Celebrate my Birthday!

My brother spent several years in a country where they celebrate birthdays differently than we do in North America. The person who is having a birthday throws a party for his or her friends. I thought I would try that this year.

The price you see listed includes shipping. I think it’s a win/win. You are able to get some new books to read at a super discount, and I’m able to share some of my writing with you. I hope you join the celebration at http://ruthlsnyder.com/shop!

The books include:

If you’d like to know about other special offers and learn along with me, sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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Morning Inspiration

It was a tough morning. One of my sons insisted on refusing to do what I asked:

  • He refused to eat his breakfast
  • He refused to drink water
  • He refused to pass anything to anyone

In addition, he spilled water on the table and floor, swiped his lunch kit onto the floor, and glared. I told him he could not go to school until he ate his breakfast, drank some water and apologized for his behaviour.

After I put my other children on the bus, I asked my son to join me on my morning walk with our dog, Olaf. He put on his shoes and came.

As we walked, there was little conversation. I focused on breathing deeply and enjoying the beauty of nature. The theme of the morning turned out to be wild flowers.

The first flower that caught my eye was an Alberta Wild Rose. Once I paid attention, I noticed many other rose bushes scattered throughout the area where we walked.

Wild Rose

On our walk we also spotted blue bells, flowering Saskatoon bushes, and dandelions – both blooming and going to seed.

Our walk only lasted fifteen minutes, but my perspective shifted a hundred and eighty degrees. When we arrived back at our house, my son cheerfully complied with my requests and I took him to school with a smile on his face.

Perhaps I should implement a morning walk for him more often 🙂

What have you discovered in your parenting journey that has surprised and delighted you? Please share!


A Voice for the Voiceless

I’m angry. It brings out the “Mama Bear” in me when I hear stories like the one I heard yesterday (names changed).

Belinda has a son who has special needs. She did what she was told and enrolled him in a local school when he was five. He didn’t learn to read that year, or the year after, or the next . . . at eleven years of age he still could not read. Her son received some help at school. She trusted the school to do what was best…until she received a phone call from the school telling her that her son was no longer welcome in the school because “he is a sexual pervert.”

Belinda asked some questions and discovered her eleven-year-old son was given a spy game to play on an iPad belonging to the school. Her son accepted the game and played it without supervision – not for half an hour, but for a whole day. One of the first levels of the game instructed him to take pictures of people he was spying on. He did what he was told and took pictures. Lots of pictures. Of both boys and girls. Parents of the girls found out he was taking pictures of their daughters and complained. That’s when Belinda received the phone call.

Belinda was unable to resolve the situation with her local school, so she contacted a different school and asked to enrol her son. The “new” school contacted the previous school and was informed, “the child is a sexual pervert.” The “new” school refused to enrol Belinda’s son based on the information provided by the previous school. Belinda decided her only option was to homeschool her son. He had been in school for six years and could not read, so she figured she couldn’t do any worse. Then, she discovered the local school had reported her to Child & Family Services. Now she is not only juggling the challenges of parenting and homeschooling a child who has special needs, but she is also spending countless hours defending her ability to care for her son.

Why didn’t the local school provide adequate support for Belinda’s son? Why does a school choose to turn a student away because of a label, without researching the background? Why is it that a parent with a child who has special needs is often taken advantage of because he or she doesn’t understand how “the system” works?

We can do better, Alberta!


Bankhead: a hidden treasure near Banff

Our family enjoyed hiking through the ruins of Bankhead this summer on our vacation in Banff National Park. We camped at Two Jack Main, so we were just kilometres away from the ghost town. However, we didn’t realize there was more than a hiking trail at Lower Bankhead until we went on the Boat Cruise at Lake Minnewanka. While we were on the cruise, our guide told us that we should definitely set aside some time to explore the mining ghost town at Lower Bankhead.

We discovered signage for Lower Bankhead is only visible when you’re travelling from Lake Minnewanka back past Upper Bankhead. The hiking trail is 1.1 km, and designated “easy” (the most difficult part is the stairs to get down to the trail). We found the trail easy to follow, mostly marked with coal. Signs with historical information helped us decipher what used to exist in Bankhead.

The mining town of Bankhead only existed from 1903 – 1922. At it’s height, the town was a prosperous, booming mining town of 1,000 people. An amazing amount of coal was mined in those years, a half million tons of coal during peak production. However, I found it disconcerting to read that most of the miners were Chinese and that they lived “on the other side of the slag heap.” The many rhubarb and raspberry plants which still grow are evidence that the Chinese families worked hard, both in the mines and in their gardens. Although the signs pointed to a happy life for many residents of Bankhead, I wonder if the prosperity was shared equally.

Below are some of the pictures I took during our hike.

For more information:

http://www.bigdoer.com/5538/exploring-history/bankhead-alberta-ghost-town/

http://www.ghosttowns.com/canada/alberta/bankhead.html

http://www.ghosttownpix.com/alberta/bankhead.html

https://magazine.cim.org/en/September-October-2007/mining-lore/Bankhead-mining-for-coal.aspx

http://www.trailpeak.com/trail-Bankhead-Historical-Loop-near-Banff-AB-1834

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankhead,_Alberta

 

 


Town of Banff

Our 2015 family holiday in Banff National Park

This past week our family had the opportunity to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Banff National Park. In this post I’m sharing some of my favourite pictures. In the next few posts I’ll provide details about some of the places we visited and activities we enjoyed.

Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep

We were able to see many different kinds of animals. When I commented that the sheep were molting, one of our sons commented, “Well, you know, Mom, it is summer!”

Glacier Sky Walk
Glacier Sky Walk

The Glacier Skywalk topped my list of activities. What an amazing view!

Ghost mining town at Lower Bankhead
Lower Bankhead

Looking for a free, educational activity? Check out Lower Bankhead, which used to be a mining town in the early 1900’s.

Boat ride on Lake Minnewanka
Boat ride on Lake Minnewanka

Although we had been on the boat ride before, we learned many more interesting facts, thanks to our informative guide, Dan.

Hiking in Banff National Park
Hiking in Banff National Park

There is a wonderful variety of hiking trails in Banff National Park – all lengths and levels of difficulty.

Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure

The Brewster bus ride onto the Columbia Icefield Glacier takes you down the second steepest incline (32 degrees) in the world.

Bull and cow Elk near Two Jack
Bull and cow Elk near Two Jack

We were delighted to find this pair of elk just outside the entrance to the Two Jack Main campground.

Elk at dusk in Banff National Park
Elk at dusk

The above shot of an elk at dusk is my favourite photo from our trip.

Bird on sign at Jasper glacier
Lots of natural beauty

A whiskey jack entertained us while we were at the Columbia Icefields visitor centre.

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Too close to the bear!

Despite warnings, tourists insist on feeding animals and getting close to the wild animals. One guide asked us if we knew which animal sends the most tourists to the hospital from the national parks. Any guesses?

SONY DSC
View from Sulpher Mountain Gondola

We enjoyed a ride on the Sulpher Mountain Gondola. What a view!

Where did you go on your family vacation this year? Any hints to share?


Parenting: Getting through the tough days (Parenting Blog Hop Week 1)

Parenting Blog Hop

 

Question: What do you find most challenging about parenting? 

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

For me, the most challenging part of parenting is adjusting my expectations, training, and discipline to the uniqueness of each of my children.

I have five children ages seven to seventeen; Each child is different. One child craves hugs and responds better to life if the hug quotient is full. Another child doesn’t want hugs, but responds well when I take the time to sit and listen. One child has a sensitive spirit and rarely needs discipline. Another child constantly challenges authority.

It takes time to get to know my children. The way my children enjoy spending time with me is also different. My youngest just wants to be with me and often offers to help with whatever I’m doing. My next child loves to play games. Another son enjoys riding in a vehicle with me – the destination is unimportant. His brother still comes and sits beside me, or even on my lap, gives me hugs, and compliments me often. My eldest child prefers to communicate with text messages.

Some of my children also have special needs. This means that I can’t expect my fourteen year-old to act like most fourteen year-olds. Sometimes a younger sibling things I’m being unfair because I expect more from the younger one than the older one.

Parents have the challenging job of knowing our children and then teaching and training them accordingly. I’m thankful I don’t have to tackle parenting alone. My children have a hard-working Dad. We all have a Heavenly Father who stands ready to give us His wisdom if we will only ask:

“If any of you lackswisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV)

Question: What helps you get through the tough days?

Several things help me when I face challenging days as a parent:

  • Prayer – God is never too busy to hear my desperate pleas for help.
  • Reading God’s Word, the Bible – There are many encouraging passages I return to again and again. Some of my favourites are Psalm 37, Psalm 1, Isaiah 41, and Ephesians 6
  • Perspective – Talking to parents who’ve gone through similar situations and have survived is a great encouragement to me.
  • Sufficient Sleep – It’s always easier for me to handle challenges when I get my sleep!
  • Healthy Food – I try to choose more fruits and vegetables rather than products with refined sugar. However, chocolate is still part of my diet – in moderation. 🙂
  • Respite – Sometimes I need a break from my children to clear my thinking and renew my perspective. I find an occasional break is good for both me and my children.
  • Confession – When I make a mistake as a parent, I’ve found things turn around quickly when I’m willing to “‘fess up.”

What about you? What do you find most challenging as a parent? What helps you get through the tough days?


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Redefining Disability Week 12: Describe the biggest challenge you face due to disability

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As a parent of individuals with special needs, the biggest challenge I face due to disability is helping my children build authentic friendships with their peers. My boys exhibit many of the characteristics of autism:

  • difficulty with eye contact
  • Lack of an understanding of personal space
  • Lack of inhibitions
  • Insatiable curiosity regarding one particular topic
  • Difficulty maintaining interest in topics they don’t know or understand
  • Difficulty reading emotion and other social cues

Let me be clear that most people treat my boys with respect and extend infinite patience in carrying on conversations with them. One of my boys is passionate about vehicles. He knows all the makes and models, reads the consumer reports, and can tell you which ones are recommended. He will stop anyone and everyone and carry on a conversation about vehicles. If people ignore him, he just gets closer and repeats his question.

Adults understand this type of behaviour and carry on a conversation. Peers expect to have a conversation that may include a discussion about vehicles, but will also include many other topics. When this doesn’t happen, peers tend to respond in one of two ways: avoidance or interaction based on pity. Some peers will answer one or two questions and then move on. Others will continue to reach out, but the relationship is more of an older brother or sister dealing with a younger sibling.

I’m not sure my sons recognize what they are missing. Is that a good thing? Yes, in that the sting of rejection is not felt by them. No, in that there is no motivation to change, except to comply with an adult who is telling them they should or shouldn’t do something. My boys are more than happy to lose themselves in a book or play on their iPads instead of conversing with peers. We all tend to stick to situations where we feel safe, and they are no different. The difference is that most people have a larger repertoire of skills to call on when dealing with social situations, especially difficult ones.

As a parent, there are many times I don’t know how to deal with this issue of helping my boys build authentic peer relationships. We’ve tried speech therapy, small group therapy, taking our boys to places they will be able to interact with peers, and modelling expected interactions. Sometimes we push our boys into situations they would not choose on their own. Other times we allow them to make the choices. I’m thankful for the people who make the time to interact with our boys, but I do grieve for them and hope that some day they will have a friendship based on more than choice and respect.

What is the biggest challenge you face in dealing with disability?


 

redefining-disability1

In 2014, Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.


Redefining Disability Week 11: Describe a good day living with disability

A good day with disability

As a mother, I think my dreams and aspirations for my children are fairly normal. I want them to be able to have friends, fit into the community they live in, learn about things they enjoy, and contribute to society. I also want them to know they are loved, accepted, and appreciated – not only by me, but by the community at large.

Last Thursday was a good day. The school our children attend called on Tuesday to let me know a tubing trip was being planned and asked if it would be okay for Luke and Levi to participate. I confirmed I would be happy to have my boys experience the activity with their peers. Thursday morning, Levi said he didn’t want to go. We told him he needed to go any way, because we know that new activities are intimidating for him, but he usually enjoys them once he’s involved. We packed extra snacks, layers of clothes, and talked up how much fun it would be. Both boys left home with smiles on their faces. We heard nothing until about 2 p.m. Then we received pictures from an educational assistant. Both boys had smiles on their faces. The text said, “The boys had an awesome time. They spent every minute tubing.” (Sorry, but I can’t share pictures due to safety concerns with people who’ve been involved with the boys in the past.)

Saturday was another good day. On Friday, Levi told me that he’d like some pie. (I found out later that the math teacher had the students participate in activities that day related to Pi Day.) I told him we could make pies the next day. When it came to making pies, Levi wasn’t interested, but Luke, Jayson, and Dorothy were. Jayson and Dorothy worked together to peel apples. I helped core them and made the pie crust. After I rolled the crust out, Jayson put the apples into the pie and added the sugar, cinnamon, flour, and butter. Then I showed him how to moisten the edges of the crust so that the top crust adhered to the bottom. He also made a pattern on the crust which allowed the steam to escape while the pie was baking. Luke wanted lemon meringue pies. He helped me measure the ingredients into a pot, and stirred for a while. Then he worked with his dad to roll out the crusts while I continued to cook the lemon filling. Both boys were very proud of their pies.

It just so happened that I had an online meeting with executive members from InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship on Saturday afternoon. The topic of pies came up and my boys were able to show off their pies. The ladies oohed and ahhed over them. After the meeting, we all enjoyed a bowl of soup and then . . . pie and ice-cream. The smiles of satisfaction were all the thanks I needed. 🙂

Pies for Pi Day

I would love to know how my children would answer this question, but I doubt they would have an answer they could articulate. Since they were born with their genetic make-up, it’s a normal part of who they are; they don’t see themselves as “disabled” – and that’s a very good thing. They would probably describe a good day as having ice-cream, or making a trip to Edmonton. (We go to Edmonton, a 2 1/2 hour drive one way, for appointments at least once a month. Levi especially enjoys watching the vehicles as we drive, and can identify them better than anyone in our family, even Dad! We often go to a toy store after the appointments are done. Sometimes we just look, and other times each of them are able to choose something up to a certain price.)

I’d love to hear what a good day looks like in your world. Let’s celebrate those good days together!


redefining-disability1

In 2014, Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.