At the start of the year, we had begun in earnest a search for an educational program that fit Hope’s needs when it became evident that she had outgrown the wonderful classroom where she started her preschool journey. We took a week off in early February to vacation in Turks and Caicos, wondering what on earth this “novel coronavirus” was and if it had the potential to reach New Jersey. We took that trip just under the wire because a month after our return, schools closed indefinitely to in-person learning. Our efforts to determine a better program for Hope were lost in the fear and chaos of what would be the first wave of COVID-19.
Over the summer, for as much fun as we had, Hope began to show regression. She no longer wanted to participate in online instruction, she stopped practicing spelling and writing her name, and self-directed play was at an all-time low. We were stuck in a routine that relied heavily on our backyard pool when it was sunny and warm and the TV/computer when the weather wouldn’t cooperate.
A lot of good things happened, too. Hope learned how to drink from a straw and began to use augmentative and alternative communication devices, including a series of communication boards and an iPad voice output application called Touch Chat. She became confident in the swimming pool and mastered her beautiful little singing voice to the Frozen and Frozen II soundtracks. She’s learning to sight read using the Special Reads for Special Needs program. She also grew so much that she breezed through her 3T clothes into a solid 4T on top and bottom, which she modeled at a prerecorded virtual inclusive fashion show here in town. Her ear tubes were removed without any lasting holes and no need to immediately replace them. She even had a successful cardiology checkup with omission from the COVID-19 high-risk category for heart disease.
Before school resumed in September, we saw very few people off Zoom. We visited grandparents in Ohio, enjoyed a day trip from grandparents from Pennsylvania, and had one single play date, all in the name of keeping schools open in order to champion as bright as possible a future for our precious girl.
To celebrate Hope’s 5th birthday earlier this month, we decorated our backyard in a Frozen theme, with six stations that included Olaf’s hot chocolate table, character photo cutout stands, an Anna photo op, Elsa’s ice (rock candy) at the North Mountain, ring toss on Sven’s antlers, and card signing and party favor distribution at Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post + Sauna. Hope, dressed as Elsa, and her baby brother, Henry, dressed as Olaf, waved through our family room window to friends traversing the land of snow and ice during prearranged staggered arrivals. Some of our friends were directly impacted by COVID and couldn’t make it, but we are grateful to everyone who visited and to those who sent good wishes from afar.
Everyone sounds really excited to welcome 2021, but we have some pretty serious challenges ahead of us. For now, please take a moment to enjoy the beauty of Hope’s fifth year, which has been our true blessing to witness. Happy 5th birthday, Hope!!
Warning: Frozen Fever is contagious and cannot be controlled with masks and social distancing. Frozen Fever is transmitted at high rates through the infectious smiles of little girls and boys. There is no vaccination, and immunity has not been reliably proven, not even by Frozen Fatigue. Play the following video at your own risk.
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