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You were so up and down on whether you wanted to turn four. In the weeks leading up to your birthday you told me over and over again you fear that I’ll no longer pick you up or that four will mean you’re too big for our tight couch snuggles. Four seems so old to you.

And it does to me, too. The closer this fourth birthday came, the more your independence grew. You seem to need your safe havens less—like all the little toys you’ve told me you’ve now outgrown and will set aside for your sister who will join us in less than six weeks. You need me to help you less and less, and your strong-willed ability to do everything yourself makes this reality hit home even harder. But you make me proud.

Your personality is unique to only you. Without fail, every morning you greet me with an excited “MAMAAAAAA!!!!” followed by the best hug, as if you’re surprised to see me. Your voice is still absolutely adorable and innocent, especially when you throw out words or phrases more mature than I feel like you should know at this age. And your laugh. Your belly laugh is like the happiest confetti ever thrown into the air.

You never forget to tell daddy and me how much you love us “in the whole world”, then quickly add “and Kiva and Kessler and the baby” for fear of hurting one of your furry friends’ or unknowing little sister’s feelings. Your compassion for others is unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. Your baby blues fill to the brim when someone important to you gets hurt.

Anytime you see a dandelion you need us to stop everything to pick it for one of your dolls, daddy, me, or one of your friends that will undoubtedly never see it before it dies. Yet this little gesture is so important to you. Your feelings are easily hurt, but you forgive just as easily. Writing your own name, all the letters in the alphabet and reciting your address is something you’re proud of. Bath/shower time is always a nuisance until you’re in the water, at what time even a half hour is never long enough for you to decompress in there.

There are so many nicknames you respond to, but Addie is one you’re not fond of—you’ll correct anyone by saying your full name back in reply. You’ll tell anyone you meet that chicken nuggets are your favorite, but daddy and I know that the truth is you’ll only eat one or two nuggets. Given a cheeseburger you’ll devour the whole thing. You like salty over sweet, and you prefer the real fruit popsicles over ice cream.

Uno is one of your favorite games, and you get that mischievous grin every time you have just one card left. But due to your concern that everyone walks away feeling like a winner, it’s hard for you to stop playing until each of us has won at least one hand. Most things come easy to you, so your frustrations run high when anything takes you more than 15 seconds to master. Luckily, a cuddle and comforting words are all you need to be reassured that you’ll learn how to do it eventually.

For being such a softy, your ability to “grin and bear it” during tough times is a gift. Take for example the time you slid into the wall after tripping in the house and having half of your face turn black & blue, or the time your elbow dislocated and you had to wait until the next morning to have it popped back in.

You see life beautifully and find beauty in the small things. When the helicopters fall from the blooming spring trees you describe them as dancing. You hate bugs touching you, or even flying near you, but the site of a butterfly makes your delight audible to surrounding neighbors. You already have an incredible faith, and without hesitation gave God all the credit for giving you a baby sister because you “prayed for the baby to be a girl all the time”.

Most of your words have lost their mispronunciation, so we hold tight to the few that still prove your youth to us: “aspar-E-gus” (asparagus), “fighterfighters” (firefighters).

You bring so much light to our lives, and we often find ourselves spying on you from around the corner as you play so independently, staring in wonder at how amazing you really are. We love you more than words could ever say. Welcome to four, little one.

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