Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finding my heart by almost losing my feet

Well, footing really -more than once. It was the best time EVER!! -in that "I have lost 20 years and quite a few brain cells" voice that most teenagers are doing these days..

Yesterday morning I got up at 5:45 gobbled my breakfast and donned my black lycra with my vibrant pink skirt. Yep, it's race-day, but in a change of events, instead of being nervous or encompassed with a feeling of dread, I was excited. A race I actually want to do; this is a rare sensation at the moment. Not going to go too much into the pre-race stuff; you all know it by now. I packed my "rice krispie squares" (New attempt at "Food of the running gods") and my cobbled together new wrist-held water bottle - let's just say more work needed, more on that later.

I had decided to do the "Golden Ears provincial park" race of the 5-peaks series. 5-peaks is a trail race series where you climb a mountain; or two if you are doing the longer course over anything between 5-15K. In my usual fashion I hadn't registered beforehand and I hadn't even determined which course I was going to do. It wasn't until I managed a 7 mile easy trail run yesterday without too many aches/pains, did I decide to do the longer 14K(8.7 mile) course and not the shorter 8.8K course. I mean I have an important race next weekend -the 8.8K course wouldn't give me enough opportunity to kill myself before hand.

This registering on race-day -or as near to race day as makes no odds- is proving to be a complete winner for me. No pre-race nerves, because I don't really know I am running the race until the day (or day before) the race. There isn't all this, training and goals that get tangled up with the whole experience of running. If I don't want to run; like last weekend, I don't run. If I do, I know I haven't specifically trained so I have no expectations.

So off I went, for the 40 mins trip to the race. I have lived in this part of the world on and off for 6 years and I am still amazed by the beauty around here. As I was driving on this cold morning (it was about 2C/35F), I marvelled at how the sun was topping the snow-capped mountains and how the morning mist was evaporating away. I had to take some photo's of the Coast Mountains, (at designated stop signs of course *cough*). However, it didn't do the mountains or view any justice. They don't put "Beautiful British Columbia" on the car license plates for nothing.

I had learnt my lesson from my "Race from hell", and didn't arrive too early to the race. I also brought some snacks to eat before I headed out. The beauty of this trail race series is that it's still a little unknown event; even at 8AM -an hour before race start- there was car parking and hardly anyone around. I can't imagine saying that for the BMO Vancouver Marathon next week. In total there turned out to be only 160 racers for the longer course and only 360 racers for the entire event(sport+enduro races). This in my view is completely perfect; this wasn't a race, it was just a random collection of insane people starting to run up a mountain at the same time.

I managed to find my new friend Megan at the race start. This lady is my new running idol; she is woman who run's up mountains with egg sandwiches and coffee - you may remember her from my last posts. She is more of a veteran of the trails than I am and although I knew I wouldn't keep up, my goal was not to get too far behind. She introduced me to the others in the trail running pack I am hoping to join in the near future. They all looked as if they knew what they were doing; unlike me in my checked running skirt and a "hacked" water bottle holder. Oh well...

So off we started and I was quite surprised I was able to keep up with the pack. When I ran Buntzen lake last year, I pretty much failed as soon as I started. This time the easy rolling trail allowed my legs to warm up before we hit the hills. My feet were a different matter. We had to to splash through a snow-melt creek on the first 500metres. So cold, wet feet before we started. I was wearing my Merrell Barefoot pace gloves and they dried off pretty quickly and even though my socks were drenched, my feet did warm up after a couple of K. Very thankful I wasn't wearing my VFF Flow's; I can imagine I would be pretty miserable for most of the race. In all we had 6 or 7 small creeks to cross in the entire race and although my feet weren't anything close to dry, they were warm.

We had about 4K before the climb started. I was able to keep up with Megan, so I was pleased. As we ran she told me that she ran this route last week as prep and the mountain was a killer. The gradient and length of climb wasn't the worst part she told me, but the fact that the climb itself was dead straight not switch-back. She said it was the most demoralising mountain she had run, because you can see it in all it's glory straight in front of you.

There was a gentle climb to the hill and actually I was again surprised how well I was coping. I have only been doing trails with any form of gradient in the last month, so the fact I was still keeping up was pleasing. Until that is, we hit the first and main mountain. As soon as I saw the trail, I knew exactly what she meant. When you know you have to hit the top of the trail and you see the trail loom way above you, it does make you take a gulp. I had already decided to power hike the climb, but it was clear at this point Megan was a better hiker than I was, so she went on ahead. My calves were feeling it and by half way I could feel them cramp. I had to stop every so often to let the cramps die down before I carried on. I think it's time I put more hill work into my running, because frankly I SUCK at hills. :)

It was at this point I realised my hydration plan needs more work. Ever since I tried to run further than 5 miles, I have been frustrated by the fact I need to carry water and food. The food bit is okay, you can pretty much shove any type of food stuff down your running tights, (Okay that came out wrong), but water is another matter. I have spent a fortune on hydration back-packs, handhelds and waist-packs and I dislike them all for one reason or another. Hydration back-packs are good, but I still haven't perfected how to get them to work properly and for this reason I still distrust them. Waist-packs irritate me because I am always bashing them as I move my arms. I don't like handhelds because they feel heavy and lop-sided to me (because they are sometimes quite big) and I have to actually hold them. My hands aren't free. This may not sound a big deal, but when you are running technical trails there is always a risk you will fall and you will use your hands to stop you falling. A little hard if you are actually holding something. What I was looking for -and have never found- is a wrist-held water bottle.

So the morning of the race I found an old strap of a large handheld and tied it in such a way that it would hold a small 7fl oz flask of water, but on my wrist, not in my hand. My idea was that there are aid stations every 5K or so and I would just get the flask re-filled. I never drink more than 2 flasks over a 13 mile run. This actually worked quite well except the bottle cap kept leaking, so by the time I had run 1K from the aid-station, the flask was empty. However, in the fact it was light AND it kept my hands free, this was ideal. So not a complete success, but now I have something to work on. This did mean however, I did run the entire race on pretty much 2 cups of "refresh" at the aid station and nothing else. As the day was cool I didn't suffer too badly, but I had better get my inventing cap on before the summer hits.

The volunteers are great at this event and those at the top of the hill were shouting as we reached the top. All I could manage was a small grunt; this was a hill that just kept giving. The beauty of going up-hill is that you have to go down-hill before you hit mountain number 2.

This is where the trail gloves came into their own. I had an absolute blast going down. The little firmer protection allowed me to bomb down the trails. In my Flow's I had to carefully hike downhill too and I still had stone bruises. This time I found the beauty of trail running. I let gravity do the work and I just tried to put my feet in the best place on the trail. The grip on the Trail Gloves did give out on a couple of patches, but luckily my form is good enough I was able to recover before I spectacularly went "A over T" as my Dad would say. (That's "Arse over Tit" for the Non-Brit's out there).

As the race field was so small, I spent most of the race running by myself. I am not sure why, but even 8-10 months ago this would have been awful to me; I needed distraction. This time there was no music, no company, nothing. It just goes to show my much I have changed as a runner, because this was heaven. I was bombing up and down the trails just content in my own space, enjoying the view and my only thoughts was where to put my feet. When running, people tell you that there is this place of calm you go to where you think of nothing except where you are going. I reached that place. I had no times in my head, no music, no phone, nothing; just me and my legs. (I left my phone in the car, would have been useful in case of an emergency, but without a signal it was pretty useless and destined to get lost, just thought I would add that... Also ran with no ID; DON'T shout at me, yep I know that wasn't smart, but the whole "lost" thing again, but hopefully my road-id will be here in time for the next race)

About 2-3K from the end we hit the first and only major mud pile on the track. I secretly think the organisors took large numbers of water barrels out to this spot the night before, just to make the 10metre patch really muddy. Up until that point all of the other mud patches were only 1-2 inches deep and only 2-3 strides wide, this one was at least 6 inches and there was no way of getting around this bugger. As I looked at my shoes after I had dragged myself through I couldn't help but imagine my Merrells giving little cries of horror. I have this theory that my Merrells look at all my other minimal shoes -who are all pretty clean and tidy- with an element of envy and grief. I imagine little cries of "why can't I be like that?"

Just after this mud pile there was a very vocal volunteer who was enthusiastic in his encouragement. Apart from the fact he distracted me so much I nearly ran into a tree, he also shouted "I have those shoes". I looked at my feet and wondered, "How could you possibly know what shoes I am wearing? Even I can't tell what they are", he also mentioned he didn't have my colour because he wasn't a girl. For some reason this made me laugh; he was about 6 foot 2 and very clearly not female. At the end of a race, the simplest of comments can seem so absurd.

As I mentioned, I secretly think the organisers had created the mud pile just for entertainment and I think this was confirmed when 500m later there was a waterfall/creek combo. Just deep and rapid enough to ensure that most of the mud was washed away. See, it takes years to plan a race like that.

Just after the creek was the run home. Simple, flat, paved road. Perfect. I was surprised on how well my legs felt and I was pretty sure I was looking at least a 2 hour finish. I hadn't been pushing speed-wise. So I was again surprised when the clock said 1:49:something. The run was better than I thought it could ever be.

I found Megan who run a 1:39 and her friends who ran a 1:30 something. However, I wasn't last -although towards the back of the group- and I wasn't too far behind the main crowd, so I was pretty happy. It wasn't until I checked the results later that my time was actually 1:46:17. I had forgotten they had sent us out in waves, so in the end I was only 6 mins behind my running idol. :)

This race was so different to Buntzen Lake last year. My attitude, my aims and the way I ran and felt during the race. Although this doesn't prove I am a trail runner to BC standards, (because frankly the people at these races are all nutters), but at least a true trail runner in my heart.

Four more races to go - I am really going to enjoy this summer.

p.s. picture of the start/finish. Not very interesting I know but look at the mountain behind... yep, that's the one we went up. Race stats: 14K/8.7 miles; 2 mountains of 20%+ gradient; elevation gain 648m/2,125ft(over the 2 mountains); 6 creeks; 1 creek+waterfall; 1 huge mud-pile; 160 racers (quickest runner was 0:56:45 name..NUTTER!!); course technical (according to the RD)/single->double track.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Always constantly learning...

Sometimes we, as adults, take how our kids feel about things for granted. We always have this idea that they feel exactly the same way we do and will react the same way. Kind of Autistic of us really. With D and his ASD, I am always mindful of his reactions to situations, but even I slip up. It's hard when D is so vocal to remember that he isn't JUST a 6 year old boy, but he is a 6 year old that see's the world differently.

Yesterday a friend of mine posted a link to a video about a NON-verbal Autistic child who was assumed to be mentally deficit; however as soon as she was near a computer it was clear that she was not only completely aware of her surroundings, her behaviour and her disability, but she was able to describe it in a very eloquent and beautiful way. She was a wonderfully intelligent woman trapped in a body she couldn't control. The video is here.

It reminded me of something that D's therapists showed me one day in a team meeting. They were trying to get him to show what events or situations make him anxious and upset, and how he feels when they happen. They showed me a drawing he had made of how he felt when I rushed him for school in the morning. It was drawing of him, but his head was exploding, his eyes were out on stalks and his heart was pumping out of his chest. Up to that day, I thought that his behaviour in the mornings was just because he isn't interested in school, but to realise that it was because I was rushing him; well, that not only enlightened me, but also made me feel a little guilty.

I was thinking about this again last night: How I am constantly learning about him. Ever since D was a baby, bedtimes have always been a battle. Then last week, D (unknownst to us) was coming down with an ear-infection and a little more unsettled. We always go to sleep with him because we long realised he needs the physical contact of someone else to settle. He's tactile seeking and needs deep pressure to calm down. We have also found to our cost that no matter how basic the room is in furnishings, if he isn't watched then he will do something to injure himself. (Oh, how we have wished we could put him to bed, kiss him goodnight and leave the room).

However, as I was curling up beside him and he was bouncing around as usual, I commented that as he wasn't settling I was going to lie down next to him but listen to some music on my iPod. I was surprised when he asked if he could listen to. I would have thought that with the constant noise in his head, that more noise was the last thing he wanted. So I had one ear-bud and he had the other. Yet as soon as the music started, he immediately settled and within 15 mins he was asleep. It was a surprise and as such we tried this technique over the following nights. Same thing. It also turns out he loves "The Aussie Christmas Carol" album by Bucko and Champs. Yeah, I am not going to go there either...

So last night, I realised. That although he does have to deal with constant noise ALL the time because he can't filter, that to take ALL noise away is just as frightening. It must be similar to being locked away on your own; almost a sense of abandonment. It was a Duh! moment. As soon as I thought about it, it made perfect sense.

So, this post is to my darling little boy. Thank you for making me NOT complacent in being your Mummy. I know it's hard for both of us sometimes, but you make me the best Mom I can be. You are always challenging me; although sometime that's not always in a good way, most of the time, it is.

By the way, YOU are still paying for my hair-dye when you become rich and famous; just because I am thankful you are who you are, is still no get-out for the grey hairs I now have. ;) Just saying...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My 3 mins of fame

Last weekend I did an TV interview for a local TV station. It was shown last night, so here it is in all it's glory..

Monday, April 18, 2011

"I can't afford the Actual race" mileage report

I am doing the "Because All the Cool Kids are doing it" Virtual Marathon. The aim is to do distance of a Marathon in the 2 weeks preceding and including May 1st. As I am not running the full Vancouver Marathon, I thought it would be good to see if I could at least run 26 miles in the two weeks before.

Who know's I may actually do an Ultra! So here goes, I will be updating the report every day that I run. It will be interesting to see how far I can run in the next 2 weeks.

Week One

Monday April 18th - 4 miles of very muddy semi-technical trail. Two mini hill work-outs over technical trail

Tuesday April 19th - AM 3 miles of easy trail with a friend. PM 3 miles of road running with the "Good Form" clinic at the running club. Total 6 miles

Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st - Nothing. Kid at home due to ear infection. Hoping for a 6 mile trail run tomorrow and a 9 mile trail race on Saturday. (Should recover some of my mileage)

Friday 22nd - 7 miles on easyish trail. Sorted out potential food and fuel issues for longer distances. Rice Krispie bars tucked into running tights and water fountains worked really well!

Saturday 23rd - 8.7 miles of technical trail as part of the 5-peaks trail race series..

Weekly total 25.7 miles

Week Two

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - Nothing, Nada, Zip. Stomach bug made an appearance on Sunday evening and has pretty much wiped me out. Hoping that I can take on vaguely solid food in the next couple of days for a pre-race run on Saturday and of course the Half Marathon on Sunday. Still going to make the 26 miles.. in fact I will be in Ultra territory (if it was all run on one day and not over 2 weeks)

Thursday-Friday - Again nothing - life, ect
Saturday - Lots of walking around Downtown Vancouver with a friend - does that count.. I must have walked at least 5 miles.. Nah? Okay
Sunday 1st may - Absolutely horrendous half marathon. 2:13:36 All the walking, drinks and food on Saturday made my stomach wobbly. Great first 10K - on par for a 1:50, then nausea and lightheadedness meant I had to walk/run the rest. Still better than I thought. Followed by a 1 mile barefoot type run) I had to wear socks because my feet were a little raw from running in VFF Sprints. The plan was to run at least 3-10K BF, but my feet were raw after the first 5K, which meant I kept the sprints on instead of chancing infection. Same reason for the socks for IBRD.

Weekly total 14 miles
2 Week total 39.7 miles

Friday, April 15, 2011

Let's Sing.. "It's my hobby, I'll run how I want to.."


Yeah, it was a pretty feeble attempt at a joke. I am slightly tipsy, which doesn't bode well for tomorrow, but more on that.. well.. tomorrow.

This is about my decision NOT to run the "Vancouver Sun Run" this Sunday.

I wasn't really contemplating running it anyway, but after a few conversations with fellow runners I had been dragged into going. I haven't registered yet, I was going to do that at the expo tomorrow. I couldn't see why I should register earlier in the week, then drive to the expo, then wait in a huge line and pick up my bib, when I could just go to the expo, pay the same fee and go in a very short, expedited queue for those who couldn't make their minds up. Trust me, this tactic has saved me hours of my life in the last year or so.

So on Sunday, I was going to drag myself out of bed. Then I was going to eat breakfast, dress in lycra at 5:30 AM. I was then going to walk to the station and get on a crowded train with another 5 thousand lycra clad people. Then wait around in the cold for an hour HOPING to glimpse the starting line. Then spend the next hour running slower than I wanted to and stopping every 5 mins because the person in front needed a "walk break". Then at the end, I was going to wait 90 mins for a brown banana and cold coffee before going back on a now smelly train with 5 thousand people. Yeah, as you can tell I am NOT selling this am I?

A couple of days ago I was finishing off a blog piece I was writing about my idea of a "Perfect runner". Not trying to give anything away, but I cited that understanding what type of runner you wanted to be is a big part of being a perfect runner. Something on the lines of; realising what type of running you enjoy -either terrain or distance- and then using that as a goal was more important than anything else. Going for a type of race, pace or distance just because in "the running society", that's what you should aim for but hating every minute of it.. well.. that just crazy.

I was planning on doing the 5 Peaks trail race on Easter weekend and then Vancouver Marathon (although the 13.1 distance) the week after. The Marathon is our International Barefoot Running Day event. This would make 3 races in 3 weeks. Three weekends going out and running with the masses. It then hit me. I didn't want to do this race. I did NOT want to stand up with 50 thousand people -I hate crowds, to run a 10K -a distance that doesn't interest me, on the road -a surface I hate. I also DID not want to pay for the privilege of doing it, where all I would get was a little bit of Kudos and a lousy shirt.

So hey, I am standing up and NOT doing it. I am growing as a runner and kicking at the "apron" strings of the running community. I WILL go out and get my ears pierced, I will wear black, I will listen to macabre music and I will go out, get drunk and throw up in your rose bush - oh wait.. for some reason I had flashbacks to being 18 again. Where was I?

This is liberating. After two years, I am, only now standing up for myself. I never thought as a "runner", (which is let's face it a hobby for the most of us), I would have to fight against pre-conceptions of what you should do. As a "runner" -and I use this in the losest terms in regards to myself- you should want to run Boston, run a Marathon, run it quicker, run it wearing as much lycra as possible. You shouldn't have fun - that's for the hobby jogga's out there. You should have a fixed schedule and you should imbibe only strange drinks with grainy, brown, undigestible powder in it. You should have shares in GU, CLIFF and Gatorade (or their competitors). You should only eat boring food unless it's the day before race-day where you can eat so much pasta and pizza, you would throw up if you hadn't spent 6 months developing such strong core muscles that Spinach are looking to have you in their next advertising campaign.

I could go on, and I had better stop myself before I get my "supposedly" low-fat percentage self out of this chair to drag that soap-box from out of the cupboard. I have also realised I am NOT making much sense now.

So here I am... rebelling. I DO NOT want to run with 50 thousand sweaty people, who are all revealing a little too much with their winter running tights and compression shorts. I want to run mountains, with a lady that has egg-sandwiches and a flask of coffee as fuel. I want to get muddy and step in bear poo. I WANT to be me!!!

Okay, enough now.. I think I have ranted enough. I am off to collapse ahead of a weekend of strange events and chilling out at home. Forgive me if I now drool and mumble..

Oh look Boobs..!!!

(Sorry Jason et al.. couldn't resist!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Good weather for Ducks (A.K.A BRS running meet-up)

(The growing BRS club; Simon in his Merrell Trail gloves. Craig was taking the photo - he was all changed and warm and *gasp* wearing shoes.)

There are times I think I will never have a photo taken of me -whilst wearing my running kit- where I look warm and dry. I know it's a curse of living in a temperate rainforest, but there are times, when I look at the rain and the cold and think, "Not again"

Today, was a good day for the ducks. It was cool (about 45F or 7-8C) and absolutely pouring with rain. It was also in some parts of Stanley Park a bit windy. Running into the torrential rain blasting in your face is an excellent way to look like a drowned rat in photo's. However, this didn't stop Craig, Simon and myself meeting up again for a Barefoot/Minimalist run around the seawall.

It was fantastic to see Simon and Craig again; the fun chemistry was still there and we all reveled in the fact we were all a lot fitter than the last time we met up. Craig pulled out his Garmin, (I know technology, who would have thought it?) and we settled on a 9-9:30 pace for the 10K+. Craig likes his wrist-watches apparently and as I am not used to running with technology, I thought it was funny every time Craigs' watch beeped at us trying to tell us to slow down. It seemed that we were always too quick when Craig checked and despite our best efforts we didn't want to slow down. In the end we managed a 9:15 pace, (even with two stop-offs) and we ran 7.2 miles. Now if the Garmin could order my post-run coffee I might get into this technology lark.

Simon and I decided to wimp it out by putting on some minimalist shoes initially; Simon in his KSO's and me in my hacked water boots. Craig is the hard-arse in our group and was running barefoot AGAIN. Honestly, this guy is our barefoot guru. He has been running barefoot for 10 years, has run 4 Marathons and countless other half-marathons in such varying temps that today he wasn't dampened by the cold, wind and torrential rain. In fact he thought it would be fun to run balanced of the edge of the seawall. I tried, but my slick hacked water boots sent me over the edge (luckily onto a sandy-beach). I must remember that no grip on a wet, uneven, granite slab wall leads to doom, disaster and potentially a little bit of death.

Last time we ran, Simon and I had to stop a couple of times to catch our breath whilst Craig patiently waited. We still had to stop a couple of times today, but that wasn't due to the extra Christmas poundage we had, but due to an emergency toilet break and for Simon and I to take off our shoes for the last kilometre. Yep, our tootsies hit the bare ground. It was good to see our form wasn't that bad from the winter in minimal shoes. No blisters here thank you very much (a big change from last time).

It was great for all three of us to enter the community centre barefoot together and the good company meant that I hadn't really thought about the running clinic I had organised for after the run.

The running clinic was set-up after I had emails from new minimalist runners who wanted to learn about good form. This was never something I had thought of doing, but when more and more people ask, there has to be a certain point where you have to put yourself out there. As most people were based in downtown, I thought it would be good to organise the clinic for after our BRS meet-up. A lot of the new runners didn't want to run 10K (which is good, "Too much Too soon"), so an "after-clinic" seemed a better idea. However, after looking at the weather forecast all week and seeing the rain this morning first hand, I was not expecting anyone to turn up. I mean, who would want to take their shoes off and run in the cold rain? Oh, yeah, us.. but we're freaks. Craig, Simon and I don't count.

So it was a surprise when three people turned up to the clinic. Kyle, Scott and Barbara all turned up just as Simon and Craig went to get changed into dry clothes -even they weren't expecting anyone. So it was left to me to try and show good form and when Craig and Simon came back, we all tried to give advice as best we could. I am not sure how well the clinic went. I hadn't exactly prepared; procrastination is my first, middle and last name; so it was more of a jumble of idea's and comments. I am hoping Kyle, Scott and Barbara all took something away from the clinic. I promise to be more orgnaised and structured next time. Hopefully the weather will be better too. Learning form when your feet are freezing is not a good start.

We all went and had second breakfast together and it was nice to again see how diverse we all are. In our little group we had a lawyer, bio-chemist, software engineer, electrical engineer, a trader/broker and me (middle aged mother of a smart-arsed kid). We laughed, joked and made plans for a mini meet-up at the Sun-run, maybe IBRD/Vancouver Marathon and a big BRS meet-up later next month. I am always amazed how well fellow Barefoot runners all get on and how easy it was to talk to everyone. I hope our new friends found that too and decide to come and meet-up again.

So despite it being a better day for the ducks than the resident barefoot runners in Vancouver, it was good to see our numbers growing. We are poised to take over the world people.. Mwwwahahahaha 3:)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Yesterday I had my 31st follower. In the scheme of the blogs out there, my follower total isn't huge. That's okay though, because it was never my intention for it to be.

I started blogging as part of the mentoring program for the Barefoot Running University, about 18 months or so ago. Since then the (attempted) weekly blogs have become a way of venting, musing and just general rambling. It's cathartic to just write down all the weekly thoughts down.

It wasn't -and still isn't- my intention for my blog to be a "review" everything kind of place. For one, I am not in a qualified position to really do that. There are also a lot of people who are more able to do that than me. That's cool. I will probably post a review at some point regarding some of the minimalist shoes I have picked up, but again, it will be more of a rambling collection of thoughts instead of a point by point review. If you know me, you will know that I can't organise a party in a brewery (which doesn't bode well for our after-party on May 1st - Party in a brewery was pretty much what I was selling!)

I suppose this blog has kind of morphed into a diary. Admittedly an open diary. It's been useful for me to go back and review my thoughts and experiences from a year ago and reflect on how much I have done (or haven't done) and see how I have grown as a person over the last year. How much I have developed as a runner.

I suppose that is why when I get a new follower I get pretty excited. I don't go out of my way to advertise the blog; I just let it hide away like a bad case of stomach flu hides in a Kindergarten class. Waiting till the time is right, to go out and infect the interwebiverse (yep, I made that term up). Every time I get a new follower, I get reminded that other people read what I write. That people are interested in what I write and occasionally, they like what I have to say enough that they decide to follow me. Every time I get a new follower, I feel I have earned that follower. It's kind of satisfying.

So I just wanted to say "Thanks" to all of those followers out there. "Thanks" for reminding me that people read what I say (enabling me to maintain some form of brain-keyboard filter). "Thanks" for giving me a little perk in the mornings when you comment. "Thanks" for just showing me that in a lot of the stuff I do, I am not alone or freaky. "Thanks" for letting me rant, rave, vent and generally just inflict my inane posts on you.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

List of Autism iPad apps pages

As we mentioned, D now has an iPad. Here is a list of some useful sites that list apps created or useful for children with Autism. There will be a lot of duplication on the lists - I took that as a sign that the app was quite useful. Haven't been proved wrong yet ;)
Apps for children with special
Autism Education

A "Mummy Mental" decision?

Get it? "Mummy Mental".. "Monumental"?? Okay, my play on words didn't quite work out. I promise not to give up my day job. I'll rephrase that; when I get a day job (that doesn't involve keeping tabs to a over-smart 6 year old) I won't give it up..:)

Today, in the UK is Mothers' Day. Don't ask me why it's different in North America, it just is. So it seems apt, as I am British, that I have been reminded of my priorities as a Mum. We aren't talking about the wiping poopie bums and snotty noses here - although there are days I feel that's all I do. These are the hard, but soul-rewarding decisions, that prove you are a Mum after all.

As I have mentioned a million times on my blog, I have a son who has PDD-NOS - a mild form of Autism. As with all children with Autism, how their life is affected is very individual. How my son is affected is different to another child who has Autism. With D, he has sensory issues, fine motor issues, anxiety, behavioural issues and a fantastic interest in science. Each issue has it's own types of treatment and equipment to enable him to cope.

One of the issues that was becoming concerning over the last couple of months was his fine motor skills and how this was affecting his written output. As he is heading into Grade 1 next year, this issue is becoming a little more urgent. If there is no way to enable him to confidently write the stories/reports he needs to, then his enthusiasm to write will be severely impacted. We all know what it's like. If we constantly feel we are unable to do something, then we avoid it. That's the excuse I use when it comes to housework and I am sticking to it! (Actually you can add hill-workouts into that category too).

So I was talking to D's resource room teacher about how we could get a head start on this issue and we were discussing about getting D a basic laptop computer so he could type his work out instead of having to handwrite it. It's not to say that he won't study handwriting, but when it comes to the situation where he has to write more than a few words, typing will be a lot less frustrating. We were investigating ways of getting D this equipment. This teacher thought about asking the school board/provincial education board, but the earliest she could get away with this would be January next year. Schools aren't meant to request these resources till grade 2 really, so we would be jumping the gun about 6 months early. The resource room teacher would also have loads of documentation and testing to do for D before he would even get his hands on anything vaguely electrical.

The second option was to look to see if his Autism funding would pay for it. I have heard mixed reports whether this was possible, so I called the funding unit. Answer? Nope; this is something they aren't doing at the moment. Although probably in the future.

We looked at the options and then saw $700 chilling out in our bank account. Seven hundred dollars that were ear-marked for my trip to New York. I have been planning to run the 12 hour race "Mind the Ducks" in May. This money was meant to be used for the flight. The new iPad2 was out in Canada and I had to make a decision. Go to NY on a trip that was essentially pleasure, or equipment for D that would help him function in school.

This is where the Mummy decision comes in. No brainer really, (although that didn't make the handing over of $619+tax at the computer store any less gut-wrenching). D is now a proud owner of an iPad and keyboard.

So really, how did this make me feel? Finally making the switch from being selfish to self-less. I am disappointed that I am not going to be meeting my friends in NY. I have been looking forward to this trip for 6 months. I have been planning stupid stunts we would do and wondering what antics we would get up to. I feel I am letting my friends down, because this may mean it will be another year before we can meet-up. It's also means I fail in another running goal I had set myself for this year. However, after seeing the confidence D has in writing now, I can't help but be glad that I made the right decision.

After only a week, D has overcome his fear of writing words. He now writes words everywhere - even in places you rather he didn't. He was writing messages to the Beluga whales on the Aquariums comment wall. He is now trying to write cards for his play-mates. He stalks my friends on Facebook, because he wants to send them messages over chat. (Thanks Jesse and Angie for being a good sport about this). Okay, so his writing usually involves potty talk and farm yard animals - he's six, what else is there in life?; but to see him concentrate and sound out the letters of the word is for me amazing. This was something he wouldn't do. He wouldn't even try. He's a perfectionist. Without the ease of a delete key, the pressure to write was too much.

The iPad has lots of other applications that would help him in school. Tools, games and programs designed to help with social play, eye contact, fine motor skills and scheduling. They are cheaper than I thought and he is using them all. Until I really looked into it, I didn't realise how much many apps had been written for the iPad, with Autistic kids in mind.

I know as parent's we sometimes have to make decisions that go against our selfish human nature, but it is so rewarding when results of those decisions are so overwhelmingly positive and almost instantaneous.

The decision not to go to NY also means I have time to go and take an ABA course, so I will be able to implement ABA behaviour courses for D at home. (As I mentioned in my previous blog, D's ABA funding has gone now, so we have to pay for ABA intensive courses out of our pocket, or do it ourselves). Both the trip and the course are in the second week of May. My husband couldn't get the time off work for me to do BOTH this course AND the trip to NY: Now this isn't an issue.

So to my friends who I won't be seeing in NY; I am sorry not to be able to meet up with you, but I know as most of you are parent's you will understand my decision. However, here is a little something for you, just so you know my decision was worth it.

"The Most Sublime act is to set another before you"

William Blake - Proverbs of Hell