On Halloween

I think I may actually offend many of the church going people I know with this post. I’m not sorry. Just so we’re clear, you know – in advance.

(*Edited to add that when this post was written in 2012, the only people who read it were my church going friends who really know me, and they know that when I say I might offend them, that I’m saying so in a let’s-still-be-friends-even-if-we-disagree, kind of way. I did not expect this blog to blow up the way it did the following year in 2013. I did not intend to offend the church going people everywhere, all the time. Holy smokes. But that seems to be what happened, however unintentional.)

Every Halloween it’s the same silly thing.

People getting annoyed with the gore. The focus on death. The devil. The blood.

And you know, I’m not a huge fan of all that stuff either. In fact I’m kind of a basket case with it, to the point I don’t even watch commercials for scary movies. So totally not my thing. But as I sat in my van tonight listening to Christmas music while watching Glenn and the boys knock on my parents’ neighbor’s doors, I was struck by something.

This is the only night of the entire year that most of your neighbors and mine are going to come knocking on our doors. The only night.

And what is the typical Christian response to this?

1. To go to church and hide from our neighbors at a “harvest party” with costumes and candy.
(FYI – nobody is fooled. Unless you live on a farm or have a grow op in your basement we all know that there isn’t any harvest going on. I will concede however that in some places the only viable way to participate in Halloween at all is to go to some sort of church or community party. Do your thing. It’s all good.)


2. To turn off the lights and ignore the door bell for the evening.

I’m sure that both of those things are going a long way toward the command to love our neighbors. Jesus didn’t know anything about blood or torture or dying a gruesome death. The devil was definitely not there when Jesus died for and saved all of humanity.


I’m not here to try to sit down and come up with something redeeming about this holiday. There is nothing redeeming about it in the Christian sense of that word. But really, so what? Are so many of us really willing to keep our lights off and our doors closed because the neighbors are coming calling for candy instead of Jesus? Are we really sitting on our couches the other 364 days of the year waiting for them to show up looking for a revival? What exactly is so redeemed about the rest of the nights of the year? Lights are out, door is locked, nobody has a clue from the outside that Jesus is home.

Before I was a Christian myself, which didn’t happen until I was nearly 18, Halloween was the most innocent, stupid fun night of the year. Whatever the historical or spiritual origins of Halloween may be, I was like most kids and families who were then and still are today just in it for the fun and candy. That’s it. The dark side of Halloween was off limits for us. My parents aren’t into that either. Those houses with the people we knew were ignoring us? We figured they were religious nuts or hated kids or both. Obviously as an adult now, I do realize that there are people new to the country who don’t have a clue what’s going on. Or people who have backgrounds of trauma or cultural reasons for not participating. Or people who don’t get kids at their door in the first place. Or communities where trick or treating doesn’t make sense so everyone goes to a big party. This is not meant to offend anyone in those or other groups who just don’t or can’t participate.

When we were kids, the houses with the really bloody, awful decorations? Skipped them. Christians aren’t the only ones who aren’t into that stuff. The houses we liked the best were the ones with cool pumpkins and friendly faces at the door. My kids are the same way now. They don’t like the front lawns with zombie arms coming out of the ground and tombstones and skeletons and some creepy guy who looks half dead at the door. A lot of kids don’t. One year one of our more zealous neighbors took apart a bunch of toy baby dolls and covered the limbs in fake blood before scattering them around his yard. Classy. My kids literally ran past his house to the one with the lights on and nothing that would give them nightmares at the door.

May I suggest that you have neighbors who just want their kids to have fun and be safe on Halloween? They aren’t biting heads off of small animals or chanting spells or making voodoo dolls out of your likeness. They are normal people. I know this because I was one. I am one for crying out loud. Your neighbors are not out to get you. They just want you to meet them. To say hello. To share some candy. To be nice to their kids.

If Jesus can go straight to hell, stare death and devil in the face, win and come back alive, why can’t we open our doors to the 6 year old in a Batman costume and his shivering mom?

Why. Can’t. We?

I’m not denying that there are some really dark and disturbing things about this holiday that we don’t need to expose ourselves or our children to. Those church events may be the best place to party like it’s 1999 on Halloween for lots of families. I’m not assuming to know what is best for every person everywhere. I’m just saying that hiding from this holiday and the opportunity to meet our neighbors and/or their awesome kids may not always be the best way to approach it. So if you’re torn or on the fence or not sure how to deal with this very polarizing day for the Christian world, here are some thoughts:

Turn your light on. Lots of lights. A city on a hill cannot be hidden right? Be a city on a hill. Halloween may not be “redeemed” but you are. So open your door and smile.

If you don’t want to give away candy, give away something else. This year my kids got packets with juice boxes, raisins and prepackaged cookies. The kids may not jump for joy (mine didn’t) but hey – Halloween is the last day of the month. That kid’s mom or dad might not have done groceries yet since being paid, and that snack pack may be the best thing in the kid’s lunch the next day. You seriously never know. I’ve lived in a neighborhood where I can guarantee you this is true for a lot of families. I’ve seen some of those kids’ lunches. It ain’t always pretty. The kids also got play dough this year, and have received little pencils and notebooks in the past. There are some very fun, creative people out there who just want to do something nice for the neighborhood. Be one of those people!

Or give away the biggest, best candy on the entire block. Be the house that every kid in your neighborhood goes to every year because you are the awesome house with the best treats and nicest people at the door. You don’t have to like Halloween to be the best thing that ever happened to it in your neighborhood. My husband’s family lives across the street from the house I lived in when I was a kid. And I happen to know that another house, just down the street, gives out the best candy in the neighborhood. When we stopped by to visit Glenn’s brother and family tonight, I sent my kids to that house down the street, and sure enough those super nice people with the good candy were still there, 19 years later. I love those people and I don’t even know them! Now my kids think they rock too. I want to be those people. Seriously.

Decorate. I saw a sign for a house near us that put up a pumpkin patch on their lawn. What a great idea! We didn’t get there because we were trick or treating at my mom and dad’s (they watched Rosalie), but I am so stealing that idea when we live in a house that gets trick or treaters.

Or throw a little carnival on your lawn. Rent a popcorn machine and haul out a portable fire pit if you have one for the moms and dads to warm their hands. Get a cooler full of water bottles. Rent a coffee urn and buy a huge bag of disposable coffee cups. Put some carnival games on your lawn and make the kids win their candy. I don’t know. Just do something fun. Something different. Something memorable.

You may still hate Halloween and avoid it at all costs. That’s fair. It’s not for everybody. But hey, it’s over now so you’ve got a whole year to mull it over. Give Halloween a chance. Be a blessing. Love your neighbor. Even if you think the whole thing is just awful. Jesus didn’t come to redeem a day. He came to redeem lives and all we have to do to be part of that is to love our neighbors. Not preach at them. Not throw Bible verses in the Halloween bag instead of candy. Just love them. It’s so easy. It’s so worth it. And seriously, it’s so much fun.

One day this world and everything in it will pass away, including Halloween. What will be left will be lives. If the only chance we have to make an impression on some of our neighbors is on Halloween, we may as well make it the best impression possible. Let Jesus handle the blood and the gore and the death. He’s done it before, after all.


Due to the overwhelming response to this blog, I wrote a follow up in 2014 which can be found here.

I also posted this status on my blog facebook page:

Halloween is dark and scary and gory. Yes it is. But there kids and there are families, in every neighbourhood in my country and yours, who see, hear, and experience darker, scarier, and gorier things than Halloween all the time. Halloween is not scary to them because they have experienced real horror, and real terror. And believe it or not, Halloween, for some kids, is the LEAST scary thing they’re going to experience this month or this year. For some kids, it’s the most fun and least threatening thing they will do.

And so, if Halloween is the MOST scary night you can think of, or that you’ve experienced. You are blessed, my friends. And the world needs your light. It needs it bad.


As of November 1, 2013 comments on this post are closed.

Fall 2014 at the pumpkin patch.

Fall 2014 at the pumpkin patch.

Fall 2014, Just playing with pumpkins.

Fall 2014, Just playing with pumpkins.

copyright (c) 2012 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Overcoming Toilet Anxiety: Wonder Woman to the Rescue

In case the title doesn’t give it away, this is a post about poop. Consider that your TMI disclaimer. I hope that in sharing this story, that I may be able to offer some encouragement to other families dealing with the same issue.

Last week I had posted on Facebook about some progress being made with the child-who-was-afraid-to-poop. My girl is 4.5 years old, and has been otherwise toilet trained for nearly 2 years. Pooping on the toilet though, has been a monumental obstacle for her. It’s partly a sensory thing and partly an anxiety thing. We have tried everything and tried it again. Nothing has worked. She is not constipated. She goes when she wants to and has no trouble holding it as long as she needs to before she feels comfortable going.

This week I think I can safely say that she is turning a real corner in overcoming her anxiety. I’ve spoken with other moms facing toileting problems in older kids “who should be toilet trained by now” and this is really not as uncommon as I had once thought. It’s quite common in kids with sensory processing disorders or on the autism spectrum, though her sensory issues are mild and she is not on the spectrum.

So what did we do? Honestly? Reverse psychology: I told her to poop her pants. Allow me to explain. When school started in September I changed our goal and approach. Where previously all I wanted was for her to  just use the toilet already, suddenly all I wanted was to make sure that regardless of *how* she chose to poop, that she continued to only do it at home. I did not want her to become comfortable at school and start having poop “accidents” there. She generally only goes at home and I wanted to keep it that way.
We changed the conversation and told her that she needs to poop at home and not at school. That pooping is SO good for her body. That it’s healthy. And that if she needs to go in her undies, to try to take off her pants first so that they don’t get dirty too. That she will go in the toilet when she’s ready, and when she’s ready that we will help her.

She would go in her pants and I would tell her “good job, I am so glad that your body is going poop.” She thought I’d gone crazy and would say, “but I pooped in my undies.” And I would tell her again that I just want her to poop, at home, even if it’s in her undies. In her mind I had truly gone off the deep end because I was congratulating her for going poop in her undies. She would hide, someone would notice and tell me, and I would say (loudly so that she could hear me), “that’s okay, she just needs to go poop by herself right now.” Our boys thought I’d gone bonkers too. The stress level associated with pooping had become so high that it was just all bad in her mind. We had to change her thinking to believe that pooping is good. Because it is.



This girl is my treasure. I would move mountains to help her overcome her poop anxiety, if I could.

Well last week, which was about a month into school and our new approach, she started to become willing to try to go on the toilet. At first she could not do it, but that was okay. Just trying without becoming upset was progress. I would congratulate her for trying and remind her that pooping is good for her when she would later go in her pants. But then one day she did it. I could see her becoming less afraid when she was trying to use the toilet so I was not surprised when she was able to go. Soon after, she was trying to go again, and she really *wanted* to be able to do it. She was getting upset but not because she was afraid like before – she was upset because she really, really wanted to go and couldn’t.
So in that moment I made a decision. I went into my room and took out a $10 Wonder Woman action figure that I had put away without her knowledge, intending to give it to her when she went on the toilet or for Christmas, whichever came first. Rewards had not previously worked for her, so that was why she didn’t know that I had this doll. But I figured, to hell with it. I showed her Woman Woman (which she had been asking for), promising that she could have it if she went. Well my girl dug deep to overcome her anxiety and go on the toilet to get the toy. Nothing was stopping her in that moment.
She was delighted. And I told her that if she poops on the toilet 5 more times, that she can get the Bat Girl one to go with it. Which was why, the next day or the day after, she came to me, asked for help, and she went *three times* in one day. My mother was worried about her going so much, but because she holds it for so long, that is just her normal. She will go not at all and then a lot in one day, and then not at all again. She did not go again after that day for a couple of days. I knew that she was going to have to go big time soon.
She did. She tried and told me that she could feel it pushing. Which was a huge milestone for her – being able to identify the feeling associated with going without running and hiding and being afraid of it. Still she couldn’t do it even though she tried her best. She did eventually go in her undies because she had to go so much, so very badly that she was scared to use the toilet. She went so much that I had to dispose of it in the trash rather than the toilet, which happens when she holds it for too long. She was so sad. She really wanted to use the toilet. I told her it was okay. I was just really glad she went poop because I didn’t want her holding all of that in. We focused on how much better her tummy feels and how we don’t want to keep that much poop in our bodies. Why? Because pooping is good for us. It has become our mantra around here.
I wondered if she would go back to going in in her undies after that. She didn’t. She has used the toilet properly twice in the last couple of days and earned her Bat Girl to team up with Wonder Woman, just this afternoon.

So much has changed for her in the last couple of weeks. Being able to tell what the urge to poop feels like, and not be afraid of it. Being able to sit on the toilet and try to go, without freaking out. Those two things both had to happen before we were going to see success of any kind. Had I known that telling her she could poop her pants would be what helps her calm down and use the toilet, I’d have given her permission months ago.

It’s tough seeing an older child struggle with their own body. I’m not sure how long it will be before she is able to go consistently. She was in a cycle of holding it for so long that going was scary due to the volume, and then holding it more because she’s afraid to go. As she’s feeling the urge on her own and telling us so that we can take her to the washroom, she is retraining her own body to be okay with that feeling. It may take time for her to respond to “small” urges that she has been used to holding in. That’s okay. Seeing her be happy and excited just to try to use the toilet is huge progress. She IS getting it, one day at a time. That one big accident is actually the only one she’s had in a week. It wasn’t as much of a setback as it normally would have been. (Honestly if I pooped that much I’d freak out too.) Being able to go since then has boosted her confidence even more.

Her next goal is to go not one time or five times, but ten times on the toilet – and she will earn Super Girl to team up with Bat Girl and Wonder Woman. Where was the DC Super Hero Girls movie all this time anyway? Maybe all a girl needs is a hero to help her out! There won’t be rewards forever, and I’m honestly not sure why rewards are working now when they never have before, but after 2 years of struggle, it’s a small price to pay. She wants to be brave like the Super Hero Girls and I am so down with a kid who wants to be courageous in overcoming something that has been unbelievably difficult and discouraging.

I don’t know if sharing this story will help one struggling parent or many, but this is such a tough struggle to walk through with an older child that there was no way I could keep the things that have helped us, to myself. I’m praying that she doesn’t regress and that we continue to move forward on this.

I also pray for breakthrough and success for other kids and families trying to overcome toileting issues in older kids as well. I can honestly say that this is one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced with any of my kids and that is saying an awful lot. Hang in there. I’m hanging in there too.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

I Did (Almost) Nothing All Year

Last September the third of my four children marched off to grade 1, which is the beginning of full day school here. That’s when people started with the question. “So what are you going to do this year with just Rosalie home all day?” It’s a fair question and one I’ve asked other at-home moms myself. At first I thought I was going to work part time from home for my church, but it quickly became apparent that doing so was going to involve trading a significant portion of my sanity, and by October I had to let it go. I considered putting Rosalie in preschool, thinking she’d be bored and need the socialization. That didn’t feel quite right either. Should we join a play group? Put her in a lesson or class of some kind? Join a Bible study or moms group at a church? Hmmm. I didn’t think so.


First day of full time school for all 3 boys. It was a huge milestone.

The problem was, that last September I had been a full time stay at home mom for 10 years, and I was tired. The kind of tired that you feel in every cell of your body. Exhaustion, fatigue, weariness – all of it, all at once. I had nothing left to give to anyone or anything. What energy I did have was going to Rosalie during the day when the boys were at school, and all four kids when they weren’t at school. When people asked me what I was going to do all day with just Rosalie, I couldn’t think of a single answer that involved doing anything at all. Caregiver burnout of a kind I did not know existed had fully set in and I was quite happy to not have to do anything. The concept of Sabbath for mothers is insanity. When mothers rest, the house burns down. Rest comes in seasons and I felt that this was a season I had come to, quite unexpectedly and not entirely of my own free will.

So I made the unintentional decision to just say no to almost everything. I did (almost) nothing all year from September to June. Rosalie and I spent a good majority of our mornings in bed. She’d wake up while the boys were getting ready for school with Glenn, and crawl into bed with me. While they packed lunches she’d watch Netflix or play Starfall on the iPad. I’d doze off or play on my phone. Some mornings she’d just snuggle in and go right back to sleep. The boys would come give us hugs and Glenn would bring them to school. We’d saunter on downstairs for breakfast whenever we felt like it. Or sometimes Glenn would bring her a cup of milk and granola bar in my bedroom before he left, because we were just not in a hurry to move or do anything or be anywhere.


Afternoon nap and Netflix, captured by Glenn.

We had some play dates, although almost all of them were initiated by other people. We ran errands. We stayed home and read books, drew pictures, cleaned the house, did nothing, went for walks, played at the park. It was the most unproductive year I’ve had in my adult life. Rosalie didn’t seem to mind. When you live in a house with this much testosterone coursing through it, the times when everything is still and quiet are rare and valuable. She’s as independent as I am and enjoyed quite a bit of alone time with her babies and teddy bears and horses and imagination. At various times over the year I thought for sure I needed to get the both of us out more, but I just could not bring myself to do it. I prayed about it even, thinking that surely God must have some kind of direction or intention for this year of my life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus, Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

That verse has come to me a lot this year. It’s difficult to submit to rest and nothingness when you are a type-A, take charge, kick ass, no mercy kind of personality. I did it though, and it was good for me, much as I am loathe to admit it. I’m not sure when it happened, maybe around the New Year, but as the time wore on in this my year of nothing, as I came to start calling it, I began to come back to life again. I had more energy. I felt less guilt over needing what felt like an excessive amount of time to myself, even for me. I was able to think through and process some of the complicated years of raising and figuring out these boys of mine. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t think. You just do. You move forward in whatever direction you have to. You go to the assessments, you fill out paperwork and answer so very many questions, you call the ambulance while your boy turns blue, you go to a thousand doctor appointments, you get the diagnosis, you try the inhalers and meds, you go to more doctor appointments, you meet with teachers and sign IPP’s and fill out medication release forms, and you just go, go, go. There is no time to stop and that was okay. Until it wasn’t. Until I wasn’t.

Caregiver burnout is a real thing. I’m not a doctor or psychologist or professional but I am a stay at home mother and after 10 years of caring for all of my people, I burned out. And so I stopped. I stopped everything and just did nothing. I loved the time with my daughter and spent every waking moment with her for this whole year just because I could. She was my only yes all day every day. I read when I felt like reading. I wrote when I felt like writing. I purged old toys and clothes and things out of this house at a rate that almost alarmed my husband. After school we played at the park with the boys or went to the lake or for walks. Sometimes I went to church and sometimes I didn’t. I sat down and colored with my kids at the kitchen table. We went to the zoo. We watched movies. I spent time in prayer, in silence, meditating on Scripture and on the words in the songs we sing in worship to God, copying Scripture, and listening for the still, small voice of God. With His help I got myself un-burned out and didn’t feel bad for one second that the only people who got my time or energy all year were my kids and Glenn.


My yes this year was her.

By spring I was applying to go back to school. Life had not slowed down but I had slowed down in the middle of it and suddenly I could think straight, see straight, and make rational decisions again. Oh this year of nothing, it was necessary and it restored me but it certainly went fast. The funny thing is that when I got my boys back at the end of June, it was them who were burned out from a long, busy, productive school year. They had as profound a need for rest and nothingness as I did last September. Rest is good, as it turns out. I learned a lot about making room for rest, and that a lot happens when you think you’re doing nothing. All of us are rested now and about ready for more.

Now the big question is what I’m going to do when Rosalie goes to kindergarten this fall. I’m taking classes. Not too many. One or two at a time, and all from home. Kindergarten is only half days, less than 3 hours actually. The part of the day when she’s home with me? We aren’t going to be doing nothing this next year. I’m done with that. Now? We’re going to be doing everything. The two of us in the morning, me alone in the afternoons, all four of my rascals the rest of the time, Glenn too when he’s not working. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s time. My Sabbath year of nothing, of rest, of giving myself time and space to breathe and answer to no one but my Maker – it restored me. As He promised.


Me. Rested. Restored.

Moving out of this year of doing (almost) nothing, it has become apparent that while the concept of Sabbath may be insane for mothers, living life without making space for some kind of Sabbath rest will about drive a mother insane. I’m not good at moderation but I’m going to give it a shot. I don’t know who is reading this, but maybe I’m not the only one who needs to intentionally make space for Sabbath rest. Perhaps I won’t get to the point of needing a year of it again, if I can make a disciplined habit of it instead.

(I’ve already tried to imagine what I’m going to do with myself when Rosalie goes to grade 1 and is at school full time like the boys. We’re over a year away from that and I can’t picture it without freaking out. That much peace and quiet is likely to be way too much me time. I’m going to need to take a lot more classes or find some time consuming hobbies or get a part time job. Funny how moderation works in both ways!)

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Love Greater

Blood. Not so long ago, it was common medical practice to stick people with something sharp to let the blood out. It was a go to, a cure all, for an astonishing number of conditions. Let the blood out, we have too much of it, balance the bodily humors, and maybe the sickness will go out with it. They were wrong mostly and it seems barbaric, even criminal, today to consider such a crude course of treatment. We are more likely to do the opposite and give a patient more blood when the need arises, than to take it away. And where does the blood for patients come from? Donors. From people who show up at clinics to voluntarily get stuck with something sharp, giving of their own blood to save the life of another.

Perhaps we have not come so far as we think in our current age, because it seems as though the entire world is set to bleed itself to death anyway. And on such a scale as would seem wholly barbaric to those who came before us. With explosives and guns these days rather than 18th century fleams and whatever-passed-for-needles in ancient times, we are hell bent on letting the blood out, certain that in its taking will be found justice or vengeance or righteousness or satisfaction.

We have a way to go in this bleeding, broken world. Medicine has figured out that it is in the giving of blood, not the taking, that lives are saved. It is when people line up ready to bleed for each other rather than to bleed each other out that miracles take place. Jesus said, “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And then the God who calls us friends laid down His life, bleeding out on the cross until death came like a shadow, taking even Him.

I think His friends then must have felt something like we do now. We watch the news and wring our hands and wonder how in God’s name this world can ever be reconciled to itself. And the answer comes swiftly: it cannot. It can only be reconciled to Him. Him who bled to death and yet could not stay dead. Who calls us to do the same, for our neighbors and our enemies alike. The power of resurrection is really kind of terrible when you think about it, but it’s the best we have in the battle for flesh and blood in this world. There is a battle waging, make no mistake. Resurrection says that the dead will live, and the broken will be made well, and the lost will be found, and that justice in the end, is in the hands of God Almighty.

The human heart starts beating before it starts pumping blood. We don’t have to bleed to have a heart beat and we don’t have to bleed each other out to make our own hearts beat stronger. The heart of God has blood no longer, yet beats for us like the heart of a parent for their child.

Jesus wept for the dead once. If there is nothing else we can do, we can weep for the dead. And then love the living with the kind of greater love that is willing to give blood instead of take. Our hearts beating for another, instead ourselves. Practically speaking, I don’t know. Be nice. Have compassion. Show up with a meal. Hold the door. Hold your tongue. The latter of those being the hardest challenge of loving people for some of us. Okay. For me. Whether the world needs us to open our eyes, get our hands dirty or simply shut our mouths, if we are looking we will figure it out.

God be with those lost and those living with loss. And may the rest of us be given the almighty kick in the pants that we need, to love greater.



copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

Nobody Cares

I am re posting this today as a reminder of what really matters in raising up our kids.

TroubleFace Mom

Wait a minute. I’ve read this before.

Yes indeed. If you’ve read my blog in the past, you may remember this one. I archived it and today I am re-posting another updated version for new friends and new moms and anyone who needs a reminder.  A reminder of that which nobody cares about, but mostly what they do care about. What they care a lot about.


The first day of school. Ever. It’s a huge milestone for most families, and we are no exception. We kind of make a big deal out of it every year. The first day of school is always cause for celebration in our house. This school year our boys are in grades 5, 3, and 1.  We’ve got three first days of kindergarten behind us, and one last one coming up in September. Maybe it’s a little odd to be talking about the…

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The One With the Interview

So I was interviewed this week by Mandy from We Are His Daughters, a website committed to encouraging women to be bold in their faith. I was flattered by the invitation since being interviewed is not something that happens in my life except for when my family wants to know what’s for dinner and *why can’t we have something else* – so I went for it. I didn’t tell anybody that this was happening because I figured there was a good chance they’d read my answers and change their minds. (Insecurity: I need to work on that.) But they didn’t change their minds and the interview is up as part of their Ministry Monday feature.

I know that not everyone who makes a pit stop at this blog would identify as being a faith-based person, and that’s cool! Don’t abandon ship just yet. For those who are interested, you can find We Are His Daughters on facebook and on wordpress.

Their interview with me can be found here.

Have a good week friends!


copyright (c) Jenna Pelias 2016 // all rights reserved

We Aren’t In Kindergarten Anymore, Toto

We Aren’t In Kindergarten Anymore, Toto
On Parenting A Preteen
by Jenna Pelias

People keep asking me how I feel about Rosalie going to kindergarten. I’m still not even 100% sure we’re sending her, but to be honest I’m fine either way. Kindergarten is 2.75 hours of learning the alphabet, numbers to 10, center time, carpet time, art, music, playing on the playground, and learning how school works. Kindergarten is terrific and she’ll love it whether we send her this year or wait til next.

To be honest, I keep thinking that people who ask me how I feel about Rosalie going to kindergarten are asking me the wrong question. The real question is how I feel about raising a preteen. Our elementary school goes to grade 6, so Mateo has only one year left after this. How about “hey Jenna how do you feel about Mateo going to junior high in a little over a year?” Now that’s a conversation I can get invested in. He just went to kindergarten and now we’re about to start packing it in on his elementary school days. HOLD ME JESUS.


Mateo’s first day of kindergarten.

We are just dipping our toes into this hormonal world of ditching playing for hanging out, and deciding whether we need to get a spare cell for when the preteen is out not playing at the park with his friends. This afternoon I heard the words, “we have to get that on video” when Mateo was on the trampoline with his buddies and a go pro camera. This is apparently what preteens do. Haul go pros around and film themselves making questionable life decisions. I decided not to look outside – I don’t know if I want to know. I definitely want to follow through on my recent threats to get rid of the trampoline. For real. I feel like we’re just a ticking time bomb to the next broken bone. Third time doesn’t need to be the charm with hormonal preteen boys running around with go pros, am I right?

There is a lot of unknown happening around here. Mateo recently made the decision to occupy the spare room in the basement – alone. He’s shared with Andreas for going on 8 years and now all of a sudden he wants his own space. So he moved downstairs, Andreas moved in with Olivier, and Rosalie is on her own after sharing with Olivier almost all of her life so far. What is happening to my house? Everything is changing.

Last night I went to say goodnight to Mateo – because you don’t tuck in preteens, you say goodnight to them. Obviously. He asked me to pray for him. I prayed and thanked God that in Mateo we have a kid we can trust and have confidence in. Today he was making plans with the aforementioned go pro friends and we were negotiating terms. Where he was allowed to go. When to call. Etc. We definitely aren’t in Kindergarten anymore, Toto.


Negotiating the terms of his release from captivity aka our home.

This is my life now. Negotiating terms and avoiding the words “we have to get that on video” and praying words that speak life into my kid hoping that he hears us and God louder than all the crap he’s about to hear from this world. Also deodorant. And having their own room. So far that’s all I have in my arsenal.

So ask me again how I feel about Rosalie going to kindergarten. Compared to getting Mateo ready for junior high? Kindergarten feels like a walk in the park. I tried but clicking my heels together three times and saying “there’s no place like kindergarten” won’t bring back 5 year old Mateo. Onward and upward we go, then.


copyright (c) Jenna Pelias 2016 // all rights reserved



Where Autism Takes Us


We love a boy with Autism. Andreas is just here for the pizza. His eyes are closed because the sun was too bright.

It’s been just over 3 years since our second son, Andreas, was diagnosed with autism. He’s 8.5 now and in grade 3. He is doing well. Math is his spirit animal. His teacher was recently fist pumping with joy as she explained that she has been catching him reading books in his lap when he’s supposed to be paying attention. Why is this good? Because boy wonder was hitting junior high reading level in grade 1, despite the fact that reading was not his favorite. You’d expect a kid that advanced to be a book worm, but nope. He read when he had to. Now he sneaks books in class and that is a real cause for celebration. Geology and animals are topics of great interest, and he’s recently become enthusiastic about research projects. (Seriously, if I hear one more word about Andean condors I might actually spontaneously combust.) His teacher hit the jackpot this year by providing him with an alpha smart to do his writing with. Writing is tiresome and he pretty much hates it. Last year he had a teacher tell him that he had to write 1 sentence before going home. He wrote, “Miss Teacher school sucks I want to go home.” She wasn’t impressed but hey, a sentence is a sentence and he used his to make a point. Well done. Now, with the alpha smart he is typing pages at a time. This all sounds really wonderful, and it is.

What I want people to be aware of on Autism Awareness Day, is that the wonderful things and the moments to celebrate? They come with a lot of hard work. Andreas doesn’t even realize how hard he is working, because this is his normal. It’s our normal. And sometimes that makes me really mad for him.

A couple months into last school year (grade 2) I honestly thought I was going to have to pull him out of school and home school him. It was so bad that he was shutting down completely every day. He hated school. He was miserable. This was not like him and we were distraught. Our happy boy was sad all the time and people around us were starting to notice too. I had had enough when I was told he was being placed into literacy support. What the boy who was reading at junior high level needed was not literacy support to get him to read a bunch of boring fairy tales because “that’s the grade 2 curriculum.” He needed to be able to be himself and that wasn’t happening. Everything he did was “wrong” and he was responding accordingly. After one very ticked off email on my part, the school took action. The principal stepped in, and put him into a different classroom.  That day he came home from school and I told him the good news. He said nothing. But he gave me the happiest smile I’d seen in a very long time.


The day he found out he’d be switching classes to be with his friends, a quirky teacher who would let him be himself, and be able to do “harder” work that wasn’t boring. It was a good day.

I’ve never shared that online because it was so upsetting for such a long time. The teacher he had did have a part to play in it, but she was also a first year teacher who had learned “strategies” for autism, but never had to implement them with a child like Andreas. The school had not prepared her for the complexity of a 2e (twice exceptional) child. The principal actually acknowledged this, took responsibility, and apologized to me. She also used it as a learning experience for the teacher – who is not a bad teacher – and the school. Going back though, twice exceptional refers to a child who is BOTH gifted and on the autism spectrum or having adhd or learning disabled in some other way. Sometimes Andreas being as bright as he is, causes people to question the challenges he has. Other times, him being on the spectrum causes people to question the gifts that he has. We are always walking a line for him. It is exhausting, complex, and more rewarding than I ever thought possible.


This is one terrific kid.

After he switched classes last year, everything changed overnight. The rest of the year was positive and we got our boy back. I was terribly anxious at the beginning of this year though. We did not want a repeat of trial and error with classroom placement. Not just for our sakes, or Andreas, but because I didn’t want another teacher to go through what that one did. I want to acknowledge that the whole situation was terribly upsetting for her as well. The school really had learned though, and as I noted above, I’ve got his teacher reporting that he’s writing pages and pages, loving research, doing math enrichment, and hiding books in his lap when he’s supposed to be learning.

There are other challenges. Socially things are changing as his peer group is growing up and this has been difficult. We convinced him to join the after school ultimate frisbee club with his older brother Mateo this spring. I think it’ll be good for him to do something fun with his friends, that is also structured and supervised. He may love it or he may hate it, but he’s trying it. Things like that are so brave for a kid who is not athletic and not a social butterfly and who comes home from school every day in a rush to put his pajamas on and be alone.

There are surprises. Last summer Rosalie was being terrorized by a housefly. The sounds of her shrieking could be heard far and wide. Andreas found this terribly distressing. I suspect her shrieking was bothering him more than anything else, because it motivated him to come up with a solution to get rid of the fly.


A giant crumb to entice the fly and duct tape to trap it. Brilliant.

Now that’s a fly trap. It didn’t work. We eventually had to swat that fly dead, but his heart was in the right place. He’s valiant in his own way.

There are breakthroughs. It is no secret that Andreas and Oliver are not just different, they’re almost in opposition to each other. Andreas craves order, quiet, and routine. Olivier needs chaos, noise, and surprises. As a parent, meeting each of their needs at the same time is like being a magician. Everything is an illusion. I had been praying for them to find common ground. For my own sanity as much as for their relationship. And then it happened. Olivier is all about dinosaurs. One fine day it occurred to Andreas that geology (his science of choice) and paleontology (Olivier’s science of choice) are sciences that go together and all of a sudden they’ve got common ground. It was like watching a miracle.


My heart in four pieces.

We have a funny little life with our funny little kids. Autism is a spectrum and we have a whole spectrum of ups and downs happening in our lives with Andreas. He has taught us more than we’ve taught him. I suspect that’s what happens in many families that include people with special needs. Because we have to pay attention to every little thing, we get to really see and experience every little thing. It is a gift. A friend made the comment that to know Andreas is to love him. She wasn’t the first person to say that.

Autism. 3 years ago I was focused on what brought us to that word. Now I am focused on where that word is taking us. I admitted that sometimes the challenges make me mad for Andreas. Nobody wants to see their kid struggle and be misunderstood. At the same time, I’m thankful for every hard lesson he’s learned  or that we’ve learned as a family. It’s made us more steadfast in our love and determination. It’s made him more brave than he knows right now. I can’t wish that away. What I do wish for him, with everything in me, is that he would take this exceptional life he’s been given and live it well. And I wish very much that the world will get out of the way and let him.


I told him to be a superhero. This was the pose I got. (Sidenote: if he could have any superpower he would choose telekinesis. Of course.)

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved



Pitch A Tent

Pitch A Tent
On Making Room For the Holy

I posted a photo on my facebook page last week which garnered more of a response than I’d anticipated. Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure if I should share it but it seemed significant and so I did. In that photograph is a stack of paper.


Not just any pile of paper.

I’ve been working on that stack of paper for over 14 years. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this ever growing act of blatant plagiarism is in direct violation of all the copyright laws – an irony not lost on someone who slaps a copyright on everything she produces. I figure what Zondervan doesn’t know won’t hurt them. Hopefully. Because this isn’t a journal or a thesis or some kind of opus that’ll one day blow the minds of all who ever knew me. It’s the Bible. I’ve been copying the Bible, painstakingly, for my entire adult life beginning at age 18 and having just passed the halfway point now at 32. So in fairness, this is only half the Bible.

Why? I guess I fell in love with the Word of God kind of by accident on my part. Initially I began reading it in order to prove it wrong. Like if I read it for myself, then I could bring my own arguments to the table and be able to believe in God (maybe) without all the Jesus stuff (because that would be weird) and I damn sure wasn’t interested in Ghosts, of the Holy or any other variety. (The lighbulb in my lamp exploded after I wrote that and I almost peed my pants. True story.)

It went well for me in that I failed miserably. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. What does that even mean? Who knows. I was in. Just like a crazy person. It was highly unsettling and I am still at odds with myself trying to reconcile logic and faith. So there I was. 18 and a new Christian. Like a for real one. Now what?

I didn’t know it then, but my now what was that God was helping me pitch a tent. I’d read the Word, but it was time for me to know the Word.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting…Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses…Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Exodus 33:7a,9,11

Pitch a tent. For Moses this was a literal thing. An actual tent. A place where room was made for the holy. A place of meeting with God. And what is so perfect about this for me is that tents were just ordinary to those people in that place and time. Everyone lived in a tent. And perhaps God chose this way of meeting with them to demonstrate His movement with them, among them and for them. He moved where they moved. When they moved. How they moved. Not just in a pillar of cloud or fire, but in a tent. In a way that was accessible and sensible to people who were displaced, dismayed, and at some serious disadvantage.

I shared that passage of Scripture with Mateo on Sunday at his baptism. I prayed about what verse or story would be an encouragement to him as he’s made this choice to follow Jesus at such a young age. I shared with him that it’s not Moses who strikes me in this story, it’s Joshua. Joshua the man who would later be one of only two to give a good report about where they were going, and would ultimately lead Israel into her Promised Land. Yet before all of that, as a young man he did something so odd that someone made note of it at the tail end of a narrative that wasn’t yet about him.

Joshua stayed in that tent.

This is what I told Mateo matters. We don’t know how long Joshua stayed in the tent of meeting. Or why. Just that he did. Imagine being the fly on the wall to God meeting with Moses. I wouldn’t leave the tent either. I probably wouldn’t be able to get up off my face or put words into sentences after witnessing that. So that was my advice to Mateo. That he finds a way to stay – to abide – in the Presence of God. Now. While he is young. After the baptism, after the church service, after the speaker goes home, after the lesson is over, after a bad day at school, after his heart gets broken, after he succeeds and after he fails. Pitch that tent and stay there. Learn to know the Voice of God. Acquaint himself with the holy. Before he meets whatever it is that God has called his life to be about. So that he can go forward and give a good report. So that he can be confident and sure of what that still, small voice sounds like when the rest of life is a clamorous noise. Because He knows that Voice like his own best friend.


Glenn, a worship pastor, and his Dad, a pastor here in Canada and a church planter in the Philippines, baptizing Mateo.

As for me, I felt called to start hand copying Scripture after hearing a story about a woman who’d done so for each of her children. What a thing – I was inspired. This was God calling me to the tent of meeting. It has come with me everywhere I’ve gone and through every high and low season. It is the most valuable thing I possess. It is perfectly ordinary – nothing but a stack of paper bought for 25 cents a package. So I pitched a tent and I’ve been there ever since. This abiding has anchored me in storms that should have sunk me. I know the Voice that has called me out. I can confidently give a good report, seeing potential where others see ruin.

What this looks like for Mateo and our other kids, is for them to sort out. I’d hate for my project to become a monument where they get stuck. Whatever their tent of meeting is, God will show them. My husband is a music guy. That’s what speaks to him and where he sees and hears from God. I’m a word girl. Give me words, all the words. We each find our own way to encountering the Holy, whether that be in the middle of a desert, on a mountain top, in a moment of song and worship, in stillness, in prayer, over coffee with friends, in a church service, or at the kitchen table with pen and paper in hand.

This abiding thing. It is where deep calls out to deep and it’s exceptionally more difficult than I’ve made it sound here. Because really, it’s supposed to go out from us and bring this light to the world and I really don’t know how to do that right. It’s not about us at all. That was why I wasn’t sure if I should post that picture of my stack of paper Bible. Sometimes I think Jesus needs to make me invisible so that I get out of the way of people getting to Him. I’m no evangelist on account of my lack of people skills. I read Scripture and wonder at how the Gospel got spread because thank God that Paul was there and that the early church was fearless. The apostle Paul – tent maker for a living and a tent pitcher for the Kingdom, making the Gospel a mansion where there’s room for everyone and showing people how to get there. And all I have is my pen and my paper and my Bible and it feels very much ordinary and inadequate in a world that spurns the sacred and holy. So I abide, in hope that in my meeting with God, someone else follows and gets stuck in the tent like Joshua shadowing Moses, and refuses to depart from it too.


Deep calls out to deep.

It’s all I have to give.


copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved


Code Black: Company’s Coming

Code Black: Company’s Coming

Some friends are coming for dinner tonight. I know that this is a thing that people do. It’s a thing we do. We like food. Our friends like food. Are there people who don’t like food? We like to eat food with people who like food. Therefore, company’s coming for dinner tonight.

The difference in our house, is that having people over is like someone throwing a grenade through the kitchen window. Is it live? Will it explode? Does it matter? Take cover, man. Code black.

For a kid with autism who struggles with new situations, new people, noise, and changes in routine, having people over is not a thing that is enjoyable without support. Home is his sanctuary. His resting place and quiet retreat from the exhaustion of the outside world. Going out to be with people is different, because we are careful about our outings to begin with and if things get to be too much, then we can leave. When people come here, there is no leaving. They are just here. Andreas is quite polite enough to understand that you do not ask people to leave or tell them you don’t want them in your house anymore. He asks me when they’re going instead.

Knowing your kid’s triggers and managing them well is very much like dismantling a bomb. We get so good at it, that others don’t even realize we’re doing it. Do we cut the red wire or the blue wire? The blue one. Obviously. Now please pass the ketchup or he won’t eat his food. Over the years, we’ve figured out what works best for Andreas, ourselves, and our guests when people come into our home. It’s all trial, error, blood, sweat, tears, and ketchup actually. I was serious about the ketchup.


Mateo & Andreas at a birthday party this week. When it was time to go? We left.

What works though, like really works?

1. An Escape Plan
Andreas likes a good meal and a good time as much as the rest of us. He tends to get over the good times faster than the rest of us though. What he needs, before anyone ever shows up, is an escape plan. Once he’s had it, he’s had it. There’s no turning that ship around; we’re on a countdown and the clock is ticking. He needs to know that he can go rest in his bedroom with a book or his iPad and be happy being himself, instead of being forced to act happy for everyone else until he explodes. Reminding him ahead of time that he can do this, is the most important part of having people over. Sometimes when he’s overwhelmed, he forgets that his bedroom is a staircase away and we need to point him in the right direction. You do you, kid. Be happy.


Andreas gives actual people the same face sometimes. Nothing personal.

2. A Schedule
Not like a real, written up schedule – although we’d do that if he needed it. But verbally explaining everything that is going to happen before it happens, needs to happen. These are the people who are coming. This is when they are coming. This is what we are eating. These are some ideas of what you can play, if kids are coming. This is how long people are staying, or if we don’t know then we say we don’t know how long they are staying. Some families use a picture schedule for less or non verbal kids. We do this when we go out too. Spontaneity is not our thing. Our spontaneity involves a lot of foresight. We are not sorry.

3. Clear Expectations
Where food is involved, we have to run interference. Andreas will gag or throw up if he sees or smells something he doesn’t like. I tend to get him his food or tell him what is available to him. We remind him that he cannot say “that is disgusting” if there is food he doesn’t like. “No thank you” will do just fine. Having a house full of people can make a kid forget the normal rules. Reminding them that the expectations don’t change when there is a house full of people is very important. Just because so and so hit you in the face doesn’t mean you can hit them back in the face. (That has never happened, it just came to mind as an example.)


When he was 5, Andreas went to a birthday party where he told the magician that magic isn’t real and his tricks are fake. Then got a balloon flower instead of a sword like the other boys. He’s a lover, not a fighter.

4. Incentive
Spelling out what’s in it for him, helps. These are the kids who are coming. Remember when you guys did this and it was so fun? Or telling them they get to rent a movie. Or that they’ve got a certain treat for after dinner. These are normal things that everybody does, I think. But the difference is that for a kid who needs something to look forward to in a situation that feels overwhelming before it’s happened, having that incentive gives him something positive to focus on. Filtering is hard, even for so called “high functioning” kids. He sees the whole picture. The people. The noise. The gross food. The good food. The movie. The fun. The annoying adults asking him questions. It’s kind of a lot. Filtering out everything except the incentive helps him look forward to the good part(s). Typical kids may do this naturally but kids with extra needs often don’t and need an adult to help them learn how.

5. Grace
Sometimes we can answer his questions and give him everything he needs and the night is going to suck for him anyway. 10 minutes in and he’s in his room. Maybe he had a crappy day. Maybe he’s tired. Maybe nothing is wrong but he just needs peace and quiet and alone time. Okay. That needs to be okay. Just getting through the day is work for him. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. Adults love explanations. “Is he tired?” “Is he coming down with something?” Yes, no, maybe, we don’t know. It doesn’t really matter does it? One more thing at the end of the day might simply be out of the question. That thing families do where they are on the go all the time, and they actually like it? We are not that family. I require a lot of downtime. So it is totally not a problem for me that Andreas also requires a lot of down time. One day out of a week where we are on the go from morning to night, can throw him (and me) off for several days to come. Our pace is not the same pace other families can keep. There has to be grace for that among us, and the people we have in our lives.


Party for 2. Just the way he likes it.

Company’s coming for dinner tonight. I’m cleaning my kitchen and making room on our coat rack at the door and pretending I am ever going to get the pee smell out of the bathroom. And disarming bombs before they go off. You know. Code black. Because our home wouldn’t be the same without Andreas. He brings a certain je-ne-sais-quirky to our lives and we want him to have a good time, whatever that means for him. To know Andreas is to love him. The bomb isn’t him. The bomb is whatever gets thrown into his world to disrupt it – the people, the dinner, the whatever. We are disarming the situation, not the boy. The boy is just right. This is his sanctuary. His resting place. We like to keep it that way.

copyright (c) 2016 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved