Friday, December 30, 2016

Dear Gemma,

Recently, you returned home with Dad after leaving for school because you had puked all over yourself before actually making it to school. In fairness to you, you did tell me you felt like throwing up this morning. In fairness to me, you claim to be sick at least once a week. You have a lot of strengths and one of them is a flair for the dramatics. I don't know where you get it.

This has been a fun year for you. You did a ballet class and your long skinny limbs and bendy feet made me think you could actually be really good one day. But you didn't really have a passion for it, so it didn't seem like a bad idea to pull you out along with Ainsleigh and let you try other things. You like trying new things. Skiing wasn't exactly new, but this year you turned a real corner and now you can fly down the runs alongside me. You even tried your first black run(s). You love showing your dad and your brother that you can do cool stuff.

You've tried tennis and asked for (more) swim lessons. You turned 8 and asked for caramel apples instead of cake. I love it when you kids think outside the box. You were baptized this year and got to start attending Achievement Days with the other girls from church. You got your ears pierced and it was not the magical experience it was with Ainsleigh. Instead of sitting there and admiring yourself, which gulping back the initial shock of the piercing gun, you let out a loud wail after the first ear. You went on and on to the point I wasn't sure you'd get the other ear done. And of course you talked about the trauma for days (weeks! months!) afterward. Recently, you had a run-in with a kid at school who yanked on your ear or something, making the hole stretch a little. I was sure we'd have to let the holes close and re-pierce at a later date (really - the hole was a slit. I felt sick to my stomach).

Miraculously, the stretched part healed and your tiny hole stayed open. It's always dramatic, with you.
You still have a habit of always leaving your clothes, or at least your underwear, in my bathroom after a shower. It's annoying, but I also kind of giggle when I see your underwear, perfectly placed as you've shimmied them down to the ground and stepped out of them. It's weirdly wonderful. But it wouldn't kill you to pick them up every now and then.

Nearly every day, you ask Dad to play a game with you. Nearly ever time, he says yes. You've been doing this for years now, and I wonder just how many games of Zingo or Monopoly Empire or Headbandz you've played. I hope one day you can really appreciate how much time your Dad has spent with you. More than that, I hope you can appreciate that while he's in the midst of real work (something I know you and your siblings can't fully comprehend), he takes time to put you first. He wants you to know that he will always have time for you. Never forget that. Always ask Dad to play games with you.

This has been the year of the crutches. Early on, your friend came to school with crutches. Let's not overlook the fact it was because she had broken her foot when she was hit by a car. You became insanely jealous. I say insane, because you actually said, "I wish I could get hit by a car and get crutches." No. A thousand times no. Still, you coveted those crutches so very much that when Aunt Nancy came to stay with you while Dad and I went to Hawaii, and she said she'd get you a present, you asked for crutches. That's right, she walked with you all over the mall, showed you everything you could have (instantly), and still you opted to wait the few days delivering the crutches would take. You have consistently used them and shared them with others who come over. They've been a big hit. Just a couple months ago, the friend who sparked all this was over and you were playing with the crutches. As she left, she said, "I totally forgot how fun they are. I can't wait to get home and play with mine." Weirdos, all of you. Then again, we sent crutches to Annie for her birthday, so I guess we're all weird.

We had fun going to Disneyland. You remember going to Magic Kingdom a couple years ago, but it's long enough ago that there was a lot of new and exciting things. You loved Thunder Mountain and didn't hate the Haunted Mansion as much this time. We ate like 8 churros while we were there and we don't regret it in the least. We went to Park City and you loooooooved the alpine slide and alpine coaster. When we went to Glenwood Caverns and rode their alpine slide and mountainside swings, you were in heaven. You love going fast and crazy, but then that's pretty dramatic so I guess it's right up your alley.

You've started third grade and that's weird for me because I remember starting third grade and feeling like I was a normal person. Like that maybe people would confuse me for a high schooler. I guess I was as delusional as you are. You definitely feel like you could blend right in with older kids. And you give it your all, a lot of the time. I have to remind myself, often, that you are, in fact, just 8. Then I find you curled up on the couch, reading picture books, and I want to just scoop you and and hug you forever.

I'm always interested to read what you've written at school. Take, for example, this gem that came home. I had no idea you were good at dolphin taming.

You were also convinced you were going to be an ice skater when you grew up. I mean, I guess it's possible. You did just go ice skating for the first time, so I suppose you could be a late bloomer. You're going to have to learn how to let go of the outside wall, though.

In the fall, the high school put on a fun run for grades 3-6, combined with the other elementary schools in the area. It was a little track meet, divided by grades. I was standing about 100 yards into the 1-mile run and as they sounded the gun, I wondered if I'd be able to pick you out of the group since nearly everyone was wearing the same green shirt. After the majority of the runners passed, I saw a small figure, running along, arms flapping, and whooping and cheering, occasionally punching the air with a, "YEAH!" I felt a little dismayed at first, at this display, until the thought came to me that this is how I've begun just about every single race I've ever been in, as recently as the Copper Triangle with Dad. Granted, that's on a bike, but I still woot and yip it up. The crazy thing is that you've never actually seen me at the beginning of a race. I guess it's just in our blood.

Probably one of my favorite things about you is that you often want to help in the kitchen. You want to stir this, measure that, cut something (preferably not yourself). I love this time. Well, not always. Sometimes I say it's just easier to do it myself. And while this is true, I've made a promise to myself to have the patience to show you how. If Dad can take time to play games with you, I can let you measure the salt.

You're getting taller and more independent, and that makes me happy and sad all at once. I love that you can do things for yourself, and I love that you still want to cuddle. Long gone are the mornings where we send the older two to school and we'd just lie on the couch and cuddle for a while. I'm so glad we had those moments. Now we have reading time and homework time and game time and puzzle time. As you get older, our "times" will change, but we will always find new times to have. And, of course, the occasional, "Can we just cuddle on the couch for a little?"

I love you, little ladybug. You drive me crazy with how sure you are of yourself and how bossy you can be. Over and over, I say (a bit tongue-in-cheek), "I don't know where you get it." But the truth is, I know exactly where. You're my daughter and I love you. Now let's go work on a puzzle.