Matthew and The Gendarme

All this week there has been terrible news from France. Our comments here today in no means are meant to diminish the pain and suffering of those in Paris. We pray for the innocent families who were killed in cold blood by the brutal terrorists, but we cheer, yes, we cheer that those ruthless killers are now dead. For Matthew it is pretty cut and dry…and for this mom it is too.

We stand united with the people of France.

A few years ago our family visited Paris. Like all tourists we stopped to admire the Eiffel Towel. There were all kinds of people milling around taking pictures, getting in line to ride to the top, but what caught our eye was the French military on patrol. I stopped one to ask if Matthew could greet them. The older one, who looked quite fierce and appeared in charge first seemed to think we were being crazy tourists needing direction (excusez moi, mon français n’est pas si bon…). Then he realized what I was asking and he halted the group calling Matthew over to them. I quickly took a picture and caught that very gruff man putting his hand on Matthew’s shoulder with compassion. You can see from Matthew’s expression he is pleased as punch to be in this shot.

Today, as Matthew runs around the house wearing his new Walker, Texas Ranger hat and badge I am reminded of how much trust and confidence we all put in our police and military. Those who run towards danger in order to keep us safe.

europe 2008 008Salute!

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Matthew Meets the Gov!

There we were, minding our own business having claimed our early seats for the always packed Christmas Eve church service when we spotted the Governor. Right there, just a few feet away and Matthew couldn’t believe it. Seeing the governor is almost as exciting as having Chuck Norris walk up…almost.

While we did not want to intrude on her evening we did reach out to greet her and upon hearing about Matthew’s shyness she insisted on walking over to greet him personally.

You might remember Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer using her ‘Mom Powers’ while scolding President Obama.

But we prefer to remember her this way:

Matthew and Governor Brewer

Matthew and Governor Brewer

FYI, the governor is much younger and more beautiful in person.

A Hero in a Different Army

Today’s hero is part of the Army. But like Hebrew National Hot Dogs, they answer to a higher authority; not Uncle Sam.

We’re talking the Salvation Army. This is one of our favorite charities and consistently they receive an A rating because a very high percentage of their intake goes directly to neighbors in need. As you might imagine their Christmas Red Kettle campaign is a huge part of their annual income and they help over six million families over the holidays. And this time of year we love to see them at work. The ringing of the bell symbolizes the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

In our area volunteers often man the kettles. Sometimes the local celebrities and politicians can be found ringing the bell and there are always lots of people willing to donate to those kettles but more often just an individual, someone who sees the Salvation Army as a worthwhile charity and finds the time in their day to spend the afternoon outside, hoping for a filled pot.

Sometimes they look a little lonely out there. But then Matthew walks up and their faces turn to smiles.

Let me back up a little.

Over the years it’s been a project of ours to help Matthew overcome his shyness around others by having him put money in the Red Kettle at Christmas. For him this has been a challenge. He’d try to be speedy like Flash and toss the money at the kettle but more often than not it would sit on top or worse, fall onto the ground causing a major distraction. If the coins sat on top of the kettle the bell ringers would tell him that he had to push it into the little slot. Oh my gosh, it was even worse when they would talk to him. No longer could he be Mr. Invisible.

But little by little, Christmas by Christmas he went from throwing a tantrum when I’d try to hand him some coins to a point where he’d start looking for money in the car when he saw the kettle and heard the ringing. It’s a teeny tiny step I know. You guys with kids who don’t have such problems may not understand the small increments forward that we call progress in our house. Slowly, slowly we march.

Onward.

So today when Matthew walks up to the bell ringer and carefully puts his coins or dollar into the kettle and pauses before heading inside my heart swells just a little. For him it’s a big step. And what’s more amazing is how those very same bell ringers, the ones who may have been feeling a little sorry for themselves, notice him too.

And they smile.

Suddenly, they remember why they are standing out there in the cold weather… Maybe they are reminded of the widow who gave her last two mites to the church. Or maybe they just see someone walking up who really sees them, someone who is not hurried by the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Or maybe they just see Matthew, a unique individual who really is happy to share his coins and hear them wish him Merry Christmas.

Today's Salvation Army Bell Ringer.  She was so excited to have her picture taken that she asked if I'd take one with her camera so she could share it with her own family.

Today’s Salvation Army Bell Ringer.
She was so excited to have her picture taken that she asked if I’d take one with her camera so she could share it with her own family.

Today we have a challenge for you, dear readers. When you are out shopping the next couple weeks would you put in a few coins to the Red Kettle and think of Matthew while you are out there? And it would be especially amazing if you would take a picture of yourself and/or your Bell Ringer and send it to us (projectmat). Matthew would be thrilled to see them and I’d be happy to share them with others.

Happy Veterans Day!

Today’s post celebrates all our Veterans, those who bravely step up to keep the rest of us safe.

Uncle Lee is one such person. During the Vietnam Conflict many young people were against our military and often denigrated those who served.

It was a trying time.

But Uncle Lee volunteered stepping forward to enlist in the Navy. He could have stayed home; he could have protested the government and he surely could have gotten a job that paid more but he didn’t. Instead, he served honorably on the aircraft carrier Oriskany. For a desert boy, living on a ship was a life changing experience. And he came home a man.

Matthew has a particular fondness for his Uncle Lee. It might be that when Santa came to visit each year he looked suspiciously like someone we knew.

Anchors away my boy!

Anchors aweigh, my boy!

To all those who enlisted or answered the Uncle Sam’s call today we honor your service.

Pete, the Policeman

Matthew has many friends and I am always impressed at their interactions. Today’s picture is of his friend Pete. We catch up with Pete and his family two or three times a year and this year was no different. At the beginning of summer Matthew and I stopped to talk to Pete and his wife Terri while they walked their dogs. I recall that some of our conversation revolved around our new howling beagle and I don’t remember much else.

But Pete remembered.

Rising the rank through the police department I shouldn’t be surprised that he is much more observant with better recall than me. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, which was evidenced when we saw him again last week. Pete was carrying something in his hand and asked for his friend Matthew.

Though he has plenty on his plate with family, work and all the rest it seems he had been shopping and saw something he remembered Matthew would like. Yep, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Poster! I had forgotten that we had also talked about summer movies wherein Pete learned that Matthew was anxiously waiting for his favorite turtle dudes to appear on the big screen. What a treasure!

As friendly as Matthew is you might not realize that he always becomes very shy around people that he knows or his heroes. He feels emotions much more intensely than most and more often runs and hides rather than greeting someone he cares about. We work on it at every opportunity especially the idea that in case of emergency Matthew might actually run towards the policeman. When we see an officer in the neighborhood or at the store I point him out and remind Matthew that his friend Pete is a policeman.

We are lucky to have such friends.

Matthew and his friend Pete

To Protect and To Serve…and To Be a Friend ~~ Matthew and his friend Pete

To The Batmobile!

Today’s picture might give you a behind the scenes view of Matthew. I was reminded of it when we were shopping and Matthew saw a couple small boys wearing their superhero capes. Even though Matthew loves little children his focus went directly to their capes and then his hand went to his back. Waaaa! Where was his cape??? I reminded him that he does have a cape and that we had left it at home and then life was okay again.

The cape that Matthew has I made years and years ago. It is worn and shredded so much so that you wouldn’t think it anything other than a black rag. But it’s his cape and every so often he’ll don it and then race across the yard. Don’t ask me what he’s thinking but I suspect it has something to do with getting the bad guys.

Yes, Matthew loves to pretend. He’ll be Batman (and not the dark, foreboding version as seen in the movies, but the crazy zany hero of the 60’s). He’ll be a Ninja Turtle complete with karate kicks. When he’s watching Daniel Boone he wears his coonskin cap and when he’s watching a Western out come the cowboy hat and gun.

Because he is nonverbal this pretend play does offer some insight to Matthew’s thoughts. For example, we know that he has a strong sense of right and wrong. There is no doubt Matthew identifies with the good guy in the shows. I am not so sure what he thinks when a typical good guy actor, say Arnold Schwarzenegger, shows up as Mr. Freeze in the Batman movie. Does he think, “Hey, that’s Arnold! Yea!” or does he wonder why Arnold is the bad guy? I don’t know. But luckily for us, in the movie business good guys generally continue to play good guys. One thing I do know is when bad guys are killed it is just part of the action but woe to us if one of the good guys becomes D E A D… I also know that Matthew worries when the hero becomes injured and that this scene will stay with him for years. One time we watched Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger crash his truck over a cliff and become unconscious. The episode was a flashback during which he was lying in the hospital the whole time. Throughout the show and for YEARS after if we mentioned watching Walker Matthew would clap his hands loudly, as if to say, “Wake up Chuck!” Similarly, one of the main characters from Star Trek was injured and now every time he shows up on the TV Matthew clutches his chest because he is feeling Worf’s pain.

When children are small they often have difficulty distinguishing between reality and imaginary. Does Matthew know the difference? Truthfully, I’m not 100% sure. It seems he does but then when we walk past a manhole cover in the street he’ll let me know that reminds him of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (sad, if you’ve missed their past to know they live in the sewers). But maybe he knows they are fictional characters and by pointing this out he has found yet another way to communicate with me without words. He is pretty clever about that.
So today’s picture is dedicated to the heroes of television; those who spark the imagination in all of us.

A call from Commissioner Gordon? To the Batmobile!

A call from Commissioner Gordon? To the Batmobile!

Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Most of our hero encounters are brief but today’s was especially so. There were only a few of us at Sky Harbor airport at 4:30 in the morning. Our family was there because in my efforts to find just the right arrival time to Boston, at just the right price I neglected to check for just the right departure time and we ended up on the crack o’dawn flight. Being a captive audience lends airport lobbies and flights to be a great place to people watch with an opportunity to meet and learn about fellow fliers. Over the years we’ve met so many interesting people. I bet you have too.

This handsome young airman was sitting alone in the lobby drinking his coffee when we arrived. We thought we’d have plenty of time to visit since we had breezed through the early morning security in just minutes. Unfortunately, just after we snapped this photo I learned that our flight had been cancelled and we would need to return to the ticketing desk to find a new flight. Interestingly, as we headed out sister Rebecca recognized one of our flight mates as the president of Arizona State University. The Sun Devil sister wished she had spotted him earlier for a little one on one conversation with the head of the state’s largest school.

The lesson we learned: Carpe Diem—Seize the Day… or in this case, the moment, because we never know how quickly plans will change. We hope the GI, who was lucky enough not to be on our flight, had a good trip home; after a few panicky moments we were changed to a later flight and managed to reach our destination only a few hours after our original plans.

Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder!

Nothing can stop the US Air Force!