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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

He and ADHD

My son was diagnosed with ADHD.

Lego Ninjago
How many times have you read that? Many I suppose. It's not like it is some new age diagnosis that has been over diagnosed by pediatricians that have no idea what they are really talking about since it is a brain thing - and not a body thing - or is it both?

The point is that yes, many kids have it.

It's not a death sentence. Its not something that can be cured. It's not something that needs to be worn on the sleeve if his shirt to let everyone know that hey, he may be a little different. It's not an excuse for bad behaviour. It's not an excuse for any behaviour at all.

It's the way he thinks. It's in his DNA. In his brain chemistry. And yes, some if the behaviours that are symptoms can be hard to deal with for me. But they are also hard for him. He doesn't think like me. He doesn't understand some social cues. He doesn't understand personal space. He doesn't understand why his playing really loudly can sometimes cause adults to be irritated - he doesn't realize that he is doing it. And he isn't doing it on purpose.

I can tell him a million times that he needs to "be quiet" or that he must "calm down" or "stop moving" but that isn't going to make him stop. It will just make me more frustrated. It will also hurt his self esteem. But I will still do it. I am only human. 

Loves to Learn! 
The worst part about ADHD is that these kids are smart. Not just book smart, but smart beyond their years. They are creative, and think outside the box. They are leaders, forward thinkers and trail blazers. They take risks. (this may be because they lack the executive functioning not to think about risk, before they take them... But this is beside the point.)

The reason why this is bad is because you, the parent, the teacher, the adult can forget so quickly that these children are different and your expectations of them will be off. You will expect more of them than needs to be expected - and that isn't fair to him and it certainly isn't fair to you.
But life isn't fair. 

The best thing I can do is educate myself and continue to ask questions. Try to view the world from his eyes. Try to remind myself daily that he isn't like his brothers and to stop comparing them. To see them as individuals with different strengths and weaknesses - not better nor different - but unique to them. 

It has taken me a long time to write this post. We knew that he was a challenge when he was younger and had flags go up as he progressed in school. Why such a bright kid was having so many problems, we knew it was coming. I didn't want to know - and even now am wary of the diagnosis as it is a label..and who really wants the label good or bad or indifferent? 

But I need to own it. To be an advocate for him and for our whole family. To learn and share my knowledge to other families going through the same thing but maybe not as vocal as me.. (who is) who maybe don't have the same background as me and maybe don't know what questions to ask. 

I struggled when they gave me the 12 page report that outlined all the tests and issues and suggestions and considerations about my son. But you know what? Its just a piece of paper. He is who he is for a reason. It is my job as his mom to give him the tools to be the best that he can be just by being himself.
I love this boy!!

**update Aug 31 - After writing my blog I recieved some comments and so I decided to compose a Vlog for you. (sorry for the lighting and the crappy quality - working on it)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Calgary all the way to Winnipeg

5 mins into the Epic Journey
In my last two blog posts I explained that my husband and I were taking our 3 sons across Canada in an epic 5 day roadtrip to get to the cottage. I explained how to pack your suitcase to save time and stress and also what to pack for entertainment in the car. Make sure that you check them out if you haven't already.

The thing is that we actually didn't take the full five days - we gunned it and made it in 2 and a half. (no speeding).

We started the trip early at about 6am leaving our house in the far south of the city of Calgary and of course we had to go back not once but twice to double check and grab last minute forgotten items...we then stopped at our local Starbucks to grab coffee and a chai (a must need for early mornings in our family) and finally set off at about 7am.

Where is Dora?!
Our first stop and pee break was at Medicine Hat where we saw the "largest" tpee in the world. My middle son was incredibly disapointed that it wasn't the largest TV as we had promised. After being thoughougly unimpressed we continued on until we hit Moose Jaw.
The Front of the Moose - on purpose! 

I remember seeing that moose as a child but thinking that it was much bigger than it actually was. We lined up the kids for the obligatory tourist picture and my oldest commented that the moose had gigantic testicles!! (the funny part is that I remembered noticing that as a kid too - why exactly does a plaster moose need them? - especially when it is missing its penis)

We got back on the road and headed to Regina. By the time we entered the city it was only 3 o'clock and the thought of staying in a hotel and waiting until the kids fell asleep at 10pm (at the earliest) was more petrifying than just continuing on. I called the hotel to cancel our reservation and we continued on to Manitoba.

Cute little grain elevators in Saskatchewan.

We made a quick pit stop for a pee and a bag of chips in a small town 2 hours out of Brandon. The kids had the DVD player on by this point and we were listening to episode after episode of Ninjago. I am not a huge fan of media for my kids but in this case the quiet was worth it. We powered through to Brandon Manitoba and stopped for our final break at the Quiznos on the highway.

I know that I have said before that we are vegetarians, but more of the problem with food is actually the cheese. Both my oldest son and I are allergic to dairy and so most vegetarian options are out fr us when travelling. We decided to just get turkey subs for the kids so there would be some protien and I grilled the clerks on what was vegan and what wasn't. I think that they may have thought that I was speaking a completely different language. By this time my husband had really had it and we had been driving for over 15 hours. I told the clerks as much and tried to get the kids fed and to the bathroom with as little drama as possible. There may have been some tears and some sharp words exchanged.... But this being the one time people were showing signs of stress we decided to put the kids jammies on and make a reservation in a hotel in Winnipeg.
15 hours in the van and he is still smiling.

It got dark rather soon after we started driving again and the kids were really unhappy that we had turned the DVD player off and rudely expected them to go to sleep. (sleep?! What is that?!)

In classic kid fashion both the littles fell asleep an hour outside of Winnipeg and I bribed the oldest to be quiet with a "surprise" for the trip in the morning. We pulled in, took the dog for a pee, my husband took the bags and the dog and the oldest and put him to bed and came back down to help carry child #3 while I carried #2.

We made it!!! 
We walked as fast as we could through the lobby, prayed that the elevator didn't wake them. Put them into their beds and as quiet as mice we slipped out of our clothes into our pjs and crept in beside them.

We work really well as a team in instinces like that. (any other time - not so much).

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog - Winnipeg to Sault Ste. Marie.

***update - since it was a crazy trip there and an even crazier trip back - the second day is all blurry so not sure when I will be able to blog about it***

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to Pack for a Roadtrip - Part Two

In my last post I explained how I packed the suitcase for our 5 day trek across Canada. Today I am going to talk entertainment. 3 kids, all boys, 7, 4 and 2 stuck in a van for a minimum of 6 hrs a day to a maximum of 10…you need to be prepared! (addendum *we ended up driving right through so it was 3 days with a minimum of 5 hours to a maximum 18 hours *)

1. Go shopping in your house first.
Nothing new is in this picture.

You can be surprised about how much stuff you can find in your own craft room (or cupboard). Pipe cleaners, pom poms, crayons, paper, beads and the like can be used for various activities and will save you time and money that you can put towards other parts of our vacation.
Many moms will pick up books when they are on sale and then put them away for a rainy day. A rainy day or a full day in the car are basically the same thing. Use up old workbooks, activity books, colouring books, even pull out the pages if it is half done. You can make up your own activity books by using these pages and a stapler. Put crayons or markers into a sandwich bag and also connect it to the book with a staple or a ring, this will help immensely in the car or van.

2. Pack supplies separately.
Separate Bags
Count how many days that you are going and think about how many hours that you will be in the car each day. With any road trip there are long days and there are short days, so for the long days make sure that you have more things in that particular bag. Since we went on a 5 day road trip I packed 6 different bags filled with colouring books, toys, etc. Check out this vlog to see some examples. The reason why I packed 6 bags was because the last bag was full of the emergency stuff that came out in the last hour of the road trip when all other things had been used and thrown on the floor in frustration. Make sure when the kids are done playing with the item that you put it back into a bag and then put it away for the trip back or for another day.

3. Make sure you have novel items that you know they really enjoy.
Ninjago, a Starwars Fan, Non-Spill Bubbles and a flash toy.

At the beginning of each day give the kids a new item like a book, or something to colour etc. If they start to act out, or become bored take a pee break, or a snack break and try again. If they really seem bored bring out a novel item and you should be able to get another hour out of them. I let my kids pick a couple toys that I wouldn't regularly buy and then saved them for when the started to get squirlley.

4. Use your imagination - or theirs.

Distraction is really key when it comes to long road trips and if you find that the kids are melting ask them to see if they can see a cow, or a semi truck or a piece of scenery and ask them about it. Kids want your attention on a good day and even more when trapped in a car. Play "I spy", or make up silly songs, or even get each person to say one sentence of a story and see how long you can go.

5. Don't rely too heavily on electronics.
Must Haves.

Notice that I didn't say not to use them. Electronics in the car are really great to make it through a rough patch. We had a rule that the DVD player did not come on until after lunch. We would wake up at 5am and get on the road by 6am. We would have lunch by 1pm and if the kids seemed like they needed a bit of a break we would let them watch a movie that they had never seen before. It worked really well for us. (we also chose movies that we knew they would really like).

6. Use the trip as part of the vacation.
We visited Winnie the Pooh!

Depending on how your kids are you could use the road trip as part of the vacation. Many little towns and big cities have really interesting points of interest and really cool playgrounds to check out. Do your research before hand and see what is available. You could also use the information of the places you visit as a history lesson. Kids love to see these kitchy things and any opportunity to stretch your legs is a good one. Of course, if you are insane like us you may decide just to drive through if your kids are in good spirits. (we went from Calgary, Alberta to Sudbury, Ontario in 2 nights 3 days)

7. When all else fails….
In case of Emergency.

You know your kids best. I brought Jelly Belly's and gave them out whenever the littlest was having a meltdown. I am not a big fan of candy for a little guy like him, but it distracted him until we made it to the next town. I also programmed my iPod with games that the kids would like to play. This is a road trip and a vacation and sometimes you just have to think on your feet! We also have stopped at a walmart to get the kids out and buy a new little lego set - just because we knew that it would keep them happy until the next stop.

This system really works well for us. Another couple tips that I would suggest is pack a lot of snack foods (healthy) and make sure that you feed and water your kids regularly. I gave my oldest son his own cooler and packed it each morning so that he could help himself and I would not have to throw granola bars at him in hopes that he would catch them. (hoping that they wouldn't fall to the floor)

Great Investment.
Speaking of not dropping things on the floor... The last tip I would say is to get some thing for them to put on their lap. We bought the Star Kids Travel Trays and they were really invaluable. I was able to pack all of the items for the day (keeping a couple really special things up front with you.) That way you can also place all the other bags in the seat backs or in the trunk to free up your floor space.

Road trips are a great way to make precious memories for your family. Do you have any tips or tricks that your family does to make it more enjoyable for the whole family?

Monday, August 06, 2012

How to Pack for a Roadtrip - Part One

About a year and a half ago we traveled to Arizona. The kids were 5, 3 and 1 and it was 4 long days in the car. Long, long days. We had said that if we made it through alive that we would consider going out East to the family cottage. That time is now upon us as I am busy packing for 5 full days in the car all the way to Ontario.

We will be driving for a minimum of 6 hours each day to a maximum of 10…which is a bit ridiculous. We will be driving our Honda Oddessy completely packed to the roof with all we will need for a month. Remembering that this is Canada and the weather can go from stifling hot 34c to a mere 5c in the summer. (depending where you are).
She is so cute!

Did I mention that we will also be bringing our 3 year old German Shepard Rotti (mutt)? She will be seat-belted in next to Special K so that means that I won't be able to utilize the stow and go. Everything has to be packed correctly.

I learned a couple tips and tricks from travelling to Arizona and I thought, why not share them with the world? I mean, it made my life easier… so maybe it will do the same for you.

Let's start with the suitcase.

1. Use a separate suitcase for the adults and either give each child a suitcase (like a …..) or just put them all in one. 

I chose to put all the boys together in one suitcase because they are still small people. I also wanted to make sure that we still had the space for snacks and activities as a few of the days will be really long and boring. Once the kids are older I will probably give the oldest his own suitcase and then the littler guys will share one.

2. Buy Ziploc Freezer Bags. 

A diaper, t-shirt and a pair of shorts.
This is the best idea ever. What I do is pack a full outfit in each freezer bag and then label it. So if we have the baby for example; he has a diaper (using disposables on the trip for ease and limited space), shorts, and a t shirt. Then I mark it with his name and write "shorts" on it. If it is a bag with long pants, it will also have a diaper, a long sleeved shirt and socks. It will again have his name on it and the words "pants". Pretty self explanatory.
Name and what is inside.

3 swimsuits in one bag.
It doesn't stop there. I also packed 2 pairs of pajamas for each boy, a warm pair and a cold pair, and put them in a ziploc. Each hotel that we are stopping at has a pool (a must have) so I took three ziploc and put 3 swimsuits in each of them. So when we stop at the hotel we can just grab the pajama bag, one swimsuit bag and one of the clothing bags and leave the suitcases in the van. (Don't forget to bring a backpack or smaller bag for this.)

All 3 rain-pants are in a ziploc, as well as all 3 pairs of water shoes and runners are in separate ones.

3. Think before you pack. 

Left the hoodies out so you can see.
I placed the pajamas in the front so that we can grab them right away and they stay separate from everything else. The swimsuits, swim diapers, and water wings are in the lid (is that what they call that part?).  The two bags each that the boys have containing the long pants etc, are in a separate mesh pocket (probably meant for socks and undies). I changed this from last time as we were always searching through the suitcase trying to find the bag with long pants - so now they will be much easier to find. The last mesh pocket has the bag with the rain pants and rain jackets in it.

Rubber boots at the very bottom. The shoe bags go next. All the rest of the bags are just placed in the suitcase on top. I divided it into 3 so all of Special K's are on the left, R's are in the middle and the Baby's are on the right. (they will inevitably get mixed up by day 3, but that is why separate suitcases would be great too.)

Last but not least I put their hoodies on the very top so that we have access to them right away if the weather is cooler. I also have a bag with the outfit that they will be wearing on Day 1 when we leave. I did this so that it was something that would match the other outfits and so that they wouldn't wear it the day before or something!

4. What goes in must come out! 

I already mentioned bringing a different smaller bag just to take the pajamas, swimsuits and tomorrows clothes in, but you also need somewhere to put all that dirty laundry. Yes, the clothes can go back into their bags, but you don't want to put them into the suitcase or the dirty and clean will get mixed up and that isn't helpful at all! Bring an extra bag (I am using my cloth diaper wet bag), something small and that doesn't take up much room. It can still be in the suitcase (and I would place it to one side) but it is more of a divider than anything.

Well, that it is it! Stayed tuned for two more posts on how and what to pack for entertainment, and how to pack the van for optimum space and comfort for everyone. :)

Happy Travelling! Do you have any tips to share?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Well That is One Way to Justify Buying New Shoes.

My husband has gotten into triathlons lately and so when he said that he needed to go to a nearby nature park to go to an orientation for a triathlon the next day, we decided it would be nice to go for a walk. The weather was beautiful and we really had nothing to do, we were bored, and also out in the fresh air diminishes the fighting for a short time …  so we packed up the chariot, grabbed snacks, water, and the dog and headed out.

We got to the parking lot and I made sure that we had everything.
Sunscreen, check.
Water, check.
Snack, check.
Bugspray, check.
Dog, check.
Doggie Bags, check.

We said goodbye to the husband and started walking down the path to the nature preserve. Not 1 mile into the walk my 7 year old starts to complain.

"I am hungry, I am tired, It's too hot" I told him that we had done this walk many many many times in the spring and that he liked it before. I also told him that he had better like it now since I just had to walk down a direct decline while holding a Chariot with 50+ pounds of children in it, also while holding the dog and PRAYING that I did not slip and send my children on the ride of their lives!!!

We made it down to the preserve and off of the bike path as the crazy athletes were busy practicing for thier race; wizzing by way too fast for me to keep the absentminded 7 year old out of their way. (and my insane dog that wanted to race beside them!)

The hike that we chose is a easy one - it's one big loop and would take about an hour at a quick pace to finish. We had done it during the spring thaw and finished in just under an hour - so I was hopeful that we would finish in the same time - and maybe even have time just to sit by the river and throw rocks.

Once we started walking my kids started to complain and fight with each other. My nice relaxing nature walk was filled with sounds of screaming, crying and yelling. I wanted to pull one of them out of the stroller but then we would be walking at a toddler pace, and it was WAY too hot to be doing that! I wanted to get out of the meadow and into the shade of the forest as fast as we could go. My eldest son agreed with me on the heat except he kept complaining that, "It is like we are in the middle of the desert!!"(over and over) Yes, it was hot, but we all had water and TWO of them were in the chariot. So really, the only one complaining should have been me (since I had to push it).

I had to keep pulling the dog close to me so not to stir up the mosquitos and try and keep the 7 year old in front of me because once he went behind me his mind would start to wander and his pace would slow to that of a snail. Not that I didn't want him to explore nature - but at a regular walking pace please. (and the trees were so, so close.)

After 20 mins in we had not even got to the halfway point, and the incredibly slow walking of the 7 year old caused the mosquitos to get a good foothold on my head. I managed to get a nice big bite right on the middle of my forehead. Of course the 7 year old continued to complain about the heat and now the bugs but did not realize that walking like a tortoise was the REASON it was so hot and the bugs were eating us alive. (I may have threatened him at this point.)

We stopped at a bench and these tourists that were far behind us when we started and then RAN past us when my kids started to scream, had been sitting for quite a while waiting to talk to me about the trial. I explained how long it was and they bailed…I thought of bailing too - but I liked the area, and my husband wasn't done for at least 2 more hours. So against my better judgement we drenched ourselves with bug spray and continued on. In the shade of the trees there were many more mosquitos but the walk was much quicker (if he stayed in front) and enjoyable. When we hit half way I heard the biggest boom of thunder. We hit a clearing by the river and I looked up.

Dark Storm Clouds Rolling In

I started to panic. We had about 45 mins left to walk (since our pace was still rather slow thanks to my child with his head in the clouds) and the storm looked like it was going to open up. The last thing I wanted was to get drenched. I thought if we could make it out of the woods and back on to the path - it would only take 15 mins to get to the van. 

So the question really was… could we outrun a storm in an hour? 

I am going to shorten this post and just tell you no. No we did not. 

Even though I yelled at my older child to run and repeatedly told my little children to stop fighting - and no they couldn't come out of the chariot, and kept pulling my dog along - even though she wanted to sniff every single tree in the woods… we did not make it. 

We did make it to the path after an hour of RUNNING through the forest… but that was it. 

Once it started raining the kids were super excited to be out in the rain. (my poor deprived kids)

Casually Checking Out the Raindrops
Starting to Rain

As we walked along the pathway feeling the light drizzle people were RUSHING past us to make it to their cars. My eldest commented on the fact that they were moving so fast - and I told him it was because it was a thunder storm.

As the thunder got louder and the rain harder, the little kids started to freak right out. The thunder was scaring the crap out of them, my dog was trying to bolt and I was thinking about the likelihood of getting struck by lightening. I put the two littles back in their seats. (with the rain cover down - lucky kids!!) And my eldest son FINALLY started to run…..

Guess He Didn't Like It Afterall. 
We got soaked. It took us 40 mins to get back to our van. Passing people under the bridge, under tress, in full rain gear. I just kept saying, this is an experience. You are soaking wet and you can't do anything about it, so just keep walking… then I looked down and realized I was wearing leather flats from Arnold Churgin…. grumble grumble. 

We finally made it to the medical tent where my husband was and grabbed a towel, and warmed up. The rain let up at that moment so we made a break for it to the van. 

Seriously Soaked.
Look At Their Shirts!

I actually had a change of clothes for all of them once we got to the van, and the sun came out so I let the Chariot and dog wait next to the van until my husband was done. (Still took him 20 more mins.)

I was actually pretty proud of myself. Another time I would have lost my cool, and probably dragged the older child or maybe threatened him with being eaten by a bear or cougar (which technically wouldn't have been a lie in a nature preserve), but instead I just laughed at the inevitability that is my family on an outing.

All Dry and Unscathed. 

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