Monday, January 25, 2010

It is high time I post an update of what we are all up to. I'll start with the head of our household.

Niu Zhong Sheng

My hubby is hard at work on his PhD. He has started getting some things down in writing, but it is in the roughest of forms. The amount of information that he has to research can be daunting at times, but he thrives in this environment. As I'm writing this, he is in Israel working on a project with the university called Bibledex. Basically the theology department in coordination with a documentary film maker are producing 5-10 minute videos clips introducing each book of the Bible. It gives an average layperson an idea of what each Book contains (though this is colored by each commentator's personal beliefs). Right now, they are trying to do some filming on-site for these videos. Here is my now-on-Youtube husband telling us about Job:

Pan Jia Le

My life is full with the routines of homemaking and the joys and struggles of motherhood. Some days are good and others are challenging. Some days I feel on top of the game and others like a failure. Thank goodness for God grace and mercy new every morning. I'm so thankful for the opportunities I have through our church to meet up with other women either for Bible study or play groups. I love the "village" life-style here that puts everything we need, including friendships and church, within walking distance. We were able to renew our housing contract for another year, and this, too, is something I praise God for because I am just starting to feel like opportunities are opening up to get to know our neighbors. It would be just wonderful if we could live here for our whole time in the UK.

Niu De Sheng

I can't believe how big this kid is now. He's 2 1/2 and amazing me all the time with what he is able to grasp and express, not to mention the antics that toddlers get up to (I think in this picture he was covering up his ears and trying to see if he could hear himself on the airplane). A few days ago I listened to this one-sided conversation with his sister while trying to help her drink from a sippy cup: "Here you go, Mir-um. Hold it with two hands. Like dis. One dare and one dare. Good job!" *loud bang* "Oh, no, Mir-um! It fall down." We try to do a little "school" together in the mornings for 15-20 minutes and I can see how this has helped him to grasp new concepts, but most importantly, it gives him focused "mommy time". As his sister gets older, "sharing" becomes more necessary in his little world. Sometimes I struggle with him trying to vie for my attention when I'm needing to help her. It can be challenging knowing how much to push him towards being independent and how much to just let him be "mommy's little boy".

Niu Mei Li

This little girl is growing like crazy. It's hard to believe that she is 7 months old already. I'm completely in love with her and all those fantastic, chubby rolls on her body. It looks like I'm going to have a crawler on my hands with this kid. She is sitting very well; she can stand holding on to things for a period of time and she's pushing around the living room with her head planted on the floor and her bum up in the air. I've recently started her on solids and she hasn't taken to it like her brother did. She isn't keen on bananas, avocados, pumpkin and carrots. She will grudgingly allow herself to be force-fed pears, applesauce and sweet potato, but she absolutely loves and devours broccoli (and bread, if I let her). Go figure!

Here's one last shot of the kids in sweaters that an old lady we've never met made for them for Christmas.

When I step back and look at my life, I can't help but see that truly God has blessed us above and beyond what we had hoped for in our move here. May we never grow too comfortable or complacent to recognize that all we have comes from Him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Somewhere out in the blogosphere I saw this book, "Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv and I knew that I would have to read it. I waited nearly 3 months in a list of people trying to get a hold of the only copy in our library system. Now I have it and only for 2 more weeks before I have to turn it in for the next person to enjoy. I am going to try to write a *brief* summary of the book, but I highly recommend it for parents, educators, and anyone involved with children to get an idea of the implications of raising our young ones so separated from nature.

The New Relationship Between Children and Nature

Louv starts off the book by showing what kind of world our children are being born into. My grandparents' generation was very much in contact with farms and natural life. My parents' generation may have been removed from that one step, but they still would have family or friends in the rural settings. Even my generation might still retain an element of that contact. The vast majority of the children today, however, are growing up in very urban environments, having far less contact with nature than anyone before them. Due to highly regulated housing communities, fear of litigation, concerns over crime and lack of access, more and more children are growing up indoors. Fort-building has been replaced by TV; exploration by Wii. As one 4th-grade child being surveyed explained, "I like to play indoors better 'cause' that's where all the electrical outlets are." It is yet to be fully revealed what the outcomes of these changes will mean, but it coincides with an increase in children with obesity, ADHD, depression, diabetes, and on and on.

Not only are our children further removed from nature, the very definition of nature is less and less clear in this age of technology. Animals have been cloned; research is being done on how to change nature's colors (i.e. tree leaves changing when toxins are in the air; butterfly wings in the pattern of brand logos, etc). On top of the morphing of nature, "fake" nature replaces the real thing: Rainforest Cafes, videos of nature, synthetic rocks...

Why the Young (and the Rest of Us) Need Nature

We innately know that nature is necessary for our health and well-being, but it is only recently that more and more studies are being done on how nature might effect us on all levels of existence from creativity to self-image, from mental health to spirituality. It is a difficult topic to test with clear controls as nature and our response to it is very subjective, but results have shown that exposure to nature improves quality of life, and it is becoming clearer just how extensive the reverse is also true: lack of nature decreases quality of life.


Thankfully, I was able to finish this book before I had to return it to the library, however, with Christmas, New Years, and all the travels in between, I haven't been able to write down my notes and thoughts for the rest of this summary. I found the first half of the book more interesting anyway as the second half got a little more technical. Here's what it covered in brief:

Louv took time to explain how our fears of letting our children loose in nature are generally misinformed. Nearly all cases of child abduction occur within the child's family. As far as health and safety, children are typically good at recognizing the limits of their abilities and with training, they can also learn the potential dangers in nature (poisonous vegetation, sounds of wasps, etc...)

Much of the end of the book deals with what is currently taking place in the US and Western Europe to return society to nature, whether in curriculums, clubs, legislation, land management, "green" living, etc... He gives suggestions for how parents and concerned adults can be involved in both small and large ways towards preserving what little "wild" is left, creating new natural habitats, and giving our children a chance to experience life outside of four walls.

Again, Louv's book is packed with information that I couldn't even briefly touch. This is a great book to read as we go from winter to spring to get us ready to embrace the great outdoors with the return of warmer days. I've been inspired to be intentional about taking my children outside and into nature.

Pictures from