The big day is finally here! Today is Jen’s wedding day. As you read this, the vows have been said, and the reception has already begun.
Kaitlyn wanted to do something special for Jen and Ethan for their wedding, to give them a present that was from her heart (because she is thoughtful like that). On her own, she wrote each of them a poem, which we framed and gave to them.
For Jen, a poem titled “You and Me”:
You make my world brighter
Making me shoot higher
Lasted a while
When you moved away
I wasn’t thrilled
But I realized you had your way
My happiness wasn’t as chilled
I was happy
I got to see you
That one weekend with you
Was the best one I ever had
And for Ethan, a poem titled “Scoring in North Carolina”:
The Panthers roaring
Or the Heels running real fast
Carolina builds champions
Cam Newton celebrating
Or Michael Jordan’s legacy
Basketball or football
All stars belong in North Carolina
Or Super Bowls
North Carolina builds champions
No matter what!
Toward the latter half of the week, Amber and I could tell that Kaitlyn wasn’t feeling like herself. She was dragging just a little, and really didn’t have her usual pep. One big clue for us was that the house was quieter than usual…anytime Kaitlyn is overly quiet, something is up.
When I got home from work Thursday, Kaitlyn was laying like a zombie on the couch. The prospect of her going to school Friday seemed slim at best. Amber and I began planning who would be the one to pick her up, and I was going to be on call.
Kaitlyn woke up Friday feeling just well enough to go to school, and Amber and I both figured the call would come sooner or later. In the drop off line, Kaitlyn mentioned to me that she was going to do her best to make it until lunch. This had the potential to cause some scrambling on my end since I knew that Kaitlyn was going to have a surprise visitor for lunch.
Since coming back to town at the beginning of January, Kaitlyn’s big sister Jen has been extremely busy planning her wedding. Kaitlyn has had plenty of input and ideas, but the two of them seemed to keep missing each other when it came to free time.
Last Monday, I texted Jen to ask if she could surprise Kaitlyn one day this week for lunch. Great minds must think alike, because she was already in the planning stages. Friday turned out to be the day that worked best for her, and it took everything we had for Amber and I to play along like we had no idea; we even packed Kaitlyn her regular lunch Friday, knowing full-well that she wasn’t going to need it.
As I was enjoying my lunch Friday, I got a text from Jen that read “totally surprised Kait.” I knew right then that Kaitlyn’s day, and her week, were made. The return text I got from Jen when I told her as much made me extremely happy…it had made her day, too.
I have written several times in the past about the bond the two of them have, and Amber and I cannot say it enough how much we love having Jen (and her family ) in our lives. The impact that she has made, and continues to make, on Kaitlyn has been tremendous; outside of the two of us, there is nobody who has had a greater influence on Kaitlyn than Jen has.
Kaitlyn is extremely excited about Jen’s wedding next weekend, and she can’t wait for Jen’s future husband to join the family. In fact, she has something very special in store for them.
When 2015 started, Kaitlyn was having difficulty mastering riding her bike. In a few short days, however, she was riding like a pro, and has gotten better since.
January saw us heading to Disney for a long weekend, and we spent three days taking our time in the Magic Kingdom. Kaitlyn fell in love with riding Space Mountain and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. She is quite the thrill-seeker for sure, and can’t wait to ride the Aerosmith coaster at Hollywood Studios and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom this year.
Kaitlyn and I danced the night away at the annual Father-Daughter dance at the school. I look forward to it every year, and Kaitlyn does, too.
In March, Kaitlyn split time hanging out with Amber’s mom and also with Amber’s dad. To say she came back spoiled would be an understatement!
As the school year wound down in May, Kaitlyn shared what third grade meant to her, and the memories she made. It was a year of growth for her for sure.
Amber and I learned that we can embarrass Kaitlyn quite easily early in June, and we were caught off guard for sure.
We celebrated Kaitlyn’s 9th birthday over the summer with close friends and family, and a tasty homemade cake. It’s hard to believe that 2016 will bring double digits in age for her. Where has the time gone?
The summer flew by it seemed, and we capped it off by spending a week in Panama City Beach with close friends of ours, and Kaitlyn spent one day at Dolphin Day Camp at Gulf World, where her and her friend Wyatt had a chance to interact with some of the dolphins there. Pretty cool.
School started back in August, and Kaitlyn took a few steps outside of her comfort zone and took on extra responsibility at school by becoming part of the Pony Express team. She did a great job and took it very seriously.
October was a busy month for Kaitlyn. She transitioned from the Pony Express to being a Safety Patrol at school, and she seemed to really enjoy that job (part of me wonders if the enjoyment came from being in charge!).
We finally got Kaitlyn’s FSA results, and we weren’t really surprised that she tested in the top tier of students in the state. We were happy, of course, that she performed so well since standardized tests present the occasional issue for her.
Kaitlyn was also selected to participate in Mini Mu in October, and had her first competition in early December. She was nervous and excited, and for Amber and I, it was nice to see her really and truly be in her comfort zone, surrounded by kids who are at least somewhat like her.
Throughout the fall, we continued to support the Seminoles, and enjoyed going to games at Doak Campbell Stadium. Kaitlyn also expressed interest in going to FSU basketball games, which we will do in 2016.
Kaitlyn capped off the year with another wonderful Christmas, and Amber and I were happy that she believed for another year.
Between Christmas and today, Kaitlyn took a trip to Atlanta and Stone Mountain. While she was disappointed she didn’t get to hit Uncle Jason with a snowball (rock included!), she still had a great time being with my parents and her cousin and uncle.
2016 should be another fun and exciting year. Amber and I look forward to watching Kaitlyn grow, and look forward to being with her every step of the way. Of course, I look forward to sharing our experiences, and will continue to do so as long as people keep reading. Having a child with Asperger’s is an experience that Amber and I could never have expected when we got married and then had Kaitlyn, but we have learned so much from her and think that we have done a good job in helping her navigate situations that don’t always come easy for her. It has not always been easy, but we have leaned on each other and come to rely on some really great people in our lives who fully understand and appreciate the challenges we are sometimes faced with.
There will be a time, probably in the near future, that Kaitlyn will no longer believe in Santa Claus. Fortunately for Amber and I, that time has not come.
While more and more of her classmates stop believing, Kaitlyn, and some of her friends, have held on to the belief that Santa will be paying them a visit tonight. And for that, we are very thankful. As a child’s belief in Santa erodes, so does their childhood, at least in my opinion; they become one step closer to being adults, and I don’t know of too many adults who wouldn’t trade their daily responsibilities and stresses for just one day of being a kid again.
For as advanced as Kaitlyn is in so many areas (if you’ve ever gotten a text from her, or read an email she wrote, it is like they were from a well-read adult), and how aware she is of the world around her (she is still concerned about ISIS), we love that she still holds tight to this one aspect of childhood that so many are quick to want to move past.
In addition to still believing in Santa, Kaitlyn also loves her daily notes from her Elf on the Shelf, Sparkle. She looks forward each morning to finding her and reading the note she left her, and she writes back most nights before bed. This year, Kaitlyn has shared with Sparkle her feelings on some of her friends not believing in magic, her sadness over Jen moving (we all miss her), her nervousness about her first Mini Mu competition, and so much more. She is sad that Sparkle will be leaving tonight, too.
When Kaitlyn found out this morning that Santa was in Australia, she responded by saying that she hoped that he saw Roo while he was there. We will be following Santa’s progress pretty much all day, and will check one more time before bed tonight.
Amber and I will go to bed tonight happy and content that we were able to squeeze another year of belief out of Kaitlyn, knowing that time will come soon enough (way too soon) where she will no longer hold onto the innocent childhood belief in Santa and all things Christmas.
Seven weeks is a really long time. Seven weeks was a lifetime for Kaitlyn without seeing her big sister Jen.
For the past seven weeks, Kaitlyn has asked to talk to or see Jen almost every night. It wasn’t enough that she would be back in town in January, all the way through her wedding in February. To say that Kaitlyn missed her Jennifer would be an extreme understatement.
Amber and I had hoped to be able to take Kaitlyn on a trip to Cornelius to see Jen and Ethan before the wedding. We knew that her time would be precious, and that she would be pulled in a million different directions once she came home, and Kaitlyn was longing for some alone time with her. We had put the bug in Jen’s ear the last time we saw her that it was a good possibility that we would come for a visit, as long as we could swing that our work schedules. As good fortune would have it, our schedules worked out to where Amber and I were able to take a Friday off.
The hardest part of the plan was not disclosing the trip to Kaitlyn, and we both almost slipped a few times along the way. We did tell Kaitlyn that we had a special surprise for her, and she drove herself mad trying to figure out what the surprise was (there is no reason Amber and I shouldn’t enjoy ourselves!).
So we hopped in the car, and embarked on an eight hour, 460 mile trip to North Carolina, with Kaitlyn still not having a clue as to our destination. In fact, we were about 60 miles out when we finally gave Kaitlyn enough clues for her to figure out where we were going, and her eyes lit up with pure joy when she knew we were about to see Jen.
Once we navigated through some ridiculous traffic and got to our hotel, Kaitlyn could not wait to get to Jen’s place to see her. She didn’t care one bit that Amber and I wanted to relax for a minute or two, she just wanted to be with Jen; if she had known at the time that we were less than a mile away, she might have just walked there herself!
Amber and I try hard every year to make Christmas special for Kaitlyn, and knowing that she was going to feel slightly empty with Jen not there on Christmas Eve broke our hearts, so there was little doubt that we would do everything we could to give her an early Christmas present and take her to see Jen. Knowing how much she loves her “big sister” and best friend made it an easy decision, and Jen has been such an important part of her life from day one (as has her entire family, and we are eternally grateful to them, too) that it was worth enduring the drive and traffic to see Kaitlyn be truly happy and overcome with joy. No matter what under the tree has her name on it next week, her best present was the trip to see Jen.