Friday, 31 May 2013

The Tyranny of the "Deal"

Everyone likes to have a bargain, right?  We all like to be savvy, shrewd shoppers.  Certainly, no one likes to feel like the only idiot who paid a heavily inflated price.

I've heard stories about one of my parents' friends who has a unique approach.  Whatever she buys, when she gets home, she crosses off the price tag with a red pen and writes in a heavily discounted price.  Her husband is astounded and proud of his wife's bargain hunting ability.

Hey, no judgement.  Whatever works to keep marital discord at bay.

I've also seen many people who will spend weeks and months researching purchases.  They track seasonal sales to find the optimal low price point.  They comparison shop across the world.  They track down rumours and can ferret out discounts with the ferociousness of a terrier on a rat.  They almost never pay full price for any major purchase.

Some of our neighbours are champion coupon shoppers.  We may not have the heavy discounts which you see in the States, but they still chop a fair bit off their grocery bills each week by being flexible and going with what is both on sale and has a coupon.

These are all good options for stretching budgets.  And I think we all have to be financially conscious to make sure we get good value for our dollar.

What worries me is when I see people tempted into too-good-to-be-true deals in the search of their bargain hunting.  I'm a purchasing conservative at heart and I'm inherently suspicious of any claim to easy money.  It's a trait which has cost us money (we ended up with a ridiculously high fixed mortgage rate during a record-breaking lows) but has also saved us money (when we were suspicious of an investment scheme which turned out to have less connection to reality than Michael Jackson).

I will almost always turn down any proposal which starts with "I know this guy".  Unless I know the guy, too, and I'm convinced of his stand-up-honesty, I'm not interested.  If I buy a computer from some guy for $500 less than Future Shop, but it breaks two weeks out, that's not a bargain.  Or if it comes loaded with spyware. 

I could tie this into autism by pointing out that there are a lot of people out there who are going to take advantage of parents' desperation, but I really feel this is a more universal point. 

Bargains often come with hidden fees and costs, be they financial, social or legal.  I have no problem with people who want to spend their time bargain-hunting.  More credit to them.

Me, I'll be curled up watching TV with my kids.  And that's a good bargain to me.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Brain Limit: 150

Almost all sociologists and anthropologists agree that humans can't keep track of more than 150 people.  That's pretty much the upper limit of a Stone Age society.

In modern society, we fill up a lot of those spots with celebrities, which makes our everyday neighbours even less likely to make a significant impression (unless they really annoy us).

There have been a lot of social studies done showing that if people know that other people are keeping track of them, they are more likely to play by the rules, be polite and show compassion.  This is the justification behind slut-shaming and rude-busting and the other share-and-shame postings on the Internet.

But there's another side to the 150.

Someone can post a photo of a car running a red light and the Internet can marvel and finger-point and name-call to their hearts' content.

But if we were really part of a village-group, it wouldn't just be the shamed who would be known.  The shamers would also know and be known.  So they would know if the car belonged to Mr. B, who's really a sweet guy but absent-minded (maybe look at taking away his licence or arranging for someone to run his errands) or Ms. R, who is nasty and self-centered and deserves some time in the place of public shame.

When it comes to judging other parents, this becomes even more critical.  Amy Alkon, in her book I See Rude People, encourages people to reprimand other people's children if the parents aren't doing their jobs.  I have a problem with this.

First, the majority of parents are doing their jobs.  Children aren't 100% controllable but the majority of those I see out and about are well-behaved.

Second, outside observers don't know if there's something behind the behaviour other than "bad" parenting.  A child with autism doesn't have a physical symptom to warn observers, neither do kids with ADD or deafness or any other number of challenges.

My children have been reprimanded by adults.  A lawn care guy was trying to convince me to sign up, accidentally knocked over his clipboard and Nathan laughed.  He yelled at him.  (Needless to say, I did not sign up for services.)  There have been three separate times where an adult has tried to physically discipline Alex.  I've lost count of the number of dirty looks and screaming sessions I've been subject to.

I was taught that successful social interaction meant that no one ever thought of you with anything other than pleasant memories.  I'm now more onto a train of thought which says other people's reactions do not outweigh my children's right to dignity and respect.  Which means they do not deserve to be cursed at, yelled at, scowled at or physically disciplined by the general public.  They have a right to be in public and shouldn't be expected to be invisible and inaudible.

I'm willing to bet that when we were still in groups of 150 or less, more people understood that basic principle.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Upcoming Event: Sensory Friendly Epic (June 1)

The movie Epic will be having a sensory friendly screening on Saturday June 1st at 10 am.

It's at the Empire 24 in Kanata, in the Centrum Mall.  (Right next to the Terry Fox bus station for those busing it.)

These screenings are a great opportunity for special needs families to go see a film.  You can bring your own food and drink, there are no teasers or ads and the theatre will adjust both volume and lights.  I've seen kids playing on iPads, talking, jumping up and down and no one has a problem with it, because we all get it.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Alex's Birthday Party

Alex had to wait a bit for his party, but I think it was worth it.  We invited his cousins, Logan and J.D., along with some of the kids from his class.  Nathan got to bring a friend as well, so it was a full house.

My parents had won a gift certificate for a magic show ( in a charity auction and had graciously offered to let Alex have the show for his birthday.

I have to give the magician full credit for both a good show and a good effort.  Children with autism are not the most responsive audience.  We had warned him to make his audience participation requests more direct, which he was good about remembering. 
The kids were just delighted at the show.  One of Alex's friends was flabberghasted as the magician revealled wand after wand.  He was laughing as if being shown one of the secrets of the universe.
One of the tricks was a magic colouring book.  In order to colour in the pictures, the magician asked us to shout out all the colours of the rainbow.  So what does Nathan shout out?  "All the colours of the rainbow!"  It was quite cute.  He even got to be a volunteer.
Alex volunteered for a trick as well but wasn't quite as enthusiastic.  However, he did enjoy the end when all of the children got to have balloon animals.
Everyone had a good time (whew!).  Alex especially liked his cake.

For those who don't know, Dodge is Alex's favourite car brand.  The Dodge Grand Caravan is his absolutely favourite car.  We're not sure why, but it's guaranteed to put a smile on his face.
For me, I'm glad that birthday season has come to an end.  I'm glad I was able to make it special for everyone but it's a lot of work and I'm happy to move on to other things.  Like writing that pesky novel.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Nathan Quote of the Week

(Okay, I don't know if he'll come up with something good every week.  That's a lot of pressure for a six year old.  But he did this week.)

We were walking home from school and I reminded him we have to go to Farm Boy later to pick up some fruit, vegetables and milk.

Immediately he began to complain that he didn't want to go. 

Nathan: "I don't want to go to Farm Boy.  Why do we have to go?"

Me: (channelling patience) "Because we're out of milk.  And if we don't get some, we'll be thirsty."

Nathan: "What happens if they run out of milk?"

Me: "Then I guess we'll have to drink water."

Nathan: "What happens if they run out of water?"

Me:  "No water?  Anywhere?"

Nathan: "Would we be thirsty?"

Me:  "Yes.  We would definitely be thirsty."

Nathan: "What if there's no more food?  Would we be starving?"

Me: (becoming slightly uncomfortable with morbid take of conversation but willing to follow)  "Yes, I suppose we would."

Nathan: "If we have no food and no water and no milk, we die?"

Me: (quick internal debate: comfort or truth?)  "Yeah, I guess we would."

Nathan:  "Oh, we better go to Farm Boy then."

Friday, 24 May 2013

It's My World To Play With

I had someone ask me recently why I was reading a book about marriage customs in the Middle Ages.  They knew I don't write historical novels and wasn't taking a class, so why spend time on the book?

The simple (yet completely incomprehensible) reason is Avatar.

Avatar, Firefly, Star Trek, Robin Hobb's Six Duchies and Bingtown series, Pern, Dune ... I could keep going, but I expect I've made my point.

They are all set in imaginary worlds.  But all of those worlds have a basis in ours.  Avatar played with colonialism.  Firefly with slavery and civil war.  Star Trek with just about every known culture and cultural movement and social challenge.

I like playing in imaginary worlds when I write.  I enjoy a well-crafted universe.

It's more work than you might think to create an entirely fictional world.  It's a lot of work to keep things consistent and it drives me nuts when it doesn't happen.  (My greatest irritation: Nickelodeon's Bubble Guppies.  Granted, it's a kids' show.  But that doesn't excuse having your characters stymied by a boulder in their path.  Newsflash to writers: they can all swim around it.)

My favourite type of fictional worlds are ones which look almost exactly like ours, but with a slight twist.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Grimm are great examples.  In order to make both the altered world and the secret cultures/organizations within it comprehensible, a writer needs to be able to understand how our current cultures and organizations came to be.

There is nothing inevitable about any kind of culture or any aspect within it.  Whims of fashion can calcify into tradition.  Practical decisions become embedded as taboos.  Misunderstandings can be perpetuated for generations. 

To pick a completely mundane example: trousers.  Pants were not worn in the ancient world.  Men and women both wore robes and skirts.  Pants came from the Germanic tribes, who lived in colder climates with pointier bushes and trees.  If Rome had not been sacked by the Germanic Vandals, pants would likely not have become a standard for clothing.  Just one little detail, but it changed a great deal about how history evolved.

That's the kind of stuff which fascinates me.  It's accidental, almost coincidental, yet has a profound impact. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Alex Ate A Hot Dog

Yesterday, Alex's class went to the Gloucester Fair and as part of their experience, they were treated to a lunch of hot dog, juice and ice cream.

Alex apparently gobbled up the hot dog in under a minute.  The same kid who resisted Cheerios for over 2 years and every other solid food as if we'd spiked it with cyanide, ate a hot dog without any preparation or persuasion.

I am thrilled.  But also having a little trouble with it.

I've worked incredibly hard to introduce new foods to him.  I've patiently altered texture infintesimally over months and years to gradually coax him into more and more solid options.  I've been screamed at, had stuff thrown at me and still persisted.

Yet now, it seems as if all the school has to do is put something in front of him and he'll eat it.

I am grateful and happy for him.  In the end, it's his development which is the most important thing.

But I can't help feeling a little superfluous.  I find myself wondering if I could have had equal success with a different approach.  Or did I set up the platform for their success?  Has his aversion been as strong as I thought it was?  A lot of questions with no real way to know the answers. 

It makes me wonder about other things I've had long-term trouble with: specifically toilet training.

I'm sure I'm not the first parent to struggle with something and then see their child master it under someone else.  That's why teachers and leaders and other adults are important and necessary.  But there's a tiny selfish part which wants to be the one to do it.

I suspect this is something I'll just have to get used to.  I've done a lot of work with him but I may be starting to see the limits of what I personally can accomplish by myself.  To go further, I'll have to work in concert with other people, which means sometimes they will get the glory.

But Alex will reap the benefits.  And I'm all kinds of good with that.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bringing Back Firefly

I am a huge Firefly fan and thus have been following the rumours that the series might be returned to TV with new episodes.

The more I look into it, the more it looks like one of those hopeful rumours without a lot of basis in fact. 

Netflixs has been reviving prematurely cancelled shows, which has everyone clamouring to add their favourites to the list.  Their CCO was lukewarm on the idea of reviving Firefly:

"In almost every case the cult around the show gets more intense and smaller as time goes by. Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was cancelled. The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there’s fewer of them and they’re more passionate every year. Whereas with Arrested Development we’re going to be serving a multiple of the original audience. Any of the other shows we could bring back would be a fraction of the original audience."

This has been making those smaller-in-number-yet-more-passionate fans outraged.

And yet, I can kind of see their point. 

Firefly has become a cult.  It's been off-air for over a decade.  Which means every single one of those fans has had 10 years to marinate over what they thought the series what about, where they thought the characters were going and obsess over tiny little details to "prove" their points of view.  Those views are now wildly divergent which means whatever a series decided, it would almost certainly piss off a majority of the fans.  Even if you got Joss Whedon and the entire original cast on board.

Even I'm guilty of it.  I've watched each of the shows and the movie dozens of times.  I've read the novelization and the comic books.  And I have my own opinions on the daring questions of where to go:  Do you resurrect Wash or Shepherd Book?  Do Inara and the Captain get together?  Is River still crazy?

I would love to know where everyone went but at the same time, the more it becomes codified, the less room my imagination has to play in. 

In my opinion, this is the reason why the Star Wars prequels failed as spectacularly as they did.  It wasn't just the crappy writing, it was the fact that it conflicted with over twenty-five years of speculation and fan-fiction which the fans had happily accepted as canon.  If Mr. Abrams isn't careful, the sequels will fail just as spectacularly.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

You Say You Understand, But ...

Special occaisions can be a challenge for families with autism.  We're planning a birthday party for Alex which will include a magician.  Normally, this wouldn't be much of a pondering situation for a family, unless you had a particularly shy child.

We've warned the magician that he'll need to modify his act.  The majority of children attending will have autism and aren't particularly verbal.  Thus he can't ask "Who wants to come up and help me?" but rather will have to pick a particular child and invite them up.  The kids will be lost during extended patter rather than building up tension.  These are fairly significant challenges but he seems to be confident.

I'm wondering if this confidence is the usual "oh, I understand, I have a kid who is shy/ a picky eater/ easily distracted."  People hear the words but usually don't comprehend the scale of the disaster.

I've mentioned before about how we have a BM-flinging problem.  In fact, last week, we had our ceilings completely ripped down, replastered and painted with the most washable, waterproof paint available on the market.  (Very dusty job but easier clean up will be worth it.)  The contractor had a great deal of trouble understanding that this was an ongoing and frequent problem, not something we had already conquered or a random accident we wanted fixed.

I understand a little, intellectually.  Most people have a great deal of difficulty imagining things they aren't exposed to.  That's why we enjoy biopics and other artistic voyeurism.  But no one is going to make a documentary about BM-flinging.  It's not something that anyone would want to see, even at edgy fringe festivals.

It does end up leaving families feeling even more isolated.  I truly hate when someone tells me they get it when I know they don't.  I only have a few choices in that situation.  I can nod and pretend they're right, which keeps things superficial.  I can try to educate them, which has the downside of turning me into a pedantic lecturer or a one-upping horror show.  Or I can wait until reality shows them the difference and get to enjoy feeling like a freak show.

My life is not typical.  My children are not typical.  And I'm not saying that in an everyone-is-special-and-unique kind of way.  The challenges I have to deal with are not the ones that the majority of families have to deal with.  I'm not trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  I've got the peg but no hole at all in the board.  I have to try and create my holes, often from scratch.

My metaphor got a little more Mike Holmesian than I initially anticipated but it's still valid.  The world is set up to support neurotypical families and their children in all their infinite variation.  It is not set up to support mine.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Apologies to My Readers

I haven't been a very consistent blogger of late and I'm sorry about that.  Life swept me up in a tidal wave of chaos and I was more focused on treading water than talking about it. 

The waters have receeded now, leaving me with the time and mental space to have opinions again.  Which means I'll be sharing them again.

It's easy to get overwhelmed by life.  We talk about riding the financial edge, where the loss of a single paycheque could lead to catastrophe.  We discourage people from doing it and tell them they need to have savings to allow them to cope with emergencies.

But we don't talk about riding the life edge, where our energy and time are so committed that it doesn't take much of a crisis to send us past our competence levels.  Being busy is admired. 

I've always felt a vague Puritan-oriented displeasure when doing nothing.  Even when watching TV, I feel a need to have my hands busy and productive.  (Yay, crafting!)  To just sit and absorb has always struck me as somehow decadent and indulgent.

But why are decadence and indulgence bad things?  Granted, too much isn't good but surely there's a place for them in a moderate lifestyle?  Shouldn't a balanced life include down time which is actual down time instead of just different work time?

I say the words but still have a frisson of disbelief tingling down my nerves. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Chris Claremont Views On X-men

I promised all comic geek enthusiasts a post on what Chris Claremont said about X-men and here it is.

It was only a 45 minute interview so there wasn't a whole lot of time to go into detail.  Yet there were some surprises for me.

He talked about geeking out when George Lucas called to ask him to write the Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy, which continued Elora Danan's story from the movie Willow.  It's cool to think that even someone as recognized and influential as Chris Claremont still geeks out like the rest of us. 

He said he did not like the multiverse setting which Marvel has been using (where all of the various comics are interwoven and things which happen in one affect the other).  He prefers the old days of completely independent and thus sometimes mutually impossible titles and storylines.

He wasn't happy about how JMS ended his Spider-man run.  (And to be fair, neither was JMS, who posted an apology to fans.)  He spoke about how it was part of the inherent conservatism of comic books.  Writers can't risk alienating long term fans or new converts by giving them something too different.

He says he was influential in setting up the X-men movie with Bryan Singer and spoke to him extensively about how to deal with the characters.  He had a wish list of people to play the roles.  His first choice for Wolverine was Bob Hoskins.

(I'll give you all a minute to run to imdb.  Bob Hoskins was the lead in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and played Smee in Hook.)

He would have left a very different impression than Hugh Jackman.  Just saying.

But it does fit with how the character was originally portrayed.  Logan was code-named Wolverine because he was small, but unrelenting and ferocious (just like the animal).  He didn't have the commanding physicality of Hugh Jackman, but had to convey threat through attitude.

Claremont also said he didn't think the Marvel writers should have given Wolverine an official origin story.  This is something I agree with.  The mystery of a man without memory who could effectively be immortal was part of what made Wolverine interesting as a character.  It gave fans something to play with.

That said, I don't think Marvel really had a choice.  Too many writers had gotten too cutesy in placing Logan at almost every significant historical event.  For someone who was supposed to have an unknown past, we had been treated to way too many glimpses of it.

It's no secret that Wolverine is one of my favourite characters and Claremont spoke about why he felt that was.  He said almost every writer he worked with was drawn to Logan's character.  The character has a deep internal conflict between what he is capable of and what he aspires to be and what he needs to be in order to protect those he cares about.  That's like catnip to a writer.  We just can't not play with it.

It was incredibly interesting to hear what Claremont had to say and worth every second of waiting for over an hour in line. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Name That Tune!

Those who read this blog regularly (or who know us in real life) know that Alex loves a wide variety of music ranging from country to hip hop to pop to rock.  Part of it is because we have a wide range of music which we enjoy (my husband and I each have over 2000 songs on our respective iTunes accounts, with very little overlap) and part of it is because I think he just has a really good ear. (And apparently perfect pitch.)

He likes to sing his favourites, which can get dicey occasionally.  To have a four year old belting out "Like A Virgin" in the grocery store will get you odd looks.  His current favourite: Nickelback's "Rock Star" which has the lovely chorus line "the girls come easy and the drugs come cheap" is one I worry about him repeating in the wrong place.  But hey, it's music and I'm happy to let him express himself.  It's like having a little miniature Bumblebee transformer without the relevance.

The other day, he was singing something and he was alternating mumbling with clear words.  This happens a lot when he hasn't properly paid attention to the song and picked out melody without lyrics.  It makes it incredibly difficult to figure out what song he's singing.  We've all been sitting there saying "I know that tune but I can't place it" but it happens at my house a lot.

I'm listening to him and wondering what hauntingly familiar song he's singing.  He's mumbling the start of a line and then saying something which sounds like "the darkness inside", then mumbling more and "am I scaring you now", then more mumbling "are used to what you like" and finishing off with more mumbling.

He sings it over and over for what must be five minutes and I am wracking my brain trying to figure it out.  It must be a chorus, it's not Madonna, it's not part of his 80's greatest hits portfolio.

Finally I got it: Rihanna's "Disturbia" which I will admit, he heard from my iPod.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Alex's Birthday!

This weekend wasn't just about nerding out at Comicon.  It was also Alex's birthday.

Since he's recently discovered he loves croissants, it seemed like the best option for his special birthday breakfast.
This was his big gift from Dave and I.  He loves garbage trucks almost as much as he loves buses.  This model is very detailed and seemed robust in the store, so I think he'll get a lot of fun out of it.
After lunch, we went to a parking lot fair at a local mall.  The boys had a blast.

Train conductor Nathan.
They shared the elephant ride.  (Although neither figured out the lever inside the elephant would make them go up and down.)

Alex got to channel his inner biker.

And we finished off our day at the fair by throwing stones into a puddle large enough to qualify as a small lake.

After the fair, Alex got some alone time with Mommy and Daddy and ice cream. 
It wasn't a particularly fancy day.  But I think it was a good one for all of us.
Two down.  Two to go.

Confessions of a FanGirl

I spent my Friday and Saturday geeking out at Comicon, by which I mean I stood in a lot of lines and saw celebrities from a distance (mostly).

When I say lines, I mean lines.  This is just a glimpse of the crowd waiting to get in.

My best celebrity-from-a-distance picture: Kevin Sorbo of Andromeda and The Legendary Adventures of Hercules.  Of course, I did get quite close to a few celebrities.  I inadvertenly cut between Jewel Staite (Firefly) and her security escort.  I didn't realize what had happened until a security guy cut in front of me and then I looked and realized: OMG, it's Jewel Staite!  Two feet away from me!  (And despite what Dove commercials claim, she really is that pretty and that nice.)

Aside from the exciting line-waiting and more line-waiting, one of the big perks of going to Comicon is to see the amazing costumes people wear.  For the non-geeky among my readers, these are not paid professionals, they don't get free admission.  They do this entirely of their own free will.  I have over 3 dozen costume photos but here are some of my favourites.

This adorable draconis liliputis was a puppet which his owner could manipulate from her waist.  She had him peering around and interacting with the crowd.

This larger dragon (I'm guessing of Pokemon fame) walked around on all fours, staying in character to the delight of many of the children and adults.

To my geeky shame, I have no idea who these women are portraying but the detail was amazing.

Deadpool and mini-Wolverine.  So adorable I couldn't resist.  Deadpool was coaching the little guy on how to pose for the photo.  (Come on, pretend to block my sword.)  The amazing thing, these two weren't together.  They just happen to cross paths.  Wolverine's mom and dad were off to the side, out of frame.  This is one of the amazing parts of Comicon, everyone is determined to make sure that everyone else has a good time.

This Iron-Man costume had LEDs in his chest and hands. 

Best Batman costume ever outside a film set.

These three fellows were in the wrong spot for a line and when the volunteer discreetly asked them to leave, they said: "We will return, and in greater numbers."

From left to right: Jean Grey (X-men), Ash (Evil Dead and Army of Darkness) and Wolverine.

Mystique from X-men.
I managed a few panels.  Kevin Sorbo's Q&A was hilarious and interesting.  I hadn't realized he'd suffered 3 strokes while filming Hercules and still has impairment.  He's actually going to speak to a neuroscientist convention after this.  He was asked the somewhat predictable: In a fight, who would win, Hercules or Superman?  To his credit, he turned it into an interesting story about him and Shaquille O'Neal.
Shaq is a big Superman fan and when he requested Kevin's signed photo, as a joke, Kevin wrote: Hercules could kick Superman's ass - Kevin Sorbo.
Shaq returned with a signed photo of his own: No - Shaq.
I also saw Jewel Staite and Nathan Fillion for their Firefly panel.  Some good stories but bad questions.  They handled it fairly well.
But the big geeky thrill for me was this:

 That's me, sitting next to Chris Claremont: the writer who created the best and most definitive X-men stories, who shaped my favourite characters: Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler.  He was the writer for X-men for 20 years in the glory golden days of comics.  Listening to him talk about the series was amazing and worthy of it's own post.

No one else got a picture.  People were sitting down and I took a picture of him.  Then the host invited me to come up and get a shot on the couch.  Which I did faster than the Flash (or Quicksilver, depending on the universe). 

I am still geeking out over the awesomeness. I got to see Chris Claremont! 

The only thing I could be geekily happier over is if I got to see Joss Whedon or JMS.  Maybe next year.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Birthday Ritual

We have a few birthday rituals in our family. 

One is marking how tall you are on our wall of growth.  Blue stripes are for Alex and green stripes are for Nathan.  (I've taken balsa wood strips and painted them.  Each one has Alex or Nathan's name, the age and the height.  That way, if we ever have to move, I can recreate the wall.)

Another is the morning birthday cake.  I admit that I stole this one from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but I loved the idea of cake for breakfast.  In the movie, the mother tells her daughter that she is so happy she had her.  I try and tell my kids that at least once throughout their birthday.

You can also see Nathan's birthday present.  His new model train set.  Which took a surprisingly long time to put together, so I'm glad we did it the night before.

We have some favourite books to read: Dr. Seuss's Happy Birthday to You and Debra Frasier's On the Day You Were Born

I also like to make them look at pictures of themselves as babies.  Here's Nathan at the ripe old age of around 3 hours.

And here is his first meeting with his brother Alex.  The lack of being impressed was mutual.

To me, these memories only just happened.  But it's been 6 long, wonderful, crazy years. 

And I look forward to many more.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Things To Hold In My Memory

Our cleaners came today.

That's not the special part ... bear with me, I'll get you there.

Normally the night before the cleaners come, I stack all of the toy bins on the couch so that the floor and shelf surfaces are clear and easy to clean.  Last night, I was tired and went to bed early.

This morning, Nathan came skipping into our room, warbling a jaunty tune and as I braced myself to not snarl at him (I am not a morning person), he said four little words that completely derailed my morning.

"Mommy, I cleaned up!"

Wait, what?

He had skipped out before my brain woke up enough to man the verbal processors.  I slowly got up, wondering what on earth he meant by that.  I told myself that I wouldn't yell at him if I found he'd dumped a bucket of water on the floor to "mop" or spilled something.  I told myself that I would encourage him for being independent.

He came skipping back in and proudly announced it again: "Mommy, I cleaned up."

"What did you clean up, honey?"

"I got everything ready for the cleaners."

I went downstairs with him and, bless his little heart, he had taken all the toy boxes and stacked them on the couch.  Not as neatly as I do it but he'd gotten them all up there.

I gave him a big hug and thanked him for helping.  I told him he made Mommy's day by being so sweet and helpful.

And now I'll do my best to remember this when he brings my car home with a suspicious dent at 3am in about 10 years. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Happy Jar: Enjoying A Game Night With Friends

Sometimes life gets overly complicated.  And sometimes it is amazingly simple.

We had a pair of very good friends over last night.  We enjoyed a good dinner and after the kids were in bed, we pulled out a party game: Namesake.  You have to think of people in different categories with a particular first name  (Eg Mary + History = Mary Queen of Scots or Typhoid Mary).

We were all laughing and having a good time (which is the hallmark of a great party game).  Only a few examples of blatant cheating via Internet (mostly by Dave and I). 

Then we came to the kicker.  I pulled up a card and it said to "name 3 people with your boss's name."  I turn to Dave and ask which of his bosses he wants to go with (Chris and Greg, both fine, common names).

Dave gets technical on me and points out that I read the card and thus it should be my boss's name.

Except my boss's name is Yolanda.

Can anyone think of any actor or musician with the first name Yolanda?  Can you think of anyone in history, science, athletics, fictional character ... anyone?

Neither could we.

(And if you went to the Internet and looked ... that's still cheating.)

We all had a great laugh over that one.  One of the best nights we've had in a long time.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

10 Kids ... And Still A Happy Birthday

Despite all my trepidation, Nathan's birthday party went incredibly well.

The staff ran the kids ragged with games and races.

Nathan's racetrack birthday cake turned out well.  I got the sugar Maters and Lightnings from a cake shop and then used rainbow sprinkles to make the track.  I think it's the nicest looking cake I've ever made.

Nathan handled blowing out the candles well.

And he got to cut his cake with a samurai sword.  How awesome is that! 

The party finished as all parties should end.  With full contact dodgeball between parents and happy, slightly bloodthirsty children.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Nathan quote

We've been working on different relationships and the concept of the extended family.

I explained to Nathan that Grandad was Daddy's Daddy.  And Nana was Daddy's Mommy.

He seemed interested, so I pushed on.

Me: "What will Daddy be when you're a Daddy, Nathan?"

Nathan: "Dead."

This was followed by much laughing.  He wasn't sure at first but then joined in.

Me: "Do you know why that's funny, Nathan?"

Nathan: "Because we're laughing."

Gotta love that point of view.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Abandoning Autistic Son

Before you call people ... it wasn't me.

Amanda Telford dropped off her 19 year old severely autistic son at the offices of Developmental Services Ontario.  She and her husband are no longer able to care for him.  In the last week, he has wandered away from their home twice and swallowed enough pills to require a trip to the hospital.

The Telfords say they've done everything they can to take care of their son and Amanda Telford describes it as a "brutal decision" to give him over to the government.

I find myself looking at the story with both gut-wrenching sympathy and suspicion.  A quick glance through the comments shows I'm not alone in my mixed reactions.

Abandoning a child, for whatever reason, bothers me.  No matter how deeply isolated their son, he will eventually become upset at not seeing his parents any more.  I imagine him as being frightened, going through the upheaval of unexpected change.

On the other hand, I applaud people who know when to ask for help.  There have been many examples of families who didn't and those ones make headlines, too.  In 2012, a mother shot herself and her 22 year old autistic son.  In 2009, a father killed himself and his 11 year old autistic child.  And those are just the first two results in a google search.

I'm appalled that there isn't an alternative for families who are pushed to the breaking point.  A parent should not have to choose between complete abandonment and total responsibility (I don't include murder in the options).  There should be some kind of middle road available where families can get support but still remain involved.

I think the social image of the all-giving mother hurts us here.  And since we're busy trying to coax dads into the same give-until-you-fall model, I don't see it changing.  If you're taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's, there are respite services you can call to say that you need a break.  But there aren't services like this for children, small or adult.  Because that's part of the contract we apparently all signed when the pregnancy test came back positive: no matter what, parents are supposed to take care of their kids.

It's a frightening reality that parents of special needs children have to face.  There may not be an end date on our responsibilities.  Caring for children is exhausting but when there may not ever be a significant improvement, that's terrifying and demoralizing.  The truly insulting part is when we are berated for "not being positive" or "giving up" because we acknowledge this unspoken potential reality.

We like to believe in the inherent fairness of the universe.  If we do the right things, good results will follow.  But there may not be a magic combination which unlocks a miraculous recovery.  No matter what diets, therapy or medication we try, it might not be enough.  I think this is why the Telfords are receiving backlash.  If they've reached this point, it is seductive to believe they must have screwed up. 

But they might have done everything right and still ended up with less than nothing.