Dear Gwen, 

The other week we were at the High School you're going to attend in the Autumn. They were doing a welcome night, with tours and information, and when we were sitting through the introduction talk, I found myself getting choked up. I can't believe that we're looking at the start of 4 years of high school already, then you're off to college! I have to remind myself to take each day as it comes, because 4 years is still so much time for memories and adventures; but its hard knowing how fast it will go. I never would have believed how fast 14 years would go if you'd tried to warn me back in those newborn days, but its really been a wild, all too short, flash of time. This is the way of life, but the weight of you (sooner then I want) not being here everyday is a heavy one to hold at the moment. You are just such a fun, amazing human! 

All of which doesn't mean that I don't still count down to bedtime sometimes, because it can sometimes be exhausting to be so utterly wrong about everything (😉 all in good fun, my love!), but never has the expression "the days are long, but the years are short" felt so relevant. Even you feel that so truly, but I can't even put into words how much more real it becomes with each passing year, milestone, decade.

This week has been stressful, because picking classes for your first year of HS carries so much weigh, and guides the rest of the years, but I'm not worried: you are such a thoughtful kid, and you will make so much of whatever path you end up on; the individual classes, they aren't the be all end all of your experience. There is so much to look forward too, and despite my hangups about our time left, I cannot wait to see all that you get to do in this next stage. 

That said, we're still here finishing up Middle School, so I have to remind myself not to get too far ahead. You're still busy with school work (continuing to rock out honor roll status for the entirety of MS), band (percussion - tried out for and made the audition band for next year), orchestra (violin), D&D groups with your friends (3 different games currently!), while ripping through your favorite book series (currently Warrior Cats and Wing of Fire... love that fantasy genre!). You still love creating all sorts of amazing things with your Legos, and we've been diving into watching some of your Dad's and my favorite old movies. You still love water, and were in your element when we camped at a hot springs a few months ago. And you happily point out, regularly, that you've surpassed me in height (at least 6 months ago now, and you are now between 5'3.5" and 5'4", so a good 1 - 1.5" taller then me!!). 

You still love all things magical/fantasy. Anything Star Wars (related or adjacent), Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and you've added the Librarians to your favorite shows list, as well as Psych (found the pineapple!) and Monk. You still love the colors black and red. And your favorite foods are ramen, steak, rice, tacos, chicken nuggets, and french fries. Oh, and ice cream! All the ice cream! You love animals with a passion, and just like the rest of us, still miss Daisy fiercely. You're looking forward to another week of horse camp this summer too! I also have to note, amusingly, that this is the year you gave up on long sleeved shirts other then hoodies. 😆 Its all t-shirts, all the time for you.

This past year have held some big changes, and I have so much appreciation for how much you've taken them in stride. Even better, you've been so great about being open with your questions, fears, concerns. I hope you always come to me when you need advise or just someone to listen... or at least, are always so open with someone you trust. You're lucky to have amazing friends that fit that description (Clarissa, Maggie, ZaZa, Axel, and Sophia, to name just a few).

Gwen, sometimes it is just so terrifying raising a teenager. There are so many ways that you are being bombarded with messages, ways that didn't exist when I was a teen; messages about what makes you popular or worthy, promoting new drugs, new spins on old sick beliefs. Its enough to make my heart pound and my head ache. But everyday you remind me of how compassionate you are, how wise and discerning, and I can only hope that the foundation we've laid for you, and the re-enforcing of it that we do over the next few years is enough. Enough to keep you safe, enough so that you always know you are enough. 

Most of all, no matter how much more you grow, how far you wander, or how much life changes around us, know that my love for you is unending, unchanging, yet ever growing. And I will always be here. 

"Best Gwen ever",