November 22, 2009

Happy 5th Gotcha!

I don't especially love the term "Gotcha Day". Maybe it just seems too flippant a term to describe something that truly feels like a miracle to our family. It feels like only God could have brought our family of four half way across the world and then to the middle of China to be united with our fifth member - a perfect fit for a father, a mother, and two boisterous boys - Qian Ting - aka Gianna Nora Lake.

Five years ago today, Doug, Jackson, Nathan and I and several other families took an impossibly long trip up an even more impossibly small elevator and walked into a room filled with little black haired babies. Some were in walkers and one, who looked like she had been crying, sat in the lap of a black haired man wearing a black leather coat. She was dressed in pink (her favorite color) and her cheeks were rosy, mostly because they were chapped.

It took me a minute to spot her, but when I did, I knew she was our daughter. I couldn't hold back sobs of joy. But, I quickly quelled my sobs when, in a rush of babies being passed and names being called, I recognized her name being called out. "Qian Ting!" I looked at Doug and said, "That's us!" All four of us rushed over and she was placed in my arms. She cried. I held her and told her, "It's okay. Mommy's got you." Then, "Jesus loves you." With all of the overwhelming love I felt for her at that moment and have felt for her since, I know that even a mother's love isn't as pure and wonderful as the love of our Savior.

To Doug and me, it really does feel like something miraculous took place five years ago today.

So....Happy Gotcha Day, Gianna! We love you!

November 17, 2009

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October 7, 2009

Ender's Game

Wow.  I just finished reading Ender's Game.  I ready it several years ago and loved it.  I read it this time and loved it even more.  I'm trying to put my finger on why I love this book so much.  The first time I read it, I was horrified at what a six year old child was going through.  This time, I already knew Ender.  Ender was never a little boy and I saw him in a different light this time.  There is so much to learn from Ender.  There is also much to fear in Ender, but I found myself relieved rather than afraid.  I wish I could objectively see my behavior and motives as objectively as Ender saw his behavior and the behavior of others.  I can't wait to read Speaker for the Dead.  I read Ender's Shadow right after reading Ender's Game the first time and didn't care for it much.  I didn't realize that chronologically, Speaker for the Dead is right after Ender's Game and that Ender's Shadow takes place at the same time as Ender's Game only from the perspective of another character.

I took notes as I read Ender's Game.  Mostly I just wrote out the definitions of words I didn't know, which can get quite interesting when you are reading science fiction!  But, the last thing I wrote on my paper was, "Ignorance=fear=hate and/or violence".  Sigh.

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July 10, 2009

Maple Nut Granola

I came across a recipe for granola that I tried and modified to meet our gluten free needs and I changed it so much that I just decided to make it my recipe. Everyone loved it and I was so glad because even though it is high in calories, it is really very nutritionally dense. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

8 cups gluten-free oats
1-1/2 cups flax meal
1-1/2 cups gluten-free oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup finely chopped cashews
2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup raw honey
1 cup coconut oil
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon gluten-free pure vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325. Line two 9x13 glass pans with heavy duty aluminum foil and spray with Pam.

Combine the oats, flax meal, oat bran, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, cashews and walnuts in a large bowl.

Stir together salt, sugar, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat.

Pour half of the mixture into each pan.

I don't have exact times for baking the granola. Basically, you want the granola to be nice and golden but not burned. It is easy to burn it so you really have to watch it. I set the timer for 10 minutes and then stir the granola. I set it for 10 more minutes and check at around 7 minutes and stir again or wait to stir at the 10 minute mark. Then, stir every 5 minutes or so until it looks thoroughly roasted. Don't let it get too dark. It will crisp as it cools.

Remove the granola from the over and with the back of a spoon, press the granola down into the pan. This will help make big chunks of granola when it cools. If you don't like chunks, skip this step.

Once it is completely cooled, store in an air tight container.

July 9, 2009

The Chosen - Chapters 4-7

The Chosen Chapters 4-7

I’m so amazed at how much I’m learning by reading this book. I’m trying to find a balance between really enjoying the book and bogging myself down with vocabulary! There are many words that I know, but want to understand more fully, so I look those up. Then there are words I’ve never even heard and those definitions have words in them that I don’t know. I actually had to stop and not write out the definition of “recondite”. My favorite word to say is “catechetical”. I think Doug found a way to use “catechetically” in a sentence and he even Tweeted it! Jackson, Doug and I had fun saying it over and over and trying to use it in different sentences. Anyway, back to the book. I wanted to summarize how Hasidism came about, but I’m not ready to do that with much accuracy, so for now, it will just be enough for me to personally have a better understanding of it myself.

In chapter 4 during one of Danny’s visits to Reuven in the hospital, the two are discussing the fact that according to Danny’s father (a Hasidic Rabbi) a Jew’s mission in life is to obey God. Danny said, “Sometimes I’m not sure I know what God wants, though.” I copied that down because it reminded me of my own questioning. What does God want? Is it easily found in the Bible (His Word). And, is God only in His Word (the Bible)? No, because He was before the Bible was. The Bible is not God. And, if the answer was as simple as reading the Bible, then why do so many people who believe in God have a different answer to that question?
In Chapter 7 Reuven is going with Danny to meet Reb Saunders (Danny’s father) and the crowds part as Danny walks past. Reuven questions Danny about this and Danny says, “Number one on our catechism: Treat the son as you would the father, because one day the son will be the father.” Wow. I don’t know why that stood out to me enough to write it down, but it really did. I think it was just the reality of the dynastic nature of the Hasidic religion.

Aside from the Jewish (mostly Hasidic) history and vocabulary, the story itself is very compelling. I really admire Reuven’s father, Mr. Malter. He has been helping Danny find worthwhile secular reading material in the library and while Mr. Malter knows who Danny is, Danny doesn’t know that Mr. Malter is Reuven’s father. But, what really strikes me about this is that Mr. Malter never tells Reuven that he has a relationship with Danny.

I’m going to type out from the book (Chapter 4) because I was very moved (and a bit convicted) by what Mr. Malter says…This conversation is between Mr. Malter, Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders…

“But all this week, even after the accident, you never said a word!” (Reuven says)
“I did not think it was for me to tell,” my father said quietly. “A boy comes into the library, climbs to the third floor, the room with old journals, looks carefully around, finds a table behind a bookcase where almost no one can see him, and sits down to read. Some days I am there, and he comes over to me, apologizes for interrupting me in my work and asks me if I can recommend a book for him to read. He does not know me, and I do not know him. I ask him f he is interested in literature or science, and he tells me h is interested in anything that is worthwhile. I suggest a book, and two hours later he returns, thanks me, and tells me he has finished reading it, is there anything else I can recommend. I am a little astonished, and we sit for a while and discuss the book, and I see he has not only read it and understood it, but has memorized it. So I give him another book to read, one that is a little bit more difficult, and the same thing occurs. He finishes it completely, returns to me, and we sit and discuss it. Once I ask him his name, but I see he becomes very nervous, and I go to another topic quickly. Then I ask the librarian, and I understand everything because I have already heard of Reb Saunders’ son from other people. He is very interested in psychology, he tells me. So I recommend more books. It is now almost two months that I have been making such recommendations. Isn’t that so, Danny? Do you really think Reuven, I should have told you? It was for Danny to tell if he wished, not for me.

I really like how discreet Mr. Malter is. I think if it had been me, I would have come home after the first day at the library and asked Reuven, “Do you know that Danny Saunders? He asked me for books to read in the library! And, they weren’t religious books, but secular books. Isn’t that interesting? I don’t think I’d see it as gossip, but really that is what it would be. Just something for me to think about. I admire how Mr. Malter handled the situation.

During Mr. Malter’s discussion of the history of Hasidism, he tells Reuven that legend is of no interest to him. I found this interesting because I see that he wanted to just give Reuven the facts, but I think that legend is very telling as well, as long as it is presented as such.

In Chapter 7, reference is made to the Ark in Danny’s synagogue. I wondered if all synagogues have an Ark? According to a slightly reliable source (Wikipedia): The Torah ark or ark in a synagogue (Jewish house of worship) is known in Hebrew as the Aron Kodesh by the Ashkenazim and as the Hekhál amongst most Sefardim. It is generally a receptacle, or ornamental closet, which contains each synagogue's Torah scrolls (Sifrei Torah in Hebrew). In most cases, when possible, the ark is located on the wall of the synagogue closest to Jerusalem.

So, which words did I not know? I hope by writing these out, I will be learning them even more. In the future, I will look the words up as I come upon them. I was at the water park and just jotted down the words I wanted to look up without giving page numbers, so two days later when I looked them up, I couldn’t remember the context.

They are, in no particular order:

Shabbat – Sabbath
Talmud – the collection of Jewish law and tradition consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara.
Torah – 1. the Pentateuch, being the first of the three divisions of the Old Testament. 2. The Old Testament itself 3. The entire body of Jewish law as contained chiefly in the Old Testament and the Talmud.
Vestibule – a passage, hall or antechamber between the outer door and the interior parts of a house or building
Gaunt – extremely thin and bony; haggard and drawn, as from great hunger, weariness, etc.
Aristocracy – class of persons holding exceptional rank and privileges esp hereditary nobility.
Beadle – 1. (in British Universitites) an official who supervises and leads processions; macebearer 2. A parish officer who keeps order during services, waits on the clergymen, etc.
Kabbalah (Cabala) - book of Jewish mysticism (study of Kabbalah was forbidden by rabbis at certain times in history). A system of esoteric theosophy and theurgy developed by rabbis from about the 7th to 18th centuries, reaching its peak about the 12th and 13th centuries, and based on a mystical method of interpreting the Scriptures to penetrate sacred mysteries and foretellt he future.
Esoteric – 1. Understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite 2. Belonging to the select few 3. Private, secret, confidential
Unaffected – free from affectation; sincere; genuine; unpretentious
Affectation – a false appearance or assumption of a state, quality or manner
Amulet – a charm worn to ward off evil ro to bring good fotune; talisman
Ba’al Shem Tov – the Kind or Good Master of the Name (the rabbi who founded Hasidism) also called Besht by his followers. According to Ba’al Shem Tov the purpose of man is to make his life holy – every aspect…eating, drinking, praying, sleeping…
Hasidism – pios ones
Mitnagdim – opponents of Hasidism
Kaddish – considering someone dead and buried
Tzaddikim – Hasidim leaders “righteous ones”
Treatise – a formal and systematic exposition in writing of the principles of a subject, generally longer and more detailed than an essay
Caftan (in the Near East) – a long coat like garment tied at the waist with a sash
Tractate – a treatise; tract
Catechism – 1. An elementary book containing a summary of the principles of a Christian religion in the form of questions and answers 2. A series of formal questions and answers used as a test 3. Catechetical instruction
Catechetical – pertaining to teaching by questions and answers
Exposition – 1. A public exhibition or show 2. The act of expounding, setting forth or explaining
Expound – to set forth or state in detail

I’m still trying to figure out how to organize my thoughts. I want to have my own list of vocabulary, but I feel it is getting in the way of my enjoyment of and writing about the actual story. I’ll get there!

July 6, 2009

The Chosen by Chaim Potok Chapters 1-3

I read through the first 3 chapters of The Chosen by Chaim Potok today. At first, I just wanted the darn baseball game to be over with. I was glad it was only 5 innings! I found myself angry with Danny Saunders and the rest of the Hasids on his team, including the rabbi. They referred to the other team as "apikorsim" - a word I had to look up on the internet because it wasn't in my dictionaries. Apikorsim are secular jews. But, these jews were not what I would call secular by any means. It was the self-righteousness that angered me. Then, seeing Danny's kindness later, and gaining better understanding about him, made me realize how quick I am to judge. I can tell this is going to be a great book for me. I think I will come away from reading this book with a gentler heart toward people who are very different from me.

Just in 3 chapters I learned a lot about Judaism.

As I read, I plan to look up any words that I don't know. I also decided to look up word that I think I know but am not sure I know. I'm glad I did!

Here are the words I looked up:

samovars - a metal urn used especially in Russia for heating water or making tea.

dynastic (dynasty) - hereditary ruler - this surprised me. I didn't really know that the term dynasty had to do with blood lines. Interesting. This was a word I am glad I looked up because I had an idea of what it meant, but I really didn't know.

harrangue (another one I understood, but still looked up) - a long passionate and vehemet speech.

lithe (I thought this meant thin) - bending readily; pliant; limber; supple; flexible

apikorsim - secular jews

barrage - a barrier of artillery fire.

tefillin - something some jews wear during prayer. This was very interesting to me. I had no idea what this was and even that it was used.

June 28, 2009

Coupons! Coupons! Coupons!

Coupons! Coupons! Coupons! isn't really the best title for this blog post. It is more like Coupons x 1000! I have gotten behind on filing my coupons. It happens to the best of us. I get six papers on Sunday and they always come in an orange plastic bag. I've got about 30 newspaper filled orange bags in my closet. Jackson asked me when I was going to start coupon shopping again. Well, let's see...we've got toothpaste to last us until Jesus returns; we won't ever need toilet paper again; mascara - check; Tylenol PM - check. It seems the only thing we are out of is white sugar. Well, around here, that qualifies as an emergency.

My choices are: 1. Take a day this week (preferably before that store ads end on Wednesday) and organize the darn things. or 2. Recycle them all and quit.

Well, I am not a quitter! And, what can you do when your 12 year old wants you to start couponing again? So, Monday I will get myself organized and get to the store!

I have been organizing the coupons by clipping all of them and filing them by manufacturer. That is the BEST way to always have what you need. BUT, it is also very time consuming and with 30 papers worth of coupons I just don't think I am up to the task. So, I guess I'll file them by week and clip them as I need them.

If you are reading this (and I don't blame you if you aren't) and you coupon (yes, that is now a verb) and you file by week (possibly the only sane way to do it), how does it work for you?

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June 25, 2009

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Switching Gears...

I am going to start blogging. Doug is always telling me I need to blog more. But, I'm going to be totally honest and tell you what I think about blogs. Who cares? There. I said it. Almost everyone has a blog and if I wander through cyberspace reading blogs, for the most part, my eyes glaze over and I find I am not growing or learning, I'm just wasting time. I have found some VERY helpful blogs but they are far and few between.

So, why am I going to give blogging a shot? For me. I am going to think of it as keeping a journal. I am also going to start doing some writing in a journal, but I hate having a lot of paper around and I LOVE throwing paper away. This way, I'll have a record that isn't cluttering up my life.

I am going to start educating myself. I will start by reading, writing and discussing. On a daily basis, as I'm reading, I'll be writing on paper. I anticipate blogging less often and it will be more of an overview of the things I'm writing on paper.

Now, to choose a book! I'm going to start a list of books that I want to own. Hmmm....maybe I'll put that here, too.

March 7, 2009

I guess I'm back on!

Well, how did the compact go last year? I did not stick with it 100%. And that is putting it mildly. BUT, I did learn a lot and our habits did change for the positive.

We are back on...(sorta) The reason: Vision Therapy! Yikes! I just wrote a check for $1288 for Vision Therapy for my boys. Hmmm...should we buy new stuff or make sure our kids can read? Okay, we'll pay for VT.

I'm praying that in 6 months I can tell you that I have voracious readers in my home and that I am off the compact wagon!