This evening Peyton and I got to attend a super fun birthday party with a bunch of Peyton's friends. We all met up at Jo-Ann Fabrics and had a craft party in one of the classrooms - complete with pizza, cupcakes and lots of little girly giggles. While the party was a lot of fun, it was one of those times where the fact that Peyton is different pretty much slapped me right in the face. Tonight was definitely a reality check, especially as we're gearing up for Peyton to be placed in a mainstream classroom in the fall for kindergarten. I couldn't help but notice some of the looks Peyton got from girls who haven't spent much time with her. All of the girls were absolute sweethearts and they weren't doing anything wrong - they were just being curious kids, wondering why Peyton acts differently than all the other kids. I know I should just be able to ignore the looks after six years, but man, some days it just really eats away at me. Like I said, none of the girls did anything wrong or said anything, they just looked. Some stared. Others took quick glances up from their projects every time Peyton squealed with excitement. And as usual, I just kept right on helping Peyton, talking to her saying things like "Isn't this exciting, Peyton?!?" and "Wow, Peyton, are you having fun?!?" in an attempt to subtly let the girls know that this was a REALLY big thing for Peyton and she shows her excitement differently than most almost-six year old girls do.

We did some really fun crafts, the first of which was painting treasure boxes. Oh boy. Painting. So, of course, Peyton was more interested in finger painting on the table than painting a tiny little wooden box. All the other girls sat there working intently on decorating their boxes with specific patterns, some with stripes, others with polka dots. And then there was Peyton - happily attempting to mix all her paints together and making a hand print on the table, then shouting "Mom, look - my hand!". More stares...and rightfully so. The directions of keeping the paint on the paint trays and off the table that the Jo-Ann Fabrics employee who was leading our party had given were not being followed by Peyton. But thankfully, the party leader quickly recognized that Peyton needed a little more attention than the other girls did, and she was absolutely wonderful. She went out of her way to tell Peyton how beautiful her painting on the treasure box was. Peyton stopped what she was doing, looked up and said "Thank you. You the teacher?". I couldn't help but smile.

The next craft we did was making beaded bracelets - every little girl's DREAM project, right? They all oohed and aahed as the lady told them what we'd be doing next. Peyton didn't respond...until the lady came walking in from the other room with a ginormous container of beads. Peyton literally SCREECHED in excitement and yelled "BEANS!!!!!!!". Yep. Here we go. One of Peyton's absolute FAVORITE things to do is play in any kind of sensory bin/table. At school the first place she goes is the sensory bins. At Grandma's house she has a cake pan full of dried pinto beans that she loves to sift through for hours. At Target the highlight of our shopping experience for her is playing in the water at the drinking fountains. The girl just LOVES anything sensory. So the party leader was trying to explain to the girls that they needed to count out about 25 beads in order to make their bracelets. Well Peyton was so extremely excited about the "beans" being set down right in front of her that she was seriously YELLING, "I HAVE BEANS!!!!!!" and running her hands through all the beads, dumping them all over the table and on to the floor - right as the lady had specifically asked that the girls be extra careful to NOT spill beads on the floor. To me this was funny because Peyton was having SO much fun (and I was planning to clean the beads up that she had spilled). But to all of the other girls it was puzzling. Again, the party helper did a wonderful job complimenting Peyton on her bracelet that she made. Okay, really I made most of it - Peyton strung 2 beads then went back to playing with the "beans".

The last craft project we did was decorating our own cupcakes. Oh dear. Multiple tubes of ooey, gooey frosting in various staining colors just waiting for Peyton to squeeze all over everything. I asked Peyton if I could help her, but she insisted on doing it herself - so I let her. As she squeezed half the tube of purple on her cupcake I told her she did a good job and needed to make sure she saved some for the other girls. Then she saw the sprinkles. Before I could stop her, she stood up, grabbed them and began shaking them everywhere while she hollered out "It's a shaky egg!!", the lyrics from one of her music therapy songs in which they use shakers. And of course the lid to the sprinkles was not on tight so sprinkles flew everywhere around the room - on the floor, in my hair, across the table onto the counter...everywhere. Again, more stares. The party helper had specifically told the girls NOT to touch the sprinkles until everyone was done putting on their icing. I was a little flustered and tried to clean up some of the sprinkles, but once again, the party helper was great - she kept her cool and said, "Okay girls, it looks like Peyton started us off with the sprinkles - who else is ready for theirs?" as if it was no big deal. I secretly wanted to go over and give the lady a hug.

Once we'd finished our crafts and eaten our cupcakes it was time to open presents. Peyton was very excited for her friend to open her gift. The whole drive in to the party Peyton had been saying from the back seat, "I'm gonna give a clue for my present - it's green". She'd picked out a pretty green dress that she insisted her friend would like. Well Peyton's gift ended up being the last one that was opened, so the whole time Peyton's yelling "Where's my gift?", "You wanna open MY gift?". More stares. I kept reassuring her that her gift was coming up soon. Then it came - her friend was reaching for our gift and Peyton stood up out of her chair and yelled "OPEN IT!!!!!!!!!! IT'S GREEN!!!!", and began jumping up and down enthusiastically. Stares. Then the gifts were all opened and all the girls were gathered around the birthday girl, admiring her Littlest Pet Shop toy she'd gotten...all the girls except for Peyton, who was happily playing with the pile of tissue paper left over from all the gift bags.


There's just no getting around it. Peyton is different. She'll probably never fit into a category people consider normal. I thought I was okay with that - and that I'd gone through my so-called grieving process in an attempt to come to grips with all of this. But like I've read on so many special needs blogs, here I was right in the middle of another stage of the grieving process. Not that I was having a pity party for myself, but instead my heart just ached and longed for everyone else in the world to see what a unique and special girl Peyton is. Sure, she doesn't always have the "right" response to situations, and, sure, she sometimes does things completely unexpected, but she's still a little girl just like all the other little girls that sat around the table with her tonight. She has SO much to offer people if they could just take a step back and give her the benefit of the doubt. Don't mind my the "mom" in me talking here...just needed to get that out there.

As the party wrapped up, the other girls' parents came to pick them up. They all beamed as they took their special crafts over to show their parents what they'd created. I stuck around and helped clean up a bit as the last of the girls left. Peyton was walking around the room talking loudly and randomly singing songs. As I was pulling down streamers and balloons, I turned and saw the party helper walk over to Peyton. She leaned down to Peyton's level and told her she had a surprise for Peyton. She told Peyton to hold out her hand. Peyton looked up at her, smiled, and held out her hand. The lady dropped several shiny beads in to Peyton's hand and told her they were something special she could take home with her to put in her treasure box. Peyton kept smiling and said, "Thank you for having us!". The lady smiled warmly and told her, "Thank YOU for coming - you made my night, Peyton". I kept cleaning up, but couldn't help feel more at peace with how the evening had gone after seeing, that, despite the fact I felt as though we stuck out like a sore thumb, God had used Peyton to touch the heart of this stranger.

Perspective. That was the word that God placed on my heart as I kept running through my head how the evening had played out. I held back tears laying next to Peyton as I tucked her in to bed after she whispered "I wuv you Mommy". I need to keep everything in perspective. I need to realize that God knew EXACTLY what He was doing when He made Peyton. He knew she'd have the ability to make an impact on complete strangers simply by her joyous spirit. He knew she'd love "beans". He knew she'd love music. He knew she'd have a genuine compassion for others. He knew she'd have a quirky, silly sense of humor. He knew she'd love macaroni and cheese. He knew she'd have an incredible ability to remember people's birthdays. He knew she'd be viewed by others as different. But that's how He intended Peyton to be. Different.

Psalm 139:13-16

"For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be"


PhilandTheresa said...

Aimee. Wow. I am fighting back tears as I finish reading this. You do have a very special sweet little girl. She is a gift from God. I am so glad that she has such amazing parents! love you friend.

Emily Raymond said...

Oh my gosh, Aimee. I'm not fighting back tears...I'm in tears. You have such a gift for putting your heart on "paper." You are an amazing mom and your sweet Peyton is such a blessing. How cool to hear how she really touched the heart of the party coordinator on Friday night. You are SO right- God knew exactly what he was doing. He always does, whether we believe it or not. He is going to keep do amazing things through Peyton. We love her and we love you guys!!!!!!

Amber said...

I'm crying. What an amazing testimony of how children can open the other of their elders and teach us/them something. You are a blessing, Aimee, and Peyton is so precious, such an angel!

Sarah said...

I've just read this again. Again I don't know what to say, except that I am so glad you all have each other. You're an amazing mom, and God is really going to touch people with Peyton.

I've left you a little award over at my blog, and this post is a prime example!

Ellen said...

Hi, Aimee. I came over after I saw your comment on 5 Minutes. I know just how you felt. But I have to say, I laughed when Peyton said "I HAVE BEANS!" because I did love that she was so enjoying herself.

But, yeah. Birthday parties: they're sure not fun with our kids.

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