Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stones Into Schools

This is the sequel to the book I wrote a post about a little over a year ago, Three Cups of Tea. If anything, it is even better than the first book.

In Stones Into Schools, we continue where Greg Mortenson left off in the story of his life's work thusfar, to help build schools in the remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, for all children, but especially girls, as they have often been denied the right to go to school in those countries. This story continues in post 9/11 Pakistan and Afghanistan, with all the things Greg and his foundation, the Central Asia Institute, did to continue their work even with significantly more dangerous conditions. He tells first-hand accounts of the horrible impact of Taliban rule on the every day lives of Afghans and of the devastating earthquake in that region in 2005, but mostly it is an inspiring story of hope.

It is heartening to read about all of the wonderful people doing life-changing things in that part of the world who have struggled against radicalism for so long. We so often only hear the loudest and most extreme voices from that region so it is refreshing to hear a different perspective. I think what sets Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute apart from other charity organizations is that in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they operate with local people and have built relationships with all types of people from all walks of life. The schools are mostly funded through the institute, but part of the deal is that the village donates land and labor also. The local people are an integral part of the building, staffing and maintenance of the schools. Also, they travel and build in very remote parts of the region where few, if any foreigners dare to venture.

I thought that this book would take me a little while to get through, being about 400 pages, non-fiction and with tons of places and people in it. Nothing could have been further from the truth- I had trouble putting it down and was through it in three days and wanting more. The book included maps, an alphabetical directory of people and a glossary which made it even more clear. I highly recommend this book, especially if you read and enjoyed Three Cups of Tea.

If you have a minute, check out the Central Asia Institute website and read about some of the work that they do. They are an amazing group of people.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mud, a Big Tree House and a Komodo Dragon

Last week we went to the zoo. We hadn't been for at least 6 months, so it was really nice to go. They have a sting ray exhibit where the kids can pet the sting rays that is always fun. One thing that was new since last time we were there were 2 adult Komodo Dragons. They were really neat and we all liked seeing them. I didn't get a good picture because the one that was close enough was behind plexi-glass.

Maya and a bunch of other kids waded and played "mud" in the creek by the playground. Arizona kids don't get many opportunities to do this...

This is a really fun, huge tree house play area that all the kids love. It is right upstream from the mud. Try to find Shayne in the picture.

We had a lot of rain this winter so everything is very pretty and green (green for the desert anyway).

Maya really liked the Komodo Dragons. When we got home, we found a 15 minute video on the Internet about Komodo dragons. After she watched it she drew a picture of one and wanted to know how to spell it.Here is a family of Komodo Dragons

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break

We were on Spring Break last week. We had fun just hanging around home and doing a lot of things outside. One day we went over to a really fun park by our house. I love it because it is sort of small, fenced it, has swings and slides, has water and ducks, and we can sit at a picnic table in the shade and see the whole park. Also, it is in walking distance of our house and there are hardly ever many people there. One day last week we went there and Rick and I played Scrabble while the kids played by the water and on the play equipment. A few days later we brought a lunch and camped out for most of the afternoon.

Here they can stick their feet in the water and feed the ducks.

We brought paints to do some nature painting. We love that shady picnic table.

The second time we went, Rick had started work at 4am that day, so he took a little nap. No one called the police saying there was a vagrant in the park, so that was good. Anyway, we are enjoying it now, because in another few months it'll be too hot except at dawn and dusk.

Monday, March 22, 2010

As We Prepare to Paint Our House...

Most of our house is painted the same color. Why? The same reason we haven't bothered to get new couches even though ours are looking pretty "tired". In another few years when the kids are a little older, we will think about new couches and maybe even a new color of paint. Right now, it's antique white. Antique white is one of the basic colors you can just go to Home Depot and ask for by name. "I need a gallon of antique white please." "We'll have that for you in five minutes."

As we were getting ready for the annual shoulder height to floor paint job, I took a few photos. You're probably saying to yourself, "I don't know why she lets her kids write on the walls..." and you are certainly entitled to your opinion. Your walls probably look nice. Well, I don't really "let" my kids write on the walls, but a year ago, Maya wasn't even really drawing much, let alone showing any interest in making letters. In the summer, she started drawing a lot more than she ever had, mostly water animals like fish, whales and octopuses. After her first few weeks in kindergarten she was starting to make the letters of her name, and soon, writing it on her own and then making all sorts of letters. Sometimes she would draw and write on paper and sometimes she would draw and write on the walls. She seemed to be celebrating each new letter she learned by making a string of them on the wall or on a door, both upper and lower case. We were so happy that she was learning to write so many letters that we encouraged her to write on paper, but did not get upset at the writing on the wall.

After awhile, we taped a big sheet of paper to the wall that she liked to write on, then we slowly got her to mainly draw on paper and since October or so she has stuck to paper. You would think we would have gotten around to painting sooner, but we haven't. All the walls don't look like this, just a few different places and these are the ones that wouldn't come off well with magic erasers. As we get ready to touch up the paint job, here are some "before" shots:

Here she was writing "Shayne"

At first she made her Es and Fs with way too many little arms. It was really cute. She makes them with the right number now.

She is starting to write words and ideas down with her drawings for the past month or so, which I am really excited about. I will post some of that soon too. Just have to get the ol' scanner going...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shayne's New Skills

I wrote a month or so ago about how Shayne took a 7 week Introduction to Skateboarding class at the skate park near our house. Since then, he really likes skating a lot and Rick takes him down to the skate park to practice a few times a week. Here are some short video clips of Shayne that Rick took recently:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Apparently These Things Happen...

The other day we were cooking hamburgers outside on the grill and cooking some french fries in the oven. I had mainly been outside, but happened to be getting some cheese out of the fridge when I heard a loud electrical buzzing coming from our electric range, accompanied by a glowing, white light on the inside of the oven. I immediately ran for the breaker box and killed the power and screamed up the stairs for Rick. He came down and got the fire extinguisher out. It was on fire, but we ended up not spraying it, but keeping the oven door closed until it burnt out on its own less than a minute later. Oddly, the fries were perfectly done. The range itself is connected directly to the wall so it cannot be unplugged easily, but fortunately, it is on its own circuit, so we were able to keep the power off for it, but on for everything else. Anyway, we are shopping for a new one, because that one will never see power again if I can help it. What surprised me most is that the range itself was in great shape and had never given us any problems. Also, from reading on the Internet, this kind of thing is more common that you would think. Here is one link I looked at, but there are many others for all kinds of brands. Ours looks like the one in the picture (maybe not quite as clean...) Do I think the house would have burnt down if we didn't notice it right away? I'm not sure, but it certainly would have been possible. Scary!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March: Home Improvement

I decided to make March my "home improvement" month because we have spring break this week and next week, so I thought I would be more likely to get things around the house done this month rather than a month where I am working the whole time. All of us are happier when the house is in good shape, that is why I chose this for one of my Happiness Project Twelve. This being said, I love spring break mainly because here in Arizona, it is a great time to be outside. So, even though there are a myriad of possibilities for home improvement projects, I am narrowing it down to a small, doable list of things, so I can us most of my time taking it easy and hanging out with the family. I also chose projects that would be free or very inexpensive. In March I would like to:
  • Plant cucumbers (they grow in pots in Arizona)
  • Paint most of the walls that are off-white (downstairs, our room, stairway)
  • Fix and paint over 2 small holes in the upstairs bathroom wall
  • Spot paint outside patio wall where paint has chipped
  • Put outside storage closet door back on (it fell off and is just leaning against the wall right now)
  • Clean carpets
This will keep us busy! Mostly I think I will work on these next week because Maya goes back to school next week and we don't till the following week (she has one week and we have 2, but then she gets out a week earlier for summer).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Running Club

Our school district (Chandler) has a fun thing for the elementary kids called Running Club. They run around the field after school 2 days a week and see how many laps they can get. With every quarter of a mile lap, they get a tally mark on their hands in marker, which is a source of much pride after each practice, as they each run around showing each other how many laps they did. They have 3 races late January-February with about 5 schools together (it isn't very cold here in the afternoons that time of year). Shayne had his last Running Club race 2 weeks ago. (I'm a little behind on blog posts-no more parenthesis, I promise!) He had a lot of fun running with many of his friends during the Running Club season and plans to be part of it again next year. We had over 100 kids participate in our school of about 490.