Hello my sweet girl, and Happy 88 Months! I am going to have a hard time with this post - not because of anything I will write. But because I will need to condense a month's worth of photographs - really great photographs. Halloween. Our annual family photos. Camping. Races. Horses. Buddies.
Photos like these. How can I possibly choose which to post?
We did our annual family photo shoot last month (thanks to the talented Ashley!), this time choosing the trails at Skidaway Island State Park. But choosing the location for the session wasn't the hardest decision to make - the real nail-biter was wondering what you'd decide to wear.
You see, you and I often make different style choices. I try very hard not to exert my will on your wardrobe, because I realize this is not a battle worth fighting. After all, you have to wear a school uniform 5 days a week. The least I can do is back off and let you pick your clothes on the weekends.
This is not as easy as it sounds though.
Over the past year or so, you have worn the same head scarf more times than I can count. This one.
It's a cute scarf, but your head is cute too and I want to see it from time to time. I may have "lost" the scarf for a couple of weeks because it needed a break.
You have a closet FULL of beautiful church dresses, but wore the same one two weeks in a row because when you sit down really quickly it goes, "poof."
You like animal prints, and in your mind, they all match. A leopard turtleneck with zebra capris? Match!
Last Sunday, you wore this beautiful, chic dress to church. And a pair of mismatched knee socks.
That same evening, you changed for a picnic in the park and put on another of your cute dresses. Then you accessorized by wrapping a chain around your head like a headband.
Most of the time, I just bite my tongue. I mean really, it's kind of cute how unconcerned you are about the fashion trends of the day. Blissfully unconcerned.
But for our family photos, I was hoping for something a little more mainstream. Thankfully you agreed to an adorable dress and sweater, and did not attempt to wear a head chain. I thought the danger was behind us, but then I sent you to put on socks and shoes. You came downstairs with BLACK shoes and NAVY socks.
Your Daddy raised his eyebrow and said, "You ok with the socks mom?"
"Yep," I said, somewhat unconvincingly.
The thing is, I know there will come a day when you won't be so cavalier and carefree about these things. So when I look back on these pictures years from now, I think I'll love the navy socks and black shoes. I'll probably wish I'd let you wear your head scarf or your chain in these photographs. This is part of who you are right now - you aren't afraid to be your own person. And that's beautiful.
As always, Halloween is another season ripe for picture-taking. First, Boo threw a Halloween bash in her backyard which we've now decided must be a tradition. BooFest was full of great games like apple bobbing and "pin the wart on the witch." You and your cousins loved every minute.
Then Halloween night arrived, warm and humid. This was unfortunate weather, since you had decided to be a fuzzy ewok. But what an adorable - and fierce - ewok you were, ready to take on "Harry Potter" Jones and "Fireman" Eli.
We gathered with buddies and headed into the neighborhood, but it wasn't long before you were covered in sweat with flaming red cheeks, ready to go back home.
A couple of days later, you were invited to come ride at the barn in costume, and it still wasn't fuzzy ewok weather. Fortunately you have a lot of costumes, so you opted to be a Jedi. Here you are on your favorite horse, Cassidy, light saber in hand, ready to take on the Dark Side.
There has been excitement at the barn this month, with the birth of a half dozen baby goats. One of them, beloved Eddie, has to be bottle fed - a task you thoroughly enjoy.
On this day though, Eddie's siblings wanted a snack too, but were more interested in your costume. Silly goats.
This month was also the annual Rock n Roll race weekend in Savannah, which happily brings friends together from near and far for all sorts of shenanigans. That Sunday, you and a crew of buddies ran the kids' race, representing Team Brew Drink Run Jr. More good photographs. More good times.
I'll close now before this letter gets any longer or before I come across any more pictures I need to post. Thanks for giving us so many reasons to smile this month. I love you so much.
(Ok - just one more)
When I lined up in the starting corral of the Rock N Roll Savannah Half-Marathon, I was afraid.
Every race comes with unknowns. You can train well and still not predict all the obstacles you may encounter on the course. Despite that, I usually feel ready when I'm at the starting line.
But that Saturday, I had no idea what to expect. My longest run of the previous 8 weeks had been 5.5 miles. Were my lungs and heart ready for 13.1? And my achilles had only just stopped hurting. Would this race un-do all my recovery? Would there come a point in the race when I would have to make that judgement call - would I have to quit?
My first post-injury run had been only two weeks prior, and I had been a nervous wreck taking that first jogging step. My achilles felt a little sore and tender, but with each run I noticed it less and less. And it felt so gloriously good to run again.
It's funny - when I first injured myself, I was in a panic about my upcoming races. They seemed so important, and were the focus of my recovery plan. But over the weeks of therapy, I thought less and less about the races, and more and more about just going for a run. Running my neighborhood, running a trail, running on vacation - all the little runs I'd always taken for granted. I was so tired of feeling fragile, and just wanted to be able to run again.
I still had a goal of running the Rock n Roll, mostly because my best friends were running it too. And I wanted to prove to myself that I really could still do it. But the Rock n Roll finish line was no longer my top priority. The finish line I cared about most was a figurative one - the one at the end of long life of happy running. One race seemed small in comparison.
On race morning, as our corral crossed the start line, I had beside me the best running aide a person could hope for - a good friend. Nicole had nailed an impressive PR two weeks prior in the Athens Half, and for this race decided to just hang with me. I'd warned her I'd be slow. And possibly a mental basket case. But she signed on anyway, because she's great like that.
The miles began to slowly slip by, and we talked. And talked. About everything and nothing. And the longer we talked, the less I thought about my achilles. The fear began to lift.
For the first time in any of my races, I could also look forward to seeing friendly faces in the crowd. At mile 5, my heart leapt to see Camille and her buddies on the sidewalk, holding signs and yelling for us. I stopped for a hug and a kiss, and my steps felt lighter.
Around mile 8, I was so pleased to still be pain-free that I really began to enjoy the race. Nicole and I laughed together at the creative posters ("I thought this was a Law and Order Marathon!"). We stopped for pictures. I rang the bell in Gordonston. I turned on some tunes and even sang a little (I'm sure the other runners appreciated that).
When a spectator was standing in the road, offering up a cup and yelling, "Beer! Beer!" I thought, "Why not?" She seemed excited to have a runner take her up on the offer. It was cold and delicious.
By mile 11 though, the fatigue was really starting to kick in and the remaining 2 miles loomed long. Then off to my right, I saw a bright pink poster that said, "Go Go Ginger!"
"How neat!" I thought. "Another Ginger is running this race - I'll wave to them and pretend it's for me." Then I took a closer look and realized Boo was holding up the poster, flanked by Erin and Eli. Just when I was starting to fade, their smiling faces brought fresh energy.
In the final half mile, I saw another familiar face. It was Ernie, my physical therapist, having finished his race and come back to cheer for the rest of us. I ran over to give him a high five. "I'm so proud of you!" he said. I was proud of me too.
Then we made the turn to the finish line, and I couldn't stop grinning as Nicole and I crossed under the arch together. If you just look at my finish time, the race was a personal worst as my slowest half-marathon ever. But considering all the difficulties of the previous months, I think it was one of my best finishes ever.
And finally, waiting there in our designated reunion spot, was the face I needed to see most. Lee had run his first half marathon and I'd been thinking about him all morning, hoping all had gone well. He had a finisher's medal hanging around his neck and a congratulatory kiss just for me.
What a great day it was.
This weekend, I will go for a run. A real run, in the real outdoors.
I am terrified.
It has been 6 weeks since my last run, the run during which I injured my achilles. After a 2-week rest period did not provide relief, I've been in a month of physical therapy.
In an effort to maintain my endurance, and with the hope of still running the Rock n Roll Savannah Half Marathon, I've continued exercising. On the days I should've run, I instead did that same amount of time on an elliptical, stationary bike or in a pool. Two and a half hours running on a road takes you all over town. Two and a half hours on gym equipment takes you nowhere except the mad house. Thank goodness for Netflix, Mission Impossible and The Avengers keeping me entertained and sane.
Last week, the physical therapist thought I was ready to try running on the anti-gravity treadmill. I must say, that is a pretty cool machine. You pull on some funky pants and zip yourself into a bag around the treadmill. Then it inflates until it lifts your toes right off the tread. You can adjust the amount of assist, and I started out running at 75% of my body weight.
It was like running on air, in my own little bubble. I was hyper-aware of my achilles, and while it seemed a little tender and stiff, there were no sharp pains.
I've run on it three more times, and today was up to 90% of my body weight. So I've been cleared to run on Saturday.
I am excited to go for a run, but mostly I'm scared. I'm scared it could hurt, and then I'm fearful of the disappointment that would follow.
But I'm also trying to keep some perspective. If I do run, and it does hurt, it doesn't mean the end of running for me. Or the end of my healthy lifestyle. I can keep working on getting stronger.
Being at the physical therapy office, you see a lot of people in various stages of recovery. Some of them just want to be able to stand up. On their feet. And take a single step forward on their own.
You could say I was unlucky when I hurt my achilles. Or you could say I'm lucky that this has been my challenge, and not something more difficult. I like that perspective best.
Hello sweet girl! Tonight you are sleeping well, completely exhausted after spending the day climbing all over a "hay castle" at a local pumpkin patch with church friends and Jones.
Though the pumpkins are ready, it sure doesn't feel like fall yet. But you didn't let the heat deter you from sliding down hay bales over and over until you were completely covered in hay, sweat and dirt. And smiles.
We did experience a hint of fall weather a few weeks ago when we traveled a little farther north to go camping with our buddies the Valleses. The weather was perfect - fleeces by the campfire in the morning and at night, but short sleeves for romping around during the daytime.
You all played catch, built nature shrines and made dolls from sticks and leaves. You filled out Junior Ranger workbooks and were sworn in as mini-protectors of the state park.
The campground was set around a small lake, and Nicole and I rented a canoe and supervised while you, Nia and Nate took turns in your kayak. Flipping the kayak is one of your favorite games, but it was too cool for that and thankfully you all kept the boat upright. I was even more thankful when I found out there were leeches all over the bottom of the boat. Eeek! Happily, we escaped leech-free.
You also ran a trail race while we were in the campground, earning medals with your buddies.
It was one of two races for you this month. The other race was your first mud run - something you'd been asking to do ever since I ran one last year. We cajoled Ellanor into running it with you, and I'm so glad we did. The teamwork I saw between you two girls made my heart happy.
You ran it together, giving a boost over an obstacle if needed, and always shouting encouragement. And you finished the race side by side, muddy, beaming and ready to do it again.
We also spent a good bit of this month with our noses in books. We finished up the first Harry Potter book and launched in to book 2. I ADORED these books when they were originally published, and have enjoyed re-reading them with you. So the timing was perfect when the Savannah Children's Museum held a Hogwarts party, including a ride on a real steam engine like in the books!
I think the highlight of the evening for you was a visit with the fortune teller. Hand outstretched, palm up, you listened with rapt attention as she examined all the creases and folds and interpreted what each meant for your life. She said you had a strong career line and then made this prediction: "When you grow up, I believe you will be an amazing fortune teller."
At the next activity table, you could write a wish - any wish - on a piece of paper to place in a wishing star. Your wish: "I wish to be a fortune teller."
Well, it's not exactly the career path I would choose for you. Maybe it means a career on Wall Street or something. Or maybe it's just the musings of a 7-year-old make-believe witch who enjoyed the make-believe fortune teller. Let's go with that.
Remember last month when you got your ears pierced? And didn't shed a tear?
As it turns out, you were saving all those tears for this month, and for the first time we changed your earrings.
You'd been eagerly awaiting the day you could finally put in new earrings, and selected some sparkly dolphins leaping over a pearl. You'd been informed it might hurt, but were apparently unprepared. After I removed the first earring, the tears started to flow, along with the protestations and pleadings not to put a new one in. The only thing that made you cry harder was my promise that without an earring, the holes would close.
I do believe it was nearly as painful for me, the one having to inflict the pain and listen to you cry. I hated it. After the first earring, you requested your Daddy's presence, wanting the comfort of his lap for round 2, and I think it helped. I believe those dolphins are going to be in your ears for a while, as your eagerness to change earrings has abated.
Speaking of your Daddy, you sure do love that man. The other day I put a note in your lunchbox that said, "You are my sunshine." I drew two smiley-faced sunshines.
When your Daddy unpacked your lunchbox that night, he was delighted to find your revisions. The little scrap of paper went directly onto the refrigerator.
Maybe if that fortune teller gig doesn't work out, you can have a strong career as a diplomat.
Thanks for all the light you shine on our lives, little sunshine. I love you so much.
So this fall, it's not just a figure of speech. My achilles heel has been ... well ... my achilles heel.
Three weeks ago, I had a 12-miler on my schedule. It was my last long run before the North Face Endurance Challenge, which was a trail half-marathon I'd been training to run with Nicole. I got up and out the door early that Thursday, and decided to document the run with a photo every few miles accompanied by a random thought (I have lots of random thoughts when running 12 miles). Mostly I did this as a way to entertain myself, but I also knew Nicole and a few other runner friends might enjoy it too.
I began at mile 4:
"Photo stop at mile 4. Gotta get 12 today. Slow and steady. So far it has been dark so I've been extra cautious about footing. Looking forward to sunrise."
"Mile 5. Here comes the sun (now that song is stuck in my head)."
"Mile 7 and I'm mouthing the words and doing hand gestures to the Katy Perry song Roar. I'm kind of in love with that song."
"Mile 9 and wondering why I feel the start of a blister on my left foot. New-ish shoes but I've done 11 in them with no trouble. Not stopping now though. 5K to go!"
"Royals by Lorde carried me to Mile 11. Had to play it off YouTube but it did the trick. One more to go."
Just after this pic, I started my last mile. I was feeling pretty solid, but somewhere in that last mile, I felt a twinge in my left achilles. Nothing alarming or severe enough to make me stop running. It was just a twinge.
After the run, as the day wore on my overall soreness diminished as it usually does. Except in that darn achilles. I realized it was actually changing my walk a bit and pinching with each stride.
So I googled it. Oh man, was that scary. I basically learned this, "If you injure your achilles and you don't let it properly heal, you are done running. Forever. Game over."
After I stopped hyperventilating, I emailed a doctor friend who said to give it a week of rest and then re-evaluate.
That sounds reasonable, right? But I am not kidding when I tell you that I totally fell apart. I have adhered strictly to my running schedule for two years now, and perhaps did not realize how important that had become to my overall well-being.
I was terrified that I wouldn't get better. I was also pretty pissed off - I'd been using a training plan that touted itself as being injury-free. And I'm a conservative runner - I don't do all those things more ambitious runners do that cause injury! I'm supposed to be injury-proof!
So I wallowed in a pool of misery, fear, doubt and depression. I ate everything in sight, with an uncharacteristically pessimistic view that I was no longer capable of a healthy lifestyle. So I punished myself with beer and Doritos.
I knew it was ridiculous, but I think I just needed a moment to be grumpy and pitiful.
A week went by, and there was still pain, so I made an appointment for an evaluation at a sports medicine clinic. I was holding my breath, hoping the physical therapist would slap some tape on it and tell me to go run that trail half-marathon. But I think we all know that was not what he said.
He ordered another week of rest, ice and ibuprofen, and then another evaluation.
It was difficult going to the race last weekend and sending Nicole off on the trail. Thankfully Andrew agreed to run in my place so she wouldn't go solo, but this was supposed to be our run. Our girl time in the woods. Ours.
I just had to keep reminding myself that if I wanted to get better, if I wanted to run 100 more races with her, then I had to sit this one out.
I went back for re-evaluation Monday, and the PT said I needed treatment. Rehab starts tomorrow. The good news? He thinks with a couple weeks of physical therapy I should still be ok to run the Rock N Roll half-marathon in November. The other good news? I'm finding other ways to regain that feeling of good health. I'm swimming. I ate all those Doritos and haven't bought another bag yet. I'm saying no to the beer (for now) until I ditch the few pounds I put on during my mega pity party.
And I'm feeling hopeful that I'll soon be back on the road again, ready for my comeback tour.
Hello sweet girl and happy 86 months! This may be the latest I've ever been with one of your letters, but not for lack of material, just a lack of time to tell you about it all.
What lovely pictures I have to post this month from your very first horse show. You've been taking lessons for several months now, and your teacher thought you were ready for the Lead Line class, which is a typical horse show introduction for young riders. In this class, the riders are led around the ring by a person walking next to the horse. You felt that your skills were above this of course. You are completely at ease with these animals, unafraid to ride and always wanting to go farther and faster than I think you should. Around the barn when we're grooming or tacking up, you're quick to take the lead rope from me. "I can do it, Mama," you tell me. And you're right.
However, I was very glad that your first experience in a show ring would not be a tense one for me, wondering if your horse would cooperate and if you'd be safe. It was a beautiful morning at a farm in Bulloch County, and your class was first. You strode into the ring on Theo, one of the horses from your barn, and showed not an ounce of nervousness. You looked cool and ready, perched atop that pony in your fancy riding clothes.
The class went smoothly (aside from your pony whinnying at all the other horses around the arena). There were only two of you in the class, and the judge just couldn't decide and awarded you both blue ribbons.
The rest of the day was spent watching the other girls from the barn ride and hanging out with the horses. How lucky you are to spend so much time around these special creatures. And how lucky for me that I get to tag along.
While you may be very much like your mother in your love for horses, you are far tougher than she was at your age. This month you decided to get your ears pierced. I had always said the decision was up to you - whenever you felt you were ready, we'd do it. I assumed that day wouldn't come until you were a good bit older (if ever), because you have a healthy aversion to pain. You would ask me if it would hurt and I would always answer truthfully, and that usually ended the conversation.
But this month, you came home from school after one of your buddies had shown off her newly pierced ears and announced that you were ready. I stalled a few days, but you didn't relent.
I stalled a day or two more, because I was the one who was terrified. I remember getting my ears pierced at Claire's at the Macon Mall. I remember sitting in that tall chair. I remember being shocked at the pain. I remember jumping from that tall chair and running from the store, stopping to sit on a bench near a fountain and crying my eyes out while my mom paid the bill. I am pretty sure I was in middle school at the time.
The thought of watching you do that as a teeny-tiny 7-year-old made me feel ill.
It just so happened that we were headed up to see Nana and Granddaddy that weekend, so we agreed to have your ears pierced while we were up in Tennessee. I needed as many people as possible for moral support.
And there we were, at another Claire's in another mall, and you were in the tall chair. You'd picked out some pretty sparkly flower earrings, and didn't seem nervous at all. Meanwhile, I was hiding behind Granddaddy, unable to watch, as he held your hands.
When they pierced your ears, you calmly said, "OW."
I got out from behind Granddaddy and took your hands, praising you for being so brave. I could see tears swimming in your eyes (as they were in mine), but you blinked them back. And that was it. No fleeing from the store. No hysterics by the water fountain.
You've had a great month, bear. And not only because of these two big events - I think you're just in a happy place right now. School seems to be going well, you are enjoying your cousins, your friends, your art supplies, your books. We're reading Harry Potter together. You are collecting cicada shells in the backyard. You are playing Star Wars with your Daddy. You are being silly. You are doing fun kid things. You are lying on my lap in the grass in the sunshine.
You're able to pass through walls too, apparently.
The other day, you and Jones were chatting in the back seat when you mentioned that you almost never need to use the restroom at school. "Except for secret Ghost Club meetings," you added. My ears perked up.
Jones quizzed you about this, and through his questions I learned that you and some of your classmates meet in the bathroom sometimes to exchange stories about a haunted house across the street. And during recess time, you're able to actually pass through the walls of the haunted house and see the ghosts inside. You don't even have to open the door.
Jones thinks you're awesome.
I do too. Even if you can't really pass through walls. Even if you just have a fantastic imagination.
I love you so much sweet girl. And that's the truth.
It was supposed to be an easy fun-run for me. A way to break the boredom of my usual routes and mix things up a bit. A way to keep myself fresh.
Instead, the day before my 5K I felt incredibly insecure.
The race was the Cross Country Kickoff Challenge, a 5K course making drunken loops through Daffin Park to get all three miles in the grass and mud. For good measure, they throw in a few hay bales on the course for us runners to jump over too. I've been enjoying trails so much lately I thought this would be a fun way to simulate a trail race. To top it off, the entry fee was low, went to a good cause, and I got a tech shirt. How could I NOT do it?
The event is also the kickoff of the high school cross country season, and the kids were going to be running the course after us. I knew that meant there would be a good crowd (tons of teams from all over the region, along with their parents and cheering sections). That would just add to the fun race-day atmosphere, right?
But then I went to pick up my race bib the day before the race, and saw that there were only a handful of runners signed up to do the public 5K. My bib number was 8.
EIGHT. This was not good.
For a runner like me - a back-of-the-pack kind of gal - there is great comfort in numbers. I don't run to be noticed. Sure, it's great to have my own family and friends there cheering me on, but I don't want to be a spectacle.
I suddenly imagined coming in way behind, finishing under the watchful eyes of high school track athletes who'd been standing around waiting for me to clear the course so they could run.
The speed with which I was able to break my own spirit was startling.
I have always - ALWAYS - preached the sermon that it doesn't matter where I place as long as I cross the finish line. That I'm not competitive. That I'm just in this for the exercise and camaraderie.
But suddenly, I began doubting all those mantras. I had come face-to-face with the reality that I'm really not very good at this sport. That was the truth, and it wasn't pretty.
Race morning Lee and I walked over to Daffin Park as the sun rose and sat in the bleachers near the starting line. As the runners began to gather, I recognized a few from other area 5Ks - the ones who run shirtless or in sports bras, fit and trim, with their sub-20-minute finish times.
Usually, when I line up for a race, deep in the middle-back section of runners, there is this great collective energy. We are all bad-asses, all about to challenge ourselves and meet that challenge.
But this time, lining up with 52 other people, I didn't feel like a bad-ass. I just felt like an ass.
The starting horn blasted and off we went. The course was an incredibly wet slog through dew-soaked grass and mud. The field of runners began to spread out, and I resisted the urge to look behind me to see if anyone was back there.
As we began to loop though, I couldn't help but see the back section of the course. I was relieved to see that a few people were running my pace. Maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't embarrass myself.
I don't think I'd ever been so happy to finish a 5K. To be DONE with the drama inside my own head. I finished in the bottom 3rd, but not alone as I had feared.
As I waited for official times to be posted, and removed the carpet of wet grass from the bottom of my shoe, I asked another runner how her race had been.
"Ugh. I came in last," she said. "I've never had that happen before. It doesn't feel very good."
I wanted to give her a sweaty hug and welcome her to my pity party.
Instead, I started running. I had 5 miles on my training schedule for that day, so I took off around the park to get my 2 additional miles. It was a good thing too, because I was in sore need of a run therapy session with myself.
I thought a lot about running, about how one little 5K could shake my confidence so thoroughly.
Then I thought about half-marathons, my favorite race distance. There is such great victory in finishing 13 miles, even at a turtle's pace. Sure the leaders are resting at the finish line, eating bananas and getting their awards before I hit mile 7. But I'm spending a long time on my feet, pounding that pavement, not giving up. And there is glory in that too.
Then I had this simple thought. "I will never have fast feet. But I have a lot of heart."
Yes, it's true - I'm not very good at running. But it's also true that I'm pretty great at the other qualities required of a distance runner - determination, commitment and heart. I don't sign up for races because I think I'm going to perform well. I sign up because they keep me motivated, keep me wanting to do something that simply doesn't come naturally or easily. I don't run to be good at running; I run to be healthy and sane.
That has to be good enough. Winning a race? That's bad-ass. Being a runner with absolutely no talent who still gets in there and puts in the mileage? Re-convincing myself that that's bad-ass too.
Hello big girl and happy 85 months! When I first started writing letters to you, it made sense to count months. That's how you mark time for infants. "Oh, she's 4 months old!" or "She is 18 months!" That seems to be the appropriate age marker until a child turns 2, and then we start counting in half-years and years.
But here you are, 85 months old, and I still want to write to you each month. I realize there will come a time when you no longer want me to write about you on the internet. Or a time when you naturally become more independent and I no longer know enough details about your day-to-day to fill a letter each month. Scary thought (for me).
But for now, you are blissfully unconcerned about any of this, and frequently instruct me to "take a picture and put it on the internet." Dressed up like Wicket the ewok, pretending to be a disc jockey on a Saturday morning? Totally acceptable for posting. For now.
No matter how old you get, as long as you're a student, the first day of school will always be blog-appropriate. This month you officially entered the 2nd grade.
This is your third year at Ellis Montessori, and each year I've taken your picture beside a statue in the lobby. I use the statue as a measuring stick to mark your growth. My how you are growing into a beautiful lady. (Click the photo for a larger version)
Second grade is especially exciting at Ellis because the 2nd grade classrooms are upstairs. Downstairs is for pre-K through 1st grade, so only the BIG KIDS get to go upstairs. I joked all summer about how I was going to block your path at the bottom of the stairs and refuse to let you go up them. But of course, I didn't dare embarrass you so much on your first day - bad enough I was the mom with the camera in the hallway.
Your dad and I escorted you to your room and I was suddenly conflicted - I wanted to take your picture as you settled in to your desk, but now that you're in second grade, would you be mortified? Are "first-day-at-my-school-desk" photos just for the downstairs kids? I told myself to just record your image in my heart and leave the camera hanging on my shoulder. A quick kiss from you, and your Dad and I slipped from the room.
At the end of the day you greeted me with bubbly enthusiasm, happy to report a positive first day, and eager to reunite with buddies for our traditional first-day-froyo. You shared ice cream and happy tales with your gal pals. If I could choose friends for you, these girls would top my list. Good thing they top your list too.
We had a couple of other exciting adventures this month too. We've been getting a ton of rain lately, coming in showers so fast and so hard that our street drainage systems are quickly overwhelmed.
One night we watched out the window as our street turned into a river, and I had a crazy idea. A few moments later we were dragging your kayak from the (flooded) garage and you were paddling through Ardsley Park.
I always want you to embrace a sense of adventure, so this was a perfect teachable moment. And a lot of fun to watch.
Kayak hasn't been your only mode of transportation down the street this month. I'm so pleased to report that you are now two-wheeling it on your bicycle!
After several attempts at removing the training wheels and teaching you to ride, we'd all gotten pretty frustrated. The balance just wasn't coming. That's when we finally took the advice friends had been giving us for years, to remove the pedals from your bike.
With no pedals, you were able to scoot and coast around a nearby parking lot practicing your balance, all while being able to put your feet down immediately if you felt off-kilter. We may have done this for about 30 minutes over a course of 2 days before you wanted to try again with the pedals.
I was prepared to do as we'd done before - push you along the street, bent over painfully and clutching your bike seat, the only thing between you and certain road rash. But with one little shove you suddenly took off, pedaling down the street on your own.
It was glorious.
We still need to work on steering and confidence (you've only run into a few parked cars), but now that you have had some success I think it won't be long before we're biking all over the neighborhood. I'm looking forward to these bike adventures with you.
But Camille, I have saved the best for last. Something BIG has happened this month, something the importance of which you cannot possibly understand.
Our Boston family has moved to Savannah.
Where to begin? This means you will grow up with 2 of your cousins close by. You will have much more contact with your Aunt Erin and Uncle Dave. We've always been close in relationship even though far apart on the map. But now, instead of occasional visitors, they will be part of your day-to-day story, deeply woven throughout your memories of childhood. Erin and Dave will help raise you, as your Daddy and I will help raise your cousins. Jones and Eli will be those kids that you have to love even when you get on each other's nerves because they're family - that's a critical lesson for any kid, but especially one with no siblings.
But right now, there are no signs of any cousin conflict. On the contrary, you and Jones have been thick as thieves, spending as much time playing together as possible. You've taken to calling him your brother, and begging me to let him move in. You love to mother little Eli (boss him around), and when you walk in the room, he usually lights up and yells, "Mille!"
This is going to be so great. Family is incredibly important, and I couldn't be more pleased to have them near. For me, for you, for all of us.
I love you so much sweet girl. So much. And I just love this life we get to share.
I love running trails. Something about slipping into the woods with a canopy of trees overhead and the sound of earth under my feet - I get pumped. I don't run fast on trails; in fact I run a good bit slower and find the runs to be more difficult, what with having to balance and avoid roots and basically keep myself vertical. But I usually feel quite rejuvenated after a good run on a trail.
So when I was flipping through the Runner's World magazine a few months ago, an ad for the North Face Endurance Challenge jumped out at me. It's a trail race along the Pine Mountain Ridge in north Georgia, and promises to be "an ultimate test of endurance." There will be rocks, roots, water crossings and lots of hills. I read all of this, and immediately wanted to sign up for the half-marathon.
What is wrong with me?
I have very few trails on which to train around here, and no real hills. But you know what will make this race work for me? Buddy power. I knew if I could convince Nicole that she too wanted to suffer on a 13-mile trail in the mountains, then we could conquer this together. She said yes.
What is wrong with her?
My race training actually began in a much more legit way than I could have anticipated. During our month in Costa Rica, I had planned to stick to my 3-day-a-week running schedule, but keeping the runs short and easy. Vacation-style.
Well, I kept them short, but they weren't easy. The area around our vacation rental was quite hilly and all the roads were unpaved and full of pot holes, rocks, and all kinds of tripping hazards. I was getting my hill/trail training whether I intended to or not. And holy humidity! Even stepping out before 6 a.m. still meant running in the thick, tropical heat.
I loved running in a new area, with funky cows and howler monkeys for company. But it was eye-opening, too. A few times, I'd hear my phone app chime "Distance - 1 mile," and I'd start to panic. That 1 mile felt more like 3. "Is this what the half-marathon will feel like? I'll never make it," I'd tell myself. Then I'd imagine running through the woods with Nicole, laughing and being silly, and I'd feel better.
I know few other runners with whom I could trust myself on a 13-mile mountain trial race. If we're on that trail and I want to sing and dance, she'll be cool with it. If I want to cry, she'll tell me to suck it up but she'll let me rest a minute and she'll still be my friend. If I fall down (when I fall down), she won't laugh. Unless it's funny. And I'll do the same for her.
I'm looking forward to the race. To a new challenge. To wearing that medal around my neck. But most of all, I'm looking forward to spending several hours in the woods with a great friend, pushing each other to our limits, and then crossing that finish line together.
Happy birthday to you, my sweet seven-year-old girl! My girl who referred to herself the other day as "almost a teenager." Whoa there, you need to slow down! Seven is plenty big enough for now.
When I wrote to you last, we were a week into our month-long trip to Costa Rica. What fun I had sharing that adventure with you, Pipa. You seemed to be having fun too, but I wondered if the trip could possibly have as big an impact on you as it did on me. Did you even realize how grand the adventures were? How unique the experiences?
I don't know the complete answer, but I got a hint of it when we were on our night hike in Monteverde. Our guide was an energetic young UGA grad who proved to be a great audience for you. As we walked along the trails, looking for creatures, you began to tell him stories about our trip. Tale after tale fell from your lips, your enthusiasm growing with each retelling. And you weren't just telling him about the big moments, like seeing the turtles laying eggs in Ostional. You also wanted to share with him the quieter moments, like when we got you out of bed one night to stand on the roof of our beach house and marvel at the fireflies and the huge expanse of stars. "They were so beautiful!" you told him, your voice raised in excitement. That night on the rooftop is a memory I will treasure, and now I know it's one that was special to you too.
I suspect Costa Rica seemed very wild to you. After we'd been there about a week, roaming the empty beach and only occasionally visiting an isolated village, you began playing "pioneer."
"Mama," you'd say each day, "Let's pretend we're pioneers. We're the first ones to discover this beach and we have to invent everything."
You gathered driftwood to build pretend fires. You discovered caves, and would instruct me to come there with my sea glass and trade for "food," which was usually a mix of leaves and sticks and shells. You filled a bowl with beach sand and tossed in a few hermit crabs to make your "famous hermit crab stew."
You spent almost the whole month outside. I don't believe you've ever been as muddy or filthy or as unconcerned about it. It was wonderful.
By the time our trip was winding down, however, you were ready to come home - more ready than your Dad and I were. I think you longed for some familiarity and some normalcy. Oh, and there was the pretty exciting fact that you'd come home and have a birthday!
Since returning, both Boo and Nana have given you some pioneer dress-up clothes, and you've hardly worn anything else. Even your doll Addy has pioneer clothes. You insisted on wearing one of the outfits to Krispy Kreme to pick out your birthday doughnut. You were a sight, in your bonnet, watching the doughnuts come down the conveyer belt. You made me smile.
Our gift to you was a kid-sized kayak (in pink, of course), so after we polished off the doughnuts we took a boat up the Skidaway River. Your kayak is small enough to fit comfortably on board, and when we spotted a group of dolphins we dropped anchor and pushed the kayak into the river. We weren't quick enough to catch the dolphins, but had a blast paddling around in the water.
You wanted to explore the mud flats that are exposed at low tide, so we paddled over to them. You pretended it was a new, foreign land and we had to settle it as pioneers (of course). Jones and Auntie came too, and experienced the way the mud slurps at your feet and squishes between your toes.
Unfortunately, you and I also learned the hard way that there are oyster shells - very sharp oyster shells - buried under that mud. After scratching your foot and leg, you were ready to get back on the boat. You pulled a towel over your head and declared, "I AM NEVER GETTING IN THE WATER AGAIN."
Maybe you are almost a teenager, come to think of it...
The next day, we held your birthday party at a local pottery studio, where you and buddies made horse-themed crafts and even got to throw clay on a wheel. I couldn't find any horse-themed tablecloths or plates in town, so you chose Star Wars table decorations.
A horse-themed party and a horse cake, with Star Wars plates, cups and napkins. Sounds about right.
Sweet girl, my Pipa, I could not be more pleased with who you are at age 7. And I couldn't be more excited to see what this year holds for you. My love for you is wider than the expanse of stars we saw on that roof top in Costa Rica. It's really big, and it goes on forever.
I love you always.