All mothers want their children to develop and improve concentration and fine and gross motor skills, in addition to meeting all developmental milestones and specific sensory needs. As my kids were growing up, I noticed that they have their own preferences when it comes to sensory toys and I came up with toy suggestions with all of them in mind. The toys featured in this blog post are available on Amazon and you can easily find similar toys on the website. Each item in the collage below are very affordable and costs less than $5 each, making them great year-round gifts and Christmas stocking stuffers for kids. However, please bear in mind that toy prices on Amazon do change from time to time.
Do you have sensory stocking stuffer ideas for kids? Let me know in the comments section below.
Eve was granted a wish through the Make A Wish Foundation earlier this year. We met with our wish granters and we discussed a few different options based on Eve’s likes and abilities to participate. One place that kept coming up in the discussion was Give Kids the World village, a magical place in Orlando that welcomes families from many different wish organizations. The village is wheelchair accessible, fun and we would have all the comforts of home vs a hotel a room. Give Kids the World Village is more than just a place to stay, they have parties, things to do and places to eat. Take a look at this brief video to get a taste of this amazing place.
As part of our stay at the Give Kids the World Village, we would also get tickets to theme parks and other Florida attractions to make our stay fun and exciting. Since Eve loves aquariums and large animals, we also talked about a trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium during the week. We were so excited to hear that Make A Wish approved this wish and our entire family was invited to go. They are taking care of all the details, even the smallest ones so we can just enjoy family time. Eve is the happiest when we are all together and this trip will allow time away from the normal busyness of life. I don’t know that we have had a week without medical appointments or therapies this year, so this week will be great respite for all of us.
Since I am a planner by nature, I have found a few ways to keep things organized in a low key way. We are a family of 8 so we do need to plan a bit to give every child a chance to experience something fun. If you are planning a trip to Give Kids the World Village, maybe this will help you too:
These are my favorite apps for planning as well as while in Orlando. I tend to have a good connection at the parks but you may want to jot down notes if you are unsure.
Happ4Hotels: enter GKTW as the hotel code to get information about events, entertainment and other village news. This app will help you in planning which nights to enjoy parties at the village and when to stay late in the parks.
My Disney Experience is all things Walt Disney World. Make dining reservations, check park hours and even find photopass photographers.
Universal FL is an app for Universal Studios. Out the apps I looked out, this one is free and most user friendly.
Nativoo Orlando if you plan to dine outside the theme parks (or even in the theme parks), this is a great app for discovering Orlando area.
Give Kids the World Village
Give Kids the World Village website has videos and information about the village. I looked through the village guide to get an idea what was in our villa and what activities my children might enjoy. I hear the Christmas party is awesome and it’s held every week.
Facebook groups Make A Wish Disney Trips, Disney Planning Mamas Wish Trip, Disney Wish Trips for Special Needs are great ways to talk to other parents about their Disney and Universal Studios wish experiences. And it’s nice to connect with other families who understand the unique journey we are all on.
Disney Food Blog: food is half the fun at Walt Disney World! Learn about restaurants and best counter service spots before you go. And snacks, don’t forget about the snacks. Dole whips and mickey bars and turkey legs. Yumm!
Kenny the Pirate: where can you find your favorite character? This website will tell you where the characters are and tips on how to see them. They also have helpful crowd calendars which can help you decide which parks to choose while you are staying at the village.
Make A Wish gave us a rough idea on what to expect, but we received the final details about a week before our trip at a send off party. If you need to know how much to expect in spending money, flight or rental vehicle details, your wish granter can help you with that. Each wish organization is different in how they handle aspects of travel. Enjoy the fact that they will take care of most of the details, but it’s also nice to know there is someone taking care of things behind the scenes.
Give Kids the World also has people who customize and help you with your stay there. We received an email from the itinerary fairy, we spoke about our dietary needs and decided what parks might be fun to visit.
There are tons of Disney and Universal resources out there. If you have one that made your trip easier, let me know in the comments!
A few months ago, one of my favorite author/speakers, Jen Hatmaker announced that she was looking for 500 writers to help her launch her new book, For The Love. Having just finished reading her book Interrupted, I knew whatever this book was about, I wanted in on it. And if I could get my hands on an advanced copy, wow, that would mean less waiting. Patience is a virtue and I possess exactly none of it.
5000 writers/bloggers applied and as luck would have it, I was not accepted. In true Jen style, her rejection email was funny, compassionate and full of love. I let any feelings of jealousy go, because I know it was not a popularity contest, at least I hope not. But yeah, it was not the outcome I had hoped.
Then, a small number of the “rejects” (not really, but perhaps the “not chosen ones”?) named themselves #the4500, sending hilarious tweets to Jen. It was brilliant. Jen took notice and saw humor, fun and love from the group that were not chosen initially. More joined the 4500 movement and began to get to know each other in a facebook group. Organically, the group of women gathered in a way that doesn’t happen all the time in Christian circles. Women who were longing for sisterhood, authenticity and support for their deepest Jesus dreams were finding others on a similar journey. I can’t say that I have witnessed anything so real in a long time.
I have no clue what the chosen 500 group is like, but I imagine it being very similar to the 4500. Who knew that rejection could band together hundreds of women from all denominations, walks of life and seasons of life together. And as disappointing as it was to be rejected, there was now a group of friends which felt far from rejection. Support, prayer, advice was just the tip of the iceberg with these women. Love is a verb and so there has been love extended to people to meet practical needs. Get togethers are happening around the country and previous strangers are now doing life together.
I have thought about this experience and how this happens in other aspects of my life as well. I know that there are areas of my life where rejection felt much worse than Jen’s gracious email. There have been closed doors, goodbyes, boundaries that needed to be set and there has been flat out rejection. There have been what I thought were NOs in my life that were only NOT YETs as time was not right yet. There have been what I thought were NOs that were WAIT, THERE’S SOMETHING SO MUCH BETTERs if I trusted and let go. How many times do I want to morph my NO into a YES knowing that I am trying to be a captain of a sinking ship with that YES? Do I dare to trust my NO and discover what might be on the other side? Joining a group of women has allowed me to trust other NOs as the best course for me and find my ultimate YES.
So thank you Jen, thank you #ForTheLove and most of all thank you to the ladies behind #the4500. There is a bigger lesson here and it starts with a gentle rejection and ends with love that moves us to action.
Jen’s book For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards can be preordered from Amazon. I was lucky to receive a few advance chapters and I can’t wait to read the rest!
Two things that don’t seem to go together very well: self care and special needs parenting. I know moms who seem to do self care well but unfortunately I am not one of them. I was sitting at our therapy waiting room reading a book and I happened to laugh out loud (Jen Hatmaker’s new book For The Love was the culprit) attracting curious looks.
It started a conversation about how little time moms of children of medical/special needs have to themselves. I don’t read books except when I am in waiting room. “I don’t take good care of myself” one mom confessed. We all nodded in agreement.
This month my husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. That prompted a time a reflection and needed changes in many areas of our lives. Self care rose to the top as we want to be able to give our children present, energetic parents. An empty cup has nothing to pour into others.
We are not able to go on long overnight trips, but we decided to do a short getaway. No distractions, no schedule and just time together. It will be marvelous! I feel like if I don’t plan it, it will never happen. So more things will be planned and scheduled. I hope this will be a start of intentional self care.