Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post

I am guest posting today at The Works of God Displayed for the Fridays from the Families series. Thanks for the opportunity, Shannon. Head over and check it out!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review - D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners

D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners
My kids all love the Arthur characters - books and videos. Does anyone know, by the way, what kind of animal Arthur et al. are supposed to be? Just curious...if you know please leave it in a comment, because I haven't the foggiest. We had lots of rainy days this past winter and at our school the policy on rainy days is that the kids go to the library to watch a video during lunch recess. This is where the child learned about Arthur, and she has been hooked ever since. The twins also like him, so that's a bonus. It's always nice when we can find something to agree on.D.W, in case you don't know, is Arthur's little sister.

We found D.W.'s Guide to Perfect Manners at the library, and although it was my little girl who picked it off the shelf, the child has also enjoyed reading it a few times. It is at just the right reading level for her (mid-1st grade), so that's a plus.There's something about finding a book with a character your child loves that also has a message that you as a parent love. It's a magical combination, and I think it is found in this little gem. The illustrations are typical Marc Brown - colorful and just enough detail to keep things interesting without being too overwhelming. The book follows D.W. through her day as she tries to have "perfect" manners. Everything from self care (washing, tooth brushing, wearing clean clothes, and combing your hair) to table manners and social skills is covered in a straightforward manner. Most of the manners are presented as positives (Do this...) rather than negatives (Don't do that...) but some negatives slip in. I know from personal experience how hard it is to put everything as a positive, but I think it is easier for young children and those with learning differences to hear what they should do. This is the one thing I am disappointed by in this book. The other thing I would probably clarify for a child is that the book talks about being "perfect" by which it means having good manners - it does not mean that the child can't make mistakes. This could be addressed on the page where D.W. says "Perfect people say 'I'm sorry' if they mess up or if they hurt someone..." Clearly (to me) the perfection here is in knowing that if you make a mistake you apologize, not that you won't make a mistake at all. Still for children it might be confusing to talk about being a "perfect" person. In fact, we have taught the child that the only Perfect Person is Jesus. I am pleased that the Arthur products include constructive interactions with adult characters. I've noticed a trend lately where children's shows and books seem to put the child character out there on their own to handle whatever conflict comes their way. It's nice to see a more realistic interaction where parents are a valuable and encouraging resource for their children.

Overall this book is a sweet way to reinforce good manners for your child, especially if they are attracted to these characters anyway.

Friday, July 22, 2011


A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. (Proverbs 31:10-20)
We're revisiting the Proverbs 31 woman, continuing to focus on her character and who she is. In this week's verse we learn first more detail about her work - that she spins thread, then we learn that she is generous to the poor and needy. By the juxtaposition of these verses I imagine that she is generous not only with her money, but also with her time and resources. Perhaps she gives away some of the thread or cloth that she makes. She does this knowing the principle already explained earlier in Proverbs:

"...blessed is he who is kind to the needy." (Proverbs 14:21b, NIV)
"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." (Proverbs 21:9, NIV)

It appears that in God's economy being generous is a safety net both for the recipient and for the giver. There are several provisions in the Old Testament law to protect and provide for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the alien.

There is a whole lot of needy going on in the world around us. I pray that God will show me new ways to be generous to the needs He puts in my path.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Insomnia? Some Tricks that May Help

So my sleep pattern is pretty much messed up and has been since last October or so. The unhealthy pattern I got into looked something like this:

I tuck the twins into bed and stay in their room to make sure they don't keep each other awake with their three-year-old stand up comedy and wrestling routine. Usually I would lay down (to rest my neck which is recovering from a long-term injury) and prop my laptop up to scroll through facebook, twitter, or blog streams or write a new post here. For a while I could do this and stay awake until the twins were asleep, then get up and do more work elsewhere in the house, head to bed at midnight and get up at seven to start the next day. The problem started between working too many nights after my midnight deadline coupled with jet lag after our trip to Bali last Fall. Soon I found myself falling asleep before the twins did. Then I was sleeping on the floor of their room until about 2:00 a.m, then crawling off to bed to sleep. Except...then I couldn't go back to sleep. I would lay in bed worrying about all the things I didn't get done, thinking about what I would have to do tomorrow (today), listening to my husband snore, etc. I'm doing what I can to change this pattern now, but I've learned a few tricks to help with the "can't get back to sleep" part of the problem that I thought I would share with case you ever have a similar challenge.

The overall goal of these tricks is to get your mind occupied with something that is positive, but not too stimulating so that eventually you drift off to sleep. If one doesn't work another one might, depending on what frame of mind you're in.
  • Be the anesthesiologist - If you've ever had surgery under general anesthesia, they often do a little trick with you to take your mind off of what is happening. They will ask you to count backward from 10 as they administer the drug to put you into la la land. Most people don't make it past 7 before they are out. I do a similar thing except I start from 100, and I try to pace my counting with my breaths, taking long slow steady breaths as if I am already asleep. Often I'm asleep before I hit the seventies...if I get further than that I either keep counting down, but try to go slower or I change techniques. Let your mind drift a little as you are counting as this makes it harder to keep track of which number you're on and makes it easier to drop off.
  • Play the alphabet game - People use this on long car trips to make the time pass more quickly, but it works great for falling asleep, too. Think of a category of objects (vegetables, animals, songs, fruits, etc.) and try to think of one object for each letter of the alphabet. So if you're thinking of animals, it's: A - alligator, B - butterfly, C - cougar...To make it extra challenging you can go backwards: Z - zebra, Y - yak, X - x-ray fish...Often I try to come up with characteristics or names of God, which can turn insomnia into devotional time.
  • Use some visual imagery - There are a couple of different imagery techniques that I've found work really well. The first one is to imagine a large book open on a table (an unabridged dictionary, for example). Now imagine slowly closing the book so that the pages are all meeting in the middle. If you get too close to the cover, just imagine a few more pages, or close more slowly. This sounds simple, but is surprisingly effective. The second idea is to imagine a red background, and then picture a white object in front of it. I often use some Christian symbol (a cross or a dove, for example). I suggested this to a friend and she said that when she tried it she couldn't get the color red. I actually think that's part of what makes this work. It's not easy to imagine an all red background and then put something white in front of it. While your brain gets busy with that you can relax and go to sleep...unless you get stressed out about not being able to make which case try something else.
So this is what works for me when I just can't drop off to sleep. Very rarely nothing will work, and in those times I assume there's something God's trying to tell me, so I get up and find something to do that gives me time to think and pray. It's sort of like fasting from sleep. Usually after I've spent that time working things out with God I can fall asleep easily.

Let me know if you have any similar tricks to head off's always good to have more tools in the kit. Just click on comments below.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Digest 34

Here's the best I've seen while scouting around...still horribly behind on blog reading, but I was caught up on day last week.

1) Sometimes you need to walk a mile in another person's shoes. Sometimes you just need to read a very passionate blog post. Even other special needs parents may not always "get it" when comparing worries. Check out this post by my fellow 5 Minutes for Special Needs contributor, Heather P.

2) I loved this post at Autism and Oughtisms which so clearly explains how even the verbal child on the autism spectrum is affected by language delays and communication challenges. I have tried to explain this in some of my own posts, but this mum (from New Zealand) says it so much better.

3) Having just celebrated the 4th of July, it seems fitting to spend a couple of minutes supporting our military families who are also special needs families. You can read this post at Hopeful Parents by Diary of a Mom to find out how you can help.

4) I'm still loving the Special Needs Sibling Saturday series over at The Squashed Bologna. Varda has located some of the best parent bloggers around to help us see the intense sibling relationship through several new lenses. Read the latest here and the whole series here.

5) And I'm cheating a little because I'm posting late and Tara over at kidzorg posted her Monday story early...Ever wished you could have one of those reality TV shows come and redo part of your home? There's a charity that does this for children with special can read about it here. [We don't need a makeover so much around here as someone with some insane organizational case any reality TV shows are scouting for story ideas...just sayin']

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Children see magic so easily, and we forget so easily.

The child made a magic wand one day - out of a plastic tube that used to be the center of a fax paper roll. She colored three different "buttons" on it with sharpie markers - red, blue, and green. Then she taped a small strip of paper to the other end like a lonely streamer on a handlebar. She said if she pushed the red button it would make red magic, etc, a concept she copied from an episode of "The Little Einsteins" where a group of fairies make the northern lights appear with their magical music. She wandered around all afternoon making her various colors of magic, I'm sure actually seeing them spray forth from the streamer and color her world.

So many things are magical to children - butterflies, hummingbirds, rainbows, thunder, crickets, stars, and the list goes on. As adults we think we are better off because we can understand things more, but somehow I think the children are ahead of us on this one. What good is it to know a butterfly is just a caterpillar post-metamorphosis and that it spreads pollen as it moves from one flower to another if you lose the sense of wonder at watching it fly at all?

Children sometimes are magical in their own way as well. They can turn my frowns into smiles with a well-timed giggle, hug, or fun idea. I need to let them push their happy button and wave the wand my direction a little more often it seems.

I want to remember the magic of childhood. I want to re-enter the spirit of belief, trust, and wonder. I want to make magic with them, and help them hold on to it as long as they can.
Jenny Matlock

This post is inspired by the Marvelous Aphabe-Thursday Meme sponsored by Jenny Matlock. Click over to read the other Magnificent M posts here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Primer

I first heard about Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (also called PMS, but not to be confused with the female monthly cycle issues) after reading this recent blog post on Autism Speaks. PMS is related to autism due to behavioral symptoms (poor eye contact, social anxiety, and perseverative actions) but some question whether the genetic deletion is a cause of autism or if it separates these individuals from other spectrum disorders. Because many of the symptoms overlap, children with PMS may be diagnosed with autism or ADHD or dystonic CP or some combination of these unless a specific genetic test is performed.

PMS is cause by the absence or loss of genes at the tip of Chromosome 22 (a 22q13 deletion). The loss of Shank3/ProSAP2 gene is suspected to be the primary cause of the symptoms associated with PMS. The Shank3 gene plays a role in the formation of the nervous system during fetal development. As in many spectrum disorders, invididuals with PMS may have mild or more severe challenges in several areas, including:
  • delayed or absent speech and communication
  • low muscle tone (hypotonia) - delayed sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking
  • challenges with eating (sometimes beginning with bottle/breast feeding as a newborn)
  • sleep disturbances
  • emotional instability
There are also some physical characteristics that may be present:
  • may be tall for their age
  • subtle facial features: long head shape, puffiness around the eyes, long eyelashes, droopy eyelids, puffy cheeks, large ears
  • large fleshy hands, underdeveloped toenails, lack of perspiration - easily overheat.
Both the autism speaks blog above and an article at the Phelan-McDermind Syndrome Foundation website note that as individuals with PMS get older and more skills are expected they fall further behind and their challenges become more apparent. There is also some evidence that individuals with PMS may lose one skill while they make progress in another area.

PMS and Fragile X Syndrome both present strong arguments for the benefits of genetic testing - basically to receive a more specific diagnosis that will allow more focused efforts in intervention, support, and treatment. Some of the comments from the autism speaks blog article seemed to imply that this level of specificity is not necessary if the child is "accepted" and supported in their education and development. What do you think about these issues? We have not pursued any genetic testing for our daughter (yet) mostly due to financial considerations and insurance concerns. Certian phrases in this article made me wonder if we should, though. For instance similar to the little girl highlighted by Autism Speaks, several people have noted that our daughter is "too social" to be autistic, though that is her official diagnosis. I maintain that though she enjoys being with people she does not understand social constructs...her desire to be with people is a great motivator for helping her learn some of the obvious rules of social behavior, but some of the more subtle interactions still seem to be beyond her reach. I am more curious than ever whether we should consider genetic testing and whether it would clear up some of the mysteries we continue to face, but given our excellent progress to date I wonder how much we would gain. I welcome your input...just click on comments below.

If you are interested in learning more about Pheland-McDermid Syndrome I suggest you begin here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rerun Book Review - When I Feel Angry

Recycling is good, right? I have a movie that I've been wanting to review for you, and I have watched it, but I haven't had the time to really give it all of the attention I usually give to a review. Partly that is because we are back at my mother-in-law's house. You can read a little about how that is going here. Meanwhile this book, which I originally reviewed back in October 2009 would be an excellent read for several members of the household, self included...Since several of you probably didn't know this blog existed back then I will save you the trip through the archives to locate it. Enjoy!

After a day like today I need this book almost as much as my child does. I love the title. It is so realistic. It doesn't say "If I Get Angry" or "When I Am Angry" or "I Shouldn't Get Angry." This book assumes, rightly, that your child will feel angry; it emphasizes that this is a feeling, not a state of being; it even acknowledges that there are times when anger is a fine response. However, it encourages positive ways to work through the anger - taking deep breaths, getting some exercise, or finding something fun to do (distraction!)

I hope I modeled this well at least once today. We were decorating Halloween cookies and my daughter really wanted some of them to have spider webs on them. In my rather limited decorating repertoire this was going to be challenging at best, plus the cookie decorating was supposed to be a structured activity to keep her busy while I was making dinner. Anyway I attempted the spider web but the decorating trip clogged and my attempts to clean it out didn't help. Meanwhile dinner was waiting on the stove and the twins were dancing at my feet wanting attention, too. I said, pretty calmly, "I'm going to have to stop working on cookies now. I'm getting too frustrated." Then I turned my attention to dinner. My daughter was a little upset that we had to stop, but while I finished dinner we processed it a little bit and I emphasized that sometimes when we are getting frustrated we need to take a break.

The story book follows the adventures of a cute little bunny girl as she realizes that some things that make her angry can't be fixed, but some can. She learns to get help figuring it out and to spend time talking and listening to work things out. The pictures are all darling. The text, in my opinion, is written at a great level even for children with language processing issues. The ideas take a little practice to remember and act on in the heat of the moment, but they are all solid re-regulating ideas.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Profitable and Prepared

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
I wanted to continue my series on the Proverbs 31 woman...remembering that I'm not necessarily supposed to do what she does but to notice her character, who she is which influences all she does. So far we have seen that she is noble, precious, eager, vigorous and strong (see links in passage above to view earlier posts.) Today I want to focus on one sentence. "She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night." Proverbs 31:18 (NIV)

Her trading is profitable. Recall from our earlier studies that the Proverbs 31 woman is quite the entrepreneur. She weaves wool and linen and sells her wares to merchant ships, then uses her profits to buy a field and plant a vineyard. She is a businesswoman, and a shrewd one who wants to make a profit. I am not much of a businesswoman, and in my work with my husband I bring in very little extra income for our family, but I view my role in our finances not so much by what I can bring in as what I can keep from going out. Over the last few years this skill has be severely tested. I still have a lot to learn. I am not, for example, very good at using coupons and that sort of thing. The main way I try to keep money in the coffers longer is by using our resources wisely. My favorite way to do this is to use our food as completely as possible. For example, I love using my crockpot to cook meat, and my husband likes his meat with lots of sauce. Usually after the meat is all gone there is still sauce left over, and for a while I didn't know what to do with it. Now I turn it into soup and get another meal (or two sometimes) out of it. It's simple! Sometimes I throw in some leftover vegetables and/or other meat, sometimes I mix it with a can of store-bought soup. Leftover mashed potatoes make a great thickening agent. Add some broth, milk, or water as needed for thinning. I just imagine the flavors, and guesstimate the thickness. These soups are usually so good that my husband tells me to write down the recipe. Sure - a little of this, a little of that, mix it all up until it tastes good. I love how it stretches the food budget and keeps the leftovers interesting, even for the kids.

That sort of profit is all well and good, but there is an extra layer of meaning here that we can't pass up. Remember that the Proverbs 31 woman is as precious as rubies, which is a picture of Wisdom.
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. Proverbs 3:13-14 (NIV, emphasis mine)
Regardless of our financial footing, finding wisdom and understanding is where the Real profit lies.

photo by Daniel R. Blume via Flickr
 The second part of this sentence could mean that the Proverbs 31 woman is awake late in the evening doing her work - weaving or balancing her business books perhaps? However, it reminds me more of the story that Jesus told of ten virgins who were invited to participate in a wedding celebration. (Matthew 25:1-13) Five of them were wise and five were foolish. The foolish virgins ran out of oil to keep their lamps burning, so they weren't ready when the bridegroom came. They had to go looking for oil instead of being able to take part in the wedding celebration. The wise virgins brought their lamps and extra oil, so they were prepared for the extra wait and were ready to party when the bridegroom arrived. Jesus closes the parable by saying, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matthew 25:13, NIV) It's interesting that he told this parable just before his final days leading up to the crucifixion. I think this is the same message presented by the Proverbs 31 woman:

Be Wise, be prepared, don't let your lamp go out.


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