Thursday, September 27, 2012

China Pinterest: Lighting

Before we get down to business, don't forget to enter the Noonday Collection Giveaway here. All the cool kids are doin' it. Promise. Giveaway ends Sept. 30th. Don't people in the States start Christmas shopping about now? 

Several weeks ago I brought to you, China Pinterest. My new motto is "Don't ask why, just be ok with it." I don't know the other Pinterest's motto. I'm sure it's something about "Pin it now, convince yourself you'll do it later."

Today we're talking lighting. It's the thing that pushes back the shadows of our lives. Light is a universal need by all of humanity. 


Here you can see the faint crinkle of thick scotch tape. When your lamp has been pummeled with soccer balls and bouncy red horses, it no longer stands upright. Take a light weight tape and adhere the lamp to your wall. Voila! A perfectly straight lamp. 

Ikea will be jealous they didn't think of this first. Track lighting. When T-Rex finds himself being man handled by My Little Ponies, things can get out of hand. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes Mr. T Rex goes flying across the room and punctures your perfectly upright lamp. 

This now allows you to have track lighting down your hallway. This lamp has now been promoted to: Multi-Directional Lighting.

In China the more colors and metals you can represent in your lighting, the better. This classic 1980-tattoo inspired light hangs purposelessly over our bookshelf. Dangling down are streams of teardrop shaped fake crystals. Just in case I ever lose an earring on top of the bookshelf or am found wandering aimlessly in the middle of the night longing to play a quick game of Risk. 

If you don't actually want to use your living room lights, be sure to stretch a thick tan canvas over that light.  You can try and turn the light on but it will be in vain. No lightbulb can penetrate the force of faux animal skin. Just leave it off and leave the faux animal pelts for high heels and gaudy handbags.

Whew, what a money saver!

This is the living room light in my friend's house. It's a multi-functional reading/rave light. On crazy Wednesday nights, I can look through my window and see them homeschooling by the soft turning light of that disco ball. Just keepin' things classy. 

 I'm so thankful for this electrical outlet place subtly above the toilet and towel rack. Just in case I ever need to charge my computer while going to the bathroom. This is an amazing time saver. 

You can teach the kids how electricity works as you pick something plastic, NOT metal, to help dislodge this cord. All of the sudden this frustrating electrical plug has become a science manipulative. 

When they install outlets here, oftentimes they just drill holes and hope for the best. This leads to things like this. They tried once to put this lighting in, but the wires didn't reach. Take two. This is helpful to show my kids, "If at first you don't succeed...try, try again." Lighting AND a moral. Perfect. 

Suggestions on what to tackle next?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Noonday Collection Giveaway-We're talking futures today!

I'm pumped about this giveaway! Whenever you can purchase something and also be a part of bringing justice and hope to people, I consider it a win-win. My good friend, Jamie, has been a part of Noonday Collection for awhile and I asked her to share a little and then we'll be giving away this bracelet:

Hi everyone! I’m so excited that Carrie has opened up her blog to share about Noonday Collection, an amazing company that sells jewelry, accessories, and home goods all handmade by women around the world who are working their way out of poverty. Noonday Collection was started by Jessica Honegger a few years ago as a fundraiser for the adoption of her son from Rwanda and has turned into a thriving “not-just-for-profit” business that is changing the lives of women across the globe. 

This business model is revolutionary, because it acknowledges the fact that companies do not have to choose between making money and helping others. You can do both and still be successful! These women are breaking the cycle of poverty in their lives--not through a hand out, but through an opportunity to bring their goods to the global marketplace and sell them for a fair price. 

I found out about Noonday Collection about two years ago when I was invited to attend a trunk show that was being hosted to benefit a friend’s adoption. (Hostesses of trunk shows can choose between receiving 10% of the profits from their show in merchandise or in cash to go towards their own or a friend’s adoption costs.) As a huge proponent of the fair trade industry, I was thrilled that buying these beautiful pieces was actually a way that I could help women in developing countries and contribute to my friend’s adoption. 

By purchasing these gorgeous necklaces, earrings, scarves, and purses (and much more!) you have the opportunity to stand behind these women and support them in their endeavor to change their lives for the better. In fact, the name “Noonday Collection” was taken from Isaiah 58:10 which says “when you satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your night will shine like the noonday.” The oppression of poverty, injustice, and hopelessness is crushing, but these women are feeling the warmth of that noonday sun on their faces as we purchase the items that they lovingly craft.And lest you think you have to compromise your sense of style by buying from Noonday, check out the fall line that just came out. Gorgeous, fashion-forward pieces that go with absolutely everything! The buyers at Noonday Collection choose the very best—a balanced offering of trendy and classic. There is something for every style so take a minute to browse the website and pick out your favorites! I hope you’ll join me in this opportunity to look good while doing good! 

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My personal link to the noonday site is

Ok, so here are the details of the giveaway:

I love that Noonday Collection is giving these women hope in their future. With that in mind, leave a comment here to enter. I want to hear about what you wanted to be when you grow up. I'll start.

I wanted to be a cashier at Eckerd's Drugstore. Pretty sure I was enamored with the cash register. It made my parents overwhelmingly proud to be raising such an overachiever.

It's your turn. Just comment below on what you wanted to be when you grow up and why. The winner will be picked at random and will receive the bracelet pictured at the top. For my overseas friends, you can enter and then I'll have it sent to a stateside address. Or if you win and want it sent to someone as a gift, we can do that too.

Ready, set, go! The giveaway will end on Sept. 30 (midnight EST), because that's my birthday and it will make the number 36 feel not so heavy if I am focused on giving something to someone else. Let's just call this "avoiding the inevitable."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Cake of Discomfort

When you put things like this on Facebook, God sees. God sees the whole thing. Sometimes I think He then cracks His knuckles, smirks at the angels in the outfield, and lobs one over the plate for me to take a swing at.

Here was my post the other morning:

We should make decisions for our kids' good, not their comfort. (And come to find out, not for OUR comfort either.)

I spent the morning asking reading comprehension questions to Selah while trying to make a birthday cake for Kesed. He turned 5 this week. I think some crack fell into my coffee because I decided to do a layered cake with all these different colors and sprinkles and frosting and pride. Selah and I ended up piecing the blasted cake together because certainly I can't just take a cake out of the pan and it actually stay together. That's what frosting is for. To hide the imperfections. Frosting does the exact opposite to the imperfections on my thighs.

Cake is finished and waiting for my son to see it and utter his praises upon my creation and probably promise to name his first child after me.

This is an enormous cake because we were supposed to bring it to his school the next morning to share with his classmates. There are 35 kids in his class. Upon seeing the cake his first words were, "I wanted a circle cake."

Breathe, breathe, get husband so that you don't punch a hole through your concrete wall.

We sat him down and talked to him about being grateful. We talked to him to make sure he understood that this cake included lots of the things he said he wanted on his cake.

Crying, he eeks out, "But Mommy I wanted a circle cake."

Trying to be a good mom, my inner monologue cowers out in song. I sing things like: "I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner. Da da da daaa, da da da daaa."

After one more good talking to, he still says he wants a circle cake. Stubbornness is one of the lovely spiritual gifts doled out to this child in the creation line. We knew what we had to do. He had to lose the cake. We told him that we weren't going to bring the cake to school and have a party with his friends the next day.

This was really hard for me. I had spent a lot of time on it. The cake was huge and I knew lots would go to waste even if we shared it with friends. Here's where the "this is for his good, not his comfort (or mine)" part comes in. I was reminded that I need to be more concerned with his heart's condition, not a cake. He needs to know that to be discontent about a cake is not ok. He needs to know that he can't control every living creature that dares to cross his path.

He had a cakeless birthday celebration at school, which is pretty much the only thing they do to celebrate that student's cake. I had to explain to the teacher why he had no cake when I told her the day before I would bring one by at 9:30. She did not understand because we live in a place where the kids get whatever they want. All.the.time. While the statement hurt, it is still true:

We should make decisions for our kids' good, not their comfort.

(As an epilogue to this wonderful moment, he later told me very calmly that next year...he would like to have a circle cake.)

Lord help us as parents.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Our Kids go to Chinese School

I get this question a lot. Right now 4 of our kids go to National Chinese school everyday for half a day. My oldest daughter is now doing 6th grade work in homeschool and we just need more time, so this is her first semester not in National school.

For our family, letting our children go to National school has been the hardest, best decision we've made while living here. I just registered Charis two weeks ago and it's required multiple trips to photocopy something, get a form stamped, or jump through some hoop. Last year, the principal asked me for 10,000 kuai and a new laptop computer. (To which I kindly told her 'no'.)

If you didn't buy a house in a certain apartment complex or your id (hukou) is from a different city, you can't go to school for free. If that is your situation, after everyone is registered you have to show up on the "bribe the school day," and give the school a little donation so that your child can attend school. The system is really complicated, but that's it in a nutshell. We live close by and we work really hard to convince them to let us attend.

I unpackage this much more in my book, but Chinese education can be summarized by these points:

1. Motivate through fear and intimidation.

2. Memorize as much as possible.

3. Comparison will make you a better student.

4. Your teacher acts as your parent, and is therefore responsible for all moral upbringing.

5. Perfection in your handwriting is a perfection in your character.

6. Your entire schooling career culminates in a test your senior year (the gaokao). Nothing else really matters.

Take these for what they are worth. There are some strong points in their education, memorization being a big one.

Here are the reasons we send them to National school:

1. It gives them a place of influence and to serve.

2. They meet friends. After the age of 5, Chinese kids pretty much study, play piano, take extra classes, and study some more. They do very little playing. If you've read Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, you already know that. I wrote a little about that here.

3. They can learn language naturally. This is huge to help them feel at home.

4. It gives us a chance to rub shoulders with other families.

5. It helps us not feel so foreign and gives us different insights into the culture.

Sending them to National school is not easy. We have to do a lot of communicating about what they are learning and process the things that we don't agree with in that type of education system. But it's given them a heart to understand the Chinese way of thinking. It's given them space in their hearts to sympathize and understand their neighbors. If they did not have good language skills, their lives would feel very isolated. Their community would be small and they would struggle to feel at home.

National school has been a blessing in many ways for our family. I am grateful that my kids were able to start young and attend Chinese school for many years, therefore making it very normal for them.

I know that not everyone can send their kids to Chinese school, but for our family it has been a test of faith and a lesson in joy. And the bottom line is that we have to be less concerned with their comfort and more concerned with their good.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Homeschool Helps and when all else fails...Michael Jackson

*Simple Homeschool has a great post titled, "What about me: On taking care of yourself as a homeschooling mom."

And no...sitting on the toilet for 5 minutes playing Words with Friends is not considered taking care of yourself. (Now add coffee and some junior mints to that equation and you might have an argument.) 

She writes:

I was ready to quit.
I originally chose to homeschool because I thought it was absolutely the best decision for my kids. I wanted them to have the excellent education, individualized curriculum, and flexible schedule that homeschooling could provide.

*At my Carrie Anne Hudson page, some brilliant women posted dozens of ideas on keeping the littles occupied while you try and teach your older ones. Head over there and breathe in the lifeline. I'm going to start posting more community questions over there. It takes a village, we've got a village, we need a village, we are lost and sometimes are searching high and low for a village that knows what the heck is going on.

*This was a really funny list about big families. 

*Last night, we spent an embarrassing amount of time rockin' out  showing the kids You Tube videos of Michael Jackson. Can I tell you the amount of money my poor mother spent on me buying Michael Jackson books, stickers, posters, and fan books from those Troll book orders in 4th grade? A majority of my free time as a kid could be summarized in doing cartwheels, listening to Michael Jackson, and eating sourdough bread dipped in A1 sauce. 
And now you know. 
Have a great week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The change of plans and translating ( camp 2 )

Hey- I'm back.

         I have just recovered from that two week camp and I actually don't go to bed at 7:00pm anymore. Anyway, as I said in the last blog Drinking sodas and making friends (1),  I (Selah) was just going to head home at graduation night because the whole gang would be there anyway and it would be a lot more convenient. Well, the director came up to us and said "Hey, we are going to take the americans touring around the city and we don't have any translators. Can Selah stay for about 3 more days?" Well this was a shock!
         So with a happy heart I said farewell to my family and stayed for three more days. We went to the panda world. ( Don't ever go there unless you want to be eaten alive by bugs or get teared up. It was horrible.) And we went to  the mountain where Watchman Nee lived and had training centers at. A shepherd at every landmark up there would make a 10-15 minute speech about the place we were at and more about Watchman Nee's life.
          The first time he made that speech, he finished the first sentence and turned to me, expecting something. I thought "What?"  Then the director that was with us said,"Oh you are translating!" So he would say something and I would translate. PHEW! It was tiring.

                                        These pictures below are the ones taken at graduation.

                                 A buddy and one of the girls from the orphanage.(far right.)

                                                        Doing the hokey pokey

                                                                  Trying to corral.

                                           Foreign  teachers going to the front and blushing.

      Through all those tears and laughter I had one of the best 2 weeks of my life. I learned that my opinion of normal will be different than a lot of people.  Like eating chicken claws; normal. Having porridge for breakfast instead of instant oatmeal; normal.....

       I am glad I got to serve in this special way and I hope I will be able to do it again.
再见 ( good bye)


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Favorite Apps for Elementary School Age and Younger

I'm pretty smitten with the whole app thing. I am generally pretty wary of technology and children. I have nightmares of my sons being buried under piles of dirty underwear, hunched over like Mr. Hyde, consumed in dungeons and dragons, and eating Captain Crunch for dinner. But I think the time has come to redeem technology and introduce our kids to fun, educational games that can make you smarter, not hermitier. No, there's no app for words I choose to make up.

Today over at my Carrie Anne Hudson Facebook page, we're collecting and sharing our favorite apps for elementary school age and younger. Have a favorite? See what others are saying.

I did a post awhile back and a few of our family favorites are here.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hong Kong and Wearing my Daughter's Bathing Suit

Accidentally grabbing my 10-year old's bathing suit instead of mine, Charis and I headed out the door for a few days in Hong Kong. 

 She was getting tested for ADHD. She is the last kid in our little clan that we see symptoms. It's nice to get more help and tools to breathe life into this sweet girl. China doesn't do much in terms of mental health so we had to travel to see a specialist. I was also needing to get a few spots checked out by a dermatologist. 

I did Hong Kong in a more ghetto fashion this time. I found this apartment online to rent out for a few days. Hotels there cost a million dollars and naming rights to your next child. This little apartment was pretty cheap. A bit shady and maybe even illegal, I'm not sure. Anyway, here's the spacious bathroom in which I had to step into the doorway and turn sideways in order to pull up my pants. I just might have sat on that toilet, showered, and brushed my teeth at the same time. If only all of life could be that efficient.

This child of mine takes no normal pictures. We found this incredible 3-story bookstore with lots of English books called Eslite. Our time in Hong Kong can be defined by doctors and this bookstore. Whenever I go to Hong Kong it makes me want to shop, wear make-up, and listen to Sting. I don't even like shopping or make-up. 

These people move through the subway system like worker bees. Everyone has a certain path and they buzz along it with earphones and random electronic devices tucked snuggly in their neatly pleated work pants. 

This is rush hour traffic in Hong Kong. But I will say, the mere fact that people stand in line there makes rush hour bearable. 

We went swimming at Kowloon Park one afternoon. This is an incredible pool. It even had a diving board where the Olympics simply got the best of me. I decided that my 35-year old body could still do flips off the diving board. I seriously almost pulled a hamstring doing a pike dive. Those visions of me wiping down up there on the diving board and throwing the shammy down to the ground like an Olympic diver were indeed just visions and not my reality. 

I do not in fact have a picture of me wearing my 10-year old's bathing suit. I'm sure it reinforced the American stereotype of inappropriate skin oozing out of inappropriate places. Ah well. 

Thankful to be home. Thankful to have spent time with my girl. 

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