Letter #677: Emerson’s “Shake It Off”

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Dear Emerson,

Hey buddy, it’s me Lindsay, your aunt. You won’t understand this now, but I’m writing this because I know one day you will.

About 32 months ago, I received the news I’d be an aunt again. I’m not sure there’s a more exciting role in life that requires as little responsibility! I get to love on you and laugh with you any time I want, but at the end of the day when you’re dirty, tired, sick and cranky, you’re not mine to handle. I get to share in most of the highlights of your world, but I miss most of the hard work. Not a bad gig if you ask me!

As you were growing in your mom’s belly, I prayed for you often. For your health and development, but probably even more for your salvation. About 5 months in, you mom’s belly was really starting to turn into a basketball. I received a call at camp in the middle of the summer telling me you had Down’s Syndrome.

Not the call I was expecting about you. If anything I thought the fam was going to tell me you were the girl they still don’t have. Instead, this news ensued doubt, fear, questioning and more. We all know people who birth “abnormal’ babies, but nobody expects it to be them. We didn’t expect it to be you.

Born 6 weeks early. 4 months in the NICU. Open-heart surgery. Near death. Miraculous recovery. Growing strength and ability daily. A smile that takes over a room and is rarely absent. Reaching for and befriending all you come in contact with because you don’t know a stranger. Love pats on faces and heads. Two and a half years later, the boy who is changing the lives of those near and far.

I don’t understand all the whys of life. It’d be easy to question why you aren’t “normal.’ But what is normal? Normal is easy. Normal is boring. Instead, in your extra chromosome, your ‘abnormalities’, you bring perspective to life like “normal’ never could. Instead, you are making each of us better, more compassionate, less concerned with the status quo. Instead, you are teaching those around you that God truly does have the ability to work all things together for good.

Thanks for teaching us in a unique way to “Shake It Off” and not allow culture’s view of normal to define us. Whether it’s a physical limitation, acceptance of wrong as right or pressures to look a certain way, your joy reminds me that my reaction to things dictate their affect on me. If I choose joy like I see in you, those things can’t define me.

Thanks for softening me. Thanks for bringing us more laughs than you know and for your latest obsession with Taylor Swift. I’m sorry your parents torment you during your naps, but your dance moves are just so cute! I won’t be shocked if the “Shake It Off” lyrics are your first words!

{Seriously, you have to go watch these videos of Emerson and Shake It Off! He’s on EllenTube and YouTube! Feel free to share these and bring joy to others!}

Buddy, know you are loved and still being prayed for.

Love,

Aunt Lindsay

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Here are other posts for the rest of the story:

Letter #640: Lots Can Happen in a Year

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Dear one year,

When I think back over you, I’m consistently amazed by how much can happen.

Another year older, another Obama presidency, U.S. government shuts down, the number of states legalizing gay marriage increases from 3 to 16.

Bombing at Boston Marathon, Kenya mall attack, Syria chemical attack, Benghazi, Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.

Everyone is seeing Justin Timberlake with 20/20 vision, and Miley Cyrus rode a Wrecking Ball through her Hannah Montana persona. Meth and murder for sport became acceptable as Breaking Bad and The Hunger Games were all the rage. Kevin Ware shattered his leg during the NCAA tourney (a gruesome image I’ll never unsee), and Tim Tebow was cut from the NFL (and ESPN struggled to find content to fill Sportscenter”…).

I ran a half marathon, am officially debt free, decided to go to Africa and began year five of living in Branson…how I have been out of school for 4+ years?!

A lot can happen in 365 days.

One of the neatest things I watched happen though was the transformation of this little guy.

Left: February 6th. Right: February 19th. Miracles happen.
Left: February 6th. Right: February 19th. Miracles happen.
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Emerson’s 1st birthday smash cake…because sometimes you just need cousins/friends to eat cake with you!!!

From unexpected entry into this world, to four months in the hospital, to heart surgery, to home with oxygen, to turning one and capturing the heart of every person he encounters, this guy has come a LONG way. ***If you aren’t familiar with Emerson’s story, read this to get caught up…the end of the post has all entries about him linked.***

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I mean, it just doesn’t get any cuter! Emerson on the morning of his first birthday!!!

So often I look forward to what’s next. What do I have to do tomorrow? What will the next year of my life look like? Where will I be in five years?

This is fine, but I often live in my next and completely miss my now (maybe my favorite lesson I’ve learned and post I’ve written). But even when I’m successful at living in my now, I typically fail to reflect on my then.

There’s no need to dwell on the past, but there is value in taking time to learn from and be thankful for it.

Today, I’m simply thankful. Thankful for a year of learning, growing, failing, being refined and so much more. I’m thankful for life even when it’s not what was expected  and for Emerson’s first birthday. I’m thankful for yearly celebrations that sometimes force us to reflect when we fail to stop long enough to do so on our own.

A lot can happen in a year,

Thankful and proud aunt/enjoyer of my now, reflector of my past, embracer of my future

Letter #624: Team Emerson

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Dear world,

Ten months ago, a new baby was welcomed into you. He came earlier than expected, thus smaller and underdeveloped. Four months in the NICU and an open-heart surgery later, he finally made it home! And while he may have come different than expected, he has brought more joy than expected as well.

You see, Emerson is my youngest nephew. Doctors informed his parents he would have Down’s syndrome before he was born. After the initial shock, a mindset of rolling with the punches you throw was developed. In Emerson’s first few months of life, it seemed like we were getting repeated blows to the head. Prayer increased. Faith grew. And hope lied in the only place hope can truly come from”…the Lord.

Today, it’s as if all the craziness of those first few months was ages ago. Today, Emerson is a healthy and incredibly happy 10-month-old baby boy. He laughs, rolls over, chews on his feet. He’s really no different than any 10-month-old I’ve ever met. I’m sure there are differences, but we could care less. He’s stolen every single heart he encounters. In the words of my sister, “Emerson was welcomed home and immediately became a source of love, patience, bravery, strength, happiness and joy for our entire family. So when we say our lives were changed forever, we really mean our lives were changed for the better.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Just kickin’ it in the pool…He loves to swim and is enthralled with his feet!

One of the reasons his rocky entrance into you has transitioned into being extremely calm is thanks to the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma (DSACO). Through all this, they’ve provided resources, connected Emerson’s family with families of similar stories which is allowing neat friendships to form, and informed Emerson’s parents about available programs for him. DSACO helped my family a ton, and we want to return the favor.

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The Smith family…yes, we are well aware they are in the wrong colors. We still love them! Also, Emerson has to wear a helmet to reshape his head after being in the NICU for so long. It’s painted Thunder colors!!!

On October 19th, the DSACO Buddy Walk is happening in Oklahoma City. Team Emerson will be present with thankfulness for the role this organization has played in our lives. But just like every other great organization, the success of DSACO is dependent on funds. The walk will aid in bringing awareness, but it is also a key fundraising piece. So yes, my family will be present to say thanks, but we will also make a donation on behalf of my sweet nephew, Emerson.

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Some of E’s friends made through the DSACO!

(If you would like to come alongside Team Emerson and assist this little organization that’s made a big impact on my family, there are multiple ways to do so. A direct donation can be made here. Raffle tickets for a giveaway basket including 2 Thunder vs. Suns 3rd row tickets for Nov. 3rd, 2 Thunder shirts, 2 team Emerson shirts, 2 dinners to Bricktown Brewery, $25 to Upper Crust, $20 to Alfredo’s and $20 to the Meat House can be bought here (just denote it’s for the raffle when you give). Tickets are $10 and you could win a basket valuing more than $650. Finally, if you live in the Oklahoma City area, you can eat at S&B Burgers on Memorial & North May from 11am-10pm on September 17th. They are giving Team Emerson 10% of their sales. Thanks for your contributions in advance.)

World and really God, we didn’t know we were getting such a special gift when you decided to send Emerson our way. He’s opened my eyes to God’s goodness more than I deserve in his 10 months of life. I’m thankful Emerson was welcomed into you, and God, thanks for blessing us with this little guy!

Thankful for organizations like DSACO to provide practical help in families’ times of need,

Proud Aunt

Click through these posts to see Emerson’s full journey”…they’re in order:

Letter #576: Favorable Odds?!

Dear odds,

The majority of life, you’re against us. Maybe this time you’ll be defied?!?! Guess it never hurts to try. The morning talk show, The View, is giving away some trips to Disney to families who are in need of some time together (click here to enter). This is unbelievably kind, and I appreciate their push for family time. I have chosen to nominate my sister’s, Jamie, family. Many of you know their story. Here’s their third baby’s announcement and here’s Emerson’s debut! Below is what I wrote on their behalf…250 words or less on why a trip to Disney and time together as a family would be a huge blessing:

Pregnant. Miscarriage. Apprehensively pregnant. Beat miscarriage window. Excitement. Plan. Prepare. Abnormal tests. More tests. Unexpected news of Down’s syndrome. Process. Wild turn. Plan. Prepare. Press on with excitement. Time passes. Complications. Home bedrest. Must protect baby. Responsibility heightens for all other parties. More complications. Hospital bedrest. Meds fail. Blood pressure rises. Baby at risk. Delivery vital. Six weeks premature. Down’s. Hole in heart. NICU for entire life. Hour commute daily. Imperfect circumstances. Perfectly crafted situation. Joy present through all.

Welcome to 2012 through my sister and brother-in-law’s eyes. Parents of now nearly eight, four and a half and seven week year old boys, this has been a roller coaster year. With emotions all over the map, consistent and steadfast love remains. The older boys don’t fully understand. Their parents stretched in more directions than they can possibly fill. Nevertheless, you’d never know anything was wrong or any assistance would be helpful.

Winning a trip to Disney won’t make their circumstances go away, but I don’t believe that’s why you’re doing this. Winning Disney would allow a family who hasn’t caught a break in a while to catch a break. It would give two boys a chance to just be kids. It would allow two parents to be fully engaged in their family as life pulls in so many directions. I believe Disney would provide a glimpse of excitement during a season where excitement seems to be accompanied with bad news…only this excitement would be accompanied by Mickey and Buzz!

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Only three visitors at a time…we’re hoping for a FULL family pic with Chad on Christmas…and not a selfie!

Hoping you are in our favor (this Hunger Games reference will never get old!),

Hopeful aunt and contestant