There was a time early on in this journey, while receiving life support of my own through Abbie’s blog, that I wondered what I would do when I ran out of things to write about. Eventually I realized that the medical part of the story was minor, and the living life part was the primary, and continuing, essence of Abbie’s saga. Someone asked me a few years after Abbie’s injury how long I would keep writing.
“Until she can write it herself,” was my answer.
We are not quite there, yet, but Abbie’s already-beloved PODD book has been a giant leap in that direction.
When we returned from our trip to California, I was excitedly telling her teacher about the first thing Abbie told Chase. As I was showing Ms. L. how Abbie navigated through the book, and talked with her about how the school team could learn to support Abbie’s new language, Abbie vocalized from behind us, as if to say, “How about you stop talking about my voice, and let me use it.”
Here’s the pressing concern she wanted to communicate:
“Abbie, do you want to go to the bathroom now?” I asked.
The answer was so obvious, that we were rolling out the door immediately. Abbie’s nurse took her to the school bathroom and got her freshened up while I talked with her teacher. Abbie returned looking a million times happier and much more relaxed. Her teacher, meanwhile, was more than a little surprised.
“How does she know how and why to ask to go the bathroom, since she normally doesn’t use it in the same way we do?”
I explained that this is just one more marker of Abbie’s high receptive language level — that girl listens intently to everything around her, and understands it all. This request also showed Abbie’s ability to use the language available to her to communicate what she wants, even if it’s not always a perfect fit. She trusts that we are smart enough to deduce what she means…as I would find out myself later that evening.
Ray had a meeting, I was busy with Abbie, and the dinner hour loomed. Chase stepped up to the plate and made french toast that, quoting Matt here, his brothers would “jump over a wall for.” As part of this treat Chase stewed fresh strawberries. The smell was scrumpious, and Abbie took particular notice, so I promised her we would have some later, after they had cooled.
The evening got a little hectic, and I had just positioned the recliner so Abbie could have a great view of “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress”. She had never seen this show before, so I was excited about some high quality girl time. About halfway through the first episode she had something to say:
Ha! I knew she would love this show! I wanted to see more pretty dresses, crazy families, and jaw-dropping price-tags, too. Only, that’s not what Abbie had in mind. She wanted to add another word:
More yummy? OH!! This was Abbie’s PODD version of “Hey, lady….I want what you promised me earlier. Get me some strawberry heaven, please..” She loved ’em! I was a bit stunned by how she was able to figure out what symbols she could use to get me to understand so quickly.
The better she gets at this, the more of her personality we get to see. On the Fourth of July we went to a last-minute brunch with some friends. The dads were chatting, chatting, chatting as all the kids’ faces began melting toward the floor. Abbie put it this way:
I laughed aloud, and told her all the boys agreed with her. I assured her we would be going soon. Twenty minutes later, she ratcheted up the pressure:
Wow! Miss Sassy speaks! We were on the way shortly thereafter.
Abbie received a special surprise at brunch, however, which made all her patience worth it.
Abbie was thrilled with this gift, perfect for the afternoon of swimming we had planned. I was not surprised that she had something to say about it, but she would manage to startle me, yet again, with the sophistication of her thought.
“I” “want” “computer”
I was really stumped for a minute. Abbie was very clear that this is what she meant to say, and that she did not want to add another word…even though mama was begging for a clue. I had to think about it for a moment, to see if I could figure out her train of thought.
Aha! “Abbie, do you want to use the computer to send a thank-you note to Auntie Char?”
I earned a dimpled-grin with that detetive work. So, I used my mini-computer (aka iPhone) to send a text and picture to Char. Abbie was very happy that her secretary does not get holidays off. Meanwhile, I was a bit shocked at the level of her reasoning (again). How and why did she so quickly connect using the computer with saying “thank you?”
Abbie was grinning again when she got to swim with her daddy later that day:
And, finally, yesterday Abbie proved definitively that she is indeed a 7th grader, when she said this to me:
“I” “smart” “you”
I tried the most generous version first: “Abbie, are you saying you are smart like me?”
“Are you saying that you are as smart as me?’
Yep — that’s what I’m saying, mama. So, there you go — an official almost-teen, complete with eye-rolling and the belief that she pretty much knows it all. Love it!!!!
Today brought a trial of the Tobii eye-gaze system, which is basically a tablet computer with a device that can track Abbie’s eyes and select items based on where her gaze rests. She wasn’t thrilled about doing PODD on the computer, but once we got to play games, she figured out the system very quickly, and in ways beyond what we had explained to her. Guess that’s just her M.O. We are hoping to play with the system again in August, when the mainland-based rep returns.
Today also brought to the roads of Honolulu two brand-new drivers…fair warning! Matt and RJ got their licenses. Whew — teaching driving to four teenage sons completed. Oh man — two more pieces of my heart now rolling down the road without me.
Life is good. We are blessed!