Sunday, June 24, 2018

Family Bloom Days

It's that time of year again - the end of the school year, the beginning of summer, and a whole mess of mixed emotions that come along with this time of transition. Brennen is finishing up Grade 6 and will be heading to Grade 7 in September. He will be leaving the teachers who have cared for him since he started kindergarten, leaving the nurturing environment they have created for him, and going to a new and unfamiliar junior high school. This is not what we feel is best for Brennen, for many reasons, and we have made those reasons known to the Department of Education. The past couple of months have been filled with meetings, appeals, letters and medical documentation. I won't get into it all here, but suffice it to say that they are not making it easy. (By 'they' I mean the higher ups at the department who have never met my son, but yet still feel they know what is in his best interest.) It's been particularly emotional for me, and the frustration of it all has felt like an ocean I am drowning in. It just doesn't sit well with me at all, so while we are going through the motions and will attend Brennen's 'school leaving ceremony' next week, I am not entirely sure what the next school year will look like for him.

To help ease some of the frustration, we have been planning our summer adventures, and thinking of ways to pack as much fun as possible into the next couple of months. The weather hasn't been great here lately - we've been having our usual Newfoundland spring, with lots of rain, drizzle and 'freezing fog' (yes, that's a thing we have now!). We were excited to finally see some warmer temperatures this week, just in time for the first days of Summer! We celebrated this weekend by enjoying the sunshine and spending as much time as we could outdoors.

On Saturday, we attended one of the Family Bloom Days at the MUN Botanical Garden! There were flower crafts, a scavenger hunt, lots of fun activities for kids, and a petal parade. There were also some real live fairies and woodland creatures scattered throughout the Garden! It was a beautiful day, and as always, a wonderful way to spend time together as a family! It's days like these that remind me that even when things get tough and almost too much to bare, there is a whole world of little pleasures out there just waiting to make us happy!

Here are some photos from our day at the Garden:

Happy Summer, everyone!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day

Just a quick post today to wish Andrew a very Happy Father's Day, as we celebrate all that he is and all that he does for our family.

It has been a complete joy to watch this incredible man thrive in his role as a father. Our days are not always easy - parenting a child with a significant disability comes with many challenges, and he faces those with me, head on, each and every time. I have said many times (on particularly hard days) that this not a life anyone would choose.. but Andrew did just that. He chose me and he chose Brennen. He accepted us as we were, understanding that it would not be easy, but that we could get through anything together because of the love that we shared. He has been my greatest support, my voice of reason, and a never wavering source of comfort.

When we first talked about fostering children, it was something we both felt strongly about. We knew that we had room in our hearts to care for young people who needed a family. We had only ever talked about fostering one child, and our hands were full doing that, but I will never forget the day that I received the call about a little baby who was ready to be discharged from the hospital but didn't have a family to go home to. Andrew was not at home at the time, and being the emotional decision maker that I am, I just couldn't say no. I believed we could do it, or at least I believed we would figure out a way to do it. When I got off the phone with the social worker and had a moment to reflect, all I could think was, "Andrew is going to kill me. He is going to leave me, and I am going to be all alone with all of these children!" I had accepted another child into our home and into our family without asking him, and that's not cool. But when I called him to let him know what I had done, I could sense his heart opening up, and all he said was, "Ok". He wasn't upset, wasn't worried, and didn't even question me. He also believed that we could (and should) parent this little baby. And so we did. And it was magical.

There are so many moments during each day where he reminds me that what we have is so special, and there is no one else I can imagine doing this with. I am just very very thankful to be his partner, his teammate, and to get to parent right along with him. Our children are so very fortunate to have such a dedicated, loving and positive role model in their lives. I know deep down in my heart that he is in this for the long haul, and that his heart can only stretch deeper and stronger.

Thank you, Andrew, for loving us the way you do. I love you for the amazing father you are and for the amazing father I know you will be for the many years ahead!

Happy Father's Day, babe! xo

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Petit Mail

With so much of our time focused on technology these days, I love getting good old-fashioned paper mail. And when the majority of our mail is comprised of bills, bank statements and medical appointment reminders, it is exciting to find a brightly coloured, fun looking envelope sticking out of the pile!

We recently discovered Petit Mail - a kids story postcard subscription created and written right here in Newfoundland by local mom and entrepreneur, Alison Butler. Alison created Petit Mail with her own kids in mind, after noticing how her young daughter loved going with her to their community mailbox. She wanted to give her the excitement of finding a piece of mail with her own name written on it. Learn more about Alison and the story behind Petit Mail story postcards here.

Petit Mail is a fun way to introduce a new generation to the joy of snail mail. Every month, your Petit Mail story postcard arrives in your mailbox in a bright, colourful envelope, addressed by hand with your child’s first name. Brennen was pretty excited to receive his!

Each Petit Mail story postcard has a different theme, such as: art, writing, science, engineering, nature, reading, and imaginative play, all at an age-appropriate level. We were excited to receive several themes to try this month!

Brennen and I enjoy making art, so I was thrilled to find 'Oliver Explores Art' in his envelope. We read the postcard, then used the tips on the back to dive right in and make some art together!

All kids love to use their imaginations and create something new with their own hands. Some kids, like Brennen, need extra help to do so but it is just as important for him to be creative as it is for anyone else. Art fosters sensory perception, offers children a chance to experiment, create and build. It strengthens their ability to think and make decisions, and helps children make sense of the world around them. And art is fun! Children have a natural tendency to create, and as always, with children’s art activities (certainly at our house) it is more about the process than the final product.

I love that Petit Mail encourages a parent and child to spend quality time together, and offers you suggestions of new and unique ways to spend that time with your child. As a Mom, I always harbor a bit of guilt, thinking I could be doing more. There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it, and the reality of life with jobs and families and infinite responsibilities is that we must prioritize and make time for what is most important. For me, that is my children. Spending precious time with Brennen is at the top of my list. It can be tough at times to connect and engage with him, but I will continue to make efforts to find ways to nurture our relationship, because it is the most valuable part of my life.

Thanks to Alison at Petit Mail for creating such a high quality subscription service that offers so much in one little envelope.

Our next story postcard is 'Milo Loves Reading'. We love reading together, and we love to visit our local library, so this one should be fun!!

Alison has also recently created a Preschool Kids Reading Club on Facebook where parents can share book ideas and recommendations specifically for preschoolers and early readers. Learn more about that HERE!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Diversity of Living Things - We Met a Sloth!

So often on this blog, and in my life, I find myself talking about diversity and the variety of differences that exist among us. I write about diversity in our community, and with the children in our lives, I talk about diversity regularly. With regards to my son, Brennen, I explain that he has something called cerebral palsy - it is part of who he is, and part of what makes him unique. As a family, we celebrate differences, and we appreciate the many things that make us all special.

This weekend, we were talking about a different kind of diversity - the diversity of living things!

Little Ray's Reptile Zoo was in town with their team from Animal Ambassadors to showcase their most comprehensive exhibit to date. This amazing interactive and educational exhibit featured over 30 live animal exhibits for people to enjoy at their leisure, two highly interactive 30-minute educational programs, and boat loads of staff with animals out for people to interact with in a family-friendly, hands-on environment.

I was thrilled to learn that there would be a special time on Saturday morning for special needs families! The staff and organizers of Little Ray's Reptile Zoo recognize that many families have children with special needs who could benefit greatly from events like these, however, may not be able to attend as they may not do well in crowds. They opened an hour early for us on Saturday, and we were happy to be able to enjoy the exhibits before the crowds arrived.

Brennen had no fear and liked touching the soft scales of the snakes. The bearded dragon was a favourite as well!

The staff were super friendly and helpful, bringing the animals right to us for a closer look. 
They answered our questions and had lots of information about the animals that they were eager to share.

OMG, the tarantula. I wouldn't dare touch it, but Brennen was brave and let it climb onto his hand.

The staff explained where many of the animals in the exhibit came from, noting that this dwarf caiman alligator was rescued from a pet store, where it was discovered that he was being kept in a small container in the back room. His growth was stunted as a result, but he is now healthy and happy to be part of the show. (The tape around his mouth was for precaution only, as he is very friendly and doesn't bite. They use electrical tape because it doesn't stick to skin and doesn't hurt him in any way).

They talked to the children about how to safely care for animals as pets. All too often, people don't think about the serious commitment that is required when they bring an animal home. Little Ray's sees a large number of turtles surrendered because people don't realize how long they will live or how big they will get. Many species of turtle can live to be over 80 years old!

The feature attraction was a young, two-toed sloth named Linus. He was very sweet. He even bent over backwards to see Brennen!

We had a great time with the animals at Little Ray's Reptile Zoo and Nature Centre. There were so many wonderful learning opportunities, and we were happy to see some of our friends there as well. Thanks to the staff for sharing your love of animals with us, and for helping us learn about some of the exotic creatures we share this world with.

If there is one thing we know for sure, it's that our communities thrive on diversity - both in it's animals and in it's people. We celebrate that diversity every day, practicing openness and appreciating each other's differences. Raising children in a way that focuses their attention on what is similar between themselves and others over what is different, helps to get them in the habit of treating all living things with respect and kindness.

"Little Ray's Reptiles Zoo is the largest exotic animal rescue in Canada and provides sanctuary for 100's of seized and unwanted pets until the best long term solutions can be found. About 80% of the animals in our care are unwanted pets or seized animals and we do not take animals from the wild to utilize in these programs. We do have some animals that were born at our facility or other facilities in Canada but 100% of the animals we receive calls about that are eligible to be released are released 100% of the time. Other animals in our care that are appropriate for programs such as these are utilized for fun, thought provoking, educational programs promoting responsible pet ownership and conservation."

For more info on Little Ray's Reptile Zoo please visit: