Thursday, March 31, 2011

Peas & Carrots

Spring Break Day 4 and our plans for today had to be cancelled due to illness. Some friends from our old neighborhood were supposed to come out for a visit today but one of their sons is sick. The kids were pretty bummed out yesterday when they heard the news but today they are handling the change in plans like champions, they have made their own plans for today and their having a great time.

When I got up this morning it was to the sounds of the kids laughing and playing Playdough together. They were singing songs from their favourite movies, imagining that they were cooks at a restaurant and good naturedly teasing each other. They played like that for almost two hours and then they moved on to the next items on their lists.

Yes, they made a list of things they were going to do today. The list included a bubble bath for Crafty while the boys played Wii, then a game of Elephun followed by lunch, playing outside then a movie complete with popcorn and sour gummies. After supper they plan to have a Jedi battle while Crafty plays with her dolls for a while, then they are going to play Playmobile and read a couple of stories before bed.

Sounds like a full day and so far they have stuck to their plan without arguing. I can't remember the last time my kids have spent so much time together without having major arguments constantly. Sure we have had moments of chaos and rowdiness this week but for the most part we have been experiencing sibling bliss.

They have been helpful, respectful and generally a lot of fun to be with. I'm not sure what's going on, maybe its just that they're getting older or maybe that here, in this house, there is enough space for everyone to do their own thing but whatever it is I love it! I love having relaxed conversations with the kids, playing games and joking around with them. I also love that they are at the stage where I don't need to be activity director 24-7. They can make up their own minds on how to spend their day and for the most part they make pretty good decisions.

After they had cleaned up the Playdough (complete with wiping the table and sweeping the floor) the boys went downstairs to play Wii and Crafty sat with me on my bed while we waited for the tub to fill for her bubble bath. I asked her if she was missing school and her friends and she said not really.

"Not even your friends?"

"Nope, I'm kind of having fun with he boys."

"Really? You don't wish that you had more play dates this week?"

"Having more girls around would be fun," she said, "but me and the boys just fit together, we're a team, kind of."

"You guys certainly seem like you're having fun together," I said.

"We are," she said as she slid off the bed and walked toward the door, "at least when they are not being dufusses."

Yep, peas and carrots ... different but still good together.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Nothing Day

Spring Break Day 3 and the kids and I have decided that today is going to be a nothing day ... we are going to do absolutely nothing today. This means no chores, no getting dressed (if you don't want to), no running errands and no homework. Just a great big day of nothing.

My nothing day began with a 2am wake up call from Crafty because she couldn't remember if I tucked her in before I went to bed or not (Mr. Awesome tucked her in and he was asleep 30 seconds later). At 7:30 Dude came into y room to remind me that it was Nothing Day and I should sleep in if I want. At 7:44, Dude returned to tell me he thought my bedroom was too cold for me to seep in and I should shut the window. At 7:58 Dude came back once again and insisted on closing my bedroom window.

By 8:30 each kid had visited my room one more time to get me to open a box of cereal, to ask if they should feed the tortoise and to inform me that they are out of clean underwear. It is now 11am and have done three loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, painted Crafty's toenails, fixed Mischief's Playmobile fire station, vacuumed the basement, cleaned the kitchen again (after second breakfast) and cleaned the kids' bathroom.

When I sat down to check my emails and write this blog Dude came up behind me and gave me a huge hug and said, "Don't you love nothing days?"

"Yeah, Buddy, nothing days rock,"  laughed as I thought about my busy morning.

"Can we go out and rent some movies, then stop at the grocery store to get some chocolate milk and if you want you can stop at Timportance and get a coffee too," he asked.

Errands, what happened to my nothing day?! "Yeah, sure we can ... just give me a couple of minutes."

"Great! I don't have any clean pants though, you're going to have to wash some."

"I just did three loads of laundry, there must be something clean you can wear?"

"I have all my pants in my room, I didn't want to crowd the laundry room for you. So can you wash them?"

"Yeah, Buddy, take them to the laundry room and I'll be right there."

"Thanks, Mom ... nothing days are awesome!"

Nothing Day? To quote one of my favourie movies, "I do not think that word means what you think it means!"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A House Full of Dwarfs

So, it's day two of Spring Break and things are grooving here at this Random House (and of course as right this sentence I am interrupted five times to break up fights and answer the same question twice). We have some pals stopping by for a visit this afternoon and the Wee Ones are so stoked that they have spent much of the past 24 hours helping me to clean and organise the house.

For those of you who know me personally or have been reading this blog since the beginning you know that I am a recovering Domestically Challenged individual but what you may not know is that my control freak tendencies have caused me to swing in the other direction. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a neat freak but I am pretty picky about how I clean and organise, so much so that Mr. Awesome and the Wee Ones rarely are allowed to help me clean.

I know it sounds crazy, a busy mom turning down help to clean, but I do ... all the time. I get a little mental when the middle of the room is vacuumed but not along the baseboards, or when the kitchen is cleaned except for wiping the table or when the pillows are left in a heap on the couch rather than being arranged properly. I have been mocked and chastised by friends who say they would be blown away with any offer o help from their family and I regularly turn help away. Shame on me?

So yesterday when I started to tidy up the house and Crafty offered to help I said okay. Then Dude wanted in on the cleaning action and Mischief followed along, mostly because he had no one left to play with. So we made a list of all the chores that had to be done and the kids each chose two zones to clean. I watched them scurry around sweeping, dusting and organising and tried to ignore the dust around the baseboards and the teetering stack of 'organised' books on the end table. At the end of the day they toured me around the house to proudly display all that they had accomplished.

"It's just like you have a house full of dwarfs!" Mischief declared.

"What?" I asked, searching for the link between clean house and little people.

"Y'know like Sleeping Snow, wait no, I mean the White girl ... Snow White and all those dwarf guys she made clean her house. You're just like her, Mom and her House Full of Dwarfs."

Not quite the stuff of fairy tales but I'll take it!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The First Day of Spring Break


In theory I look forward to the school break the kids get during the year. Thanksgiving is a nice time to take a breath, Remembrance Day is an excellent day to relax and Christmas Break is the perfect opportunity to unwind a bit. I go into each of these breaks full of optimism and plans for some really great family time but within the first couple of hours f each school break I start wishing that school would be called back into some kind of emergency session. This is never more true than during Spring Break.

I don't know what it is about this time of the year but the kids are nuts! Its probably cabin fever mixed with their general fed-up-edness with the snow but they are all rowdy, loud and full of good/bad ideas (depending which side of the resulting catastrophe you're standing on).

This year I am trying to combat the mayhem with a few well timed outings and visits with friends but if this morning is an indicator of what I'm in for this week my hopes for a more blissful break may have just flown out the window!

I didn't hear from the kids until about an hour after we usually get up for school. At first they were quiet, I could faintly ear them chatting with each other and making breakfast but that only lasted a few minutes. By quarter to nine a full on Jedi war was taking place on he main floor of the house. I could hear the light sabres, blaster guns and whirring of ships zipping up and down the hall. When the boys decided to capture Crafty, she was Princess Leia unbeknownst to her, she panicked and I got up to referee.

Apparently the battle was a human/Lego figure hybrid battle that involved stripping the living room couch of all its pillow, moving the kitchen benches to block off the doorways to the dining room and front entry and having the army of Lego figures take their stand in Dude's toast with peanut butter (apparently because it sticks better and it looks like a foreign planet). As I ventured deeper into the battle scape I found that the front closet was some kind of hideout with many of the shoes and coats used as a barricade and that 'Princess Leia' had been abducted from her craft area where she had been beading, gluing, taping, stamping, painting, colouring and glittering everything in sight.

As I write this I am waiting for the coffee to brew while Mischief is returning the living room and front entry to some kind of order, Dude is licking his Lego guys clean and tidying up the kitchen and Crafty is peacefully back at her project. We came to a compromise, battles are for the basement and you cannot take anyone hostage without their consent.

I'm going to pour myself a pot of coffee and barricade myself in my bedroom until morning ... Monday morning! Happy Spring Break!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Gift of Appreciation

I am finally wrapping up Staff Appreciation at Dude's school for this year. After months of planning lunches and treats for coffee break and making thank-you cards and center pieces we are done. I dropped off the last of the coffee break snacks about half an hour ago .. I'm done!

People comment from time to time on how 'thankful'  I am and how much effort I put into appreciation and to tell you the truth, I am not a naturally thankful person. I have worked very hard to notice people and the things they do. I practice being appreciative with Mr. Awesome and with the kids. I make a conscious effort to tell people that I see them and appreciate what they do.

I started this for two reasons. When I was in high school I started volunteering on a team at church. The team leader was one of my mom's friends, someone I had known for years. It wasn't until I started working with her on a weekly basis that I noticed how often she said thank you and even more than that, how much she showed her appreciation for her team by respecting their time, ideas and talents. I also noticed that the people on her team were willing to work harder, stay later and were generally happier than most other teams volunteering there. I started studying her, learning from how she interacted with people and even now, years later, I often asked myself, 'What would Becky do?' when I'm puzzled by an interpersonal dilemma.

The second reason for my practice of appreciation comes from a lesson hard learned. Several yeas ago my friend's mother became very ill. This friend and I weren't super close but we had attended school and youth group together for several years and I had known her parents as very active members of our church community. I was always impressed by how giving and accepting her parents were and how much they loved each other, they were real partners in everything. I learned a lot from observing them over the years and I had always felt very grateful that they were part of the village that raised me.

When Mrs. W's health began to deteriorate, I really wanted to visit her or write her a note or something to tell her how much I appreciated and admired the way she lived her life. I wanted her to know that she made a difference to me ... but I didn't. I didn't want to intrude or force my way into her family's last weeks with her so I didn't say anything and she passed. She lived a full and marvelous life and was treasured by many, many people and I know she knew that, I just wish I had told her what she meant to me.

From Becky and Mrs. W I learned that you can motivate people through being appreciative and part of living with no regrets is telling the impressive people in your life just how impressive they are, every chance you get. The other thing that I have discovered along the way is that being appreciative, genuinely thankful for those people who make your life spectacular, is a gift to yourself. Noticing the good things in your life is like turning on the sunshine, everything is brighter and lighter and sweeter and the dark, troubling bits in life seem to shrink against the brightness of gratitude.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mischief's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

One of Mischief's favourite books is Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. While the story is funny Mischief often reminds me at the end of the book that it is no fun having a bad day and he should know because yesterday was a doozie!

From the moment Mischief woke up, he made one bad decision followed by another which all piled up into a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Its Spirit Week at the school and yesterday was beach day. He had planned to wear his brown and orange board shorts with his surfing shirt but when he put them on before breakfast we realized that he had grown more than we thought over the winter. The shorts were micro short and dangerously tight and the shirt, aside from having a horrendously scratchy tag and feeling like 'too slippery' was also so small that the hem of the short wasn't even neighbor to the top of the shorts.

During breakfast Mischief got distracted by a scab on his knee which meant his cereal marinated in the milk for too long and became soggy but there was no more of his favourite cereal so he was 'forced' to eat what was in his bowl. After breakfast he realised that he forgot his lunch kit at school so he had to carry his lunch to school in a bread bag and drink water from the fountain because his juice bottle was also at school.

When he put on his boots he realized that the mitts he shoved in them after school the day before had made the liners wet and cold but he had to wear them anyway because the only rain boots we could find were pink and there was NO WAY he could handle wearing the pink boots after the morning he had had. He decided that it ha been a tough morning and he needed his lucky Yoda hat to make it through the rest of the day but it was no where to be seen. Eventually we found it under the couch and we got everyone to school just in time. As he jumped out of the van Mischief said, "well, at least there's swimming today!"

"Swimming? At school?" I asked

"Yep, its beach day and we're swimming!" he beamed.

"Buddy, I'm pretty sure there won't be any swimming at school today. Its pretend beach day, its way too cold to swim outside still."

"Aww, dang it!" with that he slammed the van door and trudged up the walk way.

I didn't see him again until after school. When the bell rang, I was in the school office and I could hear him in the hallway talking to the Kindergarten teacher and I could tell he was still in a funk. When he saw me he pulled his hat over his eyes and mumbled something to do with 'stupid hat' and 'still a bad day' and turned to walk out of the school.

After talking with him and having some more details filled in by his teacher I understood why hiding seemed like the best and only option for him. Turns out his day was a series of bad decisions. He was inattentive, very physical and kind of hyper and worst of all he sucker punched another student, someone whom he actually likes very much.

As we walked into the house, with his Yoda hat still pulled low over his eyes, he informed me hat he was going to his room because he was grounded for 17 years.

"Why are you grounded?" I asked.

"Because my brain is telling me all sorts of bad things and we shouldn't be with people or get to do anything fun."

"Why 17 years?"

"Cause in 17 years I'll be old, like thirty or something (okay math is not his strong suit right now) and I'll be the boss of my brain instead of the other way around. I did lots of ba decisions today but mostly I can't believe I hit Casey! Arg!" He pulled his hat all the way over his face, slumped to the floor and started to cry.

I picked my little buddy up and carried him to my room. He cried for several minutes, then he calmed down and lectured me about how he need to make better choices and how if he slows down he can see the right thing to do. When he felt he had lectured himself long enough he pulled the blanket up under his chin, curled up against me and turned on the TV. We cuddled for almost an hour, watching Ellen and laughing.

The authoritative side of me felt like I should be doing more to correct his behaviour but seriously, how do you discipline a kid who grounds and lectures himself? And besides, everyone has a bad day every now and then, even when they have Yoda and The Force on their side. I decided not t say anything more and just enjoy the cuddles. When Mr. Awesome came home and found us snuggled up in bed, he asked, "what's up?"

"Just getting over a bad day," I said.

"Sounds like a plan," He said and slid into bed with us.

Maybe the whole day wasn't so bad afterall.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is it Contagious?

I had a hilarious conversation the other day with a wonderful teacher at Dude's school. She is part of the Resource team and a mother of a son on the Autism Spectrum. Her sense of humour, empathy and down to earth approach to dealing with kids, all kids, is so refreshing that I often feel a little tipsy after talking with her. Yes, I think I get a little buzz on from her honesty, optimism and joy. Anyway, the other day she was telling me about her two sons and how the younger one jokes that they are all catching Autism from her older son and I knew exactly what she meant!

There are dozens of things we do everyday that are different than most families. Most of these adjustments began because we realized that its just easier to change how we do things than to watch Dude struggle though his day. I'm not talking major adaptations, just minor tweaks to our routine because although the boy is going to have to learn how to function in neurotypical world there's nothing that says he can't move through life in his own way.

On the surface, people on The Spectrum can appear quirky at best and downright weird at worst. They have their own rhythm to life and do even the most ordinary of tasks in a manner that would never even occur to a neurotypical person to try. Sadly, many times us 'normal' folk try to change these quirky habits so that the person with ASD can fit in. We think we are correcting their behaviour, doing them a favour but most of the time we're not. Making them behave just like everyone else for no other reason than it makes us feel more comfortable is selfish and wrong.

If you talk to a person on The Spectrum and find out the reasoning behind the habit, their way of doing things usually makes perfect sense and is often times much more logical than the norm. I have to tell you that after living with someone on The Autism Spectrum for more than ten years I have to say that I think ASD logic may not be that quirky or weird afterall.

There are tons of times that after a conversation with Dude, I'm not sure which one of us is normal, really. He can explain in detail, and quite persuasively, his point of view. He can give us the why and the how behind his every decision whereas most of us do the things we do, the way we do, because that's the way it's always been done. We couldn't explain our way out of a wet paper bag but we're sure we're right because we're the 'normal' ones. 

So let me ask again, who is the neurologically challenged one? The kid who can tell you why he thinks the way he does, or the hordes of us who mindlessly move through our daily routines?

The point is, I kind of hope ASD logic is contagious because I think it is a gift to move through life knowing, with absolute certainty, why you do what you do.

I see people with Asperger's Syndrome as a bright thread in the rich tapestry of life.
~Tony Attwood

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

By Definition

I remember spending hours and hours trying to get Dude to talk. I tried everything to get him to say that one sweet word, 'Mommy' but of course his first recognizable utterance was 'Daddy' then 'cookie' then 'sous' and finally 'Mommy'.  As his vocabulary broadened we loved teaching him new words and phrases.We would chuckled indulgently at his attempts to pronounce new words and occasionally his mispronunciations became part of our regular vocabulary. And the same thing happened with our other children too until eventually we had our own Random Dictionary.

Over the years we have added more words, more funny mispronunciations or new words made up from merging two other words. Here are some of our favourite Random Words, we love them because they are a part of who we are as a family. Each funny phrase holds a memory and and reminds us of how unique and together we are as a family.

Taski - aka 'Taxi' the car that drives you around so you can do all your tasks (Dude)
Cooliator - aka 'Fridge' the kitchen cupboard that keeps your food cool (Crafty)
Fruitbox - aka 'Poptart' the breakfast that has fruit and comes out of the box (Mischief)
Dramastic - the merging of 'dramatic' and 'drastic' (Mr. Awesome)
Taggy - aka 'Facecloth with tag' The piece of cloth with a tag loop that is slippery soft and nice to wrap a finger through (Mischief)
Exhausticated - the state of extreme exhaustion stolen from Auntie Lorna)
Dust Net - aka 'Lint Trap' The little pocket that catches all the clothes dust in the dryer (Crafty)
Poodle Dots - term of endearment for all three kids as a whole (Random One)
Pig Check - The process of removing lint from between ones toes (Toddler Crafty)
Smear or Scrape - unit of measurement for butter, peanut butter or jam on toast (Crafty)
Moosh & Squisher - aka 'Kisses and Hugs' (Baby Dude)
Coffeejuice - aka 'coffee, double double' the nectar of life, the fuel that keeps this Random Mother going (Random One)
What are some of your family words?

My alphabet starts with this letter called yuzz. It's the letter I use to spell yuzz-a-ma-tuzz. You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond 'Z' and start poking around!
~Dr. Suess

Friday, March 18, 2011

Knowing When to Say When

For all my talk about being calm and reasonable even I have moments of stupid paranoia and mama bear defensiveness.

We went to Dude's parent/teacher interview last night. We were running late, the kids were a little nutty and Dude was stressed about the meeting so he was slightly random, obsessive and difficult to reason with. I was annoyed by the ordeal that it was to leave the house that evening and instead of dealing with that issue, I channelled my frustration into my thoughts regarding the report card. I was genuinely confused by the vague comments in the report card and by how the grading system worked but I allowed my confusion to morph into misdirected irritation. So to say I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I entered the school is an understatement.

Thankfully, the resource teacher was standing in the front hall when we arrived. She asked about his report card and I 'expressed' (or spewed) my frustrations. She listened and calmly reminded me that we discussed much of what was in the report during an earlier meeting. She was very rational and very right in everything she said and it annoyed me. For some crazy reason I wanted to be annoyed, I was geared up and ready to defend my kid, even though it was completely unnecessary.

The resource teacher offered to come to the meeting with us and I accepted. As we walked down the hall to Dude's class I took a deep breath, counted to ten and exhaled. I reminded myself to trust the staff and to relax, not every meeting needs to be a struggle. I told myself that I was behaving like a crazy person and I agreed.

Anyway, the meeting was terrific. All my angst was for nothing. It was a shadow habit from past experiences of trying to get staff to understand the extent of Dude's needs. These people, the current staff at this school, may not know everything but they are honestly trying to really know my kid and help him to succeed ... and I have to get out of their way.

Sometimes we get so used to duking things out on the behalf of our kids we don't even recognize when teachers are on the ball, engaged and working well with our kids. It's like that old Kenny Roger's song, you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. As a parent you need to know when to say when, know when you need to step in and when you need to step out of the way. And if you have done your job right, if you have a good working relationship with the school and you have good communication with your kid, stepping back should be as easy as exhaling.

I think we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Great Expectations

When I was about ten years old I met Charles Dickens. He came to me in the form of a book I found piled among other books in my Nanny's room. The title caught my eye and captured my imagination, Great Expectations, how grandiose and thrilling! I immediately plucked the book from the pile, climbed over her rocking chair and snuggled into the corner beside the dormer window between the three foot high stuffed Sylvester the Cat and a pile of handmade afghans.

I sat there for hours and read about how the fate of one poor boy was changed by either a crazy rich lady or an ex-con on the run. I loved the twists and turns Pip's life took and how one situation threaded into the next, it was the first book that I ever read that 'stuck with me' for years. I remember how I felt reading that story the first time because its the same way I feel each time I read it still. I am full of wonder and hope and questions about the future and how much we control our own destiny.

As I child, I thought that everything was left up to chance but as an adult I clearly see how our decisions, attitudes and friendships impact our future. How the truths we know about ourselves, the limitations we either cling to or release, steer us toward success or mediocrity. It is the people we align ourselves with who either push us into greatness or hold us is complacency. No one dreams of being mediocre when they are a child but yet somehow, so many people settle for the mundane, they become okay with being okay because becoming anything more is just too much work.

I constantly tell my kids that they have gifts, talents and abilities that can make them world changers. I encourage them to dream, to imagine all of the possibilities that their life could hold, but I also tell them that every dream worth achieving takes hard work. We talk all the time about how many tries it took great scientists, artists, inventors, philanthropists to find success and how hard they have to work to keep achieving the next great thing they are capable of. My kids need to understand that greatness isn't some kind of magical force that comes upon a chosen few, it is a hard won platform on which you stand to reach the next hard won platform. I need them to understand that being extraordinary takes work.

I see a lot of young adults floundering once they graduate from high school and university. They don't seem to be able to settle into jobs and adult life. They want more, think they deserve more but instead of chasing down their more and working for it they are waiting for it to come to them. It like they've stalled and are irritated that the world isn't handing them the good life on a silver platter as a jump start. Mark Twain said, "The world doesn't owe you anything, it was here first." harsh but true.

I don't want my kids to grow up waiting for good things to happen to them, I want them to chase after the dreams they have. I want them to tackle life and show it whose boss! I want them to thrive and find happiness. And most of all I want them to appreciate all the good things in their lives because they have earned them because I believe what you earn you respect and value for more than what you are given.

I found this video that is kind of funny but got me thinking about all of this in the first place, maybe it will get your wheels turning, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Tricks of the Trade

Over the past few days I have had several emails and phone calls from friends who are nervous about attending the dreaded parent/teacher interviews that are coming up. I'm not sure what it is, but nothing makes a grown, confident, professional person feel more like a naughty school kid than meeting with a teacher. Maybe its the tiny, primary coloured chairs you have to squeeze yourself into or the smell of the white board markers mixed with the smell of the glue sticks and erasers that sends you into an elementary school flashback? And then add in the anxiety over discussing the strengths and weaknesses of your kid and it all becomes too much for the average parent.

But I am no average parent ... I am Super Some Random Mother!

No, not really, I've just done this a lot! Since Dude started school six years ago, I have had roughly a thousand meetings with teachers, principals and other school division employees and I have learned a few things along the way. I still get nervous and afraid I am going to forget what I want to say but over the years I have picked up a couple of tricks that help me survive these meetings, and more than survive, have a positive outcome. Here are a couple of things I do for every meeting I attend ...

     *Before the meeting, I take a few minutes and make notes about what I want to say, my impression of the report card, IEP or whatever aspect of my kids' education we are going to be discussing. If I have a specific concern, I try to come up with a few examples to demonstrate my point. If I have had conversations outside of the set meeting time with the staff I try to jot down a few notes after each one so when it comes time for the meeting I have all of the information ready and can easily refer back to my notes during the discussion.

     *Before the meeting, I also spend some time practicing the words I am going to use to discuss more sensitive issues. I know this sounds kind of silly but I want to make sure that my words do not sound like an attack because in my experience teachers who feel as though they are under attack become defensive (just like all of us!) and then its difficult to have a proper dialogue together. I also work at being relaxed and focused, at choosing my battles and reminding myself that the person sitting across from me at this meeting is, in fact, a person with thoughts, feelings and (I believe) good intentions. I prioritize my concerns. I try to take the things that are mere annoyances off the table and only discuss the things that are real issues because if I make a mountain out of every molehill school staff will be less likely to take my big concerns seriously.

     *At the meeting the first thing I do is pull out a notebook and a pen. I make sure to take notes on everything that is discussed for two reasons. I want to make sure that I have all the information on hand in case we need to discuss the issue again or if I need to relay the conversation to a third party (my spouse or the principal). The second reason I take notes is that in my experience if a teacher sees a parent engaged enough in their child's education to take notes during a meeting they will be less likely to be flippant and make empty promises. They will mirror their response to the level of concern and interest you display during the meeting.
   *During the meeting, I STAY CLAM! Seriously, that is the biggest favour you can do for yourself and your child. Wigging out at the teacher helps no one. Be respectful, hear what the teacher is saying and try not to read into their words or put added meaning to them. Engage in the conversation from the perspective that the teacher has good intentions, even if you really don't think they do. Plant your sticks (see earlier post for stick planting theory), see and treat the teacher as if they were already the kind, compassionate and interested teacher you want them to be because if they really are that kind of person they will appreciate the recognition and if they're not then you have just raised the bar and they know it.

     *At the end of the meeting I thank the teacher, thank them for their time and thank them for the good job they are doing.

    *After the meeting, give the teacher a couple of weeks to respond to your concerns. Give some time to see new programs or procedures work. If after three or so weeks you feel that things haven't changed then talk to the teacher again, remind them, gently, of what you discussed at the meeting and give them a chance to respond. If you still feel as though things are not being handled send an email to the principal with your concerns and cc it to the teacher. 99% of all issues can be solved at the school level so give it time but stay involved.

There are two other things I do outside of 'conference time' that  make all the difference. Firstly, I volunteer, get involved and stay informed. I build a relationship with staff before issues arise because once they see my dedication to my kids, know me as a person and understand where I am coming from they respect my concerns much more. The other thing I do is I contact the teacher when concerns arise, when I have a question, before I am upset. Teachers welcome phone calls and emails from parents. They would much rather hear from you when you first have a question rather than after you've waited few months until conference time when you are upset, angry and disappointed.  Teachers care about their students, want them to succeed and want to have a good working relationship with parents.

Those are the basic rules I live by when dealing with the school. I always try to approach my relationship with my children's educators from a place of respect and understanding. We are a team and have to operate as a team to achieve the best success for my kids. There are no sides ... just a group of people working hard to steer a generation of kids in the right direction.

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it. ~H.E. Luccock

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Madness

Yesterday seemed like a crazy day. I think the kids are still having trouble with the time change or something because they were all a little off. Normally all the kids are up before me and go through their morning routine without a hitch but yesterday I had to drag them all out of bed and fight with the boys to eat breakfast, get dressed and go to school. Thankfully once Crafty was up she was good to go because I nearly broke my 'no morning yelling' rule just trying to get the boys into the van.

Once I shoved them out of the van, I mean dropped them off and school with kisses and well wishes for the day, I did a u-turn and headed for Timmie's. An extra large did not seem big enough after the morning I had! Anyway, I got my coffee and went home to a blissfully quiet and relatively clean home. The rest of the day was spent working in clam silence ... until 3:30 when I went to the school to pick the kids up.

Honestly, in retrospect I should have just left them there. It took so much work to get them there in the first place and they were all miserable and needy when I picked them up so I should have just left them. What's the school going to do? Kick them out into the snow? I don't think so!

By the time we got home I had one kid in tears, another one growling mad and the third asking, begging pleading for a play date, to do crafts, to read a book with her, to make a snack, to organise her dolls, to paint her nails, to help her make the earth spin in the opposite direction. As we all tumbled into the house, sobbing, growling, whining I had another 'why didn't I just get a dog instead' moment and sent everyone to their own rooms so I could gather my few stray wits and sort this chaos out.

It took a while but I got Crafty busy playing with the neighbor kid, Dude settled into his room with a movie and a snack and Mischief building Lego in his room. Just when I thought everything was calm and settled Dude came bursting out of his room in tears over something that happened weeks ago, Crafty opened the back door and brought in a sculpture that was half mud, half snow and ALL melting to show me and Mischief came barreling down the stairs in a growling rage because his Lego project wouldn't work.

"I'm full of madness!" he wailed as he handed me a handful of broken parts to fix.

I surveyed the mayhem that was my life in that moment and said, "Me too, Buddy ... me too!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Basic Humanity 101

This weekend we celebrated Dude's 11th birthday and just like every parent, I became a little reflective, a little nostalgic as I reflected back over the last 11 years of my life.

I thought about my pregnancy, our decision to move back to our hometown so our baby would know his grandparents. I thought about those long sleepless nights of infancy, the excitement over each milestone he reached and our 'new parent' neurosis about nearly every aspect of his babyhood. I remembered his 'sous' and his funny little baby comb over. I laughed about his funny habits and quirky personality.

Eleven years of ups and downs, just like every other parent but we also had a few challenges that most parents don't have to face. School meetings, clinical assessments, trips to the child psychologist, child psychiatrist, anxiety clinic and Autism specialist and countless emails, phone calls and notes from the school's list of '-ists' involved with Dude.

I clearly remember the first information I read about Aspergers after Dude was diagnosed. I remember reading that people on The Spectrum often lack empathy, social understanding and compassion. In fact, that article stated that although these children can be taught habits that may help them fit into society most of them will never grasp the intricacies of true relationship. I remember thinking, "Great, my kid is doomed to grow up like some kind of cyborg!"

But, of course, that wasn't the case.

It took, and still takes, a lot of explaining but Dude understands and displays empathy. He is very thoughtful and compassionate and he understands that how you behave directly impacts how another person can feel about you and themselves. He knows that in order to have friends you must be considerate, kind and respectful. He knows this because we are teaching him, just as we are teaching Crafty and Mischief.

The crazy thing is, that after all the time I have spent in schools over the past several years, I think these lessons are missing from many families. Its not that parents don't care, its just that between the homework and the music lessons and the sports practices parents forget that kids don't know what they have never been taught. They don't naturally know to be respectful of the people around them, they don't realize that their words have a lasting impact on others. They don't know these things because kids are, by nature, pretty self absorbed creatures.

Recently I realised that I was not doing as good of a job of communicating this message to the kids as I thought. Mischief had landed himself in a bit of hot water at school. He was making some bad choices about who he was sitting with and how he was behaving and as I was lecturing him about making better choices he asked, "What are my choices?" At first I thought he was being a smarty pants but when I looked at the kid confusion mixed with an earnest interest in what I was saying was all over his face. He really didn't know.

He didn't know because I had not ever explained it clearly to him. I had told him he needed to behave, be respectful and obedient but I don't think I had ever really explained to him what that looks like. I assumed that he understood what the practical application of the words were. Crazy, huh?

Sometimes, as parents and adults, we forget that kids have little, empty minds and that it is our job to fill them up with the things we feel are important for them to know to become good human beings. We have to think of this part of parenting like we are teaching a course, Basic Humanity 101. We have to talk about how to be a respectful, what it looks like to be obedient and give them examples or role play scenarios for them to practice being a good friend. They need hands on tactical training on how to be a human being because being kind, generous and forgiving doesn't come naturally ... to any of us. We all had to be taught these things and we all have to continually practice being the person we want to be.

If Dude, a kid on The Spectrum, who was never supposed to understand these 'intracasies of human relationship' can learn how to be a good friend then any child, given time and proper explanation, can learn, too.

If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own . . . how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.

~ William Allen White

Friday, March 11, 2011

Seeing Through Sticks

So there's this story in the Bible about these two guys, Jacob and Laban, who made a deal about some livestock. They divided a shared herd between them, Jacob taking the spotted sheep and Laban taking the solid sheep. They decided that whatever spotted sheep were born to either flock in the future would go to Jacob and whatever solid ones came along would go to Laban. When all the sheep were separated it turned out that Jacob had less sheep that Laban.

Jacob didn't whine, nag or harass Laban about this deficit, he did something about it. Jacob collected sticks, shoved them in the mud between his flock and Laban's a watched Laban's herd, imagining the solid coloured sheep were now striped and therefore his. He spent days and weeks thinking of all the striped little lambs those solid sheep were going to have. He was hoping for, seeing in his mind and planning for something that was not yet true. And it paid off, Laban's herd sired a whole generation of healthy, beautiful spotted sheep.

The point of me sharing this little story is that sometimes as parents we wait for our kids to be the well behaved, obedient respectful, responsible children we want them to be. We nag, harass, embarrass, yell and threaten them into (hopefully) submission but what we get is a fear based reaction rather than a lasting change of attitude and behavior.

I am not naturally a patient person and when I speak, especially to the kids, I like to know that they heard me by seeing an immediate and obedient response. Realistically folks, that hardly ever happened, especially if I resorted to yelling at them. So when we moved to this new house I decided that I was going to change my approach. I was going to treat them as though they were already the type of people I wanted hem to be.

Now seven months later I have to say that the difference is amazing.  I saw the type of kids I wanted to have and I spoke to them as if they were already kind and respectful, I encouraged them, thanked them and appreciated the efforts they made and they lived up to my esteem. I raised the bar and they jumped higher. I have spotted sheep! They are more respectful, more helpful and more responsible than they have ever been.

Plant your sticks, talk to your sheep as though they are already spotted and see the difference!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The World of Auto-tainment

I follow Wil Wheaton on Twitter. He is the place where my inner nerd meets up with my twelve year old self. I had a huge 'crush' on him (notice the pun? His character name was Wesley Crusher) and I still find him funny and quirky and actually a pretty good writer. Anyway, I follow WilW on Twitter and for the past day or so he's been posting tweets about things that were the norm for us as kids but are now nearly obsolete. And it got me thinking about how much has really changed in the last twenty or so years.

VCRs became an affordable household item in 1979 but were replace by the DVD player in 1995 which was replaced by Blu-ray technology in 2006.
Spell check for personal computers became available in 1981.
CDs became to mode of choice for music lovers in 1986 but was replaced by MP3 technology in 1998.
The first Starbucks in Canada opened in 1987 but it took more than a decade to see the franchise become a staple in Canadian cities.
In 1992 the Internet became available to subscribers outside of government agencies and science communities.
The first text message was sent in 1992.
Combo meals began to be offered as menu standard in most fast food chains in 1992.
In 1993 smoking on all commercial flights was banned.
Caller ID became a standardized phone service in 1994.
Google was incorporated in 1997.
Napster, the first digital music sharing site, was established in 1998.
2001 saw the launch of Wikipedia.
Youtube went public in 2005.
The grandfathers of social networking sites, Friendster and Myspace were founded in 2002 and 2003, respectively and Twitter was launched in 2006.
The PVR became the 'next big thing' in home theatre packages in 2007.

My point being, when we (people old enough to think of 1900 as 'the turn of the century') were growing up you had to know how to spell, go to a dictionary to find the meaning of a word and an encyclopedia to find out more about the world around you. If we wanted to talk to someone we had to pick up a phone, in our house, and call them or ride our bikes down the block to visit them. We answered the phone not knowing who was on the other end, wrote letters with pen and paper and mailed them via the Post Office.

We drank coffee that we made at home, with just cream and sugar, no soy, whip, foam or flavours. We ordered our fast food meals by the item, 'Do you want fries with that?' and burgers were burgers, not entities of epic proportions that were the size of our heads and weighed twice as much. People smoked on planes, in cars, in malls and in restaurants. We took peanut butter sandwiches to school and rode our bikes without helmets.

When we listened to music we had to flip the album or tape over half way through. If we wanted to watch a movie we went to the cinema and if there was a show we loved to watch on TV we had to watch it when it aired or wait for the rerun. Our 'social network' was school, church and our neighborhood and making a 'friend' meant spending time with a person not clicking an icon. 'Surfing' involved going outside, fresh air and water and the phrase 'you had to be there' meant something because there was no one filming and posting your most embarrassing moments for the world to see.

Times were different, not necessarily better or worse, just different and it makes me wonder what the next twenty or so years will bring?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Small Words, Big Impact

Parents are strange creatures. They can complain and whine about their children but as soon as they perceive that someone else thinks that their kids are less than perfect they start flapping their wings and running around like Chicken Little, fretting and blaming and chirping to whoever will listen to them. Sadly the people who often bare the brunt of all this flapping and clucking are teachers.

Teachers are the poor souls who have to educate and evaluate children and then explain the results of the educating and evaluating to parents. Teachers have to walk the fine line between honesty and sensitivity, they have to bring up concerns but balance their concerns with praise. More often than not teachers are slammed for 'picking on' or 'not understanding' or 'not caring' about their students and that is simply not true.

I have spent a lot of time in schools over the past six years and I have to say the vast majority of teachers want the best for their students, they want to educate them, inspire them and see them succeed. In all of the dealings we have had with the school division we have only ever encountered one teacher, one classroom teacher out of more than thirty teachers we have worked with, who had given up and was more concerned with her own needs than the needs of her students. 1 in 30+.

That one teacher was incredibly difficult to deal with and made the whole year nightmarish but we have also seen how one stellar teacher can make all the difference in the world. Most teachers aren't monsters or saints, most fall somewhere in between those two extremes. Most do their best to juggle the needs of their students with their own needs (like seeing their own kids and spouses). Most do the best with what they have and honestly folks, teachers work miracles everyday considering the lack of resources they often have.

I was working as a substitute EA today in Dude's school. I spent the day in grade five, across the hall from Dude's class working with a teacher I had only met once before. I was so impressed by how well he knew his students, their strengths, weaknesses and quirks. He was able to engage each one of his 24 students in classroom discussions, problem solving and a nature walk. It was clear that all of the kids loved him and respected him.

At the end of the day I had the chance to talk to him a little about his philosophy of teaching and again I was impressed. After listening to him talk about teaching his students to respect the planet, accept each other and explore their world, as well as how much he wants to spark their imaginations inside the classroom, I was nearly speechless. I was absolutely blown away by how much this teacher actually thinks about his students and their futures.

When the bell rang, he thanked me for helping out in his class and I thanked him for being a creative, engaging mentor for his students. He was a little taken aback and unsure of what to say. So I said,

"Seriously, I see that you take that extra time to know your students. I see that you want to inspire them and encourage them in everything that they do and as a parent I have to say thank you. Thank- you for being present and interested in these kids."

"Thank you for seeing the effort, that means a lot."

The words 'thank you' are not big words but they can leave a lasting impact when spoken with sincerity. I challenge you, the next time you are sitting at a parent teacher meeting or having a conversation with a teacher about your kid, thank them for taking the time to know your kid and care enough to talk with you. Trust me, its way easier for them to skip the tough conversations but they don't ... because they care.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Girl Child

As the mother of three children I know very well how kids, from the same genetic pool, raised by the same parents with the same rules and experiences, can be very VERY different from each other. Dude, in general is a pretty mellow kid and when there is something bothering him he'll speak up. Mischief is the most loving nutter you ever met. They are boys, they are pretty basic, straight forward and relatively easy to figure out. Relative to Crafty, especially.

I am at a loss with that girl. I know there are some very basic differences between raising a boy child and raising a girl child but seriously? Seriously? (Sorry I've been doing a Grey's Anatomy marathon for a couple of weeks and I'm kind of stuck, seriously) The emotional highs and lows, the pouting and silent treatment, the sudden outbursts of tears followed by a deep sigh and a smile is beginning to make me think she's crazy. Seriously.

She has always been a more emotional child than either of the boys. We used to joke about her daily PNC, post-nap cry. Everyday from infancy until the day she stopped napping, she would cry for no apparent reason within an hour of waking up from her nap. It was her PNC, her guaranteed daily emotional release. Her PNC was fine, I became used to it and I was prepared for it, but the unpredictable emotional outburst that she's experiencing now are like grenades going off at a garden party. Shocking, disturbing and completely unexpected.

We are going through our day, making jokes, running errands, hanging out, whatever then all of a sudden out of nowhere Crafty is on the verge of a meltdown. What the heck?! And once it starts there is really no way to stop it. We just have to let her go, get it out of her system, reboot and start all over again. I am beginning to recognize that signs the Emotional Reboot coming but poor Mr. Awesome is blindsided every time. She can go from Miss Normal to Miss Crazy Person in the blink of an eye, but once she's done she's fine for days. Go figure?

Last night, I was on my way out to a meeting when Crafty burst into tears. I sat down with her and tried to get to the bottom of what was going on. It seems that she had spent the day watching super hero movies, playing 'police and bad guys' with the Playmobile and building a spaceship with Mischief when all she really wanted to do was play Barbies for a while. The catch was that she didn't want to play Barbies alone and the boys wouldn't play with her.

We talked about possible solutions to this problem and just when I thought we were in the clear she burst into tears again. I was on the verge of being seriously late for my meeting and my patience was wearing thin.

"Seriously, you need to stop this and tell me, what do you think is a good solution?" I said.

"There's only one thing that will make this better," she sniffled.

"What? What is it, I'm open to suggestions because these breakdowns are not working for me." I said, standing and putting on my coat.

"I need a sister!"

"Um, yeah, okay. You need to discuss that with daddy. I'll see you when I get home." I kissed her and ran out the door ... laughing.

All I need is TWO of them!

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Must be Crazy!

When Dude was three we bought him a fish, Dorothy. We took him to the pet store , let him choose a fish and then bought all the fixings, including a large treasure chest ornament for her to 'play' with. About six months later she lost her will to live. I suspect the handful of Cheerios I found floating at the surface of her bowl had something to do with that. Crafty was sharing.

Anyway, then we bought Mr. Bluefish. The circumstances surrounding his death are a little suspicious as he died while in the care of a known fish hater about three months after we got him. Then came Tuck, the tortoise. Although she will probably outlive me she is the easiest pet in the world to have. She makes no noise, no mess and is pretty entertaining to watch. When we got her I thought we were done with pets but now I'm not so sure.

Dude has been having a rough time, emotionally, on and off for several months. He tries to stay positive and calm but he does have bouts of stress, anxiety and depression. It's tough to watch him struggle like this. His doctor thinks he is experiencing the hormonal fluctuations that are a prelude to puberty. Great! As if having Aspergers doesn't make things socially awkward enough, let's add early puberty to the mix!

When I asked the doctor what we can do to help him she said we could get a dog. I laughed. I thought she was joking but she was dead serious. She directed me to a couple of websites that have articles on the benefits of dogs to kids with ASD. When I started asking around I discovered that many of my pals with kids on The Spectrum have cats or dogs. They swear by the calming affect that these animals have on their kids.

I must be crazy because I've done a lot more reading and I'm almost convinced ... almost. We've talked to the kids about it and of course they are all for getting a dog and Crafty even offered to be on poop patrol - we'll see how long that lasts!

We spent some time on Pet Finder last night and of course all of the kids had a different idea of the type of dog they want. Crafty fell in love with a Shih Tzu names Paris and Mischief loved a Basset Hound named Corndog or the English Bulldog named Porky. Mr. Awesome said no to anything tiny, fluffy, with a cutesy name (so that disqualifies Paris). I found a Boxer named Chaos that seemed fitting and Dude loved a Shnauzer named Fozzy. This is NOT going to be easy!

So I am inviting you, my faithful pals, to help us. Help us find that 'just right' dog. We don't want a puppy or a major shedder, Dude has had allergic reactions to some dogs so we have to be mindful of that.  Some one who isn't a mad barker or a crazed chewer.We want a buddy for the kids who will hang out, cuddle and play in the park.

Help us find a pal.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This was NOT in the Brochure!

Often times when I am elbow deep in laundry, up to my eyeballs in homework and at my limit with the running and wrestling and fighting I fantasize about what a brochure on parenthood would look like. Not the shiny glossy, 'life is always blissful' version of a brochure but the real nitty gritty, 'not for wimps' version ... that's the brochure I think pre-parents really need to see.

Before we become parents we all have an idea of what being a parent is going to be like. We've watched our parents raise us and we've had helpful shows like Full House and The Cosby Show to give a well rounded view of what to expect (notice tongue in cheek). We watch our friends become parents and see how glowy and happy they are with their new little family. It looks all sweet and warm and cuddly from the outside. They all leave out the scary parts, the parts where they are in over their heads, the parts when their child is screaming, puking and tantruming, the parts when they are overwhelmed, exhausted, clueless and would trade their child for just one good night's sleep. Those are the parts that make up the real brochure.

On the front cover of Parenthood: The Real Deal we would have a mangy, smelly, exhausted parent wearing dirty clothes and surrounded by toys, dirty dishes and diapers ... lots and lots of dirty diapers. Inside would be all the information no one tells you about, all the deep dark secrets of parenting that the survivors keep to themselves until its too late, until you are expecting, until you have a kid of your own and realize that there is no return policy.

 Here's a few excerpts from the brochure...

"When my baby was about ten days old I stood in the shower, the first shower I can remember having since he was born, and cried. I was leaking from everywhere, I hadn't slept in a week and a half, the only relief I had from his crying was when I was nursing him. I felt like the life had literally been sucked out of me and in that moment of standing in the shower, leaking and crying, I wished more than anything that ten months ago I would have bought a dog instead of giving into the back rub."

"My daughter was the easiest baby ever. She hardly cried, slept through the night right from day one and never made strange with anyone. The whole first year of her life was a cakewalk. I think she was lulling me into a false sense of security because when she was about 2 1/2 everything change. Like a switch was thrown my sweet, easy going buddy turned into something you could base a horror flick on. She cried, threw grand mal tantrums and resisted every thing I did. The first time she threw her pajamas at me and screamed "No, I won't" I understood why some species eat their young."

"One of the happiest days of my life was the day I graduated from high school. It signalled the end of homework, projects, exams and disappointed teachers. I was free! And then I became a parent. Home reading started in Kindergarten, KINDERGARTEN! By grade three we were up to a half hour of homework a night and then there was projects and tests on top of that. I nearly had a nervous breakdown in grade six when we had to do our first science project and present it in front of the whole school. I was up half the night before the presentation cutting and gluing and going over the cue cards. I don't think I can survive high school for a second time!"

"I babysat a lot before I became a parent so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I thought being a parent was like babysitting all the time. You know, feed them, get them dressed, play a few games with them and then put them to bed. Easy, easy, right? Are you kidding me?! Kids have needs, man! Kids need your attention ALL THE TIME. They need you to listen to them, to read with them, to explain everything to them. They need you to watch out for hazards and mean people and stupid things they'll do to themselves. They need you to be alert and on your A game. They need you to solve their problems, dress their dolls, build a puzzle, clean their rooms, match their clothes, be on their side, watch stupid kid shows with them, take them to the park, take them to school, pack their lunch, comb their hair, listen to them tell the same story a million times, laugh at their jokes, kiss their boo boos, cuddle them, love them. They NEED you - ALL THE TIME!"

Those are some of the stories that I would include in the real brochure. My goal is not to deter people from having kids, I just believe in full disclosure. Know what your gettting yourself into before you jump. Mostly, the point of my brochure would be to let the tired, grubby, overwhelmed parents of the world know that this is totally normal, you're not alone, everyone has days like this ... and most of us survive.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

No More, No Less

I've written and deleted this post a couple of times today. I don't know what my problem is ... maybe not enough coffeejuice, maybe I'm thrown off my routine by writing in the afternoon instead of the morning? I don't know, so I'm just going to say what I need to say and let you sort out the rest from the video.

Kids have needs, all kids have needs, not just the ones with a diagnosis. Kids need us to feed them, clothe them, remind them to bathe and teach them how to be proper human beings. They need a shoulder to cry on, a kick in the pants from time to and more than a little guidance on the road to becoming an adult. They need us and if we are good parents, we become the parents they need us to be. No more, no less.

From time to time, people compliment me on the type of parent I am and although its nice to hear, the truth of it is, if Dude did not require me to be the type of parent I am, I would not be this. I know me, I am easily inspired but traditionally lack follow through, I have a short fuse and lack basic patience. I am lazy and kind of selfish. That's who I am naturally but because my kids require more of me, I do my very best to be more.

Everyday I remind myself that I chose to become a mother and that my kids' needs must come before my lazy butt tendencies. Everyday I choose to be present in the moment, engage in their world and hopefully make a difference in how they understand life. Everyday I also thank God for giving me the opportunity to be a better person, for making me a mom.

This video is about a father and son team who inspire and sacrifice for each other. I've seen several videos about this duo, in one, the dad was called the body and the son was called the heart and I think that's true of any parent/child relationship. The parent can but doesn't until inspired by the heart of the child.

I do because my kids inspire me, require me, to be more. No more, no less.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

11 years, 7 months and 18 days

Yesterday I went to work ... for the first time in 11 years, 7 months and something like 18 days. Its been a loooong time since I have had to get up early, be presentable and somewhat competent and be accountable to a 'boss.' I have volunteered a lot over the years but working is entirely different. As a volunteer I have always tried my best to be punctual, informed and efficient but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that I was invincible. If I made a mistake or was late or something, what are they going to do? Fire me? I don't think so!

When you are working for free your job is virtually stress free but yesterday I was employed.  I spent the day doing the kind of thing I do as a volunteer regularly but yesterday I felt a lot more pressure to 'be good' at what I was doing, to excel, to be at the top of my game. Let me tell you something, when you've been sitting on the bench for almost 12 years performance anxiety becomes an issue!

 I spent the first hour of the day psyching myself out about how much I didn't know and second guessing the whole decision to pick up some casual hours. By the time it was break time I felt like I was in sixth grade again, all awkward and out of place, with no one to hang with at recess. I stood in the corner of the lunchroom, sipping my coffeejuice, all by myself like a dork until the music teacher rescued me. She asked me one simple, normal question but that's all I needed to remind myself that this work thing is no big deal. I am still me and a school's a school and kids are kids.

When the bell rang I went back to the classroom feeling pretty good and thank goodness the kids went easy on me. How do I know they went easy on me? They told me. When I left the classroom for the day, Taylor, one for the grade six boys I was working with asked, "Will you be here tomorrow?"

"Nope, I was just helping out for today because Mrs. Lambert wasn't feeling very well."

James, the other boy I was helping, said, "Too bad, since you're new I made today pretty easy but I had some ideas for tomorrow, if you were going to be here."

I chuckled, said good-bye and walked away ... thanking my lucky stars for this casual gig!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wild Encounters

I love encouraging our kids to use their imaginations. I love watching them dress up in costumes and act out scenes from books, movies or just random things they have come up with. We have an extensive collection of costumes for them and on any given day you could walk into my house and see them all in some kind of get up. But this habit has lead to some interesting and hilarious situations over the years.

We went through the six month stretch of Dude dressing like a pirate, everyday ... for school, church, going to the mall, whatever. Mischief’s collection of superhero costumes is the envy of most 6 year old boys and he isn't shy of wearing a caper whenever the mood hits him. And let's not forget the time that two year old Crafty came out of her bedroom with wearing nothing but a diaper and a receiving blanket wrapped around her head and declare, "Holy Smokes, I'm Jesus!"

Their imaginations are fertile plains and the stuff they come up with kills me sometimes but it also causes the less imaginative people in our world to pause and wonder. Living in a new community, meeting new people, has made me a little more cautious about when and where they are allowed to 'go out in drag.'  Since we've moved, we have left the costumes at home for the most part when we've been out running errands ... for the most part.

A week or so ago the kids were home on a PD day and had spent the morning dressed up and playing. When I announced that we had to go the the grocery store Crafty quickly went and changed and Mischief (dressed in his Wolf Suit) ran to the door and slipped his feet into his boots. I asked him if he really was going to out out like that and he just 'gnashed his terrible teeth, rolled his terrible eyes and showed his terrible claws' - I took that as a yes and loaded everyone into the van.

As we were strolling through the grocery store we were the recipients of many sideways glances and double takes. I just kept my eyes forward and kept on shopping but as we turned into the bakery section Mischief made sure that I couldn't ignore the bushy tailed beast that he was anymore.

An elderly woman bent down and said, "So who are you, dear?"

Mischief jumped back with a roar, showing his claws and teeth in a most ferocious way, "I am the most wild thing of all and I'll eat you up!"

The poor woman nearly toppled over with shock and I had more than a moment's pause wondering if her heart was strong enough to handle this encounter. I apologised profusely, tossed The Wild Thing into the cart and quickly made my way to the check out ... with Mischief 'howling at the moon' the whole way.

So needless to say ... I've been grocery shopping in the next town over since then! ;-)