You are Five.

Update: Thursday, May 25th I'm guest posting at Petroville. I'll be back here on Monday, as usual.

**Disclaimer: This is a long post. I’m done with classes and my mind is a bubbling. What can I do? Read only what you want to. I realize you have lives. I’m just happy to have room in my brain finally to be able to think a little more creatively about mine.**

As I mentioned last week, my Mother’s Day weekend was perfect and exceeded all of my expectations, though I tend not to have real detailed expectations of these things. Rachel’s birthday party was really fun and I was atypically relaxed throughout it all. I had turned in my last assignment the night before and was feeling free, free, free. On Saturday, I asked my husband if we could sneak in an early mountain hike before our scheduled Mother's Day brunch. It hit the ticket. The only thing missing was a yoga class. That would have been a good ending to the weekend. I’m not saying we there wasn’t a rattlesnake directly on our path (there was; thank God we didn’t bring the dog) or we didn’t arrive sweaty to brunch (we did) or there weren’t meltdowns after the birthday party (there were). I'm not sayng I ate too much (no comment here). I’m just saying, it was perfect to me.

A year ago on Mother’s Day we were all sick with the stomach flu, and though I was a somewhat grumpy about not getting a break, I did chuckle to myself and think how appropriate it really was to be holding and rocking your sick children on Mother’s Day and catching their vomit in towels. A study in contrasts: the glorious rocking of your child and chunks of last night’s dinner on your sleeve.

There are events that are much worse than anticipated. There are events that are better than anticipated. Then there are unanticipated events that become powerful pieces of your life. For example, presents. When you plan to buy a present you usually imagine your child playing with them in a certain way. Sometimes your kid likes the toy. Sometimes not so much. Sometimes she likes a toy but doesn’t play with it, or plays with it in strange, annoying ways. What I find interesting are the items that become part of the heart of your family without any planning. For example, the kilted skirt that I bought at goodwill on a whim when Rachel was two. It sat in her closet for months and I was pretty sure it would stay there. But one day, when I was cleaning out the closet, Rachel spotted it and shouted, “a lassie skirt!” She had seen Scottish dancing on an old around-the-world, sing-a-long video inherited from her older nieces. So I let her put on the skirt, and she started doing her version of a Scottish jig. And for almost a whole year, she’d put that skirt on and do her little jig while we sang “Have you ever seen a lassie.” That lassie has been retired and put in our little Hall of Fame box of clothing.

There are also the moments that are hard to remember, but you want to try to because they are so perfect. Like last week, when I was changing Hannah, and out of the corner of my eye saw Rachel looking into the mirror and laughing at her own impersonation of an evil fairy princess, and then five minutes later walking by with a pillow under her shirt, muttering to herself and sighing, “Gosh it‘s hard to have nine kids, but it’s a lot of fun.” And Hannah (!), who has been inserting the phrases “always,” “forever” “ever[y] day” and “all day long” into sentences in ways that make no sense. It’s so sweet I’ve been trying to keep a note of her sentences but I can’t seem to. Today, Hannah was pretending to be a doctor and lifted her leg up behind her in a way that looked like a ballet move. I asked her if she was a doctor ballerina. She said, very seriously, “Ballet shoes, always.” Later that day I was asking Rachel if she remembered examples of when Hannah uses these phrases and she reminded me of when we were in the car and Hannah said, “Thank you, God, for going in the car, forever.”


Dear Rachel,

You are finally five, sweetie. We knew it was coming, didn’t we? We’ve been talking about you turning five for so long now. It almost seems like forever. Still, in the end, I think we both felt uncomfortable as this birthday came nearer and nearer. The week before your birthday, you were very excited about your party, but were struggling with something. I could tell. You clung to me more closely than usual and were especially sensitive and perhaps even anxious and sad. Then on the night before your birthday, you burst into tears, explaining that you were afraid that everything might change when you turned five, that essentially our life together in this house would dissolve before you were ready. I feel it, too, Rachel, but I have a secret that helps me. I need to tell you about it. It is a magical secret.

Do you know what my secret is?

Here it is: I see you.

Even when you think I don’t, I do.

What do I see?

Your face. It is beautiful. When you don’t know it I watch you. If I look closely, I can even see your face as a newborn, the little heart shaped outline, the delicate features. Or sometimes, I see the laughter of your two-year-old self, bubbling with such joy and abandon. I see the three-year old Rachel, too, doing projects with such seriousness and determination. Most of all, I see your face now, so mature and grown-up, so simply perfect, as it will always be. You still and more than ever take my breath away, my Rachel.

What else do I see?

*Your determination, excitement and curiosity. You love a project. The excitement on your face when you decide upon a project is palpable. And then when you are getting to the task and doing what needs to be done, you are so focused and determined to see it through. You started to write without an ounce of guidance from me and it’s been amazing how determined you were to write messages to people before I even knew you could do it. Now you are starting to read. I can’t wait to see the excitement build as it gets easier for you.

*Your sensitivity and kindness. Even though I often give you a hard time about being grumpy toward your sister, I see your gestures of kindness and protection towards her. Like the other day when someone took a toy from her on the playground and to make her feel better you let her play with your brand new birthday present, an insect catching set. And then we caught our friend, Rufus, the ladybug, and after three days of letting Rufus feed off the raisins in her cage, it was time to let her go. You quietly watched Rufus take flight and land on our fence, and then suddenly burst into tears. You have never had a problem developing attachments, and the love you give those that you bond with is powerful and true.

*Your intelligence and sense of humor. You always are one step ahead of me. For example, the other day when Dad was out of town I said, “Let’s call Dad. That would be a good project.” You look at me with a puzzled smirk on your face and said, “Project? That’s not a project!” and then after we giggled over this for a few minutes you said, “Let’s go outside. That’s a good project,” and we giggled again. You’re a smart kid, and outwit me on an hourly basis.

*Your affection, warmth and love of friends and family. Is it possible for anyone to be more excited and loving towards friends and family than you. I think not. Your fierce and passionate love of your cousins is a sight to behold. And just last week, after saying good-bye to your grandma, you moaned, “It’s not fair. Grandma ruined my day by leaving,” then burst into heartfelt tears.

I am so proud of you. And I need to remember to let you know that I see you. You have always been early to do things by yourself. You dressed yourself at two and now you sometimes even make your bed without any prodding. We’ve come to expect this kind of thing from you, and don’t tell you enough that we see you (on a good day) laying out your blanket and putting your stuffed animals and dolls just so around your pillow. Often I’m thinking about laundry or about to change a diaper, or soothing Hannah. I get distracted and don’t let you know that I see you….I saw you. Or else, I’m too focused on setting and enforcing limits, telling you "no" essentially, to let you know the good that I see. That’s not really fair, is it? No way.

When I was a little girl and I was in a room full of people, my Dad would often look at me from across the room and gently pump his fist a few times to his chest. That was his sign that he loved and he was proud of me. I always knew. He did it especially when I wore an solid orange, stretchy shirt and pants set that he loved on me. Boy did I feel special in that orange outfit and on other days, too, when he’d meet my eye and give me the sign.

Your Dad makes that same gesture to you now. We need our signal, you and me, you know, whether you are wearing your best dress, an old favorite pair of pants that are ridiculously too small, or your lovely birthday suit, that I see you, and I love you, and I am proud of you.

And psssst….here is another secret. I will always be able to see you at four. And I will always be able to see you at five, or any other age. All I have to do is look real closely into your face and it will be there. Even if your face is scowling me, I bet I'll find it. And I’ll share that with you if you want me to.

At four I loved you more. At five, I STILL love you more. My love will NEVER stop growing. Isn’t that crazy? How big do you think it can get. So big no one can count it. CRAZY, daisy!

I am the luckiest Mama indeed to have my view of you.

Whenever you want to see you, let me know. I will make time and give you a view of spectacular you.

Love, Mama