Thursday, May 31, 2012

B is for Blanket...and book

I almost forgot to ask the child to tell me something that starts with B that I could take a picture of. When I remembered, she was already snuggled up with Daddy for Bedtime Stories. When I asked she said, "Um..." and in the intervening pause I gave her a suggestion (Bad Mommy...) I'll include my suggestion below because I'm so dang proud of it, but first, I'll show you what she came up with on her own several minutes later. She finished her story with Daddy and came out to the kitchen to tell me she had thought of another idea for B, "Blanket! My Rainbow Blanket." Since the Blanket is a bedtime must I had to take a quick photo and pop her Back into Bed.

Her "Rainbow Blanket" is another gift from Grandma. Noticing a trend here? I think she got it when she was one. She is now eight and she still loves it and takes it everywhere except camping. She doesn't want it to get dirty so camping is not an approved activity. I love the Noah's ark imagery. She loves it because it is colorful.

What I had suggested to her is Book. She was very excited that she got to bring home her Poetry Book from second grade yesterday. She had been looking forward to this project since we toured the second grade classes on open house night about a year ago. Writing has been an increasing challenge for her, but her teacher says that poetry was very encouraging for her. Maybe because it is short. Maybe because poetry is unconventional anyway. Maybe she just likes the "free spirited-ness" of it. Her dedication at the beginning of the Book says it all "I dedicate my poetry book to my mom and dad for letting me do what I want." So here are some pictures of the front (left) and back (right) covers of her Book. They were asked to decorate the covers with fireworks and these were her original creations.

And one sample of her poetry... (a color poem)

Red is a smooth brick.
Orange is the cap on the glue.
Yellow is the bright sun.
Green is the field grass.
Blue is the cold ocean water.
Purple is a sweet plum.
Pink is the evening sunset
Gold is some autumn leaves
Peach is some skin.

Yes, this girl loves her colors!

Jenny Matlock 

To see the other B posts don't
forget to visit the Linky List here!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A is for Apron

I am trying something new for a while. A friend of mine suggested taking a blogging break. It seems my kids need me more right now and blogging is (sadly) the most dispensable of my activities. I think my official sabbatical will be June and July, but I'll be "winding down" a bit in May...moving away from the heavy hitting. I am going to TRY to keep up with alphabe-Thursdsay each week, but I'll be keeping it simple (what else) and hopefully giving you a little glimpse into the child's brain at the same time. Each week I will ask her to help me find an object in our house that starts with that week's letter. It has to be a physical object that I can photograph, and they will all be her ideas. Disclaimer - photographer I am not...

When I asked her to help me think of an A word, she said, "How about apron?"
"Which one?" I asked (we have several.)
"Mine. Yours are all boring!"
I see. So here is a hastily snapped photo of her apron, the one her dear Grandma sent. We use it for baking and also for art projects. I love that it is wipe-able. She evidently finds it non-boring.

To see the other A posts, click here.

Jenny Matlock

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trisomy 21 - Down Syndrome

When I started this series on the various trisomy genetic disorders, I knew this day would come. How does one even attempt to summarize Down Syndrome in a short blog post? I'll start with the disclaimer that none of my primers are intended to be all-inclusive. They're just a starting point to begin to familiarize the public at large with conditions that sometimes are quite rare and unknown. Down Syndrome doesn't really fit the unknown category, but it may fit the misunderstood category. People may think they know what Down Syndrome is, but have some serious misconceptions mixed in with their facts. My hope is this primer will make you want to learn more. Down Syndrome doesn't really fit the rare category either. Trisomy 21 is the most common single cause of birth defects, and occurs in approximately 5 of every 10,000 births. The condition is named for John Langdon Down, who described the condition in 1866. Dr. Jerome Lejeune linked Down Syndrome with an extra copy of Chromosome 21 in 1959.

Like all trisomy disorders, Down Syndrome occurs when there are three copies of one chromosome (Chromosome 21 in this case) or part of a chromosome. You can look at my general post on Trisomy to learn how this happens. It is an entirely random genetic mutation that cannot be prevented. Genetic counseling is advisable for people who have a family history of Down Syndrome, women above the age of 35, or parents who already have a child with Down Syndrome. Trisomy 21 can be diagnosed prenatally. Screening tests may indicate a higher risk for Down Syndrome and more conclusive diagnostic tests such as amniocentesis can confirm the diagnosis. These tests may carry risks of their own which should be considered carefully.

Each individual with Down Syndrome will be affected differently, but there are several common characteristics, including:
  • decreased muscle tone
  • single crease in palm of the hand
  • cognitive delays
  • impulsive behavior
  • short attention span
  • heart defects - atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect
  • eye problems - cataracts, corrective lenses
  • gastrointestinal blockage - esophageal or duodenal atresia
  • hearing problems
  • narrow airway - sleep apnea
With improved medical treatment options, the average lifespan for individuals with Down Syndrome is nearly the same as normative peers. With early intervention and supportive family, individuals with Down Syndrome can graduate from high school, attend college, and maintain productive careers. Finally, I think I've shared this before, but I want to emphasize that each individual has something to contribute to society, and we have more in common than we may think. Please watch this short video by a young man with Down Syndrome and his parents. It is well worth your time.

Additional resources:

Friday, May 18, 2012


Today the letter of the week for

Jenny Matlock 
Is Z.

It's so fitting. the words that come to mind:

Zero - the amount of energy I have right now.

Zany - my life lately.

But mostly...Zapped. As in, that is how I feel.

I am not just physically tired (though I am that) I am emotionally exhausted. My brain hurts.

For now I'm going to chalk this up to the end of the school year - a season much like "the holidays" in which everyone tries to squeeze in one last...whatever...before school ends. It is the culmination of a lot of work from the teachers, and the kids, and the parents, and it is downright overwhelming. There's quite honestly too much to be done each day...

It is showing in the frayed edges of relationships around our home. I've lost my grip on my temper more than I wish. The child is struggling. We are struggling together.

So sorry to end the alphabet on a low note, but I know I'm not the only one.The cool thing is most endings are followed by new beginnings. Z is for zapped and A is for Anticipating.. So hang in there, to all of my fellow zappees.

To see more zany and Z posts, click here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Digest 44...

...which I'm writing on Wednesday. Yeah...tough week. Actually I played a lot last weekend and I'm kind of paying for it now. Anyway - here are the coolest, most inspirational, most informative, most heart-tugging posts that I've found in my Internet roving over the last few weeks. Please enjoy and be sure to tell them you found them through The Simple Life.

1) This piece on waves from kidz pretty much sums up where I've been for the last four years or so. I'm learning to find treasures amid the surf.

2) As usual, Varda at Squashed Bologna nails it again with her piece about words. Varda is responding to the story about the father who planted a microphone on his son to find out what was happening to him during school. He discovered that his son's instructional staff were being verbally abusive to the children in his special needs classroom - children who often do not have the verbal abilities to tell their parents that something very wrong is happening. It's every special needs parent's worst nightmare. Yes, words are powerful.

3) I love reading Laura Shumaker's blog. Her book A Regular Guy was particularly meaningful to me because we live in the same area and I could relate to so much of her story from her son's early days. I also love reading about how Matthew is doing now as an adult with autism. On the one hand it's hard to hear that he is still struggling. On the other hand it's kind of encouraging to know that this is a long process and it's okay that we haven't figured everything out already.

4) Autism & Oughtisms post about words and rhetoric is also important, and kind of what I was trying to say here, but as usual said with more precision by A&O.

5) There have been a lot of mommy wars out there lately: tiger moms, working moms, stay at home moms, attachment parenting moms, blah blah blah. Katy at Bird on the Street says she is "Just a Mom" and that's plenty. I agree.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review - Bedtime for Little Bears!

Do you know anyone who doesn't think bedtime is for them? When my kids resist bedtime I always think it's kind of ironic, because these days I would LOVE to go to bed when they do and sleep as much as they do. They don't know how good they've got it! Bedtime for Little Bears by David Bedford is our latest "free from the public library" treasure.

Mama Bear has help for all of us. Little Bear doesn't want to sleep either, but Mama knows best. She takes him for a little walk "to see who else is going to bed." Between the dimming lights and the whispering owl feathers little bear doesn't stand a chance. Mama Bear patiently leads Little Bear around to visit the snow hares (where he takes a bath and watches the stars come out) the arctic foxes (where he declares that he does like a good snuggle) and the orcas (lullabies anyone?) At last they circle back to their warm den, and by the time Mama Bear bestows a good night kiss, Little Bear is fast asleep.

I can't guarantee the sleepy time powers of this book with your children, but I can tell you that it takes my rambunctious little ones down a notch or two. If nothing else it reminds me that patience and some creativity will get us through our routine more effectively than nagging and complaining. Mama Bear is such a good example of co-regulation.

I can also tell you that you will love the artwork in this book. Caroline Pedler has captured the elegance of all of the animals, and the stark but beautiful surroundings of the arctic. The colors of the sky are particularly stunning. My favorite scene is the aurora borealis, which I've never seen in person, but love to see in art and photos.

Check it out. I think you'll agree that this book makes a great addition to your bedtime story library.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dealing with Anxiety (Yours)

I have struggled off and on with anxiety for most of my adult life. I worried a lot as a kid, too, but my supportive and loving Christian parents helped keep it in check. When I left home to attend college the things and people I had relied on to stay strong were removed and I felt quite alone in facing my fears. There were days that I would come home from class and lay on my bed completely paralyzed by fear. I couldn't even put my finger on what exactly I was afraid of most of the time. It was hard, but I learned a lot about myself and my faith in the process. I still probably worry more than I should. When my kids get sick I tend to think it might be the worst scenario (like vicarious hypochondria?) but over the years I've learned a lot of tools that help me keep an even keel.

Keep good company - When my anxiety first flared it was so overwhelming that I didn't want to be around people, but I soon learned that being around good friends helped me feel stronger. It was really important to be around the right people, though. Some people caused more anxiety than they cured. Others meant well, but their words sometimes left me feeling guilty for feeling the way I did, or even that things might get worse rather than better. There were a few good souls who might say very little, but just by being with me would help me calm down.

Fill your mind with scripture - There are a lot of great verses that help us turn our worries over to the Lord. Meditate on these. Memorize them. When your chest gets tight repeat them until you feel God's peace wash over you. I've listed a few verses below, but a good Study Bible (or a judicious Google search) will turn up many more that you may find helpful.
  • Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)
  • Psalm 37:3-6 (NIV) Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
  • Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Pour out your heart in prayer - I always found journaling and writing out my prayers to be the most useful way to get my thoughts, fears, and worries in order. Simply naming the monster was really helpful. My kids reminded me of this the other day when they asked me before bedtime what color monsters are. I asked them what color they thought they were, and they said brown, and were promptly ready for bed. There's no way to be sure, but I think if I had not answered their question, or if I had dismissed their worry, or even planted my own monster's color in their head the conversation could have led to a protracted discussion, and maybe even nightmares. By letting them name the color I gave them control over the monster. When you can name your monsters at the throne of God, He will give you the strength you need to face them head on.

Find a healthy outlet - In college I started making digital art on one of my friend's computers. Pre-twins I was exercising three times a week. Now, I write. Find something that helps you feel productive, energized, and hopeful. It is hard for worry and hope to exist in the same mind. Do some art, take a walk, bake, find a service project, knit. Whatever you do, make sure it helps you feel better.

Get help - There are times when anxiety goes from being an emotional problem to being a medical problem. Right after my husband and I were married my anxiety was so deep that I couldn't function well. Doing the laundry was overwhelming, and I felt like I was coming apart at the seams. I knew I couldn't go on like this, so first I made an appointment with my doctor. He ordered a bunch of tests to rule out physical causes, and eventually prescribed anti-anxiety medication. I took them to give myself the mental space I needed to figure out what was triggering the anxiety so that I could overcome it. My next step was to find a Biblical counselor - she helped me get to the spiritual roots of what was causing my anxiety (in my case there were lots of people that I was harboring resentment toward, 20 years worth of bitterness, ouch). The habits I learned in my counseling helped me improve my thought life and gradually I was able to wean myself off of the medication. I know for other people anxiety is an on-going medical challenge and medication is necessary for them to function every day. I believe God gave us medicine, and that we should use it wisely to help us do what we need to do. Don't put off getting professional help if you're in over your head. The sooner you start the sooner you can begin to truly enjoy life again.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jesus' Storybook

My children love a good story. We read stories every night, and it is one of the incentives for getting through the not so fun parts of bedtime. They each get to pick a book. They often race to see who will get to pick first. We restock often from the library, but they love to read their favorites over and over again. I was pondering this a few weeks back and decided that I need to make a special effort to introduce them to some of the greatest stories ever told, by the greatest Storyteller.

Many of the examples of Jesus' teaching that we find in the New Testament are in the form of stories called parables. Jesus used real life, common to His culture and time period experiences to explain eternal truths. I'm starting to find each of these stories and learn more about who was listening, where they were, and what Jesus said about each story. The stories might require some explanation to a modern day western culture individual, but the Truth will still apply. I am excited to look at these with my kids, so I thought I would share them with you, too.

The first recorded parable told by Jesus happens at the end of what we call the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching His disciples at a place called the Mount of Olives, and a crowd of people gathered around to hear what He had to say. Space does not permit a full recap of the whole sermon here, but it is the essence of Jesus' teaching on how His disciples should live their lives. Quintessential verses that are widely known and frequently quoted even in secular society come from these passages:
  • Blessed are the meek
  • Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No,' 'No'
  • Turn the other cheek
  • Don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing
  • The Lord's (Model) Prayer - "Our Father..."
  • Casting pearls before swine
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (The Golden Rule)...
...just to name a few. See Matthew 5:1-7:29 to read the full text. Much of what Jesus had to say was radically different from the religious leaders of that day. In that context, Jesus closes with a sermon illustration, the parable of the wise and foolish builders:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)
One builder chooses a solid foundation and the other chooses convenience, but they both have a choice. Neither structure is immune to trouble - they both get wracked by what sounds like the storm of the century. One structure comes through unscathed and the other is destroyed. The analogy Jesus draws for us is to those who hear His teaching and make their choice of what to do with it. Those who choose to obey are like the wise builder who chose to dig down to the bedrock to tie in his foundation. The obedient will experience trouble, but will come through with their integrity. Those who choose not to obey are like the corner-cutting contractor who settles for a foundation on sandstone. When trouble comes they will not stand.

It is clear from this that Jesus expects us to take all of those radical ideas that He taught and put them into practice. This is wisdom according to Jesus' Storybook.

Matthew 7:21-29, Luke 6:46-49, Mark 1:22


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