"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Monday, August 7, 2017

Happy High Schooling

Have I told you about my daughter? The newly-turned 14-year-old? The high school freshman? The math-loving Anglophile? The champion of refrigerated foods' expiration dates and (to my great pride) user of the Oxford comma?

I haven't written in way too long, and I feel somewhat guilty for that. But life has been so busy. I meant to write all summer long; I meant to write around her birthday a couple weeks ago -- a lengthy tribute to 14 years of Ryleyness. But we were just too busy traipsing around Chicago seeing the sights and living.

I suppose now is as good of a time as any. Because tomorrow -- yes, tomorrow -- she starts high school. My sweet little baby girl.

She's a good kid, our Ryley. Much different than I ever could have imagined she'd be when I laid eyes on her for the first time -- she's just completely and totally herself.

We re-did her bedroom this summer. We just painted the purple walls a pretty shade of gray and added teal accents here and there, boxed up all her stuffed animals and gave her an airy space in which to breathe and stretch and grow. As we sorted through all 14 years of her packrat-ness, we basked in the glory that is "Ryley," finding countless little notebooks wherein her six-year-old self had scrawled titles like "Ryley's Memories," or "Things I Love about Mom," followed by blank pages -- no other words -- as she no doubt had become distracted and ended up moving on to the next thing in the way she always has. It was like a tiny little window into the chaotic, beautiful mind of my little girl. We laughed and laughed. We filled an entire storage bin with just costumes -- Halloween, Comic Con, dress-up stuff -- because she's always had a flair for the dramatic.

Summer has always been her season -- the time when she spreads and fills whatever space is around her with her larger-than-life personality and hilarious sense of humor. But she's starting to feel more comfortable in her own skin -- becoming more at home with who she is -- just like we knew she always would, even though it seemed at times like it would never happen. She's witty and funny and quick, and she keeps us gloriously entertained.

Have I told you about her tiny bottle collection? That in itself is everything you need to know about her. Nothing makes her giddier with excitement than finding tiny bottles.

In most of her travels this year -- from her class trip to Washington, D.C. this spring, to her trip with my mom to South Dakota and the Black Hills in June, or on our family trips to northeast Ohio and Chicago, she was always on a quest for tiny bottles to commemorate her experiences.

She scours gift shops and antique shops wherever she goes, always on the prowl. There are 87 now that have made the final cut -- that are worth being on display and considered part of the elite.

It is a great privilege being her mom -- being here for every moment as she becomes such an interesting and beautiful young woman. The freckles that once clearly peppered her nose have now faded, and the ones that haven't faded are often covered by make-up that she applies oh-so-carefully via YouTube instruction. Her hair is bleached (we've learned a lot about hair this summer, she and I), and shopping for clothes isn't nearly as painful as it was a year ago.

It's so much fun to introduce her to our favorite shows, our favorite things, our humor -- now that she's old enough to appreciate it all. We marathoned "Downton Abbey" in the last few weeks, and then somehow found ourselves watching the "Twilight" movies, punctuated by her and Ryan's bantering quips. All three of us have practically memorized the soundtrack to "Hamilton," and it is now the soundtrack to our lives.

If I text her while I'm at work and ask her what she's up to, she'll send a cheeky response: "Just living the good life, man." Because she knows it makes me laugh.

I know she's nervous about high school, about making new friends, about making the right choices, about her dad being her English teacher (!!!). But she's only nervous because she understands the weight of it all -- she knows how much it matters. She's always loved math because there's always a right answer; there's nothing ambiguous, no gray areas. She likes things to be black and white, everything to be very clear. And we know that as she navigates these next four years, God is with her -- and with us, just as He always has been. He'll guide each and every step.

Happy High Schooling, Ryley! We can't wait to see what God has in store for you! :-)