Happy Birthday Camille!
Happy birthday to you, my amazing 8-year-old! Right now you're stretched out on a futon, fast asleep in the Brooklyn apartment we're using for our week-long NYC vacation. You're exhausted but satisfied after birthday adventures - primarily seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

Outside the Majestic TheaterAt the Majestic Theater
You've been listening to the songs for months, even requesting viola sheet music and working so hard to play Music of the Night. Today when the opening notes of that song rang out in the Majestic Theater, you jumped up and down in your seat and clapped your hands with a look on your face like you might burst with excitement.

Phantom of the Opera!
It has been a spectacular birthday, and I have loved sharing it with you on this trip. Your birthday always finds me reflecting on the kind of person you are right now, at this milestone. Here are some reflections I've had over the past few days, preparing for this birthday letter.

You're eight years old, and you're happy and fun-loving. You're affectionate and kind. You love to swim and love to travel. You love being with friends, but you hate staying up late.

Yeah, about that. We've always kept a consistent bedtime, but I imagined as you grew older it would be easier to bend the rules a bit. Or at least I assumed so. But you HATE staying up late. You get anxious, and start complaining, "I'm going to be soooo tired tomorrow!" What kid says things like that? During sleepovers, you're usually the first (and only?) to beg for bedtime. I've heard you in a room with other non-sleepers, trying to persuade them to play the "quiet game" so you can go to sleep."Ok everybody!" you announce. "One-Two-Three-QUIET!"

One time, as a sleepover began to get rowdy, I marched in and made what I thought was a threat. "If you all can't go to sleep, I'm going to have to split you into different beds." 

"Oh please mama!" you said. "Will you?"

Ha!

Recently I've had a chance to delve into your own self-reflections a bit. At the end of the school year, your backpack came home stuffed with the notebooks and journals you'd kept throughout the year.

Camille's Book of Secrets
The notebooks were full of gems, like the fun story you wrote called "Camille and the Dragon," in which you and the dragon Blood Wing defeat the evil sorcerer from Mexico. "Blood Wing blew his fire fast and Camille stabbed him in the stomach! Then they put the sorcerer in the ground and covered him with acorns and he grew into an oak tree. Then they went off on another adventure!"

There were other nuggets, like the page entitled "BFF Secrets" in which you penned, "I like Draco Malfoy" and drew a heart over his name.

And this declaration: 
"Kloe is my best freind. We are warewolevs."

Werewolf Buddies
During the last week of school, your teacher assigned each of you a packet of paperwork called "My End of the Year Book." It had pages prompting you to describe your year, your teacher, your friends.

End of Year Book
You said very nice things about two of your buddies, and the third one got this lukewarm description: 

"She is a little talkative but otherwise a best friend forever."

On the page about your future, this: 
"In my future I will be a marine biologist. I will take care of dolphins. It will be aswome."

Future Marine Biologist
And I loved what you drew for your favorite summer memory (it's one of mine, too): 

Favorite Summer Memory
And there was a page all about you. So today, as you turn eight years old, here's what you have to say about you:

My favorite book: Matilda
My favorite author: Mo Willems
My favorite school subject: Science
My Favorite Song: Let It Go
My favorite musician: Myself
My favorite teacher: Ms. Jen
My favorite sport: Gymnastics
My favorite activity: Viola
My favorite thing to talk to my friends about is: Work and fun stuff
My favorite candy: M&Ms and Jelly Beans
My favorite food: Macaroni and Cheese Pizza
My favorite place to shop: Target
My favorite TV show: Teen Titans
My favorite movie: Totoro
My favorite actor/actress: Taylor Rigsbee (a classmate)
My favorite color: Purple

My amazing girl. My sweet and super 8 year old. You are loved more than you can know. Happy birthday to you - I'm so glad you came into our lives.

Self Portrait

95 MonthsHello sweet girl and Happy 95 months to my rising third grader! I have several fun things to recap for you this month - looking back through the photos I find myself marveling at how lucky we have been to share such great memories. Being your mom is a whole lot of fun, I must say.

We couldn't even wait for the school year to officially end before we began summer adventures. We checked you out early on the last day of school so you could travel to Orlando with your Girl Scout troop for a trip to Sea World. But not just any trip to Sea World - an overnight in the dolphin exhibit. 

You girls gathered outside the school, giddy with the double excitement of the end of school and the beginning of an adventure.

Girl Scouts Ready for Adventure
And yes, of course I had to sign up to chaperone this one.

At Sea World we enjoyed a guided tour of several exhibits after the park was closed to visitors, including a lovely time spent watching the beluga whales.

Hello Beluga Whales!
But the real treat was unrolling our sleeping bags in front of the giant underwater viewing tank in the dolphin enclosure.

In the Dolphin Exhibit
We were enchanted by the dolphins swimming by, and I woke up several times in the night just so I could watch them some more. Even in the semi-dark, they were beautiful.

Dolphins at Night
At 6 a.m., after precious little sleep, we were jolted awake by loud theme park music and the lights automatically blazing on in the enclosure. After rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we were invited to "play" with the dolphins. We held up toys on our side of the glass and encouraged the animals to interact with us, which they did.

Playing with the DolphinsDolphin EncounterAhsoka Tano
We spent that day enjoying the park before joining your Daddy at the hotel and aiming for a reasonable bedtime, because more adventures awaited the next day. 

It also happened to be Star Wars Weekend at Disney, so we'd made plans to attend the festivities at HollyWood Studios. For a girl who likes to play dress up and loves Star Wars, the Star Wars weekend is a perfect combination. Last year, you went dressed as a jedi, complete with Princess Leia buns. But this year, your favorite character was not so easy to replicate. You love Ahsoka Tano from the Clone Wars animated series, and I knew accomplishing this outfit was beyond my abilities. 

Thankfully, my cousin Emmie (and one of your favorite babysitters EVER), is a talented costume designer, and created an amazing Ahsoka costume. You strutted proudly through the park, stopping to pose for pictures at the request of other park visitors. You endured waiting in line for a chance to pose with beloved characters.

Kit Fisto!Queen AmidalaClone TroopersA Fan of the Band
And we experienced what I believe was a bit of Disney magic. 

You signed up to do the Jedi Training Academy, in which you get to take group lessons from a jedi trainer and then battle an evil villain. Every time we've seen it before, the trainers have been basic jedi (not particular characters), and the villains have been Darth Vader and Darth Maul. 

So we were surprised and very pleased when the jedi trainer emerged for your group, and it was none other than Ahsoka Tano. 

Lessons with Ahsoka
Soon the villains appeared for the battles, and instead of Darth Maul, your group was approached by Ventress, Ahsoka's arch nemesis.

Ventress!
Could it have been coincidence that your group was Ahsoka-centric? Or did someone take notice of the enthusiastic girl in the Ahsoka costume at the pre-show sign in, and pull a string or two? Either way, it was Disney magic.

Ahsoka Battles Ventress
Later in the day, you waited in line for one-on-one time with the Ahsoka character, and she was lovely. "I've been hearing about you!" she exclaimed as you approached.

I've been hearing about you!
Then she made you turn around so she could admire your outfit, and then announced that you'd be taking over for her at the photo spot, because you looked the part.

Ahsoka Inspects the CostumeAhsoka Approves
Then there was much hugging and posing and general happiness.

Hugs from her Star Wars heroAhsoka and Ahsoka
You even had the chance to meet Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka in the cartoon. She was friendly and kind, and even wanted a picture of the two of you to keep on her phone.

With Ashley EcksteinAhsoka and the voice of Ahsoka
After our Orlando adventures it was back to Savannah for a few days before taking you north to Nana and Granddaddy's house for "Cousin Camp." There, you spent a week with Stella and Jane, enjoying Bible School in the morning and then many adventures in the afternoon. But I think one of the favorite camp moments was the nightly pow-wow, when you all would gather in Nana's closet, turn off all the lights, and then scream like banshees before flicking on your flashlights and discussing your day. Many wonderful memories were made, and I do believe this was the beginning of a great annual tradition.

Cousins Camp 2014The GirlsGroup Hug!
I think that sounds like a pretty great start to your summer, don't you? I sure think so. I can't wait to see what fun we'll have next. I love you sweet girl.

Camille at 94 MonthsHello sweet 94-month old girl! Once you get into the triple digits, will it be ridiculous for me to celebrate each month as it passes? If so, too bad. As long as you don't mind the letters, I plan to keep them coming for a while. 

This month was a bit of a mixed bag, as life can often be. It began with the passing of your guinea pig, and then there was the incident with Maple, and then the school talent show...

Truthfully, the incident with Maple was really no big deal, except that I think you lost some of that invincibility you feel around animals. This change was bound to happen as you got older. Maple is an adorable little pony at your riding barn who quickly became your favorite.

Drawing of Maple
Maple is sweet, but can be a bit skittish. During a lesson last month she gave an unexpected hop in one direction, and you went the other direction, down into the dirt. It happened just a few minutes after I snapped this picture.

On Maple
The only thing hurt were your feelings, thankfully, and your tears were more about frustration than pain. You never seemed to think it was possible that you'd fall from a horse, and you didn't like being proven wrong. It's a rite of passage for all equestrians, but not a particularly fun one. 

I was proud of you though. You dusted off, wiped the tears and got right back on Maple, and took another lap or two around the ring. You did some growing up that day.

But your lessons in maturity weren't over for the month.

For more than a year, you'd been plotting your audition for the school talent show. This was the first year you'd be old enough to audition, and you decided to enter as a violist. You've been enjoying your instrument, especially playing songs with Daddy accompanying you on guitar. 

Daddy Daughter Duet
You practiced your song diligently (Beautiful Skies viola solo by Mark O'Connor), and showed no hint of nerves on the day of auditions. I was prepared to come to school for your audition, to help you tune the instrument and warm up, but you seemed so confident that I decided my presence might only make you nervous. You are a big girl and you can handle yourself. 

You reported that the audition went well. But a week later, when yellow slips were handed out in each classroom congratulating those who'd passed the audition, you were heartbroken that there was no yellow slip for you. 

I was heartbroken too. I was in Seattle, and could only connect with you via FaceTime. I'll never forget standing in the parking garage of the airport, watching you on my little phone screen as you sobbed and told me the news.

Your Daddy and I think you are marvelous, and we're always telling you so. But it's such a hard, hard lesson to learn that the rest of the world doesn't always think you're the best one in the room. That your mama and daddy might be biased. That you can't always win. 

I worried that the disappointment might make you resent your instrument, but was pleased a few days later when you were already talking about what song you might play for next year's audition. Just like with Maple, I was proud of you for picking yourself up out of the dirt and your willingness to take another lap.

But for all the difficulties of the last month, there were also shining moments. Among the top - you completed your very first 5K race.

We meant to train for it, but then life happened and suddenly we were at the starting line. Your longest run up to that point had been 1.5 miles. 

When the race began, you took off at a sprint and I struggled to keep up with you. The whole time I was thinking, "You better slow down - three miles is a long way to go!"

Her first 5K!
But I imagine that is the way of many 7-year-old runners. We walked. We sprinted. We walked some more. You were pushing strong through about 2 miles, but that last mile was a tough one. We threw in a bunch of extra walk breaks, but as we neared the stadium and the cheering crowd, you felt that wonderful end-of-race kick that I often feel too. You found new energy reserves and took off around the track, zooming under the finish line arch.

To the Finish Line
I was very proud of you for sticking with the race even when it became difficult. The race was yet another lesson in maturity this month - a lesson about determination and commitment to a goal. You sure earned that pretty medal around your neck.

First 5K Medal
I know this month won't go down as your favorite, but I do believe these difficulties will make you even stronger. You've shown yourself that you can fall down, but that you can also get up again, and this will serve you well in life. And no matter what obstacles are in your path, your Mommy and Daddy will always be your biggest fans. We love you so much.

Her Biggest Fan

Camille and Chance Go Hiking
Hello sweet girl! Right now I am sitting in a cramped airplane seat, on my way to see my friend Anna and meet her new baby in Seattle. And right now you're at school, not very happy with me about this. I've raised you to be a traveler, and you don't particularly like being left behind. Can't say I blame you!

The flight is finally giving me time to pen the second part of my monthly letter, one with happier tales. Or perhaps, happier tails. 

You've always loved animals, and for some time you've wanted a dog, but your Daddy and I weren't ready. Every time you'd come across a dog, you'd bury your face in its fur and say, "I wish I had a dog." And every time it tugged on my heart a bit. As you've grown and become more independent and responsible, a dog began to seem like a reasonable idea.

I told myself that I wouldn't go looking for a dog, but that if the right one crossed our paths, I might not say no. Then one day last month, a neighbor posted to Facebook about a lost dog that had wandered up to his home. The cute, small black shihtzu had a collar but no tags or microchip.

I figured his owners would find him soon, and I didn't think any more of it until the neighbor posted again a few days later. Despite his efforts, no one had come forward to claim the dog, and he was taking it to the shelter in a few days if it still had no home. Did anyone want to adopt him? 

So we went to meet him. He was quiet and sweet, never barking, never jumping up on us, and content to just hang out. We'd been thinking of possible names all morning, and your Daddy came up with Chance (because he was willing to give the dog just one.) It was a perfect fit for the situation.

We took Chance home, and you just wanted to carry him around like the proud new mama you were. He didn't seem to mind.

Bringing Chance Home
You started drawing pictures of him everywhere - on the dry erase board in the kitchen. In the drawing app on my phone. 

Dry Erase ChanceComputer Doodle Art Chance
Over the next days we took him everywhere with us that we could, and discovered that we had been quite lucky to let this little guy into our lives. He is well mannered, housebroken, and friendly. He loves to go for walks, but when at home is happy to curl up on a pair of shoes and be cute. He even tolerates playing dress up, and makes a heck of a good-looking ewok.

Chance Loves ShoesChance, the EwokOur Pet Ewok
Just a few days after we brought Chance to live with us, we got to take him on his first road trip. We were headed to north Georgia and Cloudland Canyon State Park for a most happy reunion with our buddies from Washington, DC.

With Her Boys at Cloudland Canyon
You love these boys, Will and Sam, so very much. Though it had been a year since we last saw them, there was no awkwardness or hesitation. The three of you made quite a crew, and the state park was a perfect place to play.

Watch Out, Will!
I am admittedly a hovering mom - someone who has a hard time granting you the independence I know you need. But there in the state park, with those boys by your side, I let go a little and let you grow up.

We were staying in a cabin, and there were a series of trails right out our back door. We allowed you three to explore those trails unsupervised (to a certain distance), and I think this was very exciting to you. I worried, as I always do, but I also felt that you kids would watch out for each other. And you did.

We enjoyed several hikes to area waterfalls, and had a wonderful time scrambling over rocks and playing near the river. 

Jessica and the KiddosThe Queen on Her Throne
We were there Easter morning, and even arranged an Easter egg hunt in the campground. 

Easter Egg HuntThis Egg Has Been Bugged!
Then, it was time to say goodbye, with lumps in our throats and promises to get together again soon.

Cherokee Falls
Your month was also filled with Easter fun at home. There was the annual Palm Sunday egg hunt with church buddies, with the trees and bushes of Orleans Square serving as a wonderful hunting ground.

Scrambling to Get the EggReach for it!
Then you enjoyed the annual egg hunt in Boo's backyard, but this time with your cousins there to hunt with you. 

Egg Hunt at Boo's HouseEli Found an Egg
Sweet girl, we sure do have a lot of good times together. I will miss you terribly over these next few days apart, but look forward to sneaking into your room when I get back late at night, planting kisses on your sleeping head. Until then, know I am thinking of you often, and loving you always. 

Hello sweet girl. I have started this letter in my head several times, and I still haven't gotten it quite right. It was going to be a letter about getting your first dog (!). About our trip to the mountains with long-distance besties. 

But now, it's about losing your very first pet. It happened just this morning and so it's very fresh on my mind. I've decided this letter will just be about Piglet, and I'll write you again later about these other, happier things. 

We surprised you with Piglet on your 5th birthday - a sweet, furry brown-and-white guinea pig with wild and crazy hair. 

The Arrival of Piglet
He was very shy at first, preferring to hide under his house. But he made no complaint when we'd scoop him out of his cage and let him sit on your lap. He'd even chirp in approval when you'd stroke his fur.

Birthday Pig
You named him PIglet, and in 5-year-old scrawl, you penciled his name all over his house. Spelled "P-L-I-T." A year or so later, you added the rest of the consonants.

Plit
When you had friends over, Piglet could often be found sitting patiently in a baby stroller, being "walked" all over the house. Sometimes he'd watch TV with you on the couch. Sometimes you'd just wrap him up in a baby blanket and let him sit in a chair and watch you draw.

He was a very good pig.

Piglet Goes for a StrollPiglet Observes the WorldPiglet Watches TV
But Monday night he was clearly unwell. We took him to the vet Tuesday and got some medicine for him, but he never perked back up. When we went to bed Tuesday night I suspected he might not make it until morning. And sure enough, when we checked on him this morning he was gone.

I told you the news, and you crawled into my lap, put your arms and legs around me, and cried. You cried for a long time, and we talked about what a good boy he had been and how sorry we were to see him go. 

While you were at school, your Daddy buried Piglet in the backyard and covered the fresh dirt with a stone marker. You came home from school with a friend and the two of you set to decorating the stone, covering it in loving messages and surrounding the whole mound with flowers, shells, and various grasses that you knew Piglet loved to eat. 

Decorating Piglet's MarkerFor PigletSweet rememberances
It was a beautiful way to memorialize your sweet pet. Pets teach us about the joy and the responsibility of caring for another creature. And they also teach us about letting go. I'm glad Piglet was your first pet, and I know you will always remember him fondly. 

Mr. Piglet

Petting the Elephant
Hello sweet girl and belated Happy 92 Months! You are upstairs asleep and I am downstairs worrying about you. Just a little.

Several weeks ago you got a cold. No biggie. You got a cough. That's ok. But the yucky cough just stuck around and stuck around until we got a phone call from your teacher that you had a stomach ache and looked pale.

When I came to pick you up, I voiced my suspicions to her. Walking pneumonia. You had it a couple of years ago, with a cough much like this one. 

"Yep!" your teacher said. "She'd be the one! She'd be the one to have walking pneumonia."

At first I wondered if she meant you were sick more often than your classmates, but then I realized she was referring to your sunny attitude. Your lack of complaint even though you were ill.

The doctor confirmed my suspicion. We got some meds and we have a follow up appointment this week, so I really shouldn't worry. But I do, because I'm me.

I remember having a conversation about this with you one time. "Mom, you worry too much," you said. 

"I'm your mother," I replied. "It's my job to worry."

"You're the BEST mom in the world!" you said, which made me wonder if the compliment was because I was clearly the best worrier in the world.

In the Trees
Your illness was the low point in what was an otherwise great month. March is always a favorite around here, with spring in the air and plenty of St. Patrick's Day fun to go around.

Green Fountain in Forsyth Park
Nana came to visit for Tara Feis, and then we joined a bunch of buddies downtown for the big St. Pat's parade.

St. Pat's Parade 2014
The parade is full of traditions, one of them being the "kissing of the BC boys." The Benedictine Military School cadets march in uniform, and each year women of all ages apply layers upon layers of bright liptsick and then decorate the cadets with kisses.

Scoping Out the BC Boys
You and buddy Elsie were standing at the edge of the parade route as the boys marched by, scoping out "all the cute ones." Later, you told your Daddy that you had difficulty holding yourself back, and that next year you plan to don the lipstick and dole out kisses.

Oh dear. 

Thankfully, the only date you had this month was with your Daddy for the annual Daddy Daughter Dance at school. You picked out your dress months ago, a lovely purple velvet dress, which you paired with white socks in classic Camille style. Your Daddy chose a coordinating purple tie and wrist corsage.

Ready for the DanceDaddy Daughter Dance 2014
As I curled your hair in the bathroom before the dance, I thought about how different these dance nights will be when you're older. When your Daddy isn't your date. When it's a date.

Curling Her Hair for the Dance
I'm sure there will be years when you'll fret over your clothes and hair, and beg us to extend your curfew. But not this year.

We'd given you permission to stay up until the dance ended at 9, but you were home by 8:30, ready for bed. Daddy tucked you in, and then came downstairs to watch some TV. A band was playing on screen.

"DAD?" you yelled from your room. 

"Yes, sweetheart?" he said. 

"I hear music. Can you turn that down a notch?"

Oh how the tables will turn one day I'm sure!

Dancing with her DaddyFancy Dance Photo
One of my favorite moments of the month happened one Saturday night when we joined friends for dinner at a local restaurant. We were seated near the piano, and when the pianist took a break, your friend Oliver asked if he could play a song. 

Oliver is also 7, and has recently begun piano lessons. He played a song, and your wheels started turning too. We had just come from a viola lesson, and happened to have your instrument in the car. 

"Can you go get my viola?" you begged. "Pleeeeease?"

I wasn't so sure. I mean, these restaurant patrons didn't come here to listen to young children play instruments. They came to eat nice food and mostly ignore the piano player in the corner.

But how to tell you this? And your friend's piano song had been well received. Finally I asked the pianist if one quick viola song would be ok, and he replied with an enthusiastic yes.

So I brought in your instrument. As you played the first notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, most of the patrons grew quiet and listened.



You played the song well, and when it was over, you basked in the applause, gave a bow, and even collected a $1 tip. And to your great joy, the pianist asked for another song, and another.

Playing her Viola at B. Matthews
There are plenty of days when you get frustrated learning your instrument. But then there are days like this, when you shine. I was proud of you. Proud of your courage and poise.

Thanks for all the great moments this month - for the big ones, for the little ones, and all the moments in between. I love you so very much.
My Girl at 91 MonthsHello sweet girl and Happy 91 Months! You're upstairs getting dressed for bed right now, and part of your bedtime routine every night is this question: "Short sleeves, long sleeves, or feetie pajamas?"

It's a valid question in Savannah in February, where the weather is so fickle you can be in a light nightgown one night and fleece pajamas the next. You can be riding horses in short sleeves one day ...

Riding Toby
...and then released from school early the very next day under a winter weather warning. We were sure - SO SURE - that we were finally getting snow in Savannah. School was cancelled for a day and a half, but all we had to show for it was some cold rain. We were disappointed, but nonetheless enjoyed a mid-week pajama day that didn't involve anyone being home sick.

The "No Snow" Day
The cold rain stuck around that weekend too, but couldn't keep us away from race day out on Tybee Island. For 3 years now, we've made this a family & friends race weekend, with the grown ups racing on Friday, and the kids racing in a 1-miler on Saturday.

As usual, you were running with Team BDR JR, but this year there were 2 new faces on your team. Jacqueline and Maggie were about to run their first-ever mile. As we walked to the starting line, Maggie - typically fearless and tenacious - confessed to me, "I am really nervous."

When I told you what Maggie said, I was pleased to see you run up to her and throw an arm around her shoulder. "It's going to be fun Maggie," you said. "Do you want me to run with you?"

Pre-Race Pep Talk
You two grabbed hands. It was a nice gesture, but I didn't expect it to last. I know that sometimes once the starting horn blasts, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of your own run.

Ready to Race
Three ... Two ... One ... And off you went, still hand-in-hand. We parents craned our necks until you kids disappeared into the crowd and around a corner. Then we cut over to the finish line for the anxious wait.

We watched and watched, and then I felt relief to see your bright blue shirt coming up the final stretch. But what brought the tears was seeing Maggie beside you, and your hands still locked together as you crossed the finish line. 

Friends to the Finish Line
Would the two of you have run faster if you'd dropped hands? No doubt. But I couldn't have been prouder if you'd won the race. Being fast is nice, but being a good friend is even better.

Team BDR JR
We experienced another big milestone this month - it was the month you began wearing glasses.

It did not come as a huge surprise. We'd known since pre-K that your vision wasn't perfect, but the eye doctor didn't feel you needed glasses at the time.

I kept waiting for you to tell me you were having headaches or trouble reading, but you had no such complaints. But when you started playing viola, you sometimes struggled to see the sheet music and would sometimes miss the finger tapes on the instrument's neck.

So off we went to the eye doctor, with you repeating in the backseat, "I hope I need glasses! I would be so adorable in glasses!"

The doctor did not disappoint. Only after he'd made the announcement that you needed glasses, you mentioned "sometimes I have to walk to the front of the room to read what the teacher writes on the board."

Good grief. Why had you not told me this? 

Anyway, you picked out a purple pair of glasses and could hardly bear the expected 4-10 day wait for them to arrive.

Back home, your princess drawings began to include new accessories.

Princess with Glasses
And I found this note on the dry erase board on our refrigerator. You were counting down the days.

Counting Down the Days
The glasses did in fact arrive on Monday, and you were thrilled. I, on the other hand, need to get used to this. They look lovely on you, but they also make you look older than your seven years.

New GlassesNew Glasses
Tuesday, I admit I was apprehensive as you went off to school. Would the kids be nice? Would they agree that you do indeed look adorable in glasses? Or would your feelings get hurt? Your enthusiasm stifled?

When I picked you up that afternoon, I acted nonchalant. Asked all the usual "How was your day" questions.

Finally, I asked how you were liking your glasses. Did they help you see the board? 

"Yep!" you said.

"Did your buddies like them?" I asked. 

"Well, so-and-so said she liked me WAY better before glasses," you announced. 

I wanted to march back into school and find this so-and-so.

You, however, didn't seem upset by this. But I worried anyway, and started quizzing you about your other friends, listing them by name and asking what they thought (and they were complimentary, thankfully). 

But I quickly realized my mistake in asking you to tally their opinions. To care about what everyone else had to say. I only cared because I worried about your ego, but I didn't want to convince you that their opinion was so important. 

"Well, all that really matters is what you think of them," I said. "And what do you think of your new glasses?"

"I love them!" you said, unfazed. 

And you should. I love your confidence - it's one of the things that makes you beautiful on the inside and out.

My smart, beautiful, sweet girl.
Running is one of my favorite things. And then again, sometimes it's awful. Sometimes it's a chance to explore on a gorgeous day. Sometimes it's a freezing push through a polar vortex. 

Trail Run
At some point on nearly every run, my body says, "Are you sure about this? Wouldn't it be better to stop? To sit on that bench? To rest?"

And then I don't stop, not just then anyway. I go just a bit more. And THAT. That makes me feel alive.

I believe my friend Julie feels that way sometimes too. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began chemo this month - and get this - RAN to and from her chemo treatment. She's committed to running throughout her chemo and even put up a Facebook page to document her journey.

I'm sure some people think it's crazy, but I think it's brave and courageous and simply brilliant. Instead of saying, "I can't," she's showing that she can. There is so much she cannot control, but she can still put one foot in front of the other and RUN.

I thought about her, and about running, when I was reading "The Time Traveler's Wife" this weekend. It's not a book about running, but the main character is a runner.

He says, "Running is many things to me: survival, calmness, euphoria, solitude. It is proof of my corporeal existence, my ability to control my movement through space if not time, and the obedience, however temporary, of my body to my will."

Survival. Control. Proof that we are alive and moving forward. Sometimes running is hard and sometimes I'd rather stay in bed. But when I lace up anyway, running can give so many gifts.
Camille at 90 Months
Hello sweet girl, and Happy 90 Months to you. Today I'm feeling so much better than yesterday, and I attribute a portion of my quick recovery to all the love you have shown me. I came down with a vicious stomach bug, and most of that day was spent tossing and turning in bed, feeling wretched. In between all of this, there was you, tip-toeing into my room from time to time. Always quietly. Always with a gift - a stuffed animal, a coloring page, a get well note. Always with a question, "Do you need anything Mama?" Then you'd disappear and appear again, with the glass of ginger ale I asked for, but with your special touches - served in a favorite Star Wars glass with a silly straw.

From Nurse Camille
Being sick was terrible, but being cared for by you was the opposite. It made me feel very loved.

Thankfully that day of illness was the only real bump we had in the last month, which included your 8th Christmas. It included a trip to Tennessee to be with my side of the family, and many Christmas get-togethers with your Daddy's side too.

Tennessee ChristmasSay Cheese!Making Cookies for SantaCaroling Christmas Eve
Christmas day, Santa was quite good to you and seems to know you well. The pile of gifts in our living room reflected a girl with many dimensions - one who loves Star Wars and American Girl Dolls. Books about Disney Princesses and prepared microscope slides, of which "human blood" was your favorite. Bumblebee legs are pretty exciting too.

The Millennium Falcon!Jedi Reading Princess BooksA Boo, a Huttlet and a BanthaA Closer Inspection of Human Blood
Our Christmas break travels included a trip to see the Leonards and a visit with them to the World of Coke, where the ladies of the group were not keen to wait in line.

Waiting in Line
But you later declared the wait was worth it, because you enjoyed the tasting room so much. You hated the Beverly flavor from Italy, and loved the Fanta from Costa Rica. And you got to sneak a kiss from the Polar Bear.

The Polar Bear
From Atlanta we traveled north to see Mr. Glen in the mountains of Big Canoe. How I love to look out his huge living room windows and see nothing but mountainside and trees. We spent a morning stomping around his backyard, with you jumping over creeks and using fallen trees as balance beams.

Big CanoeMr. Glen's BackyardNature's Balance BeamAdmiring the Creek
One of your favorite activities was a simple one - using a stick to dig red Georgia clay from an upturned stump. I don't know why this captivated you so, but it did.

I, on the other hand, was watching you with my teeth on my tongue, holding back reprimands.

Playing in the Clay
I very much want you to be an outdoor kid. In theory, I want you to get dirty and muddy because you are enjoying nature. But then there is this other side of me, the side that can't bear to watch you fling clay all over your adorable grey boots and your fairly new school uniform khakis.

Getting DirtyRed Clay
I knew if I sent you inside to change clothes, the moment would be gone. So I held my tongue.

Almost. At some point the laundress in me came out, and I found myself asking you not to get too dirty.

"But mooooooom," you said, "If you're not getting dirty, how do you know you're having fun?"

And you were right. The uniform pants were found on clearance at Target. The boots - you'll grow out of them soon anyway. The play is important.

Exploring
Back home in Savannah, we returned to our usual routines, but with a few new challenges. We began biking to school some mornings, and I think it's going to take us some time to build confidence with this. We'd done several practice rides on weekends and holidays, but the first time we biked to school we were confronted with the realities of morning traffic. It made us both nervous, especially when you took a spill on Washington Avenue. But we're finding better routes - slightly longer but less busy, and I can tell by the singing that you do along the route that you're enjoying most of the ride.

First Day Biking to School
Another new challenge - you began taking viola lessons this month. Your father and I both thought it would be great for you to learn music, and fortunately we found a wonderful teacher through friends and began lessons right after Christmas. 

First Viola Lesson
You've had 4 lessons now, and while I think you're doing quite well, playing has not come as quickly or as easily as you would like. It's hard to watch you struggle - hard to watch you get so frustrated with yourself when the note isn't right or the bow slides over the wrong string. But I have to remind myself that this is good for you. We all need to learn what it's like to start from zero and build up. To struggle, to practice, and then to improve.

Just like you taught me in Big Canoe that it's important to play in the dirt, I'm hoping to teach you that it's important to challenge yourself and learn something new, even when it's difficult.

Thank you for this month - for being my willing student, who is also sometimes my teacher, and sometimes even my nurse. But always, always my very best girl. I love you so much. 
Pearl Jam: Charlotte
There were more than 20,000 people at the sold-out show, and they were all singing with the band. I added my voice, singing along to songs I've loved for 2 decades. I had been on my feet for hours and my legs were aching, but I couldn't have cared less. This was Pearl Jam. And I was in the pit.

I've been to lots of concerts and seen lots of bands, and most of the time proximity to the stage isn't terribly important to me. As long as I can hear well and see a bit, I'm good. But Pearl Jam is special to me - one of the rare bands of my youth that is still as important to me now as it was then. So on my bucket list - attending a Pearl Jam show and being close to the stage.

Lee and I entered the fan club lottery to be in the stage-front pit for the Pearl Jam show in Charlotte, and were lucky enough to get in. The night of the show, we filed in to the roped off section a couple of hours before the concert started, and found ourselves about seven people back from the stage.

In the Pit
And it was unreal. I've seen them before, from the comfort of an arena seat - but at that distance it's hard to appreciate how much fun these guys are having. They were full of energy, constantly interacting with the crowd, looking for ways to connect with the audience. Because the stage lights were so bright, I couldn't see much past the pit. That meant the rest of the arena was in darkness to me, and I could almost imagine we were in a mid-sized club. It was fascinating.

Pearl Jam on Stage
And then three-quarters of the way through the show, the band launched into Porch. During the guitar break, Eddie hopped off the stage and perched himself on top of the fence at the front of the pit. The crowd behind me began to surge, and I was pushed forward. And then this.



The band played for 3 hours - 3 glorious hours. It was one of the best concerts I've ever experienced, and it has ruined me. How can I ever see Pearl Jam again from an arena seat, now that I've experienced the pit?

A good problem to have.

Eddie Vedder

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