Resolutions

Through virtual schooling, T learned about setting goals for the New Year.

The related assignment is the last thing we had to catch up on and complete this weekend before we return to in-person learning this coming week.

I often write about how we struggle with T to sit still and concentrate long enough to finish the work in the assigned time.

There is always a distraction, avoidance, excuse or disruptive behaviour that makes what should be a straightforward task very drawn out.

So we play a lot of catch up.

The hubby and I often worry what will happen when T gets into older grades and doesn’t have a dedicated support – or how T will fall behind or through the cracks as he gets older.

There may come a time when we simply can’t keep up with catch up.

In this life with T, you can only take things a day at a time.

What we had to complete this weekend was get T to identify three goals for 2022 and write a short sentence about how he will achieve each goal.

Getting him to type out the answer onto Google slides added a layer of technical complexity.

So I got him to brainstorm his answers out loud and I wrote them on a small dry erase board (great find at the dollar store) and then got T to type out his sentences onto the slide.

After an hour of distracted behaviour, T had only typed three and a half words.

I grew very frustrated and in turn, T became emotional.

He wanted me to type the answers and I explained that he has to learn to do his own work.

Thankfully, the hubby stepped in and helped T finish the task… eventually.

T came up with three great goals and pragmatic ways he will achieve these goals:

1. Learn to play soccer – “Practice in the backyard with Daddy and Papa.”

2. Learn to swim – “I will take swimming lessons.”

3. Improve my reading – “I will practice at home.”

Goal Three is the most urgent goal for me but Goal Two is the one I’m looking most forward to in terms of level of enjoyment.

As for me, one of my goals for 2022 is to be more patient with T when I sit with him to help him do school work.

I will achieve this goal by not strangling him as my first response to his disruptive behaviour.

It’s all about keeping it real and achievable!

Little Community Helper

Kids can be self centered and I often think about how to teach my little T about good deeds.

Last fall, we ordered a collection of the first six Clifford books, because T was interested in the adventures of the big red dog.

One of the first stories was “Clifford’s Good Deeds.” The story made me chuckle because Clifford had great intentions to help his community but often made things worse – which reminded me of how T can be at times.

We chatted after – and very quickly, because I only ever get T’s attention for a short time, about what good deeds are and why they are important.

Like other kids with FASD, of which T is suspected to have, we experience the extremes of emotions.

When he is very disregulated, it’s screaming and hitting. But thankfully, we experience more of the positive extreme. At his best moments, he is very sweet and caring.

One of his previous teachers noted to us that he has a good core. Despite some of the challenging past weeks, we still believe in this.

The best way to teach young children is to model the desired behaviour.

I don’t always get this right, especially in my stressed out moments. But we’re all a work in progress!

Last week, during a stressful day of juggling virtual learning and work, Ma messaged to ask me to pick up groceries for her.

My initial reaction was of annoyance. I was juggling a lot, many of which were related to her endless appointments, and I wondered why she couldn’t ask someone else to help.

But I calmed down and agreed to help.

The following day, a Saturday, I was on solo parenting duties as the hubby is working weekends all this month.

I asked T to come with me to visit his “Ama” and “Ipo” (his grand aunt) to drop off the groceries.

I gave him the bag to hand to them when we got to the door and I explained beforehand that he was doing a good deed, because he was saving them time from going out in the cold.

After our visit, we played at a new playground in the area and grabbed a slushee after. With kids, it’s all about positive reinforcement!

Coincidentally, T’s class learned about community helpers for social studies this week.

They learned about the different places and people in the community that are helpful, such as schools and teachers, fire stations and firefighters, hospitals and doctors/nurses.

For the assignment, T had to sketch a first draft of his community of helpers. He included a school, playground, firestation and “hospetol.”

T also did a separate journal exercise. He decided to write about his cousin, A, and drew a sweet picture of the two of them playing.

He wrote: “I like to play with A. She is visiting our house in the summer time.”

That evening, he called her on FaceTime to show her his work. He told me that he will give it to her when she visits this summer.

Touchscreen Generation

Nothing ages you like teaching your Generation Alpha son how to use a computer mouse.

Our 6-year-old T was born into a world that already had Instagram, wifi, and iPhones.

I remember being once amused when he was three years old and trying to use the TV by touching the screen instead of using the remote.

He figured out how to use a tablet quicker than potty training. He makes his way around Mario Odyssey but does not show that same confidence with reading.

So imagine my amusement when T’s teacher suggested we pick up a school computer for him, while he’s virtual learning.

I am very thankful he got access to one because the pandemic has highlighted that not everyone has equitable access to technology.

The homework assignments are presented on Google Slides, so T needs to use both the mouse and keyboard to complete them.

While T is savvy with our touchscreen tablet, he is not experienced with a mouse. In a way, it’s like asking someone who streams their music to now use a Walkman.

Activity Credit: Life Over Cs.

Today, we worked together on a simple science assignment about Living vs Non-Living Things.

Conceptually, T was able to verbally answer the questions in a flash.

The frustration came when I tried to patiently teach him how to use the mouse to drag the Xs and check marks to answer the questions.

T is often impatient, easily distracted and easily frustrated, so I took a deep breath.

I first started with the hand-over-hand technique, thinking back to the days he learned how to stack blocks, use a spoon and use a zipper.

T got frustrated after I told him to try it on his own.

“Do it for me!” He screamed. Then got off his chair and stormed into his room when I refused.

I reminded him he was not going to get his reward – ice cream – until he finished. I told him I’d wait for when he was ready to continue.

While I tried to be calm, I was feeling frustrated. I could see myself moving from the Living to the Non-Living category by the end of this task.

I saw my obituary clearly in my mind: “40 year old man dead after his brain exploded from teaching son how to use ancient technology.”

But T eventually came and sat back down; he really wanted that ice cream.

He tried again and this time he got it! He successfully clicked on a check mark and dragged it to the correct answer.

I cheered loudly and T cheered loudly and the hubby, who was working across the table from us, cheered loudly. Then I gave T a big hug.

With T, you have to be over-the-top with positive reinforcement to build his confidence.

I looked at the assignment. 17 more questions to go. Fuck my life!

But T was quicker with using the mouse with each question and he soon completed the assignment and earned his ice cream!

Activity Credit: Life Over Cs.

Walking on Thin Ice

My six-year-old recently asked me what the word “pressure” means?

Since we watched Disney’s “Encanto,” he’s been humming his favourite moment, when Luisa sings the song “Surface Pressure.”

We had the song on repeat while driving. I told T that when you feel pressure, you feel very worried you might not do a good job.

I thought about how the character Luisa feels the weight of keeping it together for her family.

School has been challenging this fall, with recurring reports of disruptive and negative seeking behaviour and refusal to complete work.

We always anticipated school would be a difficult journey, as it is for kids with FASD; in T’s case, suspected FASD.

Late last November, his CYW told the hubby and I that T told her he thinks he’s stupid and bad.

That comment has weighed on both the hubby and my mind since.

T is a bright kid but the world is often challenging for neurodiverse kids with learning challenges.

When kids – everyone, really, special needs or not – feel they are not able to meet expectations, that will manifest in behaviour, such as anxiety, avoidance (of work) or “bad behaviour.”

We returned to virtual schooling this week due to record high COVID cases.

Speaking of pressure, three days in and the hubby and I feel stressed. You’d think this being our fourth go at this, it’d be easier.

Expectations are higher in Grade 1. The school day is two hours longer, each session is an hour versus 30 minutes last year and the work volume is higher.

Most people will smirk and say it’s Grade 1, how hard can it be? I invite these skeptics to virtual school a child with learning challenges, while balancing a full time job and other familial care.

I burst into tears on Thursday, because I was having a very hard day.

The wonderful thing about life is – and it’s a lesson I hope T will learn – is that every day is a new chance to try again.

Today’s beautiful sunshine and a restful sleep last night have given me an opportunity to reflect on the last three days.

… About what’s working well:

T is mostly sitting down for the sessions and he seems to understand the concepts. He’s participating a little bit in class.

… About what’s challenging:

Getting him to do the work in real time is a struggle and results in tantrums or meltdowns.

I wish he could see that he knows the concepts. On Thursday, after a three hour battle, he finally sat down at 7 pm and let me catch him up on a lesson and work he missed because he was screaming in his room. He zipped through it.

That sounds dandy and all, but I don’t have the time or energy to do this every day if virtual school is inevitably extended!

… About how we’re accommodating him:

The hubby and I didn’t have time to properly prepare because of how sudden the switch to virtual learning happened.

But we’re making modifications. We cleaned up his space and put away a lot of toys during the school day to minimize his distractions – because T is so easily distracted.

We started using a token chart again as an incentive to get him to participate in class.

We asked T’s teacher if it’s all right if we opt out of virtual gym class after lunch and use the time to take him out for fresh air, burn his energy, and reduce his screen time.

We are fortunate to have an organized teacher. She gets how challenging the situation is and has made it easy for parents to catch up after class.

She and T’s CYW are implementing a plan next week for T to have one-on-one sessions with his CYW, if he is having challenges in the larger class.

On Friday, instead of going to virtual gym, T and I went for a walk after lunch.

It was a wonderful break and our first outdoor time since virtual learning resumed.

The puddles in the park from a few days ago had turned into ice because it was super cold.

T enjoyed brushing away the thin snow on top and then sliding on the ice.

There was a nice long stretch of ice on the path home that T enjoyed before we returned to class.

The afternoon session was better. There was still an initial reluctance from T to sit down and he had a tantrum when I stopped a video that he was watching so we could go to the final class.

But he calmed down, listened during class and earned four check marks for participating four times during the hour and two check marks for completing the Baby Yoda drawing during the art class that closed off the week.

The Force was strong with our Padawan that hour. I anticipate the new week will undoubtedly bring out the dark side again, but I savoured that positive light moment.

Brittle and Faith

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

This is an excerpt from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that I saw posted on Instagram.

After a year of best laid plans falling apart, we began 2022 by making something just to break it: peanut brittle, using this easy recipe from In Diane’s Kitchen.

2021 felt like a year of constant planning – creating Plans A, B, C… X, Y, Z – and re-planning when things went sideways.

The year felt hard, because kids like T thrive on routine and repeated shakeups such as the ping pong between in person and virtual schooling shattered hard-earned progress.

The last few weeks of 2021 felt exceptionally hard. In addition to T’s challenges at school, Ma’s health took an unexpected turn for the worse: muscle disease.

Ma’s condition shows that we all can be strong but in the blink of an eye, one’s body and mobility can fall apart.

There were recurring moments this fall when I did not feel like myself.

Surprised by Joy blogger Wynne’s post about Groundlessness provided an apt word that captures my mood: I felt groundless, because the accumulated challenges felt crushing on the ground I seemed to walk on.

Cohen’s lyrics resonated, because the past few weeks reminded me that in weakness, one’s faith – religious or not – can be strengthened.

I am often an optimist and it serves me well. But as a special needs parents, I often feel the need to hold it all together.

The last few weeks showed that by stumbling through cracks, you learn to find new footing.

Making peanut brittle was a fun activity to do on a lazy New Year’s Day.

T gave us an unexpectedly rare morning off when he woke up at 11!

My eyes first opened at 9 and I had thought about checking to see that he was breathing but I was enjoying the silence too much!

The last two weeks have been great actually. Even though T was home this past week, I slept in and took lots of naps. It’s amazing what sleep can do for your mood!

When I saw Ma on New Years Eve, her medication seems to be improving her condition.

After a bumpy few weeks, I am starting 2022 on sweeter footing.

Kamayan and the Comfort of the Hand

Aristotle said that hands were the tool of tools and symbolize strength, protection and generosity.

My hands were formed inside and emerged from Ma’s womb 40 years ago.

These days, my hand is what my 81 year old Ma holds onto as I take her to endless appointments, due to her recently diagnosed muscle disease, as she’s fearful of walking outdoors and falling.

My childish hands once held onto my parents’ hands as I crossed the street. My adult hands now hold onto my T’s hands.

I enjoy these moments as I know the day will soon come when T will want to walk on his own.

As a baby, toddler and boy, hands help T make sense of his world; to explore, play, communicate.

At his affectionate best, I enjoy T’s warm hugs. Giving each other high fives are satisfying.

At his challenging moments, T’s hands could hit you, hurl a toy across the room or at you, or slam a door with great force.

In fact, T is banging on the dining table aggressively as I type this, because the hubby is not giving him ice cream because he’s demanding it quite rudely rather than asking respectfully.

As a special needs parent, you often get obsessed with developmental milestones.

In the early days, I was laser focused on whether T was able to stack three blocks, use a spoon properly, or master the pencil grip.

I’m learning to let things go, figuratively and literally, in a year when my hands were very full with so many issues that were weighing me down mentally, physically and emotionally.

I’m learning to look at T’s often muddy hands in a new light. Little boy hands are supposed to be dirty. It’s a sign T is having fun playing and exploring outside at school and daycare.

The photo at the top was from this Fall’s Terry Fox Run for cancer research. T has become quite smitten with the late Canadian hero’s story.

As noted on the sign pinned onto his shirt, he ran for “Daddy and Papa”! His hands got quite muddy, dirt under his nails, from the outdoor play that day. I smile at this photo every time I see it. T is living his best life.

In another pandemic year, washing hands was a way to keep ourselves safe.

Tonight, I’m so ready to wash my hands of 2021.

For our final dinner of the year, I treated the hubby and I to a Kamayan feast, a Filipino communal-dining experience with an assortment of grilled meats and vegetables served on a bed of garlic fried rice and plated on a banana leaf.

Kamayan means “eat with your hands” and it is believed that Filipinos do this to break social boundaries and to build bonds with each other.

I’m not exactly looking to bond with anyone over coronavirus, so we kept the meal to the hubby and I; T was grossed out by the shrimp head.

I dropped off a separate Kamayan set with Ma and my Aunt beforehand.

My Aunt, who lives with Ma, has done the lion’s share of taking care of Ma since her stroke last year and now the muscle disease, and this was the least I could do to extend a hand of thanks.

The meal was delicious. The grilled eggplant, okra, bangus (milkfish) and calamari in particular were delicious. There was enough garlic fried rice leftover that I will serve with canned corned beef for my first brunch of 2022 tomorrow.

As the final minutes of 2021 tick away, the hubby and I will soon put T to bed, so we can binge the just-released new season of Cobra Kai.

I look at my worn hands, which tell their own story of what 2021 was like. I made sure to cut my nails and moisturize them today. I like to enter a new year on a cleaned up note.

I want to close off by saying thanks to all of you who follow along on the hubby, T and my journey. To those who take the time to comment, thanks for the support you’ve provided during an especially trying year.

Give yourself a hand for making it to the end of the year. Happy new year and wishing you all the best in 2022!

Cousins

Magical moments in parenting happen when you watch your child connect and click with another.

As much as I’m still complaining about not having a quiet break to myself during my time off work, it was nice to have given T time with his grandparents, Aunt and cousin in the East Coast.

He was particularly excited to see his cousin A, whom he last saw this summer.

The minute his cousin arrived, T and A vanished to the basement for hours.

I enjoyed popping downstairs once in a while and eavesdropping quietly at the door, watching T show off how good he was at the Nintendo Switch, with A watching over him.

The two provide an interesting contrast. A is three years older and taller. She is sensitive to noises, sometimes wearing noise-cancelling headphones, while T is loud. She is calm, he is hyperactive. She is polite, T can come across as blunt and rude.

And yet, they get along and he is fond of her.

One thing that upsets me about the pandemic is that T is missing out on social interaction.

No birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates – because of distancing expectations and general uneasiness from parents, including ourselves, for kids to gather with other kids outside of school.

Children like T struggle with social interactions and emotional regulation, so I feel like T is missing out on valuable practice with kids during pivotal years in his development.

This is reflected in challenges T is having with classmates, especially during recent weeks, and it weighs on my mind a lot.

So when I see T blossom and connect with his cousin in a positive way, it warms my heart.

Mind you, it wasn’t all pleasant. On their second visit, T had a full blown meltdown after dinner – over ice cream of all things – and the hubby and I put him to bed early while he screamed at us.

It happened on Christmas, of all days!

The wonderful thing with T is that every day is a new day and for their third and final visit together, T and his cousin had fun time playing together for hours.

When it came time for them to leave, I could tell that T was processing his sadness. He kept pacing around and when it came time for them to leave, he gave A a big tight hug.

Earlier that evening, he asked if his Aunt and cousin could visit us – and he was delighted to learn that they planned on visiting next summer.

He also told the hubby and his Aunt that he wanted to marry A one day. For T, marrying someone is an innocent sign of love and affection – rather than anything creepy like those Lannister twins on Game of Thrones. But I did joke with the hubby and his sister that T and A technically aren’t related by blood because T is adopted.

After they left, T retreated to the basement and started crying, saying that he missed A. It was both heart wrenching and touching. All we could do was hug and console him and remind him that he’ll see her again in a few months.

In moments like this, I think about how nice it would be for T to have a sibling. He would be a great brother. It’s too bad the hubby and I realistically can’t take on another child, especially if they require so much from us like T does.

When we returned home earlier this week, T told the hubby that he was no longer going to sleep in our room with us at night.

The hubby asked him why.

T said he needed to practice sleeping in his room by himself again so that when A visited, she could sleep in his room with him.

Later that evening, as T laid in bed and the hubby and I were downstairs, T yelled out loud, “How many more days until summer?!”

Making Asian Night Market Food at Home

On the menu: Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken. Not on the menu: Silkworm larvae, sheep penis or sea horse.

I have this week off work. But T’s daycare closed between Christmas and New Year’s, so the quiet break I was looking forward to didn’t pan out.

I had a meltdown when the daycare notified us about this a few weeks ago.

I love my child, I really do. I just love him more when he’s in daycare. But alas, one must carry on in life.

Cooking is one of my go-to therapy and brings me joy and comfort.

This week, I planned out a week’s worth of Asian dishes I’ve been wanting to make for a while but never had time to.

Last night, I made Taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil, a popular dish that originated in night markets in the streets of Taiwan.

I used boneless skinless thighs – juicier chicken! – and marinated them in oyster sauce, white pepper, five spice powder, and minced garlic for two hours. Then coated them with potato starch.

Yes, my stovetop is nasty and needs to be cleaned.

I fried the chicken for 4 minutes. For extra crisp, I fried them a second time for 30 seconds, throwing in basil leaves for the final 5 seconds.

I prepared a salt mixture that consisted of salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper and Sichuan peppercorn I toasted on a pan then grounded.

I mixed then sprinkled these spices on top of the freshly fried chicken and basil.

I served the chicken with Miss Vickie’s Sweet Southern BBQ chips and enjoyed the greasy goodness with a cold can of ginger ale.

The hubby and I were happy with how it turned out! The spices gave the chicken an authentic Asian night market taste and the potato starch coating gave it that Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken look. The fried basil was a nice touch.

This meal brought back warm memories of the hubby and my trip to China in November 2008.

It was shortly after Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics and two months after Pa passed away.

We had never travelled internationally together before and it was a great experience.

I’ll share a lengthier travel post one day, but for now, I’ll share our visit to the very unique Donghuamen Night Market in Beijing.

Located near the Forbidden City, it looks simple and innocent enough at a first glance.

But look a little closer and you’ll notice some interesting items on the menu.

Like seahorse!

Look behind the starfish and you’ll see intestines, beetles and centipedes!

That long white swirly thing on the stick is sheep penis. Yes, you read that right. Look, just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m putting any kind of penis in my mouth – deep fried or not!

And here’s the hubby hamming it up with fried silkworm larvae. He bought it just for the photo, he didn’t actually have the guts to bite into it.

I couldn’t even pretend to put it in my mouth.

Bugs and penises aside, it really was quite the experience walking through that market.

The following year, we were delighted to see this market featured in the penultimate episode of Season 14 of The Amazing Race.

Those poor racers had to eat some of those critters. No bluffing like the hubby and I did!

To be clear, we enjoyed many wonderful meals in China – like this very first breakfast at a restaurant we randomly walked into.

No penises in these bowls as far I could tell!

Fast forward to 13 years later last night, T kept himself busy while I prepared the meal, with enthusiastic support from the hubby.

As we enjoyed the meal, T sat at the table with us. He had eaten his dinner earlier.

He played with his kinetic sand set and formed small pieces of imaginary coated chicken that he placed into his imaginary fryer.

As I bit into a juicy piece of chicken, I looked at T’s playful joyful face. He smiled at me and I smiled back at him.

Hot Dog, Hot Diggity Dog

Christmas miracles come in all forms. This year, it came to us as a wiener.

We’re spending a few days with T’s Grammy and Grandad in the East Coast. We had booked this trip earlier this Fall when the pandemic was in a stable condition and decided to proceed with it.

T is having a great time with the hubby’s family and without the pressure of school, he is in great spirits, albeit a full blown punching and kicking meltdown during teeth brushing last night.

I’ve written many times about what a picky eater T is. But during our first lunch on Wednesday with my in laws, T decided he was going to join us and have a hotdog.

He usually just has the bun and ignores the wiener when we’ve given it to him in the past.

Yesterday, he had two additional hotdogs for lunch and proclaimed that he loves hotdogs.

I don’t ever ask for much during Christmas but this was a wonderful gift to be able to add one more meat item to his food repertoire.

Yes, hotdogs are meat – and you can’t convince me otherwise.

This will join McDonald’s chicken nuggets, chicken tacos from Taco Bell, Pizza Hut pizza, fish maw soup from Congee Queen, and frozen meatballs from No Frills as meats that he’ll eat.

You wish your child has such a refined palette!

All jokes aside, I’m looking forward to having just two weeks of relaxation during the holidays.

I am burnt out from my marathon Fall and am not mentally prepared for the inevitable return to virtual schooling after the break.

My goal this and next week is to vegetate and do a whole lot of nothing. Unless it’s an emergency, I ain’t getting out of my pajamas and house.

Wishing you and all your loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May you all experience your own wiener miracle!

The Hot Dog song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was a long-time favourite in our home.

14 Days in India

It was an unforgettable trip across four cities and two states in a beautiful and spiritual country.

As we lament another pandemic winter and the prospect of a return to virtual schooling after the holidays, I’m taking a detour from the daily grind and venturing back to November 2012.

It’d be another 3.5 years before T entered our lives. The hubby and I had just entered our 30s. We lived a frugal life but worked to save up to see the world before we settled down with a family.

We planned an itinerary that started on the Northern end of India and we made our way along the Western side down to the south.

Dehli and Agra

Our first stop was Dehli, India’s capital territory. We arrived at night after a nearly 14-hour flight.

We woke up refreshed and ready to sightsee. Little did we know the rotten egg that laid ahead.

Our Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was doing a diplomatic tour of the city on that very same day. So for security reasons, all major sites were closed!

So we got to enjoy our plans from afar at closed off gates, like beautiful Lotus Temple pictured below. I bet it looks lovely inside too!

But there were other lovely spots to see that didn’t require admission, like India Gate, below.

We weren’t going to vote for Harper at the federal elections. Let’s just say the first day of our trip certainly didn’t endear himself to us!

Our second day was a magical highlight. We drove four hours from Dehli to Agra, home to one of the seven wonders of the world: Taj Mahal.

Built in the early 1600s by Emperor Shah Jahan to immortalize his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, this world-renowned mausoleum was truly breathtaking to see in person.

Made from white Makrana marble, the craftsmanship was awe-inspiring to behold.

For example, the black calligraphic text bordering this wall are passages from the holy book of Quran. In all, 22 passages from the Quran are transcribed along the Taj Mahal.

Ever wondered what the back side of the Taj Mahal looks out to?

Or what the view from the Taj Mahal looking out to the main entrance looks like?

On the same day, we visited nearby Agra Fort. The level of detail in the craftsmanship continues to impress me all these years later.

And this is the hubby and I having fun at Agra Fort at the end of a long day of walking.

The hubby works with wonderful colleagues who are based in India.

On our third and final day, back in Dehli, a few of his colleagues kindly showed us around.

Among the highlights included trying out local fast food fare at the mall. This was delicious!

Jaipur

On our fourth day, we flew to Jaipur, the favourite stretch of our trip.

We started with local sightseeing, such as visiting City Palace.

The streets in India seemed crazy to me. Cars, cyclists, rickshaws, and even cows. I don’t think people were following any specific lane. I‘d have anxiety driving over there!

On our fifth day, we woke up at 4 am to head out at 5 am for a magical experience: our first-ever hot air balloon ride.

The hubby and I were the only “young ins” in an all-senior tour group and we were mesmerized as the staff started inflating the balloons.

Admittedly, I felt very anxious as we lifted off the ground. There was nothing saving us if we were to plummet to the ground.

But I quickly set those nerves aside, so we could enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime sunrise experience. The views were spectacular.

Our tour ended just as the city was starting to wake up. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the historic grounds of Amer Fort.

Looking at these photos now all these years later, I couldn’t help but wish for a day when we could take T on these adventures with us.

We just need to get him – and us – to survive a 14-hour flight first without having a meltdown!

Later that afternoon, we walked around the city. On our way back to the hotel, we decided to try taking a rickshaw just for the experience.

I felt like the poor man was going to have a heart attack cycling our two fat asses around. So the hubby asked him if they could switch!

The man sat on the back next to me while the hubby cycled us through the busy streets. It was such a memorable experience. I still smile about it all these years later!

On our sixth day, we spent the afternoon at an elephant sanctuary.

I don’t regret and quite enjoyed the experience of the elephant ride. But looking at this photo now, I will not be doing this again as elephants should roam freely rather than carry us around.

We had many delicious meals in India but this home-cooked lunch, prepared by the mother of the sanctuary owner and enjoyed at his home, was the highlight.

It was such a simple meal of spiced cauliflower and sautéed okra. But I still think about this delicious hearty meal all these years later.

Mumbai

On our seventh day, we flew to Mumbai. The densely-populated metropolis, with its tall buildings, was a stark contrast from the previous three cities.

We spent the day with another of the hubby’s good colleague and friend, who was very hospitable and showed us around.

One of the places we really wanted to visit was Dobhi Ghat, also known as the public laundry.

In this open space, the locals wash and dry the linens and laundry from hotels and hospitals.

The hubby’s friend was very amused that we wanted to see this place. There weren’t official tours nor was it a tourist attraction. But we were able to convince one of the staff to give us a tour.

It’s hard to believe by looking at this photo, but these fire-heated barrels of water wash hotel linens and laundry – quite efficiently!

We were in Mumbai during Diwali, the annual holy festival of light celebrated over five days.

The City streets were alive with bright colourful decorations and the joy was infectious.

These were the colourful powder used to make a rangoli – more on this later below.

We spent the following day on Elephanta Island, an hour-long ferry ride from the city.

The island is home to ancient caves that were quite a marvel to roam around.

If I looked like I was going to pass out, it was because it was super hot and humid!

At the end of the long day, we took a nice sunset stroll along Marine Drive, the waterfront.

We spent the rest of the day lounging at our hotel.

The staff had prepared a beautiful rangoli by the lobby in celebration of Diwali.

Fireworks began around 8pm and it was unlike anything we had experienced before. They just went on nonstop all night all across the city.

When we woke up the next morning, there were still fireworks going off!

Goa

After a week of intense sightseeing, we planned a restful three days at a beach-side resort in Goa.

We didn’t do a whole lot during these three days and it was wonderful.

We spent a lot of time strolling along the beach. There was a local stray dog, who seemed injured, and the hubby has a soft spot for animals.

The two quickly formed a bond and the dog always sought the hubby out during every outing. I still smile at this photo all these years later.

Kerala

Our final stop was Kerala, a state in the South-Western side of India, with nearly 600km of the Arabian Sea shoreline.

These were fascinating fishing mechanisms set up by local fishermen. They let us try operating them and it was quite cool seeing them in action.

Our main motivation to visit Kerala was when we learned about their houseboat tours.

This was the houseboat the hubby and I rented for the day.

This lunchtime feast, enjoyed as the boat cruised along the scenic river, was amazing.

As we enjoyed the views on our last day in India, I felt super thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime experience in this beautiful and spiritual country.

We were at a phase in our lives where we were eagerly anticipating parenthood. We didn’t know at the time that it would take another 3.5 years before T arrived.

Truthfully speaking, I do miss the freedom of these days, when global adventures were more accessible and affordable!

These days, an affordable Indian adventure would be ordering chicken biryani takeout – which by the way gave me food poisoning for two days last week! Fun!

It’d probably be a huge effort and stress to take T on such an adventure. But I do dream about it. It’ll have to wait until he’s much older, but I look forward to the day to being able to do so!

Motivation

Fans of long-running reality show Survivor will be familiar with the term “dig deep.”

It’s what host Jeff Probst says to motivate contestants to tap into their inner strength to get through a physically-grueling challenge.

The last few weeks have been very challenging with T at home and school. We’re not sure if it’s the medication change, weather, full moon – or aliens – but it’s been a struggle.

T’s CYW recently shared that T told her that he finds school hard. It broke our hearts to hear him have these thoughts at such a young age.

But I’m also not surprised. Grade 1 is different from kindergarten. It’s less play based and more sit-at-your-desk and work environment.

This may seem trivial but for a kid like T, this is a big deal. I have no doubt he’s acting out partially because of feeling overwhelmed by the increased pressure and expectations.

I’ve said this before: T is smart and has great potential. We need to help him develop skills to manage his emotions and to adjust the environment to accommodate his learning needs.

I believe that every living thing – special needs or not – is motivated by something.

Part of channeling T’s motivation into something productive is figuring out what his preferred activities are.

For starters, we know T is a hands on learner and curious. Last week at school, they played with sewing machines and that was one of the better days he had. Look at that focus!

About two months ago, his teacher introduced extra homework. Every Friday, a blue duotang would be sent home with extra worksheets to help students keep up or catch up.

She made it very clear this is optional and not mandatory. But we love the extra work!

For me, what motivates me is to help T keep up his learning. We can’t replicate the school environment at home, so I don’t worry about the teacher’s goal to help him do his work independently in a busy classroom.

It’s an important goal for sure, but our focus at home is helping him keep up with the concepts.

This motivates me immensely, even though I’m aware that homework sometimes pushes kids like T over the edge.

We took a break from extra learning two weekends ago after a very challenging week.

I am well aware that one’s mental health – both child and parent – is important.

But we picked it up again this recent weekend and I tried to approach it from the perspective of finding that carrot stick to dangle in front of T.

T loves to play forts so I told him if he completed his assigned work for Saturday, I’ll build the biggest fort he’s ever seen yet.

Sure enough, we slowly but surely got through the work.

And check out this massive fort we made!

Here’s the entrance below, stepping into the foyer. To its immediate left is the living room and to the right is T’s bedroom.

And here’s the living room. His stuffed pets all look quite hungover from a night of partying.

Here’s the living room viewed from the backyard – with the staircase to the rooftop at the far back.

And here’s the rooftop with the hot tub. T and I hung out here for quite some time that morning.

On Sunday, we repeated the same ritual and I used Christmas shopping as the motivation to get him through the work.

Over the two mornings, T plowed through 10 pages of homework. There were resistance and whining but we got through it.

I wish T could always have this same focus, especially at school. But I will take the wins, big and small, where I can.

Some days, I feel like I’m digging my own grave in the moments when I feel so frustrated.

But moments like the past weekend remind me of what motivates us to dig deep: our little lovable pest, T.

Tell the Truth

If the truth sets us free, would you still tell it if it means upsetting someone?

Several years ago, I was on a crowded train and the two women standing next to me were talking about drinking and pregnancy.

One of them said she knows doctors who’ve said it is ok to drink during pregnancy and the other woman agreed with her.

I was horrified, because by that time, I was living the reality of parenting a child who was prenatally exposed to alcohol and had a prognosis of at-risk FASD.

I could not muster up the nerve to speak up, as I did not want to offend them.

I often think about that moment with a tinge of regret, because what if I could’ve saved a future child from a lifelong disability.

This past Saturday, I had a do-over of sorts when the hubby and I had a Zoom call with the in-laws of a family friend who were looking to adopt and wanted to hear about our experience.

I was very mindful that for heterosexual couples, adoption is often – not always – a last resort after trying to naturally conceive.

So the hubby and I wanted to be compassionate, encouraging and informative but to also not sugarcoat important details.

We walked through the adoption process, including the lengthy forms and home study interviews, and we were upfront that it is not a first-come, first-serve process. It could be quick, it could take many years (like ours) or it could never happen at all.

We spoke fondly of the many happy memories and we were frank about the challenges, including dealing with issues of loss and trauma.

We were upfront about FASD and shared our daily challenges.

It was interesting watching them nod their heads, smiling at times, looking pensive at others.

I felt we provided a balanced and truthful picture of what lies ahead and I hope it will help them make an informed decision.

We ended off on a positive note: I told them it was ultimately a rewarding experience, despite the challenges.

For me, the conversation was also a wonderful walk down memory lane, stirring up many happy memories, like our first camping trip when T was just 1 year old, pictured on this post.

The past few weeks have been so challenging and the difficult moments seem to continue to pile on top of one another.

Having this opportunity to share our journey with others – and to take a step back and see how much the hubby, T and I have grown and travelled together in this crazy journey called life – reminded me what it is that we get up everyday for and to never give up on it.

So yes, the truth does set us free.

Cooking Gamjatang, Celebrating Korean Culture

Pork bone soup is one of my comfort foods and I finally took it off my cooking bucket list.

Our previous home was located in a Korean community. It was there that I discovered gamjatang at Owl of Minerva.

This restaurant is open 24 hours, so before T entered our lives, the hubby and I often went to satisfy 1 am pork bone soup cravings.

Korean culture has experienced a global renaissance – from “Parasite” being the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars to the record-breaking success of the Netflix series, “Squid Game.”

The hubby introduced T to K-Pop. This catchy song below by BlackPink was on rotation during this summer’s roadtrips.

I love that T is growing up in a city with diverse cultures and has classmates from all around the world. This will enrich his life.

When I was a bit older than T is now, I invited a friend – who was Greek – for a sleepover and Ma made chicken adobo, a Filipino meat dish cooked in heavy soy sauce and vinegar.

I remember feeling very self conscious as I watched his curious reaction and had wished for pizza to feed him instead.

As an adult, I crave and proudly share my culture’s cuisine with the world.

I love discovering other types of cuisine too. While T is a picky eater, we expose him to them so he’ll get used to seeing and smelling them; hopefully, tasting more one day too!

Korean pork bone soup is a dish I’ve been wanting to make forever.

I’ve put it off because it seemed intimidating.

I’ve often written about how cooking is one of my self-care routines.

The past week was particularly challenging and so I decided to tackle this Instant Pot recipe. Getting lost in a cooking challenge often restores my balance.

As people who cook will tell you, the process is often more rewarding than the end.

I enjoyed going to the Asian supermarket to hunt down my ingredients, like “Asian cuts” of pork neck bone and Korean condiments such as gochujang (chili pepper paste) and doenjang (soybean paste).

I love the meal prep process, when I first lay out the ingredients in a colorful spread.

It’s akin to the satisfying before and after of fixer upper renovation shows.

I first boiled the pork neck bone for 5 minutes to remove excess fat and then rinsed them in cold water.

I then laid the soup stock into the Instant Pot: 3 ginger slices, 6 cloves of crushed garlic, 4 stalks of green onion (white part), 1 onion quartered, 2 bay leaves, 2 tbsps of doenjang (soybean paste), 2 tbsp of fish sauce and 1 tbsp of dark soy sauce.

I layered the pork neck bone on top, added 7 cups of water and pressure cooked on high for 22 minutes.

While the Instant Pot then naturally released for 15 minutes, I prepared a mixture of 6 garlic cloves minced, 1/3 tbsp of ground black pepper and 2 tbsp of gochujang (chili pepper paste).

I opened the Instant Pot and then scooped this mixture into the boiling soup.

I added in potatoes (halved) and Napa cabbage into the soup and let it boil for 20 minutes, so the broth would thicken.

The hubby dug out a black ceramic bowl from storage in our basement, which we hadn’t used in many years.

I served my portion in this bowl and it looked like legit restaurant-served gamjatang!

While it wasn’t Owl of Minerva level, I was very happy with how it turned out! The meat melted off the bone.

Even the hubby, who normally dislikes meat on bone, enjoyed his dinner and complimented the taste of the broth.

It was a satisfying journey and outcome – and I felt better again.

As we enjoyed our soup, T calmly enjoyed a panda-shaped chocolate popsicle. The packaging was in Chinese text, so I’m counting that as exposing T to ethnic cuisine!

After the up-and-down week we had, it was a wonderful way to spend quality family time on a cool autumn Saturday evening.

Losing Like Halle Berry

Having a sense of humour about when things do not go as planned is generally one of my instinctual responses in life.

Dealing with loss and feeling like you’re failing is part of being a special needs parent.

In the last few weeks, it’s been harder to find levity during the challenging moments.

We’ve been having very challenging days with T at home and school.

It’s beyond the usual hyperactivity, difficulty focusing; it’s escalated to refusing to do his work, disrupting class, and even talking back to teachers.

Learning to deal with moments that don’t go as planned is part of life. I think everyone can benefit from failure. It gives you perspective.

But as a special needs parent, that feeling occurs quite often.

Not because it’s the child’s fault. It isn’t anyone’s fault. But in the hardest moments, it can feel like you’re failing your child.

But really, it’s about the fact that this world and its structures, norms and expectations disadvantage neurodiverse people.

Earlier this week, my mind randomly recalled this wonderful acceptance speech Halle Berry made when she won the Razzie Award.

I’m using the word “won” very loosely here, because a Razzie is the antithesis of the Oscars, given out to the worst in movies.

In 2004, two years after her historic Oscar win, Halle Berry won Worst Actress for Catwoman.

Instead of pretending this never happened, she did what no other recipient in Razzie history had done; she actually showed up to accept it.

Needless to say, the small crowd of film lovers – the Razzie voting body – went wild.

Berry’s clever and tongue-in-cheek speech was a hilarious masterclass of how to turn a shitty moment on its head, have a laugh at the absurdity of life, and leave with your head held high.

I had such a laugh watching this clip again and it made me feel better. Laughter really is the best medicine.

We’re still in the trenches with T, but we’re showing up to try to turn these Razzie moments around.

The hubby and I had a perfectly-timed call scheduled yesterday with T’s behaviour therapist – we meet every few months.

We also consulted with his developmental pediatrician and are adjusting his medication.

We’re continuing to strategize with his CYW.

I’m not sure how the next few weeks will unfold but I am reminding myself that we will get through this. Focus on the big picture.

I did a rare school drop off yesterday morning and T requested Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again” to play in the car.

I chuckled, because it could not have been a more perfect song choice to describe T at times.

And that unexpected moment of laughter was a great pick-me-up.

Circles

Circles appear as symbols of power, movement, change and balance in our lives.

Some see circles as a symbol for the wholeness of self, timelessness, infinity and God itself.

Circles represent the passage of time. A year is a full orbit of Earth around the sun; hours pass in a circular motion around a clock.

The world moves through circles: the wheels on bicycles, cars and trains; the wheels that steer planes and boats.

Life itself is a circle, as Disney’s “The Lion King” tells us through the song, “The Circle of Life.” The source of life on Earth, the Sun, is circular.

Geometrically, all points around a circle are equal distance to the centre, representing balance and equity.

I thought about this last point when I attended my first learning and sharing circle last week for caregivers of individuals with FASD.

It was a free webinar that I learned about from our resource support at Surrey Place.

There were about 10 caregivers and it was moderated by two individuals, one of which is an FASD expert who is also an individual with FASD and a caregiver to kids with FASD.

Caregivers had an opportunity to ask questions and share their stories.

It was eye-opening to hear the stories, which I will not share details of out of respect, other than to say it was common challenges I read about in other forums, such as mental health and run ins with the justice system.

So in a sense, this was a support group.

They meet every two months and I decided to participate in future sessions. It’ll be good to connect with and to learn from others going through a similar journey.

While the stories were hard to hear, and in some ways made me anxious about T’s future, it did feel comforting to be in a circle with people who just get it.

The circle reminded me about the importance about being kind to myself, the hubby and most importantly, to T. We’re on this journey together – all the ups and downs of it.

Just like the loop of a circle, every day is a new day and new chance to do it better.

Speaking of things circling back again, we had our first snowfall of this season last Sunday – a lot of it!

T woke up, looked out the window and came into the room to tell us there’s snow on the ground.

Shortly after breakfast, we put on his snowsuit for the first time this season and he took his sled out to the park.

As he went down the hill, again and again, I thought to myself that I wanted to pause this moment in time and just enjoy it – as the world continued to circle around us.

“Oh my God, is that a coconut?!”

My six year old and I started a new bonding ritual: Friday night grocery runs.

After a long week, all I wanted was my weekly 90 minutes of freedom: going to the supermarket.

“Oh, can I come?” T asked chirpily.

“Oh, fuck no,” I said to myself in my head.

But I simply said, “No.”

“Please!” He begged and gave me a big hug, pulling out the charm offensive.

“Ok, fine. You can come,” I said.

He cheered. He was practically bouncing off the walls by the time we walked out the door.

In early days of parenting, learning about T’s prognosis and experiencing his hyperactive impulsive behaviour and meltdowns often made me anxious when we went out.

But I have to say he’s mostly good now with going out and it’s a blessing I don’t take for granted.

I am strategic about the places we go out to. He’s a kid who’ll sometimes start doing half cartwheels and front rolls at a restaurant just because he can’t help himself.

A supermarket is a place I often avoid with T, because I know he can’t resist wanting to touch everything and I dread the thought of chasing him up and down the aisles.

But there’s something appealing about getting T into the habit of doing groceries with me.

It’s a life skill we can nurture and help teach him about responsibility.

It’ll remind him that things cost money and to value the food we have on our table.

It’ll hopefully open his eyes to the variety of food options and encourage our picky eater to widen his palette.

When we arrived at the parking lot, I gave him my usual before-we-enter-a-store talk.

“Please don’t do anything that’ll make us go viral on the Internet for the wrong reasons,” I said to myself in my head.

Instead, I reminded him to not touch or grab anything without asking.

T is getting to be quite big, now at 4 feet. But I still plopped him into a cart and he was happy to be pushed around.

My mission was to go in and out as quickly as I could.

I have to say that T did a great job.

He was like a tour bus driver, loudly narrating and pointing out all the vegetables and fruits in the produce aisle to nearby shoppers.

“Oh look, brocoli!” …

“Oh my God, is that a coconut?!”

I asked him to make decisions along the way, like which type of pasta, ramen flavour, cereal, snack and fruit to buy.

I also handed him the non produce items to sort onto the cart. He created a big messy mountain on one corner of the cart, as expected.

He clung onto his Gluten free Oreos.

“You’re going to have to give that to the man now,” I said when we arrived at the checkout.

He watched everything get scanned and then finally gave his Oreos to the cashier.

He has no idea what Gluten free means, he just liked the white packaging, different from the usual Oreo packaging.

We were in and out without incident and I have to say that I enjoyed his company.

When we got to the car, I gave him several high fives, genuinely delighted at this bonding time that we spent together.

“Do you want to do groceries with Papa every Friday?” I asked, because I’m clearly a masochist who needs a sanity check.

“Yup!” He replied back with a smile.

Afterlife

After tidying up the kitchen, I had an out-of-body experience.

Unbeknownst to me, while I was clearing the dishes and emptying the garbage bins, T tidied up the entire living room.

The tornado debris of his Hot Wheels and blocks were all cleared into bins. I had almost forgotten we had brown carpet underneath.

When he started to vacuum, first time ever, I thought, yup I was unconscious somewhere and this is the afterlife tempting me to step towards the white light.

The next morning on Sunday, after breakfast, T looked out at the fall leaves in our backyard and declared that we should rake them up.

It confirmed to me that I had landed not at the penthouse in the afterlife but in the basement.

Yard work is the hubby’s responsibility, he was still in bed, but I couldn’t turn down an offer from T to help with housework.

T did a great job. He was focused for 15 minutes, helping make big piles. Then he decided to run around the backyard. He circled back in the last 15 minutes to help me scoop leaves into bags.

I was thankful for this hour spent together in the brisk autumn air and disconnected outdoors.

It’s been three weeks since we’ve changed T’s medication.

While we’re having some challenges with daycare in the afternoon and meltdowns in the evenings, he seems more consistently focused and regulated during the day.

I’ve written in the past how it’s important for me to help T build a work ethic; to cultivate a work hard and work first before play hard attitude.

T likes to feel useful. It’s a matter of helping channel his endless energy in purposeful activities that motivate him.

He is motivated when he knows there’s play after the learning and work.

To reward him for having a super weekend, T went on an afternoon movie date with the hubby to watch “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”

My reward was three hours of child-free time and I met up with friends inside the same mall as the movie theatre.

It was my first time seeing this wonderful group of friends since the pandemic started.

Laughing, catching up and having grown up conversation with childhood friends. It felt like heaven.

Post-It Affirmations

An accidental discovery inspired a morning ritual to help send T off to his day on a positive note.

Recently, T was rummaging through office supplies in our cabinet and found post-it notes.

The hubby then drew a word art of T’s name on it. T loved it and carried it with him everywhere, including during the car ride to school and sticking it on his bedroom door.

We’ve had a few rough days the last two weeks: challenging behaviour at daycare and blood curling meltdowns at night.

Yes, we know by now these moments pass, but I am mindful of how responses from others to these moments – including ours – impact T.

Studies have shown that individuals with FASD often have lower self esteem.

T is not lacking in confidence and boldness. But I often think about how his self talk will develop in the long term when he is constantly being called out at school, daycare and home.

Earlier this week, as I was sitting at my desk getting ready for the day, I saw post-it notes.

So I took out markers and drew out the message, “You Are Super! Xoxo, Papa and Daddy” – pictured at the top of this post. I made the “S” in Super like the Superman S.

I gave it to T and asked him to read it – might as well sneak in reading practice. After he read it, I saw a huge smile on his face and he walked out of the room with the note.

I continued getting ready for the morning and as I walked down the hallway, I passed by his bedroom and saw him leaning on his bed looking longingly at the note – for quite a while that I was able to sneak this photo.

This melted my heart.

I love this kid so much – even during the moments when he is driving the hubby and I fucking batshit crazy.

And I want so much for the positive moments in his day to outweigh his challenging ones and for them to be amplified as his inner dialogue.

I added a few more messages over the week.

I want to keep it simple and from the heart.

T asked why I drew a tree on the note above.

I said that the tree was T, growing bigger and stronger each day.

I want to amass positive energy for our T to balance the challenging moments in his day.

Friday was a PA Day, so no school, and T came into my office in the morning as I was working and asked if he could write a note for his two cats.

They have a love hate relationship, so the fact T wanted to do this, instead of antagonizing them, was wonderful.

He came up with and wrote the message and I helped him spell it: “I love you. Xoxo, T, Daddy, Papa.”

I just realized I spelled out Daddy incorrectly.

The cats were hiding under the bed and when T put the note near them, our male cat, Kyrie, started to growl.

Told you, love-hate relationship.

“Did he like it?” T asked.

I paused and thought about how to keep the moment light and positive and I said, “I think he’s a little confused.”

Making Marriage Work in Special Needs Parenting

This Monday, we celebrated an amazing human’s birthday: the hubby turned 41.

He took this week off work and I joined him for downtime on Monday. It was the first time we had to just the two of us in forever.

When we started the adoption journey, a former manager told me to avoid adopting a child with FASD, because she had friends who said it ruined their lives.

I’ve read heart wrenching posts on private forums from parents who’ve said raising an FASD child destroyed their marriage.

Now that the hubby and I have been in the thick of parenting a child with suspected FASD for 5.5 years, I can empathize with their perspective.

Most days with T have challenging, stressful and explosive moments.

Some days start with an outburst that sets a negative tone or a headache-inducing meltdown at night leaves me awake feeling guilty about not handling it better.

There is no respite. We’re on our own with little help because there are very few people that we trust to leave T with.

Despite best efforts, we argue more often than we should – often over petty things as a result of stress or being tired.

Special needs parenting makes emotional, mental and physical impacts on us as individuals and as a couple. The hubby and I both started to gray quickly during stressful virtual schooling, especially with unexpected stressors like my Ma’s stroke and recovery added on top.

On the very worst of days, I would think to myself this was not what I signed up for.

Now that I got that off my chest, I want to be very clear that it isn’t all bad. If anything, T has enriched our lives and he has made the hubby and I better and stronger as individuals and as a couple.

We are both unified in our love for T and our determination to do what’s best for him and to help him succeed.

We don’t always get it right – in fact, we mess up almost every day and we’re perpetually exhausted – but we give it our darned best and try to have fun along the way.

Here are a few ways that has helped make it work for us.

We divide and conquer. I do the cooking, cleaning (except washrooms) and groceries; he does the yard work. He makes the lunches and bathes T, I do most of the school stuff.

We are lucky to have amazing family and friends as emotional support. We might not entrust them with T unsupervised, but they provide other ways of meaningful support. Most importantly, they may not fully understand FASD, but they accept T into their lives.

We make space for our interests and needs. It’s so easy, especially with a special needs child, to lose yourself in parenting, but we create time and space for our interests. Wherever possible, we introduce and include T in the enjoyment, such as exploring the outdoors.

We carve time for self care. This is more of a rarity than a norm, but it’s important to do so for our wellbeing as individuals and as a couple. We know when to seek help and to set personal boundaries. This blog is a part of my self care!

We focus on the big picture. It’s very easy to get lost in the challenges. But I always remind myself to look at the big picture, celebrate the many wins and ways that T is kicking butt. This often helps us re-centre our focus and gravity.

When we get the rare break, we take full advantage of it.

On the hubby’s birthday, I took him for lunch at one of his fave restaurants in our old neighbourhood. It was nice to be back in an area where we made many happy memories.

Lunch was delicious! I had my very first bowl of warm miso soup since the pandemic began.

We had gotten the birthday on earlier this past weekend, by setting up Christmas at home.

T helped me bake an apple pie for the hubby.

I also got the hubby his DQ ice cream pizza.

While waiting for our food at the sushi restaurant, the hubby asked me, “Are you 40 or turning 40?”

Yup, we’re definitely getting up there in age!

Light Up the Dark

The colorful ghosts of Christmas past emerged this weekend, sparking wishes for future memories.

After I did my Friday night groceries, I returned home to Christmas cheer thanks to T and the hubby.

It’s only mid November, but it’s family tradition to put up the tree, decorations and lights after Remembrance Day.

Christmas is without a doubt T’s favourite time of the year and he was counting down the days this past week till the tree went up.

T was reunited with giant inflatable Santa, which we quickly moved from the living room to outside because it was distracting T from his homework and well, everything else.

The hubby wrapped lights around the two trees in our yard. The bright white light – pictured below from last winter – feels so healing.

T did a great job helping the hubby decorate the tree. No ornaments were broken this year!

The tree reminds us of happy memories.

The ornaments document our family’s travels, including moments from the hubby and my 19 years together.

I’d like to share a few highlights:

This panda was from a street vendor when we visited Beijing, a few months after China hosted the Olympics in 2008.

This tiny Eiffel Tower keychain was from a street vendor in Paris. The hubby strung a ribbon through and turned it into an ornament.

This elephant was from our once-in-a-lifetime cross country trip to India nearly a decade ago.

The hubby is obsessed with the Royal Family and these ornaments are from The Stodgy… I mean, The Royal Collection store near Buckingham Palace.

This llama was from Peru, our last solo trip before T came into our lives unexpectedly a few months later.

And of course, we must represent Canada – and what better way to do so than a box of Tim Hortons timbit.

My favourite ornaments are the homemade ones that T’s teachers created with him over the years using supplies like a plastic cup, construction paper and a photo of T’s sweet face.

These are flimsy and amateur ornaments but they hold the warmest memories and most value. We pack them away into storage with great care.

It’s startling to me that it’s nearing Christmas. I genuinely feel like we just celebrated it.

Time flies and during these darker still-pandemic days, any way to light up the dark – literally and figuratively – is very welcomed.

Looking at our tree and the years of memories it represents, it makes me feel hopeful for new memories that lie ahead.

I look forward to discovering more of the world in the years ahead with T by our side.

The ghosts of Christmas past light the way for the future.