Tag Archives: Support

Legos For Days

It’s so incredible to watch the personality, gifts and talents of a child unfold. All are so distinct and special from each other, a great reminder of how each of us is our own unique person, even at a young age. A great reminder that all of us have our own God-given gifts and purpose.

As a special education teacher, it is my job to discover and teach to each individual student’s own talents and strengths. It is both my privilege and obligation to empower them against any challenges they may have or face. It’s part of my nature now to do this in the classroom. However, in the home, it is a bit more complicated at times.

Both my husband and I played sports for most of our lives and assumed that our children would want to too. And even though they are both so young yet at the ages of 2 and 5, their little but LARGE personalities and interests are already shining through …

I first saw this with my son. He may not be asking to go throw a football right now; but he is following in my husband’s footsteps of loving Legos. Since the age of 2.5, TJ has loved puzzles, activity sticker books, creating, building and taking objects apart. Literally, he could spend hours, and even days partaking in these activities. Proud Mama over here when he turned four and started to tackle legos made for as high up as 10 years old and older.

It’s all fun and games until you have 10 boxes of Legos and pieces all over the place.

That is when we created TJ’s LEGO room. While it now holds 40 sets and counting, it is much more organized these days, even if TJ takes it apart five times a day.

So while I can’t help but to be a little sad as we transform his room from baby giraffes and elephants to Legos for days, I also can’t help but to be proud of the amazing person he is and continues to become. A nice organization system amongst the mess helps the transition as well…

Madi wanted in on the fun too…

What We See

What do you see?

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Does it often seem like despite your efforts to do good, that the things you fail in…the one thing you forgot to do or just didn’t have enough time to do …is the one and only thing people notice. That your failure is the one and only thing people see.

I have felt this often throughout most of my life. The one time I forget to check to see if all twenty of Madison’s hair ties are in her backpack when I pick her up is the day her teachers also forgot to pack them… (She has an obsession with her bracelets aka hair ties). Or the one time I give the wrong show and tell, I’m reminded of where the weekly theme is posted.. Or even the one day our of the month I decide not to do laundry, everyone is asking for something from it.

It can seem as though no one sees or appreciates how I have made random stops at the store during a crazy day to buy more backup hair ties…Or usually have show and tells packed up and ready to go days in advance…Or how I have been doing laundry every day for years. And the reality is, we do so much each day that no one does see… that does go unnoticed.

For years, I found myself getting upset from these reactions of others, from what people saw or what failed to see. That was until I reflected on what I myself was focused on. What I was seeing and that was also when I learned to laugh… often at myself and “the irony” of life.

As a society, what are we focused on? It’s so easy to give into the negativity around us. It is everywhere!

The tantruming child…

the grumpy cashier …

the car honking obnoxiously to get out of their way …

the rude coworker who doesn’t say hi back or even acknowledge you in the hallway…

or even the deceitful family member who knows how to push your buttons…

That’s what I was seeing too. All the displeasing things that were happening around me… and everything that was not happening. How the garbage cans in the kitchen were overflowing again or how the empty paper towels liked to wait for me to replace them. However, in focusing on these parts of the day, I was blinding myself to what was being done.

All the times that the garbage was taken out …

the fact that I rarely brought those garbage cans to the curb…

all the times that the paper towels were put away for me when unpacking from the supermarket…

all the people who were saying good morning or smiling back…

the shoes in which those family members walk and why they hurt so badly…

the chaos most of us walk through each day that tends to zone in on the negativity thrown at us…

instead of the good.

Who has time for the positivity anyways?

There really is a lot of good all around us. But we must make the time to see it. It is our job to consciously choose what to focus on. It is our decision. No one can hold that power over us.

Sooo…

Let’s be conscious on seeing the good. Let’s ask that grumpy cashier how their day is or better yet give a compliment.

Let’s say hello first to everyone who walks by us in the hallway at work and don’t worry if they don’t say hi back. Learn to let it go!

Let’s call up that angry family member randomly just to say hi.

Let’s pray for peace for that road raging person in the car next to us when they flash us their “friendly finger.”

Let’s thank our spouse for something that always do.

Let’s see the good…and if we can’t see it, create it!

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We need to carefully decide what we zoom in on. There are a lot of perspectives to see from. It is not our job to transform the grumpy coworker or angrily shout back at the road raged driver. Instead, it is our job to stop the cycles around us and zoom in on the good.

See beneath the surface.

Pray for softened hearts.

Pray for communication barriers to be lifted and removed.

Pray to see the good in everyone.

We all have battles we are fighting all the time.

While we may not have been there exactly, we have all been somewhere similar struggling to stay afloat…

struggling to believe…

struggling to live.

Learning to keep your eyes open to those around you instead of closing them out, is how we truly begin to see each other and lift each other up. It’s how people start to see you too. Be the change you want to see. Let’s use eyes to support not to judge. Imagine what is possible if and when we work together and support one another. The possibilities are endless!

Soo yes, I promise I will try to see you past the layers of each chaotic day …

but right now behind this tower of laundry…

you may not see me.

 

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Who’s Watching

Eyes aboard all around
the shipwreck’s gossip
washes over the town
who nurses with breast
who goes straight to bottle
yet the tides all bring
currents that steal sleep
some train and others coddle
and still they all ask the question,
Who’s watching?

Minds coast to speed
the wreckage drama
blankets with greed
who pays more
who files away into the depth
of the sand’s debt that burns
fires upon their feet
some nap and others explore free
and still they all ask,
Who’s watching?

Charade of lies
sea marks it all lost
images gloss over cries
who labels it a spiritual hand
who coins it as religion
the island is huge
there is room for all to live
yet most find fault
in their way to stand
upon a deck
Where they still ask,
Who’s watching?

Ship ashore, crashes upon its shouts
the baby falls captive
to the deception of the sea
as her wounds are deeper
than the fear of falling
it washes upon that same beach
the chaos of waves causes tidal doubt
overwhelm her belief
that she is just that
more than enough
and who still stands by
their fingers all pointed out
who fails to watch now, who misses the boat –
when all she needs
is a smile to swim upon her sinking oar
“Good job Mama,”
as she asks them back –
Who’s still watching?

For what were you really looking for?


© Jennifer Kosuda and The Art of a Messy House (theartofamessyhouse.com), 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Kosuda and The Art of a Messy House with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Food Allergy Awareness Week- May 12-18, 2019

This week is food allergy awareness week. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about food allergies and anaphylaxis, and help remove the isolation that can be associated with having an allergy.

Food allergies like many diagnosis in life have the ability to isolate, ONLY if we let it…

The first step in eliminating ignorance is to EDUCATE! So here it goes…

  • 1 in every 13 children in America has a food allergy. That is two in every classroom!
  • Food allergies can be life threatening and need to be taken seriously.
  • Strict avoidance of the allergen is the ONLY way to prevent a reaction.
  • 35% of children with allergies have been bullied due to their allergy. That. Is. Not. Okay. Bullying is NEVER okay!
  • People can be allergic to ANYTHING! However, 90% of children are allergic to the top 8 allergens:
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Peanuts
  4. Tree nuts (all nuts other than peanuts)
  5. Fish
  6. Shellfish
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans
  9. Sesame (which still does not yet have to be labels on food packaging)
  • The top 8 allergens must be labeled on packaging.
  • However, more than 170 foods have been reported to cause allergic reactions.

The symptoms can range from mild to moderate ones like hives and stomach pain to severe ones like anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Reactions are NOT all the same. Symptoms can change from reaction to reaction. Just because someone didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction the first time, doesn’t mean they can’t the next. Also, just because you were not born with an allergy, does not mean you can not develop one.

* These facts are not to provoke fear, but instead to spark awareness and instill understanding. Once we have the facts, we combat the fear that tries to associate itself with it all … with faith.

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

https://www.bible.com/111/isa.43.1.niv


What is important for us all to know?

  • Reactions DO NOT just happen when someone ingests the allergen itself.

    • They can happen due to cross contact (the presence of unintended allergens), inhaling it, and from saliva (sharing utensils, instruments, chapstick, drinks, kissing).

    • My son’s last reaction at the age of 2.5 was this type of reaction. He had tried a new oat milk and while the company did not have the container labeled for it, the production lines were not thoroughly cleaned from his other allergens. Thus, it caused a reaction that was less severe and very different from his initial one, but still needed epinephrine and a trip to the ER.

    • Cross contact issues and food allergies in general take diligence. Just because the product dues not have the cross contact information labeled doesn’t mean we don’t need to call the companies or do more researching and double checking on line. Also, even products that we have used for years, we still must double check their labels as companies sometimes change the makeup and ingredients in their products. It is not a burden; it is a way of life that ensures safety.

  • Many of these people must carry EpiPens (Epinephrine) with them everywhere they go. It’s beneficial for everyone to know how to use an EpiPen. So reach out to someone who is trained in it and ask to learn. It does not take long to learn, but it also does not take long to react and need assistance. So spend the time now. It is greatly appreciated.

What can we all do? – nationwide initiatives to get involved with

Join the Teal Pumpkin Project

  • Halloween can be a difficult time for those with allergies.
  • This project promotes safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies.

How can you participate?

  • Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters (see FARE website for suggestions)
  • Place a teal pumpkin (the color of food allergy awareness) in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available
  • Spread the word! Tell your families, friends and neighbors about this initiative.

Snack Safely

  1. Check out the Snack Safely website.
  2. This is a site that has safe snacks and foods for those with allergies.  
  3. Schools use this. We all should use this. 
  4. When you are planning an event or party, check it out to ensure everyone is safe and included. It’s not always easy or convenient to “think outside of the box.” But, that’s often where the difference is made. What may seem small to one person is huge to another.  “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop

Turn It Teal

  • Teal is the color that represents food allergy awareness.
  • This initiative started in 2014 and now their mission has expanded into going throughout the country, lighting up buildings, bridges, and attractions in teal everywhere.
  • You don’t need to light up a building to spread awareness. You can do this at your school, work or church, by setting a day in May to “turn it teal” and encourage everyone to wear teal! We are doing this at my work this Friday!
  • For more information: Turn it Teal

What can we do? – ways to help everyday

Be Mindful

  1. Wash your hands after eating.
  2. Wipe down surfaces after eating an allergen.
  3. Don’t share food or utensils.

Empathy/Ask

  1. Get the specifics. Find out which foods your friends, family members, classmates, co workers, church members, etc. are allergic to and what the symptoms of a reaction are.
  2. Simply be aware and have an open mind to it. Empathy goes a long way.
  3. If hosting an event, ask what products and foods are safe.
  4. Take it seriously. It is not a joking matter.

Like with anything in life, listening wholeheartedly and empathetically goes a long way. So while our messy counter top may not have everything others have on it, we all deserve to feel included, safe and loved.

For more information, visit: FARE website

 

 


“Peace requires everyone to be in the circle – wholeness, inclusion.” – Isabel Allende

 “When everyone is included, everyone wins.” – Jesse Jackson

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

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Judgment

 

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According to the dictionary, to judge is “to form an opinion or conclusion about something or someone.” The reality is judgments, good and bad, are thrown at us every day whether we see, know or admit it. And that’s not going to change, although I’d like to think that most people in this world are really good. Judging is part of human nature. However, it does not need to affect us in a negative manner.

But that’s the tricky part: it’s a two-step equation that starts within.

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Equation:

Rewire + Deflect = PEACE

Rewire your own judgments  + Deflect others at you = PEACE

Peace also includes learning to not compare yourself to others and not taking things to heart which is definitely an area I struggled with for a long time…

Okay, once again, I can’t lie. I’ve always been the hyper-sensitive girl who cried at movies, many songs, at criticism, and even if I got in trouble… (which was rare.) Take for instance that day in Mrs. Fritzinger’s fourth grade science class after I let Anne copy my answers in the bathroom before class and got caught, the tears overflowed like a flood.

Sensitivity plus the fact that I was hyper-aware of those around me and their feelings, created quite a time bomb waiting to explode for years. I can taste the saltiness of those thousands of times when I tried so hard to swallow away the tears, instead of giving in to their currents.

Still, I was always sensitive and I have always wore my heart on my sleeve. The only difference now was I embrace it and use it as my strength. Empathy was a quality I was blessed with and when I could not control it, cursed with. I’d like to think now though after some insights, it’s mostly a blessing…

It is ALL about perspective.

So let’s jump ahead to motherhood…or rather parenthood. Judgments are everywhere! I’ve been guilty of being sleep deprived, overwhelmed and unprepared. Oh  and sometimes, or most times, my kids’ jackets are not zippered as we run into daycare. I see the watching eyes.

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Around when Madison was six months old, I was really at some of my lowest times emotionally. However, my children brought me joy except those days that turned into screaming match after screaming match.

And it had been one of those days, but I needed to hit up the store and get out of the house despite the chaos. In preparation for a party, I was missing one ingredient so I packed up the kids into the car and went for a “quick trip” to Shoprite. Quick was where I was wrong.

As I pulled up, I heard an explosion in the backseat so I set up a changing station in the trunk as my son stood next to me in the parking lot. (It never fails! Why does Mother Nature always call my kids at the store?)  To add to the moment, TJ had been screaming about forgetting his buddies aka army of stuffed animals at home. Bad mama! So lots of yelling and crying commotion as I took Madison out of the car to find out my next “surprise.”

Let’s just say the diaper had not worked.

It. Was. Everywhere.

I striped her of everything. She was naked except from her new diaper. There was a mess everywhere. It was then that I realized I had forgotten a change of clothes aaaaaand had no bags to put everything in.

Bad mom again!

I searched around. Dozens of people walked by me. I would say, “Excuse me.” All I wanted was a bag from someone’s double bagged groceries.

No one stopped.

No one looked.

And I’m pretty sure even though I’d hate to judge …

everyone heard.

On the verge of tears, I remembered that I had a blanket in the back seat and decided it was warm enough to use the blanket and diaper to wrap up my daughter and go into the store. My son was hysterically laughing now, talking about how his sister was naked under the blanket at the store. I wanted to laugh too but my anxiety was sky high.

To say the least, I got a lot of looks.   Right as we were going to the self check-out line, one person commented on how adorable they both were.  Instead of thanking her,  I quickly jumped to defend myself...

…from what?

“Adorable and naked. We had an accident in the car and I had to run in for one item. Mother of the year over here.” I made a joke about it which she laughed at as she walked away smiling.

(TMI on my part but I feel like parenthood unleashes a lack of filter or at least, it did with me.)

Had she even been judging? Had anyone been throwing negative stares? Or was it my own perception? Did it even matter?

Then, let’s flashback into time when TJ was 7.5 months old and diagnosed with 21 possible allergies. Due to his severe anaphylactic reaction to yogurt, he was required to eliminate all of them. I had been a new mom and strongly committed to breastfeeding him for many reasons. So I quickly decided that I would give up those foods too so that I could continue nursing him. It was what I knew in my heart was best for him. I wanted to at least try out the diet to see if it would work. I have never been one to dismiss something before I tried it. While the diet free of gluten, oats, tomatoes, nuts, peanuts, eggs, sesame, and dairy was difficult enough, the hardest part of it all were the judgments and isolation that came with it for those six months.

During those months, TJ was always sick so we cancelled on a lot of plans.  And when he wasn’t ill, I didn’t want to go to weddings or parties anyways. It was too hard to try to defend why I was doing what I was doing.

At that time, I had it all wrong though.

I had no one to defend myself to.

No one to answer to.

I knew that it was the right thing for TJ and knew it would benefit him in the long run. So why did I find it so hard to let go of what others thought and just live in the moment…

happily…

You would think most people would have been supportive.  Yet, do you know how many people would come to me and make comments about it like …

– I would never do that…

– I must be selfish because I would it consider it…

– Why are you doing this to yourself?…

The questions and comments came from so many people. And those were the ones, I actually heard. The Lord only knows the ones that were said behind my back.  It was such a sensitive time for me and I had the totally wrong perspective.

Looking back, I think many of these people were trying to be supportive but it was not the type of encouragement that I needed…

Not judging or at least I’d like to think so…

One person who always supported me was my husband. He knew my heart but he also always reminded me that it was always going to be my choice when I wanted to stop nursing and the diet. Yet, I still felt isolated at any social events I attended as I felt that people were judging what I was eating and what I was not eating, saying why they would never do what I was doing. It was an isolating cycle that I just kept running into. It was easier to isolate myself than face people’s opinions…

until I realized …

none of those judgments matter …

None! …

only God’s …

Food is everywhere! Socially, it is such a huge part of our culture. Through the elimination diet, I learned a feeling, an emptiness that no one deserves to feel because I allowed it to become like that. I learned what I never wanted my son to feel regardless of 50 allergies, 3 or none. It made me learn and devise strategies, recipes, and a lifestyle that would foster the complete opposite for son, future daughter, students, etc. It made me embrace inclusion, acceptance and advocacy in a way that protected every individual.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover but the reality is … they are… so accept it (deflect it) … but remember YOU write(rewire/renew) the story within… so make it good!

The best part is … no one judgment matters other than God’s, so embrace the stares as compliments, the questions as encouragement ….and smile back, letting your Mama/Dada strength shine through. I promise it will change you forever…

 

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You’re a “Dump Truck”

Maybe I’m bias, but TJ has the cutest little voice. No matter what he says I just want to eat him up even if the words are not properly pronounced or if his story about school does not add up.

Likewise, watching and listening to a toddler first gain their voice is amazing and a learning experience in itself, even more than I thought it was…as I recently found out.

My daughter started to speak in sentences way before we remember my son doing so. Or at least, her delivery was much clearer. However, as parents for the first time, we had no idea what was “typical” and what wasn’t. (I say that loosely as no two children are alike.)

Sure, there were times, TJ got frustrated with us when we did not understand fully what he was trying to tell us. But then, we saw how clever he was to figure out how to give us clues to get us to understand.

“Mommy, you know what I mean.   It rhymes with pain and rain, and it is on your head.”

“Oh brain! How clever! Great problem-solving skills!

Plus, as a special education teacher I never wanted to over-analyze my own children when it wasn’t necessary. So we corrected him when needed and even had a good laugh the times that called for it… like the time he called to my brother-in-law,

“Hey! Uncle Frankie, you’re a dumb #$@%!” …

…aka dump truck.
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What a cute, hilarious scene at Christmas that year when TJ was 3.5.

But …

Fast forward to just after Christmas a year later…

when I received his preschool report card. He received all 4s out of 5s except for speaking in full sentences which he did for us. He got a 2!?!?! Then I turned to the back to read the note,

“TJ has a kind heart and is nice to everyone. He gets frustrated when his friends can’t understand him. I love his art!”

What!?!? “He gets frustrated when his friends can’t understand him.”

Okay, maybe there was more to this than we knew. After I started to panic, how could we have missed this? Or overlooked it? Did we not read enough books? Would he get picked on or bullied in kindergarten? Did we teach him all wrong? Did we fail him? What other trauma did we cause him? What did I do wrong? And a million other questions….

But then I reminded myself …. breath … pray… breath …

So, I spoke to a close friend at work who works part time at another facility for speech and she calmed me down, suggesting I take him there for an evaluation.   She also mentioned that sometimes problems with eating and speaking are related which got me thinking some more.

A week later, I took TJ to get evaluated and sure enough, he needed speech. Interestingly enough, we learned that some of the problem letters like g and k that were causing him to not be understood were due to lack of muscle strength in his mouth. All related to feeding too!!!

Now, anyone who knows us and knows TJ, knows how we have spent his whole life asking him to chew or eat…. reminding him to chew and eat.

“TJ, what are you eating? TJ, chew your food. TJ, eat. TJ, EEAAATTT!!!!!”

He has always been such a sloooooooooooooooow eater and now we knew part of a reason why….

He mainly uses his front teeth.

So, we had a couple added challenges. But wherever there are problems, there can be solutions as well. Thank God for that!

Therefore, we started using bite blocks and a chewy tube to strengthen his back mouth muscles while also practicing letters and words that he knows how to say but has started to form bad habits with.  This is in addition to speech/feeding class thirty minutes a week.

So while our dining room table now has even more clutter on it with our speech tools and worksheets on it, at least we won’t let any dump trucks trip us up anymore.

Favorite Finds Friday: Little People

Since we are still gradually adding new foods and products to TJ’s diet, this week’s favorite find is once again indirectly related to food. Fisher-Price’s Little People figurines are some of my son’s favorites toys at 18.5 months and quite helpful to our routines.

On top of his multiple food allergies and sensitivities to textures, my son is often a picky eater.  While Mickey Mouse Clubhouse continues to help us during parts of mealtimes, we also rely on our friend, Fisher-Price’s Little People. Whether they are taking turns “eating” TJ’s food with him or just being held in my son’s hand, they add great support and distractions during breakfast, lunch or dinner.

In addition to helping with food, I have mentioned before that they also help on our car rides. These little people are amazing! Because TJ keeps one or two in his hands, he very rarely scratches at his eczema anymore as I drive.   Sure they get thrown and cause some drama sometimes; however, their benefits outweigh those other moments.

Here are some of our helpers:

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ADDED LINKS TO SOME OF THESE AMAZING LITTLE PEOPLE COLLECTIONS

Little People Spinning Sounds Airport

Little People Big Animal Zoo

Disney Princess Musical Dancing Palace

Little People Magic of Disney – Day at Disney

Little People Fun Sounds Farm

Little People Musical Preschool


Wishing everyone an amazing Friday as we move on to the weekend with Little People in our hands and smiles on our faces…


Teal Pumpkins – More Than Just a Color

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) developed  The Teal Pumpkin Project

“…to help us create a safer, happier Halloween for all! Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project™ raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.”

Read all about the Teal Pumpkin Project here.

Quoted from (Source): http://www.foodallergy.org/home


While we are beyond thankful for FARE and this entire campaign, teal pumpkins have an even greater meaning for us…

MORE THAN JUST A COLOR

-Written by: http://smilingawayfoodallergies.com/

Together we stand for so much more,

Eternal brothers and sisters as one,

Advocating for ignorance’s cure,

Living in unity has begun.

Pumpkins are orange or are they teal,

Ultimately it’s not about their color but what they reveal.

Moments that open up eyes and hearts,

Pumpkin’s new hue is only where compassion starts.

Kindness for one another no matter if we directly relate

Inner empathy inspires a greater fate,

No allergies or many- for once – we all can share the same plate.

Project deeper than who has an allergy and who does not,

Reality is bringing hope to what humanity has really got.

Optional participation but yet so many chose to learn,

Joyfully adding to Halloween’s allergy-free concern,

Everlasting gratitude for all who act without expecting return.

Celebrating a community coming together as one,

Teal pumpkins are just the start of a unity I pray has only just begun.


Our teal pumpkin and treats (still in the works...)

Our teal pumpkin and treats (still in the works…)

Even though my son is still too young to fully participate in Halloween, I am beyond thankful to everyone who plans to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project.   With so much negative news in the world today, times and campaigns like these bring hope for a society whose foundation can be built upon more compassion than we know.   With that being said, we wear teal proud and smile on to one great Halloween …

tj cartoon