Thursday, September 29, 2011

antm episode 3: it's all 'bout the "booty tooch".

This week the models are surprised when Kristin Cavallari – best remembered as “The Bitch” on Laguna Beach and The Hills – shows up at the house. The reality stars commiserate on “the business” and how to be successful after they go back to their realities (if you don’t see the irony in this I don’t want to know you).

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

max update.

Max and Maya at his social group.

There have been a lot of moist eyes around our house lately. We find ourselves tearing up on a regular basis -- tears of joy, of relief, of being a proud parent. Max has had a tremendous month. Starting senior kindergarten was no big deal. After an initial melt down on day one (along with several other kids), he settled right in. This year, instead of reading his daily journal and seeing messages like "Max had a hard day" I get reports from his EA telling me that he is now sitting at circle with his peers, interacting with kids his age in the playground, and was able to stay for the entire music class. I haven't had a single call to come pick him up early (and when I arrive to pick him up he is usually still sitting with his friends eating lunch). It has been a joy to see that all of last year's hard work pay off and to know that we made the right decision for Max by integrating him into public school.
Max and Maya as babies.

One of the key factors in Max having success at school has been a social group that he has as part of his ABA therapy. Every Sunday morning, he, and several other children (a mix of kids on the spectrum and neurotypical kids) participate in a group that is facilitated by Max's therapists. In this group he is learning how to communicate  and play with his peers appropriately. We are seeing the benefits at school and at home. Our friends, Jen and Brad, bring their daughter Maya to the group every week so that he has a peer his age to bond with. (I already had a special place in my heart for Maya because I took care of her for a few months when she was a baby. Now I love her even more for what she is doing to help Max.) He has also started talking a lot more, though language is still used primarily to tell us what he wants and doesn't want (but that is such huge progress since last year and we are excited about it nonetheless).
One of my favourite picture of Max and Maya.

The other piece of exciting news is that last week Max was approved for another 6 months of funding through Erinoak. While this doesn't pay for all of his therapy (it covers approximately 50%), it certainly helps. The psychologist who reviewed Max's progress was really excited to see how far his has come in the last 6 months and was very positive about Max in general. She even told me that he is one of the higher functioning kids in the funding program. It's interesting to see Max through other people's eyes. She pointed out that most of the kids who receive therapy directly from Erinoak did not have the benefit of early intervention like Max. He started behaviour, speech, occupational and music therapy at 32 months of age. It's easy to get hung up on how much he still has to learn, but as his Clinical Psychologist pointed out to me, "He's only five".
Max wants to go to sleep, but Cameron won't leave him alone.

While I'm on the bragging train, I also want to add that this past week, when Cameron and I traveled out to be BC to see my folks, Max was just fine. In the past he has had disrupted sleep and increased behaviour when I have been gone for any period of time. This time he seemed to enjoy having time without his little sister and getting one-on-one time with his dad. I can't imagine why...

One last cool development is that Max is going to start using an iPad as part of his ABA therapy. The geek in me loves this, but I'm also excited that Max will be using technology as well. When I think back to the little boy who had to wear a helmet at daycare because he would bang his head on the ground when he got upset, and I see how far he has come, I am filled with optimism about the future. This isn't an easy journey, but it is the most fulfilling experience I've ever had.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

autism and diet study: restrictive diets necessary for some, not others.

Parents of autistic children everywhere are reassessing their child’s diet regimen. A new study from the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and at Harvard Medical School reports that children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances do in fact have an altered expression of genes involved in digestion. This is after several studies suggested that the existence of a gastrointestinal disturbance specific to persons with autism could not be established.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

flying with a 3-year-old for the first time.

We are all familiar with the feeling of gravity pushing you back into your seat as the plane accelerates, the front wheels lift up off the ground and the nose points skyward. But experiencing this for the first time with my three-year-old daughter reminded me that flying in a plane is not something to be taken for granted. The look of pure glee on her face as we flew higher and higher into the sky is what having kids is all about. These moments when we are transported back to our own childhoods when we too found joy and delight in life's miracles are gifts. Getting to fly! In the sky! It is indeed awesome.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

my go-to show for grown-ups? true blood.

Most mothers will tell you that their lives are stressful. After a day of hustling kids from one place to the next, making sure that everyone has been fed, forms signed, laundry done, oh and that thing called a full-time job has been attended to, I am pooped. When I finally get a chance to sit down, all I want to do is relax. And by relax, I mean squeeze in some TV (and I’m not talking about Dora or SpongeBob). In fact, while I do enjoy my share of family sitcoms and hospital dramas, what I really need is something that can take me into an entirely different headspace. One where I can suspend my disbelief and enjoy a good story that is stress-free and has nothing to do with my reality. There are so many options to choose from such as Lost Girl or Breaking Bad…. My go-to? It’s True Blood, of course.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

'america's next top model' sends home another hopeful.

On this episode, Martin Lindstrom, the self-acclaimed “king of branding” -- who I’ve never heard of -- is brought in to tell each model what their personal one-word brand is. He tells them that this is their future and they need to think about it with every piece of clothing they put on. Since he seems unaware that his personal one word brand is “Sprockets”, I think we can all take his advice with a grain of salt.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

did you fear the state of "lady town" after childbirth?

Confession: the thing I was most worried about when it came to giving birth wasn’t the pain (bring on the drugs!) it was what it would do to my...err...ladytown. Having heard horror stories about sex after childbirth feeling like -- and I quote -- “throwing a hotdog down a hallway”, I was desperate to find a way to avoid what I thought was the inevitable destruction of my vagina.

 ...

Monday, September 19, 2011

new research finds two distinct types of autistic brain development.

As the saying goes: “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.”

While there are certainly markers of autism that are consistent across the spectrum – like poor eye contact – as a parent of an autistic child, I can tell you that each child is unique. In fact, this is one of the main challenges in treating autism -- no two cases are the same.

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study: low-fat yogurt during pregnancy increases childhood asthma and hay fever.

Apparently, there are pregnant ladies who eat low-fat yogurt. To this I say, “what the fudge/shut the front door!”. When I was pregnant, I seized the opportunity to eat full-fat everything, including yogurt.

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zooey deschanel the 'new girl' this fall.

New Girl is one of the most talked about comedies coming to TV this fall. It’s a fresh spin on the roommate sitcom, this time with the quirky, recently single, Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel, 500 Days of Summer) moving in with three bachelors. Think Big Bang Theory, except all of the guys are hot and the female lead is a cross between Anne Hathaway (post makeover) in The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

build your relationships with purpose.

Katrina, Stephanie & Cath
Do you ever feel like you have too many "friends" on Facebook? Not remember why you decided to follow someone on Twitter? It's easy to feel like your digital life is cluttered. As a writer, I tend to lean towards the attitude of the more friends the better. It's more about social networking than building solid friendships for me. Or is it? Perhaps there are important relationships to be built that I just don't know about yet. Yesterday I attended the #140 conference in Kitchener, Ontario. I knew some of the people who were attending, which was a relief (I find it stressful when I don't see any familiar faces). I "met" a whole lot of new people. And by met, I mean, I heard them speak about topics which they are passionate about and then followed them on twitter and told them how much I dug their presentations.

In 140 characters, I reached out and let someone know that I valued their ideas and wanted to hear more from them. That's powerful, no? The beauty of social media isn't that companies can get you to "like" them on Facebook so that you can get access to exclusive coupons. The beauty of social media is that one person, with one idea, can reach millions of people and start a meaningful discussion. It means that I can tell one little boy's story and influence researchers, doctors, families with children with autism,  and sometimes just people who find joy in appreciating the small things. Or maybe reading about Max helps someone know that they aren't alone in this journey. I may never know that my writing about Max has made a difference in someone's life. The only thing I can be sure if is that writing about Max has made a difference in my life. Either way, I figure everybody wins.

As I expand my network, be it through Facebook, Twitter, conferences or real life, I make a conscious decision about who I am going to build relationships with - who I am going to "let in". Of course, the opposite is true as well -- when people meet me, they will decide if I am worthy of building a relationship with. Yesterday was a terrific reminder of how we can all use social media to make a profound difference in our world and how we can make meaningful connections so long as we manage our influence over those we reach, responsibly. Never forget, as Jeff Pulver so eloquently said in his opening address "We're living in a time where 100s of millions can find each other from one single idea, one single voice". Here, here!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

america's next top model season 17 premieres.

For season 17 Tyra is bringing back 14 fan favourites from past cycles for “The All-Star Cycle”. Her goal this season is “to find someone who can be a name”. We quickly learn just what she means as it becomes clear that the girls won’t just be judged on their modeling, but on their star power.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

bachelorette party in niagara wine country

Need an idea for a bachelorette party? Here’s one that allows everyone to enjoy as much wine as they want, take in the scenery and not worry about driving or directions! Sound to good to be true? Well, I just spent a weekend in Niagara with seven of my girlfriends and we had a blast (and stocked our wine cellars).

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study: the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. period.

No evidence has ever been found conclusively proving that the M.M.R. (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine causes autism. Despite this, many parents are deciding not to have their children immunized for fear that getting their child vaccinated will put them at risk for developing autism.

...Read more on iVillage

Sunday, September 11, 2011

the isolation of autism: letting your friends in.

Over the past three years, Scott and I have not made much effort to be social. I dare say we have done the opposite - doing our best to keep to ourselves. Part of it was because going out with Max was (and still is) a lot of work. It can also be hard to see Max through other people's eyes. Explaining why he behaves the way he does, the ins and outs of autism, is exhausting. So we turtled, only letting a select few into our world.

These past few months, we've started to turn our ship around. We are attempting to get out more (sometimes just with Cammie, so she can get a taste of birthday parties and the like). I have slowly been extending invitations to friends to come over to our house to visit. We're lucky that our friends have been so patient and understanding of our situation. I know that every one of them really wants to help, but is at a loss as to what they can do.

Our friends Jeff and Korrie came over for dinner yesterday with their son Jared. It was so wonderful getting to spend time with them again. Best of all, they made a real effort to interact with Max, and Max responded (especially to his honorary Uncle Jeff). Seeing how much fun they all had, it makes me wish we had let them in sooner. Friends are where it's at.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

90 day challenge update.

I started my 90 day challenge on August 16th by changing up my nutrition. Between supplements cutting out the junk, and eating better, I've lost 5 pounds. I also started P90X again, which has given me a boost. Until this past week that is. I'm not sure if it was the whole back to school thing or what, but this week was tough! I managed to stay pretty much on track diet wise, but my workouts suffered. I guess you can't always nail it, eh? So, back on track starting today! I had a shakeology for breakfast, some blueberries for a snack, and I'm in the process of doing some healthy menu planning for tonight (thinking steak and salad).

In other news, my mom decided to join the 90 day challenge with me, and she is down 4 pounds in under 2 weeks! Nice! I asked her how she liked it and she told me that she finds it is working well - especially because there aren't a lot of healthy eating options at work. She makes her shake at home and then has it for lunch. I'm guessing she's saving some money too. Every time you step foot in the cafeteria it's at least $8. I'm looking forward to getting out to Vancouver in a couple of weeks to see how good she's looking.


Exercise: P90X workout

Friday, September 09, 2011

my month of couponing: 10 things i've learned.

After 30 days of couponing, I’ve got 10 valuable tips that will save you both money and time!

1. The best coupons are found online. Go to the websites and Facebook pages of your favourite products to find coupons.

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america's next top model is back! meet the contestants.

This season of America’s Next Top Model features fan favourites from previous seasons and it’s sure to be one filled with plenty of entertainment and drama. How will these previous runners-up fare this time around? You’ll have to tune in on September 14 to find out!

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

autism and transitioning smoothly into senior kindergarten.

Officially speaking, yesterday was Max's first day of senior kindergarten. We got up late (due to some middle of the night poop shenanigans), which was less than ideal as I was hoping to get to school early. Over breakfast I showed Max pictures of his favourite EA and of the kindergarten classroom he would be returning to. I explained that "Today we're going to school again - yay!!". Max looked at me and said "Nooooooo". I would have laughed if I wasn't so nervous about the whole thing. Surprisingly, we managed to hustle out the door with time to spare. As I pulled into the bus loop at school, Max started repeating "No Thank You! No Thank You!". He tearfully got out of the car and proceeded to lay down on the sidewalk and start crying. My heart broke a little bit -- last year's rough start is still fresh in my brain. His EA, Mrs.W, came out and helped me bring him inside, and he continued crying. After giving her the run down on the summer, I left, with the agreement that if he hadn't stopped crying by 10am, she would call me. When the phone rang at 9:30am, I was ready to go, but it was Max's teacher, telling me he was doing just fine and had even gone to the school assembly (a first!). Apparently after the initial tears, he remembered that he actually likes school, and settled right in. Yay Max!

This morning, we got up, had breakfast, got dressed, and were even out the door in time to stop for a treat at Tim Horton's. Max got out of the car and stood in line with the other kids with no problems. I took this picture when his face lit up at the site of Mrs.W. What a little rock star! Once again, Max has risen to the challenge and blown me away. I could not be a prouder mama!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

beating back the winter blues (in advance).

The beginning of September means two things to me: back to school and the beginning of Fall. I'm actually a fan of both. Back to school means we can finally settle back into a somewhat regular groove and get the kids back into a better sleep schedule (at least that's the hope). Fall means that my allergies are going to calm down, and that the sticky summer heat will wrap up. But it also means less sunlight, which is a problem for someone who suffers from depression.

This year I'm taking a much more proactive approach in battling the winter blues. I know that I'm at risk of sliding into a major depression. Life is stressful, likely to get more stressful and if I don't tackle it before it gets out of hand, I'm pretty much signing myself up for 6 months of misery. So, what am I going to do about it? The obvious thing of course -- eat right and exercise. I'm setting up a healthy menu for my family, cutting out the booze, and the sugar, and as much processed food as I can. I'm also starting up another round of P90X. My motivation for that is that a new P90X program is coming out in December and I'll need to be in shape to handle that. Also, I want to look fit and happy in our Christmas pictures!

A lot of people will probably think it's a little over the top to be thinking this far ahead, but if you suffer from chronic depression like I do, it is the smart thing to do. I am also someone who does better with a program to follow. For me to simply say "oh, I'm going to workout more" won't work. I need a concrete plan, with clear goals and expectations built in or else I'll fall off the wagon. The bonus is that when I exercise, I automatically eat better and drink less as well. (If I'm going to sweat that much why would I sabotage it with eating a bunch of junk?) Vitamins and fish oil and eating salad at lunch and dinner are also staples this time of year.

I started my "beat the winter blues" program 3 weeks ago and so far so good. I am easing myself back into exercising (I am still super sore), and getting better at menu planning (which my husband really appreciates). I was tempted to put off getting started on all of this until after school started, but I am so glad that I didn't wait! It feels good to be starting off on the right foot, and already down about 5 pounds. If I stay on schedule with P90X, I'll wrap up in early December and be able to take a bit of a break before starting up the new program.  I'm thinking that by getting started early with a clear plan will help me have a much happier winter this year. Last year was rough so here's hoping!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

my month of couponing week 3 - the price match challenge.

Any couponer worth her salt will tell you that some weeks are better than others when it comes to deals. After scouring the weekly flyers for deals and trying to match up my coupons with items I actually need, I ended up feeling fairly disappointed with my prospects. My friend Katherine at Little Miss Save informed me that the first week of September is always a good one. From the looks of the flyers that landed on my doorstep this evening, she wasn’t kidding!

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

max update.

With school starting on Tuesday (yay!!), I've been reflecting on how much progress Max has had over the summer. He has a lot more language, he is following instructions more consistently, and best of all, he has developed a really strong relationship with his little sister Cameron. Granted, I'm a little nervous about how the first day of senior kindergarten will go. Big transitions are always tough, but hopefully Max will be happy to see his favourite EA Mrs.W and pick up where they left off in in June. The good news is that Max is in a JK/SK split, so he will be in the same room and have the same teachers as last year. A lot of the kids will also be the familiar, so we're crossing our fingers that his Fall goes more smoothly than his initial entrance into JK last year.

One of the things that has brought both Scott and me a lot of joy this past month is observing how well Max and Cameron have been getting along. At least once a day we find them giggling up a storm together (usually jumping on a bed or a couch). Of course, Max is still a stinky older brother and he enjoys teasing Cam (I never thought I'd hear her say "Max is touching me! Make him stop!"). Max thinks poking Cam is tremendously funny and has an impish grin on his face when he does so. Teasing strikes me as a very subtle action, and as much as Cam finds it annoying, I think it's awesome.

We have also been working on Max's receptive language, which is much stronger than any of us suspected. I'm finding that if I give him an instruction, and then wait for a few seconds, giving him a chance to process what I've asked, he usually follows through and completes my request. (It's easy to be impatient and repeat yourself before giving him a chance to do what you've asked.) What happens when you repeat yourself is that he has to start processing what you have said again, which starts a vicious circle of both of us getting frustrated. As always, patience gets you everywhere.

Yesterday, I asked Max to carry his new backpack to the car. He picked it up and started dragging it along the sidewalk. I corrected him and told him to "pick it up" and much to my surprise, he looked at me, and then picked it up and carried it properly. We got to the car and I asked him to put it in the car, and he did so. He will also clear his plate and fork from the table and bring me maple syrup from the fridge for his pancakes. Did I mention he can also dress himself completely? This little boy has come so far in a few short months - I am excited to see what sort of progress he will have this school year!

Friday, September 02, 2011

figuring out who i am.

I'm starting a new project. One that I believe will help me have a clearer vision of myself and become a stronger writer. My blog, Fickle Feline, has been around since 2004. A lot has changed since then. It started out light and fluffy, because that's what I felt comfortable writing about at the time. Since then, my blog has become a place where I write about autism, mental health, and being a mom. I also write professionally about these topics, as well as a few fluffier ones (I'll never stop writing about reality TV, I love it too much).

It's really a bit of a mishmash isn't it? While writing about all of those topics is important to me, I think that there needs to be a place where I write about about my journey, a place that defines who I am and what I want the world to know about me. Fickle Feline will always be my main blog, but I'm also starting where I'm going to focus on writing about finding joy and truly defining what I want my web presence to be.  The site is currently a blank slate -- sort of like moving into a new house. It will be interesting to see what furniture I decide to move back in, and what gets left behind.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

the secret to weight loss.

After all of the years I have spent trying to lose weight and get in shape, I finally figured out the secret to weight loss. I bet you’re dying to know what it is, right? Well, unfortunately for you (and for me), the secret is that there is no magic pill you can take to lose weight and get in shape. The only way to really change your body is to eat healthy food in moderate quantities and to get off your ass and get moving. That’s it.

Knowing this, a few weeks ago I started a really good supplement program to get me on the right track. It’s a 90 day challenge (see...there are no quick fixes). I’ve been on the program for 2 weeks now (in whole hog doing the Transformation Kit) and I’ve lost 5 pounds, which I’m really happy with. I also feel exceptionally clear headed and light (as if the world has been lifted up off my shoulders). To rev things up a bit, this week I also started my second round of P90X. I did my first round back in January and I had amazing results. Unfortunately for me, I totally slacked on exercising this summer, and I am now paying the price for it. Ouch!

So, that’s where I’m at. Slogging it out with Tony Horton and doing my best to eat an exceptionally nutritious diet. On top of that, I’ve cut down on my alcohol intake (no more lazy afternoons on my neighbor’s back deck drinking vino) and increased my water intake. My goal is to be fit and ready to conquer the sequel to P90X which is coming out in December. Also, I have a certain pair of jeans I’d love to squeeze into.

If you’ve been thinking about turning a new page and switching up your eating and getting your butt in gear, now is a great time! Don’t wait. I had been thinking about putting off getting back into P90X until Max was back in school when I’ll have more time for me, but I realized that there will always be a reason to not exercise. And really, there is always time to exercise if it is a priority. So get off up your butt and join me! I could use the support!!