Happy fourth birthday. I've been waiting your whole life to figure out what my favorite age is and I think this last year was it (thus far, that is - I realize it could get even better). I love your creativity, your expressions, your way of looking at the world and your willingness to explain it to me. On the flip side, I'm serious when I say that I don't like it when you ask what something is, I answer you and then you tell me I'm wrong. It's really, really annoying when you do that.
Your words are much more precise. Gone are the days of cd-d's and bicy-ca-cles, here are the days of you wanting to do things "right off the bat". All the time with that one. We're always wanting to do things right off the bat. You've been repeating some of my less edited words lately (freakin' and heck, specifically). The first one you used correctly, emphatically and with enthusiasm until I had words with you. You also mentioned that I say it and I agreed, then asked you to please help me stop. So I self-corrected and started saying "stinkin'" instead (you know, like "I'm so stinkin' mad") but you showed that one off today, so I think I'm just going to have to reexamine my entire vocabulary since I live with a sponge. A regurgitating sponge. The day you decided to try heck wasn't one of your best efforts. It was completely out of context and I made you repeat it three times before I understood what you were even saying. Once I figured it out, I laughed because it was so out of place in the sentence. I think that wasn't the reaction you hoped for because I haven't heard it again.
When I look at pictures from last year, I see that you've lost your last vestiges of baby chubby cheeks (what little you had, anyway) and you're a full-up little boy. Nothing toddlerish left in that body which is, by the way, a bundle of muscles covered by skin. You have zero bodyfat, it seems, and your strength astounds me at times. You love doing P90X (are probably the most regular user of it in this house), going for a run with us and insist on exercise shorts all the time.
You're a pretty decent big brother and really want Natalie to play with you. That is, until she messes up your stuff and then you get yourself into some hot water. But I believe that I see snippets of what life will be like someday and I like it. I hope you always want to hug and kiss your sister as much as you do now. I also really hope she'll be more receptive to it when she gets older because otherwise it's going to be really awkward.
Daddy still hung the moon, as far as you're concerned, but I'm still the one who can heal bumps of the physical and emotional varieties. Even when I feel like we've had a 'bad' day, you surprise me by asking me to put you to bed. You're growing up as a nice boy, and I like that. You often get compliments from strangers about what nice manners you have. Your teacher claimed you were the "closest thing to perfect" she's ever had in her classroom. I double-checked that we were talking about the same boy, but she assured me it was you. I'm so glad you know how to behave (even if you often don't do it for me). We've talked a lot about being a good host and how to make guests feel comfortable in our house and I think you get it. We cracked up tonight as we listened to you and Isaac chatter in bed about life and then you announced you were going to call me up there to get a cup of water. Very thoughtfully, you asked Isaac if you should get one for him, too. After much debate between the two of you regarding how you would do that without getting in trouble, you confidently said, "if I ask loudly for it, she'll come and bring us water. So would you like one or not, Isaac?" And because you know me so well, I appeared with a cup for each of you.
You love sports and spend a lot of time running pretend races through the house, often with the plastic newspaper bag tucked into your shorts. You can hit a baseball anytime Daddy pitches it but told me I'm not a very good pitcher (you're right, and you were patient with me, waiting for about 20 pitches before you made that proclamation). You've mastered the art of frisbee-throwing; the hockey sticks still get a little love; soccer is fantastic; we shoot a lot of hoops; and your gymnastics skills get more outrageous every week. Congrats, by the way, on teaching yourself how to do a cartwheel. It's pretty impressive the way you're willing to throw that body any which way. Your swimming is coming along; I have high hopes for your this summer at the pool.
You love your friends, truly love them. You keep telling us that you "love everyone you know, but not everyone you don't know." I think that's really true for you; your emotions are bubbling at the surface all the time. Whether that's a good or bad thing depends on the day, but I'm hoping we can help you figure out how to navigate through life with such an open heart.
You still love your nana's, your tiger, your bed, your bedtime ritual of a blessing and music and sneaking out of bed to sleep behind the door. You've mastered the art of dressing yourself, choosing largely monochromatic outfits, often appear in our room well before seven o'clock announcing yourself with some large gesture (two days ago you pounced on the bed, scaring me out of a dream) and that you're "really, really hungry". Incidentally, you got to pick whatever you wanted for breakfast today and chose vanilla yogurt with chocolate o's and chocolate chips. You obviously thought you were pulling a fast one, I was just so relieved you chose something with some nutritional value.
You're a lucky, lucky little boy who is adored by every adult on our street. They all speak to you, wave to you, invite you in, treat you like one of the big boys. You hold court on John's driveway as often as we'll let you, feeling really cool in the back of his truck eating a cool pop while everyone else stands around chatting. You ride bikes with the teenagers in our cul-de-sac, you disappear into the Ledders' house to hang out, you even coax private Evelyn into conversation every time you see her. I was so worried the day you tramped across her beloved hedges to give her a hug but she accepted it graciously and hugged you right back. Then there are the days you go around back to see Sally on her deck and when you reappear, you have the telltale marks of Oreos all over your face. She lets you have them every time. I just hope you grow up with great memories of your childhood. I figure you're starting to experience things that you'll never forget, and I sincerely hope you never forget this neighborhood and the way they've all rejoiced in you growing up.
Oh, there have to be so many things I'm missing. How could I possibly summarize all the vibrancy you hold in that small self? Impossible. I hope you always know how loved you are, how much we are your biggest fans and how glad we are that you are you.