Tuesday, August 30, 2016

KiKi Doing A Color By Number With His AAC Device

The last time that KiKi was doing a color by number picture, I simply had him point to the right number on the color key. This time I decided to step it up a notch. I used his AAC device to display a number screen for him to select the number that corresponds to the number for each spot on the mosaic design.

Step 1) KiKi points to the correct number on his AAC device to match the number shown on the next open space which he wants to put a colored foam sticker on.

Step 2) KiKi points to the spot on the mosaic design where we wants to place the sticker, correlating it with the number he pointed to on his device.

Step 3) I give KiKi a foam sticker of the correct color to match the number that he has pointed to and matched on the mosaic. He places the sticker onto the design.

He spent about 2.5 hours working on this one design today, and has not finished it yet. He'll be taking it to speech therapy tomorrow to show his therapist his progress. Out of all the pieces he placed on it today, he only tried to misplace two pieces. Both of which were ones where he got distracted after getting the sticker and forgot which number/place that sticker went with.

Reading Time = Doggie Nap Time

This is what happens when the dog gets tired of being a foot rest for the kid - the kid becomes a head rest for the dog... On a side note, the cat that usually takes advantage of reading time to lay right where the dog's head is in this picture was very emotionally scarred at having to give up his cat cushion for a few minutes. Right after this picture was taken, he tried to cram his way onto her back despite the dog being in the way, but just couldn't get comfy. Three's a crowd.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Am Found by Laura Dingman

I Am Found: Quitting The Game Of Hide And Seek With God And Others by Laura Dingman (Moody Publishers)

I Am Found by Laura Dingman is a 6-week Bible study focused on shame: it's power over us, the things we do to hide because of it, and how we can overcome it by accepting God's forgiveness and hiding in Him instead of hiding from Him. Each week includes an introduction, five daily lessons, and a conclusion entitled "Truth, Lies, and Actions". I personally prefer to read the introduction the night before the day 1 lesson in order to prepare for the week ahead, and read the conclusion on the evening of day 5. This provides more time for reflection between readings.

-Week 1 (Fig leaves don't hide anything) uses the story of the garden of Eden to explain why we hide from God, others, and ourselves. Shame. Guilt. Humiliation. We also read about David and Bathsheba, learning the importance of coming clean with God.
-Week 2 (Know your enemy) discusses the Armor of God, and how to use this to face the enemy.
-Week 3 (Come out, come out, wherever you are!) shows you how to turn the "cycle of works" into the "cycle of grace", and trust in the Lord.
-Week 4 (You are not alone) helps you recognize the importance of embracing deep connections while realizing that not all connections last. Laura also emphasizes the need to learn to love and mend relationships.
-Week 5 (You are enough) is about redemption - how to realize that you are a new creation in God and recognize the strength in that Truth.
-Week 6 (You are found) focuses on the relentless pursuit of God, illustrated by the importance of finding things that are lost. The key story is that of the Prodigal Son, studied in three different translations to broaden your understanding of its magnitude. (I don't relate well to this story, but found her insights and approach to be immensely helpful.)

The back of this book described this study as "Drenched in Scripture", and that's a very accurate statement. It doesn't just tell you to read a random verse here and there. Instead, you read whole passages and entire chapters. Then reflect upon them and dig deep into their significance to you personally. You don't just read Laura's interpretation of what the Bible says, but you seek the Truth for yourself.

You will also read personal stories that illustrate or reflect the lessons being worked on. I often find this part of a Bible study to be impersonal - something a friend or co-worker or a lady from church went through. Instead, Laura's stories are exactly that - her personal stories. Things she's been through in her own life. This helps me feel like she truly understands what I'm dealing with - you know she's been there.

page 69
My favorite part of this book is the layout (page 69 above). It's written in such a way that even new-believers who have never really sat and read a Bible can read the passages and follow Laura's guidance and suggestions in order to seek God for themselves. The direct Bible quotes are bold teal, the focus questions are standard teal, and Laura's insights and reflections are black. This makes it very easy to keep track of what you're reading and when you're supposed to interact and provide your own insights.

Overall, I'd give this study 5 stars and recommend it to anyone struggling with shame or seeking God's grace.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.*

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Everything Happens For A Reason

Everything happens for a reason.

This is probably my biggest catch-phrase in life. Everything happens for a reason.

Yesterday, it was a gas station purchase in the afternoon that saved someone else's day by evening.

Today, it was a misplaced cell phone that led us to a few things we'd been looking for for quite a while.

Let me explain. Everything happens for a reason...

...Yesterday's Story...
     I hit the grocery store to do our weekly shopping, without hitting the ATM first like I usually do. My whole routine was out of whack because Kiki was having a hard day. Again. So, instead of using the ATM, I was stuck getting cash back at the register. $100. The cashier asked if I had a preference as to how I got it, and I told her I didn't care. Normally I do, I hate carrying anything larger than a $20, such a pain to break large bills some days. But, at that moment, I was just in a hurry. So she handed me one $100 bill.
     A few hours later, I hit the gas station with my husband and we purchased a few drinks. Normally, I would have paid with a smaller bill (I had some on me), but instead I felt compelled to hand them the $100 for a few drinks totaling less than $5. Followed promptly by me wondering why I'd just done that as we left the store.
     That evening I went shopping alone. I ended up dawdling on going toward the cash registers due to some very rude and obscene customers that were at that end of the store. I'm the type that tries to avoid confrontations. So I killed time. About fifteen minutes, until they left. At that point, I get in line. Two people in front of my. The guy that's front in line gets ready to pay, and realizes all he's got is a $100 bill. At the Dollar Tree. He asks if they can break it. Nope, they just gave most of their change to that rowdy group ahead of him. Discouraged, he apologizes to everyone else in line and the employee for wasting her time and heads for the door. Suddenly, I remembered the stop at the gas station. I pull out my billfold to double check. 20. 40. 60. 80. 100... I manage to quickly utter "I can break a hundred" just as the guy is grabbing the door handle to leave. It takes a second to sink in before he turns and comes back over. Yes, I broke his hundred. Yes, he finished his purchase and left while thanking me repeatedly. The cashier thanked me to, as she'd felt bad to have to turn the guy away for not being able to make change.
     If it weren't for skipping the ATM, or the stop at the grocery store, or breaking the bill at the gas station, or the rowdy kids that I killed extra time to avoid, that guy wouldn't have been able to finish his purchase. Some times that one little thing you do can have a much greater impact than you can imagine.

...Today's Story...
     We decided to head down to a museum in Arkansas on a drive today, and stopped at an Arby's en route. Once we get about five minutes from the museum, I find the "no guns allowed" signage on their website and we decide not to bother with it. So we re-route and head for Eureka Springs instead. Lovely city, and we haven't been there since our wedding 5 years ago.
     Well, a while down the road, our daughter mentions that she left her purse in the Arby's restroom. Back in Missouri. Then she tells us that her cell phone was in her purse. First off, the phone isn't allowed to be with unless we tell her to grab it, which we didn't because we weren't going to be away from her at all on this trip. Second, it definitely had no business going into an Arby's where we'd all be seated at the same table. Third, she'd been reminded not to leave things in restrooms repeatedly. So that turned into a bit of a lecture. The trip to Eureka Springs was cancelled, about 30 minutes away from our destination.
     I called Arby's (thank you for giving us a receipt with your phone number on it), and they said they'd found the purse already and would hold it. Okay. So we drove back to Missouri and got the purse.
     After getting the purse, there was no point in trying to go back to Arkansas - nothing would be open by the time we got there. So we talked for a few minutes, and decided to check out The Bunker surplus store in Oklahoma instead. It wasn't that far of a drive from where we were.
     At The Bunker, we found three windshield wiper blades for our trucks. Ones we've been needing to replace but didn't want to pay online prices and shipping for. Ones that we've never come across locally before.
     After we left The Bunker, we headed back to Missouri and hit a bookstore on the way home. There we found three books in the bargain section that had been on our wishlist. They all came home with us.
     So if our daughter had followed the rules and left her phone at home, or if she'd left it in the car, or simply remembered to bring it back out after our stop at Arby's - we wouldn't have found the windshield wiper blades we needed or the books we've been looking for. Yes, she still got in trouble for breaking the rules. But some days, it's helpful to be able to look at it and realize that even things that appear wrong or bad can still turn out to be good.

Everything happens for a reason.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

To The Lady At The Bookstore...

To the lady looking at the Jesus Calling books in Redeemed Books today... You don't know me, or my son, or my daughter. And you'll never know how much your kindness means to us. My son just finished his 4th appt this week, when we went into Redeemed to look for a few books. He hit overload and started going into a melt down shortly after we walked in. I took him to the bathroom and waited for him to calm down so we could go back to looking. He loves books. He did well after we got out of the bathroom, looking at a few racks with patience and slight intrigue at the pretty colors. When we finished that row, he was ready to leave. But mommy took him to one more row, and he was done. Throwing himself, kicking, screaming, hitting. I hold him and keep him from hurting himself, because we can't leave until he's done or we just reinforce this reaction every time he doesn't get his way...
Then you came over to our aisle, looking at the devotionals alongside us. And while I'm dealing with my son, my daughter says hi and attempts casual small talk to show you this isn't something to worry about - it's our version of normal. But you keep looking at me and my son, and I brace myself for the inevitable criticism as you ask how old he is. 8. And his name? KiKi...
Next you do the unthinkable. You pick up a book. And show it to him. And you start counting the other matching books piled in front of him... And he stops screaming, and he waits as you point to another book. As his meltdown is suddenly ended by sheer distraction, he watches you in amazement. I steal that moment of distracted awe and tell him we can go now and usher him to check out. Happy and ready to go on with his day...

I told you thank you several times. But honestly, there aren't enough thank-you's in the world for what you did... Mommy trying to distract him doesn't work anymore, he knows mommy. A stranger trying to break into his world - even for a second - totally confounds him. To the point that he forgets to scream. And kick. And hit... He becomes the little boy that's no longer having a bad day and just wants to be happy with his world.

My son is KiKi. He's 8 and deaf and autistic. And having a very very long week. But your few moments of grace brought him peace and serenity in a way I can never describe. Thank you.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Better Life by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are by Claire Diaz-Ortiz (Moody Publishers)

This book seems to be focused more on the subtitle than the title. "Small things you can do right where you are." Not to imply that that's a bad thing. The book consists of 37 vignettes to give you small suggestions on ways to improve your life right now. Most of these ideas are nothing new or oddly extraordinary, especially if (like me) you've spent any time reading suggestions on how to "get more" out of the daily grind. Things like slowing down, taking time to breathe, saying "no" more often. Allowing yourself to truly be yourself in a given moment.

I wrote this review in two parts. The first part was written at about half way through the book. It really wasn't speaking to me personally, and I felt the need to write down my current impression of it in order to keep pressing forward and finish reading the book. I'm not a fan of stopping a book in the middle, regardless as to how badly I want to at times. This was one of those books.

Review Part 1 (at half way through) - I like the idea behind this book. However, it falls short of what I was personally hoping it'd be. It seems more geared for a college student that has less baggage and more personal freedom in life than I find myself facing on a daily basis. Being a stay at home mom with 2-4 kids and trying to figure out how to get all of the bills paid each month doesn't exactly make me the best candidate for following most of her suggestions on taking a break and stepping back from the world. That being said, her suggestions are not a "how-to" plan by any means, instead they're her personal stories on how she accomplished each of her suggestions in her own way. Which means that if you have the talent to easily modify and turn someone else's "I did" into your own "I can", this book will be immensely powerful. If you're looking for ideas that you can do right now by following steps A, B, and C, then this book isn't for you (unless you have the time & resources for a spare of the moment trip to Vienna or Kenya or some other magical destination).

Review Part 2 (at the book's end) - I'm glad I finished reading this book. The last one-third of it made up for the first two-thirds. At least for me. At that point, the stories switched gears just enough to enter the motivator mode for me. Shifting from something totally unfeasible in my current world, to being ideas that could actually resonate with me and that I could find a way to put into action. Or reaffirming things I already try to do as being a good idea. My personal favorites are "Remember It's Just Stuff" and "Learn The Art Of Hospitality", which were also the breaking point where my impression of the book shifted.

Overall, I'd say it's a worthwhile read. I'm giving it 4/5 stars total. The first part of the book was 3 stars, because I could think of other people in my life that would find a story or two in it to be useful. Not that it was a bad book, just not for me. The second part of the book is 5 stars, consisting of things I can relate to better and find ways to fit into my hectic life. Thus, I'm going with 4 stars, under the notion that almost anyone could find a few vignettes in it that resonate with them.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Healing The Wounded Heart Workbook by Dan B Allender

Healing The Wounded Heart Workbook by Dan B. Allender

     If you've read the book and feel like this method for recovering from past trauma might help you, then this workbook is a necessity. Like most workbooks, you need to have a copy of the actual book in order to make sense of it. It repeatedly references the book and advises you to read certain sections before doing the workbook pages.

     Unlike a lot of workbooks, this one does not directly overlap the book. In other words, it's not the same exact questions mentioned in the book, just re-printed with lines for you to write your answers. These are well organized (mostly open-ended) questions designed to make you think about what you've read and how to implement that in your life. It also asks very pointed questions designed to make you look back at your life with honesty and openness. You have to be willing to be truthful and face the past or this workbook will not work for you.

     Also, the workbook is divided into two sections, the first half being for the recovering victim, and the second half for the spouse or partner. It's designed to help your spouse understand what you're going through in order to be able to support and assist you on this very hard journey. If you don't have a spouse or partner that will go through this with you, I very strongly suggest you find a close friend or other ally to walk this path with you. Even with the best ally, it is not an easy. But in the end, it is worth so much more than you imagine.

Healing The Wounded Heart by Dan B Allender

Healing The Wounded Heart - The Heartache Of Sexual Abuse And The Hope Of Transformation by Dan B. Allender

     I stumbled across this book while trying to overcome a deep depression that set in after a recent trauma brought back memories of abuse from my childhood. This book, and its companion workbook, have been the cornerstone as I started my path toward healing. Parts of the book don't really "fit" my situation, but overall, it's very insightful and has sound suggestions on working through the past in order to move on toward a brighter future.

     It's not the traditional "forget, forgive, and move on" mentality that so many Christian advisors seem to chime. Instead, he urges you re-enter the past, grieve over the child (yourself) that was wounded, and allow that younger version of yourself back into your present world. "Curse what God curses, and bless what God blesses" is a main focal point. Break evil's bind of dissociation and shame, and bless the person that God created you to be - past and present.

     I read this book alone the first time through, and spent a lot of time crying because of the shame I felt in admitting that I was ashamed of my past. But sometimes you know that your only real option is to face the past, and that's when this book is a necessity. After I finished reading it, I read it to my husband. And we're now (very slowly) working our way through the workbook. It's been a few months already, and we're still on part 1 of this long journey. But I can feel the storm trying to lift.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Inspire NLT Journaling Bible - Book Of 1 Kings

Here are my journaling entries in my Inspire NLT Bible (Tyndale House Publishers) for the book of 1 Kings, as well as my personal renderings of some of the pre-printed verses. Not all of the pre-printed verses for 1 Kings are included, just those that I would have still depicted if they had not been pre-printed.

 1 Kings 2:2-3

1 Kings 3:12

1 Kings 6:13

1 Kings 8:20

1 Kings 8:23

1 Kings 11:38

1 Kings 17:24

1 Kings 18:38

1 Kings 18:39

1 Kings 19:12

1 Kings 20:11

1 Kings 20:40

Walking With God - The Young Person's Prayer Diary by Michelle Drake

Walking With God - The Young Person's Prayer Diary by Michelle Drake (YWAM Publishing)

This book encourages your child to write down their personal prayers and journal entries, as well as to learn and pray about places they might not have heard of.

Each month starts with a blank calendar page to fill in dates and special events. The next page focuses on a specific country, teaching your child about problems those people face and suggesting things to pray about. The page after that has a map to show where that country is and help your child relate better to what they've read. Focus countries include Haiti, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and nine more.

After the focus page and map, there are 13 journal pages for that month. Each journal page is divided with a left margin for the date and several lines for the daily journal. This way if your child just writes one sentence one day, but seven or eight the next day, it'll still work out. The idea here isn't to fill the pages with meaningless words, but to be thoughtful and write prayers, thoughts, or happenings that you can reflect back on later. The lines are not very long, but there are enough between the 13 pages that your child can write an average of 9 lines per day and still have plenty of space for that month. Some of the journal pages have a Bible verse at the top of them, and these vary throughout the book.

At the end of the 12 month's worth of journal pages, there are 2 Bible reading tracks that can be marked off as each chapter is read, and three pages to fill out as a small address book of friends.

Another thing worth noting is that while I got these for older kids (10-12), they would work well for younger kids who could simply write larger and take up two lines instead of one. Then the focus would be more on writing a date and key words rather than full sentences, but it would be a good beginning toward journaling habits and skills for when they get older. And the focus pages on countries would be a good "together" discussion for some parent/child time and reflection.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

SonRock In-Home VBS - Day Three

     Today we did the third  lesson of Gospel Light's SonRock Kids Camp VBS curriculum. The Bible lesson was Peter's confession and Christ, and the daily truth was "saved by Christ".
     For the nature connection, the kids learned about rocks and minerals (Jesus is our rock), and they made their own cave paintings on cardboard.

ZoKo's cave painting

B's cave painting

Odie's cave painting

     During art time, the kids each made a forest collage.

ZoKo's forest collage

B's forest collage

Odie's forest collage

     KiKi had a rough week, so he decided to spend his day doing other activities. I plan on having him complete a forest collage sometime later this week.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Inspire NLT Journaling Bible - Book Of 2 Samuel

Here are my journaling entries in my Inspire NLT Bible (Tyndale House Publishers) for the book of 2 Samuel, as well as my personal renderings of some of the pre-printed verses. Not all of the pre-printed verses for 2 Samuel are included, just those that I would have still depicted if they had not been pre-printed.

2 Samuel 2:6

2 Samuel 3:18

2 Samuel 5:2

2 Samuel 5:10

2 Samuel 5:20

2 Samuel 6:9

2 Samuel 6:21

2 Samuel 7:22

2 Samuel 7:28

2 Samuel 10:12

2 Samuel 14:14

2 Samuel 16:10

2 Samuel 22:2

2 Samuel 22:4

2 Samuel 22:29

2 Samuel 22:31

2 Samuel 22:33

2 Samuel 24:14

2 Samuel 24:25

KiKi's Art - Mosaic By Numbers

     During the last few weeks, I've been on several shopping sprees through the clearance sections of ChristianBook.com. One of these shopping sprees led to buying assorted mosaic sets for KiKi to complete as art projects. And as "math" time because they force him to match the number on the color key to the number on the art piece before placing a colored square in each position. This is a major step for him. The matching concept is something he's mastered, but he's not used to having to match numbers. Especially since the numbers themselves mean nothing to him, they're just complicated abstract symbols. Top that with the fact that some of the background colors vary from the color the kit expects you to place in that area (all the squares themselves are white to make the number stand out), and this is a very difficult and complicated task.

     For instance, in the lion below, you can see that the base area of the mane is colored with red squares (as was indicated by the number), but the background around those squares is reddish brown which made KiKi want to use brown instead of red.

     There was a large amount of frustration from him attempting to just match colors to the background rather than matching the numbers, but eventually he figured it out and had a 90% accuracy by the end of both the above pieces. In total, he spent over 2 hours working on the lion, and about 1 1/2 hours doing the hippo. But, in the end, he was satisfied with his work.

     This entire kit cost $4, and there are 10 more pieces for him to complete in the future. I kind of went overboard and ordered one copy of each of the mosaic kits they had on clearance, so with 4 different Veggie Tales kits in addition to the rest of this one, I'm really glad that this is something he ended up enjoying.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Secret Life Of KiKi

     This is one of those days where you're really glad it's Friday (payday). Today's shopping list just got expanded with one expensive item, lexan. For those of you that have never had the pleasure of a kid that breaks out windows and are thus not acquainted with this wonderful thing, consider yourself lucky. Our last house was a rental. As KiKi broke out windows, we would replace them with glass. Cheap glass... But, since we're buying this house, that's not a long term solution.
     He has two windows in his room. Each window has an upper pane and a lower pane. The first pane got broken out within a week of us moving in. The second pane was shattered a few months later. We've now been living here for 11 months, and the third pane just said farewell.

     For those of you who are not experts at distinguishing broken glass in crummy cell phone pics, the black curved line to the right of the wooden post, extended all the way to the bottom of the window. The right side of that line is open space, the left side is glass (minus the bottom left corner which is also broken out).
     How does this happen? Mostly from him playing with his toys. His stuffed animals love to be thrown around and tend to bounce off walls (and windows) frequently. We've worked hard to train him to limit most of the damage to his bedroom. This is the sort of thing that happens overnight when he's playing instead of sleeping. He doesn't sleep much.
     Thankfully, he's never hurt himself while breaking a window or during the time between when he does it and when we find it in the morning. Enter the lexan. Lexan is plexiglass. It comes in different thicknesses, and the good stuff is thick enough it won't bend but clear enough it looks like glass. You can still push the pane out if there's an emergency, but it doesn't shatter and risk cutting KiKi up if a stuffed critter or ball goes flying and hits it.

     Returning to the concept of damage control. KiKi digs through boxes and scatters things. He shreds paper and cardboard and leaves it everywhere. We've gotten him to stop shredding books, for the most part. If they're his and get left in his room overnight, then they'll be meeting the trash can by morning. He used to scatter his toys all over the house, but now it's mostly limited to his bedroom and beads on my dining room floor.
     Another quirk of his is to get rid of things that don't fit in. So if there's a piece of loose paint, he's going to peel it. If there's a slight hole in a wall, he'll dig at the sheetrock to try to remove the are so it can be fixed... These are not good traits in a fixer-upper house where half of the walls have imperfections of some sort. We now have boards screwed in over some holes, bookshelves are strategically placed to block others, and pictures tend to be hung in very specific places as well. If he can't see it, he leaves it alone.
     But, as stated, this only works in areas that are not his personal bedroom. His bedroom is his safe space. It's the only place he can be himself 24/7. It's his retreat when we have company. It's the place that all of his stuffed animals and paper shreds and beads can stay all over the floor until mommy comes through to clean it every other day. And within a few minutes, it's a wreck again. But it's his wreck. His bedroom used to have a light, it doesn't anymore because he tried removing it. We took it out before he hurt himself. Especially since pain doesn't slow him down unless there's an audience he can play too. Frustration at things not cooperating will make him scream, but pain doesn't. Most people that don't know him don't understand this difference. The outlets in his room are all disconnected from wiring for the same reason. They're still physically there, but there's no juice going to them.
     Here's the thing, whoever painted his room last used their easy peel off paint. So some was a little loose when he moved in. A little loose turned into this very quickly...

     The walls were green. With pink under the green. Most of the areas he can reach are now down to bare sheetrock. We plan on replacing his walls with wood eventually, since he seems less aggravated by it. But until then, he's leaving the sheetrock alone, and repainting it would just cause him to peel it again, possibly damaging the sheetrock in the process. Damaged sheetrock would then lead to him picking at the sheetrock. Again. Sheetrock dust is not something you want your kid playing in. I wish I didn't know that first hand.

     As stated, his bedroom is his safe retreat area. No one outside of our house goes in there. I'm not ashamed of it (although I am terrified of what the wrong person might think), but it's not something you brag about when having a friend over for coffee.

     This post is a reality check, dedicated to the people I know who scramble to patch sheetrock in their living rooms, sweep cardboard shreds into the closet, and don't have quite the right number of bookshelves to strategically hide life's imperfections. This is life. Whether you pin it on autism or other neurological problems, or just a kid prone to meltdowns on bad days. It doesn't matter. You love them, hold them close, and do the best you can to let them have their own little piece of this world.

     Because in the end, you still find them in the hallway, shredding yet another piece of paper. Peace.