Saturday, July 30, 2011

be the water.

My friend Shelagh's note simply read "be the water and not the rock in the stream of life. Let things unfold as the universe intends them for you". I thought on this for a moment and stretched this thought into "Be the water, not the rock. water has the flexibility to change direction; a rock stays in one place and gets worn out".

be the water

So simple, and so perfect. And as if this thought was not gift enough today, it also happened that Shelagh was able to come and spend time with me this afternoon. We had many heart moments and connected in a way that made me feel both loved and at peace at the same time. Go with the flow, don't get stuck, be responsible for your energy, you can change the trajectory of someone's day with your smile.

be the water 

So often I need to be "the rock" that people count on, the stable force. But perhaps the water is just as powerful. When we picture rocks we think of being solid, steady, and strong. Water is all of those things but also flexible, peaceful, and constant. Something to think on for sure.

be the water

Let go of relationships that have moved on from this earth, release those who no longer have need of you. Trust that the pockets of air created by their absences will fill in slowly, at first as a trickle and then as a steady stream as the water pours in to fill the voids.

Be the water.

Friday, July 29, 2011

ill communication: trying to put what i feel into word and rhymes.

Over the past few weeks, Max has been exhibiting some aggressive behaviour at daycare. Because I'm not there when it happens, I have no idea what is leading up to the behaviour, how it is being reinforced (as in, how are the kids and adults reacting and are they doing something to make him think that continuing this behaviour is going to get him what he wants). Insult to injury, he is laughing after he hits or pushes his classmates, which makes them think that he is enjoying hurting them. I dread picking him up at lunch time because I know that his teacher is going to give me the "he had a hard morning and did xyz thing" speech and make me feel like they hate Max and wish he wasn't there. Yesterday I was informed he pushed three children and incident reports had to be filled out and today he pushed a child down the stairs.

The challenge of course, is that he is trying to communicate something with this behaviour, and he is doing so unsuccessfully. Now it has turned into a game to him. The laughing? Well, that is yet another example of how someone with autism does not always exhibit an appropriate emotional response. I doubt that he is in fact happy. Or if he is, then that is because he hasn't yet learned how to care about being liked by his peers. It's very upsetting on many fronts. Last year Scott wrote a guest post about a time where Max laughed hysterically in response to Scott having an emotional breakdown. We understand on a very personal level that it is hard to know what to think when Max's response is so far out in left field.

Since Max's behaviour at daycare is clearly escalating, we have decided to send one of Max's IBI therapists into the daycare to see what's happening and to give the staff some help and support in figuring out how to react when Max behaves aggressively. The entire point of him being at daycare is for him to have more opportunities to socialize and clearly this isn't going to happen in the current state. Scott told me this morning that his "heart breaks at the thought of the other kids being scared of Max" and truthfully, mine does too. Max is a sweet kid. These behaviours only come out when he is frustrated because he is having problems communicating.

Max's CDA (Communications Disorders Assistant), Tara Dawson, wrote a beautiful poem for Kim Pace which she read at Kim's funeral yesterday. I think it describes perfectly the patience and understanding required when working with and raising a child with autism.

To Kim, with love from all of the “little lives” you’ve helped along the way.

I flap my hands,
Make funny sounds,
And don’t look in other’s eyes.
I don’t understand emotions,
Or the benefit to try.

“A real handful”,
Others think.
I’m never the teacher’s pet.
Not toilet trained,
With others my age.
My pants were often wet.

Yet you came into my life,
And changed what others see.
Called me, “good boy”,
And “smart boy”,
‘Cause you believed in me.

You taught me “help” and “toilet”,
Rather than “thank-you” and “please”.
You understood when my engine was high,
And all I needed was a squeeze.

You were sensitive with my parents.
It’s hard- this wasn’t their choice.
And you let me though all obstacles.
And helped me find…
My voice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

let go.

The past few days have been really hard. I'm sad that my friend Kim is gone. I'm sad that my friend Liz is gone. My get up and go has got up and went and I feel stuck, unable to move forward or backwards, unable to cry (which makes me feel guilty, like I'm a shitty griever to boot). Losing people suddenly and losing people when you knew it was coming are equally devastating. And I hate that losing them makes me anxious about losing anyone else. So here I am, raising an eyebrow as I look skywards and say "Okay, enough already with the stealing away the awesome ladies before their times, back off for a bit, will ya?" I need to let go. I'm not ready to let go.

bachelorette recap: a trip to fiji narrows it down to 2!

Ashley and the final three guys, Ben, Constantine and JP, head to Fiji!

I find it interesting that the final three guys are comprised of the two shaggiest and the baldest. Also, O-M-G! Ryan has returned to Fiji, no doubt to explain the benefits of high efficiency air conditioning. I predict this will not go well. Ashley is all, “Whoa! What are you doing here?” He asks for another shot and tells her he’ll be on the island for a few days, no pressure. I’m confident he's just auditioning for the next season of The Bachelor.

...

Monday, July 25, 2011

celebrating kim pace.

My friend and mentor, Kim Kearns Pace, passed away on Saturday after a 3.5 year battle with cervical cancer. But I don't want to focus on her death, I want to focus on her life, which she kicked Absolute 100% Grade-A Canadian Ass at. I want to focus on her heart, which was bigger than the sun. I want to focus on the thousands of children and families she helped throughout her career as Canada's top Speech Language Pathologist. I want to focus on the positive energy she exuded and how she fought for what she believed in and inspired everyone who knew her.

I met Kim in the summer of 2008. We were still in the pre-autism diagnosis days and desperately searching for ways to help Max. She was the first person who reached out to me. She was the first person who listened when I talked about what was going on with Max. She came to the table with information and real solutions about what we could do for him. She was kind, empathetic, and frank about the challenges that lay ahead for us. Her honesty and candour were refreshing and I immediately felt less alone in this journey that we were only just beginning. Kim saw the magic in every child and unearthed gifts that you would never have known were there if not for her.

I credit Kim with getting us started on the right path for helping Max from a therapy perspective. Most of all I am grateful to her for teaching me about faith, and how important it is that I envision a positive future for Max. She believed in him and saw the twinkle in his eyes. She told me she expected tickets to his university graduation ceremony because she wanted to be there when he walked across the stage to receive his diploma. Whenever Max gave us a run for our money she told me that I would tell these stories at his wedding. On one particularly hard day she emailed me the following:

Look past it all - into the future .. several years maybe but there it you see it? That beautiful, smiling, happy boy! That's MAX. That's MAX's voice! That's MAX talking! That's MAX playing with toys! That is MAX calling you "mama".

Visualize it - each and every day and that is what WILL be. Believe it with every ounce of strength you have and there will be no other alternative. I am living proof of this.

I could write for days about how wonderful Kim was and how sorely she will be missed, that there was still so much for her to do. Kim was a person so tenacious that when she was told she had less than a year to live due to cervical cancer, she decided to train for the 2010 Ironman Canada - a race that was more than two years away. And guess what? She did it (while continuing to work full time). While she was at it, she and her friends started The IronDames and raised over $110,000 for Wellspring, a cancer program that promotes physical activity.

Kim, I am devastated that I will no longer get to exchange hugs and smiles with you over Max's progress. I am blessed to have known you in this life, and I know we will meet again. Instead of thinking of you as gone, I am going to imagine you in heaven serving up your Romulan Ale and watching over all of the children and families whose lives you changed for the better.

Rest in peace Kim. You were one in million and you will not be forgotten.

Edited to add:

Visitation will be held on Wednesday July 27th from 5-9pm at:
Dodsworth & Brown Funeral Home
2241 New Street, Burlington ON

The funeral service will be held on Thursday July 28th at 10:30am at:
St. Christopher's Anglican Church
662 Guelph Line, Burlington ON

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Halton Down Syndrome Association and/or blue balloon Health Services. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

amy winehouse: everyone is someone's baby.

A great talent passed away today. Unfortunately, Amy Winehouse will be remembered more for her battle with addiction than for her music. Perhaps the saddest part about it all is that nobody was surprised when they heard she had been found dead in her apartment. The general sentiment was that it was only a matter of time.

Mental health issues are hard enough on their own. From what I understand, Amy suffered from bipolar disorder. Add to that her terrible issues with addiction and she was truly a ticking time bomb. The thing I hope people will remember as they comment on a "life wasted" or that she was at the top of everyone's death pool, is that she was just a human being. Imperfect and fallible, with the gift of a voice full of soul that we all hoped to hear more from. Most of all, she was somebody's baby. She was somebody's child. She was loved, for far more than being a talented singer. She was loved for first smiles, first steps, sticky kisses and the way she looked like an angel when she slept. While we who did not know her feel free to judge her and comment on what could have been, her family is no doubt devastated at the loss of her, and the painful lead up to her death.

Rest in peace Amy Winehouse. Rest in peace.

Friday, July 22, 2011

moments of sticky gratitude.

There are many things to complain about right now. Money, health, stress, the heat (oh my dog, the heat), and that's only scratching the service. But for some reason, as I sit here (sweating and trying not to get annoyed by the fly zooming around my head), I feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

We are so blessed, my little family of four. We have a huge support system of people who love of us, who will do whatever it takes to help us succeed. Through thick and thin, our family and friends are here for us from coast to coast, rallying with us day in and day out. Our house may not be big, or fancy (and it is most certainly a mess), but it is our home, the place we find solace at the end of the day. More than that, we have "enough". There may be things we would like to have but can't afford, but the things we truly need, we have.

So, thank you to the universe, for hearing me when I said "I want to make a change, I want to do something different" and helping me make it happen so quickly! And thank you universe for watching over us and making every day an adventure. I am truly grateful. Now, excuse me while I go take a shower to cool off...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

travel tuesday: 10 tips for taking an autistic child's passport photo.

1. Select a photo studio that is relatively calm (not in the middle of a big box store).

2. If possible, call ahead and make an appointment. Make sure you explain the situation so they understand that it make take some extra time and patience to get the photo taken.

3. Give yourself a lot of time to get it done. Rushing to submit passport photos that are needed to take a trip on short notice puts unnecessary stress on you and your child.

...

bachelorette recap: ashley narrows it down to three!

Ashley and the four remaining guys head home where Ashley gets to meet each of their families. Finally, the shoe’s on the other foot as the guys put Ashley in the hot seat!

...Read more on!

study: siblings of autistic kids share similar brain activity.

A study by scientists at the University of Cambridge published in the journal of Translational Psychiatry finds that siblings of autistic children (including those unaffected by the disorder) show signs of brain differences that are not found in children in non-autistic families.

...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

the ebb and flow of accepting autism.

There are days when I feel okay about having a child with autism. I feel at peace, like things will be okay. In these moments, I truly feel that we will figure this out and navigate whatever comes at us. On those days, I think to myself "Finally. You've finally comes to terms with this and have accepted that your son autism and you are the parent of a child with autism." For a moment I even think these feelings will last, will be permanent this time. Of course, they are not.

If only it were that easy to resolve one's problems, come to a conclusion, and move on to the next challenge. A friend of mine once said that "the secret to life is keeping busy". I liked that idea a lot. As long as you stay in motion, whatever is troubling you doesn't have a chance to settle in and get you down. Just keep moving. It works sometimes, when things are too hard to process, when you aren't ready to do the work. Of course, the work that needs to be done waits for you, gets bigger and more impressive. In the past I have described myself as a hummingbird, fluttering around, and I believe the reason I do this is that I have many things in my life that I am not at peace with, and perhaps never will be. Instead of stopping, doing the work, I flutter my wings and keep moving.

But what if, instead of perpetually staying in motion, you remain still, and sink into the very things you seek to avoid? Truly embrace that which makes you sad, anxious, and fearful. I spend so much time putting on a brave face for others that I buy my own propaganda. In reality, I am still not okay with the fact that my son has autism. I am devastated, and pissed off at the universe, and worn out from this internal battle. And as I sit with these feelings and acknowledge them, I find for the first time in a long while, I am relieved. Because I am listening to my own heart. I am getting closer to the truth.

Friday, July 15, 2011

the google+ project: should you enter its social network?

Search engine giant Google has a new offering for the social media arena: Google+. If you are shaking your head thinking, "I don't have time for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as it is, the last thing I need is another place for people to contact me", think again. Google+ is definitely worth your time.

...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

bachelorette recap: taiwan tanks for ryan and lukas.

The six remaining guys and Ashley travel to Taiwan, where two more men will be sent home. The four surviving fellas will get to take Ashley to visit their home towns and meet their families. Ashley says she’s, “looking for an emotional and physical connection,” and wants to make sure this is in place before she meets anyone’s family. I wonder how long it will be before she starts pining for Bentley again?

...

Monday, July 11, 2011

dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions.

At five years of age, Max has never asked me a question. Not one. Imagine that for a minute. If you have ever spent time with a young child, you have inevitably experienced the endless barrage of "Why? What's that? Are we there yet?" and "Where are you going?". I didn't know that was what regular kids do until we had Cameron (who more than makes up for Max's lack of questions).

I'm not sure why it is that Max doesn't ask questions. My guess is that his main focus is to communicate what he needs and wants, which he is able to do for the most part. Because this is still a work in progress, questions aren't really all that important. A sign of his development is that he is starting to look at me inquisitively when he knows something is different. His expression says "What's going on mommy?" or "Where is the girl that greets me every day?". In my eyes, this is huge progress. It shows a shift in how he thinks.
There is a little girl named Sophie in Max's daycare who was also in his junior kindergarten class. He immediately recognized her on his first day. I saw a look of relief on his face that said "Oh, thank goodness, someone I know". Every morning, Sophie, jumps up when Max comes in and greets him. She goes over to the reading centre and reads with him and gives him high fives. It is very sweet. I think this may be his first friend. This past Friday, when I dropped Max off, she wasn't there. He looked at me as if to say "What's going on? Where is Sophie?". It was awesome and heartbreaking at the same time. It is wonderful that he has formed an attachment with a peer, but it made me sad to see him bummed out that she wasn't there. I put words to his emotions so that he can start to apply language to how he is feeling by saying "Where's Sophie? I'm sad she's not here". I gave him a hug and said goodbye, feeling really proud of Max and how he is handling this transition into daycare. Also, my son's a player and he's only five.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why You Should Join Google+

Just what we all need, yet another social network to try to wrangle on top of Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever other countless ways our friends/contacts/loved ones/that hot guy from college have to stay in touch with, keep tabs on, and generally tether us to our computers/tablets/smartphones. But as much as it pains me to say it, Google+ is definitely worth your time.

The Best of Both Worlds
The beauty of Twitter is that just because someone follows you, you don't have to follow them (unlike Facebook which asks if you will be attending your Aunt Hilda's "Christmas Pajama Pants Making Party" even if you weren't specifically invited). With Google+ you can have your Aunt Hilda as a contact, but you don't have to connect with her, and she won't be hurt if you aren't following her like on twitter.

Cleaner Interface
It doesn't have the clutter of ads and recommendations of Facebook, or promoted hash tags and "who to follow" of twitter. Best of all, there are no farm games or mafia apps to hide.

Better Privacy Controls
While Facebook forces you to dig five layers deep to ensure that your information is private, the privacy settings on Google+ are transparent. You have to opt-in to share information, versus the Buzz disaster which auto-opted you in and killed the project before it even got off the ground. Twitter offers no privacy controls, unless you protect your tweets, which in my opinion, defeats the entire purpose of tweeting.

Easier Management of Your Network
Google+ uses circles to organize your network from the start. Each circle has its own stream so that you can decide which of your circles's conversations you want to follow. Better yet, you can share something with your entire network or with a small circle of people who are interested in a specific topic simply by selecting a single circle or multiple circles.

No Character Limit & Less Noise
Sometimes 140 characters isn't enough to get your point across and it is hard to keep up with the stream of conversation. Google+ does a great job of organizing comments so that you can keep up with multiple discussions and refer back to them later. Also, if you are late to the party, you don't have to feel weird for tweeting/commenting about something that is "so two hours ago".

What's To Come
Since Google+ is still in its beta stage and hasn't been released publicly yet, you can only sign up if you receive an invite from someone already on the network. In addition, the true power of Google+ won't be seen until all Google apps are integrated (I am showing my true geeky side by admitting that I am way too excited about this). Lastly, while there are Google+ apps for Android, there isn't one for iPhone yet. Let's hope that is rectified soon! If you want more detailed information, the Google blog does a nice job of explaining the specific ins and outs of the project.

You can find me on Google+ at

Saturday, July 09, 2011

the girl with the curl.

There are not enough words to describe how much joy this little girl brings.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

open up your heart and let go of the expectations, but hold onto your dreams.

Something that I have been thinking a lot about lately is the idea of "letting go". I spend a lot of time worrying about things I cannot control. It is exhausting and stressful and it eats away at my happiness. What if I could let go of all of those expectations and just take joy in whatever good things that happen? Perhaps if I ask for less, I will be happier with what comes my way.

It is, after all, the ability to see the little things that make a life truly joyful.

Cammie's smile as she swings at the park, wind in her face.
Max being greeted by two girls at daycare who want to play with him.
The feeling of satisfaction after installing a new pull-up bar.
Picking up fruits and vegetables at the local farmer's market.

When we free ourselves from expectations, we also lift the heavy veil of disappointment and sadness that falls on us when things don't go as we had hoped. It is incredibly liberating. As I work to seek out these glimpses of joy in every day, I find I worry less. I still dream big, but I have realized that a dream is really just a thought that should bring a smile to your face.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

travel tuesday: hiring a respite worker for your child with autism.

One of the challenges of having a child with Autism, is that there are very few people who we trust to care for him. Outside of our immediate family, there is only one person that we know who can handle our five-year-old son Max, and that is his respite worker Sarah. She is a trained behavior therapist, and has known Max for over a year. In fact, she started out as his therapist and quickly became his favourite person in the universe. When she told us she was leaving the clinic where Max receives his therapy to work at another clinic, we were actually happy. This meant that she could now be his respite worker!

...

Monday, July 04, 2011

mental health monday: gravity.

I took this picture this afternoon. After I found out that a very important person to me, who is a key part of our support network, is sick. After I walked up the stairs of Max's daycare, hearing him screaming, only to find him laying on the carpet, tears streaming down his face. It was his first day at daycare today. His teacher looked somewhat dismayed, but did a good job holding it together in front of me. I then took him to the clinic where he receives his IBI therapy, which moved to a new location over the weekend. Max was not happy and looked at me as if to say "Really, Mom? More change?". I drove home with a heavy heart, feeling as if my life is one of those Jenga towers and someone upstairs thinks it's terrifically funny to randomly pull out pieces to see if I'll be able to keep from falling over, or at the very least, if they can wipe the smile off my face.

Sometimes I smile because I figure if I can at least pretend that everything is okay, then maybe I can trick myself into feeling better. The thing about being someone that people think is "strong" is that sometimes you don't actually feel all that strong at all, you are strictly operating on habit and muscle memory. You start to expect that things are going to be hard, à la "The Road Less Traveled". You get used to day-to-day challenges that would topple most people. So instead of falling apart, you find little happy things to cling to. Like Max going into the bathroom all on his own tonight and trying to go poop in the toilet (not completely successful, but still a really, really big deal). You smile as you look over the summer schedule knowing that you have booked your respite worker for the next two months. And you look outside yourself by visiting a friend who needs someone to listen as she works through her own pain and sadness. Most of all, you remember that tomorrow is another day, and another chance to do it all again with fresh eyes. And you order some Jenga replacement blocks so that you at least have a fighting chance.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

canada day reloaded.

We spent yesterday afternoon chilling out at Nana and Bumpa's, enjoying their pool.
We wanted to get some photos of what will be our last Canada Day at Nana and Bumpa's house (they are moving to a new house in the spring).
Cam is a natural water baby. She gets that from me.
We're trying to teach Cam how to kick her feet in the water. All she wants to do is have us carry her around.
Seriously, this girl is so cute I could eat her up.
Max loves running laps around the pool. We keep a very close eye on him.
Each lap consist of a trip around the pool and then around the perimeter of the backyard.
We let him have his fun because he seems to enjoy himself so much (plus it tires him out).
Eventually he ends up in the pool, and then it is hard to get him out! Though, pleasant surprise, both kids were quite co-operative yesterday with transitioning out of the pool. 
Max has to have a dry set of shorts to change into immediately after getting out of the pool because he hates being in wet clothes (me too).

for alana.