Gwendolyn is SIX!

Gwendolyn is SIX years old today! And it almost seems impossible. Not so long ago she was just a tiny baby with little pudgy hands and wisps of reddish hair. And, now, here she is a determined, self-assured, first grade, big SIX year old. And we are so proud of her.

What a monumental year it has been for her… for our whole family. Starting kindergarten. Making new friends. Being accepted and embraced by the whole school. Running her first half marathon. Learning to read and growing intellectually. And really coming into her own. Each year since Gwendolyn was born, we have made a little video on her birthday. This year's video is filled with images and video clips taken only from this past year — and it was difficult to edit down all the many milestones, experiences, and special moments. Gwendolyn has had a very good year indeed! As we sorted through photos and re-watched all of the videos from year's past, we were struck by just how much Gwendolyn has been fortunate enough to experience, how much she has truly lived. And we are filled with enormous gratitude.

Today we celebrate, not because she has survived six years, which is a feat for an SMA Type 1 child, but because she is living her six years so fully. At six months old when we received her SMA diagnosis, we could have never predicted into the future and imagined all that her life has become. Life isn't always easy, but in so many ways — because of Gwendolyn — it is perfect, she makes it so.

Bill and I know that so often when people meet our precious daughter they see all that she cannot do. And, of course, we know that list is quite long. And while we are fully aware of her limitations, what we see and what we focus on is the incredible little girl she has become. She is our great adventurer, always eager to try new things, always pushing us. She was born possessing a deep wisdom and a gentle understanding well beyond her age. She is fiercely determined and stubborn, which we know has served her well in facing so many challenges. And above all, she knows exactly who she is and has set her sights on what she wants — and she has been our guide each step of the way.

We have been afraid, anxious, and often still are as we navigate uncharted territory. But we are the only ones. Gwendolyn charges into new situations with confidence and certainty and a beautiful innocence that all will be well, perfect. She sees a group of children and she immediately thinks, “Oh what fun. New friends.” She sees them jumping in a bounce house, running, or playing in physical ways that she is technically unable and thinks, “Help me do that. I want to play too!” And even though she is so vulnerable in so many ways her enthusiasm, her zest for life, is extraordinary.

Today Gwendolyn is SIX and we have spent the last six years truly amazed by her. We are beyond thankful for the incredible little person she has grown into, relish each adventure she takes us on, and are eternally grateful for the opportunity to experience life through her eyes.

Happy, happy birthday our darling Gwendolyn, our little butterfly! We are the luckiest Mommy and Daddy to get to be yours.

Join us in celebrating Gwendolyn's birthday by donating in her honor to the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation so she can continue to make a difference in the world! 

(In full Gwendolyn fashion, she had very specific ideas about how she wanted to celebrate her birthday this year. Instead of a party, she chose a fancy theater weekend with requests to get dressed up, go to a fancy dinner and see the new Andrew Lloyd Webber Wizard of Oz production, so off to LA we go. Our little sophisticate. wink)

For fun, here are all of Miss Gwendolyn's birthday videos, all the way back to her first. Hope you enjoy watching her grow smile  

{Gwendolyn's 5th Birthday}

{Gwendolyn is 4}

{36 Months = 3 Years!}

{Gwendolyn's 2nd Birthday Princess Party}

{Gwendolyn's First Birthday Adventures}