My Dearest Zachary,
Today you turn 3 years old. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. It was the day I learned that my heart could grow exponentially in just a matter of moments. The night before you were born I was worried about how I could love two little people as much as I already loved Ryan. I truly had nothing to worry about! My heart felt like it might burst the day I met you and it has grown even more every day since you came into our family.
This past year you have truly blossomed! Your language took off like crazy. When the year started I was a little worried about the number of words you had. Now, you constantly talk and tell us what you think. You ask excellent questions, and your attention to detail about the way the world around you works is astounding. We always had a sense that you "were taking it all in" but now that you communicate so clearly and effectively you're able to let us know that we were correct! For example, you notice immediately if someone got a haircut. The other day, I came home from getting my haircut and you said, as soon as I walked in the door "Your hair looks so pretty, Mommy! I like it!" This is a gift, Zachary. May you always notice these things. Your spouse will one day thank you! You also notice if one of your brothers gets something you didn't and you quickly speak up to correct this miscarriage of justice. You notice the most minute details on cars and when we see a van just like ours you'll often say something like, "That van like ours...but not ours! Different wheels! (or lights, or bumper, etc). You never confuse a car of the same color but different make as being like ours. You are now recognizing letters and you find "Zs for Zachary!" everywhere we go. Its so much fun to see the results of those little wheels inside your brain turning!
In addition to being a smart and inquisitive little guy you are also extremely kind and caring. You are always looking out for your little brother, and if he's doing something that you think looks dangerous you will say, "Mama, get him! Connor could get hurt!" (Though, you don't say Connor...the way you say it sounds more like "Donna." A part of me hopes you never master that hard C sound.) You love Ryan so much and to this day, if you're given two of something (a treat, a small toy, etc) you immediately run to share one with Ryan, even if they were both intended for you. You give fierce "monkey hugs" and say "Uh ooh too" (Love you too!) in the sweetest, kindest, most heart-melting way. I must say, "I love you!" 100 times a day just to hear your sweet "Uh ooh too" response. You can say "love you too" but it has become habit for you to just say it in your little kid way, and once again, I hope you never stop. "Uh ooh too!" is the best thing I hear all day!
As exceptional as you are in some ways, you're also very much a three year old in many ways. One of your favorite words of all time is "poopie." You'll find any excuse to use it and when someone else uses it, especially NeeNee, you think it is HYSTERICAL! Your giggle is one of the most joyful sounds I've ever heard and yes, I've been known to say poopie on occasion as well just to hear that glorious sound of your giggle.
You also eat very much like a toddler. You LOOOOOVE foods that you love. The problem is, you only truly love about five foods: Macaroni and cheese, waffles, yogurt, steelcut oatmeal, and peanut butter (but not on a sandwich, just by itself on a spoon). You'll tolerate strawberries and mandarin oranges, and sometimes bananas. You won't touch a vegetable unless it is snuck into a pouch (thank god for whoever invented those things!) or a homemade smoothie, which we make often and fortunately you love. You detest any type of meat. I mean what kid doesn't love Chick Fil A chicken nuggets?!?!?!?! You, that's who. I have to believe that one day you will be a more adventurous eater. Auntie Catharine is convinced you're going to be a famous chef one day. You do love to help me cook! But that whole "let them help prepare the meal and they'll eat it!" adage is total and complete BS with you. You'll gladly and excitedly help. But you usually do so while exclaiming "dat smell hoooorrrrrrible!" Its clear you have very sensitive taste buds. One day, if you do become that famous chef, I'll be sure to be your biggest supporter and strongest critic. Let's see how you like it when I taste your famous filet mignon in a truffle reduction sauce and exclaim, "Oh, that's horrible!" Yeah, paybacks buddy....paybacks.
So, while your love of food is limited, your love of animals is vast. Recently, for your and Ryan's birthday (we got them a bit early) we got two pet rats, Rizzy (Ryan's) and Ryder (yours). It was Ryan who really wanted them. You just sort of seemed to jump on the band wagon. But since getting them you have proven to be an exceptional pet owner, especially for a three year old. You like to hold them and play with them and you are so very, very gentle and kind with them. Watching you with Ryder and Rizzy makes their smelly, stinky cage that drives me crazy all worth it.
In addition to animals you love your family. You're very much a home body. You're most content being home with the people you love most, me, Daddy, Ryan, and Connor and playing a game or watching a movie while snuggled on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. But you love your NeeNee and PopPop fiercely as well and you get sooooo excited when they come over. Your cousins adore you and you in turn get excited any time they come to visit. Julia and Caitlin dote on you with such sweetness and James seems to look up to you. He loves to give you spontaneous hugs.
Though you did great while at NeeNee and PopPop's, I have to say, since moving into our own home its been a joy to watch you blossom even more. It's clear you are glad we have our own home again. You're thrilled that we have all our stuff back. You no longer have to ask "it in storage??" when you can't find something that's missing. And when you see something in our new house that was also in our old house you often say, "Dis just like our old house! We have dis der too!" It is all very exciting for your newly minted little three year old self!
There are so many things about the world that you love so much, in addition to your favorite people. You love books and would sit and have books read to you for hours. You especially like the "Piggie and Elephant" books by Mo Willems and you can "read" many of them by yourself now and it is just so darn, adorable. You read with different voices for each character and with the same emotion and inflection that I use when I read. Sometimes I wonder if you might enjoy acting when you're older. You're sometimes a little shy, but when given the proper venue and audience, you shine! You thoroughly enjoy playing games and you are able to follow the rules correctly in a way that far exceeds your age. You love "Hi Ho Cherry-O," "The Cat in the Hat, I can do that!" and "Busytown" the most. We're just starting to play UNO with you and you're getting it more and more every day. You'll be beating me and Daddy in no time! (Just don't beat Ryan....he would have a difficult time with that!). You continue to love trains and this year chose a Polar Express themed birthday party. If we let you, you'd watch that movie every day of the year. But, fortunately, just after your birthday Zerk (our elf) brought it back to the North Pole. Don't worry, he will return it close to Christmas time! You've picked up on Ryan's Star Wars fever and you love learning about the different characters and you too enjoyed going to the theater with me, Ryan, and Uncle Mark to watch Episode 7. You may have fallen asleep for some of it, but when you were awake, you loved it!
You also love to run and play and jump and just be active. You're an amazing climber and you can scale a playground with no help at all. You love to do the fire pole and you love big slides. You can do the monkey bars by yourself but you insist that I be right there when you do it. You're always trying to keep up with Ryan, and you manage to do a pretty great job! You learned to ride your scooter this year and you are a PRO! You zoom along so quickly when you ride it! Its really quite impressive. When we were at NeeNee and PopPop's we went for a walk almost every day and you would always choose to ride your scooter. You scootered so much that you wore a huge hole in the front of your right shoe!
And yet, as active as you are, and as much as you desperately want to be a "big boy" you are also still very much by baby. You still use a pacifier (that's going to have to go in the next few months) and you still have mommy snuggle next to you at every nap and at bedtime in order to fall asleep. These are things that yes, we will have to transition you away from in the coming year (yes, I have things I'd like to do besides lay next to you all night long) but I'll soak in those extra snuggles for as long as I can. You won't be little forever and one day, I will long to have you snuggle next to me so you can fall asleep.
So, my sweet boy, in these early days of your life I am doing my best to enjoy every moment and treasure the snuggles and cuddles, because I know they won't last forever. But, my love and pride for you is something that will most certainly last forever! Happy 3rd birthday sweet boy! I love you more than you will ever know!