On the morning of June 20th, 2014, my amazing daughter A. became a big sister as we welcomed my new daughter, K., into the world. The past two weeks have been a pretty incredible journey, and I've been very proud of how well A. has handled all of the chaos, change, and transition. To be perfectly honest, there have been several things that have surprised and delighted me about watching A. come to terms with being a big sister.
Probably one of the most touching factors was how concerned A. was for my own wellbeing during and after the surgery. Before K. was born, I never got the sense that A. truly grasped the gravity of the situation. However, as usual, she obviously understood much more than I thought. The morning of the surgery, I climbed into her bed for a few minutes and just cuddled her, something that I don't normally do, but I wanted her to understand how much I loved her, and I wanted to be close to her for a little while since I was going to be in the hospital for several days. This was something she hadn't previously understood, and that may have been what caused her to start to worry. She waited with me in the Labor/Delivery/Recovery suite before the surgery on the recommendation of my mom, which I think was a very good move. She definitely needed some reassurance that everything was going to be okay. Whenever the nurses came in throughout my stay there, she seemed apprehensive and nervous, concerned about my own health as well as K.'s. If they said something she didn't understand, she'd ask what was wrong, or what was going on. She'd almost fly into a panic if it seemed like something wasn't absolutely perfect. I don't think I've ever seen her more visibly relieved as when we finally arrived back home safe and sound. I think she rested much better after we were all under the same roof again.
After K. was born, I had Thomas go get A. and bring her back to the LDR suite with us so she could spend a little bit of time just taking it all in and bonding. I didn't expect her to be that interested in her little sister she's just a boring baby at this point, after all but A. wanted to see her immediately, was very adamant about welcoming her to the world, and exclaimed to her upon first seeing her that she was a little bundle of adorableness, and that she should not ever change. We spent a few minutes in the recovery room, just the three of us, taking a minute to process that we'd just added another tiny member to our crazy and quirky family. Then we invited the rest of our relatives to meet K. before they took her off to the nursery to be cleaned, poked, prodded, and assessed.
A. joined the rest of the family to watch K. from outside the nursery window as she got her first bath and the doctors started their assessments. Obviously, I stayed behind in the recovery room, but my family sent me pictures of A. standing at the window to the nursery, interested and attentive, concerned with all the pokes and prods the doctors were giving her, and participating in the conversations with the other adults. When they brought her back from the nursery, A. came back to the room, patted her head, and cooed and awed over her a little before returning to her teenage headphones and deciding it was time to go home.
Throughout the next several days, A. did quite a few things that surprised me. She picked out a present to bring to K. in the hospital. It was a jack-in-the-box of the Guess How Much I Love You rabbit, and she seemed very interested in showing the present to K., and slightly disappointed that K. didn't seem more impressed. She wanted to hold K., and she did, even though the one time was enough for her and she has since been content with patting her on the head and grabbing her tiny hand with a finger to shake it. When we came home from the hospital, my mother decorated the house and also drew welcome signs on the driveway. A. decided she wanted to add her own message, so she came outside (which she never does, because she is so terrified of bees) and drew an additional message welcoming K. to the family. And one day, shortly after we arrived home, Thomas and I had K. in the crib and the baby monitor on, and A. went into the room where K. was lying down and she told her, "Welcome to the family," which we would not have heard at all if we hadn't been listening to the baby monitor. One day I said we were going to the doctor, and A. was concerned about who was going to look after K. while we were gone. I couldn't resist, and I said, "well, you are, of course." I quickly let her know I was kidding, and A. informed me that she would be perfectly okay with looking after K. once she's a little older in a couple of years or so maybe when she's 5 or 6. I told A. that I thought that was probably a very good plan.
On the whole, A. has definitely taken much more interest in her little sister than I thought she would, and is taking the role of Big Sister a lot more seriously than I expected. She's constantly concerned that she's going to disturb her somehow (thankfully, neither one of the girls seems to disturb the other; A. sleeps blissfully through K.'s late-night squalls, and K. doesn't even flinch at A.'s loud and enthusiastic singing, quoting, and chatting from across the hall.) At three weeks, the newness has worn off somewhat, and A. seems resigned to the fact that K. will not be very interactive for several months, but she's handling the inevitable changes in routine very well she just complains about being bored more than anything. She was initially weirded out by my breastfeeding, but it seems as if she's come to terms with that somewhat, as well. Considering that so much of my anxiety about K.'s arrival was wound up in how A. would react to the change, I could not have asked for a better outcome. I definitely wasn't expecting her to be this excited about a new baby sister.
She still has a pretty awesome summer ahead. Theater camp, visiting her grandmother in North Carolina, a trip to the beach, a trip to an amusement park she may be complaining about being bored now, but I don't think that's going to last. I'm looking forward to sharing more of her adventures soon and really looking forward to having the time to share the adventures!
I know I've blogged about it before, but it's amazing how much my daughter will come out of her shell and be willing to connect with people when she's immersed in water. It's not even that she's simply receptive to interaction while submerged -- she actually goes out of her way to seek out the interaction. She craves it.
We recently became members of our local YMCA, which means we've been spending a lot of time at the pool lately. Our last pool visit was at the end of a week where I didn't have much one-on-one interaction with A. In fact, I was really missing spending time with her. I felt like I was spending a lot of time working, that she was spending a lot of time on the computer, and that, for whatever reason, we just weren't talking or communicating very much. We definitely hadn't been spending a whole lot of time together, so I took advantage of having a free evening, and we decided to go hit the pool together.
First of all, I have to give an aside here and say just how much of a relief it is to be completely submerged in water myself right now. I'm a week away from my due date at the moment, and there is nothing better than feeling weightless and cool while my big, whale-like body floats comfortably in water. So, I suppose I can understand a little how calming such an activity might be.
Our pool time usually transpires like so: at first, I stay on one side of the pool, and A. goes on her own, exploring. She spends a lot of time with her goggles looking underwater, swimming, going down slides or jumping off diving boards if they are available. Her first need is to get completely immersed by the pressure of the water, and she spends maybe twenty minutes or so just completely soaking it in, quite literally.
After that, however, she comes and seeks me out. At first, I thought it meant she was ready to leave, but that isn't the case. She likes to try to climb on me, to hold on to me, and to engage in physical contact. There must be something about the water that makes touch a lot more bearable and even desirable for her. The only problem we run into is that there are signs that say NOT to carry anyone on your back in the water, so I have to remind her of this quite often. Then, she wants to talk to me. She'll engage me in conversation about her interests first -- YouTube videos she's seen, soundtracks for her original characters, video games she's currently playing. When there's a lull in conversation, she'll invite me to pick a topic: "What else do you want to talk about?" So I will quiz her on different things -- friends at school, people she knows online. Obviously, when she invites me to change the subject, I try to push her outside her comfort zone somewhat -- I try to focus on things she may not usually want to talk about.
Last week, I was amazed at how much she opened up to me, how willing she was to discuss things that she usually keeps quiet about. Crushes on boys, the amount of time you should take before you confess your feelings, concerns about high school, possible career choices, anxiety about driving -- I felt very privileged to be let in on A.'s private world and musings on the situations that will be coming up for her very soon. During our conversation, she shared with me (as she often does) her frustration with the fact that I have to work during the summer. This always amuses me, because I know for a fact that if I was spending the summer at home with her, she would still spend all of her time on the computer or playing video games. However, once A.'s new little sister makes her appearance, I'll be taking 16 weeks of maternity leave, so I was able to share this news with her, which she was very happy to hear. I don't think she'd realized I'd be home quite so long. As she thought about it, however, she got a little concerned.
"Wait," she said. "Who's going to look after Kes after you go back to work?"
Sometimes, when you're a parent, you can't help but be a little evil, and my family has a long tradition of teasing our children. I've always tried to be a little more gentle with A., considering her tendency for literal thinking and her difficulty in understanding humor. There are moments I can't resist, however, especially as A. grows older, and this was one of those moments. Without missing a beat, I replied, "Well, you are, of course."
The look of shock and horror on A.'s face was priceless. I quickly laughed and assured her I was just kidding, and then let her know of our child care plans. It's funny, because when strangers learn there's such a big age difference between my daughters, the immediate response is always, "Well, you'll have a built-in babysitter!" and I always laugh politely, but that has definitely not ever been my plan. Even if A. wasn't special needs, I would not place that sort of expectation on an older child. It's going to be such a tough transition anyway, moving from being an only child for 15 years to suddenly having a much younger sibling. However, I also told her that if she wanted to, she was more than welcome to babysit, especially if she wanted to make that a sort of part-time job in a couple of years. This apparently set some wheels turning in A.'s mind.
"What if Kes wants to go get ice cream?" she asked.
I explained that, in a couple of years, A. would be driving, so if she wanted to take Kes to get ice cream, that would definitely be something she could do.
"What if she wants to go someplace else fun?" she asked. "Like a carnival?"
I explained again that the older A. grew, and the more Kes grew, the more opportunity A. would have to do stuff with just her and her sister. Out of everything that we've discussed so far, this seemed to be the thing that made A. most excited about having a baby sister -- the idea that, eventually, she'd be able to take her and do fun things on their own. It also seems to be a bit of an incentive to get A. interested in learning to drive, which makes me happy as I definitely want her to learn and to be able to have that independence. Until this point, she's not been very interested in the concept. We discussed driving a little, too -- A. explained that there was so much to pay attention to when you're driving, that the concept just seemed overwhelming to her. She asked me, for example, what the heck "yield" meant, so I got to give her a few tips on driving while we were swimming, too.
In just a couple of months, my first baby girl will be fifteen years old. In just a couple of days, I'll have a brand new baby girl, too. I'm having to learn to change my language -- A. really isn't my "little girl" anymore, and she seems excited about finally losing that nickname. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, to see how things change and transition over the next several months. It's an exciting adventure, and I get a little less worried every time I get the chance to have one of these conversations with A. And I feel a little closer to accepting my daughter as a young adult each time we get a chance to have these conversations. I am a very blessed mother indeed.
Rhe past couple of weeks, my daughter has been spending her evenings chatting with a boy who lives in California. They know each other from their respective artwork and shared interests, and they use headsets and microphones to watch YouTube videos together, to make ridiculous jokes, to share artwork, and to play video games. If I were to estimate, I would say they spend an average of two hours a day engaged in such activities, and A. seems to really enjoy her conversations and her time online with the kid. They are about the same age, and he's a year ahead of her in high school.
They talk about their shared interests, and they spend most of their time goofing off online, but they also talk about real things, too. His mom introduced herself to A. over the Internet one morning. They talk about the weather, about the crazy time difference, about pets. I find myself eavesdropping on their conversations, partially because I'm curious to know what they talk about for so long every single day, partially because A. tends to shout out in a loudly raised voice her side of any conversation, and partially because I'm a concerned parent, and my daughter is talking to a stranger who lives on the opposite coast from us and I want to make sure she's being safe.
And, of course, she is being safe. She's being safe, and there really isn't anything that makes me suspicious about this particular online friendship. Moreover, I remember back to when I was a teenager, and while the Internet was still a fairly new world that I could explore, the realm of pen-pals was a tried-and-true method of making friends in distant places, and that was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I had my own guy friend who lived in California, though he was much older than me I was in high school, and he was in his early twenties. I never thought there was anything weird about that, though. He'd send me letters about his adventures to Las Vegas, about concerts he'd seen, the playlists of songs. I don't remember what I wrote back, what could have possibly been interesting enough for him to continue to a little teenage girl, but I also know that there was never anything bizarre or creepy about the tone of his letters. When he went on trips, he'd send me postcards from places he visited, and he'd give me opinions on new albums that had been released. It was a great friendship to have, and it made me feel a little less alone in the world. I remember that, and I guess that A. may feel the same, too, about her own guy friend who lives in California.
Of course it's important to be safe. Creepy people do exist in the world. When I was in high school with my collection of pen pals, one of them ended up being an older adult man who was pretending to be a 16 year old girl writing me letters and sending me gifts. The Internet makes that kind of pretense even easier. That being said, the world is also full of amazing, awesome people who are looking for honest connections with others. Some of them may struggle with creating social connections with those around them, and others may just really enjoy communicating in the online medium. We have to use caution, especially as parents, but I also feel like we owe it to our kids to explore this medium, to let them find other kids they can relate with, and to let them find as many ways to communicate with others as possible. Of course, this seems even more important in regards to A., who seems to thrive with online social interaction while face-to-face can sometimes be a struggle.
So, I will watch this friendship grow and develop. I'll continue to help A. nurture her real-time friendships, too, by inviting friends over, or arranging for events for them to do together. But I will also honor and help A. make time for her online friendships, too, since I remember all too well how important those strangers on the other side of the world can be when you're a lonely teenager.
As I mentioned in my last entry, I really can't imagine a better ending to A.'s Middle School career than her stellar performance in the annual talent show. It was like the frosting on a delicious if sometimes frustrating cake. A. finished the year with A's, B's, and C's in all of her classes I was probably most proud of her for pulling her math grade up to a solid C by the end of the year, partially because math is such a difficult subject for her, but mostly because she became so very responsible and proactive in working to bring the grade up. She signed up for tutoring, she went in early in the mornings, she'd stay late after school, and she really worked hard with her teachers trying to grasp the concepts, completing work, and practicing over and over again. I was impressed that I only had to nudge her a little in this area. She was very determined to move on to high school next year, and that motivation seemed to help drive her to get the extra help she needed to succeed.
A. was also recognized at the 8th Grade Awards Day at her school. She received recognition for Perfect Attendance- a new accomplishment for her. She stayed relatively healthy all year, and she also seemed more inclined to go to school and stay in class than she has in the past. Additionally, Thomas and I both stood our ground on forcing her to "tough it out" during days where she didn't feel so great. Even though I pulled her out of a class or two every now and then to come see an ultrasound with me, it wasn't enough to negatively impact her attendance, so that was a nice change. Additionally, she also got a pin for her theater work in the drama club this year. (A., of course, was disappointed that she didn't get a trophy for this accomplishment, but she was glad to be recognized all the same.)
All in all, not a bad way to end one's 8th grade year. She's excited and nervous about high school next year, and I can't blame her. I'm excited and nervous for her, too. Fortunately, the school isn't really any bigger than the one she's been used to for the past three years, and everyone I've talked to who has sent their kids there loves the place and thinks very highly of the teachers and administration. Still, it's a big change--more personal responsibility, more social situations to navigate, more crazy schedules to figure out. I worry how she'll cope in a new environment, and I hope it doesn't cause her to "shut down" or regress.
I comfort myself by remembering that, three years ago, I felt the same about the transition to middle school. She'd done so well during her 5th grade year, and she'd made so much progress. She had amazing teachers and an amazing support system, wonderful friends and a supportive peer group. I worried that she would lose all of this when she got to middle school, that she would flail and flounder and it would be a huge struggle for her. I worried that the teachers would not understand, that they might not have empathy, that they might try to fit A.'s square peg into a round hole that she simply wouldn't be suited for.
And I remember A. at the talent show last week. I remember watching her "stim," walking in this wide, pacing circle in front of the bleachers at the side of the stage. Instead of correcting her, or even redirecting her, the teachers simply arranged themselves in a very casual, barely noticeable circle around her. They positioned themselves so that they could provide a safe barrier for her, a space where she could express herself and "stim" freely. They would check in with her from time to time, but they were able to allow her to do what she needed, and it caused no distractions or problems at all. I also noticed that none of her peers seemed to take any notice of her stimming behavior at all. No one was staring at her, or pointing, or seeming to obviously talk about her. This was A., and they understood that this was what she did. They accepted it as part of their world, and no one seemed to find it odd at all. In fact, in the entire gigantic auditorium of kids and teachers, I was probably the only one stressing out over her stimming behavior, and once I noticed that no one else was bothered by it, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the show and I imagine that's how A. has felt throughout her time at this school.
And they all stood up and cheered for her. And her teachers hugged her. And I got so many messages that night telling me how proud they were of her, how impressed they were by her. She's had such incredible cheerleaders these past three years. And three years ago, I was nervous that no one would understand her or really "get" her.
So, I hope my nervousness about the year to come will be similarly diffused and debunked due to another community full of awesome, understanding teachers, and thoughtful friends and peers. I will keep my fingers crossed, and I will reach out like I always do let her teachers know what to expect, invite them to let me know if any issues come up. Mostly, however, I can't do much but wait and see. I just hope A. will be equally as blessed by her experiences the next four years as she has been these past three.
For the past three years, A. has desperately been trying to get a part in the annual year-end talent show. She was not able to do so in her 6th and 7th grade years, which made it pretty obvious that it must be a very difficult gig to land at her middle school. This year, she finally made the cut, and when I went to see the performance, I finally understood why it had been so difficult, which made me all the more proud of her accomplishment.
There was, perhaps, ten or fifteen acts that made up the entire talent show. When you're talking about a school whose population could easily fill a small city, one could only imagine what the selection process must be for such a showcase of talent. I'd initially suspected that there was preference given to 8th graders for the talent show, and I think that may have been part of it, but the individuals who were selected were really amazing and demonstrated a wide variety of talent from singing to dancing to playing instruments. Not only that, but the songs and performances themselves seemed to demand a heavier meaning and a creative edge that is normally not present in talent shows I had seen in the past. Even though there were no prizes given out, to have the privilege to perform at the event demanded a certain amount of competitive edge.
Considering that A.'s performance was her singing Avril Lavigne's "Keep Holding On," I was initially surprised that her act was selected to be a part of this end-of-year talent showcase. There were students who were performing piano solos, students who were performing interpretive dance, students who were putting together small brass ensembles to play AWOLNation's "Sail." They kept A.'s song until the very end of the show, as a sort of finale. I was interested in why they had chosen this placement for her.
Once my daughter walked onto the stage, however, I immediately understood how she had managed to make the cut, and why they'd decided to have her finish up the show with her performance.
I should take a minute to say that my daughter has absolutely no vocal training at all. She LOVES to sing. She was singing songs before her language had even completely developed, simply mouthing the sounds of the words to the tune of the music. Singing was really our first method of communication when she was a toddler, I composed different songs for every activity she would engage in to help guide her through daily routines, to help her understand what was happening next. She understood songs much more clearly than she understood words and spoken language, and it was our own little language. As she grew older, she kept this love for singing. Historically, A. has used singing as a form of self-stimulation a way to calm herself down in a different situation, a way to block out noise and chatter that distracts her. Singing in the car, singing in bathrooms, singing in her bedroom her voice has been a punctuation mark on our life together. That being said, we've never enrolled her in classes, or taken her to a vocal coach, or even got her involved in chorus at school. She never seemed interested, so we never explored those options.
That being said, my daughter has an amazing voice. Sometimes, she doesn't understand the complexities of range and cadence, but she can sing her little heart out and carry a tune better than most people in our family.
But when she stepped out on the stage at the talent show, it wasn't the voice that impressed me. Certainly, she had mastered volume, cadence, melody, pitch, and pacing but I had no doubt she would do amazingly well in those areas. What struck me was her stage presence. She held the microphone, she worked the stage, she commanded the audience. She worked both sides of the auditorium, opening her stance to the left, center, right, center if I didn't know better, I'd say she'd been coached on stage blocking. She had hand gestures, facial expressions, body movements that emphasized the lyrics. It wasn't just singing it was a complete performance. And it was amazing to see my daughter who is, admittedly, often rather clumsy and awkward in her daily movements and interactions with the world in such complete control, performing with such absolute power and grace. It was breathtaking.
And it would be easy for me to say to myself, "Well, I'm her mother. I'm obviously biased, and so I'm making this out to be a thousand times better than it actually was." But the entire audience was involved. Swaying back and forth, singing along an entire middle school gymnasium with full bleachers on both sides, 6th and 7th and 8th graders alike all transfixed and engaged in her performance. Afterwards, I heard stories from her teachers about how they like me were moved to tears by A.'s performance.
Nothing could have prepared me, however, for the end of her song. When she finished her performance, the ENTIRE SCHOOL STOOD UP. All of the students 6th, 7th, 8th graders. They cheered and screamed and gave her a standing ovation. These kids who share bus rides, cafeteria time, hallway exchanges, classroom antics these kids who have surely seen A. on her bad days, who have watched her melt down, who have seen her stimming they were all cheering for her, offering her such an incredible amount of support. They enjoyed her performance, but it felt like it went even deeper than that they were showing their support of A. in general, as a person, as their peer, as a part of their community.
Thankfully, I don't think any of them noticed the small, pregnant lady in the front row who basically collapsed over herself sobbing due to the absolute gravity of their applause, of their support. Because there probably isn't anything more embarrassing to a middle school student than having your mom crying over your talent show performance in front of the entire school.
A. made me promise not to take video of the performance, or to post it on YouTube. I think she wanted something personal and private something that belonged just to her. So, I will let her keep that memory, and curb my tendency to over-share, despite the fact that I wish I could show you, that I wish I could share just how amazing this performance was, and what a tremendous young woman my daughter has become. There could not have been a better finale to her middle school career.
A couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to take A. to see the musical Spamalot! This musical is very loosely based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- which, as I have mentioned before, is one of A.'s all-time favorite movies -- so I thought it may be something that would interest her. Additionally, considering her interest in theater in general, I thought it would be a great way to introduce her to more extensive stage productions. It was a local company performing the musical -- the theater group at our local university to be exact -- but they did a tremendous job, and the performance was very high quality considering.
It probably goes without saying that A. had an absolute blast. She was already sold on the idea before the lights went down and the curtain went up. Just being in a theater seemed to completely energize her, despite the fact that she wasn't allowed to get snacks and bring them inside. She poured over the program with actual interest, telling me what she knew about the writer, and stopping to ask me questions about pictures of other stage productions that were listed in the pamphlet. (She seemed especially interested in Sweeney Todd.)
That being said, the show itself went a long way in impressing her. She was expecting the Holy Grail references, but there were a lot of random Monty Python references in general which she also enjoyed. For example, they sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," which made her incredibly happy. There were also just a lot of random Monty Python silliness interjected in general. Having never seen the production myself, I wasn't sure what to expect, but A> seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
One of the things that was especially interesting was the fact that A. could not help but laugh loudly and enthusiastically at everything. We went on a Thursday evening, so many of the patrons were older individuals, possibly looking to avoid the crowds of the weekend. (A. actually turned to me and whispered at one point, "There are a lot of old people here!" and I gave her kudos for being thoughtful enough to whisper such an exclamation instead of announcing it loudly, which would have been something she might have done just a year or so ago.) A. and I got a lot of looks from the crowd -- nothing nasty or unfriendly (thankfully), but a lot of people looking at us with curiosity. A. was obviously not behaving in the most neurotypical fashion, to say the least. Also, here's a young teenager who can quote every single lyric of every single song that came from any Monty Python skit that A. had been familiar with. Maybe they were just impressed with her considerable knowledge on the subject. More than likely, they were trying to figure out what was causing her to be so vehement in her amusement. Or they just thought we were crazy, which is fine, too. Whatever the cause, I would just smile at anyone if I caught their eye, because -- personally -- I was enjoying and delighting too much in my daughter's enthusiasm about the play to really care what anyone else thought.
A.'s favorite part of the play, of course, was where the actors broke the fourth wall, and found the grail through audience participation. After the chosen "victim" sat down, A. clapped, and laughingly said, "lucky guy!"
At the end of the production, A. cheered and screamed heartily at everyone who took the stage for curtain call. The actors encouraged the audience to sing along with another rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and A. gave it her all. She danced in place, she laughed some more -- I honestly can't remember a time I've seen her quite that happy. Watching her level of joy, I couldn't help but break out into tears. I was simply so very happy to see my daughter so very happy. There was just something about seeing her taking so much pleasure in something so simple that completely overwhelmed me in the best of ways.
After the production was over, A. confessed, "I enjoyed that a lot more than I thought I would!" She also insisted that we start going to the theater more often. I remember getting similarly excited about musical concerts when I was her age -- just jumping down, screaming, singing along, and reaching a place close to ecstasy just by watching people on the stage. Now she's doing the same with theater. I agree -- we definitely need to do this more often.
his past Saturday, A. attended her first geeky convention. The convention she attended was the Knoxville Comic and Anime Con which was held at a nearby expo center this past weekend.
To be honest, I didn't have very high hopes of the convention. My first geeky convention was Dragon*Con when I was in my twenties, which was a massive event that spanned four hotels and featured a costume parade down the Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. A small, local convention that could fit inside a small shopping center seemed pretty pale in comparison for me. I was worried that, considering the small size of our town, there would be very few attendees, that no one would be dressed up in costume, and that A. would find it boring and disappointing.
I could not have been more wrong.
To be fair, I didn't actually take her to this convention. I'd made plans with out-of-town friends long before I knew this convention was happening, so I'd asked my mother-in-law if she wouldn't mind taking A. to attend this convention. I couldn't have been more happy about that decision considering the way it turned out. A. got to attend the convention with a cousin who has an equal appreciation of art and animation, and she also got to hook up with one of her friends from school (who, I should mention, decided to dress as a fallen-from-the-roof, bloodied Sherlock.) The three of them apparently wandered about, posing and taking pictures with people in costumes, and gathering autographs.
They got to meet a few "famous" people (I think A. was most excited about meeting Steven Butler because of his work with Sonic the Hedgehog) and they got to see a lot of neat things for sale by vendors. A., in her excitement at discovering "people who love the same things I do" started gathering autographs from anyone who was cosplaying in character so she now has a sheet of paper that has autographs from people like C. Martin Croker (the voice of Zorak on Space Ghost Coast to Coast) and the aforementioned Steven Butler alongside scribbles from cosplayers: "Harley Quinn," "Spy," and "Apple Jack." According to my mother-in-law, many of the cosplayers were taken aback by this request. Some of the younger kids in costume were not even sure what A. was asking for, so she would have to explain that they just needed to sign their name as the character they had dressed up as.
Which is another reason it was probably a good idea that I did not accompany A. to her first convention. I have such a great amount of social anxiety and awkwardness that I would have felt a little embarrassed at A. going around asking people in costume for their autographs. I would have probably felt a need to explain to her that this simply wasn't done, or at the very least I would have been stressed out and worried that A. might overstep some sort of unspoken geek etiquette when interacting with people in costume. Of course, she was fine. It doesn't really matter if the people she spoke to found it weird or strange or endearing they signed her book, and A. had a blast, and that was really all in the world that was important.
From the dozens of pictures that were taken of the adventures, it seems as if all of the girls had a blast. Specifically, my daughter who normally hates cameras, and who normally doesn't get too enthusiastic or excited about anything was grinning ear to ear, absolutely ecstatic about the convention. She even took pictures & videos on her camera phone something she normally doesn't do. She really seemed as if she was completely in her element as if she'd found the magical place where she finally fit in, where she understood the rules of the games, and where everything seemed fun and awesome.
Needless to say, this will be the first in many future convention adventures.
I worry a lot about how A. is going to react to a new sibling. I worry so much that I'm pretty sure I've gone overboard filling the next few months with awesome mother-daughter activities, such as shopping for clothes, going to see Monty Python's Spamalot together, finding time to explore this whole JumpJam craze in our city, and getting A. enrolled in a summer theatre camp. Between all of the things I have planned for her, in addition to all of the things she'll get to do when she goes to visit her grandmother for a few weeks, I'd be surprised if she complains about being bored at all.
I don't know why I worry so much about A.'s reaction to the newest member of the family. She's been pretty mellow about the entire ordeal. She's definitely not excited the fact that she can feel Kes move inside my belly almost freaks her out, and she's not jumping up and down at the idea of being a big sister. That being said, she'll check in with me from time to time. "How's Kes doing?" she'll ask. Or she'll be extremely adamant about the fact that Kes really needs a swing set in the back yard. Or, at the very least, a sandbox. It's definitely a very interesting adventure we're having these past few months.
Part of it, of course, is just watching A. mature. She'll be in high school next year, and she's beginning to act a little more like a high schooler every day. When she was struggling in math, she took it upon herself to start staying after school to get help on certain things, and even went as far as enrolling herself in the dreaded Saturday School when she needed to complete the work. She's wanting to audition for the talent show again, and she's taking it upon herself to figure out when the audition times are, sign up for those, and let me know when they are. She's been willing to try different sorts of foods on the weekends. Scrambled eggs have become a staple, in addition to low-carb pancakes two things that she didn't have much use for just a few months ago. And, she's continuing to expand her circle of friends, while her social interactions seem to be a lot more mature and rooted in real life.
On a personal level, I've found myself most touched by the interest and care she has been showing me lately. I've been really exhausted this past week when I come home from work, and A. has been very intuitive and empathetic to that. On Tuesday before I left for work, she even told me, "Don't get too tired today," because she's obviously concerned for me. On Monday, I curled up on the couch and watched her play Portal for a while, which was probably the most low-key way I could think of to spend time together. She seemed to enjoy it, however I don't know if it's the audience that makes her happy, or the fact that I provide ridiculous commentary.
Either way, I'm feeling good about life right now. I feel like this upcoming transition won't be so hard on A., after all, and I see her growing and changing, too getting prepared for a lot of things to happen in the next few months. One of the benefits of being home for a few months on maternity leave will be the fact that I'll be accessible for A. I'll get to spend the summer with her, too, and hopefully that means I'll get her out doing some things that might be a little outside her comfort zone. It will definitely be an adventure.
A little over a week ago, I could hear A. talking in her room. She was sitting in front of the computer, but it seemed like she was having a conversation with someone.
Being the nosy mother that I am, I poked my head into her bedroom to investigate.
"Who are you chatting with?" I asked her.
"Hold on a sec," she said, and then pushed her microphone up above her mouth. "A friend from Deviant Art," she elaborated. She showed me her friend's profile, and some of the art she'd created. I said okay, and told her to carry on, as I retreated back to my office space.
"Sorry, that was my mom. She just wanted to check in on me," she said.
Sometimes, it amazes me just how well my daughter knows me.
As I mentioned, I am a very nosy mother, so while I was sitting in the office, I eavesdropped on the side of the conversation I could hear. I listened to my daughter tell this girl about her day at school, listened to her ask about this girl's pets, listened to her claim our dog Pippin as a part of our family, listened to her explain to her friend that Pippin is part Corgi and part Terrier (a fact that I didn't even realized A. had retained). It was such a smoothly flowing conversation that I was a little taken aback. A. has a tendency to fixate on her specialized interests, and want to steer conversation where they center on games, YouTube videos, and silly quotes. However, here she was, having an actual conversation about real-life things.
A. has been chatting with this friend at least once a day over Skype ever since.
If that wasn't enough of a social milestone, A. started texting friends from school the same week. A. has had a cell phone for many years, and a smart phone for a few of those years, but she generally uses the phone solely to listen to Spotify and to check her Deviant Art account. Occasionally, she'll make a phone call to a friend from school, but even that is a rare exercise. I've sent her one or two text messages over the years, but she rarely responds. However, one day last week, I noticed her typing out little messages in iMessage. I asked her what she was doing.
"Oh, I'm just texting my friend E," she said.
"Is E. a friend from school?" I asked.
"Yep," A. answered, as the little keystroke noises continued.
Because I am a nosy mother (I mentioned this, right?) I asked her if I could read the messages over her shoulder.
"No," A. said, and explained that doing such a thing was rude a lesson that Thomas and I have been trying to teach her since she has a tendency to read what we are writing and typing over our shoulders much of the time. Obviously, a fair boundary. I asked her what she was talking about, and she explained that, mostly, she was role-playing with the characters she had created with her friend. Considering when I was the same age, I traded notebooks back and forth with my own friend, role-playing the "original characters" we created in our own little universes, this seemed pretty normal to me.
So, I've watched A. move from chatting out loud with her friend over Skype, to texting with her friend over her iPhone, and back again several times over the past two weeks. And I've been really proud of her, because it feels like she's making real social progress that she's opening up more lines of communication, and that she's expanding the time and energy she's spending on different peers. Definitely a welcome milestone to celebrate.
When this first started happening, I mentioned on Facebook that I was probably the only mother in the world excited that their teenager was finally learning how to text. Almost immediately, several of my friends who are parents of kids on the spectrum replied with a complete understanding of the excitement, either relating their own similar experiences, or expressing a desire to see more of that activity out of their own children. It's moments like that when I realize how not alone I am with these experiences, when I understand just how many other parents are out there mapping these same trajectories, sharing in similar triumphs. There is a definite comfort and joy in that shared understanding, in that larger network. And I'm so very grateful that I've found such a network.
A.'s sleeping patterns have really changed over the past year. For as long as I could remember, A. has always been an early bird. Even when she would have the opportunity to stay up really late (especially when visiting relatives) she would still generally wake up around 7 or 8 in the morning. She's always liked waking up early I think it gives her some quiet time to orient herself to her day. And of course, when she wakes up early, it gives her a lot of time to play video games, or draw things on the computer, or chat with her friends on Deviant Art.
The thing is, she still really enjoys waking up early. If I ask her to give me a time to wake her up in the mornings, she'll ask for some ungodly hour like, four in the morning and then we have to negotiate for a more reasonable wake-up call. (She's always been such a heavy sleeper that she sleeps right through all of her alarms. She's also difficult to pull up out of a sound sleep, and often involves me having to physically put her into a sitting position before she can transition into wakefulness.)
However, over the past year or so, she's slowly been sleeping later and later into the mornings when she doesn't have the responsibility of school or anything else. Casual conversation with other parents of young teenagers have revealed the same phenomenon our used-to-be early birds are now sleeping much later in the mornings, and are often very difficult to wake up early for simple tasks like, you know, getting ready to go to school in the morning.
There's been a lot of research to suggest that a teenage brain really is wired completely differently. When specifically related to sleep, it seems as if the internal clock of a teenager is geared to keep them awake later in the evening and sleepy later each morning. When A. first started showing signs of sleepiness in the morning, I considered having her go to bed a little earlier in the evenings, since sleep is just a vital part of cognitive development and learning. However, because her internal clock has essentially shifted position, an earlier bedtime doesn't necessarily lead to an earlier sleep-time, so we have to do the best with the time-frame that we have.
Our current routine goes something like this on school days, A. wakes up around 5:15am - 5:30am with much pulling and prodding from her dear mother, and generally a helpful loyal cat to help out by climbing over her and licking her face. She has to wake up so early because she wants to shower in the mornings before school, and since everyone in the household needs morning showers, we have to stagger them out so that there's enough hot water to go around. In the evenings, she starts to get ready for bed at 9pm each night, which means no live screen-time (YouTube videos, etc., even though she is allowed to keep using the computer for music, art, and creative projects), and also means she has to get into her pajamas, brush her teeth, and say her goodnights to everyone. Her lights-out time is 10pm, and she is permitted to listen to music if that helps calm her down and get her to sleep. Most nights, I think she's asleep by 10:30pm or 11pm, so while that is definitely not the greatest amount of sleep she could be getting by a longshot, it seems to work for her. As long as her sleep is uninterrupted, she's generally alert and awake during the day, and in an overall good mood.
To try to compensate for the tight schedule she has for sleep, I allow her to take naps when she comes home from school if she needs them, and I also allow her to pretty much sleep as late as she wants to on the weekends and when school is not in session. (If she's not out of bed by 11am, I do generally go in to check on her. At which point she generally wakes up, checks the clock, and proclaims, "Argh! I overslept AGAIN!")
I'm pretty sure A. is a lot like me, and if she had her way, she'd prefer to just NOT sleep entirely.
It's interesting to watch her progression into young adulthood, and it's good for me to keep in mind that these years are just as vital and important to her overall cognitive development as her childhood years were. Her brain is still developing, and there is a lot I still need to do to support, assist, and nurture that development. Even though she's turning fifteen in August, and will be starting high school next year, we still have a LOT left to work on.
Last week was A.'s Spring Break. On the one hand, she was really excited and enjoyed having an entire week off where she didn't have to worry about going to school. On the other hand, she was a little disappointed that she really didn't get to do anything super fun or exciting. Thomas and I both had to work, and I've been working late nights myself for the past several weeks, so she had to deal with hanging around the house, playing on the computer, and otherwise trying to entertain herself about 75% of the time.
That being said, we tried to do one or two interesting things with her throughout the week, and they seemed to go over very well.
The first weekend of Spring Break, we went to go visit my grandmother in Greene County. This is not A.'s favorite thing in the world to do, but it's been a little easier for her ever since my grandmother installed the Internet in her house. She also got a little ice cream treat while we visiting, and that seemed to make her happy.
I had to work late both Monday and Tuesday, but it gave A. an opportunity to bond a little with Thomas, and she seemed to enjoy the time they got to spend together. Wednesday night we found ourselves with an unexpected free night, so I called A. in the middle of the day and asked her to think about what she would like to do. She had some gift cards for the store FYE that she'd received for Christmas, so she called me in the afternoon and told me she wanted to go to the mall to spend them. So we took a little impromptu shopping trip to the mall, which was really nice. It's fun to be able to let A. just relax and enjoy herself without stressing out over what happens next, where we need to go, or trying to rush her because we have too many things to do. On the way home, A. was singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Monty Python, and it struck me that she hadn't seen the film Life of Brian yet, so I felt that might be a nice way to end the night. We got home, popped some popcorn, and watched the movie, which A. found hilarious. It was enjoyable, even though I kept falling asleep because I was so exhausted from work. Still, it was great to cuddle and spend time together doing something fun like that.
Thursday night, we took A. to Pizza Inn, which is by far her favorite place in the world to eat. This is partially due to the never-ending buffet, of which A. gets to choose from her three favorite food groups cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, and spaghetti with no sauce and she gets to eat as much as she wants. I managed to convince her to try a different dessert this particular evening (she usually goes for the chocolate chip pizza, but they had banana pudding pizza, too, and she was happy to try it.) It was almost disturbing how euphoric she was after eating the banana pudding pizza. She was hyper the rest of the night, which she claimed was because of the banana pudding, but I suspect it may have had more to do with the three cokes she consumed while we were there.
On Friday, A. got to go visit with her dad in Chattanooga, and she apparently had a great time. From what she tells me, her days consisted of eating more pizza, watching movies and video games, and spending time with her grandparents so I think that's a pretty good way to end a Spring Break. On Friday, after she returned, we went over to Thomas's parents' house to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday. A. seemed to enjoy that, too, even though she did hide out in the back bedroom from time to time.
It's interesting because we're both so very used to A. wanting her distance, hiding in her room, staying glued to her computer. However, on weeks like Spring Break when she doesn't get very much social interaction, she often greets us at the door when we come home, and she wants to chat, and spend time with us, and do things with us. It's a really nice feeling, and it reminds me that so much of A.'s obsession with electronics really goes back to a coping mechanism. At the end of the school day, she is socially exhausted, and she really needs that time to decompress, listen to music, and heal herself in isolation. When she doesn't have that overload, she really doesn't have a problem seeking it out. There was even one afternoon during Spring Break where she went outside and tried to find one of her friends to play with. It seems as if the older she gets, the more interested in social interaction she becomes.
Monday, of course, it was back to school, but I didn't hear as much complaining as I usually do. She seemed excited to see her friends again, and if her grades are any testament to how well she's coping in classes this year, then she's doing really well she brought home a report card with A's, B's, and C's this term. She'll probably never really like Wednesdays, and I don't think she's ever going to LOVE attending classes, but it seems like she's adjusted very well, and I could not ask for anything more.
Of course, now that she's finally comfortable with the life and routine of Middle School, we're going to change things around on her again and send her to High School next year. It must be really hard sometimes, to live in our crazy world.
So, A. had a pretty adventurous and rather momentous weekend.
On Friday evening, two of her friends stopped by for a small slumber party. She'd invited a few more girls, but they were not able to make it due to family obligations. The two who showed up for the sleepover were two girls who had never come over for a sleepover before, so it was an interesting change in dynamic. Many of A.'s friends have very dominant personalities they like to pick activities, and they tend to sort of "run the party" when they visit. A. doesn't mind she really enjoys them when they are here but she does tend to get a little overwhelmed after a while. She's generally the first girl to pass out at a slumber party, and she tends to withdraw a lot the day after. I've always felt that she must be "normalizing" or "de-stressing" after all, sleepovers can be pretty intense social situations.
This time, however, it was completely different. The girls who spent the night were much more laid-back and unassuming. They would all discuss things that they wanted to do and then get an almost informal vote on the items before they engaged in an activity. They were excited about any of the ideas A. had, even when those ideas were just taking turns decorating things on A.'s Minecraft server. They all seemed to be having a blast when I turned in to bed around 11:30pm. When I woke up at 4:30am, I could still hear them dancing, listening to music, and laughing in A.'s room. I went in to check on them, fully expecting A. to be sound asleep while the other two girls stayed awake. Much to my surprise, A. was still awake, too! I never can remember her staying up so late at a slumber party before. The next morning, she saw her friends off, and proceeded to tell me how much fun she had, and how this particular slumber party had been an absolute blast. Most noticeably, she didn't seem to fall into the usual withdrawn quasi-depressed state that often follows her after a sleepover.
Far from it, in fact.
You see, later that day, one of Thomas's cousins was getting married. I'd already assumed A. would not want to go to the wedding she wasn't particularly close to the cousin, and dressing up in dress clothes while engaging in nonstop social activity wasn't something I imagined she would really want to do. All the same, I figured I would ask and invite her, just in case. Much to my surprise, however, A. decided that she did, in fact, want to come to the wedding. Moreover, she wanted to dress in a pretty dress. So after scrambling and letting her borrow some of my pre-pregnancy clothes, we got her in a nice purple dress with a black cardigan and some new dress shoes. She even let me put a little frizz-control curl product in her hair and a little bit of makeup on her face. We headed to the church where, outside of getting slightly aggravated any time she had to wait for a little while, she did amazingly well. She even seemed to enjoy the service, and smiled at the cute little ring bearer and flower girls who meandered down the aisle.
After the wedding, we were trying to decide whether or not to go to the reception. Pretty much all of Thomas's family was in town, and we wanted to spend more time with them, but the reception was a bit of a drive, and I wasn't sure how much more A. would be up for. So, I let her call the shots. I asked her if she wanted to go to the reception. I warned her they might not play cool music, I didn't know whether there would be any dancing, and we had no idea what flavor the cake would be.
Much to my surprise, A. wanted to go to the reception. Specifically, she said that one of the reasons she wanted to go was to actually spend time with people. (Well, that, and eat cake, of course.) So, we decided to encourage this behavior since she seemed to be so open to trying new things and pushing her social comfort zone. The reception was a lot of fun, and A. had a blast. She got to eat delicious cake, she got to share funny Minecraft YouTube videos with her cousins on her iPhone, and she even got up and danced a bit. After the reception, we invited a whole bunch of family over to our house, and A. did very well for several hours among all the chaos and kids running up and down the stairs and in and out of her room. Finally, she did have enough, and because she'd been so good all day long, I gave her a rare treat I gave her permission not only to close, but also to lock her door. I let her have complete privacy for an hour or so, after which she happily came downstairs and said goodbye to everyone.
There seriously was a point in the day where I kept thinking to myself who is this young lady, and what has she done with my daughter?!
Still, I shouldn't have been too terribly surprised. A. has these sort of "growth spurts" every so often where she seems to exponentially progress from a social and developmental standpoint almost overnight. These phases are often followed by some "growing pains" almost a two steps forward, one step back sort of situation. Even if I can tell myself not to be surprised, I can't help but be extremely and amazingly proud of her. None of what she engaged in over the weekend was easy, by any stretch of the means, but I'm impressed that she managed all of it so well and with so much grace. It definitely was not your typical weekend, but that was far from a bad thing.
When I returned from my big conference in February, I was able to look forward to the middle school production of The Wizard of Oz, in which A. got to play the role of the Door Keeper.
What door keeper, you might ask? The one who was at the gate to Oz, of course, the one who lets you know, "Nobody can see the Wizard, not nobody, not nohow!" It wasn't a very large role, but A. had a few lines, and she delivered them awesomely. She projected very well her voice filled the entire gymnasium, and she wasn't even wearing a microphone. She had energy, enthusiasm, and was very true to character. Moreover, the part of the door keeper was the part she actually wanted. We'd discussed possible roles before she went to audition, and she decided that the door keeper was just zany enough to be her kind of character.
The performance itself was very well done. For a middle school production, the play put my own meager high school drama club trials to shame. There were several strong actors and actresses, and it was obvious that a lot of time and energy had gone into every detail of the show, from lighting cues to stage blocking to set design. Granted, it was still a middle school production, but I couldn't help but be very proud of this group of kids who'd devoted so much of their lives to this small play for the past several months.
What was most impressive to me, however, wasn't the way A. delivered her lines, or her own impressive acting abilities. What was most impressive was, at the end of the show, the way A. stood at curtain call to take her bow, and how much she clapped for everyone else involved how she watched the other actors and actresses join the cast line, and how she cheered them on, clapping her hands, laughing and looking at her peers with a face beaming with pride. It was the first time I think I'd seen A. actively take an interest in being a part of a collective, or part of a team she understood that the show was much, much bigger than her rather small part, and she still had so much pride to be contributing and connected to something that was so much bigger. It was the level of social awareness that impressed me, and it was the fact that she obviously took so much joy and excitement in the entire project that completely delighted me. Her level of commitment and camaraderie was outstanding. In short, I think I got to watch her engage in an activity that she truly had a great deal of passion for, and it gave me hope that this may be a wonderful outlet for her in years to come.
Granted, I'm the mother, and as the mother, you tend to be a little biased when it comes to your own child's talents and capabilities. Still, I felt a little validated in my thoughts when the drama teacher asked to meet me, and I spoke with her briefly about A.
"She really has a lot of talent," her teacher told me. "She really needs to get involved in theater."
"We've been talking about having her join the drama club when she goes to high school," I said.
"Sure," the teacher said, "but I'm talking maybe the Oak Ridge Playhouse, or some of the other local theaters."
So, I've been keeping an eye out for casting calls and auditions around the community, even though I honestly don't know the first place to look.
And it's not about finding a career path, or preparing for college, or any of the numerous reasons I guess parents are supposed to want their kids to get involved in extracurricular activities. It's because I saw a real confidence in A. on that stage, a real desire for her to be a part of something greater, to help create something amazing for others to view. I definitely want to do everything in my power to help encourage that, and to help foster that creative energy as long as she keeps the interest.
Besides, she comes by it honestly. I was a theater nerd who sought out other theater nerds when I was in high school. Her biological father got involved in some dramatic productions during high school, as well, if I'm remembering correctly. That being said, I'm pretty sure she's already putting the both of us to shame. But that could just be the Mommy Pride talking. :-)
This past Monday morning, my husband was involved in a pretty serious car wreck. Fortunately, he was not badly hurt just banged up a bit and a couple of gashes on his head but the car itself was totaled, and the event has made for a rather stressful week.
When I talked to A. on the phone after school let out, I went ahead and prepped her for the situation. I wanted to let her know that Thomas would be driving a rental car so she wouldn't be confused or upset when he wasn't driving his regular car home.
"OMG is he okay?!" she asked. When I assured her that he was, she said, "Oh, thank God, thank God!"
Then, later, we showed her the picture of the totaled vehicle, and Thomas also showed her the big gash on top of his head. It was interesting to watch her mind work, to see what she was concerned about.
"I'm glad you're okay," she told him. "I don't know what we'd do without you!"
Despite her dramatic leanings, A. is not necessarily one to express her emotions in detail very often at least not to her parental figures, in any case. When I get a sleepy or a quick "love ya" in response to me letting her know that I love her, I always feel warm and fuzzy inside, particularly because it is such a rare occurrence. Obviously, we know that she cares for us, and that we are important to her, but like any teenager, it's just not something she verbalizes very often. So, when A. was voicing her concern about Thomas's car wreck, it was a pretty heart-melting moment.
Then, of course, she went into more detail.
"I mean, who would fix everything for us? And if you weren't around, we wouldn't have as much money, so we wouldn't have this nice big house we'd have to move into a small house or an apartment."
I couldn't keep myself from laughing at this particular statement, and A. called me out on it, but I told her I was just overcome by how true it all was. And, that's the thing it's such an incredible amount of insight for someone her age. I've never sat down and explained to A. the fact that when we moved from a single-parent income to a dual-parent income, that changed our standard of living tremendously. A. has asked me about our life when I was still in graduate school, before. She remembers when we shared the tiny, run-down, one bedroom apartment, and she remembers going to the laundromat, and she remembers the little treats she used to get a glass bottle of cola, or a small snack at the gas station. We were talking about this stage in our life one day when she seemed to figure it out. "We were really poor, weren't we?" she asked. And it wasn't as if we were destitute, or going hungry, or unable to meet our basic needs. But it was a lot different than the life we live now, and I think that's made a big impression on A.
Still, that obviously wasn't all A. was concerned with that Thomas would still be around to fix things, or that he would make sure we wouldn't slip into poverty. She gave him a huge hug, and lingered around the kitchen for a while as we prepared dinner something she doesn't normally do.
"We should do something together," she told Thomas, out of the blue. "You and me."
That's not entirely a novel concept, either. A. has really reached out to Thomas a lot lately for one-on-one time, playing video games together, or going out to eat. She explains that it is "bonding" time, and she definitely craved a lot of it while I was out of town for work. The two of them even got to spend some quality time in the snow together. Thomas actually used FaceTime on his iPhone to let me watch the two of them play in the snow. It was awesome to be able to take a break on my way to a meeting to sit and watch and listen to them laugh and play and throw snowballs at each other. It's just one of the many reasons I love technology.
I also love technology because it keeps my loved ones safe. It deploys air bags, it crumples doors and hoods in the right manner to cause the least amount of impact to a driver, it allows texts to go through assuring me everything is fine, it allows us to research replacement car options. It make sure my husband returns home from work safe and sound. Because, as A. pointed out, we really don't know what we would do without him.
Life has been so incredibly busy and crazy these past few weeks that I've completely neglected to share the news we received back during the first week of February. Thomas and I will be bringing another girl into the family, and A. will have a little sister in just a few more months.
We scheduled the anatomy ultrasound for early in the morning for several reasons. First of all, it makes it easier to not miss quite as much work if you begin your day at the doctor and then head back to the office afterwards. Mostly, however, I'd promised A. that she would be in attendance when we found out if the new sibling was a boy or a girl, and an early morning ultrasound was a great way to make sure she missed the least amount of school while still being able to participate in the event.
A. was much more engaged and interested than I would have expected. She wanted to know what certain shadows were on the screen, why certain things turned certain colors, what part of the baby we were looking at each moment, and -- of course -- whether the ultrasound technician could tell if it was a boy or a girl. When the ultrasound tech finally revealed that the baby was a girl, A. yelled triumphantly, "I knew it!" and "I win!" As a little bit of backstory, pretty much EVERYONE -- myself and Thomas included -- had a gut feeling that the baby was going to be a boy. That probably just goes to show how completely off my intuition is at times. A., on the other hand, said it was going to be a girl -- even though, to be fair, she was saying it mostly because she wanted it to be true. A. was a little leery at the idea of having a little brother, but a little sister was something she felt she could be okay with. When A. was broadcasting how she was right all along and proclaiming that she was the winner, I couldn't help but wonder if she was more excited because she had "guessed" right, or simply excited that the baby ended up being a girl, after all.
The knowledge hasn't really changed any of our regular proceedings, however. We've still painted the nursery blue in preparation for our Doctor Who theme. We're still registering for a lot of gender-neutral items and accepting hand-me-downs from any gender option, because we are always grateful for any help we can get. Despite A.'s obvious gender profiling in the announcement picture she designed for us, she's maintained a very liberal attitude on such matters, as well -- perhaps because she sees herself as a sort of a tomboy, and she hopes to model that same behavior for her little sister. Still, it's exciting to know the sex, and it definitely seems to have helped ease A.'s mind about the baby a bit -- my guess being that it helps her feel a little more prepared for what is about to come.
A. has also agreed to have her picture made in relation to the "baby bump" that is her little sister, and she's also felt the baby kick -- a phenomenon she has decided is "just kinda weird," and I can't say I particularly disagree with that one. She wanted to know how exactly it was possible for a baby to kick in there. It is kind of mind-blowing when you stop to think about it -- just what all is entailed in creating a little person, and how strange it must be to view all of that from the outside. I am grateful that A. seems much more open to the idea of being a big sister in general, and that she seems to be engaging more about the subject of her own volition. Hopefully by the time June rolls around, she'll be very prepared and ready to welcome this new little stranger into our home, and she'll know a little bit better what exactly to expect. Or, at least, she'll know as much about what to expect as we will, which is really the best one can ever hope for.