Thursday, June 30, 2011

max's last day of junior kindergarten.

Today was Max's last day of junior kindergarten. He made it. We made it. As I look back through the blog posts I have written about Max's first year in the public school system, I see now that while there were ups and downs, there were mostly ups. It took a lot of doing on my part, but it was all worth it.

Getting Max into an all day kindergarten program was the first hurdle. It was a big one.

We finally got him into a school where he could attend every morning.

It was hard moving him from preschool where he was well loved to the unknown of school.

Rough, rough, start.

Max's EA was the first one to fall in love with him.

For the first time ever, he sat for his school picture.

As a parent of a child with Autism, you need to go the extra mile to help your child fit in.

Making lunches takes A LOT of time.

It's no fun getting a call that you have to pick up your child and take him to the hospital.

Sometimes the paperwork will make you see red.

A big part of me thinks Max's teachers were blessed to have him in their class this year.

Guess who is the best reader in junior kindergarten?

Putting Max in junior kindergarten was the right call.

Where did my baby go?

I am really, really proud of Max and all that he accomplished this year. He has learned to tolerate a loud and busy classroom, stand in line with his classmates, eat lunch with them, play in the gym with them, and sometimes even share toys. Max can sit in the morning circle, knows everyone's names, and seems to be known by everyone at his school. He was the first child with autism to attend this school in junior kindergarten. Next year he will get to stay in the same room as it is a JK/SK split, so I am hoping we will have a smooth start. The bonus is that he will also have the same teacher and EA so I can breathe easy knowing that they have a connection and he doesn't have to start from scratch with someone knew. This summer Max will be attending the SK program in the mornings at the daycare he went to preschool at. Since he is already familiar with it, I am crossing my fingers that he transitions in smoothly. Wish us luck!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

confessions of a car dancer.

When I was 18, I moved to a small town in Iowa to study music. I wanted to be a singer, and I wanted to go to a place where nobody knew me. I remember everything about those first few months as if it were yesterday. But the clearest memory I have was the day I sat in the bleachers of a local baseball field with my friends watching a bunch of guys I didn't know play ball. One in particular stood out to me. He had an air about him that exuded "cool". And the calves on him, sweet jesus. I do believe that was my first real "crush", which I swiftly pushed down into oblivion the moment I discovered the object of my affection was my new best friend's boyfriend. Ahem.

Of course, a mere month later, he proceeded to break her heart. I sat back and observed as he dated every single one of my friends, leaving a trail of tears behind him. I still thought he was tremendously handsome. My heart raced every time he entered the room. But I had accepted it was not to be, and so I stood back in the shadows and watched him charm the ladies with his big blue eyes and shy smile. He had a kind heart and perfect pitch, and was one of those people that lit up a room when he entered. I had a feeling that deep down, he really wasn't as cool as he played himself off to be. I wondered why he kept himself constantly moving and surrounded by people, and what would happen if he stood still for just one moment with his thoughts.

Having never been a person who had swagger, or knew how to play "the game", I have always been impressed with those who have "it". But as I car dance my way across the city, windows rolled up, hip hop blaring, looking completely ridiculous, alone with my thoughts, I think maybe I am the way I am for a reason. But it sure would be nice to come off cool every now and again. It sure would.

the walk for autism: my family tradition.

This past weekend, me and more than 2,500 other people took part in the 7th Annual Walk For Autism in Toronto. Together we raised more than $460,000 for Autism Speaks Canada, an organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

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bachelorette recap: bentley's return ends the "dot, dot, dot"

For the past two weeks we've been seeing teasers of Bentley's return. Would he come back for good? Was he just looking for one last minute of fame while he awaits the call to be the star of the next Bachelor? I know I am not alone when I say that I was really hoping that once Ashley saw him she would finally get a clue and wash her hands of this jerk. From the get-go it didn't look good - after saying "hello", she immediately fell into his arms and kissed him. He tried to skirt the issue of the "dot dot dot" by saying "he thinks he knows where she is at" and asking if she's been having a good time since he left. Ashley "gets it" and says, "so this is a period, not a dot dot dot," and the heavens open up to a chorus of "Hallelujah!" To hear her say, "he is such a player, he disrespected me to the core" was music to my ears.

...

Monday, June 27, 2011

mental health monday: i miss my friend.

The last two weeks have been hard. I miss my friend Liz. It has started to sink in that she is really gone. Her energy is still here with me though. I can feel her hand on my shoulder, reassuring me that I will be okay, that I am doing the right thing. While my heart is heavy for many reasons, I do feel a certain peace and acceptance about where things are at. The beauty of Liz was how much she loved her friends and accepted them for who they were and what they were able to give. She showed up for the important things. She lived every day. She continues to inspire me.

how do you define quality time?

It has long been my opinion that the term "quality time" is bullshit and that whoever created this term did so to make moms feel like they weren't doing a good enough job mothering their children. I recently had my dedication as a parent questioned, which has caused me to go over the time I spend with my children on any given day, and led me to wonder how would I define "non-quality time"? Is it the time I spend getting them prepared to get out the door to school in the morning, ensuring they have clean clothes, healthy lunches, are wearing matching shoes and are safely strapped into their car seats? Or what about the time I spend holding both of their hands as we walk into Max's school yard and wait for the bell to ring? Letting Max's teacher know how he slept, and finding out what I need to bring for him the next day while I tussle his hair and say goodbye? And then there is my second drop-off of the day, taking Cameron to daycare. Holding her chubby little hand as we go up the stairs two at a time to her classroom, or more likely me carrying her as she has been demanding lately. Does any of that count as quality time?

Granted, a lot of my time is spent doing things for my kids, versus with them. Endless family laundry, grocery shopping, cutting up fruits and vegetables, cleaning the kitchen, preparing medication, the endless pile of Max paperwork, intangibles like buying clothes and shoes and being the one people call when there is a problem. That's all me. Those are things I do so that they can have a "quality" life. Nobody else does these things and while I don't expect to be thanked, I do think that the things I do to keep my home running somewhat seamlessly are of value.

But lets get back to this notion of quality time. Every weekday, I pick Max up after lunch from school to drive him to therapy. He waits for me expectantly and has a huge grin for me when I arrive. I get the low down on how his day went from his EA and then we hit the road. The thing is, we have about 45 minutes to kill before therapy starts, so every day, I build something in for us to do to fill up that time. My old faithfuls are going to the grocery store or lately, Pier 1 Imports. Max loves the grocery store, and I quiz him on what different things are, their colour, whether they are hot or cold, and what we do with them? At Pier 1 we wander the packed aisles, and work on staying calm in a store where there is no cart for Max to sit in. I have him label all of the odd sculptures (brass frogs and marble turtles), and tell me what colours the pillows are, and have him feel the different textures. We get to therapy right on time and I then give the therapist the 411 on how Max is doing so far that day. Some may call that glorified taxi service, but I think it may in fact qualify as quality time.

When the kids get home at 4:30 with their Nana and Bumpa, I am at the door to greet them. They are lucky that they get to hang out with their grandparents every day. Between the three of us we keep them entertained, get them fed and amuse them through the dreaded witching hours before bed. Nana and Bumpa typically peel out around 6pm and Scott gets home around 7:15pm. I am usually pooped by the time he gets home, so I take a breather upstairs until Scott gets Max to bed at 8pm. Cam is a bit of a night owl and usually plays with the iPad in the family room or up on the bed with me until she falls asleep.

I would say that any time spent with your kids is quality time. You don't need to be down on the floor in their face for your time with them to count. In my book, being a quality parent means keeping a lot of balls in the air on any given day. Let's bury this "quality time" term and parent without feeling guilty for not doing everything all the time and all at once. We only have two arms people!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

photo essay: walk now for autism 2011.

Every year since Max was diagnosed with autism, we have participated in the Walk Now For Autism in Toronto. This was the third year that Team Maxwell walked (check out 2010 and 2009 as well). It has become a very important event for me, as I believe it is important to "show up" and be part of the greater autism movement. It is important for me to see that my family is not the only family battling autism. It is important for me to feel the energy of this community coming together for something positive.
During the opening ceremony, Suzanne Lanthier, Executive Director of Autism Speaks Canada, spoke of all of the important work and ground breaking research that is being done to unlock the puzzle of autism (especially here in Canada). She said that the researchers are why we work so hard to raise money, they are the "celebrities" of the cause. While I agree that researchers should be applauded, the reason I personally work hard to raise money and awareness is because of Max. The kids who have autism are the rock stars in my books. When people sponsor Team Maxwell, they are doing so because he inspires them, and they want to support him. Turns out, Max was very sick this morning, so he and Scott were unable to attend the walk. Nana was down and out too, so Cam, Bumpa and I had to represent the Carefoot Crew. We held it down.
My friend and talented designer, Christopherr Mendoza designs team shirts for us every year. This year we were also fortunate to have a team sponsor - A HUGE thank you to our friends at for supporting Team Maxwell and for doing so much to raise autism awareness through their website! I am 100% certain we had the best looking team shirts this year. Check them out:
It means a lot to me when our friends and family come out and join us on the walk. I also truly appreciate everyone's good wishes and donations. As of today, Team Maxwell has raised $3200 for the 2011 walk, and there are still some donations coming!  I am willing to bet we will break $3500 once all of the donations come in. In the past three years Team Maxwell has raised over $10,000 for autism research.
You may have noticed that there are a lot of photos of Cameron. Christopherr has a soft spot for Cam and she *may* have stolen the show. 
She is pretty cute, I can't blame him. Plus, with Max being unavailable, she had to exude twice the cuteness to make up for his absence!
This is a incomplete photo of Team Maxwell (some of our team members were tough to wrangle when it came time to say cheese). Thanks to everyone for your support and for making this year's walk such a success! This is our third year in the Grand Club as top fundraisers and I couldn't be more proud!
If you weren't able to donate, but still want to do so, the donation site is still up! Thank you for throwing your support behind Team Maxwell!

Friday, June 24, 2011

where my walk for autism sponsors at?

We are in the final stretch before the walk for autism on this Sunday! As you can see, I am very excited about our team shirts this year (a big BIG thank you to, the Team Maxwell sponsor).

Now, a lot of folks have said they were going to sponsor Max for the walk, but have not had the chance/time to do so yet. It would be super great if you took 2 minutes and made your pledge for the little guy. Your support means so much to me and Scott - really! And if you didn't get your t-shirt from us last year, let us know! We still have 'em!! Also - thank you to everyone who has already sponsored us - you rock!

The walk is on Sunday morning at Nathan Philips Square in Toronto. If you are going to walk with us, please register for the team and let me know so I can email you the meet up deets and bring you one of this year's kick ass team shirts. Let's make this a record year for Team Maxwell!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

when your child is diagnosed with autism: 10 things you should know.

1) You will feel like you are on a roller coaster of emotions. This is completely normal. Feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anger and grief is to be expected. If you are able to, this is a good time to find someone to talk to who is outside of your immediate circle, preferably a therapist. Remember that members of your family will also be grieving, so everyone in your family should do their best to support each other through this process.

2) Not all advice is good advice. People want to help and will often give you advice that may or may not be helpful. Do your research and consult your physician before taking on intensive diet regimens, cleanses or dietary supplements. While many people will sing their praises, they may not be right for your child.

...Read the rest of this article on

If you are able to support us on this year's walk, we would truly appreciate it. Any and all donations, big and small make a difference. Plus, if you walk with us on Sunday morning, we have some kick ass t-shirts thanks to our Team Maxwell sponsor, They were designed by top notch designer Christopherr Mendoza and are my favourite team shirts yet!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

bachelorette recap - will ashley ever get over bentley?

Ashley and the 11 remaining guys fly from Phuket to Chiang Mai. Perhaps a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered?

The guys are given a private villa and Nick wants to take their relationship "to the next level". JP is ready to make babies. Seriously. While Ashley still has no clue about what a dog Bentley was (and still is). Yet, she thinks she is ready to fall in love.

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max update: why we walk for autism.

This morning when I dropped Max off at school, he stood in line with the other kids and waited for the bell to ring. When the bell went off (a loud and shrill sound), he didn't get upset. His teacher led him into the school and off he went, with a smile on his face. Last week he went on his first school field trip to Bronte Park. His teachers were thrilled to report back that he loved it and was one of the better behaved children.

If you had told me that Max would be able to integrate into junior kindergarten this successfully at the beginning of the year, I would have doubted you. But here we are, with one week left in the school year, and Max is getting invited to birthday parties, is the best reader in his class, and can count to 200. Colour me proud.

My favourite part of Max's development is seeing his relationship with Cameron grow. Last night he requested that she come get on the teeter totter with him. They also play their own version of tag (Max has an unfair advantage of size and speed but this doesn't seem to deter Cameron). And they somehow make swinging next to each other a contact sport. He also runs to the window when people leave to watch them go, and to be honest, is often much easier to deal with than Cameron is. He is a joy to grocery shop with and is able to wait patiently when we check out (a big leap from laying on the ground and screaming).

This Sunday morning, we will be joining thousands of other people in Toronto to walk for autism. We have participated in this walk every year since Max was diagnosed. We will continue to do so.

We walk to celebrate Max's progress.
We walk to raise autism awareness.
We walk because there is no cure for autism.
We walk because 1 in 70 boys will be diagnosed with autism.

If you are able to support us on this year's walk, we would truly appreciate it. Any and all donations, big and small make a difference. Plus, if you walk with us on Sunday morning, we have some kick ass t-shirts thanks to our Team Maxwell sponsor, They were designed by top notch designer Christopherr Mendoza and are my favourite team shirts yet!

Monday, June 20, 2011

mental health monday: oakville tracy rocks the guelph lake triathlon.

This past Saturday, I had the honour of watching my friend Tracy cross the finish line of the Guelph Lake Triathlon. She swam 750 metres, biked 20km, and then ran 5km. I would find any one of those challenging on their own. It blows my mind that Tracy did them consecutively. She has been getting up before the birds for the past 3 months in preparation for this event. Early morning swims, weight training,  training runs and rides, plus hot yoga have kept her a busy woman.

While I have no desire to do a triathlon, I think the training alone is admirable. The last few months have been tough ones for Tracy and I am willing to bet she would say that training for the tri is what got her through it in one piece. Seeing her sprint to the end was a great reminder that focusing on physical health often helps us with our mental and emotional health as well. I decided to start another round of P90X to see if that will help me conquer some of the anxiety I have been feeling with all of the recent changes in my life. Today is day 3 and I am more sore than I remember being the first time through the program. I dare say the physical discomfort has taken my focus off my emotional discomfort, for at least a little while.

Congratulations Tracy! I have never seen you look so strong and beautiful as when you crossed that finish line with your fists pumping victoriously in the air! You inspire me and I am proud to be your friend.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

father's day: rain check.

Father's Day chez Carefoot has been a bit of a washout. Scott has been quite ill for the past week and was not up to our usual festivities (swimming and barbecue over at Nana and Bumpa's house). Instead we played it low key with a promise to reschedule once he feels better. But being sick didn't stop him from pushing the kids on the swings this afternoon. I took the opportunity to get out my camera to take some photos. This is one of my favourite Max pics to date!
Truth be told, I find Father's Day quite challenging. Sure, it's a celebration of dads. But it's a celebration of the "ideal" dad, not the relationships full of strife, the baggage, the disappointment. I have many father figures in my life that I look up to and I am grateful for having them in my life, with not a matching strand of DNA to be found. I think there is always the hope that the relationship that causes the most hurt and sadness will magically be repaired, washing away the lifetime of let downs. Of course, this is not to be. I suppose there is always next year.
The thing that heals that rift in my heart, is seeing my children, and how much they love their dad. Scott is a terrific dad to Max and Cameron, and it is my belief that they will grow up enjoying Father's Day and celebrating it full throttle. We'll try again next weekend - hopefully Scott will be feeling better by then! Happy Father's Day Scott!

Friday, June 17, 2011

for my friend, liz metcalfe.

My friend, mentor, and colleague, Liz Metcalfe, was killed in a motorcycle accident on Sunday afternoon. Not her fault, not by any stretch, just one of those things where a motorcycle is no competition for a distracted driver encased in 2,000 pounds of steel. My only consolation is that I hope it all happened very quickly and that she was not in any pain. She loved riding her motorcycle, and was a huge motorcycle safety advocate. Testament to how well she was loved and respected within the riding community of Toronto was the fact that over 100 motorcycles joined the processional to the cemetary for "Liz's last ride".

I am still in shock over the loss of Liz. I met her in 2004 when we worked together. She started out as a colleague but quickly became a friend. There was no stopping her. She approached every challenge with a positive attitude and had a laugh that made me grin from ear to ear. Liz supported her friends in a way that made me wonder how she managed to squeeze so much into every day. She was a woman after my own do-it-yourself heart. In fact, when I once posted a facebook status message asking if anyone knew of a drywall contractor, she immediately piped up "Me!". Turns out, years earlier she had paid a contractor to come and teach her how to drywall her home in Montreal, figuring a day of his time to teach her would be cheaper in the long run. My favourite memory of her is coming downstairs to see her covered in a layer of drywall dust, rocking out to her ipod. She used the money she earned from the job for track time so she could practice racing her motorcycle.

Liz has inspired me in so may ways - as a writer, a woman, a mother, and a friend. She never judged anyone and accepted people for who they were. She makes me want to be a better friend, to show up more for the important stuff, and to trust enough to let go and know that if I am important to someone, they will stay in my life on their own accord, I need not push or pull. So this is how I am going to honour your memory Liz, by trying to be as open and giving and loving as you were.

Rest in peace Liz. I am picturing you riding through Spain on your motorcycle right now. You will never be fortgotten.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

early autism screening: one mom's opinion.

As a parent of a child with autism, I am constantly dismayed at the manner in which autism is reported on in the media. A recent study out of McMaster University published in The Journal of Pediatrics suggests that routine screening for autism in all children is not necessary because the “current tests simply aren’t proven to work”.

When I read that, what I take from it is that the current tests aren’t good enough, and therefore better diagnostic screening tools are required to provide more accurate diagnosis at as early an age as possible.

...

bachelorette recap: why you shouldn't date a man named after a car.

After a week that left Bachelorette fans wondering why the heck the producers of the show would cast a creep like Bentley and left Ashley in a puddle of her own tears, I think we can all agree on the following dating tips:

Don’t fall for a guy named after a car. Also, if a guy wears a mask, don’t ask him to take it off, just show him the door.

This week Ashley is down to 12 fellas and off to Phuket, Thailand (*snicker*) for a “fresh start”. When the bachelors are informed that they are going to Thailand they rejoice like they have been given SuperBowl tickets. They are told there will be two one-on-one dates and one group date.

...

Monday, June 13, 2011

little green thumbs.

The gardening bug has taken a while to sink in this spring. But, after all of the work I did last year with the help of Scott's folks, I wasn't about to let my garden become a mess of overgrown weeds again. Luckily, Cam was happy to pitch in and help with the weeding. And by help I mean, search for snails and put them in the compost bag. Scott said she was a snail murderer, while I preferred the friendlier "snail detective". I lasted two hours before my allergies from the EVIL TREE took over and made me start to cough. There is a lot left to do, but we got a good start on things. I'll post some before and after photos once we get things in ship shape.!

Friday, June 10, 2011

it's okay to go to sleep angry.

My brother-in-law, Chris, is getting married today, which of course makes me think about my wedding day. Funny how other people's weddings makes people think about themselves (I observed this behaviour on my wedding day as well). I used to be really into weddings. I loved every little detail and thought the grander the better. Now I mostly think they are a big waste of money and that people should probably save their cash for something important like a house. Apparently the romantic in me has disappeared...

If I have any advice for Chris and his awesome wife-to-be, Zeina, it would be that it's okay to go to sleep angry. Really. Sometimes you just need to get some rest and deal with it in the morning. But be sure to deal with whatever it was that got you upset. The other piece of advice I would give is that after all the passion and lust and newlywed bliss has diminished, you must make your friendship a priority and embrace compromise. Without those two things, when the going gets tough, you will be sunk. Also, have as much sex as possible. Sex solves a lot of problems.

Good luck you crazy kids! Let's eat some cake!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

peeling back the layers.

It turns out that change, (even good change), is stressful. This past week I have been a big bundle of nerves. Not sleeping, grumpy, anxious, and seemingly unable to pinpoint just what exactly is bothering me.

Everything should be fine. Better than fine, it should be fantastic. I'm:

  • working from home
  • not feeling pulled in a million directions
  • able to pick Max up from school and take him to therapy myself


  • Max's daycare for the summer is all set up
  • I've started working on my book

So why do I still have this unsettled feeling? Is it that I'm finally really going for it? Working for myself, and that I now have to hustle to make sure I can actually make enough money to do this? Probably... yes, definitely, yes.

The ups and downs of every day knock me sideways. Should I take this job? Should I go make lattes at Starbucks? Take the night shift at a bakery? I don't know...I don't know. I made a friend a promise that I would stick it out, and not give up when the going inevitably gets tough. To that I say, anyone looking for a writer?

Friday, June 03, 2011

growing pains.

Some days I wonder how it is that we manage the constant swing between the highs and lows with Max. We celebrate the achievements with huge roars of excitement. We do our best to not let set backs completely side swipe us. But there are days where both Scott and I feel the burden of autism weighing down on us, trying to break us. The familiar feeling of sadness and desperation and wondering "is this really what my life has become?" as one of us deals with the fact that at 5 years old, Max is still not fully toilet trained. He has made tremendous progress in so many areas, and for that we are grateful. But the daily grind of cleaning up the BMs of a child who is as big as kids in grade 2 is a lot to handle. I think it is safe to say that once this milestone is achieved, we will be honking our car horns and celebrating like our neighbours do during World Cup.

It is easy to get frustrated with Max. On the outside, he looks so incredibly normal. He is a gorgeous child, with a smile that wins over everyone he meets. The disparity between his physical appearance and the reality of his diagnosis is jarring. The difference between him and Cameron makes me shake my head. Most of all, the not knowing what he is thinking, and trying to fathom the frustration he must feel being unable to fully communicate with us makes me so very sad. I wonder if he will ever be able to fully express the things going on in his brain? It's the hope and the belief that this is possible that keeps me going. I just pray this happens sooner rather than later.

cooking up a storm for team maxwell.

Last night we held a fundraiser for Team Maxwell at my friend Tracy's house. It was a Pampered Chef party - 25% of the proceeds will go to Team Maxwell for the Autism Speaks Walk on June 26th. Tracy's daughter, Allie, was the sous chef for the evening and did a wonderful job assisting Christine with the Chicken Jerk Nachos she made (super yummy).

The "in person" turnout last night was kind of low, so I'm really hoping that all of the people who have expressed interest in buying something online will do so. You can place orders until June 5th, so don't delay - go order it, and remember it's win-win. You get some awesome kitchen equipment and you will also be supporting Team Maxwell! Doesn't that make you feel spendy?

Remember to enter the host name as "Team" (first name) and "Maxwell" (last name). 

Thanks in advance everyone! I hope you will help us reach our fundraising goal!