Friday, October 3, 2014

The James Miracle - by Jason F. Wright (Book Review)

I LOVED Christmas Jars (also by Jason F. Wright).  So I was excited to read this short little book.  I was not disappointed.  It is a beautiful uplifting story that reminds us that it is never too late for miracles. 
This story also reminded me of the importance of "feeding" a marriage.  It is easy to get wrapped up in our daily lives and children.  We can easily forget to spend time with our spouse building and rebuilding our relationship.  Often we do not realize we have been neglecting our spouse until something happens that places stress on us.  When this occurs, our marriage relationship is too weak to withstand the extra pressure and it collapses destroying our marriage and family.
But the good news is that it is never too late to change.  God has given us the ability to repent and improve.  We just have to trust in Him and follow His will.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Janitors - Strike of the Sweepers by Tyler Whitesides (book review)

It has taken me longer to review this book than I had planned.  Why, you ask…because I couldn't wrestle it away from my children long enough to actually read it! 
Strike of the Sweepers is the fourth book in Tyler Whitesides' Janitors series.  I have to say that Whitesides has an incredible imagination.  In each book I  am always amazed at the ideas he comes up to "glopify" cleaning supplies - the rake was classic.  That would come in handy for a couple of my children ;-).
Although my kids were super excited to read the "next" one, I will admit I wasn't all that thrilled.  It seems like every author nowadays writes a series and most of them really shouldn't.  After two or three books the story usually becomes repetitive and  VERY predictable.  I will admit I was expecting nothing less from this series.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The plot of course was predictable, but there were enough surprises thrown in to keep you guessing and make it enjoyable.
While this probably isn't a "classic" - it is a good book for kids and adults who want a quick fun read.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Of Infinite Worth

Can you believe all of those beautiful pictures were created with a typewriter (watch the video above to see them)?!  What amazing talent.  I couldn't help but think that in our "disposable" world today, a man like Paul Smith would probably not be here. I do not know if his "disability" occurred before birth or during, but in our world today so many mothers are counseled to abort their babies.  They are "assured" that the child would be nothing but a "burden" to society and the family.  I wonder how many artists (and SO many other talents and gifts) we have destroyed with this false assumption.  God does not create "burdens."  He creates people - people of infinite worth.  People who have gifts and a purpose.  Paul Smith has made this world a more beautiful place.  He is not a burden or a "mistake."  He is a child of God.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Longing For Home - Hope Springs by Sarah M. Eden (Book Review)

Honestly, I wasn't excited about reading this one.  The first book - Longing for Home - was okay, but I didn't feel it was one of  Ms. Eden's best works.   But, I am glad that I gave the second one a chance.  I think Longing for Home - Hope Springs - is much better.  The story flowed better and I didn't feel like I was constantly being "recapped" on the characters and their thoughts. 
I was upset at the ending of the first book - when Katie chose Tavish.  I felt like it was a rushed decision  and one that didn't really fit with her character.  Therefore, I was glad when the author had Katie re-examine her feelings and take the time needed to make her decision.   I was also glad to see some resolution brought to the town feud. 

I do get a little disappointed with Hollywood and fiction books in how quickly problems are solved - if only it were that way in real life. (I know…I know…that's the purpose of entertainment - to remove you from reality, but it still bothers me.)   I also have problems with the whole "romance" genre in general, but that's for another post.

Overall this was a pretty good book.  Again, not one that I will read over and over, but I did enjoy it. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Homeschooling Fun Continued

Math Fun

We dug out the pattern blocks and worked on fractions - then just had fun!


Science Fun

Science is about asking questions.
Why is the pile of dirt always BIGGER than the hole?

Now I just have to get him to FILL the holes!

(Physics AND art class)

Some days you just have to bring out the Jedi inside ;-)

There is a paper airplane somewhere!  
We made planes from different materials and
determined card stock flies the best. (tin foil - not so much!)
We also played with the elevators and made our planes
do all kinds of tricks.
(Next week's project - botony - what kills the weeds in our back yard!)

Look how high they go!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hangzhou, China - The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal connects the two cities of Beijing and Hangzhou - a total distance of 1,104 miles.
The canal was built over many centuries to make a "highway" for the emperors to travel from their summer palace (in Beijing) to their winter palace in Suzhou.
File:Modern Course of Grand Canal of China.png
Check out the video below for a slide show of our trip down the Grand Canal in Hangzhou.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I have been homeschooling for over 13 years now.  It has been a blast watching my kids explore and learn and have fun.  We have built a pirate ship and sailed the "seven seas" (that's what canoes and swimming pools are for!). We have exploded volcanoes and dug dungeons (yep - really BIG holes in the back yard!).  We have made giant bubbles, built pyramids, made Egyptian wigs, and oh so many other wonderful things.  We have had a great time building wonderful memories, but sadly I do not have many pictures or videos to document these great things.  I have to be the world's worst journal keeper.  I don't enjoy writing, so I make excuses not to do it.  I love to take pictures, but hate putting them in scrap books. *sigh*  But this year I am going to try to do better.  So in my efforts here are some pictures and videos for our first week of "school" in 2014.
To study centripetal force and inertia we built "marble runs"


For Art and History
Vanessa painted a "fresco" like the ancient Greeks

Raphael painted a shield like the Ancient Romans

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Name Used to Be Muhammad by Tito Momen - Book Review

This is a true story of a Muslim who converted to Christianity.  I am cautious about believing everything I read about a church (or religion) from someone who has left it.  Tito, however, seems to present a fair picture of Islamic faith.  He portrays both the good and the bad.
Tito's father is very domineering (in our culture he would be considered abusive) and chooses Muhammad to become the next Imam for their village.  This requires strict adherence to Islamic laws and intense study of the Qur'an.  To accomplish this, Muhammad is sent away to school, first to Syria and then to Egypt.     It is during his time abroad that he begins to question the teachings of his father - "By the time I hit my teen years I had started to appreciate how much fear dictated my actions around my father.  But being a round Yalmaz got me analyzing how much that fear influence my religious beliefs.  In other words, were my beliefs based on faith or fear?  I wasn't sure."
Everyone comes to a point in their lives where they have to decide whether or not to follow the teachings of their fathers - Muhammad was no different.  However, after a series of events in his life, he is faced with an even greater decision.  Muhammad's very faith in Islam itself is questioned.  In his search for truth he discovers that to follow his heart, he must convert to Christianity.  But to convert would mean losing everything - his family, his fiancée, and possibly even his life.
This is a compelling story of one man's search for truth, that emphasizes God's love for each of His children no matter what their religion.  It is a story of miracles and forgiveness and the power of God to comfort and succor each of us during our greatest afflictions.  A great reminder that God will never abandon us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Artisans of China

There are many differences between China and the US.  One is that if you go to China as a part of a tour group you will be REQUIRED to visit several factories as part of your tour.  They are not factories in our sense of the word however; I don't think many Westerners get to see those.   Usually it was just a large room with a demonstration by the artisans and then a showroom where they wanted you to spend LOTS of money! Oh and I can't forget the "special dining room" just for the tourists on the upper floor of each.  I do have to admit that they were actually quite interesting and I had wished that I had more money to spend - especially at the rug factory.
So here are some of the "factories" we toured...

The Pearl Factory

An open oyster showing how the pearls are "seeded" inside each shell

This is a screen made out of pearls - Beautiful!!

 It was fun to see the demonstration on pearl seeding and
how to determine genuine pearls from fakes.

The Jade Museum

A history of Jade in China

A sculpture carved out of Jade - Did you know Jade consisted of so many different colors?

Carving the Jade by hand.  Very few people still know how to do this.

The Phoenix


Add caption

 Making Cloisonné is a painstaking, time consuming process.
First they start with a copper vase.  One person draws the pattern onto the vase. 
Another then attaches thin copper strips following the pattern drawn on the piece. 
Enamel is then put into each space.  This is done by several different artists.
The enamel is then fired.  And another person polishes the piece and
it is finished by gilding.  One piece can take weeks to years to complete
depending on the size and intricacy of the pattern.
Finished Pieces

On the left you can see the artists working at their stations -
each one adding a different step to the process

The Rug Factory


Some of the rugs were made with wool and some with silk.  The one on the left was the silk rug I wanted.
But considering it cost almost as much as our house did - it stayed in China.  But it was SO soft and pretty!!

The Wool display

The Silk Factory

Making silk thread.  Eight cocoons are unraveled and wound
together to make a single silk thread

The cocoons are soaked in water to soften before being unwound

The cocoons

To make silk batting double cocoons are used.  (Double cocoons contain two butterflies.  The caterpillars spin their silk intertwining the threads to make One cocoon.)  They are soaked, opened and then stretched over the form.  Many are stretched over the form and then removed to dry.  The dried batting (in the man's hands in the back) is then stretched into the desired shape.

The pupa are removed from each cocoon and will be fried and eaten.
No - I didn't try any.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright - Book Review

"...woven into meaningful literature, so tightly that it can't be separated, is a telling lesson...Always!  Good stories teach!"

The Rent Collector is definitely a "good story!"  I am always excited when I get to add another book to my "classics"* list. 

The Rent Collector tells the story of a family struggling to survive while living in a garbage dump in Cambodia.  Sang Ly (the mom) wants a better life for her family, especially her very sick little boy.  Like most of the people living in extreme poverty, she never received an education and thus cannot read.  But, while searching through the trash, they find a book and with it the opportunity to change their lives.  It's too good to give spoilers, so you will just have to read it! 

I had the opportunity to build a "home" for a family living in a dump just like that in Mexico.  It is a horrible way to have to live and sadly there are millions of people around the world living in circumstances that most Americans can not fathom.  We have poverty in America, but even the very poorest among us live in "luxury" when compared to these people.  We take so much for granted.  Everyone - rich or poor - has the opportunity for an education here.  But sadly, there are many who do not appreciate it's value.  Education is the key to freedom and prosperity (education - not job training!)

As the rent collector says..."Words, Sang Ly, are not only powerful they are more valuable than gold."

I know the words of this book have definitely changed me and that is the power of  "meaningful literature."

*Classic Book = a book that can be read again and again with new lessons and principles being learned each time.  A classic is a book that makes you think; a book that inspires you to be better.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Summer Palace - 颐和园 (Yeheyuan)

The Summer Palace was originally built in 1750 and
was named the Garden of Clear Ripples. 
 It was destroyed in 1860 during the Opium wars,
but was rebuilt in 1886 by the emperor Cixi
and renamed the Summer Palace.
The morning we were here it was raining -
so we were not able to see all of the garden or get very clear pictures. 
On the bright side - the rain cleaned the air and removed the smog for a couple of days.

The entrance to the garden

Close-up of the gate

The Pagoda near the bridge to the island.  I am sure it has a name - but can't remember.  The interior is lined with poems all around.

Soldiers were stationed at all of the tourist sites.
The bridge to the island in the middle of  KunMing Lake.  The Lake was built to replicate West Lake in Hangzhou.
 (The day we visited West Lake it was raining too - must be something about the water.)

Close-up of the roof details

On the left is the Summer Palace - we couldn't see it clearly because of the rain :-(. 
Check out this website for some awesome pictures of the
Summer Palace - Beijing

One of the boats that take you across the lake
Rubber Ducky!! 
It is touring the world and happened to be in Beijing while we were there.