Friday 28 August 2015

Charity Performance Tomorrow

Tomorrow night is the charity performance by Pure Antics from 8 to midnight at Finnegan's Roadhouse in Renfrew.

Hope to see everyone there!

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Tips for Working with the School Boards

The Internet is full of horror stories of parents having to fight epic battles for even the most basic services when it comes to school.  Unfortunately, some of those are true.  However, my experience has been that while the schools can be frustratingly bureaucracy-focused or a particular individual may be reluctant to do work, there is rarely genuine hostility there.

My first piece of advice is to listen to what your principal and other staff are saying and what they're not saying.  There are some rare schools where they really don't have any intention of helping your child.  Maybe they want to keep grade-point averages up or maybe there's prejudice and misunderstandings, the reason doesn't really matter.  You want to identify them as quickly as possible and then not waste any time with them.  If they keep bringing up new hurdles for you to jump over, then they're not trying to work with you, they're trying to say "no" without actually saying "no".  If they refuse to let you look at the school or any "special arrangements" they've made for your child, be very suspicious.  Sometimes the "autism room" is a repurposed broom closet or a corner in a busy classroom or a corner of the principal's office.  If they're claiming they have a space set up, you have the right to look at it before your child comes to school.

My second piece of advice is not to come in with a chip on your shoulder about the education system.  It's difficult, given how vigilant special needs parents need to be, but it's too easy to get trapped in a cycle of hostility.  My personal tactic is to play stupid and insist on everything being spelled out to me in great detail.  That gives me a good understanding of how willing the staff are to be helpful, it gives me an opportunity to start figuring out any holes in their plan.  Always try to remember that while people may not always have the information to get things right, the majority do want to help.

My third piece of advice is to play the bureaucracy game with them.  Insist on getting everything in writing.  I insist on email communication or summations of any plans and when we have in-person meetings, I take notes.  At the end of the meeting, I jot down a brief summary and have every person in the meeting initial it, agreeing on the actions to be taken.  We used to record meetings, but we found it a challenge to go back and get the relevant information we were looking for.  I have a notebook that I bring to every meeting, so I have a record of what has been tried, what has been agreed to and what problems have been brought to my attention.

My final piece of advice is to accept the inherent lack of control.  If the school is bringing in outside help (speech therapists, occupational therapists, etc), those people are working for the school board.  They should send you update and reports but there isn't going to be the kind of detail or frequency we're used to from private services.  I get two reports per year with Alex, both less than a page.  One is what they intend to do at the start of the year and one is an end of year progress report on those goals.  Other than that, I rarely hear from the consultants, but I do get regular updates from Alex's teacher, in part because we are on good terms and she knows I will participate to support their work at home.  A good relationship with the staff on the ground, ie, the teachers or EAs, is your best weapon at making sure your child gets what he or she needs.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Ripples from a Bad Day

Yesterday, Alex found the spare keys to our upstairs rooms.  We keep our room and Nathan's room locked so that we don't have to worry about Alex going in and removing or destroying the things which are important to us.  It's a compromise we've reached between allowing Alex to move freely around the house and giving each of us a "safe" bubble.

I was working, so I wasn't supervising him closely.  Sometime within a twenty minute window, he found the keys, went upstairs and started helping himself to various items of fascination.  He took a number of my husband's models of F1 racing cars and some of my glass animals.  He also had a toileting accident in the room.

However, it was Nathan who bore the brunt of Alex's explorations.  Nathan is an avid Lego collector with dozens of completed scenes, vehicles and people.  His collection represents hundreds of hours of work which he's done.  Alex destroyed about a third of them to get at the individual pieces, which he then chewed beyond repair.  He ripped apart several stuffed toys to scatter the fluff and was beginning to dismantle the books on the bookshelf when I found him.

Being denied after getting a glimpse of the promised land led to a massive meltdown through the rest of the day.  I lost count of the number of kicks, hits and headbutts I received.  The worst was having to drive to get Nathan, where I literally could not restrain Alex.  The best I could do was to lean forward so that I was only periodically hit by the seat as he kicked it.

The worst part was seeing Nathan's face when I had to explain what happened to his room and his things.  He was as violated and devastated as if someone had broken into the house to rob him.  It was heartbreaking.

Today, Nathan didn't want to go back to camp in case Alex broke into his room again.  I've told him that I've confiscated the keys and I won't allow the therapists to keep them with the therapy things any more.  But he's justifiably skeptical of my ability to contain Alex.  We both know it's only a matter of time before there's another opportunity.

I eventually managed to convince him to try camp again with the promise that I would pick him up at lunchtime if he called to say he wasn't having fun.  I'm hoping they can lure him into forgetting and having a little fun. 

I can't really blame Alex for his behaviour.  I know about his compulsions, that's why the locks are there in the first place.  He literally can't control himself if he has access to these things.  (I do believe he can improve his reaction to losing it, hitting and kicking are not acceptable ways to express his feelings.)  I tried to hold on to my sympathy and understanding but it was difficult when it kept getting knocked loose on impact.  Eventually, Nathan and I both needed to withdraw, which we did when Dave returned home.

This is what I mean when I say my child had "a bad day".  It's not that he's whiny or cranky, it's he becomes physically dangerous and relentless.  It's not really something you can understand until you've had to deal with it.  There's a horrible contradiction between loving someone and wanting to protect and understand and help them and needing to protect yourself from them.

This is a blip (hopefully).  Alex's aggressive behaviour has certainly improved and he's much better about expressing himself in socially acceptable ways.  But it will likely take awhile before we finish with the ripples from yesterday.

Monday 24 August 2015

Back To School

Two weeks to go until school is back in session.  We're already seeing the early signs of transition irritability from Alex. 

Aside from the usual school must-do's of new shoes, backpacks, school supplies, etc., I have the list of updated IEPs, pre-school meetings with teachers and walk-throughs.

First step is to go through last year's IEP (Individual Education Plan) for both boys.  This is the document which says where exceptions will be made, such as lower standards on particular subjects or extra help in others.  I need to remind myself of where everyone is.  Nathan's isn't too bad, he only needs accommodation in a few places.  Alex's list of accommodations is over 15 pages long with lots of detailed notes.  New IEPs will be arriving in October, so making myself remember what last year's goals were will let me see where progress has been made and where it's still lacking.

Next is scheduling the pre-school meetings between myself and their teachers.  This is always frustrating with Nathan's school.  Alex's set up the meeting last June.  Since he's in an autism program, they understand the need to get an update after a 10 week absence.  In Nathan's case, the administrative staff are surprised every year when I tell them we need to do this.  I'm not allowed to set things up directly with the teacher (who does understand why it needs to be done) which makes the extra step of explaining everything exhausting.

Finally is the walk-through, where I show each boy his classroom, where their coat hooks are (in general, not specifically), which playground they'll be using.  This makes the first day of school much less intimidating and stressful for them.

These steps all help the school year start smoother for us but it's a lot of extra work to put everything together.

Friday 21 August 2015

Difficult Decisions

Alex likes turning off the washing machine in mid-cycle so that he can hear the series of beeps as it turns off.  Given that I am usually trying to run at least 2 to 3 loads throughout the day, it's been a source of frustration to us. 

This morning I could see that he wanted to press the buttons, so I warned him that if he did then he would not be able to go to Cosmic Adventures this morning.  He immediately ran to the washer and pushed the buttons.

I don't like having to take away big things but I can't let this kind of direct defiance pass.  Threatening to remove little privileges has not helped and even putting a big privilege on the line only has a 50-50 shot at stopping him.  He is not happy about it and I've gotten a lot of headbanging and screaming in response.

I don't know why he's so obsessed with the washer.  We've tried giving him sanctioned opportunities to work it but that ended up strengthening the obsession.  We've tried loss of little privileges, but the buttons are self-rewarding.  He's too quick to physically stop and I don't have a door over my washer and dryer, only a curtain.

He's been more and more argumentative and oppositional over the last few days.  I don't know if I've been cutting him too much slack or if he's getting upset over the upcoming transition back to school.  Either way, it's meant he's not pleasant to try and work and live with.

Thursday 20 August 2015

No, I Can't Stay Just Another Few Minutes

Yesterday, we went on a grand adventure to Best Buy to get Alex a proper microphone stand.  The kid has been building his own stands out of Lego and he's getting increasingly frustrated as they crack and topple under their own weight.

We got to Best Buy and learned they were sold out of microphone stands.  But they were quite happy to order us one and have it delivered to our house without charging us the usual delivery fees.

All good.  Until it took the guy four different attempts to place the order through the computer.

Now, I'll be fair and say it wasn't his fault.  Obviously there was a problem with the technology because it kept crashing on him.  But I'm standing there with two kids who are rapidly transversing the territory from waiting patiently to bored to meltdown.

This is something I've found people have a hard time understanding.  When I say I don't have any more time and I have to leave, it's not a bargaining tactic or an exaggeration.  I have to go.

I could tell this poor guy thought I was upset with him for taking so long.  And I didn't have the time to explain to him that it had nothing to do with him personally, but the clock was running out if I wanted to get out of there without having to bodily haul out tantruming kids.  (And I'm not a bad parent because my kids have tantrums.)

I don't like leaving other people with the feeling they've messed up on something they have little to no control over.  I know from experience how much that can weigh on me when someone accuses me of incompetency.  I'll never understand why some people think they're so important that I've gone out of my way to make their lives difficult.

At the same time, I made the call that I needed to.  I put my kids' welfare over the feelings of a stranger and no matter how much societal-guilt I have over that, it was the right decision.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Why Saying "It's All Okay" Isn't That Reassuring

It's a gut instinct.  Someone tells you about something bad which has happened and we automatically seek to minimize or dismiss it.  Doctors always order these kinds of tests, I'm sure you'll get another job quickly, this could be a great opportunity for you.  We don't like seeing people hurt, especially not those we care about, and thus we want to make it better.

Sometimes, that's exactly what people need.  They want someone to tell them it's not as bad as they thought.  The ex-boyfriend was a jerk and you're better off without him.  The job was a dead end.

However, there are situations where pain is the appropriate response.  Constant messages to "look on the bright side" or 'it's not as bad as  you think' end up leaving the person feeling isolated and pressured into putting on a false front.  Or feeling as if they can't cope as well as other people.

I deal with a lot of newly diagnosed parents in my job and while I tell them that things will get better, I don't make the mistake of telling them everything is okay.  They need the hope to know it won't always be this overwhelming and frightening (and it won't) but they also need someone to acknowledge that it is overwhelming and frightening right now.  I think that's why they can accept what I'm saying.  I've been there and I'm not making any promises of an easy ride but I am saying it's possible to get their feet back on the ground and start moving forward.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Not My Day

Yesterday was one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong.  I spent my afternoon on the phone with the helpdesk instead of being able to work.  I cleaned up so many toileting accidents that I actually lost count as well as running out of clean clothes for the kids.  My favourite set of earrings broke.  Dinner boiled over and burned a nice layer of charcoal gunk on the stove.  I got a notice from the IRS (not CRA, the IRS) that there's a problem with my "don't tax me, I'm Canadian" form.  Alex got into my writing computer and deleted a chapter (luckily I have backups but still frustrating).  My cleaners were late and so was my sitter, and she had to leave early.  The hot water tank shut down and took four hours to reset.  The AppleTV kept resetting itself when I tried to relax by watching a little TV.  I discovered the Fort Henry Sunset Ceremony is actually on Wednesdays, instead of the Friday as I previously thought.  And we can't go this week (as we planned) because of a scheduled maintenance window at Dave's work.  There are things in place for the other Wednesdays remaining in the summer, too.

And I kept waking up every 30-40 minutes with an urgent addition to my to-do list (return library books, feed cat, some odd things which have to have been dream inspired but tell that to the adrenaline levels when bolting upright out of bed in the middle of the night).

So today, I'm going to do my best to repair the damage from yesterday, try not to let it get me too discouraged and give myself permission to vent on the general unfairness of life.

Monday 17 August 2015

Go to the Doctor or not

I've said many times that I'm grateful I've never had to choose between going to the doctor and paying my rent or my mortgage.  But there is another issue to consider: convenience and embarrassment.

We've all gone to the doctor or to Emergency only to be told our symptoms aren't anything serious.  I'd guess the vast majority of medical visits aren't actionable (ie, no prescription, no stitches, no tests run), so why do we feel so embarrassed when it happens?

Part of it is the mixed message we get.  We're told not to wait, to come in early, to trust the doctors who have the medical training to figure out what is serious and what isn't.  Then you get to the actual doctor, who is a human being and will show irritation if he or she thinks their time is being wasted.  I've actually called one or two doctors on it, reminding them that they have the training and I don't. (Didn't really help anything, except my pride.)

I think this is a part of parents' reluctance to go for testing when they suspect something is wrong developmentally with their child.  We get so used to being diagnosed as "overanxious parents" rather than respected for our concern that it feels more like an opportunity for humiliation than early intervention.  (The other big part is that we don't want to believe there could really be something wrong.  Every child is supposed to be born perfect, after all.)

Add in the ignorance of many family doctors who push parents to wait and dismiss their concerns, and there are a lot of kids who aren't getting the help they need during the perfect window for it.

I'm biased towards getting early testing and early intervention.  I'd rather look like an idiot than miss something.  Even if it does hit me in the ego sometimes.

Friday 14 August 2015

Fun Fact to Learn and Share

Alex is heading into Grade 6 this year, which means the official onset of puberty is likely to hit us sometime in the next 12-18 months.

As part of our thinking ahead on the matter, we decided to start introducing deodorant into his daily hygiene routine.  With luck and persistence, by the time it's necessary, he'll accept it as inevitable and be able to do it himself.

Off I go to the drugstore, thinking this will be quite simple, only to get hit by an unexpected road block.  Apparently they don't make unscented deodorant for men.

Most women's products have an unscented option but I spent 20 minutes reading labels and searching before finally giving up and asking a clerk for help.  They confirmed it.  All men's deodorant has some kind of scent added.

This surprised the heck out of me.  Aside from the whole fragrance-free movement, I would have thought men would be relieved as heck to have the simplicity of a scent-free option.  I would have thought it would be incredibly popular.  Apparently, I'm wrong.

Since I have no sense of smell, I delegated the choice to Dave, asking him to pick something subtle and inoffensive. 

Yet another MLE (Mommy Learning Experience) to add to my belt.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Planning for Disney

We are getting close to our Disney trip.  Close enough to start thinking about details like how to get to and from the airport, what to bring in our luggage and making sure we have all of our paperwork good to go.

One big detail still to take care of is our Magic Express passes, which lets us use the free Disney shuttle and gets our luggage picked up and delivered to our hotel room.  From experience, we know that it takes 3-4 hours after the shuttle arrives for the luggage to be delivered, so this time we are planning to have what we need in our backpacks, so that we can head out without waiting.

We have some Fastpass activities booked at Epcot on the day we land, as well as a sit down dinner.  Nathan has been clear that he doesn't want to start quietly and go swimming.  He wants to go and see Disneyworld.  I got us into the IllumiNations firework show for that night, which should be fun.  I'm thinking I'll need to make sure we all have shorts to change into but we shouldn't need quite as much gear as we did with Alex.

The other big detail to deal with is a car rental to visit LEGOLAND.  (Interestingly my autocorrect just made that all capitals, which makes me think that Blogger is more excited about the Lego themed park than I am.)  Disney does offer complimentary shuttles to its associated rental company but interestingly, it's not one of the features you can arrange online.  I guess they don't really want to encourage you to leave the resort.

We've arranged for the LEGOLAND (Blogger still psyched) visit to be early in our stay and are planning to pick up some groceries to keep in the hotel room to keep down our meal costs.  You can arrange for groceries to be delivered but there's a $75 minimum plus a $ 25 delivery charge.  Since Nathan will be more flexible with the meals on offer through the meal plan, I think we'll be okay with them for the most part.  There are grocery stores near the resort but you'll pay $20-$30 each way in a taxi.

The hotel dining rooms were crazy first thing in the morning as people tried to stock themselves up in anticipation of a day at the park.  Lunch and dinner were relatively quiet, so if we can have breakfast in our rooms (we'll bring plastic bowls and can get plastic cutlery, etc, from the dining hall) then we can avoid the tantrum-inducing waits and noise and be on our merry way bright and early.  We have a table meal booked for dinner most evenings.  Disney's meal plan gives each person one table meal, one self-serve meal (the cafeteria style meals in the hotel dining rooms) and one snack each day.  Some of the meals (like Cinderella's Royal Table or Mickey's Backyard Barbecue) count as two table meals per person, but it's still a good deal.  I often used our "snack" to get fresh fruit or pastries the night before to have as part of our breakfast in the morning last time.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Girl vs Boy

Since Alex is under 12 with long hair, many passersby believe he is a girl.  I used to correct them but in the last year, I stopped doing it.  Initially I stopped because it seemed like a silly waste of time to correct someone whom we saw for less than five minutes over our lifetime.  So what if the clerk in a store we'll never go into again said "Have a nice day, ladies" instead of realizing Alex is a boy?

I've continued because I've noticed something else.  When people assume he is a girl, they are much more compassionate and understanding than when they assume he is a boy.  He gets sympathy instead of anger when he acts out.  He is much less likely to attract the attention of someone looking to dole out physical discipline.

With all of the media attention for Caitlyn Jenner, transgender experiences have been more widely available.  Interestingly, a number of female to male transgender persons have said they experienced the same thing.  As a girl or woman, they were given more latitude.  When they became boys or men, they would suddenly find themselves getting in trouble or being confronted much more often for "aggressive" behavior which had been permitted or even encouraged when they were female.

I find myself wondering where I should draw the line.  Should I correct the people at Tim Horton's since we go there frequently?  Should I even be allowing this to continue as he's going to start puberty soon and then there will be no mistaking him for female?  Is the transition going to be even harder because of the greater contrast?

My thought right now is that this is a bit of a sanctuary for him.  Instead of disapproving frowns, he's getting a lot more smiles.  Maybe this is building a foundation which will help him to ignore the ignorance and intolerance he's likely to face.  Studies have shown that the kids who do best with bullying are the ones who have lots of confidence instilled in their daily experience.  They know that they're great and are able to dismiss the mean-spirited insults as having nothing to do with them.  The kids who do the worst are the ones who are constantly corrected and/or belittled because it's easy for them to believe strangers will find fault with them.

For now, I'm just enjoying the relative peace.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

New Charity Concert for Alex's Service Dog (Aug 29)

Pure Antics, having raised over $ 1000 for Alex's service dog with their last performance, is coming out for a sequel: August 29th from 8pm to midnight at Finnigan's Roadhouse in Renfrew.

These girls are amazingly good.  As in, I wouldn't be surprised to have to pay one day to hear them sing.  This is a great opportunity to enjoy some great food and quality music, as well as raise some money for National Service Dogs.

We've raised $ 12 000 of the $ 30 000 they've requested, so we've still got a long way to go.

Monday 10 August 2015

Killing Trees for CRA

Every year it's the same old story.  Family has medical expenses, family claims medical expenses, family gets a level 1 audit (the please send us receipts level).

The first year, they came down on us in a very intimidating and aggressive manner.  I guess someone somewhere decided we were frauds and they were going to make an example out of us.  We got a scowling man in a suit who demanded to know where the receipts were to back up our claims.  (Annoying part: we'd already mailed in our receipts so I was bringing in copies of everything.)  I handed him a stack of paper one inch thick and an itemized list of all receipts being claimed and it was like someone let all the bluster out of the room.

He thumbed through the stack briefly and then said he'd have to review everything but that it appeared to be in order.  He took the papers and we were free to go.  I personally suspect no one ever actually looked at them.

Every year for the last decade, it's been the same story.  We file electronically now and while I include a pdf of our receipts, we're always asked to submit them again.  This year, the fax took over an hour to send and was over 100 pages.  And I'll have to wait two months before it will be processed and be in their system so that I can confirm they got it.

It's frustrating but we've set things up to minimize the impact.  The receipts all get scanned at tax time.  If we don't have a receipt then, we don't claim it.  Scanning in advance means we don't have to go through a flurry of scanning months later.  We actually have a nice division of labour.  I do the tax work and Dave does the tedious work of scanning everything in.

It's still an irritation.  After all this time, you would think they would be able to accept that we have a high level of medical expenses.  Our records should indicate that our children have autism and as long as we're claiming within our usual range, then the expenses are probably genuine.  However, I know how little flexibility government workers have once money is involved.  Everyone is so paranoid about being taken advantage of that there can be no exceptions (which, in my opinion, only makes it easier for fraudsters to take advantage because the system becomes predictable).

The folder for the 2015 tax season is growing.  Half an inch already.

Friday 7 August 2015

Back to Routine

Today Alex comes home from the cottage and Monday, everyone goes back to work/therapy/camp. It's been nice to have a break but I'm ready to have both boys home again.

Usually the week after the cottage is a very difficult one. Alex is used to running things on his own agenda and being in a low-demand environment. This year my parents have said they'll try and keep up the demands and interrupt Alex's agenda. Hopefully that will mean fewer tantrums and holes in my wall this year.

I will miss not having to carry keys around all the time and it's been nice to have the upstairs open for airflow. But those are little things and I miss Alex's smile more.

Thursday 6 August 2015

The Shame of the Household

Over the last week and a bit, I've gotten to spend time with a number of friends. Almost all of them started with apologizing for the state of their house.

Toy clutter, reno clutter, I can understand the discomfort but it's never bothered me. Toy clutter is the price of life with kids (and I'm frankly suspicious of any tidy home with children) and reno clutter is temporary.

I've stopped inviting people over the age of 10 into my house. Because I'm embarrassed of how it is. I have no sense of smell, so I'm paranoid about that aspect. I've had toileting accidents soaking into my floors, ceilings and furniture for over ten years. I clean them all up as thoroughly as I can but I suspect the sheer number of them must be contaminating the house.

I have so many holes and patches in my walls that it looks like a World War II documentary. Or like we're a violent and abusive household, which is a more pertinent worry.

My furniture is old and worn with any number of stains. It bothers me every time I look at it and yet I'm locked in with it because of the dual challenge of finding the money to replace it and knowing anything new I buy will be quickly reduced to the same state. Until we have a good toileting solution, there doesn't seem to be much point in even trying.

When people talk about their "disgusting" homes, I want to tell them what disgusting really is. But I don't, because I don't want them to think I'm disgusting. This isn't something I live with because I'm too lazy to care or because I'm not willing to put the effort into cleaning or because I have some mental disease which prevents me. It's something I have tried (and continue to try) every option professionals and my imagination can come up with. None of it has worked.

I know there are other parents out there living with this shame. Maybe they can't invite people over because their child has everything arranged precisely and it's not worth the tantrum. Maybe they also have grown children who are not toilet-trained. Maybe their children are violent and it's simply too risky to bring anyone into their home.

A person's home is supposed to be their pride and joy. So it's a real shame when it turns into more of a family secret.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Making Summer Work

I was a little surprised when my therapist commented that she thought my kids were having the best summer ever. Personally, I thought I might be being hard on them since I'm not letting them have screentime except for two brief periods (one in the morning and one in the evening). Alex has therapy every afternoon and Nathan has camp every other week. In the mornings, we do a walk and then something outside the house. Twice a week, I have our aide come in the morning and take them somewhere fun (Cosmic or the trampoline park) so that I can write.

The activities are dictated by the "no screentime" rule. I knew that if I tried to have them sitting around the house, there would be fights and much whining and demanding. Keeping them occupied helps to keep things moving along.

Is this the best summer ever? I'm not sure. I wonder if I have them too scheduled, without the lounging free-play that I remember in the summer. On the other hand, they seem to like the activities and do well with schedule and routine, not so well with open-ended entertain yourselves without electronics time.

They do seem to be enjoying it, which is good.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

When Is Quitting Okay?

This is something which comes up frequently with Nathan. If he gets hurt or upset, he immediately wants to quit the activity and not come back. Usually I push him through to finish whatever is going on but I wonder if I'm sending the wrong message. I do think it's important not to let obstacles stop you and with depression in the family, I also think it's important to understand that sad/hurt feelings don't last forever and can stop you from doing fun stuff if you let them.

But I also want to teach him to listen to his feelings and respect them. If he is genuinely not having fun anymore at a particular event, should he really have to continue it? Especially if the event is open-ended without an actual end point or one which is far into the future.

A few years ago, we signed up Nathan for a year's membership at a karate studio. He had enjoyed the initial few lessons, the sensei had a good rapport with him and the emphasis was on having fun rather than skill performance. It sounded like a good deal all around. Halfway through the year, the sensei switched to one who was more intensive. It stopped being something which Nathan enjoyed. After a few tries (and one attempt to suggest alternatives with the sensei, which turned into a dismissive confrontation), I allowed him stop going even though we were under contract to continue paying for the rest of the year.

That one was a relatively easy decision. No one should have to put up with bullies of any stripe and I consider penalizing five year olds for not being super focused and not taking their "training" seriously to be bullying.

It's harder when it's something intended to be fun and Nathan has simply had enough. On the one hand, want to respect his feelings and not trigger tantrums. On the other hand, some of these opportunities are not things which will readily happen again. Given that he tends to be easily discouraged, I want to make sure he's giving activities and opportunities a fair try. Yet just because he can do something doesn't mean he has to.

It's a delicate balance and I'm sure I'm not getting it right and won't be getting it right every time.

Monday 3 August 2015

Marvel Universe Live (Review)

As a big mama geek, I was pretty excited about taking the kids to Marvel Universe Live over the weekend. They had a very full roster of characters, all of the Avengers (including Falcon), Spider-man, a few X-men: Wolverine, Storm and Cyclops, SHIELD's Nick Fury and Maria Hill, and what I'm sure was a new intro to most of the audience: Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to share pictures as the computer keeps crashing every time I try. (We got an accidental upgrade to Windows 10 over the weekend and I am thus far unimpressed.)

The show was exactly what I expected, mostly aimed at the 6 to 12 crowd. No in-depth character exploration or morally ambiguous situations. There were the bad guys (Loki, HYDRA, AIM and every Spider-man villain ever written) and the good guys stopped them with elaborately choreographed fights and impressive motorcycle stunts.

The performer playing Spider-man stole the show. Not only was he an impressive gymnast but he spent a great deal of the show hanging upside down from various things which is not easy. I almost hope there was more than one of him because it must be very physically demanding.

I was pleased that the female characters did not spend their time being damsels in distress. Captain Marvel and Black Widow kicked butt on par with the big boys. I know there's been a lot of controversy over Marvel not supporting the female superheroes and not including Gamora or Black Widow in the merchandise for Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers. They are promising it will change though.

But enough about gender politics in comics, back to the show.

It was a lot of fun, full of fireworks and stunts. There were a few points where the exposition got a little long-winded for their target audience but I understand the need to actually explain what was going on. They can't assume everyone follows the comics or has even seen all the movies.

Alex found it a little loud and we forgot his headphones so he spent most of the event on his aunt's lap with her hands over his ears. Nathan was absolutely fascinated. I don't think he even moved while the performers were on. Alex was (as expected) more interested in riding the elevator at the CTC. He got to ride it before the show started, during intermission and after, provided he sat quietly through the show. He only needed a few reminders.

I find with Alex and events, it's best to remind him what he needs to do to earn his reward in simple language (sit quietly for the show, then ride the elevator). We've learned not to say "show first, then elevator" because he then doesn't understand he needs to stay for the whole thing. He'll want to cut it short to get to the reward. He also won't listen if there isn't a reward so explaining that he needs to hold still and watch is a waste of breath.

I'm glad we went and I'm glad I paid the extra to get us seats near the action. I've found that makes a big difference when taking the boys to live events. They need to be able to see what's going on clearly without distractions in front.

And I'll admit that I enjoyed it thoroughly, too. Here's hoping that Marvelworld will be coming soon to a Disneyworld near us. (Hint, hint)