Monday, April 18, 2016

Mom, have you written my birthday letter yet?

It's not quite your birthday, but you've already asked a few times when I am going to get this done. There's a part of me that wonders at what point you all will outgrow wanting me to write these letters, but it hasn't happened yet.

I'd be okay with it staying that way forever, by the way.

You'll be eleven in a couple of days. Finishing up elementary school in a few weeks. Moving on to middle school in a matter of months.

This year has been so full of changes and transitions for you.

So many of them, coming from so many different parts of your life, sometimes all at once.

These transitions haven't always been smooth ones, this is true. This year hasn't exactly been peaceful and calm all the time. When we decided to pull you out of elementary school and homeschool you this year, it wasn't a decision we made lightly or without (literal) years of contemplation. We were sure that it was time, we were sure that this was the year to do it, we we sure that our reasons were sound ones. This picture, this one right here, told me we did the right thing. You weren't anxious, you were happy to go to school for the first time in a long time.

You, for the most part, rolled with it. You knew why we were making such a drastic change. You embraced the homeschooling supplement program with great enthusiasm, having the opportunity to meet new people and study subjects you would never have had the chance to learn about in traditional school. You've thrived in that setting, you've learned far more independence and flexibility. You've even, dare I say it, learned to love to read.

Then there is the matter of the jazz hands. All the jazz hands.

This past summer when your brother couldn't go on the 14+ mile backpacking trip your Dad had already planned, you hesitantly agreed to go. You really weren't sure what to expect, having only done short hikes and trips before, but you absolutely loved it. Well, almost all of it. I know that middle of the night nosebleed and the afternoon when the dehydration hit you weren't the highlights, but you and Dad figured it all out together. You fixed what needed to be fixed and went on.

While you were out there, you fell in love with fishing, deeply in love with fly fishing. When the opportunity to take a fly fishing class here in town came up, you jumped at the chance, not hesitating for even a moment. After the first class, you mentioned that you were the only girl there merely in passing, telling me that you really don't care that you're the outlier and that you are this secure in your own skin that it doesn't phase you, even when other people point it out.

It's just not on your radar.

You love what you love, and you really don't care what other people say.

Plus, you can do a perfect whip finish on a fly. Dad still can't quite get that one down, needing to ask you for help instead.

The two of you need this together, this hiking and backpacking and fishing and fly tying. You are the one of our children most like me and you are the one of our children least like him in every other way. This gives you a boatload of things in common, things that you both love, things you are both passionate about, things you are both damn good at. I don't even know how many trips you have planned with your Dad currently. He taught you to paddleboard and backpack and fly fish and snow ski last year. I'm excited to see what you learn this year.

I think he's totally serious about wanting to climb one of the 14ers someday, and I'm sure you'll be the first one he asks.

At some point this past year, you also decided that you want to start competing in triathlons. I'm not entirely sure where this came from, but you've been training for it ever since you made up your mind. You weren't even a very strong swimmer when you decided to do this, but you jumped in the pool and started swimming laps anyway. You've been tacking on a lap to your total just about every time we go.

You're out there in the neighborhood running laps and pushing the bike rides longer and longer, racing against no one but yourself and the clock.

You've even tried to convince some of your siblings to sign up with you. Whether they agree remains to be seen, but you've had a head start on training for sure.

When people asked what you wanted for your birthday this year, you asked for a new pair of running shoes, a matching exercise outfit for the triathlon and a fishing pole.

Oh, and fake nails and makeup.

You still want to be fabulous, of course.

OF COURSE YOU DO. You're still the girl with the matching outfits and the leopard print rashguard.

You've always got one bag packed, one foot out the door. You're always on the lookout for the next adventure.

In the past few months, you've started cooking and baking too. It's turned into a full blown obsession, one that frequently leaves the kitchen looking like a complete mess. There have been a few times where things didn't quite work out according to the recipe, but for the most part, they've been wild successes. You love contributing to the family meals, you love making special things for each person, you've even started asking people for requests.

I can see you on Cupcake Wars someday.

As this school year comes to a close and the planning for next year begins, I know that you are a little unsure of how it will go - I know that going back into public school has you nervous. It will be okay. You will be okay. You've learned already this year just how well you do in a school setting where classes change all the time. You've learned already how to get around the campus and adjust to the preferences of different teachers. Since your older brother and sister have already been through this middle school, you already know many of the teachers too. Many of your friends from elementary school will be there, and you'll meet even more new people.

You're going to be okay, in fact, you're going to be better than okay.

You're going to be amazing, because that's the one thing you've proven this past year more than any other. You truly can do anything you set your mind to and will work and work until you reach your goals.

You just have to decide to do it.

Keep setting those goals. Keep surprising me with the newest thing that you fall in love with, then teach yourself how to do perfectly. Keep refusing to fit into the tiny boxes people try to put you in. Keep following your heart.

I'll be here, searching for deals on those books you love, keeping track of your lap times, obliging whenever you want to try a new recipe, taking pictures of you when you aren't paying attention.

I love you, sweet girl.

Stay you.

Happy birthday.


p.s. YOU are my superwoman.

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