Monday, December 31, 2012

Why I'm so happy

I've been afraid to write about my Christmas because I'm worried that if I put it in words, it won't look as good as it feels (like when I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant with K for four months, because as a secret, it felt warm and magical, but once I let it out, it became just a fact.)

So I'll keep it short and sweet to make sure I follow through. This holiday season I'm thankful that:

1. My daughter who normally screams and throws her presents this year gave us squeal after squeal of delight, and one gift, a replacement for a DS game she'd lost, even earned tears of joy.

2. G also normally turns her face and cries when we try to take pictures, but this year, she put on her new Catwoman costume and posed. And at her school concert, she didn't hide behind other kids, but strutted to the front of the stage during the dance number, and made sure her father had his camera clicking.

3. We've had numerous painful moments of her speaking her mind on how blonde, blue-eyed, (and big-boobed) like Barbie is best, but at the hotel in Grand Forks, she played with a girl her age with gorgeous chocolate-brown skin and eyes, and as far as I know, the only person's looks they discussed was the man with the "hot" biceps. (Heaven help me.)

So on that note, I hope your new year is filled with moments that either make you cheer, or at the very least, laugh!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I hope

Carly's Fiorina's statement (at the Leadership Summit) "There is a gift in everything.... We just need to see it" touched something in me.

I'd just met with my pastor's wife, Edith, for coffee the week before, and she'd commented (as she often does) about how much more positive I am than I used to be. (Sometimes I wish she didn't have such a good memory.) While I know I made a conscious choice in my 30th year to become the "New Ange" - confident, hopeful, assertive - looking back on the years Edith was referring to, I still don't see the "gift."

I told her, "What I did poorly in those 'negative' years, no one else could have done well. And if I were back in that situation right now: without any family income or sense of career direction; without a diagnosis, medication, or respite; with no social workers, psychologists, teachers, or support groups; without our health or connections, I would not be sounding as positive as I am right now!"

So is it about attitude, or is it circumstance? I empathize with those who don't have work because it's really hard to get out of that hole. Unemployment saps your confidence, and lack of funds means all those mental health-restoring things like dinner dates, therapy sessions, babysitters, maid service, a sense of security, and chocolate cheesecake are out of reach.

And I empathize for those without supports because no one is meant to do it alone. Where does attitude come in? I credit my positivity experiment with giving me the guts to find the support I needed.
To hope that it existed. To believe that I deserved it. 

The Summit reminded me of my God lists. I haven't written one in a long time.  (Click here to see my "God list" when we were unemployed.)

A God list is a wish list for God. Edith got me started on them by telling me to write one about the house I wanted someday, back when we were students with a baby and no income living in a little third-story walk-up. A God list is like praying, but instead of asking for the same things over and over, I write them down and put the list away for 6 months or a year. If I do start obsessing over something I want, I remind myself I've left it with God.

Here's the God list I started writing at the Summit:

For my house: a kitchen reno started in one year (This is by far my biggest ask, feels impossible right now)
For my writing: attending the Banff Wired Writing School or Sage Hill Poetry Colloquium in the next year, more opportunities to workshop and perform my work 
For G: growing empathy, more interest in the Bible, and better table manners
For K: the ability to express how he's feeling and what he needs in words
For T: a new website for his photography business Anthony Mark Photography, more clients, another wedding
For marriage: finding an overnight respite worker

In the past, I've been surprised when I pulled my list out a year later to discover how many of the things I have. I think it's a combination of me trusting God, God desiring to give me good things, and me being intentional about doing whatever I can to reach my goals, keeping my eyes wide open for opportunities.

It may sound presumptuous to ask God for something like a kitchen, but I'm going with 1 Peter 5:7 "Casting all your cares on him for he cares for you." It doesn't say "passive-aggressively hint at your cares," or "give him a peek at your cares," it says "cast": toss, throw, dump, chuck, drop the load of them. 

I hope I don't ever have to go back to being without an income and all the support services we've come to rely on. If I do, it would be nice to see the gift. I know I'd still have my (longer) God lists. And I hope I'd still have the resolve that got me where I am now.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

If I had a time machine

Leaders are dissatisfied with the way things are.

I heard this from several speakers over the past couple days at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit, (an annual, international video-cast conference put together by a Chicago church on how to effectively lead in churches, charities, and businesses).

Well, what I felt dissatisfied with was the Summit. Because it was too good. Too good to keep from the people who haven't heard it. I'm dissatisfied with church leaders preaching to other church leaders about how life-giving it is to be part of the church.

Speakers, including Condoleezza Rice, Me to We Co-CEO Marc Kielburger, bestselling author John Ortberg, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, shared inspirational insights on organizational health, personal integrity, innovation, discipline, energy management, succession planning, and communication. And many of them talked about how Jesus and the church make a difference in the world and in their lives. But most of the audience was pastors who already know that.

Not people like the local poet, whose line kept going through my head: "If I had a time machine"...(I'm paraphrasing here), I'd go back to Jesus and tell him the atrocities his followers will commit in his name: the crusades, country music; and then I'd go back a few more years and give Mary some "immaculate contraception."

Kudos on the humour and wordplay, but ouch on the pain behind it. I can only imagine how the poet has been hurt by the church. Perhaps, like people I know, he's been bullied, smeared, rejected. Or, like me, he's sought support from a church and received condescending advice, trite answers, and judgments instead. Perhaps without any personal contact, he's been offended by Christians in the headlines. I ached for him, but I also felt like he'd just badmouthed my best friend.

My church of the past 14 years, Crossroads MB, has been the family that prayed when I thought I'd lost my baby, didn't judge me when my kids screamed and ran during the service, listened to my painful stories of diagnoses, encouraged me to follow my dream of writing, and gave me opportunities to teach and sing (even though I wasn't always that good).

At the conference, John Ortberg talked about the contributions Jesus' followers have made: most of our hospitals, universities, orphanages, soup kitchens, and relief missions were started by Christians because they took seriously Jesus' teaching that everyone (including women) should learn, that sick and disabled people were to be fed and cared for (not drowned as in Roman "civilization"), and that all races should work together equally despite differences. Many cultures have alphabets and literacy today only because of the dedicated work of Bible translators. Take away the church, and we wouldn't have the Red Cross, World Vision, Compassion, YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, MCC, MEDA, Mennonite Disaster Service, Canadian FoodGrains Bank, or the Salvation Army.   

And then there's the more personal side to the church's care. Former H-P CEO Carly Fiorina said when a room full of thousands of people prayed for her after she spoke at the 2007 Summit, she felt "elevated" and as she went on to endure aggressive cancer, treatments, and her daughter's death, the "sweet peace" from that moment never left her.

The church has its class bullies, but we don't shut down the educational system because of the bad teachers and the big kids in the back of history's bus; why write off the church?

So, if I had a time machine (and a lot more clout), I'd go back to the Summit, and at least for half the day, kick out half the pastors and invite in the poets (and their nonliterary, cynical cousins), the women hanging out in the front of the Elmwood apartments across the street, the cartoonists with the stinging satires of the church, and the people who pass them around on Facebook, and asked them what they thought of the speakers' stories.

Instead of asking church leaders how we can become better, I'd ask the poets how the church had hurt them. And how we could elevate them with prayer.

On second thought, I'd move the Summit from the cramped church to a convention centre so the pastors and everyone else could fit, so the people who will never enter a church building would come because when people say, "The church is the hope of the world," they don't mean the building or the organization.

As I was complaining about all this to my pastor at a session break, a man came up to us, and asked my pastor why he was at the conference. He knew Marv from Toastmasters, but he had no idea he was a pastor. (Marv's so involved in community groups outside church and so approachable, this didn't surprise me, and it made me extra proud.) I asked the gentleman why he was here, and he answered, "If my wife hadn't brought me to this conference last year, I wouldn't have come back to the church." It was uncanny the way I was forced to eat my words as soon as they came out of my mouth. Not everyone there had heard it all before. But it confirmed my conviction that if more disgruntled-with-church people came, it could change their minds.  

But if I had a time machine, I wouldn't go back and undo the moments people were hurt, however much that would pain me. Because the church needs to learn from those mistakes. And (like Carly Fiorina says), in everything (even pain) there is a gift. Often it's a story.

If I had a time machine, I'd go back and watch everybody's stories unfold. And, however dissatisfied I am with what life throws them, I wouldn't give up before their happy ending.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'm waving the white flag (and it looks like a dirty pillow case)

I've pulled my kids away from the front of bumpers and off bridge railings, so you'd think that the little things wouldn't stress me out. You know what's got me worked up right now? The fact that a friend with a brand new home who never has even a speck of lint on the rug wants to visit. Help!

People think your home is a reflection of your personality, your tastes, and style. Let's be clear: my home is a reflection of my income and energy level! If I had the money and time, my cabinets would be white maple with silver handles, my eating area would be surrounded by (always sparkling) bay windows, and my closet would fit all my clean clothes at once!

Some say painting your cupboards or replacing the hardware can go a long way. Not if your cupboard doors are peeling beige melamine with wood finger pulls! And without knocking out the back wall, there will never be a comfy way to seat more than four around my eat-in-kitchen table.

Come out with your gloves up!

T and I met with our school psychologist Miss Congeniality this week and I mentioned my feelings of home-sickness. She responded, "You can either change what's embarrassing you, or decide to stop feeling embarrassed." In other words: get a second and third job to pay for a new kitchen, and give up all your hobbies and family time to keep it perpetually clean, OR, if you like your well-balanced, love-filled life, stop worrying about it! Don't get stuck!

(She also suggested, whenever someone comes over, putting on rubber gloves and answering the door with, "I was just cleaning the bathroom," in case they go into the bathroom. After they leave, pack away the gloves, and return to life as usual. :) I love her.)

Yes, Master!

I do want to get the kids more involved in cleaning up, and Miss Congeniality had a great idea for making cleaning fun: the slave/master game. Set a timer, and for 5 minutes, one family member gets to boss the other around: "put the Lego in the box, stack those papers neatly, dust that shelf," and then switch. Even if the kids each spend only 5 minutes cleaning, it's amazing how much can get done! And who doesn't like bossing their parent or sibling around?

Well okay, G doesn't. When we tried this today, she couldn't get her head around the fact that we were breaking the social rules and being big bad bullies to each other. Even when I compared the game to light sabre battles to the death (which would be really mean in real life, but which she pretends all the time), she didn't get it.

But K and I had a great time. While G went to dump Barbie clothes in her room, K told me where to file the drawings all over his floor, table, bed, and dresser, and in 5 minutes, we got them all sorted. And he picked all the Nerf guns and plastic lizards off the rec room carpet. Done!

Qualico, I'm ready for ya!

I'll be K's slave any day, but I don't want to stay a slave to my embarrassment. I'll probably never shut-up the style-conscious, clean-freak in my head, but until I publish my bestseller and make big bucks (ha!), this is the home I've got. So I'm going to go to the Parade of Homes this week and look at all the uncluttered granite counters and the ensuite baths that are bigger than my living room, smile, and then come home to write poetry and kiss my kids goodnight.

In the battle of Angeline versus the teeny, tacky (Is that syrup?) home, I surrender! I choose sanity!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I got for my birthday

Most of us communicate for various reasons: break the ice, test the waters, lighten the mood, make an impression. Aspies usually communicate for one reason: to get facts from one head into another.

I hear a lot about mizzenmasts, jibs, foresails, and rigging around here from my son. Yesterday, he and I found online a photo of a seven-masted schooner and a labelled diagram of a barque, and he never tires of explaining what makes their sails different.

My daughter isn't a talker, but same communication principal applies. If it's not new information, it's not worth saying.

"Good morning, G. It's time for breakfast."
"I know. We always eat when I wake up."

"I have a secret: I love you, sweetie."
"I already knew that too."

This morning, when my husband whispered in her ear, "It's mommy's birthday," G frowned and said, "I know."

He whispered back, "I told you so you could say something to mommy."

Annoyed, she blurted, "Why? She already knows too!"

So, this year, my family gave me the same thing they always do: the gift of laughter! And it fits me perfectly.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

A place for everything, and everyday thanks in this place

Every family has it: the room you don't ever want anyone to see, the room where junk goes to get happy. For some, it's the laundry or spare room; for others, the garage. For us, it's the kids' bedrooms.

This week, K and I tackled it. His grandpa Schellenberg built him a beautiful maple desk and dresser a couple weeks ago, so in addition to the usual carpet of Lego and books, K's old desk drawers full of drawings were still sitting on his floor. Those drawings finally had a ready home: a sturdy, hanging folder file drawer; they just needed someone brave enough to sort them.

Yesterday, we made folders and labelled them "air crafts," "sailing ships," "space crafts," "creatures," "plans" (for experiments and inventions; no world domination allowed) and "stories." After we made it through the desk drawers, I pulled out the Rubbermaids from under his bed, and today, the boxes from his closet. 

He's a pack rat (something he inherited from his mother), who's been known to lie awake at night crying about objects he's thrown out or lost. He collects rocks, shells, feathers, key chains, bookmarks, keys, coins, cars, motorcycles, helicopters, books, and Lego, but his drawings are probably his most precious possessions. I was amazed: the kid was a trooper, working for two hours a day, calling out "throw away," "air craft," "throwaway," "throwaway," with only a few sighs and no tears.

We even had a few laughs. Some of the drawings he refused to let me throw away six years ago now look pretty silly. There was one of him that read "Kieran is a special boy" in his printing at the top, but the self portrait looked like a three-fingered green bean. Then, there was a story that went, "A sales man at a plain store wore a plain face. He had poked his waist so he was late for work and that's the end." - that had us in stitches.

But the funniest page was found was a typed note like this: It is nice to say hi to people. People say hi when they pass someone in the hallway. People say hi when they meet someone new. Saying hi makes other people feel good. I will try to say hi at school.

K could hardly contain himself. He was rolling on the bed shrieking at the silliness of the story. How ridiculous! As if he needed to be told how to say hi? He says hi every day: to the bus driver, the school receptionist, the principal greeting him at the door, his teacher, the older student walking by his locker.

The social story was from Grade 5 or 6, just a couple years ago, when he'd walk into school talking about the time machines and hovercrafts he'd invent, and didn't even look up when friends and teachers called his name.

I was laughing as hard as he was, but for a different reason - joy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

And a hoppy awards day to us!

At K's middle school awards ceremony today, his homeroom teacher Mrs S called each student to the front and told the assembled parents and teachers something about him or her, using the child's favourite colour or animal as a guide.

K's had a great year. In his old school, they'd had to focus on managing his stress by downplaying academics, particularly the areas that gave him the most frustration: math, spelling, handwriting, and composition. At his new school, he's been in the classroom, participating with the other students from week one, in every area except math. (He started the year in math in a separate classroom working one-on-one with his EA on Grade 5 material. A couple months in, he began attending math with the rest of the class.)

I expected Mrs S to talk about how K has grown in his spelling skills, in his confidence in completing writing projects and using his beautiful handwriting, and in his ability to manage frustration and distractions and work with a group. I didn't expect this:

Up next we have a little rabbit. They may seem quiet and timid at times, but don't be fooled, they are also alert and ready for anything. Until Social Fair, for example, we never knew that under K's unassuming exterior, lies a talent and powerful actor! 

They say rabbits are social beings, willing to seek companionship with any variety or creatures, be it humans, birds, cats or dogs. K is much the same, as he is kind, accepting and friendly towards everyone. 

Rabbits are also known for their intelligence and curiosity. Well K, your inquisitive and questioning mind certainly kept your teachers on their toes in every subject, especially mathematics. Although math is admittedly not your favorite subject, Mrs D was very impressed with the growth you have shown this year. As the school year progressed so did your successes. Not only was she impressed with your developing academic skills, but your increased independence and confidence as well. 

I'm so pleased to be presenting K with the award for Commendable Achievement in Mathematics.  

I think he was as surprised as I was. Way to go, K!

Monday, June 11, 2012

How do you love me? Let me show you a way.

T and I met with Miss Congeniality again today, aka G's school psychologist (and the inspiration behind my "No-I'm-not-on-crack parenting advice" blog series). We actually spend just as much time with her talking about our marriage and careers as we do G's behaviour. (I have to take time off work to be a free EA for field trips and events, and the school pays for my marriage therapy and career counselling; I'll call it even.)

The fact is that the divorce rate for autism families is exponentially higher than the average, and it's generally agreed that children on the spectrum need consistency at home, so working on our marriage is something we do for G.

Here are some of the crazy "Wow that works!" marriage suggestions Miss Congeniality has given us:

1. Fight in the dark. It's easier to focus on the words if you can't see each other. Don't worry about whether he's frowning or she's got her arms crossed. Just listen. Men find it hard to make eye contact in intense situations and women notoriously (and often subconsciously) misread that as a sign of disinterest; things escalate from there. Keep the lights out and just listen.

2. Fight naked. It's hard to take yourself or each other too seriously when your fat jiggles every time you gesticulate. The intimacy of having no clothes between you can also increase the emotional vulnerability and remind you of why working things out is worth the effort.

3. Let yourself be silly. When you feel like dropping the sarcasm or criticism, make a joke of the issue instead. You'll both feel better. When the goal is to see who can be the best comedian instead of the more responsible/attentive/tidy/helpful spouse, everyone wins.

4. Talk about important stuff with your foreheads glued together. I haven't tried this one yet. I can imagine it feels weird but keeps the focus on each other (and prevents any nasty shouting and arm swinging).

5. Create a "help!" signal. It could be necktie on the door handle, a special fridge magnet, a gesture (keep it clean in front of the kiddos), or a cue phrase like "The turtle is molting" (the goofier the better) that when one person puts it out there, the other parent knows to take over. Fast.

6. And my favourite: Write each other the script. Before I show T a poem, at Miss Congeniality's recommendation, I pass him a multiple-choice list of acceptable responses: a) Those are some lovely half-rhymes and alliterative phrases, b) You've combined some delightfully surprising metaphors, c) That ending was devastating in a heart-wrenching but tender way, d) You have a gift for crafting beautiful imagery.

When I'm upset, I tell him ahead of time how I need him to respond; eg, look me in the eye for at least 10 seconds, wait till I'm done speaking, and then say "I'm sorry you've had such a rough day. It hurts to be misunderstood but I think you handled it very well. How can I take make your load easier this evening?" (This is harder over the phone; her solution: text him the script and then call on the landline.)

As women, we think it doesn't mean as much if he doesn't just do it without being asked. However, Miss Congeniality notes that most men care and want to help, but clam up/run when they fear anything they say or do will be the "wrong thing." Knowing ahead of time exactly what a woman needs is freeing and prevents misunderstandings.

Be creative and playful. If having him unbutton his shirt, fall at your feet, and clutch your knees like the guy on the Harlequin cover turns your crank, go for it! Marriage takes work, but it needs laughter to survive.

Monday, May 21, 2012

And that's what it's all about

We just returned from our first camping trip of the season, and our first trip ever with dog. I was afraid she'd bark at every squirrelish smell the whole night long. Besides ripping my leash-arm off every time another dog went by (Ooh, over here: friends!), Lily did pretty well. She slept on the bench until the first time I poked my head up. Then she whined and whapped her tail on the cupboards until one of us lifted her onto our bed (like an infant all over again, except for the tail bit).

Saturday was rainy but we were prepared: we'd rented a movie (The Adventures of Tin Tin) to watch on the laptop, and packed lots of drawing paper, books, and games. And cookies. Sunday we hung out at the beach (in our sweatshirts) watching K dig trenches and G chase butterflies. And we sat around the fire making blueberry pie (pie filling in white bread), eggs in a blanket, and of course, s'mores.

Here are a few quotables:

After the post-Ritalin-crazies, during which K and G read Calvin and Hobbes comics aloud and repeated silly phrases over and over, G told me, "I have a great brother - I didn't use to think so, but he is really funny!"

Walking back from brushing our teeth, K sighed, "There's no place I'd rather be." "Not even on an airship?" I asked. He just laughed (because we both know an airship would be way cooler).

As G and I were drawing faces of men with purple Mohawks and one-eyed women in Santa hats, she giggled and exclaimed, "I'm going to remember this forever." 

And that, my friends, is why I spend a week packing so I can sleep in an ice-cold, sand-covered 8x15 box, half a mile from the nearest bathroom. It's about being together. All five of us. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy plaid mice month!

April is plaid mice month, or as most people call it, Autism Awareness month or Poetry month, depending on which community you're part of. I happen to belong to both. What better time than April to talk about writing a collection of autism poetry! So I'm bringing my mommy and professional selves together (hopefully they play nice) and posting this on both Plaiditudes and 37 Mice.

Today is the birthday of my writing group co-founder (Happy birthday, Joanne Epp) - it's hard to believe that we only started meeting this past winter after a mutual friend invited us on an outing to the museum and we discovered we both write poetry. For the past four months, I've been meeting biweekly with Meira Cook (who's been called the greatest living Canadian poet) to hone my skills through the Manitoba Writers' Guild mentorship program. A year ago, I didn't belong even belong to the writers' guild yet!

A year ago, I also hadn't visited the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre parent group, or attended any Asperger Manitoba events, joined the Autism Winnipeg Facebook page, or met any of the PACE (parents of autistic children everyone) entrepreneurs like Mike, Ljubica, and Ruby Lou, who've become good friends.

It's amazing what can happen in a year. Now I'm writing a collection of poems about the devastating and celebratory moments I've shared on Plaiditudes: the drug trials and side effects, assessments and diagnoses, judgmental stares and kick-ass Christmas performances.

A friend and fellow artist asked why I didn't write my life as a book of stories in addition my poetry. Perhaps someday I will, but for now, I'm so in love with the art of poetry, the intensity of emotion that just a few devastating or playful words can evoke, that I don't have eyes for any other genre. Through my blog, I gain perspective and find meaning in the affectionately exasperated "better laugh than cry" experiences of parenting autism, but through poetry, I don't only find beauty: I create it.

And on Thursday May 3, 7:30, at St. Margaret's Anglican Church, Winnipeg, I'll be reading from my collection at Joanne Epp's chapbook launch, along with two of my favourite poets Sarah Klassen and Sally Ito. The event is free and open to the public.

I'll be wearing turquoise, but the busy mice in my head will be decked out in plaid.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

My daughter cried herself to sleep; it made me happy

I didn't enjoy watching her heart break, but the reason she was sad absolutely thrilled me.

G has two emotional settings: angry and bored. Occasionally, she'll be mildly pleased. Joy and sadness rarely enter the mix. So I was surprised the other night when I entered her room to investigate the strange noises, to find her with tears pouring on her pillow. She was hugging a drawing of a sunset from a classmate (the only other one on the spectrum) who'd been home sick all week.

"I'm nothing without her," G sobbed. "I have nothing to do at recess except stand there. She's the only friend I have at school who doesn't hate me."

G tore the words "To my bffL" off the top. "Why?"

"Because that's the part of the picture that makes me saddest about her being sick. I want her to feel better."

She let me hold her and sweep her wet hair out of her eyes. I hated seeing her in pain...and yet. Here was my usually blunt child, assessed as lacking age appropriate social skills, range of emotions, and awareness of others, crying for a friend in pain.

"Is it weird to cry for someone else?"

No, honey, not weird. It's called empathy. It's called affection.

And it's a very good thing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

If it feels like your preteen is drifting away...and other things Justin Bieber taught me

So have you heard the latest about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez?

Me neither. I couldn't care less. But my daughter does. She almost never smiles at me, but one look at a picture of a boy almost twice her age, and she's beaming. (I'm sure my fascination with Mackenzie Astin on Facts of Life was much more mature.)
I may not have saved Middle Earth like my brother Sean-wise Gamgee, but I did save a Manitoba girl from the twin towers of boredom and homework.

Yesterday hubby and I met with Miss Congeniality aka the school psychologist, and she gave me the best parenting advice I've heard in a long time:

If it feels like your preteen is drifting away from you, follow her.

This goes for autism spectrum and neurotypical children (or "plebians" as my son likes to call them) alike. Meet them where they're at. If he's obsessed with pteranadons or zeppelins, Google them together. If she likes pet games for DS, ask her why she chose that breed, name, or toy. If they like to spin in circles, spin with them. Swallow your dignity and shake those hips to Lady Gaga, fall off that skateboard, get walloped at street hockey. If she's in love with Bieber, use magazine gossip about him and Selena Gomez to start a conversation about respect and romance. What a concept!

I've always been the mom running up the steps to the water slide or bouncing on the carousel. (Part of the reason I had kids was so I'd look less silly doing it.) Those are active, interactive memory-makers for me. The harder part is engaging with my kids on things that seem antisocial and anti-intellectual, like the same video games and Lord of the Rings movies over and over. I want my children to try new experiences and learn new skills, not sit on their butts choosing virtual lipstick shades or warrior costumes. But, I know how much it means to me when my husband ask about my hobbies, so why wouldn't I show the same interest in my children's?

We could keep lamenting the way the next generation is going down the Youtubes, or the fact that our children don't cuddle up for story time anymore or thank us for sharing our favourite movie. Or we could join them.

I don't mean we should stop being the parent who makes them go to bed on time and do their homework. We're not their buddies. If you eat chips together in bed, by all means, make them help clean up. But we can show we care about what's important to them. And that growing up doesn't mean outgrowing fun. A little whimsy never hurt anyone.

Last night, when I walked past 10-year-old G's room at 10:00, the Mini Pops were playing, and I could see her eyes peeking out from the covers, I lifted my hands above my head and wiggled in the most unflattering fashion. I scored one of her rare smiles.

A paparazzi-worthy smile. Meant for me. Never say never.

If you get inside her world, there's gonna be one less lonely girl.