Re-entering the blogosphere…

Hi there! Long time no see!

It’s not because I haven’t wanted to stop in. But I’ve been feeling shy lately. And I’d fallen into the comparison trap – not a good place to be. There are so many interesting people out there and fabulous blogs showcasing their brilliant ideas and fascinating lives.

It’s hard to feel like a blog isn’t wasted on me.

Enough of feeling inferior! Yes, I’m a nobody with nothing interesting to say but I enjoy sharing my inane thoughts and ideas here. And it’s not like I’m forcing anyone to waste their time here. So why not?

…One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: “I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.” This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.

We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.

~ Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

I had first read these words on the late Barbara Curtis’s blog, Mommylife. I really enjoyed Barbara’s blog. I didn’t always agree with what she wrote but I admired her willingness to be transparent, to share her mistakes as well as her triumphs. Most of all, I admired her servant’s heart in writing. She wanted her words to help others, and that’s what I want to do too.

It may be that our story will serve as simply a warning to others. “Look, here’s how we’ve failed! Don’t do what we just did or you’ll end up failing too!”

But, you know, there’s value in sharing our failures too.

So, my hope is to post here much more than I have been in the past. Most of what I write will centre on our experiences and what we’ve learned about autism, parenting, teaching and life in general. I hope that it will be useful as well as interesting to read.

And if you see me making a boneheaded mistake, for the love of all things holy, please let me know! I need all the help I can get!

Re-entering the blogosphere...

Book Review: Carly’s Voice

“Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism” is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Carly’s story is amazing and I was eager to learn from her what living with autism was like.

It took me several attempts to get past the first chapter of this book but I am glad that I finally did. Carly’s experiences is a great example of how, through perseverance and a LOT of hard work, she finally found her voice and was able to connect with others.

But I found the first chapter very off-putting. Written by Carly’s father, it was very hard to read about how hard he found being a parent to someone with autism when he obviously had a lot more resources than many who find themselves in the same position. Thankfully, as I continued to read, I was able to empathize with him more.

What I really appreciated about this book was the way it portrayed how hard it was for Carly to find her voice. In so many autism memoirs, all the hard work seems to be glossed over and the time and effort seems minimal. Mr. Fleischmann illustrates well the slow progression of Carly’s language development and the fact that she still struggles with getting her thoughts out of her brain and write them out. Carly’s apraxia prevents her from communicating orally.

Something that Carly says in the book has really stuck with me. She talked with her dad about how she has friends with autism in California but not in her hometown in Toronto. When asked why, she explains that the people who have autism like hers in Canada haven’t been able to find their voice and that’s so sad. Her American friends with autism have had more interventions that have helped them find their own voice, most using augmentative communication devices like she does. Her Canadian friends don’t seem to have had access to the same kind of teaching and help leaving them locked in and “sad”.

The best thing about this book is that it is a great illustration of the fact that spending time, money and resources on those who have autism and other developmental disorders is not a waste. When given the right interventions and taught with the expectation that learning will occur, the rewards are great and the insights offered by those who experience the world differently are too important to ignore.

Thank you for sharing your voice with the world Carly. And thank you for fighting for others to have the chance to find theirs.

Wrapping Up the Week: Vol. 2… Back to our regularly scheduled program

Wrapping up the Week

I should have posted this yesterday, sorry. But better late than never right?

This week was a “getting back into the swing of things” week. I’m not sure that we’re there yet – this swing is making me feel rather dizzy. I’m feeling like a professional chauffeur already and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed is back in full force. Yes, it’s back to normal around here.

What’s been working…
Sitting through music practice sessions with the kids. Some of the kids anyway. Merry is pretty self-sufficient in his piano studies and so is Samwise with the drums. But Samwise, Arwen and Galadriel all need some extra coaching. It’s a pretty big time investment but is already showing signs of paying off, especially with Arwen and her violin. While tedious, it comes with the pleasant side effect of learning how to play the instrument myself. Who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll be able to play like Lindsay Stirling!

What has been a dud…
I need to start having lunches ready at the start of the day. The kids all are home for lunch and, more often than not, I find myself scrambling to get something together around 11:30 while Pippin practices the piano. And that generally means less than stellar lunches. This week’s challenge will be to have lunches planned and ready to go at the same time as breakfast.

Favourite happening…
I really like Arwen’s violin teacher. She’s a very busy young woman who is also a Montessori teacher in her other job. Usually, I don’t get a chance to talk to her much but last Saturday her next lesson didn’t show so we had a chance to chat after Awren’s lesson. I’m easy to please. 🙂

Focus for next week…

Simply ClassicalA Beautiful Education for any ChildCheryl Swope, Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith

Still struggling to get through the book Simply Classical. It’s not hard to read but I’m making copious notes and that’s slowing me down. Also, I really need to focus on homeschool lessons now that we’ve become acclimated to the rest of our regular routine. It’s so hard to not let that get shoved aside some days.

Thanks for stopping by! Wishing you a good week ahead, help keep me accountable to my goals, won’t you?

Weigh-In Wednesday: First of 2016

Weigh-in Wednesday

Eeeek! I’m posting this late!

As I mentioned in my last weigh-in post, I took a break over the Christmas season. And I really regret doing that now. Let’s just say that the scale has not been kind and leave it at that shall we?

I really struggled for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it was the Christmas season. Treats everywhere!

Secondly, I have been dealing with a recurrent migraine for the past three weeks. On the good days, I’m feeling fine and can do my walk at a decent pace. But there were quite a few hard days where I struggled to walk slowly. I wound up eating a lot of carb rich foods as they made me feel better. Clearly, I will need to get a handle on this problem if I am going to conquer my weight loss goals. Any ideas?

For now, my plan is to return to the no snacking principles I started back in mid-October. So for this week I plan to:

  • Limit my eating to three meals a day. No snacking.
  • Limit my portion sizes to one serving per meal – i.e. fill my plate once only. No seconds.
  • Limit my intake of sugar and all other sweeteners – real and artificial. No sweets.
  • Remain gluten-free. And emphasize clean-eating.
  • Pre-plan my meals.
  • Take a brisk walk for 35 minutes every single day. Gradually increase this to an hour.

We’ll see how it goes sand re-evaluate next week. Now for the numbers…

~ This week: 0.2 lb gain
~ Progress so far: 13.3 lbs lost
~ Still to lose: 86.7 lbs

Will I return those pounds I’ve gained? Or will they come back to haunt me? Will I manage to stick to my goals? Or fail miserably? Stay-tuned and come back next week for the next report in my weight-loss saga!

God will give you more than you can handle

lifesaver-933560_1280

I’ve always hated that saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” What a way to lay a guilt trip on those who are truly struggling.

God does not want your adult child lose his temper and ability to reason and take out his temper on you. God does not want your medical bills will be so enormous that you are forced into homelessness. God does not want you to be born into a civil war where you are constantly worried if you will be killed at any moment.

We are living in a crucible where life will force us to sink or swim. What will we choose? To cling to life and hope? To cling to love? Or to decide that it’s everyone for themselves? To fall into despair?

God is my life preserver. He will give me the strength to get through whatever crap life throws at me.

And make something good come out of it.

Autism Adventures… Vol. 1: Diving In

Autism Adventures

Over 20 years ago now I was first introduced to the world of autism via an article in Reader’s Digest magazine. The article was about a young girl with autism named Georgiana Stehli who overcame her autism after undergoing auditory integration training. The story fascinated me and I found myself keeping an eye out for other information about autism that might pass my way.

Nothing really did until I became involved with a therapeutic riding centre while studying at university. I assisted a young man with profound autism who enjoyed riding the horses a great deal. He would babble sounds while riding and while helping to get his horse ready; but he was otherwise completely non-verbal. Any words that he spoke were seemingly by chance. I really liked him and felt so sad for his isolation. He was completely at the mercy of his caregivers and seemed so lost and alone.

A year or so after I started working with this autistic rider, I became an aunt for the first time. I remember my nephew’s baptism so well. As the priest made the sign of the cross on my new godson’s forehead, a bird flew in through an open door and sang a beautiful song that echoed throughout the church. I couldn’t help but believe that my nephew’s life would become exceptional. And I guess it did. It became apparent within a few years that my nephew had autism. And he is profoundly affected by it to this day, over 20 years later. He is essentially non-verbal and likely to need full-time care throughout his life.

Around the time that my nephew was being diagnosed with autism, Pippin entered our lives. I can remember expressing my concerns with my doctor about the possibility of my new son developing autism. She told me that there was no way to prevent autism and no way to know until Pippin grew older.

When I was growing up, autism was virtually unheard of. Now, I am an aunt of three boys who are on the spectrum to varying degrees as well as being Pippin’s mom. Merry is probably on the spectrum somewhere as well. Autism has no specific biological definition and there is no medical test for it. If you show enough behaviours that fit the diagnostic criteria you are said to have it. This lack of a biological definition has made it extremely difficult for parents to know how to help their autistic children “find their voice” and learn the necessary communication skills that we all need to be successful in the world we live in. As a result, in our efforts to help Pippin, we have tried a lot of different treatments that were supposed to help. Some did, most didn’t.

I thought it might be fun to chronicle our adventures with these various therapies. I hope to share what we’ve learned about how autism affects our son and the challenges he faces. As well, I hope to share the interventions we’ve tried and the ones we haven’t with explanations as to why. Maybe, by telling our story, we’ll be able to help someone who’s facing similar questions. And maybe we’ll be able to find out some answers for our family too. Next Monday, I’ll share Pippin’s early years and how we came to an autism diagnosis. It’s an interesting story involving our trials and difficulties with finding help and our sometimes deceitful efforts to get it. I hope you’ll find it interesting too.

Getting back on the road… returning to the routines of life.

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The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

~ Bilbo Baggins, Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

DSCN2138

Tomorrow is a return to the regular routines of life. Mondays have been pretty busy this school year; the girls have dance lessons, Samwise has to get a ride to work and to his drum lesson in the city, Pippin has drama club in the city as well. Plus the regular activity of school and extra tutoring for Pippin. I must admit, the road looks a little intimidating it as I write this. But, like Bilbo, I must follow if I can.

Blessings to you and yours for a happy week ahead!

Wrapping up the Week… Vol. 1: Where we were and where we’re going

Wrapping up the Week
It’s been awhile since I’ve done this kind of post. Maybe I should call it “Wrapping up the Year?”

What’s been working…
I’ve started a mostly daily habit of writing out the day’s basic schedule on a white board in our kitchen. It started out as an effort to stop being asked what was for supper 10 times a day. It’s now expanded to include not only the day’s meal plan, but also the day’s scheduled activities (like piano lessons or doctor appointments), and special tasks or celebrations. With a very active family of seven, some days our white board is pretty full with just the meals and appointments. But I’m finding it helpful to also post things like, “changing the bedsheets” so that the kids know how to help out with household chores.

What has been a dud…
Teaching skills over content is a dud. It’s only taken me 19 years to figure this out but better late than never I guess.

Throughout Pippin’s homeschooling career, and with the other kids as well, I’ve focussed more efforts in teaching skills versus teaching content. For instance, I would be more concerned with teaching the kids how to read and less picky about the reading choices they made. “At least they’re reading” right?

Well, no.

It’s become obvious to me, finally, that this mentality is woefully inadequate if my children are to develop good comprehension skills and good thinking skills. The content of what we teach is also of vital importance.

I’m changing our focus to reading quality works and doing projects that matter and relying on skills being mastered as we focus our attention to completing the work. Comprehension skills will be learned as we work to understand Aesop’s fables, for instance, with the dual benefit of gaining an understanding of actions having consequences. As we learn to cook new foods we will learn the value of measuring accurately, understanding why 1 tablespoon is smaller than 1/4 cup, etc.

Yes, I’m a slow learner.

Favourite happening…
Christmas was pretty nice!

PicMonkey Collage

Focus for next week…
I’ve been slowly making my way through the book, Simply Classical, by Cheryl Swope. So many good ideas there and I want to make sure that I don’t miss any.

And for the kids, we’ll be focussing on reestablishing our regular routines. Time to get out of “Christmas mode” and back to the regular demands of life.

 

I guess that wraps things up for this first instalment. How was your week? Did you have any highlights? Any duds?

Happy New Year!

This year, I have tentatively made a few “New Year’s Resolutions”. I haven’t done so in a long time; after all, aren’t resolutions made to be broken? But I do have some specific goals I’d like to accomplish this year. What are they? Well, that will remain my little secret for now. I am sure that, if I actually keep them, you’ll see the evidence here on the blog.

One of my primary resolutions is to write here on a daily basis. Why? There are now SO MANY blogs, articles and resources available online nowadays. Do I really have anything to say that can add to anyone’s life?

…One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: “I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.” This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.

We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.

~ Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

When I originally started blogging, many years and deleted blogs ago, my intention was to share our journey in life, specifically the joys and struggles in helping our oldest deal with autism, that thing that isolates him so completely and terribly from the rest of the world. I had hoped to help others the way that others have helped me by willingly and freely sharing what they’ve learned.

And I admit that I had hoped that ours would be a success story. But Pippin is still locked in with autism. At the age of 19, he is still significantly delayed and locked away from the world. Have we helped him at all? Have we done anything worth sharing? It seems doubtful.

It may be that our story will serve as simply a warning to others. “Look, here’s how we’ve failed! Don’t do what we just did or you’ll end up failing too!”

But, you know, there’s value in sharing our failures too.

So, my hope is to post here much more than I have been in the past. Most of what I write will centre on our experiences and what we’ve learned about autism, parenting, teaching and life in general. I hope that it will be useful as well as interesting to read. And I hope it will help me cement my own thoughts that are swirling in that grey matter up there! I will try to share some of our autism journey, kind of a “been there, done that” with all the paths we’ve taken in trying to help Pippin find his voice, and maybe try to explain why we made some of the choices we did. And some days, it might just be a picture that I think is worth a thousand words.

And for 2016…
Happy New Year Irish Blessing

Weigh-in Wednesday… Maybe it’s time to settle

Weigh-in Wednesday

In the interest of keeping myself accountable, I’m posting this. Nothing inspirational to say except, sometimes success is just showing up.

I fell off the wagon a bit a week ago with the walking. A combination of extreme busyness and tiredness made me pick sleep over my walk for 4 days and boy did I ever regret it! While the sleep was welcome, walking is so good for keeping my mood stable and positive.

As far as the eating goes, I have half-heartedly made an effort to track my intake with my Fitbit app. I need to do better with this but for whatever reason am finding it difficult. Of course, it could have something to do with all of the holiday baking that’s happening here. That and a lack of effective pre-planning have been my downfall. Sigh. I will improve on this. But, admittedly, that improvement might not happen until after Christmas.

Now for the numbers…

~ This week: 1.3 lbs lost
~ Progress so far: 14.7 lbs lost
~ Original Weight Loss goal: 100 lbs
~ Still to lose: 85.3 lbs

For the next few weeks I may let myself be content to settle and plan for more progress in the new year. But who knows, success might be just around the corner!