Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolution.

While I would definitely like to lose weight (about 30 pounds to be exact), and I would like to exercise more, eat better, drink more water, etc, none of these will be new year's resolutions. This year, my new year's resolution is to spend more time with my friends. With everything going on this past year (like say, having a baby and Max's Autism diagnosis), I have let some relationships slide. It's understandable, but it really is about time I make a concerted effort to get out with my friends and be social. I already have plans to go to my friend Alana's on the 3rd, and to have lunch with my friend Rhonda on the 9th, as well as plans to go to our friends Ellisa and James' birthday party. I have scheduled a call to Vera on February 1st to schedule coffee (she is in Thailand right now). I need to see my friend Christine in a big way, and there are a bunch of ladies in Burlington that I owe a visit to. I'm hoping my friend Jennifer will make it out this way too, because it is hard to leave Max right now for any length of time. And if I'm really lucky, I'll get to go to my college reunion in July and room with my friend Michelle. I also have a group of new friends I have made this past year. These are ladies I have met in the area who also have children with ASD and other serious health issues. They are incredible women that have reached out to me and supported me in a way that nobody else could. In a lot of ways it is easier to talk with them than friends I have known my whole life, because they know what to say, they know what not to say, and they can truly commiserate with me. They are their family's rocks, and they understand what it is to be a mother to a child who needs more. I guess I have Max to thank for knowing them. Sometimes blessings come in strange packages. So ladies, let's go out for coffee, lunch, dinner, a movie, a walk, a whatever. Let's have inappropriate conversations and gossip. This is one resolution I think I can keep.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cameron Elizabeth: 8 months old.

My dearest baby Cameron,

You are 8 months old tomorrow! My gawd how time flies. I must apologize once again for not writing you a 7 month update - your mommy has had her hands full to say the least.
In the past 2 months you have been busy. You went from being a little wobbly baby who needed her boppy pillow to sit up, to a sturdy baby who not only can sit up on her own, but is on the move. You are still working on crawling, but I have a feeling you are only days away from figuring it out. You are working on your downward dog pose, and have mastered scooting backwards as a means of getting around. You are very pleased with yourself when you manage to get from one end of your blanket to another. But you aren't so pleased when you bonk your head on the floor (we try to keep this to a minimum, but sometimes you are too quick for us to catch).
Cameron, you are girl who is full of smiles (and you have two teeth to show off!). You and your brother laugh when mommy and daddy chant "ticka ticka ticka ticka tee-tee-tah, I've got a rhythm, gonna share it with yaaaaaaaaaaaaaah" from your favourite show "Four Square". You always smile back when we smile at you and you are quick to flirt with anyone new. On the flip side, when you are displeased or a "disgrunt-buggly", you are also quick to howl in frustration. You like to be held up high (the higher the better), so daddy is the preferred carrier when you are sad. The thing is, you are no longer the wee little baby we brought home from the hospital, you are getting big, so we get tired of carrying you after about 10 minutes. When we try to put you down, you seem to know the minute you get lowered even an inch, and you let us know this isn't okay.

This past month you caught the whopper of colds that single handedly brought our house to its knees. We can thank your brother for bringing home this lovely bug from daycare. He got sick first and then passed it to you, me, and daddy. You got a double ear infection and you were miserable. You also got a horrible cough and your eyes got goopy. Our hearts broke for you because there wasn't much we could do for you. You didn't want to eat your rice cereal - all you wanted was booby. Now that you are feeling better your appetite is better and we are trying to get you back to some semblance of a schedule.
Cameron, you are a little lady with a lot to say. I keep suggesting "mommy" to you as a potential first word, but right now you seem to be sticking to "ahhhhhhhhhh ahhhhhh". That's okay, but if you say "daddy" first I will be a little bitter. I mean, you pretty much only want to be held by me, and you squawk whenever I leave the room, so I figure I have earned it.
You are still sleeping with mommy and daddy at night. Most nights you want to party a bit longer, even when we are ready to go to sleep. You roll over and push yourself up (we call this the "groundhog" move). You reach out and tug at our noses and poke us to see if you can get us to play. We have to roll over and turn our backs to you to get you to fall asleep. You like to pull on my hair until you eventually conk out. Even though we are in a queen size bed, and you are tiny, you somehow manage to push us both to the edge. I have explained to you that it works better if we all sleep with our heads pointing to the top of the bed and our feet pointing to the bottom, but you think it is more cozy to lay your head on daddy and stick your feet into mommy (it kind of looks like an "H" when you do this). I have a feeling that you will be moving to your crib soon if this continues.
Cameron, you are the sweetest, smartest, cutest, sassiest baby that ever there was. Your dad and I remind ourselves every day how blessed we are to have you. We are having so much fun getting to know you as your personality blossoms. You are loved by everyone who meets you (and your brother is even coming around to the fact that you seem to be staying put).


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Swimming in Germy Soup.

The past two weeks have been challenging to say the least. We are all sick. All four of us. It started with Max, and then quickly spread to Scott, Cameron and myself. It is the kind of sick that makes you want to lay down and die. I mean, I don't really want to die, but I would maybe like to find a cold slab somewhere quiet, and if someone would tuck me in and close the drawer for a while so I could get some rest, I wouldn't even mind if they stuck one of those tags on my toe.

Kidding aside, when a kid with autism gets sick, it is about ten times worse than a normal kid. Max's only way to tell us he feels like a bag of ass, is to act out. And wow, is he ever good at that (hour long tantrums in the middle of the night, refusing to eat, etc). He is also showing a lot of progress, which is amazing - he is now taking us by the hand and demanding that we come with him so he can show us what he wants. This is huge, because it means that he is starting to realize that we can help meet his needs, and all he has to do is tell us what he wants. It is also really frustrating for Max as his parents don't always catch on right away. As Max is being pushed outside of his comfort zone more and more, he is also communicating to us that he is not thrilled with the new demands being put on him. He shows us this by acting out, and laying down the law the only way he can - by giving us a run for our money when it comes to eating, sleeping, and well, anything he can think of to get attention (mostly negative). According to our Behaviour Consultant, this is normal. It will take some time for Max to adjust and in the meantime, we just need to give him a lot of positive support, hugs, and let him know that his environment is secure. All this while we are sick as dogs. Oi.

I'm not feeling sorry for myself here, I am just praying we all get better in time for Christmas. The only thing I have managed to do this year is send out cards. I don't have any decorations up yet, haven't baked cookies, and still have some shopping left to do. With everything that is going on, I guess that is to be expected. We are so very blessed - I am reminded of this on a daily basis. This morning, as I left to take Max to daycare, I saw that our neighbour had shoveled our walkway for us. Our neighbour, who's husband had a heart attack last month and has a daughter with Down Syndrome, reached out to us and helped us, and brought tears to my eyes with her kindness. And for that, I am thankful.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Poker Queen.

In an effort to lighten things up around here, we had our friends Alana and Jay over to play some poker last night. Alana and Jay are very good poker players. Scott is also a very good poker player. I am a novice, at best, but I am at the very least, smart about when I fold (which is a lot). But you know who won the pot last night? You got it - little ol' ME. Woot! I was not a graceful winner at all. I probably would have danced on the table if I had thought of it. (Let's all be glad I kept my feet firmly planted on the ground.)

After a week that pretty much kicked my ass, it was great to just hang out, relax, surf funny videos on Youtube, have some beverages and be silly. Alana is a pun-master, and Jay, well Jay is just awesome. Laughing really is the best therapy. A solid night's sleep would be good too, but that might be pushing it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Diagnosis For Max.

Finally. We finally have a diagnosis for Max. And as much as we knew our little boy is Autistic, it was still hard to hear. It was hard to call Scott at work and tell him. And I couldn't tell my father-in-law, I just told him I couldn't talk about it yet.

I am relieved, and numb, and happy about the services that Max can now get because we have an official diagnosis. I am pissed off at our doctor who I have been begging to help us for a year and a half. I am pissed off at myself for not forcing him to refer us to this pediatrician sooner. I am overwhelmed with the word "Autism". And I am saying "I" a lot, when really, it isn't about me, it is about Max, and what is best for him. And what he needs. Now that we know, we can get him more focused therapy. We can get training in IBI therapy. There is no more putting my hands over my ears and chanting "I can't hear you" when people say the "A" word. We have to tackle this problem head on. Shit, I'm good at that. In fact, I am GREAT at that. Autism watch out, I'm about to kick yo ass.

This beautiful boy will not fall prey to you, Autism. No way, no how. We will pull him from your clutches and beat the crap out of you. Hands off our son, you wicked beast. Here comes Momma, and you ain't never seen a Momma Bear like me. So, watch out, I'm coming to get you. Consider yourself warned.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Busy...and a bit overwhelmed.

Things have been a bit nuts here over the past three weeks. With Max in therapy three afternoons a week, I'm spending the majority of my days to-ing and fro-ing with him. Not that I mind, it just doesn't leave a lot of time to get things done around the house, or, shower.

Max is showing some real progress at CIP. We are seeing a lot more appropriate play, interaction with other children (like, taking their toys away from them), and a lot more requesting at home. He even said the words "apple", "apple sauce" and "hide and seek" this past week. Along with the progress comes a lot of acting out. From what the Behaviour Consultant at the program tells us, this is normal. He is being forced outside his comfort zone, so with that comes more tantrums, problems sleeping, and a harder time in transitions.

One of the things I am most surprised about is how hard watching the therapy sessions is. By the end of the week, I am emotionally spent. Since I am a mere observer, I get to see Max's wins, Max's challenges, and his moments of being completely overwhelmed. But I can't come over and give him a hug, I just have to watch and deal with it. Some days I have to leave the observation room for a little while to regroup and collect myself. The other parents don't seem to be facing the same challenges as me - I guess I'm just a softy. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas!

I love Christmas. I mean, I heart/adore/squeal with glee/looooooooooooooooove Christmas. I know it's still over a month away, but I am gearing up to go into full swing Christmas mode.

Did you know that Aretha Franklin is coming out with a Christmas CD this year? Oh yes. I think Scott cringed when I told him about this cd (twice). I have the most robust Holiday music collection of anyone I know. From Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Take 6 and Brian McKnight to Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, you name it and I likely have it. I like to fill our 5 disc cd player with holiday music and get my bake on. In fact, if I'm doing anything Christmas related, I must be serenaded with yule tunes. And if I'm driving, and it happens to be snowing out? I'm in heaven with my Tony Bennet Christmas album playing full blast.

I'm so in love with this season, that I can't help myself but buy all of the December issues of magazines I normally shun. Red cover with baked goods or celebrities in Santa hats? Must haves by my standards. And Christmas decorations? Don't get me started. Every year my mom, Jennifer and I do a three way ornament exchange. I search for weeks for the perfect ornament to share with them. One of my favourite things about going home for Christmas is seeing my mom's tree covered in the very same decorations I have on my tree at home. I really am a hopeless Christmas romantic.

Stay tuned for many for Christmas posts to come (I just can't help myself).

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Little Bit of Hope.

Max will be starting a six week program tomorrow called CIP ("Community Intervention Program"). CIP is for kids with severe communication and social delays, due to Autism Spectrum Disorder or other developmental delays. I have been applying for Max to be in the program since this past summer, so I am thrilled that he was finally accepted into this next session. There are only six kids in each session, so the program is in high demand.

The program focuses specifically on building social skills, speech and language skills, play skills and transition skills. These are all areas that Max has challenges with, so he can only benefit from participating in CIP. The staff working with the children include Early Childhood Educators, Speech Pathologists, Behavioural Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Resource Teachers. This will be a new experience for me as well, because prior to this, I have always participated in his therapy sessions. At CIP, parents can observe through a one way glass, but we are not part of the sessions. I am finally going to be able to sit and just observe instead of spending the entire session trying to get Max to cooperate. I tend to think kids will also do things for other people that they won't do for their parents, (this is very true for Max). He ate with a spoon at daycare months before he did it at home for us. So, we'll see. But we are really hopeful that this will be a catalyst for a new round of progress.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cameron Elizabeth: 6 months old.

My dearest baby Cameron,

You are six months old now! Holy cow kid, where has the time gone? This post is actually your five and six month post because, well, yeah...one day when you are a mommy you will understand. Sometimes time just gets away from you. I'll do my best to recap all of your progress over the past few months though.
Where to begin? Well little pickle (this is my favourite nickname for you), you love to play with your toes. You love to smile. You love it when we tickle you under your chin and ask you "whatcha got in there?". You laugh when we say "boo" or "chomp!", and you love to be held up high. You are most interested in your big brother and Cam, it may have taken six months, but I do think he is coming around. Yesterday when we asked him to give you a kiss, he planted a big juicy one on your face. I'm not sure what you thought of this, but we were thrilled. He is also quite pleased to rediscover all of his old toys, and you are a good sport about sharing with him. He also likes your new toys, so I hope this spirit of sharing continues.
So far you are what I would call an "easy" baby. You may wake up a few times to eat at night, but you always go right back to sleep. You really don't cry unless you are teething (there's been lots of this in the last week - we think your bottom teeth are days away). And a flirtier baby I have not met - baby Cam, you can turn it on like no other. I thought your brother was good, but you melt hearts left and right.
In the past month you have really found your voice. You have a little thrill scream that is quite something. Max doesn't think too much of it, but he does his share of screaming too, so you get a pass on this. You are also queen of the crocodile tears. As much as you are an easy baby, you are not the most patient one. If we take too long getting to you once you have "announced" your desire to be picked up, the tears come. Unfortunately for you, we are onto you, so while you do get picked up, we also laugh at you a little bit, because you are so darn cute.

Cameron, you are a girl that is on the move. You are strong, and can hold your upper body up and wiggle yourself around. You can rock back and forth on your knees (you like to do this in the middle of the night if I take too long to get to feeding you). You can almost sit up on your own, but you aren't quite there yet. This makes for awkward baths because you don't want to lay back in the baby hammock-thing, but you aren't sturdy enough to sit up. You usually have baths with me though, so it really isn't a problem.

One of the really cool things you are doing is participating in the Early Autism Study at McMaster University. It isn't that we think you have ASD, it's that we think they are doing really important work and want to help the researchers find out what the early signs of autism are so kids can diagnosed and treated early. We went for your first visit last week and you did great. It was neat to see you looking at pictures of faces and looking right at the eyes. You also responded to my pointing at objects and you even responded to your name! You thought the moving dots were a bit boring, but they kind of were, so I don't blame you.
Cameron, I hope that the next six months don't go quite as fast because I want to soak up every minute of my time with you and enjoy you. I love waking up to your smile in the morning and falling asleep with your little hand curled up in mine, your sweet face so at peace. You are a blessing and I never forget that for one moment.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let's Start at the Very Beginning.

Before we started our journey with Max, the basics of communication (outside of learning all the juicy French curse words before my Grade 7 trip to Quebec City) had never crossed my mind. Most kids just start talking, but when your child doesn't come to words easily, respond to his name, or lock eyes with you, you have to go back to basics.Part of Max's treatment includes weekly speech therapy sessions. What is interesting about speech therapy, is it doesn't necessarily focus on speech. Max's speech therapy focuses on eye contact, turn taking, and appropriate play. If you think about it, these three things are the keys to communicating. If you don't know how to look at someone for a response or cue, wait or take your turn, and follow with the appropriate response, you are never going to be able to converse.Early sessions focused strictly on getting Max to make eye contact. This is something we still work on, but it comes much more easily to him now. What has been more challenging for Max is playing appropriately with toys. For the longest time all he wanted to do was either put toys in his mouth or throw them. At our first session with his new speech therapist Emily, he cried for about half of it, and I had to hold him in place and take his hands to get him to participate in each activity. The second session went maybe a little better, and then we missed two weeks due to illness.To make up the missed sessions, we had to move Max's appointment time to the afternoon (his sessions had previously been in the morning). This may have been part of his breakthrough. At the first afternoon session, after the customary meltdown (all appointments start this way), Emily introduced a new toy. Low and behold, Max sat down and played. He made eye contact, he shrieked in excitement, he didn't try to throw the toy. I was so happy I almost cried. I think Emily was relieved we had finally broken through.
Since that session, Max has improved each week. This week he participated in seven activities in a row. There was still some fussing and objecting, but once he got the complaining out of the way, he got down to playing, making eye contact and taking turns. With most kids, you don't get a chance to appreciate these small steps because they leap from stacking blocks to playing dress up and you don't have to work for it. When your child needs more help, you cherish each tiny milestone and celebrate it like he just earned his MBA. Way to go Max!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Little Engine That Could.

Things have been very quiet from the Fickle Feline front lately. I have been working through some things that have made me a bit more introspective and haven't really felt like expressing myself, at least not online. Readers that know me personally, have known for a while what Scott and I are dealing with, so this won't be a huge surprise. Our son Max is considered on the Autistic Spectrum. We don't have an official diagnosis yet, but we are fairly confident that once we reach the top of the 14 - 16 month waiting list, this is what we will be told.

For the longest time, I didn't want to accept that Max has ASD. I thought that he would just magically pull out of it if we worked hard enough with him. We have known something was "not quite right" since Max was about a year old. He would bounce his head on the couch repeatedly, and rock back and forth. He didn't talk or even babble creatively and his eye contact was inconsistent. Our doctor didn't take our concerns seriously and basically wrote us off as worried first time parents. I actually had to go to our local municipality to get resources for Max, with no help from our family doctor. It is only now that Max is 2.5 years old that our doctor is being of any assistance.

Max has been going to speech therapy since February. Scott and I have taken courses on how to work on non-verbal communication. Max has a consultant that visits him at daycare to work with him on social skills (sitting for circle time, playing appropriately with toys, etc). He has seen an Occupational Therapist as well. We are looking into additional therapy for him while we wait for the official diagnosis.

The thing about Max, is he is a generally happy kid. His highs are super high and his lows are very low. He is beautiful and he melts our hearts and charms the pants off of everyone he meets. Lately there has been a lot of progress, which is exciting. The progress comes in little steps though, so you have to step back to add it all up. He is now saying "mama" and making animal sounds. He stacked blocks last week for the first time, and has started clapping his hands when he likes something. While these little milestones are no big deal for a regular kid, for Max these are a huge deal that bring tears to our eyes and make our days.

I don't want you to think I feel sorry for myself, because I don't. I know I am blessed. I am thankful that Max came to us and not another family. We feel in our hearts that he will be okay in the long run. We try to take it a day at a time and try not to look too far into the future. Max is a special little guy and we love him more than tall, tall buildings.

The thing that makes me angry is that there aren't more resources for children with ASD. The waiting lists are ridiculously long just to get a diagnosis. And when you get a diagnosis, you are merely put on another 2 year waiting list for IBI therapy. This last Federal election sent me into a tailspin - the majority of the candidates do not want to address Autism at the Federal level and think that the provinces should be left to deal with it as it is a health care issue. Well, let me tell you that the provinces are failing miserably at this and what needs to happen is that federal funding needs to be earmarked for Autism therapy so that children get diagnosed and treated early. Because of the huge waiting lists, we are going to use private therapy for Max, but for many families, this isn't an option.

Anyway, I've wanted to write about this for a while, but it was just too hard. Now that I've spilled the beans, I will talk more openly about Max's progress and development in hopes of helping other families dealing with the same challenges.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Leaning Tower of Cranberry Sauce

Cameron and I were very busy on Sunday. We made a tonne of spiced apricot cranberry sauce with Christine. Well, maybe not a tonne...maybe more like 20 cups worth. We canned sixteen 250 ml jars, and sent Christine home with 4 cups for Thanksgiving. There were even some cranberries left over! Hard to believe, I know (we bought them fresh at last week's farmer's market). Cranberry sauce is very easy to make because you don't have to do any peeling, coring, cutting...hence the 16 jars. I am going to use one jar for our Thanksgiving meal and then save the rest for Christmas gifts. So, if you want to be on the cranberry sauce gift list, be nice.

Here is the recipe:

Spiced Apricots and Cranberries

1 cup dried apricots
2/3 cup water
2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
10 whole cloves
1 tsp mustard seed
1 stick cinnamon

In large sauce pan, simmer apricots and water for 5 minutes. Add cranberries and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes longer or until cranberries have popped, stirring frequently.

Add vinegar. Place cloves, mustard seed and cinnamon in double layer of cheesecloth; tie cheesecloth loosely into bag and add to fruit mixture. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove spice bag. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

For longer storage, pack hot mixture into sterilized 250 ml mason jars, filling to within a 1/2 inch of top of jars. Cover with scalded lids and seal, process for 10 minutes, turn heat off and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes before removing from water. Makes about 3 cups.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A is for Apple Butter.

I seem to be getting ready to hibernate for winter. I can't stop canning! The farmer's markets that I love so much will be done by the end of October (this makes be a bit sad). To cope with this sadness, I have been keeping busy. Cameron and I made apple butter yesterday. Twelve jars, to be exact. Apple butter is much easier than pizza sauce. I dare say it's downright simple. What's neat is that since the jars are smaller, you actually get to hear the "pop" as the jars seal. When I told my mom that I had canned apple butter, she asked "who helped you?". I responded "Cameron!". I gotta say, this little girl is one great baby. She tolerated two batches of apple butter with minimal complaining. We'll see how she does when her Aunt Christine and I can cranberry sauce tomorrow.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

For the Love of Pizza Sauce.

I have been looking forward to making my own pizza sauce all summer long. Having never done such a thing, I was a bit intimidated by the process. On top of making pizza sauce (which I probably could have figured out on my own), I wanted to can enough pizza sauce to get me through the winter. Turns out, it takes a helluva a lot of tomatoes to make one pot of sauce, so uh, scratch that. We made enough to get us through to Christmas and then after that we're back to store bought.

I learned two key lessons during my maiden voyage into canning.

First lesson: it takes a village to make pizza sauce (or at least a kick ass mother-daughter team).

Second lesson: You need to make sure your tomatoes are super ripe before you try to put them through a food mill. They are supposed to feel like a water balloon that is about to burst. We canned on Friday and I think canning on say, Sunday or Monday would have made our lives easier in this department.

As you can see, my tomatoes (we bought an entire bushel!) were not quite ripe enough, so I ended up having to push them down to get them to move through the food mill. This is the mill I bought the morning we were canning, when the regular food mill I had bought was clearly not going to cut it. It's a good thing Cameron is not talking yet, or she would be able to share the many expletives she heard throughout this process.

This is her looking scandalized by her mommy's potty mouth.
The good news is that all of the hard work was worth it. The recipe we used was amazing, and having never made my own fresh sauce before, I was blown away with how wonderful it tasted. My mom coached me through the canning process (she is an old hat at this). I am glad she was here to show me how to do it (the instructions I read online had scared the sh!t out of me). Now I am confident I could do it on my own.
After a day's worth of hard work, we had about 10 pints of sauce. We canned seven jars, froze two, and used one for dinner. I will admit that I was so pooped after cooking all day that I didn't really feel like making pizza, but it seemed like a cop out to not share the fruit of our labour with everyone. Not to worry, Scott "ooed" and "ahhed" sufficiently, and Max scarfed it down. That made it all worth it.