Sunday, December 28, 2008

Failure to Communicate (or Understand)

Interesting Points of View from my 9 yr old daughter:

Dad: I setup an email account for you - want to use it?
Daughter: I can only use my email after you buy me a laptop computer!

Me: What do you think about getting a Wii for the family?
Daughter: Dad, we can only play Wii if you buy us a flat screen TV!

Both of these comments came within 24 hours. Can you picture the look on my face?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Resources for Dads

I am in the process of gathering online (and offine) resources for Dads. Books, websites, articles - anything of interest for engaged Dads. If you have websites to share - send a comment.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning

A glimpse into an EARLY Christmas morning.... (Did I say it was EARLY???)

Stocking Stuffer

Letter from Big Sister to each of her brothers (found in their stockings). Speechless Dad.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Bullied on a Daily Basis

One of my biggest fears for David is his being bullied. The article: "Kids with Asperger's Syndrome: Being Bullied on a Daily Basis" really touched me with points to consider.

I guess my biggest fear was not necessarily now but during the middle school years. That is where a lot of concern lies for me as a Dad and we as parents. Your worries are not ONLY in the now stage, but in "the what will happen when he is stage.

I balance these fears with the POWER moments. Tonight, David and I completed a mind game puzzle together. Well he actually did it (I was there for moral support). I know I loved just being with him. I sensed he loved it too.

After puzzle time, I played catch with A, talked with J about her day (while holding her) and helped JuJu go peepee (when he woke up at 11 pm).

You know what, maybe I won't worry so much (who has time)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wondering About Aspergers

Our latest concerns surround the symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. David has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS but it has been on our hearts for some time that Aspergers may be reality for him. Read the symptoms ..... and if you know David....then what would you think?

It's another body blow to take on as a Dad. I trudge on. Life is not dull. David is strong and we will move forward.....together.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Perception IS Reality

David has been struggling with fitting in. My struggle as his Dad is understanding what he is facing. More specifically trying to get to his level and understand his view of the world. It is painful to see him be ostracized (or feel like that). It is painful for me to not be able to help (i suspect every dad's dilemma)

His interaction with his siblings and friends seem to be fine. There are definitely some awkward moments (sensory issues - touching, hugging, extreme yelling, emotional or over-reaction). So as an outsider - looks can be deceiving.

He has communicated that he feels left out at school. HIS PERCEPTION is others are forming groups and leaving him out. The facts are still coming in. These groups may be forming but what is being perceived as an intentional slight (to him) is nothing more than a group of kids playing together (or eating lunch together).

So my struggle is when to protect or push. My anxiety is worrying about him being bullied. I don't have an answer right now. Seeking wisdom through prayer and seeking support through community.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cherish the Good Days

Today was a good day. Not so much for me (tired), or for Rachel (feeling sick) - but a good day of social interactions with David. In fact it has been a good 24 hours (since last night).

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum - you understand.

Last night I made strawberry milk for the boys. This was a first time drink for David.
Upon drinking he said, "Dad, thanks for the strawberry milk..... JP and I love you".
This wasn't silly talk or a common reaction from him.

For the first time in 7 years - I knew he truly meant saying those 3 words to me.

Tonight, upon arriving home we had our silly rambunctious play (Dad and all 4 kids).
I had dinner while the kids were having dessert (homemade cake from the kids)
I started my standard questions regarding the day for David. But today I asked
"Did you have any special visitors today?" David replied with his face beaming, "Yeah, Mom! She did a presentation in my class" I asked (feeling bold), "How did you feel seeing her?" David replied while giggling "Very happy!" We talked about the rest of his day, he went through the rest of bed time routine, told me that JP was doing poops.

The word that came to mind regarding our interaction was that he was ENGAGED. He was uncharacteriscally VERY socially engaged.

Engaging with my son has been a long time prayer of mine. A simple prayer just for a moment. I feel grateful and blessed on this day. I will cherish this day hoping this will be one moment in a lifetime of many moments. I will continue to pray in Jesus' name for change in David's life and especially change in mine.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Females in Training (FIT)

Hats off to Jaclyn and Rachel who ran & finished a 5K last Sunday in New Milford, CT. The weather was freezing! Yet, they still perservered and did it! I am so proud of both of them. Proud of Jaclyn for:
- Sticking with the FIT program and completing her goal.
- Trying a new experience and meeting new people.
- Being athletic and aware of fitness

Proud of Rachel for:
- Commitment to fitness for the family
- Being a leader for Jaclyn
- Doing all of this WHILE being a mother of 4 along with working, teaching, GS leading, etc... (major props!)

We (the rest of the gang) cheered them on along the finish line. We played in the snow while we waited and as a Dad I hope it reinforced a couple of things:

1. fitness as part of our family (healthy mind, spirit and body)
2. supporting other family members (through good and bad weather)
3. take time to celebrate these times (All Aboard Pizza Shop with Abu & Ita)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daily Routines and Autism

"Children with autism are focused on a daily routine with fixed habits and familiar surroundings. ...changes to their daily routine can be very disruptive, shattering their feeling of security and triggering unexpected behavior, experts say. " - cnn.com

I read the above article and I couldn't even imagine suffering the loss of our home. Not the home itself but the sense of safety, comfort, and the sense of "being home". Mostly when I read the above article I thought about David. I remember our struggle when we moved in 2006 to our current home. Immediate after purchase and prior to moving in, we brought the family to the house. This was specifically for David's benefit - so that he could gain a sense of safety and familiarity. We were aided by wonderful neighbors who shared their Legos (which helped shape a sense of normality). He resisted at first. But I am deeply proud of him and how he has handled transitions (this is beyond painful for him).

David's routines have included:
- regular seat at the kitchen table for EVERY meal
- apple and waffle for breakfast EVERY morning

When he was younger, we often could not bring him to new places/homes, loud auditoriums, or crowded places. These were difficult times.

I read the article above and I understand. I know where they stand. I feel for this family.

David: I am very proud of you. I am proud of what you have overcome. I am proud of the boy you have become. I am proud of you because you have perservered through change. I have seen growth in your struggle to deal with adversity (quote from grandpa jack).

I am BEYOND honored to be your Dad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stick and Stones

Thursday afternoon was tough for me. While at work, I learned JP fell off a swing and broke his elbow. I found myself not only worried about his physical health, but also wanted to be with him. I felt very guilty about not being there for him. Not being there to catch him when he fell. In fact, when I think about it now, it bothers me and makes me sad.

I know in reality I can not be with my kids through every moment throughout their life. But I take pride in being there. I wasn't and I am coming to grips with that.

Actual exchange when I arrived home.

Dad: JP, sorry I wasn't here for you today Buddy, when you fell...
JP: Dad, that's okay, next time I won't hold my pumpkin while on the swing. Did you see my blue cast? It's only on for a little while....5 weeks.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fruits of My Loin: AN UPDATE

David rode a two-wheel bike for the first time this past Sunday. He also says he has a "wiggly tooth".

PERSONAL NOTE:
I got "Stumped by the Schwab" tonight in a cause to help out the Cardinal Shehan Center. The Shehan Center in Bridgeport, CT is a wonderful organization supporting kids athletics. This short post reminds me to start "tweeting".

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fruits of My Loin

I noticed something recently. I get emotional at the SMALLEST things my children do. Maybe they seem small to me - but they are big for my children. For example, this past month included David shooting and making his first basket in our backyard. When it went through the net, I jumped up and down like he won the NBA championship. I wouldn't let him see me cry. Now he loves to "play hoops". In fact he has gotten a hoop two more times. This is a big step for him. We learned a lot about David through this experience (this is a future blog post).

JP also just learned to ride his bike WITHOUT training wheels. When I pushed him around the yard and he was able to peddle without help....oh boy, my tears started flowing.

Maybe I am getting soft in my old age? Maybe I am getting too sentimental about these things? Maybe my kids bring out the inner child within me? Maybe fatherhood does matter....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

We have a failure to Communicate

A New School Year and more Fatherhood Matters. As other parents out there understand - it is unbelievable to see the emotional and intellectual growth in your children. As a Dad with daughters and sons (all different ages), I constantly need to modify my communication style. So even though I mentally cant comprehend (or accept) my oldest is in 3rd grade....I need to work to change my communication style. No longer can I talk to her as a toddler, but now I must speak with respect to her as a young girl. A girl with feelings, emotions, thoughts, feedback and a beautiful mind. I know this Dad is trying to figure it all out. I suspect this will be a continous life challenge with all my kids. Any wisdom out there? :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cousins - Summer Memories 2007

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day - My 4 Gifts

Father's Day started by playing golf at Centennial Golf Club with 3 great Dads (Cap, Viani, Suarez) whom I have known since my 1st year of college.

Yesterday was emotional for me. I am not sure why. I loved golf in the morning. But I missed my kids terribly. Driving from the golf course, I was excited to see my kids. I arrived home to an empty house. I felt lonely and incomplete.

When the kids arrived home, I was beyond ecstatic. I opened their gifts (see picture). I choked up and was ready to cry. Is it possible to cry over a homemade card in the shape of jacket and tie?

My children are my gift. I want to celebrate each of them. Jaclyn asked, "Dad, did you get all the balls in the hole?". My response, "I sure did, my sweetie!"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our First Yankee Game

Saturday, June 7, 2008
First Yankee Game
Yankee Cap Day
Last Year of original Stadium
Dogs, Fries, Soda - $57
Tickets - Free (Thanks Beaz)
Water - Free (Thanks Yanks)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

National Spelling Bee

We are seriously considering entering David into the National Spelling Bee. He has been reading since age 2 (no joke). I learned that he could read when he said "All the News that's fit to print". He was reading the front cover of the NY Times.

OFF THE CHARTS Intelligence is one of the "side affects" of being on the autism spectrum. Right now he can read ANY word (age 6).

I want to do more for him. But I don't know what. I am struggling right now to know what he needs, what he wants, when he needs to be challenged. I have to respect when he needs to drift into his world and embrace him when he returns to our world.

This is painful for me. I am a problem solver with a problem I can not solve.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fatherhood DOES Matter

Hey - I made Best of the Web - check out this site! I am always interested in what other parents are doing - so this is wonderful to be a part of that. Thank you Best of the Web!

On Sunday I realized how far we have come and how far we have to go. There was a magic show at a local amusement park. When the magician asked for volunteers, David raised his hand! I was so proud when he was selected!!

It was on stage and his interaction with the magician that it was uncomfortable. There was a disconnect between who David is an how he acts versus the magician's expectation (asking him not so politely to stay still, move back - don't ruin is magic trick!) The end game was the rabbit was pulled out of the box and everybody lived happily ever after.

The major win was David had a blast! He loved talking about the bunny! My take away from this experience is that maybe I am the issue. It was my discomfort not David's. He had fun in his own way, his own time and in his own space. David is cool in who he is.

Maybe I am the one that needs to change, to grow, to accept.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Milestones for my Children

Today Jaclyn celebrated her first Holy Communion. My daughter can now celebrate the Eucharist each week with her parents. What a blessing and what a ceremony today! I am amazed at how she has grown.

I am even more amazed at how time flies by in the life of my children! As a Dad, I am ready for these milestones & I enjoy them. They are touching to me & bring a sense of accomplishment for all of us. So I am savoring & doing my best to live in the moment. I enjoy these days with all my children and I want them to know that.

Jaclyn mentioned that a boy gave her a rose and told her that "he loved her". Now that is a milestone this Dad is not ready for...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Finding God In Autism

There is a book, Finding God In Autism, which I have yet to read. However, it looks very intriguing. Rachel has purchased it - so I will check it out when she is done.

You know, I never asked "Why me? Why us? Why my son?" There is an entire autism spectrum and I know every family has their own battles - for better or worse. We have days when we struggle. We are very blessed.

I do find God in autism. I find God in David and I find God in this journey we are on. I am very blessed to be David's Dad.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't Mess with my Boys

My biggest struggle with David being on the autistic spectrum is developing a connection with him. With a lot of hard work over time - we have developed a deep bond and a true love for one another. What I have been trying hard to do for some time is connect and have it stick. Specifically we are working on proper actions/communication in the social setting. We are working hard to have him do simple things - for example: proper hello/goodbye and eye contact.

Two instances happened today which remind me that we still have work to do. 1) Inappropriate physical and verbal behavior at church and 2) He punched me in the ___ (lets say "boys") at Trader Joe's. It's hard to concentrate on the checkout line when you are seeing stars.

These are not intentional acts. At least I don't sense them to be. It most likely is a call for attention or overwhelmed by the situation (lots of people, lots of sensory inputs).

We've made progress. I love him immensely. It's a gut check (literally) and I know we need to stay the course.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Simple but Powerful Days

The last 2 days I worked around the house. Cleaning the garage, cleaning the patio furniture. Getting ready for Spring. Throughout the day all 4 kids joined me outside. They played while I worked. In between work we rode our bikes, played baseball and soccer. What surprised me the most was they wanted to help clean. So we cleaned the patio furniture together - they liked spraying me with the hose!

We went to the park yesterday. Well, actually 2 parks. I can tell each of them enjoyed the days outside because they were exhausted by 7 pm each day. We had a blast.

Simple days but hopefully very powerful connections were built.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Child Friendly Ballparks?

Yesterday I attended the LAST Shea Stadium Opening Day. Thank you to Rae, BH, Ed, Sean and Shimmy for making that happen.

I MUST bring my kids to Yankee Stadium this year.
However, after experiencing a wild upper deck at Shea.....Do I really want to expose my children to the inhabitants of Yankee Stadium? Anybody have any suggestions? Shall I dare check out the No-Alcohol Bleacher seats?

I really wanted to see my boys tonight. When I arrived home, they were already asleep. Trying hard to fix that daily weekday routine.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Game of My Life

I noticed the book, "The Game of My Life" while walking in the supermarket. Initially, I thought "sports book".....cool!

I soon realized it was more than a sports story. I soon realized whom it was about - J Mac.
I could not give him or his story any justice, so take the time to check out this video.

If you've read the book, leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts. I will do the same.
It is stories like this that keep me going.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Autism Speaks... on CNN

Something that saddens me is I often forget the details of where we came from with David.

I guess that is a good thing. But when pressed by others to elaborate on his early years, I struggle. But when I remember the details, I am filled with many emotions. I guess I can go back and read this blog from the beginning. Some day. But I am sure reading it will give me a sense of where we are today. Not that I don't appreciate all the hard work and dedication of everyone. I feel I am living in the now.

Tomorrow (April 2) CNN is devoting a full day of programming to investigating Autism. Wow - impressive. I'll poke around the channel and see of this actually happening.

Check out this section on CNN which covers all articles, videos, podcasts on Autism.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Charlotte's Web: I laughed, I cried

This afternoon I attended a play (class trip) with David. The play (Charlotte's Web) was held in New Haven, so I met the school bus at the auditorium.

I surprised David when he arrived with his classmates. He seemed genuinely excited to see me. In fact, he pulled me over to meet his friends Henry and Jake. It seems like a simple act, but if you know David then you understand. I was shocked at this step of recognition and joy on his part.

I was mentally preparing myself while driving to the auditorium to have low expectations. I guess I feel this especially with David but I think this may hold true with all my kids. It sounds weird to say - but sometimes I find myself so excited to do something with them and be with them. I just don't get that same response back. So maybe it is a protective mechanism? Who knows.

But today on the way home, I was on cloud nine. I enjoyed every moment today with David. Oh this included being surrounded by hundreds (if not thousands) of kids in the auditorium. Kudos to Mrs. A and the teachers!

At dinnertime, he thanked me profusely for coming to the play.
I'll do it again and again and again.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

20 Years

My father died 20 years ago yesterday (Feb 16). Yesterday we honored him with Mass. We were blessed to have my friend Gino (whom I have known for 20 years) and his family join us & welcome us in his restaurant. Shameless Plug Alert: If you are in the Mahopac, NY area, you have to check out Gino's Trattoria. The food is fresh and tastes incredible.

It is hard to believe 20 years have gone by. It is hard to believe how far I have come from that turning point in my life. Truth be told, I never thought I would make it.

The highlight of the day was watching the kids. 8 kids in a restaurant - so well behaved, having so much fun together. They had a blast. I looked around yesterday and knew I was blessed.

Dad - we love you and miss you. Your legacy moves forward.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sweetheart Dance

Today, J and I attended the sweetheart dance. It was a girls date with their daddies. It was square dancing fun! From what I can tell - she had a blast. As for me.....let's put it this way....Last Sunday I was at the Super Bowl (Go Giants!). That was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Today was better. Much better. I would not have traded today for anything in the world. Not even Superbowl tickets.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dreams

I often wonder what my children dream about. I always ask them, but they can't seem to quantify. Dream thoughts have arisen more frequently when talking to my mom. She mentioned that after my Dad died, she dreamed often about my Dad. This was years after his death. I imagine this to be a bit intriguing for her, but also sad (because the dreams probably felt real). That hurts me.

I continue to wonder - what do my children dream about? Maybe they just dream about what happened to them that day. It sounds so simple. So I hope their days were filled with happiness, joy and laughter. I pray that their dreams are filled with the same.

Friday, January 25, 2008

American Idol

Jaclyn, David and I had a blast watching American Idol this week. Contestants sang and J & D gave their judgement - a thumbs up or thumbs down. We danced and laughed for an hour.

One of the best things I truly enjoy about being a Dad is being silly and just laughing. I also want to ensure the kids learn there is a time to be silly and a time for serious stuff. In a lot of ways, I am learning how to be a Dad "on the fly". Sounds a bit scary to still be learning while having 4 kids. But it is the truth and I guess it comes with being human.

So I am enjoying the little moments with the little ones.

I may be biased, but this Dad gets 2 thumbs up!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Modern Day Dad Balancing Act

I struggle mightily with balancing work / life balance. On second thought, that's not fair to say I am balancing ONLY 2 things. I struggle with balancing dedication to work, commitment to family, carving out time for myself, time with children, preparing for our family's future, monthly date nights, dialogue, reaching out to family and friends...The list goes on.

I wonder specifically what my children think. What is their impression of Dad? I wonder - Do they understand? I wonder - Do they really care? Or simply, all they really want is time with Dad? Am I up to the challenge? Can I balance it all?

As I sit here contemplating, Jaclyn just kissed me on the cheek. I guess that says it all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

David's Favorite Planet

David loves astronomy. Specifically, David is in love with the planets.

Actual conversation in our household

David: Dad, Do you want to know facts about Uranus?
Dad: (with bad mental image in his head).....Um, sure.
David: Did you know that Uranus is the 7th planet from the sun.
Dad: (with sigh of relief upon recognition of which Uranus we are talking)....WOW!

This morning we went downstairs first thing in the morning.
Dad: This apple is big. Do you want to split an apple?
David: Will you have half of it?
Dad: Yes
David: Then yes, I would like to split an apple with you for breakfast and you can listen to me as I tell you jokes.

I listened and laughed at David as he read from his joke book. I love listening to David - whether it is about apples, planets or topics yet to un-cover.