Dear Ruthie,

I don’t know if you will remember this birthday in the long run. Maybe you will remember it well, or maybe sort of. Or maybe not at all.

Let me tell you about the day.

You have turned five years old. Five!

In five years, you have: lived in two states (New Hampshire and Indiana), traveled to nine more (Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Ohio). You have sat in on graduate school lectures where I was a student and undergraduate classes that I was teaching. You have lived in three homes, including the house we just bought, where your great grandparents lived their final years. You have taken art classes and ballet. We have read together The Fellowship of the Ring, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and most of Heidi. In the following order, you have grown out of loving: Yo Gabba Gabba, Go Diego Go, and the Power Rangers. You still love Adventure Time, The Lord of the Rings movies, and both Frozen and Tangled. All you want to watch on TV these days is My Little Pony. You own a furby. You have two guinea pigs and a little dog that is teaching you patience. You have had three main babysitters (Megan in New Hampshire, and Brittany and Haley in Indiana). You have attended three daycares or preschools (Imaginations and Anderson Christian School in Anderson, Indiana and Daleville Christian School in Daleville, Indiana). You have outgrown your monthly ear infections from infancy, and an MRI when you were two confirmed that you have a lovely brain. You love your baby brother more than anything in the world.

You woke in your own bed this morning, which is less common than you waking from the spot on the floor between my bed and my desk. That is where you usually end up at some point in the night. There is a Disney Princess-themed tent over your bed that you like going to sleep in, though. Well, now that you have what we call your “Bad Imagine Spray,” anyway. It’s a squirt bottle with mostly water and three or four sprays of perfume, and it does wonders at helping you keep away the bad thoughts that keep you from falling asleep.

When you woke, you popped your head out of your tent and saw me in the hallway, getting ready for work. I don’t know what it’s like to have a working mom, only what it’s like to be one. I know you go in cycles where you don’t like that I leave in the mornings, and you’re in that part of the cycle right now. You spend a lot of time telling me that you don’t get to see me enough, or that we don’t get to spend enough time together.

It stings a bit, but I know that you say that even at the end of Christmas break, when we’ve had three weeks straight in each other’s company. You’re just a very loving, sweet girl who wants to spend time with her mama.

Your babysitter Haley arrived for the day, and I left you and your brother after several snuggles. You wanted seventy-five kisses, but I talked you down to twenty-five: five for each year you’ve been alive. I got updates throughout the day: you were playing well, you were all going to take a nap, you were cleaning the house, you were excited for me to get home.

When I got home, you wanted so much to play your new My Little Pony game with me. Your tears of disappointment when I said I had too much to do so that we could go to dinner for your birthday were short lived, though. Minutes later, you were watching Courage the Cowardly Dog, and I was wrapping your gifts.

This year’s presents: a singing Digibird and four Equestria Girls dolls. Let’s face it, those are an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Monster High, which I don’t care for. When you opened your gifts, though, you were thrilled. “What? You got me ALL four? Except for Apple Jack and Fluttershy? How did you know I wanted these?”

You chose to have dinner at Texas Roadhouse. Haley came, and Haley’s friend Amy, and Grandma Carol. Dad wasn’t feeling well, but you’re used to that. You’re generous in your understanding of his health limitations. I think you want him to be well, and you know that there’s something wrong, but you accept him for the things he can and can’t do. He always makes you popcorn. That is one thing he can always do.

You ate a steak for dinner. You really are growing up.

After dinner, we came back home and you got to stay up late watching The Return of the King with Dad. I worked on the birthday cakes for your party tomorrow. I spent more money than I should on a Rapunzel doll set with a carriage that can go on the top of the cake. You’re going to love it.

Right now you’re snuggled on the couch with Dad, talking about Middle Earth and how gross orcs are. Your Equestria Girls dolls are lined up beside you, covered with a blanket up to their armpits. I hear you laughing at the good guys’ victory in battle. “GO GO GO!” you are shouting.

Your dad pauses the movie because you want to tell me something. You appear in the kitchen and whisper, “MOM! An ORC got SHOT in the BUTT! Right in the bottom!” I don’t remember this about the movie, but I’ll take your word for it.

I love that I have a little girl who tucks her Equestria Girls under a blanket. That I have a little girl who eats steak and uses words like “difficult” and “discourage” and “communicate” and “occupy” and “complicates.” That my girl thinks an orc getting shot in the butt–or at least what she thought was an orc getting shot in the butt–is the funniest thing she’s ever seen.

Happy birthday, big girl.