Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Capturing China in Pictures

These are pictures a friend took way out in Yunnan Province.  He is an incredible photographer.  You know how there are just some pictures that capture the spirit and struggle of others?  He has done that in all of his pictures that he's taken since being in country.  Check out his site for more incredible pictures.

Ugh, I wish I was smarter.  I couldn't get the larger picture to line up without it running over into my sidebar. The smaller one will have to do. 

He has spoken stories and listened to testimonies through these pictures.  I love them all. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grandparent Gush-Boys Edition

Here are my boys.

Kesed is 4. 

Malachi is 7.

I love these guys.

As a quick aside, my little buddy just lost his first tooth!  And then his mom accidentally threw it in the trash.  Good move, Mom.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Choice Limitations=Parenting Freedom

With 5 kids, there are a few things that we have discovered that provide sanity to our daily lives.  As of today, our kids are 9, 7, 5, 3 (4 next week) and 3.  5 kids under 10 can bring 100 gray hairs before 40.  BUT, it can also bring tons of fun, laughter and stories to tell at the wedding.

One of the most important for us is choice limitations.

There, I said it.

I am going to butt straight up against the American ideal of freedom and say that kids needs limits.  And I mean not just "don't touch the electrical socket or play with butcher knives"  type of limits.  I mean daily limits to even trivial choices.  Now, this will look different for my 9 year old than it will for my 3 year old.  As they get older, hopefully they can handle more freedom to choose by themselves.  But, if they haven't learned how to make choices as a toddler, than they certainly won't be able to make them as a teenager battling hormones and peer pressure.

This all started when my oldest daughter was 3.  Hubs told her to take off her shoes.  She refused.  My husband told her to stay in her room until she had taken off her shoes.  3 1/2 hours later, she was ready to  give in.  It was at this point that we realized we had taken a wrong path somewhere along the way.  We called for a huddle.  We did some reading and decided to start limiting her choices.  See, we had done like most typical Western parents do and had given our 3 year old tons of choices in her day.  So, when it came time for us to impose a limit on her, she decided that she didn't want to do it our way.  Why should she?  We had been giving her all these choices all day long.  For example:

1.  A kid gets up in the morning and I give them milk.  "But Mom, I want juice".  No big deal, I give them juice.

2.  I give them Cheerios.  "Mom, can I please have Fruit Loops?"  Because she asked so nicely, I give it to her.

3.  "Oh Mommy, I don't want the blue bowl, I want the orange one."

Do you see this pattern?  I know these all seem like such trivial things, but what I am telling my child is that they can dictate what they can and cannot have.  As a parent, I had also bought into the lie that giving my 3 year old tons of choices, it was teaching them independence and discernment.  The wrong thinking in this is that a 3 year old needs to be guided into what good thinking and independence really means.  This is usually the scene that follows a morning like I've laid out above:

1.  I tell my daughter to come here and put her lunch plate away.  Flailing and pouting will occur because she doesn't want to do it.  All of the sudden I am imposing a rule on her.  She has been her own boss all morning and all of the sudden I'm jumping in and taking over.

This can all happen so subtly that you don't even realize what's going on. All you know is that your kid is throwing fits every time they don't get what they want.

When hubs and I see that we are slacking in this area, we have to have a time of retraining for the kids and ourselves.  Honestly, training us as parents can be even harder than the kids.  For several days, we have to enact a choices boot camp.  We give them virtually no choices in their day.  I simply give them milk, Cheerios and the blue bowl.  If they don't like it, I just take it away.  Simple.  At first they argue, complain and cry. Eventually they realize that I'm in charge again and they fall in line.  At 3, they cannot differentiate between simple (what cup to choose) and moral choices (should I hit my sister).  We have to help them understand that they cannot simply do or get whatever their little hearts tell them.

After a few days of no choices whatsoever and a changed attitude, we slowly start introducing choices back into their day.  Maybe I let them pick juice or milk.  But those are the ONLY two choices.  No third option that they throw out.  And sometimes we just arbitrarily choice limit even our older ones, just to remind them that we are in charge here.

Choice limiting has radically changed our family.  They become more grateful when we say 'yes' and they find it easier to obey right away, all the way and with a joyful heart.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pretzels, Nachos and our Third Culture Kids

Selah is studying Tolstoy right now.  She and I read through his short folktale "Three Rolls and a Pretzel" yesterday, so we decided to invite a few friends over and make homemade pretzels.

  I casually overheard a great third culture kid conversation (those of you unfamiliar with that term, it is a term used to define a child who is living in a culture different from their parents.  They can't completely identify with their parent's culture (the US), but also aren't completely blended into their home culture (China), therefore creating a 3rd culture).  Anyway, here's how the conversation went:

L: I've never had pretzels like this.  When we visited America last year, we never had these kind.

A:  Ya, me neither.  (thinking hard for a minute)  But I have had nachos.

L: (also taking a second to think)  Ya, I've had nachos too.

I laughed so hard to myself hearing them relate these pretzels to nachos.  So random and yet so fitting for their lifestyles.

These really were great pretzels.  They taste pretty close to the ones you get in the mall to appease a crying child while you shop.  Here's the recipe:


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt


  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour.

***If you have a bread maker, just throw everything in and turn it on.

  1. Combine 2 cups warm water and baking soda in an 8 inch square pan. Line 6 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner. Twist into a pretzel shape, and dip into the baking soda solution. Place onto parchment covered baking sheets, and let rise 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt, garlic salt or cinnamon sugar.

It's a great recipe for little hands too.  And for mom's who get to take bites of  each child's pretzel and then tell herself that she didn't eat any.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Waving the Flag of My Life Overseas

I just realized that while all other Americans were reflecting deeply on the events of 9/11, I was blogging about a Rabbi and his homosexual matchmaking fallacies.  Nice, Carrie.  9/11 was huge.  It's still huge.  I think it's really important to reflect and reconsider.

The thing about living overseas is that the cultural waves that sweep through in America are missed.  I often forget what date it is, what American holiday is coming up, and how to appropriately use English contractions.  There is good and bad about jumping the cultural waves instead of getting bowled over by them.  For example, we own nothing with Justin Beiber or Hanna Montana's face plastered on it.  That's a win.  The loss is when you have important events that transform and impact you as a person.

That's all.  Just wanted to acknowledge the day....and my glaring immaturity on such an important American event.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Parenthood ain't no glue

I read this article a few days ago.  Here's the premise:  

"Rabbi Arele Harel offers an unconventional solution for Orthodox Jewish gay men who want to raise a conventional family: He fixes them up with Orthodox lesbians."

I'm not going to jump into the deep end of the theological pool and discuss homosexuality and Orthodoxy.  Ya, I know you were hoping for a little mid-rash on the subject, but you're not gonna get it here.  

He goes on to say:

"Harel contends that gay and lesbian partners learn to love each other once children arrive. 'Their love is based on parenthood. Parenthood is the glue and it's strong.' "

I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud and choked on my tongue when I read this sentence above.  They learn to love each other AFTER the children arrive comment.  Right....I'm sure it's the delirium of being up until 3 am with a colicky baby and the nursing mishaps that end up with milk being sprayed across the table, hitting your partner in the temple that makes for a wonderful get to know you session.  No, it must be the diaper blow outs that happen in the cereal isle or the cheerios stuck to your forehead while you walk into the bank.  Ahh yes, that must be it.  

I LOVE being a parent, but I'm not sure that pushing things out of my baby's constipated stomach with my spouse is going to make me fall deeply in love with him. And at least in a more traditional marriage, where say you actually like each other before the kids come, there was a bond and attraction that you could hold tight to when parenting becomes hard.  In this little set up arranged by the rabbi, I'm not sure the initial attraction is even there to begin with.

 Parenthood is only glue if you have established the connection before the kids arrive.  Otherwise, parenthood will merely be a fragile sealing of two broken people .  

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Path of Civility

As some of you know, we were visited by two patrol ladies last week to make sure we were being civilized.  They explained their mission and gave us fans.  On these fans gave 10 ways you can be a civilized human being.  

Check yourselves against these suggestions.  You just might be surprised at how non-civilized you've become.

1.  Don't just spit anywhere.

2.  Don't throw your fruit skins or paper scraps on the ground.

3.  Don't throw your trash away in a messy fashion.

4.  Don't destroy public property.

5.  Don't damage the grass.

6.  Don't run red lights.

7.  Don't put your vending carts all over the place.

8.  Don't paste advertisements anywhere and everywhere.

9.  Don't smoke in public places.

10.  If you are in the service industry (ie, waitresses or retail), you shouldn't say things like "I don't know!"  Or "Go ask someone else!"

On the back of the fans, they gave some advice about procreation.  Why not?

The procreation rules are as follows:

1.  Be free to love and marry whomever you want.

2.  Having a boyfriend/girlfriend too young is a bad idea.  Having a relationship once you are older and more mature is much better.

3.  Decide to have babies when you are not too old, but not too young.  And...decide to have less kids.  

4.  Having a boy and a girl are both good options.  Girls also have the right to exist and pass along the family name.

5.  The one child policy is the responsibility of the husband.

6.  Give babies good health; feed them well; and teach them well.  These things will help us have a quality population.  And...if you have too many kids, you can't care for them.

7.  Men and women are equal.  You should treat women with respect.

8.  Care about yourself and don't get an STD.

9.  Pursue a good quality of life.

10.  Have a healthy lifestyle and admire your family's morals. 

Just follow the advice of the fan and all will go well with you.  I think this is some famous Chinese proverb from somewhere. Actually, these things do give good cultural insights into what they deem as moral and civil.  This month is the civility competition month between various cities, thus the women on patrol and the policemen actually handing out tickets.

The ladies came once last week and again a few night ago.  So weird that they came twice.  I feel like we are the definition of civility.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sacrifices on Our Way to School

As I walked to my kids to school, I happened upon this.  It's a fairly common scene to see the remnants of a sacrifice offered the night before.  Noodles, fruit, and paper replicas are burned as a gift for the deceased family members in the afterlife. 

 Earlier this year, I wrote about how many people are now giving ipads to their ancestors.  I'm not sure what was burned here, but it breaks my heart every time to see the pile of offerings so hopefully given.  

Monday, September 05, 2011


A intense bag of cumin labeled "unwearied however effort powder"  

rehearsing a Justin Bieber dance with a friend.  I can now understand the fear of Western culture infiltration.

Hugs in their qi paos.  Not only should everyone hug, but everyone should wear a qipao at least once in your life.  It makes you feel dainty.  

A box full of August activities to pull from every morning

raw sewage peek out of its gopher hole every time I turned on the sink

homemade flower vases made from old coffee creamer and peanut butter jars

buzz lightyear, boats and one very satisfied 3 year old boy

tattoo fruit roll ups that you can lick and put in indiscrete places

And I'll leave you with this word of wisdom as we start the school year once again:

"Sweet Love Frequently Lisps"

The End.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Free ESV from Kindle

Amazon is offering a free version of the ESV for Kindle.

If you don't have it, go there and get it.  And in case you didn't know, you can download the Kindle app for your ipad or computer and read it just like a Kindle.
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