I didn’t want to title this much more than that because when I hear the word-I know what I am thinking of but because of all the negativity, I didn’t want to give it a full title. Basically, while what I want to do as a blogger is educate and share and just journal aloud because I found that therapeutic to hear my thoughts and feelings echoed in other parents..I just don’t want someone to take that as me being unhappy with my son or my life. nothing could be further from the truth. The negativity I speak of is how CBS (echoing what many think and maybe do not say aloud) praised Iceland for “eradicating” Down syndrome. When they say eradicate of course they mean finding out which babies tested positive in an early prenatal test (which isn’t even always accurate, by the way) then aborted them.

So you see, I don’t want someone to search the internet and find things in my blog to make them feel overwhelmed and think okay, that’s confirmation I don’t want to go that route. Really though, people can find something negative about Down Syndrome and more bleak ways that mention all the limitations and none of the blessings and discussions of how they ARE people (what a concept) in cold medical facts or other unbalanced information out there. So I will continue to write about my reality, even if it sounds daunting with Ethan’s medical issues especially. Here is the thing, though” ANY kid can turn up having one or many issues that rock your life. You signed up to be a parent (or you didn’t but you didn’t prevent it so you might decide to keep the kid and here we are. You sometimes will get a kid who is either born medically fragile somewhat or can get that way at any instant, to be honest (accidents, later onset issues, etc.)


So back to pincushion. I labeled it that because I am going to be real that the word ‘pincushion” is what I think of when I think of Ethan (now 5) has to go through on a regular basis. He knows nothing else and has a fantastic attitude, but this is his reality just in a few months:


Ethan is now spending at least an hour in an airway clearance system vest for his chronic lung disease in hopes that anything he might be aspiration or illnesses creating mucous would get shaken up and prevent pneumonia (because that last one in May which was coming on when I wrote the last post on ADHD, actually was BAD. Like we didn’t know how bad until the follow-up visit and the doctors were all wide-eyed and serious and talking to us like they really haven’t since he was a baby and on the vent for flu and pneumonia. He hasn’t actually gotten sick since he’s received the vest but I feel like it may have been put to the test (and passed-yay!) when he had low oxygenation when I spot checked the other night (and also rechecked and did continuous) and we bumped it to 4xs daily for the vest treatment. Two nights later, his oxygen was MUCH better. So that is positive. But still, 1-2 hours in a vest?

He also has had his blood drawn SO much, bless him. Just not the everyday kid stuff you know? Also we were told endocrine will probably want to do this long blood test on him while he’s fasting because it appears he has not grown at ALL in quite awhile, so he may have a growth hormone deficiency. Now to be clear, these things are not all that common in Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome and the likelihood of different “floppy” airways or low muscle tone can factor into the chronic lung disease being worsened, but the CLD is most likely from getting sick as a baby. So again, can’t say its only kids with DS who struggle. They do have higher chances for this or that but it doesn’t mean they will get it OR that your typical kids won’t.

In a little over a month he is scheduled to have his airways looked at while he is asleep. He had this done 3 years ago when he got his tonsils out but its being repeated to be sure there isn’t a laryngeal cleft or something. So blood draws, potentially MORE blood draws (while fasting), and a bronchoscopy all in a few months, likely. And that is when he is well. His patience and strength amaze me. We want him to have the most normal childhood as possible and he really does get to do most of that “kid stuff” with us following him around with medicine and extra caution, of course. Extra caution and extra prayer. That needs to happen more than I have admittedly, but I just enjoy each day and try to not think about all the what ifs. Today he cried when I took his oxygen dots off from the other day and handed them to me like “okay throw those away and lets not use those anymore, mmk?’ Oh and he is doing awesome at preschool. It is so freeing to let him do that again and know that while he might struggle with chronic lung disease for a few more years or maybe always, keeping him out at the age he is now is just not helping anymore so we will take on whatever struggles come from illness but we will know he gets to be a kid. Making a new little friend and making cars go down a ramp at the end of the school day.


ADHD-It’s for real, even for adults. My story, from childhood until now

Yes, I grew up in the 90s when ADHD was starting to be talked about like crazy and it was probably being over-diagnosed like crazy. The medications more commonly given have changed some over the years, but the conversation about ADHD among most teachers, parents, and other adults goes about like this:
“ADHD is just an excuse for kids who aren’t taught how to behave.”
“ADHD can be cured with giving out spankings.”
“ADHD is just a fancy term for kids are watching too much TV and having way too much screentime overall.”

I am not saying that I totally disagree with some of those popular statements, but I am saying that the over-diagnosis of kids with ADHD does not mean that we need to ignore the fact that it is a REAL thing. It is not just a childhood problem, either.

ADHD is a set of symptoms and it is based on what a psychiatrist or therapist/social worker finds when evaluating a child-by discussion with parents and child, sometimes also the teacher or other adult stakeholders. Often some sort of questionnaire is used as well. So real criteria is generally used but it is important to rule out some of the same characteristics that could be explained by life stressors or other mental health issues. So now that I may or may not have convinced you there is something to ADHD, here is my story from childhood until now and how the symptoms affect me as well as how I have managed them without medicine. (I am by no means saying that is the more “noble” thing to do or something. In fact there have been times I have considered I might need to seek out medication for symptoms.)

I grew up in a family of four with both parents in a happy marriage, so my symptoms surfaced in an otherwise calm time without moves or any major social stressors. I excelled and was considered advanced and highly creative by my elementary teachers. Entrance into gifted and talented programs, however, were based on standardized test scores as well and due to what we found was my ADHD-I didn’t do as well as I could on those tests. I have never been one to think tests are everything though, so I will share that my focus and classroom behavior were also affected. I remember getting in trouble in kindergarten to the point my teacher had tell the substitute teacher I was sorry and I cried because I honestly didn’t know what I did wrong. (Guarantee you I kept my mouth running chatting to my friends during instruction time and didn’t notice the sub’s corrections.) In first grade, my desk got moved quite often and finally I was sat by all boys, but they were great fun to chat with as well. Even though I was in advanced reading groups in Kindergarten and 1st grade, I still got Bs along with my As in 1st grade. I will add though, this was the year we all discovered that I was near-sighted and acquired glasses. The teacher had to adjust the blinds to help me see the board and I still couldn’t see it well enough, so that made me get behind sometimes.

In the 2nd grade, we got tested to be in gifted and talented and to my recollection and later discussion-I did well, but my standardized test scores ( that all students took) were not quite as high as the other kids considered “gifted.” As the workload grew with age, I started coming home with loads of homework and my parents discovered that other kids were not going home with that much. I was simply behind from “daydreaming” and also talking to other students or being distracted by every little thing. I cried because I was overwhelmed with all the school work at home, so after discussions with my teacher, my parents decided to take me to a psychiatrist to get “tested” for ADD/ADHD (back then they just said I had “ADD” since it was not related to hyperactivity, but the current DSM calls it all ADHD then there are inattentive or inattentive and hyperactivity subtypes. I was a child therapist and met lots of kiddos with ADHD along the way, by the way. And yes, I came across a few in my job who had previous labels and I attributed their “ADHD” to other things that overlapped with ADHD.)

I went to the psych office and did the computer test where an orange box flashed over and over and if it jumped to the top portion of the screen, I was told to press a button with my thumb (a handheld button). I found it intensely boring and would press it very quickly and clumsily and probably 3-4 times instead of once as instructed because it startled me so much. “box …box…box…ugh this is dumb, OH! oh hurry, press the button, it’s on the top part of the screen!!” Afterward the psych talked to me and gave me some Bit-O-Honey candy, which I thought was gross but took it anyway because I was being polite and I was really weirded out by being in a psych office. (Little did I know where I would be hanging out all day as my career, right?)

I was put on Ritalin in the 3rd grade (and possibly something else as I remember taking white as well as yellow pills at night but I was a kid so I am not sure what it was! If I did some research or asked my parents I could probably find out.)

I will go ahead and get the downsides I remember out of the way-I did not like that it made me less interested in eating as I was somewhat a skinny kid, anyway. This was moreso when I was older (maybe I had a medication change?), but I remember feeling somewhat robotic like “I must get this done…must get this done.” When I think about my social interactions my third and fourth grade years, though, I was still a kid who liked to make others laugh, I loved to dance, I loved my dog and family, etc. I wanted to read through the Bible in a year in the 4th grade and did it in less than a year, alongside the adults at church. That was me, not the meds. I was always very driven to read and brought books to restaurants. So do meds have side effects? Sure. In my case anyway, it may have made me obsessed with finishing schoolwork asap (in the drive to the babysitters house after school), but I was productive and had more time for carefree fun at home. I did not lose weight, ,at least not noticeably or my parents would have mentioned that. Another downside is some adults at school treated me differently because I was “on medicine.” Some of them probably assume that included hyperactivity and defiant behaviors even though I had never exhibited those at all. Some teachers in older grades met me as being an “ADHD kid” and if there were trials of medication being removed, one teacher even told me “I have been informed you have been taken off your medication. You need to watch how you act, I’m watching you.” or something to that effect. It was very unnerving and humiliating (even though she said it one-on-one). I had just said something sassy to one of my best friends in the hallway because she had made fun of my shirt the week before in a note then wore the exact same shirt that day so I repeated her words “Honey, those stripes just aren’t your style.” She laughed, but the teacher apparently thought that made me some budding sociopath. I was actually one of her teachers pets generally, but give a kid a label and medication listing? They see you differently. I also simply forgot to stop by the office to take my Ritalin and after recess was confronted by a school employee like I had intentionally skipped my meds or something. Please don’t treat kids this way if you work at a school.

The PLUS sides of the meds were great-I was not as stressed because I got things done in a timely manner, I didn’t talk out of turn in class as often (I was still a kid and got notes taken up and read to the class though.) My standardized test scores went up into the 90-something percentile and I was asked to be in the gifted and talented program at school, which I did participate in for the last 2 years of elementary school. I still had my creativity-I remember writing stories about a dog after school sometimes.

In the 6th grade over Christmas break, my parents didn’t give me meds and decided to see how I did without them coming back in January. I did really well, so that is the last time I have ever taken a medication for my ADHD. Did it go away? Or never really have it in the first place? Goodness, no. My husband would tell you that in a heartbeat. So here is what I have done to manage my symptoms and what I have reflected on in having ADHD my entire life:

I do think being on medicine helped me see what it was like to study, focus, keep my mouth shut during class (man that’s hard), etc. I think the skills I gained when getting help from a medicine to control those wandering thoughts and behaviors to physically wander as well have all helped me cope. First of all, here are some things I have noticed still are present that fall under ADHD: (from my recollection, I’m not necessarily looking up the DSM right now, but these are some things I have struggled with, followed by things that have helped me cope:
-losing train of thought
-not completing tasks
-disliking tasks that require lots of detail
-multitasking is hard
-losing items
-distracted during conversations and doesn’t appear to listen even when there is no obvious distraction
-go from one thing to another/difficulty sequencing or managing things
-for me, I don’t plan out some things well as far as handmade things-measuring, it being sloppy because I am rushing, etc. That isn’t to say I have never completed things well or made things look nice-I have! It can be hard with my ADHD, though.

I came up with those things that I have noticed in myself as a struggle for years and double-checked an online psych source for criteria for ADHD (I remembered most of them anyway because social work and therapy background, remember?)

Here is what has helped me in all my years of no medication and still managing to hold down complex jobs, getting good grades in my undergraduate and postgraduate work, writing a blog :D, and raising kids and running a household:

-lists, lists, and more lists. Even some of the most basic things make the to-do lists. Google calendars was amazing when I was working and managing all my own appointments for therapy (They were ALL over the place because it was family and school-based. Not office visits only. The schedule could have been an adult with ADHD’s worst nightmare, but I handled it!)
-Labeled alarms-For those who know me, I recently shared a screenshot of my recent labeled alarms that included really basic stuff like “Ask about (son’s) poop!”, “Turn crockpot on”, and “medicine.” Some of you are like “woah, how does this lady function?” probably and wanting to lead me to a dementia unit BUT it’s very possible I would remember those things-but as an adult with ADHD, I can’t really afford to not write out everything and use labeled alarms because all those things I just mentioned for alarms that day mattered.
-Double and triple-checking items before locking up or leaving. It isn’t OCD-its ADHD. I know everyone seems to know checking can fall under OCD, but this is a coping mechanism for someone who is so likely to forget an important item. So I always use the keypad to lock the car because it ensures keys are in hand, and as a result I have only locked my keys in my car twice, ever if I remember correctly.
-I try to ask myself in social situations “Have I been asking this person questions about himself or herself? Or have I been rattling on about myself or my family this entire time?” Sometimes I don’t think about it until later and am embarrassed or nervous that I may have been too one-sided. Which brings me to my next point…

Everyone may not have this effect, but I have seen it in myself as well as kids I have worked with. Because ADHD is misunderstood and it is just something people with typical brains do not have to juggle, it can cause some anxiety or even sad mood or self-esteem issues. (Self-esteem is also real, by the way haha I see you and your judgements…lol) Just like I mentioned at the end of the last section, my ADHD way of having rabbit trails or talking on and on about what is on my mind and sometimes not assessing the entire situation causes me to feel embarrassed about my social engagement, even with best friends! Having friends who are good listeners and some even therpists (ha) makes it probably less noticable that I talked on about myself. Another thing that can cause some emotional distress as a direct result of ADHD is that you know you are different and then others’ frustrated responses which can sometimes be quite insensitive make it worse. I remember a kid with ADHD who was intelligent but veyr much classic ADHD, combined inattentive and hyperactive type, being told by his mother “don’t do it that way-that is a stupid way” When he was trying to do some math problems. That made him dislike math and feel inadequate. This was actually a very nurturing sweet mother, by the way. Well meaning parents just don’t get how to handle their kid with ADHD and the ways they struggle. Even though I was in advanced math classes all the way through school, numbers have this phenomenon of disappearing in my mind when I am trying to do mental math. I am not trying to be funny-it truly happens. So then I start over. IT is an attention thing, not a lack of competency, and it does make one feel “dumb.” If my kid has ADHD I need to research some ways that are commonly effective for math and I am almost certain it would involve all visuals.

In my own experience, I have found that my entire life had included insomnia. Not from anxiety usually and although the “time of the month” factor has held true for many women to lose some sleep the week before, this was a big part of my life way before I started. Like I said, I was given yellow pills at night and I think part of the purpose was to help me sleep. IT seemed to help, anyway. This is how me trying to sleep goes in my mind..(some event as a kid. not an anxiety provoking one, just random. Current event. “I wonder why this is this way?..” Trying really hard to sleep by doing focused breathing and imagining colors…”ice skating! so cool! I hate my ADHD! Awe man I should do a blog post abou ADHD.” haha that’s right, I first thought of this when trying to fall asleep on a kid-free mini vacation weekend with my husband.

I remember going to a psychopharmacology workshop when I was a therapist (currently a stay at home mom) and being shown an MRI or diagram (can’t recall) of a brain of someone with ADHD vs without and the wiring is so different. That actually made me feel more validated that yes, by golly its real and I can’t help it and it doesn’t mean I am slow or dumb-just different (No one has even ever though of me as slow or dumb, by the way, quite the opposite. I was called smartie or whatever. Yet with ADHD or other differences, we find ourselves having those feelings. Something to keep in mind to be sensitive and patient with those having these ADHD characteristics.)

I hope you enjoyed this or learned something! Let me know if you have some handy adult ADHD coping skills and you are welcome to share if meds have helped you as an adult.

What i Expect for my Child from a parent to a new teacher

watermark backpack

I wrote this awhile back in thinking about what I want for my child’s education and the environment he is in all day. School is such a huge part of a child’s life-so much time spent there. Of course I have expectations for my second-born as well, but this was with my firstborn son with Down Syndrome in mind. Here is what I came up with:

1) I expect my child to be considered as much a voice and a student as any other kid. This means even if he is there part of the day, he needs a place to sit-and kids should know who he is. I have heard this story going around the internet that a boy at open house kept asking where his nametag was. So sad! I have also heard parents being similarly left out at open house situations. This is NOT ok.

2) I expect my child to be spoken to, not about as much as possible and for this to be instilled in peers.

3) I expect that if peers are treating my child like a baby that you as the teacher remind the student that “he can do that himself” or “he is too old for you to talk to hi that way.” (and yes, that second topic may require you to have a conversation with the student privately.) I am not satisfied with the notion that people can baby talk, lift/carry, or over-assist my child all they want so long as they aren’t bullying. I’m thrilled if the kids are nice, but I am raising my son to grow up as a 5, 6, 7 year old part of the school and community. I want him to learn , mature, and grow independent-all of which are harder for him than the other kids. He doesn’t need an excuse to slack off or become confused in his role.

4) When we as a family do have concerns or requests, I expect to be heard, not be treated like a burden or pest. I should not have to apologize. I didn’t create the hurdles and neither did you. Our job is to work tougher to help my child have a “level playing field” with others.

5) I expect open communication.
6) I expect you will get frustrated with my child like I sometimes do. That’s ok. Just don’t give up on him, please! We so appreciate you, teachers!
7) I expect you to try to understand my child. He has major speech delays, yes. But there’s so much he does say and you can unlock so much more to help him learn if you take the tie to listen and ask me what things he does and says often mean. HE signs, he says parts of words, whole words, gestures. HE has a PECS book.
8) Also, I expect you will help him communicate with peers. They are all each other’s “teachers” too after all, aren’t they?
9) I expect you to tell me what you need from me to help you be able to teach well. I know your job is overwhelming and me telling you what I expect may amake you want to roll your eyes (hopefully not but depending on the day-maybe so!)
10) I expect you to try. I ‘m not going to barrel into a parent teacher conference making accusations because my child isn’t writing or reading yet. There are SO many factors at play for kids with special needs, I know that. All we ask is you try. Love, Ethan’s parents

Ethan’s words at 4 years old-“Don’t underestimate me!”

image property of better than expected

image property of better than expected

For the first of the post, I am simply copying and pasting the list I made for Ethan’s therapists and teachers when he was actually not yet 4 years old. When I have time I will probably add to it to make it up to date right at age 4. I was curious to look and post this to 1) hopefully not lose it, 2)because I was asked how many words he can say at a doctor’s appointment the other day. I made a guess at “in the 80s, probably.” I was pretty close, and I’m sure there are many words I am missing in the making of this list. When I have said this, I have been met with pleasant surprise to what seems like doubt on the other person’s part (just one person to my recollection.) It made me want to double-check and I am satisfied I gave a correct answer..also, I’m not sure why it should be surprising. Honestly, I would have thought it would be the other way around-hoping that he could say more. He definitely has room for improvement which is why he qualifies for speech three times weekly. But hey-don’t underestimate him! It’s not so unbelievable he can say at least 80 words. And no, it’s not just words he repeats and doesn’t understand-he uses the words on his own! I’m not a speech therapist, so I don’t know the lingo-but its what I would call “self-directed speech” or something like that. He is using the words for genuine communication. Does he do this consistently in all environments? Not always. Maybe his mostly quiet nature at doctors’ visits is the reason for the raised eyebrows and asking me extra questions to be sure I’m not counting words he says on his own, rather than repeated words.

I might be misreading the intent, but it got me to thinking that we probably all do that a lot to people with special needs. If there is a shy or quiet child or adult, do you assume they don’t know what is going on or have as much intelligence? Probably not. (Or maybe some of you do?) So in the same way, we shouldn’t assume a child or adult with special needs doesn’t know what is going on or can’t communicate just because they are not chatting up a storm to you. There is a slogan I’ve seen on t-shirts and so forth that says “Presume Competence” and while it may not roll off the tongue as much as some other awareness slogans, it is so important for us all to remember.

-no , yay! , yummy, (or mummy) mommy, “oh, yea!” daddy sissy, nin nin papa, go, hat, baby, all done, arm, eye, pee pee, night ,”hi!”, me , “Here!” (Hands things to people) , knee , hip, hop, toe, hot, “hold” (requested holding sister ), cracker, ger ger ” for tiger (could be specifically tigger or Daniel tiger sometimes ), scissors , paper, “bye”, you, me, ball, “oh, wait!”, in, on (requesting turning on a battery operated toy for example-hasn’t used for placement (“it is on the table.”) has said “I poo poo” when he went and brought me the wipes.

NAMES-bitsy, –izzy, Bella (extended family dog names ), Emmy (aunt Emily),, “Zaza”for aunt Melissa , ” kiss” (Chris) danny (uncle), said “ther ther ” once for Aunt Heather. Ana and Elsa from Frozen

“Rick” for cousin maverick (sees his often lately but doesn’t say it on his own) , “bye”, (for cousin “Levi”), “, “omi” for Naomi , caught on fast-tried to say Santa and Jesus .” aw” and sign in forehand for me maw, “Vic” pronounces “bic” (grandpas name)
“Ree ree “-Henry the octopus , also refers to any form of octopus as ree ree right now.

Letters “e”, “t”, (says and also recognizes )

“APPROXIMATIONS”-Door,boat, dog , please, more, milk, drink, water, circle, square , red, purple , blue, nose, ear, teeth, treat , house , home, banana, pretzels , yes , book, “Ethan “, (only recently ) , popcorn ,” doh “for play doh or “shadow”. “Per per”-diaper, toot (only when asked to day it, not used on his own yet ) “pone” for phone , “poon” for spoon . Still calls both forks and spoons the name “spoon”. “Bow-” for bowl (drops the l) “key key” for monkey, “-ant” for elephant, drink (just “ink” also typically signs it), cheese, blueberry (for blueberry flavorted yogurt), yogurt, poop (poo)

SIGNING ONLY WORDS- (from wha I’ve seen )-water , hungry (only once ), thirsty (recent ), “thank you”, cold,

He does gestures to get me to understand what particular show he wants at times.

PRETEND PLAY-pretended to be pirate “arg!” Or rowing boat , by those were mostly repeating behaviors from TV show so idk if it counts as true pretend play ( ?), likes to pretend everything is a hat, pretends to be animals, acts out scenes from Frozen (knocking on door and listening if he hears someone sing the snowman song)

RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE/THINGS HE UNDERSTANDS-he can point out his elbow, Tummy, belly button , knees, hips, teeth, hair, tongue, mouth, ear eye, and “privates “, toe …said “Nin Nin” when he saw a driveway with the same gravel as his Nin Nin’s house

You Know You’re a Cloth Diaper Momma When..

1) You have to find different pants for your kid to wear when they’re wearing disposables because there’s not that extra “fluff” to hold the pants up! (Also how you know your a skinny boy’s momma 😉 )
2) You are accustomed to tossing poops in the toilet, even when you are using a disposable and have a diaper pail or genie available (It just makes sense! Doesn’t smell as bad to flush them.)
3) You’re used to your kid’s cutesy printed cloth diapers so when they wear a disposable you think sad and not fashionable. haha

Slogan we are using on t shirts this year (World Down Syndrome Day, etc.)

Slogan we are using on t shirts this year (World Down Syndrome Day, etc.)

4) You get used to sunning diapers and end up doing it for other articles of clothing for stain removal, etc.
5) Your jaw drops when you go on vacation and need to stock up on disposable diapers. Holy COW, the grocery bill just went up!
6) You do a Matrix move to save a disposable from falling on the ground in a public restroom because HECK no, that diaper actually cost me money and we get only one use out of it!
7) The concept of keeping track of how many diapers are in the household or “running out” just doesn’t register because if you cloth diaper, the diapers are always there for you. (not counting being behind on diaper laundry. I only owned 22-24 diapers. Not one of those diaper collectors who have insane amounts . 😉 )
8) You’ve matched a diaper for an occasion (Its a zoo diaper, and we’re going to the zoo…okay, quick picture of that diaper change.)

“Have Yourself A Meaningful Christmas”

Something I have thought about before having kids is to pass on some meaning to the holidays we celebrate-and Christmas most often comes to mind because it is such a well-loved and widely celebrated holiday that it has its own “season”, really. “Christmas Season!” Granted, it is mostly December, although every year it’s prepared for earlier and earlier. Just like my parents did in a lot of ways, I want to make sure we as parents take advantage of the Christmas Season (and other holidays, which I will get to as well) to really teach our kids, in a fun way, what is most important about the holiday.

A little more discussion on Christmas first; then I’ll give a neat little list for some ideas I’ve seen and thought of that maybe you could use with your family as well if you would like to teach some Christian (and in our case, Protestant) meanings of Christmas.

I just love the simplicity and peace of this pic :) we just had the camera on the tripod.

I just love the simplicity and peace of this pic 🙂 we just had the camera on the tripod.

Thoughts on Christmas
So, here are the issues and reasons I feel its best to be intentional about imparting some meaning to our children for Christmas. Not surprising to many, Christmas has more and more become about giving amazing, exciting, and expensive gifts. You can even see signs at the bank for making a “Christmas Savings Account” which really makes me want to gag. Don’t feel judged if you have one of those. If you find it easier to have a savings for Christmas gifts to make it happen, regardless of it being hundreds or thousands you set aside-I just find that the fact those exist and are advertised year-round highlights how much we really focus on gift-giving as a country (as many other countries do, I’m sure.) Also, an unfortunate thing I’ve noticed is that all the fun things we do with kids during the Christmas season really have nothing to do with Jesus or grace-and I know that can be hard because it’s not as in the here and now in a tangible way. Are we, even us churchgoing Sunday School-teacher types-really, truly trying our best to make those lessons tangible? I think we could do better as a whole. Mostly, kids probably think of Christmas Eve as being exciting because of Santa or cookies, or maybe an early present to open; then “oh, lets all go to a dark, quiet, Christmas Eve service and fall asleep on the adults from boredom and sugar crash because that’s what we have to do.”

What if we did some fun things that at least have a hint of the meaning of Christmas so that they’re tangible and easy for kids to learn and remember? And fun for the adults as well? Here are some ideas I’ve had or borrowed:

1)Happy Birthday Jesus Party-This is something my parents did-maybe not every year, but enough that I remember it and enjoyed it. It was probably celebrated before or even after Christmas. The picture I’ve seen shows my sister and I dressed for dance class, so it probably wasn’t even the week of Christmas. And that’s really okay. If travel and commonplace traditions make it so you find little time left for these things (although you could consider cutting what you can out if it’s interfering with a meaningful celebration..), you can do it beforehand. The anticipation of Christmas is all part of Christmas, too! In some ways, no matter what you come up with-the unbeatable tradition of gift exchange is probably going to win out for excitement with our kids, so why not let them look forward to the Happy Birthday Jesus party at an earlier time so it can be enjoyed without kids looking over their shoulders at their presents under the tree? I think one of the big points is to not let Christ be like the vegetables you have to eat before you have dessert, but let Christ have His own place in your children’s lives where they can see Him as exciting, joyful, and fun!

You may notice the Nativity as well as that Santa bowing to Jesus thing I mention elsewhere in the blog post.

You may notice the Nativity as well as that Santa bowing to Jesus thing I mention elsewhere in the blog post.

On a year-round scale, I think our children’s pastor and others I’ve seen out there do a fantastic job in these more modern times of making Jesus something more vibrant and fun for kids. Music, games, and talking about real-life application has taken the place (although not entirely so it loses its narrative meaning) of the quiet, flannel board discussions. I still like the flannel boards, so don’t get me wrong, Sunday school teachers a generation before me! I just like the added emphasis on making church fun for kids and discussing applications a lot.

Back in the 90s what my parents did wsa fun and simple: a Christmas themed table cloth, a manger scene, and a Betty Crocker box cake, and some Juicy Juice. We did a Happy Birthday Jesus party lst year on Christmas morning at our apartment before we went to my parents’ house. Our son was two at the time, but he doesn’t like sweets and it was morning when we chose to do it. What we did instead was let him open his stocking stuffers from us and eat some of his yogurt bites (which to him is as wonderful as cake to the rest of us). We blew up balloons, put the manger scene on the table, and sang happy birthday next to a sign that I made in about 30 seconds on printer paper. No, he can’t read yet, but he probably gets that it signified something and that way he can see pictures and know what was going on there later when he can read. AFter that, my husband read a short summary of the Christmas story from Ethan’s precious moments Christmas treasury book. I may have led us in singing one of the songs in the book too-can’t remember. I felt it got off to a great start!

2) Songs-You can easily get hold of fun, upbeat renditions of Christmas songs that actually include Christ from Christian kids music , to Signing Time Christmas DVD, to Jars of Clay’s Little Drummer Boy song (for the teens, maybe). Putting a little thought into your playlist while you put up the tree can be an easy way to mix in some Christian with some secular holiday favorites.

3) Get creative and mix it up with your usual traditions-We were given some cookie cutters that included the usual gingerbread and snowmen, but also crosses, stars, and little mini chapels. You can talk to your kid about the shapes you’re making and talk about favorite Christmas stories, both secular and Biblical.

4)Go through light displays that also include Nativity themes-or visit a “living Nativity” some Churches do this for a free ministry. Some have plays and you can even pet the animals that are part of the Nativity scene. That is a VERY tangible and fun thing for young kids.

Ethan was stacking ornaments on top of each other. Love that he is old enough to take part in the decorating!

Ethan was stacking ornaments on top of each other. Love that he is old enough to take part in the decorating!

5)Get the Little People Nativity for young kids. They can act out what they’re learning.

6)Movies-Although I haven’t seen all that’s out there, or even many for that matter-depending on the age of your kids you can get a realistic or more cartoon, Veggie-Tale style story of Christmas and related principles. Make a fun family movie night of it and talk about what you watched. It might sound or feel dorky to plan it, especially a discussion part, but its important to getting your kids to learn and talk about it.

7)ADvent Wreath-My parents got an advent wreath in Germany when they lived there, and I think it’s a big tradition there. You light a candle and read a portion of the Christmas story on nights leading up to Christmas. It may not be flashy or seem as “fun” but it Is tangible and memorable-so that’s a lot of what you are going for here.

8)BAlance out the priorities of what you talk about in anticipation of Christmas. This is where some Christians who all want a meaningful Christmas get divided-Santa or no Santa? How much Santa? How hard do we try to make the kids believe Santa’s for Real? It’s a personal choice, but I will say I think the more you go on about Santa, the less time and priority there is for Christ-to me is as simple as that. I’ve worked with kids in daycare, therapy, and teaching settings and I’ve heard several kids equate Santa with God. Well, why not? If Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good and so does God, are they really all that different? Some 4 year olds and even 2nd graders have had some really strange theology going on in their heads because of the whole Santa-God confusion. My kids may even have that confusion just from all they hear about Santa outside the home. For various reasons, we just rean’t going to tell them Santa will get them gifts or be good, Santa’s watching. This post isn’t really about that, so if you’re curious you can comment or message me if you know me personally to ask.

What I will say, though, is this: the message of being good or bad to get something is in direct opposition to the message of Christmas-God’s son coming to give GRACE-an undeserved gift. Pushing both messages are kind of confusing and weird to us, and really just not worth our time. We have year-round plans in place for discipline and rewards. Don’t feel sorry for my kids-they will get presents. The tags will say “from mom and dad”, etc. They will know the gifts are being given to reflect that Christ received gifts and He is the ultimate Gift that we do not deserve. So our kids will not get more or less gifts at Christmas based on how they acted from October to December.

Also, they can watch all the Rudolph and Santa movies they want-I don’t care. We already own them, Ethan got them as gifts last year. Ethan wore a Santa apron to make Christmas cookies last year, which inluded Frosty (big fan of that guy-He makes no demands lol) and Santa. Just to show you I’m not so on the fringe of society that you can’t take my tips seriously.

9)If you do choose to do Santa or Elf on the Shelf (which I’m sorry, but in my opinion is adding yet another distraction from Christ-and just more thing you have to keep up with as busy parents, but hey that’s just me..)then at least try to balance and make if meaningful rather than just a threat that the lifeless doll you bought at Wal-Mart for $20 is creepily judging them. Maybe just make it a reminder or a funny prank to find in the morning or something. (You have all seen the pictures of what those elves are up to at night, right? I mean the clean pictures! You can even make the kids do some kind of Scripture scavenger hunt or find the baby Jesus with the Elf having the note with clues…I don’t know. We aren’t doing Santa, so we sure as heck ain’t doing the dang Elf haha I’m just trying to throw some ideas out there! As far as Santa, you could again go historical and discuss St. Nicholas and what he did for the poor, and that he was a follower of Christ. I can go for that, personally. If you want to tell your kid Santa is bringing their gifts, though, you can discuss St. Nick and get creative in tying that all in with Christ in a way that isn’t confusing. You get to come up with that part yourself .

10) Do your own simple research and find the meaning that people forget in origins of Some Christmas traditions-leave the pagan ones alone (e.g., Christmas trees-but hey, I love trees.) For example, the 12 days of Christmas has roots in the earlier persecuted church symbols so they could celebrate Christ without it always being overt if in danger. Some of those things may be reserved for as your kids get older, but there can always be pieces they can understand more and more of each year. The point is to try and be intentional. If you have a piano or some other instruments in the family, make that something you all do after supper here and there throughout the season and discuss the origin of the songs. My dad read historical stuff to add meaning to holidays. There’s gotta be intention or your holidays WILL just look like a JcPenny commercial. Maybe that sounds wonderful to you because your gatherings look more like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but aim higher. Maybe putting all the pressure off the ONE day in the year when all the aunts, uncles, unresolved anger, and alcohol are all present. (Just going off Christmas Vacation Movie again there. ;)) It is your family-you make the holidays teachable in the way you see fit. I feel like some kind of Christmas Cheerleader here…

11) Decorations and signs-Visuals are great reminders and bring up the curiosity in children. We bought a Santa (gasp! yes a Santa) bowing at baby Jesus’ cradle not because we are big Santa people- if you read above, you know we aren’t-but because I think its a good reminder of what Christmas is about. We have talked about making ornaments with images that correlate to different prophecies that foretold Christ’s birth because that reminds us as well as kids, hopefully, that there was such a desperate need for Christ’s coming, death, and resurrection. We are so blessed because it is already here, but there was a longing for the King before Christ’s coming as an infant. It is also a great way to discuss (with older kids) how they could know Christ as indeed the Son of God (followed up by more fulfilled prophecies on the first Easter, of course.) We haven’t made this yet, but I wanted to mention that idea as well. Perhaps using those symbols in an advent calendar with little treats would also be nice.

12)I also mentioned somewhere else that you could have the kids find the baby Jesus for the manger scene, but since it was in the middle of talking about the Elf, I thought I’d mention it here. Some families do thi and I’m borrowing the idea-you basically do not put baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas Day so the kids anticipate and then see the tangible reminder that Christmas means “Christ is born.” A scavenger hunt would also be fun.

13)Don’t forget to connect the Christmas and EAster stories for kids and teens. If you just talk about baby Jesus rather than that Baby’s reason for coming- well, they may just forget the whole reason was He came and not give it a thought the entire Christmas season.

14)The thing that actually comes most quickly to people’s minds when thinking of a meangingful Christmas is probably doing things for the less fortunate. I think that is a good thing to do year-round and honestly I think you can even focus solely on this and ignore the part about Christ coming to redeem our souls-the physically poor as well. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good way to have a meaningful Christmas season, though! First of all, it is just nice to do obviously, and second of all it culd be a good witnessing opportunity. Finally, I think all of us in the family can benefit from the reminder that not only should we be grateful for what he gives us and to be good stewards of those provisions, but also we should remember that where there is physical need in teh world for food, clothes, etc., we have a spiritual need. Those deeper meangings are best understood by the preteen and teenaged children in your families, but kids of all ages can participate in acts of service for others.

I want us to also have meaningful Easters and my husband and I have also discussed celebrating Passover in a Messianic (Christian) fashion as well. I’ve been to a Messianic Jewish Seder, or Passover Meal, and they definitely have tangible ways to commemorate what God has done for His people-Jewish and Gentile-and seeing the symbolism that points to Christ is really something worth experiencing. The Jewish customs surrounding Passover are really good at helping children understand the meanings. So hopefully I can write about those sometime.

Milestone that deserves its own post…cup drinking!

“Don’t give up until you drink from the (plastic) cup.”
ha little play on words from the America song “Lonely People”…or Jars of Clay who covered it for those of you other young’ns who knew it by that first..

Anyways, after all the frustration and reading and thickened milk all over the kitchen, we finally got a glimpse of progress today! Ethan drank from a cup!! Not with a straw, but with a cup with a recessed lid. An SLP friend told me that was suggested, especially for hte kiddos with thickened liquids (because it is HARD to slurp that stuff up with a straw, much less for kids with low tone!). His OT brought a small coffee commuter mug with a recessed lid for us to try, and he did it a little for her but I still hadn’t seen it since my husband was letting me sleep in that day. (Thanks babe!) So all week long I’ve tried, he’s refused. But today he drank some! And asked for more! He didn’t drhink the whole 8oz, but I’m just thrilled he even took a few sips!

If you go to that website, it was the one my friend suggested. We may get that one as Ethan could hold it easier unless we see something similar and cheaper in stores.