So Much to Celebrate!

blog What an extended weekend!! So many new experiences that we all shared as a family. So many big moments for our kids – graduations (TWO!), moving on to new schools, new experiences, big moments. Plus, we now have an Olympic athlete in our family!

It started last Wednesday when Maggie and Steve went down to Peoria for orientation weekend at Bradley! I’m having a hard time reconciling that we’re here already, but it’s painfully obvious I cannot stop time…even if I wanted.

I think it was a pretty exciting weekend for Maggie. They spend 2 1/2 days hearing about issues & resources, meeting with the student leaders, doing icebreakers, activities, all that. The parents are whisked away to their own meetings, discussions & groups. This kind of thing is really hard for Steve & me. We are introverts, so these “gather together as strangers and solve a problem” or “talk about a solution or a question as a group” type activities are24b8a1afc0d583c1e7ce6f5e5e6a8439 wicked hard. We can DO them, yes, but in order to really participate, we have to work ourselves up. The energy it requires for us to get there & keep ourselves there is exhausting. When it’s finished, we just collapse, emotionally. Often, we will choose to simply not be with others because we’re not sure how to interact. When we do have to, it’s almost like acting. We have to put on the character of an extrovert in order to simply interact like a person. For me, I tend to amp it up a little too much. When the interaction is over, I shut down and am utterly drained. So these kind of gatherings take a lot out of us. Steve did the first day & the second, however on the 2nd day he took time to meet up with people he knew from his days at Bradley.

On that 2nd day, I packed up the 3 boys and we headed down to where they were staying in Peoria. On Friday & Saturday the Special Olympics Illinois State Games were held in Bloomington/Normal (at ISU) and Henry qualified! So strange to think of this little guy as an Olympic athlete! We decided that Henry couldn’t stay at the dorms with his teammates – I think his coaches would have had too much trouble calming him and getting him to sleep. And his routine is weird – up at 5:30-6 am and just wants his tablet and yogurt right away. So he couldn’t possibly room with anyone who had any need for sleep.

So we got down there late Thursday afternoon. Maggie was scheduled through the night, so I didn’t see her. Steve asked if I wanted to go do the last 1/2 day so I could see Maggie and I decided to do that. Got there for the 7:30 breakfast and atlked with her a little bit. Unfortunately, it was a horrid, rainy morning and we got caught in it. Poor Maggie got drenched. We had a session about the Health Service Center & then another one regarding “Crucial Issues” – basically alcohol, drugs, and sexual assault. Which…WHEE!! No real information other than the “you can’t drink if you’re underage”, and “you can’t use drugs at all” and “don’t rape & always have consent”. Which is great, but we all know it’s bit untrue. The truth is more like, “Don’t get caught or this will happen”, y’know?

Anyway, it was good. That evening we headed over to ISU for the Opening Ceremonies. I have to say, I felt really bad for Henry. He did not want to be there, did not understand why we needed to be, and was mad as a wet hen. From the moment we exited the van, he began crying & yelling. “Noooo!! Go hoooooome!! Stop!!!!! Hoteeeeeeellll!!” Just inconsolable. We made it from the parking lot into the stadium where we took the closest seats. Henry continued his expression of discontent while I held him, rocked him, tried to quiet him. From the start until I finally got him calm enough to let him go, it was about 45 minutes. I felt terrible for him, but also for all those we walked past and sat near. I could see distress on the faces of other athletes – not understanding why this kid was screaming, having trouble with the noise, just confused by the din & chaos. Yes, there were others on Henry’s level who probably didn’t understand why they were there, either, but most of the athletes looked confused. Like, “why don’t you want to be here? this is awesome and fun”

When I finally got him calm, I asked if he wanted to eat. I pulled out some pasta, yogurt & applesauce for him. He pounded through an applesauce and I saw him come back. I think he was dehydrated and his blood sugar was low. He then ate some pasta and yogurt and another applesauce. And he was better. I decided to see if we could find his teammates so he could go be with them. They were on the opposite end of the stadium. At first he was all, “Nooooooooo..,” but then he saw Miss Hong (his teacher for next year) and he was okay. And apparently had a really, really good time during the Opening Ceremonies!

11427226_901940809864127_1150680879378826346_n He looks like he’s at a rave.

The Ceremonies were amazing. They had a parade of athletes and each of the 18 Areas had their teams march in. It was outstanding to see all these wonderful athletes – young and old – marching into the stadium to stands filled with applause and cheering. They were so excited, so happy, so proud of themselves. And they should be. For many, just being there at all is a huge achievement. Hearing a stadium filled with people enthusiastically cheering for you must be world-changing.

It was so colorful and fun. One team came in blowing tons of big, huge bubbles that floated into the stands. And boy, were the stands happy about that! The National Anthem was sung by two athletes from our Area (Thirteen). They did a great job and Henry sang along!

After that, the Knights of Columbus presented the colors beautifully. And then the lights in the stadium went out. And into the stadium ran a contingent of law enforcement that carried torches. Following them came more law enforcement officers.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run® is the single largest year-round fundraising event benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. The annual intrastate relay and its various fundraising projects have two goals: to raise money and to gain awareness for the athletes who participate in Special Olympics Illinois. The Law Enforcement Torch Run® has raised nearly $28 million over 27 years while increasing awareness of Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their accomplishments. View the 2014 Law Enforcement Torch Run® brochure.

Approximately 3,000 officers representing every branch of law enforcement across the state from local police officers to FBI agents will carry the Flame of Hope nearly 1,500 miles, running through thousands of Illinois communities via 23 different legs (routes) to its final destination – the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games in June in Normal.

I don’t know what it was, but it moved me. Something about these men and women, running in support of all of our sons & daughters, brothers & sisters, uncles & aunts – it moved me. It was as if it was saying, “We support you…we carry your torch when you cannot….we are part of you and you are part of us…..we are strong when you are weak & you are strong when we are weak”. It was simply beautiful. They all ran around the darkened stadium and then all but one torch extinguished. One person took that torch down the field to where it was used to light the Flame of Hope. It was truly gorgeous and filled with meaning.

The next day was Henry’s competition. And I will get to it….anon.