Merry Christmas! We hope your holiday – in whatever way you observe this time of year – has brought peace and joy, plus a little rest and sanity, to your family.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the holiday season trying to take a thoughtful look at my life, particularly at all the good and positive things in it. I wanted to list some of them here, both for my own benefit and also to encourage others to perhaps do the same. And 25 felt like a good number given the season. So here goes. (Complete with illustrations!)
1. This year we became the Flashlight Four. Having Dale Jr. as part of our lives these past almost-eight months has opened up a whole new world of wonder for us. He and the J-Man hardly seem like they could be more different, and because of that we have two unique-in-all-the-world gifts in our lives. What could be better than that!
2. I am glad for the words and approximations the J-Man has now. While the label ‘minimally verbal’ seems to have stuck for now, his growth in speech over the last 12 months has been wonderful. Greatly expanding picture communication has opened up new worlds for us in our ability to communicate with each other. And it’s impossible to overstate how wonderful communication is.
3. I’ve gotten some perspective. While I still have a lot to learn about myself, my limits, and how to set priorities, I feel like some important lessons are starting to finally sink in.
4. The J-Man’s teachers, therapists, and school – what they have given to him and to us has been immeasurable. We will forever be thankful for them.
5. Every time I see the J-Man do something new, seemingly out of nowhere, I am filled with awe. He’s taught me to be more awake and aware, and especially to never underestimate him. Clearly he’s been a good teacher to Dale Jr., too, who is showing that trademark stubbornness and determination.
6. All the little things both of them make me notice that I never noticed before. It’s the wonder that comes from trying to see at least some of what each of them sees. I feel like I have a whole new set of eyes.
7. Watching when the J-Man’s incredible determination and persistence comes out full strength as he tries to complete some task that’s very hard for him. And then watching Dale Jr. carrying on that tradition.
8. And then watching their faces light up when they know they did something new and awesome. That “I did it!” look is worth more than all the gold in the world.
9. Watching the boys starting to inch by inch interact with each other. It’s still awkward and hesitant on the J-Man’s part, but we’re so proud of how he’s handled this stressful year for him.
10. Seeing how much Dale Jr. idolizes the J-Man. He reaches out to him and smiles at him whenever the J-Man is nearby. He’s going to be an amazing little brother.
11. Having them both relax in my lap while rocking in the recliner. The three of us together like that is pure, unfiltered happiness. And the goofy moments are awesome, too.
11. Our new calming song – me singing Amazing Grace to the J-Man. Not sure why or how, but it’s like it completely resets him. It is in some mysterious way grace itself.
12. Hearing Dale Jr.’s wild laugh – 300% adorable baby laugh + several parts laughing monkey.
13. How Dale Jr. smiles and gets so excited when he sees me come in the room and when he’s on his way to bed.
14. Those times in the morning when the kids sleep in 20 or 30 minutes and Mary and I get to lie there in bed next to each other, quiet, relaxed, and with no other care than just to enjoy it.
15. All the great parents we’ve come to know through the school, the community, and our blog. Like you!
16. Watching the J-Man learn to draw with more intentionality, and wondering what it is he’s drawing. He’ll stand at his new easel and draw lines and arcs with such thoughtfulness. I’d give anything to know what he’s thinking as he draws.
17. Watching my dad and either or both kids snuggled up together in the chair. It’s like watching time and timelessness converge.
18. My grandmother surviving ovarian cancer, because she kicks butt that way – and knowing she lived to see her last great-grandchild. Her health is still tenuous, and it’s been very hard for her of late. Her strength in the face of everything inspires me each day.
19. That all of the changes we’ve made to incorporate more structure and sensory work into the day is seeming like it’s really working. He’s doing a lot better, particularly compared to a month ago when everything seemed to be coming unraveled.
20. Seeing how methodically the J-Man works through his tasks at his desk in our home classroom. He’s developing patience with the world and with himself. He sorts shapes, strings beads, and does so many other things he couldn’t really do even a short time ago!
21. Both kids learn so fast! It seems like one day they can’t do something, the next day they work on it, and then they’ve got it.
22. Dale Jr. is already doing high-fives. I never get tired of it.
23. Mary tolerates all of my shortcomings, quirks, and all the dumb or annoying things I do. There are plenty of days lately where I don’t know how she puts up with it. Without her, I don’t know what I’d do.
24. Everyone who spends any time around them loves our children immediately. That they bring out the goodness and happiness and love in others leaves me full of pride and joy.
25. Looking back on the last year has filled me with wonder, and looking forward to the next fills me with hope and expectation.
So – complete with a bunch of underlines courtesy of the J-Man…