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 Newborn

Newborn

 First birthday

First birthday

 Age 1

Age 1

 Second birthday  

Second birthday  

 Age 4

Age 4

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 Age 5

Age 5

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 6th birthday

6th birthday

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 Age 7

Age 7

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 8th birthday

8th birthday

 First Holy Communion

First Holy Communion

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 California

California

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 9th birthday

9th birthday

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 Age 10

Age 10

 Arwen costume

Arwen costume

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 11th birthday

11th birthday

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 Bobby soxer

Bobby soxer

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 12th birthday

12th birthday

 At Camp W. 

At Camp W. 

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 Recital

Recital

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 First in her heat at state (red cap & black shortjohn suit)

First in her heat at state (red cap & black shortjohn suit)

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 13th birthday, with a bad head cold

13th birthday, with a bad head cold

Today our wonderful, amazing Elisabeth Grace is 13 years old. it hardly seems possible, and yet we are so ready, too. 

I think a lot about the ways I have fallen short and, yes, failed as a parent over the last 13 years. I worry about the ways my own baggage has come to rest on the shoulders of my daughter at times—when I see my perfectionism, anxiety, or hot temper flare up in her. I grieve over the ways our hopes and dreams for our family, when we were so much younger and just starting fresh with our first adored child, have failed to come to pass. 

But then I spent a few hours today looking through pictures of her—these, and so very many more—and I see the evidence of a joyful childhood, of a happy little girl coming into her own, developing interests and passions. I see a girl who is a leader, who is caring, compassionate, kind, funny, and brilliant. She is both very innocent and very, very wise. A few weeks ago, she told me that she thinks people rush through their lives and make risky decisions because they are afraid of facing the idea of death. I thought this was so profound, something I hadn't really thought about before. 

She is generous, often spending her own money on things for her siblings. For example, she recently bought a scooter for Fiona so that Fiona could ride on her own scooter with the older kids.  

She is responsible and so helpful around the house. She is wonderful with John, which is such a gift when I need to take care of other things.  

It's incredible to imagine that the sweet, silly baby that she once was is now this thoughtful, mature young lady—and all the amazing things she was in all the years in between. Creative, imaginative, stubborn. An extraordinary child, an extraordinary teen.  

As my girl now stands in adolescence, ever so gently closing the door on the large part of her childhood, I know that it was a beautiful childhood that we made together—Elisabeth, her father, and I.  

The mistakes don't matter so much as I think. I am so grateful for the gift of this incredible, beautiful human being.  To know her is a privilege, to be her mother is a true gift.  

I love you so much, my Elisabeth.