Yesterday, at exactly 3:28 in the afternoon, you turned six. And fittingly so, you were exactly in your element - sandwiched in between your mom and dad and sister in a movie theater all to ourselves. I can’t believe you are six. Your birthday felt different this year, I think in large part because you are in kindergarten now and we had to be a bit creative in order to make the most of this day of celebrating you. This is the first birthday that I haven’t had or taken the whole day off to spend with you, and it broke my heart a little to drive you to the front entrance of school this morning and watch you hop out with your backpack and walk so independently through those big doors. I drove away marveling at all the things a mom thinks about on their baby’s birthday, mostly how fast it's all went and how bittersweet it is to watch you grow up. This year, I had to share you with kindergarten - your name was read over the loudspeaker during announcements, you got the special "five second start" during free choice time, and you brought treats to share with your classmates. I purposely stacked my student visits to end at your school and was in the hallway talking with one of my college students when I saw you walk out of your room with your student teacher, paper crown adorned on your head, proudly delivering some leftover birthday treats to the other kindergarten teachers at the end of the day. You looked so sweet doing this, and I tucked that little snapshot away in my heart for safe keeping.
In this big transition year of kindergarten, it's surreal to stand on the sidelines and have a front row seat to watching you grow into a person with your own unique set of traits, gifts, and interests. You continue to be my casual, easy going boy, unphased by the worldly affairs around you. You adore playing with the neighbor boys, but are just as content playing with Mila when the older boys go into each others' houses for video games or sleepovers. You're not showy or attention seeking like so many kids I notice these days, and often conceal your big stories, wild imagination, and creative ideas in those big brown eyes of yours. While you're even-keeled and mild-mannered most days, I'm often reminded of your sensitive heart and this combination absolutely melts me. You can't make it through a movie without your jaw tightening up and your eyes filling with tears at some point, and you get emotional every time your sappy mom gets nostalgic and talks about you when you were a baby. You think of others often, like asking out-of-the-blue if you can bring an extra birthday treat to Mrs. W. and doing your very best to encourage Mila to not cry at dance class. You love to play and pretend, and seem much more content inventing make believe worlds instead of participating in the football game at recess. You absorb information, like every last word sound in your jolly phonics book, and you seem to be picking up early reading skills at an accelerated pace. You seem to be a little quiet at school, but your dad and I laugh that you rarely take a breath from chatter at home, and could talk for hours about Legos, movies, or Star Wars. You could eat pb & js for days, and drink milk by the gallon, and have lately showed a liking to mashed potatoes (only the ones that look like vanilla ice cream), and an aversion to popcorn. I am convinced you are the sweetest, most patient, and loving brother to your sister, evidenced when you let her stubbornness win over and over, include her in your play, and literally take her little hand through life, protecting her and loving her with your sweet ways. She adores you and I often catch her watching you closely to follow your lead.
You had a good birthday yesterday, starting with a surprise game of checkers and a room filled with balloons. Fittingly, you woke up early and asked daddy if he would play a board game with you, so while you and Mila played with the balloons in your room, Daddy set up the new checkers board he purchased all on his own for your birthday. So while I made your favorite stack of birthday cake pancakes for breakfast before school, you and Dad got in a sweet game of checkers, to which you won, fair and square. I have a feeling you'll be learning chess in no time.
You blew out six candles on a stack of perfectly plump birthday pancakes, the best batch I've made yet. These are a favorite tradition by all, including your daddy who typically avoids sweets. I arranged twenty-five monster rice krispie treats for your class, treats you helped me with the night before by precisely placing a variety of candy eyes on their pink, green, orange, and blue faces. We set aside a special one for Mrs. W., per your request, and we had a sweet chat with her after we dropped Mila off at school. Then it was off to school for you and off to work for me, although I counted down the hours to your early dismissal time so I could snatch you up and celebrate!
Daddy took the afternoon off, too, and we decided to spend the first cold and blustery preview of winter in the movie theater. We saw the movie, Storks, and all four of us loved it, especially those sweet little babies and the "oh my gosh, look at her butt..." line in the preview that you and Mila repeated the entire way home. The sun had peaked through the thick clouds by the time we arrived home, and we decided it was a good time to dig into your stack of presents I so carefully placed by the fireplace. You loved your Legos, of course, but were quite perplexed by your Disney Infinity characters. You just wait! After gifts, we had dinner at the Pizza Ranch, per your request. You happily filled your tummy with three types of pudding, little ham chunks, and a bread stick, and your dad and I vowed that this place would be reserved for a maximum of two times per year; that is, unless we can convince Mila to choose a different place for her upcoming birthday. :)
You ended the night where you began, this time at the table constructing your new Lego set. It was a good day, doing all the birthday things a kindergartener should do. And we're not done, for it wouldn't be a birthday in the Jorgensen house without days of celebrating.
Happy 6, Cruz Bennett. We adore who you are and are so very blessed to have this front row seat to your life.