Monday, December 30, 2013

Ideas on Teaching Kids about Prayer

Over the past six years as I have been teaching my kids about "how to pray," I managed to come up with categories of "ways to pray" to help them organize and understand prayer in their mind.  Honestly, it helps me too. I have come across kids books about praying that have categorized prayer into many of the above groups.  I think these 6 are the main ones I focus on with myself and my kids. 

So, knowing that humans love visuals to accompany ideas, I decided it was time to make a visual for our prayer categories. Here is a pie chart I made in a word document.  You can make it into a wheel with a spinner, or pull colors out of a hat, or pick the one that is one your/their heart! A short description of each is below. Hope this is a helpful visual.  It was very easy to make!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Including "is" + "location" in Speech

I recently did an evaluation on a student who is working on an objective in speech to work on using the word "is" + a location.  For example, "The pig IS IN the mud."

Problem/Sensory issues

The problem here is that our student (let's call him Frank), leaves out the "is" and sometimes other parts of the sentence.  He does get both of the subjects which is helpful to those of us participating in conversations with him.

Anyhow, the idea to use music to help was to slow the speech down to help with his auditory tracking and processing and place emphasis on the "is" and the location.  Successful auditory tracking requires our brain to track or "catch" the sequence of sounds heard, re-create the sounds (requires short-term memory), organize and determine relationships between each sound (put in order), and then file into memory.  Frank is only processing parts of the sentence and it happens to be the important words like the two subjects and the verb (The boy going store).

Successful music

I found that putting the selected sentence to the tune of Sally is Wearing a Red Dress worked very well. It's an old Wee Sing song.  You can hear me singing it with my kids (not clients) in the video above.

This piece:

  1. Is in 6/8 time which creates the "swaying" feeling, heavily emphasizing each beat.
  2. Is slow enough to give Frank more processing time on each syllable.  
  3. Has 4 phrases which gives the opportunity to repeat the sentence 4 times and help with filing the sounds into memory.
Steps for the Intervention

  1. Present a visual (I used speech cards from Artic. You can also use something like a box and an animal or manipulative)
  2. Sing the entire song (a capella).
  3. Take turns singing each line (you go first).
  4. Repeat as necessary.
  5. When they master the objective or several sentences add some accompaniment to make it more fun.
Example Sentence

The barn. 
The barn.
The the barn.
The pig is in the barn.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shoe Problems

So I'm a little paranoid.  About shoes. Shoes in the house, specifically.  Growing up, we took them off at the front door. This habit began when we lived overseas in Dubai.  The local people there did the same when they entered their homes.  Sounded good to us.  Less dirt in the house!  And now, less allergens tracked in.

Turns out, there is another advantage of putting your shoes by the door when you come in.  We always know where our shoes are.  In the closet or by the door. I have dragged Scott into this idea which he has kindly begun to get on board with.  The kids however, are still working on the habit. I still hear grumbles and "awwws" as I announce, "Please take off your shoes and put them by the door."   Sometimes they sweetly oblige, but other times the shoes do not come off right away and end up in no man's land.  This of course means that shoes cannot be found when they are needed. Like when Mom is dragging them out the door to be somewhere.

Fortunately,  this is a mistake they can afford to make with a small price to pay.  I would rather them learn from this kind of mistake than some one with a bigger price down the road when they are a few years older. As Foster and Clive have said, we build self-esteem by learning to make successful choices.  I just have to remind myself of this and tell myself that I do not need to follow them and say, "Put your shoes by the door" until they do it (unless there is mud).  I forget sometimes....a lot of times..., but this weekend I remembered to just give one warning. So this morning, (Sunday!) when we were trying to leave for church AND the USA vs Australia women's soccer (YEAH!!!!!) we had some problems.  Zachary was trying to pack his change of clothes that included his sneakers and they were no where to be found.

I tried super hard to be patient...hmmm you might have to ask them how that turned out...and then also sympathetic to how he was feeling so I could lessen the power struggle (as indicated in Love and Logic which I'm trying to make sure I'm doing because I do love their philosophy).  So I said, "I'm sorry you can't find the shoes you need. I feel very frustrated when that happens to me."  He was extremely upset without his sneakers and ended up having to go with just sandals.  The first few minutes of the car ride were extremely unpleasant with a little boy screaming that he wanted his shoes.  Hopefully our sympathetic lines of, "I'm sorry you don't have your shoes...I know it's frustrating to not know where you put them" helped with the realization that it was his responsibility.   We also did ask him when he was in his calmer state about what might have happened if he had put his shoes by the door.

Anyhow, after the morning at church and then the game at the Alamo Dome, we came home and Zachary searched for his shoes, very concerned that he would not have them for P.E. tomorrow (found them in the guest bathroom...?what??? I never would have thought to look there).  The hope is that the shoes will be sitting happily in their home by the door far more often.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Maps for Kids on the Road

Image from Google Maps.  Thanks Google!

Welcome back to the blog!  I've been off for the summer.  I went on a kind of "obligation vacation" of the sort (with the exception of parenting).  I got to have a break from music therapy work, choir, teaching faith formation, scheduled sports and as you can see, I have not taken the time to post either. These are all things I love but the break this summer was very needed.  School is beginning in two weeks and I could have gone two more plus that as far as school starting again but it's coming so here I am getting back into the swing. 

We are about to take our last trip for the summer. It will be a long weekend trip up to Amarillo and Lubbock where my parent-in-laws live as well as some cousins of Scott's family.  We do not travel up there often so we are very excited.  Especially the kids!  But of course...the drive will be long and kids will be asking, "Are we there yet?" or "when can we go to the bathroom?" as I DEFINITELY did when I was a kid. 

Back in the spring ,NPR's Talk of the Nation, had a show on maps.  I found it fascinating and one of the callers shared what she does in the car for her kids to help them continue to develop spacial awareness skills. She gives one or two kids a map to look at while driving and the other might get the GPS.  

To get a better idea, spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space or organized knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that give space (    Spatial awareness visualize patterns in space especially in depth and distance ( Spatial awareness can also transfer to many other skill areas especially in relating to structure, organization, how you visually picture things in your mind and is an important factor in our overall perception.  

I thought back to how much I LOVED looking at maps as a kid.  I used to stare endlessly at a giant and detailed map of Louisiana in the Dairy Queen my grandpa owned when I would go to work with him.  Honestly I still love to look at maps. 

 I thought that having maps for my kids during our upcoming drive would be more fun for my kids as well.  They can stay a little more occupied AND  learn to figure out when the next bathroom stop will be.  Well... it maybe a few more years before we reach that one.

Map Actitvity

  1. I printed off a large map of Texas with the basic rout (as seen above.)  
  2. I also printed out more detailed maps of different sections of the route. 
  3. I then also printed an even more specific one of Amarillo so they can see individual streets when we get close.  Of course they may be fast a sleep by the time we arrive but you NEVER know!!

I hope this is something that others find enjoyable and also helpful.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fiesta Wreaths

Adelyn's wreath! She picked the colors and glued them herself.

San Antonio celebrated the annual Fiesta in April!  If you are not familiar with Fiesta here, I'll just tell you it's like Mardi Gras but Texas style.  It's a huge celebration to honor the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto.  We got parades, costumes, and big ol' parties.  It started out as a single event but now there are about 100 events during Fiesta week.  I saw Fiesta wreaths similar to these one in one of the schools where I see a client so Adelyn and I made these one Monday morning for our craft.  We used tissue paper and glued it to a poster board circle cut out.  Last we attached the ribbon. 

That was our little Fiesta celebration this year!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vegetable Bouquet

This past week was teacher appreciate week!!  Several children in Zachary's class came with adorable and unique ideas.  I remember when my mom was a teacher and she came home with bundles of chocolate and goodies.  It was very exciting for my brother and I!  We always offered to help her eat it and it took a while! We loved it and Mom liked the gifts but I found myself wondering this week if maybe I should come up with something else that would be cute, very useful, healthy, and would not clutter the house.  Especially if any teachers are trying to limit sugar or cholesterol intake.

When Scott did his very first half marathon he was on a big salad and vegetable kick.  I made him a vegetable bouquet for the race so that triggered the idea to do this one.  I looked on Pinterest because I was sure that other people would have done something like this and figured it would have looked much more gorgeous and creative than the one I had given Scott.  I definitely found some...and yes... they were much too fancy for me to throw together quickly so what you see here was what I came up with.  We brought this one to Adelyn's Mom's Day Out teacher.  She ended up loving it and said she would be eating it for lunch that day!

This one is complete with:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • carrots
  • yellow sunburst tomatoes
  • a clementine orange (which I added later after the picture)

We also brought a bowl, a fork and olive oil vinegar dressing.

It definitely made me more excited about eating veggies! What are your creative gift ideas?  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Teaching the Mass to Kindergarteners

This year I have had the privilege of teaching Zachary's kindergarten faith formation class this past year.  I had a fantastic partner, Denise.  One of my favorite weeks we taught about last month was the Mass.  I really wanted them to have a greater appreciate for the Mass, however I knew it would be tough because right now with the short attention spans they have, it is hard for them to understand what is going on and appreciate it in the moment.

We did a couple of things to engage them.

We decided we would act out the Mass and have the children be a different part.  We had a priest, a deacon, 2 readers, gift bearers and the choir.  The picture above shows the altar that we used.  The choir enjoyed using egg shakers and rhythm sticks when it was their turn.  We have 10 kids in the class so this set up worked very well.

Visual Mass Parts
We printed off each detailed step of the Mass. For example, the greeting, Penitential Act, First reading, etc. Each child got 2 of these papers and when we got to that part of the pretend Mass we asked who had that part.  They had to look at their papers and figure it out for themselves.  

Hanging the papers up allowed them to see the entire Mass in front of them which helped them make sense of the order.  The kids also agreed that they would be less confused at Mass if they had something like this to follow along with.  

Here are the steps we did.

  • Greeting
  • Penitential Act
  • Kyrie
  • Gloria
  • Liturgy of the Word Begins-First Reading-Old Testament
  • Psalm- Old
  • Second Reading- New Testament
  • Gospel/Homily- New
  • Creed
  • Prayers of the Faithful
  • Offertory
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
  • Holy Holy Holy
  • Calling of the Holy Spirit
  • Consecration of Bread
  • Consecration of Wine
  • Great Amen
  • Our Father
  • Sign of Peace
  • Lamb of God
  • Communion
  • Final Blessing
  • Recessional 

Picture Missals for Purchase
There are some picture missals for sale at Catholic bookstores or online through Pauline Books and Media, St. Josephs, etc.  You have to decide for yourself which one fits your child. Some are not as detailed as others and some of the pictures may reach your child more than others. 

We started with St. Joseph's Coloring Book of the Mass. It worked well for ages 3-4 or even 5.

We also used one called My Picture Missal when Zachary turned 5. It has more words but still has pictures.

Making Your Own
I personally wanted something very detailed so last weekend I made a book out of these papers we used for class.  I wanted to have something for every little step of the Mass and not all of the books get that detailed.  I found some images on google.  A lot of bloggers allow readers to print the pictures for educational use in your family or in church.  One great resources that I got some of the pictures from was  If you are an artist and can make the pictures yourself, you have one up on the rest of us. I'm sure your children will appreciate having their own parent's art work. 

What's the Point?
I very much agree that the more you use visuals and hands on teaching tools at home or during Mass, the more they will understand and hopefully appreciate it.  You can make your old testament page look like an older book or something creative like that. It's okay to explain things that are happening during the Mass.  I tell my son what we are praying for after the reader reads off each prayer of the faithful so he feels like he is involved.

So how do you teach your children? What have you found that works for you?

Denise, quizzing the kids at the end to review what we learned.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Picture Schedules and Children with Autism

In the previous post I had information about why the blue pocket organizer was so great for teaching routines whether at home or in sessions with clients.  There are several ways it can be helpful when working with children with autism.  

Just to review, I mentioned before that the pocket schedules are great for:

  • Children who are not yet reading
  • Quick processing- the brain processes pictures rather than learned skills (language/reading) more quickly
  • lowering anxiety by allowing children to know what is coming next and feel like they have control
I also believe that it can be good for some children with autism in helping them to be comfortable with changing a routine. All children are different but it may be helpful.  I began thinking more about this when another music therapist was telling a group of us about a client who will not move on to another activity if the activities are out of order or something new has been added to the routine.  One of the clients I have was at one time, not okay with changing the order of our activities/interventions.   Let me just call her, Jesse.  Over time Jess became more comfortable with changing the order of these activities and adding new things to the routine both of which had to do with the pocket schedule, setting out ALL of the activities in a line, and a reward.

  1. Changing the Order-  Since Jesse could see the order of activities and what was coming next every session for several weeks she became very comfortable with our session.  When I swapped two of the activities she could still see that everything else was the same and also that I still had the same activities planned which were in the line she saw every week.  This helped to eliminate any anxiety she might have had from lack of control and unpredictability.  
  2. Adding new activities/interventions- These same ideas can be applied to adding new activities.  Jesse could still see that the rest of the routine was still the same which gave her a sense of control and predictability.  
  3. Rewards-To assist with number 1 and 2, Jesse got a token put on her token chart. These tokens earn her extra time with favorite activities in the classroom.  For each activity she participated in, she got a token.   With that in mind the transition to new or swapped activities went more smoothly.  
It will be interesting to find out how this works for others with similar struggles.  All children respond differently but it is something else to try!  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Routines Presented Visuallly

I absolutely love this portable organizer that I bring with me from session to session.  It works well for a variety of kids I see with special needs but it also is great for my kids at home.  Many children are very visual learners so something like this can bring about great comfort to them, especially when they can see the order of events for the entire day.

This order of pictures is a routine and it's effective for kids who do not yet read or have already begun reading.  Really, it's nice for anyone because we as humans can process the pictures more quickly than reading words.  Words take conscious thought and skill and need more cognition/firing neurons to comprehend.  We have to process what each letter stands for, what it sounds like, put all of the sounds together to make a word, and then process what the word means. I vote for pictures.

I put the first 5 on the front in a vertical column and anymore activities after that on the back which you can see below. 

Why is routine important for kids? Routine gives young children a sense of control.  They know what is coming next.  This predictability gives them self-confidence.  Self-confidence is a key element in becoming an independent human being (Cline and Fay, Parenting with Love and Logic, and Seligman, The Optimistic Child.) 

If they do happen to see that a non-typical event is on the schedule, they can at least also see that the rest of their schedule will stay the same.  This can lower any anxiety that some children might experience regularly.  The children I see who have autism really like being able to see their session schedule and also like the tactile part of taking the pictures down when finished or turning them over.

The difference between a schedule and a routine- Routine does not have to be clock work.  That is the difference between a schedule and a routine.  A schedule is based on a clock.  A routine is based on an order of events which falls in a similar time frame each day.  More about this idea can be found in The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems. 

Does having a routine mean that my children will not be flexible? No, it does not. If children are able to predict what is happening most of the time, then when the routine does change, they often find that it is a special event or a nice vacation from the normal, however it is comforting to know that they will still know what is happening the next day when it goes back to normal.  

As mentioned before, if the children do happen to see that a non-typical event is on the schedule, they can at least also see that the rest of their schedule will stay the same.  

It is important to communicate the change to your children ahead of time whether it is verbally and/or through a schedule such as this.  

Back of the board- the ending part of a session routine.

An example of a morning routine in a home.

This pocket organizer happened to come from Lakeshore Learning.  

What is Music Therapy?

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is the clinical and evidence based use of music (in a controlled environment) as a therapeutic tool by a credentialed professional, to facilitate the accomplishment of individualized goals in order to improve functioning which may be physical, cognitive, communicative, social or emotional.

In simpler terms: music used by a Board certified therapist in a controlled environment to help bring about change in an individual with data taken over the course of time the person is seen.

What is the difference between music therapy and music education?  

In music education, learning and understanding music is the GOAL.  In music therapy music is used as a TOOL to help achieve the individualized goals in the various areas of functioning.  

For example, drumming activities may be used to improve motor skills rather than teach rhythms.  The client may learn rhythms in the meantime which is wonderful, but learning rhythm was not the goal/purpose of the activity/intervention.  Music therapy is also a whole process which includes a referral, assessment, development of goals and objectives, execution of a session, and documenting data in order to track progress.

Where do music therapists work?

Some of the most common settings music therapists work in are hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, nursing homes, hospices, psychiatric clinics/hospitals, prisons, juvenile detention centers, client homes and in private practices.  Music therapists often work in conjunction with speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

In addition to my stay at home mom life I have continued to practice music therapy by taking on a few clients through a school district in San Antonio.  My clients have special needs and during sessions we work towards achieving targeted goals/objectives on their Individual Education Plan.

      A music therapist working on motor skills, behavior, and cognition.

                        Example of Music Therapy in a Hospital
Gabby Giffords with Speech Pathologist and Music Therapist. The amazing difference between speech alone and adding music is at 1 min. 51 seconds.

Why music therapy?

  • Humans are musical by nature-  Our heartbeat has a natural and constant rhythm.  Babies are soothed from a constant pulse which may include rocking, patting or swinging.  Humans naturally walk at a steady pace or natural cadence.
  • It's non-threatening
    • The music itself creates a non-threatening environment creating a safe way to explore feelings, behaviors, and issues while facilitating feelings of trust. It can be an icebreaker for discussion.  
    • Sets up clients for success. If a client is working towards improving attention span and is interested in piano, they do not have to know the names of the notes to make music during a session. A therapist can choose a color and place stickers of that color on the keys to make a chord.  Other chords can be made with other colors. Therapists can hold up colored cards when it's time for the client to play that particular chord. The client is working towards attention span with something he/she enjoys and frustration can be minimized.
  • Our brains responds to music differently- Music can activate multiple parts of the brain as rather than just one side.  New pathways can be found when others have been lost or previously non-existent.  For example language is found on the left side of the brain.  By using music the right side of the brain can be used to access language, memory, or motor planning.  When I was a student I had a client in rehab for speech who could not say the name of the hospital unless it was sung.  
  • Motivation- Music is just fun whether it's learning, participation, discussion or gaining energy/excitment through stimulation of adrenaline.  I can count on one hand the number of people who have said they do not like or listen to music.  The repetitive physical therapy exercises become entertaining when striking a drum and playing along to a song is now the focus of the session rather than lifting an arm up and down.  
  • Distraction-Our minds are naturally drawn to the most powerful stimulus. Enjoyment of the music may help clients focus more on the music than any pain and anxiety they may be experiencing.
  • Music can address multiple goals at once- Say a client is doing an intervention where he/she echos the rhythms/music patterns of the therapist. This particular intervention could be addressing motor skills (gross or fine by playing the instrument), memory/sequencing (remembering the pattern), auditory skills (listening to the pattern or sounds), or social skills (turn taking).  This can also apply to a group setting which may bring more opportunity for social skills as well.  This could be done through helping each other with assigned music parts, learning to play together and work together, listening to each other for balance, ideas, etc, or communicating through the expression of music.
A music therapist working on multiple goals at once and using music as a motivator. 
  • Relaxing- Music of course can be calming or soothing. It may help relax the mind, muscles or any tension.  Music also helps to lower cortisol levels in the body in a person who has been anxious or stressed.  A lower cortisol level lowers blood pressure. People respond differently to different styles of music and therefore each person may have a different style of music that he/she finds relaxing.  
  • Expression- The powerful stimulus of music can intensify human expression of words or feelings.  When words or verbal communication is not working, music can speak.
  • Bonding-People can share favorite songs or styles of music.  They can write, play, listen to or perform music together.  This also may bring about association of a particular piece of music with another person.
  • Teaching- We learn to make music or learn other concepts through music.  Music can stimulate multiple senses at once which may facilitate the development of skills such as memory. 
If you know someone who might benefit from music therapy and would like to find out how to set up music therapy services visit the American Music Therapy Association at . Our association can help you learn more about music therapy and locate a therapist near you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How do you De-stress?

Scott, thinking and looking forward to doing nothing on a camping trip.

To continue on with the theme of maintaining mental stability, I wanted to brainstorm different ideas on how to unwind or de-stress.  The presentation we heard on this topic included the fact that too much of anything is not good, but when used in balance, de-stressing activities are extremely beneficial! 

I know that I love:
  • Playing the piano
  • Doing yoga to very calming music (my favorite is Liquid has no rhythm except the chord change when the songwriter takes a breath...he wrote it specifically to help himself de-stress).
  • Meditating
  • Sitting on the couch while the kids play with a cup of decaff coffee
  • reading
  • watching TV
  • Painting
  • Playing soccer

What is your favorite way to calm yourself??

Taking a nap?

Going for a walk?


Reading a book?


Making music?

Petting a dog?

Splashing in puddles?


Playing in the dirt?

Or better yet, playing in the mud? 

Playing in the sand?

Digging for dinosaurs?



Being a couch potato?

We all have our own ways of unwinding.  Love to hear from you!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Maintaining Mental Stability-Putting on Your Own Oxygen Mask

Japanese Tea Gardens-San Antonio, TX

Maintaining Mental Stability-Putting on Your Own Oxygen Mask

Yesterday, a group at my church I help to co-coordinate called 
MOMS (ministry of mothers in service), invited a licensed professional counselor to come speak with us on how to maintain our own mental stability while doing our jobs as mothers and wives.  The information from this presentation does not only apply to mothers and wives.  It can apply to any human being learning to enjoy their life and love who they are.

As I observed reactions around the room and listened to questions and comments, I realized that her words had really touched each of us.  It appeared to me that we could all relate to what she was saying to us.  She heavily emphasized the fact that we need to take care of our emotional and mental stability the way we would our own physical stability.

I took notes however I did not get everything word for word. I just wanted to share the summary of her presentation. 

Maintaining Mental Stability in the Home-Putting on your oxygen mask.

Part I

When we are on an airplane we hear the flight attendants tell us that if something happens on the plane and the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first and then help those around you. Why? Because if you pass out, then you will not be able to help anyone else. The same is true for us. If we do not take care to guard our physical safety and our emotional safety, then we will not be able to provide for our children and have good relationships with our husbands.  

Emotional safety

We  have the right and duty to protect our emotional safety just as you would your physical safety.  If someone were to shove you or hit you in the face you would put up a guard, and say " can't do that. That's not okay".  The same idea applies when you are guarding your emotional safety.  If someone verbally abuses you or in other words, talks down on you or makes jokes about your character you can and should put up that same guard and say " can't do that, that's not okay". 

We do not have to sacrifice our physical and emotional safety. We need to be healthy all around in order to do our jobs as human beings and create a healthy family life.

Part II


What are coping techniques we use to calm our anxieties? Anxiety is caused by cortisol which is a hormone that is released when we are anxious.  Water can physically lower our cortisol levels so this is another reason to drink a lot of water.Deep breathing can also do the same.

Ideas from our moms on effective coping mechanisms: chocolate, bubble baths, reading (books we read have an effect on our mood), stretching and yoga, calming music, Pinterest, and shopping, prayer.

Balance the coping mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are important and can be wonderful but balance is key. Too much of anything can throw off our balance of what's important.  

Cognitive technique to lowering anxiety and solve our issues

1. Stop

2. Think back through the thoughts you just had.

3. At which thought did you notice your anxiety start.

4.Use words- words help us understand the problem which then helps us to solve it. Journaling or just writing down your thoughts can be a way of processing your thoughts and internalizing.  

5.  Is your anxiety or emotional survival being affected by someone else's words or actions or is it the thoughts that you are telling yourself? 

Words help us. We as humans live on words. When we understand the problem we feel a lot better.

Part III

Ways to Resolve

What can we do to predict and prepare for particular outcomes? We watch the weather channel so that we can be prepared for the weather if we go outside.  What can we do ahead of time to prepare for what YOU have control over.  

Sometimes we as moms get anxious about particular situations because our survival of emotional and physical safety comes into play.  How can we use our words to help other people understand why we are anxious about these particular situations such as a husband waking a child at night.  

Use "I feel" statements such as, "I feel like you are not taking my sleep into consideration when you make a lot of noise and wake up the baby. If the baby wakes up then I have to get up and care for the baby during my time to sleep and get the rest I need". 

Moms are natural scientists.  
We do what we do to prepare for something, such as wanting to be the only one to pack a diaper bag because we know what we need and how to do it.  

Sometimes we do not realize that others have ides from another perspective and asking questions in an open and non-threatening way can bring in new ideas.  How can we use our words with our husbands to solve problems that affect our emotional survival/anxiety? your emotional survival being affected by another person? 

Or is it the thoughts you are telling yourself?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

3 Yr old Rewards- Facing the Threatening 3s

Well we have just about hit the 3 yr mark. Adelyn will be 3 this month! I continue to be shocked at how fast this her life is flying by.  She is a cheerful and very excited little girl.  I'm struggling to capture every moment that I can.  

She has also come to the point where we need to advance her rewards to a visual chart on the fridge.  Stickers are still super but this will help organize the number of times we hand them out and also give her a concrete and visual way to see her rewards. Since she cannot read yet I maybe should have gone another step and put the pictures of what she gets rewarded for. I know she will be very proud looking at the refrigerator seeing her success.  

Although I just put on the chart what she gets rewarded for, this chart does go both ways.  She can also lose her stickers for not following directions or being disrespectful to someone.  When she reaches 10 stickers she will get to pick from our prize box.  It's filled with mostly edible things.  

We like this chart because it's not only using punishment like "time out" (which we will still do when removing a sticker is not enough) to motivate kids to behave but it also rewards the behavior we want to see.

We have started out with 10 stickers and all of the things she can earn one for go on the same row.  As the kids get older the charts can be changed to meet their growing needs. There are some really nice and fun charts that can be purchased also like one my friend Erika got for her little guy who is also in the 3s.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Top 10 Things I Have Done for My Wellness

Leaving Bainbridge Island 

I have been looking back often to think about how my husband and I have grown in our own mental health and lifestyle habits.  I look back and realize how far we have come since we got married 6 1/2 years ago or since I first started college 10 1/2 years ago.  Even though I'm not perfect, I look back and see something to be proud of and I hope that you can do so in your own life.

Scott and I both had our share of emotional struggles.  He experienced extreme depression and anxiety which began in college.  I found that I am very anxious when I am away from being social with close family and friends and have also pinpointed other things that cause me to be fearful.  We have both learned about which habits are not healthy or are frustrating to other people in the house.   We have both had to learn about how to handle other people when are frustrated with them, and how to figure out if there is anything we can change about ourselves to improve the situation with these particular people, or if we have no control.   We have had to learn to not take everything personally....sometimes people respond to situations in negative ways because of things going on with them, not necessarily because there's something wrong with me.  Still not perfect but still on the learning path.

I wanted to share resources that have helped us along the way.  If you have any to share please leave your helpful suggestions in the comments.  I love hearing about what works for different types of people.

  • Counseling-  I believe very much in cognitive behavioral counseling.  Counseling is not just for people with extreme mental disorders.  It's a form of maintaining wellness. Practicing the techniques at home are a big part of this to help change any negative habits of thinking. Scott went for 5 years on a regular basis.  He and I also went for a year to marriage counseling and then now we go as needed.  If you do not click well with the first counselor you find try another one.  They are okay with that and know that not everyone meshes with every counselor. 
  • Self help books- My favorites are on the "Emotional Health Resources" tab on the blog.  Let me just say, reading self-help books does not mean you lack faith.  Just as we go to the doctor for medical treatment, we must help our brains for mental issues.  Scott made great strides in his mental state with Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, The Optimistic Child and Brainlock (which is also very good for anyone with OCD). Understanding how behavior works and observing my own in regard to these books has seriously effected my habits. 
  •   This is a support group website. You sign up and can join groups of all types.  I am part of the asthma support group and mother's of toddlers.  Scott joined an anxiety group.  There is almost every medical condition you can think of.  You can discuss and vent with people who have issues similar to you such as these things, write journals which you can have everyone on daily strength see, friends on daily strength see or just you see.  This group can help to lesson any isolation you may feel in your situation.
  • Socializing and Support Groups- I need people.  I get energy from socializing. Having people who can relate and understand can bring a sense of peace and remind us that we are not alone especially if you are new to a place, a new stay at home mom, working from home, dealing with some form of stress, and plenty more.  Hop on Google and see what type of support groups or socializing sites are in your area. You may be surprised.  One popular website is  You can find people with similar interests to hang out with or groups who have similar lifestyles such as a stay at home mom group.  Scott just met a bunch of people who work for the same company when he judged a science fair this past weekend.  I have had to learn to speak up and ask people if they want to have lunch.  It was so hard at first but really, what did I have to lose?  
  • Hobbies-  I love trying out different hobbies but I do  have my favorites.  Joining a choir last year and getting back into soccer has made me feel more normal again.  These are things I did growing up.  It also gives me time to socialize.  It is not only okay but necessary to have a hobby that does not stress you out and stimulates enjoyment.  
  • Exercise-  Yes they all say it, I know.  This is one of the things that keeps Scott's muscles pain and tension under control.   I have felt better emotionally since I have started soccer again and have also started doing weights once a week with the dvd Crunch: Total Resculpt. I will be another witness in saying that those endorphins and other chemicals released during that time have a great effect on mood and there's nothing like the reward of accomplishment in exercise.  Start small and increase little by little.  Set yourself up for success. If you have never gone running, don't start out with 5 miles.  Start with running for 1 minute and walking for 29 or something like that.  Set up a schedule for yourself ahead of time so you can plan it into your routine
  • Eating- Let me just say I have NOT perfected this. Eating habits are just difficult in so many different aspects. What I do know is what foods make me feel so much better.  We have "cheat day" on Saturdays when we allow ourselves to eat all kinds of junkie things.  I feel so much worse at the end of the day than I do the other days of the week.  During the week we have our dessert or "cheat" item after dinner.  Planning out meals for the entire week help to keep us eating healthy so we do not fall into the trap of "I can't find anything to eat in here...I'll just eat _____".  
  • Stretching-  I can definitely tell when it's been more than a week without stretching.  My muscles definitely ache.  I like that 10 minutes in the morning which makes me take time to think before the day starts.  I don't get it in every morning but every other day works well for me.  I feel success from accomplishing something already that day and very refreshed.  
  • Prayer/Meditation/Slowing down the mind-  Find your own form of slowing down the mind. Is it music, quiet, drawing or journaling? I have a prayer table set up with things that bring me peace that I sit at and an area to play my favorite relaxation music with slow to no tempo.  Deep breathing to this music helps me really calm down.  Those deep breaths really get oxygen through the bloodstream and that combined with the natural effect of music in your emotion centers of the brain can bring the calm we need.  My favorite relaxation music is Jim Brickman, Liquid mind and Gregorian Chant.
  • Simplifying-  Learning tips to organization and learning how to decide what to keep make me feel less stressed.  I have had to learn that everything cannot be sentimental otherwise you have a house full of stuff.  It has also been an emotional journey of knowing that our stuff is nice but it does not define who we are.  If I give this thing away, will it take away from me as a person?  If I save this thing because I might use it later, will I end up with more stuff than I can handle.  Can I just buy another one when I need it later? We now take lots of pictures and then give the thing away that we do not need.  Thank you to my friend Becca for teaching me about how organization in your life effects your wellness. There are great tips for storage and organization on the Container store's website.
How do you keep yourself well? Your thoughts are always appreciated. 

I am not being paid by any companies to advertise any products.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jingle Bells

Adelyn is very proud of these jingle bells that she brought home from MDO and her favorite thing to do of course is to take them off of the handle and shake them while singing her favorite tunes. These bells are hanging on our pantry door (nice benefit of hearing when the pantry is opened if you know your husband is sneaking the best goodies).  

These are made with yarn, white glitter/sprinkles, egg crates, and 3 jingle bells (hidden under the egg crates).

  • Poke a hole in the bottom of the 3 egg crates and turn upside down.
  • Tie one jingle bell to one end of the yarn.
  • String the yarn through 1 egg crate
  • Pick a spot further down the yarn for the second bell and egg crate.
  • Tie yarn to jingle bell and then put egg crate on top.
  • Pick your last spot for the last jingle bell and tie to yarn.
  • Put last egg crate on top.  
  • Pick a spot in the yarn to make a knot for the loop.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Brushing Little Teeth

This is a video of Adelyn singing "aaahs" to the tune of the ABC's while I brushed her teeth.  This great idea comes from one of a kind, Tricia Eilers, MT-BC.  She showed me the wonderful trick of  singing "ahh" sounds to get a toddler to keep his or her mouth open while brushing teeth. I had been singing to her myself which worked sometimes but she still closed her mouth at times while listening.

In this video Adelyn is singing an "ah" sound to the tune of the ABCs and also singing an "ee" sound while putting her teeth together while she imitates me singing the solfege Do Mi Sol Mi Do and another vocal exercise (just for fun!)  Be ware, I wobbled on the pitch a couple of times.  

Worked really well for us.  Just pick their favorite song and sing a few ahhs and ees.  Thanks Tricia!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Minds Affecting Outcome

Happy New Year 2013!  

Every January that tradition of "new years resolutions" comes to mind and sometimes conversation and every year I have plenty of things come to mind that I would like to do better. In the midst of all of the election business, devastating news, my death row pen pal's execution and my own thoughts about how minds and habits work, I recalled the other day an event from my sophomore year at Sam Houston.  It reminded me of how our minds play an important role on the outcome of our success. 

My sophomore year was coming to an end. I had just finished my first two music therapy classes, Intro to Music Therapy and Psychology of Music.  I had also finished another year of piano lessons, performance classes, and also a concert and piano finals (juries). 

 Along with me in the piano studio, was a graduating senior by the name of Emily.  I knew her as an excellent piano performance major who's fingers could fly across the piano a hundred times faster and accurately than my own. I am not entirely sure how she saw herself but I did know that before any type of performance or audition she was absolutely sick to her stomach.  I myself was no expert at calming nerves before any type of performance.  I knew how it was to go out there and mess up on notes that I had down in the practice room or just plain forget stuff that I had thought I had well memorized, not to mention sweating hands on the keys. 

The time had come for us at the end of that year, to have our very last piano performance class, a class where we played our pieces for each other.  During this last class we were just discussing the year and Emily announced to us that she had figured out how to not be sick before a performance.  Excited and eager to hear her response we sat on the edge of our chairs in anticipation for the advice she was about to give.  "I figured out how to not be sick by telling myself that I don't have to be sick". We stared at her. What? Really? That's the best advice you have for us? I thought to myself.  By the looks of a couple of others in the room I could tell they were thinking similar thoughts. She went on to tell us about how she realized that she did so much better when she told herself that before performances and focused on that thought. 

I didn't get it.  I knew that when I was little, say maybe 9 or 10, I learned that if I was grumpy or in a bad mood when trying to study or accomplish a skill in sports, I did not do well. I learned then that attitude did have an affect on success. But at the time of Emily giving us her grand advice I did not understand how just telling herself that simple line could make such a big difference. 

Over the next two years though, her grand advice turned out to be extremely grand and helpful.  Not at first though. I went through another piano jury where I butchered something that had sounded really good before all because of nerves. I didn't practice enough, I thought to myself.  I should have done this this and this instead. And maybe I should have but I learned later that those things were not my biggest problem.  I thought about Emily's words more and more over each semester after that whether it was for piano, conducting, test taking, facilitating sessions and behavior modification, and presentations.  Through each of these events it made more and more sense.  In piano specifically, I told myself almost arrogantly (because I really had to in order to do the best I could), "I don't have to be nervous.  This is going to be fun. I'm going to do great. So what if there's a lot of people, that's the fun part. This does not have to be nerve racking. I'm a great piano player. Even if I'm not the best, I'm still good. I have great musicality. I have evidence of these things because I heard myself succeed in the practice rooms and my professor told me these things". These words over and over accompanied with simple deep breaths, 4 seconds in and 4 out, I succeeded far better than I had in the past. 

I realized though that this can apply to any area of our lives just as it applied to so many of my subjects.  We can do anything we want to in life.  If you have a great interest in something what is stopping you from it? There are even great runners in the Olympics run with two prosthetic legs. So is it our thoughts that stop us? There are sometimes real physical and mental limitations, but we just have to verify, "Is there REALLY something valid stopping me from doing this or succeeding?  Or is it just my own thoughts?" 

I need to find Emily and thank her. I hope her own advice has helped her as much as it helped me.