Happy 14th Birthday, Kiddo

Dear Pumpkin,

As I write this, you are talking to me about making sure we have blankets and bottles of water in the basement in case there is a tornado. There’s not currently any weather going on, but it’s what’s on your mind right now. You’ve definitely got my tendency toward worry and so I’m glad you’re telling me what’s on your mind, even if it’s stuff I can’t fix.

You’re fourteen today. Holy bananas. I still remember the day you were born, watching Mork & Mindy in the hospital with the doctor before you were born, not that there was much time for that. It was a fast labor, and an early morning and for years after, you were such a morning person and I always thought, “She’s just gonna be an early bird for all her life…” But you got trickier to wake up this year – yay teenagers!

You graduated from eighth grade this year and in a month, you’ll be heading off to your freshman year of high school. You really started to find your stride this year, you found a great group of friends, and you caught your groove. It was really lovely to see. You have this group of friends who are creative and weird and funny and I’m happy to see you with your tribe.

You continued to rock your classes, bringing home fantastic grades, seemingly without trying. I know that the rules and requirements – classes you have to take, things you have to do – annoy you. Authority is not your favorite thing. Well, you’re just not a fan for a rule without a reason. It’s not uncommon to explain something to you or tell you about a rule and have you respond, “Well… that’s stupid.” Yes. Sometimes the world is stupid. You don’t want to do something just because you should. You don’t want to just accept that something should be done because it always has been.

You are a theater nerd extraordinaire. You’re always listening to musicals on Spotify. You listen to stuff I’ve never even heard of. I feel like we should go see more shows.

You don’t like cleaning. Or doing laundry. Or cooking.

Singing is your favorite and you’ve had a lot of fun in voice lessons over the past year. It’s given you a bit more confidence and you’ve tried out for roles in shows at school – I was always too shy to do that. I am always so proud to see you go after what you want. This summer, you spent a week at theater camp and you came home at the end of each day just completely wiped out. The choreography was intense and I couldn’t believe that they were teaching kids such difficult stuff to learn in a week and yet you put in 110% every day and you had so much fun at show time.

You can be tough as nails and angry and grumpy.

You can be soft and vulnerable and loving.

I suppose those flip sides of the same coin should be expected when raising teenagers, and teenage daughters, at that – but the loving side is easier for me and I try to not be frustrated with the grumpy side because I know it will pass. (Am I successfully in my attempts to avoid frustration? Uh. Not always.)

I think you are just the neatest. You are lovely and you have the most magical blue eyes I’ve ever seen.

Last night you said to me, “Mom, you do a lot of jobs. You are our therapist. Our taxi. Our chef. You do a lot. We don’t even PAY you. Why do you do it?” I do it because love. Because I love you and your sister so much. I am so very lucky to be your momma.

Happy birthday, Pumpkin.

I love you.

To My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday

Dear Princess,

Today, you turn 17. I debated, briefly, the idea of giving you all of these letters this year. I thought, well… I’ve waited long enough. But then I realized that next year, you will turn 18 just days after graduating high school, and I like the idea of these being some quasi-graduation-birthday gift.

I am already starting to make myself crazy, as you know, thinking about what is ahead for you this year. As I write this, you have four days of school left, four days until you are officially a senior. I don’t entirely know what to do with that notion. I am both tremendously excited for you, and overwhelmed with emotion. We talk about college and I think of the house without you and while I know that this is what I’ve raised you for – to spread your wings and soar – I am also happiest when my birds are in their nest, so to speak. Guess you and I will both do some growing this year.

You continue to amaze me – you always have. Just this week, you conducted an interview with a local coffee shop owner as part of an assignment for your AP Composition class. Later that morning, I went in to pick up a cappuccino. I thanked him for taking the time to meet with you, and he was overflowing with compliments. “She is so great,” he said to me.

“I know,” I responded. “I’m kind of a fan.”

Would I have ever had the guts to do that sort of thing when I was in school? I don’t think so. And while I know that sometimes it’s not the most comfortable thing, you do the dang thing, and you convey this sense of self-assuredness, confidence.

But, I also see the other side. The sensitive side. That side that reminds me that beneath that old soul, you’re still a kid who is finding her way. Who can have her feelings hurt sometimes. Who trusts that people will care as much as you do, even when sometimes they quite clearly don’t have the same kind of heart.

It’s a struggle, as a mom, to see your kids when they hurt but I feel hopeful that each experience helps shape you into the young adult who is constantly impressing me with her caring nature, thoughtful heart, and wicked sense of humor.

And oh, that sense of humor. You make me laugh. Your observations on people and on life are spot-on, a bit sarcastic, and can be biting in the best way. You are a quick thinker, and it’s that quickness that is so delightful.

A year with your driver’s license and I think you’re one of the best drivers I know. You are cautious but not obnoxiously so. You don’t drive in the left lane for no reason. Whew.

You’re a hard worker. On top of school and extracurriculars, you have been coaching gymnastics. I know it was a hard transition to go from competing to just coaching, but I think you’ve handled it well. Your gymnasts are lucky to have you. This year, they offered you a different coaching position but I’m glad you’ve turned it down. It was a wise decision and it will allow you more freedom to be involved with the musical and play at school.

Without gymnastics, you had the time to tackle a new sport. And within months of essentially picking up a tennis racket for the first time, you had an awesome season. I’m looking forward to seeing where you take it – you’ll take some lessons this summer, and keep on practicing. “I just don’t like to be bad at things,” you told the coaches. If they were thinking of underestimating you, I wonder how long it took them to realize you meant it – that you would get better at this sport, and you weren’t interested in just giving yourself time, you put in the WORK.

Your least favorite class has been pre-calculus and I can’t even blame you and I am fairly certain I haven’t used calc since college, so I know you’ll be fine. You’re rocking your fourth year of Spanish, and you’ve mentioned you think you’ll minor in it when you go to college. I love that.

Where will you go to college? I guess I’ll know by the time I write next year’s letter but for now, you’ve mentioned a few and we’ll get going on college visits soon. Ann Arbor has your attention, and I can’t blame you.

Seventeen years ago, my life changed. You and your sister keep changing my life, every day, all the time and in so many ways. It’s not always easy, but I am so very much grateful for every second of it. I am the luckiest mom in the world to be raising you guys, and I know sometimes it seems I’ve forgotten (like when the sink is full of dishes and someone has forgotten to add milk to the grocery list), but I am always aware.

I like to celebrate that especially on your birthday.

Happy Seventeen, sweet girl. I love you with my whole heart, and I am so very lucky to be your momma.

Lava.

A Letter To My Daughter as She Turns 13

Dear Pumpkin,

As of just a few minutes shy of 6 a.m., you are officially a teenager.

Holy moley.

I don’t even know how that happened or where time went (I know, I say that every year). We are just a few weeks shy of the beginning of eight grade and you are so excited for school to start. Admittedly, it hasn’t been an exciting summer. I’ve been busier than usual and we’ve been unable to find time to get away just yet. But in addition to the boredom, you miss your friends.

This is the year you’ve found your tribe. I’m so excited for you – it’s such an awesome thing to find your people and to develop those friendships. You’ve found a delightful group of creatives and big thinkers and I’m so glad for you to have found that. So you’re ready to get back to school and begin the new year, this last year of middle school (YIKES).

I have two teenage daughters. Whoa. And it’s been an adventure – I won’t pretend that there aren’t some moments that make me want to roll my eyes or pull my hair out. I’m sure you girls have those kind of moments about me, too. But I like seeing who you are becoming.

You are a straight A student. A creative writer. You are terrified you might accidentally plagiarize someone even though you pride yourself on your originality. You are worrisome. You are bold in thought. You are comfortable disagreeing with people. You are passionate about doing what’s right. You wish people were nicer to honey bees. You love English and don’t love math. You want to be on stage some day and have taken voice lessons this summer. You seem to keep forgetting how to do laundry. You are on that line where you struggle with wanting to grow up and wanting to be a kid. You are loving. You want your space. You are an empath. You love Broadway showtunes. You want to travel someday (and now).

I’m really excited for you, about you. You are going to do big things.

This year was a year we’ll probably never forget. In March, you were walking across the parking lot at school and you were hit by a car. (I know you know this, but by the time you read these letters you may have forgotten when it happened). Anyway, in March you were hit by a teen driver who somehow didn’t see you crossing. (I don’t know how, I really don’t). I will probably never forget the call as long as I live, your sister calling to tell me you were fine but that you’d been hit by a car. She was sobbing, so of course I couldn’t really believe you were fine. My coworker drove me to the hospital and I beat the ambulance there – and the wait was torturous. I just needed to see you.

And of course, since I’m writing you this, obviously you WERE indeed fine. They were able to rule out an ankle fracture though it was quite deformed (and badly sprained) and you spent the next several weeks on crutches physically recovering, while I remained an emotional wreck. I mean, I’m still a wreck, if you must know. The whole time, you had such a good attitude. You never seemed upset or mad. You had a performance for your Odyssey of the Mind team two days after wards. Anyone would have understood if you didn’t show up – but you were there, wheeling on a knee scooter, showing up and being there for your team despite the pain you were in. And a week later, you were on stage in your school play – ON crutches that were three inches too tall for you! – because you still wanted to be a part of it all. I don’t know if I can even explain how proud I was of your ability to push through it all – and stunned, too. You could have taken the easy route, but it never even crossed your mind.

I really admire that about you.

You are strong and you stand your ground and for that reason, you can be difficult sometimes but I know how well that will serve you in life (even if it’s a challenge now!).

I’m very excited for you, for this year, and for what is ahead.

You are an amazing dreamer, and daring creative, and a beautiful soul. I love you so very much.

 

Happy birthday, sweet girl. I’m so lucky to be your mama,

Love,

Mom

To My Daughter on her 16th Birthday

Dear Princess,

Today you are sixteen years old – this is a huge milestone. In fact, I debated for awhile: Is this the birthday where I give her all of these years worth of birthday letters? I started thinking, you see… I realized that all along I have been thinking I’d give each of you girls your letters on your 18th birthday. Recently it hit me that your 18th birthday will also be just a few days after you graduate from high school. Seems an awful lot of emotion all at once… but, I think that’s the way it’ll be.

Every year seems to go by faster. As I type this, you are days from the last day of your sophomore year of high school. You’re a good student and you nearly have a 4.0 (Honors Chem is the only thing standing between you and that 4.0 you want so badly – you have busted your tail in this class this year… and you hate it). You’ve loved Honors Choir and you’ve had a few opportunities to shine on the stage this year, in choir and in the musical. I always love to see you perform.

It’s been a difficult year for you, I know. You started last summer recovering from an injury that left you more behind than you wanted to be approaching the gymnastics season. And after recovering from that, you injured your back. Though you started the competition season as planned, pain made it difficult to practice and the few meets didn’t go as well as you hoped. It was a tough decision but I think it was wise when you decided to take the rest of the season off, focus on physical therapy and on healing. I hate that I didn’t realize sooner that it wasn’t getting better – but a trip to the sports med doctor this spring gave us a clear plan. A bone scan identified stress reactions along your spine. Apparently these are common in hyperextension injuries… hyperextension is pretty much gymnastics, so… You’re in a back brace for another week or two, mooooooooore physical therapy, and then – we’ll see? It’s made for a complicated perspective on gym – for now, you’ve been sitting out because you are benched from activity. I like having you home and selfishly I love not driving all over the place all of the time. Gymnastics has been good for you, but it’s been pretty great having you around the house, too.

Tomorrow, we’ll go get your driver’s license. You took the test on Friday and passed. In fact, the woman testing you said that she doesn’t see scores like yours very often. I felt so proud of you! You are a great driver. I know you were nervous about the test, but you rocked it. I can’t believe you’ll be able to drive – by yourself! I’m a little nervous, because that’s what I do.

You are insanely funny – witty, sarcastic, and you have an edge to your humor. You make me laugh daily.

You are also empathetic, kind, and encouraging.

This year, you participated in your first walkout. You raised your voice for change in a protest against gun violence. You were and are a fierce and outspoken advocate for change. Even when it’s not easy.

This year, your outspoken nature brought about a valuable life lesson: There will be those who are uncomfortable when you speak out; speak out anyway. It is not your job to make people comfortable. It’s your job to live your truth, and be the best person you can be. Your friends – your true friends – will want that for you.

So – two years of high school left. I’m already super emotional about it. But each year, I get more excited for you and the things you are going to do in this world. I have confidence that no matter what direction you choose to fly, you will soar.

Sixteen years ago tonight, I held you in my arms. And today, we celebrate you and the joy you bring to our lives daily.

I love you so very much and I’m very lucky to be your momma.

Happy birthday. <3

Love,

Mom

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.