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Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Fall Asleep in Haiti and Wake up in Africa!!

How's that for a catchy title? Well, that's what seems to happen to me each and every night for the past month or so. Well, kind of....

As most know, I have children I sponsor in both Haiti and Africa. My biggest hearts desire for some time now has been to go to Haiti. Even before I had sponsored children there, I have felt a tug at my heart for Haiti. Now, since the earthquake that has only gotten stronger. I had planned on going next year with Compassion, but the trip for now has been canceled. So, with that heavy on my mind, and my sponsored child in Uganda writing me often lately and hearing of her fears of the drought they are suffering, I guess they have all been on my mind causing this odd dream.

I decided maybe to take it has a hint to write as well. I normally write all three girls often, but have been not quite as faithful lately. Maybe now that I have, this dream will stop. I sure hope some day soon, I get to go to sleep in Haiti, but I hope I wake up there too!! Then someday also get to go to Uganda to meet Betty.

I thought I would use this hint as an opportunity to update on the girls here as well, as I have had several people inquire how they are doing, especially those in Haiti since the earthquake.

Sarafina, the older of the two girls in Haiti, had the hardest time following the quake. Her home was destroyed. She sounded so discouraged the first time I heard from her after the quake. So frightened too, as she and her family were sleeping outside at night. The most recent letter she sounds much better and things have improved for her but only slightly. I am just amazed at how positive and thankful she can be for the small things, like a food package, or that Compassion has a place for them to go during the day. While many of us, myself included would most likely focus on what we lost or don't have, she chooses to focus on the good things, no matter how little they seem.

I have not heard from Ismaline since the first letter after the quake. She and her family seem to have fared much better than Sarafina's though lets face it, her situation is still far from perfect.

Betty who lives in Uganda and normally doesn't ask for much in regards to prayer or seem to worry much is very concerned about the drought in her area. It must be a big problem as another sponsor I know from church has a child in Betty's area and has heard the same concerns.

It makes me so sad and angry that little children suffer like this and have to have these kinds of worries at such a young age. Their biggest worry should be getting a passing grade in school or what dress to wear, not if there will be enough food to eat due to the drought or where they will sleep at night due to their home being destroyed in a disaster.

I makes me feel selfish and spoiled that I can make mountains out of mole hills of my own little teeny tiny problems, when in reality I don't really have any. I have food to eat each night with no fear of running out, a safe roof over my head with a place to lay down my head at night, I have clothes, a family that loves me and a God who cares. What more do I need?

As Wes Stafford's quote says "The opposite of poverty is enough."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Signing Time!

Our youngest, Austin, is turning four next month and still not really talking. He can repeat words he hears, but doesn't really seem to know how or even seem interested in two way communication. I haven't been overly concerned, as I really believe he will start talking and conversing when he is good and ready. The pediatrician though seemed more concerned and referred us to a speech and language specialist.

I can't say I was particularly impressed with her or her assessment. Austin, as usual wasn't very cooperative and wouldn't respond to her questions, so she asked me to answer how I "thought" he would. How she can come up with any sort of realistic diagnoses off of what I "thought" he would answer, I don't know, but she said he has both receptive and expressive language delays.

I wont argue, he does have delays. As far as the seriousness and treatment and prognosis, I can't say I agree with it all, but she did make a suggestion of teaching him sign language as a way to communicate. I have always loved sign language and at one time many, many years ago was actually quite proficient at it! I seem to have forgotten a lot of it, but it is slowly coming back.

At first I kind of blew the idea off, still believing he'll converse when he's ready in his own time. But out of sheer frustration I finally broke down and bought a "Signing Time" DVD. I have to say I am impressed, and think this was probably the best thing we could have done!

Not only is he trying to sign, but he is actually SAYING the words too! I am guessing it is the repetition combined with the "seeing" the picture words, and "hearing" the words and the "doing" of signing them, but he is both saying and signing many words now! He hasn't really moved beyond using them during the video yet, but I am hoping that is soon to follow. Meanwhile, with all the catchy songs and the repetition, the rest of us are picking up on it fairly quick as well so we can use it with him.

I have heard from several parents with children who have responded positively to these videos as well. Some have special needs and are non-verbal for whatever reason and have either learned to sign or like Austin, both speak and sign as a result of these videos. Several parents of just young yet non-speaking babies and toddlers have found teaching their babies sign language has really helped develop their language skills, plus reduced frustration as even though they can't yet speak they can still communicate and let their needs be known.

I HIGHLY recommend these videos for anybody with either children who are having difficulty in the language department or just too young to yet speak and communicate effectively. They are also great for younger children who may be interested in signing. Due to the silly songs and over all nature of the videos they are best for younger children, maybe up to eight years of age, though my eleven year old enjoys them immensely. My almost fourteen year old on the other hand, isn't the least bit interested, they are definitely geared for the younger set.

If you do have older children interested in signing, I highly recommend THIS site. It shows and teaches most of the ASL signs and even offers a free full course in ASL. There are great picture demonstrations as well as video demonstrations for all of the signs. I used this several years ago for my oldest son, for part of his homeschooling program.

Sign Language can be fun to learn, and in the case of non-verbal children, open up the doors to communication. Like many languages, you just never know when it will come in handy somewhere in your life either!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Life Isn't Fair, Get Over It!!

The past couple of days I have heard, seen, and read a lot of whining about things not being "fair." Surprisingly, this wasn't from children, but in all cases adults!

On a homeschool board I lurk at one mother was complaining because she had one child in public school and one homeschooled, and she felt it wasn't "fair" for the public school child to miss out on field trips and other fun activities that the homeschooled child may get to participate in.

At a recent gathering I recently attended, I overheard a mother complaining it wasn't "fair" that one daughter got invited to a friends for a sleepover and not her other daughter. She was bragging that she actually told the parent inviting the child that she wasn't to ever ask again for one child to sleep over without asking the other!!

I have three boys left at home ages (almost) 4, 11, and (almost)14. There are plenty of times things aren't' "fair" around here. One gets invited to a party or outing but not the others. Do I demand the inviting family invite ALL of my kids? I think not!! What does that teach them?

They need to learn young, that not everything in life is always fair. In most cases it rarely is. The exception to this may be the public school class room where everyone is a winner and everyone gets to be student of the month at least once, and everyone passes the grade regardless of their ability to actually do the next grade level of work.

At work as an adult, someone undeserving may get a raise, while some one deserving gets passed up. Fair? No, but that's life. Better to learn to deal with it at a young age then to grow up expecting and having always had everything be fair thanks to mom.

Recently my oldest son in the military, had to do extra push ups for being late to muster. Meanwhile 2 other Sailors were even later and didn't have to do the push ups. My son was quite angry because it wasn't "fair." I told him the same thing I am telling everyone here "Life isn't fair, get over it!!"

I think the schools, sports organizations and even parents are doing a great disservice to today's young children by making sure every body's always a winner. These kids grow up believing this then have serious issues when they learn that's not the way real life works.

As parents, we are to teach and train our children these valuable life lessons. As painful as it may be to watch a younger child's tears over not being invited along with big brother or sis to a sleep over or other outing, the tears are only temporary and the valuable life lessons being taught will take them well into their adult years!

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's Not All Bad...

Many parents these days avoid most forms of media for their children because of the negative influences. I agree that these days, this could be a wise choice. I know myself, I recently watched a movie just because it was on and it probably was a movie that was best left unwatched. Two weeks later I still have yucky images stuck in my mind as a result. This particular incident made me really realize how important it is to be very careful when selecting movies, especially for our children.

So many movies and TV shows have little of anything positive or redeeming about them. Most glorify intimacy outside of marriage, depict disrespectful children talking horribly to their parents, and fathers either absent or as some sort of goofy idiot. Not to mention horrible violence, foul language and dabbling in the occult.

Yes, all of this and more make it seem like a wise choice to avoid the media all together. But like most things in life, the media too can be redeemed for the good! I think the reason many of us are leery on what our children watch is because eventually the actions and behaviors on these shows, start to creep up in our own children. To some that may sound far fetched, but it's really not. I just witnessed last night first hand how easily this can happen, but in this case it was for the good!

I rented a movie on Netflix that was recommended based on previous rentals. I had never heard of it before, but was looking for a family film to enjoy with the kids this weekend as I had also ordered a heavy, not as enjoyable movie, for school purposes(Amistad)

We decided to watch the recommended film last night. At first I kind of cringed and thought the kids would find it too preachy as it was clearly a Christian film and like most Christian films, the message wasn't settle and the acting was horrible. Don't get me wrong, being a Christian myself I am thankful for Christian films to show my family, but sadly, often enough, the acting is substandard, the plots are predictable and they can get too preachy. The thing is, often they're preaching to the choir, and most non-Christians are not going to run out and rent or buy these movies.

The kids as expected started to complain that is was boring or stupid. Then something happened. They started really getting into it! I know one of them even cried in a highly emotional scene. By the time we were half way through, if one had to get up for some reason they insisted I pause it.

What impressed me was that about 3/4's of the way through, one asked me if we could start having a Bible study here at home for children! Both boys seemed to take to heart the lessons in this film. These are boys that are used to watching more worldly films with very little limits on their selections and yet they were enjoying this sappy film and most importantly taking the life changing lessons to heart.

This also got me thinking about not only my own children, but how we treat the youth and youth programs in our churches. Many use worldly gimmicks to attract and keep kids in their programs. Rock bands, overnight video game parties, etc..most youth groups are little more than entertainment, and the worlds entertainment at that. It is as if leaders don't think Gods word alone is enough to attract and keep youth. In this film, the man giving Bible studies did from time to time utilize games and object lessons to teach a truth, but they were totally wholesome and non-worldly. Of course in the film, it showed the kids responding positively. But MY kids responded positively! They want and long for something similar and are willing to try and provide that for their community themselves!

I will post more on that topic another time(youth groups) I mostly wanted to share how while we do need to be careful what we let our children(and ourselves) watch, I don't think we have to avoid all media all together. It can be used for the good. I think my kids learned more and were more inspired by this simple, preachy and poorly acted film then they have ever been in any Sunday school class or youth event.

If you're curious, this movie was The Secrets if Jonathan Sperry. It is available at Netflix.