We’ve been doing the elementary school circuit and checking out kindergartens with Juliette these past few weeks, which has thrown me into a complete tizzy of mama-feels.  MY GIRL IS GROWING UP SO FAST.

And yet, even as she spreads her wings and prepares to take new flights without Daddy and me right by her side, I still feel our lives becoming more intricately entwined.  With each day that passes, with each morning commute and each pre-bedtime chat, I get to know her a little better, to understand and cherish all that this girl is becoming.  She’s not just my needy little baby anymore.

She’s my buddy, my little helper, my partner in the mundanities of grocery shopping and baking and towel-folding.  She helps me pick the best bunch of bananas from the bin at Trader Joe’s and makes sure I don’t forget the granola at Costco and chooses which songs we should listen to on the car ride home.  And when our to-do’s are done, she’s my numero uno cafe date.  Juliette’s grandma sent her a few dollars for Valentines Day and when I asked her how she wanted to spend it, she said she wanted to buy me a latte at the coffee shop!  (For the record, when she saw the loot up for grabs at Target’s dollar bin, her tune changed.)

She’s my my focus-maker, my constant re-orienter, my reminder that love matters most and life is good.  The stress of a tough work day subsides in an instant when I walk in the door and Juliette comes at me in a full-on sprint, wrapping her arms around me as she exclaims, “Mommy, I missed-ed you so, SO much today!”  Her arms are so strong now, her hugs so tight that she literally takes my breath away.  And gosh, the way this girl delights over the simplest of pleasures!  Turns out joy is ripe for the picking around every corner.

And though she’s a girl-on-the-go, often asking “Mommy, do we get to go to anyone’s house for dinner tonight?”, she occasionally requests that we slow down.  Turns out that a long pillows-on-the-floor coloring session can be therapy for both our weary souls.

It’s been fun to witness the full unleashing of the imagination as Juliette plays more and more in worlds of her own making.  Somewhere along the path to adulthood I got sucked into full-time reality and forgot about the transportational powers of the mind.  A couple of months ago I found Juliette sitting at the side table in her room, her hands around her clock as if it were a steering wheel and a line drawing propped in front of her as if it were a map.  She turned back to the stuffed animals spread out on her bed and told them to buckle up – this bus was headed to the pumpkin patch!  Rainy weather be damned – there’s just no excuse for boredom.

She dug these goggles out of a friend’s closet during a dinner party and sported them all night, claiming that they gave her the power to find bad guys.  And candy.

She got a cape and mask at a superhero-themed birthday party a few months back and disappears into her room every so often only to emerge in full get-up, shouting “Super-Girl to the RESCUE!!!”

Lately this outfit comes with a bit of sass and what sounds like a poor (though effusive) attempt at a British accent.

And can we give a quick nod to her love of accessories?

When she’s not bus-driving or fighting crime, she’s thoughtful and curious and challenges me with tough, tough questions, like “why did Jesus die?” and “how does the moon follow us around if it doesn’t have any feet?”  She barely fits in her stroller anymore, but I still squeeze her in there whenever the sun comes out, as some of our best talks happen while we’re walking around Seward Park or over the hill to our boba cafe.

Above all, she’s simply…the light of my life.  I’ve often been lost in the tedium of doing the dinner dishes or sorting the mail when I hear Juliette talking to her stuffed animals or see her dancing in the middle of the living room, and I can’t help but drop everything and just watch her, usually out of the corner of my eye so that I don’t interrupt her total self-unawareness.  I’ll quietly revel in her creativity and beauty and sweetness for a moment, feeling that goofy mama-joy well up within me until it bubbles over and I can’t help but pull her close to me and tell her just how amazing she is.  THIS GIRL.

Cheers to my big, bright, grown-up daughter (who kindly assured me the other day, “I can still be your baby until I’m nine, okay, Mommy?”).