Monthly Archives: March 2019

Get Out of Town!


**The following is another article I wrote for Southeast Texas Family Magazine in October 2018.  It was written about travelling in the fall, but I am typing this up now, realizing that my impulse to travel is apparently pretty high in the spring, too!


cold trip

One of the perks of living in SETX is having an extended period of beautiful weather.  Travel and exploration doesn’t have to come to a screeching halt just because school is in session.  Families can enjoy this season, and the benefits of traveling in autumn.  This time of year, my wanderlust kicks into high gear, and I conjure up excursions for my family.
I tend to keep our fall family trips short and easy.  Small road trips are easier to pull off with several kiddos who also need to get back to learning (bonus points if they can learn on the trip!) and are perfect for a weekend getaway.  Just because the vacations are shorter and closer to home, doesn’t mean they have to be less exciting.  With a little creativity and effort, you can turn even the drive itself into a fun adventure.
My favorite time to embark on a journey is late afternoon.  By doing this, I give my kids time to peruse and sample the crate I pack full of entertaining activities such as: extreme dot-to-dot, interest-oriented magazines, window clings, sticker-by-numbers, face-making sticker books, word searches, travel games, and more.  Just about the time their interest starts to wane, the sun is setting, and the party really ampls up.  I pass out glow sticks, bracelets, and necklaces.  My children wear some, using the majority to create a glowing chain to stretch around the perimeter of the back seats, hanging from the clothes hanger hooks.  We recently discovered glow balloons for the floor as well.  This is also the perfect time to introduce a fun new album or podcast.  We have rocked out to “Teen Beach Movie”, belted out with Toby Mac, as well as been enthralled by the “Adventures of Finn Caspian” podcast.

My kiddos have always been good travelers, but they particularly enjoy these mobile parties, complete with individually packed snack bags they can partake in at their leisure.  I choose foods that are easy to clean up after, and can replace a sit-down or fast food dinner.  Offerings along the lines of pepperonis, cheese sticks, chips, grapes, nuts, and trail mix keep them happy and full  It’s especially exciting to surprise them with treats that they rarely get to indulge in.
Inevitable, even the best of travelers do grow weary of deriving, and since it is night, they all snuggle into their blankets and pillows, and drift off to sleep to the sound of peaceful instrumental music, surrounded by the soft light of their glowing creations, leaving my husband and me quiet time to talk and enjoy each other’s company until we reach our destination.

hats for trippin
We always have a blast on our short vacations, taking advantage of cooler weather, smaller crowds, and cheaper prices, but I absolutely love cruising with my family, and having the journey be just as fun as the destination.

Simple as Dirt

In an age bombarding us with promises of entertainment, we often feel that bigger, more complex, and more expensive ways to make our kids happy are best.  However, I have realized this is exhausting, and there comes a time when slowing down and enjoying the simple pleasures in life is much more appealing.
dirt 1
     Spring has definitely sprung in Southeast Texas, and we have begun to venture out, looking for fun after the long, cold winter.  Creation is all around us is teeming with new life, and it seems the whole world breathes a collective sigh of relief at the freshness of the arrival of the season.
I keep losing my kids throughout the day, only to find them reveling in the outdoors in our backyard.  To them, there is nothing better than playing in the dirt.  Their imaginations run wild as they dig child-sized holes under the cypress tree, bury each other’s legs, make and hide time capsules (I’ve lost most of my Mason jars this way!), and create the ever-popular mud pie.  They have also developed a love for digging up a various assortment of crawly creatures.  They’ve unearthed beetles, millipedes, earthworms, and massive grub worms.  To my delight as their mom and teacher, these findings have resulted in impromptu science lessons and more exploration.
grub worm
My husband, too, couldn’t wait to get his hands in the soil this spring.  He has tilled and composted to his heart’s content, and planted fruits and vegetables with the kids, that we are anticipating harvesting later this summer.

Most of all, the backyard activities have been a great way for us to connect and interact with each other.  We don’t have to get dressed up, loaded up, and headed off to Somewhere Else.  We don’t have to fret about how much money the day will cost.  We can just be laid back, enjoying each other in the midst of the chaos surrounding us.  It has been restorative to be still and contentedly soak in the happiness of these moments with the sun on our faces.
Years down the road, we may not remember the bowling score, the video game, or what movies we saw, but we will always have the memory of  living in the little moments as we played in the earth together.

     Happiness can be dependent on many complex things, but sometimes it is as simple as dirt.
Ru and Lill

A Special Kind of Love–Raising a Special Needs Child

By Mehgan Drake

Raising children is always worth it.  But let’s face it–parenting is hard.  Being a special needs parent takes that up a level.  We are often tired, lonely, and battling things you could hardly fathom.  I purposefully entered the world of special needs parenting five and a half years ago with the adoption of our son, Boden, who has Down Syndrome, low functioning autism, among other diagnoses.  When I met him, I’ll admit I wasn’t just daunted, I was absolutely terrified.  Flash forward to today, and everything I was scared of is just our normal now.

Ball Pit Attitude
I’ve learned countless lessons over these years: patience, unconditional love, and my own personal sort-comings to name a few.  However the thing that stands out the most to me is how lonely this road of special needs parenting actually is.  We understand and accept that we are different and a minority.  As a whole, people with developmental, physical, or neurological differences and those with physical limitations are not seen as much as typical people in every day society, leading to a lack of understanding and education in public settings, and this is what I want to address.
As such a parent let me just say–please do not teach your kids not to stare at people with differences.  Teach them to say hello! By teaching your children to look away, you are essentially perpetuating a standard of unacceptable, and making a whole people group to live a life ignored.  I get that seeing physical deformities and hearing strange, autistic noises can be unnerving and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.  The more you learn, the more comfortable you will be in these social situations.  The old adage of people being afraid of what they don’t understand is totally true and applicable in this scenario.
Our children, however are more alike than different.  Boden is capable of a full range of emotions and behaviors, encompassing everything from joy and teasing, to anger and mischief.  It should be said here that you should not feel obligated to dismiss or condone behaviors that our children are exhibiting towards you.  They are also able to have expectations.  Giving grace is nice, but you do not have to tell us “It’s OK” if we correct or reprimand our child for doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing.  For instance, my son will sit in anyone’s lap or pinch someone every once in a while.  That’s not alright.  It wouldn’t be ok for a typical child to do that.  He knows better, and I will fuss at him for it.

Boden makes noises, he does not speak, but he does understand when we speak to him, and he loves to play in his own way.  Many people with physical limitations are neurologically fully functional, and would love to be acknowledged.  It is not only possible, but so much fun to interact and play with these special children.  While appropriate boundaries are always a must, hand-shakes, high-fives, and conversation are always welcomed.  You may not know correct terminology, or exactly what the politically correct thing to say is (special needs mamas, this is when you need to give grace), but I assure you, families with special children would love to answer appropriate questions (please keep in mind we are all humans, made in the image of God with dignity, and some things are personal), educate you on conditions, and even brag or tell funny stories about our kiddos.  Feel free to say ” I noticed your beautiful family and wanted to say hello,” or, “You’re rocking it today, Mama,” or how about, “Is there anything I can help you with while I’m here?”  I had an  employee of my grocery store bring me forgotten turkey pepperonis one time while I was already in the check out, and it blessed my heart, and my tired feet were so relieved.
Introduce your child, and encourage them to say hi.  As a conversation ensues, and you get to know these people, you get the chance to learn about individual personalities and diagnoses, and each time, things are becoming more normalized to you and your children.

Boden Crab smile
Encourage a family walking this road.  Learn more about a diagnosis a family at school or church is living with.  Don’t miss a golden opportunity to get to know some amazing humans, and the chance for your kid to establish wonderful friendships.
Don’t look away.  Don’t be afraid.  Give a great big smile and “hello” to help foster understanding, acceptance, and friendship from which all walks of life and generations can benefit.

I have found that a wonderful FB Page to learn about differences is Special Books by Special Kids