Happy 9th birthday Andie

Dearest Andie,
    9!  9! NINE!   Oh my gosh, it just hit me - this is your last year in the single digits.  Oh my gosh!  Wow.   On one hand, I want to put a brick on your head and keep you at this age forever, but on the other, I'm loving watching you grow!   You have matured so much and are turning into the most delightful, unique, fearless girl!  I can only image all that you will accomplish as you grow into a young lady.
   This year once again you received the risk taker award at school.  I congratulated you and you said, "Ya, I get it every year.  It's no big deal."   You are such a risk taker that you don't even realize how awesome it is that you come by it naturally.   You truly are fearless in so many ways!  You perform, you make friends everywhere, you jump in head first and whole wholeheartedly.   Everyone knows you because your personality shines through in everything that you do!   When we went to the Doubletree as a goodbye weekend for Lainie, you literally walked up to the band playing on the beach and asked them if you could sing!   You sang the goodbye song you composed for Lainie to a huge crowd, smiling proudly the whole time!    Talk about stage presence!  I was and am so proud of you and your beautiful, outgoing personality.   You love attention.   You always have.  You now know this about yourself, so you occasionally try to keep it in check and not let yourself dominate "the stage" but you still need some practice with this.  As you mature, I imagine you will only get better and better at this.  
   This year in April, we went to Virginia to visit our family, and while we were touring Luray Caverns, you noticed a boy about your age wearing the same hoodie as you.   You watched him for a while and then walked confidently over to him.   I could see you talking and smiling together and then you walked back to me.  I asked you what you said and you replied, "I said, 'This place is pretty cool, huh?  I've seen my fair share of natural wonders myself.'"    I cracked up.  It's true, you've seen things!  (You have been a phenomenal traveler this year - all over Fiji, through South East Asia and two trips to the States.  You love the adventure!)
   After I spend time braiding your hair nicely for school (mostly to avoid lice), you've been taking it out as soon as you get to school and putting it back into a ponytail, leaving out a huge chunk on the side - not just some stray whispies....but a huge portion out on the side.   You love it.  I think it looks so silly and have tried mentioning it delicately several times, but you don't care.  You've told me, "It doesn't matter what others think, I like it and that's all that matters."   It's so true.  I love that confidence.     You've always had that gusto about you, so I was surprised this year when your confidence seemed to plummet temporarily.  You were having trouble getting into a friend group again after the loss of Lainie and just trying to find your place.  School work was getting harder and you were sad about all of the changes made to the primary school.   You told me that you wished you were prettier and more popular.  It made my heart sink.   I know there will be these challenges in your life.  I know you'll have your dips.   I'll always want to save you and bring you up, but I shouldn't have doubted you.  I should have known it was just a little stage, because insecurity is not you.   You may dip your toe there as all of us do, but ultimately I believe that your strong sense of self will always shine through.  
     While the past year has been a good one, full of adventure, it's also been a very tough one for you.   Your best friend/soul mate moved away from Fiji.  Before she left, you two were inseparable.  You loved each other immensely and truly lived in your own little world together.  She moved in December and we were so busy with Amma's visit and traveling, you didn't feel the effects of her absence right away.    When you got back to school (a very different school undergoing massive construction), the loss hit you like a truck.    You had to learn how to be a friend again.  You had to face the harsh reality of not quite fitting in right away and feeling as if no one had your back.  You had to live with the massive heartache of missing your best friend.   It's been a long grieving process but you are just now finally coming around again to feeling like you are a part of a group, to feeling like you belong and fit in with your friends.    You lost your favorite teacher, Ms. Helena this year too....which didn't help.   I will always be thankful for all of the opportunities you receive in this international life we live, but deeply recognize the pain that comes with it as well.
     You are ok now though.  Lainie is on your list of friends that you feel loyal to the end with.  Whenever anyone inquires, you answer that Reid, Lucy, Dalton (preschool friends) and Lainie are your best friends.  It doesn't matter how often you see them or interact with them.  They are your besties now and forever!   I imagine that list will grow in life, but rarely shorten as you hang on tight to your friendships.
   You stand up for what's right Andie.  When you believe people are being treated unfairly, you use your voice and speak up!   You are an advocate for those who don't speak for themselves.  I LOVE that about you!   You care deeply about fairness and you worry when someone is feeling sad.  You got nominated as the student ambassador by your teacher because you know how to be a friend, especially to someone who is new and needs it.  You love to help.  
    You laugh easily and with abandon.  You think everything is funny, especially the things you do and say!   You laugh with a look in your eye like, come on......laugh with me.  It usually works.   You've matured so much this year.  You want to wear make-up and you keep telling me you cannot wait for puberty to hit!   I'm not ready, but you are!   You like the idea of being older and you cannot wait until you are old enough to have a phone and a boyfriend and independence! Not yet sweet one.  Let's just enjoy the moment where we are.....this delightful time in life where you are old enough to think deeply but still love to snuggle with your mommy.  You love to cuddle and sit in my lap and have me lay with you as long as possible at night....and I know that won't last forever!  Let's enjoy this moment.
     Wow, you have a stubborn streak - a strong one.  You want things the way you want them.  Period. When things don't go your way, you are not happy - but you are getting better at this too.  If you ask for something we deny, you are extremely persistent.  You don't give up easily even when you know you can get in trouble for this.  This perseverance is something that will serve you well in life.  You've got a strong dose of it and I secretly love that about you...as much as I get annoyed at it when you start begging.   I just feel like you will do great things in life because you know what you want and you make it happen!  
     You are SO creative.  You have an amazing imagination.   You can entertain yourself for hours in a pretend world - alone or with your sister or friends.  You love to draw, sing, create.   You have big ideas but have trouble with the follow through.   Details and logistics bore you.   You haven't gotten time for the little details - for things like shoes and homework and zipping up your backpack.  But, whoa, your ideas!   By the time you get into the planning of your idea, you've moved onto the next big idea.  It's awesome to watch your mind create.  For example, you created a Kids Charity Club this year with your friends.  The KCC.  You had SO many amazing ideas for this club - grand ideas that included buying advertising at the movies to raise awareness for the needy and a whole school concert.   The planning, organizing, creating lasted a week and then it was forgotten - on to the next big idea.  
      You are articulate and understand emotions so well.  You are incredibly empathetic.  You like school for the social reasons, but you don't like the "boring bits."  You want to be having FUN all of the time!  You love your sister beyond measure, even though you two can fight sometimes.   You love to be cuddly and frequently express your love for others easily.    A day doesn't go by that you don't tell me and your dad that you love us.  It's gorgeous.  You are gorgeous! Every day I am in awe of who you are who you are becoming.
    I love you SO much Andie Passin.  I cannot wait to watch this next year unfold.