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  • Dear Emily – On your 10th birthday

    Ten years ago, I was rushing to the grocery store to get more milk and food for Ben. He was 16 months old and eating at an alarming rate. Dad was at the library studying for his last final for law school. Rebecca was nearly five years old, busy rubbing my belly as she was excited for your arrival. Our happy family of four was getting ready to outgrow the comfortable booths at restaurants and would have to adjust to the hard chairs and tables after your arrival. Dad proudly told his sports-loving friends that we were preparing for the transition from man to man defense to zone defense, since we would shortly be outnumbered by children for the first time in our marriage. It was going to be three kids versus two parents.

    We were surrounded by U-haul moving boxes, packing tape, and bubble wrap. Dad had accepted a job in Phoenix as a new attorney, and we would be moving to a new city only tens days after your birth. A home had been purchased and your room was already painted pink from the little girls who lived there before us. Dad had assembled a toddler play set and it was waiting for you and Ben on the back porch of our new home. We were anxiously awaiting your arrival.

    You came into this world on April 25th, 2003 at 5:30 at night. You were the smallest of our three children, at 7 pounds 2 ounces, and Dr. Maciulla told your daddy that you were perfect and that he was in big trouble. Rebecca was stroking your head and Ben made you cry because he kept trying to kiss you with his hard pacifier in his mouth. Their love for you was palpable, right from the start. The next morning, when Dr. Maciulla came into the room to check on us, he asked how my little Mighty Mouse was doing. Wow, was that term prophetic for where you are almost ten years later!

    Dad and I couldn’t love you anymore. It’s impossible. We consider it a joy and a privilege to be your parents.


    You excel at school and in your studies. It’s not unusual to find a sea of straight As on your report card. You tackle your assignments and projects as soon as they’re assigned. Often you are begging me to take you to Michaels to gather your supplies three weeks before your project is due. The only time you have gotten into trouble at school is when you were hiding your Harry Potter book under your desk and trying to read when the teacher was in the middle of teaching a math lesson. “But mom, I was at such an amazing spot in the book. I just couldn’t put it down,” was your response as a single tear dropped from your chin. You aren’t used to being reprimanded or corrected.

    You won your school poetry contest and Dad and I didn’t even know you entered. You won the sit up contest at school, and one of the boys was fiercely bothered by the fact that you beat him by over 20 sit ups in a minute (that sparked a nervous giggle from you).

    You excel at swimming and have a ferocious competitive spirit. We have been told that you are easy to coach, as you have a stellar work ethic and you are passionate about doing your best.

    But all that is just what you do. What your dad and I love about you is your heart. We love you for who you are.

    Yes, we are proud of you when you make strong grades and you improve your swim times. But that is because those things are important to you. And as parents, we love seeing you, your brother, and your sisters filled with happiness and joy.

    What we love about you though, above all else, is your heart. That mighty heart inside that small, yet fiercely strong body. At 58 pounds, it would be impossible to pack more love, spirit, or compassion inside. It would burst from your ears or muscles if you tried, as I’ve told you countless times at bedtime.

    We love how much you love God and His people. You are passionate about helping those who are hurting, those who have been beat down by injustice, and those who just need to be loved right where they are. Remember sweet girl, not to ask why things happen but to ask how you can help. The answers will come later, but others will remember that you were there for them when they needed help and encouragement the most.



    You have a natural gift for sensing when people are struggling and stepping up to encourage them. With permission, I wanted to share this text message from a fellow swim team mom from this past Saturday’s Splash and Dash (a sort of biathlon where kids swim a longer distance and follow it with a 1 to 3 mile run, depending on their age):

    “Good morning! I just wanted to say how fun it was to watch your sweet Emily on Saturday! First leading the pack in the group swim… and then running, running, and running. Impressive! And, besides being a fierce competitor, she encouraged friends along the way. She hung with Sarah as she worked through the challenging run section. Sarah doesn’t enjoy running and struggles a bit because of her occasional breathing issues. It has improved so much because of her swimming, but running still is a nemesis. Annie was also struggling with a cramp. It was so sweet to see Emily jump in after she was finished. Was so cute as they would round the field in a pack of girlie girls in swim suits and tennis shoes! And so thankful later in the day to hear Sarah say, ‘This morning was FUN!’ Thankful for your girl and her spirited ways! See you at the pool.”

    Emily, this is what we want to see hanging on the refrigerator. This message speaks so much more to you and your heart than the numerous certificates from school and sports. Dad and I were so blessed by this message.

    We love how much you love your little sister. She looks up to you and follows you around. You could be annoyed by her, but you are so patient and include her in everything, including activities with your friends. Thank you for loving her as you do. Please remember that the effort and energy you pour into your siblings will reap enormous benefits later in life. They are your best friends.


    We love your passion for learning. You are truly the mini version of myself, as I know all your relatives tell you at every gathering. We love how you are willing to jump into the kitchen, organize your closet, or learn how to sew. Our prayer is that your thirst for knowledge is never fully quenched, but that you are willing to try things without the fear of failure. Embrace the imperfection, Emily. Color outside the lines, throw in an extra ingredient in that recipe, and look at the crooked stitch with pride!

    As you got out of the car today, you exclaimed, “This is the last day you will see me as a nine year old.” I jumped out of the car in a less than stellar outfit, because I had to grab that one last shot as you were walking to the crosswalk with your best buddy. Big sigh.

    We love you. You and your enormous heart.

    Welcome to the double digit club Emily! We are so excited to see what God has planned for your life.


    Dad, Mom, Rebecca, Ben, and Sam



    Heather S.

    Wow! She is a treasure, and so blessed to hava a Mom who sees her so well and can record it to share. ((Hugs))

    25 April 2013 at 3:46 am Reply

    What an amazing girl! You are doing a wonderful job as her mother, celebrating her spirit as well as her accomplishments! LOVE the photos! My favorite is the way she is looking at her little sister with such affection on her face…I had three big sisters, and I remember growing up feeling so safe and loved (almost) all of the time. That picture alone brought back numerous memories for me :) Emily, I hope you have a GREAT birthday!!

    25 April 2013 at 4:02 am Reply

    Happy Birthday to Emily!!

    25 April 2013 at 8:49 am Reply

    Happy birthday darling girl!! Jenny, you continue to inspire with your words — I have yet again printed another of your posts out as a prompt for something to A. x

    25 April 2013 at 11:16 am Reply

    What a pleasure it is to know this amazing girl! I, too, love her spirit and heart! She is a friend I am happy that Lindsay has! Happy Birthday Emily!!!!!!

    25 April 2013 at 4:35 pm Reply

    This is a beautiful post Jenny! I hope Emily had the happiest of birthdays. You are both so amazing. Kudos to you for telling her how much you love her, and for documenting it. :)

    26 April 2013 at 6:05 am Reply

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