Author: Cara Jacocks

Kids’ 4th of July Crafts and….FREE PRINTABLES

Kids’ 4th of July Crafts and….FREE PRINTABLES

In a former life, I used to love crafts.  One of my FAVORITE things to do as a kid was visit either of my grandmothers and raid their sewing rooms.  Both my dad’s mom (Nana) and my mom’s mom (Memaw) had sewing/craft rooms filled with…

Father’s Day Photo Sesh

Father’s Day Photo Sesh

And a fun family activity… So my kiddos are getting bigger, and subsequently, a lot faster.  And I don’t see them slowing down anytime soon.  So last fall I purchased my first DSLR because my trusty iPhone camera just didn’t have the shutter speed capability…

The Drive-by Birthday Party – A trend I hope sticks around!

The Drive-by Birthday Party – A trend I hope sticks around!

The Neils have always been on board with big blowout birthday parties!  Our boys love a good celebration, as do we, so for the past seven years we’ve obliged!  Little Gym, Go-Kart tracks, Dream Park, bounce houses, hot dog carts (thank you Austin’s Underdawg’s)…you name it, we’ve incorporated it into at least one of our kids’ birthday bashes.  And then…..2020…..and the emergence of social-distancing and the “drive-by” birthday party.  When I initially heard about this trend, I brushed it off and suggested we hold off and celebrate our oldest son’s birthday (late May) when the lifting of more CDC recommendations allowed for larger gatherings.  But as his big day approached, it just felt odd to not celebrate him as we normally would.  You see, Everett was born and shortly thereafter diagnosed with Down syndrome, so his actual birthday wasn’t exactly the celebration it should have been (something I still grieve to this day).  Perhaps every blowout birthday party he’s had since then, allows me to cope with that.  But I’m not a psychologist, and quite frankly, I’m very much an introvert….so at the last minute, I decided to let go of the guilt, embrace the “it is what it is” mindset, and organize a quarantine-style, socially-distanced, drive-by birthday party.  And I learned a few things:  1) – This is a really chill way to celebrate your kiddo that everyone seems to enjoy and can participate in, as little or as much as they want to!  2) – It’s relatively cheap and super easy.  So here are some quick tips and links I can offer, as a now “drive-by b-day party” veteran.

Tip #1:  It’s all about signage

I think it all started when I was followed by Bash Birthday Signs on Instagram and fell in love with their adorable birthday yard signs!  I perused their Insta account and saw several photos of cute signs for boys including a legos sign, a blue patterned sign, a camo sign and other cool birthday colors.  Since Everett is still nonverbal, I downloaded several pictures and asked him to pick which one he wanted and without hesitation – he pointed his crooked little pointer finger on the camo yard sign.  Camo it is bruh.  All three boys loved it and my middle kiddo is now begging for the lego sign for his birthday at the end of this month.  We live on a corner lot, so this got me thinking…why not more signs?  Why not a “honk it’s my birthday” sign?  Why not a drive-by birthday party?  It was very much a slippery slope which tells you a lot about how cute those dang signs are!  So I went all out…with a last minute FB invitation to family….and more signs.

As the date approached I decided to work a little Canva magic and create a partially homemade “honk it’s my birthday” sign using some cutouts I designed, Melissa & Doug roll paper, some sponge paint brushes, and my kids’ washable crayola paint!  It took me about 2 hours and, honestly, that was the largest chunk of time I devoted to this birthday party (I usually spend days crafting for the perfectly themed party….not this time, nope).  You could probably make a similar sign in a shorter amount of time with similar materials, but I was a little persnickety about this signage because this would be a very visible sign strung up on our corner fence.  And I knew I wanted it for Insta pics (#priorities).  I think it turned out really cute and if you want some Canva tips, I’m not a pro (but I do have a pro account…lol!), I’ll be glad to share.  Perhaps a tutorial is in order for my next IGTV post!  Lastly, I also bought some birthday swag and a long, colorful pennant from Amazon.  It took maybe 15 minutes to piece together the swag and tape it up on our front porch, and less time than that to unroll the pennant and string it up across the street side of our house.

Tip #2:  It’s also all about easy birthday treats!

My boy Ev, loves him some pizza and cupcakes.  So we treated him to a family pizza party in the front yard.  And cupcakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes for dessert.  We ordered a few dozen bundtinis and passed them out to drive-by attendees if they wanted some – we plated them by family/car with kitchen tongs and washed our hands after every exchange. We sang happy birthday to him as a little family of 5 after his drive-by birthday party, where he blew out the candles on another bundtini and we ate homemade ice cream (I have two great recipes that take about 10 minutes to make….and then 25 minutes to freeze…perhaps another tutorial?).

Tip #3: It’s all about the drive-by

I was surprised at how much fun everyone seemed to have at our little drive-by bash!  It really was a win-win for everyone, as the boys have great-grandparents who are very involved in their lives, and wanted to see Ev on his big day but keep safe by maintaining their distance.  And they really turned it up on the car signage!  My grandparents from Louisiana even threw Mardi Gras beads (LOL)!  I did mention in the FB invite that anyone who blinged out their car and/or blasted child-friendly rap music (or another creative form of celebration) would get a mentions in my Insta stories, but I decided to reward their authentic party-loving little souls right here on my blog.  Loads of pics that you can get inspiration from (to your left) as future attendees of parade-style birthday celebrations!  Big shout out to everyone who showed up and showed out!  Even Ev’s gramma and aunt who made a FaceTime cameo in front of the camo sign.

And definitely worth mentioning – some attendees fell into the “at risk” category such as great-grandparents and the birthday boy himself (T21 comes with a host of health stuff, including being more susceptible to viruses and infections, and fighting harder to recover), so we created a lot of options for guests including the option of attending virtually, a quick drive-by and card toss (my aunt did this), cupcakes or no cupcakes, etc.  If you are throwing a parade-style party, please consult the CDC and adhere to their safety precautions.  Be smart.  Be safe.  Be informed.  And if you opt for this kind of a celebration, be prepared to kick back, have fun, and enjoy your kid – some virtues I think get lost in the big blowout gatherings of yesteryear.

 

#WDSD18 #LetsChangeThe Conversation

#WDSD18 #LetsChangeThe Conversation

Last year for #WDSD17 I was given 17 minutes to explain how we need to socially construct a new narrative about Down syndrome — a narrative that more closely reflects the reality of #LifeWithDS.  Seventeen minutes is a long time these days…I get it.  So I’ve condensed…

How to Go Gluten-Free on the Go!

How to Go Gluten-Free on the Go!

Mom Hack Monday – Gluten Free on the Go! It’s Down syndrome awareness month!  And what better way to celebrate, than to reignite the “Mom Hack Mondays” blog series!  This week I’m featuring one of my favorite busy moms, Tiffany!  Tiffany has three beautiful kiddos…

Ode to a Rockin’ Dad

Ode to a Rockin’ Dad

A special contribution to the DSDN’s blog series…

When the newest blog topic was proposed a few weeks ago by the DSDN’s blog series coordinator, I was stumped!  The topic “What surprised you the most?” (about Down syndrome) was intriguing, but the immediate answer that popped into my little brain was….well, EVERYTHING!  Which is the truth.  I saw none of it coming from Everett’s diagnosis, immediate reactions from healthcare providers, friends, family and acquaintances, my reaction to it, how it changed me to the core in an instant, how it deepened my faith….I could go on and on.  And quite frankly, that’s exactly what I do on this blog, a lot!  But I guess if I had to pick the one thing that really stands out, out of all of the surprises related to Everett’s diagnosis, I’d have to address my favorite Rockin’ dad.  So, in honor of this month’s blog topic, I’d like to offer a little tribute to my true partner in crime, the man, the myth, the legend, Everett’s dad, Liam’s dad, the hubs, etc….Vic.

Continue reading Ode to a Rockin’ Dad

Backstage at TEDxACU:  Confessions of a TEDx Speaker, Part 2

Backstage at TEDxACU: Confessions of a TEDx Speaker, Part 2

After the airing of CBS’s feature story “What kind of society do you want to live in?:  Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing” — many of my friends and loved ones messaged me, appalled by a mindset that seems to permeate the cultural…

Backstage at TEDxACU:  Confessions of a TEDx Speaker, Part 1

Backstage at TEDxACU: Confessions of a TEDx Speaker, Part 1

It all began last fall.  A dear friend of mine from graduate school, Lauren, also happens to be the TEDxACU director at Abilene Christian University.  Ironically, even though we are both ACU grads, Lauren and I initially crossed paths as students in Texas A&M University’s doctoral…

Mom Hack Thursday – Escaping the Hustle and Bustle of Life and Seeking a Quiet Place

Mom Hack Thursday – Escaping the Hustle and Bustle of Life and Seeking a Quiet Place

Remember when you were in college and you got a “spring break?” I distinctly remember those days as some of my favorite – amidst the hustle and bustle of midterm exams, part-time jobs, friends, and obligations, I was always very grateful for an extended period of time where things would slow down. I was grateful for the quietness that spring break offered. And while some kids would travel off to loud, exciting, MTV-worthy locations (beacons of shining hope for a lot of late 90s co-eds), I typically sought out opportunities to “introvert” in a quiet space. Spring break my junior year consisted of me spending an entire week in the basement of a large office building, filing and organizing closed cases for the law firm I worked for (doesn’t get any quieter than that).  I traveled to Galveston, TX with my mom, aunt, and younger cousin a few times to get away from it all and relax in the Galvestonian. And once, I opted to travel to Steamboat Springs, CO with a small group of my girlfriends to get some “quiet time” on the slopes – of which I did not, but it was still a fun learning experience. Except for my friend Lease, who cried for her mom on the slopes because she was struggling to “wedge” down the long-haul, green slope we forced her to try.

But now, my spring break has turned into something else. As a college professor, rather than a college student, it would appear that I have earned some time off from performing my standard professorial responsibilities. But in fact, I will be taking some “time off” this spring break to grade midterm exams and assignments, prepare research manuscripts, revise and resubmit different research manuscripts, prepare for fall conferences, and rehearse my upcoming TEDxACU talk. All while attending to the needs of my two rambunctious boys, nearly 2 and 4 years old respectively – because they will be out of preschool for their spring break as well. No more “quiet” part-time work, ski slope reflections, or relaxing beach getaways. Sigh. I guess it’s fair to say, that the old days and ways of escaping the hustle and bustle of college life and adult responsibilities do not apply to me anymore.

 

Continue reading Mom Hack Thursday – Escaping the Hustle and Bustle of Life and Seeking a Quiet Place

The Mama Mix – 5 Tips for a Healthy Work/Life Mix

The Mama Mix – 5 Tips for a Healthy Work/Life Mix

A new mom with a precious newborn baby boy with DS recently asked me what it was like to return to work after Everett born and, “How did you find the perfect work/life balance?” I struggled to answer this question because….spoiler alert — there isn’t…