sophia is now four.

she had a "big kid" party where she was the one who (mostly) determined who would be there.  her classmates were invited and a few kids from our compound.  this party was pretty awesome as far as four-year-old parties go.  i'm biased though because i put a hell of a lot of work into it.  wow, am i, as well as ben, exhausted!  but it was fun to see how she could interact with her friends and play and then "swim" (well, she doesn't know how to actually swim yet) with her friends.  And these four-year-olds are wild and energetic and all over the place.  but there was my sophia moving around--twirling, running, walking, sitting, splashing--all while wearing her blue tutu and "4" shirt (but not in the pool).  smiling.  taking it all in.  this was a party for HER.

and oh my the presents.  she was ecstatic and was very patient.  we waited until the party was over and we were back in our villa to open them.  and there are unwrapped but unopened presents piled up here that she will dig-into tomorrow morning when she wakes.

on the morning of her birthday, she was up very, very early.  but it was a special morning, so i got up with her and we went downstairs.  i made her pancakes and put her hair in a special "bow bun".  she dressed up in one of her fancy dresses.  we then went outside and took some pictures to commemorate, the capture, her four-year-old essence...

wow, you, sophia genevieve grace, are becoming a kid.  your face is more defined and lacks the toddler roundness.  your personality, your preferences, your voice, your feelings are all more defined as you step into your four-ness.  it's quite amazing to see.

we talk and you think and ask.  there are real questions.  the kind that make me pause and wonder and question the generic answer that worked on your years ago, and instead dig a bit deeper to fine a more genuine, real answer.  one that doesn't over-power you, keeps some of the innocence and brightness, but one that your question deserves and one that makes you think and then ask another one.

there is so much beauty in you.  and more often now, you are aware of that.  beauty.  beautiful.  what these mean.  and i am being more careful in how i say these words and use them.  because as you are now four, the world means more to you.  you are more aware.  friends are becoming more important.  what goes on in the world and what you observe is becoming more important in how you shape your view of it.  and this is scary to your mom, a bit.  i want to present to you the optimistic  wholesome side of our world and polish the scenery with golden sunbeams and happy unicorns.  but all ready you see the mush and the disappointments.  you see the sadness and you feel the pressure, a bit.

the other day while we were in the car, your hair bow came loose and you were upset.  you said something like, "now no one will think i'm beautiful."  ugh!  oh the ache and the tears that welled up in me.  i wanted to say, "where did you get an crazy idea like that?!"  "who do i need to go punch?"  but instead, i repeated to you that beauty is inside of us.  explaining it's who we are and not how we look.  it's being strong and brave.  it's being kind and considerate.  it's being intelligent and inquisitive (which of course i broke down into smaller synonyms).  it's what our body is capable of doing:  twirling, and running, and kicking a ball, and making pictures.  beauty is how we are toward others.  it's how we treat ourselves.  and i wanted to go on and on about what true beauty is.  but i realize that i still struggle with this.  and then i realized, that maybe you got that crazy idea from me!  well, maybe partly from me.  you are also so observant and see the ads in the malls.  you see what other girls dress like.  and you are so impressionable and so curious.

and so my darling, how do i convey to you that?  how do i stop the world from screaming?  how do i equip you with what you need to be confident, to be strong, to see deeply and to feel sincere?  you mean so much to me, my child.  and i want to do all that i can, with God's strength, to help you see what beauty really is.

to my capable, imaginative daughter, i am so blessed to celebrate your four years of life.  i am excited to see all that will unfold this next year.  you always have a space on my lap, and kisses from my lips.  happy birthday sophia!