Monday, September 24, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

Lest my last post had you thinking we're living life under a dark cloud, I thought I'd post about some of our sunnier moments.

Speaking of sun, we've actually been enjoying the most glorious September.  It's like we've been given a whole extra month of summer!  Last Saturday, however, started off drizzly and cool.  It was actually the best kind of running weather for Caleb's cross country meet.

All three of his previous races have been run under the blazing sun and I think the cooler morning was just one factor in helping Caleb shave a full minute off of his former PR.  He just keeps getting faster and faster.

Jon and I continue to marvel at this cross country world that we didn't even know existed.  This invitational included nearly 1300 runners!  Caleb's race alone had 353 boys.

Caleb came in at 21:15.  I was so excited to see him round the corner for the finish line. (I may or may not have been jumping up and down.)  For a boy who has only been running for four weeks, I think he's doing amazingly well and I continue to feel grateful that he is even participating.  

Once they cross the finish line, the runners are corralled into chutes like cattle.  

The above picture was actually taken after Wednesday's meet.  The mid-week races are usually small match-ups with teams from their league.  Held at the peak of the day's heat, this was one hot race!

And below is Caleb with his recruiter, Sean.  Sean continues to be a tremendous support to Caleb, always cheering him on and enthusiastically celebrating his progress.  Someday I'll tell him what a blessing he has been to us.

After Caleb's race on Saturday, he went home to hold down the fort while the rest of us drove to Portland for the Tour of Gymnastics Champions. (Seattle's show was on Sunday.)

Caleb had a blast having the house to himself (he'd probably just assume stick hot needles in his eyes than go to a gymnastics show) while we thoroughly enjoyed a truly amazing show.

We got to see the stars of the olympics in a delightful show of lights, theatrics, dance and skill.  I think I said "wow" every other minute.

While the special effects lighting added much to the presentation, it did make taking pictures difficult.  Here's one from the rings segment which had the gymnasts hanging from the ceiling:

We also got to see Aly and Gabby do their olympic floor routines--though they were slightly watered down.  Overall, a super fun evening!

We got home late after the two hour drive home and Caleb was fast asleep.  I'd been in contact with him throughout the afternoon and evening and he had a great time being the king of the castle.  He even took himself to Subway for his favorite steak sandwich.  It really was a great day from start to finish.

The forecast calls for lots and lots more sun--both literally and figuratively.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wishes, Lies and Dreams

Wishes, Lies and Dreams Poem
by: Caleb Hatch
Last year's LA class--8th grade

I wish I had super powers
I wish I had a cougar as a pet
I wish I was the buffest man in the world
I wish there was free food
I wish there was no more school

I was stuck in a freezer
I jump on houses
I love Teletubbies
I can control the galaxy
I can run faster than the speed of light

I dream I'd win the NBA finals
I dream I'm a rich athlete
I dream people will stop picking on me
I dream I can have anything I want anytime
I dream I can stop bullies

It's the beginning of a new school year and I'm overwhelmed.  It always happens this way.  Things usually settle down in time but for now, I'm overwhelmed.  I wrote a poem about it.

Wishes, Lies and Dreams Poem
by: Caleb's mom

I wish my son's life wasn't so full of challenges
I wish he'd always understand his teachers' instructions
I wish he'd pass standardized tests
I wish I didn't have to worry
I wish just one thing could be easy

I enjoy explosive homework battles
It's OK that my son doesn't feel confident in school
It doesn't matter that assignments often involve frustration, anger and tears
Meeting with teachers and counselors is fun!
I won't have any pity parties

I dream that I'll be able to accept the challenges we're called to face
I dream that one day all of these obstacles will be a thing of the past
I dream that my boy will be able to attend the university of his choice
I dream that he'll realize that he's capable and smart
I dream that he'll understand that "being on his case" is just an expression of my love and concern (and sense of responsibility)

Dreams do come true.  I just have to have the faith that they will.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Suite Surprise

We've been to a lot of Mariners games but never like this.  We're the bleacher-seater type.  You know, we buy the cheapest seats in the stadium, and it suits us just fine.  Well last weekend we got to see how the other half lives.

To tell this story, I must first back up to LDS night which was held at the beginning of August.  The tickets are purchased through the Institute of Religion at a discount price and then each ticketholder is given a free LDS Night Mariners t-shirt.  Our ward decided to take all of the youth for their youth night activity.  The kids had a fabulous time.  Caleb even got to go down on the field at the beginning of the game.

Caleb with one of the Mariners.  The two girls on the right are complete strangers but the two guys on the left are members of our ward.

We danced our way onto the jumbotron.

Then got to see our name in lights.

The Mariners won and it was a great night all around.  But I did forget my camera so I had to borrow these shots from Camille. (Except that first one, that was taken by a Mariners photographer.)

Well evidently the Institute of Religion purchased enough tickets for LDS night that they were given a suite to a future Mariners game.  And since our ward ordered a large number of tickets, the invitation was extended to Jon to be among those included in the suite, since he is the leader of the ward.  He got notice on his birthday, last Wednesday, that we were going to the game on Saturday.  What a perfect birthday surprise!

We have a regular place we use for parking when we go to games.  It's a good half-mile away but we don't mind the walk and it's free.  But that's not how the suite gamers do it.  Oh no.  They get a parking pass to a garage with a sky bridge that connects directly to the suite level of the ballpark.  It's a quick and easy stroll that keeps you entirely protected from the elements.  The carpeted floors and mints in the bathrooms make the suite level feel much more like a hotel than a stadium.

"I didn't wear the right cologne," said Jon, which is his standard joke for times when we middle-classers are posing in the high life.  I always feel like they--whomever they are--are going to figure me out, like it's obvious that I'm just a pretender and they'll send me back out to the bleachers where I really belong.

The suite life is pretty nice.  Too bad our camera was freaking out.  It's traumatized from its fall from the roller coaster at Lagoon; making funky stripes of light on our pictures and the flash isn't functioning properly.  But you can get the idea.

Soft reclining leather chairs and a table to eat our favorite ballpark meal.

After dinner we could sit back and relax, stretch our legs out and rock gently back and forth as we ate our Milk Duds and Junior Mints.

No getting on the jumbotron this time.  Suite people don't really do that.  Is it because that is not appropriate suite behavior or is it because they're just too comfortable in their cushy seats that they don't want to get up and dance?  I'm not sure.

The Mariner's played poorly and the game itself wasn't too exciting.  But that's OK because inside the suite was a big screen TV where I could watch football!  I did mostly watch the baseball game but I occasionally went inside to get caught up on the day's football action.

The view from my leather seat inside the suite.  There was another TV on my left showing a different football game.

It was definitely a fun night and we feel lucky to have had the opportunity.  Next time we'll go back to the bleachers with our kind of people.

Monday, September 10, 2012

An Enormous Victory in Teeny Tiny Shorts

This is a success story (a long and wordy success story, I might add.)  A victory.  A triumph!

Many--maybe even most--kids participate in one high school sport or another.  So you might think Caleb joining the cross country team is not that big of a deal.  But most kids aren't battling the social and behavioral tendencies of Asperger's Syndrome.  Trust me, this is a big deal.  A huge deal.

Most individuals with AS have a hyperfocus, or a topic of intense interest.  It might be maps, molecular structure or trains.  Thankfully for us, Caleb's hyperfocus is sports.  I say thankfully because it is a very socially acceptable topic.

He's always loved sports.  He played on a variety of teams when he was younger, but he now prefers to enjoy them as a spectator, or alone in the backyard, or with a select few individuals that play his way.  I encouraged him to join the middle school basketball team when he was in 6th grade but after one day of practice, he decided the pressure of balancing it with academics as well as the adolescent social aspect of the team to be too overwhelming.  He viewed the teammates as bullies.  They probably weren't, but he clearly didn't feel like he fit in.

Over the next few middle school years, I frequently suggested giving basketball another try (he's a really amazing shot) and I pushed for him to join the track team.  I was met with resistance at every turn.

Then it was time to go to high school.  Perhaps it was the realization that in four short years he should be prepared to venture out into the world on his own and venturing requires doing unfamiliar things, or maybe it was that I want him to go to college and I know that applicants are expected to be well-rounded, but I began to feel a real sense of urgency to push Caleb out of his comfort zone.  The comfort zone being our living room with ESPN and Phineas and Ferb as his friends.

I decided to pressure him into cross country.  He does, after all, hold a record at the elementary school for the mile run and he's got that ultra lean runner's physique.  Plus, I thought the individual nature of the sport would allow him to feel less pressure while still being part of a team.

I knew convincing him would be difficult, if not impossible.  I played into his love of BYU by bringing up their website to show him how successful BYU is in cross country and I tried every other positive encouragement I could think of.  Oh how I tried and I tried!  Nothing was working.  You see, people with AS aren't known for their open-mindedness.  In fact, their rigidity can at times be quite debilitating.

But I believe in a Heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers and I was praying ever so fervently that if this was truly to be a good experience for him, as I thought it might be, that Caleb would become open to at least giving it a try.  My prayer was answered in the form of a boy named Sean.

Caleb and I went to Raven Day, which is the designated day to pick up your class schedule.  (Oh, and to spend your life's savings on things like yearbooks and ASB cards.)  We also had an appointment with his counselor just to make sure everything was in order and to help set any anxieties at ease.  Knowing Caleb feels most comfortable when he knows what to expect, I asked the counselor if she could explain to him what the first day of school--a freshman-only orientation--would be like.  She honestly didn't know so she excused herself to get a Raven Crew member (student leader) because they are responsible for running that show.  When she returned from the hallway, she was being followed by boy named Sean who was wearing the school's cross country shirt.

"Oh look Caleb, he's wearing a cross country shirt!"

"Mom! Don't talk about that right now," he barked under his breath.

But Sean pounced on it like we'd just mentioned his life's passion.  He pitched joining cross country like a veritable used car salesman but with a sincerity that made Caleb feel like had a new best friend.  Within minutes, Sean was sharing his cell phone number and begging Caleb to come to practice the very next day.

Sean's recruiting worked.  Caleb went the next day.  I tried to play it cool.  You know, not ask too many questions that might be interpreted as pressure from his pushy but well-meaning mother.  I worried that he would come home after that first practice and decide it wasn't for him.  But he didn't.  Just stepping foot into a room full of strangers on that first day and onto a team of an unfamiliar sport was a massive victory for him and I was ever so proud.  He's been going ever since.

When he brought home his uniform I thought I'd die.  The tiniest singlet with even tinier shorts.  He tried it on and I felt like I should look away.  He was showing more leg than when he's in his underwear!  Perhaps slightly more roomy but hardly more coverage than a Speedo.  Yikes.  He seemed OK with it but I bought some UnderArmour to cover a bit more of those pasty white thighs.

Saturday was his first race.  I was not prepared for the size of the event which included hundreds and hundreds of runners from 43 different schools from around the state. I was overcome with emotion at the very thought that he was actually doing it.  And then we learned that a portion of his 3,000 meters (they were 5 person relays and each did 3,000 meters) would go through the lake.  Through the lake!  What?! Caleb has a thing about lakes.  He hates them.  He refused to get in the water last year at scout camp and this year's scout camp location was selected specifically for him because it had a pool.

We're not talking ankle-deep either.  Let's just say that it's a good thing he was wearing his Speedo...I mean teeny tiny shorts.  His disdain for lakes is such that I worried he might not go through with it.  But I never should've worried.

There he goes...

Go Caleb, Go!

Heading into the lake...

Some runners actually became swimmers at this point.  But Caleb, like most, just waded through it as quickly as possible.

Coming into the finish...

He did great.  We don't know his exact split time and I don't even care because it doesn't matter.  What matters is that he did it.  And when I think of all he had to overcome in his little Asperger mind to get to that finish line, I'm unbelievably proud.

Caleb was the last leg in his relay and was therefore among the last runners out on the course.  Long after he and all the other runners had finished, we became aware that one of his teammates was still finishing.  I was so touched to see a group of them go back out on the course to encourage her to the finish line.  That tall blonde boy on the right is Sean.  I'm not surprised to see him in this group.  He's that kind of kid.  

They crossed the finish line as a group and I thought to myself, "this is exactly the kind of team I want my son to be a part of."

Auburn Riverside Cross Country Team--Caleb's on the far right next to that boy with the awesome 'fro.

Way to go, Caleb!  You make me proud.

It's never easy, but he's overcoming obstacles like this all the time and we'll celebrate each victory along the way!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Like Going Home

In many ways, returning to Utah County always feels a bit like going home. I lived there for nearly eight years. I went to college there, started my married life and career in education there, bought my first house there and brought two babies home there. There is quite literally a memory on every corner.  (Like the corner of Bulldog and Freedom where Jon was victim to a drive-by fry-saucing while we were playing tennis one evening.  It's still probably the most angry I've ever seen him in our entire marriage!)  To go back is to relive those memories and we love to drive by all the old familiar sites.

We drove by our first apartment to show the kids where our family started.  Then we drove by Westridge Elementary and remembered the names of some of my first graders.  Many of them are probably married by now.

Then we pretend we're driving home from the school to see the old townhouse.  It still looks the same.  The neighborhood is hardly recognizable, but our old house hasn't changed a bit.

Meeting up with old friends reminds me that even though we go years without seeing each other, we'll always be friends and their kids will keep growing up even if in my mind they are frozen at the age they were when we moved.

But one of the best things about visiting Utah County is getting to stay with my Aunt Shauna and Uncle John.  They're great.  They make us feel so welcome and loved as if we were their own children and grandchildren.  Their accommodations can't be beat with beds and private bathrooms for each of us.  Shauna kept us well fed and I don't think we woke up before 9 a.m. any of the five mornings we were there.

Look at this view from their backyard deck:

It's hard to see, but BYU's new jumbotron can be seen in the distance, as well as the Provo Temple.  We watched them test the screen in preparation for the first game.  

Here's a zoomed-in version of the same angle.  Can you find the Y on the screen in the middle of the picture?

One afternoon, we went to visit my aunt and uncle at the employment center where they are serving their fifth mission.  My aunt's title is Director of First Impressions.  Isn't that funny?  But let me tell you, that's the perfect title for her.

And she serves game day meals on BYU plates.  Isn't that the best?  She invited all of her grandkids that are currently BYU students, as well as my cousin's family that lives locally, over to have dinner with us.  It was fun to see extended family that we haven't seen in years!

The kids table--Caleb, Alyssa and Natalie with my cousin Steph's two youngest, Ava and Corbin.

While we love seeing all the old familiar sites, exploring the new ones is a lot of fun, too.  Like Provo Beach Resort, which is just down the hill from my aunt's house.

The kids did the ropes course:

I suspected we'd have one timid climber and two monkeys.  I was right on the count but wrong about which children would fall into each category.

Caleb was quite confident while Natalie was very hesitant.  I thought it would be the other way around.

After the ropes course we played a few arcade games.  Caleb is a master at the hoop shoot.  He easily beat these two competitors:

He actually took a turn on each station just so he could set a record high score on each of them.  He's a darn good shot! 

Nat was decent on the little hoop:

Later in the week we spent some time at a trampoline gym with the cousins.  I'm telling you, the fun just wouldn't end!  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the jumping and flipping, but the kids had a blast.

Our last hurrah of the trip was a day at Lagoon with our cousins, which was fun, fun, fun!  We have lots of past memories here but they're mostly of the kiddie rides, since that's where we spent most of our visit the last time we went to the park over 10 years ago.

No kiddie rides for us this time!  Oh no.  The kids went from one big coaster to the next.  They all loved Wicked:

I would have loved Wicked a lot more if we hadn't lost our camera during the corkscrew.  And it was our very first ride of the day!  Jon had the camera case velcroed to his belt but the force of the corkscrew ripped it away and sent it plummeting to the ground.  We did get it back later in the day and though it didn't appear damaged on first inspection, we've since discovered that it does not function properly.  Grrr!

Still, the kids had a blast going from ride to ride with their cousins.  No more fear of loop-the-loop for Caleb, that's for sure!

Can you see us on Colossus?

Caleb and Seth are in the sixth row, I'm with Sam in the seventh row and Alyssa and Natalie are in the row behind us.  Isn't this a cool picture?  Lucy was the photographer and I borrowed it from her. :)

We did have some crazy thunderstorms rain on our day--the kind that cause you to run for cover.  One even ripped branches from trees and pelted the ground with hail.  When one came late in the evening and many rides closed due to the lightening, we decided to call it a day.

We weren't happy about leaving:

But we weren't complaining, either.  We'd enjoyed a full day of thrilling fun with cousins and plenty of sunshine.  The kids will tell you our day at Lagoon easily qualifies as a highlight of their trip!

Phew!  Can you believe all that fun we had on our trip to Utah?  Just recapping it all has worn me out!  I'd also be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Sarah and Maureen who fed us and gave us a place to stay our first night in Utah, and to my parents for giving us a stopping point both coming and going.  It helped to break up the long, long drive. They also treated us to a nice dinner, some swimming, pedicures and more.  

We couldn't ask for better family and friends and the memories will last a lifetime.