Getting Gifts for Kids with Special Needs

The following is a guest post from my friend Bobby. If you’ve heard me speak at conferences you might have heard me talk about his extraordinary family. I’ve asked him to share his perspective as a dad raising a special needs child. I’ve learned a lot from Bobby over the years and I hope his stories will inspire, motivate, and encourage others raising special needs children.

About Bob

I am Bobby Williams and I am a dad to 3 kids with 2 of them having medical issues. My middle child, Kyle contracted group b strep during labor and it grew into group b strep meningitis. The infection destroyed his occipital lobe. Kyle has multiple disabilities from cortical blindness to mental retardation and is now 16 years old. This past year his little brother started having seizures as a result of him going through puberty.

Getting gifts for a child with special needs is is one of those small things. When Kyle was an infant it was easy getting him Christmas gifts. It was easy buying a boy who was mostly blind with other disabilities age appropriate toys. Now you might be thinking here, what is the big deal buying gifts for special needs kids?

Men who become dads, especially dads to sons, have this internal drive for their kids to be the best. Competition is part of our DNA and in a way it is part of the woman’s too. I have been around my friends when the mom’s would brag about the percentile their four month old was in and how the pediatrician thinks little Suzy is the smartest four month she has ever seen.

As parents we are programmed to think our kids are the best.

It is part of the job we embrace called parenting and that pride thing we have in our offspring. This is particularly true for dads and as our kids get older that pride seems to take root and grow with them too.

In regards to Christmas and buying gifts for special needs kids, it is easy when our kids are babies because most babies are pretty much the same. As time passes though our special needs kids slower development takes hold and the other normal kids in their age cohort are developing and pass our kids rapidly.

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Still buying toys and gifts for a four year old special need kid means you are likely buying toddler toys. The hard days hit for me when Kyle turned seven or eight years old. My other kids could verbalize a wish list and my youngest still believed in Santa and was excited about Christmas.

Kyle on the other hand still had no clue about time, calendars, birthdays or Christmas. That alone made it a challenge to buy for him and at times as parents we just wanted to give up buying anything for him for Christmas because it didn’t matter to him. As he aged that feeling got stronger and stronger and Cole, my younger son, passed him developmentally in every way.

As a dad I wanted my boys to play with Legos, enjoy model airplanes, RC cars, and every other cool toy so I could play with it Christmas morning. Raising Kyle meant none of those things.

In a way the meningitis robbed me of that part of raising a boy.

Any man worth his salt will take a lot of joy having a boy and doing boy things with him as he grows up. Christmas toys are a big part of that in our culture and having a son who is ten years old who can’t play with cool ten year old boy gifts is a sting that hits especially hard at Christmas.

So there we are sitting on the toddler aisle at Target six years ago and it hit us hard that our ten year old son was still only able to play with toddler toys. I think we just gave up that year and as a dad it was one of those bitter moments of raising a special needs kid and it made Christmas bitter.

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When family and friends wanted to get Kyle a gift we had no answer for them. It was as if we were in Christmas gift purgatory with him and there was no way out, ever.

It was hard, really hard to go through this part of life with him.

If you are a parent, mom or dad, with a severely disabled kid this Christmas or Hanukkah and you are at the age where your son or daughter is still playing with infant or toddler toys but chronologically they are tweens I am here to say you will get through it.

If your nine year old son can only play with a fisher price school bus, as this is one of Kyle’s favorite toys to this day, it is perfectly ok to get him a toddler toy.

The sooner we embrace our kids where they are versus where they would be if they were normal, the happier everyone will be.

This advice is easy for me to write because it is one which I have struggled with in those years. It is a quiet and often lonely struggle parents of special needs kids face. It is a small struggle but during the holidays it is very real and very bitter sweet at times too.

This Christmas season I want to encourage moms and dads everywhere facing this struggle for the first time that you are not alone in this experience.

Others have come before you and if you can embrace your kid’s limitations and find that one thing that lights up their world, then get that for them. They may not know what Christmas is truly about, but they know love and when we dare to express it in the way that reaches them, their hearts will light up. In the end is that not what Christmas is truly about, love that our Heavenly Father sent us?

Embrace your kid, love them this Christmas and don’t get hung up on the type of gift, get hung up on enjoying the season and love your kids where they are today regardless of their abilities.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Home Safety for the Holidays: Giveaway!

I’ve partnered with Kidde Safety to help create safe homes this holiday season. All opinions are my own. 

As you know I LOVE cooking and baking with my kids. In fact most of our day is spent in the kitchen either doing school work together or cooking and eating together.

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I really want my girls to learn the basics of cooking before they grow up and leave the house. I didn’t do the best job with my oldest (although she is getting better) so I’m working really hard with my younger kids to help teach them kitchen skills.

While teaching them how to cook is important, teaching them kitchen safety is even more important. I’m often reminding them to turn handles to the inside when cooking on the stove top or to use two hands when removing something from the oven.

They also need to know what to do in a cooking emergency. Earlier this year we had a small fire in the bedroom while renovating and Cora knew just what to do. While I was upset about the fire, I was thrilled she did exactly what she was supposed to do in case of an emergency!

It is important to go over safety procedures with your kids because you never know what could happen. In fact several years ago my parents ended up replacing their entire kitchen due to stovetop popcorn maker catching on fire.

Teaching kids how to prevent fires in the kitchen and how to handle them if they happen is a must, and I recommend starting when they are young.

Here are some key safety stats you might not be aware of:

  • Cooking is the number one cause of home fires and injuries.
  • The winter months are the deadliest season for home fires.
  • Most fatal home fires happen in homes with no smoke alarm or no working alarm.
  • Nearly five times as many Americans know the shelf life of a Twinkie than know the recommended operating life of smoke alarm. (source: recent Kidde survey)

It is heartbreaking to think that many fatal fires might have been prevented by a working smoke alarm. It is an inexpensive solution and anyone can install them in their home.
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Did you know that American homeowners rank a smoke alarm’s low battery chirp as their number one home fire safety complaint? I can understand. We’ve had our fair share of batteries die at 3am in our home. It is so annoying! I’ve wanted to rip the smoke alarm out of the ceiling and throw it out the window on those nights.

Kidde’s new Worry-Free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are powered by sealed-in, 10-year lithium batteries and use one battery for the life of the alarm to provide 24/7 fire safety protection, eliminating the hassles of low battery chirps and battery replacement.

Another kitchen essential is a fire extinguisher. I can’t believe we didn’t have one of these for many years.

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It is important that it is stored in an easy to reach place and that your children know how to use it and when to use it. I have boys so “when to use it” becomes a very important detail in my home!

To help your family stay safe this holiday season here’s a printable recipe card for safety. (Just click and download to print)

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It is important to go over these directions with your family on a regular basis so they are prepared in case of an emergency.

Also, if you are like my family and get a real Christmas tree please read this article on Christmas tree safety. Did you know that every year Christmas trees cause over 200 fires?

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Kidde Safety makes a complete line of home safety products including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms,  fire extinguishers, fire ladders and more. Visit their website for more information and to find out where you can purchase these life saving essentials for your home.


I have one kitchen fire extinguisher to give away today. To enter please leave a comment. Giveaway is open to US addresses only. Ends December 20, 2014. 

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Share a DIY or Upcycling Story to Enter Our $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

One of my favorite things to do is to find old things (mostly furniture and now houses) and breathe new life into them. It is almost always cheaper to redo or fix than replace and usually you end up with something something you love that is very unique.

This table is looking for a home in my new house. The bright blue worked well a few houses ago but now it needs another makeover.

When we first got it (off Craig’s list) it was a little too country for my taste, so I painted it bright blue, which everyone thought was crazy. I actually love the bright blue, but it doesn’t work with the blues and grays of the new house so it is on the list for another makeover.

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I’m actually considering cutting off some of the legs and making it a sofa table, but I figure I need to finish unpacking a few more boxes before I start painting and sawing furniture around here.

Another way to redo and save is to fix things instead of replacing them. Below you will find a guest post from the folks at Crucial Vacuum and a very fun giveaway!

We here at Crucial Vacuum are proud to join The Happy Housewife in hosting a Holiday giveaway to find the best personal DIY or upcycling story where the winner will get a $100 Amazon Gift Card! Our company and our amazing customers share that DIY spirit where we’d rather fix something ourselves than replace an item or take it to a repair shop.

We’ve heard countless stories from customers over the years that have repaired their own appliances and vacuums saving themselves money and getting a sense of accomplishment from rolling up their sleeves. That kind of attitude and work ethic is what we’re all about and what we’re here to celebrate!

DIY Holiday Contest Share a DIY or Upcycling Story to Enter Our $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

What truly inspires you? Do you get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from looking around your house knowing that the décor and effort put into making it a home is all thanks to you? Anyone with a true DIY spirit can relate to that moment of accomplishment after putting in the effort and creativity that comes with any great project.

Whether you’ve recently redecorated a room for the upcoming holidays, built a piece of furniture, repaired an appliance on your own, or have done any general project around your home yourself we’d love to hear about it! The possibilities for your stories and projects are endless!

Over the next few days tell us your best and most accomplished DIY/upcycling story in the comments below for a chance to win.  (We’ve already featured a couple on our Facebook page here!)

Include your photos, what inspired you to tackle a project, or fix something on your own. Was there any problems or obstacles along the way? What tools or items did you need to complete this wonderful accomplishment? The more detailed the better! Get passionate and have fun with it because after all that’s what these kinds of projects are all about. Good luck everyone and we look forward to your stories! Happy Holidays!

One winner will receive a $100 Amazon Gift Card.  Winner will be selected by Crucial Vacuum.  Giveaway ends December 19, 2014 at 9 pm EST.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Ticket Giveaway to See Broadway’s Pippin in DC Next Week!

I am so excited to see this musical, Pippin, as the composer is the same one from my favorite show, Wicked!

pippin musical Ticket Giveaway to See Broadways Pippin in DC Next Week!

Pippin will be live at The National Theatre in DC from December 16th – January 4th!

PIPPIN is Broadway’s high-flying, death-defying hit musical! Full of extraordinary acrobatics, wondrous magical feats and soaring songs from the composer of Wicked, PIPPIN will lift you up and leave you smiling. This unforgettable new production is the winner of four 2013 Tony Awards® including Best Musical Revival. Hailed as “an eye-popping, jaw-dropping extravaganza” (NY1), it’s unlike anything Broadway has ever seen! Come experience PIPPIN, one young man’s journey to be extraordinary.

This captivating new production is directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus (Hair and The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess). It features sizzling choreography in the style of Bob Fosse and breathtaking acrobatics by Les 7 Doigts de la Main, the creative force behind the nationwide sensation Traces. PIPPIN is noted for many Broadway standards including “Corner of the Sky,” “Magic To Do,” “Glory,” “No Time at All,” “Morning Glow,” and “Love Song.” Join us… for a magical, unforgettable new PIPPIN.

For more information on Pippin, click here. You can also get a sneak preview of the show here.

All of my readers who will be in the DC area can get tickets for the DC show for 10% off the regular price by clicking the link below and entering password: CELEBRATION at checkout!  Tickets using this code are $84/$66/$43.50 (regular price $93/$73/$48).  However, if you aren’t in DC, make sure you check out the tour dates as they will be all over the country through August!

Order your DC Pippin Tickets today!

Pippin Ticket Giveaway

Plus, I’m giving away a 4 pack of tickets to one lucky reader for the opening night of Pippin at The National Theatre in DC on December 16th at 7:30 pm.  Just leave a comment below with what musicals you’ve seen or have always dreamed of seeing!

Giveaway ends December 10, 2014 at 1pm EST.  It’s a fast giveaway because the winner needs to receive their tickets to attend opening night!

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.