Saturday, June 13, 2015

Squirrely Girl is 8!

Dearest Little Girl,

Wow! Eight years old! I am not even sure how we got here. Did I blink? The moments pass so quickly...

So often, I try to take you into my arms and find that you are all legs and arms, and it seems like almost nothing is left of the tiny baby that once fit in my palms. Other times, she is still there, wide blue eyes, joy and innocence.

This has been a wonderfully transformative year for you. Last year in school, you struggled to find your place. A few of the friendships you had were full of drama and "mean girls" that left you feeling confused and hurt on a regular basis. I struggled to help you understand that you are enough and that your gentle little heart was not a weakness, even though at times it felt like a burden. This year, with the change of classmates and a teacher who found your strengths and really helped you grow, you've had a tremendous year. You're still in search of that "best friend" that is always kind and who you can always be "you" with, but I can see how much happier you are, how you are back to yourself and the free, happy little spirit you have always been. You are such a reader this year! You finished the year with the highest AR score in the grade, and loved spending your time reaching those goals. You're still having some math anxiety--exacerbated, I think, by last years struggles. Many days have you laid on the floor to throw a temper tantrum at the thought of having to do a single sheet of homework. But truly, those moments are overshadowed by the overall change I have seen in  you this year as you have hit your stride.

Aside from math homework, and the occasional torments of your brothers, your life is full of happiness. You are still the great event coordinator--making big plans to organize the neighborhood kids, calling "family meetings," directing your brothers in whatever type of pretend play suits you. Sometimes you make me more than a little crazy with your elaborate ideas--which often lead to even more elaborate messes. But I do love your creativity and ability to round up others into your ideas.

One change this year that has been hard on me is that tween transition--the one where Mom and Dad fall from the pedestal. Where once our word was Gospel, we now find ourselves occasionally subjected to eyes rolling, disbelief, arguments, or--worst of all--those withering, hateful looks that break my heart. I know these moments are all about you learning to be your own person (with a touch of changing hormones), and an important part of your growing up, but at the same time, it's another reminder of the slow march you take towards severing the strings that bind our hearts together. Thankfully, these moments are less frequent than the moments of laughter, snuggling, talking together, and general trust you still have in us, and often followed by sweet notes of apology that almost make it worth the glares and sass.

You love singing, and acting, and art. You write your own silly songs and dream of being a "pop star." Last summer, we acted in Seussical together, you as the cutest Who from Whoville there ever was, and this year, you are preparing for your parts as fish and seagull in The Little Mermaid. You even took the lead of "Mother Goose" in your 2nd grade play, with a singing solo to boot. You are still a performer, with the ability to light up on stage for an audience in a way that fills me with a type of pride I could have never imagined before you came into my life.

I see your growth in the Gospel as well--your thoughtful questions, your desire to be baptized. (You'll be baptized in the Snake River, and there is a high level of apprehension about this, and excitement about making your first covenants with your Heavenly Father.) You like to teach Family Home Evening, you'll read scriptures as long as we let you. And though your brothers protest, you are always happy and excited to go to church.

You are such a good example to me, and so often I feel I fail you. But you are full of forgiveness and unending love. You are the best kind of big sister--patient, loving, gentle. Sure, there are moments where you can't take any more of the harassment they give you and lose your cool, but for the better part, your actions speak of the love you have for those boys of ours. So many nights, I may come to your room to find them curled up with you, listening to you read a book, or playing a game of your design.

I know I probably say this, every year, but my sweet, darling, busy, squirrely girl, you are joy. I could spend my day watching you play. There is such a light in you; it exudes happiness and wonder. My deepest prayer for you is that no one ever succeeds in extinguishing that light. It's most manifest in your laughter--oh that laugh that comes from your toes and causes you to grab your belly and buckle in two--but it's there in the way you chase butterflies, talk about your friends, tell us what you learned in Primary, eat a watermelon, and create art. You know kindness, joy, and love, and you work to acquaint everyone you meet with these companions of yours.

I am grateful every day for you, for who you are becoming, and for who you are helping me become. I am slow to progress, imperfect, and in need of grace, but you are the reminder that God loves me, else why would he have ever given me such a gift as you?

I love you, my princess. For always.



Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday, to the Grasshopper

Oh, little bug. You are three! I don't know where the time went, or where the tiny little baby that was forever attached to me has gone. Instead, here is a child, with long arms and legs spilling out of my embraces.

You are hilarious. And weird. And ornery. And mischievious. And sweet. And stubborn. And goofy. And cantankerous. And snuggly. And thoughtful. And smart.

There are perhaps no words that do not, at some point in any given day, describe you. Where I sometimes have a hard time pinning down just the right word for your siblings, for you, I have a hard time limiting the list.

Every since you were a tiny baby, you have had this face that is just a hoot to watch. The emotions and thoughts that run through your head tick across your face like so many frames in a moment of film. It is so easy to read your feelings, see the workings of your mind, as they scroll across your face. The furrow of your brow, the sideways glance, the flick of the corner of your mouth, the flare of your nostrils--all these things happen here and there, every moment across that lovely, remarkably expressive face of yours. Micro-expressions testifying of a storm of thought beneath it all. As you gently move from toddler-hood to childhood, I can see this characteristic begin to fade, and yet I hope that always a glimmer of it will remain.

You are very much the same way in personality as your face is in expression. You are many things, constantly changing things, a wide spectrum of things from this moment to the next. You love your brother and sister with deep affections; moments later you delight in their torment. (If there is a bully in this family, it is most certainly you, my darling.) You lash out as you test your independence to do things on your own; just as suddenly, you are sweetly asking for help. You sometimes hit; you quickly apologize. You claim to be the boss; you are equally likely to tell everyone that you are the baby. In one moment, you smile and laugh; in the next, you weep and gnash teeth. Part of this, of course, is that you've spent the last year being two, but part of it is also, I think, just who you are--I often say that when you do something, you do it all the way. There is no half-heartedness about you. Only fire and ice.

Like your siblings, you are verbally precocious. You talk a great deal and turn phrases in a way we rarely expect. You are an excellent mimic. Though he detests it--and the two of you often find yourselves in a row over the matter--you love to copy your brother. You repeat his words, mirror his play, and follow him around with absolute commitment, even when it leads to him erupting in anger. And oh, how you love your big sister. There have even been times, after sustaining a minor injury or a particularly upsetting loss (in your world, perhaps a denied cookie, or an end to your screen time), where you will choose Ainsley over me for your comfort. And yet, you love them both, calling out their names in excitement every time they come home from school.

Your relationship with Daddy is more complicated. He is a great deal of fun. He's most excellent for playing pretend or getting into tickle fights. But, let's be honest, he's second fiddle to me. Your older siblings never had quite the same kind of favoritism toward me as you do...and it would be dishonest to act as though I don't relish it just a little. You are my "maybe baby," and I admit to letting you get away with more than your siblings, taking longer to say good nights, indulging you in your babyisms. You still take a bottle, because I just can't stand the heartache that comes when I tell you no. You still wear a diaper--because you are a stubborn little beast with zero interest in or currency to convince you to try learning the potty.

Watching you play is one of my favorite things. Unlike your brother and sister, who feel the need to "direct" one another through every line or action of their play time, you play much more spontaneously and amuse yourself with considerable more ease. At times, you have even been toy-less in the car and resorted to making different voices for each of your hands, and then acted out a scene between them. You love to play fighting and ninja games. But you also love to whip things up in your play kitchen, drive toy cars around the house, put Mr. Potatohead together and pull him apart all day, and act out scenes for him.

I think, thus far, you are my most musically attuned child. You insist on a song every night, and nearly without fail, you request "Dinos Marching" (which is a poor, four verse adaptation of "The Ants Go Marching"). You sing along and snuggle as I sing. Another thing I love is that when I make up silly songs about what we are doing (which is regularly),  you love to try to sing along. You easily pick up the note progression and where the song is going, and then watch and listen to pick out the words as they come.

You've been accident prone this year. This year you sustained a couple of good knocks to the head, a nasty burn (as a result of you knowing better and refusing to trust Daddy when he tried to keep you away from something hot), and an eye patch. All of this, I think, is a manifestation of your growing independence, and probably that all-or-nothing tendency you have.

This past year, I left my job managing full time, and though my job was flexible before and allowed us a lot of time together, I am relishing the ample time we have now, the fact that when I am with you, I am WHOLLY with you, without distractions from tenants or phone calls. You've noticed this too, and commented on how you like to be with me a number of times. Those moments are my greatest paycheck. You're my little buddy, and we do it all together: play on the floor, watch shows, grocery shop, sing songs in the car. Your being a "mommy's boy" has, in many ways, made me a "Simon's mommy," but I love the opportunity to be with you, experience your joys and heartaches, and watch you become a whole person.

In some ways, you are a challenge, in others, I feel I parent you with great ease. I love this period of our lives, when you sneak into my bed every night, throw your tiny arms around my neck with frequency, look up at me with constant and unmatched love and admiration, just you and me a while each day while the big kids are away at school. I know it will pass all too quickly, and hope I can tuck away all the sweet moments that make this period of our lives special. I am grateful every. single. day for you.

Thank you for being you, and for choosing me as your mom. I love you!