Friday, December 31, 2010

we can understand the universe (happy new year).

We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.  ~ Stephen Hawking 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

find your joy.

I have only one new year's resolution for 2011, and that is to infuse joy into as much of my life as possible.  This means that instead of only allowing myself to feel satisfied once I have achieved whatever goal I have set out for myself I will work to find joy in the little steps along the way.
Without a doubt, this year will have highs that will lift us to new summits.  There is also a chance it will have lows that could bring us to our knees should we not be at our strongest mentally, emotionally and physically.  As someone who suffers from depression, I can already see the sinkholes forming, beckoning me.
But feeling sad doesn't solve anything.  I have too many people who need me and love me to indulge in the luxury of depression.  There is so much to be happy about, that is where I need to focus.  I feel in my heart good things are coming.  The universe is listening, all I have to do is be honest and unafraid about what I truly want to do with my life and not hide my light under a bush.
For the first time in my life I am making my mental health a priority and tackling it with everything I've got.  Eating healthy and exercising used to be a means to losing weight.  Now they are a focus to keep my blood sugar in check, endorphins pumping and demons of self-doubt at bay.  If I happen to go down a dress size in the process, that will be just fine.  But the priority is finding my joy.
My hope is that you will join me in this pursuit of happiness, whatever that looks like for you.  I plan to belly dance and photograph my way through 2011, pausing every now and again to rub the Buddha's head and spend time with the people I love most.  Throw in some travel, quilting, naps, and baking cookies with my kids and I think I've got a recipe for success.  May you find your joy in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

christmas 2010: photo essay.

...twas the night before Christmas, and Scott and I were up until past 1am putting the darn tree up and getting the presents out from hiding.
Needless to say, it was a lot easier getting the dolly versions of Cameron and Max to bed than it was the real versions.
Only child safe ornaments this year - all the breakable decorations have been wrapped in tissue for another decade.
One of the first things Cameron did on Christmas morning was put up the decoration her Nana got her.
Max was not sure what to think about the whole thing.  After jamming his hands inside the tree, he went back upstairs for a while.  When he came downstairs he opened some presents and seemed to dig his musical Elmo book.
Cameron was feeling generous, and she gave me a soo-soo kiss.
Max waiting patiently while Cam plays with the favourite gift of the day - his Glo Doodle.
Max in his favourite position, sitting behind Bumpa on the couch.  Bumpa is super patient and always lets Max do this.
Uncle Chris got a pile of books.  I dare say he has enough reading material to get him through until next Christmas.
Scott and his mom opening her stocking.  
Max in the thick of things with Bumpa and Nana.
I'm not sure I see a resemblance...
Scott threatening Chris with his Mangrate brush while Cam serves tea.
Chris took this photo of me taste testing the mashed potatoes with his iphone. 
And finally dinner was served...
After it was all said and done, Cam thought her Cam and Max dolls should also be fed.
A wonderful day - happy, relaxed and we didn't end up ordering pizza.  More to come on my new camera loot - I was completely spoiled!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

so what do you buy a kid with autism for christmas anyway?

Santa had me do some shopping and wrapping on his behalf.
Every year as Christmas nears, I get calls from friends and family wondering what to get Max.  I usually have a few easy items to suggest - things like books with music, a dvd I'm fairly sure he'll dig, and anything that lights up and makes noise.  My typical stance though, is that I will buy Max gifts on other people's behalf and just have them reimburse me.  Most folks don't mind this (I actually think they appreciate not having to go on a wild goose chase for my often hard to find items).

As you can see, between Santa, us, friends and family, Max did quite well for Christmas.  He got a few other things that he has yet to open (Fraggle Rock dvd, astronaut board, and a bigger keyboard).  The big hits yesterday were the GloDoodle (Cam and Max fought over it) and the Magformers (Scott and Max fought over it).

This past year I started working on a review site for items Max really likes - called, wait for it,  It is still in the early stages of getting populated, but my hope is that it will be a resource for people looking for ideas on what the Autistic child in their life might enjoy.  I am also going to have other parents contribute, and provide a high level profile of their child (sensory needs, etc) to provide some insight into why the item is considered a winner.  If you have any ideas of toys I should review on the site, let me know in the comments.

By the way - Max did GREAT on Christmas!  The funniest thing he did was come downstairs in the morning, run up to the tree and stick his arms right into it to feel the texture.  After he opened his stocking (with help from us) he decided it was all too much and went back up to his room for a while.  I love his honesty (who doesn't feel a bit overwhelmed by the hubbub of the holidays?).  He came down a little later and took the rest of the day to open his gifts.

I hope your Christmas was terrific.  Ours was relaxed, slow paced and very peaceful.  A lovely day for sure.

Friday, December 24, 2010

my christmas wish for you.

1:30am and the Christmas doll quilts are done! (Pillows tomorrow.)
Wow is this ever a stressful time of year.  I've been making it a goal to smile at every person I make eye contact with, stranger or friend.  It's amazing how surprised people are to have someone give them a genuine smile this time of year.   It's wonderful when someone who was lost in a haze of stressful eyebrow furrowing looks up and returns your smile.
Under my mom's tree, in BC!
My sewing projects did not come together like I had wished (only 2 of 6 tree skirts completed).  I have not baked a single cookie (yet?).   But I have made about ten batches of cashew brittle (and only ruined 3).  I have assembled, painted, personalized and made quilts for Cam's doll beds (a gift to go with her American Girl Bitty twins present).   And best of all, I have wrapped all of the Christmas presents.
I should have done this outside. Fumes = stinky!
The big grocery shop for dinner tomorrow is done.  The tree is not up (yet?).  My goal today is simply to relax and breathe.  That is what I wish for you.

Enjoy the day.  Appreciate the people around you.  Tell them you love them (even your weird Uncle Maury).

Don't freak out if something doesn't go as planned.   Leave your baggage at the door and start fresh this year.  Remember, if all else fails, you can order Chinese food.

a nasty cold just in time for Christmas!
Wipe runny noses, sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.  Go easy on the booze and heavy on the hugs.  Build happy new traditions for you and yours.  Remember to say thank you.  Take lots of pictures.  Breathe.
my year in facebook status updates!

Dance while you do dishes, sing in the shower, tell your turkey dirty jokes every time you pull it out of the oven to baste it.   Go for a walk in the snow (if you have any).

Most of all, find your joy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

no holiday break for max.

My attitude about therapy has always been the more the better.  Max is in treatment 6 days a week - Monday through Saturday, and if I could get him into therapy on Sunday, I'd do it in a hot second.  I figured out a while ago that I am not a typical mom.  Most parents reduce therapy hours over the holidays.  Makes sense right? They figure their kid could use a break and big bills over the holidays means spending less on treatment is a nice way to balance the budget.  I am not cut from that cloth.  As long as Max has a diagnosis of Autism, this will not change.    I'd rather spend less on gifts and increase treatment.

The only days Max gets "off" from ABA therapy this Christmas are the December 24th, 25th and January 1st.  Of course, he is out of school, so he's home in the mornings.  This morning, since he didn't have school, I scheduled his Speech Therapy Assessment at Erinoak.   I was so proud of him! His therapist, Michelle, hadn't seen him for a while so she was blown away by all of his progress.  It's interesting observing him through other people's eyes and also seeing how he interacts with with them.  It felt great to be able to report back to her that he can count to 30, can count backwards from 10, write his name and knows his alphabet (upper AND lower case).  He has worked really hard and come so far this year.  It has been 2 years since we got his official diagnosis and the difference between then and now is night and day.  Yay Max!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

girl's first movie date.

Pardon the lapse in daily posts - it has been sick central here (good thing I took a week of vacation pre-Christmas to get all that holiday stuff done, eh?). Sadly, the tree skirts have fallen by the wayside, destined for 2011 delivery. I did get one completed, but forgot to photograph it before shipping it out to British Columbia!

We seemed to get a day of sick respite on Sunday, so I took Cameron to her first movie in an actual theatre. We saw the new Disney flick "Tangled" with The Party Mama and her daughter Emma. I shot a bit of video prior to the movie to prove that Cam did actually sit in her seat (for approximately 8 seconds). Then she spent the rest of the movie running around in front of the screen. Next time I think we'll just sit in the front row so I don't have to spend the entire movie standing at the side of the theatre searching for her in the dark.

Friday, December 17, 2010

women of wonder: my 7th (and final) mission - rediscover yourself.

My final mission for the Rediscover Your Wonder project with WonderBra was to "Rediscover Yourself". Over the past few months I've rock climbed, taken a life drawing class, written a children's book, taken a photography class, gone on a quilting road trip, and even belly danced!  This has been an incredible experience - one that would not have been possible if it weren't for being asked to participate in this project.   Thank you to the folks at WonderBra and the other ladies who participated for inspiring me to try new things and truly put myself out there.
Paul Stouffer and me in the studio
But back to rediscovering myself.  That's a tall order.  I did a little bit of thinking about how I might do this.  The one part of me (a big part) that I don't make time for, is the part of me that loves music.  I have studied music (I even went to post secondary school for it!).  It has been years since I have had the opportunity to sing.  My friend Jay Leonard (fabulous musician and recording engineer) offered to record me.  He even set up the session and hired the wonderful pianist Paul Stouffer.  All I had to do was decide what I wanted to sing and show up at the session.  Yeah, I know I'm super lucky to have friends this awesome.  (Jay's girlfriend, my soul-sister Alana illustrated the children's book for me.)
Jay making the magic happen! He told me he wouldn't autotune my voice, no matter how nicely I asked.
We recorded four tunes on Tuesday night.  Jay busted his tail mixing for me (and even put up with my anxious calls and emails wondering when I was going to get my tracks).  I was very nervous about hearing how it all turned out.  I'm happy with the recordings.  As Jay put it, I'm definitely rusty, but you can still tell there is a singer in there (somewhere).  Thank you again to Jay and Paul for your time and patience and for giving me the chance to sing again.  I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.  Enjoy (and please be kind)!

Check out to see what the other Women of Wonder are up to!

national service dogs for autism.

This Fall, I applied for an Autism Service Dog for Max from National Service Dogs. Part of their application process is to have an in home interview with the family. We received a visit last night from Janine and her ambassador dog, Nikon. She spent 2 hours with us going over the program, answering questions, and no doubt observing us to make sure we are up to the task of bringing a service dog into our home.

Max typically likes animals. Whenever we are on a walk he is interested in the dogs he sees and will pet the animal if the owner stops and says it is okay. I think that Max was a little bit overwhelmed last night as we have never had a dog that size (Nikon is 80 lbs!) in our house, and we also had the entire Carefoot crew in attendance. With Janine, that made 5 adults, 2 kids and a dog. Nikon is an amazingly patient dog. While he isn't a working service dog, he has received all of the service dog training and stayed calm through all of the noise, screaming, getting poked and prodded by Cameron, having Max rest his feet on him, and being the centre of attention.

Nikon is a very observant dog, and he kept his eyes locked on Max for most of the visit.  It was interesting to me that even though we didn't specifically try to have Max and Nikon interact, Nikon seemed to know that Max was the reason he was at our home.  Janine explained that it can take a fair bit of time for a child with Autism to bond with their dog.  The main reason for an Autism Service Dog is for safety precautions.  With a  service dog, I wouldn't have to worry about Max bolting.  We will be able to take Max places we aren't currently able to go to (even travel) once he has a service dog because safety issues will be addressed.  Also, once Max is bonded to his dog, his dog becomes his constant, instead of his environment.  Right now Max always sleeps at home because being in his bed is his constant.  Our hope is that once he has a dog, he will be able to sleep over at his Nana and Bumpa's house, because he would feel comfortable and safe as long as his dog is with him. 

I didn't want Nikon to leave.
I had a soft spot for Nikon because he reminded me so much of my mom's dog Scout.  The Autism Service Dogs are typically labs, retrievers, or lab retriever crosses.  They are bred by National Service Dogs in Cambridge, Ontario, specifically for working with children Autism.  The dogs are matched to a child based on their personality traits and the needs of the child.  The current waiting period to receive a service dog is 2.5 years, so if we are accepted into the program, Max would receive his dog sometime in the Spring of 2013.  I have been asked by several people how to donate to National Service Dogs.  You can even donate in Max's name so that your contribution is applied towards his dog! I'm really excited about working towards Max having his own dog.  It's a ways off, but time has a way of flying by so I have a feeling we'll be adding a four legged friend to our family before we know it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

reverb 10: day 15.

day 15: 5 minutes
(imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010)

The most rewarding things for me this year were watching my children's personalities develop and observing their relationship develop from siblings into playmates, to (dare I say) friends. 

As Max's vocabulary has increased, he is a happier kid.  He can request whatever he wants verbally.  At the beginning of the year he could ask for "apple" and "milk".  Yesterday he asked me for "cinnamon toast". 

January 2010: at the grocery store, labelling everything under the sun

April 2010: peekaboo, I see you

April 2010: baking with Aunt Jenny
Cameron started out the year as an agreeable baby girl. She is no longer a baby and has the attitude and opinions to prove it.
December 2010: Here comes trouble.
April 2010: friends forever

September 2010: Taking over Mom and Dad's room for a sleepover.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

reverb 10, days 10-14.

yes, I know this is blurry as hell (shot with my bberry, not my nikon!)
First off, where the heck has December gone so damn fast? I see some late night quilting coming my way over the next few days.  Ack! Second - I am a bit behind on my Reverb posts, so this one is sort of a catch up summary. 

day 10: wisdom
(what was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?)

This one is going to see kind of strange, coming from a mom, but I decided to put myself first.  That's not to say that my kids aren't an absolute priority for me, and that my husband isn't high on the totem pole as well.  But for too long, not only was I at the bottom of the list of things that I needed to take care of - a lot of the time, I didn't even make the list.  By allowing that to happen I put myself on the road to falling apart, which helps nobody.  At this point, I'm focusing on taking care of me, with the knowledge that if I am happy and healthy and strong (see picture above), everyone benefits as there is more of me to go around. 

day 11: things
(what are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? how will you go about eliminating them? how will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?)

clutter - my garage is packed with crap that needs to get thrown out, as is my basement.  By clearing out the clutter I will have more room in my house and more space.

magazines - seriously, I buy these things, flip through them once and then they land in the recycling bin.  Not worth $5 at all (that could buy me a grand latte!

cinnamon buns - every time I eat them I feel like garbage.  I know better. 

dairy queen blizzards - see cinnamon buns (but x 10)

takers - you know who I'm talking about - folks who lean on you and are never there to be leaned on.  Out you go!

debbie downers - I'm trying to focus on the good things in life, pessimists stay away.

diet coke - this stuff makes me gassy and bloated and really doesn't taste all that good.  diet coke, I need to quit you. 

self-help books - I buy them and then never read them - not too helpful!

oprah - talk about a waste of an hour - good thing she's going off the air!

clothes that don't fit - too big, too small, why do I keep them? I don't really need the reminder either way.

unsexy underwear - not flattering and don't make me feel like a million bucks? I should have dumped you a long time ago.  Life is too short to wear grandma panties.

day 12: body integration
(this year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present)

I had a moment this past November, where I totally broke down and sobbed my eyes out.  Big ugly cry.  In a parking lot.  Add to that it was pouring rain.  Hey, I have a flare for drama.  It was raw and real and it hurt.  I felt like I was going to break in half from all the pain breaking free.  Not a positive moment like one would be proud to mention, but the most honest one.

day 13: action
(when it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. it’s about making ideas happen. what’s your next step?)
I am putting myself out there as a writer, blogger, social media expert and telling the universe what I want to do with my life.  When I get "no" as an answer, I'm not letting it get me down.  It's just fuel to the fire to keep trying, to keep going for it.  Something great is around the bend, I just have to be ready for it.

day 14: appreciate
(what’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? how do you express gratitude for it?)

My health. Your health.  Every day that I wake up and put my feet on the floor I am thankful.  Every day I have with my family, I am thankful.  Health and time are the only things we have of true value that have expiry dates.  We all take them for granted.

Monday, December 13, 2010

mental health monday: the best things in life are free.

When Max plays with Cam, the feeling I get in my heart is indescribable.  Joy and love and hope and peace.  And happiness.
The best things in life are free.  My kids playing together.  The sound of new snow crunching under your feet.  
Talking with a favourite friend on the phone.  Holding hands.  Snowball fights.  Spooning.
Smiling at someone who is frowning and having her to smile back at you.  A favourite song playing on the radio.
Telling your kids you love them, and having them tell you that they love you too, be it with their words, or with their eyes.