One Small Step For A Grasshopper

Grasshopper needed some reading practice, so I made a deal with him. If he read a whole book to me, then he could choose another, new book. He loves learning about real people and historical figures especially. The series “Ordinary People Change the World” written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos is in heavy rotation in our house.

During our school’s Scholastic Book Fair, I bought a set that included Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, Amelia Earhart, Jackie Robinson, Hellen Keller, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, and Jane Goodall. For his first solo read while I cooked dinner, Grasshopper chose Abraham Lincoln. He read it and giggled at all of his favorite parts.

You’re a strange boy, Abraham Lincoln.

Yeah, but I’m gonna on the penny someday.

What’s a penny?

-Brad Meltzer

When he finished we immediately looked at Amazon for a new book. He chose Neil Armstrong. Y’all. This choice by my space crazed boy tugged at my heart in so many ways. We track the International Space Station. We talk about the astronauts and cosmonauts people on board. He loves to watch NOVA episodes about black holes and space exploration. This boy was beyond excited to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. His big cousin, whom he idolizes, has been involved with Space Camp for years. Grasshopper keeps asking me when we will be attending THE PARTY for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Grasshopper, Sunshine, and cousins enjoyed playing Mission Control at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

With a pre-existing condition like type 1 diabetes, Grasshopper is automatically ineligible for the military. I hate that before he even decides if military service is something he really wants to do, it is taken off the table as an option because of type 1 diabetes. This is a weight on my heart plus relief plus guilt for that relief.

Military service, a pilot’s license and engineering experience is still one path toward becoming an astronaut, but it is no longer a prerequisite. Since 1964 NASA has recruited scientists and other civilians.

Loren Acton is a solar physicist who served as a payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Challenger’s eighth mission in 1985. He carried out experiments in the payload concerning life sciences, plasma physics, and astronomy, among other subjects.

Barbara Morgan is a teacher who flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2007. She was backup for Christa McAuliffe in the Teacher in Space Project who tragically died along with six other crew members when the Challenger exploded on its tenth mission in 1986. Twenty-one years later on the Endeavour, Barbara Morgan operated a camera on a robotic arm to give video images of the installation of final parts of the International Space Station.

In addition to NASA expanding its reach, there are people who are challenging long standing rules. “Nerdy” April Blackwell was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eleven. She is showing how excellent T1D management can be accomplished in the midst of a rigorous work environment. April earned her Class III medical certificate from the FAA to fly on experimental helicopters as a flight test engineer. She now pilots the International Space Station from Mission Control! In addition to everything she has already accomplished, April is also working on gaining her clearance to become the first person in space with type 1 diabetes.

I love that Grasshopper is excited by the thought of exploring. It IS exciting. I am determined not to let my own fears and reservations hold him back from achieving whatever he sets his mind towards. So for now we will talk, dream, and read about amazing adventures!

Sunshine explores a recreation of the moon landing at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Photo credit: Denise Moreno Schovel

As adventures go, the moon landing is a pretty big deal. When the Neil Armstrong book arrived we dug right in. It is so much fun! It has a centerfold that opens to an awe inspiring view of earth from orbit. It is detailed. It is amusing. And it is long! I have read it to him many times now. Grasshopper has read the beginning aloud to me several times now but has always gotten distracted, tired, and put it down.

Again, I was cooking dinner while he read aloud. This time he started out strong, but he got tired and distracted. Even so, he kept coming back to it to finish.

Brave. Smart. Patient. Those are good qualities for an astronaut to cultivate. They are good qualities too for a little boy navigating school and type 1 diabetes.

Those qualities take time and guidance. The process isn’t a smooth path. In this instance because of his frustration with reading, there was a lot of sulking. There were jealous words toward Sunshine who used the book stand for her own book. Grasshopper walked away from the book for a while to jump on the mini trampoline. I played Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” and he started reading aloud again.

When he was close to finishing I sat with him.

It was tough in spots but he did it!! Again, we immediately looked at Amazon together to choose the next book in Brad Meltzer’s series. Grasshopper scrolled through George Washington, Gandhi, Lucille Ball, and Walt Disney. He pointed to each and asked who they were. He decided on Sonia Sotomayor because she has type 1 diabetes too! He remembered listening to a “Words of Wisdom” interview she gave on Kids Place Live, Sirius XM with one of our favorite kids radio hosts, Absolutely Mindy.

Representation is important. I am glad to be able to share stories of others with type 1 diabetes who have achieved success. No matter the goal, whether learning to read or stepping on the moon, all goals are achieved in a series of steps, each building on the previous.

I hope that reading about big accomplishments inspires Grasshopper to dream big. I want him to meet ordinary people from all walks of life who are living with purpose. I will show him people who are not limiting themselves and who are challenging limits set by others. As the books say, ordinary people change the world!

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