Saturday, January 31, 2009

I love my calendar girls!

I told the girls to take today's photo and they wanted to show off their calendars LOL! Every year after the calendars get marked down I let them choose one - Jing got the Beagles, Lily Planet Earth. Jing's turn out to be a sort of diary - she writes quite a lot on them, and it has come in handy when we forget a particular day something happened - we just check Jing's calendar!

I had to snap these cute cards the girls made our friends. Jing drew the fabulous dragon and Lily made the other one. I thought it was very clever that Lily used half of one of the little paper parasols as a fan!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Okay, Marleen tagged me and the idea is to post the sixth photo in my sixth folder. This is the girls at the Pumpkin Patch in October 2004. My goodness, look at little Jing! She was past 7-1/2 but wearing a 4/5 at the time. Fun to look back but it tugs at my heart too for many reasons.
Forgive me for not continuing the tag but I am working and I think much of the CDS gang has already been tagged by now!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy New Year!

Lily always decorates her dresser top for the current season/holiday. She wanted me to see her assemblage for CNY today. The green box holds their Starlite Mints. She is not a doll person but she spent her own money to buy the Chinese Barbie. I am so happy the girls are both so proud of their Chinese heritage. I have promised them I will do my best to get them to the High Museum of Art to see the Terra Cotta Warriors before they leave this April. Hoping for one good eye by then and that I can see to drive with it! After these last few months stuck at home, they deserve a very special treat!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hong bao

Well, always a day late and several dollars short, I made the girls Spring Festival cards today and gave them hong bao with some dollars. They were tickled and Lily informed me she put her last year's hong bao in a time capsule she is making. But they dragged out Jing's, rumpled from wear, and declared they used it as a mat for their plastic animals sometimes, when they were eating. This year's hong bao? Lily stated matter-of-factly they would make great sleeping bags for the plastic animals! Couldn't have thought of a better repurpose than that!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A good education

Just a picture of some of our schoolbooks laid out for the day. I try to provide quality textbooks and it is quite a decision each year as there are SO many different curriculums to choose from. Some things I have bought only to return or re-sell on ebay as I was not satisfied, and in the early years we sometimes went through many different things before we found what worked, particularly with an ESL student struggling to comprehend this strange new written and spoken language.

Sometimes I feel inadequate and worry they are not getting enough. Most days I feel so thankful at what they DO get, because the most valuable things they learn are not in the textbooks. Our main curriculum is life itself and the exploring we do on our own outside the workbooks and texts. Most of what they learn and retain is what they seek out out on their own, the knowledge that comes from the desires of their hearts. For me, it is imperative that they have time to dream and the freedom to explore and act out and cultivate their ideas,

One week we read a vintage mystery set in San Francisco. The children in the book went to Coit Tower, rode streetcars, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, went to Chinatown. We googled all those things, read about them, printed out photos of them. On our next library visit the girls sought out books about San Francisco and asked to check them out. We read the history of Chinatown SF and Chinese coming to America to work on the railroads and some of the injustices and prejudice they suffered. They were fascinated with the most crookedy road in the country. The children in the book were a blended family, so we talked extensively about this and the many different ways families come to be.

Lily was beyond thrilled when the book she played a part in and had her photo in was set in San Francisco, and we revisited many of the same places when we read it. To this day, San Francisco is special to them, and they will never forget the basic flavors of that place. And none of it came from a textbook and there was no quiz. Information freely learned is the sweetest and richest knowledge.

This is just one of countless instances where one small thing leads to another and yet another, and we can hardly wait to get done with the "proper" schoolwork so we can be free to chase all our current rabbits down all their widely broadening and sometimes intercrossing trails. These days the trails go deeper and deeper into the woods of complex thought and knowledge and sometimes into darker places than we really want to go, but there is always light to move towards and triumph to carry us out of the sorrowful.

And so we learn about life; we live it, we dream it, we learn from others who went before us and those who live out loud today. We explore it through song and dance and food and art. We discuss and marvel and grouse and grieve and laugh and savor all God's creation has to offer, be it hands on or vicariously through everchanging stacks of books and tapes and magazines and web sites.

At the end of it all, it will be just the beginning. Because my aim in giving my children a good education is that they learn to love to learn, so that their education will never end until the day their souls leave this earth.
So many comment they could never homeschool, yet every good parent I know is a homeschool parent because they nurture their children in their interests and dreams. They support them with a lighter and lighter hold as they grow and work their way free into the world to flourish as an individual of character and grace.
You don't need a teaching certificate to teach y9ur children. You just need the love of learning and the willingness to be an eager student along with them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Highs and Lows of Country Life

We stayed outside from getting up in the afternoon until after dark - electricity was shut off anyway. After we took our walk, Lily enjoyed some twilight swinging, Jing rode her bike and the dogs and I rambled around and picked up branches to put on our future bonfire pile. Much of this time, our landlord was trying to figure out why the pump in our well went out and we have had no water for the past few days except for a few hours when he thought he had it fixed. By tomorrow we are going to be a bit rank if we can't get a bath or wash some clothes, and we're running out of dishes!

The last time our well was out, it was for six days. I was able to barely see enough to drive next door to our landlord's and fill every container we could find so we could take sink baths and wash a few dishes, but I'm too blind to do it now. Our landlord brought us about five gallons so at least we can flush the toilet a few times, and tomorrow we will hike up through the woods and bring back a jug of water each, maybe two for me. Ah, roughing it! But we love our country life, or as country as you can get this close to Atlanta!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Georgia Sunset

This was our view on the way back from our walk tonight. Jing said, "Mom can I take a picture of it to put on the blog?" I said that would be perfect, so here you have it!

Little daily traditions

This wasn't the photo I intended to post but as I was sitting at the computer, picking up the camera to remove the memory card to pop into the scanner, this little thing popped up between my knees, as it does every night. Usually the girls eat supper in their room, watching a tape, and I eat while I work. Sounds terrible but since we homeschool we spend quite a lot of time together and we always eat lunch together.

After supper, the girls go put their dishes in the dishwasher and wash the sink dishes. This is Georgie's time to come visit (interrupt) mom. At first she wants nothing to do with me, only to lick the plate or bowl clean of whatever I ate. Yes, it's probably gross and unsanitary, but I let her. After that, she is ready for a cuddle. I try to ignore her and tap away at my work, but she will come and poke her head out in a way that can't be ignored - like this - and she gets her cuddle. She knew she would all along - it's part of the ritual.

After that, she's ready to run off and play again, like any youngun! And like any youngun, if I try to put her down too soon, she grips at me with her paws and resists quite decidedly. This is our little nightly tradition - lick mom's plate, cuddle, go play! (Was this supposed to be Jing's dog?!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thanks Ladies!

Thanks to Chantal, Marleen and Sarah for all giving me the Fabulous Blog award. You all made my day, er, days! I have really enjoyed doing this blog and getting a chance to do a little writing, which is my passion since I was 8 years old. I also love, as someone else said, that I am taking photos I never would have thought of and never took - everyday candid shots of our life.

I'm supposed to say 5 things I'm addicted to. Lily would love this as she asks questions like this all day - What is your favorite culture? Which country would you most like to visist? What is your favorite book? She keeps me on my toes!

1. A good mystery or suspense novel.
2. Dark chocolate Hershey kisses.
3. Walking in the woods.
4. Horses.
5. And most of all, of course, my kids!

Feeding the flames

Tonight was trash-burning night. We have a garbage service but someone stole our can and it takes a while to get a new one plus we occasionally burn the paperstuffs anyway - keeps it out of the landfill and makes some nice ash for our compost pile. The girls enjoy it, even though I always forget to buy marshmallows! Lily suggested we strip, paint ourselves blue and dance around the fire like the Celts, but we decided it was a bit too cold for that and we are all far too modest anyway. There's something wonderfully primitive about standing in the glow of the moon surrounded by woods with the cats prowling around and the fire leaping to and fro like a living thing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Pet Parade

At night before the girls go to bed is our special time. We pile on the couch, sometimes go over school work and read Time For Kids to keep the girls up on current events. Sometimes I read things I have printed off the internet that relate to what we are studying or interested in. We talk a while and then I read to them from our latest novel of choice. We've recently been reading the Austin family series by Madeleine L'Engle, one of my favorite authors and the books I loved as a kid myself, which is very meaningful to me. Such a quiet peaceful time together - or is it? Let me take you to a typical daily scene from early this morning right before the girls went to bed (on our night-shift schedule).

Usually as we enter the room, Zoey is snoozing on the sofa and sometimes the puppy alongside her, and we insinuate ourselves among them, so cozy. The birds are hunched on their perches across from us, dainty little feathers fluffed up, tiny little finch heads tucked into wings. Sweet serenity. We settle in and I begin to read. Without fail, Matilda decides she MUST go outside to relieve herself right at this very minute despite having been lying by my side for hours without needing to go.

We let her out and settle in again. No sooner have I gotten into a chapter than she is woofing to come in. We let her in and resume reading only to hear a scratching on the window next to me, reminiscent of fingernails on blackboard. Daisy, our other cat, wants to join the party - or actually to stuff her mouth for the umpteenth time of the day. This excites puppy, and she dives off the couch and begins to chase said cat. We herd her back to the couch, cajole skittish Daisy back to her food and settle in again. I try to find my place once more and resume reading accompanied by the loud crunching sounds of Daisy eating a few feet away. How rude!

By now the finches are warmed up and are cheeping with their full hearts and souls, and Junior and Pete are ringing their little bell toys ceaselessly - who knew finches enjoyed playing? Daisy is still crunching and we are restraining the puppy so she doesn't go eat said food. I am desperately trying to maintain an even voice and the attention of the two children in the room. Now Zoey decides it would be really cool to hop down, knock over the large gift bag next to the sofa leftover from Christmas, dive in and wildly attack the Chic-fil-A calendar and smaller gift bag inside. She thrashes around crazily, her front legs wrapped in a death grip around the small bag, back legs kicking and shredding the paper, which appears to be the enemy in her game of Zoey, cat warrior. Between the cheeping, bell ringing, thrashing paper sounds and crunching, I find myself practically shouting out the words to the book. Ah, Daisy is now meowling loudly to go back out. This excites puppy again and Jing practically tackles her to keep her from following the cat outside.

We settle once more and I bravely continue to read and just about the time I am done, trembling a little, the birds settle back into their sleep mode, the puppy snuggles sleepily into the crook of my arm and Zoey lies peacefully inside her conquered gift bag kingdom. Once again, all is right with the world and it's time to kiss the girls goodnight and tuck them in, lulled to a peaceful drowsy state by our quiet evening on the couch.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Today was our first time to use our new hot-air popper. I am always trying to simplify and healthify our diets as close to nature as possible and decided to invest $20 in a hot-air popper, knowing it will pay for itself in no time. Well maybe it won't as even the cheap store-brand corn was so good we were like three savages grabbing it out of the bowl LOL! I never eat any of their microwave popcorn as it has an aftertaste to me, plus is not on my low-carb diet, but this was just corn, butter and popcorn salt, purely and naturally good! The girls declared they want it every night now, which won't happen but I am glad they like it! It cooks so fast too and is fun to watch. Next time we'll try Hidden Valley Ranch dressing powder on it as we buy that by the big bottle!

Friday, January 16, 2009

My 10-Minute (fairly) Healthy Soup!

It will be going down to 18 or so tonight and I decided it was a good night for soup but I also need to make something ahead for this weekend since I work all weekend and don't have time to cook, or if I take the time, it eats into my pay. This is a solution I came up with a while back for those nights I am cooking for two or more days in one evening. This recipe will feed about four people - or if your kids eat like horses as mine do - three! But easy to add to or take away for more or less servings.

10-Minute Spinach Soup

1 9-ounce bag of fresh spinach - or frozen is fine
3 cans Campbell's Chicken Noodle or Chicken Rice soup
2 ounces or so of cream cheese (1/4 to 1/3 of 8-oz block)
1/2 cup or so of cream or a bit more of half and half
few splashes of garlic powder or clove or two of fresh garlic
minced fine
minced onions or onion powder
dash or two of pepper
big pat of butter
Parmesan cheese - optional

Melt the butter in a big pot, add a couple splashes of water and heat to boiling. Stir in the spinach - if fresh and large, I tear it a bit as I put it in. Stir until wilted or if frozen until thawed. If you want soup thicker, stir a couple teaspoons or so of cornstarch into a bit of cold water and pour into the bubbling mixture. Also add in minced onions and garlic if using so they can soften.

Simmer this about two minutes, then add in cream cheese and pour in the three cans of soup plus two cans of water and add the seasonings. I personally love thyme, garlic and pepper together - you can use whatever you like and however much you like to your taste. I sometimes add a bit of dill as well. Heat till just starting to boil, smushing the cream cheese with your spoon until well melted and blended. Then pour in cream or half and half, stir, and you're done! It's good with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top or mixed in as well. The girls love it and it is really good for something so cheap and fast! Of course, it's high sodium and for me not so low carb either but it's good in a pinch and gets some healthy spinach into them and so fast to make! I also sometimes add a can of Navy or Northern beans drained and rinsed.

Now I have to start chopping celery, carrots, onions, cabbage, garlic and sweet potatoes to add to some tomato sauce, chicken stock and diced tomatoes for a big pot of veggie soup with cornbread for this weekend! This one takes a lot more than 10 minutes, unfortunately!

Let me know if you make it and like it!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Long ago right here

One day while exploring in the woods, the girls found six neat columns of handhewn flat rocks (the one in the narrow photo is toppled over). We asked our landlord, a history buff, and he said there were a few plantation houses on the property during Civil War times. Near here, there is the entrance to a now-vanished bridge we can walk up on that used to cross the South River next to our drive, and he knows the story of the Confederate soldiers who were guarding it and were killed by Union soldiers. He also showed us where there used to be a mill on the river and a general store next to it. All that hustle and bustle on our now quiet piece of land - amazing to imagine and to walk in the same paths every day. Jing took these today during our walk.

Once upon a flea market

This is one of my favorite pieces of art. It is a delicately hand-drawn original, minimally tinted, surrounded by a slender frame that includes a matching green stripe, and I think it is just beautiful. I found it probably 25 years ago in a flea market and grabbed it up. It has something written in a language not my own nor one I recognize and so has a lingering air of mystery about it.

The once-monthly flea market took place in an old abandoned super-store - HUGE! I lived for that second weekend of every month and wandering through the relics of the past, the stalls of old books, feathered hats and hat pins, faded steins from Germany, weathered hand-carved sideboards, stacks of Life and National Geographic magazines, bins of old postcards and sepia photographs, stacks of lovely blue transferware plates with only the slightest chips to add a little character. I rarely missed going until a little lively baby came into my life, and being sans babysitter, flea market days were over. I think it is about time the girls and I started back!

The flea market where I got this treasured art is long-since gone, but there is another where many of the same vendors moved. If you can find a place to park in the lot with cars practically stacked on top of each other and have a good pair of walking shoes, you can take a look!

Normally I do not like crowds but for some reason I do not mind it at the flea market. I love the air of anticipation of finding a treasure that emanates from those around me and how everyone's eye of desire is different one from another. I bask in the history surrounding me in all the items used by long-ago people. I look at a worn hand-stitched handkerchief and wonder whose hands lovingly stitched the colorful patterns. Who read by the soft glow of that graceful kerosene lamp?

I have taken the girls to a local antique mall many times, but it is so different from the bustle of the flea market; we are usually the only ones there, I guess because it is open seven days a week and is not as grand as the flea market. I love exploring with the girls and talking about all the treasures we come upon. By 6 or 7, Lily was pretty accurately able to distinguish between Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai designs. Being totally fascinated with cultures, places, peoples and history, she loves a good jaunt through the antique mall, while Jing has her eye out for old dog books and figurines of lions or cats.

I feel at home there among the hand-tatted lace and rich wood and quilts and old books. Sometimes I feel I was born into the wrong time, loving more simple ways and pleasures and the values more prominent in the past, but I guess there is a lot to appreciate of modern times as well. I'm glad there is something left of the days gone by for my girls to enjoy and experience, and I hope someday they are guiding their own children through the relics of yesteryear so that no one ever forgets those who went before us, and so that they can live on in the love in someone's else's eyes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hallelujah! Approved for surgery!

Well after many months that seemed like years the doctor filled out the surgery approval today! And other good news is that my cholesterol was 164 and my triglycerides were low, which he said was unusual in diabetics. The only thing was my good cholesterol was too low so I have to exercise more vigorously - he said to stop talking while we are walking and walk very fast. Lily won't like that one!

He was reluctant to fill out the form, which the girls are proudly displaying, since I have to requalify for the surgery coverage through Lions/Lighthouse and he said it may expire - only good for 30 days - but I told him I was not leaving without my form filled out! And I mean it! They are going to do thyroid labs but I don't have to go back for three months - after going every two weeks and in some cases every week for a long time this is like a holiday! WAHOO! I felt like a 2000-pound load had fallen off my shoulders! As you can see the girls also are quite giddy with excitement - vision is in sight again - pun intended! Or at least half vision. I am thinking and hoping I can drive at leaast in the daytime when they do one cataract - I sure hope so as he won't take out the second one for two months after the first, and he is doing the better eye first as he thinks the eye that is completely blind is a poor candidate and he may have to do a second surgery on it. But bridges to cross later. For now, I am ecstatic!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cabin Fever

I am embarrassed to post more pet photos lest I seem obsessive, but that is what the girls took! We really don't get to do anything anymore as I work my way through getting in better health to be approved for cataract surgery and until then cannot drive, so we are thankful for our dogs and cats and birds to share our homebound days and make them more interesting. I'm so glad I rather irresponsibly took on a new pet this summer in this difficult financial time - you can look at the beaming face above and see why it was worth it - A girl and her dog, nothing better than that!

I found a good dog quote the other day that will show up on a scrapbook page soon -
"Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives. Yet, if they find warmth therein, who would grudge them those years that they have so guarded? Nothing else of us can they take to lie upon with outstretched paws, and chin pressed to the ground; and, whatever they take, be sure they have deserved."
John Galsworthy

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Special Maneki Nekos

The girls are taking the photos more than I am! I just tell them to take something that is a part of our everyday life that means something, and this is today's choice. We all love this special souvenir as it represents our little family, an incredible gift we were given, and our love of things Asian, although I would sure like to glue on a couple of more little nekos to that figure, maybe Ethiopian nekos or Haitian nekos! I still marvel at how I grew up loving Asian culture, determined when I was 12 I would adopt Asian children, and here I am at 48 the mother of two fantastic girls from China.

Lily really wants a sister from Ethiopia and I so want to give her one. She loves Africa, and she agrees with me that another culture would make our family all the more rich and interesting. Lately particularly, as I near 50, I grieve for that next child (or two) I will probably never hold in my arms, but it is easy to remind myself I am SOOOOOOOO blessed to have these two for my own daughters. While they are enough, they are such treasures that I am greedy and I want more. I love being a mother, I love children, I long to do it all again. I haven't totally given up, still believing in miracles, and if it never happens, I'll be the best grandma in the world!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The patter of little feet

I had a really bad day yesterday with the addition of a new problem to add to the stable and was feeling down and irritable with the girls, shame on me (but really a rare occurrence). I came out of my room after a long brood alone and Georgie was so ecstatic she clattered crazily across the linoleum floor, slid into my ankles, recovered, whirled around, clattered all the way down the length of the trailer, turned on a dime and scampered back to my feet, repeatnig about three times until I grabbed her up. It wasn't anything new, but it took me from raw gloom to laughing hysterically. What a joyful little spirit. I am so glad she became part of our lives when I debated that I really didn't need another mouth to feed or another flea battleground to conquer. She looks when she runs exactly like a little dog I remember in a Norman Rockwell painting with a big grin on it's face!

We are keeping a close eye on her now that she is 7 months and due for her first heat. I don't want any half coyote pups - is that possible? - or any puppies at all at this time. She is bad to run off after our walk so I have taken to giving her a dog biscuit when we get home to encourage her to come in with us (we are on 44 acres and let her run loose unless near the road as she has to burn some energy or will explode in the house!) Today I forgot the treat - I've only been doing this a few days - and as clearly as speaking English she let me know! She kept going into the kitchen and then coming out looking at me expectantly until I remembered - Oh! The treat! When I said this, she wiggled all over, tail flying and scampered into the kitchen. Oh, my goodness, she is a mess but she is so cute!

I love watching her intereact with the other pets. Zoey and Daisy, the cats, grew up with a Rottweiler but still Daisy took a while to adjust and is yet a bit leery. Zoey takes it in stride as Georgie clambers over her or snuggles up to her on the sofa. It's really sweet. My loyal Matilda is still thoroughly disgusted with her as she hates the attention I lavish on the little bratty whippersnapper! I so hope someday to be able to take animals to visit at nursing homes as I know how bereft I would be without a gaggle of pets around me and I know that is the hardest part for some people going into a nursing home - giving up their pets and being without any around. My mother took her dog when she visited my aunt and the whole place lit up at the sight of that little dog. Smiles came on faces that rarely ever showed one. They are God's sweet little bonus in life, our furry babies!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Georgie, Blankethead and Jing study

The girls took the photos today. They wanted to be shown studying their AWANA verses. They are prize AWANA students but have not gotten to go this year. However, thanks to their kind leader, they are doing a home version until I can get my cataracts out and one of their teachers is listening to their memory recitations and checking their work while I am at my doctor visits, so they are catching up. I loved the photo Jing took of Georgie reading!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Year of the Rat arrives!

We have waited in great anticipation for "Year of the Rat" to come out in paperback! It arrived today and the girls quickly pasted in their personalized book plate by the author - Grace Lin. This is a perfect ending to The Year of the Rat! We read "Year of the Dog" already and it was an absolutely wonderful book - sweet and hilariously funny and something my girls can relate to as Chinese Americans, which doesn't come along every day. I am a Rat and I love to tease the girls - both Oxen - how I outsmarted them to be the first animal of the zodiac!

Now, on to the question of the day - Why does my daughter wear a blanket on her head?! That is her beloved baby blankie that she has always slept with but now she has taken to wearing it wrapped around her head all the time at home. I do like a girl who marches to the beat of her own drummer! I had to include the series of photos to illustrate for all posterity how some children almost always are photogenic (child on left) and how others are, well, not so much (child on right)! Equally beautiful girls but one manages to make every face in the book other than a nice natural smile! But it just makes her all the more loveable and unique! I'm just really thankful for digital cameras!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My favorite part of every day is taking a walk with the dogs and the girls. I never tire of the same views of the river and the woods. There is always something to see - today we all stopped to admire yet again the fresh vivid green of a moss-covered tree nesting in the deep browns of the winter woods, a reminder that there is always life, even in the grimmest of circumstances. The dogs are so happy rambling around us, noses to the ground, sniffing the trails of deer and beaver and coyotes.

I guess the best part of our walk is talking together; some of our deepest conversations occur to the tune of leaves crunching under our feet. There is the air of anticipation of what we will find in the mailbox at the end of our drive -- maybe a letter from NancyDee, the latest Dogs for Kids magazine or American Girl, a post-crossing postcard from some far-flung place in the world or, oh dread, more bills. Well, nothing is perfect!

January 5, 2008

I have always wanted a blog but been too intimidated to try. Among my New Year's Resolutions are to learn about blogging, learn how to customize a blog, to write more, which I used to do daily and sorely miss, record our daily lives for the girls, who savor the little details of life then and now. Also among my goals for the year -- to get healthier, reduce all the new meds added to my life in the last few weeks, get my cataracts out and get DSL!

I was only on one prescription med for asthma and now three BP and two diabetes meds have been added. This is not good at 48 years of age and I want to see less bottles in this photo - and this isn't even all of them - by the end of this year. Now we will see if this will load on dial-up!