Living Life

Jesus, Me, and the Kitchen Table

Learning Through Play

My friend and colleague Kristie Smith, who is an accomplished teacher of the visually impaired in Mesquite, TX also writes for the Dallas Morning News’ Special Needs Blog.  One of her recent articles emphasizes the role of play in infants who are blind or have visual impairments.  Having worked with a number of infants and toddlers who are blind myself, I have seen first-hand the truths outlined in this article.

Please take a moment and read this post. You can find it at:

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Playing is crucial for infants who are blind or visually impaired

Many people are often interested in my profession as a teacher for the blind and visually impaired- especially when I tell them I work with infants through age twenty-two.“How do you work with a baby who is blind?” People often ask.

When I explain, you can see the look of amusement on their faces and often times, they want to know more.

I describe how 85 percent of what we learn is visual, so babies who or blind or visually impaired need to learn to play as play is the curriculum for infants; it is their algebra, English, writing, Language Arts, math, social studies and science because when they play- they learn.

The activities are fun, but most importantly, the skills for infants who are blind or visually impaired (most are visually impaired- very few are completely blind) are crucial for them to learn how to walk, talk, interact with others, play and learn about their world and concepts. As one brilliant professor for the blind told her class, “If you can’t bring the child to the world, you must bring the world to the child.”

It is important to note when I work with infants I must stay on a strict routine schedule as the brain is trying to make connections, so repetition is important for neurons to build upon neurons forming bridges for long-lasting learning. I sing the same song and do the same activities for several weeks. It is important to ask the infant if I may see their hands, so we can begin to sing finger plays together. I ask to “see” their hands because it allows them to maintain control over their environment. If someone grabs the hands of a child who is visually impaired, their environment becomes hostile and learning shuts down. They often cry, scream, hit or fall down to escape the unknown. Asking to see their hands after they hear a familiar voice, assures the child they are going to be safe while they play.

The most common goal is teaching a child with a visual impairment is to explore their environment using their other senses. I always vocalize the area, the objects and the surroundings. For example, I will say, “Here’s Ms. Kristie’s watch. It is round like a circle,” as I take the infant’s hand to feel around the watch. I explain when we are walking toward a ball and describe the soft carpet underneath. It is also important to discuss landmarks when we walk such as, “Hear the clock ticking? Let’s walk past the clock to the window and to the big red soft ball.”

I have been known to ask family members to wear jingle bell socks as it encourages the child to move around the room and explore. Most infants with a visual impairment are underdeveloped with large and fine motor skills, language, feeding and socialization simply because they are not enticed by vision to move and interact with the world.

My book, Wee Can, Too! is an activity book I self-published after my Wee Play Wee Learn book from FlagHouse was retired. It incorporates songs, simple recipes, movement activities and finger plays to encourage children without vision to move, laugh and play.

As we know, when we play, we really do learn.

Fun Facts:

  1. Distance vision objects are the first items a newborn baby sees.
  2. Children with a visual impairment must be taught to bond with others.
  3. Smell is the only sense that does not need to process chemically- it connects directly to the brain and near emotions.  If you provide a child who is visually impaired with favorite smells during instruction time, he will retain and understand the skill as the sense of smell is next to memory in the brain.
  4. The color yellow is the first color the brain processes. An example for the important use of the color yellow is road signs. The brain quickly picks up the color yellow and processes it faster than the other colors.
  5. Color red promotes creativity and appetites.
  6. Colors blue and green relax the brain while brown promotes security like the brown teddy bears.
  7. Sing all day to an infant with a disability as this will build the neurons for many daily living skills.
  8. Use songs and books that repeat like Dr. Seuss and Dr. Eric Carle.
  9. Entice the senses through wet and dry textures.
  10. The tongue and the fingers are the most sensitive body parts for exploration.
  11. Endorphins are created from a happy environment causing creativity and long-lasting learning to happen.  Stress shuts down the brain and learning stops.
  12. Remember, when we play, we learn.

Kristie Smith has been an educator for the past 32 years in the Dallas area. She has worked with children from grades K-8 in general education, English as a Second Language, and for the past 14 years, has been a teacher for the blind and visually impaired.

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It’s Fair Time!

The weather is cooling off and the leaves are falling from the trees.  And we are beginning to see the trees changing colors to shades of autumn.  Towns both large and small are ringing in the fall with fall festivals and fairs. I used to be a regular attendee at our local county fair. The girls and I would go and ride the ferris wheel and all sorts of other rides.  Oh and the games we would play trying to win the biggest stuffed animal! Tokens, tokens, and more tokens….

On Saturday Richard and I with our friend Harriet went to the Titus County Fair, the same one I’ve gone to for years, but have not been to since the fair of 2012, the last one me and the girls attended together.  I wasn’t sure how it would be…. bringing back all those fond memories…. but it was good, in fact it was great!  Of course I thought about them and which rides they loved.  But you know, the Lord gave me an extra amount of grace for the day.  Of course I missed them being there with us, but it was not a sad time.

I had a new wheelchair experience… getting across the hoses that ran all across the ground supplying electricity to all the rides.  Wobble, wobble, bump, bump! But I managed to get over them, although it shook me around a little! Before long I was caught up in the sights of brightly colored banners and signs, the smell of local flairs including Mexican food, barbecue, cotton candy, and funnel cakes!  Refreshing lemonade was a welcomed treat even though the Texas heat was kind of mild – thank goodness!

But this time at the fair was different in more than just one way.  We went in to the civic center to scope out the vendor booths and to see the exhibits.  There are all kinds of contests each year for people of all ages to compete in, including the art contests (photography, painting, etc.), horticulture (growing large fruits and vegetables, canning various produce, etc.), quilt contests, crafts, paper crafts, and so much more!  I had never before taken time to really see the art exhibits and the others.  What a treat I missed!  And not only that, had I visited them with a more careful eye, I would have know that there were art contests for children even at their young ages.  Richard, Harriet and I spent quality time admiring the various arts versus standing in lines waiting to ride rides.

Our last stop before leaving was for funnel cake.  There simply can’t be anything more greasy and calorie-laiden than funnel cake! But it is OH SO GOOD!  Well and when you only eat one a year, is it really that bad?  I think not!! I must say that I was intrigued by seeing things such as fried Snickers, Oreos, etc.  Wow, I might have to try one of those next year!

Below are some pictures of the girls at the 2012 Titus County Fair.  What a great time they had.  One picture is of Chloe steering a pink car, one of Emmarie steering a bus of some sort, and then one of them at the car with all their winnings, including Emmarie wearing a big red squid hat!  They are smiling from ear to ear and that puts a smile in my heart.  I can only imagine the sights they are seeing from Heaven.  10378554_10202586228206859_2741856445174346047_n 10689520_10202586231566943_6406144314788048111_n 550953_3613709831330_1064456078_n

Richard, me, and Harriet at the Titus County Fair.

Richard, me, and Harriet at the Titus County Fair.


Worth Fighting For.

We love Jude and have never met him. We pray for him and follow on Facebook. A touching story!

Amber Denae

Today’s post comes from a deep place in my heart. A place of both joy and sorrow and of hope and faith. Many of you who know our family are well aware that we have a very special little guy who is a part of us. My sister, Hannah and brother-in-law, Sully have a precious 5 month old baby boy named Jude Sullivan Peters. Jude was born on April 17, 2014 with a very rare form of dwarfism called RCDP (Rhizomelic Chondrodysplasia Punctata). RCDP occurs in fewer than 1 in 100,000 infants worldwide. My sister was strongly encouraged to terminate her pregnancy and “try again” to which she strongly opposed. She and her husband were also told that Jude would likely not survive birth. Medical professionals have put limitations on him that he has far surpassed yet they continue to give grim reports. We affectionately call him our “Brave Little…

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Ups and Downs and Turn Arounds

The title of this post is just what popped into my brain as I began to type!
The content may or may not have much to do with the title.
Last week was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a very long time. It was also one of the most tiring weeks. So there are some new laws in the land of visual impairment. Well new and not so new.
One of my roles as a consultant is to present timely information to our teachers so they can have the latest information on teaching students with visual impairments and stay legal and all that “stuff”. I’m actually doing about 3 jobs, which equal more that one full-time job and I’m only able to work a little less than half-time. Anyway I had been planning for this training on Friday for over a month. I got my PowerPoint slides ready, gathered all the many handouts, put together the agenda, etc. I could not have done this without the support of my awesome secretary. One of the other things I love about this job is getting to give lots of stuff to my teachers. On the day of the training we were loading them up with lots of stuff for them and their students… and I love to give stuff to them… I love to give! But that meant that on top of the workshop preparation we also had a ton of things to sort out and group by school district.

I usually go into the office or to a school district in the afternoons. It is difficult for me to get places in the mornings because it takes so long to get dressed and do my medical stuff. But I scheduled the session to begin at 9 AM. And yes, I made it to work on time – early actually – and then taught all day until about 3, except for lunch! My colleague helped me present, and we had lots of good dialogue from the teachers. It was awesome! They were thrilled with all the goodies they got to ale home – most of which were tools they can use to teach kids skills related to the new laws. It was such a full day and I even worked late – about an hour or so.
I went home and still had things to do, and ended up going to bed at my regular time.
At the end of the week I totaled up my hours and I had worked more than half time, about 23 hours in all. And I survived! But barely.

Thank goodness the next day was Saturday. I was so tired! And I slept until almost noon. And at the same time the weather was changing as the first day of fall was approaching. Weather changes are never good for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s going from hot to cold or vice versa. It makes me hurt. The pain I experienced the next 3 days was almost unbearable. By yesterday I was starting to get depressed. But thank God, His mercies are new every morning! I woke up today and felt much better. However I finally slept in some. I think I needed sleep and for the weather to be still.
I can’t sleep late everyday because I DO want to get to work. After all, I have a great job that I love and wonderful co-workers!

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On Anger

This is a topic I’ve thought about addressing for awhile…. I would have been the last person to try to write or talk to others about this subject. However, several weeks ago I was visiting a church for the first time. In the middle of worship a woman who I did not know came to me and said she struggles with anger and bitterness. Furthermore, she felt like she was supposed to ask me to pray for her. Wow. Me? I wanted to say, “are you sure you have the right person?” Why me?

Through the years I have learned a lot about dealing with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.
My life has been FULL of opportunities to forgive, place things in God’s hands and then move on.
But here are my basic words of wisdom or experience on anger and such.

First, when we have been hurt, forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is not a feeling.
Most of the time when you make the choice to forgive it will not “feel” good.
It’s our human nature to want to hold onto such hurts. But God instructs us to not only forgive, but to do good for and pray for our enemies. So the first step is to choose to forgive.
Not forgiving only leads to bitterness and will only hurt you in the end.

Bitterness eats at your should. It will turn into an ugly, hideous place that like a cancer, will eat away at your emotions and your heart.

Sometimes we feel we have a right to be angry. But we actually don’t have that right, especially if you are a Christian. We have to learn to let it go. Give it to Him and leave it there. It’s not that anger in itself is a sin. Even Jesus was angry at the money changers in the temple. But He did not sin in His anger. Most of us are not that good… we cannot be angry and sin not. We can’t be angry and not think bad thoughts or wish revenge, or hold a grudge. That’s where the problem is for us. So it’s better to let it go than hold onto it.

When we choose to forgive, then at some point I have always felt that God supplies that feeling of “forgiveness”. If you can talk about the past problem without getting emotional all over again, then you have probably been successful in forgiving.

One of the hardest kinds of anger to deal with is the kind where there are constant continuous instances of insult. These are situations where you may have decided to accept the circumstances as they are, even though you don’t like them, can’t do anything about it, etc., but you end up being hurt and re-hurt on a regular basis by the same person or situation (custody cases, etc). I don’t have a lot of advice for this, except that it takes a lot of time in prayer, intimacy with the Lord, to have His heart for the people involved. Only when we have been with Him and have been given His love for others, can we pass it onto them. Our own strength alone is never enough. It will always fall short.

So to bring this to an end, I did pray for this woman. I realized that maybe I have come a long way in my own anger issues. I’m basically free! And that is a good place to be! I have learned that so many of the things we get hurt or offended over, are not that important in the big scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong, some things are worse than others. When offended or hurt, be quick to pray about it. Don’t do anything to make the situation worse… like gossip about the person or persons involved… talk to them if necessary. Make the choice to forgive. Trust God to supply the feeling. You may have to take it to Him more than once. When it rates its ugly head, step on it by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I’m not trying to be an expert on the subject, but just wanting to share my heart. I think you’ll find the more you get in the habit of forgiving and letting go, that each time it gets a little easier. God bless you!

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A Strange and Joyful Happening

A couple of nights ago while sleeping I remember laughing so hard in my sleep that I was actually laughing out loud. I was so incredibly happy. The laughter was not the kind you produce when someone tells a really funny joke. It was different…
The sound of my laughing woke me up which was okay because it was time for me turn anyway. Paraplegics have to turn in bed, it is recommended, at least every two hours to prevent pressure sores. I usually stretch it 2/12 or 3 hours. Anyway, when I woke up I remember almost being in a cloud of pure joy. I remember feeling like I just wanted to hurry up and go back to sleep so that I could maybe get back to whatever was happening while I was asleep. And so I fell back asleep until the next time to turn.

The next morning I was asking my husband if he remembered me laughing in y sleep. He did remember, although he said it did not really sound like laughing. Well, you know, what can I say? I was asleep! He also told me that at one point during the episode that it sounded like I had stopped breathing. About the time he was getting ready to check on me I was “breathing” again.

It wasn’t until last night that I remembered something… you see before I fell asleep that night my thoughts had turned to the girls, as they do almost every night. Although I’ve come a long way in the healing process with grieving, I started crying and asking the Lord to PLEASE let me have another dream about them, to let me hold them in my sleep, in my dreams….

I don’t know what happened. But all I know is when I woke up after laughing, I just felt like I was trying to hurry up and get back to somewhere I had been… I did not want to leave that place. I have never experienced anything like it before. I did not see anything in that “dream.” I did not see the girls, I did not see a big white light, or anything at all. But I could feel extreme joy. Joy like I’ve never felt. It was that “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Did I go to heaven for a few moments? I don’t know? Was it a weird dream? I don’t know. All I know is I have found more comfort since that night knowing that our precious girls are in that same joy and probably a whole lot more!



Dawn posted a new CaringBridge journal entry. Read the latest update and show your support.

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On Single moms

I used to say that I had a lot in common with a single mom.  That was because i’m the only breadwinner for the family and the only one who can drive.  So anytime me, the kids, or my husband had to go to the doctor, I had to take off ork to take them.  However, I was way wrong about my assumption.  I had never really known a single mom, just kind of knew, or thought I knew what it was kind of like.  But now that I am best friends with  a single mom, I have learned a whole new appreciation for single moms in the world.  

There are many reasons why and how women find themselves in the role of being a single mom.  Sometimes it is by their own doing and sometimes not.  Sometimes people have babies before getting married.  Other times divorce is a factor.  Or the husband dies. And of course sometimes women are raped.  Whatever the reason or cause, it is not a good lifestyle to have to lead.  It is so hard in so many ways. There are all kinds of struggles, emotional and financial, are the primary ones, not to mention physical exhaustion at times. 

Just imagine having 3 children or more… I know one mom who has 5 kids  Just the physical acts of getting five or three kids dressed, fed, and out of the door in the mornings or anytime you need to go somewhere is no simple task.  Now couple that with one or more kids who have either a behavior problem or a disability and you have a recipe for chaos.  If one of them gets sick, you have to take off work.  But there already isn’t enough money to make ends meet.  So when you have to take off work, and you are paid hourly, with little to no paid leave, that just makes matters much worse.  But when mom gets sick it’s a whole other story sometimes…. especially if she is uninsured.  In my friend’s case, there is not enough money to go to a doctor.  No money for prescriptions either.  What does she do?  She toughs it out.  Yeah a lot of people in that situation would just run to the local ER every time she gets sick. But if you know you can’t pay the bill, and you have a good conscious, then that is not your first option. 

Try living several days, up to a week at a time without a dollar to your name.  In this situation no one can get sick, nothing can break, there can be no extra expenses unexpectedly, and you have to make it on whatever food is in the house.  There is no stop at the Sonic or McDonalds for an afternoon treat.  Actually that is pretty much a all-time rule anyway.  Most of us would fall back on a loan or a credit card.  But at least one of the single moms I know, knows better than to go into debt and have to pay all of that back plus her regular bills.  “Hey mom, we are out of butter and I need some for my toast.”  And you have to tell your child,”oh well, I’m so sorry honey.  We don’t get paid for another four days, and we have NO money.  Not even a couple of dollars!”  

What happens when the bi-weekly check was a few dollars shy of covering the rent?  You pay all that you have to the landlord just to be told there is a $50 late fee.  So now when you get your next check which is supposed to cover everything else for the remainder of the month, you have to take $50 out for the late fee? 

You might be thinking they have child suppot.  Well, not always. Sometimes the dads are dead beats and in jail.  They aren’t working, so they have no money to pay any child support with, or they use their money to hire some fancy lawyer who gets the case postponed or gets them out of it a while longer…. What about all the government help?  Well that does not always go very far and not everyone gets the same amonnt.  I’ve learned that when you are on food stamps, for example, they aren’t always enough for several kids who have good appetites.  And not everything is covered. They periodically review your income.  And sometimes even just getting a few extra hours of work can result in a big reduction of the benefits.  

Perhaps  they brought it on themselves?  Well yes, in some cases.  Sometimes as young and unsaved, some ladies do things they will regret later.  And then later in life they get saved and are truly remorseful for their actions, but naturally love their children and try to be a great mom.   Unfortunately, the consequences of those actions are still wreaking havoc on their lives.  As the church, or even as a good friend, we should try to see the need and help out.  

How can we help?  We can offer to mow their yard, buy a sack of groceries, give a department store gift card when it is time for school to start.  School supplies and clothes for one child these days is enough to break most peoples’ banks, but most of us have enough to help out at least a little bit.  Just think about it… even a couple pairs of decent new jeans, a couple of shirts, a pair of shoes, new socks and underwear for several children for a mom only earning minimum wage, is huge….and then you add school supplies times three or four kids to that list….wow… Of course even giving a little cold hard cash helps a single mom buy gas or have field trip money.  Let’s face it… how many times have you realized the night before a field trip that tomorrow was the day you have to send the cash?  I know that happened to me a few times!  What about just offering to keep a child for a couple of hours so the mom can go get a much needed nap or go sit in peace and quiet for a while?  Another idea is to fix a meal and invite them over.  If you can’t do any of these…. then text or call and let her know you are thinking about and/or praying for her and the kids.  Ask if there is anything you can do…. she will probably say no…. because most of them don’t like to ask for help.  

Know a single mom? My hat is off to the ones I know.  Has this article opened your eyes?  If so, seek out ways to help the single moms you know.  Single dads for that matter!  I am from a single dad home…. maybe I’ll write about that sometime.  

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Ok, so the title could be confusing… is it think (about) camp, or is a camp about thinking? Well, it’s kind of both! For the last two weeks our Education Service Center (Region 8) where I work as an eduction specialist, has been hosting our first ever THINK CAMP.   The whole idea of the camp is for students to engage in activities and learning based on their interests.  For 2 weeks we have had about 130 students from 5th to 8th grades. give or take few,  to attend camp from 9-12 each day.  

Before the camp began these students took an interest survey to tell us which kinds of things they were interested in learning about.  Some of the areas that emerged were hunting and fishing, sports, culinary arts, fashion design, photography, and technology.  Students were placed into initial groups based on their selections.  Next, we as staff members chose a group to oversee according to these areas of interests.  We have a very talented staff! And some amazing students!  

Now you would think that we had all of our activities lined out for the 2 week period, right?   Wrong!  WE actually only planned the first day.  After that it was mostly in the students’ hands as to which direction the camp went for their group. This is kind of nerve-racking for me personally because I had no idea what we were going to do with these kids, and worst of all, what if they ended up being bored? I wasn’t afraid of losing control of the “class” or anything like that, I was afraid we just didn’t have enough planned to hold their interests. I surely didn’t have any clue what to do with fashion design, but it seemed like a neat thing to learn about and help with… so here we go! 

Day one the kids divided into their groups and everyone started getting to know each other a little better and we started finding out what they wanted to do, which direction they wanted to go.  I don’t think anyone came up with a day by plan.  Rather, one thing led to another, or you could say we just took it a day at a time.  

Image   The fashion design group adopted the name First Class Fashion Design and there are mostly girls and one guy in the group.  The staff leaders are Connie Rhymes and Nancy Folsom, two of the most fashionable ladies I know!  The girls were interested in clothing and modeling, while the young man’s interest was in art.  The community stepped in and we were able to borrow some beautiful formal dresses, scarves, purses, and other clothing items such as jackets and dresses.  A retired professional model came in and worked with the girls on posing in outfits and how to walk during a fashion show.  The girls tried on different attire and practiced posing and walking.  Not only that, but they kept a journal about their experiences.  In the journals they wrote a little about themselves, their families, which kind of fashion design career they may want to pursue, and added pictures of themselves modeling the various fashions.  The beautiful Region 8 facilities really gave them a place to “strut their stuff” so to speak! 

But what about the guy in the group? Well he is an artist in the full sense of the word.  From day one he stunned us with his talent for drawing people. He has captured the faces of all the girls in our group and has also drawn a picture of an abused child. It is captivating. I think he could capture just about anything with a little paint, a brush, and a canvas, or a pencil and sheet of paper for that matter! 

The class also designed cards using designer papers, die cuts, and embellishments.  This gave them another angle from which to explore fashion.  Other avenues they explored were various vocations related to fashion such as a career as a set designer, which several of them expressed an interest in doing.  They didn’t know about these careers until they had a chance to explore a website which tells about these various careers.  

Tomorrow, the last day of the camp, the students will have a real fashion show complete with lights, cameras, and action!  We have used a wing of our building and set it up with a runway with lights.  The girls will show off their style and modeling ability.  They will change clothes several times during the fashion show.  All of their work will be on display as well for the community to see.  The young man’s artwork is hanging on the walls for all to admire.  So he is not left out at all.  A video of the groups adventures while at Think Camp will be playing during the fashion sow as well.  

Another neat aspect of the camp has been the interaction between the groups.  The photography group, known as SnapHappy, has been learning about photography from one of our own staff members who is himself a photographer. They have been taking pictures of the other groups’ activities, and along with the technology groups are making a video of the whole camp.  That’s going to be neat to see too!

 So it has been a productive and fun past couple of weeks.  It’s been neat to see how the groups have explored their interests and have put together a final showcase.  Tomorrow each group will showcase their activities for the week.  Should be awesome to see! 


Now This is Awesome!

Richard (my husband) an I were talking last night about a church service we’d been to a few hours earlier. The worship was so good. And so I made a FB post about it.  A lot of us do that.  We go to our church and then post something like, “Awesome Word today by (insert your pastor’s name) at (insert your church name).  My comment was not so much about the people doing the worship as much as the experience I had with the Lord.  I really entered into the presence of the Lord during that service and it was about Him. 

In the 1990’s there was a major move of God in Pensacola, FL known as the Brownsville Revival.  Over a period of 5 years hundreds of thousands of people flooded Brownsville Assembly of God night after night.  We were blessed to be a part of it for a year when we lived in Pensacola. The worship was amazing, the preaching was anointed and the altars were flooded each night with sinners coming to Jesus.  People were healed. Addictions were broken.  It was true revival.  

In 1997 SPIN Magazine, a secular magazine, came to report on the revival.  The headline of they wrote following their visit was, “AWESOME GOD”  

This is what happens when God shows up.  The attention is not on man.  This is quite a contrast to so many today who focus on the pastor or the worship team and post about them.  I know people mean well, and I’m not condemning anyone.  But we need to get our eyes on Jesus and off man.  Man is just the vessel God uses anyway.  

You can read the SPIN magazine article here:

It’s pretty cool! 


Thanks to Richard for pointing this out.  

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