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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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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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…

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A Knight’s Birthday

A couple of months ago, Pumpkin, who turned 11 yesterday, asked me for a knight’s birthday party theme. Because of our somewhat nomadic lifestyle over the last several years, we hadn’t given him a “real” birthday party with friends since he was five years old!

And I had no ideas about what to do for a knight’s theme. Thank goodness for Pinterest!

A quick search of Pinterest, and I had a ton of great ideas. Here’s a look at Pumpkin’s 11th birthday bash:

welcome sign

I was really happy with the file I purchased from Etsy with personalized printable invitations, welcome signs, thank you cards, and a host of other items to make the day special. I could have fooled around and made something myself, but this saved a lot of time, and was far cuter than I could have managed on my own.

knighting ceremony

We kicked things off by knighting each of the party participants with an inflatable sword and these fabulous tunics I stitched up from instructions I found at Creative Party Blog. The instructions called for felt, but I couldn’t find that here, so used some corduroy I found at the fabric market–some in blue, some in red, so the boys could be divided into teams. We played musical accompaniment to the grand event with the Masterpiece Theater Theme.

jousting - knight birthday partyAfter their official knighthood, the boys proved their worth in a jousting tournament on their trusty steeds. (JavaMan found a soundtrack of horses galloping as background for this–awesome!)

sword fight - inflatable swords

After the jousting tournament, it was time to turn up the action with sword duels. The inflatable swords were flying during this particular match! (The rules: No swords could touch below the waist or above the neck. Sweetpea kept track of how many times the sword landed, but no one really cared!)

craft time

After all the action, it was time for a change of pace, so we did these great crafts.

knight's feast

Then it was time for the feast.

labels

Pumpkin collaborated with me on the menu. Having studied medieval times as part of our classical history study two years ago, he knew we needed a feast that the kids could eat with their hands: chicken wings, dinner rolls, corn on the cob (available from KFC here), and veggie spears (carrots and celery).

castle cake
The cake looked better in person. And it was pretty yummy, made with our honey-sweetened frosting. The toy knights topped the cake and made it into the loot bags as well as some gold-wrapped chocolate coins.

gifts

And finally, it was time to unwrap the gifts. Since commercial cards are hard to come by here, most of the kids make their own cards. It’s really sweet to see the work they put into them.

The whole day was a big success!

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