Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Opinions are Like...

I'm sure you've heard that saying before. Y'know the one about opinions, everyone has got one. Well, that's how I feel about parenting 'experts'.

I have spent hundreds upon hundreds of dollars over the years buying books and attending seminars about parenting. I have worn my library card out and have googled until my fingertips bled (not really but it sounds impressive...and messy). I am hungry for information but I learned very early on in my parenting journey not to react to everything I read, I glean what resonates with me and ignore the rest.

For every book written offering parenting tips and techniques there are just as many that give opposing advice. From the pages of these bestsellers I have learned that I should always pick my baby up when she cries or she will have attachment issues, let my baby self-soothe or he will be an insecure, whiny, self-centered adult. Potty train during infancy or my baby will grow up to have poor self esteem, don't pressure my child to use the potty because that creates stress and anxiety in her as she grows. Have my child listen to classical music so his brain will be stimulated, do not introduce any manufactured sounds to my infant because it stunts the growth of her brain. The contradicting advice is endless!

Now add a kid with extra needs into the mix and watch the experts spin!

The bottom line is this, there is no such thing as a parenting expert. Just because someone writes a book and people buy it in droves does not make them an expert...it may make them rich, but not an expert.

Read, gather information and use what works for you and your family. YOU are the expert on your own kids. Don't let a current trend or the opinion of some well credentialed writer talk you into parenting in a way that doesn't feel right or work for you. Parenting is largely instinctual and if you spend time getting to know your kids and being honest with yourself you'll find your way.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Things that go Hee-Haw in the Night

There have been some strange happenings in This Random Family lately.

Ever since The Wee Ones were...well...wee they have all been good sleepers. Its been a point of pride for Mr. Awesome and I that no matter how unruly and asylum-like our house is during the daytime hours when the sun goes down so do our kids. It has always been the one time of day where there is no fighting, whining or negotiations. The Random Bedtime Rule is you go to bed and you stay in bed, that's it.

Or is it?

For the past couple of weeks our kids have been waking up in the night and either coming to our bed or turning on the TV and sleeping in the Family Room. This is not okay. We have been a houseful of grouchy zombies. No one is getting enough sleep, we are all bickering and now we are starting to get sick from being so run down. The straw that broke the camel's back though was the other night when Dude crawled into bed beside Mr. Awesome, who then rolled over and launched me onto the floor. I decided it was well past time to get to the bottom of all this.

At lunch we held a little family meeting to discuss what has us all up at night. All of the kids mentioned having bad dreams. We talked about what is real and not real and what we should do if we feel scared at night. Before long everyone was joking around and feeling more confident that angry clowns are not going to 'get them' and there are no such things as ghosts.

When the laughter subsided everyone finished their lunch and began to get ready to go back to school. Everyone was almost ready to go when Mischief, looking quite worried, said,

"Just remember guys, some dreams are really serious though, like the dream I had about that donkey. It was really scary."

"What was so scary about a donkey?" asked Crafty.

"Don't you know? When they're mad donkeys kick and stuff! That freaks me out!"

Friday, November 26, 2010

All this without a coffee!

This morning I had Parent/Teacher meetings (or as they are now called, Student Lead Conferences) with each of the kids' teachers. The first starting at 8:30am. Ugh. I had intended to get up early, shower, do my hair and be alert for the first meeting but things didn't turn out that way.

Last night we had a family movie night. We watched How to Train Your Dragon, a flick the kids have wanted to see for ages. After the movie we tucked the kids in for the night and I finally gave in and did something Mr. Awesome has been begging me to do for ages...I agreed to watch Iron Man 2 with him. By 11pm Mr. Awesome was asleep on the couch and I was watching the movie by myself.

By the time I got to bed it was laaa-aate, so when my alarm clock went off at 7 I instinctively turned it off and went back to sleep. In the back of my mind I knew that I had to get up but sleep was just too tempting and I gave in.

I was woken an hour and 15 minutes later to the sounds of spoons hitting bowls and nearly had a panic attack. I grabbed my jeans from the bedroom floor, pulled on a t-shirt and a hoodie then stuffed my bedhead under a hat. As I hopped down the hallway, pulling my socks on, I yelled to the kids that we needed to hustle.

Crafty and Mischief dropped their spoons and ran to their rooms to get dressed. Dude, on the other hand, had an Asperger moment. He physically could not make himself stop and stray from his set morning routine. I tried to talk him into leaving the table to get dressed but he couldn't wrap his brain around it. I ended up taking him by the hand and walking him to his room. Once I handed him his clothes he finally snapped to and got dressed.

In the meantime I ran outside and started the Jeep. Then I ran back inside and scrambled to collect the report cards and portfolios from around the house. I yelled to the kids once more, 'In the Jeep, everyone, hustle!' It was 8:26...I had four minutes to make it to the school.

I pulled into the parking lot at 8:28, thank God for 4x4s, and hauled the kids down the hall to Dude's classroom. I left Crafty and Mischief in the hall, threatening them with all kinds of disciplinary action if they fought, argued, moved, talked, laughed or breathed while I was in the meeting.

We made it through that meeting and raced over to the elementary school for Mischief and Crafty's meetings. I was feeling pretty good about making it through the morning and decided to reward the kids by stopping in at the book fair and letting them pick something out. While the kids browsed I chatted with one of the teachers. Dude walked up to us to ask about a book he had chosen and the teacher asked him how he felt things were going, meaning how he felt the school year was going so far. He didn't even think about it for a second before he replied,

"Not very smoothly. I didn't get breakfast this morning and I don't like the socks I am wearing. Things were a bit crazy this morning because mom slept in, she did not come to the kitchen until 8:19. That is much too late. And I'm pretty sure she didn't shower because under that hat her hair is crazy. So, no, I don't think things are going very well."

The teacher and I looked at each other. I just shook my head and said, "I'm pretty sure she was asking how school is going so far?"

"Oh! In that case, I think it is going quite well."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Now it is Christmas!

I LOOOOVE this time of the year. As much as I love autumn and decorating my house with scarecrows, finding the kids Halloween costumes and celebrating Thanksgiving with family this is the time of the year a long for.

The snow and the carols and the twinkling lights all draw me in. I can't wait to say my first 'Merry Christmas' of the year and wrap gifts and address Christmas cards. I daydream about the Christmas tree and how we will decorate it. I spend hours pouring over cookbooks, making my list of Christmas baking. And its not just me, my whole family is like this.

My sister and I planned Christmas brunch weeks ago, my mom has boxes and boxes of Christmas decor that she lovingly and deliberately unpacks each year, placing each ornament in 'the perfect' spot and my dad obsesses over Christmas lights...all Christmas lights, the tree, the house and even the lights in his tiny Dickens village. And I am proud to say that I have passed this Whoville tradition on to the kids, too.

Dude has been wearing a Christmas hat (he has four) to school everyday for a couple of weeks, Crafty has been busy making decorations for the pink Christmas tree that will be in her room this year and Mischief has been practicing his song for the Christmas concert incessantly for days and days.

As the hustle and bustle of the season kicks into high gear I like to take one day to mellow out and savour the season. As all of my American friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, today I seek solitude (only because the kids have to go to school today) and peace as I take a few hours to give thanks for Macy's and their tradition of hosting the most amazing parade on the planet.

I am a sucker for parades. I was thrilled to discover that our new town has one heck of a parade in the late summer and I sit willingly outside for hours in the frigid Manitoba temperatures to make sure I get a great spot at our local Santa Claus parade. These local parades are highlights of my year but nothing compares to today and The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The giant balloons, the bands, the Broadway numbers, celebrities on extravagant floats, the crowds waiting for Santa Claus and, of course, Matt, Al and Meredith commentating....and all of this bliss happens in New York City, one of the most magical places on earth! The excitement is almost overwhelming!

As I snuggle in with my coffee and cozy blanket to watch the first band march into the streets of Central Park West and 77th, I sigh and smile to myself...Now it is Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Our Trip Down Asperger Alley

Yesterday someone commented to me that they were surprised when they found out that Dude has Asperger's because he seems so normal. I hear that often and its true. Dude is a pretty normal kid...now.

Sometimes I forget how far we've come. We move through our days with relative ease of routine, making adjustments as we go. I rarely think about the day to day stress, heart ache and fear that we experienced when Dude was younger...before we knew what Asperger's was or how to work with it. I don't like to dwell on those Dark Days when we feared that our life would always be consumed with violent outbursts, meltdowns and explaining unexplainable behaviour.

I remember the utter physical and emotional exhaustion I carried with me like old Jacob Marley and his chains. I felt battered and breakable and used up. I was tired of the school calling, of people staring and of the dozens of 'helpful' tips people would offer. Mostly I was tired of watching my sweet, precious, beautiful boy struggle through life. I was tired of seeing the fear and frustration in his eyes, of hearing him cry in his sleep and of seeing him try to harm himself just to stop the pain he was experiencing.

Those were scary times and the only reason for sharing them today is that I know that some of you are walking through the same thing. When I think about our life and all we have been through I literally think of a road. Asperger Alley, if you will. And just like any road you can choose to travel it in secret, or pretend you are not even on it and hope that things will get less bumpy as you go further along. You can even decided to park and live on the road. Or you can admit that this is the road you are on, get the proper vehicle, a good map and keep driving, no matter how bumpy the road gets or how dark the forest ahead appears...just keep driving.

We have found that being honest with Dude, ourselves and the people around us about Asperger's has made our journey much less stressful. We believe that information brings understanding and that Asperger's is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Because we are an open book we have had the privileged to share our story with other parents of kids on The Spectrum and to hear their stories, too. We know that this is a journey and if we keep persevering life for Dude will only get better.

Now, as we are driving down this road I can barely see the Dark Forrest in the rear view mirror because the road ahead is so bright. Just keep driving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Like Mother Like Daughter

I don't often write about Crafty here, mostly because she does not give me very much ammunition, I mean, material to work with. In the past the kid was all kinds of nuttiness but now she has mellowed out and mostly flies under the radar. The only time I get anything from her is when she gets over-excited or a little stressed out...and today she was both.

In a lot of ways Crafty is a lot like me. She likes to craft, write and colour. She is witty and has a quick tongue which is both good and bad and she likes to be goofy when she thinks no one is watching. Another similarity is that neither one of us handles stress particularly well.

To combat some of the stress and anxiety in Crafty's life we try to plan ahead as much as possible. We lay out clothes for the week on Sunday evening so she doesn't have to think about what she is going to wear. She always has an emergency bag of toys and books packed in case we decide to drive to the city on a whim and everything in our life ends up on the calendar. So today should have been a piece of cake right?

Not so much.

A month ago Crafty brought home a note saying that she would be going to the city today to sing at a choral festival. The note specified that she was to wear black pants with a white top, bring a few things to keep her busy on the hour and a half drive and pack a lunch. Easy. We wrote it down on the calendar, including all the details, and started planning for it. We made sure she had a new white shirt and that her pants from last year fit. We changed the batteries in her MP3 player and found a new book at the thrift store. Still, with all our careful planning this morning was still chaos.

The waistband on her pants was still damp from being washed last night, her socks felt weird, the sleeves on her new shirt were too long, her hair...oh, her hair...it was bumpy, static-y, sticking up, too flat, had the wrong hairband, a broken hair clip, a too-small elastic, a too-big elastic, her backpack had too much stuff in it, there was only one boot in the bin, her mitts were crunchy, her jacket puffy, the boys moved her book, the boys hid her MP3 player...

In and around my regular get ready for school chaos I ran around helping Crafty with her dilemmas. She stayed relatively calm and focused through the mayhem and somehow we manage to get everyone in the van and dropped at school on time. Mischief hopped out of the van with his usual, "See ya later mom" and a quick kiss on the cheek and normally Crafty follows suit but this morning she just sat there. I waited a couple of seconds then asked her if she was all right. She sighed and said,

"Yeah, I think I'm nervous."

"Nervous about what?

"Well nervous and excited. Mostly nervous and just a little excited...no, wait...I'm probably a little more excited than nervous. Yep, I am excited and hardly nervous at all. Thanks, Mom, love you!"

With a kiss on my cheek she was off. I watched her disappear into the school and marvelled at the funny little person she is...then I pulled out of the parking lot and headed for Timmie's. This morning definitely called for an Extra-Large Double Double.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Observations from the Road

Here are a few tidbits we have heard while driving thousands of kilometers over the years...

Dude, age 3 at a border crossing to the US -
Boarder Guard - How you folks doing today?
Dude - Fine, I'd like french fries and a coke!

Mischief, age 5 watching snow swirl outside as we drive down the highway - "Look at the snow, it looks just like 3D. I wonder how they do that?"

Crafty, age 4 watching geese fly south (imagine the lisp) - "Those guys should take a bus or something, their arms are going to be so tired when they get to the mall."

Mischief, age 3 - "When I'm bigger I'm going to have a school to teacher other kids how to be Spiderman, but first I have to figure out how to web and stuff."

Crafty, age 7 - "What do you get when you cross an elephant and a kangaroo? Big holes all over Australia. Get it? Get it?"

Dude, age 10 - "Families spread like disease, it starts with one person and then they get married and then they have kids. When their kids grow up, they get married and have kids. It just keeps going and going like that...just like a virus. Of course, you can take a needle for some viruses but I don't think there is a cure to family."

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fiction Friday - WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen

All right, if you know me you have probably heard me rant incessantly about how awesome this book is but I just can't stop!

Released in 2006, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS has been my go to book suggestion for years. I have bought it for Christmas presents, birthday presents and randomly given it away to people who need a taste of good storytelling.

Gruen has created some of the most compelling characters in modern literature, Jacob the veterinary student turned circus vet, Marlena the beautiful performer caught in an abusive marriage with the explosive equestrian director, August and most of all Rosie, the charming elephant that ties these characters together.

Jacob Jankowski was an ivy league student until his parents death, just ten days before graduation. Left with nothing but an overwhelming sense of loss, Jacob wanders away from the life he had and unknowingly into the centre of the tumultuous Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets a wild array of characters including Kinko the dwarf clown, Camel the alcoholic roustabout, Barbara the cooch girl and of course Marlena and August.

When the circus acquires Rosie, the elephant whose only apparent trick is drinking gin and eating copious amounts of watermelon, Jacob gets pulled further into the complicated life that surrounds his new found family of ragtag performers and working men. His disdain for August's cruelty and his growing love for Marlena forces Jacob into keeping a secret that impacts the rest of his life.

As the 90 or 93 year old Jacob narrates the story of his experience aboard the circus train the reader is guided through the wonderful and strange world of this Depression-era circus. We are treated to vivid descriptions of the life and habits of the circus in a way that adds to the flavour and pace of the story. Every paragraph and page leaves the reader hungry for more. Each scene is laid out perfectly, with the right balance of character, action and description.

Pick up WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, read it and let it become one of your favourites too!

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS the movie, featuring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christof Waltz, is due to be released in Spring of 2011.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dorky One

The thing you should know about me is, I'm a dork. No, no...its true just ask my sister.

As I kid I was always much taller than most kids in my class and I felt it. I was all arms and legs and feet...very big feet. I was clumsy and had a huge over bite which lead to braces and other orthodontic torture devices. I loved Star Trek and History Television (I blame my dad) and had a weird obsession with panda bears for most of my preteen years.

But somehow I survived. I made it through my teen years with most of my self esteem in tact and a fairly decent number of friends. I found my way through university where, honestly, everyone is a bit dorky and I sailed into adulthood with more confidence than any recovering Trekkie should rightfully have. And as I got a little older and became a wife and mother I thought I had left my dorky years behind me.


Doing this blog has been wonderful. I enjoy the routine of sitting down with my cup of coffee and my fuzzy socks (which are missing!) and writing little tidbits about the people and things I care about. I love seeing 'like' count on Facebook rise and seeing the user counter on my blog stat page increase a little everyday. I enjoy the comments and encouragements I receive in emails and FB messages but its the face to face interactions that instantly bring out my inner-dork.

I can't handle compliments, seriously, I can't. I get red-faced, awkward and if the interaction lasts longer than ten seconds I start to sweat and get light headed. I have a standard line I have practiced in hopes of not coming off like a total loser when people talk to me but I don't think its working. More than once in the last week or so I have found myself standing in front of very kind and generous readers, being blessed with compliments and all I can offer in return is a few twitchy stammers of appreciation before I find an excuse to high tail it out of there.
So Friends, I don't mean to be rude. Please keep reading and enjoying my crazy little stories. 'Like' 'Comment' and 'Share' til your hearts content on Facebook and even feel free to approach me in person just be gentle and remember...I am an incurable dork.

Thanks ;-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I have just experienced four days of relaxing bliss.

Mr. Awesome and I ran away for the weekend and then some. We stayed up late, slept in, ate at grown up restaurants, had grown up conversations and a lot of laughs. We talked about the kids, marvelled at the people they are becoming. We talked about our past and our future . It was heavenly.

As much fun as we had we were happy to head home to see the Wee Ones. Despite the chaos that our life is we missed being with the kids. It was wonderful to walk in the door and feel all those little arms around us. We were soon engulfed in the chatter and busyness of their world and within minutes we were well on our way to being caught up on what happened while we were away.

We spent an hour or so cuddling with the kids and hearing about their weekend. We read a couple of stories, played with Lego and were treated to a fashion show by Crafty. We were still in our happy little vacation bubble and the kids were there with us...until bedtime.

That's when the familiar chaos erupted.

Crafty couldn't find her doll, Dude wanted a different blanket and Mischief was hiding. There was home reading to finish, teeth to be brushed and toys to be picked up. Dude didn't like the music playing, Mischief, once found, didn't want to take his inhaler and Crafty couldn't decide what clothes to lay out for the morning.

Finally, after 45 minutes of running up and down the stairs and in and out of bedrooms we got all of the kids settled. Mr. Awesome sat down to return a few phone calls and I decided to have a long hot shower. I was just relaxing, enjoying the feel of the hot water rushing over my head when there was a knock on the shower door.

"You having a good shower, Mom?"

"Yeah, Mischief, I am. What are you doing out of bed?"

"I'm just checking on you, making sure you're not too lonely in there."

Yep, I'm home.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Takes a Village to Raise a Soldier

This morning we bundled up the kids, pinned on our poppies and headed down to Portage and Home street in Winnipeg, like we do every November 11. It is there that The Royal Winnipeg Rifles hold their Remembrance Day service. We have been going to this service for years, partly because it is very family friendly and partly because Dude likes it when they fire their weapons.

I love to look around at the 200 or so people who attend every year. It is a very diverse crowd that gathers to pay tribute. There are always dozens of young families, plenty of mature couples and even several dogs and their owners who huddle together against the snow and wind. We come together for half an hour once a year to remember and honour the Fallen Brave.

This year, more so than previous years, it hit me that today is not only about the men who served and died decades ago. It is also about the young, very young, people who serve now.

Recently I was in a church service in our town where a young soldier was being recognised before his deployment to Afghanistan. I didn't know this young guy but I wept as his youth pastor spoke. He talked of seeing a mischievous young boy grow into a man of integrity, honour and compassion. He shared stories of how this young man worked long hours at summer jobs so that he could afford to go on mission trips, how he was a natural leader among his peers and a true hero in our community. What touched me the most was when people who had watched this boy grow into a man stood and flooded the stage area to surround him and his family in prayer.

I realised then that the decision to serve is not only about the soldier but also about the families and communities that release and support them. So today as I stood in the midst of this crowd, surrounded by family, strangers and servicemen, I prayed. I prayed for wisdom, guidance and safety for all of those who are serving. I prayed for peace and comfort for their families and I prayed that we would never forget that it is the individual men and women who willingly give up the comforts and familiarity of home to ensure peace, protection and freedom for us all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Exercise in Sacrifice

On the evening of August 18, 1942 the men of The South Saskatchewan Regiment were gathered and told that they would be going on another training exercise. The men were taken to Southampton and loaded on to one of two ships, the 'Princess Beatrix' or the 'Invicta.' Once on board the troops were issued new guns and grenades, it was then that they realised that they were about to embark on something much more than a training exercise.

Throughout the night the men we're briefed on Operation Jubilee, the Allied forces first attempt at a France invasion. Along with the SSR, troops from 13 other regiments, including the 14th Army Tank Regiment were being similarly prepped. As the ships sailed toward Dieppe in the calm, cool predawn hours a German convoy spotted the ships and opened fire on the on the far flank. Unable to communicate effectively with the other ships due to damage to the aerial, the raid continued as scheduled, no one knowing for sure if the Germans on shore had been alerted to the coming attack.

At approximately 5am, the first troops of Operation Jubilee landed on the beaches of Dieppe. The men of the SSR were assigned the task of securing Pourville, a small village to the east of Dieppe that was a major defensive position for the German Forces. It was through Pourville, or GREEN BEACH, that other regiments would pass and rendezvous for the assault on Dieppe. It was vital that the SSR secure the bridge and two main roads that sectioned through Pourville swiftly and completely.

Due to choppy seas and mist, the majority of the men landed on the wrong side of the river estuary in Pourville, creating confusion and a hasty scramble to position themselves correctly. By this time the Germans were on full alert and were spraying all beaches with gunfire and mortar blasts. Most of the first wave of the SSR were able to scale the sea wall and make their way through the treacherous barbed wire to begin their sweep of the houses along the first streets.

This successful advance was short lived as it soon became apparent that the Germans were better prepared than first anticipated. Most of the key objectives were well guarded by pillboxes and slit trenches containing dozens of German soldiers with machine guns and heavy artillery. The men of SSR made many brave and valiant attempts at securing Pourville, losing many good men along the way. In the end they were called to retreat along with the rest of the Allied Forces of Operation Jubilee.

Due to the heavy counter assault the Allieds were experiencing and the choppy seas most of the landing crafts were unable to approach the beaches for the retreat. Soldiers who were retreating had to sprint across the beach, dodging gunfire, mortar explosions and the bodies of their fallen comrades. Many of the wounded were picked up and carried to the landing crafts, waiting off shore. Several brave soldiers made several trips between the beach and the landing crafts to evacuate the wounded.

In all the Allied Forces were on the beach for less than 8 hours. The Canadian Regiments bore the brunt of the casualties with 907 killed, 2,460 wounded and 1,874 taken prisoner. Of the 2,210 Canadian soldiers who returned to Britain after Operation Jubilee only 236 were uninjured...and 200 of those never made it to the beach in the first place.

By many, Dieppe was considered to be a practice run for a future Allied full scale assault, a way to test the German defenses. These brave men went into this operation full in, they were committed and ready to fight. They may have been scared and unsure of what to expect but that did not stop them. This was not a practice run for them, this was the real thing. They really fought, they really bled and many, many of them really died.

Remember these men and the sacrifices they made to ensure success in the years that would follow. Remember their wives and children and parents and the love they carried, and carry still, in their hearts for their brave men. Remember that today, the same kind of men and women are living and serving all over the world in the name of the freedom that the soldiers before them fought for.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Manitoba Soldier Remembered

In May of 1940, with the war in Europe gaining momentum a young Manitoba man, not quite 18 made his way to Camp Shilo and joined the Canadian Army. At the time a regiment from Weyburn, Saskatchewan was training there and this soldier was folded into that regiment along with about a dozen other Manitoba men. They trained at Shilo for less than 8 months before they were sent to Toronto then to Halifax to board The Penland for their deployment to England.

On December 25, 1940 this young soldiers landed in Scotland and along with his regiment made his way south to the coastal towns where they continued their training and served countless hours of patrol duty. It wasn't all work for these bright eyed soldiers, though. They often had the opportunity to go on leave to London.

During one weekend leave, this soldier was playing Canadian football with his friends in Green Park in London. He went running for an over thrown pass and wound up running head long into a fiery little red-head, knocking her off her bike and into a pond. With his pals hooting and cat calling him, the soldier waded into the pond, helped the young lady out and picked up her badly damaged bicycle. After much apologizing and pleading, the young lady permitted the rowdy group of soldiers to drive her to work, as she was already late.

Over the weeks that followed the young soldier couldn't stop thinking about the pretty little redhead and on his next weekend leave he sought her out. At first she wouldn't give him the time of day because she knew that she didn't want to fall for a soldier, especially a foreign one, but he wore her down. He spent every leave for months showing up at her work, the hospital where she volunteered and at Green Park, her favourite place to sit and read.

His persistence paid off. She finally agreed to go out with him because she was already in love with him and an engagement soon followed. Their wedding plans were postponed several times due to the young soldier's training schedule but on August 1, 1942, he sent word that he had been granted a 24 hour leave and they were married.

Through the heart ache of the war, the death of a child, the birth of nine more children, hard times, good times, flush times and even more lean times, they loved each other. They spent their free time at the Legion, danced every chance they got and held their family close. They lived and loved each other for nearly 50 years when the young soldier, now a husband, father and grandfather passed away on November 9, 1991. He was surrounded by the family who loved him, loves him still...misses him still.

He was my grandfather, my Papa...Arthur 'Chim' Kirton. We remember.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Blue Berets

Patriotism isn't a one day event...neither is remembering.

I grew up as the daughter of Mr. Canada. My dad is one of the most patriotic people I have ever met, he loves our country, our freedoms, our resources and our quirks. He watches Hockey Night in Canada, Corner Gas and CBC News religiously. He has read Farley Mowat's books and knows more about Canadian history and politics than most people I've met. Canada Day is second only to Christmas for the traditions and celebration we have. For crying out loud, the man's cel phone ring tone is O Canada! He is passionately Canadian.

And he passed on all of his love and passion for his homeland to me and my children.

I remember sitting with my dad when I was a small child and talking to him about Canada, our history and our heroes. He didn't wait for Remembrance Day to discuss the importance of remembering and honouring the men and women who have sacrificed all so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have. Every day we had discussions and, as I grew older, debates about politics and history. He taught my sister and I that it is not our right to vote but our duty, that Canadian politics and resources impact the world and it is better to make peace than war.

It has not only been during times of war that my dad has educated us on the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers but during times of peace as well. He has pointed out that Canadian forces have been present is Bosnia, Croatia, Rwanda and Haiti during times of great civil unrest, that the Canadians Peacekeepers stand up for freedom even if there is no financial or political gain for us. He has reminded us to not only honour the Green Berets but the Blue as well because it is peace that is the gift and war is sometimes unavoidable on the path to peace.

To all the men and women who wear the Blue Beret...blessed are the peacemakers. Thank-you and God Bless.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fiction Friday - KILLERBYTE by Cat Connor

Cliches like 'edge of your seat' and 'page turner' are often used to describe well written suspense books and now I know why. Although I am not a seasoned reader of thrillers I must say this book has everything you'd want in a thriller and some things you wouldn't expect.

KILLERBYTE is the week-in-the-life tale of FBI agent Ellie Conway as she simultaneously hides from and hunts a cyber psycho who is doing his best to scare her to death before he kills her. Along for the ride is Ellie's friend and recent love interest Mac Connelly. This pair spends 400 pages dodging bullets, house explosions and creepy email messages. When they are not finding bodies (or parts of bodies) in cars, trees and dumpsters they are attempting to sort through the evidence and figure out who the killer really is.

Connor does a phenomenal job of creating characters that have real human reactions to unreal situations. Ellie Conway is an intelligent, fiercely independent and resourceful FBI agent that weathers this emotional roller coaster with wit, focus and a macabre sense of humor. The reader is drawn into Ellie's world easily through Connor's perfect balance of descriptive detail and action sequences. Her ability to write in detail about police and FBI procedure and the DC area only enhances the realism and suspense that builds through out the story.

Connor leaves no stone unturned and no body untouched as she guides us through the adventure, terror and mystery that is KILLERBYTE.

KILLERBYTE is available on Amazon and is published by Rebel ePublishers. **I'm giving this an older teen/adult reader rating due to some graphic crimes scene description and coarse language

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comic Relief

We're at the point in Dude's development and understanding of Asperger's where we are guiding him toward independence. We are trying to help him learn how to speak up for himself and let people know what he needs to feel comfortable and productive at school. I often remind him that I am not always available to translate for him so he has to find the words himself.

So yesterday when he came out of school quite emotional I knew we had to have a chat. We went to my room, sat on my bed and began to talk about his day. We discussed his interactions with his teacher, the responsibilities he has in the classroom and the people he is sitting near.

He made a list of the things that were causing him stress at school and his plan for talking to his teacher about these issues. I told him that as long as he stays respectful and open to compromise it never hurts to ask for change.

At some point during our chat Mischief wondered in and sat down with us. Dude was just reviewing his plan when Mischief piped up, "I think I am going to talk to my teacher. Grade One is too much stress all day. I need to stay home after lunch like the kindergartners so I can play and relax and maybe do some more skateboard tricks."

"Mischief, that's not really what I meant."

He slid off the bed, shrugged and said, "Well, I'm going ask anyway. My teacher likes me so she might let me...at least on Tuesdays maybe."

He left the room. Dude and I broke out laughing. When the laughter began to subside Dude said, "Its a good thing I have a brother like him, he makes serious days seem not as bad."

Ain't that the truth!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Encouraged to Accept

Initially, I started this post in a state of crazed, righteous indignation. I am mad and frustrated and sad and tired but the last thing the world needs is one more hyped-up lunatic spouting off that we are raising a generation without compassion and morals. A generation that is using technology to attack and bully one another into cutting and suicide. So here's the thing, how do we change it?

We use our words and we teach our kids how to use their words, not as weapons but as bandages.

When I was a teenager I attended a youth group at my cousin's church and it changed my life. It was there, every Friday night, that I learned two vital lessons. The first, that every person has been created for a purpose, is valuable and precious. The second, I learned the art of encouragement.

At this youth group we all had mailboxes and on top of the mailbox was a stack of brightly colored recipe cards called simply, Encouragement Cards. We were asked to use these cards to write notes of encouragement or compliments to each other. The youth leader also took steps to ensure that we wrote not only to our best friends but to everyone in our group. He would have us write to the person who had the mailbox beside us, under us or three doors down from us. At special youth events we had to write one to everyone at the event.

It was through the giving and receiving of these cards that we began to understand that we each have value to the group and that no matter what differences we have we can always find some common ground. I think that's what's missing these days. Kids are not taught to respect and value each other. They aren't made to look each other in the eye and say something positive to one another (another one of the youth leader's favourite exercises). They aren't given the tools to risk rejection on the gamble of experiencing full acceptance.

All I'm saying folks is that maybe if kids are taught to appreciate the people around them they might be less likely to wound them with their words...or worse.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This is How it Starts

Since going small town I haven't been watching very much TV. I used to be a TV connoisseur, or junky as my mom would say. I would watch the usual hits like Grey's Anatomy, Law & Order, CSI and House as well as an array of reality shows like Amazing Race, Mantracker and Hell's Kitchen. And one of my all time favourites, Hoarders...Buried Alive.

There's something about seeing someone else's disaster that makes me feel SOOOO much better about the condition of my house. I can sit back in my messy living room, strewn with dirty socks, half finished crafts and Lego and feel okay with it. I mean really, at least I don't have 912 bobbled head dolls and 17 years worth of newspapers stacked amongst animal droppings and rotting food. Right?

But as I watch the show I wonder, how does it start? You don't all of a sudden wake up one day and find your house full of stray cats, weird collectables and garabge, do you?It has to start somewhere, right? Well, yesterday I had a revelation...this is how it starts.

Since we moved a little more than two months ago our garage has been full of boxes. All of the odds and ends of our life stacked in mislabelled boxes waiting to be sorted and put away. After scraping ice off the van windows a couple of times last week I decided that the garage had to be done pronto. Mr. Awesome had the day off work so we tackled the mess in the garage. I started sorting through boxes, presumably throwing away junk and donating things we no longer need.

About halfway through the clean up Mr. Awesome looked at the 'Keep' stack beside the door and asked, "Seriously?" I glanced over at the teetering pile of keepsakes, dishes and books and replied, "What?" He just shrugged and went back to sorting through his side of the garage. Irritated with Mr. Not-so-Awesome and his critical eye, I kept going through boxes, sorting as I had been.

When all of the boxes had been purged I had two bags of garbage and three boxes of stuff to donate. I was feeling pretty proud of myself until I turned around and saw the mountain that was the 'Keep' pile. Realising that if I attempted to move all of this stuff into the house I would soon be a contender for the next season of Hoarders, I took a second look at the pile.

I decided it was time to stop looking at the sentiment attached to each item and look only at the functionality of the item. With this new perspective in mind I sliced through the pile again in no time. I was able to cut the 'Keep' items down by almost two thirds. Yay me!

Saved from Hoarders...for now, at least!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Truly Beautiful

Last week I went to Crafty & Mischief's school for their Halloween costume parade and assembly. We live in a small town that has many new immigrants. Many of these kids don't celebrate Halloween for religious reasons and others because culturally they are not familiar with this festival.

One of Crafty's classmates was allowed to participate in the Halloween party but not allowed to come in costume. Her father could not see the point in wearing a costume so she was sent to school in one of her 'everyday' dresses. She was one of only ten kids (out of 350) who was not in costume. I felt a bad for her as they started calling out costume themes for the parade.

Kids dressed as "Spooky" "Famous People/Characters" and "Animals or Bugs" came parading by in all their glory and still Crafty's little friend sat there. The more categories that were called the more nervous I felt for her. She is a sweet little girl and I didn't want her to feel left out of any part of the celebrations. Then the teacher called out "Beautiful" and dozens of princesses and fairies began their glittery stroll around the gym. I looked back to where Crafty and her friend were sitting but her friend was gone? I mouthed "Where is she?" Crafty pointed.

Her friend was prancing around the gym with all the of the princesses. As she walked past me I heard another kid ask her what she was dressed up as, her reply?

"Just me. I'm beautiful."

Yes she is!