Tag Archives: Our family’s journey

Berrik is sick. This is the best day EVER!

This morning Berrik woke up with a headache and sore throat.  I made him breakfast and gave him a big glass of water to drink to see if it would help.  I really wanted him to go to school today.  Not because I want him out of the house, but because today is a big day at school.  His class has been studying Beakerhead this week and have been planning to build a big fort in class.  We went through the whole morning routine and just as we were about to get into the car, Berrik said he just couldn’t go as his head and throat were hurting too much.  He is not normally a complainer so I knew he must really not be feeling well.

I took Berrik downstairs and snuggled him onto the couch with a blanket and some Netflix.  And he cried.  Total devastation.  Big gulping sobs.  “Berrik, why are you crying so hard?  Do you feel really awful?” I asked.  “I just wanted to go to school so bad Mom,” he sobbed.  “I don’t want to miss it.”

I’m not heartless.  Or a crazy mean mom.  But while I cuddled my sad little boy, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  Berrik is sad about missing school!  He is engaged and wants to attend.  He’s excited about what he has been learning. This has literally never happened before.  Never.  Not one time has he ever said, I’m excited to go to school, or I’m sad to miss it.  Not even when there were cool fieldtrips planned, and not while I was homeschooling him.

So.  I hope he feels better very soon.  But as he feels unwell and rests, I am feeling excited and relieved and a multitude of other positive emotions.  We have had so many ups and downs in Berrik’s short school career, and I truly wondered if we’d ever find a school that would be a good fit for him.  Many hours of sleep have been lost.  Many grey hairs have sprouted (although I believe the girls can take credit for some of those too!).  Our hearts have broken numerous times.  But today, I can look back on the journey and sigh with relief because at least for today, I know it was worth it.

“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.

 

Socialization and Homeschooling

This is one of those things that non-homeschoolers (myself included at one point) feel that is a critical piece missing for the homeschooled kids vs. kids attending school.   I have heard and read comments about homeschooled kids growing up to be anti-social or just plain weird because they don’t know how to socialize with ‘normal’ kids.  I can only speak to my own experience on this one.

When Berrik was in grade one, he was struggling.  In every sense of the word.  He came home crying or sad many, many days.  He told me he had no friends because the other kids thought he was stupid.  He told me about kids throwing leaves and twigs at him on the playground.  And he hated being singled out in class to do ‘special’ work because it meant he was singled out as ‘different’.  In his mind, this equated to ‘unworthy’.  Now… I spoke to his teacher and she felt Berrik was over reacting to what was happening.  And at the time, I agreed that his reaction probably didn’t match the situation from the outside looking in.  But what I knew was that Berrik’s perception was that he was unworthy of friends, and he was not smart enough.  So, does the reality even matter, when that is his perception?  Not to me.  My formerly happy, social boy was beaten down.  He lacked confidence.  His self esteem was about zero.  He didn’t want to try anything.  He was negative.  ‘I can’t do it’ was a consistent phrase.

Fast forward 10 months.  Ten months of encouragement, cajoling, celebrating successes, learning from failures, and my confident, happy kid is back.  It took months for this confidence to come back.  Months.  Imagine a kid who felt like Berrik did for years!?  They might never recover.  And you know what came with the confidence?  Friends.  The more sure of himself and his own intellectual abilities (and otherwise), the easier he has made and maintained friendships.  He’s back to assuming that kids actually WANT to play with him, and he easily marches up to kids he doesn’t know and chats them up.

img_8404My point in this is that the socialization that Berrik was getting at school, was not beneficial to him.  Because of his learning disabilities, he was identified (possibly only self-identified, but likely more than that) as being the weird one.  So, I would rather my kid be the ‘weird’ homeschooled kid who is confident and friendly and secure in himself, than the kid ‘socialized properly’ at school feeling like a weirdo and feeling like he isn’t worthy, lacking in confidence, and feeling miserable.  Is it harder to find friends to play with when you aren’t in school?  Yes.  But Berrik has friends that he met on the toboggan hill, at Cub Scouts, in the neighborhood.  I have to work a bit harder to arrange play opportunities, but it’s not that difficult.
And let’s not forget that socialization happens within families as well.  Berrik has to navigate the scary, time-bomb laden world of having teenaged sisters!  Talk about reading social cues and adapting to actions and reactions often well out of proportion for the situation!

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.  Neither is a bricks and mortar school.  Kids can socialize regardless of how they receive their education. Nothing is black and white (read more about my feelings about ‘black and white’ here).  My homeschooled kid is very social and very happy.  He’s not a weirdo. (Or at least not any more than his gene pool would indicate!).

Family Vacation: How We Made it Work for Us

MK_TOMBRDG1_20170216_7950165136

These matching shirts were how we surprised the kids at Christmas with the upcoming trip!

As I was preparing to write a post about our vacation to Disney World, I came across this article Benefits of Family Vacations that extols the virtues of family vacations.  It essentially says that taking a vacation is good for child development related to exploring new places and the resulting growth in frontal lobes (I’m really paraphrasing here). It also says that happy childhood memories related to family vacations can serve as ‘happiness anchors’ in future times of distress.  Additionally, taking photos (except when it interferes with your activities) helps foster feelings of engagement and enjoyment of whatever you are doing.  The obvious need to de-stress for all family members, is also mentioned.  All this to say that I guess the kids will grow up to be happy and issue-free, all because we went on a family holiday! 😉  Such an oversimplification, however, I cannot argue with the notion that family time is valuable, whether you’re on vacation or not.

img_8166

This guy was pretty happy to watch a little Batman vs. Superman on WestJet Connect.

The point of this post was to talk about our big family trip to Disney World, and how we made it work with a kid on a pretty strict diet and also in a time of major economic slow down in Alberta, made more impactful in my family due to my leave from work.

49a521a1-5c17-49f2-9684-d181acc6c82f

Travelling with teens. Enough said.

 

  1. We rented a condo through VRBO.com with a kitchen.  This was critical on so many levels I don’t even know where to start.  When you have a family member with some significant dietary restrictions, a kitchen and ability to buy and cook your own food makes life considerably easier.  It also allowed all 7 of us (my parents joined us on this trip) to have less insane mornings.  We were up early to get to the Disney Parks most days, so it was nice to be able to make breakfast and eat at the condo rather than finding a restaurant to sit down in.  Way more cost effective also.  And when someone needs more time for hair and makeup (not mentioning any names, but suffice it to say it was a teenager), or someone else is done eating and wants to play rather than sit at a table waiting for everyone else to finish, no problem.  After a long day at the park we were all hot and tired.  The kids wanted to hit the pool and the adults wanted to have a cold one and relax.
    img_8374

    One of the 7 pools at the resort.  It was a mini paradise and the perfect location for a family vacation at Disney World.

    By heading back to our condo, grabbing some beverages and heading down to the pool, everyone was satisfied.  We cooked dinner in our condo each night (except for one) as well.  Kids kept swimming.  Dad and Kevin barbequed on the resort BBQs, and Mom and I put together the rest of the meal.  No worrying about Berrik’s food.  No trying to

    Grandma and Avi #selfie

    round up everyone from the pool, getting everyone dressed up and ready for dinner and then sitting in a restaurant waiting for food with tired kids, tired parents, and tired grandparents.  Our meals were simple, so it wasn’t a ton of work.  Then everything into the dishwasher, youngest kids to bed and everyone else head to the couch to relax on the couch with a movie.  (My parents were brilliant in bringing their Apple TV with them!). From a cost perspective for the accommodations, it was a very good deal.  All 7 of us stayed together (we would have required 2 hotel rooms which would have been similar in cost to what we paid for the condo) and we had the added bonus of having space for all of us to be together in the evenings.  Hotels make that nearly impossible, and certainly not comfortable.

    img_8178

    These two are almost 6 years apart and don’t get a lot of time together at home so it was nice for them to reconnect.

  2. We packed lunches for the parks every day.  Not only was this necessary for Berrik, it had many benefits for the rest of us.  It was a huge time saver.  No waiting in lines for food.  In fact, at Magic Kingdom (the only park where we actually had to wait more than 10 minutes in line) we ate in the lineups.  As a mom, I was most happy that the packed lunches meant everyone was getting healthy food.  My oldest gets sick with too much sugar.  My middle one gets grouchy with crappy food.  And Berrik just can’t have it.  I think avoiding the deep fried, highly processed food at the parks helped us all have enough energy to get through the long days!  The cost savings is another obvious perk.  A hot dog at Magic Kingdom was about $7 US.  Extra for any sides.  There were options like fruit cups and veggies etc., which was nice to see, but they were also super expensive.   With 7 people travelling, those savings add up significantly.
  3. We used FastPass and timing to our advantage.  STUDIO_JTA2_20170214_398201608439You can pre-book three FastPasses per person at each park.  We got to each park at opening and went to a popular ride that lines up later in the day, first thing.  Then depending on the timing of the FastPasses, we went on rides or attractions that fit in between.  By using the FastPasses for the most popular rides (except one…the trick is to get to one popular ride as soon as the park opens), it almost eliminated our ride wait times.
    img_8219

    Grandma and Grandpa are such good sports.  Especially Grandma who essentially tortured herself with ride after scary ride! #splashmountain

    I believe we waited about 30-40 minutes for Space Mountain and less than 30 minutes for Splash Mountain, but otherwise didn’t really wait for anything.  Very little lining up and standing around meant an overall happier group of people.  Apropos considering we were at the happiest place on earth!

  4. We rented a van.  Easier than airport transfers with all our luggage (although I must brag that our family of 5 were able to pack everything into 3 suitcases!).  There were shuttles from our resort to all the parks. The resort was not a Disney resort, but it was located within the park gates, so was very close to all parks.  With 7 people, the cost of the shuttle back and forth each day almost covered the cost of the van.  And the van eliminated the need to wait for shuttles and risk not all 7 of us fitting on the shuttle.  We could go to the park when we wanted, and leave when we wanted without worrying about timing.  It costs $20/day to park at the parks.  Additionally, we went  to Legoland which is a 45 minute drive away from Disney.  There were shuttles for that too, but more expensive, less times in each direction (so if you miss one, you could be stuck with an expensive cab ride!), and of course sitting in a bus for an hour both ways wasn’t that appealing either.
    img_8345

    #legoland plus #ninjago = #happyplaceforthisguy

    Grocery shopping was also simpler this way.  My parents arrived in Florida first so they did the first (and major) grocery shop.  Kevin and I went mid week to grab a few extra things.  And finally, on the weekend when the parks were slated to be the most busy, we took the van and drove a couple hours west to Clearwater Beach for the day.

    img_8298

    #sisters

    White sand, warm clear water, and a lot of lazing around in the sun.  It was perfect after 4 days of parks and busyness.  Without the van this would have not been an option.  So the van was well worth its cost.

img_8293

Mickey on the beach

This family vacation was the best one we have had.  The kids are all old enough that they aren’t much work to travel with, especially compared to the days of car seats, strollers, diapers and all the other baby and toddler related items that one needs – not to mention the need for naps and inability or lack of desire to wait patiently in lines etc.  None of these were factors this time.  Having my parents there was a huge help as well.  With three kids it is incredibly helpful to have extra ‘adults’ to ensure all kids get lots of attention and get to check the ‘must dos’ off of each of their lists.  My kids are very close to my parents and we so appreciate and value the time spent with them. My parents have unending energy and a knack for making their grandkids feel extra special and loved.  I think I speak for all of us when I say we have created a whole pile of ‘happiness anchors’ to keep us grounded when more challenging times arise in the ups and downs of life.

Have a magical day!