January 24, 2011


A friend reminded me today that trying to overcome depression of any kind, seasonal or otherwise by "reasoning your way out" is as futile as willing away cancer or trying to trick yourself out of the flu. It's not possible. It needs to be dealt with. She's a wise old broad. Fine, she's 11 months younger than me, if we're getting all technical, but she's right.

Thankfully, I have lots of support.  Great friends, a loving family, an amazing husband, and a comfy chair by a sunny window.  Today as I sat by the window, bathing in luminous Vitamin D, I explored the web, and only allowed myself to read POSITIVE content. Maybe you can't trick yourself into a happier disposition, but by avoiding negativity and embracing the positive, you might end up with a sunnier outlook. Man, once I fire up my new light therapy box, I'm going to make Mary Poppins look sullen and downright pessimistic. LOL!

Anyway, I stumbled upon a lovely blog called Demanding Joy.  Not to be confused with my friend Joy, who's not the least bit demanding, this blog is about "claiming the happy moments".  Meg, the author believes, "By focusing our attention and gratitude on the things that nurture us and bring joy, we can snag as many bits of happiness as we can possibly cram into our lives."  Clearly Meg has the right attitude (and a healthy supply of Vitamin D).

When I'm feeling overwhelmed, sad or just plain bitchy, I going to take stock of all the good things in my life by writing one of Meg's 50 Lists To Write To Lift Your Spirits.

Perhaps I'll post a completed list or two on this blog and maybe you'll share a favourite list of yours?

Lists for the Listless...but soon to be joyful.

  1. People who have influenced or inspired you
  2. Things you are grateful for
  3. Places you have been
  4. Places you want to go
  5. Books you’ve read
  6. Your favorite things – what brings you joy?
  7. Good things that happened this week
  8. The best things that happened in the last year
  9. The best days of your life.
  10. The songs for the soundtrack of your life
  11. Acts of kindness you’ve committed
  12. Things you want your children to know about you
  13. Reasons why you love your significant other
  14. The high points for your autobiography
  15. People who love you
  16. The cutest things your kids ever said
  17. Everything you would do if money were no object
  18. Favorite gifts you’ve ever received
  19. Favorite gifts you’ve ever given
  20. Occupations that you have ever wanted to have (including when you were a child)
  21. The best advice you’ve gotten.
  22. The worst advice you’ve gotten.
  23. Things you’re procrastinating
  24. Ways you calm yourself down when you’re angry.
  25. The best ideas you’ve ever had
  26. The best projects or organizations you’ve ever been involved with
  27. The ways you have grown since your early 20’s
  28. The most beautiful things you’ve ever seen
  29. The greatest lessons you have learned
  30. Life’s lessons that you learned the hard way
  31. Things that have mad you laugh until you cried.
  32. Qualities you most admire in others
  33. Qualities others most admire in you
  34. The elements of an ideal year
  35. All the compliments you’ve ever gotten
  36. Foods that you have eaten that are so good that others could hear you enjoying them
  37. The times you have asserted yourself
  38. Things that inspire and energize you
  39. The places where you feel completely comfortable to be yourself
  40. The most important turning points in your life
  41. Times when you looked and felt your absolute best
  42. The things you’re good at
  43. What you would do with the power of invisibility
  44. Things you want to teach your children
  45. Things you still want to do in life
  46. Bits of trivia that most people don’t know about you
  47. The things you love about your body
  48. Accomplishments you are most proud of
  49. The things you love about your home
  50. Who (living or dead) you would invite to your dream dinner party

January 23, 2011

Little Miss Merry Sunshine I Ain't

It's winter and I'm sad. It's extremely frustrating because I'm actually a VERY happy person. And, despite recent challenges, I love my life, and yet I feel sad for no reason.

It's because I have SAD, which is a stupid, random, idiotic, waste of my time. Seasonal Affective Disorder otherwise known as the "Winter Blues"can, in the words of Tina Fey, "Suck it." SAD makes me mad. And frankly, embarrassed. It sounds made up. Like some sorry excuse to be bitchy or mopey or lazy. 

I'm not just craving a trip to Florida or a day at the spa. My body physically reacts to this time of year in a bad/sad way. 

And FYI, thisis not PMS and it's not lack of sleepThese two elements certainly don't help matters, but I've been dealing with this affliction since I was 19 years old. I know what it is and and what it is not. January/February is the peak, but come March, I'm happy-go-lucky once again. 
Symptoms (of which I have EVERY ONE) include: 
  • change in appetite, in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • weight gain
  • decreased energy
  • fatigue
  • tendency to oversleep
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • avoidance of social situations
  • feelings of anxiety and despair   
Fun right?

There is no confirmed cause for SAD, though it's thought to be related to seasonal variations in light. There's also a chemical element where neurotransmitters in the brain that help regulate sleep, mood, and appetite are disturbed.

A small percentage of people of have actual, textbook SAD (But, here's me, waving my hand...sadly.).

Time outdoors during the day, "Light Therapy," and exercise help. Dietary changes are also important. Blah, blah, blah...fact is, once you're gripped by it, it's hard to do the things you need to DO to dig yourself out. It's a sad SAD situation.

So tomorrow, I'm calling my doctor. I clearly need to shed some light on this, because feeling this stinks. 

January 20, 2011

All Signs Point To My Smart Hands

Since my first year of teaching, long before I had children of my own, I ran the Sign Language club at the school where I taught. I trotted out my choir of shiny faced six year olds onto the stage where they signed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" to music. There wasn't a dry parent eye in the house. I obviously considered signing to be more of a novelty act, than a life altering skill. I had NO idea how important the role ASL would ultimately play in my life.

When I taught my son sign language nearly eight years ago, I relied on library books and bland, one dimensional websites.  Once Avery came along, and it became apparent sign language would be an essential tool in her development, I searched for innovative new ways to teach her.

When Laura Berg posted a video on YouTube of her baby signing, it went viral. People were astounded by her 18 month old's level of skill. They wanted to know how she did it and how they could teach their children to do the same and...My Smart Hands was born. I love Laura's fresh approach to teaching ASL.

I downloaded the My Smart Hands flashcard Apps for my iphone. They've proven to be a fun educational activity to keep us occupied in the car, in line at the grocery store, in waiting rooms. etc.  Also, check out the Dictionary App.  Click on a word and Laura will show you how to sign it. I especially love that it's mobile. So many times when we're out and about I find myself saying, "What's the sign for insert random item whose sign eludes me?" here. This App allows you to look up any word, on the fly. Awesome.

Laura aka "The Dragon Slayer" recently pitched My Smart Hands on CBC's Dragon's Den. You can watch the episode of this amazing Dragon Slayer here.

January 17, 2011

Help Isn't Just A Song By The Beatles...

I have a very difficult time both asking for help, and accepting it when it's offered. Friends and family have expressed that this a flaw. Their exact words, "This is one of your flaws."

My friend Julie Cole wrote about this topic so eloquently here --> Mabel Mama Of Many 

Julie says, "Help is a funny thing. Some people offer to help, but we don’t take them up on it. Is it because we don’t think it’s a genuine offer? Is it because we are selective about who we think is actually capable of helping us?" 

You nailed it Julie.

The only thing more difficult for me than asking for help, is actually accepting it, willingly, without running away or attempting to take over. I've done both. 

Check out what Julie has to say about what YOU can do to help the stubborn fools who won't accept your help even though they clearly need it. What? Why is everyone looking at me??

January 16, 2011

Sleep Studies Are Tiring!

Avery had her sleep study last week. Hopefully we'll get to the bottom of why she has such a difficult time staying asleep.

When we arrived at the Sleep Lab, Avery was happy to be there.  I suppose there's a certain air of excitement - new environment, friendly faces, lots of attention, rubber gloves...

She was rigged with wires glued to her head and bands strapped around her tiny chest. And after some cuddle time and several rounds of ad-libbed lullabies sung horribly wrong by yours truly, she went to sleep like the little trooper she is. 

She was in a narrow bed, HIGH up off the hard floor and I told the technician I was concerned about her waking in the night and bolting as I slept unaware in my bed, aka petrified log with a whisper of a blanket and imagining of a pillow. Jeremy the tech guy told me "to relax" (I love that...not) and that they've never had any problems. He'd be watching on the monitor though just in case.

Flash forward to 12:10 a.m.... Hellooooo bolter!

The next two hours were a gong show. Avery wanted out of that bed and would stop at nothing to make it happen. Since her head was literally attached to a machine at her bedside, she could NOT get up. She asked for a drink. To go to the bathroom. To go for a walk. To play. To get a book. To stand up. To go home. Gotta give the girl props for persistence. She pulled at the wires and struggled to break free from my arms. I was now lying beside her, crammed between her and the wirey mass attached to the machine. At one point, I looked up at the camera and mouthed, "Help me."  Apparently Jeremy was on a coffee break.  Finally at 2 a.m., as I was having visions of a future redo, she went back to sleep. 

Between fears of her waking and my petrified log bed, I stayed awake on "night watch." At 6 a.m. we packed up and headed home (after a mandatory fill up at Starbucks).

The next few nights, Avery slept well of course. It's like when you make a hair appointment and your hair looks fab the day of, or you take your car in so the mechanic can listen to the noise that mysteriously disappears the minute you drive into the garage. We started to think, maybe this WAS just one of those phases that children go through. Perhaps her sleep apnea is gone? Maybe we're out of the woods...?

Or maybe not. Yesterday, Avery woke up at 6:30 a.m. and stumbled into my room like a drunken sailor (not that I'd know what that actually looks like. I've never had a drunken sailor anywhere near my room, I swear!). She tried to speak but couldn't. Her words, when they did come, were slurred and unrecognizable. She was pleading with me, with her eyes. She wanted to tell me something, but couldn't form the words. Her brother, who was sleeping with me said, "Mummy, why is Avery talking like that?" I told him she was still groggy and waking up. He didn't believe me. "Do you think she had a seizure?" he asked. Damn that boy is smart.  Yes, I do think she had a seizure.  And I wonder, has she been having nocturnal seizures all along?

I called the sleep lab that morning to ask how long the results would take. I'm dying to know if they documented any seizures during the test. They advised that since they do so many tests which take a considerable amount of time to read, results generally take at least a month.

So we'll wait. And watch. And sleep with one eye open...

January 14, 2011

Tires and Tears

If a Mom cries in Canadian Tire, does she make a sound?

Monday we got a call from Sick Kids Hospital asking us to fill a last minute cancellation at the Sleep Study lab. I jumped at the chance. I picked up both kids from school and whisked them over to Canadian tire. Only a week after replacing my slashed rear tire, it seemed I now had a nail in a front tire. I didn't want to risk driving on the highway.  I explained that we were in a rush and the tire maven at the desk said she would see what they could do. All I had to do now was wait. Oh, and entertain my two tired children. Ya, there was that.

DS was fine.  He always is.  Avery however had just pooped her Pull-Up (sorry, TMI, but it sets the mood), was hungry, thirsty and generally annoyed.  The candy dispenser kept her amused for about three minutes.  Apparently it's a hoot eating Skittles off the dirty garage floor. Know what else is fun? Dumping a basket of  sugar packets all over the floor and yelling "Cool!" while the tire maven looks at you with mixture of pity and disgust and asks for the second time, "How old is she?" (more about THAT pet peeve another time).

And cue the mechanic to come out to tell me the tire's too damaged to repair and I need a new one but...they don't have any in stock. He would put on the spare but advised I shouldn't drive very far. Perfect. I decided to call around to see if I could borrow somebody's car to get into the city.  Aaaaaaaand this is when my iphone froze.  God only knows why. Oh wait, I know why.  Because this is my life right now.

Avery was fed up with me ignoring her while I fiddled with my phone so she bolted. While looking over her shoulder to see if I was following, she ran smack into a display of sunglasses.  As I crouched to pick up the mess of strewn shades, I started to cry. There's something quite humbling about losing your sh*t in the automotive section of Canadian Tire.

How does this story end? They put on the donut. I fixed my phone. I borrowed my MIL's car. And we made the appointment.  Ah, the appointment...now THAT is a story in itself...

January 13, 2011

When Twitter Goes Twrong

Yesterday I touted the benefits of social media.  I thought I'd better add one caveat...

...Facebook is fab and Twitter's terrific however, occasionally, social media can bite you in the butt.

The "dangers" regarding Facebook are obvious.  If you say something rude or off-colour it gives people a negative impression of you. If you post a picture of yourself doing something inappropriate, it will certainly come back to haunt you in the future (FYI Mark Zuckerberg has a shoebox full of pictures of you at that keg party).

Same rules apply to Twitter. Whatever you tweet, sticks, which depending on how many glasses of wine you've had whilst tweeting, can be....sticky.

There's also the issue of safety. Do you mention your children's names? (Do you? I'm still on the fence). And what about family pictures? You can share as little or as much as you want, but whatever you decide, you need to make sure both you and your spouse are comfortable.

Speaking of sharing, I tend to divulge a lot of personal information. (In both url and irl life). I'm an open blabby book. Sometimes this can be a good thing. By letting people into my life, I've received so much support and invaluable advice.

It can also be a not-so-good-thing. When you put it all out there; where you've been, who you went with, what you did, etc. it can leave people feeling on the outside. Even as full-grown, mature adults, we all occasionally feel like we're back in braces and acid wash jeans, akward and alone at the school dance. No? Just me? Alrighty then. Moving on.

I've experienced conflicts with real life friends who said I was "too busy" attending events and hanging with twitter friends to be available to them. As much as I wanted to put my hands on my hips and tell them how wrong they were, I can't help but see their point. The impression we give online isn't always entirely accurate. The interaction on Twitter or "Twinteraction" as it's called (Fine. Nobody calls it that. Hashtag...#nerd) has a party-like atmosphere. It's very social, hence the term Social Networking and sometimes, sadly, noses get put out of joint.

Being aware of this helps to avoid this unpleasant side of social media. Try to avoid tunnel vision and remember that people, other than those you're engaged with in conversation can also hear what you're saying.

Be safe. Be polite. Be respectful. Be inclusive. And then...Twitter is Pleasantville. :)

January 12, 2011

Friends In All The Right Places

Many of my friends don't "do Facebook" or god forbid...Twitter.  So how do they stay connected? Do they pop out for a quick coffee or grab lunch with a pal? Pick up the phone to check in? Send a quick email?  If they do these things on a consistent basis, they're doing a lot to nurture important relationships.

If they're NOT doing things things on the regular, then...(quick, somebody pass me a soapbox) they risk missing out. Some may argue social media is a "time sucker."  Sure, it can be.  Updating photos to my Facebook page takes a few minutes, responding to emails takes a few more and tweeting, well that can take a few minutes to a few hours. Is digital networking addictive? Yup. It takes time and it's addictive? But, is it worth it?  Absolutely.

Here's why:

Facebook - I have family and friends who live FAR away.  Having the chance to look at their photos and share my own, keeps us connected.  Do I update my status every minute to share every detail of my life in real-time?  Hells no.  If I have something important to share. I share. If not, I read what OTHER people have to share.

Twitter - I agree, the concept sounds silly. Like Facebook, I don't tweet every thought in my head. Ok, sometimes. But mostly Twitter is a conversation. It's also an interactive support system. And frankly, one of the best places for a good ol' belly laugh. I've made connections via Twitter I never would have otherwise. Ahem... yummymummyclub. And friendships.  REAL ones. I met my friend Sarah on an online message board and we really connected on Twitter. We met in real life a few months ago over lunch at Craft Bar in NYC. I couldn't believe I was finally sitting face to face with her. I kind of wanted to reach out a poke her to make sure she was real. Sarah understands what life is like with a unique child. She's offered so much support and guidance and unconditional kindness. For example, I put my hat in the ring on Twitter to win a Kobo Reader (to pass the time at appointments with Avery) and Sarah won it. Instead of keeping it for herself, she quietly arranged to have it sent to me instead. Who DOES that?  The amazing people I've befriended on Twitter, that's who.

I'm not saying social media should replace real-life interaction. Twitter has nothing on a long walk with a friend or a night out with the girls. Communicating online forms a bridge between the url and irl. Oh, that's good. Feel free to tweet that out.  LOL!

But I digress, as a stay-at-home parent, these outlets have enabled me to socialize with old friends and also make new ones - which is fantastic since it's not like I'm going to run into anyone interesting while doing my dishes or meet up with a gal pal in my closet while I'm putting away socks.

I challenge you (Yes, I'm looking at you Twitter naysayers) to try it for a month and see if you don't change your mind. Engage, mingle a little and you'll love it...or your money back. What? Fine. It's free. You can't go wrong at that price. :)

January 6, 2011

Are You Sleeping, Are You Sleeping, Brother John? Cuz We're Not

New parents are hilarious the way they obsessively discuss their child's sleep routine. Did the imp sleep through the night? How was their nap? Is your baby a "good sleeper?"  These conversations stem from true desperation, you understand. An exhausted adult soon becomes a crazy person.

Alas, Avery has always been a good sleeper. As an infant she slept too much in fact. (I had wake her to feed). At about eight months, she developed sleep apnea, but it didn't affect the longevity of her slumber.  She'd snort and gasp for air, but remained fast asleep.

Her apnea comes and goes and changes in severity for no clear reason. But no matter how severe, her stellar sleeping pattern continued. At the beginning of December however, she started waking in the night.  Usually around 2 am. Awake and ready to rock...for hours. We've tried everything to solve the mystery.  Is she too hot, too cold, is there light shining in her window somehow, nightmares, nightsweats, nightanythings??  I'm starting to feel like a sleep-deprived Sherlock Holmes. Are Avery's teeth hurting her and is this waking her up?  (If you could hear the grinding going on in this poor child's mouth, you'd know this is a possibility).  Hubby suspects she's hungry.  Probably due to the fact that she would often wake and say, "I'm hungry..." This must be the problem right? Well, not so fast. Nothing is ever straight forward when it comes to Miss Avery, nor is there ever a quick fix.

Since starting school, Avery is bone tired and generally disinterested in eating by dinner time.  At the table she resembles a young Linda Blair - head spinning, spewing pea soup, while we chant, "The power of rice compels you!" Despite our efforts, she often ends up going to bed with an empty tummy.

So we started feeding her oatmeal right before bed. Sadly, it made no significant difference. She wouldn't say she was hungry upon waking, instead she would ask to watch t.v. or play.  I'm sorry, I'm not exactly in the mood to play dolls at 3am.  I'm funny like that.

Yesterday I took Avery to Sick Kids hospital for a sleep study consultation. Conclusion: she needs a full over-night sleep study.  Really? Huh. And what I mean by that is, duh.

Sleep apnea is caused by either an obstruction (i.e. adenoids) or a central nervous system issue, where the brain stops telling the body to breathe during certain periods of sleep.  The doctor suspects Avery's sleep apnea is caused by both.  Of course.  Like I said, nothing is straight forward.

Hopefully we'll have a date for the study soon. The doctor explained how Avery will need to sleep with leads attached to her head and several bands around her chest.  My response, as Avery was running around the office, arms flailing, eyes wildly darting..."Good luck with that."  The doctor assured me they only have an average of ten fails per thousand tests. To which I said, "May I introduce you to my daughter, number eleven." :)

January 3, 2011

Is BUSY The New Four Letter Word?

I'm busy. So very busy. I can't believe how busy I am! And he's busy. And she's too busy. And don't even bother with them...they're really quite busy.


Listen here, things aren't going to suddenly get less busy. Unless you become incarcerated. Or you slip into a coma.

Work, kids, activities, social engagements, chores, errands, the pursuit of happiness–these things take time and we get busy and yes, there's gettin' busy, which also requires time. A little anyway. Hi honey.

I often ask incredulously, "How is it possible that I'm SO busy? I work from home, part-time." The fact is, life is as busy as it we allow it to become. That's deep. I need to italicize that.

Having a full and active life isn't a bad thing. But, when it causes you to shirk certain responsibilities like calling your ninety year old grandpa on a regular basis or to let important relationships slide, busy becomes a four letter word.

We can always find time to surf the net, watch a movie, get our hair done. We're not too busy for those things. So when we tell someone we're too busy to see them, to call them, to check in with them, in essence we are saying, "I could meet you for coffee, but I'd rather hang out at home in my pajamas and tweet while I drink coffee on my comfy couch. Sorry. I'm just too busy."

We don't mean any harm.

We're just TIRED...another ugly four letter word.

When we're tired, we gravitate toward things we enjoy and that are easy.

Though I have reservations about resolutions, I'm making one this year. I've had a revelation and I'm starting a revolution. I'm setting aside my reservations for a revelation inspired resolution revolution.


Put simply, I resolve to MAKE the time to be more thoughtful. To nurture the relationships that mean something. To put aside the "busy" and focus on what matters. 

Who's with me?  And please don't say you're too busy.

* Addendum: Tired is actually five letters, not four, as pointed out by a friend who is clearly not as tired as I am.  LOL!

January 2, 2011

Filed Under Perspective

Tonight I came across a file on my computer I'd named "Perspective." I'd forgotten all about it.  When Avery was first diagnosed, I scoured the internet for hours on end, searching for medical information or the latest genetics research. Occasionally, I'd stumble upon something beautifully personal.  When I did, I'd cut and paste it into my file and visit often to read the words that helped to put our new world into perspective.

These are two of my favourites.

Welcome To Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley.

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

The Special Mother
by Erma Bombeck

Did you ever wonder how mothers of disabled children were chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over the earth selecting his instruments of propagation with great care and deliberation.   As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
"This one gets a daughter.  The Patron saint will be Cecelia."
"This one gets twins.   The Patron saint will be Matthew."
"This one gets a son.   The Patron saint.....give her Gerard.   He's used to profanity."  Finally he passes a name to an angel and smiles.  "Give her a disabled child".
The angel is curious.  "Why this one God? She's so happy."
"Exactly," smiles God.  "Could I give a disabled child to a mother who does not know laughter?  That would be cruel!"
"But has she patience?" asks the angel.
"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of sorrow and despair.   Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it.   I watched her today, she has that feeling of self and independence that is so necessary in a mother.   You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world.   She has to make him live in her world and that's not going to be easy."
"But Lord, I don't think she even believes in you."
God smiles, "No matter, I can fix that.   This one is perfect - she has just enough selfishness."
The angel gasps - "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"
God nods.  "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally she won't survive.   Yes here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect.   She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied.   She will never take for granted a 'spoken word'.   She will never consider any 'step' ordinary.   When her child says "Momma" for the first time she will be present at a miracle and will know it.   I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty and prejudice...and allow her to rise above them.   She will never be alone.  I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as if she is here by my side."
"And what about her Patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid air.  
God smiles. "A mirror will suffice."