Friday, September 30, 2011

It's EcoChallenge Time!

Ok, so if you follow me (I'm not really sure who does as little as I get to post these days) you have heard me rave in the past about the Northwest Earth Institute. They are a non-profit that is helping to spread discussion about change to basically - help the earth. I've participated in several discussion groups and they have shaped and changed the way my family eats, lives, etc. It is like a tiny seed that grows and so I'm always grateful for that little seed.

Therefore, despite busy crazy lives with two kids, we will be participating once again in the NWEI EcoChallenge. A 15 day challenge do change an action (or two) and also to help them raise some funds to keep doing what they are doing. You can read more about how we did last year here:

EcoChallenge - Day 1
Challenge Update
More about NWEI
Challenge Reflection

We found a lot of cool ways to eat local and live greener or simpler in that challenge. So this year we are going to change or focus just a bit and instead we are going to focus on reducing food waste (read more here). There are some exciting things going on in PDX now with curbside composting and coop food purchasing and farmers markets and canning parties. This is an easy place to live sustainably. My pantry is stocked and my freezers are full. How do we make sure that we are not wasting all this? Our challenge for the next two weeks will be to try to raid our pantry and freezer for the week's meals. I'll still be buying our Lady Lane Milk and farm eggs and fresh organic produce... but we'll be trying to eat up what is older and in the back of those cupboards and chest freezer so nothing goes unused.

I know this seems small - but it is our one tiny extra thing that we are trying out. If you want to see what some of the other participants are doing check out some of the featured bloggers or even better - join me in the challenge by signing up too! Or... consider pleding just a small amount to encourage us to keep up with our challenge. Just $1 a day ($15) or even a small $5 donation in the name of good things for the earth would be awesome. If you really want to know more about NWEI donate more, become a member, and participate in a discussion group (I'd love to join you in one). Read the post above about NWEI and you'll know they are a great group to be fundraising just a little bit for!

The Ho Family Challenge is on!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mandarin on my mind - week 3

So we are now into week three of Mandarin immersion kindergarden. We are settling into to new routines, and into fall. Some of my own fears and anxiety are gone and so, I think, are some of our daughters. Mainly, I'm happy to report there is mostly just wonder and awe.

I have to admit, I of course expected the worst (complaints about not understanding or not wanting to go to school), but was caught totally off guard by the actual challenges we faced. There has been very little if any complaints about language barriers (some confusion over pronouncing her Chinese teachers name our only real heart ache). She is excited to learn and loves reciting new words and songs to anyone who will listen. She does homework happily and loves her teachers....she is mainly her happy easy going self.

We had some struggles with being tired, focusing on eating lunch, and general clingy-ness but even that has been minimal thanks to lots of early tips I think. So, what surprised me? Well, she lost her first tooth in week 2 of school (did not see that coming), she has blisters all over her hands from being convinced that her purpose at school is to be able to completely cross every monkey bar several times (oh and learn to do a cart wheel), and she is struggling a bit socially to find new friends and fit in (not totally surprising but hard for me to watch and just listen knowing she would have to find her own way on this one issue).

Not that I thought she wouldn't be a normal child, but the expectation that she would somehow struggle with language on top of this is what is really throwing me of. She still might, but for now the excitement is going strong for all of us. She is amazingly brave and strong.... I'm excited to see her show interest in cultural aspects as well. I watched her in Wushu (kung Fu) class and heard her glowing about Chinese dance class today...all great added exposure to language as well. Oh yes, and hearing how she is learning to read and write "I am 5" (yes in English) was exciting too.

I'm also surprised at how much we have left all of our own worries about her learning in two languages behind (even embracing and supporting it more passionately than we originally did). I have no doubt now that this is a terrific program that I suspect will will love being a part of over the years. I'm also sort of surprised to see that I want and need to learn more about the language myself in these early weeks... So here we go together. So far, so good.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Could you read a book a week?

When you have kids, maybe a job or jobs, pets, a home, friends, family..... things are crazy. Technology and TV can suck you in....more more more.... Let me guess, reading is not always high on the list of thing you do every day right? Maybe you could change that!

A high school friend of mine, with two very young kids and yes a job recently blew me away with a Facebook post turned blog. Ray realized that at his current pace of reading he would be missing out on hundreds of good books before his life was over. So, he started the book-a-week challenge. He is now on a mission to read a book a week!

Check it out far several weeks in he is certainly got me interested:

I read a lot of papers and articles and though most people say this reading is just for work, I still love it. This however is easy compared to a whole book.

I really love how Ray beaks his whole books down into little challenges (like number of pages a day, or type or size of book). So maybe I can do a little more reading and a little less of something else huh.... Could you read a book a week? Maybe you should join him in the Challenge.

I don't read all that fast but I'm inspired to read more that's fore sure. Way to go Ray!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mandarin on my mind

Summer is nearly over and in just a few days my 5 year old will be going to kindergarden. Making education choices for you kids at such a young age can be extreme these days. We have always believed that there will be no other time in her life when she will be so free to play as she is we are always more apt to choose play and experience over strict education. Still, we were faced with some tough choices. One of them was the decision to enroll her in a 50/50 Mandarin immersion program (half the day in nothing but Mandarin and the other half in English).

Our local public school just happens to have a Mandarin language immersion program but we would have gone their either it was a very tough decision for us. We know other families whose children are in Spanish immersion programs and are gaining amazing experience in both dual language learning as well as learning another culture. Both wonderful. A special bonus for us is our girls are one quarter Chinese, so a connection to some of their own roots is also appealing (thought we do not speak the language).

I want my daughter to have confidence and be brave, to take risks and to believe she can do things beyond her limits. I want her to know that there is more to life than what even her parents know... More to experience than just the American way. This is a extremely unique opportunity to try to incorporate more than just reading, writing and math into her learning. But will it be too much? Will we all have culture shock? Will we be able to hang tough when it gets hard, or doesn't make since (both the language and the culture)? This will be a true lesson for us all in judgement and patience.

I'm hoping to share more of our experiences here as we get started. I know there will be ups and downs in this experience and I know that I will always struggle with the balance between our dreams and hers... But this is what living more is all about right? We are showing her how to embrace risks and new things. As long as we allow her to remain a child during the experience I think we will all have a bit of fun. I hope you will look back here as I hope to write from time to time about how it is going.

Below is a terrific article that I really liked about some reasons to learn in a bilingual setting and I also encourage anyone interested to follow my friends blog United By Language. She has been journaling about her sons first year and has a lot of advise and facts about programs that really have inspired me to take this journey. If you have any questions for me let me know and I'll try to answer them.

United By Language

Why It’s Smart to Be Bilingual

So full of wonder and amazement.... What an amazing journey this will be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I've missed thankful Thursday actually... I have obviously been thankful for summer since we have been out enjoying it and not blogging here. But this week I'm going recount a conversation I recently had with my older daughter which seems to fit well with the thankful Thursday theme - it went something like this:

"Mom, bees sting and I don't like bees!t"

"Hmm.... its true that bees sting but they only sting when they feel there are in danger. If you don't hurt them I don't suspect they will try to hurt you."

"So, are bees important?"

"That is a great question - lets think about what bees do?"

"Bees make honey. Oh, I like honey"

"How do they make honey?"

"By collecting nectar from flowers.... "

"A huh, let's think about the food that we eat. Lots of the fruits and vegetables we eat start as a flower right?.... When bees are making honey - they are also helping those flowers turn into yummy things to eat. Cool huh?...."

...and after a long conversation about bees, honey, flowers, and food....

"Wow, bees are the most important animal mom!"

"Yep, I'd say they are pretty important - to us at least"

So this week, thanks to my daughter, I'm thankful for bees. We of course went on to have similar conversations about why the trees are important and the moon is important.... and I'm sure she will have more "important" thoughts for me on the car ride home today. I'm so thankful that she is reminding me of what is important and how much there is to be thankful for.

 Image credit:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Meatless Monday - Half Homemade Burritos

Ok yep... I've been away for a while. Ok, longer than a while. I'm hoping to get back here and blog a bit more so I'm starting simple with Meatless Monday. Only this thing isn't so simple anymore. The campaign over at is now growing rapidly (as is their kids cook Monday campaign which we also try to participate in). So if you have been wondering about the campaign, why we participate, or just want more ideas I encourage you to hop over and give the site a once over. If you do, and you are excited to participate be sure to let me know.

So this week we actually did a half homemade meal for dinner. What's half homemade? Well, We had plans to do some sort of bean burritos, but didn't have rice. My genius chef husband thought just far enough in advance to stoop at our corner Mexican food restaurant and grab two sides of rice to go. Brilliant. It is the one item that takes a while to cook (assuming your beans are already cooked) and so it saved us a ton of time. When you have a 5 and 22 month old who are hungry these kinds of little tricks seriously make your day.

There you have it... take one tortilla, add in some black beans, rice, and some sautéed mushrooms and yellow squash from a co-workers garden (again grateful for someone else's over abundance) and you have a yummy burrito. Wished I had an avocado or some sour cream.... But all in all everyone was happy and had a full tummy in plenty of time for frozen yogurt and baths.

I'll be headed over to Meatless Monday to check out more recipes and I'm hoping to blog here more about our upcoming challenge to go meatless for two weeks to raise some money for the Northwest Earth Institute (we did a challenge last year as well). I'm trying around here a bit more than just that. But one step at a time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday - thankful for a dirty table

I know I'm a day late but as you can see by the number of posts around here I'm not keep up well as it is. If anyone follows at all, you are already used to my ups and downs.

I had planned to write about something else entirely but this morning I was cleaning off our dinning room table because it was covered in crumbs and spills and I just couldn't help but smile. Why am I thankful for this dirty table. Because every night (well nearly every night) we sit as a whole family and eat at it.

This particular table is actually also my husbands table from his childhood home and I don't have to think hard at all to remember my own childhood counter where we had so many family meals. Let's face it, my kids are one and five so the meals don't last long and they aren't always happy... But we eat good food, we talk, we plan, we laugh, we have meals with friends and family, and we play right here. So yes, a dirty table makes me smile!