Signing Time Birthday Party-Making a Party Theme Not in Stores work for You

Since Ethan doesn’t watch many shows other than Signing Time and he loves the music, we have known for awhile we would probably be having a Signing Time birthday party. While it is popular among some people, it is still not something you can just go and buy decorations, cakes, and favors for.

I originally thought I would probably have to make the cake and since I’m not a cake decorator, I bought a tiny chalkboard (Michael’s, $1) and tree to go along with a toy frog we already had to fit the theme of Signing Time. (There is a chalkboard in the opening of every episode with the name of the episode written on it. I wrote “Happy Birthday” on the chalkboard and planned to put that on the cake. I was going to use the tiny 50 cent tree I bought at Michael’s to add a few things to to make it look like the tree house on the show. There is a frog on the show, so since Ethan already had one, I thought I’d put that on there as well.

My husband suggested contacting the Signing Time company just to see if they would be okay with us getting a bakery to use an edible image, so I emailed them and gave it a shot. They said yes so I printed the email and took it to the bakery, and so we got this cake:

The chalkboard didn't fit on the cake, but it would be great if you were making your own cake.

I loved how it turned out! The place we used doesn’t typically do copywrited things but since I had permission and wasn’t purposely trying to go around their rules, Ethan got his Signing Time cake and he recognized his favorite characters. 🙂

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I also printed and laminated some pictures from the show’s website to decorate and put construction paper backing them along with balloons that matched to tie it together. (Kind of a rainbow theme.)

There’s a song about a rainbow to teach color signs, and I made a little balloon rainbow above the rainbow picture with Alex and Leah.

Mainly I laminated the pictures because it was going to be at a park originally. I also bought some party favors that signed “I love you” in ASL and hand clappers to go along wiht the theme. Since my family had strep throat, we didn’t have the friends and kids of our friends over because we didn’t want to get them sick, but our family said they still wanted to come over so we had it at our apartment. It ended up storming and pouring rain, so the park wouldn’t have worked out anyways!

Its always good with kids’ parties (and any parties, really) to be flexible and not over-plan or over-spend with time or money in my opinion! You never know what will happen. We still had a great time despite feeling yucky. It was festive, and Ethan was excited that his favorite show characters were on the wall so I say it was a win!

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MORE BUDGET FRIENDLY TIPS: One budget-friendly party planning idea is to see if your city has ways to rent gazebos, parks, etc. for free. Another is to just buy solid-colored plates, napkins, etc that match colors in your theme if you already have decent theme representation with other decorations. Chances are, if you’re trying to do a less well-known theme or kids show theme, you will have to buy plain paper plates anyways.

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Is He Not Worth Saving, Doc?

It came to my attention earlier this week that discrimination against people with disabilities is still more alive than I thought. I know there will always be some kid on a playground or some adult at the grocery store who will discriminate, but I thought the medical community had at least caught up with the times. Before medical personnel stop reading this post in irritation, I know that it HAS come quite far and that those characteristics I speak of are not true of ALL medical professionals. But has the medical field completely rid itself of discrimination in life and death matters regarding people with disabilities? I don’t think so, and it seems my husband I have this concern in common with A large portion ,if not all , of the Down Syndrome community and then some.

What made us realize this discrimination was a friend from our Down Syndrome support group mentioning a little girl around Ethan’s age who was dying because she was denied a heart and said that the reason for it was that she has Down Syndrome. When I asked if this happened often, the friend said that it is not necessarily exclusive, but the Down Syndrome if often taken into consideration in deciding who will get the organ. I was so shocked and hurt when I read her response and went to look at pictures of this sweet little baby in her last few days. It was so heart-breaking. She was frowning, purple-tinged eyes closed and her parents and sister lying next to her trying to comfort her on her way to Heaven. I couldn’t believe my eyes and was so enraged and hurt that this could still be a problem, that our babies could be discriminated against in this day and age of supposed enlightenment and diversity. I know the world isn’t perfect and there is still discrimination of all kinds, but surely it could be better than this..? In the United States? I next searched to find answers as to whether someone wasn’t mistaken and it was actually not a complication that was causing all these children with Down Syndrome to be turned away. I found that, sadly, doctors make it SOUND as though there are complications that will make the child with Down Syndrome “incompatible with transplants”, but when parents investigated, they found that to be a well-cloaked LIE! What was really going on in many cases was that the children with disabilities are not valued as highly as the typical children or children with average and above IQs! I just cried tears of rage about this injustice that could well haunt us in years to come…After all, don’t half the kids with Down Syndrome have heart defects they are born with? My son has a repaired heart defect, but he still has some mild mitral valve leakage. It probably won’t be an issue, but we don’t know for sure. And we cannot have peace of mind that our child will just simply be treated as much as worthy as the next to receive a heart?? Or any other organ? Reading these facts was the single-handed biggest SLAP in the FACE I have had in the two years I have been a parent, and a parent of a child with special needs.

Now that you know what I’m so upset about, here are a few things I’ll discuss:

1) Why is this so upsetting and wrong?
2)Has the issue improved over time and how can it improve?
3) What can we do as friends, and
4) What can we as parents of kids with disabilities do to make sure our child gets the best chance at being treated fairly if we face this issue personally?

1) WHY SO UPSET ABOUT THIS? I realize even tender-hearted people may not get it and therefore have a little discrimination themselves…I’m not judging, I may have said the same things before I had Ethan. Maybe maybe not. Maybe some facts will help…first of all, I realize that choosing who will receive an organ is a very difficult thing to do. There are always shortages of organs, and it makes it so important to be an organ donor. I grive for ANY child and family who can’t make it because there is no available organ. I realize that overall, doctors may have to consider how long someone will live versus another patient should he or she receive the organ. I want readers to know a few things: People with Down Syndrome do NOT have very short life spans anymore! I didn’t even know this until after I had Ethan. It is now very close to the lifespan of anyone else. So I don’t believe that should be used in saying whether someone should receive an organ or not. Also, realize that you ARE discriminating whether you realize or not when you say you think you know who will have a better quality of life when it comes to Down Syndrome. (If your child has another disability, feel free to comment and share your opinion on that, but I will speak from what I know.) What I believe (as do millions of others) is that “quality of life” can NOT be measured in IQ! It cannot be measured in how fast you can walk or how well you can articulate your speech….Be very careful, medical staff and laypeople, how you place your value of others. Like I said, I used to have a more discriminate view of people with disabilities in years past, so I’m not judging, but trying to educate you because these adults and children are counting on us to stand up for their rights! And they will stand up for theirs as well!

Things like this give me pause to even try to find out about having a child with Down Syndrome ahead of time the next time we are pregnant. (The chances of having another child with Down Syndrome are quite slim, but there is a non-invasive way to test to see ahead of time to prepare for having another one should that be the case. We would only want to know so we would prepare mentally and to get some things in order, such as a prenatal echocardiogram.) If we do the test, are doctors going to be less-willing to help with the baby’s well-being? I know that seems far-fetched and kind of paranoid, but the way some people still discriminate against people with disabilities, I can’t help but wonder!

I guess overall the attitudes that are still alive was a bigtime reality check to how second-classs some people still believe those with Down Syndroem to be in comparison to other people, other children. And that hurts us “to the core” as my husband put it. Here is what he had to say via social media:

“Natalie brought this to my attention tonight. It breaks my heart and cuts me to think that any child is being denied an organ transplant because of a disability or something they are born with. It appears that many kids with Down Syndrome are denied heart transplants because they have Down Syndrome. Doctors won’t come out and say this is the reason, but other children get what they need while our’s die. This is simply unacceptable. A child in need should never….ever….ever go without a heart or organ if there is one available. I would gladly give mine to my son if he needed it and I could. Please help us make things equal for all children including those with Down Syndrome. Life as a person with Down Syndrome is seldom easy why should they have to worry about this? If I could have 1 wish for my birthday any wish at all I would ask that everyone would stop looking at Down Syndrome as a disability, and seeing in our children what they CAN”T do. I would love to see the world as a whole look at my son and see him for what he is. He is a beautiful bundle of joy, that like any 2 year old throws a tantrum when mom or dad takes away his toy because its time to eat. He yawns when its time for bed, he loves to help brush his teeth, wash his hair, and walk to his momma and poppa. He needs medical assistance when he is sick and gets it. He gets follow up appointments to make sure he gets the shots he needs; so why is it that he might get denied an organ transplant if he needs one? Is he not just a child with a full life ahead? Are not all children with downsyndrome just children with a full life ahead of them? So why deny them a basic right that every other child has? Please help us make this right! ”

I thought it was very well-said. The petition we shared was via http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/president-of-the-united-states-why-are-children-with-down-syndrome-not-considered-for-organ-transplants-2?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_mobile&recruiter=111647405

2) HAS THE ISSUE IMPROVED AT ALL OVER THE YEARS? It definitely has. But don’t let that stop you from helping by signing the petition and encouraing more awareness and acceptance! The work is NOT done. Just because blanket “no kids with Down Syndrome may receive transplants” policies are illegal, it does not mean subtle decisions by doctors used to discriminate do not happen. They do. Way too much. Once is one too many, and it is far more rampant that just one case.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/30/health/disabled-transplants/

The above link is a story of a boy who had been denied a heart and the parents had to work very hard to get him what he needed and to be treated fairly.

http://mn.gov/mnddc/news/newsitems/transplant.html

This is a great source of information about how bad the issue started, what improvements have been made, and steps that be taken to help with getting children what they need, and to be treated equally. It isn’t simple. People get caught in several steps: The doctor makes the recommendation, then the organ must be received, the transplant center can have you on a waiting list….and kids with Down Syndrome seem to be wait-listed longer from what I’ve read. The discrimination can happen at one or more levels, and parents have had to fight tooth and nail, traveling the country to get a “yes” and just be treated equally. So wrong! And these are families with very SICK kids or they wouldn’t need organs in teh first place! This is simply wrong. When I find out more to fight this, by all means I will update and share! So keep your eyes peeled and let me know of any other ways to make this right!

3) WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP? Share this, advocate for people with special needs, spread your knowledge and assurance that these kids and adults DO have a life worth living and also a right to living, as much as anyone else. Attend a Buddy Walk in your area in October/Down Syndrome Awareness Month! ndss.org to find a Buddy Walk in your area.

4) WHAT CAN I DO IF MY CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME OR ANOTHER DISABILITY SEEMS TO BE PASSED OVER FOR A TRANSPLANT UNFAIRLY?
The link below has information about people with disabilities and how they can manage transplants.

http://rwjms.rutgers.edu/boggscenter/products/documents/TransplantPampletFINAL6-11.pdf

Also see http://mn.gov/mnddc/news/newsitems/transplant.html that was also shared above. Very detailed steps.
http://blogs.kentplace.org/bioethicsproject/2014/02/10/allocating-organs-syndrome-compliance-scapegoat/

Appears to be a good essay on the information given, including addressing the early case in 1995 of Sandra Jensen but is an overall argument for the ethical problems.

In These Four (I Mean Three) Shoes for One Morning

If I hear one more know-it-all well-meaning person say, “you need to have him practice” or “he is just playing you, he could probably do it, so you need to get his therapists to have him practice”…I may flip out. And by “flip out” I mean I will calmly make them listen to the laundry list of issues that have made it so Ethan struggles with straw drinking and any kind of drinking other than from a bottle. Yes, I’m not a crazy mom and bite my tongue most of the time, but trust me that crazy mom will manifest itself in me when it is necessary.

Ethan’s main support groups-family, Down Syndrome support group, church friends, therapists-are all awesome in taking his medical history and Down Syndrome features, like low muscle tone, into consideration when making their judgements and expectations of what Ethan and us as parents can do. Its those random people (but sometimes not so random who really should know better) in the medical profession that we see only once or twice. I want to say, why don’t you come over everyday and you see how much he is “playing” us. What the heck? Kids want their milk like NOW, why would he play us? And why would he not eat delicious food when he sees how much we enjoy it?

So to bring a little understanding to our life a little as well as some other families’, I have mapped out a morning in the life of my son and I (not every family’s, mind you, because each family with a child with Down Syndrome or any special need or just any kid at all-is different and unique and each has his/her own challenges and strengths.) But I think we have all as parents felt the frustration of being judged or our efforts minimized at some point….so here goes!

This morning.
5:45am Wake up, stay at home because the sicknesses from his short stay at a center almost killed him two winters ago. This winter was better, but not by much. 2 weeks in hospital. Or germs from somewhere. Either way, staying at home with Ethan is what we do for now. Get back in bed with mommy and snooze until before Ethan’s OT arrives around…

7am-Try to eat a little before OT gets here because she may want to work on him self-feeding with his spoon, but since that is still not perfect, Mommy has to sneak in a few (or more) scoops from her holding the spoon because Ethan has to have some nutrition. Multiple therapies in the mornings makes it hard to get nutrition in sometimes, and he has actually lost a little weight. The nurse sent a perscription for Boost (like Ensure supplement to drink) in the mail so he can get “fattened up..if he might have the tonsillectomy.”

7:10-Ethan starts spitting his food out after eating only a small amount. I am frustrated and think, “Its a good thing we have this Boost-he has really stopped eating much lately.”

7:15- OT arrives to work with Ethan. Since Ethan didn’t want to eat more food, they work on other OT skills using toys, etc. OT notices he has lost weight without me bringing up the new Boost diet. OT mentions that today she notices Ethan’s depth perception is off and I say “I’ll call to get him a referral for opthamology..the other parents in our support group suggested gettinga baseleine anyways because a lot of kids with DS have eye/vision issues.” (This is why you will sometimes see kids with DS with strabismis, I believe its called, and I think it makes the eye look “wandering”. Many require glasses and wear them at a very young age. I think to myself, “If Etan needs glasses, at least he enjoys ours. He also enjoys throwing them, though..”

8:05-I give Ethan his Boost while watching Signing Time. Because he doesn’t drink anything at the table lately, I’ve tried and watching TV while drinking is the backup plan because this child needs to gain, not lose weight, especially before a surgery. And no, we do NOT practice with the blasted straw this morning because we don’t have time-he needs the nutrition fast, and I have to shower and get Ethan in his Theratogs (a suit he is supposed to wear pretty much all the time-it guides his muscles. But I was a bad Mommy and didn’t put them on before OT this morning. (BTW, His OT is totally cool and understands that putting on a complex suit is not always fit into the schedule easily, especially before 7am!) Ethan and I were enjoying sleeping and cuddling, so Theratogs on after my shower it is.

8:30-Calling Ethan’s PCP to request a referral for opthamology and hoping that its okay to wait that long to get this depth perception concern taken care of. I mention that over the phone to hope we get seen soon. Alongside his wellchild visit and ENT consult for probable surgery…hmm Happy Almost Birthday, Ethan. I’m kind of serious, though, if he gets glasses, he will love it. They may end up in his toybox, but he will love it. I still hope he doesn’t have an issue, though. We play phone tag a little while I’m in and out of shower and on hold some.

9:30-Putting on Theratogs. Oh I can’t wait until we’re done with these. I’m grateful for all the help these resources have given us, but not a fan of Velcro everywhere with a wiggling whining toddler making it more interesting.

9:40-frantically looking for the prescription to take to the local health department so Ethan’s government insurance can pay for the tons of Boost we will be having him drink. Can’t find it in the folder I thought it was in. Glancing at clock at knowing I’m going to be late probably. (Side bar-Thank you, fellow taxpayers, because although several things seemed mismanaged at times in government funds, helping families get their enormous medical bills and hundreds of dollars worth of thickener and dietary supplements paid for is very helpful. Its just money we really don’t have especially with one income, and while there is still a monthly payment based on income for the government insurance, it is still taxpayer money that helps in part with these types of programs. So thank you!) Anyways I couldn’t find the prescription and left for Ethan’s PT which is at the outpatient center.

10:03-Show up with Ethan in his clothes AND Theratogs and his hair is even combed, score one for Mommy, and when I get into car I see his socks are left. Go back in, and what do you know, the secretary says that there is only one shoe, says the PT. I look for it in car, not there, and say I can get it at the house when I go by (“to look for something else we misplaced” I don’t say aloud) and they say, no its okay.So Ethan does his PT, which is largely practicing walking with NO shoes. Thank you for not judging me, therapists and secretary!

10:20-I find the prescription tucked somewhere my husband put it in a stack of books by hte computer and head with Ethan’s other shoe to wait for his PT to end so we can run by to pick up the Boost from the health department.

11:00- We wait for a bit then get the Boost. They are in juicebox form, which tiny straws that Ethan is far from being able to drink from. I don’t even think I could do it with thickener. I ask the lady if there is another pour spout so it can go in a bottle for him to drink at home and examine it myself as I ask. The lady says, “oh, well just try to have him practice drinking from the straw sometimes.” I bite my tongue because this is not a time for crazy mom to emerge and stop myself from telling our life story but just say, “okay, well we will put it in another cup with his big straw since he’s on thickened liquids” and she just says, “oh…” like what is this lady talking about? I guess she knows what she’s doing after all.” The lady just saw a young(ish) mom and her baby, not a kid with special needs and a mom with a working knowledge of 5 different specialty areas in which Ethan is followed. So she did her job and gave her advice based on what she did know. As long as she didn’t pretend to know more, or doubt that I’m trying, or judge, then that is fine with me.

I do hope that people who DO know Ethan’s history-doctors, speech therapists evaluating him for swallow studies, teachers, etc. take things into account and do not patronize parents who are busting their butts to help their children progress. I think it takes a little experience for professionals and laypeople to understand to not expect too much or too little of parents but just realize some parents really do take advice and work on therapy goals HOWEVER as Ethan’s OT who has been working for quite some time in her field put it well by saying, “They are going about their lives, too..I know people only have so much time.”

I am open to constructive suggestions always (especially about the dang drinking thing, I don’t know why it bothers me more than others, I guess because now he is walking some at least..? If I screamed about the straw I think I would sound like Robin from How I Met Your Mother when she says “Nobody asked you, Patrice!!!” Fans, you know what I’m talking bout. ” 😉 What I don’t consider constructive, and I think other parents of kids with special needs-or really any parent-would agree that it is NOT constructive to imply there is a lack of trying on the parents’ part (unless you truly truly believe this and feel it needs to be said nicely)

Yes I know I may be kind of defensive, that is my main flaw and I have let God work on this in me for a long time…interesting he put me in this kind of parenting situation in which I will have to get up to bat for Ethan a lot I imagine..but later I think I will have to be telling people they are underestimating him!

THE BOTTOM LINE

This was rambly, but I guess overall the take-away I want readers to see is that you need to not be so quick to judge a kid without shoes on, a kid with a messy face or hair, or a kid who maybe skipped a therapy goal or two of practice. After seeing just a glimpse of the stuff we have to keep up with as parents, can you really blame us? Even if we skip practicing something, when you see how many things are having to be “caught up” on, including something as simple as nutrition, can you see why we run out of time for some of this stuff? I just try to shift my main focus from one thing to another, getting practice in everything, but focus on one or another. If I need to re-shift my focus, let me know, doctors and therapists and friends, in a nice, non-patronizing way, but we only have so much time in the day.

“Scream”

8 Months Old sleeping in PICU

8 Months Old sleeping in PICU

Just want to scream sometimes,
But that’s what unstable people do, right?
Do you ever get tired of having to be stable?
I do.

Can I just get a pillow or an empty forest?
Something to throw when I’m sick of this scene?
Have you ever had a place that you owe something to-
but you want to wail on its very walls at the same time?

Tell the people inside to just leave you alone-
let me take myself, my kid,
and just go? Yet, you can’t.
Just want to stop the effort, the worry,
and go be “normal”
for awhile,
whatever that means.

So then I scream out to God-
And His answer is the same as before, calm.
Unchanging, saying

“I am here.
I have a plan
And its okay now,
to scream.

Lean on me, quit trying
so hard and let me.
I know what it means to scream, too.”

I wrote this when reflecting on some times in my recent life, in the past few years. Who would like to guess what the inspiration was, what times they were? 🙂 Thankfully, the times I feel like “screaming” are not all that often. But they happen. And I thought some others could relate. Everyone feels like this sometime if we are honest with ourselves.

23 Months and Counting-Totals on words and signs we have reached

This month I thought I would count up how many spoken words and signed words Ethan has accomplished and see what the totals were since he is about to hit a big milestone…2 years!

Here is what I found he can do:

SPOKEN WORDS: 9
ball
banana
“nanas” (his own word, meaning snacks usually)
Momma
Dadda
up
bye bye (or just bye)
pillow (one time so far, this past weekend)
gentle (one time, this past week)

ASL (American Sign Language) SIGNS USED: 31 total (that we can recall, there may be a few more)
baby
book
stars
grass
cold
hot
Daddy/father
down
up
go
please
eat
cheese
more
finished
table
cracker
milk
drink
water
fish
dog
me
bird
help
brush teeth
wash hands
potty
no
yes
hat

NON-ASL GESTURES USED TO COMMUNICATE
“love you” gesture
“kiss” (blows kisses and will kiss when asked)
(BODY PARTS)
touches head
face
hands
nose
hair
“one” or “last one” (holds fingers up to show ‘one’ when I let him know the “last one” is coming up.
“hush” from the Goodnight Moon book, apparently I was doing this gesture (like “shh!” gesture) while reading it and he remembered it.)

FLASHCARD RECOGNITION:
grass
milk
cheese
ball
banana

I think it is so interesting what kids will pick up on first. I’ve noticed most of Ethan’s are motivated by food. He also picks up on words that he hears in songs or books. So those really are important things to do with our kids! The educators weren’t making it up..

Here is Ethan brushing his teeth. I’ve been trying to let him try anything at all to get him practiced up to be independent. I watched a documentary recently and also talked to some family who work with people with special needs, and it made me even more motivated to let Ethan try things as young as he is able (which is often younger than us parents suppose) so that one day he isn’t that adult who has never cooked anything before. Or doesn’t know how to brush his teeth. Or doesn’t select and put on his own clothes. (His OT is already working on him putting clothes on somewhat. 🙂 ) “Disability” or not, I expect my son to be able to do quite a bit for himself!

Ethan brushing his teeth!

PHYSICAL
Walking has improved, but he mostly prefers crawling still. He has more self-motivated walking lately, however. I try to put toys up high or at eye level to encourage walking rather than crawling.

FEEDING
Still working on that straw! He’s had a break lately, but time to practice up! (We were out of town). He is trying some new foods, still mostly eats purees, though.

MEDICAL/COMING SOON
We have an ENT appointment this month that will determine what all he has done surgically. It sounds that tubes for his ears and a bronchoscopy (checking out the anatomy of Ethan’s airways due to abnormalities that actually can cause aspiration from what I gathered..more on this later.) will be a for sure thing, and he will also likely have his adenoids and tonsils removed due to mild sleep apena and swallowing issues. A lot of speech issues are due to kids with DS not hearing properly from the fluid and frequent ear infections they can get from their small ear canals. Ethan has had fluid on his ears a lot recently and I’m anxious to at least have the tubes done. I’m not thrilled about surgeries, but if a tonsillectomy will help him swallow and breathe easier, I’m ready to just get it done. I’ll post about our experience with those things when the time comes. ALSO coming soon, though..a post about Ethan’s Signing Time birthday party. 🙂 I’ll have to be creative because there isn’t already b-day merchandise for this, but its his favorite.

More Bang for your Buck with Baby Stuff (and kid stuff)

Some of these may be well-known, and some not. Either way, I know sometimes I get in a rut and need to hear some tips for me to get more serious about being on a budget or just being smart about getting use out of things. So here are some tips that I have come across so far:

1) MULTIPLY THE USE OF YOUR ONE PRODUCT/TOY. Think of multiple uses for any toy or baby/kid gear you have to increase enjoyment of what you do have, to increase your family’s creativity, and to save on space and money! For example, this inflatable pool is a space saver, but it is also helping us get the most out of what we paid for it (which was around $30 I believe, not bad!) by doubling as both a pool for outdoor use and a large ballpit (or other creative use) for the indoors. (So far we have been using Ethan’s Pack N Play as a ballpit-another way to multiply use of that! Soon that will be rather small for a ballpit for an older preschooler, though.)

I didn't feel like putting all the balls in the pool since he was about it swim anyways.

I didn’t feel like putting all the balls in the pool since he was about it swim anyways.

So much fun to see him play in it this summer now that he can stand in the pool.

So much fun to see him play in it this summer now that he can stand in the pool.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I would think the inflatable pool would be another way to avoid messes when playing with arts and crafts things. I bought the pool at Wal-Mart, by the way, and I ended up buying an all-purpose electronic inflator/deflator. It is worth it. I aired that thing up with a foot pump the first time! yeah..plus it can be used for air mattresses too.

Double use of this product..playpen for indoor and outdoor use that I also use unfolded as an indoor clothesline for Ethan’s diapers. They are only being used for both purposes simultaneously for the purpose of this picture-I know diapers hanging that close to a toddler won’t last. 😉

2) MULTIPLE-USE PRODUCTS/TOYS: Some wonderful companies have created toys that already have multiple uses that can be used for different ages and stages. Some we have or are shopping for are the “Lay and Play” http://www.firstcry.com/fisher-price/fisher-price-ocean-wonders-kick-and-crawl-aquarium-gym/285/product-detail
(with toys dangling above for young infants) that can be later turned into a tunnel. Now, we didn’t actually use it for that. Ethan enjoyed using it for “tetherball” while sitting up when he was older. Another multiple use product that I am shopping for later this week is Little Tikes’ Mirror http://www.littletikes.com/baby-toys/activity-garden-safe-n-fun-mirror/invt/632068 that is lying horizontally for younger babies doing “tummytime” then stands upright for toddlers and preschoolers. I really want one because Ethan could use a large mirror in his room for fun but also watching his own mouth to help with speech development. (also walking incentive). AFter looking into mirrors some, I saw that this Little Tikes one seemed cheaper than the wall-to-wall (or part of a wall) mirrors that originally had popped into my head. Fine with me, I just want him to be able to see himself. And this is more budget and apartment living friendly.

2) MAKE USE OF REWARDS POINTS, COUPONS, AND PROOFS OF PURCHASE. I am not one of those “extreme couponers”, but scouring your Huggies box for a book of coupons and/or Huggies rewards points to enter into your computer is so easy and you can very quickly accrue points to get either toys, DVDs, or even Shutterfly prints if you use disposables exclusively. I was able to get 100 prints from Shutterfly (had to pay shipping, but still a good deal) after just a couple of months of entering the Huggies reward points.

3) IF YOU ARE ABLE TO, TRY CLOTH DIAPERS. We just started this, and now we are wishing we started when Ethan was little ESPECIALLY because he was on Lasix, a diuretic medication, before his heart defect was repaired. In case you are still puzzled, diuretics make you pee like CRAZY. Newborns/infants already pee a lot; infants on diuretics? I wish we knew how much we paid for diapers back then, I’m sure it was astronomical. With an almost two-year-old, we were paying around $20 per week on disposables. So far our utilities seem virtually unchanged since having to wash cloth diapers, and we have even had success with Ethan sleeping in cloth diapers overnight with no leaks. Even though he is almost potty training age, he still doesn’t cue or poop on the potty so we feel it will still be awhile until he’s potty trained and will therefore still get our money’s worth with cloth diapers. Plus you can use them on future kiddos! Something to think about if you are wanting to save money…So many others blog on Cloth Diapering and I’m certainly not an expert, but if you would like more info on our experience feel free to comment and ask.

4) MAKE YOUR OWN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES. There are sometimes things worth buying, but you can replicate almost anything in my opinion. I make Ethan’s flashcards from magazine pictures, drawn symbols, or coupon pictures (like food items.)

Homemade flashcards

These are some of the flashcards I made from index cards and magazine/ad pictures.

Even printing from your computer will probably be cheaper than store-bought flashcards, and you can make them specific to what you know your child will more readily relate to or recognize. I don’t even think kids need as many toys as we have. Kids thrive on being creative with their parents guiding them to make something from empty oatmeal cans, cardboard tubes, etc. And younger kids just enjoy playing with these. There are some awesome children’s toys on the market, so I’m not saying go back to Little House on the Prairie, but try to get creative to save money and help your kid’s imagination. Speaking of cools toys, another tip is…

5) DON’T BE AFRAID TO BUY USED TOYS AND CLOTHES. I think most parents are “onto” this one, but I have a feeling every parent (in the US anyways) has this nagging feeling that they “should” have brand-new things for their kids. Why do we think this way? I’m not too good for used clothes. I LOVE it when someone gives me cute hand-me-downs. So why shy away from used things for kids? They can have more toys if you buy used and are on a budget. And if you just can’t stand the thought of making flashcards or other items because you are overwhelmed with time crunches, maybe looking at used things like this on an occasional shopping trip would be a good thing to consider.

Those are the general tips. The last few are for parents of kids who are on thickened liquids or have special needs…

6)Find out if your child’s insurance (primary or government insurance for special needs) will pay for thickener to be paid for. We spent hundreds of dollars on thickener before we learned that Ethan’s insurance would pay for a medical supply company to deliver a huge box each month to our doorstep! You would think they would tell you this in the hospital but not always…

7) If your child’s special needs cause frequent visits to the doctor or therapies, find out if your child’s insurance or some government entity will reimburse gas money for the visits.

8) Ask as many people, and ask as many questions you can think of pertaining to what might be covered for your child’s special needs. Depending on your state, a child with special needs may even qualify to have Ensure/ Boost or regular diet foods to be paid for by government insurance.

9) In our state, I’m told that children can get diapers paid for by government starting at age 3. (Some kids struggle with potty training and/or accidents when they have certain disabilities.)

PArents of typical kids or parents of kids with special needs, let me know if you have any questions or have something else you would like me to write about! Things vary by state for special needs but I will try to steer you the right direction. What are your favorite ways to save money for your family?