem? What do you like to do when you hang out?

Remy: I like shopping.

Jen: I know you do, God.

Remy: Even though my friends don’t love to shop with me because I’m a very bad shopper.

Jen: Yes.

Remy: I still have fun, but my friends don’t have fun.

Jen: Yes, Ella.

Remy: Something I’m been working on. Sorry, Ella, I love you though.

Jen: Ella, back me up here. Ella went back to school shopping with Remy at the mall about a month ago. I dropped them off. And by the time I pick them up it’s like they had just been in a war, like a battlefield. Right? It’s pretty rough shopping with Remy, right, Ella?

Ella: Yeah, for sure.

Jen: She cannot make a decision.

Remy: I mean, the offers are so good. Like, “Would you rather buy this, like, two things for $50? Or would you rather buy this which is two things for $50? Ah, you know!

Jen: Oh my gosh.

And as you know your mom doesn’t like to shop. So this is just never going to work out.

And then, what’s your favorite way to talk to your friends, Remy, when you’re not in the same room? Is it also Snap?

Remy: Yeah, I either FaceTime them or I Snapchat.

Jen: Forever, these two girls are sticking to their phones in my face taking a terribly angled, horribly lighted picture of me from like down on the floor, just terrible. And then putting it to Snapchat for a streak. Can you explain to everybody what a streak is? Because this is a thing you guys do.

Ella: So, on Snapchat, it’s like Snapping back pictures back and forth with each other, and a streak is like how many days you’ve Snapped at least one picture back and forth. It could be of anything. Most of the time it’s just like a funny picture, like you said, something like our parents or our friends. And it’s most of the time funny pictures, it’s not supposed to mean anything. It’s just so you can get a streak.

Jen: It means nothing.

Ella: Yeah.

Jen: It’s not supposed to mean anything because it’s doesn’t mean anything. It’s nonsense, its terrible pictures of me sometimes.

Remy: Mom, you have Snapchat, you should know—

Jen: Okay, I just downloaded Snapchat one time because I wanted to be connected my kids. But then I was on it with you guys for about one week, and I’m like, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.” I don’t want to see a bad picture of you. It’s meaningless. I don’t get it.

Remy: Mom.

Jen: I’m too old for Snapchat, I don’t want to do it.

Remy: You said that you send it to your friends and all.

Jen: No. None of my friends would tell you that I sent them a Chat or a Snap, whatever.

I just can’t, it’s too much. I already do Facebook, and I already do Twitter, and I already do Instagram and that’s just enough. I just don’t want another thing.

Plus, what do you even do on Snapchat? I don’t get it, really, to be honest with you.

Remy: I don’t know.

Jen: All right, here’s some quick questions, you can just fire it off, off the top of your head. Just to help us older folks find out what you’re watching, and listening to and all that. So we can kind of know, what’s cool? What’s hip? What’s happening? What are you paying attention to?

Here’s the first one, you can just kind of say it quickly. What are you watching right now? What are your shows? Ella?

Ella: I have a few shows going right now, because I’m the type of person that gets tired of shows really fast.

Jen: Okay.

Ella: I’m watching, here, hold on let me check. I’m watching for sure, I’m into Grey’s Anatomy.

Jen: Oh, wow.

Ella: I love Grey’s Anatomy, I want to be a surgeon. So it’s interesting to me.

I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy, I’m watching The Fosters, and I’m watching Vampire Diaries.

Jen: Okay, that feels right on brand. How about you, Rem?

Remy: Okay, I haven’t been watching as much because homework, TikTok, Snapchat. But, I watch The Good Doctor, about this autistic man, and he’s a surgeon, a very intelligent surgeon. And I also love Bob’s Burgers. It’s so good. Someone here doesn’t like it. Mom.

Jen: Oh, that’s so funny.

Remy: Yeah, sometimes I’ll watch Vampire Diaries, especially with Ella because we both watch it sometimes.

Jen: Got it. Okay, so who . . . Just maybe three or four, however many. Who’s on your Spotify playlist right now?

Remy: Yeah, my phone is charging, but KhalidTravis ScottCardi BNicki Minaj, love her. She’s good like, boom badoom boom badoom. I love her so much.

And, those are probably one of the four people. Ella?

Ella: I have Rich the KidLil YachtyLil Baby . . . Lil Tjay, and . . .

Remy: Oh, don’t say it. Luh Kel is that how you say his name? Luh Kel?

Ella: Luh Kel.

Remy: I can never say people’s name right.

Jen: Both of you are listing to that?

Ella: Yeah.

Remy: Oh wait, you do . . . Okay.

Jen: I know, this is what you’re listening to because you’re always playing it in my car. So they’re now my artists because they’re yours.

So, I don’t know if you guys, I don’t know what either one of you are going to say to this. Are you reading anything? Besides textbooks?

Remy: No.

Ella: No.

Jen: Pass, I knew you both were going to say.

Remy: I am, I’m reading something. I’m reading this book because our teacher forces us to read 10 minutes a day.

Ella: Oh yeah, yeah.

Remy: In class, I’m reading The Shaft . . . No, The Raft, something like that. I don’t remember the book title because I don’t really care about it. But the book is really good.

It’s about this girl, her name is Robie.

Jen: Okay.

Remy: Interesting name by the way. And she is 15 years old, and she basically goes on this airplane. And this airplane can only carry 1500 pounds, but they forgot to add her name to the list. Which meant that there was an extra 200 pounds. And one of the engines [was] lost and they fell into the ocean and people died, and she has to survive through sharks. And one person almost dying in the middle of the ocean with barely food.

Jen: Sounds good. I was telling you that reading is the greatest thing.

How about this, do you have a favorite game on your phone? Do you guys play phone games?

Ella: I don’t have a lot, but one that I definitely will play if I’m super bored is AquaPark. I love AquaPark.

Jen: Okay.

How about you, Rem?

Remy: I also don’t play much games, but after I got my hair done, I started to play this game called Jetpack. It’s a very old game, but it’s really fun.

Jen: Okay, Jetpack, I’ll look it up.

What is your favorite app to use on your phone?


Jen: Yeah.

Ella: Or Instagram, actually.

Remy: I think Instagram is going downhill, by the way.

Jen: It is not going downhill!

Ella: It’s just for you.

Jen: It’s for older people.

Remy: Oh. I would say either TikTokHulu, or Snapchat.

Jen: Last question, and then we’ll kind of wrap it up with three quick ones.

If you could go back and talk to your own self when you were—let’s say, eight years old, nine years old, maybe—about how to deal with middle school. If you were to go back and say, “Okay, Remy, these are the things that you should really care about when you get to middle school to have the greatest experience, or these are the things that you shouldn’t worry about at all because they don’t matter, and this is how you’ll have a great middle school experience.” What would you tell yourself like in third or fourth grade?

Ella: Middle school definitely isn’t like the movies at all. That’s definitely something I would tell myself, is not to be afraid of anything like that because it doesn’t actually happen.

Jen: That’s great advice. What would you say, Remy?

Remy: I would say do not play volleyball in the locker room.

Jen: Okay, why?

Remy: Because, remember, that was when I busted my chin open.

Jen: Oh, you sure did. That’s right.

Remy: Don’t worry about what people think about you.

Jen: Okay.

Remy: Honestly, that doesn’t really happen to me as much, but to other people I guess worry about that. And, if I could talk to myself, this is out of nowhere, if I could talk to my eight year old self, I would say that have a better fashion taste.

Jen: Eight year olds are not known for their fashion taste.

Remy: I wore jackets and leggings and stuff like that.

Jen: Honey, I thought you were cute.

Jen: Okay, we’re going to wrap this up, these are the questions that we asked Gavin and Sydney as they talked about college, and Ben and Caleb as they talked about high school, and now we’re going to ask you guys.

Here’s the first one. Which class this year looks like it might be a good one for you? You’re thinking, This one is going to be really interesting.


Ella: It would definitely be history, because one, I have a bunch of friends in that class, that class is super fun. And, I have Remy in there, and the teacher is very cool, and pretty laid back, and like I said earlier, I just really enjoy history. So I think that class.

Jen: Good answer. How about you, Rem?

Remy: I have two.

Jen: Okay.

Remy: I would say that fourth period is really fun, because I have lots of friends in there.

Jen: And that’s history?

Remy: Yeah. I guess history is kind of easier with friends over there. And our teacher is laid back and all. Also, my ELA class, Mr. Debord, he’s just really funny. Everything that he makes is just funny. And, I just have fun in that class too.

Jen: Perfect.

What class, and maybe it’s this year, maybe it’s just any of your middle school classes, are you convinced, I’ll never use this again. Anything I learned in this class, I’m never going to use it.

Ella: Science.

Jen: Rem?

Remy: Oh, athletics, like when I become an adult, I’m not going to become a pro-athletic person, so.

Jen: That’s probably true.

Okay, now here’s the last question. It’s kind of an interesting one. This is something that I ask all of my guests, ever on the podcast, and people answer all different ways. Sometimes they say something kind of really serious, sometimes they say something kind of silly and funny. And you can answer it however you want to answer it.

And, it’s an interesting question, which is, what is saving your life right now? What’s the greatest thing that you just love right now?

Ella: Honestly, Remy. Because anytime that I have a bad day, I just go to Remy and she always makes me feel better. And anytime, like, if I’m still at school and anything has gone wrong and I always go to her and she makes me feel better. Like, if anything goes wrong, I just go to Remy and then it’s just fine again.

Jen: That is so sweet.

How about you, Rem?

Remy: She read my mind.

Jen: Yeah, I figured you might say the same. Would you say the same thing?

Remy: I was going to say Ella. I mean, like, she’s like my main person who I also just go to. And she always cheers me up and she helps me even though we have our yippy yaddy day where we fight.

Jen: Sure.

Remy: I always miss her at the end, I’m like, “Where’s Ella?”

Jen: Sometimes Ella will have been at our house all weekend long, and then she walks out the door and she’s still just walking down the driveway, and Remy will say, “Well, I miss her.”

I’m like, “She’s just left, and she’s been here all weekend.” So I know you’re telling the truth.

Okay, girls, I want to thank you for coming on the podcast and talking about your lives and about middle school, and about what you are excited about, and what you’re thinking about. And it’s just great for us parents to hear you talk about your lives in your own words so that we can understand better how to love you and parent you, and support you, and cheer you on.

So thank you so much for taking time out of an already very long day to record this for everybody. You guys are two rock stars, and I love you both.

Remy: This was really fun, I actually want to do it for a longer bit now.

Ella: Yeah, it was . . . Yeah, it was very fun.

Jen: You did awesome. Thanks girls, love you.

Remy: Love you too.

Ella: Love you too.

Jen: Aren’t they cute? I love those two.

In fact, we just finished the episode and that recording the outro here. And all of a sudden I heard it was like a stampede and hear the two of them. I’m out on my office, and the girls were recording from inside the house. And they just come running out to my office with grins from ear to ear. “How did we do?” I’m like, “Just amazing. Just outstanding.” Oh, I do love them. I really do.

Listen, middle school’s the weirdest time to be alive ever. And so, we just got to get these jokers through it. That’s all it is you guys. As parents, we just do the best we can. We laugh at them. We take them medium seriously on most days, and ultimately they come through the other side.

So I hope you loved that. And, I love . . . Oh my gosh your enthusiasm for the series is over the top. Thank you for your outstanding feedback. Thanks for sharing these with so many of your people. Your parent friends, and your own kids. Oh that thrills me, I love that you’re listening to this with your own kids.

So Back to School Series is coming in hot again next week and don’t forget we have huge giveaways online, every single week of this series. So, if you are not following me on the reg over on Insta, or on Facebook. You need to do it, because we do giveaways for the series that you are going to love, and we’re having the most fun with it.

So thanks for listening, and subscribing, and sharing, and reviewing. You’re the greatest listening community in the world.

Love y’all, see you next week.

Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!

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