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The Southard Diaries

The Southard Diaries

Fashion Friday- Birthday Edition

Little fashion to fill your Fridays! This fashion is birthday themed with some shots from our week long celebration of all things Landon. Enjoy!

Outfit One: Dress- Lilly Pulitzer Evelyn Dress; Shoes- Cienta

Outfit Two: T-shirt- gift from a wonderful friend with Elmo patch; Leggings- Little Four

Outfit Three: Overalls- Zara; T-shirt- Target; Shoes- Zara (old)

xoxo,

Eloise

In Two Years’ Time

Dear bug,

You are two years old today. TWO. And I’m dangerously close to not being able to call you a baby anymore. You are currently sitting in a booster seat in a grown up chair, recently you’ve taken to sliding down the slide by yourself, you climb everything, run faster than your momma down the beach, and swim with your float confidently without holding onto my hands. Not all of your baby traits have faded though as you still have a sweet baby giggle, nuzzle my neck when your tired or hurt, love letting all of us read to you and have the cutest round cheeks. But … I can tell… the baby side of you is waning and a beautiful, independent girl is emerging.

In two years’ time you have astonished me. Your dazzling personality draws kids and adults alike toward you. In places that we frequent and friends we see often, people mention how much they love just being around you. You prove to us that set free, children with any sort of difference will fly. You have a wild spirit and obvious courage. You are determined to do anything and everything… mostly on your own now.  People don’t see your hearing aids anymore, they see a bright and remarkable girl.

In two years’ time, you have shown the world that differences are beautiful.  Your journey has helped families prepare for adoption of children with Microtia. You’ve changed how people will treat others with any syndrome, difference or uniqueness. Your story has touched someone in almost every country in the world.

I see such incredible things happening underneath that mop of blonde hair. You are one tough kid. You stood tall and straight with no tears when that little boy shoved you at the playground. You comfort children when they cry. You sit dutifully in your reading nook and read every book… sounding out words. Copying your father, you make this delightful “muah” sound when you kiss anyone.  And when you hug your tired momma, you pat me on the back… letting me know that everything in life will be okay.

You are a gift that continues to reveal itself daily to me. When you string words together, point out every object on every page of a book, sign again to me after I sing to you… I marvel at how smart you are.

In two years’ time, you’ve allowed me to become the person I was always meant to be. An advocate, a better wife and daughter, a writer, a mother. You have taught me courage. You have given me a true gift of knowing what’s really important in life. Also of letting go. Of letting you just be a kid. I’ve learned to turn pain into teachable moments. I’ve learned what to look for in my own friends and what to ask for in a marriage. These two years have been the most remarkable years of my life.

It’s amazing what can happen… in just two years’ time.

I love you like I’ve never loved before. You are my light.

xoxo,

Momma

That’s all my iPhone has to say about that…

Calling all Parents…

If you are ever going to read anything I write… I implore you to read this one. Sit with it for a while. Digest your emotions and what you will do if this is your child. How will you respond to a teachable moment?

As Landon stumbles into the restaurant, she veers left knowing that’s where the booster seats are parked. Smiling all the way, she throws her little body upwards, climbing into the seat all on her own. Bo casually strolls behind her, beaming at how self sufficient his little girl is. As they settle into their table just outside the playroom, Landon busies herself with reaching for things, looking at the slide in the playroom and asking, as always, for Elmo.

Most children notice Landon. It’s a natural curiosity when they see the hearing aids, the headband, her ears. We’ve grown accustomed to it. Even a while back when I described the silent staring teens, it was just staring. What happened next is the first of its kind in our world. The first time the world was cruel to my baby’s face.

While waiting patiently for their food, a commotion erupted a few tables away.  Bo heard him then.  A boy, 8 or 9 saying something about our girl. As if in slow motion, the boy walks right up to Landon with another girl in tow.

"Ewwwwwww, look! How disgusting is she?!"

The words hung in the air, he said, as rage filled Bo’s body. “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?” he shouted at the young boy.

Fumbling for words, realizing that my husband’s tone meant trouble, the boy backtracked physically and audibly to explain he used his words wrong. His mother, sensing something must have happened, came over and quickly ushered him out of the place. They left and the altercation was over for all that had overheard. It was over for everyone else except Bo and his parents, who sat quietly and let what happened wash over them.

The encounter, that I didn’t even witness, has found a deep, dark hole in my heart and is resting there. One day this may happen and she’ll understand his words. She’ll know what names are said and that she’s being treated badly by a perfect stranger who knows not even her name.

So far we’ve lived in this bubble of silent stares yet nothing worse. The kids that play with her at her camp adore her. They rush through church and the gym to greet her. They save her favorite book for her and hug her when they see us in town. It’s the happiest bubble that protects our hearts. 

This is a game changer in my endeavor to share our story with the world. This is the moment when we need to change the conversation.

What would you say to your child if he said that?

What would you do if your child asked you what was wrong with that baby?

I heard a story that the author of Wonder is a parent of one of those inquisitive kids. She told this reporter how she was eating ice cream with her child and someone just like Landon and Auggie walked in. Embarrassed by her inability to articulate the differences in another child, the author rushed quickly out of the store and avoided eye contact with the boy or his own mother. She later reflected on how poor of a choice that was for her and wrote the book as a tool and way to celebrate differences. Well since we’re not all authors…

I think it’s important to recognize these awkward times when your child asks something innocent and honest of you. When they ask questions about a child like Landon, I believe the BEST thing is to be honest and kind. Tell them that that child is beautiful and God makes us all different on the inside and outside. What’s most important is seeing the beauty in everyone. Treating everyone as we’d like to be treated. Embracing differences because we ourselves are very unique as well. If you’re so bold, ask if you can introduce your child to the other kid. Meet the mother. Look her in the eyes. Smile. It’s hard to form those words sometimes as you rethink if you’re saying it right. Saying them at all…is all that matters.

Most importantly, find a way to address their comments or questions any way that suits you. Have an open heart. Talk about it instead of shoving it under a blanket statement as in “don’t say that”! and leaving it there. You’ll get so much farther shaping their ability to accept and not bully by going the extra mile to discuss.

And to the little boy and his mother from today…. you should count your lucky stars I wasn’t there. I will pray for you tonight- that you should find manners, grace, kindness and the ability to learn to accept others into your hearts.

Love,

Eloise

Dear Keith Olbermann,

Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

Love,

Women Everywhere



Fashion Friday! It’s a Zara world this week

I don’t even mean to… but we’re just a Zara house these days. I love looking for stuff for bug during their crazy good sales like the one they have right now! Don’t forget to check out their boys section also for our girls… like her first (incredibly awesome) t-shirt shown below. Enjoy the sale!

Outfit One: T-shirt: Zara; Shorts: Target; Shoes: Vans; Baha Hearing Aids: Cochlear

Outfit Two: Romper- Zara; Shoes- Zara; Baha Hearing Aids: Cochlear; Bow: Etsy

xoxo,

Eloise

Life lately according to Instagram…

When in Doubt… Shout it outloud

Every now and then I read a post on some site like Huffington Post or a friend of a friend’s blog about how overexposed kids are these days with the internet. One girl posted how upset our kiddos will be when they’re older and see what ridiculous pictures of them were posted online when they were little. "Naked bath pictures! Ugh! Struggles with relationships?! Don’t you know your kids will read this some day?"

It always makes me stop in my tracks.

Well… hell… I am the guiltiest of the guilty when it comes to super-imposing bug’s picture on the internet,  Instagram, Facebook. You name a site and I’ll find a way to show off my kid. Those that proclaim “they would never” or look down their nose at those of us that over-share… I want to tell you that I choose to do this very deliberately. I choose to share Landon and our story because I want everyone to know how proud I am to be her mother. I share our story because I want other struggling mothers to see her, read our story, and say “hey, we’re going to be great.” I share everything to show very earnestly and honestly the evolution of a family.  The good and the bad. With or without special needs, raising a family is HARD. Being a wife is HARD. I felt sincerely that not enough of us were being honest about those two facts. We women like to pretend it’s all rosy in our gardens. As if admitting otherwise would make others judge us instead of embrace us.

At the start of Landon’s life, I was a struggling mess. Blogging helped keep me sane and the influx of love kept me going. It probably was selfish back then. After two years there has been a shift. I endeavor to reach those that need to hear that their rough starts to parenthood will work themselves out and that they can do very hard things.

I have thought long and hard about what it truly will be like if she reads this blog some day. Will she be upset? Will she be frustrated and hurt that I was SO open about our lives, her little life, our marriage, raising her and our triumphs and low points?  I deeply considered stopping blogging all together as my guilt ridden brain cannot fathom if these people are right.

Then…

I received emails from other mothers. Mothers of children with Treacher Collins, Down Syndrome, hearing loss, women with post partum, mothers of children born missing a limb or with malformed hands. I received emails from grown adults with TCS or kids in college. They say that my writing changed something for them. There was a healing element to the honesty they read. They reassured me that they themselves share my fears and it’s nice to have someone be so open. Some have been so bold as to tell me my writing will help Landon always remember the support and love that surrounds her.  God I hope so.

I have made this choice to share her and our lives with all of you, believing that our story has a purpose to help others. To connect us all as we fumble through parenthood and adulthood.  After reading the wonderful response to my last post, I’m now more confident this little place online has this purpose.

From here on out, when I doubt, I will shout it outloud. This imperfect mamma is here doing her best. Showing up in motherhood, as a wife and hopefully a guide to connect other mothers on their own unique journeys. Reminding y’all to choose happy.

love

Eloise

To the Mother of the Newborn with Treacher Collins…

One of my oldest and dearest called me the other day to let me know that there was a friend of a friend who just had a child with Treacher Collins. As I heard her say the diagnosis that has shaped my life for two years, I swiftly made space in my heart for this mother. For the entire family. Saving space for when they need us, our support, and our love. They found out at the baby’s birth just like we did. Same shock and confusion, mixed with joy and hope. 

I quickly realized this may be the first family and mother I might truly be able to help. But where to start? What advice do you really give when it’s a journey that each mother takes in her own unique way?  When I reflect on those days in the hospital and a few months following, I realize I would have given anything to hear from someone just like me that had lived this life for a couple years. To not feel so alone. And this sentiment of connecting with other mothers through this blog, no matter what you face, is always my goal. To provide a place for people to come and feel a part of something. 

This blog post is for you. For the mother in the NICU googling “what is treacher collins” to the parent of a child with any special need that’s wavering between happiness and crippling sadness over what may or may not be lost. I hope this helps in some way…

The Information Overload.

It’ll be overwhelming. It’ll be confusing. Let it be. Know that you will eventually know all you need to know, and you don’t have to know it in a week. It’ll take time, it’ll take a fresh pair of eyes and a clear head. So don’t forget to really sleep. Don’t forget to take care of yourself in any way that you need to have that clear head. I remember this suffocating feeling of too many terms, too much information, thousands of forms and acronyms. I couldn’t retain it all.  As new mothers, we’re depleted and our brains just work differently. Tell your mother or your sister or your friend to buy you a huge plastic filing bin. Stick all papers in there. You’ll eventually organize it, but it doesn’t matter when. Just find a home for it all so it feels organized in your brain.  

In order for you to properly process the amount of change happening, you must also choose you. Try yoga. Try running. Try something for yourself when you can. Make the time for you so that this information can seep in while you do it.  It really makes a world of difference. If you don’t put yourself first every now and then, the pressure will take over. Doing whatever makes you your best self is what you choose instead.

The Basics.

The basics of feeding and caring for your baby will be more difficult. It just will. Your birth story may be hard for you to come to grips with for a while. You will eventually. But you’ll master your new mothering craft just like all mothers of kids like yours have before. You might not breastfeed because TCS babies’ mouths are different. It might not work for you. That’s completely fine and your baby will thrive and be just as healthy. You’ll have to find special bottles. Maybe even special formula. It’s annoying… for sure… but you can do it. You and he/she will get the hang of it together and feeding time will still be a special bond for y’all.  You might see a new mother nursing her child effortlessly and feel guilty, angry and resentful. While it’s natural to feel these things, just remember that YOU are doing what’s best for YOUR child. You’re showing up and giving it your all. Nothing else matters.

You’ll probably be living in the NICU, unlike most of your momma friends. It’s a very dear place but one you probably hate visiting. It signifies how different your story is. How everything you’d planned in your birth plan has changed. You’ll get to a point where leaving is all that consumes you. And then when you do, you’ll sob. This experience will make the word “nurse” sound the same as “hero.” 

Friends.

In the beginning, those friends that are sisters… the ones that have seen it all with you and still love you… they’ll rise up. They will be nervous of what to say. Let them be. They’ll want to cry with you like it’s their baby. Let them cry. Your friends are who will pull you out of your deeper holes. They will help you keep perspective when it’s too hard to smile.  Let them in. Share things with them that you’d rather keep private. It will keep you sane. 

There will also be friends that will break your heart. New or old, there are women that will not be sensitive to what you’re going through. That won’t call or write or come see you and the baby. There will be new friends that will complain constantly about baby or toddler things that you’d give your left arm if that was all you had to worry about. New friendships can be treasures… but some will not get you. And that’s okay. Weeding out the unhealthy things or people in your life will come naturally. Just let things be and cherish the friends that rise up. 

The amazing thing is that you will meet an entire new family of friends because of your child. Friends that you’ll possibly never meet in person but it doesn’t matter. You’ll text and email and love each other’s children. It’ll feel like you’ve known these women all your lives. It’s a wonderful club. 

The Marriage Story. 

You can be the world’s closest couple who never fights or the couple that battles constantly yet loves endlessly. It doesn’t really matter what you’re working with when you enter this journey… it’s gonna get hard at times. You just gotta keep the faith. You’ll both handle things with this child differently. You may resent him or her for their lack of emotion. You may not understand why you do all the speech and feeding therapy alone. Just ask him or her to help. Just ask and share in these experiences. Once I finally asked for more support, to share in the therapy… I felt a million times better. 

Your marriage will probably change for a while as you adjust to your new role as special needs or TCS mother. You will focus on the babe for a while. You’ll need to in order to gain some control over your whirlwind of a life. And that’s okay. Let it take over for a bit but don’t forget that other person. As you grow more confident as a mother with all you’re now handling, let that love come back to you from your husband or partner. Let it return and try to put them first every now and then. Talk very honestly about all you’re feeling. Share in anything together from dishes to a movie. Sharing is key. Love wins if you let it.

The Future Perfect. 

When you were pregnant I bet you had those daydreams about what it would be like with this baby and what your family would look like. How you’d be in the world. ETC. At first after your child is born and the shock of what is happening to them still has its grip around you, it’ll be hard to see those dreams. To see what the future holds. Slowly and surely as your child reveals herself or himself to you… it’ll return. And your dreams will be grander. You’ll see and feel their purpose of being incredibly important as you start to learn from them. When I look at Landon now I just see this incredibly bright light. A light that others gravitate towards. She doesn’t have special needs to me anymore… she is just incredibly special. And people feel it. They want to be a part of it. It makes my heart sing and I know she has an unbelievable life ahead of her.

The Hunt for Therapy.

The process starts quickly. I went from learning the term TCS- to filling out forms for NY State Early Intervention- to having an evaluation all before I had figured out how to breastfeed in public or pack the diaper bag. It was a messy nightmare where I didn’t know what she had, what to call her hearing loss, what the terms for her ears were, and so on. I was so lost. That is the moment when you reach out to someone else who has been there. On Facebook, on Instagram or here. Find a friend who has been in the trenches before.

When it comes to your actual therapists, you won’t know what you’re looking for and that’s fine. Let it begin and let the relationship unfold. As you learn the craft of speech therapy and/or feeding therapy, remember that you have a voice. Remember that when you feel frustrated or concerned. Speak up and make a change if you need to. If you live in a state where Early Intervention is a struggle (basically anywhere outside of NY)… you’ll need to put your helmet on and get aggressive. It’ll test your patience. Your sanity. But in it you’ll learn there is no limit to your strength. When there’s a breakthrough you’ll feel like superwoman. And you are.

The Surgeries.

They will come. Some children face them sooner and more often than others. My only advice on this score is to find the surgeon or specialist you are most comfortable with. You’ll know when you’re not. Trust those instincts. We met with several teams before choosing her cranio-facial team. That research and time spent in awkward meetings made me a specialist myself. After a little while I felt completely capable challenging and questioning and presenting our family to rooms FULL of doctors. For a while, you will spend countless hours in waiting rooms when you should be on the playground. It does suck, I’m not going to argue. You may feel resentful of the pictures your friends post online playing outside while you wait in a cold, sad waiting room. Don’t let the resentment win. Snuggle your little one tighter and remember that you can do hard things. Small or large, you were built for these hard things. And when you leave the doctors, go do something totally normal like sit in a park or push your little one in the swing.

The surgeries never get easier to prepare for. You will find your way through them in your own unique way. I like watching hilarious or ridiculous movies with noise canceling Bose headphones. I drown out where I am as best I can so that I can actually breathe. You must breathe. Oh and having my mother there. That’s the other requirement. 

The Fighter Still Remains.

You’ll learn to become a fighter. For her needs and then for other’s needs. While at first you will ask your mom, God and anyone close to you… “Why was I chosen for this?” You will wake up one day and realize it’s because you have the fight in you. You’ll champion your child and others. You will pay it forward and feel more complete than ever before. You will write this note to someone else in two years’ time. 

You can do this. If you ever doubt it, let me know. I’m happy to remind and encourage. To all of you wonderful mommas, welcome to the club.

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xoxo,

Eloise

Fashion Friday… Fourth of July Style

Happy Fourth of July!!!

Top: Oshkosh B’Gosh, Skirt: Gap Kids; Sandals: Salt Water, Bahas: Cochlear

Trending Tuesday: Guest Bedroom Design on a Dime

Little break from the general heaviness on our blog. I’ve been reminded that there is great lightness as well in our lives that I forget to share sometimes. This lighter side is found in designing our home. We made this process a partnership… something we truly share with one another and I treasure our “design meetings.” Not only does Bo have great taste but also surprisingly we share the same vision for our new home. Thank goodness, right?! We also share a passion for fashion and all things design so I’ll be sharing whatever is currently trending for us each week.

Trending this week for me is designing one of our guest bedrooms. We have two guest rooms and we’ve each chosen one to design as if we’re holding our own HGTV competition. And we’ve set a very low budget for these rooms, choosing to spend the bulk of our budget in our master bedroom and downstairs.

For my guestroom, I wanted it to be more feminine. Since all the rooms I’ve “designed” in the past were in rental apartments… they’ve been more masculine to make my hubby happy. I wanted this room to be an oasis for our guests and one that made them feel like they were in a fabulous hotel room. A serene and a lovely escape. And as with many things in this house .. it all started with Kelly Wearstler.

This sample of Bengal Bazaar confirmed the direction with it’s light grey (reads blue in this photo) background. One of my money saving tricks that will allow me to use this fabric is to have great pillows made on Etsy.

Bed… I found this so far for the bed on Overstock. I love a high arched headboard and nailheads. This felt far more expensive than it is and you can’t beat Overstock’s prices.

For the bedding, here’s the current plan… I love John Robshaw’s woven quilts and plan to use his braided white coverlet possibly as part of the bedding in the master. To save some $ in this room, I feel like West Elm has the best copy out there at half the cost. And with the very warm Charleston weather, a coverlet is the way to go. I will add a simple duvet in the late fall and a throw.

Coverlet & Shams: West Elm

White and grey throw: Serena and Lily

This room has one french door leading to an upstairs porch/terrace and one window.  I am so lucky to have my incredibly talented mother at the helm of fabric pulling from the DC Design Center where she very luckily works. She found this amazing fabric for the windows from Zimmer & Rhode that pulls out the lighter orchid color with has a grey weave. Love. Plan to do roman shades on the window and door.

Side Tables: Target (!!). This is NOT a large room so finding small side tables is important. Loving these as a thought to also save money. Always loved mirrored bedside tables.

Lamps are still TBD. I just can’t commit :)

Chair in corner: Bella Ivory Arm chair, Overstock

Accent pillows for chair and bed done in these great Zoffany fabrics, that I plan to order the fabric and send to Etsy sellers to use on the front of throw pillows. Another design on a dime trick!

For the Walls: Canvas White by Benjamin Moore

In adding crown molding in a small room and painting it… you add such great depth. A great grey shade for this would be: Sherwin-Williams’s Magnetic Gray SW-7058 and I’m sure there’s another easier to find Benjamin Moore grey (must check paint deck!)

For Art… I’ve only landed on one piece so far… from my favorite photographer Gray Malin above the bed.

Our Jack and Jill bathroom that connects the two guests has a white with grey floor tile so incorporating a light shade of grey was ideal. The tile are 4x36 pieces so this square image doesn’t do it justice.

So there is my guest room so far. Hope y’all enjoyed Design on a Dime for our Trending Tuesday!

XOXO

eloise

Run. Breathe. Pray. (Drink Wine). Repeat

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Blogging is a complicated business sometimes. What if I want to be a private person yet still reside partially in this public space? There is a portion of my heart, my pain, my experiences that I do not share here. I don’t put out into the ethos for my friends and readers to know. That piece of myself is struggling right now. I’ve had to remind myself several times in the last week to breathe. Breathe in deeply and let it out. Just like my mother taught me long ago. Breathe in the good, breathe in the happy, let go of the pain.

I’ve spoken before of struggles I’ve had to overcome & obstacles here and there. I derive so much from sharing my life on this blog. New friends, reconnecting with old friends, learning of other women’s struggles & all they do for their families. Learning that I help some of you. It’s a gift to hear that.

Yet still, I’m not strong enough or brave enough to share all of me on here. So I dance around it.  Sorry…. but it’s all I can do for now. Know, however, the struggle continues. My fight to choose happy, as some of you see from my Instagram page continues as well.

Friends of mine who know darkness & know what I mean when I say darkness, whether it’s children that have suffered or are suffering or marriages, have asked me before “why do you think God chose us for these battles?” Or “why me?”  I have a variety of answers depending on who is asking. We’re chosen because of the strength of character we possess. The grit, the ability to rise above. Because of the families we have to help shoulder the struggles. Because we… are… capable.

In this moment I know and see clearly that God gives us opportunities. Gifts and faults alike are also given and it is our choices that make up our lives. I’ve chosen this man, I’ve chosen to say my vows. I’ve chosen to raise my daughter a certain way with our hearts open and our heads held high.  My choices. These choices are complicated of course by what other people we love choose. They are tested by strangers comments and stares. Again, it’s what we do next that defines our character.

As I mentioned, I’ve written about my decision to choose happy on here and on Instagram. It’s a grammatically incorrect phrase…of this I am aware. That’s on purpose, friends. Anyway… this decision, this admission and this statement came about during this time of particular struggle. These things happening around me and in my heart led me there. I have to consciously choose happiness these days. I have to push through things and cast off frustrations and make this choice. This is not a 100 happy days campaign. This is not something forced either. It’s my decision to see my glass as half full…. even now. Even when I’m struggling. It’s the hardest thing ever. EVER. I ran this morning and when a sad tale was sung by Blind Pilot, that’s all it took to unlock the tears. I stopped. I shook my head. I said outloud… choose happy. And I kept running.

The truly gut wrenching hands that some of us are dealt are tests. From God, from fate, from whomever or whatever you believe in. It’s what we choose to do with these tests that define us. These battles are also meant to be shared. If you’re fighting one now and want to share, please don’t hesitate to email me. Reach out to someone and let them know you need a friend. We women are able to connect and find beauty in dark times together if we share in it.

Without detail or context, I ask for your continued prayers for my strength. I ask those friends that I know and have yet to meet. I love all of you.

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xoxo,

Eloise

Fashion Friday

Hope y’all have wonderful, wonderful weekends

Outfit One: Romper - Local from Hannah B’s - monogrammed there- seen similar ones on Etsy also; Beads- her own; Shoes: Vans; bahas: Cochlear

Outfit Two: Top: Osh Kosh; Shorts: Osh Kosh; Leggings: Genuine Kids; black eye care of jumping off a slide at church; bahas- Cochlear. 

xoxo,

Eloise

Life according to my iPhone this week

xoxo,
Eloise