Children's Picture Books, Life Skills, Special Needs, Teen

Having an Almost-Teen With Autism|13 Ways He’s Like Any Other Teen #WorldAutismAwarenessDay #AutismAcceptance

Parenthood flies by in a blink of an eye. A preemie, my firstborn daughter weighed in at only 4 lbs. 14 oz.

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Image (47)

After six days, she was released from the hospital. I brought her to my grandfather’s 90th birthday party to show her to the family.

Setting her down on an upstairs room carpet, I stepped away to grab a diaper from my bag.

My aunt stood in the doorway and gasped. “I thought there was a doll on the floor, but she moved.”

So small, so delicate, I didn’t know if she’d ever catch up to the regular developmental milestones of most children.

But then.

Blink. My baby girl could walk.

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Blink again. She’s studying for her driver’s permit.

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Blink away the tears. I only have 2 years left with my baby!

My oldest daughter is now sixteen. And my have the years flown by.

In only one month, my next-born, my only son, will be turning from tween to teen, the rite of passage year of thirteen. In some cultures, this would be the year he becomes a man.

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The thing is, he has autism. Picture 008

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Does that mean he can’t be a regular teen?

So, far he’s been like any other almost-teen in many ways.

1. The boy loves to eat.

Some of his favorite foods are not super healthy, but isn’t that like any other kid? If I let him, he’d eat yogurt and Life cereal for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner everyday. Veggies are not at the top of the list, but he’ll eat a good salad and a bowl full of broccoli cheddar soup.

2. The boy loves tech.

Video gaming, time on the tablet, the phone, the TV. Anything with a flickering screen.

3. The boy loves books.

Being a book-loving mama, this is what makes me most proud of him. Reading a-loud to him and audio books started my boy on liking stories (those not on a screen). He learned how to make a movie of what he was hearing in his mind. Now he reads books on his own. Recently, I peeked over his shoulder and recognized the book he was reading. A classic we listened to on audio book this year—Farmer Boy.

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4. The boy loves LEGOs.

Grown men play with LEGOs. So, it’s okay that he asks for a new set every week (but, I tell him to use the blocks he already has!)

5. The boy loves classical education.

Latin, history, science, English grammar, geography and more, the classical style of learning fits my boy’s way of thinking. This year, we studied U.S. history and all we’ve been through as a nation. It’s opened his eyes to a world that is bigger than the four walls of our own home. And that he is a part of the great timeline of history that still goes on.

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6. The boy loves people.

He may have trouble meeting new people and making and keeping friends, but his heart is full of compassion for human beings made in the image of God. Every time we see a homeless person, he prays for him. When we studied September 11, 2001 and the destruction of the World Trade Center, he cried for all the lives lost. He has wept after realizing he’s the only boy out of our family of four children because his brother lived only a short life.

7.  The boy loves truth.

The Internet can be a scary thing. No telling what our kids can stumble onto. We have clear rules in our family about not getting on the computer when Mom and Dad have not given permission. Our boy couldn’t keep it a secret that he watched something without asking. I’m thankful it was only a kids’ show and that he told us the truth.

8. The boy loves God.

Throughout his childhood, we’ve read the Bible to him, prayed with him, have taken him to church, but I didn’t know if he could grasp spiritual things. Then one day, as I folded laundry, he sat next to me and blurted out, “Mom, I want to become a follower of Jesus Christ.” Stunned, I said, “Okay.” Then my heart overflowed with joy. By the grace of God, he got it! I prayed with him and have seen the fruit of his faith.

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9. The boy loves goodness.

Like any other almost-teen, my boy doesn’t get why anyone would want to harm another human being. He now knows there are people out there who completely lack empathy and do very evil things. He’s learning that we must overcome evil with good. To see change, we must be the gift, the miracle, and the one who changes first. To do right, to be merciful, and not think you’re better than anyone else will change the world. Having three sisters, and a tendency for brotherly teasing, he gets to practice at apologizing everyday.

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10. The boy loves beauty.

He tells me, “Mom, you look beautiful today,” which makes me smile.

Watching films with epic scenery and music are one of his favorite things to do. We listen to John Williams’ soundtracks on family trips.

On our visit to the Morse Museum to view the Louis Comfort Tiffany art collection, he stood in awe at the way stained glass could depict life with such beauty and light.

11. The boy loves creating.

Since he was old enough to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He’s always said the same thing, “Inventor.” I bought him The Way Things Work, The Way We Work, and The New Way Things Work to hopefully help him generate ideas on which to build.

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12. The boy loves to argue.

Arguing is not a bad thing as long as he’s respectful. It means he’s forming his own ideas about how the world works. It means he’s growing up.

13. The boy loves his friends.

He’s had friends when he was younger. Usually one really good friend for a few years, but then that friend would move away. But lately, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to find friends his own age. Thankfully, he’s made friends in his weekly Social Thinking group at 3 C’s Therapy who all have autism like him.

The point is, he’s growing from being a boy to a man. It may not look totally like other almost-teens, but I’m still proud of him. My heart overflows with motherly love for my boy. I know he’s growing into the man God created him to be. And that’s enough for me.

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Life Skills, Teen, Young Adult

A New Year of Adulting Part 1: 10 Ways to Release Stress|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #adulting #2018Resolution

“I don’t wanna grow up ’cause I’m a Toys R Us Kid!” chimed the TV as I wasted away the Saturdays of my childhood watching cartoons with my brothers in front of the flickering magic screen. I had no idea what I was missing out on by not spending more time reading.

Books can really help us grow up. I learned much of how to live on my own while attending college and later about being a mother from reading books as a teen.

Some of the first real full-length chapter books I read were the classic Anne of Green Gables series. I fell in love with Anne’s life in Avonlea, where the roads were red and walking or taking a carriage ride were the common ways to travel.

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With each book in the series, Anne grew from an insecure, precocious tween to a college graduate (unusual for a woman of her time), to a happily married adult with half-a-dozen children.

Anne learned all the life skills she needed to know from her adoptive mother, Marilla. This fundamental knowledge was passed from adult to child.

Though we live in the age of information and globalization, the method of transferring knowledge is no different. Yet, it seems like we, as parents, have less time and know-how ourselves on how to help our children launch.

So, this has motivated me to search, to learn myself, what does a teen need to learn before turning 18.

In previous posts, I’ve shared these resources:

10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 1: Social Graces

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 2: Kitchen Essentials

With the start of 2018, it’s back to schoolwork, chores, and responsibilities that cannot be ignored by our teens. Which means stress! Now more than ever, teen anxiety has been on the rise. Maybe life since the times of Anne of Green Gables has quickened at the pace of the high-speed Internet.

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My teen daughter and I both have utilized the following methods to deal with the anxiety that accompanies stress.

10 Ways to Cope With Stress

  • Listen to instrumental music or play an easy instrument like the ukulele
  • Consider getting a pet dog, cat, or fish for your teen’s room and open the blinds for letting in the sun and watching birds outside
  • Think of at least three things daily that you are thankful for (Ann Voscamp’s blog has free resources on living a life of gratitude)

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  • Explore a park or nature preserve with many shade trees—something about trees calms our nerves

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  • Try “star-breathing,” which means take a deep breath in and draw a line down each finger slowly as you breathe out. It really helps! 
  • Pray—talk to Jesus, your best friend beside you and/or journal your feelings
  • Sing an uplifting song
  • Meditate on a Bible verse you know by heart or think about an inspiring quote you’ve read or heard
  • Read a classic book you love (like Anne of Green Gables!)

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  • Rest in a quiet, comfortable spot until you feel less stressed

This year, let’s resolve to make time for our teens and teach them what they need to know to grow into successful adults.

My son on the autism spectrum will be turning 13 this year, so I will also to be sharing more resources specifically for teen boys, coming soon!

 

 

 

 

Blog, Life Skills, Teen

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 2: Kitchen Essentials|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #adulting

 

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Where should one start in learning how to cook? Julia Child might ask, “Does she know how to make an omelet?” True, omelets can be a versatile meal, eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but let’s add more than eggs to our teens’ cooking repertoire.

As shared in my post on 10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls, a good cookbook is essential for independent living. We want our teens to not rely on eating convenience foods that are bad for both the body and the pocketbook. Teens need to learn that they too can make a fantastic meal. Even better than that is building up enough confidence in their cooking skills to give a dinner party and invite friends and family to enjoy their culinary masterpieces.

1. Teach teens to cook healthy, budget-friendly meals.

As a mom of four, I live by a routine of Spaghetti Monday, Taco Tuesday, and a variety of seasoned chicken on Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday. Dad takes over on Saturday and left-overs are for Sunday (weekends are my days off!). This keeps the budget low and stress-level for cooking low for me. All my ingredients are on-hand, and I know the recipes by heart. Inform your teen that cooking can get pricey depending on the ingredients. Give her a turn in cooking dinner once a week until she learns them all.

2. Let her bake.

The kitchen is my domain. I don’t want flour all over the counters, on the flour, or in the cracks beside the oven. By the grace of God, I’ve had to learn to deal with this. When I’ve let go of my desire to dominate the kitchen and have given free rein to my teen, she has flourished in baking biscuits, breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, and muffins. She’s even made cream puffs! And, because my idea of dessert is in the freezer, I never would have been able to enjoy these scrumptious delights had I barred her from baking because, truthfully, it can get messy. I’ll share tips on teaching teens to clean in a later post!

3. Start building up her own kitchen supplies.

One day, our teen is going to grow up and move out (that’s the plan anyway!) and she will need some kitchen items to take with her. My teen has asked for baking pans and a mixer for Christmas. With her knack for baking, I was happy to oblige. I’ve since acquired a new set of pots and pans, but I kept the old ones to give to her when she leaves the nest. I remember my mom giving me a great deal of her old dishes and silverware when I went off to college. I hope to do the same for my daughter.

4. Take her grocery shopping.

In our family, Dad is the grocery shopper. Before we had children, we would shop together. With each pregnancy, my husband starting shopping on his own. Now, he does it full-time, and I am more than thrilled with that. He’s known as “Super Dad” at out local supermarket with all the kids with him, holding onto the shopping cart. My stepdad used to do the same thing. He made a grocery list, took his calculator, and me with him. It was my job to add up all his purchases and make sure he stayed within the budget. Whether mom or dad is in charge of the shopping, try taking your teens with you and let them keep track of money spent. It’s eye-opening how easy it is to spend over two hundred dollars a week for a family of six. Maybe we should do once-a-month freezer meals, couponing, or base meal planning on BOGO’s? Encourage our teens to brainstorm ideas on how to save money.

5. Teach about expiration dates and food rotation.

I’ve learned the hard way that you should always check the expiration date on milk before pouring it into your cereal. My husband, (our designated family food shopper) is really good about rotating the food in our refrigerator and pantry to make sure the newer food is placed behind the food that would spoil first. Teens need to learn this when they help put groceries away. Also, they need to learn not to open up another bag of chips or carton of milk before the old one is used up.

With a little extra time and patience, we can teach our teens to take full rein of the kitchen so that one day, they too can make more than an omelet.

Blog, Life Skills, Teen, Young Adult

The Ultimate Teen Guide Vol. 1: Social Graces|Things to Do Before You’re 18 #Adulting

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By the time a teen turns eighteen, what sort of things should she know in the world of #adulting? Making a great score on the SAT’s is all fine and good for getting into college, but what about real life skills? We want to give our teens roots, but also wings that they may fly to new heights in their next stage of life called adulthood.

Interpersonal skills are a gift that some naturally possess and others have to learn or constantly suffer the consequences for committing embarrassing social faux pas. As an adult, this skill will translate into pragmatics, networking, or building relational capital.

Unwritten rules of our society are not easily deciphered, but here’s some tips I’ve learned that I’m passing along to my own teen. And going to parties is a great way to learn to apply social graces.

18 Things to Share When Teaching Teens Social Graces

  • When you receive an invitation, RSVP by the deadline. If you cannot attend, try to refrain from saying a plain “no,” but politely reply with the other plans you had made.
  • When you go to a party, stay at least 30 minutes. It’s considered rude to show up for snacks and then leave before making any real conversations with other guests.
  • At a larger get-together, try to talk to at least three different groups of people.
  • Whether at a birthday, wedding, or graduation party, it’s important to know how to speak and act as to not offend others. There are many rules when it comes to learning social graces. If you do end up saying the wrong thing, it’s best to simply apologize. Most people are sympathetic and forgiving.
  • A simple rule for introductions is to remember The “Six S’s”:

1. Smile.

2. See their eyes (make eye contact).

3. Say, “Hi.”

4. Shake hands.

5.  Say, “My name is            . What’s your name?”

6. Say, “Nice to meet you, Mr./Mrs.            .”  

  • Try not to look insecure, even you feel like the simple country mouse visiting the extravagant city mouse. Give affirming smiles to others and add to conversations.
  • As a last resort, if it’s difficult to join in other ongoing conversations, try standing in a line of people, like the bathroom line or the buffet line. Strike up a conversation with others who are also waiting and maybe you’ll make a friend.
  • If there are no more chairs available, give up your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman, or those with disabilities.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not talk about another person’s body or your own. Even if you’re hot, cold, or recovering from some sort of illness. It’s just not the stuff good conversations are made of and will lead to even more awkwardness.
  • It’s better to comment on what a person is, rather than what they do. For instance, “Sally is such a creative person.” sounds more affirming than “Sally likes to draw.”
  • Figure out your talking points. Try brainstorming about things you are good at talking about before a party.
  • Inquiring minds want to know, but please don’t share others’ personal information that you know they wouldn’t want others to know about.
  • Also, don’t gossip. Just avoid saying negative things about others, even if you add, “and we should pray for this person.”
  • In my writer’s group, Word Weavers Int’l., I learned the “sandwich method” of critique. When saying something that could be upsetting to someone, but it still needs to be said, first say something positive, then the hard truth, and follow up with something encouraging. For example when in a conversation with someone who is gossiping try, “You seem like a caring person, but maybe we shouldn’t talk about Kayla’s boyfriend troubles. Hey, she’s sitting on a chair in the corner by herself. Let’s invite her to sit with us.”
  • Nobody likes to listen to a one-sided conversation. Keep the flow going by asking others about what is going on in their lives.
  • Learn the art of wrapping up a conversation. Steer what you are talking about to lighter subjects, like “Wow, this was a fun party.” Then end with something positive like, “It was so nice to meet you, Mrs./Mrs.            . I really enjoyed our conversation.”
  • When you need to leave, simply tell the host/hostess, “I do wish I could stay, but I really have to go.” No need to explain why.
  • Write a thank you card to your host/hostess. A simple message of thanks for a great party let’s them know that their hard work of hospitality paid off.

Whatever the occasion, applying common rules of interpersonal communication can lay the groundwork on which relationships are built. Doors may open in the way of making a new friends, growing in empathy, or a building connections for a future career. So let’s start those conversations with our teens about what it means to have social graces.

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Blog, Teen, Young Adult

10 Must Have Books for Teen Girls|Learning Essential Life Skills #Adulting

 

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Summer is almost here, but I don’t think we’ll be doing much relaxing. For my teen, there will be camps, volunteering at Vacation Bible School, extra art classes, and studying for a learner’s permit, with some Algebra thrown in for good measure.

Come to think of it, there’s only three summers left before she’s a full-fledged adult.

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough time to teach your teen everything they need to know to grow up? How can a parent ever instill all the tools needed to navigate life? Thankfully, there are plenty of books to help our teens on their way …

Here are ten helpful books that teach our teens the life skills they need to know:

1. Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 16th edition.

When I was a teen, my mother bought me my first cookbook. Sure, nowadays a recipe can be looked up on allrecipes.com or foodnetwork.com, but it’s wise to have a kitchen-tested hardcover in your hands. This cookbook is in a three-ring binder, so your teen can can pop out her chosen recipes and get to work.

 

2. Teen Practical Life Skills Workbook by John J. Liptak.

This great little workbook gets your teen thinking about what it takes to grow up. Because “adulting” is now a verb.

3. Getting Ready to Drive: A How-to Guide by Eva Apelqvist.

Education is key in teaching our teens to be defensive drivers and here is one book that will set them on the course to knowing how to be safe behind the wheel.

 

4. Smile and Succeed for Teens by Kirt Manecke.

It helps to get tips on  how to succeed in the workplace. Before getting her first job, this book shares with teens how to give great customer service and the things she must do to become a top-notch employee.

5. So Long Insecurity Teen Edition by Beth Moore.

Do teen girls realize models in magazines are airbrushed and given hair extensions? Comparing themselves to these unrealistic images, teens wind up developing all sorts of insecurities. This inspirational book gives ways to find security in a world where it’s hard to come by.

6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.

From the “Highly Effective” series of books, written by Stephen R. Covey, now his son, Sean Covey, shares all the tried and true advice his father gave him that works! Teens can also apply what they’ve learned to be successful in the companion workbook.

7. The Executive Functioning Workbook: Help for Unprepared, Late, and Scattered Teens by Sharon A. Hansen MSE NBCT.

For teens who have trouble making a schedule, taking initiative, and thinking outside the box, this workbook gives a preliminary test to find out what areas to focus on and then gives exercises on the areas where help is needed.

8. Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex and You by Stan and Brenna Jones.

When your teen is ready to know a more detailed explanation of how babies are made, here’s the “how” behind physically developing into an adult, and why it’s good to wait until we say, “I do.” To some, abstinence may seem like shooting for the moon in this day and age, but giving teens high standards will help them to know there are better choices than what media is telling them, and that they don’t have to give in to peer pressure.

9. The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls.

A continuation of the first book in The Care and Keeping of You series produced by American Girl, this book picks up where Book 1 left off. The realistic cartoon-style details share what girls need to know about how their bodies work and what to do to take the best care of them.

10. The How-To Handbook: Shortcuts and Solutions for the Problems of Everyday Life by Martin Oliver and Alexandra Johnson.

In this purse-sized book of over 50 essential life skills, your teen will find tons of tips to learn how to be a fully functioning adult!

Next post, I’ll be sharing The Ultimate “Adulting” List, so stay tuned!!!

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Blog, Reading Challenge, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult

2017 Teen Summer Reading Challenge|Tackling “The Brick” #LesMiserables #TheBrickChallenge

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My Harry Potter fan teenage daughter decided tackling all the books in that series wasn’t enough of a feat. It was time to move on to an even greater challenge.

Classic literature.

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Looking for a good book, she chose one involving a love story with a historical element, action, and adventure.

Which classic did she choose?

The complete and unabridged version of Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

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There’s a reason it’s called “The Brick.” There’s a wall down our street that has a huge hole knocked through it from being hit in a car accident. Copies of this ginormous book could literally be stacked up to fix that wall.

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Despite so great a challenge, I had confidence in this book-loving girl that if she set her mind to it, the book might be finished in a few months or before the end of this summer.

Turns out, my daughter is a speed reader. What would have taken me a year, she read in three weeks. Three weeks!

And, that is not what I am most proud of her about. The thing that makes my own book-loving heart soar is that she LOVES it! The book she read was on loan from the library. She wants to purchase “The Brick” to place on her own personal bookshelf. She’s saving up all her money to purchase her very own copy.

Not only did this challenge build patience (listed as one of the top 20 longest books!), but it also increased her vocabulary. Throughout the three weeks of reading, she stopped me on more than one occasion asking for the definition of words. At least half the time, I didn’t know the answer and told her to look them up.

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Holding up a book of that size also builds muscle!

A few times I heard her giggling while reading. Victor Hugo’s sense of humor must be timeless. And the love story has been made into a beloved musical and several movies, the most recent of which has become a family favorite soundtrack to sing on long trips. My husband does a great impression of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean!

I’d like to challenge teens around the world to take up “The Brick” and read! Find an unabridged version of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo at the library, online, at a used, small, or mega bookstore and crack that baby open. Try to refrain from reading it on an e-reader. Have the real thing, in all it’s glory, in your hands. Let’s call it #TheBrickChallenge

What are you waiting for? Go for it!

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