Apr 01 2015

Autism ACCEPTANCE – That’s What We Need!

April = Autism ACCEPTANCE … the month where we strive to raise awareness in order to gain acceptance and understanding!

We used to talk about Autism Awareness Month, but the truth is… awareness is not enough.  Being aware of autism is a good start, but ultimately it is acceptance that is needed.

I long for the day where we learn to accept everyone for who they are, learn to embrace an individual’s differences and truly understand that those who see the world differently have a great deal to offer this world.  I think the reality is that when this happens we will see a world that is very different… one where people are much happier than so many are today.

A wise person in my life once said, ‘We are all weird and that’s what makes us individuals!’ … so if nothing else, learn a little from my 10 year old as he tries to show others everyday that ‘different is not less‘.

autism acceptance

 

 

Jen

Mar 31 2015

Are You An Autism Parent? … #youmightbeanautismparentif

Can you relate?  #youmightbeanautismparentif … 

 

I love this hashtag … I only wish that I could remember to search it out on those ‘autism days’ where I long for that reassurance that I am not the only one that is going through this… even though I KNOW I am not the only one!

I haven’t shared many of these lately, so it’s long overdue… but while I’m getting my caffeine fix I thought I would share a few that really made me smile today…

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 01 2015

New Year’s Resolutions… It’s A Love/Hate Relationship

New Year’s resolutions – promises that we make to ourselves as an act of self-improvement or simply doing some nicety for others that all begin on New Year’s Day.  How many of us set New Year’s resolutions? Certainly a lot more than actually stick to them each year.

I personally love the idea as a new year always brings a fresh start with new hope for improvement in potentially many different areas of life… buuuut the truth for me is that either I think I am already so wonderful that I don’t need to set any (anyone else there with me?) or perhaps I just don’t have any intention of ever sticking to them in the first place.  Well, in my case it’s actually the latter and I would honestly be embarrassed to share the number of times that I have set these resolutions to have them last sometimes only a couple of days!  Maybe less!  “Wow… what a commitment I made to myself this year!”, I would say when the resolution went flying out the window. Thankfully I do have a bit more ‘stick-to-itivness’ in other areas of my life.

New Year's ResolutionsSo this year, here is my New Year’s resolution – I’m not setting any!  Not a single one! I could say that I am going to go to the gym… eat healthier… spend more time doing things for myself… or in fact lose the 20 lbs of ‘baby fat’ that I still have from when my son was born almost 11 years ago now (yes, I will still say that it is ‘baby fat’… enough said people!).  But here is the honest truth – none of those goals would stick!  Who knows, maybe in my case I need to use reverse psychology.  Maybe this year, by not setting any goals I might actually change something in my life that needs changing. How’s that for not making any sense?

I know, I know… but how many of you have made resolutions that you didn’t stick to?  Well, join the club! Yes, that’s it – let’s start an online community set up just for those people that can’t stick to their goals in the New Year! I think it could be a huge success!!!  Who knows, maybe I’m behind the times and there are already a few hundred of them out there already!

So, for those of you that are determined to make some resolutions for the New Year, what is the secret behind sticking to those goals?  Well, according to Psychology Today, if you feel you want to make some New Year’s resolutions, here are some tips that might help you make them work:

  1. Focus on one resolution, rather several and set realistic, specific goals. Losing weight is not a specific goal. Losing 10 pounds in 90 days would be;
  2. Don’t wait till New Year’s eve to make resolutions. Make it a year long process, every day;
  3. Take small steps. Many people quit because the goal is too big requiring too much effort and action all at once;
  4. Have an accountability buddy, someone close to you to whom you have to report;
  5. Celebrate your success between milestones. Don’t wait the goal to be finally completed;
  6. Focus your thinking on new behaviors and thought patterns. You have to create new neural pathways in your brain to change habits;
  7. Focus on the present. What’s the one thing you can do today, right now, towards your goal?
  8. Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment-by-moment, rather than living in the past or future.

If you are setting these New Year’s goals for yourself this year – you ROCK!  You have my deepest admiration! Seriously!  And please… if your resolution has anything to do with going to the gym… do a workout for me!  I’d really appreciate it!

Sleep deprived and on my third cup of coffee already… I will say CHEERS!

Jen

Dec 31 2014

Out With The Old And In With The New!

In a few hours 2014 comes to an end in my part of the world.  I am reflecting on the past year and to be truthful, 2014 has been a bit of a tough year… and I am not entirely sad to see it go.  I say out with the old and in with the new!

Mistakes… boy, did I make a lot of those this past year!  But in doing so, I also learned a number of life lessons.  So for that 2014… I say thank you!  I am one of those people that believes making mistakes is an important part of life. If we’re making mistakes it means we are exploring new things… learning and changing.  As we learn to deal with our mistakes we become stronger and smarter which makes us more able to manage the hurdles that we may face in the future… because we will all have them!

Though I felt like I was on a roller coaster many times the past year… a ride that I seriously would have preferred had remained at the amusement park… I really do have a lot to be thankful for. The reality is that most of the day to day challenges that we all face in life can be overcome.  Many times we have very little control over the curve balls that life throws us, but we do have the ability to rise up and overcome these obstacles.  Though I am very well aware of this fact, it’s sometimes a little harder to put into practice than it is to just say it.  But I’m learning!

So, 2014… it’s time to move on.  I am taking a deep breath and welcoming in the new year.  I look forward to what lies ahead in the upcoming year.  May 2015 be a year that is filled with great friends, family and special memories for you all. May you have the courage, hope and faith to overcome any hurdles that you may face. My wish for each of you is that you have a truly wonderful year ahead.

And, on behalf of my son, I share this, because quite frankly, as a parent, Lego is definitely one of those things that I am thankful for!!!

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Happy New Year my friends!!

Cheers, love and hugs to all!

Jen

Dec 30 2014

Toothpaste Oscar… A Solution To Our Tooth Brushing Dilemma??

I had to giggle this morning when I came across this… Toothpaste Oscar!

Toothpaste Oscar

Photo courtesy of Black Lab Products

Finally… an idea that means that ‘someone’ in the house doesn’t ever need to put the toothpaste cap back on the tube!  Something that this person has a great deal of experience not doing!  However… I am having a hard time getting past the idea of watching a cat vomit on my toothbrush each time I brush my teeth… hmmm.  Funny, most of you probably think I am talking about hubby not putting the cap back on the toothpaste, but it’s not, it’s CC.

As hard as he tries to not let it get to him, the toothpaste cap is, nine times out of ten, a bit frustrating for him and many times it means the cap gets left off and toothpaste is left oozing out of the tube.  A real thrill each time I go in to brush my teeth!  But, as a parent, I understand and we do the best we can to find solutions that work for him. Flip caps work when I can find them… but that’s not always easy.  So, maybe it’s a good trade off… letting go of what this actually looks like to me for having a little less stressful time in the bathroom when it comes time to brush teeth!  And apparently, according to CC… it’s a ‘must have!’

Then, perusing the Black Lab Products website a little more, I discovered not only did we have a possible solution for the toothpaste situation but maybe others.  Look at this!  Meet Ketchup Charlie

KC-Action_large

Photo courtesy of Black Lab Products

and Mustard Marvin

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Photo courtesy of Black Lab Products

Now, after losing all desire to ever eat again, let alone use these to put condiments on MY food, for the discerning 10 year old in my house, this could be the answer!!

So, with coffee in hand, I am off to see just how much it costs to get some of these little critters shipped to my house!

Until next time…

Jen

Nov 26 2014

Christmas Is Child Abduction Season: How To Prevent International Parental Child Abduction

neverinthebestinterest_zps735f3b2aIf you happen to be like hundreds of thousands of parents around the world, the term international parental child abduction may be one that you are not familiar with, at least not until it’s too late and a child that you know is abducted by one of the child’s parents.  Too many times, society and the judicial system, will look at international parental child abduction as a matter that needs to be worked out within the family… and, quite frankly this common misconception that parental abductions are a family matter has to end.  Parental child abduction is a serious crime that leads to ongoing forms of abuse toward a child.  It is an act that is NEVER in the best interest of the child!  In fact, once a child is abducted they must immediately be considered to be in serious danger!

Cases of international parental child abduction dramatically increase during the Christmas holidays, particularly the week right after the holiday as the abducting parent often uses holiday travel as part of their abduction scheme with their intent being to never return to the country of origin with the child.  This is referred to as the ‘wrongful retention’ of a child and actually accounts for approximately 70% of all international child abductions according to an extensive research study conducted by the I CARE Foundation during the summer of 2014.

Families that are considered high-risk for international abduction would be those that are in a high-conflict situation… divorce or separation with child custody issues… particularly with couples that are in a cross-cultural relationship (parents born in two different countries).  Also included in this category would be any relationship where one parent has strong ties to another country and may have limited assets where they are currently living with the child and the child’s other parent.  When it comes to child kidnappings, international abduction presents unique challenges that one can’t even begin to imagine.  It is far more complicated than abductions that occur within the border of one’s own country.  Ultimately, the best solution is prevention, and as parents, there are definitely things that you can do to help protect your child.

How To Prevent International Parental Child Abduction

1.  The I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form:

If you are a parent that has a child traveling internationally, the I CARE Foundation strongly urges that you utilize our Hague-oriented International Travel Child Consent Form to protect your child from abduction while traveling.  This ground-breaking travel consent form, with it’s success thus far, has been embraced by the legal community around the world, as well as by key stakeholders in the area of abduction prevention.

So, if you happen to be one of those high-risk families – again, one that is involved in a child custody dispute, separation or divorce, especially if your partner has ties abroad – you absolutely must be proactive in protecting your children.  Often, parents that are involved in international child custody disputes and who may be targeted for abduction think that their child is best protected from abduction when there is a court agreement in place for the child to return if the other parent is granted travel. The truth is that unless there is an international travel consent form that has immediate ramifications attached to it, the parent and child targeted for abduction are at serious risk.  The I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form can help protect a parent and child in this type of situation. 

Currently, to the best of our knowledge, every child that has traveled under the protection of the travel consent form has returned home to their country of origin.  With approximately 70% of all international child abduction cases revolving around wrongful retention, which is the focus of the International Travel Child Consent Form, if parents and the legal community are aware and utilizing this document, it can make a tremendous impact in the area of abduction prevention on a worldwide scale… the fact is, it already has.

Most recently, in an effort to make the International Travel Child Consent Form even more effective and accessible, it has been translated into 20 different languages from around the world with more translations coming soon.  Please click the image below to be taken to the official I CARE Foundation website where you can see the translations that are currently available.  If you should have any questions regarding the form please contact the I CARE Foundation at legal@theicarefoundation.org

Hague Convention Travel Consent For Children

2.  Know The Warning Signs of International Parental Child Abduction:

The WARNING SIGNS of international parental child abduction are evident in the majority of parental child abduction cases, but many times the targeted parent doesn’t see them until it is too late.  The parent that schemes to abduct their child typically uses the child as a tool… a means to cause the targeted parent great pain and suffering.  There are numerous published studies that conclude that a parent, one that is capable of abducting and exposing their child to an extreme form of abuse, has significant and generally long-term psychological problems, some so severe that they may in fact be a danger to their child.  In these cases the care and concern for the child’s well-being is the last thing that is on the abducting parent’s mind.

Dr. Phillip Resnick, the Director of Forensic Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland stated in an article that was published by the Denver Post a few years ago about parental child killing, “Historically, one out of 33 homicides is a parent killing a child younger than 18.” Dr. Resnick, who conducted a study on filicide in 2005 states “Filicide, the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child, is the third-leading cause of death in American children ages 5 to 14.”

Filicide is a serious reality when we speak of international parental child abduction.  This is not a topic that is discussed enough and it should be one that is discussed more.  Society needs to be aware of this serious risk that faces a child that is parentally abducted.  Dr. Resnick states that this act is the “third-leading cause of death in American children within the ages of 5 to 14″… the third-leading cause!!  According to the Denver Post report, “Researchers estimate 250 to 300 children are murdered by their parents each year in the U.S.”  Sadly, parents kill their children and it’s not just a phenomenon that occurs within the U.S. borders.  We can not hide our head in the sand and think that this threat doesn’t exist… for those abducted children that live at the hands of a parent that already has psychological problems, this is an extemely serious risk.

As shared earlier, we see a dramatic increase in the number of international parental child abduction cases during the Christmas holidays.  Many times, as part of their elaborate scheme, the would-be-abductor can use a family vacation for the holidays as a guise for their plan to abduct the child from their country of origin.  Planning a family vacation could potentially show their partner that they are willing to work on their relationship despite any issues that may have happened in the past.  This is part of the life of deceit that a would-be-abducting parent lives… all while planning how to get their child abroad.

A common scenario might go something like this:  The would-be-abducting parent tells his/her partner that they would like to plan a trip to a foreign country… perhaps their country of origin… maybe to visit a sibling or parents over the holiday season.   Once the family arrives in the foreign country, the abducting parent might file false allegations of abuse and neglect against the other parent and then notify the other parent that they and the child will not be returning back to the country of original jurisdiction.  At this point, the targeted parent, who didn’t suspect any of this, is generally forced to return back home without their child where they then need to seek legal assistance.

Being aware of the warning signs could realistically help protect you and your child from the cruel and unforgivable world of international child abduction… a world that no parent or child should ever have to be exposed to.

Please click on the image below to be taken to the official website for the I CARE Foundation where you can learn more about the warning signs and what you should look for.  I am reminded of a parent that contacted me after reading an article about the warning signs of of international parental child abduction.  She went to the I CARE Foundation’s website only to discover that her spouse, the father of her three children, had in fact done many of the things on this list.  She was immediately put in touch with the I CARE Foundation and today, those children are safe as they were protected from international abduction because their parent took the time to educate herself. Education is prevention!  It doesn’t get any more real than that.

Warning Signs of International Parental Child Abduction

The simple fact is… all children deserve to be protected from abduction.  In the three years that I have worked with the I CARE Foundation, international parental child abduction is something that I still don’t fully understand.  When I say that, I understand the physical act that occurs, but the reasoning behind it… that would make a parent do this to their own child… that is where I have difficulties.  A parent is someone that is supposed to love their child unconditionally and protect them at all costs, not put them in situation where they will likely endure physical, emotional and psychological abuse each and every day.

Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas SeneseI am not a parent that has personally been targeted, but I personally have talked to many that have.  Peter Thomas Senese, the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation is one of those individuals.  Peter Thomas Senese is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel ‘Chasing The Cyclone,’ about a father searching for his internationally abducted son… a story that was deeply inspired by his own personal experiences.  Being hailed as a call-to-arms against international child abduction and as well a blue-print on how to either prevent a child from being abducted, or how to reunite with your child, Chasing The Cyclone has in fact enabled something remarkable: it has helped reunite children with their parents, as Peter Thomas Senese has so generously donated 100% of his author royalties to the I CARE Foundation.   Pretty amazing… and knowing Peter personally… I will add that he works endlessly to do whatever is necessary to protect children from international abduction.  There are several sworn testimonial letters from parents online regarding Peter and the work that he has done helping families and children in crisis.

To quote Peter directly,  “The I CARE Foundation is actively trying to reunite other children who have been internationally abducted with their families. I think my readers have a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that when they purchase one of my novels, they are making a measurable difference in the life of a defenseless child – and that is pretty cool.”

On A Final Note:

In my role with the I CARE Foundation, I am actively involved with their social outreach program where we are working to raise awareness of international parental child abduction.  Any of the information that we share is vital when it comes to protecting children.  Unlike years ago where it was more challenging to get critical information out to individuals around the world, social media today allows us to reach just about anybody and pretty much instantaneously.  Our social outreach program relies on bloggers to help share this information and important messages with their readers… many of which are also parents.  This would be a great place to share once again that since the inception of the I CARE Foundation, the reported U.S. outbound international abduction rate has declined 38.06% (that is 2009-2013).  Pretty impressive considering the abduction rate had increased dramatically each year prior to that.  Everyone that has contributed to this decline should be proud of the work that they do. It is making a difference!

In closing, a reminder… please take a few moments and educate yourself about the WARNING SIGNS of international parental child abduction.  I am not kidding when I say this… it not only protects your children but perhaps other children you might know.  Sharing this information with other parents as well is incredibly helpful in getting this information into the hands of those that might need it.

As well, if your child is being allowed or required by court order to travel to a foreign country, you should strongly consider having the other parent sign the International Travel Child Consent Form.  Should that parent not be willing to, this is a very serious WARNING SIGN that they may be planning an abduction.

To learn more about the criminal act of international parental child abduction, or to DOWNLOAD a free copy of the International Travel Child Consent Form, which is currently available in 20 different languages, please visit the I CARE Foundation website.

If you suspect an international parental child abduction is imminent or if one is in progress, CLICK HERE.

And lastly, to purchase your copy of Chasing The Cyclone, please visit Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

All of us at the I CARE Foundation would like to wish you the best of the holiday season!

 

Jen

 

Nov 24 2014

Christmas On The Autism Spectrum: Please Be Understanding…

Christmas and AutismCan you believe that it is almost December?  I have done nothing as far as Christmas goes, even though I keep running into my friends around the city and they all ask, “So, what does CC want for Christmas this year?” or, the dreaded question that makes me cringe, “Are you done your Christmas shopping yet?”   Are you kidding me? When it comes to Christmas the last few years, I have been… well…  pretty disorganized and I feel like, what has become a stereotypical male on Christmas Eve, as I am running around like a crazy woman trying to get everything done.  Then I say, “Next year I won’t do this… I will be have everything done early!!”  Yeah, right!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas… I really do… but it’s a time of year that, since CC was about 3 years old, causes a great deal of anxiety in our house.  Some years are worse than others and we always start the season wondering, “What is this year going to be like?”  Those that have children or loved ones on the autism spectrum likely understand all too well what I am talking about.  The crowds, the lights, the sounds, the music… oh, heck, it’s just the energy of the season… that creates such anxiety for CC as far as his sensory challenges go.  As a parent, I find it very difficult to see my son have to deal with, what generally works out to be a difficult month of December, so we have learned to adjust and change the way that both my husband and I may have done things in the past.  We have had years where we have decorated the house and within a couple of days we have then proceeded to ‘un-decorate’ as it was clear that it was going to be one of those years that the festive scene was going to be just too much to deal with.

I have shared previously a letter that should be read by everyone… in particular those that are new to the autism diagnosis, or those that may have someone in the family or a friend on the spectrum.  It is an important letter to read.   Life would be so much simpler if everyone was open to trying to understand… even a little bit… and accept our children, friends or family members the way they are.  Over the holidays remember that those on the spectrum and their families can be dealing with a great deal more stresses than usual.

My son teaches me each day that there is a different way to do things, and a different way to see things.  I couldn’t be more blessed or thankful for this gift that I have been given… my son and his unique way of looking at the world.

So… the letter… give it a read… share it with others.  Understanding and acceptance… it’s something that we all have room for in our lives… and an important thing that we all need to learn!

Dear Family and Friends:

 

I understand that we will be visiting each other for the holidays this year! Sometimes these visits can be very hard for me, but here is some information that might help our visit to be more successful. As you probably know, a hidden disability called autism, or what some people refer to as a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), challenges me. Autism/PDD is a neurodevelopmental  disorder, which makes it hard for me to understand the environment around me. I have barriers in my brain that you can’t see, but which make it difficult for me to adapt to my surroundings.

Christmas is one of the roughest holidays for me. With large crowds and holiday shopping it can be very overwhelming, even a bit scary. When planning a party remember that with my over sensitive hearing and eye sight, Christmas trees and holiday smells can cause me mild to severe pain or discomfort. If the noises are impossible to control a personal stereo with headphones set to a safe level for children may help drown out background noise and ease my discomfort.

Sometimes I may seem rude and abrupt, but it is only that because I have to try so hard to understand people and at the same time, make myself understood. People with autism have different abilities: some may not speak, some write beautiful poetry, others are whizzes in math (Albert Einstein was thought to be autistic), or may have difficulty making friends. We are all different and need various degrees of support.

Sometimes when I am touched unexpectedly, it might feel painful and make me want to run away. I get easily frustrated too. Being with lots of other people is like standing next to a moving freight train and trying to decide how and when to jump aboard. I feel frightened and confused a lot of the time. This is why I need to have things the same as much as possible. Once I learn how things happen, I can get by OK. But if something, anything, changes, then I have to relearn the situation all over again! It is very hard.

When you try to talk to me, I often can’t understand what you say because there is a lot of distraction around. I have to concentrate very hard to hear and understand one thing at a time. You might think I am ignoring you-I am not. Rather, I am hearing everything and not knowing what is most important to respond to.

Holidays are exceptionally hard because there are so many different people, places, and things going on that are out of my ordinary realm. This may be fun and adventurous for most people, but for me, it’s very hard work and can be extremely stressful. I often have to get away from all the commotion to calm down. It would be great if you had a private place set up to where I could retreat.

If I cannot sit at the meal table, do not think I am misbehaving or that my parents have no control over me. Sitting in one place for even five minutes is often impossible for me. I feel so antsy and overwhelmed by all the smells, sounds, and people–I just have to get up and move about. Please don’t hold up your meal for me–go on without me, and my parents will handle the situation the best way they know how.

Eating in general is hard for me. If you understand that autism is a sensory processing disorder, it’s no wonder eating is a problem! Think of all the senses involved with eating. Sight, smell, taste, touch, AND all the complicated mechanics that are involved. Chewing and swallowing is something that a lot of people with autism have trouble with. I am not being picky-I literally cannot eat certain foods as my sensory system and/or oral motor coordination is impaired. Don’t be disappointed if Mom hasn’t dressed me in starch and bows. It’s because she knows how much stiff and frilly clothes can drive me buggy! I have to feel comfortable in my clothes or I will just be miserable. When I go to someone else’s house, I may appear bossy and controlling. In a sense, I am being controlling, because that is how I try to fit into the world around me (which is so hard to figure out!) Things have to be done in a way I am familiar with or else I might get confused and frustrated. It doesn’t mean you have to change the way you are doing things–just please be patient with me, and understanding of how I have to cope. Mom and Dad have no control over how my autism makes me feel inside.

People with autism often have little things that they do to help themselves feel more comfortable. The grown ups call it “self regulation,” or “stimming’. I might rock, hum, flick my fingers, or any number of different things. I am not trying to be disruptive or weird. Again, I am doing what I have to do for my brain to adapt to your world. Sometimes I cannot stop myself from talking, singing, or doing an activity I enjoy. The grown-ups call this “perseverating” which is kind-a-like self- regulation or stimming. I do this only because I have found something to occupy myself that makes me feel comfortable. Perseverative behaviors are good to a certain degree because they help me calm down.

Please be respectful to my Mom and Dad if they let me “stim” for a while as they know me best and what helps to calm me. Remember that my Mom and Dad have to watch me much more closely than the average child. This is for my own safety, and preservation of your possessions. It hurts my parents’ feelings to be criticized for being over protective, or condemned for not watching me close enough. They are human and have been given an assignment intended for saints. My parents are good people and need your support.

Holidays are filled with sights, sounds, and smells. The average household is turned into a busy, frantic, festive place. Remember that this may be fun for you, but it’s very hard work for me to conform. If I fall apart or act out in a way that you consider socially inappropriate, please remember that I don’t possess the neurological system that is required to follow some social rules. I am a unique person–an interesting person. I will find my place at this celebration that is comfortable for us all, as long as you’ll try to view the world through my eyes!

*Author, Viki Gayhardt

 

And, what I will be doing over the next few weeks… or at least trying to…

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Until next time…

Jen

Nov 12 2014

I’ll Be Singin’ In The Rain…

So, I had a scenario presented to me:  what would make a perfect rainy afternoon?  Hmmm… let me ponder that…

One of my favourite sounds in the world is the sound of the waves rolling in over the sand, or the rocks, at the beach.  The beach has always been a place that I try to spend as much time as I can.  Over the years I have spent many nights at cottages on the beach enjoying falling asleep to the sound of the waves… or just sitting at the water’s edge with my eye’s closed listening to the peaceful and soothing sounds.  For me, there really are few things that I find more relaxing and calming than this.

However, seeing as I don’t live at the beach… another favourite sound for me is definitely the ‘pitter-patter’ of rain especially on a hot summer night when the windows are open and I can just lie in bed and quietly listen.  But, to answer the question of what would make it a perfect afternoon with the rain falling outside… that would be quite simply an afternoon of peace and quiet.  Being able to curl up in a big comfy chair with a good book and a Starbucks coffee… Komodo Dragon blend to be specific. Of course, as mentioned before, the windows would have to be open allowing the sound of the rain and the warm breeze from outside to come in.  I am feeling pretty relaxed just thinking about this!

Then, because I am not imagining a monsoon… I would grab an umbrella and go for a long walk in the rain.  I’m now smiling and thinking of Gene Kelly in Singin’ In The Rain… though I wouldn’t likely be seen swinging off lamp posts… I do love a nice walk on a rainy afternoon, not caring how it looks to anyone else that may be watching the crazy woman purposely splashing in the puddles on the street.  Yes, I have quickly reverted back to being a five year old at this point.

 

 

Once I am back home, and acting a little more adult-like, I would probably once again curl up in the big comfy chair… in front of the television… and quietly watch some of the shows on the PVR that I am always so far behind in.  Then, of course, reality would set in and I would realize that it is November… in Canada… and chances are it’s not raining but rather snowing and I will probably need to find the snow shovel!!

Until next time… you’ll find me… singin’ in the rain…

Jen

 

Nov 10 2014

The Return Of The Elf On The Shelf… Well… Almost!

I was abruptly reminded this morning that it is almost that time of year again.  It’s almost the time of year where each night, after using my aging brain all day, I must squeak out one more thought… one last parenting scheme.  What am I talking about?  Why, the Elf on the Shelf of course!!

CC has officially requested that I email Santa and ask if Pom Pom… his beloved little red elf… could come early again this year.  When he has asked this in previous years I have jumped on the bandwagon and emailed the jolly man from the North Pole to convey CC’s request.  And funny enough, each year, the man in red honours his request and sends Pom Pom a little early.  At that point there is always a bit of excited anticipation on both our parts, as I have to admit, the start of the Elf on the Shelf season is fun… and then reality quickly sets in… I now have the task of coming up with ideas for our mischievous little Elf to plan each and every night until the big day… which is still quite a ways away!

We have gone through the toilet papered tree, the carefully planned zip line down the stairs and the cotton ball snowball fights.  We have had Pom Pom set up with a fishing pole trying to catch the fish in our fish tank and writing graffiti on our mirrors in my FAVOURITE lipstick… which by the way was not easy to clean!!  But by far… the worst one of all… and the one that I will always be a little bitter about… was the day that he drank my Starbucks coffee and then sat in the cup just to remind me ALL DAY of the evil task that he had performed only a few hours earlier!  Evil, evil Elf!!!

pompom coffee

But the reality is, as much as I love the Elf on the Shelf, my mind just can’t come up with new schemes for Pom Pom to perform for much more than about 3 weeks.  So when CC requested the early email to Santa, I literally cringed.

However, I so thankfully came across A Little Moore blog, where writer Steph shares a calendar of ideas for your Elf on the Shelf.  What an ingenious idea!  How could I have not found this before… as she has done this in previous years as well!  I think I might be set for ideas now – so thank you Steph!  I bow down at your feet as you have saved my sanity!!

For those that need a little extra help this year with your Elf, check out Steph’s calendar, but also be sure to visit her Elf 101 post as well… it’s literally everything you need to know about how to have one of these little guys… or girls… visit your child this year.

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After a coffee… and reading Steph’s blog… I am feeling so much better about an early visit from Pom Pom!  I say… let the festivities begin!  Well… maybe in a couple of weeks.

Until next time…

Jen

 

Oct 04 2014

What’s The One Thing You Need Each Day?

If I asked you the question:  “What is the one thing that you need daily?”… what would your answer be?

For me, reality would likely have me saying a good, strong cup of coffee… Starbuck’s please!  Even better, one delivered to my door every day!  Who says I am not a dreamer?? Though, I guess if I really wanted to dream about something, I should really come up with something a little more impressive than home delivery of Starbuck’s every day.

Laughter Is The Best MedicineSo, again I ask, what do you need daily?  I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  I have always tried to live by the motto… “Live – Laugh – Love“, though sometimes, I will admit, this can be a little harder than I would prefer.  I have found myself drifting from this over the past year but realize that I need to refocus and remember the one thing that I need each day… laughter!

Laughter is the best medicine for anything and everything and I had forgotten this – at least for a while.  So, my latest mission… finding laughter again and I look forward to enjoying this journey.

It is well known through studies that laughter reduces stress and other negative emotions like anger and fear.  It decreases pain by releasing endorphins and also has been said to strengthen your immune system.  Everyone loves to laugh!!  Even Plato once said, “Even the Gods love jokes“… so if the Gods love jokes and laughter… then we should too!!

I really do love to laugh and I love being around people that make me laugh.  So, the other day, when my 10 year old looked at me and said, “Mommy… you never laugh anymore!“, not only did my heart sink, but it made me realize just how long it has been since I really looked at the lighter side of life. I used to tell people that if you can laugh at yourself and the mistakes you might make, it makes life easier – cause let’s face it, life can be stressful. There really isn’t any better way to get through those everyday stresses in life than by looking at the lighter side… or even humorous side of it all.  I firmly believe that if you can laugh at it… you can live with it.

Today, as part of my journey… we laughed.  I actually laughed so hard I cried… and boy, did it feel good!  We spent the day in Niagara Falls and though the weather was terrible we had a great time and it was a day that I am incredibly thankful for.  I only wish that it didn’t have to end!

CC told me today that it was apparently Crazy Hat Day in Canada… so we decided to celebrate in style!!  Believe me, the smile on CC’s face says it all.  Oh Canada!

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Happy Crazy Hat Day!!

Until next time…

Jen 

 

Aug 09 2014

The Sensory Experience Of A Lifetime

As part of CC’s diagnosis, like so many others on the autism spectrum, he has a number of sensory processing challenges. However, in saying that, we try to do as much as we can to allow him alternative ways to manage the way his body feels.  Generally CC experiences sensory over-responsiveness except when it comes to his proprioceptive and vestibular needs.  These are both areas where he is sensory seeking, so one of the things that he loves to do is jumping on his trampoline in the backyard.  The trampoline has, more times than I can count, been a life saver for us… and him… when it comes to his ability to help him self-regulate.

4AFB1973-190-190-fThe other day we enjoyed some time at Playdium, where we not only enjoyed some incredibly interactive and entertaining video games, but also some great outdoor activities.  I knew that they had a Bungee Trampoline – a trampoline where the individuals were put in a harness attached to bungee cords, allowing them to bounce higher and attempt flips much easier than on a regular trampoline – but I didn’t share this information with CC because I wanted it to be a surprise.  When we walked outside and he saw the trampoline, the excitement and joy that he experienced before he even got on the trampoline was priceless.  I have shared previously about how much I enjoy seeing CC and his ‘excited stims’. It is him expressing pure and absolute emotion.  It doesn’t get any more real than this and it makes me smile every single time I see it!

Once I saw him, I knew that I didn’t even need to ask if this was something that he wanted to try.  It was so very clear that he was beyond excited to give this a go!

Wandering over to the trampoline, he politely checked out the name tag of the gentleman that was helping him, introduced himself and, in true CC form, he started asking a million questions!  Isaac suited him up while patiently answering many of the questions, as well trying to give him instructions on how to do a back flip – which is what CC really wanted to do!!  Not giving it a second thought, he was quickly in the air shouting ‘woohoo’ and ‘yeeeaah’!  This was obviously going to be the highlight of the day.

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He never did figure out the back flip, but that sure wasn’t for lack of trying.  And now, I have a 10 year old that wants one of these ‘contraptions’ installed on his trampoline in the backyard!  Just so he can learn to do flips… and who knows what else!  Yeah… I’ll get right on that buddy!

I guess however, as much as he loved this, he was still hungry for more… so off we went to the spinning bumper cars, which I have to admit was the highlight of MY day!!!  So much fun!!  Yes, I am still kind of a kid at heart!

Here is CC… doesn’t he look innocent?  Yeah… sure he does… don’t let the smile fool you!  This was right before he tried to basically run me over and ‘bounce’ me out of the ride enclosure!

spin zone bumper cars

CC has done some different things this summer as he is experimenting and exploring a lot about body mechanics and how different actions work and make him feel.  He has discovered some Yoga moves that he finds very calming if he starts to feel stressed, and the thing that I love about that is he will do them anytime… anywhere… doesn’t matter who is watching, which is a very different way of thinking for him and one that makes me very happy.

I hope that everyone is having a great summer!  It’s hard to believe that we are almost half way through August and back to school for many is just around the corner.  But, in saying that, we still have some good summer fun ahead of us and I, for one, plan to make the most of it!

Until next time…

Jen

 

 

Jul 23 2014

Peter Senese Testimonials: Helping Rescue Children

wish21When I think of the world today it sometimes scares me to think of the direction we seem to be heading. Many seem to have forgotten about acting in kindness… acting selflessly with no other intent than to help someone else or make the world a better place.  Sometimes acting in kindness entails more than a simple gesture and, in fact, needs individuals to exhibit bravery as they stand up against others that may not agree with what they are doing.  When we act in kindness toward others, it’s an act of love and one that says “I care”.  The truth is, we can’t really expect kindness from others if we don’t practice it ourselves.

Now, when I think of acts of kindness toward others, the I CARE Foundation‘s Executive Director, Peter Senese quickly comes to mind. Peter Senese is an indefatigable defender of children and families that are victims of international abduction, but this is not where his humanitarian work ends. Peter is also very involved with helping children who are battling cancer and other illness. His involvement and support of hospitals that provide care to children fighting the worst scenarios has occurred for many years.

In saying this, I would like to share a link to some sworn testimonials that have been written in regards to the work that Peter has been involved in: recovering and bringing home children who have been abducted or who were targeted for abduction, as well as some letters which will provide some insight about the work that he does helping those with medical challenges.

I am sure, in sharing these letters, what Peter’s wish would be is for others to realize the importance of using their voice to stand up for and help others, thus making the world a better place.  This is what he does day in and day out… this is what he has taught me and in doing so, he has, in his own way, made an incredible impact on my life.

Click here to read the sworn testimonials

testimonial

Jen

 

 

Jul 15 2014

The Lighter Side Of My Biggest Fear

fearFears… those who know me, know one of my biggest fears in the world is… SPIDERS!  It’s actually become a little bit of a joke in a lot of cases, but I’m OK with that!  But as far as spiders go, there is nothing that I like about them. They are creepy… ugly… and down right terrifying!  Funny how something that is so small can be such a fear for so many people. I remember growing up, seeing a spider, screaming and then hearing, ‘Oh c’mon, you’re bigger than he is‘, or ‘He’s more scared of you than you are of him!‘  My response was usually something like… ‘Oh really?  Shall we test that theory of yours?‘… as I was running the other direction!

Maybe my fear has to do with having two older brothers that did kind of like to torment their little sister at times!  hmmmm… Nope, in this case, I can’t blame them. I have a very vivid memory of riding my tricycle with my neighbourhood friend, only to look down and see a spider crawling on my leg.  Not that I had much life experience at this point, but I had never seen a spider as big as this – I swear it was the size of a soccer ball!  It was black and yellow, and well, I think it traumatized me for life!  I don’t think I have ever screamed so loud in my life and back then, when a child screamed, the reaction time I think was slower than it is today! This thing was on my leg for so long I thought it was going to take up residency! ugh… Ever since that day, my fear is one that, I admit, is perhaps a little irrational – but very real!

However… a couple of weeks ago I had taken CC to Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, which has easily become one of our favourite places to visit.  They focus on demonstrations that teach general information regarding different reptiles but also include feeding demos, which the kids always love to watch. The staff is amazing with CC and every visit we come away learning something new.  This visit was going along well and we were enjoying the highly interactive demonstration that Kevin was putting on… and then it happened!  Kevin brought out a ‘creature’ that was enclosed in his hands… encouraging the kids to guess what he was holding.  Now, in the time that we have been going to Little Ray’s, this was different than other ‘introductions’ and as I looked at Kevin’s hands I felt a shiver go down my spine. As the kids were laughing and guessing what he was holding… I knew… and slowly started to tense up. As he opened his hands, he held a tarantula!  OMG… if I could have run at that point I would have! If I could have screamed… without looking like a complete moron…in this room filled with children… I would have!

Now, the key to this whole experience is that CC knows all too well my fear of spiders.  So, as Kevin is educating us about this eight legged creature that terrified me beyond belief, CC jumps up and says… ‘My mom wants to hold the tarantula!!!‘  Nooooooo… CC…. you didn’t just say that!!!  Kevin smiled and proceeded with his demonstration.  Well, once he was done he asked if there was anyone that wanted to hold the tarantula.  Of course the kids were generally pretty excited to be able to do this.  And then there it was again… CC calling out… ‘My mom wants to hold the tarantula!‘  This child of mine… what was he trying to do… cause me to have a heart attack right on the spot so that he could collect on the insurance money?!?!  I tried to reason with him, but that wouldn’t work.  I watched as these little kids, who had no fear, held this creepy, crawly, furry thing… I took a deep breath and for CC, I decided that I would give this a try.  Kevin walked over with this grin on his face… asked me if I was sure… I nodded (unable to speak)… closed my eyes and put my hands out.  I felt something crawl across my hands.  I had to assume it was the tarantula, but I wasn’t going to look.  Then I think I actually squealed, but I can’t say for certain.  Though this ‘thing’ was only in my hands for probably 10 seconds, it was the longest 10 seconds of my life!

I couldn’t believe it… I did it!  I held a tarantula… and didn’t have a heart attack while doing it!  Does this mean I like spiders now?  Heck no!  I still freak when I see most of them.  Yes, I have been known to use hairspray to try and kill them… which never seems to work.  I have drowned them in the shower… then wonder if they are going to crawl out of the drain and then try to kill me in the night!  If I had a bazooka, I would use that to kill them, but realize then I would have a bigger problem on my hands! Losing track of where one is in the house means that I start packing, preparing myself to move!  Yes, I still HATE spiders!  And, funny enough, CC still pushes the whole ‘me holding a spider’ thing every time we go to Little Ray’s. The other thing that came out of this is that my friend has a similar fear… though not of spiders… but of snakes.  So, it seems to have turned into a contest with CC to see which of us will ‘suck it up’ and overcome their fears more. Seeing as my friend held not one, but two, snakes the other day, I have a feeling that I have another spider ‘incident’ in my future!  ugh What we won’t do for our kids!

Oh, and if you doubt me… because I wasn’t sure until I saw the picture… here’s the proof!  I can’t believe I’m putting this picture (that gives me goosebumps!) on my blog… forever!

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Thanks Kevin… and Little Ray’s… for yet another amazing visit that we will always remember!

All I have to say is if you can laugh at things like this, you can live with them too.  Not that I want to live with a spider… but I can usually try to rationalize my fear – and if not, well, as I have done here, I can usually try and find the funny side of it all.

Jen

 

 

Jun 08 2014

The I CARE Foundation: Celebrating One Year Of Protecting Children With The International Travel Child Consent Form

one year anniversary

One year ago today, the I CARE Foundation released their International Travel Child Consent Form.  So, today we celebrate!  We celebrate the lives of the children and their innocence.  We all consider it a blessing every time a child is protected from the abusive and unforgiving world of international parental child abduction.

When I look back over the past year, in relation to international child abduction, so much has occurred.  By far, the creation of this critical abduction prevention tool has made such a difference in the lives of so many families.  The reality is, that as of today, there have been literally hundreds of children around the world that have had parents and lawyers be proactive and utilize the travel consent form.  And, in 100% of the cases, that we are aware of thus far, each of those children have returned home where they belong.

This travel document was created to help prevent abduction due to the wrongful retention of a child abroad.  If you can imagine, these types of situations, which I have written about many times before, make up for approximately 70% of all Hague related cases around the world.  And here we have this one document… which is a simple thing for parents to complete… that has the ability of protecting children from the most common form of abduction.  This was the goal… and it’s success speaks volumes.

Lately I have been a little behind in sharing some of the news related to abduction and abduction prevention, and one of the more impressive things is that the Department of State Hague Compliance Report to the U.S. Congress stated that there was a decline in the reported U.S. outbound international parental child abduction rate of 12.23% during 2013… which brings the total decline, over the past four years (2009-2013) to 38.06%.  That’s pretty incredible news, but I have to admit, when Peter Thomas Senese, the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, shared the numbers with me, I had been hoping for something bigger.  But when you look at the fact that not that long ago, the rate of abduction had NOT been declining in the United States, but actually growing – and at an alarming rate – 12.23% is pretty remarkable.  But there is still a long way to go, and until we are no longer seeing international parental child abduction as an issue, there is always work to be done.

An important reminder… to all parents… summer holidays is the time of year when the majority of international abductions occur.  Many times one parent uses summer vacation travel plans to carry out their carefully planned schemes of abduction.  So, when I was speaking about the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form earlier in this post, if you happen to be a parent – especially one that might be in the midst of a high-conflict divorce or separation, a child custody dispute, or if you happen to have a child traveling under a court order (no, a court order doesn’t guarantee that your child is going to return home if they are traveling as part of a custody agreement) – please consider utilizing the travel consent form.  It may not only protect your child from abduction… it could actually save their life.  As well, parents everywhere should be aware of the risks and warning signs of international parental child abduction. Taking a few minutes now to educate yourself could not only protect your child, but perhaps a child of someone that you might know.  It’s simple… education is prevention!

So, on this day, we celebrate!  And as I say that, I am so incredibly proud to be a part of such an amazing organization… and I am so proud of everyone that is involved with the I CARE Foundation.  This is a team of individuals that are so dedicated to making a difference… to protecting the lives of children… to bringing an end to parental child abduction.  It’s amazing what can happen when a group of people use their voices and their ability to stand up for what is right.

But, as there is still so much to be done… our work continues.

On behalf of the I CARE Foundation family,

Jen Cluff
Director of Social MediaI CARE Foundation Call-To-Arms

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