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13 Years Ago Today

13 Years ago on a warm spring day we were blessed by your entrance into the world

13 Years ago I couldn’t stop looking at you, wondering who you would become, never imagining this day would come so quickly

13 Years ago I didn’t know the challenges we would face or the amount of strength, love, and humor we would be blessed with that would help us get through it all

13 Years ago I couldn’t comprehend how amazing, complex, and unique you would be. I always want you to be proud of who you are, of all of who you are. I want you to share with the world your amazing insight and spirit

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13 Years ago I couldn’t imagine that I would spend my days talking with someone so passionate about things like retro video games, classical music, and nature

13 Years ago I couldn’t prepare myself for the lessons I would learn from being your mom. Some of those lessons: be yourself, see the beauty in the everyday moments, never stop trying, go at your own pace

13 Years ago today, I love you even more than 13 years ago. I pray we continue to live through the challenges with grace, humor, and unconditional love. So far that combination has worked out for us

HAPPY 13TH BIRTHDAY, GRIFFIN!!

A Portrait Of A Beta Tester As A Young Man

I wanted to share this project that we’ve been working on for awhile with the help of our friends Maya, Tom, and Nick. Special thanks to Natalie and David, our friends at Level 257.

Thank you for watching!

This is a short documentary that gives a glimpse into the lives of two parents and their son who is on the Autism Spectrum

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Don’t Ever Give Up!

Today while we were at the playground, Griffin once again reminded me of a very important lesson, DON”T EVER GIVE UP!  He is an amazing teacher that also reminds me to keep going at my own pace. This one is a real challenge for me because I feel like I should be doing more, I feel like I should have accomplished more by now.

Griffin doesn’t worry about what he “should” being doing when it comes to target achievements, those physical ones that we’re told children should be doing by a certain age. He is joyful in every milestone and when he does do something his peers may have done years ago, that joy is all the more sweeter and meaningful.

Griffin is the best teacher and I love that I get to witness these moments. The joy he expresses is so beautiful. The confidence he gains is something I know he will take to the next challenge he faces.

 Griffin has been working on climbing this tree for awhile. He’s gone from not wanting to even be placed on it, to being willing to be placed on it, to being spotted climbing it, to this!!

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Mom, I Think I Have….

Tonight at dinner:

Griffin: “Mom, I think I have phobophobia”

Me: “What in the world is that?”

Griffin: “It’s the fear of having a fear”

Me: “What are you afraid of?”

Griffin: ” I’m afraid to try dinner. I’m afraid I won’t like it. I’m afraid of being afraid of being afraid to try dinner”

I give Griffin credit, after some encouragement he did try dinner. He then told me after taking only a few bites that he was full. He’s always trying to break it to me gently when he doesn’t like something I make but this takes the cake.

Cake, maybe that’s what I’ll try making next…

 

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Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday I wanted to share this short, VERY Griffin conversation I had with him this past summer.

We were hiking through Yellowstone National Park, when out of the blue…

Griffin says, “Martin Luther King Jr. should have been President.”

“I agree,” I said, “I think he would have made a great president, but there were people back then and there are even people now that wouldn’t have accepted him as president”

” Well those people are butt-holes!”

And with that, we say Happy Birthday Mr. Martin Luther King Jr.!

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Dear Grandma

With my mom and Griffin’s permission, I wanted to share this note Griffin wrote for her on her recent visit with us.

For years my mom and I have written each other notes and then hid them in the other one’s luggage or home to be read once we said goodbye. I love how Griffin is now part of this, it makes the goodbyes a little easier!

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Griffin’s note to his Grandma, I love the details! (Click on it to read what he wrote)

We’ve Got Pac-Man Fever Now And Forever

This is a post that has been in the making since last March, at this point I could probably write a book about how special the people are that work at Level 257. I tried my best to capture just how special they are to my family.

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Griffin’s birthday dinner, it was Nom, Nom good! That huge glass of wine wasn’t bad either!

Griffin’s had a fever for as long as I can remember. It came on so quickly and hasn’t gone away. Then Tom and I got the fever the beginning of this year. Yes, now we all have Pac-Man fever. Our temperatures were at the highest when we discovered that a Pac-Man inspired restaurant and arcade was being built just outside of Chicago. If you’ve ever had a conversation with our son Griffin, you soon discover how much he LOVES Pac-man and many other retro video games. We have even dressed as the Pac-Family for Halloween. So when we started hearing about the restaurant I decided to reach out to the marketing manager, Natalie, to see if we could be part of the grand opening. Part of my letter read:

“I’m writing on behalf of my 11 year old son, Griffin. He is on the Autism spectrum with an Aspergers diagnosis. With this comes passion for many things including Pac-man and other classic arcade games. We just found out about the Pac-man inspired restaurant opening next month in Schaumburg, IL and wanted to know if there was any way he could be part of the grand opening. He is a great kid and I know that we will be visiting often, but we would like to surprise him with his first visit. He has actually talked about having his own Pac-man restaurant and he strives to be a video game designer when he grows up.”

I immediately received a reply from the restaurant’s marketing manager, Natalie saying that although they weren’t having an official grand opening they would love to make Griffin a VIP when he came for his first visit.

We planned to take him for his birthday in April. Admittedly, it was tough to keep it secret from Griffin for so long. At one point my mom actually slipped but I was able to cover. Not being able to take it any longer we moved up the surprise visit to the end of March.

This is video we shot of the big surprise!

When they said VIP, they meant it! I had asked if there was any way we could have an earlier reservation to avoid it being too crowded and noisy for Griffin, and they happily took care of it. There was even a surprise visit from Pac-Man himself and they had special Pac-Man treats just for Griffin. But the most special moment for me was when David, Executive Vice President of Namco, came over and spent time talking to Griffin about all things Pac-Man. To see Griffin talking to someone in the industry was so special and Griffin surprised David with just how much he knew about Pac-Man.

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Griffin and The Pacster!

After that first visit we knew we had found a home away from home. Each time we went back we were always greeted with a smile, and the staff would go out of their way to make sure Griffin felt special and had a great time. I really can’t explain how much the care and attention meant to us. The three of us are just so grateful every time we get to visit Level 257.

On our way to Pac-Man’s Birthday Party

Fast forward to May of this year, where we were able to attend the 35th Anniversary/Birthday of the creation of Pac-Man. It was really exciting and Griffin got to meet the lead creator of the game, Professor Toru Iwatoni. He was so in his element once again and he even decided to wear his Pac-Man Jr costume. He was almost as popular as Pac-Man himself that night! Griffin was able to meet more people in the industry, including a game designer named Ben from Namco. Ben encouraged us to email him so he could stay connected and has since suggested video game design books and programs for Griffin to look into. He also shared with me that he has family members that are also on the autism spectrum.

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Griffin meeting Professor Toru Iwatoni while wearing his Pac-Man Jr costume. If you’ve seen the movie “Pixels” you’ll recognize that there is a similar scene where the Professor’s character has a similar interaction with Pac-Man.

We continue to visit Level 257, it’s become a great reward for Griffin to work towards. Each time we go my heart is filled with love and appreciation for the staff, especially Natalie and David. I always send them an email letting them know we’re coming in hopes that we can see them. This last visit David stayed late just so he could visit with Griffin. I was once again overcome with emotion and non-eloquently tried to tell him how much it all meant to me. David just smiled and told me to stop it, that it was nothing. He wanted to make sure he got to visit with us since he wasn’t able to the last time we’d been there.

With permission from both Natalie and David I wanted to share these emails they sent me. It gives you insight into how great they are. I received these email responses from them after we had planned on going for a visit but couldn’t because Griffin had been having a hard time. In my email explaining this, I added that I never wanted either of them to feel obligated to come by if they couldn’t, especially since we try to go as often as we can.

This is what David wrote:

“We don’t feel “obligated” – honestly, Griffin has been a special part of our working on Level 257, and I feel like he’s now a part of our project development! We’ve always enjoyed speaking with him, and (admittedly on a selfish level), Griffin reminds me of WHY we do the things we do; his honest and sincere appreciation makes all the work and effort worthwhile! Griffin is a great guy (and he has some pretty special parents!)”

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 Griffin and his buddy David

Natalie wrote :

“Selfishly, I’m glad that I didn’t miss you guys! David and I just adore Griffin – he is one of the family here! I feel incredibly blessed to have come to know Griffin, and you, and just love that he enjoys coming to 257 so much. So, to echo David, it’s never an ‘obligation’ for us.”

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Griffin with the lovely Natalie

I want David, Natalie, and the entire staff of Level 257 to know that visiting the restaurant is so much more then a family outing. It’s become a reminder that people care and an opportunity for Griffin and us to connect with others. It’s proof that even though autism can be confusing there are people waiting with open arms to learn more about it, welcome you, and support you.

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Random Acts Of Kindness

I wanted to share this special moment Griffin had with our friend Chuck from the “Y” last month. It’s especially important because of all the things going on in our world and a reminder that even small acts of kindness can bring about big change. We have been very blessed to have so many random and not so random acts of kindness come our way. I love that Griffin is getting the chance to experience the impact his kindness can bring to others.

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                                   First assignment: Give people at the “Y” a high five and a smile

20151002_122100Next offer a smile, a wave, along with random acts of kindness suggestions to people passing by 

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                          Chuck talking more to Griffin about what random acts of kindness is all about

20151002_123834And the final act of kindness, paying for someone’s coffee. This was funny because the person they paid for also works at the “Y” and was planning on doing the same thing!  

                                                          Free coffee for everyone!

He Flipped Out And It Was Great!!

Since this is Thanksgiving week I thought I’d share a new skill Griffin learned last Friday. What makes it extra special is that he learned it from Tiffany, one of the lifeguards at our “Y.” She was on break and took the time to show and encourage Griffin. I continue to be so thankful for everyone at the “Y” that takes the time to connect with Griffin. When we went back to the “Y” this past Monday I was able to record him flipping out, in a good way! When I see him doing something physical like this, it brings me back to when he was over two years old and still not walking. How much we worried and then finally getting the hypotonia diagnosis. Hypotonia is low muscle tone often involving reduced muscle strength. To see his joy and confidence grow is another gift I’m truly thankful for!