This was taken when you were about 12 hours (give or take a few) old. March 5, 2010
It's safe to say that I was in heaven. I've always loved babies, but you are special. I immediately fell in love with you that day. It was (and still is, kind of) like you were my own child, not just my nephew. By the grace of God, you were born just before my Spring Break, so I had the entire next week off to do nothing but snuggle with you. Leaving you at home as I left the next weekend was so hard.
As any good college student does, I counted down the days till the end of the semester. Making it through the first week of May meant not only summer and freedom from classes, work, and tests, but it meant that I finally got to go home and see you. Between your birthday and the time I left college for the summer, I only saw you for three days when I got an extra day off the weekend of Easter. It was far too long for this proud aunt. I had your birth announcement taped up on my wall so I could look at you. But I knew babies change so much every day, that I needed to get home and see you again. You were the best reward imaginable after a long semester.
Two weeks after my summer started, I had foot surgery. That left me unable to move very much, which meant that I could sit and hold you and play with you and feed you. Your mommy was thrilled with the extra help, and I was thrilled for a totally inevitable excuse to do nothing but soak in your babyness.
This is you on June 6, 2010. You were 3 months old.
That summer, because of my surgeries, I spent pretty much 24/7 with you. And I loved every second of it. I couldn't, and still can't, get enough of you. I got to sit around and play with you and didn't have to change any of your diapers; I couldn't ask for anything else! Every day your looks changed a little, and every day you amazed me with the newest thing you showed us you could do.
This is you on August 5, 2010, your 5-month birthday.
As much as I absolutely love my university and my life there, I was so sad to leave to go to college on August 14 because it meant that I would be two and a half hours away, and not spending every possible second with you like I had for the last 3 months. I came home in September for Labor Day for 3 days. As a blessing in disguise, at the end of September, I ended up having another emergency surgery on my foot and got to spend two whole unexpected weeks with you. You made my illness so much better with your laughs, smiles, and goofy personality. :)
I went back to school on October 10, and starting that day, I was counting down the days till Thanksgiving Break just so I could see you again. I loved college, and still do, but I missed you every day. It was so weird every time I left to go from the light you bring to our house to the silence of my dorm room. Before I knew it, though, it was time to go home again.
This is you on November 27, 2010, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, at eight and a half months old. I remember being so excited because you'd gotten really good at standing during that weekend.
One of the plus sides to a college schedule is that it was less than two weeks from the day I went back to school (November 28) to the day I came home for my month-long Christmas break (December 9). Because of my exams, those 11 days flew by in no time. You battled many ear infections (and subsequent allergic reactions to the antibiotics for the infections) so you spent much of November and December very, very sick, but you had ear tubes put in on December 20, and after that, you were practically a brand new baby!! We were all so relieved. Your first Christmas was one of the most beautiful days in my memory. It made me realize that I have absolutely no idea what life was like before you were born. We spent Christmas morning at your great-uncle Kirk (Mimi's brother) and great-aunt Donna's house, and every single one of us, when we weren't eating, spent the whole morning either watching you play with your toys or playing with you. Cousin Dusty was your favorite. We always knew he was a goofball, but you turned him into a little kid all over again. It was such a precious sight to see. You've changed all our lives, sweet boy. That day was just the first concrete proof of it.
This was you on Christmas morning December 25, 2010, at nine and a half months old. It's amazing how much you change month-to-month.
You, your mommy, Mimi, Mommom, and I went to South Carolina for New Year's. Your first overnight family trip, and you did amazingly well. I love how easy you are (and I know your mommy does, too!). On January 13, I went back to college for the start of a new semester. I had plans to come home for a weekend in February, but because you, your mommy, and Mimi were all sick, I had to stay at school. I was so sad, but knew it was for the best.
I came home for the first time this semester yesterday. Which brings us up to today. Your birthday.
You today, your first birthday, March 5, 2011. Even more beautiful than the day you were born. :)
Today was a low-key day. Your Mimi is a little heartbroken that she couldn't afford to do more, but if there is one thing that you never ever ever have to doubt, darling Blake, it is that your Mimi loves you as if she gave birth to you. Because of special circumstances in our family that you will one day learn of when you're older, Mimi has had to do a lot more than your typical grandmother. Don't get me wrong, your mommy loves you, too, the best that she knows how. But your Mimi....let's just say you are a lucky, lucky little boy to have a Mimi as wonderful as she is. :)
I love you, too, my little Blake man. I was so nervous when your mommy found out that she was pregnant, but now? It's completely impossible for me to imagine life without you in it. There is nothing I would rather do than sit on the floor playing with you and making funny faces at you, just so I can hear you laugh. You are the cutest, happiest, goofiest, most all-around wonderful baby I know.
I hope you always know that no matter what happens, I will be here for you. Even when I have my own kids one day, I want you to feel comfortable to come talk to me. (Let's face it, you'll one day want to talk to anyone but your mom!) I will do my very best to help you, to love you, and to guide you.
I pray that you learn to love God. I worry that I may be the only source of light to show you how amazing and wonderful my God truly is, and I pray that He gives me the strength and the tools to help you want to love and follow him with a passion. I pray that you always keep your sense of humor. I pray you'll always want to hug the way you do now. I pray that you keep your curiosity. I pray that you grow into a respectable man, husband, and father. I pray that you fight and stand up for what is right, even when it's not popular. I have so many prayers for you, I'd be here all night if I tried to list them all. So I will sum it up the best I can with some lyrics from one of my all-time favorite songs.
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance.
I love you, Blake Richard.