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Thinking Creatively

I’ve been told many times that I’m creative.


I guess I wouldn’t argue with that, though honestly I feel like (at least for me) it’s less about having ideas and more about not squelching the weird ideas that pop into my brain but instead redirecting or expanding on them.


But I honestly don’t know if that’s true for everyone’s creativity. I have to say, though, it’s served us well.


Creativity has helped me out of a jam many times… When there’s a problem to solve and the obvious solutions aren’t working, we sometimes have no choice but to get creative. And Nolan gives us plenty of opportunities to get creative with solutions.


Supper not appealing? What are our options? Sometimes it’s as simple as putting that night’s hotdish (that’s a casserole for anyone outside of the Upper Midwest) in his favorite soup mug and referring to it as noodles or soup. Maybe we’re low on soup and his favorites are all gone… Sometimes adding a little tomato sauce/paste/whatever I have on hand (even ketchup) and some Cajun seasoning will convince him it’s close enough to gumbo or jambalaya to be acceptable. Sometimes, we just have to get creative with how we frame it.


Nolan's hands too busy for a great photo after a great ASL game? How about a nice hug for this photo buddy?


A lot of times when Nolan is in full-on meltdown mode and nothing seems to calm him, I take a step back and try to think of things we haven’t even considered… If he seems to be seeking pressure, sometimes I’ll give him a light tickle instead. Or other times I’ll try cold water on his neck, a fuzzy blanket, tickles on a different body part (usually meltdowns feel very much like upper-body events with heads and arms doing the most moving or grabbing) like his feet, or even just blowing cool air on his skin.


Often anything that is enough for his body to go, “Wait, what?” will distract him long enough for the hurricane of a meltdown to start to lose some of its power. But often, that little bit of a surprise can be hard to find. For that surprise to be unexpected enough to break the rhythm of the moment, it sometimes has to be unexpected to us too.


But sometimes the unexpected is exactly where our best creative moments are born.


For example, very early on when Kirk and I started trying to come up with ideas to give Nolan job skills through at-home work, we were just kind of throwing ideas at each other as they came up over a period of several weeks. At one point, I had a craft store ad up on my phone, and I saw an organizer that set the wheels of my brain into motion. The organizer is a clear plastic case filled with several smaller plastic cases in varying colors inside. My brain went, “Hey—that’d be perfect for matching.”


Before I knew it, my brain turned matching into, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had something like this that we had, maybe stickers or something inside… and if we did events or craft fairs of some kind, we could just have the designs up on a board each on a corresponding background color. When someone wanted a sticker, we would just ask them “which color?” and as a kid who already knows his colors, Nolan could be talked through finding the case of the corresponding color and pulling out the sticker…” I believe I followed that immediately with, “But then we’d be doing craft fairs…” If you’ve been here a while, I think you know how that turned out.


As Nolan grows and learns, we (along with our creativity) evolve to keep up. Lately my favorite starting point is, “What do we already know works?” While things don’t always work the same way two days in a row, it at least gives us a jumping off point. So as we think about how our little craft fair venture is going to grow and evolve, I tend to start with “what skills does he have that we can put to work?”


So far, our products are a little bit random—and that’s okay. Their common thread is, and always will be, Nolan. What do stickers, novelty earrings, lip balm and knitted gnomes have in common? Well, Nolan—he can pull stickers (we’ve got them labeled with numbers instead of colors), he can use the paper punches that we use to make the cards that the earrings are sold on, he can label tubes of lip balm, and he can operate a hand crank to work a knitting machine.


As far as what the future holds, I’m hoping we can utilize and gain some new skills… He can do things like helping mix/stir and pouring—that opens up a huge pile of possibilities. And we know at school he’s sometimes responsible for folding towels (and we’ve already translated that into folding shirts) and watering plants at school, so we’re hoping we can incorporate more of those skills into whatever creative ventures are yet to come.


Now if we can just use that creativity to keep him from realizing he’s working, we’ll be all set.

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