Friday, April 29, 2011

Understanding the Eternal

Last night, as I was putting The Conman, oops, I mean Mischief, as I was putting Mischief to bed he started asking me the meaning of words. Most of them were easy answers, like the meaning compassion, joy and society. Others had me in stitches because they were so far beyond my realm of comfortable vocabulary I didn't even know if I was giving the correct definition and usage of the words. Hearing phrases like 'true dat' 'up in your grill' and 'fo'shizzle' coming out of a six year old was bizarre and hilarious!

After about ten minutes of playing 'What's that Word?' I decided that his curiosity was anti-bedtime motivated and was just about to shut the conversation down when he started asking Bible questions. The sincerity in his baby face made me cave in under three seconds and before I knew it we were both cuddled up on his bed talking about Bible stories.

We discussed 'who the dude was that appeared in the fiery furnace with those other guys,' why Jesus turned water into wine instead of SunnyD (Sunny D has vitamins and it tastes 'awesome') and our best guess on how long it took to clean up after all those animals on the Ark. He asked if Daniel really did order pizza when he was in the lion's den and why Moses didn't bring a map along when he left with all those people. Then he asked what eternity means.

"It means forever, unchanging."

"So God is forever?"

"Yep, is is always the same, He loves us the same and nothing we do can ever change that."

"Like the front entry and the laundry and stuff?"

"Sorry? I don't follow you."

"God is like laundry and stuff."

"I heard you, I just don't understand the connection."

"Ugh! God is like laundry. He loves us no matter what, all the time right?"


"There are always dirty clothes in the basket, no matter what. No matter how much you wash our stuff, there's always more dirty stuff. No matter how much you clean the front entry, there's always our junk all over the place. Its always there. Forever. Unchanging. God is like laundry."

"Oh, I see ... yes, I guess, God is like laundry."

Theology from the mind of a six year old ... hilariously simple!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wanted: Commitment Filter - URGENT!

I reread an interesting book yesterday. I do book reviews for a local radio station and this was one of those books that landed on my desk a while ago. I read immediately, wrote my review and then went on with my very busy life.

Yesterday I found out that the station never received my review and I can't find it anywhere so I picked up the book and gave it another read. I was trying to get through it fast because I had a million things to do. I had a lesson plan for a student team to prepare, another lesson plan for a crafting club I run, minutes to type for a parent council meeting I was secretary for, emails to review about a playground reno committee I'm on, clothes to iron for the kids for picture day today, horse homework for Dude's Equine Therapy class plus we had to pack up Simon and deliver him back to his previous owners (sad, frustrating and overly dramatic story that I will not get into) and then there was all the regular mom work of cooking, cleaning, laundry, baths and bedtime to do too. I had a weeks worth of work to get done in four hours.

By the time I dragged myself to bed at midnight and picked up the book for another read, I was exhausted and frustrated. I had only finished about half the stuff that needed to get done and what I did manage to do, I did not do well. I remembered what the gist of the book was about but as I skimmed page after page I felt like I was being slapped to attention. The whole book is about obligation, over commitment and how 'the shoulds' will sap your life's calling out of you and leave you ruined if you let them rule your life.

Just what I needed to hear. So often I say 'yes' to things I don't want to do because I want people to like me, I don't want to leave things undone and I want to feel like I am contributing to the community. I have over committed myself to the point of madness, vowing to never do it again, but when asked ... I always do it again.

There's a story in the Bible about two sisters, Mary and Martha. They had a whole bunch of people, including Jesus, over to their place one day. Martha busied herself in the kitchen, desperate to make everything just so. I can just picture her cooking and cleaning and fussing over every last detail in hopes of presenting the perfect meal to her guests. I'm sure she imagined the compliments she would receive and the resulting sense of accomplishment and pride she would feel for a job well done. She was working hard but they would love and appreciate her for it.

Martha waited for her sister to join her in the preparations but she waited in vain. Mary never came to help. As Martha slaved away by herself, Mary hung out with the guests, visiting, catching up and learning from Jesus.  As time wore on Martha become bitter and resentful towards her sister. Martha was exhausting herself while Mary relaxed with friends. How is that fair?

When Martha whined to Jesus about Mary's laziness Jesus essentially told her to relax and figure out what is really important. He pointed out that Mary had decided what was important to her and did it, without guilt, worry or fear. Jesus told Martha that she was worrying about too many little things when all she needed to do was focus on what was really important to her.

Bing. IGIM!

How often do we run around, worrying about every little thing, and lose focus on what really matters? Why do we, as moms and wives, so readily commit to every good cause without stopping to think if this 'good cause' is good for us and our families? Why can't we say 'no' without feeling guilty? Why do we allow our self esteem to rest on the opinion of others rather than embracing and feeding into our strengths?

If ever there was a timely word spoken, or written, to me, it was now, with this book. I have been running from one obligation to the next at the expense of my family and my mental well being, at times. I want to do everything, to please everyone but what I really need to do is reassess my commitments and filter each request for my time from the perspective of my strengths, my life direction and what is best for my family. Once I streamline my commitments I know I will be a happier, more productive wife, mother and volunteer.

The book is Sand to Pearls by Heidi McLaughlin and look for the full review on Manitoba Christian Online in the days to come.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meet Simon

I know, I know .. I have been a bad blogger lately but I have a good reason. Meet Simon ...

He is a three year old boxer and he is making me crazy!

We decided a couple of months ago to look for a dog for Dude. We had done a lot of research and talked to a lot of people who said that kids on The Spectrum really benefit from have a pet pal. Apparently, having a good doggy friend reduces anxiety levels, helps with socialization and brings a level of comfort that people with ASD have a hard time finding with people. It is also said to help decrease depression during adolescence. Knowing all this we started hunting for a dog and last weekend we found one.

A very generous and animal loving couple heard about Dude and wanted to help so the gifted Simon to us. He is a purebred boxer with an amazing personality. He was obviously well trained as a puppy but has recently been neglected. The couple who rescued him and gave him to us assured us that although he had been through a lot lately, he still had a great personality. So we took him home for a one week trial period.

Two days into the week we were sure we had made a mistake. Although he was gentle and affectionate with the adults he was indifferent to Dude and Crafty and very suspicious of Mischief and he did not respond well to unfamiliar kids. This along with horrible gas, giant slobbers and the issue of him following Mr. Awesome everywhere and whining whenever Mr. Awesome was out of eyesight had us convinced that he was not the dog for us.

Just when a friend offered to take him off our hands, Simon began to relax. He started cuddling up with the kids, following them around the house and walking very well with them on the leash. We changed his dog food so the gas stopped and we discovered that he has no issue having his gobbers wiped after eating or going for a walk. He even ignored the barking neighbor dog and loud playing neighbor kids.

He is sweet, affectionate, obedient and really kind of goofy. Here's the part that's driving me crazy ... we were so sure that he wasn't right for us but now ... I'm not normally so indecisive and the not knowing is driving me nuts! He still needs some training but he's smart and really eager to please. Ugh! I don't know.

Anyway, meet Simon ...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Asperger's Speaks ... for Itself

While I was wasting time on Youtube, I found this video. It's written and produced by a group of kids from the UK who have Asperger's. They talk about their brains, diagnosis and their perception of the world in their own words. I love the creativity and ingenuity displayed throughout this video.

The video speaks for itself so I'm going to stop talking now ... watch, enjoy and understand.

You'll always be different but you don't have to be disabled. You can emerge from disability.
~John Elder Robison, author and adult thriving with Asperger's

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So the Parent Becomes the Student

Before moving eight months ago I was decidedly environmentally unfriendly. I never recycled anything, drank only bottled water, hardly ever used travel mugs for my trips to Starbucks or reusable bags for groceries. I never thought twice about the amount of garbage we produced, how many lights we left on or how much gas we burned running errands. I thought all the environmental chatter was generally tree-hugging propaganda and I wasn't buying into it.

When we moved to our new town things began to change. There is a two bag garbage limit per week per household so we started to recycle. The grocery store gives a discount when you use reusable bags so I started carrying bags to the store with me. Then the kids started school and we started hearing a phrase over and over again. Sustainable Development.

At first I chalked it up to more tree-hugging nonsense but then I started listening, really listening to the concept and the practical application of this idea. I thought about the meaning of these two words ('Sustainable' meaning lasting and 'development' meaning growth and progress.) and started talking to people who were passionate about this idea. The more they shared their passion, ideas and practical application for sustainable development the more interested I became.

 Gradually, I began to understand the value, as a parent, of teaching this concept to my kids. Its about responsibility and being a good steward of the resources we have. It's much like asking the kids to pick up after themselves and take care of what belongs to them. If you want the good things in your life to last then you have to take care of them, it's just that simple.

When I started talking to the kids about this, excited to be imparting some of my new found wisdom to them, I found they already knew all about it. Truth be told, they could teach me a thing or two about this concept because they are living sustainable development, its pat of their every day lives at school.  Ask any kid about the value of taking care of the environment and they'll be able to tell you the how and the why behind this idea. They know that if we want future generations to enjoy our world, to be able to hike, swim and explore nature then it's their responsibility to take care of, and improve, what they have now. They know that change is up to them, and that it starts with the small stuff.

Earth Day is on April 22 and in preparation my kids' school has been amping up the SD ideas. They have been encouraging us to send litter-less lunches, encouraging the kids to use 'garabge' for crafts and a million other tiny ideas. The kids are excited about living a lasting legacy and not a lasting environmental mess. This year Earth Day means something in this Random House. This year we are switching off, unplugging, reusing and rethinking how we can show respect for our world. And like Dude pointed out yesterday, we're even going to get a used and recycled  dog.

Anyway here are a couple of links to some websites give some great ideas on Earth Day and Sustainable Development. Its not about the grand gesture of building a house out of milk jugs and tin cans ... it's about doing the every day, little things that add up to something big, something earth saving.

Earth Day Canada

Yes! Magazine


PBS Kids

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

To Kill a Mocking Bird

I am being stalked. And mocked.

For the past several weeks I have been stalked, harassed, mocked and tortured. I have spent weeks hiding, cowering in the shadows and begging for the torture to stop. I have been losing sleep, feeling victimised night after night and I just can't take it anymore.

This morning, after a night of being mocked through restless sleep, I took the kids to school and returned home to confront my stalker. I knew this sinister beast was somewhere in the back yard so I armed myself before heading out back.

As I tiptoed around the corner from the patio into the backyard my heart started racing. What was I doing? I must be crazy to confront this crazed, malicious stalker by myself. What if he attacked me? I am alone here. I have no back-up, no one even knows where I am. Will Shirley notice when I don't show up in the Timportance Drive thru? Will she send help?

As I neared the blind corner I could hear rustling the shrubs outside my bedroom window.I had never laid eyes on my stalker so I wasn't sure what kind of hulking, monstrous troll I was about to face. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and rounded the corner swinging. The badminton racket came down hard on the shrub but my stalker was too quick. He instinctively and effortlessly jumped over to the next shrub and continued to sneer and mock me. I leaped forward and took another swing but again he dodged my advance.

This time he crossed the yard and perched on a low branch of the apple tree but that didn't deter me. I was mad as heck and I was not going to take it anymore so I darted across the yard, swinging wildly as I went. He laughed as he skited from branch to branch, finally settling in a tree on the opposite side of the yard.

I collapsed against the apple tree to catch my breath and formulate a plan. I could see him, my mocking stalker, perched high in the tree surrounded by his pals. I looked at my stalker, really seeing him for the first time. He looked just like all of his pals, there was nothing distinct or unique about him except for the mocking sneer that he wore so confidently on his small pointy face.  He was chirping and laughing at me, so sure that  he was safe and out of reach. I felt defeated. My stalker was going to win. And then I saw it, my upper hand, my salvation, my victory.

I slowly reached down and picked up the discarded weapon, careful to make no sudden movements. I raised the NERF Vulcan to my chest and checked the chamber. Three darts, more than enough to make my mark. I raised the gun, taking aim and pulled the trigger. The dart sailed through the air toward its target, sure and strong until a gust of wind knocked it off course, causing it to fall short of the mark. Frustrated, I fire my two remaining rounds, but hit only the lower branches.

I was irritated, furious and running on pure adrenaline. I marched across the yard and shook the tree, venting all my angst in a mighty battle cry. My final act of aggression startled my stalker and his pals, they took flight, flapping chaotically from tree to tree. My battle cry quickly turned to a wail of panic as I realised that I was alone in the yard with a swarm of mad birds. I pulled the my sweater over my head and ran blindly across the yard to the safety of the garage, tripping over toys and bikes along the way.

I slammed the door, locked it (just in case) and continued my flight of terror into the house. I didn't stop running until I was in my bed with the covers over my head. The house was silent except for the sound of the pounding of my heart ... and the mocking chirps of my stalker, who was once again perched in the shrub outside my bedroom window.

Monday, April 18, 2011

When Divorce is Appropriate

Five years ago I realised that if I wanted to be the best mother I could be for my kids I would need a divorce. I knew that if I wanted to be fully engaged with my kids, if I wanted to be able to focus on their needs, if I wanted to be available in every way to help them succeed I would need to cut out any and all things that divided my attention and tainted my responses. So I did it, I divorced and I think it has made all the difference.

My divorce had nothing to do with Mr. Awesome, he's still hanging around ;-) What I needed to cut out of my thinking and responses was my pride ... so I divorced it. I had to set aside my expectations, I had to separate my emotions from the successes and struggles of my kids.  I had to learn that my job was not, is not, to become emotionally invested in 'the moment' with my kids but to help them navigate through the circumstances, situations and emotions that they will have to traverse as they grow.

I cannot claim their successes any more than I can take responsibility for their struggles. It is my job to help them move toward success, to help them process and learn from their struggles, so if I am emotionally wrapped up in the moment with them how can I see clearly, how can I lead them through the situation and help them to learn?  How can I be supportive when I am exhausting my emotional bank?

This doesn't mean that I am robo-mommy. I laugh and celebrate with the kids when they have rocked their day just as much as I feel heart broken and sad for them when they have had a tough time. The key is 'for them'. I do not make their triumphs and failures mine because it's not about me, its about them and I cannot rob them of the experience of learning from life because they are distracted by my emotions or worse, I allow my emotions to taint the lesson of the moment.

For example, let's look at the classic public tantrum. I'm standing in the middle of a crowded store, trying to finish up my shopping so I can get my exhausted toddler home for his nap. He starts throwing a fit because he wants a treat or toy he saw on the shelf. I say no and continue to walk down the aisle but the further we get from the object of desire the louder his tantrum gets. I pause and explain to him that he is not getting the treat because we have treats at home. He continues to fit, people are starting to stare and I am feeling my embarrassment grow.

My pride and embarrassment would dictate that I should either give in and give him the treat (thus teaching him that if he screams loud enough and long enough, he'll get what he wants) or I get mad and storm out of the store and discipline him (thus teaching him that if he embarrasses mommy he'll get in trouble). The third option is to step over the body, ignore the screaming and finish my shopping as quickly as possible. The third option teaches him that he is not the boss of me and his tantrums don`t embarrass me. When we get home there will be a discussion and a consequence for the behaviour because that is an inappropriate way to act in public, but I will be calm and rational in the discipline.

Without the haze of my emotions when dealing with a situation like this I can be way more rational, calm and look at the big picture. It`s not about me. It`s about teaching them how to self govern and learn from each situation.

Since divorcing my emotional attachment, my right to feel a certain way in connection to my kids, I feel as though I am a better, calmer, more creative parent. What do you need to divorce today to help you be the parent you want to be ... what habits, thoughts or emotions do you need to separate from

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Anxiety Alert System Malfuction

Although, Crafty was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder almost a year ago, I often times forget to take that into consideration when things start to go sideways with her. This morning was one of those times.

Usually she is the one kid in the house I can count on to get ready in a timely manner, cooperate and be helpful. She usually sets the table for breakfast, cleans up after everyone is done and helps the boys to get their stuff together. She is also our clock-watcher, she helps to keep us all on time. Freakishly, she is a morning person, but this morning was a totally different story.

She fought with the boys all through breakfast, hated the clothes she had picked out last night to wear today, refused to brush her hair and whined, complained and picked fights at every opportunity. At first I tried to just ignore her because far be it from me, a non-lover of mornings, to make someone else be cheerful in the a.m. but her mood was quickly derailing our entire morning so I finally spoke up. Of course, I kept my cool and was very understanding. Yeah, not so much.

Unfortunately, I was irritated and harsh with her and she pushed back. By the time we were on our way to school she was scowling and surly and I was fantasizing about selling her to a circus or a roving band of gypsies. Why are there never gypsies around when you need them?

We dropped Dude off at school and I'm sure he has never been more thankful to get out of the van, then we headed to the elementary school. We pulled into the parking lot at 8:38, we had seven minutes until the bell. I asked the kids if they wanted to get out (please get out!) to hang out with their friends for a while before school. Mischief said 'yes!" and was gone before I could even say good-bye but Crafty said a big grouchy 'no!' and sat, planted in her seat.

I asked her what the problem was, no response.

8:40. I asked her again, informing her that clearly she's having an issue and if she doesn't sort it out soon it could end up affecting her whole day. Silence.

8:42. I told her she should probably get out and head for the door (please, please get out! Mama needs coffeejuice!) because the bell was about to ring.

8:43. She informs me (rather rudely and loudly) that her bad mood is all my fault because I didn't let her dig up a plant from the garden for science class today. Although I expected everything to be 'all my fault' because I am the mother after all, the plant connection came out of nowhere - this is were my anxiety detector should have gone off, but it didn't. I responded, equally as loud yet slightly less rude, that if she had homework then she should have taken care of it when I asked her if she had homework the night before. Growl then silence.

8:44. I tell her that her teacher will probably have extras or she can share with a friend, the bell is seconds away from ringing so she's going to have to hustle to make it to her door in time. She bursts into tears and then in sobs ad hiccups the full story comes out. She's been having trouble in science class with some of the boys at her table but she's too nervous to tell her teacher (he's new and a man - double strike in Crafty's world). She did try telling one of the EAs but was told to just ignore the boys and mind her own business. Finally, I clue in. Our disasterous morning had little to do with getting ready for school and everything to do with the dreaded science class.

8:45. The bell rings. Crafty is still in the van, in the parking lot, and begins to flip out because she's now late for Bible stories. My mental anxiety alert siren is now wailing and I scramble to find some way to stop the meltdown. I say its okay, Miss S. won't mind that she's late. Apparently, I know nothing because although Miss S. won't mind, all the kids will turn and stare at her when she walks in late (a fate worse than death for Crafty). She tells me to never mind about science class, grabs her backpack and jumps out of the van. I can't see her face but I know she's crying.

8:48. I am digging in the frozen ground of our garden, sans coffeejuice, feeling bad for the poor kid who showed up late and in tears for her favourite part of the day and then has to walk into her least favourite class, without her homework and sit at a table with a bunch of kids who are teasing her and a teacher who doesn't notice.

9:03. It's all better. The alarm is silent. Crafty has her plant. We've hugged it out and the Principal is going to be her science buddy today. Phew! Now for some coffeejuice!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Being a Rock Star in a Princess World

Earlier this week my friend posted on Facebook that her daughter said she wanted to be a rock star but all her friends wanted to be princesses. I thought it was really cute that she wanted to be unique from her friends but later I found out that she wasn't being cute or spunky. She was sad because she didn't feel like she fit in with everyone else. And that got me thinking, so kids this one is for you ...

We say that 'it gets better' when you're an adult but that isn't the truth, at least its not the whole truth. Things never really change, there are always people who ride the latest trends, no matter how trivial or bizarre, and if you don't jump on the bandwagon with them then you feel like you are left in their dust. There are always the people who think they are 'the cool kids' and judge others by appearances rather than by merit and even competent, gifted, secure adults feel like awkward dorks from time to time. There are always people lurking around, waiting for you to fail so they can be the first one to laugh and say 'I told you so.' There will always be negative, hurtful yahoos who thrive off of making other people feel small and insignificant. The thing that gets better is you.

As you get older you will find your place. You will explore your gifts, talents and strengths. You will know your goodness. You will discover all that you are capable of and draw a line between that which you will and will not do. You will carve out your niche, become the person you want to be and live the life you are destined to live. You will have moments of personal greatness, devastating failure and victorious comebacks. You will work, struggle and fight for your dreams and you will know the sweetness of success. You will learn the value of rising above and being a person of integrity and honour. Joy and Peace and Hope will be your constant companions in this life and because of that you will never be lonely.

But before all that, before the finding, the discovering, the success and the joy you have to make a decision. You have to decide, in this moment, and every moment of consequence that will follow, to be better. You have to decide that trends matter far less than good character. You have decide to be the kid who speaks up for the kid being pushed around in the hallways at school. You have to decide to respect your parents, teachers, neighbors and anyone else willing to care enough to instruct you. You have to open your mind to learn from others, to learn from your own mistakes. You have to decide to be a good citizen, a good friend, a good student, a good son/daughter, a good example. You have to decide to be better, to do better.

Sound like a heavy load to carry? It's not. It all comes down to this ... give people the acceptance, opportunities and second chances you wish you had. Treat others the way you want to be treated. It's not magic, it's just being a decent human being. And if you are a decent human being, you will attract other decent human beings and then it won't be a princess world anymore. It will be a princess, rock star, super hero, accountant, bus driver, teacher, guinea pig hunter world and there will be a place for each one of us ... and then it will be better.

~Rock on, M. S. ... rock on!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Every Little Moment

For all of his crazy antics Mischief is a very thoughtful kid. Not only does he think of others he constantly asks us what the meaning of things are. What a song means, what the point lesson of the story was or what he is supposed to learn from consequences. His curious mind and honest questions have caused us to think long and hard about the decisions we make and the lessons the kids are learning from us ... even when we don't mean to be teaching them.

Since becoming more aware of how sponge-like my kids are I have drastically changed how I interact with the world. It hasn't been easy but I decided that I didn't want my natural cynicism, sarcasm and quick temper to taint how they experience life. I didn't want to force my negativity on their perception of their world so I changed. I changed how I spoke, how I reacted and eventually how I thought about life.

I came across this video a while ago and it shocked me. Its a harsh reminder of how quickly and completely kids learn about life, and how to handle it, from us, their parents, teachers, neighbors .. the adults who surround them and influence them. What are you teaching them, every little moment they are watching you?

I am far from perfect and leagues away from being what I would classify as an optimistic person but I'm trying. I just want my kids to have the best possible chance at finding joy, hope and success in this world. I want them to have the tools to respond to life in a healthy, positive way and how are they meant to do that if I don't teach them?

Children seldom misquote. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said. ~Author Unknown

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pieces of Us

The other night, around the dinner table, the kids began asking about families and what makes each family unique.

Mr. Awesome and I talked about the families we came from and how, although there were some similarities in values and beliefs, we had very different experiences growing up. We talked about how when we started our own family we took bits and pieces of the things we liked from our own families and added some things we learned about life along the way to form our family, just the way we wanted it.

The kids, then started talking about who they look like and where certain characteristics come from. We always say how much Mischief not only looks like Mr. Awesome but acts like him, too. Dude looks like me, when I was a kid, but he gets much of his personality fro Mr. Awesome, too. Crafty is a litte bit of both of us and a lot of herself.

"So, there are pieces of both of you guys in each of us, right?" Dude asked.

"Yep, each of you have some looks and characteristics from Dad and I but there is a lot about each of you that is unique, things that only belong to you."

"So like, I have hands like Dad but hair like you?" Mischief asked.

"Yeah," I replied, mildly suspicious of where he was going with his train of thought. I could see his gears turning and that always makes me nervous.

"So we have pieces of you guys? Just like that Franken guy?"

Bingo! That's it ... that's where he was going. About a week ago we were having a different conversation about young authors and I had told them about Mary Shelley and Frankenstien. I could see the images that must be flashing through Mischief's mind and decided to cut him off before he derailed the entire conversation.

"And before you ask, we did not build you guys in a laboratory out of spare parts. You grew inside me like normal babies."

Mischief looked deflated for a moment then perked up again, "Still, it would have been cooler if you built us in a lab!"

He began pretending that he was building a persn out of parts he found lying around the floor. He even removed an arm and an ear from himself to add to his imaginary creation. Crafty watched him for a minute, shaking her head the whole time.

"I think the growing part is where the normal stopped for that one." Crafty rolled her eyes and went back to eating.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Friends... Just Like Every Other Kid

Recently, I succumbed to the arm twisting of my sister and started watching The Big Bang Theory. I didn't have aything against this show specifically, I'm just not a fan of sitcoms or comedies. When people ask why, I say that I don't like to laugh but that's not true. I am just easily bored. Most comedies don't have enough meat to the story line to keep my interest but I have to say, Big Bang Theory may be the exception.

So many of Sheldon's quirks are amplified issues that we face with Dude and that in makes the whole premise of the show hilarious to us. His obsessive behaviour, scientific approach to social situations and total oblivion to how his words and actons impact the people around him are all too familiar to our eveyday life but nothing hit closer to home than the Friendship Algorithm scene. Sheldon's flow chart had me in stitches, especially how he got stuck in a loop.

When Dude was about seven years old we sat down and drew a very similar chart to help him understand what it takes to make a friend. We included some conflict management strategies and problem solving tips.We tought we had him covered but he was still hving trouble with friends. After a little digging we discovered that we had not given him a way out, he did not know how to continue in a situation when the other child did not respond in a way we had practiced. He was getting stuck in the loop, panicking and walking away from his friends, leaving them feeling like he didn't like them. Oy!

Thankfully, as he has matured making friends has become easier for him. We still have to remind him to think of the other person's interests, to be flexible in making plans and to respond when his friends talk to him, even if what they are saying is boring to him. We have taught him to initiate conversations appropriatey and we have spent some time talking about how to graciously handle awkward social stuations and what to do if people react in a way he doesn't expect.

He has had some successes and some setbacks in his friendships, just like every other kid his age but I am confident that as he continues to mature he'll find his own way to navigate through this friendship making thing and until then, we'll keep trying to teach him and guide him ... just like every other parent.

"A friend is a person that you meet and you like to do some of the same things but not all of the same things but it is most important to meet a friend who is always kind and will like you no matter what kind of brain you have."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Choice

In the nearly fourteen years Mr. Awesome and I have been married we have lived a big, crazy, tragic, joy filled, hilarious, loving life. We have had speed bumps and roadblocks and we've even driven off a couple of cliffs but we're still here. We still get up everyday, parent our kids, live our lives and love each other. We keep going because this is the road we have chosen.

I meet people all the time who have triumphed over seemingly impossible circumstances. They have survived terrible illnesses, horrific accidents or the heart breaking loss of loved ones and still manage to live their lives with hope and joy. I often hear stories of people who have lived through vicious attacks or habitual abuse and have dedicate their lives to helping others or read articles about families who have tuned their personal tragedy into a means of raising awareness and funds for a specific charity. These people amaze me.

Sadly, though, I have met almost as may people who let life's every bump slow them down. They are easily wounded by a careless word or a perceived slight. Every challenge they face becomes a major crisis and if they have experienced a real hardship or tragedy in their lives they stall right there, in that moment of sadness and loss. They allow the events of life to trap them and they can't carry on.

What's the difference between the people who take life head on and those who get stuck in the mire of circumstance?

Perception and choice.

Everyone experiences difficulties and disappointments in life. There are plans that go awry, losses that are suffered and failures that happen and there's nothing we can do about the happening. What we can do, the part that belongs to us to change and to own, is the thoughts we use to frame our circumstances and the attitude choice we make as we deal with the situations we face. Its up to us to have a happy, successful life, it's our responsibility to choose how we want to move through this world.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Horatio Spafford. In 1873, after the death of his young son and the tragic loss of most of his business holdings in The Great Chicago Fire he book a working vacation for him, his wife and his remaining children. They were meant to sail from New York to England to volunteer at evangelist, D. L. Moody's crusade. A last minute business issue arose but rather than cancel the trip, Spafford sent his family ahead of him with a promise to follow in a few days.

Days later, as Spafford was about to board a ship to meet his family when he received a telegram from his wife. It read, 'saved alone.' Their ship had suffered a collision with another vessel and had sunk. Two hundred and twenty six people had lost their lives including the Spaffords' only children, their daughters, Annie, Margaret, Bessie and Tanetta.

Spafford boarded his ship an sailed to met his wife. It was on that voyage he penned the words, When sorrows like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul, that later became the brilliant hymn, It is Well with My Soul. Not only did Spafford find the strength to place his faith in God during this tragedy but when the ship docked he did not allow his life to stall.

Within eight years, Spafford and his wife had two more children and together as a family they decided to move to move to Jerusalem. There they dedicated their lives to serving the poor and war devastated people of the region, no matter race, culture of religious conviction. He chose to live, even when life seemed impossible.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
~Horatio Spafford

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This Life I Follow

When Dude was born eleven years ago I would have never guessed that this is the path my life was going to take. I wanted kids but I also wanted a career and I thought I could do both. Lots of women have both a successful career and a happy family, my mom did and that as my plan too, until Dude's ASD symptoms became apparent. The more extreme his reactions to life became the further my dreams of a 'real' career drifted from me. By the time he was diagnosed I had resigned myself to being 'just a mom.' 

It took me a while but I eventually made peace with my role as wife, mother, volunteer and advocate and I really began to enjoy this life. I found my rhythm and felt like I had a purpose. I felt like I was really accomplishing something good by just being available and engaged with my kids. Over time I found that I was gaining knowledge and experience and because I am a talker, I began to chat with other moms about their experiences. We shared information, each learning from the others.

Recently, this casual sharing of information and ideas has morphed into something more. I am being asked to participate in conversations about education, school policies and skill development for kids on The Spectrum with people who make the decisions inside the school system. I receive multiple phone calls and emails each week from people asking for advice on how to choose the right school for their kids, how to talk to teachers and school administrators and what to do once they have get diagnosis for their child. Every day new opportunities to speak, to have a voice in matters that I am passionate about, show up on my doorstep. I am constantly humbled and amazed by this because all I'm doing is following the path that I am passionate about.

I see this same thing happening to some of my friends who have jumped into their lives with both feet. These awesome women have followed their passions in crafting, radio broadcasting, photography, cake decorating and even helping women to have a positive birth experiences and it has lead them to a life of living their dream.They are finding success and fulfillment everyday... and they are ALL stay-at-home moms!

All of them, through choice or circumstance, set aside their careers to be at home with their kids. But shelfing their careers did not mean they set aside their passion for life or their belief in themselves. They are examples and inspirations to me everyday.  Their big, passionate lives silently chant, "Being a mom rocks! Being a mom rocks! Being a mom rocks!" and encourage me to keep moving forward, to keep dreaming because when you follow your passion with integrity, life will take you places you never imagined possible!

Eighty percent of success is showing up. ~Woody Allen

**Tune in to GirlTalk with Marlo tonight at 8:30CT where I will b a guest panelist discussing the ups and downs of raising a child with special needs.**

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


In recent months, I have come to discover that I'm really not that important and I'm okay with that.

For the first time in nearly ten years I am unplugged, cell phoneless. I have lost the ablity to IM, Mobile Tweet and network socially on the fly. I can now have full conversations with actual live people without being interrupted by the constant buzz or chirp of an incoming text. I can get through a meal, movie or trip to the bathroom without the nagging ringtone of someone calling just to ask "what's up?" and best of all I can actually, truly be alone if I want to.

The decision to not renew my cell contract was made rather flippantly. Since going small town I hardly ever used it and felt like it was no big deal to let that unnecessary monthly expense go... that's what I thought until I didn't have it anymore. The first weekend I went into the city without having my phone I felt naked and very hick. I mean really, everyone has a cell phone, right?

I remember walking through the mall, watching people chat and tweet and text and I felt left out. I had phone envy. As I sat on a bench outside a store, waiting for Mr. Awesome and the kids to find me (okay, I might have been hiding from them) I watched people trip over and ignore each other, nearly walk into poles and garbage cans and lose track of where they were because they were focused on their phones. No one actually looked at each other, and it was clear that very few people were present in the moment, they were distracted by whatever mail, text or status update was streaming at them via their phone.

It was fascinating to watch, especially when I realised that this was the first time in a long time that I people watched. When I had my phone I was one of 'those people' who was constantly updating and tweeting. I was the one who was rarely fully engaged in where I was and who I was with. I was a Berry-a-holic, that was my mobile device of choice.

In that moment in the mall, and a thousand times since, I felt liberated. I was techno-free. I was a person again! Seriously, other than missing texting with a pal of mine, I haven't felt deprived or disconnected. In fact, I have felt more connected with the people I am with, more engaged in the moments I am living. All those emails and instant messages I was obsessing over were never realy that important. There was not one message I can ever remember receiving that could not, and often should not, have waited until I checked my emails at home or voice messages on my land line. It was all just noise that added to the chaos and exhaustion that had become my life. For me, for where I am in life right now, being unplugged was the greatest gift I could have ever given myself.

I know unplugging isn't possile for eveyone but just try switching off your data for a day, leaving your phone in the car while you have a meal or go to a movie or putting it on silent (and vibrate is NOT the same as silent) while you're out with friends. Allow yourself to disconnect long enoug to connect with the life that's right in front of you again.

Progress might have been all right once, but it's gone on too long. ~Ogden Nash

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's All Coming Back to Me Now

Last week was a blissful mental holiday for me. I did not look at the calender even once. I had no meetings to attend, no projects to work on (well, I probably should have been working on some ongoing projects but I didn't) and no volunteer hours to coordinate for the week. I slept in, hung out with the kids and generally did nothing. It was awesome!

But every awesome has its consequence.

Trying to get back into the regular routine this morning was like tyring to open a valve that had rusted over, the process was slow going and painful. The kids did not want to get out of bed and who could blame them? I pushed the snooze button three times this morning before I shoved Mr.Awesome out of bed (heeheehee) to get the kids ready for school. Just kidding, this was no feat for a mere amatuer!

It was a tag team effort that took master negotiating skills but we finally got everyone breakfasted, dressed and out the door for school. Once they were on their way, I exhaled and sat down at the kitchen table. I looked around the kitchen then wandered into the living room. I knew there was something that came next in my day but I couldn't put my finger on it. I forgot what came next in the routine so I went back to bed. BIG mistake!

Mr. Awesome returned home after dropping everyone off at school, coffeejuice in hand, and instead making me get out of bed and really start the day, he brought the coffee to me and climbed back into bed, too. There we wasted the better part of the morning watching Ellen and making false attempts at getting up and being productive. "After this segment I'm going to get up," and "oh, I should really get up and ..." were said at least a dozen times but neither of us budged for more than an hour.

We finally did get going and as I sat down to plan our meals for the next couple of weeks, make a grocery list, update my volunteer schedule and plan a few meetings for the next week or so the old familiar sense of responsibility and commitment came creeping upon me and chased my lovely slacker bliss away. Now instead of floating through an empty calm, the wheels in my brain are turning, picking up speed, and I once again feel the weight and excitement of a busy schedule, the places-to-go, people-to-talk-to buzz and the hum and whir of creative ideas bouncing around in my head. It's all coming back to me now and I'm looking forward to really getting back into the swing of things!

So, good bye old friend, Slacker Bliss, see you again ... in July!