Eleven

Dear Hannah,

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Exactly 21 days ago, you turned 11.  

And exactly 21 days ago, you asked me with pleading eyes if I would please please PLEASE! write a blog post for your birthday.

I am so sorry it has taken me this long.  I know you understand that our lives are insanely busy and full right now, what with the move happening in seven days, but I cannot let another day pass by without fulfilling your birthday wish.  One that warmed my heart and made me so glad I have not yet given up on this blog.

It is THAT reason, and that reason alone, that will keep me writing here for a long time.

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Right now, you are standing in the doorway between two worlds.  You are on the cusp of entering that big, vast teenage place, yet still teetering on the little girl side of the fence.  At times, I marvel at your wisdom and maturity.  At other times, I laugh and say a prayer of gratitude for your child-like innocence.

I would love to freeze time, just for a bit, to savor the amazing joy this phase of life brings to me.  I want you to grow and taste all the good that life has to offer, but I also want to keep you all to myself.  I don't want to share you just yet.  

I know the world will eventually draw your eye and lead you to amazing things, but I cherish our time together.  

I love that you still want to sleep with me when Daddy is out of town.  I love that your small hands run through my hair as you absentmindedly tell me about your day.  I love the freckles multiplying on your cheeks as we speak.  I love your happy banter with the boys, and the bear hugs you give every night before bed.

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Hannah, you are truly the most organized and neat person I have ever met.  I love that you set out your clothes and your accessories EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.  I love that you decide on a hairstyle the night before.  Do you know why I love this?  It's not because I seldom have to clean up after you.  Or trip over your shoes, airsoft guns, backpacks, and [INSERT EVERY POSSESSION OF YOUR BROTHERS HERE].    It's because it tells me that you have a plan.  That you are thinking ahead and making the most of your life.  You are taking what choices you have at this point in your life and doing as much as you can with them.

I can see you years from now -- organizing your work space or sprucing up your kids' bedrooms -- and I feel so secure in knowing that you will always be in charge of your own destiny.   You will not live in chaos.

And that gives me immense joy for you because mine is a brain that also requires order and direction.  You are my people.  I get you.  And I know that you get me, too.

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You are now, and always have been, a very social creature.  You have been fortunate enough to have made friends with some of the most amazing girls I have ever known.  I quite honestly don't know how we're going to leave them behind, and I worry for you when the reality of that happens.    This move is going to be a tough one.

But I also know that it will be so good for you.  You will learn to use muscles you didn't know you had.  You will find the courage to not be shy and introduce yourself on the first day of school.  You will learn a new school, a new neighborhood, and find new friends.  You will forever be changed, and always watch out for the new girl, because you will remember exactly what it felt like to be her.  

While my heart aches for the lonely feeling inside, I know that the strengths you will gain from that loneliness will serve you for your entire life.

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Hannah, I am so proud to be your mom.  You are an amazing girl.  You are a ball of laughter, creativity, and joy.  You brought so much happiness to our family when you came to us.  We had no idea what was missing.  We had two pretty great little boys and all of a sudden, in a whirlwind of pink ruffles, our lives were turned upside down.  And we've never been the same since. 

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You are kind, thoughtful, and generous with your affection.  You love others around you with a fierce loyalty.  You are always happy (except for that teensy bit first thing in the morning some days).  But hey.  I am the same, so I feel you, sister.

You make our lives richer with your sunshine and joy.  You make being a parent easy and oh, so much fun.  You are beautiful.  Inside and out.

I love you.

Love,

Mama

5-7-9

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Today, my newborn baby boy started high school. It's a little hard to imagine how he is getting from class to class, what with his being like FOUR DAYS OLD and all. But maybe someone gave him a piggy back ride? Helped him open his locker with his tiny, peeling, newborn fists?

I do hope so.

Because I'm sort of a wreck just thinking about it.

All day long, I've been chomping at the bit, anxiously awaiting his arrival home.

And, thanks to the cross country practice, he won't get here until dinner time.

By which point, I expect he's grown a full beard, has a job, and four kids of his own.

Don't mock.  It feels about that long since he WAS a newborn. They always told me it would go so fast. When I had three kids under age four, I fervently hoped it was true with every fiber of my being.  The days were endless, and the nights - anything but restful.  It was one long sleep-deprived millennia, dotted here and there with moments that made it all worth while.

Like when they were all asleep at the same time.

But now that they're fun, interesting, and like the same movies as me? I'd sort of like time to just stand still for a moment.  To freeze the laughter that fills the air like a thick fog when we watch Seinfeld re-runs together.  To remember their sharp wit, and bottle up the occasional hugs from their long, gangly bodies.  To hold on to them for just a little longer.

Sigh.

The other two were much more nonchalant as they headed out the door this morning.

The middle child is smack dab in the middle of his middle school career. He knows the ropes, he has his friends, and it's all not nearly as exciting as the 900 hours he taped for Shark Week.

But, man, do I love him something fierce.

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And my baby girl.  Starting what will be our final year of elementary school. She is as dramatic as she always has been. What with the ASSIGNED SEATS AT LUNCH, UGH. And actual HOMEWORK required of her. But still. I forgive her for growing up because she flies into my arms with a choking squeeze as soon as she gets off the bus.  Never knowing which one of us really needs that touch more.

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I think it's going to be all right.

Plus?  We're now one day closer to summer vacation next year.

My lucky day

A few weeks ago, I went on a little trip across the pond.

Or did I mention it? My trip? Yes?

All right then. Shut up.

While there (and properly following the instructions on my electricity converter, mind you) a slight mishap occurred that involved me and a Chi flat iron.

It broke my heart. (But mostly because it meant I had to walk around London and Paris with bad hair. And how would Darcy, Prince Harry, or Daniel Craig ever be able to fall in love with me?)

Because smooth, straight hair? Slightly important. Unless the Diana Ross ever comes back in style. Then I'm all set.

ANYway, the point of this rambling post is that I had to buy another one. So, first day off the plane, I stampeded my big-haired self into my local Ulta. Hannah came with me because, hello, she's female, and that store is like a magnet for us X chromosomers.

While in the checkout line, the clerk asked if I would like to donate a dollar to breast cancer research.

This happened at the exact moment that Hannah began tugging on my sleeve and whispering asking in a loud voice whether I thought the clerk was a boy or a girl.

The clerk, who was very obviously a boy, was wearing more make up than Cher on her best day in Las Vegas.

In a cheery attempt to distract Hannah and keep the He/She busy, I said that, sure, I'd love to donate to breast cancer. Oh, and what is that lovely thing over there?

I have no doubt that the He/She heard Hannah, and I got out of there as fast as I could.

Fast forward to today. I get a call from Ulta saying that I had won the breast cancer giveaway, which was $600 in free beauty products, and would I mind coming in to pick them up?

Would I mind driving five minutes down the road to claim my free stuff? Heck, I'd have crawled there in my underwear while wearing a crown of mayonnaise on my head. I love that store and spend a fortune on anything promising to make me look 12 again. Now you want to give me a whole bag of it FOR FREE?

Internet, I give you the booty, bounty, and beautiful pile of free stuff from the tragically gorgeous He/She at Ulta:

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Shampoos, lip glosses, a blow drier, a curling rod, face creams, hair spray, nail polish, perfume...you name it, I've got it.

Even three pairs of fabulously pink reading glasses.

I'm thinking today HAS to be my day to play the lottery.

Either that, or I should just put everything on my face at once, head over to Ulta, and take a photo with the He/She.

(I'll bet he'd (she'd?) still look better than me. Seriously. Boyfriend rocked the make-up.)

Telephones and toilets don't mix

Last week, I was on the phone with a teacher from Hannah's school.

See, Hannah has recently started going one day a week to a creative learning campus* and the adjustment has been a bit of a struggle. She feels lost, is frequently in tears, and is begging to return to her home school.

I have worried and wrung my hands about how to help her. I feel that to let her quit something after such a short time goes against everything I am trying to teach her about commitment and endurance.

When she faked sick last Friday to try and get out of going, and my tears mirrored her own, I decided it was time to ask for help. I made calls and sent emails to the school counselor, as well as her morning and afternoon teachers.

One of the teachers eventually found a few minutes in her busy day to return my call. As we chatted, I shared with her the struggles that Hannah has been having. I found myself pouring out my anxiety and worries quite tearfully over the phone. I begged and pleaded for her wisdom as an educator to help me help my child.

And then, over the phone I heard --

-- the distinct and disgusting sound of a flush.

Followed shortly thereafter by the sound of running water.

And the unmistakable crank of a paper towel dispenser.

Her 'mmm-hmmms' suddenly seemed a little less attentive than I thought they were.

I was horrified and repulsed. She could not take two minutes to go to the bathroom BEFORE calling me back? She couldn't mute her phone? The fact that I was crying and pouring out my soul to her while she sat on a toilet did nothing to reassure me that my daughter was in good hands.

Albeit, very clean post-toileting hands.

I must beg the question of you, dear internets -- have you ever made a call whilst on the pearly white throne? Do you flush and dial? Are you a pee talker?

I. am. not.

And I'll try not to judge those of you who are.

*Hannah begged and begged all last year to be tested for admittance into our district's Center for Creative Learning. I finally acquiesced, she was admitted this year, and absolutely hates it. In spite of the phone/toilet interaction, we have come up with some good strategies to help her and she is feeling better about it. I, however, will likely be scarred for life.

My face, the math lesson

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Today at church, I noticed Hannah staring at me out of the corner of my eye. At first I ignored it, as she is sometimes fond of counting my freckles.

Which, by the way, is great practice for her to learn counting into the hundreds of thousands. The freckles and I are just doing our part to help with the math skills, you know. We're generous that way.

When she eyeballed me longer than normal, I turned to her and asked her what she was staring at. She crinkled up her little nose and said, "Mama, you have these weird bumps all over your face."

I immediately reached up and began to brush at my cheeks, trying to wipe the offending bumps away. Thinking it was merely makeup gone awry, I asked her if that better.

She stared for a minute more, then said, "Oh, nevermind. It's just your wrinkles."

Great.

At least maybe counting the freckle to wrinkle ratio will help with her fraction skills.

Mama's melancholy smile

The morning started smooth and easy, a familiarity to the long-forgotten routine of showers, lunches, and backpacks. It was maybe an exceptional morning in that they were served a hot breakfast, instead of fending for themselves with the cold cereal and the eggo waffles.

They seemed so comfortable with what lay ahead. No nervous chatter. No endless questions. Their serene state and happy attitudes filled the air like a thick, warm blanket.

Yes, they both answered for the fourth time, they had everything.

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The oldest boy politely inquired about exactly where the first-day photos would be taken. He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, embarrassed and slightly worried that he'd hurt his mama's feelings. Knowing the bus stop has been off limits for several years now, she reassured him that all the photos would be taken from afar.

The boys laughed at each other, and hugged their mama tight. Glancing nervously around to be sure there were no witnesses, they posed for the obligatory photos outside.

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They turned without another thought and walked to the bus stop, chatting together.

Their mama's heart broke just a little bit.

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One boy forgot his schedule and came tearing home to get it with a sheepish grin on his face. His mama laughed and told him to hurry, shaking her head in just that way mamas do when they know they were right.

And then, the big, yellow bus came and took them away. As it seems to do with increasing frequency every year.

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The little girl was surprisingly easy to rouse from her sleep. In spite of her pleas to be home schooled forever, she was ushered downstairs and fed a hot breakfast of her own. She moaned and complained, worrying needlessly about lunch table assignments. She debated out loud about various hair styles for the day. She happily slipped into her new clothes.

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She sat on the driveway waiting for the bus, not afraid to take the pictures with her mama. She posed in several spots and offered suggestions for the best angles. Her mama smiled, hugged her, and laughed at the little girl who seems to know it all.

They talked for a few minutes, and then in the distance, a familiar rumbling was heard. The squeaky brakes left no doubt that her turn was soon upon them.

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She hugged her mama one last time, put on her very best smile, and climbed aboard.

With summer freckles on their noses, excitement in their toes, and melancholy in their mama's heart, they begin another year.

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