“OK, sweetie, give me a pretty smile and show me what four years old looks like!”
“OK, sweetie, give me a pretty smile and show me what four years old looks like!”
How is it possible that my baby is four years old today? It seems like only a short time ago that she was cradled in my arms, the needy baby who insisted that she was always attached to me. She lived her first year in my arms or strapped to me in some way. And while she is more independent now, she still comes to me every evening, asking, “Can I sit wif you?”
At the same time, I wonder how it’s possible that only four years have passed since Mira joined our family? It’s hard to remember a time when she wasn’t babbling loudly about some random subject, taunting her older sister, spinning in circles until she falls down, or stomping her foot in protest at some slight.
Mira is convinced she can do anything, and telling her no only encourages her to try it. That would be why my brand new can of sunscreen is empty after she found it one morning and applied “just three sprays” to herself and everything around her, draining the can.
When scolded, you can see her deep in thought, already trying to determine how to get out of the situation and working on what to do next. She has no shame in approaching anyone – even strangers – and attempting to manipulate them to get what she wants. But just when you reach your breaking point with her, she swoops in with an, “I wuv you” and a hug and completely disarms you.
Despite her speech apraxia, Mira talks nonstop. She will repeat herself several times if you don’t acknowledge her the first time – although acknowledging what she said only leads her to continue on to a new tangent. But practice does make perfect, and her speech is getting better and better, even if I do wish she’d understand that silence is occasionally a Good Thing.
At four years old, she’s already had a boyfriend. She’s already determined she wants to be a mail carrier or a train engineer when she grows up, and plans to drive a pink car. And she plans to be a mommy, too.
She’s my social butterfly. My drama queen. My force of nature. (Tsunami? Hurricane, maybe?) The child who will keep my stylist in business from needing to color over all of the grey hairs she gives me. The girl with the pretty curls and long eyelashes who will likely keep Aaron up late at night when she’s out with friends as a teen.
As much as I laugh at how stubborn and unruly Mira can be, I love how aware she is of everything around her. She’s funny and knows how to say just the right thing at just the right time. She never forgets anything said to her. She has an eye for fashion and loves to pick out her own clothing. (Pink, of course.) Her favorite animals are polar bears and she never falls asleep without her precious pink stuffed polar bear tight in her arms.
Happy birthday, Mira. You’re four years old now, but that doesn’t mean you get to drive yet. Sorry, little girl, you have to wait to grow up. But trust me: enjoy being small while you can, because you’ll have a lot of time to be an adult. And you can’t just smile and say “I wuv you” to get out of trouble as an adult.
So I completely forgot to mention last week that I ran a 5K on May 14. I know, who forgets to brag about something like that, right?
Actually, I went into it with the intent to walk most of the 5K. I was mostly supporting my husband, who has been training for the past 3 months and decided the Komen Race for the Cure 5K was going to be where he put himself to the test.
During that 3 month period, Aaron taught himself how to run, lost 20+ pounds (he’s totally kicking my butt in weight loss), and was ready to take on his first 5K. During that same time frame, I went to my bootcamp classes, ran a couple of times, lost a couple of pounds, and well…didn’t do anything nearly as impressive as him.
On the day of the race, I lined up with the non-competitive runners. I haven’t had the chance to run more than a day here and there lately, so I didn’t expect that I was even going to make it further than a few blocks without needing to stop for a walk. Aaron was ahead of me with the competitive runners. He didn’t expect to place in the race, but he wanted the timing chip so he could see his exact finishing time.
When the bell sounded, I pressed play on my iPod, took a deep breath, and started the run. I was helped by the amazing energy of the people around me – they were all so happy and excited. (Me at 8am? Less so.) The first few blocks were a bit of start and stop as the crowd needed time to thin out. I tried to stay to the side because I was a slower runner and didn’t want to be in anyone’s way.
Quickly I realized my iPod was going to be trouble. It has a problem where the songs will “scramble” when the headphones are in, meaning it’ll play a few seconds of the song, then scramble the song on high speed for a few seconds, then shift to another song, where it does the same thing. So I found myself jogging slowly while trying to hard reset my iPod, put the headphones back in, and try again. It gave me a few songs in a row before it would scramble again, but those few songs were better than nothing. I need music to distract myself from the reality of running.
We made the first turn, and I was surprised I was still running. Then the second turn came two blocks later and I was hurting, but still running. A huge hill was in front of me, though, and I realized I couldn’t make it up the hill. I stopped to walk, a little disappointed, but also reassured by seeing others slow down to walk up the hill.
Once we reached the top of the hill, I decided to go back to running. My lungs ached at the greater effort again, and although I couldn’t hear it over my music, I’m sure I sounded wheezy as I gasped for air. This part of the run was slightly downhill and after a couple of minutes I finally fell into a comfortable pattern. I was still working hard, but I wasn’t hurting.
The next leg of the race took us around a local park. My side was starting to hurt again, so I made a deal with myself that I’d walk when I reached the north end of the park. I kept that agreement, slowing down to walk along the entire north end of the park.
As we made the final turn for the (long) home stretch, a guy in a lobster costume passed me by as I was walking. I’m being passed by a lobster? Surely I can run again if this guy in a full-body costume is still running!
I forced myself to run again, but at this point it was getting hard. During the final stretch I took a couple of short walk breaks, just to catch my breath, and then threw myself forward into running slowly again.
I didn’t see my exact time when I crossed the finish line, but I believe it was somewhere around 44-45 minutes. Not a great time, of course, but only slightly longer than the 5K I trained for back in the fall.
While I had planned to walk most of this 5K, I instead ran most of it and only walked a small portion. I was exhausted at the end, but proud of doing more than I had intended.
And Aaron? He finished at 30 minutes, which is a very respectable time for his first 5K run. I’m proud of him for accomplishing his goal and getting so fit in the process. Hopefully we can both find time to run during the summer and sign up for other 5K races.
Again, if I can do this, anyone can. It just takes baby steps to do so. Had you told me five years ago that I’d be running in a 5K, I would have laughed at you. Yet it’s happened, thanks to making small changes here and there.
We’re less than two weeks away from the end of the school year in our district. While I should probably be focused on what on earth I plan to do with my children during the summer months (answer: summer camp for most days), I’m actually already looking ahead to the next school year.
Cordy started kindergarten in a way that I wasn’t all that happy with. I had big hopes that she would be deemed “ready” to be placed in a mainstream kindergarten class, having conquered the difficulties brought on from autism.
I occasionally have to remind myself that autism is for life, and many of the challenges it can cause don’t vanish into the mist with a little therapy.
So I grudgingly agreed with the school assessment that she should be placed in a special-needs classroom and given some “inclusion” time with the typical kids. I feared it would mean that she wouldn’t get much time in the other class and would only drive her further away from normal.
I’ll admit I was wrong. Cordy has done very well in her class this year. Her teacher has put in a tremendous amount of work to help her cope with social situations, coach her through her anxieties, and encourage her to spend time in the typical kindergarten class. She’s coaxed Cordy into showing what she knows academically (Cordy is very shy about demonstrating any talent), sharing that she can read at a second grade level and will likely qualify for the gifted education program. And Cordy now spends up to half the school day in the mainstream classroom with few problems.
Why am I concerned with next year then? Easy – I’ve been anxious over determining where she belongs next year.
Cordy is academically advanced for most first grade subjects. Letting her go to a mainstream first grade class would challenge her socially, but would mean she didn’t get the academic challenge she needs. On the other hand, keeping her in a special-needs class would guarantee more specialized academic education, but she wouldn’t get the social challenge she needs.
It’s a dilemma.
Luckily, Cordy’s amazing kindergarten teacher may have come through for us again. She told us that one teacher will have a “split” class next year, meaning it will be made up of a mix of first and second grade kids. Her suggestion is to have Cordy attend that class, while still staying on the homeroom roster for the special-needs classroom.
Here’s how it would work: Cordy would check in with her special needs teacher each morning, then go to class in the mixed grade classroom, where she’d get both the social challenge of being with typical peers and the academic challenge of being in a class that also has second graders. She would be a member of that class, but if she had any problems she could go back to the special-needs class for however long was needed to address the issue that day.
On paper…err, e-mail…it appears to be a fantastic option. I’ve asked to meet the new teacher and hope to do so in the next week to finalize the details of this plan. To say that I’m thrilled that a split class has been formed would be an understatement. A mixed age group is exactly what Cordy needs – ideally, we would have sent her to a Montessori school, but private schools are outside of our budget.
Of course, a lot of the credit for getting this plan in place has to go to my sweet, hard working, preternaturally charming Cordelia. It helps that she has the entire school enchanted with her, from the principal who made an exception to keep her at that school, to other teachers who have declared they want her in their classes when she’s older. Not only has she put forth a lot of effort this year to practice the bizarre (to her) social requirements of society, she’s also fought back some of her stubbornness to allow herself to be taught, all while keeping up her aura of charisma.
For being socially awkward, she sure knows how to reel them in to get what she needs.
I’m hopeful for the next school year – more hopeful than I’ve ever been, I think.