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Carrying vs. Pushing (Parenting)

Posted by David on July 22, 2014 in Parenting, Stone, Twins, Ty |

One of the bigger challenges I feel I face as a parent is trying to balance between pushing the twins out of their comfort zones and encouraging independence – while also trying to be supportive and provide an emotional safety net for them. And I know that as they get older, this won’t get any easier.

Sometimes its sink or swim when it comes to parenting!

Sometimes its sink or swim when it comes to parenting!

I thought of this recently when I took the boys out for a run with me. Ty rode his bike while Stone rode his scooter. During the run I alternate between pushing Stone on his scooter and encouraging him to push himself. Truthfully, for much of the run I end up pushing him along and enjoy the experience (and extra workout) simply because I treasure having an activity we can share together. I don’t want to be so hard core that I make the experience too much work for him and then have him start resisting when I suggest going for a run together. But on the other hand, I do want him to get exercise and also not rely on me 100%. So I make sure during flat stretches that Stone uses his legs to push himself and pull his weight for at least a portion of our 4-5 mile loop.

I know that many other parents struggle with similar issues. As our kids get older they become more independent – usually on their own. And suddenly our roles shift from being someone they rely on for everything to someone who needs to encourage and support them as they explore their independence. This is a transition too many parents struggle with unfortunately – even as their kids become teens and then young adults. And I get it. There is something extremely powerful and magical about that level of responsibility and connection with your kids. And lets face it, we live in a world that can be scary and unpredictable. We want to protect our kids.

But I’m trying to take the long term view as much as possible when it comes to the boys. This is one of the key reasons why all of the therapy and extra support we’re providing Stone is so vital and critical in my opinion. I want him to learn the tools to become more independent so that as he transitions into adulthood, he is as prepared as possible and minimally dependent on us or others to succeed and grow in life.

Even though Stone now weighs 85 pounds (and Ty 75 pounds) I still pick them up and hold them – or give them piggy back rides. I joke with both of them that I won’t be able to do either very much longer so I’m going to enjoy every day and moment I’m still able to do so. For me there is still nothing as powerful as holding my son in my arms – and its a feeling I will remember long after they become fully grown teens and adults. So as silly as it seems for me to give Stone a piggy back ride upstairs every night when it’s bedtime, I’m still doing it – for now. He’s still just a boy and I want he and his brother to enjoy as much as possible about being a child. I feel there is far too much pressure and emphasis in society to force kids to grow up too quickly in many ways.

So where does the pushing come into play? I try to do it in little ways. When we’re swimming, I back up while Stone is swimming to make him work harder and swim better (instead of just letting him hang on me all the time in the pool). When we’re hanging out together I make him repeat his words so that he works on his enunciation. When he’s using his iPad, I turn off his videos and make him try new apps with me – or practice flash card words. When I list these out, I realize that I probably need to be pushing him even more than I am now. I know this is how he’ll grow.

With Ty its a different kind of challenge because he’s already naturally ambitious, curious and competitive. He wants to do better in nearly every activity he attempts – and gets extremely frustrated if he falls short of his expectations. He’s also a major control freak, so we’re working with him constantly to try to be more flexible with his expectations of others and activities and to try to go with the flow more in life. This will be a constant struggle, I know.

My ultimate goal for both boys is that I want them each to have the confidence and desire to tackle new endeavors on their own as they progress through life. And I know that one of the best ways to make this happen is to provide them with emotional support now as they struggle through failures along with their successes. As I said earlier, its certainly not always easy – especially when you see your child struggling in certain areas. But I also know that those who become strongest as adults are often those who learned how to conquer major obstacles while growing up. And I hope that I’m also helping my sons grow that strength to succeed.

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Adventures with summer camps

Posted by David on July 17, 2014 in Hockey Dad, Life, Parenting, Stone, Twins, Ty |

This is the third year we’ve had to plan for summer activities for Ty and Stone between school years. The past two years we’ve enrolled Ty in a summer-long camp that is managed by the City of Edmonds and he’s really enjoyed it. They do a mixture of activities ranging from explorations along the waterfront to swim dates at the local Yost pool. Stone has been part of special Summer therapy programs put on by local Autism service providers.

stone van

Stone climbing into the Outdoors for All van as he heads to camp!

This year we decided to mix things up a bit by enrolling both in new camps and activities. It actually started during Ty’s hockey season, when some of the other parents were talking about a weeklong hockey camp during the summer. I checked it out online and thought it would be a good opportunity for Ty to immerse himself in hockey for a week during the summer and build relationships with some of his teammates and other hockey players.

I also wanted to get Stone involved in a camp called Outdoors for All. This organization works with special needs kids and arranges an amazing array of activities each week through out the summer – everything from hiking to kayaking. Last year I attempted to sign Stone up for the camp but was too late – each week was already sold out by May. So this year I was determined to make sure I didn’t miss the boat and got Stone signed up as soon as registration opened.

In addition to the hockey camp, I signed Ty up for four weeks of the Edmonds camp (he said he liked it and wanted to continue going), two weeks in a new water sports beach camp (also run by Edmonds), one week of flag football and another week in the Wonka Chocolate Factory camp run by the city of Shoreline.

Needless to say, there is a lot of activity and lots of coordination involved with arranging transportation between the two since they are involved in different camps each week.

Stone’s camp meets at Magnuson Park and he rides a bus/van provided by Outdoors for All from a Seattle park and ride under I-5. We make we have him in the parking lot and ready by 8:45 or so. The OFA camp counselors and leaders have been fantastic in every way possible. On Stone’s first day of camp, Renee and I ended up driving him directly to the camp because there was a bit of miscommunication about where we were supposed to meet the bus. It worked out as it gave us an opportunity to see the camp and meet the counselors in person. Renee was especially worried about the experience as this was the first time Stone would be riding a van without one of us and participating in a camp (instead of being in some sort of therapy activity). But it was clear that this is an organization that is very well-versed and trained in dealing with special needs kids like Stone. When we received an email later that day from the camp leader with a quick update letting us know that Stone was smiling, laughing and having fun on their hike that day, we knew he was in good hands.

And for the first two weeks of Stone’s camp, everything went smoothly. We honed our process of getting his lunches, clothes and necessary items ready and coordinated his arrival/pick up with our baby sitter. Stone was having a great time in camp and I was patting myself on the back for finding and initiating this match.

But on the third week things changed. Early that week we noticed that Stone wasn’t quite himself in the evenings. He seemed especially tired and lethargic and his eyes were a bit bloodshot. He also was a little crankier than normal but we just attributed all of it to his very busy daily schedules. We figured he was just pooped and having an off week. On Thursday though, I received a call at work from the camp leader. She told me that Stone was also having a rough week at camp. Counselors reported that he wasn’t taking direction or listening as well as he had previously – and was also frequently running away from the group and had to be chased down. In one case he ran into the parking lot – oblivious to traffic and cars (which unfortunately is true of many kids on the spectrum). She told me that this was obviously a safety issue and concern, as they have one counselor watching 2-3 kids (which is an awesome ratio by the way) and they can’t afford to leave other kids while chasing down one who runs away. She said that unfortunately if this behavior continued, we would have to send a caregiver to accompany. Stone.

I was initially crestfallen. First, I was disappointed and confused that Stone’s behavior changed so much in such a short period of time. But then we remembered that Renee had fought off an off-season head cold the weekend before. It was very possible that Stone picked up the bug and wasn’t feeling well. The OFA counselor also noted that other campers had gone home sick earlier in the week. So it was entirely possible (and probably even likely) that his behavior was caused by not feeling well – and not wanting to do things. We collectively agreed to keep Stone home from camp that Friday and to send him in as usual the following Friday and hope for a return to his old camp behavior.

As for Ty, its been a bit of a roller coaster experience with camps to date. The first two weeks were Edmonds summer camp, and I figured that this would be the easiest stretch for him, given his familiarity with the program and routine from previous summers. But alas, it wasn’t to be. We received reports from Ty that he was getting into trouble at the camp for being disruptive. He was hitting some other kids and destroying their sand castles on the beach. When we pressed him why he was acting this way, he said he was upset and frustrated that other kids weren’t playing with him or including him in their activities. We told him that we understood his frustration but reinforced that the way to make friends is NOT to hit them or destroying their sand castles. Ty very much likes to be in control of situations (we understand that desire all too well) so he’s still learning how to deal with situations when kids are playing a game with rules that he doesn’t like (or understand). All of this is to say I was actually glad when the 2nd week was completed and Ty would be going off to beach camp and taking a break from his Edmonds campers.

The beach camp was a big hit and success overall with Ty. He got to wear a wetsuit every day and do lots of fun activities including paddle boarding, boating and snorkeling in the Puget Sound. The only negative? The wetsuit and shoes he wore created some chaffing sores on his feet, legs and arms. But nothing too bad.

This brings us to this week and hockey camp. What I didn’t mention earlier was that this hockey camp is being held in Kent – a good 30 miles south of Edmonds. Fortunately, when I signed Ty up for the camp months ago I arranged with some of the other parents who live in Seattle to carpool to/from the practices. Given that the camp starts at 8:30 am. I’ve had to deliver Ty to our carpool partner by 7 am. This means a brutal 6:15 am wake-up for Ty and getting him dressed and fed while en route to camp. The logistics have worked out nicely – carpooling has given Ty the chance to ride with other kids and families, and I think this is important for hi developmentally. The challenge has come with Ty’s competitiveness (again) and how he handles new situations. To say the least, the week started off on shaky grounds.

When I picked up Ty from our carpool partners, the mother pulled me aside and said that one of the coaches mentioned to her that Ty had a few crying episodes during the day. He said it wasn’t anything too bad but he was worried Ty would come home and complain about crying and not having fun. When I pressed Ty about it during the drive home, he said that he got frustrated losing during some of the drills, so he started crying and in one case, hit another player (who apparently had hit him first). Obviously this was not the start of the week we were looking for. We told him to do better on Tuesday and he agreed.

Tuesday night when I picked him up the other parent said he didn’t have any new reports from the coach about Ty so we assumed it all went OK. Ty mentioned that he had a “little rough” morning but said the afternoon went much better. We didn’t get any other details until Wednesday morning when we learned from another parent that the coach shared with him that Ty had another tantrum in the morning and had even swung his stick in anger at one of the other coaches. He said that if this happened again Ty would have to leave the camp.

Again I was crestfallen. First, I had to worry about Stone’s behavior at his count and wonder if he’ll be able to make it through the entire summer (there is no way we could afford to pay our baby sitter to be with him all day at camp). Now, I had to worry if Ty would make it through hockey camp without getting expelled. I decided that it would probably be a good idea for me to drive to Kent myself and talk to the coach in person so I did just that. We spoke after the Wednesday session and he debriefed me about the earlier situations. He said that Ty had a few situations but that when he misbehaved, the coach stuck him in the penalty box and allowed him to cool down. I told him I totally supported that action as I want Ty to learn there are consequences to bad behavior. But the coach assured me that since Tuesday morning Ty’s behavior had dramatically improved and he did great the rest of that day as well as Wednesday. We both shared our confidence that he will finish the week strong.

One of the silver linings that emerged from this week was experiencing the sense of support, community and teamwork from the other parents and families from Ty’s hockey team. One of the main reasons I wanted Ty to play hockey was because I thought it was important to learn how to play in such a team sport. I also wanted him to learn how to interact and socialize with kids his age. And I do believe that hockey has helped tremendously. But you never really know how people – especially kids – will respond to situations like these when you have another kid struggling like Ty has at times this week. And this has been the really beautiful part.

Ty has learned that he is part of a team – even though they officially stopped playing together as a unit months ago. The five other kids on his team have rallied to his defense – totally unbeknownist to me until yesterday, when I received the following text from another hockey dad:

“Having been here all week, including the locker room, I’ve witnessed many tantrums of Ty. One thing that has really impressed me is that your former players are ALWAYS willing to go sit with him to calm him down. Whenever another kid says something unkind bout his actions, one of your players will always stick up for him. They are all incredibly well behaved and kind. Could you please pass that along to the other parents?”

And so I’ve discovered that its not just the kids who get to learn new things through these summer camps. I’m extremely touched that Ty has great friends and teammates supporting him. This is an important lesson that will help him through the rest of his life.

Oh, and Stone has had another great week at camp – other than stealing food from fellow campers (the kid is eating a ton). But it looks like he’s back to his old self and my fingers are crossed he’ll make it through the rest of the summer.

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Stone’s first Mariners game – another positive baby step

Posted by David on July 13, 2014 in Autism, Parenting, Stone, Twins, Ty |

Stones first mariners gameOne of the joys of being a parent is experiencing “first” experiences with your kids. You’re never quite sure what to expect in many cases and this is especially so when you have a child on the spectrum. Being the sports nut that I am, I was always excited to share a trip to a ball game with my kids. I took Ty to his first baseball game on Father’s Day in 2012, when the Giants were in town to play the Mariners. It was a very special occasion as my Dad (who shares my love for sports) was able to join us so we had 3 generations together at the ballpark. But as special as that day was, there was still a bit of a void for me because Stone wasn’t there with us.

Stone doesn’t care much about sports overall – especially watching them. As part of his ABA therapy he’s been playing catch with a football and baseball with the therapist (and I’ve followed up on it) and he has shown great talent in snagging the ball. So I do think there is hope and potential for him in playing some kind of sports down the road a bit. But when it came to bringing Stone to an actual Mariners (or Ducks football) game, there was just no way he would sit through the whole game.

And that’s what made today really special. For the first time ever, we brought Stone to a Mariners game and he made it through the entire game (not without a few protests to be sure, but nothing serious).

Today’s was the result of a lot of growth and progress by Stone – with some assistance from technology and food as well. Two weeks ago I happened upon a post on the Facebook group Snohomish County Asperger’s and More Support Group, “I have 4 extra tickets for the Mariner’s Autism Awareness Special game on Sunday, July 13th at 1:10. You get admission and ball hat for ticket. Selling for $20 each (what I paid). You would be joining 21 of my family and friends supporting our son.”

I thought that for $20, it wasn’t much of a gamble to try to take Stone to a game for the first time. He has been to Safeco Field twice before on Fan Fest days and enjoyed the experience. Like most kids, he especially enjoyed the ballpark food! Renee and I decided it was worth a shot taking the whole family to the game – Ty has turned into a bit Mariners and baseball fan so he was thrilled to go to another game.

We arrived an hour early and hit the concession stands. Given Stone’s dietary restrictions, we wanted to be careful with what we bought there. Unfortunately, most of the gluten-free and casein-free options come in the form of candy (either cotton or boxed). We did buy a couple of hot dogs though and shared those with with the boys (making sure Stone didn’t have any of the bun). But we made it work and other than a sugar spike (which we always have to monitor given his sugar cravings) I think we did a good job of making the trip feel special without giving into food choices we would later regret.

As I said, Stone doesn’t care about baseball too much so he didn’t really watch the game. But he was a good sport about standing for the national anthem and enjoying the atmosphere overall. We did have to use Renee’s smart phone for some of the game (so he could watch videos to keep him somewhat entertained) and by the 6th inning it was clear he was getting bored sitting in one seat as he started to ask to go home. But we told him it wouldn’t be too much longer and he was mostly content as long as he could sit on my lap (which is becoming increasingly more challenging given his growth spurt that has pushed his weight past 80 pounds).

As I told friends and family members leading up to the game, my expectations for Stone at the game were fairly low. I wanted him to have fun and to allow us to enjoy the activity together as a family. Most kids who go to a ballgame for the first time have no idea what is really going on during the game – they just enjoy the atmosphere and the experience. I know it will take Stone longer to learn and appreciate sports such as baseball and football but it will happen over time. For now I’m just grateful that he has progressed to the point that we were able to go and accomplish the main goal: we all had fun and we even made it until the end of the 8th inning. Ironically, Ty was the one who pushed for us to leave early because he didn’t want to see the Mariners lose (they were down 3-1 at that point). Given the success of the day to that point, I wasn’t going to argue with him about leaving early. And even though the M’s went on to lose, the day and experience were both a big win in my book.

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Dear Integra Telecom: Why do you hate small businesses?

Posted by David on July 11, 2014 in Customer Service |

Dear Integra Telecom,

Why do you hate small businesses?

You don’t know me – well, you sort of do. We actually corresponded a bit on Twitter last month about an issue my sister was having moving her phone number from her old business location (which you managed) to her new business location (which Comcast manages).

big versus small I think we’d all agree that we live in a pretty amazing technology age. We can do things today that we never dreamed of not long ago – GPS in our vehicles, smartphones, cloud-computing…you name it. Heck, technology is so advanced today that you would think that switching a measly phone number from one carrier to another could be done with a click of a mouse. As a matter of fact, I’m virtually certain this is the case.

Yet when my sister moved her store from Portland to Beaverton on June 3rd, you somehow couldn’t figure out a way to do this. All of her collateral, website information and online information has this phone number. Its how customers you know, communicate with her.

She called and called and tried to get resolution with your “customer care” representatives but to no avail. I only became aware of this ordeal because out of frustration I saw her post on Facebook on June 24 – a full 3 weeks after the switch was supposed to have happened.

I am so mad at Integra I could spit. My shop has been without it’s phone number working for the three weeks we have been open because Integra refuses to play nice and release the number to Comcast (my provider in the new place). I have had the same number for 10 years and it’s EVERYWHERE….biz cards, postcards, on our bags on our websites, everywhere on the web. I was told today that now Integra won’t release the number unless I open up a new account (and pay for it). Horrible customer service.. horrible communication…..and I am losing sales because nobody can call the shop! ARGH!!!!

Being the good brother I am, I tried to do what I could. I took to my twitter account and tweeted to my 50,000 followers what lousy customer service you provide. To your credit, you quickly (within a few hours) sent me a direct message and asked for her account information so you could resolve the situation. I provided this to you (via DM) and assumed the matter to be closed. My sister would no longer have to worry about having her phone number switched.
Except I was wrong. On June 30th I checked with my sister and asked how things were going. She said that there were STILL issues between you and Comcast. She didn’t know what to do. I sent another DM to your customer service team on Twitter and mentioned that the issue still hadn’t been fixed and she still doesn’t have her phone number. For some reason though, you didn’t respond to this message. I’ve included a screen shot of the interaction below for your recollection.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 3.16.35 PM
Not having customers being able to call your business COSTS REAL DOLLARS.
And guess what? As of today, July 11th, the issue is still unresolved! My sister reported that you rejected the port again from Comcast.

According to your website, “At Integra, we understand our customers need reliable, secure and flexible solutions delivered with unmatched expertise and quality of service. With an unwavering focus on superior customer service, Integra has earned some of the highest customer loyalty and customer satisfaction ratings in the telecommunications industry.”

I find this to be highly questionable. As a matter of fact, its laughable in light of my sister’s experience.

She is a small business owner who is trying to make a living in a new location – without her business phone number. All because of your incompetence and ignorance.

The only conclusion I can draw is that you really must really hate small businesses.
I’m grateful that I will never have to rely on you or your company for any services. In the meantime, I hope you quickly figure out how fix this horrible situation that you have created.

Best regards,

David

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Does it always rain on the 4th of July in Seattle?

Posted by David on July 3, 2014 in America, Seattle |

A common joke in Seattle is that summer doesn’t truly start until after the 4th of July – because it seems the cold, rainy weather often persists through Independence Day. And while I can remember my share of frigid fourths, apparently rain hasn’t been as common on the holiday as Seattlites my think. This infographic shows the recent history of weather on the 4th of July throughout America, and Seattle hasn’t fared too poorly! With a forecast of sun and temperatures in the 70s, this year’s Independence Day is looking good too!

How Prone Is Your City To Rain On the 4th of July?

 

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Why Michael Sam Needs To Ditch the OWN Documentary

Posted by David on May 16, 2014 in Football, Sports |

I’m certainly not the first to voice this opinion but I think it’s time for Michael Sam to cancel the previously announced documentary on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
michael sam mizzou

First, I’m a huge supporter and fan of Michael and I hope he finds success in the NFL. I greatly admire his bravery and honesty in coming out as openly gay before this year’s NFL draft. It’s never easy being a pioneer when it comes to human rights issues and I think this is one of those situations where he has no idea just how difficult a path he has ahead of him – from both a football and personal standpoint.

And this is exactly why I think he needs to cancel plans for a documentary. To his credit, Sam said all of the right things leading up to and after the draft about wanting to be viewed and judged as a football player – not as an openly gay football player. And while I understand the historical implications of his journey, I think he needs to demonstrate to both his potential employer and co-workers that he is focused on one task only: making the Rams and contributing to their team’s success.

Anything above or beyond this can potentially be viewed as a distraction – and some already feel this way (based on media reports and social media reactions).
Today was reported on Twitter that the NFL “Did not know anything about (Sam’s OWN deal) until after the draft and have not agreed to anything about it.”

This doesn’t look good for Michael.

There will be plenty of time for documentaries and interviews in the future if and when Michael does prove himself as a capable NFL player.

Take care of business first Michael – there will be plenty documenting the journey.

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Losing My Hockey Virginity

Posted by David on April 20, 2014 in Hockey Dad, Life, Parenting, Twins, Ty |

I often get asked how or why I got Ty involved with junior hockey when I have no previous experience myself. The reason I usually give is that when the twins were toddlers, I met a Dad at a networking event who had sons now in college. We were talking about all of the organized sports options for kids and he emphatically told me, “get your kids into hockey. It never rains inside the rink and you’ll never have to stand in a muddy field.” That did make sense to me.

Ty and I posing after the parents vs. kids hockey game. We both were thrilled!

Ty and I posing after the parents vs. kids hockey game. We both were thrilled!

But in truth, I had long thought that if I ever had children, hockey would be a great sport for them to learn when they were young. The combination of eye-hand coordination, balance, skill and yes, toughness were all skills I feel will be helpful in any sport that may follow (even if they decided not to play hockey long).

The other primary reason I wanted Ty to play hockey (which I had not shared with many) was that I have long wanted to play it myself. I was able to go to a few California Golden Seals NHL games as a child and the sport fascinated me. I loved the speed and physicality of it – it reminded me a bit of football, but on ice skates. There was one other classmate I knew who played but the nearest rink was 15 miles away and his practices were at 6 am during the week. I knew there was no way I’d be able to talk my mom into that kind of schedule for me (particularly when she had to juggle schools and schedules for 2 other brothers and a sister). But I remained fascinated with the sport.

After I moved to Seattle (the first time) in 1990, I saw yard signs around the area encouraging adults to sign up for a beginner hockey league in the area (“No experience necessary”). I was intrigued and seriously thought about it – but never took the step to learn more about it or actually sign up.

As Ty’s season wound down, we received an announcement for the season-end party and celebration. It would feature a parents vs. kids hockey game at Kingsgate Arena in Kirkland. Other dads (who grew up playing hockey) immediately started talking about how fun the game will be – and asked if I had any experience. I confessed I didn’t, but they encouraged me to come on out to play anyway. I thought about and realized, this is finally my chance to actually play hockey myself! Fortunately, I know a Dad from one of the other Mite teams (his son played on Ty’s Little League baseball team last year) who started playing beginner hockey 2 years ago (he’s been trying to get me to sign up for the league as well). He graciously loaned me his hockey gear so I could play.

Ty was very excited that I was going to play in the parents vs. kids game and I thought about how it would be a very cool and memorable experience for us to be able to take the ice together and play. There really are very few sports (especially team sports) where one would have this kind of opportunity. As the date for the party approached, I found myself both excited and nervous – it brought back memories of my first tackle football game more than 30 years ago. I couldn’t wait for the experience but I was also terrified I might make a complete fool out of myself once I got on the ice.

It was a surreal experience putting on all of the hockey gear – on myself (instead of Ty). We had arrived a few minutes late so I was the last Dad to come out to the bench. The others greeted me warmly and enthusiastically. We had 11 Dads so we basically divided into two separate shifts (or lines). After getting help from one of the other Dads to lace up and tighten my skates – I was ready to play. It was time for the shift change and I bolted onto the ice with only a general idea where I was supposed to go (or what to do). It wasn’t long before the puck caromed my direction and I quickly realized just how tricky it is to coordinate feet, ice skates and a big hockey stick – as I reached for the puck my skates slid out from under me and I landed on my side. I had my first official fall not even :30 into my hockey career. Fortunately, it turned out to be my only fall as I skated steadier the rest of the game.

My first time on the ice resulted in my first trip to the penalty box. Yes, for tripping an 8 year old.

My first time on the ice resulted in my first trip to the penalty box. Yes, for tripping an 8 year old.

After I regained my footing I found myself chasing the puck (and players) around the ice. As one of the kids tried to skate past me with the puck I successfully knocked it away and even managed to turn it into a weak pass to a teammate. I felt empowered. About :20 seconds later one of the better skaters on Ty’s team secured the puck and started to rush towards me with it. He made a move to go around me and I instinctively reached out with my stick to try to again jab away the puck – but this time I got his skates with it. The whistle blew (two kids volunteered to referee) and I was called for the first penalty of the game. There are many (including my Mom) who consider this to be very fitting for me to be sent to the penalty box not even 2 minutes into the game. But alas, I did the crime so I had to do the time.

The kids won the game (of course) but the overall experience was truly exhilarating for me. I was able to skate on probably 4-5 different shifts and was amazed at how much sweat I produced during that time. Granted, I’m not in the best shape of my life but every other dad (and most other kids) were equally drenched as well. Even in a low-key game like that, skating in a full-ice game takes an amazing amount of energy and work!

The experience was a resounding success. Ty was thrilled with my participation although when I asked him later how he thought I did out there he said, “you weren’t very good, but that’s OK!” I’m glad to see all of my coaching with him has already made it full circle.

Later I was reflecting back on my first exposure to playing hockey and wondered if it would be similar to Moonlight Graham in the movie, Field of Dreams. In the movie, Graham was provided the opportunity to finally hit in a major league game, thanks to the magical field and Ray Kinsella. But he wasn’t able to continue playing because he stepped off the field to help Ray’s daughter, who had been choking on a hot dog. Ray apologized profusely but Moonlight wouldn’t hear of it. He was happy he finally got the experience and explained, “If I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.”

There is a part of me that would have been equally OK if that Sunday in Kirkland turned out to be my one and only hockey action. I have a very full life and plenty of challenges from a time (and financial) standpoint that its easy to rationalize not playing again. But I have to say there is something about that experience that has stuck with me. It’s not dissimilar from my first trip overseas when I had the opportunity to visit London, Berlin and Copenhagen for the first time. In that case I caught the travel bug, now I have the hockey bug.

The team photo after the game shows just how much fun the kids and parents all had playing together!

The team photo after the game shows just how much fun the kids and parents all had playing together!

One of the dads from Ty’s team emailed the others and commented how much fun it was for us to all skate together and he shared that the rink has open ice times for beginner adults every Saturday night. It sounds like a group of guys will be going on a regular basis and I plan to join as well (as soon as I have a free Saturday night). But in the meantime I’ve bought my hockey equipment so I’m ready to go. Whether its now joining Ty on the ice for Stick and Puck or joining a new beginner adult hockey league in the Fall, I’m excited about this new athletic chapter in my life. How many sports can you say that about at my age?

And I also have a new level of appreciation for just how difficult a sport hockey is – this helps put things into perspective as I watch and support Ty continue to grow and improve in his young hockey career.

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U.S. Congressman Compares Corruption in CDC’s Vaccine Safety Studies to SEC’s Handling of Bernie Madoff Scandal

Posted by David on April 16, 2014 in Autism |
U.S. Congressman Compares Corruption in CDC’s Vaccine Safety Studies to SEC’s Handling of Bernie Madoff Scandal (via PR Newswire)

Congressman Bill Posey Has Strong Words for Government Agency. Concludes: “I think the CDC Should Be Investigated.” Congressman Bill Posey. (PRNewsFoto/AutismOne) WATCHUNG, N.J., April 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — In an April 8 interview on AutismOne…

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My Favorite Florida Find So Far – Paint The Trail

Posted by David on April 8, 2014 in America, Travel |
Just a small section of the "Paint the trail" art work viewable along Seminole County Trail near Longwood, Florida.

Just a small section of the “Paint the trail” art work viewable along Seminole County Trail near Longwood, Florida.

Not only is Orlando about as far away geographically as you can get from Seattle in the continental US, its also very different culturally. I say this having spent a considerable amount of time in Mickey’s backyard visiting Renee’s parents on many trips over the past 16 years.

“Artsy” is not a word I would typically use to describe Orlando – but today when I was out for a run along the Seminole County Trail, I was pleasantly surprised when I observed a number of paintings and murals that ran the length of a privacy fence that lined the trail. It was so off-beat and cool I had to do a double-take. Was I really seeing this in Longwood? The paintings ranged from Betty Boop to Wonder Woman and Ghostbusters to Prefontaine. I didn’t count but there are easily more than 50 paintings you can observe on both sides of the trail. There is even a chalkboard in the middle with a sign encouraging others to write a message or leave their own art – with a bucket full of chalk and wet rags provided. I noticed a sign on the end, it said “Like Paint the Trail on Facebook.” I made note to do just that as I snapped a few photos of some of my favorites to share with others. I just absolutely loved what appeared to me to be a spontaneous work of art that obviously grew beyond original expectations.

A touching tribute and thank you honoring 3 Navy SEALS  and other veterans who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A touching tribute and thank you honoring 3 Navy SEALS and other veterans who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So I checked out the Facebook page and website tonight and learned the story behind Paint The Trail. The artist explains:

“I put a couple of paintings up on my mom and dads fence that faces the bike trail as sort of a joke. I hadn’t planned on hanging any more of them. My mom kept telling me stories of how people passing by would comment and compliment them. I painted a couple more, and hung them. It seemed as though my parents were getting a kick out of it. I would paint more, and hang them as it was getting dark outside. I thought for sure I’d get caught and get yelled at, or at least threatened to have the county called on me. I’m still not sure if what I’m doing is against some kind of code. The more paintings I hung, the more stories of compliments I heard from my parents. This fence painting stuff has spiraled out of control now. LOL! I’ll be painting the entire length of their privacy fence now. My parent’s neighbor wants me to paint on his fence now. That’s a lot of paintings. I hope to get some good suggestions from the people who walk and ride the trail. The past few times I’ve been out there putting up something new, people stop and chat with me. Everyone has been very nice, and I really appreciate all the compliments : ) I’m only planning on keeping this Facebook

One of my favorite paintings naturally was of Oregon Duck and US track icon "Pre"

One of my favorite paintings naturally was of Oregon Duck and US track icon “Pre”

account until I’m finished painting the fence, or fences. Maybe I’ll paint the fences all the way to Lake Mary Blvd. HA!! How far’s that again?”

The photos I took and those that are shared on Facebook and the website really don’t do the project justice – it needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.

This is the kind of movement I hope picks up steam in other parts of the country – including Seattle. It would be great to see similar works of art pop up along the Burke-Gillman or Interurban Trails in the area. I am a big believer in art and what it brings to our lives – and I say kudos artworkbyjeff@gmail.com for his imagination and work here!

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Autism Awareness Month, Autism Speaks & Sesame Street

Posted by David on April 2, 2014 in Autism |

So today was the seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day. Said who? Oh, that would be according to Autism Speaks, the most famous of the many Autism-related non-profit organizations. And while one might say that Autism Speaks has certainly done a fine job of raising the overall awareness of Autism during this time, I have to think that the fact that the rate of kids being diagnosed on the spectrum has shot up to 1 in 66 has had as much to do with the public becoming more aware than a single marketing campaign. And yes, Light It Up Blue is indeed a marketing campaign for Autism Speaks (they even have a trademark on it).

In many ways Autism Speaks has become a bit like the Susan G. Komen Foundation of the Autism world. It’s a very controversial organization within the Autism community. For while it has succeeded in generating massive amounts of PR and awareness for itself (and the cause), there are many who object to its focus on directing the bulk of the money raised towards genetic-based research – and lining the pockets of its execs. Autism Speaks has successfully highjacked the color blue and tied it to its cause – just as Susan G. Komen has done with pink and breast cancer.

Is this all bad? No, it’s not all bad. As I said, both organizations have done a tremendous job of raising awareness for their causes – and as a PR and marketing professional, I can vouch for the value of visibility and awareness. It takes a lot of work to cut through the noise that makes up our mass media – increasingly so now with so many media outlets and social media platforms.

But what I personally object to is when I see the many many fundraisers out there that are driven by – or for – Autism Speaks and knowing that this money could be better served going to other causes that will directly help those impacted by Autism TODAY. Yes, it is important that we invest time and resources to try to determine why there has been a surge in Autism over the past 10-20 years, but the fact is there are millions – MILLIONS – of kids and families who are struggling today with finding appropriate therapies, instruction and support to get through this tremendous challenge.

And while the official CDC statistics state that the number is now 1 in 66, many of us parents in the community are quietly speculating that the figure is even higher. Don’t be surprised if in another 2-3 years we see yet another 30 percent increase in kids diagnosed on the spectrum. This is an issue that is hitting us as a society fast and its hitting now.

Now is the time to put the massive resources of our Federal Government behind a coordinated effort to hit the Autism issue head on. There isn’t time to wait for the millions of families who need access to speech, occupational and ABA therapies for their children as they race to address developmental delays.

I’m calling on President Obama to create a Presidential Commission on Autism – this would be a legacy he can provide that would rival Obamacare. The charter of the commission needs to be twofold 1) determine what is behind the rise in Autism in this country the past 20 years. This means examining ALL potential environmental factors including yes, vaccines. The US has by far the most aggressive childhood vaccination schedule of all developed countries and also have the highest rate of Autism in the world. Does correlation mean causation? No – not necessarily. But we need to be clear-eyed when we try to figure out why and how there can be millions (yes millions) of stories from parents who talk about otherwise normally developing babies and toddlers who somehow, for some reason, regressed dramatically – often after a series of vaccinations.

2) create a plan that provides financial support for families who need additional therapy and assistance for their children – and also provides even more training and incentives for professionals to move into this area to fill the void that now exists between supply and demand for services. And this gap will only get wider as the numbers of kids diagnosed on the spectrum increases. What is rapidly happening is that those families/parents who have financial means (either through strong insurance policies with their employers like Microsoft of Amazon or their own finances) are those who are securing the most services for their kids. Low-income and those with poor (or no) insurance are stuck – and that is just heart breaking.

So I’m not sure exactly what it takes to create momentum and action required to create this kind of Presidential Commission but it is one of my new dreams and goals for the future.

But back to Autism Speaks, Autism Awareness Month and Light It Up Blue Day. There was one very positive development that I wanted to note today. Autism Speaks and Sesame Street announced hat they were joining forces to develop a new Autism initiative. According to Autism Speaks, “The initiative, “See Amazing in All Children,” will aim to increase understanding, reduce stigma, and demonstrate the commonalities that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) share with all children. The Workshop will also develop tools and resources for families of children with ASD to help them reduce the stress of everyday routines, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, trying a new food, or playing with other children.”

I applaud both Autism Speaks and Sesame Street for this initiative as it is an example of something that will help today and the near future – and I look forward to watching it develop.

In the meantime, if you do want to help provide support to worthy organizations that provide support to those impacted by Autism, I urge you to check out Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy or TACA (Talk About Curing Autism), to name but two groups working hard to help families.

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