Nan Louise,
Three years ago you were born into our family, making us five. My only point of reference for a family was four—my own, and the one we had already created. I knew, without a doubt, God was telling me to grow our family, and was constantly reminding me that He would meet me in that space. However, it was still unknown, and unknown often means scary for me. I didn’t know how you would fit. My pregnancy with you had been okay, until we found out your dad had contracted a rare thing called zi.ka. This meant lots of extra ultrasounds to make sure you were okay. So on your birthday three years ago, we were ready to just hold you in our arms, put whatever fears we had aside, and figure out what life was going to look like after you joined us. And almost instantly we couldn’t even imagine life without you.

And as you kept growing, we were continually amazed at how you just kept adding so much to our family. You were loud and spunky in ways your sisters weren’t. You were sweet in different ways. You captured our hearts in different ways. And you just kept growing all of with your huge personality. And now, three years later, I can hardly believe I was ever afraid of having a third child, because life without you would be so much less full.

This year you became a big sister. From the start you liked Sloan, but you were content to give him his own space while you did your own thing. Once he got a little more responsive, you wanted to hold him and feed him and sing to him though. You never once acted out of jealousy towards anyone when it came to Sloan though—you seemed to understand that adding him to our family was for everyone’s good. Before he came you also transitioned to a big bed, and shared a room with Blythe and Becks. This proved interesting. Once everyone was asleep, it was fine, but you didn’t really like being quiet in a room with your sisters—who are your favorite playmates. So we usually ended up putting you to bed early, or in our bed, and then snuck your sisters in later or moved you to your bed. We did this for about a year until we moved to our new house and finished a room in the basement for your sisters. And now, most every night, you need to know that Blythe and “Becksy” are going to bed too… you miss them in the room with you but have transitioned well.

Another big step for you was potty training! And you did awesome! I tried once or twice, and could tell you weren’t quite ready, so we just waited it out. And finally in January it seemed to click and in about two or three days of training you got it. Your sisters loved helping you out in the early days, but now you let us know—adamantly, like most things—that you can do it yourself.  One thing that didn’t go so well this year was your skin, unfortunately. You have incredibly sensitive skin, and the summer proved to be the worst. We tried tons of prescriptions and ointments and lotions and I just hated to see you fight your eczema so much. I’m really hoping that this year is better in that department!

You also got glasses this year! We knew at one year that this was going to happen sooner or later, and this ended up being the year. You were SO excited about them, and even MORE excited that they came in a CASE with your own “tooshie” [which is what you call the cleaning cloth. Why, we have no idea]. The day we got them you put them on and looked across the room at your dad and just kind of stared at him a bit. Then later you were outside and looking down at your feet running in the grass you said, “I can play really good in my glasses.” And you continued to say little things like that that assured us that they really are making a difference for you. You rarely take them off, and when you do it’s only to brush your “beautiful hair”, or because you have "cries" in them when you're upset, it’s because they are so smudged and filthy from your endeavors that you can’t even see through them anymore. I also noticed that you started coloring in the lines, and I hadn’t thought that sight was the problem, but now you do such a great job that I think it was the culprit. We can’t go anywhere without people stopping us to tell us how adorable you are in them, and it’s quite true—you’re a sight to behold and have the personality to pull them off in magnificent ways.

 This year your relationship with Becks has grown tremendously. You two can play together and pretend the funniest things. One of your favorites to play with her while Blythe is at school is “moms and kids”, but you also LOVE to sing and dance to any kind of music [your favorite is old vacation bible school songs]. It’s been fun to watch you and Becks grow closer together this year, as it was kind of a slow-starter relationship [she just wanted to hug you too much!]. You’ve even graduated to being able to play school with the big girls, and even though they’ve told you a hundred times that when the teacher says, “Class. Class,” you’re supposed to say, “Yes. Yes,” it never fails that you say, “What. What.”

And that’s kind of how you are, Nan. You just say what you say. You do what you do. You always want a “whole much” of something, and that’s how you tackle life. The other day you wore your Little House on the Prairie dress [bonnet, and apron, and all] while playing outside, then later decided you just needed your swimsuit and cowboy boots. And that is what you were wearing when you and Becks walked down the street to meet Blythe when she got off the bus. One of the neighbors commented, and said she hoped you had a good birthday, then followed it up with, “But I think Nan has a good day everyday.” And you really do. I told our neighbor I want to be like you when I grow up.

 You constantly make us burst into laughter with your turns of phrases. One day you woke up and said, “Mommy, I need a drink—my froat is fuzzy.” And when Sloan is crying sometimes you come to me and say, “Sloan’s crying about you.” I’ve had to “get me off this” when a sticker is stuck on you, and help you at supper when you yell, “I can’t fork this!” You started trying to tease us, and then you’ll say, “I’m messing you around!” You want to know "who-body" did something. And I kind of always hope you call the refrigerator a “fridger” and need “bam baids” for your boo boos.

A lot of days when I’m reading my bible you crawl up in my lap and so the margins throughout those thin pages are scrawled with your handwriting. I hope in twenty years when I am studying 1 Peter again and I see those Crayola marks that I can recall with detail the way your face still smelled like a toddler, the way your hands felt for my face when you needed to tell me something urgent and turned it to look at you, and the way you impatiently-patiently waited for me to finish. Often during this time I would have you “pat the bible” and we would say, “God’s word is true,” just like we did last year.  I know you won’t remember these times in my lap, sharing my coffee and my bible-pens, but I pray you remember the Word in front of us and the truth that His word is always true in the most permanent way.

Oh Nan. The weeks leading up to this birthday I seriously would find myself clenching my chest, my heart felt heavy in its cavity. You couldn’t possibly be turning three? The year from age two to age three is, in my opinion, simply magical. I think it is one of God’s kindest, funniest, hardest, most growing gifts to parents. And it is so very fleeting. But you have taught us all to suck the marrow out of life a little more—to run as hard and fast as we can, even if it means we may smack into a wall and knock the picture frames off and break them! Ha! You love to play “get you game” with your dad, and every.single.day. when he gets home from work you ask him if he has a white shirt on. He usually wears an undershirt under all his dress shirts, and you know when the work shirt comes off, and he’s just in that white t-shirt, that it’s time for get-you-game! Your squealing and squalling can be heard all over the house. And I know each age will bring beautiful new things for you, but I hope you’re always as uninhibited as you are when your dad is chasing you around the house in his white shirt.

 If people haven’t been around our family much and then we spend time with them, inevitably there is a moment where they are watching you—your red hair in pigtails, your glasses, your raspy voice, your endless energy and spunk—and they’ll lean over to us and just say, “Man. THAT one!?” It’s a question and an exclamation of sorts. And yes, that one, YOU, are something to behold in all the best ways. When grown ups really find simple joy in life they often refer to that as “finding their inner child.” And I think that if you stripped everyone down to their raw, pure, most innocent “inner child”, it would be such a child as you are every single day, and I feel so lucky to spend those days with you, Nan Louise.

 As I have ended all birthday letters, I want to end this one to you, sweet Nan, as well: We hope you understand the why behind our no-s. We hope you feel safe in the boundaries we set. We hope you feel freedom in the wide open places we leave for you. We hope you see God in our actions and in our words. We hope when you leave our little home for good and go out on your own that you'll look back on this simple little life we had together-- chaos and mistakes and messes and all-- and see that it was Grace that held us together; that you see that is was God's daily bread that provided it all.

Here's to the next year with you, Nan!

Happy third birthday, Nan!

There is nothing you could ever do that will keep us from loving you. 

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