Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Sammy the Kitten: a Mom’s Legacy

When I was little (and even before I was born), my mom would spin wild tales for my sisters and me about a cute little kitten named Sammy whose curiosity and love of milk would get him into trouble.  She would come up with stories off the top of her head, which made for some wild and crazy adventures.  

I’ve never much liked telling stories in that improvisational way.  I much less secure and have to write things down, scratch them out, and revise, revise, revise.  So, when my own children were young and visited Grandma, she would tell them Sammy tales which they would want me to retell when they came home.  The first time they asked, I declined but promised to write some Sammy stories down to read the next night. 

So, I wrote three tales that I would tell them when they asked.  The first one is my mom’s foundational Sammy story where he sneaks into the milkman’s truck (a story that clearly originated in earlier times!).  Another was actually a Christmas poem that I read to my daughters on Christmas Eve the year I wrote it as a Christmas gift for them.  I also gave a copy of this one to my mom because it was my first Sammy story not based on one of her plots.  

For years these and a couple other stories languished on my computer and in a desk drawer as my own children were growing up, and I hadn’t found a publisher for them.  Recently, though, I was lucky enough to discover the talented daughter of a fried who agreed to illustrate one of the stories.  With her sweet illustrations, I decided to publish it on my own to share with family, friends, and the world.  

My mom passed away a few years ago, but her love for us and ours for her lives on.  Now, her legacy can live even longer as my sisters and I share the stories with our children and my mom’s first great granddaughter and those still to come.

You can read Sammy the Kitten in the Milkman Adventure for free with Kindle Unlimited (I find Amazon often offers free trials, too) or buy a paper copy for snuggling up at bedtime.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Pentecost Tongues of Flame Craft

This is a post that used to be on OCN’s Sounding Blog, but since it is no longer there, I’m reposting it here.

In two short weeks we will be celebrating Pentecost.  This is one of my parish's patronal feast days, so it's a pretty big deal for us, and I love celebrating it.  One of my biggest pet peeves of Pentecost is the misunderstanding of "speaking in tongues" that is promulgated by some Protestant denominations.  It does not mean that the apostles spoke gibberish, and someone interpreted it so the people could understand them.  The apostles spoke in languages that all around could understand.

Consequently, I think it is important for children to learn about Pentecost from an early age and to understand the events of the day.  Clearly, this instruction should begin with the Bible.  Read as much of Acts 2, at least through verse 15 because this is the focus of the craft below, or as far as your child will let you.  The craft below will allow you to explain the meaning of the first Pentecost. 

As you begin the craft, you can explain that the flames fulfill the prophecy of John the Baptist that Christ would baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire."  The fire represents the uncreated energy of God associated with the Holy Spirit.  On each of the flames is printed "The Holy Spirit" in a variety of modern languages.  The is to represent what happened to the apostles next: they "began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" and the crowd gathered around them all understood them even though the crowd had gathered from many different lands and spoke different languages. 

This is important because the key to the apostles’ mission and the Church's mission is to spread the Gospel of the Lord.  The apostles did not speak some unknown language that one privileged person understood and interpreted.  Rather, everyone understood what they said and heard the good news firsthand because the Church is inclusive, not some exclusive club for a privileged few.

Red, Yellow, & Orange paper (copy or cardstock)
Can (choice of size)
Paper cutter
Ruler (optional if no paper cutter)
Decoupage glue or adhesive spray (optional)

1. Print and cut out flames on colored paper.
2. Measure and trim base paper.  Cover one side with glue. Wrap around can.
3. Glue on flames
4. Optionally, add protective layer with decoupage glue or spray.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Children, Money, and Good Stewardship of God's Gifts

Several years ago, I regularly blogged for OCN's Sounding Blog, while the blog still exists, I recently discovered that the articles I contributed have not been maintained.  So, I've decided to repost some of them here in case they may be of use to anyone.  This is the first of those...

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:7-8)

From the time children begin to perambulate and grab things, they start asking for everything they see in the stores.  Sometimes they even throw tantrums to get the desired toys, and goodies.  As a tired parent it is so tempting to buy silence with one of these tantalizing items.  However, as parents it is our duty to teach our children, even the youngest ones, to be good stewards of the gifts God gives them, and part of that lesson is instilling the virtues of patience and generosity, and a healthy respect for money.

Read any article on teaching kids about money, and you will find conflicting "expert" advice.  'The sooner you start teaching kids about money the better.'  But, 'don't give a child an allowance until he's old enough to count the money.' 'Give children an allowance, and tie it to chores,' or '… don't tie it to chores.'  Well, I'm no expert and my children are not yet finished growing, so I can't promise that my advice will work, but so far the results are encouraging.  I started teaching them about money very early, and I connected the lesson with serving God. 

First, we must answer for our children the question of where money comes from.  Most experts agree that children need to understand that we must work to earn money.  As Christians, we should also be teaching our children that it is a blessing from God.  God has given each of us talents that we can use to provide goods or services to others, and thereby earn money.  I fully agree with those who say the sooner we teach children about money the better.  Indeed, when my first daughter was three years old, we were given a magnetic responsibility chart.  I was thrilled to receive this chart because it gave me both a way to encourage good behavior and a method by which to start teaching her about money. 

Even though she couldn't count the money (at least not correctly), I began giving her an allowance linked to her responsibilities.  These included things like going to bed nicely, not hitting, obeying mom and dad, and sharing.  As she's grown older some of her responsibilities have changed to things like setting the table and cleaning her room.  Each night we put magnets on the chart for each thing that she did that day.  On Sunday mornings, we count up the magnets, and she receives a penny for each one.  If there are 7 in any row or column (there are 7 responsibilities for each day), she gets 2 pennies; and for a perfect week the reward is a full dollar.  Of course, the amount of allowance can be adjusted to suit your family income, the age of your child, or the difficulty of the responsibilities.  Giving an allowance linked to responsibilities or chores, even to very young children, teaches them in a concrete way that money is earned by using the gifts or talents God has given them.

God is very generous to us in the gifts he bestows upon us, so it is good to show our gratitude by sharing with the Church and others.  As parents, we teach this by example through our weekly church offerings and almsgiving, but we can also encourage our children to practice sharing themselves.  As I mentioned above, I dole out allowances on Sunday morning, and this is by design.  After each child has gotten her allowance, I ask "how much do you want to give to the church?"  Each then takes a portion of her allowance (and it's usually about 30%!) to put in her envelope*, and the rest goes into a piggy bank to be saved or spent.  In this way, we illustrate that the first portion, and a significant portion, of our gifts goes back to God.  By taking the weekly offering from their own money and making it a regular habit early on, I hope and expect that as they grow and earn more money, they will continue to find it easy to be generous and joyful in their offerings to God. 

As I said in the beginning, I believe it is my duty not to give into tantrums and impulse spending when we are shopping.  Thus, I long ago established a policy that when we were at the store, I would only buy what was on my list regardless of the screams that might accompany that rule.  This proved to be a good policy because such screams rarely happened after they saw that it was a firm rule.  Of course, that didn't stop them from asking for things on most trips to the store.  This is where the piggy bank money comes in.  It is saved until the occasion arises to spend it.  As I am trying to teach them the value of money and the importance of respecting it, it is only spent in consultation with me. When one of my daughters sees something in the store that she wants, we consider the price, what it is, and how much she wants it.  Sometimes she buys something right away, sometimes I veto the purchase.  Usually, we end up waiting "until next time," or until it goes on sale, or we have a coupon.  If she still wants it next time and has enough money saved or it's discounted, then she's allowed to buy it.  This not only teaches them to be wise about spending money, it also forces them to practice patience.  We don't always get what we want immediately, and sometimes we don't get it at all.  If we learn patience, however, we'll be a little more content no matter what life throws at us.

The last step in teaching children to be good stewards of God's gifts comes when a prize purchase comes home.  At this point there are two lessons to teach.  Lesson 1 is to take care of your things.  We've seen many a tear from a new toy being stepped on and broken.  I frequently repeat that toys must be put away when they're no longer being play with.  Sometimes they remember, sometimes not.  We're still working on respecting the blessings in our lives.  Lesson 2 is that we should share with those less fortunate.  Here by learning to share graciously with a sister who did not get to buy something new, we are reinforcing the virtue of sharing with everyone, both within and outside of the family.  While it is sometimes difficult to share that treasured, new toy, I have seen the fruit of this lesson in their eagerness to offer food to the homeless or toys for Christmas toy drives.

* Our church has offering envelopes for the children and tracks their donations along with those of the adults so each year they get a statement showing them how much they shared with God.   If your church doesn't have children's envelopes, consider buying some (for as little as $8 including shipping online) or making your own.  They are truly great for engendering in kids the desire to give their own money!