Small Town Girl


Three and a half years ago we began our foray into the special needs world. Our steps were slow and tentative, not knowing where this path would take us.

One of the first families I met was Tasha and her daughter Jenna. I still remember walking into the physio room at the Children’s hospital in the city and seeing the halo of blond curls that is Jenna’s trademark. We had no idea, then, that our girls would become fast friends.

A few months later I walked into the building where the local physio/support group for special needs kids was being held in our small town. I was surprised to see the familiar blond halo of curls there. I had no idea that Tasha and Jenna lived out in our area, since we had first met them in the city, but it was reassuring to know at least one family there.

Over the years the girls have grown together. We’ve watched them learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to run, and learn to get into enourmous amounts of mischief for two little girls who look so innocent.

They started preschool together last year, happy to play with the other kids in the class, but also happy to sit and hold hands together during circle time.

As the girls became friends, so did Tasha and I. A bond formed over diagnosis’s, doctors, and treatment plans. It was comforting to have someone I could compare notes with, commiserate with, and celebrate the milestones with.

For the past few years, Tasha’s mom has run our special needs group. She is the rock we all turn to. And Vista knows her as Grandma. She is as much family as anyone we’re related to.

Tasha’s boys go to the same school as Vista. They’ll always stop to say hi to her and give a little brotherly hug.

Tasha and her family have become an important part of our world.

But that world was rocked when Tasha’s daughter ended up in the hospital on last Friday.

A hospital stay for Jenna, in and of itself, is nothing unusual. But it was quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to be her normal get-sick-crash-bounce-back routine.

Since last Friday, Jenna has been in the ICU at the Children’s hospital. She’s on a ventilator. She’s flat-lined several times and been resuscitated several times. And everyday seems to bring a new round of complications. Pneumonia, hMPV, bleeding in the lungs, pulmonary hypertension, sepsis, low hemoglobin, the list goes on and on.

Jenna is a fighter, but she is sick. So very sick right now. And no one is sure if her little body can stand up against the onslaught it’s under.

So if you have a moment, could you send some good thoughts, positive vibes, and prayers their way?

They have a long road ahead of them and they could use all the support they can get.

Cookie Cutter Lives

As I drove the back country roads to the next town over, on my way to get groceries, I looked around me at the wide open sky and the rolling farmland, the mountains the backdrop to it all.  I watched the eagle swoop from above to snatch some unsuspecting little animal that was now going to be lunch.  I long to have a house out there, in the middle of nothing.  (come on lottery ticket!)

As I crested the last hill, the sprawl of the town I was heading to was laid out before me.  I realized you could see an almost visible line between the old town and the newer area that had been built up in the past few years in response to the pre-recession population explosion.

My eyes strayed to the left.  The new subdivision on the hill.  I realized it stuck out – a copy of the city here in the rural countryside.  Rows upon rows of half-a-million dollar houses, with barely discernible differences, all shades of grays and beige.

I realized that this is the world we are bringing our children up in.  Houses need to fit in and not be too different from the neighbors house.  Certainly no bold colors.  No individuality to them.  Nothing that would stand out and cause talk.

This has become the life of our kids.

School is taught one way.  You’re expected to learn that way.  Our children are instructed for long hours on how to fit into the mold of today’s society.  Woe is the child who is different.  That difference will be pointed out and talked about and taunted and ridiculed.  Different is evil and something to be eradicated on the school playground.

I’m one of those square pegs that’s never fit into the round whole of society.  Bil, even more so.

And we’re bringing Vista up in that same tradition.

Part of me feels bad.  I know we’re setting her up to have a hard time in school (should we ever decide to send her).

But the reality is that my child is different.  I want her to embrace her individuality.  Her desire to wear a summer dress and a winter touque.  The various combinations of hats and sunglasses.  The way she can look at the flowers and see the butterfly.

I makes finding friends difficult, but those friends tend to be solid, lasting, steady…. not fair-weather flakes.

So my question for you today:

Why is individuality so scary to society?  Why does different = bad.  Why don’t we encourage, rather than trying to suppress, originality.

 Cookie Cutter Lives

10,000 Square Feet

We live in a small town in rural Alberta. I love it here. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful.

I love the sound of coyotes at night, the sight of the horses grazing in the field behind us.

It’s a pain in the ass when I have to drive to the next town over for the occasional Starbucks fix. But not enough that I’d want to move.

What I really struggle with, though?

I have a love/hate relationship with our 10,000 sq foot backyard (that’s about a quarter acre if you prefer).

I know. Most people would kill for that sort of space.

For Vista’s first birthday we had several big tents set up, several plastic play structures, and two pony rides and still had a ton of room. The yard is beyond huge.

But I have a black thumb. Blacker than black. I don’t have a single living plant in my house. Plants see me coming in the garden center and start wilting.

The one tree we had in the back yard? Died. I know. I wish I was kidding.

So now the yard is a dead tree, Vista’s playhouse and her slide, and… that’s it. *hangs head in shame*

Well except for the 10,000 sq ft of grass. But don’t worry. That’s dying too.

The only thing that’s not dying, but is thriving? Flourishing in fact? The weeds. *starts banging her head on the fence repeatedly*
Three guesses what I was out in the hot sun TRYING to kill today?

So yeah. Yard = dead, dying, or plastic.

I would desperately LOVE to do something with the yard, but what?

I have a dream of meandering paths, raised beds (with actual live plants in them), and a central fire pit area.
Bil wants a stream or a pond, but I’ve veto’d that idea. I’m realistic enough to know the dogs would just use it as a giant bathtub to play in. And wet dogs smell? *gag*

But it never seems to happen. I just don’t know where to start and I get so overwhelmed at the whole idea, I give up before I begin.

If there’s a bored landscaper out there looking for a great before and after project, this would be it.

Oh, and in case you think I’m joking about the yard:

 10,000 Square Feet

The Neverending Story

I was going to post a really hysterically funny video of Vista today. At least Bil and I found it hysterically funny. But then again, it’s well known to the world that we have a sick and twisted sense of humor.

I know, you’re sitting there going ‘OK, well, if this video is so damn funny, where is it??’

Well, here’s the thing.

I’ve decided not to post it.

The video was something along the lines of this, with a little less Will Ferrell, less scripting, and a lot more of me doubled over laughing in the background.

But after having CPS called on us last November, we’re quite frankly a little gun shy about putting anything out there that might smack of anything less than perfect parenting.

And then I think about that and it REALLY. PISSES. ME. OFF.

I’m not perfect.  Show me a parent who is.  And yet, here I am trying to live up to some impossible standard because somebody who knows nothing about me decided he should get some say on how I parent my child.

Now every time I’m out with Vista, I’m crossing my fingers that she doesn’t have a meltdown, and that someone won’t decide to stick there nose into something that is, quite frankly, none of their business.

I’m finding a lot of things don’t get done these days.  If I drive somewhere and Vista falls asleep before we get there?  Rather than wake her up, take her in the store, and chance an outburst, I turn around and go home.  Because?  It’s not worth the risk.

I walk around on egg shells hoping that no one will find fault that’s not there.

And I thought at first it was just in this small town we lived in.  I even tossed the idea around of moving somewhere new.

But then I realized, it’s not the town.  It’s me.  This… thing… has pervaded to the very core of my parenting philosophy.

And now it’s invaded my blog.

It’s like I’m living in Fantasia and being hunted by the Nothing.

This need to censor is at direct odds with the person I am naturally.

I am irreverent.  I am risque, at times.  Ditto for controversial.  That’s who I’ve always been.

I’m not someone to toe the line or follow the norm.

And yet I find myself doing exactly that, because I will do anything to protect my child from ignorant people who think they know more about her than I do.

 The Neverending Story

I Think I'll Go Live In My Fridge. It's Warmer There

Ahhhh….winter.  Snowfalls, icicles, and weather so cold your nipples will freeze right off.  I only wish I was kidding about that.

It’s a good thing I don’t have a pair of truck nuts on my mega cab or they’d be shriveled up to the size of little peas.  That pansy ass truck of mine decided to curl up and die in the cold.  Despite plugging in the block heater, we couldn’t even get it to turn over.  So my neighbor, who managed to get his car started (which I’m not at all bitter about) came over and offered to boost the truck for us.

Our two dogs, tired of being cooped up in the house, took the opportunity of the open front door to dodge around the neighbour and I and take off down the street and around the corner.  Recall training my ass.  Bastards didn’t even give me a backwards glance.

I bundled up and headed into the arctic deepfreeze.  Nope.  Not joking.

CanadianCold 300x80 I Think I'll Go Live In My Fridge.  It's Warmer ThereTranslated into American that is

AmericanCold 300x80 I Think I'll Go Live In My Fridge.  It's Warmer There

Now you understand why my truck said “Oh hell no!” when I turned the key.

After talking about the merits of using jumper cables as nipple adornments the neighbor and I finally hooked up the vehicles and …. didn’t start the truck.  I’m pretty sure it was laughing at me.  Things with batteries always tend to die when I need them most.  Dammit.

I turned around and headed back inside for some reinforcements.  Also know as warmer gloves and a scarf.  Then I trudged down the road looking for the dogs.  I may have even had the local po-po on the lookout for the stupid mutts.  Gotta love small town living. (yeah, they eventually turned up and are both grounded for the rest of their lives.  Especially after *I* got yelled at by a local farmer because the dogs went to play with the horses.  Jerkoffs).

If you’ve ever been out walking for half an hour in weather so cold that your eyelids freeze together when you blink (again, I only wish I was kidding) then you know that getting warm after is damn near impossible.

So Bil and I are doing what any normal Canadians do to keep warm.

We’re drinking.

Little known fact: most Canadian babies are born in the spring, not the summer like you would think.  I’m pretty sure it’s because we spend the winters so bundled up in layers by the time you get them all off you forget what you were doing in the first place.  That, and after a few dozen hot toddies we’re too busy to trying to make the room stop spinning that the thought of rocking the bed is too much like a carnival ride.

Even lesser known fact: my father is a meteorologist (aka weatherman).  That fact is completely useless when the weather forecast is ‘Fucking cold today; you’ll freeze your ass off tomorrow; and you don’t even want to know about the rest of the week’.

That being reality, though, Bil made a supply run tonight (liquor, liquor, and more liquor) so we’ll be hunkering down in our igloo house until Mother Nature grabs a clue.

Oh, and if you see a frozen mitt on the door handle, don’t bother ringing our doorbell (cause it doesn’t work either in this damn weather)

 I Think I'll Go Live In My Fridge.  It's Warmer There

Stop And Smell The Sky

When friends come to visit from other provinces or come up from the States, one thing I hear over and over is

“Wow… the sky just goes on forever and ever”

And we laugh.  Give a smile and a nod.

But it’s one of those things you take for granted when you see it every day.  It becomes so common place that you forget about it.

I was driving through some of the back country roads the other day and it struck me that the sky really does go on forever.  On a clear, sunny day I can get up, make a coffee, stand on my back porch and admire the Rocky Mountains in the distance.  And in every direction there’s clear blue sky as far as the eye can see.

That’s why I chose the picture I did, for yesterday’s Wordless Wednesday.

Because sometimes we need to be reminded to stop and take a look around at what we have.

Wordless Wednesday

stop Wordless Wednesday

The Gardening Elves

I am not a gardener.  Which is sort of funny consider my parents both have green thumbs and a huge garden with a green house.  I spent many hours, each summer when I was growing up, helping to weed my parents many flower beds and the vegetable garden.  Now a days though?  I have one living plant in my house and the only reason it’s alive is because it refuses to die, despite my lack of attention and frequently forgetting to water it.

Then there’s my hubby.  He’s a plant killer too.  Yes, we’re an evil family.

So who knows what we were thinking buying a house with 10,000 sq ft worth of back yard.  Yeah, the non-gardening, kill all plants (yes, grass counts as a plant), ‘there’s no air conditioning outside’, couple bought a house that sits on a quarter acre lot.  We spend a lot of time looking at said backyard wondering “What the hell were we thinking?!”

Despite the size of our backyard, it’s our front yard that has been the bane of my existence.  Every year I hack at the weeds and the grass that are desperate to over take the two flowerbeds, and every year I loose.  Last year I managed to dig up the larger flowerbed, put down a weed barrier, and lay down a rock bed instead.  This year my project was going to be to dig up the flowerbed at the front of the yard completely and put down some soil and grass seed.  It was not a project I was looking forward too.  Fair to say I’ve been putting it off for the last month.  In the list of things to do, it’s always at the bottom.

Today that stupid flowerbed was magically dug up without us having to lift a finger.  OK, so it wasn’t magical elves that did it, but it was still pretty cool.  One of the towns churches was having a ‘Pay it Forward’ event.  Our neighbours friend, who’s a member of this church, contacted her and asked her if there was anything that they needed help with.  My neighbour fights the same battles I do with flowerbeds (except there house has a lot more landscaping, thus a lot more beds to weed), so said someone to help do a bit of the weeding would be wonderful.

Imagine our surprise when several vehicles full of people pulled up, bright and early this morning, ready to help with yard work.  Well not only did they power through my neighbours flowerbeds, they came over dug up that bed I’ve been wanting gone for the past five years .  It took three guys to do it,  but they got it done.  Hurray!!  It is gone.  And not only did these angels do that for us, then then mowed and edged our lawn and tidied up the hedge that separates our yard from our neighbours.  All that work would have taken me the next month to do.   It is such a relief not to have my front lawn look like the local redneck lives there (seriously… we were a car on blocks on the lawn away from being the local white trash house).

All this work done and all I had to do was make a few salads for lunch, and buy some hot dogs and buns.  Now, instead of dragging Vista out to the front yard and trying to keep an eye on her while I try to get a few minutes of yard work done, I can spend all my time playing with her and enjoying our yard.

We finished up tonight, laying down some soil and seed, pruning back the tree in the front, and enjoying an ice cream with our neighbours as we admired our freshly manicured yards (and perhaps discussing the fact that hiring landscapers to maintain your yard for you might just be money well spent).

But the whole point of this was to ‘Pay it Forward’.  So that means it’s our turn.  Suggestions?

By the way – in case you were wondering what 10,000 sq ft looks like… here’s one corner of our yard (and don’t forget to note the brown dying grass)

vistainyard The Gardening Elves

Judging Those Who Judge

We live in a small town.  It’s a fairly close knit community where if you don’t know someone directly, you probably know someone who does.

Being in a small town though sometimes means coming face-to-face with narrow minded thinking.  When I lived in the big city and came across people like that, I could scratch them off my ‘get to know’ list, and move on to other people and places.  In a small town that’s not always so easy.  Because if I do what I’d really like to do and tell someone exactly what I think of them, it’ll probably come back to bite me.

I take Vista to a physiotherapy group session every other week.  It’s supposed to be a good chance to chat with other parents who’s children are facing similar challenges and an opportunity for the kids to work on their gross motor skills and sensory integration issues.  Which is great in theory.  And the physiotherapist is really nice.  So are the other therapists and early intervention workers who come to work with the kids.  The problem is the other moms.

They’re complete bitches.

There.  I said it.

Oh, I know… you’re thinking “Well, Jenn…perhaps it’s not them that’s the problem?”.  Yeah.  I was wondering the same thing until an incident a couple of weeks ago.  But let me back up here…

The very first time I took Vista to this group, I hadn’t even had time to take off my shoes at the door before the other mom’s had sent one of their group to tell me to leave.  I wish I was exaggerating.  After I explained that the PT had invited us to be there, her only response was:

“Oh.  Well.  The other mom’s didn’t think you belonged here so asked me to come tell you to leave… but I guess if the PT invited you…”

Yeah.  I know.  Charming.

I figured it would get better after they knew we were supposed to be there.  It didn’t.  I found out why when one of the other moms came up to me after we’d been going to this group for a while.

Other Mom: “So, what are you doing here”

Me: “Pardon?”

OM: “Why are you coming to this group?”

Me: “Because the PT felt it would be beneficial for Vista to attend.”

OM: “OK.  But what’s wrong with her?  She looks fine to me.  I just don’t think you guys really belong here.”

And so we got to the crux of the matter.  Vista ‘looked’ too normal for their tastes.

vback Judging Those Who JudgeA couple weeks later, the PT having got wind of this conversation, took all the mom’s into a back room and had us talk about our kids.  The other mom’s were more than a little surprised to find out that we face some of the same challenges with Vista as they do with their children.  We had a long discussion about ‘not judging a book by it’s cover’ and how some issues aren’t always immediately visible unless you know what to look for.  Vista, for example, can walk, but has balance issues and locks her legs for balance rather than using core muscles.  This create problems with running or jumping.  She also has midline issues where she favors one side of her body over the other.  But all the other mom’s could see is: She’s walking, so she’s fine.

They were still cool towards me, until the week we got Vista’s MRI results back.  When I shared that we had found out that she was missing a membrane in her brain and the other MRI findings, all of the sudden I had a new group of best friends and I was instantly accepted.  I was stunned.  Vista was still the same little girl she was the day she walked into that group, but now that she had something verifiable wrong…well…that changed everything.

Ever the optimist I thought perhaps the mom’s had learned not to judge to quickly.  I was quickly proven wrong.

The next week a woman from the local Hutterite colony came with her daughter.  When we arrived I saw her sitting off to the side on her own, so went over to chat with her.  She was incredibly sweet and her daughter – adorable! But the other moms, true to form, didn’t even acknowledge her or speak to her.  She told me the other day that she’s decided not to return to the group.  And it’s not like I don’t understand why.  It just makes me sad.

And in a small town, there are no other alternatives.  Either you go to this group, or none at all.

So as much as I love my small town life… sometimes the people who go with it really suck.

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