Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Temporarily Toothless

As a parent and a person who prides herself in setting goals, I have looked forward to one of my boys looking oh so cute and adorable with a tooth or two missing. Both Ben and Logan have lost teeth, but the adult ones were already there waiting impatiently for their own place in the limelight.

Finally Ben lost a tooth without another one already there. Goal accomplished! I can sleep easy now.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Game On

What a difference one week can make. The baseball game was more fun for me, and I am hoping for Ben too. His buddy was a University of North Carolina at Charlotte Baseball Player and he seemed very comfortable with Ben. Ben used his wheelchair and we were able to curtail some of his shenanigans. While in the outfield, Ben spent most of the time trying to get at his Buddy's baseball cap. When Ben was going crazy grabbing at anything around him, I noticed his Buddy give him a quick shoulder rub which seemed to focus him. An OT might have called it deep compression. Whatever it was - it worked to get Ben to turn around and pay attention.

During the week Logan commented that Ben's baseball game was not about winning, but about the players' talents. At 10pm, the night before the game, Sean came rushing into my room with an idea: He just heard a song with the words, "I'm a boy, I'm a boy, I'm proud to be me. I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm proud to be me." He wanted the whole baseball crew to sing this song after the game.

I met another Buddy and she told me about her family's farm, Peacehaven Community Farm. It is a place for people with disabilities to live and work. It sounded wonderful and after checking out the website, I hope we can visit soon. (No, Mom, we are not dropping Ben off.)

Because I was not a basket case for this game, I was able to pay attention. I noticed how the coaches guided the players when they needed it and left them alone when they did not. Our coach wanted his players to experience having the ball pitched to them, rather than relying just on the "T". (For the record, the ball is a tennis ball and even a Nerf ball is used in some cases.)  

The best moments were when the players came in from third base to get their run in. Whatever the speed, the crowd erupted in cheers and hooting that would put crowds at some minor and professional games to shame. And when the player did a dance or raised their hands or had the biggest smile on their face as they made their way back to the dugout, I knew all was well at this moment in time, nothing else really mattered, but baseball. 

As we left before the end of the next game, one of our friends pointed out that Ben's teammate was the MC. Sure enough, he was calling out the batting lineup, announcing players and adding his own colorful flavor. He was great and it reminded me of Logan's comment about "this being about people's talents."

The effects of participating in this baseball adventure have been far reaching and completely unexpected. I don't think Ben will have a choice about being in the league - we are in too deep to give up now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Missed Moments

After Ben's big baseball game on Saturday, we drove to the mountains to pick apples at Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, NC. It was one of the most perfect days for it - blue skies, not too hot, not too cool. As soon as Ben was out of the car, he found a seat on the grass overlooking the playground and orchards and enjoyed the view. A few times he moved closer to where kids were playing, but for the most part he was content to sit and watch.

A man who was there with his three grandchildren came and sat right next to Ben in the grass. He asked Ben his name. Ben leaned over to this man, named David, and gave him the most tremendous hug, lasting at least a minute. David's grandchildren walked slowly by, staring, and the man said to them, "When you walk by someone without saying hello, you never know what you might miss out on."

Thanks David for the lesson.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Baseball - Better as a Spectator Sport?

The Braves go in for a team cheer!

Coach Jeff gives the team a pep talk while Ben eats donuts.

Teammate waiting through a bad pitch!

Ben in the outfield, waiting for a fly ball or a way to escape!

Ben's personal cheering section!

Teammate making it to first base.

Coach Jeff

Ben with his Buddy, Michelle

As always, Logan and Sean woke with their usual question, "What are we doing today?" When I explained it was Saturday and we had Ben's first baseball game, I was not expecting the reaction I received: a hoot for excitement and a plea to make signs supporting Ben.

We arrived at the field and almost every parking space was taken. The place was crowded, decorated with balloons and the music was blaring. I bit my lip because I felt the tears coming. At that exact moment Ryan told me he had goose bumps.

In a crazed 15 minutes, we got Ben's uniform, met Coach Jeff and Ben's buddy, caught up with friends and found our way around the field. All the while, Ben was trying to wander off in his walker and Logan and Sean were throwing questions at us like we are in the batters box. To say that it was stressful, emotional, exciting and a whirlwind of activity would be an understatement.

The game was about to start and Ben was at the dugout with his Buddy, Michelle. Ben spotted me eating a donut and made a beeline for the fence separating us. While the coach went over rules and gave an inspirational speech, Ben ate 2 1/2 donuts through the fence. Covered in sugar, he headed to the outfield for the first inning.

Miracle Field has special rules for these games - each batter gets a hit and goes around the bases. There are no  "outs" and there are (thankfully) only two innings. As each player's name is called, they get up to bat (pitch or t-ball style) and their chosen song is played. These special rules are to make it fun, motivating and easy for everyone to participate.

Ben's song was Bob the Builder's Can We Fix It? With some help, Ben hit the ball off the "T" and walked to first base. Then he proceeded to walk to the dugout. Huh? I got up to find out what was going on and helped his Buddy redirect Ben to the field. By third base, Ben was done. He wanted out of the game, walker and field.

Ben happiest as a Spectator!
Ben benched himself for the remainder of the game, very happy to observe his teammates play. He sat on the bench carefully watching the game. When the coach came over to talk to Ben and blocked his view of the game, Ben put his hand up and gently moved (read as pushed) the coach out of the way.

If I was anxious, emotional and stressed and not even a player with 100 people cheering at me, I cannot imagine how it felt for these players. I am hoping Ben will feel better about the game next week. We are going to try it in his wheelchair, rather than the walker. But since this is about him, we will take our cues from Ben and go from there. If he feels more comfortable watching the game, perhaps an Official Spectator can be a new position on the team.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Big League

The Miracle League held a social this week to get us ready for the games this Saturday. Ben is playing for the Braves - a fact his Dad is very happy about. Volunteers, coaches and buddies were there for us to meet. We have a team mom who is also the coach's wife, and very excited players.

Logan and Sean had the best time throwing balls and meeting the other kids. I think for them, this will be a time to play with siblings who are in the same situation - not that I am looking for group counseling, but it is a good place to talk, meet and make friends. I get to socialize quite a bit with other parents, but Ryan does not and this can be a safe place to meet other dads facing similar stresses, emotions and questions.

The new field, the tons of volunteers, the coach's letter to us - none of it got me emotional. Reading the list of information we received today letting us know of the team party and that each player will receive a trophy is what got to me. Ben being part of a team, part of something large and good and especially for him, is what brought tears to my eyes. And well, the thought of a shiny new trophy for his shelf helped too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Hour Tour

After three hours of bowling, Logan and Sean were begging to go home. Ryan and I were more than ready too. The one still giggling and laughing at 10pm? Ben. He was the winner of the first game and came in second place in the next game. I guess all that practice for the Special Olympics paid off.

Finished up the third frame and look who was in the lead...

And the winner...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Seeing Eye to Eye

Ben saw the eye doctor for his annual visit last week, a change since last year when he was given a clean bill of health. His strabimus, or lazy eye, is much better now and he does not need to be seen quarterly.

The doctor did mention that when Ben looks all the way to the left or right, his eyes jump, perhaps making objects to his far right or left blurry. Combined with this information the new speech therapist gave us a week ago - Ben does much better with picture cards that are in a vertical line rather than a horizontal line. Putting these two pieces of information together help teachers and therapists working with Ben develop strategies to enhance his education.

A word of caution for those of you have not experienced the eye doctor visit when eye dilation is involved...it can be a two to three hour long visit. Bring whatever survival items you need to get through it - food, toys, DVD player and Valium for yourself in severe cases. I had Sean and Logan with me and luckily they played and watched a movie in the waiting room.

Ben appears so patient in this photo. Don't let it fool you.