Letter to Camille: 99 Months

Camille at 99 MonthsHello sweet girl, and happy 99 months – your last 2-digit month! I just gave you a big hug and sent you upstairs where your Daddy is waiting to tuck you in. We take turns each night, and while I enjoy my turn, I also love sitting downstairs, listening to your big belly laughs that you reserve just for your Daddy. Or listening to him serenade you with his guitar while you get ready for bed. We’re pretty lucky girls to have him, aren’t we?

It’s a wonderfully chilly night and finally feeling like fall. We began the season by doing one of our favorite things – heading to Disney World. We just have such a great time when we’re there, and you had a 4-day weekend in September that seemed like a perfect time to go. 

Classic Dumbo

We spent 2 days in Magic Kingdom, including a special Halloween-themed night when we all got to dress up. We were a mismatched crew but had lots of fun as Pocahontas, Wonder Woman and an X-Wing pilot on vacation. 

Disney Halloween PartyWith the Nightmare Before Christmas CharactersTesting Out the New Ear-Wing Fighter

Each Disney trip proves to be a bit different, with various markers to remind me that you’re growing up. Our first visit when you were 4 was all about princesses and there were NO roller coasters involved. 


You still enjoyed seeing and meeting the characters this time, but your favorite memories from this trip are the two roller coasters we convinced you to ride.
Your Daddy was particularly thrilled that you finally agreed to ride the Haunted Mansion. Verdict = you loved it. 

Haunted Mansion!

On previous Disney trips, you’ve enjoyed the street dance parties and were very eager to dance with all the Disney characters. On this trip, when we found a dance party we thought for sure you’d have a blast. But instead you hung back, saying you felt shy and embarrassed. 

Monster Dance Party

“What if I dance with you?” I offered.
A look of horror crossed your face, and you said, “NO! That would be even more embarrassing!”
Sigh. So it begins. 
But thankfully you’ve not become too self conscious to dance as long as you’re in the right company. Just a day after we returned from Disney, we were at a neighborhood concert and the musicians asked for dancers. You happily grabbed your buddy Lola, and the two of you danced away in front of the stage. Apparently, it’s just uncool to dance with strangers or your parents. Got it. 

Dancing with Lola

Stage fright will only be a major liability in one of the career paths you’ve discussed of late. Your current career aspirations vacillate among these three: marine biologist, robotics engineer, or actress. 
The other day we were riding in the car and I had given you control of our music, letting you pic songs to play from my phone. You love songs from Broadway musicals, and this time chose “Little Fall of Rain,” from Les Miserables, the terribly sad song in which one of the characters dies.
As the first notes played, you said with a conciliatory tone, “Mom, I know this song depresses you. But if I am going to be an actress I need to practice different emotions.” 
And you sang your heart out in the backseat of the car. When the song ended, you announced, “Wow. I think I did that one really well.”
Oh to have the confidence of an 8 year old!
You also had a boost of confidence a couple of weekends ago when we accompanied Nana and some friends to nearby Daufuskie Island. We’d never been before and I’ve been wanting to go, and our friends the Suttons proved to be great tour guides. We rented a golf cart and tooled around the lovely island, stopping all along the way to explore.

A New Horse FriendOver the DunesOn the beach with Nana

After one of these stops, you were the first back to the golf cart and slyly slid behind the steering wheel. You kept waiting for one of us to make you move, but Billy had been driving and he just hopped into the passenger seat next to you. 
“You’re going to let me drive??” you asked, incredulously. And he did. 

Golf Cart Driving with BillyWarning: Student Driver

Oh boy, did you have fun driving the golf cart around the island. Thankfully, Billy could still reach the pedals and the steering wheel in case you needed assistance, which you did at one point. The cart began to veer off the road and I looked up in time to see both your hands fly off the wheel. “There’s a bee!” you explained. Fortunately, Billy grabbed the wheel and the bug flew away. And honestly, I probably would’ve done the same thing. You get that from your mama.
Oh sweets, I love you so much, even if you’d be horrified to dance with me at Disney World. That’s part of growing up, and I’m just happy that you are still willing scoot next to me on the couch at the end of the day and rest your head on my shoulder. I hope you’ll never be too cool for that. I love you so much.
The Beach at Daufuskie

Letter to Camille: 98 Months

Pink HairHello sweet sleeping girl, and Happy 98 Months to you! Tonight, as you snooze away upstairs, I’m sitting at the table in the company of your family of ants. You decided to spend some of your birthday money on an ant farm, and just a couple of days ago the habitat was finally ready for your new ant friends. 

Ant Farm

Tonight, I had a meeting to attend, and was delighted when I flipped open my notebook to find your Ant Observation Journal: Day 1.

Ant Observation Journal

I do believe you made these observations on a Sunday, so naturally the ants were going to ant church. And digging tunnels. And apparently riding roller coasters. You observed that they: 
  • are from the same colony (important or they’d fight each other)
  • are not angry
  • are happy
  • love you
Tonight, I asked you about their ant church and what kind of church it might be. Muslim and Jewish you declared. Well there you go. Who knew? 

Heading Up River

You do love creatures big and small, that’s for sure. One of your favorite activities of late has been to kayak out to the mud flats and look for creatures when we go up the river in the boat. Recently, you and buddy Maggie organized an entire “Snailville” for a group of periwinkle snails, making sure to include important civil engineering projects like roads and bridges for them. You were 100% positive that this delighted the snails. 

SnailvilleMore SnailvilleMud Warriors

It’s been a hot and sweaty last bit of summer, but that obviously hasn’t kept us indoors. Last weekend we went camping with a group of buddies on Hunting Island. It’s a beautiful campground, situated on an undeveloped beach in a state park – perfect for exploring. 

Hunting Island, SCLighthouse at Hunting Island

But most of my pictures seem to be of us eating good campfire food and lazing around in the hammock – also important pursuits.

Camping Hammock

We have welcomed one new indoor activity in this past month – the Armstrong Youth Orchestra. 
You’d been practicing diligently for your audition, and when the day finally arrived you were filled with nervous butterflies. As was I. Not that I thought you wouldn’t do well – I was optimistic about your chances of passing the audition – but I just hoped and hoped it would be a good experience for you overall. And it was. 
You came out of the audition area all smiles, with a slip of paper announcing that you’d be playing viola in the Debut Ensemble. 

Audition Day for the Youth Orchestra

The first day of rehearsal arrived, and I think you were just as nervous about this as you were the audition. As the members of the ensemble began to trickle in, the conductor encouraged you all to warm up. Here you are watching buddy Hart warming up with his violin.

First Orchestra Rehearsal

All around the room I could catch bits of Suzuki songs that you have been playing for months and that you know by heart, but your instrument stayed in your lap during the warm up. You didn’t want to draw attention to yourself. Realizing that, I put away the camera as well. 
But once the rehearsal began, you played with a confidence that was fun to see. The music wasn’t too challenging, the conductor was kind and welcoming, and your nerves quickly eased away (as did mine). 
Since that first rehearsal, you’ve been even more enthusiastic about practicing your instrument at home. I think you are proud to be part of this group, and want to feel confident each time you come into the rehearsal room to play. 
I’m very proud of you for taking on this new challenge, and I am looking forward to watching you grow with it.
Ok – I think the ants in your ant colony have gone to sleep (or died – who knows? This is our first ant rodeo). Now I will head to bed too. Sweet dreams to my very best girl. I love you so much.

Letter to Camille: 97 Months

97 Months

Hello sweet girl, and happy 97 months to my THIRD grader! You are now more than halfway through your elementary school years, which is wild to me. On the first day of school, you begrudgingly allowed us to take your picture on the front steps of our house and in the lobby of your school, but when I asked if I could snap a pic at your desk, the answer was an emphatic “No!”

First Day of Third GradeLacy SocksSchool Lobby Photo

But, you still held my hand walking up to the school, so I’ll call the morning a win.

Not Too Big to Hold My Hand

Our post-first-day-of-school gathering of friends continues to grow, which is a great thing. This year we took up an entire wing of a neighborhood restaurant, and you were glad to reunite with school buddies over coke floats in the afternoon. And we were especially glad to include cousin Jones this year too.

Cousin LoveCoke Floats

But before school started, we still had summer fun to experience. We spent almost a week in New York at the end of July. I love exploring a big city with you, teaching you how to read subway signs and how to hail a cab and all those things we don’t ever do in Savannah. One of my favorite things about riding the subway in New York is walking out of the subway station. Not being familiar with the all the stops, I never know what we’ll see. Will we come up the stairs and be greeted by skyscrapers? A tree-lined city park? A mob of people? A quieter side street? 

Any Seat Will DoGranite Slide in Central Park

We found many playgrounds to explore, walked miles and miles of museums, and ate a lot of good food. We toured the Statue of Liberty, and rode rides on Coney Island. We were completely exhausted by the end of the trip – exhausted but immensely satisfied with our adventures.

Natural History MuseumMuppet Studio at FAO SchwarzConey IslandConey Island RidesMagnolia CupcakesStatue of Liberty

For all the wonderful pictures I got of you on our trip, there’s one less wonderful one that I still cherish. I’ve had a lot of internal deliberations about whether or not to post it here. In general, I try to only write or post about positive things – I like the old adage that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I do recognize that these letters are open and public, and I feel I owe it to you not to share things you’d rather were kept quiet.
On one of our last evenings in New York, we were watching the sun set on the rooftop terrace of our apartment building. We were all tired and a little cranky, and you got mad at us for some imagined slight. You stormed off to pout in the corner, your doll left standing on her “stage,” and I couldn’t help but see the humor in it. I snapped a picture, because this is your childhood too. Not every moment is sunshine, but it’s all part of being a kid and being a parent.

An Unhappy Camille

Will you be mad at me one day for posting it? If so, my apologies. If I knew it would be upsetting, I wouldn’t post it. But I think as a parent one day you’ll see the humor in it too. 
I do think you’re becoming more aware of the reach of the internet. I showed up at your buddy Ellanor’s house the other day to pick you up after a sleepover. You were sitting at the table, eating cereal, wearing a bridal veil and tiara and full makeup. I thought it was hilarious, so I ran back to the car to get my camera. By the time I returned, you’d ditched the costume. You didn’t want me to take your picture. “I don’t want you to put it on the internet!” you exclaimed.
You’re growing up in a culture of over-sharing – that’s for sure. And I’m as guilty as anyone about wanting to document every bit of your childhood. There may come a time when you ask me to stop writing publicly to you, and of course I would. But I ho
pe that one day, years from now, you flip back through these letters and see the love written all over each one. Love for a smiling child, love for the one pouting in the corner – love for everything about you. Love that I will proudly share on the internet for anyone interested in seeing it.
I love you so much sweet girl.
From the Brooklyn Pier

Letter to Camille: 8 Years Old!

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?”
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

Letter to Camille: 95 Months

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.


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.

Letter to Camille: 94 Months

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

Letter to Camille: 93 Months, Part 2

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. 

Letter to Camille: 93 Months, Part 1

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.


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

Letter to Camille: 92 Months

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.

Letter to Camille: 91 Months

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.


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 qui
zzing 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.