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How to Support a Parent of a Child with Special Needs

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I found myself in a remarkably interesting position when my son was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. Every fear I had ever dreamt of came true in those first few days on the day of and following his diagnosis. While there was a large portion of our family who stepped up to support us and help us in any way they could, as quickly as that help came, that is how quickly it disappeared.

I don’t mean this meanly, I promise. We love our families and they are the best of intentioned at any given time. However, there seems to be a large barrier now between what help is desired to be given and what is only hypothetical. This type of barrier can only be felt by someone who now parents a child with special needs. Literally, not a single other person can relate to this type of feeling or lifestyle until they live it. It is truly complex, overwhelming, lonely, and can be very frustrating.

Why is this?

Why are our lives with children who have special needs so difficult, especially in terms of social isolation? This is harder to answer in complete detail because the simple answer is that unless you live this life, others just not get it. They do not understand what it feels like to spend your day in constant fear of the worst-case scenario. It goes beyond the everyday fears that come with parenting and becomes a whole new level of constant fear of very realistic scenarios.

For us, the fear is literally life and death. If we miss a low blood sugar “crash” and he goes too low, too quick, he can seize, become unconscious, go into a coma, or die. It does not take hours, days, or months to happen; any insulin overload in his system could quite literally kill him in a matter of minutes. That is fear that cripples even the strongest of parents and makes them take safety (and anxiety!) to a whole other level.

One of the statements I hear most is, “wow, I couldn’t do it if I was you”. While flattering, this is simply untrue. You would do it if you had to. Because prior to November 1, 2017, I would have said the same thing. Statements like this, meant to fuel and illuminate a parent’s strength, often make (me personally, anyways) a parent feel the strength of the barrier that now separates you, a parent of a “healthy” child, from me, the parent of a child with special needs.  This does not have to be though. You can support a parent who is enduring a difficult time or a parent who you cannot causally relate to in several ways.

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How to best offer support to a parent of a child with special needs

Empathize if (and only if) you truly can

Stories of other parents, even if they are not you, are often very comforting and provide a feeling of not being alone, a feeling we experience frequently! Most of us will welcome insight or stories from another parent’s journey

Respect. Do not pity!

Pity is the highest form of degradation to many parents of children with special needs! Instead, respect a parent’s strength, resilience, and all-around superpower and highlight that strength to the parent!

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Offer the help that is suitable for you

You do not need to move heaven and Earth to give us the help you know we need (hello, babysitters, anyone?!). Instead, if you want to help, offer what is within your realistic abilities. Maybe you know that walking the dog is something we struggle to find time with during the week. An offer to help could be to walk their dog once a week or bring them to a grooming appointment. Perhaps the parent’s older child has soccer once a week and you offer to take them to practice every other week to lessen the parent’s obligations. We know it may seem intimidating to offer help when you know all that encompasses any given day of ours, but truly the little things can be an enormous difference in our mental health

Just listen

One of the best things we can get is just a listening ear. You do not need to understand anything about our life or our child’s condition- just listen and let us vent. Most often, we must keep what we are thinking or feeling bottled up as we move onto the prioritized task- that is our child with special needs! The opportunity to vent about all that we cannot control helps boost mental and emotional health in a productive way

Talk about your life!

Life and children are not a competition; your “healthy”, “normal” child is a blessing as much as my child with special needs and we want to hear about your children and your life! All the bumps, bruises, and good times- please do not leave out details about the good in your life for our “sake”. It is not offensive to talk about your life and your children. If you are truly our friend, we want to be a part of it all. Sheltering us away from the good of your life to save our mental health just makes us feel that much more isolated and alone. We promise, even if our lives are 100% different, we want to be here for you. We will be there for all your life events and challenges as much as you’re trying to be supportive of ours!

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What you should try to avoid when trying to support a special needs parent

Please do not compare us to someone else if you do not understand the condition. For instance, telling me your grandmother was a Type 2 Diabetic who was cured/taken off insulin therapy by walking every day is not helpful. My son with Type 1 Diabetes is insulin deficient, not resistant and he will never be able to “cure” his diabetes with diet or exercise. Your neighbor being on XYZ insulin pump though? Super cool and someone like me would be highly appreciative of knowing about this, if only for the name of the pump you happened to catch so that we can read up on it!

Try to avoid suggesting “fad” treatments for the condition at hand that you saw on Oprah or in a magazine. Unless you read it in a medical journal or heard it from a medical professional, it likely has little meaning for my son’s life. Believe us when we say we have investigated every possible solution, treatment, or potential ‘cure’ for our child’s condition! The suggestion of the fad diet you read about may have pure intentions. But it sometimes implies we have not done enough for our child or that we are unwilling to keep looking further for a cure or treatment! Friendly PSA: cinnamon does not cure Diabetes?

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It is almost amusing to write about “tips and tricks” for supporting a parent who has a special needs child; like we are on our breed of human that needs a handbook to interact! We do feel that way, though, at times and truly the more you try to incorporate us into your lives, the better we can handle what we do every day. We do not want to be patronized and have those in our lives feeling as though they walk on eggshells. Finally, we are real people with real feelings and emotions. Though our lives are vastly different, we want to feel as though we are in this together.

how to best support a parent of a child with special needs #specialneeds #parenting #specialneedsparenting

Do you have anything to add to this discussion? What behaviors do you see from others that are well-intentioned but make you feel angry/hurt/upset? What tips would you add to this list?

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Curb Appeal Tips for Sellers

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Curb Appeal.  I just love that phrase.  Truly.

It paints an image of luscious landscapes, popping colors, and serenity.  Curb appeal is the first impression of us, the owner of the home. It represents so much of who we are as people. You know what I mean.

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As a real estate professional, I can describe in nearly 100% detail, who my seller clients are before having met them in person by simply studying the curb appeal of their home.

If it’s a cluttered mess of dried leaves, uneven grass, kids toys, and old scraps of wood, and instantly know I have my work cut out for me.  On the other hand, if it’s a perfectly manicured work of art, with everything in place, and could grace the cover of Homes and Lands magazine, I just want to hug them.

If you are planning on selling your home, wouldn’t you like to have potential buyers think of you as the latter, instantly grabbing their positive attention?

Today I want to offer you some incredibly easy tips on how you can get your curb appeal looking stellar in a matter of a weekend! So roll up your sleeves and let’s dive right in, shall we?

Green is Clean

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to make your front yard shine is by simply adding in some fresh greenery and flowers.  If you have a grassy front yard, add some fresh seed, get the sprinklers going and keep on top of mowing.

If you lack a lawn, fear not.  Simply head down to your local Menards, Home Depot (or even Target) and grab some planters, soil and get some fresh flowers. Flower hangers are also trendy and add a wisp of uniqueness. Get creative!

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Popping Front Doors

Another easy and inexpensive way to brighten up your curb appeal is by adding some fresh paint to your front door. Expect to pay $15 – $30 for a gallon of paint, not pricey at all and very easy to do, even if you are a beginner.  Go for a bold color that enhances the color of the rest of your home.  Some currently trending ideas are Brilliant Blue, Apple Red, Black, and Pale Pink.  Just be sure to hold up swatches first to be sure it will not clash.

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Magnificent Mailbox

A mailbox makeover is both fun and rejuvenating to your overall curb appeal.  Swap out your old metal box for one with some color or designs!  If your home has a distinct theme, match the box to that theme.  Just be sure to show your plans to your local postmaster for approval prior to installation.

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Decorative Doormat

Although minute, a doormat communicates a sense of welcome while inviting guests to leave behind the dirt and grime from their shoes before tracking indoors.  Be sure it is cheerful and doesn’t clash with the rest of the front entry.  You can buy inexpensive doormats at almost any store.

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Decor and Adore

Do you have a front porch?  Add a bistro set, or comfortable, stylish chairs.  Set out some large planters.  Add cool lanterns.

Lacking space?   A simple, season-appropriate door wreath can work wonders.

Tight budget?  Head to your local thrift store where you can often find some killer decor at amazing prices.  Yet another chance to get creative!

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House Number Upgrade

The first thing people look for when coming to your home for the first time is the address, so why not make those numbers stand out!?

Most home numbers get forgotten and over time begin to fade.  Purchase some new numbers that match the finish of your home.  You can often get numbers for only 2$ each!  Cheap, easy and effective.

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Handsome Hardware

Don’t ignore this quick, easy fix.  Swap out old, dated front door hardware with some new, fashionable options.

Door knockers are always a knockout.  Door handles should not be forgotten either.  By adding a hint of charm to your home’s point of entry, you will woo all who come through.

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Light it Up

When counseling clients who are preparing to put their home on the market, I ALWAYS stress that the home should be well lit.

Well, this goes further than the inside of your home.  Simply updating light fixtures can put your home in a new bracket.  Focus on front porch lights as well as curb lamps.

Be sure to consider both the style and color of your home.  You do not want urban modern if you live in a Farmhouse.

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Wash with Power

After the winter or rainy season, the exteriors of our homes can collect all sorts of dirt and stains.  Get a power washer and wash wash wash!

This is something I notice when showing homes that frequently gets overlooked.  You can spend hundreds of dollars sprucing up your yard, but if you forget to pay attention to the exterior cleanliness of the actual house, it will turn buyers off immediately.

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De-Clutter

I hold this curb appeal tip in the highest regard.  No matter how clean your home is, or how gorgeous you’ve made your yard look. If there are random odds and ends scattered throughout, your home instantly looks gross.

Be sure to pick up the kid’s toys after they’ve been well used throughout the day. Clean up your yard tools. Don’t leave bags of leaves or yard scum sitting about.  And, for the love of all that is good and holy, HIDE YOUR GARBAGE CANS on the side of your home or in the garage!  SO many homeowners leave their garbage cans sitting in plain view and they instantly make the home look less appealing.

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And there you have it folks.  This can all be done in a matter of a day or two!  Your home doesn’t have to remain the ugly house on the block.  Take a deep breath, drink your coffee, set out some lemonade, put on your work clothes and hop to it!

Happy Spring Cleaning!

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What to Wear in May: 10 Outfit Ideas

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Ladies, May is finally here, and you know what that means – it’s almost summertime! The weather is finally warming taking a turn for the better (hello sunshine!) and the outdoors are practically begging us (and the kids) to make a quick visit.

But our favorite thing about May is definitely that we actually get to swap out our heavy winter clothes for the light and airy pieces that have been hiding in the back of our closet for months. Bring on the summery dresses, beach cover-ups and cropped jeans!

To help get you ready for the rest of the month of May, we’ve put together some our favorite What to Wear outfit ideas. Happy shopping!

FOR THE BOLD AND COLORFUL

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Summertime means it’s time to bring back the color! If you’re ready to go all-in with the sherbet hues, try a vivacious Rainbow Shirt Dress with Sling-Back Gold Flats plus Statement Drop Earrings and a chic matching Chain Bracelet.

BEACHSIDE BOHO-CHIC

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Love the boho look but still need to be able to chase the kids? Slip on a lightweight Flowy White Maxi Dress and add a pair of sturdy but chic Gladiator Sandals. Top it off with bold Statement Earrings and a matching Drop Necklace for the perfect finishing touches.

KICKED UP BUSINESSWEAR

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Planning on heading back to the office soon and really want to make a splash? Try a bold Electric Blue Blazer with matching Cropped Trousers. Pair it with a High-Neck Floral Blouse, chic Leather Block Heels and a simple feminine Black Briefcase and you’re totally ready to go.

NOT SO DITZY FLORALS

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Have a love-hate relationship with florals? We understand. Indulge in this spring and summer trend with a subtly printed Black Briefcase, comfy White Denim Shorts and edgy Cutout White Ankle Boots.

THE GREAT INDOORS

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Relaxing at home but still want to look cute (we get it)? Slip on some High-Waisted Leggings, add an Oversized White Tee, top it off with a chic Knit Cardigan Sweater and throw on some Sporty Slides (just in case you need to get off the couch).

BACKYARD BARBECUE CHIC

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Warmer weather = more time spent outside! Throw on a breezy Floral Summer Dress, slip on some trendy Straw Slide Sandals, add some Statement Sunglasses and a pair of modern Minimalist Earrings for the perfect barbecue-ready look.

STAY-CATION GLAM

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Looking to get all glammed up while relaxing at home? Slip on a super chic Floral Kaftan, add some Sparkly Flat Sandals, throw on some Oversized Round Sunnies and a Statement Straw Hat for the perfect stay-cation look.

ROMANTIC NIGHT IN

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Having a date night in while practicing social distancing? Look totally chic (without all the effort!) with a comfy Jersey Wrap Dress, slip-on Gold Sandals, an easy Gold Hair Clip and matching Statement Jewelry.

GETTING NAUTICAL

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Feeling a little nautical this month? We love a great Striped Top for the summer season, especially when it’s paired with some flattering High-Waisted Shorts, super cute and comfy Wedge Espadrilles, and Minimalist Jewelry.

ROMPING AROUND

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Heading out for a walk with the kids or just taking a few minutes for yourself? Keep comfy while still looking cute with an Oversized Romper, classic Slip-On Vans, some Oversized Sunnies and a convenient Crossbody Bag.

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5 Steps to Start Indoor Gardening for Healthier, Fresher Foods in the Kitchen

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We could all use some fresher, healthier snacks, and cooking ingredients, but when getting to the farmers market isn’t an option, what’s a mom to do? Start an indoor garden, of course.

No matter the weather in your neck of the woods or the amount of yard space you have to work with, you can still enjoy gardening. We’re not talking just a half-dead succulent in your windowsill, either. You can grow actual vegetables, herbs and fruits to use in your kitchen, without setting foot outside.

All it takes is minimal supplies that you can purchase at your local big box home improvement store or via online retailers like Amazon.

Not sure where to start? Here’s your guide to getting your indoor garden growing.

Step 1: Find Your Space

The first thing you’re going to need to do is to find your space. Where in your home can you set up an indoor garden?

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You’ll want a spot with plenty of light and that’s out of the way. You don’t want the kids knocking your gardening project to the ground, or the cat or dog getting into the potting soil.

Think of a sturdy table or shelf next to or near a window. If you don’t have enough natural light in your home to work with, you can always purchase a grow lamp that will make up for the fact.

You’ll also want to ensure your plants stay warm. Most plants grow best around the 70-degree mark, so just avoid any air vents or drafty doorways that might impact the temperature.

Step 2: Purchase Your Supplies

Once you have a spot picked to start your indoor garden, it’s time to pick your supplies.

You’ll need a growing medium, but don’t just grab some dirt from your yard. Organic potting mix will work fine.

Then, you’ll want to consider the vessels you use for your indoor garden. Any planting container or pot will work. Just make sure that, if you’re getting creative and using a non-traditional container, you ensure it provides proper drainage.

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Again, since you don’t want your plants to fall prey to the hijinks of kids or pets, go with planting containers that are sturdy. You may also want to look for containers that won’t break if they’re accidentally knocked from a table or shelf.

Step 3: Pick Your Plants

Now it’s time for the most exciting part — picking your plants. There are tons of options to choose from, but you may want to look for plants that have similar sunlight and watering needs (to make your overall job easier).

Vegetables that grow well indoors include:

You could potentially grow everything you need to put together a farm-fresh, tasty salad all without leaving the house!

If you’re interested in growing herbs indoors, some popular, easy options include:

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One of the hands-down, easiest fruits to grow indoors is strawberries. It is possible to grow dwarf apple and citrus trees indoors, but if you’re a beginner indoor gardener, start with the strawberries.

All these plants can be purchased from a wide array of online vendors if you don’t want to leave the house. From Amazon to Etsy, you won’t have an issue finding some plants within your budget.

Just remember — buying plants online and having them shipped to your house can sometimes result in stressed plants. For the healthiest plants possible, it’s always advised you go to a local greenhouse.

Step 4: Get Planting!

The planting process can get a little messy, but that’s part of what makes it fun. Involve the entire family!

Layout a tarp or some trash bags on the kitchen floor and invite dad and the kids to help you carefully deposit each plant into its new home. Maybe give the plants some names. Maybe designate one or two plants to your kids’ care, so they can learn the responsibility of growing, watering and tending to a living thing (and then reap the sweet rewards of their labor in a few weeks or months!).

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Step 5: Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance

Unfortunately for any super-busy moms out there, indoor gardening isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of project. However, that doesn’t mean indoor gardening has to be necessarily difficult. All it takes is a few minutes of your day, each day.

Sometimes maintenance is as simple as just checking in on your plants. Give them a thorough look. Do the leaves look dry or brown? Is the soil dry or moist?

Close daily observation will make it easy for you to give your plants what they need when they need it, whether it’s just a little extra water (or a little less), some extra growing space, or more sunlight.

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Ready to Get Started?

Starting your own indoor garden isn’t as big of a project as it seems. Any mom can take it on, involve the kids (or don’t), and then enjoy fresher, home-grown ingredients. Whether you want to chow down on summer tomatoes straight from the vine or you want to add your own herb blend to your next pasta dish, that fresh produce is just a few steps away.

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Family Volunteering From Home!

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During these unprecedented times, we are all learning what it means to keep busy so that boredom does not set in. Teaching our children lessons in humanity has never been more needed. For those of us that have some free time during the week to give back, below are three simple things you and your family can do from home to help those in need.

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Neighborhood Cleanup

We are all walking and biking much more these days. Why not bring a bag for recycling and a separate bag for trash to clean up our neighborhoods? The best part is if you and your family get enough aluminum cans or other recyclables, you can make some extra cash on the side!

Check with your local recycling companies for pricing and what they will and won’t pay for before bringing it in. It is always fun to see kids’ faces when they realize they helped the earth and made some extra spending money as well.

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Summer Relief Kits

The United Way provides a list of items that you can donate separately or make a kit to donate and they hand them out to those in need. Your state may need different items than the ones below, but in general, this list is a good starting point and usually always needed no matter where you live.

Check your local area to see where you can donate to help your community:

  • Socks
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Lip Balm
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Band-Aids
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Water Bottle
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Lotion

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Animal Shelter

Do you ever wonder what you can do to help the animal shelters even if you can’t adopt an animal, volunteer, or foster an animal?

Most animal shelters will take gently used items you have to donate, and some even have their own thrift stores where you can drop off anything from clothes, TVs, and even furniture.

Once your donated items get sold, the proceeds go to the shelters.

Another fun and unique way to help animals while getting the kids involved is to make t-shirt ropes for the animals to play with. Here’s How:

  • You will need 2 or 3 t-shirts that you were going to give or throw away
  • Start by cutting small 2-3” wide slits from the bottom of the t-shirt towards the neck of the shirt
  • After you have cut the slits, just rip or cut along the slit all the way through the fabric so you have the correct size strips of fabric for the next step
  • Gather your t-shirt strips and tie them off at one end
  • Divide your strips into thirds and braid them together
  • Once you’ve braided down to the end, tie the ends up to finish the rope
  • Cut any straggling strips off

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