Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 11 blessings of 2011

As I reflect on this New Year's Eve, may I present to you Plaiditudes' Top 11 Blessings of 2011:

11. Thanks to the ones that brung ya (and me): 
Okay, this one isn't new, but I as they get older, I appreciate my parents and in-laws more and more. Mom S with her love pats and fussing over us, Dad S's encouragement and confidence in me, my Dad with his sense of humour and desire to help (and the way K is his "co-pilot"; hopefully someday little G will be his co-something special too). And my Mom, because for better and for worse, she's that voice in my head and I wouldn't be me without her. They've had a few health scares in recent years, and I treasure every day we have together.

10. Yay for me!
Health and Heart winning 2nd place for Canadian Church Press Christian column of the year went by unnoticed, at least in Christian Week, but it was an affirmation to me that what I'm doing is valuable. I explored more personal, controversial, near-to-my-heart topics this year, particularly in the area of mental illness (schizophrenia, borderline personality, and depression), and had the pleasure of interviewing some dear friends.  

9. Who says the internet makes you antisocial? 
The Autism Winnipeg Facebook group has put me in touch with some wonderful parents in my area for support and friendship, both for us and our children. G just had a play date with a new friend we met through Facebook, and it went well, so three cheers for technology!

8. How do I love poetry, let me count the groups...
I finally got the nerve to attend poetry readings, particularly Speaking Crow at Aqua Books (soon to be moved to Pop Soda) the first Tuesday of every month, but also Writers' Guild events and McNally book launches. The Blue Pencil workshop with Jennifer Still was so encouraging, and I've started a poetry group with another writer to comment on each other's work. I had a couple lovely coffees with Sarah Klassen (still my favourite), and through their books, I feel like I've gotten to know local poets Ariel Gordon, Sally Ito, and Di Brandt. So great to be part of a writing community!
7. Come on baby light my marshmallow
We bought our pop-up camper at the end of 2010, but this was our first full summer of swearing sweating as we set it up under the shady oaks of campgrounds around our beautiful province. The only major mishap was the breaking of the bike hitch on the train tracks in Morris. We enjoyed a sunny, mosquito-free summer of bonding as a family around the campfire.

6. So long and thanks for all the funding
We are so grateful that we finally received Level 2 EA funding for G for Grades 4, 5, and 6. The process of painting your child with horns just to earn necessary services stinks, so I'm glad I don't have to go there again for a few years. So far, Grade 4 is much smoother than Grade 3, so: yippee!

5. A dog by any other name would smell too
In September we picked our Lily. T should have gotten a picture of me leading her out of the Humane Society: I had the deer in the headlights, oh crap, what have I gotten myself into-look down pat. But she's lovely. She sheds, she digs, she chews, but she's also very quiet, affectionate, and trainable. No regrets here.

4. Sleeping with the Paparazzi 
This is the year I got into poetry and my hubby got into photography. Big time. Unfortunately, his little hobby is a tad pricier than mine. Semi-pro camera, 40 mm lens, zoom, camera bag, tripod, blah, pen. I win and you owe me something pretty. He's done a few family shoots, so that helps pay for all the photographic "necessities." And hey, he's happy.

3. Very good, young Padawan, but you still have much to learn
My most exciting news of the year is that I'll be mentored for the next five months by award-winning poet Meira Cook. We meet for the first time next week. Have I told you today how excited I am?

2. Still working for a living
I am soooo grateful that my one-year maternity leave position at the Herald that could have ended this summer was extended till next June. I love being part of the creative process of putting together a beautiful, thought-provoking, community-creating magazine, I love the flexibility of putting in my 65 hours per month from home/office/when the kids are in school/I have a sitter, and I love bringing home a regular pay cheque!

1. And the academy award goes to...the Academy
The best thing to happen to our family this year was a new school for K. Words can't describe how well he's doing or how grateful we are to his teachers. He's now in the classroom all day, participating in group discussions and independent work, even in math, like everybody else. No longer wandering alone at lunch, he's now playing street hockey in the parking lot with his classmates. He made a marvelous Moroccan professor in the social studies fair, and was very proud to receive an honour roll award for his 88 percent average in the first term. It's wonderful to see him smile every day when he steps off the bus.

Hope your 2012 is full of love, support, and poetry (or love, sports, and punk music, whatever turns your crank).  

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

No-I'm-not-on-crack parenting advice Part 3: Honey, you'll feel better if you *don't* just let it all out

PMS-ing psycho with a weapon or hot mamma needing to chill? Choose your words carefully.
I'm one of the quiet ones at the autism support group. If you know me, you know I love to talk, but I feel terribly guilty when I interrupt, especially when everyone around me is pouring out their hearts about blow-ups, bullies, blind doctors, deaf resource teachers, foul-mouthed teens, and long-gone daddies. So if there isn't a break in conversation, you won't hear much from my corner of the table.

But if I would get the nerve to jump in, overactive conscience be darned, I might say something like this:

Is this helping?

I can tell you love your children like crazy, but when you nickname them "vixen" and "devil-man," and call your life "hell in a minivan," does it make you feel better about your world?

There is a place for sharing what you're going through now and getting support and advice for the next step on your path, but does retelling the story of how your son destroyed the living room furniture five years ago or how your father blamed you for her behaviours before the diagnosis make you love them all more? Oh, sometimes it's a bonding thing, and sometimes it helps us see the humour in our situations - and almost always it's downright entertaining - but often I think the negative talk just makes a difficult situation that much harder to bear.

I met a friend for coffee last week and she said she'd noticed so many changes in me over the dozen years she's known me. The biggest one is in the way I talk about my family. When she met me, I used every opportunity to shock people with painful stories and try to squeeze out a few more drops of sympathy. My right, my consolation prize, for having a bizarrely painful life package, right? But I decided years ago to choose words that made my husband and children look good in public. Even when I feel like running away from home. Because I found those words didn't only change the way others saw my family; they changed the way I feel about them too.

When I'd say, "My daughter's constant lying and stealing makes me so mad I want to strangle her," I really meant "My daughter has lagging social skills that make it difficult for her to control her impulses and recognize the effect of her actions on the rest of us. She needs patient guidance, and I need supportive friends and plenty of rest, so I have that kind of love to give."

And "My husband is a self-centred sofa-warmer who never shows affection and wishes he were rid of us" has become "My husband is overwhelmed and suffering from migraines again, so he doesn't have the energy to stay calm when the kids are screaming, and he's afraid to spend time with me because I've been so naggy lately. I need to be clear and gentle when I ask for what I need from him." It doesn't sound as interesting, but it sure makes me feel more content, calm, in control. And most of all: hopeful.

I'm guessing some of you think I have too many self-help books shoved up my prissy ass, but that's okay. That's another reason I'm doing this here and not in person: I'm not only leery about interrupting; I'm also sensitive to criticism. Write me off as a goody-goody, but I still think it's worth saying. What's more important: to go home feeling glad others share our personal "hell" with their own batch of "Satan-spawns" and "sperm-donors," or feeling empowered to accept every challenge and blessing our precious handfuls can dole out?

Words have power. They don't just reveal how we feel; they determine it.

So please do cry on my shoulder. I may not talk about it as much, but I've been there too. And I care deeply. Tell me the truth. Be real. But know that the way you say it could alter that reality.
May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be plaid. Happy holidays from Plaiditudes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

No-I'm-not-on-crack parenting advice Part 2: Love 'em like they're *not* your own

No one cares more about your kids than you do, but I'm guessing most days at 11 pm, no one could treat them worse. It's just a fact that we give all day at work or school, holding it together when people step on our toes and cut us off in traffic, and at the end of the day, we're tired and we let it all hang out, knowing our families will forgive us.

I was over at a friend's once and washed a few dishes. When she went to make supper, she opened the cupboard, pulled out a pan, and said, "Okay, who didn't get this clean?" I whispered, "I wasn't sure how hard to scrub. I didn't want to scratch the no-stick coating." The friend apologized, saying she thought it was her kids who'd done it. But if we don't want to talk to our friends that way, why do we find it so easy to use that tone with our children?

I'm guilty. Let's say my child has a play date, and the friend spills chocolate milk, just like my son did that morning. Which child heard me say, "It's okay, sweetie. Accidents happen," and which one got "Not again! I just shampooed the carpet last week!"? That's right: the kid I don't even know gets understanding and the one I'd die for gets guilt-blasted. Why do we do that?

Here are are few possible explanations:

1. Nobody heard me yelling at Junior, but I know for a fact that the playmate's mommy is about to get a play-by-play of everything from the moistness of my baking to the humungousness of the bra I left drying on the towel bar.

2. Nancy Nextdoor has never spilled (or vomited or coloured or made lotion potions) on my carpet before, so this incident cannot invoke years of painful memories...

3. ...Nor will she spill there again every week for the next eleven years.

4. And, if she grows up to dump chocolate milk in the White House parlor or down Shania's dress, I'm not the pathetic mother crying on ET Canada about it, while Ben Mulroney shakes his head in national embarrassment.

If the problem is that 1. no one is holding me accountable,  2. I'm holding onto resentment from the past and fear of the future, it helps me stay calm and use my "nice mommy" voice if I remember that a) I am being watched and b) that this is the moment that matters.

So sometimes, when I'm feeling tired and overwhelming and afraid of the next poisonous thing that's going to come out of my mouth, I image these grouchy, hyperactive darlings aren't my children. I pretend I'm going to send them home to their real mommies, and all I need to do is get through the next hour and make sure I use that time to show them how much God loves them because it may be my only chance.

I tell myself that nothing I do is secret because chances are, if I lose it on a regular basis, my children will tell someone: if not their teachers tomorrow, then their therapists in college. And as the song goes, "there's a Father up above who is looking down in love."

...which reminds me - they really aren't my children after all: God's just sent them over for an extended play date. He loves them even more than I do, and amazingly, he trusts me to devote myself to them like they're my own, and treat them like they're His.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No-I'm-not-on-crack parenting advice Part 1: What that kid needs is a good massage and more television

This is the parenting advice you won't hear from your mother, the granny in the checkout line, or the guy behind you at church.

Instinct says, "When they're bad, make them miserable so they'll think twice next time." At the first sign of noncompliance or disrespect, we take away TV, send him to his room, and pile on the chores. How's that been working for you?

If you've got a kid with the skills to self-regulate: to control impulses, manage disappointment, and express frustration in words, a little pain can lead to gain. But if you've got children anywhere on the spectrum, chances are, they couldn't meet your expectations in the first place, and now you've just made it worse by overloading them when they're down and taking away all the things that could calm them. Typical children need the consequences and rewards to motivate them; for a child missing skills, all the consistent consequences in the world will only make it worse. Way worse.

By all means, when Jakie or Judy starts throwing knives or refusing to do her homework, give 'em a time out. But not the "I hold the door shut while you scream and you can't come out till you're nice" kind, though (I wish I'd never met the psychologist who made us do that for weeks.) This is not the time to make them submit to your all-powerfulness; this is a time to model relaxation. You can't teach flexibility by being inflexible. "Your actions are telling me you need some time to calm down; would you like an exercise ball rolled on your back or should I read you some Hobbit?" might sound like rewarding the bad behaviour, but it's not about rewards or behaviour - it's about teaching your child the skills to cope.

On a recent playdate-gone-bad, my daughter was excited to see her old classmate, but almost immediately announced "It was more fun before you came" and proceeded to play computer games without her. The school psychologist reminded me that my daughter's rudeness was the only way she knew how to cope with the unmet expectations: her friend had matured and was more into gossiping about movie stars than pretending to be puppies. My husband calmed her down and helped them choose a movie they both liked. A nine-year-old on the spectrum is not ready to manage disappointment gracefully. If we'd focused on her behaviour, we'd have missed the point.

When your spouse or client drives you crazy, you take a walk or grab a coffee. You're not rewarding yourself for wanting to throw them out the window; you're doing what you need to do so you don't want to do it anymore. When life drives your kid crazy (and a lot of things will), he needs you to teach her the same thing. 

As you turn the TV on for your screaming toddler, or hand your grounded teen a phone to call a friend, or offer your daughter a foot rub after she called you "idiot," don't expect your mother to stand up and applaud. But don't for a minute think you're being a pushover parent.

You're being an effective one.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The fall of never wills

This is the fall of never wills.

With two kids on the spectrum, a husband with chronic headaches, three part-time writing contracts, church responsibilities, and a rabbit, I don't take on extra things lightly. There were certain things that I said I'd never do:

1. I never will take in boarders,
2. I never will get a dog,
3. I never will put my child in private school.

I need a nap the day after overnight company because I can't rest when other people are around; how could I ever relax with people in my house 24/7? I don't even like other people's cute little pooches yapping and jumping on me, why would I want to scoop 15 years of poop for my own? And why pay thousands of dollars and drive across the city for an education when there are good public schools down the street?

1. The boarders: This fall, our niece and her husband needed a place to stay until they found their own apartment in the city. I didn't feel an immediate "no" inside, so I figured it must be a good idea. After all, it would only be temporary, and if I had to pick someone, another introvert who has to still like us next Christmas (and every Christmas after) is a safe bet.

It was a good incentive to clean out the guest room closets, rearrange the basement, and shampoo the carpets. Two weeks of work and ten years worth of outdated computer equipment we wouldn't have gotten to without the deadline of boarders.

It's been a good experience. With extra adults around, I can run out for a few minutes without taking K and G, and finally more than one other person at the table appreciates my cooking. I like having someone to talk to about my day (I think my husband likes the break too). K and G love the extra attention from people younger and cooler than their parents. I admit, there have been moments when I wanted the privacy to yell at my own family in peace, but for the most part, parenting for an audience has kept me more patient and thoughtful.

2. The dog: All summer when we'd go camping, G would stand at the entrance to our site and wait for a dog to go by. She'd introduce herself, name the breed (she knew every one), and ask good questions. She didn't always wouldn't read books about anything but dogs. All her computer games were dog grooming games. She wouldn't always play with other children, but every dog was her friend.

I decided to go to the Humane Society and take a look. We talked to an adoption counsellor about what we were looking for: a small, quiet, mature, well-trained dog that's good with children and rabbits. Basically, I wanted Jesus with fur. The counsellor told us about a corgi cross, rescued from a reservation, that would be available the next day, and we could put her on reserve. We came back the next day, and after passing door after door of giant dog trying to break through windows, when they let the corgi into the room, she walked up to us, sat in front of us, and licked our hands.

Well, that did it. We've had her for a week and a half, and she's the sweetest thing. Lily wasn't trained when we got her, but she's caught on quickly. She follows us around the house and lies at our feet. I couldn't imagine any dog but Lily. She's a German shepherd on corgi legs, so she looks ridiculously long for a dog so short, but who could resist those eyes?

You will love me...

3. The school: After a couple difficult years of public school for K, we started looking into a specialized university-entrance school with small classes and teaching modalities geared toward ADHD. He had to switch schools anyway, since our public school only goes to grade 6. The bus stop is 2 km away, so waiting in the car for the bus twice a day adds an hour to my day. And the tuition is insane. But it is so worth it. No more daily calls from the school. No more wasting years in the library with an EA. No more being the one supported kid in the class. No more picking him up at all hours of the school day in tears (usually mine). When he jumps off that school bus, he's smiling. I bet he's learned more in the past month than he did in the past two grades. Private school definitely has its place.

So I'm a private school bus-chasing, poop-scooping landlord. Yeah. It turns out all the things I thought I couldn't handle, I can. I'm stronger than I thought. My heart is bigger than I thought. And that's a good thing. Who knows what Ange will tackle next?

Monday, August 08, 2011


I came across an old journal this weekend. It's a gratitude journal my husband and I kept back when we were poor, overworked students (which is completely different from the slightly less poor, overworked parents we are today).

We both had minimum wage retail jobs (and bus rides) that I hated so much I had to hide my head under the covers at the end of every day to distance myself from the ladies who called me dear and touched my arms and asked for that green book about Jesus, and the wackos who cried "bar codes are the mark of the beast!" I was writing a thesis and T was training for a job in computer technology. Both of us had a lot of stress and health issues and hand-me-down furniture. I'm sure people looking from the outside would have said not a lot to be thankful for.

The reason I hadn't read the journal in so long was because I we'd abandoned it after a couple weeks. Actually, the journal covers almost every day from June 11 to October 4, 1998, with a few more days later that winter and the next. Every night, five entries. Five reasons to be thankful. Written as a couple.

Here are a few of my favourites:
  • T made casserole
  • this camp has flush toilets!
  • God keeps seeking us out
  • we have all our limbs
  • new underwear for $1.99
  • frogs aren't extinct yet
  • not all work days are like today
  • a customer made Ange laugh by asking "What do Jewish people know, the cap with the feather?"
  • new church blessed and welcomed us with hugs, handshakes, words
  • little AR at church said Ange looked like a princess
  • someone saved a woman in trouble, but got stabbed for his efforts. It missed his heart so he'll live
  • mocha (our bunny) lay on Ange's lap while she studied
  • a couple on the news were unable to afford to go to China to adopt a little girl but then they won plane tickets to China at a sporting event
  • we sometimes are grouchy, but we can still love each other
  • we are not allergic to chocolate

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My I-can't-believe-I-get to do list

Here's what I did while the kids were at overnight camp for the week:

Ate pasta and sorbet on trendy patios with old friends for my birthday.
Got my toenails done, including flowery, sparkly nail art, at a place where the beauticians don't even speak English, let alone use you as free therapy to unload about their ex-husbands. Sweet.
Attended a Manitoba Writer's Guild event with my poetically gifted sister-in-law and met/smiled sweetly from across the room at/resisted the urge to scream "I love you" to a host of popular Prairie writers.
Went for Chinese with my parents for my birthday. Very different experience than going out to eat with my parents and my kids, especially since I remembered to sit still and chew with my mouth closed.
Lacquered benches so if G tries to colour on them again, hopefully it won't stick. Ha.
Sunned self at beach with hubby (wrapped in towels because it was early and chilly in the morning, but enjoyed having beach almost to ourselves). Wasn't responsible for any of the children playing catch in the middle of the lake up to their necks, but couldn't resist staring at them anyway.

Finished my long (25-page) short story, wrote another (2-page) short story and a few poems.

Sat on backyard swing and read my long story to hubby. He laughed, he cried, it moved him, Bob.

Went for walk with hubby to get free, large, frozen yogurt with full loyalty card.

Watched The Social Network in bed with hubby. Glad to know my geeks/aspies are not that rude. I could have sworn it was a commentary; it is true that you can gain the whole world and lose your soul. Good thing it's a long redeemable life.
Tore out old shower door and put in pretty curtain and rod (that has been sitting on my bedroom floor for 6 months because if we put it away we'd never find it) with hubby. Used drill by myself and felt like a wild woman raised by wolves (talented power-tool-using wolves).
Biked to park with hubby so he could practice taking pictures of me in the sunlight. Got sweaty, went home for the car, and drove to Starbucks for Fraps.

Felt the silence, space, freedom - and total lack of mother-guilt - in every tissue of my body. Not ready to give it up in 6 hours. 

But first, breakfast out with hubby. He's so handsome when he's not under daddy stress.

    Friday, July 15, 2011

    How do I get you alone? the hot mamma remix

    I've had Heart's 1987 hit "Alone" in my head all week:

    I hear the tickin' of the clock
    I'm lying here the room's pitch dark
    I wonder where you are tonight
    No answer; you look zoned
    And the kids fall asleep so very slow
    Oh, you already hiding under your pillow

    You don't know how long I have wanted
    To touch your lips and hold you tight, oh
    You don't know how long I have waited
    And you were going to get lucky for fixing the dryer tonight
    But the kids come back from camp soon
    And my love for you is on hold till next June

    It's a good thing my hair isn't this sexy, or my kids would die of thirst (for lack of one more drink) in their beds.

    With the right mix of wind, gel, and humidity, this is as close as Angeline gets to 80s hair, but she does know how to work it.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    making a friend with her own fair hand

    Yesterday G and I went to a "special kids" day at the Red River Ex, a free two-hour trip to the petting zoo, kiddie rides, and free hot dog lunch for kids who can't handle the noise and line-ups (or who would get lost - literally - in the crowds) of a regular day at the fair. She was looking forward to skipping school (and meeting an alpaca); I was looking forward to a little bonding time with my girl.

    While feeding the goats (enjoying a few minute's respite from the pouring rain), we ran into someone I'd met a year ago at my moms of autism support group, there with her eight-year-old son. We'd been wanting to schedule a date to get our families to connect for almost the whole year. We were just discussing how to convince the kids we wanted to stick together, when they announced they were going on the rides (in the rain).

    Between moments of catching up, I snapped photos of our kids screaming and laughing on the swings and coasters (I'm sure they were hamming it up for the camera). I learned that her son has some of the same challenges as G, and some strengths that G does not. As we walked from one ride to the other, G entertained him by sticking her hand through every recycling bin.

    I wanna hold your hand...

    "She's being goofy, and he's laughing: that's a good sign," the other mom whispered.

    We stayed together for the rest of the morning. "I'm lucky I get to do this because of my autism," Mr. Nice-guy said as we walked into the lunch area. Sitting on the picnic table with their hotdogs and chips, G bent down and planted a kiss on Mr. N's sleeve. He didn't flinch, even when she got embarrassed and washed the kiss off with her freshly licked fingers.

    At supper, my husband asked G about her day at the Ex. When she mentioned her new friend, her eyes sparkled.

    One of the hardest things for me as I look into the future is wondering if G will be able to live independently, make healthy relationships, be happy, or raise a family. Meeting Mr. Nice-guy was a boost in my discouraging, assessment report-burdened week. Even if his parents someday reject my proposal of an arranged marriage, knowing there are sweet boys like him on the spectrum gives me hope.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    This heap o skills is a pain in the assessment

    I wonder: does every parent struggle to teach their children basic life skills? Do you go over the safety checklist everytime you walk into a grocery store or the hygiene rules every time you step into a restaurant? Did you have to teach them the steps involved in asking a friend to hang out or explain the necessity of utensils? Or do most children pick up these things themselves?

    I remember K's developmental testing in Grade one. I learned that at his age, he should be able to dial a friend's phone number and recite his favourite TV program's channel number and showtime. I'd never thought to teach him. Isn't every parents reticent to show their six-year-old how to use a phone because they'll be prank calling NASA? Doesn't every parent use TV as a one-hour break from hyper-vigilance when they need it, and to heck with when the kid's favourite show is on?

    I was upset that K's scores were low because of what seemed like random, unimportant skills - skills that reflected more on his mother's priorities than on his abilities. If we practiced phone dialing, I knew he'd learn it. I immediately made a list of all the tasks he couldn't do and set to teaching him, so he'd be ready the next time a WISC-IV or BASC or [insert acronym here] came along.

    (The D-TORF was particularly infuriating: when you get to the third thing that the child can't do in that category, you stop, and that's their developmental age. If they can ride a bike with no hands and explain T-cell counts, but they've never made toast, they're developmental infants.)

    Same thing on G's recent testing. She didn't give the psychologist complete enough answers for questions like "Why do we wear seat belts?", "How do you respond when a smaller child bullies you?", "What should you do if there's smoke coming from a neighbour's window?", and "What do you do if you find a wallet at the mall?" When I asked her the same questions, she gave me the answers I've given her in the past: "So we don't fly out the window." "Say 'Stop' and walk away." "Call 911." And what 9-year-old walks the malls by themselves and needs to know what to do with a lost wallet?

    (She loved our Q and A, and begged me to ask her more so she could memorize the rules. I taught her my cell number, which based on how many times she called me from the kitchen last night, I may soon live to regret.)

    Am I not teaching her enough detail? Am I not anticipating all the important questions? Or is the point that other kids just know this stuff without their parents drilling them, and she should too?

    My children don't even ask for snacks when they're hungry or play dates when they're lonely; I have to set their nutritional calendar and social diet. Every thing my children learn, I have to teach explicitly with demonstration, repetition, and visual reminders. They arrived on our planet with their own language and culture, and they don't just assimilate through osmosis.

    They "learn" how to do new tasks quickly, but actually doing them regularly without reminders or frustration comes painfully slowly. Since it takes three to twenty-four months for any new skill to stick, I have to pick my lessons carefully and patiently: do we introduce bed making or teeth brushing into the morning schedule first? Do we want to work on chewing with our mouths closed or holding our forks properly? Which should be the first to go: the nail biting or the nose picking?

    (And, as an aside, if you see my kids doing something inappropriate/unusual/icky, you can safely assume that it's either: a) further down the list of lesson priorities, say, after "Don't hide under parked cars" and "Don't asperate rocks," or b) We've been working on it steady for 23 months, and any day now, they'll start doing it. In other words, rest up your judgment muscle for who should win the next Canadian Idol or Idiot or whatever reality show you like that I don't have time to watch.)

    It's upsetting that the records of my children's potential are based on questions they could answer the week after the testing. Since the psychologists all use the same tests, and therefore there must be some consensus on what a child should know at a certain age, they really should release the list to parents. Send it to me every year on their birthday! Then I'd know for the next assessment whether it's the tidy bed or the worn toothbrush that will make them go down in the school division annuls as successes.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Funding granted!

    G's funding appeal was accepted! For the next three years, she'll have an educational assistant for half of every day. I expect that means Grades 4-6 will be happier than Grade 3 has been, and there will be fewer days when she says "Everybody hates me" or "I had to work in the office" because the principal was the only one available to help her with her math. 

    We're meeting this morning with her teachers to debrief on this year and plan the next. (And they've only scheduled half an hour?) My wish list? An angel who will sit by her shoulder and whisper in her ear everything she needs to hear:

    Take a deep breath.
    We have music next.
    Don't forget to carry the one.
    Your lunch bag is in the hallway.
    Your group is starting on the climbing wall.
    If you tell me what you did on the weekend, I can write it down for you.
    You can do it!

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    the biggest loser

    I lost my keys.

    On Sunday, I drove home from church, unlocked the door, and that was the last I saw of them. I didn't think much about them on Sunday because I knew they had to be in the house. But on Monday, after my husband left for work with his set of car keys, I knew I'd better start looking if we were going to drive to G's after school swimming lesson.

    So I cleaned the house. I looked everywhere: under beds, in drawers, on shelves, even in the sugar bowl. I found our pet rabbit's leash that's been lost since fall (It was under the Santa hat in the antique flour barrel - of course), but no keys. My husband T drove home on his scooter in the middle of his shift to bring me his set of car keys, so I could drive to the pool.

    The evening routine kicked in: supper, spelling practice, home reading, plant watering, bath, taking out the garbage, snack, stories, and my tea in bed. Somewhere in there, I realized that I'd also lost an envelope of prizes I'd won on the radio, coupons for free mini-golf, bowling, and portraits. Dang.

    I woke at 5:30 this morning to noisy birds because hubby left the window open all night, and my first thought was Garbage. I ran out in my bathrobe and grabbed the bin from the curb. I carried it behind the house and began pulling smelly bags out onto the lawn. I didn't expect to find anything, but I had to make sure. I pulled out T's Frappuccino cup that I'd cleaned out of the car on Sunday, and there they were underneath.

    (After unlocking the door on Sunday, I must have still had my keys hanging off one of my fingers when I threw in a bag of garbage someone had left outside the backdoor, and not noticed they were no longer hanging off my finger when I went in the house.)

    I felt lightheaded: sick thinking I'd been an hour away from sent my keys to landfill, and free knowing I'd actually found them.

    I returned the garbage to the curb in time for the garbage truck, went back into the house, walked straight to the filing cabinet, grabbed the folder labelled "Taxes," and pulled out my radio prize pack.

    In some parallel universe, I'm sure my life makes sense, but down here, I'm just glad when it all works out.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Who needs help now?

    I remember last fall sitting at the anxiety disorders clinic thinking, "It's crazy G's getting all this support - school consultations, cognitive behaviour therapy, psychiatric assessments - when she's doing so well and her brother is the one who needs it." She got weekly CBT to help her flush the school toilet by herself without screaming "we're all going to drown!" Meanwhile, I was homeschooling K part time because he couldn't manage at school. (It turned out K's sudden personality change was a side effect of a medication we put him on to help with his anxiety. Ya, that one backfired.)
     Well, since K got that med out of his system and built up his confidence (the former took 4 months, the latter a year), he's doing peachy. In fact, his music teacher told me yesterday that he's participating fully in music, even on days when the room is filled with the sound of dying magpies aka recorders (my comparison, not hers); in fall he wasn't in music, period.

    G, on the other hand. A year ago, we weren't sure whether she was actually on the spectrum. And this spring, we wrote up a funding app that makes her look like a combination between a damsel in distress, an axe murderer's apprentice, and the Saturday Night Live character who smells her own armpits.
    The only difference between the kid portrayed in our funding app. and Mary Katherine is one of them has a sensory aversion to socks.

    She interrupts/yells/or otherwise prevents anyone including herself from experiencing educational fulfillment 30-50 times per half hour. She's a smart kid, but without someone explaining/reminding/calming her, those smarts remain inaccessible.

    When our divisional coordinator who vets the funding apps saw G's, she said, "She's really like this? And she isn't funded yet?" Yup. Our first application in 2010 was denied. Ditto the 2011 one. So we're appealing. Her second question was "Does mom know you're saying these horrible things?" Yup. Who do you think sent the most sensational ones in? (What's the point in having a way with words if you can't use it to help your kids?)

    I called my MLA this week, and her assistant called back within 24 hours to tell me if our appeal is denied, call back and she can go to the Minister of Education on our behalf. Same MLA who helped us when we were saving our school from closure. Same MLA who eats hot dogs with us at every school fair and community centre fundraiser. If politicians were puppies, I'd take her home and ask if we can keep her. 

    Ironically, the abundant supports at the anxiety clinic G didn't need last year aren't available now. Our psychiatrist decided to have a baby after years of sitting across from weeping parents and hyperactive children. Brave soul.

    The good news is I no longer have time to feel anxiety about her not flushing the toilet.