Last night I spent time researching colleges with my 16 year-old daughter.  She commented that she’s anxious to figure out which colleges she wants to apply to and get it done.  She can’t wait for college.

She’s ready to take the next step in her life.

I’m just not sure I am.

Recently, we were with some friends and I was reminiscing about something cute she had done and her comment – with the requisite eye-roll – was “Mom, I was..like.. 12!” To me it feels like yesterday.

I wish I had every minute of her life on video so I could look back. Trying to capture moments on my phone has never been my thing however.  I don’t want to put something between me and living the experience but now I think back and I’m sad because there are so many moments I can’t remember.

Probably one of the reasons for my memory lapses is the stress I was under.  When she was young I was going through some major drama –a divorce, major financial problems, my current husband was diagnosed with MS and my dad was disappearing into Alzheimers.  I had a lot on my plate and it was difficult not to simply be in survival mode.  I try to live without regrets but I wish I had been better able to put those feelings aside and focus on the good stuff.  To breathe in every scent, feel every touch, view every smile and hear every laugh.

At the same time that I’m trying to capture every moment with my older daughter, I want to also be present for my younger daughter.  It’s a tightrope walk, especially for someone who was an only child and had my parent’s sole attention.

There are so many “firsts” and “lasts” coming my way it’s sometimes overwhelming.  But I know I need to embrace them and let life play itself out.

I think back to when I moved to Los Angeles when I was 22 and wonder how my mom let me go.  I had no idea how hard that must have been.  When I asked her about it recently she simply said that she knew it was the right thing to do.

So, like her I’ll let her go when I need to and accept that it’s a new chapter in both our lives.

 

 

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.

It seems as if our lives are now made up of finding even the smallest ways to save time.  From smart devices that will lock your doors and turn off lights to being able to simply push a button and having your dog food arrive at your door the next day, every second counts when you’re trying to fit all the “to-dos” into one day.  Even pre-measured items such as meal delivery kits and home cleaning items shave time off your busy schedule and ensure you’re always using the right amount of a product.

One of the items I always have automatically delivered to my house these days are liquid laundry packets.  There’s never a need to guess whether you used the right amount of detergent or if you’re close to running out – you know when you’re down to your last one or two.  While these products are convenient and effective, parents, grandparents and babysitters need to be careful when it comes to using and storing liquid laundry packets. As a blogger who focuses on family and child safety, I’ve always been vigilant on making sure that I store liquid laundry packets up and away every time, even in between loads.  This has since become habit for everyone else in my house doing laundry, too.  Whether you have toddlers or not, you certainly can have friends and relatives visiting who bring their little ones along, so making laundry safety a habit is important.

Now in its sixth year, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) created the Packets Up! campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of properly using and storing liquid laundry packets out of sight and away from children.  They have worked with public safety officials and consumer groups to put in place a series of packaging and labeling measures as part of a new standard that can help reduce accidental exposure.

ACI recently conducted a national survey among 1,000 parents and caregivers to learn more about laundry routine habits. What they found is that about 15% of families with kids under the age of four allow their kids to help put liquid laundry packets into the washing machine drum and 19% store them on an open shelf.

Especially as we’re getting ready to start spring cleaning around the house, ACI is encouraging all parents and caregivers to organize their laundry rooms and make sure their liquid laundry packets are stored safely. To help, they have a Packets Up! website where you can order clings for the front of your washer and dryer (as well as those of friends and family) that remind everyone, including Grandma, babysitters and spouses, to put always keep liquid laundry packets up and out of sight from children.  Check out this video, Through Their Eyes, on the ACI site to understand how to keep toddlers safe by seeing the world from their perspective.

Most importantly, be sure everyone in the house understands these important safety messages

  • Accidents can happen in an instant, never let children handle laundry packets.

  • Children are naturally curious, and they explore the world with their mouths.

  • Proper storage and handling of liquid laundry packets is essential in preventing accidental exposures.

  • Liquid laundry packets can be harmful if swallowed or get in the eyes.

  • Keep laundry packets up and away. Always store them out of sight and reach of young children.

  • Always keep laundry packets in their original container and close the container securely after each use.

  • Call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if there is an accident.

ACI would love to have everyone share the message of why they put their #PacketsUp.  For me, we adopted a puppy three months ago.  He’s the reason why I put my #PacketsUp because he chews everything!  And while I don’t have toddlers anymore in the house, my daughters babysit all the time and need to be aware of this when they watch toddlers.  I put my #PacketsUp so my teens remember this important message when they’re babysitting.  What’s your reason?  Share your #PacketsUp story below and help spread the word!

Visit packetsup.com and follow #PacketsUp on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

 

 

 

 

I have been, or can be if you click on a link and make a purchase, compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value for writing this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Now that my daughter is driving it’s opened up an entire new area of gift options for the holidays.  To figure out what a new driver wants for Christmas I asked my daughter to compile this list.  Here are her top picks for gifts for new drivers.

Anzazo Car Essential Oil Diffuser

This essential oil diffuser is designed for cars.  It uses water-less diffusion technology to protect the electronic components of your car from water vapors. 

And you can use your favorite essential oils or pick up some here.

 

 

 

Aux Cord for iPhone

 

This cord allow you to input sound from your iPhone with a normal headphone socket. Easiest way to play music, audiobooks or podcasts in your car.

 

 

 

Roadside Assistance Car Emergency Kit

New driver or experienced driver, this is a must-have in your car. This emergency car kit will prove invaluable should you ever get stranded or if your car, SUV or truck unexpectedly breaks down in the middle of the road. Above all, it’s a matter of staying safe and always being prepared wherever you are.

 

 

 

 

Car Vacuum

This will allow your new driver to clean the interior of the car themselves saving you time and money running to the car wash.

 

 

 

 

 

Polarized Aluminum Sunglasses Vintage Sun Glasses

Inexperienced drivers will benefit from these polarized sunglasses which reduce glare reflected off of roads, bodies of water, snow, and other horizontal surfaces.

And, they are really good looking!

For the past year I’ve been infuriated by the marketing of e-cigarettes, especially Juuls to our kids.  For the life of me I can’t understand how, when this is a product containing nicotine, it can be advertised on the radio and blatantly promoted to kids.

The fact that the company states that is not their intention is completely bogus.  When you’re marketing flavors like mango and vanilla and is so inconspicuous that it can be done in the classroom don’t tell me you’re not promoting to kids.

Make no mistake, your ‘tween and teen might be telling you they don’t juul (yes it’s a verb) but the numbers don’t lie but your kids might certainly be.

E-cigarette use went up drastically in the last year. According to The 2018 Youth Tobacco Survey released by the CDC and the FDA reported that e-cigarette use among high schoolers by 78% and middle schoolers by 48%. Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that “flavors are a major reason they use these products in the first place.”  Over 2 million middle school, high school and college students are Juuling or vaping.

In September the FDA gave Juul and four other companies 60 days to construct plans for curtailing the “epidemic” of youth use; failure to do so, the agency said, could result in some or all flavored products being pulled from store shelves. What’s more, in October, the FDA seized more than 1,000 documents from JUUL Labs’ headquarters pertaining, in part, to the company’s sales and marketing practices.

As a result Juul Labs will halt sales of its mango, fruit, creme and cucumber flavored pods at more than 90,000 retail stores, and require additional age verification measures for online sales of the flavors, the company said. The company said it will also delete its Facebook and Instagram accounts and halt promotional posts on Twitter.

Under Juul’s plan, the sale of tobacco, mint and menthol flavored products would continue in retail stores. Juul said those products “mirror what is currently available for combustible cigarettes,” and it plans to increase a “secret shopper program” to ensure compliance with those retailers.

This plan from Juul is all “smoke and mirrors” (pun intended) as the company has also said that they would bring back the other flavors if retailers increase age-verification practices and limit product sales to prevent bulk purchases.

Seriously?! What teen-aged gas station attendant is really going to carefully verify another teens ID and turn him away?!

Teens are not recognizing the serious health dangers with Juuling because it’s so new.  The same kids who wouldn’t consider smoking a cigarette are Juuling.  There are no horrifying pictures yet of people with throat, lung and other cancers caused by Juuling.  And because it’s fruit flavored it seems to be benign.

Parents, here’s what you need to know about JUULs as per the American Academy of Pediatrics:

JUUL is highly addictive. The concentration of nicotine in JUUL is more than twice the amount found in other e-cigarettes. Nicotine is the chemical that causes addiction. These high amounts are a serious concern for youth, who are already more likely than adults to become addicted to nicotine. The chance of addiction is so high that the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that the use of nicotine by youth in any form is unsafe.

JUULing raises the risk of becoming a regular cigarette smoker. Research shows that young people who use e-cigarettes are more likely to begin using traditional tobacco cigarettes.

JUUL use is common in schools and college campuses. Teachers report that students are using JUULs in classrooms, hallways, and school restrooms. They also share the devices with friends. This kind of social use encourages kids who don’t smoke to try JUULing. It also lets students who are too young to buy JUUL legally, or who could not otherwise afford them, use them through classmates.

 

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.

When you’re thinking about baby proofing your home, the immediate rooms that come to mind are the kitchen and the bathroom. It can be overwhelming to think about all of the ways to babyproof a home and there’s one room that’s often overlooked – the laundry room.

I have to wonder why that is? We’ve all heard the stories of small children finding their way into the dryer or washing machine and the door locking behind them. So, it should stand to reason that the laundry room be at the top of our baby-proofing to-do list!

Always make sure that you use the automatic lock if your washer and dryer has one. If your model doesn’t have an automatic lock, you can easily install one on the outside of your machine.

In addition, proper storage and handling of liquid laundry packets is essential to prevent accidental exposure to young children. These packets contain premeasured doses of detergent to make it quick and easy to use the right amount of detergent, but they’re highly concentrated, so their proper storage is important. Fortunately, thanks to improved package design and labeling, while the use of liquid laundry packets has dramatically increased over the past three years, the rate of accidental exposure has declined.

But the numbers can be decreased even more. I’m excited to support the American Cleaning Institute’s (ACI) child-safety campaign, Packets UP! to help educate parents and caregivers. Check out the campaign website – it’s filled with videos, consumer information and activity sheets for kids that can be printed out. You can also order a cling to place on your cabinet to remind everyone in your home to store liquid laundry packets up and out of the way.

Here are some important safety tips you can implement in your home:

  • Always keep product containers securely closed before, during and after use

  • Laundry packets must be stored in their original container or pouch and kept out of sight and reach of children

  • Locking detergent packets up in a cabinet is an effective way to keep these products out of reach of young children, especially when little ones begin exploring closets and cabinets at an early age

  • Call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if there is an accident

For more information visit www.packetsup.com.

I wish I knew when I was young that adults aren’t perfect.  I wish I had known that they often muddle their way through as best they can and try to figure it out.  I wish I could better explain this to my kids right now.

If you know me personally or follow my blog, you know that I work – a lot.  And I travel for business – a lot.  You’d also know that I have a rather “complicated” family life.  I have a son with intellectual disabilities, a husband with Primary Progressive MS who is confined to a power chair, two teen-aged daughters not yet old enough to drive and my mother who lives with us.

Sometimes my head feels like it’s about to explode trying to schedule drop-offs and pick-ups, figuring out and preparing dinners, remembering to sign school forms and the times for their activities, leaf blowing, shoveling, shopping, starting to search for colleges and plan for my son’s transition out of school and, oh yeah, work.

For the most part I get it done.  Our family is quite a well-oiled machine.  But every now and then we come off the rails.  Fortunately, it’s usually not all of us at the same time.  We all have our breaking points and crisis.  I kick myself when I feel like I’m short changing someone.

And yes, I do try to take care of myself as well.  I do yoga, I meditate, I have girlfriend time and I have couch potato time.

But even then, there are times where I feel like I’m just not enough and am at the point of a serious meltdown.  Isn’t that true for almost every mom?  How often do we think that we’re screwing up our kids or that we haven’t been there enough, or we took our eye off the ball and that’s why they’re flunking a class or Juuling or drinking or the millions of other things tweens and teens will do?

Tonight, was one of those nights where I felt I wasn’t enough.  I was out of town on business and there were too many things to figure out and coordinate.  My husband was upset, my daughter was upset and it really didn’t have anything to do with me, but I believe it’s all my fault.  Because I’m not enough – I’m not supermom.

Don’t we all deep down inside feel like we need to do it all?  Sure, we delegate stuff to our husbands but when they don’t do it exactly as we would we take it back, assuming that our way is the only way.  So here you go mamas – a hall pass.  From one merely adequate mom to my sisters.  We are as much as we can be.  We need to let our kids know that we’re not super moms.  We’re human beings who are flawed and merely trying to figure it out as we go.  Let’s face it, if you’ve got teens they probably already think you’re crazy/annoying/lame/embarrassing….all of the above.

Letting our kids know that we’re not perfect, that we are trying to do our best but we will screw up might actually help them be easier on themselves when they become parents.  If you can relate to what I’m saying leave me a comment and also feel free to join my Facebook group My Fifty Some-Odd Year-Old Life.  It’s a community of women of any age who sometimes need a boost or a laugh and are willing to let their flaws show.  Jump in – the water’s warm and we’ll catch you before you drown!

 

Today I realized that I’m getting closer to the edge of the cliff.  What cliff?  The cliff my son will go over unless mama starts taking charge.

My son Spencer is 19 years old and has intellectual and development disabilities – IDD for short.  If you aren’t familiar with how the “system” works, people with IDD can remain in school until they turn 21.  In addition to academics, they receive Occupational Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy and other support services that help them function in the real world.

And then, at 21, it all stops. They go from a regular routine of school and programs to nothing.  As their parents, we’re left to figure out how to keep them busy during the day so that we can still work (because not working will never be an option for us) and they can still experience personal growth rather than sitting on the couch all day. Within the special needs community, we refer to the time when our IDD children are forced to leave school as “falling off the cliff.”

Depending upon which state you live in, your now adult child will hopefully receive some financial assistance towards an aide to assist him with his daily living, a day program (which simply means activities to keep him occupied), a job coach and possibly residential assistance (which means a small amount of money to be used towards rent.)

This probably sounds great – as if the person is set up for life.  The reality, however, is far different.  For people with profound disabilities the financial assistance doesn’t go very far and certainly doesn’t cover all the support the person needs.  In Connecticut where I live the residential financial assistance is non-existent due to financial mismanagement.  There’s a waiting list of over 2,000 people.  And while it’s great to think they will find a job, how often do you see people with severe disabilities working in offices, restaurants or retail establishments?   Even for a person like my son who is considered “high functioning” but has an extremely limited attention span, talks to himself and is in constant motion when he’s not sleeping, the prospects of finding and maintaining a job are still limited.

Very often people with IDD end up living with their aging parents who still need to support them.  Parents in their 70s and 80s who are caring round the clock for their adult children, some who must be bathed, fed and carried, now in their 40s and 50s.  Parents who are terrified wondering what will become of their child once they die.

For those of us lucky enough to have other children we hope that they will care for their brother or sister but feel equally guilty knowing how this will impact their own lives as they start a family and build a career.

As my son gets closer to the edge of the cliff my main goal is helping him to become independent and a valued member of the community.  It would also be nice for him to have a social life – not really that much to ask for.  This requires me teaching him how to do things that many parents take for granted – learning to use his smart phone to communicate, shopping for groceries and making healthy choices, cooking his own food, washing his own clothes, using public transportation and, eventually, holding down a job.  Sure, the school helps and I’m fortunate that Spencer is in one of the best in the state, but it still requires a great deal of time and effort from the family.  It’s a full-time job.

I’m also fortunate to sit on the Board of Directors of STAR, a not–for-profit organization serving individuals of all ages who have developmental disabilities, as well as providing support services to their families.  I’ve gained more information about how I can help Spencer than most parents normally would.

And so, I’m beginning a series of blog posts chronicling my journey to the edge of the cliff and my goal of building a safety net to keep Spencer from going over.  My hope in writing these posts is that I will not only help other parents who are in a similar position but also enlighten everyone on the struggles parents of children with IDD face.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions and hope we all can support one another.

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.

When you’re the parent of a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) there are a lot of fears that keep you up at night.  Probably the biggest issue is what will happen to your child once you die.  Where will they live?  Who will care for them?  What sort of life will they have?

I used to feel as if I had all the time in the world before I needed to worry about these things but in the blink of an eye my son is on the brink of being an adult – and it scares the crap out of me!  For parents of neuro-typical kids the path is clear – either vocational school, college, a job or possibly enlisting in the military.  From there they usually are launched to their independent future.  This is far from the case for parents of children with Intellectual Disabilities.  Here’s the reality – our kids will never have an independent future.

As their legal guardians, we need to plan and pray.  The solutions can vary dramatically depending upon where you live, what supports you have and your child’s ability.  The good news is that our children do have more options than previous generations.  For many families a state institution used to be the only solution.  There was no thought to where the person would live, how they would spend their time or even, quite frankly, their quality of life.  Now, each person is considered as an individual and the focus is on person centered planning.  This requires a team of people who care about your child to be involved helping map out a plan for his future.  Most importantly, the child is involved in this process.

There are no easy answers however.  Money is always an issue.  Many people with IDD  can’t find jobs.  A vast majority of people with IDD can’t live on their own so a roommate situation is necessary and finding someone who’s compatible isn’t always easy.  Location is also an issue.  Most people with IDD can’t drive and need to rely on public transportation. Do you see why most of us lay awake at night?

As I said, the solution for every family is different.  I feel lucky.  My son has a strong support system, especially two sisters who understand they will be taking care of him and are happy to do so.   He is able to care for himself and will probably only need an in-home aide for a few hours every day to help him.  There are now home monitoring systems which will allow me to check in on him through video monitors, get alerts if he hasn’t come home and automatically shut down any appliance he may have left on.

I highly encourage any parent who has a child with IDD to start planning as soon as possible.  It’s never too soon.  Here are a few first steps to start planning for your child’s future living situation:

  • Get involved with ARC , the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
  • Learn more about the funding and services available in their state through DDS.
  • Talk to other families in your community who have a loved one with IDD to learn about their solutions.
  • Learn about tax savings through the ABLE Act.

What plans have you made for your child?  What resources have you tapped into?  Share your stories here.  We all need to support each other.