The Big K

On Thursday, Tessa will have her first day of kindergarten.  That’s right.  The big K.  I would be lying if I said I was not feeling a bit unsettled about it all right now. Thankfully, I am very distracted with other projects and deadlines so I am not completely focused on the fact that my firstborn is heading to school full-time for the next however many years. As excited as I am for her, I am equally as nervous. Even though she has been in school for two years, there is still a knot in the pit in my stomach as we gear up for this transition.  I have a hard time explaining it.  Like a twinge of heartache mixed with immeasurable joy.

She is so excited, and she talks about starting kindergarten in her new school all the time.  One of my jobs as her mom is to fortify her excitement and reassure her that this next adventure will be grand; while fighting back mama tears and worry.  Standard parent stuff, right?

I know, I know…I have to suck it up, set aside my sentimental baggage and just be there for her.  There is nothing I can do to change the fact that she is growing up. And thank goodness for that; otherwise I may have kept her little forever.  This is the first step toward her forever.  From Thursday on, her life as a kid changes and my life as her parent does too.  This is one of the things–not so long ago–that we hoped for, prayed for and dreamed about.  The first day of kindergarten.  I remember a time when we worried she might not see this day. Here we are, just days away, and I marvel at how it will go.  Now my hopes and dreams for her at school have shifted to her finding her niche, making new friends and progressing her education. And, more importantly, to continue to carry and sprinkle her infectious joy around like pixie dust to those she meets along the way.  

My girlfriend has a daughter two weeks younger than Tessa who also has Down syndrome. So she gets it…all of it. The age, the attitude(s), the diagnosis, the need for wine nights, and the roller-coaster ride we often find ourselves on together. She also knows why this new phase tugs extra on the heart.  This is the picture I text her today.  Just sending my girl off to kindy like…

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How long will it take me to leave her classroom after I drop her off that first morning?  I imagine longer than necessary.  You know, just in case she changes her mind about this whole school thing. I will also more than likely arrive entirely too early for pickup as well.  I take my role as “that mom” seriously.

Is everyone this beat up over that first big day or is it just me?  I kid.  I really will be fine.  Even if it takes three bags of dark chocolate Ghirardelli squares to make it through.  While the veteran moms are out celebrating and high-fiving each other after their kids are off to school (which I envy by the way), I will be eating my feelings in the corner booth of a little breakfast diner.  The rest of you kindy first-timer moms are welcome to join me.

Here we go…

Dear Tessa: Birthday Shenanigans

Dear Tessa,

A week ago today, you turned five!  I am not even close to sure how that is possible, but it is.  When parents have told me in the past, that it feels like yesterday when their babies were born–you’re getting to that age where I understand that so much more.  It literally really feels like I held you for the first time yesterday. No tears, though.  I did not go there this time.  You will be happy to know that I only shed maybe two tiny tears the night before your birthday this year. That’s right…no prolonged sobbing this year. I know you are proud.

This year’s birthday was under-celebrated…I won’t lie.  Your dad and I closed on our new house Monday morning and you spent most of the day at daycare with your friends.  Some friends stopped by to check out the new place, and we didn’t end up lighting your candle and singing Happy Birthday until 9 p.m. Whew.  Now that’s not to say your special day went by uneventfully.  No, you provided us with light entertainment that afternoon…

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I will set the scene:  chickens, you, your sister, your brother, me and a hose all hanging out in the yard.  Interesting combination.

Your big brother and I let the chickens out to roam the yard and snack on some veggies.  You read that right.  We have chickens; five of them.  I have no idea what we are doing or how long this phase will last, but for now this is real life.  While “the girls” (what we call the chickens) were out, you and your sister tossed them tomatoes and cucumbers while your brother sprayed the poo out of their pen and refilled their water.  I was busy making sure they did not try to venture off over the hillside again.  It started out innocently enough and the whole picture was quite adorable, really. Everyone was helping out, giggling and enjoying the nice night.  It was time for the girls to return to their pen, and we had them all grouped together to shuffle them back inside.

Unbeknownst to me, the pump that runs the hose water was still opened up. That is when you quietly grabbed the hose and sprayed the girls…all of them. It was madness.  You sprayed the rest of us too.  As the chickens were losing their minds over the unexpected hose-down, the rest of us were hollering at you to drop the hose.  Kendal was crying.  The chickens were scattered.  But you were extremely delighted in the hysteria you created.  Your diabolical laughter was proof of that.

Mischievous. You have definitely discovered that side of yourself this summer. I will be sure to wish your new teachers good luck next week.

We completed your birthday week with a party at our new place with our family and close friends.  Even though it was extremely humid, it was still a lot of fun.  At one point, while you were opening your gifts, you turned to me and said, “…best birthday party ever.”  You express a lot of things that bring you joy as “the best ever,” and I adore it because I can tell that you really mean it.

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Health wise, here is a quick recap of where you are currently.  Your echocardiogram came back great.  No cleft mitral valve as previously suspected.  No current damage to the heart muscles from chemo. One slight eccentric aortic valve; but not of any concern at this time.  Your follow-up ENT visit went great.  You recovered perfectly from surgery in May just as we thought you did.  You passed your first hearing test ever with flying colors!

We visited your oncologist last week and while we were unable to get blood work that day, everything else looked as it should. Your oncologist also told me that you are also being moved to the Caring For Life clinic from now on. The Caring For Life clinic is a childhood cancer survivor clinic.  The program is designed to help the survivors of childhood cancer as well as their care providers by detecting health-related problems associated with chemotherapy, providing health maintenance education about potential risks, providing emotional support for survivors and family members, and empowering survivors to advocate for themselves.  This is something we thought would happen in a few years; therefore I was pleased to hear that we will starting this in six months. This is a big step in the right direction in life after cancer.

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Each of your birthdays feels better than one before.  Another great year has gone by.  All that you have seen, done and overcome in five short years in remarkable.  I always look forward to the year ahead and seeing what you will do next.  Happy five years to you, little darling.  And cheers to many, many more.

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Love always, Mom.