Odds and Ends, Hockey and Letters

I am tremendously moved by how many of you have been motivated to help Jack and his Cheetahs team, either through donating money to the Cheetah-Thon (thank you, Kate, Michal, Paula, Susan, and my MOM!), leaving comments of love and support (too many to mention), or stepping up in other, also incredible ways (I’m looking at you, Pucks and Puzzle Pieces), I have been humbled and made so grateful.

Thank you to everyone who shared links and spread our message farther (up to and including Puck Daddy and the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association). Also, thanks to all of you who Facebook shared and tweeted and generally made me a very happy person. You are rock stars, all of you.

*****

I am so sorry Congratulations to Neala, who won my 8-session UXF class giveaway at Washington Sports Clubs! It is going to be AWESOME! Please, please let me know how it goes!

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Here is the part of the post where I give you NEW! FRESH! EXCITING! content.

I am so amused when my kids in different grades are working on the same thing at the same time. Last week, both Quinn and Jack were finding adjectives in reading passages, albeit of slightly different levels of difficulty.

I won’t subject you to grammar homework (although as a former copy editor, *I* find it fascinating), but I will give you the friendly letters to characters in books that both Quinn and Sam had to write. I LOVE this stuff.

First up is exhibit A in “If Sam is ever a judge and you are ever on trial for stealing a loaf of bread, you want this bleeding heart motherfucker on your side.”

Click to embiggen; text below.

[Text: Dear Phillip and Hannah Hoose, My name is Sam and I just finished reading Hey, Little Ant and think the ant shouldn’t be squashed. I say this because if the kid were the ant, he wouldn’t want to be squashed. Other ants need him because he brings food for baby ants. Also ants have to eat. They can’t grow vegetables or fruit or kill animals so they aren’t crooks. As a result they have to steal food. Ants have lives and it’s not nice to squish them. Ants also have feelings, like people. This is why the ant shouldn’t be squished. Sincerely, Sam.]

As far as I can tell from the story, someone squished ants. And Sam wrote a one-page essay on why those assholes shouldn’t have done so. WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE BABY ANTS?! Come on, people, ants can’t farm. What are they supposed to do? (Hey, remember the ant farm?)

I also enjoy that the teacher wrote, “Stealing food really is a reason to squish the ant, but you do a good job of explaining why.” Trust me, you don’t want that lady to be your judge.

I’m so happy. I’m raising a liberal!

Quinn’s letter is more of an advice-bearing missive that ends with a sentence I think we can ALL agree on, regardless of our political leanings.

Click to embiggen; text below.
 
[Text: Dear Peter, You must listen to your mom. Do not make mischief. Do not go to Mr. McGregor’s garden. Do not take the trail that leads to Mr. McGregor’s house. Next time pick berries with your sisters. We don’t want to be a pie like your dad. Sincerely, Quinn]

Poor Peter’s dad.

I am imagining Quinn reading the story of Peter Rabbit, eyes widening larger and larger in horror as Peter hops down the bunny trail to pie-dom. Quinn leads an emotional inner life. I’m sure he was very relieved when Peter returned safely home.

*****

It is Day One of spring break, so I am off to figure out exactly what I am going to do with these kids for the next week and a half. You may see us at the American History Museum today. Cross your fingers that we don’t end up in a pie.

And Then Quinn Destroyed My Self Esteem

I put on eye makeup this evening. I was headed out to a rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother and it seemed like a nice idea to look pretty for my friends and also to follow up on a plan I have to actually look like I give a shit about myself. Hooray!

I’m trying to ease into the whole thing because I fear attention and I worry that people will notice my attempt to gussy up and have things to say about it. It didn’t help much that I walked out of the bathroom today and Sam took one look at my face and FREAKED OUT.

“You look like an entirely different person!” he yelled. Then he called Jack and Quinn to come look. “Jack! Quinn! Come here! Mom looks totally different!”

He wasn’t helping.

Jack and Quinn came into the room. Jack looked with interest at my face, but Quinn? Well, Quinn started to scream.

“You look like a zombie! Take it off! Take it off!” he shrieked.

Huh. Ouch.

At least I know that any subsequent reactions couldn’t possibly go worse than this one.

Cheetah Links

I am so blown away and humbled by how many of you have responded, commented, and shared about the Cheetahs, the tournament, and their upcoming Cheetah-thon fundraiser. Thank you so much.

I would also like to thank those of you who have already donated to the Cheetahs. Huge thanks to Laura, Kathryn, Tracy, Sue, Angela, Elaine, Joanne, Maggie, Aimee, Lisa, Neil, Mir, Amie, Margret, Other Sue, and Jan. (I’m going to make it onto that list eventually too.) You should know how much your help matters to Jack and me and to all of the other players who will benefit from your kindness. Thank you.

I thought I would put all of my 2012 tournament links together in one place for easy reference. You can always find all of my hockey posts, however, by clicking on the hockey category down there in the list on the right sidebar. There are a couple of new, non-Stimeyland links in this post as well, so be sure to check them out.

White Knuckle Parenting: The Magic of Special Hockey

Special hockey for autistic youth is therapy on skates (I have been trying to write about the Cheetahs over at Autism Unexpected for the past two years and haven’t managed to write anything that satisfies me. This will have to do.)

This is the fundraising site where you can donate money. But be sure to watch this video about the Cheetahs first.

 Find information about the Cheetah-thon on its event page or check out information about the Cheetahs on their website and Facebook page. If you are looking for special hockey in your area, check the American Special Hockey Association website under “member programs.”

Now my most recent posts about the Cheetahs:

Puck You! (I wrote this before we left for the tournament. It includes links from last year’s tournament as well.)

The EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA, Day One (I managed to squeeze a whole blog post out of sitting on a bus for seven hours. You are welcome.)

The Magic of Special Hockey, Social Media Edition (A timeline of tournament events as seen through my Facebook and Twitter posts.)

Your Baby is My Baby (What special hockey means to me. Hint: Everything.)

Now I can’t write a darn thing more. Tomorrow I will remind you that I have two entirely non-hockey-playing children that deserve some blog time.

But, really, thank you for caring about this. Thank you for caring about Jack and his fellow athletes. Thank you for reminding me that you are my village too. After a pretty stormy 2012 thus far, these past five days have been a ray of sunshine.

Your Baby is My Baby

I know that I’ve been going on and on about Jack’s hockey tournament, but it has been really hard for me to think about anything else. I’ve been perseverating on it, if you will. I’ve really just been trying to communicate how intensely amazing this team is and our trip was. I’ve had a hard time even being able to fully express to Alex how powerful these tournaments are.

I mean, it’s not just joy in watching your child play as part of a team. My kids have done other sports and Sam has played on other teams. Those experiences are awesome, but they are not the same. There is something vastly different and profound about special hockey.

Maybe it’s that these tournaments give the players the ultimate safe space in which to be themselves. They can spin, stim, script, meltdown, or whatever else comes naturally to them. Not only will the other kids not stare at them like they’re crazy, but they might just join in. All different levels of development are present and welcomed in this space.

As for the experience of being a parent at a tournament like this, I can really just touch the surface. A friend and fellow mom really got to the heart of it though on Friday morning when a bunch of the kids were at the pool. Five or six of us parents were watching about 15 kids. We made sure they got along and we made sure they were safe and we were happy to do it.

“Your baby is my baby here,” my friend said.

Your baby is my baby.

That’s it. That is the heart. The Cheetahs are the ultimate community. There is no judgment from other parents, no explanation is necessary. We get it. We all get it.

Saturday afternoon when I wanted that goal for Jack so badly? The other parents wanted it that badly for Jack too. They might have even cheered him on louder than I could. When other kids scored in front of Jack, I was so happy for them too, because every goal means that much for each of those kids too.

I give a lot of credit for this spirit of cooperation to the team leadership. All of the coaches give so much of themselves to the athletes. I have nothing but admiration for them. It is almost as much fun to watch them interacting on the ice with the players because they obviously get so much joy from it. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the head coach without a smile on his face. It is phenomenal to see the way he interacts with these kids. That smile of his speaks volumes. There is nothing false about the look on his face when he is coaching.

Later, on the team bus on the way home, he spoke to the parents. “I wish you could be out there with me on the ice to see the kids’ smiles as they play,” he told us. That coach skated eight games with the Cheetahs over the course of two days: four with Jack’s squad and four with the more advanced team. That smile never left his face.

Then there is the coach who helped Jack with his goal. Immediately afterward in the locker room, with tears in my eyes, I told him thank you and that the million dollars was his.

“Are you kidding?” he said. “I have so much fun out there!” For him, being with those kids is enough. He has a kid who plays too and he understands.

I am in love with the players on this team. I love their honesty and their quirkiness and how hard they work to be part of this world. It feels good to be able to give them four days where they can be entirely and truly themselves.

I have to tell you something else. Do you remember last year’s tournament? Jack played three games, but he didn’t finish any of them. I had to actually remove him from the bench for the last one. What’s more, Jack barely spoke to anyone but me on that whole trip.

He was a different kid this year. It was amazing.

He played every one of his rotations in all four of his games. Sure, he still has to learn some of the sportsmanship lessons that the older kids know, but he’s getting there. (I told one of the dads about something Jack had done in one of the games and the dude was all, “There’s a name for that in hockey. It’s called cross-checking and you get a penalty for it.” Yep. My kid. Niiiice.)

What’s more, Jack actually noticed the other players this year. I was forced to actually socialize with other parents because Jack wasn’t glued to my side like last year. He talked to other kids and sought out contact with them. Honestly, he was more social than he ever is at home. It’s as if he knew these were his people.

Last year, I cried so much, both for the same profound reasons that made me cry this year, but also for the difficulty Jack had in being part of the team, both on and off the ice. Parents who had been in my shoes talked me down. They told me about their own kids or other kids who had the same kind of trouble in previous years, but were now happily playing and integrated in the team. This year, Jack got to be a success story.

He has made so much progress. I really hope he truly feels pride in himself, because I could not be more proud of that kid for moving forward on his own terms. (I’m less proud of the cross-checking, but that’s another conversation entirely.)

I also truly love the coaches. Thank you, Coach Dave and Sean. You are the heart of this team. I know how much time and effort you put into our kids. I hope you know how much it means to us. Thanks also to Coach Kyran who stayed at home with the Cheetahs who didn’t go on the trip. Thank you for reaching Jack by talking to him about Plants vs. Zombies. You have earned your bond with this boy. Lastly, big thanks to trip organizers David (extra thanks for the Shakira dancing) and Andy. I’m sure it takes a lot of work to put together all the pieces for our tournament.

I hate naming names because I know there are others who put so much into the team. Everyone does a piece and it all comes together in an amazing whole. Thank you to all of you.

I am so grateful for this team that it is almost ridiculous.

So, now is the time when I capitalize on the gooey feelings I’ve hopefully shared with you and beg you for money. The Cheetahs have a lot of expenses, including $20,000 a year for ice time alone. Everyone involved with this organization is a volunteer. No one is paid. Every donation given to the Cheetahs gets put 100% into the athletes and their ice time.

The Cheetahs are having their first annual Cheetah-thon skating event to raise money for the team. The event will be held May 12 from 5-7 p.m. at the Rockville Ice Rink. You are invited. Please come. That day is Jack’s birthday as well. We would love to have you come spend a couple of hours with us.

Whether you can go or not (and, really, please come), you can donate to the Cheetahs on their fundraising site. Every $5 or $10 makes a difference. If you donate $50, you get a t-shirt. If you donate $1000, I’ll give you my dog. If you know of any companies or organizations looking to make charitable donations, you should know that this is a non-profit organization that changes lives every single week. You can donate online or get in touch with me if you would like to send a check.

This organization has given and continues to give so much to my family. Both Jack and I have made friends and gained self esteem because of this team. I was talking to a Cheetah dad whose son is going to college next year. “I don’t know that he could have done it without this team,” he said.

This team matters—in a big way. After all, there are not that many places where your baby can be my baby. Where my baby can be your baby. And where my baby and your baby can truly, honestly be themselves.

And their quirky parents can be as well.

The Magic of Special Hockey, Social Media Edition

As I write this, Jack’s hockey tournament is over, all except for the bus ride home. It has been an amazing three days with this group. I have some profound thoughts to share with you and a lot of stories of good and happy and joyful and so very much more.

I spent some time this weekend trying to find a word for what I feel when I am with these people, when I am watching these games, when I am feeling a part of this community, and I can’t quite find it. I know that the emotion is physical, because I can feel it in my chest. It is heavily joyful and yearning and grateful and amazed and really, just plain indescribable.

It is good.

I will work on sorting out those feelings so I can write something coherent, but thought tonight I would tell you the story of the hockey tournament as seen through my Facebook and Twitter posts. They don’t tell the whole story, but they hit some of the high points.

Probably one of the top ten cutest hockey players ever.

After I posted this photo everywhere I had a social media account, a lot of you commented on the hat. You all loved the hat. Jack loves that hat too. You know where it came from? The head coach had one made for his son and a parent of one of the mentors (who skate with the Cheetahs every week when they are at practice) raised enough money to get a hat for every single member of the team. Phenomenal. If those kind people who raised that money ever read this, you should know how amazing your gift was to these children and young adults. Thank you. Truly.

Jack’s team had two games on Friday and two games on Saturday. I was in the stands at the second game on Friday night and there was just too much amazing in the air and I had to get it out somewhere.

And that is what Twitter is for.

There is no part of this team that I don’t love. I love the camaraderie of the parents. I love the joy and exercise that the players get. I love to see the amazing sportsmanship that these athletes and their coaches display. I love that both sides cheer for every goal, no matter who scored it. I love that some kids play hockey like they’ve been doing it for years and some kids barely pay attention to the puck, but they all get something out of it and they are all incredible and important players.

I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to do this again: I FREAKING LOVE SPECIAL HOCKEY!

After that game, I got some food to take back to the hotel for Jack and I. He played some iPad while I waited for our food and reflected on how hard Jack worked that day.

I don’t know how he hadn’t collapsed from exhaustion.

And there you have the first day of the tournament. It was good stuff. The second day got off to a little bit of a rougher start.

This is putting it mildly.

Our first game was at 10 a.m., so we had to get up and eat breakfast early enough to walk to the rink and get Jack geared up. We ate breakfast at the hotel with some friends, including Jack’s best friend and his dad, T.

You guys, I almost can’t tell you this. It was so horrible.

Jack was eating bacon and he started to choke. He was across the table and past his best friend from me and he seemed really far away. I didn’t know what to do. T, who works in the medical field, saw what was happening and yanked Jack over his own kid. He checked to see if he was breathing and then he had to give him the Heimlich.

He had to squeeze him four times before Jack started making noise and was able to throw up the biggest wad of bacon you have ever seen.

He saved Jack. He is my hero.

I am signing up to take a first aid class as soon as I get home. I think you should too.

All that happened at something like 8:30 in the morning. I had a good 13 hours to go until bedtime and I was already emotionally destroyed.

We headed over to the rink and got ready for the first game. Jack was a little bit belligerent at this game. It was shades of last year when he yelled at all the dads who were helping on the bench. I don’t really blame him. I’m sure he was exhausted, he was probably stressed out from what happened that morning, and there had been a lot of stimulation. But you know what? He played all his rotations for the game. He finished. I was really proud.

Needless to say, I sobbed.

After the game, Jack ate some lunch and played some more iPad (the kid earned it) until his next and final game of the tournament.

The coaches had really tried to help Jack score a goal in the third game, but it just didn’t come together, as sometimes it doesn’t. I was hopeful that he might get another chance in this last game. Jack had never scored a goal in a game in the whole two years that he’s been playing hockey, and I knew that a goal would mean a lot to him.

Unfortunately, being an asshole and hitting the opposing team members with your stick doesn’t get you a goal.

I actually wrote this tweet in the day’s first game, but it didn’t
get sent until the second game. It was apropos either way.

But then…you guys, it was amazing. One of the coaches positioned Jack. The others got the puck to him. There were less than two minutes left in Jack’s final game of the tournament. He shot and the goalie blocked, but the coaches got the puck back to Jack and kept the other players off of him. There was a whole little kerfluffle at the goal and then all of the Cheetahs’ arms went up in celebration.

Jack scored his first goal.

The other parents, who knew where I was emotionally and how much that meant to me, because, Christ, it means that much to them too, well, we all erupted in cheers. I, naturally, burst into tears. It was one of the most magical moments of my whole life. I’m not kidding.

Thank you to all of YOU who were so happy for him too.

My friend took a photo of me with the team in the background. You can probably still see tears in my eyes.

This is what happy looks like.

When I got down to the locker room, Jack was sitting calmly on a bench. I hugged him and told him how excited I was about his goal and I said, “I am so proud of you, Jack!”

And he said…

“I am proud of myself.”

And then I sobbed a lot more and I may have agreed to really pay the coaches the million dollars I offered them for the goal because those five words—and he put that emphasis on “myself,” by the way—are worth a billion dollars.

We watched the team’s other squad play a game and then we went back to the hotel where Jack swam in the pool for nearly two hours and I talked and laughed with the other parents. Then we hung out in the room with Jack’s buddy and his dad and then we went downstairs to the lobby to wait for the bus to take us to the end of the tournament banquet and I turned away from Jack for about a minute, at which point he disappeared.

Come. On.

My Hero, the Second found him in the luggage rack closet.

It was at this point that I resolved to never let him out of my sight again. And I haven’t yet since then. Except when he almost finagled his way off of the bus by himself when we arrived at the banquet.

He is a sneaky, agile little dude.

He put me through the wringer on Saturday.

You know what was fantastic about the place where the banquet was held? Just out the double doors and around the corner, there was an honest-to-God bar.

I think the bartender sensed my desperation and made it extra strong.

The evening ended with a band and a dance party. It was a little too much for Jack, who retreated to a back corner, hid behind some plants and started playing with random wires, so I spent an hour or so distracting him and a couple of other kids by chasing them in circles. We had a blast. It was a great end to a day that held some of the most extreme emotions I have had in a while.

This last photo isn’t tied to any social media, but I just loved it. Jack and I shared something big this weekend—with each other and with many of the other families on this trip. It has been an incredible experience.

Cheetah Pride, baby. Jack Pride. SELF Pride.

The EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA, Day One

Today is the part of the special hockey EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA when fifty-something people pile on a bus first thing in the morning only to sit and sit and sit and eat lunch at a truck stop and then sit and sit and sit some more until finally they get out of the bus at a hotel in Jamestown, New York, where they then stand and stand and stand in line until fifty-something people get their room keys.

That said, there were some things of note that occurred today and, as I am currently sitting in a dark hotel room using all the powers of my mind to WILL Jack to go to sleep, I have some time to tell you about those things.

The first of those things is if you are very, very sore from a strenuous workout, you should not then sit in one spot for seven hours because the inactivity will cause your muscles to tighten up until they are so sore that you can barely wrestle the iPad out of your 8-year-old’s hands after he has been playing on it for seven hours.

Seriously. I hopped on the bus all jaunty-like this morning, experiencing mild soreness. I hobbled off the bus all painful-like after dinner this evening, experiencing extreme stiffness. Every time my nose itches, I have to evaluate whether it is worth the tricep pain to lift my arm and scratch. Evidently I need to work out more.

Jack was so excited to get on the road today. He usually drags around in the morning, but he was hopping around and kept trying to leave the house and get in the car before it was time to go. I dropped both Sam and Quinn off at their schools before heading to the bus rendezvous point. Let me tell you, Quinn was properly irate that Jack got to miss school and he didn’t.

It’s funny, actually, because in the time it took Jack and I to slowly make our way to New York state, Alex got on an airplane, flew to New York City, had a meeting, and flew back. I was pretty worried for much of the day that Quinn would puke at school and the nurse would call to have me pick him up and I would have to tell her that Alex and I both abandoned our children for separate trips to another state. Many thanks to our friends and neighbors who helped us with school bus pickup. We’re so happy to have these people in our village.

Speaking of metaphorical villages, Jack’s hockey team is such a great little community. Jack and I have gotten to know many of the players and their families better since last year. Today was a wonderful exercise in remembering how much I like all these people. It doesn’t hurt that Jack’s best friend is also playing in the EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA.

One of the things I like very much about this team is being around the older kids. There is a group of older teenagers on this team who are such incredible people. I watch the way they look after the younger kids and are so caring and kind to them, and I have hope for this generation. These kids? They are Such Good Kids. Such good young men, really. I am so thrilled to have them around as examples and hopefully inspirations to my Jack. These young men usually skate at a different practice than Jack’s squad, so we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, but it is a privilege to do so when we get a chance.

Jack seems to have fallen asleep and I want to go rest in my bed and let my sad, sad, weak muscles recover, so I’ll just share one last thing with you. Jack today, when he wasn’t sitting quietly playing his iPad, was a stimmy, spinny, dysregulated little dude. But he was also a happy little dude. He is excited to be on this trip. He is proud to be a Montgomery Cheetah. He wants to play in the EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA.

He is happy. And that is everything to me.

Puck You!

Alternatively titled: I was trying to think of a fun title for this post, but realized that I haven’t read my Hockey for Dummies book, nor have I, you know, watched any hockey since I decided that I was going to be a hockey aficionado, so I didn’t have any fun hockey-themed phrases in my working memory with which to name my post, so I resorted to something close to an obscenity—which is a strength of mine.

So, the reason I am talking about hockey, other than I want an excuse to post more photos taken by the lovely Katie Dance for her photo story, is that Jack and his team are headed on the road again for this year’s hockey tournament.

I have taken hundreds of hockey photos, and NEVER one this good.

As you read this, Jack and I are on a bus headed to Jamestown, New York for the JSBIA Special Hockey Extravaganza. Incidentally, every single part of me loves the American Special Hockey Association for calling their tournament an extravaganza.

When you say “extravaganza,” you should be saying it in a totally drawn out and dramatic fashion with a fake hoity-toity accent as well, like this: EX-TRAAAH-VAH-GAAAAHN-ZA. At least that is how I will be saying it.

Oh, and yes, we will be taking barf bags on the bus, just in case.

Last year’s tournament, you may remember, was a very intense, profound, amazing experience for me. I assume Jack got something out of it as well. Oh, I kid. Jack still talks about last year’s tournament. He does it in his Jack/autistic way: rarely, out of the blue, not entirely accurate, and in a manner that makes you realize that this team is a big deal to him.

For example, we’ll be talking about sports in general and he will quietly say, “I won a hockey tournament.”

Also, he’s really excited to skip two days of school.

I am looking forward to spending the next four days with Jack, but also know that it will be exhausting, dysregulating, and possibly emotionally wrenching in many ways (when it’s just you and your kiddo, you spend 24 hours a day with him), but I can’t wait to see how it goes this year.

Side note to the coaches of Jack’s team: If you facilitate his scoring a goal, I will give you A MILLION DOLLARS.*

It will be a tiring weekend for Jack as well, but he manages to find time to relax pretty much wherever he is.

What? You needed this space in front of the goal?

Jack works his mentors hard.

I plan to blog the hell out of this tournament (and probably Facebook and tweet** as well), but if you want some reading material to remind you of last year’s tournament, here are all the posts I wrote when Jack’s team went to Boston last year:

Here We Go, Cheetahs, Here We Go! (the pre-tourney post)

Part of Something (the profound, I cried a lot post)

1000 Words (the short photo post)

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times (the recap post)

Things I Learned in Boston (the last post, heavy on the photos)

Cheetah pride, baby. I gots it.

I have the DSi and iPad charged, I’ve bought a bunch of snacks, and we’ve sharpened Jack’s skates. Let’s go, Cheetah Nation!

* Offer not valid anywhere.

** Suggestions are now open for Twitter hashtags. It’ll be hard to beat last year’s #cheetahSHIT, but I’d like you to try.***

*** If you can’t come up with anything, I’m going to have to go with #puckyou.