Monthly Archives: May 2017

Summer Camp Decisions…

summer campI think regardless of whether your kid is neurotypical or not, the decision to send him or her to summer camp can be a big one.  Particularly when it comes to an overnight camp. Ironically, both my girls, neurotypical and well skilled in self-advocacy, making friends, and taking care of themselves were older than 8 when they first went to overnight summer camp.  Yet this winter when camp registrations were opening, I found myself wondering if Berrik could go, should go, or even would go.

I lost a bit of sleep over it while I weighed all the benefits and risks.  So many more things to consider for a kid his age, and especially because he isn’t wired the same as neurotypical 8 year old boys.  Let me tell you a little about my thought process:

  1. It will have to be a camp that meets specific requirements (as determined by me!).  One of them was that the camp counsellors would need to be adults – teenagers dealing with a bunch of 8 year old boys makes me nervous.  Not that a 17 year old and a 20 year old are likely all the much different, but that was one of my requirements.  The ratios of adults to kids had to be what I would consider reasonable for kids this young (no more than 5 kids per adult).  They would have to be willing and able to keep Berrik on his diet for the most part, even if I have to send all his ‘treats’.  And perhaps most importantly for me, I wanted to know that the Camp Director and staff knew what ADHD was, and had some experience with kids who have it.  (Not surprisingly, most camps I called were very familiar… it’s a pretty pervasive diagnosis amoung young boys these days, so I think every camp would have to know how to manage).
  2. So.  Assuming I could find a camp that would meet my specific requirements, I next moved on to what I felt the benefits would be.  Berrik has now been homeschooled for one year.  He has friends with whom we have regular playdates, he attends Cub Scouts, and karate weekly, is attending a spring sports camp each week, and also is playing soccer.  So he has social opportunities.  I actually don’t worry much about his ‘socialization’ per se.  He’s social.  He makes friends easily.  Not a big concern. What I like about camp is the requirements to work together with cabin mates, compete together, do chores together, win challenges together and lose together too.  The ability to cooperate with a group of people all day long for a week is a great introduction to an important life skill.
  3. This year, because we have been home together, Berrik has grown considerably in his ability to care for himself (despite how counterintuitive that sounds).  I have had time to teach him how to make his bed properly, hang up his clothes, empty the dishwasher, set the table, make simple food for himself, take care of the dog, take care of personal hygiene.  When I looked into both my daughters’ rooms this morning, it’s very clear that I DID NOT spend enough time with them on these skills (I really need to get Berrik to teach them).  While he is very self sufficient, it is not the same as being away from home and having to do chores in a different environment, take care of his belongings, keep his stuff tidy, respect others’ stuff etc. etc.  I think this next step towards independence is an important one, and I also think he’s totally ready.
  4. Berrik has been refined sugar and wheat free for 1.5 years.  He is very good at advocating for himself with family and friends with regard to what he can and cannot eat.  Taking it a step further and advocating for himself in a new environment will be great for him.  I’ll make sure the camp knows what he can and cannot have.  There are plenty of gluten free options already for the kids with celiac, so that makes it easy.  The dessert and other treats can be fruit and baking sent from home.  Not a big deal for him, and hopefully nfireot too much of a PIA for the camp.
  5. This time last year, Berrik had no confidence.  He thought he was stupid.  He thought kids didn’t like him because he wasn’t smart enough.  He was teased.  He felt like he didn’t belong.  Fast forward to now, and the difference is mind blowing.  I see it in everything he does now.  As he told me this morning, “You just need to believe in yourself Mom.  If you believe in yourself and work hard, you’ll be able to do it.”  Granted, he was encouraging me as I was complaining about folding laundry, but at least he knows the right messages!  Because he is confident, and he does believe in himself, I am excited for him to attend camp and prove to himself how self-sufficient and independent he is.
  6. Berrik loves video games.  We try to keep his screen time to a minimum.  He also loves to be outdoors.  Camp will be a wonderful opportunity to be screen-free for a whole week, along with nearly unlimited time outdoors exploring and running and playing.  This is a huge sell for me.  Thanks to homeschooling, we go outside a lot. No need to wait for a 15 minute recess!  But it’s not the same as doing camp activities with a bunch of peers, all day, every day, with zero screen time.  Both Berrik and I will love this.
  7. I asked Berrik if he wanted to go to sleepaway camp for 6 whole nights without Mom and he said “YES!!!  That would be so fun!!”  At the end of the day, that was the decision maker.  I also texted my mom and asked if she thought Berrik was ready for sleepover camp.  She said, “Oh yes, for sure!  He’d love it.”  And then a few weeks later I mentioned that it was 6 nights and she said, “Six nights!?!?  OMG.”  She thought I meant ONE NIGHT.  LOL.  Oops.  By then I had already registered him and paid.
  8. Now lets talk risks.  There are many potentials.  But I think they are all mitigateable (I know, I know, not a word.)  He could get hurt.  He could eat a bunch of crap that will make his brain feel crazy.  He could feel homesick or lonely.  But these are all the same risks that all kids are exposed to at summer camp.  I’m doing everything I can to mitigate any risks that I can think of, and have come to the personal conclusion that I can only do so much to protect him, and that overprotecting him will be more harmful than helpful.  Kids don’t die of homesickness.  They learn to be resilient.  Berrik is no stranger to bumps, bruises and scrapes.  And our family is no stranger to broken bones (thank you Avi) so while I hope he doesn’t get broken, if he does, the world won’t end.  If he gets hopped up on sugar and acts a bit crazy, then the counselor will understand why I’m so weird about sugar (and likely won’t give him any the next day! hahaha).  The benefits for this specific kid outweigh the risks.  Perhaps not so for other kids, but for Berrik, it is the case.  So off to camp he will go.

We are preparing and have been for weeks.  We talk about things he might do there, what the expectations will be, how he will make lots of friends, and what the most polite way to decline food might be.  He has identified what treats he wants me to send that he says will be better than marshmallows. He knows which stuffy will come.  We will decide on clothing choices for the week when we pack.  I think he’s going to love it.  I think I’m going to cry all the way home from dropping him off.  I may not sleep.  But in my gut I know he’s ready and I know he’ll have the time of his life.  For us, this is the right decision.

“My brain is kinda different..”

When I saw this video, it brought tears to my eyes.  Berrik could be in this video.  What is most sad to me, is how our school system and our society is just not set up for kids like these kids.  Regardless of whether anyone says to these kids that they are ‘bad’ or not smart enough, they ‘sense’ that they are different, and from that they assume they are ‘bad’.  At least that was our experience.  Berrik took months to get over feeling like he was somehow not smart enough, or not well behaved.  The truth is he is very smart – well, ‘average’ anyways if those ridiculous IQ tests can be believed.  And he is incredibly well-behaved.  And like all kids, he just wants to succeed.

Unfortunately society and our school system tells us what ‘success’ looks like.  We are all guilty.  I have 2 kids who are in competitive activities where winning is a goal, and winning is celebrated.  They have good marks at school and we celebrate that too. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, as long as winning isn’t EVERYTHING, and there are lessons in the losing, and lessons about commitment and hard work.  But for a kid like Berrik, ‘winning’ in this conventional sense, isn’t in the cards for him.  He works harder and is more committed than anyone I know.  Yet he won’t have gold medals in sports, and he won’t likely be valedictorian (although, you never know…the kid is pretty smart).  In our family we have tried to redefine success, and homeschooling allows us to celebrate success without comparing to other kids.  Berrik is a great skiier, and does well on his bike.  He has fun doing these activities, and that is all that matters.  But I come from a family where success in school and sports has always been celebrated, and has always been a big deal.  My brother was/is a star athlete with good grades.  I was a star student with moderate athletic success.  My girls do well in their respective activities. My niece and nephew win at pretty much everything they do, athletics and scholastically. Berrik sees this and knows he doesn’t ‘win’ like everyone else.  It’s heartbreaking.  And inescapable.  Thinking that he will grow up always sensing that he doesn’t measure up makes me feel sick to my stomach.  Because he does measure up.  In every important way.  He’s kind and generous, loving, hard working, funny, and just about the sweetest kid that ever existed.  This morning he woke me up by saying, “Good morning my most favorite mom!”  There should be gold medals for kids like Berrik.

I know a lot of kids feel they don’t measure up to society’s expectations of success.  I know adults who feel they don’t measure up.  Berrik isn’t unique in this.  I can only hope that showing Berrik every single day that he is winning in the biggest ways will be enough. ​ In the race for best human being, he is in the lead.  I hope he grows up knowing this and realizing how much of a winner that makes him.

 

Hippie Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Freshii Bowls….Call it what you want. I call it DELICIOUS

In Red Deer at McKenna’s dance competition last week, our hotel was across a parking lot from Freshii.  I ended up grabbing food there a couple of times.  They have ‘bowls’, wraps, yogurt and other yummy items, all fresh, customizeable and delicious.  I have been thinking about the Mediterranean bowl since I had it early last week.  Today I made my own version.  Pretty simple.  And completely adaptable to tastes and calorie or macro goals if that is important to you.

Ingredients:

  • Greens (I used Organic Power Greens mix)
  • Quinoa – make as much as you want.  I wanted to keep the quinoa amount relatively low.  I used 1/2 cup dry quinoa cooked with 1 cup of water.  This provided three servings for me.  If you’re looking for something a bit heartier, this amount is probably more like 2 servings
  • Feta cheese – however much you want – for Vegans, maybe use chickpeas instead?
  • Cucumber – I cut up one mini cucumber per bowl
  • Red Onion – Again, to taste.  I used one thin slice through middle of onion and then chopped fine.
  • Olives – however much you want
  • Cilantro

NOTE: keep in mind that the olives and feta are both salty, so the more you use, the saltier your bowl will taste.  A little goes a long way for flavor.

Roasted Red Pepper sauce

THIS IS THE KEY INGREDIENT.  When you taste this you will wonder why you haven’t made it before.  And you will make it again. And you will put it on EVERYTHING.  This recipe makes more than 3 servings, but conveniently you will have enough left over to dip crusty bread, or to pile up with thick sliced tomatoes, thin sliced cucumbers, spinach leaves, and buffalo mozzarella on sourdough for a sandwich that dreams are made of. (Guess what I’m eating tomorrow….Sourdough is proofing as I type)

  • 2 red peppers cut, brushed with avocado oil (better than olive oil at high heat) and roasted until skin just starting to peel and turn dark around edges.
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • ½ cup unsalted raw (roasted is fine too) cashews (I soak mine overnight as I like to get rid of the phytic acid, but this isn’t necessary)

Put all ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor and process until mostly smooth.  I like it a tiny bit chunky so I didn’t overprocess it.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I adapted this red pepper sauce recipe from about 3 different ones I found online, based mainly on what I had in my kitchen as I was way too lazy to go back to the store.

Assemble your bowl starting with lots of greens, and then adding the other ingredients.  I used black pepper and squeezed 1/4 of a lemon over everything as well.

You could definitely add protein such as chicken, tofu, fish etc. if you so desire.  I found this bowl filling as is.