For as long as I can remember, my favourite part about the week between Christmas and New Years has always been finding all the "Year in Reviews". I love them! I'm very nostalgic. I silently watch the calendar and even the clock a lot more than anyone realizes, often reliving in my mind what I was doing or where I was a week ago... a month ago... a year ago. But I've never made my own; and so, it begins!
2018 began with a six-week, mad dash to the finish line of a brand new event I was producing: the Parenting 101 Conference. This was the inaugural year for the event featuring Alyson Schafer and Casey Palmer as our keynote speakers as well as stand-up comedian Dave Nystrom and 12 local breakout session presenters. It was an incredible event and went off virtually without a hitch. It proved (if only to myself) once again that I am an expert event planner. If I ever doubt myself - which happens often, or if I feel insignificant and worthless - which also occurs, I can now look back at this event and be proud of what I accomplished. We handed out report cards to all the attendees as an event survey and the response was unbelievable. 96% said they would recommended the event to others and 84% said they wanted to attend again next year. So, we began planning the second year immediately and even announced our keynote speaker at the closing session.
Then we got sick like never before. All five of us came down with this cold/flu combo one right after another within a 24-hour period. For the next week we were all sprawled out across the floor of the living room, barely moving and completely helpless. Yet, as a parent you can’t take a “sick day”. It was brutal to try to take care of four other people while I needed someone to take care of me! It was in that moment that I came up with an idea to create Cold & Flu Survival Kits for sick parents. It took the better part of the year, but finally at the end of November with huge help from Interior Savings, Save-On-Foods and Bamboo Chopsticks, we turned the dream into a reality. You can read all about it HERE.
March gave me two public speaking opportunities as I was asked to be a presenter at two local conferences. Having been an instructor at the local college now for the past 5 years, I’ve come to realize just how much I love presenting and public speaking. I hope to develop this further and secure a lot more speaking engagements in the new year.
In April and May, Lisa had several business trips that left me at home alone with the kids for a few days each time. This really solidified my role as a full time, stay-at-home Dad. It was also around this time that we started to get really concerned about Madison as we saw her miss some major milestones and in fact, begin to regress. Our team was convinced it was #Autism and had her referred for an assessment. On August 15th she was diagnoses with Autism and Global Development Delay. They suggested we have her tested further for a possible genetic disorder. Although by that time, we could clearly see something was wrong with Madison, we didn't agree with Autism, but nobody would listen to us. They just thought we were in denial that there was anything wrong with Madison.
June 3rd saw me return to Saskatoon, SK for the funeral of my grandmother. Initially when we got the news, we had discussed taking everyone out on a 2,500 kilometer road trip seeing as no one in the family has met my kids before. Not even my parents have met or spoken to their grand-kids before; so I thought an event like this - although solemn would provide the opportunity. However, the funeral was planned much sooner than we were expecting. We were also told that my parents wouldn’t be attending and no family would be staying after the funeral for any family gathering or socializing. So 30 hours of driving with three little kids for a one hour funeral?!? I decided to fly solo.
I’m so glad that I went at least. See, I had lived in Saskatoon for four years straight out of my parents place as a 17 year old. I lived with my uncle. And then when I moved away we lost touch and haven’t talked since. The same is true with my other uncle from Regina. So, it was nice to reconnect with them, and also to see a bit of the city again.
Summer began with Liam going to day camp at a local church. This was the first time he had ever been away from BOTH Lisa (mom) and me, completely on his own. We had no idea what to expect and as new parents to this parental milestone, we were nervous. I took pictures like an idiot as he walked out the door until HE finally told me to stop and get going or we would be late. When we arrived he was wide-eyed and excited and I was clingy. I made sure to literally have a hand on him through all the registration steps and introductions until we got to the coat hooks. I helped him take his coat off, and then turned around to hang it on a hook. When I turned back to say goodbye to him he was gone. Like not "in the middle of walking away" gone - no, like "I had no idea where he was, gone!". I did end up catching a glimpse of him in a sea of other excited children, but there was no goodbye. He didn't need me. And in fact for the rest of the week, when I dropped him off - while he did say goodbye to me, he also told me "OK, Daddy. It's time for you to go now. You pick me up later, OK?" And that was that. Our three year old was completely OK to do life on his own - or at least 4 hours every morning while at camp!
August was a month I hope to forget. I met up with my brother-in-law and father-in-law in Abbotsford for the International Airshow. One of the few things my brother-in-law and I have in common is a fascination and love for airplanes, so we had talked about going to an airshow for years; and this year he pulled the trigger and set everything up for a guys weekend. Unfortunately, the day did not go as planned and I missed most of the show. Then on the way home with my mother-in-law and father-in-law (as they were coming to Kelowna to spend a week with us), our van broke down just outside of Hope, BC. We had to spend the night and the entire next day stranded in Hope. $1,000 and 24 hours later, we were back on the road. The silver lining was that I found the Blue Moose Coffee House - possibly the best coffee house I've ever been to - and I don't even drink coffee. I will be stopping in Hope every time I drive through to Vancouver now.
In the event planning world, August 18th saw a two-year endeavour finally come to fruition. A destination wedding at the S.S. Sicamous in Penticton, BC where I had been hired as the wedding planner. This was quite the experience that was riddled with bad luck and bad timing all around. In the end, it all came together very nicely. Sure there were some glitches, but we covered them up quickly and effortlessly, and I'm sure the guests were none the wiser. But I'm not sure I ever want to do that again. The vendors all loved me and were practically begging to work with me again, telling stories of how the other wedding planners in the area couldn't hold a candle to me. But sadly, even if I wanted to move from concerts to weddings - which I don't! - my days as a professional event planner may be over, as being a stay-at-home dad to three kids under the age of three is a full time job!
September was start of preschool for Liam. Another big milestone for Liam and change in my routine and schedule. But much like summer camp, it hardly affected Liam at all. He was fine with it and had no issues being left in a strange place for three hours in the morning. It was interesting to me that of the ten parents, I was the only dad among nine other moms. A role I had found myself embracing more and more. I felt like a fish out of water and it ended up taking the better part of two months before they realized that I wasn't just filling in for mom, and that I was safe to talk to.
Possibly the highlight of the year for me was #5DadsGoWild. What started off as a flippant comment on a Facebook thread in reply to a strangers post, turned into an amazing weekend in the wild with four other guys who would all become my friends. We had so much fun getting to know each other quickly, figuring out how to camp (two of us - myself included - had never been camping before in our adult lives), taking literally thousands of photos, testing products donated to us by our ten sponsors, hiking to "Rainbow Bridge", discovering there was no cell phone signal AT ALL - not even one bar, eating 'hot pot' off a camp stove and fearing the weather forecast that called for snow and -1 degree temperatures - IN THE MIDDLE OF SEPTEMBER! We never saw snow but it did drop down to -1 degree. For all the nitty gritty details, you can read more HERE.
I've never been alone like that before in the wild. Unfortunately, it was too much of a shock for me in too short of a time to truly enjoy it. Don't get me wrong, as I started by saying, this was quite possibly the highlight of my year, but I wish time had slowed down a bit more that weekend. It was hard for me to change gears from full time stay-at-home dad to three kids under the age of three, who has to make meals, do dishes, fold laundry, change diapers, etc. to camping with four other grown adults.
But the five us still talk to this day, and in fact there is rumour that another #5Dads trip is already being planned.
September also saw me teach my last class at The Centre for Arts and Technology before an extended hiatus. When I dropped the lead instructor status and 10 of my 12 classes at the end of September 2017, it put me on a schedule of only having one class per quarter. But then, in a case of the worst timing ever for me, the school decided to scale back the program and they chose NOT to enroll any new students in April, which meant come October I wouldn’t have a class to teach for six months. That first week in October was a tough one for me. It was the first week in over 5 years that I didn’t have a class to teach. To make matters worse, the new teacher obviously didn’t update the course materials and I had one of the new students email me in the morning asking for help. Then a friend took me out to a pub that night because he knew I was having a rough day and one of my former students served us. I just couldn't escape it. So needless to say, October didn’t start on such a positive note. The whole story can be found HERE.
A couple weeks later between October 15-21 was Lisa’s big annual business trip to Lithuania. This meant another week of single parenting. However, having been through four or five or her trips before, I knew what to expect and had a game plan in place. I found myself even getting excited for the challenge and change of pace. The days flew by so fast. While Lisa was gone I decided to tackle a huge home renovation project of rearranging all the bedrooms. I moved Lisa’s work space outside to the shed we’ve converted to a home office, which opened up a bedroom for Liam. Then with Liam out of his bedroom, that opened up a room for Madison and Ethan and finally after two years, four months, two weeks and six days they were out of our bedroom and into their own bedroom.
As fall progressed we realized that Lisa's work schedule was going to have her working straight through Christmas and New Years so we decided to celebrate Christmas early when Lisa's parents visited us again near the end of November. So, November 22 was American Thanksgiving and our Christmas this yea with "Mama & Papa". I have never put up a Christmas tree that early before in my life, but the kids loved it. And actually as it turned out, Liam got two Christmas', because you just can't ignore December 25th completely. We saved some presents for Christmas morning.
Then we ended the year in December with more doctors appointments and assessments and realizations. Earlier in fall we changed pediatricians and our new doctor agreed with us that Autism didn't fit nicely for Madison and he immediately became concerned when I used the word "regression". So, he pushed for more genetic testing, which will occur in January and most likely confirm a diagnosis of Rett Syndrome for her. For more detail on that, you can go back and read my blog post HERE. But then, our team set Ethan up for an Autism assessment too noticing some items of concern, such as his eating and speech delays. Well sure enough... when the medical team goes looking for a diagnosis they're gonna find one, and he too was officially labeled as being Autistic. So, moving forward we have a lot to figure out! I've written down more of my thoughts HERE.
So to wrap it all up, the year that was... 2018, was well, not that fun, exciting or memorable. In fact there are large sections of the year that I would just like to forget ever occurred. Not a lot of "gains" - if any, far more struggles than victories and in many ways we saw the "light at the end of the tunnel" vanish, leaving our future a lot darker than we had every hoped for.
We're going to make the best of it though. I'm committing to this new role of stay-at-home Dad, and want to build my online presence even more here in 2019. More blogs, more posts, more pictures, and perhaps even the start of a podcast or YouTube channel. I think if we do get a confirmed Rett Diagnosis in January we will shift our focus onto that, seeing as there isn't much of a voice or presence for this disease in Western Canada.
But tonight as we ring in the new year, there is not a lot of excitement or even hope in our tiny home. We're glad 2018 is over, but extremely scared that 2019 is going to be even tougher. I guess only time will tell.
Happy New Year!