The Random Writings of Rachel: August 2015

Graphic Tees: Do or Don't?




I'm not generally a graphic tee fan. I tend to think that I'd have to really believe in something in order to wear it on a t-shirt, and most graphic tees don't do a good job of inspiring my belief.

There are two traditional exceptions to my general dislike of graphic tees:

1) Any Superman logo tee. I love the Superman logo. I felt a special connection to it because my maiden name started with an S and Superman himself is just all around cool. I don't currently own a Superman tee, but I have owned several in the past, and I loved them.

2) The Pac-Man t-shirt I won three years ago at an arcade in Minnesota. This has much less to do with Pac-Man and much more to do with the t-shirt's origin story. I'm not a video-gamer nor am I a fan of any computer games. I don't actually have any fond feelings toward Pac-Man. However, I'd wanted to visit Mall of America for years, ever since I first heard that it existed. We went on a road trip to Minneapolis, and then, in Mall of America, we stopped at an arcade, and I just happened to hit the jackpot while playing Wheel of Fortune, winning 1,400 tickets in a single go, and becoming the star of the arcade as everyone gathered around to watch the tickets come out of the machine. 1,400 tickets ended up being plenty enough to buy a t-shirt at the arcade's store, so I chose this tee, and it's gone on many adventures with me ever since, though I've never hit a jackpot quite that big at any other arcade.

There are a few other graphic tees I've always wanted. A fellow Mandarin major in college had a t-shirt that read: 白人看不懂
Translation: "White people can't read this." I thought it was hilarious.

And Chad from High School Musical wore a shirt that said "I come with my own background music," an expression that I've always thought was very fitting for my personality and usual state of mind. I'd also strongly consider a Gilligan's Island, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Once Upon a Time tee.

So, maybe I'm not as anti-graphic tees as I always thought I was. I just need to meet the right one before I fall in love. ;)

How do you feel about graphic tees in general? What's your favorite one, whether it exists or doesn't exist (I have a feeling that Gilligan's Island fan t-shirts only exist in my mind)?

Selamat Hari Merdeka!!

Preschool at Home: Week 3

Thoughts on homeschooling this week:

I thought I'd discuss my homeschool personality a little bit. Every homeschooler has their own style. For me, for now, I'm growing into my own and discovering what works best with my little girls. Some things I'll do more for them, (i.e. Frozen-themed worksheets), but other things I do or don't do because I personally really like or don't like them. 

In my homeschool, I generally avoid activities I perceive as wasteful. I try not to print unnecessarily or use WAY too much paper--but, granted, these are little ones who need a lot of coloring and writing practice, so I'm not too stingy with papers, either. For their daily name writing practice and general letter and number writing practice, we use lined paper stuck inside a plastic page cover with dry-erase markers so that the page can be used over and over again. I don't like activities that use food for crafts that won't end up being eaten (i.e. rice or beans or noodle crafts). We lived in a non-sealed home in the tropics. Rice is notorious for attracting bugs, that's why I keep my rice in a tightly sealed container that I can only hope won't be infiltrated by weevils. I do not want food scattered on the floor attracting bugs into my home and I don't want to have to sweep or mop more than strictly necessary (I generally mop the house 3 times a week anyways due to dust).

I do like to put in a lot of variety into each day and keep things moving quickly so that neither students nor teacher gets bored. We alternate through physical activities and listening and writing and reading and counting and songs and computer games very quickly, never sticking to one kind of activity for very long--I find that sticking to one subject until boredom ensues does not enhance either learning nor proper school behavior.



Week 3:
Major Themes: The Letter M and Local Animals


Notebooks: 
-Check the weather and mark the weather on the graph (sunny, cloudy, or rainy) each day
-Write in the number of the day on the calendar each day.
-Point out which day of the week it is.



Alphabet:
-Sing the Sing, Spell, Read, & Write letter sounds song.
-Sing the short vowel sounds song.
-Practice writing names. Counted letters in their names. Because Anna already knows her name, I am having her do all activities with her surname, as well. I have them circle the capital letter at the beginnings of their names.
-Practice writing upper and lowercase letters with workbooks
-This week we focused on the letter M and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the 'M' sound.
  -Listened to this Letter M song.
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter M in it?"
  -Looked at the M page in our picture dictionary
  -We made minions with popsicle sticks. Found in this blog post. Mom already had yellow popsicle sticks in her never-ending stash of craft supplies and Anna loves minions, so this was perfect.
  -Made moons. I thought this craft was pretty cool, since it involved a lot of basic art skills. I had the girls trace around a small plate in order to create a circle outline on white paper, then had them cut out the circle they drew, then glue it to a black sheet of paper. Then, we took the white crayon, the one they always tell me is "broken" because it won't draw on white paper, and used it to draw stars all over the black night sky.
  -Made mermaids, using a printable from this blog post. These girls LOVE mermaids. This simple craft was the big hit of the week. I usually always have them do their own cutting for crafts, since they need the practice far more than I do, but this one I did cut out for them because they would have cut off their poor mermaid's arms with their current level of scissor skills. Teamwork, right?
  -Ate homemade muffins. Made by MaryGrace.
  -Made monkey masks (I got the printable from here).
  -Made the letter M with play-dough
  -Practiced writing the word Mom.


Math:
-Number flashcards up to 20
-Practiced writing numbers on whiteboard
-1-10 Dot-to-dots (pictured above)
-Played with our giant dominoes.

Reading:
Anna: I Can Read it! and practicing sight words with flashcards. Books 1 and 2 from Sonlight's Fun Tales
Shiloh: this week I had her read letter blends with short vowels: ma, me, mi, mo, mu
We practiced adding an end sound, too: ma-t, mu-d, me-t, mi-tt.
Both:  Teach Your Monster to Read for 5-10 minutes a day.

Bible and Storytime: Week 3 from Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide.

Days of the Week and Months of the Year: I use this days of the week song and this months of the year song.

Science: Local animals.
-We talked about all the animals that we see around our home. We talked about dangerous animals and what we should do when we meet animals outside (a necessary animal lecture, as our island is home to lots of stray dogs, wild monkeys, monitor lizards, jellyfish, and maybe even a few poisonous snakes.)


Storybook: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
-We continued the story. "If you give a mouse a....he's going to ask for a....to go with it." This was highly amusing for me. Shiloh was pretty sure that "milk" was nearly always the answer--once I asked, "If you give a mouse some spicy chicken, he's going to ask for what to go with it?" And Shiloh answered "Milk!" while Anna gave her a confused glance and answered with the more logical "Rice." Shiloh does have a point, though, milk can pretty much go with just about anything. Maybe that's why she's always asking for milk breaks during school...
When I asked "If you give a mouse a hot dog, what will he want to go with it?" both girls shouted in unison "A hamburger!" which, for inexplicable reasons, cracked me up.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
-Remember the moon craft? That totally counts as connected.
-We counted objects in the room and I had them point out and tell me what the different items in the room were called.
-With Anna only we listened to a recording this book being read in Mandarin. I haven't mentioned it as part of preschool, but Anna has an additional Mandarin lesson with me after lunch.

Bahasa: 
This week's unit was an intro to animals! In case you think my choices of animal vocabulary were somewhat random, they were actually very purposeful. I chose the animals that we see the most in daily life here, so yes, monkey fits right in with the rest! And we probably see more rats than actual mice, but tikus is used interchangeable for rats and mice, so I went with mouse since it matched the storybook and letter theme better:

Mouse = Tikus
Monkey = Monyet
Cat = Kucing
Chicken = Ayam
Dog = Anjing
Bird = Burung

-Looked for pictures of different animals in the books that we read and called them by their Bahasa names.
-Taught them a simple sentence structure with a different verb from the last two weeks:
 Saya suka ... {I like...} and Saya tidak suka... {I don't like...}
-We also listened to the Didi and Friends song BINGO every day, which actually kind of made sense since the main character was a cat aka kucing

Life skills: 
-They helped me put laundry in the washing machine and fold and put it away.
-They put chopped zucchini into the slow cooker for me.

Crafts + Play:
-Went to the playroom.

Previous Weeks: 
Week 1
Week 2

Homemade Clothing That I Really Wear




Please excuse how tired I look in these photos. They were taken at 6:45 p.m. as we were about to head out to the mall to do some errands...on a homeschooling day. It's logical that I might be just a touch less energetic than normal, particularly given the fact that I'm a morning person!

Today's topic is a throwback to the good old days when I had a sewing machine. My, those were good days. :) I still hold out hope for having a sewing machine again sometime.

This dress has appeared on the blog a few times, here is its debut post. When it comes to handmade/homemade clothing, I think it's important to take note of what actually gets worn in the long run and what survives the rough life of being regularly worn and laundered with the rest of your wardrobe. When you're a novice sewer like me, you don't necessarily know how to design clothing that will last or how to choose fabrics that will be comfortable and practical. Not all of my clothing creations have been strategically designed, though I've certainly enjoyed all of them.

This dress, though, has proven to be the mostfrequently worn of anything I've created myself. I didn't wear it all that often at first, but especially in China, where I wore cotton dresses to work nearly every day (that's what you'd wear too if you were teaching in an un-airconditioned room full of 50 teenagers). This dress has gotten a LOT of use, in part because it fits great and is comfortable in hot weather, but also because the pattern is just so perfectly 'me' that I smile every time I look at it. This dress has stood the test of time and I'm happy about it.

A few other things I've made did actually make the cut and were packed along on our adventure, both to Malaysia and to China--this skirt and this tunic among them. Hopefully those will pop up soon in future outfit posts, but neither one has proven quite as practical for frequent wear as this dress!

If you make your own clothes, do you find yourself wearing your handmade creations often, or mostly 'saving' them for special occasions?

Preschool at Home: Week 2

And we've completed week two of this school year! If you missed Week 1 or are interested in why I am suddenly homeschooling, make sure you check out that post.

Please note that this is a weekly lesson plan. I'm finding that this is working pretty well for me and my preschoolers. I decide what I want them to study in advance, and make sure I have all materials and books prepped ahead of time. Every morning I get ready by setting all books and supplies out all over the dining room table, opened to the right pages, and then I just get whatever we need for the next subject off of the table. It makes for a really smooth transition from one activity to the next. Much of what we do is repeated daily (songs, memory verses, vocab. practice, reading, counting), but I scatter the more active or crafty activities throughout the week--more exciting projects like making our own book or playing with bubbles usually come only once. For now, planning for a week at a time instead of making really specific daily plans works well because both teacher and students appreciate the flexibility. I have italicized all the daily routines below.


Week 2:
Major Themes: The Letter B and the Human Body


Notebooks: 
-Check the weather and mark the weather on the graph (sunny, cloudy, or rainy) each day
-Color in the number of the day on the calendar.
-Point out which day of the week it is.


Used q-tips to make a skeleton hand


Alphabet:
-Sing the letter sounds song.
-Sing the short vowel sounds song.
-Practiced writing names. Counted letters in their names. Because Anna already knows her name, I am having her do all activities with her surname, as well. When we're practicing on the whiteboard, I have them circle the capital letter at the beginnings of their names.
-Practiced writing upper- and lowercase letters with workbooks.
-This week we focused on the letter B and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the 'B' sound.
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter B in it?"
  -Listened to this Letter B Song.
  -Looked at the B page in our picture dictionary
  -Made books with black covers. We discussed the different parts of a book (i.e. pages, cover, binding). Sarah (3rd grade) joined in this activity. She actually wrote a story (involving electric eels) in her book, but the little girls just drew pictures and random letters.
  -Butterfly craft
  -Used q-tips to make a paper model of what our hands would look like without skin, showing the blood and bones.
  -Blew bubbles. This was probably their favorite activity. They had to tell me what letter or sound bubbles started with before each bubble they blew. We did this two separate days because they loved it so much (obviously...it's bubbles. Who wouldn't love it?).
  -They love to eat bread, so we had bread for a snack one day and talked about the letter sound.


Math:
-Number flashcards up to 20. Anna is pretty solid at these by now, Shiloh is still learning most of the teens.
-Counted parts of the body: fingers, toes, elbows, knees, etc.
-Practiced writing numbers on whiteboard.
-Dot-to-dot pages
-Built shape puzzles. See picture above. Mom has a set of these shapes and cards--the goal is to figure out how to put the shapes together the right way to make a little picture of some sort. They are able to handle the simplest, 2-4 piece puzzles at this point.
-Counting blocks--I have a bag full of little blue blocks--I'll usually dump them all out on the other end of the room and give the girls orders to bring me specific numbers of blocks until all the blocks have been picked up. If they bring me the wrong number of blocks, I send them back to try again, reminding them to count carefully.

Reading:
Anna: I Can Read it! and practicing sight words with flashcards, along with B + short vowel blends.
Shiloh: This week I had her read letter blends with short vowels: ba, be, bi, bo, bu
We practiced adding an end letter, too: ba-t, bu-n, be-d, bi-t.
Both:  Teach Your Monster to Read for 5-10 minutes a day.

Bible and Storytime: Week 2 from Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide. This includes their Bible stories, memory verse, song, along with nursery rhymes and short story books.

Days of the Week: Still listening to this song on youtube
We added a Months of the Year song midway through the week, since they're feeling more comfortable singing the names of the days.

Science: The Human Body. I kept things really simple, since I largely only chose this theme due to the letter B and the fact that I wanted to continue with more body parts vocab in Bahasa.
-We had long (and hilarious) conversations about all the things that are inside our body (i.e. blood and bones...and food and water.).
-The blood and bones activity above (in the Alphabet section) obviously has a big application to our science theme!
-Watched video about human body parts.

Storybooks: Baby Says by Crockett Johnson
- Noted that the word baby begins with the 'B' sound. Also helped girls to point out the boys and the blocks and brothers in the book. Shiloh has a baby brother, so we talked about what kind of toys it's okay for Joshua to play with and what kind of toys it's not okay for Joshua and other babies to play with.
From Head to Toe By Eric Carle
This one is less about the letter B and more about our Human Body theme. This blog post has great ideas for activities relating to the book. I used their idea of having them count the legs on different animals and count how many different animals there were in this book. We also used the pictures in the book for Bahasa practice, pointing out that animals have lengan and kepala and kaki too! The girls got to mimic all the body movements in the book.

Bahasa: 
This week's unit was words for parts of your face and head:

Body = Badan
Hand = Tangan
Head = Kepala
Face = Muka
Arm = Lengan
Leg = Kaki

We did a lot of physical response activities, i.e., "Where is your kepala?"
Played Simon Says, reviewing last week's vocabulary as well.
Continued having them repeat the simple sentence structure Saya ada ... {I have...}
We identified body parts in Bahasa using our body craft
We also listened to the Didi and Friends song Kalau Rasa Gembira every day. It's a Bahasa version of "When You're Happy and You Know it," so it was perfect for this week since tangan and kaki and mata make appearances in the song.

Life skills: 
-They helped me put laundry in the washing machine, watched the machine tub start spinning, and helped put laundry on hangers.
-Helped me take everything off the bathroom counter (hair gel, toothbrushes, makeup, etc.) so that I could clean it, and then put everything back on the counter after it was dry.
-Helped me wash green beans for lunch and watched me cut up green beans from a safe distance while I explained the importance of keeping fingers away from knives.

Crafts + Play:
-Went to the park.
-Went swimming.
-Went to the playroom.

Seen and Done Lately

The last week has been rather busy. My parents' landlord is finally performing a much-needed renovation of the bathrooms in their apartment, so the kids have been holed up in my apartment during the day since the sound of drills and the smell of fresh cement is not conducive to homeschooling.

I thought that since I was a mite too busy for a superbly philosophical or deeply humorous post, I'd go for sharing some of the more interesting sights and moments from the past weeks:



In America, you probably wouldn't find a poster advertising that they are seeking an employee of one specific ethnicity, and that ethnicity only, but it's a fairly common sight at the mall here.


I just had to prove that, 24 years or no 24 years, I could still climb around the jungle gym with the rest of the kids! Also, you'll be happy to know, since these photos were taken, I've gotten a major haircut, which is a good thing. I couldn't take the fluffiness anymore!


We went to a fundraising carnival for a local school and decided that our ringgit would be best spent at the henna booth. It was a lot of fun. The student clubs had been put in charge of designing booths as mini businesses and had to plan supplies and prices in order to turn a profit. I think the henna booth was very profitable as there was a line for it all morning! Boys don't normally get henna, but the teachers lifted the ban on boys wearing henna at school, and our friend Samuel got a tattoo of "Pizza Hut Delivery" on his shoulder, since that's what he does for a living. Makes sense, right?


We had an interesting occurrence when I walked into our storeroom to grab a couple schoolbooks and walked straight into a puddle. Overnight, we'd experienced severe leaking in that room (we later found out that it was caused by a leaking water tank on the roof of our building). I was soon to discover how inconvenient it is to have your storeroom develop a crazy leak because now we have books and suitcases scattered all over the rest of the apartment in order to keep them safe from water damage. The room should be fixed soon--I hope!--and then everything can be stored neatly again, just the way I like it. I look forward to that day!


During Hari Raya in July, we got to help out in shopping for and packing 30+ gift hampers to give to families in need who might not have much extra to celebrate the holiday with. Mom had a LOT of tulle left over after a wedding 5 years ago and it came in perfectly handy for wrapping all of these hampers. She was very happy to finally be justified in saving the fabric all that time for the perfect occasion!


Friday mornings have become market morning for Angel and I. Here's Rebekah buying veggies from the uncle they've been buying from for many years. I go to the same stall, and he's always surprised at how little Angel and I buy--because he's used to the huge quantities of vegetables that my family consumes. :)


So...this one's a little tough to explain. I wasn't actually there when it happened. Apparently, Angel asked this lady working at the shop if he could take a picture with her and then dropped on to one knee and proposed--and had MaryGrace close by to act as a shocked bystander. My only possible explanation is that Angel has recently decided that #randomproposals should be a thing and he singlehandedly wants to start the newest photo trend. I'm so sorry, lady working at the shop. He takes some getting used to.

What's your best adventure so far this month?

Preschool at Home: Week 1

In case you didn't know...and it's quite possible you didn't...I'm currently homeschooling two little girls, the daughters of close friends of mine, 5 days a week.

Because so much of my time is spent preparing lessons for and hanging out with my two preschoolers right now, I thought I'd start sharing what we do for preschool each week. I have a lot of fun working from the books my mom has in her collection (homeschool tip: borrow all your resources from someone who's been homeschooling for 20+ years), as well as collecting ideas from the internet. I will try to link to specific idea sources when possible.

I don't really know if there's any interest in my posting our weekly homeschool schedule, but since I write it all out for my own benefit anyway, I'll experiment with posting it to see if anyone cares. I don't know if there are any homeschool-interested folks in my audience, but it's always been a topic that has interested me, so I thought I'd try out blogging about what we're doing.

For purposes of knowing why we're studying what we're studying: Shiloh and Anna are both about 4.5 years old. They are Malaysian, their families are Christian, and both speak English as their native language. They are both already quite solid at recognizing their letters and their numbers 1-10, and they know basic colors and shapes already. Shiloh is more verbal than Anna, but Anna is better at staying focused and is more advanced in beginner reading and math skills. Preschool needs to include a lot of repetition, so much of what we do consists of daily routines and repetition of the same songs, games, and flashcards on a daily basis, with a variety of random fun stuff thrown in to keep both teacher's and students' interest. All activities that are repeated daily are italicized.

Homeschool Preschool Schedule


Week 1:
Major Themes: The Letter F and Winter


Notebooks: 
My notebooks are matching butterfly-covered two-ring binders. The purpose is to store any ongoing projects and any extra-cool projects that the girls want to be able to show their parents. I hope that the binders will show progress as the year continues.
-fill in 1st day of preschool page with name, age, and favorite things.
-Check the weather and mark the weather on the graph (sunny, cloudy, or rainy) 
-Color in the number of the day on the calendar.

Homeschool Preschool

Alphabet:
-Sing the letter sounds song. {With letter chart} I use the Sing, Spell, Read, & Write letter sounds song as that was what I was taught letter sounds with and it's stuck in my head for more than two decades. I don't know any other letter sounds songs.
-Sing the short vowels song. {With vowels cards} From Sing, Spell, Read, & Write, again.
-Practice writing names. Anna already has her name down solid. Shiloh, not at all. Granted, Anna got off easy in the name game. This week we practiced with writing her name one letter at a time.
-Practiced writing upper and lowercase letters with workbooks.
-This week we focused on the letter F and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the 'F' sound. Notably, the ceiling fans in every room.
  -Practiced writing uppercase and lowercase Fs.
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter F in it?"
  -Listened to this Letter F song.
  -Used paint to make a footprint on a piece of paper and talked about how F is the first letter in the word footprint. After they dried, the footprint pages were added to their notebooks. (I am very grateful for my bathroom which can be cleaned by spraying water all over it after I tackle paint projects with preschoolers).
 -Made a tissue paper flower to bring home to mom and dad.
 -I like my projects to serve multiple purposes, so we made a snowman face --score 1 for winter and 1 for the letter F!

Homeschool Preschool

Math:
-Number flashcards up to 20
-Used Uno cards and had them sort cards into piles by the number on the card. This was hilarious. It actually worked quite well, and they had nice little piles going, but when they were told to put all the Uno cards away, they obviously decided to cheerfully throw them all over the room. You know, the reaction any sensible person would have.
-Played dominoes with a giant set of toddler dominoes. Matching the numbers from one domino to the next is good practice for them.
-Practiced writing numbers on whiteboard
-Counting blocks--I have a bag full of little blue blocks. I'll usually dump them all out on the other end of the room and give the girls orders to bring me specific numbers of blocks until all the blocks have been picked up. If they bring me the wrong number of blocks, I send them back to try again, reminding them to count carefully.

Reading:
Anna-- She's using a beginner reader ("I Can Read It!"), and going very, very slowly, repeating the same page several times and working on a few sight words with flashcards.
Shiloh--letter blends with short vowels: fa, fe, fi, fo, fu
We practiced adding an end letter, too: fa-t, fu-n, fe-d, fi-t.
Both: I made accounts for them on Teach Your Monster to Read and let them each play for 5-10 minutes a day. At this point, the motor skills involved are much harder for them than the letter sounds, which is great, because they need to work on both motor skills and letter sounds. Bonus!

Bible and Storytime:
I am using Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide, loosely. We started right at week 1. Some of the books/stories are a little too complex for my girls, so I am not using those, but I like how this guide is organized, and the fact that it includes memory verses and songs for each week.
-I throw in a coloring sheet related to the Bible story we read each day because man, they LOVE coloring. It helps that coloring gives me a bit of a break to clean up or do some housework for 10 or 15 minutes.

Days of the Week:
Listened to this song from youtube. Yes, it is stuck in my head. But the girls were singing it on their own by the end of the week--score one for learning through song! It'll probably take a few more weeks to actually apply the names they've memorized to the actual concept that every day of our lives has a name. Every day I ask them, "What day is it today?" and then I tell them what day it is and then we usually jump around saying stuff like "Hurray! It's Thursday!"

Science:
The Sonlight Core P4/5 came with a Bernstein Bears' Science book that I'm really liking. The pages we were assigned for the week covered an introduction to seasons and focused on winter. Winter is an odd concept to teach to little girls growing up in the land of perpetual summer, so we did several activities throughout the week help them get a more well-rounded picture of what winter is like:
-I showed them home videos and pictures of Angel and I playing in the snow in Michigan.
-I dumped a bunch of ice cubes in the bathroom sink for them to play with and feel how cold they were, and we talk about how winter feels like ice.
-I had them practice cutting out paper snowflakes. They aren't good enough at cutting for the folded kind, but I printed out outlines of snowflake shapes and they could cut the rough shapes out.
-We watched clips of "Frosty the Snowman" on Youtube and made snowman faces with paper plates and coal for eyes.

Harold and the Purple Crayon - Homeschool Activities

Storybook: 
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- We spent the whole week reading this book and doing related activities. I used several of the activities outlined in this blog post. I found the cutting and counting activities to be especially useful, as the girls need all the practice they can get in those areas. We drew pictures using only a purple crayon (just like Harold!) and I had the girls tell me what happened in the story as they looked at the pictures.

Bahasa: 
Shiloh will eventually be going to a school that uses Bahasa in most classes, so it's especially important for her to start improving her Bahasa comprehension. Anna probably will be going to an English school, but it's still good for her to start learning her nation's language. Because they can't do much in the way of reading or writing in English right now, I'm not teaching reading or writing in Bahasa, just speaking and listening. We're starting with really basic vocabulary, and going slow, because neither of these little girls speak a language other than English, and the concept of learning vocabulary in a different language is new to them. This week's unit was words for parts of your face and head:

Mouth = Mulut
Eyes = Mata
Ear = Telinga
Hair = Rambut
Nose = Hidung
Teeth = Gigi

-We did a lot of physical response activities, i.e., "Where are your gigi?"
-I didn't explicitly teach the words or grammar involved, but I did start having the girls repeat after me using the simple sentence structure: Saya ada ... {I have...}. i.e. Saya ada mata. Saya ada telinga.
-You can imagine that the snowman face activity got triple duty when we started pointing out his eyes and mouth and nose in Bahasa!
-We listened to the Didi and Friends song Rasa Sayang. It has nothing to do with parts of the head and face--but because they don't get a lot of practice listening to Bahasa, I want them to just have fun listening to catchy songs in the language even if they can't exactly understand what is going on yet. Anna really liked the song and wanted to listen to it multiple times a day--Shiloh seemed to find it rather annoying. I can see both sides of the issue.

Life skills: 
-Wiped down my coffee table
-Stood on stools and washed bok choy for lunch in the kitchen sink.
-Helped take dry clothing off the hangers and pile it up so that I could fold the clean clothes.

Crafts + Play:
-Princess Puppets
-Played airplane - pilot, flight attendant, and passenger (Not my idea. Sarah was visiting and they arranged all the chairs and started taking off for Singapore before I even knew what was going on!)
-Went swimming.
-Went to the playground.

4 Ways to Help a Brand-New College Student (From Near or Far)

Going to college seems to be a much more dramatic event for my family than for the typical American one. That's because we know, as we send Anna off on her 9,000 mile journey--that she won't be home for Christmas. Or Spring Break. Maybe not even next summer break. Work and life and the sheer expense of plane tickets from one side of the world to the other means that for people like us, college means a gigantic separation. Anna has lived in Malaysia for 11 of her 18 years. For all intents and purposes, she just moved to a foreign country without having any parents to love, support, and guide her there, and is simply supposed to figure out adult life in a new world without mom and dad. Fun stuff, right?

But the college transition isn't always easy even when you're only moving an hour or two away. For many of these teens, it's a very stressful time of life, when they're making decisions that are going to affect their future, their careers, and their finances for decades to come...without the benefit of a ton of life experience under their belts, and sometimes without family nearby to help out, either.



Here are five ways that you can encourage a brand new college student during this back-to-school season:

1. Give them practical life advice concerning college.

Especially if you've been in college yourself recently. I'm not talking about inspirational books of quotes for high school graduates. I'm talking: tell them about RateMyProfessors.com. There's no way they can know the extent to which a truly bad professor can make life miserable until it's happened to them--ratings websites make it easier to choose wisely and prevent unnecessary misery.

If you're good with money, don't be afraid to invite a teen who you're close to to sit down and think through their college budget. I believe that 20-somethings today are suffering from hopeless college debt scenarios in large part because people in their lives thought it was too awkward to have real conversations with them about money, and simply assumed that 18-year-olds must be ready to live with the financial mistakes they make right now for the rest of their adult lives. Sure,they're adults, and you can't stop them from making really bad choices if they really, really want to, but you can at least offer wise counsel like, "Hey, don't take the maximum loans the government offers you--take the minimum that will cover what you need, and live on oatmeal and free food for the next year."

Make sure students know their rights. Sometimes, as a student, it's kind of easy to feel like you have no rights, that the professor is an almighty being who holds your academic future in their hands and you just have to put up with all their caprices. Not all students know that universities have to make considerations for students with disabilities. My brother is hearing-impaired, and Mom got him signed up with the academic services office at his school, and he was told what options he had as a hearing-impaired person in order to make sure that he could comprehend all of his lectures. Early on in his school career, he started class with a professor who refused to allow him to take the measures that his college had guaranteed would be allowed for him, even after being shown the letter of permission from Academic Services. My brother, being like any typical student, assumed the professor's word is law for his classroom, figured he just had to deal with it, and the matter would have ended there, but for the fact that our grandpa, a lawyer, found out about the situation, contacted the school about this professor who was refusing to follow the school's own policies, and the matter was settled in Isaac's favor. If Isaac had been on his own, without a grandpa to walk in and introduce himself with, "Hi, I'm Mr. S's lawyer..." he could have been in for a rough semester. Make sure the college students in your life know that no college staff member has the right to mistreat them simply because they are young and somewhat powerless.

2. Give them actual stuff. Or money.

Remember college? I do. I remember not having either a credit card or enough cash to buy a $1.99 burrito at Taco Bell one night, so Angel lent me $2. I made sure to pay him back, though, because I was a strong, independent 17 year old who made $33 dollars a week ironing clothes.

People stepped in for me and gave me stuff that met my everyday needs. My grandparents housed and fed me for free for 5 semesters. One relative gave me a bunch of bottles of shampoo and conditioner. A few semesters in, I was crushed by the news that, without warning, I needed to buy a $100 calculator for the one math class required for a Mandarin Chinese major. Someone stepped in and bought that calculator for me.

A lot of times, people have high school graduation parties and announcements, and that's a good time to give kids money that will help towards their future. Sometimes, third-culture-kids like my sister Anna don't get the benefit of graduation parties (graduation parties aren't a "thing" in Malaysia, and she has no parents in America to throw her one), so they're kind of heading in on their own.

Remember these college students, and spot them some cash, or fill up their tank with gas, or give them a couple tubes of toothpaste or invite them over for a meal or take them out for a movie. Hey, if you have your own business or need housework or snow-shoveling or something of that sort done--give them a steady job. In an economy where jobs are difficult to come by for those who haven't much experience or education yet, that would be a much-appreciated gift!

3. {For those whose students are moving far away} Don't forget that attending the goodbye party isn't the end of your relationship.

Call. Skype. Post photos on Facebook. Write letters. Find ways to provide ongoing support for your college students, to remind them that just because they have moved, doesn't mean that they've lost the home and community they grew up in.

Get creative. There are lots of ways to provide ongoing support and contact from home--choose one that will speak to your individual college student. For me, because Anna and I share so many of the same favorite TV shows and books, I started a Pinterest board just for her and have been pinning one new "inspirational" quote per day to make her smile. Of course, our own version of "inspirational" might be a little on the quirky side and might grow to include a lot of things said by Shawn Spencer or Lemony Snicket...but that's totally fine. She's been writing me already to tell me about how much she looks forward to the daily quotes--and warning me not to get lazy and quit! :)

The point is, find some way to continue to remember your college students on an ongoing basis. Refuse to let them be 'out of sight, out of mind.'

4. {For those living near to college students who have moved away from their own families, countries, or communities} Realize that these kids, to all intents and purposes,  have lost the daily presence of a lot of important people in their lives. Keep eyes and ears open for ways to meet the need for community for college students who have lost their own.

These days, people travel all over the world for the purpose of getting an education that will meet their needs, But education isn't the only need. We all need community, too.

For my first Christmas without my family, my aunt made sure to get me a stocking full of presents and included me 100% in their family celebration. For my first Chinese New Year in America, another aunt and uncle put dollar bills into homemade red envelopes so that I wouldn't have to miss out completely on ang pow. Angel and I had a Nigerian friend who graduated college at the same time as Angel. His family wasn't able to come from Nigeria to the USA for his graduation, so Angel's parents 'adopted' him for Angel's graduation weekend, taking them both out for a special celebratory dinner, acting basically as if they'd had two sons graduate at the same time.

Look out for college students during holiday breaks, and make especially sure that international students have somewhere to stay when the college shuts down. Get to know what their own national holidays are and don't let them spend their important holidays in isolation and silence, if at all possible.

Remember the function that most good parents play in the lives of their children, and see if you can perform any small part of that role for college students whose parents are too far away to be of much use. In the next few weeks, Anna's gonna have to learn how to drive on the right side of the road, take a driving test, get her license, attend college orientation, get herself set up with a bank account, and learn how to navigate a new town, along with a brand new set of cultural expectations and rules. I wish I could be there to help her through those hurdles, but with both me and her parents way too far away, I hope that her new community, and the family she has on that side of the globe, will recognize the fact that it's their responsibility to welcome her and help her learn the ropes of American life.
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Have a soft heart for those heading off to school this fall--especially for those who, at the same time, are losing the community that loves them. Third-culture-kids like my siblings and I are lucky in the fact that, while we didn't grow up in America, we all purposefully chose to attend college in a state where much of our extended family lives--and our relatives there have worked hard to help pave the way to successful, if not easy, college experiences.

But remember, family doesn't have to mean blood. Keep your eye out for new college students popping up in your own realm of influence over the next few weeks--and see what you can do to help!

Do you have any stories of people who came alongside and helped you during your own college transition?

Sadness-Themed Goodbye Party

When you need a party planner, just call Rachel. I can make an epic party out of any situation--or at least I'll try.

This month, the family here is shrinking considerably since we are saying goodbye to 3 of my siblings, as well as my cousin, as they head back to the USA to start or continue their university education.

Goodbyes suck. There's no getting around it. Goodbye parties--when you really don't want the people to leave in the first place--are not the most fun kind of parties to plan or to attend. I'd pick a birthday party or a summer party or a New Year's Eve party or a I-just-bought-a-fridge party over a goodbye party, any day.

But someone's got to plan the goodbye party.

We decided early on in the planning that the theme of the party would be sadness.

This theme is most clearly shown in the repeating blue sad face motif of our centerpieces:




Yes, we are goofballs.

I put together a little table with cute notebooks for people to write messages to the college-bound students. We put out both pens and crayons for people to write with, and this table was a popular place throughout the evening. There were nearly always people sitting down writing--and all the kids liked drawing pictures with crayons. {Shiloh told me that the picture she drew in Lizzy's book depicted my grandfather, my father, me, and her, as a baby.} There were also pictures of all the grads for people to take and keep as mementos. Except there were no pictures of Isaac. Apparently photos of my brother don't really exist.


We counted about 180 attendees at this party, and, just for the record, the food was prepared entirely at my parents' home, by my family plus a few friends helping out, in a tiny kitchen with a 2-burner gas stove. We kept food cold using the "room refrigerator" method: Turning on the air-con in Mom and Dad's bedroom and shutting the door, storing trays and containers of food all over the bed. Keeping food hot is easy, here. When it's 90 degrees--even hotter in a kitchen when the stove is on--food doesn't really cool down on its own.

This means that you too could self-cater a party for 180 people if you had access to 10 willing kitchen helpers and 2 burners and a bedroom with air-con. Early in the morning on the day of the party I was sitting on the living room floor, watching Once Upon a Time, using the big cutting board and the extra-sharp ceramic knife to chop a bazillion tomatoes for homemade salsa while my brother complained about slicing beans (angled slicing is a much slower process than bean-snapping) at the dining table. It was great fun.

The party's menu:

Rice
Chicken curry
Lemongrass chicken
Fried chicken
Spicy green beans w/carrots
Spinach cooked in coconut milk
Pasta
Deviled eggs
7-layer salad
Marshmallow salad
Watermelon tray
Papaya tray
Beef roast with gravy
Mashed potatoes
Beef Tacos with all the fixings (including my own pico de gallo)
Chocolate chip cookies
Cupcakes








Even the marshmallow salad was sad!


There was so much food! The hot items, like the curry and lemongrass chicken, were actually made in huge vats, so we had enough to refill the trays several times over! By the end of the night, we had absolutely NO leftovers. The small amount that wasn't actually eaten was taken home by guests for further snacking. Safe to say, our friends know how to appreciate a good meal!



When it came to making this goodbye party fun, we decided to add a simple photobooth (okay fine we taped paper chains to the wall and put a few props, including a sparkly sad face, in a basket). The paper chain background and dress-up props were especially popular with all the little girls who came to the party--and at the end of the night, the little ones asked to take the chains home, so our decor went on to serve a second purpose!




The newlyweds!



But the highlight of the evening was the dancing.

Anna specifically requested that we swing dance at her goodbye party, so ahead of time, we prepared by collecting some upbeat swing songs as well as a bunch of line dances that either I already knew, or had the instructions in the song so that we could follow along (i.e. Chacha Slide or the Cupid Shuffle). Now, it should be noted that among our community, dancing as a group is not a super common activity. Most people would find dancing with a partner a little awkward, and would probably feel self conscious in a line dance, as well. But we also knew that there would be a lot of kids and teens at this party, and I'm not self-conscious at all about getting out there on the dance floor and teaching the electric slide while nearly everyone I've ever met in this town stares at me--so we knew it would work out fine.



In the end, probably about 30 of the guests ended up on the dance floor at some point during the night, while everyone else watched us and were entertained by our exuberance. The youngest one out there was little almost-2 year old Joshua, and the oldest one, and the only "real adult" to brave dancing in public, was my dad. Hurray, Dad! I don't have any pictures of the dancing to show you because, as I mentioned, I was the dance teacher and also the photographer this evening. I couldn't handle both jobs at once. :)

It was such fun! A lot of the teens danced for about two hours without hardly taking a break for a single song. Sometimes the little ones got too tired to dance, but still wanted to be a part of the fun, so they asked to be carried. I was line dancing with a 4 year old on my hip at more than one point in the night.

Basically, if it were possible for a goodbye party to be awesome, this one was. It was nearly as epic as the kids we were saying goodbye too, but not quite. I miss 'em already.

Releasing Green Sea Turtles

We recently went on an adventure that was a little different than other adventures I've been on in my lifetime--because this one involved wild sea turtles.

On our island, there's a conservation center that is working towards maximizing the rate of survival for green sea turtle hatchlings. Green sea turtles arrive on our beaches year-round to lay eggs in the sand (somewhat unusual, as in most other places, there are seasons for when turtles lay their eggs). This conservation center is staffed 24/7 with workers who watch for nighttime landings of turtles, mark the spots where eggs are buried under the sand, take preventative measures to discourage island dogs and other predators from disturbing the nests, and then release newly hatched turtles to begin their walk to the ocean at sunset. Controlling the time of day when the brand-new turtle makes their way into the ocean is thought to help their survival rate because lower light means that the baby turtles are less visible to their natural predators.

Taman Negara, Pulau Pinang


This conservation hosts a program that allows people to come and be a part of the sunset turtle-releasing ceremony--and you guessed it, that was our weekend adventure.

Fishing Village, Penang

Penang Boating


It's possible to hike to Turtle Beach, but it's a long, tough walk, and not for little legs, so we hired two boats to take our group of 24 out. I love a good boat ride, so I thought the 10 minute trip out to the beach was just glorious!

Turtle Beach, Penang

We arrived at the beach slightly before 4 pm, because if you want to take part in the turtle releasing, you must watch an informational presentation about sea turtles and the work that the conservation center does. The presentation starts at 4, and we crowded into the wooden room to watch the show.

Green Sea Turtle Hatchling

Green Sea Turtle Hatchlings

There was a slight language barrier for my family, as the slides and video were in Bahasa (not my best language), but the man running the show held the question and answer time in English, which was very helpful. I loved getting to see footage of mama turtles on the very beaches that we got to walk. It's fascinating to learn about these cool little creatures, though sobering to learn more about the dangers they face from the fishing industry as well as pollution and humans in general--not to mention that they have all sorts of natural predators, particularly when they are very small and vulnerable.

After the presentation, we had a good chunk of time to explore the beach before the workers deemed it was time to release the turtles, so we scattered to enjoy our own adventures. Some climbed rocks, some napped, some dipped their toes in the water while others chased ghost crabs.



Taman Negara, Penang

Turtle Beach, Penang

Turtle Beach, Penang


I spotted a tiny jellyfish in the shallows. Fun fact: Whenever I'm asked if I have a favorite animal, I always choose jellyfish. My reason? Because they are really weird and they sting people.


When the workers deemed it time to release the turtles, they brought out a bucket with six newly hatched turtles.

Most of us picked named for the baby turtles, regardless of the fact that there were 24 of us and 6 turtles. I named mine Captain Kilian Jones.

Green Sea Turtle Hatchling

Turtle Beach, Penang




Goodbye little turtles! We really hope you guys make it out there in the big blue!

*Many thanks to my friends, Kevin and Sharon, for the vast majority of these photos. They take way better photos than I do!