Ready to see the Golden Birthday photo barrage for Daughter Number Four?.
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Twenty two years of my fourth-born's life to celebrate.
Twenty-three photos to be carefully chosen; one for each year of her life plus a newborn shot.
Twenty-two hours to post them.
My original posts feature captions that give a bit of information about each scene; in this post, I'll reveal the photos in reverse chronology and share my own motherly thoughts and emotions on each one. .
22: When asked to consider a jaunt to the Seattle Art Museum for the First Thursday in February, my fourth-born spent a good part of the afternoon considering her response. In the end, she decided to join my second-born and me on the outing, but it was that long, methodical deliberation that defines my twenty-two year old daughter.
My fourth-born is thoughtful, analytical and not particularly prone to rash decisions.
Also, she rarely wears her hair up in a top knot anymore, though she often did as a baby.
21: Well, yes, here she is on the other side of the world, taking a short break from clinging to the back of a tiny motorbike as her sister expertly weaves through the crowded streets of Danang, Vietnam. But when it comes to throwing peace signs with this third-born mighty midget, my fourth-born girl feels right at home.
20: Overcast skies.Drizzling rain. Unending grey, from sand to water to clouds overhead.
This is my fourth-born's version of heaven, glory and Disneyland, all rolled up into one.
And at the end of each school break, before she packs up her flip flops to head back to the high desert of Arizona, my daughter comes here to our hometown beach where she fills her senses with this Pacific Northwest perfection to last till the next trip home.
19: One side of my mother's heart celebrates the rugged independence and strong sense of self that led my fourth-born to choose Arizona as her college destination. Couldn't be more proud of her for forging her own path, marching to the beat of her own drum, and boldly going where no Streicher has gone before.
But there's another side of my heart that hates, hates, hates having her so far away from me.
In order to make peace between those warring factions, I've settled upon a satisfying compromise. Twice a year, I go visit her. These long weekends of fun in the Sonoran Desert sun have helped me fall in love with the southwest and fostered my obsession with the Saguaro cactus. Also I've seized these opportunities to help her stockpile some groceries, run a few off-campus errands, and recognize that she really is doing just fine without me.
18: Oh, the special challenges of being a last-born.
Not that I would know. I'm second-born of four so I can't imagine what it's like to run at the back of the pack.
But my youngest daughter has taught me that much patience is required to wait and watch from the sidelines as the older sibs launch themselves into life, making their own decisions and occasional mistakes. Slowly, slowly, the years slide by until finally, it's your chance to turn all that vicarious experience into wisdom beyond your years as you make your own calculated leap into the great unknown
This scene dates back to the spring of my fourth-born's senior year of high school. We were visiting my second-born on her nearby University of Washington campus, as we had so many times before. But this time was different. My baby had recently accepted an offer of admission to University of Arizona and now knew that somewhere, far to the south, her own college campus was waiting for her.
Such a great feeling to know where you belong.
17: It's challenging to document the internal adventures of a dreamer.
There is no camera technology available to capture the inner workings of the brain.
And the true introvert is hardly prone to snap selfies during moments of introspection.
Which means that there are precious few photos that show my teenage fourth-born doing what she often did during those years - sitting around and thinking.
But over the years, once or twice, I discovered a cache of web cam photos on the shared family desk top computer. Photos like this one, taken of my fourth-born by my fourth-born in a typical moment of deep thought.
I think she kind of hates these photos. They capture her in moments when she was focused on her inner thoughts rather than her outer appearance, and that is apparent to her when she looks at them.
For the very same reason, I treasure these views because this is the lost-in-thought person that I saw - sitting next to me in the car, sharing a chairlift, setting the table together - through most of her teenage years.
16: I do not envy the younger sisters of older girls. So many opinions, directives and words of advice flow down the chain of command, and in our home, this was particularly true in the world of fashion.
The older girls gently but firmly spoke their minds to their youngest sister with unending streams of guidance about wardrobe, hair and make-up. And my baby, God bless her, unilaterally ignored every syllable of their advice.
She was going to do things her way, and you could either like it or lump it.
Influenced by her early snowboarding roots, my fourth-born's emerging sense of style leaned toward a skater vibe featuring oversize tees and beanies. She turned out to be crazily on-trend and as it turned out, the older girls often took a page from her book.
Especially at windy Pacific beaches.
15: When I came to the dinner table with stories of an amazing graffiti wall in Seattle, down near the train tracks behind a warehouse in Sodo, and my emerging plan to pay a visit, my daughters all thought I had lost my mind.
When I showed up the next evening with a camera roll full of the most gorgeous street art imaginable, they lined up and asked, "So when are we going back?"
This photo not only commemorates that wonderful pair of back-to-back adventures, it's also a tiny slice of that heavenly pie called Mom Is Occasionally Right.
14: Sometimes, my favorite moments as a mother are those in which I am utterly and completely left out.
Case in point. Every now and then, when soft summer evenings beckoned just so, my little pack of teenage girls would fall under the spell of adventure. Off they would go, running barefoot around the neighborhood, slipping away on their scooters, disappearing for an hour or two at a time on these enigmatic outings about which I was provided few if any details.
Sometimes, mothers just need to keep their noses out, and let the mysteries of sisterhood take over.
I'll admit that these are among the moments when I wished I'd had a sister. Because I do believe that twenty hours of hair-pulling would easily be worth one hour spent is such sweet camaraderie.
13: A world of many people; a girl of many worlds.
12: Around the time this girl was turning twelve years old, she, her third-born sister and I dove headfirst into the snowy world of winter downhill sports. Joined by many of our homeschooling buddies, we adventured up into the nearby mountains to spend every Friday from November to April careening down slopes, hollering through the woods, and floundering in lovely powder drifts. Long after dark, we would load up in the vans, laughing and snapping photos in the backseat all the way back home.
This new passion stirred up different energies in our family because my two older girls weren't interested in freezing their booties off while falling face first into the snow with both feet strapped to a slippery hunk of polymers.. Huh. Go figure. So for the very first time, our merry band of five became three, and a whole new dimension of our lives took shape.
These snowboarding years were good times. And when I occasionally struggle with those dark motherly moments where I lament - as all mothers occasionally do - for the things I wish I had done during my children's formative years, I can always console myself in the end by remembering, ah, but I gave them the gift of snowboarding.
11. As my fourth-born neared adolescence, her natural clowning abilities and people-pleasing ways began to give way to a deeply introspective self. This lovely self-awareness showed itself first and most fully in natural settings, where my girl's fascination with the physical world overcame her need for human companionship and conversation.
Of course, Ranger was always welcome to buddy up with her. He is a man of very few words.
10: When my baby turned ten, her sisters were 12, 14 and 16 years old. She lived, quite literally, in a world full of teenagers and like many homeschooled kids, saw herself as an equal partner to their shenanigans. Our home was often stuffed with our homeschooling counterparts but also the mostly-traditionally schooled kids from church youth group. This girl's high spirits and clever sense of humor won their favor and she was welcomed into the pack of big dogs many times over.
The Nike shirt deserves an honorable mention. When my third- and fourth-borns were maybe seven and five years old, respectively, they found themselves a sweet set of matching Nike warm-ups - light blue jacket and navy pants - and these matching grey tee shirts. We bought them slightly oversized and the girls literally wore their new outfits right out of the outlet store and into near constant use. Slowly, over the years, each garment was eventually outgrown - they never wore out even though they were worn almost nonstop - and this grey tee was the last piece standing. My baby cleverly layered it over a properly-sized long-sleeve tee, and stretched a few more precious years out of it.
9: Three things about this photo are really cool:
1. My first-born and fourth-born are now exactly the same height. Hard to remember when they were this far apart.
2. In my baby's face, I can see both her toddler self and her eventual teenage self melded together. This age was a time of great transformation, though of course one can never see such things happening at the time.
3. The inspiration for this finger gun pose was neither James Bond nor Jack Bauer. These millennial girls are all about the Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.
8. Two little pixies playing in the snow. All I can think is that it looks like a magical fairyland and I hope it felt that way to them.
7. Yes, that it a big, firmly packed snowball in her heavily mittened hand. But this seven-year-old would never think to heave it as ammunition. She would much rather pat and prod it to perfection, and then use it as the base for a miniature snowman. #peacemaker
6. With three older sisters, my youngest got her fair share of hand-me-downs. I expected more complaints but she often found something to love among the gently worn contributions to her wardrobe and I was always tickled when she latched on to one of her sisters' old favorites.
These aptly named "doggy pajamas" sported one big dalmatian puppy on the thermal weave top, and lots of little spotted pups leaping and prancing all over the bottoms. They were a huge favorite of both my second- born and my fourth born; between the sisters, the jammies enjoyed two long seasons of wear and became a family legend.
5. I could tell you a story about the day that a box full of dress-up clothes from a relative arrived and how the girls ripped into it like Santa's sleigh and played endlessly with the goodies.
I could share the trauma of those bangs, which were an unauthorized style change enacted by my second-born and a rogue pain of scissors.
I could explain how the older girls always cast baby sister in the less glamorous roles of their fantasy play. Cowgirl, prince, butler. It fell to my youngest to playact far beyond the typical princess, babysitter or girl detective, and she always did so with a willing heart and a happy smile.
But when I look at this photo, all I can see are those twinkly blue eyes and dimpled cheeks and my heart melts. I wouldn't mind spending one more day with this five-year-old.
4: In my photo album, this is one of a series of photos where my four-year-old is making funny faces. She named them all for me and I wrote the captions next to the photos. This one is called "big eyes."
3: Just before this girl's third birthday, we found a little lost kitten, brought her home and named her Blackberry. Already a dog lover, my baby took to the new kitty with deep affection and charmed the little orphan with her soft hugs and sweet pink cheeks.
2. In almost every photo we could find of my youngest in her first five years, she is accompanied by at least one older sister who is guiding and directing her through the situation at hand. The uncropped version of this photo shows my second-born sitting to the left - her hand remains in this version. Clearly, big sis is consulting with the birthday girl on how to handle those candles, and my baby's expression suggests that she is seriously contemplating the advice.
1. Sunny winter lunch time, giggles abound. Now it may be that the older sisters are cracking her up, but chances are good that my one-year-old, with her curly top knot and toothy grin, is the instigator of the laughter. From a very early age, this girl learned of her own power to amuse her sisters with funny faces at mealtimes, and quickly earned the title of family jokester.
0. My fourth-born girl at less than one week of age. I fall in love with that little face all over again these many years later, and feel the same sense of wonder and awe that she could possibly have come from me.
And I am reminded once again that mothering is a precious gift which cannot be explained, only experienced. The mystery of motherhood gives rise to the great sisterhood which connects and unites all mothers, across time and space. We birth these precious miracles from our very bodies and then set them free to leave us. As the years go by, we hold tight not to our long-grown-up babies, but to the sweet memories of when we gave them life.
Happy Golden Birthday to my beautiful fourth-born girl!
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