Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Challah Cloth Craft

In following our guide to studying the Biblical Holidays, we have started celebrating Shabbat, or the Sabbath, every week. The basic items needed to celebrate are a table cloth, two candles, bread, and wine (which we substitute grape juice). The bread they make is called Challah bread and they have a specific cloth to cover it on the table. The reason for this is that it is Jewish custom to bless certain foods in a specific order and bread comes before wine in the blessings. However, on the Sabbath the blessing of the cup comes before the blessing of the bread therefore they cover the bread so that it is not shamed in not having gone first.

I wanted our table to look traditional so I wanted a cloth myself. The book we are using, A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays, had a pattern for making one. I also searched for a few craft ideas online and settled for my own easy version. I bought a pre-made cloth napkin and used special fabric markers to make it easier for Gess to do it by herself.


I then made an outline of the words  Shabbat Shalom in both English and Hebrew on the cloth. In the middle I used the pattern provided in the book.


Then I let Gess color it in.


Now our table has all the components we need!


Friday, January 23, 2015

STOP YELLING! - No one is listening

When I first met my husband one of the hardest things to get used to was how quiet he was. His speech was always clear and audible, but it was never loud. Even when upset his voice remained in an even tone. When he listened to music it was never cranked and he rarely watched TV.

I, however, came from a very loud home. My parents always had something turned on. If it wasn't the television, it would be the radio. In fact it was the radio the TV was usually still on, just turned down. Their voices were much louder because they were always talking over something and if you were upset you yelled. These were two very different environments.

Having been raised in a loud environment, I was pretty much the same. I screamed when I was angry to make my point, I always had the TV or radio on, and I even loved to fall asleep while watching a show. As you can imagine, this change was quite an adjustment. It was easy enough to get over watching so much TV when I decided it was too expensive, but the hardest part was realizing that yelling was not the way to settle an argument or make your point.

I remember the first time I had even really noticed a difference. My husband and I were driving down the road having a discussion. I don't remember the topic, all I remember is that my husband raised his voice to me and that shocked me so much it made me cry. Until that moment I never really thought about the fact that my husband never yelled before, but now it hit me like a ton of bricks. The thing is, he didn't even yell at me then. He just spoke with more force and that was ALL that was needed to get my attention!

Ever since that day I have been observing this phenomenon and have changed my ways as well. I am now more quiet like my husband, so much so that my mother often thinks that something is wrong with me. Now that I have a daughter with special needs this is a good thing because she literally hates it when things are too loud. Too many conversations in a cafeteria can upset this child, let alone a full fledged argument with yelling.

That led me to my next observation. I hardly have to yell at my child to get her to behave. Most of the time calm reasoning works best. In fact, the only time I yell is when she is in such a state that I can not get her attention any other way. Having special needs, there are times when she will have what I call a melt down. These are pretty rare, but they happen. Since yelling is pretty rare in our house when we do have a reason to yell it works! She quiets down and looks at us with utter shock. Then she listens to what we have to say and we say it in our calm steady voice again. This only works because we don't yell at her any other time, except maybe when her safety is in danger such as running into the road, etc.

Now I know that some people will be thinking that the only way they can get through to their child is to yell, so therefore they have to do it a lot. However, what I see, from both my own experience with my boys when they were young, and in observing other families, is that you don't get through by yelling, which is why you have to keep doing it. It is ineffective, therefore it has lost it's significance.

There are ways to get through to a child without yelling. In fact we find being calm and cool while dishing out consequences works best. They can stomp, yell, throw a fit, or whatever, all that does is lead to longer and harsher consequences. Be consistent with that a few times and you will be amazed at how effective this can be!

Here is what we do when Gess misbehaves. We tell her she has lost certain privileges for the rest of the day and then have her go to her room until she calms down. If she refuses and shouts "NO!!" we then look calmly at her and say, "You either go to your room now, OR you lose privileges for 2 days. If you keep yelling we will keep taking privileges, the choice is yours."  Now you have to be ready to follow through. Gess has gone weeks without privileges and at times we have had to carry her to her room. The key is to make the punishment something they love. If she was able to leave the house on her own I would probably ground her. No matter what the punishment be sure to follow through.

If you are not going to yell at your child you have to be both consistent and determined. You have to do this every single time and you must follow through. If you give in the next day and say, "oh you can have your privileges back early," you are teaching them that their yelling worked and eventually you will start yelling again too. However, if you are determined not to give in, they will eventually learn that yelling isn't working for them.

Once that happens all of you will yell less frequently and when you do it will be a better indication to those around you about what really matters to you. If I saw my daughter slap another child (which never happens) I would immediately yell at her. She would then know that was not something I took lightly. Causing harm to another is something to get upset about. But we need to reserve that for the most critical things.

Not only is our discipline more consistent but our lives are much more peaceful. Yelling and too much noise in general is just not good for a happy, healthy home. Yelling too much simply makes yelling irrelevant and you end up doing it out of habit rather than because it gets results and you teach your children to grow up and do the same.

Just watching the news I can see we live in a generation of loud, obnoxious, screamers. All the talking heads do is yell at each other, or bring on people who yell at each other. Everyone is trying to make their point by being loud about it and all it is doing is making a bunch of noise because no one listens anymore.

I say this only because I have noticed the change it has brought in me. Remember, I was a screamer once too but I learned and changed and my life is better for it. So, if you have something to say - say it, don't scream it. Observe yourself and your surroundings for the next few months. Do you notice more noise than is necessary? Do you seem to yell at your spouse or your children too much? Do you catch yourself yelling at the TV, computer, or no one at all? Maybe it's time for a change. Believe me, the more you yell the less effective it is. So stop yelling because no one is listening anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Moon Phases With Oreo Cookies


I am sure if you have been on Facebook, Pinterest, and other such places you have seen the Oreo cookie moon phases. Gess is learning about space right now and her text book suggested using paper plates to make the phases of the moon, but I decided to go this route since it seemed a bit more fun.

It's really easy:

Step 1 - Break the cookie apart leaving the middle in tact. This is the toughest part. Gess broke a few and the middle isn't always in tact but we were still able to use those for some of the moon phases.


Step 2 - Use a butter knife to carve the cream out into the desired shape of the moon.


Step 3 - Place it on your chart. Repeat until you have all the phases done.


We put it on a paper plate. Most people label it, but I did not. Instead I would have Gess tell me what they are or ask her a phase and have her point to it. The phases are:

1. New Moon
2. Waxing Crescent Moon
3. First Quarter Moon
4. Waxing Gibbous Moon
5. Full Moon
6. Waning Gibbous Moon
7. Last Quarter Moon
8. Waning Crescent Moon


Now there is just one final step.

Step 4 - Eat the pieces of cookies that didn't make it onto your chart!


This project is easy, fun, and delicious!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Learning How To Pray

My daughter has Down syndrome and there have been many things that have been difficult for her to learn. From walking and talking to education and life-skills she has had many struggles along the way. Every time I find something successful I long to share it with others who might find it helpful. That was the entire reason I started this blog. However, this post is not about how I taught my daughter to pray. Instead, it is about how my daughter taught me to pray!

Prayer is a popular topic to study. The Scripture has much to say about it and yet I find myself struggling to do it. Oh, I sit and bow my head just fine. I even have chunks of my day carved out for just that purpose, but what do I do when I am there?

One thing I do is talk. Prayer is a conversation and I am good at that part, but it's the quiet listening I am not so good at. I also struggle with what to say. I have my list and I go down it. I have loved ones who need salvation and friends who are sick. I pray for my pastor, my family, missionaries, our finances, for wisdom, and mercy but when I say it over and over again it sounds like a list of demands rather than a conversation with the Almighty.

Gess, however, seems to know what to say. Listening to her pray has been one of the most powerful lessons on prayer. Of course, much of what she says are things she has heard other people pray. The whole, "bless the food to the nourishment of our bodies" is one of them, but sometimes there are things she prays that I know are simply from her heart. Here are a few things that Gess has taught me through her own prayers.



1. You can pray for someone more than once
I am on the prayer chain for our church and when I get a call I am generally faithful to pray for them. I usually do it right away so I won't forget later. Gess, however, never forgets. In fact she continues to pray for them over and over again. It is not uncommon to hear her mention them for the next several days at our meals. Every time it is Gess' turn to pray, she will pray for that request or some other friend she knows is sick. I sure wish I had the sensitivity to always keep those requests at the forefront of my thoughts so I would pray for them more often.

2. Pray about what you read in His Word.
I have been taught to pray through the Scripture and I make it a point to do that. Again, I put aside time and read a passage for the purpose of praying through it. Gess, however will pray about Scripture all the time. At our meal it is not uncommon to hear her say things like "Thank you God for making dinosaurs on Day 6" or what ever she has been reading about lately.  If she is working on a memory verse it will mention it in her prayer too. That seems to come natural to her. I know she certainly didn't learn it from me!

3. Read His Word often so that you will pray about it.
Gess not only studies God's Word for homeschool, but she will read it on her own. Whatever latest topic she is on will spark her to look up Scripture. From reading in Job about the Behemoth, Exodus to learn about Moses, or Matthew to learn about the birth of Jesus, Gess will study. She does not do this to show herself approved but because she loves to do it!

4. Pray about what is on your mind.
Gess has prayed about video games, sports, and other things that I would never dare pray for. While we have talked with her about the importance of making prayer a real conversation with God, she has made me realize that its a good thing that she wants God in on what she is doing. It has been helpful when she is doing something wrong. Once we point out what God's Word says about it, she knows to pray for God to help her do the right thing. The Bible says to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6-7) and Gess takes that very literally.

5. Pray the moment you realize you have sinned.
Explaining the significance of sin has been hard to do. It is hard for any child, and even adults to understand consequences that we don't immediately see and feel. There have been times when we were in the middle of explaining to Gess why she was wrong when she immediately bowed her head and started praying to God! She cuts off the middle man and goes straight to the source!  After that we usually hug but she still faces consequences for her actions so there is no motivation to simply pretend like she is praying. To her, its very real. After her prayer she seems to feel better and is truly repentant. Oh I wish I could be like that!

This is why it was no surprise to me that Gess was voted the "most prayerful" at her camp last summer. In fact, when I heard that it only confirmed that her desire and love for prayer comes from her heart. She doesn't need us to remind her to pray. On the contrary, she is usually the one reminding us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A System for Getting it all Done

Gess turned 13 last October and I have to tell you she is certainly showing great signs of maturity. I have blogged over the years of ways I taught her how to do chores, remember her homework, and regulate her screen time. Well, all the hard work has not been in vain! We seem to have a system that is working quite smoothly!

I believe the My Student Logbook was the final tool that helped pull it all together. I reviewed this last September and it is a constant in our daily use now.


What I do is list each subject that Gess must complete each day. Below that are other things she must accomplish such as chores, practicing her piano, reading a book, and making her bed.  To motivate her to complete them we have one rule. No Media until every box is checked off. That means:

No TV
No Computer (except for school related)
No XBox
No CD or MP3 music.

She does get breaks in her day. She can play outside, with legos, color, or any other thing that is not media related.

This has been a great encouragement for her. It has helped her self-regulate media teaching her that work must always be done before play and that there is some play that is more beneficial than others.  It has been so wonderful to have my daughter run up and ask what chore she can do!  Its on her list and she wants it done. No arguing to get out of it and instead asking to do it!  How is that for a great system!? In fact she is in her room reading right now to complete her list for the day.


These are important life skills that will follow her all the days of her life.  Yes, she has a list telling her what to do. But so do we!  In fact another review product we use all the time around here is the Motivated Moms Daily Planner I reviewed last year.


Motivated Moms is MY checklist for what to do. I just downloaded the 2015 version last week. I admit near the end of the year it got away from me, but I am back at checking off my list each day and therefore my house is cleaner, my quiet time is more consistent, and well, I'm just more organized!


You know there may be days where we don't get it all done all of the time, but using these systems has helped us to have more days where we do. That's all I need.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Free Friday: ESA Computer Reading Program

Last year I reviewed a reading program titled Essential Skills Advantage or ESA. We really loved it and Gess still uses it a few times a week to supplement her other lessons. While you can get some perks with a premium membership, the program itself is absolutely FREE.  The activities are colorful and engaging.  Here are a few Gess has done.


Anyway, I love suggesting resources that work for us. That was the main reason I started this blog. When I find a great resource and its FREE, I have to remind my readers about it from time to time. So give ESA a try. I think you will find your child might like it too. It certainly won't cost you anything to find out!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Bible Reading for the New Year

Every year I resolve to read the entire Bible in a year. Sometimes I make it through, but most of the time I do not. I will at least strive to stay consistent. This year I found a nice reading schedule called the 52 Week Bible Reading Plan that may help with that. I like it because it changes what you are reading every day. Your reading covers these areas: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.


If that one is not for you I found a pretty good list of other plans to follow as well at Ligonier Ministries Bible Reading Plans for 2015. They offer them in PDF and I prefer that so I can read it in my own bible and check it off when done. It's easier to keep up with if I get behind and allows me to get ahead too. I actually started before January so I had some wiggle room. While I am not encouraging Gess to read through her bible in the year she does have daily reading she does in her studies each day.

For memorization I am going to participate in the Beth Moore Living Proof Ministries Siesta Scripture Memory Team. This commits me to memorizing two new verses each month. I then share those on her blog and in my spiral notebook. I know Gess can keep up with two verses a month so I am having her join me. I couldn't find a 4x6 spiral with index cards but I found a 4x6 notebook for her. I am using the 3x5.


We wanted to start with verses that explained why we are committing to memorization so my first verse of 2015 is:
Joshua 1:8 "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." ESV

Gesserine's first verse is:
Psalm 119:11 "
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You." NKJV

What are you doing to keep the Word of God fresh each day? Are you committed to daily reading and reflection? I hope to also write more of my devotional that I started. Maybe someday it will be finished and I can share it with you.


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