a blog about raising a daughter with cerebral palsy and learning unexpected lessons along the way

Monday, December 9, 2013

Two Things

Tonight, just two things. Oh, there's always more but tonight just two will do.

First. We were able to get Oia scheduled for a round of Botox and casting. The procedure took place one week ago and now just two more weeks remain of the "boot", as Oia calls it. Aside from a very achy first 24 hours, she has done remarkably well this first week. It's never easy to tell the benefits of such a procedure while the cast is still on so it makes us even more anxious for the final removal. Seeing her heel just a little closer to the ground, with her knee slightly straighter, is all the Christmas I'll need.
And second. I alluded previously that there was a "big deal" thing our family might soon be thankful for. Now, it's safe to announce there is. After more than 2 years of Rob diligently yet patiently looking for land that our family could dig our roots into, we have finally found and closed on a 2.5 acre slice of rural mountain land. New county. Better school district. Slightly closer to Rob's work and Oia's therapies. So, onto a private gravel road, over a railroad track, around the bend, and down our wooded lane will soon be a single story home designed with our family's needs in mind. A place where one of our two girls will likely dwell well into adulthood. Or maybe not. But we feel so blessed to have the option of planning for this future now and *I* feel so blessed to have a husband that selflessly provides for our family in great and many ways. Guys, 2014 will be the year to clear some land and build a home! And it will also be the year for making (and documenting) some amazing memories along the way, too!

Friday, November 22, 2013

This, That, and a Playdate

Life is rolling right along. Funny the way that happens regardless of whether the present is good, bad, or status quo. Life goes on and thankfully so. Aside from a few hiccups regarding Kindergarten, it's all pretty good over here. Just a few little things worth sharing...

Kindergarten. I'll keep it in a nutshell, or try to anyways. So as you know, Oia began Kindergarten in a general education classroom which is considered full inclusion. We demanded it be that way with any and all proper modifications. She was set to receive collaborative SPED instruction for 1 hour/day (30 minutes for literacy and 30 minutes for math) in her classroom by a collaborative SPED teacher. With that explained, the school year all along has never felt right for various reasons. Oia's teachers and assistant have struggled to understand Oia and her academic needs and often I'd consider the efforts as weak or minimal. Oia wasn't learning and through my observations, she was just a student led through the motions by mainly the assistant. Staff efforts, in my opinion, fell under the "needs improvement" category. There is nothing "collaborative" about a teacher sitting with Oia at a small table in the back of the room, behind a tri-fold divider. Oia disliked it and her behavior with this "collaborative" teacher was quite defiant. Ultimately, Oia's team proposed to remove her from her general education classroom and place her for all hours of the school day into the SPED self-contained classroom. This goes against our beliefs entirely but after some "negotiating", Rob and I agreed to allow Oia 1 hour of SPED literacy instruction and 45 minutes of SPED math instruction in the self-contained classroom BUT the remainder of her school day must be spent in her regular education classroom (with proper modifications) with her typically developing peers who have now become her friends. The schedule change eliminates Oia's interaction with the "collaborative" teacher, thus part of our deciding factor in allowing some placement changes. Oia has seamlessly transitioned into her new schedule this week and she is shining. Lovely notes are coming home and Oia says she is "happy". Sometimes it's less about the classroom your child is in and more about the people who work with and teach your child. The fit must be good for Oia and it feels right to me, too. We're going with it because when Oia is happy, so am I.
Ortho. We moved Oia's ortho appointment from early in the new year to this week because the tightness in her right leg is currently of great concern. The tightness is beginning to jeopardize her overall stability and ankle alignment. Intervention is upon us and we didn't want to wait until January. We prepared ourselves with the idea that another surgery might be the suggestion, or remedy, to the current tightness. However, it's only been 2 and a half years since Oia underwent lengthening surgery and her doctor says it's just too soon to go through another one again. More surgery means more scar tissue and until Oia is done growing, the idea of surgery isn't necessarily the best one (if it can be avoided). This is the ugly game cerebral palsy makes us play. Grow, get tighter, choose best method to alleviate tightness, and repeat. Right now, best method seems to be a combined approach of Botox and casting (not a method we have done together yet, but seperately). With any luck, we can work in the Botox procedure and the subsequent 3 week casting period all before Christmas. And with any further luck, it will help our girl move with a little more ease and comfort.
A playdate. Our girl had her first one! H and Oia are mutual BFF's and I consider the relationship that these two have as classmates to be a prayer answered. H begged for a playdate with Oia and we made it happen. The two of them got messy making pizzas together that neither wanted to eat because no one was willing to stop playing long enough to take a bite. It was 3 hours of little girl bliss for H and Oia and 3 hours of "Oh my god, I can't believe this is happening but I'm so darn glad it is!" for me. It's a friendship made between two girls who chose to be friends. No family connection, or influence, because of the special needs community we often find ourselves in, but two girls who simply connected. For no other reason than that, they wanted to be friends. And so they are. That's pretty awesome.

So, the Kindergarten kinks have been ironed out (for now), hoping Botox will allow our girl some relief, and in the meantime, we will all just play the day away. We do that well around here. And if all goes as planned, we'll have one kind-of-a-big-deal thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween at UVa

Halloween on the Lawn at UVa is always over before we know it, but each and every year we end the night by saying "Man, that was SO much fun!" Hundreds of costumed people of all ages flock the Lawn to not only fill their bags (or their children's) with unnecessary amounts of sugar but to simply mingle while admiring and adoring all the creative attire. The historic grounds surrounding the famous Rotunda and the atmosphere of the evening really are amazing.
After picking Oia up from school, we headed straight into town to meet Daddy "at work", whose office is a part of the UVa health system and walking distance from the Lawn. Oia dressed as a black cat and Esme would tell you she was a "mernaid", which she demanded to be at least two months ago. Poor Elmo fell off her radar shortly after her birthday party and since then 'mernaids' have swooshed in as this 2 years olds current obsession.

As soon as we arrived to the Lawn, we funneled into line to begin our evening as beggars. We allowed the girls to fill the bottom of their bags before breaking from the line and venturing out into the more open spaces of the Lawn. And as all the years before, Oia just sat down in the cool grass as her heart pleased to absorb the craziness and endulge in some chocolate. Instant gratification. Little sister agreed that was a fine idea.

Oia amazes us. Not an ounce of fear could be seen on her face this year as she scanned over many costumes; some of which would have scared her in the past. This year though, she couldn't get close enough despite size and spook factor. She was on a quest to check out everything. The return of the famous viking crew fascinated her, and everyone else for that matter.
And so did the walking dinosaur skeleton, or whatever that thing is...
But Esme? Not so much. She took refuge in the safety of our arms until the scene was clear of horned men and other mysterious figures. You never know about those walking dinosaur things or what they may do...
The pups in costumes were far more Esme's speed. And I do believe the ratio of costumed animals to costumed people was nearly equal. The littlest Teaster has a deep passion for the four legged friends.
Then of course, you know, you have the random sea creature, banana, gingerbread man, and slice o' pizza. Supreme, of course.

Oia made friends with them all. So neat to see her bust out of her shell and take on the little things that were once her big things. We found ourselves trailing behind her as she bravely left us when a certain costume caught her eye. Rob and I would just look to one another, shrug our shoulders, and laugh in a way that translated to oh well, I guess we're going this way now!
Our family's 5th annual Halloween on the Lawn at UVa was another Halloween night well spent. It's one of our favorite family traditions thus far and I'm willing to bet the girls would agree. Neither of them were happy campers about returning to the car even though this year we stayed long enough to see the place clear out. All good things must come to an end though but Man, that was so much fun!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

More on Tackling Kindergarten

This thing called Inclusion Kindergarten is either going to kill me, cause me to drink large quantities of adult beverages on a daily basis, or it may just make me stronger. I'm going to shoot for the latter and hope for the best.

I touched briefly on the issues with school in my previous post (Oia's frustration, my sense of discomfort with the course of the school year thus far, lack of follow through, inside the box thinkers etc.) So, after yet one more note of how inattentive Oia was on a particular day last week, coupled with the feedback that Oia hit out of frustration, I made a prompt decision to yet again observe Oia in class in an attempt to catch these behaviors in action to then in turn target why. I like to fix things. I emailed her teacher stating I would be in the following morning to observe, through the hall window, where I would not be a distraction. In other words, pardon my presence but carry on.

My observation last Friday morning was for a full two hours of classroom activity. I observed, I took notes, observed and took notes. Two full hours. And you know what? Once again, Oia did amazing. She remained on task to the best of her ability and was easily redirected when off-task. She worked hard. She tried hard. She went through the motions just as any of her classmates did. But her team that consists of a teacher, a collaborative SPED teacher, and an aid? They disappointed me in a big way. I'll spare you the details, but trust me, I know a thing or two about teaching and more importantly, I know a lot more about MY CHILD and her needs.

So. The same day of my observation was the very same day I typed up an email requesting a meeting with Oia's principal to discuss the concerns that have been brewing over the last two months of K, and concerns that were the final straw post Friday's observation. And then I stepped far beyond the point of no return. I hit 'send'. My meeting with the principal was scheduled for 8:30 this morning. I was ready.

I was a tad nervous anticipating the meeting this morning but Oia's sleepy and toothless smile as she woke to face another day reminded me for the millionth time why I must step far from my comfort zone and do the things we do. Today, I spoke adamantly. I made very valid points. I provided solid examples noted from my observations of ways that Oia's academic needs are not being fully addressed, due to the lack of follow through from our final preschool IEP meetings and the lack of understanding Oia's conditions. Principal was receptive and never once tried to defend or stand up for the situations or the examples I refered to. It was a great feeling. She heard me and I truly feel as though she understood my perspectives. My concerns/frustrations/disappointments will be delivered immediately to Oia's teachers and hopefully a collaborative plan to address these areas will be implemented ASAP. I trust this will happen, partly because Rob and I will make sure of it. There is a seat under that hall window which opens into the classroom that I will find myself in yet again very soon just to be certain of it. I guess I'll just have to accept being *that* mom. And gladly, I will.

Meeting is over and today I feel good. I feel much less weight now that I've dumped all this away from my shoulders and onto someone who has the power to remedy the situation. I allowed the school year ample time to get underway, work through the back to school transitions that often take place, and now was the absolute right time to speak up. Inclusion is tough but it is so worth the effort. My girl is growing in all areas, at her own beautiful pace. She has friends; typical and non-typical peers. Playdayes are pending. Classmates birthday parties are being added to the family calendar. Our community outside the special needs world is multiplying. And we will prevail at this little but big thing called Kindergarten because Oia already is. And even though this is a subject that shall be continued, I'll still rest my head a little easier tonight because I did what was necessary for Oia. And then I'll sleep like a rock for the first time in months. Good thing because tomorrow I will need all the energy I can get as I brave a field trip with way too many 5 and 6 year olds. Her first K field trip. Oh, the fun never ends with this girl of mine.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mumbled Updates

We're alive, mostly well, and enjoying the company and respite that my visiting mother provides. Our girls are in Heaven having their newly retired NeNe to pal around with. We have been busy and utilizing our "help" wisely but making sure to squeeze in plenty of fun and memories, too.

Now, I bring to you a random mumble of thoughts and a few updates regarding all things Teaster.
Oia. She's still amazing. Still a beautiful handful. And growing so tall. She is up from the 50th %tile for height since May to the 70th %tile currently. The growth spurt handed us a lovely pink night brace for her oh-so tight right leg, which is to be worn now throughout the night, 7 days a week. Naturally, Oia is not a fan. Once her pj's are on, she begs for us to not put the brace on by saying something along the lines of Boot off, I'm okay. That's when Daddy turns on his gears of genius. We all know and appreciate that misery loves company. So, one too-small snow boot on Daddy's foot each night, and one not-so-comfortable night brace on Oia's foot each night. She relunctantly gives in to the brace and falls asleep shortly after. Once Oia's asleep, Rob leaves her bedside and sheds the snow boot until the two go through the same ritual just 24 hours later, night after night.

Two "boots" reside by Oia's bed.

Oia's first nine weeks of school are behind us. It has literally been a day by day experience for all, teachers included. The transition period into Kindergarten has proven a hefty one. And although transition periods are inevitable and necessary, they happen to be somewhat of an emotional overload for me. From my end, much faith and trust goes into the process of someone new "learning my child" as there is much to learn, and so much to understand about this one person I call mine. The vision quirks, the mobility issues, the language challenge, the ADHD, the cognition gap... it's all so complex yet somehow she is still so simple.

Although not perfect, the beginning days and weeks of K seemed to pass as well as expected and without a major hitch. Aside from the usual "she's so easily distracted" report, which still comes on a daily basis, and the "she's not making the progress we'd like", things were okay. Just okay. I still leave car circle most mornings with a pit in my stomach (and admittedly crying). The physical challenges she battles with barely faze me in the least anymore. But I swear, the cognitive and expressive language delays pack enough punch to level me at any given moment on any given day. That shit's the hard part. And frankly, I don't see it getting any easier any time soon. But I'm working on it.
Then about 3 weeks ago, Oia's behavior began to take a shift. I suspected her limits had been pushed, because the work is hard for her, and it's common for kids with attention deficits to act out impulsively when frustrated. She began refusing work. Refused. Verbalized many firm no's to teachers. Apparently tossed materials and work across her table as her final attempt at stating I'm not doing this and you can't make me. Her impulsive behaviors to grab at objects, others and/or their belongings increased. Breaks from the room and tasks at hand, in the form of walks down the hall and back, were/are taken frequently. These changes in her behavior were delivered to me via phone call from her SPED teacher during dinner one evening, after a week and half or so since the behaviors began. SPED teacher called to ask if she could invite a behavioral specialist from the county to observe Oia. The result post observation would be a suggested behavior plan to help teachers better manage Oia's behaviors. I gave my permission. And I felt devastated. The teacher in me was shocked but more so the Mom in me was broken.

I don't make excuses and I'm decent at viewing the whole picture. I know areas where improvements from our team are necessary. But at the same time, I also must remind myself that her teachers have likely never had a student like my child. Oia's mold is unique to her. This reality is why I beg to work with them, require a daily communication log, offer suggestions, and demand daily academic modifications. I've walked a fine line now for 9+ weeks teetering on when to step in and when to step back, and honestly, I've done more of the latter. It's so damn hard. But, I know Oia best. And I bear the weight of her burdens almost entirely so I speak up when I must. I pray that our behavior plan/IEP meeting scheduled for next week will be highly productive. There is a little girl who needs us and this team of hers needs to be innovative and novel at figuring out what makes her tick and for ways to better work with her, all while carrying bucket loads of patience alongside of them. She lives outside the box and we love her that way. And I want everyone else to join her outside the box, love her, and love teaching her, too.

And little Esme. Oh goodness. She's a real piece of work, just as her big sister is. Words, and astonishing amounts of soaked up knowledge, flow effortlessly from her tiny self. The sweetest sound of all is the slight lisp that seems to gently kiss many of the words she speaks. We adore it.
I melted the first time Esme greeted Oia at the door after school recently with the most genuine Have a good day, Oia? one could ever imagine. Yea, Esme Oia said. And the Are you okay, sweetheart? from Esme to Oia after she falls. Oh my. Talk about a heart that could burst from ones chest. These unsolicited interactions are happening and it's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Oia is still receiving private OT and speech each week. It's a rat race to travel 30+ minutes each Tuesday and Wednesday to get to after school therapies on time but it still must be done. Oia is not currently attending private PT (hasn't since school started) and will be discharged from private PT by the end of the year. That feels so weird to say but both myself and Oia's PT feel confident in the decision. Physically speaking, Oia is who she is. Thankfully mobile and mostly-able. We will continue to work on bike riding and other gross motor activities as a family but there is not a need to continue sessions to do so. What a blessing.

And speaking of blessings, each Thursday guarantees at least a couple of 'em. Our buddy, Landon, comes home with us after school on Thursdays so his momma can attend weekly meetings and my girls love this. I do too. We snack on popsicles and just be. Thursday's are a nice break from the rat race and these three together are a triple dose of all things right and good in this world.

Until next time. (Which won't be as long, I promise.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

She Rocks PE

So, the PE issue... an update regarding my last post.

That phone call sparked my need to join Oia for a PE session last Friday. I emailed her classroom teacher and school principal to tell them exactly when I'd be in and why. I'm courteous like that. On Wednesday, two days before my scheduled visit, I received a second call from Oia's school PT. She called to inform me that she just witnessed Oia during PE earlier in the day and that Oia "did great". PT noted that Oia enjoyed herself, only fell once but wasn't hurt, that the class was cautious and mindful around her, and that she did all the exercises well and as best as she could. The best part of all? The assistant that day only provided Oia with verbal cues to keep her safe and on task. PT was pleased. And admittedly, a bit surprised. I told her I wasn't surprised in the least.

She then asked if I was still coming in on Friday and was curious to know if so, was I going to allow Oia to see me there. She feared I may be her distraction. I told her that given the tone of her previous phone call, ie. the spectator comment, I was planning to attend and act as Oia's assistant in an attempt to show them how to facilitate her participation. Then I continued to tell her that given the report she was currently calling with, that I wasn't so sure now what I would do come Friday's PE class (observe or assist). Frankly, I told her I'd decide once I got there.

And I did. I arrived just after Oia and her class were inside the gym and seated for PE to start. I watched from the hall through the gym door's window, deciding right then and there that I would not interfere unless necessary. Turns out, I stood outside the gym for the entire session. Oia ROCKED it. She ran. By herself. She attempted yoga-like exercises. By herself. She jumped back and forth, over the lines of the gym floor. By herself. She stood at the parachute, held on with two hands, and flapped it as directed. With minimal assistance. My heart was full and proud to spectate my mostly able-bodied 6 year old among a combined physical education class totally approximately 40+ Kindergarteners. Oia's laughter while running laps around that gym and flipping balls inside that parachute was heard loud and clear through those cinder block walls. She never knew I was there. All because she didn't need me. The kid has come a long way.

Following class, I spoke with her school PT. In a nutshell, I said, "Let her play. Use verbal cues for redirection and close supervision for safety always, and hands-on assistance only as needed. Never deny her the chance to participate. She's good."

And with that, I left the building wanting so badly to squeeze my girl, kiss her sweet neck, and tell her how amazing I think she is. Because she deserves to hear it as many times as I'm able to say it.

PE saga over.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Words to Oia, Our Player

An unknown number rang my cell late Tuesday morning. You were at school, probably working hard, and soaking in all that you could. I rushed to my phone and answered the call quickly just as I always do while you are away. I worry about you when you aren't with me. Tuesday's call was about you.

I hesitate to tell you who it was or why she was calling. I will tell you though. Just use what I am about to tell you as fuel for your sweet lil' fire. And then, play on.

The call was from your school PT. She was kind to contact me. She wanted to seek my advice on an issue that effects your safety and well-being while at school. The largest concern and reason for her call was in regards to your safety during PE, which you have twice a week. I know you love that. But anyways, you see, your love of running is a heart-attack to others watching you. But Oia, don't get me wrong. We are thankful you can run and your Daddy and I WANT you to. However, your springy and often clumsy style creates a tense situation for those in charge of you while inside a gym of combined classes. Your PT wanted to know how the classroom assistant should best protect you during these classes. She asked if I wanted you to participate by running and playing in the mix of the other kids or should you, during more involved and busy activities, be pulled to the side with the aide, to practice "other skills"? She talked for awhile and I politely listened. I was formulating my response the entire time. She continued to talk and finally mentioned it *might* be beneficial for you to learn the rules of some PE games, like baseball, or tag, as a spectator, stating "because that's what she'll always be anyways, right?"

I know, Oia. It numbed me, too. But don't worry, I told her she was wrong.

I told her I strongly disagreed. I told her you throw a ball straighter than I do and who knows what your involvement in sports as a teenager or adult might be. I told her that you always want to be a part of the game, even if that means you might fall down, and God forbid, even get hurt. Thankfully, you usually rebound from a fall well. I told her I have no clue what role you'll play in athletics one day, if you even choose to have a role at all. I also told her I was pretty sure that if sports do become your niche that it wouldn't be from the slide lines as a spectator. And I also told her that you, Oia, would decide what you wanted to do; spectate or play, and that we, teachers included, would honor that decision. And in addition, we would not only honor that decision but that we would modify and assist in such a way that allows you to more safely be a part of the game. You want to play? Fine. We make sure it happens. You'd rather watch? That's okay too. It shall always be your choice. Always. Never by the will of others.

I wish I had been quicker with my thoughts and words as to kindly remind your PT of the wonderful organization the Special Olympics is to other individuals like you. I'm willing to bet that none of those athletes spent their childhood practicing "other skills" from the sidelines. And if they did, they have every right to say "Look at me now!" In restrospect though, I stood a strong ground. For you. I'm so happy I did. I stuck up for you and I always will. That's one thing you'll never have to worry about.

Come Friday, I will attend PE with you. You and me, girl. I will be your "assistant" for the full session and together, we will show them how it's done. We will run, jump, hop, skip, dance, or whatever it is we need to do. We make a good team, you and I. Here's to hoping your PT enjoys being our spectator.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Six and a Sundae

With a great group of friends this past Saturday, we celebrated Oia's 6th birthday. Six, that girl! We had a Sundae Funday party which satisfied quite nicely her sweet tooth as well as her desire for all things fun.
And it was fun! The outdoor afternoon party was complete with a pinata, an inflatable princess castle and make-your-own sundaes, among a few other things to entertain busy bodies. Smiles and kids were everywhere.
I'm not sure why, but my mind always tries to come up with a project or craft when celebrating with little people. I think it's part teacher, part wanna be artsy-fartsy. Whatever it is, it's important to create tangible memories too. And when you allow canvas and paint to collide with tiny and unique minds, you get something lovely in return.
I, ahem Rob, sectioned a canvas with painter's tape into individual squares. Each of Oia's friends were able to choose one square and decorate it for her at some point throughout the party, mostly when we could talk them out of the bounce castle long enough to get creative. Naturally, Rob and I snagged a square along with Oia's NeNe too. The bottom left square is full of Esme's love. A masterpiece, all for our one-of-a-kind six year old, to treasure as long as she'd like.

Dearest Oia Lee,

You are a blessing of six years and going strong. So, so strong. Everything about your mind and body is comprised of resilience, determination, and sheer persistence. Your therapists and teachers say it will serve you well in the future. In the moment though, you can be quite a challenge. Especially for your Daddy and I. You would have it no other way. And really, neither would we.

Tonight, your Daddy was looking at the picture of you inside the princess castle on the morning after your birthday party. Still jumping, laughing, feet free of braces. He looked up and asked me if I ever imagined you'd be able to do such a thing at this age. There was a time, when you were just barely one or so, that I just couldn't picture it in my mind. Oh, but I tried. I wanted to see you doing it so badly even if it was only in my mind. But if the image was there, it was hazed with uncertainty. So imagine beautiful girl, just how full our hearts felt to see you slide down and bounce around all by yourself inside that castle inflatable at your party... just like YOU always knew you could. Worth every penny.

Like your sister, you are a lover. Our favorite right now is the little pat, pat, pat you give on our backs while embraced in a hug. Your pat, pat, pat on our back translates to I-love-you-and-I-need-you-and-I-think-you-are-the-best-mom/dad-ever. No words ever needed to comprehend that.

You are a Daddy's girl. You have been from Day 1. Your day doesn't end well if that Daddy of yours is not home to tuck you into bed at night and watch you drift to sleep. Thankfully, he doesn't miss bedtime often. And yes, he really does stay right there, at your feet on the edge of your bed, until he knows you are asleep. It's no wonder you love him. You make a fiery dash and squeal all the way to the garage door once I declare "Daddy's home!" and you prefer to spend the last few minutes of your day tucked against his chest for quiet snuggles with him in his chair. Your sister and I do the same from across the living room. That's when 4 feels perfect.

This new year as a 6 year old is all yours. Work your magic, however you can, whenever you can. Continue on as the leader of this family and know that we are still behind you, soaking in all of your lessons, as you feel fit to teach them. It's a beautiful life we have, Oia, and I sure hope you agree. Thank you for making it that way.

We love, love, love you, darlin'. Happy Birthday!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Six years ago this very day, our first baby girl was born. After a long day of labor, a patient midwife delicately delivered our 6 pound surprise onto my draped belly while the good Lord simultaneously placed a crown of motherhood on my head. I'd like to think He smiled while doing so, saying "She can handle this. I know she can." Life changed forever that August evening and it changed in ways I never thought possible. And I'll live the rest of my days with a grateful heart and stretched perspectives because of it.

Happy Day, sweet Oia Lee. To the moon and back again, we love you.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It's Begun. Kindergarten.

Yesterday Oia sat on our front porch steps in nothing but her undies and sunglasses eating watermelon from a plastic bowl. Her last day of summer break. Red juice dribbled from her chin as she watched me mow, row after row, our entire front yard. She loves to watch me mow. And I adore how she excitedly waves at me each time the mower and I round the hill near her perch on the top step, like it's the very first time she's seen me all day. Smiling, front tooth missing, and happy. And all I could think, row after row of fresh cut grass, was My God, this time tomorrow she'll be in Kindergarten!

Breathe. Inhale.

Well, that tomorrow came this morning. I drove my innocent watermelon lover to school for her very first day of Kindergarten and my heart was ahead of my chest by at least 5 miles the entire ride. It made no difference whatsoever the number of years of preschool she's had before and the familiarity of returning to the same building barely eased my anxiety. Kindergarten is a whole new book. And Kindergarten for kids like my Oia must be a book from a whole new genre. It sures does feel that way at least.

Oia did great at drop off. Of course. She walked into the building carrying her backpack and lunch box all on her own but refused to hold my hand. Naaaa, she said, even after I begged her to. I needed her hand far more than she needed mine but her refusal communicated she had not a fear or worry in the world. At least that made one of us. Reason #62 of why I love this kid.

The teacher in me was quite critical in the routines and procedures department during morning arrival and of course that made for an uneasy hand-off of my world into the hands of a teacher and an assistant that I really don't know. A little faith goes a long way in times like these and I relied on it a lot today.

I thought about my big girl all day long. I looked at the clock often and wondered what she was doing throughout the day. Thankfully, dismissal felt much better than arrival, although I still had some remaining butterflies from the morning. Oia's teacher told me she had a "really great day", with emphasis on really. And I could tell she meant it. It was relieving to hear. Exhale. Deep down, I knew that would be the report. I just knew it. Oia has a way of making us proud and today she carried through with that characteristic of hers yet again. But 179 more days are ahead of us and this route in inclusion won't be easy. I'm realistic. But somehow, we'll make it all work out, one slow day at a time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Esme with a Dose of Elmo

I could easily tell you she was born yesterday. Because that's exactly how it feels. But somehow, much more time has gone by than just 24 hours. I mean, really. How can one go from the first primal reach and gulp of breath outside the womb to hopping, dancing, problem solving, speaking, and singing complete songs in just 24 hours? Instead, it's been 24 months. But how does all that even happen in just 24 months? I'm mind blown. Our beautful, smart, funny, sparkly-eyed Esme is now two. And holy smokes, is she ever fun!

Our Elmo lover shares her birthday with my father, her PaPa, who was here from Ohio to celebrate with us. Many years seperate the two but their hearts are very close. Esme talks of him often. Their second birthday together was special and my wish for Esme is even the slightest memory of it.
Because every girl must be dressed the part, she wore a handmade Elmo dress that I designed and a friend perfectly made. But the Elmophernalia didn't stop there. I decorated our home to make sure she saw something red and furry at every turn on her big day. Our excitement was fueled by hers. And days like these are just one of the many kind that make me think to myself over and over again I-still-can't-believe-I'm-a-Mom-and-this-is-MY-kid!

Dearest Esme Anne,

I'm trying to think of what to write to you, and for you, but all I can do is shake my head in awe and smile as I recall July 20, 2011 and every day since then. You have been an extension of me from the moment you were delivered and laid upon my round belly. You were born a Momma's girl. And although your infancy days were trying for me because of it, I am so thankful you are.
You are a lover. I do believe my left shoulder draped with your beloved Blankie is your most favorite place in the whole world. You give amazing hugs. And soft kisses. Your lean-in to meet my lips with yours is almost sweeter than the kiss itself.

You have an abstract mind. I was standing in our bathroom recently getting ready to leave the house when you exclaimed something from the floor. I looked down to watched you trace with your finger the grout between each square tile, and then I understood what you were trying to tell me. "Cross, Mommy, Cross!" Indeed Esme, the vertical and horizontal lines between each tile do intersect to form little crosses. Many of them. And today you pointed out that the back and forth lines created in the carpet by the vacuum were actually w's.

I love your love for books and song. Listening to you entertain yourself by singing makes me stop what I am doing every single time. I must listen to savor your sweet toddler voice as it is now and I chuckle to myself as I hear your version of the original. Sometimes Oia joins in with you. I'm amazed at your obsessions and habits too. Elmo goes without saying, milk and GoGo Squeezes you would starve without, and no venture out of the house is possible unless you bring along a stuffed "friend". Thankfully, you do not discriminate and randomly rotate through your plush stash on a regular basis. Except for the 900 that you demand to sleep with.

Flowers make you happy. They do me too. Although tulips, stargazers, and zinnias are at the top of my list, your coined "bubble flowers" (dandelions) reside at the top of yours. I once showed you in early spring that you could blow them like bubbles, or like a candle, and you were hooked. Our yard should be full of them by now.

You have an innocence and understanding for things that I can't describe. For things that are much bigger than us. Shortly after the passing of your GG, you randomly told me on more than one occasion that GG was "up", as in Heaven. I confirmed your statement. You also told me one night before bed that you have five angels. I asked you to name one. That's a heavy and much too large of a topic for a one and a half year old but you told me GG was, and without hesitation. I cried.

Esme, you are just an all-around neat kid. And now you are two! Your spunk and yumminess are irresistible and paired perfectly with your sisters. Oia has had the best two years of her life because of you, and so have we. We adore you and feel such pride to say you belong to us. And we love you so, so much. Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Now carry on... more beautiful things are waiting for your discovery.