Thursday, December 20, 2012

LABELLED

When my son was diagnosed with Autism, I cried. 

I knew that the diagnosis was coming, I had been waiting for it and fighting for it for over a year. What broke my heart, was the label.

We all get labelled. We ask new people we meet what they do, as if their career defines them. We label each other as the blonde, the laugh-er, the loud one, the short one, the funny one, the smart one. And now my son has been labelled; not as the funny guy or the fun one, not as the smart guy or the smiley one but the autistic one. While the label would make big gains in his life as far as funding for therapies would go it would also change his life in not-so-awesome ways.

We often label others for good reason, making associations between a name and a job, distinctive laugh, tv show etc. help us to remember facts about the people around us. But what happens when those labels are negative?

Yesterday, I posted about NASA mentoring students with disabilities. I just copied the title from the post I was linking to. I immediately felt shame because the word "disability" makes me feel queasy.

The prefix, "dis" means "not" or a "lack of".

As in, NOT-ABLE or a LACK OF ABILITY.

As a parent, I often worry about self-fulfilling prophesy. I've spoke of it a lot this week in regards of a blog written by a woman who basically claimed her son will most likely become the next school shooter. She likened her son to boys who came before him and said I AM THEIR MOTHER. I feel that she is placing this entire world of negativity on her son and has lost any glimmer of hope. She's spending her life treating him as a criminal, eventually this boy may turn and say, "well this is what they expect of me, I might as well do it."

So back to disability.

I choose to look at my child in terms of what he CAN do and not what he cannot. I will not place limits (however invisible) on his potential. I will not allow his teachers to expect less output from him and I expect them to push him as hard as they would a "gifted" child. I will nurture and celebrate every gain, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be to others. I will not compare him to other children instead, every day I will encourage him to be better than the day before.

Today I will celebrate that he can finally print his own name,
rather than being upset with his rogue graffiti efforts.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Concert Musings


Holy crap, these parents are fiercely protective over their seats.

Keeners show up almost an hour early.

The angry kids who obviously don't want to be on stage make the show 100% better. 

Don't sit beside the grandma who comments on the wardrobe choice of EVERY SINGLE CHILD who steps on stage.

Don't sit beside the grandma who can't remember if her twin granddaughters are in grade one or two."Is that them? No wait, is that them? Caroooooo-line? Is that you?"

DO offer to take pictures for the gramps who can't figure out how to turn on the camera. It'll save you the grief of hearing him say "Well I think it worked that time" over and over again.

Risers people, risers. When the stage is the same height as the chair seats, parents can't see their kids who are sitting on the stage.

Don't sit in the front row. You may want to see your little bean up close but the spit flying from the mouths of babes every time they say "Grinch" is enough to keep you full of flu germs for the next 12 months.

Your fancy camera/iPad/Playbook is lovely.... but when you want to tape the entire show, move to the back because now every parent behind you can no longer see.

Sweet mother, is it the parents or the kids who are stinking up the place?

For heavens sakes, if you're bringing a 1 year old to an hour and a half long concert, bring a bloody toy, soother or cheerios to keep them busy.




And thank you teachers, for doing something with my kids that I could never, ever accomplish.

NASA to mentor students with disabilities

What a wonderful idea, NASA is embarking on a project to mentor kids with disabilities and encourage careers in STEM.

Read the article on Disability Scoop here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Victim Culture






I shudder when I see this video because it makes me feel like we're shoving fear down every woman's throat.

I've said it over at on my other blog and I'll say it again here:

Violence Against Women is NOT a women's issue. 

Yes, we need to educate each other. Yes, we need safe places to go in case it happens. But rather than making a video that is supposed to scare parents into thinking that their baby girl is going to be raped, 

HOW ABOUT MAKING THE VIDEO TO PARENTS OF BOYS SO THEY CAN EDUCATE THEIR YOUNG MEN ON IMPORTANT ISSUES LIKE RESPECT, HONOUR AND DIGNITY?

WTF. I'm sick of victim culture.

Let's place the responsibility for this squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of men who don't understand boundaries, who have no respect for females and who know that they can get away with their actions because society has chosen to put the blame on the victims instead.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Called out by a 6 year old...

Boy: "Mom, why did you buy bananas?"

Me: "Because I know you like them."

Boy: "But are they local?"

BURN.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Snow Play

I took my oldest boy for a snow walk to find downed branches and some awesomeness happened when  I started snapping pictures...













Fun times hanging out with my boy, can't wait to take the other one out for a special day next weekend!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 - A Year in Books


10 years I've been keeping track of the number of books I've read. This is the first I've written down every title... minus the few handfuls of novels I would have bought, finished and sent packing within a day out at the park.

* Books I've read before this year, some I also read more than once this year.

*** HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


A Changed Man - Francine Prose
A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews *** ~ I'll read this again and again.
A Queer History of the Ballet - Peter Stoneley
A Sort of Life - Graham Greene
A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards - Ann Bauer
A Year of Biblical Womanhood - Rachel Held Evans
Addiction: What's Really Going On? Inside a Heroin Treatment Program - Deborah McCloskey
American Nerd - Benjamin Nugent
An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World - Pankaj Mishra *
Anorexia's Fallen Angel - Barbara McClintock
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City - Nick Flynn
Arguing With Idiots - Glenn Beck
Ash - Malinda Lo
Beyond Fundraising: New Strategies for Nonprofit Innovation and Investment - Kay Sprinkel Grace
Big Trouble - Dave Barry
Bitter in the Mouth - Monique Troung
Black Vinyl White Powder - Simon Napier-Bell
Blink & Caution - Tim Wynne-Jones
Blink - Malcolm Gladwell ***
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Boy Alone - Karl Taro Greenfeld
Brocabulary: The New Man-I-Festo of Dude Talk - Daniel Maurer
By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Children of Welfare - Joan J. Johnson
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man - John Perkins
Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa - Dambisa Moyo
Dear Photograph - Taylor Jones
Digital Activism Decoded: The New Mechanics of Change - Mary Joyce
Don't Be Afraid - Steven Hayward
Down and Out in America: The Origins of Homelessness - Peter H. Rossi
Einstein: His Life and Universe - Walter Issacson
Emergence: Labeled Autistic - Temple Grandin *
Every Dead Thing - John Connolly
Fantastic Voyage - Isaac Asimov
Fire and Ice - J.A. Jance
Fly Away Home - Eve Bunting
Freedom - Johnathan Franzen
Geek Love - Katherine Dunn
Gods of Eden- William Bramley *
Green is the New Red - Will Potter
Growing Up on the Spectrum - Lynn Kern Koebel & Claire LaZebnik
Half the Sky: Turning Opression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide - Nicholas D. Kristoff
His Way; The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra - Kitty Kelley *
Hold onto Your NUTs: The Relationship Manual for Men - Wayne M. Levine
Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis - Jack Layton *
How Can I Talk if My Lips Don't Move: Inside My Autistic Mind - Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay
How I Became a Famous Novelist - Steve Hely *** ~ funniest book I've read in a long time
How I slept My Way to the Middle - Kevin Pollack
How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas - David Bornstein
How to Increase Homelessness - Joel John Roberts
How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie *** ~ A book that'll change anyone's life.
I Am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne
If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries What Am I Doing in the Pits? - Erma Bombeck *
Inside Scientology - Janet Reitman
In the Miso Soup - Ryū Murakami
Is God a Mathematician? - Mario Livio *
Jar City - Arnaldur Indridason
Just Kids - Patti Smith
Just Take My Heart - Mary Higgins Clark
Lance Armstrong's War - Daniel Coyle
Leaving Dirty Jersey: A Crystal Meth Memoir - James Salant *
Lennon - Tim Riley
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
Lullabies for Little Criminals - Heather O'Neill
Luna - Julie Anne Peters
Lying With Strangers - James Grippando
MWF Seeking BFF - Rachel Bertsche
Making Room: The Economics of Homelessness - Brendan O'Flaherty
Maniac Magee - Jerry Spinelli
Martha Inc. - Christopher Byron
Mission to America - Walter Kin
Mr. Clarinet - Nick Stone
Music For Torching - A.M. Homes
My Friend Leonard - James Frey
Noble House - James Clavell
Novel - George Singleton
Of Human Bondage - W. Somerset Maugham *** ~ This may be the best novel I've ever read, it'll probably take me another 5 readings to truly find the meaning.
Our Daily Bread - Lauren B. Davis
Pink - Marilyn Griffith
Prozac Nation - Elizabeth Wurtzel *
Rachel's Holiday - Marian Keyes
Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America - Jonathan Kozol *** ~ This book makes me point a critical finger at myself and explore my true intentions and reactions.
Reinventing Mona - Jennifer Coburn
Revolution! - Michael L. Brown
Revolution 2020 - Chetan Bhagat
Road Dogs - Elmore Leonard
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road - Willie Nelson
Same Kind of Different Me - Ron Hall
Scar Tissue - Anthony Kiedis
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz
Self Made Man - Norah Vincent
Seven Types of Ambiguity - Elliot Perlman
Social Entrepreneurship: The Art of Mission-Based Venture Development - Peter C. Brinkerhoff *
Sorta Like A Rock Star - Matthew Quick
Steal Like An Artist - Austin Kleon *
Steppenwolf - Herman Hesse
Steve Jobs: A Biography - Walter Issacson
Street Crazy: America's Mental Health Tragedy - Stephen B. Seager *
Sweetheart - Chelsea Cain
Tchaikovsky - Roland John Wiley
Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women - Elliot Liebow
Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill - Jessica Stern
The Art of Making Money - Jason Kersten
The Beatles: The Biography - Bob Spitz
The Beginning of Infinity - David Deutsch
The Biggest Secret: The Book That Will Change the World - David Icke
The Bite of the Mango - Mariatu Kamara with Susan McLelland
The Bodies Left Behind - Jeffery Deaver
The Cold Spot - Tom Piccirilli
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon *** ~ A truly great read on being an outsider looking in.
The Cutting Crew - Steve Mosby
The Debutante - Kathleen Tessaro
The Family Under the Bridge - Natalie Savage Carlson *
The Forgotten Waltz - Anne Enright
The Friday Night Knitting Club - Kate Jacobs
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
The Guardians - Andrew Pyper
The Heroin Diaries - Nikki Sixx
The Homeless - Christopher Jencks
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
The Joy of Hate - Greg Gutfeld
The Killer Inside Me - Jim Thompson
The Know-It-All - A.J. Jacobs
The Man's Manual - Gregg Stebben
The Marbury Lens - Andrew Smith
The Men Who Stare at Goats - Jon Ronson
The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City - Jennifer Toth *
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
The Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell
The Photographer - Emmanuel Guibert
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver *
The Recovery Formula: An Addict's Guide to Getting Clean & Sober Forever - Beth Burgess
The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy - Polly Williams
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
The Rule of Four - Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason *
The Straw Men - Michael Marshall
The Time We All Went Marching - Arley McNeney
The Tolkien Reader - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Velveteen Killer Rabbit - Elia Anie *** ~ It's not for the faint of heart, but Elia Anie has a knack for showing you the dark side of otherwise adorable creatures. Parody.
The War of the End of the World - Mario Vargas Llosa
The Wealthy Barber - David Chilton * ~ Read it. Every year. Sometimes twice.
The Wild Woman's Guide to Fundraising - Mazarine Treyz
The Wizard of Loneliness - John Treadwell Nichols
The Working Poor: Invisible in America - David K. Shipler
The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs
The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
There's a Boy in Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism - Judy Barron
Thinking, Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism - Temple Grandin *
Three Cuos of Team: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace… One School at  a Time - Greg Mortenson
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters
Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
Turn Me On, Dead Man - Andru J. Reeve
Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time - Claire Diaz-Ortiz *** ~ Twitter's official guide to using the platform for social change, must read for anyone in the field.
Under Milk Wood - Dylan Thomas
Under the Dome - Stephen King
Underworld - Don DeLillo
Unnatural Death - Dorothy L. Sayers
Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin - Norah Vincent
We Don't Live Here Anymore - Andre Dubus
What's to Become of the Boy; Or, Something to Do with Books - Heinrich Böll *
What Was That Number Again? - Neil Hedley
When the Game was Ours - Larry Bird & Earvin "Magic" Johnson
When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada - Peter C. Newman *
Where Rainbows End - Cecelia Ahern
Without Apology: Girls, Women and the Desire to Fight - Leah Hager Cohen
World of Chickens - Nick Earls
You Cannot Be Serious - John McEnroe
50 Shades of Grey - EL James ~ Yes, I read it. What a waste of brain cells.


Good golly, I love to lose myself in a book. This year, 2 atypical behaviours on the book front: I bought several books new, which I RARELY do. I'm a thrift shopper which is why most of the books I read are OLD. Secondly, I think I only read about 5 truly horrid books this year, and only 1 on the list above. The others were randoms I picked up somewhere and read in an afternoon.

2012 has been a good year for reading!






Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Bully

I hear a commotion.

It was at the one area in the entire room where we couldn't see what the kids at the breakfast club were doing. There was yelling and I ran down the hall to see what was going on. As I round the corner I see my boy fall to the ground, pushed by another kid. One of the crowd sees me and yells, telling the pusher to go. Now.

I follow him outside.

He tells me he hates that kid because he follows him around.

keep him away from me or I'll kick his ass

For a moment I wonder why there's no lynch mob waiting to take this bully to task for his crimes.

I tell him he should go to an adult, that's what we're here for.

what's the point? You're on his side

Precisely that moment, my heart breaks.
I see the bully not as a bully
but as a kid who's been terrorized himself.

He wouldn't come to us because he doesn't trust
the grown ups around him to make the right decisions.
He scared.
He feels alone.

I tell him I'm sorry my son bugs him
and I tell him he can come to me anytime.
I'm not always on my kid's side,
I'm looking for the right side.

I don't even realize that I'm crying until I walk down the stairs
and my boy ask me why my eyes are red.

I ask him if he's hurt and he tells me
we were just playing mom
and I realize he doesn't understand what just happened.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sensory Overload

Here's a great video if you're looking to educate someone on what it's like to deal with sensory overload.

Sorry, link only as I'm not smart enough to figure out how to upload a Vimeo video onto here.

http://vimeo.com/52193530

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Farts, Poop and Little Boys...

Today the boys asked me what is different between fart and poop.

Oh, how I love being the mom of these guys, they keep me on my toes!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Embracing Our Uniqueness

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend time with a new group of friends, a community of faith looking to change themselves and make a positive difference in the world around them. One of the exercises we participated in was an extension of their discussion last week about what makes us unique. So we gathered in a circle with a ball of yarn and took turns sharing things that were unique about ourselves and the unique characteristics of the people around us.

As I watched the ball of yarn travel throughout the group, I searched my brain for a unique fact about myself. I thought I had one that really personifies who I am when I realized that most of the group was aiming for lightheartedness in their facts and mine was way too serious. So I started searching my brain again for something I do, something I have, that makes me unique.

Read 4 hours a day? - too obsessive, not unique
Write a blog? - not unique, practically everyone does it
Nurture a special needs child? - people do it every day
Volunteer? - millions of volunteer hours are logged each year
Runner? - they'd look at me and not believe it
Addicted to Smallville? - kinda sad, not unique
Extra toe on one foot? - sadly, not true


Finally, as the yarn ball flew through the air and towards my face I made my decision.

My name is Melissa and I am unique because I can make a lamp out of old records.

Wow.  That's life-changing stuff right there.

And it made me wonder, why are we so quick to name off great qualities another person possesses, the wonderful things that make them the beautiful people we enjoy spending time with but have a hard time  with just a teeny bit of self-promotion? I saw it all around the group as folks were generous in the praise of their friends but hemmed and hawed when they had to name a unique quality about themselves.

So tell me, what makes you unique? Can you quickly name a special fact about yourself without feeling like a braggart? Do you struggle with self-promotion? Why do you think so may of us have difficulty embracing our uniqueness? 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gee whilickers! It's a retro invasion!

We moved into this house at the end of August and the first thing I had to contend with was these oh so lovely orange-tinted paneling covered walls. Aren't they gorgeous?


My first thought was to use gel stain on the walls and make them a deep rich brown. Then I went to the store, saw the price of gel stain and realized there was no way ever I would pay that much money to paint the walls of a rental unit. Suck it up and deal with it, Melissa.

Then I found this table.


Circa 1950's, it is my dream table. I love the chrome. I love the mustard yellow leather. Most of all, I love the sturdiness of old furniture. Once the table moved in it was easy to see that this room needed a little retro lovin'.

                         
 


It's a long way to being done but so far I've made this awesome hanging light from records, bought a few secondhand vintage bowls and this really cool fabric I found at the surplus store. There's a bookshelf waiting to be retro-ized, a black and white leather couch and some t-shirt rag carpets on my to-do list but most of that will have to wait until after Christmas. For now, I'm adoring the way this room is turning out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I cheated my way through high school


I have a confession to make.

I can't type.

Well actually, judging from the amount of tweets I send out into cyberspace I can type but I can't type.

In 9th grade, when I finally got to use computers in school (that's right, I never used a computer until high school), we had typing class teaching us how to touch type. But instead of paying attention and trying to learn, I thought the teacher was silly, that there was no way I'd ever need to know how to type faster than I already did and I slacked. I passed the tests and I finished the class with a B+.

But by most standards, I'm still a slow typist.

So this year, in my ever evolving quest to better myself, I want to become more proficient with computers. I'd like to learn how to do some basic coding. I'd love to learn how to make the most of this fancy macbook that I send all my tweets from. So I'm starting with learning how to type.

In fact, I used touch typing for this entire post. It's been a 30 minute effort. I'm exhausted. My fingers ache. My brain hurts.

Who knew typing was so hard?



Do you make an effort to better yourself on a personal level? Do you enjoy new activities or are you happy with the status quo?


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Next, he'll be writing novels.

Today, my eldest son wrote his first sentence.


This made my mommy heart swell to unimaginable heights. Today was a good day.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Abortion

I am against abortion. Completely and totally. But this video below really struck me as the type of woman who should be able to get an abortion if she wants. She is smart*, logical and she admits that there are after-effects of the abortion that she hadn't expected. She thought it through, made her decision and lived with the consequences.



*NOTE: The only thing that would make me question her is the fact that she mentions she's used the morning after pill a few times. If she really doesn't want to get pregnant that badly, contraception should be more of a prominent priority in her life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's been a messy few weeks...

An update on our recent "stuff"...

- Boy 1 was rejected for an early literacy program at school because he is below the levels they are trying to help. Good news is that he's receiving help and/or special ed 3 times a week which is much more than he's ever received before.

- The entire school's pizza lunch program was cancelled so there's no more fight over letting parents help. 

- We have finally received a court date for taking our land/scum lords to the housing tribunal. Thankfully I've kept impeccable records of all conversations and emails. Last week the landlord called me a "crazy bitch". Although he may indeed be correct, I think being upset over not having locking doors, a working furnace or hot water warrants at least a little bit of crazy.

- Our neighbour's dog had puppies. Golden line from boy 1... "Mom, did she have to wreck her belly to get them out?"

- I seem to have a huge amount of excess creative energy since I'm no longer making cakes. I'm transferring the energy to crafting which I'm sure  I think is driving my husband bananas. I've committed to making at least 80% of our Christmas gifts... wish me luck.

- I started actively looking for work this week. While I'd really like to start work in the not for profit/social profit industry now, I don't have a lot of paper skills, just practical. Seriously looking forward to attending Conestoga College next year and starting this journey. Until then, I'm looking for something part-time to fill my hours and contribute to some household bills.

- We went to the opening of the Avatar exhibit at THEMUSEUM in Kitchener. Next week I'll share some pictures from this super interactive show.

That's it for now. Next week I'll be sharing my thoughts on Avatar, how to make an epipen belt and reveal the lampshade I made out of old records for my retro dining room!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I'm angry. You've been warned.

I got a note home yesterday, crumpled in the bottom of my 4 year old's backpack. This is what it says:

Dear Parents/Guardians,
Unfortunately, due to the current political situation, Room 4 will not be participating in Pizza Thursdays until further notice. Please pack a full lunch for your son/daughter on Thursdays.

I understand that Ontario teachers are fighting what they feel are grave injustices. Do I agree with them? Not so much. But in the end, they're fighting, as teachers are prone to do. I've seen teachers strike before, I've seen them threaten to strike many times and I've seen them pull back services in schools.

And then I had kids. Now it really matters.

Now I know that raising a ruckus over pizza day seems silly. It is! But for me, I'm looking at the root of the issue and what the school administrator's are doing about it.

I called the school and asked why pizza day was being cancelled. "I can't comment on that, you'll have to ask the teacher" I was told.

I explained to the administrator that my son felt left out because his older brother would still be getting pizza. I explained that I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to bring in pizza for my boy on Thursdays but I know that other parents aren't always able to do so.

I asked if a parent volunteer could come in and take care of the pizza dealings so the class could still have pizza. "I'm sorry, you'll have to ask the teacher permission, it's their decision."

Here's where I get angry. Our government has foolishly given teachers so much power that they are able to threaten to strike just about every year for just about any reason imaginable.

Our government has also apparently given the teachers complete control over their classrooms and whether or not a parent is allowed to come in and do the work that the teacher refuses to do???

This is not about pizza. This is about control. This is about teachers taking their issues out on the kids. If there is a club that a teacher normally runs each year but decides not to, no big deal. If a teacher decides to longer run the intramural league, although sad, is no big deal. But if the school is having the pizza, the entire school should have pizza. If the teachers don't want to serve pizza either let the parents come in and do it or have no pizza days. You can't shut it out of one class but not the others.

When will the Ontario government stop letting the teachers union run the whole damn show?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Parent Rap

This is funny stuff. A must-watch for any parent. Force your kids to watch just to annoy them.


THE PARENT RAP




Don't try to tell me you didn't do a pathetic mom/dad dance in your chair.

Monday, September 17, 2012

There's Something In The Water

There must be something in the water in Kitchener.

We moved 3 weeks ago. I thought moving was supposed to be stressful and in some ways, it lived up to my expectations. Getting OUT of our old house was stressful. Moving into our new one? It's been the stuff dreams are made of.

Now, the new house has problems. As of this moment we have 3 entry doors and none of them will close properly and therefore, don't lock. We haven't been out of the house as a family in 3 weeks because someone needs to be at home with our stuff. We've had a clogged toilet, were without hot water for 3 days and are still battling the kitty litter that the last tenant (presumably) poured down the tub drain. The floors are so uneven that I've had to shim every single piece of furniture and every window has a problem, it either opens or closes, but it won't do both.

It's a house of horrors and I didn't even have to visit Niagara Falls.

Despite all this, I am calmer, more relaxed and more organized than I have been in my entire life. Case in point: There are 15 loaves of homemade bread cooling on my counter right now, there is a month's worth of school lunch snacks in the freezer and my blog is up-to-date. All our paperwork is filed, I've applied for college and have had time to volunteer 20+ hours each week.

BUT

While I'd like to think it's just me, becoming the person at home that I've always been at work, I know it's not true. And the reason I know this?

It's affecting my husband, too.

Yesterday, I asked him to pick me up bread flour. He came home with WHOLE WHEAT. Then he SWEPT THE FLOOR. He took the kids over to the neighbour's and LEFT ME ALONE with some FREE TIME and to top it all off... the scariest of them all... HE DID ALL OUR LAUNDRY. Not just his, mine, the kids, EVERYTHING! Granted, he shrunk 2 of my shirts but still... HE DID ALL OUR LAUNDRY.

So the move didn't just affect me. Therefore I blame the Kitchener water. No, actually I THANK the Kitchener water. I'm not sure what's in you, but I'm turning on the tap for more.


Drink up!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Oh, For The Love of Biscuits!



I had to share these filled biscuits with you. We make them with a huge variety of fillings, from scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese to these pizza ones and chilli filled minis for Superbowl parties. 

This is a pretty kick-butt biscuit dough, add 1 Tb raw brown sugar for sweeter uses and replace with fresh herbs, garlic or jalepenõs to make it even better for savoury dishes.

Basic Biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour, white or wheat
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup butter
3/4-1 cup milk

Blend dry ingredients. Cut in butter in the same manner as pie dough. Pour in 3/4 cup milk and mix quickly without overworking. If it's a damp day you won't need more than 3/4 cup milk. Hot and dry you're likely to use an entire cup or even a touch more.

Fold dough quickly 3 times. Let stand for 15 mins (or even up to overnight in the fridge).

Roll dough to 1/2" thick for plain biscuits or 1/4" for filled ones. Cut into circles or squares big enough to fit a large muffin pan.

 


Pizza Buns: Shredded basil, 1 Tb pizza sauce, 2 slices turkey pepperoni,1 Tb of shredded cheese.
Breakfast: 1/2 slice crumbled bacon, 3 Tb scrambled eggs, 1 tsp shredded cheese.
Breakfast: 1 Tb finely sliced apple, 1 Tb almond butter or preserves.

Or any other combination you can think of. I don't need to list them, you're smart people.


Pull sides of dough up and over and press together. Brush top of bun with milk.

Bake @ 400℉ for 15 mins. Makes 10 filled buns.


My boys like the pizza buns at room temp for lunch and they freeze well. Definitely worth making 3 batches of dough at a time. 




Enjoy.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pancake Perfection


I blogged this recipe over at my Baking The World A Better Place blog in 2011 but I think it deserves a special place over here. Pancake perfection.

I grew up thinking pancakes came from a box, JUST ADD WATER, the box screamed and so we did. As I grew up I realized that box pancakes were better with milk. Then I found out that adding a little baking powder made them better, and then a realization.... why the heck am I not just making homemade pancakes?

Now, while better than box pancakes, a lot of the homemade pancake recipes I was trying were still mediocre and not what I was hoping for. I really wanted thepan-cake... something as tender and fluffy as cake, but made quicker. Then one weekend I stayed with my grandparents and grandpa made us pancakes. Now these were pancakes, and they were closer to my dream pancake than ever before. Recipe in hand, I went home to experiment.

This pancake recipe was one of the first I ever became obsessed with. Hubby and I ate pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So many pancakes that I actually became sick of maple syrup (the horror!).

So here is my pancake recipe, the one that has grazed many restaurant menus and countless church and other charity breakfasts. And this is the first time that I have ever shared it.

1 1/3 c sour milk
2 eggs
1/4 c canola oil
1-2 bananas, mashed

2 1/4 c pastry flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt

Sour your milk by adding a good splash of vinegar to it. The longer you let it sit the better your pancakes are, so I let it go for a good 15 mins. Add your eggs, oil and mashed banana.

After your pan is heated with a touch of oil in it, mix your dry ingredients into the sour milk mix. Use a whisk and mix as quickly as you can, the batter will be lumpy and thick.


Now the pastry flour is what makes these incredibly light, but all purpose is okay in a jam. Drop the flour to 2 cups. The mashed fruit makes the pancakes so tender they're almost hard to flip, the kids can cut them with a plastic fork and they literally melt in your mouth. These are no chewing required kind of pancakes.

Enjoy.


*You can omit the banana and substitute applesauce or any other mashed soft fruit. Whole wheat pastry flour will also add a wonderfully nutty flavour to these Saturday morning favourites.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ridiculous!

Everyone but the top executive seems to complain about cost of living increases. Many Ontario families live a day-to-day financial lifestyle and when we take a look at our own governmental resources, it's not hard to see why.


While some provinces have seen an exponential increase in wages between Nov. 2010 - Nov. 2011, Ontarians have seen on average, a 0.5% increase in wages. To make it clearer, a $25,000/year wage earner saw an increase of $1,250/year, or approximately $100/month. Considering how much our cost of gasoline has gone up since I got my first car in 1999 (about $0.55/litre), the wage increase covers about 1/2 of my gasoline costs for the month, and we bike/walk/take transit as much as we can.

Look deeper into the issue and what do we find? Some of our most necessary workers are the ones being hurt the most by poor wage increases in Ontario.

Health care and social assistance workers, public administration have been hit hard, earning less than 2% wage increases. These are the people that run our country. They're the nurses that you complain to when your wait time in the ER has been too long, they are the folks who accept payment for your utility bills and the folks who help the down and out find the right resources to get them back on their feet.

Shockingly, I'm not surprised at the lowest of the low on the no wage increase boat... hospitality workers. Since I have been one myself, I know that cooks and chefs, hotel desk clerks and the like have LONG been living below the national average. For cooks and chefs in particular, and not just restaurant chefs but also those who prepare* food in our hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities, people who are constantly under the scrutiny of public health offices, people who are responsible for your safety and well-being in terms of the food you eat, are the most underpaid of all.

Does it surprise you that a cook, who has completed college, completed an apprenticeship and has received their Red Seal trade certification, in a top hotel chain may be making less than $14/hr? The cook in your favourite mass produced chain restaurant is quite likely making under $12/hr and the cook in the fine dining restaurant, the one where you pay upwards of $100 for a meal for two may only be making minimum wage? When I started in the restaurant industry I was (wisely, although I didn't know it yet) advised that "the finer the dining, the lower the pay". Whereas, the untrained food production worker in your local hospital or nursing home, often under union wages, is making $16-$22/hourly, where no skills are required*.

This isn't a rant on the poor wages of hospitality workers (although it could be), it's a rant about pay inequality across Ontario. Do teachers deserve more money? Quite possibly so. I know the work and support teachers give to my own children, I want to see them living in a comfortable zone. Since the average "secretary" is now an Administrative Assistant with numerous more responsibilities, he/she probably deserves more as well. The sad fact is, our government got so caught up in bringing a higher minimum wage to our province (which was an extremely good thing) that they forgot the most basic of our rights, mandating wage increases for all workers to cover the cost of living. My own living expenses have risen by close to 6% this year and sadly, if I was still working in the restaurant industry, I'd be praying for just a few basic extended health benefits, never mind a wage increase of any sort that would help cover my cost of living.

When will Ontarians stand up and realize that our current government is doing nothing to equalize wages? When will we stop fighting wage increases for deserving public employees and start fighting for wage increases for ALL deserving residents? Could you live on $20,500/year? Neither can the person who sold you your $100 yoga pants or the person who cooked the restaurant meal that made you rave for weeks.



*Note: Most of us know that much of the hospital, long term care and other institutional meals served to patients is not prepared onsite. Sadly, much of what is, is simply opened from a can or bag and heated up. I hesitate to call the food preparation workers cooks because it is simply not true. On the brighter side, many of these institutions are experiencing a food revolution of sorts, with people finally realizing that good food is the key to good long term health. Let's hope this revolution continues.

Monday, September 10, 2012

World's Best Granola Bars



Okay, okay I know. Everyone says they make the world's best... something. But I mean it. If you're looking for healthy school snack options or even grown-up snack options I dare you to find a better granola bar recipe.

The secret? It's granola. You don't make these bars with raw oats, you either use a ready-made granola product (I like Rogers brand, inexpensive and delicious) or make your own granola ahead of time. There's a great granola recipe at the fab Christine Reid's photo blog (yeah, she takes incredible pictures, is a runner and cooks too... The kind of girl you could love to hate.)

750 g granola
3 eggs
2 bananas
1 tsp agave nectar (honey or pure maple syrup can substitute)
2 1/2 cups add-ins ~ On the regular I use a mixture of dried blueberries, coconut, dried cranberries, banana chips (crushed), raisins, almonds and mini chocolate chips. Whatever flavour floats your boat.

Mix well. I'm lazy, I like my Kitchen-Aid mixer but it's easy enough to mix by hand.

Press firmly into 2 8x8" pans or 1 half-sheet pan (13x18") and bake at 300 for 25 mins. If desired, spread a thin layer of jam over your granola bars at 20 mins and put back in the oven for the final 5 mins.

Cool and cut into bars. A half-sheet pan makes 48 good sized bars. Put them in the freezer and you've got ready to go snacks at any time.

**NOTE: If you don't have a half-sheet pan, I'd get one. They are by far the kitchen tool I use the most. If you're in the KW area you can get 2 pans for $20 in the flea market section of the St. Jacobs farmers market. A GREAT deal. If not, hit up a restaurant supply store in your town. You'll never use those teeny cookie sheets again. They even fit in most apartment sized stoves.**

Enjoy those granola bars and pop back to tell me if they lasted long enough to make it to your freezer!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Emotionally Moving



I packed everything I owned into boxes. Into those boxes, I packed memories of those I have loved and lost, memories of experiences I can only hope to have again. There were knick knacks and my favourite books, childhood keepsakes and jewelry from lovers scorned. Into a box went dust collectors and photo albums and as I started into the expanse of the truck we had rented, I realized that some of those boxes would never get unpacked. Some of them may move with us another 5 times in my lifetime and I would never open them again and yet, they are just as big of a part of my history as the keepsakes I put on a shelf in a place of honour.

The other realization came after all those boxes had been loaded into the new house and I contemplated the task ahead of me; creating a new home with a new feeling while still keeping the fabric of all our memories intact. I realized that as soon as I cut open the tape on that first box, my new house, freshly cleaned and sparkly, would quickly become a storm of all the baggage we carried with us from the last one.

And as I sit here, surrounded by boxes that I don't want to open for fear of unleashing the storm, I wonder if that's the way I control my emotions.  Am I really that person that enjoys playing tetris and packing all my emotions into neat little boxes and storing them in a deep, dark corner of my mind? Do I really enjoy choosing to ignore the issues rather than unpacking the box that may or may not release a shitstorm that I may or may not be prepared for?

Yep, that's me.

Some of us are packers and other are purgers. I believe our moving style may just in fact reveal to us whether we like to pack it up and keep it for "just in case" or whether we like to purge and just get it all out there, letting the consequences render themselves after the fact.

So tell me, are you a packer or are you a purger?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Here We Go Again...

When my autistic son started school in January 2011 I met a brick wall 3 feet thick. Even though he was fully qualified for all kinds of help the school told me there was no money for special helpers. The best we got was a few visits from the local CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) to determine what kind of help he needed... but even after that, the extra help never materialized.

His second year (and first full year) came with much of the same, "no budget, maybe he can share some time with another student's EA" bullcrap. That year he had several consultations with an Occupational Therapist who gave recommendations but again, never worked with him, despite all the reports detailing how he couldn't even hold a pencil correctly.

For several reasons, we moved this summer. Just last week, in fact.  And this afternoon, I sit rejected again, being told that "budgets for EA's were handed out in the spring... because he's a transfer, we just don't know how much extra we can do for him."

If you know the parent of a special needs child, give them a hug or buy them a coffee this week. Most don't realize the fight that happens every single school year. Most don't realize that we can spend hours a day in meetings and emailing all the right people trying to find the tools that will help our children succeed in school... tools they have a right to have access to and tools that are necessary for them for their eventual success as a human being.

This afternoon, I pray that I have have enough qualifications to keep my boy's head above water until I can win the fight and get him the help he so desperately needs.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Dreaming As BIG As An Olympian



Thanks to the lack of cable in my house, I don't have to fight with my kids about how much TV they watch. We do enjoy movies but even when it's a favourite movie there are really only so many times you can watch it. But something miraculous happened last week… through a free channel floating through our still intact satellite dish, we've been able to enjoy some of the Olympics on CTV.

How incredible.

I mean, how marvellous are these athletes? Don't they just make you want to work to become better at something? For the first time in 6 weeks, there has been no lagging when it's time for me to face the DVD player and submit to a torture exercise routine with Jillian Michaels.

But if it's possible, something even more exciting than hardworking, gifted athletes setting records, achieving dreams and representing their countries has happened… My kids are paying attention.

Kid #1 has an ASD diagnosis and Kid #2 is not ASD but emulates his big brother a lot. For most of their lives, the only thing that has ever held their attention for more than a few minutes are toys with wheels or the occasional Thomas video. And now, the Olympics.

The boys are watching intently; clapping, cheering and gasping. They're interacting with the athletes through the TV, showing concern when someone falls and jumping excitedly when someone wins. When I think I couldn't possibly be happier, tearing up over this HUGE step forward in our home, something even bigger happens. They tell me, "I can do that Mom. I can try." 

These 2012 Summer Olympic Games have opened a door for me to teach my boys about competition, working hard, having goals and winning/losing. For the first time, I've been able to explain a concept to them without having to create an illustration using dinky cars. It's big. Probably the biggest occasion in my parenting career so far.

Thank you, Olympians. Your astounding dedication has nudged open a very heavy door into the minds of my children. Although my dreams are different than yours, I'm now dreaming just as big as you are.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On The Hunt



It is August 1st and I am one stressed out mama. We are due to move on September 1st and despite viewing over 100 rental units since May, I still haven't found a place for my family to call home.

Our search has run from the beautiful yet unaffordable to run-down scumshack with everything you can possibly think of in between. There was the place where a squirrel ran through the living room just as the owner was vehemently denying any presence of any pests in the building and the one where I ran into one of my downtown clients shooting up in the laundry room. The one my husband saw today which advertised it needed a little "TLC" actually stank of urine with holes in the walls and the one whose owner accused me of being a harlot since I didn't arrive with my husband and she didn't believe I had one.

There have also been a few gems. Two in particular that I fell in love with. They both needed a bit of work but were undeniably just what we were looking for. And we lost out on both because someone else applied hours before us.

So, I'm stressed. I'm trusting God has something perfect (or even at this moment, just slightly suitable) but it's hard not to feel discouraged. I have 30 days to find my family a home.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guide to Surviving Hospital Visits...



Nobody want to spend an evening in the emergency room with their kid. But if there's a chance you may have to go (and when you have active kids there is ALWAYS a chance you'll have to go) there are definitely ways to make the wait easier.

1. Pack a bag.
          Unless you're in a call an ambulance kind of emergency (which I hope you'll never be in) then you have a few minutes to pack a bag. Trust me, you'll be grateful 2 hours later when your kid is full of energy and the other patients in the ER are looking at you as though you gave birth to a demon-human hybrid. A pencil and a pad of paper, a few dinky cars, books and stickers will go a long way in keeping your kid occupied and a book will help you fill your time if your child blessedly falls asleep.

2. Take a camera. Or your smartphone, tablet computer or laptop.
          Funny faces can keep my boys occupied for hours. We take turns making the silliest faces we possibly can and then spend even more time browsing through them and laughing until our faces hurt. The tablet, laptop or smartphone can also be utilized as an electronic nanny with games and videos.

3. Stop caring.
          Not about your kid! But about the people who may look at you because you're laughing too loud or your singing is off-key. Seriously. Your screaming, tired, stressed-out kid will be much more bothersome if you're not having fun.

4. Visit.
          If your child is ambulatory (ie. can walk) because they are visiting for stitches or some other superficial wound, take a peek around the cubicle and get to know your neighbour. At least a dozen times I've had people thanking me for making them smile while in the hospital. The boys show off their funny faces, I'll run and grab some juice from the vending machine and next thing you know we have a new family on our Christmas card mailing list.

5. Be patient.
          If your child isn't being seen right away it's because they are not in danger. Take a moment to be thankful that you're not there for something more serious and instantly you'll notice the stress being lifted right off your shoulders. It COULD be worse. It ISN'T. So be patient.



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mother, MAY I?


May I eat the slime, Mom?

No.

But it's cool Mom.

No.

But it looks like boogers Mom.

No.

Just a little bit?

No. 

Can I lick it?

No.

Okay.


But of course, boys being boys, the slime WAS ingested. Thankfully, no hospital or doctor visits required.

And then, life being what it is, 1 month and 2 days after the post-bathtime fall and stitches, you know what happened? No. Really. Take a guess!


More stitches! Practically on top of the last ones, these ones were from an unfortunate fall into Nana's coffee table. Prompting my mom, once again, to say, "Better you than me, I don't know how you do it."

Thankfully the rest of May was injury free and we did celebrate #2's final trip to the dentist and his last visit with the happy, giggle-inducing magic nose.


I wonder if insurance will cover a sniff or two for me...



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

April



April started off with a bang.  

First there was 2 hospital trips for asthma. 


Then, on the night of my birthday, long after the kids should have been asleep, kid #2 fell and this mama got her first chance to see one of her babies getting all stitched up.  


Oh! And then just 4 days later the boy comes running up to me like this....


Fun times, fun times.

Goodbye, April.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My family may be the clumsiest ever. Mom has perma-bruises on her shins, Daddy-O has scars too numerous to count and the Bots? Basically, 1+1 = 1,000,000 and the poor kids are doomed.

I'm here to see who wins....