Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fertility, Feminism and Birthdays, Oh My!

Last week was a happy kind of crazy busy with the presence of a few wonderful guests in our home, so I decided to step away from the blog and just enjoy all the sweet peopleness around me. Now, it's time to get to writing again, and there's just so much to tell, to express, to explain that I'm not sure where to begin!

Do I write about the awesome St. Patrick & St. Joseph feast days party we hosted? Or, how our long-time friend, Elena, brought Nutella into our home, completely changing the way I look at toast and bananas (like, forever!)? Or, how marathon training is a little bit harder at nearly 40 than at 20 (ice packs on the quads post 18 miles)? Or, how my 10 year old son missed going to the Kansas State Wrestling tournament by one match, a match that he forfeited because of our beliefs that boys and girls should not wrestle each-other? Really?? Don't dare me to write about that one, because I will, I will talk openly about why a pre-teen might be a little confused when off the mat it's, "Don't ever be rough with, touch or hurt a girl," but on the mat it's, "sure, buddy, go ahead and grab her across the chest region and don't forget to hold tight between the legs on the take-down." Huhhhh??? Just don't even get me started, because I will rant, and it will go viral, and the Nazi feminist police will be at my doorstep faster than you can say equal rights.

Well, now that that's out there, I think I'll just kick it back with something light, say birthday parties and reproduction?? Sound good?? M-kay....
The "bookend" babies.  Spaghetti faced Charlie cuddles with his favorite big brother, Ben.
My oldest son, Benedict and my youngest son, Charles, are almost exactly 10 years apart.  They missed sharing a birthday by just a few hours.  We celebrated their 12th and 2nd birthdays this weekend, and the honoring of their lives stirred up some unexpected emotions for me.
Benedict getting ready to blow out the candles on his basketball cake, made with K-State purple layers.
Isn't it true that the the mom (usually) does all of the work to plan and prepare for the kids' birthdays?? There's so much to consider, from the cake to the gifts, to the party.  I'm often so focused on making the day special that little time is left to contemplate the person who is special.

Have you ever found yourself in a moment where the events of life are taking place all around you, but you are not even close to being tuned in to what is happening, because your own thoughts are completely commanding your attention?  This was exactly what happened to me over the weekend.

Charlie had just stuffed his tummy to the full with chocolate cake, and now, properly bathed, was delighting in the beautiful spectrum of gifts so lovingly purchased and wrapped by the family.
Who knew tissue paper could be so much fun??
As he shook the loosely tucked tissue paper from the glossy gift bags, I found myself completely immersed in the softness of the light shimmering in his eyes, his curls, his grin.  With his brothers surrounding him, my pride and joy gaze moved from boy to boy, one by one,....and that's when it all began to fade, the voices, the surprise of once hidden delights newly discovered, the laughter, everything, everyone....
I love how each boy takes special care to pick out, wrap and deliver their chosen gift to the birthday brother.
In that very brief, very small space and time, I had an experience that I think I shall never forget. While watching the children bask in the gifts, it was as if I could somehow see directly into the souls of each one of my children.  I was overwhelmed with sheer joy.  It was a special kind of joy, the joy that comes from a supernatural vision of their preciousness, their purity, their sanctity.  I was overwhelmed by a very distinct and rich feeling of love and adoration for them, for who they are as persons, not for what they are or what they can do.  A reminder to me, once again, that our children are not a burden, but a privilege.  It is my privilege to be their mother, to be able to witness and experience the movement and purpose of their lives in this time and place in the world and in history.
In the embrace of the moment, my heart took a swift turn to sadness as I was haunted by the notion that Charlie might just be our last baby (unless we adopt, which is deep in my prayers right now).  More babies, you say? Doesn't she already have 5? I know, I know.  People, it's so hard to put in to words the feelings that being crazy about children can bring, feelings that can only come from entrusting your family and your fertility to the Lord....

So, where I'm going with this is, ladies if you have written baby-making and baby-raising into a precisely preferred time in your scheduled life, you may want to re-think the plan. Plans don't always turn out, no matter how particular and perfected we are in following them.  I never planned on having a big family, and now that  our family is big (by today's standards) I am truly earnest when I say that I want our family to grow! Unfortunately,  I wasn't expecting to have so many health issues at this time in my life, and now that my body is struggling to maintain good health, I'm saddened by the reality that it might not be possible to continue having children (at least one more!).

If you have any desire whatsoever to have a family, don't wait. And, if you are nervous or afraid, that's okay, that's normal, but don't let hold you back from doing what you were born to do.  Bringing a precious life into the world is no small thing, it's an absolutely extraordinary event!  You may not believe or even understand that you have what it takes within you to embrace the sacrifice, to love unconditionally, to endure, even to suffer, but the very moment that precious little miracle enters your womb, that life-giving love will awake within you, and you will know what to do, you will feel it, you will marvel in it, and never look back.  Maybe you can imagine how difficult it can be, but what you can't imagine is just how deep and profound the joy will be.  Only the experience of bringing new life into the world can offer you that. Words cannot express how you will feel. Don't exchange the joy of motherhood for something you think might be more worthwhile, more satisfying.  It won't be.

Job changes, body changes, life changes, yes it will be hard, it will at times feel like too, too much. But,  the sacrifices are never in vain, never without merit, because in essence they really aren't even about you anyway.  They are about the precious little soul you bring into the world, and when you have moments like I had during the birthday, when you can see right into the life of a sweet and precious little soul, you will never remember the cost, you will only remember the love, the blessing, the gift.....a remembrance that may leave you longing for yet another little love.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"I'm Fat" ~ Letting Go of the Lies

It's my personal preference to keep things fresh around here, new posts as often as possible.  But, sometimes, time and circumstances don't allow a mommy of 5 to blog at will or at inspiration.  So, I hope you don't mind if, just for today, I resurrect a little number that I published back in August....
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"Susan has chubby legs."

I can recall those taunting words as if they were spoken yesterday...

Standing with my team mates, I'm #44, on the back row, far right.
1987.  It was the fall of my 7th grade school year.   Everything for me that year was new, including the opportunity to play school sports.  I loved playing volleyball and soon discovered that it was the best part of my nervous little life as a middle-schooler. After practice one day, my fellow team mates and I gathered outside the gymnasium, waiting for the bus, or parents, to pick us up and take us home.  While we chatted about homework, the upcoming fall dance, and girly things, the school football players rambled in from the playing field, clearing a pathway between us as they trudged down the hallway to the locker room, their cleats clicking on the polished floors.  It was then that one of them looked right at me and shouted out from a twisted grin above the conversation's buzz, "Susan has chubby legs."

I stood there in in front of everyone, sweaty hair stuck to my face, instinctively clutching my blue gym bag for comfort and listened, in red-faced shame, to the split second of deafening silence as it erupted into fits of laughter and mockery.  

And, that was the day that the "I'm fat" voice nestled down
and made itself at home inside my head.

The funny thing is, I was more upset with those around me, those whom I thought were my friends, who joined in unabashedly on the banter, all too intimidated by the fear of losing status and popularity to recognize the wrong and to comfort the hurt, let alone stand up and correct the jerk who made the remark in the first place.  Skinny, rude, disrespectful, bad-grade, bad-attitude, bad-athlete boy.  Why did I care what you or anyone else thought of my legs anyway??

Once the words were spoken, it was too late. The weight of his jest cracked open the lens of my looking glass, the one that I had gazed through for 13 years, viewing the world, myself and those around me in all it's goodness, innocence and charm.  Suddenly my vision shifted.  I was fat, and that was that.

It didn't matter that those sturdy legs meant that I could run fast, jump high, work hard, lift heavy....my legs weren't strong, they were fat.  All through high school and college, the insecurity I felt toward my appearance would surface, and my family and friends would kindly say to me, "You're just all muscle, Susan," and I would smile, their words repelled by the droning of the inner voice, "not strong...fat...can't you see?"

Like most teen girls, I had my little cry, and then resolved to fix it. The only way to fix the voice was to fix the fat.  Fixing the fat was always woven into my daily plans:  Skip lunch, nibble on supper, fat-free everything, exercise at night even after putting in 2 hours of practice for whatever sport I was playing.  Unhealthy thoughts bore unhealthy habits, but I didn't know any better.  All I knew was that I was afraid to quit, afraid of getting - yep, you guessed it - fatter. In hindsight, when I think back to those days of severe struggle with self image, I can truly say that it could have been so much worse.  I am  thankful that the internet and cell phones were not a part of mainstream culture back then.  If so, I know for certain that my state of being and mode of thinking would have been much more destructive.
Benchmarks for beauty are all around us. They're hard to ignore.  They even exist within our families.  My mother has always been strikingly beautiful, graced with compliments wherever she goes.  From my earliest memories and even today my father tells my mom every day, sometimes several times a day, that she is beautiful.  Growing up, I wish I could remember hearing her speak words of gratitude to him for his tenderness and sincerity, but I can't.  There were times when I thought to myself, "If she doesn't think she's beautiful, then I must not be beautiful either."  I know she would never want me to think that about myself.  Being unable to accept compliments is something that we inherit from our parents for one reason or another.  This inability, or unwillingness, rather, to accept compliments really bothers my husband. He tells me I'm pretty all of the time, and I have rejected his opinions often, being too harsh or critical of myself, giving in to that pesky voice from Jr. High.  How unfair to him it is for me to give priority to the airbrushed images that world portrays of beauty over the real knowledge and experience of beauty that my husband sees within me?  I have hurt his feelings many times because of this. 

Please, ladies, do not make the same mistake.  

I look back at pictures of the fat strong girl who didn't have the courage to accept herself, and I grieve for her.  I grieve for that girl who thought such ridiculous thoughts about herself, who allowed one little unkind opinion to seep into her soul and cause such an unfortunate amount of grief.
I grieve for all of the girls in the world who have allowed something or someone other than themselves, their very own personal dignity as a child of a loving Father, to be their measuring stick, to be their mirror for beauty, for goodness, for worth.  My grief motivates me not only to love those girls more attentively, but to SHOW them a better way, a higher truth, a greater joy. I often wonder what would happen if all of the energy that is poured into exterior perfection were instead poured into interior life - virtue, freedom, love, prayer, charity, hope - would it remove the scales of criticism, desperation and deception from our eyes, revealing only the clear vision of the inherent dignity and worth that is the real beauty of every single living soul?? 

But, that's not the world we live in.  We live in a visual world, and we can't control what other people put out there for us to see.  What we can control is what we choose to fill our vision with - those images will either feed or famish our souls.  I think women, especially, are depicted by standards which express expectation (spoken or unspoken) that you're a better person and better off if you look a particular way.

Recent exposure to such expectations and standards, filling our time and our attention, has come through the media site, Pinterest. Here are two of the "pins" that showed up on my page just today:

Pinterest does not control or promote this message, but this is what I think when I see these two clips side-by-side, everyone raving about them: Okay, so I'm supposed to be the thin, fit mamma who also bakes the sugary fatty ooey-gooey treats and shares them with my family like they're a bag of carrots??  The internal wrestling never seems to end. Thinking about this reminded me of a question that one of my friends asked me the other day concerning the struggle to lose weight after having a baby.  Here's my honest answer:

As a woman who has spent most of her life trying to make peace with her body, the answer isn't really about losing weight, it's about gaining a proper, honest perspective of yourself.  You see, I used to get so mad at thin girls who called themselves fat. In my mind they had no right to say such things when it was obvious that they were not. But, I was wrong.

Anyone, ANYONE who struggles with self image, no matter how thin or curvy they are, suffers from the bondage of a similar lie: If I am thin, and others think I am thin, then I will be happy and others will be happy with me.
I have known many beautiful, curvy women in my life, women without perfect hair or a perfect sense of style who embody and exude a remarkable sense of self-worth, self -esteem and self-confidence.  Those character traits express themselves in the outward displays of joy, a positive outlook on life and charity toward others.  You know it when you meet these people - they possess something rare and attractive. They have found the right perspective of themselves (and of others) have made peace with their bodies and live in the freedom of that peace.

After each one of my five pregnancies I always feel a surge of motivation to shed the baby weight and fit into my old wardrobe. To my GREAT surprise, however, with the birth of each child, the only thing that I have really lost is my overwhelming desire to be thin, to escape those chubby legs. That distorted desire has thankfully been replaced with a desire to be healthy, happy and whole - not just for myself, but for my husband and my children.  My muffin top, spider veins and saggy sisters, to me, are all evidence of the miracle that this one body has supported the lives of 5 beautiful babies!  No one is going to put that on Pinterest but WHO CARES??????

Sometimes I really am jealous of the pioneer women.  They didn't have time to cry over the shape of their thighs or experiment with the color of their hair - they were too busy trying to survive and to make sure their family survived too! What do we have to worry about? The survival of our ego? That someone might reject us or that the entire world doesn't think we're pretty enough or thin enough??

Surely we're too smart, too tough and too strong than to be duped into such deception, aren't we ladies??

So, how do you make peace with your body??  For starters you have to regain control - if others are controlling how you feel about yourself, and those feelings are negative then allowing them that power over you has to end. Figure out where the roots of negative self-image lie, and start chipping away.  Perhaps it's early memories like mine...or even something recent.  Those memories cannot just be suppressed - they have to be uprooted and replaced with something fresh, something alive, something real, something good. I'm not suggesting that it's easy or simple, it's just a place to start.

The real starting place for me was motivated by two things: 
1. Illness  &  2. Faith.
When Fibromyalgia entered my life at the age of 19, eating right and exercising were no longer matters associated with looking good...they were matters essential for feeling good.  Getting healthy, no matter what the mirror says, is good for everyone, and can help tremendously in the fight for a positive personal self-perspective. Next, and most importantly, the Love of my Father is the only thing that could ever and would ever suffice, the only thing strong enough to overcome that little inner "I'm fat" voice.  I wasn't strong enough to fight the battles on my own, and no one else could fight them for me.  I needed a sustaining, consistent and constant source of grace.

In the end, we might all grow old and weary, wrinkle, wither and fade.  Then, only one thing shall remain, that which is most valuable, our souls.  My soul shall shine out from within this body, thin or fat, weak or strong, and it shall shine out with this one truth:

My value and worth is not to be determined by others. I am the daughter of a King, who has made me in His image and likeness. A King who loves me, believes in me, has a purpose for my life, who knew me before He formed me in my mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5).  A King who has made me beautiful and precious in His sight (chubby legs and all). 

That is where I find my peace....I hope and pray that you find yours.

Friday, March 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes ~ Very Inspirational Blogger Award

This past week is the first week, since the birth of this blog, that I haven't published any new posts.  When good friends and wonderful family come out for a visit to the farm, it's time to to put the clickity-clack at the keyboard to rest.  During my blogging hiatus, I was ever-so-kindly nominated for the "Very Inspiring Blogger" award, by Dina at A Plucky Procrastinator! What a surprise to know that someone actually considers you to be inspiring!! Sarcastic, yes, but inspiring?? Yay!
As with all blogging awards, you have to follow a few little rules.  First, you get to enjoy 7 interesting things about me with your morning cup of joe, or afternoon diet coke, or evening glass of wine....and I also get to share my list of inspirational bloggers with you!  Here we go!!...

1.  I can hang a spoon from my nose.  It's been a valuable source of entertainment for my kids (and some unfortunate onlookers) over the past few years.  Really, it's how you embrace being given an over-sized snout.

2.  I used to play the tenor saxophone.  My love for the instrument began in 6th grade, and I continued to play through college in the symphony, a jazz quartet and marching band.  Good times!

3.  For 15 years I've been trying to train for and run a marathon, but have not been able to accomplish my goal.  BUT, I'm currently training for one that is set for April 28th, and I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I don't trip over a chicken and break a limb between now and then. (Knock. On. Wood.)

4.  I'm a big fan of gardening.  It's very challenging where we live, but I think I'm getting it figured out. It's really my little way of farming, and we get to eat all of the delicious benefits!

5.  I have a lazy eye.  I can literally be looking at you, and my right eye will drift outward.  It also happens when attempting to apply eye-liner a bit too close to the mirror.  Next time I'll You Tube if for you.

6.  It would be a dream come true for me to write and publish either a children's book or a song that makes it into the hands of a professional singer.  I heard Debbie Gibson has some free time.  What?? Who's that, you say?? Hello! Electric Youth?? Only in My Dreams??...

7.  I often speak in my blog about the necessity of a good glass of wine at the end of a long and hard day of mothering, but I must confess that while wine is good, I'm actually a beer girl.  There's nothing better than a cold beer in a frosty mug to quench a farm girl's thirst!

Here's my list of 15 for your reading pleasure:

Friday, March 15, 2013

7 Delicious Meatless Dishes - 7 Quick Takes

If you've spent the last few weeks fasting from meat on Fridays, then you may be either running out of recipes or running out of desire for Long John's Silvers.  Every year, meat-free Fridays always remind me that there really are great dishes out there that our family can enjoy that don't include meat.  It's great for our health and great for our budget!  

Even though we only have a couple of weeks left before Easter, I thought I would share a few of my favorite meatless recipes that our family has savored this year.  Some of them are so yummy, we will more than likely enjoy them year-round!
Who doesn't love a bowl of cheesy pasta?
Breakfast for supper is awesome.  Serve these with a side of scrambled eggs and some fruit.  
This recipe is made with bacon, so during Lent, I substitute ham base (different from stock or broth), a thick, concentrated paste that gives great flavor to the beans.  If you don't allow meat broth/stock during fasts, then you might want to find other alternatives for seasoning this dish.
4.  Smoothies!  
Peanut butter & banana smoothies are a favorite in our house.  If smoothies are our "main dish" then I like to put small plates of crackers, veggies, nuts and fruit on the table for extra nourishment.
We made this just last week, and the kids loved it!  I used frozen talapia and it tasted fantastic.  TIP: If you have a cast-iron skillet, use it!! It gives great flavor to the fish!
Serve this dish with rice or quinoa, or just as is!
7.  Shrimp and Corn Chowder (printable recipe)
Every year my boys (who are huge fans of soup) ask me to make this recipe during Lent.  It's definitely worth all of the time and ingredients.  Serve with a salad and a loaf of crusty bread!

3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. butter (real, please)
1 small onion (1/2 -3/4 cup chopped)
2-3 large cloves garlic
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 32 oz. carton low sodium chicken broth
1 bag frozen shrimp - uncooked, deveined (41-60), thawed and peeled, tails off
1 tsp. season salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1-1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. celery salt
8 oz. (or more)1/2-n-1/2, or whole milk, if you prefer
whipping cream (optional)
white wine (optional)

In a dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, saute another 2 minutes.  Slowly add chicken broth to the saute, followed by the cubed potatoes, bay leaf, sage, celery salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle the potatoes with the season salt.  Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes allowing the potatoes to cook.

When the potatoes can be easily poked with a fork, turn the heat down to low, and add the shrimp, red pepper flakes and Old Bay seasoning.  Stir.  When the mixture returns to a simmer, slowly add the 1/2-n-1/2.  Use more milk or 1/2-n-1/2 if the soup needs more liquid.  Don't add water. When the soup is completely heated through, but NOT boiling, add 1/2 cup white wine and stir well.  For a richer soup, add 1/4 cup or more of whipping cream.  For a thicker soup, combine 1 Tbs. corn starch in  1/4 cup cold water and add it to the soup, stirring until thickened.  When the soup is the right consistency, simmer for 5-10 minutes, allowing all of the flavors to come together.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley if desired.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our Big Little Chicken Coop Project

When you live on a farm, there are always a lot of projects and tasks to work on, and I love it when the boys can jump in and help Steve or Grandpa accomplish their goals.  Being the queen of this camp, I like to think that I have my own special way of inspiring the guys to take on projects that they may never have dreamed up themselves.  Let me put it another way.  Sometimes I want stuff, and I want stuff done.  So, they do it. Just for me.  And, I love them.

For example, I think this farm needs some chickens, and if we're going to have chickens, we're going to need a chicken coop.  Since my hubby has some sweet skills when it comes to building things, I knew he could easily handle a little old chicken coop.  Here's the one I picked out:
Easy peasy, right?? Exactly. Thanks for being on my team, here, I feel your support.  He didn't really dig my little chick oasis.  In fact, judging by his reaction to my phenomenal plans, I think that something like this is probably more of what he had in mind:
Nope, I'm not even jokin' around here.  I know, poor, poor baby chickies, right?  We are so together on this one, I can feel it.

Because, our first (very brief) planning meeting didn't go so hot (I knew I should have brought donuts), I suggested that we let the boys choose a design, get involved with the planning/building process and make it part of their school work. I like to call that type of school "practical learning", or "pre-engineering 101".  Yeah, that sounds awesome.  Of course they were pumped about the idea, the whole thought of swinging hammers and using tools that have to be plugged in makes 'em dizzy.  It's like crafts for the testosterones. 

This was their surprisingly amazing pick:
 {Hobbit Hole Coops from Etsy}
As loyal fans of The Lord of the Rings, I think that Tolkien would be proud of us them.  Unfortunately, a "Chicken Shire" might be a little ambitious for my little builders to take on.  Somewhere between a cardboard box and the Hobbit Holes would be just perfect.  

After pouring over pages of plans, the troops decided on this:
 {Shiloh Design from Clean Coops}
Well, it's not my original white delight, but it's gonna do just fine!  I can still paint it white with green trim and it will be home sweet home for my happy little layers!  

I'm glad to report that nearly every day, Steve and the boys work diligently on constructing the coop, and it's really starting to come together!  Last weekend, I snapped a few pics....
Ben and Andrew (the two oldest) do most of the work, with Steve's assistance.  But, the younger ones like to jump in every once in a while a help too.
I'm diggin' the tool belts. They at least look like they're serious about getting something done!
My Crew.
Henry and George built their own work bench out of scrap lumber.  Very industrious of them!
No phalanges were harmed in the photographing of this project. Just FYI.
Ready for the chicks! I mean, fowl. You know what I mean....


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Power of Words - A Lesson from Proverbs for Kids

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." 
~Matthew 12:34
This is the last verse from scripture that I read the other night, at the close of a very long, loud, crazy day.  The words hit me hard as internally I wrestled wearily with the rising temperature between the boys.  I know that at some point every parent deals with fighting siblings, and exchanges of heated, unkind words, but for whatever reason, that day, I felt like I was the only one in the world who had to deal with such things. Oh the things we tell ourselves....

The verse from Matthew played over and over in my mind as I shifted from side to side trying to find a peaceful place to fall into slumber.  But, my mind refused to rest, as thoughts of how to handle the all-too-frequent unrest between 5 masculine personalities kept me awake.  So, then, the game of making mental lists began:  Research effects of barometric pressure and food dyes on attitudes and emotions.  Check Pinterest for creative punishments, incentives for good behavior and printable charts to keep track of everything.....

An hour later, what should have been my first resort became my last.  Prayer.

What can I do, Lord?  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks?? More like shrieks!!  Your kids are driving me crazy, Lord! I need a little help here.  The constant conflict collisions are beating up my heart and my house.  This isn't normal, this isn't them. I don't understand what's going on.  Please, give me something, anything that I can do or say to get them back on a brotherly track.
The next morning, rising before the rest of the tribe, I was very motivated to come up with and to share  a tangible lesson on the power of words with the boys.  Over the weekend, on my long run, I had listened to a podcast from Focus on the Family on family communication.  Recalling bits and pieces of it, I soon wrote out a lesson, one that I know for certain was Divinely inspired, as it was way too early (before coffee even!) in the day for me to come up with any great ideas on my own.

Here is the scripture-based teaching that I shared with the boys last week on the power of words to hurt or to heal, to inspire or to injure, to bring gladness or gloom to the heart.  I hope that you don't have a need for it in your home, but if you should, may it be as helpful to you and your children as it has been to us...

Out of the Abundance of the Heart the Mouth Speaks: 
A Lesson on the Power of Words
* 2 white, medium-sized bowls
* 1 can of clear soda, any flavor and maraschino cherries if you have them
* 2-3 sweet, yet nourishing foods such as honey or maple syrup
* Vinegar
* 2-3 foods that are sour, bitter and/or hot such as pickles, jalapenos and coffee
* One dry sponge, cut into a heart shape
* Lined paper and pencils for the kids to write with
* Bible

1.  Set out the two bowls (preferably white, to make the differences between the mixtures more visible), and use the bowls to separate the foods (sweets in one, bitter/sour in the other) as pictured above.
2.  Open the bible to Matthew 12:34, and set the heart-shaped sponge on top.  Read the verse to the children, then ask them to explain what they think it means.  
3.  After reading the verse, set the two bowls of  food in front of the kids. Then, give each child a piece of paper and ask them draw a vertical line down the center of the page creating two columns, one for the sweet and one for the sour/bitter/hot.  In each column, have the kids write words that describe the contents in each bowl.  They may describe not only the flavor, but also the feeling of the food in the mouth (hot, painful, sour, sweet, bubbly, yummy etc.).
5.  Next, tell the children that they are going to make a mixture in each bowl using the ingredients that you've provided, keeping separate the sweet from the sour/bitter.  In the sweet bowl, place ONLY the cherries and the soda, NOT the honey or other sweets you may have chosen.  This will be important when you begin the biblical teaching.
6. The children will begin to freely express their reactions to both mixtures, which will be very entertaining! Crinkled noses display feelings of being grossed out over the crazy sour potion, it's pungent odor and unappealing appearance. Soon, they will move away from the sour, hot and bitter mixture, and move toward a more enjoyable experience of the delicious smell of the sweet, bubbly soda with cherries.  This is the foundation you hope to create to demonstrate the point that our words can be like these two mixtures.  
7.  After the mixing is over, hand one of the children the sponge that you have cut out. Explain that each day, when we wake up, our heart is like a dry sponge that will naturally soak up whatever it first comes into contact with.  Will it soak up sweet, life-giving, kind words, or it will it be cast into hot, sour, bitter, and negative words?  What are our conversations within the family like? Which mixture do my words most closely resemble?
8. Next, explain to the children that now you are going to look to the scriptures to see what God has to say about the importance of the words we speak. Using your list of Proverbs (see below), allow the children to take turns reading one passage at a time out loud, and sharing what they think the verse means.  

9.  After you are finished reading, direct the children back to their papers with the two columns. Have them consider which words would go in the sweet/sour/bitter column, and which words would go in the sweet column.  (For example, "I hate you" or "You are stupid" and "I love you" or "Great job!" respectively.)

10.  Next, ask the kids if there are any words that they regret saying?  Words that they would like to take back, or be forgiven of?  Then, read this passage from Acts 7:59-60 (the words of St. Stephen as he was being stoned to death.):

And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." and, he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

11. Give the children an opportunity to share what lesson they can learn from St. Stephen about forgiveness.  His words of forgiveness and love were very powerful, even more powerful than the stones that brought him to his death! While positive words of love and encouragement are sweet like the soda, so are the words "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you!"

12.  Finally, give the children a few minutes to write down their own positive phrases that they want to make a resolution to practice. (A couple of my boys wrote: "How can I help?", "Are you okay?" and "I love you!" One even wrote: "Who cares about being right, let's just get over it and be friends!")
Passages From Proverbs:
(There are many, many more, these are just the few that I chose!)

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but cruel words crush the spirit. 15:4

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 18:21

There is one whose rash words would deeply as a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 12:18 

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. 16:24

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 15:1

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. 29:20

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. 15:2

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. 17:27

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. 17:9

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What I Wore Sunday - 3

Happy Sunday, everyone!!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  I got to do something that a farm-wife mother to 5 boys who lives out the middle of nowhere rarely gets to do - SHOP!  Actually, I was on a mission to find our family some fancy duds to wear for Easter and to our son, George's, first Holy Communion, which is coming up fast!

Everything, everywhere was pastels and neons.  Beautiful shads of greens, yellows, pinks and purples brightened up store fronts and left me longing to leave behind my dark, heavy duds and slip into something soft and sweet.  But, since I was awakened by a howling wind and swirling snow early this morning, the much anticipated lovelies will have to wait.
If you're new here, I'd like for you to meet the lovely ladies at Fine Linen and Purple who graciously host a fun link up called What I Wore Sunday.  (Read my former link-ups here and here.) Although I usually prefer to wear a dress to Holy Mass on Sundays, I opted for pants this morning to ward off the chill of the ice and cold. (Thank you to my ever-devoted husband for snapping my pic, and who, after 27 takes, finally got one with all of my limbs in it. You rock, babe.)
 Wide-Leg Cord Trousers - Anthropologie (gift from hubby)
Cream Blouse - Maurices
Belt - Bass Pro Shop (What do you expect with 5 boys?)
Teal Boyfriend Cardigan - Tarjay
Brown Platform Penny Loafers - DSW Shoe Warehouse
Necklace - Full of Grace Divine Designs (LOVE the beautiful pieces in this online boutique!!)

So, so close, babe! (It looks like I'm talking about my home decor, which is not exactly picture worthy.)
Woop-Woop!! Ya got it!!
This is my "come-on-ovah here and get a smooch" smile.
In case you wanted to know that.