Dear Flora:

You have taught me the meaning of “peals of laughter”. You have a fantastic sense of humor, and, like many a 6-year-old, you especially enjoy physical and visual humor. Recently, an illustration in a library book — that of a cat sitting on a man’s head — had you pealing laughter for a solid two minutes.

You love school, but you hate being woken up in the morning. Not that I blame you. You have been born into a family of natural night owls who struggle — daily — with the facts of living in an early-bird world. The only time any of us was early was the day we were born. Your father and I will do our very best to help you adjust.

Or maybe I’ll just start lobbying your future high school and its district now to move its start time back by an hour. We would all benefit from that.

You lost your first tooth. And your second!

You are an exceedingly compassionate and empathetic child (except where your little sister is concerned). You want to know how people feel and why. You want people to feel good and to be happy. I hope that as you mature you won’t take on too much personal responsibility for making people happy. That is another lesson that your father and I are going to have to teach you: That’s it’s a fine line between being compassionate and being a doormat. Or, conversely, there’s a big difference between having a spine and standing up for yourself (and the people about whom you care) and just not giving a fig for what people think. (I fault on the latter side of this equation, and your father faults on the other.)

You are, despite my little parenthetical above, in general, a very good big sister. You look out for Kate; you comfort Kate when you can; you and she, for the most part, play together extremely well. Yes, you get fed up with her and sometimes want to “play by myself”; you tease her on occasion; and yes, you two squabble, but you aren’t mean to her. I don’t think I was half so patient an older sister to my sibs.

You already love your little brother, and you are so excited to meet him. (Me too!) I know that you will be a big help, although despite your vows to the contrary, I sincerely doubt you will change his diapers.

You have no emotional filters, which while age appropriate, is sometimes difficult for me and your daddy. You break into tears — or, granted, peals of laughter — at the drop of a hat.

You love to learn, and you are still curious. You ask question after question after question. When you note any exasperation on my part, you exclaim, “I’m sorry! I’m just so curious!” Which is fine when you want to know what butterflies eat, but not when you’re questioning why you have to take a bath.

You have been counting down to today for 11 days now. In your head (usually).

This is all to say: You continue to amaze me. You are amazing. And I love you very, very much.

Happy 6th Birthday, Flora.