Category Archives: Parenting

Consider this our family Christmas card 6

The Kadane-Ford family Christmas card: 2017

Family photo on Coronado Beach during a spring break trip to San Diego.

It’s been a year of change for the Fordanes, as we uprooted from the Wood of Ingle and moved west to Kelowna, land of lakes, wine and labradoodles. Prior to the move we said goodbye to Fernie, and enjoyed a family vacation to California in March and then a couples trip to Croatia in May to celebrate 20 years of marriage.

Since relocating mid-July we have spent a lot of time swimming, hiking, mountain biking (Blake), cherry eating, killing black widows and learning the difference between un-oaked Chardonnay and Viognier (which is pronounced the French way, not Vogue-ner. Duh!). We are acclimatizing to green grass in December, a dearth of snow and the quiet solitude of no trains, planes or Deerfoot Trail truckers laying on the jake brake at 3 a.m. When people ask us what we like best about Kelowna, we always say, “No wind.” But enough about how Kelowna kicks on Calgary — here’s what each member of our crazy quintet got up to in 2017.

Blake got his big acting break when he landed the recurring role of “office worker” on season three of Fargo. This involved sitting around for hours hoping to get called for a scene, or to bump into Ewan McGregor in the makeup trailer. His over-100 set hours culminated in about three seconds of screen time and rumour has it he’ll get a nod for Best Extra at the Oscars Lisa’s Choice Awards.

That’s Blake walking by the office door in a Fargo episode!

Taking a break on the mountain bike trail. It’s hard to know which trail as there have been so very many trails ridden. Possibly Superflow.

Since moving west Blake has upped his mountain biking game and recently beat that showoff Ben Smit’s Superflow time of 1:18 on Strava. He’s also practically fluent in Spanish at 55 per cent, according to Duolingo, but I think it’s from watching Family Guy‘s Best of Consuela compilations on YouTube. When not tending our bonsais or brainstorming hilarious jokes (“What was the three donkeys’ favourite geological period?” … “TriASSic!”), Blake spends his time at Okanagan College hanging out on the quad studying horticulture and landscape design, and thinking of new ways to embarrass Avery on the way to the bus stop (talking loudly in a Scottish accent seems to work best).

Speaking of Avery, she nurtured her love of living things by raising 30 frog eggs into lots of tadpoles, which turned into fewer froglets and then a final four frogs before they eventually all died. It was a very sad circle-of-life experience, but the tragedy only renewed her resolve to pester us relentlessly lobby us for MORE amphibians and reptiles. She created a PowerPoint presentation extolling the many virtues and selling points things that make ball pythons not totally despicable, including the fact they only eat one mouse a week (um, yay?!). In the end she inherited an Australian tree frog named Yoda from a new friend and is now busy farming crickets and meal worms to feed it so it doesn’t croak all night long.

Avery cuddles a joey during a visit to Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country last summer.

She has begun volunteering with the local SPCA to pad her resume for vet school applications and started at a new karate dojo. Avery also enjoyed her first overnight summer camp near Peachland and completed her first adventure obstacle race, the Freak’n Farmer, in bare feet while suffering from hypothermia, thus proving that she’s a toughie who can accomplish pretty much anything she puts her mind to. She’s making lots of friends at her new school and loving grade 7!

Bennett struggled with the move and the break from his routine. Whenever he wasn’t smooshing black widow spiders with his bare hands (yes this actually happened!), or swimming in the pool until algae began to grow between his toes, we had to listen to him talk about the Calgary Zoo, Bow building, Calgary Tower, Children’s Hospital and Calaway Park for, like, ever.

Since moving to Kelowna Bennett has learned to tell the difference between wine grapes, apple trees, corn fields and pear trees.

He seemed to finally accept his new life once the big yellow school bus showed up to cart him off to public school. He has an amazing, kind and patient aide whom he keeps on her toes by picking up mini iogo yogurt containers and random cigarette butts from the schoolyard and then running away with them held up over his head like a prize. Accomplishments this past year included learning to hold his breath underwater while swimming, attending his first Easter Seals overnight camp, and riding the Mighty Moose poma lift at Fernie by himself — we have him signed up for adaptive ski lessons at Big White this winter.

Piper is wowing K-towners with her new muscular physique, achieved from regularly running 15+ km with Blake on mountain bike trails and hunting deer when we have her off leash in nature parks. She loves her new giant yard and immediately chased off a wolverine marmot that had been living under the shed. With fewer ugly black squirrels roaming our new neighbourhood, she has developed an unhealthy Chuckit! ball obsession and will stand over the ball like a dingo till someone throws it for her.

Another 2017 highlight for Piper was gnawing on her Donald Trump chew toy till his stuffing brains came out.

We went all B.C.-boho and experimented with a raw food diet for her this summer, but decided it was unsanitary when Bennett started hand-feeding her the uncooked morsels. The biggest Piper news is we have reached the limits of being able to tolerate her raunchy rot breach and have scheduled her for a dental cleaning for Christmas. Yeah, we really know how to say I love you!

The move nearly cost Lisa (that’s me!) her sanity as our moving company — Premier Van Lines, don’t hire them — turned out to suck balls. Needless to say, I have vowed to never move again. And anyway, I can’t go through the neurosis that has overtaken me since moving into a new house. I am forever tidying and cleaning, much to everyone’s annoyance. I also became hyper-vigilant with the swimming pool, which evidently you need a chemistry degree to keep clear. By the end of the summer it looked like a duck pond and the pool guy was dumping chemicals into it daily in exchange for beer. At least there’s lots of wine in the valley to help me cope stay hydrated and the Feds can’t legalize pot fast enough!

Walking the walls in Dubrovnik, a.k.a. King’s Landing.

Speaking of booze, I was really planning to give my liver a break until I landed the spirits column in Just for Canadian Dentists/Doctors magazines for 2018. Other writing opportunities have taken me to Croatia to sit on the Iron Throne and have my picture taken with Jon Snow’s mannequin likeness for a Game of Thrones story, and I even won an award for my Globe and Mail piece about travelling with Bennett

We’re looking forward to a busy winter break that includes skiing and a holiday to Cuba with friends, and more travel and adventures in 2018!

Looking forward to some beach time to ring in 2018!

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Ode to Bennett on Rare Disease Day 2017

The last day of February every year is Rare Disease Day. Though technically Bennett doesn’t have a “disease,” his genetic condition, Chromosome 18 Deletion Syndrome, is very rare and impacts him and our family like a chronic disease, one we will live with forever that can’t ever be cured, only managed.

The Boy Band called -- they want Bennett to join.

The Boy Band called — they want Bennett to join.

We’re fortunate he doesn’t have any of the health complications that are associated with the condition, from congenital heart disease to growth hormone deficiency. But he does have delayed development and cognitive impairment along with an autism diagnosis.

Still, in spite of these challenges, this is a kid who loves life when things are going his way. He’ll hike up a mountain without complaint, swim till he’s water-logged and delight in travels that take him to jungles, desserts and world-famous zoos.

Bennett has taught us so much about what it means to love unconditionally, and to see the ability in disability. We’re proud of his many accomplishments over the years, and we know he’ll continue to surprise us and make us laugh along the way. They say the struggle ends when gratitude begins. So, instead of getting bogged down in the challenges involved in raising a child with special needs, I try and see Bennett’s differences in a positive way. This poem is a good start:

Here’s to the the kids who are different,

The kids who don’t always get A’s,

The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers,

And noses that go on for days …

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids they call crazy or dumb,

The kids who don’t fit, with the guts and the grit,

Who dance to a different drum …

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids with the mischievous streak,

For when they have grown, as history’s shown,

It’s their difference that makes them unique.

— Digby Chelsea Wolfe

Here’s to you, Bennett. You’re a rare kid who dances to a different beat. And we’re happy to keep dancing with you. xoxo

With Bennett, the journey is as exciting as the destination.

With Bennett, the journey is as exciting as the destination.

Consider this our family Christmas card 5

The Kadane-Ford family Christmas card: 2016

After five years, we had professional family photos taken by the talented Jess Harcombe Fleming at the Sandy Cross Conservation Area in September.

Happy holidays from the Fordanes! We finally had professional family photos taken again by the talented Jess Harcombe Fleming at the Sandy Cross Conservation Area.

December marks the end of another year of adventures that included lots of skiing, hiking, scootering (Avery), swimming (Bennett), mountain biking (Blake) and writing (Lisa), and also subjecting other countries to our travelling circus. Our children wowed the Belizeans with their imperviousness to bug bites and jellyfish stings, Blake and I astonished the Argentinians and Uruguayans with our ability to drink excessive amounts of Malbec and eat nearly the whole cow, and the whole family impressed the Americans with our dedication to still shopping at Target during day trips across the border. In between outdoor adventures and trips there was life. Here’s what it looked like for each family member.

Blake continues to learn Spanish from his Duolingo app and is on a 251-day streak. I don’t want to brag, but he’s now 15 percent fluent. This came in handy in Argentina because he could not only order an empanada, he could ask where the baño was after eating too much carne asada.

Blake moves it like Jagger on a mountain bike in Sedona, Ariz.

Blake out-bikes the road runner in Sedona, Ariz.

He upped his mountain biking game with rides in Mendoza and Palm Springs, and with an entire weekend dedicated to riding, farting and beer drinking on a guys trip to Sedona. Blake took up fat biking, which is basically mountain biking on snow with really fat tires. And at the risk of making him sound obsessive overly enthusiastic about mountain biking, he also helped build some bike trails in Bragg Creek in the spring, which earned him a cool bumper sticker and also a frozen shoulder (at least he crossed off an item on his bucket list at the same time). On Blake’s radar for 2017: crossing off another bucket list item by hopefully getting called in as an extra for Fargo, a TV show filming its third season in Calgary this winter. So if you’re watching it and see a hottie driving a Honda Ridgeline, it just might be my famous husband!

Avery earned her yellow belt in karate this fall, so don’t mess with her in a dark alley unless you want a brown stripe in your underpants! She was elected premier of her grade six class after running on the platform, “Strong economy. Safe environment.” On her first day in office she voted herself a pay raise and raised everyone’s taxes lobbied the teacher (who really holds all the power) for more body breaks during class. Avery has also started babysitting, and though I wouldn’t have trusted an 11-year-old to look after my kids, her cheap hourly rate and willingness to clean dishes has helped to grow her client list.

Avery continues to embrace life.

Avery rides a giraffe on the carousel at Butchart Gardens this summer..

Avery skied in the Fernie Extreme Club again last winter and impressed Blake and me by skiing her first double black on Snake Ridge and only crashing four times! Speaking of snakes, she caught a few in Fernie this past summer and her love of all animals continues, be they scurrying crabs, sluggish sea stars or sea monkeys. She even picked up a Portuguese man-o-war in Belize, against her better judgement. On Avery’s radar for 2017: more skiing and earning enough money from babysitting to fund a return trip to Costa Rica.

Bennett climbed his first mountain, Castle Rocks, this past summer in Fernie, although he did go on strike in the middle of the trail and refused to budge until I bribed him with a Larabar. He swam with sharks and stingrays in Belize, went horseback riding, and we also dragged him on a boot-camp trek to a waterfall that provided the inspiration for a parenting-fail travel story.

Bennett continues to wow us with his willingness to go along with our crazy travel adventures.

Bennett continues to wow us with his willingness to go along with our crazy travel adventures. I wrote about travelling with a child with autism.

Other milestones Bennett achieved include ditching the car booster seat and buckling his own seatbelt, consistently sleeping through the night and even sleeping in on occasion (!), and nighttime potty training (although I jumped the gun reporting on this as he is now back in night diapers and we’ve doubled down with our Proctor & Gamble stock as we fear we will be diaper clients FOREVER). Finally, in an effort to help his speech and listening skills, we’ve made Bennett endure 52 hours of classical movements and singing monks as part of a music therapy program this fall. The downside? He now demands that all future playlists be compilations of Mozart and Gregorian chant. On Bennett’s radar for 2017: skiing with the Fernie Adaptive Ski Program and a return to his favourite place on Earth, the San Diego Zoo.

Piper continues to win over new human fans and we’re grateful to the friends and neighbours who have looked after her when we’ve been travelling. The only thing that might hurt her reputation is if people lean in too close and realize she suffers from simple chronic halitosis. Though she’s mostly given up snacking on her own turds, she occasionally eats rabbit poop, and her fishy-smelling salmon and sweet potato dog food isn’t doing her breath any favours.

Piper's head shot for Gun Dog Magazine.

Piper’s body shot for Gun Dog Magazine, shot on location in Fernie.

Blake still mountain bikes with Pipes wherever possible and he even started trail running with her this fall. Piper also enjoys a modicum of peace in her day-to-day life ever since we recorded Grandma Marianne saying, “Bennett, do not touch Piper! I repeat, do not touch Piper!” in a stern voice on Blake’s iPhone. Now, whenever Bennett bugs the dog, we put the recording on speaker and it’s like the voice of God helping to enforce good behaviour. On Piper’s radar for 2017: more opportunities to curl up on the couch with her human pack.

Lisa (that’s me) won’t shut up about Mars ever since she read a really long blog post about Elon Musk’s SpaceX initiative that aims to colonize the Red Planet. Forget travelling to 50 countries by the time I’m 50; I’ll settle for making it to another planet in my lifetime, even if it is freezing and has no atmosphere (not unlike Calgary) … surely there will be a market for travel stories from Mars?

Channeling my inner Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on horseback in the Andes.

Channeling my inner Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman on horseback in the Andes near Mendoza, Argentina.

Speaking of travel and writing, I did a bit of each this past year. Highlights include a trip to Ottawa where my dream of taking a shirtless selfie with Justin was left unrealized, and a wine trip to Argentina, where I dressed up like a gaucho (see above photo), drank lots of juicy Malbec, was tricked into eating cow brain by Blake (he called it “a crispy ball of yummy”), and even witnessed professional sommeliers call every wine “youthful” as they competed for the title of World’s Biggest Wine Snob Best Sommelier. In addition to Argentina and a side trip to Uruguay, Blake and I managed to sneak in some couple time with a getaway to Palm Springs and a week-long Rockies road trip this summer. We finally hiked to Crypt Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park and reconnected over aches, pains and beautiful mountain scenery. On my radar for 2017: celebrating 20 years of marriage to Blake, and hopefully a trip somewhere awesome to mark the occasion.

We’ve truly had a great year, feel blessed by all the love and good times, and look forward to more adventures in 2017. Merry Christmas!

Our trip to Vancouver Island was a highlight. We love Butchart Gardens!

Our trip to Vancouver Island was another highlight.

 

Disney On Ice review

Remember the Ice Capades? It was a part-theatrical, part-dance, ice skating show that often featured former Olympic skaters like Dorothy Hamill and Scott Hamilton doing fancy routines without the pressure of winning a medal. It toured around the U.S. when I was a kid and I’m pretty sure my parents took me to see a show or two. I always loved watching the tricks, listening to the music and admiring the pretty costumes.

Ice Capades has pretty much gone kaput (although someone tries to resurrect it every couple of years), but now there’s something even better for kids: Disney On Ice. Imagine your favourite Disney franchises coming to life in front of you, on ice skates, and skating to the movie’s best songs. That pretty much sums it up.

The gang from Toy Story 3. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

The gang from Toy Story 3. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

I was invited to attend the Calgary opening of the Worlds of Enchantment tour last night. I brought my daughter Avery, 11, and one of her besties, age 10. I was worried they’d be too old for the show (most of the audience was comprised of little girls six and under wearing Elsa dresses and accompanied by their moms), but she surprised me by donning her Pluto hat from Disneyland, and even singing along to Love is an Open Door, the song where Anna meets Prince Hans in Frozen.

The Pulto hat makes an appearance!

The Pluto hat makes an appearance!

Worlds of Enchantment features four “ice skits.” First there’s a long show that recreates the most memorable scenes from Toy Story 3. Next comes a short skit from The Little Mermaid, when Ariel trades her voice to Ursula in exchange for human legs. After a brief intermission there’s a short performance where the cars from Cars drive around slowly (hey, it’s slippery) in circles to Tom Cochrane’s song Life Is A Highway and simultaneously wreck the ice that was just Zambonied (this was the weakest park of the show, in our opinion; a feeble attempt to appeal to the three boys in the audience). Last comes the Disney On Ice climax, when Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf take to the ice in an abbreviated version of Frozen that includes Elsa singing Let It Go as she skates in dizzying circles and channels her inner ice queen while the little girls in the audience lose their minds.

While we loved the costumes from Toy Story 3, and the choreographed scene featuring Andy’s army men, we agreed this skit was too long. Ursula and Ariel from The Little Mermaid were fantastic, and we benefitted from having an intimate knowledge of this particular Disney story (I read the book to Avery exactly 291 times when she was three). In fact, having a genuine enthusiasm for all-things-Disney-and-Pixar (or having a little girl) is kind of a prerequisite for attending.

Best costume of the show, worn extremely well by Ursula.

Best costume of the show, worn extremely well by Ursula. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

The Frozen performance was not only the most current, but definitely the best. It was the perfect length and included all the great songs from the movie, and solid skating and acting from the performers.

The Frozen Gang stole the show, in our opinion. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

The Frozen gang stole the show, in our opinion. We especially loved Olaf. Image courtesy Disney On Ice.

In all, it was a fun night out and Avery enjoyed it more than I thought she would. I’m surprised the Stampede Corral wasn’t more full, but it was a school night, after all.

Disney On Ice is in town through November 20, with morning and matinee performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

Our fave 5 family attractions in Calgary

There are only two weeks of summer left (and a measly 10 days if your kids are in the Catholic system). It’s a time of mixed emotions — we’re sad because the season is coming to an end, yet ebullient at the thought of child-free September days. But we’re also plum out of ideas for how to occupy the children during summer break’s homestretch.

These are a few of our favourite outdoor places to go for fun, in no particular order. Some are popular attractions that charge admission; others are free. Hopefully one of our fave 5  stops will become your go-to.

Calgary Zoo

When the kids were little we had zoo passes and visited the Calgary Zoo almost weekly during the summer. Now that they’re older (11 and eight) we go about twice a year. It’s great fun to visit the animals that we think of as our old friends, including the gorilla troop, tigers and curious penguins. During our last visit we also bade Sabari, the rhinoceros, goodbye. He’s leaving in mid-September to make room for the giant panda exhibit, which is slated to open in 2018.

The Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo is a family favourite.

The Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo is a family favourite.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

We are a bit biased toward this protected natural area as we live a block away, but the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is a neat place to bring kids. You have a great chance of seeing not only birds (from great blue herons to bald eagles), but other wildlife including deer and muskrats. Also, a lot of people don’t realize that all of the trails that were damaged during the 2013 flood have now reopened.

This is why they call it a bird sanctuary -- a great blue heron rests atop a fallen tree.

This is why they call it a bird sanctuary — a great blue heron rests atop a fallen tree.

Heritage Park

Did you know the rides at Heritage Park are now included in the cost of admission? During our last visit we were super excited to just hop on the swings and carousel on the midway of this historical village. For those new to town, Heritage Park is an “olden days” attraction that brings to life various eras of a settler’s life in the west, from the fur trade at a replica fort to the dusty streets of a frontier town complete with ice cream shop and candy store. All the workers even dress the part (and are knowledgeable about their particular role), which makes it fun.

Bennett loved the swings and Avery was brave enough to try them, even though the spinning almost caused lunch to come up.

Bennett loved the swings and Avery was brave enough to try them, even though the spinning almost caused lunch to come up.

St. Patrick’s Island

This new-ish urban park has a natural-materials playground, a wading area, walking paths and a giant grassy hill to walk up and roll down (where they show free movies on select summer evenings). What’s more, St. Patrick’s Island is right on the bike path by the Bow River near Fort Calgary, so you can easily get there under your own power, bring a picnic and make a day of it. Be sure and check out the other new natural play space in neighbouring East Village, or pop into the Simmons Building for a coffee, cocktail or baked goodie.

St. Patrick's Island is a lovely redeveloped urban park between the Calgary Zoo and East Village.

St. Patrick’s Island is a lovely redeveloped urban park between the Calgary Zoo and East Village. Here, Bennett wades in a Bow River off-shoot.

Calaway Park

The beauty of Calgary’s amusement park is its small size. You can easily “do Calaway” in a day and I’ve hardly ever encountered a wait time longer than 10 or 15 minutes, so you can go on your favourite rides more than once. And don’t miss the Bumper Boats on a hot day — the best!

On the airplane ride at the Calaway Park kiddie zone.

Bennett on the airplane ride in the Calaway Park kiddie zone.

Finally, don’t forget to go for ice cream one more time this summer! The Calgary Zoo, Calaway Park and Heritage Park all have ice cream vendors, and you can ride over to Village Ice Cream from St. Patrick’s Island, or pop in to the Inglewood Drive In for a chocolate dip cone or milkshake if you’re at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Now that's a proper kid-sized ice cream cone.

I scream for ice cream!

A few good drivers

There’s a legion of support staff that help Bennett each and every day. Most of them work in special education at Bennett’s school — they are teachers, education assistants and therapists. They help him focus in class, support him in play with his peers and teach him prepositions or how to dribble a basketball.

Outside of school Bennett’s world expands to include doctors, specialists, babysitters and respite workers, swim instructors, volunteer adaptive ski instructors and soon, camp counsellors. They all do a small job in helping Bennett function and integrate into the larger world, by prescribing medicine, building his confidence on skis or helping him have an incredible summer filled with games, hiking and swimming.

And then there are the trusty folks who act as his conduits between his two worlds: the bus drivers who get Bennett to and from school safely every day.

Bennett rides the bus to school and has since her was three.

Bennett rides the bus to school and has since he was three.

Bennett has been riding a bus to school since he started at Renfrew at the age of three. We’ve had many different bus drivers over the years — and some repeat drivers — and they always greet Bennett with a smile in the morning and send him off with a wave in the afternoon. They patiently wait while Bennett dawdles his way to the bus, and drags his feet getting off after school (he doesn’t want to stop watching the TV screen!).

But I never really stopped to think about what the job might be like for them until I read Craig Davidson’s book, Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077, this spring. The book chronicles his experience driving a busette of differently-abled junior high and high school kids in Calgary. Davidson, who previously had no experience with people with special needs, finds himself leaning to operate a wheel chair lift on the bus, getting to know his charges through daily conversations and banter, and even defending them against a high school bully and the bully’s father. He learns a lot about himself along the way. It’s a great book: serious and poignant, but with hilarious bits, too.

Precious Cargo

I got to thinking — after a note home about a month ago informing me that Bennett had been hitting another boy on his morning bus — these wonderful Renfrew drivers really must be a special breed. The kids at Bennett’s school range in age from three to 12, and even greater is their range of conditions, from autism to cerebral palsy to Down Syndrome. The drivers likely endure tantrums, screaming or even children who unbuckle and get loose inside the bus while it’s hurtling down Deerfoot Trail! And they have to know how to handle all of these situations, including my eight-year-old with loose fists after the morning commute! Yet despite what must be a lot of stress, plus driving in Calgary rush hour traffic (arguably more stressful), they always greet the kids with a big smile and are still smiling at the end of the day.

Their patience and dedication helps Bennett’s life run smoothly — and by proxy, ours — and I can’t imagine how we’d keep all the balls in the air if that bus with the rainbow didn’t pull up at 8:15 every morning. Thanks for driving my precious cargo!

My kids aren’t physically literate. Are yours?

“I’m not very good at throwing,” my daughter recently confessed. “Or kicking.”

Her self-assessment came after I explained the concept of “physical literacy,” which is the movement equivalent of reading or adding. Basically, a child who is physically literate has mastered basic movement skills and is comfortable running, jumping, balancing, spinning, throwing and catching, etc., across a range of activities.

Avery is all confidence on her surf board, mugging for the camera.

Avery has great balance and can surf, but needs to improve her manipulation skills (throwing, catching and kicking).

In my daughter’s case, we’ve never enrolled her in softball, basketball or soccer, and we’re not a toss-the-pigskin-around-on-the-weekend kind of family, so the only regular contact she’s had with a ball is in gym class. The problem? “In gym, they don’t teach you how to throw, they expect you to already know how.”

So her throwing doesn’t improve, and as a result, she prefers non-ball activities, like capture the flag, or obstacle courses.

This failure to acquire basic physical skills is a growing problem — and not just with kicking and throwing, there are plenty of children who are great at soccer but can’t ice skate or do a cartwheel — and one I address in a story on physical literacy, for Today’s Parent, online today. The story coincides with the annual ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, also released today.

Blake helps Bennett with some rock hopping on part of the the Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie, B.C.

Blake helps Bennett with some rock hopping in Fernie, B.C.

This year’s Report Card shows that kids are not physically active enough (Overall Physical Activity earned a D-). What’s more, they’re also struggling with physical literacy, which was graded for the first time and earned a D+.

The fact that kids aren’t active enough isn’t a big surprise — we’ve long been wringing our hands over increasingly sedentary kids and growing rates of obesity and childhood diabetes. But what my story and the report revealed to me is that while schools and parents spend a lot of time making sure their kids can read and do math, when it comes to focusing on the physical skills that will ensure they stay active for life, we fall short. Could there be a connection between this lack of basic movement skills and the fact activity levels drop off as kids get older? If you never learned how to hit a ball well, you’re not going to suddenly take up tennis, after all.

Avery and a friend stop at the top of Curry Bowl's 123's.

Avery can ski a black diamond, but might miss a ball if you throw it at her.

I always thought we did a pretty good job of being active with — and active role models for — Avery and Bennett. We hike, ski and swim as a family. We also have a trampoline that the children love. Avery has tried gymnastics, dance and karate, and through Girl Guides she’s been ice skating and inline skating. She’s also comfortable on a bike and a scooter. So, her locomotor and stability skills are great — it’s the manipulative skills, common in ball sports, that could use some work.

Bennett, who has autism and a chromosome condition, has always struggled with gross and fine motor skills. Since he finds many physical activities challenging to begin with, we’ve gravitated toward what he likes — horseback riding, swimming and hiking. He isn’t even close to physically literate, even though he’s been exposed to a wide range of activities. As a result, there’s a lot he can’t do, and will probably never be able to do.

Bennett loves horseback riding. Here he is on a pony ride in Grand Lake, Colo. this summer.

Bennett loves horseback riding. Give him a saddle over a soccer ball any day.

The question is, should we be doing more as parents? Honestly, the thought of making the kids work on their kicking, throwing and catching is exhausting, partly because I’m just not that into balls. As it is, I have to bribe Bennett with chocolate to get him to ride his adapted bike! Perhaps schools could do a better job teaching those skills — and that will likely happen in junior high and high school, at least for Avery, when she’s forced to join a team (that’s when I played basketball and volleyball).

But here’s the thing: I was never great at soccer or softball, either. Like Avery, I gravitated toward gymnastics, trampolining and skiing, and as an adult, hiking and bike riding. I don’t play on any adult leagues, but I’m still physically active. Am I physically literate? I probably was back in 1989, but like my ability to write essays in French and solve calculus equations, those movement skills have faded with time.

The best I can hope for is that the groundwork we’re laying for our kids — the hiking, daily walks, skiing and swimming, regardless of whether they become physically literate — will rub off on them and inspire them to be active for life.