Winter Adventures: A Blog Hop

This winter has brought some new adventures for our crew - most recently a ski trip and water park getaway in Wisconsin...

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We also have gotten together with three local families of children with WHS. Anytime we connect with this group, I feel so blessed!

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In addition to sharing family news here, I also contribute to a Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome website that connects families of children with WHS. If you'd like to read more about our recent winter activities - and watch a great vid of Elsa practicing standing! - you can check out my latest entry by clicking here on Our Stories.

Thanks for taking the hop, and stay warm out there this week!

Priceless Treasures: A Guest Post by Sharon Rosenberger

I can't imagine that you'll make it through this post with dry eyes... but not because it's sad. Rather, it's so incredibly touching, sweet and uplifting. My friend Sharon Rosenberger has penned the most beautiful piece about the adventures that she and her son Kurtis experience when they go garage sale-ing together in the summertime.

Here they are posing for us!

How am I so fortunate to know Sharon? My daughter Elsa and Kurtis attend Chapelstreet Church's Masterpiece Ministry program, which supports children with special needs and their families. Sharon also attends Masterpiece Moms, a group that I co-facilitate with Hillary Jarvis in order to support moms of kiddos with special needs. 

Sharon's post (below) completely melted my heart, filled me with joy and also reminded me that God creates each child in his kingdom for a unique purpose. The Lord made a most heavenly match when he gave handsome young Kurtis to Sharon. I hope you enjoy getting to know this amazing pair!

In Sharon's words:

Long sun-drenched days. Smoky backyard barbecues. Crowded pools. Lighter-than-air butterflies flitting from one colorful bloom to the next. These are a few of the signs that tell me summer is in full swing.

But my favorite sign of summer is made of cardboard and staked at a street corner. It takes just two printed words to set my heart aflutter with anticipation: GARAGE SALE

Oh, the possibilities! As the youngest of five daughters in a frugally minded family, I grew up going to garage sales with my mom and sisters. (In fact, we still often go “G-sale-ing” together.) I’m happy to pass down the tradition to my 18-year-old son, Kurtis, who has special needs. He has become my intrepid garage sale partner and, much to my delight, he truly enjoys our outings.

Garage sales can be great adventures for kids, including those with special needs. Here are three ways that our family benefits from the garage sale experience.

3 Reasons to Hit Garage Sales with the Kids

1. Unplugged Fun

Garage sales are a great way to spend the day together out in the fresh air and sunshine, away from the hypnotic lure of iPads and smart phones. Left to his own devices (no pun intended), Kurtis would spend all day watching videos. He particularly loves viewing siren-wailing emergency vehicles and thundering freight and commuter trains on his tablet. Often during our travels to and from garage sales we encounter the real things, which are much more thrilling up-close and personal and always inspire fun conversation.

When it comes to sales, we like the kinds that include lots of homes: town-wide sales, neighborhood sales and block sales. We park the car and walk one side of the street, then cross and explore the opposite side, adding a little extra physical activity to our day. The experience exposes us to new communities and neighborhoods, as well. During a recent outing, we discovered a lovely pond and had an impromptu picnic lunch on a shaded park bench, enjoying the scenery, weather and each other’s company. Such a fun surprise in the middle of our day!

2. Cheap Entertainment

While I'm on the hunt for decorative items for my garden, Kurtis looks through kids’ books and toys. Over the years, I have purchased many fun and educational items, DVDs and games at garage sales for a fraction of the retail cost. We have visited dollar stores so Kurtis can choose how to spend his earned allowance, but the choices are limited in these shops. At garage sales, each driveway is like a different store with new merchandise.

Once, a kind seller - after meeting Kurtis and learning about his love of ping pong - offered us a ping pong table and equipment free of charge. At another sale, my hoop-shooting son discovered the perfect-sized basketball for just 50 cents. We've gotten our money’s worth out of it this summer, playing with the $30 basketball hoop we also purchased at a garage sale.

For Kurtis, the biggest entertainment factor of garage sales is walking up a driveway and being greeted by a wagging tail and a wet nose. Everything else fades to the background, if there is a dog at the sale. Whereas I rate a garage sale by the variety presented, Kurtis measures a good sale day by total dogs seen and puppy licks received. 

3. Skills Practice

Each of us has a unique learning style and a different rate of learning. Our kids with special needs usually benefit from repetitive practice when learning and mastering a new skill. Garage sales offer opportunities for Kurtis to practice a variety of life skills in a meaningful way.

Safety: Each time we get out of the car, and before we cross the street, I ask, “Any moving cars to the left? Any moving cars to the right?” Kurtis practices looking both ways and must answer “no” before we cross. He does sometimes say ”no” even when there is a car present, so obviously we still have work to do. I hope that one day with continued practice, his awareness will increase and I’ll feel comfortable letting him cross a street by himself.

Money Skills: Garage sales are a great way for Kurtis to practice coin and bill recognition, value and counting. When there is an item he wants to buy, we talk about the price. If it’s less than a dollar, we can pay with coins. If it’s more, we’ll need paper money or a combination of the two. I typically lay out a variety of coins in my hand and ask Kurtis to choose the coins that add up to the price. We talk about the type of coin and its value as we’re counting. We’re still working on this and need to keep practicing. One benefit to practicing this skill at a garage sale is that typically there are no impatient customers behind you in line, as there might be at a store.

Communication Skills: My son has a dimpled smile, infectious giggle and endearing personality. He also happens to have Down Syndrome and severe oral and verbal apraxia, which makes intelligible speech a challenge. He works very hard to form sounds and words. Despite these challenges, Kurtis has many intelligible words and word approximations and loves to interact with people. Garage sales present numerous opportunities for Kurtis to practice his communication skills with a wide variety of people. At each garage sale, we greet the seller with a “hi” or “hello” and say “bye” and “thank you” when we leave. If he sees another Cubs fan, he will say, “Go, Cubs, Go!” We also practice how to appropriately initiate a conversation. Kurtis has a knock-knock joke he likes to tell everyone he meets, but he will often just blurt out his favorite word from the joke. So when we practice, I will ask the person if he or she would like to hear a joke and then Kurtis will tell it. He views each garage sale as his stage, and everyone in the garage as his audience, even taking a bow after he tells the joke!


It is my hope that people can see God’s handprints all over my son.
— Sharon Rosenberger

If you've ever met Kurtis and been on the receiving end of his knock-knock joke, heard his boisterous laugh or experienced his gentle spirit, you remember him. He makes quite an impression, as do all our kiddos with special needs whom God has blessed with their own set of unique gifts and challenges.

Every garage sale we enter is an opportunity for Kurtis to share these gifts with others, to increase the visibility of special needs individuals as active members of the community and for others to see the joy he radiates, despite the challenges he faces. It is my hope that people can see God’s handprints all over my son. It's truly amazing to witness the effect that he has on others and heartwarming to see the genuine interest and kindness that others show toward him.

Kurtis leaves behind smiles and laughter and makes an impact in every neighborhood we visit, one garage at a time. This summer, I encourage you to visit a garage sale. You never know what priceless treasures you’ll discover.

The Joy of Dad Fun

Now that August is here, it sure seems like our carefree summer days are numbered. So the other evening, our family of five did something we don't often do: We headed to the park for some post-dinner play.

When we arrived, I assumed my natural position - sitting on a swing with Elsa, my eldest - while our younger daughters ran all over the park. Swinging is my fave, plus I love giving Elsa (who is 5 years old and not yet walking) a big dose of sensory input.

After about 20 minutes of swinging with Elsa on my lap, I shouted to my husband: "Hey Dan, can you do something fun with Els for a bit?"

Here's a video of what they did...

"Something fun" comes so easily to Dan. What he dreams up to do with her is never something I would think to do. I'm so oriented to schedule and consistency. Dan honors all of those routines, but he also knows how to shake things up and maximize fun. I'm so thankful that she has this balance in her life!

Watching Dan give Elsa such exciting experiences fills up my heart to the very top. There is "mom fun," and there is "dad fun." Cheers to dads everywhere - especially to the man who leads our home - for the spontaneity and joy you bring to your family.