Friday, December 24, 2010

Embracing Important Things in Life and Letting Go of Everything Else

So I know I fell off the bloggy bandwagon a few weeks ago. sigh. But it was for VERY good reason.

We celebrated my birthday with a trip to Toronto to see Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe at Convocation Hall at University of Toronto. It's A's alma mater so it was nice for him to be back on campus if even only for a short time. It was J's first time seeing Stuart and C's second. The boys were wonderfully well behaved and it was magical watching the show in the very very old Hall.

Then there have been all the Christmas preparations. I really wanted to embrace this Holiday season. I didn't want it to all fly by and have regrets about the things I wished we had done (or that I had done).

So I made cookies - lots and lots of cookies. C was proud to be my helper and this year he actually helped. He became a pro at using the cookie press and was quite creative in the topping placements and choices.

and gift trays and baskets for teachers, educational assistants and other school staff. Plus former co-workers and community agency professionals that have done so much for our family this past year.

There was the Christmas photo (did it myself and it went wonderful - after about 50 shots and me losing my mind) and cards (which I was determined to do as I hadn't been able to last year) and the family newsletter (yes we do one but no it isn't all just bragging about how great our kids are).

Then there were the Gingerbread masterpieces. Usually we do a prefab store bought house. This year I was determined to create one. Then the boys couldn't decide what kind. So C asked for a castle and J asked for Big Ben. Uhhhhh, ok, thanks guys - didn't they realize I had never done this before? But it went surprisingly well and we ended up with


So that is where I have been and we haven't even celebrated Christmas yet. For THAT we have to head out to spend it with family.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 10, 2010

CMB 6 - Workers Who Are Worth Their Weight in Gold

*** scroll down or click here to read more about what CMB (Counting My Blessings) stands for and why I am doing it. I'm not getting to it everyday but I am trying.

Long long ago I also was a support worker (aka Respite Provider, Special Services at Home worker, Consultant etc etc). I LOVED that job and I was awesome at it (if I do say so myself). So when C came along and daycare and private childcare did not pan out it became clear we would need to go one step further to provide his care while I was working. The first several years after his adoption were extremely difficult and trying times - confounded by the fact that we could not get ANY type of funding or assistance for him or our family. He wasn't "developmental" enough to access services and supports for children with developmental disabilities and our family was not in crisis enough to receive supports through Children's mental health.

So basically we bankrolled our own support workers - which meant I could keep my job (which I loved and kept me sane) as well as keep the awesome extended benefits plan. It also meant that my pay cheque basically went to paying support staff. We have had some awesome workers and a few who were absolute DUDS. I learned quickly that most would come to the interview gushing that they "loved working with all children" but only a few would still be saying that after a few days with our son. We have had some workers that had very little formal training or experience but did awesome with C. They tend to be calm and loving but able to be firm when necessary. Control freaks, we have learned, need not apply. If you are going to freak out every time my kid goes near your car or if you shrink back every time he tries to touch or hug you - well, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. If you are going to need him to do everything you say the minute you say it. Uh, yah, good luck with that. If you tremble at the idea of a kid blurting out embarrassing things while on an outing - uh, yah, might want to look elsewhere for employment.

Support Workers Who Make Our Family Life EASIER are worth their weight in gold. If you haven't experienced it yourself, believe me when I say there are times where we have hired a worker for C only to find that the support and problems solving and training and hand holding of that staff actually adds to our family stress level and takes away any benefit we would have gained from having proper support.

We have been blessed with some amazing support staff over the years and currently. They all have been unique - no two are even remotely alike on the surface. Well, that's not true - the ones that work out the absolute best have ALL been female and they all have been fairly petite with soft voices and extremely loving personalities. But at the core, they have all been able to maintain the control that C so desperately needs someone to hold but they have done it in a way that does not translate into power struggles with him. They allow him to save face, they allow him to use his voice and to negotiate. They somehow manage, no matter how hard the day has been, to smile and hug him and to promise to come back. And they do - they keep coming back. Even those, who through life circumstances (graduation, new jobs, marriage and so forth) - those workers worth their weight in gold, they stay in touch. They send letters or emails, they take time to stop by even for a few minutes. They help C to learn that while people may need to move on in certain aspects of their life, they can and do remain your friend. They still care - just from afar.

To all those who support our son, in the trenches where the days can be long and hard but full of awesome rewards, we count you as one of our blessings and we will be forever thankful and indebted to you.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Counting My Blessings 4 - Angels Who Walk Amoung Us

Do you ever have those one time encounters - where somehow this stranger just says the right thing at the right time or does something to help you in a way that you didn't even know you needed? Then that person is gone and usually you don't even know their name but what they did for you, the memory of that, is burned into your heart and soul forever???

It has happened so many times over the years, particularly when I was in the midst of dealing with C and a meltdown in some public place and at my wits end, completely out of ideas as to how to get him out of the situation and safely home. One of the first times I remember was when C was enrolled in a preschool sports club at our local community centre. We knew he was struggling at school and had difficulty reading social situations and acting appropriately but we didn't have a "diagnosis" to pin on him to try to explain to people. We knew it was more than him just being immature or choosing to be a "brat". Unfortunately other people didn't know and I was struggling to try and get the staff at the community centre to understand and to let me help. On this particular day, I was feeling embarrassed and chastised and I felt like all the eyes of the parents in the waiting room were on me. I had settled C back into class and flopped on to a chair - ducking my head and willing myself not to cry. I vacillated between being angry, embarrassed, overwhelmed, anxious - the whole gamut.

A lady came and sat beside me. She began to speak. She shared the story of her brother - of who my C reminded her of. This woman and I were strangers. But she opened up to me and we both got tears in her eyes as she spoke of her brother and her admiration for her mother - oh how her mother worked and fought for her brother over the years. Just before she left she told me "he reminds me of my brother and he's doing great now. And you remind me of my mother - you are doing great". She left, I never saw her again but I have never forgotten her.

There have been other times - two times that stand out in particular revolved around someone hitting my car. Seriously. On two different occasions, several years apart. The first time we were at the school, which is just down the street from our house so I would rarely have my car parked at the school. But I had been called because C was having a rough afternoon and so I had raced directly to the school. Once I arrived things went quickly down hill, which was not the usual course of events, and it was dismissal time and my son was wreaking havoc in the secretary's office - refusing to come with me, not even letting me approach him. I was standing there, actively praying silently "dear god, please help me through this. Help me to help him when I have no clue what to do". Suddenly a man, who I had NEVER seen before, enters the office and says "excuse me, I'm looking for who owns the very small grey car out front" and it turns out he has backed into my car but instead of just being like so many people and just driving away he has come to find me. Me, the woman who has just had an awful day at work only to be topped by a 7 year old ball of energy that was my son. Suddenly, my son stopped - his body grew still, his tears subsided, he stood up and looked at the man "you hit my moms car?" and with that my son had moved on to something else. Overwhelmed by the need to fulfill his rightful role of worrier and surveyor of his mother's car, he walked calmly with me to the vehicle. In the end there was a small dent in the licence plate - that was it. I never saw that man again and no one at the school could identify who he was. I knew, he was an angel sent to help.

The second time was remarkably similar - C was at Cubs, where he had made friends and was doing very well but on this day he had become dysregulated and I couldn't get him to leave. I didn't want him to be humiliated and I didn't want people to judge him for this momentary lapse. None of my tricks worked though and I was quickly getting pulled into the abyss that C and I were always teetering on at that time in our lives. Suddenly a woman - never seen before, never to be seen again entered the church hall to inform us she had backed into someones vehicle - a "small grey car". C stopped in his tracks and grabbed his coat. We went out to survey any damage (a very minute dent in the side panel - soooooo worth it in the long run). The woman was soaking wet as it was pouring and she looked so distressed. I knew A might be unhappy with me but I just thanked her for letting me know and waved off her insurance information - it was so minor and I needed to get C home.

The first angel went out of her way to share with me - the other 2 disappeared as fast as they appeared. All 3 I have no doubt are angels, sent to bless us when we most needed it. For that I am forever grateful.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Counting My Blessings 3 - His Love

We met when I was 18 and he was 24. I was a first year University student, he was living and working in Toronto. It started out less than ideal but fate must have been working its magic.

I know he tried not to love me. He thought the age difference was too much, that we wanted different things in life. He had been hurt before but he wanted to find love, to find a wife and to start a family. I had to convince him I wanted the same. He told me he loved me for the first time before he meant to. He asked me to marry him before he meant to. He loved me fully and completely.

I have loved him for half my life but even more importantly I have had his love for all that time. Through the early days of crappy jobs and crazy school schedules. Through working full time, going to school full time and planning a wedding long distance. Through sorting out who I am as a person and the heartache of years of infertility. Through adoption and raising our spirited boys. Through times where I questioned whether our marriage could make it - I have had his love. He has loved me through it all, despite it all, perhaps in some ways because of it all.

I often take his love for granted. But I want him and all of you to know that his love is the most important blessing in my life.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Counting My Blessings 2 - Home

We lived in an apartment on the "bad side" of town for almost 7 years, saving up while all the young couples around us jumped into big time debt and bought houses with astronomical mortgages. I rallied against A many times, trying to get him to agree to move, even to a rented town home just so I could feel like we were getting on with our lives.

He didn't give in and I am so thankful for that. When it was time to look for a house to buy we did weekend after weekend of open houses and A kept me aimed at the houses at the low end of our budget - again I was slightly resentful but again I am so thankful.

The summer of 2002 we moved into our new home and we have no intentions of ever leaving. Once in a while we think about what it would be like to live in a larger home, one with a guest room or even an in-law suite for my mother in law. Once in a while I visit friends and allow myself to be envious of their vast rooms and stylish kitchens. But the truth is we likely stay where we are for MANY MANY years and with my financially frugal husband our mortgage will be paid off around the time C graduates highschool.

Its a modest home. We often neglect her. But she is ours and she is a part of our family. We know we are so blessed to have our home - so many people have less by far and we know it.