Girl! You are one whole hand! How did that happen? How did your parents LET that happen?
What can I say about your turning five? You are a whirling dervish of a sweet kid. I absolutely love to see you interact with your cousin Hannah and hovering over her to make sure she is safe. Uncle Sammy and I talk a lot a out how much we admire you not taking crap from anyone (a lot like your momma), but managing to do it with a smile (like your daddy).
Right before your birthday, we had a funny conversation that really sums up your personality:
Aunt Jackie: Do you want Barbies for your birthday? Marcie: No, I have a lot of Barbies. Aunt Jackie: What about a Ken doll? Marcie: Who’s that? Aunt Jackie: Um, Barbie’s boyfriend, or guy friend. Marcie: Oh. She doesn’t need that. Aunt Jackie: You’re right. Go play.
I was so happy that things were getting back to normal annd we could hang out more often. You are always the life of the party.
I love you kiddo. I love your wild curls, your huge smile, your generous heart, and your always thinking brain. Oh, and your hugs. I can’t forget your hugs!
My curly hair cutie you are finally four! It has certainly been a strange year for you because of COVID, but you seemed to have taken it in stride. I’ve been lucky to have been able to spend some time with you despite all the hullabaloo and I am so thankful for that.
The big thing this year, in my opinion, is you are no longer the baby of the family! You welcomed your new cousin, Hannah, with WIDE open arms. You love sitting on the couch to hold her and alerting us to when she is maybe, possibly, could be unhappy. I can’t wait for you to show her the ropes of the cousin crew.
You also continue to show how brave and resilient you are by having another surgery. I’m not sure if it is harder because you are older and understand, or easier because you understand. Either way you rocked it and handled recovery better than some adults I know. I can’t believe how quickly your speech has changed and what it has done to your confidence. You’ve always been spunky but now so much more so.
I feel like this year you’ve really warmed up to me, which makes my heart soar. We’ve had fun Facetiming, reading, talking about Paw Patrol and brushing Barbie’s hair. All of my favorite things!
My sweet Marcie Pie – I love being your aunt and seeing your sly smile and bouncing curls running around with the big kids. You take no crap and are up for anything.
My sweet girl, you are 3! Well, 3 years and a few weeks because I’ve been too busy to sit down and write everything my mind has been thinking for you. I am sure you understand. You seem to be a busy bee yourself!
This was the year we went on our first Barry Family Vacation to Bethany Beach. And it was there I first heard a little voice holler ‘Ann Ackie’ and when my heart melted. I am pretty sure after that moment you didn’t stop talking.
It was also on that vacation where we spent a lot of time together hanging out and having fun and you truly warmed up to me, despite all the time we spent in the past. You are such a cool little girl. You know exactly what you want and will die on the mountain to get it. You are anything but a people pleaser and that is so, SO important for future women. Your attitude is very much, ‘Nah, I’m good’ when you don’t want to do something.
But when you want to do something – you DO IT. With smiles, giggles, and curls flying. You like to ‘run with the big kids’ and love your cousin Mike – I am 100% sure the feeling is mutual.
Miss Marcie, thank you for being my favorite 3-year-old and making our life fun.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!