He's turning eight today. His wiggly baby teeth give way to giant Chiclet teeth that seem too big for his face. Freckles jostle for space every time he goes out in the sun. His hair is thick and dark, as it promised to be when he was a newborn. Those eyes...grey-green, ringed by black lashes. He winks back at me and my heart squeezes, imagining the loves he'll find in his life thanks to those eyes.
His legs grow more quickly than I can find jeans to fit him and I am thankful that the season for shorts has arrived. He dresses in his own quirky way: tweed caps, cowboy boots, knitted sweaters, neckties. He plays with Bionicles for hours, making battle sounds. He takes a long time to figure out how to play games, but loves to play anyway. He loves to be outside, sword fighting and bike-riding and tree-climbing. He wants to be a farmer or a ninja or a step-dancer or a soldier when he grows up.
He loves to dance. We sing Gangnam Style phonetically now, and know all the moves. He makes up new routines and shows me his creative moves daily. He draws complex pictures that he needs to explain to me, aliens and deep-sea kings, guardian warriors and robots. They're full of movement and sound and his pencil can hardly keep up with his ideas.
He sets up cohorts of tiny Roman soldiers, lies on his tummy so that he can have them at eye level, and I know in his mind that he marches off to conquer with them. His body never stops moving: headstands, somersaults, playful kicks in the butt, cuddles. He likes to read now, although he was a late-bloomer. He takes pride in helping me with his little sisters by reading to them, getting them a snack, or holding the baby. He laughs his head off when I pretend that Norah is kung-fu-kicking him in the face, or when I do baby-voice overs as she gnaws on his robots (I AM A GIANT BABY. I WILL DEFEAT YOUR ROBOT ARMY WITH MY POISONOUS DROOL!)
He tells me the truth about everything. He confesses immediately if he gets in trouble at school, and owns up to the quirky things he does even though we've told him a million times (since he was two) not to: turning up the thermostat, or squirting window cleaner all over the place). He hates time-outs and getting in trouble, and is just starting to get the concept of impulse control. When I do send him to his room, he lowers angry notes down through our heat-vent, tied to a string ("Be Quite, Mom"). I bite my lip so I don't laugh.
He's a great traveller, and eats anything we feed him. He brings his gluten-and-dairy-free food with him to birthday parties and never complains that he eats different stuff from his friends. He cries at the sad parts of movies, and hides his eyes during the scary parts. He occasionally wonders why he's the only one in his class without a Wii/DS/i-pod but accepts our family values. He has no concept of time or money. He wishes he could go on a sail boat, an airplane, in the ocean. I promise him that someday, he will.
He loves to spend time alone with me, his made-up jokes make no sense, and he is the joy of my heart.
I tell him that I always hoped I'd have a son just like him, that he is the fulfillment of a dream I held for many years. He looks just as I imagined a son of mine would. Sometimes I don't get him, but I got him. He's mine, for a little while at least, and I surely am grateful that he is.
Happy Birthday, Jude River!