Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kanye? You should be ashamed of yourself!

I've admitted that I'm a Kardashian watcher and that I have a love/hate relationship with Kimye, but this time, Kanye has crossed the line. 

In a recent concert in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and daughter in the audience, Kanye not once, but TWICE, singled out a person with a disability.

Not standing to salute the Almighty Yeezus, he not only used derogatory statement about people with disabilities and requiring "special parking and shit", he literally stopped his performance to embarrass and harass one person with a prosthetic leg and one in a wheelchair (don't you love the title of the video "Kanye West Sydney wheelchair misunderstanding"). Waving his prosthetic leg, one man was given a pass. 



Don't believe he can stoop this low?  Just watch another video on Fox News.  

Are you kidding me?

“I can't do this show until everybody stand up. Unless you got a handicap pass and you get special parking and s**t,
” he shouted.
The crowd was reportedly trying to clue Kanye in to his epic ableism, with the entire section making wheelchair signals with their arms. On a mission, West sent his bodyguard into the crowd to confirm that the seated fan was, in fact, in a wheelchair. When it was confirmed, West said, “He is in a wheelchair? It’s fine!” WTF?
Lucas Jackson/Reuters
I'm so thankful that Mr. West has a perfectly beautiful, healthy and able young daughter but to have no sensitivity at all is shameful as a parent and as a human being. I am a proud mom of a child with disabilities.  My life has been made richer and better because of that.  I'm also proud to be working with families who have children with multiple special needs and are in wheelchairs, can't stand, can't walk or even can't speak. What Kanye is missing is the beauty and inspiration in the world, that he clearly can't seem to see.  The sad reality is that until he stops selling millions of albums or selling out stadiums for his concerts, his brand of blatant egocentricity, ignorance and discrimination will continue to invade our society and prevent us from truly moving forward with inclusion and acceptance.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting Help When You Need It

It's hard to ask for help for yourself. I remember the day I called my doctor a few months after the twins were born, asking for some help to cope.  She started me on an anti-depressant that I ended up taking for a few years.  I was so grateful to have the help when I need it to be the best mom and wife I could be while I struggled to raise three boys, one with serious medical needs.  Then it helped after Zack died.  It allowed me to get out of bed and find a meaningful way to move on in a new journey by fundraising for Zack's Dream Room.

It can be even harder to admit that you need help for your child, but I did it for Zack and now I'm doing it for Jayden. Last year was a challenging one at school for Jayden. One that was filled with emotional breakdowns missing his twin brother, visits from Social Workers (free through the school board) and private Child and Youth Workers (we paid $80 for a few sessions), frowning faces and notes in the agenda and a green/red card behaviour system (that proved to be successful). It was shortly after knowing that his grief was distracting him at school, that we reached out for help from the school board social worker.  In May, we learned that this was not the right forum for him to address his emotions and we needed to do more. We were really excited to see that the card system and spending more time communicating with his teacher, helped Jayden's behaviour at school but we still needed to find an outlet for his grief in a creative way, the language he loved to speak most.  The phone calls to social services in York Region were my next steps. Being the end of the school year, both boys were on the waiting list for a bereavement class that is offered for FREE through Hospice Aurora-King and we were on the waiting list at Blue Hills Family Centre (a FREE service in York Region). 
 
My funny Jayden needs an outlet for this creativity!

It can be even harder still to admit that you need more parenting "tools" in your "toolbox". I'll admit that Jayden has always been a kid with lots of energy, not a lot of focus and challenging moods.  So totally different from Ty, we have been challenged in the many ways that Jayden likes to push the boundaries and our patience.  He's a real "boy" that is easily distracted, loves to be busy and has more 'swagger' than should be allowed at his age. On the other hand, our Jayden keeps us laughing with his silliness, has the ability to tell a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, plays every sport imaginable and makes friends so easily!  He's just a fun, creative kid that you love to be around!  We became concerned about a potential learning difference during the last few months of school.  As the work in Grade one got harder and with multiple steps, he seemed to struggle to really understand the tasks that were asked of him.  His reading is fabulous and his ability to tell as story is very complex, but getting those words down became a clear challenge for him.  Still yet to be diagnosed (if there is something there), we wanted to get some help to not only diagnose that potential difference and find ways that we can motivate and accommodate him at school, we also wanted to find ways to encourage his creativity and crazy sense of humour in ways that are appropriate and respectful.  


I'll be honest. I'm a different parent than I was when Zack was alive. I'm a different mother, wife and woman.  It's impossible not to be.  I know that my guilt for leaving Jayden to play alone for those 3 years when Zack needed me more has made me a more lenient mom to both Jayden and Ty.  I wanted to be gentler and kinder to Jayden, so that I could make up for those three years when he didn't get much attention.  I still want to hold him close to protect him from those feelings of grief and loss.  I forgive him so much more because of all that he's been through in 7 years.  Am I letting him get away with more than he should?  Totally. It's not right, but it's the truth. 

September is off to a great start! Blue Hills has called us and we are thrilled to have a Child and Youth Worker assigned to our family! We will be doing a two-hour intake interview next week and we can't wait to share all the amazing and challenging things about our sweet kid and find ways to channel this creativity and find the best ways to bring out what makes him so incredible. While it was hard, we admit that we need help. We need new ways to parent that can help our entire family learn better ways to navigate through difficult times and we need to move passed the guilt that might be hindering our ability to parent in the best ways for our boys.

It's great to reach out for help! The burden is less overwhelming and I'm finally feeling hopeful and positive about the future! The new school year is off to a very positive start (like this note from his new teacher- "Jayden is working really well and is quite helpful in class")! With week two of school being over, I finally feel that I can exhale and feel confident that we are moving in the right direction- getting the help we need to have a fabulous year ahead!

 

Any advice for getting help for yourself or your kids?  What has worked for you? 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Stork Brings Technology for Infertility to Your Home #TheStorkCAN


I've written about our journey through infertility and how we had our three miracles through IVF and I only wish we had had some less expensive and more intimate options during that time.  While it might not have worked for our particular issues, it might have given us hope and a way to keep our infertility private before exploring it with doctors and paying thousands of dollars. 

We are not the only ones who have prayed to be parents and been told it can never happen naturally.  We are not the only ones who had to find hope during a difficult time.  Both the financial and emotional struggles can be unbearable. One in six Canadians struggles with infertility, yet many feel alone because their friends and family had no problem conceiving their children. And out of the ones who do battle infertility, only 15% can afford IVF treatments and other assisted reproductive technologies. We were lucky, but emptied all our savings to have our babies through IVF.  But new hope has arrived in Canada!

 

 
I'm excited about a new and innovative fertility product launching in Canada! The Stork by Rinovum Women’sHealth is an over-the-counter, at-home aid that supports a natural and intimate approach to conception.

Combining science and innovation, The Stork takes the well-established cervical cap insemination technology that health care professionals have used for decades and allows couples to perform it easily in the privacy of their homes. Imagine, just you and your partner trying this at home together with no technicians, hospital gowns or bright lights! 

The Stork is an affordable option for couples trying to conceive that bridges the gap between costly clinical treatments and natural intercourse.

Available at select pharmaciesTo learn more, visit these links:


To celebrate the launch of the product, there will be a Twitter Chat on September 9th at 8:00 PM EST!
#TheStorkCAN  


You also have a chance to win 1 of 10, $50 gift cards so don't miss out! If this is your first Twitter Chat, it is easy to participate on the Twubs Page.

Date: Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Hashtag: #TheStorkCAN
Host: @StorkbyRinovum
Prizes: 10x $50 Gift Cards

Monday, September 1, 2014

Help us Reach our Goal for SickKids for our Zackie #WalkforSickKids

I didn't think I could do it last year.  I was in pain for the last 5km but there was no way I was going to quit...Zack never had.  The accomplishment of challenging myself and pushing through was such an important experience for me.  Having Zack in my mind for all 20km, he remained my inspiration.

The day of the walk, I saw his face at every turn.  In the faces of Ty and Jayden.  In the faces of the other kids we met along the journey.  I saw the way he used to look at me when he accomplished one of his own goals and I felt him cheering me on.


We met families who knew about Zack and we shared the stories of our incredibly brave kids, nurses and doctors we loved and what life was like with a sick child.  We remembered those first days after our kids were born and rushed to SickKids for treatment to keep them alive, feeling thankful for the time it gave us with our child.  We saw kids who had conquered cancer, survived open heart and brain surgery and even other families who had lost children within the walls of SickKids.  We remembered those painful last days together, but also marveled at the way in which our sweet children and our families were treated with dignity and respect.  We remembered making molds of our child's feet and hands and celebrated how each and every nurse and doctor fought to keep them alive until the very end. We shared the story of how the nurses and doctors took turns doing CPR for over 40 minutes for our Zackie and they never gave up.  That act gave us three more days to be with him, tell him all that we needed to say and ultimately allow him to give up the fight, in our arms.

The morning of the walk we raised the "Courageous" flag to kick off the opening ceremonies and shared our story about Zack with the participants who were just about to start their day.  We celebrated our fundraising efforts and walked with pride as Zack's family and as SickKids Ambassadors.


We can't wait to do it again this year and walk 20km for SickKids in honour of our Zackie.  Again this year, our boys were able to participate in the YTV tv spots to promote the walk and they felt so proud to be a part of this initiative as SickKids ambassadors
 
Along side other incredible families who we have met along the way, Paul, Ty, Jayden and I will be walking for Zackie and working towards our fundraising goal of $1500!

Check out Ty's scene on YTV!


Jayden's SickKids Ambassador Debut on YTV!

 

There are no words to express how SickKids has impacted our lives and how, even though Zack is gone, they continue to embrace us as family.  

Please donate here to Zack's Dream Team! Every dollar will help us reach our goal!

Thank you,
Heather, Paul, Ty and Jayden xo

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Breaking Bad and other Shows with Kids who have Disabilities

The other night I was watching the Emmys and so thrilled that my fave show of all time, 'Breaking Bad' had yet again swept the awards with their wins.  I can't totally articulate why I love that series so much, but I do know that it's due in part to the fact that they cast a young actor with CP (cerebral palsy) in the role of Walt Jr.  It not only made me look into what could have been Zack's teen years, but also set the bar for other shows to create an environment of inclusion and celebrating differences.

Watching Walt Jr. use his crutches and talk with some difficulty was such an interesting warm juxtaposition to the crazy, drug and blood-filled episodes.  Seeing as he navigated through his world, grabbing for crutches, trying to gain more independence and even exhibiting very "typical" teen behaviour, created a much needed balance for the family's chaos.  While not much was ever said about his disability or his diagnosis, there it was in every episode as if to show that in fact his needs were the most "normal" thing about them!

It got me thinking- what other tv shows and movies have portrayed young people with disabilities?  Did they use actors with or without those challenges? 

Here are my favourite shows or movies that include kids who have disabilities;

Breaking Bad- Walt Jr. has CP on this amazing show and uses crutches to get around.  This 20-something actor has CP in real life, but does not use assistance to walk. 



Spy Kids 4- I LOVED that the boy in this film was Hearing Impaired and wore blue hearing aids like Zackie!  My boys thought this was pretty awesome too.  It was not only mentioned in the movie, but celebrated and used as a "superpower".



Life Goes On- This was one of my favourite shows from the early 90s, long before I even knew the impact of having one of its main characters have Down's Syndrome.  Chris Burke was one of the first actors on television to show different abilities and he used his celebrity to build awareness for the National Down Syndrome Society. 


Glee- Becky's wit and attitude on this show provides much of the comic relief.  She breaks down the stereotypes that might exist about kids with special needs and shows us that teens with disabilities can and should be treated like everyone else!  Sue's relationship with her is exactly that.  Becky feels the same lust, anger, joy and frustrations that the typical teens experience on the show and I just love that she crushes on all the guys.  Her harsh language and brutal honesty shocks and impresses me all at the same time.

Glee- While the show has received backlash for not using an actor who is actually disabled and in a wheelchair, the producers claim they did open casting to actors with all abilities, but found no one with the voice or talent required to play Artie.  I still love that Artie's talent is not at all limited by the fact that he's in the wheelchair.  The show has addressed so many of the teen issues of inclusion, independence and sexuality that face youth with disabilities.


Parenthood- Having a boy with Asperger's on this hit NBC Drama has made an incredible impact on the awareness of Autism and ASD in the mainstream.  I've followed Max Braverman's character as we learned about his diagnosis, watched him struggle in the school system and even navigate complex social relationships.  The show's creator (who has a son on the spectrum) has balanced the need for social awareness with sensitivity and even a bit of humour.



How to Train Your Dragon- I loved this film as well as its sequel.  Having lost his leg in a near fatal accident, Toothless befriends and even helps build a prosthetic for his dragon Hiccup.  Not limited in any way, Toothless is by far the most fearless and respected dragon trainer in Berk. Since so many younger kids will watch this film, I think it sets the stage for a great discussion about respecting all abilities.


Dophin Tale- One of my favourite movies recognizing difference, celebrating it and finding ways to overcome any obstacle!  By far Winter is the best animal represented in movies with a disability, but its the screen-stealing little girl in a wheelchair who captured what it means to connect with someone who is just like you (thanks to Michelle who reminded me about that amazing scene).


More great movie title ideas from Love That Max.

Update:
Since posting this on my Facebook wall, I've heard of more great movies and shows;

American Horror Story- featuring a mentally challenged young woman Jamie Brewer.

So You Think You Can Dance- From my friend, Theresa Sanders;  although it doesn't feature a character, they have often featured disabilities in various ways...they've had numerous contestants audition with disabilities and they always tell their story and highlight them, in September 2012 they featured the Axis Dance Company during one episode who put on a glorious performance featuring dancers in wheelchairs, in June 2008 one of the choreographers Jean Marc Genereaux created a beautiful and moving dance for his daughter with disabilities and dedicated it to her because she loves to watch dance, and even last night one of the dances was about helping someone with visual impairments make their way and find love. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

10 Family-Friendly Ideas for the Last Week of Summer

Can you believe we only have one week left before the kids go back to school?  We've been cleaning and shopping and gearing up to start back to the regular routine of the school year.  I don't know about you but we still have some things on our Summer Bucket List that we need to do but haven't had a chance.  While some of those adventures will not get done in time, we have recreated some fun ideas for our family to enjoy the last week of summer before school starts!  Here are 10 ideas for your family!


1.  Get nominated for an Ice Bucket Challenge, talk to your kids about ALS and make a donation to ALS Canada.

2.  Go on an ice cream adventure! Visit your favourite ice cream shop and try a flavour you've never tried before (we love to visit Slices and Scoops in Fenelon Falls and order Moose Tracks or Peanut Butter and Chocolate!).

3.  Make a photo book or journal about your summer adventures and have the kids do the writing or dictating.  This is a great idea to get them back into creative writing mode for school!

4.  Go Park-Hopping and try a park you have never gone to before!  Drive around to new neighbourhoods and stop at parks that look like fun. We love to check out the ones with fitness equipment!

5.  Use your season's passes or coupons to visit your favourite summer places just one more time!  We can't wait to have one of our last visits to Wonderland. 

6. Book a playdate with a school friend to get your child reacquainted with a buddy before they start back next week.

7.  Have one of these summer dessert recipes for dinner at least ONE night this week!


8. Take a bike ride to the kids' school and do a "dry run" of the first day back.  Play some of their favourite recess games on the field or tarmac.  Do they know what door they will go through when the bell rings?  How fast can they run to line up there?  Can they guess who their teacher will be?  It's great to start talking about school and classroom rules too!

9.  Try one of these 5 ways to give back to kids who are in need of school supplies for this September.   

10.  Host a Netflix movie night inside or under the stars with popcorn and some retro candy!  With the sudden and sad passing of Robin Williams, it's the best time to reminisce and introduce your kids to the adventure movies we love from one of the best comedic actors ever.  These titles are all on Netflix; Jumanji and RV.



Check out these other adventure titles for Big Kids from Netflix Canada; 
Journey 2 The Mysterious Island (with The Rock)
The Adventures of Tintin
Tad: The Lost Explorer
The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure
National Treasure
Labou and the Quest for the Lost Treasure


Little Kids
Dora The Explorer
Wild Animal Baby Explorers
Tree Fu Tom
Rubbadubbers: Tubb's Pirate Treasure
A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures
The Hive
Disclosure: Yay! I am part of the Netflix stream team (#StreamTeam) and have received product and a subscription to Netflix in exchange for writing monthly posts.  Already a huge Netflix fan, this is a pretty sweet deal! 

Should you participate in the #ALSIceBucketChallenge?

I've always been hugely supportive of charitable initiatives and fundraising for several important causes that have impacted our own family, so when the ALS Ice Bucket Challenges (#ALSIceBucketChallenge) started showing up in my feed last week, I needed and wanted to learn more about both the disease and the fundraising plans.  

As more and more videos filled by Facebook feed, I wondered if these people were really donating to this important cause or just jumping in on some viral social fun. The Ice Bucket Challenge debate has been going on for several weeks now and I can actually see both sides of the issues.  While African children struggle to have clean drinking water, we have chosen to waste thousands of buckets. I agree that it just doesn't make sense. On the other hand, after a bit of reading and research, I was pleased to see that the challenge has in fact produced unprecedented fundraising results and will really be able to make a difference in supporting more research.  When I thought about whether I would participate, I decided that ultimately the pros outweighed the cons.  I felt comfortable knowing that the money that our family donated, would have not have been donated otherwise, had we all not been challenged.  I love that my kids learned about a disease that has affected several families that they know and that they each contributed some money towards our family donation.  I've watched videos like this incredible video of Anthony and read blogs like Charlie's, that has allowed me to learn more about ALS. This is a good thing, right?



Participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge is your choice, free of judgement. You may have seen my own Ice Bucket video on social media last week and noticed that I nominated my friend Ally to do the same.  When I challenged Ally, I didn't know that her mother-in-law had died as a result of this relentless disease.  I'm so proud of her for sharing her reasons for declining, as well as her story of watching someone slip away from ALS. It may help you form your own decision about participating or not.


Here is Ally's story-

I've been watching the ALS ice bucket challenge evolve on social media for the last few weeks. I wasn't sure what I would do when I was inevitably nominated. Turns out I'd rather write about what the disease is really like, than dump a bucket of ice over my head.

Our family lost my mother in law, the kids' Nana, to ALS. She was 65 years old and it was literally a year between diagnosis and death. It was a hell of a year.

ALS is a relentless, fast-moving, terrifying disease that held our family in its throes until it finally took her life. This isn't my story, of course. ALS didn't happen to me - but I can tell you what it stole from a woman who had just begun to enjoy retirement, her grandkids, and plans to travel.

First, it stole her voice. This was a woman who called her kids regularly to chat, and almost always called back after the last hang up because she had 'one more thing to tell us'. Her first symptoms were slurred speech, and the quick downhill road meant that she could only write to communicate. The pain in her eyes and frustration at not being able to talk was hard to watch. It stole a huge part of her personality when she lost her ability to speak. We would have given a lot to hear her 'advice' one more time.

It stole her friends. There were friends that stopped coming to visit, unable to cope with seeing their friend attached to a feeding tube, unable to speak to them, communicating only with pen and paper.

It stole her dignity. As a person loses muscular control, simple bodily functions become difficult if not impossible. It meant Nana no longer could travel to visit family even a 20 minute drive away. She became trapped in four walls, as reliant on others as a newborn.

It stole her ambition. Her will to live at the end - of course it was gone. There was no life left to live, nothing to hope for or to look forward to. While her mind was strong, her body had betrayed her, and she had to let go. As hard as it was, after the year we saw her go through, it honestly was a relief to see her suffering end.

To our family, reminders of ALS are reminders of heartbreak, of a terrible year where it was all we could do to keep up with and try to adjust to the ever-changing realities of this disease.  With every empty bucket of ice dumped it also serves as a reminder of a life not lived and an emptiness in our lives of what could have been. And while it's great to see that the #icebucketchallenge has raised awareness and money (incredible gains over previous years for which I'm so glad), for me, I'm going to take a different challenge.

I'll be doing the NoIceBucketChallenge instead - read here for more, or just follow these simple steps (credit to the author Will Oremus):

1. Do not fetch a bucket, fill it with ice, or dump it on your head.
2. Do not film yourself or post anything on social media.
3. Just donate the damn money, whether to the ALS Association or to some other charity of your choice. And if it’s an organization you really believe in, feel free to politely encourage your friends and family to do the same.


Guest post by my friend, Ally Cooper.  I'm so proud of her courage to write this and her passion to tell an important story about ALS.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Coming Soon: Innovative Conception Aid for Couples Struggling with Infertility #TheStorkIsComing


Having gone through infertility and ultimately conceiving through IVF (in vitro fertilization), I'm thrilled to bring this exciting news to Canadian couples.

Are you ready for the NEW, over-the-counter conception aid? The Stork is coming to Canada this summer. Available exclusively at your local Rexall Pharmacy. 

Sign up for special offers and to be notified when it is available in-store here or follow #TheStorkIsComing to get the newest information as it lands.



Disclosure:  I've been compensated for helping to spread the word about this important new conception aid for couples.  Having gone through infertility and ultimately choosing IVF, I'm thrilled to bring this exciting news to Canadian couples.