I have a goal this year to run a half marathon.  i’ve run the Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back with my wife and friends the past two years – 200 miles over roughly 36 hours of craziness and little to no sleep.  I’ve run 15 miles as part of Ragnar, but it’s always been spread out across three legs so I thought – this is my year to actually try and train for a marathon.

Notice he's wearing his Sonic shirt. . . . probably makes him faster

Notice he’s wearing his Sonic shirt. . . . probably makes him faster

We’ve taken the kids on a few 5k’s and 1-mile runs for different charities or groups and Twin A has taken to running.  We have a loop on the golf course by our home that’s roughly 1-mile so he decided to run it with me.  Honestly, it was a treat to spend some quality time with him and to see how excited he was to do this!  While his pace ranged from a 6’30” mile to a 16″ mile – I had a blast with him!  Thanks buddy for a great time.  You may not remember our run but I will never forget it!

Great View from the Course

Great View from the Course

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Handstands for Goals camp held in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I’ve mentioned this camp previously as the Red Devils Soccer Camp and it looks like the name has changed, but the spirit and goals of the camp are the same.  Our boys have been to all three camps, from the first camp that got us to take the leap and sign them up for soccer, to the camp last year that gave them more confidence and skills training.

Hanging with Leo from Real Salt Lake + a Photobomber!

Hanging with Leo from Real Salt Lake + a Photobomber!

The great thing about this camp is that the coordinators have made programs for kids across the spectrum.  The coordinators of the camp work closely with a nearby school for kids on the spectrum and have done a fantastic job structuring the camp in a way that autistic kids can learn and grow, but also have the flexibility that most of our kids need.  This year, we were surprised at the turnout – the volunteers were out in force from the Handstand for Goals Group and the Red Devils SLC Youth Teams, Leo from Real Salt Lake stopped by, and Swoop was also there with the University of Utah Soccer Team.

Orientation!  Blue shirts = volunteers.  There were a ton of them!

Orientation! Blue shirts = volunteers. There were a ton of them!

I watched one child in particular as he started to go through sensory overload and you could see he was scared and overwhelmed by everything going on.  However, one of the mascots came and gave the kid a big hug and just held him until the child calmed down.  I watch as the head coach from the Utes Soccer Team walked over to Michelle (the main coordinator) and kept thanking her over and over for having his team come to the camp, and I watch as grateful parents leave with their kids beaming and on top of the world.

The Utes Women's Soccer Team signing autographs

The Utes Women’s Soccer Team signing autographs

All of this started thanks to a few people who decided they wanted to make a difference. . . . . . and they sure have.  My boys LOVE soccer and they’ve been on a local team with the same 10 kids for the past three years – it’s been such a neat experience for us and something we wouldn’t have fathomed we could do three years ago.  Actually, in our game yesterday, both boys successfully did a stop on the ball with a backwards roll. Twin A scored our first goal of the season and Twin B played goalie for a quarter. . . .even though he didn’t touch the ball once (we played some stellar defense), to see him try and do something different was rewarding.

High Five!

High Five!

Also, as a result of the camp, the Utes Soccer Team will also host a special one-day soccer camp for autistic kids tomorrow and all the participants will walk on the field with the teams prior to their home game against Boise State on Friday, August 29th.  It’s so neat to see the lives this camp has touched, and how the influence of this camp has now spread into other teams and organizations.  If you have the opportunity, please think of sending your child!  It’s one of the highlights of our year and I am extremely grateful for this camp and what it’s done for our family.

In his book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell discusses the influence that a community can have on individuals and how susceptible people, especially children, are to the communal influences around them.  One of his statements is that no matter what is taught within the walls of a home, outside influences often have a stronger influence on children than our home.

Blue skies this weekend?

Blue skies this weekend?

 

Well, this week I got to spend a couple of hours with a community that has definitely shaped our lives and has left a profound influence on me.  As part of Light It Up Blue in April, Utah Valley University hosts an Autism Conference that culminates with a balloon launch on Saturday. The balloon launch last year was the inaugural event and we were excited to attend this year as well.  Since our decision to mainstream the boys, we’ve really had minimal contact with our Autism Community here and we definitely miss it!

Brave Kid - I stayed five ft away

Brave Kid – I stayed five ft away

 

As soon as we got to the event, we ran into two of the aids that worked with our boys last year at Giant Steps, as well as the former director of a program called The Bridges at Kids on The Move.  Within half an hour we ran into our boys main teacher from last year, the director of Giant Steps, as well as four other teachers / aids who have worked with our boys over the past two years.  The boys were excited by all the activities around them but it was so neat to see them recognize and smile at their teachers.  Twin B and I were in line to get shaved ice and he saw his teacher from last year and actually left the line we were in to run over and say hi to her.  We LOVE the individuals that have dedicated the time, love and energy to autistic individuals and one part of this great Autism Community is definitely compromised of these people.

Helping the Wolverine after knocking him over as part of the "Angry Birds' Game

Helping the Wolverine after knocking him over as part of the “Angry Birds’ Game

 

After we ran into all their teachers and caught up on life and ‘the happenings’ of our twins, we ran into a number of parents and friends we haven’t seen recently.   We are all in different programs of various shapes and sizes and it was nice to catch up and see where other families are at.

Gorgeous with the boys

Gorgeous with the boys

The kids had a blast at the different activities and were so excited to see their balloons launch with hundreds of others . . . . I think each twin let at least two balloons off prematurely but hey, the third time was the charm!

Love this picture

Love this picture

Somewhere in the midst of all this was also a baseball game – perfect timing since my daughter is doing a book report on baseball . . . not sure why she picked that but hey, it works.  I’ll be honest – we have an extremely supportive group of friends and family around us and we are extremely blessed to have them.  However, it is nice to get together with a group of friends who understand the freak-outs, the incessant questions on schedules, the social anxiety and issues.  I am grateful for this community and all they have done for our family.  WE LOVE YOU!

You can tell it’s spring when soccer starts up and . . . . . my allergies start to hit!  I’ve been impressed with our boys and how resilient they’ve been to busier schedules and last-minute plans.  I always feel a tinge of regret when we just lay around the house on Saturdays yet this past Saturday was one of our busiest yet!  

BYU Volleyball

Da Boyz with Cosmo at the BYU Vball Game! Nice unintentional photobomb in the back

Here’s a recap:

10am: Head out the door to go clothes shopping

11:30: Watched the Mr. Peabody and Sherman Movie

1:30: Food shopping for the week

3:30: head out the door to soccer

5:00: Head to In-N-Out for dinner

6:00: Hit the mall to ‘kill time’ between activities

7:00: BYU Volleyball Game

10:00: Arrive back home and head downstairs for Family Bed!

The best part of the weekend was that between gift cards, family promotions, reading awards from our local library, and GroupOn Deals, we were able to get all this done at around $40. . . .well, not including groceries but still – not bad considering that got us to the volleyball game, movies, In-n-Out and snacks!

soccer!

Practicing while watching Big Sis and her team win their first game of spring ball

The boys have been doing well on their reading – both are above grade level and are moving along well.  Twin A, especially, loves to read on his own.  My wife signed the boys up for a reading program through our local library and they came home the proud owners of FOUR free burgers from In-n-Out . . . . . so dinner was on the boys!  We hadn’t been to In-n-Out in probably 18 months so it was a nice little treat for our family.

In-n-Out

Fun meal courtesy of our boys and the local library reading program! Thx In-n-Out!

This last picture is blurry but it is of Twin A running down the street to give a present to a little girl “J” in his class.  A few weeks ago, we went to a birthday luau for one of the kid’s cousins and Twin A kept one of the party favors and asked if he could stop by J’s house and deliver it to her.  Well, she wasn’t home so after a fun Family Night Activity during the week, my wife made little goodie bags the kids could deliver to one friend and Twin A picked J.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t home and one of her siblings answered the door but still, it’s fun to watch the kids grow up and develop their own crushes and friendships

Little Crush

Twin A delivering his St. Patty’s Day present to “J” – a girl in his class. :)

Have a great week!

One of the reasons we moved three years ago was to be closer to family. We saw one of my brothers move back to HI almost two years ago, but we also welcomed one of my brother-in-laws and his significant other to the area. They are so good to our kids - whenever we have something family oriented, they always stop by to support. Last week, they came to my daughter's soccer game and watched her score three goals in her game.

Quick note on that game - her team is in an indoor league and is one of the two all-girl teams. They only have five girls playing (it's a 4-4 league) so the games have been a battle - first they are short-handed and second, are playing against coed or all-boy teams. They're team finished the fall league undefeated and this will hopefully, just toughen them up more and prepare them for some tough competition in spring. Anyway, Uncle K and Aunty M come to so many activities we decided we would try and return the favor so we did a 'heart attack' today!  Last year, we did a heart attack to my parents in Hawaii.  We cut out hearts a week early and a friend back home went and 'attacked' my parents - you can see the post here. [caption id="attachment_1446" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Valentine's Day Heart Attack Happy Valentine's Day[/caption] The boys tried drawing designs on the hearts and also, writing their own little messages - grateful for kindergarten and the skills they are learning.  Fun family activity!  Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours!

OK – I’m back!  Sorry for the hiatus.  The boys celebrated 100 Days of Kindergarten last week!  Both of their classes had great activities and dress-ups as part of their school day.  The boys had the most fun wearing ‘old man’ glasses and most of the kids came to school dressed up for the occasion.

Both boys wore their glasses all day - even when doing their homework before school

Both boys wore their glasses all day – even when doing their homework before school

Quick School Update: Both boys are doing so well – they are reading above grade level (one is reading on a level 12 and he is supposed to be on a 4), have had minimal ‘meltdowns’ and struggles at school, and both LOVE their teachers and classmates.  We’ve been extremely lucky to have great teachers and support groups around us.  We are tossing up moving to an autism school for first grade . . . . .it’s a tough decision, one I think both my wife and I are losing sleep over.

Twin B with some classmates on a field trip

Twin B with some classmates on a field trip

The boys have a great little group of friends and it’s been neat to see them come home with phone numbers or get invited on play dates and to birthday parties.  I know in this respect, we are blessed and lucky.  Last week, between a playdate we had at a local kids bouncehouse zoo and two other playdates, they spent time with 8 kids out of the classroom.  They go over to a few friends homes on a consistent basis and it’s been so neat to see not only their growth, but the awareness of autism with these families.

It's a madhouse having five boys over - we planned some activities to keep them busy

It’s a madhouse having five boys over – we planned some activities to keep them busy

 

I was asked to speak at an autism parent panel the other night.  I was happy I was asked but a little stressed since I don’t feel I have much to offer in the way of advice to parents, especially considering how young are kids are compared to most other parents that frequent the panel.  However, I think I do offer a unique perspective as a father who has spent an extensive (2+ yrs) amount of time home with the boys.

Our family is actually in the middle of a career change as well.  I’ve been interviewing with a few companies over the past three months and we feel lucky to have received a great work opportunity that’s close to home with a company I’m really excited about!  More to come on this decision!

 

 

 

 

 

Da Boyz interest jumps so fast it’s crazy.  At the beginning of August, everything was TMNT – that’s all they could talk about and my wife and I started prepping for a TMNT party.  However, fast forward a few weeks and I’m trying to do my homework on Pokemon and NinjaGo . . . AAAUUGGHHH!!!

Happy Berfdei!

Happy Berfdei!

Fortunately, the boys jump back into past interests very quickly and we stuck with our original “Ninja Obstacle Course” party with ideas from their gym class, Pinterest, Tough Mudder, and the old-school origami.  I’ll be completely honest – this party was A BLAST to put together . . . . and it really didn’t cost a lot of money since most of the items we had around the house or could borrow from a friend.  Besides food, I think we spent under $30 for everything.

Inspired by Tough Mudder - the Barbwire Crawl!

Inspired by Tough Mudder – the Barbwire Crawl!

I think the favorite activity of the afternoon was the water balloon slingshot.  We actually borrowed the slingshot from a friend and it worked really well.  By the end of the afternoon, my daughter was launching the balloon 30-40 yds.  IT WAS AWESOME!

The Water Balloon Sling . . . if you can see my nephew's face - it's priceless!

The Water Balloon Sling . . . if you can see my nephew’s face – it’s priceless!

We also are lucky to have family nearby who came out and helped with the bday party . . . the setup . . . running around and getting the cake, balloons, pizzas . . . .and always coming out to the kids activities.  Thanks to them, we were able to finish setup in 30 minutes and actually be able to keep track of all the kids and enjoy the party.

The Laser Bridge!

The Laser Bridge!

One of my biggest stresses with the boys is if they are making friends . . . . I think this is a stress for every parent but especially for parents of autistic kids.  We thought originally, we’d have maybe five – six kids at the party.  Well . . . . we had more than 15 kids show up!  We are extremely grateful for the support and friend group that our kids have.

I forgot how to make these!  Thankful for YouTube tutorials!

Origami Ninja Stars! I made these as a kid but forgot how to make them ~ I have a newfound appreciation for YouTube tutorials! :)

While we had small goodie bags, we also made ninja headbands and ‘swords’ that the kids got to take home.  The kids LOVED the headband . . . it was fun to see all of the kids wearing them and also, to see my twins running around hours later with it on their heads.  The pool noodle swords were a HIT!  There are a few different tutorials online involving PVC and making handles . . . and we didn’t do any of that – we simply put duct tape on the bottom to make a ‘handle’ and voila – we were done!  In retrospect, after watching 16 kids running around with ‘swords’ and hitting each other – the softer the ‘sword’ the better – I’m glad we decided against the PVC . . . I guarantee we would’ve had a couple of bruises or black eyes.

Pool Noodles make great (and pretty safe) ninja swords

Pool Noodles make great (and pretty safe) ninja swords

I don’t know if the boys will remember this party but we definitely had a blast planning and making it.  More importantly, I am grateful for the support, friendship, and love that our family gets from so many individuals. . . . . . blessed!

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