To My Fire Boy on his Fourth Birthday

You, my dear, sweet boy, you have what we like to call character.

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Some people drift through life. You are not one of them. You do not drift. You run, you jump. Sometimes I suspect you fly.

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Three was a heck of a year. I am honestly teary already, which I think must be a record when it comes to these letters.

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Your curls slay me. Your eyelashes, too.

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You are really into puzzles.

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You are even more into building things. You make these big, elaborate architectural creations from the blocks I keep in a basket in the living room. You build one, carefully, meticulously, almost every day. I think they’re incredible.

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You learned to write your name. You absolutely know it is spelled “Sam” but you like to write it “Sma.” This is very you.

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You are funny.

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And mischievous.

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And too clever for your own good.

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At three you still take naps. Long ones.

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Sometimes you still fall asleep on me. Right now you’re still small enough to fit. When I write you a letter next year I’m not sure if that will still be the case. So when you want to sleep on me, I usually stop whatever I’m doing and let you.

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You’re my little cardinals fan.

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You have conversation skills that blow me away. Your dad and I joke that you’re better at talking to strangers (when we still lived in Old Louisville, this was mostly college girls) than most grown men (your go-to line – “Hi, my name is Sam Brooks. What’s your name?”). You are emotionally astute in a way a lot of kids – hell, a lot of people – aren’t.

Just too dang grown sometimes.

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It’s still uncanny how you say things exactly the same as Goldie, or make faces like him.

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Even though you’re getting older you’re still the youngest. Sometimes you don’t like it and sometimes you don’t mind.

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And you and Sirius? Man, that’s what being brothers is all about.

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Remember your hug-nose-kiss routine I told you about in your letter last year? In the past year it has transformed. It’s current form is: blow it up, ears, arms, noses, kiss cheek-nose-cheek-forehead (twice), lips, then hugs (usually ten). You ask for this every night and every day when I drop you off at daycare. Now that I think of it, you approach hugs and kisses the same way you build your elaborate structures.

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Speaking of daycare drop off, you usually go straight to a cot and lay down. You, my sweet boy, are not a morning person. You are a night owl and would be happiest on a 10 – 10 sleep schedule. Unfortunately for you, we don’t live that life.

You’re mornings are subsequently pretty grumpy.

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I would be remiss to leave your first trip to the emergency room (the first trip of any of our children, actually) out of the letter. It was the day before your dad’s birthday. You were watching a movie with Sirius in our room – you know, the room with the no-wrestling rule.

You guys were wrestling.

I heard Sirius’s screams before I could hear you, and when I ran upstairs all I saw was blood. Your dad sat down with Sirius to calm him down. He was hysterical, devastated and scared that he hurt you when he swung you into the dresser and you landed precisely on the corner of the slightly opened drawer. I took you to the bathroom and started wiping the blood from your face, pressing a wash cloth into the cut, watching the washcloth slowly turn pink. When I got the nerve to pull it away and look I almost fainted. I was sure a chunk of your head was missing (turns out, that’s just what splitting your skin open looks like).

We wrapped you in a blanket and took you to the emergency room. It was snowing. We were worried you had a concussion. You hit your head so hard over the next few days you slowly developed two black eyes. I don’t even know how I kept you talking the whole way, but I did.

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(That’s a Merida sticker on your arm. One of my favorite things about you is you like what you like. Brave, Frozen, Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First – to you they are no different than Spiderman, Ben10, Lego Chima, and Ninja Turtles. Never lose that).

You were obsessed with the remote in the hospital room. The sound came from a little speaker on the front instead of the TV.

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Six stitches.

This is you looking at me as they finished. Whenever I see this picture it feels like a tiny person climbs inside my chest and twists my heart, like wringing out a wash cloth.

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Two days later you had your second trip to the emergency room when I came home from work to find you with a very red and very warm face, your stitches infected.

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Now you have a scar over your eyebrow. When you tell people what happened you refer to the whole incident, and your scar, as “The Blood.”

You are getting bigger and I want to be able to protect you. I want every problem in your life to be fixable with a needle and thread. I want you to fall asleep in my arms. I want to slow down time as it spins out of control, stretching you taller by the minute.

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It seems impossible that you are so big. That I can scroll back and see Sirius’s fourth birthday letter and here I sit, writing yours. When I close my eyes I can see the images zip by – me, on the side of a bathtub holding a pregnancy test on that hot August day. Sitting for the bar exam with your steady kick-kick-kick for the entire day two. That final push and the absolute high of birthing you. Watching you sleep, fearing waking the tiny giant. The way you walked up stairs, defiantly, as soon as you could walk. Eating graham crackers with your toes. Then a blink and I am here, with a boy who will only be three a few more hours sitting beside me. It’s enough to make me weep and laugh all at once.

The other day you came with me to the store to buy things for your birthday party. You like being with me, you told me.

I like being with you too.

You and me, kid. You and me then, you and me now.

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Love always,

Your mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To My Star Boy on His Sixth Birthday

Dear Sirius,

Today, you turned six.

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As I write these words and you sleep soundly in your Avengers sheets (because that’s how you sleep, soundly, almost the instant your head hits the pillow) you are probably growing even taller, your face losing it’s baby-ness even more,  so when I look at you at just the right angle I can see clearly the man you will become.

If five was hard, six is harder. The love I feel for you and the ache and joy that accompanies each birthday is still a palpable thing, so real it’s as if I could remove it from my chest and hold it in my hands. I imagine I will say the same thing year after year. When you are fifty and I am seventy-five I will probably clank away on these same keys, sipping tea and wiping away tears, wondering where my baby went.

Enough of that for now, though. Five was a year worth remembering.

You passed one of life’s great milestones: you started Kindergarten.

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My goodness, do you look handsome in your special occasion clothes. On that first day of school you looked like your could do anything.

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And, as always, you were a big brother worth looking up to.

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Five was the year you learned chess. You play after school one day a week, and on Fridays your dad takes you to the coffee shop where you play a weekly game.

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(Sometimes dad even lets you get a soda, because he’s cool like that).

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(Sometimes dad also does your hair. You have awesome hair).

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I love that you still fit in my lap and I don’t mind that your awesome hair smushes my face when you do.

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You also ran your first mile. We ran it together, three laps around St. James Court.

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You still love watching TV but you are increasingly getting into other things. Five was the year of video games, of Legos, Ninja Turtles, and Batman.

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You are still one heck on an artist. You make things that bring tears to my eyes.

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And things that make me stand back and marvel, like the self portraits you did every month, starting when you were four and a half and ending when you were five and a half.

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You wouldn’t believe how many parents and teachers tell us you have the best handwriting out of all the Kindergarteners, maybe even the whole lower school.

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I think your legs grow about an inch a day.

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You are taking your place amongst the cousins. You love family reunions with the fiery passion of a five-year old who knows it means late nights, lots of running, and grape sodas.

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You still have your place right in the middle of the Brooks brothers. You are happiest when you are all together.

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You get to be the little brother.

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Aside from you family you have a whole lot of people who are crazy about you.

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You are often the “big kid” when we are with our friends and you accept that role with a kindness and patience that makes me proud every single time.

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Being your mom makes me proud every single day.

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You’re getting big now. When I carry you to bed I can no longer heft you onto your spot on the top bunk. I have to set you on the edge and you have to scoot to your pillow, much to your displeasure. You take naps less and less. You claim you don’t need them.

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You still like to snuggle, but you are routinely just as content to play quietly with your Legos. You can do more things for yourself. When I look at you I never fail to see a boy who can do – and be – absolutely anything.

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But know no matter how big you get, no matter how independent you become, no matter how many inches you grow overnight, I will always be here. Your weight, in that sense, will never be too much for me to carry.

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There are no words big enough to capture how much I love you.

Love always,

Your mama.

A Letter to My Fire Boy on His Third Birthday

Dear Sam,

You have never been ordinary. Your birth (which I am sure you will one day tire of hearing about) set the stage for the early years of our relationship – unbearable pain leading to euphoric love. There was a point, about thirteen hours into laboring drug free, that I thought “I can’t do this” only to push through and end up with all eight pounds of you in my arms, looking at me with eyes so bright and aware it was slightly unnerving.

Whether it was colic or a regular day with your often frustrating strong will, I’ve experienced that same cycle of feelings more than once these past three years.

I can’t believe today I woke up and there was a boy beside me and not a baby (yes, you still sneak into our bed on a regular basis). Just yesterday you were, after all, a baby. An undeniably, incredibly cute, baby.

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This year has been a year of major, intense changes. I think the transition from two to three might be one of the most marked transitions of early childhood.

No more diapers.

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You can say everything you are thinking and feeling and you can go just about anywhere you want.

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Though you definitely enjoy the perks of being the youngest in the clan.

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You started your first season of soccer.

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You got your first hair cut.

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And your first black eye (followed by a second and a third – you are the definition of “rough and tumble”).

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Between your quick wit, attitude, and wise-beyond-your-years-and-not-always-in-a-good-way self, you remind me a lot of your second oldest brother, Goldie. You all seem to know it. You are drawn to each other.

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Kindred spirits.

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You like to give your most immediate older brother a hard time.

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But we know the truth – you are partners in crime (or crime fighting).

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And even though you try to act like you, of all people, don’t need no stinkin’ big brother, I only have to go check on you in the middle of the night to see the truth plain and clear: you are best friends.

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You play hard.

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You nap hard (you still take two-hour naps, for which I am grateful).

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You are my snuggle guy.

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My fellow adventurer and dreamer.

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You go hard until you can’t go anymore.

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You have a lot of people who love you.

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You’re blazing your own path in a family of good men.

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And luckily you have strong shoulders to stand upon.

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You are extraordinary. You are vibrant and fiery. You shine bright like the sun, with a temper as scorching and love that could light the whole world. You know what you want. It’s tradition in this family to pick exactly what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on your birthday. You were the first person to ever test the boundaries. You looked at me this morning and said “I want a cupcake for breakfast.”

So you had one.

I hope you never lose your fire. I hope you stay as free at thirty as you are at three.

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You have this thing you do lately, where when we tuck you in you want a routine. First I give you a hug and you squeeze with all your might. Then you look at me expectantly until I say “what’s next?” You grin and say “noses.” We rub noses. “What’s next?,” I ask. You whisper “kiss” and pop kiss with absolute delight. You are sweeter than sugar and I love you more than you will ever, ever know.

Hug, Nose, Kiss,

Your Mama

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A Letter to my Star Boy on his 5th Birthday

Sirius,

Five seems old. More grown up. Five is like a million little needles, piercing my heart and reminding me all at once that you are no longer a baby. Or even a little boy. No, you are squarely on the path to boyhood. Five, for your mother, is a bittersweet mix of pride and blessing, ache  and nostalgia.

Four was an epic year.

Full of wonder.

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And stories.

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Swim lessons.

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And friends.

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Your entered that stage where even your most beautiful smile has to somehow be silly.

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That “big kid” attitude started to rear its head.

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Though you remained, in so many ways, as serious and sensitive as your name suggests.

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And – like at one and two and three – at four your brothers were your still favorite playmates.

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And you continued to be a fantastic older brother.

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You really are mama’s helper – baking cookies, clearing the table, cleaning up toys – you even helped me grade papers.

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Watching you grow into your place among the fine men in our family is one of my life’s greatest privileges.

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You got your first ever hair cut. You were thrilled, and I barely even cried.

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I’m pretty sure the new ‘do made you feel ten feet tall.

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You started Junior kindergarten at “the big school.”

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You worked very hard.

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I can’t believe how far you came with reading, writing, and math while you were only four.

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You played your first two seasons of soccer, with daddy as your coach (go Purple Dragons!).

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You are the light in your daddy’s eyes.

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You shot your first real bow and arrow.

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It’s safe to say your favorite thing was Mario, followed at a close second by Power Rangers.

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And a close third was probably snuggling.

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You “voted” in your first presidential election.

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It was a pretty sweet year.

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Sometimes I wonder if you realize how many friends you have, and how loved you are by so many people.

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Especially your mama.

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I have loved you since the moment I knew you existed. I have loved you since that first heart beat. I have loved you when days are hard and when they are easy, loved you as the sun sets and rises, loved you as infinitely as the universe. You are as your name suggests, the brightest light. In a night sky filled with stars I will always find you. Watching you grow is the great joy of my life and I cannot wait to see what five will bring.

Always and forever,

Your Mama579392_10100381387792984_113555910_n

A letter to my Fire Boy on his second birthday

Sammy Lu,

You might notice that you do not have a first birthday letter. That is highly symbolic of my relationship with you – nothing like I expected.

I’m supposed to be your parent, but for the first two years I am pretty sure you have taught me more about myself then I have taught you about this great big world we live in.

Let me start at the beginning.

From the beginning I expected you to be like your brother. I expected an easy, complication free pregnancy, the kind that let me take law school finals 9 months pregnant with your brother, birth him over winter break, and be back in class eleven days later.

This was not my pregnancy with you. I had this annoying low blood pressure thing which caused me to almost pass out on a regular basis. And there was the night I started bleeding. I remember everything with startlingly clarity. The yellow of the kitchen I was standing in. How hard I’d worked all day. The meal I was cooking (salmon croquettes) almost finished. When I felt the blood I went to the bathroom and there was so much. I felt my heart pound pound pause. The doctor confirmed there were no clots, told me to go to bed, and come straight in in the morning. My eyes wide open in the dark room, I thought about you. How terrified I was to lose you. How even though I thought I wasn’t ready (you were planned, mind you – you were just created a little earlier than intended) I suddenly knew I really, really was and I didn’t want to go back.

It was just a “placenta tear.” And it never happened again.

And unlike my first pregnancy, you came quickly. Instead of a c-section you came naturally, sans drugs and all. I have never experienced such splitting, encompassing pain, or the absolute high I felt once you were in my arms. I didn’t sleep for three days. You were me and I was you and it was incredible.

Then you started screaming. Your brother was the kind of baby who would sit in his car seat and stare for hours while I studied at Panera. You, not so much. I didn’t understand. I compared you to him. Your father and I tiptoed around when you slept, sitting on a couch like shell-shocked soldiers, not even bothering to speak in case we accidentally woke you.

Year one pushed me to some places I’m not sure I like to admit exist inside of me.

But here’s the thing. You are the most wonderful, hilarious, fiery boy I know. And you know why you were crying? Because you were so damn mad you couldn’t walk and talk and communicate. You, from day one, have desperately wanted to interact with the world. When you couldn’t, it infuriated you. Once you could, you were fine. This quality that made the first year so hard will probably be one of the things I most admire about you as you grow.

And there are so many things I admire about you. They coincidentally are the things also causing me to go prematurely grey. I adore that you are fearless, even though it manifested as you insisting on walking up and down stairs alone at eighteen months.

Yes, you have fallen down stairs. More than once.

But you always get up. And no fall has ever kept you from wanting to try again.

And you are so funny. Always making jokes. Playing tricks. Telling me to go to sleep just so you can wake me up.

You say hi to everyone you see. You are completely and utterly full of life.

You have done some things so crazy I won’t publish them on the internet in case you ever want to run for office.

You are one of the snuggliest guys I have ever encountered.

You are such a great addition to the Brooks Brothers. You mirror Sage so perfectly. And even though you all are completely different, you and Sirius have a lot in common.

You keep us all laughing.

I am so, so lucky I got you and not what I expected. I am so thankful you make me work hard at being a mom. I am so happy I have you, my fire boy, my namesake, the sun in my sky.

Always and forever,

Your mama

A Letter to My Son on His Fourth Birthday

Dear Sirius,

Today, on the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year, you turn four years old.

I marvel at the boy you have become. I swear, just yesterday you were a little baby asleep in my arms.

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And now you are so, so big.

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There are so many things I love about you. One of the things that makes me proudest is that you are an exceptionally loving big brother. If this doesn’t say brotherly love, I don’t know what does.

I love that you love books and writing stories. I love that like your mama, you sometimes just can’t put a good book down.

I love that when you were three you learned to write your name. You know your letters, your phonics, your “ones” addition, and the planets. I wonder what you will learn while you are four?

You make an awesome superhero.

And our family feels complete because you’re a part of it.

For your birthday, I wish for you to always keep a part of the sensitive, silly boy you are now. The one who believes in magic and who is kind to everyone he meets. The boy who calls his brothers his best friends. You are a king, the brightest light, my shining star.

I love you. Happy birthday.

xoxo

Mama