Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Dear JP

 


Dear JP, 

Happy Birthday sweet boy! You are a big SIX year old today. I have so many emotions. My baby is not really a baby anymore. But I am loving watching you grow and change and figure out who you are. You are sweet and silly and so fun to be around. You love to help around the house and play games and snuggle and read books. You love to play outside with your friends and you love the pool. You love to build Legos and anything Star Wars (which makes your daddy so happy!). You eat all the time and you're not even a teenager yet! There were so many years when I wasn't sure you would ever outgrow being a grump but you have grown up so much this year! 

This year you started kindergarten and are going to school with Ruthie and Ellie. You don't tell me much about school but you seem to like your teacher and the friends in your class. You won't come home and tell me what you learned in school but you'll randomly tell me some interesting thing you learned in school. For instance the other day you told me something was an "ABAB pattern"...and you were right! You are starting to learn to read and you are so proud when we read a book and you find a word you know. I can't wait until you are able to read lots of books...I think you are going to love reading!

This summer you swam on swim team and this was your first year on big team. You were one of the youngest kids out there and you did amazing. You started the year barely making it to the other end of the pool and finished the year easily swimming your lap of freestyle and backstroke at the meet. I am so proud of your determination and perserverance. I know it would have been so easy to give up at some of those early meets but you made it to the end without stopping. You were worn out but so proud of yourself and we were so proud of you! I can't wait to see what next swim season looks like for you!

This year you have started doing golf at the Y. You are so excited and as a bonus you have daddy to go with you each week which just makes you so happy! 

This year we went to Disney World which you loved. The last time we went you were 2 so you don't really remember it but you had so much fun this year and you were such a great age to go! This year we went snow tubing which you loved and you also went skiing for the first time. I was so impressed with all you learned at ski school. We will go skiing again this year and I look forward to seeing you progress this year. I'm so glad you love to ski! This year we went to Mississippi to visit Uncle Ben, Aunt Ruth, and sweet cousin K and you were a trooper for the car ride. We had so much fun there and one of your favorite things was the train museum. So many trains AND Legos. This year you got to go to Washington DC to visit the Novak family. I don't know how impressed you were with the monuments and museums (you were kind of over all the walking) but you thought the Zoo was great! We went to Biltmore and you were pretty amazed by everything. We have had so many fun adventures this year. I love seeing things through your eyes as it is such a sweet perspective. I can't wait to have more fun adventures this year with you! 

You are a wonderful brother and with all those sisters it is not always an easy job to have! You have such a lovely but different relationship with each of your sisters. Ruthie is 100% your partner in crime. She is your constant sidekick and I love how close y'all are. Ellie is your buddy. She is who you hang out with when you need a little calm in the middle of the chaos. Although y'all often manage to create some chaos of your own!  Emmie is your other mother. She is who you go to when you need help or someone to read a book or a band aid and a kiss to make a hurt feel better. I have loved watching each of these relationships grow and develop. I hope you and your sisters will always be as close as you are now. 

You are also a daddy's boy through and through. You love to hang out with any guy but especially daddy. You are such a good helper .I will often find you down the street following one of the dad's in the neighborhood around as they work in the yard...and you don't mind jumping in and helping shovel mulch or any other job that needs to be done!

I love you sweet boy. I love your belly laughs and your snuggles and hugs. 

I hope you had a fabulous birthday!

Love, 

Mom

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Thursday, August 19, 2021

4 years later….




You know the game where you have 2 pictures and you have to find a certain number of differences between them? There’s a lot of differences between these 2 pictures right? The first one is 7 year old Emmie headed off to 2nd grade. The second one is 11 year old Emerson (as she now wants to be called) headed off to 6th grade. You can see lots of differences. The game would be super easy.  But there is a huge difference that I bet you missed. 
**You didn't find the difference that makes all the difference. **
You see that little 7yr old was going off to second grade recently diagnosed with Absence Seizures  and on medicine that wasn’t fully controlling her seizures and had many side effects, the biggest one being that she was exhausted all the time. 
That 11yr old went off to middle school with NO SEIZURES and OFF ALL MEDS. 
The journey wasn’t easy. When I stopped to count up the years since she was diagnosed I counted multiple times because surely we dealt with this for longer than 4 years. In those 4 years she was on 4 different medications, including the 9 horrific months she was on medication #3. The 9 months where I cried more days than not. Where we felt like we were losing our sweet girl a little more each day. 
Our journey has been hard. We have encountered people that were hard. But we also found some of our dearest and truest friends. The ones who shared in our pain, who listened, who looked out for Emmie, who looked beyond the medication side effects and all the seizures and loved her, and us, beautifully. I will forever hold dear to my heart Emmie’s friends who stuck with her through the hard and the dance friends who would quietly move her to where she needed to be and the friends who would help her refocus after a seizure without ever losing patience. And I don’t say much about her siblings when I talk about Emmie’s seizures but they have been champions through these years. I know it has often been hard and even confusing and scary for them but they have handled it all so well. They have been her constants in a world that was so often topsey turvey. 
Our journey has been difficult and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. No one should have to watch their child seize over and over and over. No one should have to see their child’s personality change overnight. No one should have to see their child unable to function every single afternoon because they are so exhausted. No one should have to walk behind their child when they get ready in the morning and remind them, after each seizure, what they were in the middle of doing when the seizure started. No one should have to be told that their child might have intractable (untreatable) seizure. No one should have to choose to keep their child on a medicine that causes major personality shifts but it’s the first medicine that has ever controlled their seizures. 
But we did these things. And we survived. And we not only survived we grew. And from the brokenness of 2 years ago (when we switched to medication #4) we have pieced together something that is absolutely lovely. We have healed. We’re not the same as before and sometimes you can see the cracks but I think those cracks make us stronger and kinder and better. They have changed our perspective on so many things.  They remind us, as I often told Emmie, that everyone has struggles and many of those struggles we can’t see.
The most freeing thing that I got out of this journey was acceptance. For years I prayed for the seizures to end. I imagined what the day would look like and the way I would feel when she was declared seizure free. But here’s the funny thing, we went for her final EEG and I was calm. Like so calm I fell asleep during the EEG (they have a part during the EEG where they want the patient to sleep so they dim the lights and it’s quiet). If you know me you know I am pretty high anxiety especially when waiting for something (like finding out if my child is seizure free!). But I slept. I had peace. Somewhere in the healing I had seen a glimpse of the beauty God was creating from the brokenness. I had seen that His plan was so much better than mine. Of course I hoped her seizures were gone but after so many medication failures I wasn’t counting on it. But I was ok with that. We had found a medicine that controlled her seizures and had very minimal side effects. It was ok if she still had seizures. It would just be part of the story of Emerson. I think even when the EEG came back clear I still didn’t really believe that we were done. Hence why she has been off her medications for 5 months and I am just writing this post! 
For those that know her story well you know she was pretty been beaten down emotionally when she was on med #3 but she had some pretty amazing adults (and kids!) in her life who helped rebuild her confidence and self esteem.  
So did you see the other difference between those pictures? That kiddo going off to middle school is a fighter. She is strong. 


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Dear Ellie



 Dear Ellie, 

Happy 10th Birthday sweet girl! It's hard to believe that you are in double digits! You are our teeny tiny girl but there is a lot of personality packed into that little package. You are so smart, you love books (Percy Jackson is your current favorite), you love legos, you are so pretty and if there is any small special occasion you always take extra time getting ready to make sure you look your best, you are witty, and you mean the wrold to us. 

This past year has been a tough one for you. 

We did virtual school this past year which was definitely NOT your favorite. We had a rough school year and you were just kind of withdrawn all year. It broke my heart to see my mostly happy child turn into a sad kiddo. I am so glad we made it through the school year and you are very ready to go back to brick and mortar school this year! 

You were starting over with making new friends. You left behind in Columbia your very best friend and that was really hard for you. You have made some great friends in Greenville and seem to be adjusting better and thanks to facetime you still get lots of time to talk to Lucy!

You broke your arm twice this year. I was so impressed both times with how resilient you were but you still got frustrated at times, understandably, and it definitely didn't seem fair that it kept happening to you! I was SO proud of you though when you got your waterproof cast this summer and jumped right in to swim team practice the next day. You went to the beach with your cast and while you definitely had some painful times and it wasn't fun wearing a cast cover out on the beach you made the best of it.

I hope that next year is a much better, less broken year for you. I can't wait to hear about all the new friends you make at school. I can't wait to see the excitement in your face when you come home from schoool and tell me about your teacher and your classroom and what you learned. I know you will have an amazing 5th grade year. You already know quite a number of  kids in your grade and you are beyond excited to get back to school!

This year you tried skiing and absolutely loved it. I can't wait to go back next year and see what progress you make. This year you did your first year of Greenville swim team (SAIL) and absolutely loved it. You made some wonderful friends, learned how to dive, swam like a rockstar with a cast on your arm, got your breaststroke legal, and can not wait until swim team starts back next summer!  

Ellie I just love the way you embrace life. You get so much joy out of whatever you do. Whether it's building with your legos, becoming all consumed with a book series, playing with your friends or siblings, or trying something new your joy is infectious. One of your favorite things is an adventure. Whether its a trip to the children's museum, a waterpark, picking apples, or even going to the library. You love FUN!

Sweet Ellie Belly, I can't wait to see what fun adventures and exciting moments are in store for this next year! I am so glad I get to be your mom and be with you every step of your journey. You light up my life just by being you! (And if we could have a few less broken bones that would be swell.)

Love, 

Mom 


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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Shellfish

 

This girl. She is strong and brave and fierce and smart and independent. She can handle any situation. From the time she was tiny she could do just about anything for herself. 

Here is the most recent story of Ruthie. 

Two weeks ago on a Wednesday night we had shrimp pasta for dinner. We have this dish fairly often. Ruthie used to like shrimp but for a few years has said she doesn’t like it anymore and picks it out of her pasta. So Wednesday night she picked it out. Thursday was leftover night. Ruthie chose shrimp pasta and picked her shrimp our like normal. She hung around the table for awhile after she finished eating then went upstairs. She came back down a few minutes later because her eye was itchy. Her right eye always gets itchy and swells when she has a reaction to something environmental (like dust or cats). That evening Paul had changed the batteries in the smoke detectors upstairs so we both immediately said oh it’s just from the dust that was probably stirred up. No big deal.

Oh but then little Miss Independent says oh no it’s from the shrimp. Ummm...no it’s not. Why would you even think that? Then she informed us that she stopped eating shrimp (a few years ago mind you) because it made her itchy!!! Little friend. Would have been nice if you’d informed someone of that fact! Instead our little bit who can handle pretty much anything just stopped eating shrimp. (We won’t mention the fact that she was still eating the food that was cooked with the shrimp.) 

I was not convinced at all that it was the shrimp. So we saved a piece of shrimp and the next day I rubbed it on her arm. She got a tiny ant bite sized hive on her wrist. So I figured we should get it checked out just to be safe. I talked to Dr. Williams (our fabulous OIT allergist) on Monday morning and he sent me an order to get blood work done for shellfish allergy. We had the blood work done Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning the pediatrician called me to let me know the blood work was back and she is allergic to ALL shellfish but especially lobster and shrimp. 

To say we were disappointed is an understatement. We had gone through so much to ensure that we didn’t have to worry about food and now we have a new allergy. The good thing is that shellfish is much easier to manage than peanut. If I had to have one of those allergies I would absolutely pick shellfish. Nobody puts shellfish in granola bars or grinds it up to make crackers! We are coping. It was a bit of a shock. But it’s ok. We’ve dealt with a harder allergy. It also helps a LOT that she is older. She knows what shellfish are, she can tell people she is allergic to them, she is old enough to ask before eating something. 

And she’s Ruthie so you know she’s on the ball and can handle it. I also have full confidence, based on past experience, that she will speak up and tell people that she is allergic to shellfish. 

So where do we go from here? We will do blood work again in a year and do a skin test. Lots of people have asked me if we would do OIT and the answer is no. Having to eat multiple shrimp every day is a lot different than eating peanut every day! Plus when you traveled you would have to make sure you had access to shrimp. OIT is supposed to make life easier not more complicated. We may look into SLIT (similar to OIT but it is drops under the tongue and doesn’t provide the same level of protection as OIT) at some point in the future or, who knows, there may be another option available down the road. The wonderful thing is that there is so much more awareness of food allergies right now and much research being done so there is hope for the future! 

So that’s where we are. And I still can’t get over the fact that she stopped eating shrimp because she was itchy and she never told anyone. We had a discussion about that. 🤣

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Happy Birthday Ruthie




 

Dear Ruthie, 

Happy Birthday my little Firecracker! It is hard to believe that 7 years ago you came into this world and lit up our lives. From the day you were born you brought us immense joy. Your eyes have always sparkled with mischief and merriment. You are tiny but every inch of you is packed with personality! You can be rough and tumble and you can be a little fashionista. You can be completely wild and then sit calmly for hours and work on an art project. You are full of life and there is never a dull moment when you are around. You know what you want and you figure out how you are going to get it. From the time you were just a tiny thing we would find you in all kinds of hard to get to places as you tried to get your own snack or brush your own teeeth or pick out your own clothes or get the toy that was just out of reach. You are determined and a little bit stubborn. When I told you that you were old enough to drop your nap and could instead play quietly in the playroom while JP napped I would find you fast asleep many days in some strange place (often on top of a toy bin or right at the top of the stairs). You knew you were tired but you were NOT going to take a nap in your bed because you were BIG. Ruthie, I know that your determination, persistence, and your ability to set and achieve goals is going to serve you well in life!

You have had a big year this year Ruthie Roo! After an amazing 7 months of kindergarten with the BEST teachers you were suddenly stuck at home doing kindergarten with mom. You missed all your sweet friends and teachers so much but you adapted pretty well. This year we are doing 1st grade in virtual school. It has been a big adjustment as you were not too keen on mommy being the teacher but you have adjusted pretty well. I know you are ready to go back to school but you are pushing through. You were a little behind in reading but you have worked SO hard this year and you just had mid year benchmark testing and wow! You have come SO far in just a few months. I am so proud of your determination and it makes my heart happy to see you pick up a book and want to read it to yourself. 

This year we also moved to Greenville. You made moving look easy! You have made so many new friends and you love living down the street from grandparents!

This year we really settled into the maintenance phase of OIT. I am incredibly proud of how well you have done with taking your dose. I love those moments when you want to eat something with peanut in it and we can tell you YES. There are times when I can tell you don't really remmener what it was like to have to wrorry about every bite of food that went in your mouth and that makes me happy. Eating is fun again for you and not full of fear and even better you don't remember all those years of fear. I love that you have taken charge of your dosing. We will sometimes let you skip a dose in a week and you will plan out your doses for that week so that you can skip the day that you want to skip (for instance, you made sure to dose on Christmas so that you could skip on your birthday).  When you "free eat" peanut during the day you have to rest for 2 hours afterwards and I love to watch you debate the pros and cons in your head. Is that peanut item worth having to rest afterwards? I feel like you are developing such important life skills early on. When we went to Disney you did amazing with your dosing and would get right out of bed and eat quickly so that by the time we got to the park you were ready to do everything! 

This year you learned to ride your bike without training wheels and you were SO proud of yourself. You didn't want to learn but then JP was working really hard on it and you were NOT going to let your little brother ride his bike before you could ride yours! We were so proud of you and JP for earning your bells at Kiawah this year! 

You are fierce and you will ALWAYS stand up for yourself, especially against one of your siblings! Nobody puts Ruthie in a corner! When you were born I think someone forgot to inform you that you were the youngest. You are positive that you are the oldest and therefore should be in charge of everyone. We often tease that you don't have a "nice" bone in your body but you actually do have a few of them! Just when we least expect it you will show your sweeter side. You can be snuggly and generous and kind (when you want to be!). But you don't ever pull any punches! You are bluntly honest with everyone and you make sure they hear you loud and clear too. You keep all of us in line...and we love you for it!

 I am so proud of all the changes you have weathered this year. Things have been so different than what you were used to, between moving and the pandemic, and I know there were times it was really hard. I hope when you look back at this year you remember the good and the fun. I also hope we didn't turn you into more of a germaphobe than you already were! 

Ruthie, I know 7 will be an amazing year for you. I look forward to seeing what new adventures you have and watching your personality grow! I love you fiercely my little sparkly eyed baby and am so proud of you!

Love, 

Mom

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(PS. I really miss those curls!)

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Happy Birthday Emmie!


 Dear Emmie, 

Happy 11th Birthday sweet girl. I'm not quite sure how you're already 11 but here we are! 

This year has been a wild, strange year full of lots of change. This year we moved, switched to virtual school and are in the middle of a pandemic! Whew! Never would have predicted the craziness of this year. I have been absolutely blown away by how you have handled all the change. In the course of 2 years you have gone from a child who was so anxious you wouldn't get out of the car at school some day to a child who faced a year of big changes, many of which were very sudden, and met them head on. When school went to virtual in March you handled it like a champ. Literally overnight our day to day lives changed drastically. We went from busy busy busy to home all the time. You transitioned so easily to e learning and rolled with the new normal. You had moments where you were sad and missed seeing your friends and teachers but you did amazingly well with the change. 

When we moved you once again did great. In true Emmie fashion you have quickly made new friends. We were so glad that you were still able to zoom with your best friends in Columbia as that really helped with the transition. We have lots of kids in our neighborhood and I am so glad that you have been able to quickly make some wonderful friends. I have loved watchin you experience the type of childhood I had where there were friends right down the street! With the move you also got your own room. I laugh because you love having your own space that you can keep organized and clean but almost every night one of your siblings ends up sleeping in your room with you because you don't really like to be alone at night. It reminds me of when Ellie was a baby and you used to go sleep in the chair in her room after she fell asleep so that you weren't alone. 

When we made the decision to do virtual school this year I wasn't sure how you would do. It was so new and so different on top of all the other changes you had already dealt with this year. But Emmie you have blown me away. Virtual school has been so good for you. I have LOVED watching you grow as a student. I have loved watching you master things that were hard for you. Most of all I have loved watching you persevere even when things are hard. You are SUCH a good student. There are days you are working an hour or more past your siblings but you rarely complain. You just keep plugging along. Your work ethic at such a young age makes me so proud of you. 

This fall, in the spirit of change, you took a break from dance and tried out soccer. I was nervous about it since you were on the older side for a beginner but you did great. You had really great girls on your team who helped you out when you didn't know what to do and you learned so much. We had to work pretty hard on teaching you to be aggressive...you were so sweet and usually stood back to let the other player get the ball, even if they were on the other team! But you learned a lot and did pretty well and most of all you had a lot of fun! You say you want to play again in the spring and I am looking forward to seeing you improve even more.

This year wasn't all weird and full of change. We also took a fun trip to Disney World! It was up in the air for so long as to whether or not we would be able to go but we went and had a blast! You were pretty brave about riding new rides and you had a great time. The last time we went to Disney World you were having lots of seizures and you were terrified to let go of my hand. You had fun but it was overwhelming and you felt out of it a lot of the time. I loved how much fun you had this time. 

Speaking of seizures, we finally have you on a medicine that is working and doesn't seem to have any major side effects. I am so thankful that you are back to your normal self. I am thankful that you had a 4th grade teacher that poured so much love into you and helped calm your anxiety and restore your confidence. This year your teacher is virtual but she has been such a wonderful cheerleader for you. It is a joy to see you back to your normal self and feeling good physically and mentally. You battled hard for many years and I am so thankful for a reprieve from those hard years. Next week you go for an EEG to see if you have outgrown your seizures. We are so hopeful that you have and it would be such an answer to prayer but if you still have them then I am so thankful that we have found a medicine that works for you. It has been hard but it has helped shaped you into the beautiful person you are. 

Over this year I have loved seeing your personality grow and change. I am incredibly proud of the person you are. I could write for days about my love or you and my dreams and hopes for you. Not to say you don't have "tween moments" but overall you are a delight. You love people and strive to make others happy. You are helpful. You are kind. I love you to the moon and back. 

Love, 

Mom

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Dear JP

 


Dear JP, 

Happy 5th Birthday sweet boy! I can't believe you, my baby, are a whole hand! Five years ago on Septemeber 20th I had no idea that you would be joining us the next day. I was sure that I had at least another week before you would make your appearance. But at 5am on September 21st I woke up because one of the big girls came to get me to tell me that Ruthie needed me. Ruthie, by the way, NEVER woke up at 5am so that was odd. I walked in the room and she was sitting in her crib just smiling at me. I leaned over to get her out of the crib to take her to the other room to try and rock her back to sleep and my water broke! I told Ruthie I would be right back and when I came back to get her she was fast asleep! I am convinced that she knew something was about to happen.

Ever since that day you have kept us on our toes. We learned very early on that little boys are SO different from little girls! We have loved getting to know you and we have loved getting to experience having a boy. I will say it was quite the adjustment for me. I had gotten really good at the whole girl mom thing. I had to learn to that every toy needs to make some kind of noise (even if I'm the one making the noise) and when you were little you would throw anything you picked up and the messier something is the better. 

This was a big year for you. You started preschool, we went on a Disney Cruise, the world stopped when we had to quarantine because of Covid, and we moved from Columbia to Greenville. I will say you came out the winner of Covid. You loved that everyone was home and you didn't have to go anywhere. You would spend the entire day outside and you were dirt stained after a few weeks! I loved that you got to experience kind of an "old fashioned" childhood. There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. You went outside after breakfast and came in when it was dinnertime. You dug holes in the garden, rode your bike, and played on the swing set. It has been such a wonderful time for you. You have loved our new neighborhood as there are so many other kids and even some boys around your age! You went to preschool last year but that was cut short due to Covid but this year you are back in preschool and you love it so much. Everyday you come home eager to share what you learned. I was so proud of you the first day when I had to drop you off at the door and you walked right in without any hesitation. Oh, and your favorite trip of the year was a Disney Cruise we went on last fall. You had SO much fun and are still talking about it! You were such a great age for the cruise and loved seeing all the characters, the shows, and most of all the pool!

This year I feel like you have grown up SO much. We have really gotten to see your personality shine and it has been so fun! You say the funniest things and love to make people laugh. You are so well spoken and will have the funniest conversations with other kids your age. In general you are very outgoing and love other kids, especially other boys. You have discovered some other boys on our street close to your age and love to play with them. In March you learned to ride your bike and the wilder the better is your motto. Within 9mo of you getting the bike (a few of those months you were still on training wheels) we had to replace a tire because you had skidded your tires so much it had worn the tread off. You earned your bell for riding to the Marsh Tower at Kiawah with Grandaddy and you are very proud that of all the kids you accomplished that at the youngest age. We laughed at the beach because there wasn't a single bike ride we went on where people didn't stop and tell us how big you were riding your bike with no training wheels. It was like being around a celebrity! You love any kind of sport. You love stuffed animals and your current favorite is Marshmallow (aka the Pokey Little Puppy). I will often find Marshmallow wearing your underwear...apparently they are his pullups! You love to help me cook in the kitchen. You have your own unique sense of style. Your favorite outfits are ones like your daddy wears (khaki shorts and a polo) but you add your own flair. You often will throw a bowtie on with whatever you are wearing and you always have your bike helmet on! You are so YOU and it always makes me smile. You love your sisters so much. I am so glad you were there to be Ruthie's buddy the last 5 years. You have such a special bond with all of  your sisters but especially Ruthie and I hope you are always as close as you are now. 

One of your very favorite things is spending time with your daddy. I love how much you adore him. I hope you grow up to be the kind of husband and father that he is. If he is home you spend all your time following him around learning from him and helping him with whatever he is doing. You will give up playtime with your sisters and friends to help him cut the grass and it melts my heart. 

When you were little you always stared at the world around you with absolute fear in your eyes, especially if all your sisters were around. You just weren't sure what was going on and you definitely didn't trust that it was safe. I think you might still feel that way as you wear your helmet all the time! We get such a big kick out of it. You're all about safety!

You are my last baby and my sweet snuggler. You still love to curl up next to me and read a book. You still let me pick you up and you will wrap your arms around my neck and squeeze and it melts my heart. You are quickly growing up and I treasure the times when you just want to sit and snuggle with me. I am so thankful that God sent you to us sweet JP. You have blessed our family and we love you so much!


Love, 

Mom


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