Behind starburst eyes

Brotherly Love

I watch, heart in my throat as Mr. N makes his way over to a full mat to wait for his swimming lessons. He stands awkwardly in front of the other kids already seated, staring, unsure. He doesn’t know what to say, or do and I’m biting my lip as I try to give him the time to figure it out on his own instead of jumping in right away. None of the children say hi to him, he’s too new just yet. One keeps looking at his waist, perhaps because of Mr. N standing. I hope it’s that and not the bit of blue peaking out from his swimsuit. He’s still in diapers and so he wears a swim diaper at the pool, but I know the other kids his age don’t. I know as he gets a bit bigger that is going to be something they notice more.

I watch his little face, so serious as he starts shifting from one foot to the other. I see the fingers start moving, oddly rhythmical in no discernible pattern as the social stress starts to weigh in on his oh so tiny shoulders. I watch as his breathing starts to change, his thin torso showing each breath, and I shift in my chair, making a move towards him to speak, to ease the growing anxiety. But before I can, a solid frame fills my vision as Mr. C strides over to him. He’s left the kids he’s been trying so hard to cultivate a budding friendship with to kneel in front of his brother and offer kind words of encouragement for his upcoming swimming lesson. I watch as his breathing slows, as his face lights up and his shoulders straighten. I watch as Mr. C helps to begin a conversation between Mr. N and one of the boys sitting. I watch, and my heart cries with joy and with gratitude for the bond between them. I’m so incredibly grateful to know they will truly have each other as they get older. While 6 years seems like a large gap now, once Mr. N is in his 20’s their age difference won’t have much bearing. And yet, they will still have each other, their bond will be solid and formed from years of moments like this one.

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Adjustable Tutu!!!

Miss. G loves tutus, and I love making them for her. The part I don’t really like is how 3-4 months after it’s made I have to make a new one as the old one is too small. (If it’s done with an elastic wasitband than I have to add lots more tulle to it to fill in the gap it gets every time she grows, and some how it never looks as nice as when it’s first done.)

I found some seriously epic yarn at Value Village the other day and I wanted to knit Miss. G a jumper out of it for Yule. But since she’s no longer a newborn, one skein wasn’t going to make a jumper! So I started thinking, and pondering, how could I use this awesome yarn to make her something fantastic that wasn’t another hat or set of mitts? Randomly it came to me, I’d make her an adjustable tutu!

The premise was simple, knit (or in my case garter stitch) a rectangle one and a half times as long as she was wide, and as wide as I wanted for the belt portion of her tutu:

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Then using matching tulle (meaning every color I could find 😉 I looped each piece through the bottom row of the “belt”

To make it adjustable I took two buttons and sewed one on either end of the rectangle, one on the “right side” of the belt and one on the “wrong side” of the belt so they could be slipped through the stitches wherever was needed for a perfect fit.

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In the end it looks like this:

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I think she’ll love her Yule present 😀 I know I love it, and I think since there’s still time left before Yule that I’ll be making some more for other girls I know, cause the only thing better than a tutu is an adjustable tutu 🙂

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When they change the plan

Yesterday I’d planned to use the playdough I’d made with the kids to make ornaments/gift tags. We didn’t. Instead Mr. C wanted to play outside with the bit of snow we’d had fall. Mr. N desperately wanted to join him, and so we plugged in the lights in the backyard, and got all the boys winter gear on them. Then I got to listen to their gleeful sounds as they played together for an hour out the back. I loved listening to them. I loved knowing they’re building their brotherly bond so well. My heart hurt a bit for Mr. N at first, he was surprised at what snow looked like. He doesn’t remember any of the winters he’s already seen. But then I thought of how he’s able to run around and play outside with his sibling AND winter in all it’s glory would seem brand new to him. It’s like an additional chance to make his “first” winter special. They had a snow ball fight (I’m not sure how as their really wasn’t all that much snow lol) and they built mini snow men and overall had a blast. Tonight perhaps we’ll be able to create those ornaments, if not it’s all good the playdough will keep in it’s containers until they want to make them 😉

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DIY Playdough

Mr. N has discovered play-dough, and he LOVES it! For today’s craft I showed all 3 how to make play-dough. The first batch was purple as per Mr. N’s request, and the second batch we made was inspired by the upcoming holidays. We made brown, gingerbread scented play-dough by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (all in powdered form) to our dry ingredients and voilà delicious smelling play-dough. After dinner Mr. C and I will sit and make small ornaments that will double as gift tags on the presents we give, while the 2 wee ones “help” 😀 The recipe I use is super simple, only thing I change is it says to combine everything and heat till warm. I put all the dry in one bowl, boil the kettle, and add a cup of boiling water and the oil then I stir. It’s the same recipe I’ve used since Mr. C was 2, and I love it.

http://fun.familyeducation.com/sculpting/recipes/37040.html

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Adult Tricycle: Modified

All summer I looked at bicycles for myself. I looked and researched about 2 wheeler bikes with carriers attached to the back for kids. I looked at modified bicycles with a single child’s seat attached to it, or even built onto it. I looked and I looked, but couldn’t find what I really wanted. I read the research about the pros and cons of each type of bicycle and carrier or seat for a child. I even read about people who’d modified wheelbarrows and bicycles into a hybrid that they used.

I wanted something that was comfortable for me to ride. I wanted something that I could attach a child’s carrier/seat to for the two youngest children. I wanted something that would be stable and sturdy even when my balance wasn’t great or when my unstable ankle decided to randomly give out. Something that allowed me to be active with the kids the way I wanted to be but couldn’t because of increased complications from my club foot. Canadian Tire had a sale, I bought an adult trike for myself. It’s a rich red and I loved it. I knew it’d be different than a two wheeler so to practice and get a feel for riding it, I rode it to the Y with Mr. C. I listened as two adult male strangers decided they needed to make fun of me for riding it. I became embarrassed. I didn’t really want to ride it for a few weeks after that. I didn’t want to deal with stares and comments as if these strangers had a right to judge my attempts at being active with my child. As if my body and my choices that certainly weren’t hurting anyone were something they had a right to speak about.

But then I thought about how I wouldn’t stand for someone making fun of my children or my niece for needing something a bit different than the typical “status quo” bike in order to be safe while having fun so why would I let someone stop me? If I let strangers stop me what was the hidden message I was sending to the wee ones in my life? I was telling them with my actions to fade into the background instead of enjoying their lives on their terms. I was telling them that some random stranger’s opinions matter more than their right to the accommodations they need to actively participate with their family. That is NOT what I want to teach any of them!

So I set to work to build something for the kids that they could sit safely in that could be attached to my bike because darn it I wasn’t going to fade into the background of my own life! I researched more as I went and the final results of what I built are below:

All closed up for if I don’t have the wee ones (or as they get bigger and can ride their own bikes) perfect for groceries or day trip supplies such as a picnic:

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Opened up into a seat:

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Fully opened with the pillows I made as well so they’re comfy when they sit in it:

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One of the great parts to it is that I made it a few inches higher than their heads so the rain cover from the single stroller fits over it perfectly!

Now I’m off with the wee ones for a ride to the park 😀

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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I have agreed to speak at a local event called “The Heart of Ajax” this coming Wednesday. The really cool part is I’ll be speaking with a bunch of youths from all over the town of Ajax who will then devise a plan to take back to their school that will do one of the following: Raise awareness, Teach other kids how to be an Ally, Raise funds for an organization or in some form bring about positive change and positive impact in the lives of others. I was asked to speak about mental health, the stigma surrounding mental health and how to be an ally to those not classified as neurotypical.

I have thought extensively on what I wanted to say. I have started a dozen speeches, and threw each one away. Then tonight as I watched my son gently lean in to kiss his sleeping cousin’s forehead I saw her wall decals. She adores Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) and I knew right then what I was going to talk about.

I hate TMNT. I hate what they remind me of. When I was in Grade 5 there was a boy in my grade who loved TMNT. we’ll call him “Shawn”. He would talk about them every single recess, and lunch hour. It didn’t matter if other kids really paid attention our not, this boy would still talk about them. See he didn’t really catch social cues all that well. He wore clothes a bit different from the rest of the boys my age, instead of jeans he only wore sweat pants, and his shoes had Velcro instead of laces. He would go into a special room with a special teacher than none of us had seen before for allot of his day. He didn’t always brush his teeth, enough so that the other kids really noticed the build up on his teeth at times. He was never mean to anyone. He would smile and say hi to everyone every day. For quite awhile, the first few months at least he tried to play with the other kids at our school. Every recess, and every lunch hour he’d try to insinuate himself into our games and our conversations. Most often his addition our conversations was to change the subject to TMNT. There was a girl in my class who was not very nice to allot of kids. She was especially mean with this boy. She would laugh at him and make fun of him and purposely exclude him from games and interactions on the school playground.

I never said anything mean to him. I never really said anything at all to him. I never stood up for this boy. I never tried to be a friend to him. I stayed silent when he was being slighted or shunned or made fun of. 22 years later I still have a lump in my chest when I think of him. I still feel bad that I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for him. I didn’t know why he was different. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand him. Do I know what his official diagnosis was, no I don’t. In part because we didn’t talk about that stuff back then. We didn’t get presentations or custom made books in our classroom to explain why someone was a bit different, and that we should accept them as they are. We didn’t have Autism Awareness Day or many of the other Awareness Days we now have for mental health/neurological diagnosis’s. But those are just excuses I tell myself when I look at my two sons. Pat answers for why I wasn’t the type of person I now want other children to be towards my own Autistic boys. The truth is, acceptance is taught. Acceptance is learnt, through being open, through conversations and presentations and through real life moments with someone who only wants to talk about TMNT.

My goal is to help these kids see how to be better than I was at their age. My goal is to help them develop their own school’s plan for increasing awareness of, and acceptance of persons with, various diagnosis’s. I want for the “Shawn’s” of the world to be invited to a birthday party when the entire class is given invites. I want their additions to conversations to be valued, even if they’re not agreed with I want them to feel like their peers are listening when they speak. I want for these kids I’ll speak with tomorrow to learn and in turn to teach others how to be an ally to those different from themselves. And maybe even to be open to the possibility of friendship with people with all different neural structures.

That is why I hate TMNT, because they remind me of when I failed at being an Ally. I failed at being open to someone different than myself. That is why I also love TMNT, because they remind me to be better, to be the type of person I would want in my own child’s life.

P.S “Shawn” I doubt you’ll ever read this, but if you do: I really am sorry.

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