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March 21, 2021

Thumper Turns Eight

2:58pm

My darling Thumper,

You are not so little anymore.  You are EIGHT YEARS OLD.  I keep writing it out in all caps because I can hardly make myself believe it.  How can you be EIGHT???

When you were born, we knew that you would be our last baby (barring something wild and miraculous happening).  So it is hard to think of you as a second grader, a big kid, and an EIGHT YEAR OLD.  You are a cuddler and a snuggler, and you don’t want to be a big kid.  You want hugs and kisses, tickles and backrubs.  You sneak into our room every morning, and before you try and steal an iPad (or this morning, your brand new Super Mario Game & Watch handheld game) you climb into bed next to me for a morning snuggle.

I’m not quite ready for you to grow out of that, so please don’t.

This year has been a messy and difficult one.  Your last birthday was in lockdown, but you didn’t care – except that you were missing people.  Very, very, very slowly, those people have started to come back into your life.  Your therapists all came back over the summer, and very soon, you will see your teachers in person instead of over Zoom.  The adjustment back might be difficult – I still am shaking my head over your hesitancy in getting out of the car at school for pictures – but I know that you will be able to do it.  You might not believe in social distancing at all, but the hugs are returning, and you are happy.

However, you are now a full-fledged screen addict (even worse than before) and when Flash stopped working on your old Chromebook (Ane’s old one that she used for school until she needed to upgrade), you became a skilled sneak and your brothers now complain that you have opened up new tabs on their Chromebooks where you can play games.  (Here’s hoping that new birthday present curbs that impulse a smidge.)  Your ninja skills are still unparalleled in this house.  Your ability to play “Name That Tune” when it comes to movie soundtracks is second to none among your siblings.  We can slowly tell that you are gaining more speech, and – amazingly – you have begun to script!  Hearing the sound of your voice, even when using someone else’s words, is a fantastic experience for us.  We know that you are progressing rapidly in ABA – five sessions a week will do that, especially with a dedicated and competent behavior tech – and even though we have yet to conquer the overnight potty training mountain or the scream that can shatter glass, we know you are gaining skills.

And you are still beyond cute and still have not really grown into your eyelashes.  I don’t think you ever will.  But you will always be my sweet baby Boo, even though you are EIGHT YEARS OLD now.

You are so loved, and we know that you know that, because you love us so hard back.  Happy 8th birthday, you stubborn little tickle ninja cookie monster.

Love,
Mama


March 8, 2021

Exuberant Eleven

2:48am

Dear Rerun,

I can hardly believe it, but you are eleven years old today.  Since the school shutdown began last year just before your birthday, this entire last year has been consumed by what you weren’t able to do.  It’s been a tough year for all of us, but especially you.

First of all, we owe your beloved Ms. B so very much.  Without her, I honestly don’t know how this last year would have gone.  She has been a consistent adult presence in your life, and the couple of times that we have been able to see her in person has meant so much to you.  She’s helped keep me sane as well, because I know that there is no way I could have kept up with your homework on top of what your brothers were doing.

Second, I worry about what a year at home has done to your personality.  I really felt that we had a breakthrough moment right after summer camp last year, when you were so sad about it coming to an end.  It was if we were right on the verge of making a social leap forward… and then school stayed remote, and you have had no chance to make any friends through a Zoom grid.  It was a lost opportunity, and now you are saying things like “I never want to go back to school.”  Not negotiable, son.  You need to work on getting along with your peers.  I’ll give you a pass on getting along with your siblings, but you really do need to gain back the social skills you have lost.

Third, you are on YouTube way too much – yet another side effect of online school.  Fortunately, your interests are rather harmless and annoying, but you’ve become as bad as your brother when you’re trying to play games instead of paying attention.  Good thing Ms. B can turn tabs off remotely on you.

Finally, my sweet big boy, I really wish this last year could have been different for you.  I read last year’s letter and we just had no idea what was coming our way.  You have been a real trooper in this past year – plus you learned some important skills, like how to ride your bike.  In this coming year, I want you to learn skills like making and keeping friends.  I am hoping to find a way to make that happen, and soon.

I love you dearly, Rerun.  You are too smart for your own good, too sassy to escape punishment at the hands of your older siblings, too bossy with Thumper, too clever to make me believe that you’re too stupid to learn, and you love very hard.  You never do anything by halves, kid.  Everything is black and white to you, and this year has been tough because of your perceptions.  But we love you oh, so very much.

Happy 11th birthday to my own personal “evil genius” who still likes a good cup of tea and a funny dog video.

Please keep giving me hugs every night.  I love you more than you can understand.

Love,
Mom


December 27, 2020

Seventeen And Still Standing

1:47am

Dear Ane,

This is not the letter that I thought I would be writing to you on your seventeenth birthday.  Usually, I try to make these letters humorous and inspiring and pushy – all the things that moms can get away with.

This year has not turned out at all like we thought it would.  You have been struggling in ways that I both understand and fail to comprehend.  In the wake of something that none of us have ever lived through before, we have all struggled, but your struggle is unique in the family.  That is mostly because you have more of a life outside of the family, and yet you’ve been stuck in here with us for months on end.  Though I do think that, in retrospect, the smartest thing we did, and we didn’t even realize it at the time, was have you get your driver’s license before we even used the word “coronavirus” in casual conversation.

How different it is from last March, when we thought we might be out for only a few weeks, and we snuck you off to Maui for a week before the world basically stopped moving.  Even that trip, as fun as it was, foreshadowed what was to come when you were given a mask to wear on the flight home.

The school year ended in a mess, began in chaos, and we still don’t know which end will be up when it is all over.  I know you are struggling, and that your struggles are reflected writ large in the student population – which is pretty much the only reason you weren’t grounded into oblivion when the progress reports came in.  Pandemic or not, online school or not, you CAN pull it together and do better.  Grace will only stretch so far when it comes to your grades.

I am glad that you are working, because I do feel like that has been one of your saving graces since this summer.  I am glad that you and your “homies” are so close, even though our efforts to maintain some kind of social study group has faltered due to scheduling and other families’ need to self-quarantine for different reasons.  I wish I could make things different, better, easier for you – but I can’t.

I remember being seventeen very vividly, and your seventeenth birthday is happening under circumstances that haven’t been seen in a century.  Your junior year can’t even be compared to my junior year.

The powers-that-be like to claim that you and your peers are “resilient,” which we all know is code for a thousand things, and none of them reflect what is best for you or your peer group.  Despite the alarmism and panic that those in authority would like to continue to push on you all, to your emotional detriment, you, my dear daughter, must live in hope.

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18

I don’t know when this will all come to and end and life will begin to look more normal, but we both know the One who does know.  You might feel crushed, in despair, and abandoned, but you are not.

Hope lives within you.

So, on your birthday, while I can’t promise you much, I can promise you that there is hope.  There is love.  There is joy.  There is peace.

Your dad, brothers, and I all love you so much, and while this isn’t the birthday you thought it might be, we will make the best of what is.  Today, we celebrate you, you amazing girl.

Happy 17th birthday, Ane!

Love,
Mom


September 7, 2020

Our First New Couch

8:34pm

In 20 years of marriage, the Webmaster and I have never bought a new couch.  Our first one was bought secondhand from someone my mother knew, who was downsizing a room.  Our second couch came from my aunt and uncle when they replaced their living room set.  Our third couch (which we needed to replace) was from my step-uncle and step-aunt when they bought a new couch.  The kids had pretty much shredded this last couch to the point that I had been covering it with blankets when people could see it over Zoom.

It being Labor Day, the Webmaster and I decided to just find something, ANYTHING, so long as it was in one piece and didn’t look like it was going to fall apart.

So we picked one out from World Market, which was in stock at our local store, and the Webmaster ran over to Home Depot to rent a truck by the hour to fetch it, and then take the old couch to the dump (along with some other items).

First, we moved the old couch out to the front yard.  This was extremely appealing to all the kids.

Tad began to have a meltdown over getting rid of this couch, but it was happening.

The new couch arrived and it was greeted with great enthusiam by everyone but Tad.

He is currently refusing to sit on the new couch.  We shall see how long this lasts.