Happy, happy birthday, babystar! The fact that you are three whole years old surprises me less than how much you've grown and how independent you've become in the last year. As I've reminisced the last few days and have peeked through old pictures, I'm amazed at all you've learned, how smart and handsome you've become, and how kind of a soul you are.
You've learned so much this year in terms of factual information and of how the world works, and I love observing your little mind processing everything it sees. You've developed a fascination with letters in the last few months, and know most of them with their sounds. You've also finally, finally! started to enjoy drawing. Seriously, for the longest time, we could not get you to do more than pick up a crayon, you were just so bored with it all. But in the last couple of months, you've suddenly decided you love to color and draw. We've started learning to write a few letters, and I love seeing your joy as you work to learn and succeed.
For your birthday this year, we had to go out of town for a wedding. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving you behind on your birthday, so we all drove up together, enjoying some absolutely gorgeous fall scenery. We visited a fall festival at a farm along the way, and it was just the perfect way to spend the day. There were corn mazes and pumpkin picking and tractors. Many, many tractors. Little ride-on tractors and old stationary tractors and big giant tractors for the hayride. I feel fairly confident it was near to your vision of heaven.
One of my biggest joys has been witnessing how your relationship with your father and your sister have grown this year. You were always a complete mama's boy before kina was born, and you still are. For comfort and hugs, it's usually me you want (thank goodness). But it just makes my heart sing to see how much fun you have with your daddy. You trust him and love for him to help you, and love helping him in return. It's the sweetest little friendship.
Just as touching to my mama heart has been seeing you grow to adore your little sister. I have to admit, while you were kind to her and were amazingly un-jealous even at the first, you were not particularly interested in kina for some time after she was born. But now. Goodness me, you are the best of friends. You poke and prod each other to the extreme, but you just can't get enough of each other. When your Amma asked the other day if you wanted to come over to her house, the very first thing you said was, "And kina can come, too!" If kina wakes from her nap before you, there are usually several instances of me retrieving her from banging on your door, in hopes that you will come out to play (see also: gratitude for sound machines). You both think it's hilarious to climb on your bed and bounce and play with all the animals. You're always retrieving her little bear for her, and if you're ever dilly dallying coming up the stairs to our apartment, the fastest way to get you up is to say that kina has some pressing need. You are already her protector and friend, are proactively thoughtful, and my heart wells up for it.
You're also such a generous little soul. If you have a snack, you will always share with me or kina or anyone else who is there. You had a little treat a couple of months ago and you made sure to give some to Amma, even though there was very little of it. You always want people to feel included and loved, and if someone gets up to go to the bathroom, you ask where they are. If we're out somewhere and one of us falls behind, you want to wait, so that we'll all stay together. You have such a way of watching out for and over those around you, and I'm so thrilled by your goodness. I've loved watching your faith grow and seeing your trust in and reliance on your Heavenly Father. I love seeing you express sweet prayers, and watching them be answered. That is magic.
Most of all, you're kind and generous and true. Last night, for your birthday dinner, I asked for your request and you said mac & cheese, a rare treat. We had over Amma & Ajja and Priya and it was lovely. We finished our food and dessert (brownies with ice cream), and we packed up your little backpack so you could have your first elective sleepover at their house tonight. While I may lament your growth, I'm generally not the type to actually be sad over it - I love seeing you grown and learn and enter new phases of life. But tonight, as you confidently headed out the door with Amma & Ajja, fully aware and appreciating that you'd be staying at their house by yourself and coming home tomorrow, the tears started to swell. You just seemed so BIG - choosing to sleepover at their house and knowing what it meant and taking your little bag with you. You just seemed so independent and my heart ached a little (kina noticing you were leaving and leaping out to want to be with you and bursting into tears when she realized you were leaving did not help).
But then. You came over to me and put your little arms around my neck and said, "I'll miss you, Mommy. I love you."
You'd think I would've learned this long ago, but I've recently recommitted to letting messes happen, to letting you be a kid. Somehow in the course of wanting to train you up right, I became a stricter, less fun, more uptight mom. I realized I want to have fun with you and enjoy you more, and oh, it is glorious. The day I started trying this more, you responded so much better when I was happier and kinder, and we just had a ball together. You are the kindest, best little boy and I want to remember that always.
Natty, thank you for being my little boy. Thank you for growing and learning and choosing to be good. And thank you for, all the while, loving me back and still being my little boy. I adore you.
Other random facts:
You continue to love sticks (has morphed into more imaginary play - batons and wands and the like) and the park and basically anything outside. You're enamored by fall and all the leaves (and jumping in them). You love trains and cars, of course, and have been in a phase of asking for hugs at regular intervals throughout the day (hope that never ends). You love to pretend - taking on the phone (generally calling up Penny & Rae), playing house ("I'm the daddy and kina is the mommy and daddy is the baby and mommy is the other baby!"), making the couch/bed/whatever into a train/boat/airplane. You still adore reading and could do it for hours. You love to do whatever we're doing - cook or paint or fix things.
You love making new friends, usually warm up very quickly, and are great about being left with any sitters (your favorites being your grandparents, of course). You love to jump and run and be silly. You think rhymes are hilarious and make up nonsense words all the time. You love to sing and constantly do it in the car and especially if kina is ever sad. You've learned an Article of Faith each month this year, and we're on track to finish reading the Book of Mormon. You're great about eating whatever we do, and always surprise people with the quantity of food you consume. You're still a crazy chatterbox and we still get surprised by your level of speech. You love your bear, and still have your paci for naps and bedtime. You've been potty trained for 7 or 8 months, and although I haven't tried night training yet, you've been waking up dry more frequently. You still nap for 2-3 hours each afternoon, and sleep about 10-11 at night. You love to travel and see new things and experience new places.