Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Digest 41

I think I'm slowly getting back into the swing of posting more frequently here (and keeping up at 5 Minutes, too...) Part of that is keeping up with following a lot of other blogs to keep the inspiration flowing. Here are some of the links I've come across in my perusing...

1) I wrote a post on Trisomy 9  about a month ago, and had the privilege of having a Trisomy 9 Mom stop by and comment on it. Turns out that Erin has her own blog where she writes about all the challenges they face. Here is a link to the story of her son's diagnosis, be sure to check out other posts, too.

2) I relate to Autism & Oughtisms post about the endless questions of childhood. Oh yes, we've been there, and still go there every once in a while. I've even blogged about it. "Why don't you crash into the car in front of you, Mommy?" was the child's favorite question for about three months and every time we were driving in the mini-van she would ask. Sadly we saw a bad car accident on the side of the road one day on the way home, and when I told her that's what happens when you crash, the question turned into "What happens to the car after it's crashed?" and I answered that one every time we saw a tow truck hauling a smashed up vehicle. Now I am asked to recall the finest details of my own childhood...and "I don't remember" is not a satisfactory answer. And yet, when I consider how hard she has worked to get her language to the level of asking questions...I swallow my impatience and try hard to answer in a way that will keep the conversation going.

3) Another been there, done that, moment from Bird on the Street - who has an older child with special needs, and twins (just like me)...but she's pregnant with baby number four, and we're not going there...hat's off to you, Katy! Anyway Katy tells the story of taking her three children to the pediatrician. Those of you without kids are thinking "What's hard about that?" and those with children are thinking "What was she thinking?" I actually do this all the time because I prefer the short term chaos to having three separate appointments where I have to find child care for one or two other children; but it ain't fun...let me tell you. Or let Katy tell you...

4) Had to check in with Praying for Parker. All of Tammy's posts teach me a lot. This one was especially touching to see Parker enjoying his favorite books with his Grandma and see the special bond they have. Sweet.

5) We are big Signing Time fans around here, although I need to expand our library of DVDs. We have used simple signs to help enforce rules, in particular, around our house. It helps me stay calm, for some reason, and it helps the kids pay a little extra attention. Rachel has been posting about a trip to Ghana where she helped a school for deaf children learn to use sign language in their curriculum. Reading these stories is a great reminder to count our blessings, and also to reach out to bless others...and also to keep exploring sign language with my kids.

That's it for this round...I hope you enjoy the links as much as I did. Please tell them you heard about them through The Simple Life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book Review - Slime & All

My friend Janet Ann Collins is celebrating the release of her fourth children's book "Slime & All" this week. She was kind enough to send me a preview copy by PDF so I could review it. It is now available on Amazon. The story begins with a sad worm by the name of Lump. He is tired of other animals running away from him, so he decides to run away instead. Lump is rather large, and slimy, but manages to stow away on a big truck. Fortunately for him he meets an educated little boy who knows that worms don't hurt us. Jake takes him to a park where he can get wet all over, and eat some dirt (yum) but better than that, Jake introduces him to a lot of other kids who decide Lump is "cool."

I was excited to review this book because it fits right in with my current theme of encouraging peer-advocacy among children. Everyone has their "slime" if you will - something that makes it challenging to befriend them. It would be easier in some respects to be like the farm animals and just run away every time you meet someone who is different from you, except that you'd spend a good bit of your time running away. How much better to be educated a little, like Jake, and to take the time to understand someone, to meet their needs, and help others understand that they're pretty okay. This is advocacy at its best, and its most personal. We can all learn a lot from Jake.

The book is written as a short and easy chapter book, perfect for beginning or struggling readers. The text is simple and straightforward. It is not at all preachy in that "there's a moral here, kid" kind of way. Jake and Lump do their own work of teaching the reader to be kind. Each chapter is paired with a fun full color illustration by Alexander Morris. You've never seen a cuter worm, even if he is enormous. I'm guessing the farmer misses Lump a lot - imagine the soil he could turn out!

So next time you see a worm, consider making a new friend...slime and all.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hosting a Sleepover...

The child informed me some time ago that she wanted to have a sleepover party for her eighth birthday. She starts planning her next birthday approximately 24 hours after the previous party, so I've been hearing about this for a while. When I realized this would be my first sleepover as "The Mom" I got nervous. It was also a bit challenging as our budget is still...well...not feeling the economic recovery we've been hearing so much about, if you get my drift. In the end my newly minted eight year old declared this, "The Best Birthday Ever" so I figure we did a thing or two right. I thought I'd share my strategy with you and would love to hear your ideas, too. Feel free to leave a comment below.
  • Set the boundaries and expectations - I agreed to a sleepover party with a couple of conditions. First, only two friends could come. We usually have a one kid per year rule, but to save my sanity we cut that way back. The child selected two friends that we know from her Kindergarten days. I also made it clear that this really would be a SLEEPover, or it would be the last of its kind. My sleep pattern is messed up enough without the shenanigans of three giggly girls thrown in there.
  • Keep it Simple (what else) - We did a craft project, ate dinner together, watched a movie, ate cake, opened presents, and tucked everyone into sleeping bags. The craft project became part of their goody bag. The dinner and cake were all homemade. The movie was very rated G and straight out of our video collection.All of this simplicity helped save mommy's mind and money. We had just enough structure to keep everyone regulated, with enough freedom to keep it fun.
  •  Check in with the guest's parents - I was glad that the parents of one of the girls warned me ahead of time that sleepovers had been challenging for her. I didn't make a big deal out of it with her, but I knew that I might need to make a phone call if she got too worried. We were all thrilled when she made it through the night with us. It really made the event extra special.
  • Bribery - yes, really - At bedtime I told the girls they could talk and laugh for 15 minutes, and then it would be time for lights out and quiet. That worked great. I don't know when they went to sleep, but they were quiet. What didn't work great was waking up at 6:30 the next morning to shrieks of laughter. In my half awake predawn state at first I thought our nervous guest was freaking out. I hurried to the child's room to find them all giggling and bouncing around on her bed., not what I had in mind. "Do you girls like pancakes?" I asked. "YES!" they clamored. "Great! If you want some for breakfast it better be quiet in this room for another...hour (I said while looking at the clock.)" They did get quieter, though they did not actually go back to sleep. It gave my nerves time to settle, though.
  • Look around for FREE family friendly events - My  husband gets to take credit for this one. He noticed a free event happening at a state park near us on the day after the sleepover. We invited both guests to go with us to this event, too. Only one was able to come, but it made the celebration last a little longer without more cost. If time is an issue find something on the evening of the sleepover instead.
Including food and favors we spent about $35 total on this party...that's food and entertainment for seven people  for close to 24 hours. That might sound like a lot to some people, but around here people spend hundreds on their kids' parties, and I bet they don't have more fun that we had. To hear the child tell it, it was the coolest thing ever, and awesome on top of that.

What's your favorite birthday bash secret?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Saying Something Nice

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. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet...She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:10-21; 25-26 NIV)

I am finally circling back to the Proverbs 31 woman. I am determined to finish this series. To see earlier posts click on the links in the quoted passage above. I'm amazed it has been such a long gap since my last post in this series (late September) because with each study I learn more about who God wants me to be. As a chronic "do-er" it is so important to remind myself that God looks on the heart more than the hands.

Today's adjectives both describe the Proverbs 31 woman's speech. So far we haven't really heard her voice. She works, she gives, she invests, but so far she hasn't said much. In this verse we get to eavesdrop on her conversation and find that it is characterized by wisdom and faithful teaching. In Hebrew the word for wisdom here is chokmah and can be interpreted as wisdom, skillful, wisely, or wit. It is derived from the word chakam, a primary root that means to be wise in mind, word or action. This implies that the Proverbs 31 woman is skillful conversationalist who pays attention to her words.

In the King James Version, this verse is translated, "She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness." The Hebrew word for kindness is checed and it means kindness, piety, beauty, favor, and merciful. So although this woman possesses a lot of wisdom, she is kind and considerate about how she dispenses it. Her words are beautiful and merciful.

In our culture I think there has been a general coarsening of our words. We are not trained to think before we  speak. Even if there might be an open microphone and video camera around, and our words might end up as the next viral YouTube link, we tend to speak first and explain later. I can definitely learn a thing or two from the Proverbs 31 woman, especially as I speak to my children. How often are my words of wisdom laced with the law of "do as I say right now, Buster" rather than the law of kindness.

I think I'll run an experiment for a few days and see if I can keep the law of kindness in mind as I'm speaking. I'll report back here in a week and let you know what happened. Want to join the fun? Just leave a comment below...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lemon Pie

I don't often share recipes here, although cooking and baking are among my favorite activities when I have time for them. I Love the predictability of it...Measure these things, Combine them in this way, Be careful of this, and in the end you will have this Lovely creation. I don't have much predictability around me these days, so it is a nice change of pace.

For some reason the letter L (our Alphabe-Thursday target of the week) made me think of Lemon Pie. Maybe its because our Lemon tree has a Large crop of itty-bitty Lemons just waiting for me to pick them and use them up. It stirs up Lots of fond memories.

Jenny Matlock

I first discovered this recipe in the pages of a children's cookbook that my mom handed down to me. I don't think we ever made this recipe when my brother and I were growing up, but just handling the book brings back memories of the days when Mom decided to let us take turns cooking things each week. Pocket sandwiches, frosted meatloaf, and cornflake chicken I know we tried, among others. When I discovered the lemon pie recipe I was looking for something simple that I could prepare with the child. She was a little over five at the time, and we were smack in the middle of the most challenging time that we had ever experienced with her. Her language was at 2-3 year old level, as were her fine motor skills and attention span. The twins were a year old - less physically needy, but demanding their own share of attention. The child was still pretty angry at me for disappearing on her at the time of the twins' birth, and I was having a hard time reconnecting with her because of her aggressive behavior toward me and her siblings. It was a mess, and we were desperate for help. In answer to my prayers (yes, really) God brought us under the teaching of two extremely talented and service-hearted women who helped us learn so much about how to reconnect our fragmented family, and support the child's behavior better at home, and then in every other environment we took her to. One of the keys was finding ways to meaningfully engage her in activities, especially with me. So I was trying to find an easy recipe that we could do together from beginning to end.

We started by picking lemons from the tree. Then hand over hand she helped me zest and squeeze out the juice. Together we whisked the ingredients together and poured them into a prepared crust. Throughout the experience she let me touch her, help her, encourage her, and enjoy her. All of these had been difficult for many months on end. I was anxious the whole time, just waiting for her to get frustrated or bored and explode, but she stuck with it the whole time. Something so simple, but to me a precious touchstone anytime things start getting hard again. I now trust that we'll be able to work it out. Every time I make this recipe I remember that day almost three years ago, and I smile. Here's hoping it brings you some smiles, too:

Creamy Lemon Pie
1 egg
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
frozen whipped topping, thawed
9 inch graham cracker crust

1. Prepare 1 teaspoon lemon zest.
2. Prepare 1/2 cup of lemon juice.
3. Beat egg in a medium sized mixing bowl.
4. Add sweetened condensed milk to egg.
5. Add lemon zest and juice.
6. Stir until the mixture starts to thicken.
7. Fold in half of the frozen whipped topping.
8. Pour the filling into the graham cracker crust.
9. Cover filling with remaining whipped topping.
10. Freeze the pie until firm.
11. Garnish with extra zest or a slice of lemon.

Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens "New Junior Cook Book" (1979) page 92. [This is probably the Old Junior Cook Book by now...]

Amazing that something so sour can make such a sweet memory. When life gives you lemons...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Digest 40

I want to let you all know about several interesting articles I've come across in the last couple of weeks. Check out these links...

1) I have Autism Speaks in my facebook feed, and the title of this blog entry grabbed my attention. I am always interested in adult siblings' perspective on autism as I begin to look ahead to our children's relationships.

2)The link above is a response to another blog post which is a call for more civility among the autism community. I have to say I agree with the original post...if you've ever checked out comments on one of any controversial (or even not controversial) articles on autism, the rhetoric and diatribes become quite disheartening. I can't get into any of that, really. I have my own opinions on all of the controversies, but I recognize them as just that - opinions. I could never claim them as facts to bludgeon another parent with an alternate view. Perhaps I am not cynical enough, but it seems to me if we could put aside our differences we might make more progress in researching and advocating for individuals affected by autism. Isn't that what we all want?

3)  My husband pointed me to this article from Though I am familiar with most of the issues explained by this "Alphabet of Asperger's," it is really helpful to have the child's perspective on each of these topics. Our daughter looks a lot like an Asperger's child these days because she has made a fair amount of progress with her language, but she doesn't have the language skills to explain her behavior or preferences like Nick does in this article. For instance she also seems to prefer to be at the head or tail of a line. I always thought she just wanted to be one of the title positions (both have special jobs to do at our school) but maybe it is also because she feels "crushed" and needs some open space on one side.

4) There is a lot of buzz out there about the new definition of autism per the latest DSM update expected to appear May 2013. This article in the New York Times suggests that the new diagnostic criteria will "miss" a lot of individuals who currently "fit" the diagnosis. I haven't studied this very closely, though I probably should soon since we are right at the cusp on some of these issues. To handle things more even-handedly than the alarmist news media, I suggest starting here at my blogging friend Autism & Oughtism's take on the whole issue. She does her homework on these things. I should SO follow her example in this.

5) We watched most of the Superbowl yesterday, and the most interesting "personal interest" story to me was the story of Steve Gleason, a former professional football player now diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.) He has started a foundation called "Team Gleason" that helps other ALS patients improve their lives and reach for their goals. He brought two such patients to the Superbowl - a once in a lifetime experience to be sure. You can read more about Team Gleason here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review - The Runaway Bunny

This is probably a classic, but we checked it out from the library for the first time this week, so it is new to us. Little girl picked it out on behalf of the child (who was at school but asked us to get a book for her, too.) The author, Margaret Wise Brown, is probably best known for the book "Goodnight Moon." She seems to have a mild fascination with bunnies, and this alone has made her the target of humorous parodies. Be forewarned that "The Runaway Bunny" is unashamedly sweet. If that sort of thing makes you roll your eyes and look for the nearest exit then I guess this book is not for you, but if you want to start a conversation with your kids about how much you love them and how you will always be there for them...check it out.

The story begins with a little bunny who wants to run away. (Know any kids that have threatened to run away?) He informs his mother of his plans. One by one she meets his escape routes. If he vows to turn into a sailboat then she promises to be the wind that moves him across the sea. If he becomes of fish then she becomes a fisherman luring him from the water with carrots. One of the best pieces of the book is the pictures by Clement Hurd. In each scenario he presents a two page full color spread showing the mother patiently meeting each persona the bunny tries on. I particularly love the bird imagery in which the mother bunny becomes a tree for the bunny-bird to come home to. The sailboat is also quite touching. In one last ditch effort the bunny decides he will turn into a boy and run into a house. The mother says she will be the mother in the house waiting there with a big hug for him. The picture of this scene would fit right into the pages of "Goodnight Moon." The little bunny realizes this last effort is basically where he's at anyway, so he'll just stay put after all. "Very well, have a carrot," replies the calm mother.

Perhaps every child/parent relationship has its moments when one or the other wishes they could run away. I know I've been there myself, on both sides. I think what struck me the most about this story is the effective portrayal of mother love. The love that says,"No matter where you go or what you do I will be there, and I will be on your side even when you think I'm not." I know I want my children to feel that kind of security from me.  Books like The Runaway Bunny create an opportunity to sit with your child at the end of a hard day and tell them, in so many words, "I love you and I will be here."

I want to know how many of you have already read this book and love it...and I want to know what other sweet books you read when you want your children to feel your love right down to their toes.


Related Posts with Thumbnails