Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Proud mama today!

Tonight was AWANA graduation and the girls got a nice plaque for finishing their book. Unfortunately my batteries died at the church and I couldn't get any photos there. I still can't believe they did eight months' good work in two months and with no promptimg from me at all! I really love the program.

Their cousin Beth brought them this lovely book originally printed in 1960 - Chinese fairy tales translated from the Chinese. The artwork is beautiful but as Lily pointed out some of it looks more Japanese than Chinese. She used to amaze me starting about 5-1/2 being able to correctly identify art pieces, paintings and photos as being Thai, Indian, Japanese or Chinese. I had pointed things out to her at flea markets and we read together copiously, especially Asian themed books, but it still amazed and delighted me that she developed that eye at such an early age.

That kid has loved the whole wide world since she was a toddler - wildly excited about globes and maps and showing me places I myself had forgotten about on them before she hit 4! At our library, she just checked out a book on Pyramids, Japanese in internment camps, a novel set in Laos, a novel set in Thailand and a book on the Titanic! She just wants to know about everything everywhere! Jing, as usual, had all dog books except for one from her new passion - Star Wars. I looked with a pang at the rows of picture books - it seems just yesterday we were choosing from there and tonight I ran into both of them on the adult side of the library - Jing just to get her Star Wars book but who knows what Lily was looking up LOL! I love love love having bookworm girls!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Field Trip - Trappist Monastery

Wednesday night one of the girls' friend's grandpas told us about a monastery not too far from our house that we didn't even know about. We decided we needed to go check it out and Lily especially, ever eager for new experiences, did not let a rainy day deter her! Unfortunately we missed the sign for the Welcome Center and by the time we found it, it was closed, but we learned some from their web site. We are going to go back and watch their short film and peruse the bonsai shop, which was closed, but we looked at it longingly through the slats in the fence surrounding it. There was a peaceful lake with some geese and ducks that were very angry we had no food, and the monastery has a house they allow you to stay at if you need some time of quiet contemplation. Boy do I ever qualify! But I'd have to take the kids and all the pets with me, and I think it would defeat the purpose!

The architecture inside the church was lovely. Our jaws literally dropped when we walked through the unassuming little door and into the back of the sanctuary. Is that a nave? Anyway, we stayed a while and listened to the monks sing liturgy. We could not quite figure out what was going on in the sanctuary. There were individual seats lined up along the walls with long lecturns going all the way across covered in papers of some sort - maybe the words to the liturgies they sing? The monk's voices were gentle and beautiful to listen to.

We rounded out the day with an hour at the bookstore and dinner from our favorite Chinese restaurant, so it was a nice Friday before the weekend drudgery of work.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A peaceful place

We had an unexpected day off work due to problems with the server at the hospital chain I type dictations for, so the girls and I went to Blalock, a series of lakes with waterfowl everywhere and just an overwhelming sense of peace. I sure needed it at the prospect of the third small paycheck in a row! I can literally feel my blood pressure go down here. We saw scores of tadpoles and deeply regretted not having a jar with us, though we agreed they were probably happier where they were. The Canada geese were disappointed we had no cracked corn as usual but I expect they'll forgive us if we bring some next time! We are hoping to get a canoe this fall so we can go exploring out to the ends of the big lake here and also at some state parks nearby.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Artist in residence

I borrowed Jing's sketchbook and decided to scan a few of her drawings in tonight, and since I didn't take a photo for today, well, here are a couple of them! She has taken to drawing dogs, both purebred and mixes of her own design, that have an entire backstory, name, age, personality, etc. I love her imagination! Between the stories she types into her computer and her prolific drawing, I think she really will fulfill her dream of being an author/illustrator one day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our wee little frogs

We released four of our five former tadpoles last night. They seemed unhappy in the bowl and we did not have a good place for them to rest, just a rather steep rock. Three still had good-sized tails but they seemed happy hopping away in the wet leaves. We all wanted to keep them longer, but I was afraid they were ready for insects and they are so tiny I did not know what to catch them other than mosquitoes that they could eat. I did not expect success at catching mosquitoes, though this year unfortunately we have an abundant supply. Last year, between the drought and our nearby colony of bats we had no mosquitoes, but rain has been plentiful this year and alas it brought a plague of the buzzing marauders. It was great fun watching these little guys go from tadpole to frog. I hope we can find another batch to raise this year.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

The girls and I are finishing up this wonderful book and have expanded our learning into a little unit study on Afghanistan and Pakistan this last week. The book is the very inspirational story of Greg Mortensen, who was attemping to climb K2 and had to carry down an ill climber before he reached the summit. He got separated from his team and ended up in the little village of Korphe, cold, with no supplies, lost. Haji Ali, the village chief, took him into his home and served him sour yak butter tea - yum!

Haji Ali told Greg with the first cup you are a stranger, with the second a friend, and with the third cup of tea you are family. Greg was saddened to see that the children had no school and met outside trying to scratch words into the dirt in the freezing cold air. The village shared a teacher with another village so there was very little educating going on. Greg promised them he would come back and build them a school.

True to his word, he went home and tried to raise money. He sent out over 5000 letters. At first, only the children at the school where his mother was principal responded with a penny drive, raising something over $600. Eventually he got enough for the school and went back to build it, but ended up having to first build a bridge to the village, as the transportation being used was a rickety box being pulleyed across the river. This was in 1996 and after quite an adventurous story including at one point being kidnapped in Afghanistan, many schools have been built and many girls who never had the chance to be educated are now being empowered with knowledge.

Greg was in Pakistan when 09/11/01 happened and Americans were being rushed out of the area. He, instead, went into Afghanistan to see what he could do to help. The most moving thing was reading of the refugees of war who had nowhere to go and had to just set up a new life with nothing, and he helped bring education to their camps. I love the respect he has for these people and his message that it is not the Muslims that are the terrorists. They are a peaceful people overall and just want to live their lives like anyone else. He met some amazing people on that trip that have stayed in his life for years since.

I love to read inspiring stories about what one person or one kid can do and share them with my girls. This one was well worthwhile and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Greg M. is truly an amazing man as is his daughter, Amira, who in this kid's version of his story has a Q&A in the back of the book about sharing her dad with so many people. I highly recommend it!