Happy birthday to our sweet Mary Clare. What a complete and utter joy the past year has been. Seriously. Even the moments where I see flashes of the teenage years, flashes of my own personality and flashes of our visits to couples counseling. (Your dad has already informed me that since the similarities between you and I are so strong, he and Charlie will be getting an apartment when you turn 13.) But in all seriousness, the teenage moments are outweighed by the fierce hugs, your concern for others, your excellent dance moves and the enthusiasm you bring to everything you do. We are obviously partial, but you are one heck of a great little girl.
Like most kids your age, you are beyond inquisitive and I all too often grow exasperated trying to answer your seemingly endless stream of questions. Your father, however, can keep answering questions until the cows come home. You are incredibly protective of Charlie, and usually quite patient with him. There is nothing we love more than seeing the two of you play together. When you take his hand as we walk through the zoo, the mall or down the street, well, I basically lose it. It is just that precious. And the nine out of 10 strangers who comment on your cuteness cannot be wrong.
You are not the least bit bashful, and I love it. I love your confidence and how you are completely at ease talking to people and making new friends.
The way you phrase questions is still sometimes jumbled ("I not know that!" and "Thank you for we having a good day tomorrow.") and your pronunciation of words delight us to no end (pack-pack, Chawlie and weaves), but we've noticed more often than not you are getting things right, and well, that makes me sad. Proud, but sad. Because the Mary Clare way of saying things is usually 10 times more awesome.
You started out 2012 in a new classroom of three- to five-year-olds, a bit hesitant and a bit reluctant to make nice with your new teacher, but it didn't take long before you guys were best buds. Best buds who frequently butt heads, but friends nonetheless. You were smitten with the older kids in the classroom—particularly the boys, ahem—and now you are one of the big kids who show the younger ones the ropes.
Books are still your favorite, and if it's ever quiet, we can usually find you holed up in a corner somewhere with a stack of books. You are getting along well with the scissors, you know your numbers and your alphabet, you spell and write your full name and you are not only coloring in the lines now, you are selecting appropriate colors and drawing great pictures. It amazes us what you can do. In fact, I frequently ask how long you've been doing something, where you learned it or how did you know this or that. Frequently the response is, "I learned it at school." That works. As long as you're learning. I am cool with just taking care of the feeding, clothing and grooming portion of your upbringing.
Your imagination is in full swing, and we love watching you set up your trains, play with your dolls and subject unsuspecting guests to your beauty shop regimen. It is even better when you rope Charlie into your elaborate games. Luckily, his favorite word right now is "yeah," so that helps.
From battles of will to baby-like talk that decreases by the day, and thoughtful comments to an increased awareness of the world and others around you, it has, like I said, truly been a joy seeing you grow the past year. While it makes me sad to think how quickly you are growing, I must say that we are enjoying the ride.
We love you, our sweet and happy girl. Happy fourth birthday.