Last month, we celebrated six years of having Abby in our family.
Our Abby has always lived life in extremes. She was born extremely early, went through major ups and downs during her first months with us, and has continued her roller coaster into her elementary years. When she’s happy, she beams. When she’s mad, she’s furious (sometimes so much so that she forgets why she was angry in the first place). When she laughs, she belly laughs like no one else. When she hugs, her hugs are tight. She loves life deeply.
Along with living her life in extremes, Abby is just a little bit crazy. She’s a bundle of energy and is ready to start running, rolling, and playing hard the moment anyone will join her. I’ve noticed lately that I can’t let Abby be the one to hold Hannah right after a nap or right before bed, because Abby gets others wound up and doesn’t know how to “settle down”. She’s full of fun and laugher and silliness that she can’t always manage to turn off when we ask her to.
This makes Abby a terrific team player. She joins right in with enthusiasm. She’s also very good with younger children. Abby is my go-to girl when I need someone to help Elijah or play with Hannah. In fact, she has started fighting with others when they get to hold Hannah, and, even when I don’t need someone to hold her, Abby often asks. She’ll also keep her brothers entertained, “read” to them, or sing songs (sweet ones and silly ones).
One way that Abby has surprised me this year is academically. Lydia has always been so quick to pick up on things without me directly teaching her. Abby…not so. With Abby I will walk through something step-by-step for days before she gets it. I thought this might be a struggle in school, but it turns out, Abby just learns differently than Lydia. She loves workbooks, flash cards, and repetition. She is very visual and struggles immensely if you give her verbal directions or read something to her without pictures. But, put a visual in front of her, make up motions for a song, or show her the letters to a word, and she has no trouble at all. I noticed it first in how well she’s been doing with reading lessons – even in only five minutes a few times a week, and while she’s basically rolling around on the floor or standing on her head because this girl just cannot sit still, she’s still taken off with reading above her age level. I noticed it again during Camp Tikva when Abby mastered the motions to the memory song by the second day, even though it took her almost the whole week to learn the words.
Another way Abby has surprised me this year is by how observant she’s become, especially while we’re driving. We visited a large park several times this summer, and one day we were trying to get there from a different direction than usual. I missed my turn but thought I was on the right track, when Abby started arguing with me that I was going the wrong way. After a few minutes, I realized she actually knew what she was talking about, and I had her tell me how to get back to the park. I’m terrible with directions when driving, so this has turned out to be incredibly helpful. She’s also really good and finding lost items. Everyone else will be wandering around with no idea where to look and she’ll run into a room and spot the lost thing instantly.
One thing that has not changed in the past year is Abby’s love for pigs. She has three stuffed pigs now, and sleeps with them every night. They are her most treasured toys. Although, Abby loves to latch onto anything new that comes into the house. At any moment, you could search her backpack to find all sorts of interesting “treasures”. This has proved a bit of a challenge to my tendency toward minimalism, when, every time I bring in a piece of junk mail, Abby asks if she can have it to keep forever.
Lydia and Abby don’t have an easy time getting along. They are just about as different as can be, personality wise. They share a room and are always in each other’s space. Lydia is an extrovert, Abby an introvert. Still, they spend so much time together that they are becoming each other’s best friends. It’s cute to watch them play. Lydia makes up something to pretend and literally dictates to Abby what to do and say, word by word. They come up with all sorts of little games. The interests they do share are ballet, dressing up pretty, and spending time with their favorite teenagers at church. They also have to deal with their two tougher little brothers, which is turning out to be quite a bonding experience.
Abby is incredibly helpful. As long as she’s not overtired or pulled away by something really exciting, she loves to be my helper, especially while I cook. She used to run around gathering ingredients for me, but now she has graduated to being my salad chopper and veggie peeler. She loves those chores and will sometimes cry if she finds out I did them without her. Whenever I need someone to do something, she is usually the first one to jump up and run off to be my helper.
This year I’ve realized that Abby’s love language is physical touch. She loves gifts, treasures them for as long as she can keep them in her backpack, but this kids needs her snuggles. After anything unpleasant, or if she’s feeling sleepy, Abby will quietly sneak up behind me and lean on my arm. Or she’ll put her hand on my shoulder. When I was pregnant, she would offer to “pet my head” while I was laying on the couch not feeling well. And she will still quietly reach up and hold my hand if we’re walking next to each other.
Days aren’t always smooth when you run through a roller coaster of extreme emotions: very sleepy, super hungry, eager for the day, bored with school, passionately not tired enough to nap, too exhausted to do anything after not taking a nap, excited to hold Hannah, disappointed not to help peel carrots…but at the end of each day, as I reflect on everything that happened and how Abby’s handled it all, the word that sums Abby up is simply: Sweet. And in my head, I see her with her messy, curly hair belly laughing and lighting up the whole room.