Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Some fathers and sons go to baseball games – we have lightsaber battles

March 23, 2012

Not too long ago, my son (Ethan Capps) mentioned that he found a blog post about himself while searching on Google.

I guess we should stop for a minute and note the apparent science behind the fact that – without any suggestion from me – he had the idea to Google himself. It’s a feat that surely belongs in a science journal.

Anyway, he requested more blogs about him. Apparently, reading about what his dad thinks about sports is, well, rather less than thrilling.

So this one is about the boy.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m missing out a little in terms of having the traditional, sports-heavy father/son relationship with him.

But what we do share is an almost-daily lightsaber duel.

He has an extensive collection of weaponry, including what I estimate to be about 10 official, light-up, honest-to-goodness Star Wars lightsabers.

I wield the red one, favored by Darth Vader, while he uses the blue one – which I believe was inspired by Obi Wan Kenobi.

So, we wander around the house, swinging feverishly at each other with plastic swords. He occasionally cuts off my arm or leg – then gives it back to me by pointing his finger and saying “robotic arm” or “robotic leg.”

We cite movie lines, making up a few things along the way. One interesting thing to note is the fact that, not only am I apparently some kind of Sith Lord, but I’m a “chinny-chin-chin Sith Lord,” which is a reference to my goatee (which is my chinny-chin-chin, so I’m told).

He wins these battles, usually somewhere near 8 p.m. (bath time) by various methods. Usually, he runs me through, giving me a version of the speech Obi Wan gave Anakin in Episode III as he stands over me.

But sometimes, he convinces me to reject the Dark Side of the Force and become a Jedi.

We’ve been calling them “Friendship Endings.”

Reminds me of Mortal Kombat.

So, while I’m not coaching third base at a Little League game, I am fighting for control of a galaxy far, far away…

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A red-letter day

May 14, 2011

image

We’re live from Highland United Methodist Church in our state capital for the graduation celebration of my wife, Shanna Byrd Capps.

Yep, my first live blog from a church or graduation.

Shut up, conventional wisdom.

Anyway, I don’t really have the words to express how proud I am of my bride today.

So let’s tell the story while I think of some.

She went to Winthrop in the fall of 1997 and learned how to live away from home.

It didn’t work out so well, and she came home in March of 1998.

Hey, at least she got to meet me, right?

Anyway, she went back to school at Coker College satellite campus for Communications in 2001.

That was going OK, until life threw a change up. So, she stopped.

But we got an Ethan out of that deal…

After a few years jousting with the rigors of autism, she tried again – enrolling at Vance-Granville in 2007.

This time, it stuck. She got her Associate Degree in 2009, enrolled at N.C. State right after and – whenever they mail it – she’ll get her B.A. in Leadership in the Public Sector.

It basically means she’s awesome.

Anyway, it’s about as proud as I’ve ever been.

Great job, Shanna.

I love you!

A trip to Disney

April 26, 2011

Warning: The following has nothing to do with sports, unless driving by Disney’s Wide World of Sports four times in a week counts.

So, as you can see from the picture, the family (extended by my wife’s parents) spent a week in Orlando at Disney and Universal.

We learned a few things:

1. Autism can rear its head at a moment’s notice. We knew that we were taking a risk exposing the boy to the unpredictable elements of theme parks, crowds, air travel and a week in a strange house.

And, for the most part, it went really well.

But there were still times when you could see the internal battle written all over his face and hear his voice drop to a whisper in an effort to deal with the assault on his senses.

I’m proud of the boy for the way he handled a crazy, crazy week.

I think he may have even had a good time.

The folks at Universal were wonderful with Ethan’s accommodations. They were patient, and they helped us avoid what would have been an hour wait on anything in the park at both Islands of Adventure and the main park.

The Disney folks were also helpful, but seemed overwhelmed a bit by the sheer number of folks on some days.

Without their help, the trip wouldn’t have been possible.

2. Visiting central Florida in mid April should be avoided at all costs. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. But it was somewhere between 85 and 92 every day, with a sun weighing heavier than the labor crisis over the NFL.

There’s a sports reference.

It was Ethan’s spring break, which meant that he had the week off of school.

That’s great.

So did everyone else.

It was very busy. How busy, you ask?

THEY. STOPPED. LETTING. PEOPLE. IN.

On Monday, at Magic Kingdom, the park reached its close-the-parking capacity of 75,000.

I believe it. It was insane.

If you were making a list of stuff I can live without, being hot and crowded would be near the very top.

Magic Kingdom was packed, and though the crowds thinned a bit as the week rolled on, it was still more folks than I like to be around.

3. If you’re shopping, make sure it fits in a bag. Otherwise, you’ll wind up in the UPS store on the Friday morning before you fly back mailing a Harry Potter broomstick to yourself.

You would think you could put a Nimbus 2000 on autopilot, but it seems that’s a no-go.

4. Anything that can go wrong, usually will. If Ethan wasn’t having enough issues dealing with the trip, he can down with an ear infection that forced us to visit a minute clinic for some prescription ear drops. I guess his pool acrobatics, including an assortment of front and back flips, finally caught up with him.

5. If you’re going somewhere, let my wife plan it.

The house we stayed in was sweet! Four beds, three baths and a screened-in, in-ground pool.

All for cheaper than we paid for park admission.

Yeah, she’s awesome.

6. Spending a week in close proximity to my son is very amusing. Some highlights:

“Hey, that looks like the earth down there,” on his view from the plane

Singing from the pool, to the tune of Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Imma Be,’ “Imma be swimming in the pool. Imma be getting my goggles untied…”

A guy sees Ethan’s new Harry Potter broomstick and says, “hey, is that the new Nimbus 2000?” Ethan’s response? “I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.”

7. OK, here are my thoughts on the parks in order of sampling:

A. Universal Islands of Adventure: Fun. Lots of fun. Ethan loved meeting the superheroes and riding the rides. It wasn’t too crowded, except for the Harry Potter part, and it was just an all-around good experience.

B. Magic Kingdom: You need to see the castle and late-night fireworks, just to say you did. You need to ride Space Mountain, because Ric Flair said so. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride was cool, too.

The rest?

Eh.

C. Disney Hollywood Studios: Way too much pavement for a 90-plus degree day, but I thought it looked cool. Tuesday was probably Ethan’s most challenging day, so perhaps it skews my opinion a little, but I wasn’t blown away.

D. Universal: A good park, but it was very, very busy. The ride lines, even with our assistance pass, were a test of patience and understanding.

And no, I didn’t pass.

E. Epcot: Far and away, my favorite park. Plenty of kid stuff, with some adult fun added in. Easily could have went twice, even though the boy provided a numbered list as to why he didn’t want to ride the boat across the lagoon.

F. Animal Kingdom: It’s a zoo with Disney characters. But it has some nice attractions, a slew of cool animals and plenty of shade…

8. There are some things worth knowing about Florida. First of all, even at 5 a.m., there’s always traffic on I-4 in Orlando. Next, get ready to wait in line. At parks, on the highway, on off-ramps, at the Western Union in Publix and in any restaurant just know that there are at least five people from Florida already waiting there.

All kidding aside, no one that went on this trip had ever been to Disney. My family couldn’t afford it when I was young, and neither could my wife’s.

My son will be able to say that’s he’s been. He took his autograph book and picture with Spiderman – his new most-prized possession – to school for another Ethan-inspired show and tell.

He beams with happiness when telling people how Lisa (from the Simpsons) played with his hair and how Minnie Mouse gave him a kiss.

There are more than 180 pictures of the trip in my wife’s Facebook folder, and I bet 170 have Ethan in there somewhere.

And even after the first 981 words of this past, only one thing tells that it was all worth it:

He’s smiling in every one of them.



Drama done right

April 11, 2011

I had never heard of Charl Schwartzel before this weekend.

Yet he took home the green jacket yesterday at Augusta with four birdies down the stretch to win going away.

I dare say it was the best few hours of golf I’ve ever watched, though I freely admit that my sample size is not all that large.

Wonderful stuff yesterday. Really enjoyed it.

Manny being Manny…again

Manny Ramirez retired from baseball over the weekend, in the wake of becoming baseball’s first two-time loser in its PED testing policy.

Rather than face a 100-game suspension, he slipped out the clubhouse door and off into the sunset.

Good riddance, I say, to a guy that decided long ago that – because he can hit a baseball – that the rules of decency and fair play don’t apply to him.

I hope he never sniffs the Hall of Fame. In fact, I think he should have to stay 100 miles away from Cooperstown for all eternity.

What a muppet.

Disney alert

I’m heading down to sunny Florida Saturday to take in Disney and Universal with the wife, boy and parents-in-law.

Here’s hoping for good times and a lack of sun burn…

 

A flip, for old times’ sake

February 21, 2011

We bought Ethan a trampoline for his ninth birthday, and two Saturdays ago – with considerable help from Brad Tindall and David Westbrooks – we put it together.

Now, it’s been a hit with everyone at the Capps’ household. Ethan likes it, and Shanna has even bounced on it a few times as well.

Me? I love it.

I grew up playing on trampolines. The main one was a rectangular one at my grandparents’ house.

It was red with paint and rust, and completely lacking in the safety features (read: padding and net) that you see with all of today’s newer models.

Yes, I fell off of it more than once.

Yes, I landed between the springs and the bar more than once.

And one day before baseball practice, I landed on the pole in a place no young man wants to.

Ouch.

Anyway, by the time I reached my driving years – thus rendering me too old to spend weekends at my grandparents’ house – I was quite an accomplished jumper.

My best trick was the front flip, where I would jump and, well, flip while sticking the landing.

Well, since we got the trampoline, I’ve been reliving my past.

I decided early on that I wanted to do the flip again.

Now, I’ve aged about 20 years and put on about 70 pounds since those days. So it was slow going at first.

First, I had to work up the courage to actually flip. The mature mind ponders the dangers involved – things like landing on my head – while jumping, which is not the mind frame you need to be in.

So, finally I leave my feet.

It didn’t take long to realize that, while I wasn’t going to land on my head, I wasn’t going to be landing on my feet, either.

So, lying there on my back, I congratulated myself on not dying and made mental notes on how to improve the attempt next time.

A few days pass, and all of a sudden it’s yesterday afternoon.

At halftime of the Clemson/Miami game, I decided to go out and make an attempt.

Ethan decided to tag along and watch.

I had been thinking that, if I just tucked my knees in a little, maybe I could generate the torque needed to get my feet back on the ground after a flip.

That bit of physics, and my giggling son watching me, inspired me.

I took a bounce. Then another. Then, an even bigger one.

Finally, I started the flip.

I tucked my knees in a little and felt my feet coming around.

The world was a blur of black, green and white (safety net, pine trees and sky, if you’re wondering) as I stuck my feet down, hoping to find the floor of the trampoline.

Then, it happened.

My socked feet stopped moving, landing square in the middle of the trampoline.

I let out a yell and fell to my knees, arms raised to the sky.

Ethan cheered wildly. I think he may have actually been impressed.

We made so much racket that Shanna ran outside to see what the fuss was about.

I told her I did a flip.

She asked for another one.

Feeling supremely confident, I stood up, took a few bounces and pulled off another flip.

She might have actually been impressed, too.

I think about getting older sometimes. Or every time I look into a mirror and see where my hair used to be.

Or when I realize that my little boy is halfway to adulthood.

But for one afternoon, I gave Father Time a stiff arm.

I did two flips.

And my knees only hurt a little…

The great movie debate

September 27, 2010

Some days in the life of a parent are tougher than others.

That’s true for everyone that has the monumental task of raising a child, and it’s no less true for parents for children with Autism.

Thus begins the story of the great movie incident, starring “the boy” Ethan Capps.

It’s September, and third grade – most of which is being spent in a “normal” class room – is going pretty well.

We’re having a hiccup here and there, like the day the boy decided to tell a classmate that “I’m a serial killer,” because the other child had the nerve to stand behind Sarah in line.

Not exactly what you want out of your eight year old, but we wrote it off as an isolated incident.

Perhaps we should have seen the writing on the wall.

You see, the boy loves movies.

The serial killer phrase was lifted from the Sherlock Holmes movie, a flick that’s probably above his maturity level. I let him “borrow” my copy, mainly because I am a huge fan of the consulting detective, and have been since childhood.

We removed the offending movie from his continuously expanding collection, and moved on.

Move ahead a couple of weeks, and the game was truly afoot.

It’s a Monday night after another good day, and the bride and I were watching TV in the living room while the boy did likewise in our bedroom, home of the DVR.

All of a sudden, we hear a shout from the bedroom.

“This was the worst Monday ever!”

The wife goes to investigate, and in the interest of shortening a story that’s already running too long, let’s just say that he accused a little boy at school of bullying him.

I was a little suspicious, considering that the AWFUL MOVIE I caught him watching seem to be depicting a bullying scene, but he sounded convincing enough.

It was a bad feeling. I remember what it’s like to be in school. Bullying, no matter how diligent teachers and administrators may be, happens. It happens to kids that are different. It will, I’m sure, eventually happen to Ethan.

I just wasn’t expecting it in third grade.

So, we fire off e-mails to teachers and raise the general alarm.

Shanna and I mope around the house that night, and all the next day, powerless to protect our little angel from the mean kids at his school.

Yeah, about that.

Turns out we had been scammed.

His teachers, wonderful folks, by the way, report that, if anything, Ethan is picking on his computer partner – not the other way around as described.

A closer review of that movie he was watching, Fred: The Movie, reveals a scene almost exactly like the one Ethan acted out for us.

In addition, he took a scene from Agent Cody Banks and acted it out on the playground. He told a teacher he had “slapped somebody,” only to have evidence reveal that he made that up as well.

Then, it hit us. Ethan’s obsession with movies had finally reached the point where he was having trouble separating the fiction from fact.

So, at a loss for what to do, we took a bag and filled it with any movie in his room that was event remotely objectionable.

There were dozens of them.

That’s been about a week, and he’s still not real happy with us.

It’s tough, because I’m forced to admit that without movies and TV, he may not be talking at all.

I’m convinced that Steve from Blue’s Clues and The Wiggles taught him to speak, which might explain his occasional lapses into an Australian accent.

Finding a balance within the medium that both accelerates and stunts his development is challenging. But it’s one that we can handle.

Shanna and I are lucky. We have a good support system in place at school, an amazing doctor (can’t wait for Thursday’s advice) and a toolbox full of tricks that we’ve picked up while keeping the effects of Autism at arm’s length.

This didn’t happen automagically, as Biz Markie might say. It happened slowly, and with plenty of help from organizations like the Autism Society of North Carolina.

The 2010 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 9, in Raleigh.

Please consider making a donation to Ethan’s Angels, the group Shanna, Ethan and I – along with friends and family – in which we’ll be walking.

That way, you can make sure the script for kids like Ethan has a happy ending!

Happy birthday to me

September 13, 2010

No, it isn’t my birthday.

That’s in May, and lord knows they come around fast enough with me moving the date around.

But this is a story about one of the best birthday presents I ever received.

In my quest to raise money for Ethan’s Angels and the annual Triangle Run/Walk for Autism, here’s an Ethan story:

It was May 2006, and we were still living in Shelby.

I don’t recall if it was exactly on my birthday, or if my inflexible job schedule meant we were celebrating it on some other evening.

What I do remember is coming home for dinner in the early evening, and then a little later, getting ready to head back to work.

To set the stage, Ethan was four years old. It was about two years after we had been told – near another one of my birthdays – that our son was likely mentally retarded, may never talk and basically never have anything even remotely resembling a “normal life.”

In those two years, we went through speech therapy, occupational therapy and a battery of other tests, programs and rituals. Things were progressing very much as we were told they would.

He wasn’t talking much. He would utter the stray word here and there, but mainly he was using a little tube with velcro pictures to tell us he was hungry, thirsty or anything like that.

It wasn’t great, but it was the new normal.

But, anyway, back to that night in 2006.

I was going back to the paper. I kissed my wife goodbye, and told her, “I love you.”

Then, I walked over to Ethan, who was standing in front of the TV.

“Bye, buddy. I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” came a reply.

A specialist would say that it was echolalia – or he was simply repeating what he had heard me say.

That may have been true.

Not that I cared the slightest bit.

I snatched him up and hugged him, just barely beating Shanna to him. We all laughed and danced around the living room.

It remains one of the happiest moments of my life.

It was the first of what have been many victories for Ethan, who’s now a vibrant eight year old.

And if you know Ethan, speaking is a non-issue for him now.

Part of the help we got for Ethan – and the support for me and Shanna – came from the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Making a donation to Ethan’s Angels – the team we have participating in this year’s Triangle Run/Walk for Autism – helps support the ASNC.

Help us make more success stories, like Ethan’s, for children dealing with Autism.

Donate today!

The art of procrastination perfected

September 7, 2010

The 2010 Triangle Run/Walk for Autism is set for Oct. 9 in downtown Raleigh, and like I’ve done the past few years, I’m hitting up my friends for donations.

And, as is also my custom, I’ve decided to wait until the last month to do so.

I’ve set a ridiculously high fund raising goal that I doubt I can reach in 32 days, but I plan on annoying the general public in an effort to try.

Most of you know that the handsome young man pictured above is my son, Ethan.

He’s eight years old, and he was diagnosed with autism a little more than five years ago.

Autism is a developmental brain disorder that affects the way the mind processes information. It affects about one in every 90 children, making it more common than “childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined,” according to the folks at autismspeaks.com.

We’re not sure what causes it. Some say it’s vaccines. Some think it’s genetic. I’ll leave that to the scientists to decide.

I’m interested in confining it to the history books.

One step at a time.

So, anyway, we’re walking in the one-miler this year – since the boy always gets tired around then.

And I’m asking for your support.

Come walk with us, or make a donation.

To get you in the spirit, here’s a look at what is easily the best thing I’ve ever written.

Catching up

February 15, 2010

Now, truth be told, I spent most of my weekend watching my wife play Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 on the Wii and playing in the snow with my son.

But I did get to watch some of the NBA All-Star Game and the Winter Olympics.

Here are my thoughts:

1. The NBA All-Star Game is the best of the major sports’ all-star events. It beats baseball because of the revolving door of pitchers and it smokes football, soccer and hockey for its intensity.

Sure, nobody’s playing any defense. But that makes it fun, right?

And here’s a memo for the NFL: Grab a tape of the halftime show, watch it and learn something.

Shakira and Alicia Keys were very good.

And easy on the eyes, too.

2. I always enjoy the Olympics, even if I have to listen to idiots like ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb decry it as a racist event.

He’s a muppet, by the way.

As for the Games, it was cool to watch Alex Bilodeau win Canada’s first gold medal on home soil in men’s moguls.

It was even cooler to listen to him describe his brother, dealing with Cerebral Palsy, as his hero and inspiration just minutes after his blistering run down the hill.

I know the feeling.

Kicking Autism to the curb

October 12, 2009

ethan and me

Saturday was a great day.

Me and several thousand of my closest friends gathered in Raleigh to walk (a lot) and raise money for my favorite charity, the Autism Society of North Carolina.

It’s my favorite charity because my son, Ethan, battles the disorder.

Ethan’s Angels won the team spirit award, in part because of our awesome shirts and cool halos, but mainly because Ethan lights up a three-square block area wherever he goes.

Even if he did ask for a piggy back ride ( a short one, pictured above) and bailed out after the first mile.

Some of us, including two of my two best friends in the ink-stained wretch business, Mike Bollinger and Bryan Hanks.

It’s amazing how much you can break down Virginia athletics in a single 5K walk…

Consider this a thank-you note for anyone and everyone who donated, offered support, read any one of my columns on the event or took a minute to learn something about Autism.

Props to my college roommate, Frank Spurlock, for a superior T-shirt design. My parents and wife deserve the most credit, doing all the leg work to help our team raise money and have a successful walk.

Me? I just type a lot.

Before you go, know this: 

Autism now affects one in every 91 children. If it hasn’t touched your life yet, it most likely will one day soon.

And until they make the magic pill that sends Autism to the history books, I’m going to keep on walking.