Thursday, January 24, 2013

Paying It Forward Through Random Acts of Kindness

I know it has been forever. A lot has changed, a lot has happened and life went on. 

I'm not here today to talk about autism or what my family is up to. I'll save that for another time. Instead, I thought I could use this place to share updates on a little project I am taking on.

Last Sunday at church, our minister suggested we try to pay it forward. Coincidentally, I have been inspired by a friend of mine, when I learned about her project to do 40 random acts of kindness as she leads up to her 40th birthday. 

I am going to try and do the same for the next 30 days and document it here on my blog. If just one other friend is inspired to do the same, then one of their friends does it too.. just think of what this can do! It's not a new concept. But it is a way to bring a little light into someone's day. Who knows what they are going through and who knows what kind of impact you can have on someone's life. 

Please consider joining me on this little project. 

Today I am headed to the library to pay some overdue fees. Let's see if I can surprise some strangers by paying for theirs as well.

Watch this space to see how we're doing. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Good luck Jake! You've come a long way!

The twins and I just dropped Jake and his dad off at the airport. They are on their way to Chicago, where Jake will compete in the North American championships in Irish Dance. We're so proud!

Five or six years ago, Jonathan saw a sign outside of our neighbourhood community centre, advertising Irish Dancing, alongside a sign for martial arts. Jake was given the choice (at 5 years old) and chose the dancing. No surprise there. We struck gold. His instructor was fresh off the Riverdance tour and was starting up her own school. Cara was a sweetheart and Jake loved her immediately. What started off as a recreational, fun activity for Jake, soon became a competitive passion that has somewhat defined him. When Cara's boyfriend, Mark joined in the teaching, Jake now had a male dancer to be inspired by and he caught the bug.

He has come such a long way.

(Jake with good buddy, Kera, beside him)

We asked him why his hands were in his pockets and he innocently replied, "well I wasn't wearing any underwear and it's the only way I could keep my pants up!".

Jake has had his struggles in dance and it was in class that it was most apparent that he was challenged with focus and attention issues. It's amazing that Cara and Mark lasted all these years with him, and that Jake managed to persevere through it to come to this level. But if you know Jake, you know that he's a natural born performer. He hits the stage and as Cara nicknamed him, he's the "Shocker". After suffering through practices of not paying attention or getting his steps right, once he's on the stage, he's "on" and nails it.

(Cara, Will, Jake and Mark)
There's an amazing camaraderie that is formed with these kids, especially from all the travel to various feisanna. It's not an easy thing to be a boy who loves to dance, and it's nice to know that Jake found an extended family with the girls in his class (and not to forget Will who recently joined the competitive ranks!).

(Kera and Jake at a feis in Edmonton)

I wish I had some video of Jake competing, but since filming isn't allowed, here is some footage from St. Patty's Day this year, at our favourite coffee shop in Calgary (Garden's Grace) with Lauren, Clare and Roisin).

So Good Luck Jake! Can't wait to hear the results on Thursday. xo


I blinked and June disappeared

One minute I was thinking I had all this time to get stuff done before the move, then it was time to flip the calendar to July and wham! realized that there are now only days to countdown until we say goodbye. But before I let myself get all sentimental and sappy, I've got some catching up to do.

First and foremost, it's a special day.
Happy 1st Birthday Bee!!!

It seems like yesterday that Jake and I travelled to Toronto to be there for Ofeibea's birth. She missed being a Canada Day baby by ten minutes, but instead, she became the princess of our extended family. It has been really difficult not living close and watching her grow up and reach all those first milestones. I've been sorry that I couldn't be the auntie that I wanted to be for her. But I'm grateful to the internet and the power of cell phones, because I feel like I know her well from video and photos. We are so excited to get back to Ontario to hang out and expose her to our testosterone-filled family. I don't think Jake can stand the wait.


So now to our good news. We have been under a ton of stress. There is nothing like showing your house up to 8 times a week; the cleaning, the sleepless nights, the upheaval of throwing 3 kids in the car to drive around aimlessly while strangers walk through your home. We threw all of our trust into the belief that it would all work out, as we made our plans for a move to Ontario, without yet having sold our home in Calgary. The moving truck arrives on the 16th and our flight was booked, whether the house was sold or not.

It sold. That explains the smile on Jake's face.

Thank God and all of our angels up there. We still have to wait for the conditions to go through, but it's looking good.


We have already had to start saying our goodbyes and I still don't think it feels real. If I let myself think about it, I realize that there are some faces we may never see again and that makes me really sad. In many ways, I think that Owen and Will may be fortunate to be blissfully ignorant of what is about to happen.

Owen was full of smiles on his way to his last day of school. His teachers, Joanne and Shawna could not have been better this year, had we chosen them ourselves. They were so kind and nurturing, compassionate and helpful to our whole family. We will miss them dearly. Trish and Donna on the bus were god-sends to us. There was so much anxiety for us when planning this school year and their first time on a school bus. Donna treated our boys like they were her own grand-children and we will be forever grateful.


Jacob's five years in Irish Dance in Calgary came to a sweet conclusion this month. His school put on a wonderful performance for family and friends and it was so great to reminesce and think back to how far he has come. We have made so many wonderful friendships with the families from the school and many of our memories that have shaped our time in Calgary, will be made up of those from the people we grew to think of as our Irish Dance family. I know that Jake will miss them all so much and he hopes he can stay in touch. We also got to get together at one of the family's homes, where they graciously hosted a very special evening to end the year and wish Cara and Mark best wishes for their upcoming marriage. Special thanks to Cara and Mark who have watched Jake grow and who have had to ride the roller coaster with him. We will especially miss Kellie and Margie and all of the families who really reached out to help in some of our trying times over the past few years. We were really lucky with this group, there's no question.

Jake, Ella and Owen M.

After a year of feeling like I've been caught up in a vacuum, not really seeing many friends or making connections with people, I got to see a lot of my friend, Lisa. I'm not sure that this was a good thing, because it only made me sadder to realize how much I am going to miss her and our friendship. But our kids have benefitted from these recent visits and I am happy that we will have these little memories to look back on, as our last days spent with good friends.


This little monkey has been going through some changes of his own. After many years of trying to work on behaviour interventions to get a handle on Will's OCD, we finally came to the conclusion that his safety was our utmost priority, and that our interventions just didn't cut it. It seems to us, that his mind was always racing. Was always distracted by scripting and looping obsessions that drove him to act impulsively and sometimes dangerously, in order to fulfill whatever need he was thinking about. For example, last fall when he was obsessed with reinacting scenes from the Toy Story movie (do you remember this? Digging Deep). In autism, it is not uncommon to see people who have obsessive compulsive thoughts, but classicly, the behaviours that stem from them are acted out upon in order to calm them. In Will's case, it appears that acting out on these obsessive thoughts only seemed to further upset him, yet he couldn't seem to stop them. So after many months of thinking it over and meeting with specialists, we opted to try a medication that might target this for him.

We are happy to report that we are on week three and we are seeing results. I will give it another week or two before I summarize the changes, because they are too subtle to describe on here, but I have hope that it is helping him and he seems happier and more at peace. On the downside, we are trying to figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg, but Will has been waking every single morning around 3am for the day and he's eating everything but the kitchen sink. So we're still trying to figure out if it's the meds or just the time of year. Time will tell and then I'll tell you. :)


Lastly, see this sweet picture?

Seems innocent enough. Two boys sharing in their love and interest for this wonderful piece of technology. The iPad. Our saviour. Tablets, iPods, iPads and iPhones. They all seem so innocently life-changing and wonderful. You would also think that they could only be good for kids like Owen and Will. With apps to help them communicate, to learn emotions, to schedule their day, to record data on their behaviours throughout the day. Amazing how far we have come, thanks to Steve Jobs.

Well, if you ever hear anyone talk about people who have autism and they call them idiots or dummmies. Tell them about my Will.

Do you see this?

Tonight I got a phone call from my credit card's security department. They wanted to notify me that there was some unusual activity on my Visa. It seems someone was having a field day on iTunes. After some further investigation, we figured out that that time earlier today when Will was resting his chin on Jake's shoulder while he played on his iPod, Will wasn't just being affectionate with his big brother Jake. He was spying. And memorizing. And plotting.

Will used the password he scooped from his brother and racked up over $250 worth of purchases on iTunes. Backyardigans, Pearl Jam, the Lion King and Dora. Yup.. didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out who the culprit was.

Someday maybe we'll look back on this and laugh.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Check out our boy!

It's been a busy couple of weeks and I've got lots to update you on, but need my sleep more. Update to come..

But in the meantime, please take a minute to head over and check out our Jake's new blog. He'd love for you to drop him a note and follow him.

Willowjak Sibling

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Rainy Day Playlist

It's another rainy day in Calgary. Got the homeschooling year all finished and signed off. The house is relatively spotless after an Open House yesterday. I still have a to-do list a mile long, but have decided to spend my morning perking myself up with music that gets my heart pumping.

I get made fun of regularly by people all the time for my taste in music. I admit, it's ecclectic and doesn't always make a lot of sense. You might see me as a boring old housewife, but that doesn't mean I have to listen to Engelbert Humperdink. I grew up with many musical influences; my dad's love for bluegrass, my small-town Bowmanville roots, my grandfather's fiddle tunes, church hymns that make me cry, cottage cock-rock, Scarborough introduced me to a HUGE world of music from all over the world, campfire tunes and Bobby McGee, a love for the Beatles, beautiful scores from my favourite broadway shows or movies. I swear in another life I was a black woman who wished she could sing at the Apollo Theatre.

I just love music. In all of its forms and in all of its genres. If it's sung or performed with soul, you've got me. I'm counting down the days until I'm back in Ontario with tickets in hand to see a good show at Massey Hall or to hear a song-writer with nothing but their acoustic guitar in a dinghy bar.

I'm not sure what kind of mood I'm in today, but the music might tell you better than I can.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald is a Calgarian that keeps creeping into my faves' list. I'll be sorry to leave Alberta if he doesn't blow up so I can just as easily hear about it from Ontario.

I think I am as obsessed with Brandi Carlile as I am with Adele. I just can't get enough of her voice. Adore her and wish I could see her live.

..and this is a must. Have heard the song many times by other artists, but no one does it better, in my opinion.

A classic. Wish we had street performers like this in our neighbourhood.

Can't help it. I just love this.

One of my all time favourites by Bonnie Raitt and John Prine:

My favourite Barenaked Ladies' tune:

I love this Robyn song, but I think I like this one even better covered by this Swedish vocal group called Erato:

Way too sexy for a family blog, I know. (sorry)

Who doesn't love Otis Redding???!

I couldn't decide between this or 9 Crimes, but Blower's Daughter won out.

The Hip. :)


And I'll finish with some country by the lovely Miranda Lambert.

What's on your playlist today?

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