To My Daughter On Her 12th Birthday

Dear Pumpkin,

Twelve years ago this morning, I woke up in the early morning hours feeling less than great. Not long after that, a speedy car ride to the hospital ensued and then less than four hours after waking up, and less than two hours in the hospital even – you were in my arms. Oh how quickly it went, how soon you were there. HOW EARLY IN THE MORNING IT WAS.

Twelve years later, you’re finally sleeping in. That’s some progress, right? Partly, I think that’s the tween years setting in – and partly because we stay up too late. Often times during the school year, I’m waking you up at the crack of dawn and you’re wanting to sleep a little bit more – and whoa, after all of these years with you being such an early bird, I never thought that would happen.

You are an artist. You love to draw, paint, sketch. You have a good eye, but no patience. You can get frustrated when executing your vision is a challenge. You’ll sketch and erase and sketch again to get it right. I admire that and am amazed by your skill, even if you don’t appreciate just how good you are.

You are so smart. You think analytically and critically in ways that most people don’t – and I know that it means most people just aren’t on your level, which is probably not the way you want to feel when  you’re in middle school – but some day, have mercy, you are going to create some magic in this world with that brain.

You love animals. You love the planet. Your dad cut down a tree a few weeks ago and you were so angry at him. You put on your Mother Earth shirt and for awhile, according to your sister, you were very upset.

Your first year of middle school ended with straight As which was pretty awesome for a first year! You loved some of your classes. Others, not so much. But you adapted well to the idea of changing classes, multiple teachers, and figuring out how lockers work.

You love theater and musicals. You just wrapped up a week at musical theater camp and you love it. Not only do you love theater, but theater kids are YOUR PEOPLE. I wish we had a better bunch of theater kids around here, because that’s what you need. That’s your tribe. You tried out for the musical this winter and you didn’t get a part, and I thought that was so rotten, and I was so irritated. (I still am, when I think about it) You were crushed at the news, and I was crushed for you – it’s something you love so much and wanted so eagerly to be a part of. [The director sucks. I’m not supposed to say that, but I’m saying that because this is my letter to you and it’s probably not HER birthday. Also: I really think she sucks.]

You’re a brilliant writer. You make me laugh and I love the way your brain works. You just started a blog and I’m curious where you go with it. Maybe someday you’ll be writing letters for ME on MY birthday.

I am fascinated and amazed by you and still worry about your tender heart and how you wear it on your sleeve and I imagine that will always be a worry of mine for all of my days because you are so open with your feelings and I fear the pain that can come from being so tender. I wouldn’t change a thing about you for the world, but oh how I wish the world was kinder to the free spirits and dreamers and creatives, like you.

I am so excited to celebrate you. To celebrate the day I first held you in my arms. To celebrate another year of you. I hope twelve treats you well. This is the last year before you’re a (GASP) teenager. I cannot believe how fast the time flies. I’m so privileged to be your momma. If life is a merry-go-round, I’m so glad to be on it with you and your sister.

I love you with my whole heart and I am so lucky to be your momma.

Love you lots and lots of tater tots,

Momma

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 15th Birthday

Dear Princess,

Happy birthday, missy. Fifteen. Wow. As I type this, there’s a letter for you on the counter from the local Driver’s Training place, so we’ve got that coming up. Soon, you’ll be taking lessons and then soon, I’ll get to hang out in the passenger seat while you drive me around places and get all the hours you need to get before you get your license, and I gotta say, I’m kind of looking forward to being chauffeured around. Well, I’m looking forward to it when I’m not feeling terrified… or old.

Your freshman year of high school is nearly over and… I think it’s been a good year. As the year comes to an end, I know you’re bummed that you’re getting a B in biology but I never worry about your grades because you’re a smart cookie and you work hard. You have adjusted to high school pretty well, and I’m ready to see what the next year has in store for you. You auditioned for (and made it!) to Honors Choir, so I look forward to more singing in the year ahead. You did a solo at your choir concert last weekend… your voice was so beautiful, and when you sang tears came to my eyes.

You have three weeks left of your rest from gymnastics – it’s been a tough road, I know, trying to recover from your injured clavicle-slash-shoulder-slash-‘part where the ribs meet the sternum.’ I know it’s been discouraging to not get to do anything when you go to practice, and that you’ve been afraid of losing your skills… and even that it’s been difficult to be in pain. But I have faith that you’ll be back at it in a few weeks, that you’ll recover and get back to where you were. You had an amazing season this year – so many medals, so many PR’s. I know it feels like you won’t get that back… but… I have faith.

You are organized and meticulous. You are bullet journals and to-do lists. Your room is clean and you like order. You’re a good helper, and I appreciate that. Sometimes I get very overwhelmed and you help me get out of my noggin and figure out what to do next. You’re super funny and I like when you send me texts.

I love that at night, you and your sister tuck a stuffed animal into my bed along with my book.

While I’m bummed that you’re not starting your birthday with me today, I’m looking forward to when you and your sister come home and we can celebrate with presents and brownie pie. It warmed my heart when you texted me last night, upset that your sister was spending the night at her friend’s, sad that she wouldn’t be at your dad’s with you when you wake up today. I loved that you wanted her there with you, but also that you recognized that it was a fun thing for her to get to hang out with a friend, and you let her be excited about her fun evening. And even though the two of you fight a lot, I know that you both have each other’s backs. As a mom, that makes me tremendously happy too.

You are my persister. Nevertheless. You challenge people to think outside of what they know, what is accepted. You don’t keep quiet. You don’t accept status quo. I love that you are the one other kids are afraid to argue politics with. I love that you make noise, that you think. You believe that the world could be and should be better, and I am so excited to see what you make of your life, and who you will become. Who you are already is pretty great.

You said you wanted to try a Couch to 5k. I know you may well hate running, but I look forward to running with you this summer. It makes me happy that you want to try. Maybe we’ll do a race and get matching medals.

Sigh.

Fifteen. Wow. Fifteen years ago, I held you in my arms and I became a mom, and now you are taller than me and just a few years away from college and what happened. When did I blink? How did the time pass so quickly? I’ve always been so excited at each new phase of your life, because watching you, your sister, blossom into these amazing people has been so rewarding, so great… but oh, now it’s going too fast. It could slow down a little, please.

This year will be full of phenomenal things for you, of that I am sure. I hope more musicals, more singing, more stacks of books to read, more things crossed off the list of to-dos.

Hurry up and come home. I’m excited to celebrate your birthday with you. I love you so very very much and I am looking forward to seeing what this year brings for you.

Happy birthday, Princess. I love you lots and lots of tater tots and I’m so lucky to be your momma.

<3

 

A letter to my daughter on her 11th birthday

Dear Pumpkin,

Happy birthday. Today, you are 11 – which is mind boggling to me – feels like such a big number and I’m sure part of that is knowing that you’ll be heading to middleschool this far – so this is going to be a year with some change. I know how you feel about change.

You’re kind of worried about middle school – of the locker, the classes, and when I told you the other day that they had recommended you for advanced math, you got so upset. The thing is – I know you’ll be fine, but you’re worried that math will be too hard, that you won’t be able to keep up. You are your own toughest critic, and while I admire your drive to do well, I wish you could realize how amazing you already are, and that your worth is not defined by a grade in math.

(I also know that you come by these perfectionist tendencies honestly, and I’m sorry – and I’m trying to do my best to make sure you know that you being you is enough – always – and that I’ve always got your back and I will always love you no matter what)

You are a creative and shining star and I love that about you. You still are so much your own person and I love that about you. I think it’s really special that you are true to yourself and don’t follow someone else’s path.

I love that you love to read – you are an avid reader and you have a list of books you want to read. You read series and you love to spend time in bookstores. Not only are you an amazing reader, but you’re a strong writer as well. You want to be an author some day and I believe you can do it.

This year, you did something new called Odyssey of the Mind – which was cool to see – you and your team worked so hard to creatively solve problems, think strategically and perform a skit. I saw you thrive in that environment – with other creative kids. I love how you are excited to try new groups and explore challenges, especially when they build from your love of creativity.

You just finished a week of theater camp this summer and that was exciting as well. You looked amazing on the stage – you had such poise and presence. I admire that! You learned so much in one week – memorizing a script and performing with only five days of practice! You even learned a whole song and dance number. I was really impressed – and I’m excited to see if you’re involved with plays and musicals in school this year.

You still love dogs, especially our pup. I bet someday you’ll end up fostering dogs. Lately, you’ve even asked me for a cat (no go! I’m allergic!).

Recently, I got you and your sister hooked on the musical “Hamilton” so you both want to be Schuyler sisters for Halloween and I love that too. (Also, y’all amaze me the way you can recite the speedy parts of “Guns and Ships”)

You are tender hearted and sweet and kind and sensitive. You are beautiful and funny. You are sassy and bright. You have brought me immeasurable joy in the last eleven years and I can’t wait to see what this year brings. Eleven years ago, I held you for the first time and got to begin to learn who you are. You are a wonderful daughter to me and sister to Princess, you are a kind friend, and a lovely and wonderful human. You are pretty amazing, if I do say so myself.

I love you so very much and I am so very lucky to be your mom.

Love,

Momma

 

A Letter To My Daughter on Her 14th Birthday

Dear Princess,

I’ve been writing these letters for more years than I can remember without looking but surely somehow we’ve gone from elementary school to middle school to where we are now, just weeks away from graduating 8th grade – about to begin your high school career. [Side note: I still think the idea of “graduating” from 8th grade is asinine, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be there, teary eyed and so proud of you.]

It’s been an amazing year. I admit, the thought of the end of this school year has me a little bit sentimental – as we dug through photographs to put in the eight grade slide show and the choir concert slide show, I watched you grow up in pictures, from this round faced toddler to this graceful young lady. I never stopped paying attention, I was always watching and yet – somehow you teetered right out of childhood.

This year you were one of the leads in the school musical and oh my god was I so blown away – not only by your voice which was clear and beautiful and so perfect for the role, but by your presence. Your confidence and charisma radiated – and I could not take my eyes off of you on that stage and I kept thinking to myself, “I get to be her mom.” How lucky I am.

Your grades are excellent and when you struggle, you work to pick yourself back up. Some parents have to prod their kids and chase them down to do their work but I’ve never had to do that with you. You push yourself harder than I could dare imagine – and you are your own biggest critic, not that that’s a great thing. But you are self-motivated, and that I am grateful for because you do things for you and not because of what I, or anyone else, tells you.

Another year of gymnastics under your belt and a slew of medals to show for it. You had meets where you felt like you were on top of the world and meets you left disappointed and discouraged, cheeks streaked with tears. But my gosh, you tried and you tried – and when you went to the state gymnastics meet, I’ve never seen you work quite that hard. You medaled on the balance beam and even though you missed your goal of qualifying for regionals by such a narrow margin, I saw the joy on your face as you raised your arms in salute on the podium.

People tell horror stories of what it is like to have teenage daughters but I don’t feel that way at all. You’re pretty freaking likeable. You send me the funniest texts, and you have a dry sense of humor that’s probably several years older than you are. And I love it.

We watch Gilmore Girls, and you get my Friends references and sometimes we all go have ice cream for dinner. You help me talk your sister into brushing her hair. You are a pro at sorting laundry and you tell me what to eat when I’m hangry.

Fourteen years ago, I saw your face for the first time. Fourteen years ago, I held you in my arms for the first time Today, you are nearly as tall as I am and we wear the same size shoe (which means that we can share Chucks which is pretty much the best thing ever though I have yet to actually wear your Chucks – though I did wear your koala socks to work the other day).

I am excited for your future. Recently you’ve decided that you want to own a bakery when you’re older – and since you’ve started a Pinterest board for it, it must really be a thing. Whether it’s a bakery – or something else – I cannot wait to see what the years ahead bring for you.

Let’s start with this one. Fourteen is going to be a good one. I can feel it.

Happy birthday, Princess. I love you very much and I’m so very lucky to be your momma.

Love, mom

 

39 Before 40 – A list of things to do before I’m too old to care

  1. Buy something frivolous.
  2. Take a spontaneous day off.
  3. Enter a photography contest.
  4. Buy brand new towels.
  5. Finally, for real, start saving.
  6. Eat more tacos. [Make a new taco recipe every month]
  7. Try a new place to eat every month.
  8. Learn how to put on eye make up so I don’t look asleep in every photograph taken of me.
  9. Create a font out of my handwriting
  10. Buy new sheets
  11. Take a cooking class
  12. Do the Couch to 5K program again
  13. Run an actual 5K
  14. Stay at a fancy pants hotel for a night
  15. Master making french press coffee
  16. Finally pull the carpet tacks out of the basement
  17. Go see a live concert
  18. Hit the $1,000 mark fundraising mark for Foundation Fighting Blindness
  19. Make flossing a habit
  20. Read “The Lifechanging magic of tidying up” – and try to…uh…tidy up
  21. Buy a statement piece – whether it’s clothing or an accessory – something sassy and amazing
  22. Get to an amusement park
  23. Try a yoga class
  24. Try a ballet class
  25. Tackle a DIY decor project for the house
  26. Spend a day curled up on the couch reading
  27. Finally use my spa gift card
  28. Cook something really difficult (like…toast. Or something!)
  29. Use only actual dollar bills, y’all… for a week. And save the change.
  30. Christmas project with the girls. Shhh. I can’t tell you what it is. It will spoil the surprise.
  31. Go ice skating
  32. Cook using an ingredient I’ve never used before (vanilla beans, I’m lookin’ at you)
  33. Get a passport
  34. Go see two movies in one day
  35. Send more cards and/or handwritten letters
  36. Drive to a small town I’ve never been to, within 50-miles-ish-radius and walk around
  37. Make it through the winter without drastically cutting my hair (trims are allowed, but none of this, “Oh! It’s February! Let’s chop my hair!” nonsense)
  38. Create a new tradition
  39. Get up to Traverse City to attend another event at 2Lads Winery (they know how to throw a party!)

A Letter To My Pumpkin on Her 10th Birthday

Dear Pumpkin,

Ten years ago this morning I can tell you exactly what was on television: baseball and syndicated episodes of Mork & Mindy. I’m not sure how on earth there was baseball on television – we arrived at the hospital sometime around 4 a.m. and you were born before 6 a.m. – but there was baseball. Somehow. This morning, there will be no baseball or Mork & Mindy, but there will be birthday gifts early in the morning – surprises you don’t know are coming, and tonight we’ll order Chinese food and celebrate your birthday with dumplings.

Today you are ten. Double digits. Halfway to 20.

Where on earth does the time go?

You still love dogs – more than most things, actually – and along the way you have had things that have interested you, things that you clung to but nothing nothing nothing like your love of dogs. I know it, your friends know it, your family knows it – so much dog stuff – right down to the wrapping paper on the gifts from grandma.

Your dinosaur phase never lasted so long.

You are my tender heart, my sensitive soul. You wear your heart, your emotions, they are all on display for everyone to see. And I both love that about you, and worry about it at the same time. I know that there are times I don’t understand, or times when I am not as patient as I could be, but I try, always to be gentle with your sweet heart because I know how strongly you feel everything.

You recently started taking piano which I think is very special – last week you texted me and said, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.” The next day, you texted me after your lesson and you said to me, “I changed my mind.” I’m excited to see where this takes you. It doesn’t have to be a thing you do, but I’m glad that you’re trying it because I think music is good for kids (hey, it’s good for grownups too). I love that you’re trying something new and that you’re giving it a shot even when it was frustrating – because there are moments where life is frustrating and you have to work your way through the challenges sometimes in order to build your strength and get better.

Look, I don’t care if that thing you love is piano or if it’s something entirely different (I love that you love dogs, that you write, that you’re so creative) – I just want you to find ways to build joy into your life, to find new things and try new things, and to take the opportunities that you encounter.

This year, you’ll be going into fifth grade – our last year before middle school. I cannot believe this is our last year of elementary school. We celebrated your birthday over the weekend and you had friends come over and spend the night and you girls stayed up giggling and running around until 11:30 and oh, how exhausted we were yesterday – but I am happy to see you and your friendships and the people you surround yourself with. We had pizza and brownie sundaes and when you played Truth or Dare with your friends, you prank called your sister’s phone as if you were placing an order at the Wendy’s drive through.

Last week, you and your sister started writing a song about being sisters and I swear I felt my heart just explode into a bunch of tiny beautiful sparkly pieces because I know you argue sometimes but other times, it’s so very clear how much love you have for each other, how much love you have for your sister. It makes me insanely happy.

You won’t take the last piece of cake in case someone else wants it. You’re kind, generous and always thinking of others.

Your favorite color is turquoise.

You write imaginative stories and not just imaginative stories, but you create these well thought out concepts in your head about what you’re going to do and how and that’s pretty impressive.

You have a way of sensing when others are hurting and you are at the ready with a hug – it’s one of those things – I worry about your sensitivity sometimes, and yet one of the true benefits of it is that you can read the emotions of people around you and you respond with kindness and with love. You are tender hearted, but you show tenderness in return and that is a true blessing.

I love you so very much. You will probably always march to the beat of your own drummer – and while other people may not always truly appreciate the amazing and wonderful things that make you who you are, I will always love the wonder and the joy you bring into my days, just by being you. You being you is perfect.

Happy birthday, sweet Pumpkin. I love you so very much and I’m so lucky to be your mom.

Love,

mom.

 

Thursday Ten: What 38 Years Has Taught Me edition

Oprah is kind of known for many things, but in recent years, she’s done a lot of the whole “What I Know For Sure” bit – she even released a book about it, which is cool and all – you can do that when you’re Oprah. But the thing is, what I know for sure is that there’s very little that I truly know for sure.

Today, I turn 38 and I find that there are far more mysteries than certainties – and I’m trying to reconcile myself to that fact. Perhaps I am not meant to have all of the answers.

But here are some things I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Plans are just that. Plans. Sometimes plans change.

“Make a plan, god laughs.” I think that’s how the saying goes. Anyway, I’m a planner – I like to have a path – I like to know that I can put one foot in front of the other confidently in the direction of my goals and that I’m going to get there. Except…sometimes you don’t. Sometimes things change, plans change, and you have to adjust your sails and change along with it. I thought that I knew where I would be at this point in my life – 38 feels dangerously close to 40 and I still feel like I’m muddling through sometimes.

The thing is, as difficult as it may be to change your course, sometimes – plans change for a reason.

Not knowing the direction you’re heading towards is scary, but it’s a lot less scary than moving in the wrong direction.

2. Priorities – you really should have some.

I am a parent – first and foremost, probably – I am a mother and so there’s an ever present realization in my mind that there are two amazing children who come before me. It means that sometimes I am at the absolute bottom of my list – but having people counting on me means that I need to be dependable, reliable and someone they can trust to be there.

Because I am a parent, because I am an employee, coworker, teammate, because I am someone that people count on, there are times that life gets complicated because I’m juggling so as to make sure things are taken care of.

And not to be all judgey (but I totally get to be all judgey because it’s my birthday and it’s my blog) but sometimes I see people acting with no real sense of obligation to anything except their own self and it boggles my mind. Ditching plans with your children, calling in sick to work because you don’t feel like it, waiting for someone else to take care of you rather than trying to find your own solutions.

I think I was born an old soul. It’s not to say I always do the right thing – but generally I know what is most important and all else falls in line behind that.

3. There’s a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. And it is possible to feel lonely, even when you’re surrounded by people.

I wrote this on a scrap of paper for this post and then had a conversation with a friend who basically said to me these very words. It is possible to feel lonely when you are surrounded by people. What I’ll add to that is that loneliness is one of the worst possible feelings in the world.

I’m all about my alone time – I am every bit an introvert – and being around people nonstop eventually wears me out. That alone time to recharge, recoup – it is as essential to me as air some days.

But lonely is different. Lonely doesn’t feel like a choice. Lonely is feeling like someone chooses not to see you. Lonely is an ache that seems to build in the pit of your stomach and leaves you hunched against the wall wrapped in sadness.

I’ve been alone and I’ve been lonely and I’ll take being alone over being lonely – any day of the week.

195 | 365

4. Bacon and maple syrup. Grilled chocolate sandwiches. Dipping fries in milkshakes. Warm french bread. Deprivation = bad. Moderation = good.

When the South Beach diet was the rage, there was nothing that sounded quite as miserable to me as a life where carbs were a no-no. And now there’s paleo and whole 30 and voluntarily going gluten-free {Hey y’all with legit gluten sensitivities – chill out, I’m not talking about you}. I’ve had my days of counting fat grams and calories but ultimately, every time I hear the phrase, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” I just feel sad for those poor lost souls who have never had a decent piece of cheesecake.

I cannot imagine my life without warm cinnamon rolls, or garlic bread. Without margaritas in a salt-rimmed glass. Chips so fresh that they’re warm and a spicy salsa.

I don’t want to imagine my life without them – so I don’t. I just eat them. Maybe not as much as I want, or as often – but at least I don’t have to live without. (I haven’t yet worked out how to not feel guilty about it yet. Ask me again next year.)

5. Break a sweat daily.

Maybe this is why I can say with such certainty that you shouldn’t deprive yourself of the yummy stuff – because you should also be moving. Not only is it better for you health wise if you are active – but if you’re anything like me, you’re probably less of a jerk face when you’re exercising regularly.

6. You are not responsible for other people’s emotions.

When it comes to emotions, it may not always be easy to understand but essentially what you feel is what you feel. No, someone didn’t “hurt you” – your hurt stemmed from your reaction. Someone didn’t “make you sad” – you just WERE.

If you are one who avoids conflict then you’re familiar with the feeling of trying to not upset people – but this is the glorious thing: YOU CAN’T. If you could control the emotions of other people, MY GOD! Imagine the power you would have. But… you can’t. You can’t and I can’t and he can’t and she can’t. We just…can’t. Feelings are what they are and you can’t go through life trying to protect people from their negative feelings or expecting them to protect you from yours. Sometimes you will be sad. You’ll hurt. You’ll also be okay because everything will get better. Feel what you need to feel for as long as you need to feel it and then find a way to move onward. Sometimes other people will be sad or mad or whatever they happen to feel.

Feelings don’t always make sense, but it’s up to each of us to own our own feelings.

7. Sleep isn’t as easy as it should be.

All the science says that there are big time benefits to getting enough sleep and huge detriments to your health and well being when you don’t accumulate enough zzzzz’s and yet so many people I know (and myself!) struggle with insomnia, at least occasionally. You would think that for how lovely and enjoyable and good it feels, it would be far easier to do. It’s not.

When the girls were born, I thought I was done with insomnia – I was just so worn out at the end of the day that I slept HARD. These days? I fall asleep easily… I just often end up waking in the middle of the night and then an hour before my alarm in the morning. I’m tired. I shouldn’t be mad at sleep but I am more than a little bit mad at sleep.

 

8. Sometimes you just gotta go through the yucky stuff.

As much as you want to avoid anything negative, sometimes you can’t. And as much as you want out once you’re in, sometimes there’s no way out but to slog right through it. It’s this yucky stuff that builds our character and all that stuff. It’s the badge of honor, the sense of pride, the “lo hicimos! We did it!” Dora-The-Explorer moment. Sucks when you’re in the midst of it but life doesn’t let us move in reverse. Onward.

9. Money can’t buy you happiness but a lot relies on that stupid green stuff. There’s nothing wrong with you if you think about money. A lot.

Yes, money can’t buy happiness.

The best things in life are free.

Things are just things.

And all of those little platitudes would have me believe that any emphasis I put on money or my lack of it is superficial or wrong, or that my focus is in the wrong place and I’m not truly appreciating all of the blessings ahead of me to which I say: Uh. Whatever, bub. Like it or not, money is what keeps the roof over your head, the food on the table, the clothes on your back, the lights on above you. It is what fills your gas tank so you can drive to work so you can earn money for said roof and all that other jazz.

And really most of us are just getting by. Or so it seems.

I can’t begin to recount the number of conversations I’ve had with friends and family – and there’s probably not a single one of us who would turn away from a money tree in our front yard. But trust me, there’s also not a single one of us who doesn’t see how blessed we are in other ways. You can feel blessed AND stressed.

Trust me. I know.

10. I’m not done learning.

Think I’m done learning? Think again. I’m learning new things all the time – about myself, about my kids, about the people in my life, the world around me. I joke that I am older than dirt, but I’m still at the beginning. There’s so much more to learn, so much more to see, and so much yet still in front of me.

I’m a spring-mother-clucking-chicken. (I cringed as I typed that, I hope you know)

I’m not done yet.

Here’s to another year.

Here’s to love and learning and hope and slogging through the yucky stuff. Here’s to saving my pennies and bitching over the energy bill. Here’s to margaritas and cookies. To alone time without loneliness. To birthday cake and wrinkle cream.

Alright, 38. Let’s do this…