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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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 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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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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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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