Sleep, Sweet Sleep

Since becoming a parent, there is nothing I’ve obsessed over more than sleep.

It. Is. EVERYTHING. It is the magic elixir that fixes all. And when I lack it, it is the devil that slips in and makes me fall, both literally and figuratively.

I’m too tired to write anything profound or witty. So, today, I share with you some images:

With sleep:

marilyn-monroe-images6Without sleep (even when I put on makeup):

ugly-animals-32

With sleep:

leafs-fans-cheer

Without sleep:

Toronto Maple Leaf fans show their emotions after Boston scored in overtime  at  the final do or die game 7 featuring their Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins in Boston at Maple Leaf Square

(This is either lack of sleep or lack of Leaf talent. Same feeling maybe.)

With sleep:

einstein

Without sleep:

dumb

With sleep:

kids-opening-christmas-presents

Without sleep:

sad-child-at-school-425js081109

When I sleep, every day feels like Christmas day and the Leafs have won the Cup. Keeping my fingers crossed for tonight and always.

 

 

 

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Life is Messy, Even (Especially) on Photo Day

G has the most spectacular hair. It’s true that most days, it’s pulled back in haste to get out the door, but on photo day, I usually spend some time styling it so its beauty is perfectly captured. Except this year. This year, I didn’t know it was photo day until I saw many perfectly coiffed and tidily dressed children piling out of the school at pick-up time.

“Oh no. It’s photo day,” I thought to myself. “I wonder what G is wearing.” And then she appeared. Toronto Blue Jays shirt. Disheveled pony tail. Hair chalk. Yes, orange hair chalk from the night before (or maybe that morning) streaked not only through her hair, but also down the side of her face.

We all tend to treasure our best photos. Today, we share them instantly with others. The ability to now delete the photos we don’t like makes me wonder if awkward photos are a thing of the past.

Not in this family they aren’t. Because, in this family, the photos that are the most awkward have the best stories, and we love to tell a good story. I’m sure the hair chalk one will be one of our favourites, especially if the orange shows up in the final proof.

Here are two other favourites:

I like to call this first one the “Santa SNAFU”. Christmas, 2008, just days after G was born. It was our last Christmas in New York City and we couldn’t let it go by without a visit to the Macy’s Santa.

M was excited. She had written a letter and was poised to present it to Santa and to introduce him to her new baby sister. N had slept well during that morning’s nap so we were sure she’d be cooperative and happy. G was, well, I don’t remember. She was days old; I was barely awake. We stood in line excitedly, talked about what we were going to say to Santa, and practiced our best smiles. It was going to be a great photo.  It truly is a spectacular photo, but not for the reasons we expected:

10341471_10152987503390329_1067257936909095234_n

So much for that nap; N looks like she’s just been stung by a bee. Santa’s trying hard to smile, but it’s not quite reaching his eyes, is it? And M – where is M? She’s cowering in the corner trying to get as far away as possible. Best. Photo. Ever. Unless you compare it to this one:

1049043_10151739028205329_1724047366_o

While at Canada’s Wonderland with N and G, I had to recruit a stranger to sit with N on the Ghoster Coaster (each child needs an adult). The stranger was lovely to N, as was I.

G, however, got completely shafted. She’s terrified and her mother is ignoring her. Attachment and attention issues will be addressed with much therapy when she is older. What makes it worse is we bought the photo and display it prominently in our house simply because it makes us laugh every time we look at it. I mean, look at those faces! And my complete neglect! Hilarious.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the orange hair chalk streak is clearly visible in G’s grade 3 photo. If it is, we’re ordering the biggest size.

 

 

Noooo!

Life with N is like a big splash of colour. Sometimes, it’s dark and moody, most of the time, it’s happy and bright, and sometimes, it’s this:

sofa

 

Yep, that’s our brand new couch, the anchor of our living room re-do. And that’s red marker. RED FRICKIN MARKER that somehow made it on to four out of ten shiny, clean, blemish-free cushions.

In addition to always being colourful, life with N is also always early-waking. This beautiful sofa masterpiece was created one Saturday morning when we let her hang by herself as we took our time waking up. We’d just started doing this, and besides the odd alarm-setting bolt out the front door, she mostly just watched tv. Those few weekends of extra sleep and time together were pure bliss and oh-so-over; we are now back to negotiating who gets up to supervise at 5:30 a.m..

The good news? I got the marker out, thanks mostly to my big brother. He’s always been my superhero, no mater what type of torture he served me when we were kids. Since he’s spent his entire career professionally cleaning carpet and upholstery, I naturally called him first. I think I expected him to don his superhero mask and fly across the city upon his upholstery-cleaning machine to help me, but instead he told me to rub it gently with water and a little soap. It worked, so I still worship him.

There is a lesson here: people with little kids (or big kids with extra chromosomes) who buy nice things maybe don’t deserve to have nice things. Over here, maybe that’s true. For now.

What Would Gordie Do?

Sometimes, inspiration comes from unlikely places, and sometimes you find it exactly where you thought it would be. While no one expected to hear the news this summer that The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie has incurable brain cancer, I don’t think anyone (at least any Canadian in my generation) doubted he’d continue to inspire an entire nation in the months following the announcement.

I haven’t written a blog post in more than two years. I could come up with a million reasons why, but frankly, I just haven’t been inspired. I’ve had blogger writer’s block. I guess you could say I’m blog blocked. I haven’t stopped writing, I’m just not writing here. Instead, I’m writing in my head, in my journal, and for clients.

This is the thing: my blog posts have a certain tone; I try to make them funny, witty, and relatable. Sometimes, however, life isn’t funny, or I can’t see the humour through the lens I’ve chosen to look through, and there’s nothing for me to share.

Gordie’s very public determination and dedication got me thinking: if blog blocked, what would he do? I’m pretty sure he’d write anyways. His words would  be poetic and inspired. He’d talk about us and the country he loves. He’d weave beautiful stories about hockey, Tom Thompson, the Northern lights, 2-4s , the prairies, and all things Canada.

When faced with his own roadblock, Gordie continued on with life – he donned his custom sparkly suits and embarked on an already-booked cross-country tour. He sang his band’s 30-year library of hits for millions of adoring fans, and he did it all despite the odd slip up or the possibility that he might not remember all of his brilliant and beautiful lyrics.

Gordie I saw the Hip play in Toronto last month. It was electric and sad and amazing. It was quintessentially Tragically Hip. The guys were tight; they were a team, both musically and emotionally. Gord was frenetic and fantastic. Most of all, he was inspiring. The more I read about his condition, the more I am in awe that he had the energy and the wherewithal to perform the way he always has.

I think the energy created through his art and the feeling of being at home on stage must have been like therapy for Gord. I get it. For me, writing is therapy. It makes me happy, whole, and keeps me in check. When I write, I’m a better mom, friend, and person. When people read what I write, it inspires me to write more, which keeps me (and everyone around me) happy. If I don’t share what I write, no one reads it, and I lose that inspiration.

Over the years, Gordie’s taught me a lot about Canada, creativity, and being passionate about the talents I’ve been given. Now he’s taught me that no matter what life throws you, you can still be frenetic and fantastic. Sometimes, life’s curve balls look like tumors or heartache or writer’s block. And sometimes, sparkly suits and determination help you find the inspiration to keep doing what you need to do to be happy.

 

Karyn’s Ground Rules for a Great Girls Weekend

Tomorrow, I’m heading up north for a weekend away with some girlfriends. And by girlfriends, I mean people over the age of 9.  I feel absolutely no Mamma guilt when I say that I CANNOT WAIT.

I do, however, have a few ground rules for my friends:

1. There will be no waking me up. Please don’t sleepwalk, have nightmares, or pee your bed. If you can’t fall asleep, I will not tickle your back, sing you a song, or allow you to twist my hair. Figure it out on your own.

2. When it’s my turn to cook, I will cook just one meal that everyone must eat.

3. Silent time, spent either reading or napping, is mandatory.

4. No to whining. Yes to wine-ing.

5. If I am showering, I prefer to do so by myself. I also request no one call my name until I am done.

6. Talk that raises blood pressure (in my case, about schools and school boards) shall be kept to a minimum.

7. I will not mediate any disagreements. If you can’t share, you will be sent to your room.

8. Drama and tantrums will be tolerated only if they make me laugh.

I think that’s it for now. One more sleep. I can’t wait!

It’s Not Me. It’s Most Definitely You.

I have given this relationship my all for more than a year and I just can’t take it any longer. There will be no trial separation, no therapy, no second chances. I gave you my precious time and my trust. In return, you never, ever, delivered what you promised me. Over the past 14 months, you have literally taken me down the wrong roads, steered me in the wrong direction and totally ignored my pleas to change. You have no right to call yourself a GPS. Or, in your case, instead of Global Positioning System, maybe GPS can stand for Going (to) Point (you) Somewhere (else). For these reasons, I am divorcing you.

GPS counselling divorce image

We all have our strengths. A sense of direction is not one of mine. I am a professional 3-point and U-turner because, frankly, I never know where I am or where I am going. Last week, while driving G and her friend to gymnastics, her friend asked me, “Are you going to miss the turn again today?” After just a few weeks, the 5-year-old knew how to get to the gym better than I did. If I had a GPS that gave proper directions, I could be spared the humiliation among the neighbourhood kindergarteners.

Maybe you have the same issue as me and you just chose the wrong career path. I feel like if there was an American Idol for GPSs, Randy Jackson or Jennifer Lopez would have told you years ago, “You don’t have what it takes. You lack the star quality we look for in a GPS for an expensive Japanese car. Find something else to do, Dawg. You suck.”

Do you remember when we drove to Florida last year? You took us off the highway to a country road for miles. Maybe we didn’t explain to you that the point was for the drive to be fast and efficient. I guess I thought I didn’t have to, since you’re a GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM. We weren’t interested in seeing local agriculture or fauna. We wanted to hit the big concrete and stay on it until we reached the Happiest Place on Earth:

gps disney

Instead, your little detour made our car the Unhappiest Place on Earth:

gps baby crying

You added 2 hours to our already very long drive. Couldn’t you see the highway RIGHT THERE beside us? We did, but there was no way to get back on. That wasn’t fun for me. Maybe you liked my restless, bored kids screaming endlessly in the back seat and the panic that set in when nature (inevitably) called and we could see gas stations but couldn’t reach them. Maybe you’re incompetent or maybe you’re just mean. Either way, there will be no more family vacations for you.

Instead, we may have to consult a map. Oh no. I’m not very good at that either. Someone please help, I can’t face another divorce.

Learning to Celebrate Inclusion

Dear school board,

Welcome back to our annual tug-of-war. You may remember me. I am N’s mother. She’s that adorable little girl with Down syndrome. Each year at this time, I call, email and gently harass those of you whom I know can make a difference. We discuss next year’s placement for my daughter and it resembles that movie Groundhog Day. You talk about bussing her to schools in other neighbourhoods, classes for children with developmental delays, and lack of funds. I talk about inclusion, her right to go to school in her community and her school’s need for additional Special Needs and Educational Assistants. 

I’m tired of the same old routine. Let’s shake it up this year. Instead of our boring, stale meetings, let’s meet at the school and watch her. You’re all welcome – psychiatrists, special education consultants, administrators – the more the merrier. 

To prepare you, let me tell you what you’ll see. Her grade 1 teacher will be teaching a math lesson. N may be sitting on the carpet with her peers, but more likely, she’ll be at a desk with the class Special Needs Assistant working on her counting. She will count higher than she ever has before and she will be extremely proud of herself. She will be so excited, in fact, that she’ll want to tell her teacher right away, who will stop the lesson for just a moment to praise her. What happens next may surprise you. Instead of being annoyed that N interrupted their lesson, her peers will all applaud her for a job well done. The end result is not a distraction. It’s a celebration.

After lunch, a group of kids in grade 3 will wait for her in the schoolyard so they can play with her, adapting their games to suit her, until the bell rings. They will do the same at recess.

When it’s time to go home, each child in her class will line up to receive a special N goodbye hug.

As you observe this, my repeated mantras from meetings past may ring in your ears:

  • N emulates what she sees and needs to see age-appropriate behaviour from her peers
  • By having N in their class, her “typical” peers are learning countless life lessons that they’ll never get from even the best thought-out curriculum
  • Inclusion works for everyone if you are willing to invest in it

N is lucky to be at her school. The community wants her there. The administration is willing and committed to making it work. What’s too bad is that every year, I need to fight to get her the support she needs to stay in her community school with her friends and her sisters because you can’t or don’t want to provide it.

When you say there’s no money to support kids with special needs in the regular classroom, I believe you. Sort of. Here’s how I see it: The money you have is now being spent on special programs in specific schools. Maybe this system works for some, but it doesn’t work for us. If you ask around, I’m sure there are a lot of kids with special needs in your special programs who would much rather attend their community school with their siblings, friends and neighbours.  If kids with special needs want to go to their community school, then invest the money in those schools. Give teachers professional and strategy development support, coaching, and assistants. If you need proof this will work, just give me a call. I have classroom diversity studies that show that the academic performance of “typical” children is not affected by having a child with a disability in the class; that well supported inclusion strengthens schools and classrooms; and that when kids with special needs are included effectively, their academic performance is better than expected.

Here’s an idea: let’s just make it easy this year. No running around, no playing games. Don’t make me, and the school, sweat it out all summer wondering if N’s going to have the support she needs in September. I’ll let you in on a little secret that I’m sure, deep-down, you already know: I’m never going away. I’ll play our little Groundhog Day game year after year if it means my daughter will get what she needs to succeed. I guarantee that given the chance, she will soar beyond what any of us expect.