Thursday, 26 April 2012

Tender Mercies

Being a mom is hard.

Some days it is really hard.

Days when the sacrifice seems more than you can bear.

There are times you don't sleep, times when you worry more than you smile, and times when you cry more than you laugh. 

But, thankfully, there are times like last night . . .

moments of clarity that come to interrupt your weariness, to awaken you to the blessings before you, and to remind you of the privilege it is to be someone's mother.

You are sitting on a cold, metal bleacher.  In your hurry to get out the door on time and to ensure everyone has what they need for the evening, you forgot your own coat and forgot you are wearing flip flops rather than sensible Maritime attire of socks and sneakers.  Thankfully, the sun peeks outs and, as it is setting behind you, you can feel it's warmth against your back.  The cold no longer bothers you, though.  You are enthralled in watching how happy your baby girl is trying out for her new soccer team.  Your heart swells to see her perform so well and to see how talented she has become with all the hard work, sacrifice and dedication she has put into her game.  As you stare at her in awe and wonder what on earth you could have ever done to deserve such an amazing daughter, you hear your two boys squeal in laughter as they run past you in an intense game of hide-and-seek tag.  Your attention turns to them.  You marvel at how quick they are to turn everything into a game and how easily they can draw other kids into their games, and it brings a smile to your face.  Suddenly, you are no longer tired.  Your concerns and your frustrations have washed away, and you think to yourself:

life may not be perfect, but it is good. It is, oh, so very good!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Brown Boxes Make Me Smile

There is no better to way to brighten your day after having been pelted with wind and rain than opening your mailbox to find not one, not two, BUT three parcels . . .

And it's even better, when those parcels happen to be filled with books!

The night we returned home from our trip, Mr. Level-Headed ignored my pleas and stopped at our mailbox on our way home.  I really needed just one more sleep before reality clobbered me over the head, but it wasn't  meant to be.  Among our stack of bills and Easter cards, there was a letter from Elliot's Developmental Pediatrician with another list of books we may find useful in helping Elliot to relieve his anxiety, to better understand social situations, and to learn more about NLD.  This is only half of what she wants us to read, and does not include the pile we have already gone through. 


I think I may need another vacation . . .

tee hee!

Although the sheer size of what I have to read is overwhelming, all of these books are amazing, and it will be so great when their knowledge is safely tucked away within my brain and I can access it readily when needed.   Like right now, I really need to know how to help Elliot sleep.  We are going on a week and a half and I am dying here; therefore, today, while the boys are doing their work, I am going to go through my small library and search for the answer.  I NEED ANSWERS!!

On a positive note, I am currently working with my kids on a preventive program for depression because people with NLD have an exuberantly high rate of depression, but I figured this would be something all my kids could benefit from. The book I am using is called "The Optimistic Child", and it outlines how you can teach your child to become an optimist rather than a pessimist and give them tools to build a lifelong resilience against depression. I love it!  First off, you have to teach your kids how to recognize, or "catch" the things they say to themselves particularly when something goes wrong.  Our internal dialogue determines how we react to adversity and the consequences that arise from it.  The goal is to teach kids to stop thinking in catastrophic, permanent, and negative ways; for instance, I am the stupidest person ever, nobody likes me, I will never be good at math, etc.  During our first session, Zoe and Avery joked around a lot, but Elliot became sullen.  As I was putting him to bed, he began crying and said:

Mom, I am feeling down.

Why, bud?

Because the things I say to myself are not very nice.

Like, what kinds of things?

Well, whenever I do something good, this tiny voice always says:  yeah, but you are a dog killer.

My heart stopped.  Three years ago, our dog Sport drowned in the river while we were away on a hockey tournament, and it has bothered Elliot ever since, but I had no idea he thought this.

Buddy, you had nothing to do with Sport's death.

Yes, I did!  If I wasn't off having fun and was home taking care of my dog like I should have been doing, this would never have happened!

My heart sank.  My little boy had been carrying this around with him for three years.  I curled up beside Elliot, wrapped my arms around him, and whispered in his ear just how important he is to me. 

Buddy, you are the most amazing boy I know, you are very special, and I love you. 

These little insights I am granted into Elliot's experience are hard to hear.  Until his diagnosis, I had no idea just how difficult he found the world or that he was carrying such a heavy burden on his shoulders each and every day, but thank heavens I do know now.  Now, I can help him, and now he is no longer alone!

Parents, please talk to you kids and find out what kinds of things they are saying to themselves.  We spend so much time warning them about external threats, like bullies or ill-intentioned adults, but sometimes, it is that little voice in their head, that goes undetected for years, and does the greatest damage.  I am a firm believer that knowledge is power, and we need to equip our children with the knowledge and tools they need to lead happy, productive lives.  It isn't going to be easy, but it will definitely be worth it!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Doin' the South End Shuffle

One thing I am good at is jumping on board when someone asks me for a hand, but I am not so good at figuring out the logistics of these situations.  Which is what happened yesterday afternoon, when my brother John, my boys and I helped my younger sister, Emily, move to her new apartment. 

I can't believe this was a single-family home at one point in time.
It must have been gorgeous!  

The problem was that we had five people with us, one minivan, which needed ALL of the back seats folded down to store Emily's stuff, and probably about half a brain between us.  After a few not-so-bright ideas, we decided that Emily and John would simply take the van and load it with all of her belongings, while the boys and I would wait at her new apartment to help unload.  Although it was a blustery, wet afternoon in the South End of the city, Avery and I had a blast!  He grabbed his skateboard and helmet, and I grabbed my camera.  We refused to let a whole lot of rain and wind get in our way of enjoying the sidewalks (Aaaahhhh . . . sidewalks!  My fondness for pavement has exponentially increased since we moved out to the sticks.)

Elliot, on the other other hand, was not impressed:

Perhaps if he had grabbed his rain coat like his mama told him to, the day would have been a tad bit more enjoyable.  But, I am not one of those moms who would ever say:  I told you so . . .tee hee!

I should give him credit, though, because he did try:

But, nope, it wasn't happening:

Oh well, at least the rain didn't stop these two from smiling:

And we managed to keep all of Emily's priceless heirlooms intact and dry:

. . . tee hee!

I can't believe she is still lugging these two critters around with her.  

 All in all, I think we did pretty well for a group of half-wits with a penchant for hair-brained schemes.


Friday, 20 April 2012


I love watching my kids interact with one another because, at times, they can be so close, while at other times, they can't get far enough away from one another.  

It reminds me of my own siblings . . .

Can I have a big shout out to the Skov sibs? I love you guys!

Anyhoo, when we are on vacation, our kids get along amazingly well.  Mr. Level-Headed and I always comment on how well we all travel together.  But really, why would they fight?  Everyone is getting what they want, and there are no restrictions placed upon them.  You want to drink pop and eat pizza all week?  Go for it!   You want to stay up late watching movies in your bed?  Go for it!  Vacation is a blast!!

But, then you come home, and oh, reality can be so very harsh.  All of a sudden you are expected to go to bed on time, wake up early, do school work, do your chores, and eat colourful foods . . .

and I am not talking about this stuff . . . 

which was sadly disappointing when we finally got into it.  :(

No, I am talking about broccoli, carrots, peppers, mushrooms . . . mmm . . . real food!  So, it should be no surprise to me that the kids were a little surly this week.  What a shock to their little systems!  Especially the boys, and one boy in particular, who seems to need a vacation from his vacation.  Elliot has not slept all week.  He is up till 1:30 - 2:30 am and then wakes every hour or two afterwards.  Help me!!

Anyhoo, I digress.  So, where was I?  Right, surly kids.  So, the boys can not even be in the same room with one another without hitting, calling names, and, generally, just making life miserable for one another.  All I hear all day long is I hate you!  You are such a moron!  What an idiot!  Last night, Avery claimed he could not possibly sit down to eat supper because having Elliot sit across from him was making his stomach sick. 


But, before I lost my cool or began weeping because my children are heading down the path of Cain and Abel, or Nephi and Laman and Lemuel (Book of Mormon characters and a very interesting portrayal of sibling rivalry . . . you should read it some time!), I remembered times with my own sisters and brother.  We were the best of friends and the worst of enemies.  This is what siblings do.  Siblings are"safe" people.  The people you can lash insults at or pummel with your fists when you are feeling at your wit's end, and then in the next breath, they are the ones you are hugging, laughing with and sharing some of the best times of your life with.  

Awww . . . 

And this is true for my own kids!  Even though I spent the entire week asking the boys to stop harassing one another or beating one another up, there were many moments like these, where they just couldn't get enough of each other:

 No worries . . . right?

You may be wondering where Zoe was in all this fighting and loving.  Well, Zoe was busy with her own life, and we didn't see much of her.  She came home and jumped right back into the world of studying for tests, volleyball games, soccer try-outs, and getting ready for her first church dance, which she is over-the-moon excited for because kids from all over Nova Scotia, PEI, Maine, and New Brunswick will be there.  They are going to have a blast!!

Here is the dress we bought for her, while we were down in Florida:

Gorgeous . . . right?

So, of course, we then had to go shoe shopping:

And since these shoes were on "Buy One Get One Half Off", and the mama liked the yellow ones and Zoe liked the red ones, we figured we might as well buy them both and share them!  I LOVE having a teenage daughter!!!

Ooh!  I really hope I did not ruin her grand entrance tonight?  Surely, your First Dance dress is not like your wedding dress?  I may be in trouble, folks . . . again.

Since Zoe was busy all week, she really didn't get into the fighting matches too much,  but she was at the brunt of some light-hearted brotherly teasing!  With the dance coming up, the boys are quite concerned that Zoe will find her one true love . . . tee hee!  Elliot has informed her all week that any boy that wants to marry her has to first go through daddy, then him, then Avery, and then her grandfathers.  And according to Elliot, it won't be pretty (as he punches his fist into his palm) . . . tee hee!  Poor Zoe!  This sends her into a fit of rage.

I am NOT going to meet the man I will marry at the dance.  I am only fourteen.

But, mommy met daddy at fifteen.

Stop right there!  Man, that comparison hit me like a ton of bricks.

Zoe is not going to meet the man she will marry at the dance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am such a hypocrite . . . tee hee!

Anyhoo, that's how our week went down.  There was tears, there was fights, there was teasing, but there was also a whole lot of love.  

I am so happy to be home!

And our furry family member was glad to have us home too!

I  guess he prefers the People Park to the Puppy Park.  It must have been the company and all the fun toys.

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Boy Wonder

Before I start this post on travelling with Elliot, I want to remind everyone that I am simply focusing on specific NLD moments he experienced on our trip in order to help people better understand him and this disorder.  This is in no means an all-encompassing portrayal of Elliot.  Although NLD affects all areas of his life, it in no way defines who he is.  Elliot is a very lovable kid with a gargantuan amount of energy.  He loves to play sports, to play with Lego, to create mischief with his brother and friends, and to spend time with his family.  He is affectionate, sincere, and imaginative.  We love him dearly, and, although it can be challenging to raise him, we look forward to seeing his precious face each morning because it brightens our day.

Just look at that face . . .

He's so adorable!

As we were planning our vacation this year, Mr. Level-Headed and I did some research and took in consideration what we could do to make this trip more enjoyable for Elliot and for those travelling with him.  Although this made the planning process more tricky and a bit more expensive because we had to purchase additional day passes at Disney, it was well worth it!

First of all, people with NLD grow tired more easily than most people because their brain is running at 150% capacity at all times.  While we process certain stimuli and perform certain actions almost subconsciously and with very little effort, they do it consciously.  They think about EVERYTHING!  And, as one can imagine, this must be draining.  With this in mind and past experiences at Disney under our belt, we opted to buy a 6 Day Disney Pass even though there are only 4 parks because this would allow us to do some of the bigger parks over the course of two days.  This was a necessity!  Most days we could not stay in the parks any longer than 4-5 hours because it was obvious that Elliot was approaching melt-down mode.  The funny thing is, though, leaving the parks early turned out to be a blessing for everyone by giving us extra down time and the opportunity to relax and have fun together.  During these times Mr. Level-Headed and I would alternate turns taking Zoe shopping, we would swim, and we would play mini-putt.

In fact, swimming was the life saver of our trip.  According to our research, swimming is one of those sensory integration tools like massage, drinking out of a straw, manipulating a rubber toy, etc. which help our brains to realign or restart when we are feeling overwhelmed or having a difficult time modulating our emotions, which for the person with NLD, is all the time!  So, when planning out our days, we made sure that we scheduled time for swimming at least twice day.  It is all he wanted to do!  It was really neat to watch him do it too because, although he would join the pool antics of Zoe and Avery sometimes, he spent most of the time sitting fully-submerged on the bottom of the pool (Hello, Percy Jackson) or diving deep under the water and slowly swimming across the pool.  At one point he told me he likes swimming because it allows him to slow down his heart.  As a parent, I really wish I could spend just one day in Elliot's mind so I could better understand what life is like for him.  Thankfully, with comments like I just mentioned, I do get brief glimpses into his reality, but I fear it is not enough. He is still, and probably always will be, a huge mystery to us.  

Another sensory integration tool we used a lot was a rubber Perry the Platypus doll . . . oops, I mean action figure:

Perry was a gift from heaven!  Elliot was not enjoying his time at Hollywood Studios at all, and wanted to return back to our resort after only an hour.  We tried our usual bag of tricks, which had worked wonderfully at the other parks, like:

playgrounds, and Disney has two very cool playgrounds in Hollywood Studios and in Animal Kingdom.

A Bug's Life playground in Hollywood Studios

The GIANT sandbox in Dinoland, Animal Kingdom

 But like most things for Elliot, just because it worked one day doesn't mean it will work another day and, unfortunately, today was one of those "not working" days.

We tried a nap in the playground (which worked before):

But to no avail.

So we pulled out the big guns, his books:

But they too were not working . . .

Then we turned a corner, and saw a cart selling Phinneus and Ferb memorabilia.  Avery ran right over because he had been saving his last few dollars to purchase a Perry the Platypus stuffy, and Elliot followed him.  Then, along with what I imagine to be the songs of angels and a bright light shining down upon our salvation, Elliot picked up a rubber Perry the Platypus, and it was instant relief.  His hands kneaded and pulled on Perry, and he was soothed.  Hallejulah!  Without hesitation, we bought it, and Elliot never let it go.  With his magical Perry, he was able to enjoy the remainder of our day, and he even went on the Rock n' Roller Coaster!!

Perry helping Elliot to plan his next move with Mr. Level-Headed and Avery

Perry helping Elliot to relax as we waited for our flight home
Perry has become his best friend!

So, some of you may be wondering why we fear Elliot's meltdowns so much.  Well, they are not pretty, and unlike a toddler, they do not always resemble a temper tantrum.  They often involve Elliot contemplating suicide (no fun at all and very hard on this mama's head and heart), Elliot threatening to run away and/or actually running away (which happened in Epcot this year.  As we were entering a show, Elliot slipped outside of the closing doors and was gone!  It took me a whole ten minutes to find him, hanging over a bridge watching some baby ducklings swim in the water.  I am sure he was wishing he could be one of them), and then there are his full-blown meltdowns complete with screaming, crying, and body pain.  Which leads me into our next story . . .

So, we had just entered the happiest place on earth, Disney's Magic Kingdom, and Mr. Level-Headed decided we should ride Space Mountain to kick off our day since the previous two days our boys were "Thrill Ride Junkies".  Elliot was ecstatic!  He even wanted to sit in the front.  As we were zipping through the fast paced labyrinth of winding rails and loud noises in the pitch black, I thought to myself:  this may not turn out well.  I am so wise!  When we departed from the ride, Zoe and Avery were enthusiastically squealing about how scary but fun that ride was, and Elliot was sullen.  

What's wrong, Bud?

My arm hurts . . . followed up some implausible explanation of where this pain originated.

You see, as we have learnt from past experience, Elliot gets phantom pains whenever he is overly excited, scared, or anxious.  So we looked at his arm, brushed away his concerns, and assured him that it would feel better after another ride.

Well, it didn't.

In fact, it had spread to his other arm, and he was now holding both of his arms limply across his chest.

So, again relying on past experience, I told Mr. Level-Headed to find an employee and ask where the nearest First Aid Station is.  While there, we would simply explain to the worker that our son, who has Aspberger's (very similar to NLD but better known and would save us from a lengthy explanation) experiences phantom pains when he is overwhelmed.  We would go on to explain that all we needed was a wrap to put on his arm.  Well, my plan did not work out as I had thought.  Instead, a swat team was sent to examine Elliot and there were talks about possible X-rays, hospital visits, and casts, etc. thrown around.  


Well, from what I can surmise, this freaked Elliot out, and he started screaming: "I'm going to faint . . . I am getting dizzy!"  So, the swat team grabbed a wheel chair for him and advised Mr. Level-Headed to take him to the nearest Station where Elliot could lay down and they could examine him.  Mr. Level-Headed thanked them and took Elliot out to find me and the other two kids.  When they approached us, Elliot was rolling his head side-to-side and moaning.  Zoe and Avery looked terrified and so did Mr. Level-Headed.

I don't know what happened.  He just lost it . . . .and he explained all that went down with the swat team.

Being the mom, I sprang into action, I told Mr. Level-Headed to get the other two kids on a ride and I would see if I could settle him down.

As soon as they left, Elliot started screaming:

My body's malfunctioning!  My body's malfunctioning!  

I swear I do not make this stuff up.

I wheeled him away from the crowd of people now staring at us and found a quiet place in the shade.  I took off his shoes, massaged his feet, and started talking to him about what had happened.  

That must have been pretty scary being surrounded by medical people and having them talk about  what could be wrong with your arm.

That was nothing!!  Things like this always happen to me!  I always get hurt!  But my body feels weird!  My head is fuzzy!  I am malfunctioning!

You are not malfunctioning!  You are having an anxiety attack.  Your body is really scared . . .

Then gradually, between sips of pop through a straw and having his feet rubbed, Elliot began to calm down. He started to talk about how scared he was on Space Mountain and so on and so on.   By the time, Derrick and the kids returned from the Lilo and Stitch ride, Elliot was at peace, but he still needed the wheel chair and the wrap for his arm.  Mr. Level-Headed, and I decided to call the day short after another hour of rides for Zoe and Avery and our reserved lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern (very cool because you feel like you are in an 18th C tavern and they serve a full turkey dinner meal . . . . yummy!).  While waiting for the other three to finish up in the Haunted House, I wheeled Elliot around some of the shops.  Eventually, his mood started to change.  He was much more relaxed, and after coming out of one of the stores, he decided the wheel chair was too much of a nuisance.  After we met up with the rest of the gang, he decided the arm wrap was a nuisance.  Instead of taking any chances, though, we told the kids we were going to head back to the resort after lunch so we could swim and relax for the rest of the day.


And the meltdown had finally ended.  Phew!  This was a bad one, and probably the worst he has ever had, but for now it was over, and we could go back to enjoying our vacation.

Yes, life with Elliot can be very challenging, but at least it is always interesting . . . tee hee!

We love our little guy!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Disney 2012

Really, what can I say?

Our vacation was amazing!

Truly, amazing!

It was hot and sunny every day.  I didn't have to make meals, or have to drive anyone to appointments or practices.  There were no lessons, no homework, no chores, and no bedtimes!


In fact at take off, after we went through the heavy clouds blocking the sun from shining down upon Bangor, Avery looked at me and asked: 

Mom, are we in heaven?

I had to laugh and assure him we were not, but it did feel like that all week.

Be warned:  You are in for one slew of pictures . . . sorry!

When I asked the kids what their favourite part of vacation was, the boys screamed: SWIMMING!  And man, did they do a lot of that!

This was the huge water slide at the Disney Boardwalk resort, where we stayed for the first three days of our vacation.  

The Disney Boardwalk
We had never stayed on site before, and I have to tell you, we really enjoyed it!  It was so easy to get to and from the parks.  Actually, most of these pictures were taken one afternoon, when we spent the morning at Epcot, hopped over to the resort after lunch so the kids could cool off in the pool, and went back over to Epcot that evening for a few more rides and the firework show. It was a perfect day!

This picture was taken on our last evening in Florida.  It was late at night and the air was cooling down, but the kids had to have one last swim in the pool.  

Thanks heavens we did all that swimming because we also never stopped eating!

If you ever go to Disney World, you need to get on the Disney Dining Plan.  We were shocked at the variety of food you could choose from as well as how much food you got.  Snacks are even included.  It really is a great deal!

Lunch in Mexico (Epcot)

And of course, when you are in Disney, you need to do the Character Dining.  I prefer to dine with the characters rather than waiting in long lines to have your picture taken with them because here, you get to eat and they come to your table.  It is awesome!

Oh, but watch your girls around Mickey Mouse; he kissed Zoe TWICE!  That sly mouse . . . tee hee!

Lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive-in Diner! 

The Drive-In Diner is so much fun because not only do you eat in cars, but you watch clips from old Sci-Fi movies on a big screen.  Derrick and I laughed because every movie started out with "They were a group of women with everlasting beauty who had not seen a man in centuries" . . . or something like that . . . tee hee!  

Another awesome thing about Florida is the shopping!!  Zoe and I hit the Outlet Mall a few times and got some amazing deals.  And the boys LOVED the Lego store!

 It was so cool!  The boys, who had been saving their allowance since January, went on one wild shopping spree. They had so much fun!

Each night after we returned to our room from an adventure-packed day at the parks, they would get out their Lego and get to work.  

Can't you tell how much he loves to get his picture taken?
One afternoon, while Zoe and I were trying on clothes, the boys did a little shopping on their own and decided to buy matching shirts . . . tee hee!  They are so cute, and it made spotting them in the crowd so much easier!

Zoe went on the hunt for a super, cuddly stuffy, and, thankfully, she found one.  I think she was missing Scouty.

The boys and I were all about buying and eating candy:

Fill-your-own pixie sticks,

and a M&M station, where you can fill bags with your favourite colour . . . mmmmm purple M & M's

While in Disney, we did a LOT of walking:

some of us got carried:

and some of us got a new set of wheels:


Yeah, he is okay, but you will have to tune in tomorrow for this story.  It's quite the tale!

We enjoyed the rides:

Waiting to go on the Star Wars ride

About to get on the Toy Story ride

Avery right after he, Elliot and Derrick went on the Rock  n'  Roller Coaster.  

When you go to Disney, you HAVE to learn how to use the Fast Passes!  They are super easy to use and will save you from waiting in the long line ups; for instance, Toy Story was a 90 minute wait, but with the Fast Pass we went through the line and the ride in about 15 minutes.  Awesome!

And we wore crazy hats!

Well, that was our trip in a nutshell.  As you can tell from the pictures, we had a blast!  We have done many vacations with our kids, but a Disney vacation is always the best.  It truly is magical!

Tune in tomorrow for vacationing tips when travelling to the one of the most sensory-overwhelming places in the world with your child with NLD.  It is always interesting!

Have a great day!