Get your hands dirty
My family tells me I have a problem. I have several, in fact. The first: I like to finish projects. In fact, it is a problem because I will work frantically, well past the time my brain tries to tell me I should stop. I have worked into the night and sometimes to the dawn to complete things. I know I will pay the price later. But, I like to FINISH.
A few years ago, I visited St. Louis where one of my children resides. One afternoon, I insisted we work in the yard. They had only lived in this home for a month and there was a mountain of work to be done outside: just my cup of tea!
My kids have the common sense to quit when their bodies tell them they have done enough. My daughter asked me to quit. I continued to find ‘one more thing to do’ about a dozen times. I urged her to go inside and call me when dinner was ready. She said she could not let her guest stay in the yard while she went inside. Then, she put her arm around my shoulders and led me out of the jungle of work and into the house. I felt like a child. I didn’t really want to quit. I still fight the urge to return and do some more work…there is so much to do. And if I didn’t live 6 driving hours from St. Louis, I’d probably be carving out some time to go help finish the project. It’s in my nature.
Back at home, there was a project needing completion. One fall, it was left. The next spring, I discovered it and pushed it back under the garden sink. I knew it was there, lurking, waiting, beckoning to me to get it done. And, so when the humidity ceased, I decided I would dedicate some time to it. It is really never DONE. Because this project has something to do every season. It’s was the black walnut nuts I wrote about last week.
There they were: nuts to crack. I cracked a 2 bushel baskets of nuts. A new project emerged: two bushel baskets of cracked walnuts, waiting for me to ‘pick’ the nutmeats out of them.
Another problem my family observes is that I don’t often ask for help. In an effort to amend this trait, I asked a family member to help with this project. The reply was, ‘I don’t want to get my hands dirty.’ It’s true: black walnuts stain. Even when I wear gloves, the elements soak through the gloves and hands are soiled. Like the Little Red Hen in the children’s story book, I was undaunted and continued on with the seemingly endless project.
My mind instantly went to our church and I wondered how many times there is work to be done and positions to be filled and our excuse is ‘I don’t want to get my hands dirty’. I cringed.
I’m going to get very pointed here. If our pastor can work two jobs and still volunteer to clean BATHROOMS as a volunteer with the Housekeeping Hero team, NONE of us have any excuse to not pitch in and help in some way. I adopted a room. I will come every week and be sure to clean that room because I want it to be in tip top shape when it is necessary to use that room. I asked Tori what room I could adopt and told her when I could come and how much time I could devote to this chore. She talked me through the list of things that needed to be done. She has an awesome system in place with a check list of what needs to be done and supplies already collected to accomplish it.
After I cleaned the first week, I went to her with some questions to be sure I didn’t miss a thing and we agreed on some additional aspects to do in that room. Still, I will spend less than an hour each week.
If you have a family, make it a team project. Find a reward for the whole crew once it is done. My father in law had a phrase that my husband wisely adopted: “I like to treat my workers.” Plan everyone’s favorite meal once the task is complete. Eat ice cream for dessert or take turns letting each worker choose a favorite meal to serve as a reward. Watch a movie together. Figure out some way to make helping clean the church a family event with positive reinforcement results. You can do it!
In Japan, there are no janitors in elementary buildings. Each child is assigned a job: emptying trash, washing counters and floors; cleaning the black board; sweeping hallways; keeping the environment neat and tidy. It reduces the cost and teaches responsibility. My guess is the children are less inclined to make a mess if they are responsible for the cleanup. As we pull together to do whatever we can to keep our facility a reflection of God’s goodness, everyone will be blessed.
I want to be able to finish my life on earth strong. I want to finish the work I’ve been given to do. I want to do it well and do it until the end of my days. None of us know when the last day will be. And, I don’t care if my hands get dirty! And, just in case you are interested, my walnut job was done till I collected 4 more bushel baskets of nuts to crack the next fall.
A Tough Nut to Crack
Some of you know we have two black walnut trees in our yard. I pick up the nuts and process them. It sounds simple enough. It is not.
I’m behind in this process. Last year, there were so few nuts to harvest, we let the squirrels do all they work. They were happy to oblige. The year before, however, we had an abundant crop. I’m still working on cracking those nuts. Today, my driveway looks like a war zone because the walnuts in the front are falling in record numbers. As soon as they are done, the one in the back yard will drop its yield.
I’ve laid out the process before. It requires many steps. First, the green and black protective hull must be removed. It’s messy. The hull stains everything it touches. If left on the ground, eventually, it rots and falls away. However, I try to keep them picked up to keep the lawn free from the debris. If one wants to save the nut, this hull must come off. Then the nut has to dry. Once it is dried, it can be stored or cracked and the nutmeats removed. To say it is labor intensive would be an understatement. My husband wonders why I bother. I think it is a resource God gave us and I should not let it go to waste.
My boxes and bins held between 4 and 8 bushels of nuts from two years ago. Of course, the nutmeat reward is much smaller, but the space and work required to get to that part are challenging. After hours of researching ways to simplify the nut cracking part of the program; after years of experimenting with the different methods, I finally found something that worked. It isn’t necessarily easier, but it is more effective.
After the hulls are removed and the nuts have dried in a single layer for a few weeks, the process of storing or cracking can begin. Believe it or not, the most effective way to get the nutmeat out of the hard shell is to soak it for 24 hours and then let it dry for an additional 24 hours. I do this in small batches because the time I have to work on it is limited.
During every day, mundane tasks, I ask the Lord to teach me life lessons. In my personal spiritual life, there have been seasons of soaking in the lessons God wants to teach; of basking in His presence and filling my heart and mind with His goodness. And, there have been times that seemed dry to me. Seasons when my spirit felt parched; the lessons I was learning were drying parts of me that needed to evaporate and could only be replenished with His healing hand.
The fruitful part of the walnut harvest requires pressure. We own a nut cracker that is specially designed for the challenging black walnut shell. It isn’t one of those little hand operated devices one sees with whole nuts at the holiday season, perched on top of a bowl of whole nuts. This is a mighty vice with a lever that requires me to stand and push down with measured force.
The key to retrieving the nutmeat in large pieces instead of smashed mush is placing the nut in exactly the right position: standing upright with the top and bottom of the nut receiving the bulk of the pressure. Positioning the nut sideways will only crush the contents and make it not usable. By putting pressure on the lever and rotating the nut slightly while the lever is only slightly released, then adding pressure again, listening for the cracking sound and knowing when the outer layer is sufficiently cracked but the inner layer is still whole is the key to optimizing the harvest. Only God has known when and how the outer layer of my heart could endure the pressure He applied so that it could reveal my heart.
As the outer shell breaks to reveal the coveted nutmeat, if care has been exercised in all the previous steps, the nutmeat may come out in two halves, more likely in 4 quarters and occasionally, if the shell doesn’t crack in just the right way, more pressure has to be applied or a sharp pick has to extricate the rest of the nutmeat.
The phrase ‘crushed but not broken’ comes to my mind as I contemplate the spiritual application of harvesting the inner goodness of the walnuts. I often think of how hard my heart can grow, what a tough nut it is to crack because of wounds and defenses I place around it. Only a gentle pressure till the seams of the wall give way reveal the inner workings of my heart.
The circumstances of life can crush and devastate us if we let it. It can break us down unless we always focus on One who was broken for our iniquities. This thing called life is messy. The growing we do from childhood through adulthood is like the layers of the nut.
Cracking the nut isn’t the last step, however. I wrap one hand around the nut as the pressure is applied to it because when the outer shell cracks, it can explode. Shards of sharp, hard wood can fly like shrapnel from a bomb. As I remove the nut from the vice, I gently hold this broken mess in my hand and sort out what can be trashed (the outer shell) and what is worth saving (the nutmeat).
The smallest pin head size of wood attached to the nutmeat can make it unusable. Sorting again and again through the pieces and watching with careful attention to the variations in color and striations helps to remove the hard pieces so the nutmeat is usable. It requires familiarity with the architecture of the nut’s supporting sections to know where to look for those tiny hard pieces and removing them so the nutmeat is usable. Doesn’t God do this as well? Doesn’t he help us recognize the tiniest of hard spots so we can rid them from our lives and be delightful and useful.
After multiple sorting and sifting of the bits and pieces, the nutmeat needs to dry to remove the necessary moisture. I once put all the lovely halves and quarters directly in a container and just days later, the container had allowed the moisture in the nut to ferment and mold. Hours of labor were lost. Drying is part of the process of preserving the nutmeat. Seasons of our lives prepare us when we wonder how any of the pain or dryness could be used for His glory. It’s a season of learning to be empathetic or preparing us for service and ministry.
When I contemplate all these steps and compare it to life’s journey, there are so many lessons to learn. There are seasons of growth and development from the seed to the development of the nut and its layers; to the shedding of the layers to get to the heart and fruit of the matter. The pressures of life; the trials we endure can crush us or lead us to the One who cares for us and can sort out the trash of our lives gradually and tenderly. The broken pieces can be put to good use with the correct processing.
In this new season, as we look forward to fall spices and flavors, let us contemplate the steps it took to arrive here: the planting, nurturing, growing, watering, waiting, and now harvesting. The suffering we may have endured during each of those seasons of sacrifice and pain will yield a fruitful harvest in our individual and corporate lives if we are careful to consider the lessons God wants to teach us.
Take some time to sit before the Lord and ask Him to show you what He intended for you to learn in the many seasons of life. With reflection, you may be able to see the times you were crushed but not broken and those hardships later served you well. Thank Him for seeing you through. If today is the hard season, remember you are gently held in His hand for His service and he is sifting and sorting what is in your life to harvest the good parts.
The back to school routine is probably set in the households affected by home schooling, college, and return to the classroom for students and teachers alike. Perhaps your pocketbook took a hit preparing for the new adventures.
September doesn’t offer many specials. Labor Day may have offered the best deals and that is behind us. Often, Apple releases new iPhones in September. New models are generally expensive but after the release of the newest and best, other versions sometimes decrease in price.
September 29 is National Coffee Day. Some stores offer free coffee beverages. Mark your calendars or inquire at your favorite coffee hang out.
October opens the door to holiday food specials: pumpkin, evaporated milk, baking chips, in preparation for the impending holidays. With the conclusion of DayLight Savings time, clocks, batteries and smoke detectors are found on sale.
The pork producers often use October to promote their product. Grocery stores may have some pork products at slashed prices. If so, it’s a good idea to buy as much as your budget can absorb. Repackage in the size or quantity your family most often uses, then freeze. To prevent freezer burn on long term storage, use freezer paper (the waxy or shiny side goes next to the meat) or FREEZER zip lock storage bags. Freezer bags are a heavier mil plastic.
When I buy something like pork chops in bulk, I lay them out single layer on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Once they are frozen solid, I re-package them into freezer bags or freezer boxes so I can take out as many as I want or need when I’m ready to use them.
Produce that is seasonal in the fall includes apples, beets, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, cabbages, chard, cranberries, lemons, parsnips, pears, pomegranate, potatoes, pumpkim, spinash, squash, turnips, and yams.
It’s a wonderful time to try a new vegetable. The internet offers ideas on how to store, prepare, creatively serve all of them. If your family doesn’t become a fan with the first recipe, try another method of preparing it. The French believe if a food is rejected, it is because either it hasn’t been introduced enough times or it hasn’t been prepared in the way an individual would learn to love it.
Check out the ads in your local shopper or newspaper or on line with the market of your choosing to see which of these items can keep your budget in check. Saving every penny at the store means you have more to give. I am sure that is what the widow’s mite tells us.
Give a Hug
This is the last in the ‘preparing your child’ for the fall schedule. They have been in school for almost a week now. Maybe the newness and excitement have diminished. As I remember, it doesn’t take long for them to find a routine and feel comfortable.
In an article I found in Global Remedy House, I discovered some interesting (and not surprising) information on the benefits of physical touch with infants. Though the research says the benefits extend till age 8, it seems logical to me that continued physical touch continues to pay big benefits. Here is the information:
“According to new research, one of the easiest and best ways to increase your child`s intelligence is by giving them enough hugs. Per the study, hugging, a form of physical affection, is very important while the child is in their developmental stage. The research was done by Nationwide Children`s Hospital in Ohio and it suggests that hugging triggers children`s brain to grow and helps them become smarter.
Everyone knows that physical affection is useful, particularly in the case of premature babies. This isn’t a new concept. As a matter of fact, maternal skin-to-skin contact was proven to enhance premature born infants` cognitive control and physiological organization for the first ten years of life. According to Psychology Today, this was published in a 2014 study. A survey done in 2017 shows that hugging is way more powerful than we can imagine. The research was done on 125 babies where their reactions to physical touch were analyzed.
The research studied pre-term and full-term babies and analyzed the way physical touch impacts their brain development, along with their cognition, social development, and perception. It was found that supportive experiences like hugs, skin-to-skin care, and breastfeeding triggered brain responses that aid in the growth of the brain in healthier manner.
Making sure that preterm babies receive positive, supportive touch such as skin-to-skin care by parents is essential to help their brains respond to gentle touch in ways similar to those of babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside their mother’s womb,” explained researcher Nathalie Maitre to Science Daily. It is great to know that hugging your child can result in them becoming smarter. This simple yet powerful act is enough to affect their wiring and could help them respond to and benefit from such stimuli for several years.
Babies who get lots of hugs are flooded with good feelings. On the other hand, medical experts claim that babies who are deprived of hugging can experience brain shrinkage. As explained by development researcher Nathan Fox, tactile stimulation promotes brain development during a time when babies are most easily influenced.
“The idea is that those kids who develop a secure attachment actually show enhanced brain activity at age 8,” said Fox. Regardless of the research, babies get plenty of hugs on a daily basis. Now that we know that this form of affection helps them get smarter, it gives us a reason to never let go of them.
There are many other benefits of hugging, such as triggering the release of oxytocin (feel-good hormone), which helps in strengthening child`s immune system and helping wounds to heal faster. Also, hugs are known to be beneficial for child`s emotional health and stability. “
Maybe you have also read that for every criticism or correction a child receives, he needs a multiplication factor of positive reinforcement. Hugs are one way to express pleasure, love, warmth, care, positive reinforcement. Accompany it with a good word or phrase.
A send-off hug; a welcome home hug; a bedtime hug; a ‘just because’ hug: are all important to our kids. Even when you get the shoulder shrug that says ‘leave me alone’ or ‘don’t touch me’, or ‘I’m too cool for a hug from my mom (or dad)’, a (modified) hug is an important element of being part of the family and transmitting positive emotional energy.
Let’s remember to boost our children’s emotional and physical health by giving them positive physical touch. It’s like a deposit into their emotional bank accounts.
Today, I have two important, somewhat related things to share with you. We are on a roll to get our children ready to return to school and these things are important for our children. If we don’t make a concerted effort to teach these things, they will never know.
First, I have an experiment for you. The supplies you will need are a paper plate, a tube of toothpaste and some cold cash. First, you offer any child the opportunity to earn the cash if they can do what you ask. Next, squeeze all the toothpaste onto the plate. The task to earn the money is to put the toothpaste back into the tube without altering the tube. (I would cut the end off and shovel it back in. That doesn’t count.) No one will earn the money.
The point of the story is that once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back. The damage of bullying or teasing or unkind words leaves a mark on someone. The toothpaste experiment is a great visual example of not being able to revoke unkind words. This visual can be the gate of ‘think before speaking’ and ‘if you cannot say something nice, don’t say anything.’ However you phrase it will be fine. Just take the opportunity before school starts to have the conversation about how words matter.
My second point today involves a personal story with a remarkable outcome. Our church once met in school gymnasiums. It was my habit to scan the attendees to see if there were new folks in the group. The children participated in worship and then were dismissed for Sunday school classes. I would watch to see if there were new children who might not know where to go, who were the same age as my youngest, Halle.
I would lean over and whisper in her ear, suggesting she offer to show the stranger where the classroom was. She often wiggled with dissent and I would ask how she would feel if she were the newbie. And, she would graciously comply.
Fast forward 15 years. She moved to a new city after graduation from the university and volunteered with the high school youth group at a church. The first night of youth group, each person stood and introduced himself, name, credentials, role, etc. After the introductions, there were activities for all the students. She realized there was a guy at the pin ball machine who seemed to have no friends, so she went to greet him.
His side of the story is different: He was also a college graduate and a new volunteer for the same youth group. He says he was busy talking as she introduced herself and didn’t catch her name or that she was there as an adult volunteer. He thought she was very cute but she looked young as the high schoolers so he didn’t want to be too forward by searching her out. He went to play the pinball machine. He was surprised when she came to visit with him.
They are now married and the parents of our only granddaughter. I left out several years of how he pursued her; how she was unaware that was his intent; and how he won her heart. The point is, she was willing to leave a comfort zone and include someone she thought might need help finding a friend.
Let’s encourage our children to look for the new person in the classroom and invite them to sit at the lunch table, play together at recess, discover their personality, invite the new person into a group of friends.
As parents, it is vital we not assume these actions will come automatically for our children. We must think about how to train them; model it for them; and encourage them. (By the way, how are you at finding the new people in church during greeting time and learning their names and spending 5 minutes visiting? I could improve, because it is always easy to chat with my friends, but greeting new folks is one of my favorite things about church!)
Ask questions when the children return from school about friends, new comers, with whom they ate lunch or played during recess or sat with on the bus. Asking those questions underscores the importance of the lesson.
There are so many details to parenting. We probably do well with accumulating school supplies, moving schedules into place that will transition into the school year; and being sure our children are ready. In the world of technology, it is more important than ever that we are intentional in teaching personal relationships. Living life intentionally requires effort, training and practice.
What is it? Proprioception is a constant feedback loop within your nervous system, telling your brain what position you are in and what forces are acting upon your body at any given point in time. The way that we can tell that an arm is raised above our head, even when our eyes are closed, is an example of proprioception.
In our home, we are always looking for sensory stimulation activities for Matthew. They help keep him engaged using his senses. I’m often searching for new ideas and in that search, I’ve come across some very interesting articles and information. Since he cannot move any body part on his own, we must do it for him.
We think of our senses as taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell. But there are more senses we don’t normally consider. Vestibular sense deals with balance and spacial awareness. It is also important for focus, attention, emotional regulation and visual skills. Inside your inner ear are little hair cells. And we need to move in all different directions so that fluid moves back and forth and stimulates those hair cells, and that develops the vestibular sense. That sense is key to all the other senses. If that's not working right, it can affect everything.
The playgrounds of my youth, complete with merry-go-rounds, swings, and high slides offered children the challenges and opportunities to get all these movements. Today’s playgrounds have become so ‘safe’ they are no longer valuable for creating vestibular stimulation in the extreme necessary to challenge and develop the vestibular system.
Elementary teachers are noticing children literally falling out of their chairs in class because their balance and sense of where they are in space has not developed. Moving in many directions, quickly; playing tag; rotating on the merry go round at a speed; jumping up and down stimulate the vestibular system.
In 2012 a pilot study on American fifth-grade students was conducted to see how their balance and core strength compared to an average American fifth-grader from 1984. Only one in every 12 children could meet the 1984 standard in both measures.
Weaker core and postural muscles, an underdeveloped vestibular sense, and too many consecutive hours spent at a desk without a break for physical activity tells us why a kid might fall out of their seat at school. In addition to that phenomenon, fidgeting now seems to be at an all-time high among students. Fidgeting is often the outward expression of movement starved brains.
As important as buying a new box of crayons, the appropriate number and color of notebooks, school clothes, shoes, and back packs, it is vital we prepare our children’s sixth sense for long hours of sitting still. Before school, encourage them to move: bounce on the trampoline, run around the yard, stand on their heads. After school, insist on movement to get all the wiggles out. Recesses have been diminished or eliminated to spend more time on academics. Yet, lots of research indicates more recesses (movement of all kinds) actually enhance focus, attention, and increase academic progress. If the schools don’t provide your child adequate opportunity to stimulate the vestibular system, the parent must.
Children are not the only ones who need this. Need to stay sharp? Move. Brain fog? Take a walk or get out of the chair and stretch or exercise. I’m preaching to the choir on this. I get busy with my daily routine which could easily eliminate intentional exercise. Some of my routine involves lifting, rotating, carrying, and bouncing but it isn’t nearly what my body should have.
Now that you know what proprioception is, make an effort to stimulate that extra sense. Mind and body will both benefit.
At our house, my husband claims the fourth of July marks the midpoint of summer. State Fair means school start times are next and Labor Day symbolizes Christmas is coming. He isn’t completely wrong.
Eons ago, when our children were attending school, we began at least a week before school’s start at moving bedtime forward. They had regular bedtimes in the summer but they were later because the morning start time could be more flexible. Once school started and they had to be out the door by seven, we needed an earlier bedtime.
If we have any advice to give to new parents (including our daughter and our son in law) it has been that schedules are helpful for everyone involved. How the schedule is decided is up to each family. Regardless of how it is set, it’s important: each party understands what is next and when there are issues and hiccups, it is easy to look at the schedule and see what need probably needs to be fulfilled.
This transfers from newborn aged children to school aged and even into adulthood. There have been some interesting studies to verify success comes best to individuals who have consistent bedtimes.
Consistency seems to be the paramount issue. Even differences of one hour on one night can wreck havoc in classroom behavior and achievement. The irregular bedtime routine has startling effects on metabolic disorders which result in health issues. Every one hour variance in the amount of sleep one receives from night to night yields a 27% increase in a metabolic disorder potential.
In a British study of 11,000 children (at ages 3, 5 and 7), parents and teachers were surveyed regarding the behavior and performance of children with regular bedtimes vs. those with varying bedtimes. By age 7, these children were all given cognitive evaluations to see if there was a difference in achievement in academic areas. Children who did not have consistent bedtimes at age 3 scored lower in cognitive evaluations by age 7. Mothers and teachers agreed that children with inconsistent bedtimes were also more hyperactive than their well rested peers. Emotional and social issues were more prevalent in this group, too.
Children who need more sleep are more prone to tantrums and outbursts. Have you ever been in a store and heard a child crying and think, ‘Someone needs a nap?’ As a veteran mom, I have! Maybe it is a consistent bedtime as much as a nap.
Irregular bedtimes have been found to disrupt natural body rhythms causing sleep deprivation and consequently interrupt the brain’s ability to mature and the ability to regulate certain behaviors.
One group of scientists compared inadequate sleep to jet lag for children. Studies also showed that beginning and sticking with a set bedtime improves all these downfalls. So, if your child has not in the past had a consistent bedtime, start one and stick to it for a rebound effect.
You may think you have an entire month to prepare your child for school’s start. Start now to talk about the changes necessary to start the year: school supply and clothing purchases; new schedules; new school; new expectations. And begin the process of agreeing (parent to parent; child to parent, because middlers and teens need some input on this) on what an acceptable bedtime is going to be. Talk now and two weeks before school starts, move closer and closer to that time.
When Daylight savings time changes come, we move things forward or backwards 10-15 minutes each night so the change isn’t so sudden. It’s a smooth way to ease into a new time schedule before school.
You have been warned. Give it some thought. Make a plan. Institute it! Don’t stop with the children…do yourself a favor and make a plan for yourself, too.
Summer Time Fun!
My granddaughter turned one this week. A year ago, her mother’s pregnancy and labor drove me to my knees in prayer for this little girl. We recognize our bias, but she is amazing. Her parents are tremendous mommy and daddy to her, steering her in the right direction, establishing boundaries for her, encouraging her, and giving her a schedule.
When my daughter posted a book she was reading and I read her comments, I was speechless. It inspired me to select this as the topic for this week’s article.
I don’t know how she found this book. She started reading it while waiting on something to percolate in her organic chemistry lab experiment. Quickly, I logged onto to Amazon, typed in the name of the book, and clicked on ‘look inside’. I read what I could and wanted to jump up and down in happiness.
Before I feed the title to you, here’s a little background information. Children’s Literature was one of my favorite college classes. Post college, I had the opportunity to be mentored by a woman who wrote a book on quality literature for children, ages infant through high school.
When we home schooled our children, I scoured sources of good books. Every day, we read aloud. Generally, I selected books just beyond the reading ability of the oldest child. My goal was for my children to be exposed to the world through literature. The library was our best friend. We had at least one ‘milk carton crate’ on our hearth full and often spilling over of library books which were exchanged weekly. Furthermore, I used library privileges as a bribe to motivate my children to accomplish chores. (Chores are not done so you don’t get to go to the library this week. It was a miraculous enforcer.) You should know that of my 4 children, 3 love to read. The other loves to listen to books being read but preferred throwing a ball over reading.
Drum roll: THE READ ALOUD FAMILY: MAKING MEANINGFUL AND LASTING CONNECTIONS WITH YOUR KIDS by Sarah MacKenzie. She discusses how the books she read to her children established a particular culture: from new vocabulary words adopted from stories read, to ways to discipline the brother who would not leave his sisters alone.
Her inspiration was a book I loved. Jim Trelease’s READ ALOUD HANDBOOK. Trelease analyses data to prove the statistical importance of reading aloud. His research substantiates reading aloud to your child helps them gain skills and assists them in becoming successful in nearly every area of their lives. He asserts that ‘read alouds’ are part of the foundation of parent-child bonds as well as teacher-student bonds. His book is an encyclopedia of excellent children’s literature.
The 1985 Commission on Reading declared: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for future success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The author of THE READ ALOUD FAMILY eventually started a podcast. Her first guest was Andrew Pudewa, to whom she had listened on another podcast. His advice transformed her life. She says, “So startling were the results (of following his recommendation and reading even more to her children)—so completely transformative were the changes in our family—that five years and three babies later, I could hardly keep myself from bubbling over with the thrill of it.”
She recommends that if time is short, anything is worth giving up to incorporate more read aloud time with your family. It could be a 10 minute earlier bedtime, so there are 10 minutes to read in bed to your children; or reducing the minutes used for teaching any other subject, to allow read aloud time somewhere in the school day. The benefits are exponential. The point is to carve out time in the day to read aloud, despite the age of the child (through the teen years.)
My personal advice is to be selective in what is read aloud. Don’t just pick up any book off the library shelf. Use guides that have done the research. There are many books that discuss what books one ought to read to one’s children. In addition to Jim Trelease’s book. I’m a fan of
WHO SHOULD WE THEN READ? by Jan Bloom as well as A FAMILY PROGRAM FOR READING ALOUD by Rosalie June Slater. Other resources are: HONEY FOR A CHILD’S HEART by Gladys Hunt; FOR the CHILDREN’S SAKE by Susan Macauley; BOOKS CHILDREN LOVE by Elizabeth Wilson. Each one offers great suggestions. Every home instruction conference has new anthologies of books to be read. Catalogs from Sunlight Curriculum give age appropriate literature by grade level and of cultures around the world. These authors have studied what is available and make excellent recommendations.
MacKenzie divides her book into parts. The first segment contains (chapters 1-5), how reading aloud can change the world; being present; inspiring heroic virtue; preparing for academic success; nurturing empathy and compassion. Part two (chapters 6-11) are: creating a book club culture at home; debunking myths; setting up for success; being a literary matchmaker; mastering the art of conversation; and asking compelling questions. The third part of the book gives guidelines for literature by age and stage of life.
During the heat and humidity of summer days; after pool time or riding bicycles; when children come into the house to collapse, cool off, rather than allowing them to watch another mindless video or movie, cuddle up on the couch or sit on the floor and read together. Take adventures to parts of the world they may never visit. Create the food from the cultures to reinforce what they have read. It will expand their vocabulary, their palette, and their excitement for learning. Let the summer months (and through the academic school year) be the foundation for greater accomplishment because you read aloud.
Our daughter’s summarizing statement of this book caught me off guard. It’s what left me speechless. She says, ‘I’m so thankful to my mom who read to us every single day and my father who invented bedtime stories every night.’ We are nothing special. We read because it was free and easily available and we wanted to instill reading as a hobby. As a testimony to our daughter’s experience, she has created a shelf of board books, within the reach of her daughter. There are other shelves with books for her that Mom and Dad read. We are amazed that the Sweet One regularly pulls her books off the shelf to study. It’s a joy for us to watch the love of reading transfer from one generation to another.
If you don’t have children, read for your own benefit. It’s a great hobby that can expand your horizons and challenge your mind. I highly recommend it. Need a start? In the fall, join the pastor’s book club!
Baby, It’s Hot!
July in Iowa. There is only one way to describe it: HOT. This week, the coming days, with high temperatures and higher heat indexes mean we must be diligent in self-care. It doesn’t take much to over exert in these temperatures and have health issues.
Many of us seek and find the comfort of air conditioning during the peak of the heat. If you seek the swimming pool or are a sun goddess or work outside for your livelihood, it is imperative that you keep your cool with lots of liquids.
We have all heard the importance of drinking enough water and staying hydrated. A human body perspires, so the droplets of water will air dry, causing a cooling. With the water in perspiration, come electrolytes. They regulate muscle and nerve function, hydration, blood pressure and your body’s pH levels. Deficiencies or imbalances in electrolytes—which include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, hydrogen phosphate, bicarbonate and chloride—can cause everything from fatigue and muscle cramping to irregular heartbeat and seizures. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes; so it’s important to replace them.
There are commercial beverages available for electrolyte replacement. They are convenient. But, they are often laden with sugar.
Here are some natural electrolyte boosters to keep on hand to consume and keep your body balanced.
Sodium is one of the electrolytes that we’re quickest to lose through sweat. Luckily, ingesting salt is a quick and easy way to replace what we lose. Salt also contains the electrolytes magnesium, calcium and potassium; so it’s good for more than just sodium replenishment. Go for sea salt over table salt because it’s less processed. Himalayan and Celtic sea salts are widely available in most grocery stores. Just put a pinch in your water and drink. It’s that easy.
Packed with nutrients and low in sugar, coconut water is a great way to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes, especially potassium. There are a lot of coconut waters on the market. Look for one with minimal ingredients, especially anything that looks artificial. The minimal processing causes some of their coconut waters to turn pink when the antioxidants are exposed to light—it’s still totally safe to drink. If you have access to it, completely unprocessed coconut water, directly from the coconut, is always best!
Lemons are the queen of citrus when it comes to electrolytes. They’re a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Add that to their ability to detoxify the liver, balance pH levels and boost the immune system with vitamin C, and lemons are officially a solid addition to any drink. Squeeze a whole lemon into warm or cold water for a sour jolt of electrolytes.
No list is complete without a reminder to eat more green vegetables—and electrolyte replenishment is no exception! Leafy greens such as kale, swiss chard, beet greens, bok choy and spinach are packed with electrolytes. They are especially rich in magnesium, calcium and potassium. Celery, broccoli and avocado are good sources as well. You can add an electrolyte punch to any meal by tossing in something green.
Here's a homemade mixture that tastes acceptable without all the sugar. I’ve made and used this.
Yield: 32 ounces (4 cups, or approximately 1 liter)
Serving size: 8 ounces (1 cup)
Directions: Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Pour into a container, chill, and serve!
However you decide to stay cool, be careful in the heat and humidity. Drink plenty of water, maintain electrolyte balance, and stay safe.
The Magic of Touch
For some reason, many articles about the importance of touch and hugs have crossed my path recently. After a little contemplation, it occurred to me it would be good information to share.
One of my wild dreams once all my children left the house was to be a baby rocker at the hospital. Nurses are overloaded with skilled tasks and charting and documenting responsibility and don’t have time for the desire of their hearts, to comfort babies by holding and rocking them. Apparently, volunteers can fill this vital role. Perhaps you have seen on your facebook feed, the man who holds babies.
A newer philosophy post-birth is for parents to have skin to skin contact with newborns. This has many physical and psychological benefits to the baby. One is the temperature control for the newborn. One 2014 study indicated cognitive control and psysiological organization benefits from skin to skin contact extending for a decade. The research studied the way this skin to skin contact assists in brain development.
Concluding comments in the research went so far as to say hugging our children makes them smarter. Yet babies who are denied physical touch have brain shrinkage. Additionally, hugs increase oxytocin which improves the child’s immune response. And, emotional health and stability are increased with sufficient physical touch.
It gave me pause, as I know teachers in elementary school and our churches must guard the physical touch they offer students. Inappropriate touch has moved our society to a guarded position in this issue. I’ve seen teachers who offer a hug or a special hand shake or a high five to students. It’s an effort to afford physical touch in an acceptable and appropriate manner. There must be balance in all things, surely. It saddens me that we must avoid what is an important element to growth and development because some have misused it.
An article from THE ATLANTIC found that physical touch also assists children in overcoming trauma. Specifically, children were studied who had survived a hurricane. Those who received back rub massages responded in a more positive way in reducing their PTSD.
This quote from the same article shares the positives of touch in the physiological results in one’s body:
‘According to Field, any activity that moves the skin stimulates the pressure receptors underneath it—which in turn increases the activity of the largest cranial nerve, the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve has pathways to all major organs, Field says. “It slows down the heart. It goes to the GI tract and helps digestion. It helps our emotional expressions—our facial expressions and our vocal expressions. It enhances serotonin, the natural antidepressant in our system,” she says. “So that’s why hugging is good. That’s why massage is good.”
Plus, Field says, skin stimulation and the resulting vagal activity lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are linked to a variety of health problems, such as anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, headaches, and sleep problems; additionally, elevated cortisol is known to harm the “natural killer cells” that help eliminate viral, bacterial, and cancer cells. In TRI studies, 10-week-old babies whose mothers massaged them regularly were found to get fewer colds and fewer bouts of diarrhea as they grew.
Elevated cortisol is also known to hamper the function of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that facilitates memory and learning; as a 2005 reportfrom the National Association for the Education of Young Children notes, “children who sustain chronically high cortisol levels demonstrate cognitive, social, and motor delays in greater numbers than children with more normal levels of cortisol.” As a 2015 New Yorker story noted, when the researcher Mary Carlson conducted studies in the 1990s of children raised in Romania’s state-sponsored leagăne—institutional homes for small children that were erected to facilitate Nicolae Ceaușescu’s mandated baby boom—she found they reminded her of the socially deprived monkeys and chimpanzees she had studied in the past. The children, who were severely neglected and deprived of sensory and tactile stimulation, were characterized by “muteness, blank facial expressions, social withdrawal, and bizarre stereotypic movements.” They also had markedly elevated cortisol levels in their saliva.’
When physical touch is not available, exercise can provide similar benefits. All in all, our need for one another touches our emotional, mental, physical bodies. It’s good for all of us to have appropriate physical touch and/or movement.
II Corinthians suggests we ‘greet one another with a holy kiss.’ Let’s just substitute a holy hug for that kissing business…