Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve in Taipei is always filled with lots of fireworks. Since we've moved our view is even better. We had a free showing from our balcony of Taipei 101, which is the tallest building in the city.  Also, along the river, we could watch fireworks for hours.

This is a big year for Taipei 101. The year 2012 is also the year 101 in Taiwan. Taipei has two years. The one that most everyone around the world goes by and then the one that signifies the year that the Republic of China began.

Here are a few photos of what we saw.
Taipei 101 at midnight.

After a few minutes, this was all we could see.

Some fireworks by the river near our home.
If you'd like to watch the fireworks display, here is a video that I found on youtube. It was a pretty amazing display.  

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I haven't been writing here much, not due to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided not to join in on all the fun this year. Good decision.
I also didn't join in on the Picture Book Idea Month this year either. Another good decision.

What has taken me away?
1. I've been writing more over at I think I've found my niche in life, but I'll pop back over here to keep up on the other areas of my life...need a place to be random, ya know. ;)

2. Articles and short pieces for magazines. I have only one that has been published, but it is a start. If you are interested, you can read about one of my favorite reasons for our move, The Youth Park. This great little gem is what I call "our backyard." Click on this link to get to the magazine, then it is on page 20. I also took the photos and found I have a new love for photography.

3. Entering a contest over at Wow-Women on Writing, which I need to touch up and get submitted. The due date is Nov. 30th. Will be doing that in a few days after I have a nice Thanksgiving meal with some friends and my family of 5.

4. Then just the normal everyday homeschooling, apartment cleaning, biking kids to school, and other juggling activities of a mom.

With all that, I'd like to say to you...Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends during this holiday (if you are from the US, that is).

Monday, October 17, 2011

What is THAT Splattered on the Floor?

You know the saying, "What do you do when life throws you lemons? You make lemonade."
Today has been one of those days.

Except I wasn't given lemons.
Try Splattered Nutella.
Yep, that yummy chocolate hazelnut spread.

I walked into the kitchen and splattered everywhere was a dark brown gooey like substance.
I took a couple of sniffs for fear of the worst.
Quickly assessed the situation and found:

Jie Jie jumping with joy with the brown goop spread up both arms to her elbows spraying it even closer to the ceiling above her.
Then she turned and I saw it caked across her face and nose, smudged into her shirt and splattered on her pants.
Another sniff to be sure, and then I saw the brand new opened jar of Nutella.
The 750g jar from Costco.
Half empty.

I started to take a step. The floor was a minefield of dark brown goo.

How in the world am I going to get to her?
How am I going to clean this up?
Where do I even start?
Plus a whole lot of other thoughts that I won't write.

Jie Jie showed me her hands and smiled. I cleaned off her arms at the sink while she giggled with delight. I sighed and debated on scolding her or laughing with her.

I remembered this post from a few years back. I ran out and grabbed the camera and took pictures. I remembered that although at this moment I was between tears and pulling my hair out, that in a few hours I would want to be showing my husband and laughing about it.

Oh, and by the way I forgot to mention that this all happened within a few minutes of having to leave for physical therapy.
We called and canceled.
The minefield. 
My cabinets...

I think she enjoyed herself.
We ate Nutella sandwiches instead.
I used some of the large globs near the jar. I just could
NOT waste it. It made for a nice snack.
My new saying? When life splatters Nutella at you, grab some bread and make a sandwich.

Any Nutella splattered at you lately? How did you make a "sandwich" out of it? 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

I enjoyed the book, though it took me a few chapters to really get into it. The language used by the Underlanders was fun to read. It was English, just grammatically different. 
To read a full review please click here. I read this for my Fill in the Gaps Project. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Homeschool Wrap Up....Fall Field-trips

Not a lot of "schooling" went on this week in the sense of writing, reading, and counting. Instead, we had field-trips with the siblings (they were on Fall Break).
Pictures tell all...
Attended the parade to celebrate the 100th
Anniversary of the Republic of China.
Watched fireworks from our rooftop for the anniversary.
Okay, Jie Jie was actually sleeping, but GeGe and I watched.

Took the cable car with the glass bottom to the tea farms.
We didn't stay long because the kids were restless.

View of Taipei 101 from the top. That is a temple
on the left side of the photo.

Zoo trip...of course, we had to see the penguins. They
actually got in the water for us this time! Super happy!

Beach Time! Mei Mei playing in the sand.

GeGe body surfing.

Jie Jie thinks she is going snorkeling...
It was a good week, but now we have to retrain our brains back to the school-zone.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Homeschool Wrap Up...Apples and Writing

This is a bit late in posting, but here it is. We looked at apples this week and had fun with paint...
I got this cute letter matching game from here.
Jie Jie worked on this, but I found that her attention
span is something we need to lengthen. Reminding
myself that this is normal since we haven't had
"school" all summer. Retrain the brain. 

Counting. I drew very simple trees and put
apples on them and had her count them. Great
thing is that she gets 1-3 at 100%, so now I know
I need to challenge her with higher numbers. 

Writing. This was totally on her own. I
didn't even have my hand over hers. Still
needs work, but I'm seeing progress. We'll
work on more letters next week.

Japanese make the BEST stickers. I found
these at a stationary store so we could make... apple counting book. She had to put
the stickers on the tree for each page.
We will cut the pages out and staple them.
Since the other two were home, Mei Mei
joined in the painting fun. I drew a simple
outline of a tree. They painted it in and added
apples by using their fingertips. We did this
in watercolor paints. (The lion outfits, are just
because they wanted to wear them...)
 My other two are on fall break this week. We will be doing some school work, but probably not as much as we would if they were in school. We plan to visit the zoo, go the beach, and some other fun things that can be "learning," too. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How Will You Honor Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs died today.

I'm sure you have heard the news. It is probably the highest buzz on the social media right now. Everyone is in shock. Many want to pay tribute by posting his quotes, writing about him and his life work, and even going out to buy 1 or 2 iPhones in his honor.

The last one bothers me.

Who needs two iPhones? Really?

Okay, I'm right up there with thankfulness on the blessings of having any of Apple's i(whatever). The iPad has been really helpful with our daughter with special needs. She has a new way of communicating that is affordable to us. I could go on and tell you all the wonderful things that the i(fill in the blank) has been to us personally, but that is not what this is about.

When I read about people going out to buy an iPhone in his honor, I couldn't help but wonder if he'd really be pleased with that. From that question I wondered about what charity he was passionate about. I was surprised to find that he doesn't publicly donate. My mouth dropped, but I did some more digging, so don't judge yet because here is what I did find:
1. It's possible that he donated anonymously. His wife is on boards of a few nonprofit organizations. You can read more about that in this article by Andrew Ross Solkin.
2. Bono argued in a letter to the editor that Steve Jobs did give through Product Red. You can read about that in this article here.
3. Apple is a part of Product Red. Portions of all (Product)RED special edition iPod Nanos and iTune cards are given to Global Fund to help fund AIDS programs in Africa.  For more information on this part of Apple giving click here.

So, Steve Jobs did give.
So, back to my question of "Would he be pleased with people buying his products in honor of him?"

I'm not convinced that he would. From reading articles about him, I've gathered that he would love for you to buy the products to help you in your work and life, but not to honor him.
So, I'm challenging you with this: Wouldn't it be better to buy an i(fill in the blank) for someone that really needs it? Maybe a low income school could use a few iPads in the special ed department. Or maybe a community center could use some to help draw kids off of the streets. These are seriously at the top of my head and may seem lame, but think outside the box. Who could use one? If you don't have any ideas, there is an organization called Computers with Causes. Yes, you can donate a used or new iPad to them.

My point? Why honor someone by buying for yourself? Why not honor someone buy buying for someone that maybe wouldn't be able to buy it in the first place. (and I'm not talking about your 1-year old child, either. *grinning*)

RIP Steve Jobs!
Thanks for giving to the workplace, to entertainment, to the family, and to schools!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: A Single Shard

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

I read this book for Fill in the Gaps, so you will need to click here for a full review of it. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Homeschool Wrap Up...Review

This week we reviewed letters, numbers, and some writing. I am happy to say that she remembers it all and has progressed even after not doing any school over the summer. *cheering and dancing*
She recognized all the uppercase letters (and tried to "say" most of the letters instead of signing them!) She knew almost all of the lowercase letters, which is great considering we haven't really worked with them before. I had her match uppercase to lowercase from Aa-Mm. She did pretty well.

 I found this here. I cut, laminated and put
Velcro on the back of the apples for Jie Jie.
She recognized all the numbers from 0-10, so I will be adding to that next week and have her start counting. She seems to have an understanding of counting, but I'm not sure how accurate she is. I will do some "testing" with her on Monday, but very pleased that it is coming together.

What I was most pleased with was her writing ability. Last spring we only worked on these strokes "|,-, /, \" and then on letters "T,t,I,i,L,l". This week she remembered the strokes, so I added "O" to challenge her. She really concentrated to stay on the yellow line. Next week, we'll continue with the "O" and begin the letters again.
Love these! Jie Jie knows to start at the green
dot and trace along the yellow line until the red
dot. I'm excited to start up the letters next week.
These worksheets are found here. I laminate them
and have her use a dry eraser marker.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Taiwan Life and Fun: Moon Festival

Moon Festival or otherwise known as Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated September 12th this year. It is celebrated every year on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This happens to be the time of year when the moon is the biggest and brightest. Interestingly, this year we saw the moon the night before, but on the night of the 12th the moon was hidden by clouds. Go figure! 
We celebrated anyway. Families in Taiwan, typically barbecue together as they watch the moon.  This is a picture of a family across from our balcony barbecuing on their rooftop. 

We did our barbecuing on our balcony. We had chicken and roasted onions and peppers. Then we added a bit American Culture with the mix, s'mores! New trick with these wonders...we used Nutella instead of chocolate bars. So. Much. Better!

Another tradition is to eat something called a mooncake. It is basically a pastry with something sweet inside. Most of the time, the inside is a sugary egg filling or red bean paste. Sometimes you can find chocolate, coffee, or green tea flavored ones. I bought small ones with pineapple flavored fillings, which is the family's favorite. The picture below is of a red bean paste filling. 
The outside of the mooncake. 

The inside of a mooncake. They are solid and very rich!
A few days before the actual festival date, our neighborhood had a party in the park for the community. Tents were set up with food and crafts for the younger crowd to enjoy. The amphitheater had entertainment of bands and different performances. My husband took two of the kids before supper and I took them back after supper, along with the camera!  They had watched people singing and dancing...but when we got there:
Lion Dancers!

Taiwan has many folk religions and temples.

And the gods have gone modern. They hip-hop dance!
It was an interesting experience. Culturally speaking, I enjoyed watching and observing my community and their beliefs. Spiritually speaking, as a Christian, it was unsettling with all the loud music with gongs and cymbals clanging.
Please note that most of these folk religions bring fear to most people. The people here are VERY superstitious and fear that the gods will "get them or their loved ones" if they don't do the right things. 
I don't normally ask this here, but if you are a praying person, could I ask you to pray for Taiwan and for my family. We just moved to one of the districts with the most temples per square meter for our city. Every time we walk outside, we see this "fear" in the form of people in the temples, wearing "protective" symbols around their necks, and burning fake money on a regular basis. 

So, if you celebrated Moon Festival this year, what did you do? Or if you have a question about this festival ask and I'll try to get an answer for you.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September's WiP

I've decided to only do a monthly "Work in Progress" report. I honestly don't have much to report in a week, but I like the accountability of having to write about what I've been writing...keeps me focused.
I'm currently not working on any novel *sigh*, but I'm okay with that for now, but here is what I have been doing.

1. I've got an article for one of our local magazines that will be printed in the November issue, which I'm very excited about. I'm busy with editing and taking some fun photographs for that article. I will write more after it is published.

2. I need to finish up my story for Chicken Soup of the Soul. I need to finish those edits and then mail it in before the deadline, which is Oct. 3. (Won't know if they buy my story until later, but submitting is the first step, right?)

3. I made the decision to NOT do NaNoWriMo this year. This stands for National Novel Writing Month, which always happens in November. I have something else I want to work on that is not a novel.  If you sign up and join, I'll be cheering you on.

Okay, that pretty much sums up my writing life this month.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, as it is about Taiwan Culture. An interesting sight I had this past month.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Homeschool Wrap Up...Fine Motor Skills

Matthea is doing better this week, but we still have kept it really slow. She had a checkup with the doctor yesterday and he could still hear some "rattling in the lungs."
More medicine in our bag and away we dashed home.

Today we had leftover donuts for a snack. (Yeah, not so healthy today. It is GeGe's birthday so all health food is out the window for ONE day only!) I cut hers up into bite-sized pieces and let her use her fancy chopsticks, the Edison. I bought them at a local store about a year ago thinking that she would be able to use them one day.
It was a great eye-hand coordination activity. Next week I'm going to have her move cotton balls from one container to another. After she masters this, I'll use something a bit smaller and heavier.
Below are pictures of the Edison with Pororo cartoon character and of Jie Jie using them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writing and Exercise are Alike!

Have you ever thought about how exercise and writing are alike? I'm sure I've been thinking about this because I just started exercising again after a 6-week+ break. Alongside with this new exercise regime (which, by the way, my husband totally made up into a fancy little chart. He rocks!) I've started to write again.

Here's my discovery:

Stage 1 = Excitement:
Exercise: You see your workout schedule and think, "Yeah, Baby, in a few weeks I'm gonna look like a top model."
Writing: You've got stories and ideas just flowing out of your head ready to be typed up. You've got your main character  sketched out and he's ready to conquer the world. You think, "Yeah, Baby, I'm the next JK Rowling!"

Stage 2 = Day Two Blues:
Exercise: In all that excitement you ran an extra lap or two. Now you can barely move and you're muttering to yourself, "What in the world was I thinking? There's no way I'm going to be able to do this."
Writing: You write blog posts, articles, and short stories. You pass a few manuscripts to a friend to critique. It comes back dripping red. Your now thinking, "Why did I ever think I could write?"

Stage 3 = Determination:
Exercise: You decide to stick with the exercise plan for the next few weeks. If you don't see any improvements, then at least you tried, right?
Writing: You take a deep breath and look closely at the red markings. Your critique partner is not stupid, right? (which, by the way, I totally think mine rock!) You try the changes.

Stage 4 = Steady Results:
Exercise: The exercise plan is becoming easier and you are seeing results on the scale. You smile and pat yourself on the back for not stopping, but you know you must still work hard to continue to get to the goal you've set.
Writing: Your manuscript is coming along and you really like the changes that your cp suggested. Your reading more about the craft of writing and seeing improvements in your draft work. You know that you still have a ways to go before that goal is reached, but you feel confident.

Stage 5 = Happy Dance:
Exercise: You have reached your goal. You not only pat yourself on the back, but you give yourself a toast for a job well done. You don't want to think about it right now, but you know you have to keep it up to maintain that top model body and excellent health. *wink*
Writing: You've landed an agent and a publisher! Your dancing around the living room in your pajamas! In the back of your head, though, you know that you a lot of work cut out and that the next goal is to start on book #2.
*This stage could probably be broken down into two different stages as I know you rarely land an agent and a publisher all in one day, but needed to wind this post up.

Where am I? Hmm, probably at #3 with both the exercise and the writing. ;)
How about you? What stage are you at? 
Do you have any thoughts about exercise and writing? 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, September 19, 2011

Normally, I only review one book per post. And usually, that book is from my Fill in the Gaps reading list. Today, though, I have one from that list and one that isn't on that list. I added the second one because, I just thought the book was great..and fairly new.

1. The BFG by Roald Dahl

I thought this was a great book to read out loud to children. Loved the language that was used. If you want to read more about this book, you will need to click here.

2. Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen
Book Description: Kevin has learned the art of lying. He calls it "common sense." He only lies to make people feel good or to keep himself out of trouble. Sounds good, until his lies become out of control in the attempt to convince a girl that he is "the best potential boyfriend for her."  Can he unravel the mess he's gotten himself into?

My Take: I previewed this book for the library and found it to be really funny! Kevin is a likable character that is well developed by Mr. Paulsen. Kevin is a true middle school boy with all the thoughts and feelings that go with it. The ending wasn't an easy one for Kevin, which made the whole story believable. This is a very quick in a few hours, if that. If you need a good chuckle, read it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homeschool Wrap the hospital again!

Homeschooling? Yes
Started? No
Why? We are in the hospital with pneumonia.

Deja vu? Sort of. 1.5 years ago we took Jie Jie to the ER and was admitted into the same hospital with pneumonia. 

You can read about that ER experience here. And here you can read what we did during our hospital stay.
What was different?
1. ER experience. We didn't have to spend the night. We were transferred to our room before mid-night. Trauma was there for another family though. We watched and prayed for almost two hours for this little girl's life as the medics worked on her frail body. Machines were screaming, doctors were running in and out, nurses were flying around with medicines and needles, and the parents...they were standing like statues. The mother, face wet with tears, had her hands wrapped around herself. The father, shoulders slumped, stood near his wife. He looked like he had just been beaten, though no marks were on his body. His contender was Fear. My husband and I prayed for his young family. In the end, the medical team won the fight. She was stable enough to be transferred, but the battle wasn't over. Another troop of doctors would be rounded up to stand and fight for this little life. My heavy heart lightened a little.
I don't know where they went or even if that little girl is still alive, but I will be forever changed by that scene in the ER room.

2. Our room: We are facing the mountains, but we do not have the bed by the window. We have the middle bed, but we do get some natural lighting which helps. There are no screaming machines here...just a few screaming babies, but I'll take that over machines any day. Screaming babies=alive and fighting.

3. No Feeding Tube: This has been good and bad. Don't get me wrong, I love that she does not have one, but it was convenient during those times she didn't want to eat or drink. I could just squirt a large syringe or two of water into her stomach. She has an IV now that handles the hydration part.

4. New Technology: We have been graciously given an iPad, so she has been able to watch her favorite TV shows (no American Idol this time) while I use my computer for writing.

5. Length of Stay: Last time we were here for 5 days. This time? 2 days. We are getting released sometime today. Love this difference, of course.  She'll still be on antibiotics, but the oral kind. 

So, maybe homeschooling will start up on Monday...but, only if she is feeling 100% back to normal. I DO NOT want to come back here for some time. 

She is having a good time. If she hadn't had blood tests and
a x-ray to prove she had pneumonia, I wouldn't believe she was sick.

Working the iTouch apps. Her favorite? The
Doodle Pad. Why? She likes the eyeball stamp.

Life-WiP: Encouraging My Husband

My site had the warning for malware on it a few days ago. I had it checked out and there is no malware on my computer. Google said it might take a few days for the message to stop popping up, so that is why this post is delayed.

My life is a work-in-progress, hence Life-WiP. Every few weeks I'll share what I've been learning. I want to hear from you, too, so there will always be a question at the end for you to comment on life lessons that you've learned. This way, you can learn a bit about me and I about you.

As most of you know, my husband left his job as an overseas Christian school principal to start Taiwan Sunshine, a nonprofit organization for parents with special needs children. We've moved apartments, we've juggled the new budget, we've gotten two of the kids in school, and I'm working on starting to homeschool Jie Jie. 

Maybe many of you know this already, but starting an organization is S.L.O.W. Daily progress is just not visible. The whole experience can be a bit overwhelming and frustrating at times. We are both being stretched and challenged in ways we never imagined, but stretching and growing isn't a bad thing, just sometimes a bit painful in the process, right?

A few weeks ago I was convicted of my attitude. It wasn't Christ-like and loving. I was holding grudges and frustrated towards my husband. I apologized to him, of course.  Later that morning as I was having coffee with a good friend, I shared with her my conviction. She was great. She didn't mock me, she didn't scold me, and she didn't water down my conviction. Instead she challenged me. Challenged me to encourage him. I agreed that I could do that. I like to encourage people.

One day later, I was invited on Facebook by another friend who lives in the US to join her in the 30-Day Encourage Your Husband Challenge. She honestly had no idea of my conviction. I laughed with God and told him that I had gotten the clue. I joined and then invited my coffee drinking friend to participate with me. 

What I've learned so far:
1. I'm HORRIBLE at encouraging my husband! Seriously, horrible! Why is it that? 
2. That there is hope for me. I have improved from when I first started. Whew!
3. That encouragement can be so creative. I don't always have to say something, I can just be quiet. Sometimes a quiet mouth is better. Other ideas have been to make him his favorite iced coffee drink, take the girls away so he can have some quiet time, and watch a TV show with him. 

How about you? If you are married, what are someways you have encouraged your spouse recently? If you are not married, tell me your ideas anyway...I know you have ideas about encouraging others. 

*photo by Nationaal Archief from flicker

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

WiP and the BBQ

This past weekend was Labor Day in the US. We didn't really celebrate here, but I did celebrate at KarenG's Labor Day BBQ Blog Party. I had a lot of fun meeting other writing bloggers. Thanks Karen for hosting!

WiP: I have decided to officially shelve the ms that I wrote last year. It needs editing, but my mc is just not calling to me right now. I'm okay with that. Instead, I'm researching for a new wip - a nonfiction piece that I'm very excited about.

Other News: I've had article ideas pop into my head for magazine submissions. Just today I emailed a proposal to an editor for a local magazine. I'm very excited about having ideas because it seems like my brain has had no room for writing of any kind for months. Too much going on in the everyday life.

And one other piece of news that maybe even you might be interested in. I just found out over at Donna's Book Pub, about Chicken for the Soul's call out for stories. I'm thinking I might have a few short pieces that I could write up for that as well.

So, now to just sit down and get it started, right?

So, how did you spend your Labor Day weekend? What has kept you busy this week in the writing world? 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review: Planting the Trees of Kenya

Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola

This is a great little picture book about Wangari Maathai, first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.  This was on my FitG list, and I need to make a confession...I'm not sure why I put it on the list. With that said, though, I enjoyed it and learned something new. So, it was NOT a waste of time. 

You can find my full review here at Fill in the Gaps Project.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Taiwan Life and Fun: Wulai River

Wulai has become one of our favorite spots to go as a family. There is so much to do in this area, but we just go straight to the river. Maybe it is because we have a young family, but we don't even make it to the waterfall. This little spot works just fine for us, at least for this season of our life.

Photo by Erin Bowden

The great thing about this place is that you don't even need a car to get there. Public transportation takes about an hour. Here's how: Take the blue bus #849 from Roosevelt Road. Or you can take the MRT to the last station in Xindian and catch the bus there. It is the last bus stop, so you can't miss it. Once off the bus, walk up towards the village and take a left after the bridge. (We always stop at the 7-11 on the corner to pack up some drinks and snacks). Walk up the hill about five minutes or so. When the road begins to "Y" go into the building on the left side. It costs around 100nt/person to enter, but you are given some water, clean bathrooms and showers. There are a few free spots before this place where you can walk down stairs to the river, but no bathrooms. With kids, I prefer the bathrooms. ;)
The water here is clean and cool. There are small pools of water where the girls could splash around safely and there were areas where Marcus could jump off rocks into deep waters (or for my husband to do cannonballs from). Really, just a great place for a family to chill and relax during a hot and humid summer day.
Jie Jie enjoys mud bathing. 

GeGe contemplating a jump. 

Mei Mei with her fish...tiny little things that she
wanted to bring home as pets. =)