Category: Family

Dear Marcie, You’re Two!

Dear MJ, the newest two year old!

Girl. I don’t even know where to start. A lot of people say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, and He surely had that in mind when He gave you a cleft lip and palate. I am not sure anyone else could handle those challenges with such grace as you Miss Marcie. You are wonderfully hard headed, stubborn and demanding – all qualities some of my favorite women have – including your momma, but let’s keep that between us.

I remember when you were admitted to Hopkins with ‘failure to thrive’ not long after you were born. Fast forward two years later at your birthday party I asked for a bite of your cupcake. You looked me dead in the eye, shook your head and said a firm no. I gave you a little tickle and you reluctantly put the teeny tiniest spec of icing on a spoon and shoved it in my mouth. It is not lost on me about how much you love me based on that bite. A thousand kisses would have said the same thing.

You are a tough cookie who likes to move, jump and dance. I have so many favorite things about you, but one of them is your walk. Girl you walk with purpose and it cracks me up. I can just imagine you stomping up and down the hallway to your corner office. Or down the dirt path to the construction project you are heading up. Or to the bedroom where your mess ‘o kids are playing.

MJ, I love you and I am so lucky to be your Aunt. You need it? I got you.

Happy 2nd Birthday

Aunt Jackie
xoxo

 

Let Me See Your Handshake

After college when I started working for an association that had a global membership of top entrepreneurs I started to pay attention to handshakes. And it wasn’t just the ones I was getting, but the ones I was giving. I made a conscious effort to give a firm, confident handshake while giving eye contact and a smile. It’s hard enough to be female these days, but a female in the workplace needs to take every opportunity to be taken seriously – starting with a handshake.

So what does this have to do with parenting? Nothing really. But I’ve mentioned a few times on social media that we have a ‘family handshake’ and a few people have asked to about it. To be honest, I don’t remember how it evolved, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. I do remember it coming about in the fall when it was parent’s day at his school and for some reason he was overwhelmed and started crying. We obviously wanted to run over and scoop him up to find out what the fuss was about, but it was the middle of circle time and his teachers are competent (and reacted appropriately). But from the other side of the room I wanted to make sure he knew we saw him and he was okay. So I gave him a thumbs up. He repeated it. So I gave him the ‘okay’ symbol and he repeated that as well. From there our handshake grew and sometimes there are ‘special additions’

Now S., Mikey and I do ‘our handshake’ when we can’t verbally communicate with him, before bed and at the ‘goodbye’ window at school. It’s hardly a secret handshake, but I love that we have something that unites us that is as simple as a few hand gestures. So, without further ado, our handshake performed by Mikey!

Dear Mollie the Five Year Old

Dearest Mollie,

How are you one whole hand? I remember the day you were born – I am sure you will hear this story many times over, so I won’t bore you with the exciting details of your grand entrance again.

I am writing this to you as I fly from Maryland to Texas which gives me lots of time to think about what this year has brought for you. You didn’t become a sister this past year, but you really felt what it was like to have a little sister, especially one who required some extra attention. I was so impressed with how easily you bounced between houses, hung out in doctor’s offices and explained to everyone, even strangers, about your sister’s lip.

Uncle Sammy and I got to see you in action at your first (hopefully of many) ballet recitals. You also discovered My Little Ponies this year much to my excitement. Grandma and Grandpa got you the set for Christmas and you happily explained who everyone was. They have changed quite a bit since I was a little girl!

Your personality hasn’t changed one bit since you were born. You are still headstrong and sweet. One time, when we were going to the park to feed the ducks, you asked if I knew your Daddy. I explained that yes, I did know your Daddy, he is my brother. Well, you were having none of that and insisted it couldn’t be true. You were so adamant that I wasn’t your Daddy’s sister that I started to believe it myself! I can easily see law school in your future, but you could also be a superstar sales executive with your determination and sweet smile.

You and Mike have reached a new level of friendship that melts my heart. You both spent more time together this year and have shown him how things are done since you are a whole two months older, thus making you wise to the ways of the world. You could easily be one of his favorite people!

My sweet Mollie, happy 5th birthday. I hope this year brings you new adventures, new friends and more giggles. And selfishly, I hope you get more Barbies who need their hair brushed and outfits changed.

Love always,

Aunt Jay Jay

Happy Birthday Marcie Jane!

Dear Miss Marcie Jane –

You are 1 (and a few weeks)! When on earth did that happen? Some days I feel like you are still a couple months old, but then I remember how much you’ve been through and I think you should be 16 by now. But alas, you are wonderfully one.

My sweet niece, you came into this world with so many people loving you and wondering what your future held – more so than other babies – because of your cleft. Once you were here it was obvious you were not going to be held back by that or anything else for that matter! We spent a lot of time together in the hospital MJ and while I hate that you had so many hospital visits, I am glad I could be there for you and your Momma and Daddy.

You have a personality bigger than I think we were ready for and that is going to take you places! If I had to place a bet, I think you are going to be the one to stand up to injustice. Why you ask? Well, you sit quietly and observe. You take in what’s going on and who is doing what. THEN when you think you’ve been wronged you voice your concerns. Loudly. More ice cream, warmer bottle, being picked up … we know what you want. I think you are going to use that quietness to see things that aren’t right in the world and then use your loud voice to make a change.

Your cousin Mikey is smitten with you. He always says ‘Mah-see is coot’. He will see a toy commercial on TV and say he wants to give it to you. I think between him and your sister you have quite a posse.

You have such an exciting life ahead of you with so many people in your corner. Sweet MJ, if you need anything ever Aunt Jay Jay has your back. I love you!

Happy Birthday,

Aunt Jackie

Dear Miss MJ: Your Smile

Dear Miss MJ –

Have I written you a letter yet? I must have, I have so many things to tell you! But today the one thing I want to tell you is how much you have been on my mind and my heart. Today, my little love, you are getting your forever smile!

Everyone agrees how strange that is. Before you were born we looked at pictures and researched and tried to know what to expect. Then you arrived and it was like, ‘oh, yep. There’s the cleft lip’. Then after your first surgery we saw you again and thought, ‘oh, yep. They changed it’. They didn’t FIX it, they changed it. You were already uniquely you! And now you are getting another smile.

Guess what I will say when I see you again? Oh. Yep. They changed it.

But they can’t change the spunky, resiliant, outspoken (without speaking) you.

I love you MJ!

Aunt Jay Jay

Happy Birthday Miss Mollie

 

Dearest Mols –

Happy Birthday sweet 4 year old! You have had quite a year haven’t you! Do you know my favorite part? Watching you become a big sister. It seems like you were born specifically to have a little sister. Your Momma shares so many pictures of the two of you that melt my heart. I bet as the years go on you will have a bond like no other.

You know what else melts my heart? You and Mikey, of course. I will always remember our morning at the ‘duck park’ when Mike was too nervous to run across the playground ‘shaky bridge and you confidently ran up, grabbed his hand and helped him across. That was such a fun morning – feeding the ducks, racing down the slide then coming back to our house for fun on the deck.

You are growing into a kind, funny girl Miss Mollie. You always have a story and a laugh for me. Plus you have quite a fashion sense – all of those things will get you far in life my dear. So, in honor of your 4th birthday, here are FOUR things I love about you right now:

Your giggle that makes your shoulders shoot up like you have a secret that you find hilarious.

Your love of all things Disney Princesses, specifically Ariel because I love her too!

Your adventurous nature – soccer, ballet, RIDING A UNICORN! You are up for anything.

You’re so kind with everyone you meet and everyone in your life – including Marcie and Mike.

Happy birthday sweet Mollie!

Happy Heart Month!

It’s funny how quickly life changes and you have no choice but to embrace the change and adapt. When S. was diagnosed with Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) last year, we had to do just that. And since he had that experience and is almost on the other side of his recovery, February takes on a new meaning since it is Heart Healthy Month!

Since I’ve mentioned HCM a few times here I thought I would celebrate Heart Healthy Month by sharing some information about the disease.

  • HCM is a genetic disease that affects 1 in 500 people.
  • It is characterized by the thickening of the heart muscle (usually the one that separates the ventricles) blocking air intake causing the heart to work harder.
  • HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young adults.
  • Most people with HCM have no symptoms and experience no significant problems. For others, it can cause shortness of breath on exertion, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and chest pain.
  • For an accurate diagnosis, a physical examination, chest x-ray, electrocardiogram and/or Echocardiography is needed.
  • Treatment can vary depending on the patient – S. is on a beta blocker for the rest of his life, has a defibrillator to regulate his heart rate and had surgery (Myectomy) to ‘shave’ down his heart muscle (which won’t grow back).
  • It is sometimes present at birth, but it most commonly develops in early adulthood. Since it is genetic, there is a 50/50 chance a child will ‘inherit’ it from their parent. Mike will be checked by his pediatrician yearly until adolescent which is when he will go to a cardiologist yearly for checkups.
  • Life post surgery with HCM for S. will be pretty normal, he just needs to watch his diet and exercise – like everyone does!

If you are interested in learning more about HCM or other heart diseases, visit the American Heart Association

And don’t forget to wear red on February 3rd!

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

givingtuesday

Happy Giving Tuesday! I absolutely love this new campaign that focuses on supporting charities and non-profits. S. and I do this year round with groups like the Caroline County Humane Society, soon Brave Trails and, of course, the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive. I am hoping we are starting to impress upon Mike how important it is to give of time or talent to organizations that hold our values.

I have such fond memories of volunteering growing up, my parents did an amazing job of reminding me that when much is given, much is expected. Every Christmas we adopted a family to shop for, even when money was tight. Then my Mom managed a mentoring program for a few years while I was in college. Seeing that labor of love and helping with activities left an impression on me to this day.

I am asked every once in awhile how to start fostering an attitude of gratitude in children. I think it is SO easy when you remember that little eyes are always watching all the time- if they see YOUR attitude for gratitude, then they will fall in step. But there are also ways for them to ‘get their hands dirty’ and get involved. Here are a few suggestions:

{Visit} There are so many places kids can visit and spread some love and give time. Of course, this depends on the kid, but there is always nursing homes that need people to play games, animal shelters that need snugglers and hospitals that need visitors. Make it a family or neighborhood event and go caroling!

{Create} If in person visits are not an option, there is always a need for handmade goods. Have your kiddo make cards to drop at the nursing home or create decorations for the local hospital.

{Donate} This one is the easiest, especially before the holidays when the idea of more STUFF is coming soon. Encourage your kiddo to pick some older (but still in good condition) toys to take to a shelter, weed out lesser read books to take to a library or children’s hospital or old linens to take to an animal shelter.

{Buy} There are so many opportunities to purchase things for a charity. Take your kiddo to the grocery store to buy some canned goods for a food drive, ask your friends to bring candy canes to your holiday party and take them to a hospital, pick out some toiletries to take to a women’s shelter or adopt a family for the holidays. A lot of organizations now have wish lists on Amazon, like Brave Trails!

{Do} There are so many options for things kids can DO as acts of kindness. This is a great way to start the conversation with older kids about what they are passionate about it. Homelessness? Hunger? Childhood Cancer? The Diaper Gap (see what I did there?)? There are opportunities to volunteer at shelters and hospitals, or volunteer to host a local diaper drive! Younger kids can put the canned goods in the box, put the coins in the Salvation Army bucket, or pick up trash in the neighborhood.

There are so many ways to get involved in your local community with your kids. They are going to be the ones to change the world, so it is important to start the conversation with our kids and as they grow move them to action.

Happy #givingtuesday!

Dear Marcie Jane

My Dear Marcie Jane –

Welcome to the world! I’ve written this note to you dozens of times, but I am not sure how to tell you how excited I am that you are finally here. Uncle Sammy and I got to visit you in the hospital and all I could see where your long skinny feet. I can picture you slipping on your ballet shoes in a few years. Or cleats – whatever you want sweetheart!

marcie-jane

You are in for such a treat sweet girl – you were born into a family that is loud, funny and so full of love it can be overwhelming.  You are one of the luckiest girls I know and I can’t wait to love on you and take you to the American Girl Store.

Love you,

Aunt Jay Jay xo

Happy Birthday Mollie!

My dearest Mols –

How on EARTH are you 3 today? It doesn’t seem possible, but then again, I feel like you should be turning 13. I don’t remember life before you and I can’t picture our life without you in it. When I think of ways to describe you, I think of just a few weeks ago on Easter. Everyone was milling around, helping get the food ready and catching up. I glanced over towards the front door and there you are – arms over your head like a ballerina just twirling. You were all alone in your own world dancing. It was in the moment I thought, ‘yep. That sums up Mollie’s world, dancing when literally no one is watching’. It was such a pure, innocent moment I will hold close.

My dear, you are a fabulous cousin to Mikey. Despite your small age range, you have taken it upon yourself to show him the ways of the world, just like we knew you would. He adores you as well! You are a happy, charming and polite kid, which comes as no surprise. You have an opinion on everything and a smile that will convince anyone to hand you the moon. Keep that going kid, it will take you places in life, just use that power for good – I know you will.

I was thinking this morning about where I was when you were born, a story I will probably tell every April 4th. I was on a cramped bus to New York City with my big belly full of Mikey. I had lots to time to pray for your Mom and Dad and think about the person you would become. You have not disappointed me kid.

Have an amazing birthday, thank you for making me an Aunt (and Uncle S. an Uncle!).

We love you,

Aunt Jay Jay xoxo

PicMonkey Collage