Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lenten Pretzel?

Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. We attended a morning mass at a nearby Catholic church, a first experience for Serena. The elaborate liturgy was quite different than what we're used to; we had ashes marked on our foreheads in the sign of a cross by the priest to signify repentance to God.

Back at home, we marked the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter on our calendar. Serena decided to give up playing a very special new computer game she just got, and I would give up my daily dosage of black tea for Lent.

"But Mommy is a crrrankerank when she doesn't have tea, especially in the morning!"

Maybe I should just give up being nice to my family...
According to tradition, the 40-day observance represents the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert where He was tempted by Satan. We looked up other references of "forty" in the Bible and found that it's quite a popular number! (Check out Genesis 7:4 & 12, Exodus 34:28, Numbers 13:25. Numbers 32:13, Joshua 4:13, Judges 13:1, 2 Chronicles 9:30, 2 Samuel 5:3, Acts 1:3)

We also stumbled upon the legend of the Lenten Pretzel - who knew the twisty loops of pretzels are supposed to cross like the folded arms of children in prayer!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Underground Railroad

February is Black History Month, and it marks the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Using the song "Follow the Drinking Gourd" (performed here by Elizabeth Bushey) as a starting point, we dived into the history of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of slave escape routes in the 19th century. It led us to the history of many heroic people like Harriet Tubman, Henry "Box" Brown, Peg Leg Joe, and William Still, and the critical role Canada played as a safe haven for the exodus of black slaves in the south.

The book "Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter is an excellent rendition of Peg Leg Joe's song in a story format, revealing the secret codes within the lyrics. We looked at many great websites like PBS and National Geographic on the topic, but Pathways to Freedom: Maryland & the Underground Railroad has the most interactive site. Serena particularly enjoyed the opportunity to create her own secret quilt message. Folklore suggests that slaves used quilt patterns and symbols as signals on their path to freedom.


MY QUILT BLOCK IS A GOOD SYMBOL BECAUSE: it looks like a window on a train going to freedom!


MY QUILT BLOCK IS A GOOD SYMBOL BECAUSE: it reminds runaway slaves of the beauty they will see in free country!

MY QUILT BLOCK NAME: "Diamond of Canada"

MY QUILT BLOCK IS A GOOD SYMBOL BECAUSE: it points runaway slaves to Canada!

Related Reading:
"Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky" by Faith Ringgold
"Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad" by Ellen Levine

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Geography was the topic for this month's Wed Club. We saw presentations on Paraguay, Italy, Iran, Philippines, Israel... Serena's choice? Nauru. She wanted to do the smallest country in the world. When we found out that's Vatican City, no offence to the Pope, we went to the next smallest.

It was quite a shocking eye-opener as we read up on what little we could find on this tiny island in the south Pacific. It is now essentially a bankrupt country even though it was once the second richest after Saudi Arabia.

Nauru has such a sad and depressing story that we weren't sure how to present it. Serena & I finally decided on a skit, where Travel Agent Serena tried to sell Tourist Tina a vacation to Nauru...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Heart

"Heart" by Serena
Inspired by Jim Dine, one of the founders of the American Pop Art movement in the 60's.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Classical Music

We've enjoyed many VSO Elementary School concerts in the past few years, Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf being the most recent. Peter and the Wolf is a classic story with orchestral music that teaches musical motives ("leitmotif") through its characters. The woodwind instruments play a major role with the flute representing the bird in the story. Now that Serena is officially playing the flute (after graduating from the recorder), she was particularly engaged with this production. We enjoyed the research we did before the concert, especially the video of this flutist who did a beatboxing number of Peter and the Wolf on his flute!

We discovered the Classical Kids series from our library and have since enjoyed a few of their audio productions that weave classical music with biographical drama. Beethoven Lives Upstairs is a popular one and Serena saw the VSO live production last year. However her favourite so far is Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery, followed closely by Hallelujah Handel. A good story is a sure way to capture Serena's attention and imagination. The beautiful music is icing on the cake!

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Great Commission

Beginning of this new year, Serena & I made a commitment to learn about and pray for mission ministry in different countries. The prayer map we purchased from Operation World displays countries by percentage of evangelical and reveals the world's most unreached nations. Operation World offers an excellent online prayer guide and videos by country. So far we've looked India, China, the Philippines, and Uganda. Serena has started a prayer journal, and she is learning to spend quiet time with Jesus every morning.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:1-2)

Sunday, February 5, 2012


A scrapbook of our trip to Florida:

We went to Florida for my Nanny's birthday.  She turned 70, it was a surprise for Nanny AND me!  I taught Papa & Nanny a game called Dutch Blitz, and they taught me a game called Mexican Train Dominos. We went out for walks, and we ate birthday cake EVERYDAY!!

We went swimming at the pool everyday.  My favourite part was going to the beach and making my Mom and Dad freeze to death in the cold water!  My mom was so cold that in the middle of the ocean, she blurted out: "Turducken!"  We found lots of beautiful shells, some even had crabs and mollusks living inside!

We saw lots of wild life: a black garden snake, many pelicans, an alligator, two red-shouldered hawks, ibises, blue herons, a cormorant catching and eating a fish, and a black & gold-ringed snake.

I tried mini-golfing for the first time, and I got a lot, I repeat, a lot of hole-in-ones! We also went go-kart racing and we were lucky enough to get the slowest car, both rounds!  The first round we were in last, but the second round, we were in first!  We even beat Papa!

We saw lots of pugs at Pug Fest.  They were all dressed up and looked hilarious!  Guess what?  I saw Miss Florida!  There was also a fluffy white and chubby dog, just like my cat Jack!

I saw manatees for the first time.  It was at Manatee Park.  The park is right next to a power plant.  The manatees are there because when the water gets too cold, they swim to the water by the power plant where it is warm.  I saw a lot of big blubbery manatees!

All too soon, it was time to go.  My favourite part of the trip was definitely going to the beach.  This whole time I had Frosty my stuffed animal polar bear traveling with me.  Frosty had a wonderful time in Florida too!

Happy Birthday, Nanny!

p.s. I also brought my bunny.