Lately, I look at you and catch my breath.
How did we get from there to here? In 2006, you were a tiny 7pound bundle with notably perfect skin, a sweet-smelling head, and effervescent blue eyes. Now, you have blonde curls that frame your face, two missing front teeth, and long limbs that propel you toward a limitless future.
You are everything I ever wanted for a firstborn. Bright, bold, and ambitious - with a glimmering heart of kindness.
As you enter first grade, I have a few words of advice.
Start every day with a prayer. If you're not exactly sure what to pray for, give thanks.
"Please" and "thank you" really are magic words. Use those words often and sincerely.
Don't worry about being first. I understand that it's fun to be the first in line, first to say the answer, and first to go down the slide. But you'll soon discover that the worst kind of people are the kind that push and shove their way to the top. Be content to be in the middle or the end sometimes. Life isn't a race - enjoy it.
Do your best. Whether you're writing a story, reading a primer, singing a song, or creating a painting - give it your all.
Don't fret when you make mistakes. Mistakes teach us. The people who make the most mistakes are typically the most successful - because they are willing to try (and then to try again).
Drink water every chance you get. Getting enough water will help you think more clearly, run more quickly, and feel better. Got a headache? Drink more water. Kinda sleepy? Drink more water. Tummy rumbly? Drink more water. Water is "medicine."
Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Into your sleeve, remember?
If you don't know how to do something, it's okay to ask for clarification. For example, if you're counting to 1000 and lose your place at 362, simply say sweetly, "I lost my place. What number was I on?" or "Could you help me with the next number?"
If you have a good idea, share it. You are remarkable and the best teachers know that sometimes kids have the very best ideas.
If an adult or another child makes you feel uncomfortable, keep your distance. Never be afraid to tell me and dad anything. If anyone ever asks you to keep a secret, tell us anyway. We'll help you think through solutions. We will protect you.
Stand up for the underdog. If you see someone who is sad or scared or lonely, be kind.
Say nice things about your family. Tell people how hard your dad works, how he is adventurous and how he can play every sport with his hands tied behind his back. Tell them how sweet your sisters are, how much fun you have together.
Choose your friends carefully. Look for the kids that always have something good to say. The ones who listen. The ones who laugh (but never at someone else's expense). Friendship is a gift and I can't wait to see who God brings into your life this year.
Lead by example. Actions always speak louder than words. Be gentle. Be patient. Be merciful. Be forgiving. Be joyful. Be generous.
BE You. I wish you could see the way I see you for just a moment - beautiful with blonde ringlets and shining blue eyes, artistic and scientific, observant and idealistic. You have a heart of gold, an active imagination, and a brilliant mind. Don't be afraid to dance to your own tune, to draw your picture differently, and to come up with your own answer.
Let God's love shine in you. You know that "This Little Light of Mine" song? Make it come true in your life.
Say "thank you" to your teachers at the end of every single day. As you hurry and scurry to leave the classroom with your friends, don't forget to look over your shoulder with a smile and say, "thank you" or "thanks so much" or "I had so much fun today."
Remember you are SMART. Remember you are STRONG. Remember you are LOVED (far more than you will ever know).