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Autism, DownSyndrome, Special Needs. A response to the Ontario Letter

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{Pictures above provide a glimpse into the life of Peter}

In light of the recent and very disturbing letter that was sent to the parents of a boy with Autism (see this Huffington Post Live Story click HERE)I am compelled to share this story with you.

My little brother, Peter, who is not so little now, he is 36 and definitely exceeds my physicality, has DownSyndrome and definitely displays some other characteristics that can be found on the ASD Spectrum. He can be a challenge and throughout his life has most likely upset people, caused them great discomfort and whatever else we {the so called ‘normal’} people have to interpret and manage when our life collides with someone on the spectrum.

Throughout the years, I have written countless stories about my brother and the lessons I have learned from him, the things he has taught me and the way he has lived. Some days, he is our angel and we talk about how he has been sent from God just for us. We talk about how blessed we are to have had the opportunity to walk through life with him and how we wished other people could have a moment of this experience. Then, there are days when we wonder where he came from, why he’s acting a certain way and how do we handle what is happening before our eyes. In these moments, we see the struggle deep within him, his desire to do what we call ‘right’, to act appropriately, to respond how we want him to respond but because of the way he has been created the struggle lies in this this place. These are the times when this gentle giant, this angel who was sent from above needs our care, our love and our acceptance.

I could go on and on about the joy he has brought to our lives and his amazing nature and his deep sense of knowing and understanding that doesn’t translate into school grades or through the written or, at times, even the spoken word. His understanding is deep and his expression of that understanding at times throws the ‘EQ’ balance off the charts.

Today, instead of me writing about his impact on our lives, I have chosen to allow the words of another whom he has touched to bring expression to his being. She’s not a family member but she has been brought into the family through Peter and his love for her and his deep knowing that she is a person to love and to trust. Her name is Lori and outside of our family she is perhaps one of the most influencial people in Peter’s life. I am choosing not to respond in words to the ‘One Pissed Off Mother’ but rather by using the life of another and the experience of another who has chosen to see beyond what she doesn’t understand {in terms of how Peter was created} but has chosen to step over her own insecurities and the ‘unknown’ within Peter and she has found a beautiful relationship that has changed her life. I hope you enjoy her story about Peter.

MY FRIEND PETER by Lori Perra
I have a very special person in my life. He has taught me so many things that have helped me to become a better person. He has made me laugh and cry and practise my skills of tolerance and patience.

Peter has Down Syndrome.

I have known Peter for many years, but it has only been during the past two years that I have developed a relationship with him. What started as a job has turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Job coaching is what brought Peter and I together. For a few hours each week, we go to his place of employment and I instruct him on how to do his work. He is such a diligent worker and it does not take long for him to master the tasks assigned to him. Then it is coffee time!

Coffee time is what he looks forward to the most. This is our time to chat about whatever comes to mind. Peter never fails to ask about my husband, my children and my cat. He always asks how my day at work went and never fails to ask how his nephew is, who attends the school where I work.

Peter loves music and will start to dance when he hears it. He doesn’t care where we are or who is watching. His face lights up with the pure joy of it. Peter has taught me to dance like no one is watching. Everyone should try this. It is the most exhilarating feeling!

He has taught me not to be afraid to tell people how I feel about them. Peter is very quick to tell people that he has missed them, that he likes them, that they make him happy, that he loves them. He quite often will tell me that I am beautiful but he will also tell me when he thinks that I need a haircut. He is so open and honest that it is refreshing to have a conversation with him.

He is also very compassionate. When my Mom was ill, he always would inquire about her. When she passed away, he brought me flowers and hugs. Sometimes he will ask me if I think about her and what I am remembering about her.

Occasionally, we have a date night. He will get dressed up and he is the perfect gentleman. He opens doors for me, pulls out my chair, inquires if I am enjoying myself and of course, compliments me on how beautiful I am. For weeks after he will talk about what a good time he had.

Peter has been raised by a very loving and supportive family. I know it is through his family that he has learned his conversation skills, his strong work ethics, his sense of humour and his compassion. I am truly blessed to be able to have Peter and his family in my life. I believe that when we surround ourselves with positive people like Peter and his family, we remain strong, happy and positive ourselves.

Thank you Peter for being my friend!
Lori


Jamie Oliver’s Killer Jerk Chicken

I understand that getting dinner on the table can be a challenge. Especially when you’re working, looking after kids and trying to find that balance that allows you not only the time to create something nutritious for your family but the head space and the energy to pull it all together. In an effort to help I am pulling together a few thoughts, ideas, and workable solutions to help bring that balance into play.

As many of you know, I’m passionate about seeing individuals and families thrive rather than strive so today marks Day 1 of a number of posts where I will tackle ‘WorkPlace & Family Balance‘ and hopefully provide solutions for busy people who desire to find, create and live balanced lives. Endeavouring to do so ultimately offers the best to your family, your workplace and allows you space to create quality and quantity time. I’m excited because this is a space that I love to occupy.

ONE CHALLENGE we all face is food. With the rise in obesity, the lure of take away and the absence of time it can ~ and for all of us has been challenging. Today, I’m going to share a solution from our home which comes in the form of a recipe. Every recipe, thought and idea I share here are all ‘Tried and True‘ through our personal test situations. (I promise to share some of the disasters too!) Here we go… If you’re interested to follow on Twitter or Instagram you can check out everything that is offer.

The other day my beautiful 8 year old daughter, Ella, and I found ourself glued to the TV watching the Food Network and another edition of Jamie Olivers 30-Minute Meals. On this particular episode, Jamie was making his Killer Jerk Chicken. A few things I loved about this show:

    1. Nothing was pre-prepared for Jamie, he had to open every packet, get everything from his fridge, turn on and preheat his own oven, boil his own water {you know how on some cooking shows everything is usually ready and waiting and the chef just goes to work and makes it look like it’s 30mins… when in actual fact our ‘at-home-experience’ turns out to be more than a 1hr endeavour}. I loved this!
    2. Although there were a number of ingredients, most we all probably have in our pantry’s with the exception perhaps the chilli’s, black beans and fresh herbs. I like these recipes.
    3. I made the Jerk Sauce in the morning and it took only minutes, popped it in the fridge and it was ready and waiting for the dinner prep.
    4. Cooking times were exact so I was able to tell my family ‘Dinner will be ready in 6 minutes’ all based on the oven setting. Sometimes cooking times can vary. I like when they work according to the recipe/chef.

So, here you go…

Jamie Oliver’s Killer Jerk Chicken Recipe with Rice & Black Beans & Cinnamon + Grilled Corn.

On the show Jamie included a salad which I will do next time, just didn’t have the head space to make it last night. In saying that, I have included the recipe for you). Now go, create and gather your family around the table and enjoy!

Information:

30 Minutes Preparation30 Minutes Cooking. Serves: 6. (Note: This recipe is actually for 4, but I simply added 2 extra thighs and made it serve 6 without adjusting anything. It works!)

Ingredients:

CHICKEN

  • 6 x 180g chicken breasts {Jamie uses skin on. I used thighs and skin off}
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • a few sprigs of fresh coriander

CORN

  • 5 large corn on the cob, husks removed {I used medium cobs}

RICE & BEANS

  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 250g long-grain rice
  • 600ml organic chicken stock
  • 1 x 400g carton of black beans

JERK SAUCE

  • 4 spring onions
  • a small bunch of fresh thyme
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • ground cloves
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground allspice
  • 6 tablespoons golden rum (if you don’t have rum just buy the tiny bottle from the liquor store it’s exactly 6 tbsps)
  • 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli {I used a Jalapeño instead}
  • 4 cloves of garlic

SEASONINGS

  • olive oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper

YOGHURT

  • 1 x 250g pot of natural yoghurt
  • a few sprigs of fresh coriander
  • 1 lime

Directions:

TO START: Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Fill and boil the kettle. Put a large griddle pan and a large saucepan on a high heat. Turn the oven on to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.

CHICKEN: Put the chicken breasts on a plastic board and halve each one, leaving them joined at the top of the breast. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then rub all over both sides of the chicken. Put into the hot griddle pan, skin side down, and leave to cook. Clear away the board and wash the knife and your hands.

CORN: Put the corn into the saucepan with a good pinch of salt and cover with boiling water. Put the lid on.

JERK SAUCE: Trim and roughly chop the onions and put into the liquidizer with the leaves from most of the bunch of thyme, 3 bay leaves (stalks removed), a large pinch each of ground cloves, nutmeg and allspice, 6 tablespoons each of rum and vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey and 2 teaspoons of salt.Remove the stalks and seeds from the Scotch bonnet chilli {I used a Jalapeno for extra zing} and add the chilli to the liquidizer, then quickly crush in 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic and blitz with the lid on until you have a really smooth paste. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to loosen, if needed.

CHICKEN: The undersides should be golden now, so turn the chicken over. Pour the jerk sauce into a snug-fitting baking dish and use tongs to lay the chicken on top, skin side up {if you have skin on}. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of runny honey and scatter over a few sprigs of rosemary and the remaining thyme sprigs {I rub these with olive oil to keep them moist whilst cooking}. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15minutes, or until cooked through. Carefully pour away the oil from the griddle pan and wipe clean with kitchen paper, then put back on a high heat.

RICE & BEANS: Put a large wide saucepan with a lid on a medium heat. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and put in the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, a good lug of olive oil and a big pinch of salt & pepper. Stir and let soften for a minute or so, then add the rice and chicken stock. Drain and rinse the beans, then add to the pan. Stir gently. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Pop the lid on and leave for 12 minutes. OR, you can do what I did to save time and stress… I popped it all in my rice cooker {if you have one} and let it do the work. Saved time and turned out beautiful!

YOGHURT: Tip the yoghurt into a small serving bowl. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Finely grate over the zest of 1/2 the lime and squeeze in the juice. Stir in, then take to the table with the other lime half for squeezing over.

CORN: Use tongs to move the corn to the hot griddle pan and drizzle over a little olive oil {I added a bit of salt too} . Cook and turn frequently until charred. Once ready, put on a platter and take to the table.

TO SERVE: Take the chicken out of the oven, sprinkle over some coriander leaves and take straight to the table – I cooked it in an oven-proof pan so it looked amazing and went straight from oven to table. I used a cutting board and put my rice (from the rice cooker) on the board and then the corn and it looked beautiful. When serving, spoon over the jerk sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.

Tired of trying to be perfect? Download the first chapter of my new book “True You” for free here.


The Life of a 12 Year Old

I am currently on holiday with my hubby’s family. Yes, with the in-laws. We are in Oahu in Kailua….. just down from Obama’s house. As exciting as that is I find myself captivated by my 12-year-old son.

As I sit here writing, he is snorkelling {in the pool} with his Korean cousin. Not only do they have a language barrier but my son is snorkelling with my snorkel set which is hot pink. That means his flippers are pink, his goggles are pink as is his snorkel. As I write I keep gazing over at him, smiling as he has no idea how {in 1, 2 or 3 years} this ‘get up’ may perhaps be absolutely unacceptable.

The Life of a 12 Year Old…. What does it look like? Well, today it looks like a boy with a pink snorkel set. 12 years old…. Do you remember what that felt like? I do and, in fact, if I could choose an age where I would love time to stand still, it would be at the age of 12 years.

We all have a favourite year or, in some cases, a decade. I have many enjoyable times, many years that were great and being 43 I totally believe that my 40’s are going to be one of the best decades for me. However, in saying that, if I were asked to pick an age or one year that stands out in my 43 years of life, thus far, it would have to be 12.

I loved being 12. I loved everything about 12. Why? I can’t really pinpoint any incredible or life-changing event that occurred when I was 12 but rather a sense I recall. It was a sense of knowing that I was still too young to do the things my siblings were doing {ie: Drive In Movies, Dances, Parties, etc}. I wasn’t even interested. My interest in boys had definitely peaked and I remember pining over one boy called Cameron. He was the boy of that year. I liked everything about him however, I knew that even he was beyond my reach at that age.

In this day and age you may wonder why at 12 I knew a boy or the things my siblings were into were out of reach. Why? It’s simple. I feared my parents and my aunts and uncles and my parents friends in a really healthy way. I knew they all had my best interest at heart and they knew my parents rules and if they saw me operating outside of those boundaries, they made absolutely NO apologies and they let them know. With that knowledge, the appropriate discipline would have been given. Those were the days and I am reminded of the African Proverb that says: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.

Why did I love being 12? I loved it because I knew I wasn’t old enough to do anything else than be a kid. I loved it because I was a kid and I didn’t have to try to be, nor did I want to be anything else. I loved being 12 because I didn’t have a care in the world. With limited technology and connectivity my only concerns were where I would eat dinner, if I had $0.50 for a popsicle in my pocket {on a hot summer day} and who I would be playing with and who would have a sleep over. I remember 12 really well. My life seemed to be aligned. My parents were alive and well, we seemed to have no concerns as a family {at least in my mind there were no concerns, I’m sure there were but my parents were great at keeping things from us!}, my grandmother’s were alive and healthy {both were beautiful influences in my life and I loved spending time with them}. I had never experienced war, famine or death {I was too young to remember my grandfather’s death so in my limited experience the pain of death had not found my heart yet}. I remember lazy summer days filled with sand, sun and the beach. My bike and a towel draped around my neck, friends and BBQ’s at night. The summer I was 12 seemed to last forever and it would appear that it has, it is a memory that brings me joy, peace and happiness.

As I continue to write I glance over my screen and my son is growling out of his pink snorkel at his little sister. He is unawares of whether or not his pink snorkel affects his reputation or his swag. He is simply loving life, loving summer and occupying the space he is in with confidence and much laughter. My prayer, for all my children, is that when they are 12 they have magical memories…. just like their Mumma. The life of a 12 year old… beautiful, simple, uncomplicated and FUN.

I love my memories and I love the memories my kiddos are making….

Susan xoxox


The Strength of $1.49

I know it’s July, and many of my friends are enjoying long, lazy summer days (although for us in the Southern Hemisphere, we are longing for those days to return) and Christmas most likely isn’t on your mind. In saying that, I know a few friends who start their Christmas shopping now. I’ve always admired them but have never been able to keep up with them. In any case, this story is one that I’m sure you will enjoy.

I wrote this some time ago and have decided it was worth a repost/recycle so here it is. How a small $1.49 can make a big difference in a child’s life.

The Strength of $1.49

The countdown to Christmas is here and from what I witnessed this weekend, the shopping frenzy has started. The malls are bursting with people and the hum of conversation almost drowns out the carols that are being played through the internal sound system. The parking lots have become more like scenes from movies like ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ or perhaps ‘Smash Up Derby’. Finding the perfect spot and securing it, before someone else squeezes in without a nod is quickly becoming the norm. Everyone seems to be in a rush to get the perfect gift for that special someone. Others have lists as long as their arm with names scratched out and check marks in the appropriate columns. Simply put, it’s a crazy situation out there.

Gift buying is such a beautiful thing, especially when it’s well thought out and not just a quick pick off the shelf. For many of us, we have been racking our brains for the perfect gift for our children or perhaps grandchildren. Advertisers are busy sharing their messages about their product through television, flyers and email notifications. They influence us and sometimes help us with our purchasing decisions. Whatever the case may be, there is a message to ‘buy now’. According to retailers, without specific products both your child/grandchild and ourselves will be less of a human being if we don’t have or purchase the product of the season.

You may recall, a few years ago, we read or heard about the chaos surrounding Black Friday shopping in the USA.

One 61-year-old man was trampled to death by a rush to buy. Another woman sprayed a fellow shopper with pepper spray, all to secure the product she wanted. It’s in these moments the question of need versus want begs to be asked. Whenever buying, whether it be during the Christmas season or not, I ask myself and my children to determine whether the decision to purchase is based on need or want. I ask this just to give us a moment to pause and to consider.

A few Christmas’ ago my youngest (at the time she was 3.5 yrs old) was still at that tender age when the boxes and wrapping paper (post gift opening) were the most exciting part of Christmas morning. My husband and I had wondered what to give her, we considered the season’s popular Princess Barbie but knew that wasn’t really what made her smile. We found it because advertisers were telling us to, yet it didn’t fit her personality, so what was the point of buying a $40.00 Barbie just because we felt obliged to.

As Christmas day approached, and the excitement in the house grew with the impending arrival of Santa Claus, my little one found herself drawn to the tree. She couldn’t resist the shiny paper, the well-wrapped gifts shouting ‘tear me open’. Joyfully she shook every gift and tried her hardest to peek, without tearing the paper. She kept track of the days through her chocolate advent calendar and would check the fireplace (on a regular basis) to make sure Santa’s landing place was acceptable. She was the picture of excitement and a beautiful example of what Christmas can bring to a heart, whether young or old.

Finally, the morning arrived, and it was time to find out what was hidden beneath the shiny paper. Our designated Santa handed out each gift with a HO, HO, HO. The excitement in the room could have been bottled and sold for a hefty price. My youngest ripped and tore and unwrapped like a wild child. She squealed with delight when she saw ‘Darla’ the doll she had been hoping and praying for. There were a few barbies to add to her collection, however not the expensive and very popular Princess Barbie, yet even these caused her to jump for joy and giggle with excitement.

In that moment, as we watched our three children unwrap their gifts, every line-up we had stood in, every wintery road we had driven on, every hour of wrapping felt so good and was worth it. Thankfully, we hadn’t gone overboard; we didn’t break our budget yet our kids didn’t miss out on any of the excitement of Christmas.

Finally, a few last little gifts were distributed.

My little one was handed a flimsy gift that was wrapped in the ‘left over’ pieces of paper because this gift was mostly an afterthought. Mustering the same enthusiasm as she had when opening her doll ‘Darla’ she tore open this seemingly lesser gift and much to her surprise and overwhelming pleasure it contained a pack of four school notebooks that cost a total of $1.49. You see, our little one loved (in her words) to do homework. From the time, she could hold a pencil she would write, draw and scribble on any piece of paper she could find. So, to keep her homework and art together, we bought her a set of scribblers.

After the lines, the consideration and the conversations about what to get her, our little girl stood in the middle of the room, clutching her new notebooks. She was surrounded by her new doll, her Barbies, some candies and a few other gifts yet with the notebooks firmly held in her hand she exclaimed for all to hear, “This is the bestest present I ever gotted”.

I share this with you to help take the pressure off. We are so conditioned, for some reason, to think that our children need the latest and greatest in every area of life. The pressure can be overwhelming and at times crippling. Through this little story and the words of a 3.5-year-old may I encourage you to be creative this Christmas. Know that your children, like mine, will not suffer, nor will they be forever damaged if they don’t have exactly what they want, when they want it. Sometimes the greatest gifts cost the least.

Use kind words, your arms of love and hearts of compassion and see your family go from strength to strength.
Susan ~

 


Good Parenting = Time Spent Wisely = Good Parenting

I recently updated my Facebook Status with this:

I have loved our bedtime routine this week with the kids. Nice times…

I received a number of messages following this update. Many of the comments were from young mother’s asking me why I’m enjoying this time and what are we doing differently.

The answer is simple.

We {my hubby Philip and I} have always spent time with our kids getting them to bed, we have always read to our children or listened to them reading to us. We also pray with our children every night. These times are special. However, for whatever reason, we started to let these times ’slip’, ever so slightly. We found ourselves rushing through the bedtime routine, rather than savoring the moments and soaking up the time of laying in bed, talking, laughing, praying and simply listening. We were on fast forward. What caused us to unintentionally do this? I have no idea or explanation but for whatever reason it happened. We still spent time with them {at bedtime} but as I say, the fast forward button had been pressed.

Recently the fast forward button was turned off and we have returned to our ‘normal’ routine and it has been amazing.

We have been spending one hour putting out kids to bed at night and we both love it. We read, they read, they talk, we talk, we slowly make our way through the routine of jammies, teeth, hair and bed and the reward is beautiful.

This time is precious and both my husband and I have committed to never let it ’slip’ away again. Thankfully, we caught it quickly and made the necessary changes immediately. Through these times, another element of harmony has {once again} been added to our home and it’s not an element that I will let go of anytime soon.

Can I encourage you to engage with your children {whatever their age} at this time of the day. If your fast forward button is on switch it off and allow the minutes together to matter….. you won’t regret it. Just last night I was massaging my son and as he was drifting off to sleep, he muttered, ‘mum, you and dad are the best parents cause you care and you love us.’

In that moment I was reminded, once again, that the time we were spending was being spent in the right place. The laundry could wait, the dishes would still be there, the crumbs on the kitchen floor didn’t matter and my book club book could wait just a few more minutes. My lesson from last night is that Good Parenting = Time Spent Wisely = Good Parenting.

Enjoy your kids, they are only kids for such a short while.

 Susan

One Girls Treasure Another Girls Trash

As many of my readers will remember, my late father, Graham Taylor, loved a good garage sale. He would drive miles to pick through odds and ends. Never did a sale go by that he didn’t return with his red truck bursting with gidgets and gadgets. Sometimes he would even return with the odd live animal perhaps a dishwasher for a cool $5.00 or a much needed tea set. You never knew what would accompany him on his return.

He loved garage sales and would often marvel at what people would sell.

He would giggle away as he shared stories about buying a crystal water jug for $2.00. He would tell us how he was sure the seller had no idea it was crystal and what a steal he got. Then of course there were the old books, that now line the shelves of my mothers home. My father was a man who loved the written word. He knew his grandchildren loved to read as well and for him, finding a box of classics on a table for $10.00 was hard to pass up. I must admit, just last night my daughter cracked the cover of one of his book buys. She loves to read them and is reminded of him with every page she turns. Every once in awhile the kids are surprised with a hand written note on the inside. Grandpa always made sure he documented things, even down to the smallest of events and here my kids are treated with yet another memory of a great man.

Whilst we were living in Wolseley (a few years ago) there was a garage sale in town.

Dad was up and wanted to get there early because he knew it was going to be a good sale. The lady hosting it had three children, so my father new that there would kids toys and more. He wanted to dive in and make a few purchases that would put smiles on his grandchildren’s faces. My mum and I stayed home and let my dad have his fun. After about 30 minutes of being away we heard the kitchen door open. There was laughter and the kids were anxious to see what grandpa had bought. He pulled out toys and trinkets and of course, books.

There was one purchase that seemed a little odd, almost like the saying ‘one of those things is not like the other’.

He had bought a pair of Mukluks for $1.00. He pulled the Mukluks out and with perfect form created an impromtu presentation ceremony and presented them to my daughter Sophia. You see, my father knew how much Sophia loved fashion. He saw something in these used Mukluks that said ‘Sophia’.

To my surprise my daughter squealed with excitement, wrapped her arms around Grandpa’s neck and thanked him over and over. Now, fast forward 3 years and these well used Mukluks have been, since the first day of receiving them, her everyday shoes. She has been stopped by the most fashionable women in shops and on the streets of many cities to ask where she purchased them. Mother’s at school comment on her style and how much they like them and girlfriends ask to borrow them. Who would have guessed that a pair of $1.00 Mukluks bought from a garage sale could create such conversation and in some cases even coveting.

This past weekend our family was in Edmonton attending our son’s soccer tournament. Between games we braved the West Edmonton Mall for some retail therapy. Whilst shopping my daughter was (once again) stopped in her tracks by a fellow female shopper and was asked where she got her Mukluks. She responded by saying, “My grandfather bought them for me for $1.00 at a garage sale.” The girls face flashed with shock and responded by saying, “I’ll buy them from you for $50.00.” To which Sophia replied by saying, “No thank you, I really like them.” We parted ways and as we did, we marvelled at the lure of these Mukluks.

We carried on shopping and an hour later bumped into the same girl again. This time she greeted Sophia with, “Okay, I really want those Mukluks. Can I offer you $100.00 right now and you can go and buy any new shoe you want?” Sophia graciously replied, “Thank you but no thanks, these are really special to me.” We parted ways and again we marvelled at the conversation surrounding the hand-made footwear.

Who would have thought that my father’s $1.00 purchase at a garage sale would create so much conversation?

As her mother I’m not sure that it’s the Mukluks that really shine, rather I believe it’s the beautiful girl that walks in them that gives them their lustre. These Mukluks are special because they were the last gift my father ever gave my daughter. The gift had almost no monetary value to them but it was a gift from the heart. My father SAW who my daughter really was, he took the time to know her. Now through these $1.00 Mukluks and the attention they bring, she is reminded every time she wears them how much she was and is loved. How her grandfather saw her and that’s a gift that no one can buy, no one can ever take away or touch because it’s locked in the secret place in her heart.

One girls trash truly can be another girls treasure.

Susan


The Grandparent Effect

I remember as a child how I adored my Nana. She was one of my favourite people, so kind, so caring and she was always on my side. When I wasn’t allowed to get my ears pierced, Nana stepped in and they got done. When life was feeling all to hard, Nana was there with Chicken Soup and a kind word. She always shared her wisdom in the most unique way, she corrected me without me really realizing it. My Nana was a small woman {maybe 5 feet tall} but in my young and now older eyes, she was a giant. I’m sure she had her short comings, her challenges in life like the rest of us but I saw none. I saw strength, courage, wisdom and kindness. She was my Nana after all.

Nana had an interesting role in our family.

She was a great support to my parents, when it came to us kids. Nana’s house was always open to us, she always welcomed us with open arms. There was always a bed ready for us, cash on hand if we needed, and she could whip up a hot meal and fill our tummies in what seemed like minutes. She played games with us, helped us with our school work, told us stories and always connected the family dots {Uncle who? How’s that person related to me?} Our Nana also served as a sounding board for us. When we thought our parents were being unreasonable, we’d ask Nana. When we felt they were being to hard on us, we’d go to Nana. Oh that poor lady. I think now of all the stuff she dealt with and how it never seemed to faze her. Our parents also used Nana in their favour.

An example of that would be the time I stole a piece of gum from the IGA {sorry Mr. and Mrs. White}.

If my parents making me return to the IGA to admit my guilt and pay for the gum wasn’t enough, they then made me stand in front of Nana and tell this sweet, gentle, kind, little lady what I’d done. Of course as the years went on situations escalated from the gum incident to other things ~ thankfully not remaining in theft. Things more like bad report cards, talking back to our parents and then of course the peer pressure incidents. Getting in trouble was emotional enough on its own but the real sting came when we had to disappoint Nana. What clever parenting and discipline our parents used on all of us. The Grandparent Effect was huge for me because as I’ve mentioned my Nana was an extraordinary person in my life. Now, as a grown woman and as a mother of three, I too have adopted the Grandparent Effect.

I have seen it work wonders in our home.

Most recently, our eldest was ‘caught out’ in a very minor situation that required parental intervention {a table discussion}. Following our healthy discussion I told her that going forward part of her discipline would be to call her Grandmother {my mother} and tell her what had happened and why she had found herself in ‘hot water’. At the thought of this, my daughter burst into tears. She wept saying, “No, please don’t make me do it, I never want to disappoint Grandma.” I cuddled her and said, “Well then my sweetheart, whenever you are faced with a decision or are tempted in anyway, just imagine yourself standing in-front of Grandma, telling her about it. It’s called The Grandparent Affect darling and trust me I know it works.”

Friends, never underestimate The Grandparent Effect.

Adopt it as one of your tools and make it your own. Extended family is there, like my Nana to support, to love, to be a soft place to land and in some cases perhaps a simple look of disappointment from a respected Grandparent is all that is needed.

Susan xo


#RealityGram101 Update

This weekend was hilarious as we saw more and more posts on #RealityGram101. Not only are people posting their pictures but they are talking about how #RealityGram101 is making them feel okay about the life they are living.

Studies regarding Social Media and the impact the many forms are having on individuals are currently underway in many Universities, Organizations and beyond. We are all fascinated by the instant connectivity that we have yet we are becoming increasingly frustrated with our own lives, perhaps because of this.. Today, I was reminded why #RealityGram101 matters and why in its form, it is gathering people and serving as a positive place for people to connect. Jenny McGhie, who is very wise and witty and  is one who is greatly admired within her sphere of influence as a woman who knows challenge, who understands victory and who never shy’s away from hard work or adversity of any kind. She uses her life in a way that attracts people and today through Instagram and #RealityGram101 she posted this:

‘TOO OFTEN WE COMPARE OUR BEHIND THE SCENES, TO SOMEONE ELSE’S HIGHLIGHTS’

Could this comparison, coupled with an unprecedented time of connectivity be leading us down a path of loneliness, a sense of ‘not measuring up’ and in some cases overall disappointment as we look at our lives through the filter of someone else’s Highlights. I’m not sure but when I read that I was thankful for #RealityGram101 and they way it is bringing expression to what we know is behind  the Highlight we are being shown.

There is always the clean up after a beautiful meal. Someone always spills on a beautifully set table. Freshly folded laundry and an exquisite linen closet usually starts on the laundry room floor, perfect hair started wet and knotted up. The fun road trip usually hosts a fight or two. A day on the beach is accompanied by endless amounts of sand trailing through the car, the house and sometimes the bed sheets. Blurring and other filters are used to hide what we don’t want seen. So, #RealityGram101 is designed to validate each one of us and give us permission to smile when life isn’t picture perfect.

What #RealityGram101 is not: It is not approval to be lazy, to not care or to engage in what I call slothful living. It’s simply about being Real, being Authentic and putting our best foot forward.

Today’s #RealityGram101 pictures come from:

Vickie Reddy – Another busy Mumma of two who ended up ‘nit picking’ (literally). Just another thing added to her ‘to do’ list for the weekend.
Jenny McGhie – Jenny always makes us laugh with what she, her hubby Jared and their lovely son, Max get up to. Jenny’s #RealityGram101 made us all laugh as Jared decided to change a nappy/diaper man style. Definitely a ‘Man vs Wild’ moment at the McGhie home.
Rachael Watts – Whilst out enjoying a well deserved night with the girls, Rachael and her girlfriend Keren return home to their hubby’s who have been looking after their children only to find the children running around the house playing whilst the dad’s found a comfy space on the lounge to sleep.
Deb Ezzy – A busy, working, single Mumma who chose to spend her weekend painting her children’s bedrooms until the wee hours of the morning simply so they could come home to beauty and comfort. Making a house a home!

We hope you will join the fun simply by #RealityGram101 on your Instagram pictures that make us all real!

Susan xo (to see more great #RealityGram101 pictures simply click on the hashtag on Instagram and you will see what’s happening!)


#RealityGram101 Is Taking Off

 

Okay friends everyone is loving #RealityGram101 for one reason…. It’s REALITY and it’s NORMAL! We are having so much fun and would love you to join us by posting the Reality in your life and the oh so Normal that happens every day (for more on the Why behind the What of #RealityGram101 see yesterday’s post).

Today’s highlights come from Katie,  Liz and Helen from Australia and Suzi in the UK. These girls have shared everything from:

Katie giving us a glimpse of bedtime and what that looks like when a toddler won’t take off his bike helmet in case he falls out of bed.

Liz shows off parenting in a very real way. We all have those days, toddlers crying, toilet paper being unravelled and the list goes on.

Helen confesses that she hasn’t made her bed since she fell pregnant. I believe she’s past 12 weeks… Hilarious!

Suzi sets the table and shows us how a meal although well planned out can go slightly wrong. Suzi, your dinner looks oh so yummy but what happened?

These are all so funny and oh so normal. Thanks for sharing girls and making all of us feel totally Real, Authentic and Normal!

Can’t wait for more photos today! Susan xo

 


The Dining Table – Revised

This article is one I posted in 2006 but I believe it needs to be read again. Perhaps now is the time to re-visit the Dining Table or the Kitchen Table and discover it’s value, worth and place within the home. I hope you enjoy what I have prepared 🙂

The Dining Table (from 2006 susanjsohn.com/thefamilyroom archives)

Over the past few years my parents have been thinking about moving from their farm into town. The conversation has progressed substantially and they have bought the house in our small town. This transition is now very quickly becoming a reality. Like many of you reading, you have gone down this road and made this transition, so you know exactly where I/we are right now. In preparation for this move the time has come for us kids to start picking and choosing things from the farm that we want, things from our childhood that scream of memories ~ not an easy task that’s for sure.

I have thought long and hard about what it is that I want, what piece of the farm can I take with me, as I travel through life? What piece will allow me to remain close and connected to a place that saw me grow from a four year old pig-tailed little girl into a thirty-something woman? There are many things I have decided I would like, however there is one thing that has stuck in my mind and I have finally I decided to ask for it. What is it you ask? The kitchen table!

You may think the kitchen table a strange request, however you must understand that in our house, like many of yours {I’m sure}, the kitchen table is the centre of our home life, it’s almost like the central nervous system of our house. So much has happened and still happens around this table, so many hours of conversation whether it is the early morning coffee with the neighbors, warm winter breakfasts, dad’s 12pm lunch {we always ate at 12pm} or the countless dinners that have been shared or maybe it’s the late night heart to hearts. Whatever the case may be, our kitchen table has and continues to host much laughter, some tears, always great food, many jokes and so much more.

Over the years I have learned that a kitchen table isn’t simply wood and varnish rather it is like a giant memory box. The kitchen table is the gathering spot where life is shared, where dreams are realized, where vision is cast and where laughter can be heard. Sadly, I see many new homes being built with no kitchen and no space for a kitchen table, this is a trend in the big cities that I see has not yet hit small town Saskatchewan and I hope it never does.  They refer to this new trend as progress, as adapting for a new way of life, the busy life. This ‘new way’ of living is about eating out, moving away from entertaining at home with guests of even your own family. It’s about being an  individual and allowing each person to ‘fend for themselves’ and perhaps eat in your bedroom or in front of the computer or television. In my mind, this is a modern day travesty.

There is something significant about kitchen/dining tables and as I look through history I see that through feasting and dining cultures come together. There is strength in breaking bread together as families and as communities. I think about Jesus and the last supper and the fact that it was shared at a table. I find it interesting that Jesus could have chosen anywhere for this significant act to occur yet he chose the table to share such an important moment. Through this one act I have to believe that there is a message to us all. Tables are sacred places. They are a place where we can come together to talk about the hard things, to relax and enjoy each other’s company, to communicate, to eat and to simply be together.

I would like to encourage you to use your dining table to it’s full potential. Through our work with thefamilyroom and now through GetRealLive and much of the ‘Work Life Family Balance’ issues that I get the opportunity of engaging with I see change through a simple conversation where I suggest coming back to the table. I have seen countless families come together, broken hearts mended and so much more simply through sitting at the table together, sharing a meal and getting back to what really matters. I find it interesting that we are designed to enjoy food more than once a day, we are designed to stop, sit and replenish so why not start making this a critical part of our family schedules.

If, in recent times, you haven’t enjoyed a meal together at the family table then I would like to encourage you to dust off the table, let everyone know that dinner is on at 6pm, prepare a family favorite and watch everyone enjoy each others company. I know you will be amazed. If you find yourself alone and without family then I encourage you to extend yourself and invite someone to your table. If gathering at the table is something you do regularly then please keep it up and why not invite someone over and share the time together.

As many of you know, I live away from family and have done so for many years now, this being the case, there is one thing I know for sure; if I call home at dinner time, I know I will always get an answer and if it’s a party or special occasion, and everyone’s home but me, the phone will surely be passed around I always know exactly where everyone will be sitting – being able to do this warms my soul and the simplicity of this allows me a feeling of knowing everything being well with the world. The table and what happens around it provides, security, strength, wisdom and love. It is where Faith, Hope and Love live.

To conclude I am happy to report that my parents have said I can have the old kitchen table that still holds the chip that I etched out one warm summer day in 1978. I know that as the years continue and as life changes I will hear the voices of my family and friends, simply by sitting at that table and allowing the richness and memories flood my mind. Let me encourage you to use your tables and remember to always put an extra potato in the pot or rice in the cooker and leave room to squeeze one more in just in case someone turns up at dinner time.

Much love,
Susan