Happy birthday, big girl!

It’s been a banner year for you, Ellie. While 2016 was stomping over the rest of us, you stepped outside your comfort zone, tried new things, and came away from it all grinning and asking for more.

You went to a week-long Girl Scout camp for the first time. We worried about sending you to stay in a strange place, but you jumped in with both feet, with barely a “Love you, bye!” when we dropped you off. You sobbed for hours when it was over and still talk about your camp friends, the memories you made, and how much you can’t wait to go back. We got a glimpse of the independent young woman you’ll be, and it was both heartbreaking and breathtaking to observe.

You’re still our geek; we never have to ask you to do your homework, you voluntarily spend extra time working on math problems and making up assignments for yourself, and you’re a straight-A student. You joined the gifted & talented program this month, the youngest in your class, and it’s given you so much to talk about. I love that you love to learn, and I hope that continues!

You wow me with your ability to make friends and chat people up with only a hint of self-consciousness. Your father and I, staunch introverts, wonder how we made such a bubbly, enthusiastic kid.

And yet, I see shyness in you, too; like this fall, when you refused to dance at your uncle’s wedding. You’re starting to notice differences; what makes people stand out, what makes people blend in. If I could wish for anything, it would be for you to ignore that little voice of self-doubt for a few more years, and to dance with the freedom of your six-year-old self.

For all your maturity, you’re also loud, rambunctious, and silly. You still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. You have to be reminded not to use bathroom words (and make bathroom noises, ahem) at the dinner table. You still want kisses goodnight and snuggles in the morning.

You’re eager to “grow up”, but scared of what that means. And I have to remind myself that you’re not thirteen (as much as you wish you were). You’re eight — eight! — and you have a lot of growing to do.

Take your time, kiddo. You’re living some pretty great years right now. I’m so lucky I get to watch and cheer you on.

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Gwen’s Christmas List

Last night, Gwen decided to write out her Christmas wish list for Santa, and the above was the result. She did this mostly without help, which is impressive, given she’s still in the early stages of learning how to read and write.

Kindergarden has been a struggle for her. She’s the youngest in her class, and she started off the year with some separation anxiety. She also became easily frustrated by more challenging tasks. Things seem to be improving, though, because yesterday, she told us she was “thankful for school, because it teaches us new things.”

That she voluntarily wrote something on her own is a milestone, and I’m sure the motivation of OMG PRESENTS helped.

In case you were wondering what the above actually means:

  • Poppette Shoppie
  • LEGOs (“Wagoz” KILLS ME because this is exactly how she pronounces her L’s)
  • Rudolph toy
  • Coco Cookie Shoppie
  • Beados
  • Zoo toy

And at the bottom, she wanted to clarify that this is her “birthday party” (“boyfda prde” I’M DYING FROM CUTE PLEASE SAVE ME) wish list, even though we tried to tell her that it was for Santa, and that her birthday is many months away. She would not be deterred.

I’m going to cherish this piece of paper forever.

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Happy birthday, Ellie!

This day seven years ago brought a world of change to our family, in the form of 7 lbs 13 oz of baby girl, who now looks like this:

Little sister included for scale

Little sister included for scale.

Ellie and I got off to a rocky start. A long labor and rough birth coupled with breastfeeding struggles meant lots of changes to my meticulous, best-laid plans. Her first week outside the womb was humbling and exhausting in ways I’ve yet to experience in any other part of my life, including the birth of our second daughter.

Any motherly instinct I might have had was quashed by well-meaning and sometimes conflicting advice from my friends, family, pediatrician, midwife, and doula. I wanted desperately to do everything right which, of course, is impossible, but never underestimate the power of postpartum hormones to convince you of impossible things.

It took about six weeks before I felt like Ellie wasn’t someone else’s kid on temporary loan. I loved her, adored her, but the role of “Mom” was a tight fit. For a while, I felt more like a failed dairy cow than a Mom-with-a-capital-M. She took my orderly world, tipped it on its side and shook it like a snow globe.

…but snow globes are beautiful when shaken, and things got better. I learned to relax a little, and she learned to sleep a little, and we came to a mutual understanding — that we’d both do the best we could, and we’d probably come out all right.

What is this “cookie” you speak of, and where can I obtain more of it?

Now she’s a bright, growing kid with a mind that blows me away. She’s a voracious learner, a sponge for academics; math and reading and science are all fair game. She loves to be the center of attention, the boss. “Mama, look at this!” is a frequent refrain. She reminds me of myself as a kid, but bolder, more outgoing, more outspoken.

You are getting verrrrry sleeeeeeepy…

In turn, she’s made me braver, more empathetic, and more patient. She’s given me a perspective on life that’s entirely unique to our relationship, as I think first-borns are prone to do.

Thanks to Ellie, I’ve watched my husband and partner of 15 years become a loving, doting father. And three years down the road, I got to witness her transformation from only child to big sister, a role it seems she was born to play.

Happy_Halloween_

From a tiny, squalling baby to a dancing, laughing big girl — I’m so lucky to be able to learn from her. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

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