Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Full Fridge and Nothing to Eat: How Executive Function Impacts What We See Right in Front of Us.

We have all had the experience of looking at a full fridge and not being able to find anything to eat.  Sure, part of it is a lack of decision or trouble finding something that we are hungry for.  But a lot of it has to do with executive function. 

Executive function is a cognitive ability impacted by the center and the front of the brain.  It involves many attentional abilities such as sorting through stimuli, carrying out multiple steps to complete a task, paying attention to detail, organizing our life, keeping track of what we are doing, and multi-tasking.

When we are faced with a visual field filled with stimuli (e.g., a refrigerator full of food), our brain needs to sequence and sort through every detail of the field and tell us all the meaningful things in front of us.  If we have trouble with this part of executive function, we can see "a bunch of stuff" but the details get lost.  This is also why you might find 5 open jars of mayonnaise in your fridge.  Someone missed the detail in the fridge, and opened a new container...multiple times!

This is true for our kids too.  Take a look at this visual field--

Have you ever heard your child say "I have nothing to play with!  I'm bored, I have nothing to do!" 

Or do they stand in their room when you ask them to clean up...looking dazed and say "I don't know how!" 

This is likely that same executive function problem--Here are all these stimuli!  What do I do now?

I find that my son plays with more of his toys when his playroom is organized than when all his toys are out in the open.  You would think having all the toys visible would make for more ideas of what to play.  But no--it only makes the visual field more confusing and actually less noticed.  "Where do I start.  What do I play.  What should I do?" 

1. Realize this is a brain function.  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses with brain functions, including executive function abilities.  What is easy for you may be challenging for someone else.  Also, when we are fatigued or stressed, our ability to attend to detail may be even harder.
2. Try organizing things and making less things visible.  Sometimes when less toys or food are visible, people feel like there is actually more to do and more to eat.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ask for the Moon: excerpt from Soul Cries devotional (James 4:2)

Excerpt from Soul Cries devotional, copyright 2012
*2013 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist*

James 4:2 (New International Version)
You do not have because you do not ask God.

As a parent, I have asked God for many things that I have laid at His feet in prayer. However, when I read this verse, I wonder if there are things that I need or desire that I have not even asked for. Are there things, for example, that I don’t believe God for and therefore don’t ask for? Am I limiting my prayers before God in any way? For example, do I ask for the moon? Or, do I ask for things that I think are somehow most possible or realistic? Do I limit myself to things that I think are most holy or legitimate?

I would hate to come before the very Presence of God, and have Him ask me why I believed in Him for so little. I would hate for Him to say that there were things He longed to release in my life or the life of my child that were not released because I didn’t ask and because I believed for too little. I would hate to find out that I’d been self-limiting and therefore had limited the power of God to move in my life.

I want to choose to believe God for abundant goodness. I want to believe Him for “too much,” if that is possible, although I don’t think it is, except in my own limited mind. I choose to ask for the moon, to pray for the impossible, to see a future in places where there seems to be a dead end in the now. I choose to keep asking for more and more goodness from a good God. I pray for more of Him: for more life, for more freedom, for more healing, and for no limits. I pray the same for you, your children, your marriage, and your household.

1. Is there any way that you are tempted to limit God or to limit your requests and prayers? If you were to “ask for the moon,” what would that look like? Ask for it now!

2. I challenge you to honor and worship God by asking and believing for more of His goodness. I know He has more to give us. Let’s ask together!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Inconsistent Success: My Child "Can Do It If He/She Wants To"

As individuals, we tend to interpret inconsistencies in someone's behavior as a sign that a person "can" do a task if only they are motivated enough.

For example, let's say my middle school child sometimes pulls out an A on an English paper, but mostly gets C's.  I may say, "Well, he can get A's if he wants to."  Or maybe, my preschooler whines and cries about cleaning up her room saying "I don't know how!" even though I have seen her do it before.  And I say, "Well if you wanted to get it done, you would."

We interpret inconsistent behavior as having to do with will or motivation, "wanting to" behave in a certain way or achieve a certain task.  However, inconsistency can also be a sign of a weakness in ability or an actual skills deficit.  For example, executive function is a brain ability that involves things like organization, attention to detail, performing multiple steps in a large task, getting started, finishing a project, persevering through a difficult task, etc.  When we have difficulty in a particular area of executive function, we can "pull off" a behavior with great effort sometimes, but may be unable to consistently perform at that level.  Maybe my middle school child has trouble with study habits or my preschooler has trouble initiating a multi-step task without someone cuing her to the next step.

Picture this, I ask you if it is possible for you to work at your job wearing a 50 lb vest.  Maybe you say, "Well.  I guess it's possible."  Or I ask my friend if she can run a marathon.  She says, "Yeah, I ran one last weekend."  Then I ask if it is possible for you to work every day with an extra 50 pound weight, or ask my friend if she can run a marathon every day.  The answer is "No!"  Why not!  I've seen you do it before.  I know you CAN do it, so why don't you do it regularly and consistently.  

Sometimes, if a task is difficult for us, and requires great effort, we just can't accomplish it all the time.  Just think if we used maximum effort all day, every day, for every task.  We would not be able to make it through the long haul. 

So consider this--next time you see your child exhibit inconsistent behavior, consider whether they need some help to pull off the behavior successfully and consistently.  For example, maybe my middle schooler needs more hands on help with study habits and paper organization, or maybe my preschooler needs a picture schedule so she knows what things to clean up in her room to get the job done. 

If you are a detective, finding inconsistency might just lead to a plan that will put you and your kids on a more successful path. 

For more information on executive function see my past blog book review.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tea: What Makes It So Wonderful

I have recently realized how little I have understood about beverages and foods that take on characteristics of the region they come from (e.g., wine, tea, coffee, cheese). 

I recently read a new book in the Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs.  The book is Sweet Tea Revenge and was just released in March of 2013. 

Aside from loving a good cozy mystery, I so enjoy reading her descriptions of teas, flavor profiles, infusions, and blends. 

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world (after water).  It is reported to have health benefits including the reduction of blood pressure, weight control, and the increase of bone mineral density.  Tea catechins are said to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective activities. 

Teas can be categorized based on how they are processed with at least 6 different types: white, yellow, green, oolong, black, and post-fermented tea.  Teas from multiple areas may be combined to form blends.  There are also a large range of scented and flavored varieties such as Earl Grey.  In the United States and Canada, 80% of tea is consumed as iced tea. 

Check out the Teavana website for all things tea or visit one of their locations. 

They sell tea, tea blends, and other products like teapots and infusers.  They even have Tea of the Month clubs and their app is free.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Give: Excerpt from Soul Cries devotional Luke 6:38

Excerpt from Soul Cries devotional, copyright 2012 Theresa Regan.  *2013 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist*

Luke 6:38 (New International Version)

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

During times of hardship, it is easy to feel that your resources are stretched to the limit. You may feel lack in your life in many areas (e.g., time, money, forgiveness, rest). This feeling of lack can be intensified for parents who are caring for a child with illness or other specific needs. The scripture from Luke is a wonderful visual picture of the abundance of God. I am often tempted to feel lack, rather than abundance, in my circumstances. I may feel like curling up and hoarding everything I have, trying not to lose anything else.

I have learned to focus on God’s abundance, rather than my lack. I have also learned to trust His abundance. At times, this requires a specific and determined decision of the will. It requires me to live in the opposite spirit—opposite to my feelings of lack or poverty. It is generally when I start to curl up and hang onto things too tightly that I realize my heart needs to trust God. I need to cultivate a living faith in His provision, His good heart, and His abundant resources. I must decide to give in good measure, and believe that it will be returned to me in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, poured into my lap!

1. Have you ever been tempted to live by clinging to what you are afraid to lose? What are signals to you in your life that this is happening?

2. In what ways have you tried to cultivate an opposite spirit? How has giving something away left you more filled up?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Avacado Recipes: Surprising Ways to use these Healthy Fruits

This week I came home and needed something quick for dinner but didn't have much in the fridge.  Then I remembered I had some banana and some avocado in the freezer.  I threw together a smoothie with those fruits and some cocoa powder with agave nectar.  I had been hearing about using avocado in frozen recipes but hadn't tried anything yet.  It was wonderful, creamy, filling, and did not taste like guacamole!

Avocados are a fruit with many health benefits.  They contain all 18 essential amino acids, fiber, phytochemicals, as well as vitamins A, B, C, E, K, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.   The fats are primarily monosaturated and good for your body.  See here for 15 health benefits of avocados: 
Avocados and Health.  

In addition to everyone's favorite guacomole, avocados can be key ingredients in a variety of other recipes.  They can be substituted for heavy creams in some deserts likes cakes and frozen desserts.  And don't worry--they don't taste like avocado.  

Check out detoxinista.com's Healthy Fudgsicles

Try this Vegan Chocolate Cake at ambitiouskitchen.com!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review-- Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters by Jon Acuff

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters by +Jon Acuff .

I saw this book discussed on twitter as one you will find in the business section of your local bookstore.  I can see why, although it is certainly broader in topic than just business.  It is both motivational in tone as well as practical with steps to get started with work-that-matters.  I really enjoyed reading it and have recommended it to several people since it came out in April.    

Some of my favorite points and quotes:
1. "Fear is schizophrenic--it always tries to argue both sides of the coin. It will tell you you can't chase your dream, or that if you do, it must be perfect."  Or fear will say "It's too late to chase your dream" and "You should chase your dream later." 

This is a really good point--that not only is procrastination often fear-based, but so is trying to do everything right now and perfect.  The reason fear is addressed in a book talking about doing work that matters, is that Acuff tries to put into perspective how to achieve meaningful things over the long term.  He talks about taking small steps now (starting) and knowing they grow into bigger things later.  And no-it's not too late to chase after meaningful work. He points out that in 2011, 20 percent of new entrepreneurs were between the ages of 55 and 64.  He also emphasizes that the internet and social media break down many barriers that existed for previous generations.

2. "You have to be brutally realistic about your present circumstances and wildly unrealistic about your future circumstances." 
Acuff makes a good point about needing to be realistic about where you are.  Dreaming is not permission to abandon responsibilities to "chase after your dream."  He encourages you to be brutally honest about your finances, your family, your education, etc.  But be a starter--the only thing you are completely in control of is the starting line.  Take small steps to move toward the dream.  Be unrealistically optimistic about the future because no one knows how things will end.  You don't control the outcome, only the start.

I highly recommend this book.  I don't usually read books from the business section, but it is much broader in content and focus.  His writing style is also easy to read with many funny anecdotes and personal stories that add to the meaning he conveys.  This would be a great graduation or Father's Day gift since those holidays are coming up!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vacation or Staycation?

Sometimes decisions about vacation or staycation get made on the basis of money alone.  Maybe the decision should also take into account the temperament and needs of family members as well.  Some of us get "filled up" by traveling to beaches, historical places, or rugged terrain.  Others get filled up by reading a good book, going miniature golfing, or camping in the backyard.  Think about what will be the most filling for you and your family, and plan around that.  Remember too that each year may be different!  Ask yourself the question--"What does my family need this year?  What will our rest time look like?"

If you are planning a staycation, consider some structure, so the time doesn't waste away.  

1. Day One:  Relaxation
Maybe the first day is one of rest and relaxation.  What does it feel like to be pampered?  Maybe make a spa day for the ladies/girls with pedicures, naps, and reading a book on the deck? Maybe the boys choose golfing, playing softball, or playing video games.

2. Creation
If you are a creative family, you might want to create on a day or two.  This could include things like building a treehouse, trying new recipes/grilling ideas, artwork, redecorating the kids bedroom, or sewing.  

These are things I "created" lately that turned out well:
Raw Key Lime Tartlets found at detoxinista.com

and Homemade Lip Balm at ourbestbites.com

3. Friend Day: You might plan a day when you invite families over for a cookout or do something with some of your close friends/neighbors.  Decorate the deck, buy sparklers, and watch the sun set!

4. Field Day: You might consider having a sports/field day.  Maybe put a tent in the backyard at night.  

5. Visit local fun spots and try something new: Check out local venues like bowling, miniature golf, rolling skating, ice skating, or paintball. 

6. Movie day:  Maybe plan a movie marathon in your house where every person gets to pick a favorite movie.  Add popcorn, movie theater candy.  
7. You might consider including a day to help the community.  Volunteer as a family to help with a local project.