Saturday, 18 April 2015

6 hours on a deserted island

Today we met up with 2 of our adult sons, their lovely wives, our beautiful granddaughters and their dogs and went to a small island that is all parkland.  We were able to access this island by a small boat that transports 24 people at a time.  The plan was to spend the day geocaching, hiking and have a campfire so we could roast hotdogs and marshmallows for our lunch.

For most families this would mean throwing together a picnic and hitting the road however for us it's not that simple.

We were meeting at 10:00 am, an hour from our home, which resulted in a 6:00 am wake up call for Mom and Dad and hitting the ground running.  Each morning we try and get up beofre the kids so we can shower, dress, prepare breakfast, etc. before the kids are up.  On top of the usual routine today we had too pack for the day.

So what's needed for 6 hours on an island, without any amenities, for our large family?

Food....lots and lots of food.  6 dozen hotdog wieners, 4 dozen buns, condiments, 4 bags of potato chips, 6 bags of marshmallows and a flat of water.  Plus daily medication, diapers, wipes, multiple changes of clothes, first aid kit and sunscreen.  A plan of how and where we will change the childrens diapers as public washrooms/outhouses don't accommodate 10 year old "infants".  Hats, sunglasses and hoodies to help with all of  our sensory issues.  We also opted for a wagon and strollers instead of the wheelchairs (our wheelchairs don't do well on forest trails).

Once we had the basic prep for the day done it was time to get the kids up, on top of the regular routine we had....3 wet beds and 1 soiled bed (with added finger painting) resulting in 4 unplanned showers, 4 linen changes, 2 extra loads of laundry and a lesson on wall cleaning for our young artist.  One teen returned for more appropriate footwear, an adult child needing lessons on clothing choices for a warm spring day, a discussion with an adult child on why she must pack sanitary products for a day out and one teen strongly encouraged to eat breakfast.

Once load into the bus and 10 minutes down the road we needed to turn around as I noticed that the 4 year old had 2 left shoes.  We get going again trying to make up for lost time and come around a corner to a complete traffic stand still with vehicles turned off.  Nobody is going anywhere because the air ambulance has landed on the highway for a medical emergency.

We finally arrive at the boat, that was nice enough to wait for us and we head to the island for some fun.  While at the island we explored the shore line, found a nest of snakes (which was exciting for some), a couple climbed a tree hoping to find a geocache, found another geocache, hiked, played and ate.  We were thankful for the first aid kit when our young adult cut the tip of her finger exiting the outhouse, we really don't know how she managed that. Overall it was a very enjoyable day and well worth every minute of work getting there.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


"Oh she is so sweet" have become the words that irritate me beyond belief.  Our daughter has FASD, low cognitive function and seems to be developing some severe mental health issues, doctors are leaning towards a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  As we are the people around her constantly, we get the brunt of her mood swings and it is especially irritating when we have been verbally attacked for weeks from her and then someone who doesn't know us that well says " I was talking with....she is just so sweet".  Comments like these make me want to scream NO REALLY, SHE'S NOT!!!!

It's not that I don't want people to see the nice side of her or to have positve thoughts about her.  It's that we haven't seen that side of her for a long while and would love to have a break from the crazy making.  When you add a mental health low with PMS everyone should run for the hills!  I want to run for the hills but can't get away.

Working with her physicians and mental health team we have been making progress at helping her however it is just as important (if not more important) to help ourselves and the rest of the family.  If the rest of the family isn't strong and well cared for we won't have the strength to support the ones affected by mental illness.

1. Accept your own feelings and know that you are not alone.
It is natural to feel many different emotions when a loved one has a mental illness.  Other people experience the same challenges and complicated mix of emotions.  Let yourself and family feel whatever they need to feel.

2. Learn more
Take time to learn more about mental illness.  This will give you a better understanding of your loved one's experiences and help you see what they may be going through.

3.  Stay connected
Embarrassment, social stigma and fear can stop many family memebers from seeking help when a loved one has a mental illness.  But that can isolate you at a time when you need the most support from others.  Talk to trusted friends and family and let them know what you're experiencing.

4. Join a support group
Support groups are a good place to share your experiences, learn from others, and connect with people who understand what you're going through.  Find the support that works for you, it could be a group of friends, a support group or a counsellor.

5. Take time for yourself
If you are caring for a loved one, your responsibilities may use up your physical and emotional energy.  It's important to take time for yourself and the other members of the family.  It can help you recharge and give you a more balanced perspective toward any challenges you experience.  Schedule opportunities that allow you to relax, have fun and get away so you can come back to your loved one with a healthier outlook.  You can't care for someone else if you haven't cared for yourself first.

6.Seek help for yourself
Caring for a loved one who's unwell can be stressful.  Seek help if you find your own well-being slipping, and encourage family members to seek help if they need it.  Mental illness can have a big impact on family relationships.

7. Develop coping strategies for challenging behaviours
There may be times when a loved one shows strange or challenging behaviours that can make you feel confused, embarrassed, or scared.  This can happen in public or in private.
- Make a plan as a family how to best deal with situations
- Understand that their behaviour is not personal, even when it feels personal.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Life skills as play

We have been adding "life skill bins" to our home school curriculum.  Many of my children have limited abilities and it takes them a long time to learn various skills so it is important to teach them practical life skills early.  Most recently we added a "laundry life skill bin" - we purchased 2 small laundry baskets from the dollar store and labeled one "lights" and the other "darks".

 We then included 12 pairs of socks, 6 white pairs and 6 black pairs and also a clothes line and clothes pegs.  To aid with the imaginative play we also made a washing machine out of a cardboard box.

During life skill class we practice sorting the socks, darks and lights.  We also hang them on the clothes line with the clothes pegs which is working on our pincher grasp and coordination.

 Matching the socks into pairs and rolling them together is another skill we are working on.

While "playing laundry" we also practice our counting, expand our language skills and have a lot of fun.  Our laundry bin also has a folding option with multiple coloured face clothes for sorting, hanging and folding.  Once these 2 options are mastered, outgrown clothing will be added for practice and eventually the kids will take over doing the laundry....hopefully, years down the road.  We also reinforce their sorting skills every time they change clothing by having laundry hampers marked "lights" and "darks" for their dirty clothing and the adult changing them oversees the laundry being put in the correct hamper.

Stay tune for more life skill bins.