Making New Ways To Play In Dad’s Old Shop

My Dad is a plumber and a contractor. When I was a kid I loved playing in his shop. I used to stack wooden scraps, bang things together, and pretend copper pipe was my wedding band. (Princesses hang in tool shops too).

Today I got to be a bit of a kid in Dad’s shop again and it was so fun!

I have a few “go-to” gifts that I LOVE giving to my “therapy kids” when they turn 3 and are no longer eligible for my services. They are part “graduation” gift and part birthday gift. Every once in a while though, I have a kid who needs something that is specifically made just for them.

It’s nice having a handy Dad when you are a self employed early intervention physical therapist, creatively making things work for therapy visits in the homes of children. Dear Old Dad has helped me out a few times and today was no exception.

Together (well mostly him), we made this fun board for my special guy and I wanted to share.

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I liked it so much I decided “we” needed to make 2 so I could keep one for work too!

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I’ve always admired these boards and while they are very focused on fine motor work, I’ll be able to incorporate them into sitting and standing play…maybe even as a motivator for my little ones who are almost crawling but need a bit more motivation!

So if you are interested in making something like this, I’m happy to share that it was not overly expensive. Total cost was about $20 each.  I basically strolled up and down the aisles of Lowe’s choosing mismatched things that were interesting to turn, twist, flick, or flip. (This made the regulars at Lowe’s a wee bit nervous I think).  That part of easy. I will say if you are going to try it you need someone handy and with a few basic tools (electric drill, small saw, nail gun), which worked out much better than my original plan to glue gun everything down!

Here are some of the items I used.

I can’t wait to gift my special guy with his “one of a kind, made with love by my Dad” creation and to try mine out too. Even more fun that playing with these might be the fun I had playing today in the shop.

Like my ring?


board ring

What our kids learn when we butt out…

I saw this the other day and loved it because it is so true.


My favorite times watching my children play are totally organic. Not lead by me. Not in a group classroom. Not during an activity I’ve signed them up for. Not while doing anything I’ve paid for. Not when they know I have a camera hiding around the corner, hoping they won’t really notice enough to stop their magic.

Why? Because that sort of play is the best brain building kind! It’s the kind that is naturally multisensory, usually socially engaging. and belly laughing, child shrieking fun.  It is THE BEST way to really KNOW my children, because they are worried that an adult watching has expectations. They are free to express themselves at the developmental stage where they are and get all those feelings out, let all those creative ideas flow, and pretend they are whoever they wish to be. Yep, magic.

My favorite thing about social media is seeing the children of my friends and family.  I’ll publicly admit that while my parent friends are fuming and post photos of some huge mess, my mind thinks in the way of the child that made the mess. Maybe this is against the parent pact? Like this doozie from my dear friend Jen (Warrior Mom of 4), who shared this of her child’s “artwork” a few months ago.


Jen had just cleaned the couch. She was likely thinking, “Someone is gonna die.” I thought as her son and in my mind said, “I’m learning that this cool address stamper works on things besides paper. And it leaves a mark wherever my hand goes. And that doing this really had my mom engage with me.” Of course my mind also thought “Poor Jen,” and “Been there sister,” and “Rubbing alcohol takes ink out of fabric and toothpaste takes it off tables.” (Parent pack renewed).

As parents, we hear these messages.

“Sign them up, and they’ll learn.”

“Take the class, and they’ll learn.”

“Do the worksheet, and they’ll learn.”

Those messages are so loud at times that the message our gut tells us (that “PLAY BUILDS BRAINS! AND PLAY IS THE BEST TEACHER OF YOUNG KIDS”) is often brought to a whisper. Suddenly, it JUST seems like play instead of the many learning opportunities that go on during play. Instead of the magic.

I believe that if WE as parents, teachers, therapists, child care providers, family members want to turn the tide on the message sent to young children and those that love and care for them regarding play, then we need to start SEEING PLAY THROUGH THEIR EYES. Doing so, will not only make us better at our work, but will change the conversation. It s our job to defend play as a right of children.

I’m not suggesting you let your children color all your walls and furniture. I am suggesting, we consciously set the scene, make supplies available, create safe environments that support creative expression and concrete learning, and then we BUTT OUT (sometimes). More on why – HERE.

Yes, a child needs adults to love to them, read to them, nurture them, comfort them, and play with them. They also need time to play alone and with their peers. I’m also suggesting that when we get the gift of being able to peek in on the magic, we remind ourselves to take a deep breath, look past the mess (briefly), and think, “what is he/she learning?” Yes worksheets or classes led by another adult that we sign up for or pay for are cleaner, safer, and easier (and there are benefits to them as well), but child led, child driven play is the BEST way a young child learns.

As an exercise in this, I started searching for some of my favorite pictures of this sort of magical play and decided to caption them accordingly as a self exercise. Here they are…


Will you help us change the conversation for kids?

We’d love to see your photos!  Post them to our Facebook or send through Twitter with the caption “I’m learning…” and the hashtag #playbuildsbrains

For more on why we believe in play and ways to encourage early learning through play using 1-2-3 Just Play With Me take a look around this website!


Why Moo, Baa and La La La Matter (and crash, boom and bam too!)

I commonly ask the following question when I enter a home for a new evaluation: “What animal sounds does Johnny make?” Or I might ask, “Does he make any car noises or crashing sounds?” Although I know why I ask those types of questions I recently put myself in the parents’ shoes. The parent who most likely doesn’t have a background in speech and language development and might wonder why on earth it matters if Johnny can say “moo” or “vroom”. After all, our goal is real words here, so what purpose does moo or baa (or la la la) have to do with his ability to talk?


Environmental sounds, as they are called in the child development world, matter. They are the first sounds that most children produce, long before true words. They are easier to say and offer children the opportunity for practice in producing sounds and combining them into syllables. Environmental sounds (animal sounds, car noises, crashing noises, etc.) are also how little ones let us know early on that they understand associations between objects/animals and the sounds they make. Also, environmental sounds are repetitive which make them easier for little ones to say. “Moo moo”, “neigh neigh”, “baa baa” are all single syllable, repetitive sounds.  Environmental sounds can be learned and practiced through PLAY; you model the sound for the child and they imitate it. Environmental sounds can also be learned and practiced through books.


Sometimes I work with kids who make no or very few environmental sounds. Because production of environmental sounds typically precludes word production I make the following suggestions to the family to encourage development of this skill:


  1. Work on the skill of imitation. Your child may not be quite ready for verbal imitation so work on imitating gestures instead. For example, if your child doesn’t imiate the “yuck” sound, stick out your tongue while you say it and they may stick their tongue out too. These gestures associated with sounds will bring about the verbal production sooner!
  2. Expose your child to a new experience related to environmental sounds. When a child can visit the cow on the farm or the lion at the zoo it allows them to make the connection between sound and animal more real and the boost in their receptive language results in more verbal expression. Or visit the construction site to hear the loud trucks and diggers, or take a walk outside and listen to the birds.
  3. Read books that have sounds in them that the child can imitate. When you read be silly, exaggerate the sounds, vary your pitch and volume to grab the child’s attention and make them feel more comfortable in attempting to imitate you.
  4. Reward your child’s attempts of saying any and all sounds. Praise, celebrate and recognize their attempts to make car, animal, and all environmental sounds. When they know they were heard and understood, kids feel more empowered to attempt more communication.


As I mentioned before, PLAY affords a child the best opportunity to learn what sounds animals, cars and other toys make. But books can also be an important tool in learning early communication skills. Here are some of my favorites for teaching imitative sounds:


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So now you know why those silly sounds are SO important.  Fun to say, even more fun to imitate, environmental sounds play a part in your child’s communication development!  Now that you know, you must feel empowered,  so go “moo, baa and la la la” with confidence! 🙂




Avoiding the label – and why it matters

When I was a graduate physical therapy student at West Virginia University, I was blessed with some incredible professors. I learned from, worked side by side with, was challenged by, and inspired by some amazing professionals that taught my classmates and I about the many basics and specialized area of the practice of physical therapy. This morning, I was thinking about of my favorites. Dr. Mary Beth Mandich was (and is) the chair of the PT department and is a pediatric specialist. She inspired me through the research she did, the collaboration and influence she had on the NICU department at our university’s medical center, and her deep knowledge in many pediatric interventions. And while I remember all of that, it is something different that I remember most about her. Often times, when discussing a case, or teaching, it becomes automatic for a therapist (or other medical professional) to describe the patient by their diagnosis. For example, “I had a 54 year old right hemi,” to describe someone who had a hemiplegic stroke. This was a NO-NO in Dr. Mandich’s code of ethics. I remember her passionately explaining to us, that these people, OUR patients, were people, not diagnoses. She firmly but passionately explained that “that hemi” could be a father, a son, a golfer, a dreamer, a wood maker, a friend, and a sports fan. Labeling them by their diagnosis lessened their individuality and lessened the focus on WHY it was so important for us to do the best job we could to rehabilitate them. When someone would slip and label their patients by diagnosis, Mr. Mandich wouldn’t lecture or belittle us. She, like a seasoned Mom, would give us “the look” until we caught our own mistake and corrected ourselves. That lesson of love has stuck with me for 13 years of practice.

I am married to an occupational therapist. This is helpful when we can support each other with knowledge and experience in out own fields and quirky and weird when we have conversations on the beach about people’s gait deviations as they walk by. Yes, most couples might comment, “Wow, look at those abs!” Brent and I say, “Wow, what an antalgic hip…it needs replaced!” Strange, I know. Anyway, Dr. Mandich’s lesson has even permeated our marriage! When my husband comes home and says, “I had this below knee amputee today,” I now give him “the look,” and he quickly corrects to “I had a man today who had a below knee amputation.” He’s gotten pretty good at avoiding the label over the years himself!

So I was thinking about Dr. Mandich and labels today. Is it human nature to label people? Is it easier for us if we can put them in clearly defined little boxes? I think it might be. We do it all the time, but it doesn’t mean it is a good thing. We label other mothers….”Type A, Anti-vax, homeschooling, drill sargent, stage mom, granola cruncher”…whatever. We do it to professionals in our lives…”the grouchy teacher, the inattentive doctor, the crazy post lady.”  We even do it to our kids! “This one is lazy. That one is high strung.”

Here’s the thing. It’s true that these labels might be ONE describer of an individual (or maybe not). But would you want to be identified by just ONE word? I would not. Especially this morning because it would be GRUMPY!

So here’s my Monday morning challenge to myself…and to you.  When you encounter people this week, anyone from the clerk at Target to your spouse, the child you work with to your own child,  try to avoid the label…even in your mind.  And together let’s see what consciously doing so does to change US!

Need a visual inspiration to do so? I love this one!  Have a great week!


Print or Digital? Which version is best for you?

From the beginning of our business, we have enjoyed sharing our visions and dreams with you – our friends and family personally, professionally, and those who we have connected with through our shared passion for play as the best way for a child to learn and bond with a parent.

For those reasons and more, we are very excited to share with you the next step in our journey to support those who love and interact with children by truly understanding their development in the early years and encouraging the pairing of it with purposeful play.

We are proud to announce that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is now available for purchase as an E-book!

To give you a glimpse into why we decided to expand our product to a digital offering and how it can be used, we decided to share with you some questions we are asked repetitively (and some answers too!)

“I love your product, but are you going to make it into an app? E-book? Some digital form? Paper is going to be extinct soon!”

While we both still love the feel of an actual book or product to hold, and the opportunity to give a beautiful gift to someone, we realize that many people prefer a more compact version of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! We both embrace the qualities of printed work and the convenience of digital work. As soon as we created our product, it was a goal to create a digital version so that we could meet the needs of all customers. We chose an e-book vs. an app because 1-2-3 Just Play With Me has enough information and text that it could be a book, but we wanted the convenience as parents of quickly accessing only the information we needed at a time in card form. The E-book was the best option to present the information digitally in the format we wanted to preserve.

“Which option is best for me? E-book or print version?”

Of course, this is personal preference, but in our opinion, if you are purchasing it for yourself to use with your baby, or as a gift, we recommend the print version. Here’s why. The cards can be physically placed in a useful place like the refrigerator door. This allows you (or another parent or caretaker) the opportunity to focus on only the age/stage where the child currently is, while doing all the other things we do as parents (cook, clean up dishes etc). The cards were purposefully made to be quite durable for these reasons.  Our sturdy, decorative box also makes a lovely addition to a nursery.

We do sell a great number of units to therapists, child care centers, and early childhood professionals. Depending on the professional use, the E-book version may be more practical. For example, Lacy & I both work in early intervention, so we will be loading the E-book on our individual devices to take daily into the homes of the families we serve to use as a quick reference (as a PT, I LOVE this option to reference the areas of development other than my familiar motor area. It allows me to give the parents a comprehensive and appropriate look into which milestones we are working on and how we can tie together goals in several areas of development into a few activities).  The E-book is obviously easier to transport for work purposes than the print version for us, but if you work in a clinic where you want parents to view the cards themselves in a waiting area or interactively with you during therapy sessions or parent conferences, the print version may work best.  Additionally, the eBook version has a table of contents, search engine, and hyperlinks to additional resources that the print version doesn’t have.

“I really like your product. I wish I had it earlier, but my child is 2 years old, so I’m not sure I can justify buying the whole set. Have you considered splitting it up into sections?”

Why yes, we have! We considered this in the early development phases of the print version, but doing so initially would have increased our production costs making it difficult to sell to our customers at a fair price. With the E-book version we were able to meet this request! You can purchase the cards in the first, second, or third year of life separately and each comes with the detailed resource section at the end of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, including common topics such as potty training, discipline, sleep. sign language, and book and toy recommendations. Simply search for each individual year at the ebook store of your choice!

“I really like the design of the cards. Is that lost in the E-book conversion.”

We do too, so absolutely not! 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is color coded to quickly reference what domain of child development you are looking for and sequentially by age. That was part of our essential original design so we could not lose that in the conversion. In fact, we actually added a table of contents so you can search by age or area and a search engine to look for specific topics and milestones. The only difference is, that in the e-book version, you will not see our colored scalloped borders, but you will still be able to use the color coding system to identify which of the 5 developmental domains you are exploring. The font in the headings of the e-book sections will maintain the same system as the printed cards (red for cognitive, navy for social/emotional, green for gross motor, gray for fine motor, and light blue for speech and language). Here’s a screen shot to give you a sneak preview!


horizontal version



“So how can I find 1-2-3 Just Play With Me digitally?”

We are excited to offer our e-book through Amazon/Kindle, Barnes and Noble/Nook, iTunes.

Simply click the hyperlink above to find the version of your choice and to read a sample.

There you have it. What you need to know about our next step. As with all of our previous steps, we are humbled by your encouragement and support. For reviews of what others are saying check out these reviews and these too! If you share our vision for a world where adults understand what real development looks like and embrace their children through play, will you share with a friend or colleague that might benefit from knowing  about our E-book? Whether you are a paper fan or a digital fan, we know you’ll be a 1-2-3 just Play With Me fan once you experience the detailed developmental information, purposeful and fun play strategies, and practical and unique format we are proud to offer you! Remember you can always order the print version at Amazon, Pro-Ed, and right here at Milestones & Miracles (we’ll happily ship for free and include a gift card for you). You can also visit these lovely spaces that may be local to you to purchase one in person.



The Secret of “The Hot Pink Tape”

This post was originally written for Child Guide Magazine.  Check out the many resources Child Guide offers as well as this article and others HERE.

If you are a runner, or have watched a race or even perhaps a professional sporting event lately, you may find yourself asking, “What is that bright colored tape people are wearing? And why is it cut in crazy patterns?” That trendy tape, often seen in bright pink or blue or sometimes black, is called Kinesiotape and it isn’t exactly new, even though it may have gained popularity in recent years in the US. But did you know that Kinesiotape is not just for athletes? This versatile tape is actually a very effective tool for children with motor challenges as well!


Kinesiotape is a progression of Kinesio Tex, which was invented by Dr. Kenzo Kase in Japan in the 1970’s. Dr. Kase was searching for an alternative tape to traditional athletic tape. He noticed that traditional tape often restricted movement, did nothing to aid healing, and could potentially cause additional injuries. Out of his hard work, Kinesiotape was born. What makes it different? Kinesiotape is elastic, latex free, cotton based tape that can stretch up to 30-40% of its original size. These properties allow it to be more versatile than traditional tape. In additional to allowing full range of motion and being very comfortable on the skin, the elasticity of the tape allows it to perform many functions. Kinesiotape is meant to be placed very strategically depending on the reason why someone is wearing it. Depending on placement it can increase healing, decrease inflammation and swelling, and support weak muscle by encouraging activation, or increase function lost by spastic muscle by encouraging a decrease in muscle tone. In addition posture can be improved with use.


Sounds pretty incredible, right? Here’s how it works. Our muscles are each individually covered in a think filmy layer called fascia. Between the skin and this fascia are layers of connective tissue. When Kinesiotape is applied strategically to the skin, it tugs on the skin, which pulls on the connective tissue, which pulls on the fascia, which tugs on the muscle. The result is either an increased “fascial envelope,” allowing for 1) increased removal of toxins (lactic acid and waste) and increased space to allow fresh blood to restore tissue or aid in healing or 2) Encouragement of activation of a specific muscle for a specific purpose., improving posture or strength through increased use.   When used this way, the tape is like a constant tapping on weak muscles saying, “Use Me!”


This can potentially best be illustrated by looking at something concrete like a bruise.

In the images below, Kinesiotape has been used to increase the space between the fascia and the skin and allow quicker healing in the places where the tape was placed.

How is this used with children or anyone with motor challenges? In many ways! Children with atypical muscle tone (either hypotonia (low tone), hypertonia (high tone) or any sort of weakness may benefit from Kinesotape. When the tape is applied strategically over the muscles that need assistance or strengthening, the result is a slight tug that encourages the child to use their body in a specific way. When used this way, Kinesiotape can be used as a bridge to encourage strengthening or function through active participation. The child wears the tape, the tape encourages the child to move their body in a way that strengthens, stretches, or improves function, and eventually the child may get strong or functional enough to not need the tape. An example would be using the tape on the abdominal or back muscles in a child with Downs Syndrome who has trouble sitting alone or on the hand of a child with Cerebral Palsy who has a hard time opening the hand to grab for things.

Owen Ruffner is a 2 year-old child has benefitted from Kinesiotape in large ways. Owen has Mitocondrial Disease and as a result has weakness and low muscle tone, which challenge him when moving and attempting to control his body. Owen is learning to walk with a gait trainer and without tape, tends to drift to his left weaker side. When Kinesiotape is placed on the left leg, encouraging full activation of his muscles, he able to walk in a straight path. These results were immediately noticed after 1 application by his Physical Therapist. His mother Kasey McDaniel has been thrilled with the progress. She shares, “Kinesiotape has helped Owen by giving him a chance to use his muscles on his weaker side. I have noticed a huge difference with daily function and with helping him as he learns to walk.”


The possibilities are quite endless with Kinesiotape as it is relatively low cost, is easily tolerated on the skin, is waterproof, and usually lasts 3-5 days per application. It is very important that anyone using the tape is initially taped by someone with strong knowledge of anatomy, such as a licensed physical therapist, and by someone who has had training on the Kinesiotape method.  Once a few applications are applied, tweaked as needed, and monitored, a successful method can be taught to a willing parent, who could continue the taping at home, with the help of a physical therapist.
It is true that Lance Armstrong was one of the first to expose Kinesiotape to the United States, swearing by the pink tape specifically for his knee injury, but your child may benefit as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, the risks and cost are low, but the benefit is often quite high. Ask your pediatric PT about Kinesiotape at your next visit.


For more information about Kinesiotape and the Kinesiotaping method, visit: and


What Can You Do With Ribbon, Marbles, Golf Tees and Pom Poms? We Have Some Ideas for YOU!


Going into homes to serve children can be tricky when it comes to engaging them.  Therapists can be tempted to take in their own toys because the child will quickly join in the fun when a new toy is presented.  But we certainly don’t want parents to feel pressure to purchase the toys we bring into the homes.  Contrary to popular belief there is no magic in our toys!  So it is often best practice to play with what is available in the home and sometimes that is very little.  It can be heartbreaking to be in homes with not even a single book or stuffed animal.  Until I worked as an EI therapist I thought EVERY child owned at least one of each of those.  So in order to help these children have access to developmentally appropriate toys we often help families create toys out of everyday items that can be found in their homes.  At the request of another early intervention therapist we are posting this blog with photos of a few homemade treasures you can share with the families your serve or your own family at home!  I think creating homemade toys is a great way to engage children and their imagination and drives home to parents that it is not the toy that matters but the “PLAYING” with it that does!  We hope you find an idea here you like but if not be sure to visit our Pinterest DIY PLAY board for more ideas.  And certainly refer to 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for more fun PLAY at home ideas paired with developmental milestones for kids ages birth to three.  PLAY BUILDS BRAINS people!  Spread the news!



Create crazy creatures with plastic golf balls and pipe cleaners


Putting pom poms into a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off or a paper towel roll tube. Then pull up the bottle/tube for an explosion of pom poms! The mirror adds an element of interest as the little one can watch what they are doing.


Use a lidded plastic container and a few ribbons. Have the child pull the ribbons through the lid.


Color matching with play-doh and colored Q-tips.


Fine motor work with golf tees and marbles. To add more difficulty have the child use tweezers to place the marbles.


Make a Munchy ball by cutting a slit in a tennis ball. This could be used as a reinforcer as well as work on fine motor strength.

What I learned from a real life superhero without a cape

A few weeks ago, amongst the CRAZY of end of school year activities, we traveled to our state’s capital Charleston, WV.  My youngest daughter won our county’s Young Writer’s Contest for her age and with that came an invitation to spend the day on the University of Charleston’s campus with published authors in writing workshops. Charleston is a 5 hour drive from our home and the event was on a Friday, but there was no way she was missing this one. My mom is an English teacher and literary nut and so for the two of them this was the Superbowl.  So my husband and I and both our mothers (super grandmas) escorted her to the event. Here’s a few pictures from the day.

At the awards ceremony at the end of the day, the winners from each division were chosen to read their entries from the stage into the microphone. As the host of the event gave us an overview of what we were about to hear, my ears (and heart) perked up when he said that the 3-4 grade winner had Autism and would share his entry that gave us a view of what living with Autism is like. My protective therapist nature kicked in and I immediately was concerned for the boy I did not know. Inside my head I thought,

“This room is filled with hundreds of people.”

“They want him to speak in a microphone?”

“There’s an echo in here and loud clapping, will that overwhelm him?”

As Sawyer Hinton from Mingo County approached the microphone, my worries all melted away. This was a composed, bright, confident boy. His thick Appalachian accent required me to intently focus to clearly hear each word, but his message was as clear as could be.  His goal was to share what he knows about Autism as an advocate not just for himself, but for others. He doesn’t consider himself to have a disability, but a superpower. As he finished, the whole auditorium stood and clapped for several minutes. I couldn’t stop the tears just like those around me – men, women, kids – all blubbering. It could have been a scene from a movie.  I was as proud of this kid as I have ever been for my own and I didn’t know him!

My daughter was blessed to be given the opportunity to spend the day with many inspiring teachers and authors, but we were all blessed to hear Sawyer Hinton, who in my opinion had the best sense of himself and the world around him  than any other elementary kid I have ever seen. I only wish I had had a video to show you the incredible moments.

Autism now affects 1 in 68 children in the US. You likely have a relative or a friend with Autism or someone you know has a child with Autism. Sawyer’s goal was to use his day to spread awareness. We’d like to use our blog to help him as he helps others. This boy will do big things in the world. Enjoy! (and please share!) And thank you Sawyer!

Superhero Without a Cape

by Sawyer Hinton

Grades 3-4 winner, Lenore PreK-8, Mingo County

Did you know that not all superheroes wear a cape? I have a superpower that makes me very special. I am completely different from every other 8-year-old that I know. The thing that I call my super power is what most people call Autism. I know that it is normally seen as a disability. But I look at it in a different light. I would much rather call it a special ability. Autism allows me to process everything in the world around me differently than the average child. My family has helped me cope with my diagnosis. So hopefully after reading my story, you will discover that there are superheroes all around you. They just don’t wear capes.

I have been called some really ugly names for being different. But being peculiar is just who I am. I want to explain how you could always turn a disability into a superpower by just looking at things in a different way. Take my obsessiveness of order routine for example. Most people consider that a disability. I, on the other hand, just think that I am more organized than everyone else. Now doesn’t that sound more positive by just changing the words? I prefer to be alone most of the time. But I really have more time to think, read and dream. I come around people in my own time and at my own pace. Is that not how most people get to know one another? I just take a little longer. My brain is larger than normal. Seems to me that is a positive trait. I have room to learn more. One of the stigmas placed on people like me is that we are mentally retarded. That could not be farther from the truth. I am a genius when it comes to certain things. Putting what I know on the outside is what I struggle with. However, the ability to retain information by just hearing or reading it once is definitely a perk. So, has it become more apparent that I am super special? I cannot bear the thought of certain textures, smells, tastes and things that have to do with sensory perception. Guess I am just set in my ways. But isn’t every single person that way? I am a little extreme but still not disabled.

I have not mentioned all the quirky things that I do. But what superhero reveals all his secrets? I just hope that I can make a difference to someone else like me. I urge you to take the time to look at the things that make you different and embrace them. Never accept something as a disability, look at it as a special superpower that makes you unique! Hopefully now you can see the superheroes living all around you.

– See more at:

My Mother’s Day Creed

Almost ten years ago when I became a mother, I was full of joy, and hope, and gratefulness, and yes insecurity.

Like many times in our lives when we feel insecure, we often feel a false sense of assuredness by the concept of “power in numbers.” The thought that “if lots of others also do it, believe it, sign up…it must be a good choice.”

It’s no wonder we feel this way. It is what we are subliminally taught. Hurry! Choose! Join!

For example:

The United States has 72 million registered Democrats, 55 million Republicans, and 42 million independents.

50 million Americans love the Pittsburgh Steelers (lots of smart people).

273,968 people want Justin Bieber deported.

All the cool kids are doing it. Numbers are used to persuade us.

This belief comes up throughout our life in an attempt to make us feel better.

Whether it is our elementary school self persuading others to play what we want to play or our high school self desperately trying to find confidence in all the wrong ways through the peer pressured choices we make, it happens. My New Mom Self was no exception. I’m sure many of the decisions I made (or didn’t make), I self evaluated by what my peers were doing and measured by choices by someone else’s ruler at times…. (side note: that never really works does it?)

I find that often times mothers fall into this same trap. When you think about it, we have infinite parenting decisions to make and big, huge, uncountable responsibilities, particularly when you think broadly of the overall “job” of raising a human or humans! (YIKES).

I’ve thought a lot this year about not only how my kids have matured (still a long way to go), but also have I have matured (again – still a long way to go) as a mother. In my LETTER TO MY NEW MOM SELF I shared what I wish I knew then. But in honor of Mother’s Day this year, I’d like to share what I know for sure right now. WHY?

Here’s the thing. We all have beliefs. And boy can we get passionate about them. Whole food, raw food, meatless, meat only, dairy, almond, soy, or coconut milk. Public or private school. Homeschool. Unschool. Bottle or breast or both. Attachment, Authoritarian, or Permissive parenting. How to celebrate (or not celebrate) holidays. How to discipline. How to potty train. How to put to bed. The list goes on and on…and on and on.  To be honest, sometimes I find it difficult to hear my own voice because there are so many venues for everyone to shout their voices from (By the way – I realize this blog could be one of them – but just wait!).

We, as Mother’s, could:

1) Choose to judge each other for our choices and we could choose to boost our own confidence by trying to persuade others to “join our team.”  We could fall back into that playground setting and give in to that little voice that gets us at times (no matter what age we are). We could doubt ourselves and judge others and self criticize in that doubt.


2) We could respect each others choices (choose away and as long as your kids are safe – fine with me because they in fact, are YOUR kids) and spend our time and energy following our own MOMMY CREED. Why a creed? A creed is a set of beliefs or aims that guide someone’s actions. Sometimes parents need a creed. A written or spoken reminder of why we are doing what we are doing. Because in all honesty, sometimes it’s so crazy around here that I can’t remember why I came into the room, so when looking at my “whole wide vision for Motherhood,” a magnifying glass could be helpful.

A MOMMY CREED to me, means that SOMEONE whose actions will be guided is me and the creed I follow in between the walls of this house needs no one approval or endorsement except the 4 of us. I don’t say that to sound harsh. In contrast, I’m a person that relies on my family and friends to keep me honest and true to my core beliefs, so I certainly welcome their voices, but I’ve matured to know that if the 4 of us are following our creed, it works. We work. I need other’s support for my decisions, but not 273,968 people saying “breast is best” or “Yes, you were too hard on her.”

I tend to pay more attention, when I write things down (a benefit of this blog!). So I decided as an exercise for Mother’s Day, I’d write my Mommy Creed to my children. Will you join me and write yours? I promise it is not as scary as it sounds!

Here goes nothing (or everything depending on how you view it!)

I believe being your Mom is the greatest blessing of my life but it is hard none the less. I believe that I get through it with God, My Mommy Posse, and my actually family (blood related and others) as well as our church family. I believe we always belong to each other and that my belonging to those wonderful people, make me a better Mom. I believe it takes a village to raise you and those people are our village, and I am thankful for their extra eyes (to watch you), ears (to hear you), mouths (to give you sound advice from someone other than your mother), and hearts (to love you – because you can never have too many people that love you). These people being in “our business” is good for business as far as I’m concerned.

I believe working part time (or at least telling myself it is part time since I have a few flexible jobs) is the best option for me. Notice I don’t say perfect. I said best. I am thankful for the opportunities I have to fulfill myself and serve others through work and to still be there for you (albeit scattered) for things that matter to you. I am, however, realistic that I never really feel like I can do anything 100%. Some days this feeling is acceptable. Others it is not. Best is always pleasing because perfect isn’t real when it comes to this for me. I pray this effort (futile as it may look some days) provides you with an example to be anything you want one day – no matter what that looks like for you.

I believe in the concept that we are a team. We all work. We all play. We all win. We need you for us to succeed – so get on board!

I believe that you must know that there is a big world out there other than you. I believe in serving together as a way to not only help others but to help you (and me) to grow and become more aware of that world. I believe traveling does this too (plus it is one of my favorite things to do – so that helps). I believe that if you don’t like something in this world – change it. Don’t complain. The world has enough complainers but not enough changers. Stand out and do good things.

I believe you must have manners, respect for other but especially adults, kindness, and empathy, and that you might be born with more or less of some of that than others, but we can all gain more through hard work and relationships with others. I believe if you leave our house without that – I will have failed you.

I believe that I am responsible for teaching you much about this crazy life, but at the same time I will be grateful for the rest of my life, for the hardworking teachers who influence, inspire, and challenge you to be your best self. I believe their dedication will help you go much farther than my limitted patience at homework time ever will. I believe we both need to thank them frequently.

I believe that your best will ALWAYS BE good enough for me. Your learning from being challenged, is more important than any grade or test score. I believe one of my biggest jobs is to recognize signs of you being over stressed. Understand me that this is different than challenged or pushed outside of your comfort zone (because I believe that is GOOD), but I believe it’s my job to know when you are pushed too far and that if so, I believe I can remedy the situation with sending you outside to climb a tree, hugging you until you stay stop (and then waiting 3 more minutes), or taking a nap with you. I believe that being overtired or over hungry sometimes makes small worries grow.

I believed we all fail and that admitting my many mistakes in front of you (and asking YOU to forgive ME when necessary) is an important example of grace in action. I believe in hearing your side, but that sometimes “because I said so and I’m the Mom and know what is best for you,” really is the answer you will get and need to accept. I believe one day you’ll “get” that.

I believe that 1-3 sit down family meals a week is better than none and tremendously important to your physical and social growth. I believe you should eat what I cook, but if you don’t like it, I believe you can make what you want as long as you hit all the foods groups and clean up your own mess – I’m cool with that.

I believe in a balance of eating well, sleeping enough, playing, working, and resting and that when we do too much of one or more, our whole team gets out of whack. I believe in trying again tomorrow and that the sun will always come out (eventually).

I believe that my decisions regarding your safety, future, learning, and affection all matter, but I also believe that my overanalyzing them or over criticizing them will cause you (and me) more harm than any one of them could.

I believe that you somehow need to see the ocean and a live musical performance once a year because both make souls smile.

I believe playing with blocks will make you smarter than I was at math so you should do that. I believe that you should play with “baby toys” and in “baby games” like making up shows, playing with dolls, and teaching school to your stuffed animals longer than your friends will tell you it is cool. I believe staying “little” as long as you want is just fine with me. I believe that it is acceptable to carry you into your bed or rock you to sleep whenever you ask me to, no matter your age.

I believe I can tell you you are smart, beautiful, loved, worthy, and capable of all you dream and you can gain confidence in many ways through hard work and through successes but even more from failures, yet no one can help you understand your right to be respected more than your Daddy can.

I believe it is an honor to be the mother to two beautiful, smart, and above all caring daughters. You are not perfect children and you came from an imperfect mother. But together, with Daddy, we are what we are meant to be together, and that gives me intense joy…a joy I pray you will one day be blessed to experience.

I believe that you need to know that even as I scream for you to PICK THAT WET TOWEL OFF MY BED every single solitary night, I prayed for years for your existence, and that despite my screaming or loss of patience, I am acutely aware that getting to be your mom is a privilege. So feel loved and appreciated. And then go pick up your towel. Now.
There it is. My creed. Just like the ones we recite in church, it is a set of beliefs I ASPIRE to. It doesn’t mean, I succeed every time – even daily, but I do know that putting it out there helps me focus on what matters. Maybe I need to recite it out loud! Mothers may not agree on all our decisions, but I know we can all agree that focusing on what is important to us and our people matters. Let’s spend this Mother’s Day doing that – and living confidently in the decisions we make for our families. One of the ultimate Momas said it best herself. And I think the intent is to include ourselves as well.

Mothers day creed


So go for it. Spend some time this week writing your creed. Gift yourself and your family with the joy of taking the focus off what social media tells you being a Mom needs to look like, and turn that focus into what it actually looks like (or aspires to look like) between your own walls.

To those of you waking up every day and trying again at the most challenging job around – our hats off to you! Our solidarity and love to you! Our prayers you get a nap or a massage this week are with you! (If you need a list to “accidentally” post or leave with some gift ideas – here you go!) Honor yourself this week. Write your creed and live it! And remember there is not ALWAYS strength (or smart choices) in numbers. Just think of of how many people used to tease their bangs.


Are you celebrating one of your 1st Mother’s Days? Know someone who is? 1-2-3 Just Play With Me makes THE perfect & unique gift! Order yours for Mother’s Day today and we’ll happily ship for free with a gift card!


The Day My Little NINJA Drop Kicked the ANGEL on My Shoulder – MY MESSY BEAUTIFUL

Like so many others my life is MESSY and BEAUTIFUL but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  As a speech-language pathologist I am privileged to serve young children in their homes getting to know their families on an intimate level.  It’s incredibly rewarding to work so closely with those who want to impact their child positively and celebrate every ounce of progress they make.  It is BEAUTIFUL.  And then there are families I work with who are afraid and unwilling to accept their child’s unique challenges, have misinformed and unrealistic expectations for their baby and are dealing with more than just a child with developmental delays, like relationship woes, financial hardships and/or personal illness.  It is MESSY.  But in my 10 years working as an early intervention therapist I have come to love both the MESSY and the BEAUTIFUL.  Because often times in the middle of the MESSY emerges the BEAUTIFUL.  And I am beyond proud to be a part of that!


My life as a mom to my 3 children can be somewhat like my work.  BEAUTIFUL are the days I feel confident in my job as their mom, days when everyone is happy, I’ve played with them, everyone is fed and clothed and dinner is made and on the table (somewhat close to dinner time!).  MESSY are the days when I raise my voice too often, days when I feel incompetent, guilty and tired, days when I go to bed at night feeling defeated.


The jaws of MESSY about to swallow O and I up!  *Notice the clueless smile on my face!

The jaws of MESSY about to swallow O and I up! *Notice the clueless smile on my face!


You know that saying, “You’re preaching to the choir”?  That’s how I feel most days.  Inside my head is the therapist voice saying, “You know they shouldn’t watch more than 2 hours of television a day,” “They need at least 90 minutes of exercise everyday to regulate their sensory system, of course they’re acting up because you didn’t take them outside,” “Why are you yelling, AGAIN, you know that method of discipline isn’t effective”.  The voice that won’t stop!  The voice is like an angel on my shoulder reminding me of what a “good”, well-educated parent should do in each tough situation according to the textbooks.  This voice adds to my guilt and makes me feel my parenting is nothing near BEAUTIFUL but just a hot MESS!


My second child, my Owen, challenges me beyond my wildest expectations.  He makes the angel on my shoulder shout even louder, “Why can’t you figure this child out?”  “Where is your expert knowledge now?”  Which in turn makes me feel like I am failing as his mom.  But there came a time in my journey with parenting Owen when even the angel didn’t know what to say.  It was as if my little ninja boy had dropped kicked her right off of my shoulder!  My mommy instincts and my therapist knowledge were both stumped.  With the look of a deer in headlights I thought, “What now?!?!”


At my wit’s end, realizing I no longer had any more tricks left in my (parent or therapist) bag I humbly turned to my family, friends and coworkers.  What I saw as only MESSY, my failure to know what to do with my own child, with time and lots of help turned into something BEAUTIFUL.  I struggled to get out of bed, afraid to face another difficult day of battling Owen’s strong will and control seeking behaviors…MESSY.  My coworkers offering their expertise out of the goodness of their hearts, giving me behavior modification and sensory strategies to make our days easier, allowing me to enjoy my son again…. BEAUTIFUL!  Being scared to take on the challenge of beginning a new diet that may or may not help Owen’s behavior, attentiveness and health…MESSY.  Being encouraged by friends that I could do anything for 30 days, council and guidance offered freely by friends who had tried the diet…. BEAUTIFUL!  Navigating the new diet with every outing, birthday party, school and church function so that Owen wouldn’t get anything he shouldn’t have…MESSY.  Owen’s preschool and Sunday school teachers offering to serve snacks that were approved for his diet so that he didn’t feel excluded…BEAUTIFUL!  The guilt that I had messed up and there was no fixing it, that my failure as a mom to my son had ruined him forever…. MESSY.  Kind words from family and friends that we all do the best we can, that we all learn along the way and are forgiven…BEAUTIFUL!   Taking the chance, putting in the extra time to consult with others, the effort required to follow through with suggestions, the headache of staying strictly on the diet to test its effectiveness…hard and MESSY.  The fact that all our hard work paid off, our family has less stress as a whole, and I have been given the unexpected opportunity to personally relate to other moms….ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!





In the BEAUTIFUL MESS of my life as both a mom and a therapist I have learned over and over again that we are all in this together, that we all belong to one another, and together we can do hard things.  It was difficult for me to share with others my struggles with figuring out my own kid despite my education and training as an early intervention therapist.  I feared judgment; I felt like exposing my MESS would make me look like a failure as both a mom and a professional.  But once I began putting myself out there to ask and accept help, once the feeling of vulnerability melted away, I felt proud, honest, authentic and more at peace.  Feeling alone, denying yourself the opportunity to be helped by others, pretending to be something you’re not feels MESSY.  Reaching out, accepting help and forgiving yourself feels BEATIFUL.  My hope and prayer is that my confession of my MESSY BEAUTIFUL life will inspire others to embrace their own MESSY BEAUTIFUL life.  That they too will forgive themselves enough to see that from the MESS comes something BEATIFUL if they will only give it a chance.





This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!