Category: Family

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

Merry Merry Everything!

A few weeks ago I realized we hadn’t done a family photo shoot and we managed to miss all the mini-sessions. I think it’s so important to have a pro do pictures at least once a year, so I reached out to my Facebook friends and found Dana Lorentz Photography.

She got the best photo with Charlie EVER. And despite it being SO windy (we were basically in a wind tunnel) and Mike NOT being happy, we got a few good shots. I mean, let’s not sugar coat it – this is our life with a toddler.

Here’s our 2015 family pictures and our card.

image1 IMG_0894 IMG_0895 IMG_0898 IMG_0899 IMG_0904 IMG_0914 IMG_0918 IMG_0923 IMG_0924

And finally ….card

Mollie Claire Turns 2!

Mols –

I can’t even believe you are turning 2. I remember writing you your 1st birthday letter and here I am reflecting on yet another year with you my sweet niece. Honestly, not much has changed. You are still just as beautiful, sweet and mischievous as you were LAST year. Perhaps this year you just have more hair.

I have so many favorite memories of you from this year I can’t pick just one. Most of them involve your milestones and how you interact with Mike. You are so kind with him and we can tell he is watching you to see how things are done.

One time you had me giggling was at your Daddy’s birthday you took your plate into the kitchen in hopes of a piece of cake only to come back into the room VERY upset your request was denied. A kid after my own heart!

I love you Mols, have a happy happy second birthday.

mollie

Mike: December 2014

To my little monster Mike,

I can’t believe last year we were waiting not so patiently for you to crawl. We would put you in front of the tree and you could balance on your belly while fussing. You were frustrated. We were frustrated. But not long after the holidays you figured it out. Flash forward to THIS year and we couldn’t get you to sit still! It’s funny what changes in a year.

{Holidays} Oh what fun it was during the holidays! You are a lucky kid who gets to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. You got some awesome gifts and though you were still confused on what was going on, you figured out that you got to keep what you opened. Honestly, if we got you one thing you would have been thrilled.

We also went to the Bull Run Festival of Lights, a tradition for Daddy and I, and the whole time you ate Goldfish and said ‘ohhhhh’.

You were fascinated with the tree, and even said ‘Tee’. We decorated with the nonbreakable ornaments on the bottom, so you loved taking them off and trying to put them back on (which was really stuffing them in the tree).

You were not too keen on Santa Claus. We went to see him at our community center and you were okay running up to give him a high five, but that was about it. Maybe next year. Or maybe not.

xmas

{Operation Relocation} You probably don’t realize it yet, but we signed a new lease in December! So mid-January we are moving from our apartment in Fairfax County Virginia to a townhouse in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. We are very very excited and very nervous for this transition. The good news is we will be so much closer to our family! I hope you see this as a new adventure. It’s the cutest little townhouse at the end of a street near parks and a school. I could immediately see you riding your trike down the street.

{Daycare} You also met your new daycare provider, Miss Rachel. You took to her and her daughter’s really quickly and even played with some of their toys. We are nervous about this transition as well, but know you are in good hands. Plus, you will be learning French! Wee-wee!

{TV} Your favorite shows right now include Doc McStuffins (you say Doc when you see her on books or toys), Curious George (or Jew as you call him), Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and lately your REAL favorite has been Chuggington. When it comes up on Netflix, you point and say ‘choo-choo’ and even dance to the theme song. It’s not a bad cartoon, and significantly less creepy than Thomas the Tank Engine.

{Words} Your vocabulary is growing so quickly! Sometimes you say something clear as day and Dad and I just look at each other in surprise and pride. You’ve been saying:

  • Ba-bub (Bubbles for a bath)
  • Ah-poo (apple, which is usually any fruit)
  • Buh-bye (this is the funniest. You say it so clearly as you are walking away waving. Sometimes sarcastically).
  • Up (both for up and down)

{Snuggles} You are still such a sweet snuggler. You love pulling the blankets over us on the couch, or walking up to Daddy who sits on the floor and plant yourself in his lap. You are giving hugs and kisses on your terms and that makes them 10 times as sweet. I know the time will come when you won’t want to snuggle as much, but I hope we have awhile longer.

{Food} Your love of food comes and goes. Right now you will eat anything smothered in tomato sauce. Also french fries, sliced apples or pickles.

{Helping} You are becoming quite the helper! You are great with directions, like when we ask you to put your shoes in the basket, and cleaning up. The other day you knocked over Charlie’s water dish and then we handed you a towel and you ‘wiped’ the floor. Granted it was the kitchen floor and not the dining room, but once we redirected you, you figured it out. You also love opening the microwave. The minute it beeps you run over the open it. I hope asking for help keeping the house in order is always this easy!

december

January is going to be a big adventure for you sweet boy. One of many many exciting adventures you will have in your lifetime.

I’ll eat you up I love you so,

Momma, xoxo

 

Good Golly Miss Mollie

Well hello there Miss Mollie –

I haven’t written you a letter since your first birthday and now you are a big 20 month old!  You’ve been rattling in my head a lot more lately and I wanted to give you a snapshot of your life right now, as viewed by your Aunt.

mollie

A buzzword right now is ‘spirited’ when it comes to describing kids, but I think it is a nice way to say ‘hard headed’. You are a bit of both – but that is a good thing, I promise. You know what you want and you are determined to figure out how to get it. Even it requires you to turn on your Barry Charm. Keep that up kid – it will come in handy when you are in the corner office.

You are so, so kind.  I love when your mommy posts pictures of you holding your doll or when you pat Mike on the head.  You are already such a good friend to him and I know in the future you will continue to be friends and eventually partners in crime.  And ugh, the hugs! I love that you are full on wrapping arms around and meaning it.

You have the fashion sense of a socialite. Girl, you got it going on and you know it. Boots with leggings, skirts with understated frills and hair bows out the wazoo. When I am old and grey, will you visit me in the nursing home and make sure I am dressed nicely?

My little chow hound you make me belly laugh any time food is involved. You could be playing quietly and notice I have a piece of food and you start circling like a shark. Then you flash that smile and ‘wander’ over as if you just happened to be in the area and curious. Once I share a few bites I can kiss the rest of my meal goodbye into your open hand. Never, ever be afraid to eat sweet girl.

Another thing I love about you is your walk. It says, ‘I am going somewhere and you can either hang out until I get back, or follow me and try to keep up’.  I have no doubt you will be leading the pack and with your personality – they will want to follow.

I love you Mols! xo

Aunt Jay Jay