Thursday, January 28, 2016

Love and Understanding

So it was just over a month ago that we gave Sweetie a printed copy of this letter. And... it went well, all things considered. She was confused. She shed tears. She wondered why we were now "taking the magic away from her." She had lots and lots of questions, even into the next few days afterwards. But all in all, she got the intended message, was wowed by the efforts we've gone through to bring magic into her life, and completely all about being on "Team Santa" - even wanting us to buy matching "Team Santa" T-shirts for us to wear next Christmas season. Yes, ma'am! Can't wait to show our united front next year and work with you to bring joy and happiness to the world!

In other news, Sweetie continues to thrive - yes, thrive! - in junior high school. Straight A's on her 1st quarter report card, and A's and B+'s for Quarter 2 (Gym and English earned her those B+'s), with straight A's of varying degree rounding out her Semester 1. Way to go, Sweetie!

Back in early December Sweetie turned in her application for a specialized STEM-focused charter school in our area, as Math and Science are both her strongest subjects and her most enjoyed. We attended this school's information night shortly before turning in the application, and Sweetie just loved it. Despite their warning of the intense workload and effort expected, Sweetie proclaimed afterwards how much more she was now interested in attending this school, and that she couldn't believe there was a school like this that seemed made just for her.

Alas, admission to this school is strictly through a lottery basis. Last weekend was the lottery and, while we don't officially know yet if an invitation to attend the school will be offered to her or not, we do know that her grade-specific position is quite high and that only a small number for her next-year grade will be offered admission. So - very unlikely. This opportunity has probably passed us by for this year. But she'll try again next and hope for the best.

At the same time, Sweetie seems to be just killing it in her math education at her current school! For one thing, she and everyone else in her grade recently participated in NWEA testing. Now, I've never been one for standardized tests, but if you've got to take them, I think the NWEAs do it well. All computerized, and the questions adjust to each kid's individualized level of understanding. No 2 kids take the same test, and the test, in a way, pushes each kid to answer more and more difficult questions until they prove that they've reached a plateau. At least that's my understanding. At any rate, Sweetie took hers (they are tests for Math and English only) and came home with the news that not only did she receive a math score earning her a spot next year in Honors Algebra 1 (as did her previous Math score on this test when she took it in 6th grade, actually), but that she received the 3rd highest Math score in her whole grade (2nd highest, if you consider that the top score was a tie between 2 students)! Wow! (I'm told she did well on the English portion as well, but I don't know specifics.)

On top of that, Sweetie (and about 30 other students in Middle School, including her BFF) joined the Math Club about 2 or 3 months ago. Just around the time that she found out her NWEA score, she and her BFF, and anyone else in Math Club who wanted to (which was pretty much all of them, I hear) took a voluntary math test to see who would make it onto the official Math Team that will soon compete at a nearby college along with several other Math Teams in the area. The top 8 scores on this test made it onto the team. Sweetie and her friend tied, securing their spots as the 6th and 7th members on the team! That big competition is a week from tomorrow... who knows what will happen then, but we sure are proud of our Little Miss Smarty Pants for getting even this far!

All this math stuff (not to mention her complete and total love for and skill in Science) just... hmmmm... I don't know... just has me so confused. Especially because I don't often have any call to see her use these skills in action. She most often has her homework done by the time I see her at night, so I've never really seen her struggle - or not! - with any math or science concept. And life in general just doesn't have her displaying her skills in these areas on any regular occasion. Not to mention that I hate math (okay - hate is a strong word and I know I should never use it. But math and I have a very mutual strong dislike of each other, is all I'm saying.) I'm a writer! I was an English major! I never even liked Science very much. And Hubby? Well, he went to school for Graphic Design. I think he did okay and kinda/sorta liked Geometry once upon a time. And he has a general interest in word problem/puzzles. I've always liked puzzles too, actually. So I know we've passed on this particular love to Sweetie. But all the rest it? I just don't know, man. I don't get it. Love it! Appreciate it! Am so thankful that she "gets" her math homework, because we sure as heck wouldn't be able to help her with it! But, you know... kinda dumbfounded over the whole thing too. Where did this come from? Whatever - rock on, Sweetie! Keep on doing what you're doing - it's obviously working well for you.

And then there's, well, Sweetie's just general sense of self, sense of confidence, and appreciation for her own "weirdness" that I both love so much to see, and - at the same time - am completely confused by. Again, she didn't get these positive self-image personality traits from me or her father, shy creatures that we are now and definitely were back in middle and high school. Today, for example, she wanted to go off to school - mind you, just a regular ol' school day like every other - dressed as a cat. Oh, it was just a black shirt, pants, and boots - but also with the ears, tail, and face makeup proudly in place. Just because. And I let her. Just because. Except, I didn't allow all the face makeup that she wanted - not until she asked her Advisory teacher if she thought it would be okay. So who knows, I may pick her up after school to see her completely decked out... or I may find her completely de-cattified if any school staff instructed her to take the accessories and makeup off. Can't wait to see who, or what, I pick up.

But even that... even with me warning her that this may not be allowed by her school... that the "mean girls," the "cool girls," and anyone else in between is likely to pick on her, to tease her, about what she's wearing. I made this perfectly clear that she should expect that she will be picked on, and what was she going to do about that? She assured me that no one was going to pick on her and, the couple kids she could think of who may be the ones to tease her, well - they aren't even in any of her classes. "They'll find a way, Sweetie. Word will get to them and they will find a way." She remained unfazed. So, despite my warning and reservations, I ultimately agreed to her cat-wishes and sent her off. Again, I can't wait to see what she has to say when I pick her up.

You know, though... I knew that my warnings of what kids may pick on and tease her about would not affect her. I knew she wouldn't care. She revels in her differentness at school. She loves her friends who are as different as she is and who love her for her "weirdnesses." And she couldn't care less about what her other peers think. And, yes, she could be putting up a front and deep down having some not-so-pleasant reactions to kids who may pick and tease. But, for the most part, I really don't think so. An adult we know who knows Sweetie pretty well, and who has a grown daughter whom he thinks was just like Sweetie is now, said recently that his daughter "oozes self-confidence" and he thought Sweetie did too. And I'd have to agree. Body issues and bullying and all that happy Middle School stuff - well, if they're there, they're just not touching her. She doesn't participate in getting others down, and she doesn't allow anyone who may be trying to dig at her to find any success with that. I'm so thankful for this and hope she continues to be as strong and confident as she currently is.

However! For as much self confidence as I know Sweetie has, and for as well as I feel she can handle peer teasing or other peer negativity that may, or already has, come her way... the girl just cannot handle family members teasing her. More specifically, adult family members. This paradox just hit me today. Why can she confidently not be fazed by one, but be brought to tears and confusion by another?

I think the answer might be love. (Awwww.... the answer is always love, isn't it?) What I mean by that is - Sweetie has no particular emotional connection to anyone at school who may choose her as their focus in their teasing antics. So, who cares if they pick on her! She doesn't care what they think anyway. The confidence and love she has in herself is way stronger than anything these dumb put downs could possibly be. But - if someone she loves teases her about something (and specifically any adult who tries to tease her)... in a joking way, in a not-trying-to-hurt-you-at-all kind of way, but just as a silly tease about something meaningless in the eyes of the teaser... well, then. Sweetie is much more apt to not interpret what is said as a tease, but as something authentic and meaningful, and coming from a place of love. And why on Earth would something said that's coming from a place of love make her feel so confused, hurt, dumb, or whatever the case may be? Aha! I think that just may be it!

Fights between her and I, for instance, are apt to happen because of a misinterpreted tease. And that is definitely true between her Daddy and her too. So often we're having to end up talking to her about her attitude or her too-sensitive nature (her words) and assuring her that so-and-so meant nothing by what they offhandedly said. It was a tease. Don't worry about it. Everything is fine. You've got to learn to relax, to tease back, and to move on.

Wow. From Santa to Math Excellency to Self Confidence, Teasing and Love... What an epic post! I've always said that writing helps make things clearer for me. Oh how true that is today. Something to think about here, maybe, for everyone. A little bit of love and understanding will do ya all a bit of good, whatever you may be going through.


Monday, January 04, 2016

Push Me Around, Why Doncha!

We took Sweetie to - finally! - see The Science Behind Pixar exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science this past Saturday. This made me so happy, because it's something Sweetie's been wanting to see since the Spring, when she was one of a handful (or so) of kids who actually got to preview a few parts of the exhibit and offer her opinion on what she liked and didn't like about it - all in the name of making the exhibit excellent for all to see when it finally was ready to open to the public. She loved it, we loved it, and it was especially fun to share the experience with my cousin and her family, who happened to be planning a trip to the exhibit on the same day. It was a fun day all around!

But... the experience also made me sad because, well, it was just hard for me to do. Physically. To walk around. Without pain. Without numbness in my legs. Without sitting down every chance I got (which, if I was lucky, was every 5 minutes or so or, if I wasn't so lucky, every 20 minutes or more.) In fact - I wasn't able to get through the day - or even the first 15 - 20 minutes of our visit - without the pain and numbness settling in and not giving up. Finding a place to sit down for a bit always helps. It helps a good deal, actually. But the back pain was there, at some level or another, to stay, and the leg numbness returned within moments after getting up from every little rest I could find.

I could blame this all on the fact that I forgot to bring with me my (store bought by my own decision) back brace. But... hmmmm.... the last time I knew we'd be going on a bit of a walk (a tour of a local school Sweetie is interested in transferring to) and I did wear my back brace.... well, my legs got more numb and my back was in more pain than I can ever remember them being. I was forced to sit down and miss the second half (or more) of the tour because I simply wasn't physically able to do it. So, no. I don't think having my back brace would have done much, if anything, beneficial to me at the museum.

You know what? It's not how difficult it was for me to get around, or the pain or numbness that made me sad. No - I was expecting that. It's what my life is like now. Seeing the exhibit, being with family, seeing the excitement in Sweetie's eyes at everything - in the Pixar exhibit and beyond in the rest of the museum we visited afterwards - completely makes it all worthwhile to me. I can do it! My family allows me to sit and rest as much as I need, without complaint, each and every time. They are used to the limitations I have and what I need to do to help myself out, and they honor each and every request for "a few minutes rest" whenever the situation arises.

What really made me sad - makes me sad - is the realization I've now been forced to accept that I cannot do this anymore. I cannot go out on big walking adventures anymore. I. just. can't.

It's time. It's time I admit to myself that, when we go places that will require a large amount of walking, I must rent a wheelchair. This will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. There will be no issues with how long I can "last" as long as my companions are willing and able to help get me from place to place. Sure, they'll have me to push around, but Hubby and Sweetie are strong and able. I'm sure it'll be no problem at all - even fun! - for them to wheel me around anywhere we care to go, for as long as we all want to be there.

And it's not like I've never ridden in a wheelchair before! Why, when I was 16 and way more energetic and had a lot more "ability" with my disability, I visited Disney World with my mom and aunt and they wheeled me all around the Magic Kingdom and the other Disney parks. And when Hubby and I visited Paris when we were first dating, we were able to get me a wheelchair for our tour around the Louvre Museum. I wasn't riddled with back pain or numbness in those days. But I had just walked a ton on our Paris adventure, so getting to sit awhile while we visiting the museum was a treat for my tired bones.

But still - it's a sad realization for me to have to admit that this is it. I really can't just choose anymore to get a wheelchair or not just because it will make things a little easier maybe... No, now I absolutely must get a chair if I want to have any stamina left at the end of the day, and not want to feel like I'm complaining or making Hubby, Sweetie, or whomever else I'm with feel like they have to shorten their experience just because I'm completely done walking around.

But still - it feels like admitting this is just the first(??) step in heading downhill in my abilities as I get older (stairs are getting harder and harder for me too - at least on the up trip.) I don't want to get worse! I don't want to have to be in a wheelchair all the time! I don't want to become a burden to Hubby, Sweetie or anyone else!

Maybe you can even argue that I could work really hard and help myself enough with exercise, therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc., etc., etc... now to get me back to good enough and not needing a wheelchair when we're out and about. And maybe that's right. But only right enough. I've had this back pain and leg numbness (which is becoming worse as of late) long enough and with enough therapies, exercises, etc., etc., to know that all of what could be helping me only helps me a very minimal amount. Chiropractic perhaps is the best and I should look into getting back to that. But... take acupuncture, which is my latest attempt at relief. I had an acute back side pain that treatments helped with immensely! But treatments (and, yes, I've only had 4) have not done a lick of good for my general, Spina Bifida related pains and numbness. And, if you think about it, how could they? My body is just not set up the way it "should" be to have proper flow and connections. So acupuncture really could only get me so far, if at all, through any chronic issues I have. But chiropractic has helped me before - greatly! - and can work, over time, to physically move my body back into a more fluid order where synapses can begin to connect and pain and numbness can ease away. Yes, if anything, I suppose I'd go back to chiropractic.

But still - that would not be a cure-all. A great help, sure! But not a cure. I know it would still feel like the best option - to rent that wheelchair when out on lengthy adventures so that whatever chiropractic has helped to restore is not thrown out the window when my body walks and walks and walks, getting more and more tired, sloppy, and back to disrepair.

Okay. So this is not a sad thing. It's a helpful thing! We can be out for longer stretches of time! We can do more! I can still get out of the wheelchair when I want or when that makes looking at something on our adventure easier. It's not like I'd be stuck in it. But it would be helpful. And I know Sweetie and Hubby would actually make it fun, for them to push me around and "drive" me all over the place. It could be a real hoot, if I think about it. I mean, come on! Do you know Sweetie and Hubby?! They'd be a riot! We'd all be laughing and racing and having a grand old time, I'm sure.

So. There it is. A major, permanent change in how I live my life. I simply won't be able to do some adventures, since it's pretty hard to maneuver a wheelchair through the woods on geocaching hikes. But there will be so much more I now can do, because I'm not tiring out my body and I'm granting myself permission to take care of myself like I should.

Hubby is always telling me not to be a martyr. That I don't ask for help nearly as much as I should. He, more than anyone else, knows what I am capable of, and what I am not. He allows me to push myself further than anyone else does, because he knows I can do it! So.... that's another thing. Not wanting to disappoint him that this is now a thing that I cannot do.... But, no. Again, he tells me not to be a martyr. To ask for help! Well, I'm saying now, with this aspect of my life, I need the help.

Not sad. Glad. Glad I'm finding a way to still do (most) of the things I want to do with my family, while also doing what's right for me and my health.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Lucky #13

Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Wow - a teenager! Happy 13th birthday to you! As I write this, your birthday is a couple days away, but you'll be home from your day soon and your "birthday weekend" will officially begin. Games or Christmas movies tonight at home, then to the mall tomorrow to visit Santa (of course - your yearly tradition). We'll have dinner out, and we'll visit both sets of your grandparents before the weekend is done. Sunday - your actual birthday - is USUALLY your really busy day, running from one activity to another. But it looks like most of those activities are taking this week off. So your birthday is yours to do with as you wish! I'm interested to see if you'd like to attend the Advent Spiral at church, or just take the morning off to relax at home. It's up to you! - this week...

Back to that visit with Santa. We've been taking you to see Santa on or around your birthday every year since you were one year old (of course, that 1st photo was just a spontaneous decision while we happened to be at the mall sometime during the holiday season - you, all dressed in your Easter-colored play clothes). You have never been afraid of the big guy in red, and have always looked forward to your special visit with him. For the first several years you, of course, thought you were visiting with the Santa Claus! So exciting! But after some time, we must have let you know that, no, this is not the true Santa - he's too busy at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas. The Santa you see every year is just one of Santa's helpers. Still associated with him, but not him. Now? I really don't know anymore what you think, specifically, of the Santa we find at the mall each year. Do you still think he's one of Santa's special helpers - able to get your message to "Santa proper" with no trouble at all? Or do you understand that this is just some nice guy who's decided to take on the seasonal job of dressing like Santa and entertaining the kids who come to sit with him a bit? I'm not sure what's truly running through your head on this one... but I do know that when I asked you if you still wanted to go see Santa for your birthday this year, you very eagerly said "yes!" And so - off we'll go. At least for one more year. We'll see what your plans are for next year when we get there...

Because, you see, you still absolutely, positively, 1000% believe in Santa. All your peers tell you he's not real. You hear from them, as well as many adults and Christmas-themed specials we've watched, that he is only a character - a symbol - of Christmas. Your Social Studies teacher even flat out told your class that "Santa isn't real." when, in a huff of stress and anger with a rowdy class, one classmate of yours randomly asked her, "What would happen if Santa died?" You came home that day and told me, as you teared up, about the experience and how hearing her say this "broke your heart a little bit." Oh, Sweetie... It's okay. It's going to be okay. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything but feel for you in that moment and, yes, help you perpetuate your deeply held belief. But... it's time.

For as much as Daddy and I have always loved your belief in all things magical and whimsical... for as much as we've helped to instill this very belief inside of you... the time truly has come to gently bring you down to earth. So, this year, the day after Christmas, you'll be receiving one more gift - the Gift of Santa. A letter I've written to you to explain as well as we can but with as much hope, magic and belief as we can, the truth about Santa's existence in the world. Honestly, Daddy and I are feeling very anxious about giving this to you. How will you react? Will you accuse us of lying to you your whole life? Will you be angrier than you've ever been before? Will this ruin Christmas for you? Or is the letter gentle enough and magical enough to let you simply ease away from one belief and into a new adventure of being part of Santa's Team? I'm hoping you find warmth and inspiration in our words (Daddy and I both worked hard on this letter) and you feel the love with which it was written. We will find out soon enough what you think...

Truth be told, I honestly love how firmly you hold on to that which you believe. Whether it be Santa, or anything else in your world! I love how well "you do you" and aren't afraid to proudly just "be" Sweetie. Case in point - I asked you the other day if a classmate of yours whom you socialize with more outside of school than in had mentioned a certain thing to you during school. You stated that, no, they hadn't because, "well, I'm pretty much known as being the weird kid in our grade - which I'm totally okay with! - so lots of kids don't really talk to me at school, even if we're friends outside of school." I thought this was pretty awesome, actually. You do have good friends in school who talk to you all the time, I pointed out, and you said, "yes, I do - and that's how I know they're true friends!" So I am actually pleased to hear that you aren't afraid to be you and do as you wish, believe as you wish, and act as you wish, just because it makes you happy and that's who you are. Go, Sweetie!

It could be interpreted, though, that you're trying to be weird on purpose and wanting to push people away.. For instance, if you like a certain thing which isn't popular, if that thing were ever to become popular, there's the argument that you'd stop liking said thing because everyone likes it now - it's not you're own thing anymore. But no - I know that's not what you're saying at all. Take your love of Doctor Who, for instance. I know you try to introduce people to the Doctor and are excited when they too get to know the show and begin to love it a little themselves. You're happy to open others' eyes to that which you enjoy. If they like it too - great! But if not - that's totally fine. You'll still love whatever it is and will continue to do so as fervently and passionately as ever, no matter what others think.

(This even applies - yes - to the whole "Santa thing." But in this case, we've advised you to just not talk about your belief in him at school, so that you don't invite others to pick on you about it. In fact, we've even told you that if anyone asks you if you still believe, that it's fine to say, "No,"- again, so that others don't pick on and bully you for what you believe. Sure! Go on and keep believing what you want! You be you! Just, sometimes, it's better to not advertise that which you know to be so different from how many of your peers think and believe. When we spoke to you about this strategy, you regrettably agreed with us, saying, "Yeah, usually I like to be who I am and not just go along with the crowd. But in this case, I agree, it's okay if I say I don't believe anymore. Santa will understand." Yes, he definitely will Sweetie.)

Other things going on this year... well, the one big thing is that you've recently applied to a specialized school for STEM academics. It's a public charter school that specializes in math and science-based learning. It's an excellent school in our state and, in fact, highly respected in the whole country. We recently went to an Information Night as part of the application process where we learned, among other things, how rigorous the academics are and how much is expected of the students. i.e.: lots of homework! We thought surely you'd be scared off by this intimidating information. But, no, after the talk we asked you again how you were feeling about this school and you said you were more interested than ever to go there. Great! We finished the application and now we just wait. Unfortunately, entry into this school is purely a lottery-based process, with a ton of kids who've applied right alongside you. So the chances of you getting in are, quite frankly, pretty slim. But you definitely don't get in if you don't try. We'll know by the end of January what your lottery number is, and by mid April if you get an invitation to attend. We wish you luck!

All in all, 12 has been a really great year for you. You've had a busy year of theater, starting this Spring with getting your 1st much-desired speaking part (at this one particular theater company) of "The Princess of Sweet Rhyme" in a local production of The Phantom Tollbooth (which happens to be one of your favorite books too.) This was followed by a seemingly non-stop fun few months of performing and learning at your beloved summer playhouse. Finally, you went right into the Fall production of The Wizard of Oz, back again with the same company who produced The Phantom Tollbooth. I do love how much you love to perform! For a girl who's such a math and science whiz kid, it's wonderful to see how well you express your creative side, and how much fun you have doing it - not only on the stage, but in your artwork and creative projects you make for yourself, as well as those you create with your Destination Imagination team (5th year on a team and going strong!)

I really do think of you as our "Renaissance Girl" - interested in and talented in so many vastly different aspects of life. My goodness - you want to be either a Mechanical Engineer, and/or an Animator when you grow up! Like I was getting at above - you certainly don't let yourself get locked into a certain box. You're happy to learn about, explore and become enthusiastic about whatever it is that appeals to you, and that is awesome! And you live such a joyful, carefree existence, with hardly a self-conscious bone in your body. You are you and you love it!

Another story - your English class is putting on mini skits this week from your reading of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol." Your group went yesterday, and you dressed the part as you went off to school, taking along with you a change or two of costume so that all three of the characters you were playing looked different. Well, after your first lines with one character, you left the classroom to the hallway, where you quickly put on additional costume items for your next roll. But, as you entered back into the room, you saw that everyone was waiting for you! Apparently, you misjudged how long it would take to get to your next lines. Your classmates got through the dialogue quickly and just needed you back to do your thing. And - no one else brought costumes with them at all. It was just you, changing your clothes from one scene to the next.

Well! As you told me this, I was thinking how absolutely mortified I would have been at your age (at any age!) if that was me. The only one with costumes, and they had to stop the skit and wait for me?! Forget about it! I'd just die (and not bother to change into different costumes.) But you just thought it was funny that they had to wait, and that Fezziwig (your next part) had to wear a skirt because you didn't have time to adjust your previous costume just so. And at the end of it all? You got a 100% and your teacher said it was the best skit she'd seen all day. Great job!

Yes, Sweetie, I so look forward to seeing what the year ahead holds for you. Whatever is on your path, I know you'll approach it with intrigue, gusto, and smarts because that's simply how you approach everything in life. Your future is certainly bright, no matter what. Daddy and I are so proud of you. Keep on keepin' on.

Happy Birthday, Sweetie! Hoping you have a great day and a fabulous entry into the teenage years!

Love,

Mom








Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Magic is Inside of You

An open letter, in our struggle between telling the truth and keeping magic alive. To be given to Sweetie the day after Christmas, in an envelope titled "The Gift of Santa." 

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Dear Sweetie,

Merry Christmas! If we know you - and you know we do - than we’re certain you’ve had a wonderful few weeks full of holiday cheer, awesome Advent Door finds, fun adventures and lots and lots of love. That’s what it’s all about, right? You betcha! 

And - we know we celebrated with you last weekend - but Happy Birthday to you too! Wow! 13 years old already! Why, we remember when you were just a teeny tiny newborn sleeping in our arms, being passed around the room so everyone could get a chance to snuggle with you at your very first Christmas celebration. What a joyful addition you were to our family and, of course, you still are today. You are quite a young lady - so kind, generous, smart, happy, creative, curious, and full of the beauty of wonder and magic. We really are so proud of you, all that you are, and all that you are destined to become. 

Now… we have a surprise for you. As a newly-minted 13 year old, you have earned the privilege of getting in on a special little secret we have had the privilege of being a part of for quite awhile now. And now we'd finally like to share it with you. True, lots of other children - many even younger than you - already think they know. But, really, only the special kids with big hearts, big imaginations and, most importantly, big love can honestly understand and appreciate the truth. And at 13 years old - it’s time you know for sure… it’s time you were told… 

We’re giving you a job. Yes - you! Oh, lots of other people have this job as well. Mostly older teens and many, many adults. Whomever is able to spread love, joy, faith, generosity and magic to those they hold closest to their hearts and - in fact - to the whole world. The world really needs a lot of love these days - both the earth itself, and each and every inhabitant of it. Oh how much we can do towards that end when we work together! And you’re just the heart needed to add to the team.

So here’s the truth of it. It's about Santa (if you haven't guessed that already.)

Santa is real. He's as real as you, as real as us. In fact, Santa actually lives... it's true...inside us all. That’s right. With the world as big as it is and with so many new people coming into it every day, the Santas of the world need to divide and conquer. You never knew this before, but, well… you really didn’t believe that he could go to absolutely everyone on Christmas Eve, did you? Well, we know you did, and that is awesome! Your faith in Santa and his abilities is admirable! But, no - Santa - as one being - just wouldn’t be able to do it all. But by dividing his tasks amongst everyone with a heart big enough, kind enough, and generous enough to care to spread his message and keep him alive in their hearts as well as the hearts of others, well…we get the job done. And you fit that bill to join us just right! 

At 13 years old, you are ever growing, ever changing, ever developing into a truly magnificent young woman full of grace, beauty, faith and love. Able to take on new information and new responsibilities even when you're not sure you're ready. And what an honor it is to gift you with this information and this responsibility in particular! Because now it’s your turn - yes, yours! - to act on behalf of Santa. Your turn, along with us, to go Christmas shopping, wrap gifts, fill the stockings, and give to others in Santa’s name. Your job to keep him alive in your heart and those of others - and especially little children -  not just at Christmas time, but all year long. 

It is every parent's job - responsibility - to bring magic into their children' lives. We have taken this job seriously and have proudly worked hard to do that for you. And what a magical, amazing, wonder-full young woman you have become! We look forward to you one day having a family of your own - if you choose - to whom you can pass along and instill the same, deep-seated sense of wonder and awe - of magic! - that we have instilled in you. 

Well, now you know for sure. Does Santa really, truly exist? The answer is - of course he does! He exists in so many wonderful, beautiful ways. Santa is Magic! Santa is Love! Santa is Belief in that which we cannot see! Santa is Hope! Santa is Generosity! Yes, Santa is Us. And - now - Santa is You. And you are Santa. We are a team. Santa will always exist, as long as you believe and hold him close in your heart. He (Magic, Love, Belief, Hope, Generosity) wants to be everywhere, needs to be everywhere. Haven't you noticed how everyone gets a little bit nicer, a little more understanding, and plain ol' jolly around the holidays? That's Santa at work right there! And now, with your help, these gifts of his can go further than they ever have before. Because of you and your generous, loving, faithful heart, you make Santa’s existence in the world just that much more certain. Without you and so many others like you… his work here on Earth would not be as powerful, amazing and as truly magical as it really is. 

Thank you so much, Sweetie! For what? Why, for just you being you! For being someone we are proud to call not only our daughter, but also an awesome new addition to Team Santa! We know you will work extra hard with us to help spread his message - his gifts - of love, hope, faith and generosity as far and wide as you possibly can. Thank you. Your assistance with this means so very much. 

You will do many great things in your life, Sweetie. As you begin your teenage years of maturing and growing up, may this new task we’re gifting you with today be just the start of all the wonderful offerings you will turn around and give to the world and your fellow earthly companions. There truly is magic inside of you - just as there is in every living creature. Believe in this magic, feel humbled by it, feel empowered by it, and share your own personal magic wherever your life leads you on. 

And never forget - we love you very much. Feel that love, and the love of Santa, and gift it to as many people as you possibly can.

May your Christmas Celebration continue on in joy, love, generosity and magic, and may your New Year be ever bright!

Much Love,



Mom and Dad

Friday, December 19, 2014

T Minus 1 Year and Counting...

... Until you are officially a teenager. I cannot wrap my brain around that. I just can't. And still, it's true. Because tomorrow is your 12th birthday. Happy Birthday, little girl!

Or... not so little girl. Yes, you're still smallish in stature compared to your average female classmate (you're not quite but very nearly almost my height now, just under 5 ft even), but you've grown so much, mentally and socially - especially within the last 2 months or so. In fact, Daddy and I were talking just a couple weeks ago to each other, sincerely impressed with the young woman you're becoming. It's like a switch has been thrown, really. Daddy, being Daddy, has specifically notice how much your sense of humor has recently matured. You can now take, understand, and deliver a joke way more successfully than in the past. You're appreciating other comics and remembering not only their words, but their delivery, as well as the sometimes punny and/or double entendre meanings behind their funny stories and jokes. You are much better at "yes, and"ing, as Daddy calls it - which, quite honestly, makes living with you much easier than when you were more sensitive to possibly being picked on and teased. Now? You just throw it right back in the best ways ever!

And me? Well, I've noticed your easier flow of speech and your increasing ability to tell a good story. Your ability to be a little more economical with your words. To, basically, just have a more relaxed, easier flow about you in general. I don't know, you just seem more typically teenager-y, but in a good way. :) Even things like small little injuries you may incur. The accident will happen, you'll say "Ow!" and quickly look to see if you're bleeding. Of course, most times you're not, so you just buck up and say, "Nope - I'm good" and move on. No more big drama for little pains. Very little big drama for anything, really. You're pretty much able to take whatever life throws your way with little mess left in its wake.

Not to say there's not the continuing pre-teen angst and common drama surrounding this natural phenomenon called "growing up." You do still have your moments, or even your days. But... I think you're, let's say, getting used to them. And maybe so are we. I think maybe you now know a little better what you need to do, or who you need to go to - or not -  in order to help you return to a more even keel when you do find yourself on unsure footing. Sure, there are always going to be some blow ups that throw you and us for a loop. But we get through it. We all know how to move on. And - bottom line - you know we love you even if we don't know how to help you through a mini blip. Even if we mess up. If you mess up! It's just a blip. We love you and - I am so very grateful for this! - you have a fantastic head on your shoulders full of self respect and humble-but-true love for yourself. That right there, I promise you, will take you far. May you never lose sight of yourself and what you have already accomplished and/or that which you are destined to achieve - both inwardly and for the the rest of the world to take notice of and admire. You make us proud every single day. And I know you're proud of yourself too, as you should be.

This year you've started 6th grade. You're first year as a Middle Schooler! Typically, middle school is just bad news all around. No fun for the growing kid, and no fun for the parents of said kid. But for you? Well... you have just blossomed! And I know we live in a tiny little town with maybe not the best school system ever. But as far as I'm concerned, I have been really impressed with all your new school has to offer for you and your classmates in terms of growth and development opportunities and time set aside each day devoted to catching up and limiting the amount of work brought home. I especially liked the sound of the month long class you just finished - Guidance. A class that helped you and your classmates look to the future school-wise (including college) and career-wise. You figured out from this class that you want to be a mechanical engineer! Very cool. Additionally, this class taught you all a thing or two about respect and honor and just simply being good people. What a great class! And, yes, it was over the course of this class that Daddy and I took a real notice in your own personal growth and development. You ended up getting an A+ in that class! It sure does show, how much you paid attention there, put in the effort and did the work. You are great! (but you already knew that...)

Another thing about Middle School... you've seemed to have finally met one great, true friend. A girl who came over from the next town's elementary school. She just happens to be in every one of your classes (except for 2: your school's versions of Home Room and Study Hall). And she just happens to be a perfect fit for you. You both love Minecraft, and cats, and aren't real girly-girls, and tend to migrate towards boys as friends. You both love school and do well in your studies. You're both what I would call "nerdy gamer girls." Confident nerdy gamer girls at that! We had the pleasure of spending one evening with this new friend and you a couple months back, and now she's set to sleep over at our house tomorrow night in celebration of your birthday. We really like her and can see why you both get along so well.

I was honestly afraid that you - who preferred to spend your elementary school recesses alone even if you did claim to have good friends you could have played with - would get even more lost in the shuffle now that you would be at Middle School with no recesses at all. But... I forgot about The Lunch Table!!!! The all important social status hangout area of the upper grades. You either find your group to bond and eat with from here on out, or you're alone. Thank goodness for this new friend, and the (boy) friends who more or less came along with her from their school. You've gotten yourself a really great core group of tight friends right now. I'm not blind to the benefits these new friends have contributed to your own growth and development as well. And I know you help bring out the best in them! You've finally got some awesome kids to help you learn how to relax more, hang out and chat, have fun, and just "be" with... instead of always being on your own. Great friends really do help you in lots of great ways. Good for you all for being there for each other!!

Tonight we're going for our annual trip to the mall to see Santa - you're request. I asked you a few weeks back if you still wanted to do this, and you looked at me like I had 3 heads. "Duh!" You still believe! And you honestly don't understand why other kids are beginning not to. Actually, you've told us how sad you are for these kids and mad you are at their parents who "take over" buying the Santa gifts and not letting Santa do his job! You know - you just may have something there. Maybe that's it - as soon as a kid starts to doubt, or flat out not believe, then the magic of Santa is lost to them and he no longer comes around to their houses, instead letting the parents take over. So much the better for Santa! Less kids on Christmas Eve night for him to visit. But visit he does, to the true believers such as yourself. Never stop believing!

What more can I say. You're doing fantastic at school with your Honor Roll grades, your teachers are letting us know what a bright, curious, attentive and funny student you are, you've made some really great friends for you, you're looking ahead to your future in a serious and meaningful way, you're humor and speech is more refined, and your belief in magic, love, hope and joy is as strong as ever. You're helpful around the house and kind and respectful to all you meet. And you're still a really great cuddler who loves hanging out with her parents, playing games or watching TV, being held "with two hands" just like you've always preferred. The best parts of you are maturing, growing up and reaching for the future, and you still maintain the best parts of a magical childhood. How much better can it all be?!

So.... T minus 365 more days until you're a teenager. I can't believe it. I don't like this time going by so fast. But, also, I can't wait! I can't wait to see who you're becoming based on the awesome person you currently are. You are all set to blast off and be the most amazing teenager that ever was, I'm sure, ready to take on the world and become a successful, happy and self-assured adult.

And Daddy and me? We'll keep preparing your launching pad for you to give you the best boost we possibly can into the wide, wild world ahead.

Happy Birthday, little girl. We love you.




Friday, June 27, 2014

Not a Care in the World

So, this post will fit in nicely with my last one...

Alternate title? She's Just Not There Yet...

Sweetie has recently had the chance to reconnect a bit with some girls she used to know as a toddler. These girls are sisters and are both a bit older than Sweetie - one just a year older, the other now starting 9th grade in the fall. I would not particularly classify them as ever being all "friends" together, one - because they were all so young when they more regularly saw each other, and two - they only saw each other, before, because of Hubby and I interacting with their mom on a professional basis. Sweetie and the girls just sometimes happened to be around during these times.

Anyway, now these girls have all reconnected, and they are all surprised to see how much each other has grown. Common for anyone, really, who hasn't seen a kid in a long time. They do grow up, even though you only know them as that cute little toddler from your memory.

Now, this one girl who's now going into 7th grade - as opposed to Sweetie who's about to enter 6th - seems to have grown into a bubbly, bright personality interested in all the "typical" things that girls her age tend to care about. Sports, music, TV shows, movies, the whole pop culture/Hollywood thing. And so, with that, I've listened to her question Sweetie on her interests.

She started off with, "So, what sports do you play." Quite an innocent, fine question. But funny in my eyes - not "do you like sports?" but "what do you play?" The assumption there that of course Sweetie plays something! It's just that Sweetie doesn't play any sports. I felt the need, as I sat nearby, to help Sweetie on by getting her to tell her old/new friend what she did like. So, she said how she likes theater and also does Destination Imagination during the school year. Oh! At least it turned out that this girl was familiar with DI and had some friends of her own who were in it.

But then she kept asking Sweetie questions of the "what's your favorite song/TV show/singer/movie" variety. And for all of it? Sweetie really doesn't care. She likes songs - even likes to listen to the radio in her room a lot of the time - but claims she doesn't have a particular favorite song, singer or band. Sweetie told her that she likes lots of different songs, but doesn't know who sings them.

Sweetie was also asked if she likes the books/movies Divergent or The Fault in Our Stars. Ha! I laughed to myself. No. Reading in general is not high on Sweetie's enjoyment list, and - if it was - it totally wouldn't be the Divergent or Fault in Our Stars type of book she'd go for. More like Harry Potter or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But apparently, this girl has read all the Divergent books twice and, each book took her only 2 days to read. Well, good for her!

On the way home from one of the recent times we saw this girl, and after the first round of this questioning of Sweetie, I tried to talk to Sweetie and, well, comfort and assure her that it was totally okay that Sweetie had no real interest in the singers, stars and activities that this girl did. Everyone is different and that's okay. And you know what Sweetie said?

"What? It sounds like your trying to comfort me and tell me it's okay that I don't like what she likes. I know that, Mom! I'm totally fine!"

Well, okay then. My work here is done.

Since that time, we've seen this girl once more. And Sweetie was grilled again on what shows she likes, mostly. We, though, don't have "regular" TV and only watch specific things we choose to watch through our Hulu or Netflix accounts. And so The Billboard Awards show that was just on, for instance, wasn't even an option for us to watch. And all the Disney preteen type shows Sweetie was asked about? Well, she's never really seen them enough to care about seeking them out to watch. So, no. No real favorite TV shows either. We tend to watch fun family shows in the evenings that we can all agree upon and enjoy together.

Now, could Sweetie have mentioned how much she likes playing Minecraft and watching all the Minecraft related videos she can find on Youtube? Sure she could have. But I think Sweetie got the sense that this girl was probably not a Minecraft type of girl, so she just stayed clear of bringing it up.

And so, there's that. Sweetie's just not there yet in terms of interest in the "popular" things her peers care about.

Beyond this, though, is the fact that Sweetie is just not there yet in terms of how she presents herself in front of her peers.

Sweetie, for instance. is a cryer. If she's upset, or hurt in any way or, mad, she will cry. And have an attitude. In front of us or other family. And in front of friends. At school. Wherever she is, her emotions show through. Without a care in the world about what anyone else will think about it - Sweetie will show and tell anyone exactly as she's thinking and feeling.

This, you and I can both argue, is a perfectly wonderful quality to have. She doesn't care! She's not inhibited by peer pressure! She will do and be and act exactly as she pleases no matter what. It is a great thing! Go, Sweetie!

Yes, all true.

But, it can also, I imagine, make her peers feel uncomfortable around her or plain old not like her because "she's such a baby." Not that I've ever heard another kid say this about her, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is what some of them thought.

And, quite frankly, it angers and embarrasses Hubby and I when she acts this way in public and we have to talk to her - in front of friends/family/her peers/whoever about her poor attitude and behavior. It's just not fun for anyone.

We've been picking Sweetie and her friend/classmate/cast mate up from late tech week rehearsals for the show they're both in starting this weekend. A couple of nights ago, it was raining at pick up time. Sweetie didn't have an umbrella or raincoat, so she - like all the other kids - got a little wet as they ran to their parents' cars to go home. While Sweetie's friend quickly got in the car and out of the rain as fast as she could, Sweetie - who "hates getting wet when I don't want to!" stood out in the rain, at the car door, and refused to touch the door handle to let herself in because the handle was wet!! So, instead of getting out of the rain that she hated, she stayed in the rain until she finally bucked up enough courage - or anger or whatever - to touch the handle to help herself get in!

Ugh!

And then, of course, she was verbally upset and, if not truly bawling, then at least quite teary, as the car ride finally got underway to bring her friend and her home.

All the while, her friend sitting silently, most likely not knowing what in the world to do while Sweetie had her mini breakdown.

Then last night at pick up time, Sweetie and friend got in the car - this time with Sweetie teary and upset about a bad headache that she had. And so, another uncomfortably silent (except for Sweetie's aggrieved declarations every once in awhile) ride got underway.

Unfortunately, I think this month of everyday practices and several shared rides has done nothing to foster a better friendship between these two girls who used to (years ago) call themselves "best friends." Now, I think they are merely pleasant with each other. Friendly, perhaps, but not friends. Mostly because of the different stages of emotional development that they are in. (Beyond what we've experienced with the car ride behavior, Sweetie has told us that the two of them hang out with different groups of people during rehearsal breaks and generally aren't interested in the same types of things anymore.)

All this to say - yeah, Sweetie's just not there yet in terms of caring what others think or taking any interest in "popular" peer activities or subject matter. But, you know? I'm not sure I ever really see Sweetie caring what other's think about her (too much, anyway) or the popular activities of the time. Sweetie is just Sweetie. She likes what she likes and does what she does.

Yes, she can be bored. Lonely. She can even feel like no one likes her or cares about what she's feeling. I've seen all of that. But that's still all about her. What she's feeling, not others. Sweetie will not compromise either. She will not bend or adjust her interests just so she fits in better with a particular person or crowd. And she will not hold in her thoughts if she feels she's being treated unfairly or not getting the attention she wants. To the surprise of those around her, Sweetie will stand up for herself at all costs to let you know what's what. And if you don't like it - well, Sweetie's not even thinking about that. Sorry. She just wants what she wants, end of story.*

I know that's part of growing up. Realizing that other's opinions and feelings matter. Caring what others think and not wanting to make yourself stand out so much, not wanting to be so different from your peers. Doing what you can to make others feel comfortable and happy, and having it be less about what you as an individual want. And, some days, I guess I do see this in Sweetie. It's coming, a little bit. But not quite. For the most part, no, not yet.

She's just not there yet. And that's totally fine.

My - our - work here continues on...

-----------------------------------------------------

* Back for a little bit of clean up.

I feel bad. It's wrong of me to say that Sweetie is all about herself with no care for others. This is not true even most of the time, let alone the "all of the time" I think this post seems to indicate. I have more than certainly seen Sweetie be caring and very, very thoughtful of others. In fact, in terms of these rides home from theater rehearsal I've talked about here, it impresses me beyond measure that, every night (alas, except for the one night it was raining), Sweetie gets out of the car at her friend's house and walks her to the door. Whether her friend really wants that or not, and even though their true friendship seems to be waning, Sweetie knows it's the nice and right thing to do. Very sweet and caring, indeed.

Many, many posts I write here illustrate the caring, sweet girl that Sweetie can be. Most of the time, yes, she can be and truly is someone who thinks beyond herself for the benefit of others. I especially remembering one post where I noted how Sweetie wanted to help - of all people - the one girl in her class who obviously did not like her. Wow! Now that's something! But to Sweetie? It was just the right thing to do.

That said, it's those times when Sweetie is upset in some way or another that everything goes wonky. When she's upset, it's all about her and she doesn't care who knows it. Yes, this can be true for anyone - especially kids. But I also think that kids of her age bracket are trying their hardest to hold in their intense feelings, trying to "be cool" and not show they're hurt as much as they really are. Sweetie doesn't do that. Sweetie doesn't care. When she's upset, you will know it, no matter who you are or where she is.

Sweetie - she loves bigs, and she hurts big. She tries to be as good as she can and as helpful and caring as she can, and it hurts her in a big way when others don't treat her well and act in the same.

And what's so bad about that?

Nothing. Nothing at all.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Content. Happy. Great.

Hairdressers are really smart, intuitive people. Mine especially can really get me to thinking sometimes. I've know her for years - since Sweetie was small. And while I haven't usually been terribly consistent about going to her, possibly taking up to more than a year off from visits at times, whenever I do go back she's there with a big smile, always happy to see me and interested in a "life" update. And - maybe most importantly - she always remembers exactly how I like my hair done. Yay!

And, so it was when I last visited her about a month ago. At the time, I was freshly off another big drama-fest with Sweetie. My hairdresser has a 16 year old daughter, as well as a college-aged daughter, so she was right there with me, able to both commiserate and provide useful insight to help get me through.

One of the things I was mentioning to her, though, is not something that's a newfound issue I have with Sweetie. No, this particular personality trait is just an aspect of Sweetie's regular ol' ways. And you might think that I as a parent would actually be appreciative of this part of Sweetie's behavior. And I am, mostly. But somethings…

What I'm talking about is the fact that Sweetie is not an overly excitable child. You know? Like those kids who get so unbelievably jumping-and-screaming-around-the-room excited when you tell them about an upcoming surprise trip you've planned for the family, or they open up THE MOST AWESOME GIFT EVER on their birthday or Christmas? Or they get super duper can't-sleep-at-night/wake up jibber-jabbering about whatever thrilling event is ALMOST HERE!!!? Yeah. No. Not Sweetie. She is a cool cucumber in the midst of even the most awesome of awesome life events. Happy, yes! Excited, sure! But as far as what's outwardly displayed, you'll just see a smily, politely grateful girl happy to receive the news or gift you're presenting, or as she thinks about the upcoming fun event that's to happen in the near future.

So - yay! What's the problem? Well, nothing really. It's actually pretty nice that we can have calm, slow Christmas mornings - taking our time together before we all decide it's time to go downstairs for breakfast treats and a look into our stockings. And I have to say that, if I did have a crazy excitable kid bouncing off the walls of my house for every new and great thing, I would have to drink a LOT more wine than I already do. Chill out, already! Calm the heck down! No. It wouldn't suit me very well at all. And so, it really is a pretty great thing to have a politely grateful, happily calm kid.

However, there are those times when I myself get so freakin' excited about giving particular gifts, or wondering just how much Sweetie will LOVE particular life experiences and opportunities. And then… eh. Politely grateful. Happily content with life. Everything's just cool. Everything's just fine.

So many camera shots poised for that perfect pic of Sweetie opening THE BEST GIFT EVER!! Only to witness in person, and then remember forever through photos, that the actuality of her reactions are way, way more subdued than I'd ever have thought they could ever be. So many times I've wonder all day long how Sweetie is liking the field trip she's on/ the first day of camp/ the amusement park trip with friends/ etc., for me to come home and excitedly bombard her with questions… only to be answered with quiet, albeit smily, affirmations of fun had. No stories about the best part of the day. No blow-by-blow reviews of every little detail. Just a happy smile that she did indeed have fun on whatever big outing she'd just returned from.

Bah. Fine. Be that way. Ya fun-crasher.

Case in point, that I happened to be detailing for my hairdresser that day about a month ago, was this past Christmas morning when Sweetie opened up her last gift - a gift from us that all her other gifts (which were from Santa) were leading up to through clues. The best gift ever!!!! She was going to be so shocked and surprised and crazy excited like you couldn't even imagine!!! My heart was beating in excitement and my camera was ready to capture it all.

But then she opened it - Tickets to see Matilda: The Musical on Broadway! - and she… was politely, happily thankful. For something I KNEW she really wished she could go see. For something I KNEW she'd absolutely love! For a trip experience I was 1000% positive was so completely her. And, yes, all of that is and was so true. She really was very happy and excited to receive this gift! But just in her own quiet, calm way. It's just her way.

I should have learned by now. Like I said, years of Christmas gifts I knew she'd be so completely stoked about! All met with the same quiet, polite happiness and gratitude.

What a let down, though, when I keep building my expectations of her reactions so high. I must stop it!

BUT… swing things the other way, when things go terribly wrong in her world… then you will get your reaction! Hoo boy, will you get a reaction! (No need for me to demonstrate "cases in point" here, as the last several posts, I think, can showcase and explain this all very nicely.)

And so… getting back to the greatness and intuitiveness that is my hairdresser… after hearing this Christmas story, and about how Sweetie is this not-crazily-excitable kid in general, she suggested, "Well, to me that just says that she's always happy. Always content. Life, to her, is just one big great thing after another, so no extraordinary expressions of being really great are warranted. But, when things slip below her typical ballpark "great" range, then you hear about it. Everything's great for her… until it's not."

Well, now. Duh.

What, after all, is Sweetie's typical answer when asked how she is? "Great!" Always has been, always will be. We've never taught her that she should answer with "great." She just started, ever since she could answer that question, and that has remained her baseline. Sweetie. She is great.

Of course, now with preteen issues, emotions and craziness tossed in the mix, her baseline has been thrown for a loop. Maybe even, perhaps, making Sweetie's preteen dramas even that much more traumatizing for her because she's so used to being nothing but great all the time. If she were always "fine" and now, with hormones raging, she found that life was a little less fine - well now, at least that's not as big a fall as it is from "great" to "less fine." She's falling bigger, maybe. By her own standards and, therefore, by ours when we witness her huge meltdowns to typically small-potatoes happenings.

There you have it, folks. Sweetie is and always has been "great." She's not just saying it - she's living it! Always content. Always happy. Always great.

Until she's not.

We're just here to help soften the landing when she falls from such great heights.

I think we can do that. I know we'll do our best.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Calm before the Storm

I've come here to write. But before, I look. I haven't written much this school year, I see. And that which I have written has either been fraught with - or at least sprinkled with - the ups and, primarily downs, of tweenaged storminess. And yet why am I called to write again today? You got it. The weather around here.. oh man. Frightful.

But, seeing as it's all I've talked about this year, I just… don't. Can't even. Sweetie is a drama queen and I, in my writings about it, can certainly come off with a tad more drama than any given situation truly warrants. Gee, where does she get it from? I wonder.

But really. Tweenaged girls are rough. They have the capacity to make parents who think they are absolutely crushing it feel absolutely crushed. "Don't tell me what to do!" "Why didn't you remind me what to do?!" "I don't care what people think!" "I care what people think!" "Let me do it myself!" "I can't do it - you always do it for me - do it for me!" And on. And on.

In the middle of it all, I am trying - really trying - to remain her calm in the middle of her storms. Do I like her over-the-top outbursts about nothing at all? Do I condone her attitude towards us and others? Heck, no! But I also "get it." I was a tween once upon a time as well. I know she doesn't know why she's feeling and acting out in these ways. I know that her reactions are way, way out of proportion to whatever the situations at hand are all about. And so I try to breathe. And answer her as calmly, yet firmly, as I can. I try to stand up for her when I see she needs - but doesn't necessarily recognize that she needs - some support. I try not to punish her for her outbursts and behaviors - unless it's truly called for, which I find it rarely is. She's just having a "moment" and I try to acknowledge that and let her deal as she needs. But I do, along with Hubby, demand respect. And I do try to stand firm by my decisions. This, I find, can be the hardest part.

Knowing, once I've made up my mind about something, that I need to hold on to that decision no matter what "but, Mom!" she throws at me - it's hard. Knowing which battles to fight and which to let slide. Knowing how stubborn and adamant she can be and, so, not backing down just so that Sweetie will stop arguing and providing reason after reason why what she wants is no big deal. Trying so hard to end as few arguments on my end as possible with, "Fine! Do what you want! You're just going to do it anyway." Trying not to feel defeated and "crushed." Flattened by the storm. It's hard.

I found this article on staying close with your tween daughter. I think it's fantastic. And I'm trying. I know Hubby is trying. And I even believe that Sweetie, in her own way, understands that we're trying to do our best as we all struggle through these years with her. Sweetie, at her core, remains as her nickname states - a sweetie. She is a caring, smart, creative, sweet girl who still loves hanging out with her parents, for the most part, playing games, watching movies, learning and adventuring. She can be and usually is her usual "great" self. She absolutely is.

But then… oh man...

You know, I feel like a softie. Or something. I mean, we are only just at the very beginnings of pre-adolesence with her. All you other parents of older kids, I'm sure, are just laughing your way through as you read this. "You just wait," you're thinking. "This is nothing," you're trying to tell me through the blogwaves. "If you can't handle this, I feel badly for what lies ahead for Sweetie and you," you think as you shake your head in disbelief, wondering just how we'll make our way to the other side with only a few scrapes and cuts. I know. Believe me, I know. But I'm also viewing this time as a foundation-laying exercise. If we can get through this and make Sweetie believe, even just a little bit, that we are on her side and do understand what she's going through… if she can view us as her parents that, yes, demand respect but are always here with listening ears and open arms… I think our relationship together through her teen years will be that much more successful because of it.

I'm hoping, anyway. And keeping calm through the storms.