Collaboration, the power of partnerships.

Being part of something bigger never used to matter to me. I hated relying on anyone else and thought I could do most things on my own. In my mind if you wanted it done right you should do it yourself, boy was I wrong. I dreaded group projects and always felt they would have been better individually. I didn’t have the skills to work well with others or to compromise and try to see things more than one way (my way).

I still at times want to shut out the rest of the world and just be in a bubble. But the difference now is I don’t believe I am better solo, I think sometimes I need time to recharge solo but I believe I am better with support.

I parent better when I am parenting with the support and help of my husband, I work harder at fitness when I am in a class with an encouraging group of women, I am inspired when I surround myself by my girlfriends and I bet if you ask anyone you know they may have a favourite Plain sister but they will say it is even better when you get to be with all three of us. I am so happy I have learnt that as great as I am independently, I can share my talents and strengths with others and team up to be even more effective as a team.

Since starting our family and having kids you learn it takes a village. I love having a circle of close girlfriends who are there supporting you through some os the best but also the worst times in your life.

Working at the farm and helping plan and run our events I know the importance of a team. You cannot accomplish great things without support and the more I learn and lean into the idea that having support doesn’t make me weaker but in fact builds me up and makes me stronger the more I can accomplish.

The idea can be applied to all areas of my life, when I ask for help from my team with my kids the more they succeed and experience. I can not physical be in three places at once, nor can I support three little people all at the same time so we have an amazing team of family, friends, teachers, educators, therapists and babysitters who help us with the kids. Without this team I cannot imagine how tired, impatient and cranky I would be. Day to day it is Fraser and I who are driving the kids, helping dress, feeding and just generally caring for our family but I am starting to have a real appreciation for those who do help us. I am also learning to ask for help when I need it or make sure we take the time to hire help if we need it.

Apply the same idea to work, I have casual/ seasonal/ part time employment at Emma Lea Farms but when I do work we are usually go go go! Think special events like our Markets, during the busy berry season at the U Pick Stand and most recently to help plan and host a 2 day Farm Tour for farmers from the Pacific North West to see different farms (12 of them actually) from our area. What I learnt was without an amazing team of farmers our tour would be nothing, and without an amazing group of vendors our markets would not hold the same value and without an amazing team of staff our U Pick stand would be impossible. Never underestimate the power and growth that comes from building a strong team.

At a presentation I was at recently the speaker pointed out that Competition is no longer a thing, that we each have a niche and a target market. If we excel and worry about our strengths and pair up with others in the area we actually create a bigger and better reason to come visit. For example breweries independently are good but everyone is all about going on an Ale Trail or a Booze Cruise so when you team up with your “competition” you are actually creating something really special.

I love this idea of being a part of something bigger and really embracing each other instead of competing. Think of it in parenthood even, Moms are always comparing themselves (I think). I always see something and think I wish I could make lunches like that mom, or come to school drop off with make up on and my hair styled and look presentable like other moms, etc. But realistically when I start to chat with the mamas and learn more about them and even start to share our strengths with each other. The one day my girlfriend made my sons lunch and I picked up her son from school it was fantastic, my son was super excited and ate it all and I had such a stress free morning of no lunch making, my girlfriend was thrilled she didn’t have to pack up her daughter and pick up her son. It doesn’t have to big things, small things matter.

Moral of the story is value your friendships and teams, ask for help when you need it or offer it when you notice someone who could use a hand. Sometimes just doing is better than offering, I often say No but if someone just shows up and does it there is no opportunity to say no. If we are open to collaboration great ideas and things can happen. We are stronger together.

Goodbye GADFLY

I like to think our vibe attracts our tribe and that we surround ourselves with people we want to be around but there are some exceptions and family falls in that category. The thing is you don’t choose your family and I think lots of time families aren’t close because they want to be, but more out of obligation. Or some families just don’t talk and aren’t close for whatever reasons.

My family is kinda unusual, I think for the most part we all generally like each other and we have always been close spending lots of time together. My mom raised us and she did a lot of it solo, but we had two extraordinary “extra” parents that were always there to help her and us.

Uncle Harvey was 20 years older than my aunt and married with the understanding he wanted no children. I wonder if he knew then what he was getting himself into. He could have never guessed he would get three girls and their mom in addition to his bride:) I think in terms of a typical family we definitely break the mold.

Uncle is a term used for fun extra special men who are related and get to do the fun stuff with their nieces and Uncle Harvey was definitely that but he was so much more. I feel like Uncle will never adequately describe what he meant to me or to my sisters. Our lives will forever be better because he was a part of them. He was the person we could ask for help or advice when we needed to, he was our secure and safe place.

I always thought that Uncle Harvey meant more to us than he knew and always made sure to send a card or recently a text with a quote on Father’s Day. It was hard to find one for an Uncle who was like a Dad but one year I found the best card, I never thought about it much after I gave it to him until years later I found it out on his dresser. I was so surprised as he is not sentimental at all. I knew then that we were just as important to him as he was to us.

More recently Uncle Harveys role had become even bigger in my life. Everyone needs a mentor or a voice of reason to keep you grounded and I think Uncle Harvey had become that for me. He was so busy, he filled his life with people he loved and things he loved to do. He could be scary (just ask us about the big Kahuna) and stubborn, but it was part of his charm. I mean he actually would have voted for Trump if he was American, we argued about it… some things we could not agree with. However sometimes he had valid points, like his annoyance with tax dollars being spent to replant the meridians and gardens on Ladner Trunk road each season, or the addition of all the new trees on municipal land. Politics aside he was someone I will always look up to and love.

I will always remember when we turned his brand new workshop into our slumber party headquarters, I mean I am sure it was his dream to have his new man cave turned into a bunch of tweens favourite sleepover spot. I will never be able to see a ledger or old school leather bound cheque book without thinking of having to write cheques when they were in Hawaii, paying all their bills with a mailed cheque, I mean he refused to online bank until more recently. Plus a lot of the bills were for the year. He paid MSP, cable and a few others yearly, just one cheque a year was easy I guess. I should have tried to learn more budgeting tips from him, but I luckily took after my aunts good sense of spend what you got and a little bit extra:)

I do love the way despite his declining health he never felt sorry for himself or even seemed sad or mad, he really did lead by example of working hard and enjoying his life regardless of circumstances.

In his later years he regularly told me he loved me and my family and he never was shy to say he was proud of me. Before I had kids he would often come in to visit me at work, I think it was to see all the women shopping and trying on clothes (always a ladies man) but he would say it was to see me! When I considered purchasing the store Uncle Harvey and I went through the process together, I think he was as excited as I was about a new project and he definitely had more faith in myself than I did. We both decided it wasn’t right for me but I know he was hoping I would open my own shop instead of buying an existing one, maybe one day. The most surprising reaction was when I told him I was pregnant (every time), he just seemed genuinely happy which was not reaction I was expecting and such a happy surprise.

He taught me more than money management skills (I am still working on that one, bit of a slow learner). He also taught me what it was to have someone who believed in me. I loved how he had softened over the years, not a lot but a little about certain things.

He knew no boundaries and I often had to remind him I didn’t want to hear or know about certain things in his life (most I hope were him just joking), definitely needed a lesson in TMI. I loved the way him and Auntie Mona would discuss anything and everything with us, even when we would beg them not to or be so embarrassed by them.

I will forever think of them when we go to Hawaii and all the wonderful memories and times they had there, I think it is part of the reason why I love being in Maui so much.

I will always remember the blue house that Uncle Harvey grew up in. I will still be upset that he sold the yellow house, I mean he had no sentimental attachment to things or places! Lol, I think it was something about a great investment not a sentimental home, always so practical.

I will never forget when he came over and cleaned our bathroom for us because we didn’t scrub the tile well enough, I swear he did an entire tile bathroom and shower with a toothbrush and then left us a lifetime supply of Tilex to encourage us to upkeep it. He was particular, some might even say anal.

The many Christmas’ that we spent Christmas Eve playing Jenga and watching Santa run down Massey Drive. The phone calls we got every year from Santa (AKA Uncle Harvey), and to be honest to this day I wonder if Uncle Harvey is really Santa Claus. For a guy who never put up lights or a Christmas Tree but somehow always was the first to arrive Christmas morning to watch us open all our gifts including three specials ones he had picked out for each niece he sure seemed to really get into Christmas. Or the year “Santa” brought us our first computer and how excited Uncle Harvey was.

The summer vacations we always took with our cousins that were a gift from Uncle Harvey, he actually never came with us but someone had to go to work to pay for them.

The back to school outfit from “the wallet” (aka as Uncle Harvey).

The fact that whenever he made a “bigger” purchase like when he last bought his car or his stem cell treatments in the states and I asked him all about it he mentioned he had dipped into our inheritance, I think he loved joking about it.

I love how he aged. Although his body got older his mind really had gotten sharper and he kept with the trends. He pretty much made coconut oil popular, he was into the healthy fads, wore skinny jeans and trendy clothes, loved to text (especially with emojis) and really was a modern man.

My heart is so sad knowing that we no longer have Uncle Harvey and Auntie Mona watching out for us on Earth but it is eased a bit by the idea that they are reunited and watching out for us from somewhere above. I also am often reminded of the importance and the roles Uncle Harvey played in so many other peoples lives, which I guess is how someone’s memories live on. I am so inspired by the way he lived his life and want to make sure I value and build friendships like his.

Wherever you are Uncle Harvey I hope you are happy and at peace. We love you and miss you, thank you for everything. XO

Start of School Reflections

With a new school year, and a fresh start for Rowen because we started a different preschool, I have been doing a lot of reflecting at the difference a year can make. I mean I know what a difference a year can make. I have had years of huge loss with family and friends passing away, I have had a year of divorce and going from married to single, and I have had years of going from single to in a relationship and becoming a mom. SO many changes, in sometimes what seems like short time frames, but when I look at Rowen and the progress he has made in the last year I am wowed and inspired by my son and his amazing attitude and hard work.

Sometimes we are so close to things that we don’t always notice changes or gradual progress but in the case of this year I can’t help but notice the changes.

Last year I had a very frustrated, slow to speak, emotional boy who was upset almost every drop off at school. He was not potty trained and to be honest it was on the bottom of a very long list of goals, he had not participated in a circle time, was an independent player and didn’t seem excited or happy about school. He was also prone to have meltdowns and was difficult to settle, plus snack time was challenging.

Fast forward to this years first month of preschool and we have a verbal potty trained boy who asks to go to school on Saturday because he loves it so much. The teachers mentioned he spent 15 minutes participating in circle time and made a friend with a boy from the older class. When I went to pick him up he was playing with two other kids and he is loving his therapies and has made a friend there as well who he asked to have come over and play. His meltdowns have changed and are more like age appropriate tantrums that are very infrequent. After his first week he is not only enjoying snack time at school but also stays for lunch!

Sometimes I look at these things and think that they are not really a big deal, kids grow and learn and develop. This is how they are suppose to act. But then I think back to all the research I did, learning our whole family did, the appointments we went to, money we spent, referrals we needed and think this is not just your average kids learning and growing in a year.

This is a result of lots of hard work from Rowen, a team of people who have supported not only Rowen but our whole family and a group of friends and family who have been amazing! It has meant getting help sometimes for the girls to have child care and leaning on others.

We have truly learnt what they mean by “it takes a village” and about who is in our village and how well they showed up (or in some cases didn’t). It has been amazing, eye opening and in sometimes disappointing. We had hoped for more involvement and support by some, but it is others who’s support surprised us that really sticks out in my mind.

My grandparents went above and beyond to research and learn about Autism and where and what Rowen is doing for therapy as well as adapting things they do or give him with his best interest in mind. Not only did they learn but they shared about Rowen and even a friend they volunteer at the Thrift Store with emailed with an amazing therapy idea (which my grandparents offered to pay for). It isn’t so much about the money but when you realize how much effort and time someone has put in to learning about something important to us it really makes you feel loved and supported. Plus Autism is hard for younger generations to grasp, it is often super hard for older so to know it was my grandparents making such an effort is really cool.

My Uncle who is also one of Fraser’s good friends often asks how he can best support Rowen and always makes an effort to connect and play with him whenever he sees him, which has helped make him one of Rowens favourite people (the boat and the motorcycle help too).

The list and examples are endless but sometimes when I am frustrated that other people have grandparents that do childcare weekly, or have family who does weekends or even weeks so the parents can go on vacation or when I hear about family members paying for kids activities, etc it is easy to feel envious. However, in a moment of reflection, sanity and clarity I realize how meaningful and plentiful the support is that we get from our family and our friends. Support shows up in so many ways too… my mom often takes our laundry and returns it clean and folded, drops off home cooked meals ready to go, takes time off work to babysit and even went to tour Rowens centre for therapy and meet some of his therapists.

It’s funny how amazing and important Rowens team has become to us. These are paid professionals who really are above and beyond what we could have imagined for him. We see Keith from Little Buddies for OT and Megan, Rebecca, Declan, Erik and Natasha from Bounding Higher for SLP, BC and BI. This team has been a dream team from Day 1 and I truly believe without them we would not see as much progress as we have. If you would have told me a year ago this list of names it would have meant nothing to me and I certainly would not have believed they would all play such an important role in my sons life. They are so much more than paid professionals to Rowen and to us. I mean even our extended family speaks as if these people are a part of our family! They will never know how much they meant to us all.

I know this year has been one of big learning for our whole family and I am proud of all of them. I hope that whatever your September this far has looked like you are able to read this and feel some hope. Hope for possibilities of what your next year could look like or even a reminder to see how far you have come this last year. My biggest fear for myself or my family would be to stay the same so to look back and know lots has changed means I am living the life I want to live. With growth and change comes amazing things. Obviously there will always be growing pains but I like to believe the end result is worth a little pain.

As I look through pictures from the last year I am reminded, first how quickly we forget the hard stuff and second how far we have come. I could have never imagined taking my kids camping on a week long vacation with 8 other families. Last year I reached a point where I just avoided being around other families all together, we had to decline Birthday parties because it was hard to know how Rowen would behave and it was difficult on us. Just remembering the embarrassment or frustration we would have in certain social situations and thinking to where we are now and the confidence I have as a mother, but mainly because I have more trust and faith in Rowen and his abilities. This is just one example but there are many changes I know in our family that if you had asked us a year ago we would have never believed possible.

I am proud of the work Fraser and I have done to get here as well and the sacrifices we have made. Honestly I am tired, emotional and feeling a little of the September overwhelm but more than that I am smiling because I can see our hard work paying off in so many beautiful ways. I can also see my expectations and mindset changing about what’s important and what’s not and I like the “new” mindset.

My Babies Daddy

With Father’s Day coming up it has had me extra grateful for my babies daddy.

Here is the thing, we grew up with a single mom. So Father’s Day really wasn’t a special day for us as we didn’t have a Father to celebrate. It never felt like we were missing out and it wasn’t bad or sad. I think our life was pretty great and we had so many other people to celebrate. However now having kids of my own and raising them with their amazing dad we have so much to celebrate on Fathers Day!

So, what makes a Father? In my eyes it isn’t just biology. Most people can create a child but it takes someone great to stick to around and raise a child. In our case 3 kids! Fraser was born to be a dad. From the moment I met him I knew he would make a great Dad but watching him with our kids is a whole new kind of love and happiness.

Raising three little kiddos is exhausting and trying, messy and loud, hilarious and rewarding.

Fraser is our calm. He keeps everyone relaxed, laughing and happy. He never shows stress, always claims he isn’t stressed and is a true sentimental guy. He is caring and generous to a fault, and he has such a great way of looking at things. He is able to fix almost anything and he is handy. He loves to learn new things (usually that involve acquiring new tools and materials). He is a shopaholic (but would never admit it). He is our provider in more than just financial terms, he cooks, fixes, updates, does school drop offs, makes lunches and helps Grace with her ponies (in her hair and her dolls) and comes to appointments. He is a true family man, and we are so happy he is ours.

On Sunday we will celebrate Fraser and all that he brings to our family. The craziest thing is that we are so incredibly blessed with a lifestyle unique from a lot of other families. Fraser works graveyards (1am-8am) so he is home most days all day. Although I hope to make Sunday special for him, we get many days of just hanging out as a family of five. I like to think our life is pretty special, and a big part of that is due to the sacrifices Fraser makes to benefit us all.

I know it is easy to get wrapped up in day to day life and dwell on the things that someone doesn’t do (or doesn’t do well), but we are all human and if we were being truthful we all have faults. Instead of focusing on those challenging things I am going to try and remind myself everyday of all the amazing things my babies daddy not only brings to their lives but to mine. I cant ever imagine raising this tribe without him and I wouldn’t want to.

Fraser thanks for being the best Dad to our kids. XOXO.

Happy Fathers Day to all those other amazing Dads out there. One of my favourite things about becoming parents is getting to do it alongside so many of our friends and this coming year we get to watch one of Fraser’s friends become a Dad for the first time, it is going to be so great! So we will not only celebrate Fraser but all the other great Dads that’s are apart of our tribe… Hip Hip Hooray to all the great ones out there.

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!

Remember when “I would raise my kids differently”

Becoming a Mom is something I never knew I wanted, if you ask anyone who knows me they will say “remember when you use to say I am never having kids”. I think this has been a good lesson in never say never!

Having kids has changed my life (for the better) and looking through pictures tonight has been a reminder at how quickly it all goes. I remember finding out we were expecting our first baby and the excitement, then the nerves and emotions at being 2 weeks overdue and having to be induced. I cannot go back and these moments went so fast!

Before I had kids I had lots of ideas of what “Good” Moms do. Some of my ideas were

  1. My kids will never sleep in my bed. Co-sleeping is odd and not for us.
  2. My kids will eat at restaurants and sit without an iPad or tablet. They will eat what we are eating (no chicken and fries) and they will sit with us at home until everyone is done.
  3. My kids will always greet everyone. Saying Hello is a lifeskill and it doesn’t matter how old they are they should say Hello.
  4. Bedtime will be at a decent hour and routine (Bath, Book and Bed).
  5. No TV. Family Movie Nights are a treat otherwise no need for TV.
  6. My kids will learn to behave while shopping with me and I will go shopping with them. (Grocery’s, the mall, Home Sense, the nursery). There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to take multiple young kids out shopping with you.
  7. No sweat pants. Stretch clothes are for the gym, I will wear jeans everyday like I did pre kids and I will still buy well made and nice clothes. I will properly launder my clothes, it is easy to hang dry most of your stuff. I love beautiful fabrics and having kids shouldn’t change how I dress.

The list could go on… I mean I cannot believe how many “ideas” I had about life with kids and how my life would be so different from all the people I saw and judged with kids.

Fast forward 3.5 years and 3 little ones later and I have broken every idea I ever had about having kids.

First lesson I learnt is don’t be judgemental or rigid with your thoughts, go in knowing nothing and being open to adapting. I felt like a failure in the beginning literally breaking every thought I had ever had about how to raise a child.

Now I am open to ideas and changing what I thought I would want, I don’t feel like a failure I feel like a person willing to do what it takes to survive. Raising kids is the hardest and most game changing thing I have ever and will ever do. I now know if I can raise these three little ones then I can pretty much do anything. LOL! Okay it sounds extreme but I am pretty sure it is true.

Motherhood is crazy, if you’re a mom you know exactly what I am talking about and if you are not you may not believe it (I wouldn’t have until I experienced it). Before you have your baby life has already changed in inconceivable ways. You grow a tiny human in your body, an alien of sorts. Your skin stretches, you often emotionally are a wreck and physically your body starts to do crazy stuff! This is small potatoes to what comes after the baby arrives!

A baby arrives and I personally I felt like I was going a little loco, this baby was so dependent on me and me only. There was no one else who could feed my baby and that is pretty profound. I think dads play such an important role in children’s lives, at least my babies daddy does. However it is so different from the role of Mom. I try hard not to compare because lots of the Daddy role I wouldn’t want to do but sometimes it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. Babies want their mama’s!

My kids have softened me, taught me patience, and humility, brought me more joy and pride than I could have ever thought possible and shown me what love is as well as what is important in life. They have strengthened any important relationships, as well as helped prioritize relationships that weren’t worth time or effort. They have helped us reevaluate our priorities . They are truly the best gift Fraser and I have ever given each other and they will always be the best collaboration we have ever had. Because of my kids I am a better human being and that is pretty cool.

On Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day, but I say celebrate everyday! To all you amazing Mama’s out there keep on raising beautiful humans and don’t forget to give yourself a little credit for all the hard work you are doing. To my own Mom, Thank You! I get it now. XO

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

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.

The dreaded B Word (BUDGET)

Recently a common conversation has been occurring and it revolves around the cost of raising a family and living, the cost of getting by or even trying to get ahead and of course my all time favourite subject (NEVER EVER!!!) Budgeting. We have decided to start off March by tracking our expenses. It all started because I was shocked at how much we spent in Hawaii on groceries and kids diapers, formula, etc. I was shocked but to be totally honest never have paid attention to what we spend at home and possibly spend the same here and don’t realize. It got me thinking I should know roughly what we spend on groceries or gas or even on the going out in a month. Plus if we do decide to budget we should probably know where we could cut from.

Now I have a hard time budgeting but my spending habits have changed huge in the past 5 years. I have always worked (like since I was 14, and even earlier if you count babysitting). So, I always had money to spend and spend is what I did. I loved to shop, had very little financial responsibilities which meant things like spending $300 on a pair a jeans was okay, or getting my hair cut and coloured regularly for $300 was fine. Over the last 5 years I have become a homeowner, purchased a car on my own, had babies and now become a stay at home mom (meaning I no longer have an income). I guess you could say I have became a person with responsibilities. I love the changes in my life and I even like the reality check I have had, as it has really helped me to learn a bit more about priorities. I still buy and wear $300 jeans but I have only bought two new pairs over the last 3 years, and one was on sale (you don’t want to know my old stats on this bad habit!). I rarely get my hair cut and no more colouring for me, but this is more a time issue than budgeting. My life experiences have changed me and things I would have never imagined giving up have become easy and normal. For me the biggest change is having kids and knowing 3 little people rely on us to make good financial decisions and what used to seem important really doesn’t compare to the health and happiness of our kids.

The older I get the more I realize how precious and fast life is. We have experienced loss as a family before but since January Fraser and I have lost three friends. Lives taken far too short (not all our age) but all too young and leaving behind kids and families. This has had a huge impact on me and us, and has really changed our views on lots of things including money.

Now at the end of the day money makes the world go around and brings us security, safety and happiness even if it is temporary or superficial. However what truly makes our hearts happy is to see our kids and family happy and healthy. To know we are safe, feed, minimize stress, sleeping, eating well. These things are important and to some degree require money. I don’t want us to be crazy and dig out a deep hole of debt (been there and done that, don’t want to do it again). I also don’t want both of us to work our asses off only to find out life is shorter than we realized and we missed out on the now. We can’t turn back the clocks and redo our kids childhood or go on vacations or to special events we missed out on.

This means although we will budget we will also live, we will prioritize what is important to us and work hard at making sure we are fiscally responsible but not work so hard planning for the future we miss the present. We still can set goals for the future or be all responsible and plan for our retirement.

We try to follow some basic rules when it comes to budgeting. At the end of the day it is fairly basic with budgeting. You either increase your income or decrease your expenses! Easier said then done.

Here are some of the things we do:

  • Have a contingency fund (this goes for anything). Savings for unforeseen circumstances. This is not something I have ever done or done well but I am so thankful for Fraser and his ability to save. He loves to “hide” money or just tuck it away. For example we recently went to Hawaii and took cash but also had US Credit cards. He took a bunch of our US cash and tucked it away when we used out credit card so when we got home we had money to pay for it! The crazy thing is whenever he does stuff like this I don’t even notice but am so thankful he thought of it.
  • Prioritizing needs vs wants. We recently were given the option to privately test Rowen for Autism instead of waiting a year or more for a public test and we had wanted to put in a gas fireplace insert this year at Christmas but instead we used the money for Rows test. We don’t need a fireplace insert we just really want one but we would like to have some answers as to what has been going on with our son and how we can help him. Sometimes it might not be needs or wants but more of a case of priorities. It is hard to realize you can’t have it all but good if you can think what do you want the most?
  • “Extra” Income. When we renovated our house we really wanted more space so we decided to renovate and move upstairs. The layout of our house is a bit choppy and if we used the entire house we couldn’t have our super young kids on a different level than us. So, we kept the basement suite and rent it out for extra income. It is great because it allows me the financial flexibility to stay home with the kids and also to help offset our mortgage (which we refinanced to pay for the renovation). Last year we were also able to participate in a local market and Fraser made some beautiful wood products to sell. It was a super fun day but the best part was we made a little bit of cash! These are just a few examples of “extra” things we do to make some extra cash. It is shocking when you start to look around or try how you might be able to bring in extra income. Maybe its having a garage sale or selling stuff you no longer use or need, maybe its taking in all your bottles after a big party:) Whatever it is remember every little bit helps.
  • Choose Debt Wisely. I guess one way we budget is by being strategic about our debt. We love being homeowners but it has meant we needed a mortgage and therefore have debt. The interest rates are low, and we hope real estate is always a good invest and even makes you money (it already has). That being said we of course know credit card debt is bad, high interest and dangerous cycle, so if we need to use a credit card we pay it off ASAP or use the LOC instead and then pay that off. One example of choosing wisely is when we choose to renovate our house we ended up doing a bigger renovation than we originally had planned and to be able to afford it we had to use some form of financing. After checking out all our options we ended up refinancing and tacking it on to our mortgage. This was the least costly way to do it.
  • Ask a professional. Basically don’t take advice from me talk to someone who knows. We ask advice for everything why not seek it out for something as important as our financial planning. Ask your mortgage broker (this isn’t a budget tip because I would assume everyone uses a Mortgage Broker, hopefully your using Meghan Dodds Mortgage because she’s the best), insurance broker (Courtney Chambers is ours and we are so happy, she does it all house, auto and life insurance!), financial planner, and anyone you admire with finances. Pick financial role models and learn how they have had success!

When it comes to our financial attitude I think it changes but I am so thankful that out of Fraser and I he is level headed (usually) and for the most part makes sure we live within our means. The good news is our means are enough and we get to live a good life, the hard part is deciding what areas are important to us and what things we can live without.

We have decided our kids and family experiences are important, as well as good food (we try to know where our food comes from, buy some organic and mostly quality), and enjoying time together and with people we love. This also means taking time off, this is a big expense to us as Fraser is the only income earner in our house and when he takes days off they cost us pretty big $$$. However those days are worth more than money to all of us, so we will continue to save and prioritize time as one of the things we invest on.

Would love to hear from other families on how they save or don’t? And what budget tips you might have.

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!