Today we celebrated your fifth birthday, just two days after we welcomed your first cousin into the world: Julia Beth Plantinga! These five years have been filled with lots of growth and change, and it's hard at this point to imagine life without you, or even what you were like when you were only two or three years old. I think this picture from earlier this week of you making a snow angel captures it well: you are growing up so quickly that your mother and I can hardly keep up. Even your coat and snow pants barely fit (and if you knew the effort your mother makes to keep you girls not just clothed, but stylishly clothed, all while trying to appease the cheap Dutchman she married, you would know that she is not often ill-prepared in the clothing department). You have grown up so much, and I am incredibly proud of the little girl you have quickly become. You are smart, cheerful, caring, obedient, empathetic, and a great deal more.
I am perhaps most impressed at what a wonderful big sister you are to Sophie. All the instruction manuals for raising children say that when you have a second child, the first child is supposed to get jealous and whiny and generally behave badly. Well, you did not read any of those instruction manuals. Instead, for five days in a row before Sophie was born, you woke up in the morning and asked "baby Sophie come out?". You were ecstatic when you met her. When you first met her, you were happily munching on saltine crackers and I told you that Sophie was hungry. You immediately handed her your last cracker (a food which the toddler version of you often acquired by throwing tantrums). Others in the room didn't seem to think much of that, but I knew then that you were head over heels. Since that time, you have continued to ignore those instruction manuals, and been incredibly loving and caring to your little sister. You are what I call a "little mother" to her.
Sometimes I try to explain some of this to you when I tuck you in at night, but you are still only five years old and often just worried about how many stories we can read before I turn the lights out. So instead I'm writing it here, where you can read it once you are older. Perhaps it will be when you are a teenager and you have decided that your father has ruined your life by embarrassing you.
In any case, I'm so glad I got to help you celebrate your fifth birthday. As I write this on a cold day in January, my only regrets are that I can't take you camping right now (something you bring up FREQUENTLY), and that I am finishing graduate school and am often too busy to spend more time with you. Happy birthday Em, I can't wait to spend another year with you!