the newsletter

Tis that time of year again. The time when our mailboxes are filled with wishes of joy and happiness for the holiday season. The time when we kvell over photos of smiling children – some who we see no more than once a year on shiny photo paper. Some whose progress we document every December with a “Wow, this kid’s gotten big” or a “Can you believe a twelve year-old still lets her parents dress her like that?” OK, that wasn’t nice, but people? Rethink some of these get-ups, would ya? I’m just sayin’.

And then there are the family newsletters. No, not yours – I love getting yours. Yours is different. But you know the ones, right? The ones that tell us how little Piper is speaking twelve languages now that she’s in third grade and how darling Cooper narrowly missed next year’s Olympic team in water polo. They thought about appealing the age limit, but decided to wait until he turns six. Apparently Piper can’t decide between the eight sports at which she excels Thank goodness there are seven days in a week and we can fit in two on Sundays! and Cooper just isn’t sure if he wants to continue to play the violin in the city symphony. Second chair is just tough on a five year-old’s ego and it really cuts into rehearsal time for Shakespeare in the Park.

I don’t know these ladies, but I’m guessing it was December when they came up with the idea to write their book, Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid.

Our news just doesn’t fit as well into a chatty golly gee ain’t we grand letter. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have news. It’s just that I’m not sure that the stuff that’s HUGE to me translates into newsworthy to my family and friends.

But you – you get it, don’t you? You know why small moments like the ones we had last night aren’t small at all. You know why I want to shout them from the rooftops. And you know why I don’t. You know why I keep them here, where they’re safe – treasured – celebrated. And why it takes 365 newsletters (or oh, say .. this blog) to really tell you about our year.

Last night ..

We sat together in the booth of a familiar restaurant, celebrating Luau’s birthday. He’d chosen it from the two options on our ‘relatively safe’ list. Well, I guess there are three, really – if you count McDonald’s. I don’t.

Brooke was listening to the soundtrack of Godspell on her iPod, having needed to escape the noise of the restaurant for the refuge of her world of music and predictable characters. She leaned into me, rendering my right arm happily useless throughout most of the meal.

Periodically I’d check in.

“You doing OK, sweetie?”

“Uh huh. Mom, who is singing?”

“Well, I don’t know, honey. I can’t hear the music. Who is singing?”

“Is it it Jesus?”

“I don’t know, Brooke I can’t hear it. Is it Jesus?”

“It is Jesus. Can you tell me it’s Jesus?”

“Well, love, you just said it was, so I believe you.”

“Mom, can you tell me it’s Jesus? Is it Jesus?”

“Yes, honey; it’s Jesus.”

And then we’d go back to the business of sitting and leaning and slowly eating.

She was leaning on my arm, facing away from me when out of nowhere, she turned her head up and said a single word.


I bent over her headphones and asked, “What’s that, Brooke?”

She stretched her little neck and – quick as a flash – planted a kiss on my cheek, then turned away and leaned back again as if nothing had happened.

But it had.

I looked at Luau for confirmation. “Did you see that?” I asked. He had.

She had kissed me. Unsolicited. And not just the slack mouth, soft touch that usually constitutes a ‘kiss’. No, this was a full on noise-and-all smack on the cheek.

We may have had a sack full of gifts under the table for Luau, but I’d gotten the best one of the night.

When we’d finished dinner we packed up and headed out to the car. The parking lot was crowded and we’d parked a fair distance from the door. I reached a hand out for Brooke. And she took it. With her WHOLE HAND, she held mine. And we walked. Together. All the way to the car.

OK, see this is why I don’t write a newsletter. Because I have no idea how to explain how big this is. How to explain that for YEARS I couldn’t get Brooke to hold my hand at all. Or how I finally got her to hold onto just one finger – a pinky – for as little time as possible. Or how if the slightest bit of fabric (a shirt sleeve, a jacket, a glove) touched our hands it was over. Or how she’d try to struggle out of my hand and I’d have to hold on anyway if we were somewhere unsafe and how she’d yell, “I DON’T WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND!” far too loudly and it would KILL me every time.

Or how last night I was on cloud nine as we walked the ENTIRE way to the car – calmly, happily, hand-in-hand – and looking to all the world just like duodelingual, athletically-gifted Piper and her proud mom picking up one last gift for little Coop.

He asked for his very own copy of War and Peace this year – isn’t that just something?

54 thoughts on “the newsletter

  1. Congratulations! What a terrific holiday gift.

    I know the one-finger hand-hold well. Many an entire walk to school was conducted holding nothing but thumbs. Many “kisses” have consisted of nothing but a bowed head offered. But we too have made progress on both of these. Enjoy it!

  2. Oh – and I think you have hit on something. We should have a “spectrum parents’ holiday letters” post.

    I’ll start …. “In August, I was able to get a hockey helmet on my son’s head for the first time without him struggling and insisting it come off immediately, so he was actually able to start playing his favorite sport.”

    Cheers, everyone!

  3. Now that is a CHristmas miracle!! I’ll add to the “spectrum parents newsletter” : My son tried a “new” food last week….a different brand of bagel. (He rejected it…but he tried it!)

  4. Now, see? THAT is an awesome newsletter. I’m kvelling. And Happy Birthday to Matt! I imagine being able to witness the moment and see the joy on your face must’ve been way better than any ol’ copy of War and Peace could ever be! 🙂

  5. Happy Birthday Matt.
    Jess, I would read and marvel at your Christmas letter every year, proud of each and every one of your children’s accomplishments. Just as I do here every day.
    To add to my own Spectrum Parents Newsletter : Wyatt and I went on a sleigh ride (pulled by horses, no less) last weekend. I even got a picture of him smiling on it. It was the best.

    Happy holidays.


  6. You are and always have been the best, the very best. You find the tiny pearl in so many things and you force us to see, taste, and understand the profound significance in it. You have obviously touched a nerve as attested to in the comments of all the parents who now can crow over their magic moments, just a little, because you brought yours to the light. How special are you, and your babies and my son too (happy birthday).

  7. I LOVE this post!!

    Jesus . . . love . . . and a kiss. How perfect for Christmas week. To all of the mothers of Piper and Cooper, please spare me but this . . . in the words of my daughter tomorrow singing in the Cherub Choir “Go tell it on a Mountain . . .”

    Merry Christmas Jess! xo

  8. I get it.
    And thank you for having a space on the internet where those of us who do get it can celebrate with you. thats HUGE. Its right up there with my kiddo adding YES to his reportiore a few weeks ago. HUGE shift, one little word.

  9. Merry Christmas Jess! Life and our kids are full of unexpected surprises – glad you got an extra special one to cherish this Christmas!

  10. I thought what your dad said was just perfect. You are such a gift to US, and you can write about the accomplishments and we will absolutely get them. Merry Christmas! 🙂

    XOXO R

  11. Santa came early for me too this year. My son Christopher who has been having a terrible 4 months (and I mean TERRIBLE) seems to have snapped out of it. Woke up on Monday and beamed his beautful radiant smile at us for the first time in forever. Whatever was plaguing him has ceased and of course we have no idea why (diet, season change, gi issues???). He has been coming up to my husband and I and signing hug and smiling up at us and looking into our eyes. Who needs cashmere when you can have that? Hard to explain that in a Christmas newsletter, but it’s nice to know that there are others out there who get it. Peace, joy and acceptance this holiday season! Keep writing!!

  12. LOVE!

    Thank you for newsletter-ing here, so that we may rejoice with you!

    I’m actually really fond of the opportunity to send an annual dead-tree letter, though. It lets me reach people I don’t reach on my blog, and demonstrate that my multi-diagnosis kiddo is every bit as brag-worthy as my typical-developer.

    Merry Christmas, and God bless us, every one!

  13. *beaming from ear to ear*

    I’d rather read about Kendall’s triumphs than an entire TWO PAGE newsletter about my friend’s DOGS any day – their accomplishments, their health issues, their adjustment to unclehood when one of their number had puppies (she’s a breeder)… Two whole pages on DOGS, with the occasional human illness thrown in for color.


  14. “…But you – you get it, don’t you? You know why small moments like the ones we had last night aren’t small at all. You know why I want to shout them from the rooftops. And you know why I don’t. You know why I keep them here, where they’re safe – treasured – celebrated…”
    Yes I do Jess. Yes I do. *sniff*

  15. Luckily I only have one friend that sends those newsletters out! The others have dropped off in recent years – Whew! I always roll my eyes. You’ve send this perfectly, as usual.

    I have one to add to the spectrum newsletter: My son ate an entire pear WITH THE PEEL on it the other night and then he went on to eat an apple with the peel too!

    Not one of my friends with typi kids would get the significance of that!

  16. Here’s one more. On Saturday, my 16-month-old hugged her big sister, and for the FIRST TIME EVER, my 3 and a half year old spectrum daughter HUGGED HER BACK!!! Miracles are everywhere.

  17. YES!



    russ – i am OVERJOYED that you started this!

    this is the stuff that drives us, isn’t it? the triumphs over hockey helmets, the new brands of bagels, the horse driven sleigh rides, the word YES (omg, HUGE!), the end of a four month rough jag and the eating of unpeeled fruit (*sigh* … someday).

    i may have to institutionalize the ‘spectrum newsletter’ every year – i can collect our stories over the month of december and we’ll share them here and celebrate together!

    keep em coming!!!

  18. I was seated next to one mom who for an entire soccer game told me about her son’s grades (and he knows he had better not bring home anything lower than a B, that is just not acceptable, blah blah blah). I wanted to shout out, oh yeah well my son went from being in a self-contained classroom to being completely mainstreamed where he is almost passing every course (just barely). But I don’t think she would have shared in my joy.

  19. Loved this story, Jess. I can’t think of a more wonderful Christmas gift. And all these amazing newsletter additions. Talk about tidings of comfort and joy!

    My son had a brief solo in his school jazz band’s concert. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it.

    Here’s to many more of these moments for all of us in the year to come. Happy holidays!

  20. My son came down with conjunctivitis on Monday. My husband dutifully brought home the eye ointment and asked me skeptically, “Any idea how we’re going to do this?” Dripping with sarcasm I said, “Yeah, we just explain calmly that we need to put goo in his eyes to make them better. And then we do it.” Husband didn’t hear the sarcasm. “OK, let’s go!” he replied. So we calmly explained, and son calmly and patiently let us cover his eyes with goo. He cried a bit, but I think I cried more – from relief, from surprise, from joy! And for 3 days, 3 times a day, he has been compliant, calm and easy about it. Amazing!! That’s what my holiday letter would say!

  21. I get it!

    We toy every November with the thought of sending a true Christmas card out – one in which at least several of us are running out of the frame or fist fighting.

    Pre-kids, we used to laugh as the two sided ‘brag letters’. We actually looked forward to their arrival and delight in the really ‘good ones’ – we read them all aloud with our most proper British accents. Still do.

    Merry Christmas to you.. May 2010 hold many more whole hand holding, spontaneous kisses, and whispered words of Love.

  22. “OK, see this is why I don’t write a newsletter. Because I have no idea how to explain how big this is.”

    No need to.

    We get it. And couldn’t be happier. That’s an accomplishment x 10!

  23. I loved this. I am always so happy to hear your family’s stories. It makes everything else seem so much better. Merry merry Christmas 😉

  24. I didn’t join in on the newsletter triumph. Here is ours: our beautiful Noah is doing well enough that my husband and I could leave him & his sister with my parents for an overnight, restful-to-my-soul amazing winetasting trip with my husband. We needed that *so* badly. May everyone here find a bit of rest this holiday!
    XOXO R

  25. That was wonderful. I look forward to reading your blog. I SO get the pinky hand hold. What a great gift for you! Merry, Merry!

  26. Look at our village! Miss M complained of her after care teacher’s lack of facial expression…and is making it her personal mission to read faces…and to “be as expressive as possible”…we have our own Robin Williams here doing nightly shows…

  27. Wonderful!!

    We have a friend who sends a yearly newsletter in which he lists the struggles and “areas of growth” in himself, his wife and his children. It’s actually pretty hilarious.

    Here’s mine: Rhema is transitioning to a new school. Her last day at her old school was today. As she got off the bus for the last time, I told her to say goodbye. She looked the bus driver in the face (as if she somehow knew this was her last day) and said, “Bye Bye.”

  28. Loved this post. I have to confess that I do send a Christmas newsletter to out of town friends (a half page only) with our photo Christmas card. I have struggled with what to include since we have twin boys and their accomplishments are different.

    I love that my (borderline Asperger’s) son now gives me kisses when we snuggle at bedtime. These small gestures of affection are priceless! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  29. Happy Holidays to all and congratulations on such a wonderful thread of accomplishments! Any parent can (should!) see the priceless value of these diverse miracles. There is no joy so great as seeing your child blossom, regardless of how or where the bloom occurs!

  30. i loved reading all of the amazing accomplishments of your dear children- thank you for sharing! Id like to thank Jess and all of her “followers” on this blog. You have given me the greatest gift this year since I discovered you- to know that my beautiful son is not “alone” in the world- there are kids of all amazing shapes and sizes everywhere you look. We need to revel in their small but significant accomplishments, because they have shown us what really matters and have redefined ourselves and our world. Merry Xmas Jess and to all of you and your families!

  31. I would have to say the biggest accomplishment for my son was ‘moving up’ from a center based program to a district placed one. He’s still in a self-contained class run by BOCES, but he mainstreams for art, music, gym, library, and he EATS Hot Lunch in the cafeteria! When I asked about gym, he’s in a 2-story gym with 50 other kids – and he had no sensory issues! He settled right in to his new school, and we have seen so much growth in just the few months he’s been there.

  32. HOORAY! Now that’s a newsworthy event in my book. I want to add to this awesome thread. My girl Piper (who has severe sensory issues with her head, unlike the Piper in your story) has pushed her limit and her issues by taking a shower before swim lessons and getting her head wet (which she detests). Major vicotry for her!!! Our kids rule!!

  33. I remember very clearly when Riley first kissed me. I didn’t realize she never did, until she did. I was always all over her and she accepted, you know? She never initiated though. Now we get spontaneous hugs a lot.

    Forget Piper.Our victories are so much sweeter. Our lives are richer.


  34. I want to add a story to the newsletter, as a provider. Last week my little guy opened up his favorite book (“Old MacDonald had a Farm”) and independently made (approximations of) animal noises, appropriate to each page. My favorite is the piggy’s snort! I almost cried.

    Once again, Jess, I cannot tell you how proud I am of Kendall. She has come so far, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here!

  35. Thanks for sharing with us your incredible blessing. You know we all understand. Last week I told my husband how Jonathan got himself and Faith a bowl of ice cream on his own. Scott repeated what I said in disbelief. I said, “I know. It’s hard to explain to someone why we should be excited about an almost 10 year old getting his own bowl of ice cream.”

  36. We have our three safe restaurants, too! And I’m counting McDonalds. 😉 I really wish Jack would let us use the iPod – I think that’s just a fantastic tool.

    Love this post and yes, I get those newsletters, too. Honestly, I know I would be one of those parents and I just wouldn’t get it unless I was actually on this journey. I’ll give myself credit: maybe I would get it if I was close to someone on this journey. But I can’t fault those parents. They just don’t know. Still hard to read the newsletters.

    Dear friends and family: Jack is now 5 1/2. He missed his Daddy for the first time ever this year. And we couldn’t be happier.

  37. Best Christmas letter ever!! Note to those ‘other’ letter writers: Christmas is not about making yourself look superior while making others feel inadequate….did you not get the memo? Full-hand holding good wishes to your whole family!

  38. Pingback: holding hands « a diary of a mom

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