In just a few short hours, you will turn three years old. It's so hard to believe that a mere 3 years ago, I first laid eyes on you. As I think back to your beginnings, my mind immediately goes to the moment I found out I was expecting you. In that instant, my instincts kicked in and I felt an overwhelming need to protect my tiny yet perfect baby. As you grew in my tummy and I could feel your little kicks and hiccups, the excitement for what was to come intensified. When we found out we were expecting a girl, our mother-daughter bond began taking shape. You were deeply loved from the very beginning.
The day you were born, it was warm and sunny. We had made so many preparations waiting on your arrival. Early that morning when you were laid in my arms, you began teaching me how to be a mama. Three years ago, I had never worried about keeping a newborn warm or tied bonnet strings. Three years ago, I had never worried about feeding schedules and how many ounces were consumed; I had never paid so much attention to applying powder or lotion; I had never tried to perfect the art of swaddling. Until you, I had never checked to make sure someone was breathing so many times during the night. Until you were born, I had never sank so deeply into curious eyes, never had my body ached from sleeplessness and felt so strong all at once, never had I felt such pride.
My precious girl, I did not dream of the joy you would bring. It's so hard to remember life before Grace. You quickly became our world.
I vividly remember our first walk to the mailbox. It was the first time we had walked outside except to and from the car. I remember the feel of your tiny body against mine, how you stretched your face toward the sun, the sound of birds chirping, and I remember pointing out everything from the jonquils to the breeze.
I can still hear your first word. You were lying on our bed while I was getting dressed. You looked straight at Daddy and me and said "Hey." It was clear as a bell. If only we had known what a firestorm of conversation that first word would start.
Your first steps seem like they were yesterday. You and I were playing in our living room floor on a Saturday afternoon. One...two...three! It didn't take long for you to be toddling all over the house.
I remember the day you became a big sister. I was so worried that you weren't ready. I underestimated how quickly you and Emma Kate would realize the bond of sisterhood.
The first time you sang a complete song was nothing short of Grammy worthy. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" will forever have new meaning.
The first time you prayed brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes you pray for your family, sometimes you thank God for your food or your sister or the sunshine. Sometimes you ask God to heal booboos or sickies. But you always pray from the heart, and I know God hangs on to every word.
Somewhere during these 3 years, I blinked. Somehow, my tiny baby soared through infanthood, surpassed toddlerhood, and became a little girl. Your chubby fingers have become capable and nimble. Your stumbling toddles have given way to surefooted strides. No more are fragmented baby words. You now speak in complete sentences... make that novels, and your imagination shines through in your grand tales that I so love to hear. We have some really great conversations.
This past year, you have really grown into your own personality. I love your independent spirit, your unwavering determination, and your hilariousness. You are the funniest kid I know! Since turning 2, you began wearing big girl panties and learned to spell your name, sing your ABC's, and recognize most letters. You gave up your beloved paci, learned how to dress yourself, and we're working on left and right.
Recently, we have discovered your desire for organization. I could hardly believe it when I caught you reorganizing a store display shelf. This wasn't shocking because of the act in and of itself. It was shocking because as a little girl, I was caught doing the same thing on more than one occasion! You and I have a great time dressing baby dolls, reading books, and having tea parties. You are the best helper I know. You are excellent at putting away dishes, putting away towels, and cleaning up messes.
In the last couple of months, you have decided that pants are offensive and a dress is in order every day. You love all things fru fru. The prissier the better. Oh, you are your mother's daughter.
I never imagined love like this could exist. But I was proved wrong (twice)! Three years is just long enough to blink. These past 3 years have been amazing, challenging, funny, and more wonderful than words. You keep me on my toes to say the least. These past 3 years have been the fastest and best of my life. I would go back to day one and relive it all in a heartbeat.
It makes me sad that you are no longer an itty bitty, but are about to step into a whole new world of childhood. I'm excited too though, because as great as these three years have been, I know the best is yet to come. This next year, you will start preschool and ballet. You are so excited about picking out your first backpack! I'm already preparing myself for those inevitable notes that will come home from the teacher saying something about your inability to turn off the chatterbox. And, I'll just smile and think "Yup, that's my girl."
As you continue to grow, I want you to remember that you are so very special. You were planned long before you were created. God loves you and has a special plan meant just for you. It is my prayer that you will trust in Him to show you the way and guide you daily. You have such a vivacious personality, and you can do anything you set your mind to.
When you blow out your birthday candles tomorrow, I will be holding back tears just a little. But I'll also be cheering you on with all my might. Watch out, World, Grace is three!