My sweet, funny Elaina Rae,
I'll admit it. I'm already fighting back tears as I start this letter to you, my annual attempt to wrap up the last year of your incredible life. Somehow, despite all my efforts, you continue to grow up. I find this extremely unfair. It's hard to enough for a mom to accept her own aging process, to come to grips with the fact that she's not as limber or svelte as she once was, that those fine lines continue to make their march farther and deeper across her face. But being forced to accept that her baby is now a little girl, quickly moving on toward being a young lady, then a teenager, and beyond? That is tougher than I care to admit.
You have had one very full year which is really no surprise considering you live every single day to its fullest. You start almost every morning by throwing back the covers and jumping out of bed. I'm not saying you're necessarily always in a good mood when your feet hit the floor, but when you decide it's time to start the day you do so with a vengeance almost like you're daring the world to throw something big your way. This past year's biggest event was starting kindergarten. I admitted last year that I was a little worried about how you'd do in school. Would you follow the rules? Would you show an interest in learning? Would you struggle to learn the foundational skills that are taught in kindergarten? Would we be kicking ourselves for not enrolling you in preschool? We're now in the last month and a half of your first year in school, and I'm left with only this question: why did I ever doubt how well you would do?
You scored among the highest of all kindergartners in your handwriting benchmark, and your reading scores are in the 99th percentile compared to children your age across the nation. You are acing math flashcards, reading books to anyone who will listen, and generally kicking kindergarten's butt. You like to pretend like you don't love school, but it is so obvious that you do. I told your teacher at conferences in the fall that she is like our own Anne Sullivan - she has provided enough structure to keep you focused and the right amount of motivation and nurturing to encourage you to achieve great things this year. You seem to especially love to write at school, sometimes bringing home page after page of journaling, which both thrills and frightens me as you've shown a pattern of writing without a filter. Could this be the early signs of a future blogger on our hands? Wouldn't that be something sure to entertain the masses! I am so incredibly proud of the hard work that you put forth each and every day, and I am beyond thrilled that you have proved me wrong once again.
In addition to starting school, you also participated in your first organized sport. Your dad and I were starting to lose hope but you have shown us that maybe, just maybe, we might have produced an athlete after all. You spent more time during the first couple of practices either on your knees or belly after having tripped over (and over and over) the soccer ball in your attempts to dribble and kick, but it wasn't long and you were showing some serious coordination of ball control and speed as you charged down the field. Your favorite position to play was goalie, and despite some spectacular cartwheels in front of the goal when you really should have been paying more attention to the action down field, you did an awesome job in that spot. I loved watching you play soccer last fall. You showed a tenacity and determination that I had not seen you possess before. I couldn't help but beam when you were always one of the last two left in a game of Sharks & Minnows or the first one to finish a lap around the field, and I had to seriously reign in my enthusiasm when you scored your first goal. There is no doubt that you have inherited your dad's competitive streak as demonstrated during practices and games or especially when playing any type of game at home. You don't like to lose and you make that fact abundantly clear. I predict that this will alternately get you into some trouble but also serve as a form of internal motivation toward accomplishing amazing achievements.
Although much has changed for you this year, there are always those constants. For you, one thing will never change. You, my sweet girl, love yourself some drama. When you are happy, the air around you is brighter than the rays of a thousand suns. When you are angry, your displays of righteous indignation are unparalleled. When you are sad, you unleash tears of sorrow for multiple injustices simultaneously; you enjoy watching yourself cry in the mirror which serves no purpose other than to make you cry even harder. One night after dinner you and your sister participated in a mock beauty pageant, walking from the dining room into the living room and back showcasing your best walk. Not only did you have the strut down to perfection, but your hip-pop-fierce-look-over-the-shoulder move made it look as though you'd been coached by a Toddlers & Tiaras stage mom for years. Your voice is made for the stage which is just my attempt to tell you in a kind way that you are really loud. And speaking of the stage, your winter kindergarten concert provided you with your first taste of being under the bright lights of an audience filled auditorium. Between deep bows, blowing kisses, nose picking, and a few "sign of the beast" rock and roll hand flashes, you really demonstrated that you belong in the spotlight. Should it have been a surprise that you stole the show? Absolutely not. Was I still shocked, almost beyond belief, that you would fully embrace entertaining a large audience without any signs of reservation to the point that multiple people came up to me afterwards solely to announce how much they enjoyed your antics? Yes. Two of your favorite phrases this year were "Best day EVUH!" and "My life is ho-wible," usually uttered within 20 minutes of each other. Following along with the ups and downs of your emotional status on any given day has as many twists and turns as the world's biggest roller coasters. It's a ride, that's for sure.
You also continue to have a flair for being fancy. You love to wear dresses. Sparkly shoes make the best choice in footwear. A girl can never have too many options of nail polish colors to pick from. There is no such thing as wearing too many accessories as far as you're concerned. Hair bows, necklaces, hoop earrings, bracelets, watches, and sunglasses cover your body as we leave the house (and are then promptly discarded as soon as we arrive at our destination, leaving an "Elaina was here" stamp all over the host's house). If I allowed it you'd wear makeup to school every day. Gramma calls you her "sparkle girl," a nickname that is certainly fitting. You still have a long way to go in terms of choosing outfits that match, but you certainly embrace "looking your best" as you like to say every day of the week.
I don't care how fancy you try to be though because at your core I'll always think of you as my gross girl. You still try to chew your toenails and pick your nose with wild abandon. If you see any amount of sand, dirt, or gravel you can not help put pick it up and let it run through your hands. You can rip a loud fart with the best of them and consider any form of flatulence - yours or otherwise - hilarious. It's a ritual in our house that at some point in the day your dad and I will turn to each other and ask, "What is wrong with her?".
Although I have to sit and ponder that question some days, I can honestly say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are perfectly suited for me, our family, this world in every possible way. You are so funny - either intentionally or by accident - and I told your dad a couple of months ago that I think you have officially dethroned him as the person in my life who makes me laugh more than anyone else. Your crazy stories (and believe me when I say that you have a lot to say), well timed one liners, your ridiculous facial expressions, the way you dance - all of these things combined have me rolling my eyes and laughing hysterically at some point every single day. Your feisty spirit is admired by many; I have no doubts that if a camera crew decided to follow you around you'd be an instant reality television sensation. Although you are most widely known for your wild side, you also have a lesser known sweet side. You are not much of a cuddler - you're quick with the hugs and kisses, but you like your space when it's time to get comfortable otherwise you start to "feel wee-uhed" - but you say I love you often and passionately. You especially love nurturing all of your newborn baby cousins in five minute increments before you grow bored of holding them and like to talk about how cute and sweet they are so long as they are quiet. You are entertaining to all and loved by so many. I look back on this last year of your life, and I think that more than any other year you've grown up so much while still staying true to what makes you so unique. You have the mannerisms and interests of someone much older than six years old, but at the same time you are still so age appropriately silly. It's an intoxicating mixture to be around. You lift me up on days when I'm down, you bring me to laughter with the simplest of ease.
Today you turn six, and time keeps marching forward. As much as I try, there is nothing I can do to stop the passage of the minutes, hours, days, and years, but I vow to enjoy every single moment with you from here to the end of time. As much as I'd like to hit that non-existent pause button on life to keep you right where you are, I know that what your future has in store for you and all who adore you is going to be even that much more exciting. Because really, when has time spent with you ever been boring?
You own my heart, Elaina, now and forever, and every day I give thanks that you are mine. May all of your birthday wishes come true, my sweet baby girl.
All my love,