Apr 302016

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Mar 312016


Safe House: how emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love, and lead well by Joshua Straub has probably been the hardest book I have read in order to review here on the blog.

The reason for the delay was not due to boredom, or forgetfulness, or any other such reason.  It all had to do with me not being able to sit down and read through the book.  I emotionally could not do it; it was hitting too close to home.  The topics it was touching on are the exact things we as a family have been working hard at creating.  We are not fully there and probably will not be for many years. Progress is being made, there are many signs of it, but there are also signs of where our walls are weak or too high.

Joshua Straub points out both research and biblical references to support his claim that emotional safety is important.  I can attest via personal experience.  When there is not a solid connection with your child, there is no personal growth in them.  When kids feel like they can not trust you, they are in a constant state of stress, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, or other such negative states.  Even writing those last few sentences have increased my heart rate due to remembering how things used to be in our household for several years.

Safe House is not written specifically for families who have adopted kids, or who are helping raise kids with a hard early childhood.  It is a good book for those families, but it is also a great book for every family to have.  Safe House is not a how-to book nor a new philosophy of ways to parent. Instead it encourages you to approach parenting from a new view point.  Once you stand back and look, think about what you are trying to do and analyze if what you are doing will actually get you there, then you can take a breath and jump back in.

Joshua Straub begins the book showing various studies concerning childhood development, long term results from various parenting styles, and how certain traits in kids lead to certain traits in adults.  He shows the good and not so great. (click here to get a preview of Chapter 1)

Next Straub goes into how using this information can lead us to becoming better parents.  If we understand the needs at certain stages, we can address them, fulfill them, and avoid some problems later on.  Using the analogy of a house, he explains how a balance in four various area helps fulfill these needs, thereby creating adults who can go into the world knowing how to live, love, and lead well.

The four walls of a Safe House are Exploration, Protection, Grace, and Truth.  If any of these walls are too high (stressed too much) or short (not often present), then your house will not be stable (your kids will not feel safe).  The look of these walls change over time, but they are always present.

While scoring the parenting quiz at the end of Chapter 5, I became worried.  See, I know my tendencies and the results were showing them clear as day.   I am definitely not a BFF Parent, a do as you want, parent, my score was pretty much zero.  I tend on the Religious and Bossy side of things.  As for being a Helicopter Parent or a Boss Parents or a Religious Parent, the scores were pretty evenly divided.

I began to worry as there was no clear winner in any one particular category.  How was I going to improve if I had no idea what I kind of parent I really was?  Was I sending similarly mixed signals to my kids?  Was I the reason why they did not seem to know how to handle themselves in various situation?  In other words, I started to freak out.

Then I got to the scores as a Safe Parent.  The results were twice what they were for being Religious or a Boss type parent.  It seems I have not been as wishy-washy as I had feared.

I took both of those results to mean that while I usually hold a balance, at times behaviors or situation call for me to act more in one realm than others.  Part of this also has to do with the different way my kids function, which I took into account while interpreting the result.

After years of trying various behavior management and failing, I no longer promote parenting in that way.  I usually have to clarify, though, as there is nothing inherently wrong with sticker charts or time outs or earning privileges.  It is the way you approach them.  If you give a time out because a kid is acting poorly,but do not connect with them emotionally to figure out what is really happening and why, then you are managing the behavior.  The kid will not learn how to regulate himself.  He will only learn that he should not do that action if he does not want to get into trouble.  But he does not learn what he should be doing.

Yes, we still give our kids consequences, both good and bad.  We still use the wrong wording at times and say they have ‘earned’ a privilege by behaving well and not draining our energy.  Yes, we/I still have room for improvement on the language side of things.

At school, George has a sticker chart for homework that he loves to have filled in and gets very protective on it if someone even dares move it.  It works very well for him in that setting.  The difference is, they are not parenting him.  They are teaching him and really do need to regulate behaviors of multiple kids from multiple backgrounds.  In that setting this method works very well for them.  We, however, are in it for the long haul and are worried about more than our kids sitting still in their seats while practicing this week’s spelling words.


The final chapters of the book take a look at one aspect of parenting many of the books I have read tend to ignore, your marriage and you personally.  If our marriage and our personal lives are in chaos, how can we give provide a stable, safe house for our kids?  If we are not seeking after God in a healthy way and demonstrating it in our lives, how can we expect our kids to understand how to do it?

I appreciated these final chapters, showing how our parenting come out of our lives as individuals.  Who we are as individuals will spill over into who we are as parents.

Safe House: how emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love, and lead well by Joshua Straub is a great resource to understanding our roles as parents in creating a life for our children to become great adults.  We are not in control of the choices they will make, but we can do our best to set them up for success by creating a safe environment from which they can grow.


There are no affiliate links in this post. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Mar 302016

May 2015 homeschool children activities collage

Last night I told my husband the kids’ imaginations were very active in their play recently, with them finally initiating story lines without me having to prompt them.

Monday we visited a historic site; an old fort used for about 200 years ago.  While walking around the kids suddenly gathered, gave me a mischievous look, then ran for the out buildings. Next came warfare of the kind not seen on the frontier, but very much in their imaginations. After being shot at with hand guns (literally their hands made into gun shapes and “pew, pew , pew” noises from them), I made a frontal assult tickling any rebels I caught.

After a bit, we saw the retreat of enemy soldiers going down a trail at the edge of the woods and followed. 3 hours later we headed home. What could have been a 5 minute stopped spurred their imaginations and they acted upon it.

This has been an issue in the past, actually thinking of group imaginative play on their own and following through in a thought out way.

This post was inspired and written when my kids were a bit younger. It was then put into the Draft folder and forgotten.  During this time in their young lives, they had a tendency to think anything was possible. If you disagreed or they found out it was not, then you either faced their wrath or incessant argument of it being a real possibility.

Here is the post and a great example:

Young Sir has a great desire to own a Transformer. A real Transformer

H wants to know how to get on t.v., or how to get stuff off the t.v.

Logical Me proceeds to explain what TV is -series of pictures.

I take a picture with my camera.  “Can you grab the item? If the camera is shaken, does it fall out?”

“Now, a video is series of pictures….” And I make a video of a cup turning around by taking a series of still photos.  

We watch a video of stop motion on youtube.

We make a flip book, with a sticky pad, of a dot moving up and down.

Being pretty sure they have gotten it, I stop ….

Young Sir follows up with, “Okay … On the way to church, you get to drive Boulder, Daddy will drive Chase and I’ll take Blades …”

Logical Me gives up and waits a few years (doc), and many more frustrated conversations from Young Sir, for this stage to pass.

Mar 162016

snow filled basketball hoop

This was written as a rant, after an episode.  It was not a horrible episode, though it was headed that way.  I was the mom who stepped down from the bleachers and walked over to the bench to do what was needed.  As an introvert, it takes a lot for me to do that. I am trying to step back more and let my kids learn on their own, though watching other adults fail, then get mad at my kids for said adults lack of observation, usually gets me over my introverted tendencies.

Parenting is an adventure. You are given responsibility of a crew with the goal if getting from point A to point Infinity. The catch, your crew were not given the choice of joining, and they do not always want to be there.  You gave to somehow convince them to follow you.

This wonderful opportunity for personal growth is made all the more adventurous when you add in kids from hard places.  Their brains are wired differently. That is a fact, not just a saying.  Trauma of any kind changes you, some more severely than others. Ever heard of PTSD?

The minds of children are especially prone to neuroligical changes that can not be undone.  The first 2 years of your life contain over 80% of your brain development.  Whether those years contained time in an ICU, surrounded by beeping machines and people you did not know, all the while not being held or touched enough; chronic sickness, resulting in going to the doctor a lot; stress in your parents’ lives resulting in less attention given to you; lots of yelling, fights, or even frequent moves; being in foster care or even private adoption (loss of main caregiver); not to mention drugs, abuse, and chronic neglect (not enough food, ignored, needs not met, etc.); trauma has a huge impact on the brain’s wiring.

In a neurotyipical child cause and effect are learned at a normal rate. Things ARE eventually learned.  However, those from hard places (histories involving trauma) have trouble with this connection. Studies show they are more likely to have ADD/ADHD, impulsiveness, end up in prison or be arrested, unemployed, drop out of school, etc.

And here is what gets me, all the effort to get foster parents, to promote adoption from foster care … I have yet to hear anything aimed at teachers, coaches, employers saying, “When you are in a place to influence these kids, here is what you will most likely see ….. and here is how to handle it …. ”

Not that people purposefully set out to keep these kids on a path to failure, they truly do not realize their brains process data and situations differently. And that makes me so sad. And mad. To the point of tears, which means I am beyond yelling mad.  It means I have to be hyper-vigilant around certain adults to make sure they do not cause my (young) kids to completely escalate and explode.  Again, they are not doing it on purpose. The methods they use, the way they respond works very well with their neurotyipical child.  It does the exact opposite for mine. Trust me, I tried and thought I was going crazy when it did not work.

In these situations I resemble an Army Apache helicopter parent. My scopes are set, ready to step in at any moment. However, it is usually to remove my child from the situation, rather than tell you that “little Johnny can’t help himself”.  Then we go off to a safe place while I spend the next 30 minutes to an hour undoing what just took the other adult under 5 minutes to create. Better for me to do that than let it escalate and have to spend a whole day ‘fixing’ it.

I am a big believer in self-control, personal responsibility, manners, and growing into a responsible, independent adult.  We are working on it. Doing better. Still a long way to go. So, while I understand most other kids that age can handle this situation without reacting this way, mine can’t.  So, please, just do not make it worse. Act like an adult and think, do not react off the cuff, it will do wonders for modeling it for my child.

Mar 052016


What to do with four boys, ages 6-8, who have been insde all day and are ready to drive everyone crazy? Send them outside of course.

The cold, misting rain had stopped and supper was eaten. Pottys breaks had and coats put on. Out the door they ran. Bird feeders were visited, a slow-to-move bird was observed, and a pail was picked up.

A quick tap and “You’re It” is all it took for a 30 minute game of tag to ensue. It would have kept going but for the signs of future wars appearing on the horizon.

The council of 4 Boys and a Girl then convened by the swing to tell stories, laugh at jokes containing bodily sounds, and learn to implement Brotherly Love to those you are not particularly feeling love towards right at the moment.

Sounds of anquish at having to return to the confines of indoors were made quieter by the promise of cake and ice cream.

Some building time, teeth brushing, PJ adornment, and a wonderfully drawn out bed time story led to the end result.  I now sit here listening to the night time sounds of the country, along with music mothers like to hear – snoring of little heads in bed.

I am just as exhausted and plan to join them in The Land of Mod very soon.  Night.

Jan 162016

bird seed snowflake children craft

Cardinal Cottage has some great photos if, what else, cardinals.  There are a few craft ideas and paintings as well.


Penny spinners look like a great craft for any time you need a fairly quick idea. I am going to file this away for an upcoming holiday shindig with a few other families.


I love how Two Peas And Their Pod took a simple tomato soup and with the help of a few simple additions too it to a more adult level. I found this right before making tomato soup for supper. I tried the addition of Greek yogurt, but forgot to measure.  While it had to be thinned with some whole milk, this is one addition I am up for keeping up my sleeve.


In an effort to find information to support a point of mine involving siblings and arguing, I came across the following 3 links. While they all belong to the same website, the first really hitting home. I have been feeling that this is an underlying issue in our home, but have not been able to put it into words. While our kids deal with childhood trauma, developmental delays, speech issues, attention issues (due to trauma?), and other labels, there has been something as of late (building in the last 12 months or so) that has been holding us all back.  I have started seeing it in how the kids treat and talk to each other, especially when they are mad.  I was having trouble pinpointing it. After reading this it felt like someone went into my brain and decoded my feelings.

Out Of Control Child, Stopping The Family Anxiety

Learn To Love Your Difficult Child

Outbursts And Temper Tantrums

Update: I was able to talk with a professional about the first article, and the one from last week.  This is a person who knows our family history and dynamics.  It is always good to get an outside perspective on how things are playing out, especially if you tend to be like me – over analyzing and internalizing everything.  This person said while part of the issues in our home are from Family Anxiety, which honestly is a part of every family and something we all have to learn to live with, that is not the main reason.  Yes, the idea of it had been causing me anxiety.  🙂  

I did use the reminders in the second two articles as encouragement.  When it feels as if we are surrounded by neural-typical kids and trauma-free families, I need the encouragement to keep doing what I am doing.  This is especially true when it feels like what I am doing looks like I am babying my kids or not being stern enough.  This is why I held the hand of my 6 year old all through the second half of our field trip yesterday and let him stand on my feet while I swayed him back and forth and he hung his head and watched reflections in the puddles on the walkways.  It was an action I would have done with a toddler, but it is what he needed (vestibular sensory activity, help with boundaries, staying on track, etc.).  Yes, he wanted to run around with the older boys, exploring the edge of a pond 100’s of yards away from us, opening doors to see what was behind them, touching everything in sight, kicking poles to see what would happen, playing follow the leader through the group of people listening to the presenter … not exactly what you should be doing while visiting a maple syrup business and a commercial green house.  So, as the parent I gave him what he really needed, even if he thought it would be more fun to “see what this does.”  Boy, he does keep you on your toes.


Here are a few pdf’s and links talking about starting transplants at home.  Just like listening to Christmas Carols all through December gets you in the mood for Christmas, reviewing information on growing transplants gets me excited to get started on my own.

Iowa State University Extension “Starting Garden Transplants At Home

Utah State University “Grow Your Own Transplants At Home

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension “Timely Tips on Starting Seedlings At Home

tomato seedlings 2013

Dec 192015

1450541470242-1576262166My kids are rough on toys. They are getting better, though we still are not the house for “be gentle” things.

George got this suitcase at an auction, paying with his own money. He was so happy. My hope was that these two things would lead to it lasting a long time, you know, like about 6 months.

It has been well played with this past month, and the source of a few arguments. It has held cars, secrets, stuffed animals and the makings of a ‘trip’.

This morning Jack comes into the kitchen while I am cooking breakfast. “Mom, is there such a thing as mirror glue?”

No,” I replied, not really paying attention.

“Does super glue work on mirrors?” His inquisitive mind honestly wanted to know.

Now, my attention has been gotten. “No, but great thinking. Why do you ask?”

“The mirror fell out of the case.”

(Sigh) Crisis averted. “I’ll come look when I finish here.”

“Okay, I’ll tell George.  He wants to drill holes in different pieces for a project.”

I turn off the stove immediately.  Crisis back on. “Let’s go look.”

Once I get to the playroom I find George sitting cross legged in front of the suitcase. Lap full of broken pieces of mirror. Playing with them!  “Sweety, put down the pieces.” Wow, I have a great calm voice.

“Why?” … seriously?! What is up with this response.

“Broken pieces of mirror are sharper than knives.” Thankfully that got his attention and he put them down carefully.


I noticed the little ‘glitter’ sparkles on the floor. Yippee, more fun! George got brushed off and all kids sent out of room. A wet paper towel later (after breakfast) and all was safe again.

Behind the mirror was an old advertisement with a date of February 1953.  This cute case lasted 62 years in someone else’s house. It took my kids all of 1 month to break it.

That is a great example of why we try not to buy the cheap plastic toys, nor pay full price if avoidable.

One more lesson down, millions more to go.

Nov 042015

Count Your Blessings

On a morning where I woke up anxious about a decision I made, this is a post that I really need to write.  Too often life throws things at us that distract us, causing us to look at all the bad, or potential bad, and forget about the good.

Here are some blessings from this past week:

1. Yesterday my husband was able to take a day off of work and spend it with Jack.  A day with just the two of them is something that has not happened in a while due to time demands in my husband’s life.  I was glad to hear it went well and that he was able to enjoys Jack’s good part of the day (the mornings) rather than just getting the cranky parts (the evenings).

2. Having found an oral surgeon who could see George and schedule a procedure within only a few weeks.  Yesterday was our consultation.  I thought I was going into it prepared, but afterwards I always think of things I should have asked.  (This is the source of my anxiety this morning.)

3. Cooking with the kids.  We had an up-and-down weekend emotionally/behaviorally and really needed some connecting activities.  Cooking is no always a good choice, but it worked well this time.

4. The beautiful weather and changing of leaves.  Enough said.  🙂

5. Mouse traps with  peanut butter.  It is harvest season and the neighborhood cats are not doing their duty.  It is an unfortunate reality of life here, but one I am thankful we have as the alternative of living with them is less appealing.

6. Small town traffic.  We used to live and work in a Really Big Town, along with all the accompanying traffic jams, honking, aggressive driving, etc.  Going to George’s appointment yesterday I realized how much my driving style has adjusted to Small Town.  The traffic in the town we were in was not even bad.  I think it had to do with the increase in number of cars, all the odd streets, construction and going somewhere new.  There were no near accidents, but I am pretty sure I annoyed more than one driver with my Small Town ways.  I do not think a single driver waved “Thank You” once while we were there.  Some things you get so used to you do not think about them till they are not there.handful of money

7. Banks.  Recently I had to explain to Jack that banks have not always been around; people used to have to keep all their money at home or with them.  I also explained that if they needed to borrow money for something (like then Benjamin Franklin wanted to start his own printing shop) they had to find a person to lend the money, or back them.  Stopping by the bank yesterday I was thankful we did not have to keep our money under our mattress or in a shoe box in the closet.  It was held for safe keeping in a place I feel confident will have it when I go to withdraw it.

8. Choice of grocery stores.  I decided to do a bit of shopping with coupons, something I have gotten out of the habit of doing.  After making 2 stops at larger stores, I did a quick stop at Aldi’s.  While they do not take coupons, their prices are consistently low.  The option of going to various places to get what we need is nice, though time consuming if I do not watch the clock.  🙂

9. Blankets.  I am currently covered by a scrap quilt I made several years ago during my lunch breaks and commutes.  (Commutes were fairly long in Really Big Town and I was able to car pool with some others.)  It may not be the prettiest quilt, but it is a favorite for all of us as it is heavy and colorful

10. A working vacuum cleaner.  When we were out of bags and I had to drive to Big Town to get them, we had to wait a week or so.  Most of our floors are hard wood, but there are a few area rugs.  I am always amazed at how much dirt finds its way onto those rugs.

And there you having it, 10 fairly practical blessings.  I have to admit that I was forced to really think about a few of these, as I am still sitting here in my anxious state.  It is so easy get wrapped up in your own thoughts that to stop and look around and take notice can require some concerted effort.

Off I go to get the day going, hug my kids and look at the beautiful leave through my large windows.

Aug 252015

homeschool children pe and fine motor collage

Part of the changes we  have made in the past year have involved trying to figure out how to help work through various sensory issue with one of our kids.  At first, we were not really sure what it was or what was causing it.  We still are not really sure, but we are working on at least using out words to talk through things rather than just reacting to them.

One of the things we have tried this summer was Occupational Therapy.  When this was first suggested, I was not sure how therapy to help someone be able to get back to work could work to help our kid function better in social settings, but I was willing to try anything.  Turns out that Occupation Therapy for kids.  wiseGeek explains it here:

Occupational therapy for children is basically any sort of hands-on, interpersonal treatment between a medical professional and a child or group of children that is designed to help the equip the young participants with the skills needed to participate in everyday activities appropriate for their age.

Some of our sessions lately have covered Expected and Unexpected Behaviors.  Here are a few examples:

  • An expected behavior would be to sit in your chair and listen during class.  The result would be that the teacher would be happy and you would learn something new.
  • An unexpected behavior would be to sleep in your chair. The result would be that your teacher would be upset and you would not learn what you need to know for the test.
  • An expected behavior would be to brush your teeth after breakfast.  The result would be that your breath smells good.
  • An unexpected behavior would be to run around the house after breakfast.  The result would be having bad breath and people not wanting to talk with you.

The child who is going to OT was having a lot of issues tolerating these scenarios.  It was too uncomfortable for this child.  It was getting to a point where we were considering stopping OT services all together and waiting for more maturity to happen. (That still might take place.)  This past time, the therapist changed things up a bit, adding in two read aloud books (via Youtube videos) instead of just talking through situations.  Not only did this create a change in the routine, but it also allowed the child to step back and look at the situation from a less personal view point.

A few breaks added in helped break up the session and make the uncomfortable parts not so long.

In both of these books I could very much relate to the adult, as it also mimicked how I reacted to these situations.

The first book, “Miss Nelson is Missing”, that they went through had to do with a teacher who changed her behaviors based upon how the children were behaving.

The second book, “No, David”, very much shows what my life is often like right now.  I have tried to set up our day and life so as to not have to say “no” so often, though at times you just can not help it.  It has become a routine for me to automatically say “no”, so I am trying to change up my answers.

“What do you think I am going to say? Why would I give you that answer?”

“What was my answer last time you asked?” or “What was my answer when you brother asked me that question just now?”

One of my favorite parts was the end, where the therapist stressed that even at the end of a day full of “no’s” that his mom still loved him.

You may not need the stress these points as much as we do, but they are still good books to share with your child.