Happy 14th Birthday, Ella

Dear Ella,

Happy 14th birthday to you, my sweet flower child. Last year your birthday was pretty dang awful. I'm so glad that we were able to make it up to you this year and that everything went great! You decided (pretty last minute) that you were going to have a birthday party at our clubhouse pool, and we made it happen. But more on that later. 

On a related side-note, next year you'll be able to have your 15th birthday party at our house in our new pool! :)

This year really was a whirlwind and full of personal tests; mental, physical, emotional, academic. An opportunity came up where you (and Ronin) could attend Learning Gate Community School, an environmental magnet school in Lutz. This came together very quickly. Only one day before school was to begin at Learning Gate. LGCS is in a different county, so their start date was earlier than had you stayed at PVMS. We went and toured LGCS and you loved it and we thought it would be a good fit. You seemed excited to be in a new place and make new friends. You started off the school year wanting to be a botanist. You ended the school year wanting to be an FBI Agent or CIA Operative. You started the school year around 5'4. You ended the school year at nearly 5'9, and wearing a size 10 shoe. WHAT??


These pants fit you in December. In 5 months you grew like 5 inches! 


This year was not without its challenges. You did great with making friends at your new school, and you even had your first real boyfriend. 

We did some of our normal traditions this year. We continued our annual trek to Busch Gardens for Howl-O-Scream, and this year Ronin went with us (thank goodness) and you and him were able to explore some of the scare zones.


And for the first time in a few years we went back down to Venice for Christmas. After we celebrated with family, I took the three of you to Siesta Key. I have taken you here before, but none of you remembered it. It just so happened that the night we went (Sunday, December 23) was "drum circle" night so we had that experience that evening, too.

And then in rolled 2019. Things sort of fell apart for a little while, but we got it all back together, and in May you graduated from 8th grade! I'm so proud of you. You really worked hard.

During this period of self-discovery, you found skateboarding! You really are a natural and work so hard at getting better. Not a day goes by when you aren't out on your board. 

And then summer vacation was upon us before we knew it! After our mishap on your birthday last year, Daddy and I decided to forego a family vacation and instead flew you and Haley up to visit with your Nanny for nearly 3 weeks, and you went on so many fun adventures: Dollywood, zip lining, cave exploring, and so much more!

I wish I knew what you and Haley were laughing about in this photo. You were at Bush's Baked Beans with your Nanny. I'm sure that it's probably fart related. 

You and Haley flew up to North Carolina all by yourselves! You navigated through the airports, and baggage claim with ease and confidence. 



You even packed your skateboard and went skating on vacation!

You flew home and 4 days later it was your birthday! You wanted a pool party and we managed to pull it off! You had a great time and so did your friends! We had pizza and cake and other snacks. There was a lot of laughing, lots of swimming, and you all even went out to the playground and played on the swings. 

And now the next chapter in your life is about to start; 9th grade and the start of high school. You decided that you were going to join the band as a member of the Color Guard, and I'm excited for your new band adventures. 

Ella, you are such a good girl. Kind and sweet. Full of empathy and goodness. I'm proud to be your mama. Now let's make this year the best one EVER!





Happy 15th Birthday, Haley

Dear Haley,

You are now 15. I'll admit, I'm a bit freaked out by that number. I remember when you turned 5 and how excited you were that one hand was how old you were. Then it was 10, and 2 hands. And now it's 15. That's 2 hands, and one foot. Granted you now longer hold up fingers to indicate how old you are but if you did, that would be pretty funny to see you hold up 2 hands and one foot. 15 is just a little bit closer to 16, which is closer to 18, which is closer to you graduating high school and starting off on your own life.

I can only hope that your daddy and I have prepared you. We're not done teaching you and actually never will be done, but I hope we did a good job.

So, what has this year been like for you?

Well, you rocked out on the flute. You went to 2 (or was it 3???) flute/band camps over the summer. You auditioned AND made it for the 2nd consecutive year in to the All-County Band. And not only did you make it, but you are the ONLY high school freshman. And you didn't even think you would make it. You are always so hard on yourself.