Last week you finally turned three. With all of your little friends having September birthdays, and my birthday being a week before yours, you've wondered when your birthday would come for a while now.
You began the day by running into our room, jumping onto the bed and shouting, "Surprise! It's your three-year-old!" At which point, the birthday mania began. All you wanted for your birthday was to have a "Cold Stone cake with the big boys" who live across the street from us. You love those little boys so much and they are a great example of kindness and goodness. Plus they think you are the cutest. So it's a nice setup.
Your "big boys" celebrating the number 3 with you
Evan, Luke, Alex
But of course, we couldn't do just that--because your dad is the "Funster" and your mom loves birthdays a lot. So we filled your day with birthday surprises, which included: blueberry pancakes, a restaurant that delivered our food on a train, indoor carnival rides, go-kart racing, bowling, and dinner of your favorite food lately (PB&J with carrots), and "skeprises" of course.
All to celebrate your sweet little life, which is definitely worth celebrating! You are growing into quite the remarkable little boy.
Anyone who knows you at all knows how much you've loved to suck your little thumb. It's how you fall asleep, how you comfort yourself when you're frightened or sad, it's what you do when you're bored. One day as the weather became colder, you noticed an "owie" on your thumb where it was chapped from you sucking it. You asked me where the owie came from, and I told you it was because you put your thumb in your mouth, and that when you stopped it would get better. There was absolutely no pressure, and not even expectation that you would stop--since you sucked it a LOT. I figured it would be the beginning of a long, hard withdrawal a year or so down the road. Imagine my surprise when you never sucked your thumb again after that moment. You thought about it. You missed it. You tossed and turned and struggled to sleep without it the first few nights. But never, not once, have you put your thumb in your mouth since. You decided it wasn't good for you, and you stopped.
As a matter of fact, potty training wasn't that different. You decided it was better for you if you learned, and you never went back--even when it was hard or frustrating.
How I admire your moral character, my little one!
You have retained most of your passions, and added a few new ones. Your first love is still your airplanes, closely followed by helicopters. But you've made room in your heart for cars, firefighters, and construction sites. Your favorite movie lately is "Planes: Fire and Rescue" where Disney managed to combine planes, helicopters, bulldozers, parachuting, and firefighting into one, glorious feature film. Naturally, the toys from that movie are among your favorites these days, along with your fighter jets, of course. Which, by the way, you have an uncanny knowledge about these jets and their various capabilities and features. You gently, but firmly, correct me when I mistakenly refer to your F-15 as an F-18, or call your F-4 an F-16. And heaven help any poor fool who mistakes a fighter for a bomber--you will quickly take it upon yourself to educate them!
in a grove of "Jonathan" apples
You've embraced your new Wisconsin life--enthusiastically watching the tractors and combines harvest the corn around our house this fall. And you're always up for a nice apple-picking, cow-petting, or baby goat feeding trip to a local farm!
Your physical and cognitive capabilities continue to amaze your dad and I. You jump, roll, kick, and fall without missing a beat, and you shoot hoops with the best of them. Your sports coach just bumped you up to the class with the older kids so you would be more challenged, and you have loved being pushed to get better. You're especially good at the hurdles, of all things, out jumping and finishing faster than the 4- and 5-year-olds in your class. Your pain tolerance continues to surprise us and others, as you sat in the ER this summer with a bruised kneecap (bone, not skin) tear-free and telling the doctor exactly what happened.
Equally, if not more, amazing to us is your beautiful, incredible, sponge-like, mind. You know your shapes, your alphabet, your addition and subtraction of numbers one to five, and you have mastered enough sight words to begin reading simple books almost on your own. You count to one hundred comfortably. You know and recognize all fifty states and where they go on a map. You know seven presidents of the United States by picture, and exclaim to me in Costco as we walk past the magazines, "Mommy, it's George W. Bush! There! On that magazine!" You memorize scripture stories faster than I can teach them to you, and you know and recognize the entire first presidency and quorum of the twelve as well as all of the latter-day prophets of the LDS church. You have a particularly amazing gift for names and faces, lucky you, recognizing and calling by name our bagger at the grocery store the next time you see him, or the neighbor ladies you met three months ago and see at a restaurant.
You are the most flexible-eating toddler I have ever known of. You love carrots, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, celery, green beans, quinoa, broccoli, and I could go on. You will try anything once without hesitation, and I can count on one hand the number of times you haven't liked what you tried. The other day I handed you the white root base of the celery to throw in the garbage while I chopped the rest for dinner, and you ate it instead. I asked you how it was and you replied, "Not too bad." You inhale the sample cod at Costco and ask for "more." You eat your apples all the way through the core and around until literally just the stem is left in your sweet little fingers.
You are confident and self-assured. You wish everyone in Target "Happy Thanksgiving!" and clearly tell anyone who asks your name "I'm Jonathan Paul Gaertner, and I'm three." You chat your pediatrician's ear off about airplanes and firefighters, you casually announce to me that you're "going to make apple juice today," and you order your own food at restaurants. And much to your mother's astonishment and admiration, you eagerly share the gospel with anyone and everyone. You insist on bringing your little scripture story book to sports class to show your coach, you ask the nurse giving you your shots to pray with you that you can be brave. You show your Jon-sized Book of Mormon to your little friends and ask them, "Do you have one of these?" If their answer is "no" then you say, "you can have mine if you want."
You are such a sweet brother. You are willing to do anything to help Ben or make him feel happy. You love to help with him so much, that you are crushed when someone else throws away a diaper or makes a bottle. You share your toys with him so willingly, even the ones you find hard to share with your friends. You even give him little Ben-sized bites from your ice-cream before we can step in. You are protective, fearlessly guarding standing between Ben and our Roomba vacuum which you genuinely think might get him because, "it sucks up all the little things on the floor." You cheer for Ben during his tummy time and worry about him when he's sick. You don't even mind when he spits up on you or your toys, simply saying, "Oh Mommy, Ben spit up. I'll go get a cloth." You tickle him and make crazy sounds, just to get a laugh; and when B cries, you are the first to say, "Oh Ben Ben, don't worry. I'm here. I'll take care of you. Mommy, Ben needs help." You are excited when he wakes up, even if it interrupts our rare mommy-jon times. You lay by him and patiently let him pull your hair and grab your nose, and our only concern for you two is that B will survive your deep and sincere love, manifested in hugs, nuggies, and snuggles, which you insist "he likes them, he told me." You simply adore your baby "cinna-Ben", as you have dubbed him.
As I hug your tightly, and find a bony little boy body where there was once a chubby toddler, I find myself a little emotional sometimes. I continue to love every new stage you enter, but I do mourn the stage you leave--knowing that your skinny little limbs will just get longer. And as your mind and body develop and grow you will leave behind the little boy that occupies such a deep, titanic portion of my heart and self. Who you are now will forever be a part of who I will always be, and I long to hold on to your mispronounced words, the thoughtful look on your face as you learn something new, your belly laugh, and your hugs so tight they actually hurt. In short, my boy, I love you more than I knew a person could love.
you still love that red sweatshirt (which we have in several sizes now),
and I will always love those blue eyes
I am so grateful you came to my family and to my life, Baby Bear. Please always love goodness, learning, Ben, airplanes, and me as much as you do today.
All my heart,