Happy Birthday NHL–The Sky Is The Limit!

NHL-At-The-BeachToday, NHL turns twelve years old.  He is officially one year away from being a teenager.  That’s a scary thought as part of me still thinks of him as my little baby.  The time from his birth to now has rushed by in a blur.  I’m sure there was some wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff going on since it both seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday when he was a little baby.  Part of my brain keeps insisting he’s a baby but the other part is starting to plan for him having his bar mitzvah driving a car, dating, going to college, and other milestones of him growing up.

Still, as much as I like to look forward, I think that birthdays are a great time to look back as well.  We’re constantly and changing.  The people we were a year ago are nothing like the people we are today.  I figured this would be a good time to think back on everything that NHL has accomplished this past year.

First and foremost is middle school.  Going into sixth grade, we were afraid of how NHL would do in middle school.  Given his Asperger’s syndrome and his problems with executive function, we were sure that the transition from class to class would throw him off.  We mentally prepared ourselves for a year-long fight to help prop him up as he crumbled apart.

That fight never came.

What we failed to see coming was that NHL, like many on the spectrum, thrives on schedules.  He likes knowing just what is coming and hates when plans consist of "well, we’ll see what happens."  Furthermore, when a schedule is set, changing it causes disruption equivalent to have a 8.0 earthquake hit.  In elementary school, there was one teacher teaching everything (except for a few special classes).  This meant that the teacher could extend one lesson a bit longer if he or she felt like the extra time was needed.  For NHL, though, these willy nilly schedule changes rocked any security he had in the world.

In middle school, though, there was a loud buzzer that would ring to signal the end of class.  It didn’t matter if the math teacher really felt like she needed five more minutes to finish this lesson.  The buzzer sounded which meant this class was over and they had to get to their next one.  The structure of this routine (combined with an amazing sixth grade support team) helped NHL shine as a student.  As for us: for the first time since NHL first started daycare that we really felt like we weren’t fighting major battles.  There were times when we had to go up to bat for NHL, but it felt like we were moving couches and painting rooms, not trying to get four walls and a roof in place.

NHL’s second accomplishment is the nature of his academic achievement.

NHL began to take pride in his grades and loved school.  Granted, I think he has always liked school a lot, but there were times when these "like school a lot" were punctuated by moments when he cried over going back into bad situations.  This year, though, he LOVED school the whole way through.  His love of school translated into a love of learning and he really showed how powerful his brain really is.  He got silver honor roll the first two semesters and, not satisfied with that fantastic performance, made a declaration that he would get gold honor roll the next time around.  He put in the hard work, stayed after school when he needed additional help, and pushed himself.  In the end, he got gold honor roll in the third semester.  They don’t give this award out in the last semester, but he would have gotten it then as well.  To give an example of how much he pushed himself, his science final exam took his class grade down because he "only" got a 97 on the final.  Previously, he had a science class grade of 100.

Another example of NHL pushing himself was when he participated in NYSSMA.  His band teacher wanted him to play the snare drums, but NHL had his eyes set on timpani drums.  I’m not a drum expert by any means, but from what I can gather, timpani are much harder to play – in part because they need to be tuned.  While NHL was waiting to be called in, he talked with a girl from his class.  She mentioned how she was really nervous.  NHL, however, was perfectly calm.  There was no sign whatsoever of any kind of performance anxiety.  He was going in to do something he loved doing and was totally confident in his skills.  (I envy him when he’s like this.)

I was allowed in for the first part of NHL’s performance.  He was asked to tune the first drum and was allowed to use a bell as a reference tone.  Then, he was asked to tune the second drum to a different tone using only the first drum as a reference.  He carefully tuned the instrument.  When he was done, the instructor asked if he was sure that it was right – seemingly giving him a chance to correct a mistake.  He confidently said it was right and then the instructor dropped the "you made an error" façade and agreed with him.  The end result was that he did really well in NYSSMA.  His band teacher thought that timpani would be too difficult for him, but he set his mind to the task and pushed himself until he achieved his goal.

NHL also accomplished a lot in social development.

Due to Asperger’s Syndrome, NHL has always lagged behind his peers in social and emotional development.  He may have been 11 years old, but socially and emotionally was about 8.  Needless to say, an "8 year old" in a class amongst 11 year olds – especially one with an intellectual age of about 14 – doesn’t tend to make a lot of friends.  It’s not that NHL didn’t want to make friends, but he genuinely doesn’t know how to or just what constitutes a "friend."  (I have similar issues with this, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)  Still, he learned how to work with other kids and while this might not have turned into a ton of friends, it has laid some important groundwork.  He seems to have a slightly better idea of friendship and can interact better with his peers.

As an example here, I submit the case of the white water rafting trip.  NHL typically doesn’t like being splashed.  He detests water in his eyes and, so, we were very apprehensive when we were told that there would be a white water rafting class trip.  We won’t even go into the fact that he can’t swim.  (See my embarrassing pool lesson post from nearly 6 years ago.)  It didn’t help when a teacher joked with NHL that she was going to squirt him with water during the trip and he took this a) seriously instead of as a joke and b) as an statement of malice from the teacher directed at him.  We decided that it would be best for me to accompany NHL to help defuse any meltdowns before they occurred.

The trip went swimmingly, though.  (Pun intended.)  He took a front seat on the raft to help lead his group and didn’t care that this meant he’d get splashed more.  In fact, he seemed to relish when the water drenched him.  In a calm area, when the students and teachers got to use water squirters and buckets on each other, he relished shooting his peers/teachers, enjoyed helping his fellow raft-mates to shoot peers/teachers (by steering the raft in exactly the right direction), and even was happy when he himself got hit by others.  It was all in good fun and he not only recognized this but was fully participating.  Somehow, I don’t think One-Year-Ago NHL would have done quite as well.  At the end of the trip, he begged me to bring him back – only this time with B and JSL.  (Sadly, we didn’t get to go back this summer.  Maybe next summer, though.)

There is so much more I could go on and on about how NHL has grown.  Though I still want him to remain my little boy for as long as possible, I’m constantly amazed and proud of the wonderful man he’s becoming.

Happy 12th birthday, NHL.  To quote Matt Smith’s doctor as he began to regenerate:  "I tell you what – it’s gonna be a whopper!"

Guardians of the Galaxy Deleted Scenes And The Upcoming Marvel Movies

This past weekend, we found some deleted scenes from this summer’s hit Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

Here is Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, spending some downtime between beating up bad guys trying to solve a Search-A-Word puzzle.  I’m unsure if his mask is helping him find the words.  No cheating!


This is the scene where Star-Lord falls through a dimensional rift and winds up in the Angry Birds Star Wars universe.  He has to battle Lard Vader before making his way back to his own realm.


Ok, so these were scenes from a weekend Halloween activity and not Guardians deleted scenes.  Still the boys had fun and are looking forward to Halloween.

Speaking of looking forward, I just read the “Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 3” plan and neither I nor my boys can wait.  In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the rundown.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1/2015) – This one already has a great teaser trailer out. (Update: Right when I posted this, a “Special Look” went live also showing some of the heroes trying to lift Thor’s hammer.)
  • Ant-Man (7/17/2015) – It will be interesting to see what big adventure this little hero will have.
  • Captain America: Civil War (5/6/2016) – In the comics, the Civil War story arc started when Iron Man advocated for a law requiring all superheroes to register with the government (and have their secret identities exposed).  Captain America, meanwhile, was against this and the two (as well as the superheroes on both sides) clashed.  Sure enough, I’ve heard Iron Man/Tony Stark will be in this movie.
  • Doctor Strange (11/4/2016) – According to rumors, Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes from the BBC’s Sherlock) is being asked to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (5/5/2017) – JSL is already asking about trailers for this and was disappointed that he’ll likely have to wait two years for one.
  • Thor: Ragnarok (7/28/2017) – Ragnarok is the Norse concept of the end of days, but in the comics (according to my Wikipedia search) it dealt with a cybernetic clone of Thor being made when the original was thought dead.  Will we see Thor and Evil-Cyborg-Thor duke it out on-screen?  And what will this mean for the state we left Asgard in at the end of Thor 2?
  • Black Panther (11/3/2017) – Another favorite superhero of ours.  He will be played by Chadwick Boseman (whose previous works I haven’t seen).  Interestingly enough, Chadwick’s IMDB page says he will also appear in the Captain America: Civil War movie.
  • Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 (5/4/2018) – Finally, the Infinity Saga comes to a head.  We’ve been seeing the Infinity stones here and there and I’m sure we’ll see more before this movie comes out.  What really struck me is that this is Part 1.  They are going to do this right and take their time with the story.  My best is that Part 1 will conclude with Thanos getting the final Infinity Stone and the heroes looking like they’re beaten against his tremendous might.
  • Captain Marvel (7/6/2018) – There are many incarnations of Captain Marvel.  I’m hoping they opt for the Carol Danvers one.  It will be nice to see a powerful woman kicking some bad guy keister.
  • Inhumans (11/2/2018) – The Inhumans are a society of individuals with fantastic powers that keep hidden away from “normal” society.  They aren’t really fully human but aren’t mutants either.  Their leader, Black Bolt can’t speak.  Well, he can, but his voice is so powerful that a mere whisper of his could bring buildings crashing down.  He’s definitely the strong, silent type.
  • Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 (5/3/2019) – This is the conclusion to the Infinity Saga.  Expect heroes from many movies, not just Avengers, taking part in the final showdown against Thanos.  Just picture Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther fighting alongside Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot.  It will be quite the team up.

Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes from here, I don’t know.  On one hand, I can’t wait to see it all.  On the other hand, by the time Avengers: Infinity War, Part 2 rolls its final credits, NHL will be almost 16 and JSL will be almost 12.  Maybe I can wait after all.

What upcoming Marvel movie are you most excited about?  What superhero would you love to see made into a movie?

Farewell Braces

goodbye-bracesFor the past 15 months, we’ve been dealing with a oral metal situation.  In short, NHL has had braces for the past 15 months.  This has meant needing to take care what NHL ate, how often he brushed his teeth, and all-too-frequent trips to the orthodontist to check out his mouth gear.  That last one definitely wasn’t cheap.

NHL has been great throughout this.  He has helped take care of his braces quite well.  He would protest when given food that he wasn’t allowed to eat – even if it was food that he really wanted to eat.  Though he would often fight over the nighttime tooth care routine, this was more a function of him being tired than not understanding the importance.

It was amazing how smoothly the braces time went.  Other than some brackets popping off due to baby teeth coming loose, we have only had one major incident.  A couple of weeks ago, NHL was complaining that his mouth was hurting.  When we looked in, we noticed that his wire had popped out.  As this was at 8:30pm on a Friday night, we couldn’t just stop by the office to get it fixed.  No, we needed to make an emergency call, drop a tired JSL off at B’s parents, and then drive out to the orthodontist’s office.  The orthodontist was nice enough to meet us there and replace NHL’s wire with a nice, strong steel one that he said wouldn’t pop off like this.

"This will never break" ranks right up there with "What’s the worst that can happen" in things that should never be said.  The next morning, NHL came into our room to tell us that his new wire had broken.  It turned out that the bracket had somehow released the wire.  Luckily, NHL was able to prop the wire on the bracket until Monday when he already had an appointment scheduled.

But today all this ends.  NHL will get his braces removed and will get a nice, new retainer to wear.  He’ll still need to take care of his teeth, of course, but at least his food restrictions will ease up.  He’s looking forward to enjoying gum, hard tacos, chips, pizza crust, bagels, popcorn, and many other foods that were denied him these past fifteen months.  I’ve got to admit that I’m happy that he’s getting his braces off too.  It’s hard enough cooking for us plus a picky JSL.  Adding in an NHL who isn’t picky but who can’t eat certain foods made things even more complicated.

Now, here’s hoping that the retainer does its job well enough that a second round of braces won’t be needed.

A Green Screen Birthday Adventure

When one is having a birthday celebration for your kids, there is one big rule: Always take photographs so your kids will remember what happened.  For example, I made sure to take plenty of photos since NHL, JSL, and Cousins S and B had a huge adventure to celebrate NHL turning 11.

First, we boarded an airplane.  Note: Keep an eye on your kids at all times when on airplanes.  I looked away for a second and found them on the wing of the plane.

Kids On An Airplane Wing

Don’t ask me how they got there or how they withstood the force of the air against them.  Getting them back in was tricky, but we somehow managed it.

When we landed, we immediately went to our destination: Disney World!

Kids At Disney World

Um, kids, I don’t think you’re supposed to stand there.

Kids In A Parade

Hey, get out of that parade!

Kids On The Monorail

Again, don’t ask me how they got atop the Monorail… Or why they looked so big atop it.  I was too busy at the time worrying that they’d fall off.  (And taking a quick photo or two.  Priorities, people!)

Next, we went on a safari drive in Animal Kingdom.  You’d think that by now I’d have learned my lesson about looking away.  The kids pointed to an ostrich in one direction, though, and when I looked back…

Kids On A Giraffe

Long story short, we’re not welcome back there again.  Thanks a lot, kids!

At least we were able to go to Epcot, though.  You know, the park with the iconic Spaceship Earth…

Kids On Spaceship Earth

WHAT?!!!  How’d they get there?  No wonder people were screaming as I took this photo.  That also explains the security guard who dragged them back to me.  Silly kids.

At least that’s the wackiest thing they could possibly do, right?

Kids On A Flower

Nope.  They just *had* to sneak backstage and find Wayne Szalinski’s shrinking machine from the old Honey, I Shrunk The Audience attraction.  It took us a few hours before we spotted them on this flower.

At that point, we decided to cut our losses and get home before the kids decided to leave the planet or something.

Kids On The Moon

Wait, was *that* where they disappeared to when they took my camera?  How did they even get to the moon anyway?  (I *thought* I saw a blue phone box in Epcot’s England area next to the red ones!)

Thankfully, we got everyone back home and back to the proper size…

NHL on His Cake

Uh oh…..  Well, happy birthday anyway, NHL!

NOTE: All photos above were taken by me with the exception of the Moon photo which comes from NASA.  (All NASA photos are public domain.)  The "green screen" originals are thanks to a green screen in the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (CMOST) in Troy, NY.

Happy Birthday NHL!

Today, NHL turns 11.  Don’t ask me how this happened.  It’s still a mystery to me.  One minute, we were bringing him home and then I blinked and he grew up.  Now he’s headed to middle school in a couple of weeks.  NHL has a habit of asking me if I’m proud of him, usually for getting some random video game accomplishment.  Here’s what I’m really proud of NHL for:


  • He’s a very kind individual.  At a recent family function, he kept hugging family members over and over.  To the point that he hugged a complete stranger – I think he was a waiter – because he mistook him for a family member.  NHL cares about people with all of his heart and hates to think of them being sad.


  • He’s passionate about what he loves and isn’t afraid to flaunt that passion.  Whether it be video games, super heroes, math, or Doctor Who, NHL is always ready to tell anyone everything they could ever want to know about the subjects that he loves the most.


  • He’s honest.  Ok, at times he can be honest to a fault.  He shouldn’t blurt out to one of his cousins which cousin he likes the best.  Still, this is all part of his learning how to navigate the social rules.  In general, though, he hates lying and prefers to tell the truth.


  • He’s not afraid to speak his mind to stand up for himself or ask for what he wants.  This can be tough for some with Asperger’s.  They will assume that they will mess something up socially and will just shut up and take whatever comes their way.  I know that I’ve been guilty of that far too many times in my past.  NHL has been learning to speak up when he needs to, though.  Again, he will sometimes take this too far and speak up when silence would be best, but this is just him learning the social rules and regulations.  I’d rather him have to dial it back a bit than to think he shouldn’t speak up at all.


Part of me can’t wait to see how much NHL grows in another year.  However, another part of me doesn’t want him to grow up anymore.  That part of me just grew when I had to pour over old photos of NHL to compile a special video highlighting NHL’s growth.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you with the video while I cry over my baby growing up.  Happy birthday, NHL!

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