Santa Has Enough Milk. Some Families Don’t.

We’re donating our glass of milk (and a few more gallons) this year, instead of leaving it for Santa. Here’s why.

helping hungry families this holiday season. Donate Santa's glass of milk to your local food pantry.

A week before Thanksgiving.  Some huge financial blows for our family:  Our health insurance costs will be rising dramatically in just a few short weeks. My husband and I shifted and shimmied our budget around. Ok, we can cover it. It will be a squeeze but we can do it. Then a major contract I’d been working on for many months ended abruptly, followed by our upstairs heating unit deciding to work only intermittently.  Collectively, this felt like getting the financial wind knocked out of us. How could we possibly stretch our budget again to cover these setbacks and right at the holiday season, too? When will we not have to worry so much about money?  And then a photo on Facebook completely changed my perspective.  [Read more…]

How to Help Your Sensory Child at the Doctor

Whether you have a Sensory Seeker or a Sensory Avoider, visits to the doctor can be very challenging for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. I know. I have both. My older son spent his younger years literally bouncing around the exam room seeking sensory input, then scurried under the table to avoid having his ears examined because he has auditory sensitivity. 

How to help your sensory child cope with doctor visits.

My daughter, on the other hand, just cannot tolerate being examined. Being touched and poked and prodded is her very least favorite way to spend her time. The idea of it sends her into a high state of anxiety. Tactile aversion is a huge feature of her sensory disorder. Unfortunately, she also has asthma that is often not under control, so she has to endure more than just regular medical and dental check-ups.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our own experiences to make doctor and dental visits go more smoothly for our kids.

How To Help Your Sensory Child at the Doctor

  1. Educate Yourself. Learn as much as you can about SPD and as much as you can about how it affects your child. 
  2. Advocate for your child. It’s my job to advocate for my children until they can do it for themselves. When they see me advocate for them, they are learning. As they grow into older kids and teenagers, my hope is that we can move towards them being the advocate and me being there in a support role.
  3. You are the case manager for your child. That means that you are the one who looks at the big picture and sees what’s possible. You’re the one that knows that two doctors appointments in one week are too much for your child. You are the one that knows if your child can tolerate a particular treatment.
    Here’s an example. My daughter has asthma and was taking medication via a nebulizer every night. She hated it.  She communicated this by screaming and refusing the treatment every night at bedtime. Her asthma specialist worked with us to progressively move her off of the nebulizer to an inhaler, which delivered the same medications.  A year later, when her pulmonologist insisted she take medications via a nebulizer, I told him how and why we had worked to get her off the nebulizer and we were staying off unless her condition gravely worsened.
  4. Find sensory-friendly providers. Use friends, family, neighbors and social media contacts to find the most sensory-friendly providers you can possible locate. Mostly this is preferable to taking your chances on an unknown provider.
  5. Educate the providers, as needed, about YOUR child. Each SPD kid is different. Our sensory-friendly dentist’s office thinks all SPD kids need to be seen in a dimly lit room. You have to love them for trying but my daughter could care less about that. She becomes highly agitated because the hygienists are always too chatty in their efforts to soothe her. She doesn’t want to talk about school or meet Mr. Thirsty, the spit-sucking instrument, she just wants to get out of there as quickly as possible. They get reminded when we arrive about HER particular needs  (see #7).
  6. If you don’t get a kind, professional and helpful response, go elsewhere. Teach your child that this is okay. A doctor who doesn’t know anything about SPD but is open to your suggestions about how to help YOUR child is preferred over someone who does know about SPD but isn’t listening to you and respecting what is helpful to your child. If a medical professional does not respond positively to making this challenging situation easier for my child, we find someone else to work with. Period. 
  7. Practice your elevator speech. I used to print out a one-page info sheet about SPD and what would help my child during the exam, but I found that not everyone read it. Even when I highlighted the important info that could be scanned, they didn’t read it. So now, as each nurse, doctor, technician, etc. approaches my child, I say my elevator speech. “[Child’s Name] has Sensory Processing Disorder. Going to the doctor/dentist is very challenging for her. What helps her is  ________ and ___________.”  For my daughter, it sounds like this:  “Chloe has Sensory Processing Disorder. Going the the doctor is her BIGGEST challenge.  What helps her is as little touching as possible and focusing on her iPad while you examine her. ”  Or, at the dentist, “What helps her is examining her teeth as quickly as possible with as little conversation as possible, other than explaining what you are doing next.”

    For my son:  “Alex has SPD. He has extreme auditory sensitivity and having his ears examined is one of his biggest challenges. What helps him is letting him hold the otoscope while you look. It takes more time to see in his ears, but less time than if he becomes overwhelmed and dives under the exam table.”

  8. Let providers know you need a conservative approach to medical interventions, unless of course there is a life threatening or serious condition that requires it. For kids who have a challenging time with medical interventions, I’m a big fan of doing only what’s necessary–no extras. 
  9. “My child is not giving you a hard time, he is HAVING a hard time.” works well in response to “Now be a good boy”, “You must behave” or “You’re not going to get a lollipop”.  Also, that’s a deal breaker and we won’t go back to any professional who is unprofessional enough to say things like that to an ill and frightened child, whether they have SPD or not.  

More Resources

Surviving Doctor Visits and Vaccines When Your Child Has SPD  from Dayna at Lemon Lime Adventures

Tactile Defensiveness as a Child and an Adult from Kara at ALLterNATIVElearning

SPD Pinterest Board

{Disclaimer: This post reflects my experiences with my children and is not intended as medical advice for others.} 

Service Project Ideas for Kids ~ Easy Ways to Help Kids Help Others

So simple. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.  My daughter has been collecting food bank donations each month this summer, but August’s donations were low. How could we get more before our trip to the food bank to drop them off?  We’d already cleaned out our pantry and bought a few items with each weekly grocery trip and asked friends and neighbors for help. 

community service ideas for kids

You see, each time we drop off the donations, the staff and volunteers at the food bank weigh the items. They show you, on the scale, how many pounds of food you just donated. What a concrete way for kids to understand how much they are helping! My daughter loves it. And she set a goal for herself to make that number of pounds go higher each month.

So there we were in August with a few bags of donations, wishing we could give more. And then it hit me:  The dollar store. Stay with me here.

I gave my kids $20 and challenged them to buy the 20 most nutritious items they could find, that were also the best deal for their money.  A snack sized package of crackers or a whole box of pasta?  A package of 3 juice boxes or a big jug of apple juice?  

What about protein sources? They found canned tuna and peanut butter.  What about fruits and vegetables? We didn’t find fruit but we found lots of canned veggies. We found flour and cornbread mix. Cereal and honey. We had a cart full! 

Twenty dollars got us 4 bags of groceries to donate. We had been particularly concerned about donating to the food bank over the summer when donations are at a yearly low and more families are in need because kids who normally get free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch at school now have to stretch their budget even tighter.

We learned some other really important things from this experience, too.

It only takes giving a few small items to teach your child about the importance of helping others,  to experience what it is like to make a difference.

And this:

One of my biggest challenges with my kids was dispelling the myth that people who need food from the food bank are not dressed in rags with dirty faces and no shoes, like in the movies. People who need food from the food bank look just like us.  

It’s a Daddy who lost his job, and he was the sole breadwinner in his family.  His family lives in a suburban neighborhood much like ours.

It’s our friend who just got divorced and is struggling to raise her two kids on her own.

It’s a family who came from another country where work was scarce and poverty widespread, just like my own great grandparents, and it’s hard to make a life here; To help your family here and try to send money to the ones left at home who continue to face the bleak circumstances you left behind.

It’s a family who manages to get by most of the year, but in the summer, when their kids don’t get breakfast and lunch at school, they can’t quite make it to the next paycheck. Then the car breaks down. And their tight budget is simply stretched too far. 

More Small Ways Kids Can Have a BIG Impact In Their Communities

What touches your child’s heart?  Start there and help them find a way to help others. We chose this activity because it was something my daughter cared about. I got swept up in her enthusiasm.  My oldest child loves dogs, so we found a way for him to volunteer, even at a very young age, with a rescue organization. 

Show kids how to use technology and social media to bring attention to their causes. Just mentioning what your child is doing on Facebook brings awareness to the cause close to their heart. We started an email account for my daughter so she could email family and friends explaining her service project and requesting donations. 

Designate your child’s favorite cause as your charity of choice when you shop on Amazon, using their Smile program. A percentage of proceeds will go to the charity you select. I rotate the charities my kids care about on a monthly basis so each one gets something, and then I make sure to tell my kids, “I bought some books today and some of the money went to the dog rescue.” 

For more unique service project ideas for kids, click here.


Creekside Learning on Facebook.jpg  

Homeschooling Moms: 5 Ways to Take Care of Ourselves Right Now

This post is graciously sponsored by Brave Writer. Disclosure.

It’s often the last thing on the to-do list: Ourselves.  Moms have a million things to do to take care of our families and our homes and our jobs and our many commitments. Add homeschooling to that and you can almost understand why well-meaning friends and strangers say, “I don’t know how you do it.” 

Homeschooling Moms: 5 Ways to Take Care of Ourselves Right Now

Here are 5 Ways to Care for Yourself as a Homeschoolng Mom

  1. Find Your Tribe.  Whether it’s a couple of other homeschool moms, a whole group, on-line or in person, find people who get you and get your family and your style of homeschooling. Run stuff by them: your curriculum plans, your struggles, your triumphant moments. Lean on them as needed.
  2. Seek Out Mentors.  This is different from your tribe.  Your tribe is in the trenches with you. Mentors have gone before you and have the advantage of hindsight to share with us. You can find them in real life, or by reading blogs or forums on the internet. They are there and they are wise.  Soak it in.
  3. Find the quiet.  What quiet?, you ask. I know. My house is loud, too. Find a time of day when everyone is asleep that is also the time that you are most likely to be able to be awake. Stay up really late or get up really early. I’m a morning person so guess what time it is when I am writing this? It’s 6:20 a.m.  I have coffee and it’s quiet here.   
  4. Let It Go. Sorry for the Frozen reference and now you have that song in your head. Again. But, picture this instead. You carefully plan and prepare learning activities for your children. Perhaps they even looked up at you with big eyes and said, “Mommy, can we learn about SPACE next?”
    And so you stayed up late cutting out cute planet printables and gathering supplies for an asteroid experiment and planning a themed snack to eat while you read the library books you reserved and checked out on the subject.  You are pretty darn proud of yourself for being so organized.
    And then the next day, they hate it. They refuse to do the printables, reject the snack and fuss and whine, “Whhhyyyy do we have to read this book? It’s so  boooooring.”  
    You’ve invested so much time and effort and you think, This is what we are going to do today, darn it. Don’t. Let it go.  Go outside and tromp around in the woods instead. Go visit Grandma and let them eat too many cookies. Build giant forts or Lego towers. And then look for the learning that did happen. I promise it is there. It’s just not the learning you planned for that day. It is the physics of the Lego tower, the family history lesson of Grandma’s stories, the science of bugs and plants in the woods.
  5. Restore your faith in homeschooling just a little bit each day. I’ve been reading Julie Bogart’s new book, A Gracious Space: Daily reflections to sustain your homeschooling commitment.  If you follow Julie’s Brave Writer page on Facebook you are familiar with the gems she shares that encourage homeschooling moms. I reshare them on the Creekside Learning Facebook page often. The book takes all that wonderful wisdom and presents it in 50 essays, designed to be read one per day. It’s like a homeschooling mentor mom has come into my kitchen and handed me a warm cup of coffee and this wonderful little daily dose of encouragement to start my day.  Here’s an excerpt from the book:

    It’s so easy to feel behind, or like you aren’t doing enough. In fact, when our kids are good at their schoolwork and get finished quickly…we might be tempted to undervalue the effort…Pay attention to the things that are working, to the peace you feel, to the smiles on your kids’ faces, to the well being of your family.Value what you are doing well. Celebrate it! Trust that ease in your day is a sign that you are on the right path.

 More About the Book

A Gracious Space is a beautiful collection of 50 essays designed to be read one per day and “intended to help you sustain your brave homeschooling commitment. Restore your faith in yourself, your hard work, and your children. Take a little time each day to remember why you do what you do.”  Deep breath. Don’t we all just need that?

This is the Fall Edition (first in a series). It comes in PDF, iBooks, and Kindle formats and you can order it right from the Brave Writer site. It’s $9.95. 

Gracious Space Fall

Win a Copy of the Book

Julie Bogart has generously offerred to give away 5 copies of her book to Creekside Learning readers. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Julie Bogart | Author of A Gracious Space

Julie Bogart | Author of A Gracious Space

 Julie Bogart and I are collaborating on Pinterest to gather more resources that support homeschooling parents. Follow along:   Follow Julie Kirkwood, Creekside Learning’s board Support for Homeschool Parents on Pinterest.

From A Gracious Space: Daily Reflections to Sustain Your Homeschooling Commitment, by Julie Bogart



Summer Crafts for Kids ~ Summer Memories Book

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® Elmer’s and Wet Ones, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CraftandCleanUp


Summer’s end is drawing near. We’ve packed a whole lot of good, simple fun into this beautiful season. I want my kids to have wonderful memories of summers spent doing amazing things together: swimming, collecting shells at the beach, riding roller coasters, making s’mores around the campfire, going for long bike rides to nowhere in particular.  

How to make a summer memories book with your kids.

We have a fun way to preserve those memories and it’s also one of those summer crafts for kids that is perfect to do together, in these last remaining days of summer. We’re going to get messy with sand and glue, but that’s okay. These memory books will not only be a great keepsake but fun to show off to friends, family, classmates and more.

summer crafts for kids to make

 You will need:

  • Sand
  • Seashells
  • Elmer’s Glue/Wet Ones Combo pack (available in select Target’s Back to School section, while supplies last)
  • Cardstock
  • Printer
  • Small pocket photo album
  • Favorite photos printed out

Summer Crafts for Kids

How to Make a Summer Memories Book With Your Kids

  1. Gather your supplies. I found these 4×6 “brag book” style photo albums for $1.99 at a local craft store. Sometimes I’ve seen them in the dollar spot/dollar store bins too. We used regular play sand (the type you put into sand boxes) and seashells we’d collected from the beach. I found the Elmer’s Glue/Wet Ones combo pack at Target (available at select stores).
  2. Choose whatever colored card stock you’d like and cut it to 4×6 size.
  3. Have your kids spread Elmer’s glue at the bottom of the card to represent the beach, then sprinkle the sand on, tapping off any excess. messy summer crafts for kids
  4. Add small seashells and affix with Elmer’s glue. sea shell crafts for kids
  5. Allow to dry.  Clean up with Wet Ones wipes.
  6. Use card stock to make the title: “The Summer I was [insert age]”. We used the fun fonts and a banner at PicMonkey (free) but you can do this in any program or have the kids write it out in their own handwriting. Glue it to the card. Insert in front pocket of photo album after drying. beach crafts for kids
  7. Insert photos into the photo album pages.
  8. We added little descriptions to each photo. I asked the kids to tell me in their own words what was going on in the photo and what they liked about this memory. photo crafts for kids

 This was the best part of the project for me, hearing what they got excited about, what they remember, seeing the smiles and joy as they recalled this beautiful summer and ran to show their books to Daddy. They carried their books along when we went to visit friends and over to Grandma’s house. 

photo books for kids

 How will you spend the last days of summer with your family this year? I’d love for you to share in the comments.