Saturday, July 20, 2013

SOTC 60/365

Tread (SOTC 60/365) by gina.blank
Tread (SOTC 60/365), a photo by gina.blank on Flickr.

SOTC 59/365

Reeds (SOTC 59/365) by gina.blank
Reeds (SOTC 59/365), a photo by gina.blank on Flickr.

In Loco Parentis

Several years ago (how is it several already?), N&S took then-infant A with them to the Angelman Syndrome conference in Whistler, BC, leaving me in charge of P&S for five days. I had the help of other respite providers and grandparents, but I was the main provider during N&S's time away.

I learned a lot of things about myself as a care provider that week. Respite in it's overnight, more long-term form is qualitatively different than short shifts a couple times per week, or even the natural routines I participate in now when I visit for an Aunty Gina weekend.

This past week, the other 'aunty', C, and I hung out with P in Saskatoon, providing respite, while the rest of the family took a much-deserved holiday in Maui*. I was very excited to spend my holiday time with my niece in this capacity.

The week was such a delight in so many ways.
  • I enjoyed knowing that I had become so comfortable and familiar with Saskatoon--my second-home-city--that I could navigate to many spots without the aid of Google Maps. And as N said, "you know a place is starting to feel like home when you're running errands in it."
  • I loved sitting out in "the Oasis" that is their back yard, sipping my morning coffee on the deck swing, and listening to the fountain trickle down into the koi pond. Don't get me wrong, I love my own back yard to bits, but theirs is no ordinary back yard.
  • I loved having uninterrupted time with P. S&A are a delight to my heart, but it sometimes means that P becomes relegated to the background of activities.
  • The weather--for the most part--was gorgeous. It meant sunny strolls, outdoor swims and water slides, bubbles in the back yard paddling pool, and many a meal in the late afternoon sun. Summer bliss.
  • P's laughter is contagious like nothing else.
  • My partner in crime this week, C, is a close friend, but we often have differing schedules that limit the time we get to hang out in Edmonton. So it was great to have uninterrupted time with her, as well. Plus, we make a great caregiving team together.
The week has also been a powerful learning experience, yet again. Among the sunshiney bliss of summer activities with my favourite twelve-year-old, this week has:
  • Affirmed the value of two-parent families. By this, I don't mean to say that single-parenting isn't valuable or doesn't work--I am not undermining that dynamic at all. Quite the opposite, actually. Raising children is quite the task. Several times, C and I talked in awe of how N does it on her own when S is out of town on business for up to a week at a time. Where's the other adult to talk to? To share the load? To share the giggles? To give you a break? To help keep a sense of humour and a level head on the days when the diaper explodes, the child has pulled your hair half a dozen times, is refusing breakfast, and two loads of laundry have been washed and dried, all before 9:30am?** Single parents--especially those of children with disabilities--are my new heroes. I'm sure I could have done this week on my own. But certainly not as well. And I wouldn't have really wanted to.
  • Re-iterated the necessity of subsidized respite for parents of children with special needs. Between home care and respite, N&S had something like 90hrs of funded care per month for P when they lived in Alberta, where respite hours are based on need.*** In Saskatchewan, respite is based on income. Given the relative affluence afforded by S's job, the family does not qualify for funded respite hours. While I appreciate that this approach attempts to ensure that families who struggle financially can still receive the care they need for their child, I have also worked with enough families to know that just because you make more money does not mean you need less help; nor does it mean you have the ability to pay out of pocket for the full amount of help you actually need.
  • Made me appreciate even more this time of being single. Somewhere in the last couple of years, I recognized that I really am at true peace with being single in a world where marriage-house-children is still the expected path for women in their pre and peri-thirties. Perhaps I will be single for another year, another decade, or the rest of my life. I am okay with any and all of that. I have enough trouble brushing my own teeth every day. Perhaps I don't need to be responsible for brushing someone else's.
  • Given me pause to consider the honour of being trusted to care for a child in this capacity. There are only so many people in a parent's world who they would consider to care for their child for a week. I feel as if that circle of people is narrowed when the child has a disability. I know I am aunty. I know I am considered family. But that doesn't mean I am not humbled yet again that I was trusted with one of their most precious people.
P often involves a lot of physical work and intuitive guessing. Paired with the right person, the right activities, and a space to balance that activity with rest, it makes for a lovely week--one I would do again in a heart beat.

* For those of you whose spidey inclusion senses are tingling as you read that, please put your judgement away. This family's story means that leaving P in Saskatoon on this particular vacation was a more meaningfully inclusive decision for the whole family than taking her with.
** That was Day 5.
*** The term 'need' sometimes being assessed a bit too conservatively by individuals unable to step into parents' shoes, but by 'need' nevertheless...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Happy Birthday Canada AND SOTC 57/365

High Level Sparkle (SOTC 57/365) by gina.blank
It had been a few years since I'd last photographed Edmonton's Canada Day fireworks, so I figured the celebrations this past weekend would be a good opportunity for some new images. The weather had been glorious all weekend--I was anticipating a clear twilight sky would to showcase the event.

I was not disappointed. Fireworks are really quite easy to photograph--the only trick part I find is that no two fireworks burst in the exact same spot, and they come too fast to constantly adjust the camera on its tripod. As such, I have always used a wider lens to maximize the opportunity of getting the whole burst in my frame. Still, I often find myself cropping many of my fireworks images to some degree.

There are always a few, though, that burst to just the right size, in just the right spot. And this year, the [very] mild breeze was also in my favour, carrying the residual smoke away from the subsequent fireworks instead of further into their path.

Canada turned 146 this year. I am proud to have shared 32 of those years, and am looking forward to many more as a citizen of this kind, beautiful, and majestic country.

I you, Canada!
I ♥ Canada! by gina.blank
(No cropping here, either; woot!)

Stark Against a Fiery Sky (SOTC 56/365)