charlotte | luca is FOUR.

luca's birthday fell on a wednesday this year. i know there will probably come a day when i cannot bend and shape my schedule around my nephews, but right now i still can. and so i did. obviously.

i got in late tuesday night and was there to wake him up in the morning.

that day, to celebrate on his actual birthday, we went to the science museum.

my best parts:

one | when we first passed by the display with stuffed bears, luca was the most scared i have ever seen him. he was shaking and insisting that he didn't want to see what was in the room behind the bears. despite our positivity and encouragement, it wasn't worth it for him to have to walk past the bears.

on our way back through, he walked past the display to get to the room behind it, but only if T (with the stroller) walked between him and the glass. as a grown up, it was fascinating to witness not only the reality of how a four year old can't discern what is real from what isn't but also how safe they feel from potentially real bears with only his mama standing between them.

on our way back out of the room, luca told me he was ready to be brave and before i realized what he meant, he took steps closer to the glass. he would start and stop, but he eventually went all the way up and touched the glass. it made my auntie heart so full to watch him be brave knowing he felt so much fear.

two | watching him walk on the rope bridge back and forth. who cares that he wore his nervous–scared face the whole time? he is brave, y'all.

three | we were on our way out, trying to find the elevator, when we came across an entire room we had missed. in this room, we found BUMBLEBEE. and my best part, hands down, was seeing luca's face as he stood next to him.

and later noticing from the photos how he and T have the same facial expressions while admiring bumblebee.

on wednesday night, we did the birthday thing. the dinner, the presents, the cake. or, at luca's request: the presents, the dinner, the cake.

at first, he probably seems like a greedy child, wanting to open one gift after the next, with barely a pause in between. "that one's for me too?" he asks. but i think he's just so excited. not because he wants you to give him all the things, but because he knows there is something there, hiding under the wrapping paper with his name on it, and his curiosity and excitement are too much. because once his gifts are all unwrapped and laid out in front of him, he marvels at everything he got, saying "thank you" and "i love it" over and over.

"i'm so bonus and lucky," he said.

being four means you have a pretty good understanding of what's happening. whenever anyone called him on the phone, he'd say, "it's my birthday now!" and "i am four!" on the way back from the science museum, he had T and i each sing "happy birthday" to him, one at a time.

later, he would comment again and again, "i can't believe it's my birthday!" and "i can't believe i'm four!" before bed, he'd ask, "will i still be four tomorrow?" and once we told him he would be four for a long time, he would tell people that too. "i'll be four for a long time."

on thursday, T worked and my dad came over to watch jack while i took luca to the pool. after his nap (rest), we went outside and made pictures using the chalk stencils i got him for his birthday.

i can't get over how sweet and thoughtful he is.

i forgot his lunch bag with the snacks when we went to the pool. (there is always one thing i forget to grab.) we were in the pool the whole time, so it didn't matter much, but when we got out to dry off and go home, he asked for a snack. i apologized and reminded him that i'd forgotten the bag. i don't remember if he made a comment about how silly that was, or if he said nothing at all. either way, he didn't complain. i do remember him telling me he had so much fun and thanking me for taking him to the pool.

later, as i held each stencil on the driveway and luca colored it in, he would comment on how cool it was. every time i lifted the stencil to show the picture he made, he got excited to see what it looked like. after we finished, for the rest of my time there, he would occasionally mention our pictures and ask if they were still there. (thankfully, i didn't rain and they were still there each time he asked.)

if you ask me, i'd say his favorite gift was the drum set, based on the glimmer in his eye when he looks at it or holds the sticks in his hands, the face he makes while playing or when we applaud at the end of each song, and the giddiness he felt all over again when he woke up the next day to find it still sitting in the living room. but his excitement over the chalk stencils, and other new toys i watched him play with, makes me unsure about what his answer would be. maybe it would depend on the moment. because the thing about luca––and kids in general, i'm sure––that makes me rethink my own position on things is the way he seems to genuinely feel like each new thing is his favorite.

sometimes i find myself falling into this pattern of thinking it's like a triangle, where there is room for only one favorite at the top. this isn't as much in the context of trying to decide which of my toys is my favorite as it is more in terms of life, of having a spot at the table, of being the best at what i'm doing.

i know "favorite" and "best" imply that there is one superior thing residing over all the rest, but luca challenges me to think maybe it's not as static as i think. maybe the triangle rotates, and there's room for more.

friday was uneventful. i helped keep an eye on the boys while T got things done to prepare for luca's party on saturday (read: cleaning).

jack slept a lot. luca and i played legos. and when it was time for luca to have his rest, i brought my car to my mechanic (my dad) because one of my headlights was out.

i snapped some photos of my dad working on fixing my headlight because i wanted to remember it. i wanted to remember how hot it was, for me, to just stand there, watching him, and how hot he must have been, doing all the work. i wanted to remember the way he noticed me taking photos and said, "are you getting this on tape?" and how it made me laugh out loud. i wanted to remember his suggestion that i find someone who can help with car maintenance and his response when i said, "i do have someone. it's you."

"i meant someone in nashville because you won't always be able to wait until you're here," he clarified. "you can always bring it to me."

that's why i wanted that moment "on tape." because i am so, incredibly grateful for the way he is always willing to work on my car, even if it's a hundred degrees out. and for buying my new headlight bulb.

on friday night, things kind of felt like a hot mess. luca was supposed to be sitting at the table, finishing his dinner, but he insisted his chicken nuggets tasted different and was in the front hallway with lee instead. i was standing in the pantry, looking for something to piece together my dinner with. T was sitting at the table, probably going over her party to-do list.

there was a knock at the door, and we all (or just T and i) assumed my parents were stopping by on their way to dinner, because the original plan included them coming over. we carried on.

we heard luca ask, "what are you doing here?" and then we heard her voice.

H had come, somewhat spontaneously (as spontaneous as it can be when the trip involves a 13-hour drive and time off work), to surprise luca (and everyone) for his birthday party. "is it too late to RSVP?" she asked.

it was the best surprise.

he had a rescue bots themed party because, obviously. T did such a good job putting everything together, from ordering a themed cake to the rescue bots decor and even naming each food item after a specific character. plus, there were masks and a rescue bots "training academy."

if you're interested in reading the answers to luca's four-year-old birthday interview, you can click on over to T's blog. it has been resurrected for this very occasion (and also to announce they got pregnant and had a baby, who is now 10 months old, since she last posted).

later, my mom and my sisters (!!) and i snuck out to target.

we ended up going to two targets, back to back, because i was looking for a particular notebook that is only sold at target.

unfortunately, i don't think they make them anymore.

fortunately, H has a schoolbus mirror in her car and if that doesn't call for a mirror selie, i don't know what does. my favorite part is how you can see H and i in the regular mirror, in addition to the four of us in the convex mirror.

jack is getting so big, but don't be fooled. i snapped this photo in the two-second duration of him standing upright, holding on to only one hand as he tried to walk. he is still small. and if you ever need reminding of how small, put him in his high chair.

sunday was as casual as it always is. we hung out at my parents, ate lunch, and i raided my parents' pantry for snacks to take with me for the drive back.

T and i wore the same shirt, not on purpose. we had both been saving it to wear on sunday and even though we both probably had another option we could change into, we just laughed and said, "let's take a photo later."

and then i painted her nails, because i am her personal manicurist, and it happened to be the same color i was also wearing.

and so.

but how do you pose for a photo when you're trying to show both a matching shirt and a matching nail color? the struggle is real.

shout out to lee for his patience and photography skills.