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This is Eleanor about a year after we moved to Michigan. I don’t know how she gets toads to smile for the camera, but I love her for it! This is one of my favorite pictures of her. Today is her 12th birthday. I’m not a parent who gets choked up a lot, but this birthday has me a little teary. There’s something about twelve that has me racing to remember the littleness of her. Maybe because it will be the last birthday she has here in this house, in this community, in the years that are officially pre-teen.

When we first told Eleanor we were moving to Michigan, she was halfway through Kindergarten.  She plotted against Josh and me, with her friend Olivia. The plan was to push Josh into the prickle bush that leaned against the house, where he would stick forever. Then they would fire me as Mom, and put Magnolia in charge. When Eleanor realized those things wouldn’t work she simply said, “Parents are really bad at Pretend.” This was, of course, quite profound. Olivia’s moms called a few times after we moved, but we eventually lost touch. (They lived next door.) They told me once that Olivia still climbed the tree in our former yard. Eleanor had a hard time adjusting, too. Once, she got lost at her new school and walked home because she couldn’t find her classmates.

Those are the kinds of memories that are sweet and achy for me all at the same time. Her struggles back then bore no attitude or resentment. I’ve recently, of course, been worried about the upcoming move–how will the kids do, etc. It’s different this time, not because Eleanor has learned the fine art of sarcasm and eye-rolling. It’s different because she senses new adventure. She’s ready to go. And for whatever reason, that makes me incredibly proud. So, Happy Birthday, Eleanor! May your YA years bring adventures to remember! God help me, when you kiss a toad.

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