New room, new routine.

 

When Rachel was three, she started crawling into bed with Eldest every night. At the time, Eldest was glad for the company.

When we moved four years later, I thought the girls would want their own rooms. We set up a room for Rachel, but she still crawled in bed with Eldest each night. Since we moved during the school year, there was no time for long battles and hours of screaming each night. Or maybe I was too chicken-hearted to try. I put a second bed in Eldest’s room and things went on from there.

But hasn’t been peachy. Rach has always had trouble sleeping. Sometimes she’s up in the middle of the night. Sometimes, especially when Eldest is gone, Rach screams for hours because her routine is wrecked. When Eldest has a friend spend the night, Rach might scream and kick until the wee hours of the morning.

Things had to change, but it was going to be painful.

Ms. Brenda, Rachel’s ABA therapist, agreed it was time to separate the girls into their own rooms. But she cautioned me: once I made the move it had to be permanent. I could not be wishy washy. One of the biggest things Rach needs is clear boundaries.

So, I went to work that day. I put everything Rach loved into the new room. I moved the ball pit from the guest room closet into Rachel’s new room. (For a quick explanation of how I made the ball pit, see here.)

Even though Rachel’s new room already had a pretty bed in it, I moved the bed she’d been sleeping on into the new room, too, trying to send a visual message. (And because I had to stay in there with her most of the first two nights.)

I moved her dinosaur collection into her room and all her noisy toys that were previously off-limits at bedtime because they bothered her sister. I put her name on the dry-erase board and put her name on the wall–anything to mark the new room as hers. 

We added a few new, but familiar touches Rachel already loved. The day before I started this change, my niece reworked her bedroom. (The timing was such a God-thing.) Rachel loves my niece’s room, especially ducky, the giant stuffed duck. (The ducky saga is here.) So, when my niece offered us her duck and room decorations, I jumped on it, knowing Rachel would love the change, but it wouldn’t all be too new.

I also chose a time when Eldest was gone for a few days. That way the noise all night wouldn’t bother her, and Rach would be less tempted to return Eldest’s room.

And I planned to get no sleep for several days. I don’t say this to be a martyr. I had to plan ahead so I wouldn’t be angry or surprised at the lack of zzzz’s.

My no-sleep prediction has been pretty accurate. But it’s summer. My writing and house projects can wait. There was nothing major happening this week. Because we moved everything of Rachel’s into her new room, she wasn’t confused about where to go. In fact, she was excited. It’s day four and things are going well, although it’s usually past 2 a.m. before she falls asleep.

Several things have happened to make this easier:

  • Brenda and school have taught Rachel to recognize her own name. This developmental step is huge. Rachel seems to feel more confident.
  • Rachel has become more independent as she learns to communicate with sign language and word approximations.
  • Brenda has worked on compliance. This kind of change would not have been possible two years ago. Or, at least, one of us would not have made it through the process …
  • As Rachel has reduced the length and strength of her tantrums, Brenda has worked on ME so that I can hold firm. That might be the biggest step of all. 

*It’s been three weeks since The Change of Rooms and I first started writing this post. (I was correct about the lack of writing that would happen around here.) We’ve had a couple great nights of sleep, but some nights Rachel only sleeps three or so hours. But, overall, the pain was worth it.

Eldest has helped by writing Rachel messages and drawing pictures on the white boards in Rachel’s room. We spent some time reading books in her room, and as you can see, I’ve spent time showing her how to play dress up with her dino friends.

We’ve had some reversion in potty training. Stan, my steam cleaner, has been called back to active duty, but so far, it’s only happened a few times.

So, for those of you facing a new routine change, I’d encourage you to get all your ducks, big and small, in a row then go for it and stick to it.

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One Sunday afternoon and autism.

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It started, as many things do, with something small. A glass of water. I had no idea it would end with a hole in the wall.

Earlier, after a peaceful Sunday afternoon, Eldest attended a swim party. On the way home I asked her to head straight to the shower. Otherwise, Rachel would think we did the unthinkable–went swimming without her.

Rachel knew, though. She can smell chlorine on a year-old swimsuit. At first, she didn’t seem to react beyond babbling more than usual. But with her communication issues, it is hard to tell.

Her frustration became apparent, however, when she stared straight at me and dumped a glass of water into the carpet. Things went darker from there. In less than 10 minutes we had a hurricane in the kitchen–water dripping from the countertops. And a tornado in the closet, complete with a foot-sized hole in the wall.

While I don’t endorse her tantrum behavior, I’ve realized I don’t give Rachel enough credit. Even though she is nonverbal, Rach is far more sophisticated than I realized. I believe she was sending a message: you take Sister to all kinds of fun places and not me.

I wanted to send my own message back: but everything is so difficult when we go places. I still have to chase you sometimes. You make loud noises. I have to be hyper vigilant every second. I feel like autism has taken us hostage. I get so tired.

But life is what it is. No one asked Rach or I how we felt about our situation. So, we have to make the best of it.

Since Rach doesn’t get invited to many parties, I need to do things with her during those moments. It’s difficult because I have my own set of goals to accomplish. Letting the dishes, my blog, the laundry, or other things go makes me feel as though I spent all my time running backwards. But I have to think about how she feels in those times, too. Big sister does seem to go all kinds of places while she sits at home.

Yeah. It stinks. But life has a tendency to hand us all lemons. They may be sour, but lemons are one of the healthiest foods around. And some of the best desserts in life are made with them.

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On the subject of purity.

by Jennifer Dyer

Years ago a popular sitcom featured a young man in high school who admitted he was a virgin. The episode centered around this guy’s state of virginity, and it wasn’t flattering. Instead of praising him for his desire to wait until marriage, his more worldly cousin tried to help him overcome this horrible condition, as though it were a disease. And in the end, he acquiesced to cheers of the audience.

In our culture, purity is often shoved aside, seen as something to toss off like a moth-eaten coat. But that wasn’t what God intended for us. Join me over a MoretoBe.com for more, including ways to talk to our kids about this very important subject.

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Busy MOMents

by Jennifer Dyer

For the mom with kids that go to school daily during the school year, summer can be a bit overwhelming. The routine of hectic afternoons during school days changes to “What are we doing next?” Or the even more preposterous, “I’m bored.” Mom’s list of priorities and things she wants to accomplish is often lost under a pile of damp swim towels.

The cure for boredom is simple. Have a handy list of chores.

But what about the other things, the constant busyness? What about mom? What about my stuff?

Here’s what I am learning. It’s OK for my goals to take a backseat. I have to keep my purpose in mind: to raise whole and healthy kids, and beyond that to grow close to them. I’m building family memories that will be precious to me long after my goals have been met. So, I grab slivers of time here and there to work on writing, to check in with social media, to cook dinner, but nothing like the uninterrupted stretch of time I can while the kids are at school. I can also get up early while they sleep to work, but I’m learning to focus on being a family, on spending time with my girls while they still desire to spend time with me.

I’m not sure about Rachel and what the future holds for her, but Eldest is growing up all too fast and will one day fly away from my nest. So, today I want to live without regrets.

Happy summer!

 

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Showing vs. telling in parenting.

by Jennifer Dyer

As a writer, the concept of showing and telling often haunts me. Am I telling the reader my character is upset? Or am I showing them: “He pitched his briefcase in the car and jammed his keys into the ignition. Yanking the door shut, he didn’t bother to pull the rest of his jacket into the interior. Let it flap around and collect road grime. Why care anymore? He jammed the accelerator into the front bumper and left a satisfying trail of of rubber behind.”

Showing is far more powerful. It is the difference between put-me-to-sleep stories and those that transport you to another world. It takes more effort, more thought and planning, but the end result is worth it.

What about in parenting? Am I showing my kids how to behave and/or react to circumstances, or am I telling them and, in essence, refusing to practice what I preach?

A while back, a few of Eldest’s friends were having an issue–no surprise there. Tween girls are surrounded by drama. Anyway, Eldest told me about her conversation with Friend A regarding the problem. It was actually pretty mature, with Eldest and Friend A trying to work through the issue rather than say mean things about the other person, but I could see the potential for hurt feelings.

I asked her, “What if Friend A repeats what you said? Even though your words were intended as kind, it could be taken the wrong way, and you will be the one hurt. It’s easy to slip from being helpful into gossip. Be mindful of what you say so that it won’t come back to hurt you or anyone else.”

Good advice? I thought so, since I said it.

So, a few hours later, I caught myself conversing discussing … gossiping with my sister about so-and-so’s problem, trying to solve things that were none of my concern. Was it truly gossip? The subject of the conversation might think so. But my even bigger concern was what Eldest thought, as she was in earshot.

I’m not sure if she was listening, but I realized I was telling Eldest how to behave, but showing her another way. And showing is …

Much. More. Powerful.

Showing is what Jesus, the perfect parent, did for us. Jesus did not simply tell us about himself. “Hi, all. I’m God. You’re not. You need me. The end.”

Jesus showed us he was/is the ultimate personification of love and light by living a sinless life, enduring trials, and dying on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. He did not only tell us he loved us. He showed us.

And that is powerful.

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Sticking to the consequences.

by Jennifer Dyer

Inside I think I’m about as tough as jello left out in the hot sun. As you can imagine, that personality trait does not always lend itself to raising children with great character. Sticking to the consequences is tough.

A few weeks ago, we planned to visit Great Wolf Lodge again. The first trip had been challenging, but for some reason hubby and I both took temporary leave from our senses and bought another Groupon. So, here we were on a Thursday night preparing for another two days of marinating in chlorine and rubbing shoulders with 1,000’s of our closest friends strangers.

If you’ve never been there, it is a really nice place. In addition to the waterpark, there is also MagicQuest, which entails running up and down stairs for hours waving a $$ wand at boxes and some other stuff that I don’t know because I’ve never done it, but the kids love it. And it wears them out. A brilliant plan on GWL’s part, if you ask me.

So, as I mentioned, the wands are expensive. Last trip, a wand came with our package, so no problem, but this trip was different. For weeks I’d been telling Eldest to find her wand. The night before we left, I decided to make a sweep for said wand in case Rachel had stashed it somewhere.

I went through the ball pit. Although I found no wand, I did find out where all the Easter Eggs and Starbursts had gone–at least the half-chewed ones. Nice. I also found my nephew’s entire collection of dinosaurs, a few toy snakes, a broom, three jump ropes, and the lost map to Atlantis. But no wand.

I moved furniture in the game room, cleaned out baskets, reorganized toys, and … well, you get the picture. Mom was working up a sweat.

And the kids watched TV.

Hmm.

At the end of the night, no wand had appeared, and the only one putting effort into the search was Mom, the person who wasn’t going to use it. So, I had some sad news to deliver.

Hubby and I, long faces on, informed Eldest that we would have coughed up the cash for another wand if we’d seen any sort of effort made toward finding ours. Now my goal is not to embarrass Eldest, so enough about that.

My point is I was totally sad to dish out that consequence! Here we were about to take a trip where half the fun is that Quest game and we were having to say tough luck, kid. It stunk. I was so tempted to cave, to buy another wand, to play the game with her. To watch her giggle and run. We were going on a mini vacation, after all. We’d paid all that $$$ to stay there and we wouldn’t get to enjoy one of the biggest attractions.

At the hotel, I almost gave in. She didn’t ask, but it seemed like EVERYONE was playing the game, running, and laughing. Everyone, except us.

Phooey.

But we didn’t give in. It’s the little consequences like this one that build character. It’s not easy. It’s more fun to give in, to enjoy the moment, but the long-term consequences of me caving would be raising a child who didn’t believe in consequences. A kid who thinks “the rules don’t apply to me. It doesn’t matter what I do, I’ll still get my way.” In other words, a spoiled brat who doesn’t think about how his or her actions affect other people.

So, in the short term, it was no fun. In the long-term, though, I’m so glad I stayed tough.

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Talking to your kids about sex.

by Jennifer Dyer

There is something interesting about the way people talk or don’t talk about sex. What is so easy to discuss with friends over coffee causes parents to stammer, blush, and say to their children, “Ask again when you’re 30.” 

But we do our children a disservice when we act as though we are ashamed of sex or that it is something dirty. Instead, we should help them to see sex as part of God’s beautiful design for a fulfilling marriage.

How soon is too soon to talk to your kids about sex? As soon as they ask. You can let their questions lead what you tell them.

Years ago, a mentor told me about seeing two bunnies procreating in her yard while sitting with her three-year-old. Her daughter asked what they were doing.

She replied, “They are making love to make babies.”

Her daughter screwed up her face. “Do you and Daddy do that?”

My friend did not let the question ruffle her. “It’s different, but, yes.”

And that was it for a long time, but it started the conversation and kept it open from that point on.

Eldest didn’t ask any major questions until she was 10. It wasn’t that I wanted to hide the topic. She just wasn’t ready to discuss it. But I wanted to be ready when she asked because there is a plethora of misinformation, lies even, about sex hitting our children in the face every day through popular media. Even in the malls, we are bombarded with sexual images and messages.

We, as parents, need to be the first source of truth for our children about God’s beautiful design for sex. And it’s not a once-and-you’re-done kind of topic. There needs to be an ongoing dialog about sex and all it encompasses as your kids mature.

Kids crave information on sex. In his book, The Bare Facts, 39 Questions Your Parents Hope You Never Ask About Sex, author Josh McDowell points out “the word ‘sex’ receives more than four billion Google searches every year.”

 

That’s billion with a “B.” How many of those searches do you think are from kids? friend recently found the word sex searched on her 9 year-old daughter’s iPod.

 

One mom, eyes wide with terror, asked me what she was supposed to say. Here are some things I’ve discussed with Eldest, who is 11 as I write this:

  • Sex is what you desire to do when you love a person so much you want to be as close to them as possible.
  • God made sex for marriage, to be kept inside of marriage.
  • Sex is a picture of how deeply God loves us. The Bible uses the term “know” (the Hebrew word yada. See here for more info.) in regards to sex. It is the same term used many other times in the Bible describing how deeply God knows us.
  • Sex is like glue that puts a marriage together.
  • If you have sex with someone you aren’t married to, sex still “glues” you to that person.
  • There are chemicals in the brain released in sex that actually bond you with a person. This is wonderful in marriage. It will hurt you deeply emotionally if you aren’t married to that person.
  • God says sex is only for marriage, not because he is mean, but to protect you emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
  • The world–TV, music, movies, video games, and people–will tell you sex is just for fun and it can’t hurt you to play around, but those are lies.
  • Some people say it’s too hard to deny yourself any sort of pleasure. That is also a lie.
  • Your friends are not experts or reliable places to get information about sex.
  • Sex is meant to be private, between a husband and a wife. It is beautiful.
  • Sex also can create babies. There are all types of birth control available, but they do not always work.
  • People will talk about safe sex, but the only kind of safe sex you can have is when you are married and both of you are faithful to each other.
  • When you have sex with different people, you can get viruses, sort of like colds, only much more serious. Some of those viruses even cause cancer. (See here for more info on HPV.)
  • People can have sex and get pregnant outside of marriage, but that is not God’s best plan for you.

The world is full of lies about sex we must refute with our kids:

  • Sex = love.
  • Everyone else is doing it, so I should too.
  • It’s unrealistic to save sex until marriage with people waiting until their late 20’s to get married.
  • Sex in marriage is boring.
  • Sex is dirty and bad, and God doesn’t like it.
  • I’ve already had sex, so what’s the point in waiting.
  • Oral sex isn’t really sex.
  • Sex is no big deal. It’s just an action. It doesn’t mean anything.

All wrong. All lies.

In the above mentioned The Bare Facts book, Josh addresses and dispels many of the questions I’ve posed above. I’d highly recommend the book for parents and for teens.

(For an in-depth description of the deep meaning behind sex in marriage and the word yada, see Dannah Gresh beautifully address it here.)

The world wants to sell our children a different, cheaper version of sex that will leave them broken mentally and often physically. We, as parents and mentors, have to be willing to talk openly and often about sex to our kids, telling our children of its beauty, blessing, and boundaries.

If we, as parents, aren’t willing to discuss sex with our kids, then who will? And what will they tell our kids?

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Your mother bear is showing.

by Jennifer Dyer

I’m having one of those mother bear days.

I try to be a “go with the flow” kind of person, to model that attitude for my kids, but sometimes the flow seems more like a tidal wave of things rushing in a different direction than they should. I feel like The Hulk–trying to be mild mannered, but something happens that I perceive as a possible threat to my children and WHAM! I morph into this wild roaring maniac.

 

I try to keep her caged inside me. Even if she is growling and ranting, I try to filter Mother Bear Hulk’s roars into something more moderate. But when too many things happen at once, I let loose of her chains … and my mouth.

The mother bear triggers are different for all of us, and we should be advocates for our children, but it is better to do it without leaving a trail of detritus scattered on a path behind.

So, after my mother bear moment with both Rachel’s school and her doctor’s office (three incidents in the same morning…) I felt wrung out, a branch stripped of leaves after a storm. I realized I was running without fuel.

I retreated to my room to read my Bible and get some perspective, which I probably should have done first.

As I settled into reading from the Psalms, I thought about the reasons why I need to spend time reading God’s word daily. It isn’t so I can get an “A” from God for being a top student. I need it because my soul thirsts and hungers for encouragement, for the truth, for intimacy with God. I need it like a soldier needs armor. A soldier doesn’t go into battle without training, without understanding how to use whatever tools she needs to complete her mission.

I need God’s Word like a sunburn needs aloe vera. I need God’s grace like seeds need water to grow. It is where I find my balance, where I find what feeds and nourishes my soul.

As an aside, I recently wrote about feeding my soul through Christian music. As I read through Psalm 61-64, words from songs penned from within those same verses echoed in my heart. Instead of eating sandwich bread out of a bag while standing at the kitchen sink, I was eating warm fresh rolls in a cozy bakery enveloped in the nutty, buttery scent of baking loaves and croissants.

However, whenever, you can feed your soul on God’s Word, do. It will always be time well spent.

May you find yourselves awash in God’s grace and may your souls be well fed this week, my friends.

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Why I listen to Christian music.

by Jennifer Dyer

Free song download on Air1

Music feeds the soul.

The more I ponder this, the more I believe it. Songs I heard years ago will pop up in my head at the most unexpected times. Or, how about those catchy melodies that get stuck in your head so deep that only a diabolical Sudoku puzzle can root it out? Music can bring us out of the depths of depression and can cause us to celebrate.

But music can also feed the darkness inside of us, can bring us lower, possibly carry us into the depths of depression.

Music gets into our hearts and stays there. It lays down superhighways of connections in our minds. Even when terrible brain damage renders a person unable to speak, they often can sing. Music, even without lyrics, moves us, can bring us to tears, or make us dance. Music feeds and fills our souls.

As for my title and the mention of Christian music, I hope it didn’t throw you. The term “Christian music” is a rather odd one because many types of music can be Christian even if not expressly so, but the term serves its purpose in categorizing information.

I want to take a deeper look at it, though. When I say Christian music, I mean lyrics written with a Christian world view in mind and with the intent to glorify God. Does this mean every song is expressly about scripture? No. Nor is every song preachy. The songs can be about love, about disappointment, or in the case of one of my fav songs Hold Me Now by Red, the song can be about feeling lost and scared as a little kid.

The world of Christian music is as varied at the other world of musicians out there, with talented artists offering a multitude of styles and listening choices.

But what I love is how the music feeds my soul. It doesn’t feed the confusion trying to clog my thoughts, or on the desperate desire of all people to love and be loved by the elusive perfect person, nor does it feed hate, fighting, anger, depression, or lust.

Music lyrics written from a Christian world view feed the place in our souls only fulfilled by knowing God, our savior Jesus. Different songs feed the soul with scripture, love poems, hope, peace, joy, grace, and the amazing love of the Almighty God who was willing to die a horrible death so that we could know him in eternity.

Furthermore, I have seen how listening to music affects my children. Rachel, even though her autism renders her almost unable to speak, clings to songs in my iPod written by Newsboys, Michael W. Smith, Toby Mac, and City on a Hill. The music feeds her soul on a level even I cannot reach.

As for Eldest, in addition to growing spiritually, she has learned so much from some of the Christian artists she loves. Adoption from Toby Mac, caring for the poor and orphans from Audio Adrenaline, and how to care for a depressed friend from Skillet.

And the music is available almost everywhere. Check out KLOVE and, my fav, its edgier sister station Air1. Not only does the music feed my soul, but so do their DJ’s. They are fun, talk about the amazing grace of Jesus, and also raise awareness about the poor, Compassion International, Water for Life, orphans, the religious persecuted in the world and a host of other information.

Any music can bring up a problem. Christian music gives us an answer.

How about you? What feeds your soul?

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Teaching your daughter purity.

by Jennifer Dyer

This weekend I attended the MomLife Bootcamp retreat at Pine Cove Camp. I loved meeting so many amazing moms and hearing from the variety of wise speakers.

In light of this, I wanted to share a link with you by Dannah Gresh from the True Woman conference talking about “What Children Need To Become Pure and Holy Adults.” (*Note: you need to scroll down to the breakout sessions list and find the above title “What children need to become pure and holy adults.” You can watch a short interview, but you can listen and/or read the presentation transcript.)

Dannah has so much wisdom to share, I hope you will check out her presentation and check out her Facebook page, her books, Secret Keeper Girl and Pure Freedom.

May we live pure and free lives in the grace of our Lord Jesus, my dear friends. And may we teach our children well.

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