Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Raising The Bar

Three months short of our older son’s 4th birthday, he was diagnosed with autism.

I’m not sure if my wife and I really understood what that meant back then. We’d heard the term. We’d seen stories. Once we got the diagnosis, we read the literature. The learning curve was steep. We tried to stay on the road. It was a challenge for us.

It was a greater challenge for him.

The biggest issue he faced was with his speech. He had difficulty processing what he heard. He had difficulty saying what he was trying to say. My wife once commented that our son speaks English like it’s his second language. Try as we might, we couldn’t figure out what the first language was.

We got as much help as we could through insurance and hired private help, the type that insurance wouldn’t cover. We also worked hard with him ourselves at home. When he started school, we got him an Individualized Education Profile (IEP), trying to obtain services for him. Slowly, it started to pay off.

The first thing we discovered was that he excelled at math. Numbers came easy to him, though word problems were troubling. We also found that he liked science and history. Language arts was another story. His language issues proved hard to overcome. However, he did get better.

As his abilities improved, we changed his focus. However, we discovered he did as well. He was pulled nearly every day for special services. He didn’t like being singled out and worked with one goal in mind…to get out of services.

We worried when he started middle school, concerned if he could handle the increased work load. He did well, particularly in math, and his grades were good overall. He also joined the band as a clarinet player. His service levels were reduced, but he still got them for speech and language arts.

Seventh grade came and our son surprised us. He secretly made arrangements to change from regular math to accelerated math class and passed the test to be admitted. He also tried out for and made Honors Band. Toward the end of of seventh grade, he applied to be a Peer Leader at his school. The position would allow him to help younger students to adjust to middle school. His speech capabilities were an issue, but he didn't let that stop him. He went through the application and interview was accepted as a Peer Leader.

This year, he started 8th grade. He continues to be in Accelerated Math and Honors Band and he added Accelerated Science. We were worried that more accelerated classes would tax him, but he wanted to stay in the class. He’s also moved to a regular Language Arts class. He continues to have speech problems and take speech lessons at school. However, he looks forward to the day that he can eliminate that, too.

My wife and I know that challenges remain. However, we couldn’t be prouder of his accomplishments. The day he was diagnosed, I doubt we foresaw this for him. However, I’d be afraid to believe he has any limits now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peter Banning Doesn't Live Here

“Dad, you missed two of my games last year,” my 9 y.o told me in reference to his football team from last season.

“I made eight of your games,” I responded, knowing that I’d caught six of the regular season games and both playoff games. (I would have caught more playoff games, but they unfortunately lost that second one. I also made both preseason scrimmages but I didn’t point that out to him. Granted, I didn’t remember it at the time.)

Still, the comment hurt a bit. I love watching my kids play sports and I do my best to make their games. During baseball season, I’ve served as scorekeeper. This fall, I know I will serve at a couple of football games in a volunteer capacity.

But I’ve seen the schedule. I know the horrible truth. I will miss a couple of games this season, too. And this year, like last year, I know there’s nothing I can do.

Still, I know it doesn’t make me Peter Banning. However, I can’t help but feeling that way. For those of you unfamiliar with the reference, Peter Banning is a character from the movie Hook. In Hook, Peter Pan has grown up and is now a hotshot lawyer with a wife and kids. He makes a lot of money but never makes time for his family. Hook plots his re revenge on Pan by kidnapping his kids and trying to establish a “connection” with Pan’s son, trying to entice Pan’s son to him instead of Pan.

I would not recommend Hook from an entertainment point-of-view as the movie proves it is possible to have two incredible personalities like Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman in a movie and have it suck anyway. Still, the movie does a good job of pointing out the importance of being there for family events.

I’ll miss two games. I have to live with that.

But I don’t doubt that I’ll always be there for my boys.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Calm Before The Storm

School started last Monday, at least for the kids in Gwinnett County.

I think we were ready for school to start. At the same time, it still feels early. Out in Oregon, where we used to live, kids start school in September. That seemed reasonable. When we moved to Georgia, we did it in the middle of the school year. It took more than a month between the time we left Oregon and the time we had a house in the Atlanta area. The day after we moved into our house, my wife took our older son to school to enroll him. The school placed him in a class that morning. A little over a month later, he was out for the summer as we tried to deal with the fact that he’d essentially missed over two months in school in total.

Fast forward to now. A week of school is already completed. I know my kids are studying. Yet, it seems like they’re getting through everything fine so far without me. I know they get homework. I’ve heard them talk about it. My wife has them focus on it when they get home from school. They’ve gotten it completed without having to ask me.

That feels strange.

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to finishing my work, sitting down from dinner, and then studying with the kids until they had to go to bed. I haven’t had to do that yet. Then again, it’s only been a week.

I know the days will come where they need my assistance and I’ll be working with them every night. At that point, I'll start wishing it was already summer. At the same time, I know they’re growing up. My wife has impressed upon them good study habits. As they’ve grown older, they’ve gotten more capable at doing their work themselves, despite the increasing complexity of their assignments. I’m proud of their self-reliance.

Still, part of me looks forward to the day that I come home from work and find that my kids still need their Dad’s help.

It’s great to be a parent.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Elisha's Request

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Request whatever I might do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, "May I receive a double portion of your spirit."

-2 Kings 2:9

Football season has started.

It’s been a long time coming. Two years ago, when our 9-year old was only just seven, he begged us to let him play football. Knowing his penchant for taking up new hobbies and then losing interest (a trait my wife would say was inherited from me), we told him he would have to wait for a year. A year later, with him now 8-years old, still wanting to play, and willing to invest his Christmas and birthday money in equipment, we agreed to let him play football. He had a blast. We enjoyed it, too. And we told him he could play again if he wanted to do so.

Last season, when his team was in the playoffs, we went to the pastor after church and requested a blessing for safety.

This year, though, we didn’t wait until the end.

Back in July, with pre-season agility camps in swing, we went ahead and requested a blessing. As my son really likes our associate pastor, we approached him after church and he was happy to do it.

A few weeks later, back from vacation and ready for the season, my son decided one blessing wasn’t enough. This time, after church, he approached the pastor and asked for a blessing for football season. The pastor was happy to oblige.

Maybe it’s a little crazy to go twice for a blessing for the same thing, but when I see the recent tragic events of high school kids dying at football practice, I don’t once question the wisdom of getting a double portion of spirit. With the heat, the coaches of my son’s team have made sure that the kids get plenty of water and breaks as well as practicing without pads. We also make sure that our son drinks plenty of fluids at home.

Hopefully, the weather will cool off soon to the type of weather that football was meant to be played in. Still, even when it does, we’ll take all the blessings we can get.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Suggestions for the Arizona Tourism Board

One last word on our trip out west to visit family.

We really enjoyed our recent trip. We try to visit my in-laws as often as we can. When we lived in Portland, we saw them often. Since moving to Georgia, our trips are fewer, so we make our visits longer.

As I showed last week, there were a number of memorable things about the trip, particularly the Grand Canyon among other things. I hope we do go again someday and I would recommend it to anyone.

However, for those planning a trip to Arizona, I would like to provide you with a list of things that won’t be found on any website discussing Arizona tourism. While these items in no way should ever dissuade a visit, they should be acknowledged.

1) The bugs in Arizona are bigger then you may be accustomed to. Attacks are not an issue. However, expect to wash your windshield more often.
2) There are no bank signs showing the temperature. At some point, hot is just hot and the number is meaningless.
3) For those traveling from California, Exit #9 on I-40 in Arizona has cheap gas.
4) Just because an exit has a sign for a fast food restaurant does not mean that the fast food restaurant is close to the exit.
5) Pitch dark can take on a new meaning.
6) Even if a hotel has multiple pools, do not ask if one of them inside unless you like making the hotel staff laugh.
7) If the sign at the exit says no services for 60 miles, believe it.
8) For those visiting the Petrified Forest, the trees you remember from textbooks are at the south entrance. The only food in the Petrified Forest is at the north entrance. Plan accordingly, especially if you have kids.
9) The Chapel of the Holy Cross (Sedona) is still a tourist attraction. It’s closed on Christmas and Easter.
10) There is an abundance of mules for those who wish to ride the trails in the Grand Canyon. For those who wish to hike the trails, there is an abundance of mule poop.

Have a good week.