Ada Grace is 6 today! Wow, how did that happen . . .
So, this week has been pure craziness. Tom & I (thanks to the kindness of an old friend) were able to spend a few days in Las Vegas last week. Having had a pretty crazy & stressful year thus far, it was beyond fabulous to have a few days to watch the Bellagio fountains and drink mojitos. So fun, and such a treat. That said, we returned last Friday night, and it has been constant, non-stop activity since.
Planning for summer activities & camps, getting paperwork where it needs to be, filling out a myriad of forms, scheduling tutoring sessions, activities that don’t conflict for all 3 kids, and having my annual panic attacks about whether we, as a family, can survive summer vacation intact. (Normally, I would have started my summer break panic attack last week, but Vegas and mojitos delayed it a few days). Tomorrow is it – 3 p.m. marks the end of school and the beginning of – well, who knows what at this point. I’m going on about 3 hours of sleep all week after late night paperwork, dinner with some old friends and late night visits from my pal, anxiety. Oh the joys of parenting . . .
Last week, I had great intentions of writing a fun little story about how Elliott’s unique patterns during lawn mowing made me think about autism in a new way. He chooses really interesting patterns and odd ways of approaching lawn mowing, but in the end, he gets the job done, and really, that’s what matters, right? Sometimes I let myself get caught up in doing something the “right” way, whatever the heck that means, rather than focusing on the important stuff, and allowing him to get there in his own way. That said, the story has yet to be written as, let’s get real, after my 2nd amazing mojito, I canned that idea in lieu of sitting by the pool reading a book that had nothing to do with autism. And I’m glad I did.
This week, Elliott made a particularly unfortunate choice, and it has my anxiety about summer reaching some new levels. I’ve wanted to write that story all this week, but frankly, I haven’t even had time to wash my hair let alone sit down and throw together the words that will hopefully help me work through some of that ugliness.
But today, I’m putting all of that other stuff aside, because my baby girl is 6 today, and as much as this blog focuses a lot on the squeaky wheel (here’s a hint, his name starts with E), this is her day, and we have so much to celebrate.
Not even 2 years ago, Ada had no idea what it meant to have a birthday. While other little girls were choosing party dresses, and Princess themes for their parties, Ada had very limited language, and no concept of what having a birthday party meant.
While she’s never had to experience the severity of challenges that her brother has, it was no less painful to visit her preschool classroom in the very beginning and see how socially engaged and conversational her peers were, and know that she would struggle with these skills that come so naturally for most. Maybe I worried even more for Ada than Elliott because the girl thing is just different. Girls just care more about the little things – all the nuanced details that often go unnoticed by the boys. While we can visit a park, and Henry will pair up with a friend or two for an hour or more, when I ask him who his new friends are, he almost without fail will tell me “I don’t know their names, but they are awesome”. This just does not happen with girls (yes, I’m generalizing, but I think you likely get what I mean).
The last couple of years have been filled with ups and downs for Ada. Her neurological testing at the Univ. of MN provides a mixed bag report – fairly typical language & IQ scores, but at the same time she licks their door knobs (something she’s never done anywhere else – wth?) Just perplexing. We’ve had months of great gains, and then heart breaking steps backward as we struggle to turn things around.
During summer and holiday breaks, it’s been terribly challenging to watch her progress diminish and even regress when she spends a great deal of time with her brother. They feed off of one another – and when he makes odd noises and body movements, she does too. Other times, she excels, and often, Tom & I can go days and think, wow, she seems so typical. Then there are times that she gets “the look” from people in public more than her brother does because she is so active, climbing and jumping on tables at Starbucks, and unable to wait patiently in any line.
But, just when I was preoccupied with E’s transition year to public school and the challenges he’s faced (and continues to face), Ada surprised me. The last several months, she has been in a pattern of crazy, accelerated growth – both academically and socially. She will be starting Kindergarten this fall in a typical classroom without assistance, and is excited about it (as are we!). She gets together with her friends from school, and I find myself realizing, they are remarkably similar in their topic choices and their snarkiness (how awful the rules are in their respective homes, what songs they like (Kelly Clarkson ranks high currently), which boys are the “good” ones at preschool – a rarity of course – and what new gymnastics moves they like, etc.).
For the last week, she has been filled with excitement about her birthday. She changed her mind about 30 times before settling on a party at Chuck E (Good Lord, 3 kids, and I thought we had escaped a Chuck E party, only to get sucked in for our last child – man, she owes us for this . . . ). She was beyond excited to go to the store with her brothers and choose her birthday cake (Spiderman – no, she’s not especially feminine, but I kind of dig that about her). She has been telling everyone – including the crabby guy at the post office – that it’s almost her birthday, and shares her news with the swagger that only an almost 6-year-old girl can do. We baked cupcakes yesterday, and she frosted them with bubble gum flavored frosting and sprinkles with precision and care. I didn’t even care that she ate 3 in one day!
This morning, she woke at 6 a.m., bounded into my room, and woke me up to ask me if she had grown taller overnight (she is intent on gaining an inch or so to be able to ride on her favorite roller coaster), and announced in her proudest voice “I’m the birthday girl today”! I took her out for lunch and we got a new outfit for her party, and she had fun doing it! Not to mention that her outfit, while not traditional, is so decidedly Ada that it makes me smile just as I know she will when she poses with her favorite rodent tonight.
So today, we celebrate Ada, and the fact that Ada is excited to celebrate Ada which is the best news of all! When I think about how far she has come, and what she has accomplished these last six years, I know with every fiber of my being that she is going to be ok – a bit spirited perhaps, but decidedly ok. Sure, there will be bumps in the road – and we’re likely to have several “Mom free zones” as we did when she got mad at me for suggesting we put away the flannel pj’s the other night, but with every day that passes, Ada is becoming her own woman, and it’s just so amazing to witness knowing where we’ve been.
Oh what a wild and wonderful journey this last 6 years has been . . . I can only hope that Chuck E is ready for this!