Sunday, October 3, 2010

Justin's Birthday - He Let His Light Shine!


Today's blog is dedicated to a very special guy!  My brown-eyed baby just turned 11 years old!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JUSTIN PAUL!


I love this photo!

1) Justin is smiling and looking genuinely happy!

2) He is wearing a shirt with his favorite color and favorite video game characters. It even looks like Mario and Luigi are ready to share some birthday cake!

3) That little hand you see on the left? That's Ryan trying to stick his orange spoon into the middle of Justin's cake!  (I caught him JUST IN time...)

We made it through the day, Aspierations friends!  Justin's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese was a tremendous success.  Positive thinking, lots of prayers, happy wishes, amazing results!

For those of you who may not have read my Monday, September 27th blog, I dedicated my writing that particular evening to Birthday Parties and Kiddos with Autism and/or Aspergers.  I invite you to check it out if you'd like!

Chuck E Cheese has a motto at their establishment, "Where A Kid Can Be A Kid".  This is what we wanted for Justin today.  For him to be a kid... For him to have a blast!  For his friends to have a great time too!



Yes, Justin may be a child on the autism spectrum.  He may be a child with Asperger's Syndrome.  There may have been 6 of the 9 kids at the party (including Justin and Ryan) with their own traveler's pass on the spectrum as well.  We didn't care about ANY of that today.  Well I mean sure, we wanted to make sure each boy was accommodated and any special needs were met.  My point is that today was not about labels except Birthday Party STAR and Birthday Party FRIENDS (and maybe Birthday Party STAR'S little brother who tried to crash a neighboring table's party...  Love you, Ryan!  You're comedic relief!)



Today when I looked at each of the boys, I noticed they were all different.  Some tall, some small, some quiet, some a riot. All someone's child...  All wonderful treasures in this world with gifts to share... All were differently abled but in my eyes, I did not see one child there who was disabled. They were all very able children of God, each deserving of their special place in this world.  I am truly honored and excited that Justin was able to share a fun afternoon with his friends.



Friends... they didn't initially come easily to Justin but he has created a special relationship with each boy.  A few are Boy Scouts.  A few have been in his classes at school.  One was a bowling friend who he has also shared a social skills group with.  It was SO special to see 7 of the 9 boys invited show up to his celebration.  



I was amazed at how well behaved, kind and polite ALL of the boys were.  Without exception, I watched each one laugh, smile, quietly interact and socialize.  They looked comfortable.  They shared stories of how many tickets they received on each of the games, their love for pizza, their love for french fries, their love for video games and their love for computers.  Each boy that was there had some sort of connection to at least one boy other than Justin and those connections fostered comfort. If you get a group of kids together sharing common interests, amazing conversations and bonding can develop.  



As we didn't know in advance what to expect, we told our party host ahead of time that a number of the children at the party were on the autism spectrum.  We didn't say who (except Ryan & Justin); we just wanted the staff to be aware since there are some things they can do sensory-wise to assist with needed.





One of the neatest things happened.  The party was progressing wonderfully and the host, Sam came up to me and remarked that had I not told her that there were children in the party who were autistic, she never would have known.  All the children blended in, smiled, laughed, played.... they were letting their lights shine and they were being kids.  NO MELTDOWNS!



We've had some real financial struggles lately and the party took what some people would call "sacrifices" and I call burning the midnight oil a few extra nights.  In fact it was suggested to us the night before the party by a family member that perhaps Justin didn't need all this.  Maybe we shouldn't have been planning such an event. Would he really notice the difference?

Although I respected this person's opinion and overheard just part of the phone conversation, I respectfully disagreed afterwards.  You can not put a price tag on the socialization opportunity that our son was given today.  Without exception, every parent thanked us for inviting their son and by the looks in their eyes, it was more than just a polite thanks.  Quite a few remarked along the lines that birthday party invitations for their kiddos were few and far between.

It wasn't just the kids that had a great time.  I could see it in the eyes of the parents.  When you have a son that doesn't normally socialize with other children, except maybe one-on-one and you see him laughing at a table with 9 boys, something very magical happens.  You smile!  Your kid fits in!  Hope is renewed!  You are recharged as a parent.  Future play dates HANG OUT dates are set.  Perhaps we won't have just two different boys visiting our home this year.  We'll have more!



Today I wanted more than anything for Justin to feel special and to be King for a Day!  His birthday comes just once a year and I want that day to be amazing and something he'll remember and cherish for a very long time.  The money was inconsequential in comparison to the benefits.  He's priceless to me.  Some of you out there will totally get that.  Others might not understand and I truly respect your right to differing views.  We may put on our pants or shorts similarly each day but we all walk in different shoes and although our paths may be similar and may cross, the journey is still ours alone.

Justin made great strides on his journey today.  He spoke with each friend and made him feel special.  He laughed, he was polite, he got to go hog-wild on pizza, cake and video games!  Ryan was also amazingly well behaved, although it did take Justin and a buddy to climb into the climbing structure to get him out at the end.  I'm convinced we still would have been there otherwise...


You seriously didn't think I would climb in there and get him? Photo op missed!


Your well wishes, thoughts and prayers helped, Aspierations friends! THANK YOU to all who show your silent or vocal friendship, love and support!

Here are a few more photos from the day!


JustIN and Just OUT of the Shower! (Untamed Hair Day... and I'm not Lion!)


(Hey, if you notice that book on the left, it says "Rat" on it... I find this rather coincidental considering the day's events and wonder if Chuck E had something to do with this!  Cheesy, I know!)


We share a love of reading mysteries!


Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold!


Krejcha Boys Zoo Crew!


Thanks, Mom! I had an AWESOME day... and I'm a little tired now!

As we said our nightly prayers as a family, I reflected upon the day.  All the smiles, all the laughter, all the boys bonding, all the memories to cherish....

Today was a day that Justin let his light shine!
It was BRIGHT!
It was BOLD!
It was BRILLIANT!!

Happy 11th Birthday, Justin Paul!  You may have been two weeks late and three days induced but you were absolutely worth the extra weight and the extra wait! You and I have the brown eyes in the family and a special bond.  We share so many traits.  Your sense of justice, fairness and honesty shows you were perfectly named.  I will always have a buddy who will laugh at my silly jokes and you will always have a mommy who GETS you, loves you for who you are and encourages you to dream big and reach for the stars!  Maybe you'll even someday find our home planet!  (Kidding!)

These last two songs are Justin's favorites. Take a few moments to listen, watch and escape!  The first is a music video by Owl City performing Fireflies. Justin LOVES the "Fireflies" song and introduced it to our family over the summer.  It soon made the iPod play list! I think there are a lot of kiddos and parents out there that are Aspierations Blog Friends that might be intrigued a bit by the music video.  I won't say why, however if it resonates with you for any particular reason, please let me know in the comments section and I'll share my feedback as well.


The second song is "Soul Sister" by Train.  As a Pat Monahan and Train fan myself, if you've seen and listened to my special July 7th, 2010 blog, "I Want Somebody To Share, The Rest Is Still Unwritten", you may have noticed that two of my four favorite songs I shared there were Train's "Calling All Angels" and "Drops of Jupiter".  I truly enjoy "Soul Sister" too and found it very interesting how much Justin loves this song.  I'm not sure if it's because he takes after his hopefully romantic Mom (I'm not completely hopeless!) or if there is a little soul sister at his school he has a crush on.  I'll let that be his secret!!  

Please take a listen! 

Well, I hope you enjoyed my blog today!  I had fun writing it and sharing a very special piece of my heart and piece of my life with you, my Aspierations Friends!

John at Life and Times of John Krejcha shared his unique Dad's perspective of the day in a blog celebrating Justin.  It has got some funny moments and gives some anecdotes and photos from the day that were not shared above.


Hope you have a wonderful week ahead!
Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

6 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday Justin!!!

    ...and well done to you too Karen and John. Birthday parties are always a risk but if you don't give them a shot, you never ever know if they're going to work.

    I'm glad it all went well. Justin is going to have some wonderful memories.

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  2. Hello Gavin! Justin appreciated the birthday wishes, thanks! He is still on Cloud 9... or I guess that should really be Cloud 11.

    Thanks for your support! I totally agree with you about the risk but the potential reward was SO worth it! I've been a risk-taker for a very long time. Some pan out, some don't but in this case, I felt good about my odds. :-)

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  3. You may just get that Mom of the Minute Trophy yet. Our children do need to have the chance to experience a win like this. It may not be on the football field, baseball diamond or basketball court but at Chuck E. Cheese, you watched your son become and feel like an All-Star. Kudos to you on another great blog and being an even greater mom. I'd say MILF but that would be totally inappropriate. So just ignore that.

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  4. Hi Anonymous. You know, there may have been a minute there yesterday when I might have been a contender for Mom of the Minute! With my luck, I would have won a stuffed rat (no offense to Chuck) rather than a gigantic cuddly stuffed tiger!

    I totally agree that it is HUGE when our children get to experience the thrill of a big win! I liked your All-Star line. Justin shot a 300 yesterday!!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I'm coming a couple days late, but belated Happy Birthday to Justin! I did so enjoy seeing the pictures and hearing about the wonderful day you all had. I am so glad that all the boys were enjoying themselves and that it was a wonderful social experience for them! Kids are amazing!

    Thanks for sharing your special day with us!
    June

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  6. Hi June!
    Thanks for your note and wishes for Justin! I will totally take more days like these! I love kids and really love it when I see them shine! :-)

    Glad you liked the blog!
    Karen

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