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I taught for several years at a residential school for children with emotional disabilities before staying home after the birth of my second daughter. I returned to teaching, finished my Educational Leadership program in May of 2012, and now work as our district's Writing and Social Studies Coordinator. I have always loved writing and find constant inspiration from my family. Maybe someday, I will get to see my name on the cover of a book!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day #19: Happy Birthday to Julia

 Day 19 of the SOLC is my second daughter's sixteenth birthday. Today, my post celebrates Julia.

Tomorrow morning, I will tiptoe into the room that my two oldest daughters share and I will celebrate their breathing. Tomorrow morning, Julia, my second daughter is 16. Sixteen. I will wait to kiss her, to wake her up with a quiet humming of happy birthday. She doesn't like kisses these days, but she tolerates them because she knows that I still can't resist. She denounced the presentation of a breakfast sandwich with a birthday candle in it, so tomorrow morning, I will just watch her breathe in and breathe out and I will celebrate that someone, something, somehow blessed me with her.

Sixteen--I remember her legs, layers of legs that were irresistible and I remember the focus-- oh the focus..."I do...No...Mommy no do..."

When we tell stories of Julia, we always head for the trouble she could find. One time I turned around to do the dishes and there was Julia in the middle of the kitchen table about to turn my vase of fresh peonies upside down.  Noooo, Julia. "Big mess, Mommy?" she said. And then she laughed until she screamed when I hauled her off of that table.

Julia had a trail  of trouble. She  started in the bathroom, fascinated with the spinning roll of toilet paper and intent on flushing anything she could. She learned quickly to hold down the lever and watch the swirling water, then laugh when I'd run in. Laugh until I scooped her up and placed her on the other side of the safety gate, away from me, away from the bathroom and the kitchen table with the fluffy flowers. 

As I plunged and used my best plumbing prowess, Julia was on the way to the open dishwasher. Imagine the treasures available to a curious toddler climbing in

When Julia was one, she walked on legs that were irresistible to pinching, tickling, squeezing, and kissing. She belly laughed when I made fizzing noises on her belly, and she followed big sister Larkin wherever and whenever she could.

When she was two, she had mastered the art of pole-vaulting out of her crib. If the safety gate was too low, she climbed over that too. If it was too high, she would try to crawl under it, sometimes getting stuck in the process and bellowing until I ran to rescue her. She knew what she wanted and she knew to bang her head on the floor until she got it. "She's gifted," the doctor told me because she perfected the art of the tantrum so early. Before leaving her in her crib, we turned her diaper backwards and wrapped duct tape around it, put on a onesie and a zipped and snapped set of footie pajamas. "Keep your clothes on," we'd say, but she always, like Houdini, got out of what we put on her and would fall asleep with nothing on until a wet mattress woke us all up.

By three, she mastered all aspects of the bathroom--flushed what she was supposed to flush, emptied when she had to empty. She rocked and entertained and protected her younger sisters--first Clare and then Cecily. Although she was never my talker--yes, she still remains an inward soul, we knew when Julia was happy and we knew when Julia was sad. We knew when Julia was celebrating and we really knew when she was angry. My mother used to say, "When Julia's happy, we're all happy." There was truth to that. 

Julia's focus has served her well. She was an early reader. I remain friends with her third-grade teacher who still tells the story of how I said nothing to her about Julia's prowess. "I knew that you'd figure it out," I told her. "And if I told you that her favorite book of the summer had been Black Beauty, you would have assumed the abridged version." Her teacher adored her and remains today Julia's favorite teacher thus far. Why? She respected, acknowledged, challenged and honored her. Julia's accomplishments then and now have not come from innate intelligence as much as they have emerged from hard work, from a drive and focus that I take no credit for, and from an appreciation for and commitment to hard work and high quality.

Today she is 16. Sixteen. She has goals and hopes
and dreams that go far beyond getting her driving permit tomorrow. She was my toddler with a trail of trouble, my 8 year-old with a teacher who inspired her, and a young woman with dreams that will propel her into making the world a different and better place. It is my honor to know her.


  1. A beautiful birthday gift. I feel as if I know her by reading your slice and can celebrate these qualities with you!

  2. What a special birthday tribute! Happy birthday to you, Julia!

  3. What a beautiful young lady, and a reminder for those of us with little girls, they will be 16 before we know it.

  4. This is like that candle on the breakfast sandwich, Melanie, only better! What a wonderful description of your Julia. Happy Birthday to her, and hope the day is a treasure all the way through!

  5. A lovely young lady, with a lovely tribute to add to her gifts today. Thank you for sharing stories about her, and thus sharing some of her spirit and the joy she brings you.

  6. She demonstrated her athletic prowess at an early age. What a wonderful description of her! Although I'm sure she would wish you didn't reveal her Houdini act with clothes. :-)
    Happy Birthday Julia, amazing things are in store for you.

  7. What a beautiful birthday reflection. Happy birthday to both of you.

  8. Beautiful words for a beautiful young lady, Melanie! Happy Birthday to Julia!

  9. Happy Birthday to an amazing daughter! You brought her to life with your words.

  10. I so enjoyed reading about Julia. Feel like I just met her in person. I love all the things you shared about her.

    I love your last paragraph...how it wraps it all up...and then the "It's my honor to know her"...sniff...