Little Girls, Birthday Parties, and Bathroom Stalls

Facebook.  I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I love that I feel connected to the outside world when I can’t actually get out into the world. I enjoy seeing pictures of sweet little boys and girls who’ve lost their first tooth.  I love seeing all the pictures of families at Christmas. And Facebook is one of my favorite things on the planet when someone posts something that makes me laugh on a really tough day.  But then there’s the other side of Facebook that I hate. I don’t enjoy people arguing about the current or former President.  People share the best parts of their life and I compare it to the worst parts of mine.  And I find myself feeling empty and less than.  And then there are the pictures of little girls at birthday parties.  You would think I would enjoy those pictures but they’ve always made my heart ache.  I’ve carried a secret around for 11 years that has hurt too much to talk about. Mikayla and Hope have never been invited to a birthday party.  I’ve waited for years for them to have a friend.  And last year I celebrated as I watched two sweet girls from church befriend Mikayla and Hope.  My dream for them to have a friend came true and I began to believe that other dreams I have for them can also come true.  Maybe someday they’ll be invited to a birthday party.  That would be amazing.

I was driving to church one Wednesday night in January.  Life was beating me up and I was feeling pretty hopeless.  I parked the van and the girls started jumping out.  I told our older girls, Taylor and Brynna, that I needed a moment to myself and asked if they would take Mikayla & Hope to class. I looked up to heaven and I said a desperate one sentence prayer.  God, would you put someone in my path tonight who will speak something that will give me hope?  

The very first person I ran into was Amanda.  She told me that her daughter, Katelyn, wanted to invite Mikayla and Hope to her birthday party.  The party wouldn’t be until March but Katelyn was already making plans.  Amanda was telling me that Katelyn wanted to have the party at a children’s museum.  And then I burst into tears.  Is this really happening?  11 years of waiting and my girls are finally going to be invited to a birthday party.  I began to explain to Amanda the reason for all my tears.  I told her that Mikayla and Hope had never been invited to a birthday party. And that I had never told anyone because I didn’t want to be the one to make it happen.  I could’ve went around to other moms and complained or cried about my girls never being invited to a party.  And someone would’ve felt sorry for them and invited them.  But this was happening simply because they were loved and wanted.  I had asked God to send me someone to speak something that would give me hope.  And He answered my prayer within only a few minutes.  My girls finally being invited to a birthday party renewed my hope.  God cares about every detail of our lives.  Even the little details that no one else knows about.

I’ll never forget the day that Katelyn handed me the invitation to her party.  I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the dinosaur on the front of the invitation.  Mikayla and Hope love dinosaurs.  I put the invitation on the refrigerator.  It was a reminder for me to take them to the party.  But it was also a reminder to never give up on my dreams.  Don’t give up even if I have to wait for more than a decade.

March 18th was the day.  We loaded up and headed for the children’s museum.  The girls enjoyed watching Katelyn open her presents.  They were all smiles as they ate their cupcakes and ice cream.  And then they got to explore the museum and have fun being with their friend.

About halfway through the party I took Hope to the restroom.  She looked up at me and she said “Where’s my friend?”  I told her Katelyn was probably playing with some of her other guests.  And then the tears started to come.  Not in Hope’s eyes but in mine.  “Where’s my friend?”  It’s a question I never thought I would hear her ask.  She has a language disorder so just the question itself coming from her mouth was a miracle.  But it was so much more than that.  A friend was something I wasn’t sure she would ever have.  A birthday party was a place I wasn’t sure she would ever be. But yet here we were in a bathroom stall and it was all happening.  A friend, a birthday party, and a question that brought tears to my eyes.  My heart overflowed.

The invitation to Katelyn’s party is still on our refrigerator.  It reminds me to never give up on my dreams for our girls.  Don’t give up even when the road is long and I feel like my dreams will never come true.  Don’t give up when Facebook constantly reminds me of what my family doesn’t have. Because one day my dreams for our girls just might come true.  And if they don’t come true I can always choose to dream new dreams.

When You’re Between Two Paintings

 

Two paintings hang on the wall in our living room.  Our oldest daughter, Taylor, painted both of these masterpieces.  She was only 6 years old when she painted the one on the left.  I can still remember her sweet face and how she beamed with pride as she showed me her very first painting.  She’d only been going to art class for 2 months.  I was amazed at what she was able to accomplish in such a short time.  Taylor was 19 when she completed the painting on the right.  She was all smiles as she turned it around for me to see.  My mouth dropped open and I squealed with delight.  I grabbed it out of her hands and I hung it on the wall in the living room.

One day as I was sitting on the couch admiring Taylor’s artwork I started thinking about all that had happened between those two paintings.  It took 13 years to get from the painting on the left to the painting on the right.  So many things happened that people will never see.  Taylor spent many hours learning how to paint and practicing over and over again.  She painted over mistakes that none of us will ever know about.  I drove her to class every week and I waited 2 hours for class to get over.  I wrote more checks than I can count.  And there’s dad who worked hard those 13 years to pay for the art classes.  And we can’t forget about Grandma.  Grandma took Taylor to art class for an entire year after Mikayla and Hope were born.  She didn’t want me to have the stress of packing them up and taking them with us.  Getting from one painting to the next painting cost our family something.  It wasn’t always easy.  But it was worth it.

In the last two months our family has been faced with two extremely difficult decisions.  We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.  Anxiety wrapped itself around me and nearly choked me.  My sweet husband and I have had a lot of discussions (um….I mean fights) about what we should do.   I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate.  And finally we’ve found the answer to both situations.  The answer to the first decision is yes.  This yes came with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear attached to it. Our family will be going through a lot of changes because of this decision.  But even in the midst of fear we chose to say yes.  The answer to the second decision is no.  This no came with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.  I wanted the answer to be yes.  I dug my heels in and I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Why can’t Brett see that the answer is yes?  It’s so obvious that the answer is yes. And then the day finally came when I heard God whisper the answer into my heart.  And His answer was no.   I was devastated.

Something happened to me once the decisions were made.  Even though I knew we’d made the right decisions I felt empty and hopeless.  I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks.  The process of walking through the decisions has been difficult.  I’ve had to give up something that I really wanted.  I’ve had to say yes to something that scares me out of my mind.  Life’s going to look different than I thought it would look.  As all of the disappointment and uncertainty were swirling around inside of me God reminded me of the paintings.

He said: You’re between two paintings.  This is the part that no one sees.  This is the part that costs something that no one will ever know about.  This is the part when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and yet you choose to go on.  Trust me during this time of disappointment.  Trust me when My plans look different than your plans.  You’re acting like this is the final painting in your story.  But it’s not.  You’re in the middle of your story.  I know the plans that I have for you.  And they are good.   

This moment with God gave me hope.  God can paint a better picture for my life than I could ever paint.  He’s taken the paintbrush and He’s painting over my mistakes.  He’s painting over the plans that I made.  He’s painting over the disappointment that makes my heart ache.  And I believe one day I will step back and look at His painting of my life.  And the no that broke my heart in 2017 will suddenly make sense.  Because I will see that His plan was better than my plan.  I will see that He painted things into my life story that I would’ve never thought to add.  I pray that if today you are feeling hopeless and disappointed that you will turn to the One who will give you hope.  If life doesn’t look anything like you want it to look turn to the One who is writing your story.  And trust Him.  Trust that His Word is true.   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

 

 

When Dinosaurs Start Talking

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I was a couple of weeks behind on grading Brynna’s schoolwork.  I settled myself on the couch and I was determined that this would be the day that I would get completely caught up with my grading.   As soon as I opened the first book I became distracted.   I was totally mesmerized by what was happening.  This was a moment in time that I wasn’t sure I would ever see.  I put my pen down because this moment deserved my full attention.

Hope was sitting on the area rug playing with her dinosaurs.  She was pretending she was Poppa.  Then she would switch and pretend that she was Arlo.  Poppa gave Arlo a rousing speech on what he should and shouldn’t do.  Arlo was grateful for Poppa’s advice and he said “Thank you, Poppa. I love you.” And then Poppa said “I love you too, Arlo.”

Pretend play.  It comes naturally to a lot of kids.  Our older girls had no problem with pretend play.  Taylor and Brynna were mommies to a lot of dolls throughout the years.  Tea parties were a frequent social function that we attended in our living room.  Taylor dressed up as Tigger and bounced to the back door every day when her Daddy came home.  He had to remember to call her Tigger and not Taylor or he got in trouble.  Brynna enjoyed dressing up in a ladybug costume and playing with her Dora the Explorer castle.   Brynna, Dora, a unicorn, and a dragon had a lot of adventures together.  I’ll never forget the day that we were playing in the backyard and Taylor told me that she used to live in a puddle when she was a duck.  You used to be a duck? Yep.  Pretend play.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Pretend play doesn’t come naturally to all kids.  Mikayla and Hope have never had the desire to play with a doll.  We’ve had a few tea parties but they lasted about 3 minutes.  Dress up has never been fun because of their sensory issues.  It’s hard to have fun when the itching is driving you crazy.  Why can’t they be like their older sisters?  Why can’t we have fun pretending?  I used to force pretend play on them.  They didn’t like it.  So I gave up.  Now that they’re 11 years old pretend play is finally happening at our house.

The girls bought a SpongeBob play set with some of their Christmas money.   I was walking through the living room when Mikayla yelled.

You’re going to jail.

What?  Is she talking to me?  What did I do to deserve going to jail?  Guess I better find out.  So I asked her Who’s going to jail?

Charlie.  He’s going to jail.

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Charlie is the criminal who came with the SpongeBob play set.  Mikayla looked at him and she named him Charlie.  He does kind of look like a Charlie.

Why is Charlie going to jail?

He stole somefun  

That should be “something” for those of you who don’t speak Mikayla.

So Spongebob dragged Charlie off to jail.  Not sure how many years he’ll get.  I guess we need to schedule a court date and start the trial.

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Progress never comes as quickly as I would like it to come.  And when it comes it rarely looks like I thought it would look.  I never thought that pretend play would be sparked at our house by a policeman named SpongeBob and a criminal named Charlie.  Or that it would come when they were 11 years. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Mikayla and Hope is that faster isn’t necessarily better.  When progress is slow I’ve learned so much along the way.  I’ve learned to appreciate the uniqueness of each of our girls.  I’ve learned to love them because of who they are and not because of what they do.   I’ve learned to breathe in and take time to appreciate the little steps they’ve taken along the way.  I’ve learned that pretend play is a gift that can be unwrapped at any age.  When dinosaurs start talking I listen, smile, and wipe a tear from my eye.  And I thank God for creating a special moment in time.  A moment that I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t had to wait for it.

Someone Has Anger Issues

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Mikayla, come brush your teeth!

Total silence.  Where is she?

Mikayla, come brush your teeth!!

Still total silence.  I’m tired and slightly irritated.

Mikayla!  Get in here right now!!!!  I’m not gonna say it again!!!!

That girl knows when momma means business.  She stumbled into the bathroom with her yellow angry bird tucked under her arm.  She squeezed his wing and he said “Someone has anger issues!”   And there you have it.  Truth straight from the bird’s mouth.  That crazy bird says all kinds of phrases.  But at this exact moment he decided to focus on my anger issues.  Really?

Life as a parent to little sweethearts who have special needs isn’t easy.  Our girls talk all day long.  They perseverate on a certain question or phrase and they say it a million times a day.  I constantly deal with behavior issues (the girls and my own).  My brain usually turns into a pile of goo by 3 p.m. When bedtime rolls around I’m exhausted.  I want little girls to show up when it’s time to brush their teeth.  I want people to stop talking.  I want my bed.  I have a right to be impatient at bedtime.  Right?

It’s been several months since my encounter with that angry bird.  Every time anger begins to rise up within me I hear his words ringing in my ears. Someone has anger issues.  And that someone is me.  Anger is my enemy.  It sneaks in and it steals my joy.  It makes me bitter instead of better. God is gently and consistently reminding me that anger and impatience are not ok.  Together we’re going to conquer my anger issues.  He’s making me painfully aware of how often I allow anger to control me.  Countless times in the last few months I’ve felt anger rising up within me.  And each time He gently shows me that I’m allowing anger to control my life.

I collapsed into bed on Christmas night.  I began scrolling through facebook.  It looked as if everyone had a picture perfect Christmas.  Anger began to bubble up within me.  Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  But this day wasn’t wonderful.  We were at my parents house and Brett spent most of the day in a room with our little sweetheart who couldn’t maneuver her way through a meltdown.  Our problems don’t disappear just because it’s Christmas.  Sure wish they could disappear for just one day.  Why do some families get to enjoy Christmas and our family just tries to survive Christmas?  It’s not fair. Someone has anger issues.

We pulled into the drive thru to get the girls some lunch.  Chaos ensued.  The girls started screaming their orders.  Why are you doing that?  I asked you what you wanted when we were at Walmart so you wouldn’t do this.  Sigh.  Then they started fighting with each other.  The guy taking our order couldn’t hear us and we couldn’t hear him.  I really get tired of this.  Why does this happen almost every time we eat out?  It must be nice to be one of the families who eats inside of the restaurant.  But look at us.  We can hardly maneuver our way through the drive-thru.  Great.  Now I have a headache.  Someone has anger issues.

Why do I have to attend IEP meetings every year?  Lots of parents don’t even know what an IEP meeting is.  I used to be one of them.  Someone has anger issues.

Why is everything hard for our girls?  Why do they have to struggle every day to do things that come easily to most children?  Someone has anger issues.

Life was already hard enough before anxiety came and pulled the rug out from under me.  I have enough to deal with.  Why does anxiety have to be thrown into the mix?   Someone has anger issues.

Yes, it seems like I’m continually dealing with the issue of anger in my life.  God is lovingly and patiently helping me find my way back to a life of joy. A life of being thankful for what I have instead of angry about what I don’t have.  Thankful for the sweet moments with our girls that God highlights and wants me to remember.  Like the moment when we were walking into Walmart and Mikayla’s little hand reached for mine.  And I heard the Lord say “She may always want to hold your hand.”  I smiled as we walked hand in hand.  Mikayla and Hope may never outgrow their need to hold Mommy’s hand.   I will hold their hands for the rest of my life and enjoy every moment.  I believe that as I begin to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t have I will see my anger issues disappear.  And joy will return to my life.  And it all started with a silly angry bird who spoke truth into my life.

Top Posts of 2016

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Can you believe it’s the last day of 2016?  Thank you for following my family’s journey this year.  Here are the top 5 posts for 2016.

#5  Sensory Processing Disorder: A Day at the Dentist

I still cringe when I think about Mikayla and Hope’s visit to the dentist in July.  I was embarrassed and I felt like a horrible mom.  But then I found a note in my mailbox from the ladies at the dentist’s office.  They didn’t look at me and see a bad mom.  They looked at me and they saw a good mom having a bad day.  It’s no surprise that this post would resonate with my readers.  I think we often listen to and believe the lie that we’re bad moms. But the truth is that we’re good moms just having a bad day.

#4  Putting My Trash Out for Everyone to See

I didn’t want to write this post.  I put off writing about it for months because I didn’t want everyone to know that I struggle with anxiety.  But then one day as I was cleaning the basement I felt that it was time to write about it.  So I hit publish and here it is at #4 for the year.

#3  The Case of the Missing Coats

This post makes me look a bit foolish.  I ran all over our church looking for coats that were still in our van.  But God used my foolish moment to lead me to the right person at the right time.  I learned a valuable lesson.  Searching for the answers to our girls futures is much like searching for their missing coats.   I ran all over the church trying to find their coats but I didn’t find them.  It was when I stopped and asked God for His help that the coats were found.  I can run all over this earth searching for services, therapists, and schools for our girls and not find them.  But if I just stop and ask God to help me He will answer.

#2  Putting the Pieces Back Together Again

This post was about my husband fixing our washer for $15.  God reminded me that He wants to fix those areas of our life that are broken.  Sometimes a part of our life will work for years and then it will suddenly no longer work as well as it used to.  Homeschooling was a piece of our life that was no longer working for Mikayla and Hope.  We decided to enroll them in public school and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made

And the top read post in 2016 was:

#1  The Night Her World Fell Apart

This post was about Mikayla processing the disappointment of Grandpa’s birthday party being canceled.  She experienced her first ugly cry.  It was a moment that broke my heart but yet it made me happy at the same time.  Because once upon a time our girls didn’t show emotion.  We crawled into bed and I just sat and listened to Mikayla and Hope share with me what things are most important to them.  This moment taught me to slow down, listen, and savor the moments with our girls.

Happy New Year!

The Day Sensitive Santa Came to Town

A few weeks ago I saw on Facebook that a local hospital was having a Sensitive Santa event.  Children who have sensory issues and/or autism could schedule a special time to visit Santa.  No waiting in line at a crowded mall.  This is amazing.  I decided I was going to call the next morning and make an appointment for Mikayla and Hope to meet Santa Claus.

A very nice lady named Mary answered the phone.  She began to ask questions about the girls.  Is there anything they needed to be aware of that might bother the girls?  Do they have any food allergies?  Is there a special snack they would enjoy?  She said there would be a photographer and we would receive a flash drive with pictures free of charge.  Santa would be giving each of our girls a gift.  Mikayla and Hope would meet Santa on December 17th at 1:00.

The girls were super excited when they woke up on the 17th.  Hope kept saying “Santa’s gonna give me a present!”  I asked her what kind of present she thought he would give her.  She said “A candy cane!”  I knew Santa was going to give them something much better than a candy cane.  But it was nice knowing Hope would be happy with just a candy cane.

We were met at the front door and a nice man led us to Santa’s private suite.  I told Mikayla and Hope to go first and we would follow them.  The girls were acting a bit shy but they were brave and went through the door first.  Santa gave a jolly greeting.  “Well…….Hello Mikayla and Hope!”  Santa had a jolly laugh that made all of us giggle.

Mikayla marched right up to Santa and sat on his lap.

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He told her that he had a present for her.  Mikayla’s eyes lit up with excitement.  Santa helped her open the package.  It was a set of Melissa and Doug stainless steel pots and pans for her play kitchen.  dsc02094

Hope got really excited as she watched Mikayla open her present because she knew that Santa was going to have a present for her too.  What did Santa get for her?  It was finally her turn.  She quickly ran up to Santa and jumped in his lap.

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And sure enough Santa had a present with Hope’s name on it.  She grinned from ear to ear as Santa helped her unwrap the package.  It was a Melissa and Doug Mixer set.

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The girls stood and gazed at their new presents.  They talked excitedly about their new toys and what they were going to cook in their play kitchen. Santa asked them to make him some cookies.  He said chocolate chip cookies are his favorite.  The girls thought that he was funny.  The ladies  who were helping Santa kept saying “They are so cute!”  Yes they were.  Our girls were absolutely adorable.

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They hugged Santa and thanked him for the presents.  Then we went to the snack room.  The girls ate goldfish crackers and drank milk and juice. All four of our girls were given a gift card to McDonald’s.  A lady printed out some pictures of the girls with Santa for us to take with us.  I was so thankful for such a wonderful day with Santa.

This day wasn’t just about our girls meeting Santa Claus.  It was so much more than that.  Kids who have sensory issues are often overwhelmed by the world they live in.  They spend every day of their life trying to adapt to a world that is too loud and overwhelming.  Standing in a long line to see Santa in a loud, crowded mall can end with tears, a meltdown. and a lot of disappointment.  But on this day the world adapted to our girls.  We didn’t wait in a long line.  We were escorted to see Santa as soon as we entered the building.  Santa booked a quiet, private suite.  He set aside 20 minutes of his time just to be with our girls.  There was chocolate milk for Mikayla and white milk for Hope.  Our older girls were recognized and given a gift because someone who planned this day understands that having 2 sisters with special needs isn’t easy.  Taylor deserves a couple of frappes from McDonald’s and Brynna deserves some french fries, an apple pie, and a large Sprite.

This day brought hope back into my life.  The hope that there will be more days like this in our future.  That our future won’t always be spent adapting to an overwhelming world.  But that maybe, just maybe, the world will find moments to adapt to our girls and help them to not be so overwhelmed by their world.  I’m so thankful for this day.  This day when we didn’t have to stand in a line.  This day with no tears.  This day with no meltdowns.  This day when our girls found total acceptance.  The day that Sensitive Santa came to town.

When Your Child Asks for the Toy of the Year

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A few weeks ago I asked Hope what she would like for Christmas.  She didn’t hesitate to give me an answer.

I want a Hatchimal for Christmas!

A Hatchimal?  What in the world is a Hatchimal?

I went on Walmart’s website and here’s what I found out:

Hatchimals are magical creatures that live inside of eggs. Who’s inside? It’s a surprise! Each egg contains one of two interactive Hatchimals. Love and care for yours inside the egg and its eyes will light up as it makes cute sounds, telling you how it’s feeling! Once you’ve played with it enough, you’ll see rainbow eyes—that means its time to hatch! Hatchimals can’t hatch on their own. Your touch encourages them to peck their way out of the egg! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Now you get to raise your furry Hatchimal through 3 stages, from baby to toddler, to kid. Your Hatchimal sings “Hatchy Birthday” each time it enters a new stage! Teach yours to walk, dance, play games and more! It will even repeat what you say in its own voice!

That sounds like the perfect present for Hopey.  A couple of clicks and we’ll have a Hatchimal on our doorstep in a few days.  Online ordering.  It’s the most magical thing about Christmas.

Uh-oh.  Walmart’s out of stock.  I’ll check Toys R Us.  Oops.  Out of stock there too.  So I checked Amazon.  They’re in stock.  Wait a minute!  You’ve got to be kidding me.  $200-$300 for a bird that hatches out of its egg?  They were $50 at Walmart.  I’ll keep looking.  I checked Ebay.  $150-$300?  And suddenly I realized that something was happening to me that has never happened in my 19 years of being a mom.  My little sweetheart had picked the toy of the year.

Every time Hope was asked what she wanted for Christmas the answer remained the same.  And she would say Hatchimal with so much enthusiasm that it would send me racing back to my computer.  I’m going to snatch my sweet girl a Hatchimal if it’s the last thing I do.   Let me rephrase that.  I’m going to snatch my sweet girl a $50 Hatchimal if it’s the last thing I do.  I’m not paying $150-$300 for one.  I signed up for in-stock alerts.  I checked multiple websites several times a day.

And then I saw the announcement on the manufacturer’s website:  The consumer response to Hatchimals has been extraordinary, exceeding all expectations. Some of our first shipments have already sold out. While additional product will hit retail shelves in November, we anticipate this inventory will also sell out quickly. We have increased production and a whole new batch of Hatchimals will be ready to hatch in early 2017.

Great.  Looks like Hopey isn’t going to get a Hatchimal for Christmas.  What am I going to do?  What if she cries on Christmas morning because there’s not one under the tree? I don’t think my heart can take that.  Should I talk to her and explain to her that Hatchimals are hard  to find?  Will she understand what I’m telling her?  Or will she keep insisting that she’s getting one for Christmas?

I decided to sit her down and be honest with her.

Mommy is having trouble finding a Hatchimal for you for Christmas.  A lot of kids are wanting one and the stores are sold out.

Hopey:  They’re sold out?

Yes.   They’re sold out.  It’s really hard to find one.  I think it’ll be easier to find one after Christmas.  Maybe we could get you one for your birthday.

Hopey:  Get one for my birthday?

Yes.  We’ll try to get you one for your birthday.  Will that be ok?

Hopey:  Stores are sold out.  I want a Hatchimal for my birthday.

And just like that I witnessed our Christmas miracle of 2016.  The miracle wasn’t that Mommy was able to snatch the toy of the year.  The miracle was in that moment that I looked at my little girl and I saw her process a situation that she once wouldn’t have been able to process.  Hope understood what I was telling her.   She didn’t cry.  She didn’t stomp her foot and insist that she is getting a Hatchimal.   She decided to patiently wait for her Hatchimal to arrive on March 29.  We won’t have any memories or pictures of Hopey smiling this Christmas as she opens her Hatchimal.  But we have a greater memory than I ever expected.  We have a little girl who has processed a very disappointing situation and she handled it with grace.  And I couldn’t be more proud of her.