Behind starburst eyes

Monday Mexico Musings

Just over a week ago I rolled onto an airplane (3 weeks post ankle reconstruction surgery) with 3 of my kiddos and the hubby in tow. Our destination? Mexico! Only we weren’t going for a week or even 2, no I had to make it a huge grand adventure and so instead we’re here for 4 months!

In the past week I’ve learnt allot, and I imagine that I’ll continue to learn tons as we go. One of the key things I’ve learnt so far this week is how to set up a cell phone down here. After all, being down here for 4 months, it really didn’t make sense to keep my Canadian phone plan; especially since most Canadian plans charge $15 per day extra for any usage in Mexico, and that adds up to a huge monthly bill I didn’t see the need in owing.

To the OXXO I went and awkardly pointed at my phone and said “chip?” to the nice lady working there. She nodded and offered me an OXXO cell sim card and I purchased 2 of them (one for me and one for the hubby). Eagerly back at my apartment I attempted to put the new sim in and begin using my new Mexican based phone number…oh how naive I was! See I’d purchashed a chip, and figured I could just use my credit card to add money to the account and before you could say “bibbity bobbity boo” it’d be up and running. The thing I hadn’t accounted for? Google Plays dedication to preventing fraud…

The OXXO cell app didn’t want to download as my country was still set to Canada in my account. So I made a brand new gmail account specifically to work with any and all things to do with my living in Mexico for the next 4 months (including having the right setting to download apps like the OXXO cell one). But that wasn’t good enough, because I was still attempting to use a Canadian based credit card to fund a Mexican phone plan, and I not enter my postal code (ours is A0A 0A0, but Mexico uses 123456) for the billing address portion of using it online.

SO the next day, back I went to another OXXO with my handy google translated questions and requests on a notepad (cause I wouldn’t have internet to translate as I went once we left the airbnb we were staying at). Awkwardly I wheeled myself to the counter, smiled and showed the sweet Claudia (she had a name tag on), and then the magic began! I was able to add funds to the phone numbers and get them set up with her help. Back home I went, feeling rather excited and hopeful, and attempted to use the app this time to check out my new phone plan. I will need to go back to the OXXO once a month to reload money onto it so I can keep my plan active, but OXXO’s are super common and I’ve seen 4 within 1km of where I’m staying! The good news, I currently pay approximately $14.30CDN per month for unlimited texts, & calls from here, the States or Canada, plus unlimited social media app usage when away from wifi and enough extra data to translate any sentance english to spanish that I haven’t mastered yet while out and about (of where there is still ALLOT! lol).

What happens when I return to Canada? Well for a small sum I put my number and plan on hold until the day I land in Ontario again. I’m keeping the sim card in a safe place and will pop it into my phone after we collect our luggage and whatnot, although with the way some cell phone plans down here offer roaming to the U.S and Canada at only a small extra charge of less than $10 per month I might keep my much more expensive Canadian phone plan on hold for a little bit longer once we get back, at least for the first month we’re back while my Mexican one would still be valid…

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Step 3: Kill it with fire

Every blog posting about buying a used trailer to fix up will tell you that more work is needed than you think.

Naively, I ignored the myriad of warnings ūüė¶ and I ended up finding this:

While I knew from the back that one small section of floor would need to be replaced I had no idea how bad it actually was or the real reason why.

I’d been told the back corner ripped when it was moved as a deck was attached to it and not properly unattached before they moved it, the real truth was much, much worse:

Carpenter ants, hundreds of them living and swarming throughout the entire inside of the walls and floor. The more we removed hoping it was the last “bad” section the more we found ūüė¶ Was it hard on the kids and I to realize we wouldn’t be travelling this summer and that our plan for this trailer was not going to go anything like we’d thought…yep!

But as we took the entire trailer apart, separated each type of material, recycled what we could and brought the rest in multiple loads to the dump, I was able to help them to see that even though we plan, life doesn’t always go according to plan and we have 2 choices: Give up or give it all we’ve got to create a solution.

For this specific case we simply started again but from the ground up lol. Which meant our new first step was cleaning any loose rust from the chassis and then treating it with tremclad.

Now the real building begins! With just over 5 weeks left until I begin University again and the kids start their homeschooling year again the race is on! Do I think the whole thing will be finished in 5 weeks, no I truthfully don’t. BUT we’ll have the floor, walls, and roof done at least and that will give us more time to work on the inside of it on weekends as it gets cooler.

As we build a tiny home now instead of fixing up a trailer we’ll learn lots, work hard, and grow a dream and memories together. Wish us luck! ūüėÄ

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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. ūüė¶

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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Step Two: Travel Trailer

Now that we’ve got a truck with a towing capacity of 11,800 pounds we’ve got the freedom to really look at trailers and find the right one for our family of 7.

While we only have my step-daughters part-time I don’t want there to NOT be enough room for them to come along as well because they’re a part of our family at all times; not just the days they’re physically with us.

So we need something big enough to sleep 7, and since 3 of those are teenagers, we can’t squish multiple kiddos into a single bed! However, we don’t want something SO big that we barely get anywhere before we have to refill the truck’s gas tank!

After looking on Kijiji, AutoTrader, and at various dealerships’ websites we went with a used 29ft Dutchmen via private seller on Kijiji. We checked it out in person while maintaining physical distancing and wearing our masks and arranged for it to be delivered to a friend’s farm where we could continue to maintain physical distancing from everyone while we camp in a tent and work on it.

We’ll be going back and forth from the farm to our apartment throughout the summer as we work on fixing the parts that need it and getting it all ready for our first grand adventure in it ūüôā

She’s a handyman special, but that makes it even more exciting to me, because the kids and I will be able to create our adventure space together ūüôā

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NOT leaving on a jet plane

Awhile back I stated I wanted to take a figurative big leap, and I did, well I started too…I bought 5 plane tickets to Portugal, and then plane or bus tickets to 15 more countries for a trip spanning 4 months. I researched different places, museums, historical sites, UNESCO World Heritage sites, different travel sites innumerable “top 10 places/things to do” downloaded walking tour apps, street and local transit maps for each place we’d go to, and booked places for us to stay. I was SO excited!

Then Covid-19 struck the world ūüė¶ As of writing this over 100,000 people have lost their lives to this pandemic…I can’t even begin to express my sorrow for the families of those who have passed from it.

Over the past two months our family has attempted to adjust and get through this time of uncertainty, fear and social distancing. It hasn’t always been easy or pretty. I chose an apartment because I didn’t want to pay more for a house with a big backyard when “the world was our backyard”. Instead we went and did all sorts of things, played at parks, used our local libraries, went on nature walks at conservations, and so on. But for many weeks now all of those options have been closed to all residents of our province (as they are in many countries worldwide).

Slowly the cancellation emails came from the airlines, only 2 flights have received refunds, the rest are credits for future travel. While there have been many messages back and forth for various Airbnb stays 3/4 of the reservations have been refunded to us, and I’m still attempting to receive the rest at least as credits.

So now what? Our grand adventure has been put on hold for an indefinite period of time, and we’re in an apt with no backyard of our own for the kids to run around in.

Well now a new adventure begins, because I can curl up and cry about our cancelled plans (okay I might have already done that a time or 2) or I can do something else. Stay tuned dear readers for my next wild plan!

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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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Goodbye Toddlerhood

stock-illustration-58367370-cute-children-cartoon-waving-handMy youngest turned 4 this past week and with her latest birthday I now officially no longer have any toddlers. My youngest is now classified as a “preschooler”. The day she was born the doctor came to see me once I’d woken up and told me I could not have anymore children. He cautioned me that I’d barely made it through having her and warned me that if I became pregnant again I would not live through the next labour. Since she had been an emergency c-section because I was hemorrhaging so badly her and I both were lucky to have lived, I believed him completely. My husband and I took steps to ensure she was our last. I worried at the time that I might feel a loss from not being able to have any more children. I worried that since I had not made the choice, that I would be angry or even bitter as time went on.

I have had moments where I am a bit wistful for the baby stage, for the moments when they are so new and your learning their cries, coos and scent. But overall, I have been at peace with the fact she was will always be my youngest. As I watch her get bigger, develop into the person she is, I am thrilled and in awe. As much as I am certain that any other children I might have had would have been amazing individuals as well, I feel a deep sense of contentment with no longer having any in the baby or toddler stages.

I’m excited to now have two in the preschooler stage, in addition to a teen, and two tweens. (My eldest step-daughter became a teen in February) I’m looking forward to all of the adventures that I get to have with them as they continue to grow into the persons they are meant to become. While I adored each of their baby and toddler stages, I’m waving a happy farewell to that stage of parenting as I leap into the next one with them.

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What dreams may come…

In grade 11 I took a fashion/sewing class. About three quarters of the way through it I stayed after class to show my teacher the sketches I had been working on for months of clothing I’d designed.¬†I knew the fabrics¬†each piece would be made out of, and I could see in my head a 3D image of the finished article. I could turn it around in my head and see where each seam was, and exactly how to¬†make it. I asked her if she could help me to understand how to draw the female form a bit easier as I had some difficulty sketching what I saw in my head. She¬†sloughed off my¬†explanations and question and basically told me not to¬†worry about¬†how to draw my¬†ideas better as I’d really not need them.¬†My face grew hot, my hands sweaty and my stomach¬†churned as I tried to get outta there as fast as I could, all the while calling myself a fool. I¬†still drew the things I imagined but I never dreamed of showing anyone again.

That afternoon is why no matter what¬†dreams may come to them I encourage my children. I might tell them it’ll¬†take a lot of hard work to break into an industry or a great deal of additional formal education. But I¬†ALWAYS tell them I believe in them and their ability to pursue their dreams. Because really, sometimes¬†when someone shares a dream, while they may want it with their whole heart, their confidence in being able to¬†accomplish it is¬†still as fragile as a butterflies wings, and I want to¬†watch them soar.

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