Category Archives: Suburbia

Toddlers and Time Change, Kids and Compliance

image is of a calm lake and trees on the far shore. It is peaceful and embodies freedom to me--the right to chose for oneself.

image is of a calm lake and trees on the far shore. It is peaceful and embodies freedom to me–the right to chose for oneself.

It’s been a rough morning, our toddler has not only not adjusted to the time change, his internal clock has been thrown off by two hours! So I am up before 6:00 am most mornings (for those of you who commute and have no sympathy for that time, please keep in mind that I work evenings and well 5:45am is not a very civilized hour no matter how you frame it)

And then, while it was still pitch black our dog was in a panic to go outside. My husband was already gone (did I mention it was his early day, gone before 5:00am?) so I turned on the tv for our toddler (Yeah me-awesome parenting skills!) so that he would stay in my bed while I let her out. I had tried to tell her to be quiet, but dogs don’t speak English (or any human tongue for that matter) so she didn’t stop whining. We’ve learned the hard way that if she’s ever in a panic like this to Let. Her. Out. A nasty case of diarrhea is much better outside than in my front hall.

The dog? She gleefully ran outside barking her head off (sorry neighbours) and running around through my garden. At some point she did relieve herself. I think. A few more piercing barks later, I managed to get her back inside. Where I crawled back into bed with our toddler, whose face was returning to it’s normal colour. Did I forget to mention that he was screaming when he woke this morning and nothing would settle him? Ya sorry about that. He was. And it wasn’t very fun.

Face time with hubby started his tears all over again. Gee thanks kid, I stay home all day and play play-dough and colouring and sing patty-cake with you and he’s the one you want in the morning? I mean I love you all dearly, but give me some credit.

I found some clean clothes to throw on. (Did I mention that we’re trying to take advantage of the mid and low-peak electricity times? Basically it means laundry is supposed to be done while I’m working or running around to dance. Which means a load gets thrown on one night, re-washed the next night and if I manage to stay awake long enough, it gets thrown in the dryer before a third wash. Saves us lots and lots of money-not)

Downstairs wasn’t too bad. There was only one container of rotting food left behind by the oldest one who had excavated it from his backpack somewhere and the middle one came down to make her lunch. Yes I said she was making it–I learned long ago that as long as we provide the materials, our children will eat their lunch far better if they make it rather than us. I merely approve the final product (No you cannot take just an apple for an entire day!). Mind you with the waste that comes back, I shudder to think what would happen if I were to actually make their lunches again.

Then the middle one drops a conversational bomb. Right between buttering her sandwich and reaching for the cheese. “Mom can I wear mascara?”
What? It’s not even 8:15 yet and I feel wrecked. She’s 11, in grade 6. I listened in disbelief to the list of girls she rhymed off who were already wearing it daily. I’m so out of touch.

My first instinct was to stomp down on the notion and say “No way!” but that would just drive her to sneak it to school and put it on there. No I wanted a more respectful conversation than that. I bought myself a few minutes while I made my earl grey tea, and wondered if there was a way to attach an IV of it to my arm.

In the end I asked her why she wanted to wear it. That women wear makeup because they feel it makes them look more pretty. I asked her if she needs to feel more pretty at school. She seemed surprised by the question. You see “everyone” was doing it. I managed not to use the clichéd “If your friends jumped off a bridge would you too?” (you should be proud of me, the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet and I was working on the fly here) I asked her to think about what it would do for her. After some discussion I suggested that perhaps-not today- that she try wearing it for a week and see what it does. If she feels any different about herself.

She was disappointed that I didn’t give her a straight answer. I’m nervous about even giving part way in. But it was a rational conversation, one with give and take. One that was respectful. You see I don’t want my kids to ever be compliant to what I or any other adult says.

Yes there are always times when they have to do what we say (wearing seatbelts is a good example) but really when we demand that our children hop to attention and do our biding without questioning it, we are setting them up for some seriously bad stuff in their life. We are making them compliant to the demands of bad boss or job, to a disrespectful person or worse to a molester or rapist.

This is a particular concern in the special needs community as an individual may have a harder time distinguishing what is ok from what is “bad.”

Yet I have seen this in my toddler’s classes as well. One class in particular was an art class where the expectations were so far above their abilities that I withdrew and asked for a refund. You see the toddlers were being asked to paint a straight brown line for a tree trunk or to glue the foam pieces in a particular order to make a spaceship. All around the room parents were saying “No, put it here. No not like that!” They were demanding compliance from a child who was unable to comply and worse, unable to say why they couldn’t. Not one child in there giggled or had fun. Now there are a lot of angles and things we can talk about in that scenario, but bear with me as I really want to stick to the compliance theme today.

These children are being taught to do exactly what mom and dad and the teacher says in order to produce something that the adult wants and in order to get praise. At what point do you stop demanding compliance? When do you give your child the right to discuss the pros and cons, to make mistakes to learn how to stand up for themselves?

For me it’s early on. That doesn’t mean it’s ok for my toddler to hit me and refuse to have a poopy diaper changed. But, provided there is time (and hey I’m at home with him, so there’s usually time. Unless we have to be at the studio.) I will give him a couple of minutes to calm down before I change the diaper.

For my daughter it’s about asking her questions that make her think her reasons through. Teaching her to think through why she may want something.

Neither of those is compliance. They are respectful.

Like any mom I’m not perfect, but I don’t want my kids ever to be afraid to say no. They just need to find a reason why.

The Unicorn

A mythical creature.

A story passed down.

Often describes things that we cannot fathom or dream of.

Things that are outside of our scope of experience.

For example our eldest son’s new school.

I got a call this week asking if I could come in for a meeting. “Of course!” I said, hoping that our honeymoon period wasn’t over yet. When I signed in at the office the principal came out of his office to say “Hi.” and ask how things were going. He seemed genuinely happy when I said that I was thrilled that our son was making friends and choosing to hang out with them outside in the school yard rather than reading in the library or office. Not only did he not think it was weird when I said that alone made our year a success for me, he agreed!

The SERT met me in the office, and together we went upstairs, chatting along the way. Our son was again offered an opportunity to join us but chose to take the bus home with his classmates! Anyone who knows an aspie realizes just how big a step this is. Oh and did I mention that instead of sitting near the driver, he chooses to sit at the back.

With the other grade 8’s.

Because that’s what grade 8’s do.

The meeting consisted of two teachers, an EA and the SERT.

And you know what? There were no major issues. Just some questions about how to handle certain situations. All asked in a “What do you suggest we do/try?” tone of voice.

I made sure to repeatedly tell them how thrilled I was. That they can feel free to contact us at any time. That being proactive like this can only ensure his success. That for the first time he is coming home talking about his day.

And most importantly, he is happy.

I sat in my van afterwards and realized that I no longer had to hold back the tears.

I’m so glad that we made the difficult decision to transfer him. That the school we chose is that rare mythical creature that actually encourages and supports him.

If only every Autistic child had that opportunity…

A Wee Bit of Advice for Selling Your Stuff

yard sale

We all have crap stuff that we want to get rid of. You know the boxes of baby clothes in the crawl space, the gifts you’ve tried re-giving but can’t because you’re never at a party without the person who gave it to you, the exercise equipment that wasn’t intended to get daily use for drying laundry.

One day, prompted maybe by your in-laws visiting or that you’re moving or maybe by the fact that you can’t stand climbing over all that stuff just to get to the laundry room anymore you get the idea to sort it out and clean it up.

But the garbage pile is significantly smaller than the keeper pile. It’s still good
you insist. Somebody can use this. Somebody will even pay me for it. I can have a yard sale and make enough money for my trip to Vegas! Ya! Let’s go for it!

As veteran used goods purchaser and seller (my family ran a flea market stall back in the days when flea markets were one big garage sale and not the glorified dollar stores that they seem to be now) who used to revel in getting up early on a Saturday (yes before having kids and losing the privilege to sleep in for I think forever) and head out with a friend looking for antiques and cool finds and then later as a mom looking to score some awesome deals on clothing and toys, I have some advice for those of you who are planning a yard sale:

1) Some scratched chairs, mason jars without lids and an almanac from 1986 do not a yard sale make (seriously I was at one like this at 8am this morning). Put your good stuff out where people can see it so they will have the patience to sift through for the real scores.

2) People will come early. Suck it up and be ready. It’s only one day. Expect to be up and running by 7am. If your garage is empty (and it should be after your prep for the yard sale) lay lighter stuff out on tables the night before, then you just have to (carefully) move them down the driveway in the morning. If you don’t have that space then at least sort stuff by table for a quicker set up.

3) Customer service. Seriously. Say “Good Morning” and smile. Your conversation about your kids with your neighbour can wait. I have put stuff down and walked away when no one is interested in selling it to me.

4) If someone is looking at toy trucks and you have more in the garage, tell them you have more and then pull them out and help them sort through them.

5) Have change. Lots of Quarters, Loonies, Toonies and Fives. (For my non-Canadian readers that reads lots of quarters, $1’s, $2’s and $5’s.) Bank machines only give out $20’s.

6) Be prepared to offer deals. You want to get rid of this crap/stuff right? Don’t hold out for the highest bidder or you will likely be holding on to it for another year or five. If it’s a great condition blender that just doesn’t fit your new kitchen then you don’t have to sell it for $1, but $80 is too much for a yard sale. If you can’t part with it for less then put it on Kijiji and move on.

7) Sort clothes by size and sex. Kids clothes sell better than adult. Spread them out and clearly price them. Wash them to get stains off. Throw out badly stained clothes. A sign printed with your computer works equally as well as one scrawled on a scrap of cardboard. ie: kids clothes $2 each, 6 for $10. Or fill a (grocery) bag for $10.

8) Price everything. Even if it’s a $1 table, a $2 table etc. Set your prices realistically. Even if it’s a new item, the people coming are looking for used prices. Again if you can’t part with it for less than new price then go to Kijiji and don’t turn people away with high prices.

9) Clean stuff off. It’s been sitting in your basement/crawl space/closet/garage/shed for years. It’s dirty and dusty. It doesn’t have to have a spit polish but stuff that has been wiped down or hosed off (baby wipes are awesome) will sell faster.

10) Put bits and pieces and accessories in a clear sandwich bag and tape it to the item. Think of a toy kitchen. For $20 I’m much more likely to take the one that has a bag with dishes and plastic food and stuff (even if it’s not a complete set I mean come on, what family is able to keep a complete set of any play toys?) than I am to take the one with no accessories at all.

11) College/University manuals from twenty years ago are outdated. They belong in the recycling bin.

12) If you do not have enough stuff to make your driveway look full or if you live in an apartment, pair up with a friend/neighbour. An empty looking driveway will only make people drive past. When it is full looking then it’s worth their time to stop and come take a look.

13) Put up signs at major intersections as well as at every turn on the way to your house. Make the lettering large and thick and keep your message simple. “Yard Sale. 123 Elm St. Sat 8-1” Is all that is needed. Anything else complicates the sign and makes it too hard to find the relevant details as people are driving past. Providing hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (ie Friday 5-8, Saturday 10-2, sunday 12-4 does not work. Way too complicated, and no one can figure out when they can come.)

14) Use tables to raise stuff off the ground and unpack boxes. Though die-hards will dig through boxes of crap, most people won’t and you are losing opportunities to sell it if it can’t be easily seen.

15) Saturday mornings are the best time. Sundays not so much, weekdays won’t net you much (perhaps some traffic if you are on a busy street?)

16) At the end of the day you need to decide what you are going to do with the stuff that is left.
Think twice before you hold an annual yard sale. The regulars get to know who holds a twice a year sale of the same old crap and will avoid them like the plague. If you have growing kids and have a whole new pile of stuff to add each year then maybe an annual one is a good plan. But it’s like retail, you need to add new inventory each time or your sales will go down. If your motivation is simply to de-clutter and get rid of stuff then look at what is left. Anything that is still usable or wearable as is can be donated to the Salvation Army or your local thrift shop (please click here to see why I don’t support donating to Goodwill), anything that requires repair needs to be thrown out. Metals can be picked up or dropped off to your local scrap metal place.
Anything else that can’t be donated really needs to be thrown out.

17) Count up your profit (minus of course your float-the change you started with) and decide which piggy bank it goes in. That trip to Vegas might have turned into a nice dinner out (or maybe it’s now a bigger trip) but think how wonderful it is to have gotten rid of all that stuff.

7 Things I Never Thought I’d Say Before I Became a Parent

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a city far, far away (well a 45 minute commute anyway) I had a life. It was civilized, and people spoke politely to each other (with the exception of road rage) and we never spoke of body parts unless we were drunk or laughing at some celebrity who forgot she wasn’t wearing underpants. It was peaceful there. And drinks at noon were cool.

Then I became a parent.

black mini van parked in my driveway

black mini van parked in my driveway

And I found myself saying all manner of strange things. Things that once repulsed me were now topics of everyday conversation. In fact, I often find myself desperately seeking some adult conversation. A mere sentence or two that has nothing to do with the contents of one’s diaper or where the damn permission form has gotten to now.

When I stop to think about it, some of the things I’ve said are pretty horrifying. So, just to brighten your day a bit (as you revel in not having to say those things, or that you managed to escape them), I thought I’d share with you some of the most awful things I’ve found myself saying:

7.  A mini-van? Really?

6.  Yes, someone needs to be sober in the house at all times.

5.  No the baby doesn’t count.

4.  Oh, that diaper smells delightful! Think we can make it home without causing another rash? That mom over there is about to ram us for our spot.

3.  Seriously? You’re picking your nose and eating it? At the table? Instead of this dinner I slaved over?

2.  I know it’s fashionable to wear tight shorts, but honey, do you know what camel toe is?

1.  Sure I can take three more kids in the van. Pile them in!



Negative And Then Positive End to the School Year

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted anything.

Lots has been going on, but in an effort to be positive, I haven’t focused on the crap that’s happened at our school and the behaviour that teachers believe they can get away with when it comes to our children. And this time I’m not referring to the teachers of our child with Asperger’s, but rather our daughter and the rather cold, nasty teachers she had this year. But by not writing of it, I’ve been stuck and unable to form a full post (several drafts await editing/saving though)

I find it very stressful confronting anyone and yet I had to do it with them and carefully used the correct language about how as adults in a position of authority need to choose their words and expressions carefully. That dismissing the hard work of a student as “not worth their time” is not an appropriate way to speak to anyone, let alone a child. I called a very last minute meeting with the principal, frustrated at how my child was in tears yet again over class work and how her teacher was treating her. I gave him no option, sending him an email that I was on my way to the school and expected him to meet us in the office. To his credit he did, and actually called the two teachers in question out of class to join us. But that was the only positive part of it.

Excuses to justify their actions were made (two teachers, one English, one French backing each other’s bad behaviour up in an unprecedented show of callousness at our meeting) and I called them on each one. I spoke to one then the other teacher. Both replied with a cold “Ok” clearly indicating “yeah whatever.” The principal lifted his head off the table (yes really!) long enough to look at me when I told him (in front of the teachers) that their behaviour was unacceptable, that instead of supporting and helping their students they were destroying the children’s confidence.

Then without preamble or apology the teachers stood up, left our (admittedly last minute meeting) and left for another meeting. Rude, cold and unbelievable that they are teachers! (If they had offered an ounce of politeness that they’d had a prearranged meeting already then I would have been fine with them leaving, clearly my words were not having an effect) I spoke a bit further to the principal, though my words seemed to have little effect.

When we got in the van, my daughter and I had a few good minutes of saying all the bad things we needed to say, and the joy in getting to say bad words I think took a bit of the sting out of the situation for her.

My husband followed up with the principal and was told that he and the vice-principal had spoken to the teachers about their behaviour in the classroom. I was doubting how effective this was until this week when my daughter told me that after that day both teachers refused to pick her to answer a question even when she was clearly the only one in the class with her hand up. Really? Child-ish, petty, nasty behaviour from an elementary school teacher?! Sigh.

On a much more positive note, we toured our son’s new school for next year. It was a tough decision to move him for his last year of elementary, but as I’ve noted above their current school isn’t a nurturing, supportive environment. From the moment we stepped into the office we were welcomed. The SERT, a lovely lady, introduced us to several people from the principal, to teachers, the librarian and a custodian. All welcomed us with big smiles and told us that we would love it there. We spotted a former classmate of my son’s and he was welcomed to go say hi to her.

Both of us left that experience feeling at peace with our decision to move him. He feels calmer about it, less nervous. And we were welcomed to make an appointment to meet his teacher in August and get more details about his busing. Yes the bus may prove to be a challenge but so far it looks like his request to sit at the front will be respected.

Looking forward to the positive things to come, and releasing the negative experiences (not to be forgotten at all but to be set aside so that they don’t affect our summer holiday).

I’ll blog about our year end camping in another post!

The Hunk in My Front Hall


The above installation in my front hallway is a modernist reflection upon the slavery of the contemporary suburban family to the corporate machination of planned obsolescence in the early 21st century.

If you believe that, then please support my application for an artist grant and installation into the Smithsonian. Also, I have a great piece of land on the moon to sell you.

Remember when I posted about the fridge in my front hall and I said that the circus wasn’t done yet?

Well I was right.

It’s now May and the snow is long gone (even if the cold air isn’t), and still the fridge is in my hall. I’ve asked a few times about when it’s going to get moved. My brother-in-law lent his handy dandy appliance dolly out to some friends and now he can’t get hold of them to get it back. And the guys are all busy. Or something.

Ok so now I’m in the habit of opening the baby gate, going down the stairs and loading up before I head up again to cook. Which I guess is really not that bad (I mean you can get used to anything right?). And unloading groceries is super easy when you enter the front door, drop the bags on the floor and you’re there.

But I am tired of explaining to the plumber, and guests and even the newspaper kid why there is a kitchen fridge in my hall. I mean it would be cool if it was a wine cooler wouldn’t it? Well maybe even that would be a bit trashy…

Well… on Tuesday evening I pulled something out of the freezer and was puzzled to find it soft. When we investigated, both fridge and freezer sides were not as cold as they should be. At first we thought the door hadn’t been shut, but realized it would have beeped annoyingly at us. Nope. It’s broken. So we scrambled to save what we could and stuff the garage fridge (the one that no longer smells of smoke but now has a permanent home in our garage).

The next morning a call to our reliable repair place found that fixing it would likely be in the $700 range. For a used fridge. That’s ten-ish years old. So not happening.

Now, we are on the hunt to find a new, new fridge that will fit the weirdly sized space in our kitchen (and actually be placed there by guys paid to break their backs lifting heavy crap).

And I have to either live with a hunk of dead appliance in my front hall (rednecking it in the burbs anyone?) or find a way to get it out and to the curb.

The funny part? The guy who sold it to us walked into my hubby’s store the day after and asked how we liked the fridge! LOL. Poor man was horrified, but honestly, there’s nothing that can be done. We’ve had it for a few months now, so it’s just one of those things.

The circus may yet have a part three… stay tuned.

As our kids pointed out: Good thing it died before we hauled it into the kitchen 🙂

Chance Encounters

Last week when I was driving our daughter to dance we saw this license plate:

Chance Encounters-spreading positivity to strangers. (Disclaimer-I did not take this photo while driving, my passenger took it)

Chance Encounters-spreading positivity to strangers. (Disclaimer-I did not take this photo while driving, my passenger took it)

And it prompted us to talk about the fact that vanity plates are often about being vain, yet this person chose to spread positivity to complete strangers wherever they drive.

And then it got me talking about Chance Encounters which I learned about 11 or 12 years ago when I attended a conference hosted by Toastmasters. Each session was with a person embarking upon a career as a motivational speaker.

The session I remember most vividly (actually the only session I remember) was about Chance Encounters.

The speaker (If you know who he is please contact me as I would like to give credit where it is due) spoke of the concept that every choice we make in life affects someone one else. And he called these choices Chance Encounters.

For example, a driver cuts you off in traffic and you respond with a hand signal and some choice words. You then go on about your day. But this driver knew he made a mistake and tried to say sorry to you. He just got fired today and yesterday his wife left him. No one, not even random strangers (you) can’t stand him. What’s the point in living when no one thinks anything of you? When he’s driving over the bridge, he takes a sharp right and drives into the river.

Take the same circumstance, the same driver with the same crappy day. He cuts you off. And he tries to mouth “sorry” to you. You nod your head, acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes. You continue on your way not realizing that you just showed him that strangers can be kind and that life is worth living.

It’s a pretty dramatic example and of course not every situation will lead to such an awful outcome. The point though is that everything we choose to do from hitting our snooze button to letting a driver in to going to bed early has the potential to have an impact on other people. And most often we will never know the implications of that impact.

Every Chance Encounter/choice we make is an opportunity. We can choose to be positive and forgiving or we can choose to be negative and spread misery.

And this driver ahead of us chose to make our day a little brighter 🙂

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