Tell me a story, Mama

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It’s 8:00pm, and the lights should be out by 8:30. Kids are fumbling into their pajamas, squirrely as usual. They crash into the bathroom to fight over the sink. Once teeth are brushed, you are ready for lights out. They beg, “tell me a story!” You reach for the stack of illustrated literature, and before you can open a book they say “no, Mama, make up a story!”

Ugh. More work for Mama’s tired brain. Look at this beautifully bound book, you think. Someone has already gone through a lot of effort and time to create this masterpiece. I will let the author do the storytelling. But no, they want an original.

“Once upon a time…” You scan the room. “Someone did not put away their pants.” This is going nowhere fast, you think to yourself. I don’t know what to say.

Yet your audience is riveted. They could care less where the inspiration is coming from. They are in the throes of creation, where every good thing begins.

This is a moment of decision. You must set aside all personal critique, and cast your imagination into the sea of possibilities. You can choose to enter the adventure, or dismiss it for another day. But if you enter, you will most likely find children with bated breath, fully engaged, and loving the story you invent, no matter how awful it truly was.

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Children love a good story. Of course children love stories read to them. Reading a good book to a child is one of the most precious, life giving things a parent can do. And yet it is often the made-up tales, half baked and happened upon by tired parents that children love most.

“Mama, tell me a story,” children cry. They ache for the tales of ancestry, where you impart your legacy of failures and successes. They long for the fables that tie your wisdom to memory. They know the human adventure entails stories, and they know they are meant hear yours.

I think we all intrinsically know a good story when we hear one. We all have stories passed on to us, through good books, but also through conversation. The art of conversation is developed and honed in storytelling. These stories are living and breathing beyond a page, in timeless oral tradition.

Your story need not be perfect, but if you want to enter the tradition that knits together communities and deepens familial bonds, then these stories must be told by you. If you find yourself ready to take the plunge, here are some simple solutions to storytelling.

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Raid the Classics

Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Goldilocks are waiting to be reinvented. Put your kids into these tales. Make them the hero, the villain, or the sidekick. You can tell the story just as it always was, but with new names, or your can change it up a little. Give them superpowers, or modernize the story by putting it in their neighborhood or school.

Use the pattern

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning introduces the characters and world. The middle creates all the drama, tension, and problems. And the end is the solution. One writer once said “your job as a storyteller is to make your character as miserable as possible.” Simply put, throw all kinds of problems and challenges at your character. And when you are certain that things can’t get worse, it’s time for the ending. Find a solution, be it miracle or ingenuity of your character, they will succeed, conquer the villain, or save the day.

You have helpers

If you are making up a story, then realize you are not alone. You will need to give your kids a few prompts, but they are creative beyond belief, and if you throw the task at them, they will rise to the occasion. If you are stuck in your story, and you don’t know what to do next, make it your kids job to come up with something! Even if their idea isn’t going to take you where you wish, you at least have a moment to think of your next step while they throw out some thoughts. They are in this story with you, and they probably put you on spot, so they are responsible to make this happen too.

Your life is full of stories

If you cannot think of made-up story then tap into your past. Your life history is full of little memories that your children will find more precious than you can believe. They love to connect with you, and what better way than telling of your own life? My children especially love it when I share about my childhood. Unfortunately my memory isn’t what it used to be, but I still have a few tales that are embedded in my brain from being a kid, and they don’t mind hearing those stories on repeat.

Tell the family history

Grandpa, grandma, aunts and uncles, share your family tales. These connect your children to their roots. There is reason why people love to look up their family tree and share their ancestry. They want to know where they come from. It brings clarity to their present, and inspires their future.

Kids know the human adventure entails stories, and they know they are meant hear yours.


You might only jump into storytelling once in a while, but do jump in. Your children will cherish it, and be formed by it. Our world is full of professional storytellers, whether film director, author, or animator. But these will never hold a candle to the story you tell after you hear that precious request, “Mama, tell me a story.”

Guiltless Peanut Butter Cookies

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You can add the chocolate chips one at a time like this Sous Chef.

You can add the chocolate chips one at a time like this Sous Chef.

I love cookies. My kids love cookies. My husband loves cookies. My dog loves cookies. Who doesnʻt love cookies?

Cookies pose many difficulties to waist lines and diet plans. No matter how committed I am to some diet or healthy eating kick, I inevitably end up in my kitchen creaming butter and sugar, licking spoons, and subjecting myself to salmonella poisoning. I proceed to go to bed in a guilt spiral, regretting my life decisions and hoping tomorrow will be different. However these cookies have the best of both worlds- yummy cookie goodness, and so little sugar that you can almost call them healthy! (Almost. Let’s face it, it’s still a dessert.)

For the celiac and gluten-intolerant bellies, just use gluten free oats. For the natural sweetener lover, you can use maple syrup instead of sugar. For the super sugar-conscious, or if you just want plain peanut butter cookies, you can omit the chocolate chips with minimal disappointment.

This recipe rescues me from guilt spirals, and gives me a “good job mom!” feeling inside when serving these for dessert. Youʻll love indulging in these treats when you are cutting back sugar. Yet they are so good, you donʻt even feel like youʻre missing out when you just want to eat a delicious cookie!

 

Granny Grammar’s Guiltless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
½ cup brown sugar (you can substitute ½ cup maple syrup if youʻre that kind of hero)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned; gluten-free if needed)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend peanut butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in baking soda, oats, and optional chocolate chips. Scoop 1 inch balls onto cookie sheet. If you aren’t using chocolate chips, press them flat with your palm or a fork. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Yield 2 Dozen

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Today is for Eternity

It is easy to get stuck in the wrong time zone.

Rehearsing the past- what I should have, could have, would have, but can’t do anything about anymore. Continuing to wonder what would have been if only I had done, or said, or thought differently. Regret and shame can build dreadful little homes in our hearts when we rehearse the past.

Worrying about the future- “What if?” can color my world with a million grand dreams or million nightmares. Living today attached to “what if?” can be paralyzing. Fear has its greatest hold on us in this worry. Yet this worry has no reality. Worry is merely hypothetical threats.

Living only for today- this seems quite admirable. It’s so close to where we need to be. We need to be present, taking one step at a time, living in the moment. But if we only lived for this moment, we would be quite ruthless with our time, energy and goals.

When moments are so fleeting, and we see our children growing faster than we can comprehend, and we still value our yesterdays, how do we live in the right relationship with our time?

Past, present, or future, it all succumbs to the weight of eternity.

God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
He has planted eternity in the human heart,
but even so, people cannot see the whole scope
of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Eternity is the time beyond now that gives purpose to my entire existence. The mistakes I made can become redeemed as stepping stones over pitfalls in light of eternity. The dreams I dream, that are too big and wonderful for me to ever achieve alone, become the seeds of promise in eternity. The today where I succeed becomes a stitch in the golden tapestry of goodness that will only be seen in its fullness in eternity.

My hopes should always be too full and too big, because they are not only mine. They belong to those who have gone before me and cheer me on from heaven. They belong to those who are still ahead of me, who can run long past me.

Eternity tells me that my past can be redeemed. Eternity shows me my future can be better. Eternity reminds me that today is important, but today is not the sum of the future. Today is a stepping stone on a road filled with promise, and that’s where I need to live.

Ocean Zones: Fun Study Guide

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The ocean is a big, amazing place, teeming with life and largely unexplored! This FREE pdf lesson includes a fun memory help poster, science experiments, and an easy to learn lesson with several unique creatures from each of the ocean zones (epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathypelagic, abyssopelagic). Also included is a study guide with plenty of fun pictures about the ocean floor, including continental shelf, abyssal plain, mid-ocean ridges and trenches!

Memory Tools

Epi sounds like HAPPY to me! I like to think that the fish in this zone are happy because they get the most sunshine. This is why I drew the fish smiling in the epipelagic zone!

Meso sounds like “MESS OF,” so the octopus in the mesopelagic zone is using his many tentacles to clean up the ocean.

Bathy sounds like BATH. The swordfish which can be found in the bathypelagic zone is enjoying a nice bath-uh-bubbles!

Abyss means “bottomless.” This word is use to describe a dark place that seems to go on forever... which sounds like a good description for much of the ocean! Let’s learn some more about this amazing place.

Epipelagic (0 to 656 feet/ 0-200 meters deep)
Epipelagic means “over the sea.” It is also called the Photic Zone, or Sunshine Zone. Epi, which sounds to me like happy, actually means “on” or “over.” This is the top zone of the ocean. I wonder if the fish in this zone are extra happy because they get the most sunshine! This is the only zone where plants can grow, because they need sunlight for photosynthesis.
Most of the animals (90%) that live in the ocean live in this zone, including every type of invertebrate, sea mammals, and a huge variety of fish. Some fish that can be found in the other ocean zones still come up to the Epipelagic zone at night to feed.

Mesopelagic (656 to 3,300 feet/ 200-1,000 meters deep)
Mesopelagic means “middle sea.” It is also called Disphotic Zone, or Twilight Zone. Meso, even though it reminds me of the word mess, it actually means middle. (You might remember this word from another place called Mesopotamia, which got its name from being in the middle of two rivers.) It is also called the disphotic zone, which means “poorly lit.” This zone gets just a little bit of light during the day, but not enough for plants to grow. The temperature of the water is between 41 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dragonfish

Dragonfish

Most animals in this zone have large eyes, large teeth and jaws, and are small and thin.
The dragonfish is a smaller fish only about 6 inches long. It has a long body with a light-up lure attached to its head called a “photophore barbel.” It can flash the barbel light on and off and move it around to catch fish. Because many of the fish that it eats are also bioluminescent it has a black opaque stomach so that the fish in its stomach won’t shine while it is digesting! Other mesopelagic sea animals are the sabertooth fish, sea stars, eels, the pufferfish, and mollusks like octopi, oysters, squid, and scallops.

The Aphotic Zones

Bathypelagic (3,300 to 12,000 feet/ 1,000-4,000 meters deep)
Bathypelagic means “deep sea.” It is also called the Midnight Zone.
The bathypelagic zone and below are considered Aphotic (no light) zones , because sunlight cannot reach these into these zones. The bathypelagic zone is very dark, and this is where you will start finding many creatures with bioluminescence. The most common bioluminescent creature in this zone is called the Lanternfish, which has dots of light lining its body.

Lanternfish

Lanternfish

Only 1% of the ocean animals live here, but there is still a large variety of life! Some animals you can find in this zone are the Sperm whale, the giant squid, vampire squid, anglerfish, lobsters, and other crawfish like shrimp. Whales are mammals, so they must go up to breathe air, however the Sperm Whale will dive into the Bathypelagic zone to hunt giant squid. The Giant Squid is around 33 feet in length, which is about the same length as a school bus! They have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, of 10 inches in length. They use a propulsion system to move their cone shaped body, and steer their bodies with tiny fins.

“...Think of a ship: big as it is and driven by such strong winds, it can be steered by a very small rudder, and it goes wherever the pilot wants it to go.” James 3:4

Abyssopelagic- 12,000 to 20,000 feet deep/ 4,000- 6,000 meters
Abyssopelagic means “bottomless sea.” It also called The Abyss.
The average depth of the ocean is 4,000 meters (2 and 1/2 miles). The water in this zone is very still and very cold, just above freezing (36°F/2°C). Because it is dark and cold, fish move slowly and tend to be transparent, red, or black. Red is a very common creature color in this zone, because it is invisible at this depth. 90% of the creatures in this zone are bioluminescent! The Abyssopelagic zone animals are quite weird and creepy looking, however one adorable creature that you can find in the abyssopelagic zone is called the dumbo octopus. This octopus has big eyes and two big flaps on its head that look like dumbo ears. You can also find deep water corals, the fangtooth fish, deep sea jellyfish, giant tube worms, and slime stars.

The ocean is such a marvelous mysterious place. I hope you enjoy studying this seemingly bottomless wonder with your kids!

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