To all those Autism parents out there, we’ve done it.
We applied to become competitors for the Amazing Race Canada.
Many people have asked us why on earth we would be interested in going on a show that often displays couples at their worst, creates tension in an otherwise happy relationship and puts one through a series of rigorous challenges that pushes you well beyond your comfort zone.
Why? Good question.
Because we believe that living life to its fullest requires going for adventure; pushing yourself to your limits often and being proud of whatever it is you accomplish.
Because if ANYTHING has shown us to keep things in perspective…its Autism; to live in the moment and to stay positive in the face of adversity…It’s Autism. Daily we have found the humour in every situation…in its purest form….through an unfiltered mouth and an innocent mind. If we let things get us down, we wouldn’t be near in fighting form to accomplish this goal…but we have committed to each other to always be talking, always be behind one another, always helping each other get through those crap days.
IF we get selected for the Amazing Race Canada, we would be thrilled. Not just for us. But for the potential of “representing” our parents who are going through the same thing we are and demonstrating JUST how kick ass all us Autism parents are!
We managed to avoid it last year. The whole notion of T joining up for hockey.
As a number of our friends registered, we were just in the throes of a fairly new ASD diagnosis…trying to figure out what exactly that meant, how to help T, how to make sure we survived as a couple, and so much more. We were definitely not ready to face another “team sport” challenge (soccer had been an epic fail the year before).
I had designed T’s entire room in a sports motif, full of references to hockey, baseball, football…and he couldn’t care less.
But then a good friend of ours gave T a poster of players from the Toronto Maple Leafs which we put in his room and out of nowhere he started to show interest in hockey. As we often have experienced with Autism, he also tends to obsess and suddenly became obsessed about the 4 players on the poster, reiterating every night their positions, their names and talking about the people behind them in the stands and even what they were doing.
So this year, when T asked if he could play hockey, we tossed and turned, discussed, debated and eventually decided to take the leap and sign him up.
We had no doubt that he would enjoy playing hockey (over the past year we had done a hockey fundamentals program which taught the kids how to skate, how to hold the stick, how to turn- he loved it) but we weren’t sure of our ability to not get frustrated as we watched from the bench.
We were warned by other parents that many kids get out on the ice and spend more time gazing at the ads or the scoreboards. They were right.
The first game brought an overwhelming series of emotions. T was so incredibly excited to be out playing hockey. Dad was so very proud that something he thought we would never see (T playing hockey) was actually happening. I was a bundle of nerves. So proud of him for getting out there and doing something he wanted to and absolutely crazy over the fact that every time the puck came by, he would be oblivious to it. He just skated and skated and skated (he’s not great at stopping yet) but his delight coming off the ice that he played hockey was worth every hair pulling moment throughout the game.
I know we are just getting into the season and this is a long road ahead….I know I will be biting my lip through every game…wishing and hoping that he finally gets into the game that he loves talking about so much.
Ask any parent who has two kids, one autistic and one not and they will most likely respond that one of their biggest worries outside of managing ASD is making sure that the other child feels equal in the love, attention and energy you can provide to your children.
I often worry about my little girl. She is the 5-year-old, very gregarious, dynamic drama queen and often a bit bossy younger sibling to T. I don’t think she is intentionally bossy. More likely that behaviour pattern comes out of her mirroring what we say or how we interact in working with T all the time. In order to create interest/action that really resonates with him and help him establish what the “rules” are within the house, socializing and day-to-day functioning, we are often repeating that same conversation.. That repetition has created a little girl monster… hands on her hips, blurting out statements like “T, Look in my eyes..good looking!” and “Good job T, I’m really proud of your smart decisions”.
She is wise beyond her years. An old soul.
I think all the time about what is going through her head?…How much she understands now that T is slightly different? When will she start asking those tough questions? When do we explain Autism to her?
Is she getting enough attention on her own or is she dramatic as her way of seeking attention we have been neglecting to provide her?
My belief is to make sure both our kids feel that infinite love we have for them and never that it’s some sort of competition on who carries mom or dad’s heart with them.
Which is why it was a welcome opportunity this past weekend to enjoy our very own girls weekend as dad and T went up to the cottage.
It was a lovely time spent shopping, cuddling on the couch, watching a movie, heading to a birthday party and stopping by a local street festival in the rain. An event that had my little girl shakin her bon bons and soaking up all the awesome music we were witnessing throughout the day. Couldn’t be more proud.
By Sunday, I was madly smitten with that little girl and wondered what I could do to make it a really lovely morning. So I hunted down a little heart shape mold and made her heart-shaped pancakes. She was thrilled and as we sat there eating our pancakes in the quiet of our house, I thought about how nice it was to just have a few minutes with just her and I…ssshhhh quiet…amazing..:) We might someday have up and down roller coaster relationships but for now, I will love that Bestie roll we are playing together.
and then she said “Mama, I love you…you make my heart so full…just like these pancakes”
Yesterday felt like the lowest of the low kind of days. I felt like it simply took EVERYTHING inside of me just to get out of bed..to keep going…to keep working towards getting T help in school…
All parts of me felt on the verge of hiding under the covers and simply going back to sleep, avoiding the challenges we have been facing for a simpler, quieter, easier kind of day.
Was I depressed? Absolutely. Is this depression…I don’t think so. But easily see how if I were to give in to that desire to stop ,it could easily be there in a heartbeat.
As a family, we’re exhausted…we’ve been working with the school board in trying to find a solution to support our son in school. It’s been incredibly draining and the amount of meetings/emails/conversations we have had about it has us living in survival mode to just get through each day. We are continuing to advocate for T and won’t stop… but its taking every piece of energy we have.
Add that to the fact that I have been injured over the summer, have hardly exercised and ballooned in weight because of it. I just hit a wall. I started seriously questioning whether I needed to consider going to see someone professionally by mid afternoon??
But then we had an Autism Meetup last night. A group we started to support Parents in the city of Toronto who want to look at different ways to manage through Autism, look to each other for support, get advice on different solutions and talk through the victories and challenges we have.
It helped. But this morning helped even more.
I decided I can’t let this get to me. I know we have to keep fighting and I need to keep energy high to take care of our life. I need to be there to support our kids as they begin the school year, my husband, who is writing the most well-articulated letters to anyone and everyone willing (or not willing) to listen and my business, that I need to keep going in order to maintain the flexible schedule we need to access therapies/resources for T throughout the day.
I decided to try to go for a run…and then someone woke up early and agreed to come for a run with me. T…agreeing to come along if he could run in his pajamas.
We raced…full force…fast…as hard as we could…and I remembered why I started running in the first place.
Running helped me work through the diagnosis of ASD, helped me gear up for the fight and I realized that I REALLY need that element in my life to stay sane.
I might not be as fast as I was awhile back, but I’m back.
We had bought this boat to rediscover the hubs and I’s love for watersports and felt it was that time to get the kids engaged in a whole new different world at the cottage. I grew up waterskiing every weekend and couldn’t WAIT to get back out on skis. So we dropped the boat in on May Long Weekend and I braved the water temp to enjoy one of my favorite feelings of all time..the tug of the boat, the speed, jumping across wakes and going slalom…ahem…wait…did you say slalom?….Did I forget the fact that I haven’t skied in nearly 15 years…??
As I got up on 2 skis, my arrogance and adventurous nature of youth came careening back into my soul and I somehow forgot that I am living in a 37 year old body and instead felt like I was about 17 again. Not a problem unless that exaggerated sense of competence leads you to believe that you should drop one ski the first time out in said 15 years…so as I come sailing by the dock I think, “I can do this!!” and promptly loosen out of one of my skis…and then promptly have one of the wickedest falls of my entire waterskiing history. 🙁
I felt a slight ache in the back of my leg but didn’t pay much heed to it until we went tubing later on…crashed (in a fun, “OMG I feel like I’m 17 again”, weeeee kind of way!) and hit the same spot on my leg.
That was May 24 and when I started out running the next week to maintain our training schedule for our next half, I just couldn’t do it. Everything about my leg felt sore and painful. I talked to my physio, went to massage and Active release therapy and nothing was fixing it. I just stopped running. Even walking or sitting in a chair was enough of a trial that I realized I had tweaked it somehow and needed to give it rest.
But here’s the problem with summer…with summer comes fun, food, drinks and parties…missing out on the exercise that counteracts all that fun gains you back the pounds shed over the last year and a bit. We all know it’s a cycle, you are either on the healthy train or you’re off and with this injury I fell off…and how! I ultimately went for an ultrasound on my leg and discovered I have torn my hamstring in two places. What does that mean? 8-12 weeks of recovery and physio to get it back in working order. I am starting to come to terms that the half I had planned is not going to happen but what I NEED to do is get back on the train.
So today I went out for my first run this morning since the week after May Long. I accomplished 2.5km…
At first I thought..2.5k? Yuck! I’m starting all over again. And then I realized..”Hey, I’m starting all over again…if that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do as long as I am doing!”
The other thing I realized is that part of why I haven’t been writing on the blog is because running always helped me decompress, sort out my thoughts and decide what I wanted to write about. Without that outlet, I really feel like I have been lost these past two months.
I have bought my ticket and I am getting on the train (I look at it that I was temporarily in the station). The journey feels like it will be longer this time but look forward to what’s next in the adventure.
I honestly don’t know if summer could get any better. We have had the amazing good fortune of having beautiful weather, incredible friends to hang out with, a cottage to escape to and now a very cool motor boat to start our next chapter in adventures at the lake.
It didn’t start out that way. There was a significant number of times at the start of this year where when we went for a ride , it took an incredible amount of time convincing T to even get in the boat. Then it took a lot to convince him to go faster than a put put pace. My husband and I started looking at each other with a “wow, seriously? Could this be the biggest waste of money we have invested in…ever”. We weren’t sure what to do to get him comfortable with the boat (after all, this is a little man who has an auditory sensitivity to loud noises and we’re asking him to sit in a motor boat for goodness sake!)
All I can say, is that my dear husband gets the most brilliant solution award for this one. I don’t think I give him near enough props for how patient and creative he gets in working with T on challenges/resistance he faces but I am truly impressed with how he handled this one. He made sure T felt like he was in complete control. He talked through what the experience of being on a boat would feel like and then ultimately T would give a thumbs up or thumbs down depending if he felt things were getting a bit fast or not.
It took awhile as T got comfortable and once he was there, we started working on him to think about the 3 person tube we have to go on the back. Same situation, talk it through, start slow, he controls his comfort zone…That started in June and now he loves it when dad goes fast. This is so reflective on what its like every day with #Autism. If you prepare them, talk through what to expect and help them plan for the day. If you don’t give them that framework to understand, more times that not, it’s a disaster.
It took 23 years to get there but I finally finished what I started.
I am pleased as punch to report that I passed my Bronze Medallion final exam yesterday and received the elusive Bronze badge and medal that I had originally started going for when I was 13 years old.
and now the question I have gotten ALL the time?
WHAT possessed you to go and sign up for a class where you are older than even the teacher by 20 years, get to hang with the 11-14 yr old/pre-pubescent, like “Oh my GOD, he’s sooooooooooooo cute” set, force yourself to accomplish endurance tests that aren’t necessary and receive a qualification that would only be good if I suddenly decided to change careers, channel by inner Baywatch star and become a lifeguard?
1) Because I had quit…when I was a kid and it really has lurked in the back of my mind for this many years and I wanted to show my kids that regardless of the time it takes, it’s always worth finishing what you started.
2) Because I am continuing my quest to show my kids healthy living and next on my to do list is a Try Triathalon and the Ottawa Army Run in late September, so working towards endurance in the water fits perfectly in my training plans
3) Because I have this silly list…a plan of things I was going to scratch off before I hit 40..it’s not 40 that’s the issue (at one time, I wasn’t sure I would get past 29 with the kind of adventures I was having!) It’s the list..Of things I really want to do…to take life fully by the horns and live every day as fully as I can. I have scratched a few so far- motorcycle license, bungee jumping, zip lining, parasailing, scuba diving, surfing, Italy, Spain and as of yesterday, my Bronze Medallion.
The catch is, I have a TON more on my list and find with having kids that my nerves of steel are starting to get a lot more like rubber..torn between making smart decisions that won’t put any of us at risk, and wanting to lead by example to my children to go for the adventure, do something that scares you every day, take the bull by the horns. I want them to go after what they want. To work hard and reap the rewards. To never believe that they can’t do something. If I can get that through to them, it’s one of the most important lessons I can pass on.
I’m not sure which adventure the list will take me next but I can honestly say…its something already starting to percolate in my head.
Even with a case of monster shin splints and a cold day of…I am proud to say I accomplished my second half marathon in a time of 2:07.
This was the first time we had trained with the Running Room in terms of the half and man! was it ever different than when we did it on our own.
On our own, we did most of our runs in the am..pushing each other to get up every one of those mornings to go forth and run. We ran into a few issues…our backs each gave out at one point in time or the other, I totally had visions of a serial killer stalking us in the park when we ran at 6am, heavy heat and humidity left us in dire need of cold showers as soon as we got back in and we compromised on distance, pace, and amount of runs per week. Our first half was in October and we finished in 2:12.
This time, we decided it was worthwhile following an official running program and training with an organized group. Our group leader was Stephen. Hard ass, no mercy..Stephen’s focus was about being supportive in that military kind of way and pushing you to get to your personal best. There was no “compromise” with him. Instead, he would drill into us that if we did not believe that we could accomplish our goals, then it was only our own heads getting in the way. Stephen is somewhere in his 60’s and just ran the Boston Marathon. If there was someone I have met recently who simply commands respect its him…and as much as he would yell at us to keep going and work hard, it was because he really wanted us to be proud of the training we did to get there.
The half we chose to do this time was filled with sweetness as the Mississauga Marathon was the very first 5k run we did last year and we were coming back to do the half.
We felt nervous but ready…a bit unsure of where our time would net out but focused on trying to run our own race. (A couple of days before we started debating heading to 12:1 or 15:1 Run/Walks…in the end, we agreed “why would we invent a new program when we have been training with 10:1 and that has suited us perfectly).We ran together to the 16k mark at which point, my running partner Jen went on ahead. I started slowing up a bit and feeling the aches of the shin splint and ankles I had been working so hard to avoid the previous 3 weeks. By 20k, I was chanting my mantra (the list of kids names I know who are managing through Autism- when I get into challenges, I keep thinking if they are expected to fight through everything they will have to, I should be able to get through a stupid run) Tired and Sore, I debated if it was worth just walking to the finish line?
And then my brilliant, most amazing, most outstanding husband did something utterly perfect. He set up our two very loud and very proud kiddos at the last km mark to get me through to the end. It did just that. They cheered, I teared and came in to the final stretch strong and so happy to have achieved my personal best (So far!)
I thought this would be a one time shot. To scratch off my bucket list and keep heading to new adventures.
Who knew that this might actually be becoming a habit? and one that I am really starting to enjoy…:)
I started my Bronze Medallion at the St. James Civic Centre in Winnipeg at age 13. I have absolutely no recollection why exactly I didn’t finish the course but life somehow got in the way and I didn’t think it was a big deal to not complete.
I promptly forgot about it for the next 17 years. But like getting my motorcycle license, it was has been on a particular list in my head for years. A TO DO I wanted to complete, something in the back of my brain about the fact that I never actually finished something I started. So when my running partner and another equally fabulous friend decided that we should go for a ‘Try Triathalon’ this summer, I somehow found the perfect training ground for the endurance swim that we would have to accomplish on the Tri circuit…AND finish something I had always meant to. Killing two birds with one stone per se.
So I signed up. But what I DIDN’T think about is that I might be a little older than the average participant in the Bronze Medallion course. Hilarity ensues at what I am now affectionately calling the Social Experiment.
I showed up the first week having no idea what exactly to expect and ran into another mom at the entrance, asking the direction to the Bronze Medallion class. I sigh with relief and say “Oh, are you taking the course too? That’s great! We can be partners!” (maybe a bit too enthusiastically). She promptly looks me up and down and says “Uhhhh nooooo, I was checking for my 11 year old son” ..11? They are seriously as young as 11? You gotta be flippin kidding me!
So I walk in to the theory part of the class and it is me and 20 11-13 year olds. I go to my mat (yes,mat…cause young people can sit on mats for 1 1/2 hrs whereas us evolved really do prefer a chair) and we are subjected to 2-18 year old instructors who truly believe that yelling at us is the most effective form of teaching (Umm, yeah: intro to management course!) We then go into the pool for the next hour and a half and have to perform varying acts of self-rescue and rescue techniques. Fabulous if you have a butt who has not experienced any form of weight gain, child birth, age in general. Not so fabulous as you have to huff out of the pool as if you are climbing out of “mock” ice break incident and thinking really…how much cheek did I just show these poor kids?
I find it a challenge to relate to these young bucks. There are some seriously hilarious conversations I have been witness to, laughing to myself MANY times throughout this adventure and wishing there was someone there I could share a snicker with. My favorite conversation so far was one of a girl asking everyone in the class where their family background was from. As she went through the line, Ukrainian, Polish, Scottish, etc…she came across a guy who indicated his background was Indian and Dutch. Her response “OMG! That is sooooo sick! (Thought sick was out by now?) I would love to be Indian but I don’t like Indian food!” COMEON! This is the future of our youth today?
I am now in my 5th week of the course and have found a camaraderie of sorts with the girls in the class…In part because of an exchange of discussing the Hunger Games (OMG! I SO think Gale is cuter !) , part because I know a lot of answers to the quizzes when we are practicing for a theory exam. I have 4 more weeks to go and then I will have completed that elusive certification. As much as I don’t get the kids in my class, it was totally worth it. I completed a 500m endurance test today as part of the qualifications and was beyond excited to NOT be the last finishing the laps. This has been a lesson in connecting with the younger generation, age discrimination, weight discrimination, staying cool in the height of an emergency and staying focused in managing through a crisis
I am particularly proud that I will be able to pass on this “completion of starting something” with my kids and only hope they can take cues from the fact that mommy will never quit unless it’s really serious. In the meantime, get out and swim…it’s seriously one of the best forms of exercise I have ever been a part of.
I have something like a dozen half finished posts in my drafts these days. It seems that whenever I get a chance to sit down and truly concentrate on writing a post I think is worth value, it comes at a time where my eyes are getting heavy and my body is shutting down. I’m in a constant state of craving that much sought after sleep that (these days) feels a little elusive. Its not that I stay up that late, our challenge exists between the hours of 2-6am. Hours which normal sane people would be fast asleep in deep REM mode but our children have decided in this phase of familyhood, that they are prone to getting up and acting as if its bright and sunny daytime rather than the dark cloak of night.
Like clockwork, one of them (BING! ) is awake, chatting about all sorts of gobbledy gook, not just awake but WIDE awake which (If we don’t get to them in time) might just wake up the other one. A much worse proposition. My husband and I love to dance but this dance LEFT-RIGHT-STUMBLE TO BED-GET UP–LIE DOWN WITH KID-BACK TO OUR BED-TAG OFF-REPEAT is one that we’re not as much fans as say a good foxtrot!
You might think that we have really young kids…a baby perhaps or a toddler…ummmmm no. Our kids are 4 & 6 and seem to have been leaping in and out of this phase for their entire existence. We know they can stay in bed. All sorts of threats, negotiations, deals and more though seem to get thrown out the window as soon as they say those words that breaks the heart of every parent its been said to..”Mommy…I had a nightmare…will you cuddle with me?” Ouch! Stab me right through the heart, because whether or not they really did have a bad dream, (I had many growing up) I want to be there to help comfort them when they need it.
I am not helping the matter of being tired. As I mentioned, I actually enjoyed the accomplishment of the half marathon we did last year so much that we are doing it again. May 6th is our official race day and we are now in the high teens in terms of long runs along with other short runs/training 3-4 times a week. So I am getting my exercise and training hard for this run. We also have begun training for a Try Triathalon. This is something that a) I never in a million years entertained I would be doing and b) find monsterously more appealing than say and actual Triathalon as its more likely going to be a 500m swim, 20k bike and a 5 k run. All elements I know I can handle. Its just whether I can handle them together?
A few friends have commented recently on where I have found the time or the energy. The answer is two fold.
The time…I have a really awesome partner in a husband who has come to the brilliant conclusion that when I exercise, I am a happier person…ergo, he supports me and the training schedule I am working against (and often keeps me motivated by telling me how proud he is that I am going after a goal and sticking to it). I also try to manage runs during times that don’t impact our family as much…which is why I am getting out of my cozy warm comfy bad at 5:45am to meet up with my neighbour and get in the 7k we need to do before 7am tomorrow. Yuck!
The energy…I think since I started this I have more energy overall…I am eating healthier, I am sleeping better (when the kids don’t wake us up) and I am feeling fit. But truth be told, in the confession outlet that is this blog post, I drop the ball. I have a long overdue list of phone calls to make, emails to catch up on, taxes to be done, garage sale stuff to be organized…I can go on…
But I know for me, to stay healthy and in fighting form to tackle the constant challenges we keep getting faced with, this is what I need to do. My friends know I love them and someday we will catch up (definitely over a glass of wine), the taxes will eventually get accomplished, the garage sale stuff purged…
and emails…I don’t think anyone ever catches up on emails…like ever.