Planning for the (Un)expected

Shopping, educating, and cooking are some of my favorite things.  So, when I received the offer to go on a “Mom Shop Along” at one of our favorite grocery stores, I jumped at the chance.   This was an opportunity to communicate my grocery shopping preferences as well as our special dietary needs to the Raley’s personnel.  (Raley’s writes about our family and my gluten free tips here:  June Mom of the Month.)

The day of our Mom Shop Along, I began to get cold feet.  Raley’s management was going to follow my boys and I as we shuffled through coupons, reached for products and read labels through every aisle of the store.  What was I thinking?  I agreed to come at 4:00 in the afternoon; not only a down time for my kids, but a crowded time for the grocery store.   As I pondered the (un)expected things that could potentially happen, I considered cancelling.

Living in the community with a special needs child-or even juggling multiple children, calls for a certain state of mind.  I can opt out of life and isolate myself and children because day trips are too stressful, or I can choose a “can do” mindset.  I told myself the words I often use to motivate my boy, “I can do it”.

Then I began to think through the effective tools I use to help our special needs family be successful in the community.

Communicate with significant others before the event

In the event our shopping trip became too stressful for my son, and honestly, in order to manage my own anticipated stress, I needed a plan.  I contacted the Raley’s personnel to inform them I needed to assess how my child was doing before and during the shop along.   They were agreeable.

Ahh, step one of operation de-stress was taken care of before we arrived.

Have a back-up plan for your child

As always with special needs, you need a back-up plan.  It serves as an escape and survival plan if the event becomes too stressful or overloaded with stimuli.

The back-up plan may include the following:

  • an early exit
  • spouses bring both cars if family members want to remain in the event uninterrupted
  • discuss pacing the child’s activity level with a quiet time and quiet place
  • bring necessary items in a specified bag to soothe the child (lotion, paper, book, textured ball)
  • bring behavior chart, and don’t forget the frequent verbal praise and rewards
  • inform your host about your plan and make any gracious requests as needed

Today my back-up plan included frequent verbal praise for making good choices, as well as the reminder of his favorite smoothie he would receive at the end of the event.  If he became too grumpy (which is often the case given  a stressful situation in the late afternoon), I would be sending him to hang out in the van with his brother.  (Safety note:  It was not hot outside, windows are cracked, both boys are legal age to be in the car alone, and we often come equipped with paper, pen, or dvd player to help him pass the time).

Educate those who will be with you

I am always learning, when I let others know our special needs, they become team players with us.  Educating others in the mission of helping your child and the event be successful, gets others on board.  When they understand why you are bringing a chart, gummy rewards, or addressing behaviors a certain way, they will often become an emotional and physical support person for you.

What special needs family couldn’t use another team player in their corner?  I am finding when I am open about our needs and plans, I am less likely to feel the stress of sticking out like a sore thumb.

Stick to your plan

Under the pressure of being watched, stared at, or misunderstood, do not shrink back my friend.  Stick to your behavior plan or your operation de-stress plan.   Be there for your child.  Remain consistent, confident and even-tempered in order to carry out whatever your child and your family needs.

I believe in being respectful and courteous of others around us, but my mission is first and foremost to my own family.  If I bend and change to the pressure of how others perceive us, I will not be the strength and consistent parent my special needs child requires.

Enlist buddies

Thankfully, my son has brothers who are attentive and compassionate buddies to him.  I communicate the plan with them and they are team players.  The brothers have been talked with and have the information they need to know in order to help the afternoon go smoothly for all of us.

Sometimes my youngest son doesn’t understand it all and he doesn’t really need to.  I am always trying to strike the balance between expecting the siblings to be vital family members, but not burden them with responsibilities which do not belong to them.

Mommy-helpers are always a great assistance to any Mom who is juggling multiple kids.  I was given the great advice years ago to enlist a young girl, not quite babysitting age, to hang out with us when we run errands.  Now that my son is a teenager, we have a peer-helper; another teenage boy who comes to hang out with our son.  Together they play Wii, walk the dog, and swim.

Express your gratitude

I don’t know if those in our lives will ever comprehend how vital they are to our day-to-day survival sometimes.  Having the opportunity to be active in the community with people who are willing to be flexible and understanding of our special needs family is a true gift.  It may even be a rare gift.

I want these people, including my own children, to know how grateful we are for them.  Whenever we have the opportunity, we write thank you cards, provide financial support, and try to express actions and words of gratitude for helping us make life more enjoyable and successful.

Thanks to Raley’s, by the way, for taking the time with us on the Mom’s Shop Along!  They were generous with their time, questions and note-taking, in order to provide even better customer service to the community.

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Start the conversation: Modern Day Slavery and Fair Trade Shopping

Without fail, whenever I take my bright green bag to the grocery store, it draws out many questions.  “Where did you get that bag?”, “This is the coolest thing”, “It’s made so well”.  The door swings open to tell others about people who are at risk for human trafficking.  The purchase of the bag or other Fair Trade items, helps keep people out of slavery by keeping them in work.  Usually the response comes with a surprised tone, “Really?  How cool.  I want one.”

Although the news about Modern Day Slavery, or human trafficking is spreading, our communities are still hugely unaware of this human crisis and the power the common citizen has at their fingertips to help put an end to it.

A few weeks ago I ran into an old friend at Target.  She yelled out to me and embraced me with a grateful hug.  “Bonnie, thank you for always posting about Modern Day Slavery.  So many of us need to hear about it!”  Truthfully, I am not always sure if people want to hear about this heavy topic every week.  But I am compelled to share what I learn and invite others to take new steps along with me.  I am reminded of myself watching Roots when I was a young girl, or learning about slavery in my history classes.  Burying my head in my hands and pondering the evils, my heart ached as I often wondered, would I be one to make a stand for the value and dignity of human beings?  Now here I am, some 30 years after those school days, and my generation is faced with more slavery than ever before in history.

I know many of you are abhorred by the statistics and stories you hear about Modern Day Slavery.  Will you put your heavy heart into action?  Will you be one of a mighty army of common citizens to put an end to slavery?  Where will you begin?

Start conversing about Modern Day Slavery

There are many casual ways to begin a deliberate discussion about Modern Day Slavery.  Make a goal to try one of these things, or a creative idea of your own, in the next 30 days.

  • Bring Fair Trade coffee or chocolate to your next business meeting or function.
  • Host a Party.  Invite a small group of friends over and host a screening party.  Serve Fair Trade chocolate or popcorn, and let your friends know about Modern Day Slavery.  You can get a DVD kit for your party from Call and Response:   Home Screening Kit – DVD Kits.
  • Start a club on your campus.  Students on junior high, high school and college campuses are organizing Anti-Human Trafficking clubs.  They are raising funds and educating their peers about human trafficking.  A great Screening Kit specifically made for students is available through Call and Response:  Call + Response.

Have you started a conversation about Modern Day Slavery and fair trade shopping in your sphere of influence?  Tell me about your hurdles, your attempts and your successes so we can rise up together in this effort.

If you want to learn more about Modern Day Slavery:

Do Justice « Woman Gone Wise.

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My Shopping Fast

Like many of you, we are on a tight budget.  Problem is, I like to shop.  Okay, that’s an understatement.  I love the hunt for a sale, the smell of new leather, the texture and weaves of fabrics, even the excitement of a new bag of groceries.  Is it obvious?  I can get out of control.  So, I’m fasting this month.  Not from food, but from shopping.  Whenever I have the impulse to shop unnecessarily, I’m staying put.  I’m exchanging the desire with more productive things.  And I’m not doing it alone-I’ve asked my Heavenly Father for help.  Help honoring my husband in this matter, controlling my impulses, and managing our financial priorities.

It’s now the third week of this shopping fast, and it is getting tough! Today I drove past the Galleria and thought about going in to browse.  The quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, our Helper, reminded me, “Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.  Do not turn to the right nor to the left. Turn your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:26,27).  I didn’t listen.  I turned right and parked.   I paused for a moment after stepping foot into the store, then stubbornly took the escalator to the woman’s department.  I sifted through the bargains and picked a few to try on.  I can always justify a sale!  Again, the Helper told me “Flee”.  This time I listened.

As I drove home, tears filled my eyes.  Not from guilt or shame, but gratitude that God has given me the Helper to guide me into a life that is honoring to Him.  He doesn’t force me into action; instead He speaks to my heart and gives me power for daily living.  It’s up to you and me to listen, respond “yes”, and then experience the freedom that comes from walking closely with our Lord.  This is what it means to “Walk in the Spirit”.

Whatever the battle you face today, will you let your Heavenly Father know you need His help?  You can trust that the Holy Spirit, your Helper, will do His job by guiding you into all Truth.  Ask Him to help you hear His voice and to respond, “Yes, Lord”.  Then come back and tell me how He blesses your life!


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