Thinking you can’t possibly be three

Uh, wrote most of this on his birthday last week, but now he is three and one week, just for those of you keeping track.



Dear Henry,

Today you are three, and all day long I was shocked when I saw you. Tall, lanky and so darn THREE, and I just have no idea how we got here so quickly.


Henry with at least three pairs of underwear and one pair of shorts, donned Henry-style.

I do get it, you really are a three-year-old now. You dressed and undressed yourself today more times than I can count, and you sometimes put on up to five pairs of underwear at once, “Just in CASE, mama!” You would think by now I wouldn’t be surprised when I look up and see your naked bottom streaking by, AGAIN. You’ve inspired statements I never envisioned saying, like, “We don’t sit naked at the table, Henry.”  Or “We put on underpants to eat snack at the kitchen table.”  (To which he sings out, “No WE don’t, Mama!” And giggles.) You took yourself to the potty more than once, without even letting me know you had to go. (Now entering week three of potty training and on the upswing.)

You asserted yourself the way you never did when you were two, announcing exactly what you wanted your cake to be (a fire truck) and what you wanted to today (pick strawberries).


The firetruck cake. Saved by a fellow nursery school mom who had the FIRE TRUCK PAN. Good friends to have.

You sang happy birthday to yourself over and over, you made yourself a birthday card and you insisted on the crowd favorite, THE BLUE CUP, for lunch and dinner. You have a true passion for animals, all animals, and need to be restrained around ones we don’t know, because you want to hold them and love them and cuddle them, unlike your brother who was fearful of most most four-legged creatures at your age.



You would have been inside the pen, hugging and kissing that cow if I had let you, Henry!

But, for all your three-year-old bravado, you are still my sweet baby Henry. You like to play cat, and one of your favorite versions of the game is to curl up in my lap, meowing, and say, “I love you, mama cat!” To which I, of course, answer, “I love YOU, baby cat!” You are the kissiest and snuggliest thing on two legs—your lower lip trembles in the morning if you haven’t properly kissed the departing parent goodbye (“But I need to KISS YOOOOU!”). In the morning you come sleepily staggering into our room before 6 a.m. most days, but then snuggle up and promptly fall asleep, managing with the sprawl of one small body to exile both of your parents to the very edges of the bed while still lying on top of one of them and poking a finger in my eye or my ear.

You love reading book after book some mornings, but you LOVE YOUR FOOD and, unlike your brother who would only stop reading for a waffle with lots and lots of syrup, you’ll interrupt a book to ask, “What’s for breakfast?” And your favorite conversation starter, heard easily three times a day, is the casual, “What’s for supper tomorrow, mama?” Always endearing, but slightly less so when I am hastily trying to figure out what to put on the table for dinner TONIGHT.


Ice cream birthday cone at the farm after a morning of strawberry picking.

Unlike your outgoing brother, sometimes the world is just too much for you, especially in the form of circle time at various toddler groups and classes. You might just die if you couldn’t cling to me like a monkey during those times (and when you can’t, you sob your heart out), and I never once had to chase you around music class like I did with Will. Your shy streak is deeply embedded, but when you decide to emerge from that cocoon, you embrace the world and new opportunities whole-heartedly. You’ve watched your brother spend two years at his beloved nursery school, and now you are eagerly anticipating your own nursery school days coming this fall—we can’t wait to see the different ways that you’ll take on your wonderful new school and new teachers.

What creative being you are! You love to color and cut and glue like your brother, and the two of you can spend hours lost in the tiny world of Playmobil. Your mechanically-inclined self would rather take a battery-operated toy apart to see the inside than actually play with it. You are the prankster and the giggler, and your father and I usually have to turn away so you can’t see us laughing when we try to be stern with you.

You are so incredibly inquisitive and observant, noticing the smallest details that Will might never have seen. (Me either–you get your powers of observation from your daddy, even if you look like a carbon copy of me at your age.) You’ve never been partial to one “thisy” like Will, but instead have a menagerie of blankets and baby animals that all need your tender loving care (and drinks of water), usually when you should be in bed falling asleep.

Which brings me to bedtime. You are newly transitioned to your big boy bed, and love it—no surprise, since we’ve been treating your crib like a daybed since about October. This spring you’ve decided that days with naps mean bedtime past 9 p.m., much to our chagrin. And when you’re still awake at 9 p.m., you fight the good fight, trying to negotiate one more back rub or suggest that you ought to be allowed to “play quietly” in your room. With your battery-powered drill. At 9 p.m.  Nice try, Henry.


I look at you sprawled upside in your big boy bed, and wonder how any part of your sturdy, nearly stocky, body could ever have been small, sick and delicate. You startle me every day with how physically capable you are, and you warm my heart every morning and night with your sweet snuggle hugs and marvelous kisses.

We love you, sweet baby Henry! More and more each day. Happy birthday, and we’re so ready to take on THREE with you!




Henry, hours after birth, June 2006


Henry, six months old, December 2006


Henry, 12 months old, June 2007 (Photo by Nicki Pardo)


Henry, age sixteen months, October 2007. School photo timed perfectly to capture shiner in full bloom.


Henry, age two, June 2008


Henry, age 2 1/2, January 2009 (Explanation of shiner here. More black eye photos here.)


Henry, age three and one day, with Will age 4 3/4 and friend Tommy, age 2 1/4

June 2009

Anna Sawin

Anna Sawin is a Connecticut-based portrait, wedding, and editorial photographer. She lives in the shoreline town of Stonington with her family and has discovered the perfect cupcake. Just ask, she is willing to share her secret.


  1. Shannon on June 19, 2009 at 7:36 am

    That was wonderful. I think it’s great to journal about the kids. When I was little (even as a teenager), I always loved reading the baby books my mom kept. Especially, for a good laugh. But now, as a young mom, they are so helpful to me. Over the past week, I’ve been reading them again and it’s like I’m reading them for the first time.

  2. Sarah G now B on June 19, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Beautiful! xo to you, Henry and fam!

  3. B, on June 19, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Happy Birthday Henry Cat!

  4. Sara on June 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    You have such a beautiful family!

  5. Michelle Bull on June 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    This post is very touching and beautifully written! I cannot believe Henry is already 3! Time flies.

  6. Crista on June 20, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Was already feeling a little fragile today and now after reading this, I’M A FLIPPIN’ PUDDLE! Oh Henry… sweet, little thing.

  7. Sheila on June 21, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    A beautiful tribute as usual. What a sweet guy.

  8. Maria on June 22, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Crista, I’m with you….I might have typos, because I can’t REALLY see the’s fuzzy..I’m teary…
    Happy Birthday Dear Henry. Wonderful post, Anna.

Leave a Comment


Anna Sawin is a Connecticut-based portrait, wedding, and editorial photographer. She lives in the shoreline town of Stonington with her family and has discovered the perfect cupcake. Just ask, she is willing to share her secret.