To My Daughter as she Turns 16

Dear Pumpkin,

Sweet 16 – is that even a thing anyone says anymore? I started writing it on your birthday card and stopped myself. It sounded so archaic and old-timey. But you are sixteen and isn’t that sweet?

We’re still a ways away from getting your license – trying to accumulate all of those permit driving hours which has been a challenge in these weird Covid-y times, in part because for the longest time, driver’s training wasn’t being offered and in part because we also just haven’t gone as many places that afford you the opportunity to drive as frequently. We’re chipping away at the time – hopefully we’ll get there soon and you can have your license. You don’t seem much to care and so I don’t push.

Today your friends will come over for brownie sundaes and it’ll be good for you to have time with your friends. They’re a lovely group and I am glad that you all have stayed in touch so well over the summer, recently arranging a potluck day at the beach. You all dressed up and brought a dish to pass and spent hours on a lightly raining day doing your thing. I think you will be glad to be back at school again where there is structure and you’ll be able to spend time with your friends more regularly. Several of your friends attended virtual school last year and they’ll be back in-person this fall and I know you are excited about that.

The last school year was hard – but you found magical moments in the midst of it. You were cast as Beth in the play Little Women, because the director knew you could move people to tears. You were also in the musical. You were quarantined four times due to close contact with covid-positive classmates which resulted in missing the PSAT three separate times (what are the odds? It’s really weird that it kept working out that way).

I didn’t want to pressure you or your sister to push yourselves too hard academically during the madness of the 2020-1 school year and did not, and yet you both managed to excel. You ended up with nearly all As fall semester and straight As in the spring and I am impressed knowing the hurdles you leaped in order to get there. Having to learn materials despite the fact that some teachers didn’t do much to aid students who were remote due to quarantine – I’m not sure how you managed it.

You like to listen to music – lots of music. You have been trying to teach yourself to play guitar. The other day you said, “They put too many chords in songs. Why does anyone need more than four?”

You’re rewatching Gilmore Girls for the third? fourth? time? You also love The Good Place and have every routine from John Mulaney memorized, at least it seems that way. It is interesting to me that I went from knowing all of the shows and movies and music you listened to, to hearing you recite some bit from a stand up routine and have no idea where it came from.

You are little by little starting to talk about college and I know that as much as the last sixteen years have flown, these next two will fly as well. I don’t know yet where you will end up but you’re considering your options and thinking about the kinds of things you might want to do in the future. So it’ll be interesting to see what directions you decide to explore. We’ll figure out some college visits soon, see what places might feel like home to you.

Sometimes you seem to be in your own world but I am always in awe of when you can tell better than most when I am feeling sad or having a bad day. You did this recently. I thought I was doing a decent job of keeping a happy face on and you knew that I was sad. You wanted so much to make things better for me and I was grateful for your love and kindness when I was bummed, while also being frustrated with myself that you needed to ease my feelings. You are so observant sometimes and I am grateful for that.

I started crying when I was wrapping your gifts yesterday. Maybe i’m just emotional lately – goodness knows the past year has done that to me – but maybe because you’re my youngest and you’re getting so old, and it makes me think of how quickly time is flying and how much I’d like things to just slow down a little bit now.

Sixteen. I don’t even know how it happened. Where has the time even gone?

I’m so proud of you all the time, always. I am so very proud to be your momma. And I love you so so so much.

To My Oldest on Her 18th Birthday

Happy 18th birthday, sweet girl. I can’t believe this day is here. 

So, here’s the thing: For all of these years, I’ve been looking forward to today, to giving you these letters. In my head, I imagined you would appreciate the sentimentality… but you got your time capsule from school a few weeks ago, and you haven’t even opened any of those letters, so I suspect that you’ll look at these and feel just completely annoyed.

Win some, you lose some, I guess. 

This was not how I pictured this time in your life, and I know it’s not how you pictured it either. And yes, I find it so cosmically unfair that so many things are left undone at the moment. That we haven’t been able to celebrate, that your school hasn’t stepped up to the plate and done a better job (or, you know, ANYTHING AT ALL) to truly acknowledge your class and this big milestone. This was supposed to be all done – but there are loose ends all over the place, and who knows when they’ll be tied.

That sucks. Graduation was a bust and you’ve barely gotten to spend the time with your friends like you should be. And I’m hoping with all of my heart that something happens soon so you can close this chapter and just start looking forward to the next.

Because I’m so excited about what comes next for you. At this point last year, you weren’t yet excited about the prospect of going to college and then over the summer, you truly started getting excited about it. And then you crushed all things by earning a massive scholarship. I know you struggle with bragging about that – but it’s a huge deal, and I’m so proud of you. At the end of four years, when so many of your classmates will be saddled with student loan debt, you get that chance to start that next chapter with very little debt at all – if any. And that will be huge in the future as you decide where you want to be and what you want to do. You won’t be shackled with that monstrous weight — and why? Because you have worked SO HARD through high school to become the exceptional young lady you are — a strong leader, a compassionate human, an empathetic friend, a helper, and just all around smart cookie. I am so very proud of you.

I have loved every year and every moment watching you grow into who you are. Watching you on stage, lighting the way, has always taken my breath away. Your confidence and grace amaze me — and while I have no idea where it came from, I am glad that you have it, because it will help you in so many ways, wherever you go.

This year you’ll get to vote for the first time and while I am sorry your options aren’t better, I am also confident that you will always take this responsibility seriously and that you will make educated and thoughtful decisions every time you cast your vote. 

I know it’s hard to feel excited about stuff right now, because it feels like the universe is just being a butthead, but despite the current situation and how tough it’s been, I remain excited for you, for your future and what it holds. 

I was thinking the other day of when you were an infant — of the first time I saw your name printed on something that I didn’t write. It was a prescription label, I think. Probably for eye drops. But seeing your name in print, this name I gave you, was a moment of, “She’s mine, this person…” And though I no longer get excited about prescription labels, I do still get a rush of realizing that this person I created is now this totally awesome human adult person. How on earth that happened, I don’t know – but it did and here we are.

I was going to say something about this year ahead and you going off to college, but then I realized that I would end up crying while typing this, so maybe I’ll just skip that part. But I hope you know that the door is always open for you (and your laundry), and I’m glad you won’t be that far away but I’m excited to watch you find your wings because the world is ready for your magic and I can’t wait to see what you do.

Usually I tell you more of what happened during the year — but, well… you know what’s happened this year. It’s all recent enough, you’ll remember.

Happy happy birthday to you. Today, we’ll have your friends come over and, with everyone six feet apart, we’ll have cake and we will celebrate you. I know it’s a weird celebration, but I’m glad we can do something — and I hope you feel loved every moment of today… and every day.

I love you lots and lots of tater tots and I am – as I’ve always been – so very lucky to be your mom. Now go take this world by storm. You’ve got this.


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.


Thursday Ten: Gaining Confidence. Maybe. Kinda. Sorta. Edition

1. Well, with all this free time on my hands I have decided to try to spend more time on portraits. It’s a process because despite my business background and marketing degree, none of that helps with the lack of confidence that can creep in when it comes to my photography skills. It’s too bad, really, because I am the one getting in my own way.

2. Kayak is the coolest. Now, you can set a budget and see all the places you still can’t afford to go. {Flights to Spain for under a grand but…alas! Not yet for me.}

3. Fall, how I already miss thee. What the heck, Michigan? It’s already COLD here. Cold weather means comfort food so last night I baked some beer bread. Delish.

4. And in the midst of editing photographs, I lose sight of taking my own pictures just because. Except this one. This one I love.
052 | 365

5. Halloween is coming and though I strongly dislike Halloween, there’ve been quite a few adorable Halloween books for kids to land in my mailbox. Like Monsters on the Loose!: A Seek and Solve Mystery!, which is very “Where’s Waldo”-esque but without the Waldo. A fun oversized book with brightly colored illustrations to keep your kiddos busy for a bit, looking for the “monsters.” Also Hedgehug’s Halloween – an adorable Hedgehog and awesome collage style illustrations. Finally, Lulu Goes to Witch School (I Can Read Book 2), ideal for your learning to read kiddo. Each of these books retails for under ten bucks each on Amazon right now. Mostly because Halloween is in a few days and I should have told you about these awesome books like two weeks ago.


7. Earlier in the week after a few rough days, I went on a walk after work with one of my dearest friends on the planet. We both kind of needed to vent. The long walk and the accompanying conversation sparked a lot of thoughts and potential blog posts (I always threaten to write deep blog posts but then I never do it, so don’t you worry). My wheels are turning.

8. I am pretty tired this week. Looking forward to a weekend of sleeping in. I hope my brain lets me sleep in!

9. A week past 37, I’m holding up remarkably well for an old lady. And… not really feeling any older. Birthdays are weird, I guess. There’s a lot of emotion tied into my birthdays, mostly because there’s a whole lot of upheaval in my life… but… aside from these gray hairs, I’m doing alright.

10. Every year my mom writes one of those long “this is what we did this year” Christmas letters — I’ve always kind of hated them. When I was a kid, I hated them because our year never could compare with those from people who spent their holidays skiing and traveling and having adventures. As an adult, they’re dreadful for kind of the same reason — how many years in a row do people want to read about us having essentially the same life? This year, I’ve asked if I can write it — it seems like we can’t just be business as usual this year. Every time I’ve tried to imagine what I’ll write, my eyes fill with tears – but I figure that will just have to be okay.

Thursday Ten, It’s MY BIRTHDAY Edition

1. Thank you so much to my BFF who took me to Coldstone for lunch where I had a “For Coffee Lovers Only” (but of course) – coffee ice cream, almonds, Heath bar pieces, and I think caramel. Soooo good. She also gifted me with a bag of Tootsie Pops and a super cool whatchamacallit that says “Believe” for my office. My sis has it tattooed to her arm – for me, I prefer the desk decoration. Very thoughtful, very cool. She ALSO (because she is truly awesome) made a collage for her 365 pics that’s all pics of me. Holy crap. That was a stumble down memory lane this morning. But, it meant the world to me and made me smile and she included pictures from one of the most gruesome days of her life because I think I look cute in them – so thank you.

2. Me and my friend also went to Costco because nothing says “happy birthday” like an economy size bucket of Tide and a six-pack of dental floss.

3. My new music this week… Oh good lord. I hate to admit that I’ve been listening to Britney’s “Womanizer”. Also picked up “Fearless” by Taylor Swift, “Hare Krisna” by Thievery Corporation, and Amy McDonald’s “Run”. (The last two were free – I love the Tuesday pick from Starbucks – free music – wheeeeee).

4. Season Finale of Project Runway last night. Well, shoot. I don’t even know what to say. I didn’t love the final collections of ANY of the three remaining designers. I liked bits and pieces. It’s not like last year when I was totally in love with Christian’s fierceness. Or when I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Daniel Vosovic. I was… meh. I didn’t care. And actually, though the cohesion would have been shot, if I could have taken bits and pieces of the collections and shoved them together, that would have been the ideal situation for me.

5. It is rumored that my grandfather is getting sent home today. That would be the most awesome birthday present ever.

6. Fun gifts so far – The Princess made me a cool candlestick type thing. It’s cool. She MADE the sucker, so that’s awesome. She also made me a card – and that’s my favorite card yet today. Also loving my iTunes gift card.

7. Going out to dinner tonight. Not sure where, but I just pretty much put my foot down. I am not cooking on my birthday. The kids are going too – so it’ll be chaotic and goofy. Pretty much like life usually is.

8. I only watched about the last 30 minutes of last night’s debate, obviously. It was listen to bickering and back biting or watch Project Runway. I am guessing I didn’t miss much.

9. I learned “Silent Night” in guitar lesson today. It’s easier than “O Holy Night” so I’m thrilled.

10. So, I stopped to get coffee today and the barrista today was this little dude. I’m guessing he was 20ish. He looks super young. He usually works mornings, so I wasn’t surprised to see him. I was surprised to get a bunch of his personal life info when I asked how his day was. But, hey to the guy at Starbucks who is getting allergy testing this afternoon – hope it comes out the way you want it to.

Thursday Ten, Coffee is NOT A Food Group

1. Despite my consciously thinking, “I better eat lunch before guitar lesson, I better eat lunch before guitar lesson…”, guess what I didn’t do? Um, yeah. I hit the Starbucks on the way home, and I’m reasonably sure that cappuccinos aren’t anyone’s definition of healthy lunch (but it’s skim milk in there – so… dairy…?).

2. Obnoxiously Proud Mama Moment: Of the three groups established for reading in The Princess’s class, she’s in the highest one. Aw yeah. I’m insanely proud of her – I read constantly, and love that she’s loving it (Hubby hates reading, so there was a 50/50 shot there).

3. Project Runway last night. Sigh. Where to start? Well, you can read my recap here. Otherwise? Man. I wasn’t enthused with it – how about that? How come at this point in the game, no one can make a gown that doesn’t suck? Despite her generic dress last night, I’m rooting for Korto. Girl broke my heart crying on the Runway last night, and I’m usually immune to that stuff (Kenley, I’m talkin’ to you).

4. Soooo, the VP debates are on tonight. (And that’s all I’m gonna say about THAT!)

5. Latest music purchases: “Light On” by David Cook and Taylor Swift’s cover of “Umbrella”. First of all, skip Taylor’s “Umbrella”. It’s about 90 seconds – not the whole song – it’s cute, but… not really worth it because it’s not the whole song. The new David Cook single… it’s alright. Lyrics-wise, I love the verses but I don’t adore the chorus. Someone told me it sounds like an 80s generic ballad, maybe like it ran away from the Footloose soundtrack. Yeah, I guess I can hear that in it (it’s the chorus. Really. I don’t love that part).

6. I’ve gotten so few work emails today that I would think my email was broken if I wasn’t getting so much of the gobbledygook ( Why? And those crazy Red Envelope e-blasts… wait. I like those!). Oh, and the Systems Admin messages that keep reminding me I have until October 12 to change my password. Got it.

7. Just in case you were counting and keeping track – my birthday is two weeks from today. Add it to your calendars, and celebrate appropriately wherever you are. Don’t worry, there will be more reminders. I love my birthday. You should love it too.

8. Fall has come on hard here in Michigan. It’s been gray for days – with moments of sun through it all. When I left for guitar lesson, it was 57 degrees. Coming home, 54. So, no, it’s not warm. Not even a tiny bit.

9. Halloween is coming up. I hate Halloween. Pumpkin wants to be a dalmatian, and some awesome folks on Twitter have given me suggestions for places to check for costumes (I’ll be checkin’ Costco tomorrow) and even how to make one. I am not the crafty costume-making mom. If I actually make a costume, know the whole world will get knocked off its axis – it will be a life-altering experience. Seriously.

10. Still working on reading “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle”, which is one of Oprah’s picks. I’m about halfway through. I’m actually pleasantly surprised. I almost cried at one point in reading last night. But then I remembered my heart is made of rocks and I moved on without emotion. Really, it’s one of her better picks in awhile. Or so I’m guessing. I haven’t read one of her picks since they were a little lighter (“She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb is still one of my all time favorites). It’s definitely worth a try – particularly if you are an animal lover – as it has A LOT to do with dogs. Really.