Saturday, March 31, 2012

It was sunny a few days this week, and Amarys discovered a deep love for the water table

Lori had this contest on her blog with an up close photo of something unidentifiable.  I'm gonna copy.   Any guesses as to what this is?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

BREAD!!

Thank you for the love and support for my last post.  You guys are golden. xo.  Hopefully Simon will find a new home VERY SOON!!

So, guess what I made?  BREAD!  Yippee!  This has been surprisingly fun and manageable.  Since Matthew developed anaphylactic allergies last summer, I've been reading more labels.  I was becoming increasingly frustrated with bread.  Do you know how much unnatural crap goes into bread?  Even organic bread??!!  Ew.  And tons of bread has sulfites, which we avoiding when we thought Matthew was allergic to those, and soy products, which he is in fact allergic to.  Crazy.

So, I thought I'd try my hand at making bread.  Actually the catalyst for that was visiting my friend Katie, who has the thermamix I'm so coveting??  She makes all her own bread and it is really, really yum.  Of course she throws ingredients in the thermamix and presto!  Bread dough ready for shaping and baking, but I thought maybe I'd try it in my Kitchen Aid mixer and see how much I hated it.

Here was my very first attempt to make bread:

Isn't it gorgeous?!.



I tried it in two shapes to see what we liked best (both are equally awesome although option #1 fits better in the toaster and option #2 looks way cooler).

Here's the recipe, and as you can see it is delicious on account of the sugar and white flour, and simple.  I wanted to start easy with ingredients I have for certain rather than get fancy to start.  I can always fancy it up next time, and in fact I already have.  

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cups bread flour

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
  2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.

 (recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com, my favourite recipe source)
The only downer to making my own bread is that we eat it so darn fast.  It takes several hours of paying attention to the dough before you can pop it in the oven and declare it done, so it is not something I can do on a busy day without a breadmaker or thermamix.
I don't like breadmaker bread, although it would be nice to have a machine do the rise, mix, rise portion of the work and then I could bake it in the oven.  But for now, yummy, simple, yet time consuming.  I'll take it!  =)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Simon Saga

This post is hard to write.  Every time I think about writing this out, I get freaked out because of fear of judgement.  Fear of judgment from dog loving peeps who will blame me for (a) getting a dog, (b) not being able to 'fix' my dog, (c) his behaviour.  Fear of judgment from non dog loving peeps who will blame me for (a) getting a dog, (b) not being able to 'fix' my dog, (c) still having said dog a year after setting out to relocate him.  So lets just say, I'm doing the best I can, and I'm just going to be 100% honest about how I feel, and you can know that I'm at least in a place of good intentions.

Simon and Riley watch the boys leave for school, 2009

We wanted to get a dog while our kids were small, so they could enjoy the benefits of having a pet to love and care fore and consider, and because little boys and doggy pets are nearly synonymous.  Our first dog Meelu lasted exactly 3 days.  She arrived when Riley was 2 weeks old, which was just the way it worked out although we had planned to adopt her months earlier, in time to adjust before our third baby arrived.  She needed surgery and medical care for her leg and it just drew out the adoption process that much longer, and when she did come, it was just terrible timing.  So we let her go to the next family on the adoption list (she was a purebred Beagle who happened to come through the rescue agency so she was in demand).  A year later, we tried again, and got Simon.

He was an 8 week old puppy, black lab/basset cross (a funny cross, which sometimes results in short, long dogs but in this case resulted in a weird but cute looking lab), and pretty sweet.  From day one, he walked to and from the kids' school with us, and lived in our townhouse with plenty of walks, water, treats, and love.

Because he grew up around small kids, we just assumed he would be fine with them.  I have a long history of family dogs in my childhood, and so does Brent, and never were any of them a problem around kids.  But last spring Brent's brother's family came over for the afternoon and Simon bared his teeth and growled at their 20 month old (my nephew Ruben).  I was shocked.  Simon was eating popcorn, which was all over the yard, and there were kids everywhere, so I scolded him and put him in the garage (where his food and water and a bed are) with the dog door closed so he couldn't get back into the yard when all the kids were playing in it, but I kind of thought it might be understandable dog behaviour, given the food, the yard full of kids, and the fact that Ruben was tugging on his fur when it happened.  I didn't think it was acceptable but I did think it was understandable.

A few days later, we went to Brent's parents place with the same group and brought Simon along to tear around their two acre farm with their dog Jasper.  Brent and Ruben were walking back towards the house from the shop and Simon was jogging along with them, when Brent heard a surprised, "WUF!" and Ruben started screaming.  Brent picked him up and his eyelid was torn really deeply.  Nobody knows exactly what happened because Ruben and Simon were right behind Brent, but the best we can figure is that either Ruben tripped and Simon tripped over him, scratching his eye with his paw in the process, or Simon swiped Ruben with his paw and caught his eye.  We called an ambulance and Brent, Ruben, and my sister in law Billie went to the hospital.  Ruben was transported to Children's Hospital for surgery to repair his tear duct and the eyelid, and he required a drain to be put in, monitored, and finally removed at the beginning of this month.  Later on that same day of this incident, Brent and I discussed the possibility of putting Simon down.  Everyone in our extended family who was there that day strongly discouraged this, pointing out correctly that no one knew if it was an accident or not, and that dogs are trainable so perhaps even if it was intentional, he just needed some obedience school.  They also pointed out that in the ten weeks prior to this, we had moved to a new house and brought home a new baby, so perhaps an adjustment grace was merited.
We decided to keep an eye on him, and think about it for a week or so, before we decided what to do.

A week later, my cousin Sara came to visit with her two small boys.  Her youngest was 2 at the time, and has a dog himself who looks very much like Simon and puts up with all kinds of wrestling and toddler boy antics (in fact, she loves it).  Ryen was toddling behind Simon as Simon walked towards his bed, and with no warning or indication that he was frustrated, Simon reached back and snapped at him.  He is a big dog with big teeth and a scary snarl, and Sara and I were within three to five feet of them when it happened, so we all freaked out.  I was totally taken aback.  But it sealed the deal.  Simon couldn't stay with us.  We have four small kids, at that time a baby who would soon be toddling, a busy extended family with tons of small kids, a substantial circle of Nerdy friends with tons of small kids, and just no room for a dog who cannot handle toddlers.  We didn't think his behaviour quite justified being put down but could not keep him so we decided to find him a new home.  Of course we would give FULL disclosure to a new owner/family so they would know what they were getting into, but I figured if there are people out there willing to adopt all the pit bulls and rotties on the SPCA list, there had to be someone who would take a sweet basset/lab who can't handle toddlers, right?

We didn't really have the money for obedience school, although we would have scratched up enough for it had we decided to keep him.  We put the word out, and there were a few leads but nothing panned out.  Eventually we had 3 near launches: three separate times our kids said goodbye to their doggy, and the adopting person didn't show up or changed their minds at the last minute.  So frustrating.  Brent tried to contact the rescue organization we adopted him from but discovered that they were closed down because of (!!) fraud (!!) of all things!  So we couldn't enlist their help to find Simon another home.  I contacted LAPS, which is the Langley version of the SPCA (Canadian equivalent of the Humane Society) but although their adoption board is filled with freaky breeds who are known to be dangerous (always "ONLY BECAUSE OF THE OWNERS AND NEVER BECAUSE OF THE DOG," which if you ask me is bullshit; people have ornery personalities or disorders that lead to behavioural problems sometimes, so why not dogs?  Early experiences shape this personality but some are ornery and don't like chaos or noise or kids, period, you can't blame parents for EVERYTHING), I got an email back that said, "Sorry, but we do not adopt out dogs who are known to be aggressive."

I feel trapped.  Now that Amarys is toddling, they cannot be in the same room together.  So Simon spends his days between the yard and garage, and only comes inside at night while Amarys is sleeping.  He rarely goes on walks anymore because whenever I walk anywhere (a) I have to take my kids, and (b) we always go to kid friendly destinations like playgrounds and parks, or the school, where kids and toddlers are bound to be.  Whenever Brent is home from his long work hours, he wants to spend time with us so the same problem ensues.

Simon at Christmastime

This morning, despite me being very diligent, Simon and Amarys happened to be in the kitchen at the same time for a short period.  He snarled and snapped at her, and scared us all.  I'm done.  I'm so, so done.  This damn dog is my ball and chain and I feel sorry for him that he has to stay outdoors so much, but he literally cannot handle Amarys' presence.  He's a nice dog!  Months will go by with no incidents!  But toddlers make him nervous and instead of slinking away like most dogs would, he gets snarly.  He does it way more when Brent is not around, and I try to show him that I'm in charge (kindly but firmly), but it doesn't settle his nerves.
After this morning I'm ready to consider the needle.  If there is no single person or childless couple out there who would like a dog and is willing to take on ours, who needs so little to be happy (but one of those things is a toddler free environment), it might need to be considered.

Of course, we cannot afford it.  Euthanizing a dog is expensive.  This month in particular is very dry, financially, and the only way we could put him down would be to bounce our mortgage payment.  Borrowing money for it would be a difficult solution because at this point, I'm considering borrowing money from family to pay for groceries, but paying it back is a near impossibility because we live so close to the line and have so many needs.  As you can see, more and more the dog is a ball and chain.  As spring arrives we will be wanting to use the backyard more, and it will be even harder to keep Simon away from Amarys, and this whole pressure cooker situation is just going to get worse.  I'm crying.  This is awful.  How did we get here?  How much of it is our fault?  What can I do?

It has been a year.  We've been trying to find Simon a new home for a YEAR.  I have an aggressive towards toddlers dog in my house and we have a toddler.  How did this even happen?


Abolishing Anonymous

I realized today when Louise commented accidentally as anonymous and I gulped before I opened and read a comment from "Anonymous," that leaving comments open to any nameless one is too stressful for me.  This is way bigger of an issue with Mothers of Change than here; you guys are mostly my friends or friends of friends who are kind and say supportive things or challenge me with grace.  But anonymous?  S/he is usually pretty insulting.  I don't like to be insulted, so I think I will abolish anonymous from the comments here.  Sorry if this is a pain in the butt for anyone; let me know if you want it reinstated (and if your argument is compelling I will gladly do so)! 

Anonymous is double attacking me over on Mothers of Change these days.  Sigh.  S/he has not made an appearance here in oh, a long time.  And mostly been nice.  So like I say, NOT YOU!  And the change is not based on any real thing other than the fact that my dread when I see an emailed comment from anonymous is pretty big.

xo, y'all.

Also, I took the kids to White Rock Beach today with a friend and it was one of the most incredible days I have had in months.  It was amazing.  Props for good days!!!  WOOT!  And sunshine and warmth to boot.  I will post photos soon.

And Ayden asked me yesterday, "Mommy, what is a striptease?"  And this is a whole new realm of parenting I had not anticipated.  Quite yet.

Riley nearly disappeared on me the other day; he is getting a little TOO confident in himself, convinced he could walk to the park alone, meet me at home when we are out and he feels like leaving, and cross busy streets and walk around in parking lots ALL BY HIMSELF THANK YOU VERY MUCH.  Keeping these boys alive is a full time job, dewds.  The other day he chose to stay home while the big boys went to a park about five blocks away from our house.  About half an hour after they left, I went out in the backyard to get something and when I came back, the front door was open and Riley was nowhere to be found.  I discovered him marching down the sidewalk with his jacket and boots on, shocked and appalled when I called him back and told him that no, he could NOT go to the park to meet with his brothers all on his own and that he could NOT leave the house without discussing it with me first.  "Yes I CAN do it by myself and YOU CAN'T STOP ME!!"  Um, hello.  Who has 34 years experience on this earth, and who has a mere 3.52?  Yes, I am your mother.  You will obey me in this matter. 
WAILING.
Oh, he was heartbroken.  And I was in a panic at the nearly missed escapee.  Granted, he would have been fine, with his determination and stellar memory, but hello?  Three year old walking alone to the park.  That's so wildly vulnerable it's shakin bacon.
Guaranteed someone would have picked him up and either taken him home (stellar memory, remember?), or called the police, but mostly it just feels all shivery and gross.

Matthew is being surprisingly mature these days.

And Amarys ate dirt from my garden today.

Fun times!

...going to bed...very tired....two weeks/insomnia...ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz............

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Old Friend, Insomnia

Ah friendship.  One of the lovely things in life.
My friendship with insomnia is a lifelong one, going back as far as I remember into my childhood, and becoming particularly enmeshed and codependent once I became an adult.  Particularly, an adult with children.  I need some bloody Atavan.

I am well aware that my anxiety disorder and my insomnia are best friends.  Sometimes we're a threesome, although I try to remain dominant at all times.

Tonight, I am not winning.  Instead, I'm ruminating about a specific time in my life as a parent when I was particularly unhappy.  I have no idea what brought on these ruminations [ironically, lack of sleep may be a large factor], but they are here nevertheless.

I was the most unhappy after I had two kids.  Which most of you already know.  Having Ayden was a surprise, and a major adjustment, but I was shocked at the force of my love for him, and my joy in watching him do the simplest things, like grow and develop and eat snails and rocks and produce poop.  It was all kinds of awesome, and I felt pretty good at it.  I was gentle and patient and affectionate.  I tried to be responsive, so that Ayden would know that our connection was more important to me than anything.  I hoped this would set a healthy emotional foundation for him, my first priority.
[As an aside, Brent was also filled with love and parented responsively, and still does.  I just leave him out because this is my blog, dewds.]
Anyways, enter: Matthew.  Within three weeks, I fell apart.  I rapidly devolved as a human being, and I could barely recognize myself.  I hated parenting.  I had no patience.  Sometimes I would enter a room already blazing with anger imagining what my kids had probably gotten into while I was out of the room, and be surprised to see two toddlers playing quietly.  I freaked out all the time, slammed doors, and hid every chance I got.

So.  The part I've been ruminating on this evening in my wide-awake wee hours of the night state is how strongly I was tempted to leave my family at that point in my life.  I was certain my children would be better off without me in their lives, and the allure of wiping my slate clean and starting over in California or Florida or some warm part of another country was pretty sweet.  I just wanted to forget, you know?  I wanted to walk away and leave it completely behind me, in my past, so far back that it would never get examined again, and I could restart my life in some small beachfront rental house, working as an EMT far, far away.  And not have to think about how wildly I was failing, every minute of every day, trapped at home with two small children I seemingly hated. 
[I feel that it is likely not necessary to point out that I did not actually hate my lovely boys, but was rather deeply mired in an unrecognized near psychosis, but it makes me feel better to have it said].
I could not for the life of me figure out why I was so angry. 

If we are trapped in a circumstance [particularly of our own choosing; have I mentioned that this was part of my self hatred cycle?  Beat myself up for choosing to have children when I should have known better?], it is very normal to feel angry.  Having children is isolating.  It is in some ways monotonous.  And for me at that time it was a constant stream of maternal failure.  And I had a mental illness, to boot.

The main anchor that kept me from running away was my relationship with Ayden.  If I could get it right, sometimes, with him, I figured it must be possible that I was redeemable.  That I could move on and get better.  And stronger than that, I figured that by walking away and never looking back, I would do far more damage to him than I was doing by being inaccessible and angry but searching for a way to get better.  I didn't know if I would get better, and indeed it took me far longer than I was happy with to sort out what was happening and devise a way to deal.  I had dealt with depression before and I wasn't depressed.  SOMETHING was wrong, though, and I had to figure it out SOON or risk leaving a scar on my kids' emotional health and wreck their childhoods.

I guess looking back I did lots of things right.  I fed them freaking ALL THE TIME, because they were little and were hungry all the time, I bathed them every night, kissed them lots, took them out of the house every day to the park, or tot romp, or play groups, videotaped their milestones and accomplishments, turned on kid's music and danced with them (I have one hysterical video of Matthew dancing on the toy box and suddenly tripping and flying off the toy box: the video cuts out as I rescued him and comforted him, and then the video cuts back in to him dancing on the box again with a big, fat lip), played 'chase the toddler,' took them swimming, and kept them safe.  But man, I was unhappy and emotionally unbalanced and having difficulty finding any answer as to why, and how to get better.

I did get better, and THEN find the answer, which is backwards but it worked nonetheless.  I stumbled upon the concept of an 'inner monologue,' and how to tune into what my inner voice was saying to myself about myself all day long, and change it for the positive.  This was effective enough to pull me back away from all the anger and hatred and frustration, but left me with disbelief and massive amounts of guilt.  After Riley was born I got diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and the light bulb went on: HELLO!  ALL THAT TIME I WAS ANXIOUS!  And in fact looking back I had been anxious for a very, very long time, before I had kids, before I got married, before I was even out of high school.  As a child I worried a lot.  I worried about my parents both dying, or me getting cancer, or my parents getting divorced, or about social situations.  I had a tendency even then.  And I had difficulty sleeping sometimes, too.  Getting treatment from my midwife/naturopath and going to a support group that offered cognitive behavioural therapy changed my life.  Man oh man, am I ever grateful that I never left.  Think about all I would have missed out on?  And truly, though I was heavily tempted, I did not actually consider abandonment to be a feasible option.  I figured it would permanently damage everyone including myself to a degree that was irreparable and deep, but there were days when I thought the way I felt and acted was doing that anyways.

I'm grateful for health, and for second chances.

2006, Ayden 3, Matthew 1 1/2, and me.  Aren't they cute as buttons?  Sheesh.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Arctic Picnic

The sun may be out today (YAY!!), but it is only a few degrees above freezing.  That didn't slow my kids down.  Ayden made chocolate waffle pancake hybrids (which we call "puffles"), and all four kids made an impromptu picnic on our deck.  VERY CUTE.



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ephemeral

It is funny to me that giving up meat for forty days is so hard.  I like vegetarian food, I love vegetables, beans, legumes, and nuts (well, nuts I don't love, but I tolerate them without crankiness), I cook vegetarian once or twice a week because it is supposed to be healthy and better for the environment.  But man, this has taken some serious effort.  I'm hungry all the time, which is weird, but I think is likely because I'm craving protein.  If I lived like a vegetarian all the time maybe I would get used to it and eat more beans, nuts, legumes, and eggs, but I feel like I do make sure I am eating these things at every meal and it is not filling me up.  Especially in the evening.  I feel like my stomach is full and I'm scavenging for more, and craving carbs which isn't like me.  I like carbs but I don't usually crave them per se. 

Anyways, what I find most interesting is how desperate my want is for something which I've given up for only 40 days, and which many people live without on a regular basis.  Some by choice.  And maybe that's part of the point; to realize how privileged I am to choose to be in want of something, and be humbled.  It makes me appreciate how human I am, to know that I'm no better than the next guy with some sort of insatiable desire, who may forget that a boundary exists or choose to scale it anyways, and who am I to judge when my desire for something so small as meat overwhelms my mind and I quite possibly could have eaten a few bites of chicken although I swore it off for lent?  It's only food, I should really be able to relinquish my desire for it, especially for a short time to remind myself of my place in this world next to a Holy God who relinquished everything for love of me...  But I can't.  Or not yet, anyways.  Maybe by the time I am seventy, I will have mastered the art of fasting but for now I just stumble along with lots of intention and loads of weakness.

dave bullock


I also totally love Herman Fields' image of lent, depravation, and spring.  It may feel like I do my life's best work when I am content and happy but in fact, I grow and give best when I'm walking in the desert.  It makes no sense to bloom in a season of drought or depravation but when I live without, I grow the most.  I give-imperfectly, but I give in abundance when I am lacking somehow in my own life.  When anger takes over.  When I judge other moms.  When I feel overwhelmed by loneliness or lack of courage or an absence of the qualities that equip me for a specific task (like parenting), this is when I am the most open to God, and to others.  When I am afraid, I am the most beautiful.

There are several points in life when we are wide open, and these are amongst the most beautiful in any life, I think.  When we give birth, when we falter, when we sing in public, and when we die.  When I fast, I feel the extent of my weakness as a human being and how much I need God, and also how fragile I am.  In the timeline of history, I am a brief struggle, one tiny spot of light striking out in a vast space.

For some reason, I am loved.

gardenwalk/talk

Saturday, March 17, 2012

On Lent

"It's lent. Point of info: lent is derived from the germanic word for spring (modern german = lentz). So lent is the time when we grow and bloom, not the winter of our punishment by deprivation. And at the end of this spring we celebrate the passover - not passing over to something other than the spring which we have been observing but passing into the never-ending springtime of eternal life. Lent is the time to struggle at doing what the resurrection enables us always to do. We struggle to align our desires and sense of what we need to the actual reality of God's providence, we teach ourselves how to enjoy God (Psalm 103: he satisfies your desires with good things).


We celebrate at the culmination of the spring of Lent the resurrection not primarily of ourselves but of Christ (it's only his "spiritual progress" that matters; that we can know anything about). We also celebrate the resurrection of everyone who has made Christ's resurrection their own. All ye who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ."


-Herman Fields


[I love the idea that we grow and bloom in depravation, into spring, and through passover.  I also love the fact that, since I gave up meat for lent, my children have followed suit and given up the following: 
Ayden: broccoli (he loves broccoli, FTR)
Matthew: carrots (he does not love carrots, FTR)
Riley: crackers (he likes crackers a medium amount)
Amarys: we debated, but determined that you must be old enough to understand lent to participate in it.  Which is a very protestant idea as opposed to Orthodox (Herman's Christianity of choice), now that I think about it.  Consequently, Matthew learned that it is possible to pray silently, in your head, because he was curious about me praying whenever I think about the fact that I am fasting]

Friday, March 16, 2012

"There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, or improve nutrition and promote health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS."

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 2004

Cabin Fever

Spring break is awesome.  My kids are home, we stay in our pyjamas for a good portion of the day, nobody has to get out of bed until they are ready,  or pack lunches, or climb in the cold van to go to school.  On the weekend we were pretty busy, and my mom was here until Monday.  Tuesday the kids did crafts, got their own breakfasts, and played lego while Amarys and I slept til 10.  YES, THAT DOES SAY 10.  It was a small gift from the universe, for having four children.
Wednesday was similar, although Amarys and I got up earlier.  By the end of the day, though, I was all cabin fevered.  Brent worked Tues/Wed, so it was just me and four kids, stuck in the same open concept kitchen/living/dining room for two whole days.  I swear, if I would have had to clean that damn kitchen counter ONE MORE TIME I would have hung myself.  After the kids went to bed I sent out a facebook message to my friend Katie; "I'm going bonkers trapped in my house with 4 kids for days on end.  Can we come over??!!  Hellllllpppppp meeeeee!!!!!"  This can be tricky, this finding a friend to invite myself over to~I mean, c'mon, I come with quite the entourage.  Anyone with one or two kids gets pretty overwhelmed by me and my little pipers.  (With the exception maybe of Louise, who grew up with 4 sisters).  Many people go away for spring break, or are married to teachers and thus are busy having family time.  But I figured Katie could handle us.  She's got three kids; two boys and a toddler girl, and a 10,000 square foot house (she lives there with 17 people; mostly extended family), she likes visitors, and she can totally handle chaos.  Bonus: we get along superbly.  She's my kind of people.
She phoned me in the morning and said, "YES!  Come over!!"  I was out the door so fast I almost forgot my underpants.  GET ME OUTTA THIS HOUSE!!!  Of course, a complicating factor has been the weather, which has been total crap.  Like, torrential downpours, with occasional bouts of wet snow and hefty wind.  You can't even really go out on the porch with your coffee in this kind of weather.  Or enjoy those flowers in my garden that I put up in my previous post.  Gross.

Katie saved my ass.  I threw my kids in the car, complete with lego, an enormous stuffed dog, and a jar of applesauce to counterbalance the fact that we were invading.  She made us awesome homemade bread and soup, in her Thermamix (?) which is reportedly similar to a Vitamix (?), which I am now in serious covet mode for.  It does everything.  EVerything.  Her boys and mine played lego and toys and guitar, jumped on the couch, and explored the basement.  Which is seriously enormous.  The babies toddled around chewing lego bits and spilling stuff and shrieking, and Katie and I visited.  We talk so fast we could make a business out of it.  I LOVED it.  Hooray for friends, and kids who get along (her boys are 6 and 8, and her baby is almost 1 1/2), and 10,000 square foot homes, and beautiful chaos.  The sun even came out while we were there; what a relief!!  It disappeared as we left, so it must be some sort of magnetic combination of Katie's energy plus mine that brought the sun out.  I feel much more peaceful, now.  Funny how a good dose of crazy can make you feel more sane.  =)


Thursday, March 15, 2012

As Seen in My Garden...And In A Parking Lot




This one is my favourite...

Lent Update

All I can think about is bacon cheeseburgers.  I didn't know this would be this hard!  Or get HARDER as time goes on!!  Also, it is really hard to eat a diabetic diet and be vegetarian.

Looking forward to easter, y'all.

BUT I do find that every time I think about meat or the fact that I'm accomodating a diet change, it makes me mindful of God.  Which is the point.  Sometimes I pray just a snippit; "Hi!" or "Thank you!"  And other times a few sentences.  What I wanted was less of a dine and dash, and more of a conversation.  The talk might not be deep, but it is more frequently happening.  Good times!  I'm dreaming of the Blue Ribbon Cheeseburger at Red Robin pretty hard...

OMG uploading that photo is the meanest thing I've ever done to myself....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Special Needs: Limitation or Liberation?

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

My child Matthew has several special needs.  He is a remarkable kid.  He is outgoing, charismatic, charming, funny, and enthusiastic.  If I ask him to help with some random task like laundry or cooking, his answer is invariably "YEAH SURE!"  Going on a trip to the dump?  Fetching the mail?  Clipping the dog's toenails?  He's so keen it's hysterical.  He is also one of the hardest working, most persistent kids I know.  It takes him so much effort to learn or master some things and he just keeps plugging away.  It really seems like if there is a condition or syndrome to be had, Matthew has it, and yet he keeps on trucking despite them all, with no self pity.  Just enthusiasm.  Although he is remarkable and keen, he does have special needs.  He has speech and language problems, bladder problems, and a learning disability.

When we adopted him he was fifteen months old, and he was...a handful...from the first day.  Toddler adoptions are classified as 'special needs' adoptions because children at this age have the most difficulty adjusting simply because of their age.  They are old enough to grasp the scope of loss and change they experience when being adopted, but they are not old enough to have developed the language skills to help prepare them and to process their grief.  Matthew's grief was particularly deep, and his personality was more intense than any child we knew.  On top of the regular special needs classification of being an adopted toddler, he had difficulties with emotional self regulation, chronic ear infections with hearing loss, allergies, and 'tunnel vision.'  He cried a LOT.  Whenever he was emotionally 'off,' he would hold his breath, turn blue, and pass out.  He was emotionally off all. the. time.  An average day saw three to five breath holding spells, and a bad day had upwards of nine or ten. He had so much to cope with, poor guy.  And oh my gosh, man, so did we.

Matthew, 2007, goofing around

 Sometimes, he showed veins of brilliance, and other times basic life skills eluded him.  I was constantly terrified that somehow, it was all my fault.  I still am.  (Society does not help with this, as any deviation from normal in children is placed at the feet of their parents: do they discipline enough?  Too much?  What do they feed him?  How often?  Does his diet have gluten/dairy/food dye/sugar/HFCS/GMO/pesticides/hormones/meat/whatever else?  Do they read to him?  Do they model good values?  Are they patient enough?  Loving enough?  Firm enough?  Consistent enough?  Like, oh my goodness).  The criticism is one of the hardest things to navigate, because people talk more than they listen, and they have all kinds of opinions to tell me.  Speech therapy is wrong and a waste of money; he will outgrow his speech problems!  Give him time!  [meanwhile at 4 years old his vocabulary was about 40 words, his initial stutter was between 60 and 90 seconds, and nobody could understand even his most basic speech: private speech therapy was one of the best things we ever did for this child!  Communication is so basic to life].  Don't let the school test him for learning disabilities because then he will be labeled.  Don't let 'them' label your kid!  The bottom line is this: WE KNOW OUR KID BEST.  Close family and friends see how Matthew operates and they get it.  They see that his wiring is different and that we have a lot of work to do to help him succeed and to keep his self esteem intact.  The rest of the world has no bloody idea what they are talking about.  I wish that, rather than tell me what they think, people would ask me about it.  Ask me my opinion on labeling children, and specialized therapists, and rambunctious children getting disciplined in school, and then listen instead of talk.

2008





 Matthew could scale the exterior of any playground by the time he was two years old  Yet at seven, he still solves interpersonal conflict by biting.  He still has zero awareness of vehicle traffic.  He is considered the class bully, and always mysteriously has his pockets full of significant amounts of change.  He scores far above average in nonverbal abstract logic tests, but he cannot remember three item number sequences.  He still has trouble with the letter Q.  He builds massive, intricate, multi system lego worlds with the tiniest attention to detail, but his printing is poor enough to qualify for an occupational therapy referral.



2009


 We don't actually know "what" he has, because we are in the end stages of testing with the school psychologist, but it looks as though he definitely has a learning disability.  The one that fits the most of his quirks seems to be ADD, although we won't know for certain for another few months.  What does a diagnosis like this feel like?  It feels like a liberation.  After years of raising a child with very poor impulse control, little emotional self regulation, the sweetest of smiles, but the most frustratingly poor memory, it feels like a light went on in our house and sweet Jesus the relief after so long of stumbling around in the dark!  This is not like a disease diagnosis where one day you have a healthy, normal child and the next you have bad news, this is blueprints after six years of being lost in a labyrinth.  I feel relieved.  I feel hope.  I feel power!  I knew my kid was intelligent and capable, but had difficulty unlocking that.  I often feel like I spend so much energy and time 'managing' his behaviour that I cannot enjoy him.  Our relationship is filled with 'don't' and 'do,' and a constant string of coping mechanisms to fill his need for an externalized impulse control system, and it is not what I want for us.  Brent and I have been known to say, "I don't want to be telling you what to do all the time.  I would love to just be with you and enjoy your company."  Which statement has little effect, but is true of how we feel.  So having ADD is not just about succeeding in school.  It is about improving his most basic relationships in life, and allowing his charisma and vibrancy to take the front seat.  I have said before that Matthew has a spiral intelligence and that a diagnosis and treatment will help him unleash this on a world that operates almost exclusively in parallel lines, and this is true in intellectual realms and also in relationships.






2010, with his older brother


  I understand the fear of limitation that stands behind avoiding labels and avoiding special needs diagnoses.  No one wants to hear that their child lives outside the normal because our children are so amazing and precious, and we don't want them limited or hurt.  But how boring would the world be, filled with clones all wired the same?  Isn't variety beautiful?  Isn't a mind which thinks in spirals good for the world?  There is so much beauty in the way his brain works, and how those who engage with him can be stretched and turned in unique ways as they try to understand him and help him succeed.  Without him, and other children like him who have special needs, the world would have less compassion in it, less empathy, and far less creativity.  Knowing my child liberates me from my previous way of thinking, and opens my mind to the deep value in diversity.  And it forces me to consider what truly makes a person valuable.  Intelligence?  Success?  Potential?  Capacity for love?  Uniqueness?  Uniformity?  Productivity?   It forces me to think outside the box for solutions to problems I didn't know existed.

A diagnosis liberates us as Matthew's parents, because it gives us power to tackle the root cause of so many of his difficulties.  It liberates Matthew, because it gives him the opportunity to master things that were difficult for him before, and brings more peace to his relationships.  And it liberates those around him by stretching their imaginations around him and the way he is.  It liberates us from that linear, parallel line approach to life and molds us so that we fit around circular patterns as well as parallel ones.  Matthew has limitations in life because of his learning disability, and there is potential for him to be further limited by this diagnosis if teachers or other adults in his life are unable to see beyond it.  But for now, mostly, we see freedom.


2011, Christmas


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Little Bit of This...

How Q-te am I?
How about now?
Hm, finally got this damn thing off
Here you go, mum
Glad we got rid of that fashion disaster...
What's up here?  Anyone else feel a draft?