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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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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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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Why am I blue? Understanding life’s changes and the emotions they evoke.

by Jennifer Dyer

My subconscious is smarter than I am.

This past week I’ve been on edge. One moment, I want to yell and rant and the next I’m wishing to hide under my covers and never come out. While I am usually pretty driven to accomplish, I feel like a balloon drifting over a windless desert.

So, today, I spent some time praying and asked God what was wrong with me. “Why am I so blue?” Some of it is hormones, those lovely horrible moans that take a perfectly sane woman and turn her into a raving monster for a day or two every month. But I knew it had to be something deeper, something more serious adding to my mental disarray.

As I prayed, I thought about the time of year–it’s May. And every May I go through this. Panic attacks, scattered thoughts, anxiety, over-thinking, on edge, depressed, and fearful. Though it has lessened over the last five or so years, I still feel it.

Why?

My subconscious has already realized what the rest of me is slower on picking up: School is about to be out.

Don’t get me wrong. I love having the girls home. I enjoy long summer days, swimming, playing, sleeping in, the feeling of potential each morning when a day is filled with unknown adventures. And I am so, so thankful I can be with them during their breaks.

But I also know that I am on the clock all the time. Not only for eldest with her needs for a close relationship with her mother, but also for Rachel and all the demands that go with having a special needs child.

Errands that I run during the school year will include Rachel during the summer. Don’t get me wrong. I love taking her places, but its easier when I don’t actually have to accomplish anything. Each trip to the store usually involves some sort of incident like the hand sanitizer debacle yesterday, which is a story for another time.

I also feel like I’m not doing enough, especially for Rachel. She needs constant speech therapy, but I have never figured out how to be therapist and mother. She needs consistency and a firm routine. Not easy for the creative and scattered mind of her mama.

I need quiet, at least part of the day, or I cannot think straight. As it is, my brain is usually half lost in a project, and I have difficulty keeping my feet in both worlds. And neither remains dormant.

Here’s the interesting thing. This panicked feeling usually lasts until about the second week of summer. Then I adjust to the new routine and we have a great time.

In August I go through it all over again because my babies are back in school and away from me for most of the day.

I feel better just knowing what is bothering me. It’s like a weight has already been lifted. When the anxious feelings come, I think of the fun times we had last summer and focus there instead of worry that I will be so exhausted I will drop where I stand. And I remind myself to cherish each MOMent because they often pass too quickly.

How about you? Is your self conscious sometimes ahead of you?

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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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