Blue Star Mom, Times Two

I’m a blue star mom. This banner on my house means that I have a close family member who is currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was on my house from 2014 to 2018, had a break for a couple of years, then went back up again in the summer of 2020.

It’s uncommon to have a son or daughter serving in the military. Only two percent of high schoolers choose to enlist or pursue officer training. Each spring, when the rounds of “So, what’s [your son/daughter] going to do after graduation?” begin among moms, if your answer is Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, whether officer or enlisted, eyes will open wider and jaws may drop.

Marines boot camp photo / Army basic training photo

Back in 2014, when I began telling people that our oldest son was planning to enlist in the Marines directly out of high school, the most common reaction I got from other moms surprised me. The look of concern, the furrowed brow, the leaning in to quietly ask, “And how do you feel about that?”

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Already Saved … Not Yet Finished

My first grandchild was born last year. What a wonderful day it was when she finally arrived! She is delightful in the way that only babies can be. But even though she’s already here and I love her sweet baby self, I have great anticipation for the future, because truly knowing her, seeing her grow into all she is meant to be, is still yet to come.

She’s already here, and is so precious … but she is not yet who she will become.

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The “Temptation of Affluence” and the Lord’s Prayer

Give us this day our daily bread.

It’s been a long time since I’ve wondered where my next meal was coming from—about 40 years, actually, since living in an apartment or trailer with a mostly empty refrigerator or no heat. I don’t specifically remember reciting the Lord’s Prayer back then, but if I did, I’m sure I understood the phrase “give us this day our daily bread.” Even as a child, I would have seen the direct correlation between a prayer for daily sustenance and the fact that God somehow provided for my needs each day.

Of all the elements in the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread” seems very straightforward: Please provide for my daily needs, such as food, to survive. It often gets overshadowed by other, seemingly more pertinent or lofty phrases such as “lead us not into temptation” or “forgive us our trespasses” or “Thy will be done.”

But God has a remarkable knack for continuing to teach us new truths even when we think we thoroughly understand something as familiar as the Lord’s Prayer.

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Love You Forever … Or Hate It Forever?

Still polarizing after all these years.

I thought the controversy was over. I thought that surely by now, moms were no longer arguing over this book. I thought emotions had cooled, invectives were no longer flung about, and we were at peace with (or at perhaps had just forgotten about) this little children’s book.

But no. The debate rages on.

Love You Forever was written by Robert Munsch and first published in 1986. If you’ve ever seen it, you’re not likely to forget the image of the toddler on the cover, sitting next to an open toilet in the middle of a toddler-made mess, gleefully contemplating what to toss next into the commode. If you’ve read it to children, they’ve likely pointed out the toilet to you each time you’ve read it, while (depending on the child) giggling in embarrassment or snickering in naughty delight.

In short, it’s the story of a mom who sings her baby to sleep with a certain lullaby every night (“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be”), and as that baby grows, she continues to love and sing to her son, even as he becomes a man with his own home and family. At the end of the book, when the mother is old and sick, the son sings the song back to her and then goes home and sings it to his own baby girl.

So from that brief synopsis, you can maybe see why Love You Forever is on its way to 35,000 Amazon ratings, 94% being five-star reviews. In 2001, fifteen years after it was first published, it was in its 63rd printing, and who knows how many times it’s been printed by now, 20 years later.

So people really like it. That is, except for the people who hate it. And I mean, HATE it.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Believer?

Many years ago, not long after I became a Christian, I attended an evening church service by myself, and slid into a pew beside a woman who had spoken with me a couple of times previously. After a few moments of small talk, I said somewhat nervously, “I think I’m going to ask my mom to come to church with me soon.”

“That’s nice!” she replied, genuinely interested.

“Yes, I’m hoping she’ll like it. I’m just not sure,” I admitted.

“Oh, is she a believer?”

The question rolled off her tongue so naturally, and she asked it with such matter-of-factness, that I could tell she had a fairly straightforward understanding of what being a believer was all about. But it wasn’t a straightforward question to me, a new Christian, especially regarding my mom. (Religion was rarely spoken of in my family as I was growing up.)

So when she asked it, I froze.

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5 Things I Learned From a Year of Pandemic Reading

If you’re an avid reader, no doubt you’ve broken some personal reading records between March 2020 and March 2021. A year of a global pandemic will do that to a person. Maybe you also  binged on Disney+, learned to bake bread, did jigsaw puzzles, took countless walks, put in a home garden, cleaned and organized, or remodeled your house. But seriously, not if any of those things cut into your reading time, right?

It was a year of amazing reading opportunity. A golden permission slip, a guilt-free year of Nothing To Do and Nowhere To Go. So we stayed home. We rejoiced when libraries reopened, then closed again, then offered curbside service. And we read books that sustained us, comforted us, and kept us sane.

When we’re faced with an ever-shifting political and economic landscape, stay-at-home orders, and little to do outside our own small circle of home, it’s no surprise that readers turn to books for sustenance, comfort, and sanity. As we passed the one-year COVID anniversary this month, I thought back about my year with books and how it was different from others. I learned a few things this year:

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Sharpening Social Skills Using Norman Rockwell Paintings, Part 2

In my previous post, I explained how and why you can use Norman Rockwell paintings as resources to teach social skills and inference to kids on the spectrum, as well as neurotypical (NT) kids. I also provided a walk-through of a lesson based on one of Rockwell’s early paintings.

In this post, I’ll go into more detail on the kinds of questions to ask your child, what to anticipate during the lesson, and what to do about a resistant child or one who seems to be in over his head.

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Sharpening Social Skills Using Norman Rockwell Paintings, Part 1

How to use classic illustrations to teach social skills to kids on the spectrum.

For many years in our homeschool, we did “artist/composer study” every Friday, studying one person each month. For most of those years, we simply focused on the artist’s life and their most important works. But when I was teaching my youngest, I realized an amazing thing during our study of Norman Rockwell: his paintings are incredible teaching tools for developing social skills and inference for kids who struggle in this area. And as a bonus, they’re really fun to talk about.

Both this post and the next are for the benefit of those who are homeschooling a child on the spectrum, as well as those who teach or provide social skills therapy for kids with ASD, or want to use these techniques with neurotypical (NT) kids just for the fun of it.

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Everyone has a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. No matter what page you’re on, God is right there with you, even if you’re not aware of it. In the times of darkness and despair, at the height of great wonder and joy, in the wasteland of stifling boredom or crippling indecision, he’s never left you.

Everyone has a story. Here’s mine.

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Growing Up Poor and Bernie’s Mittens

Childhood memories remind me where I came from and who I really am.

Unexpectedly, the #1 viral image from the 2021 presidential inauguration hit me right in the gut. Oh, it was definitely funny to see all the Bernie memes: the old man in a mud-colored parka, disposable drugstore mask, and bulky hand-knit mittens in front of landmarks and embedded in pop culture. But before the memes, I had an unexpected encounter with that image that stretches back to my childhood.

On January 20, I watched the inauguration from beginning to end, as I do every four years, with whatever children happen to be at home with me as a part of their homeschool day. This time I was accompanied by my 14-year-old son who was extremely interested in the proceedings and required a play-by-play from me as to what was going on. Not a problem—I enjoyed that.

But what was going on inside my head was a very different, and somewhat odd, train of thought. The first thing I noticed, and could hardly tear my eyes from, were the gloves.

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