Daddy vs Papa

During a recent nap in our guest room, the hubby came in and flopped himself next to me.

The hubby and I were both exhausted but I told him to go find his own hiding spot before T found me and ended my quiet alone time.

After that moment, I thought with amusement about how wonderfully secure the two of us have become in our relationship with T.

When we started our adoption journey – over a decade ago – we were required to take mandatory PRIDE (Parent Readiness for Information, Development and Education) courses.

These courses prepared potential adoptive parents about issues adopted children face, including grief, trauma and attachment.

First off, we are so blessed that T had a great start to his life.

Yes, he encountered trauma in utero with his birth mother’s alcohol and drug use – actions that’ll have a lasting impact on his life.

But T had a loving stable first year of life with just one foster family – adopted children often go through multiple homes before finding their forever home (and sometimes not!) – who were just incredible.

I was also blessed to take a 30-week adoption leave and spend those key months building a bond with T. How I miss those early days.

I would say that attachment was, for the most part, not a big issue for us but there was certainly a period for me of feeling insecure as a parent.

When T was 2, about a year into living with us, we went through a period where he went back and forth in favouring Daddy (the hubby) over Papa (me).

Not that it was ever a competition, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t nice or enjoyable when I was the centre of his attention.

Vice versa, it was never fun when I would try to console him, pick him up, carry him, or play with him and he’d scream loudly, “I want Daddy!”

It was the absolute worst when it was always in public or in the company of family and friends.

I remembered feeling so annoyed whenever my mom would make comments like the hubby seemed like a better parent. Again, Asians have that no filter bluntness!

It is a healthy and normal part of a child’s development to favour one parent or another.

I know, because I read up about it just to not feel bad about myself!

Over time, those insecurities proved to be silly, because there is no doubt now in the hubby and my minds that T loves us and is securely attached to us both.

The nice thing about a child’s love is that it doesn’t have to be the same with each parent.

I often think how wonderful it is that he has and will continue to develop unique relationships with the hubby and I.

The hubby is who he likes to build things with and goes to fix his things, who he rough houses with, who he specifically likes to push him on swings, who he enjoys candies and sweets with.

I am the go-to for help with school work, to read books with before bedtime, who takes him to the pool, and pretend play in forts with as his imaginary Paw Patrol friend Everest.

The best parts are the favourite activities we enjoy as a family – like playing chase, the four hand tickles, walks around the neighbourhood, nature hikes, summer road trips and Taco Bell nights.

Fast forward a few years, we now appreciate our own time and space more than ever, especially during these pandemic days.

We desperately crave those early days when T would tell us he wants the other parent… for like the next week! The irony!

And sure enough that day in the guest room, T found both the hubby and I in my preferred hiding spot.

He climbed up on the bed and plopped himself right in between us.

Soon enough, T found himself laughing and cackling in the middle of the four hand tickles.

F*ck Carrots!

So our kindergartener is done with carrots and said as much during lunch at school!

T had a great first week back at school and we hope the momentum continues.

But on his first day back, we got a note in his daily log that he dropped the F-bomb after he opened his lunch and got frustrated we packed carrots after he said he didn’t want them anymore.

His child and youth worker heard the incident and put him in timeout for five minutes.

The hubby’s eyes widened when he read the log and told me about it as I chopped vegetables.

“He must really not like carrots,” I said and wondered if I should pack a bar of soap with his lunch the next day.

The F-word was the bane of our existence last year. He picked it up from a kid in his class and although he didn’t know what it meant, he knew it got a reaction out of people when he said it.

Our behaviour therapist advised the best response is planned ignoring. Thankfully, we haven’t heard the word again since last Spring nor have we heard it again this week!

To be safe, it was cool cucumbers for lunch for the rest of the week!

And I’ll probably wait a bit before I introduce Brussel sprouts. Who knows what kind of a verbal reaction that’ll get out of him!

Our T is a very picky eater.

I miss the days when he’d eat something like this!

I know it’s not uncommon for kids to be picky eaters, special needs or not.

In T’s case – and for other kids with similar prognosis – I wonder if it is a taste, smell, and/or texture issue. I’m not sure!

I miss the early toddler days when we could just shove anything in his mouth.

These days, all he will eat is toast. He’ll gladly eat plain toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, he’ll tolerate butter and if he’s adventurous, he’ll have jam. No peanut butter or deli meat though!

He’ll eat instant noodle ramen without the broth or spaghetti without sauce.

Don’t even try meat. There was a time when I could pulverize ground beef into pasta sauce until it’s unnoticeable, but those days are behind us.

There was a time when he loved to eat cheese and yogurt and that’s where he got his main source of protein. Thankfully, he still drinks milk.

He loves fruit – all kinds of fruits, so he gets his main source of vitamins from fruit as well as his daily multivitamin supplement.

The only vegetables he’ll eat are carrots (not anymore), cucumber and corn on the cob.

So the hubby and I resort to giving him a bottle of Pediasure – or vanilla milk as T calls it – once after breakfast and once after dinner, so he gets the key nutrients each day. Boy, do we ever feel judged when we tell people about this!

T has very slowly become a bit more willing to try meat. He went through a recent phase of wanting protein-rich eggs every day, but he’s over them.

He loves his McDonald’s nuggets and chicken tacos from Taco Bell. We try not to do fast food too much but we also recognize it means he’ll eat “meat” and something other than toast.

As the hubby points out, there’s lettuce and tomato in a taco. So there you go – judge away!

I long for the day when T can have an adventurous love of food like the hubby and I.

It’ll be fun to share our love of food with T one day – not to mention, it’ll be nice to not have to prepare two different meals!

The hubby and I like to explore all kinds of cuisine and we are lucky to live in a part of the city that is very diverse in cuisine and the prices are cheap compared to the downtown core.

During the current lockdown, we look forward to every Saturday night being a night to get takeout and try a different restaurant.

It’s a nice break from having to cook and to eat our own cooking.

It’s also a nice way to support local businesses during these challenging times.

Some highlights from the last few weeks included Caribbean…

Jerk chicken with fried plantains. Don’t tell T about that f*cking carrot!

… Indian…

Butter chicken roti.

… And last night, we tried Malaysian.

Curry Laksa.

I’ve also been cooking a lot to pass the time and as a wellbeing and therapeutic exercise.

I recently made a Hong Kong style Tomato Beef on the Instant Pot that was a hit with the hubby.

Every time we have these meals, we always ask T if he’d like to try some.

He’d always respond right away with “No thanks!”

I’ll take that over an F-bomb any day!

Handwriting Without Tears

If there was an award for false advertising, I’d give it to this web app that claims to teach kids how to write with pure ease.

Handwriting Without Tears was one of the tools that was part of T’s junior kindergarten virtual schooling last Spring.

Cute lessons and activities allowed kids to practice handwriting by tracing letters and numbers on a touchscreen.

As we joked with T’s teacher last year, the daily activities were anything but without tears.

T always lifted his finger off the screen before the app signaled the letter or number was traced. So it did not recognize T as having completed the task. Then asked him to repeat it again.

Cue the ocean of tears and deep valley of sorrow.

It got to the point where I refused to do the daily exercises with T and told the hubby he had to do them or one of us was going to end up dead.

Like many kids with similar prognosis, T’s fine motor skills are a work in progress.

He never showed much interest, focus or care to write or draw.

We know it’s an important skill to develop as he heads into Grade 1 next year, so we made it a goal to work on it this school year.

His Child and Youth Worker provided great tips and resources, which we’ve applied.

We practice writing and drawing with a crayon or marker, because they are thicker than a pencil and so they’re easier for him to grip.

I sometimes write out words in pencil or pen and have him trace over them.

The hubby got him this fantastic Fisher Price handwriting toy for Christmas which we practice with on weekends.

His amazing Child and Youth Worker bought him this handwriting book, with laminated pages that T can practice repeatedly with using dry erase markers. We similarly practice with this.

We also got him sheets of paper with guided lines so T can get support around writing upper and lower case letters to proportion.

Most importantly, we try to have fun and give him time to have freeform drawing – with zero expectations, zero pressure and zero tears.

He really enjoyed the weekly art classes during the recent six weeks of virtual schooling!

We got a nice message from the school this week!

So T is back in school this week – and I could not have shoved him out the front door any faster on Tuesday morning!

Jokes aside, the first three days have been good so far. Fingers crossed we end the week off on a high note tomorrow!

On Wednesday, I heard my phone ping repeatedly with message notifications from T’s child and youth worker while I was on a work call.

I felt a bit anxious, because why would she be messaging me during the day.

Thankfully, it was good news!

She was excited to share that T did a great job on practicing drawing and writing on his whiteboard.

She wanted to share the news with the hubby and I because it was some of the best drawing they’ve seen from him, he was focused and they noticed an improvement in his work.

And this just truly made our day. I paused everything I was doing with work and went downstairs to share the news with the hubby.

It was handwriting tear-worthy moment but this time, they were near tears of joy.

His handwriting and drawing skills still need lots of work but it was a nice boost to our morale that T seems to be headed in the right direction.

What Our Explosive Child Teaches Us About Love

After breakfast, I handed T a heart-shaped box of Smarties and asked him to be my Valentine.

To me, Valentine’s is about celebrating love in all its forms, including love between family.

How fitting then that this year’s Valentine’s is sharing a double billing with Family Day long weekend in Canada.

This weekend has so far provided the hubby, T and I with much needed relaxation and quality family time together.

We all felt a huge weight lift off our chest now that T can go back to school on Tuesday.

While the last few weeks have been filled with so many positive moments, there were also many explosive stressful moments.

Raising explosive children like T is hard but ultimately rewarding.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 4:13 which states that “Love is patient, love is kind… it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

It’s the belief that love is unconditional.

In T’s trying moments, I can tell you I ain’t reciting feel good Bible verses. Rather, I’m praying for restraint not to strangle him. I’m calling to heaven to exorcise my hell spawn.

The thing with T that I want everyone to know is that his great moments far outnumber his explosive moments. He is such a bright, funny, caring, gentle, sweet boy and he tries so so hard.

I’m always mindful to point this out, because I don’t want people to form a certain impression.

But the thing with impressions is that people remember the explosive moments.

It takes a real special person to see beyond the explosive moments.

In our journey with T so far, we’ve been blessed with these special people. So it hasn’t been all bad!

Remember, it’s Brain Not Behaviour.

A Valentine’s bear he drew during art class this week.

One virtual schooling moment I can now laugh at was during virtual gym class.

T’s teacher was teaching the class about mindfulness to help calm their inner “Angry Beast.”

T was off camera having a full-on meltdown. He was screaming, pushing chairs down to the ground and yelling at us to shut up because we kept encouraging him to participate.

I looked at the hubby and joked that we should go on camera and turn on our mics so the class could see T getting an A+ for his angry beast.

Our T has a prognosis of at risk fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

FASD is a spectrum so every individual is affected differently. But there are commonalities.

For T, it manifests in hyperactivity, difficulty in focusing, challenges with regulating his emotions and extreme impulsivity.

In the past few months, T has started to have explosive moments of rage.

A little thing can set him off and he’d go from 0 to 60 in seconds, often times screaming loudly and storming off into his room. Doors are slammed, followed by intense bursts of screaming.

He is often able to calm himself quickly but just like a real explosion often only takes seconds, T’s moments leave behind emotional debris.

For an already stressed out family dealing with the challenges of virtual schooling, working from home and lockdown measures in a pandemic, T’s moments throw our day off track.

I do not always react in a calm or measured way. I’m trying to do better but we’re all human.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned – and one that I am still trying to internalize – is that it is brain not behaviour.

Because of the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure to T’s brain, there are certain things that will be lifelong challenges for him.

When he has a meltdown, I remind myself that he is feeling overwhelmed and he does not have the executive functioning to calm himself down.

Similarly, when he is having an explosive moment, I remind myself to not douse the moment with gasoline by trying to lecture him. I ride it out, because they are often short lived. Then I try talk to him.

Kids like T are not intentionally explosive. They are triggered by something and they are not wired to deal with it in the same way a neurotypical child is able to.

It is every bit as challenging and hard to deal with as you are imagining!

But we are working on it. We are thankful to have an amazing team supporting T and our family.

It is not going to be easy. I envision harder days ahead. I am prepared to meet people who will make life hell for T simply because they do not understand his condition.

As always, we are taking it one day at a time.

I love our T for who he is.

T is the complete opposite of who I was as a child.

He was probably the kind of kid I would never have hung around or would’ve been irritated by.

But I love him for who he is, even though he can be irritating as hell at times.

And that, I think, is what he teaches me every day about love: to embrace the imperfections and to always persevere and to hope.

We all got into the Valentine’s spirit.

After I gave T his Valentine’s gift, we went out for a morning walk.

The sun was shining so beautifully and felt so rejuvenating and he sled in the park.

When we got home, the hubby was up and shoveling the driveway.

“Happy Valentine’s, Daddy!” He shouted and ran down the sidewalk to him. The hubby scooped him up and gave him a big hug.

When we got inside, I gave T a heart-shaped box of chocolates to give to the hubby.

Then the hubby gave T a Valentine’s card the two of made together at class to give to me.

Then I asked T to give the hubby the card we made together earlier in the week.

I love how his hearts have smiley faces, arms and legs! And lately, he’s been adding very pronounced eyebrows to all his faces!

We relaxed at home all day and then went for a family walk together in the afternoon. I couldn’t get enough of the sunshine.

It was also Chinese New Year, which my family celebrates, so I picked up takeout for dinner.

February 15 also happens to be the anniversary of when our adoption was finalized in court.

I always believe the universe sends us reminders to hang in there when we need it most.

What a great reminder then, during a particularly trying past two months, of family and love for T’s adoption anniversary to fall exactly on Family Day, following a rest-filled Valentine’s Day.

How We Barely Survived Our Second Run of Virtual Schooling

T goes back to school next week, bringing to an end our second run of virtual schooling hell.

The last six weeks were so incredibly hard, further amplified by other challenges like Ma’s unexpected health issue.

Meltdowns, daily battles, frustration with getting T to sit and focus, embarrassing moments of T throwing a fit while I’m leading a work meeting.

Nothing says team building like a 5 year old having a full on rage moment in the background and screaming “Shut up, I’m going to kill you!”

But we survived!

As with everything in our journey with T, it is important to look at the big picture.

I choose to focus on the gains T has made. I will celebrate the positive moments, because these are what I look back upon one day with rested eyes.

Our Bright Little Boy

Currently, T is doing well academically. It’s true the hubby and I spent most of the last six weeks playing catch up with him on a one-on-one basis, because it was a fucking nightmare to get him to sit still through a lesson.

But when we got his focused attention – often shortlived – he demonstrated he understood the concepts and completed the work quickly: beginning and ending sounds, counting, simple addition, patterns, graphing, symmetry.

His Amazing Teachers

Those are balloons! Get your mind out of the gutter.

We are so fortunate to be with a school that gets T and supports him. His teacher and dedicated Child and Youth Worker are so organized and structured each day with the same schedule, because routine is so important for kids.

Using tools such as Google Classroom, they made it easy for the hubby and I to follow along and if needed, to catch up with T afterwards if he was unable to sit through a lesson.

Starting in Week 4, the Child and Youth Worker scheduled 20 minute one-on-one daily check ins with T.

While our check ins were not always successful, we’ve had more wins than not.

She did simple activities with him – virtual scavenger hunts were always a hit – and it allowed T to continue that important relationship with her, because she is such a key person in his academic life this year.

Trying Not to Sweat It

The hubby and I really tried our best to not sweat the small stuff, because our family’s mental health was equally important.

As annoying as it was for T to walk away from the lesson or to storm off in a rage and slam his bedroom door because he didn’t want to do the lesson, we tried to take a calm approach and to try again later.

Mind you, this was not always the case. I’ve lost count of how many fights we had with T and how demoralized we felt – especially when we saw every child in his class sitting down, participating and doing the work.

Building His Confidence

The class was asked to make a tree art using whatever they had at home and T created his art using his train track toys. He did a great job but he refused to share his work with the class.

It was very obvious to us from the last six weeks that T did not like to participate in class. He got very testy when we asked him to share and his Child and Youth Worker and I theorize that it’s related to confidence.

So we are working as a team to build his confidence.

The hubby and I often tried to get him to share his work – because he did such great work when he was focused – and the times that we did get him to share, even if it was just a few words on camera, we could tell he felt proud.

I’ve repeatedly told his teacher and Child and Youth Worker that I wished his class – and the other parents – could see what we saw when T was on mute and off camera when he had clear but shortlived focus.

He often shouted out the answer quicker than his classmates and he zipped through the language and math worksheets quickly and correctly.

More importantly, we wish T could see in himself what we see in him. But life is a work in progress and we will get him there!

Finding the Humour and Joy

Drawing is not T’s forte but we’re working on it.

I tried to build his confidence by sharing his work with his class like it was the second coming of Picasso. But T was not having any of it when I asked him to share his wonky looking owl above.

“I’m not sharing it because it looks ridiculous!” He said with a bemused frown on his face. I admit that I burst out laughing.

I don’t want to give the impression that every single minute of the day was painful, because it wasn’t.

Nor do I want to give the impression we’re raising a psychopath. His bursts of rage are very real and are uncomfortable to experience but we are working with him on it and we know at his core and his best, he is gentle, sweet and caring.

It’s just that the 25% of the challenging moments often overshadowed the 75% of the good stuff, because they just consumed so much mental, physical and emotional energy.

But we had a lot of fun along the way too.

I loved our Friday morning art classes – don’t you love the Valentine’s bear I drew this morning?

And really, you gotta laugh at the shit we had to deal with. Like when I stepped aside for 5 minutes to respond to a work email and I looked up at T and he had a banana peel on his head, making funny faces at his class.

You have to laugh, because the alternative is to commit yourself to an asylum.

And I looked forward to the end of each work day when I logged off and T and I went for a long walk in the fresh air!

The Challenges and Potential Are So Clear

The one nice thing about virtual schooling is that it provides parents a rare and up close look at how their children are doing in school and learning, because that world is often separate from us.

For us, it allowed to see upfront T’s behavioural challenges, how easily frustrated he gets when he doesn’t understand something or when he refuses to do an activity, his challenges with regulating his emotions, his inability to sit still and focus on a task for too long. The list goes on.

I worry about how these challenges are going to affect him when he moves on to Grade 1 next year, when it is a less play-based environment and more of a you-have-to-sit-down-and-listen-and-do-your-work.

But the hubby and I are going to take it a day at a time. That is all we can do and there are still 4 months of school left and for a kid T’s age, that is a lot of time for growth still.

Let’s just hope there’s no more disruption, please!

As our final days of virtual learning came to an end this week, I caught T walking around our living room with a marker.

Just a 1/4 of what he achieved the last few weeks!

I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was putting a check mark on all his worksheets that I had put up on our walls.

I stood there for a moment and realized that we had filled up the two long walls with his completed work and were starting a third wall.

Some times, you get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget to take a step back and see that despite the frustrations, T got a lot done these last six weeks!

And I told him that we were proud of him.

On our last day of virtual school today, I sent his teacher an appreciative note to thank her, T’s Child and Youth Worker and the rest of the school team for how awesome they’ve been.

And she sent back a wonderful note to the hubby and I. I’ve shared an excerpt below:

“… Thank you to both you and (the hubby) for joining us and persevering. I know it was hard during the best of times. (T’s Child and Youth Worker) kept me posted. You are amazing. How easy it would have been to walk away and say T didn’t want to or feel like it. I am truly amazed at all you accomplish with him…”

I teared up when I read it – not because I was looking for praise or an award for doing my job as a parent.

But it felt nice for someone to understand just how hard and exhausting it has been the last few weeks.

I wrote back to express my gratitude and I’ve shared an excerpt of my response below:

“Thank you… your kind words mean a lot to us. The last six weeks have been so so hard… (The hubby) and I really try to remind ourselves to look past the frustration, the meltdowns and his behaviour (which is a result of his brain disorder), because there is such a great kid underneath there with a lot of potential. It’s not always easy, because there are moments when he really pushes everyone’s buttons! … So thank you to you all at (T’s school) for seeing that potential in him – because that is half the battle in helping him achieve it.”

“I Get Happy When I See…”

Our T turned 6 this past week!

I felt like we just celebrated his 5th birthday. Where did the time go?!

While it was a quiet lockdown birthday, the hubby and I still found a way to celebrate.

When T woke up on his special day, he stepped out to a hallway and staircase decorated with red and green balloons – a colour coordinated coincidence with his beloved Mario and Luigi.

Our dining room – aka space for work, virtual school and eating – was decorated, including a large gold 6 helium balloon, along with two wrapped gifts we promised T could open following his school day.

T was excited all day. Aside from school and bedtime-related meltdowns, it was a great day.

We started the day with a pancake breakfast and ended the day with Taco Bell for dinner and a Mario ice cream cake gifted from his Ama.

Earlier in the school week for language class, T learned about making lists.

Each student brainstormed a list of 7 items that make them happy when they see them.

T came up with a list on his own and I helped him write them down, as he still doesn’t know how to spell, and he practiced his handwriting by tracing over my writing.

Here is T’s list of things that make him happy when he sees them:

1. My family

2. Birthday cake

3. Ice cream truck in the park

4. Stuffed animals and an owl

5. Swimming Pool

6. Presents

7. Christmas tree and decoration

This is definitely our Christmas, birthday and celebration obsessed T. I was surprised Halloween was not on his list!

But most of all, I was so touched he said our family first.

It’s been a very challenging last few weeks, but I see an end in sight with in-person learning resuming on February 16.

Speaking of things that make me happy when I see it. I nearly cried when our Premier made the announcement on T’s birthday!

T’s class activity reminded me of completing my daily gratitude exercises.

They are certainly more trying to do these days, as I am feeling so burnt out.

But alas, here are 7 things that come to mind immediately that make me happy when I see them:

1. My family relaxing together with zero care in the world.

2. A sunny day with clear blue skies.

3. Nature. The view of rocky shores, swaying trees and endless lake water.

4. T finding a moment – often short-lived – of clear focus and crushing his school work.

5. A tray of fresh sushi and sashimi.

6. T running with complete abandon down an open field.

7. The hubby playing together with T and both laughing heartily and fully from their bellies.

At the end of his birthday, T told the hubby and I, “Thank you for the birthday party, guys… This is the best birthday ever!”

And that’s the sweet little boy that I am so happy to see!

T wanted a dinosaur for his birthday. This dragon had to do cuz there were no dinosaurs at Walmart! 🙂

“You Need to Be Proud of Yourself Too!”

Every Friday morning, I sit with T for virtual art class before lunch and it’s been quite calming!

Four weeks of virtual learning hell is behind us and it has been so so hard.

Much of the school day is punctuated with meltdowns and battles. But we find a way to get to the end, so we try not to sweat the small stuff.

His teacher and child & youth worker have been so understanding and flexible. They go the extra mile to showcase his work to the class to let him shine and build confidence.

Fridays are more chilled days.

In the 30-minute session before lunch, the class draws a picture by following a short video.

I’m glad T gets to work on his fine motor skills, because he is less developed in this area, because he doesn’t enjoy practicing his handwriting.

Drawing is a fun way to practice skills such as the pencil grip, while flexing his creative muscles.

Every week, I sit next to T and draw along with him. It is important the hubby and I model the behaviour we are expecting.

The first week, we drew a penguin floating on ice.

T’s proportions were off and it looked like an amoeba but I still loved it.

In a later class, he drew another penguin and came up with his own sentence to describe it.

I was impressed he came up with “Penguins can waddle” on his own!

I wrote the sentence lightly with a pen and he traced over the words with a crayon.

We put up his completed work on our living room wall to show him how proud we are of him.

The following Friday, we drew a dragon from the movie How to Train Your Dragon.

I noticed an improvement in T’s ability to follow along and plan the space on the blank paper for the entire illustration.

This Friday, we drew a polar bear floating on ice in the Arctic, because the class learned about the importance of helping the environment.

I gotta say, his polar bear drawing was his best illustration yet!

Later that evening, I was finishing up my work when I noticed T rummaging through our pantry.

He pulled out a piece of paper and came to me all flustered. “Why is this in the recycling bin?!”

“Oh, it’s my drawing,” I said. “I only put yours up on the wall. Cuz I’m very proud of your work.”

He furrowed his brow. “You need to be proud of yourself too!”

I nearly laughed out loud at how unbearably adorably endearing he was. “Did you want me to put my drawing next to yours on the wall?”

“Yes!” He shouted.

The hubby, listening in, tried to hop on the bandwagon. “Are you proud of Daddy too?”

“No, cuz you didn’t do any work!”

The hubby and I laughed at his earnest response.

Just so we’re clear, the hubby does plenty. The three of us wouldn’t be surviving this pandemic schooling hell if it wasn’t for our teamwork.

Our days are far from perfect but we give each day our best. Then crash from exhaustion during the weekends.

I seem to get stuck with weekly art classes though! And you know what, it’s been very fun!

Why Special Needs Parents Should Create a Will

For our 40th birthdays, the hubby and I gifted ourselves the creation of our wills.

It does feel morbid to think about life after death as we celebrate this wonderful milestone; the hubby last fall and me later this Spring.

But we are pragmatic and recent events have emphasized the need to plan for the future.

We worked with a lawyer with expertise in estate planning and the process was straightforward. We had scheduled this process before recent events and noted the ironic timing.

Creating a will and related documents, such as a Power of Attorney, gives special needs parents the peace of mind that there is a plan in place for your child’s care if anything were to happen to both parents.

This article provides an excellent summary of key points for special needs parents to think about.

For the hubby and I, it all comes down to ensuring there is a plan for T’s care should something happen to both of us.

As the hubby and I know that individuals with FASD, of which T has an at risk prognosis of, often struggle with managing their finances even as adults, we opted to set up a trust for T, to be managed by an executor, instead of giving everything to him all at once.

The last few weeks have been so chaotic with Ma’s unexpected situation and virtual schooling that I was tempted to cancel the lawyer appointment. But we went through with it and now we have peace of mind it’s done.

Cuz I gotta say, if this pandemic doesn’t kill me, virtual schooling will, if it keeps getting extended.

During a recent bedtime, T and I were chit chatting to pass the time before he fell asleep.

I asked T, “Will you take care of daddy and I when we get old?”

He replied without hesitation, “Yes, I will do everything for you.”

Well, that was reassuring. I almost asked him if he could put that in writing.

Sunday Blast Off To Space!

Pandemic lockdown has restricted travel, but T’s imagination rocketed us to outer space on a quiet Sunday.

All I wanted to do on this afternoon was nap – I feel so exhausted – but T’s endless energy needed an outlet and I always feel guilty about plopping him in front of the tablet all day.

So after starting a beef stew I was meal prepping in the Instant Pot, I decided we were going to outer space.

T and I first watched a real-life rocket launch, learned about the planets in the solar system, saw the surface of Mars, and learned about gravity.

Being a hands-on learner, T picked up his toys and hurled them across the living room.

“Look, gravity,” he said and I laughed nervously, grateful our living room will be renovated in the future, so I didn’t sweat the craters he created.

Then as I promised him, we created a rocket.

I took his tall IKEA toy storage unit and removed the drawers.

Then I put his foldable fire truck over it.

Then I asked T what we could use to enclose it and he suggested chairs and blankets.

Chairs and blankets it is!

Then T climbed in and explored his rocket. It was actually quite roomy inside!

I loved how he quickly got lost in his fantasy, pressing imaginary panels of control buttons on the side and making beeping noises.

Then we decided to pack for our adventure.

Ladybug and Dem Bones were going to join us in colonizing Mars.

Oh, and Buzz Lightyear too. Can’t forget him!

Then he made sure we had supplies and tools to build our home in Mars.

We were now ready for liftoff.

T plopped his Paw Patrol bucket upside down inside the rocket and it was now his pilot seat.

“Beep beep,” he said, pressing imaginary buttons.

We realized the fuel tank was empty and so he went outside the rocket to fuel up.

Countdown time and I asked T to count us down; it’s always nice when we can squeeze in math!

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1… and off we went!

We arrived on Mars in record time and I quizzed T. “What colour does it look like here on Mars?”

“Red,” he replied.

Ok good, so he was listening earlier. Hard to tell sometimes when he’s squirming in his seat.

Then suddenly, he spotted our cat Kyrie’s cone from his recent trip the the vet.

Then we were now in a vet’s office instead of outer space. His stuffed Dalmatian was now sick because she ate too many vitamins which made her break out in spots.

Such is the life of living with a child with ADHD and the attention span of a squirrel.

Oh… and the beef stew turned out great! An Earthly comfort we can’t wait to dig into soon.

A Visit to the Vet

A sick cat gave our little kindergartener a hand-on lesson about what a vet does.

At 12:30 am on Monday, the hubby woke me up and said our cat Kyrie was sick. The hubby had been cleaning up stinky drops our cat had been dripping throughout the house.

With everything going on in our lives, the last thing we needed was a sick cat. The only thing missing was a crashing asteroid or locusts.

The next morning, I felt tense. Our work and homeschool week got off to a shaky start.

Right off the bat, T had a meltdown because we were putting his toys away, so he could be less distracted during school.

We managed to get him to sit for part of language class discussion on “When I Grow Up,” a fun coincidence since I just blogged about this topic.

This time, instead of saying he wanted to be a parent, T told me and I shared on his behalf with the class that he wanted to be a police officer so he can put bad guys in jail!

A few kids talked about wanting to be a vet, which T learned was a doctor that helped animals get better.

The rest of the day felt stressful because it was meltdown after meltdown with T refusing to sit for class.

As always, many tears later, I was able to sit down with him one on one to catch him up on the day’s lessons and to complete the work.

He then asked if he could join the hubby to take Kyrie to the vet.

We had a lightbulb moment to tie this into the morning’s lesson about grown up jobs.

So the hubby walked T step by step through the process of preparing the cat for the vet, including getting the crate out and giving him a calming medicine.

They left for the vet and it was so nice to have an hour and a half of peace and quiet to actually focus on my day job!

They came home with good news. The vet said it wasn’t serious. Kyrie likely chewed on something sharp that gave him an abscess in his mouth that got infected. He got put on antibiotics.

The best part was that the vet put this silly cone on him that makes him look like he’s auditioning for The Handmaid’s Tale.

I couldn’t stop laughing! I’ve always seen photos of animals with cones on but never in real life.

And the cone wouldn’t fit around T’s head. I checked and tried. Oh shucks.

The experience with the vet reminded me that for a child, learning is not just about sitting in front of a tablet or completing worksheets – although these tasks are still important to master.

There are additional ways to learn.

Getting T to participate in something he was interested in – helping care for Kyrie – gave him a good lesson into what being a vet and to care for a sick animal is all about.

After dinner that night, T wanted to pretend play Kyrie’s visit to the vet. He wanted me to be the vet and he wanted to be the cat.

Kyrie’s large crate was still in the foyer and T crawled right in! He didn’t quite fully fit in, but believe me, I had some pretty mischievous thoughts right then and there!

When I Grow Up…

T’s child & youth worker recently shared a super sweet story.

The hubby and I chatted with her two weekends ago to strategize for the return to virtual learning.

She has been such a godsend to T and we consider her to be an integral part of Team T.

At the end of the call, she told us that recently in class, they asked the kids what they want to be when they grow up.

T said he wants to be a parent.

It melted my heart and I started to tear up.

Two weeks into homeschool hell, the hubby and I have been finding it exhausting.

In some ways, it’s been easier. But the sheer volume of things we have to coordinate and look after on a daily basis is draining.

This weekend, the three of us took it easy and did a whole whack of nothing.

Friday evening, T found me lying down in bed.

“Can I come rest with you?” He asked.

I responded without even thinking, “No, cuz then it’s not called rest.”

But he came and lied down next to me anyway.

He took my phone and started looking at the photos, something he likes to do often.

“Do you remember this?” He asked, holding the screen to my face.

It was a photo from our summer roadtrip and stop at beautiful Killarney Provincial Park.

“Yes, I loved that day,” I said.

“Can we please go back?” He asked.

I smiled and replied, “Yes, we’re going back there this summer. I can’t wait to go swimming in the lake again.”

I love that we’ve created these memories with T and that he recalls them with fondness.

When I was in my early 20s and in university, I had many dreams for my future. Being a parent was not one of them.

As I near my 40s, I have to agree with T: being a parent, his parent, has been the best thing about growing up.

I certainly do not always feel this, especially during these recent challenging days.

But during the quiet moments that we are gifted each day, like lying down on a bed and looking at photos together, that feeling rings very true in my heart.

And yes T, I also can’t wait for summer to be here and to create new memories in nature again!

The Magic of a Child’s Imagination

One of the enjoyable things as a parent is to see a child’s growth.

I remember those proud milestones that felt like they would never come: first steps, first words, first time peeing in the potty.

Lately, I enjoy seeing T’s play skills and imagination grow.

Today, the hubby gave me a blue moon gift to sleep in. And I did… until 12:30! I felt like a new person when I emerged in the early afternoon.

T was in the middle of playing camping adventure and asked me to join him.

I walked into his room and found this setup.

He had set up a pretend campsite and turned his foldable firetruck, gifted from his Grammy and Grandad – into a tent.

We turned three storage buckets for his toys into logs for Daddy, Papa and T to sit around the campfire – aka an orange pylon.

I just loved it seeing his creativity in action!

Kids with T’s prognosis – at risk FASD – have many challenges. But one common strength they have is creativity and being good storytellers. I see these qualities emerging in T.

I found a spot in the circle and T went downstairs and brought up his stuffed toys and we seated them around the campfire.

I was eyeing his “Lamby” thinking a roasted lamb would be good right now, but I wanted to keep the pretend play at a PG rating.

Just needs a dash of rosemary and butter.

We roasted marshmallows and then it was time for bed.

“Goodnight to all of my wonderful children,” he told his stuffed toys. Then he and I climbed inside the tent.

T turned on his Galaxy Cove, which projects a starry pattern and light onto the ceiling and walls. Lying on the bed and looking up at the starry ceiling, it felt like we were really camping.

Oh, how I yearned to be truly out in the woods, without the specter of the pandemic.

We closed our eyes for a few seconds and T proclaimed that it was now morning.

He turned on the bedroom light and decided that we were going to go for a hike.

I asked him what we needed to pack and he said fishing rods. I guess we were going fishing!

We went for a long hike in the woods and stumbled upon a small creek… with a giant shark!

T tackled the shark and chopped him up and cooked him for dinner.

That was quite the unexpected meal to have at an Ontario Provincial Park!

I praised T for playing so well and for having such a wonderful imagination. Then I decided to get showered.

As I was getting ready in the bathroom, I heard T talking to his stuffed animals. I loved every single moment that I eavesdropped upon.

I almost felt like I was gazing at the Northern Lights.

The Necessity of Compartmentalization

The hubby and I re-entered homeschool hell this week.

It was as exhausting as we anticipated. But thanks to experience from last Spring and to T’s organized and supportive teacher and child and youth worker, it felt less painful this time.

As any parent, special needs or not, will say: taking time to recharge is important. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

The two weeks I had taken off end of December for vacation were anything but restful after an unexpected family emergency.

Thankfully, Ma is stable and on the long road to recovery at rehab.

Nonetheless, I entered this last week of simultaneous work, homeschooling, parenting, and keeping an eye on Ma with a deficit of rest and a surplus of stress.

Everyone has different ways to manage stress.

I believe in doing what works best for you – so long as you deal with it.

My strategy is to compartmentalize – to deal with each stressor one at a time, rather than trying to deal with everything all at once.

I visualize each challenge as a box. I take one box out at a time and deal with its content and then put it away before I take the next box out.

In contrast, multi-tasking is like trying to juggle several balls or to keep multiple plates spinning on sticks. At some point, you’re gonna drop balls or plates are gonna fall and break.

When I was in the emergency ward doing the overnight shift while Ma was sleeping, I reminded myself this is a marathon and not a sprint. I have to pace myself across 2021 and leave space and time for balance and rest.

I had a total of 1 day to myself during my two-week vacation.

On that day, I put Ma in a box in my head and stored it away. I had full trust that she was in excellent care.

I tuned out and did not respond to text, email and social media.

T was at daycare and the hubby was working. So I spent that glorious morning on the couch binging a fantastic Korean series called Sweet Home. I worked out, went for a walk and took a long nap.

Similarly, for this week’s return to homeschool hell, I took a compartmentalization approach to face what felt like an overwhelming week.

I had boxes for work, homeschooling T, parenting, checking in on Ma, house work, and self care.

The hubby – who is the best tag team partner anyone can ask for – and I divided up the 5 online learning sessions.

When I was online with T, I put work out of my mind – and vice versa.

I scheduled time each day to check on Ma, reminding myself to trust the care that she’s in.

Although the hubby and I worked longer days, to compensate for homeschooling, we made time each day to have fun with T, like taking him outside or to just be silly at home.

Mind you, this all sounds neat and tidy in writing. But it was anything but orderly or chaos free.

T’s meltdowns and resistance to sitting down for virtual learning and requiring a lot of hand-holding made it a trying and tiring week.

But the week flew by thanks to us doing our best to take a one-task-at-a-time approach.

It’s important to take the time to unpack and deal with your stress.

Critics of compartmentalization will say it’s just a way of avoidance and denial.

I’m not a psychologist and can only speak from my experience.

It’s about creating space and time to take out each box in a timely manner to deal with its content.

For me, I visualize it as making sure each box in your life doesn’t gather too much dust.

It’s more challenging for me to do that these days, because time is at such a premium.

But I make time for it in a few key ways, including check-ins with our child psychologist – a wonderful service we’ve been able to tap into thanks to T’s prognosis.

Processing my thoughts through this blog is also helpful.

Taking walks, exercising and getting 8-9 hours of sleep (I do not compromise on sleep!) go such a long way for me too.

I try to take a pragmatic positive thinking approach rather than toxic positivity, which to me is genuine avoidance and denial.

Lastly, I try to be honest about the fact that my boxes only have so much space. So if I have a say in things, I refuse to put content in my boxes that I don’t have the time or need for.

At the end of the week, our province announced online learning is extended for two more weeks.

When I read the news, I thought to myself I’m going to need bigger boxes or perhaps suitcases or even shipping containers!

But I took a breath and put the next two weeks away inside a box in my head and set it aside.

Instead, on Friday night, I dropped off a care package for Ma at rehab and did groceries. This meant I had the full weekend free!

So I focused on one priority for the weekend: to spend quality family time with the hubby and T, recharging my batteries, and tuning out all noise from email, text and social media.

Saturday morning was cold but sunny.

After a video chat with Ma, T and I went for a long walk. The hills in the park had turned to ice.

T slowly crawled up on all fours. When he got to the top, he laid on his tummy and went sliding down the icy hill face first, squealing like an overjoyed little penguin.

I watched him as he did this over and over again for a half an hour. His joyful laughter was heartwarming.

In the afternoon, the hubby and T worked together to pack away Christmas stuff. I love how engaged and helpful T was. So I went for a long walk in the rejuvenating sun and then napped.

At night, I picked up Taiwanese takeout because I was craving braised soy sauce egg, mapo tofu and fried eggplant. It was so yummy!

It’s going to be another gauntlet two weeks ahead but if it’s anything the past month has taught me, just take it one step and one box at a time.

Why Youth Mentorship Matters

The hubby and I binged the latest season of Cobra Kai over two nights.

The Netflix hit series continues the story of The Karate Kid movies 35 years later.

I never watched the films but the show resonates with me, because it tells a compelling coming of age story.

The aspect of the story that resonates with me is when the youth characters – often troubled but full of potential – find a new path through the mentorship of the adult characters, who are also looking for redemption.

Thinking about T, a boy with great potential and challenging needs, you can see how I think about my hopes and fears for his future when I watch the show.

Every youth can benefit from a mentor.

A mentor is described as a caring and responsible adult who can help improve the well-being of a youth by serving as a role model to support their academic, personal and social wellbeing.

In T’s current daily life, he has many mentors – teachers, child and youth worker, daycare staff, and of course, the hubby and I.

Even at age 5, the hubby and I already see and anticipate some of the challenges he’ll have as he comes of age – emotional regulation, academics, maintaining friendship, etc.

A mentor is not a fix-all solution but they can help guide T along the right path, to occupy his time in meaningful and purposeful activity, and to also serve as someone he can look up to and model his behaviour after.

I think about the mentors in my life. One, in particular, gave me a chance when I graduated from university at 23. I can attribute the wonderful blessings in my professional life thanks to this person giving me an opportunity and mentoring me.

I wish for the same in T. Because I do see it – and as evidenced by our painful first day of return to homeschool hell today (more on this later) – that he is going to need hands-on support in the years to come.

I believe that everyone has potential and that one key ingredient in helping one maximize their potential is having someone believe in them and guide them.

Thankfully, we live in a city with wonderful programs for youth, including mentorship programs.

I’m aware of programs specifically for youth with special needs. By the time T is a youth, these programs will likely be even more widely available.

I’m thankful T already has great mentors in his life and I hope for this in every step along his life – especially during the challenging times.

And maybe we’ll get T involved in karate as he gets older too! He certainly has the energy and angst to burn.

Thank You and Goodbye 2020

New Year’s Eve 2019, I played Snakes and Ladders with T.

I said that along the way, we’ll encounter things that lift us up (ladders) or slide us back (snakes), but we keep going till we reach the end.

Little did I realize the foreshadowing of 2020!

The wonderful thing about a new year is that it presents an opportunity to reflect on the steps you’ve travelled and to aspire about the steps you will take in the year ahead.

2020 has been filled with slithering snakes – the pandemic, lockdown homeschooling, family health crisis just to name a few.

But it’s also been filled with many uplifting moments. And these are the moments I choose to carry with me into 2021.

As we depart 2020, I’d like to say thanks to the ladders that helped us along the way:

Thank you for Team T – a wonderful group of teachers, educators, and health and social service professionals – who supported T, the hubby and I through a challenging year. The tremendous gains he’s made and big life changes, such as starting medication for ADHD, were made possible with their support.

Thank you for public outdoor pools. The 4-5 days a week of swimming in the summer heat – and seeing T’s joy and confidence being in the water – are among my most treasured moments of 2020.

Thank you for our provincial parks and the nature oasis in our City for offering safe and soul-soothing respite. One memory tattooed in my heart was sitting on the rocky shores of Killbear with T and staring into the infinity ahead of us.

Thank you for pandemic travel restrictions which forced the hubby and I to get creative with travel plans. We otherwise would never have discovered the beauty of Northern Ontario, see the glistening blue water of Lake Superior, hiked the painting-like trails of Killarney and ventured through stunning Thunder Bay.

Thank you for the quiet moments with T – the countless walks in the sun, the puddly rain, the radiant colours of fall, and the snow. Life with T is often loud and frenetic, so these quieter gentler moments are always a welcomed balance.

Thank you to family, friends and colleagues for helping us get through the speed bumps.

Thank you to the hubby for being the solid rock in T and my life. The low key celebration of his milestone 40th birthday ended up being perfect.

And thank you to the lovable little pest T, for continuing to teach the hubby and I valuable lessons every day and giving us the drive to keep heading forward and embracing life for all its good and bad.

In the words of one of my favourite artists: “Turn to stone, lose my faith, I’ll be gone before it happens.”

Wherever you are visiting from, wishing you a wonderful new year and all the best in 2021!

First Visit from the Tooth Fairy

T lost his first tooth last night! You’d think by the loud screaming from his room, something terrible had happened, but it was just his excitement.

Naturally, he became very excited about his first visit from the Tooth Fairy and said he wanted to stay up so he could say hi to her – and to which I quickly replied, “Oh no, you’re not!”

He flashed his toothless smile with pride. It was adorable and you could already see his first adult tooth half emerged from his gums.

A colleague once told me to enjoy the childhood years, because they fly by – and they really do!

So indulging in a make believe fantasy such as the Tooth Fairy – although she’s very real in T’s mind – is just part of the joy and wonder of childhood.

The hubby put T’s baby tooth in an envelope and asked T to put it under his pillow. I could hear the excited conversation from my room while the hubby sat with T till he fell asleep.

After he fell asleep, the hubby asked me for cash. I asked him how much a tooth is going for these days and he said, “$2 to $5.”

I balked and gave him $2. I get that we need to account for inflation and cost of living increases but this was the first tooth of many more to come! I ain’t going into poverty over the Tooth Fairy.

The hubby, in his wonderfully creative and thoughtful way, printed a certificate he found online (pictured at the top) that he presented as from the Tooth Fairy.

This morning, T excitedly went into the hubby’s room to show him what he got. Then he came into the guest room, where I’ve been staying as I’ve been visiting Ma in the hospital.

Seeing the wonder and awe in his face was worth the innocent charade we’re indulging him in.

T asked for the certificate to be placed on the fridge and said he will put his $2 into his piggy bank.

A visual tool provided by T’s behaviour therapist that we use to help him learn how to brush his teeth.

A Silent Merry Christmas

Despite the unrelenting challenges that keep coming at us, the hubby, T and I enjoyed a quiet and peaceful Christmas.

T’s excitement was palatable. The last two weeks, we counted down the number of days till Christmas.

“What’s 9 minus 1?” I asked him at one point last week.

“I dunno,” he responded.

“If there were 9 days until Christmas and 1 day has passed, how many days left until Christmas?” I rephrased the question.

“8 days! 8 days until Christmas!” He exclaimed with unbearable excitement.

The trick with teaching kids math, you see, is about putting things into context for them!

Before bedtime on Christmas Eve, T put out a glass of milk, cookies and carrots for Santa.

After he passed out, I took out the gifts Santa (aka the hubby) had bought and meticulously wrapped for T and put them under the tree and wrote a note of thanks to T from Santa.

Childhood is so short and T will one day outgrow Santa, so might as well have fun while we can.

T gave us the best Christmas present by letting us sleep in till 9. Then he charged into the room and said, “Time to wake up. It’s Christmas!”

We put on our Santa hats, took a few family photos and then opened gifts.

T got a whack of gifts from his parents, grandparents, family members and our friends who either mailed or dropped them curbside.

We’re so blessed with an amazing support group of family and friends. Since learning about my Ma’s stroke, friends and cousins have dropped off lasagna, fried chicken and other care packages.

They all understand that time is even more of the essence and gifted us time for the coming weeks.

“What do you think the chances are of someone dropping off a cooked turkey?” I asked the hubby jokingly.

Ma and my aunt each gave T a red envelope, a Chinese tradition of putting money into a lucky red envelope.

Ma is always the first to admit she doesn’t know how to buy gifts, so she gives money to help invest in his future education instead.

I will admit I felt a bit embarrassed and a tad appalled at how many gifts T got. It probably was more than I ever got in total as a child.

I strongly believe in trying not to spoil a child, because they will grow up not appreciating things. But then I let that feeling go this year and I allowed the hubby to go over the top with Christmas, because of how shitty of a year it’s been.

The hubby and I don’t usually exchange gifts but this year we did, again cuz, you know, pandemic.

I asked for Junji Ito’s horror graphic novel, Remina. Because nothing gives hope and cheer like a story about a planet-eating planet.

The hubby and T then dropped me off to visit Ma at the hospital. It was so nice to see her.

She is doing so much better but we still have a long recovery ahead. But we are thankful for every day that she gets through.

I got back home in the late afternoon and just relaxed – alternating between quiet time by myself and playing with T and his new toys.

Whoever invented self-flying drones for little kids must’ve really hated their parents. Jokes aside, it’s actually a really cool toy!

We wavered back and forth between having family over for dinner but we ultimately decided to respect lockdown restrictions and kept it to our family, because we didn’t want to risk anyone getting sick.

The hubby prepared a delicious turkey dinner, his specialty.

I’m not usually a wine or alcohol drinker, but a friend gifted us a nice bottle of rosé – and cuz, you know, pandemic.

2020 has tested our family like no other but the holidays remind us that a family endures and perseveres.

I am hanging onto that hope as we look ahead to a brighter new year.

Wherever you are joining T, the hubby and I from, we want to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Like a Pure White Diamond

This Monday, Jupiter and Saturn came within the closest distance to each other in 800 years, forming a Christmas star.

It lit up the sky like a white diamond on the shortest day of the year. It was a symbol of hope that brighter days are, quite literally, on their way.

2020 has been such a rollercoaster year. While it’s nearing its end, the challenges continue to come at an unrelenting pace – whether it’s our province re-entering a full lockdown or unexpected family hardships.

Despite this feeling of dark heaviness, I am so thankful there are reasons to feel gratitude and hope.

Firstly, T is in daycare this and next week – so it takes the pressure off us to look after him, as I had originally booked these two weeks off from work to recharge.

I’m spending the free time just relaxing when I can, because my family is about to embark on a marathon as Ma starts her recovery.

Part of my wellbeing regime is listening to music. Australian pop star Kylie Minogue’s music always cheers me up.

I listened to her song “White Diamond,” written a decade ago when she was facing cancer. Its lyrics resonated with me in a new way.

I reflected about diamonds. They are beautiful jewels that are formed deep within the Earth’s darkness from carbon being subjected to intense heat and pressure.

That’s really what this past year has been all about. This is what adversity is about. These moments take us – as individuals, as a collective – and subject us to such incredible pressure, while burying us within a deep darkness that we feel like we’ll never get out of.

But for those of us who get through it, we become richer and brighter because of these experiences and we radiate with a renewed sparkle because of the valuable lessons we’ve learned.

I don’t quite know what will happen in the road ahead, but I know we will get through it somehow and be all the better for it.

White Diamond by Kylie Minogue

I know that it’s getting too much, baby
But you don’t need the words to say
Sometimes you feel you’re at the end of the line
But tonight it’s gonna fade away

You’re looking out from the darkness
Feeling so alone and you need a flare
Well, I’ve got the light that’s gonna treat you right
And illuminate what’s already there

Understand I will be there for you
Understand I’m a diamond for you
A white diamond for you

And just like a burning radio I’m on to you
Your spell I’m under
In the silver shadows I will radiate
And glow for you

What you see and what it seems
Are nothing more than dreams within a dream
Like a pure white diamond
I’ll shine on and on and on

Photo Credit – Alex Andrews posted on Pexels

“Grown Ups Don’t Cry…”

Life can change in the blink of an eye: our Ma had a stroke on Friday.

Yesterday, Friday morning, was a normal one. By the evening, I was in the Emergency ward receiving quite the unexpected news.

Thankfully, she is awake and seems to understand what’s going on. But her speech is slurred and mobility impacted.

My sister and I are taking turns watching her as we want her to be with family 24/7 during this critical period. Due to COVID, only one guest can be with a patient at a time.

We’re thankful we have such a supportive family. This morning, my mom’s siblings and our cousins around the world joined together for a short Facebook video chat. It made my mom happy and we were relieved she recognized everyone and knew it was Christmas time by greeting them.

I was delirious by the time I went to bed at 11 this morning and I feel more human after sleeping now that I’m back for my second evening shift.

Ma is now sleeping so I’m filling the time as I always do by trying to keep busy.

When I’m stressed out, I try to maintain calm and order by planning.

At 11 last night, I emailed colleagues instructions to look after in my absence.

At 4 this morning, I emailed the hubby to ask him to set me up – clothes, bottled water, etc – in our guest room and to move T’s stuff out of his bathroom into ours and mine into his. I want to semi quarantine myself into that corner of the house as I will be spending lots of time at the hospital over the coming weeks.

I am doing all of this – including writing this post – because I’m trying to distract myself and not to think about more serious matters.

T could sense that something is different. The hubby and I told him that “Ama” is sick and is in the hospital. That’s why I have to be out of the house to take care of her.

He was very calm and compliant today because he is likely picking up on the somber mood.

He left me alone while I slept most of the day but did open the door to see how I was doing at around 5pm.

I started to tell him that Ama was sick and then I started crying. I couldn’t help it.

“Why are you crying?” He asked.

“Because I’m sad and scared,” I said.

“Grown ups don’t cry,” he said adamantly.

I kind of chuckled when he said that.

When we were getting ready to drive to the hospital to drop me off tonight, I didn’t need to ask T 10 times to put his shoes on. He just did it at the first ask.

He also did a short “Feel better, Ama” video that I shared with Ma this evening.

After Ma saw the video, she told me, in a still slurred way, “I want to stick around to see T and the little kids (in our family) graduate.”

I just lost it. I tried so hard not to cry but couldn’t hold the tears back.

Then she said, “I will be fine. Because I am the survivor type.”

We’re not out of the woods and the next few days will be scary. But it is reassuring that she still has her melodramatic flair.

The Little Boy in the Park

An unexpected connection with a seven-year-old boy is teaching T about the highs and lows of friendship.

It started two months ago, in warmer weather. At that time, T had developed a bond with two older boys, whom he played with regularly after I picked him up after daycare.

Then one day, S started to play at the park with his dad.

For the first few days, we each kept to ourselves. Then I encouraged T to play with S and to include him with the older kids.

As the days drew shorter, the older kids stopped coming to play. So it was just T and S.

They started to play together. T would initiate his game of tag and S would initiate his own games.

S’ dad and I slowly started to talk to each other and found common interests, like politics.

I learned that S was doing virtual school and was a single child like T.

As with any new relationship, I initially felt on edge about T when he’d have one of his moments; like screaming when he doesn’t get his way or getting into S’ personal space and annoying him.

The worst moment so far was when he took S’ glove, because he felt like it, and was chased by S. S was angry and punched T and then T got upset and pushed him to the ground.

S’ Dad is very understanding and in return, I ask T to apologize for his moments.

But interestingly, it’s not always T who has the moments. I notice S has a strong personality like T and stubborn moments of not giving into T’s demands too.

And you know what, it’s very refreshing to see T get a dose of his own medicine. And to use them as teachable moments.

Recently, while playing in the field, S accidentally threw a hard snowball at T’s face. Cue the crying and tears.

I was just glad it wasn’t the other way around!

But what I’m most thankful for is that it’s been mostly wonderful moments between them.

I love how excited T gets when he runs out of daycare towards the playground to see S.

There was a stretch of three consecutive days when S did not come out to play because of bad weather.

T was sad and cried that he missed S. Then on the day S came out again, T ran so fast to him, screaming, “S!!!”

I am very appreciative the Dad seems like a down to Earth and level headed parent. The fact that T’s hyperactive and loud personality and frequent outbursts have not deterred him from continuing to bring S out to play with T has been a blessing.

He’s confided a few times about his concerns about S. So I openly shared T’s own prognosis and challenges.

Last week, they invited T and I to join them sledding at the park by their house – down the street from T’s daycare. And it was a lot of fun!

I had a chuckle when T’s mom joined us and asked, “Are they friends or enemies today?”

I guess that’s the sign of a good friendship is when you can navigate the ups and downs and still want to hang out with each other.

And I am so thankful for that.

And I love that even during these super cold winter nights, the two boys are still playing in the dark and dimly light playground – having it all to themselves because all the other kids are staying warm inside.

During one recent outing, S asked T if he could go over to their house after the coronavirus goes away.

T then asked if S could come visit our home.

I found that such a sweet moment.

As we left the playground that evening and they walked us to the parking lot, T and S gave each other a big hug.

“I love you, S,” T said.