Monday, July 30, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I have been wanting to write this post since this special day happened, but as usual, life happens and I had to get through two weeks of camp at my house.  (If you haven't read about Camp Amica visit my other blog at

What does every mom want for her daughter?  To be loved, to be liked by her friends, to have friends, to enjoy life to the fullest, to explore, to enjoy every year as time goes by so fast, to have lots of memories, and the list can go on and on.

Before Anna Cate was diagnosed with Rett syndrome the list of hopes, wants and dreams for her was endless.....and it still is.  However, all the hopes, wants and dreams have changed a little.  I still want her to be loved, I still want her to have friends and friendships (yes there is a difference), I still want her to enjoy life to the fullest that she can, to explore the best that she can, to enjoy every year and to have lots of memories.  In order for Anna Cate to have memories and explore we are involved with every aspect of these moments too!

Amy, Anna Cate's teacher and friend, does the BEST job of making Anna Cate feel just like any other 10 year old girl.  From the way she talks TO her, to the way she gets other kids her age engaged, the way she helps US to do things differently (and better!) for Anna Cate,  you name it....Amy is AWESOME!

Amy's dedication to Anna Cate is amazing to see!  And I am not the only one who sees this connection the two of them have, but so does our school, the teachers, our friends, Anna Cate's friends, strangers....anyone!  One area where Amy has paved the road for me, is with Anna Cate's friends.  She has helped Anna Cate's peers realize that Anna Cate is just like them, but she is trapped inside her own body and sometimes things are difficult for her and sometimes things are easier.....depends on the day and her mood (kinda sounds like me!).

I love hearing Anna Cate's friends tell me that THEY want to come over to see Anna Cate.   Noticed, I didn't call it a "play date"...I think now at this age, it is "having friends come over"....I need to get the lingo down!  Anna Cate has had friends come over to hang out many times.  We have taken her and her friends bowling, to a favorite frozen yogurt shop, to the pool, and they have just come to our house to be with Anna Cate and enjoy doing things that she likes to do here like play connect four, play ball, watch movies and listen to music.  I love that Anna Cate can have these special times with HER friends just like her peers can and just like her sister, Betsie does with her friends.  And she has two friends that really "get" her, where I feel comfortable enough to take a BIG step back to give them the age appropriate "girl time" that they need.  I am sure that Anna Cate wants me to leave them alone too!

I often wondered to myself if Anna Cate would ever be able to enjoy one of life's biggest milestones--a sleepover!  I am not talking about a sleepover at Mimi and Poppy's house...that doesn't really count, but a sleepover here with her friends or vice versa.  There are so many unknowns and I didn't know if I wanted to go down this road.  And I know that Will had some reservations too.  We try to protect Anna Cate all the time, and we don't want her friends to see the "dark" side of Anna Cate when she is unhappy and frustrated and many times it is late night, in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning, when these times are most prominent!  But then, my voice of reason, or in this case Amy, tells me that it is ok, Anna Cate's true friends HAVE seen her upset and they get upset too, because they do not like to see her like this AND Anna Cate's true friends are just that,  HER TRUE friends, and they KNOW she can not help situations like this.  Amy is exactly right, and we have to realize that her true friends are genuine, understanding and patient with her and this is what is so beautiful to see.  So why hold Anna Cate back on something that EVERY girl should experience.

Two weeks ago Anna Cate had her FIRST friend sleepover!  It was a sleepover by chance and I think that it couldn't of happened any better (and that it was meant to be!).  During my first session of Camp Amica, one of Anna Cate's friend's mom emailed me to ask if her daughter could spend one night as she needed to be out of town for work.  This friend is AMAZING with Anna Cate and is one of Anna Cate's friends where I feel 100% comfortable leaving the room and I know Anna Cate is going to be ok!  When I told Anna Cate that her friend was going to spend the night, Anna Cate got a huge smile on her face.  Wow, she was really excited and I am sure in her head, she was probably saying...FINALLY mom!

After camp we had a normal afternoon around the house, then dinner and bath/shower time.  While the girls were hanging out while I was cooking dinner, Anna Cate's friend Face Timed one of their other friends so Anna Cate could see her too!  Wow!!!  What a way to connect Anna Cate to what her peers are doing and age appropriate!  Anna Cate loved it!!!

When it came time for bed, I explained to Anna Cate's friend all the scenarios that could happen...Anna Cate could sleep all night with no problem; Anna Cate could get up in the middle of the night and be mad; Anna Cate could get up really early (4-5AM) and be up for the remainder of the day; Anna Cate could, Anna Cate could, Anna Cate could....I can keep going on and on.  NONE of this worried Anna Cate's friend and she looked right at me and said, " I would like to sleep in Anna Cate's room right next to her bed."  Just writing that again, I have tears in my eyes.  This young lady truly is a gift!  Then Betsie came running in and asked if she could sleep in her sleeping bag next to Anna Cate's bed too!  Yes, you can!!!

We did our normal bedtime routine of reading Anna Cate a couple of stories (she usually falls asleep as we read to her), but I knew that this night getting her to sleep was going to be a little bit more difficult as she was excited and the girls on the floor were whispering and Anna Cate could hear them.  As I was reading to Anna Cate, she would lean over the side of the bed and look at the girls and then pop back up.  She did this about 5 times!  So after the first book, I thought to myself....Emilie....take a deep breath, relax and let Anna Cate enjoy the moment.  I told the girls that they could watch a movie in Anna Cate's room and I was going to go downstairs.  I was hoping that Anna Cate would stay in bed and fall asleep watching tv like she sometimes does when she gets up with the birds!

As soon as I walked downstairs and turned on the tv to Anna Cate's room (all the kids have cameras in their rooms so I can see them at night), Anna Cate was already out of bed and Will was hinting to me that this was going to be a long night.  I walked back upstairs to put Anna Cate in bed, but as I approached her door (it was cracked so I could peek in), I saw one of the most precious things in a long time.  Anna Cate's friend was putting her back in bed!  This melted my heart!

I went back downstairs to tell Will, but he had watched the whole thing on tv and we both said at the same time, "DID YOU SEE THAT!!!!"  I didn't know at that moment (as we had our eyes glued to the tv watching what was to us one of the most amazing shows we have seen in a long time) who had the BIGGEST smile on their, Will or Anna Cate.  Anna Cate's smile was so big and she was doing the covers over the face trick which mean she is really happy.  She would watch her movie and then get out of her movie, then get out of bed.....then Anna Cate's friend and Betsie got in her bed with her for a little while....then they got back down on the floor....this went on and on for about an hour and a half, when I finally went upstairs as I didn't want Anna Cate to get her second wind and we also all had camp at the house in the morning and I didn't want tomorrow to be a day with three tired kids on my end!

I thanked Anna Cate's friend for being so loving and patient with her, but said I was going to get her to sleep and then she and Betsie could sneak into their sleeping bags when Anna Cate was finally asleep.  As I crawled into bed with Anna Cate, Anna Cate looked up at me and said "Mommmmmmyyyyyy, Mommmmmyyyy", Mommy really long and drawn out, and says this when she is really happy!  I said, Anna Cate I know you are happy tonight and I am so happy for you.  I snuggled with her and read one last book and before I got to the 5th page, she was out like a light.  I am sure she was dreaming about her first sleepover!  The girls came back in and got into their sleeping bags!

And then the big thunderstorm started!!!!!  The only one who slept through the whole thing was ANNA CATE!  After about 30 minutes Anna Cate's friend and Betsie finally went back to bed and were out instantly, as I know they were so tired.

This is the picture I took to remember this special night by!

The next morning Anna Cate woke up as happy as could be and was so excited to see her friend first thing in the morning!

We survived the first sleepover and it truly was one of the best memories I will remember for a long time!  Anna Cate's friend and Amy taught me that it IS ok, relax and let Anna Cate enjoy what others her age are enjoying and what happens, happens.

Anna Cate had so much fun and she was so happy, that Anna Cate is going to have her SECOND sleepover as part of her birthday celebration in September, but this time with more friends AND Amy!!!!  I know that I will be a little nervous as the day approaches, but I know this is what I have to do for Anna Cate.  After all, what makes Anna Cate's friends so special, is that they like her for exactly who she is and I couldn't be happier for Anna Cate!

P.S. I named this blog in honor of my one of my favorite sleepover songs growing up and one of my favorite movies!!!