Friday 31 January 2014

Nathan Quote of the Week

We were watching The Sword In The Stone this week and Nathan was quite enjoying it.  During the scene where Merlin turns himself and Arthur into squirrels, there is the amusing bit where the female squirrel chases Arthur.

Merlin comments that she's a girl squirrel and "a redhead at that."

Nathan: What does that mean?

Me: (not really wanting to go into it)  Oh, everybody knows about redheaded squirrels.

Nathan sees his father looking at us with blank incomprehension.

Nathan: Everyone but Daddy?

Thursday 30 January 2014

Lecture on Healthy Sexuality for Special Needs at the NAC

For those of you whose children are under five, this isn't really an issue yet.  But for those of us whose children are approaching teenhood, teenagers or young adults, this is probably something we need help with:

Family Presentation and 3 Course Dinner

6:00pm – 9:30pm · (6:00pm Cocktail  |  6:30pm Dinner)

National Arts Centre – Fountain Room

$45 per person

Who should Attend?
Parents of children with disabilities, adult siblings & caregivers
 Registration form

Get your tickets early – Spaces are limited!!

Questions? Comments? Need more info? 613-761-9522

Reminder to let us know if you prefer a vegetarian meal or if you have any allergies

Join us for a presentation around Sexuality and Disability with Dr. Isabelle Hénault followed by a question and answer panel with Dr. Vidya Sreenivasan and Tracy Palmer, RN, CRRN, BA Sexology of the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre.
Learn more about sexuality, love and intimacy as it relates to people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, physical disabilities, brain injury, neurological disorders.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Sleeping In and Quieter Days

We think we've figured out why Nathan was waking up early.  He has a heater in his room since it's the furthest from the furnace.  And that sucker is loud.  Lots of irregular metallic clicking and pinging.  Our theory is that he's partially waking up around 4:30 and the noise from the heater pulls him the rest of the way out.

Our solution: a timer.  (I wanted to buy a quieter heater but this is more cost-effective.)  We hooked up the timer to the heater and told it to turn off at 3 am.  It takes about an hour for the noise to stop as the heater gradually cools down.

Thus far, it's working.  Nathan is sleeping in until almost 7, which is when the alarm goes off anyway.  The room doesn't seem to be getting too cold after the heater shuts off.  I've stuck a digital thermometer in his room so that I can monitor the temperature.

For now, I'll call it a cautious success.

The other improvement is Alex's behaviour.  He is tantruming less frequently and when he does, it's less violent.  He's calmer and more affectionate as well.  Clearly, going back on the medication has helped him.

We're going to do an updated psychological assessment for him, starting next month.  The last time he was assessed was over five years ago, so it's time to go back and make sure we haven't overlooked anything.

We're also considering another round of intensive behavior therapy.  It's one of the major impetuses behind the new assessment.  From what I've heard and read, just before puberty and the first year or two after puberty is a really good time to target issues.  The brain is going through major developments, just as it is when they are under four.  Alex is only nine but many boys with autism go through puberty early, probably due to their higher than average testosterone levels.

I think our time of respite is coming to an end and we'll be moving back into a period of flux and demand. 

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Getting Our Service Dog Application Out

Our service dog application is nearly complete.  We're just waiting for one more reference letter and we have to make a copy of the application before we send it in.

It's a lot of work.  There was the two week activity log for Alex, a twelve page application, map and directions to our home, a photo of Alex and the letters of reference from various community people.  We got them from Alex's psychologist, his tutor, his teacher, his grandfather (who does most of the outdoor activities with him) and the family we've been "borrowing" a dog from to get Alex used to dogs and see how he interacts with them.

Once it's off, we have to wait and see whether or not we're accepted.  I wish I knew how many applications they received a year so that I had some gauge of our chances.  The two year waiting time doesn't start until after an application is accepted, so I assume that we will be either accepted or rejected, not left hanging on a waitlist indefinitely.

Of course, my mind is already starting to skip ahead to next steps.  If we are accepted for a dog, that will mean some substantial changes.  We would have to get a larger car, as two kids and a Golden Retriever would not be comfortable in the back of my little Yaris.  I would want to look at expanding the playroom in the basement to give them a larger area to run around in when the weather is bad.

And what happens when the dog grows old and can't keep up with Alex any more?  We wouldn't be able to apply again at National Service Dogs, since they provide dogs to children.  Are there places which provide service dogs to adults with autism?  Would we get priority if Alex has already been accustomed to having a dog?

I'm deliberately not researching these questions because I tend to overwhelm myself with information and possibilities.  For now, I have to focus on getting the application out and then waiting to see what the results are.

Monday 27 January 2014

Suspicions of Anosmia

For those who don't know, anosmia is what scientists call not having a sense of smell.

I don't have one.  I'm anosmic, which is a fun word to throw out at parties and watch people pretend to know what it means.

Now I'm starting to suspect that Nathan may be anosmic as well.

He always asks me what's for dinner, even when it's on the stove and he's less than two feet away.  I thought it might be a request for attention, so I've been prompting him to guess.  And he can't guess it.

I've been debating whether or not to test him.  It's a simple test: blindfold him (or have him close his eyes) and put something stinky under his nose.  No reaction, no sense of smell.  The tricky part is picking something offensive enough to instinctively react to without being dangerous to inhale.

If Nathan is anosmic, then that would answer a question I've wondered about for thirty(mumble) years.  And relieve my parents of some guilt.  When I was six months old, I was given tetracycline (it's an antibiotic) which is now prohibited for children under five because it can destroy their sense of smell.  However, we also have some family members with no sense of smell so my lack may have been genetic.  Since it happened at such a young age, I have no memory of having ever smelled anything.

If Nathan has no sense of smell, then it was genetic.  Mystery solved.

It's a challenge not having one of the five senses, although I think of all the options, this is the best one to lack.  I'm paranoid about having bad breath or a bad smell on my clothes.  I have very limited taste (pretty much what everyone else tastes when they have a blocked nose) since the majority of taste is actually smell.  For spicy food, all I get is a burning sensation (similarly with mint).  For cooking, I have to follow recipes exactly or it all comes out rather bland.  All challenges but all very manageable.

I read an article once where a doctor claimed that people with anosmia were incapable of forming real attachments since smell is so closely linked to emotional memory.  Complete crap, in case you wondered.  If Nathan is anosmic, it won't bar him from a full life.  He'll just have to learn some extra skills.

Luckily, his mom can help him with that.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Understanding the Burden

People love to give free advice.  One might argue that it is pretty much the basis of this whole blog.  However, while my advice is always timely and useful (seriously, I typed that with a straight face), most people's advice can become intrusive.

I've learned to hate the word 'just' when it's applied to a request.  Can you just do this?  We need you to just take care of that.  It's just a simple survey.  Just take a look at this.

It implies that the request is so trivial that refusal would "just" be rude. 

Except that these requests aren't always so trivial.

I don't get a lot of the flex-time that most mothers of a six and nine year old would get.  If my children are home, they must be supervised.  Sometimes I can't even interrupt that supervision to go to the bathroom, let alone get chores done.  So all the chores must be dealt with in the time when my kids are otherwise occupied, usually by the Board of Education.

Except that when they are with the Board of Education, I'm working for 4 out of the 6 hours.  That leaves 2 hours, five days a week, to get what I need done, including running errands, chores and trying to take care of myself.

This is the reason why my housekeeping is not up to Martha standards (or possibly even Roseanne's), my lawn is an organic bio-diverse jungle and I commit the sin of buying things for class parties rather than making them myself. 

It's not that I am lazy or that I need reminders or that my standards are inexplicably low.  It's that I've had to make a choice about my priorities and accept my limitations.  Those who cannot grasp that only add to the burden.  It becomes less of a gentle reminder and more like piling stones on top of a person who has already collapsed under the weight.

I think most people are sympathetic when they take the time to think about what's going on.  The problem arises when the subconscious drives the brain, offering expectations without really thinking about whether or not they're realistic.

Friday 24 January 2014

Nathan Quote

Let's finish off the week with a Nathan quote.

One of Nathan's teachers will be going on holiday next week.  She's going to Mexico (I believe) to get married (that part I'm sure of). 

Since she kindly gave me warning, I tried to prepare Nathan.  I explained that this teacher would be away for awhile because she was going on a special vacation to get married.

Nathan: It's good she's getting married.  That way she won't miss me too much.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Dad Starts Assembly Business for Autistic Son

I was forwarded this article about Mark Fremmerlid and his son, Brad.  Although it doesn't say specifically, from the description it sounds like Brad is fairly low-functioning: mostly non-verbal and requiring someone with him full time. 

Brad likes to put things together, beginning with Lego kits when he was small and moving on to larger and more complex items.  At one point, his father got the idea to have him start putting things together for other people rather than buying more and more projects for him to complete.

Mark started a business, Made by Brad, where people could hire his son to put together IKEA furniture or other purchases with the dreaded words "some assembly required".  They charge a flat fee of $20.

This is the sort of ingenuity that parents of autistic adults have to come up with.  Just because someone is low-functioning doesn't mean they won't get bored sitting around all day.  I think this is a great option which gives Brad something to do which is both productive and interesting.  They say that a helper accompanies Brad to deal with any communication issues (and presumably to help Brad if he begins to feel uncomfortable).

To me, this story is more inspiring than any of a dozen "cure" stories for autism.  No one is claiming that assembling IKEA furniture is somehow improving Brad's communication or social skills.  It's just something he likes to do and which makes him happy.  That's great and something all parents can aspire to.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

I'm Officially Losing My Mind

We have a lot of appointments and events to keep track of.  That's why I have a giant calendar on my fridge with different coloured appointments noted on it.  Usually, the calendar is enough to help me keep track of who is supposed to be where.

Last week, not so much.

I missed my physio appointment.  Alex had a doctor's appointment before that which ended up running ridiculously late (90 minutes in the waiting room) but I never even twigged that I was missing physio until they called me.

On Saturday, I missed Nathan's tutorial.  I picked him up from skiing and he wanted to have lunch at the ski hill.  I thought that would be fine, never twigging that it would mean we'd miss his tutor.  I didn't even think of the tutor although it was there on the calendar.

Also Saturday, I missed trivia night with my friends.  I'd agreed to be part of their team and was really looking forward to getting out with everyone.  Except apparently on the actual evening when I simply went about my normal routine and didn't even have a nagging sensation that I was supposed to be somewhere else.

Luckily, everyone has been very understanding.  But I hold myself to a higher standard than this.  I should be able to do better.

Maybe it's a cumulative effect of Nathan waking up super-early and me having to deal with him.  (Lack of sleep does tend to affect me fairly strongly.)  Maybe it's just trying to deal with all my different commitments right now.  Or maybe my subconscious is hijacking me for an enforced rest.

Sunday 19 January 2014

An Old Problem Returns: Getting to Sleep Past 5

Last year, Nathan would routinely wake up between 4 and 5.  He would then start to play in his room.  At the top of his lungs.

No appeal to familial respect, the sanctity of the early morn or the simple observation that Mommy is cranky when you wake her up made a difference.  My choices were to lie in bed and stew every time he squealed or yelled or get up and try to keep him quiet so that everyone else could sleep.  Not a good situation.

But gradually, I managed to get him sleeping in a little longer and then he suddenly began sleeping in until 6.  Heavenly.  :)

Now we're back at 4 and 5 and louder than ever.  It's affecting his mood so he obviously still needs the extra sleep.  I'm not looking forward to restarting the process.  I need that extra sleep, too.

Friday 17 January 2014

The End of Our Medication Experiment

Over a month ago, we decided to see if Alex still needed his anti-anxiety medication.  So we began slowly reducing it.

It turns out, the answer to our question is yes, he needs it.

We've had more incidents of aggression, a lowering of his ability to cope with frustration and more obsessive behaviour.  He hasn't been able to focus as well and is more disruptive.  All by lowering his medication by 1 ml per day.  So clearly, the medication is having a strong effect on him.

It's good to check on such things but, despite my firm dislike of medication, I'm not so proud and arrogant as to deprive my child of a tool he obviously needs.

We're going back up to the full dose and we'll keep careful track of any changes.  Our doctor told us we would have a good idea within a week or two as to whether or not the medication was having an effect.  We gave it longer since we were also dealing with the holidays but I think we've given the experiment a fair opportunity.

If other parents are considering a test of their child's medication, I'd recommend keeping a behaviour journal for two weeks before the change.  We didn't do that, so we didn't have hard numbers to compare with.  We did keep a journal afterward and checked in with each other frequently to see if we both had the same impressions.  But if we'd had a baseline, we might have been able to be certain after a few weeks rather than having to extend it.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Satisfaction for Wheel of Time (some light spoilers)

It is very rare to finish a series with satisfaction, especially a long-running one.  I remember being furious enough with C.S. Lewis's Narnia series that I threw the final book across the room.  (I was ten.)  The end of the Harry Potter series upset me enough that I didn't read it again for over a year.  (I'm not saying how old I was but at least I didn't throw it.)  I was disappointed with the end of Jessica Anderson's Nightwatcher series since I felt her chosen ending undermined the initial premise ... and I'm convinced there was material published elsewhere which I never saw which might have explained just what was going on.  And don't get me started on television shows.

But I think Memory of Light wrapped up the Wheel of Time series almost perfectly.  Characters did die, but given that the plot revolves around an epic battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil, that was to be expected.  Most importantly, each death felt as if it meant something.  No one died in vain.

There were no loose ends.  No unresolved plots.  Which given that the series ran to almost 17 thousand pages with over 20 major characters is darn impressive.

Finally, the ending made sense.  It was clear why they'd had to spend so much time getting to this particular finale.  There was lots of meaningful character growth and none of them got out without accumulating a few scars along the way.  That is believable and makes some of the more unpleasant plot points acceptable, at least to me.

I'm glad I stuck with it. 

Wednesday 15 January 2014

The New Normal

As we go through our application process, one thing that keeps striking me is how much our lives have actually adjusted to accommodating Alex's needs.

It's just a given that we can't run the dishwasher, vacuum or the washer and dryer while Alex is home and awake.  To the point that we will plan outings on the weekend just so that I can get laundry done.  Yesterday, I had four loads to do and I missed my timer on one of them.  At 3 pm, I realized I wouldn't be able to start another load until 9 pm at night (which would be a problem if we had an early-night bed-wetting incident).

Certain toys must be kept locked away or Alex will destroy them.  He likes chewing on plastic and it's now part of the criteria when I'm in the store.  Nathan really liked a particular plastic fire engine but I knew it wouldn't last more than a day or two.

The rooms upstairs have to be kept locked while Alex is home to prevent him from destroying our things.  Which means I have a limited opportunity to air them out during the day.  If I forget to go upstairs and open the doors after he's at school, then they stay closed and the air gets stale and the heat or air conditioning doesn't circulate properly.

If both children are home with one adult, we know not to plan on doing anything.  They will require constant supervision.  On some days, it's bad enough that even going to the bathroom is enough to allow a crisis to develop.  And forget going out.  Taking the two of them to an unsecured location (someone else's house, store, park, etc.) needs two adults at a minimum.  An extra adult is needed for entertainment events (movies, shows, hockey games) so that there is always someone available to focus on each child.

We have more teacher meetings, more doctor's appointments, more travel to get to specialists, more paperwork for grants, aid, etc.  I have to be more prepared in all situations, winging it is not usually a good option.  These are the main reasons I couldn't hold down a job outside of the house.  There's simply too much to get done.

Those are just the notes off the top of my head.  We very quickly adapt to changes and those changes become the new normal.  I'm shocked when I visit friends with children and they can just send them off to play in another room, or let them head off to visit a friend without supervision.  Or the one which hits me hardest: when the child can tell their parent about feeling uncomfortable or needing something. 

I think those kind of reality checks are good in that it keeps me grounded, but it also drives home that my life is different, which leaves me feeling isolated.  It's easier to accept things if I'm not thinking of how else it should be. 

Tuesday 14 January 2014

March Break Camp Subsidy (Deadline Jan 17)

If you're thinking of signing your kid up for a March Break camp or if you have an aide worker or tutor or a therapy program ongoing, you should be applying for the Autism Ontario March Break Reimbursement Fund.

You can apply online and it takes about five minutes.  If it's your first time, you will have to send proof of diagnosis to Autism Ontario.  After that, they keep it on record for future applications.

The deadline for applications is January 17th.  It is a maximum of $ 350 which can be applied to one program or worker per child.  The grants are given out by random draw.

You don't need to have a program set up already and you can use it to cover a therapy program for the week of March Break (March 10-14).

Monday 13 January 2014

Anticipation of the End of Wheel of Time

I started reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series back in 1995.  And last week, I got the final book in the series.

I was tempted (very tempted!) to just jump in and devour the whole thing so that I could finally find out what happened.  But I decided to hold back and savour the anticipation.

I've been reading these books for almost twenty years.  The first reading of a story only happens once and for something like this, it's not worth potentially spoiling.

So I have spent this last week reading the entire series again.  At over 1200 pages per book and thirteen books, that's over 15 600 pages.  (Okay, I will admit I may have skimmed over some of the boring bits in the middle but I still read the vast majority of it.)  As I type this, I have less than 100 pages between me and the start of the final book.

Sometime in the next three days, I will close the covers and be happy, disappointed or furious.  We'll just have to see whether or not the ending is satisfactory.

The series has had its challenges.  Originally Jordan planned a 9 book arc but things were going so well that he decided (or was persuaded) to expand.  Which led to the disaster of three books in the middle where virtually nothing happens.  4600 pages which cover a period in the story of less than 3 days.  He divided the story up between over 20 major characters and then proceeded to chop it up enough that the whole thing stalled almost into non-existence.  (Someone needed to review proper story structure ... just pointing it out.)

However, the last three books have gotten us back on track.  Elements woven in the first books are coming to fruition and the whole thing seems to be wrapping up in an artistically satisfying way.

Of course, I thought the same thing with the Matrix movies and Battlestar Galactica, so I've learned that sometimes the reader/audience sees more than the author.  And while the author can fake it for awhile, eventually the truth comes out.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Ongoing Application For A Service Dog

We are in the process of applying for a service dog for Alex.  Part of the application is keeping a two week diary of his activities and behaviours.

They want to know what toys and activities Alex prefers, the frequency of behaviours like bolting or wandering away, how aggressive he can be, etc.  I'm getting his teacher to complete it during the day, his grandfather to complete it when they're out together and I'm dealing with the rest of it.

This is always one of those tasks where I end up feeling very self-conscious.  I know they want to know if bolting is a risk because that's one of the tasks they train the dogs to help with.  They want to know if aggression is a problem because they want to know if he's likely to hurt the dog when he's frustrated. 

Alex is much more likely to hurt himself than anyone else when he's frustrated but he does lash out sometimes.  It's one of the reasons we have to keep such a close eye on him.  Even if it only happens once a month; it's not acceptable and needs to be prevented.

Dave and I both feel very strongly that if we're going to accept a dog into our home, we need to make sure it will be a good home for the dog.  This is a breathing, feeling creature and thus deserves to feel safe and happy the vast majority of the time. 

How do I convey our determination to make this a good home while still showing that the dog will be helpful and useful?  As a writer, I'm very aware of how word choices can make a huge difference in how an event is perceived without venturing anywhere near a lie.

I'm struggling with being honest, yet concise, without unfairly shading my notes.  I want this to be accurate but not overwhelming.

Friday 10 January 2014

A Laugh For The Weekend

My husband found this and I can't resist sharing:

Enjoy your weekend.  :)

Thursday 9 January 2014

One Small Bite for Child ... One Giant Leap for Parents

We've been preparing special pureed meals for Alex since he was two years old.  For those who like to do math, that's seven years of becoming a blender expert.

Over the years we've gradually increased the chunkiness of his purees.  When we started it all had to be pudding-smooth.  Now we've reached the upper limits of blender chopping, a sort of chunky relish consistency.  All of this to help decrease the oral sensitivities which made chewing or even just having things in his mouth such a challenge.

This is an actual picture of Alex's first time with Cheerios.  He wouldn't pick them up and when I put one on the tip of his tongue, this is the reaction I got.  (I had the camera all ready to record the intrigued smile ... )
Over the last two years, we began introducing solid foods.  At first bread.  Then bread with a tiny little dab of butter in the middle.  Eventually we added peanut butter.  Then a top slice of bread so that it was a sandwich.  That took 18 months.
Over the last 6 months, he's added all sorts of foods to his repertoire: grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, muffins, small vegetables (peas, corn, carrot cubes).  The occupational therapist who has been working with him at school told us that she thought we'd moved past the oral sensitivity.  Now we have to teach him to chew so that he can handle progressively bigger chunks of food.
He still prefers to eat pureed food: apple sauce and toddler meals for the most part.  We've decided to hang up the blender and focus on solid food.  We're still going to be cutting it into tiny chunks, the way you would for any child transitioning from purees to solids.
It will certainly be a challenge but it will also be very nice not to spend a few hours a week preparing the purees.
I'll keep you all posted.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Study Linking Autism and Vaccines Revealled as "Elaborate Fraud"

Vaccination is a hot topic among the autism community.  It's almost guaranteed to cause heated discussions, if not outright fights if brought up.

I've been fairly clear on my opinion.  I don't believe the scientific data supports a causal link and I worry that parents not vaccinating is a health crisis and potential catastrophe.  If partial vaccinations lead to vaccine-resistant strains of viruses (as partial antibiotic use led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria) then we could be thrown back to the dark ages of infant and child mortality.

The British Medical Journal has done a study to see if Dr. Wakefield's claims of MMR vaccine causing autism were in any way justified.  It's been long known that there were errors in the study but they wanted to see if there was any possibility of an underlying genuine issue.  They published their conclusions last week: the study was a complete fraud intended to spark a lawsuit against vaccine manufacturers.

Wakefield not only cherry-picked his study candidates but he also misrepresented or altered their medical histories.  There were 12 children total, 5 who showed significant developmental problems before the vaccination and 3 who never had autism.  The article doesn't explain what happened with the remaining 4.

Wakefield claims that he has been the victim of a pernicious media blacklisting and scientific conspiracy.  He still defends his work and his conclusions.

Those who believe him and his claims probably won't be deterred by this study.  If someone is convinced that something hurt their child, then it isn't surprising for them to hang on to that and try to warn others. 

It's sad that we no longer can trust the scientific community as we used to.  So many studies are tainted by corporate goals or selective data that they no longer carry the weight they used to.  Bad science isn't easily distinguished from good science any more.  Once a belief has made it into the general public, it's difficult to ever root it out again.

For vaccinations, I think we as a society have forgotten how horrible some of these diseases actually are.  We aren't exposed to them and so we have the luxury of questioning the necessity.  People die from measles, diphtheria, protussis (whooping cough).  They suffer physical and mental damage from mumps, birth defects and miscarriages from rubella.  I could keep going on but I think the point is clear.  I just hope we don't have to learn it the hard way.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Fighting Addiction

I've posted before about how Alex loves to press the buttons on our washer to hear the beeping noises.  Unfortunately, this shuts down the washer, forcing me to restart the cycle from scratch.  It's an incredibly strong compulsion and he takes any opportunity to do it.  We've essentially been having to only do laundry when Alex is out of the house (which was very difficult over the holiday break).

If we do have to run the washer while he's home (and with 3-4 loads per day, it happens), one of us has to park ourselves in the front room and keep him from going upstairs.  If I'm on my own, I have to take him with me if I have to leave the front for any reason (including going to the bathroom).  It's been a real challenge and really limits what we can get done during the day.

I've gotten several suggestions on how to help the situation ranging from recording the sounds to allowing him to press the buttons when I start the laundry to help satisfy the compulsion.  All of the suggestions assume that his urge can be satisfied and then he will no longer be interested.

This can work for some behaviours.  If a child shows an interest in something but can be otherwise redirected or prevented, then giving them a valid opportunity to indulge that interest can help.

Alex's behaviour is more like an addiction.  No one suggests that giving a heroin addict a shot of heroin will somehow reduce their craving for the drug.  The key difference is his level of persistence.  When he will not stop despite having an adult present and warning him (and this has happened when he's made a dash up the stairs and I've followed him) and he knows that consequences will follow (time out or loss of privileges), then the behaviour doesn't fall into the rational.

When an impulse is that strong, the only way we can deal with it is total prevention.  When he was tunneling through the walls of his room, it took three months of staying to watch him before the impulse died.  When he was obsessed with shredding paper, he had to be supervised with limited opportunities for five months.  We're still trying to prevent him from pressing the hazard buttons on every car that he can get into.  Our hope is that with prevention, we can move the impulse to the back of his brain instead of it being a constant temptation.

Old impulses do raise their heads from time to time but a period of prevention usually quiets them down again.

Monday 6 January 2014

We Fear Change (Rogers to Bell)

After a year of suffering from bobbing noses and hats on our HD TV from our non HD cable feed, we've made the move to an HD PVR and cable system.

We compared the numbers and Bell had a much better deal financially.  So today we had our old PVR disconnected and a brand new Bell HD PVR installed.

I immediately hated it.

For eight years, I've simply scrolled through the first 60 channels on Rogers to pick out what I wanted to watch on a weekly basis.  I frankly don't even know what stations a lot of my favourite shows are on, I only know their relative positions on the scroll down bar.  Now the channels are all out of order.  And the bloody thing doesn't let me easily skip day to day or page up and down easily.  And it's irritatingly complex to alter the basic recording options.

The largest annoyance is that I apparently can't set a "favourite channel" for the TV which comes on whenever the PVR turns on.  (I'm still investigating this but the installation guy said no.)  Having our old PVR set to Treehouse all the time was irritating at times but meant I never had to worry about what my kids saw when they turned on the TV.

Those were my first impressions.

After an evening of playing with it and setting up the first week of programming, I have a certain grudging respect for the new PVR and suspect I will soon come to accept it.

I am one of those people who hang on to old technology for dear life.  I resisted DVDs, I'm still resisting Blu-Ray.  I did immediately like the Apple TV and CDs but those are the exceptions rather than the rule.  I still use an extremely outdated version of my word processor because I don't like the newer versions.  And I like my print books much better than my e-reader. 

I try to remember this when I'm frustrated with my boys (husband included) for resisting change.  I don't always succeed.

But I try.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Angels of Whimsy, Demons of Alcohol and Saving Mr. Banks

I went to see Saving Mr. Banks over the weekend, the story of Walt Disney, P.L. Travers and the adaptation of her books into the movie Mary Poppins.  I sat down with the boys earlier in the week and watched Mary Poppins so everything was fresh in my head.

The movie is fabulous and I highly recommend it to everyone.  It made me cry and laugh and if it wasn't for the oppression and the Cold War and the lack of general rights, I would love to go back to the glory days of Disney when Walt himself walked the grounds.  To be there to hear the music for some of the great Disney musicals when it was fresh and new.

Part of the movie is looking at P.L. Travers's childhood, specifically her relationship with her father.  He is portrayed as a man of whimsy, constantly indulging in games of fantasy and play with his children.  He's also a drunk.

It made me think how often those two qualities are portrayed together in Hollywood.  It's as if there must be a balance for the whimsy.  It is invariably a dark side which renders any lighthearted amusement into fading dreams in the face of horrid brutality.

There's probably some truth to that.  Those sensitive enough to retain childlike wonder and sensibilities are likely to be continually scarred by the harsh realities of the world.  And some of them will undoubtedly turn to chemical buffers.  Once in the throes of addiction, the wonderful side of their personalities isn't enough to make the darkness worthwhile or acceptable.

But wouldn't it be wonderful to see a parent who loves their children and is whimsical and fanciful without being irresponsible or high as a kite?  I have to believe there are a few out there somewhere.  We don't tend to see them outside of children's stories, probably because adults like to have a little more meat with their drama.

I'm tempted to see if our local library has copies of the Mary Poppins books.  When Travers describes Mary as someone who prepares the children for the harsh realities of life, that is so completely contrary to what I know that I wonder if it's accurate.  Or is it something which readers would recognize as untrue, the same as if I heard Tolkien describe Lord of the Rings as a fanciful exploration of gardening techniques.

Regardless, I'm still humming the songs and I've regained a new respect for both the movie and the character of Mr. Banks.

Friday 3 January 2014

Back to Work

Today marks the last day of vacation for everyone.  As of Monday, I go back to work and the boys go back to school, which makes this weekend the last opportunity to take care of little details.

We got our extended application for a service dog, including a request to fill out a two week diary of Alex's activities.  Today I'm going to sit down and look it over in detail so that we can get started this weekend.  I'm still a little nervous about the reality of having a dog here but the thought of Alex having a companion and us being able to go out without worrying means a lot.

It's also time to make sure we have our logistics worked out for the next round of extracurricular activities. 

In January and February, these are Alex's activities:

Tutor (twice per week)
Music lessons (once per week)
Hockey (once per week)
Skiing (once per week)
Speech camp (once every two weeks)

And these are Nathan's activities:

Tutor (once per week)
Art lessons (once per week)
Beavers (once per week)
Gymnastics (once per week)
Skiing (once per week)

It's only for eight weeks and then the skiing, hockey and art lessons are over.  But it's going to be a very jam-packed eight weeks.  I hemmed and hawed, wondering if I was overscheduling.  But I think they're going to enjoy themselves.  I did at least make sure that most of the activities were overlapping, that way we still have some downtime as a family.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Nathan Quotes

It's been awhile since he gave me something good but he's starting off 2014 with a bang.

I mentioned that one of my friends hadn't seen Nathan since he was a baby and he replied that she "should come over again because I'm much more interesting now."

At supper last night, my father was pretending to steal Nathan's food (an excellent way to get him to try new things since he gets quite competitive).  It backfired a little.

Nathan: That's okay, Avi.  You can have it.

Avi: Oh.

Nathan: But not too much.

(I can see my father thinks his ploy has worked but I'm waiting for the punchline.)

Nathan: If you eat too much, you'll get a tummy ache.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy 2014

Luckily December 31st proved to be a much better day than the 30th.  I was quite relieved about that.

Thank you to those who contacted me to check and make sure I was okay.  It means a lot to know that a) I'm not just shouting silently into cyberspace and b) that people care.

Our New Year's party was a lot of fun.  We played some specialty card games: Star Fluxx and Cards Against Humanity (which is twisted but funny).  We watched the ball drop (and had slight technical difficulties with the countdown) and we looked in our Happy Jars for 2013.

We also had a piñata.  2013 was a difficult year for several of us and so we decided to pound it into submission as a final farewell.  Since I'd had an awful day and needed to vent, I took a good swing at it.

And knocked that sucker into orbit. 

I not only broke the piñata but managed to literally knock several pieces of candy out of their wrappings and powder some others.  It was a proud moment and a wonderful catharsis.  If I wasn't worried about Alex picking a hole in my heavy bag, I'd hang it back up for regular workouts.

I have also spent a great deal of yesterday and today just holding Alex and trying to make sure our relationship isn't damaged from the 30th.  There was a lot of frustration and I'm sure it frightened and upset him.  I give myself some leeway that I'm not perfect in all my reactions but I hope to demonstrate that this is what we do when we screw up and accidentally hurt the feelings of someone we care about.  We make the extra effort to show we still love them.