In a few weeks I’m going to be heading off on vacation with my family.  Now I know that for everyone, a vacation takes A LOT of preparation but for me it’s even more.  For those of you who follow my blog you know that I have a son with Intellectual Disabilities and a husband with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.  My other family members include my two daughters (age 11 and 14) and my mom (we’re celebrating her 80th birthday!)  One of the things on my mom’s bucket list was taking a cruise with her family.  So we’re going to be heading off to Bermuda on The Norwegian Breakaway.

We also chose a cruise because we figured that would be the easiest for Greg, my hubby, to navigate and also give Spencer, my son the independence to walk around the ship and not get lost.  Plus, he’s 18 and eats me out of house and home so figured the option of food around the clock is a bonus!

Travelling with someone with a physical disability requires a ton of planning and dealing with unknowns.  Our cruise specialist was super helpful booking a handicap accessible room for us and an adjacent room for our kids.  Since Spencer has intellectual disabilities and my youngest is only 11 I wanted to be sure that our cabins were close to each other.

But we’ll never really know how accessible it is until we get on the ship.  A ton of questions run through our head – will there be enough room in the cabin for his power chair to turn?  How difficult will it be to get into the bathroom?  How hard will it be to get into bed?  How handicap accessible are the restrooms around the ship and in the restaurants?  The good news is that Norwegian offers an Accessibility Assistant to help plan and answer questions.  Greg will be calling this week so stay tune!

Greg has never been on a cruise so that makes it even more stressful.  He’s going to take Dramamine as a precaution.  I’m just looking forward to laying by the pool and not having to wash a dish or cook a meal for a week!

So here we go – the countdown has begun!

 

PRN-NATIONAL-AUTISM-NETOWRK-COVER-61013-1yHigh

For any mom, trying to coordinate family vacations can be stressful. For those of us who are trying to coordinate a vacation that includes our neuro-typical children as well as our special needs’ child, (not to mention our spouses and older parents with disabilities) that task can be overwhelming.

The National Autism Network, has provided these tips to make a vacation a little more manageable:

1. Be Prepared!
Call ahead to the place you are staying and check for any special accommodations they make for children with special needs. If you are attending an amusement park, visiting guest services to inquire about a special needs pass for your child should be the FIRST thing you do. It is also helpful to bring a physician’s note detailing your child’s disorder. Be sure to bring items your child may need, like headphones to drown out large crowd noise or special snacks to accommodate any specific diet needs.

2. Take Sensory Breaks
It may help your child with autism, and your family as a whole, to have built in mid-day breaks to wind down from the morning activities and to gear up for the night’s adventures. Your child may get overwhelmed spending too much time with crowds and loud noises regardless of the coping strategies you implement.

3. Include Every Member of the Family
Remember, this isn’t just your vacation, it belongs to everybody. Provide your family members with a variety of different types of destinations and activities to determine that there is something for everybody.

4. Cruising with Autism
If your family is searching for adventure on the high seas, then look no further than Autism on the Seas. Since 2007, the organization has been dedicated to assisting the cruise industry in providing cruise vacations for individuals and families’ with special needs.

5. Autism in Flight
A growing number of airlines are offering mock airplane simulations that allow for your child to experience what it’s like to visit the airport. Your child can experience every aspect of flight without ever leaving the ground. The TSA has a helpful list of specific information for passengers with special needs. The Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer app offers another way of introducing your child to the airport experience.

About National Autism Network:

National Autism Network was founded with the mission to be the largest online resource for the autism community and provide the most comprehensive information and news related to Autism. The site includes a provider directory, discussion forums, events calendar, social community, hundreds of autism resources and more.

Great holiday gifts for Grandma & Grandpa

Disclaimer – I have a material and/or financial connection because I received a gift, sample of a product and/or compensation for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions stated within are my own.

Let’s face it, trying to figure out what to buy older relatives is never easy.  The last thing they need is more “stuff” to fit into their house.  This year, give them something that will keep them connected, engaged or safe.  Join us for a Twitter Party for some great gift ideas for older relatives.

Join me for a fun Holiday gift Twitter Party sponsored by VTech CareLine™.

Careline productWhen – Tuesday, December 10th  9:00 – 10:00 PM ET

Our Sponsor VTech CareLine™

Hashtag – #Gift4Grandma

Prizes – Three lucky winners will receive a  VTech CareLine™ home telephone and personal communication system.

 

Help spread the word! Here’s a sample tweet or just use the tweet button at the bottom of the post:

#ad Join #Gift4Grandma Twitter Party 12/10 9pm ET @VTech411 

RSVP List

 

 

ThanksgivingBlogFor the past week there have been a ton of Facebook postings and blogs about all of the many things we should be thankful for at Thanksgiving.  It’s true – good friends, our health and the basics such as food on our table and clothing on our backs, are all blessings.  Sometimes it’s hard to see this when there are so many challenges we’re dealing with.  While it is important to be grateful for what we have, it’s even more important to be thankful for the hardships and struggles in our life.   I know, it sounds crazy but read on.

Over the past several years, I’ve had to take a hard look at my life and try to figure out what I’m meant to do and why I’ve been put on a certain path.  Many of you are struggling with these questions as well and we often get caught up in bemoaning our current situation, asking ourselves –

Why is my life so hard?

Why haven’t I found the perfect partner?

Why am I suffering from this illness?

Why am I still unemployed?

I was there.  And I’ve spent a great deal of time praying, meditating, journaling and soul searching about why I’ve been given so many struggles.  What I’ve come to realize is that they’re merely heartbreaks, crises and problems if I choose to look at them that way.  While my marriage ended in divorce and I was broken emotionally, I was given four beautiful children who are the light of my life.  Going through that struggle also allowed me to find the man I love who has helped me become the person I was meant to be.  And while I didn’t envision a future with a husband with Primary Multiple Sclerosis or a son with intellectual disabilities, I realize now that these two most important men in my life were brought together to help each other.  My son is the most caring person anyone has ever met.  He might never be able to hold down a traditional job, but he is strong and will be able to help me care for my husband when needed.  Perhaps the greatest heartbreak I’ve needed to come to terms with though is the death of my first son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  I could never say I’m grateful for that but, what I can say is that I’m blessed to have been given an angel here on earth for a very short time to care for and now have a guardian angel watching over all of my family.  I’m grateful that, through having Connor and losing him, I was able to learn what’s most important in life and live my life with passion and purpose, trying to help other people who are struggling.

So here’s what I’m asking of you.  Practice gratitude your hardships.  That job you were laid off from?  It might have prevented you from finding your true life’s mission.  The illness you’re dealing with?  How has it inspired you to make a difference in this world? The financial struggles might be opening your mind to creating a more simple and authentic way of life.

Keep being thankful for all of the wonderful things but find blessings in the dark.  What struggles are you facing that you can be grateful for?  Share here…

This was another one of those weeks where I almost could feel the earth shifting under my feet.  My 40’s have undoubtedly been a time of personal growth, acceptance and letting go.  This week however was probably the most emotional.

In the span of a week I:

  • Allowed myself to let go of a friendship in which we both had grown in separate ways,
  • Reconnected with a dear friend and his family and realized that some roots remain strong,
  • Experienced the heartbreak and anger of witnessing the destruction of a family relationship that was never really there,
  • Grieved over the next step in the decline of my father’s health,
  • Reached out to distant relatives to help create bonds for my children
  • Burst with pride at the next step in my children’s academic life yet continued to worry about the future for my intellectually disabled son.

familyblogAs an only child, “family” included close friends.  I’m fortunate to have people in my life who are as close as any brother or sister could ever be.  But I’ve also come to realize that some of those relationships don’t last.  It was a hard lesson to learn that sometimes you just need to let go and be grateful for the time you had.  I try so hard to cling to relationships.  Then there are those “blood relationships” that also, sadly need to be severed sometimes.   I believe that in all of these instances it takes a great deal of faith to know that the new path you are venturing down will be the right one.  That the future might be revealing itself in ways you never expected.

But then there are those incredible moments.  The ones that take your breath away.  The feeling of being enveloped in love by people from your childhood who you know – and know you – like no one else can.  It requires faith to believe that while these relationships might fade for awhile, the foundation is there and, at a moment’s notice, these guiding angels will be there to accept you, love you and help you heal.  And of course there are the true milestones in relationships.  Watching our children graduate and start a new chapter themselves.  My week was book-ended by each of my children graduating from their respective schools and moving up and helping my mother cope with the grief of looking at nursing homes for my father.  My mother has always been one of my closest friends.  Now I’m feeling that relationship evolve as my daughter and I begin forming a similar friendship.

Friendship/family – the lines seem to blur often.  In the end, though, it comes down to faith.  Faith that the right answers about relationships will be revealed.  Faith that we will endure the heartache that comes with aging, disease and the loss of a relationship.  And faith that the choices we make for ourselves and those we love and care for will be the right ones.

 

 

Kardashian 2011 Christmas Card - Picture Perfect?

OK, who’s tired of the holiday commercials showing happy, smiling families joyfully opening presents with perfectly behaved children?
Seriously?!

Most moms realize these picture perfect family moments don’t really exist.  We’re exhausted by the end of the holidays from trying to keep the peace, make everyone happy and not having grandpa burn down the Christmas tree with his cigar (Everyone remember Christmas Vacation?)

Having several generations under one roof for the holidays can be fraught with tension but also safety concerns – grandparents who aren’t
used to locking up prescription medication, kids who leave toys underfoot, uncles and aunts who don’t understand about food allergies and choking hazards.

Join us on Thursday, December 13th at 2P EST to talk about your real holiday stories – how you keep everyone happy, the worst holiday family experiences you’ve dealt with – and learn some tips on keeping everyone happy, safe and sane!

When – Thursday, December 13th 2:00 – 3:00 ET

Our Sponsor – Media Planet

Hashtag – #SaneXmas

Prizes – Three lucky winners will receive a $25 Amazon card

RSVP – Not necessary, just come and join!

Hershey’s S’Mores a Bondfire Must!

Summer might be over but our vacation will be a lasting memory for my mom, kids and me.   I cherish my memories of summer vacations with my grandparents in Cape Cod when I was a little girl.  Certain smells, sounds and tastes can evoke those memories instantly like the smell of the ocean, the sound of seagulls, a crackling campfire and the taste of Hershey’s S’mores.

My grandparents have long since passed away and now, instead of Cape Cod, our family vacation destination is a beach house we rent in Rhode Island.  But everything else has remained the same.  OK, now the kids have their iTouches rather than the Etch-A-Sketch that I had, but their excitement in anticipating our summer vacation with their grandparents is the same.    These vacations have become rather bittersweet recently as my father is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and recently had a stroke.  I’m not sure how many more summer family vacations will happen but my mom was committed to joining us this year.  Being a part of her grandkid’s lives is what makes her happiest.   This year, more than ever, I was committed to carrying on the traditions and recreating past summer vacations as closely as possible.  And, it was perfect in its simplicity.  Days were filled with bike rides to the farm stand, hunting for shells on the beach, bodysurfing, games of scrabble and outdoor barbeques.  Along with the  upgrade from the Etch-A-Sketch to the iTouch was an official Hershey’s S’mores making kit rather than the long twigs we used to use.  I must admit, as The Safety Mom , this was a welcome improvement!

We might not be sitting around a campfire but our grill did the trick just as well in creating smells and tastes that my kids and I will remember for a lifetime.

This post is part of my participation in the HERSHEY’S CAMP BONDFIRE campaign. All opinions expressed are mine.

 

As I sat this week filling out interminable forms for my kids’ schools, it struck me how important it is for each child to have not one, not two, but up to four emergency contacts in case of illness or an early dismissal due to severe weather.  I’m lucky to have a strong support network, but my son travels almost an hour each way to and from school, and the importance of having back-ups in place for him especially cannot be understated.

It’s also been almost exactly one year since Hurricane Irene rocked our socks off, and with Isaac doing some heavy damage in the Gulf Coast, I’m proud to be working with EmergencyLink, a company that has created an emergency ID network that lets anyone store their important information and documents,  easily share those materials with family and friends, and offers a free 24-hour emergency response center to aid members in an emergency.

September is designated by FEMA as National Preparedness Month, and in support, EmergencyLink wants everyone to be as prepared as possible in the event of a disaster or accident. Starting TODAY (through the end of October) the company will be giving away EIGHT new iPhones—one per week—to provide people with the latest new technology to create the ultimate safety device.  You can learn more about the giveaway at the  iPhone 5 “Ultimate Safety Device” giveaway page.

I highly recommend that you sign up for this service – you can add  children and parents accounts, even a pet to your own account. Each dependent receives their own EmergencyLink ID Cards for backpacks, purses, etc., and has all the features of the EmergencyLink service.

What I also like about this service is that the service lets you create a missing person, medical and other reports for anyone you have on your EmergencyLink account. If you do not have access to your account, our emergency response center can create a report for you and immediately forward it to the police or hospital.