What would you remember about playing on your first team sport?

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I could drift back in time all night to thoughts of days gone by of when I played softball and even back to my t-ball days if I think way back in time! I have no clue tonight just what my son will remember from his first basketball team but I hope it goes something like this…. “My teammates were great, they all encouraged me to do my best!” “My coach gave me every opportunity to play!” “…Oh yeah., and my teammates sister, (my new friend), taught me how to get the ball in the hoop!”

I ask you one other thing about this picture that will hang somewhere in our house as a very positive memory: Do you see the kid that fits the description of having an “A” in his/her title? Look close, I’ll wait! Give up yet? They all do! The “A” I’m talking about is “Athlete “!!!! That’s not the “A” you thought I was talking about right? Yes, my son has Autism but that’s not the main point here. The main point you see is how this amazing coach treated my son from the start! This coach treated him just like all the other teammates and thus in turn, his teammates turned around and treated him the same way! Coach took him under his wing just like the others, drilled him when the others ran drills, gave applause when needed to him just like the others and gave correction when needed just like the others. My son didn’t have to sink a single basket during a game, (although he got pretty good at doing it during practice), he showed up and he tried his best and they respected him for it …..and to you guys, his teammates …you will always be a part of something bigger than you’ll ever know!  You made this team sport a success for my son, your support is a burst of inspiration to us all! It will carry us when times are hard in the days and weeks ahead. It will remind me that inclusion can in fact happen outside of a classroom, where it has been mandated by a law ~ all that’s needed is a willingness of a leader who will show his team how. I will think back to when my son was ‘just one of the boys’ and I will remember that this team made him an Athlete not because of his ability or disability for that matter but because he was just a kid wanting to play!

 

Toddlers and Dustbunnies!

wpid-0225152001a.jpgDon’t know what my bigger worry is today…..

  • Raising a toddler at the age of 40 or How many dust bunnies live under my couch? Okay so let’s start with the first biggie I just brought up ….we (the spouse and I) decided about 2.5 years ago to start being a foster resource in our county with the intent to hopefully one day adopt. Now, when you start a journey like this you never intend that it will actually take as long as it really does ….and let me tell you good folks reading this …the struggle is real! So much goes into the entire process as a ‘foster to adopt” family that will totally zap your inner emotions! Your mind is never at rest for the child you are caring for no matter if you care for them a day, a month, or a year! You start to love and worry for them as if they are your own…. instantly! So, we have had a few fosters and now we have a little one that we call …..TaterTot! (for the sake for his privacy we cannot reveal his name on social media! “TaterTot” may in fact follow him as a nickname throughout his life) This little spitfire of life has taken our perfectly scheduled, never disrupted, always by the book family …..and he’s single-handedly turned our world up-side-down!!! Wanna know something else? Connor is totally fine with it!!!! It’s myself and the spouse that’s been defeated by the short stack running through the house causing havoc every where he turns!

In the beginning…..

  • He came to us with no schedule, having been left to himself more or less and we had to start over with him as if he were a newborn! Not to mention he had terrible reflux that had to be addressed! But just like our prior foster(s) …you learn to adjust to their needs and then you will see them start to thrive! It takes time, you lose sleep, you lose track of current events going on in the world, you lose friends even. Your hair will gray a bit more but you won’t care because to be honest you cannot remember if you washed it that week or not….it’s all good! You start to eat whatever leftovers are sitting around and you mostly go out of the house only to go to the grocery store and back! But wait, what happened…..you did not give birth, but did you? It is just like that! And I’m not talking about just with having an infant to foster, I’m talking about how it  has felt every time we’ve had a new child to care for, no matter the age….. they ALL come with a new set of needs that has to be tended to and nurtured to correctly from the start, just like having a newborn!

TaterTot…….

  • Will be the daredevil that rides his bike off the ramp that no other kid will try.
  • Will run the fastest just because everybody said he couldn’t do it.
  • Will be an athlete.
  • Will stay out way past his curfew an be grounded a lot because of it.
  • Will love his big brother unconditionally, just like he already does!

When I look around my once clean house (OCD use to keep me on my toes!) I no longer fight the mighty dust bunny battle, in fact I now look for those same “bunnies” and invite them to gather around and entertain our little tot when Momma needs a break! Word!

~He has taught us to come off our schedule and laugh a bit more, even if it is at silly piles of dust bunnies under my couch!!~ He fits our world perfectly ~

Pancakes, Chocolate & Basketball ~ A Valentine to remember!

IMG_20131227_180023So… Saturday was Valentine’s day and that’s nice but bigger to us was that Connor Evans would play basketball again !!!  Now please do not get me wrong, Chocolate is a MUST in my life, I repeat: chocolate is a MUST (also tons of coffee but I shall only reveal one addiction at a time!) and Valentine’s day is great but hey, after 21 years of marriage, a 9 year old with autism …and oh wait, throw in a few foster children over them past 2 1/2 years ….well, my motivation for “love” is this ….a man who will get up in the middle of the night with a fussy toddler because he knows “momma” stayed up too long after the house was quite, a man who will stay by his son’s side and “coach” him and the neighborhood kids in a game of catch, basketball, football or tag ….just to see that our son is able to stay engaged but not letting him or the others know what he’s really there for and all along the kids loving him for being involved with them….. those things, now those things speak to my heart! Also, when you live in the moment but you are forced to always be thinking of the very next “play” so to speak ….holidays such as this one are more of an after thought! Valentine’s 2015, however, will not be forgotten anytime soon ……

Good morning Mr. Sunshine ~

Yes, normally Connor enjoys oatmeal 365 days a year just as the title to our story indicates, however, Saturday being Valentine’s day my husband declared ….”it is a holiday, I will pick breakfast up for us!” Sometimes out of nowhere when this happens Connor will forgo the oatmeal ….sometimes! Saturday, he said yes to pancakes!! So, the spouse (as I like to call him) brought back pancakes and two Valentine chocolate bars ….one for myself and one for Connor! Pancakes and chocolate was interesting to say the least but I’ve learned to jump right into whatever the task may be for the sake of progress ~ autism is tricky yes but when you see a positive taking place, you jump right in even if it means you work your entire morning into  keeping a positive spin so that you set your child up to be able to attain a goal such as playing in a basketball game!

Game time ~

I won’t lie …..most of the weekly practices and games we have to do a quick song and dance to get Connor to buy-in to the spirit of things and usually it’s more because he is so very comfortable at home, in a very predictable environment where he feels no undue stress ….anything outside of home can be a stress point but we usually lay out things way ahead of time so that he can prepare himself for whatever the day holds. Side note: Connor struggles very little with transition now, we’d like to think that years of good therapy and a lot of coaching techniques have helped us with such issues!  Never-the-less game time comes around and we get Connor out the door just in time. I am always behind them due to one thing or another but Saturday it was because Tater Tot was snoozing through a very long afternoon nap to the point I finally had to wake the little spud just to make it before the second quarter started! Pulling out of the drive way I get a text from the spouse that read: “Connor started the game!” Now, my lead foot days of driving are over and have been for years, but I have to say I could not get there fast enough after having read those 4 words!

The start of the second half showed very few points on the board for either team and some where, some how by the end of the half the other team had a lead on us but strangely as I looked around at our team and Connor, things looked different! From the coach down everyone else, they all seemed relaxed and confident …..even the kid on the team with a diagnosis! I even noticed him noticing me and he waved his silly “I spotted you” wave as he trotted past me which distracted him and I finally mouthed “play the game!” Within the first  2 minutes of the second half our team was making points and had the lead which we would go on to keep for the rest of the game and end up with a huge win over the other team!

And then it happened …….

As if Connor getting to play almost an entire basketball game weren’t enough….. the Coach calls a time-out and rallies his team around him to talk and when the whistle blows the Coach himself escorts Connor to the other end of the court and speaks to him privately before the ball is then to be thrown in. I look on in admiration at my parents sitting next to me ~ the Coach was giving Connor “his moment” ~ and my heart was full! I quickly shuffled Tater Tot around to find my phone for that ‘just in case’ moment should he get his hands on the ball! There were some very good attempts made to get the ball to Connor and for one reason or another it didn’t happen that day but I can assure you that unlike what you might be thinking, this was in no way a “Casey at the bat” kind of moment! Instead it was more like a “Rudy” kind of thing!! When the buzzer sounded I look over to see the Coach with Connor in his arms and he picked him up as if Connor HAD made the winning shot!

You see there are “stepping stones”………

These are people that go out of their way to allow Connor to grow, they allow themselves to be his “Stepping stones” so to speak! We usually come across a few each year along Connor’s path, I’d like to think they’re all connected somehow! The Coach became one such “stepping stone” for Connor from the start of the season on and with only one game left to play, he has forever bridged Connor’s wish to play a team sport by allowing his stepping stone to be crossed! “Thanks Coach!” This is a Valentine we won’t soon forget! 

It’s a good thing …to laugh!

So….quick random post from driving home on Friday that made me stop to think: Does the world know….those with autism can be funny? Connor can be quite funny at times but he does not understand sarcasm at all and it indeed confuses him. Here is my post to prove these kids have the ability to understand something funny.

Driving in the car on the way home from school my foster son, a toddler we call “Tater Tot” has discovered his finger fits perfectly in his nose …and he won’t leave this new found fun alone. As soon as Connor hops in the car he announces what Tater Tot is doing and begins to question why his little brother would be so gross? I tried to explain how all toddlers go through this stage of exploration when it comes to their nose and that “its just a new hole he’s discovered, he’ll quit doing it soon enough”……to which point I hear Connor reply: “that’s no hole, it’s a booger factory!!!!!”

I know a lot of the not-so-fun things that we struggle with and have no easy fixes for but this child’s humor, however, can be spot on sometimes…. I laughed the entire drive home!

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Well what do you know…..

Tonight he made 3 baskets during Basketball practice!!! Talk about a proud kid who carried himself well in a first time sport that he knew nothing of before the beginning of 2015!!!! He even cried when tonight’s practice was over!! Y’all, Connor has NEVER cried when a sport was over…. not on t.v., not at the park, not at an event, not in the dark… not here, not there, Connor has NEVER cried about sports ANYWHERE!!! (Yes, we love Dr. Seuss just a tad, maybe!) So you see I have to believe the ripple effect of this one night from a week ago, has now caused our child to be empowered with some kind of confidence that he’s never experienced before ….ever with a sport of any kind!

I still don’t know this little girl’s name but I have a mission to find out before the end of this season and she’ll at least get a “thank you” from a mom who spends countless hours trying to search for the very key ingredient that’s always missing from these social engagements that our son so desires to be a part of even though he struggles at different levels of the engagement. I use to think that missing “ingredient” was just awareness, but then I decided that it had to be more of acceptance (something talked about far and wide in the circle of needs within the autism community)  ……but now after the past two weeks I would almost say it’s almost more about self confidence and approachability! I don’t know if this little girl (or “that dad”) were aware of autism before having met my son but I do know that she was accepting of him, she was self confidant and she was approachable in the sense that she did not turn away from Connor nor his actions and instead stood her ground in the beginning and later on in the days after sought him out even!    

I don’t believe in fairy tale endings and I don’t believe that Connor will grow up to play for the NBA but I do know for the first time in my 9 year olds life he has true confidence involving a sport given to him by a younger child that has “grown him” in ways that we’ve yet to uncover! I also know…. we will get up tomorrow morning and have oatmeal and after school we will be discussing Bakughans the entire ride home!

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