Taking Back the Ice Bucket Challenge

Living abroad is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is the sense of detachment one can often feel to life “back home.” So it is that over the last few weeks, JavaMan and I have watched friends’ videos of the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and laughed along with the rest of you at their reactions as icy water met warm bodies, but we never thought it would reach out to us here. We were wrong. Now, I’ve been nominated.

We’ve watched friends take the challenge from the southern United States all the way to a woman standing on a chunk of ice in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. We’ve seen the famous join in, from Kermit the Frog to George W. Bush. And perhaps my favorite challenge of all, done up big by Dave Ramsey.

According to the ALS Association in the United States, about $70 million dollars has been raised toward the cause of finding a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Pretty impressive for a rare disease that few people knew much about before the summer of 2014! (The statistics for the ALS Canada are somewhat more modest–coming in at around $5.6 million.)

The image of ALS that we’ve seen in social media over the last number of weeks is a sobering one, indeed. Many have seen the story of Anthony Carbajal as shared in this YouTube video (note: parental guidance recommended for suggestive scenes and profanity)

But Ramsey in his video alludes to a concern I’ve had as I’ve watched–about where this money is really going and the kind of research it may support. Ramsey says his donation will be designated so that it won’t fund embryonic stem cell research–research that has the potential to take human lives. Both ALS organizations (in the United States and Canada) have issued statements regarding their position on embryonic stem cell research. Both appear to have limited their research in this area for the time being. More information on the ethics concerns can be found here (though this information pertains mainly to the US organization).

But to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure they’re barking up the right tree. Take a look at the following video, an interview with some people who have developed a potential treatment, currently being researched at the University of South Florida:

Furthermore, did you know that the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” actually started a lot longer ago than the summer of 2014 and wasn’t originally designated exclusively to ALS? At one point, it was simply a challenge to donate to the “charity of one’s choice.”

So, JavaMan and I will be donating funds to www.winningthefight.org which is funding the Deanna Protocol research mentioned in the video above. Researchers are hopeful it will eventually help not only those who suffer from ALS, but also other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. We will also be donating to another charity of our choice. We are taking back the Ice Bucket Challenge!

Ultimately, however, I’m sure the friend who nominated me is interested in seeing me pour a bucket of ice water over my head. She’ll have to be content with a bucket of cold water, since we don’t know of anywhere we can buy ice here (they don’t drink beer cold here in China, let alone soft drinks or water), and all I can supply is the bit of ice in our ice cube tray. So here goes…

[Video still uploading to YouTube. Thanks to our VPN,
required to use social media from China, it's still at 1% uploaded after an hour.
This post will be updated whenever it's finally at 100%]


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Gluten-Free Apple-Blueberry Crisp

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This is a recipe I long-ago adapted from the Pilsbury Cookbook. The original recipe didn’t have enough topping-to-fruit ratio to satisfy JavaMan, nor was it gluten- or dairy-free. And the addition of blueberries is our own as well. (It’s also delicious with peaches instead of apples.)

We enjoy this version so much more than the original. Humble as it is, I’ve taken it to dinners and pleased crowds, and we’ve made it a regular breakfast treat as well. It’s delicious just as it comes out of the oven, but my kids also enjoy it with some coconut milk drizzled over the top. Oooooh, decadent!

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  • 6 cups fruit (I tend to use about 5 cups apples, and a cup of blueberries)
  • tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (like these)
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour blend (I use 1 part rice flour, 1 part sorghum, 1 part arrowroot or tapioca starch)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil


Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place fruit in ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon, water and lemon juice. In large bowl, combine remaining ingredients; mix with pastry blender or fork until crumbly but moist. (Depending on whether you use old-fashioned or quick-cook oats, you may find your mixture absorbs more or less of the moisture. Add additional oil if it is not moist enough.)

Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over fruit. Bake 25 to 35 minutes until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown. Serve warm or cold. It’s yummy both ways!


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Excellent Resources: A Review

Back in 2011, I was privileged to attend the OCHEC homeschool convention. One of the main speakers at the convention was Andrew Pudewa. To say I was impressed with his ideology and methodology would be an understatement.

At the time, I wasn’t sure about incorporating his writing lessons into our curriculum–it seemed so ambitious, and our children so young–but there were aspects of his methodology I began to employ right away. And as time has gone on more of his ideas have been incorporated into our homeschool.History of Canada curriculum

Recently, I became aware of a sister company of Andrew Pudewa’s Institute for Excellence in Writing based in Canada with resources aimed at Canadian students! Even better, these resources could be downloaded and the videos enjoyed online, making it an ideal option for a family living abroad!

The company is called Excellent Resources, and the curriculum we have been using is entitled History of Canada. It is a theme-based exploration of the principles of good writing. We have been using it to improve Pumpkin and Sweetpea’s writing skills while simultaneously reviewing Canadian history. How wonderful is that?

Even though on one hand, I was enthusiastic to begin reviewing this curriculum with our children, I entered the process with a fair degree of trepidation as well, since early experiences with more serious writing in the summer did not go well, particularly with Pumpkin.

However, after using the curriculum since the beginning of this school year (which for us started somewhere in the middle of October), I have seen both children’s writing skills improve in a way I could not have imagined before.

And during one recent writing lesson, while polishing off a writing assignment, Pumpkin was heard to say, “I love writing.” I was shocked. And thrilled!

Each new lesson builds gently on the principles in the previous one, everything patiently and meticulously explained in the videos that accompany the curriculum. There is a lot of hand-holding in the first lessons, with increasing independence as the lessons progress. New vocabulary and grammar instruction is woven throughout the lessons.

Excellent Resources: A Review

Those familiar with the sister company, Institute for Excellence in Writing, will recognize some of the concepts taught:

  1. keyword outlines
  2. writing from notes
  3. dress-ups
  4. banned words
  5. limiting note-taking
  6. topic and clincher sentences
  7. incorporating higher-level vocabulary

All this is studied while at the same time learning (or in our case, re-learning) about the Vikings, Champlain, Cartier, Cabot, the courier de bois, Madeleine de Vercheres, the Loyalists, the war of 1812, and Canada’s role in the Underground Railway.

The course is comprehensive, and leaves students with a good knowledge of how to write from both source text and out of their own imaginations. It teaches sound principles of editing, and I really appreciate the checklists included in each lesson to keep the student on track.

Excellent Resources carries the full range of IEW’s products for the Canadian market, and two other Canadian-themed curricula, each designed for a different grade level: All Things Canada and Neighbours with a Difference.

More than once while using this curriculum I have remarked that I wish someone had taught me to write in such a systematic, painless way. Although I picked up the principles of good writing along the way, it is something I “had a feel for” not something I was taught. And therefore something I found difficult to quantify or pass on to my children. JavaMan has been on hand during a number of our lessons, and he has been impressed with the quality of the writing instruction as well. He remarked that he did not receive such good instruction in writing until he reached high school.

But even more than what we’ve been able to accomplish this school year–which is significant–I appreciate that my children are gaining an understanding of what good writing is and how important it is. They now see the difference between something that is written well and something that is not, and what an impression each can leave on the reader.

I owe all this to Excellent Resources for their truly outstanding product. Thank you, Excellent Resources!



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