Monday, August 18, 2014

Surfers Healing VB 2014 = One Perfect Day


Before I start trying to put Ashton's 5th year of Surfers Healing into words, I want to share the links to his previous experiences:
1st year: 2010
2nd year: 2011
3rd year: 2012
4th year: 2013

Yes,  you read that right.

Ashton participated in his fifth year of Surfers Healing. We've been blessed and tenacious enough to sign him up for this amazing experience, every single year since 2010. I'm so glad. Yes, each year truly gets better and better. Yes, we live for this day, every summer. It's that one day a year that there is no staring, no rude comments, no pity looks and no judgement whatsoever. You combine the warm & salty sea air, with an amazing population of kids and their families and mix it together with an amazing group of volunteers and professional surfers and you truly do get, ONE. PERFECT. DAY! 

From the tears that are flowing at the water's edge from the on-lookers comprised of parents, friends, families and others to the smiles, giggles, high 5s, thumbs up and hugs that are being shared amongst the surfers and kids in the water, you can tell that this is a truly special day for so many that are there witnessing the magic. The magic isn't just the kids' alone, nor is it just the surfers. The magic is witnessed by every single person in attendance. 

This year's event was even more waves, excitement and magic - it was two full days! So for the first time in the last 5 years (this year, being year 5), I made the decision to volunteer and Holden volunteered with me! It was such a wonderful experience, getting to dedicate our time to a cause that blesses our family with such an amazing experience every year. We helped gather up goody bags and give them to the kids on Friday, as well as handed out some medals to the amazing kids as they came out of the water from their surf experiences. It was such an amazing experience to see the smiles on these kids' faces and the tears in their parent's eyes as the watched their kid do something so amazing and so cool! That was truly the best part of volunteering - watching the transformation of the kids. They are all so strong, so brave, so courageous and so amazing! I'm so proud that we are a part of the autism community.

Here's Holden, taking a break around lunch-time. So many people asked how old he was and of course, we laughed when they guessed around 8 or 9. He IS twelve-years-old after all! HAHA! He was a good sport about it though and well, he is on the smaller side. The best things come in small packages, right buddy?! He was such a huge help and had a lot of fun he said.

His favorite thing to do though was, by far, handing out the medals. A friend of ours, (mentioned in a previous Surfers Healing post) Emily Peat, captured this image of Holden giving her son his medal.

What you don't know is, that when we were handing out medals, Holden gave out probably two to three times as many as I did because he got such a thrill out of handing these kids their medals and, for the few that would let him, placing it around their neck. On our car ride home that night, I asked him if he wanted to do it again next year and he said "most definitely YES!" I'm blessed with such a giving kid who didn't even ask to look at his phone (I had it with me), who never complained about being at the beach early (8am) and staying all day (til 2:30). He didn't even want to stop for lunch, but realized he had to when all the surfers were out of the water!

Holden, I know I'm just your mom, but I was (and am still) so proud of your attitude and love for those who are different. You took to volunteering like you've always been doing it and then, when given the chance to hand out medals, declared it the most fun thing ever! You were eager to watch all the other kids surf, you were the first to clap your hands for them catching the waves, and you were running up and down the water's edge trying to give as many kids as you could their medals. Thank you for being so awesome and for being so giving of your time. Not many twelve-year-olds would have been so eager to give of their time to others. Thank you dude. I love you with all of my heart!

Saturday: Ashton's SIXTH surf experience, as he had just surfed the previous weekend with another organization, Life Rolls On. Surfers Healing though, holds a super special place in our hearts.  But first, we had a little race to tackle, you know, just a little 5K! :) Ashton got to race with his super cool friend, Amory and Holden raced with a dear friend of ours, Heather. Unfortunately, Holden got sick the week leading up to the race, so adding that with not a lot of running this summer and he definitely didn't run anywhere near his best effort. But, he placed SECOND in his age group! Amory, who despite not being in his top running shape (his words, not mine!) placed FIRST in his age group!! Way to go guys!!!!





So then, the moment we had been waiting for....... SURF TIME! Ashton's surf-time was relatively early in the day and we went directly from the race to the welcome and prayer, to the surf time basically. Also, even Holden got a chance to surf; he was SO stoked! Too bad his knee was scraped from a fall last week, because he only rode one wave in, but he said he wants to do it again next year, so we'll see :) So, onto the surfing pictures......


Prayer circle before the start of surfing - loved hearing the Christian blessing, the Hawaiian blessing and the Spanish blessing. It cleanses your soul and helps your body and mind accept the healing of the salty sea-air and waves. Somehow, even the kids know this is a time to relax, be calm and listen..... it's amazing and beautiful.


Before surfing started for the day, Ashton wanted to see Mr. Izzy, Pito and 'little' Kalani. We didn't get his picture taken with Pito (seriously Pito, we have to get one next year!!!) but he got one with Izzy and some with Kalani and some of the other surfers. 



For anyone that has any doubt that Surfers Healing mission is one of happiness and peace.... check out the smiles on Ashton's face! Some of the surfers who have surfed with him multiple years (Kalani, Kalani, Christian, Sonya, Izzy and others) have noticed such a huge change in him from year to year! His smiles get bigger, his ability to listen to directions and wait have gotten better, and he's grown so much! He absolutely loves every moment of this day! He would stay out in the water, riding wave after wave, if they would let him! Thankfully his Ms Sonya and his Mr. Christian adore him and kind of let him take the lead. He lets you know when he's done :) 









Then, Holden got a chance! I truly didn't think he'd actually go through with it, but he did! He squashed his anxiety about it and DID it! YEA!! Maybe next year he'll have more confidence now that he knows what to expect. I'm SO proud of him! 





Y'all see that super huge smile on Ashton's face, right?

What you may not see captured in these pictures are the grins that he and his surfer Sonya shared. I think they were sharing secrets out in the water as neither has told me what all the smiles were about! The secrets, the laughs and the grins are something to be cherished and treasured. The waves caught and rode are a chance for Ashton to feel free, happy, accepted, and at peace.

Ashton is truly a water baby. Seeing his smiles out in the water over the last two weekends has given me some ideas for his 16th birthday in April. YES! He's going to be sixteen-years-old. He won't be getting a driver's license or a new car as so many sixteen-year-olds will/would be getting. We've considered taking him to get his Virginia state I.D. as that seems a logical step in his growth process.

Maybe a trip to a different beach for spring break? Maybe some surf lessons? Maybe swimming lessons! Or maybe, we can work it out so we can do all 3!

But for now, we live with the happiness and peace that Surfers Healing brings us. We live with the knowledge that if we have to have special needs in our lives, that it brought us this community along with it. We live with the love of the people who make our lives better, by just being placed in it for one day a year. We are better people because of them. We love them as family, and are so happy that they've been brought into our lives... Thank you once again Surfers Healing and everyone and everything that goes into making this one (or in this case, two) days a year ONE. PERFECT. DAY! 




Thursday, June 12, 2014

School's DONE!! Hip Hip Hooray!!




The boys could NOT be happier!!!


10th grade and 7th grade?!? That doesn't even REMOTELY seem possible!!! Y'all do realize this means Ashton will graduate in THREE years?!!?!?!? YIKES!!! I'm not ready for that!

These pictures were taken at the beginning of the year:

(seriously - they are ALL smiles the first day!)

These pictures were taken today, at the end of the year:
(but NEITHER of them were happy & smiling the last day - What's up with that?!?! LOL!)

~ HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR ~
1. Holden's TOP highlight was probably finishing his VERY FIRST 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours with a time of 1:50:06!!!

2. Ashton's TOP highlights were probably when he got to see Marc (in person) after periods of time of not getting to see him. At least, judging by his expressions and happines/flappiness, that's what I think. 

3. FIRST (and subsequent) report cards of the year were ALL As and Bs for both boys - HIP HIP Hooray!

4. The feeling of validation after the first 9 week periods that moving Ashton to high school was INDEED the best decision for him!

5. Ashton's connections he's made with friends at school. One of his friends at school is a 19yo young lady by the name of Megan. He ADORES her!! Lots of hugs and high 5s!!

6. That Ashton participated in every. single. CBI trip - WITH NO ISSUES!!!!

7. Holden successfully joined both the middle school wrestling AND track teams and even started as a 6th grader in the FIRST track meet of the season!

8. Holden successfully dropped his 1-mile times from 7:09 (last spring) down to 6:25 this year. His coaches want him to drop it down to 5:30 before the start of next track season - good thing he likes to run! there's work to do!

9. Ashton completed his 2nd 1-mile race and is getting ready to run his 3rd 1-mile on Saturday!

10. Holden has successfully completed 9 races (race # 10 is this weekend, an 8K) all with his "I run 4" buddy, Calder. Calder is a 5month old ADORABLE baby boy with Spina Bifida. While Holden hasn't actually ran WITH Calder, we hope we can make that a reality at some point in the future :) (*hint hint Danya & Zach). This has helped Holden to push himself and think of others while having a blast!

11. Ashton's vocabulary has picked up so much that I actually find myself saying, "PLEASE! Be. Quiet!" WOW! Non-verbal to telling him to hush?? Never imagined that day would come!

12. Holden received an iPhone for his birthday - FIRST cellphone! YAY!

13. Ashton received an award for being the "Most Considerate" in his class - again, a teenager WITH Autism no less getting that award... pretty remarkable if you ask me!

14. There has been a complete and total turn-around in Ashton's behavior this year. With the exceptions of one or two times, he's been easy to manage and reason with. Again, his comprehension levels have really picked up and it makes it easier to both communicate WITH him and helping him understand the world around him.

15. the most exciting highlight for me?! That my "babies" have done SO well this year! Receiving awards, accolades and press coverage is always amazing!! I am SO proud of my boys!!

MOM LOVES YOU BOTH VERY MUCH! Now, let's have an amazing summer this year!!!