My Favorite Things: Special Needs Edition

What a blessing it is to have him in good health currently, and enjoying summer with our family.

We have been able to include him in quite a few of our summer adventures and activities thus far, and it feels great to see him enjoying a high quality of life.

As his birthday approaches each year, our friends and family start to ask for gift ideas.

It can be a little tricky as he is not able to enjoy some of the textbook things one would normally purchase for a four-year-old.

At this age our daughter, who is now five years old, received a bicycle with training wheels.

Our son would not benefit from that gift, so we have to get a bit more creative to find things he would enjoy and successfully use.

Here are a few ideas for gifts that I am sharing with our family!

FunFidgets ball set

This set of sensory balls includes five different balls that are bumpy, color changing, or bead filled.

Our son does not adore slimy textures, but these look to provide a nice sensory experience without being wet or slimy.

Beanbag chair

I am searching for a floor pillow large and supportive enough to accommodate our almost four-year-old, but cannot find anything that is just right.

Instead, a children’s beanbag chair may do the trick.

Splashy seat

We have yet to try the Splashy portable bath seat and I know our son would love it!

We could use it not only for bath time but at the beach, in the pool, or just for fun outdoor play.

Play foam

As I mentioned, our son does not tolerate slimy cold sensory objects, but he does seem to enjoy playdoh.

This play foam has a different moldable texture that would be a keeper

ABC Touch and Feel Letters

These are just cute! The 26-letter set has a variety of textures for children to explore as they learn about the letters of the alphabet.

This is a great activity for our son who is school-aged but stays home.

Vibrating fiber optic light

This fun color-changing fiber optic light provides a great sensory experience as it also vibrates.

This would be fun for little ones at nighttime, and is a great price!

15 Easy Ways to Beat Stress and Boost Happiness

This post is being written after I spent all of last week in the hospital with our son, who was having some difficulty dealing with a GI bug of some sort.

He is back home and doing much better now.

The morning after we returned home from the hospital our daughter got sick with what was most likely the same stomach virus our son had.

We all know having sick kids equates to not getting enough sleep, and let me tell you that sleeping on a hospital chair/couch is not at all restful either.

My body is great at telling me when I’m worn down and stressed out, so doing research for this blog post on Stress Awareness Month is going to come in handy as I seek some ways to get extra relaxation and rest.

For me personally, more stress brings on more anxiety.  When I’m away from home in the hospital or not feeling the best myself, it is a challenge to get to the gym to exercise.

Sometimes I just plain do not have the energy, so it is important to find little ways to take better care of myself, and to decrease the anxiety that stress can create.

If my stress and anxiety are not well managed, some real health issues can surface, and if mama is sick, running a normal home life is very difficult.

So do yourself and your health a favor and take a look at some of these great ideas to eliminate stress this month and every month!

Try out adult coloring books

Listen to music that makes you happy

Find a positive phrase, scripture, quote to repeat to yourself

Keep a gratitude journal of things you are thankful for


Try yoga, jogging, or Pilates from free online videos

Take a break, even just for a day, from social media like Facebook and Instagram

Get outside for a bit…nature and fresh air can do a lot for the soul

Soak in a hot bath

Go for a walk – a 10-minute walk can relieve anxiety

Laugh…it reduces stress hormones!

Spend five minutes breathing slowly and deeply to reduce stress hormones

Get a massage or spa treatment

Listen to a funny podcast

Get a good night’s sleep


Special Needs Families: Storytelling

As it turns out, I had never heard of it because we live in the United States, and storytelling week takes place in the U.K.

The subject was intriguing anyway as my background includes early childhood and elementary education.  I was a kindergarten teacher for the four years prior to having our first child.

As an educator, I understand the importance of reading aloud to children, even before they are born.

There are so many fun ways to get children involved in storytelling, even if they are non-verbal or have other special needs that prevent them from reading a book aloud themselves.

Here are some fairly simple suggestions on ways to include your entire family in storytelling week.

1. Choose a story.

The entire family could choose a favorite book or story to be the focus of your storytelling week.  Or, everyone could name a favorite story to be told on different nights of the week celebrating Storytelling Week.

2. Think of fun ways to tell stories. 

If I was doing this with my family, I would simply read the book aloud the first day.  The next day we would make up a silly song about the story being told.  Another idea is to tell it in different voices, like whispering, or talking like a mouse.  Using homemade puppets to tell the story in the form of a puppet show is a fun way to retell the story.  Or act it out yourselves!  I like the idea of learning sign language for a phrase or word that occurs over and over in the book.

3. Find ways to include and involve your child with special needs in the storytelling. 

Just because your child may be nonverbal doesn’t mean he or she cannot participate in the fun.

Our son is nonverbal.  He can tell wonderful stories without saying a word.

One way he does this is through his facial expressions and body language.  Another way we can involve him in telling stories is with the use of tools.

He has a switch (found here) called the Step-by-Step that allows us to program up to five phrases.

When the switch is pushed, a phrase is played.  We have programmed a phrase from a story that is repeated so he can push the switch when it is time for the phrase to be read.

We have also programmed parts of a song so that each time the switch is activated one part of the song is sung, until the entire song is through.

Another way we have used it is recording the phrase “turn the page.”  Our son can then push the switch when it is time to turn to the next page of a book.

Take advantage of the fun available to your family during Storytelling Week.

Maybe check out a local play or story time at your local library.

Or, create your own fun with some of the ideas above with your family.

Here is the Society for Storytelling website with some additional materials and ideas.

Christmas Night Outfit

It’s a magical time of year full of family traditions, decorations, and classic carols.

There are also the traditional Christmas pajamas!

Yes, that’s right, I love to see my kids in matching or coordinated Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve.

I used to have a difficult time justifying the cost of two pair of pajamas that were specially purchased for one night of the year, but trust me- the kids will wear them until it’s either too hot for fleece holiday pants or they no longer fit.

Our daughter was definitely wearing hers in March of last year.

(No judgement please)

The sight of our son and daughter snuggled up together in their adorable pajamas is worth it to me, so here are a whole bunch of options if you want to make this part of your family’s Christmas tradition as well.

Or maybe you already do!

This is a great time of year to shop for your Christmas pajamas because all of the holiday sales are beginning online.  Some of the sites listed below have offers for 25%-30% off, or free shipping, so load those carts with jammies for all!

Old Navy has some really cute and reasonably priced holiday pajama options, and they are offering 30% off at the time of this post.

The discount offers will vary and continue until Christmas, so don’t worry if you miss the 30% off offer.

And the reindeer slippers – so cute!

GAP also has some slightly more expensive but equally adorable kids’ pajama choices.

They are offering 25% off at the time of this post, but as I mentioned above, the sales will continue so check for deals!

Target has some great holiday pajama options, and I especially like the Burt’s Bees organic sets.

Target is also offering a buy 1 get 1 50% off deal.

Gymboree’s patterns are darling this year, but my favorites are a matching plaid nightgown and pajama set!

And, because they are entirely too precious not to include, I have noticed an elf and santa 2-piece pajama set from Crazy8.

What a shame it would be to leave the grown-ups out of this fun Christmas Eve tradition!

I personally think the adult one-piece footie pajamas are a bit hideous (and my husband would second that).

But, should you desire your own pair of holiday pajamas, here are some cute options to have a think about.

The New Christmas Gift Rule: Kids

The concept is to sort of streamline both the number of gifts and the amount spent on gifts for your children for the holidays.

I like this because you can either set a budget or not set a budget depending on how much flexibility you have in your spending, and no matter how many children you are purchasing gifts for, they will all have four gifts to open.

Obviously you will want to keep them somewhat close in price, but the focus is on getting meaningful and useful gifts instead of just trying to reach a target price and keep everyone’s load the same.

We have tried this concept the last two years with great success.

I felt like picking out four gifts per child was simple, and a couple of them did not even require much thought to come up with.

So here is the concept.  For each child, you buy them:

Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

GENIUS, right?!?!

For the record, Santa also visits our house on Christmas Eve and leaves one unwrapped gift in front of the fireplace for each of the children.  That gift is not counted as part of the want, need, wear, read idea.

My children are a 5-year-old girl, and a 3-year-old boy.

So the gifts I have chosen below fit with this age group.

Hopefully it will give you some ideas of gifts your own children, whether similar in age to my own or not, would enjoy unwrapping this year.

The gifts chosen for my son cater to some of his needs, as he is our special needs child.

So keep in mind that the 3 year-old-boy gifts shown below may not be right for your 3-year-old boy, but he can most likely provide you with some ideas of your own.



Girl LEGOs


Snow boots…we had great luck with Sorel snow boots last year!


Our sweet girl is still wearing her favorite Frozen bathrobe that is two sizes too small, so a new robe is on her list.


Our daughter and I did a mommy-and-me style yoga class this summer.  This kids yoga book has great reviews and is both fun and practical as it teaches self-soothing skills to help relax the mind and body before sleeping.



This Crayola “Color Me a Song” tool looks so fun and motivating for our son who loves music but doesn’t love holding onto things.

Hopefully this will make coloring more enjoyable!


Our son will be getting a new standing frame with a tray soon, and we are in need of interesting sensory toys for him to play with while in the stander.  These water beads look like loads of fun without being messy.


Keeping his feet warm can be a challenge for our little guy, so these microwavable slippers look amazingly comfortable and cozy.


We love the Little Blue Truck book, and there are a few more books about the truck we do not yet have.  If you haven’t read any of them, they are easy to read, rhythmic, and our kids both love them.

Refresh and De-Stress

There are so many clichés out there like, “Happy wife, happy life,” and, “If mom isn’t happy, nobody is happy.”

While families can look different from one another, there is a sense of truth to those cliché statements if your family unit contains a mother or father who is a caretaker for a special needs child, maintains the household, organizes and tracks everyone’s schedules and activities, schedules and attends doctor’s appointments, and the list goes on.

These tasks are tiring for parents who are raising healthy, typically developing children.

These tasks can be downright exhausting for those raising children with special needs due to the extra demands that life brings.

I am not implying this makes the children any less of a blessing, but it can make daily life more stressful.

My goal here is to share a few things that have been part of my routine as of late to refresh and de-stress in the hopes that it will inspire you to find an activity or hobby that does the same for you.


I have been participating in a class at the local YMCA that combines yoga, Pilates, and Tai chi.  It has been a great activity for me as it makes me feel calm and centered by the time the hour has passed.

I’ve never been the type to go out and run five miles to feel like I’d had a good workout, but this class combines strength with relaxation that makes me feel less stressed.

Whether it’s kickboxing or pilates or spinning class, find a positive outlet for your stress that will bring you into better health, which is good for you and your family!

Friend Time

Moms need time together.

Dads need time together.

There is something about a group of girlfriends indulging in snacks and chatting that can refresh me differently than a date night with my husband.

My closest friends and I try to make it a priority to get together for girls movie night, or go out for coffee to catch up and spend time being friends and adults.

This is a welcome break from being, “Mom”, for a couple of hours on a Friday night once in a while.

I encourage you to make time to connect with your closest friends – the ones that you can laugh with until you cry, tell old stories with, and leave feeling like you got a bit of yourself back.


I recently participated in my first craft fair.

While I didn’t sell as much as I had hoped at the craft booth shared with a friend, preparing all of the items was so much fun for me.

I have always enjoyed being artistic and making things, so putting together some home décor items and gifts is a creative outlet for me that there has not always been time for.

I didn’t make time for it.

Having the deadline of the craft fair held me accountable to getting everything ready on time, and that was good for me. It would do all of us mamas and dads good (and our families too) if we scheduled a deadline or set aside time for ourselves to do a hobby we enjoy.

More, “Me Time.”

After facing some health issues and surgery last year, I’ve tried to make a more conscious effort to put myself first once in a while.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the things I’ve been doing lately to de-stress and relax.


A long soak in a hot bath is a classic way to unwind at the end of a long day. I’ve been trying to take the time to do this more frequently, and it’s amazing how a tub of hot water can soothe some of the day’s stress away. 

Must haves for a relaxing bath include lavender bubble bath, candles, and dark chocolate.

Do yourself a favor and find this chocolate. It’s amazing.

Shop Alter Eco Chocolate Bar

This vanilla bean soy candle is in my house and nearly gone.     

Shop vanilla bean soy candle

And this bubble bath has the greatest relaxing, calming scent.  

Shop Dr Teal’s Lavendar Bubble Bath


I have been taking a class at our local YMCA for a few months called BodyFlow. It includes a combination of yoga, tai chi, and pilates moves.

I am not the type of person who needs to take a five-mile run to feel as though my body got some exercise.

This class makes me feel composed and strengthened. Finding some type of physical exercise that makes you feel strong and de-stressed is key in keeping yourself healthy both physically and mentally.

If mama is stressed nobody is at their best.  (That’s a saying, right?)

Fun with the children

Our daughter and I have been enjoying a mommy-and-me style yoga class the last four weeks.

It is geared toward 3-5 year-olds and has been a great way to share an activity I enjoy doing with our daughter. We go for half an hour on Wednesday mornings and just have fun.

I have learned, and am still learning, that having a child with special needs takes up a lot of time, and it can be difficult to prioritize time with your other children. My daughter needs to feel like her wants and needs are the most important thing sometimes too, so this class has been a great bonding experience and opportunity to have some time together.

Girls’ Night (recipe)

I am hosting a girls’ movie night this weekend, which is one thing I love to do.  Having a few girlfriends over to enjoy drinks, snacks, and a chick flick is an enjoyable way to unwind at the end of the week.

A friend of mine shared this recipe with me, and I assured her it would be on the menu for movie night.

S’MORES NACHOS RECIPE Major yum, am I right?!

Favorite Things


So we haven’t actually used this item yet, but our son is receiving it as a birthday gift this weekend.

This handy gadget is a wearable wireless thermometer.

It is worn under the arm and can monitor your child’s temperature for a 24 hour time period.

You use your smart phone or iPad to monitor the child’s temperature.

It will alert you if the child’s temperature is higher than normal and can be tracked continuously.

Our son doesn’t love having his temp taken under his arm, and is unable to hold a thermometer under his tongue, so this device sounded like an excellent alternative to try.

I love the fact that a temperature can be taken without having to wake the child up overnight.

Ipad holder

We have been using this product for about four months.

Our son spends a lot of time in a hospital bed in his room, so I was searching for a device to hold the iPad at his bed so he could watch movies.

This product is very adjustable via the bendable arm, and will hold phones and tablets.

It could also be attached to a wheelchair tray, tabletop, car seat, Firefly GoTo Seat base, you name it.

It would be quite useful for playing games or using apps when the child is not able to hold the tablet or phone themselves.

G-tube Covers

We purchased some g-tube covers for our son for his birthday.

Thus far, we had just been using split gauze to protect his little belly from any leaking that might occur from his GJ tube.

A friend told me about the covers, so I looked into them online.

There is an overabundance of places to purchase them from, but I selected an etsy shop called Swoonbabyhandmade.

She sells reasonably priced covers in adorable prints.

I ordered a set of assorted boy g-tube covers and specified the color scheme I was hoping to receive.

She sent covers in the exact colors I had asked for and they seem to be very well made.

I believe the covers are better than just using gauze because they have snaps to keep them secure!

We find random pieces of the gauze all over the place because they fall off.

First Haircut Tips for Kids with Special Needs

It is heartwarming to see this barber give so much care and patience to doing his job, and it got me thinking about our own little boy getting his haircut.

Our son was born with a full head of hair, and by two years of age has already gotten a handful of haircuts.

We have tried a few different strategies to make it the most relaxing and positive experience as possible.

Some times worked out better than others.

Here are a few tips I can offer if you are anticipating an upcoming first haircut for your child with special needs.

1. Timing

Thus far we have had the most success with taking our son for a haircut right after he finishes an hour and a half of physical and occupational therapy.

He is sound asleep 9 times out of 10 and barely flinches while the barber cuts away.

This also makes the haircut go by much more quickly as our son is very still, and we all know sitting still is important at the barbershop.

2. Child-Friendly

Another recommendation for coming out of the barbershop with little to no tears is to find one that specializes in children’s haircuts.

If there isn’t one available in your area check with friends and family with children to see where they take their children to, and who they do and do not recommend.

If you are able to find a place that does a great deal of children’s haircuts you will be happy to find they quite possibly have a treasury of distractions such as fun chairs, toys, televisions with children’s shows, a mirror or comb to hold, etc.

Does your children’s barbershop cost a little more than a haircut at a discount kind of place?

Happy children = #WorthEveryPenny

3. Entertainment

If you cannot find a great children’s barber shop or have a negative experience the first time around do yourself and your child a favor and pack your own distractions!

I am not a huge advocate for lots of screen time, but there is a time and place for the ipad.

Take your pick: screen time or scream time!

Bring coloring books, stickers, a sucker, whatever you think may be great distractions and novel enough to capture your child’s attention for a few minutes.

4. Prioritise Comfort

Bring any equipment along with you that your child can successfully sit as upright as possible in and have the barber cut their hair while sitting in the familiar equipment.

We have brought our son’s Tumbleforms chair along several times and it has helped tremendously so he feels both comfortable and is in an ideal position for getting his hair cut.

What are your barbershop success stories? Any tips?