Happy Birthday To B!


Today is the birthday of the most beautiful woman on the planet.  Of course, I’m talking about B.  She’s not only beautiful, but intelligent, caring, and willing to stand up for what she believes in.  She’s taken up the fight to help our boys reach their potential.  She doesn’t back down when things go wrong.  If anything, it drives her to fight harder until she gets what she wants.

She can also be a very patient person.  She has to be when dealing with me.  I try my best, but I have my share of flaws.  More than my fair share, likely.  Between me, NHL’s pre-teen attitude forming, and JSL, B deals with quite a lot.  However, I don’t know how I could do all that I do without her support.  I love her with all of my heart.

Happy birthday to a great friend, amazing mother, and wonderful wife.  I love you, B!

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!"

Happy Fortieth Birthday To Me!

birthday_cake_smallToday is a big day for me.  Today, I bid my 30’s goodbye and say hello to my 40’s.  Yes, today is my 40th birthday.

Ten years ago seems like a lifetime away.  At that time, I was much heavier, NHL was only two years old, I didn’t have any grey hairs, and I felt like 30 was SO old.  In the past ten years, NHL learned to walk and went from daycare to pre-K to kindergarten to elementary school to middle school.  We stood up for him when he was bullied and administrators wanted to sweep it under the rug.  We learned about Autism, what NHL having it meant, and that I likely am on the spectrum as well.  I lost enough weight to be called "too skinny" for the first time in my life, gained some of the weight back, and lost more again.  JSL was born, scared us way too many times with febrile seizures and head injuries, and progressed up to elementary school.

Over the last decade, we took the boys to Disney World four times – once on our own and three times for Disney Social Media Moms.  B & I had a "just us" trip cancelled due to a hurricane and were lucky enough to get some of it back thanks to being invited to cover the New Fantasyland opening.

Technology has exploded in the past ten years.  Ten years ago, I didn’t even know what WordPress was and now I’m constantly working with it.  Our world expanded drastically as we discovered social media and gained new friends on social media.  We’ve gone from flip phones to smartphones and constant Internet access. 

I’ve learned many lessons about life in general, about parenting, and about myself.  I’ve introduced the boys to many different geeky topics such as superheroes and Doctor Who.  I’ve found a whole new level of geekiness that exists in sharing your geeky interests with your child.

I’m actually writing this with a half hour to go on my 30’s.  As I write about my geekiness with only thirty minutes left until I turn 40, I can’t help but imagine turning 40 as if it were The Doctor’s regeneration.  It might not be as dramatic as my entire body and personality suddenly changing, but I am going to have to say goodbye to 30’s-Me and say hi to 40’s-Me.  Some of the last words of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor seem to apply here:

We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people; all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good you’ve gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.

I’ll always remember 30’s-Me and I might even miss him a bit, but I’m also excited to see what fun things 40’s-Me will encounter.  Here’s hoping this will be a great decade!

Happy 8th Birthday, JSL!

JSL-bday-boyYesterday was JSL’s birthday. My little guy is growing up so quickly. He’s constantly surprising me and delighting me. He’s turning into quite the little geek. He loves superheroes and plays with his Imaginext superhero sets constantly, making up new battles for them to engage in. Every week, we need to see the latest episodes of superhero/geeky shows like Teen Titans Go, Flash, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Doctor Who.

He also loves Star Wars. We watched the first season of Star Wars: Rebels together and he loved every moment. When I showed him the trailer, he was both excited and disappointed. He was excited to get a glimpse of the new Star Wars movie, but disappointed that he had to wait until December to see it.

JSL’s love of all things geeky doesn’t just limit itself to pre-made heroes, though. He has created his own superhero (“Brickman”) complete with a backstory, drawings, and super-villains to fight. He loves art in all forms and is constantly wanting to create new works of art.

He is also a voracious reader. Over the past year, I’ve lost count of the number of books he’s torn through. He will complain loudly if we leave the house and he doesn’t have a book to read. Even if it is just a short car trip, he can’t be without reading material to pass the time.

Lest you think that JSL is stuck in the house all day, he also loves playing outside. Since learning to ride his bike last year, he’s been a big fan of going on bike rides up and down our block. Now that I’ve got a bike of my own and the warmer weather is there, I think we’re going to go on some father-son bike rides together.

In the past, I’ve referred to JSL as my picky eater. I’ve said that he would live on macaroni and cheese and pizza if we let him. However, recently, he’s been expanding his menu options. He’s tried many vegetables and declared his love for them. (Including some Brussels sprouts that I was sure he’d hate.) He’s still somewhat picky, but hopefully that is falling by the wayside.

JSL is a very kind, patient sort of child. He lives for holding the door open for people – even if the line of people coming through is way too long. Whenever he has a question, he will raise his hand – even if class is over and he can just ask it.


Happy birthday to my sweet and funny JSL. Here’s to many more geeky times spent together in the future.

Happy Birthday To My Wonderful Wife

version2_chocolate_birthday_cakePlease join me in wishing Happy Birthday to B, aka TheAngelForever, aka my wonderful wife and mother of our children.  Yes, today is her birthday.  The celebrations will include an oven delivery and a possible event to attend for NHL (if the weather doesn’t get so bad that it is cancelled).   Seriously, she has bad luck with birthday scheduling.  It seems like something always hits right on her birthday.  One year, I’d love it if she could sleep late (not rush to get the kids ready for and then off to school), spend the day doing anything she wanted to do, and be able to go out to eat where ever she decided to go to.  We’ll celebrate her birthday another day, but it won’t be the same.

I’m so happy that B is in my life.  She’s a wonderful wife to me and a fantastic mother our kids.  She takes care of so much both around the house and in our lives.  She fights to ensure that our kids have a good education, makes sure all of our bills are paid on time (I *may* have missed a few due dates when I was in charge of them), steps in when NHL and I are butting heads, and not only puts up with the high level of geekery in our house, but even participates in it.  I couldn’t imagine life without her.

Happy Birthday, B!

NOTE: The "Chocolate Birthday Cake" image above is by version2 and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

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