I sit down to write you your Birthday Letter, and it strikes me that you've been in my life for a DECADE. 10 Years!
Ten years ago a little lady was set into my arms and my biggest dream became a bright, beautiful, technicolor, ten fingers & ten toes reality. The memories made over this first decade all make me smile. These are just a few of them...
You are just shy of 8 pounds and nurse like a fiend. There are whole hours I spend just staring at you.
You are a month old and sleep like Princess and the Pea - atop feather pillows, in pure silence and pitch black. We silence the phones. Put blankets under your door. Watch TV using headphones at night. You have us wrapped around your finger.
You are just two months old and you let out your first belly laugh. I find it hard to think of a single other sound that makes me feel like this one. You and I take daily naps together on the couch.
You are four months old and cut four teeth in two weeks. Daddy and I get four hours of sleep in two weeks.
You are nine months old and take your first steps. Grammie Susan buys you your first pair of shoes. You wear them to the OC Fair and tear up that place! People stop me and ask "Are you sure she should she be walking? How old is she?!" Like I could stop you.
You are almost a year when you first grace the front page of the Daily Pilot. In Daddy's arms...smiling up at him like he hung the moon. (Psssst! He totally did.)
You are 18 months old and can't live without your Pacis. Plural. You have to have two of them when you sleep. One in your mouth and one to squeeze between your tiny fingers. I find you stunning.
You are pretty silent between one and two but you sign the dictionary. Daddy and I learn all the sign language we can and love communicating with you like this. You are obsessed with belly buttons. And the skin between your toes. The very first thing you do when we introduce you to your baby sister is pull her socks off and look between her toes!
You are just over two and we are walking around Balboa Island. You grab my face, point to the sky and a whole sentence comes out of your mouth! "Momma, yook at the seagull!" Daddy and I both look at each other with wide eyes that say "You heard her SAY that too, right?!" You take my breath away.
From two to three you are obsessed with The Wiggles. And "Wow White." You finally get some hair and I put it in pigtails every chance I get. I sing show tunes and hymns and Christmas Carols when I put you to sleep. You always request 'Jingle Bells' and 'Amazing Grace.'
You are four and you become a big sister again. You are kind and helpful and have the cutest page boy haircut I've ever seen. Even if we did have to get it because the neighbor took scissors to your long locks and made me cry.
You are five. You lose your first tooth. You learn to read and write. You get your first stitches. You can cartwheel and flip around the uneven parallel bars like Mary Lou Retton. You have a crush on a boy named Cole.
You are six. You are worried beyond belief over starting a new school. Over being in a new place with not a single friend you knew before. There are nights of tears and sleeping with me & Dad as the time approaches. The morning of your first day, you kiss me goodbye in the door of your classroom and say "Mom, I'm gonna be okay. I decided I'm just going to make one new friend everyday!" I don't doubt it. I cry again.
You are seven. You are smart as a whip. A boy named Devon has a crush on you. He writes you love notes and sends you home with sweaty plastic bags of pennies! You and your sister are inseparable. We move to a new house. A girl from down the street rides her bike past our driveway and hollers, "Hey! I'm Karsen. Can we play?"
You are eight. You can catch a wave. You've lost almost ALL your baby teeth. You can swim a 100 meter IM and fetch things off the bottom of the pool. You paint your own nails and start keeping a diary. You start thinking outfits I suggest are lame. You whisper and giggle and stay up waaaay too late every time Karsen spends the night.
You are nine. You are strong. You are humble. You love to run. And play volleyball. You win Top Surfer at Surf Camp. You are the first girl in the whole third grade to finish the Accelerated Math library! You snuggle your Dad every night before bed watching the NatGeo channel or The Ultimate Fighter. You still have a crush on that boy named Cole. Karsen is here so much I feel like I have three daughters. And I love it!
Here we are. You are ten! You make me laugh. You fill my heart with so much so much so much. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of you. You are happy. You are loving. I call you a camel because you can drink so much water. It's your favorite. Your bedroom walls are covered in One Direction posters and peace signs. Today you drew a shamrock on your hip with a black Sharpie. (I wonder where you got that idea?!)
Yes, here we are. I can't believe all the things you have learned and the ways you have grown. I find myself feeling a little rushed. Almost like I am running out of time. Have ten years really already gone by? Do I have eight more? Nine more? Ten more? (Do you ever stop learning from your Mom?) There's still so much I want to teach you.
Just in case I don't get it all out, I've decided to write some of it down for you. (And me. I'm getting older too, ya know! I need help remembering things.) So here we go...
I want to teach you to cherish your siblings. There is nothing like a sister. Or a brother. You are blessed to have both. You already do this well. Just know the memories and the laughter and the bonds that you three share are only going to grow. Foster them.
I want to teach you to never underestimate the seductive power of an educated vocabulary. Smart is the new cool. Nerds are hot. Glasses are in. Books are your best friend. "I was like, um, totally, OMG!" does not qualify as a sentence.
I want to teach you to never wear clothes with something written across the butt. Be classy not Flashy. Crop tops and butt shorts are great for a 90 degree day at the beach. Or if you are a Dallas Cheerleader. Just not for Thanksgiving dinner or your Senior yearbook photo.
I want to teach you to be worthy rather than respectable. And wealthy rather than rich. To be more concerned about being interested than being interesting.
I want to teach you how to cook Kale. And Brussels sprouts. And that Chocolate Cake I make with the 4 sticks of butter and 2 cups of heavy cream.
I want to teach you that a woman doesn't need a man to change a tire. Or move furniture. Or read a compass. But it can be very nice when a man does.
I want to teach you not to let anyone tell you you can't do something because of your gender. Build that Lego tower. Keep acing that Math test. Kick ass on Xbox. Throw a mean spiral football. Set the curve in your Biology class. Hit a grand slam or a hole in one. Keep catching those waves! Beat those boys at their own games.
I want to teach you not to be afraid of your own voice. Listen to it. And use it! Sometimes it’s the most powerful thing you have. With it you can scream, you can sing, you can comfort, you can heal.
I want to teach you to learn to say NO. (This makes it so your YES has some oomph!)
I want to teach you about basic self defense. How to punch, get out of a situation, run as fast as you can. And use that powerful voice.
I want to teach you to think quietly. Talk gently. Act frankly. Be merciful, graceful and kind. When dealing with others and especially when dealing with yourself.
I want to teach you to love BIG. You can never be too loving. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. Love is universal. Felt by all living things. It's so powerful...it's said to make the world go round.
I want to teach you that admitting you are wrong does not make you weak. Be quick to take responsibility and learn to apologize well. There is great strength in honest vulnerability.
I want to teach you to ask for help when needed.
I want to teach you to let it go. Anger is more harmful to the person who harbors it than to who it’s directed at.
I want to teach you that what’s in the magazine is photo shopped. Confidence is more powerful and sexy than tiny jeans. It provides strength, ability and value and will enable you to pursue your biggest dreams.
I want to teach you not to be afraid of fear. Use it to motivate and challenge yourself. If you aren't scared, you aren't dreaming big enough. Don't let fear deprive you of any bit of life.
I want to teach you to laugh. You already do this well. But never stop. Laugh at yourself. At life. With others. Laughter can diffuse many a challenging situation. It's humbling and motivating. It inspires. It alleviates. It heals.
I want to teach you how to filter the voices. Not every opinion is worth listening to. Listen to the ones that matter, and learn whose opinion you’ll allow to shape your thoughts.
I want to teach you to manage your money.
I want to teach you to travel. There is so much beyond what you know. Experience new cultures, religions, people, and places. Open your heart and mind to them. I want to watch you have that "lightbulb moment."
I want to teach you that diamonds are not a girl's best friend. Best friends are invaluable. But they are work. The best kind of work. They will be with you in the good times and bad. The happy and the sad. And so you need to do the same. The rewards are immeasurable.
I want to teach you to look for the beauty in everything. It is there.
I want to teach you how to write a proper thank you letter. How to sew on a button. How to give a firm handshake.
I want to teach you the merit in walking in someone else’s shoes.
I want to teach you that in the blink of an eye, your life will change. And it will continue to change for decades to come. Have faith. Faith will get you anywhere. Rely on it more than anything else, including yourself.
I want to teach you that no matter what age you are: You are not old, you are young. You are not a mess, you are normal. You are Extraordinary.
Finally, I want to teach you that wherever, whoever, however you go in life, I will be proud. And wherever, whoever, however you are in life, you can ALWAYS COME HOME. I will be here. With open arms, Diet Coke, and Svish! I am deeply, madly, crazy, obsessively in love with you. Unconditionally. To infinity and beyond.
Happiest of Birthdays, my first born. TEN! Two whole hands. My one whole heart. There's so much I want to teach you, but you should also know that I learn from you every day. If I am any good at all it is because of you. Because I want to give you the world and always be my best for you. I look forward many more decades of finding you stunning. Of losing my breath. Of shedding happy tears. Of smiling from ear to ear. Of having a heart full of so much so much so much.
Make those wishes. Follow those dreams. Be brave.