Thursday, December 18, 2014

Gingerbread Play Dough

 This time of year always fills me with hope, as I ponder the 
miracle of Jesus' birth. If a King could be born in a stable, anything could happen. When I was a child, Christmas was a time of wonder. I hope to never lose that feeling of child-like wonder.

The wonders of His love, the wonders that He doeth, and the wonders of heaven.

It's a spectacular experience to see the wonder in Little Mister's eyes, now that he is getting old enough to comprehend Christmas a little more. All the tiny delights that prompt round eyes and mouth to form an "oh" of awe. I long for a heart filled with awe at the miracle of the season. To see everything anew, through the eyes of a child, is a gift meant for all of us. I'm sure of it, and think it's meant to be carried with us all year too.

 I did little in the way of decorating this year. Just some basics and a few things that were handy. When I decorate for this time of year, I do like to mix old things with new. Treasured and timeworn alongside new.

 One afternoon, as I do every year, I baked a large batch of gingerbread cookies. An army of molasses men waiting for decoration. What fun to surprise those little round eyes with all of those gingerbread men awaiting faces of icing and garments of sprinkles. 

But what's this? An impostor! 

No, it's NOT a gingerbread cookie. It's homemade play dough made to LOOK and SMELL like gingerbread! What a neat gift. One of Little Mister's teacher's shared the recipe for this unique clay. 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup water 

Food coloring (or Koolaid powder)

Optional: If you want it to smell like gingerbread dough, add 1/4 cup allspice, ginger, and nutmeg. But I want you, it really does smell like gingerbread dough and your kid will want to eat it. So will your pets. 

For gingerbread dough: Mix spices until you get the scent/color that you want. 

Mix all dry ingredients in a pot, then add oil and water to mixture. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture forms a mound. Remove from heat, cool slightly and knead together. Cool completely before having fun and store in an airtight container. 

For colored play dough: Add food coloring to oil and water before adding to dry ingredients, and omit spices.

Wishing all of my readers a Christmas filled with the joy and wonder of a mighty King.

Monday, December 8, 2014

No Cost or Low Cost Gifts for the Special Needs Parent

Would you like to give a gift that could cost as little as a couple dollars or even nothing at all? Chances are, you know someone who has a child with therapy needs, doctor appointments, endless meltdowns, and some tired parents holding the whole thing together. Sometimes we're just holding it together with string, chewing gum, and a little duct tape. In my experience, our loved ones want to help but don't know how. Sometimes they offer money, and hey, that's great. Depending on what kind of needs your child has, money might help. But for those of us holding our own in that department, there is something even more valuable you can give and that is TIME and CREATIVITY

Here are some ideas to get you started...

Offer to go on a doctor appointment and/or babysit the siblings. Children with a diagnosis often have extra doctor appointments, sometimes scheduled up to a year in advance. These appointments might be 30 minutes away or at some specialist 3 hours away. Offer to go along and be an aide while mom fills out paperwork or asks the doctor questions. Alternately, mom might need a babysitter for her other children. 

Make a busy pack. This so easy, inexpensive, and even a little fun. Find a craft of the appropriate level, assemble instructions and materials in a zipper seal bag, and hand it to mom. If you are not the crafty type, find a few inexpensive toys, maybe a small book, and a novelty treat. Give it to mom on the sly so she can add it to her arsenal to subvert a tantrum or rainy day meltdown.

Offer to help at church. This is a big one. Church should be a refuge, but for special needs parents it is too often a depleting war zone. I can't begin to tell you how many parents would be encouraged by someone asking if they could help with your child during Sunday School or take a child out to the playground after church so the parents can enjoy some fellowship after the service. It would absolutely be a gift.

Donate an hour.- Offer to run an errand, take their car to the wash, or take the kids to the park for a nature walk. How about an hour of respite in your home? It might just be the time a parent needs to make phone calls, do paperwork, or just decompress. We'll take it.

Give your special skill. Photographer? Offer a free mini session. Baker? Drop off a couple loaves of bread. Do you enjoy sewing? Take on the mending pile. It all makes a difference.

There are probably at least a dozen more ideas, but this could serve as a jump off point if you choose to bless a parent of a special needs child on any occasion. If you still find money to be the best option, no one in the history of mankind has ever turned down a gift card. Also, many parents rely on services from non-profit organization that do yearly fund drives. Ask when the next fund drive is taking place and donate at that time. 

Finally, sharing this list in some way would be a free gift, too. Who knows where it might touch a heart and inspire goodness?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hanging in the Balance

You know, when Little Mister started his daily afternoon preschool program I thought, now I'll have plenty of time to get things done.

You know who that joke was on, don't you?

Most days still feel a lot like I did as a young waitress many, many moons ago when I struggled to get meals to table five just as table six ran out of drinks, while tables seven and eight sent up smoke signals for their check.

 I do not want to be one of the people who glorify "busy-ness".  No one wants to stand in a monsoon when they can sit beside the still waters. Sometimes I think my life will be spent finding the balance, a way to keep everything gliding like a smooth carousel while I ride the horse of my choice. 

There is a selfishness inherent in busyness. When the preoccupation with our to-do lists and the constant focus on our own interests take over, can we spare time to look outside of our families, our house, our own little worlds and extend love to others? I struggle with finding a balance when dueling priorities come knocking at the door.

Recently, someone complimented me on something I do for Little Mister. It's nice when that happens, and rare. Mothers don't get nearly enough of that sort of thing. It was so unexpected that I shrugged it off with a yes, well, I do that because it's fun. It's something I can do, so I do it. I can't do everything, but I can do that. It taught me the truth of an old saying:

You do what you can. 

Part of finding balance, I think, is noticing what you can do and finding some satisfaction in knowing that there is something you often do well. It makes up for the chronically un-swept porch or leftovers that went to waste. There's no perfection this side of eternity, but there are certain things that you do well. It's the heavy weight on your scale.

Isn't it funny how some tasks can be done effortlessly, while others can so thoroughly deplete you? I could probably spend substantial time baking in the kitchen and never notice the clock. I could travel many miles and loose track of the days. A Sunday afternoon can disappear faster than a drop of water evaporating in a glass on a warm day.

I spent one such afternoon gathering up a few apples that had been hanging around too long and turning them into a deliciously moist Apple Crumb Bread. I adapted it from a recipe out of The Busy Mother's Cookbook. I love a cookbook that doesn't shy away from simple ideas. If this strikes your fancy, just know that I modified the original by adding a lot more apple and decreasing the sugar.

Wouldn't it be fun to dab some apple butter on it?
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. milk
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. chopped apples

1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs in the mixer.
Dissolve baking soda in milk and add. Add flour, salt, and vanilla. Add apples last. Mix thoroughly and put into one large greased loaf pan. Mix topping and sprinkle on top. Bake at 325 for an hour. 

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Psalms 39:4


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