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!