Back to the Basics – Brain Development

Do you think about your child’s brain development? I didn’t until something seemed to be off. If you said “no” to that question, don’t feel badly. It’s pretty common for us to be reactive instead of proactive.

In our culture, we don’t go to the pediatrician and say, “My child is eating well, sleeping well and generally can regulate his emotions. How do I keep this up?” We don’t notice our child’s brain function until something is off.

What if we could be proactive? What if we Moms knew a thing or two about brain function that we could apply at home?

Are you in the driver’s seat of your child’s neurological future?

Do you have a roadmap?

Are you in backseat?

Do you know how your child is doing?

Is there an area he is struggling with?

Can you work smarter instead of harder?

Are you scrambling because you are plugging in a few things you hear and not making any progress?

Why do so many kiddos struggle?

Brain Development. A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three—producing more than a million neural connections each second. The development of the brain is influenced by many factors, including a child’s relationships, experiences and environment.

Are you in the driver’s seat of your child’s neurological future_

“We are all shaped by our genetic birthright and by the environment in which we live. To a developing fetus, the mother’s womb is an entire universe. If the mother has a healthful lifestyle, her uterus will share that with the growing child. But if the mom suffers from chronic stress, consumes such toxins such as alcohol and drugs, or doesn’t eat properly, the fetus is exposed to those dangers right along with the mother. An infant’s neurochemistry reflects his or her very first home-the uterus.”- The Connected Child

When my adopted kids first came “home”, they struggled in many areas of development. They weren’t stupid. They had just missed key components of development. When those components were added in, their  brains will grew. It’s absolutely amazing! I am not an expert. I am a Mom who did a lot of research and applied what I learned.

There are many factors in why so many kiddos struggle when it comes to development. Here are four:

The basics have been left behind.

Nutrition has been thrown out the window.

Movement has been replaced by a sedentary lifestyle. 

Relationship has been replaced by entertainment.

I’ll be covering each of these topics in a little more detail over the next week. The good news? There are many practices that you can put in place at home that will grow your child’s brain! Isn’t that amazing? You can have the roadmap. You can know where you need to go next. You can be in the driver’s seat of your child’s neurological future.

 

 

What happens when we find our identity in what we can do (even if is for the Lord *gasp*)?

This week’s podcast is “Identity in Christ”, I’ll share it at the end of the article. I listened to it Sunday night after Gabe, our editor, finished with it.

Honesty alert: I REALLY needed to hear the words on the podcast. I was raised in a family with an amazing work ethic.  I fall into the trap of putting my identity in what I can or cannot do. That’s a dangerous place to park a principle.

I know that I am saved by grace. It’s not because I did something wonderful. It’s not because I have some great strength. I love the way the Message in puts it – “My silly foolish Galatians…”. I could replace that with my name. “My silly foolish Kathleen…”

Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up! Galatians 1: 2-4

Is your identity in what you can do_

Yikes. I am often so busy working my head off to please God that I forget the principles of God’s kingdom –

By His grace I am saved.

He will do the work.

My job is obedience.

My job is to believe.

My job is to worship and glorify Him.

I try running the race by my works and run around the ‘works’ track until I am tired, frustrated and overwhelmed. How about you?

Maybe you are thinking, wait, faith without works is dead. I agree. We must do the work.

What is the work?

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6: 28, 29

I’m going to admit something. I am much better at running around and doing than I am believing. I’m a control freak. I would rather run around and get my ducks in a row, get your ducks in a row and then go down to the duck pond and organize them. Maybe God allowed me to have CFS so I couldn’t do all of that.

I’ve had some difficult physical symptoms and circumstances this past month because of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. You can listen to the podcast episode on that here. Because of some symptoms, I have had to keep my margins pretty wide. In simple terms, that means not do much outside the home. If you don’t have CFS, this may sound foreign to you. That’s okay. We all have limitations and circumstances that may keep us from doing the work we desire to do. If you do have CFS or another autoimmune disease, you know. You just know.

The other day, I was asked to do something for kiddos that I have wanted to do for years. It would require energy. Lots of it. I wanted to immediately respond “Yes!” Instead, I said I would give an answer in a few days, the quiet voice in my spirit said “NO”. The other part of me said, “I have to do it!” I even went so far as asking people to help me which was my version of “reasoning contrary to the truth”. The truth is, with my limited energy envelope, I could not do the job with excellence. Not only that, if I accepted the assignment, I would use every last iota of my energy and risk a major crash afterwards. I have gone that route too many times.

When I say no to something, I often struggle with my identity/reputation.

  • If she really cares about ___________, then she would be on board.
  • If she were really committed to the cause, she would do it.
  • She talks a good game, but she won’t do the work.

This past Sunday, I hadn’t given my answer yet. I was singing in the choir and just worshiping God (oh, and begging him to let the cup of CFS pass me by once and for all). When I finally got to the place of surrender, tears streaming down my face and the Holy Spirit said to me, “You are not the savior. I am. You are not the solution to the problem. I am.”

Blessed relief. I don’t have to do it all. I don’t have to be it all. My identity is not in what I can and cannot do. It is in Christ. We often quote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” as a blanket mantra. It’s not. We can’t. Taken out of context, that verse can become a platform for our identity in works, i.e. what we can do. In the Amplified Bible, that verse is clarified – the works He has called us to do and those which fulfill His purpose.

If you, like me struggle with putting your identity in what you can do, take a minute and think it through. If our value is only in what we can do, then what about those who can’t do? Are they valuable? Infants. Toddlers. Elderly. Those who are ill. When I break it down to simple terms, everyone has value. Every life is valuable aside from work. It’s a humanistic principle that says those who can’t work don’t deserve to live. It’s Christian principle to say that every life has value. When we base our value on what we can do, our value at some point will change. When our identity and value come from Christ, it will never change.


You can to listen to this week’s podcast here.

 

Three Things Chronic Fatigue Taught Me

This week’s podcast is Living With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’ll share my main points from the episode and the link to listen at the end of the article.

Recording the Podcast made me start thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned through having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Maybe you have an autoimmune disease and you have never thought about the lessons you have learned because of or in spite of it. It’s interesting how God uses every circumstance to teach us a lesson or two, if we let Him.

  1. I am not infinite. 

This may sound kind of silly. Not really. I used to act as if my energy was infinite. I did everything. Joined everything. Served in every capacity I could. Then CFS hit and I couldn’t do any of it. When I began learning how to manage my symptoms a little bit at a time- such as get out of bed, function for a few hours, then moved on to having hours of energy each day and so forth. When I got back to the point that I could function all day and workout, my mindset instantly went back to the infinite energy belief. So, I crashed. Until I came to really embrace the belief that my energy is finite, I couldn’t move forward and enjoy my life. It’s like a bank account, I can’t spend what I don’t have. If I do try to spend it, I’m bankrupting myself for days, weeks or months. If I stay with in my budgeted energy allowance, I feel better, I rest better and I recuperate from major events quicker. If I stay within my boundaries, life is so much more enjoyable.

Three Lessons Chronic Fatigue Taught Me.png

2. When I choose to do an activity, I’m choosing not to do another.

This sounds a lot like the first lesson, but it is a bit different. I have choices. I don’t have to do it all and neither do you. This pressure to be all, be there, serve on every committee and be in every ministry is just pressure. Everyone is going to ask you to do things. It’s what people do. If you have an autoimmune disease and you show up at a meeting, event or church and look human, people are going to ask you to ______________(fill in the blank). Even if you have told them about your disease, you probably look normal or some people say “you don’t look sick to me.” You know as well as I do, you can’t see an autoimmune disease. You could get it printed on a tee. That might help. So, there you and I are at the event, looking normal and we get asked. The truth is – those people don’t see your aftermath. They don’t know it took every ounce of your energy to show up. They don’t know that when you get home, you crash. What can we do? Choose wisely. Don’t go to events, gatherings or  _____________ (fill in the blank) that are going to use all of your energy especially if you know in your heart of hearts, you will be asked to do something else just because you showed up. Preaching to myself here.

 

3. You cannot do it all, so choose one thing and do it well.

In the lowest points of my disease, doing one thing well was sitting up in bed and reading to my children. As I better learned to manage my symptoms and started gaining a bit of energy, I wanted to “do it all” again. I couldn’t. Trying to just made me end up in bed or feeling as if my body was stuck in quicksand all the time. When I took my plate and scraped all the activity off of it, I felt relieved. I felt space to breathe. For a long time, I didn’t add anything to it. I just enjoyed being. Being alive. I wrote my lists of things I was grateful for. I sat on the porch and looked out the window. I didn’t venture far from home. If I had a short trip out, then I planned to rest for the rest of the day. When I finally felt as if I could do something, I knew it had to fit into my new normal. I prayed. I cried. I grieved my old life and then was ready to enter a new one. I had always wanted to write. Here was my opportunity. It took me twelve years to write my first book amid raising kiddos and homeschooling. I could only work on it in tiny, bite sized pieces. I know now that God was setting me up to thrive in my new normal. Writing is something that fits. I can write from my home. I don’t have to use my energy envelope traveling to a job. If I’m not having a great day physically, I can take a day off. Isn’t it amazing how God makes a way when there seems to be no way? When I thought my life had shrunk to the four walls of my home, God whispered three words to me – write, write, write. So, I write and I’m grateful to live in a time with technology and I can write this at home and you can read it wherever you are.

I don’t know what your autoimmune journey has been like or what lessons it has taught you. I’ve learned many more, but I think this is a good starting point for conversation. What have you learned? Do you still revert to old mindsets and believe your energy is infinite when you have a “good” day? Do you try to choose it all to please them all (whoever they are)? Share your comments and stories! I’d love to hear them.


Show Notes

  1. Accept your now. That means don’t try to fit your life, your now into what everyone else is doing. If you only have one or two good energy hours a day, don’t spend it doing things that are not a priority. For me that meant outside commitments, church or otherwise.
  2. Hang on to hope. If you don’t have hope.

 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.- Hebrews 11: 1

Faith is substance. It’s matter. That means we have to hope that our matter changes. With CFS, it is super easy to fall into depression. It’s circumstantial, yes, but it can become a habit.  When you lose hope, you lose your will to live. Been there. Done that.

3. God will give you something you can do despite your weakness. Paul speaks of this. He asked for the thorn in his side to be removed 3 times. I have asked about 300,000 times. I still have it. Sometimes it bothers me. Sometimes I let it fester.

 

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.- II Corinthians 12: 8-9

4. If I’m silent, if I disappear, I’m probably suffering. Not ignoring you.

5. There comes a point in every relationship when I have to tell people I have CFS. Often people just think I’m uncommitted. Or lazy. Or pick and choose what I want to do. It’s not true.

6. When you get to a level of management that makes you feel good most days, don’t add something to your plate. You will regret it. Keep some energy left over at the end of the day.

  • 7. Wake up at the same time.
  • Go to bed at the same time. Make it early.
  • Read to calm down, don’t watch a screen.
  • Exercise to the point that you don’t feel worse the day after.
  • Find an exercise that works for you and build incrementally. Don’t go out for a run because you feel great one day (if you don’t run on a regular basis).
  • Eat as many whole foods as you can every day.
  • Keep the same schedule as much as possible, this avoids decision fatigue and helps navigate brain fog.

Episode 60

Untitled design (2)Untitled design (1)

Mind, Mood, and Attitude Show Notes

It’s easy to have a great attitude when life is great. What about when everything is going wrong? How do you keep a great attitude then?

On this week’s episode of The Whole House Podcast, Diane Tarantini and I share some of our Job syndrome stories as well as what God taught us through them.

  • Whether it is physical, financial or emotional circumstances, we can learn to ask God to change us in the midst of the crisis.
  • Often, just doing the next thing in the midst of the circumstances teaches steadfastness.
  • When physical sickness or an injury limits what we can do physically, we have to watch our emotional response.
  • When our negative emotions are in overdrive, we can quickly form toxic responses.
  • It takes 21 days for certain protein changes to happen in the brain, – for the new memory to become self sustaining and for the old memory to be broken down.

It takes three cycles of 21 (63) days to completely form a new thought pattern.

  • By day 7, the protein connection holding the memory in place is a bump shape, day 14, a lollipop, by 21 it is a mushroom. YOU must repeat the 21 day cycle three times for a thought to become automated.

Awareness is the process of bringing thoughts into captivity.

Episode 59

Our signals come from two sources:

  1. External- 5 senses.

  2. Non conscious- metacognitive (your memories).

You have to develop disciplined thought lives, and part of that is increasing awareness of what you are allowing in your mind. Be aware of the signals coming in and understanding the internal environment of your mind.

When you think, you also feel. When you think a thought, you also bring up an attached emotion.  Emotions and feelings are different.

Attitude is a state of mind – a thought plus its attached emotion. Attitudes influence what you say and do.

If the attitude activated is negative, then the emotional response will be a negative or stressful feeling.

If the attitude is positive, the feeling will be positive. Your attitude will be revealed no matter how much you try to hide it. So, you say, “I’m in a bad mood.”

Research has shown that mental practice -imagination, visualization, deep thought and reflection produces the same physical changes in the brain as would physically carrying out the same imagined process.

 

Brain scans show that the parts of the brain activated by action are the same parts activated by simply thinking about an action. This shed new depths and understanding for the scripture – Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”- Hebrews 11:1

 

As young women, we often live our lives as if our energy is finite. We  live as if we have unlimited energy and we hit our thirties, forties and fifties and realize we begin to have major health issues. If you are young, you can learn the lesson now- 

You can’t do everything, but you can do one or two things well.

It’s best to practice making choices now before stress and physical symptoms crop up. If you choose to do what is essential now, your body will thank you later. So will your family. If what is essential to you is God, husband and children, then the things outside of this scope are not essential. If you have the mindset that you can do it all, you will eventually face the consequences. If you use the measuring stick of what is truly essential for you today, the consequences will be positive tomorrow. 

As a young stay-at-home Mom, I used to volunteer for things thinking – this will only take an hour. In truth, with the driving, planning, preparing and getting out the door, the hour turned into four or five. When I returned home, I was tired and cranky. I had used all my reserves for someone else. What was essential? What was my priority? My family. My little children who had no idea why I was not happy or why church stuff made me unhappy.

It was a disservice to God, first of all for me to say yes when my insides were saying no (quietly) and I reasoned it away. It was, and still can be a disservice to my family because my witness to them became – God, church, and all of that just makes people cranky. My attitude was not one of gratitude.

My kiddos are grown now. This doesn’t mean I suddenly have unlimited energy and time. I still must choose what is essential. I also have the added limitation of several immune system disorders. With that in mind, I must choose ONLY what is essential for me, not what others say is essential. I have tried that route. It only ends up affecting my body and no one else’s.

Once my energy envelope is empty, my mind, mood and attitude suffer and I have no one to blame except myself.

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes the obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. — Greg Mckeown

Many of the aspects of our mood and attitude we have control over. We can say “no” when we mean it. We can strip our calendars of things that we know are not our “best yes”.

We don’t have to do everything. We should never take on responsibility in order not to hurt someone’s feelings. They can take care of their own feelings. If whatever it is isn’t your primary responsibility is, let it go.

 

 Here are some of the resources mentioned on the show:

Dr. Caroline Leaf

Urban Woman Syndrome

You can listen to the podcast here:

Untitled design (2)Untitled design (1)

Make sure you sign up here to follow us by email to get your free gift and receive notifications of a new post, plus our monthly newsletter!

 

 

Strengthen Your Child’s Memories: Why Retell and Read Aloud

When my four of my children came “home” through adoption, we began to build memories together. Actually when we lived in the orphanage for a month, we began the memory building then. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time scientifically. I just practiced what I had done with the original three Guires which was lots of retelling. LOTS. I suppose it was a practice instituted by my mother who didn’t accept monosyllable answers to questions and read aloud to us (even as teens) on long road trips. I can’t take credit for what she did or that I carried it on to my children. It was part of my nurture. If someone in the family asked how the day went, she/he expected an answer with lots of words. Turns out, my parents were building my memory and emotional intelligence.

What is retelling?

Some call it narration. It’s when a child tells back to you either something they read or something that happened. This helps the child process the event or portion read and helps solidify the information in their brain. A young child or toddler may need lots of prompting or reassurances in the retelling. It’s also an opportunity to help the child put the event or story in place in their mind.

“You fell. That was scary. Are you okay now? Do you have a band-aid on now?”

“The car stopped pretty fast. You are right. It felt super scary.”

“Tell me what happened in the story. What happened to _____? Do you think he was happy or sad?”

 

” …children whose parents talk with them about their experiences tend to have better access to memories of those experiences. Parents who speak with their children about their feelings have children who develop emotional intelligence and can understand their own and other people’s feelings more fully.- The Whole-Brain Child

I naturally carried out the practice to the point where my children sometimes acted out their retelling and demanded I watch. Audrey once fell down some concrete stairs at the library after story-time and reenacted the fall for me as she told me how she fell. She was four years old. Audrey is a word lover, admittedly, probably due to her nurture and nature.

I quickly found out that my newbies, “home” from Poland, needed lots of extra help and cues in retelling and had difficulty remembering many of their experiences before becoming Guires. Part of the issue was obviously the language barrier. I began reading aloud to the new Guires in the orphanage before I grasped the science behind it.

We learn the language from hearing the language.

Our new four year old didn’t speak English and the Guire family spoke some rudimentary phrases in Polish with a great deal of assistance from our interpreter. She was being introduced to English one letter at a time and through listening to the read aloud. In the evenings, we did round two of read alouds with all the children. Gregory’s favorite was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we listened to it over until he began to repeat phrases.

Reading aloud is a great way to learn a new language, but it is also how we learn our native language. We learn a turn of a phrase, context, vocabulary and all through hearing the written word.  Reading aloud activates the brain.

 

“Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area is “a watershed region, all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation,” said the lead author, Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.” –www.blackenterprise.com

The brain is being activated in the left hemisphere, it is logical, literal (it likes words), and linear (it puts things in sequence and order) ( Read The Whole-Brain Child for more info on this).

Text plader.png

When a child hears more sophisticated language than he can speak, it stimulates the left hemisphere of the brain. His vocabulary grows. The more he hears, the more he knows.

“Since children acquire language primarily through the ear, the words they hear are central to their ability to understand and use words in speech and create meaning from words in print. If children don’t regularly hear new words in new contexts, they will not be able to add them to their mental storehouse of words. Moreover, children will be limited in their abilities to read and write based on the number of words and language structures they have in their minds (Orr 2000). “-www.education.com

Why read aloud? To grow the left hemisphere of the brain, increases vocabulary,  inables one to learn words in context, broadens verbal abilities and most of all,  helps you connect with your child (which also grows the brain, but that’s another post). So, grab a book, a comfy spot and read! Why allow or encourage kiddos to retell an event one hundred times? You are helping your child build memories and gain emotional intelligence.