Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dear Jackson

Dear Jackson,

Today you turn 5 years old. I don't know how that's possible. I can still remember so vividly the weight of you in my arms for the first time, the intoxicating sweet smell that followed you around, and the softness of your fuzzy head as you nestled into my shoulder. You loved to be carried on my chest with your tiny legs tucked under your body like a little frog. You really weren't much of a crier, but when you did cry your face turned beet red and, buddy, you wailed. How is it possible that all of that was five years ago? When did you turn from a helpless infant into this charming boy?

Jackson, there's so much I will tell you someday. I want to tell you about the time I took you for your 9-month well-baby checkup and they told me that your liver was enlarged. The doctor guessed it was probably harmless but wanted to order an ultrasound to rule out cancer. CANCER. I heard that word echo in my head for the next 4 days as I wavered between begging God to take care of you and fury that He would bless me with this precious person only to take you away from me. I have never been so scared in all my life, and I've never cried that many tears. I can remember feeling your brother kicking around inside me (I was pregnant with Ei at the time) and feeling so torn because I wanted to give you a piece of my own liver but knew that I couldn't with Baby Ei inside me, and it was too early to deliver him. I don't think I slept at all for 3 nights. When they told me the ultrasound looked fine and that you were okay, I couldn't stop kissing you and holding you close to me. You squirmed away and wanted me to put you down, but I needed to hold on to you.

Jackson, someday I want you to know how I worry about you. I watch you suck in your cheeks when you're nervous, and I want to pull you close to me and make the world go away. I want to protect you from all that makes you scared and sad and embarrassed, but I also want to teach you how to believe in yourself and talk yourself through the anxiety. I want to push you hard to be the best you can be, but I also want you to know that the best you can be doesn't have to be perfect. I want you to know how proud I am of you, but I don't want you to think I'm proud of you only because of what you accomplish. You're a complex person, but I get you because you're my mini-me. I understand, but I don't have a clue what to do about it. And I worry all the time that I'm not getting it right.

Jackson, I don't even have the words to describe how much I love you. When I asked God for a baby, I hadn't thought much about what it would be like to have a child. I knew I wanted little doll clothes and strollers and tiny shoes (oh, the shoes!), but I didn't think ahead to what it would be like when my baby turned five. I had no idea that I would still sneak into your room at night to watch you sleep. I didn't know that I would still find the smell of your hair intoxicating. I couldn't have guessed that I would still struggle with my own need to hold you close and your need to wiggle free. You changed my life, little man. You love to remind me that I wasn't even a mom until you came along, and you have no idea how true that is. It's not just a title. Before you were even born, I fell in love with you, and my life started changing. I didn't know I could love like this. And, Jackson, it wasn't just me! You changed our whole family. I have never loved your Daddy as much as I did the day he tried to change your diaper for the first time. It took him a good 15 minutes just to get the old one off (meanwhile a very patient nurse was standing by waiting to take your vitals, and, bless her heart, she didn't laugh even once). Since you came along, I've fallen in love with Daddy's playful, patient, tender side. And our extended family? Never have we been so close. You wouldn't believe the welcome you received. My hospital room was packed to the brim with balloons, gifts, food, and so many people who just couldn't wait to squeeze you. For days we had a steady stream of visitors at our door. No one could get enough of you. Even after the newness of you wore off, we found new reasons to get together. Everyone just wanted to be near you. That hasn't changed. Five years later, we still have a steady stream of visitors at our door. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends--everyone wants to be a part of your life and watch you grow into this fantastic young man. You are a well-loved person, Jackson Reed...but no one loves you like your Mama loves you.

Happy birthday, precious Jackson. I hope all your birthday wishes come true. And I hope someday you have a child of your own so you can love someone this richly.

Yours forever,


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Isle of Palms

Last week we took a much-needed vacation to Isle of Palms, South Carolina.  It was wonderful to get away from our routine for a week and relax with our family.  In addition to the Sharps, Oma, Nana, and Uncle Marc came along, so we had lots of people chasing after the boys (well, mostly Aaron--but it takes 5 adults to keep up with him!)


Aaron traveled with his loveys.  And, if you are my pediatrician, no, that is not a bottle in my 16 month old's mouth.  It's trick photography. 


The big boys were amazingly good in the car.  Our DVD player worked on the way down but not on the way back, so we had to rely on good old fashioned car fun on the way back (i.e. bribery and snacks).


Aaron crashed that night.  He doesn't much like leaving home, and the whole thing was a bit stressful for him.  Every time we go on a trip he develops an unexplained fever, which we can only attribute to stress.  It went away the minute we got home.


We went into Charleston one day.


At the Children's Museum

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This is how we kept up with all our children.


Aaron was mostly unimpressed.


After the museum we went on a horse-drawn carriage ride to see historic Charleston.  Aaron loved the horses.  He called them all Alley (our dog's name).


It's kind of hard to get a picture of the buggy while you're on it, so this is the buggy that returned just as we were leaving.  We looked like that, but without the matching green shirts.  My family just wouldn't cooperate with coordinating their outfits for the carriage rides.  Party poopers, if you ask me.


We saw all the beautiful historic homes and churches.  This house is my favorite.  I could live here.


I think Aaron liked it too.


If you've never been to the Charleston area, you have to go just to see all the crazy bridges.  We must have gone over a dozen cool ones.  This one was especially cool.  It was a little intimidating, actually, but the architecture was amazing.


This is what is looked like from under the arches.


These baby birds were on our back porch.  We really enjoyed watching the mama sparrow feed her babies.  It was really interesting because several different sparrows visited the babies and even fed them.  It takes a village, even if you're a bird, I guess.


They were really hungry.  This is also what my kids look like when dinner is late.


On the boat tour--one of the boys' favorite things


Showing off his dimple


Being silly


Aaron was mostly impressed with the captain's dog, who accompanied our trip.  He called her, you guessed it, Alley.  (Her name was really Bella, but she didn't seem to mind being called Alley.)


Oh, and he liked wearing Mama's big hat.


But mostly he was unimpressed with the boat tour too.


This is a dolphin.  Just take my word for it.  We saw tons of them on our little trip, but they weren't feeling very photogenic.  I have a bunch of pictures of the still water where there was ONCE a dolphin though.


The boat took us to Barrier Island, which is completely undeveloped.  It was REALLY beautiful.

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The boys got nets and went crabbing...


successfully.  One of my favorite memories was watching Jackson pounce on a crab.  He got wet from head to toe, but he came up with the crab all tangled in his net.


Showing off their catch--Ei wasn't so sure he liked holding it

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The boys and Oma were constantly on watch for wildlife in our backyard.  We had a really cool view of a "lagoon" (well, that's what the website called it, but we all agreed it was more of a swamp), and we saw all kinds of animals hanging out back there.


TONS of birds--various herons and cranes and pelicans


We saw lots of white-tailed deer.   We even saw a baby hanging out in another condo's front yard with his mama.  Of course, I didn't have my camera with me though.  They are not afraid of people at all, and they came right up to the front porches of people's houses in our little subdivision.


We saw racoon fishing.  There were 4, but we only caught 3 in this picture.


And this guy.  Yup, that's an alligator.  When we arrived we saw a sign next to the pool that said, "Do not feed or approach the alligators."  We thought it was funny...until we saw one.  He hung out all week.  Aaron called him Alley.


This is where we spent quite a bit of our time.  The boys got really comfortable putting their faces in the water and swimming with their legs behind them.  It was fun to watch.


Watching Animal Planet is much cooler inside a fort.


The view from inside


Poor Aaron.  We bought this swimsuit with a built-in float for Jackson, but it was too small.  So, we tried it on Aaron.  He floated, all right, but he looked ridiculous.  We didn't make him wear it again. 


In the evenings we put puzzles together.  We got through 3 and a half puzzles.


And, of course, we played on the beach. 


Aaron was unimpressed.  He fell asleep in his beach chair.  It was too hot to cover him up with a towel, but I didn't want him to burn.  So, I strategically covered him in hats.  You can't tell from this picture, but the hats (and one bucket, which covered his foot)are completely blocking all of the sun's rays.

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Ooh, look who woke up.


The boys buried Daddy in the sand.  This might look familiar.  We did the same thing last year


Aaron was still unimpressed.  Oh, but isn't this a cool photography trick?  Marc did it.  I cannot take credit for it.


Flying kites


Aaron was so happy to be home.  He rolled all over the floor and then finally fell asleep.  Poor guy. 


We had a wonderful time, but we are all glad to be home.  Next year, 4 boys.  Who's coming with us?