Saturday, November 10, 2012

an autism service dog for max.

Chester, an autism service dog from National Service Dogs (NSD), joined our family on October 26th. We applied to NSD for an autism service dog two years ago. While the wait list was lengthy (I think it's down to 18 months now), at the time, Max was only 4 years old. We weren't ready for a dog quite yet - I figured that when Max was 6 years old, that would be about the right age. During our wait, Milk-Bone generously sponsored Max's service dog for $18,000. NSD also raised money for Max's service dog through their annual Easter Egg Hunt For Dogs Event. When I got the call in September that Max would be getting his service dog in October, I was excited and nervous and OMG is this really happening??

I rushed out and bought a dog bed for Max's service dog "to be". Max, who has never slept on a pillow, immediately claimed it as his own. I rushed back out and bought another dog bed for Max's service dog. In the meantime, Animal Planet aired an episode featuring National Service Dogs and two families who had autism service dogs for their sons who have autism. I watched it and bawled my eyes out. I wasn't sad, but uplifted with the possibilities that were opening up for Max. We started talking with Max about the fact that he was going to be getting his very own dog. While he was excited, he didn't totally understand what it would mean to have an autism service dog. In retrospect, neither did we.

And then came Chester. The incredible trainers at NSD matched Chester to Max by reviewing 2 weeks of Max's behaviour data, Max's busy schedule, and meeting for a follow-up with myself and Max two weeks before team training in Cambridge. They also took how well I worked with him into consideration. As lead handler, they had me work with all seven of the service dogs that were going out as part of the Fall 2012 class. I like to think Chester and I had a special bond right off the bat, but really, he was terrific with all of the families. The picture of him chewing on his bone was the first picture I took of him when they brought him to me and told me he would be Max's autism service dog at the end of the first full day of team training. I was on cloud nine. And after a week of team training in Cambridge, I headed home with Chester to introduce him to "his boy".

We had been told not to expect any Disney moments when introducing our new autism service dogs into our homes. Often children with autism take months (some even years) to bond with their service dogs. It took Max a couple of hours to feel comfortable to even approach Chester. He started out by petting Chester with his feet and worked his way up to petting him with his hands. At the 3.5 hour mark, Max was laying on Chester, and I started to cry with relief.

Later that night, Chester passed out on the couch (it had been a long week of team training for both of us). Max was very happy having Chester with him on the couch and one of my favourite photos of them was taken as Max reached out to pet his dog. My heart continued to melt.

The next morning, I went to check on Max and Chester, wondering how their first night sharing a bedroom went. They were chilling out together, neither in a hurry to get moving. Truly amazing. Later that day I took Max on his first walk with Chester. He wasn't even hooked up yet, but he held onto the handle attached to Chester's harness like his life depended on it. For the first time in Max's 6 years, he did not try to bolt when we went on a walk together. More tears on my part.

Over the last two weeks, we have continued to settle in as a family (of five!). Max refuses to go to bed if Chester isn't with him.

When Max is playing with his iPad on the couch, he counts on Chester for support.

When we're on the road, Chester keeps a close eye on his boy.

When Max has to go to the dentist, Chester keeps him company in the waiting room.

On walks, he reminds Max to stop and look both ways before he crosses the street.

And when Max isn't feeling well, he has his back.

There is so much more to say, but the thing that stands out the most is that we feel blessed to have Chester as part of our family and most importantly as Max's autism service dog. He has brought peace to our home, and a calmness to Max that brings joy to our hearts. We are only two weeks in and I can't wait to see what the future brings for Chester and Max. Stay tuned for more of their adventures!

Monday, November 05, 2012

ASD treatment a financial drain on families.

Max Carefoot, 6, sits attentively at a pint-sized table, his hands gently resting on his knees. On cue, he vocalizes a series of words, carefully chosen to perfect his enunciation skills.

Working on his bite and blow sounds, the bright-eyed boy repeats after communicative disorders assistant Gwen Blackburn.

My roof. My leaf. My calf. My knife. My cuff. My elf. My giraffe. My chief. Each letter of every word is audible. His speech is clear and his diction is precise.

“He’s doing amazing with words,” said Blackburn, who has been working with the Oakville boy for the past year. And considering Max was non-verbal until two years ago, his achievements are worthy of a gold star.

“I call him the hardest working kid in autism,” said his mom, Katrina Carefoot.

...

trying to piece together the autism puzzle.

Little Max Carefoot was just a tot when his mom Katrina and dad Scott suspected their son’s development was lagging compared to that of his peers. The blond-haired boy with beautiful doe eyes wasn’t talking, didn’t respond to his name and didn’t offer eye contact.

The Carefoots struggled with the notion something was impeding Max’s development. Doctors weren’t sympathetic. They wouldn’t entertain autism spectrum disorder as a possibility.

“Our doctor was telling us milestones go six months either way. I’m going through my autism checklist saying, ‘Hey, look buddy, he meets all the criteria,’” said the Oakville mom. “We just weren’t taken serious(ly) as first-time parents.”

...

Friday, October 05, 2012

Hilary Farr from "Love It Or List It" on Transforming Your Home for $1,000

If home improvement is your passion, then there is a good chance that Hilary Farr is one of your favourite Canadian design experts. Farr, the “love it” portion of W Network’s Love It Or List It, makes it hard for homeowners to walk away from their home sweet homes.

...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Lose 15 Pounds and 16 Inches in Three Weeks

We’ve all been tempted to try quick fix diets that promise big weight loss results in a short period of time. I’ve tried the Wild Rose detox, Sugar Busters diet, and South Beach diet. Add in Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, and I can easily self-quality myself as a dieting expert. So, when I heard about yet another 3 week detox, of course I had to try it. ...Read more on iVillage Canada

Thursday, September 13, 2012

helping your child with autism make friends: matt & max.

This summer Max spent mornings with his junior respite worker, Matt. As part of working with Max, Matt wrote a weekly blog about his experience.

Here is Matt's take on how week 6 went:

With the pain of teething still hurting Max, he continued to try to hit and scratch me in frustration. However, an awesome thing happened when spent an afternoon at blueballoon - the clinic where Max goes for all of his therapy. At blueballoon, he was amazing - using full sentences, singing, matching pictures and he spoke so clearly. He was also full of smiles when we would play games there. He giggled a lot and it was a really positive experience with him. Also, his therapists gave me suggestions on how to deal with his scratching and pinching. The biggest thing I learned is to just ignore it and walk away - which was actually quite successful. They also suggested to sometimes tell Max I will take certain things away when he isn't behaving. This was slightly less successful but still worked. Using these tools led to less scratching by the end of the summer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

autism in the classroom: questions from max's classmates.

As Max's Official Taxi Service Provider (MOTSP for short), I spend more time than most parents in Max's classroom. Every day at 12:30pm, I pick Max up to take him to therapy. The kids are usually sitting eating their lunches when I arrive. Max knows the schedule, so he is watching the door waiting for me. Last year the kids didn't seem to pay much attention to me - but this year, they are a much more curious bunch. It may be that there is a crop of new kids in Max's grade 1 class who are just getting used to Max and some of the things that are different about him.

One little girl in particular has a question for me everyday. Yesterday she asked "Where does Max go in the afternoon?". When I explained that Max goes to a different place to learn, sort of like a school, she followed up with "What does he learn there?". Fair question. How do I explain Behavioural therapy to a 6 year old? I responded "Well, he works on learning how to talk more, and how to play with friends". Not quite accurate, but I figured she would understand that. Today she asked me "Does Max's sister go to this school? Who is she?". I responded that yes, Max's little sister does go to this school and that she is in JK. I'm interested to see what question she has for me tomorrow.

I mentioned the questions being asked to Max's EA and she said that most of the kids accept Max for Max very quickly. The fact that he has someone in the class to help him, uses a different washroom, and gets to go on walks around the school when he needs a break quickly becomes normal. It's interesting that Max's classmates don't make much of the special treatment he gets. I really can't wait to hear what they have to say when he starts bringing his service dog to school with him in the spring. I think that might be the tipping point!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

autism in the classroom: max's first day of grade one.

Max started grade one yesterday. I'm certain I was at least as stressed out about it as he was. Well, maybe I was more stressed out beforehand and he was more stressed out on the actual day. I didn't sleep a wink on Monday night. It wasn't that I thought anything bad would happen, it's just that I know how hard changes are on him. After having Max home with me all summer, it's a big transition for both of us.

To be fair, Max started getting ready for his move to grade one back in the spring. For the last month of school, Max's EA (he's had the same awesome EA since JK) took him on daily visits to his new teacher's room. He got to see where his new desk would be, his coat hook, and the washroom. He also spent time with his new teacher, a wonderful lady who is very excited to have Max in her room. He even has a social story about grade 1 that his EA made for him. He's a lucky kid to have such a great team supporting him at school.

This picture was taken in our driveway before we left for school. Max was happy all the way there, until we pulled up in our special parking spot - directly in front of a "no parking ever" sign. His EA came up to the car and when he saw her, his lower lip started to quiver. He refused to get out of the car, and I had to lift him out. Then he sat on the ground, his head in his hands. When it became clear he wasn't going to budge, we picked him up and carried him into the classroom.

And then he was fine.

He didn't even say goodbye to me. On day two, we pulled up to the school, he hopped out of the car, and went and stood in line with his class. I was lucky to get a "bye mommy" as he went inside. Good job my little rock star. I am SO proud of you!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

helping your child with autism make friends: matt & max.

How is it already the middle of August? We've had an awesome summer so far and Matt and Max have really been through a lot together - including Max being sick and out of sorts and treating Matt to an assortment of annoying behaviours. Lucky for Max - and me - Matt has taken it all in stride.

Here is Matt's latest update:

This week was a balanced week. After getting over his cold, Max has become calmer and less irritable so it was quite an easy first half of the week. However, with his recovery of one problem another arrived. His new teeth have begun to come in which I can imagine wouldn't feel too good. This led to him deliberately doing things he wasn't supposed to because he needed an outlet for his frustrations. He has also become quite taken with music. Every time he gets upset I can put on his children's music CD and he calms right down. This was a good week with Max.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

beachbody ultimate reset: final results!

We have completed the BeachBody Ultimate Reset! It wasn't always easy, but we did it and wow do we ever have awesome results to prove how hard we worked! I lost 16 pounds and 15 inches total - 3 off of my waist and 6 off of my hips. Tracy lost 8 pounds and 15 inches total - 2 off of her waist and 3 off of her hips. The thing that I loved the most was that throughout the 21 days, I felt very calm and centred. I didn't have to take medication for my anxiety once, which blows my mind. The depression that has been plaguing me for the last 18 months has also lifted significantly. My skin has cleared up, my PMS symptoms were non-existent and my energy was through the roof. And by through the roof I mean, I repainted my dining room, refinished my dining room cabinets and table, and cleaned out my entire garage so that I can put my new Ford Escape in there this winter. I'm not kidding, it was bananas.

My before & after photos:

What's next for us? Tracy is ready to start P90X and Shakeology next week. I am also starting Shakeology again and will be starting P90X2 at the end of the month once I get back from visiting my folks in BC. Until then I will be mixing up some hot yoga and Insanity to get me back in the swing of things. Would I recommend the Ultimate Reset to everyone I know? Absolutely! And if you want to do it, let me know because I just became a BeachBody coach, so if you order your BeachBody products through me you are also helping contribute to my son Max's autism therapy!

Tracy's before and after photos:

Thursday, August 02, 2012

beachbody ultimate reset: week 2 results

We just completed week 2 of our Beachbody Ultimate Reset! So far I am down 12 pounds and I am really noticing the changes in my body. Tracy is down 5 pounds and looking awesome. I didn't mind the detox drink as much as Tracy did, and I am finally getting used to the alkalinize drink. My skin is glowing, my hair is shiny, and my energy is fairly high. Sleep is still disrupted, but I think that's mostly due to having a lot on my mind. I can't wait to post our final results and before and after pictures next week! Only one more week to go and we are going strong (though I am looking forward to having my morning coffee again)!

helping your child with autism make friends: matt & max.

This past week was a tough one. Max was sick with a wicked summer cold. His behaviour went sideways and he tested all of us with his whining, squealing and shrieking. I was fairly certain Matt was going to tell me he'd had enough and would be back once Max was back to his old self. But Matt stuck it out and once again blew me away with his maturity and patience.

Here is Matt's week 4 update: 
This week was a little bit more difficult than other weeks. Since Max was sick he had become more irritable and his way of conveying these feelings were by yelling more often and louder. This was hard for me because he also would start getting upset at things, and when I removed the thing that made him upset he got upset again. This was lose-lose situation. Other than that we went to the park for the first time together. He seems to have an infinite amount of energy when surrounded by climbable objects. So other than him not feeling well, it was still a successful week with Max.

Read more of Matt & Max's adventures

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

helping your child with autism make friends: matt & max.

One of the best parts of this summer has been watching Max and his respite worker, Matt, get to know each other and bond. The bonding happened very quickly. Max took to Matt like a house a fire. The first week Matt had a bunch of questions for me, which I expected, so I stayed front and centre so he wouldn't feel like I had thrown him to the wolves. The second week I started to back off - I even ran a quick errand to the grocery store to see how the fellas would do without me. By the third week, Matt had the whole Max thing down pat - even giving him bathes and helping him go to the washroom. I could not be more pleased with how Matt is caring for Max. It's actually a bit mind blowing that he is 13 years old. He has the patience of a saint and really gets how to work with Max. I asked Matt to write a weekly blog post on how he sees his relationship with Max developing so that I could share it here. We're playing a bit of catch up, so here are the first three weeks.

Weeks 1 & 2: 
The first two weeks have been interesting. We were still getting used to each other so the first week it felt as if he were testing me to see what he could get away with doing and what I would not allow him to do. Also the change of pace to the mornings seemed to change his bathroom regularity so their were a few accidents. But as we both got more used to the schedule, things leveled out and became more normal. Max's physical and mental development has improved greatly over the past two weeks. He's begun to use his words far more often and he has begun to become more independent especially with bike riding. Also the first time setting him up with the bath was not as hard as I had thought because he knew what to do. If he didn't want something like the water level or temperature he would voice his opinion and I would change it. Overall the first two weeks were good.

Week 3: 
This week was interesting because with Max beginning to trust me even more we are able to do more. He is now able to ride his bike by himself with only a few minor stumbles. With this there is also some trouble because if he falls he does not let me help him up or help him on the bike again. This is part of him becoming more independent. Also, he was beginning to get sick this week which triggered more of an easily upset Max than I was used to. I hate seeing a child upset but it's also my job to make sure he is not doing what he's not supposed to so I had to stay patient through this. With all this it was a challenging but very good week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

max has a speech therapy angel watching over him.

A year ago today, the world lost Kim Pace, one of the most special people I have ever met. I think about her every day, and I miss her terribly. Every time I drop Max off at therapy I see her photo on the wall, and I wish she was still here. She would be so proud of Max's progress. I know in my heart that she is watching over him and that he has his very own speech therapy angel helping him along. Over the past few weeks we have seen an explosion of language and I can't help but think that he may be getting a little extra nudge from Kim. I can see her now, a twinkle in her eye and her contagious smile as I tell her that yesterday Max asked his first spontaneous and unprompted question. He picked up a water bottle and asked "Is it empty?"and then turned it over and watched the little bit of water left trickle out. As I got a towel to clean up the water I responded "It is now!".

Last week at gymnastics, when asked by a coach he had never met where he wanted his stamp, he responded "My knee" and when I pulled into our driveway that night he commented "Aaaaaand we're home". The funniest comment he has made was at my friend Shannon's house when he ran up to the pool gate and hollered "Come on! The gate is locked!". I also enjoyed his observation after I primed the walls of our previously red dining room, "Wow, it's white". Not only is he a smart little fella, he has a very funny sense of humour. Kim always told me how smart and funny Max was. She saw his magic and helped me understand that with a lot of hard work and a strong belief in my son, I could help Max knock autism on its ass - that it autism wasn't a death sentence. So Kim, thank you for watching over my boy. I'm sending you light and love and please know that you will never, ever, be forgotten.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

beachbody ultimate reset: days 2 & 3.

If you're wondering why I am snapping pics of every meal I eat, it is because the main part of the ultimate reset - as I see it - is eating. I've seen a lot of detoxes/cleanses that really limit your eating to a few select foods. That is not the case with this program. I am also full and satisfied after every meal and have yet to be hungry. There have even been a few meals that I was unable to finish because I was full. I have loved everything on the menu and really enjoyed preparing the meals (though the sushi was a bit tricky the first time). Is it a time commitment? Yep. Does it take a lot of planning and thinking of head? Sure does. But I'm remembering what it's like to eat healthy and my stomach hasn't felt this good in forever. On day 2 I still had a mild headache, but I could already see that I was retaining less water. On day 3, the headache was pretty much gone, but I felt low energy so I took it easy. The thing that makes me the happiest is that I'm feeling a lot less anxious and generally more positive. I don't think it's a coincidence. Only 18 more days to go.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

beachbody ultimate reset: day 1.

Day one of the Ultimate Reset is in the bag. Apart from a headache and peeing every 20 to 30 minutes, it went really well. The food was tasty, the supplements weren't so bad (though I won't miss the alkalinize), and it felt good to get out for my two 20 minute walks.  The good thing about taking a week to prepare is that all of the food required is in the house and ready to go. My fridge is bursting with greens and veggies. Before I started, I was a bit wary of the food prep, but so far so good. It really is all about planning. And more planning. And a little more planning. I'm enjoying discovering new foods, and even the kids have gotten into it. Who knew jicama was so yummy? By the end of the day I was ready to go to bed, but my sleep wasn't restful. But, my sleep has been terrible lately, so I can't blame that on the reset. Tracy reported that she too got a headache, was peeing a tonne and was exhausted by the end of the day, so I know we're in the same boat (and she's still speaking to me). Only 20 more days to go!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

beachbody ultimate reset: we start tomorrow!

Gulp. Tomorrow morning, my friend Tracy and I are starting the 21-day Beachbody Ultimate Reset. This was my brilliant idea, so if it ends up being super hard, Tracy may in fact stop speaking to me. This is what we looked like at Christmas - friendship strong and intact. Let's hope it stays that way!!
Why are we doing the cleanse? I think we both need a kickstart to get back into eating healthy and prioritizing our diet. Plus, this year has been stressful year and I'm fairly certain neither of us are in the shape we were last summer. If a 21-day detox cleanse doesn't get us back on the right track, then I don't know what will. We've done our grocery shopping (I never knew what a jicama was before), and we are ready to rock this. Thank you in advance to our coach, Gina, for helping us get prepped. I'm looking forward to getting back in my skinny jeans.

Monday, July 16, 2012

mental health monday: saturday in the park with cam.

This past weekend, Cam and I went out to Kitchener to visit my dear friend Alana. Besides wanting to check out her new crib down by the lake, I was also going for my first ukulele lesson. Fun, right? It's hard to be sad while strumming the ukulele (more on that later). I dare say, if you aren't smiling, you're doing it wrong. After my lesson, we had lunch at the Boathouse and then took Cam to the water park so I could test out the new polarizing filter I got for my Nikon D3100 ages ago and hadn't even taken it out of it's case yet (shame, shame). Here are the unedited results. I hope they make you smile as much as I did! The tune playing in the background is Emily Remler playing "Strollin'" by Horace Silver.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the giddy: summer edition.

This past month I scored a pair of nice headphones (Skull Candy Aviators) on sale and I've been revisiting some of my favourite tunes to give them another listen. A friend of mine once asked me what my favourite part of a particular song was - that moment you wait for and get excited when it gets to that part - a "giddy" moment, if you will. While I don't have big enough ears to describe the chord changes off the top of my head, I can tell you why I dig these parts (it usually comes down to lyrics and mood/tempo change). So, in no particular order...

Sheryl Crow - Soak Up the Sun - 2:58
Sheryl Crow is one of my guilty pleasures. She writes catchy songs, sings in my vocal range, and she has been through a lot of hard stuff as of late, so I'm sending her positive healing vibes as well. In this particular tune, I love the lyric "maybe I am crazy too!" that follows "maybe something's wrong with you that makes you act the way you do". It's the acknowledgement that we are all a bit off our rockers, but that we don't necessarily have to put up with it.

Alanis Morrisette - One Hand in My Pocket - 3:00 

When this song comes up on my playlist, I turn up the volume and sing along, word for word. Best line of the song is "What it all comes down to is that  everything is just fine, fine, fine". For me, through the entire tune she describes how I feel about myself, but rarely express. What I usually say to people is that "everything's fine", so I relate to that deep down, and it pulls at me.

Das Racist - Rainbow in the Dark - 1:10
This tune is like candy. The lyrics are extremely catchy and clever. The part that makes me smirk is "I’m afraid of clowns, I’m afraid of small towns" because I am in fact afraid of clowns, and I went to college in a small town. I'm not actually afraid of small towns, but after living there for three years, I can say I understand the sentiment.

Notorious B.I.G. - Big Poppa - 1:40
Biggy had a flow that has yet to be matched. He really was a player and while there are several parts to this tune that make me smile (and yes I know all the words and I rap along), the best line is  "Soon as he buy that wine I just creep up from behind, ax you what your interests are". Baller on a budget. I love it.

D’Angelo - Brown Sugar - 2:45
When he plays the piano solo and improvises vocally over it with his beautiful falsetto "oo oo-ooo", dear lord, I melt. I am rooting for him with this comeback and hope that he is still able to bring it. The world could use some more of his smooth jams.

Garbage - I Think I’m Paranoid - 2:45
I have a girl crush on Shirley Manson. Great voice, gorgeous, edgy, and can sing the pants off pretty much anything thrown her way. The best part of this song, by far, is the final verse. Her singing is  intense and has a raw quality that is immediately contrasted with a very sweet, melodic sound at the very ending. I relate personally to this song far more than I'd like to admit.

Sleepy Brown/Outcast - I Can’t Wait - 3:41
I swoon when I hear "this is dedicated to the lover in you, in you, in yooooou". I recommend listening to this on headphones - it sounds so much richer.

Adele - Someone Like You - 3:10
I can not get enough of Adele. Her voice sucks me in, and I was super bummed when she had to have surgery on her vocal cords. Thank goodness she recovered, I would love to hear her sing live. The lyric that tears out my heart is "who would have known how bitter sweet this would taste".

John Mayer - Something Like Olivia - 2:00
This is one helluva catchy song.  My favourite lyric of the song is "If Olivia herself were at my door, I’d have to say I’d let her in". Mostly because John Mayer has the reputation of being a bit of a dog, and for the entire song, he has been singing about how he would never ever pursue her, but hey, if she showed up at his door, well, all bets are off.

Monday, July 09, 2012

max update: what a sweet voice.

Depending on how long you've been following Max's progress, you may or may not be aware that I have a YouTube channel set up where I post videos of Max. This latest video of Max is of him singing in his behaviour therapy session. He is lucky to have a therapist who plays piano so beautifully. He has come so far since he started therapy at 32 months of age. Take a look at this video of him three years ago to see for yourself. That's what early intervention and hard work gets you.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

colouring for adults (or really big kids).

I've written about my love of colouring before. It really is one of my favourite things to do. It feeds my need to create, helps me relax, and when I'm feeling intense emotions, I find that colouring brings me back to centre (well, maybe a little to the left). When I start, I find my pencil stroke is heavy, the colours come out bright and solid. The imprint on my finger where I hold the pencil gets bright pink from the pressure of the wood against my skin, and my hand starts to cramp. I shake it out and make a conscious effort to loosen my grip and fill in the colour with a lighter, more even pressure.

I prefer whimsical drawings, with a fair amount of space to allow for shading. This first page is out of the American Girl: Design My Me "Tropical". They have another book I love just as much with the same title called "Wings". The collector in me is always searching for new colouring books. I have found the best colouring books are on (price wise and selection). The majority of colouring books with crisp, high quality, white paper available in bookstores are activity/sticker books, and more kid oriented.
I liked this fashion colouring book so much, I ordered a copy for my friend Tracy's daughter, Allie, who is a budding fashion designer. It's fun to colour in designs and then search for them online to see what they really look like. The drawings have a lot of white space which allows for more creativity and even additional drawing.
This Fancy Nancy "Girl On the Go" colouring book is for days when I am feeling like more detailed colouring. These drawings take more time because there are so many small details. I haven't done much colouring in it. I guess that shows where my head is at. But the drawings are super cute and a lot of fun.
The colouring book that has surprised me the most is "Islands". I ordered it on a whim and while the poetry that accompanies the drawings doesn't really do it for me, the hand-drawn abstract drawings, like "Crescent Moon" are fun and free and not very demanding from a brain power perspective. I have volume 2 waiting in the wings for when I complete it. That's also something I do... I complete colouring books. But I pick the pages I want to colour as the mood strikes (not front to back, or back to front like I read magazines). 
After exploring a bunch of different brands of coloured pencils, I have settled on a few favourites. Note, I like to support my local art supply store for my actual materials. Prismacolor is a terrific pencil, but it is temperamental and the leads break more than other brands. Also, they are pricey, so watch for them on sale. I have a small box of the Prismacolor Verithin, which have harder leads and are good for filling in small, detailed areas. Koh I Noor Woodless pencils are terrific for colouring large spaces and very smooth. The Koh I Noor Polycolor pencils are also excellent - fewer lead breakages, but not as luxurious as the Prismacolor. The one brand I haven't tried that has been recommended to me is Faber-Castell. I may pick up a few from the open stock at the art store next time I'm there just to see how they compare.

If you're interested in checking out more of my colouring, I have created a flickr album. Of course, these are just a sample - I have many more colouring books that I would like to feature (including my new Gangsta Rap colouring book). Yes, I am a 12-year-old boy on the inside.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

photo essay: max's first haircut.

On June 29, 2012, Max got his first professional haircut. Up until then, I cut his hair. My haircuts have been hit and miss. Some have been just terrible, and for that I thank god that hair grows. After consulting with my own hair stylist, I purchased an inexpensive pair of haircutting scissors and made sure to cut on the diagonal (limiting any damage I might do). Thus began the era of the Bieber-do. Big ups to JB for bringing back the shaggy look - you bought me some time.

So, on Friday morning, with a little bit of trepidation on my part, we ventured to Melonhead for our 10am appointment. When I made the appointment, the manager had promised me that no child had ever left her salon without a haircut. Max immediately challenged this by refusing to enter the salon and parking himself on the sidewalk outside the front door. After much unsuccessful coaxing, I picked him up and carried him inside. We were greeted by Kristen, and after Max inspected the entire salon (including the basement), went to the washroom, and finally selected a place to sit, we got down to business.

Kristen had a lot of hair to work with. A blank canvas of sorts. At first, Max seemed completely non-plussed. I breathed a sigh of relief.
She worked quickly, but Max still managed some awesome facial expressions. I swear she was not torturing him.
He needed a few breaks. Unfortunately, he was not impressed with the bubbles. Years of bubbles in speech therapy have left him a bit spoiled.
His favourite "game" was taking the comb out of Kristen's hand, inspecting it, and then tossing it on the floor. I believe there were three combs in rotation.
"Really mom? Can you cut it out with the pictures? It's just a haircut."
Kristen has the patience of a saint. She wasn't put off when Max squirmed and complained. When I asked if this was her toughest haircut to date, she laughed and told me to come back on a Saturday when the salon is packed.
Another break, but we're in the home stretch. At this point Max is getting a wee bit testy.
Change of location. Actually, Max managed to sit in every chair during his haircut. We ended the haircut with him on the floor, me holding him so that Kristen could finish the back. The lesson learned was that next time we'll start at the back because that seems to be the part he likes the least.
And Voilà, look at this beautiful boy! I think his haircut makes him look younger.

Of course, he was quick to put his hat back on to hide his new cut. He gave me a bit of attitude as we walked back to the car, but it didn't last too long. Nice to know what I have to look forward to! Thanks to Kristen for doing an awesome job!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

memories of a sparkly green motorcycle helmet.

This morning I found out that my aunt and uncle's home in Boulder, Colorado is in the path of an out of control forest fire. They have been put on evacuation notice, and at this point, all anyone can do is pray the wind blows in their favour and the water bombers do their job. Besides praying for their safety, I am also praying that their wonderful home is spared. It is a place that I have always loved. Mostly for the people under its roof, but also for the times I spent there as a child.

When I was quite young, my Aunt Lynn's parents, Joe and Cecile lived there. My mom tells me that they built this home to live in for the rest of their lives. It was their dream home. I remember laying on their family room couch, my new head gear causing me much pain. Cecile fed me frozen m & m's to help my mouth feel better. I don't know if it worked, but I sure liked the m & m's.

The house is situated on a very steep hill, and when the infamous Colorado winds are blowing, it is hard to open and close  car doors. In quiet moments, you can look out the window and find at least one deer staring back at you. Back in the day, the garage was (and I imagine still is) filled with motorcycle parts and artist supplies and all sorts of fabulous things little kids have no business getting their mitts on. The ceilings are vaulted high with wood beams, and the windows stretch across every wall making it feel as if one was a part of the outside, while still being sheltered.

One of my favourite memories is my uncle Gunner taking me and my cousin Dana on a motorcycle ride. Dana had a sparkly red helmet, and the spare kid helmet was sparkly green. In recollection, he had no business putting two little girls on his motorcycle. But damn was it ever fun. My uncle Gunner also had a cockatoo named Lester, who was allowed to roam free. Lester, a female (this was discovered after she was named), was in love with my uncle Gunner. While he may have always had the soul of a grumpy old man, he is also an artist and has a dark, Danish sense of humour, so who could blame her? She would stalk anyone and everyone and pretend to play nice with my aunt Lynn so she could get close enough to bite her. When I heard Lester had passed, I shed no tears.
I always imagined that I would return to Boulder as an adult to visit my aunt and uncle and sit in their living room and enjoy a glass of wine (without the company of Lester). One of my favourite friends from college lives there as well and has a daughter Cammie's age. It has always been my intention to return, and I'm annoyed with myself that I have waited this long to make my way back. One of my uncle's etchings of a viking ship hangs in the entryway of my home. I think of him every time I see it, today especially.