Monday, March 25, 2019

The Art of Play

"What about 'Bella- does that sound fun?" 

It was a rainy Sunday, our family calendar laid out in usual fashion, multitudes of colors streaking across the pages as we plotted our daily lives. This time there was a new agenda item we needed a spot for - L's first play date.

For most kids, "play date" is a regular term, one that comes naturally for a family and is desired by the child. And while our oldest lives and breathes by his social circle, and navigates it seamlessly, preparing and executing on one for our youngest is a bit of a dance and an art. Even trickier? He's not into it nor motivated to have one. But when doctor's orders call, parents listen.

Whether your kiddo has unique needs or play dates are a "thing" for them, here's some tricks we're learning along the way to make it even partly enjoyable for you and your kiddo:

1. Invite a member of the tribe. Start with a family where you adore the parents and know they have an inclusive, kind, patient child. It's also helpful if they have a bit of history on your child, as they can be supportive when things get awkward or you break out some of your tools to help the kids navigate their play date. Plus no judgement and less stress for everyone. Give your child some choice in the matter too, guiding them through a list of names to invite so they feel empowered to choose a peer they enjoy.

We started with one of my best friends and her daughter, who happens to have been a peer model in a school before. Her mama seamlessly transitioned from basement to family room, outside to kitchen, not blinking an eye when we sat on tiny chairs, sprawled on the floor, were interrupted 10 million times, and shared secret giggles in the socially awkward moments. She nor her daughter missed a beat, and their participation in this milestone event was a greater gift than they can ever know.

2. Choose a location your child is comfortable with. Before you offer your kiddo a choice, think of where he does best. Is it in a park with open space? At home with is toys and supports? At someone else's home where things are new? At a trampoline or play place? Think through if his peer likes those places too, then give your child two places to select from. A week in advance, keep talking about the place casually and introduce the positive experiences they can have there.

3.  Prepare your child. Several days before the play date, start talking with your kiddo on what the day can look like, how long it will last, and some of the activities they may choose to do. Select some favorite snacks to have on hand so when they need a break or your child needs some regulation, an invitation to the table for munching is always available. On the day of the play date, regulate your child by doing heavy work, meditation, swinging, etc. so that when their friend arrives, their mind and body feel centered and ready. For those on picture schedules, consider having an app or menu nearby so transitioning from activity to activity for the kids can be a bit easier. If you have other kids, consider having them visit their grandparents or play with the neighbors so you can focus on your other child and this playdate.

4. Make sure you have energy, patience and tools. Facilitating the play date will take some attention and require you to be "on." While you're used to managing your child's unique needs day to day and advocating for him at school, having a friend over can feel like a very focused and intense few hours. Make sure it's a day that's not already stacked with too many activities, that you've gotten some rest and water, and you're in the right mind frame. Have the many tools you've learned form your child's caregivers rehearsed and in your back pocket to bust out if you need it. Maybe even have a glass of wine and face mask on hand for after the event.

5. Give freedom, but facilitate. Observe how the kids are doing and help facilitate where your child may need it. Does your child want to play in the basement with his pal but have you for comfort nearby? Then tuck yourselves in the corner and catch up with the other parent, casually catching conversation here and there and intervening with positivity when the kids may need it. For example, this mama and I and were enjoying chatting when I noticed her daughter kept asking to "play house." Mine kept walking in circles and avoiding her and playing cars only and ignoring her because he doesn't understand what that means or what it looks like, therefore shutting him down. A casual "Hey L - playing house usually means x. Is that what you'd like him to do A? Does that sound fun L?" Then returning to adult conversation. Provide them choice and autonomy, but recognize where your child may need some clarity or support socially. Their play mate likely doesn't understand why they are or are not responding in an atypical way, and you can help with that without being too invasive.

6. Make it comfortable for the parents, too. Just be yourself and fold them into what is your day-to-day life that may look different than theirs. Act like it's a coffee date the two of you made and enjoy the time you have together to catch up. Be a good hostess, have yummy drinks and snacks on hand, and be approachable for whatever they or their child may need.

7. Be flexible. Avoid getting too attached to any plan or expectations you had of the playdate. Did you have building a fairy garden on the list and it's raining? Move to plan B. Are the children not engaging well? Try plan C. Need to end early because one is tired or hungry? That's ok - there is always next time. Go in with an open mind and take the pressure off so everyone can enjoy.

8. Praise your child during and after. Remember that what your child is doing is hard work. Check in by making eye contact, offering smiles and thanking and praising him for how his social time is going. Afterward talk at his level about what went well, how he enjoyed it and what he'd like to happen next time. If he's into hugging, give him a big ol' one.

9. Recover. Kick off your shoes, let your child engage in a rewarding activity or do some more regulatory work to help him recover after a play date. A reset sets him up for the rest of the day and start fresh the next one.

10. Celebrate the milestones, small wins and even failures. After all the chaos and fun, take a quiet moment to reflect by yourself on how you're helping your child, all he accomplished and the quality time you may have gotten in with a friend. Remember that even a small smile, eye contact, greeting or asking a question is a milestone for your atypical child and a moment to be celebrated.

Now go on, go ahead. Take that next play date and make happy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


"It's a tradition of mine to grab a fresh bouquet of flowers on the first day of spring. Wanna join me?" I asked my work sisters, grabbing up my tote and coat. "Of course!" they said, adding mexican food to the equation.
Because life's too short not to pick flowers, amiright?

Or enjoy guacamole...

Happy spring, friends.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


Gramps was the...

     giver of Dots
       host of Sunday dinner
     first to chuckle
       warmest embracer
     master joke teller
       wearer of the cardigans
     tireless worker
       restaurant picker
     world traveler
       trier of all things
     user of all the Minnesotan slang
       simplest in the best of ways
     appreciator of life's small things
       anticipator of meaningful moments
     pusher of authenticity
       wild ride through parking lots
     one my Dad called every Sunday
       the raiser of nine amazing children
     requestor of the birthday dance
       card player at Christmas
     always smiling
       jazz genre's biggest fan
     story teller over family meals
       listener of your tales
     watcher of the birds
       master of the BBQ
     embracer of my mother
       first my son trusted
     one who opened his home
       first to start shennanigans
     one to lead with love
       lifelong learner by light
     one who understood why sparkle mattered
       giver of the nicknames
     capturer of things that mattered
       heart of the family

Sometimes I sit quietly and tick through the list of all the things I wish I would've asked him and wonder what he would say. How deeply I could have learned and experienced him in life had we lived closer or spent more of our time in intimate conversation. But then I recall one of our very last talks as he sat on the deck, the sun striking our faces in a rare, one-on-one moment: 

 "Gramps - when your time comes, will you feel ready to go?" 

 "Oh yah, I do. I mean look at this and look at my kids. Everyone is doing well...happy...what more can you ask for? I've had a good life. A very good life."

And just like he said, what more can you ask for than that?

I love you Grandpa, and I've learned from you, the life you've created and the people you've loved. May heaven be as fabulous as the brightest sunrise in Mexico. Love, Meggers. 



Monday, December 4, 2017

Decking our Halls

"Yep, drag that sucker up here!" I shouted to the hubs, taking advantage of his wine-induced coma after a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. No sooner is the last candle blown out and the dishes stacked next to the sink that our family begins decking our halls for Christmas.

As the tree made its way up the stairs, we began evaluating our space and dreaming of how it would look over the next few days with sparkle and lights. Given it's the second year in this home, our vision was pretty solid, but it's always fun to mix it up just a little.

A room with a view: simple snow-coated succulents, pics Santa, gentle lit garland
on the stair, traditional stockings and mixed up the red and black buffalo plaid
ribbons on the tree and accents with some gray and white.

Simple switch of regular items and added some golden glass trees,
sparkling evergreen and jingle bells.

The table is used often for crafts and dumping mail, so
keeping it simple is key. These are great staples from Chip & Joanna's
Target line.

Simplicity mid-island as much family activity occurs in
this happy place. Some sprinkled snow, pinecones, mix
of ornaments in a Hearth & Home lantern. 

A touch of spirit near the oven, including the warmest
winter scent of birch.

The countdown is on next to a big ol' pile of candy canes.

The top of the coffee table is reserved for monster truck racing, so
kept it simple with lanterns, battery-operated candles and a
pop of winter greens.

Keeping the family tradition alive with Dickens' houses passed
on by my Grandma. Fake snow and a village lines our front
cabinet as guests enter.

The Lego winter village gained a train station this year! A holiday
favorite for the kids to build and use their imagination for the month.

There's something about the spirits and sparkle that makes us want to snuggle in, curl up by the fire and slow our pace to really enjoy time with the family. We can't wait to share it with those we love over the coming weeks!

May your interpretation of holiday space bring you all the happiness this year.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Go West!

It's no secret our little family of four grapples with staying out west from time to time. Well, make that two of us since one wouldn't fathom leaving his baseball buddies and the other's main focus is whether we have Babybel cheese in the house. While we adore the warmth and kindness of neighbors, the amazing schools, slightly more open land and the amount of house for the money, it's just so....far.

That's why when Lenexa announced they were bringing a public market near the area, we got a little giddy. Described as an open air concept with various food and retail vendors, our minds wandered to our time in San Fran, where sushi, candles, fresh bread and friendship bracelets could all be found in one good-smelling, bustling place. And while its soft opening wasn't near the scale of that, it was nice to have some of that big-city feel just 10 minutes from our house.
In the wide-open space so far is a beautiful mix of fine woods, natural and more cooler elements. Bench tables line the middle, while patio lights pop in all the right corners. Several small vendors bring scents of local soaps, tasty chocolates, aromatic coffee and baked treats. Mixed in are the pizza, dumplings, barbecue and ice cream tastes. Comfortable seating is movable and includes a variety of large-scale games to be enjoyed by all. Outside dons wide-based chairs, perfect for perching by one of their lit fires or for gazing onto the green complete with a few statues holding history of Lenexa. Nearby runners and swimmers are making their way around the beautiful new rec center, lined with shining silver and neon lights. Parking was easy, and all around was new housing and the promise of a soon-to-be-thriving mini downtown.

Our first visit was a cold, misty Friday night, likely influencing a more minimal crowd. But for a family seeking a low-key start to the weekend, it was just right. The kids enjoyed taking in the scenes and getting competitive over the table-top games.  Dinner options from the main food places were just ok, with tasty dessert from Foos and Christopher Elbow making up for it.  

Overall we left thankful for  the dollars and creative thoughts that went into breathing life out west, and the chance to try something new. We can't wait to see what it will look like in spring and summer of 2018. And if you want to come even a tad further, say K7ish, we'll welcome you!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Spiderman's Survival Kit

"Yep, grab the backpack, it's got all the goods in it," I said to the Mister, one hip on the door while two hands balanced waters, Goldfish, gift and of course, the ever-famous iPad. We were headed to a birthday party, which isn't always easy with someone who has the senses of Spiderman, so preparation is always key. Couple that unconditional love, patience and no expectations, and you're sure to feel you've done your best have a fun experience for you and your kiddo.

Sensory soothers aren't just for the sensitive superheroes- many children need more breaks, calm-down tools and safe places to share big feelings than our current world allows them. Here's some of our favs:

Aqua motion: calming, distracting and something a child can
cup in their hand and focus on. Find them in educational
toy stores or Amazon

Their favorite song! Mix up their movement by offering
a beloved tune, either unusually loud, quiet or in a
safe place where they can regroup
Pocket bubbles: portable, magical and provides long
minutes of fun as a sort of treat

Ocean waves nightlight: so soothing and unique, it sends
gentle waves across the ceiling and offers several sounds.
Easy to use, affordable and has a timer. A more relaxing
bedtime routine can be yours! 
Swing: where a child may have trouble getting all of their senses to integrate,
the swing can do for them! Like a reset button that's also fun and calming.
If it takes up too much room, try swinging them by their ankles upside down or side
to side - they'll show you what they like.

Weighted blanket: to help them feel safe, protected and
cocooned into bed or couch as their body works to settle

Portable wipes: whether they are Costco's baby wipes or these nicely
individually wrapped ones, find the unscented and tuck them in all your favorite
places on the go. Not only does it help the kiddo that likes impeccably clean
hands, but distracts them for a moment while they work to open the package.

Matchbox cars: their wheels spin and you can use your imagination. Plus they are
one dollar when you're in a bind.  What's not to like?

Headphones: that fit comfortably for children and cut one of their senses
while the others are hard at work. Perfect for when they are feeling overwhelmed
or at crowded events.

Kiddie countdown: an app on your phone that counts down with fun music
and a mysterious picture when the words "Two more minutes" are too much
for your kiddo. Everyone likes to know what to expect!
Social stories, Miralax, essential oils, tagless clothes and socks, deep pressure, quiet spaces and visual cues are also a must in our household, all of which you can find tips on through Pinterest. So get shopping! Calmer days are ahead...for everyone.

What are some of your kids' favorite things when life gets to be a bit much?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

On the Daily

"Hmmm, what'll it be today? I don't think the words 'cranky, exhausted or stressed' are strong starters," I say to the Mister, a thin black Sharpie poised above my palm.

It was Monday morning. The kids hadn't slept in weeks, deadlines were looming and the grind of long commutes, sports practices and everyday life were upon us. And although it had been a mostly enjoyable weekend that included hugs, long bedtime stories, laughter and time outdoors, it was already almost as if they hadn't happened at all.

Many work weeks started like that, and ended with me having zero energy for my beloved family. Something needed to change, and quick.

The best place to start? The ol' noggin.

I began to ask myself and others: How do I set positive intent for the day? What can I do to revisit it when fatigue or challenges try to get in the way of it? Why is it so damn hard to live this utopic life others dream of and just be grateful for it? Where's the perspective?

As usual, A had the answer. Earthy, experienced and Zen, she shared her trick of writing one word on her palm in the morning that sets her attitude and intent for the day. Frequently she shared she wrote, "fierce, calm, productive" or "joyful." Between her tough boss, teenagers and needy clients, she found this subtle reminder she can visit in as simple as grabbing a sip of water a motivating way to stay in the positive zone.

If something like that is helpful for the already cool-as-a-cucumber A, it could work for me too.

Week one I had trouble committing to just one word (I'm a marketer - we're women of much fluff). So I scribbled a small acronym that highlighted where I'd like my mind and heart to settle in for the day. Several weeks later, I was down to one or switching it to two, depending on what the soul needed in the moment. Words on my palm frequently include things like chill, authentic, love hard or energy. And while it isn't so much about the act of placing ink to skin, it's a nice way to trick your body into taking a meditative moment to set positive intent for the day. And to revisit it when things got off track.

So while this isn't the holistic good eating, drink enough water, sleep more than four hours per night and get time to yourself kind of self care, it's an attainable, inspiring one that keeps me going.

What about you? What inspires or sets your intent for the day? Or, what is your word, for today?