Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Confession:  I have the handwriting of a serial killer.  If I were to send a handwritten letter to Quantico*, they would swoop down on my so quickly with a hockey mask, straight jacket and a moving dolly  that I wouldn't know what hit me.

And I give all of the credit to the woman in this picture, Mme Connolly, my first grade teacher.


Mme Connolly decided that at the age of 6 I had the most atrocious handwriting she had ever seen.  And it soon became her sole purpose in life to correct this.  Not to teach me, or nurture me or help me.  No, she was going wear me down with sheer repetition until I got it right. EVERY SINGLE TIME.   So for an entire semester, January to June, I missed recess, gym, art and any other fun activity*** so that I could write lines and practice my handwriting.

And as luck would have it, I got Mme Connolly for a teacher again in grade 2 AND again in grade 8.  But what happened to her when I was in grade 8 is a whole other story!

And now I have the daunting task of helping to teach someone how to write!  I think this homework task will best be left to Hilary.  One person with illegible handwriting in the family is more then enough.

*Yes I'm Canadian, and no the FBI doesn't have jurisdiction here, but I'm pretty sure that most of you who read my blog have never heard of CSIS.  That, and they don't have a cool place like Quantico.

**Can you guess which one is me?

***Keep in mind that this is my recollection of events some 30+ plus years later.  It may well have only been 2 weeks, but it is cemented in my mind as having been a whole lot longer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hodge Podge

The Maritimes have a rich history of interesting food.  The newest one that Hilary has made is Hodge Podge:

Fresh vegetables cooked in cream.  Sound simple, but it's simply delicious!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Green thumb

Hilary and I do not have plants.  We once owned a plant in our first apartment that got so dry that the dirt cut fire from an incense stick.

We've tried gardening, with very poor results.  We had some success with tomato plants one year, but the dog ended up eating any ripe tomatoes right off the vine before we got to have any.

We had a lovely ficus tree until a cat decided to use it as a litter box.

We have admitted defeat and we are okay with that.  Except that planting and harvesting and eating your own food is a wonderful thing to pass on to your child, and I feel bad that Liam is surrounded by black thumbs.

But he has proven that he has his own green thumb:

Who knew that you could grow beans in a plastic cup with 2 inches of dirt?   The plant is smart enough to curl it's leaves when it needs water, so we did manage to remember to water it.  And we ate the green beans on my birthday.  There was one each and there are still 3 more beans on the vine.

Next year Liam can be in charge of gardening!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today we celebrate

Today is my 40th birthday.  I really don't have anything else to say about that.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bifocals or surgery

We had Liam in to see the pediatric ophthalmologist today.  When Liam was 5 he had a bout of Scarlet Fever and his left eye turned in.  Ever since then it has turned in if he's tired, not wearing his glasses or he can just do it on his own.  It wigs me out!

Our family eye doctor has been treating it with prescription glasses, but after 3 years, and 4 prescriptions we haven't seen any improvement, so it was time to head down to the children's hospital.  And I have to say, they are wonderful!  The spent an hour and 45 minutes testing and measuring how much his eye turns in.

It turns out that without his glasses he has a 60 prism dioptre and with his glasses it corrects itself to 30.  I really have no idea what that means, but it's not good.  The Dr. did explain that anything larger then 10 is noticeable  to someone who would be standing and looking at Liam's eyes while they talked.

So our next steps are to go back in 4 weeks to have a comprehensive testing done on his farsightedness to make sure that his current prescription is bang on.  If it's not, then they will give him a new prescription for 6 weeks and measure all the prism dioptre stuff again.  At that point we will have 2 choices.

Try bifocals to see if that will improve things or surgery to reposition the muscle holding his eye in place so that it pulls the eye back to where it should be.


The cool part is if we decide to try the bifocals they can do them as stickers that would just go on his current glasses, so that we don't have the huge cost of another pair of glasses just to try.  But, based on his numbers, it is looking like surgery will likely be where we end up.  The surgery would not correct his vision 100% and because of his farsightedness he will always need a prescription both to see and to help keep his eye in line.

So, I need to find some big girl panties, and soon!  Of course if surgery is the best thing for him, that is what we will do.  I will manage, somehow.....even if just typing all of this has made my eyes water!

Monday, August 16, 2010

In the car.......

Word cloud thanks to Wordle

We don't own a car, so Liam has grown up as a pedestrian and bus rider. And in hindsight, that is probably a good thing!  We do rent cars, travel with friends or hire taxis when our load is heavy or our road is long.  And more often then not, on long (and sometimes even short) trips Liam will end up being car sick. 

When he was little the only warning we had was a strangled cry, a strange ERP sound and then he would be spewing.  Not even time for Hilary and I to look at each other and say Oh Oh!  Even when we were long past the diaper bag stage, we would pack for any car trip like we were going overseas.  Extra clothes, towels, bags, wipes, paper towel.

Now that he is older and more in tune with his body, he has a bit more warning.  He also has become quite adept at not making a mess. We usually make sure that he has a plastic bag handy but he has been know to throw up in his hat if he's traveling in some else's car.  We still travel like we are expecting to be stranded somewhere for the weekend lest we be caught unaware.

While googling car sickness in kids this week I came across some ingenious parent who has invented the YakPack.  It looks suspiciously like what I carry around in my purse, minus the gloves and the cooler puker-scooper.  We recently bought the absorbent lap pads from the dollar store to put under the kitty litter box, so I think I may just have to add them into my purse.  

Maybe next time Liam spews in his hat I can get a picture of him and use it as my own personal logo. I could call it the "Spew Crew" or "Sick Wick" or how about the "Heave Sleave"?  This could be the start of a great home business for me!

But in all seriousness.. if you have any tried and true car sickness remedies please share!!  We leave in a week for vacation that will involve cars, plans, minivans, trains and buses.  And probably a few roller coasters too.  I've already packed my plastic bags.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

She's alive and cooking!

Iris that is.

My great friend Barb donned her (fake) telemarketing hat and called Iris's house on the pretense of selling her windows.  She was in fact on an information gathering mission for me.  Would Iris answer the phone?  Would the number still even work?  Would she be told that Iris had died or was sick or now living in a nursing home?

The number worked and Iris was there.  Her windows are less then 10 years old so she wasn't interested in Barb's "pitch".  Iris asked her to stop in the middle of it so that she could check on something in the oven, then politely got off the phone.

So I know that she is alive, still living at home and in reasonably good health.

I am relieved to have even this tid-bit of information.  Since Madelaine was home (she initially answered the phone) I am presuming that she has not yet found a job.  And if she is home all day, every day with Iris, then Iris would not feel that she could safely contact me.

It's still not great, but it is so much better then the unknown.  I am not sure of what I will do next, if anything.  For now I'll wait, but I'm pretty sure I'll keep checking the obits, just in case.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to school shopping

As the weather starts to get a bit cooler at night and my birthday approaches, my mind turns to Back-to-School shopping.  So I headed to the mall today and here is what I got:

Oh wait... that's for me to celebrate back to school!  

Here are the supplies I got for Liam:

It's the oddest assortment of back to school supplies that I've ever bought!  As we learn more and more about ADHD, we are trying all sorts of tips and tricks.  And one of those tricks is to have "fidgets" available to, well, fidget with, while you are concentrating on something else.

The principle behind fidget toys is to stimulate the arousal level so the child becomes more attentive.  from the ADHD Discussion Page

We sort of thought it was a bit of a crock till we really thought about it. Liam has always done his best work while being physically active: reading while on the excercise bike, math while jumping on the trampoline etc.. Since he can't do any of that while in the classroom (his school is awesome and forward thinking and willing to accommodate, but they still have 14 other kids in the class to control too!) we needed to find some smaller items.

The gum and sour candies won't make it to school but are good for homework time though some people think gum should be mandatory in school because of how well it helps concentration.    The squeezy toys will also help strengthen his fingers, another area that he has to work on.  The rocks are actually mine!  I am a fidgeter and like to keep them in my pocket so that I have something quiet to play with.  The DS pen is another one that I have been using while watching TV.  I can "scratch" it up and down my arm and apply pressure with it to my fingers or leg.  I'm beginning to think that I may have a touch of the ADHD or at least some sensory issues going on too.

We've only tried "fidgets" for a couple of days at home while reading, but they do seem to help.  We have a meeting with Liam's teachers next week and I'm hoping that they will be on board with the idea.  Since I love to research and read up on things going on in my life, I will be going into the meeting armed with fidgets for them to play with while we meet (so they can see how unobtrusive they are) as well as articles for them to read on the benefits that they will give Liam.

And eventually I will make it back to the mall for all the other Back-to-School shopping that I still need to do.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It's so amazing, you'll want 2!

Have you ever watched one of those cheesy informercials and said to yourself "What a load of Hooey!  There's no WAY that product can do that!"  Up until this afternoon I was saying the very same thing!

But not anymore!  I've seen this product in ACTION!  and they aren't lying.  It really is amazing!  It can cut through dry wall and still handle your most delicate chopping.

But wait!  There's more!

You can use it as letter opener or to carve out wood.  I've tried it all!  

And what is the spectacular product you ask?

Why it is non other then a  Ginsu Knife!!  I'm sure operators are standing by somewhere just waiting to take your order!

Just look at what I was able to do with it today:

Yes ma'am, I cut that almost perfectly round hole with this:

Yes, I used Hilary's Granny's Ginsu steak knife for home repair today after our bathroom ceiling sprung a leak.  It's okay, I won't be sleeping on the couch, I had Hilary's blessing!  We inherited the knives more then 15 years ago and they have been our go-to household implement for many a task.  We've cut shelving, pipes, wire, paper and even steak with them.  And they are just as sharp now as the day we got them.

As a side note:  I know have an even larger hole in my bathroom ceiling.  We think it is the duct pipe for the dryer vent. Both our dryer and the tenants dryer in the basement vent out the same pipe, which has at least 3 turns and is 20+ feet long.  I suspect that the pipe is clogged with lint, and due to the damp weather of late, the water has no where to go but out the nearest bend/join in the pipe.  The alternative is that I have a leak in my roof, and I just don't want to think about that right now.

Friday, August 6, 2010

One year ago

It's been a year since I've heard from Iris.  This is the longest we've gone without communication since our reunion.

One year ago today I got a 1 paragraph email that talks about getting a new roof, being infested with ants, transplanting some hostas and visiting her sisters.

She ends the email with :

I will say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you in case I don’t get another chance.
This is more than enough for now.


Is that the last thing I'll ever hear from her?  "This is more than enough for now" - No it isn't enough, not if that is all there is going to be.

I continue to check the obits daily, so I assume that she has not died, but that isn't 100% reliable.  Maybe she didn't want an obituary; maybe it's posted in a different newspaper that I don't know to check.

We are getting ready for our annual trip to Ontario in 2 weeks.  In the past few years this would be the time that Iris and I would be trying to work out when and were we could get together to see each other. It's not looking like I will be seeing her this year.

So now the question  becomes - "what do I do next?"  I have her phone number, I could just call.  But that goes against my promise to her that I would help keep "the secret".  I could have my friend Barb call and pretend to be a telemarketer ( you laugh, we've done this once before when I hadn't heard from Iris for a long time).  I could show up on her doorstep when we get to Ontario.  I'm thinking option 2 is probably the best one.

But then what....

Do I grieve someone I barely know, that I didn't even know had died?
If she is still alive, what do I do?  Send her a secret smoke signal and hope that she responds?

I am the walking poster child for why secrets and adoption don't mix!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

We have some new words

No... not more of those words! We have had enough of those thank you.

Our new words include things like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, evaluations, phonological learning disorder, poor fine motor control, occupational therapy, difficulty, delayed, psychologist, unable to, below age level, high intelligence, struggles, medication, Adderrall, proprioceptive input just to name a few.

Over the course of the last school year we had several meetings with Liam's teachers as we all knew that he was struggling to learn to read, pay attention and sit still. So in April we had a Psycho-Educational evaluation done by a psychologist. We were not surprised by most of the results. Liam's results spanned both sides of the scale. One one side he tested in the 96th percentile for intelligence, testing at nearly a 16 year old level for some areas. On the other side he tested in the 20th percentile and shows signs of a learning disorder. He was also diagnosed with ADHD. Around the same time he was also evaluated by an occupational therapist at school and shows signs of fine motor control issues that are causing him problems with handwriting.

Over the next couple of months we explored various options, including medication for the ADHD. We were able to test out Ritalin during the last 2 weeks of school and saw some improvement with Liam’s focus and attention. But we also saw some anxiety as we tried to get the dosage correct for him. By July we had gotten in to see a pediatrician, and we are now testing out a different, long lasting ADHD medication - Adderrall. It’s only been a week so far, but we have seen huge improvements in Liam during the day. He’s calmer, he’s focused but he’s still the fun loving amazing kid that we love. None of his personality is being lost or obscured by the medication. The down side is that since most ADHD meds are amphetamine based they do interfere with his sleep. So he is falling asleep later and later right now, even later then me the other night! But some minor side effects are worth it. Even Liam notices a difference with the Adderrall and is happy with how it is helping him.

Now that we have the medication under control (at least for now, we may still tweak it) we are focusing on the learning disorder side of things. The phonological awareness disorder means that Liam has trouble with the sound structure of words. He doesn’t understand that the same letter can have 2 different sounds depending on how it is used in a word. So words like CAT and KATE cause him great confusion. How can a C and K sound the same, and why does the A sound different in each word? He has a great memory, so we are working on a rote learning and phonics approach for word recognition. We know that it will be a long hard road, but we also know that we can conquer it together.

We are also exploring using sensory inputs to help Liam pay attention. We discovered by accident that rhythmically squeezing the pads of his fingers gives him enough input that he can sit still and not need to fidget. This accident got us through a 45 minute funeral mass. It also works to squeeze his arms from his wrists to his shoulder and back down again. Deep pressure therapy is used for a variety of disorders and we are finding ways to incorporate it for Liam. We are also looking at other aids like a Move ‘N Sit cushion that will help position him for handwriting activities while also giving him some sensory input.

We have 4 weeks of summer left and the Liam will be starting grade 2. Grade 2 is an important year where kids need to learn to read so that in grade 3 they can read to learn. We are looking into after-school reading programs, and Liam will get extra time with the school’s resource teacher. We don’t know yet who his teacher will be this year, but his Grade 1 teacher has offered to come (she won’t be at the school this year) to meet with his new teacher and us before the year starts so that we can hit grade 2 running.

And the last thing that we are dealing with is an opthamologist appointment in 2 weeks. Liam got a 2nd prescription for his glass a mere 6 months into his previous prescription and his right eye continues to turn in. So we will be going to the local children’s hospital to see a specialist and find out if any next steps have to be taken. ***SHUDDER*** Given my eye issues, I’ll be opting to stay with friends if it ends up that he needs surgery. I’m not as strong as my good friend Heather.

We are forging ahead, finding support and getting the tools in place that we need.  This post has been a long time in coming.  The first was that family needed to be told what was going on.  Could you imagine finding out that your son/grandson/nephew was going through all of this because you read it on a blog at the same time as the rest of the internet?  Yeah, we didn't think that was a good idea either.  The second was that it was hard for me to write.  Even though we've been dealing with all of this for a few months now, it's still new and I'm still a bit raw.  It's hard to think of your baby struggling.  But I've pulled up my big girl panties and I've got my "get 'er done" hat on, so here we go!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

And he's off

Liam ran his first race today, the MacPass Mile across the MacDonald bridge.  We don't have his final time yet, but he gave it his all and was very proud of himself, as were Hilary and I!  I think this may become a yearly Natal Day tradition for us.

Relaxing before the race

In the start up

Giving it his all!


Liam finished 117 out of 142 boys under 17 and 65 out of 88 boys under 9 with a finish time of 9:43!