Couch-1/2-Tri: Exercise is helping us combat the challenges of Autism

As you will see in previous blog posts, I started running to get over the anger and frustrations I had in learning our son was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum last year. I ran to let go of all the pent up furiousness and feeling of being completely helpless in  terms of negotiating what we can make happen for our little man.

I couldn’t even get close to running 3km the 1st of January last year. and then we managed through a 5k, 10k and half by October. It’s amazing what a bit of exercise and a new year can do for your fighting spirit.

I didn’t go back to the gym after our half in October. Really didn’t hit it hardly at all throughout the months of November and December, although I ate and behaved like I was still in training. Naturally, the awesome tightness I had developed from all that running went mushy and the weight quickly came back (But I did have one helluva holiday season!)

And so the new year began…full of promise and hope and realization that I will go nowhere if I don’t have a goal to work towards and friends to train with. Fortunately, I have both and my neighbour has agreed to try this one more time. But wait…we’re not just training for a half…NOOOOOO! That would be too easy. We have now decided to join another of our friends to work towards accomplishing a Try Triathalon shortly after the half. An adventure I think it borderline nutty, but one I am excited about conquering.

Getting back into the routine, the better eating habits and the training schedule has felt a bit gruelling..especially as we’ve just returned from a decadent week away skiing, are heading to the south shortly and seem to have a much higher wine consumption interest while hibernating in the dead of winter. I’m not a fan of forcing myself into a cold night either for a run or a swim, in fact it makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Now however, there is something that is pushing me to keep moving forward (aside from my pals). a) I have discovered I REALLY enjoy how I feel once I’ve worked out…getting muscles moving, being more limber, feeling healthier and b) My kids are taking notice that mommy is “doing a great job” of exercising and daddy is “kicking butt” as he ventures off to hockey. We find ourselves looking at exercise as a foundation and lifestyle we are establishing for our kids that will always include physical activity.

Family exerciseIt is so important for both kids- T, who often has a ton of extra energy at the end of the day and exercise helps tire him out in a way that his brain actually shuts down for a bit while he sleeps (You can tell the days he’s active vs not as that’s usually when he’s up at 5am and wants to chat). N, because she’s an energetic lovely little girly girl who I want to grow up in a world where a positive self-image is vital and reflects more so on being fit and healthy than anything else.

This drive for exercise is helping our family and we, as a couple, are growing stronger.  Both physically and mentally. As we combat challenges navigating the world of Autism, it truly does sometimes feel like a never-ending battle. To win..to get the most for T.. to see success, we have to be on top of our game. This is getting us there.

Come before winter. Do what you need to do now, before it’s too late

This has been a heartbreaking season for many people dear to me. Every week it seems, we are talking with someone who has been dealt a huge loss or going through the stages of a terminally ill friend/parent/loved one as we get closer and closer to Christmas.  We try to be as supportive as we can, wishing we had those perfect words of  comfort to help the people we love but its hard to find exactly what to say.
Hearing news like this often causes reflection on your own life, thoughts of mortality of people close to you, how you are running your life and does a great job of kicking you in the ass when you need to keep perspective on what’s important. What we have realized is most essential for our happiness is spending meaningful moments with the people you love and telling them what they mean to you. No words left unsaid.
My mother in law recently went to a hospice workshop in which the speaker quoted
a line from the bible that (even though I’m not religious) has become a bit of a mantra for me as of late. He talked about losing his daughter and the importance of recognizing that life is too short. He quoted St Paul who (knowing he didn’t have much time left) wrote in a letter to Timothy ‘Make haste and come to me quickly..Come before Winter’.
This resonates with me so much as we navigate through the waters of parenting and parenting special needs in particular. I easily get caught up in feeling the need to clean the house, or organize parts of our lives but am steadily realizing that as I’m focusing so much on maintaining order in our world, I’m missing out on a ton of just having fun with my kids. (Something I am sincerely envious of my husband’s ability to do and boy! does he ever do it well!)  Taking this into consideration, instead of figuring out my to do list the other day, we randomly went to a movie at 2 in the afternoon. To say the kids got a kick out the fact that we were the only ones in the movie theatre is an understatement. That moment was FULL of giggles and joy as we sat through a personal screening of Happy Feet 2.
I am now realizing that I have put off a ton when I was stuck in corporate schlock-land and am hell bent on changing numerous parts of my life. First off, running…
I thought one half marathon was what I needed for my bucket list. That after I accomplished that I didn’t need to do it again. But I’m hooked…I’m missing the discipline of training, and feeling slumpy after having felt so fit for awhile.
I have been inspired by so many stories as of late of people who have just “done it”, “gone for it” and “proven to the world that they can…that now I am intrigued about what else I could do in exercising…My girlfriend has suggested a Try Tri and I am seriously thinking about going for it.
The second, believing in our idea and not letting ups and downs of a challenge bring you down but more focusing on what needs to happen to make a dream become a reality. That Operation Thanks, a project we have designed to say Thanks to the Canadian Forces next year is truly going to be the most epic movement of pride and nationalism, Canada has experienced since the Olympics.
The third, and this is starting to get easier…to relax a bit on the need for clean and tidy and just let go…spend the kind of quality time our kids need to thrive and focusing on what kind of moments we can make together. To help them dream as far and wide as they can and believe that they can do anything.
And if you think you need a little motivation to conquer a dream…watch this.. youtube.com/watch?v=gZ8Ttq…

Our Autistic son destined for a team?

I sit here. Watching my guy skirting around the ice, wobbling, “hockey ready” (our translation: keeping the stick aka:weapon on the ground) and holding my breath till he gets off the ice.

T is loving hockey. Like loves it in a way that he will put down the mouse, step away from the computer, go get dressed, stop doing whatever he is doing to happily head to hockey and get his skates on. You can tell he feels part of a team and embraces the notion of having friends at hockey that he loves to see.

We thought because of his enthusiasm, this might not be as bad as we expected..and that he would come out of this Hockey Skills program with the possibility of playing for an actual team…the verdict is still out..

There are good weeks (many of them in fact) as I watch, amazed, as he gets up and falls down, gets up and falls down, tries and retries to get the puck in the net, over and over again with an incredible amount of determination to keep going.

Then there are bad weeks. The kind of weeks were he is all over the place, skating off in numerous directions, nearly pelting his fellow players with his stick, not listening to the coaches, and seeing them get frustrated over his lack of focus.

They know he is Autistic and has trouble with broad or multiple instructions but you can tell with certain instructors, this is simply 1 of a dozen classes they are teaching this week and taking the time to chunk things down is way too much energy. I don’t blame them…most of them are young guys just making cash to do other things and working with a special needs kid is not necessarily something on their agenda. I’m not sure that at their age, I would have been any different.

So we watch, hardly breathing…keeping count of the good moments to compensate for the not so good ones…reassuring ourselves that he’s not the only one lying on the ice, getting into it with another player, or taking off because he simply does not want to listen anymore.

A couple of examples of our not so great moments..

1) The moment I had to run down to the ice to reinforce that your hockey stick should not actually be held like a tomahawk and attempting to show a friend that he was being mean by responding like a tomahawk was not the solution (he was like THIS close to schmuckin this poor kid in the helmet)

2) Having to watch a repeated antagonist (let’s call him a poop disturber) who constantly jars/jabs/hooks kids (especially T)  and then complains to the coach that one of the kids retaliated and pushed him back. Let’s just say I have already pegged this guy as one of the mean guys on Glee who throw slushies in everyone’s face to make up for their own inadequacy.

and a few great moments…

1) Watching the little guy head towards the goal…focused, driven, bound to score…and then he missed…and missed..and missed…but the fact that he would try, miss and go grab the puck to reposition in front of the net until he actually scored was phenomenal and a proud triumph for our whole family.

2) The time where he walked away from that antagonist…just asked him to leave him alone and simply skated away ??? #epicwin

I’m not sure if T will ever actually be a part of a hockey team (if he does ends up participating, for sure he will be a bruiser Defenseman…making sure NOBODY got near his goal) but for now…we have hope. Hope that this is an experience that he can continue to be a part of, not hurt anyone in the process, enjoy and take tremendous pride in what he accomplishes. That’s all we care about. Nothing more.

Well…and I hope if he makes the big leagues that he plays for the JETS 🙂 They are my hometown team after all ..:)

What I’m Thankful For: Twitter to Wine to Work/Life Balance

I am working on a project all about Thanks next year. I can’t hardly wait…but I have to exercise patience while we wait for people to make decisions, agree to ideas and come to the table with the support needed to make this effort as huge as we want it to.
While we wait, I have been reflecting on what I’m Thankful for after living through a fairly turbulent albeit incredibly exciting year. Below are a few “Thankfuls” I have realized have been a major part in getting me to where I am these days… happy, fulfilled, and getting closer to balanced every day.

From Twitter to Wine to Work/Life Balance, life is good.
  • I am Thankful for a husband who is truly a partner & gets that in this period of our lives he is the cheerleader, supporter, parent, chief bottle washer and laundry keeper upper. These days I have definitely been the worker bee (this pendulum has swung many times throughout our relationship) but I think he sees that I am energized and excited by what I’m doing vs coming home in a big giant stressball.
  • I am Thankful that being forced into a career change has helped create a much stronger work/life balance than I’ve ever had before in my life. I had a friend recently post on her blog about the time element of work/life balance, discussing the fact that you are never really “on” and “off” working freelance or for yourself. I look at it from a different perspective and see all the other positive elements of that work/life balance, opportunities I have had a chance to enjoy since starting up my business again. A few examples…I can take my son to his speech pathology appt every week without having to beg permission or explain to a boss: I have been able to volunteer at my children’s school, which feels good and right: I can choose when to go workout to stay healthy and focused (certain weeks it doesn’t always work, but I am doing it a heck of a lot more than when I was working corporate side): and my overall happiness is balanced and positive..I don’t rush to get out of the house in the morning…I take a deep breath to enjoy a quiet moment at times…because I can.
  • I am Thankful that I am working on projects that truly resonate with me vs. slogging/marketing products for the sake of a paycheque. Figuring out and coming into my own on what I like to do, the strategy I enjoy developing and the social media engagement that plays a major role in my business.
  • I am Thankful for Social Media. I think in a world of working on your own and working from remote locations, Twitter and Facebook is a way to keep in touch..meet around the virtual water cooler and maintain that base social need people have to stay connected. I am also incredibly Thankful for Twitter. In the past year, I have met online and in real life, some of the most beautiful (and hilarious) people I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. I have such fondness for so many of them and enjoy the daily laughter, quips, support and encouragement that these tweeps have sent my way, and I in turn want to do the same.
  • I am Thankful that I can now fit into Banana Republic sizing (They have fabulous work/life balance cross-over clothing for the fabu working from home gig) because of actually getting into exercising and running specifically, learning to endure it and proudly achieving some major accomplishments this year.
  • I am Thankful for wine…this just an ode to the fact that a glass of wine can somehow magically soothe the day away, be enjoyed at a party, insinuate a romantic moment, and be the perfect company to a girls night out…
  • I am Thankful for friends. Real life, got your back, biggest fan, encouraging friends.  I didn’t realize how deeply those friendships went until so many changes happened in our lives. When I lost my job, I got Congratulations : When I decided to start my business again, I got absolute faith that I could accomplish it: When T was diagnosed,  we got “what can we do?”: When I don’t know how to talk about Autism and the roller coaster of emotions I have felt, they have listened, talked, hugged, been a shoulder, asked questions and quietly waited until we have found the ability to ask for help..Those friends have gotten me through so much and I cannot express to them how much I love them but hopefully as they read this post, they realize how very special they are.  THANK YOU.

Goals & Autism- It’s all about Changing Perspective

You wouldn’t know our son is Autistic if you looked at him. In fact, you wouldn’t even know if you spoke with him. (Most of the time) But sometimes… when things get hairy, loud, overexciting, you start to see that tiny minute difference creep out in the way he is responding to stimulating circumstances. At that moment, you can almost physically see the switch flip in his brain and slightly cringe at what that means you are about to get next.

Sometimes, its an abundance of energy so heightened that you think he might literally bounce off the wall..sometimes a disconnection to the situation that I often wonder if he suddenly disappeared to a planet all on his own..and sometimes an uncontrollable upset or anger that will take quite awhile to get him back to a calm state. Eventually we do

get him back to calm and move on to the next moment, challenged with figuring out what set him off and what we can do better the next time.

We struggle a lot with how much of the energy, excitement, etc.. is just that of a 5 year old boy and how much of it is Autistic behaviour? As this first year of diagnosis journeys on, I’ve noticed we are becoming far quicker to recognize where the set off points might be and some of the measures we can take to better manage through those potential challenging situations.

A big challenge is when T completely disengages from an activity. At first, we didn’t know whether it was necessary to share t

hat he was Autistic to a teacher, hoping that he was going to be so interested in the activity that it wouldn’t be noticeable. Yeah…no…not so much. We have learned that it is much better to explain than watch them get frustrated with his behaviour, explaining that you need to “chunk” down instructions instead of a quick overview. A simple example would be rather than saying “Get Dressed”, it’s better to say “Put your pants on, your t-shirt on and then your socks”.

Far more successful in solo activities that with team oriented sports (Soccer was a disaster but skiing was phenomenal) my husband and I came to a header this year. Do we or don’t we sign him up for hockey? Every dad dreams of his kid playing hockey but given our experience with soccer, nei

ther of us wanted to endure the frustration and challenges that might come with it. Our comprimise was a Hockey Tips for Tots…it got him out on the ice and learning the technique to play hockey without the actual pressure of the game.

So we took a big deep breath, and bit the bullet. The first practice went about as well as

expected, with challenges in getting all the unfamiliar awkward gear on but then, by the second week, T started asking when he was going to get to play hockey next. We were shocked and pleasantly surprised that he was open to going again. We would watch him as he got on the ice and fall..over and over and over again. But he’d get back up and every week as we continue to go, he can’t wait to get out on the ice and be with his “Hockey buddies”.

Our perspective is totally different than those parents around us. While they want their kids to skate fast and score a goal, we’re ecstatic that T is listening to instruction, managing the drills and willing to keep making efforts towards to getting the puck in the net.We are noticing our “goals” in life are changing but if you saw us watching T out there, so proud of how hard he was working and obviously having so much fun out on the ice, you would have thought he had scored in the final round of the Stanley Cup Finals. And that’s exactly how we want him to feel.

1/2 marathon-No Starbucks: Having a goal can make a world of difference

We did it! We actually did it!

At the start of this year, I couldn’t even run a km let alone 5, let alone 22 but a couple of weeks ago, we crossed the finish line in our first half marathon with a completion time of 2:12.

Who knew that actually setting a goal WITH a timeline was what it was going to take to get us there? Something I have realized along the way is that I haven’t actually put a lot of goals in front of me recently that were tangible and time-based. Lose weight, be better organized, get the admin part of my business in order, make a meal plan, eat healthier, keep that work/life balance, volunteer, speaking engagements…these have all been recent “goals” that I have put on myself that almost are destined to fail given that there is nothing attached to define the success.

So with this half-marathon under my belt, I realized that I need a training schedule similar to what I did for the run to get things in order…and maybe..not try to do EVERYTHING at the same time! I need to take ONE goal, figure out the timeline and work towards it…one step at a time. If you try to do it all, again…#majorfail…

The best line I ever heard was actually from a Weight Watchers meeting..that it’s very easy to unsucceed…It starts with a LAPSE (where you give yourself an excuse as to why you did it), then it heads to RELAPSE (where you think, well I’ll start again next week or what’s one more time) and then you head to COLLAPSE (where you start to think, I messed up so might as well give up).

So figure to keep the pressure off, I need to figure out 1-2 goals for myself WITH a timeline that I can work towards achieving over the fall and Christmas season. Think not eating all the Christmas baking before I actually give it out to friends could be a good one but would like to work to something a bit more achievement based would be better.

I was recently at the Blogher Writer’s Conference in New York where I met a lovely woman by the name of Eilyne who was at the conference to look at getting her project/blog published. She was a Starbucks addict (would head into the coffee giant 3-4 times a day) and chose to take a 100 days without Starbucks to see if she could actually do it. Well she did it…and what she found in the interim was a whole bunch of things she had been hiding from simply by heading to Starbucks. We talked about what’s next for her now that the project is done and I suggested she challenge people to see what they can do in 100 Days. 100 Days hey? 3 Months? I think I might be up for that challenge…its creating a goal and setting a time limit. I will keep you posted on what that goal might be..in the meantime, think about what you can do..maybe even in 100 Days and join myself and Eilyne in the challenge.

If you’d like to check out Eilyne’s blog, it’s here and she in real life is a super lovely person.  http://nostarbucksfor100.blogspot.com/

Be the Change

You must be the change you see in the world- Mahatma Gandhi

I was inspired by change when attending the #140confONT a couple of weeks ago in Kitchener. The concept was of the 140 Conference was developed by Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) to create opportunities for people to come together and share how social media in some way has changed their lives. The stories we heard at the 1st Canadian conference were profound and more than once throughout the day I found myself choking back tears as people bravely stood up on stage, recounting some of the lowest, most challenging, most amazing moments of their lives. Many people had different perspectives on the conference, some loved the connections they made, the networking opportunity, the stories. What it left me the most with was how much change was the integral part of so many of those stories. How sometimes it is entirely up to you and you alone to take a leap and make something happen. What you find out more often than not, is that as much as you think you are alone in that leap, you have people there to support you.

Even perfect strangers.

Or they start off that way. Then simply, quietly, from just starting a conversation, you find kinship in a sea of social media. And suddenly, these conversations very easily and very quickly can turn into tremendous friendships in real life.  They become your motivators, your cheerleaders to change/do/create/jump…simply by their strength of character, personality and words.

Those words can impact you tremendously.These speakers from the #140confONT spoke words that got to me, right in the heart and have created a sense of needing to push forward, to make things happen, to follow my heart in things I want to accomplish.

@tjzmommy recounted her heartbreaking loss of her son and how it motivated her to work towards fundraising and creating incredible rooms in the children’s ward of the hospital that Zack stayed in http://tjzmommy.blogspot.com/

@MattScobel talked about his dozens of ideas he had had in the past that never went anywhere and coming up with the idea of taking used Macs to Africa by creating @ProjectMacAfrica. The change, this time, he simply did it..and made it happen.

@karmicevolution bravely retold the story of finding out the day that she was homeless that day that she came home with her newborn baby. The entire audience was crying along with her as she recounted everything she needed to do to take care of her child and how through social media she met tons of people who gave her the support she needed when she needed it most

Almost everyone at the conference were tremendous motivators in connecting that Change is Good. That You, yourself needs to be the catalyst for change if you want something to be different in your life, but you need to take action. What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid? (Spencer Johnson-Who Moved My Cheese?)

I have always believed that I was destined for something different in my life. Part of something unexpected but have been afraid of failure along the way. The truth is, I want a few things to be different in my life and so I’m coming along to a world of no fear. Working towards thinking and maintaining positive energy towards of a world of possibilities.  I have goals…lofty goals.. but I figure by putting these down in writing, it will only help motivate me further to focus on what I have to do to put these ideas into action. So here goes:

* Change the perspective of Autism and look at new ways to teach children that helps them connect on their plane of learning vs trying to fit them in the box that is currently school and its curriculum

* Be part of something new in Africa that recognizes the challenges they face in education and creating education & learning opportunities that works for them

* Create an awareness and appreciation for what the men & women of our Canadian Forces do for our country

* Once I am done a half marathon, working towards a full (did I really just put that one in writing?)

Will keep you posted on the outcome. In the meantime, no fear.

 

It’s Official

 

I was going to step away from this. Between managing my business and managing our house, I felt like I was running out of time on the spectrum of work/life balance and heading back into the world of “work” too much. I left corporate candyland to concentrate on finding that balance.

But the summer taught me a number of incredible lessons and I am dedicated to getting back on track in sharing information and connecting with other members in the Autism/ Mom/ Family/Entrepreneur communities. I have discovered that the social media world can be a great outlet; An absolutely fabulous place to connect with people you might never have met; and a meeting place of kindred spirits that just make your days so much brighter.

It was partially because of Twitter that encouraged me to make the statement that I am about to make..

I have signed up for a Half Marathon this fall. That’s right. The chick who couldn’t even get past 5 k this Spring is en route to the biggest physical challenge of her life. (and aside from a few nagging sore hips) is completely unafraid of something that used to terrify me. Failure.

In the past, I wouldn’t have tried this. Wouldn’t even thought there was a possibility..but I have to say, you actually start “training” for something like this and it becomes a lot easier and more approachable than you could ever imagine. You see there is this so called brand (Running Room) with a nutty (see: Brilliant) marketing strategy wherein they invite you to their store to help you get ready for a race, all the while talking up products they have available for purchase and keeping you motivated to stay on course. We started with a 5K clinic in March, proceeded to a 10K clinic in May and were confident enough with our efforts and training that we have made the decision to go for it and run this fall in our first half marathon!

I ran at first because I was angry. Dealing with a sudden diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) completely threw our world upside down. Navigating the course of Special Needs support in Toronto had me beyond frustrated and ready to give up. While getting support for your child is essential, we quickly discovered that resources are so very limited, waiting lists are long and sometimes the workers within those areas are unsympathetic. My guess is that they see so many families in some of the worst moods on the planet and have simply become desensitized to protect themselves from the emotional draw this must have on their own mindset.

So I used running as my own outlet to pour out the heartache I didn’t want to burden my friends, husband, family with as I watched them all accept/adjust to this in different ways. But then something changed, I started talking about Autism. Online. Getting into conversations, reading blogs, following advocates on Twitter and being able to admit not being very strong to a random group of strangers. I started looking at running at personal goals I could achieve for myself that I could be proud of and started participating in fabulous communities/hashtags on Twitter like #momswhorun #momsrunning with a group of moms who are inspiring, motivating and simply (like me) taking it one day at a time.

Small Leaps of Success!

I did it…I finished the 5k run in under 30 minutes! This was complete with a moment of hyperventilating and the inability to swallow by the 4th k…BUT I actually did it…!

I am more and more realizing that its about taking small victories throughout life…not giving into preconceptions of how far or how difficult it would be…JUST DOING IT…

Its not just running..its my business.. its working through the red tape when it comes to helping T get the best possible care & resources. Its so easy to get overwhelmed with life, the demands of home, being a mom, being a business owner, being an advocate, taking care of your relationships. And the simplest answer is one step at a time…

I envy all those moms who seem to have the supermom gene, capable of managing everything and still being able to e-mail at the appropriate times/bake cookies/do volunteer work. But that’s just it, they SEEM to have it all together…

Being a Supermom doesn’t need to be about being able to accomplish everything on your list. It’s more about realizing when its time to stop, spend a moment with your kids, listen to them and just be present. I much prefer focusing on being THAT kind of supermom..

FINAL RESULTS: Overall Race 345/1141 (top 30%)
Age 35-39 (top 9%)
Overall Gender Top 17%
In my age, I came in 8/94

My time: 5 K in 29:42

So as much as I am still not a fan of running, I liked it enough to commit to the 10K…Lookout!

The Big Race

Its the night before our first 5K and I am working on my playlist for my run. I wanted something that would keep me going…remind me why I’m doing this…

I RELY on thinking about T’s fight to motivate me…it was creating enough anger inside that running became the perfect outlet to vent all that out. Except something has changed recently. I finally came to terms with the fact that my son is different and that as much as I feared the label “special needs’, the truth of the matter is, he does..(have needs that are different and specific)..and so all that anger that I had, has given way to a slightly calmer, more accepting version of myself..

Well crap…didn’t I time that wrong? In all sincerity, the last 3 months have been one of the biggest roller coaster rides we have ever been on…all we could do was focus on survival…getting through it…just getting through it. But we realized something. Survival is simply what its like to be a parent.

Regardless of T being Autistic, he’s still a little boy who, like many many other little boys his age, is in that stage that struggles to communicate what they want and when they can’t they get frustrated. He just happens to get a bit MORE frustrated and acts out physically to compensate.

And so life has changed for the better. I now realize why Autism Speaks has the 100 day tool kit, we are almost to the day since diagnosis and this is the first “bright spot” I have seen.

I head into this run, not angry…but excited about accomplishing this goal and working towards some new, healthier ones…