Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Priceless Accomplishment

Jonas is very proud that he's earned four Merit Badges now!
Scouts is a wonderful for youth to build their self esteem.
The experience of doing their best, and the joy of accomplishment that comes along with it, are priceless.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankful Tuesday: Three Things

Three of the many things I'm grateful for this week are:
  • My husband. I don't tell him often enough, but I adore him. He's a good husband, a good Dad and a good man.
  • My mom, step-mom, Grandmothers and Aunts. The older I get, the more I appreciate them and the more like them I am become. They're all great role models!
  • My Dad. We don't spend nearly enough time together but he's one of the three most important men in my life and I wouldn't be who I am today with him.
Thank you all!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Chasing Our Tails

I feel like such a failure today. We found out today that the place we had put our hopes into for getting Jonas the speech and occupational therapy he needs, only provides services to preschool kids. (Why they didn't tell us this when we called them a month ago and went through the hoops of getting a referral from our pediatrician, I'll never understand.)  They've referred us right back to the school system, which is where things fell apart in the first place.

I'm kicking myself because I didn't fight harder for these services when he was in Kindergarten. My gut told me that something was wrong but rather than push the powers that be to do something about it, I trusted them when they said they had to wait and observe, when they said it was too early to tell, and when they said he might grow out of it.

It was wishful thinking in my part. Every parent wants their child to hit all their developmental milestones and sail effortlessly through school and through life. No parent wants their child to struggle to communicate because they can't speak or write clearly. It was too easy to believe them when they said we should wait and see and now the poor kid is too old for the subsidized services he needs and deserves.

So now we're right back to where we started and it's immensely frustrating. We did get good news yesterday though. Steve's company just changed their benefits package and will subsidize 75% of speech therapy to a max of $1000 per year. We're still waiting to hear about Occupational Therapy but we're getting started on Speech Therapy immediately, ironically with the same provider and therapist as treated him, and likely will again when he comes off the waiting list in a couple of years, through the school board.


26 Days and Counting

This Christmas season is very different from the past few. Being back in the office environment means that I don't have the same amount of time as I've become accustomed to for shoping, crafting, wraping, baking, writing Christmas letters, menu planning, and all the other little things that we've come to expect at Christmas time. There's a little less than a month to go until our family Christmas frenzy starts on Christmas eve. Twenty-six days to be exact. More precisely, there are three weekends left. This coming weekend, Jonas and I will be at Scout camp, so better make that two weekends left.  Can you feel the stress? 

Maybe I'm in denial but I'm not that stressed. We've broken out the fruit cake and egg nog, we've got the car radio tuned to the all Christmas station and we've spent some screen time watching Christmas movies. It's strangely reassuring to know that other people are stuggling just as much or more than we are trying to make the holidays perfect, even it is only in Hollywood.

I'm not trying for perfect. I'm striving for enjoyable. Memorable would be nice, but not in a remember every detail kind of way, but rather in a nostalgic, continuing family traditions and building new ones kind of way. Thoughtful. Meaningful. No pressure.

No pressure? AH HAHAHA!!  Ok. Back to the reality of 26 days. 

Tasha's going to be home two weekends from now and I'd like to have all our our shopping done by then so we can get everything wrapped and spend that weekend putting up the tree and decorating the house. (In a case of bad timing, both of our company Christmas partys are that weekend too.)  Jonas and I had a day to ourselves this past Saturday and we put a huge dent in our shopping list by getting most of our gift buying done. He picked out presents for all his cousins, we finished finding all the story books we've been looking for to make story CDs for all of the kiddos, and we picked up the stuff we need to make our homemade gifts this year.

This week's big goals are to finshing making our homemade gifts and start wrapping presents. We're so blessed this year to have presents for everyone to put under the tree but they're not going to wrap themselves!  Next week we'll visit Santa at the mall, and tackle decorating and menu planning.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Freddy - Santa's Snowman Scout

There's 1 month until Christmas and Santa's scout's have started their recon missions to held him figure out those tricky Naught and Nice lists. In our house, we don't have an elf. Instead we were blessed with one of Santa's snowmen scouts. His name is Freddy. He lives with us all year long, and during the Christmas season, he makes nightly journeys to the North Pole, to let Santa know how are day was and to reassure him that we are all doing our very best to stay on his Nice List. Every year we find him all over the house, in a different hideout each morning. (This morning he's in one of the pantry cupboards in the kitchen.) Finding him each morning is a fun way to start each day, and a great way to remember that we're trying to follow the Golden Rule and do our best to make each day a good one.

Santa's Snowman Scout, Freddy.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out the Elf on the Shelf Website. It explains it pretty well:

The Elf on the Shelf Tradition

Have you ever wondered how Santa knows who is naughty and who is nice? The Elf on the Shelf – A Christmas Tradition is the very special tool that helps Santa knows who to put on the Naughty and Nice list. This interactive holiday hide-and-seek tradition is perfect for children and families of all ages.
The tradition begins when Santa sends his scout elves out to Elf Adoption Centers. Waiting for their families to bring them home, these patient elves hibernate until their family reads The Elf on the Shelf, gives their elf a very special name, and registers their adoption online. Once named, each scout elf will receive its Christmas magic and become a part of the family’s Christmas each and every year.  

Excellent listeners and even better observers, these scout elves are the eyes and ears of Santa Claus. Although they cannot be touched, or else they may lose their magic, the elf will always listen and relay messages back to Santa. Taking in all the day-to-day activities around the house, no good deed goes unnoticed; these scout elves take their job seriously.

Each night, after the family goes to bed, the scout elf uses his magical Christmas powers to fly back to the North Pole. Once there, the elf will make his or her daily report to Santa and visit with elf friends where they will tell stories about their beloved families, play with the reindeer, and of course, sneak some of Mrs. Claus’ cookies! 

Before the family awakes each morning, their special scout elf will fly back to their home from the North Pole. However, since these elves like to play games, don’t expect to find them in the same spot!  While some like to hide in the freezer (probably because it reminds them of the North Pole) and others prefer to sit on the fireplace mantle or hang from the chandelier, these elves love to play hide-and-seek with their families.
On Christmas Eve, the scout elf will listen for Santa’s bell and then fly back to the North Pole until the next season, wishing every girl and each boy a Christmas of peace and a year full of joy. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Best Present Ever!

Even though it's not Thanksgiving here in Canada,
it's another perfect day to tell the world how grateful I am for recieving the best present ever - my kiddo!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful Tuesday: Three Things

Three of the many things I am grateful for this week are:
  • The teachers and staff at Jonas's school. They've been really wonderful with him and have worked hard to make accommodations for his special needs, even without an official IEP.  They try their best to help him with the challenges he has and they also celebrate his strengths and successes. They're clearly committed to giving him the support and encouragement he needs to succeed in school.
  • The girls in Jonas's class who stood up for him when some older kids were mimicking his speech on a recent field trip. He didn't notice the boys poking fun at him but he sure felt great knowing that his classmates have his back.
  • Hot Chocolate and Fruit Cake. (What can I say? You either love it or you hate it and I am firmly in the love it camp. There's more of them than us, which works out well because that means I don't have share as often.)  I know that might seem like two things but a piece of fruit cake with a cup of hot chocolate is a guilty pleasure that is part of my end of the night routine at this time of year.


    Monday, November 21, 2011

    The Other Half of the Glass - School Progress Report Part 2

    The discouraging things we realized about Jonas's school life last week kind of overshadowed the positive stuff so today is about celebrating what's going well. We need to look at the glass as half full and not half empty!
    • He's doing much better since we changed the dosage of his medication. He's more focused and less emotional, which is making it easier for his teachers to talk through his frustrations with him. It's also helping him with his bi-weekly tutoring sessions!
    • He's starting to realize the importance of his education, which I think means that it's starting to matter to him how well he does. This is a mixed blessing when his expectations are too high, but it's better than him not caring at all. He's actually starting to remember his homework without us asking to ask and calrify and check the agenda, etc. We still double check and remind him but it's great to see him taking this responsibility.
    • He's getting better at conflict resolution with his peers. At the beginning of the year he was constantly in conflict with the other kids, would get quite emotional and just run away. Now he's starting to listen more and trying to understand the other person's point of view, while insisting that they listen to him too. Now he only seems to turn away from them when he feels that they aren't letting him speak.
    • He's starting to make friends at school, albeit with younger kids. His teachers say that he plays very well with them and thinks it may actually be helping his self-confidence and sense of responsibility.
    • He is a very creative thinker, who always comes up with a unique perspective for his assignments. He's starting to add detail to his work and really elaborating on his thoughts and ideas.
    • He's really enjoying the hands-on science that they're now doing. Inventing things, testing things, coming up with new ideas, etc. He's loving it!
    • He's starting to take to using the computer as a learning tool, rather than just for playing games and watching videos. They just introduced him to spell check and his keyboarding is getting better. This could be a key tool for him in the future.
    • His teachers see that despite his increasing frustration with tests and marks, "his self confidence is starting to flourish." He doesn't immediately discount his ideas and he's speaking up more often during class discussions, due in part, I'm sure, to the respectful patience his teachers insist upon when he is trying to speak.
    We're on a waiting list for speech language service and occupational therapy at the Grandview Children's Centre, and we're working with the school to continue exploring new strategies and to get his IEP formalized. This is the stuff we need to build on as we address the stuff that's on the other list. It's a long road that we're on and it's easy to get discouraged. We know that we have to stay positive though and keep trying to find way forward. The glass really is half full!


    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    School Progress Report Time Part 1

    When Jonas brought home his report card, he wasn't eager to show it to us. He didn't hide it, he just left it for us to discover on our own. It wasn't in the envelope when we found it and a quick scan revealed why he might have preferred us not to see it. The scale on this report isn't number marks but "Needs Improvement", "Satisfactory", "Good" and "Excellent." All but one of his marks were "Satisfactory". The lone mark, his Science and Technology mark,  usually his best subject, showed "Needs Improvement". While he's never had only one "NI" before, he's also never not had any "Good" marks before. He was teary eyed when he told me that his marks were the worst in the class. I hugged him, kissed his head, and asked him if he's trying his best.  "Yeah, but it's terrible. Just terrible."  It broke my heart.

    Steve and I were looking forward to meeting with his teachers to get some feedback and try to help him chart a more positive course ahead. Imagine our disappointment when we realized that this term, Jonas's school decided to replace Parent - Teacher interviews with student-led Student - Parent conferences, which would be moderated by the teacher. We wouldn't get any one-on-one time with the teachers this round but it would be a chance for him to show off his accomplishments. We can talk to the teachers any time so we changed our expectations for the night and went in looking forward to letting him show us what he's done so far this year.

    We weren't sure what to expect but what an eye opener it was!  Of course, we doted on his strengths and accomplishments, praising him for his efforts and improvement, and he delighted in showing us the stuff he's proud of. He also expressed considerable frustration and discouragement about the stuff he's struggling with, almost coming to tears a few times as he pulled something out. "Please don't look at this one" came out of his mouth more than a couple of times.

    The night shed more light on the challenges he's facing and exactly how far behind he his from where he "should" be:
    • The night began with a very nervous Jonas introducing us to his teacher. (Yes, we've already met but these conferences we as much about teaching the kids a bit about public speaking as they were about us finding out how he's doing in school.) Presentations have always been a battle nerves for Jonas, and it would seem that talking to mom and dad in the classroom setting is no different. One consequence of him getting nervous is that his speech disfluency is more pronounced and he has a harder time saying what he's trying to say.  His teacher is committed to giving him enough time in the class room to finish his thoughts but it's impacting his performance in presentations because he cuts himself short out of frustration and embarrassment. The upside is that the kids in his class do not pick on him for the way he speaks and stand up for him when anyone outside their class does.
    • His handwriting is a mess. He's been officially diagnosed with a learning disorder called "dysgraphia" so seeing his work wasn't entirely a surprise. What was a bit of a shock was seeing how pervasive this challenge is for him. Illegible writing, a mixture of upper and lower case letters, no spacing between words or letters, no regard for the borders of the page, writing on random pages.... He's a smart kid who's full of wonderful thoughts and ideas but he can't get them out on the paper. This is doubly challenging given his speech disfluency. One of the strategies for dealing with his speech issues is writing things down so he can read them, but....
    • Jonas has a hard time concentrating and staying focused, including reading instructions on tests and assignments. All of his tests have started great on the first few questions and then gone down from there. Staying focused requires a great amount of effort, as does writing or typing the answers. When those two things are on-track, it slows down the entire process. The answers may come out right but he runs out of time and starts to rush. He's getting frustrated with this and his marks are getting progressively worse with each test. He's aware that the other kids are getting better marks than him and that adds to the pressure he puts on himself. It's a vicious circle.
    • He's having a hard time grasping concepts in math, science and language. His teachers say it's like he gets lost in the middle of lessons, activities and independent practice time.
    • He has trouble making friends with kids his own age. He's not as mature as they are, doesn't think the same way, doesn't pick up on social cues and requires a lot more patience than they can muster. The result is that he thinks the other kids in his class don't like him and don't want to play with him.  Sadly, he may be right. They're all for playing with him when he's got a toy or treat to share, but when he wants to join them, in a soccer game for example, it's a completely different story.
    • His teacher describes him as a wonderful boy, with a lot of creativity and enthusiasm. She says the only thing that frustrates her is that he's stubborn as all get out and his ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) gets the better of him some days. He doesn't listen and doesn't think things through, especially when his self-confidence needs a boost, like immediately after recess and lunch.

    Despite the discouragement we felt walking out of the school that night, we were also bolstered by the fact that his teachers are patient and understanding. They are all trying to maintain a healthy balance between helping and accommodating his challenges, and teaching him personal responsibility for the things that are within his control. He is doing better in a lot of areas and he's also motivated to do better.  Now we just need to work on shifting his focus from away from the marks he or the other kids get and back onto the effort he puts in. That and continuing to fight for the support services he needs both inside and outside the classroom.


    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday: Morning Dance Party

    After a little bathrobe dance party of our own to "American Pie",
    Steve and I woke up Jonas to get his day started

    "Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting"
    And start it he did. After a bowl of cereal and a third viewing of the new How to Train Your Dragon movie
    it was time to watch the music videos on the DVD and dance along.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Thankful Tuesday: Three Things

    Three of the many hings I'm grateful for this week are:
    • Scouts Canada. Simply put, this week I'm grateful that Scouts gives youth lots of opportunity to be successful in trying their best. Jonas has had a rough week at school academically but this week he built a bird feeder and is preparing to earn three more merit badges at Cub Scouts.
    • Other moms of children with ADHD, learning disabilities, etc. Sometimes it feels like nobody understands what we go through every day. No, it's not life and death, but it is stressful. My friends and family are utterly supportive and caring, but sometimes you just want to talk to someone who gets it.
    • Icecream. I'm gentically predisposed, on my father's side, to a deep and abiding love of icecream. A single scoop is like a bowl full of comfort and calm. A double scoop in a waffle cone? Well, that's even better.  My personal favorite? Homemade vanilla just like we used to make on my grandparent's farm. Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia is a close second.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Do Your Best

    "I promise to do my best..." These words are the beginning of the Cub Scouts promise. "Do Your Best" is the Cub Scouts motto. Do you best, not be the best. It's a difficult concept for some kids (and adults) to understand. It's a concept that Jonas is wrestling with right now.

    He came home with a mark of 41% on his math test last week. He was very disappointed. "I failed again!" he told me with tear filled eyes when I asked him how it went.

    Tonight he got to present the Wolf head totem during the closing ceremony at Cubs. He didn't do it right.  "Well, that was a totally epic fail!" blurted out one of the other Cubs.

    Fail. It's a tough word. It's so complete. So final. So unforgiving.

    Being THE BEST is similarly rigid and uncompromising. Being the best means that you have to be better than everyone else. Very often it also sets the expectation of being perfect. Another ugly side effect is that it can very easily morph into an attitude of "Why even try if I can't be perfect?"

    When Jonas responded tonight by saying that he never wants to do the closing at Cubs again, I was disheartened. At eight years old, I don't want him to be scared of trying something because he's afraid of failing. The foundations of his self-talk are still being set. I'd like to help him make that little voice in his head a positive one. Tuning out the negative comments is tough, especially when it's coming from yourself.

    How do you teach your child that it's OK not to be perfect, that doing their very best is all we expect of him? How do we teach him that the expectation bar hovers up and down, and that he has his very own bar that has nothing to do with anyone else, without teaching him to make excuses?

    The truth is that I just don't know. I don't know if we have the power to fight against a world that judges him based on his results. We praise effort over results. We commiserate with him when he doesn't see the pay off of his efforts, and try to help him figure out ways to improve next time. We help him to understand that there will aways be a next time and try to encourage hope in him. And we hold our breath and hope that the fear of failure doesn't take hold in him.


    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Thank You

    Remembering my Grandpa Symonds,
    and all the soldiers past and present,
    who fought for our freedoms.

    Grandpa and a fellow soldier somwhere in Eurpope.
    He served in the Royal Canadian Engineers -
    the first ones into the battle and the last ones to leave.

    My Grandpa's Discharge papers.
    22 when he enlisted in 1941, 27 at discharge in 1946.
    He was one of the lucky ones who made it home in one piece.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    The Eight Year Old Perspective

    I got home late last night because we had a Beaver Scouts meeting. Although this is normal for Wednesday nights, it didn't go over very well this week. I arrived home, changed out of my uniform and then crawled in bed with Jonas, who I knew would still be awake. I snuggled right on top of him and gave him a great big mama bear hug. After I gave him a kiss, but before I could ask him how his day was, he said "Mom, why do you NEVER take me to school or pick me up?"

    No "anymore". No "this week." Just NEVER.

    The difference in perspective been adults and youth can be interesting. What we see as minor blip on the radar can be a major issue for them. Due to a personal illness, I've been putting in extra hours at work this week. I've basically been working 12 hour days, which means I haven't been home for the morning, after-school or dinner routines. It's only been a few days and it's only temporary, right?

    Not in the mind of an eight year old. We've asked a lot of him over the past eight months. He's adjusted to a lot of change. He changed schools and then changed grades and teachers. I stopped being a stay-at-home mom and have gone back to office work. Over the summer his older sister moved out and he had a new babysitter until school started again. In September he moved up to Cub Scouts and I started going to Beaver Scouts without him. He's even changed ADHD medications. On the total upside, he has also been spending more time with his Dad and his Nana.

    No wonder a couple of days seems to define a lifetime for him.

    Don't get me wrong. I feel what he's feeling. Hopefully we'll get back on track soon. In fact, although the schedule is still wonky, I'm picking up Jonas from school today and will drop him off tomorrow morning. We're all looking forward to spending the weekend together, when the only thing on the calendar is the Santa Claus parade that we'll all go to together.


    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday: He's on a Roll!

    We changed the dosage of  Jonas's ADHD medication last week. Wednesday November 2nd marked Day One.
    Early indications were that it was a positive change: a smiley face from his teacher as a report on his day.

    He was very proud to arrive home on Thursday and Friday with smiley faces. They made three in a row.
    Even though he missed out on a reward at school, praise was heaped on at school and at home.
    Two more so far this week. That's five  - and five good days of school - in a row.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Thankful Tuesday: Three Things

    Three of the many things I'm grateful for this week are:
    • The new after-school tutoring program at Jonas's school. He's been going on Wednesday nights for about three weeks now. In fact, he is enjoying it so much he asked to join the Monday night group at well. Monday is language tutoring and Wednesday night is help with math. He's in a small group with other Grade Three kids and gets one-on-one time with his teacher as well. It's really boosted his confidence and made school work fun for him. 
    • Teachers. The teachers at Jonas's school, as well as family and friends. In two words: they care. They've gone out of their way to help him and us. They're positive, optimistic, full of ideas and are always there with a word of encouragement when we need it.
    • Other parents who share their experiences. Every child is different but by sharing our experiences we are reminded that we aren't alone and we can glean ideas and hope from each other.
    For these things, and many more, I am very grateful.


    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Lego Lego Everywhere!

    Watch where you step!
    Jonas is only allowed to play Wii on the weekends. It's a special reward that he very much looks forward to it. "Mom, can I please play Wii!?" is usually the second thing I hear on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The first is "Dad, can I please go downstairs?" It's funny that he asks me for permission to play video games. I guess he's figured out that I'm the gatekeeper where video games are concerned so he might as well cut to the chase right away. Smart kid!

    I'm pretty sure he used every piece in the box at least once this weekend!
    This weekend was different. This weekend, I didn't hear those words uttered once. This weekend, he was too engaged in Lego to think very much about the boob tube. He made about 30 different hybrid vehicles, capable of maneuvering in multiple environments to catch bad guys. I'm not sure how many hours he put in but I suspect it could be close to half  of his waking hours. He'd switch to something else sometimes, but would always end up coming back to the blocks It was a bit tiring to keep up with. Much like a tornado zone, there were bits and pieces of this and that all over the house at over given moment. He was so enthralled with coming up with new creations, that I almost felt like an ogre when I eventually made him go outside and play with his friends so he could get some fresh air and I could clean up a little bit.

    He kept coming back to this vehicle, modifying it "just a little bit" to make it better.
    He says it's his favourite. Personally, the look on his face is one of my faves!

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Why Be a Scouter Mom?

    Jonas and I joined Scouts Canada, in the Beaver Scouts program, in November 2009.
    This picture was taken on the first night we went to a meeting after I became a Scouter Mom. 
    Someone asked me the other day why I volunteer with Scouts Canada. Afterall, it takes time to plan and prepare for meetings every week and we spend at least a night a week and weekend every few months away from home. My answer was simple: I'm a Scouter Mom because my son is a Cub Scout and it's something we have fun doing together. Just seeing the look on his face at moments like Steve captured in the picture above makes it totally worthwhile. 
    There's nothing wrong with parents taking advantage of the time their child is at Scouts, or hockey, or whatever to get other things done. We've got a demanding life and it might be easier to drop Jonas off at Cubs every week and do the grocery shopping or something while he's there. Every family is different and has their own circumstances, but for our family, this is what makes the most sense. Most importantly, Scouts is something that we both enjoy doing together. While he gets to have these incredible life experiences, we get to create wonderful memories together. I don't see a downside to making it a family affair.
    Scouter Mom and her proud Cub Scout
    Another reason I volunteer is that if Jonas is involved in something, I'd like to be in the sphere of influence where it is concerned. The best way to do that is to be a volunteer. All Scouts Canada volunteers go through background checks, interviews and criminal record checks (sometimes including fingerprinting) before they are allowed to volunteer with youth, so I'm not overly concerned about the fitness of our volunteers as much as I am about overtaxing this valuable resource. Like most volunteer organizations, Scouts Canada has a dearth of volunteers. They need more people to help make the programs happen and the most logical pool of volunteers are the parents. My son is directly benefiting from the Cub Scouts program and I want to do my part to help make that venture successful. With more adult volunteers come more opportunities for our youth. Also, with more of us the share the load, there's less chance of volunteer burn-out that could stop the program dead in its tracks.
    My friend seemed convinced that I might be on the right the track, but before the conversation ended she asked me why I still volunteer with Beaver Scouts if my son isn't in Beavers anymore. I told her that I volunteer with Beaver Scouts because we don't have enough volunteers in our group for me to leave and the program to still be operational. "Why is that your problem?" she asked. Well... let's just say that I've spent two years with that group of kids and it would break my heart if the Colony (the name for Beaver Scout groups) folded. Instead of walking away, I've made it my mission to convince other parents that this is a great opportunity to start making these memories with their own child. 


    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Wordless Wednesday: Math Test Prep

    Jonas has another math test today and he really wants to "do better on this one than the last one."
    Steve is very good at helping him with his homework., especially math.
    (Mom has never been good at math and is even worse at explaining it.)
    Hopefully this test won't put such a dent in his self-confidence.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Shifting Priorities

    I've been at an emotional crossroads for a while and it's come to a head over the last few days. You see, I've been struggling with my membership in Toastmasters for a few years now and this year has really shown me that I can't avoid bowing out any longer. Toastmasters is a wonderful organization and it's made a hugely positive difference in my life but, when push comes to shove, it's got to go on the back burner.

    This is a decision that I've avoided making. I joined Toastmasters in 2004 after a performance review at work, in which I revealed that I would like to become a corporate trainer. My boss observed that I was pretty timid when it came to talking to strangers, and suggested that I join him for a Toastmasters meeting. I went the following week, joined, and never looked back. As I improved and my confidence grew, so too did my involvement in the organization. I was a member of a few clubs, took on leadership roles, became a super volunteer at events, and I've met so many fantastic people, several who have become cherished friends. In short, I loved it.

    "A Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop
    in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills
    in a no-pressure atmosphere."
    As my life and priorities have evolved, it's become increasingly difficult for me to participate in Toastmasters. It was easy when I was healthy, Jonas wasn't in school and my club met at work at lunch time. When Jonas started school and I left the corporate environment, things became challenging. I struggled to find a balance between my family, my health and my commitment to Toastmasters. Most clubs meet only once every week or two for a couple of hours, but even that has become a huge conflict. I've been very torn. I'd re-join, not go to meetings, stumble to volunteer deadlines and feel like I had short-changed everyone. Much like the New Years gym memberships, my participation dwindled to 2 semi-annual conferences and my annual Toastmasters dues became money thrown away, something we very much can't afford.

    Let me be clear - the money hasn't been wasted because of what Toastmasters offers. Compared to other communication and leadership programs, Toastmasters is an excellent value, I've gained so much from it and I've more than recouped any money I've spent. Rather, the money was wasted because I haven't been able to take advantage of it. Toastmasters is a wonderful organization, full of amazing people. I would recommend it to anybody interested in improving their communications and leadership skills!

    This crossroads is a familiar one. I've paused my involvement in Toastmasters before because I was burnt-out, in poor health, and needed to get healthy and re-balance. This time, my health is better but, my family needs more of my attention.  Between home, school, family, work and Scouts, there's not a lot of time left for other commitments. I know this decision is going to let some people down but, for the foreseeable future, Jonas and managing his ADHD needs to be our main focus. For now at least, that's taking a great deal of time and energy and that's a commitment that I will never regret making.