Friday, March 23, 2012

Living Books- The Story of Ferdinand

This week, I am sharing one of my husband's favorite living books, The Story of Ferdinand. I never grew up reading this book like my husband did. It actually wasn't until I was 31 that I read it for the first time. I sometimes believe I enjoy reading these books just as much as the kiddos do. Regardless of your age or your childrens' ages, this book is a sweet reminder that it is ok to be different.

Summary: Ferdinand is a young bull who enjoys sitting quietly under a cork tree and smelling the flowers. He does not want to partake in the rowdy activities with the other bulls. He grows up and remains the same. He does not desire to go to the bull fights in Madrid like the other bulls. By chance or a bee sting to be exact, he ends up in the bull fights in Madrid. Even there, against the pressures to perform, he remains true to himself.

Lessons: There is one main lesson in this book: it is ok to be who God made you to be! Even if you are different from those around you, that is ok. This is an important lesson to teach our children, especially when they have so many external pressures to conform to this world. It is an equally important lesson for us as parents. We should accept our children as they are. We do not need to compare them to other children or their siblings. We have to embrace them as they are. That in turn, will help them embrace themselves and have confidence to face the world and live out the purpose God designed for them.  

This book also presents a great opportunity for a geography lesson on Madrid, Spain.

Bible Parallel: God had a purpose for Moses to lead His chosen people out from Egypt. Moses did not have the confidence that he could do this, one reason because he was not a good speaker. God showed Moses that He would be with him and use him.

Verse Parallel: This was the verse on my oldest child's birth announcement. It is one of my favorite reminders that God makes no mistakes and designed us to His perfection.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139: 13-16

Monday, March 19, 2012

Living Water

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

I was sitting at a restaurant table surrounded by several girlfriends who were all in conversation. I was surrounded with these friends, but I felt so incrediably alone. I remember the moment so vividly. It was then that I realized I was thirsting for more in my life. More importantly, I realized God desired more for my life.

At the time, I was a Christian who went to church and believed in Jesus as my risen Savior, but I was lacking a relationship with my Heavenly Father. I was lacking real purpose in my life. I had not sought to know God or who He created me to be. At that moment of realization, it was as though I woke up.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:1-2 

Over the years, this verse has inspired me more than any other. It has taught me to put death to my flesh for His glory and renew my mind to be pleasing to Him. That night at the restaurant, I realized I was not of this world, but I was His. I realized God had more for me, just like he does for all of His children. This past weekend, I attended a Women on Missions workshop at our church where we studied the story of the woman at the well in John 4. Our theme was come as you are, but don't leave the same way. I see that it was only when I turned from the worldly things and turned to Him and only Him, that my thirst was quenched. Still today, I thirst no more.

Friday, March 16, 2012

More Than Just Chickens

Last May, I finally dove into the world of chickens. Well more like, I tiptoed into it. We bought two little biddies for $2.50 a piece. Two itty bitty things at $5, I thought no big deal, we can do this. I knew nothing about raising chickens, but figured I would find my way.  Our children's librarian actually had chickens, so she helped me immensely. I knew if all else failed, I could always call my 90 year old Mama Du, because she knows everything. She was my Google before Google existed. So we set out with our two little chicks named Aunt B, a Buff Orpington and Aunt D, a Red Ameraucana.

I have to say those first few weeks were so fun. It was amazing to see the natural instincts God designed in these little creatures. If anything even remotely sounded like a hawk, they took cover. We saw the whole pecking order business, as Aunt B took the dominant role. Their personalities were so inquisitive and fun. We would just sit out in the grass in the evenings and let them hop on our legs and shoulders. They were exploring us just as much as we were exploring them.

After six long months of anxiously waiting, we had our first egg. I had looked out the back door to see only one girl. I knew something was different, because they never separated. I went out to find Aunt D making her nest. I have to say watching her build her nest and lay an egg for the first time was just amazing. I realize some, including my husband, will never have the same enthusiasm as I did, but it was probably the neatest thing I have ever seen. I love to see God's very specific and detailed design in his creation and this was it! She carefully moved the twigs and leaves around building her nest. She moved around until things were just so and then after a few minutes...there was the prettiest blue egg I ever did see. Actually, it was the first blue egg I had ever seen. The kids were just as excited as I was, because they had a new chore of gathering eggs. Eventually, Aunt B finally started laying her beautiful extra-large, brown eggs and since then we have been thanking God for his provision of eggs everyday.

The reason I share all of this, is that I think this has been an awesome opportunity for the kids (and myself) to watch one of God's creations grow and start fulfilling its purpose. It is through that purpose, that He is providing for our family. Most days when they bring in the eggs, we try to stop and acknowledge where those eggs comes from and offer thanks. We live in a country where most of us have food to eat beyond three meals a day. It is easy to take that for granted and forget just what a blessing it is to even have food. It is a gracious cycle, God provides for His plant and animal creation and through His creation, He provides for us. Here are some Psalms of praise I love:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Psalm 8:3, 4, 6-9

These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them, they gather it up; 
when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
Psalm 104: 27-28        

So while we started out getting two little biddies for $5, we have gotten so much more out of this experience. The best part is it isn't over yet. We now have a rooster (pictured above with Aunt B. We still have no name, so feel free to offer one.) and will hopefully begin the reproductive process. I will use it as a science experiment to explore God's creation, so be on the look out. Yet again, I have absolutely NO clue what I am doing, but I know we are going to get there! After all, it is His creation. We just have to sit back and enjoy the beauty of it. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

To Blend or To Shine?

The kiddos and I did a science experiment (again from our favorite The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Book) studying God's neat design of camouflage in animals. We were learning how the eye notices contrast in colors more quickly than similar colors blended together. To put this to the test, we cut up three different sheets of construction paper into small squares (blue, purple, and orange.) One kiddo would place the three different colored squares on a large piece of blue construction paper, while the other was blindfolded. Once ready, the blindfold came off and that child would have five seconds to pick up as many squares as they could. Each time we tested this, the kiddos picked the orange and purple squares over the blue. So it proved true, thier eyes gravitated toward the squares that were of different color instead of the blue that blended with the background.

We discussed several examples of animals that have the ability to naturally camouflage themselves and blend in with their surroundings. We discussed how this helps protect them from their predators and helps them hunt their prey for food. I told them that God has a different idea for us as His children. He tells us in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world...let your light shine before others." One of our favorite songs went along great with this lesson. "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...."

I encourage you to take the time and do this little experiment. The kids will love preparing the materials (getting to use scissors is ALWAYS a big event in this house) and they will love seeing the outcome of the experiment. It is a simple way to explain how God designed some animals with the ability to blend, but more importantly about His plan for us to contrast the world and SHINE!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Living Books - Blueberries for Sal / Follower Friday

Today, I am sharing another living book and our absolute most favorite thus far (At the bottom, I am asking you to share your favorite children's book.) If you have not read Blueberries for Sal, it is definitely worth a trip to your local library for the weekend. We will most likely purchase this book for our own library, because the kiddos love it and it has so many teachable moments. It has comparisons, home economics, math, cause/effect, animal science, senses/observations, and is a great example of God's design and provision for His creation.

Summary: Little Sal and her mother are picking blueberries to can for the winter. Little Bear and his mother are eating blueberries to store up for the winter. Somewhere along the way on Blueberry Hill, Little Sal and Little Bear both get lost. While they search for their mothers, they go on an adventure and experience new things.

Lessons: There are so many lessons that can come from this one book. Continuously throughout the book though, the theme of God's provision and preparation for the future is emphasized. It is similar to God's provision of His Son, Jesus Christ. We have the opportunity to take (accept) that provision, which will prepare us for our future and eternity.

What would happen if Little Sal's mother and Little Bear's mother did not prepare for the future? Would they and their family be without? This is an important lesson for us as parents. It is our responsibility to be examples and show our children how to be prepared for their eternity.

We can teach the theme of preparation by using opportunities like budgeting allowances, grocery shopping for the week, or preparing clothes for the next day.  

Bible Parallel: The story of Joseph who stored up grain for the years of famine that would come. Because he was obedient to God's direction, he saved himself, his father, and his brothers.

I have learned over the last few months that there are so many great books out there. We could have easily missed out on them, just as I am sure we are missing out on some right now. This is where you come in. I am asking you to share (in the comments below) your favorite children's book or books you read as a child or that you read to your children or loved ones now. Every time we open a new book, it is a new world, a new adventure. We want to know yours!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

I had a request for my chicken noodle soup recipe, so I thought I would share it with the world. I actually just cooked this for the first time a few weeks ago and I have to say, it is so good! I am not one to eat soup, but I have now made it three times. In this house, it is the ultimate go-to comfort food when sick, but has become more than that.

DISCLAIMER: I absolutely stink at writing my own recipes, because I never know how much detail to give. I want it to be helpful for those who might be starting out in their cooking ventures, so I try to be specific. If I left anything out, just ask!

1 whole chicken
Season Salt
1/2 stick of butter
3 cloves of garlic
4-5 whole carrots peeled
3-4 stalks of celery
Yellow onion diced (small to medium)
2 cans Swanson chicken broth
Half package broad egg noodles

Some people boil a chicken for soup and dumplings, but I alway prefer to bake it for a richer broth. I place my chicken in a cast iron dutch oven and sprinkle with Season Salt. Bake covered at 350 degrees for an hour and a half to two hours depending on size of chicken. I go by what my mom says, "if the leg pulls away easily, your chicken is done." You can always use a meat thermometer though, USDA states 165 degree internal temperature is safe.

Once the chicken has cooked, remove your chicken and broth, keeping the broth because you will use it. In the same dutch oven or any large pot that can go on stovetop, sautee your sliced vegetables in a 1/2 stick of butter for 10 minutes. Add the broth from the baked chicken and the 2 cans of chicken broth. Boil sauteed vegetables in broth for 10 minutes. Add your egg noodles. If you need more liquid, you can add water or more canned broth. I even add water back to my chicken bones and skin in a separate pot then reboil for more broth. (That may seem totally gross to some, but my grandmother who endured The Great Depression has taught me to use things to the very last ounce and so I try.) Boil until noodles are cooked to your liking. I usually prefer them slightly firm, because they will continue cooking and soak up more broth while it cools. Add your shredded or cubed chicken and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Living Books - The Carrot Seed

Through researching home school materials, I have learned about Charlotte Mason's method of teaching. Simply, she emphasized being outdoors and experiencing God's creation firsthand. She also encouraged "living books" that come alive to the reader, teaching valuable lessons along the way. There are tons of book lists online, so each week at story time I have been combing the library shelves in search of these living books. What treasures we have found! I hope to share some of our favorites over the next weeks and the lessons we are learning from them. The first is:

Summary: A little boy plants a carrot seed, but his family repeatedly tells him that it will not come up. He continues to care for it by pulling weeds and watering the ground, even though he cannot see any growth. Then eventually one day, it comes up!

Lessons: Despite discouragement, continue to believe and work toward what is within you. At times, people may say "there is no God, you cannot see Him." If you continue to believe and nurture the seed of belief He has planted in you, one day you will reap the reward.

The lesson I learned for myself, was that if God has given me a dream, I should continue to believe and work toward that dream (even if I don't see the fruit yet.) Just like the little boy; he believed, worked, and after time, he reaped. What a lesson for the young and old!

Bible Parallel: The story of Noah who continued to work toward what God called him to do, despite ridicule. His faith and hard work saved his life and his family.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Two Words: Pound Cake

This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman's website. If you have never ventured into her world, you need to!  Among her stash of great recipes, lies this pound cake. It is so moist and delicious, but icing on the cake is it is a one bowler. You must try this cake, you will not be disappointed.

3 sticks of butter (room temperature works best)
3 cups of sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
2 teaspoons lemon flavoring
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup Sprite

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix your butter with one cup of sugar at a time, mixing well after each cup. Same with the eggs, add one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Add your flavorings. Add your flour a cup at a time, mixing well after each cup. At this point your batter will be on the thick side, add your cup of Sprite and mix. Scrap sides and mix again. Pour into a well greased bundt pan or sometimes I use regular bread pans to make several smaller cakes. Bake for 1 hour to an 1 hour and 10 minutes, until it is firm. Invert and let cool. Thanks to The Pioneer Woman, we now have the best pound cake ever! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Capillary Action

The kids and I have started working through a cute book called the "The Everything Kids' Science Experiment Book" by Tom Robinson. (Our awesome library had it in their cooperative system, but it is very inexpensive on Amazon and definitely worth the purchase.) Our first science experiment was on capillary action. It is amazing how when you look, you can see God in all of the small details, especially when it comes to His creation and design. Well we placed a stalk of celery in a glass of water with red food coloring. Eventually after a few days, the leaves began to show a hint of red around the edges. The lesson was that the leaves receive their nutrition and water from thier roots and stems by means of capillary action. I was teaching them that when you water a plant, you water the ground and not the leaves. When you think about it, it is the same way with us as human beings. Whatever we are rooted in and being nourished by, is what eventually shows on our outermost parts. As Christians, it is important to be rooted in a relationship with our Father and our foundation built on His Word. I see it in my own life. When I let things distract me from studying God's word and being in continual communication with Him, I begin to see the difference in my actions and words. I struggle, in essence, I am losing my nutrient supply. So anytime you might struggle like I do, remember what Jesus says in Matthew 4:4: "It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Open the Bible or use that Bible app. Talk to Him thoughout your day. We are promised in James 4:4 that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. It is then that we will exude the full beauty that He has in each of us.