The Easy Valentine’s Day Teacher Gift

The boys wanted to give their teachers a little something extra for Valentine’s Day.

I have a feeling that teachers get overwhelmed with chocolate, so we had to come up with another idea.

Our temps are frigid in Michigan right now. And what is better on a icy cold day that a warm cup of soup!

I have seen adorable Mason jars of neatly layered beans and seasonings. Adhered to the jar is an adorable little sign that says something about being “souper.”

I had some empty Mason jars. I almost always have dried beans. Keyword: almost. Yup, I was out.

I ran to the store, and while walking down the soup aisle I noticed some nice bags of soup mix. No artificial ingredients. Perfect!! My job is so much easier.

Do you think I even bothered to put them in jars and make decorative labels?

You are correct. I didn’t.

My children filled out the cards. We added a chocolate covered pretzel that we made earlier. And I tied everything together.

Waa-laa!

SouperValentine'sDay

I hope you have a “souper” Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day and Pinterest

I love Pinterest, especially for holiday activities. I have a board named Be My Valentine, on which I have pinned many craft projects (that I’ll never make); elaborate food items, including a homeade heart-shaped cookie box (that I’ll never make); Valentine’s cards that require several hours to make; and elaborate Valentine’s Day card holders that no young child can make on his or her own.

For the past two years I have purchased Valentine’s templates on Etsy to create adorable little Valentines.

A tube of Burt’s Bees lip balm accompanied each of these:

BeeValentine

I created these little darlings for preschool. I used Goldfish instead of Swedish fish. Bad move. The grease from Goldfish leaked leaked through Valentine. Ick. I no longer buy Goldfish.

FishValentine

And how can I forget these “cuties!”
OrangeValentines

All of these are completely adorable; however, my children didn’t pick them out. Nor did I include them in the cutting out of them. Why? Because I wanted them to look perfect. (In hindsight, I realized I had them miss out on an excellent fine motor activity.)

Granted, when they were really small, the didn’t really care about the Valentine card, but toddlers still know what they like. And I could’ve given a choice. So this year, I let my five-year old and three-year old pick out their Valentine’s. Fortunately, they both like trains so that made it easy.

We didn’t see any train Valentine’s at the store so we looked at Amazon. (Oh, I love Amazon Prime!)

Alas, the boys found their Valentine’s, complete with envelopes.

TrainValentine

The teacher sent home a class list and I supervised while my oldest wrote out all his Valentine’s…..and decorated each envelope. (I highly suggest spacing this over a period of several days. It would be torture for both parent and child to have them completed in one sitting.)

Next, of course, is the Valentine’s Day card box. Being the Pinterest addict I am, I ventured online to find an adorable box we, ahem, I, could make. My son really wanted to make a train. I brought him a shoe box and a Kleenex box. He went and got an empty toilet paper roll (yes, I keep them.) and started to form his train. I brought out ribbon and scrapbook paper and let him create it himself.

He did it without Pinterest.

He did it without me helping.

He had a wonderful time.

He fished through craft supplies to see what else he could use to create his masterpiece.

And a half hour later, he was finished. And extremely proud of his work.

ValentineCardBox

I would’ve covered the entire box.

I would’ve made sure it was loaded with hearts.

I would’ve not had it be a hybrid electric/steam engine. (Just in case you wondered about the pipe cleaner in back, those are the cables that attach to the wire for an electric train. And the pipe cleaner up front is the steam that would come out of a steam engine.)

I would’ve stolen an opportunity for my son to be creative and take pride in his work.

This year I had an epiphany. My children’s Valentine’s Day party is for them. Not me.

This isn’t my opportunity to say, “look at me!! I’m wonder mommy!”

This was his opportunity to take initiative, be creative, and let his imagination soar.

Not Another Blog Post on Being a Parent to a Child with Special Needs…

Being the parent of a child with special needs, I read a lot of blog posts on what it is like. Everyone has their own opinion, their own feelings, and their own unique situations. I can’t speak for anyone else. But I see lots of comments on how people need to stop being so sensitive, or they are tired of hearing how they should parent. (I do find it ironic when people complain about someone being too sensitive when clearly they are sensitive in being told how to act. But that’s beside the point.) And yet others are wanting to learn more.

So here it goes, another post on what it’s like to be the parent of a child with special needs. And this is just one perspective. My child doesn’t have health issues, or major mobility issues. Mainly, he’s cognitively impaired and has some gross motor and fine motor delays. I’m not going to tell you how to parent. I’m going to provide you answers to potential questions you may have. Also, please feel free to ask me about my life. A favorite quote of mine is “Questions don’t hurt; ignorance does.” (Yes, it is from the Facts of Life.)

Guess what? I don’t think of myself as much different than my friends with children who don’t have special needs. I really don’t. Yes, I have a few more activities in my schedule that make it hectic. But I know other people who have their neurotypical child enrolled in a host of activities and they run around like chickens with their heads cut off. Until my son was in preschool, I was taking him to physical therapy and Early Intervention twice a week. I didn’t complain. I did it. Sure there were crazy days. Days when it seems like it would’ve been better to stay in bed. Everybody has those. Every parent has those.

Am I offended when you ask me questions like, “did you know your child had Down syndrome before he was born?” or “how high functioning is he?” The answer: Of course not. You’re showing interest in our life, our situation. You’re wanting to learn more. It’s an opportunity for me to advocate and educate, not get offended. So don’t worry whether you’ve phrased the question correctly or used the right words. I’m thankful you’re wanting to learn more. I’m grateful for your open mind.

Do I dislike the use of the word retard when used as slander? Yes. It’s saying that those with a cognitive impairment are less human than those without. I also dislike the word gay being used in that manner. And I don’t like the words nigger, Wop, Spick, towel head, camel jockey, kike, etc. I don’t let my kids call people names. And if you use them around me, I’ll politely correct you.

Do I think you should praise your kid for playing with a child with a disability? I don’t care. You’re teaching your child tolerance and to not discriminate. You’re doing a good job. Keep it up. If you told your child to walk away and ignore the child based on cognitive level or physical disability, well, that’s your prerogative too. Not one I would agree with, and quite frankly, you’re teaching intolerance and you might want to reflect on that. But I can’t make you do it. I can simply ask you to put yourself in that person’s shoes.

Is it OK to ask me how he’s doing and what his teacher says about his development? Yes. Please do. Again, it shows you care. It’s an opportunity for me to share what I’ve learned.

Is it OK for you to tell me the accomplishments of your child, even if our children are the same age and yours is doing much more? Yes! I’m happy for you. I’m not comparing my child to yours. Yes, I may wish my child could do those things, but I have to stop and reflect on what all my child has done and is doing, and I get my perspective back. If we are friends, please share your highs and lows with me. Just like you would any parent. My feelings are exactly that. Mine. I decide how to feel. And I want to share in your happiness.

In other words, I’m a parent. Like you. We all have different challenges. Some challenges are bigger than others. I can’t speak for other people. Just me. But if you know me and have wondered these questions, please know that I’m happy you are on this journey with me. It’s not a journey I expected to take. But I can honestly say I feel blessed to be on it.

Let me share my blessing with you.

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Angels Among Us

I was at the hospital today where both my children were born. The hospital has a wonderful cafeteria with an array of fresh cuisine. People actually go there just to dine. That can’t be said about a lot of hospitals.

Anyway, as I waited in line to pay for my pindi chana I thought I would see if I could leave some money to buy a young man lunch. Three years ago this young man, Tyler,  came by at just the right time after my youngest child was born. My youngest child has Down syndrome, as does Tyler. The day after I had given birth as I walked my baby around the maternity ward I ran into Tyler sweeping the floor. He stopped me and said, “Congratulations! He’s beautiful. Like me.” Tyler gave me so much perspective that day. Perspective that would take me a few months to realize.

So three years later, I decided to buy him lunch as a thank you for being kind. I asked the cashier if she knew the young man I was speaking of and she did. She told me that the hospital gives him a certain amount of money for his food and that he usually brings his own and just buys a cookie and milk. So there went that idea. But she asked if I wanted to wait around and thank him myself as he would be in the cafeteria soon.

So I waited. I looked around the hospital and recalled the sadness that overwhelmed three years ago. I saw the nurse who pushed my wheelchair to the door, gave me a hug, and told me everything would be OK and that she would keep us in her prayers. As I reminisced I realized how those tears weren’t really necessary. But that’s what worry and fear do–steal one’s happiness. I’m so grateful for her prayers, and everyone’s, as I had much to be thankful for: a healthy baby boy.

Then I pulled out my phone and looked at the video my husband had sent me the previous night while I was roller skating with our oldest. Our youngest was taking a tubby and saying, “Hi Momma.” He flashed his infectious smile and giggle. I smiled from the depths of my heart.

Tyler came over to meet me. I thanked him for his kind words three years ago, and how I never forgot them. I told him how I will always remember how he said my son was beautiful, just like him. I showed him a picture of my son. He then told me I was beautiful, just like my son. He asked his age and what he was wearing on his head. A hat with a fox face on it. It’s unbelievably adorable!

I thanked him again and told him to have a good day. We gave each other a hug and said farewell. Then Tyler turned around and said, “take good care of that little boy.”

I will, Tyler.

I promise.

MLK Day and Love

Being that today is  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought it would be a good opportunity to tell my four-year-old the significance of this day.

There is a lot I could tell him about Martin Luther King, Jr. and our nation’s history. There will be a time in a few years in which he can learn about the atrocities of the past and how we learn from history, but for now I will let him enjoy the innocence of being four. So I told him that there was a time when kids with different skin color couldn’t play together, go to the same school, eat at the same restaurants, use the same drinking fountain, or ride the same trains. (He LOVES trains so it seemed fitting to use train instead of bus. We will save that story for another time.) I explained that Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted to make sure that boys and girls could be friends regardless of their skin color. I told him that he had a famous speech in which he stated that he had a dream that one day people would not be judged by the color of the skin. And that boys and girls could play together and enjoy the same activities regardless of their appearance.

He was quiet for a moment. (I couldn’t tell if he was actually thinking about what I just said or contemplating what toy to play with next.)

Then he looked at me and said, “So it’s about love.”

I then thought of one of the most widely known definitions of love: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Yes, my darling son, it is about love.

MLK

Time Stands Still

I often want to freeze time. Keep my little ones the age they are now. So innocent. Explorative. But tonight was one of those nights where I wanted to “freeze this moment a little bit longer;
make each sensation a little bit stronger.”*

It was a perfect June night. Sunny and in the low 70s with a slight breeze. A small downtown park had a children’s musical group playing in the pavilion. My one-year old is bouncing to the music, clapping, and looking utterly adorable as he grooves to the music.

My three-year old then asks, “Mommy, will you dance with me?” My husband watches our youngest while my eldest and I move closer to the band and dance in an open sunny area.

He takes my hand and we spin. He leads. His smile extends from ear to ear. His bright blue eyes gleam with pure joy. The sunlight kisses his wispy blond hair. We spin to the point of dizziness then drop. He belly laughs. I belly laugh. We get up, hold hands, and hop and down to the calypso beat. I pick him up and hold him on my hip. We sway back and forth. He starts running around me in circles. I encase him in my arms for a giant bear hug and a tickle monster visit. His smile never dissipates.

And my heart is overflowing with joy. I know there will be a time when the thought of dancing with his mother in a park surrounded by people will be considered uncool. That dancing and not caring what others think will not be the norm. But for now, we dance without a worry. We dance without a care. We dance with enthusiasm. I savor the moment. I enjoy that just for this moment time stands still.

• Text in quotes from the song “Time Stands Still” by rush.

Why I Love Being A Parent

Before you have children, you build up this little ideal world in which you and your child will have many magical moments. Moments of frolicking in the sun and flying a kite, sharing an ice cream cone on a warm summer day, or cuddling under a blanket reading Dr. Seuss. And these imagined moments do come to fruition.

And thanks to Pinterest you can pin thousands of ways to create flawless memories with your children. And I’m not gonna lie, I pin many such items. I pin far more ideas, crafts, and activities than we will ever be able to do, but I like having a stockpile of ideas.

But some of the funniest moments are the ones you never imagine. The following are just a few from my three-year old son.

  • Upon receiving his new book basket with the choo-choo train liner, he looks at me with a bewildered expression and says, “It’s wrong. There’s no coal car.”

He is correct. There is a steam engine on the liner but no coal car. Thanks for pointing out that buddy. Never in a million years would I have noticed. And apparently, the three-year olds working in the sweatshop didn’t either.

  • About once a week he will say, “I want to go to Starbucks.”

Yes, he even knows how to order: either a kids chocolate milk or kids hot chocolate.  Now that Starbucks has started writing your name on the outside of the cup, he has decided to write his name on the side of my reusable white coffee mug. Seriously, we only go about once a week. And while some may view this as a bit sad, I view it as our weekly coffee date. And who doesn’t like a good coffee date?

  • Potty training, without a doubt, brings out the most hilarious sayings….or expressions. Sighs of relief followed by him saying, “That was a big one.”

This is followed by me saying, “No honey, I don’t need to see it. But thank you.”

  • Along with potty training comes using public restrooms and innocent, yet truthful statements, “Somebody had a stinky poopy.”

I really hope that somebody left by the time this was said.

Then there are those tender moments that are so endearing you couldn’t have imagined them.

  • After not seeing my son for several hours I gave him a hug and told him I missed him. He said, “It’s OK. Mommy’s in my heart.”
  • One day I was so sick I could barely get off the couch, and he covered me with his blanket and gave me his special stuffed animal to help me feel better.
  • When he saw I had an “owie” on my hand and he kissed it to make it heal quicker.
  • When asked what his favorite thing in his house is, he states it’s his brother.

When I let life happen and stop trying to create the perfect magical moment, that’s when the splendor of being  a parent is revealed.