Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Death of a Hamster

Sunday night was a tragic time for our house. I was studying Physics (another story for another time) when I heard Levi start to cry. He called "Daaaaaaad" and I said what. He cried "Daaaaaad!". So I went into his room and asked "What's up?" He was distraught and through his tears cried "Ben's Dead!".

I was shocked. I moved over to the bed and checked on the hamster named Ben. Sure enough Ben wasn't moving. I opened the door to the cage and again no movement. I touched Ben (yes I washed my hand afterwards) and no movement. Ben was officially dead.

Levi was in major grief. You read about weeping and wailing in the scriptures. This was his behavior about losing his "best friend". So I talked with him and we made arrangements for Ben's funeral service for the next day. Part of the preparation was to create a headstone for Ben.

I always have some wood around so I found some thin panelling and cut out a head stone for Ben. Levi and I then sat down and decided what to write. We decided on the following:

"R.I.P. Here lies my friend Ben. Nov 2008 - Mar 14th 2010"

Levi then wrote in the corner of the headstone "I love you Ben by Levi". It took a long time for Levi to go to sleep. He was traumatized to say the least. We held the service the next day. Levi misses Ben and I'm sure it will take a while for him to get over his grief.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Of Goals and Savings

Yesterday was a momentous occasion for my oldest daughter. You see we've been paying our kids for the work they do around the house. Each child has the following responsibilities (note this is a partial list):

  1. Clean Room
  2. Morning Chore
  3. Clean Zone (typically a room or area)
  4. Homework
  5. Saturday Only - Deep Clean Zone (vacuum, dust, etc)

For every thing they do points are awarded. At the end of the week we tally up the points and divide by 100 to determine how much money they've earned. We encourage saving but also allow our children to spend their money on things they want/need (within reason of course). The boys tend to spend their money quickly while Ellie has been saving for something special. Yesterday she was able to get what she wanted and achieved her goal.

What did she want? An iPod Touch. She earned the money to get an 8GB iPod Touch. I can't tell you how excited she was to get this. You could tell that she was so excited to see her savings plan pay off. Of course there was the setup time once the iPod Touch got home, but she was very happy to be able to use it.

We have put her music on it as well as some games and the scriptures. I'm sure there will be tons more we put on the iPod for her as well as teach her to use some of the built in tools that are available. Of course we have also put in some restrictions. For instance I have not set up the WiFi on her iPod so she doesn't have access to the internet.

I should also mention that Sam didn't spend his money right away (just thought about this so I'm amending the entry). Sam did save enough money to buy a Nintendo DS. His brother and sister got one for Christmas and Sam at that time didn't want one. However he decided a couple of weeks after Christmas that he wanted one and so he started saving too.

Hopefully this can be a trend for my children. The ability to set goals and achieve them. Also the ability to save money and not spend it as soon as they earn it. Valuable lessons that will serve them well as they get older.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Magical Season

Last Saturday was the final game for my son's U6 Winter soccer season. Each season I have two goals. One I let everybody in on and one I try to achieve without stating it. The one I let everybody in on is that the kids have as much fun as possible. In fact I tell the kids that the first rule of soccer is to have fun. If you're not having fun then it is a struggle to play. It's great to see them have fun and enjoy this game that I love.

The second goal is trying to get every kid at least one goal. I have now coached five seasons. The first four I did not reach my goal. I have come close where only one or two of my players did not score. That changed this last season. Going into the final game I had one player who had not scored.

Now over the course of the two years I've been coaching, I know which teams are good and which teams we are going to kill. Based on that I can put out a lineup of really good and good players that will make the game fun for all.

The final game I knew was going to be a rout. I also knew that there would be a good chance for this last player to score and my secret goal to be achieved. We played through 3 quarters and this player had a couple of chances. I was getting worried. In the last quarter I had him out there playing with two really good players and another player who had only one goal this season. The quarter was about 1/2 over and he still hadn't scored. Then came the breakthrough. My son Sam was on the field and got the ball in a pile of players. The boy who hadn't scored yet was further up-field and I directed Sam to pass the ball. Sam did so and the boy received it in a good position. He dribbled once and shot. Honestly I thought it was going wide and he would have had another chance go by the wayside. To my great surprise and pleasure the ball however went into the corner of the net. I was beaming for this boy. It was really about him and not my goal. But it was a relief that every player on my team had the experience of scoring a goal.

I could mention a lot about this season (like going undefeated or how much the team learned about playing the game) but this one moment where I knew everyone on the team had scored was the best one. Scoring goals boosts the kids' confidence and I know that it also boosts their enjoyment of the game.

Tomorrow is our team party and I plan on divulging what my secret goal has been for each season. I will let all the parents know that I had this goal at the beginning of the season and that this was the first season where everyone scored. It definitely was a magical season and I'm grateful to have been a part of it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I was impressed with the new show Parenthood on NBC Tuesday night. I was a little leary about watching the show from the previews thinking it was going to be some kind of dramedy (you know comedy and drama). However my wife and I sat down (she was reading a book) and watched it. If you saw my last post you know that we have an autistic son. The premier of Parenthood struck us with the following scene:

One of the sons is in school and trying to make paper hearts. The son is wearing a bandana and a pirate shirt. As he is cutting the hearts out with scissors, he keeps making mistakes. When the mistake occurs he crumples up the paper and then sits on it. After a few of these another kid in the classroom calls his name and say "Save some paper for us!". The son ignores him. Eventually this boy comes over and tries to take away some of the paper. Meanwhile the rest of the class is snickering. When the boy takes the paper away from the son he loses it. In a fit of rage he goes after the boy and eventually bites him. The teacher physically removes the son from the classroom.

Later we see the parents in the Principal's office where it is recommended that they see an educational specialist with their son. Of course the parents are defensive. I mean who wouldn't be? But being good parents they agree to have their son evaluated.

Fast forward to a scene with the Father gets a phone call from his wife and is asked to meet her in a plaza. She has taken the son to the specialist and a conversation ensues where she is explaining the findings and the Father is in denial. At the end of the conversation however the Father realizes that the wife is serious and understands that his boy will need help.

Fast forward again to school. The son has forgotten something and the dad drops it off to him. As the two are conversing another boy comes by and says "Hi!". The son doesn't respond. The dad points out to him that it might be rude not to say "Hi!" back. The son doesn't respond and turns to walk away. The Dad says "I Love You" with no response. You see the recognition on the dad's face.

Fast forward again to a performance by the son's cousin. The son begins to have an episode and the dad takes him outside. Outside the boy stands on the end of a bench and jumps into a puddle of water over and over again. Eventually the grandfather comes out and tries to persuade the father and son to come back in for the performance. The father explains that he can't and the grandfather says of course he can, The father then tells his dad (the grandfather) that there is something wrong with his son and that he will need the grandfather's help. The grandfather agrees as recognition dawns on him.

One more fast forward. But first I have to go back. There was an incident early on in the episode where the son is playing baseball and his dad the coach has an issue with a call. The dad gets very upset and is ejected. The son tells his parents he doesn't want to play anymore. OK, back to fast forwarding. The family is about to have lunch when the son comes out and says "Dad, what about the baseball game?". The father asks "I thought you didn't want to play baseball anymore?". The son says he does. There is a brief pause and then the grandfather says "Let's go" and starts directing the family to get the items needed and to get into the car. At the end of the episode you see family rooting on the son and then the dad walking up to the game (he's not allowed to be there because of the earlier incident). He's watching from the outside as his son is batting. The last thing you hear is the bat striking the ball, the crowd screaming and the dad smiling.

This is a brave arc for a television show to take. Having gone through some of the things depicted in this episode it was hard keeping the tears from flowing. We went through a similar process. Some denial and yet knowing there was something not quite right with our son. We got the diagnosis and it was hard to accept. We have had times where Levi won't say "I love you" to us for long periods of time. There are times when he goes into a rage and we have to find different ways to calm him down. There are times when he obsesses and we have to deal with it in an appropriate manner for him.

All in all, I'm hoping that this show survives if not for any other reason than to expose more people to not only autism, but the needs of children who have special needs. As I said in my last post education is the key and hopefully the writers of Parenthood can provide education to others.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Action for Autism

Today is the 3rd annual Action for Autism day on KTAR in Arizona. As a father of an autistic child I'm thankful that this is being done. It is estimated that 1 in 100 children in AZ has some form of Autism (on the Asperger scale). If you've read my blog you know that our oldest has been diagnosed with Autism.

There is no known cause, although there are theories. There is no known cure, however there are some medicines that can help. Early detection is the key to helping these children become productive members of our society. There is progress in being able to detect Autism at earlier ages. However, the big key is EDUCATION. When I say education I'm talking about educating the following people:

  1. Parents - to recognize the signs of Autism
  2. Family and Friends - to understand that autistic people are different and to be careful about what is said or commented on
  3. Teachers - to understand the needs of an autistic child
  4. Others - to know that there may be something special about the child who is having a tantrum
  5. Doctors - to recognize the signs and listen to the parents of these children when they explain that "something just isn't right"

I ask that if you get a chance go to KTAR and listen to the live stream to hear some of the stories of kids with autism and how it has affected them and their families. If you feel the need, please donate. The donations benefit the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SAARC) who are one of the leading autism research centers around.

This is a great event every year, and is greatly appreciated by those of us who have children or who have been affected by Autism.