Monday, September 28, 2015

OHMYGOD: I'M THE MOTHER OF A GIRL.

Our daughter Kennedy turned two a few days ago, and I decided against penning one of those sappy nostalgic posts, much like the one I wrote for Scotty.

Because, well, don't we do everything differently when it comes to our second kid?

And I'm going to be brutally honest here.

I nearly panicked when I found out Kennedy was a girl. 

Yeah, I'm a woman, so it's not like the female gender is uncharted territory for me, but I was never exactly the "girliest" girl.

I'm still not.

I clean up alright when I have an event to attend with The Hubs, but my usual uniform consists of a pair of Lululemons and a cut up off-the-shoulder sweatshirt.

So the expectation of raising a Pink Glitter Princess scared the bejesus out of me.

And after two years of parenting a girl, what have I learned?

That I'm not so much scared as I am a big, fat, walking contradiction.

Because nearly everything I said I wouldn't do...I've done:


"Ugh. Pink. Why does everyone expect me to buy pink for this child? Is there some kind of pink quota I'm not privy to? It's like nobody will be happy until her room -- and her ensembles -- resemble a bottle of Pepto. Well, I'm not giving in. I ain't buying any pink."




"Well, I bought her those shoes, but I'll be damned if I'm caving in again!"




"You know I love sports -- I've run competitively since middle school. And how I feel about the game of football goes without saying. But, riddle me this: Why do they make baby cheerleading uniforms? I mean, they're BABIES. They can't walk or yell chants, let alone do a toe touch. 
Talk about a useless piece of cloth."




Oh, that Lion's one? That doesn't count."




"And speaking of football, I bet she won't even care to watch with me. It'll probably be just me and Scotty, while Kennedy plays with a My Little Pony dollhouse or something off in the distance..." 
(And, yes, that's a Lion's Honolulu blue tutu on top of her leg warmers. Swoon.)




"I can barely get Scotty and me out of the house on time. How in the hell am I going to manage when I have another head of hair to do???" 

Well, you manage. You just do:





Back when I was pregnant with Kennedy: "I just hope they don't fight all the time, that they at least show some signs of love and affection toward each other...but they probably won't until they're 30. I just hope I'm still around to see it."

Meanwhile, every single day on the playground:





Back when I first learned I was pregnant with Kennedy: "My heart was just so full with love during my first go-round with Scotty. Is it even possible for me to love another child as much? I mean, is my heart capable of that much love? Mothers of more than one child tell me yes. 
But is it true? Is it??"

YES. Yes, it is.






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Monday, September 21, 2015

ON FOOTBALL AND AUTISM

When former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete rose from his chair and headed toward the podium to give his keynote speech at the Autism Alliance of Michigan’s annual Michigan Shines for Autism Gala, Peete’s autistic teenage son RJ smiled at my husband, who played with Rodney during his tenure at the Detroit Lions, and gave him a fist bump as if to say, My dad’s got this.

And Peete did: From the moment he uttered his first word, Peete held the audience captive as he took us all on the twisting, winding, and uncertain journey that is often all too familiar for parents of autistic children.
And although Peete was cool, composed, and tempered his story with just the right amount of humor and candor, there was absolutely no sugar-coating the gut-wrenching impact of the words a therapist hit him and his wife Holly with when RJ was only three:

The therapist said that RJ would never attend a mainstream school.

She said RJ would never speak.

And she said that he and Holly should probably resign themselves to the fact that RJ would never say "I love you."

Sitting mere steps away from the podium where Peete spoke were the parents of Jay Granger. Like Peete and his wife, the Grangers also know what many other parents of autistic children have since learned: You will be told your autistic child will not be able to do something, and then you will celebrate when they defy expectation.

That’s precisely what happened one night on the football field of mid-Michigan’s Mason High School, when the school was trailing their opponent, DeWitt, by 22 points.

Mason’s varsity head football coach Jerry Van Havel sent Jay Granger, who is autistic, onto the field with a special request: Let Granger run a few steps and then stop.

But DeWitt’s defense went a step further and allowed Granger to run the ball in for a touchdown, thereby making his lifelong dream come true.

“I don’t score touchdowns in football,” said Granger while being interviewed on Lansing, Michigan’s WLNS-TV for the station’s Player of the Week feature. “I really don’t have that much talent in the sport…[but] it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my athletic career!”

Also on the field that night was Coach Van Havel’s son, Mason High quarterback Jarrett Van Havel, who has been a close friend of Granger’s since first grade.

Granger has said that Van Havel pushes him in the classroom as well as in sports.

In turn, Van Havel credits Granger for supporting the team with his infectious positive attitude.

Together, Granger, Jarrett Van Havel, and Coach Van Havel were the recipients of the 2015 Autism Alliance of Michigan’s Courage Award.

This particular brand of fellowship – which is unique to team sports; particularly football – made it abundantly clear to me that autism affects everyone.

Not just those who are living with it.

And we all have a responsibility – and the power – to affect the landscape.

How cool would it be if our schools were filled with kids like Jarrett?

And if every night they went home to parents like Coach Van Havel?

We can do this by raising our children to be more tolerant of the challenges their autistic peers may face, and we can do this by offering empathy and support – no matter how small – to the parents of autistic children.

By the way, RJ Peete attends a mainstream high school (and rides the city bus to get there); he speaks just fine; and every single day, he looks his parents in the eyes and tells them, “I love you.”

At the end of the gala, when my husband told Peete that his favorite part of the speech was indeed the “I love you” part, I will never forget Peete’s response.

He said, “Remember what coach [the late Frank Gansz, special teams coach for the Detroit Lions] used to say? ‘Celebrate the small wins.’ Because they matter…and they’re important.”

* * *


Photo Credit: LK Photographic
Caption: Granger, Jarrett Van Havel, and Coach Van Havel are given the 2015 Autism Alliance of Michigan’s Courage Award by (from left) Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, RJ Peete, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, Coach Jerry Van Havel, Jarrett Van Havel, Jay Granger, former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Scott Conover, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell, and WJBK-TV Fox 2 Detroit sports anchor (and Detroit Lions Radio Network play-by-play announcer) Dan Miller.




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(The girls are still wearing the ones my squad wore back in the 90s.)
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Friday, September 11, 2015

#ROAR: TUNNEL VISION AT FORD FIELD

I. Can't. Even.

What I am about to share with you -- the brand new MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club inside Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions) -- is unlike anything I've ever seen.

Located at the bottom of the stadium, the exclusive area is a luxurious hideaway that boasts bars, tables, video screens, lighting, Detroit decorations, and seating alongside the ramp players use to walk to and from the locker room during games.

It's been said that the club cost nearly $2 million dollars. 

So, yeah, that price tag can buy a lot of luxury.

A few weeks ago, The Hubs and I had the extreme honor of attending a private run-though hosted by Detroit Lions management:

And I'm not exaggerating in the least when I tell you that I did not want to leave.

(Enjoying comfortable leather seating, gourmet food, and top-shelf spirits with your husband while the kids are away at Grandma's has a way of making you want to stay a while.)

The only thing I can liken this experience to is sitting court-side at an NBA game -- but even more luxurious than that because if you're an MGM Grand Detroit Tunnel Club member, you have access to the amenities found in a stadium suite coupled with the front-and-center view.

Here's what it all looks like (photos courtesy of the Detroit Lions)...

Lions players will enter and exit their locker room through a glassed hallway that runs through the club. Steps that lead from the ramp to the tunnel to the field will be open on one side, allowing tunnel club users to talk to players or high-five them: 




The club will open three hours before kickoff, an hour earlier than regular ticket holders can get into the stadium.

Food and drinks in the club will be provided by Ford Field's concessionaire, Levy Restaurants, which is spearheaded by Chef Joe Nader, who is, in a word, AWESOME. The access price includes unlimited food, soda, beer, and wine. (Cocktails are available for purchase.):





And the splendor continues when kickoff rolls around.

The Lions installed about 70 additional seats, club seats -- the plush leather kind -- which form a separate row across the bottom of the west end zone for Tunnel Club ticket buyers. These seats are literally on the field:



Of course, all this comes at a cost:

Two-ticket season packages are $19,000 and includes two preseason home games, eight regular-season home games, and any playoff games at Ford Field.

And this club's time to shine is coming soon: In less than two weeks when the Detroit Lions take to Ford Field for their first home game of the regular season -- a contest against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos that will be nationally televised on NBC's Sunday Night Football

GOOOOOO, LIONS!!!!!!!




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PLEASE JOIN US IN HELPING MY HIGH SCHOOL ALMA MATER 
PURCHASE NEW CHEERLEADING UNIFORMS!!
(The girls are still wearing the ones my squad wore back in the 90s.)
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Sunday, September 6, 2015

A LETTER TO MY SON ON HIS BIRTHDAY


Dear Scotty,

I can't believe it's been four years since the night your father and I ventured into the hospital, ready for an induction -- and even more ready to meet you.

I can't believe it's been four years since I felt the ultimate high of having you placed in the cradle of my arms, and then feeling the warmth and comfort of your skin against mine.

I can't believe it's been four years since I dreaded giving you your first bath for fear that I would drop you.

I can't believe it's been four years since I navigated the perils of trying to keep you pacified while I made myself something to eat as a first-time mom who was home alone.

I can't believe it's been four years since I first witnessed your father rock you to sleep in his arms as he played "Rock Steady" by The Whispers on YouTube. (We were desperate for you to sleep and were literally trying EVERYTHING.)

I can't believe it's been four years since I felt the bittersweet pang of transferring you from the portable bassinet at our bedside to the crib in your room.

I can't believe it's been four years since the very first time you smiled and laughed at me -- right there on the changing table; I'll never forget it.

I can't believe it's been four years since I propped you up against one of the maple trees in the front yard for what I thought would be The Perfect Photo...only to find that, because you had never experienced a bed of leaves before, you were too preoccupied to look at the camera:



I can't believe it's been four years since I first wore you in a mai tai, which I felt was the greatest invention ever because I never had to put you down:




I can't believe it's been four years.

And I can't believe my good fortune.

I am so very lucky to be your mom.

Happy Birthday, my big boy.





Love,



Mom and Dad






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