Pull up a chair, grab your favorite cuppa (mine's an herbal tea), and stay a while. This is where I share my ramblings and my heart—all the things I’m passionate about: my faith, my family and my fiction--along with a healthy dose of whole foods homemade goodness.


What is a Patriot?

As Canadians living in China, we are known as expats or expatriates. Webster’s defines an expatriate as someone who “leaves one’s native country to live elsewhere.” That’s us. But there is another meaning of this word: “to renounce allegiance to one’s native country.” That is not us. In this way, there is nothing ex- about us. We are patriots.

Canada Day, 2014
Canada Day, 2014

Although Sprout, nine next summer, has now officially lived more of her life in China than in Canada, all of our children are still fiercely Canadian. For JavaMan and me, our hearts are in two places. While we love our adopted country, nothing will ever take the Canadian out of us.

Evidence of our patriotism is there, everyday, in small acts that assert our Canadian identity, like the time we struck up a conversation with a stranger in a restaurant because he strolled in wearing a Montreal Canadiens jersey. Or when I picked a fellow Canadian–from Vancouver, as it turned out–out of a crowd for her accent. Or the time we infected some of our American friends’ kids with the occasional sentence-completing “eh?”

That Canadian identity rises up with more urgency when we are touched by news from “back home,” like the unspeakably tragic news we have learned this week: that Canadian soldiers–more than one–have been killed by acts of terror, in our own native land.

As our children set the breakfast table this morning, Sweetpea began mindlessly humming the Chinese national anthem. It’s natural. She hears it every day at school. She looked up suddenly and said, “I’m humming the Chinese national anthem, and I’m not even sure I remember how to sing, O Canada!” That’s natural too. She’s had far less opportunities to hear it than most Canadian children her age. Before breakfast, we played O Canada via YouTube–in English and in French (Sweetpea insisted).

I didn’t share with our children the news we’d learned about the soldiers. That kind of thing is hard enough to process when you’re back in Canada. I’m not sure I’ve fully processed it all. But I was glad to sing O Canada this morning.

I’ve never meant the words more. God keep our land glorious and free.

We stand with you. We mourn with you. We are far from “home,” but home has not left our hearts. We are patriots.


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The Family Toolbox: A Review

Over the last few weeks, our family has had the privilege of previewing The Family Toolbox from The National Center for Biblical Parenting. What a blessing it has been to our family!

The National Center for Biblical Parenting

If you’ve never heard of NCBP before, you’ve been missing out! The organization, co-founded by Dr. Scot Turansky and Joanne Miller, is a source for many tremendous resources for families seeking not to simply watch their children grow up, but to disciple them as they do. The Family Toolbox is the latest in a host of resources available from NCBP, including regular emails offering encouragement to parents. Every resource this company produces is aimed at reaching children at a heart level–not just modifying their behavior temporarily, but addressing heart issues and helping children make choices that will help them grow into responsible, caring adults.

Family Toolbox pic

The Family Toolbox

The Family Toolbox is unique in that it is a DVD-driven resource. This tool is aimed specifically for parents and teens (or pre-teens) to use togehter to help them find common ground. The topics in the videos facilitate easy bridges into conversations about issues that all parents and teens face. Here’s an overview of the lesson topics:

  1. It Starts with the Heart
  2. Follow Instructions Well
  3. Handle Pressure Without Losing Your Cool
  4. The Value of Correction
  5. The Importance of Responsibility
  6. Accept No as an Answer
  7. Deal with Your Own Anger
  8. Consider the Needs of Others

For more information on these topics, have a look at the full description. There is a downloadable version for home use with MP4s and PDFs and a print version with DVDs. The suggested donation for the program is $79.95 for the downloadable version, $99.95 for the print/DVD version.

For each topic, there are two video lessons. One is a dramatized scenario designed to get parents and teens talking. The second is a teaching video aimed specifically at parents. The goal of the program is to initiate change, not just in the children, but in the often negative patterns parents fall into when disciplining children. (Ouch!)

The first video, for example, addresses issues of motivation. We see a conversation between a caregiver (grandma, in this case) and a teenage boy who doesn’t want to do his homework unless he’s bribed to do so. There are worksheets that go along with each video with a guided discussion and a concluding scripture that addresses the issues discussed. We took two evenings to watch and discuss each video.

Our Experience with The Family Toolbox

Our older children, Pumpkin (12) and Sweetpea (10) fall neatly into the pre-teen category and found the scenarios in the videos very relatable. What was interesting was how involved Sprout (8) became as we watched the videos and used the accompanying worksheets to guide us through the discussion questions. We used the videos in the evening after dinner, and if we forgot to pull them out, she would remind us. All of our children enjoyed the videos and discussions.

Before we began watching the videos together, I watched some of them myself and looked at the discussion questions. I knew already that these discussions would be very helpful for our family, but I wasn’t really prepared for just how appropriate each topic would be or how much discussion it would draw out of our children.

I’ve posted previously about the fact that our kids have begun Chinese school after being exclusively homeschooled up until now. One of my children, who shall remain nameless, became very indignant about the behaviour of the teenage boy in the video. I had to gently remind that child that only moments before, I had heard these words from that child’s mouth, “I don’t really care if I learn Chinese.” The lesson hit home! Together we were able to discuss the scripture from that lesson and talk about positive steps we could all take to remind ourselves that whatever we do should be done to the glory of God.

The next video was about following instructions. I wish I could say that I set it up that that particular evening around the dinner table, no one was demonstrating that particular skill. Unfortunately, that’s just the way things went that evening, all on their own!

When we watched the video together, no one missed the point that we weren’t doing very well in that department. But the positive focus of the discussion led us to talk openly with our children about how we as parents can be more effective in our instruction-giving, and how they as children should respond.

I think the great value in these resources is that they address issues from all angles: how the child can change, how the parent can change, and how the relationship between parent and child can be improved.

The scenarios in the videos are so easy to relate to, and make it easy to talk about the issues because they encourage children to make suggestions and give advice to the people in the dramatization. (And of course, it’s always easier to give someone else advice about a problem than it is to see it in oneself!)

I highly recommend this resource to families of teens and pre-teens, and in my opinion, even children younger than that. We have been blessed to use it in our home, but more than that, to see it help us address heart issues in our children, and to take our parenting to a higher level.

Don’t miss the Facebook Party for the launch of this tremendous resource, Thursday, October 16 at 8pm EST!

Missed the party? You can still enter the giveaways until 11:59 EST, Monday, October 20!



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The Family Toolbox Giveaway

I’m excited to be participating in The Family Toolbox Blogger Team! The Family Toolbox is a new resource just released by The National Center for Biblical Parenting. I have been acquainted with their resources for some time and have used their curriculum and books both at home and in small group settings. Their resources are wonderful because they aim at “heart-based” parenting. Instead of just trying to change the behaviors of a child, these parenting strategies aim at heart connections between parent and child. And often it’s not just the child who must change! (Challenging, right?)

I really can’t say enough good things about the parenting resources this company offers. That’s why I’m so excited to be able to offer this wonderful giveaway–which is open INTERNATIONALLY! (Yes, that’s you, my Canadian and expat friends!) The National Center for Biblical Parenting is giving away not just The Family Toolbox, but a host of other wonderful products as well. Read on.

The Family Toolbox is a DVD/video-driven program that brings parents and teens together for constructive dialogue around significant issues of discipleship. Conversation is sparked by engaging video clips. Sixteen Life Success Principles are communicated through eight lessons that give parents and teens biblically-based, practical topics for discussion. The format grabs teens and gets them interacting. The Family Toolbox has 8 lessons. Each one has a 1-2 minute scene of a family living life and experiencing common challenges in their relationships. A discussion guide prompts dialogue between parents and teens and a 10-minute teaching session for parents featuring Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN gives practical tools to use right away. Family Toolbox Giveaway I am excited to be joining with the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP) to bring you a wonderful giveaway to celebrate the release of the Family Toolbox.  The giveaway includes a $50 Amazon Gift Card + a bundle of biblical parenting resources from NCBP, including:

The Christian Parenting Handbook and Companion Guide

The Christian Parenting Handbook contains nuggets of parenting wisdom condensed into 50 short chapters, each one biblical, practical, and relevant for parents of children ages 2-18. Learn appropriate ways to correct, instruct, and set limits. Glean wisdom for dealing with emotions, conflict, and developing closeness in your family… and much more. These 50 strategies provide you with hands-on tools for parenting children of any age.  The Companion Guide is a workbook of 50 lessons along with 50 audio tips to take you through The Christian Parenting Handbook step by step.

Cultivating Responsibility: Parenting Wisdom for Ages 9-12 Years

The later elementary age years are among the greatest times to build responsibility in children. Heart transformation takes place when parents use other tools than behavior modification. Sometimes though, bad attitudes, disrespect, and a lack of cooperation can muddy the waters. You’ll want to learn from the experts how best to navigate these years. Your children are making significant developmental leaps in their cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual growth. Understanding how best to help children through these years is essential.

Family Heart Moments

The Family Heart Moments book is a treasure. Over 70 inspirational true stories from parents who are eager to connect with their children’s hearts. The heart is a special place in the life of a child. You don’t want to miss it. This book will give you practical ideas for touching your kids in the deepest place.

Family Time Activity for Teens

Teenagers are in an exciting time of life. They’re learning a lot about themselves and the world, and they need lots of spiritual guidance. The activities and applications in this book are designed specifically for teens. The object lessons and games are captivating and the biblical lessons are timeless. Walking Billboards, Fear Factor, and Gender Differences, are just a few of the titles. Nineteen lessons are included, all unique and powerful. Make Family Time a regular part of your family’s spiritual growth.

Learning About Sex: Love, Sex, and God

In a natural, conversational style, this book answers tough questions that help teens separate sex and love facts from myths. Straight facts on dating, marriage, sex, and sexually transmitted diseases are presented here.

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes, in You and Your Kids

It affects the way people think, the way they act, and the way they treat others around them. Honor motivates parents to treat children differently. It gives children more constructive ways to interact with their parents. It helps siblings develop tolerance and patience. Honor builds incredibly strong bonds that, in turn, benefit all members of the family. This book shows you in practical ways and shows how honor can transform your family. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is open internationally to those age 18 and older. a Rafflecopter giveaway

  Also, please join us for The Family Toolbox Facebook Party on Thursday, October 16, 8-10PM ET where there will be even more great prizes, an opportunity to ask your parenting questions, and lots of fun and fellowship! The winner of this giveaway will be announced at the Facebook party! RSVP for the Party here: https://www.facebook.com/events/876232019055940/ Family Toolbox Facebook Party


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Why We’re Not Homeschooling This Year

In the past, I’ve posted numerous times about the values of homeschooling, my passion for it, and some of the lessons our kids have learned through our homeschool experiences. I remain a passionate supporter of homeschooling. I believe in it 100%.

But we’re not homeschooling this year.

This year, we passed our 4th anniversary of life here in China. While JavaMan and I have been working hard toward fluency, we felt that our kids hadn’t made the kind of language-learning progress we expected when we moved here.

 photo firstdayofschool.jpg

And looking at things practically, we realized that the best way for our kids to not only reach fluency, but also to feel more at home in the culture in which we live, would be to attend a year at Chinese school.

Our kids have only known homeschool. They love homeschool (almost) as much as I do, and being homeschooled has become part of their identity. Facing the rigors of the Chinese school system–and entering beyond the first grade–wasn’t a challenge that any of them really desired to take on, so it has been a tough decision–on all of us.

We have now, however, survived our first week. They have each entered at a grade level below their Canadian grade, but since Pumpkin would otherwise be entering middle school–an even more difficult task than primary school in China–we felt it gave them each the best chance for success. They have each begun to make friends and to sort out the daily routine.

Were we not in this special set of circumstances, we would very likely be settling in to another year of Mystery of History, Latin, and Life of Fred. We will miss all of that this year, and we will miss each other. But in the end, we believe it will be worth it.

I plan to post udpates from time to time about their year in Chinese school. Stay tuned for their further adventures.


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