Thursday, January 7, 2016

Baby Blues

Doesn't 'Baby Blues' seem like a fluffy name for something that doesn't feel nice and fluffy?

It sounds like: "Oh, just getting through some Baby Blues", she says with an eye roll and a smile on her face.

It's anything but an eye roll and a smile. It's messy. It's ugly. It's dark. It's hard.

And even moms who've been there can sometimes forget all-to-soon.
You push yourself to move on and be happy, and sooner or later you trick yourself in to believing it. You then comfort your new-mom friends saying that 'it will pass' and 'just keep a close support network' and 'call me anytime'.
While these are all meant-well sentiments, we forget what it feels like to BE that person.

When depression sets in you don't even see the possibility of 'it will pass'.
There is no 'better day tomorrow'.
Each second your baby screams at 2am feels like an eternity. Each excruciating mis-latch or duct-clog is the end of your world.
You feel guilty wanting to call the call-me-anytime-friend at 3am, not wanting to burden anyone else with your misery. Your 'close support network' all have lives of their own and you know you can't ask them to sit with you 24/7 just to talk with words that aren't one syllable in length, and just so you're not alone in the symphony of screeches. You get invited out to meals, but don't really enjoy it because you know you have to go home eventually.

Some people make it through by saying things like "It's all worth it just for that smile" or "the love in their eyes is enough to pull me along". And those people get better. And that's wonderful.

But there are some, like myself, who are hit so hard that we can't even love them back.

It took me a long time to be able to look baby-Toby in the face and say I Love You.
Even then it sounded weird and I wasn't sure if I meant it. Reading the book The Second Nine Months by Vicki Glembocki helped me feel less alone since all other resources I had at the time told me that Bonding was GREAT, and that my loving mother-instinct would prevail!

I remember numbly holding screamy baby and just thinking 'I hate this...I hate you...' and then trying to push those feelings deep down inside because I felt so guilty for even thinking them. Constantly feeling guilty for being sad when so many others so desperately want babies or have lost babies.
The guilt makes you put on a mask and file away your emotions just so you can get through the day.

When Toby was old enough to interact with me I began to have more fun, and smile, and even laugh at the things he would do or say. We'd go on backyard adventures, short day trips to a museum or park, and cook together in the kitchen.
I felt human again.
I was finally over my long bout of un-diagnosed post-partum depression.

But then Toby got older again. And developed more of a personality.
All the tantrums and quirks, that I was assured 'were a phase' by multiple people, just seemed to get worse.
If you know us, you know we try very hard to have a mindful, loving, respectful atmosphere in our house. If you know Toby at all, you know that 'typical' discipline tactics don't work on him. Instead we talk and we compromise and we reason, and sometimes it takes a while, but it works.
But somehow this intense anger and anxiety began to rise in him. Tantrums would erupt over the simplest of things and last for over an hour. Suddenly he can't put on socks because he's afraid they will fall down in his boots and the anticipation of that discomfort is enough to reduce him to a puddle on the floor and we now can't leave the house.
Most recently, he is terrified of all bugs after walking in to a wasp nest over the summer, and now refuses to go outside at all, except for the short path from the door to the car. 'But there's no bugs in the winter!' I hear you all say.... yes, but going outside now would involve putting on snowpants... and boots... and mitts... and a heavy coat....the collar of which would touch his hat...
I try to talk to him about the 'big feelings' he's having, and how to express himself properly, and that we have to at least TRY to do things before we give up. But bringing it up again and again pushes him further inside himself. If I talk about trying to not be afraid of bees, he will remember he is afraid of bees and continue to be afraid of bees. He was never afraid of the dark until he read a book about being afraid of the dark and he thought that the dark was now something he SHOULD be afraid of. So I try not to mention it. I try not to mention anything.

So once again I feel these familiar fireworks inside me. Explosions of emotion that I'm not allowed to express for fear of making everything worse. Intense guilt at the thought that me being depressed while pregnant somehow altered his physical make-up to make him this way now. Guilt stemming from the fact that I spent most of his first year of life crying instead of singing songs and laughing. Guilt over not trying harder to get out and socialize the both of us more so maybe our lives could be more 'normal' now.

I've been told I worry too much.
I've been told I'm over-sensitive.
I've been told that pain makes you stronger and tougher.

But being hurt just makes me feel weak. Trying not to worry about things makes me worry more.

Many people treat mental illness like a bad mood.

You'll grow out of it.
Just think happy thoughts.
It's healthy to have some down-days.
Have some 'me-time'!
Give it a few days, you'll feel better.

I find myself thinking these thoughts towards Toby. I tell him to focus on things that make him happy. I tell him not to worry about things too far ahead to see.
I tell myself he'll grow out of it.

And then I step back and realize how much I hate it when people say those things to me.

Believe me, if there was an Off switch for this, I'd be more than happy to pull it.
I'm not proud of the fact that I cried myself to sleep the other night just because a movie I watched didn't live up to my expectations and I felt cheated out of two hours of my life.
I don't like never having the energy to play with Toby when he asks me to, and then when I do have some energy, he turns me down.
I don't like holding grudges with my son over situations and emotions that are beyond our control.

Again, if it were as easy as 'getting a good night sleep' or 'walking it off' I would do it.

But it's like telling someone with cancer to just get over it. Just take a walk, you'll feel better tomorrow.
People with depression just can't.
And as a result we start to lose the people that we need closest to us.
Friends get bored because you can't make conversation.
You can feel the small amounts of love you're able to emit just go un-reciprocated.
Things that used to make you happy are now mundane.

Once again I feel the 'baby blues' creeping in. Even though my son is far from being a baby, I still feel my sadness stemming from everything surrounding him. My inability to deal with his anxiety…wanting to be spontaneous and adventurous in my own life, and not being able to because I can't leave him with anyone, and he doesn't want to come with me... the complete dread I feel at the prospect of attempting to get him in clothing and out of the house to possibly go see a child psychologist… knowing that even if I succeed, if it's the wrong experience he'll never go back. Wanting desperately to go on day trips and play outside knowing it will make ME happier, but not wanting to disappoint myself by trying too hard.

I often feel like I complain a lot... like I only have negative things to say... both in blogs and in person.
I'm not asking for sympathy.
I'm not complaining for attention.
I just need to vent. I need an outlet where I can sort out my head so I can let go a little bit.
I write so that maybe the one person who is in tears reading this because it's all too real knows they're not alone.
You aren't.
But it feels like it.
There is a stigma about posting depressing status updates on facebook, but sometimes you just need to scream to the world I'M NOT OK and leave it at that.

I don't need pats on the back and 'keep-your-chin-up's.
I just need you to know that if I seem distant and quiet, it's just that maybe I'm enjoying the peace.
If I don't talk much, it's maybe because I'm afraid I'll drive you away with negativity, or start crying.

If you are depressed, find an outlet.
Write, journal, find an online forum with like-minded people.
Read their stories and share your own.
Reach out to people in similar situations.
Talk to a therapist if you can.
Tell your family you need help.
Accept help.
And even though you really really want to, never give up.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Minecraft Blocks

I've had a hard time being 'present' lately.


It's easier to get my stuff done when Toby is playing Minecraft or watching Youtube tutorials, but then I feel guilty for not spending actual time with him. However when I do try to organize an activity he takes very little interest and counts down the seconds until his screen break is over.

In the midst of our rut I came upon a post in our Facebook homeschool group that someone was selling off a bag of 90 wooden craft cubes. I love building blocks, and as a result we have LOTS and no reason to get more, especially when they're all cubes and you can't necessarily do much with all cubes.
And then I thought - Minecraft is cubes...I could paint them.

I dragged Toby along when I was picking up the blocks and I can tell he's looking at me thinking "Whyyyy???" So I hold up the bag and say "I'm painting these. To look like Minecraft blocks. So you can play with them."
His eyes lit up for the first time in a long time and he began listing off which types of blocks he wanted me to make.


The project begins.


Lots of stones.

This project quickly became more about me doing something creative for myself, than about making a toy for Toby.
37(?) blocks had to be stone coloured for various types of ore and stone. After painting them grey I used a sponge and a darker grey colour to add the store textures, but I don't think I got a good picture of that part.

First batch: Lapis Lazuli, Redstone, Gold, Emerald, Diamond,
Cobblestone, A furnace, and TNT  brick to blow them all up


Some of them evolved into reversable blocks to reflect things you can do in the game.
Working furnace, large chest, lit jack-o-lantern, and snow bricks have
spots so they can be used with the pumpkin for a Snow Golem.

Crafting box with the chest.

The beginning of wood planks so we can build a house.

Toby, at this point, sits at the table and watches me paint and counts the seconds until the paint is dry enough for him to snatch up and play with. He says "Mom, this is so cool casue it's like I can play Minecraft, WHEN I'M NOT ON THE COMPUTER!"

...Yes....Yes, that's the entire point there Toby... ;)


Dirt and grassy dirt blocks, and the set is complete,

Toby approved.

Homestead nestled by a hill with a jack-o-lantern to mark our location.

 Minecraft geology.

Final brick count:
1 Crafting table
1 Furnace
1 TNT
1 Pumpkin
1 Emerald ore
2 Chests
2 Snow blocks
3 Diamond ore
3 Lapis lazuli
4 Redstone
4 Gold ore
4 Mossy cobblestore
6 Coal 
6 Iron ore
10 Cobblestone
10 Dirt
10 Grassy dirt
22 Wood planks

While we still have small battles over computer time, it's nice to see him enthusiastic about something again. Grampa and Grama sit and play with him so he can talk endlessly about Minecraft without them all staring at the computer. Grampa invented Duplo Creepers which I haven't grabbed a picture of yet, but I will.

All in all it was a fun project which everyone thinks I should mass produce now. Pretty sure there is all kinds of copyrights involved with doing stuff like that, we we'll see what comes of it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Carl

Toby has…. a friend.
He's not invisible. We've just never met him.
And apparently he's not imaginary… but… he is.

Toby started talking about 'his friends' when he was just over 2. He would tell long stories about 'his farm' and all the animals that lived there. We would see a tractor in a field and he would immediately pipe up that "I had a tractor JUST LIKE THAT on my farm!"

I generally ignored the stories, recognizing that it was a way of saying "Wouldn't it be cool if…"

However the stories kept getting more detailed and stayed consistent. I began asking vague questions about the things he was telling me, like how many chickens he had and what types of veggies he grew.
Eventually a reference to 'my friend' started showing up in the stories.
"My friends at my farm, they used to drive a combine."
"My friend has a game just like that, but theirs is PURPLE"
"My friends at my farm like to do that too"

Over that next year or so the stories of his Farm began to branch into a tale of a big fire in the barn.
He would tell the same story over and over again, about how all the cows were mooing and mooing and wanted to get out so they had to help them.
I heard the story so many times that my replies became repetitive and un-interested.
"Oh my, that's too bad."
"I hope the firefighters came to help"
"Oh no, poor cows"

Once when my sister was watching him, and hearing the stories many times herself, she began to quiz him for more information aside from the rehearsed story.
"Do your friends live at your farm with you or just visit?"
"One of them lives there with me. Sometimes. He helps out in the barn."
"What does he help you with?"
"Ooooooh you knooooow….moving wooood…and giving food for the cows…but he doesn't live there with me anymore"
"Oh? Why not?"
"He got sick...... So he can't live with me anymore."
"….I….see…"
"One time, there was a fire in the barn, and the cows were mooing and mooing and running running running to get out and the BIG fire trucks had to come and we were helping find all the cows. But he's sick. And now he can't live there. *Continues playing casually with cars, unfazed by what he's saying while my sister quietly panics and tries to memorize the story to tell me*

We started thinking along the lines of him remembering some past life or something, because he would talk about things that were not part of our household discussions or play.

For about a year it stopped. I hardly remember hearing stories about his farm or his friends when he was around 4.

But then when he was 5 and a half it started again. EVERYTHING we talk about somehow gets related back to something his friends did.
We started quizzing him on names again. He started calling him Carl, and his brother's name was Carol.
And again, I can recognize that it's his way of taking part in the conversation. We talk a lot and he's trying to fit in. But it's become incessant.

Anth:"I was working on a truck today that had to have it's entire hood replaced-"
Tob: "Carl one time was working on a truck that had to have it's hood replaced AAAAND all the wheels AAAAND all the windows"

Me:"Uh-oh, i think the cookies are burning-"
Toby: "One time Carl and his mom were making cookies and they forgot about them for too long and there was all kinds of smoke in the kitchen, and they thought, 'what the heck?' and then went 'OH NO THE COOKIES' and they were all BLACK…like BLACK…and burnt."

Grampa:"Well, I got that tree all cut up today-"
Toby:" One time when Carl was cutting up a tree, he couldn't hear because he had his ear protectors on, but waaaaaaaaay up in the bush there was ANOTHER tree that fell and it ALMOST landed where Carl was, but then it didn't, but then Carl had to cut up ANOOOOOTHER tree"

..And on…and on… and on…
We've learned that Carl is 7.. a year-ish older than Toby. His brother Carol is 6. They live just around the corner from the Toronto Zoo.
Toby knows all this because he talks to him on the phone all the time.
Sometimes Carl seems like an adult because of the jobs he's been said to do. Sometimes there are stories of Carl and his mom… because Carl is really only 7.

So… if Toby ever starts a story for you with "My friends" or "Carl", it's usually from somewhere inside his head.

I never had invisible friends growing up, so I don't know how to react or if I even really need to react to it more than any other phase. Is it a phase? Is it something more?


Monday, May 25, 2015

Can-do

For a long time I've been going through a phase (is it a phase??) of constantly picking out the things that Toby CAN'T do and that I CAN'T do as a result.
I know I've talked a lot about being frustrated, and Toby's frustrations with dealing with day to day life (like putting on clothes).
I am constantly frustrated that we can't just get in the car and TRAVEL, because I know an hour in, things will go downhill.
I get frustrated sometimes with homeschooling, and wish he would just be ok going to school.
Though he's never been screened for anything, he displays many 'signs' of Aspergers, which in one way has made me take a different approach to dealing with him, but also frustrates me because there's still a long list of things we can't do.

So, what I'm attempting to do, is create a long list of all the things he CAN do. And maybe somehow the positive can outweigh the negative...

He can count by 2s, 5s, and 10s.
He can look at a set of items/dots (like a dice or Lego bricks) and instantly tell how many there are, up until about 8.
He knows odd and even numbers.
He can tell left from right.
He can tell horizontal from vertical.
He knows the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
He can visually identify over 30 species of birds.
He can identify about 10 bird calls.
He can (more or less) make himself a pot of macaroni to eat.
He can read.
He can name the planets.
He knows the sun is actually a star.
He can tell you how clouds are formed.
He can dress himself (even if it's not weather-appropriate..).
He can talk for almost an entire day straight...whether this is a positive or not I don't know, lol.
He can identify eight shapes.
He can readily identify four 3D shapes, but knows more if we're talking about them.
He can negotiate. Which again, is not always positive in my favour, but it's a skill...
He can play really really well with other kids, if he's in the mood.
He has a really good memory.
He can identify a good handful of insects.
He can readily identify about 5 types of tree, but knows names for many more.
He can plant his own garden.
He can name almost any fruit or vegetable I show him.
He can be very observant, and often picks out tiny details in random things.
He can manipulate Lego into almost anything.
He can count to 100.
He can count backwards from 10.
He can tell you the difference between synonyms, antonyms and homonyms.
He can draw very detailed pictures (even though they're still very 'pre-school' looking, there are TONNES of included details).
He can play soccer really well... but mostly just wants to play it with me.
He can use a hammer.
He can use a drill.
He can use a screwdriver.
He can ask really interesting questions.
He can colour really well.
He can help out at the store (when he's feeling helpful).
He can identify most car makes by logo.
He can identify all large truck makes by logo.
He has become rather adept at Minecraft…whether I like it or not…
He can build a campfire (minus actually lighting it).
He can eat at a restaurant without causing a scene.
He can leave a store without throwing a fit.
He can operate a camera and take pretty good photos.




Monday, March 16, 2015

Fifty Shades of No


Yep.

I'm gonna talk about the thing.

I will say first off, I have not read the Fifty Shades books aside from excerpts, essays and blog posts. I have not seen the movie aside from clips.
But I feel like that's enough.

Ok, I get it.
Its hot and steamy and sometimes we all like a little fantasy to escape to.

The problem is in how this entire relationship is portrayed, and to whom this may be impressing upon.

First of all: Fifty Shades of Grey began it's life as Twilight fanfiction. You probably knew this by now, though surprisingly there are still people I talk to who don't know, or thought it was a rumour.
Master of the Universe took Edward and Bella out of the twilight books and gave them racy grown-up lives, seemingly based on the mildly disturbing vampire love-making scenes from Breaking Dawn.
Here's the thing with that... they're vampires.
Edward is in a sulk for two books about not being able to control his super masculine power and doesn't want to accidentally tear Bella limb from limb.
We excuse this because it's supernatural fantasy.
But when you take the situation out of the fantasy, there are some big problems.
I did read all the Twilight books, and I liked them at the time, but I also recognize how twisted Edward and Bella's relationship was, and how having a female 'heroine' do nothing but pine away after a 'flawless' male lead, isn't exactly the image of a healthy relationship.
And so now we have Fifty Shades of Grey, which houses characters in the real-world with these character traits.

Next: Books and movies are different. In books things can be left up to the imagination, and you get internal character dialogue that doesn't translate to movies well unless you have a constant voice-over narration. In the books you get the private doubts and fears, and hopes and dreams of the character at hand. In a movie a simple 'Ok' comes out, but in a book there may be two pages of internal dialogue and character development before that 'Ok' comes out.
Movies are also more engaging and accessible to a younger audience.
Yes, the Fifty Shades books are within child's reach at Walmart, but a kid is not going to stand in the aisle and read the whole thing. They're more likely to stumble upon clips or bootlegged copies online, or have them sent around by friends who think they should "check this out".

Which brings us to the BDSM (Bondage, dominance, sadomasochism) side of it all.
In a controlled, consenting, disciplined environment, there is nothing wrong with BDSM. To each their own.
The problem with the movie is that it doesn't really TEACH those rules... it just shows the actions. It doesn't go into the boring explanatory details about how proper tools and strict rules are mandatory or nothing happens. It doesn't tell you that usually the purpose of BDSM is to give the submissive some form of escape or pleasure, NOT the dominator. It's usually not even about sex at all. When the safe word is called (or in Ana's case, forgotten or made up) the game is over, no discussion (except if you are Mr. Grey, in which case it it sometimes taken as a signal to start trying harder...).
As adults we can kind of weed out for ourselves what's 'healthy' and what's not when seeing this relationship played out.

But it's when wildly popular R-rated movies become 'Challenge Accepted' to kids betting on who can get their hands on the goods first…problems happen.

A few weeks ago a high-school girl in the Philippines died.
I'll spare the details from the article, but she and her boyfriend thought it would be 'fun' to re-enact scenes from the movie.
But due to using improper tools, she died and he was arrested.

Around the same time a 19 year old University of Illinois student was charged for assault after allegedly trying to re-enact a scene from Fifty Shades.

A week ago an 11 year old British boy was asked to sit out of school activities when he showed up to his school's World Book Day dressed in a grey suit, with a handful of cable ties.
Though they make an interesting point about how people were also dressed as fictional serial killers, and how is that any better, the fact remains that your 11 year old kid shouldn't know enough about Fifty Shades of Grey or what the cable ties are for to want to go to school dressed as the manipulative lead character from this book.

Which is why (and here I go pushing more buttons) we NEED this new Ontario Sex-ed curriculum.

We've needed it since I was going through it.

And I don't mean that we need to teach kids about BDSM when they're in grade 2. And that's not at all what the curriculum teaches, despite the outcry of some internet people.

The curriculum (which isn't listed as the 'Sex-ed Curriculum', but is layered deep within the Health and Physical Education portion of the curriculum, which also extensively teaches about healthy bodies, lifestyles, and nutrition) merely spreads out the introduction of concepts over several years instead of not talking about it at all until after grade 6.

Below is a summary.

In Grade 1, as part of learning human biology, they are taught proper names for body parts.
Which, in all honestly, kids should know from the time they are 2.

Teacher prompt: “We talk about all body parts with respect. Why is it important to know about your own body, and use correct names for the parts of your body?” 
Student: “All parts of my body are a part of me, and I need to know how to take care of and talk about my own body. If I’m hurt or need help, and I know the right words, other people will know what I’m talking about.” 
In Grade 2 they learn about personal boundaries, standing up for yourself, and respect for others.

In Grade 3 they are asked to identify characteristics of healthy relationships, and discuss addictive behaviors, like reliance on sugar, food, alcohol, or nicotine. They are challenged to relate the things they see on TV or video games to real-life, and realize that violence and actions seen on screen are often unrealistic or unacceptable and have consequences.

Teacher prompt: “Consider different types of relationships – with friends, siblings, parents, other adults – and think about the kinds of behaviour that help to make those relationships healthier. What can you do if you are having problems with a relationship?” 
Student: “I can tell the person how I’m feeling, and we can try to work something out, or if we can’t solve the problem, we can just say we disagree. We could also try to get advice from someone else.” 
Teacher prompt: “When a family member is abusing alcohol, there is an impact on him or her, but there is also an impact on others. What impact does it have on others in the family?” 
Student: “People who abuse alcohol may not be able to take good care of their families. They may miss important events, spend money on alcohol that is needed for other things, or get involved in arguments. Sometimes emotional or physical abuse happens in families if someone is abusing alcohol.” 

In Grade 4 they discuss different forms of bullying and abuse, further discuss the dangers of smoking and alcohol based on their ingredients, and begin to discuss body changes during puberty.
Some people are freaking out over this, but the reality is kids on average are starting puberty earlier now than before. Being aware of these changes before they happen can help ease the panic and 'taboo' that can surround this topic.
This is also the grade that people believe 'sexting' is introduced. They do NOT use this word. It's embedded in a discussion about sharing things with people over electronic devices that are inappropriate. I believe the intention of this is not to say 'sexting is a thing', but to say that in an age of technology, the same rules about talking to strangers and keeping yourself safe apply.

Teacher prompt: “Advances in technology have greatly increased our ability to get and share information and to communicate and collaborate with each other. But these benefits also come with some risks and potential difficulties, such as a possible loss of privacy, addiction, increased sedentary behaviour, or exposure to people who ask you for sexual pictures or want you to share personal information. What are some things you should do to use this technology safely? How can you get help if you get into trouble?” 
Student: “I should make sure that an adult knows what I am doing when I’m using the computer, the Internet, or a cell phone, so I have someone who can help if needed. When I can, I should use a computer in a public space like a kitchen, living room, or library, instead of alone in my bedroom. I shouldn’t share my password or personal information. I should be aware that people are not always who they say they are online. I should close and delete pop-ups and spam messages without responding. If there’s a problem, I should stop right away and tell an adult instead of trying to solve the problem online. I should help my friends by reminding them of these tips.” 
In Grade 5 they further discuss the effects of alcohol on the body and contributing factors to who can be more effected. They learn the names for the parts of male and female reproductive systems WHICH IS ONLY ONE YEAR EARLIER THAN WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL. 20 YEARS AGO.
There is also a lot of focus on mental health and dealing with feelings of stress and anxiety during puberty and ways to help yourself or ask for help.
Bullying is further discussed in relation to understanding that every one is different and how racist, homophobic, sexist, or derogatory comments are inappropriate and hurtful.

Grade 6 (Which is, when I was in school, when we BEGAN discussing these topics. Suddenly introducing this stuff to giggly pre-teens with an air of anxiety coming from the teacher makes for a room full of kids who aren't taking things seriously, or for some kids the information comes too late.) is when the effects of illicit drugs are discussed, along with furthering discussions about healthy relationships, self-worth, and feelings of 'normalcy' in puberty. They re-touch on concepts of stereotyping and bullying.

"Human Development and Sexual Health C3.3 assess the effects of stereotypes, including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, on an individual’s self-concept, social inclusion, and relationships with others, and propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing assumptions and stereotypes [PS, CT] "

In Grade 7 students talk about internet safety - not giving out passwords, addresses, full names, photos or phone numbers in a public domain. This is the FIRST AND ONLY REFERENCE I see to 'sexting'.
They again discuss mental health in relation to substance abuse.
They discuss STIs, ways you can contract them, pregnancy and intercourse, but also PROMOTE ABSTINENCE, for those who seem to feel they don't.

"Human Development and Sexual Health C1.3 explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship.
Teacher prompt: “The term abstinence can mean different things to different people. People can also have different understandings of what is meant by having or not having sex. Be clear in your own mind about what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with. Being able to talk about this with a partner is an important part of sexual health. Having sex can be an enjoyable experience and can be an important part of a close relationship when you are older. But having sex has risks too, including physical risks like sexually transmitted infections – which are common and which can hurt you – and getting pregnant when you don’t want to. What are some of the emotional considerations to think about?” 


Student: “It’s best to wait until you are older to have sex because you need to be emotionally ready, which includes being able to talk with your partner about how you feel, being prepared to talk about and use protection against STIs or pregnancy, and being prepared to handle the emotional ups and downs of a relationship, including the ending of a relationship, which can hurt a lot. Personal values, family values, and religious beliefs can influence how you think about sexuality and sexual activity. A person should not have sex if their partner is not ready or has not given consent, if they are feeling pressured, if they are unsure, or if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” 
Bullying is addressed again with focus on homophobic and racial slurs. Sexual harassment is addressed. Mental health, depression, sexual/gender identity and self-image issues are addressed.

THIS IS THE SAME GRADE THAT THESE TOPICS WERE INTRODUCED WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL. NOTHING HERE HAS CHANGED MUCH.

In Grade 8 they expand on the concepts of gender identity and sexual orientation. Abstinence, contraception and consent, in regards to sexual health are enforced. A further emphasis on mental health in regards to relationships and substance abuse.

From what I remember of grades 6-8, all these topics were introduced at once - only.at the age you 'needed' the information
The only thing now is that we're encouraging acceptance, understanding, and safety at an earlier age, so these ideals can by applied to sexual health later in the curriculum.

The fact of the matter is, some kids get wrapped up in some horrible situations, and don't understand what's happening to them enough to get help. And even though we're not going to say outright to 6 year olds "if you're being abused or raped, tell someone!", the concepts of permission, consent, privacy, and emotional health will hopefully give them the tools they need to either get out of a bad situation, or build healthy future relationships.
Some kids really don't have a clue until grade 6/7 when some of these concepts used to be suddenly introduced for the first time.
Most kids, my school included, knew too much from un-reliable sources before healthy relationship ideals were taught in school. And that was BEFORE internet and cellphones being in everyone's pocket.
Kids know much more than they let on. They hear things. They see things. Their friends talk about things they saw on TV, even if it's shows you wouldn't let your own child watch.
I knew Simpsons quotes before I knew who The Simpsons were. This is like grade 3.

If you are the parent who wants to be the one to break the news to your kids, that's great. If you think the news is being broken to them too soon, you can talk to your school's principal and teachers about it. Every teacher can interpret the curriculum differently and still get the point across. When I was in school we had to have permission forms signed before this portion of our health classes. If that's still the case, then just don't sign the form, but PLEASE cover all of these topics somehow.
I'm ETERNALLY grateful that I had the option of having this taught in school and not having to deal with the 'embarrassment' of needing my parents to talk about things with me. And I think the feelings of embarrassment stemmed from not having certain topics normalized sooner, aside from schoolyard-talk.

THE POINT IS: Under-education on this subject can lead to poor decision making, based on things they see online or on TV.
Making a book like Fifty Shades in to a movie that is widely acclaimed/anticipated/advertised/hyped and isn't hidden from pre-teens, aside form the R rating (which kids have a way of getting around), is bound to have an effect on people. The more people say how bad it is, the more people will inevitably want to see for themselves.

People think that talking to kids about these types of things leads them to do these things. But if nobody talks to them about it, they will try to educate themselves and cluelessly end up getting hurt.

I think movie-makers and the media need to think twice about how manipulative relationships like this are idolized.

I think that kids should be able to form opinions about healthy relationships their whole lives, instead of having it flashed across a screen suddenly in grade 6.

I think that instead of scrambling to teach victims how to say no, we need to be putting more effort into teaching attackers how to listen.

Even a three-year-old can tell you that NO means NO.
And we need to make them also understand that ONLY 'YES' means 'Yes'.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Indoor Winter

I've tried to start this blog several times and then wasn't sure where I was going with it.
On one hand I just want to complain.
On another hand I want to try to find a way to be positive about things.
On another hand maybe I'm just trying to find people in the same situation as me.

Toby is....opinionated.
To put it gently.

But more than opinionated, he's sensitive.
When people say that someone is sensitive, the idea that first comes to mind is that of someone who is babyish and touchy. But its much more than that.

He's sensitive in that he's hyper-aware of things that other kids may breeze through.
He can't watch movies with bad-guys because he gets really really concerned about why they're acting that way. It startles him, and then he asks why they did *thing*, and then I say that it's because that character thought it was the right thing to do for them, but we know that it's maybe not the best or nicest solution. And instead of accepting that he goes… but… WHY? And I explain that that's just the way that character was written, some stories have characters like that.
But…. WHY??
And then he looses the plot line and asks to turn it off.
And it's not like we're trying to watch Avengers or anything… this is like…Finding Nemo. Or Rio.

Other things like getting dressed are a huge chore for him. Clothes have to fit right and feel right and not have tags and his socks have to be pulled up just enough, but not too much that he can feel them snug on his toes, but not too lose that they feel like they're slipping (there's about 2mm difference between these two).
Since last year was the first full year that I have not physically dressed him, he's become very independent and opinionated about what he wears.
For instance, he has been wearing shorts since last April.
He'll wear 'work pants', but he wants nothing to do with his winter pyjamas in our freezing cold house.
I guess he has a very high core-furnace, because he seems to be functioning.
He just keeps telling me that he likes the feel of his bed sheets on his legs and gets too hot at night with other pyjamas on. Which is fine… but then he doesn't want to change in the morning.
This has spilled over to outdoor clothing.
Last year's snow pants were 3 inches too short, as was his coat. And boots (ok maybe not 3 inches). So we bought new ones.
This was fine for a while, but then his mitts started slipping out of his sleeves. Last winter he left them permanently like this, risking frostbite on his wrists, but this year it was the end of the world, since we hadn't gotten used to the snow yet.
So new mitts were bought.
This fixed things for two plays outside, though the play usually still ended in tears even when I tried to cut off the games before that happened.

Then it got warm again. We had a freaky warm spell in December where he asked if he could wear shoes to town instead of boots and I said yes, cause there was no snow. Anywhere.

After that everything fell apart. The next time it snowed we tried to go outside and I couldn't get his pants folded right to fit in his boots. I did it 5 times, convinced him that it would get better once he started moving, finished dressing him, turned around to get my coat, and turned back to find him in tears and undressing himself.
The next week he wanted to go sledding, so we tried again. I told him that last year he wore his pajama pants with socks over the cuff so it didn't feel weird in his boots. He didn't believe me and didn't want to try.
This happened about 4 times before he convinced himself that his boots didn't fit, and no other pairs of boots would ever fit. And all of his socks were terrible. And he was never changing out of pyjamas ever again.

We are now down to one pair of socks that he will wear, a new pair of shoes that he barely tolerates, a jacket (with t-shirt underneath, no long-sleeved shirts allowed), and a cap.
No mitts.
No winter coat.
No toque.
No boots.

Yep.

I was really really frustrated and angry at first. Just when I think I have him figured out, he comes up with some other unmanageable trait.
But eventually I had to admit… he's fine.
If he's cold in the house (which is rare) he will put on a sweater, or slippers, but rarely both at the same time. Sometimes he even wears his toque cause his head is 'so cold'…  but he can't wear it outside...
We're only outside long enough to walk from the car to whatever building we're going to, so if he chooses not to wear a proper hat he will be cold but he won't die.
I tell him frequently that if he doesn't like it, I brought his toque. He doesn't complain after that.
I worried about exercise because he's a very active kid who is now spending most of his time sitting and playing with Lego. But we go to the store several days a week where he does nothing but run laps around the store. Literally.
I finally relaxed a little more when I came across this article about kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. I don't want to jump on the 'he has a disorder' wagon, but it's nice to know there are other people struggling with similarly exasperating issues. Please do read the article, because I want to just quote the heck out of it… but it's better to read.

I will quote this though: "For parents, avoiding certain situations can seem like an easier prospect than dealing with the potential fallout, not to mention the waiting judgment of a bystander"

We avoid large group play dates where I know he will get over-stimulated, even if he appears to be having fun. The fallout at home for the next two days isn't worth it.
We avoid long day-trips/car rides. His comfort level in the car lasts for about an hour, and even if we reach a destination just fine… it's the getting home again...
We avoid situations with loud unpredictable noises like parades, fireworks, or concert performances.
We only engage in play activities where I know he's appropriately dressed, and won't be either left-out, or try to join in and inevitably be miserable (which in his head it still not worth dealing with the clothing).

So, I'm sorry if we cancel play-dates unexpectedly.
I'm sorry if you come to our house and he throws a fit because he wasn't expecting anyone to come at that exact moment.
I'm sorry that we haven't been to any outdoor play activities this winter.
It's nothing personal… it's just how we need to function.

I've made peace with the fact that we will not be going outside this winter. It's not worth stressing over. Next year may be the same or different.
He's going to be one of those people who walk around in shorts and a t-shirt in the winter.
He's going to be one of those people who has a really hard time adjusting to change.

As long as I can realize that now, maybe I can come up with the tools to help him on his way.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Mess

Our living room is a mess. It's always a mess.

This was last year. Lots of play, but lots of mess.

This is what it looked like last week. Not it's worst, but it was in amongst other cleaning/re-organizing projects that were going on.

After all the Lego was cleaned up and the floor vacuumed , I went to make dinner and came back to this:

All the Playmobil was... everywhere.
(Also note that 90% of the Playmobil is over 15 years old and belonged to Shannon and I)

"What are you doing?!" I asked, trying to keep a good humour.
"Building a farm" said Toby.

And upon closer inspection, amid the apparent chaos was a series of very thought out tableaus.

A very busy pond complete with Mallards, geese, fish, lily pads, frogs.....and lobsters...

 A rabbit hutch enclosure with flowers to munch, water bowls, and a thicket for hiding.

A very busy orchard tree where the squirrels and owls hang out.

A barn yard (originally a circus tent) with cows, pigs, ponies, and goats)

 And a baby calf nursing.

The beginnings of a Home Depot, complete with garden centre.

Guy harvesting all the apples that fell on the ground into crates for the market.

Chainsawing down a tree because it's old and close to the house and they don't want it to get hit by lightning.


 Gas station down to road from the farm.


 Apparently this is me planting things in pots, while Anthony and Toby dig a big hole in the garden.


The house is under renovations, so all the furniture got taken out and drop cloths were put down.

Apparently this is also a farm that people can come stay at and learn about farming.
There was a big introductory ceremony where they all shook hands and the kids ran off to play.

Home Depot now has shelves and product.



And a very precarious sign.





Even though I know he's playing, I still feel like everything is in a constant state of mess.
That's why I documented this, to prove to myself that there is a high level of organized play withing the chaos.