Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Lake Huron Carolers

Cards are 5 x7, high-quality printing done at Art Ink Print.

Proceeds from the sale of this card go to support the Greater Victoria Down Syndrome Society Music Therapy Program. 

If you know of anyone looking for art cards to give this Christmas, please direct them to this site.  Many thanks for helping to spread the word!

Together we're better!

Carol N.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How do you do?

Picture this:

A circle of moms chatting outside the school doors after the classes have filed in.  Aidan marches into the circle and proceeds to shake hands with each mom.  Insert a cute little chuckle attached to a blond-haired, blue-eyed, sweetie boy.  He knew he was being charming. 

Aidan's accomplishment?  Wrapping my friends around his little finger right along with me.

(BTW - the photo is an old one - but I love it!)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kinder visit

Aidan and I are venturing into unknown waters next Friday.  He will have his first day of kindergarten at the same school his big brothers attend, and I will be off to teach my first class at the university.  It is truly fitting that we are sharing our first big day, as he was born on my birthday - and has truly become my sidekick over the past five years. 

On Thursday we went to visit with the kindergarten teacher, and I just wanted to highlight a few of the beautiful things she did to welcome Aidan (and me) into her classroom.  Why do I want to do this?   Because we (parents) often express what teachers are NOT doing right (me included). . . rarely do we shout their praises - and I think it's important that we have a model of excellence out there in the blog world.

One.  Mrs. F. greeted Aidan and got down to his level (which he promptly copied and crouched down too).

Two.  Mrs. F. said how excited she was to have Aidan in her class, and how she was busy preparing her classroom with things that would be developmentally appropriate for him.  She showed us a few of the items and Aidan had an opportunity to engage with them.

Three.  She had a gift for him wrapped in red tissue paper.  Not that I believe teachers need to give gifts to their students, but the way she gave it was really nice.  It was a gift for him to open and keep at the classroom.  Something to share with the other students.  BTW - Aidan played with the paper, shredding it and throwing it in the air.  He couldn't have been happier.

Four.  Mrs. F. asked me how I was feeling about Aidan starting school.  She reassured me that he was going to be very loved, and that he already was loved by her.  She shared a story of her own attachment to her daughter, now in her twenties, and of her own feelings of separation.

Five.  She told me that if I ever saw something that she was missing in her teaching of Aidan to let her know. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blue ink on a white page

Today I am a tired mother who wants to be a writer.  Is it really a bad thing that I want to go away for a while to find my writing? I dream of a place where nobody claims a piece of me.  A place that inspires, but doesn't overwhelm.  A nurturing sort of place.

Does such a place exist for a mother of three?

This morning I tried to find a piece I'd written a while ago about my three months in Istanbul.  I thought about reworking it for a literary journal,  but now I can't remember where I placed it.  In the deep dark murky space that is my brain, I picture it written in my lousy handwriting with blue ink on a white page. 

Almost all of my scribbles are written with blue ink on a white page. 

I just went through an entire journal - and stumbled on pieces of writing I'd completely forgotten about - including the beginning of a YA novel that has promise.  Now I will go search through other journals looking for the Istanbul story - though I fear finding other pieces I've forgotten about that will plunge me further into longing for a space to get my act together.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My heart goes out to the people of Norway.

I am so sorry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How do you do it?

When people see my paintings, they ask, "how do you find the time?"

My answer, "I don't do dishes."
Or, "I leave the dusting."
Or, "My respite worker, Elmo, takes over for a bit." (I'm a bad mom, aren't I?).

The truth is, I often have to snatch small moments. Five minutes for a tree trunk here. Three minutes to browse the books there. One minute to add some highlights.

You get the picture.

It's like the time I was trying to write a novel, and I took my notebook everywhere with me and jotted down little bits whenever I could. (Did you see the lady at the gym that day scribbling in her book, but not exercising much? That was me.) There's almost always a sense of "I've got a small window of opportunity and I must make the most of it."

That's how I do it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Painting the Lemonade Stand for Superheroes

I recently finished this painting, which I'd been wanting to do for some time:

For me painting becomes an act of meditation - or reflection.  It's not like I sit down and think, "today I am going to consider __________ ."  It doesn't work like that.  I paint, and I let my mind wander off in any direction it chooses.  Sometimes I'm surprised by where my mind takes me....but most often it is a memory from my childhood that I ponder while I paint. 

When I painted the Lemonade Stand for Superheroes I was remembering something my high school art teacher used to say to me.

"Stop being so cute."
"But drawing cute things makes me happy."
"Yes, but these things are cliches - you could do better."


Oh, well.  I knew I wasn't going to be Robert Bateman painting each fine hair on a bear, or feather on a blue heron.  Fine detail made my head spin.  I had a deep respect for my classmates who could concentrate over fine lines, and careful shading - but that wasn't me. 

Today I paint what makes me happy.  Little characters I think are cute - or seaside views like a rustic lighthouse - or my grandmother's cottage. 

I wonder what my art teacher would say?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I Dream of Old Brick Houses

When I was home this Spring, I took a drive over to Wiarton and knocked at the door of this old brick house. I told the young woman who answered that my Grandparents used to live there, and would she mind very much if I took a picture? 
This house has haunted my dreams for over twenty years. My grandmother's house, and the place where much of my childhood roamings took place.

On the side porch were two things that held my young attention.  First, the piano: an old upright Gerard Heintzman.   I would sit and lose myself in made-up melodies (really bad ones, I should add - I didn't know how to play).   I never knew anyone who played it during my time except my sister and me, but I recently learned that before my grandfather passed away, my Aunt Margery would play Christmas songs, and my Grandpa would sing.  Apparently he had a great singing voice.

The other thing that captivated me for hours of childhood was a white cupboard that held my Grandpa's medical equipment.  Gosh, I just imagined opening the cupboard and the old smell (not an unpleasant one) just came back to me.  Memories are incredibly powerful, aren't they?

The cupboard held the most interesting things - glass needles, sutures, cotton swabs, forceps, a glass eye-wash thingy, tongue depressors, and a multitude of other medical stuff.  Funny that his stethoscope wasn't in the cupboard - instead it was in the toy box in the big old kitchen.  I wish I had a photograph of that cupboard, but I never knew then that it wouldn't be there forever. . . such is the life of a child - we don't understand what old poets already know, that nothing gold can stay.

In this room we spent hours making up dances as we watched The Irish Rovers.  Another thing I don't have a photograph of - so this one of Bev (my big sister) and my Dad will have to do.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If Birds Read Poetry 2 - and Someday Dreams

Collage has opened a whole new world to me with my paintings.  I have been dipping into my memory of poems and text I read twenty years ago as an English Literature Major at Trent University. 

I have a little someday dream. . . to have The Little Gull Studio in a floating house at Fisherman's Wharf.  I would sell paintings, cards, t-shirts, mugs, and host little painting workshops.  It would be cozy and lovely and a way of life to make you happy.  The best part?  Aidan would work with me.  And, perhaps if he wanted to, he could live on the Floating House.

Ah, to dream a little dream.

If Birds Read Poetry

If Birds Read Poetry 2

The Owl Swing: Poem for Babies Born with Down Syndrome

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Boat for Hope

This is what we did today:

We celebrated family, community, and jolly-fun pirating :o)

boat for hope

Checking the Map

In the Navy...

boat for hope

Such a gorgeous day for this event!  The lads had a blast - and will be talking about Boat for Hope all year. How do I know?  Because they talked about last year's event up until today :o)

Thank you to Variety, Pharmasave, and all the volunteers who made this day so incredible for our little pirates. We are truly grateful.

And I am grateful because when I see the sailors, I think of my dad.  Here he is on the ship giving my sister a bath in the sink in 1964. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Holiday in the Park

Aidan and I were recently home to Ontario to visit family and friends and old brick houses (I love old brick houses). It was a whirlwind gift of a trip from my husband for completing my Master's Degree in Elementary Education (with a specialty in librarianship).

We visited our favourite people in four different Ontario cities/towns, and even took in a beautiful wedding where my cousin Scott and his bride, Tricia were married.

This was a trip where I got to see and do everything I wanted/needed to do, and then some. At the wedding (which was held in Stratford), I learned that my father was the youngest Captain to sail on the Great Lakes. How did I not know that? My Aunt Elsie's sister, Eleanor, told me this little detail that made my heart swell up with pride. One smart cookie, my dad was.

I also learned that Aidan could dance until 1:00 in the morning Ontario time (10:00 our time). Who knew he was such a rock star?

My three sweet nieces were a delight to visit with. I am so very proud of them - they are amazing. Here are a few photos of our visit with my sister and her three girls. I should mention that my niece, Courtney took several of the Aidan photos.  She has a great eye for photography :o)

My Nieces

The beginning



Aidan - goin' round



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All the other kids are waiting...

I saw this on Professor M-R's door, and had to share.  She has the best office door ever!

Friday, April 1, 2011

You're allowed. . .

I would like to publicly thank Tim Shriver for putting into words (so eloquently) what I've wanted to say for years (I just didn't quite know how to say it):

Tim Shriver to Stephen Colbert on March 30th 2011:

I didn't say you cannot use the word: I don't want to be a cop, I want to be a teacher. you're allowed to be humiliating, degrading & hurtful. I'm allowed to petition you to at least recognize what you say & be aware of the option you have to stop....I'm asking you awareness for a forgotten population. This is a campaign to save America's kids ~ Tim Shriver
Thanks for being such a powerful role model for the rest of us as we live advocacy daily for our children.

Photo by Nancy Yakimoski of Blue Sky Photography

Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Where does INCLUSION work?"

"In the family."

photo by Nancy Yakimoski at Blue Sky Photography

Inclusion is...

Inclusion is an approach, not a program.
An attitude, not an activity.
Inclusion is not just a special education or disability issue.
Inclusion is belonging no matter what.

~Donna McGhie-Richmond, Ph.d

This is Aidan with our friend, Michelle. 
Michelle loves Aidan, and Aidan loves Michelle.
Inclusion makes loving easier :o)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Including Aidan - and things that keep me up at night

I recently spoke to an elementary special education class at our local university as a follow-up to the viewing of the documentary:  Including Samuel.   I was invited as someone at the beginning of the school journey; and, was joined by two other moms whose children had been in the system for a while. The professor had this poster outside of her office door:

I must say, I smiled wide when I saw what (and whom)she'd added to it. Funny, but when I first saw this poster, it was in the hallway at our local elementary school, and I remember thinking, "that's interesting, we should make a similar poster with Aidan on it."

Then, during our discussion, one of the guest speakers spoke about "normalcy" and not separating our children with special needs out.  She is an advocate for as complete inclusion as possible.  Her daughter is not pulled out of the class for most therapies - those are done at home.  She spoke about how important it is to her that we NOT make our children the "poster child" for disabilities.

Hmmm.  Suddenly I had to re-think everything I've been doing since Aidan was born.  So far his photo has been on the side of a bus, in the paper, and he's been on television three times (twice about Music Therapy, once for the Telus Flight with Santa).  I post his photo all over our flickr family page, and have joined three flickr groups about Down syndrome, and started one myself called Down syndrome in the Family.  Not to mention blogging about Aidan and Down syndrome in the 31 for 21 challenge, and posting on Facebook about Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.  I even went so far as to have my on-line friend Erin make this poster for me:

Why have I done all this? 
For advocacy, ironically. 
To show the world how much we love Aidan; and to show the world just how amazing and capable he is.

Now, have I been inadvertently achieving the opposite of what I set out to do?  Have I been moving Aidan backwards instead of forwards?  Have I kept Aidan in the box on the shelf labeled "disabled?"  Have I opened the doors for inclusion to happen naturally and effectively, or have I placed hurdles in Aidan's path?

I have to keep thinking about this.  It's good to get different perspectives, and it's good to question ourselves sometimes. 

At any rate, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thinking About Inclusion and Paradigm Shifts

I was honoured to be one of the panelists at the screening of the incredible documentary, Including Samuel at the University.  There were four of us sharing our responses to the film and our hopes and fears about inclusion for our children.  I was invited because Aidan is just beginning his journey into the system.

Photo courtesy, Dan Habib:

What stood out for me the most was the answer to the question, "Where does inclusion work?" 
The answer, drumroll please.....
"In the family." 
Whole heartedly. 
As I watched the film I kept thinking of my father in the 1970's and how he wasn't included.  He was sent off to a hospital where he wore his pajamas all day while watching television in the sitting room. Our family watched as the paradigm shifted.  As patients began to be dressed for their day.  Still watching television, but given some dignity while doing so. 

Things changed at the hospital, so my dad's entire ward  was re-located to an institution.  The Funny Farm - people in our town called it.  A different ward than that for the insane or mentally challenged: this ward was a chronic-care ward which housed mostly very old people. Dad was the youngest one there, at first, until a teenager who had been in a car accident and was paralyzed, and speechless was admitted and shared a room with him. 

Over time, as the paradigm continued to shift, people in the chronic-care ward were taken out into the community to do "regular" things.  Bowl, with a trough-like plank on their knees to push the bowling ball down the alley from their wheelchair.  Shop at the mall, and eat in the food court.  They were even taken on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry cruise from Owen Sound, up to it's summer spot in Tobermory. 

For those outings, I skipped school and went along too.  It was fiercely important to me.  You see, Dad had been a Captain and Pilot on the grain ships before his illness stopped him in his tracks.  So, the trip on the ferry was very important to us.
Tobermory, Ontario_2486
Photo Courtesy:

I would go along as a helper, and during one of the earlier trips I pushed my dad's wheelchair to the bough of the ferry so he could look out the window and enjoy the scenery of Georgian Bay.  A group of "typical" people were sitting nearby, and when they saw us coming, they looked disgusted; like we were going to ruin their ferry-cruise experience.  They ended up moving seats to be further away from us.

I remember being so hurt by that.  I didn't know how to handle it, I just felt it like I'd been kicked in the stomach.

Fast forward fifteen years.  The trips continued - but I was living out West at the time; so I didn't go.  Mom always told me about it, and sent photos.  On one occassion, the Captain of the ferry invited my Dad up to the wheelhouse to visit with him.  It took several workers to lift dad up the narrow stairs; but they did it. 

That's something else I'm fiercely proud of.  That times change.  That attitudes change. That individuals like my dad were finally given a fair shake and the respect they deserved. 

I've got more to say on the Including Samuel documentary and Aidan, but that will have to wait for another post.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Your family is perfect.
Take heart that more and more people are becoming aware.
Change is slow, but so worth educating for.

I wrote that on Bethany's blog, and realized it's what I needed to hear too! 
I send that message out to everyone who is spreading the word to raise awareness about how much the "R" word hurts us.  People are hearing the message; it's making people think - which is always a good thing.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Of Paints and Brushes and Owls and Stuff

This post was also published on Another Kick at the [Paint] Can.  Why?  Because I'm a mom, and I like to multitask.... a lot!
When I started painting, it was for myself.  I wanted to try to capture the images that floated through my mind; and I wanted to play with acrylics, and learn how to use that medium.  When I looked at works of art by illustrators like Rose Cowles,  something in my heart would long to do that too.

So, I bought my first paint set with my Christmas money.  I've probably already mentioned that in an earlier post, but it really was a pivotal moment for me.  I'd been aching to get my hands on the paint, the canvas, the brushes, the ideas, for over a year.  When the time came to jump in, I was ready. 

The Little Gull Project

Then came another pivotal moment: when I realized that I could make my paintings into cards and sell them to help raise awareness and funds for our local Down syndrome society.  I approached the Board, and asked if I could. The Board was on board (awful pun intended), and so The Little Gull Project began. 

To say I am very proud of The Little Gull is an understatement. 

I'm very proud.  But, I'm also quite aware that my paintings are at the experimental stage.  There are a lot of wonderful artists out there, like Diane Duda, and I'm happy to learn from their creations.  Dianne uses text in many of her paintings, and that inspired me to try it too.  Take this little guy, for example:

Me and You

This painting is an experimental project on paper. What do I like about this painting?  I'm pretty happy with the text collaged onto the owl's belly.  I think I could have done better with the bleeding hearts.  I should have used canvas instead of paper, as the paper buckled from the thickness of the paint.  I'm not happy with the background because of that buckling.  I'm thinking a different colour for the sky might be a better plan.  I'm tempted to cut the owl and tree out, and collage it onto a canvas, or wooden block (something I have yet to try).

If you have any advice on how to make this owl better - please leave a message.  I'm happy to learn! I'm in need of a mentor, or two, or ten....

The Little Gull has a lot of room to grow, and I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where Poetry and Tae-Kwan-Do Collide

Aidan gets a lot of air time on the old blog....maybe because he's the smallest, and I spend the most time with him (the big boys are at school). Perhaps it's because he has Down syndrome and it seems right to write/advocate/share/chronicle, etc., about Down syndrome on the blogosphere.  I don't think the big billy goats mind that they aren't written about as much.

But, every so often an anecdote comes to mind about the other boys, and I want to put it down so I remember. 

This is a story about the middle-est billy goat,
Age 9. 
And poetry. 
Oh, and a little tae-kwan-do too.

Liam is a fidgety boy.  He bounces, spins, fidgets, plays drums on his knees, does strange things with his cheeks, and we love him whole heartedly.

We put him in tae-kwan-do to try to learn some self-discipline and self-control.  Also for some physical activitiy which he was craving.

He's doing great.

At school, he is fidgety, and not getting down to work.  I went in to talk to his teacher.  She explained that they were writing two word poems.
She said that he right away wanted to do his poem on tae-kwan-do.
No surprise there.
His poem was as expected, about a dojang, white dobak, high kicks....
and the last line of his poem was difficult to read,
but it looked like: "bar fights."

Bar fights?

Hmmmn.  His teacher looked at me.
I looked at her.
We chuckled and shrugged.
I was thinking did he get that from Bugs Bunny?

Later, in the car (on the way to tae-kwan-do), I remembered his poem, and told him I thought it was terrific...but that I couldn't quite read the last line.  How did it go, again?

Bare foot.

Oh, right. :o)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Little Operation

Today we took Aidan to the hospital for minor surgery.  He got tubes put in his ears.  The hope is that he will hear better and be able to reproduce speech sounds more accurately. 

If this doesn't help, then we're pretty sure there's another issue.  Perhaps apraxia?  Time will tell.

He wasn't very impressed with not eating or drinking this morning.  He made his way to the Cheerio cupboard 8 times, only to be turned away empty handed.  Poor pumpkin. 

He was polite with the nurses, up until a point. The point being when they held onto his arm or foot firmly to put numbing cream on the back of his hand and a monitor on his big toe.  He yelled out, "ooooo," and "owie."  It would have broken my heart if it wasn't so darn cute.

I was impressed that they let me take him right into the operating room, and wait with him until the anaesthetic knocked him out.  I held him and sang "The Owl and the Pussycat" for old-times sake.  Just like  I did 4 years ago when he went under for heart surgery.  Ah, good times.