But I do believe I could have blogged a Joy-Thanksgiving pretty much every day of the month. It has been an incredible November!
Here a just a few of the Joy-Thanksgiving events of November. Milestones, not just inchstones!
Joy's participation in her school music class annual program was more robust than it's ever been. Her music teacher burned a CD of the songs in the program to send home, and we loaded them up on Joy's iPad so she could listen to them at will. This year's show was in honor of Veterans' Day, so we had patriotic music mixed in with Joy's usual Baby Einstein soundtrack. Her favorites among the program were This Land is Your Land (mama approves, even if they didn't include the populist-protest verses!) and a little marching ditty called I am Proud to be an American (not the Lee Greenwood "God Bless the USA" song, thank goodness.) On concert day, Joy's class was stationed at one end of the risers, so Joy could stand or sit with her staff members next to her class. She marched in place a little bit in the right place, and waved a little flag, and made it through the whole show. Proud, proud mama!
Some days later, when GrampaK came over for lunch one Saturday, I was telling him all about the concert and Joy's participation. Joy was on the couch with her iPad -- and as I told Grampa about the songs on the iPad, all of a sudden the iPad started singing I am Proud to be an American. Which means that Joy not only followed our conversation and acted upon it, but she also must have gone deliberately to the music-program song list rather than playing Baby Einstein. Oh. My.
Then there's this e-mail message to share from one of Joy's school staff the week after the music program, which sent me over the moon for the rest of the workday:
Just have to share my goosebumps delight from the first ten minutes of [Joy] and my day. Tons of language in context. No cue prompts. We sailed thru our multiple tasks and I can't stop smiling. Wish u had been here to shareThat day, something came home that made me smile even wider: Joy's first homework. Oh, we've had schoolwork tasks come home before, but they were always framed in terms of showing us what Joy's working on in school, rather than actually being called HOMEWORK. I was surprised how deeply this affected me -- all it entailed was a square 4x4 grid, on which Joy was to place smaller paper squares, using the terms "take" and "put." But the importance of it was driven home a week later, when I was asked by another kiddo on the schoolyard, "Does Joy ever have homework?" and I was honestly able to say, "Yes. Yes, she does."
In the wake of all that, you might guess how much smiling went on during Joy's parent-teacher conference mid-month! I was surprised to see Joy's team so well represented, having only been sure that the teacher and case-manager would be there, but her student-teacher/SEA and her speech therapist and her occupational therapist were all there too. So much good news to share, together with ideas for how to tweak things even better!
The best piece of news from that conference, as far as I was concerned, was the piece of construction-paper artwork above Joy's locker. It turned out that they'd had a class project making construction-paper clouds with rainbow bands dangling below, where each cloud had the student's name and each rainbow band carried an adjective describing the students. Most students came up with their own, but since that's not Joy's scene just yet, the teacher invited the students to help come up with a rainbow of adjectives for Joy. She said they were just tumbling over one another with suggestions, and the themes were all directly from the kids. Here's what they came up with:
Technical (they refined this one from "computer-y" in admiration for her iPad mad-skillz!)
Even after just a couple of months, my daughter's classmates know her really well, don't they? Because that rainbow there is an awesome representation.
The LEND trainee who came along to observe the conference was deeply impressed, and we had a fine conversation afterward about the importance of inclusion even when a student isn't in the classroom. (There's a whole 'nother blogpost in there, my friends!)
But wait, there's more.
This past week, Joy was invited to not just one but TWO birthday parties, together with her sister. On back-to-back days, yet! The first party was for a neighbor and the venue was a bounce-house facility. How perfect is that? Joy bounced and bounced, and repeatedly tossed a bouncy-basketball up through a basketball net (from the bottom up, rather than making a basket, but who's counting?) Then after an hour and a half of bouncing and sliding, the kids all herded into a room with tables for cake and ice-cream and present-opening. And Joy sat down between two kids she didn't know, with Rose a little way down on the other side of the table. Once we got her served with goodies and lemonade, I went over to the edge of the room and sat on the benches with the other parents. And stayed there, while Joy competently ate by herself and drank her drink and hung out uncomplainingly!
While I sat, a gregarious dad with a German accent served me cake, and then asked me if that blonde girl in the green shirt was my daughter. "Yes," I said, preparing for the usual autism-solidarity conversation: is she on the spectrum, I have a close relative who is, etc. "She looks so much like my niece!" was what I heard instead. "I did a double-take, she could almost be her twin!" JUST LIKE ANY OTHER KID. No disability-related content to the conversation AT ALL. I can hardly remember the last time I had a conversation with a stranger about my daughter that went that way.
And then we had another party the next night, for a classmate of Joy's, who also has an older sister who's a friend of Rose. This one was at a gymnastics-sort of facility, with crash pads and climbing ropes and play structures and swingsets and free arcade games like air hockey and basketball.
Joy shot hoops with glee, over and over. Look at her go!
Among the guests were classmates both past and present, who are happy to interact with Joy but also to give her the space she needs. Then crowning delight came when we learned that the birthday girl's mom had assembled a special goody-bag just for Joy, full of stimmy-delights instead of the pencils and Blow-Pops that interest her so little.
Daily Thankgivings are hardly enough. We are grateful beyond words to see our daughters grow and mature and move forward.
May your own celebrations of gratitude be plentiful and delightful!