Monthly Archives: January 2013

Splish, Splash, I Won’t Take A Bath!!!!

Last year on Facebook, one of my college friends shared that she had a parenting problem: her daughter was terrified of taking a bath.  The situation had gradually gotten worse to the point where her daughter wouldn’t take a bath at all.  So my friend was asking friends and family for advice on how to handle the situation. 

It intrigued me because while I’ve worked with teenagers and adults with anxiety, it seemed like dealing with a child’s anxiety would be different.  While we didn’t have any anxiety issues popping up currently, we did have some last year with Evan and when I was young, I got anxious about certain things too–so I’m sure it runs in the family.  It’d be good to think more about it when we weren’t in the midst of the emotions or behaviors!  I was curious to hear what people would suggest to my friend.  The advice I liked the best was to gradually work back up to a bath, step by step. In the counseling world, this is a behavioral therapy technique called “systemic desensitization” or “gradual exposure therapy.”  Little did I know that a year later, I’d be implementing that technique in our home!

In December our family traveled to Wisconsin to celebrate the holidays with my family.  We stayed in a hotel in Wisconsin Dells that had an indoor water park (multiple pools with different themes)!  This wasn’t our first time to this hotel, but last time we had ventured here, I was pregnant with Evan, which seriously limited what rides and slides I could go on.  Basically, I was only allowed to “ride” the lazy river!  So I was excited to try out all the slides, shoots, and other water activities I had missed last time.  Ryan LOVED all the water parks had to offer for a second time, Evan had a BLAST playing in the water and going on some smaller slides, but Makenna absolutely HATED it.  She didn’t want to go near any of the water (we did a little of the lazy river with her–she sat on top of me in the tube, staying almost 100% dry), hated how loud it was, seemed to be cold (even though it was very humid and warm in the pool areas (like her dad, she is very sensitive to temperature)), and made it clear how miserable she was!!! 

Little did we know how her waterpark experience would haunt us after the trip.  The first time I tried to give her a bath at home, she melted down.  She screamed, cried, kicked, and climbed out and away from the water as quickly as she could.  She didn’t like the sound, she didn’t like getting wet, she didn’t even want to be in the bathroom when Evan was in the tub and she didn’t have to be.  She was not going to take a bath!!!  Wow.  Bath anxiety.  I didn’t want to traumatize my child, but she also needed to be clean and to be able to take a bath!  Fun. Fun.  Then I remembered the Facebook discussion a year ago.  Okay, time to see if systemic desensitization actually could work in this situation. 

The first thing to do when using this technique was to break down taking a bath into a set of steps. What could be the least threatening water or bath-related activity we could do with Makenna? How could we help Makenna experience water again in a safe and fun way? That’s where we would start and then build up to taking a bath “normally.”   I tried to be mindful of how loud the settings were, how warm or cold she might be, and focused on keeping it light and fun.  

Here’s the steps we took:

1.)    Playing with water in the kitchen sink while fully dressed and sitting on a towel in the other side of the kitchen sink

2.)    Playing with water in the kitchen sink while wearing shirt and diaper, sitting on a towel in the other side of the sink (doing sponge bath stuff once she’s comfortable)
3.)    Playing with water in the kitchen sink and putting her feet in the   water side (she did not respond well to this so we took a step back  and needed to come up with a different way for her to get into the water)

4.)    Playing with water in the kitchen sink, with a shirt and clean diaper, sitting on a towel, and adding water into the side she was sitting in (this worked really well—we did this step several times until she was not “complaining” when I added water–I used a freshly changed, regular disposable diaper because I didn’t want to signal to Makenna that we were going “swimming” with a special diaper and wanted to be able to remove it easily if necessary (swim diapers don’t come off as easily, which is good in pools, not helpful with what I was trying to do…the disposable diaper absorbed CRAZY amounts of water but it worked).  

This is disposable diaper after absorbing bath water.  Its kind of hard to see but it is 1.5 to 2 inch thick!!!

5.)    Playing in the empty bathtub, sitting on a towel, and partially dressed 

6.)    Playing in the empty bathtub, sitting on a towel, partially dressed, with water going into the tub (she “complained” about this, but was not hysterical like she had been in the past)

7.)    Playing in the bath, with a wash cloth under her, partially dressed…after 10-15 minutes, subtly taking off her diaper and after another 10 minutes, removing her shirt (we did this step multiple times until she wasn’t complaining at all during the process)
8.)    Taking off the diaper and shirt before getting into the bathtub, then she gets in and played in the tub as long as she wanted


Last week, we finally arrived at our goal of Makenna taking “normal” baths again!  Whohoo!  And it was a great way to utilize a psychological technique with a child in the process!

I loved that we gradually addressed what Makenna feared in a gradual way.  We didn’t force her to just take a bath, we eased into it.  And It was AWESOME to see her smiling in the bathtub and having fun instead of melting down!  The icing on the cake was tonight when Evan had gotten in the bath already and Makenna was clamoring to get in!  She couldn’t get undressed fast enough.  : )

*If you’re a parent with little ones, what have your children feared or had anxiety about?  How have you handled your children’s anxiety or fears?

One of My Favorite Books of 2012

I read a really amazing book this past November.  One that has really impacted my life and my faith.  I’ve told some of you about it in person, but if I haven’t, here you go.

The book I’m talking about is: “Kisses from Katie” by Katie Davis.  In this book, Katie shares her story of how she went from being a typical, middle-class eighteen-year-old from Tennessee to living in Uganda and raising thirteen girls as her own.  She shares her faith, her heart, on the pages of this book and it is a treasure to read.  She challenges us to live out faith in real, world-changing ways, and also grapples with seeing the brokenness and evil in this world face to face.  Her words, her heart are so refreshing and challenging.  I know I’ll need to re-read this book again.  So tonight, I wanted to share an excerpt from her book.

A year or two ago, on this blog, I wrote about what I thought about people saying “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  Well, Katie wrote about this topic, too.  And she did it with so much more faith and grace than I ever did so I wanted to share it here.  It spoke to my heart.  Maybe it will speak to yours too.  And if this speaks to you at all, please, please, please, go pick up her book.  You won’t regret it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Remember, God will never give you more than you can handle.” 
People repeat this frequently, I heard it when I was growing up
and I hear it now.  It is meant to be a source of encouragement
and it would be if I believed it were true. 

But I don’t.  

I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more
than we can handle.  Because this is when we surrender to Him
and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible
in our lives.  

This past year, God has given me eight more children than I can
handle.  He has given me an impossible number of dollars to
raise to meet this need that He placed on my heart.  He has
asked me to do things I thought would surely break me…  

…I have learned to accept it, even ask for it, this “more than I
can handle.”  Because in these times, God shows Himself
victorious.  He reminds me that all of this life requires more
of Him and less of me.  God does give us more than we can
handle.  Not maliciously, but intentionally, in love, that His
glory may be displayed, that we may have no doubt of who
is in control, that people may see His grace and faithfulness
shining through our lives .  

And as I surrender these situations to Him, watch Him take over
and do the impossible, I am filled with joy and peace—so much
more than I can handle. 

–from “Kisses from Katie” p.135-137

*Check out the book on Amazon: Kisses from Katie on Amazon

*Or if you’re looking for another blog to follow, she has one of her own: Kisses from Katie Blog

*If this topic speaks to you as it has me, here’s another link you might like: Confronting the Lie…

Quirky Little Oliver, We’ll Miss You!


Born 2/7/02

Adopted: 4/26/02

Died: 1/2/13

We’re dog-lovers, Ryan and I.  Just wanted to explain why there is a long post about Oliver.  It’s because I loved him.  He was part of our family….and now he’s gone…

About a year ago, Oliver started to have problems.  Big problems.  He couldn’t walk anymore with his back legs.   We were told that many weiner dogs eventually have problems with their back and that we had two options: 1.) pay a lot of money for an MRI to diagnose the situation (hundreds of dollars) and then have neurosurgery on Oliver’s spine (thousands of dollars) but there would be no guarantee that it would take care of the problem or 2.) have him take steroid pills to relieve the swelling and see if it helps.  The vet painted the picture of gradual loss of his back functioning including the ability to walk, control his bladder, and control his bowel movements.  At this time, Makenna was only a few months old and the thought of managing both a young baby and Oliver’s deteriorating health was overwhelming!  What were we in for?  

I know some people would have chosen surgery, spending thousands of dollars on surgery for their dog, but we didn’t have the money to do so.  We loved Oliver, but it just wasn’t an option for us.  So we hoped and prayed that the second option could work.  And it did!  With the steroids, Oliver was able to walk again and maintained control over everything.  We gained a whole year with him and he had a good quality of life.  Eventually he was off all medicine and seemed to feel good again. 

I feel like we were gifted an extra year with him.  And I’m glad we had this last year with Oliver.  He was a sweet dog, a bit anxious, but still so sweet.  I loved watching both Makenna and Evan with him.  Despite him being the more fearful of our two dogs, he was so gentle with our kids.  I don’t remember him ever growling at them and he never bit either of them (and he has bitten people in the past). 

And I’m sooooo thankful that he was able to pass away here at home with me instead of at a vet clinic.  I feared that he would take a turn for the worse and he’d have to be taken to the vet to either get something for the pain or worse, to be put to sleep because there was nothing they could do for him.  Oliver hated going to the vet…it would have made him super nervous and I was sure I’d break down crying because I’d feel bad for him being so fearful of the trip to the vet and then having to put him to sleep…feeling like deep down he had known that there was indeed something to fear.  I know, I’m probably over-feeling for my dog, but I loved him, even though he wasn’t always the easiest dog to care for. 

And God’s timing in all of this was perfect for our family too.  Oliver had been sick earlier in the month when we were out of town and I would have hated myself for not being with him if he had passed away when we were gone.  And this week, if Oliver had passed away on a different day, I wouldn’t have had Ryan’s in-person support for this loss as he had a business trip.  I know these are small things, but they are my blessings…things I am thankful for in the midst of this loss… 

Today, the day after he passed away, we’ve started to adjust to him not being here.  I’ve missed him many times today and the moments I don’t focus on the loss, Zoe (our other dog) or Evan remind me he’s gone.  Zoe hasn’t been herself at all.  She’s usually feisty and active.  Today she’s been clingy, quiet, and has slept a lot.  Evan vacillates back and forth between “I miss Oliver…I’m sad…” to “Let’s get another dog…We’ll get another dog tomorrow…”  Then tonight when I asked him what he wanted to pray about, he said, “That Oliver would get better and come back soon.”  It made me tear up a bit all over again.  And it’s made me wonder how a dog and how a three year old are experiencing all of this.  Maybe I’m over-analyzing!!!!  Those who know me know this is likely the case.  I will say that it has been interesting trying to explain death to a young child.  And because I believe in heaven and believe ALL dogs go to heaven, we’ve been talking a lot more about heaven too. 

Now here’s the part where I’m going to share a few memories of Oliver.  If you knew him and have one, feel free to add them in the comments section.  I’d love to hear your memories of him!

·       Oliver lived with my folks for a few years.  They loved watching him race back and forth in the kitchen playing fetch and sometimes he’d get going so fast, he’d slide right into the kitchen cupboards!

·       While at their house, he also loved dragging his blanket or towel over their floor vent in the kitchen and climbing into it, hogging all the heat for himself!  He did this at our house just the other day.  It brought a smile to my face! 

·       Oliver loved laying on people’s feet.  It cracked me up but I think it was his way of feeling connected to people being so close to the ground!
·      When Oliver was still young and limber enough to go on walks, he was very picky.  If he wasn’t used to the walker or just didn’t want to walk, he’d just sit down mid-walk and refuse to move!  Stubborn little guy.

·      When Ryan and I were dating, Ryan took care of Oliver when I worked on Sundays.  Oliver liked to “patrol” Ryan’s back yard each Sunday.  Back and forth, back and forth, like he was in the military!  And one afternoon Ryan watched as Oliver decided to take a nap in the sun.  He just plopped over on his side (he’s so short, he doesn’t have far to “fall”) and a few minutes later, Oliver started flinching.  Eventually, he was so annoyed, he got up.  Ryan walked over to see what was bugging Oliver and found that Oliver’s nap location was an ant hill!

·      Oliver had an aggressive side to him.  When he was afraid, when he had a pig ear, etc.  He didn’t tend to be aggressive towards me but there’s one night I remember vividly.  I was driving from my house to Ryan’s and Oliver was in the front passenger seat.  He was oddly interested in my bag.  So I reached over and he growled at me and tried to bite me.  I pulled over—this was unacceptable behavior.  What was Oliver so possessive about?  Chocolate covered espresso beans that I had in my bag!  He wanted ALL of them.  Not happening.  And, boy, was he hyper that evening at Ryan’s house! 

·       Oliver was very quirky.  He had to walk through our house in very particular ways and went through periods of time when he wouldn’t enter certain rooms…as if there was an actual line he couldn’t cross!  He loved to flop his ears and would use his nose to move his bowl around if he wanted food or water and we hadn’t gotten to him yet. 

·     As Oliver aged, he slept A LOT.  His energy level also waned.  But Ryan always said that Oliver was one dog when I wasn’t around and a whole other one when I got home.  He’d come to life.  I loved how much I was loved by him.  How excited he got to be with me.  I loved seeing him too.  I just don’t think I showed it the same way. 

·    Oliver loved Christmas.  The past few years he had taken to laying on the Christmas tree “skirt” under the tree.  I had gotten used to piling our presents in such a way to make sure he had his place under there.  I never got a good picture of him doing this, but thinking about it, warms my heart.  And I’m sure next year when I put up the Christmas tree and smooth out the skirt, I’ll smile, thinking of him, enjoying the Christmas tree in his own way.

Oliver, Oliver, Oliver.  You taught me so much about unconditional love.  You weren’t always the easiest dog (anxiety issues, past peeing issues with men, stubborn, aggressive at times) and yet you snuggled your way deep into my heart.  

May you have many moments of dashing back and forth, running in circles, eating peanut butter or pig ears, and ear flopping in heaven!  Glad you’re feeling better ole’ boy.