Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Montessori Failed Our Autistic Son

It's almost the time of year when parents start looking at alternative school options for their kids.  I know we started this research around this time, last year, ourselves.  There's so much to check out that it can become a daunting task, and one in which you may desperately desire to get an unbiased opinion about the school, teachers and IF it's going to be a good fit for your child.

Our son is high functioning on the autism spectrum.  Not Aspergers, mind you, but high functioning with a normal IQ.  He has behaviors that go hand in hand with autism, like ADHD, some sensory issues, and anxiety.  If you're the parent of a child who's on the spectrum, you'll already understand that there's no one-size fits all for our kiddos.  Just like each of them have specific needs, each of them require specific environments to help enrich their over-all education/socialization needs.

I have been homeschooling my son since Kindergarten.  Our public school options back in California meant that he would be "resourced" for most of his academics.  Meaning he would be pulled out of his mainstream classroom to a resource/special education room with other kids who had learning disabilities.  It sounds doable on one level, but with all the education budget cuts that had taken place, we were left with one special education teacher, a big resource room, and several kids who performed on a variety of levels academically.  After hearing the odds that appeared to be stacked against him in public education, we chose to home school. 

Upon moving to Tennessee, I spent countless hours researching schools, both public and private. I liked that we lived in a county that promoted inclusive education; meaning they would keep kids with special needs in the mainstream class with the help of an aide, as long as they were able to stay up with the class and not disrupt the learning environment with behaviors.  Tricky, since I knew he was going to be anxious going from a one-on-one learning mode to having 30 other kids in class.  And, like many homeschoolers already know, we're pretty laid back about needing to use the restroom, asking questions, talking, and even getting up and roaming the house if need be.  Staying on task with a kid on the spectrum many times means going out of the box with options to bring them back into a focused state.  Traditional classrooms can't function like this, obviously. 

It was at this point we started researching alternative education options.  We were told by our new therapist that if he got more socialization opportunities, it would help in his over-all social development.  Not really understanding how we would facilitate this growth from the outside looking in, we delved into looking at feasible options.  And by feasible I also mean affordable.  Let's face it, private schools, especially the ones that would have staff who knew special ed, are expensive.  I kept telling myself. "we can't put a price tag on anything that would help (our son)."  But really, there are some wonderful schools out there that would take me going back to a full time nursing job just to pay the tuition.  While that wasn't off the table, entirely, we found what we thought might be a good and affordable alternative: Montessori!

There's some good information written about the Montessori method of learning, and how it helps kids who learn differently. There are good write ups on how Montessori allows kids to learn at their own speed, never pushing them to a level of anxiety, but also taking into consideration the whole child.  It sounded lovely!  It sounded too good to be true. And for us, it was.

I'm not here to bash Montessori schools.  Just like in any other alternative education environment, there are good fits and bad fits.  I'm just writing to tell you that not all assumed good fits will actually pan out. 

First, you must know that if your child is NOT self motivated, this may not be a good learning environment for him.  There are some kids who love the idea of learning and who can't get enough knowledge.  Our son, if given the choice of playing or reading will always-without hesitation-choose playing!  Plus he's smart enough to see when teachers try to combine the two, and will (and did) balk at the whole idea!  This particular learning environment increased his anxiety, caused him to wander the halls (because that's evidently ok with this particular school) and take many 20 minute bathroom breaks.  His teacher, who supposedly came with a degree in teaching special education, handed my son off to a teacher's aide, who had NO experience with autism and who was left frazzled at the end of the day from not having the necessary skills to effectively communicate with him. 

I think what I became the most irate about, was that Montessori gives the kids about a 6 week time frame to "adjust" to their new surroundings.  That makes sense.  But what does not make sense is that they NEVER ONCE communicated with either myself or my husband about our son's personal transition, his behaviors, or their concerns.  Hey, if it "takes a village", maybe bringing in mom and dad as part of the equation might be a good idea???  Just a thought...

In the end, my son didn't like going to school and they didn't feel like they could meet his needs.  Mostly because the teacher's aide decided that she no longer wanted to work full time.  It was a disaster! Our only experience was one of resentment, anger and frustration.  Our son, who gained absolutely NO SOCIALIZATION skills from this awful experience was brought back home, and I'm once again home schooling him.  He's now a happy, well behaved child...who has many friends and playmates.

Socialization is something that is better serviced when parents can get involved anyway.  People, even mutli-degreed professionals, who tell you differently do not always have your child's best interest in mind. 

Parents, you KNOW your own child.  His gifts, his limitations, his needs and his potential.  Think very stongly before entrusting your precious child to an educator or learning institution that sells you on the fact they are a perfect fit for your child.  Maybe they are!  But pray for discernment and then trust that inner voice!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm So Thankful that Mary said, "Yes"...

Growing up Catholic, I remember a lot of emphasis being placed on the importance of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Yes, in some ways I felt that there was a sort of worship of Mary that was expected. Biblically, I disagree that anyone except the Trinity is worthy of worship.  But now that I'm an Evangelical Christian--a bit non-denominational mixed with a sprinkling of Protestant seasoning-- I am saddened that many in the church want to totally ignore the importance that Mary played in the whole scheme of salvation.  She's much more than what many give her credit as being.  Like it or not, she was the mother of the Lord Jesus, the Christ.

We must remember that Mary said "YES".  She was a sinner, just like you or I.  She needed a Savior, just like we do.  But she had a choice when she was approached by the Angel Gabriel that fateful day.  She could have chosen the path that was a lot easier. Mary, a young girl, who knew that she would have been questioned about infidelity and her lack of chastity the rest of her life (which unlike today was a pretty serious offense, punishable by stoning), chose without too much hesitation to be the handmaiden of the Lord.  She chose to give up the social comforts that living under the radar of public scrutiny would have afforded her.  All this because she loved God, and trusted Him. And remember, God chose HER, too.  Out of all women, He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus!

If you were approached today by a Heavenly messenger, and asked to do something for God that would take your life off of its current course; knowing that what you were asked to do would bless others but make your life a lot harder...how would you answer that calling?

We must also remember that Mary, yes 100% human, deserves our respect as the mother of Jesus.  She was not merely a vessel, anymore than I was a vessel for my own children.  I am their mother.  Mother's know their children's hearts. They stay up at night with them when they're sick.  They wipe their tears when they fall or have a heartbreak.  They put the needs of their children ahead of their own, and love them unconditionally--and forever.  Now, imagine you are the mother of Jesus.  Knowing prophecy, and knowing that He would have to die save the world; That his purpose for coming to Earth was that of the perfect sacrificial lamb for the whole world's sins.  Can you imagine what she must have held deep in her heart?  As a mother of two sons, I can only partially imagine...but even just imagining, it's too painful.

While I choose to not worship Mary as a deity of any kind, I respect her so much!  I love her so much!  And one day, when I get to Heaven, I hope to tell her how grateful I am that she said, YES.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Important to You is the Issue of Faith When Choosing a President?

If you live in the United States of America, you’re aware that we have a Presidential election coming up next November. You’re probably keenly aware of this fact due to the mudslinging that has already started among the Presidential contenders. And sadly, it’s only just begun!


It can be argued that a candidate’s character, and world view is just as important as where they stand on fiscal and social issues. Maybe even more so. As Christians, we are supposed to see, speak and act in accordance to our relationship with God. We seek future leaders who live in that same accordance, and who do not bare false witness against their neighbor. That’s a biggie if you watch any of the debates!

This particular election cycle has brought on discussions of individual faith, and for some, a deep concern about what a candidate’s faith might mean to their Presidency.

When John Kennedy ran for the Presidency against Richard Nixon in 1960, there was a deep anxiety in the country about his Roman Catholic heritage and the potential for clerical intrusion into presidential decision making. What did Kennedy do during the closing weeks of the campaign to allay the fears of Christian and other voters who were not Roman Catholic?

On September 12, 1960, Kennedy addressed 300 Protestant ministers of the Houston Ministerial Association. He made three major points: he believed in an America where separation of church and state is absolute; no religious body should impose its beliefs on the general populace or the public acts of its officials; his decisions as president would be based on good public policy, not sectarian doctrine. The key sentence was:

“I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters - and the Church does not speak for me.”

Some 50 years after that address, President Kennedy’s words are still being debated among church leaders and political candidates. A big question that’s still being debated is, did Kennedy separate himself from his Christian/Catholic faith so much, that it made it clear that whatever decisions he would face as President would not be influenced by that faith?

Many feel that Kennedy, in his speech, did not necessarily divorce faith or the Christian frame of reference from the public square; rather, he rejected claims of church authority upon his conscience and the public interest. He said:

“But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”

Just how important is it to you that the President’s character and all decisions once in office be shaped by their world view? Please take a moment to think about this one: Can an honest, fair, person of integrity, without a personal faith in God successfully hold the office of President of the United States?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Survival Tips

I love Christmastime!  The lights and decorations are magical. There is a brotherly love that fills the air. The kids are all behaving nicely because "Santa Claus is watching"... and to that genius who invented Elf on the Shelf-- I love you! Yes it's our feel-good time of the year.  But, the holidays can also be some of the most stressful times as well.

We may be forced to celebrate this time of year with people who we may not even want to be in the same room with.  Yes, sometimes we are related to these knuckleheads, and sometimes they are our co-workers.  Either way, how does one get through a holiday party without starting World War III?

Simple.  Hold your tongue!

There will be ample time after the holidays to confront your nasty brother.  If it's a co-worker that rubs you the wrong way, the last thing you need to do is start something that will end you up in the human resources department on Monday...having to explain your way out!

Another simple rule:  If you lose your inhibitions to tell the world what you REALLY think of them at 2 glasses of wine... only allow yourself ONE glass.

Keep this holiday season focused on what we are truly celebrating; the anticipation and celebration of our Savior's birth!  Oh yeah... and that whole "Peace on Earth" thing, too!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why DO We Call it Christmas, anyway???


It's Christmastime! Buck Denver and his friends are starring in a brand new DVD, "Buck Denver Asks, Why Do We Call it Christmas?" --And you're going to love it!
While most Christmas shows are entertaining, only Phil and his friends can pull off being  “edutaining”.  I know that’s not a real word– so don’t try it on Words With Friends– but I can’t think of a better word to describe this incredibly entertaining and super educational Christmas show.  Phil Vischer explains it beautifully during his intro to the show when he says, “We all know the Christmas Story, but do we really know the story of Christmas?”  
   
As the show begins, we find Buck Denver feeling a little confused about why there are so many holiday traditions tied into celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Why do we drag trees into our homes and decorate them? Where did the tradition of hanging stockings by the fire come from? Why is Santa Claus even a part of Jesus’ birthday, anyway?  With the help of Sunday School Lady and Marcie, Buck sends out invites to all of his friends, hoping they can make it to his cabin in Indiana for a Christmas party.  Along the way, we see that it’s not only Buck who’s a little confused about where all the different Christmas traditions have come from.
You and your kids will truly appreciate how lovingly accurate each of these sometimes tricky questions are handled.  As you’ve come to expect from What’s in the Bible?, this show is witty, heart-warming and just plain fun to watch! And of course, the kids will get a beautiful lesson about the birth of Jesus–the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas! Look for some great new songs mingled together with some of your traditional holiday favorites.
I personally appreciated that kids with sensory integration issues won’t find this DVD overly stimulating, like some popular shows on TV. The songs aren’t obnoxiously loud with a lot of percussion and the movement of the characters is well regulated and not jerky or rapid.  The colors are bright and the story will hold their attention.  For the kiddos who love facts, this DVD is a goldmine!
If your family’s like mine, you probably already have a nice-sized Christmas movie library.  You’ll definitely want to add this DVD to your collection! It’s one that can be enjoyed by the whole family throughout the season!
I'm giving away a copy of, "Buck Denver Asks, Why Do We Call it Christmas?" For a chance to win this DVD, in the comment section below tell me what it is you love the most about Phil Vischer's newest series, "What's in the Bible?" If you haven't seen the series yet... just say that.  Winner will be randomly selected on Friday, November 24. 
Why Do We Call It Christmas? is now available in the WITB online store or in your local Christian bookstore.
I was given a copy of this DVD in order to review it. I have received no other compensations for this blog post. All opinions written here are mine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Loss of a Child...When We Can't Explain the WHY.

I'm sitting at my son's tutorial and have just found out that last week one of the dear ladies who works here had to fly back to her daughter's home because while she was supposed to give birth last Friday, she instead found out that the baby had died in utero.  Perfectly formed, no illness.  This baby was called back home to Heaven before ever experiencing this world.

Heartbreak.  It's sometimes--many times-- unexplainable.  Why would God allow such heartbreak in the lives of those He loves?  I wish I knew the answers to those types of questions.  All I know for sure is that His plan is greater than what my mind can comprehend.  All I can do is love those who suffer, and pray for their broken hearts to be mended.  Pray that the Holy Spirit miraculously bestow on them peace and joy even if it seems an impossibility to receive such gifts during the middle of their personal storm.

This story makes me think of the loss that Steven Curtis Chapman's family suffered a few years back.  When their precious five year old daughter was accidentally run over and killed in their own driveway.  The gift that came from that loss was a story of God's healing mercies on this family.  Their personal story and even a beautiful song written and sung by Chapman, continues to be a blessing to so many other families who are in the midst of loss.  Whether it was through illness or accident, the loss of a child must me unimaginable.  Insurmountable--without the healing mercies of our God.

Today I'm praying for all the parents out there who are struggling with the loss of their precious child.  In Steven Curtis Chapman's song, "Heaven is the Face...", he uses lyrics which touch the very heart of all of us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Talk to Your Kids About Being Bullied--copied from my post in What's in the Bible

My latest post in www.whatsinthebible.com:


Some people may think that bullying is just a part of growing up.  There’s always going to be that mean kid who torments those of us who are different in some way.  But the truth is that no one should have to suffer through bullying.  Our kids need to know that they can come to us if they are feeling threatened and that we will do something about it.
I write this blog as a mom, not a medical expert, but I believe that talking with our kids is a vital first step in considering how we are going to handle their very personal questions and emotions.  Even if our own kids aren’t the bully’s target, they may have heard or witnessed things that make them fearful. Begin by listening to your child.  Let him/ her tell their story. Remember that there will probably be emotional pain about the way they or a friend is being treated. Their feelings, fears and emotions need to be validated.
To be effective advocates, parents need to react to the knowledge that their child is a bully’s target in a way that encourages the child to trust them.  Projecting displaced anger or throwing out negative judgmental comments will only make them feel more isolated. Asking them why they didn’t stand up to the bully might stop any communication in its tracks!  Believe them and support them.  Tell them that it is not their fault and that they do not deserve to be bullied.  Empower the child by reminding them how special he/ she is, Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Be patient, because children may not be ready to open up to you right away.  Talking about the bullying may be very difficult.  There could be fear about retaliation from the bully.  The child might be feeling insecure, withdrawn, frightened or ashamed.  Give them the time they need to share what’s going on.
Parents can educate their child about bullying by providing information at a level that the child can understand.  A good site that may be a useful resource is www.stopbullying.gov   This site has some good information that can be shared with kids! Parents can also talk to their kids about workable options in dealing with bullying behavior.
For parents who have younger kids or kids with special needs and who suspect that there might be a bullying issue going on, here are some questions that might get conversation started:
·         How was the bus ride today?
·         Who did you sit next to today at lunch?
·         I notice that you seem to be feeling sick a lot and wanting to stay home. Please tell me about that.
·         Are kids making fun of you?
·         Has anyone touched you in a way that did not feel right?
·         Did the child hurt you on purpose?
·         Was it done more than once?
·         Did they make you feel bad or angry?
·         Is the other child (more powerful, bigger, scarier…) than you in some way?
(Adapted from “Your Child: Bully or Victim”, Peter Sheras, Ph.D., 2002)
For older kids, talking about recent events in the news or bullying incidents on TV or in a movie might help lead them into discussion about how they are feeling.
The first step in understanding the emotional, physical or psychological effects bullying is having on our kids is starting a conversation with them and listening to them. All the while reassuring them how much we love and value them as individuals. Praying with them daily will also help empower them with the knowledge that God loves them completely and perfectly as they are– and how very important they are to Him. Everyday, when I drop my kids off at school, I pray for angelic protection to be like a hedge around them.  Prayer is an essential part of our role as parents, and knowing that God’s abundant grace is ever-present fills me and my children with the biggest sense of peace.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Just a Token Name...or Is It?

I was that kid who was lucky enough to have such great friends growing up, I called their parent's "mom" and "dad".  I thought of it as a title of endearment, and I threw it around sort of casually.  It felt a little less uppity than referring to my friends' parents as "Mr." or "Mrs."  But should the titles "mother" or "father" be used so casually?

After losing my dad back in 2009, my whole world turned upside down.  How could I ever call another person "dad" when they would all pale in comparison to the man who was my life-long hero?  No matter how old I got, I was his "little princess".  I was "mijita linda".  He was my daddy...  and I only had ONE daddy.

So now that I've experienced this great loss, I've come to realize that I can't ever again call another man, "dad".  I can never again call another woman, "mom".  I have been blessed with two fabulous parents, who have loved me unconditionally.  No one else who would be given token titles of "mom" or "dad" could ever fill their shoes...ever.

This is just my personal realization, and I by no means think everyone else should follow what I've chosen to do.  But for me, I choose to only refer to "mom" and "dad" when speaking about the two people who God chose to be my parents!

Friday, October 21, 2011

VeggieTales Double GIVEAWAY and A Review of The Little Drummer Boy


One of my favorite children's series of all time is VeggieTales.  I've trusted the makers of these sweet shows for the last 13 years, and I've never been disappointed in their approach to teaching Christian values through entertainment! It's my pleasure to tell you a little about their newest release.


This Christmas season you'll want to be sure to pick up your copy of VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy! This is a heartwarming story, that retells the classic made-for-TV version, from 1968.  Inspired by the Biblical story of Jesus' birth and Based on Ephesians 4:32, which says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” this DVD offers a timeless message of hope, generosity and love during the holiday season.  Reminding us all to ask ourselves, "What gifts can I bring to the newborn King??" You'll also love hearing multi-Grammy and Dove Award-winning artists BeBe and CeCe Winans singing their version of the iconic “The Little Drummer Boy” song. Some new songs written for this production are, “Can’t Smile Without Ewe,” and the newly animated, classic Veggie Christmas song, “The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas."



In this Veggie-version of a holiday classic, Junior Asparagus stars as The Little Drummer Boy, a lonely child who finds the true meaning of Christmas when he stumbles upon the birth of the baby Jesus. It's great to see so many of our favorite Veggie characters back on the screen! Bob the Tomato, Pa Grape, Mr. Nezzar, Archibald and Mr. Lunt join Larry, Junior and many more of your favorite Veggies in this wonderful family story. This DVD can be purchased online at www.veggietales.com (with free delivery for orders over $30) or at your local Walmart or Christian bookstore! 

The Little Drummer Boy DVD Bonus Features:
  • Trailer for VeggieTales' spring 2012 new release, Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men
  • Little Drummer Boy music video
  • Visit a drum factory with Junior
  • Behind the music of The Little Drummer Bot
  • Family Activity - Make your own drum
  • Singalong songs



Looking for some great new Christmas music to add to your holiday collection?  O Holy Night: Journey of a Little Drummer Boy CD

Features never-before released on CD songs from Amy Grant & Matthew West, Steven Curtis Chapman, and BeBe & CeCe Winans! 
Order your CD at: www.veggietales.com
 
Here are the tracks you'll get on this fab CD:
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • Do You Hear What I Hear
  • It's About Love - featuring Wynonna Judd 
  • Can't Smile Without Ewe
  • Meant to Be - featuring Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Silent Night
  • What Child is This / The First Noel
  • Give This Christmas Away - featuring Amy Grant & Matthew West 
  • Oh Holy Night 
  • Away In A Manger
  • The Little Drummer Boy - featuring BeBe and CeCe Winans
  • Please let me know if you would like to receive this  
If you're looking for a great way to show your kids how they can truly make a difference in the lives of others throughout the world this Christmas, VeggieTales' and World Vision are once again teaming up this year! World Vision’s Gift Catalog offers goats, chickens, clean water and more than 100 other unique and meaningful gifts that provide love, hope and joy to children and families in need. Selecting and giving gifts is a way to for families to make the message of VeggieTales: The Little Drummer Boy come alive in their homes this giving season, while providing others with the tools they need to break free from poverty. To learn more about the partnership and the Gift Catalog, visit www.VeggieTales.com/WorldVision 

I'm giving away a copy of The Little Drummer Boy DVD AND a copy of O Holy Night: Journey of a Little Drummer Boy CD to two separate winners!  

To enter to win simply tell me who your favorite VeggieTales character is, and why. Two winners will be randomly selected on October 26. No "anonymous" entries, please.

Disclosure: I received copies of VeggieTales:The Little Drummer Boy DVD and O Holy Night:Journey of a Little Drummer Boy CD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Opinions on this blog, as always, are my own. LS

 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dancing With the Stars...or those who for some unknown reason hold the title of "Star"

I used to really like the ABC show, Dancing With the Stars, that is until they ran out of actual "stars".  This season, for example, we are watching the brother of three semi-famous women--who are famous for no apparent reason; the child of an actual HUGE star who has no real claim to fame himself other than a sex change operation; a handful of B actors, a news correspondent and a war hero.  All arguably great people, mind you... but 'stars'? No. 

So what are we really watching?  It would be nice to have this contest based solely on a...dancing competition.  That would be the entertaining caveat that would also make sense.  Instead we are watching a popularity contest unfold each week.  And what's worse, we are watching a public service announcement, based on such things as sexual preference, marriage rights, and politics.  It cheapens the whole experience.  Kinda sad.

Dancers are people I admire greatly! I'm not a dancer, and I'd love to watch non-dancers work their butts off (literally) and improve a skill which they never knew they even possessed.  But, that alone doesn't make for good TV, and it certainly isn't going to increase their social media presence!

I guess what we learned so painfully in high school might really be true; It's all about popularity--not the amount of effort or perseverance we put into action.  Because in this age of social media, he who has the most tweeples has the biggest voice, the most votes and therefore is the most influential---I mean the BEST dancer. Makes sense. Talent is so passe.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

REVIEW: What's in the Bible-- Buck Denver Asks Why Do We Call it Christmas


Ok folks! It’s time to take out the Snuggies, light a fire, pop some corn and make a batch of hot cocoa…it’s Christmastime in October!! Buck Denver and his pals are starring in a brand new Christmas DVD!–Buck Denver Asks Why Do We Call It Christmas? — and you’re going to love it!
While most Christmas shows are entertaining, only Phil and his friends can pull off being  “edutaining”.  Ok, I know that’s not a real word– so don’t try it on Words With Friends– but I can’t think of a better word to describe this incredibly entertaining and super educational Christmas show.  Phil Vischer explains it beautifully during his intro to the show when he says, “We all know the Christmas Story, but do we really know the story of Christmas?”     
As the show begins, we find Buck Denver feeling a little confused about why there are so many holiday traditions tied into celebrating Jesus’ birthday. Why do we drag trees into our homes and decorate them? Where did the tradition of hanging stockings by the fire come from? Why is Santa Claus even a part of Jesus’ birthday, anyway?  With the help of Sunday School Lady and Marcie, Buck sends out invites to all of his friends, hoping they can make it to his cabin in Indiana for a Christmas party.  Along the way, we see that it’s not only Buck who’s a little confused about where all the different Christmas traditions have come from.



You and your kids will truly appreciate how lovingly accurate each of these sometimes tricky questions are handled.  As you’ve come to expect from What’s in the Bible?, this show is witty, heart-warming and just plain fun to watch! And of course, the kids will get a beautiful lesson about the birth of Jesus–the REAL reason we celebrate Christmas! Look for some great new songs mingled together with some of your traditional holiday favorites.
I personally appreciated that kids with sensory integration issues won’t find this DVD overly stimulating, like some popular shows on TV. The songs aren’t obnoxiously loud with a lot of percussion and the movement of the characters is well regulated and not jerky or rapid.  The colors are bright and the story will hold their attention.  For the kiddos who love facts, this DVD is a goldmine!
If your family’s like mine, you probably already have a nice-sized Christmas movie library.  You’ll definitely want to add this DVD to your collection! It’s one that can be enjoyed by the whole family throughout the season!
Why Do We Call It Christmas? will be available in the online store at www.whatsinthebible.com or in your local Christian bookstore on October 18.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Today’s Culture Affects Our Teenage Kids

My latest blog post for Jellytelly.com:



As the mother of two boys I’ve not been highly interested in anything about bringing up girls.  Those tidbits of knowledge weren’t anything I needed to know, or so I thought.  I now have a teenage son who is all-of-a-sudden interested in the opposite sex.  You remember the age where personal hygiene, hair style and clothes became important to you?  Well, he’s that age. Girls are still a strange breed to this boy who thinks nothing of burping the alphabet after one good swig of Coke. But he’s now interested in them.  As his mother I take this new interest seriously.  I’ve begun reading books about raising daughters and the affects our culture is having on our girls.  It’s frightening.
It’s no surprise that boys are just as influenced and just as affected by our culture as girls, but it seems that our poor girls have a barrage of mixed messages that are aimed at their very deepest layers of self esteem and self worth. Confusing expectations that our society hands them; expectations that, for a young girl, may be in direct opposition of how she is being raised at home.  Our current culture greatly mirrors that of the sixties and seventies; a sexual AND social revolution idealism that permeates virtually everything they see and hear. It’s the ideology that says “If it feels good, go ahead and do it, because there aren’t any real consequences”, is back! And guess what? It’s no longer an philosophy that only those who live on the fringe of our culture hold as truths.  No, these are the so-called “new truths” that are being presented to our young people.  There is no longer an understood standard of right and wrong, because we have nothing to base that standard upon. When we no longer utilize a Biblical world view to measure our actions, we are left with our “inner feelings” to use as our litmus test against what is right and wrong.  We’re told to leave God out of it.  
Dr. Dobson has written a newsletter recently which tackles what he calls “The River of Culture”.  He specifically speaks about our daughters and the ideas that today’s society is carrying down this river.  These shocking bullet points are straight from his newsletter:
  • Early sexual experience is healthy, and for girls it leads to empowerment!
  • Virginity results from oppression and should be gotten rid of as soon as possible.
  • There are no innate differences between men and women, except for the ability to bear children.  To be truly equal, mean and women should act and think alike.
  • Modesty is old-fashioned and  reflects the oppression of the past.
  • The source of true power for young girls depends on maximizing their sex appeal, and then marketing it in the competition for boys.
Are you as mortified as I was after reading these for the first time? What does this mean for the spiritual and physical health of our young adults?  As a parent, I need to take this all in and seriously ask God for wisdom. I know I can’t keep my son at home sheltered and away from the world.  That was never my intention, anyway.  But what I can do is give him the Truth that comes from God’s Word.  I can go counter-cultural and teach him that sex is a beautiful gift that God (still) intends for a husband and wife, and then assure him that he will never regret preserving that gift for the woman who will one day share his life.  I can teach him to respect all girls and how to treat them as ladies.  Chivalry is not dead in our house! Opening doors, and pulling out chairs for a date may be “old fashioned”, but that’s what he’ll be taught. I can also teach him that the beauty of any woman is something that comes from the inside, not just the outside.  I can remind him to seek out the depth of a person’s heart before sharing his.
Above all else, I will diligently pray daily for him; pray for his discernment in the choices that he must make, and the many obstacles that he must face in the world he lives. We have time before the dating years start, but these are days where talking about the important aspects of building a healthy relationship are vitally important.
  
If you are a parent that is looking for some good reading material on this or a related subject, there are a couple books that Dr. Dobson has recommended:  A Return to Modesty and Girls Gone Mild, by Wendy Shalit; and Prude, by Carol Platt Liebau. Of course there is also Dr. James Dobson’s books, Bringing Up Girls and Bringing Up Boys.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why Are We Christians So Pre-Occupied with Sex?

Boycotts.  The very word sends chills down my spine.  Not the action itself, because I'm all about standing behind social justice issues.  But when there's a boycott wildfire spoken about these days, nine times out of ten it's organized by a Christian organization regarding something to do with sex or a deviant there of.

The newest boycott that is hitting the social media circles is that of Dancing with the Stars, which premiers this coming Monday.  The issue at hand is the transgender son of super-star Cher, Chaz Bono.  Chaz, who was born a girl and named Chastity, always felt as though she was a man trapped inside the body of a woman.  I'm not going to get into biology, because the transgender issue has been made into something that revolves around perversion by those who are calling for this boycott.  Evidently seeing this man dance on stage will glorify a sexual deviant, and therefore add to the demise of the fabric of our society.  I get it. Sort of.  The thing is, according to the Bible--and all of us who claim to live under the NEW LAW, isn't hate and gossip as sinful as any sexual sin?  There are no longer levels of sin.  Jesus died for all of us, remember?  I would assume more people are deeply hurt and therefore turned off of of anything to do with Jesus because of our sin of hate, compounded by simple fear and misunderstanding.

Having a Biblical worldview, I think of sex as a gift that I save and share with only my husband.  But I don't usually spend much time talking to the world or even close friends about my sex life.  And I appreciate those with the same sense of propriety.  On the other hand, the subject of sex is something that doesn't freak me out.  I am not pre-occupied with it.

As the mother of a special needs child, I can assure you that we parents with children who are not part of the norm in society, don't rub our hands together and rejoice.  It's a tough road for all involved.  We have to make sure our kids know they are loved and valued, no matter what the world says to them.  I can only imagine the pain that some parents must be going through, knowing that their children are literally hated because of their sexual orientation.  Hated by people who have quite possibly lied, cheated, killed (through abortion), committed adultery (in action or thought), gossiped, or stolen at some point in their life.  But, you say, these people have repented! Yes, until the next time they are hell bent in causing pain to another person who they fear.  Until they take action that blatantly says, "I hate you AND your sin...because the Bible tells me so!"

That, my friends, is sin.  Driving anyone away from the saving grace of Jesus through our actions is sin.  We are not called to be judges in this way.  We are called to have discernment in action and thought.  We are called to LOVE one another, as Christ loves us.  We do not bring salvation to anyone through hate.  Just the opposite!  My prayer is that we, as Christ followers, be mindful in all of our actions.  If we make one person slip due to our words, that sin is on us.

I know there are going to be a lot of people in my own subclture who are going to be angry at this blog post.  But the hate that we Christians sometimes exude, is so upsetting to my very spirit.  Love like Jesus, and let Him be known to all around you, no matter what size stick they may have in their eye.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

To Home School or Not to Home School; Tough Decisions (What's in the Bible Post)

My post this week in What's in the Bible:


I never thought I’d be a home schooling mom. It wasn’t that I was against the whole philosophy, I just never entertained the thought. My kids went to school, and that was the working-plan for us. So, a few years ago when God put the idea into my head to pull my children out of school and begin homeschooling them… I thought I had lost my mind! I had what I like to refer to as my “Jonah time”, where I would try my best to drown out God’s message to me, not wanting to hear it. It was too big and too scary! I was not equipped! But, like many home schoolers before me, I gave in; I listened and prayed for His direction, wisdom and discernment throughout the process. And then I went absolutely nuts buying curriculum, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t necessarily part of God’s original plan, but I found it a rather satisfying alternative to retail therapy!




For the last four years I have been a home schooling mom. This year, with much prayer and a lot of counsel, we have decided to send our kids back to school– for several reasons. My oldest, who is in the 8th grade, was ready to go back. He desired to have a traditional school experience and was emotionally ready. Two weeks into it, he loves school. He has made a few good friends and he’s even not complained too much about all the homework! Praise God, the transition seems to be going well.



Our youngest son is my biggest issue. He is on the autism spectrum-high functioning, and quite honestly, I feel like I’m at the end of my ability to fulfill ALL of his academic, emotional and social needs. I need help. I need that village! I’m also emotionally burned out and physically tired. Sadly, there is no Christian tutorial or co-op that has opened their arms to my requests of joining and he needs things which I feel I fall short of providing him here at home. We have found a wonderful team of professionals who are helping us through this transition. In all of this I feel God has released me from any guilt in seeking help for my son in either a traditional school environment or even an alternative education venue which can be combined with home schooling. I believe that God brought us to this place to give us these alternatives for my son which I didn’t have back home in California. We still don’t know what direction we’ll take. Sometimes circumstances make decisions tougher than we’d like for them to be.



I’m not alone in making these difficult decisions about my children’s education. There are many other families in our home school communities who simply have to choose a “plan B” for their own personal reasons. I hope all of us have a heart for one another when such important and delicate decisions must be made. For those who are in the midst of making tough decisions about their children’s education, I implore you to guard your hearts and choose your mentors wisely. These are hugely important decisions that must be prayed about before coming to any conclusion one way or another.



I used the words “burned out” to describe a little of what I’m personally feeling. I’m the first to tell you that burn-out alone is not a reason to stop homeschooling, if you feel that the Lord is still calling you into this ministry. In fact, let’s be honest, we have all had the Mommy-Homeschool-Burnout!! It’s a real thing, and if you’re feeling like you just can’t go on with what God is asking of you, then please know you aren’t alone! I know school is just starting, and I know that you feel you should be at the top of your game right now. But maybe you haven’t recovered from last school year. Or maybe you sense that you’re already on the verge of burn-out. If you’re like me and think you can hide those symptoms from your kiddos, I’m here to tell you they can see that you are on the edge of losing it. Plus, really, it’s not fair to them. The questions are, what are the symptoms of burn out?–And what can I do to help myself get through this?



I found this article very insightful! Take some time to read over it and share with us what you found helpful. Or maybe some of the home school veterans can share with us what has worked for them!



During my days as a home schooling mom, I lacked adequate support. I belonged to local support groups, but felt like no one really was being honest about dealing with the downside of home schooling. (Gasp…there’s a downside???) I couldn’t go there and honestly seek sisterly counsel. We all need that place! Where we’re living now, things may be different. Home schooling is looked at differently in the South–in the heart of the Bible Belt. But for those of you who might be living on the “fringe” in parts of the country where the home schooled kids mustn’t be heard or seen until 3:00PM, in order to avoid a potential visit from the truant officer, I encourage you to find or even form a support group. A safe (kidless) place where you can talk openly about the struggles, joys, fears, successes and failures that you have to deal with on a daily basis.



I think it’s obvious that any of us who have made the life altering decision to close the door (even if it’s only for a short season) on traditional education and have opted to home school our kids, do so with their best interest at heart. This is not an easy life choice. There is no personal glory. No one is going to give you the kudos you deserve. But that comes with many decisions that are counter-cultural. And for that reason, while my own story may make some angry that I’ve “given up” or “sold out”… I hope to encourage each of you wonderful home schooling moms (or dads) today! Stay focused on the Lord, and let Him be your strength. Oh, yeah…and, you totally ROCK!



**And parents, you who choose to go the route of traditional education because it’s the best fit for the needs of your own kids–you ROCK, too! What we ALL must remember is that whatever we parents do, it’s all about the kids! Education should always start and end with God’s Word in the home of any Christ follower.



Proverbs 6:20-23 “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.”



Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jesus is Returning...Someday (Jelly Telly Post)

This is my latest blog post for http://www.jellytelly.com/ :

What were your first thoughts when you heard that there was a 5.8 earthquake two days ago, centered in Virginia and felt along the entire Eastern Seaboard? For most of us an earthquake centered somewhere like California wouldn’t cause us to think anything “strange” was occurring. But minutes following the earthquake, many took to Facebook and Twitter to make comments about this significant event, and more than just a few made mention of Matthew 24:7 “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”


Of course this isn’t the only Doomsday talk that is circling the media. Earlier this year, Harold Camping announced that the Rapture would take place on a certain day at an exact hour–which obviously didn’t occur. He has since tweaked his ‘prophecy‘ and has come up with a new date! Then there is the famed Mayan Calendar showing that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Hollywood has even gotten on this bandwagon! While most adults can hear these predictions and usually put little credence in them, how does the Doomsday talk affect our kids?


Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, who was interviewed by ABC News about the affects of Doomsday predictions on kids, was quoted as saying “It depends on how your children absorb media,” If they’re plunked down in front of the TV hearing ‘the end of the world’ a bunch of times and then seeing photos of the Missouri tornadoes, it may come together in their minds as something real and scary. Kids of preschool age have a hard time determining reality from non-reality and their imaginations are on fire.”


As a Christ follower who looks forward to the day when I can see my Savior face to face, I understand the excitement that many of us feel when we think prophetic Scripture is being played out. That being said, I don’t think we need to dwell on WHEN Jesus will return, because He made it clear that no one knows the exact hour, except God the Father. As parents, a good way to prevent getting caught up in the ‘end of the world’ frenzy and causing undue anxiety in our families, is to simply remember that we are called to stay ready for that glorious day when Jesus does return! But what does it mean to “stay ready”? And how do we instill that consistent righteous behavior in our kids?



Jesus answers this question by using an illustration from everyday life. Suppose a master is going away for a while. He entrusts responsibility for managing his household to one of his servants. A foolish servant would use the master’s absence as an opportunity to abuse the other servants while indulging his base appetites with too much food and drink, all on the master’s ticket. When the master returns unexpectedly, the foolish servant will be punished for his abusive and wasteful behavior.


In contrast to the foolish servant, Jesus explains: Luke 12:42-43 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.” The wise servant was ready for his master’s return, not because he spent his efforts trying to project the time of that return, but because he did well what the master had given him to do.


We’ll be ready for Jesus to come back if we bear witness to him in word and in deed, generously sharing the good news of the kingdom, the blessings God has entrusted to us, and even how the Lord is working in our own lives. I will be fully ready for the return of my Master when I am intentionally following him in every avenue of my life. As for our children, once they get to an age of reason, teaching them the idea of repentance and instructing them, how to personally ask Jesus into their hearts is also something that we can to do to help them stay ready for His imminent return. And if Jesus doesn’t return in our earthly lifetimes, we have the hope, given to us by His Spirit, that we will see Him face to face in the next life! What joy to know that no matter what, we will be reunited with our Master!



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NYC Day 3

On our third day in the city, Dave and I took the "divide and conquer" approach.  Davey and I got up early-ish and headed uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We both quickly discovered that there would be no way we'd see everything we wanted to during this trip!  What a huge, and wonderful place to get lost inside!!  I think my son took a million pictures, ran his camera battery down to nothing, then took my iPhone to take more pictures--running my battery down to nil!  It was a definite "hit" with my little historian.

That same morning Joey wanted to go to the Toys R Us located in Times Square, because they have an indoor ferris wheel!  What fun!  Dave and Joe did the toy store thing and then met up with Davey and I at Serendipity 3 for lunch and dessert.

Ok, Dave and I had lunch.  The kids, being on vacation mode, decided that life was way too short to NOT have dessert first!  Each of them had a huge sundae for lunch-- I know, bad parenting!!  But, yeah, you DO only live once!

Very full tummies and the *obvious addition of triptophan to the ice cream products, caused us to head back to the hotel for a little while to rest and digest.  Then we were off again for the Statue of Liberty.  Or so we thought!

I had bought tickets online and read the fine print incorrectly.  Thinking the last ferry left Battery Park at 6:15, we just took our time walking downtown until we felt we could get a cab for the remainder of the trip.  It was 4:30... in New York.  Dumb, dumb, dumb move!  Why is it when you're on vacation, it seems like everyone else in the world MUST also be on vacation?  Well, surprise---these people who weren't on vacation were getting out of work, and taking cabs.  All of them!

When we finally got a cab, he took us the "long way" to battery park.  "Because of the traffic", he said.  Yeaaahhhh...okkkay?!

We went via the East River and were nicely surprised to be able to show the kids the Brooklyn Bridge, which really is a beautifully designed bridge!  But still in bumper to bumper traffic, all we wanted to do was just get to Battery Park!

Upon arriving to the Park, we were pleasantly surprised that there were absolutely no lines to get on to the ferry to the Statue!  SCORE!!  We knew if we timed things correctly, we could beat these insane crowds!  As we power walked our way to the dock area, where we assumed a security check would occur, we found no one.  Not a soul.

Come on!  It's only 5:15 and the last boat leaves at 6:15!!

No.  I was totally wrong.  The last boat leaves the Statue at 6:15.  The last boat leaving Battery Park was at 4:30.  Oh man!!  We were all so disappointed!

We decided to walk a couple blocks up the street to Ground Zero and look at the progress being made through the windows of the Financial Center.  While there we met and spoke to a security guard whose re-telling of the events from a personal perspective brought tears to our eyes.  He also told us that the Marriott, which Davey and I would have been asleep in that morning was actually crushed when WTC2 fell.  A new set of chills came over Dave and I!

The Freedom Tower is going to be amazing!  They are already over 70 stories into its completion, and the 9-11 museum is almost ready for the September 11 opening this year.  So many emotions came over us during this visit.  While the Statue of Liberty is an important symbol of the freedoms we Americans are blessed to have, seeing this area where terrorists attempted to steal our freedom from us was even more meaningful in many ways.

That night we headed back to midtown, and decided to take in the Empire State Building.  It was 8:30, and the building was open until 2am. How long could this take?  Maybe 30 minutes, right?  OH>>>MAN!!
(to be continued)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

NYC Day 2

Yesterday started with all of us getting up very LATE--which meant my schedule plans exploded!  Did I tell you that I am 'that' person while on vacation? You know, the woman who has an itinerary and keeps everything flowing smoothly???  Well that's me!  So, getting started at 9:30 am was really messing with our plans of hitting the Statue of Liberty at 8am, before the mobs of people arrived at 10am.  Darn!

So we went with an alternative plan,  and took a cab up to the Natural History Museum.  My boys love the animals and dinosaurs at museums like this.  Me?  Well, my heart wanted to be across Central Park at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I sort of feel like my lifetime fossil viewing allotment has been reached--thank you.   But the kids enjoyed it, and that's what mattered.

Before we went inside the museum Joey desperately wanted to try a hot dog from one of the street vendors.  As crazy as it sounds to those of you who know my typical  OCD tendencies, I bought him one.  He did fine, no food poisoning (whoo hoo) AND he listed THIS $3 experience as one of his "favorite things done while on our vacation"!

Like I mentioned in my previous post, it is BUSY here in NYC.  Much busier than I have ever seen it.  It's Disneyland-summertime-busy!  (People from California will get that analogy).  Which means a lot of waiting and security checks, everywhere.  If you want a coffee-- or if you want to eat at any restaurant--or if you want to see any site in the city... there's a looonnnnggg line. To include the museums!

Dave's cousin told us about a great burger joint that happened to be located inside the Le Parker Meridian Hotel.  This is a fairly nice place in uptown, so we were worried they might trick out the burgers with truffles or other non-necessary frou-frou things.  Nope.  It's a real burger joint that serves what smelled like amazing hamburgers.

Yes, smelled-like.  The line was out the door, and ever table was full, and I had two kids who were about ready to eat...um ...$3 street hot dogs!  So we went with what we knew, and headed down town to Little Italy.  Total score!!

My oldest son somehow knew about this little pizza place, called Lombardi's.  It was AMAZINGLY good!  In fact, the best pizza we've had!  Afterwards we walked in what Dave calls "the old neighborhood" and bought a few things to take back home.  Tennessee is awesome, but I do miss the good Italian food and groceries that either coast (and Chicago) has to offer.   Dave was walking around like he belonged there, and honestly, he blended in pretty well!

After coming back to the hotel, I stood in the mile long TKTS line to see what Broadway show tickets I could get for that evening.  I wanted Mary Poppins, but everyone with larger amounts of testosterone chose Phantom of the Opera. I got the tickets at 50% off face value!  Great seats, too!

Many, many years ago I sat in that same theater with my new husband dreaming of the day we would bring our children back with us to see a real Broadway show.  Last night was a bucket-list moment.  Both boys did great!  It was hard for Joey to not talk during the show, but he managed to be "mostly" silent!  As for the French couple who sat in front of us...I hope they recovered from my "mommy-death-stare" that I save for people who try to mess with my kids.

After the show we took the kids to Sardi's for an after dinner treat.  They loved looking at all the caricature pictures on the wall, guessing who was who.  Their favorite celebrity picture was that of Kermit the Frog!

As we left Sardi's an earlier light rain had turned into a full on down pour, so we hopped in a cab for the three block drive back to our hotel!  The cab driver actually argued with Dave about taking us "only" three blocks.  My poor husband had literally reached his limit with cab-driver attitude, and to me it sounded like he somehow channeled his inner Tony Soprano after the kids and I left the taxi.

After getting our "second wind" we noticed it was 1am and we were all still up, not sleepy at all.  Uh oh,  I bet we have trouble getting up in the morning...again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

NYC or Bust

This is our first vacation since Dave got sick, back in 2007.  While Dave and I would have preferred a week (or two) on the sand somewhere tropical; the kids wanted action and so we decided on New York City!


Dave and I used to come out to NYC every year, mostly for Dave to work and to catch first run B'way shows (because I used to actually be a drama geek...) Many times we'd drive up to the New England states to experience fall in all its beauty!  


Obviously in the last 12 years, times have changed.  New York has changed, too!! Like, what's with all the trees and planters?  Urban renewal, I suppose.  It's lovely but the city is unrecognizable to me in many ways. 


The last time we were scheduled to come out to NYC together was September 8, 2001.  Dave was called to town for a meeting and the three of us were going to stay at our usual hotel, The Marriott World Trade 3. 


Yeah... 
For some reason (I'm going with God on this) that particular trip was cancelled two weeks prior to us leaving.  That hotel fell between the Twin Towers on 9-11.  I remember that morning so vividly.  To think Davey, who was 3 years old at the time, and I would've been asleep just floors away from what happened that fateful morning... No words.


Today was the first time I have seen Ground Zero since the terrorist attacks of 9-11.  At first glance, I couldn't breathe.  Then I cried.  Again, no words...


Traveling with a child who loves to see everything and one who tires easily because of over-stimulation, can be tricky.  We take turns going back to the room with Joey and hanging out for a few hours, while the other explores the sites with Davey.  It's our "normal".  


New York is proving to be as exciting as always, and we're looking forward to seeing as much as possible with the kids.  The usual touristy stuff, and well as some local hang outs that we got to know about during our travels out here years ago.  Nothing better than having dessert in Little Italy al fresco! Or sitting in Central Park in just that perfect location, sipping coffee and watching all the people walking by mid-day. 

And yes... some B'way shows are definitely on the agenda! 


More to come...Stay tuned!