Wednesday, August 31, 2011

this is not okay: 9-year-old with asperger's syndrome handcuffed.

This photo was taken the day before Max got locked in a storage closet at daycare by one of his teachers. He was only 18 months old.
It has come to light that police were called to a Toronto daycare last month because a nine-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) was having a tantrum. Police decided to handcuff the child to restrain him because they deemed him a threat to himself and others.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

gadgets and gear your kids need for school.

PC vs. Laptop?

For younger students, I recommend a PC that is set up in a shared space of your home, hopefully where it isn’t too loud. Younger students typically need guidance in using computers and with all of the chat programs and social networking sites out there, it is always a good idea to keep an eye out to ensure they are behaving in a way that doesn’t endanger themselves.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

7 year wedding anniversary.

The thing I remember most clearly about my wedding day is how very excited I was to be marrying Scott, and how positive and optimistic I was about our life together. The future's so bright I gotta wear shades type over the top happiness. We were young(ish) and foolish and thank dog for that. Surrounded by our friends and family, we took the plunge and became husband and wife. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in joy as well as in sorrow - wowzers - that's some heavy shit!
August 28, 2004
Before we got married, I remember thinking that Scott and I had already been through so much together. We had dealt with a lot of hard stuff,  and we could conquer anything as long as we did it together.  In retrospect, I had no idea what the definition of "hard stuff" was, but I was right that as a team, we could get through anything. And equally important, the support of our friends and family would lift us up on our darkest days.
August 28, 2004
We have done a lot of living in the last seven years. A baby boy on Scott's birthday and a baby girl on mine were the two best days of my life. Of course there has been tremendous stress and sadness as well. The road to Max's diagnosis of autism was heartbreaking. The ups and downs of raising a child with autism is a never ending roller coaster ride. But we are on this ride together, sitting side by side in the front car. And the ride keeps changing - some days it's a ferris wheel and other days it's the tower of terror. Every day we do our best, navigating unknown terrain. The key is we do it together, with a growing community of people who love and support our little family. Happy anniversary Scott!
Christmas portait 2007

Saturday, August 27, 2011

my month of couponing: week 2.

Apparently, I have been shopping with my head in the sand for my entire life. I’m not proud to admit this, but I have never really paid attention to the cost of food. I know that a tiny container of blue berries at $4.99 is more than I’m willing to spend and that the lactose free milk my kids plow through costs way too much, but that’s about it. I’d fail miserably on The Price Is Right.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

max update: 2 steps forward.

Something that I have learned on this journey with Max is that progress comes at the most unexpected times. Sometimes it is so small that you almost miss it, so it's important to be observant and appreciative of these little moments of heaven on earth. Yesterday afternoon, Max adamantly informed me "I want a scone!". Of course, we had none, so I replied "Okay, let's go to the store. Get your shoes on". My usual method of wrangling Max and Cam is to put them in our wagon and pull them, but my shoulder has been super sore so this wan't an option. I told them "You both have to hold my hands, okay?. I waited for the objections, but there were none. We headed over to the local bakery (a 5 minute walk), me with one kid on each arm. This would not have happened a month ago.
There was no objecting, flopping, or trying to bolt. When we got to the bakery both kids waited calmly for me to buy their scones. I decided to push my luck and drop into the grocery store for some milk. They were fine with that. I started to wonder whose kids these were and where had my kids gone? We walked home and I breathed a huge sigh of relief and gave the kids big ups for doing such a great job and cooperating. They acted like it was no big thing and went out back to play. Cam quickly got bored and decided she wanted to come in. At this point, Max got really upset and I asked Cam "Why is Max so sad?" to which she replied "He wants me to stay outside and play with him". I said "Then get back out there and play!". Usually Max prefers to be by himself in the backyard, so this was HUGE. He actually wanted Cam to stay outside so that he could interact with her.
In all of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is so easy to lose sight of progress as it inches along. Sometimes a close up view of the big picture is just what we need.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

autism & public school: how one mom is making it work.

Making the decision to integrate a child with autism into the public school system is something more and more parents are having to face. My husband and I decided to enrol our son, Max, into Junior Kindergarten last Fall. It was our belief that having our son participate in school from as early an age as possible would benefit him. There were many challenges -- especially in the first few months -- but it ended up being a positive experience for Max and those that had the opportunity to work with him.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

90 day challenge update: week one (girl math).

Ladies, please tell me I am not alone here. Unfortunately for me, my first week weigh in lined up perfectly with my PMSing. Drum roll please...I lost 2 pounds my first week! I'm confident I actually lost about 5 pounds, but it isn't showing up on the scale because I am about as bloated as a beached whale (they're bloated right?).

The good news is, the other symptoms of PMS are not so bad this month (break outs, crankiness, feeling run down). In fact, aside from the usual monthly water weight, I'm feeling a-ok. I'm combating the water retention by drinking a tonne of water (which I've always found to be kind of a weird solution, but whatever). I continue to feel very even-keeled and my anxiety has been almost non-existent. When I have felt the stirrings of it in the pit of my stomach I am able to calm myself with some positive self-talk instead of previous go-to solutions (like, say, a glass of wine, which doesn't really work so well in the Tim Horton's drive thru when the guy behind me gets out and yells at the lady in front of me for butting into the line). Instead of freaking out I paid for the angry guy's order and asked the lady at the drive thru window to tell him I hoped his day got better. Paying it forward, you know.

This week I'm going to kick it up a notch and get my ass in gear. I didn't do much exercise this week and I know once I get moving the weight will too! Also, my mom has decided to join me on my 90 day challenge, which is super motivating.


Exercise: P90X workout

Friday, August 19, 2011

2 year anniversary of max starting to talk.

Two years ago tomorrow, Max started talking. Up until that point, I really wasn't 100% convinced it would happen. I hoped and prayed that I would one day hear my son say "Mama" in his sweet little voice. On August 20, 2009, he did just that. I remember calling Scott on my way home and putting the phone up to Max's face so that Scott could hear him talk. Scott told me later that he sat and cried tears of relief at his computer after hearing Max say "Dada". It was a big day.

So we celebrate. We celebrate this milestone because it is important to remember how far Max has come. It is so important to stay positive and truly rejoice in Max's progress. This video was shot this morning. Max doesn't like having his picture taken so he did his best to avoid looking at the camera. It's still mind blowing though. Max - you are a rock star! Kim, you promised me he would talk, and check out our little guy now!

August 2010: One year anniversary of Max talking
August 2009: Yay!! Max is talking!

my month of couponing: can you 'extreme coupon' in canada?

The Challenge: Only buy items with coupons for 30 days -- WEEK ONE

If you've seen the show Extreme Couponing on TLC, you likely shook your heads in amazement at how these people manage to “buy” hundreds of dollars worth of products for mere pennies. Have you ever wondered how they do it? Is it even possible do shop solely with coupons here in Canada? The answer: sort of.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

90 day challenge update.

Today is my third day of the 90 day challenge and while I haven't weighed myself yet, I'm already feeling lighter. I mean, I feel good...really, really good. Being married to a doomsayer has made me a bit of a skeptic, so when my friend Marcelo asked me to try this program out and write about it, I told him that I would try it, but I would be completely honest about my experience. Meaning -- if I hated it, that's what I would write. That didn't put him off, which was my first hint that this would be a positive experience.

Yes, it sounds like I am drinking the kool-aid, I know. But I feel amazing. In fact, I can't remember the last time I felt this even-keeled and positive. My best example is that this morning, when Cam threw one of her epic tantrums (the entire 15 minute drive to daycare), it didn't even phase me. Typically, I would get super stressed out and feel like my head was going to pop off. On my way home I got a call saying the mould excavators (long story) were coming in an hour instead of tomorrow and I had to get home and empty out our entire kitchen before they arrived. And I was fine. Like, really fine.

Oh yeah - and my hair is shiny and my skin is glowing. On Monday I was feeling like 10 pounds of poop in a 5 pound bag and today I feel wonderful. Okay, I'll stop now...


autistic kids have 20% chance of younger autistic siblings.

photo credit: Anita Zvonar
As a parent of one child with autism, I have long suspected that the rate of autism in younger siblings of children on the autistic spectrum was higher than the published reports of between 1 in 10 and 1 in 30. The journal Pediatrics has released updated findings from the largest sibling study of its kind which supports my suspicions. Unsurprisingly, the results show that in families with a child on the spectrum, there was a 1 in 5 chance that a younger sibling would develop autism as well. The rate was higher when the younger sibling was male (1 in 4) and lower when the younger sibling was a female (1 in 9).

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

link between autism and adhd discovered.

It's long been accepted that there is a genetic component to autism, but this is not the case for Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which many people consider to be misdiagnosed on children who are merely “spirited” or have a high level of energy. Howver, a recent study published by the journal Science Translational Medicine has found that genes that appear to contribute to ADHD in some children overlap with genes contributing to other neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism.

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wordless wednesday: good thing she's cute.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

cutting the crap: 90 day challenge.

One would think that summer would be time that I would be most motivated to eat healthy and stay in shape, but nope -- I'm not and I didn't. There are lots of reasons (excuses) for this. Losing two friends, a major change in lifestyle with being home all day, and the ups and downs of having a child with autism to name a few. The thing I have realized though, is that there will always be reasons (err...excuses) to not take care of myself. It is very easy to let my health land at the bottom of my priority list (too easy!!). Do I think I'll ever completely nail this healthy living thing and never need to apply checks and balances? No, I don't. But is it time to give my head a shake and my ass a kick and get moving? You betcha.

The universe must have known I needed a little help, because out of the blue, my friend Marcelo sent me an email suggesting I try a 90 day challenge that involved nutritional supplements. I wasn't sure what to think, but figured that the timing was perfect and that this might be just the thing to get me back on track. After doing some research into the program, I decided, what the heck, might as well. I've never done a program like this before, but I have done Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, No Carb/Low Carb, and guess what? None of them worked long term.

This program involves a 90 day challenge. Today was day one and so far so good! I was worried I would be hungry but I'm feeling full and energized. I would like to get back down to my wedding weight of 140 pounds. Today (gulp) I weighed in at 173 (which I am blaming on a crazy summer and some new medication that is not helping me on the scale). Can I get down to 140 by the end of the 90 days? Well, that may be a little out of reach, but who knows? I'll be updating my progress here for one and all. If you feel like joining me, let me know - the more the merrier and I can use all the support I can get!


Exercise: P90X workout

Monday, August 15, 2011

mental health monday: tangled in the vines.

Raye & Katrina
Sometimes the advice you give to others is the advice you should be saving for yourself. Funny how that works, eh? This weekend I spent Saturday at a Bachelorette party in Niagara. The bride, my friend Raye, was accompanied by 7 women, all married and/or moms, for a day of wine tasting. Let's just say it got a little rowdy. We went to four wineries, including Vineland (where Scott proposed to me almost 8 years ago). It was interesting being there with someone who is about to embark on this crazy adventure called marriage. Also, where the heck have the last 8 years gone? When I think back to the person I was back then, I almost don't recognize her. She had no idea what was in store for her, that's for sure.

Of course, getting away for a day is always a nice treat for me. Those of us with children gave helpful advice like "don't have kids" (which we didn't really mean, but seemed funny by the 4th winery). We could all relate to the stress of planning a wedding, and shared all of the stuff that went sideways on our big days. Amazingly enough, I am not the only one who finds there are not enough hours in the day (though I really have a hard time believing anyone without kids has a leg to stand on when making this complaint). The common thread of the day was that even though we all have very different lives, we are all more the same than we are different. 

Huh. So, I'm not the only one who gets stuck. Or struggles with body image issues. Wonders why my husband does that thing that irritates the hell out of me. Wants to eat healthier and drink more water (as I reach for the wine). Finds it more appealing to sit when I know I should move. Finds juggling work with the rest of my life a challenge. Thinks Sauvignon Blanc smells a bit like cat pee (actually I'm alone on that).

Somehow knowing I'm not alone in these things makes me feel motivated to make some changes. How can it be that these stunningly gorgeous women don't see their awesome beauty? Why is it so hard for us to do the very things we know would help us feel better, be it eating right or moving our bodies? And the self doubt? I find it humbling and mind numbing. My advice to several of my friends was that they need to figure out what their hearts are telling them, and separate that from the swirling emotions that are bouncing around in their brains. They need to fix the disconnect between their bodies and minds. They need to love themselves first before they can love anyone else. All good advice. I think I'll try to take it.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

helping max find the calm.

Today was day 2 of Max staying at home in the morning instead of going to daycare. While yesterday was tough (Max got up at 4:30am and was all over the place emotionally and behaviourally), today was much better. Max slept until 6:30am and seemed to like being home. He even rediscovered some of his favourite books and we didn't see the outbursts that have become part of his repertoire. Reports from his therapists were positive this afternoon as well. Max is participating in a music therapy camp this week, which is a nice break from his intensive therapy. He has a therapist with him to support him, but it is good to change up his schedule and give him opportunities to try new things.

Personally, I am finding myself exhausted both emotionally and physically (I'm sure Scott is feeling run a bit ragged too). There have been a lot of changes for us to manage lately, and we are all doing our best to get comfortable with new schedules, roles and most of all, just trying to support each other the best we can. While I'd never ask time to speed up or slow down, I am looking forward to life settling into some sort of groove where we can operate in more of a comfort zone, at least for a bit. I think we're doing all the right things to get there and it is just a matter of time and keeping at it. Now I just need to figure out how to squeeze a few more hours into the day so I can get my work done!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

smile with your heart.

This Saturday I had the good fortune to spend the day with my friend Shelagh and eight other women at an Open Heart Workshop. It was an extremely powerful experience for me, and one that has left me feeling both grounded and much lighter.

The description of this workshop is that it "gently guides you to feel and understand your heart better, so you can feel calmness, peacefulness, and joy every moment of your life. You will also learn to recognize the difference between the heart, brain, feelings, emotions and thoughts"

Level 1 offers you the opportunity to open your heart to:
- Reduce stress
- Learn to let go burdens and negative emotions
- Learn to shift negative into positive for a more fulfilled life
- Become more focused and aware of your surroundings
- Improve your physical, mental and emotional health

It also touched on trusting that the universe has your best interests at heart and if you can let go of expectations and let the universe unfold for you, you will ultimately be much happier. Something to work on for sure.

Imogen Heap - Propellor Seeds:

Friday, August 05, 2011

do the right thing.

After much discussion and careful consideration, we have decided to remove Max from daycare for the remainder of the summer. This is by no reflection a statement on what we think about the daycare (Cameron goes there and she is doing terrific). It just wasn't working for Max this year. Over the past month we have noticed a lot of regression into behaviours we haven't seen in a long time. Toileting problems, inconsistent sleep patterns, increased stims and screaming in frustration are only a few of the things we have been dealing with. While it is easy to get frustrated with Max, these behaviours are the only way he has to tell us he is upset.

As the person who will be doing most of the care giving for him over the next month, it is going to be a challenge, but he's my kid. The thought of him being lost and overwhelmed in a room where people really aren't trained in autism or equipped to help him breaks my heart. Part of me wishes that he were at a point that he could handle being in an unstructured daycare environment. But he isn't, and that's okay. He's only five. He's a beautiful, smart boy and it is our job as his parents to make sure we are doing the right thing for him. We want to provide him with a calm, consistent environment so that when he starts senior kindergarten he goes into it from a place of happiness. Perhaps it will be a good way for Max and me to reconnect as we get some Mommy-Max time.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

must have tech items: university-bound.

Is your student university bound? Here’s a list of great tech tools that will make both of your lives easier!

My recommendation for university students is to get a laptop. A laptop allows flexibility and you can take your work anywhere you need, be it the lecture hall, library or study group. The top two in my book are...

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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

the shame of being frustrated with your child for having autism.

Something I don't like talking about is how incredibly frustrated I sometimes get with Max. I know that all five year olds are hard to handle. But the difference with a neurotypical child and a child with autism is that you can reason with a neurotypical kid. You can sit down with him and explain consequences and choices and how things work. Heck, we do this with Cameron and she is only three. Having those conversations with Max is pointless, because he just doesn't think that way. The only thing that works with him is positive reinforcement, and it's hard to give positive reinforcement when he is only exhibiting behaviour you don't want to see.

A specific example is that he has recently started doing his business (#1 and #2) on the floor next to his bed. This is not actually new, as he has been doing this first thing every morning upon waking up for months now. To combat this I have been doing my best to set my alarm for 6am so that I can get into bed with him and be there when he wakes up (he won't do it if I'm in the room). My hope is that if I can just break this daily ritual we can get him to eliminate on the toilet. But, over the last few weeks he has started exhibiting this unpleasant behaviour at bedtime as well. His record is 5 times in one night before he finally fell asleep. Scott and I alternate clean ups so that we don't totally lose our minds.
This morning Scott mentioned that perhaps we should invest in a video monitor so that we can catch him in action. While I agree that this is likely the only way we can get him to stop, I also worry that for Max, this will only add a new dynamic to this game that he finds incredibly entertaining. It's hard not to want to yell at him when he is sitting on his bed giggling while you clean up after him and change his sheets for the umpteenth time that day. I don't write about this to garner sympathy. I write about this to give you specific examples on the types of things parents of children with autism deal with on a daily basis. If it wasn't this, it would be something else. In fact, I have no doubt that once we eventually conquer this challenging behaviour, Max will cook up something new for us.

On the days I am most frustrated, I make sure I take pictures of Max. It helps to see him through a different lens (literally, figuratively, whatever). I know we all get frustrated with our kids. But it sucks when you are frustrated with your kid for something he has no control over.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

bachelorette recap: the final rose plus the guys tell all!

Let’s just be clear, guys really have no idea how to gossip. Sunday night’s tell-all episode was about as vanilla as they come. William was reminded that roasting Ashley was a stupid decision (ya think?). Ryan was forced to watch himself and see just how irritating he is (water heater conversation and all).

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