Behind starburst eyes

It’s the little things, like ice cream…

  Often it’s the small moments, the little things that many could and often do overlook that show us we’ve been making progress even if we don’t feel like we have been. Tonight I had one of those small moments that was really huge; Mr. N offered Miss. G a lick of his ice cream cone. Now for many that wouldn’t be a big deal, the significance of that gesture could easily be overlooked. But for me, it was huge!

Since my niece’s passing Mr. N has been angry, and extremely aggressive with Miss. G, hitting her, pushing her, yelling at her to go away, leave him alone, saying things like “I don’t want her here” as in he doesn’t want her to even be in this house, in this family. While he was very against interacting with her awhile ago, this has been different. The anger, the full on contempt that she dares to even exist is totally different. Just recently he told me “Joy’s in the sky cause she’s here” and since that moment I have been trying to help him understand that Miss. G had NOTHING to do with Joy being in the sky. That NONE of us wanted her to go, that we all love her and mourn her loss every single day. While the hitting had basically stopped, the contempt and disdain he had for her hadn’t dissipated.

And then came tonight at Costco, after we were done shopping I offered to buy ice cream, everyone wanted a cone except Miss. G who wanted a sundae. I ordered and we all sat down, Mr. N had been hopping up and down he was so excited about his ice cream cone, and after a couple of licks he turned, walked over to where she was sitting and said “You can have a lick” and stuck the cone in her face. She had a couple of licks and I squealed/shrieked “Oh you shared!!! Great sharing!!!” so loud that people turned to stare at the odd pink haired woman with 5 kids in tow making such a racket. Not that I don’t get stared at from time to time regardless with 5 kids in tow (occasionally I also get asked by complete strangers if they’re all mine or am I a daycare provider but that’s a whole ‘nother post) so I didn’t really care that people stared and I certainly wasn’t going to hold back the utter elation at seeing this one small random act on his part that meant so much more to me than just sharing a bit of ice cream.

It says to me that he’s healing, that he and Miss. G will eventually find their way through this phase, and that it is in fact just a phase, that they are developing a bond between them that will help to see them through some of the times they are bound for. Because let’s face it, life isn’t always sunshine and unicorns and far too many friends are really just frenemies, so at least they’ll have each other; they’ll have their siblings to lean on, and to look out for, and to share the small precious moments with…like enjoying some ice cream. 

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Wonderland lists and helpful hands

parchment and quill

 

“Can I help!”

Sometimes I would cringe when I heard those words from one of my wee ones. It’s not that I didn’t want them to help, it’s just that I didn’t want them to help.
It’s faster for me to do a task such as carry up a bin of laundry to their bedroom, or sort the recycling or sweep the floor than it is for me to do it “with help”
Sometimes when the hours seem to be flying faster and faster and the chores and tasks to be done are becoming copious lists of “not yet” I get tempted to slough off offers of help. I get caught up in clock watching and list checking and trying to ensure everything I’d wanted to accomplish that day occurs.

For a time I would smile and thank them, but refuse their help. I would do it gently and with love, but I wasn’t truly present in the moment with them. I was still too much in my own head, amidst swirls of paper and lists straight out of Wonderland that magically add two more tasks for everyone I erase upon completion. I didn’t think of what I was doing by always refusing their help. I only thought of how much “more” I was accomplishing. Slowly though I’ve come to realize that I will always be able to find things that I didn’t get time to do at the end of each day. There is always the proverbial “more” to be done, more of this or more of that.

Now I look at their earnest faces and I see the caring heart behind the offer. I see that this is a moment to let them help, because in letting them help and praising them for doing so I’m teaching them to be caring, helping individuals. I’m teaching them to go out of their way for those they love, which is exactly the type of adult I want them to become. I’m also teaching them how to graciously accept help so that should they need it (and everyone does at some point) they’ll know how to acknowledge their appreciation to the person helping them.

Now I try to look at the extra time it takes to finish the task as not really extra time being taken away from other tasks…It’s time devoted to helping them grow into the good, caring people that others will want as a part of their village. That means a great deal to me, enough that I try to take a deep breath and push the Wonderland lists that swirl about in my head away enough to smile and say “I would like that, thank-you!”

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Easy = Right…Right?

There have been times during our homeschooling journey that I wanted to quit, I wanted to walk down the street a mere two blocks and sign Mr. C up for public school. There were times when I seriously contemplated it, I would write lists in my mind of pros and cons. All because at times it was oh so hard to homeschool. During times of stress, family issues, illness, and during pregnancies I struggled with homeschooling. In part I struggled because I was still trying to do it the way I’d learnt in school (small amounts of several subjects 5 days a week) in part I struggled because I worried about how much he was learning and at what pace, in part I struggled because I wanted to be able to do as much with him as I had when he was an only child.

But mostly my struggle came from a very mistaken idea I’d somehow become convinced was true…

I was convinced that it had to be easy if it was right, and if it was hard it must be wrong. Only life doesn’t work that way, children and parenting doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the best parts only happen because of all the hard that happens first.

It’s through the struggles that we grow as people, and it’s through the successes of surpassing some of those very same struggles that our greatest triumphs and joys occur.

With changing how many subjects we do each day we’re able to go much deeper into each one which balances out how often we’re doing them.

As for how much he’s learning, I believe he’s doing wonderful, I know what the current curriculum is for our region, I keep him apace of it, but I don’t make him stop learning because he’s “supposed” to wait until Grade X to learn something. Add in the fact that I still get to do tons of social skills learning with him by homeschooling him, seeing how far he’s progressed in the last 6 years and I know he’s learning more than enough to help him succeed in obtaining his version of happiness come adulthood.

I look at moments like the one that occurred the other day (And So a hero is born) and I know that I’m still doing just as much with him, because I’m teaching him something even more valuable than even math or grammar, I’m teaching him to be a good person. That dear readers is powerful beyond measure for his future, for his own happiness, and for his eventual contributions towards the betterment of society.

So while some days or weeks might be filled with hard it’s okay, because as I look at who he is as a person I can see that where parenting and homeschooling are concerned hard isn’t always wrong, and easy isn’t always right, sometimes hard = right.

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Banana Bread and Kesha’s Timber

I was cooking a batch of banana bread french toast (I make a bunch at a time to freeze. Then for breakfasts I can pop a few in the toaster, add a bit of fruit and yogurt and voila perfect for mornings I’m tired but want the kids to eat well without much cooking on my part) As I was making the last pan of them Kesha’s Timber came on the radio. There’s part that says “swing your partner round and round” and I couldn’t resist, so I grabbed Mr. C and we started to dosado round the living room. As our laughter rang through the house, Miss. G quickly rushed towards us, arms outstretched wanting to join, wanting to be a part of the laughter and love and fun being had. Of course we smiled and took her little hands in ours and started to simply dance in odd disjointed circles about the living room. Mr. N excitedly asked if he could join in as well, and so our circle got larger again, and we all laughed as we danced gleefully about the living room, our hands as intertwined as our hearts and our energies.

The last pan full of banana bread french toast were darker than I normally cook them as I’d left them on in my haste to enjoy the moment with the wee ones. I think if anything they’ll taste even better than usual for all the love that filled the house as they were left unattended on the stove, and if they don’t well that’s what maple syrup is for 😉

 

P.S Banana bread french toast is just using an epic banana bread recipe like this one and substituting slices of it for plain bread to make french toast, an easy twist to a family favorite.

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And so a hero is born…

At the YMCA today Mr. C went to his homeschool group while Mr. N and Miss. G played in the gym. After it was over I stayed in the gym with them while my mom went to the program area to get Mr. C. He came into the gym and both siblings rushed to hug him as if he’d been gone for years instead of the hour it had been. Miss. G was trying her best to throw the basketball into the net. It didn’t really work, in fact it didn’t work even a little for her, she’d hold the ball above her head and try with all her might to throw it high, but it’d only go an inch or two above her head and then come bouncing down. Mr. C watched her and cheered her attempts on for a couple of minutes, but then he walked towards her and scooped her up. I watched Miss. G’s face light up with glee as Mr. C carried her on top of his shoulders towards the net so she could try and get the ball in the basketball net. Written upon her face was the sure and deep truth that he was her hero as clearly as if she’d said the words aloud, and my heart sang from being blessed to see this moment between them.

We hadn’t gone to Monday’s homeschool group in awhile, see it ends at 2:30 p.m, which is exactly when Joy would be picked up from the Y’s daycare. While my heart lurched and tears sprung to my eyes as the hands showed it was indeed that time, I’m glad I went. I would have missed out on the giggles as Miss. G raced across the gym to get the ball over and over, I would have missed out on Mr. N’s proud exclamations of “look at me, look what I doing!” as he tried to balance on his stomach on a basketball. I would have missed watching Mr. C and Miss. G bonding, and I would have missed the moment he stopped being just her brother and became her hero too.

 

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I AM my own Author

Image At a family function a little while back the movie “Stranger than Fiction” was brought up. While I understand that it really is JUST a movie, it conjured up a couple of questions in my mind about my own life: Who is writing my story? Am I simply following where I’m lead to or am I actively dictating my own path?  While I’d like to say that I’m actively writing my own story, I think that sometimes I forget that I AM the author of it. I forget that MY choices are just that, MINE. I have the intrinsic right to dictate exactly what I want to say, how I will react to any situation as well as who I want in my life as lead characters, supporting characters and even those that are cut rather abruptly from my storyline. While many are more introspective near the coming of new year, I tend to be fairly introspective throughout the entire year, but even I sometimes forget just how much personal power I yield in my own life. For many reasons, be it gas lighting that I don’t notice from others, or even from myself, or from feeling powerless because I don’t want to take control of a specific situation because honestly it’s going to be messy and hard and as far from sunshine and rainbows as one can get…But take control I must, we ALL must, because we truly ARE the authors of our own stories. It really is up to us how they play out. So when I hesitate for whatever reason I will ask myself one question: How do I want my story to be written? And then I’ll plough forward accordingly…

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Working with his neurostructure for academic success

I have homeschooled Mr. C since removing him from pre-school after his negative experiences there. I have always tried to modify his academics towards his personal interests, such as learning to count using construction machines and fire trucks, and reading was done with books on cars, and transformers. I taught him about charts, compiling and comparing data with Lego Bionicle pieces.

However I will admit I never took his specific unique neurostructure into account when creating his homeschooling plan. What I mean by this is that I would have him do a certain amount of work for each subject each day, because I never thought of altering that. Slowly as more subjects have been added, I’ve watched as he’s tried harder and harder to just “get through” each of them. We’ve spoken about it, and it always comes backs to feeling overwhelmed by the number of subjects he’s to learn. He says that when he’s struggling to learn one thing, he worries about the time it’ll take because of still needing to complete other subjects, and that when he’s enjoying a lesson he can’t just keep going and learning more about it.

Now I know one option would be to lower the amount of subjects he’s to learn, but I know he’s capable and I feel that each of those subjects are important. So while watching Mr.N sleep the other night and wondering what he was thinking of, I started to think about how he and his brother focus on specific subjects for extended periods of time. Then it hit me, what about making Mr. C’s homeschooling more in tune with how his brain naturally works. If I lower the amount of subjects per day to just two, but increase the amount of time we spend on each of them he’d be able to get really in depth about each subject and truly master each concept and lesson we learned. It would work with his natural tendency to dive right into a subject of interest as deep as he wanted, so that he really absorbed everything he could about it.

I spoke with him, and he loves the idea of changing our homeschooling schedule to this new concept. I think that by working with his natural tendency to really immerse himself in one subject at a time for long periods of time instead of against it by having him do a little of several subjects each day that he’ll not only enjoy the academic portions of his day more, but he’ll also retain and comprehend more of them. I feel this different method will actually allow for him to learn even more than he was with our previous method, and that is the core of what homeschooling is about to me: Tailoring it to ensure he learns as much as he can in ways that work with him.

 

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Dear Parent of an Autistic Child

I was recently asked what advice would I tell a parent of child recently diagnosed with Autism, while each person is unique and each set of circumstances are different this is what I would have liked to have known when my eldest was first diagnosed:

Dear Parent of an Autistic Child,

You have just been told that your child is autistic, and I’m sure you have a great deal of questions swirling around in your mind. Some might be questions such as: What exactly does this mean for your child? How will you tell others? Will your child be accepted by their peers? How can you best help your child to thrive and grow? What types of treatments should you utilize for your child? And so on, and so on…

I don’t have all of the answers, in fact no one does, not even the specialists and doctors have them. The only person with the best chance of having most of the answers is you. I know you probably don’t feel that way right now, but it’s the truth. No one will know your child better than you, no one will love your child the way that you do, and no one will be as devoted to their wellbeing and happiness as you are.

Research all you can about Autism, learn everything you can about what it really is. The more you understand about Autism the more you can make informed decisions about what is truly best for your child. If a type of treatment or medication or anything gives you a bad feeling, respect your intuition as your child’s parent! Just because _____ worked for so and so doesn’t mean it’s right for your child, and that’s okay. Remember that each person is unique, there is no one single way to parent!

There will be days that are beyond hard, they will stretch you to your mental and emotional limits and beyond until you feel like just breathing is a struggle. The catch to that is that it isn’t because your child has Autism that times will be difficult, it’s because you’re a parent in general now. Each parent will face challenges they aren’t sure how to overcome, each parent will struggle to know and do what is best for their child, that’s just a part of parenting. There will also be moments of such great joy that you will wonder if your heart is going to burst from them.

Above all remember that your child is just that; your child. They are still the same child that you held and cuddled and loved before their diagnosis. They are still capable of a full life filled with happiness if they are just given the right tools and opportunities. At it’s core, that is what parenting is about; loving your child unconditionally and giving your child the specific tools and opportunities they specifically need to create the life they find personally fulfilling.

Sincerely,

A Mother of 2 Autistic Sons

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Family Advisory Council

The children’s centre that Mr. N went to for many of his needs (speech therapy, dietitian, specialist pediatrician for ADOS testing, and ABA Therapy) and Mr. C is on the wait-list for ABA Therapy at was recently looking for parents to join their newly formed Family Advisory Council. I submitted an application and received an email a few days ago saying that due to the overwhelming response they received that there would be meet and greet appointments to determine who were the best fits for the council. 

I attended the meet and greet, and loved hearing about the goals they had for the FAC; they want to truly be “family-centred” in their care, and they want to do so by getting the whole family involved, not just in the care plans that are created for the child that uses Grandview’s services, but by offering fun events for the whole family, by offering a place where parents can connect with each other for support, for ideas, for the unique friendships that develop between parents of special needs kids. I am quite thrilled with their plans and ideas, and I truly hope that they were even half as impressed with me as I was with their visions for Grandview.

I won’t know until the 24th or 25th of March if I was selected to be a part of the council, but even if I’m not I know that the 3 women running it will choose those they truly feel will help to enrich Grandview for everyone and that makes me excited to see the great things Grandview’s FAC will be creating in the near future!

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Life without Joy

I finally told Mr. N about his cousin Joy on Friday afternoon. I hadn’t told him sooner because I just didn’t know how to tell him. But when he asked me who the flower in the kitchen was for I couldn’t put it off any longer. I stumbled and swallowed and began. I told him the flower he saw was for him. It was his good-bye flower from Joy. He wanted to know where she was and why she was saying good-bye. A dear friend had told me what she had said to her daughter and I went with that. I told him that Joy was in the sky now, and that she couldn’t stay any longer with his Auntie and Uncle. He told me he was sad, and that he’d miss her. I cried then, I tried not to, but I couldn’t stop the tears from falling as I looked at my youngest boy so serious and sad as he said “But I can’t see her there” I told him I understood how sad it was to not be able to see her again, but that she’d always be watching over him and she’d always love him and that he could talk to her and she’d hear him just as she always heard his heart.

I know he understood because later on as day turned to night he became quite upset and when I asked him what was wrong he told me “It’s dark outside, it’s dark in the sky, Joy’s afraid of the dark” I promised him that where Joy was it wasn’t ever dark, it’s always bright and filled with love and light. He looked dubious, but nodded and walked away to play with his cars. He comes up to me at various times and says things like “I miss her” “I want to see her” “Why can’t her stay with Auntie and Uncle anymore?” I try my best to answer his questions, and offer him comfort, but I’m struggling to understand the answers myself. So mostly I just tell him it’s okay to be sad and I hug him.

Mr. C has known since the day she passed away that she’s no longer on this plane with us. He’s built a dozen or more snowmen in the backyard, and destroyed each one when the anger overwhelms him at losing her. He told me he does it because I say he’s not allowed to hit other people, and he doesn’t know how else to get the pain and anger out. He’s so much more somber, his quick smile is missing from his beautiful face, a shadow haunts his eyes at all times. He’s withdrawn into himself more, his natural exuberance just isn’t there. I can’t remember the last time I had to remind him to be more quiet.

For the last week my husband has been my rock, he holds me every time I break down, and lets me cry as long as I need, he never rushes me to feel better. He cooks and remembers to do the things my mind can’t seem to hold onto right now. He promises me that it’ll get easier, and that the wounds her passing have left will lessen, they will eventually become easier to deal with. But in just a couple of hours he has to go back to school. Reading week is officially over and I’ll have to do all the mom things I haven’t been really doing since we lost Joy. The idea of this makes me worried. I don’t know how to cope right now other than to push it all down as far as I can, but to truly block it out I have to block out all emotions. Because really, the only reason there’s so much pain is because there is so much love for her. To not feel the pain, I’d have to stop feeling the love, for her, and for everyone including my own children. But that’s not fair to them. So I’ll have to stumble through the pain and the love, and the moments of each day, cause one day it’s gotta get better if I just keep going through the motions long enough.

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