Behind starburst eyes

Corona’s Effect on Mental Health

It’s been months since Covid-19 became a worldwide epidemic, and while I am truly, deeply thankful that my family has not experienced this virus directly, sadly it still has had an impact on my children through their mental health.

He used to be gregarious, he used to be fearless, he used to be happy and confident…Used to be…

It makes my heart ache to see the changes in him, to see how scared he is to even leave the house because as he puts it “It’s invisible, I can’t see it, I can’t fight it” He used to be thrilled to pop over to the store for me, and he’d always ask if he could pick up something for dessert for everyone in addition to the bread or milk I was usually asking for. Now, his first response is “Or I could not go” with a pleading face as he says it. He used to love going for runs, now he says “there’s too many people”. He would rather forgo takeout or new toys if he has to go outside for them.

So instead I don’t ask him to go for me, but I do ask him to go with me. I’m willing to walk with him, because I’m determined to make him go out (while of course allowing precautions such as a mask and hand sanitizer) because he can’t stay locked inside for the next however long. It’s not healthy for him.

I know this might be a long road for him, but I remember when he was 2 and would have uncontrollable meltdowns when we’d walk different routes home from Airzone, he’d cry that it “wasn’t the right way home”. Back then I knew he had to learn there were many ways to get to somewhere, physically and metaphorically. I would hold him and tell him over and over he was loved and safe and I understood and he was my wonderful brave boy as he cried for hours even after we got home.

This is no different, I’ll be there each step of the way offering him love and support as I help him walk this hard path. I love him enough to do the hard things because he always has been and always will be worth the effort to help him thrive.

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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 One: Make A Plan

Last week I wrote how I had decided to finally follow my dream and chase the sun with my husband and kids.

Well to do that I needed to make a plan. I know I could have just leapt blindly, but as a mom and still a student myself I couldn’t just have us pack a bag and hope for the best!

Logically step one was to research trucks, and insurance:

After researching we choose this awesome truck:

Stay tuned for step 2: researching and purchasing a trailer!!!

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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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Hidden Messages Within

This past week-end I took Mr. C to a special viewing of “The Mask We Live In” It was a film being shown by¬†Violence Prevention Coordinating Council of Durham and Survivor Advocacy Committee of Durham.¬†It was a fantastic film that highlighted the gender role we force upon males in our determination to narrowly define masculinity and the effects it has on boys and men in how they act, how much they hide of their true selves and the overall influence it has on every aspect of their lives.

He went up to the organizer after the movie and talk was done and told her how happy he was to have seen the movie. How it made him realize he could be his true authentic self and that he didn’t have to act like anyone he saw on¬†T.V We had amazing conversations about¬†the movie, about the hidden messages society¬†sends about males and how they should act.¬†We talked about how he¬†had the right to¬†define who he was, freely and openly and that I would¬†love him unconditionally (as would the rest of our epic tribe, both those of blood and those of choice.)

I felt confident in my parenting of him, and of his siblings. I felt sure within myself that I was not pushing them to be anyone but themselves. That I was encouraging them to be true to their authentic self regardless of traditional gender roles or even current societal norms in regards to who they should be or how they should act or dress based on their genders.

THEN Minx found my knitting scissors (I had¬†hidden them, but apparently not well enough for my wee¬†super sleuth) and gave herself a mullet. An uneven one at that. So I took her to the bathroom and gave her a pixie¬†cut to even out what she’d already cut, and have the rest match it.

Then I got tempted to let her dad take her to get her ears pierced as her hair¬†this short makes her look less “girlish” and I automatically without any real consideration to the issue wanted to “fix” that. As if anything about her needs to be fixed!¬†And it made me feel embarrassed that I even thought for a second about something like that. As if I should change my mind that her body means she¬†has the right to choose if and when she wishes to have holes put in it for ornamentation. Espicially after writing long, short or none, still a woman.

Sometimes I forget just how much of the hidden messages society sends about how one should look or act based on their gender we really take into ourselves. But this was a potent reminder that I need to continue to look within about my own reactions to things, and what hidden messages I’ve accidently assimilated into myself as well.¬†And most importantly to discard the ones that say any of us need to look a certain way simply because of the chromosomes we were born with.

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Reacting verses Responding

It’s easy sometimes to forget how deeply our words impact those around us. It’s easy to forget that what we say and do lives in the hearts and minds of those we love and care for, especially our children. Times when we’re tired and frustrated by a bunch of things that may not even have to do with our child and then they do something, something they’ve done a million times before and we snap. We respond to their actions with our own frustration and upset instead of¬†responding to¬†it in the way our children deserve.

I’m human and I make mistakes, I get mad, and tired, sore and frustrated, and I too can react in a negative fashion. But I try every day to make sure I don’t. I try to respond instead of react.

My “trick” when I’m about to react instead of respond is to look at their hand. Why their hand? Because your closed fist is the approximate size of your heart. I look at their little hand and I see a visual reminder of how tiny their heart is just yet, and I refuse to fill such a small space with pain and words that will haunt them.

Looking at their hand helps me to be reminded that I am here to take their hand in mine and guide them, to show them how to access the great potential that is within each and every single person, their own personal greatness. I take a deep breath as I think of all this and then instead of reacting, I respond.

I respond with love. I try to help them find the most positive way of receiving what they wanted, be it a cookie or a toy someone else is playing with or additional attention. (Any project or chore can wait, but the giving of love and attention should’t be postponed when it’s asked for.)

Why do I say respond instead of react?

The dictionary’s definition of react is to act or do something in reaction to something else. BUT the definition of respond is to provide an answer to a query. In the middle ages respond was a noun for a pillar that actively supported. I feel that especially when they are young, they are looking towards the adults in their life to show them how to act, how to obtain what they want and need, and how to be the best them they can be. They are not purposely trying to “push buttons” or be “bad” they are simply making bad choices because they don’t yet know how to make better choices. It’s up to their adults to answer their unspoken questions and show them how to make better choices.

 

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Some things you just can’t Google

There are times when I get caught up in ensuring that Mr.C is “on-track” or “at grade level” with his peers. I get fixated from time to time on the lists lit up upon my computer screen of all the things our local school board says he should know at this time. Lists of facts and figures, books they have chosen, grammatical rules and scientific theories. But no where in their reams of pages does it speak of morals, attitude, creative thinking, leadership skills, ingenuity or honour.

When I get caught up on what he does or does not know academically, I remind myself of the following:

I am not here to create a robot that can spout facts or scientific theories verbatim, but lacks the ingenuity to put them to productive use when he needs or even wants to do so.

I am not here to force him to memorize plots and dialogues, but lacks the critical thinking skills to grasp the significance of some of the literary works of art we currently have access to as a society in general.

I am not here to ensure he conforms to someone else’s standards, but lacks the honour and strength of character to stand up for what is right when what is wrong is being accepted as the status quo.

What I AM here to do is to teach him to (eventually) be a good man. To be the type of person others will be proud to call their friend, their ally. To be someone with enough courage to stand up for what is right, even when he’s forced to stand alone to do so. To be a man of honour, of integrity, to be a man of ¬†ingenious¬†leadership abilities, even when he’s only leading himself along his own path.

Don’t get me wrong, I DO teach him academics, but if it takes him a bit longer than some piece of paper says to learn¬†about the periodic table of elements or the correct placements of commas I’m okay with that. Why, because he’s learning SO much more right now, he’s learning how to become the man he will be for the rest of his life.

Plus if he forgets the standard conversion rate of ATP to ADP he can Google it,¬†but when it comes to things like strength of character well there are some things you just can’t Google ūüėČ

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Wonderland lists and helpful hands

parchment and quill

 

“Can I help!”

Sometimes I would cringe when I heard those words from one of my wee ones. It’s not that I didn’t want them to help, it’s just that I didn’t want them to help.
It’s faster for me to do a task such as carry up a bin of laundry to their bedroom, or sort the recycling or sweep the floor than it is for me to do it “with help”
Sometimes when the hours seem to be flying faster and faster and the chores and tasks to be done are becoming copious lists of “not yet” I get tempted to slough off offers of help. I get caught up in clock watching and list checking and trying to ensure everything I’d wanted to accomplish that day occurs.

For a time I would smile and thank them, but refuse their help. I would do it gently and with love, but I wasn’t truly present in the moment with them. I was still too much in my own head, amidst swirls of paper and lists straight out of Wonderland that magically add two more tasks for everyone I erase upon completion. I didn’t think of what I was doing by always refusing their help. I only thought of how much “more” I was accomplishing. Slowly though I’ve come to realize that I will always be able to find things that I didn’t get time to do at the end of each day. There is always the proverbial “more” to be done, more of this or more of that.

Now I look at their earnest faces and I see the caring heart behind the offer. I see that this is a moment to let them help, because in letting them help and praising them for doing so I’m teaching them to be caring, helping individuals. I’m teaching them to go out of their way for those they love, which is exactly the type of adult I want them to become. I’m also teaching them how to graciously accept help so that should they need it (and everyone does at some point) they’ll know how to acknowledge their appreciation to the person helping them.

Now I try to look at the extra time it takes to finish the task as not really extra time being taken away from other tasks…It’s time devoted to helping them grow into the good, caring people that others will want as a part of their village. That means a great deal to me, enough that I try to take a deep breath and push the Wonderland lists that swirl about in my head away enough to smile and say “I would like that, thank-you!”

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Banana Bread and Kesha’s Timber

I was cooking a batch of banana bread french toast (I make a bunch at a time to freeze. Then for breakfasts I can pop a few in the toaster, add a bit of fruit and yogurt and voila perfect for mornings I’m tired but want the kids to eat well without much cooking on my part) As I was making the last pan of them Kesha’s Timber came on the radio. There’s part that says “swing your partner round and round” and I couldn’t resist, so I grabbed Mr. C and we started to dosado round the living room. As our laughter rang through the house, Miss. G quickly rushed towards us, arms outstretched wanting to join, wanting to be a part of the laughter and love and fun being had. Of course we smiled and took her little hands in ours and started to simply dance in odd disjointed circles about the living room. Mr. N excitedly asked if he could join in as well, and so our circle got larger again, and we all laughed as we danced gleefully about the living room, our hands as intertwined as our hearts and our energies.

The last pan full of banana bread french toast were darker than I normally cook them as I’d left them on in my haste to enjoy the moment with the wee ones. I think if anything they’ll taste even better than usual for all the love that filled the house as they were left unattended on the stove, and if they don’t well that’s what maple syrup is for ūüėČ

 

P.S Banana bread french toast is just using an epic banana bread recipe like this one and substituting slices of it for plain bread to make french toast, an easy twist to a family favorite.

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