Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homeschool

Homeschool...where to begin with this one?  It has been a great thing and an overwhelming thing.  Teaching them also teaches me a lot, and I don't mean educationally.  I am learning a lot about character, theirs and mine.  I had homeschooled Eden in the States before, but this has been a whole different story.  Before we left for China, I had done a lot of thinking, debating, weighing the pro's and cons, and lifting up of which programs to choose for the kids.  I figured once I found which ones to use, that would be the end of the choices.  Wrong.  For Ephraim I chose Horizon's kindergarten, and for Eden ABeka, the accredited program where she has a teacher on DVD.  I knew that Ephraim would need help with reading and writing.  He's my active child who doesn't like to sit still, especially with any kind of writing tool.  Horizon's was easy to understand.  I used it to teach Eden how to read and write, and it went to the basics. I knew it would give him what he would need to know, without unnecessary extra writing.  I knew that Eden needed a program that would challenge her. She loves to read and write, even if she is watching a movie, she wants to write or create art at the same time.
I  also knew she struggled in math; it does not keep her attention.  I must confess that initially I pushed them too hard, feeling the pressure of starting late, and wanting them to finish every lesson.  With the move, we started the end of September.  I should have been easier with them with all the transitions they have been going through.  Once again, my children aren't the only ones that need grace.  So, we may skip a few review lessons, so that they can still have breaks occasionally.  With Ephraim, I have learned that he needs extra attention, and lots of words of affirmation with a good routine.  Impatience with him doesn't do either of us any good, even when he pretends not to know something.  Our good days of him getting done in a timely manner are, thankfully, getting more frequent.  There are still bad days where, no matter how encouraging I am, and how simple it is, things don't go well.  With Eden's program she started initially with a class in His Word with stories, songs and memorization.  Ephraim loved it, and joined in for that part.  I have learned to put that at the end of the day.  They are always ready to take part in that, but if I start with it, their attention is gone to do other work afterwards.  I have realized that a dvd program would be great for him next year because he learns a lot by hearing Eden's even when he is doing his own work and not watching.  I changed Eden's routine to starting with math, so her initial attention would be with that.  She did not want to participate with her video class in doing arithmetic combinations out loud.  I can't blame her, but I have started rewinding her dvd, and making her do it over if she doesn't participate in that.  Her math has improved with those changes.  She is currently learning addition and subtraction combinations for the number 7.
I have shortened her seat work, because she is very good at writing, and some of it truly is "busy" work.  I have also decided not to send in her work for the accredited program because I have been reminded of her perfectionism.  She truly is her own worst critic.  When learning a new cursive letter, if she didn't do it write the first time, she would cry, being hard on herself.  I can see that she is doing well in that area, and, at this time, I don't feel she needs to be critiqued.  She needs encouragement that no one is perfect, and she doesn't have to be either. I have also learned, sometimes the hard way, that our  relationship is more important, than pressuring them to do something they will eventually get to.  They are bright and teachable, and they will learn.  My moments of frustration and impatience can be damaging to our relationship, and so not worth it.   My mom is my best friend, and I desire close relationships with my children always.
Homeschool has its' disadvantages and advantages.  Certain things they might learn better from someone else, but it also gives them more one on one time.  They are learning to be flexible, and we are all learning to priorities.  If they do well, and get 5 days worth of stickers on their card, they can get something from the treasure box or draw a paper, which includes prizes like living room slumber parties or a day off school!  They can work at their desk, table, or couch with the lap desk.  Also, we have a great coop here.  Other than their scholastic education, I have to say that my kids are learning so much in other areas.  They have had incredible "field trips": the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Changchun museum.  They participate in Taekwondo.  They are slowly learning some Chinese.  Eden babbles Chinese sounds in her room to herself all the time.  I can't help but smile.  They get to go to coop, where our lessons are currently about Africa.  And they have other opportunities like: climbing trees, riding the bus and light rail, taking the trash out by themselves, taking dinner to our teammate together without an adult, doing the dishes, creating banners, carrying the groceries, and helping with their baby brother.  Overall, I trust and believe that this time is precious and good for them.

Showers of blessing:
More insight into the hearts and minds of my children
A great coop with other like-minded families
Cool, historic places to learn from
Flexible children who are patient with overcrowded buses, cold walks, and constant changes
Opportunities for character growth for all of us
Ephraim doing better with writing, and more "good" days
Eden learning cursive and doing better with math
Xavier getting to have his brother and sister all day long
A Father who hears my concerns, and gives me grace and wisdom

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shoveling Snow and Student Dinner Take Two

This past Wednesday, we had our second round of dinners with Jacob's students.  He has five classes.  Four groups of sophomores, and one group of adult professionals who are basically auditing it for conversation proficiency.  Jacob told me a day or two before that he felt led to help this class shovel snow.  All students are required to shovel snow for a certain amount of time.  So, that day he told them he wanted to help them, and asked them to text him when they would be out shoveling.  After lunch, he headed to office hours, and had not heard from his students.  He went out to check, and found them shoveling without him.  Much to his students' surprise, he and Ephraim grabbed shovels, and started helping.  He had taken Ephraim with him to encourage a servant's heart in him, and have fun doing it. 
They succeeded!  Ephraim did help, but when someone came along that needed his shovel, he got to run around and play too.  After they returned, I headed out to grab items for the party.  I was concerned about crossing the street because traffic was so backed up, that I almost backtracked to go somewhere else.  I knew, however, that they would not have the items I needed.  So I plowed through, dragging my grocery cart behind.  I was able to find what I needed except for plastic spoons, so beans and cornbread eaten with chopsticks it would be!  I started to head back, and traffic was still the same, but this time my cart was full, with a rice bag, filled to the brim with inside shoes, piled on top of it.  There was no stoplight, stop sign, or pedestrian crossing in this area, so when this happens, I usually try to follow someone.  Sometimes, you wind up crossing one lane at a time, standing on the line, while cars cross in front of and behind you.  This is how it was going, only I had a bulky load with me.  At one point I thought I was going to be crushed when a car brazenly pushed through, smashing and scraping my rice bag in the process.  I finally made it across, and dragged my cart through the snow till I reached home.  Whew!  I was in the kitchen when the students arrived, and they were much quieter than the last crew.  This time they brought us oranges, bananas, honey melon, pomelo, and dragon fruit.  Another girl, M, gave me hand cream, and chocolates for the kids.  Some of them took a tour of our apartment and oooohed and awwwwed over our children, while a few of them helped me prepare fried potatoes in the kitchen.  
They were a more introverted group.  I talked mainly to just a few of them that night, but our conversations were more meaningful.  I was able to speak more openly and freely, and they had deeper questions.  They were very curious about how we celebrate Christmas.  One of them basically said that she knew Americans celebrated it, and that it was fun, but she wasn't sure what it was about.  Sadly, this is very common.  I got to explain a little, but there were so many other questions too.  There was a student named Elijah.  I asked him if he knew they story of Elijah.  
He said, "No, I don't know the story, but I know about Vampire Diaries."  I'm assuming there's a character named Elijah on there.  Sad.  After he left the kitchen, the topic turned to body image, as it often does in a group of girls.  One girl that night, M, did not even eat anything I served.  She only ate orages stating that she was concerned about putting on winter weight.  Her English was exceptional, the best that I had heard.  One girl, C, asked Jacob why we had the Word printed on cards around our house.  There were also some humorous moments.  C asked me if the people in the big cities and the small towns in America spoke the same language?  Did we have different dialects?  I had to stifle a giggle, even though the question was a reasonable one.   Two of them, M and C, gave me their phone number so that I could call them if I needed help with anything.  When it was over, I was thankful to have made some connections, and have some direction.

Showers of Blessing:
Husband with a servant's heart
Ephraim having a great attitude about shoveling snow
New fruit to try (honey melon)
Meaningful coversation
Making new connections

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Date Night

We are blessed to be in a city with so many families, and they have organized a date night once a month.  Two girls come to our home and watch our kids for about three hours, so we can get away just the two of us.  Both times we have gone out to eat hot pot, a short walking distance away.  I'll admit I was skeptical at first, but we loved it so much, we had to do it again the second time.  It's something we have only had without the kids, because I am too scared they will get burned, so we are looking forward to it again our next date night.  They bring you a pot of hot boiling broth, and light the flame to keep it boiling.  You choose meat, veggies, and noodles to cook.  Then, you go to a nearby table and pick different sauces and toppings to dip them in.  It reminds me a lot of fondue.  
Our second date night, we had noodles, with beef, some kind of sausage that we wound up not eating, eggs, sweet potato, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, and some other type of greens.  The sesame sauce is Amazing!  I add to it some type of dark salty sauce, crushed peanuts, garlic, ginger, green onions, and cilantro.  Jacob likes his extra spicy.  We have date tea to go with it (made from dates, hehe :).  It's a lot like sweet tea, but hot with chunks of dates.  After our second date, since we were now experts, we had time to walk to our favorite coffee shop.  Jacob had left his wedding ring in the states, so we purchased a very inexpensive silver one for him, and enjoyed a silly moment of getting "remarried."  When it was all over, we came home to a fussy teething baby and our other two watching StarWars.  Looking forward to our next date night.

Showers of Blessing: 
Wonderful people who organize date night!
Having my Sweetie all to myself
Yummy hot pot
New wedding ring for Jacob
Finding cranberry sauce to go with our Thanksgiving meal next week
Our teammate flew to Hong Kong for knee surgery, and it went smoothly
          


                             
              

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Last week was the start of Changchun looking like a winter wonderland.  When we headed off to our weekly get together on Saturday, the city was dry and cold like in this first picture, but daylight.  When we left two hours later, it looked like the second picture.  None of us were quite prepared for this despite our high tech weather apps that are available now.  We were crossing traffic with the wind blowing heavily.  Jacob had a hold of Eden and Ephraim, while I was trying to cover Xavier's face with my scarf.  By the time we got to our next destination, our hands were close to numb, except for the kids who had their mittens.  After a bite to eat, we piled in a van with a family of seven, putting six kids in the back seat meant to hold only three.  
We were quite a site.  I was so grateful Xavier stayed asleep because he rarely takes that long of a nap.  Since then, the snow has been white, pretty, and fun to play in.  We are told by friends who have been here longer to enjoy it because it will soon be all different shades, and this same snow will still be here till April! At least we are guaranteed a white Christmas.  Hoping to get a family picture before it gets too discolored.  Falling is common in the winter here, so please lift us up, especially when carrying Xavier.

Showers of Blessing:
Warm apartment with the cold outside
Kids having fun in the snow
Cute Chinese snowmen
Get to have a white Christmas!
Kids who make the best of crowded situations
Stocked up on hot chocolate thanks to my Mom
Thermals arrived from our sweet laidies' class back home, even one's for Xavier, which I didn't think 
existed


Notice the antlers they added to the statue for the holidays



Ephraim

Jacob making snow bricks for an igloo that were completely covered up the next day

View of our "backyard" 
Outside our apartment door
Looking out our living room window

Chinese snowmen

coal burning plant



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fall, hair cuts, bread and catch up

There are a few things I've been meaning to catch up on in the last month.  For starters, Xavier turned 9 months.  He is growing so big, and can say "Mama, Ada, and Bubba."  He is pulling up on things and standing all the time.  He studies things carefully before taking action, and he likes to do things himself, like trying to drink a cup of water by himself, not wanting me to help him.  Ephraim loves math, and pretty much can do his math homeschool pages by himself.  He is slowly learning to read, and is not a fan of writing.  He loves practicing ninja moves, and has a varying palate.  Some days he likes cheese, others he can't stand it.
Eden, on the other hand, despised math initially, but is doing well now.  She is writing in cursive, and is drawing masterpieces with the set of colored pencils that I found her.  She seems to be the one in the family who takes the brunt of food born illness, having been sick a few times since being here.  Ephraim has the immune system of a rock; nothing phases him.  I suspect it has to do with the fact that I used to find him eating anything off the floor.
watching cartoons with
puke bowl nearby
     We know there are and will be a lot of changes for our family, but this first year, especially, we want to make things as familiar as possible for our kids.  So, when those in our org in our city decided to hold a fall fest for the kids, we were very excited.  In the states we would have attended our annual trunk or treat at our fellowship, so the kids were thrilled.  I had brought Eden's rapunzel dress and Ephraim's pirate costume with us to give them some imaginative play.
I thought they would choose those costumes, but I wanted them to have freedom and creativity.  Ephraim wanted to be Luke Skywalker.  I suggested his taekwodo outfit, but he preferred his Lego Starwars shirt to go with his hand-me-down lightsaber.  Eden announced she wanted to be Wonder Woman because that was Miss Monica's, my friend, favorite superhero.  Having never seen Wonder Woman, she didn't have any expectations of what to wear, so she put on her pink cape, made with love by Sarinda, another friend, two different bows in her hair, and asked for face paint.  I borrowed the face paint, and printed an LS on Ephraim and a tiara and W on Eden.  Then they were off with Daddy and some friends, toting their pumpkins to paint.  They came home with candy, painted pumpkins that never dried, and huge smiles after bobbing for apples, throwing balls in buckets, and other various games.  Success! So thankful to have other families here who know the importance of investing in our children.  Oh, and Xavier was not left out.  My Aunt sent him a bear costume in the mail that we could not button the top button on.  So we took some pictures, and then wrestled him out of it.  
     We also experienced some more firsts here in China.  Our first hair cuts!  I went with a teammate to get mine done, bringing Xavier along, and he was a big hit.  Everyone took turns holding him, but this guy seemed to enjoy it the most.  It was so precious, and a bittersweet reminder that every encounter I have here makes me concerned over their souls.  Jacob's haircut and mine were successful, but Ephraim came home with a bald spot in the front of his head and patches everywhere.  Jacob had to fix it up with his beard trimmer.  Another first for me  was that I got to make unleavened bread.  I love to bake, and felt honored and unworthy to make it, yet so grateful for the opportunity.
                                                                                                 

Showers of Blessing:
Fun baby babble
Ephraim doing math on his own
Eden doing better in math
Fall fest for kids
My kids have great imaginations!
Cute chunky baby too big for his costume
Friends who help us navigate life here
New opportunities

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dinner for 20 +

Jacob and I have been trying to come up with ideas of how to get to know his students better.  Someone gave us the idea of trying to have everyone in his class over to our home by the end of the first semester, so that we could get to know some of them more deeply the next semester.  So, we went with it, and Wednesday night we had 20 students from his second class over to our apartment for dinner.  We were a little nervous, very excited, and maybe a little crazy, but we had a blast.  So, how does one prepare dinner for 20 students and your family in China?


We thought we would go with Mexicanish food.  The night before, I soaked pinto beans in the crockpot.  The kids did homeschool that morning, and a friend helped watch Xavier while I hand chopped ingredients for fresh salsa, and fried tortilla chips made from corn tortillas that we bought at the western store.  Later, I hand grated cheese (one block mozzarella, the other white cheddar because we can't tell the difference on the packaging) bought at another store.  I baked two loaves each of pumpkin and banana bread.  I cooked spanish rice in the rice cooker, then fried it in the wok, and individually heated each frozen flour tortilla.  Then, voila!  The meal was ready.

Ephraim and Eden were excited about playing games with the students.  Eden prepared a banner to welcome them, and drew pictures of each student on a piece of paper from the notecards we have with their pictures stapled to them.  We talked to Father about our evening, and put music on.  Another family loaned us inside shoes since we only have about 5 pairs.  Then, they arrived, bringing gifts of fruit including, pomelo, apples, oranges, bananas, and roasted chestnuts!  I had never had them before, and they were delicious!  We showed them around our home, and they crowded around Eden and Ephraim, whom I couldn't see at one point because of the sea of people.

I quickly told the kids they could go in my room and close the door if they needed to escape from all the attention at any piont.  They never did.  It blesses my heart to see Father use my children to be a light, and to see my children enjoying our Chinese students.  They were fascinated by the food, especially the breads.  They asked to hear how Jacob and I met.  Xavier got held a lot, which most of the time he didn't mind.  The highlight of the evening was when they played games with the kids.  Eden enjoyed teaching them Uno, Operation, and drawing pictures for them, and Ephraim enjoyed teaching them Crazy 8s and Candyland.  Ephraim was the life of the party, of course, and Candyland was the biggest hit, surprise!
Jacob held Xavier, and interacted in the games, while I sat at the table, and got to know some of the girls.  Some of the things they said were as follows:  "Are your children not afraid of strangers?" "I want to marry a foreigner so I can have a cute baby like Xavier," "How old were you when you married.  Ah, I think it is good now to marry when you are young," "I like to travel," "I like to watch American TV like the Big Bang Theory and Vampire Diaries."  Can you tell most of them are girls?  There are only 3 guys in this class of 22 students.  Many of them get their perspecitive of Americans from the TV shows they watch.


One student told me at a separate event that they thought all Americans were promiscuous till they met another teacher and us.  To many of them, we are the only foreigners they have come in contact with.  Many of them remarked that night with giddy smiles on how much Jacob loved me from hearing him talk about me in class.  The girls were talking about finding boyfriends, and they would discuss who was pretty, and therefore they would have one.  I had gone to the bedroom with Xavier for a few minutes.  Jacob was in midconversation, and, all at once, they announced it was time to go.  The kids called goodnight to them from the window upstairs as they left.
Overall, we all had a wonderful time.  The kids said they wanted to do this every night!  My thought afterwards was how all of them were so endearing, and I'm going to need wisdom in knowing where to invest the most.  When they left, Jacob and I were beaming, and talked about it late into the night.  This time really blessed us, and we look forward to the next class next week.


Showers of Blessings:
Children eager to interact with students
Don't have to buy fruit this week!
Chestnuts for the first time
The teacher who went before us with this class, she is a blessing and a seed planter
New friendships and potential
Eden's "WELCOME STUDENTS" Banner

Sea of Shoes!
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire!
Party's Over!