Saturday, April 30, 2011

Critical Thinking

I just put in my order from Critical Thinking for our next year of homeschooling. We will finish up this year in the next few months and so I closed my eyes as I ordered tons of stuff for next year and then pretended to not look at the shipping costs to get this stuff all the way to China.

One of my new favorite companies is Critical Thinking. I used them last year for our logic practice. One of our family's top priorities in homeschooling is logic and analytical thinking. This curriculum has tons of logic puzzles (like those fun ones where it says "If Suzy is sitting next to Frank and Frank is sitting at the end of the row...) math reasoning, ethical dilemmas, red herring stories and tons of hands on puzzles to solve. My kids devoured these books. I had to slow them down to one a day because they were flying through the books. I just recently ordered some of their software.

Teaching our kids how to look at a problem from many different angles is so important. We don't want to raise kids who look at a situation and throw their hands up in despair. In Chinese, we often hear 没办法 "there is just no way," and we want to raise kids that say 怎么办 "let's find a way."

Even in the Kindergarten curriculum, there are logic puzzles that have the kids building structures and trying to find out the missing pieces. Or, taking shapes then turn that shape a different way to see how the child can manipulate objects. Our kids really do love these things. I use them as a supplement and as activities when I am working with another child.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Hope

One of the things we did Easter morning was bring the kids outside and take pictures. The older two were to find things that represented life and death. The younger three found crosses displayed outside. They found the objects and then took the picture themselves. We talked that weekend about how our sins and dishonoring of the Lord brings death.

And that in death, we should long to find Christ.

We should put our hope in a Son who was torn from heaven to restore His children on earth.

And in that, we are brought new life and an abundance of hope to help us remain faithful to our Father.

Three days after the world mocked Jesus to His grave, He shocked humanity by rising victoriously from death.

We have much reason to rejoice and boast in a cross that gives us that kind of life. A cross that offers us joy and peace and reconciliation.

We hope this Easter brought you freedom in the cross and an understanding of Jesus' sacrifice that will not allow complacency and satisfaction in anything other than Him.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Snickers Heaven

First, I need to confess that I used my little phone camera for these lovely pictures below. Should I have walked 20 more feet and grabbed my normal camera...yep. But, I didn't. And I certainly am not going to go through the effort of making cookies 3 days later just to take pictures. Although, all the cookies are gone, so maybe I should reconsider.

My husband affectionately refers to these peanut butter chocolate gems as "God's cookies".

These are fun to make because little hands can help and it makes an obscene amount at one time. So, make a batch and stick half of them in the freezer for that untimely knock at your door.

Peanut Butter Snickers Cookies
"God's Cookies"

1 c. softened butter
2 t. vanilla
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 c. peanut butter

See, you just have to dump the wet ingredients in a bowl and stir. That photo above is a quintessential picture of "dumping".

3. cups white flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

I like to stir using chopsticks, but please feel free to be normal and use a spoon.

I am going to refrain from using the word 'dump' again when talking about this picture because it will make you loose your appetite. Gingerly pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix together. At this point, call in your youngest son and have him stick his hands in and mix it together. It's much easier to do with your hands. The dough is fairly sticky.

Take 6-7 normal sized Snickers bars and cut them into small quarter sized pieces. You can also buy the mini Snickers and avoid cutting all together. Who wants to burn the extra calories cutting anyway?

This is what I see when I cook. And I was so captivated by the old women dancing with the pink fans that I forgot to take the next picture. But, you take about a small eggs worth of the dough and roll it into a ball. Smoosh the center of the ball and stick in a piece of Snickers. Wrap the dough around the Snickers, forming a ball. So, it's as if the Snickers is the yolk of the egg and the egg white is the dough. Does that make sense?

They will flatten out nicely, so leave plenty of space between cookies. 350 degrees and about 15 minutes later, you've got these bad boys.

They are so good right out of the oven. So take one or two or seven, sit down with a good cup of coffee and vow to start your diet on Monday.

(I wrote this recipe from memory, which tells me that I have made them entirely too many times. I did check the recipe to make sure, but alas it was spot on. I'm not sure if I should boast or be shamed)

Snickers Cookies

yields 40 or so, but you can make these smaller or larger depending on how many teenage boys will be eating them.

Combine in a large bowl:

1 c. softened butter
2 t. vanilla
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 c. peanut butter-I use chunky, but creamy will do just fine too.

Combine in smaller bowl:

3. cups white flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

Cut 6-7 normal sized Snickers into quarter sized pieces and put aside.

Pour dry ingredients into wet ones and mix. Once the dough has formed a ball, separate into small egg sized balls. Press down in the middle and place a Snickers piece into the center. Wrap the dough around the Snickers so that it's buried in the center. Place on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Paris Desert

I have recently asked a few friends to share with us their lives and write a bit on our blog. When they write, I'll post this fun little button that I figured out how to make on Here we go...

My sweet friend, Lydia, agreed to share a little about drinking deeply of the Lord while in lonely desert places. She is a recent graduate of Texas A&M and is currently working with Breakaway Ministries in College Station. I first met Lydia about a year ago and have loved seeing her heart as she trusts the Lord. Her last few months have been filled with running a marathon, traveling to Prague and helping me stuff envelopes until midnight. I'm sure the latter has been the highlight of this semester :). She loves to write, so I asked her to share a little about her journey as she transitions from college student to the working world and how Paris brought more to her than fascinating art and tempting pastries.

One of my favorite songs of late has the lyrics, “Love moves. Remember from where love has moved you; the finding of something beautiful in the desert of my soul.” (written by Matthew and Lizi Bailey)

This is the story of my life, but I was unable to sing it with full understanding until a couple of years ago. I studied abroad in Paris for four weeks the summer before my junior year of college. While I have hundreds of pictures documenting all of the incredible sights, I find myself drawn instead to look back on my journals from that month.

I remember sitting on the plan flying to Paris by myself and feeling pretty scared but trying to convince myself that this is what I had chosen, and everything would be okay. I also knew that the Lord had allowed me to go alone and, even if I had second thoughts about my decision, I knew He had a purpose for bringing me out to this desert.

Now, before you start laughing at me calling Paris a desert, let me clarify. Paris was fabulous, with amazing pastries on every corner, people speaking French (the most beautiful language in my opinion) all around me, and some of the most breathtaking churches and art museums in all of Europe. It was a dream come true for me. At the same time, I was there without a friend. All of the people I met in my program were clearly not Christians and had completely different values from me. I was staying by myself in an apartment with a 66 year-old woman who only spoke french, and I was hardly fluent. I communicated with my best friend through lengthy facebook messages. I talked to my mom on the phone, but I shied away from being too honest about any of my fears or feelings of loneliness.

There were nights when I walked home to my apartment, feeling so under attack. It was as if Satan was hiding behind every building waiting to jump out and pounce on me. I was believing lies that I had believed for years, but they had never looked so dazzlingly tempting. In Paris and among my friends in the study abroad program, appearance meant so much. At that time, appearance held a pretty high place in my own heart, but I was trying to fight this tug in my heart away from God and toward the things of the world. I knew this idol was making me miserable, but I didn’t know how to escape from its hold on me.

One day, I wrote this in my journal while sitting in the Louvre:
It is overwhelming - the colors, the technical skill, the history, the residence of the paintings themselves in a magnificent palace. Seeing them all together - tributes to God, to monarchs, to the human body, to the depth of one’s own emotions and feelings - it makes me realize how transient this life is. We follow fashions. We do what is popular and accepted. Sometimes in our struggle to understand ourselves as individuals and make others acknowledge our uniqueness, we rebel and make a strong statement for all to hear or see. What I see in these paintings is, first of all, a beauty that is endowed by our Creator. Second, I see our flawed human attempts to capture life and derive meaning from what we see. But, we can have a glimpse of what is real, a shadow of what is to come. The most beautiful paintings, in my opinion, strive to show what is lacking in a flat, one-dimensional view of the world. There is more there than meets the eye. There is the depth of the soul. There are the emotions that lie beneath the surface. There is the reality of the Holy Spirit in us and the angels all around us. There is the past and the future seen all in a flash, as God sees time.

Paris was a vast, beautiful desert in which I felt small and ugly. I wish I could say that I was victorious there. Instead, it was months before I fully confessed my love affair with all that glitters. For the first time, I believed that Jesus’ love truly satisfies and that He is worth giving up everything to follow. How did I reach that point of surrender? He had shown me the desert of my soul when it was weighed down by desires for cheap, perishable imitations of the eternal.

Praise the Lord that “love moves.” My response to remembering the pouring out of God’s grace on my life is to fight for others. I have never experienced greater joy than when I have been able to share this hope with other wandering souls, trapped beneath the cares of this world.

Romans 8 is rich with the truth that set me free. I pray that today you take time to “remember from where love has moved you” and set your mind on the Spirit, which is life and peace.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Hairy Bagel

We have several friends who, over the years, have added to my children's intellectual toolbox the idea of a "hairy bagel." While the culprits will remain nameless, I thought I'd share with you a few pictures.

The chocolate bagel

The kosher bagel. yeast.

And then there's the traditional "hairy" bagel.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Name that tree

I purposely didn't edit any of these pictures because I wanted you all to see how absolutely amazing spring time is. God is so creative in the spring time. Just when you want to kick a tree because it's been so cold for so long.

Now, I need your help. What in the world kinda flowering bush is this? I've asked around here and nobody seems to know. It really does look exactly like a Dr. Seuss tree. Ideas?

Any ideas on what this is?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ahh...much better

In case you were losing sleep about our Roman goddess friend. Here's where she ended up. Really spruces the place up, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pajama Jeans

I love good marketing.

The people who came up with those silly bands...genius. Tell kids that it's cool to wear a rubber band shaped like a dinosaur and laugh all the way to the bank.

Flip a robe around and call it a Snuggie.

Stick a rock in a cute box and call it a pet.

This is my recent favorite:

Pajamajeans See how sassy you can be wearing pajamas. And as my mom, sister, and pretty much everyone in my high school graduating class can attest, I have been on this brink of fashion genius for years.

Here's my little tip: you can just sleep in your normal clothes and wear them the next day too. Here's one example of my "pajamajeans". See, to the normal eye, it seems to be casual Sunday morning attire. BUT, when you fall into bed that night and don't remove your clothes, you wake up the next day saving tons of time getting ready. I won't say that I do this everyday, but I will confess that it's been more times than I can count.

See, you just doubled your wardrobe! Today, your entire closet became both daytime and a creative display of Pajamajeans. Congratulations!

Just following

As I read the first few chapters in Mark this morning, I was again struck at how quickly the disciples left everything and followed Christ. His simple command of "follow me", got fishermen to drop their nets and tax collectors to close their money boxes. And really, the disciples knew very little about Jesus at this point.

They gave up their livelihoods and followed him without knowing who he really was; where they would be going; how they would get there; or what they were going to do.

They just followed. Lord, grant me that type of faith!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

today i saw...

I have managed to misplace my "Today I saw" picture when we switched computers. But, that didn't stop my eyes from happening upon this as my kids played near our home.

The bust of a Roman goddess wrapped in plastic...hiding in the China.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

My not so green thumb

It's time to try my hand at gardening again. I have issues with starting projects with much gusto and then loosing steam when maintenance time rolls around. I love nothing more than coming up with ideas and rallying people to get a project started. If I could just hire someone to actually finish the project, it would be perfect.

This little fault of character leads to being a bad gardener. I like to boast that I'm a truly organic farmer because I don't even intervene in the watering process. I let God water them, pull the weeds, AND till the soil. So very green of me, I think.

But, I'm trying it this time because I'm employing my kids to do the watering and upkeep. All in the name of home school! It's perfect. I can start it and visualize the salsa that will be consumed with the jalapenos I'm growing while the kids learn how the planting cycle works. Brilliant.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sweeping of the Tombs

Last week here, it was the “Sweeping of the Tombs Festival”. This happens every spring. Some city people will return to their hometowns to spend time with family and sacrifice to their ancestors. Other city dwellers will take the allotted two days off of work to head out to Shanghai or Beijing and spend their money on lovely touristy type things.

This year was interesting because we have moved further down South where they are much more outwardly religious than the Northeast. I am rubbing shoulders with monks on the buses and gazing at temples as I drop the kids off at school in the morning. Each family member is to purchase a paper replica of something that they think their ancestors could use in the afterlife. Then, they take these objects and burn them in a small bonfire on the side of a street or next to their loved one's grave site.

The most common things that people buy are paper copies of money, cars, new clothes or cell phones. Most of these things can be bought on the street or in any store. As you pass through the produce section, you can pick up your sacrifices to be offered after dinner. But this year, Steve Jobs made a splash in the shallow ancestor worship pond. People were stocking up on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 paper replicas. These are the latest and greatest generation of Apple products. The replicas came with a picture of the start-up screen and were selling out the second they hit the streets. Although, some people were concerned that their deceased great grandparents wouldn’t be able to operate such a modern gadget and so stuck with burning money instead. Others were disappointed that the newest generation was sold out and so settled with buying the first generation iPad. It would no doubt be offered with a sense of sorrow at the substandard offering.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Early Morning Times: Bringing Hope to Orphans During World War II

An exclusive interview with Zoli Galambos.

By: Selah

Today we are going to interview “Zoli Galambos”. First, of all I want ask you, I can just call you Zoli, right?

Zoli: That is OK with me.

Interviewer: So I understand that you are the headmaster of an orphanage in Hungary. And my first question is, “ What made you come to the orphanage in the first place?

Zoli: Well, I was pretty young when this happened, but I was kicked out of my home for my belief in Jesus. So I started to look for a job. And some old friends of mine called Mr. and Mrs. Toth offered the job as a headmaster at the orphanage that they owned. And of course I took the wonderful job.

Interviewer: Was there anybody you already knew there?

Zoli: Well, yes there was. There was Mr. and Mrs. Toth that I talked about a minute ago. And then there was a boy that was named Dani that I had known.

Interviewer: Now I also understand that there were only about 30 to 40 boys at the orphanage. So, how did the boys first act when you first came there?

Zoli: At first they wondered who I was, but that is normal. But, besides that they got used to me pretty quickly.

Interviewer: Was there anything you had to change about the boys?

Zoli: Well, yes there was. They had bad manners and habits. Like yelling and running and leaving stuff like chores for the women to do. It did take a little effort to fix.

Interviewer: Now when did you get to the orphanage?

Zoli: A couple of years before World War 2.

Interviewer: I know that during World War 2, the Russians attacked Hungary.
So did you escape or did you get captured?

Zoli: Actually, my wife, my own kids, Dani, and I escaped over the Austrian border. It took about 2 and a half months.

Interviewer: Wow, what an amazing story, Zoli.
Thank you for coming. If you want to find out more information about Zoli then read his book called “ Zoli’s Legacy”. Bye for now.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

West Lake Park

The kids were out of school for the Sweeping of the Tombs festival. Since they would be out of school on Monday and Tuesday, the schools all make up for it on Saturday and sometimes Sunday. American kids would love that, I'm just sure of it. But we had already planned a trip out to the park with DY, so we skipped Saturday class and headed out. I love Chinese parks.

Here's what we saw and did:

There's my little buddy doing what Chinese kids do best...marching.

We braved this little monorail contraption. DY wisely graciously decided to stay back and watch our stuff. I prayed multiple times that we would not go careening off the tracks and into the murky lake below. I had pictures of the police knocking on the door and telling my husband of his family's unfortunate death running through my mind the entire ride.

Ahh, the peaceful days at the playground. Apparently it was not just Saturday-go-to-school-to make-up-for-the-holiday day, but also field trip day.

We found a log ride that all the kids agreed upon riding. After being thrown into the logs, we fist pumped old Wang Ye (the god of fortune) as we coasted along.

This guy was overwhelmed with glee that we were in front of him in the walk-under-the-waterfall line.

My boys managed to scare every Chinese person over the age of 65 as they climbed every fake rock in the park.

We also stopped for a brief second to listen to the old people sing Beijing Opera. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds you would hear if there was a wild cat who is being swung around really it's tail...while in heat. It sounds a bit like that.

The flowers have started blooming and the green is beginning to pop through the soil.

It was a great day.
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