As I have been thinking about this letter to you (over the last two months since your actual birthday), I realized I could sum it all up in one word: change. Your life is all about change right now... change at a lightning fast pace. I'm not sure any of us have figured out how to keep up. We're just hanging on for the ride.
I just looked back at last year's letter and was shocked by how much you have changed in just a year. The little girl is gone, and now the daughter before me is a tall, curvy, braces-wearing tween who reads the Hunger Games and walks around with iPod earbuds growing out of her ears.
You are growing taller and fumbling your way through puberty daily. There are tears involved with most everything these days. Yesterday morning, Nina came into our room and said, "Elise is crying." Your dad responded, "It's morning. That's what Elise does in the mornings." Unfortunately for you, As with every stage in your life, you will be our guinea pig to figure out how to parent tweens and teens. Bear with us. I'm sure we'll make mistakes along the way. You have matured so much in the past year though. I think you'll find a way to have patience with us (or at the very least, tolerate us). Your words, decisions, and actions all show a level of maturity that wasn't there just twelve months ago... in between the tears, that is.
School is going well, but it is another area of your life that is changing rapidly. You were recently reevaluated for learning disabilities and eligibility for services at school. You tested at least "average" for absolutely every test which is a huge change from three years ago. You "graduated" out of your Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which had you spending time with the writing lab teacher three times per week. Your teachers were thrilled with your progress. As a parent, I had mixed emotions. While I was excited and proud that you're doing so well in school, I have a little anxiety about losing the extra help. The resource teachers have been so wonderful in giving you the extra support you needed. It is a little hard to let go of that safety net even though all the teachers are confident you don't need it any more. You had mixed feelings about it as well. In the big picture though, I know this is a GOOD thing. It means you are meeting grade level expectations on your own, and that is huge. You have had a wonderful teacher this year, but unfortunately, she is moving over the Christmas holiday, and you'll have a new teacher when you return from break. That makes me a little anxious as well, but I have confidence that you'll keep working hard and succeeding.
The one subject we certainly never need to worry about with you is reading. You always have your nose in a book. Even if we just have a five minute drive somewhere, you make sure you grab a book before we leave the house, so you can read in the car. You have a fierce love of books, particularly the fantasy genre. You love Rick Riordin, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, and Brandon Mull. For Halloween this year, you had so much fun being Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games. It seemed so fitting that you chose a literary character. Books are your escape and your love. You are having a ball being a junior librarian this year at school. It is the perfect job for you.
The next big step in school is middle school. You and I toured one school together recently, and I have toured another on my own. After touring both, I felt strongly that the one you and I both saw was the better school for you. It is small, personable, and just gave me a good vibe. The other school was huge, chaotic, and felt like it would be easy to get lost in the crowd (literally and figuratively). It just didn't seem like a good fit. You want to tour both though to make your own decision, and I respect that. I'm just crossing my fingers that you'll come away with the same impressions that I did. We both really loved the first school, so I do know we agreed on that one.
Jump rope still plays a huge role in your life. You have practice 2-3 days per week and performances or workshops almost every weekend. You love it, and I cherish seeing the spark in your eyes as you talk about it and celebrate accomplishments. You chose to stay on the performance team this year instead of trying out for the competition team. As much as you love jump rope, I think you wanted to avoid the extra pressure that comes along with competition. That is probably a good choice for your personality. You love the fun of performances but don't have a very competitive nature. Jump rope is really a happy place for you. This year, you don't have a tight knit group of friends at school. You get along with people fine, but you don't have the close relationships you might like to have. You said to me one day, "One reason I love jump rope is that I feel like I fit in so well there. I have something in common with everybody, and I have so many friends there." I can't think of anything more important than a group like that as you head into middle school. Regardless of the ups and downs of middle school social life, you know you'll have your jump rope friends by your side. That is priceless.
You are still involved with Girl Scouts although this year there seem to be a lot of scheduling conflicts between Girl Scouts and jump rope. Jump rope usually wins out. The troop is still important to you though, and I'm glad you're sticking with it. I think Girl Scouts can be another place for you to maintain good friends during the turbulent middle school years. Can you tell I'm just a wee bit anxious about middle school? I'll try not to make you too nervous about it as I quietly gnaw on my fingernails off your first couple weeks of school.
Overall, I think you're in a good spot right now. You are coping well with the change all around you. You are holding your own at school and have found a hobby you love. You are growing and maturing rapidly. I have a feeling this year is just the beginning of a lot of change over the next few years, and I have no idea if your dad and I are ready for it. I think you are though.
Happy belated 11th birthday, Elise!