to my baby boy on his first day of preschool.

Beach-1 Dear Everett,

We made it. We did it. You and I, buddy. We survived 3.5 years at home together, and that was no small feat.

By my calculations that’s something like 8,491 diapers changed and 1,542 goldfish crackers consumed, 981 times I have buckled and unbuckled you out of your carseat, and 3,872 kisses I have planted on your face (approximately). Our days have been filled with stories and toy cars, water tables and playdates. We have laughed and cried and thrown tantrums regularly, and I have loved watching you grow into the sweet, independent boy that you are.

You are getting ready for a new adventure now, one that is completely separate from me. While I can vividly imagine you stuffing your Lightning McQueen backpack into a cubby and sitting on the floor waiting for music time, the truth is: I won’t know exactly where you'll be or exactly what you'll be doing during those hours. You’ll make new friends and learn new things, and my entire knowledge of this experience for you will boil down to what you decide to share with me in the car on the short ride home.

Preschool feels like a bookmark between two chapters, the place where one story begins and one story ends. It’s the very definition of bittersweet.

I want you to know that these last 3.5 years have been the very best for me, Ev. Even in my ugliest, most impatient, most frustrated moments with you, these years have been the very best. It's hard for me to even pinpoint definitive memories, because there are so many, but also because when I think of these years, my mind wanders more to a feeling than a specific time and place. My mind wanders to the feeling of home, and warmth, and joy abundant. That's how I think of you, Ev. Thinking of you is thinking of home. I can barely even remember a time when our home didn't consist of you and your infectious laugh and your cheerios on the carpet and hot wheels neatly lined up on the coffee table.

I hope your first day of preschool is everything you want it to be and more. And I hope you remember that no matter how big you get or how smart you become, you will always be my first baby. I am so proud to be your mom.

dear everett.

dear everett-1 Dear Everett,

You're napping right now, and the house is oddly quiet. I never play music during nap time, not because I'm afraid of waking you, but because I'm afraid of wasting the silence. It's been a while since I've written you a letter, so I figured I should do it now while I'm thinking of you, before I get distracted with dishes and laundry and e-mails and all of the other tasks I attempt to accomplish while you dream the afternoon away.

Every month I think to myself, now this is the best age. And then you turn another month older and I correct myself because that month is even better than the last. You are 14 months old now and while I occasionally miss the days when you were tiny and relied on me for everything, I love watching you grow into the handsome, curious boy you are becoming.

Ev, you are so happy. You are easy to please, easy to tickle, and always quick to laugh. I love that about you. If I just look at you with a funny face you burst into giggles. We've been in our new house for two weeks now and you have adjusted even better than I could have hoped. You crawl around this house like you've lived here forever, throwing plastic balls across the hardwood floors and doing laps around the coffee table.

A few days after we moved in, you took your very first steps in this house. As if you knew that I was feeling sad about leaving all of the memories in our old house, you took it upon yourself to make a new memory right away under this roof. You had one hand on the closet door and one hand in the air before you bravely stepped straight into my arms. You've taken as many as five steps now, but only to me or daddy. You smile the whole time, teetering across the rug with your arms in the air, slowly learning how to balance.

You're constantly babbling and understand most of what I say. I ask you where things are and you point to them confidently, letting me know that even though you can't say the words yet, you know what things are called. You love to point and babble excitedly when you see something you want, like the swings at the park or your favorite snack (cereal bars). You call everything da-da. Including me.

You love to dance, and you are really good at it. Sometimes we have dance parties in your bedroom and you hold onto your chair with one hand and just bounce up and down to the rhythm of the music, which never ceases to amaze me. You love Elmo, and watch him at least once a day, usually around 5:00pm when I'm exhausted from chasing you. I fill up your snack tray with puffs or cheerios and you stare at the TV with dazed eyes. I have convinced myself that you are learning and not rotting your brain, but to be honest, I'm not entirely sure that's true.

You are getting stubborn and like to challenge me when I say "no". You'll touch whatever you're not supposed to touch 15 times after I tell you not to, and each time I grab your hand firmly and tell you "no" again. Sometimes you cry; sometimes you laugh. Either way, you crawl into my lap afterwards and wrap your arms around my neck to make sure I still love you. And I do, Ev.

I'll always love you.

You know how to kiss, and how to blow kisses. When you kiss, you simply lean into my face with an open mouth, and when you blow kisses, you just hit yourself in the mouth with your hand. Both are adorable. A few nights ago I was putting you to bed and you were lying on your back under the blue blanket. I leaned down into the crib and said, "Give momma a kiss!" even though I couldn't quite reach you. You quickly rolled over to your tummy, pushed yourself up on your knees, and leaned in to give me a kiss. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.

You are the sweetest boy, Ev. My love for you grows fiercer by the day.

Love, Momma