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.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Don't Call Me, I'll Call You. Maybe.

At long last, the National Do-Not-Call Registry has launched! Thank gawd. I have pretty much stopped answering my phone due to all of the telemarketing calls we get. Apparently I'm not alone in my dislike of unwelcome calls - the website crashed on its first day in business. Now let's see if this actually helps! Here's hoping.