Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It's time to blog again. After 15 months, I've missed blogging, and today is the day to break the silence.

My title is simple - Sara. My sweet girl, who will be 10 years old in just 3 weeks! About 18 months ago, I shared how much I was concerned about Sara. Concerned about her learning challenges, which seemed to get worse with each passing month. Concerned about her social skills and the odd behaviours that caused her friends to reject her on many occasions. Concerned that maybe she was on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. And desperately wanting answers.

If you remember, Sara was given a full psycho-educational assessment during the summer of 2009, by Dr. Susan Peacock in Edmonton. The information gained was helpful in understanding Sara better. Sara was also diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome, by Susan, and received her coloured glasses a few months later. (The website www.irlen.com explains this syndrome very well.) Shortly after the assessment was completed and Sara finished the process to pick the colours for her Irlen glasses, we experienced another major move. To Kamloops, BC. (November 28, 2009) Wow! It threw all of us for another loop! In the middle of all the fuss, I lost sight of pursuing any sort of autism spectrum diagnosis. We hoped and prayed that the new Irlen glasses would make a significant difference in Sara's ability to learn in school. It did help, but the difference was not significant enough to help her catch up to "grade level." They seem to help with her mood, more than anything, which is a wonderful thing!

Fast forward to this past September (2010), the beginning of a new school year. For the first time in 3 years, we were not planning or experiencing a major move! Yay! I will spare details, but things were worse with Sara's learning curve. I felt we were losing ground everywhere I turned. Sara was having meltdowns on an almost daily basis and her new friends were beginning to grow weary of her odd behaviours. I was at my wits end - nothing was going well.

This year we decided to enroll our kids with HCOS, in Kelowna, having heard of their excellent service to homeschoolers and special needs department. The contact teacher we were assigned with, Louis, has been a wonderful advocate and help to our family. He listened to my concerns, realized we needed an intervention and got the ball rolling with finding some answers. It all happened so fast, we were nearly breathless! After a particularly emotional phone conversation with Louis, on Tuesday, November 2nd, Louis met with others at the school that same day about our situation. He then arranged to drive up and meet our family on Thursday, the 4th. After observing Sara's schoolwork and behaviour, we discussed what to do. The public school testing would leave us on a waiting list, that could take up to 3 years - just to get the process started! OR...we could circumvent that whole thing and get Sara privately assessed in Vancouver. And HCOS would book the appointments AND pay for them! All we had to do was pay for the trip. That was a no brainer! Louis left with encouraging words and a promise to set up the appointments the next day.

The next day was Friday, November 5th. I left the house with the kids early in the morning and we were gone the entire day, coming home at 5 p.m. After I got supper started, I noticed there were phone messages. Louis had been trying to contact me all day with some very exciting news! The specialists in Vancouver that Sara needed to see had a cancellation and could see us much earlier than expected - like Monday, November 8th early!!! Wow! I was overwhelmed. Joshua's boss was very kind and understanding about giving Joshua that Monday off. We packed our bags and the whole family headed to Vancouver on Sunday morning.

On Monday, Sara had 2 appointments. In the morning, she was assessed by a speech and language pathologist from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. I could tell Sara was quite nervous about everything, not really understanding what was going on or what was expected of her. It was hard to reassure her because I didn't know what would happen in these sessions either! She held herself together quite well, but was more timid and quiet than usual. The speech and language pathologist was very sweet and worked hard to put Sara at ease. I filled out a lot of paperwork while Joshua and Sky hung out at the HUGE Chapters bookstore down the street. Later, the 3 of us ate lunch at a Vietnamese noodle house (we took back a sandwich for Sara). There wasn't much time before the next appointment at 1 p.m., with Carmen. This was the Autism Spectrum assessment. 3 1/2 hours later, we were all fried. The first 2 hours was question after question for Joshua and I. Just about everything you can imagine was covered. It was hard to remember all the way back to the baby and toddler days. I'm a detail person, so I was O.K., but Joshua was about ready to jump out of his skin! The kids had to entertain themselves in the waiting room under the watchful eye of the receptionist. They did pretty good considering the length of time and what we were all going through! Sara exhibited some of her odd behaviours while she was waiting, which was good, because the receptionist then relayed that to Carmen. Then, it was Sara's turn and she spent an hour alone with Carmen, who put her through a series of tasks to assess her behaviour and conversation. Sara was a little trooper and I was proud of her for all her hard work that entire day. We celebrated with a nice supper and then drove home to Kamloops.

Now it was time to wait. We received the speech and language report after just 2 weeks. The results surprised me, although I didn't disagree with anything stated in the report. She scored very low (1%) in just about everything. I guess you just get used to the way your child is. It left me feeling like a bit of a failure and not sure what to do. I still don't understand a lot of it. We do have a friend here who is a speech therapist and he has agreed to meet with us to help us with our questions. Things just got busy over the Christmas season and we've been battling sickness for 2 months now, so the meeting is on hold. Sara will definitely benefit from speech therapy, so that will be part of our near future.

We had to wait much longer for the autism report. It finally came through this past Friday, one day after coming home from our recent vacation to Cancun, Mexico. Carmen e-mailed the report for our review and approval. I read through all 15 pages and was surprised at how little emotion I felt. I think most of my strong emotions were happening before this process began, when I felt like there was no hope. Now, I feel hope. The information in the report and the diagnosis don't actually change anything, but it gives us the springboard to go forward. Sara was diagnosed with mild ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). The diagnostic label for that is PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified) Sounds fancy, eh? Actually, it sounds more vague than anything. But, this diagnosis allows us to apply for government funding, which in turn allows us to pay for the therapies Sara will be able to benefit from (speech therapy, behavioural training, special curriculum for school, etc.).

So, now we have our answer. I feel remarkably calm and peaceful about everything. It doesn't take the challenge of daily life with Sara away, but it helps us understand it. And hopefully this helps others understand her as well. I don't expect pity or to be able to excuse wrong behaviour, but I do hope that others can be more compassionate. Sara is such a sweetie, but she can also make people feel very uncomfortable at times. Knowing that she is different and that we are working on it, will hopefully help others to extend a bit more grace and be able to relax around her. If you are one of my new friends in Kamloops, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. If you have any questions or concerns, please know you can approach me at any time. It might feel awkward or embarrassing, but don't let that get in the way. You can explain this to your own children in whatever way you think they can understand. Let them know that if they are ever made to feel uncomfortable around Sara, that they can talk to you or even me about it. Our family wants to know what we need to work on! Thank you to everyone who has prayed and supported and listened through this journey. It's far from over, really, in some ways it's just beginning. We would really appreciate your continued prayers!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Patch Adventure

I'm over a week late, but I still wanted to post pictures from our trip to the pumpkin patch 2 Saturdays ago! The weather had been cold and nasty the week prior to this now, infamous outing, so it was supposed to be a nice treat to be outside in anything other than heavy jackets, mitts, toques and boots! But, because of the nicer break in the weather, EVERYONE else decided to go to the pumpkin farm on the same day! We could barely move - seriously! And just the day before, the 3-4 inches of snow that was on the ground, had rapidly melted, turning all dirt pathways into muddy pathways... We had to wait in line for about 40 min. for lunch and by then, it was not the kids that were cranky, it was my husband! I think it all started when he had to pay $9.25 cents per person just to get onto the farm. Then, there were numerous crafts, games or activities that were an additional $2 charge each. We avoided those like the plague, but felt guilty at the same time, like we were bad parents and our kids were missing out... This was my first time to any pumpkin patch - ever! I was so excited before we got there, but so disappointed the moment I saw the place. Where were the piles of pumpkins for cute, fall photo sessions with my kids?? Well, because we live in this stupid, freezing country (yes, I really did just say that!), the pumpkins all had to be mass harvested and brought into a green house. Bummer! I wanted to actually pick a pumpkin! So, we manged to have some semblance of "fun" before trudging through the mud, back to our car (parked about 2 miles away because there were so many people there!). I think Sara and Sky had way less expectations than I did, so I was able to snap a few pictures of their happy smiles! They actually enjoyed themselves for the most part!

Guess how many pounds this pumpkin is, and you get to take it home! Really? No way do I want to cart that thing home! (How do you like Sky's tough guy pose?!)
Sara being silly and hopping on one leg at the top of a very large pile of hay!Sky, the pumpkin-man! (Get it? Instead of a snowman?!)
This was the hay mountain at the center of the hay bale maze! This was definitely their favourite - they could have done that all day long!
Petting the bunnies was another big favourite! They were sooo soft!
I love the expression of surprise on Sara's face! I would love to know what she was thinking!
Later that evening, we had fully recovered! :-) The kids each picked a pumpkin at the farm (from the greenhouse...). Sara chose to decorate hers like this... And Sky wanted to carve his pumpkin. This was the end result! Joshua had never carved a pumpkin before! I must say I was very impressed! While the carving was going on, I separated, cleaned and roasted the pumpkin seeds! This was my big "first" for the day! They turned out really good, if I say so myself!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada! Today I am most thankful for my family near and far. You are all loved and thought of today! I'm also very thankful for my nice, warm house because there's been snow on the ground since Thursday morning!

Last night we had our big dinner with Joshua's parents and sister. The food was more than plentiful and very, very yummy! I baked the ham all afternoon at our house, complete with a brown sugar glaze. When it was ready we wrapped it up and drove through the gently falling snow to Grandma and Grandpa's house. I also brought along two of my other favourite traditions - sparkling juice and pumpkin bread! Mom had spent the day baking apple pie and pumpkin pie as well as all the other fixins' to go with the ham. We had a fun evening of eating, playing and laughing. After dinner, Grandpa had a good chance to work off some of the calories he took in! The entertainment included:

Horsey rides...

Double Piggy Back rides (this equals about 105 lbs.!)

And an attempt at the tallest shoulder stack ever!
Success! Well, maybe more of disaster waiting to happen, but they were sure having fun!
The big boys (Daddy and Grandpa) also indulged in a little leg wrestling and arm wrestling, much to the amusement of all of us! I will spare them the embarrassment of pictures. I hope each and every one of you have a wonderful, thankful day, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving Day today or not!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rainy Day Activities

We've had cool and rainy days since Monday. It's tempting to watch too much T.V. or play too many computer games when the weather gets like this. I keep saying to the kids, "Turn off the T.V.!!" But, then I have to get off the computer! So, I've had to be intentional about finding alternative things to do! Here a few of our rainy day activities so far:

  • Colouring, drawing and painting
  • Setting up play tents in the basement and playing "camping" most of the day on Monday.
  • Making paper airplanes with the babysitter while Mommy went for a massage on Tuesday!
  • A Tuesday afternoon trip to the Telus World of Science, where we even got to see a demonstration called, "Fire and Fury." Very cool fire "magic"!
  • O.K., I'll admit it - lots of Treehouse, movies and Facebook...
  • Playing card games and laughing together Wednesday afternoon! The kids are getting to the age where they are actually fun to play games with!
  • Going out for a pizza supper with Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie Shannon last night.
  • Making homemade play dough today and sampling pretend cookies and pies all morning. (See pictures below.)
I think we've done a pretty good job of entertaining ourselves, don't you think?! What do you do when the rain keeps coming down?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Camping at Gull Lake

Yikes, am I ever behind this week! First, I wanted to post about our camping trip last weekend. A couple people have asked me about it... It was a good trip, with no major mishaps! We only went for one night, as we had another commitment last Friday night. (Usually we head out Friday after Joshua is home from work, and camp for 2 nights.) So, we finished packing up on Saturday morning, picked up breakfast at Tim Horton's and enjoyed the nice drive together. We got to Gull Lake around noon. We quickly set up our tent and inflated the air mattresses. The tent was a little stinky after being packed away for so many months! It was good that it had a few hours to air out before we had to sleep in it!

We changed into swimsuits and headed to the beach. Lunch was chicken fingers, cheeseburgers and onion rings from the concession stand. It was a nice, sunny day, but there was a pretty good breeze coming off the water. It was quite cool! Joshua and I had no interest in the water, but the kids were crazy enough to get in a few times! I waded in once, and although the water wasn't that cold, any wet part of the body exposed to the breeze was freezing! There's a huge playground right on the edge of the water, so the kids had fun playing there. Sara recently figured out how to do the monkey bars and that's all she wants to do. Unfortunately for her, she went about 30 times on Saturday and got huge blisters on the palms of both hands! One of them burst open too. Poor kid! That made the rest of the afternoon a little difficult. Even playing in the sand was painful... Sky spent lots of time in the sand, making roads and hills. He's my little creator, always building something! I didn't take any pictures. The only one I took all weekend is the one you see above. (Relaxing by the fire while supper was cooking over the coals.) Bad mommy!

Our night was also good. No rain and no wind - it suddenly got very calm around supper time. We enjoyed supper, Daddy's Yummy Campfire Meal. Afterwards, we took a walk down to the boat dock to watch people loading their boats back onto their trailers. That's always entertaining! You can tell the novices from the experienced ones right away! Then, it was s'mores over the campfire time, clean up and bedtime! We all slept quite well and neither kid had an accident in their sleeping bag. That's always a fear of mine!

Sunday morning we had muffins for breakfast and packed up our stuff. The wind and some clouds blew in again while we were eating, and briefly splattered a few raindrops on us. The clouds blew away, but the wind stayed. We attempted to spend more time at the beach, but it was extremely windy and cold. The kids played on the playground a bit, we played a family game of tag on the sand, and then decided to find somewhere warm to eat lunch! We had breakfast for lunch at our favourite restaurant in Red Deer. After lunch, we drove around exploring the countryside a bit before heading home. Unpacking the car was so easy because everything was dry and could be put away immediately! Last year, we had so much rain on our camping trips that we were always drying things out before we could put away. It was a treat to not have to do that!

So, our first camping trip was a success! We're looking forward to the next weekend trip out July 17-19!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Aloha Friday #17 - Summer Camping!

It's Aloha Friday! As a reminder, Aloha Friday is a blogging tradition that originally started with Kailani over on An Island Life. I ask you a simple question, and you answer! It's a great way to interact with family and friends and to meet new bloggy friends along the way! To participate, just head over to Kailani's blog and follow the instructions. But...you do not have to link up to answer the question!

Today's question is:
Do you go camping as a family? If you so, do you have a tent, tent trailer, or RV/5th wheel trailer?

Today, I'm packing up for our first weekend camping trip of the summer! Last year was our first year to camp - ever - so it was a pretty steep learning curve! We have a nice, big, 3 room tent that has worked really well for our family so far. Throughout the summer last year, I worked on making a master packing list, that I keep on the computer. When it's time to go camping, I just print out a fresh list and cross things off as I pack. We pretty much have everything contained to 4 Rubbermaid tubs, plus the coolers for cold food. The tent, sleeping bags, and mattresses go in the car top carrier we have for skis in the winter. I have all the grocery shopping done, so I don't have to run out for that today. Last year, we had to buy EVERYTHING because it was our first year. Last night, when we pulled everything out of the storage room, it was so nice to already have everything we need! Sara and Sky are so excited! We are going to our favourite spot, about an hour and a half away. There's a lake with a really great beach and huge playground right on the edge of the water! The water is shallow for a long way out, so it's great for small children...and quite warm! We're hoping the nice weather we've had lately holds up for the whole weekend. Now I'm off to bake some muffins and pack up our clothing! I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!

P.S. You have to check out our favourite camping meal - Daddy's Yummy Campfire Meal. I posted this on the recipe blog I participate in, Recipeasy, last summer. You'll love it - I guarantee it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Encourage and Inspire Award

Today I was honoured to receive this beautiful award from my bloggy friend, Kelly, over at My Voice, My View. I couldn't believe Kelly would be sharing this award with me, because she is the one with the inspiring, encouraging blog! A few months ago, Kelly found my blog (do you remember how you found me, Kelly?), and started leaving comments - for every post! She definitely has the gift of encouragement! After I realized she was following my blog, I started to follow hers as well. Kelly has one of the most encouraging, and "real" blogs of all the ones I read. I've laughed and cried with this complete stranger! I have truly appreciated our new bloggy friendship. Thanks, Kelly, for sharing this with me.

There are other blogs that I read regularly that are also an encouragement and inspiration to me, each in their own way. So, I would like to share this award with with these dear friends:

1. Emily, at Macaroni and Cheese
2. Nadine, at Daughter of the King
3. Mary Kathryn, at Love, Life, Family
4. Kerry, at Shealy Stories (this is a private blog)

5. Sarah, at Sarah, Short and Gaudy

May each of you be inspired or encouraged by someone today!