Monday, February 20, 2017

Eleven Years

Dear Benjamin,

Today you turned eleven.  We've been celebrating for four days, which is very much the way you like to live life.    We had a small birthday dinner, cake, and presents on Friday. We spent Saturday at an indoor water park and took countless trips down the scary water slide that swirls you around in the dark and shoots you out backwards, plus spent the night in a hotel.  We saw a movie on Sunday and went to breakfast this morning, where you ate pancakes and sausage with syrup.  So many experiences, noises, and people,  and so much sensory input, but you rocked the whole festival of Ben celebration!  No meltdowns.  Limited anxiety.  Lots of smiles and fun.  And I am so thankful.

It's been another big year for you.  Last summer, we went to Carlsbad Caverns where you were NOT afraid of the dark and then attended a star party at night at the McDonald Observstory.  We went to the zoo in San Antonio and you were a trooper despite getting sick.  We went to Florida and you got to pet and feed a dolphin named Hemingway, play the hammered dulcimer with a friendly street musician named Robert Burns, spent some glorious time at the  beach, and watched fireworks over the pier.  We also went to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, where you rode a sky tram, ate a lot of Mexican food, and asked more questions and were more engaged at the aquarium than I've ever seen you.

We adopted a second cat from the shelter, Tiger Lily, because you were afraid Beethoven felt lonely since she was the only family member with fur.  You are a very kind, compassionate soul, Ben, and I hope you always are one.

Talk about a big year.  This year, I made a tough decision.  Instead of taking you to private occupational therapy, you are seeing a speech therapist again, even though you've been talking for years.  Something wasn't connecting for you and you were struggling at school and to express yourself with your family, especially when you were upset.  You were evaluated and scored pretty low for pragmatics-- the context of language.  The why of it.  I was so worried about changing your therapy-- what if I made the wrong decision?  But you have just blossomed.  You are connecting knowledge and skills better at school, socializing more, asking questions at museums and aquariums,and even asked the dolphin trainer, who you had just met, why Hemingway had a scar on  his tail.  You are taking he initiative to solve math problems and are becoming more independent at school.  And tonight, my dear boy, you asked me to tell you about the day you were born.

You are eleven, but in some ways you are still very young.  You are naive and innocent.  You still giggle over story books and like snuggling while watching  cartoon movies, although you do enjoy some that aren't animated.  You still hold my hand.  You still need help with certain things.  And you still want a story before bed and Finding Nemo on the TV while your mom lies with you until you fall asleep.  So I still hangout in your bed (with the cats) each night and I still tell you,"I love you more than all the stars in the sky, more than all the water in the ocean, more than all the wind in Texas, more than all the trees in Florida, more than all the mountains in Colorado, and more than all the buildings in Chicago."

Happy birthday, precious boy.  Thank you for being mine and for teaching me so very much about life and love.  I hope the next year is as full of happiness and adventure as this last one has been.

Love always from your biggest fan,