mixed emotions, a banquet, and a birthday – GO COUGARS!

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I’ve had mixed emotions anticipating this spring. So many things to celebrate, but each celebration highlights that we’re closing a chapter. There have been a lot of “lasts” lately and tonight is another one — the last Columbia Girls Lacrosse Banquet.

I’m going to be honest. If you’ve had kids who’ve played sports, you might not agree (maybe I’m a terrible mom), but I spent many years dreading the lacrosse season. It’s not that I don’t enjoy watching the sport, it’s that the season seems to have us spectators either wrapped in blankets, freezing OR trying desperately to find a sliver of shade to protect us from the hot sun. I also would look at the lacrosse schedule at the beginning of each season and wonder why on earth we couldn’t just play neighboring towns – instead each year we needed to shlep all around northern NJ to sit in the freezing cold or scorching heat.

Then, there’s the driving. I must have inherited it from Mymom. She HATED being carpool mom. My mother once said to the headmistress of my elementary school, “What do you mean you removed the bike rack because of all the snow this year? It’s going to take Jesse an hour to get to school without her bike.” I haven’t avoided getting behind the wheel as much as she did, but those after-practice pick-ups that hit right in the middle of dinnertime made me crazy.

For years I would use the “Jack excuse”. My friends helped out with the practice pick-ups and Jack would be used to make an early exit or avoid games altogether. “It’s too cold for him.” “It’s way too hot for my boy.” “Poor Jack can’t get much sun with all his medication.”

Luckily Dan was the opposite. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the heat or the cold or the miles. Not only did he coach Anna’s team for years, but he would rearrange business trips so that he wouldn’t miss games. And, when he was there, everyone knew. “Loud Dan” isn’t his nickname for nothing!

As this lacrosse season approached, I changed my tune and became full-blow LAX MOM. I didn’t want to miss a minute of the season – the last season. I kept blankets and extra jackets in the car and, as the heat arrived, I had an umbrella to protect Jacko’s skin from the sun. I picked up Jack early from school so that we wouldn’t miss the first face-off of games and used WAZE to get us around towns I’d never heard of. The cold, the heat – nothing really bothered me as long as I could watch 22 on the field.

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I’m so proud of Banana. I love watching her bound down the field with the same determination she has for all things. I love saying “She gets all her skills from her mama.” And, I love that everyone laughs because they know that it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dan and I made her, but Anna is her own girl . . . young woman AND she is amazing.

Columbia Girls Lacrosse has had a great season and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. They might not have the best record in NJ, but they have heart and they kicked plenty of a$$ this year – go COUGARS!!!

Today is also Jack’s 11th transplant birthday. Happy Birthday JackO!! We are thrilled for him, but letting this day be about his sister – his favorite athlete and human;)

Love, LAX MOM (last day)

PS Mymom didn’t love driving us around, but she always had homemade bread with fresh butter and cinnamon-sugar waiting for us when we got home from our walks/bikerides.

 

 

Thanks for including me JackO

I was shaking when Dan, Jack and I arrived at Jefferson School this morning. I’ve been a teacher most of my adult life, but that doesn’t mean I’m a natural at public speaking. Standing in front of twenty students and a pile art supplies is WAY different then standing in front of over a hundred people with nothing but some notes and a copy of Smiles and Duct Tape to protect me.

I’ve now had a few opportunities to speak in front of audiences. I keep thinking it will get easier, but I still feel the adrenaline racing threw my blood and every bit of my body trembling. I wonder if that ever goes away . . .

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Luckily, this audience was kind.

There were a few familiar faces in the crowd, and I could see Jack and Dan sitting in the back of the library. Their smiles always give me strength. So, once the kids arrived and settled themselves in their seats, I dove in and the talk seemed to go well.

When I was approached about talking to this group of fifth graders, I wondered what I would talk about. February is “Kindness” month at Jefferson. I am pretty nice (unless you bring out the Scorpio in me), but any expertise I have in kindness has been earned because of the kindness that our family has witnessed over the years.

Today I talked a little about what our family has gone through and all the wonderful ways people showered us with kindness. I discussed how people can be kind and how kindness is contagious. I even shared a passage from Smiles and Duct Tape. I’m proud to announce that I maintained the attention of a room full of fifth graders for almost an hour – FIFTH graders!

Once it was time for Q&A, I was shocked by how many thoughtful questions were posed about our family, about ALD, and about Jack. Everyone seemed very interested — did I mention they were fifth graders!?! It was a remarkable group.

We ended the presentation by introducing Jack and he showed-off by presenting everyone his favorite (and only) sign – LOVE. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that alone would have made the day a success;)

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Jack then gave each person a high-five as they left the room. I did most of the talking today, but Jack is the real teacher when it comes to kindness. I’m just lucky that Jack includes me in his speaking engagements.

Love, Jack

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Be Kind

This Friday I’m speaking to a group of fifth graders about kindness. I guess our family has witnessed enough kindness to make us a bit of an authority on the subject.

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I’ve been sitting down trying to figure out how to approach the topic in an age appropriate way. I don’t want to scare the kids, and I definitely don’t want to bore them. Fifth graders can be a tough audience.

I can list some of the wonderful acts of kindness that have been showered on our family — the meals, the gifts, the long hugs, the kind words in the form of letters and texts and emails. BUT I also think I need to share a bit about how to be kind.

There might be a few exceptions, but most people are born kind. Bad behavior directed towards others is either taught or a product of circumstance. Parents need to be careful about what they teach their children. Like all bigotry, ranking people in importance by their abilities is a reflection of that person’s own insecurities. If you need to put someone down just to feel strong, shame on you. Teaching hatred to your children – that’s called bad parenting.

I’m assuming that the crew I’m talking to on Friday comes from good parents that would never intentionally teach hatred. I think I need to focus more on the fact that perhaps these kids haven’t been taught about how to treat people with disabilities. Often mean behavior towards people with disabilities is simply ignorance and/or fear. People don’t know what to do, what to say or where to look.

Here are some simple ideas:

* Stop thinking of people with disabilities as “disabled people”. They are people first. Whatever disabilities they might have are simply a small part of who they are. Look passed their wheelchairs or braces or quirky behavior and approach them as people. Say “hi”. Smile.

* You don’t need to pretend. If someone has trouble walking — open the door for them or ask if you can help. If someone can’t speak — see if you can get them to give you a high five. If someone is in a wheelchair – you can comment on their cool equipment. I can’t speak for all special families, but we would much rather have people approach us with smiles and questions, than to pretend we’re invisible.

* Treat people the way you would like to be treated – always a good idea.

* Be kind/good-natured/caring/loving/warm/sympathetic/hospitable/friendly. It’s good for you. It’s good for the other person and IT’S CONTAGIOUS!

Love, Jess

I think I may start with the Harry Story. Harry taught me a great deal about being kind. I’m also going to introduce the kids to JackO – he is the master at teaching kindness.