Last week, we celebrated a very special sweet sixteen birthday for my daughter Gracie. 

What she wanted for her birthday was in some ways the same as with most sixteen-year-olds – a birthday celebration and gifts. However, there were some differences. Gracie is autistic and if you have any experience with individuals with autism, it isn’t always easy to predict what they will like, or dislike. 

So, when I asked Gracie what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “I want to go to the Cheesecake Factory” and have mac-n-cheese (from the kid’s menu) and plain cheesecake, which is exactly what we did. 

For her gifts, she had been carrying around a list of what she wanted and would show it to anyone who asked, including siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The list included items such as Hello Kitty plushes (stuffed animals), Sharpie markers, paper, panda plushes, and My Little Pony comic books. 

Living with Gracie is a lot like living with a pre-teen in regards to where her interests lie. Her child-like manner makes it hard to believe that physically, she is now 16.

She did receive a jade bracelet that we had bought for her years ago when we were in China to adopt her. It’s the only piece of jewelry that she has ever wanted to wear, and she had been waiting years to be old enough to receive it. So, it was somewhat unusual to see her wearing a ‘grown-up’ piece of jewelry while wearing her Hello Kitty t-shirt and playing with her newest panda plush.

I’d be lying if I said that life with Gracie was easy – it’s not. But, despite her unique view of the world and limitations, she embraces the things that bring her joy and reminds us all of the simple pleasures that life can bring.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

6 replies
  1. hb
    hb says:

    Happy Birthday to Gracie! Here’s to simple pleasures, like a family lunch and a favorite t-shirt.

    My nephew is 16 also, but “sweet” doesn’t apply to boys at that age.

    Reply
  2. Lynn W
    Lynn W says:

    Happy Sweet Sixteen Gracie!!!
    Sounds like a perfect way to celebrate a big milestone 🙂

    As a Mother of a 26 year old son with high functioning autism, I can completely agree that some days are wonderful and others can try your patience and sanity.

    Keep the posts coming Noelle! Love your blog ❤️
    Thank you for writing such a special and personal post about Gracie!

    Reply

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