Sunday, December 21, 2014

Found the interview

Finally! (Thanks, Melody!)

I had posted the preview, and now here is the actual show.

They explained our life pretty accurately!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We love it here!

Ken can't help himself. He has to capture almost every sunrise.

This was on an early morning bike ride. Ken snapped one photo and moved on. Rare. He usually makes really sure he captures an image. This happens to be the most postcardesque of them all.

Ok, hope to write more later.

Monday, November 17, 2014

TVBS Interview

It aired! Not as devastating as I thought! Here is a preview of the clip from youtube. Only a few grammar errors and mispronunciations. We saw the full fifteen minute clip two days ago (I don't have a link to that yet). It was pretty good! They did keep the guitar playing in, though. Oh well. Now all we need to do is sit back and wait for families to move in droves to the countryside and till the land.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We're moving!

In a few short weeks, this will be our new front yard!

This seaside rental is just seven plus minutes away from our land. God seemed to set it right in our laps. It will be a challenge - just one big room plus a kitchen and bathroom - but we're excited about it! As soon as we returned home from signing the lease, Joseph went up to the attic and started dragging things down to pack. I'm glad he started; it's always so hard to start. But now we're almost halfway through, thanks to a few friends with trucks and vans.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaching Right and Left: a brilliant accident

...because isn't that how many discoveries are made? Through accidents of all kinds? I think this is God's way of reminding us where all knowledge lies. Human effort accounts for very little.

Anyway, a while ago, I think I wrote about Lydia's amazing ability at losing her flip-flops. Well, it happened again. She lost one of her new black flip flops only days after we bought them for her. I'm so glad I didn't throw away the remaining flip flop from her last pair, because it just so happened that she lost the right (both meanings) one, so now she has one black flip, and one pink flop.

Just today, while we were waiting for Joseph and Anna to get out of their once-a-week classes, Lydia and I hopped around on the hopscotch squares at school.

Then all of a sudden, it came to me! I explained to her that anytime she wanted to know which side of her was the left side, she could look down, and find her black flip flop. Same with right and pink. In fact, she can always remember that pink is right because that's right - Lydia loves pink.

After a few practice drills, she got it. Now all I need to do is review a few times a day for a few days, and I bet she'll get it for good.

Accidents are so handy sometimes. :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

How to do fun crafts with your kids... simply hope and pray that they come up with creative stuff on their own, and document like mad when they do. Maybe someday I'll actually write about what I do in contribution to my kids' education. Maybe.  But for now, I just want to boast about the interesting ideas these guys came up with on their own. Again, this is precisely the reason why I added big chunks of "independent play time" in their homeschooling schedule when I was filling out the application. When they don't need my help to create new things, I feel like something is going right.

Lydia asked to keep the colored pencil shavings so she could make something out of them. This is what she came up with:

I also remember being mesmerized by the smooth, dancing coils of colored pencil shavings when I was a little girl.

If we ever do manage to build a house, Anna is determined to have a "pretty party room" all to herself, preferably up in a tree. This room would be used to pretty oneself up in preparation for a party...I think.  In anticipation of that room, Anna decided to make a pretty party station. This piece of cardboard is now completely covered with all kinds of origami gadgets.

That nail polish stand is very sturdy! It is still standing today. Sadly, the polish didn't last as long. I knocked it over a few days ago. I can't believe I let her choose purple nail polish as a replacement.

This is Joseph's rocket. Or maybe it's a satellite that will shed most of its body in space. He started using a rocket app developed by NASA recently; I'm pretty sure that is what inspired him.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Interview coming up

A few months ago, we got interviewed about our homeschooling/country lifestyle. It was a fun day jam-packed with activity. I was surprised when by 7:00 pm, I was ready to go to bed.  In a few weeks it will air.
 I'm really curious how it will turn out. Throughout the whole day, we showed them different aspects of our life. Sometimes we'd be doing something random, look around, and there would be the huge eye of the camera, staring at us. They really know how to capture all kinds of footage. We even pulled out the out-of-tune guitar, and belted out some praise songs. My thumb had a wound, so I could hardly strum. Our voices seemed to hit all sorts of new notes. I could just feel the youtubeness of it all. "Do you know any other songs; ones you are more familiar with?" came the carefully worded, very polite inquiry. No, that was the best we could do. Maybe they will kindly edit that part out. All in all, it went very well. Under the pressure of that watchful eye, we at least expressed almost everything we wanted to express about family living, working and playing together.

Below is Joseph playing with the eye. He was on cloud nine after being told he could work it a little by himself. To him there is nothing more beautiful than a complicated web of buttons and dials. He actually doesn't like things that are too high tech because they look too plain and simple on the surface. 

The girls were happy too. They made friends with both ladies of the crew.

There was even time for a nail polish party.

 They got footage of everything. Here, Ken is leading Joseph through Proverbs.

Here, the girls and I are making cookies.

Here, we are getting ready for a lunch of roast chicken.

We hope that whoever ends up watching this will feel the urgency to re-arrange priorities for the sake of family, if need be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lydia colored a sturdy dark skinned girl!

I don't remember having these thoughts so early. Lydia is four years old, and is already comparing herself to what she sees around her.

"Mommy, I wish my skin was lighter."
"Mommy, I wish I had yellow hair."
"I like blue eyes better."
"I want to be thin. Mommy, do I look thin?" (sucking in her stomach)
"Anna, you are so thin; I want to be really thin."

These were not all spoken at once. Lydia isn't constantly thinking of her appearance. But I have heard variations of these phrases every now and then. Very unsettling. Every time I hear her make these comments, I try my best, in a very relaxed, conversational way, to ask her why she wants these traits, and then we talk about the benefits and beauty of her brown eyes, brown skin, and dark hair. I try to be careful, in my enthusiasm, not to veer too far in the other direction, and declare darker to be better. Nevertheless, I can't resist reminding her that our kind of skin can handle the sun better than lighter skin.

This is what I told Joseph when he was dealing with names like "little black person" (小黑人). Now, he proudly flaunts his victory whenever we put our arms together for a skin tone contest. He is happily the darkest person in our family. He and Anna actually help me point out all the benefits of our skin tone to Lydia. Every time, she listens with interest, and appears satisfied. But still, the comments pop up. Her drawings mostly show women with blond (rather, bright yellow) hair, and tiny waists.

How could this have started so early? I remember my own dreams. I wanted long straight hair that blew in the wind. I was built more stocky like Lydia, so I also envied Sara's smaller boned frame, which was a lot like Anna's Asian build. But I'm pretty sure I didn't think much of these things at four years old. ....Well, we did watch Frozen. Almost impossible not to. And Cinderella. And Alice in Wonderland. And since we recently watched Peter Pan, the girls have repeatedly requested Tinkerbell printables (plus all her hourglass shaped friends. They still don't know that Tinkerbell has her own movie. I don't plan on telling them either :P) to color.

So that is part of the answer right there. She sees these beautiful, impossibly thin characters in these movies, and wants to be like them. So simple. Since it would be very hard to block all distorted images from her world, my strategy is to use these moments when her ideas and wishes are spoken as a chance to explain how these characters are not realistically shaped; how to be that thin would be dangerous and unhealthy; how God made so many colors in the world, because He knew that they were all so beautiful. Part II of my strategy is to be intentional about the women Joseph, Anna and  Lydia are exposed to as role models. Certainly there are books and perhaps even movies that portray women of all colors in a healthy and proportioned way, that are overflowing with patience and kindness. I hope. For starters, we can spend time imagining together what so many brave women from the Bible may have looked like.

Today, Lydia asked for a piece of paper and busily started coloring with markers. Her preferred medium is ink or graphite, so I was curious what she would draw this time.  This is what she showed me:

"Does she look nice? Not too thin, and not too fat?"

"Perfect!", I said, "She looks like she can do a lot of hard work without breaking in half! She looks like she can dance and play and not get tired!"

Lydia was pleased. I was elated. I still am. This woman's pose is full of confidence, and her bare feet (a shocker, as almost all of Lydia's ladies have high heels) can handle the roughest of terrains.

I have no doubt that this beautiful woman can carry a bucket full of water on her head without breaking a sweat.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bibi and Lydia

Just recalling some happy memories.

Ken says Lydia is just like Bibi.

Exactly like Bibi.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

DIY Halloween

Can it be this easy?

A few months ago, I told Anna that she can have the privilege of planning a Halloween activity this year.

It has been only recently that the kids have become aware of Halloween, and want to do something special. I am just not skilled in event planning, so holidays and birthdays are daunting for me. This is the main reason all our kids were born in January. (I have God to thank for this; we almost messed it up) One party, and it's over.

Anyway, besides telling them about reformation day, I was at a loss at how to plan a non-scary, non-evil, fun, very simple, very VERY simple Halloween party.... until that suggestion just came out of my mouth. Anna loved the idea.

Well, just today, I heard Joseph and Anna discussing it. Joseph was explaining to Anna the definition of "donate". His idea was for all three of them to donate some of their hard earned money to make Halloween happen.
Suddenly I had a brilliant idea: "Baba and I can donate as well!"

That is when the homeschooling wheels started turning in my head. I explained how organizations that need money for a good cause have to write what they are doing, and what their budget will be in  a report (oops. I should have said proposal). Then they have to find someone rich, submit it, and wait for approval. I suggested they do the same. Anna started writing immediately. Here is the unfinished list:

At this rate, all will go most well. In fact, I even offered the idea of adding some sort of treat to the list that perhaps they could make themselves.
This just may turn out to be a complete DIY Halloween.
I'm freeeeee!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First day of school

The first day of school went well! Every time we mentioned taking Anna to school for Chinese class, she would protest. She's a homebody like me. After the first day, though, I think she has changed. We will probably take Joseph and Anna once a week - maybe twice - and perhaps let Lydia join Taiwanese (as opposed to Chinese) class at the same time.

....but if schedules don't match, Lydia and I will probably park ourselves at the cute stone table and wait.

No doubt, Lydia will be drawing pretty ladies with hoof hands. She says hooves are easier to draw than real hands. She'll start drawing real hands when she's six, she says.

I was impressed with Anna's calm exterior at recess time. She walked determinedly into the fray, scouting out where she could inject herself. I knew she felt nervous inside, but she hid it well. All my kids have been much braver than I was when it came to interacting with peers.

That crowd had too many boys, so off she went to hunt for some girls...

And she found them! Her classmates. She stood there while I encouraged her to ask to join. I just couldn't resist. Sometimes all a person needs is a little help over the first obstacle, and the rest will be smooth sailing. After a few minutes, I asked for her. "Can Anna play with you?" "Sure!" was the immediate response.

I took this picture about thirty seconds later....

...and this picture about sixty seconds later. She's in! That's all it took.

In my hurry to document Anna's day, I left my purse and Lydia at the stone table. I suddenly remembered, and rushed back to make sure they were both okay. Both were gone.  And than I saw this little lovely walking toward me. Lydia told me she was afraid someone might take my purse away, so she took it with her. So so sweet!

Joseph had to miss recess to sign his twelve plus books. He is so excited that they teach Science in third grade.

All in all, it was a pleasant morning. I wasn't nearly as uptight as I was when Joseph first went to school so long ago. I guess we all are changing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flashes of inspiration

I love when Joseph gets such flashes. He sat down one day and wrote out his schedule. It doesn't matter that his newly ordered life lasted one day. At least he felt the urge to be organized.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Swimming Sisters

As soon as Anna garnered a few swimming tips from her dad, she started teaching Lydia.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Lydia's Invention

Are you a mom? Do you have a baby? Do you like to read? Do you like to read while walking in the rain?

Then this is the apparatus for you:

This is Lydia trying it out. It works!  Of course Joseph has to see if it works as well.

She even provided her own self-published material to read.
(uh oh, can't rotate the next two pictures)

(...and please overlook the fingers. Combination of eczema and gardening)

Of course, I bought it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dishwashing: a lost art

Finally! An idea that I've had for several months has finally come to fruition. Thank you, Laura and Sara for catching such rare footage.

Who is willing to add their own video, thus reviving this dying art?

Ok, here it is:

The Lost Art of Dishwashing

I know it's long...but the music is too good to edit. I actually did edit a little bit, but it was a painful loss.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Traditional Taiwanese game

Ken taught us this game/dance. You have to hope through two (and eventually four) bamboo sticks that are being moved together and apart to the tune of a sweet little melody. Apart, together, apart, together, apart, apart, together. So fun! I wish we could play it more often, but we need more people. The day he taught us, some of the neighborhood kids had come to play.

Then a few days later, some friends - old and new - came to visit, and we grabbed that chance.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A day in the life...

Anna doing antics on the bar, Joseph carving a boat, Lydia pondering existence on a swing. At that moment, they were all more or less happily occupied. Woohoo!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Time to talk about Bill Gothard

I've been thinking about what to write for over a month now.

Some time in April, Bill Gothard's hidden past came to light. He resigned from his position as head of his behemoth ministry called Institute for Basic Life Principles due to allegations of sexual abuse.

I was shocked.

Ken and I had attended one of his IBLP seminars in Taipei a few years back and were enamored. Here is what I had to say about the seminar.  I cringe every time I read my own words. I remember feeling an overwhelming zeal after each nightly seminar was finished. I couldn't wait to apply the six steps, or ten steps, or twelve steps to conquer certain struggles or sins in my life. I remember wondering, "With so many thousands of Taiwanese attending this seminar year after year, why have we not experienced revival in this country yet?" I was truly puzzled. I knew that from then on, I was going to be a new, very perfect person, and I now had the tools to raise my children to be very perfect people.

Ken and I decided to look into applying to be a part of their homeschooling program. That way, we could use their materials alone to teach our children all the steps they need to know to live a life pleasing to God. Sadly, when I read over the application, I came to the realization that we as a family did not meet all their standards. We just weren't holy enough. I had a feeling that my testimony, which the required to be written out, would not get cleared by the upper echelons of the ministry. So we bought a few books from the IBLP Taipei headquarters, and settled back into life. All my attempts to memorize the necessary scriptures, and complete all the steps gradually faded away into routine living. Every now and then, I would open the huge character study volume that we had purchased, with a renewed determination to make my kids diligent, hard-working little angels. Then I would stop at the introduction, which delineated all the requirements before using the book. They didn't fit with our multilingual family. Lastly, I would close the book in defeat. It is still sitting in our shelf, unused.

And now I'm pretty sure we won't be using it, even if the requirements didn't exist.  Now, looking back, I can see the red flags. Now I can detect the anxiety hidden under that zeal. Also the hyper-vigilant naval gazing that a pursuit of holiness apart from the finished work of Jesus Christ often produces. Now I understand why that family we visited in the States, while we were still in the throes of Gothard worship, left their homeschooling program when the wife was a child. That visit alerted me for the first time that all was not as it should be in this program. Finally we started catch a glimpse of the blatant legalism that characterizes Bill Gothard's teachings. That barely perceptible vice-grip began to loosen.

And then this happened. A group of adults who had grown up under Gothard's teachings, created a website to point out many issues they had with his doctrine. They never knew they would start receiving story after story of girls being targets of Bill Gothard's misconduct. As they (with discernment) posted more and more of these accounts, people started to take notice. It was that triggered the sequence of events which led to Bill Gothard's resignation.

I admit, I spent (off and on) at least seven nights reading accounts from recoveringgrace deep into the night. Call it morbid curiosity. I think it was, partly. But also, the more I read the more I was convinced that our family could have easily been sucked into that culture where abiding by the letter of the law was the chief end of living; where fear and second-guessing every motive or outcome were common methods of coping with such lofty laws. We could have totally lost sight of the simple freedom of believing in the kindness of God who made provisions for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be free from the condemnation of the law.

This is such an old, old stumbling block. Paul warned the Galatians about getting tangled once again in the law. What is the allure? Why were taken in so easily? What is it about those millions of steps to follow that was so attractive to us? I have a hunch it has something to do with the need to control one's own life. I think I was drawn to the supposedly simple steps that could guarantee personal holiness and children who would grow up zealous for God. If I just followed the steps, all would go well. I was trying to take my helpless reliance on the person of Jesus for everything in my life - physical and spiritual - out of the equation.

Why? What ugly pride in us always seeks to be self-reliant? To be able to say at the end of our lives, "I got myself to this place."?  Well, there it was, festering in my very bowels. Yup, bowels.

Looking back, I thank God that we weren't "holy" enough to gain admittance into their homeschooling program. I'm sure (judging from my last post about BG) that we would have lacked the discernment to separate the truth (because there is plenty of it thrown in) from the toxic lies. Here is an insightful article from that tackles the fallacies of Bill Gothard's teachings head on. I especially like what they wrote at the end about grace and faith.

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus; just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise...

Yes, indeed - to rest.

Anyone who is a part of ATI (their homeschooling ministry) or contemplating joining, take a good look at all the information at, and proceed with (a restful) caution.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thoughts on "Oh my G..."

I wonder if the world could be neatly categorized into three groups.

Those who say...

1. "Oh my God"  =  soul in peril

2. "Oh my Gosh"  =  living on the edge

3. "Oh my Goodness"  =  safely in the fold

Ha. Kidding.

But really, for a while now, my "goodness"es have been feeling like cheap fillers for what was clearly established as a way to take God's name in vain.

I wonder how "Oh my Goodness" came to be. Was it simply a matter of stashing a few extra letters into the original to provide a "safe" alternative that packs the same punch?

I remember long ago in sixth grade, my dorm mom at boarding school addressed this.It left such an impression that I remember evening devotional to this day.

So, I don't know what to do with these thoughts, but for starters, I'm trying to decrease my use of this filler phrase, and give pause to study the feeling I really want to express when it haphazardly pops out of my mouth.

Maybe there is a truly useful mode of expression, not yet discovered, that is waiting to claim its rightful position in the absence of "Oh my Goodness".

Friday, May 9, 2014

We all love okra

One of my most successful feats as a parent. Voicing my anticipation, I took the first bite in their presence, after which I made many exclamations about its flavor, texture and bouncy seeds. They tried a few bites, and loved it.
We have eight plants that are just starting to bear fruit.

We love it broiled with salt, pepper and olive oil.

As a side note, I can't pass up on updating about another perfect moment in homeschooling history at our house. Here, Anna is studying the Chinese phonetic system, and Joseph is teaching Lydia how to read. This delicate moment of pure education lasted for about twenty whole minutes!

Thanks, again, Kristie, for this book! We borrowed it from the library for Joseph and Anna, but received our very own for Lydia. I'm so glad I face no pressure to return it before it is overdue, since we are really taking our time with Lydia. The book is called, "Teach Your Child How to Read in 100 Easy Lessons." This is definitely taking more than 100 days.
I actually need to find a way to convince Joseph and Anna to take over completely. They are infinitely more patient with Lydia than I am.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

fam in pictures part IV

Saying goodbye to Evelyn. She, her sister, mom and aunt were leaving the next day.

Of course we had to have rice stuffed bamboo at least once. This is one of my favorite meals.

Joseph suddenly decided to perform on his violin that night. I was surprised.

Dad, who is willing to try anything (didn't even wince at the taste of stinky tofu), is taking a bite out of that sweet, spongy mass that grows in place of the water within a coconut when its sprout starts shooting out of it. 

We had a lovely time with Ting, whose chocolate truffles, I had no qualms about polishing off.

We had to play monopoly. Joseph could play it every day. It's the Taiwanese version, so Boardwalk and Park Place are Taroko and Mt. Taiping.

Dad and I had as good a time as one could have in this kind of situation. For about an hour we both had several tries at Anna's tooth. Both of us were itching to just give it a good, hard yank. I can't believe Anna let me use a pliers! In the end, Anna pulled it out herself, and earned an ice cream.

As evidenced in this picture, we were thrilled to finally have Melody over for a visit! She showered us with organic goodies and and gifts. She jumped right into our lives, helping with chores and playing endlessly with the kids. So good to finally see you again, Melody!

Not much changes with each passing generation. This is what we did to our grandpa's hair. I recall it was just about the same color.

I can only justify such decadence once a year. Mom made mandazis. They were divine. I easily inhaled ten or more each time she made them, which was twice. Here they are with a honey/nut butter dipping sause.

Mom allowed a quick break from the endless garden work for a visit the beach in the final days. Just like the sisters. I was trying hard to keep sadness at bay...

...because I knew we would be here in less than 48 hours, saying goodbye. 

I can't say enough thank you's to God for arranging this visit so perfectly, and to so many people here who helped  - Sherman, Tefu, Sophia, Tangyi, Melody, Wendy, Ting, Shio-wen, Roger, Mu-shr and Shr-mu. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Thank you, family!