“Can you start a website where you curate all these awesome finds?” my son’s therapist asked me half-jokingly (I think) last year.
As I’ve mentioned before, I often cope with JB’s diagnosis by shopping. I’m always hoping there’s a certain toy or piece of equipment that can help him develop skills a bit more easily, or make this therapy sessions more fun for him.
I am thrilled to announce I am now an affiliate partner of Zulily.com – my favorite online retailer!
Without a doubt, Zulily has been my top source for therapy (whether speech, occupational, physical or feeding therapy) and sensory items for JB. It is also where I’ve found the best selection of toys and books featuring people with disabilities.
In addition, I do most of my holiday shopping – birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Christmas, Easter – on Zulily. Since the pandemic, I’ve also been doing most of my own clothing shopping on Zulily. (Their shoes and plus-size offerings are especially fantastic.)
See the photo above? Those are all Zulily purchases I was able to grab in a three-minute mad dash through my house. Even the area rug is from Zulily.
Over the next few days, I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite Zulily finds both here on the blog and on social media. I’ll also be sharing suggestions from Jessica N. Turner, one of my favorite bloggers out there and a big career inspiration to me.
Is there anything in particular you are looking to purchase right now that you could use help finding? Let me know!
Please note: I know I sound like I’m doing an infomercial for Zulily, but this is not a sponsored post. If you buy something through the affiliate links used in this post, I may be compensated, but other than that, I’m just an [over]eager fan who loves a good sale.
We’ve been somewhat strategic about the children’s TV shows JB watches. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with screen time; I just don’t want him knowing who Caillou or Peppa Pig is, out of fear that he’ll start wanting to watch them and I’ll have to listen to them. Better to stick with nostalgic favorites: Muppet Babies, Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood, and Sesame Street. (Some may call this selfish, but I call it self-preservation.) There’s one newer show, however, that JB can’t get enough of – Splash and Bubbles – and as a result, he’s completely, utterly fascinated with ocean life. Latching on to his love of all things underwater, our family recently took a day trip to Boston’s New England Aquarium.
Before heading to the aquarium, we did a bit of research about what to expect. Is the aquarium handicapped accessible? Could we bring his stroller and feeding pump? Would there be quiet places to take a break if JB was getting overstimulated? The answer to all of these questions, luckily, was a resounding yes! I cannot emphasize enough how impressed I was by the New England Aquarium’s attention to detail regarding accessibility and inclusion.
When we arrived, we were able to borrow a free sensory kit from KultureCity, filled with fidget toys, noise-cancelling headphones, some picture communication cards, and other helpful items. We didn’t end up using the kit, but knowing it was there if we needed it was a huge relief.
Regarding wheelchair accessibility, I was pleasantly surprised by how much JB could see and experience from his seat. Many parks and museums have guardrails placed right at JB’s eye level, making it hard for him to see or interact with the attraction. The focal point of the New England aquarium, however, is a central tank extending four floors tall, with floor to ceiling viewing windows, and a ramp spiraling around it. As a result, you can see the animals (and occasional scuba divers) from almost any angle. Even better, JB was able to get very close to the glass, immersing him in the experience.
In one of my favorite moments of the entire visit, a sea turtle swam right up to the glass, and JB started smiling and waving. JB then began making a “muh-muh-muh” sound and signing “more, more, more!” It was an interaction I’ll never forget.
(I could make some type of joke about how this turtle helped JB come out of his shell, but I’m too mature for that kind of nonsense.)
JB had another memorable animal encounter at the Edge of the Sea Touch Tank. An aquarium guide, seeing JB in his wheelchair unable to reach the tank, brought a hermit crab in a small container over to him, so JB would be able to see and touch the crab like the other visitors. It was probably just a small moment for the employee, but this inclusion meant the world to us, and to JB.
Before we left the aquarium, we obviously had to visit the gift shop. (I’m a firm believer that it isn’t an actual museum/zoo/aquarium/theme park visit unless you visit the gift shop.)
“We are not buying him another toy today, no matter what,” I vowed all morning, citing the mountains of toys already taking over our home.
My husband and sister both smiled, knowing I would never actually uphold this promise. Sure enough, we ended our visit with a brand-new “wildlife rescue kit,” basically a doctor’s kit and a stuffed animal (JB chose a sea lion) inside a cute little pet carrier. I have to admit, though, it was a smart purchase – he plays with it almost every day. So look out, we may have a future veterinarian on our hands!
One way we’ve been encouraging JB’s “under the sea” interest is through picture books. Here are some of our family’s favorites:
An Anthology of Intriguing Animals:This book ticks off boxes for everyone in our home. Gorgeous book design inside and out (for me)? Check! Interesting animal facts (for my science teacher husband)? Check! Cool photos of animals both underwater and on land (for JB)? Check!
Manfish:If you had told me pre-parenthood that one day I’d list a biography of Jacques Cousteau as one of my favorite children’s books, I would have called you crazy. But this book is so breathtakingly beautiful, I would willingly hang up the pages as artwork around my home.
Three Little Words: Imagine the adorable, uplifting “just keep swimming” spirit of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, combined with soothing watercolor illustrations of the beloved Pixar fish. Three Little Words will brighten your day no matter how bad the world may seem.
(There are Amazon affiliate links in the above post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
One hour of uninterrupted, totally kid-free “me time”.
If this gift from the gods fell into your lap, where would you spend it? The library, chapters-deep in a good book? A coffee shop, savoring a latte and cinnamon bun? At home in bed, enjoying a much-needed nap?
While those are three of my favorite ways to spend a rare afternoon alone, lately another locale has been calling me – underneath the fluorescent lights of my local T.J. Maxx (or Marshalls or Target).
I’ve always been a big fan of shopping, and even just browsing. Some of my happiest early memories were going to the mall with my mom or grandmother. Mind you, this was in the heyday of mall culture in America (see: Clueless, Saved by the Bell and Mall Madness). But unlike those trips in the 90’s, these T.J. Maxx trips are completely altruistic, or so I tell myself.
After the winding journey through the cosmetics and housewares aisles, I stop at my intended destination – the toys and books section.
See – I can’t make JB’s genes magically correct themselves. I can’t will him to walk or talk overnight. But maybe, just maybe, I can find the perfect CVI-friendly Eric Carle board book on clearance, and it will inspire him to start focusing his eyes or holding his head up unassisted.
That’s how I justify my visits. By telling myself that shopping is now more than just a fun distraction or hobby. It serves a purpose! I’m not wasting money, I am problem solving.
After all, that single Melissa & Doug puzzle could be the key to unlocking JB’s fine motor skills. Those spiky light-up balls I bought in bulk could be what finally get him to say “ball” – or any word, for that matter. It’s my duty as a good mother to be vigilant not only while watching him, but also while watching online and in stores for products – nay, OPPORTUNITIES – to provide my son with.
I don’t mess with the medical side of JB’s therapy plan. I trust his doctors and therapists completely, and know that they have the degrees and experience and research to prescribe the best medicines and suggest the best courses of action. Science is not my forte. Shopping, though? Shopping I can do!
Writer Joel Yanofsky talks about falling into a similar pattern. In his memoir Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism, he writes how his family’s home was soon overrun with every kind of educational toy or game imaginable. He notes that these purchases were more than desperate attempts to reach out to their son; they were ways to make he and his wife feel like they were affecting change with their son’s progress.
It wasn’t until I read Yanofsky’s book that I realized that my shopping was in fact a way to gain some control over a future filled with unknowns. I’m not delusional. I know there is no book or puppet or train set that will magically transform JB’s journey into an “easier” one. But for now, that big bin of light-up bouncy sensory balls can keep its place of honor in our living room for JB to enjoy. After all, it’s a heck of a lot more convenient than when those things were in my closet, falling on my head every time I went to grab a pair of shoes!
Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels
(Please note: this post includes an Amazon affiliate link.)