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It feels like forever since the hellstorm of last spring and summer (well, also the fall. and the winter).
We have come a long, LONG way.
Elsa is doing astoundingly, amazingly, wonderfully well. Her teachers (same as last year, thank goodness) say she is a new child. I have to agree.
We have none – NONE of the explosive traumatic meltdowns anymore. This drama and crisis is gone. The heartache and fear is gone. She is not on any meds. She goes to OT twice a week, and takes fish oil. And she has an environment at home now in which she is cherished, given room to be herself, accommodated for her differences and sensitivities.
She gets lots of second chances. Because she needs them.
And guess what? She TAKES them – and is so happy to be able to be GOOD, and to comply with expectations. She’s longer living in a hyper-controlled environment where her presence was perceived as a threat, and where she was consistently treated as The Problem.
Sure, we have the occasional crying fit and the defiant moment. She still has ADHD and she still has SPD. But I’m telling you, there have been maybe two times since we moved back home (in May) when I’ve seen her really lose it.
And those times were predictable (she was either sick or ridiculously tired – in both cases, I saw it coming, but either didn’t have the energy or ability to prevent it). She’s much MUCH more in control of her impulses, she’s more able to communicate her frustrations, and she’s learned how to control herself to a huge degree.
She back to her sunny, energetic, strong-willed, hilarious, sensitive, loving self.
Thank you God.
Look at that.
If there was ever one photo that captured Elsa’s essence, it is this one. She is bold, fearless, bursting with enthusiasm and unbridled joy.
I am head-over-heels for this child. She truly takes my breath away.
Dear God, please let me walk through the world just a little bit more like Elsa does.
Happy birthday to my little box of sunshine, the greatest gift in my life.
what a weekend my family and friends gave to me.
a lovely row saturday morning, thanks to my sister, who babysat Elsa. a mellow afternoon with Elsa, followed by a super-fun dinner with good friends. sunday morning breakfast out with my girl, then a playdate with friends. sunday afternoon i was escorted to a SURPRISE birthday party organized by my sister and my mom. so many loved ones there. i was totally shocked, and totally overwhelmed with gratitude.
i have felt unhinged for so long.
today, for the first time in a long long time, i feel… hinged.
if only i could be:
strong yet gentle and sweet, always
sensitive to suffering in those around me, and lean in to comfort them
fiercely protective of the ones i love
able to bounce back from a horrific start to become the most loving companion possible
patient and uncomplaining
wanting only to please
unfailingly affectionate, even when neglected
happy simply to lie in the sun, smell the wind, run in the grass
truly present in each and every moment
devoted, in the truest sense of the word
then – perhaps – i could be half of the wonderful being that you are.
that you were.
i will never forget you, my beloved India
On this day, four years ago, Elsa and I arrived at San Francisco International airport.
My little box of sunshine and I have been family for four years now.
I am so blessed.
And, as is now tradition, I’m sharing the photo montage I submitted to Ethiopia with my annual report.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
~ by Mary Oliver in Dream Work (1994)
To get myself inspired, I just went back and re-read last year’s post on Elsa’s birthday. It had some interesting foreshadowing. But one really nice thing is that the Elsa fundamentals haven’t changed:
Elsa still has a big BIG personality, with very strong opinions, and is intense about just about everything.
She can be a bull in a china shop, yet is a very sensitive little person.
She still sings in the morning.
She still cracks me up.
She is generous with other people. She is the ultimate extrovert.
But in the last year, she has gotten more complex as a person, which is so lovely to see.
She’s a big fan of superlatives, especially those she invents herself. Things are the mostest, the bester, the goodest, and if something is extra good, it’s a hundred million thousand good.
She spontaneously tells me she loves me. She loves school. She loves to draw. She kisses and hugs with great enthusiasm.
She is about as princess-y as humanly possible. She loves dress-ups, sparkles, fairies, unicorns, tiaras, Barbies, and all the associated detritus. But she’s also rough-and-tumble and will happily tackle anyone who wants to wrestle.
If there was such a thing a Toddler Princess Football team, she would totally sign up.
When asked her favorite color, she will reply “rainbow“. (Actually, until very recently, she said “rainboat“, but she’s now figured out the pronunciation. Which bums me out a little – I liked “rainboat” very much.) But I am struck more by the substance of her answer : why pick one color, when you can pick them all? That’s Elsa in a nutshell.
She is doing terrifically well on her medication. She is also loving OT and I can see that it’s going to be hugely helpful for her. There is a lot of work ahead of us, but I can tell she is going to soak up all this stuff like the smartie sponge that she is.
I’m so excited about her new school (starts Sept 6th!) and her wonderful new teachers, who are already engaged with the rest of her “team” to make sure that she has the best possible experience.
I think Elsa as a four-year-old is going to be truly something to behold.
today, we’re almost two weeks into a trial of an extended-release drug for Elsa. It comes in a patch that goes on her back. (well, it’s recommended to go on the hip, but any toddler is going to pull that thing right off if it’s in reach, so i put it up in between her shoulder blades where she can’t get at it.)
the first day i put the patch on, Elsa asked a million questions about it. she loves stickers, so instead of a patch, i called it a sticker. it is clear, and kind of disappears once it’s on. she calls it her “magic sticker”.
i explained that it has medicine in it, so only a grownup can put it on or take it off. it hurts a little when it comes off, but i try to take it off quickly then give her a little treat for being brave. she doesn’t love that part, but we talk about how the sticker helps her feel better and helps her slow her body down.
in the last week, we have exactly zero meltdowns. some crying, yes – but normal 3-year-old little crying at normal things. these last a few minutes and then – poof! – all is forgotten and we are back to normal.
her energy level is still very high. she is still willful and challenging. she still hates transitions. and she’s still a chatterbox. her sunny personality, thank God, is still very much there.
the thing that is gone is the explosiveness and the volatility and the tantrums. i am starting, just starting, to no longer walk on eggshells around her, afraid to say or do something that will set her off. i can correct her, or redirect her, and it’s not the start of a downward spiral. she can now endure a time-out without overreaction.
she’s loving her occupational therapy sessions, she’s more able to participate in them fully, and i can already see some changes there.
yesterday, one of her teachers at preschool pulled me aside and told me that Elsa seems more mature lately, and that she is much less impulsive.
magic sticker indeed.
[so much for retirement]
Well, it’s here again – March 25th. On this day, three years ago, Elsa and I (and my intrepid friend Clare) stepped off the plane at San Francisco International airport and came home (thanks to my other intrepid friend Kate who picked us up!).
I have been blessed with this amazing little sunshiney soul for three years now.
Last year, I posted the photo montage I submitted to Ethiopia with my annual report. Thought I’d share this year’s with y’all, too…