Your Third Birthdays

Dear James and Owen,

For your third birthday, we hung up the birthday banner (of course).

Sophie insisted on helping me set the table (she was so excited, for both of you). Owen—you wanted a Thomas the train theme. James—you wanted a Jake the Pirate theme. So, we did both.

The night before your birthday I went out, after you were asleep, and bought you each a balloon.

The next morning you wore your Thomas the Train and Jake the Pirate T-shirts. You were so.very.excited. Too excited. So excited that we let Sophie give you her birthday presents after breakfast (she was too excited to wait, too). James, even though you love Jake the Pirate, you wanted Thomas trains as presents. So that’s what Sophie gave to both of you. You loved them.

Nini and Pop Pop came over for a birthday lunch!

I was planning on making two meals that day, as it is our tradition that you pick your favorite meal for your birthday. This year, though, you picked the same thing—pesto pasta and bread with butter.

Owen, you humored me by wearing your 1st birthday hat, which I purchased from Etsy. (James, you did not humor me—this year.)

Your presents!

You both wanted chocolate cake with chocolate icing. As such, Andy said it only made sense that we make one cake. I would have none of that. None.of.that. Two cakes, one for each of you. You are two separate people with two birthdays to celebrate. (We had a lot of leftover cake.) Owen, this was your cake.

And James, this was your cake. (Sophie insisted on decorating them both.)

James, this year, we sung to you first.

Owen, I love this picture of you. You are watching your daddy come into the living room with your lit birthday cake. You were so excited.

You blew out your candles quite well, too.

And then, you got to open presents! One of your joint presents from Nini and Pop were wooden marble run tracks from Haba.

You love them. Daddy often comes home from work and builds intricate mazes down our stairs. However, you’re also getting better and better about building working runs all by yourself, too.

After presents, we ate cake and ice cream.

We spent the rest of the afternoon with Nini and Pop Pop, playing with your new toys and old games, too.

This year, you were lucky because you got to celebrate your birthday twice! Grandma and Paw Paw visited the following weekend. This time, we made Thomas the Train and Jake the Pirate cupcakes.

You blew out your candles …

and opened presents.

Grandma and Paw Paw got you a jeep. At first, we didn’t tell you and you didn’t realize you could drive it. You were simply just thrilled with the idea of sitting in it.

Pop Pop and Nini came over—like Pop Pop like grandson.

Then all of us went to Nini and Pop Pop’s house, where we revealed the truth of the Jeep—that it moves.

You each took a turn riding with Sophie. And … you haven’t ridden it since. You’re afraid of it. I’m baffled by this, but am guessing (hoping) this will change with time.

We finished out the afternoon with a game of baseball on Detling Field.


You eat a ridiculous amount of food. Just today, you woke up from your nap and immediately asked for a tomato—an entire tomato. I sliced it all, you ate it all, and then you asked for more. The night before we had homemade pancakes for dinner. You ate five—five large pancakes. I always say, “I don’t know where he puts it all!” (you can still wear 18-month shorts) but that’s not entirely true. I do know what happens to all those calories. You burn them off. Constantly. You rarely walk—unless it’s outside and the temperature is not of your liking (and when it’s too hot or too cold you are sure to let us know). Inside, though, you run. Everywhere. You dive and jump and barrel and twist and turn and dance and swing and hop and roll all.around.the.house (and all over us and Tucker, too.). I envy your energy.

You love “You Are My Sunshine.” You request it at bedtime. You ask for it whenever you hurt yourself. When you are in the midst of a full-blown tantrum, it is the one thing that will calm you (just like it always has). I pick you up and you wrap your arms and legs around me, nuzzling your head into the crook of my head and shoulder. And I sing. And scratch your back. And you calm. Your entire body relaxes into mine, your breathing slows, you stop crying. You calm. I love singing “You Are My Sunshine” to you.

You sing it, too. You sing it in this beautiful, high-pitched, perfectly sweet voice that makes me want to cry every time I hear it. Because of it, I’ve become “one of those moms.” Again and again I say, “James, can you sing ‘Your Are My Sunshine’?” to anyone and everyone who will listen. Often, you do. My favorite moments, though, are when you sing it unprompted. A couple times Owen has hurt himself and on my way upstairs to kiss yet another knee I hear you, sweetly singing to him. People talk about hearts melting. This, this turns mine into a puddle.

You’re sneaky. You hide things. I’m still missing a-now-cancelled credit card I believe, because of you. When you’re mad at someone you will take something of importance to them and throw it—behind the buffet, behind a bed, behind the couch. And then you smile. (We’re working on this.)

You love to read. More so than Sophie and Owen. Every day you pull a new book off the bookshelf, sit on my lap and ask me to read. I try my best to stop whatever I’m doing to read to you. Never, ever lose this passion.

You’re good at puzzles. Really good at puzzles. Scary good at puzzles. Every day you do Owen’s four-pack Thomas the Train puzzles. Babysitters have gotten out other puzzles and noted how good you are at doing them. I need to get you some more puzzles.

I love your curly hair. Sophie loves it, too. Often she does your hair for you. She brushes it and poofs it and puts barrettes in it and headbands in it. She puts you in her dress-up clothes and you just laugh and smile. You’re such a good sport about it.

You take things apart constantly. TV remotes. Toys. Cell phones. The contents of wallets. The contents of purses. Sophie’s treasure box. If anything has a battery in it, you take it out. If any outlet is childproofed, you get into it. Maybe you’ll be an engineer. Maybe you’ll be an inventor. Maybe you’ll be a builder. Maybe you’ll be an artist or a woodworker or an architect or a teacher. I love your curiosity, even if some days it drives me crazy.

I love you, James. I love the way you laugh—such a big laugh for such a little dude. I love how you are all wiggly arms and wiggly legs all over me, all the time. I love how your eyes shine. People talk about shining eyes but yours do. They really do. I love how much you love Tucker and I love how much he loves you. I love how much you love us. I love how much you love life. The toddler years can be trying—for us. For you. But they are so short-lived, which makes me both happy and so incredibly sad. I love that I’m spending your toddler years with you.


You have the best facial expressions. Everything is exaggerated. Your surprised look. Your “I’m sorry” look. Your “Aw, isn’t that so cute?” look. Your mad look. Your sad look. Your silly look. I love all your looks. May you always remain that expressive.

You love trains. While Daddy and I were out of town, you recently rode on one at the zoo with my cousin (and one of your favorite babysitters), Kelsey. You were almost manic describing it to us. When we cross a train track or you hear a train in the distance, you become inconsolable if you don’t see a physical train to go along with the track or the noise. You know all the words to the Thomas the the Train theme song and you love to sing the song in different silly voices. You know all the engine names and, thanks to some other non-Thomas train books, you know the different parts of a train (the engine, the tender, the caboose). Lately you will spend afternoons in your room running your trains over your tracks, making up stories about what they’re doing and where they’re going. I love listening to these stories, these worlds you create in your head.

You and Sophie are buds. All three of you love to play with each other, and I know these pair-offs will change over the years, but right now you two often can be found together—especially outside. You both stick the swing seats on your stomachs and you run and kick off and go so high—so high. You love to balance on anything—curbs, stone walls, benches. You love to ride Sophie’s pink tricycle although you refuse to use the pedals. Still, you are fast—and intent on catching up to Sophie on her scooter. You and Sophie race all the time—from the van to the front door, up the stairs, to the entrance of Tower Park—all the time. You’re really good at Memory. So good that it startles Sophie. “Mommy,” she says. “How did Owen beat me? He’s 3 and I’m 5!” You surprise her (and us) with this skill.

You are very particular about the order in which you do things. There is a certain way you have to get in the van, a certain order to the buckles on your car seat. You insist on buckling the last buckle, but only after everyone else is in their seats and buckled, too. (And then you ask Sophie, about five times while we’re driving, if she’s buckled—this drives her mad.) When it’s time to get shoes on, you often insist on sitting on a particular step. You’re particular about the clothes you wear. James would be naked, all the time, if he could. You—you must have pants and a shirt on. And when hot weather arrived, you spent several weeks dismayed with the fact that you were in shorts, not pants, and t-shirts, not long-sleeved shirts.

You know what you like.

You still love the moon. And the cardinals that live in our backyard pine tree. And Mia—although you scream “MIA” and scare her so much she never sticks around long enough for you to do anything with her. When you see something cute, you cock your head to the side, smile and say “Awww, that’s so cute!” in, well, in a seriously cute way.

When you color, it’s not the normal all-over-the-page kid scribble. Rather you draw these tiny little individual scribbles, all over the page. And they are each something. If I ask, you tell me what they are. They are fish. Dogs. Words. Letters. Numbers. Houses. Trains. Trees. I should ask you about your scribbles more often.

You scare easily. And, as such, you show your bravery so often. This year I’ve seen you tackle the “shake shake” bridge at the park. The big fish at the aquarium. The pool at the Y. Child watch at the Y. Hip hop at the Y. The backyard swing. The tricycle, fast. Scooby Doo. I’m proud of you.

Recently, you fell asleep on me—just like you did when you were an infant. Your head fit up on my shoulder perfectly, but your legs were so long against my body. You were so baby-like, so toddler-like. So small, so big. I loved it. I didn’t move, for more than an hour, craving the moment, knowing how fleeting it was, knowing it was rare, knowing, someday soon, it will never more be. Thank you, for that small and precious gift you gave to me.

I love you—everything about you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you both don’t exhaust me—us. You both are demanding. You both throw spectacular tantrums. You both whine. Oh, do you whine. But this passion also shows on the flip side, too. You love. You love. If we’re leaving and one of you thinks we’re leaving the other behind (which we would never do), you lose it. You cry and yell and we have to console you, over and over, that all of us are coming—no one is being left behind. If one of you cries after being hurt, the other one finds one of us, desperate to get help for his brother. You fight with each other, passionately. But you also love each other, equally—if not more—passionately. We love you both the same, passionately.

Sometimes, at night, around 10pm, when you should be sleeping—when you should have been asleep two hours ago—you creep down the stairs, together, while we are watching a show. We’ll hear your tip-toes and your “shhh’s” and look up to see you both, heads stuck between the rails, smiling, like you’re holding mankind’s greatest secret. And we melt. We should be angry, but we can’t be angry. You are both too cute to be angry.

And that’s how it is, with both of you. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s challenging. But I love it, you. I’m addicted to both of you. I can’t imagine my life without either of you and I’m so proud of the men you are becoming.

And here is where I’ll admit a truth: I was a little scared when I found out I was the mother of two boys. Your dad constantly perplexes me (and I mean that in the most loving way). But I’m a girl. I felt like I knew nothing about boys, raising boys. But now I know you are both people. Beautiful, loving, happy people. People who are growing, people who I’m excited to watch become men.

Often, I change the words to our favorite song. I make it plural. You are my sunshines. My only sunshines. You make me happy, when skies are gray. You’ll never know dears, how much I love you. Please don’t let my sunshines go away.


“A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm.” —Bill Vaughan