Today, my little brother Nico turned 15 years old.  I can barely believe it!*  He is the youngest of our siblings, and I am the eldest.  We have a 9 year age gap.  Despite this, we're incredibly close.  I am so proud of the man he is turning into.  Despite his joking remarks, and digs at the family (we're the funny ones- him with his great one-liners, and me with my sarcasm)- he has an incredible heart.  When anyone in the family is feeling hurt or broken, he's our protector.  He'll hug me when I'm crying, or just spend time with me on the couch, keeping me company.  He's also learning a sense of responsibility and family- when I visit home, I see him offering to help with the house work and yard work without the nagging of my mother.  He's learning to mow the lawn, use the grill, and take an equal share of what it takes to keep a household running (somewhat) smoothly.  Also- he makes me laugh like no other.  In so many ways, we are alike and it closes the age gap a bit.  We'll hole up in his room for hours, him strumming the guitar, singing with me.  When he was a bit younger, we used to have sister-brother dates, and he wasn't as embarrassed by me as he is now.  We would go for a movie, or ice cream, and having that time just the two of us was really special.  I really cherish our time together.  Now he is taller and stronger than me, but his heart grows with him.  He checks in with me now and again, sending me sweet texts with a million emojis.  I'm incredibly lucky to have him for a little brother.
Happy birthday Nico, may all your wishes come true <3

*I wanted to say 'holy crap!' but my mom loathes that I use this turn of phrase because, as she insists, 'crap isn't holy!'