I've decided nine years sounds less old than 108 months. So from here on out I'll have to refrain from using your age in months, it just makes you sound way too grown up. And grown up is exactly what you are becoming. Gunnar, nine years ago this very day we met each other. In the wee hours of the morning. And not a day has passed where I haven't been thankful to have you in my life. You are at an age now where you get it. With just a glance you know what I'm thinking and can read my expressions. You can decipher what I'm trying to get at or get your brother and sister to do and you always help me out. Sometimes you look at me with a smirk on your face that tells me I know what you're doing mom. I can no longer hide things from you. You are so perceptive, so observant, you immediately know when something isn't right and you want to be able to solve it. Fix it. You still want me when you don't feel good and you don't mind when I hold your hand. I'm one of the few people that you'll still cuddle with.

Recently you became very aware of what you wear. Last week you asked if we could go shopping, just the two of us. I couldn't make that happen so your sister tagged along, but her and shopping go well together, so you didn't mind. This was the first time you ever requested that. I wasn't even sure what we were looking for in the beginning but you knew. And after browsing three stores you finally had the shirts and hoodies and jeans you envisioned. You knew exactly what you wanted and what you didn't want. I learned maybe I don't have my finger on the pulse of 9 year old fashion, but I couldn't help but smile that all of a sudden you were interested in the clothes you have in your dresser. We came home and went through everything you owned and you told me what stays and what goes. I no longer will be shopping for your clothes without you there. I love that you care how your hair looks in the morning and ask me to fix it for you. We discuss your haircuts now and have to compromise. I love it. I love that you know who you are right now because one day it may not feel so clear to you.

Attending football games with your dad and papa is the highlight of fall for you. There was a late night game one Saturday that you didn't go to so I let you watch part of it on TV with me. I was stunned that you know so much about the game. Literally, stunned. You knew which play the team was going to make just by how they lined up. All I could think was, why doesn't the other team know that if my son can figure that out! And sure enough, every play was what you foretold. Running play. Passing play. Every flag thrown you knew what the penalty was before it was announced. It's becoming crystal clear that you and your Papa are two peas in a pod. Definitely the same DNA there. The only difference is that you are pretty quiet when you watch football and your papa, not so quiet.

You have a special tenderness for your sister. And boy does she make you laugh. She can get you to giggle with the off the wall things she says in an instant. You like to indulge her. She idolizes you. Growing up I always wanted to have a brother just like you. I wanted to be the little sister and have a cool big brother that knew how to ride a bike, snowboard, play football, and listen to him read me books. And that's you for Greta. Not only does Greta idolize you, but so does Sawyer. You can make him laugh or cry with the snap of your fingers. To make you laugh is his goal for the day.

You are a voracious reader. You get that from my side. I try to always steal all your good stuff and tell you it's from my side. Daddy doesn't like that too much, but secretly I'm right. I went to your teacher conferences last month and both of your teachers separately sat across from me and told me the exact same thing. They love you. They said that you are a kind, loving, helpful kid and that you are so bright. And both of them commented that you are a bit chatty. But neither one really has a problem with the talkative part since you always get your work done no matter what. They are more concerned for the kids around you that may fall behind. I love that you are chatty but that you don't get in too much trouble for it. I love that you have so much to say. I love that you can wrap your teachers around your little finger with your sweet and kind nature. I love that your strengths are so obvious to people. You are responsible. You are honest. You are what puts a smile on my face every single day Gunnar.

You still are not a fan of getting your picture taken but occasionally you will indulge me. Each day I ask how school was and get the rundown on who you beat in handball. You are a good handball player. That's from my side too. No, I'm serious, your dad just learned what handball is a few months ago. Occasionally you lose to another kid who pulled out a dead killer or a slicey and you don't like to lose. You hate to fail. And I fear that since we all fail in life at one thing or another or twelve, that you will take the disappointment hard. You recently learned that practicing your instrument is worth the hard work and on your own you keep track of your practice chart. You are getting so good at the trumpet and I cannot wait to hear your next recital.

Gunnar, I love and adore you with a heart so swollen with pride and warmth. You are the sunshine for my days. You are the reason that sometimes I feel like I must be doing something right as a mother. You are an amazing boy and I can very clearly see the young man you are becoming. I fear that it is happening a little too quickly for my taste. Fortunately you haven't asked when you get to drive, your sister already took care of that and almost gave me a heart attack asking that one. You are in no hurry to leave your childhood behind and I want to hang onto that with both hands.

Mostly I want to let you know that I respect you. I respect the boy that you are. Respect is something very important and something I reserve quite conservatively. But you have earned that respect and I hand it over with open arms. Pleasing me is very important to you, and that is something that you do daily. You make me happy, you make me smile, you make me proud. You are the best reason I have for becoming a mother.