Thursday, March 24, 2016

Quick Tips: 3 Ways to Make Easter Meaningful for Your Child

Today's Quick Tips are from Sherry Kyle, author of both women's fiction and devotional and inspirational books for girls.

Quick Tips:
Three Ways to Make Easter Meaningful for Your Child

There’s nothing more exciting than sharing your faith with a child, and Easter is one of the best times to do it. After all, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith. Here are three easy ways to make Easter meaningful for your child.

  Interact. Read the Easter story from your child’s Bible, and then discuss it. Ask your child questions and engage in interactive play, such as building a cross from Legos or a tomb with blocks, to help your child understand the true meaning of Easter.
 Prepare. Get your child involved in planning a simple Easter dinner. Decorate the table. Bake a special treat. Go shopping and purchase your child a new outfit. Show them that Easter is a day to celebrate!  
 Invite. Have your child invite a friend to accompany your family to a sunrise service. Remember to bundle up, and bring a blanket to sit on as well as mugs for hot chocolate! As the sun peeks over the horizon, explain how Jesus is the light of the world and how he overcame darkness when he rose from the dead.

  Sherry is the author of books for tween girls including The Christian Girl's Guide to Style,The Girl's Guide to Your Dream Room, The Girl's Guide to Life, and Love Lexi: Letters to God.

 Sherry also writes novels for women set along the coast of California where she makes her home with her husband of 27 years and their four children. 

   When she's not writing, Sherry spends her time reading, walking, having coffee with friends, and decorating her beach home. You can connect with Sherry on her webpage or blog.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Camp for Your Special Needs Child

     Camp is a fun part of summer for thousands of children each year. But what about your special needs child? Will he miss out on experiencing camp? He doesn't have to. With all the camps that have sprung up, children who previously couldn't attend now may. Camps range from those designed specifically for certain special needs such as asthma, cancer, or ADHD to traditional camps that accommodate children with some special needs. It takes thought and research to find the camp that is best for your special needs child.
Benefits of Camp
    Camp benefits all children. The positive outcomes for children with special needs are much the same as for other children, but often go beyond those. Here are some possible benefits.
  • The chance to try new experiences.  Things that aren't possible for your child to do at home may be available at camp. Swimming, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing and group games are adapted so that all children can take part. There are also crafts, campfires, and social activities. For children with physical, mental, and behavior problems, camp is an ideal setting to try new things.
  • The opportunity to be around children with the same challenges. Your child might be left out as the only one in a wheel chair at school but will fit in at camp. She'll talk to other children who've been made fun of for being different. Your child with cancer can share his fears with campers who are facing or have overcome the same.
  • Your child will make friends who can become penpals either through U.S. mail or by e-mail. Or perhaps they can talk into a tape player and send tapes back and forth to stay in touch.
  • Increased independence and confidence. Camps have modifications so that children can be as mobile and independent as possible. Children with physical, mental, and behavioral difficulties find freedom at camp that they don't experience elsewhere. Counselors are trained to give help when needed and to encourage campers to do as much as possible for themselves. With more independence comes improved self esteem and confidence.
  • Learning from peers. Your child may learn coping skills and different ways to do things from children who share his challenges. He'll see what other children are capable of doing and try to do more for himself.
  • Increased physical activity. At home your child might find it easier to watch television than be active. Helping your child be active might be draining for you also. At camp your child will take part in adapted swimming, hiking (if mobile), horseback riding, sports, and group games.
  • It gives you time to spend alone or to give extra attention to siblings. You can do activities that you ignore because your special needs child can't participate.

Finding the Right Camp
     There are many things to consider when choosing a camp for your child. Here are some things to consider and do.
     Start early! Try to make your final decision in February or March. Many camps  hold open houses during the spring months. Many camps will fill up in early spring and you may be on a long waiting list.
     Make a list of your child's needs. Before searching for a camp, consider your child's needs. Make a list of special accommodations and services your child requires. Does he need injections that must be given by a trained medical person? Does she have a special diet? Does he sleep on a special kind of bed?
     List your expectations. What do you want the camp to do for your child? Allow activities within a structured environment?  Provide new experiences? Do you hope for increased independence?
     Consider your child's desires. Your child will do better if he helps with decision making. Does he want to go to camp? What kind of camp? What activities does he hope for?
     Decide on duration, location, and cost. Consider what you want. Do you want your child to stay a week? Longer? How far away? What if the best camp for your child is in another state or across the country? How much can you pay? The cost of a special needs camp can be as high as $5,000 for a 2-3 week session. Check with local organizations for sponsors or scholarships.
     Make a list of camps that match the criteria on your list. Go to the websites listed below or ask other parents for camp recommendations. List the ones in which you are interested. Then find out more about each.
     Know what kind of training does the staff receives. This varies by whether your child attends a camp specifically for special needs children or a traditional camp that accepts children with certain needs. Is medical staff available at all times? Do counselors know how to deal with your child's specific challenges?
     Know what kind of children attend the camp. Just because a camp says they accept ADHD children or children with disabilities, it doesn't mean that they have any attend or that they are set up to work with and nurture these children. A camp may be willing to accept children with asthma but not be able to accommodate wheelchairs for many of the activities. Or they may accept children with physical disabilities but not be accepting of behavior disorders.
     Find out about child to caregiver ratios. How many children are in each cabin? How many counselors are there per child? Find out if the number of counselors mean adult counselors or counselors in training.
     Check that the camp is clean, safe, and in good repair. If possible, visit the camp. That's the best way to know it's really like. Are wheelchair ramps in good condition? Are the cabins clean with screens on the windows? Are bathrooms and showers accessible for your child? Are there wide paths? Is there a place for your child to sit apart from the group if he needs to calm down? Is play equipment clean and in good repair? Does the camp seem bright and cheerful? If you can't visit, ask for a video.
     Make sure the overall  attitude is nurturing, positive and upbeat.  All children need to feel accepted and cared for. The director and counselors should be positive and cheerful. Gloomy staff members won't contribute to a positive camp experience for your child. Nurturing camp staff is essential.
     Communicate with the staff. Once you've chosen the best camp for your child, contact the camp director and be sure that your child will have everything she needs for a positive camp experience. You will be more relaxed about sending your child to camp if you know she will receive her medicine at the right time, have the diet she needs, and get appropriate help with daily care.
Preparing Your Child for Camp
     Once you've selected the best camp for your child, it's time to begin preparing your camper. Here are some suggestions:
· Become familiar with the camp. Either visit or get a video if you haven't already done this. Find out the schedule. Give your child as much information as possible.
· Give your child practice being away from home. Arrange for your child to spend the night with a friend or a few days with a relative to help them learn how it feels to be away from home and to develop ways to cope.
· Help your child learn to eat, dress, shower, and prepare for bed as independently as possible.
· Label all belongings going to camp. Check the packing list to be sure you've included everything. Send extra socks and underwear. These get lost easily. Make sure to pack all medicines and special equipment needed. Pack a comfort item such as a favorite photo, stuffed animal, or pillow.
· Discuss any fears or concerns your child might have. Is she afraid of the dark? Does she wet the bed? How can she deal with these things at camp?
     The camp experience is beneficial for most children, especially those with special needs. Don't assume your child can't go to camp because of limitations or challenges. Research the camps available and decide if there's one that would provide a positive experience for your child.

Camp listings:
Camp list  Extensive directory of camps from day camps to sports camps to camps dedicated to a particular academic need
summer camps Easy to use summer camp directory. You can search by location or type of camp.

What has been your experience in the past with camp?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Zootopia: The Movie That has Parents Talking

If you’re expecting a sweet bunny story, you might be surprised by the true grit detective story you get instead. Sure, the bunny decided early in life that she wants to be a “cop” even though there are no officer bunnies to date. And she pushes through with her ambitions, excelling in police academy.

Her dream assignment comes through, and she leaves her parents and her two hundred or so brothers and sisters to their carrot farming and heads to the big city—Zootopia. There Judy Hopps’ dreams hit a glitch. She’s assigned to be a meter maid. That doesn’t diminish her go get ‘em spirit though. You want 100 parking tickets a day? I’ll give you 200 by noon! And she does.

Still, she believes she could be of help with the missing mammal cases that other officers are investigating. Soon she’s pulled in when she is given 48 hours to find a missing otter or resign from the force.  With the help of a sly fox named Nick, Judy faces the underworld of mob polar bears and other animals. She and Nick discover that something is turning predators into mad beasts, and the duo must figure out what is causing the change before they can put a stop to it.

This movie is delightfully entertaining, somewhat predictable and delivers a true detective story that in true fashion includes the mob and the requisite nude scene—if you count the animals at Mystic Springs Oasis—a place where animals don’t wear clothes!:) The cutting edge animation, well paced plot and detailed world building make it a must see for families. Warning: There are some dark parts that may be frightening for young children. But have no fear, the good guys win in the end.

Besides being highly entertaining, there are a lot of lessons you can take away from Zootopia.
  1. Don’t judge. People shouldn’t be judged by their size or um, species. There had never been a bunny cop before, and everyone laughed at the idea, but Judy turned out to be a pretty slick bunny.
  2. Hard work and perseverance pay off. Judy Hopps pushed herself to her own limits and achieved her goal. The question is—Is your dream worth sacrificing other things to pursue it with all you’ve got?
  3. Stereotypes are flawed. At the beginning of the story, Judy Hopps appears nothing more than an uptight overachiever and Nick a laid back smooth talker. But as the story unfolds and the characters are developed, we find that they are both much more than that. A person’s past and experiences need taken into account.
  4. Individuality is important.  One reviewer calls the movie a “pro diversity” pep rally. Zootopia is made up of a large number of different animals, and while many are the same species, they are individuals. The idea of individuality didn’t start with Disney though, it began with God, who made each person in a unique way and gave him/her the talents and abilities needed to fulfill his/her calling. (Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10) Like Zootopia, God’s family is made up of many different people making up one family.  (1 Corinthians 12)

Additional thoughts:
 The movie goes a bit overboard in preaching tolerance. In matters of race and ethnic diversity, I think we need tolerance and acceptance. We need to avoid judging others by our norm. But in matters of lifestyle and personal choice, each person must live by his or her convictions and value systems. We cannot expect someone who denies the existence of God to follow a biblical lifestyle, but neither can we expect a follow of Jesus Christ to openly accept those who defy his commandments. That being said, neither side has the right to be ugly or hateful.


The movie is a LA style detective story with well developed characters, a detailed story world and a well paced plot. On the car ride home it will be the parents, not the children, gushing about what a good movie it was.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Quick Tips: Help for Clutterbugs

If you are new to my blog, I try to post Quick Tips once a week or every other week. But the tips are from experts in the area, so it depends on how many people I find to write them. Quick Tips are short bits of information on different subjects by authors who have written books or are experts on the subject. 

These tips will be practical--the kind you might want to print a copy of, clip on your refrigerator and return to on occasion. And I hope you really do put them on your fridge or somewhere that you can refer back to them.

If the quick tips help you, please leave a comment for the author.  So far we've had these tips(click to read):
Friendships that Cross Boundaries
Today's quick tips come from Jeanette Levellie. A spunky pastor’s wife of thirty-plus years, Jeanette Levellie authors a weekly humor/inspirational column, God is Greater, a popular feature in her local newspaper since 2001. She has published stories in Guideposts anthologies, stories in Love is a Verb Devotional with Gary Chapman, articles in Christian and secular magazines, greeting card verses, and poems for calendarsShe is also a prolific speaker for both Christian and secular groups, and loves to make people laugh while sharing her love for God and life.

Quick tips:
Help for Clutterbugs
Taking care of clutter is a huge time thief. If you’re serious about de-junking your environment so you can spend more time writing, reading and playing with your family, try these three steps:
  • Enlist help from a trusted but objective friend who isn’t as attached to your collection of hair bows from elementary school or scratched Elvis records. Spend a day together de-junking everything that fits into the above three categories.
  • Give, give, give to charities, homeless shelters, and thrift stores. Just don’t give it to relatives who are likely to give it back to you, or a second-hand store you frequently shop at.
  • Reward yourself after each room, drawer, or box you’ve cleaned out. But not with more stuff! Read a chapter from a novel, look at cute kitten videos on YouTube, or watch a movie. Then revel in how much time you are freeing to engage in activities you love!

Excerpted from Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers and Other Creatives by Jeanette Levellie

Jeanette is the mother of two grown children, three grandchildren, and servant to four cats. She lives in Paris (not the French one), IL. with her husband, Kevin. Her hobbies include dining out, talking baby talk to her cats, avoiding housework, reading, and watching old classic movies.
You can connect with Jeanette through her FACEBOOK PAGE or WEB PAGE