Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why not?

It never occurred to me to try this: Ken decided that since Joseph uses his left hand to write English, he can train his right hand to write Chinese. What a good idea!
Why not?
Give both sides of the brain some exercise.
In the beginning, his characters were wobbly and mis-shapen. Now they are mostly in proportion and smooth. Better than I could ever write. And it has only been two weeks or so. It's true that the only limits kids have are put on them by parents. Given the right motivation and resources, so much can be accomplished by these compact little vessels of intelligence. I'm working up a sweat trying to keep up.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Speaking of poultry, we got eight ducklings from friends whose rice fields were becoming over-populated. The day they delivered them, they also brought a few eggs that were abandoned by some of their ducks. They said we could crack them open to see what might be growing inside. The first two had a few lumps of early-stage embryo. Then we got to the last one. This is what we found:

Amazing. That is already a duck.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


It only occurred to me weeks later, the rare gift God gave me. The kids and I were enjoying our daily dose of "the secret life of chickens", when we noticed that two hens were fighting for the best egg laying spot (in the blue container). I gently lifted the late-comer out and started setting her on the ground floor spot (the yellow container). Just at that moment, I happened to look up at the laying hen. Also just at that moment, she happened to turn her backside in my direction. And just at that moment, about three inches from my face, I saw a shiny, whitish dime sized circle appear. A moment later, it grew to a quarter size, and then the egg dropped out.

The kids and I have seen the process before - the hen curves her back so her bottom will hover closer to the hay. Then (if we look away for a moment, we will miss it) an egg pops out. But, that was from a distance. I never knew I would get to see the skin stretch as the opening expanded. Amazing.
We never grow tired of it. When we feed them, if it looks like a laying hen is getting wrestless, we hang around, hoping to see the egg drop.
How does God think of these things? Nuggets of protein consistantly popping out of chickens that can be used in all sorts of savory and sweet foods.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Light of the East Coast

I think this title is an accurate translation of what the Taiwanese call them. They are Catholic priests who offered up over 50 of their years for service to the indigenous tribes of Taidung. They have learned Chinese, Taiwanese, and one - sometimes two - of the local languages.
These men are amazing.
Ken had read a book written about them, and was deeply touched. Having learned that some of them still live in Taidong, he contacted them. They immediately invited us to supper. We didn't want to leave that evening. We had a feeling of being in the presence of greatness as we talked with those four men.

A week or two later, when one of them, O Shio Shr, invited us for a picnic at his orchard high up in the mountains, we were thrilled.
As soon as he arrived over 50 years ago, he started planting trees. Now they are all over, towering over us - evergreens, fruit trees, and all sorts of exotic plants that I have never seen before. For example, the tree tomato. You eat the inside, not the skin. There wasn't fruit at the time, but maybe we'll get a chance to see one some day. We later when to their headquarters, where he showed us more of his plants. Fascinating! I saw at least ten new plants that I have never seen before. He had a kind of orchid that needed neither water nor soil to live. Just air.

One day, another of the four rode his motercycle up our driveway for a visit. The kids were delighted. He is known for his ability to entertain children.

Just yesterday, Oh Shio Shr came to our house for a visit. He walked around our land, explaining to us which plants were useful, and which were weeds. So much information! There was so much to learn and so many stories to hear, that time ran out too quickly. It almost felt like God was being kind to us when we discovered that he left his cellphone behind. He had to come back, and we ended up having supper together. We sat there for as long as we could, asking questions, and simply sharing our lives. 
Ken found a true treasure.

Oh Shio Shr is one of a kind. Over 70, and he rides a motorcycle like he's half his age. When we went up the mountain together, I was shocked by the ease withwhich he jumped up onto a 4 to 5 foot ledge. He goes swimming every morning at 5 am. Ken aspires to be like him.
(and no, I'm not five months pregnant. That must be a result of the banana cream pie we had for tea. Yup, it's usually washboard flat...)

Speaking of which, I must add this photo, because never in all my years have I made such a beautiful crust. And this is pre-baked, no less! Thank you, Martha Stewart for showing me you can substitute beans for pie stones. And thanks again, Tartine, for pulling through with this recipe. The crust is coated with chocolate before the custard and bananas are added. That way, it can keep longer.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Here a little

Let me tell it like it is: I'm thankful that Ken is so diligent about Bible verse recital with the kids, because I'm doing next to nothing. I look to those perfect days when we will have consistant, happy, engaging, early morning devotions together as a family.
In the meantime, I'm averaging about one Bible memory activity a month. My favorite method is bed-jump-Bible-time. I sit on a chair and read out a verse (It has been Exodus 20 these past months), then point to one of three. That person gets to jump up and down on the bed while repeating the verse. I read the next verse and point to someone else. Jump while repeating. Sometimes I point at all three, sometimes two. They love the feeling of random selection. They are even more thrilled when they get to correct someone who jumps out of line.
This activity needs to happen more often.
I'm also taking full advantage of "here a little" moments: spontaneous two minute conversations brought on by random questions. Joseph asks a lot of thought provoking questions (while Anna is a hypothesis queen. her favorite word is "maybe". "Maybe because ____". She has an answer for everything. And Lydia finds nothing wrong with appropriation. She grabs hold of a phrase she understands and repeats it to me, fully convinced that she is disclosing new information), usually related to how someone must have felt in certain situations. Example from today: "Mom, I bet Jesus was really nervous when he was about to die on the cross."  I grab these chances. I try to strip my response of any preachy feeling, and keep things short and eye to eye. "Yeah, you're right. He even sweated blood. He begged God to find another way, but in the end, he knew God's way was best. He was willing to do it God's way."  Sometimes I can get carried away, though. The best thing about these moments is that I just join the train of thought. The kids are at the engine. The train goes as far as they choose to take it. What a privilege to be a passenger.
One book that I like is below.

We read this a few times a week during breakfast. Again, not regularly. How do folks have schedules and keep them? I try to make it like a treasure. Sometimes, when I announce I'm reading a chapter, they say they want something else. I just start reading anyway. They get sucked in. At the end of the chapter, I shut the book and say next chapter tomorrow, maybe. If there's time. They invariably will beg for more. I resist. The next time, they remember the suspense, and cheer when I pull out the book. Making it rare (but not too rare) and special really adds value to it. Actually, I use this tactic for other things, like veggies as well. "Only take a few bites. We all want some of this delicious stuff." Suddenly, it becomes really yummy. (Well, I have no problems with Joseph, who often declares that his favorite foods are fruits and vegetables. Anna also knows she must eat them. It's Lydia that requires a lot of fancy footwork.)

Anyway, I hope to catch up with Ken in consistant Bible memory, but at least I will always have here a little, there a little. The key words are "a little". Short and to the point, and hopefully nuggets of truth will root themselves deep in the soul.

Another thought. Interesting how this helps me as well. When I'm met with a musing question that goes something like, "So mom, we aren't good enough to get into heaven, right?", suddenly I have to produce an all-encompassing, bite-sized answer. It's a great test of my own understanding. Can I render these great truths simple and understandable to my seven, five, and even three year old? And do I still remember, and live by these truths? I enjoy several impromptu tests a day. No room for cheating. As I give an answer, I am teaching myself anew. "You're right Joseph. No matter how good we think we are, we are not fit for heaven. We deserve hell. (sometimes, I pick an obvious sin to showcase. One for each. Mine is usually impatience. I don't want pull them any deeper into my murky sins for now. I'm sure they can understand Mom's impatience). That's why it's so good that God sent Jesus. He knew we really needed him. Without him, we would be in deep trouble... [yes, here's where I can get carried away]" Sometimes, I continue on with the cloak imagery: "it's like we are naked, but then Jesus puts his perfect clothes on us, so when God sees us, he welcomes us, because he sees Jesus' clothes....but it's not like he's being tricked! No, no, he knows Jesus is covering us. That's the whole reason why he sent him." Other times, I use the washing imagery: "Can you imagine being washed in Jesus blood? What color would be be? [fun discussions about color] How strange that Jesus blood makes us whiter than snow! It cleans us better than any soap ever could. All our sins are washed away. [a few wows with glazed eyes. Imagination kicking into high gear]. Sometimes, of course, preaching creeps in, and I lose them halfway into my sermon. I try to seamlessly change the subject and move on. The best is when the discussion becomes a back and forth volley of one comment heaped on top of another. That way we are all contributing and building a fortress together. Ha! What an adventure this all is. I wonder what is sticking and what is going right through.
One thing of which I'm convinced: Bible memory can come before understanding. Their minds catch it so easily. Eventually (like Joseph is doing now with sermon on the mount in Chinese), they will start asking questions. So I need to get a move on with English.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

foot long earthworm

We've been having a lot of rain this past week. Maybe that's why the earthworms have surfaced. Ken found this one crawling out from under our table. I recall seeing a report on CNN a few years ago about an earthworm over a foot long.  I wonder if ours takes the record.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Thank you, Lynn and Debbie

We had a lovely spontaneous visit from a pastor and his wife yesterday afternoon. They are such a jolly pair. We had found out about their church through friends (that, in itself, is a long story), and yesterday was our second visit to their church. Good times all around. Perhaps we have found a home church? God knows. Anyway, the moment I heard they were on their way, I dashed to the computer, fished out a recipe from my email and went to work. The result was a moist, tart mulberry almond cake. Thank you, Lynn and Debbie, for that delicious sour cherry almond cake that Ken is still talking about! It tastes just as good with mulberries.
(Mom, how proud are you that I even managed a flower arrangement on top? Thanks to Anna and Lydia, who eagerly fetched them for me)

Strawberry guavas

That's what they are called. Little orbs of deliciousness. I never new such things existed! Family, I thought you'd be interested. Were there any in Tanzania?

Thursday, May 2, 2013


I want to tell the world: I just found Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar - yup, raw, with the Mother - here in Taidong. I stood there and stared. I haven't seen the like even in Taipei.
Thank you, Lord!