We’ve had a big week for Cari this week. On Saturday, I got Cari all dolled up for her dance recital pictures (much easier this time than the four times before). I sat at the studio for a couple of hours while Cari posed for pictures for her two routines, then practiced her routines in costume. By the end if the day, we were exhausted and cranky, so the perfect solution was a nap.
Then on Sunday, we dressed up pretty for a Mommy and Me photo shoot in honor of Mother’s Day with our friend Stephanie Beaty of Lifeography. It was one of those experiences that caused me to have a glimpse of the future before me. I stood in the bathroom, behind my blond baby, who isn’t a baby at all anymore, and I saw us on her wedding day. We both wore white, and I just had a flash of her shiny blond hair spilling over the shoulders of her wedding gown. I didn’t see her face, or even mine, in that moment. But I realized that I needed to be present. So I put on my makeup with extra care, because I didn’t want to waste any of that precious day worrying if I wasn’t pretty enough. So Cari and I joined Stephanie at a treasure of a little park, called James E. Grey Preserve, a place I have lived minutes away from for years but never knew existed. We drove down the little dirt road to the entrance, and Cari was a little moody. She wouldn’t talk or give me a smile in the rearview mirror. I realized that my girl isn’t so little anymore; she’s entered the pre-teen years with gusto. Where she would happily preen for pictures a year ago, now she gives goofy grins that don’t capture what her real happiness looks like. So we made a deal: when the pictures were over. we would stop at Dairy Queen on the way home for smoothies (obviously. I’m not above bribery).
Stephanie has never photographed us before, but I knew from seeing her work online that I trusted her vision, so I allowed her to direct us, even though it is in my nature to seek to control. We had a number of model-moments, where we supposed to look moody and serious, but neither Cari nor I could manage it. Cari gave her awkward little half smile, as if to say, “My mom wants us to be doing this, but I’m not entirely sure I care to be here.” Or, “Miss Stephanie wants me to laugh, but I don’t see how anything about this situation is funny.” Or, “Can’t we be done already? I want my smoothie.” My favorite moments were the ones that were real; when Cari would throw her arms around my neck, or when she sat on my lap like she has for the past 7 years, from when she wasn’t snuggled anymore in my arms, but when she would climb into my lap, belly to belly, with her legs dangling behind me. Stephanie captured some truly silly, but still perfectly US moments. I looked like I was in love with my kid. So pretty much they came out perfectly.
Then Cari celebrated her ninth birthday on Wednesday. In a flash of inspiration that any Pinterest parent would approve of, I decided to ask Cari some questions about her preferences today to commemorate the occasion.
- What is your favorite color? Blue
- What is your favorite toy? Woofie, of course
- What is your favorite fruit? Watermelon
- What is your favorite tv show? Liv and Maddie
- What is your favorite movie? Frozen
- What is your favorite thing to wear? Dresses
- What is your favorite animal? Bunnies
- What is your favorite song? Let It Go, or Problem from Arianna Grande
- What is your favorite book? Judy Moody
- Who is your best friend? Mommy
- What is your favorite snack? Cheese Its
- What is your favorite drink? Water
- What is your favorite breakfast? Waffles
- What is your favorite lunch? Macaroni and Cheese
- What is your favorite dinner? Chicken and Broccoli
- What is your favorite game? The Subway Surfers
- What is your favorite thing to play outside? Play in the playground
- What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
- What do you sleep with at night? Woofie and Bear Bear
- What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know, a teacher?
Cari is the best thing I have ever done in my life. She is sweet and silly; she loves to snuggle with either Stu or I, and she would eat chicken and broccoli as every meal if we let her. She is incredibly comfortable at Hudson, since she’s with us ALL THE TIME. For Take Your Child to Work Day, she left my classroom, and I assumed she was going to my husband’s classroom. But when I saw him 30 minutes later and he didn’t have Cari, I got a little concerned. Well, she went to the front office to hang out in our assistant principal’s office. Yeah, that’s my kid: fearless in social situations. Cari is like her mommy; when she’s tired, she doesn’t always know to rest. Instead, she gets really cranky until someone convinces her that she won’t miss anything if she takes a nap. She sings and talks to herself (technically, she speaks for her animals). She has a stuffed dog named Woofie that she loves to pieces. Literally pieces. Woofie has had more than one reconstruction surgery by my mom. Cari is tall and has big feet, like grown-up feet. She has her daddy’s blue eyes, and the most enviable hair EVER. Her least favorite chore/job: drying her hair. That’s a fight every night. She knows how to use the word ironically correctly. She doesn’t ask for a little brother or sister because I think she knows that we won’t have as much time for her. She keeps her room neater than we keep ours. She cleans the toilet and the sink for fun.
I know that every parent is crazy about their kid. I’m crazy about mine. She’s not perfect, and I’m so glad. I couldn’t bear it. But she’s a wonderful human being and I can’t wait to see what the next nine years will look like.
(Yikes. In another nine years, she’ll be 18 and going off to college. How’s that for a wakeup call?)