Around here…January edition

Around here, we’ve welcomed the new year…

Around here, it snowed…my very favorite cozy kind of weather.

Around here, the semester just ended, which meant two teenagers converted our living room into a library while they studied for finals.

 

(and it also meant a yummy dinner at our favorite Mexican place to celebrate their hard work! We always do this BEFORE grades come out, because hard work is its own reward…) And yes…I know the poinsettia is dead. Give me a break. My gifting does NOT include horticulture.

Around here, we celebrated Aunt Catherine’s life at her funeral last Saturday. Her influence shaped my own motherhood tremendously. She raised a child with disabilities during an era when no services were provided by the school…and she did it with acceptance, resolve, patience, and a great dose of humor.

Around here, we’re relaxing on Martin Luther King Day. My sister and I have already talked on the phone, remembering the year my dad made us write a report about Dr. King that we had to present at dinner time; he felt we didn’t have a good grasp on the influence of this great man.

Here is an excerpt from a speech Dr. King made at a school just six months before his death:

 

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star.

For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Around here, we’re thinking about these great words.

~Katie

Stay tuned for…Communicating about kids with disabilities in the age of social media.

Peace in the neighborhood: Stories, Service, and Sweets

What’s a birthday party without cake??

We wanted our neighborhood party to have a sweet ending. After the kids were finished with games and crafts, we invited them into our living room for a story. This was a great “settling down” activity before we enjoyed a treat. I read a different story each year that we had this party, but I want to share two of my favorites:

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect, by Richard Schneider, is a beautifully illustrated fable. The story ties the Christmas message in at the end, but is not preachy, so it is a gentle choice when building relationships with new neighbors, and a nice introduction to the concept of Christ’s devotion and sacrifice. For a group of younger children, you’ll want to “story tell” this book rather than read it word-for-word…the language is beautiful, but it’s a long story, and you may lose the kids’ attention unless you abridge it.

The next story is A Tree for Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall. This is a “pattern book,” which means that a line repeats throughout the story. (the kids will learn this quickly and they’ll be able to help you “read” by repeating the line on each page.) Mackall ties the tree theme to the life of Christ; his birth, childhood, ministry, death and resurrection are all mentioned with clarity and age-appropriate detail. Younger kids will be able to follow this rhyming story easily, and older kids will enjoy the lyrical stanzas as well. The illustrations are lovely, and include silhouettes that tie past and present together. I believe this book is out of print, but some copies are available on the web.

Thank you, Mitzie, for your assistance.

After our story time, we talked about our neighborhood service project. When we handed out invitations, we requested that the children bring a new, unwrapped book or toy to the party to donate to the local children’s hospital. We asked each child to show the gift he/she chose and then place it in a large gift bag. We talked about how much the children who were spending Christmas in the hospital would appreciate the caring gesture!

We also had an opportunity for children to share their gifts with each other! One year, a young boy played Christmas carols on his violin. Another time, a girl taught some simple sign language to the group. This is a great way for kids to get to know one another and appreciate each other’s strengths!

Finally…we sang a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday, dear Jesus,” and enjoyed blowing out candles and savoring cake! (Please note: When planning a party like this, be sure to ask the parents if their children have any dietary needs/allergies/restrictions.)

It’s important to note that each time we had this party, we had a mix of “typical” kids and kids with disabilities…we planned carefully so that every child had enough support. In addition, we made certain that quiet spaces were available, as well as choices for activities…it was very important to us that no one felt left out…when Jesus was on earth, he clearly said, “Let the children come to me!” We felt certain that He would want everyone included at His birthday party.

Happy Birthday, dear Jesus!
~Katie

Peace in the neighborhood: Crafts for the party!

When planning birthday parties for my kids, I usually included a craft activity. It’s fun for kids to return home a tangible reminder of the party (and this is also a good springboard for conversation with their parents!)

For our neighborhood Birthday Party for Jesus, we chose picture frame ornaments and angel “candy cans.” Both projects were relatively simple, and could be modified easily to accommodate different ability levels and ages.

Picture Frame Ornaments:
Materials: craft foam in sheets, tape, beads, or other embellishments, glue, glitter pens, pipe cleaners

Directions:
Prepare for the craft by cutting the craft foam into small rectangles. Cut a hole in each piece. Punch two holes at the top of each rectangle and attach a pipe cleaner.

Take and print a picture of each child (or ask that children bring a picture of themselves to the party.)
Tape the picture into the frame.
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Have kids decorate their frames with beads, stickers and glitter.

Angel Candy Cans
Materials:
soup or canned fruit cans, (emptied and washed, labels removed) coffee filters (2 for each project: one for the “dress” with the center cut out and one for wings), circles cut from manilla folders, glue, crayons, spanish moss

Directions: 
Be sure that the inside rim of the can is safe for little fingers by covering it with duct tape!
Place one coffee filter over the top of the can and help kids tape or glue it in place to make a “dress.”

Help kids to create “wings” out of the second coffee filter by taping the filter in half.

Glue the “wings” onto the “dress.” Then, have the kids draw a face on their manilla circle and add spanish moss “hair.”


Glue the face onto the rim of the can and fill the can with candy. You can also add a paper halo if you would like!

(Note: I added an additional coffee filter around the bottom of the can to make the skirt longer.)

Note: It’s always good to have two helpers at the craft table so that everyone feels successful! Also, be sure to have extra sets of crafts for kids who might need to revise their crafts (or for kids who work quickly!)

Tomorrow: Stories and Service

~Katie