I'm finally reading Harry Potter, and it's because of her.

It is nearly impossible for me to accurately articulate the feelings I have for Mya. In two days, she turns seven, which means in two days, I will have been a mother for seven years. The time escapes me. In some ways, I look at her and still see vague glimpses of her chipmunk cheeks and baby teeth, but in other ways, I see a budding girl, navigating her way through a very big world.

Tonight as we ate cake, she asked me how many countries there were in the world. Not knowing, I turned to Google for the answer. 196 countries (if you wanted to know). She gasped, "How am I ever going to get to each country and still be a Master Jedi?" I smiled and responded, "Honey, if you want to do something, I'm sure you'll figure out a way to do it. You are so inventive and creative that you'll make your own way." She rested her cheek in her palm and sighed, "You're right mama. But maybe I'll have to take you along with me. You know...so I can eat." ;) She's a quick one.

Something changed between Mya and me this year. I'm not sure if it's the time we spend working on homework together after school or if it's the solo drives to and from gymnastics twice a month or if it's a result of the handful of intimate talks we've had over the past two months, but there is a mutual trust and respect between us now--one that was immature and almost nonexistent before. In the past two months, she and I have discussed pornography, sex, homosexuality, death, war, God, freedom and joy. Never knowing what question she may come home with, I have learned to be open and understanding from the moment her toe steps through the front door. I can't begin to describe her face when she found out about the refugees of Syria. She opened the door with tears in her eyes, wondering why. Why did some people have to be so mean? Why can't we help? Why can't we let them live with us?

She has a tender heart. I have never felt she was instructed poorly at school or that she was hearing things from kids on the playground. I truly think she sees a picture, and she carries the image in her heart until she reaches my arms.

I never have all the answers. In coming weeks, I hope to explain how I discussed these rather deep topics with her, but perhaps I won't. I know most of these topics create heated debates, and I would never want my parenting thrown to the wolves. Suffice it to say that I speak from the heart. I am always honest with what I know and what I don't know. I ask lots of open-ended questions, and I allow her to draw her own conclusions. Once she has, we talk about her conclusions, and I clarify things when I see fit.

Having a 7 year old is pretty much my favorite thing. Her tantrums are fewer (although she threw one tonight because Elle prayed instead of her). Her laughter is harder. Her imagination is out of this world. And her sense of worth is great. She knows who she is. She knows she is loved. She often tells me her favorite place to be is at home with her family. She chooses to play with her sisters more than neighbor kids. She is an amazing artist, and she draws pictures for the girls to make them smile. She writes me little love notes all the time; I do the same and leave them in her lunch box. She and I have nearly completed the Junie B. Jones series. We just started Harry Potter; she's curious about everyone we've been introduced to thus far. My high school boyfriend would be so proud. I'm finally reading Harry Potter, and it's because of Mya.

I love her. I have loved being a mom all these years. It is the hardest thing I keep doing, which is crazy because I usually give up at this point when things are really tough so the fact that I'm still hanging in there shows you how much I love it.

Happy birthday baby girl. You deserve the moon and everything else in the universe.

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"Be kind and considerate with your criticism... It's just as hard to write a bad book as it is to write a good book." Malcolm Cowley