Riding B#@$%

The motorcycle has always been fun for me, but that was before we were responsible for 3 little kids. Everything changes with kids, and one big change is the way I view the world. I used to love riding, I was proud of getting my bike license and looked forward to getting on the bike.

Now the idea of leaving our kids both on the back of the same motorcycle can be terrifying. If you have ever been on a bike you know the feeling of being exposed. No one gets on and rides and doesn’t know the risks, accidents can and do happen.

Plus before kids I owned and rode my own bike, when I took on the new title of Mom I decided to sell the bike knowing it might be a while before we would get out enough to make it worthwhile. This has meant when we do get out for a ride I’m on the back. Now for those of you that know me it might not come as a surprise that I like to be in control. Riding on the back means I give up my control and trust in my driver.

Sunday was a planned ride with a group of our friends and family. A friend had told us about the Bikers for Autism group and their Shuck It Forward Event and we had got together a group for a fun day out for a great cause. Obviously this event was near and dear to our hearts as we have a son with Autism. Without fundraisers like this, public education initiatives and amazing supports and therapy I am not sure where we would be as a family or how well Rowen would have grown over this last year and a half.

Here is the really cool thing, because we have such amazing supports in place and Rowen has worked so hard we are able to take date days out and not worry about how our kids (particularly Row) will do. Plus our day doesn’t revolve around discussing the future of our kids or our concerns about them. We can truly go out and enjoy ourselves knowing our kids are safe and happy and when we get home they will all be there.

Despite all this it doesn’t mean I just hop on the bike and let my hair down without a care in the world. As we were making our way through the tunnel and I was focusing on my music and breathing I realized that I needed to relax or my nervous energy would impact Fraser, who was riding with a passenger, driving downtown to a place we had never been and leading a group of others bikers. So I decided to trust in my partner, breath and listen to the music, slow my mind down and just enjoy the moment.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our feelings or emotions we can miss what is right in front of us. In front of me was a beautiful blue sky, snow capped mountains, alone time with my hubby and good friends plus yummy food and great drinks at a beautiful patio downtown. It is so easy to get caught up or be rushing to whatever is next to miss the right now. As I near my 35th year around the sun I am trying to find ways to slow moments down and enjoy this time right now. I am trying not to stress when we are late or things didn’t go as planned.

It’s funny how hard and easy this idea can be. It got me thinking about parenthood and even marriage and learning to trust in each other. Much like riding on the back of the motorcycle and trusting Fraser to drive while he trusted me to co-pilot and google map our route, we are learning to trust each other in parenthood. It is a constant struggle with wanting control over every decision and knowing how important it is for my sanity and for the greater good of our whole family to share these decisions, responsibilities and control of parenthood with my husband.

Before I turned 30 learning to ride a motorcycles was on my “30 before 30” List and was a challenge I set for myself. I realize I still love it but the challenge is different now that we are parents… and as I near 35, getting closer to 40 I start to think about things I want to accomplish before my next decade approaches. I realize parenting is a big challenge, and just when you think you might have got a handle on something a new thing pops up… my kids are a constant challenge. So my biggest goal is to continue to work together with Fraser, trust in each other and share our responsibilities and know that not every day will be easy or perfect but if we slow down and take time to enjoy it we might surprise ourselves. To continue to check in with our feelings to help keep each other calm but also to help teach our kids how to manage our emotions.

I think my biggest lesson is every day is different and we might feel like we got it one day and the next day might be a huge struggle, that is human nature and no one is perfect. Plus we have a fresh start anytime we want it, so don’t let one action define your whole path! It’s okay to ride B#$@& sometimes, I don’t always have to be the driver. I’m gonna try to take time and enjoy the scenery!

90,000 Reasons to be Passionate about your Work.

I believe in doing things with passion. I also believe the people you surround yourself with are reflections of you and should share some of your beliefs or goals. So, although my friends and family may not all have the same background, parenting styles, schedules, money management, political beliefs I think we share some common values.

What ties me to my people? I think honesty and integrity, selflessness and caring for others, family and respect especially in regards to prioritizing people and experiences over stuff are just some of the values that bond my friendships with people.

That being said over the last little bit I have noticed a common trait in my girlfriends that has not only left me feeling fairly inspired but super proud of them and all their accomplishments! My tribe is one of diverse careers, ranging from entrepreneurs, government employees, corporate boss babes to stay at home moms and more. Some even wear more than one of these hats and do it with ease making it look much easier than I know it is. I have discovered what I think it is that makes them so inspiring and so good at their jobs and its Passion!

I am lucky enough to have the full time job of CEO of the Farlow House. This means I manage 3 kids schedules and 1 busy longshoremen’s finances, household, social calendar and more. In addition this full time gig I also have been working part time and sporadically at my girlfriends family farm Emma Lea. I love being at the farm and getting to see everything they do as well as meet new people and share this special place with the community. It is a pretty great job and one I totally value. Last year we were asked to take 40 locals on a tour of the farm and tell a little bit about what we do. Katie (my boss, good friend and one of the farmers) was phenomenal at this. She blew me away with her ability to simplify something very complex and explain in in such a condensed version, within half an hour, people could really get a feel for how special and how much work and love goes into the farm. Not only did I learn some new things about how the farm runs and what cool voluntary programs we participate in as a member of the farming community, I also got to see my boss and friend show and share her passion for the farm and her job. I hate calling it her job because when you hear her speak it doesn’t sound like a job at all but more of a privilege and a choice. One thing that makes the farm unique to me and became evident with Kates tour was how the farm, although a business with a bottom line, was also a place that wanted to be known for employing people fairly and with integrity, treating animals ethically, and contributing to a greater good. I think when businesses or people go above and beyond what is expected and make decisions with more than just money in mind it is really something special.

I left the farm tours and started to think about other friends and their careers, does everyone do such amazing things… Then later I was out getting the kids haircut by our hairstylist, as well as good friend and I saw more passion for a job. I know she loves what she does and she is great at it (you just have to search the community facebook pages and hear all the recommendations or watch her in the salon to know). The thing is getting your hair cut can be emotional for lots of people. My son has ASD and sometimes struggles to sit in the chair (as do many kids) and she does every cut with patience and love. Plus she knows just how to turn a crappy day into a great one and help transform my mama pony into a beautiful hairstyle worthy of the magazines. She is a hard working mom herself, yet still manages to volunteer her time and talents whenever she can for the many charity events her salon takes place in including fundraisers out at Emma Lea. She is continually working towards bettering herself with workshops and training and recently advanced to a higher level of stylist. This girl cuts hair with passion and style all her own and being one of my youngest friends (only by a few years) she does it with so much confidence and class for someone who just turned 30. She is super passionate and super inspiring in her work life, reminding me that you can be a busy and great mom still working on building and advancing a career all your own. It is a great reminder and example.

I am super lucky to have at least a dozen examples like this of friends and family who inspire with their careers and I think that is something super special. The reality is most people have to work, and most people spend a lot of time over their lifetime at their jobs. With that in mind shouldn’t we have some passion in what we do and enjoy our time at our job. I think it is unrealistic to say you will always love your job or only do things you can do with passion because sometimes a job is a job and we do what we have to do. But hopefully it is short term while you work towards something you love. If you are like us and have kids I think there is no better example to show then your kids seeing and hearing about your job in a positive light. Imagine facing a future knowing you will have to enter a workforce and hearing your parents talking with dislike about their own careers.

I think of one of my friends who has three kids like us and not only went back to school while having kids but also started her own home based business as a mortgage broker. It meant leaving a very reliable and good job for something risky and unsure. She is super passionate and continually challenging herself and building her business. As hard as I see it is for her working from home with three little kids she is setting such a great example for her girls, and she definitely is a good example of a career woman wearing many hats… I mean she manages her own business but also raises three beautiful girls, did I mention she is a Sparks leader? Like this lady knows no limits.

Like I said the list goes on and on, we are so fortunate to have many inspiring friends. I feel incredibly blessed to have at least a dozen or more examples of friends and family who have passion for their careers and excel at their jobs. It is not often you get to see friends and family in their workplace, doing their magic but if you take time to ask about work and what they do you might be surprised at the answers (good or bad) and you might be surprised at the passion people can have for sometimes overlooked jobs.

My sister works for Children’s, Women’s and VGH Hospitals and she has the coolest job but it isn’t one easily explained or one that I can even understand. She encourages and supports parents and patients to get informed and become active in making their healthcare decisions. To hear her speak about her job and even the learning and stats she does on some really tough illnesses like mental health and cancer in kids is really amazing. She is always doing extra learning, courses or acting on boards to learn more in her field and be a better support to her patients, plus she is enthusiastic and passionate about what she does.

I think so often we think to be passionate you need to have a glamorous or cool job or job title but I completely disagree, I think its about attitude and the way you share your stories. The people who inspire me are enthusiastic, always learning, knowledgeable in their fields and most important they show passion for whatever it is they are doing.

I hope our kids can see us do our jobs with passion and enthusiasm and that whatever they decide to do in this lifetime it is something they enjoy doing. The best thing I think we can do to encourage that is to set the examples ourselves. So, if you are getting ready to go to bed tonight and setting your alarm to get up and go to a job you feel less than thrilled to have may be its time to ask yourself what would make it better? How can you light a little fire and get a little excitement to get up and go?

Living a life we love, managing stress and coping with anxiety

So, my first 30 years were the years I didn’t know how to manage my stress. I often felt overwhelmed, suffered from chronic headaches as well as feelings of depression and anxiety. Everything from relationships to money to work to any sort of responsibility would be stressful for me.

Today, I rarely get a headache and now instead of having them caused by emotional stress they are usually brought on by forgetting to eat, too much sun and not enough water or on occasion cheap wine or one too many drinks!

I have recently been really wondering what was so stressful before that isn’t so stressful now? Like seriously I am now responsible for three tiny humans, I should be more stressed. I am realizing though, with life experience you gain confidence, hopefully some coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress and of course the ability to recognize and ask for help.

I think there are a few things for me that lead to stress and the feeling of being out of control.

  • Overwhelm. Always saying yes to everything. With the best intentions but I struggled to set realistic goals.
  • Avoidance. Ignoring issues past or present. Not communicating and afraid to make changes. Avoiding confrontation or difficult conversations.
  • Caring too much about appearances and what others think, instead of prioritizing myself. Doing things to make others happy instead of being true to myself.

I think often people see my blog or even a picture I post or an instagram story and are happy to believe that my life is pretty good and I have it really easy. I agree my life is really good, but a really good life still takes hard work and compromise and everything comes with a price tag. As for having it easy, I think grass is always greener on the other side. We have chosen to try and see the bright side and the best in our situation. It doesn’t always work, but for the most part I think we have created a life we are happy with and really are living our best life.

I have been told “you make it look all sunshine and butterflies”. It has really got me thinking, and it has reminded me that I shouldn’t care what other people think. This is so much easier said then done. It is far from sunshine and butterflies we have lots of challenging moments. However it also has got me thinking about what has changed in my life that I feel less stress than I ever did. The truth is I don’t believe anyone lives a stress free life however I do believe that it is all in how we deal with our stress and choose to live our lives that impact our quality of life.

For me personally a lot of my typical stresses are gone but a lot are gone because of choices and actions I took.

Schedule. First I make a big effort at using our calendar and scheduling in everyone’s stuff (Fraser’s ball, Rowens ABA, kids activities, parties, family social stuff, work, etc). Then when things come up we can check the calendar and try to avoid over scheduling. This sometimes means saying no or prioritizing. It has taken us a while to get to this point but I found we were so busy some days or weeks running from thing to thing that no one was having any fun and I was super stressed. We like to be flexible and plan as we go but having a bit of a schedule to work from has really helped to alleviate stress. This has also helped us to see improvements in the kids behaviour. When they are over scheduled we see more behaviours that we don’t love, which is a good sign to slow things down or take a day off. I also have realized that although I use a calendar and plan ahead, on a busy week it is best to take one day at a time. That has been a huge stress reliever.

Rituals. These are hard to think of but they are things we do to keep peace and order. They feel good to everyone because we know what to expect and they are calming. I have worked really hard at trying to not only have rituals with the kids but for myself. Prior to kids Fraser and I loved being sporadic but now with three kids we see the benefits to having some routine and rituals in our life. For me these rituals include things like journaling, moon circles, using oils, meditation, taking time to work on the farm once a week and girls nights. For the kids some things are our bedtime rituals (bath, reading, talking about our day and what is happening tomorrow, etc), baking with the kids and even our dance parties (which weren’t always popular with Rowen but we found a way to include him). I think these help to feel safe, in control and just regroup without surprises or unknown.

***Side Bar on rituals is that I have just established a plan with the help of my naturopath of a few things to do to try and get back on track and one of her suggestions was setting an hour, 10pm-11pm, where I do the same things every night to prepare for bed. Similar to how we do for our kids bedtime. I love this reminder of how important these rituals are!

Setting Boundaries. This has been something that has been difficult and caused some upset amongst some family but we are learning to set our boundaries. What I am learning about boundaries is that even workplaces and friendships can benefit from boundaries. I love knowing what other people expect and want and when things are clear it eliminates a lot of stress. Setting boundaries often can avoid feeling like you are being taken advantage of or even getting into awkward or difficult situations. Some examples for us of boundaries that were difficult to set but helped eliminate stress were things like limiting our visitors every time we had a new baby, declining some Christmas family activities because it was overwhelming (limiting how much we do right around the holiday), trying to leave Sunday as a family day, and really being clear about how we like the kids being treated and raised.

Practice Self Care. I am really proud of how well Fraser respects this and is really good at acknowledging when I need some me time. He will often notice if I am nearing a breaking point and suggest I go out for some solo time. He also is good at taking time to go work on a project solo or go to ball, just be on his own. I wouldn’t have ever believed this would take persuasion as I have always been great at self care. However once you have kids things change it is almost like I feel guilty sometimes taking time for me. I do think the more you practice self care the easier it gets because you realize you come back refreshed and ready to take more on!

Self care for me is often taking time away from the family and doing some of my rituals. Self care is even something as simple as working outside of the house, its funny to say that but having three young kiddos has meant we made the choice to have me at home. It was a team decision and a lot of it was it just made financial sense but it was also logistically for the lifestyle we wanted (kids activities, Fraser and I being able to see each other, parent participation in things, etc) that it made sense for us. As nice as it is that I am able to stay at home we both know it would be nice if I could work a little, unfortunately working a little means hiring some more help, having Fraser help out a bit and just more scheduling… I realize that self care is a priority and we make it work but it is a bit of work to take the time for me.

I think that you do not have to eat the same meals every Monday night, do the same thing every Tuesday morning, etc to create routines in your life. I know my resistance to creating these healthy habits was loosing spontaneity but that isn’t true at all. These are just ways to help manage stress and anxiety. Everyone is different and sometimes it takes a bit to figure out what will work for you but I encourage you to try. Often we know what we need to do but we just need a push to get there so whatever that push looks like for you… maybe it’s having an accountability partner, hiring a coach, seeing your naturopath or maybe its as simple as a checklist. Whatever it looks like take the time to do it! Living with less stress and anxiety usually means you get to live with a whole lot more of other stuff!

Fill your Bucket First

Do you believe in syncronicity? I do. I love how many reoccurring themes I can find when I look for them in my life. The last little bit has been busy, but really nothing different from our normal routine of chaos. I attended two different workshops through the farm, my kids have been on Spring Break, weather is finally starting to warm up, we had a triple baptism for our three kiddos, my youngest daughters birthday party and a family friends funeral just to name a few things. During all these things I noticed a common message, and I think it is important so I thought I would share.

I feel like it is hard to sum up this overall message into one idea but rather a broader goal of living in todays modern world and dealing with all the pressures and obligations. It is about living with anxiety and stress and how you can cope with it. Although the times are different from “when I grew up”. The principles from when we were being raised and from our parents childhood on “how to be happy” have never really changed. If we go back to some of the basics and make time in our busy schedules we might be surprised the impact it would have on our lives. The messages I keep hearing in all the areas of my life are similar and it is go back to the basics, make time and spend energy on the real important stuff and the rest will follow.

My favourite take away was from one of the speakers at a Summit I attended for young farmers. The speaker was a doctor and was speaking on mental health. His message was simple, it was that we all want balance in our lives and stress that our demands outweigh our resources. We don’t have the time and energy to meet all our demands but instead of removing every demand, which isn’t realistic always, we should add things that give us energy. We are so quick to take away the stuff that gives us our energy, it is easy to say we do not have time to eat well, exercise or even sleep but how much more productive are we when we get a good nights sleep.

He even went so far as to compare stats of what our parents and grandparents lives were like. Every decade the human populations looses an hour of sleep so back in the day my Great Grandparents slept an average of 10 hours a night, we are currently at about 6.5 hours per night. Did you know that in Canada approx 25% of meals are eaten in our vehicles and the average length of dinner is 15 minutes compared to our Grandparents who’s meals lasted about 1 hour and 15 minutes. These stats were surprising to me, but not unbelievable.

I feel like it is sad to think that although many things have hugely improved with evolution some things have gone the opposite direction. With all the advancements you would think we should have more free time! It seems like people have less and less time to just enjoy their lives, families, food and all the fun stuff. So here was his list of 10 S’ to help make you happier. The idea of these things is that they have all been shown to increase serotonin and we all know that low serotonin is linked to depression and serotonin levels help to regulate mood. These aren’t opinions but backed by science, I did feel like it was kinda of a cool list.

  • SUCCESS| Think back to a time you were successful or felt successful. Just remembering a successful time makes your serotonin levels increase.
  • SUN| It’s here, so get outside and don’t waste it.
  • SLEEP| Deep sleep, the hours before midnight. Set yourself an alarm and go to bed.
  • SMILING| For real you get a surge of serotonin just by smiling.
  • SPORTS| Doesn’t matter what you do or how good at it you are, just get your heart rate going.
  • SOCIAL| See your friends, hang out in a group. Socialize.
  • STEAK| Eat a high fat diet to feed your brain. The brain is made of 80% fat and 10% protein, feed your brain.
  • SAND| Contact with the earth, feet in sand or soil is grounding and good for you.
  • SEX| You don’t even want to know the stats on this one, it’s sad!
  • SPIRITUALITY| Again doesn’t matter what spirituality just that you have it and you practice it. Practice prayers and gratitude. Gives you meaning and purpose.

Seems simple but I know it isn’t. Do I think if you practice all of this you would never feel sad? No, absolutely not. I do think this idea of taking time to do the things that bring you happiness and fill your bucket is super important. I also think it is what gives you the energy to then be able to face the rest of your life.

I always say to my husband we need to put our own oxygen masks on first before we can help anyone else, when the presenter showed that slide and used that same example I couldn’t believe it. I actually took a pic and sent to my husband right away.

As a mom you learn selflessness and putting others needs before your own like you have never known. However it is easy to use this as an excuse to why you aren’t taking care of yourself. You are not a bad mom, partner, daughter, sister or friend if you put yourself first. Most times it makes you a better mom, partner, daughter, sister and friend. I know anytime I am truly taking care of myself I end up with more energy to do the other stuff I want to do.

Weird to think after two weeks of busy Spring Break and lots of fun with my husband and three kids I am starting off back to school with a bit more enthusiasm and energy. Usually after two busy weeks I am burnt out and exhausted. I think I am trying to keep these reminders and lessons fresh in my mind and practice them daily.

The funeral we recently attended was for a longtime family friend who I have known since childhood. Although the circumstances and situation was heart breaking and I truly believe it is hard to find any good to a loss of life when someone is so young the one thing I loved hearing about was how no matter what he took the time to make others feel heard and important. He went out of his way to do little things for people. I think it was a reminder when your time comes the most remarkable thing you can do is have left this Earth a little better.

I guess we have been spending a little more time than usual at Church as we also recently had all three kids Baptized (that’s a whole other blog post…). Before we could do the Baptism Fraser and I had to attend a nighttime class of sorts to go over the purpose of Baptism and a little 101 on the Catholic faith. It was a good refresher for me and maybe a bit of an eye opener for Fraser but it also was nice to have a little reminder of what Faith can do for people. The priests chat with us was really a reminder that raising kids with a community who has Faith can give you greater meaning to things and can help guide you to live a good ethical life without placing so much importance on material things but instead on the greater good. It just all tied in for me with having just heard that spirituality is important, having experienced a death recently and also a birth in our family and really just wanting to raise good kids. I don’t just mean well behaved but kids who care, and who show others empathy and respect.

So, in summary I am going froward with a grateful heart for all the amazing things and people we have in our lives but also with the reminder of how important it is to take care of myself and make sure to fill my bucket. When I do those things that make me feel whole and good and fulfilled then I can share with others and sharing with others can be as simple as engaging in a meaningful conversation and showing someone you heard them, they matter and you care.

Clean Eating (with dirty kids)

Over a year ago we embarked on a lifestyle change and for the first month we followed a plan of strict clean eating. It was the start of some major changes in our house and it was amazing. After just 30 days not only had we both physically changed (by loosing some significant weight) but we also had huge emotional changes, we both had more energy, less mood swings, and naturally started making good changes and choices regarding balance with our lifestyle. We started to make exercise a priority and included activity in our week.

I no longer had any headaches, my stomach was for the first time relatively flat (I mean in comparison to what it had been, basically lost the bloated feeling) and my head felt clear (I mean as “clear” as it can be with three kids running circles around me).

Slowly over the last year we have fallen back in to some old habits and veered from our original plan. Some things were not feasible (or we have chosen not to make them a priority) for the long term for many reasons among them being limited resources (time and money being the big ones).

What started out as exciting, things like making time for meal prep, planning, exercise, etc, became all consuming of our time and life seemed like we were struggling to fit everything else in. Our kids have since started activities plus in the last little bit my son has started a therapy program which involves a lot more driving and time away. Slowly our homemade goodness turned to “healthy” premade/ processed convenience food.

Some of the changes we made were easy to stick to but unfortunately over time we have slipped with others and I have noticed my old “symptoms” coming back. Headaches, upset stomach, bloating and always feeling drained, no energy.

I went to the doctor, she ran blood tests (which showed nothing terrible) and I tried to change a few things but nothing has made as big of a difference as this last week when I started to go back to a more clean diet. All of a sudden I am feeling a lot better again. It has had me re-evaluating our meal planning and trying to determine how to balance clean eating with a busy family, mainly not spending my whole day meal planning, meal prepping, doing dishes and repeating.

SO, here are my clean eating ideas. I am hoping if I can stick to these basic guidelines it will help us make more lasting changes towards a healthy diet and happy bodies!

PLAN & PREPARE.

Take the time twice a week (my goal is Sundays and Wednesdays) to clean and cut up veggies and fruit, pre cook chicken, marinate any meat or any other prep work I can do ahead. Also for us snacks are important, so taking the time to bake goodies that I know are “healthy” but also yummy.

SHOP LOCAL SHOP SEASONAL

One great way to budget and still stay healthy is shop local farmers market with local produce. We are coming into our favourite time of year, berry season! We are so fortunate to live where we do, just this weekend I went out and got a flat of local strawberries (breakfast- smoothies, yogurt parfaits, lunch- strawberry spinach salad, dessert- strawberry shortcakes) and we just bought two cases of BC Prawns from a local fishermen. These will last us until next year and although we try to avoid doing too much frozen some of the things that are seasonal like fish and berries we do buy and freeze.

These are some of our favourite local places.

BE YOUR OWN FAST FOOD

One big thing that I notice about our “clean eating” is avoiding any processed or pre packaged food which is tough to do when your busy and just want fast! But making salad dressing or dips like hummus or even your marinades all on the same day saves you time through out the week. I also will make and freeze portions of things like soup or muffins that can be easily taken out for a quick snack or meal. One goal we have is to do a little more canning. Last year we canned potatoes and although we try not to eat potatoes that often when we do it is so nice to drain and just fry up our tasty pre-seasoned and cooked potatoes. Sometimes stuff like canning seems like a lot of work and money at the beginning but in the long run it saves you on both!

ROUND UP THE TROOPS

In our house everyone loves being in the kitchen (well maybe with the exception of me). So I try to include the kids in meal prepping (they love to sit and “chop”, measure, mix, etc). This can also be time consuming and a lot messier than solo cooking but I do think the benefits outweigh the mess! The kids love it and are a lot more invested in trying or eating if they have helped. Plus they are so proud to share whatever they have made with anyone willing or brave enough to sample:)

SSWAPS AND SWITCHES

We have also made some choices to not have certain ingredients in our house. So these are changes that have stuck since our initial change in diet and have stuck. At first I guess they seemed extreme or drastic but in reality these really were easy changes.

We do not have white flour or white sugar. We have replaced our white flour with a lot of different flours including almond flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour and spelt flour. This was a gradual change and we unfortunately had a case of moths who invaded our baking cupboard and I ended up having to throw everything away. I have just slowly bought the flours as I need them for recipes and really find that it is better to have in smaller quantities and buy fresh as you need. Sugar is a lot harder for me as I am a sugar and dessert freak! But I was surprised at how easy and how many natural alternatives they have so we now stick with honey, maple syrup and raw cane sugar.

One other change I made was pastas, I have switched to all brown rice pastas and am surprised at some of the good alternatives I have been able to find.

Our last big switch was with anything premade (sauces, marinades, etc). This was actually pretty easy for me but the rest of my family had a tougher time. I would like to say we have removed ketchup from our house but we have not (I try to avoid it) but the kids and Fraser still love it. However we do simplify our sauces and opt to stock Tamarind, Braggs Soy Sauce, Greek yogurt, Chili Paste, coconut milk, olive oil and a few other essentials so we can mostly try to make our own marinades and dressings.

EACH DAY IS A NEW DAY

The last really important thing is a mind set, we do go to McDonalds (but now we usually just get for the kids and try to go to White Spot instead of the Golden Arches if we want take out), I buy processed food, we eat white flour baking (because we don’t live in a bubble and Nan bakes with it) and we frequent the Delta Bakery because everyone loves donuts and its a great bribe. I will rarely say no to an Emma’s Ice Cream Sundae. We are far from perfect but what I do know is each day is a new day and we get to start all over with our choices. So maybe we treat ourselves on Tuesday but Wednesday we try to stay true to the plan. I am working on finding a balance of how I want us to eat but also what is realistic and how we do eat. Plus we are social and I never want to make other people feel bad about how they eat or go to special trouble. Everything is about balance and if we can aim to do our clean eating 80% of the time I will be super happy!!!

So the reason I wanted to write about it is because sharing helps me to be accountable but also because I know a lot of you are families and struggle to stay healthy and make good choices while still being practical. SHARE with me your successes and things that work for you! We have our go to recipes and staple grocery items but I would love to hear from other families and find out how they manage meal planning, prep and staying healthy.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from some of you!

Where we have been the last two months.

Lately I have been struggling with staying focused enough to sit down and write, staying awake while writing and finding a topic that I want to write about. I sit down and start to type and my mind is in a million places, I am tired and I have too much to say so I stop. However I have had one thing that has taken up a bit more of my time recently and that is Autism and learning about how it works and what our family is doing to make it a normal part of our lives.

Rowen my son was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in February and since then we have started to receive Autism Funding from the government and hired a BCBA to start an ABA program as well as an OT. Mind spinning yet? Mine sure was, all these abbreviations and how these programs work and how I use funding is all very new to me so I thought for those who are in similar situations or for those interested in what is happening in our life I would try to explain some of it and what I know and have learnt so far. I hope it is mostly correct… Lol, I am still learning and some of this is complicated to me.

GETTING A DIAGNOSIS

So first getting a diagnosis. For us this came as a surprise. Rowen seemed like a Neuro Typical (NT) child (this is one of those abbreviations that I didn’t know but I now see lots in chat groups with ASD parents).

Rowen was a little rough with his toys, had a few quirks (things like he would tense up and apply pressure to the point of sweating). But we kinda wrote it off as shy and unique, we figured he takes after his dad and possibly would find out he has ADHD. Then we started preschool and the transition didn’t go as smooth as we had hoped. By November the teachers had similiar concerns to me with some additions of things I hadn’t noticed.

So, the steps for us to getting a diagnosis looked like this:

1) Referral from family Doctor to a paediatrician.

I am not sure exactly how it all works but I believe every child is entitled to have a paediatrician but you need a referral. Both Rowen and Grace started out with a few minor complications so they had paediatricians from birth but Eleanor has never had one. What I did learn though is even though Rowen already had a Paediatrician to have a full developmental check up I needed a new referral. Each time you go into your Paediatrician you have a full 6 months before you need a new referral but for each different issue/ illness/ disorder/ etc you need a new referral. Seems like a lot of paperwork and a bit of a waste of time but it has to do with the way doctors are paid and the funding, etc.

2) Visit Paediatrician and have a list of your concerns as well as any other “professional” opinions.

In our case I had an initial visit and was kinda brushed off as my concerns seemed like typical toddler troubles. The next week when I went back in with a list of concerns from the preschool teachers it was taken very differently. I think it makes a difference to have a few opinions and observations not just the parent.

3) Have paediatrician refer you to Public or Private Assessment and do Assessment.

So here is where it gets interesting, there are two types of assessments. I believe the process is the same with both but we went the private route and never even considered the public so I am speaking from a purely private perspective.

In BC the government will cover your child to be assessed, but there is a wait list for this assessment. When we were referred they were guessing the wait list was a year but I was hearing lots of feedback that people waited the year and then waited up to 6 months more so totally 12-18 months. The issue with this is that children under 6 who get a diagnosis with this assessment receive $22,000 a year to be applied towards therapies and some equipment. So, beyond the fact that I wasn’t willing to wait to hear what an experts opinion was on my son it made no financial sense to me because once your child turns 6 the funding becomes $6000 a year and Rowen was 3 years old and I wanted to receive as much money as we could.

The other option was a private assessment. These assessments consist of a Psychologist, Paediatrician and Speech & Language Pathologist doing three different sets of evaluations. For us it included parent interviews, child observations and a few different standardized tests. At the end of it all each professional gives a written report of their findings as well as a diagnosis (or not). We were referred by our paediatrician to Monarch House in Burnaby. I didn’t do much research besides looking up Monarch House and then going in for a complimentary consultation. I think the consultation is a great starting place and was very thankful for that. I liked all the professionals we had and appreciated their opinions and had no issues with Monarch House. Since completing the assessments I have now seen how many options for private assessments there are and have seen some negative feedback about Monarch. I have also heard they are the most expensive private assessments and if money was a concern than maybe I would suggest looking around. In totally it was about $3500- 4000 for his Assessment. It consisted of one consultation appointment that Rowen and myself went to and then three days of actual testing.

We were told at the last day of assessment that Rowen would have an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Diagnosis and they would follow up in 1-2 weeks with all the official paperwork and next steps.

4) Apply for Funding

Next step was contacting your local Ministry of Child and Family Services Office. They will ask you to email or send in copies of your three reports from Psychologist, Speech and Paediatrician as well as a signed copy of the Autism Application. I think that was it but my social worker from the Ministry was great at listing all the things I needed to send in and your funding starts the month you apply so if you apply March 20th the funding should be good as of March 1st. Funding years are child specific and based on the date of your child’s birthday. This will all be explained to you in your meeting with your social worker. Once your funding is accepted you are mailed a copy to sign and mail back to Victoria. Then you can spend! You are responsible for tracking and decided the amounts you request to be put aside for each therapy or service provider.

5) SPEND WISELY

So after the diagnosis and funding is all in place things get hard! This was by far the most overwhelming and difficult part for us. I think the thing is it is all new to us and there are so many different programs and therapies we would like to try. There are many challenges I have faced with trying to make a decision on what is best for Rowen while still considering our whole family life. Reality and waitlists are some of these challenges.

Reality is one thing, where are they located and can I physically commit to driving and commuting to programs plus is it fair to the rest of our family (like we cannot spend all our time, energy and money on one child’s programs at the cost of our other two kids).

Waitlists are another challenge. Maybe you find some programs you want to do but can you get in? And does the times they have available work for your family.

For us we have had no prior supports from any professionals so it is all new and had no where to start for guidance or recommendations. We had heard and been told you will want a BC and you will want to do ABA, we didn’t even know what that meant.

My biggest suggestions is ask a million questions, rely on feedback and word of mouth suggestions from friends, family and other parents. But also know that no two kids or two families are the same so what works for one may be very different for another.

THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED

So what have we learned this far…

ABA is Applied Behaviour Analysis is a theory and way of teaching. It uses analysis of how people learn behaviour and applies them to teach or train behaviours we want, or even to stop behaviours we don’t want. One example is encouraging behaviours by using positive reinforcement. This is simplified and my interpretation of ABA, but there are lots of articles and information on ABA as well as different approaches.

Not every ABA program is the same. Some have more flexibility and all have different policies.

Ask questions like

  • Can you cancel the program at any time or is there a policy for notice (like you must give 30 days notice)?
  • How long have your BI’s been with the program? What kind of staff turn over do they have?
  • What happens when your child is sick, for holidays or vacation time?
  • Do they allow you to pack a snack or lunch?
  • Do they work together with other programs? ABA, OT and Speech. Can you add on extra of any of these that your child may be needing?

For us we ended up following up on a friends referral to check out Megan MacKay and I am so thankful we did. Rowen has started ABA just twice a week to start at Bounding Higher. His BI is a male which I thought was pretty cool, and seems to have already developed a really great relationship. I really love their space (its big and bright and clean), I like the way each child is one on one but they do have some interactions with the other kids. Plus they are willing to work together with the OT Program at Little Buddies, which is where he starts in May once a week for an hour before his ABA.

All of our therapies are located in Richmond at the Pacific Autism Family Centre (above pictures are from the Center in Bounding Higher) and it is amazing. They have quiet spaces I can sit and read or whatever while Row is in therapy, they have a big lending library and lots of games, etc as well as a nice little gift shop so you can support the building and all the amazing programs it is home to. If you have not checked it out you most defiantly should.

I never thought I would have to be so budgeted but we definitely know we will surpass that $22,000/ year amount of funding and be out of pocket for some expenses so we want to make sure we are being wise in the therapies and treatments we pick and the people. For this reason I have included the hourly rates that our professionals charge (on average or recommended rates) just to give you an idea of what we are looking at. It was surprising to me at what these programs add up to be (a couple of thousand dollars a month!). So as great as the funding is, for lots of families this is a very difficult and sensitive topic. Talk about one of your most important investements. Any decision around big spending is always difficult but when it comes to spending on your kids its probably the most important thing any of us will ever have to do.

WHO works with Rowen and what do they do?

So first I should start off saying that we use our Autism Funding to pay for these people listed below. However for children under 6 you must employ people and businesses that are found on the RASP (Registry for Autism Service Providers List). The list is really a great place to start your search when looking for any of these professionals. Here is my interpretation and description of what each professional does. I have gone and had consultations with more than just the people we hired, keep in mind these people spend a lot of time with your child (and you will also develop relationships with them). So as easy as it is to think I will just hire whoever is available or maybe closest proximity to me I do encourage you to do a bit of research.

BCBA Board Certified Behaviour Analysts

$130/ hour

This person is the one who oversees our BI and manages our ABA Program. They may not directly work a lot each week with Row but they are observing and definitely the person our BI would refer to and have to report to.

We have chosen Megan MacKay at Bounding Higher as our BCBA (and she is also an SLP). I was told that BCBA’s can be hard to find or that they have long waitlists so I do feel extremely fortunate that we found her. I like her philosophy and holistic approach to ABA as well as her straight forward communication with us.

This is also one of our highest paid people on Rowens team, so this is a person you want to be prepared to ask questions at meetings and utilize their time wisely because their time adds up fast.

BI Behaviour Interventionist

$25/ hour

This person is the person working directly with your child and implementing the plan you BCBA has laid out. I definitely think they are an amazing resource to teach or train you as a parent on techniques they might be using and having success with. Make sure to ask questions and develop a relationship with your BI! Our BI was picked and provided for us by Megan and Bounding Higher.

OT Occupational Therapist

$120-160/ hour

Occupation therapists help to develop life skills (such as feeding, hygiene and dressing) and in our case we are seeing an OT for help with sensory related things like self regulation and organizing behaviour.

Sensory is an interesting and difficult area for me to understand. Our family has asked lots about it and I don’t feel I have a great understanding of it yet to be able to explain to others. I do think my son is searching and seeking sensory input… he likes things like spinning and swings, loves jumping, deep pressure and doesn’t like things like lights on, clothes specifically tags, shoes and socks or busy crowded places. We are starting to learn things that help relax him and organize him so he can be calm and have better attention.

Defiantly very interesting and if you want more info please look online there are many great resources and if you know Rowen you will read a lot of these things and think “WOW!” because some of the articles sound like they are actually describing Rowen.

I would say this far OT is Rowens favourite favourite favourite activity and therapy. It has been all about play and observing and learning what he likes and doesn’t like and he loves it. We have been waiting to get into Megan Eastwood in Ladner as she came extremely highly recommended, she is close by and I happen to know and love her family already, plus one of my besties (who is an OT) just started to work with her. So it seemed like a natural fit but so far we have only been able to get in on a two day two appointment over spring break, so nothing consistent is open yet to become a regular client. With that in mind we are starting with Keith at Little Buddies in May. I just met him this week and am very excited for Rowen to start because Keith has also come highly recommended and I have a feeling Rowen is going to thrive here.

I wish we had unlimited resources because I would be putting in a sensory room in our house and would be hiring these amazing individuals for a couple sessions a week. I love both Megan and Keith and would want to do as much OT as possible. This is when the hard part about where to spend your dollars comes in. I don’t have pictures of the OT’s we see sensory rooms but this gives you an idea of what they look like and why Rowen loves them.

SLP Speech and Language Pathologist

$130/ hour

SLP’s specialize in working with language development but may not have much experience directly related to Autism and language development. If you have chosen one off the RASP list then they must have at least a year of experience with Autism.

I hope this has helped you to see a little glimpse into our life and what we have been busy setting up and learning about as well as gives you some tips if you are starting your own journey with a child on the spectrum. I am happy to answer any questions or chat if you need to, please just message:)

The support I didn’t mention was the numerous friends and family members who have been amazing supports with babysitting our other kids while we have had many appointments, sending interesting articles or even just taking an interest in what is going on. We have been extremely blessed with our friends and family! Read More

My wish for my kids… an “ordinary” life.

All my life I have been searching and dreaming. I wanted the best clothes, more money, success in a career and movement. I love learning and wanted to constantly be growing. But instead of focusing on the now I was busy caught up in future plans and dreams. Today I realized that without even trying I have everything I ever wanted and more. I don’t event think I was aware of what I wanted, and somehow the world provided and I got it all!

Friday I went to work. I recently decided I wanted to go back to work just one day a week at a friends farm. I have always wanted to be a farmer, but figured it was impossible with the cost of land (well and I guess the fact that I have no experience or knowledge about farming, minor details). Here’s where I was wrong, today I was a farmer, even if it was just for a couple of hours and even if I had no idea what I was doing. I helped in the raspberry fields, rode on a tractor, visited the cows and saw the newborn baby calf (born this morning), collected the eggs, loaded up a trailer of hay and spent the day with one of my girlfriends. Talk about a dream job. The funny thing is my paycheque isn’t huge, I don’t have a prestigious job title but I feel happy. I am outside, I am contributing to the care of animals and to growing food which is kinda incredible! Plus it feels so good. It reminded me that I don’t have to be doing something extreme or have a masters or degree to be doing a job I love and find meaning in it. Value and meaning can come from any different places and sometimes I find I forget that, so it was a good reminder.

After the farm I went home and grabbed my kids and spent the afternoon at the park with my sister and nieces. Not only did I get to hang out with family but we saw multiple friends and even friends parents! It was a great play, quality time with my kids and a few visits with people I hadn’t seen in a while. Fraser came out on his motorcycle and played too! I put away my phone, unplugged, let my kids run around without shoes (and tried not to worry about what all the other parents were thinking) and just played. It didn’t cost a thing but a little bit of time and we all had fun and left tired and happy.

When we got home I made a homemade dinner (this almost never happens and usually means being organized, tonight I just quickly did it), almost everyone ate it and I spent time just having fun bathing my daughters. The older two kids read me books, told me they loved me and asked me to lay down with them before bed so I did. It was the perfect ending to an amazingly ordinary extradorinaiy day. I even got to spend a bit of quality time with Fraser after the kids went to bed and before he went to bed (graveyard shift!).

When we were at the park earlier I was chatting with a friend and commented that we are going for a tour of an elementary school we are considering and that I was surprised at the things that are important to me about schools. I always thought I would have certain requirements for my kids school but I never thought those things would be more about emotional intelligence and not academic. Having kids has changed everything, My wish for my kids is to be happy and lead a life that makes them happy. I want their school years to be spent having fun, learning life skills and values like honesty, community, integrity, heart and the importance of friends and family. It has really changed the way I evaluate an look at a school and life in general. I feel incredibly blessed to have attended a local elementary school and to not only still see and have relationships with so many elementary school friends but to still see and talk to the teachers and support staff as well. These friendships have played a huge role in my life and I want the same for my kids.

I used to think I wanted them to succeed and success meant good grades, working hard on academics, following through with post secondary and more. Now success looks a little different to me. I want them to make quality friendships and know the importance of not only having good friend but being one. I want them to learn empathy and compassion, to travel and experience things like different cultures, religions and food. I want them to be adventurous and do things even if they scare them a little. I also want them to make mistakes and learn from them.

I think the biggest tool we have with our kids is modelling behaviours we want to see in them so I hope that Fraser and I can slow down long enough to enjoy the fleeting moments we have with our young kids before they grow and don’t want us around. I hope we can show them what is important in life and some of those things are just simple everyday things like playing in dirt and being outside and making good food and being together. I know we are not perfect and that we slip up or that some days are better than others but thats all part of learning about life. Life is meant for living and we intend on doing that and encouraging and supporting our kids to do the same. They continuously remind me of what’s important and to make time to laugh and play so I only hope I can do the same for them.

I love my far from ordinary Plain Life, and hope it doesn’t change too much but just evolves into an even better version! Regardless I will take time and enjoy this life. XO

Create a life you don’t need a vacation from.

So in all honesty I have what might appear to some as a fairly relaxing life, but here is thing about relaxation it is different for everyone. I may not have to be at a paying job everyday and that might seem relaxing but I still have commitments and I still have doubts or moments of self doubt.

I am an over thinker and a worrier.

I am a planner and I am an organizer who wants everything to go a certain way.

I also suffer from anxiety and care what other people think even though deep down I don’t think it should matter.

I feel like I hear “Relax Carly” a lot or at least I used to and it never bothered me, I would try all my usual things (rescue remedy spray, yoga, eating properly, drinking water, going to bed early) but I have never felt more relaxed as I do right now. The funny thing is it has taken a little into our vacation to figure this perfect balance between the five of us.

Fraser and I have discussed what can we take from life on vacation and apply to everyday life to keep that relaxed feeling going. We discovered for us the reason we could just let go and have fun was because we didn’t have obligations, and I don’t just mean work I mean activities, school, commitments, social stuff like birthdays and family dinners, even things like cutting the lawn, making sure we went and paid property taxes or utility bills, arranging dentist appointments or cutting the lawn. These things are all obligations and expectations.

On vacation we had no responsibilities. We had to make sure we were fed and kept three tiny humans alive, that’s it. I don’t think we can avoid all commitments and obligations so second best thing is to take small breaks or time outs to relax, or at least this is our plan.

The biggest thing I am learning about relaxation is it looks extremely different to everyone. This is what can be challenging. I feel a lot of what we know or how we relax is learned (mostly from family but I think it could be said it is learned from a young age so anyone who during those years might have had influence on you).

For Fraser relaxing means no rush, no plan, watching TV or staying inside on the couch, etc. For me this can be stressful because we were raised if it was nice you should be outside, there is no reason to have the TV on and that we always had some sort of a plan for the day with a little structure. Sleeping all day or being lazy was rarely a thing we did. So, relaxing to me is still shutting down but it might include a little more structure (like being to the beach by a certain time) or making sure that we are outside everyday if it is nice out.

We both do find relaxation in taking the kids for walks or getting outside for some exercise. Taking time to play and feel no guilt about it. Playing could be jumping on the tramp, building forts or even just tickling and laughing. I really want to make play a priority in our house for all of us.

For our kids relaxing is even different again, all of our kids find the park relaxing Grace is a swing addict. Like could actually swing all day, but likes to be pushed. Rowen on the other hand likes to be chased, he is a kid who seems to really like to be engaged and kept busy physically. Eleanor is hard to tell yet but I think her most relaxed is being held. If you are calm and just hold her she is so happy and relaxed. Rowen and Grace seem very relaxed with TV Row even more so than Grace (I really dislike this and try to fight it). However what I am learning is if Rowen and Fraser tried to take away my books, writing, time at the spa or time at the beach I wouldn’t like it. So, if TV is one of their ways to relax and shut down then I need to appreciate that. I know it is hard for Fraser to understand how reading or even painting with the kids is relaxing, but I don’t understand how watching you tube is relaxing but that doesn’t mean we both shouldn’t do these things.

I think the biggest thing is to realize that a little relaxation can restart and reset the tone for your whole family. It is not reasonable to think you can just keep taking vacations to escape reality (I would know, I tried to convince Fraser of this plan!). It is however reasonable to find ways to incorporate relaxation or down time. For me that means locking the bathroom door and just taking a 10 minute shower, or putting the kids in the car and going for a bit of a drive or getting outside, going outside to the park or the beach or even the backyard. The dishes and laundry ain’t going anywhere! So I watch for signs that any of us need a little break and then we act on it.

I encourage all of you to take time to relax, give yourself permission and don’t feel guilty. And try not to judge or be mad at your spouse when he or she takes down time. It’s in everyone’s best interest that we do this! This may not look like the spa or yoga it might be zoning out in a garage and listening to music really loud, or playing video games or just lounging and watching you tube. Whatever it looks like make sure you take time to do it;)

I hope you all get to laugh more and take time out to play without guilt.

A is for Amazing (and Autism)

My son is pretty Amazing. He is one of the most caring, thoughtful and sensitive little boys I know. I like to think all his great qualities came from me but I see so much of his Dad in him that I might not be able to take all the credit (most of it).

What three year old cries at movies, kisses his baby sister every morning and shares his favourite ice cream with his mama? He also loves to play pretend, is pretty good at being a dinosaur, loves to play lego, trains, read books, play play dough and to paint. He is an artist and isn’t afraid of getting a little dirty to create. Plus he is fearless in the water and seems to have found his second home at the pool. I couldn’t be more proud or in love with a boy than I am with my son. Besides being amazing he is also our first child.

So, as many parents would know, first borns are pretty special (at least that’s what Fraser and I, both eldest children, believe). Not only do they make us parents but they open our eyes and minds to a whole new way of thinking. For us Rowen has taught us patience, kindness, humility, to ask for help and so much more! He is my first at everything. First to crawl, walk and speak as well as the first to say “I love you mom” and a million other things. However being the first born also means we have never done this before and do not know what to expect or what is “normal” for each age, they are the practice child… lol!

From the beginning Rowen was very “easy”, however as he got older things became a little more challenging. Preschool is when we really started to notice some differences from some of his peers. I of course had my own set of concerns, raising a child was new to me, a boy was especially different (I grew up with 2 sisters and a single mom) and I wasn’t sure if some of my concerns were “terrible twos”, or just “a boy being a boy” or if there was more.

I did go to his paediatrician to express some concerns. After a little bit of research and some recommendations from friends I was working on getting Rowen a developmental assessment. I am not even sure I knew what it meant or if he needed it but it sounded like a good idea. Plus I had no idea what was going on with him I just felt like he was different than the “typical” toddler. Really what’s typical for a three year old?

Then the preschool called me in for a meeting and started to list a bunch of observations they had made and to ask if I would be open to Row having a one on one worker in the classroom I was a mess of mixed emotions. I was a little surprised, mostly relieved that I wasn’t being over the top with my concerns and I was so happy to hear them have a couple solutions to help make Rowens school more enjoyable for him. The idea of a one on one worker was amazing to us, it didn’t cost us a thing and meant he would have someone with him the whole time. It was surprising to me that any parent would say no or be upset at this amazing offering, but I guess not everyone shares the viewpoint of this being a gift.

The one thing I can confidently say is we are so impressed with our medical system as well as our preschool. We didn’t do a ton of preschool research but our main requirement was that it was a play based school. At the time, when we started thinking about preschool, we felt Rowen was no where near ready for any sort of academic learning or structured preschool. The only learning we felt was important was how to interact and play with kids and how to go to school, listen to another person besides us, take turns, share, clean up, snack independently, etc. I am so happy we took a a few friends recommendations and choose Reach. Not only were they super caring and empathetic when it came to our tough introduction to preschool (lets just say Rowen wasn’t excited about going to school). They also were so thoughtful and considerate when it came time to discuss the concerns they had about Rowen. I felt like it must be the most difficult job telling a parent their perfect child has been struggling especially if a parent isn’t ready to hear it but they have been only positive and supportive through the whole thing and I believe they are so much a part of all the successes we have had and will have with Rowen.

Rowens biggest area of concern are around communication and socialization. This was probably the hardest on me because I pride myself on having good and open communication but I also think our family is extremely social and that Fraser and I were extremely social. This was not surprising but always upsetting to hear that your child is acting differently than you had envisioned. I always expected our son to be outgoing and actively involved in lots of activities at school which is very much NOT the type of person Rowen is. This was hard for me to understand and accept. I had to mourn the ideas I had for my son and learn to love the son I have (that part was easy! He is super lovable). It’s not to say there are not times I hear of someone doing something with their toddler and think I wish I could do that with Rowen but I am better at adjusting my expectations and planning more appropriate activities and outings that I know he will love.

So, basically after hearing the teachers concerns and knowing my own I made a follow up appointment with the paediatrician, this time it was a full developmental check appointment. She was great, she went over lots of questions and listened to my concerns as well as the comments the preschool had. I honestly had expected her to have maybe a few small suggestions and say he is only 3 and that some of these things will just take time for him to outgrow. Instead she asked if I had ever considered he may have Autism. I was seriously shocked. The first appointment she asked and I said definitely not, as he appears so “typical”. But really what did I know about Autism and how it looks? After she explained that the main two areas people notice deficits with Autism are social and communication I did agree why she would think this could be it. I left the appointment with the plan to have an assessment done, which was essentially what I had wanted all along but now I was kinda in shock.

I quickly went in to see his preschool teachers and let them know about the paediatricians suspicions. Teachers were great, absolutely not surprised and agreed this was a smart plan. Again, I was very surprised but felt confident in my medical and educational professionals who have a lot more experience than I do.

Now it was our time to make some decisions. Should we wait for an assessment through the public system (guessing it is about a year but could be longer) or were we interested in private testing. I had left the paediatricians office asking for whatever was fastest and they put in the referrals for both (I guess I should discuss with the person in our house who has a job but it seemed like an easy decision to me).

When we actually went in to the private practice for our consultation (we went to Monarch House but there are lots of good private options) I was so impressed and sold on a private assessment. Here are my reasons:

  • Today is February 25th and we have finished our assessments (like seen all three professionals; speech and language, psychologist and paediatrician) and are still waiting for confirmation that paperwork is complete and we have been added to the public wait list. And part of the reason the private assessment took until now is because we were away for 5 weeks, otherwise this would have been finished by the end of January. So we are essentially finished our private assessment faster than we could even be put on the wait list for public. This is insane to me for many reasons.
  • To get funding and fast tracked for help we need a diagnosis (or it certainly helps). Also, the funding is higher before a child turns 6 so if we waited a year for a diagnosis we loose a year of funding, the private assessment costs $3,500 but the year of funding we will now get is $22,000 so easy math says spend the $3,500 and get $18,500. Obviously every family is different but in our case we are waiting to see an OT and Speech, both privately because it was faster, and we would be paying out of pocket for these. Just the OT I was anticipating to be about $500 a month minimum (once a week, $120 a hour). Now all of this can be paid for by our funding! At best guess we would have spent that $3500 easily within 5 months of seeing SLP and OT.
  • I am impatient. I want answers now, it is our child and even on trivial things I don’t like to wait, I certainly wasn’t interested in waiting when it was something so important. I react, I do not take time to digest… everyone is different in this way and some people like to wait because it takes them that long to digest this information and prepare.
  • Early intervention is known to be extremely effective. In a lot of cases the earlier the better the results, Rowen is extremely high functioning and on the very low end of the spectrum so we are hopeful to get lots of support now and set him up for as much success as possible by the time grade school starts. Up until now we are on some public and private wait lists including at school for a one on one worker but I believe now he should get one almost immediately. This is really going to help us get on track for help.

I don’t want Rowen to think he’s different from any of our other kids because he isn’t, they are all different and all special. This doesn’t change anything about the way we treat our kids because they for the most part are all treated the same or we have the same expectations in terms of values but it helps us to understand when he is struggling or having a tough time and it gives us help we have needed but didn’t know how to get.

It has also been big for us because we now know that Rowen most likely has ADHD and possibly anxiety (typically diagnosed at an older age). ADHD usually means that the child might act 1-2 years younger in maturity, this is huge for us in decided whether to hold him back a year for school. Also on top of some of the challenges we have had with Row, he is also one of the youngest of his class with a late birthday (November 21) and he is a boy (which means also a little slower to mature). All of this information is so helpful when we think of our expectations for him and our decisions with regards to schools and where to go, when to start kindergarten, signing up for team sports and other organized activities, etc. I just recently learnt that when it comes to public schools they no longer hold children back, in my mind and based on one recommendation I had thought we would do kindergarten and then possibly just redo another year if needed. Public funding is tight for education and regardless of what is in the best interest of the child each child gets one year in each grade, no redos! However if we choose private, then we could do Kindergarten twice, I am not a fan of the all day kindergarten and so this means I could even just do the first year of kindergarten go for half days and then gradually build up to full. We just really want to make the best choices for Rowen and help him to be successful. I really feel like we are totally on track to doing this and doing it fairly well (obviously it will come with challenges and emotions) for a couple of rookie parents!

I really am feeling beyond blessed right now that we have the luxury of flexibility and time. Fraser is just coming off of 8 weeks of paternity leave and I stay at home with the kids. On top of that his job is very flexible with time off and allows us the ability to often both be at appointments or to take last minute cancellation appointments easily. Plus we get to spend a lot of time with our kids! Not only that we are fortunate to have been able to afford some of the private stuff for Rowen and had the luxury of choosing how we want to proceed, I am aware that not all families are as fortunate as us or are possibly in different positions that make things a little more complicated. For all of these things I am so grateful.

Rowen will be getting his official Autism diagnosis within the next two weeks and then the planning will start to happen with our family. We are excited to build a team of support for him and for us that I know is going to make life a little easier around here and I cannot wait! We are all about being proactive and setting up our kids for success whatever that might look like!

So, if you have any ideas, recommendations, questions please let me know craeplain@gmail.com. Thanks for listening and taking interest in our family.

Want to leave you with a thought my girlfriend reminded me of the other day, that we set expectations for our kids that we don’t even expect of ourselves. Kids are human, sometimes they won’t have perfect manners, sometimes they have bad days, sometimes they feel so much emotion and show it inappropriately but so do we… so next time you find yourself judging try to think of that. I know I am going to try really hard to do this!

Mind, Body & Soul…

I have always loved to consider myself spiritual, but I am not sure that I was doing intentional activity to feed my soul. I have lots of beliefs on how to take time for me and to make sure mind, body and soul are all being looked after, but beliefs are different than action. My goal for 2018 is to feed my soul (while still exercising my mind and body… always striving for a bit of balance).

2018 has really started off strong for me and for my family. Fraser has taken a parental leave from work that started December 30th and doesn’t end until February 24th. We left January 16th for a family vacation and are in Maui until February 16th! This has lead to many amazing days as a family, including simple stuff like somehow easily transitioning all three kids into their own beds while on vacation and sleeping almost through the night with no wake ups, successfully bringing 3 kids 3 and under on a plane without any issues, watching the kids swim in our pool and demonstrating lots of what they learnt at their swimming lessons last year, and so much more! But the purpose here is not to go on about all the good things that are happening in my life but instead to share some of how I got to this happy place and what I am planning on doing to stay living this good life!

First, I really like this quote and really believe it. With that in mind I really have tried to remind myself to stay positive and think good thoughts, when in doubt of what is happening adjust my feelings/ attitude and see what I attract and of course imagine possibilities and they will happen (manifestation/ synchronicity). This is defiantly a belief that I want to keep in mind through out 2018!

I also started off 2018 taking a few risks or doing a few things that scare me!

First I put myself out there with my This Plain Life stuff and participated in a Pop Up Retreat, at this retreat I lead a guided meditation that I was super proud and happy with, I also got to have an oracle card reading, something I have been wanting for a while. I actually enjoyed the reading so much that I bought my first set of cards and have been pulling them when I feel I need one. My very first pull from the set I did three cards and couldn’t even believe how much they fit with where I am with my life and my intentions fro 2018 align with these cards.

Basically Sulis to me represents where I am right now. In Maui, ocean side everyday recharging my battery. I am a water baby, love being on the water, but also in it. I love showering, even my recent spa treatment involved lots of pools, water treatments, Vichy baths etc. I really love this card and think it is completely speaking the truth about where I am right now and what my goal with our vacation is.

Of course sooner than I want to admit we will return back to reality and when we arrive I am thinking of it as my start to the real life of 2018, also it is a new start for our kids with habits and routine. The first week we get home Rowen, Fraser and I will take part in his 3 day private Autism Assessment. I am really looking at Kali as a sign that I need to release my old expectations and desires for Rowen and focus on this new beginning. One that includes support, advice and most importantly ways for Rowen to be successful in all aspects of his life. I loved this card as a reminder that endings aren’t always sad and beginnings are such a great opportunity! With that in mind I look forward to coming home and starting fresh.

Then Ishtar was my final card and couldn’t be more fitting. I have always struggled with boundaries and making sure to love myself and my time and energy. This is something I will always try to work on and definitely have been thinking lots about how I will bring this into 2018 with me. Sometimes we give too much or do things out of guilt or obligation, but Ishtar reminds us that we aren’t truly helping others if we don’t take care of ourselves first. I definitely want to check in when I am doing things and make sure I am doing them for the right reasons and from a good place, I also don’t want to fill my time so full that I miss out on all the little things with my family.

Pulling these cards was another sign for me that these are the types of messages and reminders I want to pay attention to and really work on the power of thoughts. I feel like 2017 was a year full of manifesting lots of really great things that all happened and felt unbelievable. Cannot wait to see what 2018 will bring!

I loved this quote and have used the first month in January as a time of reflection and evaluation… what things excite me? Do I prioritize these things and am I wasting time on stuff that doesn’t excite me??? This has been a good time for me to really think about it. When you are out of your regular environment and all your day to day stuff you get to simplify your life and see what are the things you are missing. It is not often people at our age with young kids take the amount of time we have to do this and I gotta say it has been amazing on some many levels. I can’t wait to see how I can transfer some of the stuff I have loved on vacation back to our home life.

Before I left for holidays the cards that reading I had was messages from my spirit guides and my angels. This was the first card pulled, a message from my spirit guides that a loved one in heaven is there for me whenever I need her and she will leave messages I just have to be open to seeing them. The coolest thing happened the first day we arrived in Maui we are on the beach not even 5 minutes and my son brings us a heart rock saying it was for Nan (my mom). Her sister, my aunt, is the loved one in heaven I assumed is here fro me and my mom loves heart rocks. Not only that we stay at the same place my aunt and uncle spent lots of time at and this beach was where they would often sit. You can’t help but feel that this rock was a message from my aunt!

After an incredible start to 2018 I am feeling full of Synchronicity and to follow this path when we get home a few things I will be doing are

  • Spending more time outside, in nature. Even if the weather isn’t as nice, this is always a struggle for me and for my whole family who love the summer months and tend to hibernate through the winter. However I feel like we are all happier when we are outside and definitely all sleep better when we have been outside!
  • Make time for myself and healthy habits. In tangible ways such as eating healthier and meal prep, but also in spiritual ways such as taking time to meditate or just breath, going to moon circles (so excited to join Goddess Moon Circles New Moon Monthly Circle).
  • Pay attention to little things or coincidences! Find meaning to stuff that I normally am too busy to even notice.

How do you feed your soul? I would love to hear what other people are doing and what you find helps bring you happiness and peace.