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Saturday, September 25, 2010

First and a Half of Three

Okay, I guess yesterday's post really should have been "First of Four". Sorry. 

My "first and a half" thing? The GFCF diet stuff. 

It's hard. Some days, really hard. The elimination of soy and eggs make it especially rigorous to adhere to the diet. Many favourite foods are off limits, and she doesn't understand why. 

We questioned if maybe soy and eggs have been the problem the entire time, and maybe we didn't need to be on the GFCF diet. So we broke it. For a week. We had a wheat-bread, yogurt-eating lollapalooza. 



The first day was okay. She looked at me quite disbelievingly when I offered her yogurt. She proceeded to devour the entire container. 

The second day was not too bad. Maybe slightly more obsessive than usual, but nothing to write home about. She had trouble settling to sleep that night, and was up a bit earlier than normal. 

By the third day, the sleep problems were become more marked. 

By the end of the week, she was only sleeping 5-6 hours a night (and not all at once, she would start jumping on our bed at 3 a.m.), down from her 11-12 hours a night that she now normally sleeps, unmedicated. 

We have established the need for the GFCF diet. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

First of Three

No, not a post about the Borg. Although that might be cool if I did a post on the Borg sometime. 


I have lots of stuff to catch up on... once I actually post everything that's happened, you'll see why it took me so long to post it! 

Instead of creating one, long post, however, I will break it up into several smaller posts. More easily digested that way. Like chewing your food vs. gulping it down whole. 



The big news? We pulled Abby out of ABA. Finito. Kaput. Le fin. 



After a disastrous teleconference with St. Amant regarding nursery school [at which I felt like the acting in-charge-person was essentially daring me to quit the program], we quit the program. Right then and there. 

Effective when? Immediately.  

Would I like help creating an exit strategy? No thanks, I already have one. 

Would you like to have a debrief? Not really. 

Would you care to elaborate on your issues with the program so we can help other families? If you haven't ascertained what my "issues" are by now, I'm sorry I can't help you. 





So.... what now? 

We moved from having a "comprehensive" (and I use the term laughingly and sarcastically) therapy program to having a hodge-podge of services for Abby.

It's fun, actually. We get to go to playgroup. 

Heck, we get to leave the house, that in itself is a novelty and has helped my depression immensely. But I digress... 



I get to expose her a variety of novel situations and social settings. Most days she does great. Some days not so great. That's okay. 

We do home-schoolish things every day, working on different school-readiness skills. Rachael does them with us too, and is loving it. 

We get to sleep in when we need to, and take a "day off" when we're not feeling so well. 

We go to the park, and sing songs while on the swings, and play games and practice eye contact.  



We go to nursery school two afternoons a week, and she has a ECE helper with her. Yeah! 

We're seeing the occupational therapist every other week, the speech therapist every other week, and the Floortime worker once a week.  

Lots to do, lots to keep track of, and I'm the least stressed about "therapy" than I have been in a year.  

Awesome, eh? 

Welcome to our "new and improved life"! You know, where we actually have a life.  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The One Where I Rant

::growling in frustration after reading socialcomments on cbc.ca, again::
Okay, people, I'm only going to say this ONCE
 

Science: explains how things happened.
 

Bible: explains why things happened.
 

One does not, I repeat, does not necessarily negate the other. 



The Earth is older than 6000 years old, as scientific evidence has been fairly conclusive in this area. Creating the Earth with dinosaur bones already there for us to dig up is, at best, deceptive on God's part. That is not part of His nature. Not of my God, anyway. 



The concept of the Big Bang does not pose significant ideological difficulties with the Judeo-Christian concept of the origin of the Universe. Both create something out of nothing. I genuinely don't understand why this is an issue. 



The idea that humanity arose out of a lineage of ape-like creatures that subsequently migrated around the globe doesn't mean that there wasn't a point in history where a single, unique individual (or pair of individuals) emerged that acted as a tipping point in the development of the species. Because there probably was. And the whole ape-thing explains so much about so many people!


The details of Genesis are a creation myth. Yes, a myth.  Quit getting your knickers in a knot. 

The definition of the myth is: 

a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, esp. one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature. 

Face it. It's a myth. God probably didn't make the world in six days.  

The PURPOSE of creation myth is less about explaining how the world came into existence, and more about explaining the relationship between humanity and God

The fact that this relationship happens to be explained in the setting of the dawn of time (a story that long existed in the Jewish oral tradition before ever being committed to paper, recorded by an individual who I would assume have very little knowledge about modern physics, archeology or anthropological cultural development) is a detail that far too many people get mired down in. 

You have to look at the big picture. 



God made the Universe. God made the Earth. God created humanity in His image. God smacked his forehead in frustration as we messed it all up. 



The mechanisms by which God accomplished those tasks are explained, in part, by science. He created the natural order that science has uncovered and explained eloquently in it's own language. The same God-created order that you deny by your assertations of, "well, the Bible told me so". 

Okay, I'm done. Carry on. 

::end of rant:: 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Apparently, I'm "It"...

Q: When is telephone tag no fun?
A: When you're the only person playing it. 




Yes, they have not called me to tell me what the H*ll is going on. Well, that's not entirely true. One of several people I left messages with called me back at the end of the day (naturally), when I wasn't home (of course!), and said that I should call so-and-so tomorrow. 

A so-and-so who's already not calling me back. 

::lots of nonsensical cursing and swearing, à la Fred Flintstone::

That is all. I've pretty much had a Cr*ptacular day, and now I'm going to bed hoping tomorrow is just slightly less Cr*ptacular. 

Addendum: Okay, so I went looking on YouTube trying to find a video of Freddie-Boy doing his fake-swearing thing, and found this instead. Now that I've picked my dropped jaw off the floor, I wanted to share it with you all. ::smiles::   I watched it twice, and I'm not sure if I'm more shocked by the product placement, or the fact that the boys are hiding behind the house so they don't have to watch the girls work while they goof off. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The ABA Saga

Ready for the ABA story? No? Too bad. You're going to hear it anyway. I have a serious need to rant. It's my blog and I'll rant if I want to. :P

Remember back in November when when we lost a tutor? And then Abby started having seizures again? And after that, we got two new tutors, only to have Abby come down with her mystery illness

When the dust finally settled, and we tried to get back into the routine, Abby was unimpressed. I haven't talked about it on the blog because I didn't think I could without publicly trashing the program. 



I am now going to publicly trash the program. But just a little. 

After such a long interval without regular ABA, we thrust her back into the program full-tilt expecting her to basically pick up where she left off. 

Wrong-O. 

Let me preface this by saying there are serious organizational deficiencies in the ABA program. Several. Many. I could go on for pages about the problems we've had, from staffing changes without prior notification (I sometimes get schedules in the mail with new, random people on it), to serious security/privacy breeches, and.... oh, I'll stop there before I get too riled up.  

Abby was unhappy with her "new" tutors. She screamed. She fought. Eventually, she just shut down. They would show up at the house, and her eyes would just glaze over and she'd leave for Paris or something. She would be unresponsive. Her frustration and unhappiness spilled over into downtime. 



It was disheartening, and I have been on the verge of withdrawing her from the program countless times. (I would go to bed ranting, "That's it! We're done! I'm calling them tomorrow and telling them where to stick it!", only to wake up in the morning and try it one more day.) I would literally cuddle with her at night and cry because I felt so bad about her unhappiness. 

After numerous lengthy discussions with our consultant (who is trying her hardest, bless her soul) and the family coordinator (who has since quit, hope it wasn't anything I said!), we changed strategies. I still feel that the tutors we had were not a good fit for our family, which is ironic because they rejected numerous candidates for positions in the FOUR MONTHS!!! it took them to find the staff. But I was willing to try changing strategies to "enhance the reinforcement value of the tutors to encourage participation". 

Whatever. 

I told them that I would make a decision about staying in the program during summer shut-down (the last two week in July leading up to the long-weekend in August), which has long since past. I am still on the fence. Things are going better, but they're not doing any actual work. They're still "enhancing the reinforcement value of the tutors" by playing with her six hours a day for the past month or so.

Whatever. 

But things were starting to work out. Abby was happier. I thought maybe it was a sign that I should keep Abby in the program. I randomly took out a book about Autism from the library, and it said that ABA was about learning to learn. I would live with that. I wanted Abby to learn to learn.  



So when a phone call came last week telling me that our morning tutor was quitting and Friday 20 August would be her last day, I was taken a little aback. "Geez God," I said to Him, "Don't send me any mixed signals or anything". But I realized that maybe this was an opportunity. 

One of my issues with our current tutors is Nursery School. I had elected to send Abby to Nursery School two mornings a week to help with her socialization (because I'm not entirely convinced spending 6+ hours a day with an adult tutor in my house is going to help her learn to interact with her peers), and a tutor goes with her. 

Normally in the jurisdiction where I live, I can apply to the Daycare office to get funding for the school to hire an extra ECE (Early Childhood Educator) to help Abby in the integrated classroom setting. However, the "service delivery model" for ABA is that an ABA tutor goes with the child and is their helper during school hours. 



In theory, it's a great idea. I mean, she gets a helper either way, right?

Right?

Wrong. 

There's a big, big, BIG difference between an ABA tutor who has education in the ABA way of thinking vs. an experienced, specially-trained ECE. Did I mention there's a BIG difference?  I found that the tutors were lacking the prerequisite skills to successfully help Abby navigate the classroom. The feedback I got from the school director deepened my concerns. The director and I hatched a plan at the end of the school year in June to get an ECE in place for Abby for the fall. 

Okay, I wrote that and realized that it sounded like we had this diabolical scheme or something. It's nothing like that. We just wanted to do everything in our power to get the appropriate staff in place for Abby for September. Just so we're clear on that point, okay? 



Anyway, with one tutor quitting, I saw the opportunity. Maybe God is listening after all. I proposed to the program that we shuffle the schedules around so that I had a part-time tutor in the morning only, and I could send Abby to school two afternoons a week, which coincided with when the ECE was available. I told the ABA program that I wasn't holding my breath that a replacement tutor would be hired in the near future seeing how the last one took four months, and I wanted to fill in the gaps the best I could with what was available to me (those were my exact words, BTW). 

I had already asked the Daycare office about funding, and was told that the ABA program had to basically give their blessings to my plan before they would consider my request for funding (to prevent double-dipping from the provincial pot, I understand and I'm okay with it). 



I spent several days last week trying to wring an answer from ABA. Finally on Friday afternoon the big mucky-muck calls and tells me that they will consider my proposal and get back to me on Tuesday after the Big Meeting (which is today as I write this) to let me know.  

Yesterday (Monday, the day before the Big Meeting) at the end of the day (because important business should only be conducted at the end of the day where no one else is left in the office), they call me to advise me that they are sending a tutor from one of the other homes in our area to my house tomorrow (which is today) for some training. 

Oh?

Her house is going to Kindergarten next month, so they're transitioning over to the School-Aged program. So they're sending her to my house. 

Oh? 

And an important detail regarding said tutor-from-the-other-house popped into my head. She's six months pregnant. Which means she'll be gone on her maternity leave for a year in, say, three months?

Damn.  

Funny the big mucky-muck didn't mention anything about this Friday afternoon when I talked to her. 

Hmm....  

Feeling like there was something more afoot, I told the poor girl in Scheduling that I would not authorize any additional staff in my home until someone called me and explained what was happening. In detail. Thank-you. 

She harrumphed and said she would see what she could do.  

Guess what? Something more was afoot. 



This morning, bright and early, I get a call from a middle-level mucky-muck (I guess that would just make her a mucky. Or would that be a muck?) apologizing for the lack of communication. I probably would have felt more gracious about it if it was the first time, not the fourth time, there's been a "lack of communication" regarding staff changes. 

But don't worry, I was polite. Barely.  

Apparently when they notified me about the morning tutor leaving, they failed to also notify me that the afternoon tutor has also tendered her resignation. Whose last day, incidently, is also this upcoming Friday. 

::head desk::
  
  
I agreed to the pregnant tutor coming on board as a stop-gap solution to the having absolutely no staff as of Monday problem.  

I wish I had an ending to this post. Right now, it's almost 3:15, and I have yet to hear the results of the Big Meeting from this morning. I need to make a decision this week. Go or stay? Stay or go? The idea of life after ABA is a little scary. We've been in the program for almost two years, roughly half of Abby's short life.

In part, my reluctance to leave the program is due to my own inadequacies. I have a track record of leaving things undone. Starting projects and never finishing. Ask my mother. 

In recent months, I have asked myself: "Why do I want to leave the ABA program? Am I going to let Abby cut and run every time things get tough? Am I giving up or moving on?".

In other words, I'm worried that if I give up too easily, I risk transferring my own pattern of unfinished business to my children. But maybe we've stuck around way too long because of my own fears about having yet another unfinished business. 



::long, mournful sigh::

And yet, with yet another staff change, while it will cause stress, it may turn things around for us. It might just be the change we're looking for.  

::another long, mournful sigh::

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Variance of Circumstance

Yep, I'm still talking about our trip. You can read more about it here

Okay, so I'm talking less about the trip per se, and more about where we stayed. We stayed in a campground. It was interesting. I highly recommend it to anyone who's doing some traveling: not only is it relatively inexpensive compared to a hotel, it's also more infinitely more interesting. 



You see, in a hotel, you are in your little room. Alone. You don't necessarily encounter other people who are staying there as well. A campground is different. We were there for five nights. Some people were just passing through and stayed one night. Others have been there much, much longer. 

We discovered after the first day or so that a significant portion of the people at the campground were actually living there. Because you move about the campground going about your routine such as laundry, washing dishes, using the bathrooms and showers, etc, you see a lot of them.



Most people who are living there are temporary workers from other parts of the country; for example, one woman I talked to was from Edmonton. She followed her husband there. She told me every time she saw my kids she felt homesick, missing her grandbabies who were about the same age. 

We had Steven King staying in a decrepit camper across the road from us. I swear, it was Steven King. Okay, not Steven King as much as it was Stuart Redman, a character from his 1970's novel, The Stand. Minus the dog. And none of that Captain Trips stuff. (If you understood all those references, does that mean you're a geek too? The first Steven King novel I ever read was "The Stand". I bought it at Value Village for $2 when I was with my friend Kelly. The book smelled like cigarette smoke. I was twelve years old.)



Okay, okay, the point... 

I found myself humming one of my favourite Carolyn Arends songs, Travelers (The Airport Song).  The song is about... well, traveling. And waiting in airports. Which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with a campground in Regina. But there's a line: 

"There is variance in circumstance 
Direction and occasion
But the truth is we're all travelers
Who have not reached our final destination"

 

that sticks with me. 

In that campground, there was that variance. Some were there for happy reasons, like us. Some where there strictly for work, like the Edmonton lady. Others, like the family next door, appeared to be living there for other, less joyous reasons. The husband came and went each day in his work uniform, and probably wasn't a migrating worker like the Edmonton people. The wife often cried in the bathroom at night. The two kids were rarely seen, and smiled even more rarely. 

In our life, and in our faith, we all have that variance in circumstance, direction and occasion. Again in Ms. Arends' words: "There are signs to welcome daddies, There are flowers and balloons, Business trips and funerals, And happy honeymoons."
  

I suppose that lesson has never been more vivid in my life. How we can all collectively be in the same physical space, and yet none of us are in the same place.


Our faith, which for all intents and purposes is a never-ending journey, tends to make us occupy the same physical space while rarely being in the same place. It happens every Sunday. Each of us there are at different points in our journey home.



And some are stuck at the airport. Others are in mid-flight, but have terrible turbulence. A few are flying smoothly over a clear, jet-blue ocean. 

It makes me question where I am on my own journey. And who's flying the plane. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Queen City

The best part of your vacation is the coming home part. - My Dad


Canola field near Broadview, Saskatchewan, with storm clouds in the distance

Our trip was, to put it mildly, an astounding success. I kid you not. 

We spent a luxurious five nights in our camper at a campground just outside the city limits of the beautiful city of Regina, Saskatchewan, AKA the Queen City (In case you were wondering, the word regina is latin for queen). Yes, we went to Saskatchewan for our holidays. 

Quit laughing. We like it there. We went to Moose Jaw for our Honeymoon. 

Really, you can stop laughing now. I happen to like Saskatchewan. 

Okay, those of you who don't live in Canada may be confused at this point. Saskatchewan is often the brunt of jokes. It can be very, very flat and treeless at times (although that's really a relatively small part of the province. It's unfortunately the part you see if you're driving through on the Trans-Canada on your way to someplace better). It's epitomized by the lyrics to the popular Canadian sitcom, Corner Gas (which just happens to be about Saskatchewan)... "You can tell me that your dog ran away, then you tell me that it takes three days...".

Saskatchewan... hard to spell, easy to draw...


The kids did very well. Abby exceeded our expectations. She ate and slept well. She used public restrooms (we had lots of issues with that until very recently). She tried new things, and was generally a very happy kid. She was very ready to come home by the time we left. LOL. 

Regina is a beautiful city. It's hard to believe that it is, in a sense, totally artificial, with all the trees and such. 

Confused? 

Where Regina was built is a semi-arid, treeless, flat... expanse. It's almost a desert. There was nothing there 150 years ago except a trickle of a creek that has since been dammed and built up into the beautiful Wascana Lake and adjoining park. Every tree is planted. Every hill is sculpted. Every blade of grass is meticulously watered to keep it from dying. 

It's natural beauty is entirely man-made. Cool, eh?   
 

Here are the highlights of our trip: 

Our chalet


Our camper. We bought it earlier this year from the parents of a good friend of mine. While not huge, we thought it was quite spacious and luxurious compared to tenting. Then we saw some of the RV's and 5th Wheels at the campground. I'm pretty sure some of them had more square footage (and a bigger bathroom) than the little house Michael was living in when we met all those years ago. 

The whole camper thing worked out well.  Not only is it a fraction of what a hotel costs (we basically camped five nights for the cost of one night in a nice hotel), you also get to bring your kitchen with you. Makes the GFCF thing infinitely easier. 


Legislative building

The Legislative grounds. My brain still thinks of it as the Palais legislatif from my days in French Immersion/Francophone University. Besides I think the French sounds for sophisticated. It was quite lovely. We didn't go inside but enjoyed the grounds instead. It's on the shores of Wascana Lake. 





That's a statue of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her favourite horse. The statue was erected for the horse's birthday or something. I didn't get to read the plaque very well... it has the words favourite, horse, birthday and statue on it. I had to piece the rest together myself.  *shrugs* Nice statue though. 
  



The kids. Just because they're so gosh darn cute. :)


The lake is really very lovely. It was started in the 1800's, and was drained and islands were created using only hand labour in the 1930's as a  make-work project. The lake was drained again recently (2003 I think) for what they dubbed "the Big Dig", where they deepened the lake and created another island or two (they used machines this time). All in all, a piece of paradise in the middle of the city. 




Isn't that an awesome picture?


It was challenging taking pictures this trip. Abby loves having her picture taken. Rachael hated it, and I often had to ambush her. Weird. 

Anyway, we stopped and ate a snack in a picnic area. 

Eating
  
Abby stuffing an entire piece of... something... in her mouth. 
   
Come on Mom, I'm done, let's go.  

Let's gooooo.... we're boooooored....
  
Rachael patrolling the bathroom perimeter while Daddy and Abby used the potty.   

Totem pole. Obviously. 


There was this awesome totem pole there. Why there was a West-Coast totem pole in the middle of Saskatchewan I'm not sure. The plaque said something about a gift. Maybe it was for the Queen's horse's birthday? (As you see, I wasn't real big about reading the plaques this time out.)

Daddy and his girls


Same shot, except with Mommy.  

Relaxing on the wormy-thing, enjoying the ride

On the other side of the lake, they had this great playground that we actually visited several times. They had this giant wormy thing that bounced. It's hard to explain. The kids liked it. 

Michael riding the big wormy thing


They also had spinny things. Abby discovered she likes to spin, or rather, be spun. There was the big, slow one: 


Brave Daddy with the girls on the big spinner  

 

But then there was a smaller, faster spinner. 


Abby going for a ride


Abby LOVED the blue spinner. We encountered several other playgrounds in Regina that had something similar, and she's want to spin on the them until she was literally green. We felt ill just watching her. We were never too sure if the look on her face was joy or terror, but every time we stopped the spinner and asked if she wanted more, she would enthusiastically sign, "more". 

  video

Walking back to the van

We spent a lot of time exploring the city and finding playgrounds to entertain the kids. One had a big hill, which even though where we live is relatively hilly, there's few actual hills to play on. 

Rachael on her hill-climbing expedition

Crawling down the hill is fun!

Daddy after the rolling-down-the-hill demonstration

One place we stopped also had a big puddle, and a big map of Canada painted on the black-top!

Who needs rubber boots?



Rachael doing her Godzilla thing on Newfoundland and Laborador

We also visited Government House, the home of the lieutenant governor. It was very pretty, with beautiful landscaping and nice flowers. The interior is a museum (and offices, but that part's not open to the public) and they have an "educational playroom" in the basement. 


The kids were less than impressed. It was our last day there. Their favourite part of Government House was the elevator ride. 

Cue elevator music

But I did take a picture of the plaque, fulling intending to read it later... 

We also attended Mass at the Holy Rosary Cathedral. It was very tall. 


I didn't take any pictures of the interior because, well, frankly it wasn't very interesting. It was obviously renovated sometime in the 1970's or 1980's in the "Spirit of Vatican II", not that there's anything wrong with that. There just was this terrible discordance between the gorgeous neo-classical, gothic-esque exterior and the bland, biege and boring interior. *sigh* Perhaps I've been spoiled since our local parish (of approximately the same vintage and architecture) has had a serious restoration in recent years. 

Well, that's the big highlights that I have pictures for. Of course, we did tons more, and I will discuss them in another post. For now, supper is waiting and a cranky toddler needs her Mommy. 

Thanks for reading this super long post!