Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

He did it.

This past summer we ventured out on a journey of HOPE. 

Kaden has ADHD and lately, it's become a little more challenging because he just doesn't know how to channel his frustrations. Justin and I have always said that we would do whatever needed to give him the best chance at "normalcy" and to succeed in his daily life. We'd make whatever sacrifices for either kiddo, it just so happens that this is for Kaden. Well, I guess you could say it was for all of us, even Logan because honestly, it can add additional stress to us all.

Early in the year we learned of a program called the Summer Treatment Program that was ran by the doctors that he sees Children's Mercy ADHD Clinic. The program goes beyond medication. It offers an award-winning comprehensive treatment program for children's behavioral, emotional and learning problems. This program was a 7 week program that helps develop the child's problem-solving and social skills, and to help them gain the social awareness to enable him or her to get along better with other children. To help them following through in instructions and complete tasks. More importantly, this program helped teach Justin and I how to develop, reinforce, and maintain the positive changes we saw throughout the program.

7 weeks. 8:30-4 Monday through Friday. 

Kaden wasn't super stoked about it. I wasn't super stoked about the extra commute but this was the sacrifice that I had to make. Kaden, he had to give up a summer of "fun" with Emily and Logan. The entire family had to give up a summer vacation. We all made sacrifices but this was important.

Each morning we would pull up to drop him off and he would be greeted by one of his counselors. They would check his backpack to ensure he had everything that he needed and then they would escort him into the building. 

This program was designed around setting very high expectations but also have a high support system. He had 14 kids in his group and 6 counselors. They would be receiving immediate feedback, positive or negative. They could earn points each 15 minutes or lose points at any point of the day. They accumulate these points throughout the week and on Friday they would get to spend them in the point store on arcade like items. 

They also had daily individual goals that they were striving to meet. A few of Kaden's goals were increasing the amount of times he is encouraging his peers, contributing to group discussions, having very limited negative verbalization which could include teasing in any form, and limiting the number of non-scheduled bathroom breaks. Now, it's worth noting that these goals are inclusive of so much more than we would typically think, they don't these kiddos walking a fine line of what is okay or not okay so they try and shut it all down. High expectations.

Kids could earn Fun Friday by meeting 75% of their goals on a daily basis, 3 out of 4 days that week. Fun Friday would consist of something FUN, just like the name implies. The first Fun Friday most everyone made it -- they needed to give the kids a taste of what they would receive so they all would work harder to reach their goals. It was a water day and water guns were recommended. Kaden showed up in his swimsuit, he was ready to go. BUT, he didn't know if he would make it or not because Justin and I weren't to let him know, he would find out Friday morning at camp if he made it or not. (Mathematically, Justin and I could figure out if he would make it but it wasn't our job to say.)

He loved Fun Friday and was so eager to let us know all about it. The next week though, he didn't make Fun Friday--he missed it by one goal on one day but hey, that's the rules. He was disappointed when I picked him up but he did get a chance to hit up the points store and he and his counselor, Hannah, were determined to work harder and make the next one.

And he did it. He made the THIRD Fun Friday and each and every Fun Friday after that. Justin and I also implemented (per their suggestions) a larger reward if Kaden were to make it Fun Friday. We sat down with Kaden and asked what he would want as a family activity -- Main Event, Top Golf or movie. That third week we ventured out to Main Event, which he chose for his brother. 

It's also worth noting that one of the hardest parts of this program is being consistent. Consistent in our approach and delivery of requests made to Kaden. Consistency in our follow-through on both rewards and consequences. Consistency on our praise and letting him know when what he is doing isn't a compliant behavior. It takes a lot BUT throughout the program we learned that this is the biggest KEY to success -- it has to become party of our normal routine.

Throughout the program we ventured to Top Golf, back to Main Event and a Kidz Bop concert.

He had a safari day, board game day, Sporting KC soccer day -- which was his favorite. Tim Mellia, Sporting's goalie, came to the camp and spent the afternoon with the kids. They not only got to get their picture taken with Tim but they also got their shot at scoring a goal against him. Kaden was super stoked to tell Justin and I that he did just that, he scored on the Sporting goalie. He also gave us a tip -- always shoot for the corners, it's harder to reach there.

The last week of camp was kind of like spirit week at school. Pajama day on Monday, Team Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday and then Surfer Thursday to go along with their Thursday Fun Day because Friday was graduation. It was hard to believe that after 6+ weeks we had finally made it to graduation and as happy as I was for the commute to end, I was equally as sad to see my one on one time with Kaden come to an end. We spent our mornings talking about the day that lied ahead, telling jokes, talking about weekend activities, and singing as loud as we could.

Graduation day was finally here which meant that it was also family day. We would finally get to have a glimpse into his daily routine at camp. When we first arrived we observed their daily welcome chat -- it was fast paced and the kids were not only paying attention and recalling information that was asked of them but the counselors were providing that instant praise and feedback. Kaden earned the BEST SPORT award for the entirety of the camp. And if there was ever an award for him to earn, this would be the one I would hope for--encouraging his peers, being supportive, a gracious winner and a good loser are all hard for Kaden. They just don't come easily & this is very common in kids with ADHD but he worked hard all summer on improving this skill and in the end, won the award that encapsulates each of these skills. So proud.

The day continued with a round of soccer (they typically played 3 hours worth of sports--sports is a great way to not only teach new skills but to hone the aforementioned skills with being a good sport but also following directions & interacting with peers) and a basketball skills segment. The kids then went to rehearse their play while we visited and chatted with the team who oversaw the classroom learning aspect of the program. We were then reunited for the play the created for us, Kaden was a dramatic scientist who faints, he nailed it. 

Finally, it was graduation ceremony time and Kaden was given the Blue Marlin award...

Me, well, I had tears streaming down my face. This kid took on and conquered a huge challenge this summer. He didn't know a single kiddo at the camp. He knew he was missing out on lots of summer activities but he kept with it. He arrived every morning at camp with a smile on his face and met me each day after with the same smile. He worked hard each and every day to meet his personal goals, to develop the skills that he would need in the upcoming school year and for life in general.

And it was all thanks to this group of people, his counselors. He was surrounded by people that genuinely cared about his growth, about him. They understood the struggles of ADHD and not only knew there was so much kindness in him but found ways to allow it to shine. They focused on his positive characteristics and did their best to build those up higher and to point them out as often as they could. They spoke to him about those moments when he could have done something differently and helped him problem solve through it and then to move on from it. They were his support team. They came from all over the country to help Kaden and kids like him and for 7 weeks, they gave him everything that they had & in return, Kaden gave everything he had. 

Justin and I couldn't be more proud of this kid. He accomplished so much. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

KidzBop 2018 -- Mother & Son Date Night

A few months back I saw a friend show interest in the KidzBop Live event that was coming to KC & so I clicked interested too not knowing if it was really something I wanted to venture out and do. However, the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea---the boys love singing along to KidsBop, it was on a Friday night so the boys could be up a little later, it was week 6 into Kaden's summer treatment program and this could act as a little reward for all his hard work and dedication and Logan would get a little reward for sticking out the summer all on his own. And although I was much closer to pulling the trigger, I didn't want to do it alone, I needed a partner in crime. I reached out to Jen & asked if her and Nathan would like to join us---Nathan is a dancing fool, he learned it from his dad. She was surprisingly in, so I bought tickets & we created a mother and son date night. 

We started off our evening with a little dinner -- at Chipotle. 

& then we made our way to the venue, Starlight. I wasn't sure what to expect, after all, it's KC and parents are freaking nuts when it comes to their kids so I was worried we would have to fight a large crowd and long lines--I couldn't have been further from the truth. We were so stinking early. No lines to get in. No lines for the snow-cones. No lines for concessions. No lines for the bathroom. 

We went ahead and found our seats anyways and sang along to the music they had playing prior to the show and then it happened...

Dummm. Dummm.Dummm. ARE YOU READY FOR IT?!

The music started the boys were singing...

The KidzBop kids were singing all their favorites--Believer, Thunder, My House, That's What I Like, Middle, Shake It Off...and so many more. They began with one set on stage and then halfway through took an intermission where we met up with some of our other friends. 

We picked up a few souvenirs and then back to the music it went. They played for about another 45 minutes before they walked off stage only to come back for an encore and to shoot thousands of pieces of confetti into the sky--which the boys all went nuts for. 

And I love how Jen summed up their outing...

KidzBop Ticket = $38.00
Pretzel = $6.00
Hot Dog = $7.00
Popcorn = $4.00
Cheese Tray = $8.00
Kona Ice = $7.00

Highlight of the evening, at least for Nathan, catching the ticker tape from the exploding cannons AFTER the show.

And yes, that says cheese tray and no that is not a mistake. I'm almost embarrassed to admit this but I honestly, enjoyed myself, like a LOT. I love singing along to popular songs--listening to karaoke or dueling piano bars are such fun and this was a LOT like that. I was totally that mom in the audience singing along--although the lyrics I sang, weren't the g-rated ones. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Happy Birthday Madison Eve!

Baseball was over--time to head back home to my mom and dad's for a weekend & celebrate a special little girl turning SIX!

We took it pretty easy Friday night because we knew that Saturday would be a day full of fun. We would start off with a quick little photo shoot of the birthday girl and a quick 18 month one of Mr. Trenton but after that, we were headed to Uncle Scott's and Aunt Kelly's for a little swim.

Mr. Trenton does not like to sit still. I mean, what 18 month old does BUT he will sit still for three things--Moana, Shrek & electronics. He's not picky on the electronic--iPad, non-working remote--just anything with buttons. 

After a quick swim, we went back to Grandma Sara's and Papa Tom's and rested because the whole Hartley clan was in town to celebrate Miss Madison. Even our favorite guy in the whole wide world came out to celebrate. 

Baseball was played. The South Boys vs. The Siebert Boys

"Treasures" were bargained for. Papa Tom told the boys that this red rock was a calming rock, that you just rub it and it makes you calm. Kaden debunked that theory relatively quickly. That coin you see there, well that was taken from a pirate ship---now this, they still believe. 

Every time we are home they leave with some sort of "treasure"-- Kaden even went home with hot dogs one time.

They played in the garden--barefoot, it's the only way to do when in the country. & then they stripped down to their skivvies and ran through the sprinkler--allowing Papa Tom to douse them at the end with the hose. They ate popcorn and push pops. They drank Pepsi and Fanta. Grandma fixed them donuts each morning. They were spoiled. And in the very best way possible.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Strong Finish for the Aces

The Aces' baseball season was winding down and the only thing left was the end of the season tournament. This particular season, it didn't go as well as we would have hoped. Due to certain circumstances in Spring of 2017 we were placed in a pretty hard division, probably a step up from where we should have been. We finished the season with a losing record, we went 1-9 in division play. However, we managed to win a few games the tournament we played midway through the season and took home 2nd place. I don't hate that we lost more games than we won because with the losses came some very valuable lessons. The boys learned how to never give up. They learned how to pick one another up and lean on one another. They learned how to shake off plays and that the next batter was a new opportunity. They learned how to lose graciously & when the wins came around, they learned how to win graciously. Did the hurting sting? Absolutely, more games than others, but we continued to see them working hard and improving and saw it to. More importantly, they knew there was more to this team than just baseball. It's a family now.

Going into the tournament there weren't a lot of high hopes but the boys were still excited to play. They always are. They can almost always be found coming off the field with smiles on their faces, they just love the game and each other. The blind draw was made and we drew the one team that we had beat during regular season -- game time, Saturday night at 7. I wasn't super stoked that it was that late at night, yes, the weather was better BUT we couldn't spend anytime at the pool that day--boys need to rest. They came with their A game that night and walked away with a win.

Next up, the Spartans, 6:30 on Sunday evening. A team which had beat us pretty handily so we knew we needed another GREAT game We had a few family members in the cheering section for this one--Cousin Colton, Aunt Becky, Uncle Adam and then of course, Grammy and Craigster. We arrived at 6 for warm-ups but soon learned the game ahead of us not only started late but they were going into extra innings---we ended up starting our game about 50 minutes late. We were just keeping our fingers crossed that we had enough daylight to get it in...

Cousin Colton must have been our good luck charm as the Aces came out on top! We were the visiting team so that meant we had to come out swinging and then hold them on defense. The boys (and their coaches) did just that. It was a back and forth game the entire time, 4-4 after the first inning. 10-11 them after two. 15-15 after 3, 17-17 after 4 and as daylight started to fade we entered extra innings. They were giving us one inning to decide a winner or else we would need to move to a field with lights. Kaden had made the last out the inning before so they put him on second to start the inning and we also started with one out--it's their way of speeding up the game while also hopefully breaking the tie. We scored 4, heading into the bottom of the inning 21-17 and that's where the game ended too! The boys got the first two batters out and the game was over--onto the championship game the Aces marched.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, the championship game. We had a 7:30 start time and this time we were on fields with lights so no worries about daylight fading. 

As soon as the boys stepped out of the car, up walked a surprise--Grandma Sara had drove up to watch them play. They were so excited to see her. She wasn't the only one to come out and watch, one of Kaden's and Luke's friends stopped by and then Logan and Little C's friend, Jackson, came to watch too. I love how sweet their little friends are, not to mention their parents too.

The game started off tight, 2-1 Cure of Ars Cougars but sadly in the 2nd inning we let it get away from us (we typically have at least one inning where things just don't go our way) and after 2 innings of play the score was 9-2. We mounted a come back in the third inning and closed the gap to 9-6 but after 5 innings they still had the edge 15-11. We went ahead and started a 6th inning because time allowed but we didn't get to bat since they scored 4 runs making it out of our reach to catch up. (You can only score 7 runs per inning). The boys were upset. They wanted that trophy and I don't blame them, they had come so far this season but 2nd place was nothing to hang their heads about.

We couldn't be more proud of Kaden, Logan and the whole team. They showed up every game to play. They worked hard at each practice to get better and you could see the friendships continue to grow between them all. This team isn't like most other teams--we have three boys (Logan being one) who are a full year younger than everyone else, who we gave the challenge of playing up this past year to. We have two, soon to be three boys going into third grade at CCE, we have two boys from CWC and then 3 kiddos who attend separate schools or are home-schooled. This is a team that was pulled together over the course of a few years who in the end have become more like brothers than anything else. They support each other, they challenge each other, they argue and annoy one another but they're each other's best friends. And it's not just these boys that make this team a family---the coaches are next to none. They are teaching our boys valuable lessons on and off the field. They hold them accountable, challenge them, help them overcome obstacles and most importantly, they celebrate them. The parents, siblings, grandparents are all so wonderfully amazing & just good people to be around. There are a lot of days in a baseball season, especially when you play spring and fall, I couldn't imagine spending it with another team. Like I said, it's more than just baseball.

It's family.