Here is a fun game we recently played with our youth.  It was a hit, so I thought I would share it here so that others can experience “Garbage Softball” too.

*The game is played using items you can find around home.  Anything goes. 

*Play it with normal softball rules (three strikes, 4 balls, three outs per inning, etc.).  We had a 6 run mercy rule because we weren’t sure how each inning would go.

*Only the pitcher and catcher get regular mitts.  Everyone else in the infield has to use other items from home as mitts (oven mitts, ski gloves, garden gloves, foam #1 hands, etc.).  The catcher also wears an old Halloween mask as the “catcher’s mask.”

*Outfielders have to be three-legged.  We used big hair bands to put around the partners legs to make them three-legged.

*The ball is a tennis ball, the bat is a tennis racquet.

*The batter has to wear reading glasses while batting and while running to 1st base.  Make sure the glasses make the vision blurry enough to make batting and running more difficult than normal.

*From 1st base to 2nd base the runner has to use crutches.  The runner has to use the crutches as crutches, they can’t pick the crutches up and run.

*From 2nd base to 3rd base the runner has to jump into an old laundry bag or gunny sack and hop all the way.

*From 3rd base to home the runner has to loop a giant rubber band around their legs twice and run sideways.

*Provide leaders who run the “handicap” items (reading glasses, crutches, laundry bag, rubber band) back to the original base once the runner is done with them so that the next runner can use them.

*Anything can be used as “handicap” items.  If you don’t have crutches or a giant rubber band, for example, you could use clown shoes or over-sized boots or old skis–basically it is whatever you can find!

*It is helpful if you have one leader as umpire behind the plate and one leader as umpire in the infield to make the calls at the other bases.  One leader can also be scorekeeper.

*Use old pillows as the bases.

*Play for a set time or until it is too dark to see.  Make sure the playing field is a large one, some of the kids can really pound a tennis ball!

We played until dark and then served chocolate chip cookies and chocolate milk (it seemed “Septemberish” to us!).  The kids had a blast playing, and the leaders had a blast watching.

Give it a try sometime!

In the July 2008 issue of Ensign (pg.75), a woman from Ontario, Canada gives the suggestion of saying yes to the day to day requests of your children.  Even if the answer is really wait, it can be made into a yes: 

“Mom, can I have a cookie?”

“Yes, but let’s put them on a pretty plate and serve them for dessert so you won’t spoil your appetite now.”

Sounds a little nicer than a no or a not right now, doesn’t it?

Love & Logic teaches this concept.  Turning no into yes keeps things positive and kids will feel like they have some control.  When kids feel like they have a bit of control they are more likely to cooperate when you need them to.  “No, you may not go out to play until your homework is done,” can be changed to “Yes, you may go out to play as soon as your homework is done.”  It is a simple change in the wording and easy to do.  The child understands that yes he does get to go out to play, as soon as his homework is completed.  He is in control of when he gets to go play.

Your kids also might appreciate the occasional “Yes Day” as this blogger created for her own children once.  Sometimes it is good for kids to get to do what they want, and having a day of yes just might be rejuvenating for you as well.  At the very least, the looks on your kids faces as you say yes all day long will be priceless.

Yes, you may now comment on this post.

There was not a dry eye as this story was shared today in church.  It is by Merrill J. Bateman, “The Power of Hymns,” Ensign, July 2001, 15 

Hymns Facilitate the Bearing of Testimony

Just as Peter was able to bear testimony through the use of a hymn, so our hymns allow us to bear testimony. May I close with one of my favorite stories, which illustrates the power of hymns in testimony bearing.

This story concerns a young girl, the fourth child in a family of six children. Her name is Heather. Three of the children, including Heather, suffered from a rare disease called glutaric acidemia. In each case, the onset of the disease occurred during the first year of life when an enzyme attacked the brain, causing paralysis. The disease results in acid forming in the muscles similar to that which occurs following a period of intense physical activity. The problem faced by the children was that the acid never leaves and causes great pain. Cindy, the first child with the disease, died at the age of 23. She was one of the oldest living persons known with the disease. At death she weighed about 40 pounds.

Soon after Heather’s birth, the parents realized that she would be physically handicapped and that her spirit would be housed in a body with great restrictions. As she grew, she was confined to a wheelchair, was unable to speak, and could send messages only with her eyes. A direct gaze and a smile meant yes. A blink meant no. Despite the handicaps, one could feel her vibrant spirit.

As Heather progressed, it became obvious to her parents that she was extraordinarily bright. She would play guessing games with the family using her limited means to communicate. When she was old enough, the parents enrolled Heather in a special school to see if she could learn to speak. The teacher was a gifted therapist. One morning as Heather and the teacher visited about the prior weekend, the teacher learned that Heather had attended Primary. The teacher then sang for Heather “When He Comes Again.” 10

The expression on Heather’s face revealed the delight within her. When the teacher asked Heather if she had a favorite song, the young girl’s wide eyes and engaging smile left little doubt. But what was the song? Through a series of questions, the teacher learned that Heather’s song was one she had heard in Primary. She wasn’t sure which songbook it was in, but it was about Jesus. The teacher sang all the songs she could think of, but to no avail. However, Heather was not about to quit; she wanted to share her favorite song. At the end of the day, the two were still searching. The teacher agreed to bring her songbooks to school the next day.

On the following morning, Heather and her teacher continued the quest. From the first hymn to the last, the little girl blinked her eyes, indicating no. They were still unsuccessful. Finally, the teacher told Heather that her mother would have to help her find the song and then they would sing it.

The next day Heather arrived with the green Church hymnal tucked in her chair, but there was no marker. So they began with the first hymn. The teacher would sing the first part of each song, and Heather would give her answer. After the first 100 hymns, there were 100 no’s. After 200 hymns there had been 200 no’s. Finally, the teacher began to sing, “There is sunshine in my soul today.” 11 Heather’s body jumped, and a big smile crossed her face. Her eyes gazed directly into the teacher’s, indicating success after three days of searching. Both teacher and student rejoiced.

As the teacher sang the first verse and began the chorus, Heather mustered all her strength and joined in with a few sounds. After finishing the first verse and chorus, the teacher asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses, and Heather’s eyes opened wide with a firm yes. The teacher began to sing:

There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.

Heather’s reaction to these lines was so strong that the teacher stopped. As the reality and significance of the words pressed on the teacher’s mind, she asked: “Heather, is that what you like about the song? Is that what you want me to know? Does Jesus listen? Does He hear the songs you cannot sing?”

The direct, penetrating gaze indicated yes.

Feeling guided by the Spirit, the teacher asked, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?”

Again, the child’s look was penetrating.

The teacher then asked, “Heather, what does He say?”

The teacher’s heart pounded as she saw the clear look in Heather’s eyes as the little girl awaited the questions that would allow her to share her insights.

“Does Jesus say, ‘Heather, I love you’?”

Heather’s radiant eyes widened, and she smiled.

After a pause, the teacher asked next, “Does He say, ‘Heather, you’re special’?”

The answer again was yes.

Finally the teacher asked, “Does He say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”

Heather summoned all her strength, and her head became erect and her eyes penetrated the teacher’s soul. She knew she was loved, she was special, and she needed only to be patient. 12

Two years later, Heather died because of the ravages of the disease. Her younger brother Mark also suffers from the disease but not to the extent of his older sisters. He can talk, although it is not easy. As the parents discussed Heather’s passing and the funeral that would take place, Mark exclaimed, “No go Heather’s funeral!” Heather was his best friend. As the parents tried to explain death to him, he would not be consoled. He was crushed and did not want to attend the service. For two days he could not be persuaded.

On the morning of the funeral, the father went to Mark’s room to get him up. As he entered the room, Mark was sitting up in bed with a big smile on his face. His first words were, “Dad, go Heather’s funeral!”

The father responded, “Mark, what has changed your mind?”

“Dad, had dream.”

“What did you dream about, Mark?”

“Dad, dreamed about Heather.”

“Mark, what was Heather doing?”

“Oh, Dad, Heather running and jumping and singing, ‘There is sunshine in my soul today.’ Dad, go Heather’s funeral.” 13

May we rejoice in the power of sacred hymns to lift our souls and to bear testimony. Truly “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto [God], and it shall be answered with a blessing upon [our] heads” (D&C 25:12).

One morning this week, as I stood at the stove making omelets, my seventeen-year-old daughter appeared in the kitchen, grabbed me in a big bear hug and gave me a kiss on my cheek.  She didn’t say a thing.  After she’d kissed me she smiled and went back to her room to finish getting ready for school.  Of course, as a mother, I was pleased with this unexpected show of affection, but I also found myself wondering what brought it on. 

I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary.  I’d opened all the blinds and a few windows to catch the morning breeze, lit a scented candle, set out dishes, and was making breakfast (only one of my omelets turned out picture perfect).  Things I do every morning.  Was this enough to earn such an enthusiastic greeting?

As I reflected on it later that day, I remembered a magazine article I had recently read about family traditions and rituals.  I hadn’t really thought about it, but my morning ritual of opening blinds and windows (turning on the fireplace in the winter time), lighting candles, and making sure something is ready for breakfast, even if it is just cold cereal, is kind of like a tradition.  I do it every morning.  My family knows they can count on me “waking the house” in this manner every single day.  From the perspective of a kid, this type of tradition might be comforting because it is a constant, it is stable.  For our house it is normal.  

I started to list in my mind all the family traditions and rituals that are a part of my life.  The second Sunday of every month my mom has dinner at her house for the entire family, the annual Halloween party and Christmas party at my mom’s house are traditions, it is a tradition for me, my mom, and my sisters to get together annually in Phoenix, in our little blended family we have certain birthday rituals and we stuff stockings for each other at Christmas, we make Sunday a day for worship and family only, we make Monday evenings “Family Home Evening” and spend the night as a family, Hub’s family has a family reunion every summer, there are certain weekends during the summer and fall that we go to the family cabin, I always bake cookies on the first day of school, we pray as a family before every meal and before we retire for the night, the stupid dog thinks he needs to go every morning when Hub takes Yawlin to school.  Our lives are full of rituals and traditions.

Some traditions have been in place for years, others started more recently simply because we did them once and decided we liked them so we will continue.  Traditions and positive family rituals can be the glue that holds families together.   Sweet memories are created by participating in traditions.  Cheryl C. Lant recently stated in an article titled, “Righteous Traditions” (Ensign, May 2008, pg. 13), “The most important traditions are connected with the way we live our lives and will last beyond us as our children’s lives are influenced and shaped.”  

I don’t know whether or not my daughter was showing me her gratitude for my morning ritual when she hugged and kissed me.  Most likely she was prepping me so she can ask for something big.  🙂  But, when I hear my step kids say thanks for the breakfast I have served, or my own kids tease me by blowing out my candle, or Hub walks up behind and gives me a hug, I do know I am glad that I have established this morning tradition for my family.

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I would be interested in hearing of any family traditions and rituals others have.  I just may incorporate them into my own family life.  Please share, if you desire.  And thanks!