Christian Taylor Buchanan

Christian Taylor Buchanan

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Five Ways to Teach Your Child About People With Differences - Part Four

Part Four - Five Ways To Teach Your Child About People With Differences - Differently Abled Etiquette

Thanks for joining me again for part four of my five part series! I can't believe we've almost made it through already!

If you are new to this series, you might want to go back and start with PART ONE. <---click here to read it.

If you have been following along, THANK YOU! I hope you are enjoying it!

People first Language is important. I cringe whenever I hear someone say "I know a Downs kid." I don't know why that one gets to me so much, but it does. "A person with Down's Syndrome" would be much more appropriate. In general, let's all teach our kids to just see the person before the disability. That's really the whole premise of People First Language. Put the person first. Not autistic child, rather, child with autism. If they get wrong, it's not the end of the world,  but like reminded them to say please and thank you, let's remind our kids what language is appropriate to use when referring to disabilities.

Unfortunately, there are still many adults who need help in this area. Once I was sitting in a law school class and a guy was asking the teacher a question. He was talking about ADA laws and began explaining how his wife is an architect who helps design hospitals. Sit down for what I'm about to tell you he said next. I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't heard it with my own ears. He said out loud for everyone to hear "My wife has to jump through hoops and hurdles to make sure that every blind, disabled, wheelchair ridden person can get through that hospital without help." He was complaining guys, that disabled people need to navigate a hospital. Let that sink in. He was complaining that a hospital has to be built so that PEOPLE WHO NEED TO USE SAID HOSPITAL can actually use it. My jaw dropped. I was shaking. Had I had the opportunity to say something to him, I would have. But the teacher apparently realized that we had a "wheel chair ridden person" in our class (I was sitting next to him) and quickly changed the topic and would not call on me with my hand raised. I probably had fire coming out my eyes and the teacher wasn't about to get that brawl started. haha! Person in a wheelchair would be fine, guys, but using the word "ridden" to describe anyone for anything is probably not going to fair well. Can you imagine someone calling me "curl ridden" because my hair is so curly? Not a compliment.

Teach children and please imitate yourself for them to see and just because it's the decent thing to do, how to speak to a person with a disability. Yes, do address polite and impolite things to say, but more so, teach your kids to talk TO a person with a difference. Make sure you are addressing the person with the difference yourself. It's okay if you already know they won't reply. You aren't addressing them to get a reply. You are addressing them because they are a human being worth addressing. Say hello. Ask them how they are. Call them by name if you know it. Look at them. Reach out a hand to shake theirs. Have a conversation just like you would with anyone else. It's perfectly okay, and actually polite to talk to people who can't verbalize back. Just don't be rude and expect a reply. Don't say arrogant things like "Aren't you going to say 'hi?'" or "Cat got your tongue?" Just be kind y'all. Not everyone can or wants to reply to you, and guess what, they don't owe you a reply. Just be kind.

I have several friends who have children who are completely non verbal. We ran into one in a waiting room at a therapy center one day, which is not unusual, and Chandler noticed a little boy about his age. He was excited for a play mate, so he ran up to this little boy and waved and said hi. The boy stopped only for a moment to look at Chandler, never said a word, never really made eye contact, and continued running around as little boys do. Chandler was confused. He looked at me and asked why that little boy didn't say hi to him. I explained that some people aren't able to talk, but they can hear you. I encouraged him to continue talking to this little boy, even if he didn't get a reply. I tried to convey not to expect a reply, but rather to be his friend anyways. It was confusing to Chandler. He is four. It shouldn't be confusing to an adult in the age of technology we have and how well know autism is at this current time.

Another incident happened not too long after that where Chandler said hello to a totally neurotypical child who either didn't hear him or chose to ignore him, and he asked me if that boy couldn't talk either! lol! Kids are watching and listening to us! That's for sure!

We must model the behaviors we want our kids to have, but not only that, we must also train them in those behaviors. Explain to them how they should treat people, or what to do if they encounter a person with a difference. Talk to them about it and practice it! We LOVE when moms bring their kids up to say hello to us, and that mom and I exchange knowing glances that communicate an understanding. She is trying to teach her kids something that I would never stand in the way of, and rather, am happy to help facilitate! If her kids learn what I hope they will learn by meeting Christian, learning how to approach and talk to him, then that's a win for them and us!

If you ever see us out in public and want to have a learning moment with your child, please holler at us. Christian gets excited when kids talk to him. He loves other kids. He can meet a child one time and he calls them his friends. He isn't annoyed and I am not bothered. Find us! We want to help you teach your kids about acceptance! It just means a better world for all of us! If I really am too busy to talk, I can let you know, and I'll be nice about it, but that hasn't happened yet. :)

Let's talk about some other things that are probably inappropriate etiquette. Just this week, we were at a store with the boys. We were walking around and came upon someone. That's a pretty normal thing to do in a store, see other people walking around ya know. Imagine my surprise when this lady, probably close to my own mother's age, loudly proclaimed an "ewwww!" I looked up as a reaction and saw that she was looking at Christian. I glared at her for a moment, then turned away so as not to curse at her. I needed a moment to process what had just happened and make sure I hadn't misunderstood. I asked Chris if I had just understood what happened correctly. He was so mad as well that he just said "yeah" and we both sort of just stood there in shock.

So many things ran through my mind in a matter of seconds. I thought about saying so many ugly things to her. Then I noticed that Christian was happily playing with a toy at  display and had no idea what had just happened. I decided that I wasn't sure I could say something to her without being ugly, and that I didn't want to make a scene to where Christian would now notice what had happened. I just walked away and as I did, heard her say loud enough for us to hear, "Oh, that spider toy scared me." She lied. She was covering herself instead of owning up to what she had just done, which made me even more angry, because then I knew that she totally realized that what she had done was unacceptable.

Y'all, I'm going to be honest. That hurt. A lot. It felt like a punch in the gut. And while I wanted to say lots of things to her, I still do, I am not going to say anything in anger. Was she old enough to know better? Oh yeah. Should she have owned up and apologized? Absolutely. Was she probably uneducated on disability or possibly hadn't encountered people with differences much? Probably.

So, grace upon grace and forgiveness seven times seventy. I'm not there yet.  I don't feel like I've forgiven her. I'm still angry. But I will not retaliate. Vengeance isn't mine anyways, nor do I wish her to "get what's coming to her." I am hurt, but I have learned that hurting her in return won't help. I hope that maybe she felt bad for what happened and went home and thought about it. I hope she resolves that next time she will do better. Screaming at her would not produce that result. Screaming at her would have probably have caused her to dig her heels in and stand by her actions, because that's what people do when you jump on them.

I wish I could have been calm enough to talk to her and explain that what she said was hurtful, but in that moment, I just couldn't. So, I did the next best thing. I just walked away and am praying that God will open her eyes to what she just doesn't know. I think He will.

If you start teaching your two year old appropriate behaviors and how to interact with people with differences now, this scenario won't play out when they are fifty, guys. Get your child involved with all kinds of people, not just typical peers. Not just the kids just like them. Your children will be better people for knowing people like my Christian. I promise. I am a better person for knowing him.

I wanted to end by listing a few ideas I had for getting your kids involved and teaching them about differences so that you can produce opportunities to teach.

  • Pull up photos on google of people with differences of all kinds and talk about them with your kids
  • Read books such as 
    • Special People, Special Ways by Arlene Maguire
    • Way To Go Alex by  Robin Pulver
    • Just Because by Rebecca Elliot
    • Zoom by Robert Munsch
    • A Very Special Critter by Gina Mayer
    • I See Without my Eyes by Mark Hayward
    • Don't Call Me Names: Learning To Understand Kids with Disabilities by C.W. Graham
    • And honestly, there are so many more that I couldn't list them all. Just google and you will find tons!
  • Take opportunities to talk to people with differences in public and model words and behaviors for your kids. 
  • Volunteer at a local rehabilitative therapy center like Special Kids, Inc. Allow your kids a chance to peer model for other kids, be around them, help them, and play with them. Many places are desperately looking for people to come play with the kids!
  • Have your children help you put together care packages for kids who are in the hospital local to you. Call your local children's hospital and ask what exactly the children there might want in a care package, find out the specifics for getting it to the hospital, and go for it! Meanwhile, talk to your kids about why you are doing it and how it will help the kids. 
  • Link up with folks on facebook with differences and have your kids write them letters or send cards. It gives kids a chance to discuss and process what they are thinking about, and possibly even ask questions they might be curious about. It gives them a chance to communicate with people with differences in a way where they can sit and think about what they are going to say beforehand, but also gives them a chance to really communicate with people with differences
If you have more ideas, please let me know in the comments. Someone reading this might see an idea what can really work for them!

So, I hope you enjoyed this post about etiquette. Please feel free to share it and spread the word about teaching kids about people with differences. I hope this blog series is making the world a little bit of a better place for Christian. :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Five Ways to Teach Your Child About People With Differences - Part Three - Be Honest

3. Speak Matter-of-Factly and Honestly About Differences

Thanks for joining me once again for my five part series on teaching your kids about people with differences! I am so enjoying sharing my heart with you all!! If you have missed any parts of the series, you can start with part two here: Creating A Safe Space to Get It Wrong. Part two includes a link to Part 1, so it should be easy to navigate to where you want to go.

So, Part 3 of my series is Called "Be Honest." I think it's so important to be open and candid with kids about differences, without, of course, divulging so much information that the child gets scared or put off. Sometimes disabilities can result from traumatic accidents, and while it's the truth, some kids might be too young to understand and process the fact that it could happen to any of us. So, I will preface this post with a disclaimer. Please use discretion when being open honest with children about disabilities. Age, development level, maturity, and so much more goes into consideration about how much and what to divulge. So, please do so wisely!

Now, on to the good stuff!

For my family, speaking about Christian's disability is a way of life. I travel the country, getting invited to speak about Christian. Just tomorrow we leave for San Antonio where I will be sharing about Christian at the Cleft Strong 5k. I have written a book about our lives
(Shout out to Through The Eyes of Hope!!! Find it here!!! )

I have spent more hours of my life talking about Christian, not only to journalists and media outlets, but also to doctors, social security case workers, teachers, therapists, and everyone in between, that I know I couldn't begin to figure it all up. It is something that we are used. Living with the differences that Christian has are just a way of life for us. There are days when we honestly don't even think about Christian's difference because we are so intimately acquainted with it is our normal, and so that we don't think about it when we see it or deal with it.

So, saying things like "Christian was born without his eyes. Christian is blind. Christian has facial difference." Those are just everyday words and phrases in our house. They are facts. They are not inherently emotional, but I realize that for everyone besides us, they are not common place issues. Sometimes, as people who have emotions, we can place our own emotions onto facts and then convey those emotions to our kids along with the facts of the situation. When talking to kids about a person's difference, I suggest talking about the facts as facts and leaving emotion out of it until the child decides what emotions to have about it. Then we can guide children into appropriate emotions about the situation. For example, if a child feels sad that Christian doesn't have his eyes, you can help them understand it's okay to be sad about the things that Christian struggles with. (Sometimes it makes me sad, too.) You could help them think of ways they could help Christian with those things he struggles with. Maybe they can help him find his toy he dropped, or they can tell him about the colors on the pages of the book being read. It's a win/win when things like this take place because Christian is getting much loved interaction with peers and some help that he really might need, and the other child is learning empathy and compassion and service.

Love This Wild Child
Kids are sponges. They take in everything, even the things we unintentionally convey to them. Even the things we think they aren't listening or paying attention to. They will react how we "tell" them to react, even when we tell them subconsciously. If we can convey a message of calmness and an attitude matter-of-fact-ness (I just made that word up) to kids about someone's differences, often times, they will pick up on that. If we show kindness and caring, they will probably mimic that. If we cry and lament or say things like "Poor soul!" about a person's disability to them, or if we do our best to ignore people with differences so we don't have to deal with our own emotions about it, they will likely pick up on that, too.

Sympathy or apathy are not emotions I wish kids would pick up on about people with differences. Empathy, YES!!! But, Christian surely doesn't need pity. He does need friends though, and acceptance, love, appreciation, hugs, encouragement, empathy, and inclusion, to name a few. Pitiful, he is not.

Using matter-of-fact details about a person is always a good place to start when explaining why that child doesn't have eyes. Cool, calm, and collected. "Yes. He is missing his eyes. He is blind. That means he can't see. He does look different than you." "Yes. That woman uses a wheel chair. It helps her get from place to place. Maybe her legs don't work like yours to carry her, so she needs the wheel chair. We can go talk to her if you'd like." There is just nothing offensive about saying a person in a wheelchair is in a wheelchair. I highly doubt it will offend them. As I said in an earlier blog post, they already know they use a chair for mobility. You won't surprise them with your statement. Haha! It won't shock my family for you to say that Christian has a difference. He sure does. Whenever we talk about his difference, I have taught him to say "That's how I was born, and I was born awesome!" :)

Christian's joy over wiggling a noodle
at dinner time
I have to share this funny story that just happened a few weeks ago. Chandler has come a long way on the screaming in terror at people with differences front. :D I had coffee last week with a friend who has a prosthetic leg and I brought the boys along. She was wearing a skirt and sandals, so her legs were visible. Chandler almost immediately noticed that one of her legs was different, and he asked her about it. I have always encouraged him to approach people with differences and talk to them because I know he has been scared and unsure about it, so I was proud that he felt comfortable to do it! :) I also knew that my friend would be totally cool with it because she is pretty much one of the coolest people I know! She explained to Chandler that she has a real leg and a fake leg, and that her fake leg helps her walk. Then she invited him to touch her foot. Chandler happily bent down and felt of her foot for a total of less than five seconds, then carried on about his planets of the solar system like always and never mentioned it again. My friend's attitude was calm, positive, and  factual towards Chandler's question. It was the perfect response to a curious child in my opinion. Her attitude was obviously convey to Chandler, which is the goal!

For me, saying that Christian doesn't have his eyes is about the same as saying Christian has dirty blonde hair. It just is. To say Christian is blind is like saying Christian is six years old. It's just factual and descriptive information about Christian. It's not inherently bad to be blind or to not have eyes. We just perceive it that way sometimes. But I assure you all, Christian gets along just fine without his. :)

I feel like maybe the hesitation that some folks feel in making these matter of fact statements is their fear in offended a person with a difference. So, I just want to assure you that it's not offense to make a factual statement about a person. It's an observation. It's reality. Disability is no longer taboo. It is no longer something we hide. We are living in a time when disability is more accepted, I believe than ever before. The disabled community is proud of who we are. We are proud of the people inside our community who are mostly just amazing people. (Have you met my kid?! :D) So, please don't feel as though you have to tip toe around a disability or sugar coat it. Please also don't feel as though the disabled community needs pity, apathy, or avoiding.

The disabled community has embraced itself, and we hope you will embrace us, too!
Christian and his sensei, Mr. Bill Taylor

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Creating A Safe Place to Get it Wrong - Five Ways to Teach Your Child About People With Differences - Part Two

He's a SuperHero!
I am so thrilled that you have hoped back on my blog to follow the series I am sharing right now! Last week I introduced this blog series about teaching your child about people with differences. We all want our kids to be decent humans who include and accept people despite their differences,  but sometimes it's hard to know exactly how to teach kids about differences.

I started this blog series to give my advice on helping teach your kids about people with difference. I get asked all the time how I would want people to approach us, or how I would recommend handling a question or situation that a child is dealing with. I am honored to be asked these questions and so I wanted to share my heart with you all about acceptance, inclusion, and just some practical ways you can teach your kids to apply those things in the area of people with disabilities.

I have so much to say on this topic that I needed to break it up into five parts to make something you could read in less than 3 hours. 😂So, we are now on to part 2!

If you missed Part One of the series, you can read it here:

Now, on to Part Two! Enjoy!

2. Create a Safe Space to Get It Wrong

Children are not adults. I don't believe in holding children to adult standards. If a child says something inappropriate about Christian, no matter how inappropriate, I always take into consideration the child's age and intent. I realize just how embarrassing it is to parents when their five year old loudly proclaims "Mom! What's wrong with that boy's eyes!?"  However, if you are five, that's not such an off based question. If you are fifteen, yes, you should probably have a little more tact, but for young kids, they haven't learned that yet. They are curious and still have so much to learn about the world. They are asking a question they want to know the answer to, and while I know we wish our kid would word things differently at times, they don't know what they don't know, and in and of itself, being curious about a difference is not a bad thing. So, I don't fret over a five year old's innocent question about Christian.

 Available Now on Amazon
I believe that shushing, quieting, punishing, or hindering a child's curiosity or questions does little to actually further the cause of creating acceptance and understanding. Children should be free to ask questions without fear of punishment. How else will they learn? What an opportunity it opens up when they say something inappropriate to explain why it's inappropriate. It creates a chance for us to give them better dialogues to use without the pressure of that inappropriate thing being said in front of a person with a disability and you finding yourself in a panic trying to apologize and fight the urge to run away all at once.
I use something with my boys often that I have found so effective. When they say something that I would like them to rephrase or use different words for, I tell them why what they said was wrong, then, I tell them what words they CAN use to convey the same message, but do it in a way that is acceptable. Giving my boys the words to use has been so effective in helping them have words to communicate in way that I approve of. "YOU STOP IT!!!!" is turning into "Please don't take my toy." Lots of repetition and practice is key, as well as not punishing, but explaining, why some words are just not okay to say.

That's  why I believe it's important to create an atmosphere where your child is safe to ask questions, get it wrong, and be comfortable to speak their mind. Let your child be honest. If they see a difference and it scares them, it would be totally embarrassing for them to say it to the person with the difference. However, it is something that kids might feel when encountering something they haven't seen before. Make sure that you aren't punishing your child for having their feelings, but instead, talk to them about why they don't have to be scared. Tell them why they are not allowed to use the word "Weird" to describe that person they saw. Teach them appropriate things they can say instead. Use those opportunities to have an open and safe dialogue. No body knows what they don't know. So, teach rather than react.

I remember distinctly an incident when Christian was just tiny where a mom reacted with punishment to her child saying something embarrassing about Christian. We were at the doctor's office and Christian was sitting in my lap while we waited to be called back. A little girl who couldn't have been older than three walked by, noticed Christian, and said something rather inappropriate by adult standards, but honestly, she was small, so it wasn't really a big deal. Of course it needed to be addressed, but I certainly was not offended. I don't even remember now what she said. What I remember is her mother's look of terror and immediate exit. She grabbed the little girl and headed for the door, chastising her the whole way. I made out "Don't you ever say something like that again..." coming from the mother on their way out. I sympathize so much with this mother. She was mortified that her child had said something hurtful and was afraid that it would hurt my feelings upon hearing it. She was probably also embarrassed that her child was the one who said it. I have been there, I get it.

The well-meaning mother punished her child for her remarks, as I am sure she was only doing what she could in that moment, and wanted to prevent it from ever happening again. I'm thankful that she cared enough to address the issue. However, I fear that little girl learned a bigger lesson that day: People like Christian get me in trouble so I need to avoid them. Don't we all act abruptly and rashly as parents sometimes? Don't we all have that knee jerk reaction on occasion? I have no doubt that mama was well meaning. None.  There will be no judgment from me for that mama. I so appreciate how much she cared about my feelings and wanted her child to be respectful and kind to people with differences. But I wish she would have made her daughter come talk to us and ask about Christian instead. What a chance it would have been to show her a cute baby, allow her to ask questions, and hopefully nurture that trait we all want our kids to exhibit of just being kind to others.

So, in trying to teach our kids about people with differences, how to treat them and how NOT to treat them, punishment just isn't the best route when they are young and just don't know, in my opinion. It's a whole different set of standards when a child is older and knows better, but chooses to be a bully. I would hope no one would tolerate that from their child for a second, but when a young child has never been around people with differences and embarrassingly points out a difference for the first time, punishment really does send the wrong message. The best thing we can do is make sure that our kids feel safe to talk about how they feel honestly so we can address the issues that might arise.

I always believe the best, that kids have good intentions, even if what they say or do seems rude at first. There is usually a If a child is scared of a difference, there really could be a good reason for it. I have had kids tell me on occasion that they are scared when they meet Christian. When I ask why, several have told me that they are afraid they will lose their eyes. Their little minds make the connection that if Christian lost his eyes, they could to. It really makes sense when you think about it, the connection they make. Once I explained to them that Christian was born that way and that their eyes are safe, the fear is over.

I've had kids who wouldn't speak to Christian, or who even burst into tears at meeting Christian. That was embarrassing for their parents, I'm sure. Upon further investigation, they tell me that they are so sad that Christian is hurting that they just couldn't speak to him, but instead would just cry. Kids are not born malicious. They can learn it, but I just always assume that a child isn't automatically meaning to be rude. Some kids are so filled with compassion for Christian that they don't know what to say. Sometimes we perceive their actions as rude, but really, little people just don't process or react to the world the way adults do. They are still learning, and because they are not adults who are capable of reacting and responding like adults, I don't think it's okay to hold them to adult standards.

Creating a safe place for kids to get it wrong allows them to learn how to get it right. Taking a step back to teach and correct, rather than jumping to react and punish, opens doors to learning, acceptance, and inclusion. What kids are capable of is compassion and kindness, but we have to model and teach it, too.

Please enjoy these photos of our recent field trip to Old Stone Fort, Manchester, Tennessee just because! <3

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Five Tips To Teach Your Kids about People With Differences - Part One

We have all been there, including me. You are innocently grocery shopping or at a play ground or doing some typical activity, when suddenly, your child notices someone with a disability, or difference, and rather loudly and uncouthly proclaims her discovery for everyone within a 3 mile radius to hear. You are embarrassed, and maybe a little ashamed that your child is that kid. You might try to apologize, or maybe you just grab your kiddo and make a run for it, red faced and all.

If you haven't experienced this, you just aren't living! haha! Seriously though. I have even been through something similar with two year old, not-yet-talking Chandler, who is around Christian every single day of his life! A friend invited me to a meet and greet of a sweet man named Frederick.  I was so excited to attend this meeting with Chandler in tow. Frederick lived in Rwanda in the 90's during a mass genocide of Tutsi people. We listened to Frederick recant the harrowing day that the bus he was on was stopped by a group of Hutu, who were the perpetrators of the killings. He can tell the story much better than I can, but in short, all the passengers on the bus were removed. Frederick was given a weapon (I can't remember now if it was a knife or a gun) and asked to kill all the other passengers in exchange for his life being spared. Frederick refused, and so the Hutu group cut off both of Fredericks hands past the wrist, tied him to a tree, and left to die. The rope actually acted of tourniquet that stopped blood loss. Frederick amazingly survived, but was left, of course, without his hands.

Frederick Ndabaramiye
You can get Frederick's book here and read his full account of his story:

After Frederick spoke, he took time to meet folks who came to hear him. I was excited to get a book signed and talk to Frederick. When it was our turn, Frederick's eye lit up at Chandler. I mean, what can I say? He's a cute kid. Frederick seemed to especially love children from what I gathered. He reached out and asked Chandler to come to him. Chandler just stared at Frederick's arms where he knew hands should be. Frederick continued to reach out and asked Chandler if he could hold him. At this point, Chandler began grabbing me as if Frederick was trying to kidnap him and screaming an ear-piercing, earth shatter scream. He was absolutely terrified of Frederick because of Frederick's difference. I felt a wave of emotions, including but not limited to wanting to just dig a hole and crawl in it right then and there. I apologized to Frederick profusely and tried to comfort Chandler. Frederick was kind enough to hold his arm out and let Chandler watch me touch it so that he would know it was okay, but alas, nothing quieted Chandler's terror except to get away from what scared him. *sigh*

That day sticks out to me because I finally knew what it was like being on the other side of the isle. I felt what these parents were feeling when their child did something embarrassing around my Christian. I always saw their embarrassment, but I had never felt it the way I did that day. So, I can say that, even though we are mostly on the receiving end of some embarrassing comments, I have lots of sympathy for parents who just want to raise decent humans and yet still feel like it's an uphill battle. I've been there!

I was asked this week on social media, and I get asked often, what my advice is for teaching children about people with differences, acceptance, and inclusion. And TADA! This blog post was born. I want to take a little pressure off and give you guys my pointers for helping your kids learn about differences so that maybe one day they won't embarrass the snot out of you in public will be good people who can look past a disability and see a person first. I also wanted to include some practical tips along the way! So, here is part one of my five part series on teaching your kids about differently abled people or people with differences. I hope you find this post helpful and practical for your every day life! So, here goes!

 Five Tips To Teach Your Kids about People With Differences  - Part 1

Rule Number 1 - Don't Avoid People with Differences

A cute photo of Christian just because!
Differences are not the elephant in the room. You don't have to turn and go the other way for fear of your child saying something that points out a person's difference.  You don't have to avoid looking at, making eye contact with, or noticing a person with a difference. I mean, don't stare, but hey, I don't have any physical differences and I would be a little creeped out if someone was staring at me, too, ya know? You don't have to pretend that a person's difference doesn't exist. That person who you are trying to pretend isn't in a wheelchair totally knows they are in a wheelchair! :D So, if you worry that you feel awkward and don't want to embarrass yourself, I get it, but the only way you are going to stop feeling awkward is to step out of your comfort zone and dive in! It really is okay to not say the perfect thing or react in the perfect way. It's okay to feel awkward. What's not okay is missing out on the amazing people you could know if you give yourself the grace to get it wrong and go talk to someone who is different.

Noticing and asking me about Christian's facial difference is truly okay. It isn't going to bring about some shock. I am not going to look at his face for the first time and realize that it's different. I already know and I happen to love his face! I squeeze it all. the. time because it's so cute! I don't mind talking about Christian or his difference. In fact, you might have trouble getting me to stop blabbing about Christian once I get started. (Have you seen this blog?!)  I'm pretty much his biggest fan. Christian has even learned to tell people when they ask him what happened to his eyes, "That's how I was born!" as he bounces and hops about happily. He knows he has a difference and as far as he's concerned, he's cool with it. We know he is different. Issues would arise if you judged him poorly based on his difference. That would not be cool.

Avoiding us, even if you think you are just trying to spare us, sends the opposite message of acceptance and inclusion. Turning away from, avoiding, or ignoring people with differences tells kids (and those of us in the disabled community) that this is how people with differences are to be treated.

You also don't have to walk on egg shells around people with disabilities for fear of offending them. I have seen it so many times, and I appreciate that people care enough about our feelings to go to such lengths to avoid hurting us, but we really don't have paper thin skin and our feelings are just not that fragile. I have found that most folks are not offended by well meaning questions, even poorly worded ones. I have also noticed that especially when someone realizes that a parent is bringing their child forward to help them understand, people with differences are generally more than happy to talk to those children! Why wouldn't they be? Each person they reach is one less person to carry on the stigma that so many differently abled people have to live with every day.

If you, in all good intentions, talk to a person who happens to have a difference and they are rude to you, I can almost guarantee that you can chalk that up to them having a bad day or just not being a nice person. I wouldn't count that as you doing something wrong. Maybe you did say something that wasn't exactly kosher. It's easy to do. That doesn't give anyone an excuse to be rude. If it bothers them that much, they can take time to educate you on what language they would prefer.

People with differences are just people, and they generally want human connection like the rest of us. Please realize that you don't have to, nor do I encourage, that you focus on the person's difference when trying to initiate a conversation. I would even suggest that you don't start off with, "Hi, so, I noticed you're in a wheel chair." Their response might be


May I suggest, instead, some of these introduction lines:

  • Hi, how are you doing?
  • Good day! How's it going?
  • Hi, my name is Lacey. What's yours?
  • Nice to meet you.
  • Love your Backstreet Boys shirt! They're my favorite! (I tailored that one for me, but you can insert your own favorite band. 😂) 

I hope you laughed at that a little, but I also hope you see what I'm trying to say. However you would approach any other person and strike up a conversation, there is no reason to do anything different when it's a person with a difference.

Please don't think that I'm saying that talking about a person's disability or difference isn't off topic, either. If the conversation naturally gleans that way, by all means, discuss it. Just don't force it. Talking about your brother's friend's grandma's cousin having a similar condition is a bit of a stretch. But you can tell them your child is curious about their chair and you were wondering if it would be okay to come talk to them about it. I bet almost everyone would be happy to oblige. And if they say no, well, you can just say, "Okay, thanks anyways!" and smile and walk away. Sometimes you might just catch someone when it isn't a good time.

So, I hope you found this informative! I hope you laughed! But most of all, I hope you found this blog helpful in understanding how important it is to include people with differences, and how avoiding them can cause unintended harm.

See you next Thursday for Part two of this series, Five Rules To Teach Your Kids about People With Differences!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How Christian Experienced the Solar Eclipse

Hey all! I'm excited to write about our experience viewing the solar eclipse that happened on August 21, 2017 across the US! We are lucky enough to live near Nashville and be right in the line of totality, so it was a HUGE event in our area. People came from all over to be a part of the experience! I'll just say, it was deserving of the hype!

Chris's work allowed their employees to turn their phones off at their desks and come outside for about half an hour to enjoy the event, so I decided that the boys and I would meet him at his work so that we could all be together for such a big event. I wanted my boys to have memories of the event as a family, so we did! 

We met Chris at his work about an hour before totality and hung out on the lawn for a bit. I had talked with the boys a lot about the eclipse and what was going to happen. I didn't want them to be scared, because my boys tend to get scared when they don't understand something unusual or are introduced to something different or new. So, I prepped them a lot. They could recite exactly what an eclipse was and what we were going to watch. :) I also wanted it to be a learning experience because we are homeschooling, and I knew that this would probably be the only chance any of us ever got to see a total solar eclipse. We made a really big deal of it, because it was a big deal! 

When I would tell people that we were planning on watching the eclipse, many people would say, "Oh, it's so sad he won't be able to see it!" I knew, of course, that Christian wasn't going to be able to experience the eclipse like we do, but I also knew that there were so many ways he could experience and enjoy it! I was prepared to help him experience it to the fullest. 

C and I enjoyed some sunshine before the eclipse
So, I wanted to write this to tell you guys how exactly he experienced the eclipse and what he thought of it! It was not a sad event at all and so I hope to dispel any misunderstanding about his visual impairment! He really did enjoy it except for when he cried because people were cheering. He hates people cheering! haha!

So, we got to Chris's work in plenty of time to make sure we didn't miss anything. We waited around for a bit for Chris to be able to come outside, and really, everyone came out all at once. He works at a large call center, so there were lots of people to enjoy the eclipse with! 

We all knew that the eclipse was about to happen because we could watch through our eclipse glasses. Christian knew it was about to happen because we were counting down verbally to him. The anticipation for everyone was the same. :)

At the moment of totality, Christian knew it had happened. Everyone, including me, started cheering. That sent Christian into tears because he HATES people cheering. We still aren't sure why and he isn't able to explain it to us. So, at first, he cried just a little. When I got him to calm down and the cheering stopped, I asked him to look up and see if he could see the sunlight. 

Christian lifting his head to see the sunlight
Before the eclipse, he could lift his head up and see the sunlight. He could also feel the warmth on his face. Once the eclipse happened, it was literally like nighttime outside, and Christian could tell that there was no sunlight. Not only by looking up and seeing nothing, but also, the news reported that temperatures dropped on average seven degrees during totality. Christian could feel the coolness. So could we!

In a matter of moments, there were so many sounds to take in. Before totality, people were chattering, counting down, cheering. At totality, the entire crowd erupted with applause and cheers, then for a moment, silent awe. That silence didn't last long. Everyone began buzzing about, taking pictures, talking all at once. It was an amazing moment to experience together with others. It was as if time stood still for that minute and a half, that we were all suspended in that moment! Everything was crazy and calm all at once. It was almost surreal, really, and so hard to explain exactly what it was like to be there. 

But there were so many other sounds as well. Crickets began chirping loudly. Christian noticed them quickly. They were singing just as if it were 8pm. It was a pretty neat thing to experience! Christian listened intently and also heard birds singing their evening songs, but the birds were not as loud or consistent as the crickets.  

Chan trying out his solar glasses
When the sun peaked out from behind the moon again and night turned back to day the air began to warm again and sunlight touched our skin, the crickets stopped singing, the sunlight shined brightly, and everyone began, almost immediately, shuffling back inside to their work. Everything quickly turned back into what it was supposed to be. Day time was day time again. Reality resumed. Time was set into motion again. 

Christian was left a little less than impressed for a moment as he continued to recover from the upset of hearing a crowd of cheering people. lol. Chandler was busy running around in the grass, chasing a little girl he had befriended. Everything was back to normal. :) 

So, although Christian couldn't see the eclipse, please don't feel sorry for him. He did get to experience it! He did get to "enjoy" it. I only put the word enjoy in quotations because the cheering almost did him in. Bless! :)  We talked about the eclipse for several days afterwards and I asked the boys what they thought. Christian's response was "That's cool!" :)

Christian does get to enjoy life experiences. He thoroughly enjoys life and all the experiences he partakes in. He doesn't get to experience things the way we do, sure, but that doesn't mean it's any less rich or full. Christian's life is so
rich and full! 

I hope this helped you see into Christian's world just a little and understand how he takes it all in! Please subscribe if you enjoy reading my blog! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Gift in Every Tragedy - Our Dog Just Lost His Left Eye

Many of you know that we are Boston Terrier lovers! We have two males, Steel and Kal, who are litter mates. We have had them for about 2 years now and got them as puppies. About a month ago, we noticed that Kal was holding his left eye closed a lot. Boston's are known for their bulgy eyes, so this wasn't the first time the dogs had gotten too rough and hurt an eye. Steel and Kal fight like brothers. Ugh!

An old pic I have of these 3!
This is rare because they never
hold still! haha! 
For about a day, we watched it and wiped it with a warm cloth, figuring it was probably sore and would be fine in a day or two. We got up the next morning and Kal was holding his eye open more, which we thought was a good sign, but we noticed that it had a blue haze over it. The haze reminded me of my dog I had when I was a kid living at home with my parents. Ginger lived to be 13, 14, 15 years old (we aren't exactly sure because we found her and picked her up as a stray) and she developed blue, hazy eyes and low vision in her old age.

Kal's blue hazy eye concerned us, so we decided to go ahead and take him to the vet and let them just take a look at him. The vet called me later that day to let me know that Kal had suffered a pretty massive injury to his eye and it was on the verge of rupturing. She gave us two different meds to put in his eye 3 times a day, and said that we might still not be able to save it. She made it clear that it was pretty bad.

So for three weeks we put medicine in Kal's eye and slowly but surely it began to heal. Kal was in less pain and the blue haze began to go away.

Then, last Thursday, I took all the boys, kids and dogs, outside to stretch their legs in the back yard fenced in area. We hadn't been outside to play since before Kal got hurt and it was a nice day. As soon as we got out to the fence, I turned just in time see Steel jump Kal and hear Kal yelp. I immediately checked Kal's eye and didn't see anything except that it was watering, so I put Kal inside and let the boys play continue playing.

Sweet Kal and his toothy smile before his eye injury.

I checked on him again after lunch and put his meds in his eye that were due. His eye was still watering, but I couldn't tell much else.  It looked okay. I took the boys to their grandparent's house that evening until Chris got home from work, and when Chris came home, he checked on Kal and noticed that something wasn't right.

Chris knew immediately that his eye had ruptured, but I won't go into the details because just thinking about it makes me want to gag. I did not choose a job in the medical field for a reason.

So, off to the vet the next morning we went, per a facebook conversation with our vet who was nice enough to facebook chat me at 9pm, and Kal had to have his eye removed.

Steel (left) and Kal (right)
Brothers around age 1
We were heartbroken for our pup. We had tried so hard to save his eye, and still we couldn't. We felt like we had failed him, but also we were worried about how he would get along losing an eye. We already know what it's like for Christian, and it was painful to see a once healthy eye just be gone that quickly.

We couldn't pick Kal up until Saturday morning and I was so worried about what the kids would think. Surprisingly, they still haven't noticed almost a week later. They haven't said a word about it! Of course, Christian can't touch the eye to feel it, but Chandler is pretty perceptive and Christian listens to EVERYTHING, and I just knew Chandler would say something and then put Christian on alert that Kal's eye was gone. I was nervous because I worried how Christian would relate Kal losing an eye to him not having his eyes. Although he doesn't fully understand his condition, he does understand that it affects his eyes. I was also worried that Chandler might find it gross or scary to see Kal suddenly missing an eye, and say something that would hurt Christian's feelings if he was able to associate that to himself.

I was really just worried that Christian would associate Kal losing his eye with something bad sch as doctors, getting hurt, etc, and I'm sure he heard us talking about how sad it made us for Kal to lose his eyes, so I just didn't want him to think that it somehow related to him and his eyes being "bad." I also didn't want Chandler to fear losing his eyes. Chandler gets things in his head and he will obsessively fear it for months. There is no talking him through it or explaining it away. He will wake up at 3am having panic attacks about the thing he is most afraid of right now. We have been going through this police officer fear for several months and I can't tell you how many times I've reassured him that police officers will not get him when he misbehaves.

So, all that to say, I had all these fears already thought through, and none of them played out. Kal is doing well. He has adjusted to having less vision and isn't running into things nearly as much as he was his first few days home. So, I guess you could say best case scenario played out with something that is definitely not best case scenario.

Kal Kal  riding home from one of our
many vet visits trying to save his eye.
I'm sure someone will think it's tasteless of me to mention this, but whenever I am faced with something hard, I often make jokes about it as a way to cope. As a family, we laugh at the funny things that happen as a result of Christian being blind or having his feeding tube (like the time the nurse accidentally squirted his food all over our ceiling from a syringe and the stain is still there. We joke that we don't paint over it so we can leave a reminder of the occasion. Or the time Christian accidentally almost ran Baby Chandler over in a power wheels car because he couldn't see him, but we aren't really sure it was an accident at all.  lol!)

So, I told the vet when I picked Kal up that we were sort of experienced in people in our home not having all their eyes, so I wasn't too worried about taking care of Kal, and that there would no more folks in our home losing eyes because two was more than enough. We laughed about it, because it is kind of ironic, isn't it?

We are the proud owners of a one-eyed dog, and we are the proud parents of a no-eyed boy. Both circumstances suck on some level. Not that we get to be Kal's dog parents or Christian's mom and dad. But just that Christian and Kal both have had to suffer unfair losses that make life a little harder. That is not what we would've chosen for Christian or Kal. We would give them their eyes if we could, but in both cases, we have also managed to see the gift.

Losing eyes is not a gift, so don't hear me say that; and I don't think God takes people's eyes or limbs or senses and says "Look at this gift I've bestowed on you!" But I do think that in every tragedy, like losing an eye, there is a gift, because that's just how God operates. He can take even the worst things and make something good out of it. He can take even the ugliest clay and shape a beautiful piece of pottery.

So, Chris and I were talking tonight about the gift within the tragedy. We are still sad about Kal losing his eye and still learning to cope and adjust to it, but now Christian isn't going to be the only one in our family without eyes. Christian won't have to feel like he is alone, like the odd ball out, in his struggle at this young age. When Christian asks questions, which he is doing more and more now, we have someone right in our own home to show Christian that some people (or animals) are like him and some people are not, and that it's all okay. When Christian wonders if anyone understands, we can point to the furry ball of energy that sleeps in our living room; and when Christian wants to know why he is different, I hope having Kal can bring him some comfort to know that even though he isn't exactly like Mommy and Daddy and Chandler, he is exactly who he is supposed to be.

Every good and perfect gift is from above. Sometimes the gifts are less obvious and sometimes they don't look like gifts at first, but if we are vigilant in looking for them, we will find them.

Home from the vet after eye removal.
Poor bud. He has been in good spirits! 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Social Media Hiatus

Many of you know that I recently decided to take a break from social media. For several reasons, I thought it would be healthy for me to step back for a little bit, but I also feel like God was calling me to a time of "fasting." I felt God calling me to set aside some of the distractions that life has been throwing at me so that I could hear His voice better.

I didn't know at first what I would be fasting from, I just knew that I needed to. So, I prayed and waited to hear from God. Social media was the obvious choice fairly quickly. Even just being on Facebook recently has really been difficult for me, as some of you may know. There has been an influx of negative and hateful comments on pretty much every single thing I post. I always joke that I could post "I love chocolate chip cookies" on Facebook and someone would be highly offended and tell me how terrible of a person I am. It has always been a joke but what makes it funny is that tinge of truth running through it.

It's almost scary to hear people talk so nasty to strangers over seemingly nothing. I just wonder how our world got into such a shape that hate consumes so many people so deeply. Then I get sad to think about how miserable a person must be to have so much hate within them that they simply can't contain it and lash out any chance they get. It must be a miserable existence to have to carry that.

I really did have some sympathy for these folks after I stepped back from the situation and didn't let my anger get the best of me. But that was just it for me; It was emotionally taxing to have to be the person that was getting unloaded on. It was exhausting to have to deal with other folk's issues because they couldn't or wouldn't handle them for themselves. It was exhausting to have to constantly field comments and block people and no matter how many I blocked, someone else would just take their place. I was walking up in the morning and just avoiding even looking at my phone for a bit because I knew once I did, I was going to have to deal with some miserable person who wasn't able to deal with themselves. I was getting to the point of misery myself, opening my phone every single day to see someone who didn't even know me calling me names, telling me I was a terrible parent to the child they literally knew nothing about, and even having strong opinions on Christian's medical care, of which they knew nothing of his medical condition or history. I have been told more times than I can count by strangers what I should do for Christian medically, upwards to and including putting him through 30 or 40 surgeries by age 6, or just killing him because he must be so miserable.

Some days, it's just hard to absorb the blows. I was getting bitter and angry and way too upset to be able to deal with these folks in a healthy way or in a way God would expect of me.

So, after I decided that I would do a social media hiatus, I needed to figure out what it would look like. This fast isn't about getting away from people. It's about getting away from the mindless dribble that was just consuming me. So, I decided that I would continue to use Facebook Messenger. I have many friends who I only talk to through messenger, or that is the only way they know to contact me. So, I decided to keep that and check messages there and on Christian's fan page. I still wanted to be connected to people.

I did decide that I would not, even once, pick up my phone and mindlessly scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, and I also would not be posting any updates at all. Then I remembered that I have some obligations that I do have to make posts for, including the Cleft Strong 5k in San Antonio, Texas in October that my whole family will be attending. ( Promotion of events that I am invited to is just part of it, so I knew I would need to post those. I also decided that I would be posting about some good friends of mine who are going through a difficult time right now with their husband and father battling a brain tumor. I started a GoFundMe and Meal Train to help them out and have been posting about that as well, because I want to help them. I also decided to keep posting my blog, obviously, and sharing my heart here, because it is therapy for me. I truly love my blog and love updating it, but I promised myself I wouldn't read any comments that were made on it. Just post, and leave it at that. Other than that, I decided to post nothing. No cute photos of the kids or the adventures we've had. Nothing.

I also decided that I would not get on any of my other social media at all. No SnapChat. No Twitter except to share my blog link. No Instagram. No YouTube. Nothing.  I needed all the noise to go away. It was simply getting too loud and drowning out what was important.

It's been a week today since I decided I would do this and it's been amazing. I removed the Facebook app from my homescreen on my phone so that I wouldn't be tempted to click on it, and it's crazy how many times in those first few days that I opened my phone without thinking and went to click on that little blank spot where my app was. It was my time killer, my five minute break in the middle of the day when I just needed to get away from the demands of life, my end of day wind down before I went to sleep. I would just turn my phone on and scroll, mindlessly. Now that I type it all out, it sounds absurd.

I think God knew exactly what I needed when He called me to this fast.

I don't know how long this will last, but I know that it won't be forever. I do think, though, that when this is all said and done, I will spend less time reading comments and scrolling through facebook. I love sharing our lives with everyone and I am always amazed to see the people who really come to understand the message we share, and I won't stop doing that just because some people are miserable. I won't let them ruin it for me because I know God called me to share the message I am sharing. But, I am glad that I took a step back and am spending some time reevaluating what I am doing and how I am doing it. I am glad that I am spending less time trying to numb out the world and more time being in it. I am especially happy that I am spending time listening to God and what He has to say to me. Drawing closer to Him is always accompanied by a peace and hope that I can't find anywhere else.

So, thanks for bearing with me through this hiatus, and thanks for being patient with me as I figure this all out. <3