Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaching Right and Left: a brilliant accident

...because isn't that how many discoveries are made? Through accidents of all kinds? I think this is God's way of reminding us where all knowledge lies. Human effort accounts for very little.

Anyway, a while ago, I think I wrote about Lydia's amazing ability at losing her flip-flops. Well, it happened again. She lost one of her new black flip flops only days after we bought them for her. I'm so glad I didn't throw away the remaining flip flop from her last pair, because it just so happened that she lost the right (both meanings) one, so now she has one black flip, and one pink flop.



Just today, while we were waiting for Joseph and Anna to get out of their once-a-week classes, Lydia and I hopped around on the hopscotch squares at school.

Then all of a sudden, it came to me! I explained to her that anytime she wanted to know which side of her was the left side, she could look down, and find her black flip flop. Same with right and pink. In fact, she can always remember that pink is right because that's right - Lydia loves pink.

After a few practice drills, she got it. Now all I need to do is review a few times a day for a few days, and I bet she'll get it for good.

Accidents are so handy sometimes. :)


Friday, October 10, 2014

How to do fun crafts with your kids...

...you simply hope and pray that they come up with creative stuff on their own, and document like mad when they do. Maybe someday I'll actually write about what I do in contribution to my kids' education. Maybe.  But for now, I just want to boast about the interesting ideas these guys came up with on their own. Again, this is precisely the reason why I added big chunks of "independent play time" in their homeschooling schedule when I was filling out the application. When they don't need my help to create new things, I feel like something is going right.

Lydia asked to keep the colored pencil shavings so she could make something out of them. This is what she came up with:


I also remember being mesmerized by the smooth, dancing coils of colored pencil shavings when I was a little girl.


If we ever do manage to build a house, Anna is determined to have a "pretty party room" all to herself, preferably up in a tree. This room would be used to pretty oneself up in preparation for a party...I think.  In anticipation of that room, Anna decided to make a pretty party station. This piece of cardboard is now completely covered with all kinds of origami gadgets.


That nail polish stand is very sturdy! It is still standing today. Sadly, the polish didn't last as long. I knocked it over a few days ago. I can't believe I let her choose purple nail polish as a replacement.


This is Joseph's rocket. Or maybe it's a satellite that will shed most of its body in space. He started using a rocket app developed by NASA recently; I'm pretty sure that is what inspired him.





Saturday, October 4, 2014

Interview coming up

A few months ago, we got interviewed about our homeschooling/country lifestyle. It was a fun day jam-packed with activity. I was surprised when by 7:00 pm, I was ready to go to bed.  In a few weeks it will air.
 I'm really curious how it will turn out. Throughout the whole day, we showed them different aspects of our life. Sometimes we'd be doing something random, look around, and there would be the huge eye of the camera, staring at us. They really know how to capture all kinds of footage. We even pulled out the out-of-tune guitar, and belted out some praise songs. My thumb had a wound, so I could hardly strum. Our voices seemed to hit all sorts of new notes. I could just feel the youtubeness of it all. "Do you know any other songs; ones you are more familiar with?" came the carefully worded, very polite inquiry. No, that was the best we could do. Maybe they will kindly edit that part out. All in all, it went very well. Under the pressure of that watchful eye, we at least expressed almost everything we wanted to express about family living, working and playing together.

Below is Joseph playing with the eye. He was on cloud nine after being told he could work it a little by himself. To him there is nothing more beautiful than a complicated web of buttons and dials. He actually doesn't like things that are too high tech because they look too plain and simple on the surface. 


The girls were happy too. They made friends with both ladies of the crew.


There was even time for a nail polish party.


 They got footage of everything. Here, Ken is leading Joseph through Proverbs.


Here, the girls and I are making cookies.


Here, we are getting ready for a lunch of roast chicken.



We hope that whoever ends up watching this will feel the urgency to re-arrange priorities for the sake of family, if need be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lydia colored a sturdy dark skinned girl!

I don't remember having these thoughts so early. Lydia is four years old, and is already comparing herself to what she sees around her.

"Mommy, I wish my skin was lighter."
"Mommy, I wish I had yellow hair."
"I like blue eyes better."
"I want to be thin. Mommy, do I look thin?" (sucking in her stomach)
"Anna, you are so thin; I want to be really thin."

These were not all spoken at once. Lydia isn't constantly thinking of her appearance. But I have heard variations of these phrases every now and then. Very unsettling. Every time I hear her make these comments, I try my best, in a very relaxed, conversational way, to ask her why she wants these traits, and then we talk about the benefits and beauty of her brown eyes, brown skin, and dark hair. I try to be careful, in my enthusiasm, not to veer too far in the other direction, and declare darker to be better. Nevertheless, I can't resist reminding her that our kind of skin can handle the sun better than lighter skin.

This is what I told Joseph when he was dealing with names like "little black person" (小黑人). Now, he proudly flaunts his victory whenever we put our arms together for a skin tone contest. He is happily the darkest person in our family. He and Anna actually help me point out all the benefits of our skin tone to Lydia. Every time, she listens with interest, and appears satisfied. But still, the comments pop up. Her drawings mostly show women with blond (rather, bright yellow) hair, and tiny waists.

How could this have started so early? I remember my own dreams. I wanted long straight hair that blew in the wind. I was built more stocky like Lydia, so I also envied Sara's smaller boned frame, which was a lot like Anna's Asian build. But I'm pretty sure I didn't think much of these things at four years old. ....Well, we did watch Frozen. Almost impossible not to. And Cinderella. And Alice in Wonderland. And since we recently watched Peter Pan, the girls have repeatedly requested Tinkerbell printables (plus all her hourglass shaped friends. They still don't know that Tinkerbell has her own movie. I don't plan on telling them either :P) to color.

So that is part of the answer right there. She sees these beautiful, impossibly thin characters in these movies, and wants to be like them. So simple. Since it would be very hard to block all distorted images from her world, my strategy is to use these moments when her ideas and wishes are spoken as a chance to explain how these characters are not realistically shaped; how to be that thin would be dangerous and unhealthy; how God made so many colors in the world, because He knew that they were all so beautiful. Part II of my strategy is to be intentional about the women Joseph, Anna and  Lydia are exposed to as role models. Certainly there are books and perhaps even movies that portray women of all colors in a healthy and proportioned way, that are overflowing with patience and kindness. I hope. For starters, we can spend time imagining together what so many brave women from the Bible may have looked like.

Today, Lydia asked for a piece of paper and busily started coloring with markers. Her preferred medium is ink or graphite, so I was curious what she would draw this time.  This is what she showed me:


"Does she look nice? Not too thin, and not too fat?"

"Perfect!", I said, "She looks like she can do a lot of hard work without breaking in half! She looks like she can dance and play and not get tired!"

Lydia was pleased. I was elated. I still am. This woman's pose is full of confidence, and her bare feet (a shocker, as almost all of Lydia's ladies have high heels) can handle the roughest of terrains.

I have no doubt that this beautiful woman can carry a bucket full of water on her head without breaking a sweat.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bibi and Lydia

Just recalling some happy memories.

Ken says Lydia is just like Bibi.


Exactly like Bibi.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

DIY Halloween

Can it be this easy?

A few months ago, I told Anna that she can have the privilege of planning a Halloween activity this year.

It has been only recently that the kids have become aware of Halloween, and want to do something special. I am just not skilled in event planning, so holidays and birthdays are daunting for me. This is the main reason all our kids were born in January. (I have God to thank for this; we almost messed it up) One party, and it's over.

Anyway, besides telling them about reformation day, I was at a loss at how to plan a non-scary, non-evil, fun, very simple, very VERY simple Halloween party.... until that suggestion just came out of my mouth. Anna loved the idea.

Well, just today, I heard Joseph and Anna discussing it. Joseph was explaining to Anna the definition of "donate". His idea was for all three of them to donate some of their hard earned money to make Halloween happen.
Suddenly I had a brilliant idea: "Baba and I can donate as well!"
"Really?!"

That is when the homeschooling wheels started turning in my head. I explained how organizations that need money for a good cause have to write what they are doing, and what their budget will be in  a report (oops. I should have said proposal). Then they have to find someone rich, submit it, and wait for approval. I suggested they do the same. Anna started writing immediately. Here is the unfinished list:




At this rate, all will go most well. In fact, I even offered the idea of adding some sort of treat to the list that perhaps they could make themselves.
This just may turn out to be a complete DIY Halloween.
I'm freeeeee!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First day of school

The first day of school went well! Every time we mentioned taking Anna to school for Chinese class, she would protest. She's a homebody like me. After the first day, though, I think she has changed. We will probably take Joseph and Anna once a week - maybe twice - and perhaps let Lydia join Taiwanese (as opposed to Chinese) class at the same time.


....but if schedules don't match, Lydia and I will probably park ourselves at the cute stone table and wait.


No doubt, Lydia will be drawing pretty ladies with hoof hands. She says hooves are easier to draw than real hands. She'll start drawing real hands when she's six, she says.


I was impressed with Anna's calm exterior at recess time. She walked determinedly into the fray, scouting out where she could inject herself. I knew she felt nervous inside, but she hid it well. All my kids have been much braver than I was when it came to interacting with peers.


That crowd had too many boys, so off she went to hunt for some girls...


And she found them! Her classmates. She stood there while I encouraged her to ask to join. I just couldn't resist. Sometimes all a person needs is a little help over the first obstacle, and the rest will be smooth sailing. After a few minutes, I asked for her. "Can Anna play with you?" "Sure!" was the immediate response.


I took this picture about thirty seconds later....


...and this picture about sixty seconds later. She's in! That's all it took.


In my hurry to document Anna's day, I left my purse and Lydia at the stone table. I suddenly remembered, and rushed back to make sure they were both okay. Both were gone.  And than I saw this little lovely walking toward me. Lydia told me she was afraid someone might take my purse away, so she took it with her. So so sweet!


Joseph had to miss recess to sign his twelve plus books. He is so excited that they teach Science in third grade.


All in all, it was a pleasant morning. I wasn't nearly as uptight as I was when Joseph first went to school so long ago. I guess we all are changing.