Free shipping on all orders over $75🎄

Written by:  Tiffany Verzal

Small gestures can make the biggest difference in people’s lives. We have experienced this over and over again. But last Friday night may have been the most glaring example for our family.

When Alexis was two-and-a-half we got hooked up with the Early Childhood Development Network, where we worked with people in both Nebraska Health and Human Services as well as Lincoln Public Schools. At that time, Alexis was in the Rehab Day Program at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital. She was receiving two physical therapy sessions, two occupational therapy sessions, one speech therapy session, and a pool therapy five days a week. We didn’t have time for the therapists that the ECDN would provide to us in our home.

We didn’t want to miss out on a great opportunity to work with the school system, but we didn’t know how to fit it in. We had a meeting, and Brandon and I expressed our concern with the lack of peer interaction that Alexis was getting. That concern set into motion some of the most monumental times in Alexis’ short life.

The idea was that Alexis would be assigned a teacher, Diane, who would come into our home to play with Alexis and make some assessments. After a few weeks, Diane decided that it was time to get Alexis into a classroom setting. She talked to a wonderful Early Childhood Special Education teacher named Steph who was willing to let Diane bring Alexis into her classroom once a week for 45 minutes.

I’ll never forget walking into the classroom for the first time. Most of the children had special needs, but they seemed so much bigger and more aware than Alexis did. They seemed to move so fast. I sat in the back with Brandon watching Diane try to help Alexis move and play.

It wasn’t easy.

It wasn’t easy to watch, and it definitely wasn’t easy for Diane to do all of that work. I just felt sick to my stomach and I really didn’t want to ever take Alexis back. But we did, every week until the end of the school year.

Steph and Diane asked if Alexis could be a part of “The Big Show” (an end of the year class concert). There was nothing like watching Alexis on stage with her friends that first year. It was so wonderful that she was there, but so sad in other ways. She didn’t really sing. Her right hand was up in the air a lot. She kind of “zoned out.” And Diane had to hold Alexis up the entire time. It was so exhausting to watch, that we didn’t even stay for the ice-cream party after the event.

It is those moments, when we would step out of our comfort zone ~ that her brain injury would just smack us in the face.

Fast forward two years to last Friday night. She walked on stage without her walker and just a little help from a para. She held on to a rail, supporting her own weight. She did actions, and sang almost every word. She sang her favorite parts louder than any of the other kids on the stage.

If you would have asked me to predict that happening two years ago, I couldn’t have done it. I would have been wrong on many accounts.

But it wasn’t the best part…

I helped her off of the stage and she sat on my lap for a few seconds. Then she asked to get down and she shuffled her way down the line of grandparents being showered with hugs and kisses. I assumed that she was with one of them, and then I glanced over and she wasn’t with them.

She was sitting on the floor with her teacher, Steph’s daughter and some of her friends; just hanging out like she was one of the girls, eating ice cream with them. 

Things are not going to come as quickly and easily for her as they will for others. I know that the future will hold more feelings of sadness and frustrations about her injury. But those normal moments are so rewarding.

If Diane hadn’t gone out of her way to help Alexis gain more peer interaction three years ago, none of this progress would have ever occurred. In fact, Diane went above and beyond the call of duty of her job by offering to hold her up on stage during that first Friday night concert in year one.

Diane’s gesture transitioned to Alexis’ teacher Steph, who allowed Alexis to stay in her classroom three years in a row. We’ve watched Alexis go from being overwhelmed in a classroom setting, to being a part of the group. The classroom experience has fostered her independence in a way that nothing else could have. Her teachers have done a beautiful balancing act of keeping her safe- and letting her go, better than I ever could have. As a result, Alexis will start school in a normal kindergarten class with her peers this Fall.

Small gestures can turn into major things in a person’s life. I know that we will constantly look back at Diane and Steph’s efforts throughout Alexis’ school life and know that she wouldn’t be where she is without them. So here’s to the teachers, paras, and therapists (you know who you are) that go above and beyond for these little ones that need the extra love and attention.

A simple ‘thank you’ will never be enough.

Click here to watch Alexis’ first big show!

Alexis then…

Alexis now!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.

What My Son Taught Me About Joy at the Holidays

In: Fatherhood, Uncategorized

There’s not a lot going on right now, but that doesn’t mean my family can’t still enjoy some of our favorite seasonal pastimes like trimming the Christmas tree, counting down to Santa’s arrival, and riding bikes around the neighborhood and loudly critiquing everyone’s decorating choices. Amidst the December doldrums, the announcement of a holiday decoration contest by our neighborhood HOA certainly sent a frisson of excitement through our household. My children are enamored with decorations anyway, but the prospect of a cash prize just for filling our yard with more inflatable monstrosities dialed up their excitement level to an 11....

Keep Reading

Christmas Magic May Look Different For a Special Needs Family

In: Kids, Motherhood, Uncategorized
Little boy looking at Christmas tree

Christmas can be a very magical time of year with Santa, decorations, presents, and family gatherings. It can also be a very tough and difficult time for families with special needs children. For many of us as parents, we are hanging on by a thin thread as we try to honor the traditions of our extended families while keeping our children with special needs happy and on routine.  My son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 21 months and is non-verbal. He is now 5.5 years old. He doesn’t like the noise or chaos that gatherings bring. Sometimes lights...

Keep Reading

Kevin Hart to Star in Movie About Fatherhood That Promises to be a Tear-Jerker

In: Fatherhood, Uncategorized

Imagine having it all: you’re happily married to your high school sweetheart, settled into your dream home in Los Angeles, and over-the-moon excited for the birth of your first child—a baby girl. Then, without warning, tragedy strikes. Just 27 hours after your little girl enters the world, your wife suffers a pulmonary embolism and dies instantly, without ever holding the daughter whose arrival she had so eagerly awaited. Heartbreaking stories like this seem like the stuff of fiction, but for Matt Logelin, it is a terrible reality. After finding himself the sole caretaker of his newborn daughter, Maddy, Matt turned...

Keep Reading

Why Didn’t We Think of That? Dad Invents Candy Chute for Contactless Halloween Trick-or-Treating

In: Uncategorized

We know we aren’t the only dads who had big dreams for Halloween this year—after all, how often does the spooky holiday actually fall on a weekend? And one that coincides with a super rare blue moon, no less! Our kids have had their costumes picked out since last October, and we were fully prepared to endure 48-hour sugar highs and demand extra candy tax in compensation. Of course, no one could have predicted a global pandemic would throw a wrench into those plans, leaving many of us scratching our heads as to how to make a highly anticipated event...

Keep Reading

To the Great-Grandparents: Thank You For Loving Us So Well

In: Uncategorized

Can we take a minute to talk about the blessing of great-grandparents? Grandparents (i.e. your own parents) spoil your kids, of course—it’s a time-honored tradition, really. The reward for surviving parenthood with your own children is spoiling your grandchildren with abandon. All that spoiling prompts the inevitable wondering, “Where were these people when they were raising me?!” Your parents limited television and junk food. They enforced rules and consequences. Who are these pod-people who’ve invaded your parents’ bodies and are now spoiling the living daylights out of your children? This question doesn’t exist where great-grandparents are concerned. You know exactly...

Keep Reading

I Want My Son To Take Pride in His Heritage

In: Uncategorized
Mother holding newborn baby

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked the same question, THE question. The one I have grown accustomed to hearing yet not grown accustomed to answering. “What are you?” I’ve been asked this by people I’ve known for months and people I have known for mere seconds.  As a child, I had my prepared answer, “I am Polish, German and Native American.” Not the full story. As an adult I’ve tested out different responses, “I am American; I am mixed.” Not the answer they want to hear.  The truth is I was ashamed. Ashamed as a young child...

Keep Reading

To the Average Kid: One Day You’ll Realize You’ve Always Been Exceptional

In: Uncategorized
kids students graduate graduation academics

Hello average and below average kids and teenagers! Today you will not be on a stage receiving an honor, a pin, a certificate, a sash, a cord, or a badge for high academic achievement. Nobody will tell you your future is bright and positive, or that you can do and be anything you want. You will shuffle along the rest of your school days and years sheepishly wearing the “average” badge—which is actually no badge at all, rather it’s just you sitting small watching everyone else standing tall with honor. But I want to tell you something. Something incredible. It’s...

Keep Reading

I’m Not a Princess – But I’m Raising One

In: Kids, Motherhood, Uncategorized
I'm Not a Princess - But I'm Raising One

It was at my baby shower that I received my daughter’s first princess tiara. It was a gift from a family friend and it was truly beautiful. Radiantly adorned with Swarovski crystals and perfectly sized to fit atop a tiny toddler’s head. I remember my mom gushing over it when I unwrapped the box after the party was over. I scowled at it. “She will not wear that thing,” I said. My mom looked confused. “But she’s going to be a little girl. Of course she will want to wear it!” she said. “My daughter will never be called a...

Keep Reading

Make Wanderlust a Must: Raising Kids Who Love to Travel

In: Kids, Motherhood, Uncategorized
Make Wanderlust a Must: Raising Kids Who Love to Travel

The love of travel is perhaps one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. It breeds curiosity, tolerance, adaptability and a sense of adventure. Whether it’s three hours or three continents away, traveling broadens the mind and restores the soul. Plus it’s just plain old FUN. But there is a difference between taking your children on a trip and cultivating a love of travel, and that difference lies in how you involve them in the process. Get their input. Where do they want to go and why? What types of activities interest them? While an African Safari may...

Keep Reading

For the Expectant Mom: You’re In For a Crazy, Beautiful Ride

In: Humor, Kids, Motherhood, Uncategorized
For the Expectant Mom: You're In For a Crazy, Beautiful Ride

This article is meant for the woman who is expecting her first child. Congratulations to you momma. I am so happy for you and wish you all the best. You are in for a lifetime of happiness and joy, and also a whole lot of crazy. There are a lot of articles out there for expectant moms that talk about the joys of motherhood, or tips on how to survive, but here are the top ten things I’ve learned since becoming a mom four months ago myself. Take heart, it’s a great adventure. Days of eating meals with your spouse...

Keep Reading