Archives for posts with tag: kids

Five years ago, I started a craft project with my elder son. We decided to make valentines for the kids in his preschool class. At the time, I thought it was a great way to work on his fine motor skills, something to do in the cold February evenings and there was a nice lesson in there about spending time making nice things for other people.

At the time, there were a grand total of ten kids in his class.

Fast forward to this year, where that same boy is now in a class of 23 and his younger brother wants in on the fun for his preschool class. So we made our annual trek to Michael’s to purchase an obscene amount of pink hearts, glitter, ribbon, feathers, stickers, etc.

For the past two weekends (and the week in between) we’ve been working assembly-style on the FOUR DOZEN valentines that needed to be created. We finished this afternoon and they look great. The boys are so proud and excited to take them to school next week.

I don’t know how many more years I have of my boys being psyched about making glittery pink valentines, but I hope I have a few.

 

 

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AKA: why mall trick-or-treating sucks

I’m a firm believer in having my kids trick-or-treat in the streets where we live. For me, Halloween night is more about being an active part of my neighbourhood than it is about candy. (Except Rockets – I love those!) For those of you still unsure where to spend the evening with your little princesses and superheroes, I offer up seven reasons why I think Halloween should be given the community building recognition it deserves.

1)   Meet your extended neighbours

Halloween is one of the only times in the year that it’s normal to knock on the door of an unknown person, have that person happily open the door, have a bit of a conversation and leave with everyone feeling good about it. Take advantage of Halloween to get to know the faces of the people who live nearby.

2)   Teach your kids that people are good

Kids have been taught “stranger danger,” but the truth is that most people are good people – they’re not child molestors who slip razors in Coffee Crisps. You might not know the person who lives two streets over, but that doesn’t mean they’re dangerous or bad or should be avoided. Halloween is the perfect time to make that point.

3)   Meet other parents

For parents of young children walking around the neighbourhood with their little trick-or-treaters, it’s a chance to meet other parents doing the same thing. It’s another chance to talk to your neighbours, share a laugh and help to turn a bunch of people who live in the same geographic location into a community.

4)   People like handing out candy

For lots of people, seeing kids come by in their costumes and handing out candy is the best part of Halloween. They carve their pumpkins and keep their houselights on hoping for a good turnout. It’s disappointing to go through all that effort if only a dozen kids show up. Keep not showing up and eventually people won’t make the effort, leading to dud neighbourhoods, leading to more kids going to the mall, and so on…

5)   Malls are not a community

Shopping centres host trick-or-treating events because it gets a prime demographic through the doors to spend a couple hours window-shopping. They’re billed as “safe” alternatives, giving the false impression that neighbourhood trick-or-treating somehow isn’t safe (see #2). But retail stores are not your neighbours and the people handing out candy are being paid to do so. Taking your kids to the mall instead of exploring your neighbourhood sends your kids the message that commercial entities are preferred (more trusted?) than people down your street.

6)   Better candy haul

Mall trick-or-treating is overcrowded, candy supplies run out early and to handle the mall crowds, stores often hand out single, small pieces of inexpensive candy. Lame. Neighbourhood trick-or-treating still offers the chance of the house that hands out FULL SIZE chocolate bars.

(off topic: The Switch Witch? Ew.)

 7)   Adjusting costumes for the weather is a Canadian tradition

The end of October is unpredictable. Sometimes the weather is positively lovely and poses no threat to costumes. But I do remember those bitterly cold Halloweens where costumes had to work around snowsuits and mittens. Some people claim that going to the mall means that kids get to show off their costumes they way they were intended. I’d argue that trick-or-treating in the cold is one of the iconic things about being Canadian and we should embrace it rather than hide from it.

Let me know what you think. Have I overlooked some reason why malls are a preferred choice over a neighbourhood? Does anyone have any fond, rosy childhood memories of that treat you got from your local Body Shop cashier? Or share your favourite neighbourhood trick-or-treating story.

See you in the streets!

I’ve been thinking a lot about Autism Speaks lately and why it rubs me the wrong way. There are a lot of logical reasons I don’t like the organization – questions around their finances, the lack of autistic individuals involved in the organization and how they eclipse fundraising efforts of local charities who provide much needed services to autistic individuals and their families in Edmonton and Alberta.

But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I don’t like what Autism Speaks tells the world about my son and my family. And I don’t like what Autism Speaks tells my son about himself.

My son is autistic. He is high functioning, though language delays prevent an Asperger’s diagnosis. He’s come a long way from where he was at age three, where we couldn’t seem to connect with him and 90% of his day was made up of routines. For his vast improvement, we have the combined efforts of Alberta Health Services and the Edmonton Public School Board’s Early Education program to thank. Despite what you may think, these two huge organizations worked seamlessly together to provide my son with incredible OT, PT, SLP and child psychology/psychiatry services.

Thanks to all of this, he now attends a regular school with part time help from a TA, has made friends and is a welcome part of the school community.

To be honest, I have no concerns about my son’s academic abilities. What worries me are his social skills and how he’ll navigate the emotional minefield of adolescence.

Lacking a crystal ball, I’ve spent a lot time on-line reading about the challenges autistic teenagers face. And you know what? There’s a whole culture of self-described “auties” who like the fact that they’re autistic. Yes, they wish there were some aspects of their lives that were easier, but overall, they like being quirky and focus on their strengths and abilities – they have no desire to not be autistic. They like themselves, they value themselves and are just waiting for everyone else to catch up and realize how awesome they are too.

This is what I want for my son – I want him to be proud of the person he is – all of himself, which includes his autism.  I don’t want him to feel like he needs to be “cured” and I don’t want him to feel like he’s got a sickness or a disorder. He doesn’t “suffer from autism” and he doesn’t need anyone’s pity – maybe just some understanding.

Another thing about those self-loving autistics? They HATE Autism Speaks. They hate that the organization portrays them as broken and suffering – that who they are is a tragedy. They hate that Autism Speaks blames them for their parents’ marital problems or for being a financial burden. They hate that Autism Speaks spends so much of its resources trying to find a cure for what they find unique and valuable about themselves.

I don’t know if my son will end up with that level of self-awareness about his autism. But I hope he does and I hope that he ends up liking the person he is and being proud of what he contributes to the world. Isn’t that what every parent hopes for their child?

Because of that wish, I choose to not support an organization that I believe fundamentally works against it. I’m siding with the kind of autistic people I hope my son will be.

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Disclaimer: I understand that every autistic person is different and other parents of autistic children may have a different opinion than mine. For many parents, Autism Speaks does indeed speak for them and they want to support their message and research by participating in the charity walk.

However, I would also encourage those families and their supporters to keep their autism charity dollars in their community and donate to local organizations as well. It’s these organizations that help families get needed treatment and services for their children and help improve the lives of autistic people and their families in the here and now.

Two local Edmonton organizations to consider:

Autism Society of Edmonton Area

Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton

I try to be a good mum. I think I’m possibly above average in the mothering department, but I’m not an extraordinary mum. I try to make sure they eat well, get enough sleep and stay active. I listen to their stories, try to answer all their questions, read to them, kiss them and tell them I love them.

But by far, the very best thing I have ever done for my kids is choose a great man to be their dad.

From the first moment we suspected I was pregnant, he has risen to the challenge and embraced the role with gleeful delight – nothing brings him quite as much joy, makes him laugh quite as hard as those two boys of ours.

But it’s not just that he loves being a dad, it’s that he’s exceptionally good at it.  He doesn’t just play the role of secondary parent or only do the “fun” parenting – he is wholly involved in their lives. He considers their well being in every decision. He knows how each kid prefers their eggs prepared, he knows which t-shirt is the favourite and which flavour of toothpaste is verboten. He knows the names of our older son’s classmates and how to get our younger son to eat broccoli. He volunteers for fieldtrips, leaves work early for school performances and holds wrestling matches in the family room. He’s the one they call for when a nightmare wakes them up at night.

There was a time when I wished I had a daughter, but the more I thought about it, the happier I am that we have two boys. I think the world needs more amazing fathers and I’m hopeful that my boys will learn from the best. I hope my boys grow up to be the kind of man, the kind of father that my husband is. I hope my kids are equally amazing to their kids one day.

Happy Father’s Day.

Earlier this year, my parents and husband suggested that it was a good time to take the kids for their first visit to Disneyland. The timing seemed good – both boys were tall enough to go on most of the rides, we all needed some warm weather and sunshine and my older son’s birthday was coming up.

But I initially resisted the idea of going on only a few weeks’ notice. I wanted to push it off until the fall so I had more time to plan. I had done a case study on Disney in the past, and the thing that stuck with me was the fact that a Disney vacation was something that people planned well in advance and there was a lot of advice to be had out there about how to maximize the experience. I knew that there were guidebooks and software programs and chat rooms and iPhone apps all dedicated to planning out a Disney vacation with military precision. The thought of having to do that level of planning in such a short amount of time made me feel a bit panicked.

And then, when I Googled “lazy parents’ guide to Disneyland” and got exactly ZERO hits, I knew I was screwed.

Everyone thought I was being ridiculous, and in some way, I knew I was too, but I couldn’t figure out why I was so resistant.

Until it finally dawned on me that I was putting myself under far too much pressure to give my kids THE MOST PERFECT DISNEY EXPERIENCE. Like this was my only shot at getting it right, and if I fell short on any single part of the trip, I would ruin their childhood.

Okay, simmer down there, crazy lady.

The truth is, if I told my kids we were taking a special trip to one of the bridges in the river valley, they’d be excited. We could take a plane ride to anywhere and it would blow their minds.  This didn’t need to be our one and only Disney trip, we didn’t have to reach some mythical level of perfection, we just wanted to have a few days of fun.

So with some much appreciated help from my parents, the trip was planned and all I had to do was make sure I could get the time off work. I did end up getting a guidebook at the last minute that helped explain some of the finer details, but by the time I started reading it, I was already on the plane.

The truth is, the reason there’s no “Lazy Parents’ Guide to Disneyland” is that the whole experience is so easy. Get up, get dressed, go on rides, eat when you’re hungry, be prepared to stand in line sometimes, head back to the hotel when you’re tired. Done.

If you asked me, I could give you half a dozen tips to make the most out of a trip to Disneyland, but I realized that “getting the most out of it” wasn’t the point. It was about spending time as a family, creating memories, having a blast.

And on those points, I’d say it was perfect.

Everyone is busy.

I’m no different that millions of other working mums who are trying to balance a number of different roles and trying to be good at all of them.

What makes me incredibly lucky is the support that I have. When people ask me how I balance everything, I say, “I married well.” By that I mean that I married someone who is a true partner – a husband who actually does his share (if not more) of the house and child duties. It’s an arrangement that I’ve found to be incredibly rare (which is another post for another time).

But this post isn’t about my great husband, it’s about my parents who have been really great about helping my family in small, but incredibly helpful and meaningful ways.

A sample of their recent efforts:

  • Taking both kids to their swimming lessons on the weekend
  • Taking my elder son to skiing lessons once a week
  • Shopping for and delivering pre-made meals, ready for the freezer
  • Pre-chopping fresh veggies and cubed, raw meat for easy meal prep
  • For our upcoming family vacation, they did the research and made ALL the arrangements, including taking my kids for passport photos and standing in line at Canada Place to submit the applications

We reimburse them for their purchases, so the only thing these efforts cost them is time and a bit of gas.

None of these are earth-shattering efforts, especially for two healthy, active, semi-retired people. But what they are is insightful. My parents, without me asking, have identified what would be most helpful and they do it.

It has made a world of difference for us. No more hastily thrown together junky meals served with a glass of V8 juice and a hope that it’s close to nutritious. It means my kids can participate in activities they enjoy without my time-crunch stress. It means on Saturdays we have 90 minutes of kid-free time to organize paperwork, fold laundry, tidy up, or just sit in blissful silence.

And as a bonus, my kids are building great memories with their grandparents who bring them to fun activities and feed them Doritos afterwards.

I think a lot of modern career women with families feel this pressure to do it all and be exceptional at it all. But it’s impossible – no person can live up to that kind of pressure for a sustained period of time. You need help. And when that help comes in a pitch-perfect package, accept it with the realization that getting help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you (and yours) so much stronger.

Mum and Dad, thank you.

Besides finally starting to blog, I do have other resolutions for 2011:

1) Run a half marathon

Training has informally started with my trusty running partner, J.

2) Work less, volunteer more

This is still somewhat nebulous, but I want to do more than just show up at events.

3) Plant a vegetable garden

New house, new backyard with a vegetable plot just waiting for me (and my mum) to attack. Swiss chard, beets, tomatoes, carrots, beans, herbs, tomatoes… what else?

4) Take the kids on a great vacation

It might very well be the year of the mouse.

5) Make that public presentation

I’ve had a great idea rolling around in my head for a few months. Time to knuckle down and make it something workable.

6) Learn my new camera, and take more photos

Hoping this new blog will help.