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No Sleep? No Problem.

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As a parent, how often do you rush to meet the wants and needs of your children?  If you’re anything like me, it’s a constant.  And it’s a pleasure, too, isn’t it?  To have the opportunity to pour into a life.  How much more, then, does our Heavenly Father, who is perfect love, pour into us without a moment’s hesitation?  If you can relate, you’ll enjoy this vlog:

Would love to hear from you!!!

Blessings!

Melanie

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God Cares About The Little Things!

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Are there times you feel guilty about praying about the small things?  Especially when there are BIG things going on all around you in world?  Well let this VLOG encourage you today.  God cares about the little things!

Blessings!

Melanie

Mork & Mindy, God’s Calling, and YOU!

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Have you ever wondered what God’s calling is for your life?  The answer is probably much more simple than you ever imagined.   Click the YouTube link below and leave a comment to share your thoughts:

Blessings!

~Melanie

Love Is The Absence Of Judgement

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She was running late.  Could her morning have been more disastrous?  It all began when the battery on her phone died, which meant her alarm didn’t go off.

“I’ve told you over and over again to get a real alarm clock,” were words she could already hear ringing in her ears.  Her mother was quick to offer unsolicited advice.  She always had been.

Throwing off her comforter, the second her bare feet hit the floor, the single mother of two was in a mad dash toward the kitchen to check the time on the microwave oven.  How long had that darned light been blinking?  At some point the power had obviously gone out, knocking her clock into oblivion.  She had no choice.

“Mom, hey…my cell phone died and so my alarm didn’t go off.  Can you believe it?  I was just wondering…what time is it?”  As she asked the question, her eyes were squinted tight.  She knew her mother’s response was going to hit her like a brick in the head.

“It’s about high time for you to grow up, Sarah.  You’re a single mom who needs a job so you can support your family.  How many times have I told you that you need a real alarm clock?  That interview today is important….”

Before her mother could continue, the twenty-something year old with long auburn hair, interrupted.  “Uhhhh, mom, the time?”

“It’s eight-seventeen, which means you’ve got exactly forty three minutes to get to that interview.”  The words weren’t spoken, but were spit at her through gritted teeth.  Unlike Sarah who was currently unemployed, her mom’s current full time job seemed to be constantly reminding her that she was a big failure.

Gathering as much courage as she could muster, Sarah took a deep breath.  “Mom, could I ask you to  come watch the babies?  I’m not going to have time to drop them off at day care.”  Her heart was pounding.  Time was running out and she needed her mother’s help.

Following what seemed to be a dramatic pause, her mom finally answered.  “I might as well be their mother….I’d certainly make a better mother than you.  Yes, I’ll be there.”  Without saying good-bye, her mother hung up.

What her mother couldn’t see was how embarrassed she was that her husband had had an affair, the tremendous toll the divorce had taken on her, and how much her children were suffering because of it all.  Sarah couldn’t recall the last time she’d had a full night of sleep…nor could she remember the last time she’d washed her hair.  If it wasn’t one of the toddlers waking in the middle of the night, it was the other.  They needed water, had wet their bed, had a bad dream, or just wanted to get up and play.  Sarah was a walking zombie.

Sleep deprived and feeling worthless, Sarah pulled into the parking lot just on time…but found no empty spaces.  Driving into the parking lot next door, there was one slot left, but a car had parked at an angle and had taken up most of the empty space.  Carefully creeping into the spot, Sarah tore her skirt as she shimmied out of the six inch space that was left on both sides of her car.

As she opened the front door of the office building, she caught a quick glimpse of her reflection.  What had happened ?  She used to see beauty when she stared back at herself, but now saw unkempt hair, dark circles under her eyes, and a frumpy frame.  Wiping a quick tear from her eye, she shook her head to clear her mind and entered the building.  She had to have this job.  With this salary along with the child support, Sarah could keep her home.  Without it, she’d have to move in with her parents.  “That can’t happen,” she whispered, racing to the second floor of the building.

Stretching out her hand, Sarah gently took the hand of the towering man before her.  “I’m Sarah Johnson, here about the office job.”  Forcing a smile, she did her best to appear warm, friendly, and capable.

Her heart dropped, though, when he told her there was no need for an interview. She was a few minutes late for the interview, and for her would-be boss, that told him all he needed to know about her character.  She was ushered out before getting a chance to explain herself.   To make it all worse, when she made it out to her car, someone had taken the time to leave a note on her windshield to express what a horrific driver she was to have parked in such a tight spot.  In addition to several expletives  the letter called her an idiot who didn’t deserve to be on the road.  Crumpling up the paper in her hand, she sat in her car and cried.  How could she go home and face her mother or her children?

Just as she was ready to bang her head on the steering wheel and scream, her cell phone buzzed.  It was her neighbor, a middle-aged widow who loved to come visit her and bring fresh bread.  Picking up the phone, she read the text.  “Praying for you.  No matter what happens today, just be reminded that God sees ahead and knows.  He’s at work right now preparing a way for you.  Trust Him.  He believes in you and so do I.”

The question is this:  Who are we?  Sarah?  Sarah’s mom?  The Would-Be Boss? the person who left the note on her car?  or the neighbor?

Do we lead with compassion and love?  Or with Judgment?

There are so many lessons we can learn from the special needs community, but I think one of the most important is about judgment.  They don’t judge.  Ever.  I guess when God created these amazing individuals, he just took the judgment gene right out of them.  And you know what?  They’re a lot happier than the rest of us.  The key, I’ve come to believe, is that they don’t really have much of an expectation of others.  Their primary expectation is for themselves, and they give 100% every day.  If you’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to you…but if you’re not nice to them, they’ll still be nice to you.  Because they’re kindhearted.   It’s who they are regardless of who you are.

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If you’re frumpy, grumpy, running late, or running on empty…they’ll never judge.  Instead they’ll love you, flaws and all.  And it’s powerful.  There is something incredibly disarming about being in the presence of friends who always lead with love.

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I once heard it expressed that “expectations are premeditated resentments”.   And I believe it’s true.  It’s our expectations that entrap us.  Think about it this way…if we always imagine people have a reason for doing what they’re doing, as with the case of Sarah in this example, it’s much easier to lead with kindness.  Which leads to a much better life for everyone.  It’s not about encouraging people to be victims, but about erring on the side of forgiveness…and believing the best in people first.

Maybe that person who was late to the meeting had an alarm clock that didn’t go off as planned…perhaps their intentions were pure and they feel really horrible about being late.

Maybe the reason that person parked in the tight parking spot next to you, making your efforts to get into your car uncomfortable, was because there were no other spaces.

Maybe she’s a single mom, raising two young children on her own for the first time.

You get the idea.

Grace.  Mercy.  Redemption.

It’s who Jesus IS.

And Who we’re supposed to pattern our lives after.

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In this process, will we sometimes give a free pass to some nasty, thoughtless, inconsiderate individuals?  Of course.  But who cares?  What does it really matter?  In the whole scheme of things, especially in light of eternity, what matters most is the “who” we choose to be.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.    ~Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)

Just my rambling thoughts today.

~Melanie 

Patience Is A Conquering Virtue

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Can you imagine what it would be like to be nonverbal?  I mean, completely non-verbal?  Not one word.  Ever.

That’s the life of Hope and Charlie.

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The way they communicate is the way I would communicate if I was non-verbal.  Through behavior, they show me how they feel and what they want or need.

Big hugs mixed with giggles means they’re happy.

Pulling me to the pantry or the fridge means they’re hungry.

Peering out of a window means they want to go outside.

Sounds simple enough, right?

At times, though, being non-verbal is so much more complicated.  A bit tricky even.  Because sometimes Hope and Charlie want to tell me they’re feeling frustrated, sad, or angry.  Other times they want me to know they had a bad dream or that they feel bored or that they have a tummy ache or that they miss their big brother so much it hurts.  During those times, they might throw things, pull my hair, melt down into a heap of wild and wooliness on the floor….or else find a corner to hide in with head down as if wishing to give up and disappear.

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I wish on every single star every single night that they could be given the gift of speech.

But at this point, those stars are not the wishing kind.

So we keep waiting, sojourning together, working with sign language, picture cards, and iPad apps….hoping to make communication easier.  Not giving in.  Not giving up.

I try to put myself in their shoes.

Would I want to try different foods?  Explore different places?  Meet new people?

If I would, they would.  Even though they can’t tell me.

So we mix it up.  We try new things.  Sometimes we score big…other times it’s a total bust.  But we try.  Together.

We’re partners in the truest sense of the word.

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Oh, you may say, that requires so much patience.  Indeed it does, but not on my part.  I have it easy.  I have the voice.

It’s the Hope and Charlie’s of the world who can teach us all about what it means to be patient and to endure.   Stop for a minute and think about all the things we get impatient about day after day.  A restaurant forgot a portion of our to-go order.  The traffic light took too long to turn green.  The lines were too long at the grocery store.  Our order from Amazon didn’t get delivered quick enough.  The pastor preached beyond his time limit.  A friend didn’t return a text until the next day.

We complain.  We grumble.  Then we post about it on social media.

And even worse.

We feel entitled.

To an easier lifestyle.  To fast service.  To perfection.

UGH.  Isn’t it supposed to be the millennials who have the entitlement issues?  haha.

I didn’t realize I had this mentality until Hope and Charlie came into my life, turning the world completely upside down.  Or right side up.  Yes, definitely right side up.  They blasted into my space with their extra chromosome and shook things up big time.  Changing my priorities.  Showing me the difference between what’s important and what’s a throw-away.  I don’t have it exactly right yet, but they are certainly teaching me.

How long will it take mom to find the splinter in my finger?

When will it dawn on her that I need her to lie down with me for a little while at night before I go to sleep because I’m afraid of the dark?

How can I let her know she’s tying my shoes so tight I can’t feel my toes?  that bananas make me gag?  that I’m scared of bumble bees?  that I can’t manage steps too well?  that I fell off of the swing today?  that I lost my tooth two days ago?  that someone stared at me and made me feel bad?  that I can’t find my favorite toy?  that I nearly choked on a piece of candy?

Until she figures it all out, I’ll manage.  Making the most out of life.  Wearing a smile.  Giving hugs.  Being happy with all I’ve been given.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be nonverbal?

Can you imagine what it would be like if we were all so patient?

Just my rambling thoughts.

~Mel

When The Heart Of America Stops Beating

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There was a time in America’s history when individuals who had special needs were locked away from society, imprisoned in institutions.  And during that time, those defenseless individuals were experimented upon, subjected to routine abuse, and neglected.  Read here and here and here … just to link a few articles that elaborate on the subject.

Reliant upon a wheelchair, and unable to utilize her arms and legs due to a rare form of arthritis, my grandmother was significantly disabled.  I vividly recall a time when there were no handicapped restrooms, parking spaces, or ramps … when we’d have to spend time locating a door wide enough for her wheelchair to fit through.  Her hands were so gnarled with the disease.  People would stare and treat her as if she didn’t belong.  My grandmother went home to be with Jesus, receiving complete healing, before the laws changed thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) … and before attitudes changed.

As a country, we’ve experienced twenty-seven glorious years of acceptance, tolerance, and inclusion … where as a nation, we’ve genuinely worked to live up to the greatest document ever written by humans where “All men are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Have we been one-hundred percent successful?  Of course not.  We’ve failed from time to time, but as a whole, over the last three decades, we’ve chosen to look at all life, regardless of ability or disability, race, or sexual orientation as valuable and worthy.

Special Olympics is a tremendous force of positivity that has reached out and touched nearly every individual on the planet at some point in time.  We’ve rooted for those amazing athletes to overcome obstacles.  We’ve cheered for them as they’ve exceeded even their own expectations.  And we’ve learned from them, haven’t we?  How incredible is it to watch one special needs competitor reach out to encourage another?  Do they want to win?  Absolutely!  But not at the expense of their friends.  That’s the way it is in the world of those who are special.  They bring a breath of purity and goodness that we all need.

Best Buddies, birthed from the same family who gave us the Special Olympics, is another powerhouse organization determined to break down the wall that divides the typicals from the specials by initiating friendships between the two worlds.  If you meet anyone who has ever been involved in the Best Buddies organization, you’ll find that the typical peers receive as much (or more) of a blessing than the individuals who have intellectual challenges.  Their focus is to end the social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities and they are doing it…one relationship at a time.

I was once the young girl who loved her grandmother more than words can express.  I never saw her disability, because to me she was perfect.  Now, fast forward the reel by three decades, and I’m ironically called “Mom” by two special needs kiddos.  And to me, they, too, are perfect.

Thankfully, the world my children have lived in has been much more accommodating than the world my grandma lived in.  Schools offer inclusion, I can always find a parking space near the front door of any grocery store, and people are generally kind to Hope and Charlie.  But it is becoming overwhelmingly evident that this generation may be sliding into retreat mode.  These headlines should scare the heck out of us:

Seattle-area high school football players charged with attempted rape of special needs student.      

White Football Player Accused Of Coat Hanger Assault On Black Teen With Disabilities Will Avoid Prison.

Student at Silverado High School Arrested For Assault of Special Needs Student

STUDENT ARRESTED FOR ASSAULT OF SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENT IN SANTA CLARITA

JCPS, LMPD investigating sexual assault on special-needs school bus

Trial set for Springboro teen accused of special-needs student assault

Shocking Videos Show Teacher Abusing Special Needs Student at Greenville High School in Mississippi

Teacher’s awful mistreatment of special needs child

Special education teacher charged with abuse gets immunity

Police Officer Who Killed Ethan Saylor, Unarmed Man With Down Syndrome, Won’t Be Indicted

And now, today, we hear reports about the torture of an eighteen year old man who has special needs in Chicago :

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Four perpetrators, one who reportedly went to high school with the boy, not only tortured him relentlessly, but posted video feeds of the abuse on Facebook for the world to see.   Binding him, they beat him and taunted him relentlessly with racial slurs and verbal attacks against Donald Trump.  They also forced the defenseless young man to drink water from a toilet…cut his clothing with a knife…and partially scalped him.  The cruelty was put on display for the world to see.

In response, one would expect the Chicago Police to be sharp, unwavering, and stern.  But no.  In the first public statement, Cmdr. Kevin Duffin said:

“Although they are adults, they’re 18. Kids make stupid decisions — I shouldn’t call them kids; they’re legally adults, but they’re young adults, and they make stupid decisions,” Duffin said.  “That certainly will be part of whether or not … we seek a hate crime, to determine whether or not this is sincere or just stupid ranting and raving.”

  

What is going so terribly wrong with our society?

When did it become our first instinct to try to find an excuse for this type of abhorrent behavior?

In Psychology 101, we learn how it’s human nature to feel protective over babies, puppies, and kittens…that something innate kicks in, even in children,  inducing the strong to care for the weak.

Could the same case not be made for those who are disabled?

That as a society, it should be an innate quality that we feel the need to care for individuals who are defenseless or who are mentally and/or physically challenged?

However, when the trait that causes those who are strong to look after and to care for those who are weak is missing, as has been studied in the cases of children who abuse animals, psychologists warn this is a red flag.  (link here ; and here )

What would cause one who is physically and mentally superior to attack someone or something weaker?

Even in the case of children?

The answer, if not a diagnosed mental imbalance, is violence and/or abuse.  Studies show abusers have either been abused or have been witness to abuse and/or violence.  As it turns out, abuse begets abuse…and violence begets violence.

No one would disagree that we live in a day and time when violence permeates tv, movies, music, video games, and the news.  We’ve allowed it.  Supported it.  Turned a blind eye to it.  And now we are reaping what we’ve sown.  Just recently I heard about a new reality tv show coming to Russia.  It is modeled after the “Hunger Games” and will be available to stream live 24 hours a day at the touch of a finger:  Russian TV is literally making a ‘Hunger Games’-style show that will ‘allow’ rape and murder .

It’s time for change.

We must firmly stand together against violence, promoting love above all else.

We must defend the weakest among us as a standard.

And we must uphold our creed that all people are created equal.

The heart of America is at stake.  

Love wins.

Empathy wins.

Inclusion wins.

Abuse begets abuse.

Violence begets violence.

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Just my thoughts.

~Melanie

3 Ways To Succeed As A Special Needs Parent

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To survive is one thing.  To thrive is another.  Being a special needs parent is not a blip of time that quickly ebbs and flows without much of a hitch.  Far from it.  It’s a lifelong role that will wear you out, twist you up, and throw you down … there are so many hitches!!!  

The good news is you have options.  Here are three simple strategies we can all utilize to succeed as special needs parents right now:

FIRST:  This is your life, so make the choice to love who you are and what you do.  Try this.  Right now, wherever you are, close your eyes for just a couple of seconds to envision your special needs child.  How do you see her in your mind’s eye?  Carefully take in her face and all that makes her unique.  Is she smiling?  Does the sound of her cute giggle melt you?  Can you feel her fingers entwined with yours?  I’m guessing those images make you feel joyful.  This is no trick … it’s a scientific fact.  When we stop and meditate on people we love, our bodies release serotonin.  It’s an instant mood booster.  So whenever your journey seems more than you bargained for, when you’re feeling worn out and pushed beyond your limits, go back to this place.  Hesitate and meditate.  A dose of happiness is always within our reach and is as simple as a choice we can make.

SECOND:  Recognize the difference between a calling and an assignment.  If you are a special needs parent, hear me say this:  You have been called!  It doesn’t matter whether you were given this child through birth or through the gift of adoption, you have been chosen.  When people say to you:  “God only gives special kids to special people”, it’s the truth. Embrace it. Believe it.  Accepting a calling is much more effective than merely tolerating it.   And through acceptance, psychologists guarantee you will find empowerment.  But how?  It’s actually very simple.  Practice by saying it. Speak it out loud with words:  “This is my calling in life and I can do it!”  When our brains hear us speak with authority, our bodies comply by believing it.  The same is true when we speak negatively out loud, so don’t!

THIRD:  Be real.  While you can choose joy and accept the fact that this special needs journey is a calling, you must still give yourself permission to be real.  Every single day, your child is completely dependent upon you … and this may never change.  Perhaps she’ll never move out on her own, drive a car, marry, or juggle her own medical appointments.  The monumental nature of your responsibility sometimes feels overwhelming and the “what if” moments hit you like a mack truck hurling from the sky.  In those times, it’s necessary to be real.  Cry if you need to….hire a babysitter, go out for coffee, schedule a vacation, talk to a counselor, write your thoughts in a journal, confide in a friend, join a church, or take yoga.  Do whatever is right for you, but do something.  Denial can produce depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and a host of other health issues.  So be real.  Be you.  And remember, no one expects you to be perfect.

Don’t we all have the same goal?  Being the best we can be for ourselves and for those who’ve been entrusted to us?  By implementing these three simple strategies, we can take on this challenge and find success.  We are in this for the long haul.  We are in this together.  And our kiddos are worth it!

Just my thoughts!

~Melanie

When Being A Special Needs Mom Is More Than You Bargained For

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Charlie entered my life through the gift of adoption just over eight years ago.  He has an extra chromosome, is on the Autism spectrum, remains non-verbal, and has sensory processing issues that often send him caving in the nearest corner.  The baby of our family, he is also my sweetest cuddle bug and has me absolutely wrapped around every single one of his fingers.  For me, Charlie is perfect; in fact, my life is complete because of this little Cheese Puff:

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It’s not an easy journey, however.  Selfless love is never easy.  I’m Charlie’s caretaker twenty four hours a day for seven days each week where I serve as his head chef, his clean up crew, his security detail, and his best buddy.  Most of the time I succeed.  When I walk into any room, I break down each and every nitty gritty twist, angle, and point of view to locate all potential threats or hazards within seconds.  Charlie can’t grasp danger, so that’s my job.  Most of the time I succeed, but sometimes I fail.  And in those times when I fail, my buddy doesn’t have a voice that allows him to summon me for help.  Today was one of those days.

Can you see that ring around his right ankle?  At some point during the night, Charlie managed to get a cord from a toy tightly wound around his ankle.  Thank God it didn’t cut off all circulation.  It was so tight, however, his foot turned blue.  He can’t tell me how long he stood still beside his bed waiting on me to rescue him.  It could’ve been hours.  He can’t tell me how badly he was frightened or how much it hurt.  All he could do was just stand there beside his bed waiting for me.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Trust me, this is more than any special needs mom ever bargains for.

As the momma of two kiddos who have special needs, my guard is always up and I am always on.  That’s not a prideful statement, but a necessary fact.  I’d rather let down the rest of the world than to disappoint them.  I must’ve said I’m sorry one-hundred times or more as he collapsed into my arms.   And you know what?  My love for him was enough.  Because love conquers all fear, pain, disability, hurt, and trauma.  Cuddled into my arms, the thought of being upset or angry with me never entered Charlie’s mind.  Love fixed it all.

I correlate so much of being a special needs momma to our incredible Father who loves us so selflessly that He took all of our sin and imperfections and died for us, redeeming it all.  We take pride in how intelligent, successful, or physically attractive we are…but the Savior sees us as a bunch of special needs kids.   Just like Charlie, sometimes we get into an awful predicament.  And perhaps we’re so trampled by life, stifled by our circumstances, or so broken that we can’t find our voices to call to Him for help.  So we wait.  And wait.  And wait for Him to come.  Know this, friends…not only is He always coming for us, He is always there.  We don’t even have to call.  And no matter our situation, He loves us beyond measure.  Yes, love conquers all.  It fixes everything if we allow it to.

This is what Charlie has looked like ever since being freed:

Tuckered out after a trauma-filled night, the little man won’t leave my side.  Even in a zombie-like state of sleep, when I move, he moves.  So I just sit here beside him, listening to him saw his logs, allowing him to feel safe.   I am his security detail, after all.   It’s part of the job.

In the same way, if you’re going through a particularly difficult time, know that God is right beside you, wanting you to feel safe in HIS arms.  He is your security detail, after all.  It’s part of the job.  Let Him be your comforter today.

Just my thoughts…

~Mel

Five Tips To Take On The Holidays With Special Needs Kiddos

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The holidays are here.  Those four words make me break out in hives every single year.  As a special needs momma, I’m giving my best effort to parent two kiddos who have Down syndrome, who are non-verbal, and who have sensory processing issues.  When the holidays come around with bright blinking lights, merry music, frigid temps, Santa, Rudolph, and those darned elves…well, it unravels all of the progress I’ve made throughout the year.  My sweet children turn into wild leaping monkeys who make baby dinosaur screeching noises every time they hear Feliz Navidad.  Why, oh why, must that song be played constantly from Thanksgiving day on?  While others sit with hot cocoa admiring their twinkling tree and holy manger scene, I do well to make sure the baby Jesus doesn’t get flushed down the toilet.   At this moment, he’s missing…and what is a $29.99 nativity set from Walmart really worth with an empty manger?  Wherefore art thou baby Jesus?

Determined to survive, I’ve come up with five tips to take on the holidays:

Tip 1:

Be willing to make changes.  For instance, if you would spend the holidays pulling your child off the Christmas tree because he or she is determined to climb it, then don’t put a tree up.  It’s not the end of the world to not have a Christmas tree.  My daughter is eleven years old…and I haven’t had a Christmas tree in eleven years.  It wouldn’t last a minute in my house, especially now that I am outnumbered with two of them.  And why would I want to fight about a tree?  The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy for everyone…including me.  So, if it’s going to be a battle, it’s out.  Period.

Tip 2:

Create new traditions.  While I don’t put up a Christmas tree, my house is decorated both inside and out.  My walls are covered in sparkly red and white snowflakes, I’ve hung a large felt banner that says “Merry Christmas”, and ornaments are hanging from every door frame.  Holly drapes from windows and sparkly tinsel hugs the top of my kitchen cabinets.  Everything is secure and placed out of reach of little fingers.  The kids love it, and because they love it, so do I.  It works for us.  And if I want that cup of cocoa while sitting around a perfectly decorated twinkling tree, I’ll hire a babysitter for a few hours and find a coffee shop or a fancy hotel for that.  It’s all about balance.

Tip 3:

Be willing to have everyone come to your house for family holiday celebrations.  Chances are your house has been proofed for special needs kiddos while other family members’ homes have not, so to make life easier on everyone involved, just have celebrations at your house.  Don’t take on too much, though…order a pre-baked turkey or ham and have everyone else bring a side dish.  While it’s normal to want to go out to enjoy festivities away from home, it isn’t always practical.  Why not give your family the best chance to have a successful celebration?  Keep it at home when it involves the kids.

Tip 4:

Let your child dictate what she wants her holidays to be about.  Don’t get hung up on reading The Night Before Christmas, stringing popcorn, and making a gingerbread house.  Perhaps those were traditions you enjoyed when you were a child, but your child is unique and will have her own preferences.  My two kiddos love music and enjoy dancing more than anything else, so every night leading up to Christmas, we jack up the holiday tunes, put on our socks, and dance through the house like a bunch of crazy kooks.  Waving our arms around, jumping up and down on the beds, and sliding across the wood floors…Christmas is a celebration.  They have a blast as I burn off all of my extra peppermint bark calories.  It’s truly a win-win.

Tip 5:

Don’t put Christmas in a box.  Gifts are meant to be placed in boxes and wrapped up in bows, but Christmas is not.  Too often we get hung up on what Christmas is supposed to look like.  Hallmark Christmas movies drip with romance…church musicals usher in holiness and majesty…while tv commercials pull on our heartstrings (and pocketbooks) with tradition and nostalgia.  Christmas is all of those things, yes, but so much more.  It’s about love, acceptance, and celebration.  Whatever that looks like to you.  So, you are hereby granted the freedom to create your own thing.  Step outside of that box and go for it!

As you prepare to bring in the season, keep in mind how unconventional that first Christmas really was.  Jesus came to us by way of an unwed mother.  Born in a cave that was inhabited by animals, his first visitors were the poorest of the poor who had nothing to give.  There was no Christmas tree, no turkey dinner, no tales of St. Nick…and the only twinkling lights were from the stars in the heavens.  The gift that day was simple, and it’s a profound gift that has continued to be given each and every year since.  Jesus had a mom and dad who loved him and who would protect him.  And that was enough.  In fact, it was perfect.

images-2These are my thoughts on the holidays…may you and yours have a blessed season!

~mel

Understanding The Special Needs Mom

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The human brain’s primary goal is simple:  Keeping us safe and ensuring our survival.  Every time we formulate an opinion of someone, whether it’s a sixty second introduction or a lifelong connection, that opinion is based on whether our brain has determined we are safe or not safe in that relationship.  And often, we form those opinions in less than one minute of meeting someone.  We are a shallow bunch, right?  Within sixty seconds of meeting a brand new human being, our brains fire up life experiences, prejudices, and pre-conceived notions in order to size that person up.   There’s no fact-finding or exploration to the brain’s archaic process at all.  Our brains, then, are wired to feel instantly secure with people who are much like ourselves.  We not only want to survive and thrive, but we also want “our kind” to survive.

The mind of a special needs mom, however, is notably different which is one of the many positives that comes along with this unique journey.  Her primary goal is to not only keep herself alive (so she can necessarily take care of the special one in her life), but to also keep her child safe and to ensure his/her survival on a planet where individuals who have intellectual and/or physical disabilities are too often marginalized.  As a result, her brain is re-programmed to not sum people up in less than one minute.  The special needs mom, in fact, throws everything she ever thought she knew out the window the moment she comes face to face with her child.  In a flash, life is no longer the same…and never will be again.  Pre-conceived notions?  Prejudices?  Life experiences?  They no longer hold any sway over this mom, because her measuring stick has transformed into a magic wand…the woman suddenly wants to save the world.

When life flips to something brand new and unexpected in the blink of an eye, everything flips along with it.  From this point on, she’ll give everyone a chance to be kind and good and patient and accepting…because her child’s survival depends on the human race being what it needs to be.  Special needs moms, for instance, constantly seek out and watch to see how people view her child.  She can spot a soft face, a smile, and understanding eyes even in a large crowd and she will return the smile.  Always.  If you don’t believe me, try it sometime.   In addition, she’ll thoughtfully listen to how people respond to her child, hoping for the best.  Kindness and warmth, even when void of understanding, go a long way.  And when someone takes the initiative to bend down and look eye to eye with her little boy, it will catapult her heart into the heavens.  That one simple act speaks volumes:  “you have value” … “you matter to me” … “I don’t see myself as any different than you”.  By choosing to serve others, even with the simple act of intentional kindness, you are a living sacrifice.

Romans 12:1  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”    

To a special needs mom, you can be cultured and educated or crass and unrefined…liberal, conservative, or a person who doesn’t give a hoot about politics…none of it matters.  As long as you have true compassion and acceptance for those who are physically and/or intellectually challenged, you are in her circle for life.  She’ll love you instantly and forever, because you and “your kind” actually are the key to the survival of the special needs child and the world as we know it.

The following pictures are of a little fella who was born with Down syndrome in an Eastern European country.  The first picture is of him in the “baby orphanage” when there was still hope for him finding a forever family.  The second picture is of him only a few months later, after being sent to a “mental institution” when he wasn’t adopted.  The final picture is of his grave.  Without touch, love, acceptance, and proper care, he died.  This is the reality of the world we live in.

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In our country, you might say, this kind of thing would never happen.  And you’re correct.  In the United States, an estimated 75% of children who are prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted….in other countries, that figure jumps to 90%+.  Because of a genetic test, children who are diagnosed with an extra chromosome while in the womb don’t even get a chance.  The statistics are staggering.  There is no middle ground.  As citizens of this earth, we either value all life or we don’t value life at all.  Life not only matters while in the womb but also AFTER the womb.  It’s life y’all.

Consider for a moment what a world without individuals who have special needs might look like.  It would present an existence where the concepts of compassion, patience, and unconditional love are absent.  Every human being has a purpose, even those who by the world’s standards are less than perfect.  This is why the mind of a special needs mom is wired so differently.  Our mission is not about the survival of a political party or a church denomination…our mission is about saving the best part of the human race.  The human race, at it’s very best, is not power and strength…but when we purposefully choose to bow our power and strength to acknowledge the value of one who is considered “the least of these”.

“…and whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”  Matt. 25:40

Just my thoughts.

~mel