Behind starburst eyes

There’s Always A Reason

During a pandemic isn’t the most obvious time to decide one is going to start working on a trailer and planning a trip across the Americas.

While yes a part of the reason is definitely because we couldn’t go on our grand adventure across Europe, another part was the lump I found on my sternum. I needed something to focus on while I waited for results.

While many people equate Autism with a certain amount of social oblivion, where my boys are concerned momma being upset sets off alarm bells real quick! Couple that with this pandemic already having them more anxious and the inability for me to go off from them for awhile while I process and you’ve got the potential for a whole lot of additional stress and meltdowns on their part (totally warranted mind you!)

So instead I focused on the trailer and creating a sanctuary for the kids and I to have. For a place to make memories for years to come as we adventure together, because the alternative wasn’t something I could afford to focus on in such close quarters with them.

With all the additional medical precautions in place for Covid, getting a diagnosis wasn’t as quick as I would like. It took over a week to be able to physically see my doctor, another 2 weeks for the ultrasound, and then a week and a half for inconclusive results. My actual sternum is inflamed and swollen, so I was prescribed an anti-inflammatory for rheumatoid arthritis to see if it helped to decrease the swelling and then an appt with radiology 3 months from now to look at it again. 😦

The idea that I should just sit around and wait 3 more months to see what exactly it is because most medical procedures that aren’t for Covid or for immediately saving one’s life is so disheartening and makes me wonder how many people aren’t getting timely treatment because our government cut funding for hospitals too much for too long and so they can’t handle both right now.

The bright side is that the pain is less with the medication and I think the lump is smaller so fingers crossed it actually is shrinking, and isn’t potentially life-threatening.

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Mandala inspired sweater

So often I use my craftyness to create things for others. While I take a great deal of pleasure and pride in giving something I’ve made specifically for that person, I wanted something lovely made just for me.

I found a mandala style pillow cover that I used, and then went from there.

The pattern I started with for the back is from Pink Mambo: https://pinkmambo.com/dream-circle/

Then I made the front panels directly from the back, attached the sides of the back and front together, then the sleeves and finally the hood.

I went with a mix of the short bolero style and a wrap style for the front.

I did an elbow length sleeve as I normally camp a great deal in the summer, and a shorter sleeve means I can safely wear it while tending a fire or making hot chocolate on the Coleman stove we use. I’ll be making fingerless elbow gloves to wear with it when I’m not cooking 🙂

I used 5 balls of 3 different variegated yarns, all 3 are Red Heart Colorscape: Barcelona, Acapulco, and Mykonos.

It took me a week to make working off and on between my own schooling, helping the kids with theirs and regular household activities.

What is something you’ve made for yourself? I’d love to see it, please post a picture in the comments below!

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Coronavirus Pandemic and Our Emotional Health

We live in Ontario, Canada and our premier has officially declared a state of emergency this morning. This means in addition to primary, secondary and post-secondary schools being shut down for the next 3 weeks, now our daycare centers, restaurants (dine in portion), bars, cinemas, libraries, museums, major venues such as the science centre, and recreation centers are all shut down until at least April.

We homeschool our 3, but my two stepdaughters attend public school at their mother’s insistence. So this changes some things for us, but not all things. Obviously daycare facilities being closed doesn’t effect us. However, everything else being closed does.

One of the ways all of these closures effect us is through fear and anxiety. My youngest son has asthma and has had to be on oxygen and nebulizers in the past, so I am in a heightened state of anxiety. But I’m not the only one, my children feel it too. Not just through me, but also because news of the virus is everywhere and both kiddos understand the potential implications for their brother, and he understands the implications for himself. To that end we have been working a great deal with the concepts of fear, anxiety and powerlessness.

Acknowledgement of Emotions:

We’ve spoken about how scary it can be to feel like you’re powerless in a situation, and how to work with that feeling to acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm us (a thing I am struggling with myself as well).

Then, I attempt to teach them how to work through their scary thoughts. We talk about their feelings, how their real and valid first. But also that even though their valid, we don’t have to be ruled by them. We can focus on the things we HAVE done, the things we ARE doing, and the things we CAN do during this time.

Breathing Techniques:

Once I’ve validated their emotions we do breathing exercises. Five deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps to calm the nervous system down and allow the pre-frontal cortex to come back online (center of logic and reasoning).

Mindfulness Exercises:

Mindfulness exercises such as finding 5 things they can see, touch, and hear can also help to refocus on calming the mind enough to work through any scary thoughts.

Positive Actions:

Finally, we focus on something positive, such as on gratitude, love, giving to others, or constructive actions. We do this because in allot of ways our thoughts are like roads, the more frequently their used, the more deeply they become entrenched and at times like this we NEED the positive perhaps more than ever.

For one child, focusing then on how grateful they are for the healthcare professionals or our ability to have things delivered to lessen our chances of exposure is helpful.

For another it’s expressing love through acts of kindness such as offering to play another siblings favorite board game or reading a book to a younger sibling.

For another it’s writing a card to send to someone they can’t see in person right now, or walks in the conservation area to be in nature.

For me, it’s constructive physical acts that help, for example organizing cupboards and labelling jars with our supplies or sorting the kids clothes for donations (I’ll wait to donate, but I’m happy to pop bags of donations in a closet ready to go once this is all over). Each person is unique, so choosing the positive actions that work best for them should be specific to them.

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Taking a leap

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When my mom was in palliative care she spoke with me about all the things she regretted. Only one was some thing she had done, all the rest were things she hadn’t done, dreams she had never chased, moments she hadn’t fully lived, chances she was too afraid to take.

I told her I looked forward to telling her about all my zany adventures when I saw her on the other side. Then to borrow one of her favorite sayings “I put my money where my mouth is”.

I applied to University again and was accepted as a full-time student for my bachelor degree in Anthropology and Psychology. I’m now in my second year, and I’ve worked hard to stay on the honour roll both years.

It hasn’t always been easy, as we still homeschool the kids, and we’re always working on various tools they need to learn to live their best lives too. But, it IS worth it!

I don’t want to regret all of the things I didn’t do, and all of the chances I didn’t take. Nor do I want them to live that way either. Being Autistic, I’ve noticed that my boys are encouraged by society to conform to social norms even more heavily than if they weren’t. Some thing I’ve noticed allot of adult Autistics speaking about lately. So when I say we’re working on the tools they need, a key one of them is the courage to be true to themselves. They are amazing human beings that I’ve been privileged to be a parent to. I never want them to lose sight of their authentic selves, and chase their own dreams. Can you imagine what life could look like if we weren’t afraid to take a leap?

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Why I don’t often write about my sons anymore…

When I first started this blog, I would write quite frequently about my children. I thought that by giving others a glimpse into the world of Autistic children, and the parenting of, that it would help. That it could show the world what our lives were like; both the positive as well as the struggles.

There is a difference though between when a parent of a neurotypical child writes about parenting, and a parent of a special needs child writes about parenting. I didn’t realize that when I first started writing. I didn’t realize that far too often the media utilizes those same struggles to suggest that a parent of an Autistic child should be pitied. Mostly I didn’t realize it, because I don’t pity myself.

I see myself as having been gifted 3 beautiful souls to guide towards their fullest potential. I see myself as a kind of tour guide. I’m only here to help till they themselves feel less like tourists and more like locals. The thing is, I thought that was what all parents have to do.

I have never been a mother to a neurotypical child, so maybe it’s totally different? But from what I have heard, it’s still hard as hell to be a mom; regardless of a child’s neurobiology.

So why is it that having a rough moment or day or even a totally rotten week is viewed so differently when the child is classified as special needs? It’s different because we view having a child with a different neurobiology as something bad, as something to grieve and be depressed about. Only I’ve never felt that way about my kids.

So when I write, I have to consider what kind of impression am I adding to society of the reality of having an Autistic child. I don’t want to add to the gross misconception that they are less for having a different neurology; because, they aren’t. The society that equates how much money a person can contribute to corporations (through working at, or purchasing from) as a human being’s only worth is what should be pitied, and seen as less than; not my beautiful children.   

 

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Learning about Emotional Equations

Some of our homeschooling doesn’t look like “regular” schooling. Okay, most of it doesn’t look like it lol. That does not mean they are not learning, nor does it mean they aren’t learning very important things.

Many people find it difficult to get to the base root of their emotional states. When one does not understand the root or cause of an emotion it becomes almost impossible to find a solution that effectively works long-term.

To that end, for some viewing their emotional states as equations can assist in further self-awareness. Further self-awareness can assist in higher levels of overall satisfaction with ones life as steps are then taken to ensure they get what they need out of various situations and interactions.

This is what some of our homeschooling looks like:

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Grateful for a meltdown?!?!

Mr.N had a meltdown tonight. A full blown tears streaming down his face, screams pouring from his mouth meltdown. He hasn’t had one like this in a very long time. It was pure primal in it’s intensity.
The reason…We were at the farm and no one was there, so he thought we’d have to go back home without staying.
While on the one hand I was hurting for him, there was a part of me that was thrilled that he has become so attached to that place and the people there that it would cause such a reaction.
I remember all the times I hesitated to bring him to places, NOT because I was ashamed of him, but because I knew that others would not understand him. I knew others would not be as kind as he deserved, or as patient with him as he needed. After all, I had seen with Mr.C, how becoming more open, visiting, staying overnights and all the things families do with other families had lead to many unkind and at times outright cruel moments because he was different…because I parented him in the ways he needed me to instead of the ways others thought I should.
Now though, they truly have a tribe. A tribe that sees every aspect of Mr.N, and not only accepts, but embraces him. I don’t feel like I have to take him elsewhere if he’s having a meltdown, or stand ever so close while someone is trying to converse with him to help ease the difficulty some people experience trying to have a dialogue with him. I don’t have to explain about any aspect of his neurobiology. There, all aspects of him are simply aspects of Mr.N. No explanations, or mitigation of situations necessary.
That overwhelms me with gratitude.
P.S  As they’d only been out on an errand, 2 of the 3 residents came home within 15 minutes of us being there, so Mr.N got to see them afterall 😀
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Dear Friend,

Today I seem like I flaked out again on you. Like your event/celebration/get-together doesn’t matter to me. Nothing could be further from the truth though!

Your friendship matters to me, you matter to me. The truth is I’ve spent a great deal of time planning what I’ll wear, what gift I’ll bring, how I’ll get there, and who will watch my children while I’m out with you.

Each time I get a text, fb message, or event invite from you I smile and think how great it is and how much fun I’ll have with you, how much I enjoy your wit and conversation. I think how lucky I am that you haven’t given up on inviting me even though there are so many times that I’ve bailed at the last second.

My stomach sinks and I wonder if this will be the last invite from you when I have to break our plans yet again. I wonder if your view of who I am changes with each cancellation. I wonder if I seem flighty and fake to you. I hope I don’t. The truth is, I’m really loyal. So loyal in fact that when I have to break plans with you it’s because I made a promise to someone else. Three someone’s in fact. When each one was born I promised them I would put them first. And so I do. So when one is sick with a stomach bug or bad flu I’ll tell you.

But the hidden part, the part I don’t usually say is if one is having a bad day emotionally. I won’t post or text that one has been having a meltdown for 2 hours and that as much as I want to enjoy your company they have to come first. I won’t say that one has been up until 7am inconsolable about a fear they are struggling with and that short of drugging them there was nothing I could do but hold them and sing to them their heart song while I wait for the sunrise with them so they will calm enough to sleep. I simply look at the dress I bought specifically for today; quietly put it away, and message you that I wish I could come.

I don’t regret my choice to actively put them first, a child deserves nothing less from their parent. They won’t be young for long, and each day they are filling their tool boxes with more and more fantastic things. Things that will one day create the very wings they will soar on. But until then, when I seem flaky, please know I’m not. You matter to me, and I do hope you won’t give up on me; on the potential friendship we could forge; in time.

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Masterpost: Dermatillomania and Trichotillomania

A fantastic list of real alternative solutions!

The Artism Spectrum

More than half the letters I get from my readers ask me for help with stimming—be it redirecting unsafe stims, ideas for healthy stimming, or developing sensory coping skills. I’ve decided to create a series of masterposts to serve as a kind of FAQ for these common issues! I’ll be adding onto these continuously over time, and this is only the first, so if you have any ideas to contribute, or any sensory needs I haven’t addressed yet, please comment here or contact me!


Dermatillomania & Trichotillomania

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Compulsive skin picking and compulsive hair pulling, respectively. Dermatillomania can include picking at scabs, skin bumps, acne, cuticles, etc. Trichotillomania can include plucking or ripping the eyelashes, eyebrows, head hair, body hair, etc.

The majority of the emails I get from autistic adults asking for help are for one or both of these conditions, so I felt it was worth it to start with…

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Acting?!?!

Back in September Mr.C tried out for a youth theatre group. He was nervous and didn’t project his voice as much as was needed. That aspect of his audition cost him the part. While talking with a friend I mentioned what had happened, and she sent me a link for a background extras agency. I signed Mr.C up and by the end of his first day he’d been totally bitten by the acting bug. Of course the 2 wee ones and Ms.D also wanted to try it out too 🙂
So for the last 2 months I’ve spent over 2 dozen days taking them to fittings, auditions, and on various sets with various combinations of the 4 of them. We get up some days as early as 3:30am to get to set on time. The plus to that is my night owls are quickly becoming early risers lol!

Do they like doing it? Yep! They think it’s fantastic, and I think the various learning opportunities they are having from it are vast and unique. I’m not talking about the fact that they have tutors on set, but instead the inner workings of shows, how many different jobs and skills are needed to create a t.v. show, legal stuff: I taught the 2 older ones how to read the confidentiality agreements we sign and what they mean. About how vital it is to be on time for work, to come to work prepared for anything your job could throw your way, and so much more.

Right before Halloween Mr.N saw a commercial for a movie that scared him. I was able to draw on specific examples from times he had been on a movie set to help him understand that the movie wasn’t real and that he had nothing to worry about. Without that direct experience prior to, I don’t think I would have been able to alleviate his fears nearly so thoroughly or quickly!

Well, I’m off to make pre-made meals and snacks (like banana muffins) for the upcoming busy week 🙂

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