My fears for my boys in school

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I made a conscious choice when I started this blog not to talk too much about my children. This blog was started so that I could identify my fears and then face up to them. I learned from Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before” that I am an obliger. I am motivated by external accountability. And I know that working towards intrinsic motivation is important but this is the current state of affairs for me. Writing this blog and hitting publish forces me to reckon and rumble with my demons.

The past few months my anxiety has hit a new peak. I have always wondered whether the traditional education system would be a good fit for my boys, especially my oldest son. And at this moment, I think it is doing more harm than good.

My 9 year old son is equal parts highly sensitive and highly active. His motor skills–especially his fine motor skills–have developed on the slow end of normal. Writing and tying shoes are challenging and incredibly frustrating for him. But he does it, slowly, begrudgingly. His reading skills developed very early (age 2) and he excels at math.

Daniel loves to learn…about things HE is interested in. Before he started school, we would follow his interests. We spent hours studying ants, worms, and spiders. He would chose books from the library about them and we would do various crafts to create these creatures. He was incredibly interested in space and the international space station when Chris Hadfield was the commander. As a family we learned as much as we could to satisfy his curiosity. Now he is fascinated with the federal government and Justin Trudeau…and is frustrated that they are not studying it at school.

Frustrated. Sad. Sometimes angry. Sometimes scared. That is how my son feels every day at school.

He is getting help with writing at Sylvan Learning Centre. He loves it. He said the work is fun and he is able to write about things he is interested in. He looks forward to going there.

There have been so many times that my son has gotten in trouble for writing, talking, or drawing about whatever his current passion happens to be. At age 7 he was asked to draw “a sign of spring.” He drew the Rogers Centre and the Blue Jays because baseball starts in the spring. He was told after that he would receive a zero if he didn’t draw a flower. This school year, his teacher directed him not to talk about his passion for baseball in his “about me” poem. It seems the poem was more about her.

I believe there are many wonderful opportunities in schools. My son loves choir and is excited to finally be allowed to take part in track and field. He loves playing with his friends–who are not in his class–during activity breaks…when he is granted activity breaks. He has been forced to stay in and do work during activity breaks on many occasions. A 9 year old boy, told to sit still all day, with no activity breaks. Is that really in his best interests?

I’m frustrated. I’m scared. I don’t know the answer. And I’m not asking for advice, but I would love to hear other experiences.

I would also love to see this film. And I would love all educators to see this film, too: beyondmeasurefilm.com

We’re crazy like that

Yesterday was my son’s 9th birthday party. His actual birthday is in July but to ensure his friends would be available to come (i.e. not on summer vacation) we decided to have the party in June.

Every year we try to have a fun, active, usually outdoor party with his friends. This year the steaks were higher. We moved to a new city last summer so this party would include mainly new friends. Being the “new kid” also meant that he was not invited to any other birthday parties this year, which was hard for him. He watched longingly as his younger brother in kindergarten went to several birthday parties throughout the school year. So this birthday party took on so much more meaning for him…and for me.

Last year we held his party at the YMCA. They provide a staff member to help organize, supervise, and play with the kids. Since I have 2 other younger children, this extra help was amazing! Worth every penny. I considered repeating that party at our local YMCA but I really wanted to get back outdoors–but with help this time. I discovered that Shade’s Mills and many of the other Conservation Areas do birthday parties. Sweet! Since we had had a run of really warm, dry weather, this seemed like an ideal location.

There were several party themes available. We chose “Fins, fish, and other creatures”. It involved going to a stream with nets and fishing out interesting creatures. How cool is that? We also opted to extend the party an extra hour so we could have a camp fire and roast hot dogs. Seriously, a little boy’s dream. Kind of like day camping. And someone else was organizing it and providing all the gear. A mother’s dream.

The thing about dry spells is they come to an end…

In the 10 days leading up to the party there was more rain than sun. There was also a severe thunderstorm and a tornado (it didn’t touch down here exactly but it was close-ish and the risk was there all day). Every day I pulled up the weather network app on my phone to check the long range forecast. Some days the forecast was great. Phew. Other days, it wasn’t.

The day of the party arrived and it didn’t look good. Rain off and on all morning, forecast for thunderstorms in the afternoon. 2 hours before the party, a staff member from Shade’s Mills called us. I thought “this is it, they’re cancelling it”. I was given the option to reschedule but I was also told we could take shelter in the Nature Centre and do games and crafts. I couldn’t cancel it. I didn’t want to disappoint my son. And we could stay inside–no problem! I told the woman that I didn’t mind if the kids got wet but I didn’t want them outside in a thunderstorm. She agreed. We decided to stay the course.

I was not a fun person to be around in the hours leading up to the party. My husband can attest to that. My anxiety was through the roof. I was afraid no one would show up or that we wouldn’t be able to entertain a group of crazy boys inside the small Nature Centre for 3 hours.

1pm arrived. Most of the invited guests arrived and most were dressed for the weather: rain gear and boots. A few weren’t but luckily the Nature Centre had boots we could borrow. One boy was given hip waders–awesome! As the rain intensified I assured parents that we could stay in the Nature Centre if the weather was bad. “Pick up at 4pm?” one parent asked looking somewhat concerned. “Yeah, we’re crazy like that” I said trying to sound upbeat and confident.

I was not confident. Actually, I was fairly confident the party was going to be a bust and that I would have to frantically email parents to come pick up their kids early. Maybe I’d cram a few of them in van and drive them home early myself.

After all the parents left, the Shade’s Mills staff person–Lindsey–pulled me aside and suggested we go out now before the risk of thunderstorm intensified. What? I looked outside: pouring. And I’m from Vancouver, I know rain. I know all the many words to describe rain. I know that when it’s sprinkling it’s not really rain. Not even umbrella or hood worthy. This was the type of rain that when you pull into the grocery store parking lot, you contemplate waiting it out for awhile, letting it settle a bit, Ā before you open your door and dash in. And I was taking 8 kids–one without a jacket–outside in this. I reminded myself that I played in the rain as a kid–I had too, it was Vancouver! If you didn’t go outside in the rain, you didn’t go outside at all! It wasn’t cold outside, it was just wet. My inner critic protested “but what will the parents think?”

So I did the only logical thing I could do. I gave the boy without a jacket an umbrella and off we went!


It was a bit of a hike to the stream. I was soaked by the time we arrived, and I knew the kids were too. What I didn’t realize when I booked the party was that the kids were actually going IN the stream. So off they went, already soaked, into the stream with their nets. They found crayfish and hundreds of water striders. They all managed to fill their boots with water–even the kid with hip waders! We stayed at the stream for a little over an hour and by the time we hiked back, the rain stopped. I took the kids inside the Nature Centre, helped them dry off and gave them a snack. Lindsey–our amazing guide–went outside and started a camp fire (did I mention how wet it was? Lindsey was truly amazing).

On the way to the camp fire, we spotted an American Toad. My 5 year old held on to him for a good 15 minutes.


The boys roasted hot dogs and ate cupcakes. When the parents arrived, no one wanted to leave. The kids were wet, dirty, and happy.


And I was so happy that we took the risk.

On staying small

Have you ever been offered an amazing opportunity, something you didn’t think was possible, and you respond by doing everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen? Not because you don’t want it, but because of a million other reasons. “I can’t find childcare. My son will refuse to eat if I’m not with him. My children need me. It’s just too hard.”

And underneath that you discover the voices saying “no way, you’re not good enough to do this. You’re not smart enough. You’re not skilled enough.”

And when you confront those voices and say actually I have taken courses and I’ve studied and I really want to do this then you you hear another voice: “who do you think you are.”

Brene Brown talks about engineering staying small–doing everything possible to stay under the radar. I think that is what I am doing.

I started this blog because being courageous and putting myself out there are my personal values. And I want to identify when I’m self-sabbotaging and do something about it.

And it’s really scary.

I am avoiding searching for childcare because of the many negative experiences I’ve had with childcare in the past. It’s why my husband and I work opposing shifts. I just didn’t want the stress of childcare anymore. But the truth is we’ve had good experiences with childcare too. I feel this self-imposed pressure to put my children before my career. And for me that has meant spending most of my time with them. Also, the cost. So much of what I earn will go toward childcare. But there is the mentorship/experience piece that I simply can’t put a price tag on.

I have to look at the childcare options here. I know I have to.

I fixed my foot with breathing–no really!

2015-04-02 10.30.00I have written about my foot pain with running a bit in the past but it’s such a big issue that it deserves it’s own blog post.

In 2004 I became serious about running. I joined the Runner’s Den in Westdale in September with the goal of running a 5 km race sometime in the spring. We ran 3 days a week. At the end of October I ran my first 5km race. Well to be honest it was run-walk intervals. Probably 5 min run, 1 min walk but I don’t really remember. My husband also joined the Den and I think his goal was to run a 10 km race. But in October he ran his first half marathon.

We were hooked.

The Den made it easy to love running. All the runs were organized with great leaders and they had all the gear you needed to run in all weather conditions. I am most proud of the fact that we ran through the winter–outdoors. I felt like a winter warrior!

In the spring my husband decided to train for a marathon in the fall. The group I was running with set a goal of a half marathon in the fall. Half marathon…21.1 km. That is a few km more than my original 5km goal! But I decided I would do it.

The training was manageable because I ran with such a wonderful group of people. It wasn’t until the summer that I started to get intermittent pain in my left foot. I found that if I stopped to stretch my calves or massage out the trigger points in my tibialis posterior (muscle in the lower leg) I was fine. I completed the half marathon at the Okanagan Marathon in October 2005.

Two months later, my husband away in China, I was struggling to run 10 km. I was exhausted and had no idea why.

I was pregnant.

I decided that I would continue running throughout my pregnancy. However, after 3 falls while running, I put it on hold until the baby was born.

The guidelines for return to activity postpartum are typically 6 weeks. That is assuming it was an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. I birthed my child vaginally but I denied the fact that the delivery was traumatic and caused a lot of damage “down there”. My left leg was now mysteriously weak, so much so that I had to hold the walls/banister to walk down stairs. At 6.5 weeks postpartum, I joined the Runner’s Den again. On my second run, I rolled my left ankle and sustained a third degree ligament tear.

I spent 3 months treating my ankle at home and then I tried running again. No go. Now my left foot hurt. For a few years I tried foot/ankle exercises and the occasional physio appointment to “fix” the problem. However I was so busy with being a new mother and trying to return to work that I gave up.

In fall 2010–now a mother of 2–my left foot hurt to walk. Given that we only had one car and I walked, bussed, or cycled everywhere, this was a real problem. It was a year before I finally sought help. I had a cortisone injection and was finally able to walk pain-free. Just not run.

Fast forward to 2015–and 3 children–I decided it was time to get back to running. It was time to get serious about my pelvic floor issues.

Wait, what? Didn’t I say my foot hurt?

I have always believed that there is a connection between the dysfunction in my pelvic floor and my left foot pain. And my urinary incontinence.

Yeah I said it. I leaked.

pelvic_floor_text

The leaking actually started when I was in my early 20s and was trying to run (yes, running and I have had a sordid past. Don’t ask about my elementary and high school years).

I decided to try an approach outlined by Julie Weibe PT. It’s called the Pelvic Floor Piston. The theory is that when you breathe in, your diaphragm pushes down and your pelvic floor must relax and move down. Imagine a canister moving down toward your pelvic floor. When you breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and comes up while the pelvic floor contracts and lifts up. Imagine a canister moving up toward your diaphragm.

breathing

I knew that I had a lot of tension in my pelvic floor and left hip. This was effectively blocking the canister from moving down as I breathe in and likely affecting forces that were transferred through my pelvis to my left leg and foot.

Yesterday I decided to focus on this piston approach while running. When I started to feel pain in my left foot, I imagined my pelvic floor and hips relaxing and opening with each breath in. I pictured the piston moving down with each inhalation and up with each exhalation. The pain stopped. Seriously, I didn’t have any further pain in my foot for the rest of the run. I actually had to stop and walk several times because I was tired, not because my foot hurt.

Today I used the piston approach for the entire duration of my run. No pain. Seriously, none at all!

It might be time to set some running goals šŸ™‚

P.S. More on the piston approach 

https://www.juliewiebept.com/individual/q-and-a-isnt-the-piston-approach-just-a-kegel-plus-breath/

Progress and discovering the root of my fears

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I thought I should write about my progress to date.

I drove to Ottawa by myself. 5+ hours on my own driving roads I’ve never driven before. I learned to trust my phone GPS/google maps to get me there. I troubleshooted bluetooth problems with my phone and my car. It is amazing the doors this small act has opened for me. I have a new found freedom. I can driveĀ places that I’ve never driven before on my own. A small victory, right? But truly a life-changing event for me.

Running is a bit better. Only one of my feet hurt now. And it’s not as often or as intense. I think I really did need to break in my shoes–or my feet. I’m really not sure which. The foot that hurts is the same foot I’ve had troubles with before so it is no surprise. I am learning to accept that I really do need to be dedicated to my therapeutic exercise program. Knowing what to do is not enough…I actually have to do it.

I don’t really feel afraid of driving or running now. In fact, I’m not sure if fear is–or ever was–the correct word. What I’ve noticed Ā is I’ve had to fight my negative voice/thoughts every step of the way. Brene Brown explains that there is something other than fear that plays two primary tapes:

1. Not good enough

2. Who do you think you are

That something is shame.

For years I have told myself that I am not a good driver or a good runner. I am not good enough. Shame.

After I started driving to work, I thought about other places I could drive to…one of those places being Ottawa. It took several months for me to finally make the decision to drive vs. fly. And once I decided that yes I was good enough and could drive there, I was hounded by the who-do-you-think-you-are thoughts. The two weeks leading up to the trip were filled with anxiety. On the day of the trip I lost my appetite completely. No need for road trip snacks. In fact, the tuscan chicken sandwich with onions that I bought for lunch on the way there sat in my car for 2 days virtually untouched andĀ filled the car with the mostĀ putrid rotten onion smelI for the drive home. But I digress. Suffice it to say, it didn’t go perfectly. I was forced to face problems as they arose. And now I feel confident that I could do another road trip–even if it didn’t go perfectly. We are “hardwired for struggle” according to Brene Brown and after going through that process I can definitely say I feel calmer and more willing to face the unknown, at least in the car.

Running has been a tougher habit to keep. I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s new book “Better than Before”. It is all about habits. I Ā am hoping it will help me develop a stronger habit of running. The longer I wait between runs, the more I hear the “not good enough” voice. For about two weeks though I felt like I had that voice under control. I kept going out. Some of the runs did not go well. The pain in the foot forced me to walk more than run. And that was when the “who do you think you are” voice took over. “See Wendy, you can’t do this. Your foot is always going to hurt. Why on earth did you think you could do this?” I guess it won, for a short while anyway, because I haven’t run in over a week.

Tomorrow I will get back on track with running.

Today I will do my foot exercises.

I can do this.

The Power–I mean Nonsense–of Yet

2015-02-08 09.40.07I did it. I ran. And it sucked.

I am a big fan of Carol Dweck and the concept of “growth mindset.” She talks about the power of yet (watch the TED talk:Ā http://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en#t-35604). She says if you get a failing grade you feel like you’re nothing. But if you get the grade of “not yet” then you understand that you’re on a learning curve.

I’m not a good runner…yet. Not yet.

I’m not going to lie to you (whoever you are) or myself: This sucks. I don’t like “learning curves.” I don’t like waiting. I’m ok with working hard–I like to work hard. But waiting and trusting the process? Barf.

And somehow I want my children to believe in this theory. Wholeheartedly.

This is what you call a crisis spiritual awakening.

It’s been 8 years since I ran. Over 9 years since I was any good at it. I ran a half marathon. 21.1km. I loved it. It was the best feeling in the world. When I started running about a year before that, I sucked at it. My goal was to run a 10k race someday. I surpassed my goal in one year. How? I worked hard. I put in the hours. I kept running (well, run-walk intervals) even though I sucked at it. And I found community. I found people who wanted the same thing and were roughly at the same point in their journey as I was.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we’ll ever do.” Brene Brown

My story is that I am now at my lowest fitness level and highest weight ever.Ā Rock Bottom. And yet somehow it is freeing to admit and accept that. There is no where to go but up!

I did enjoy my workout. It was only the running part that sucked. Both my feet hurt and it was hard to quiet my mind. Once I moved on to other exercises, I felt my groove come back. It was like deja vu…remembering my YWCA of Vancouver days. The long, leisurely Saturday workouts when my only responsibility was to myself. I felt the joy of exercise.

And for that reason, I will do it again.

Running, Growth mindset, and sh*t

My first half marathon

So I need to preface this by saying I haven’t faced this fear…yet.

Oh growth mindset…

I recently read that FEAR stands for 2 things:

1. Forget Everything And Run

2. Face Everything And Rise

My immediate thought was of course I want to do number 2. Of course I want to rise. That is the whole point of this blog and it’s what I’ve come to believe is my path to happiness.

But “forget everything and run”…well that’s what running was for me.

It was a time I could just live in the moment. Just Run. And be social. I didn’t really enjoy running alone–it seemed like too much work. But when I ran with people it was fun. We talked and talked and talked. The kilometers would fly by almost without noticing. Almost.

I miss running. I miss the people. I miss the exercise. I miss how it made me feel.

So why am I not running?

I could give you a whole host of excuses:

– I had a foot injury. Well 2 foot injuries

– I don’t have time

– I’m too out of shape now to start

– There’s no one to run with (that is truly at MY level–ultra low right now)

– It’s too damn cold

But the real reason? I’m scared.

I’m scared I’ll fail. I’m scared that I’ll suck at it.

So looking at my reasons above I can truthfully say:

– My foot doesn’t hurt right now.

– I could run with the toddler in the chariot at nap time (ok I don’t really want to push a stroller when I’m just getting back at it but it’s an option)

– I could start slow. Intervals. That’s how I started before.

– I have clothes for cold weather running. And I could always buy more šŸ™‚ (A new SAIL just opened up close to my house…so wonderful and so dangerous!)

– Maybe I need to join a running group.

I loved my old running group. Loved it. But we moved so I can’t go there. So here is where I have conveniently set up my road block. I don’t want to run alone…but maybe I should. I have heard how people love to run alone…how they love how it makes them feel. But I am not them. I am me.

sigh

I have a choice: leave this at a stalemate or do something about it.

Clearly I have to do something about it.