• 2010 Reading List

    What I've read this year:

    "The Other Queen" by Phillipa Gregory (Rating: C)

    "The Welsh Girl" by Peter Ho Davies (Rating: A)

    "Mistress of the Sun" by Sandra Gulland (Rating: A)

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Chinese New Year

Gong hei fat choi!

(Roughly translated, that means “Congratulations and be prosperous!”)

This weekend is the festival of the Chinese New Year, and although my family has absolutely no ties to the Chinese culture, I adore this holiday. A few years ago I hosted an event for work including traditional foods, dances, and gifts for the holiday. It is an amazing tradition with a long and complex history, and an endless number of ways in which to celebrate the occasion. After that first encounter, I’ve kept Chinese New Year on my radar, and have looked forward to introducing the Peanut to the festivities.

Lion Dance

Just a few miles from our home is “The Peaceful Dragon.” This is a large facility that teaches Kung Fu, Tai Chi, along with a variety of other martial arts, and it is incredibly authentic to the practices and traditions of the Chinese culture. They hosted their annual New Year celebration last weekend, and we all bundled up and headed over to participate.

The celebration began with the traditional lion dance. Two kung fu students act out the role of the lion, dancing throughout the room, and eventually eating cabbage, then spitting it back out into the audience. If you are lucky enough to get hit with the cabbage, you are looking forward to a prosperous new year! Unfortunately for us, none of our clan got any cabbage…

Dragon dance

Next came the dragon dance, along with the firecrackers that were set off, startling the Peanut, and causing him to jump out of his seat and laugh hysterically!

The school’s students conducted some incredible demonstrations, including using bo staffs, broad swords, fans, and spears. It was incredible to see how they used these weapons in such a beautiful way. One of the things that I love about The Peaceful Dragon is their commitment to the idea that Kung Fu is a personal discipline, and not something that is used to teach aggressiveness. Throughout the demonstrations, they repeatedly mentioned that the students hope to never use their skills outside of the facility, and that the greatest lesson in Kung Fu is the development of self-control. “You cannot make me harm you – that is a decision that only I can make.” What a great thing to be heard in our society – let’s spread that one around some more, please!

They also did a brief yoga demo, which I found very interesting. It was so different than the yoga I am used to, and was amazing to watch.

Yoga demo - head stand - wow!

We are hoping that we will be able to get my two guys into their program over the next year. Alan is really wanting to get into the program, having studied martial arts as a child. And we both think that this would be a great thing for the Peanut as well. He is such a loving and happy child, but he tends to crumble when he feels like he has “failed.” We are continually trying to reassure him that mistakes are good and allow us to learn, but his personality is just so loving and sweet that he is terrified of disappointing others. I can totally identify with that one, and hope that we can help him work through it. We think that the confidence and discipline that comes with martial arts would be a huge boost for him. Hopefully we will be able to swing the fees in the near future, and maybe they will be able to perform at next year’s festival!


New year, new goals

Like so many other people, we view the beginning of the new year as a time to reevaluate. As 2009 was coming to a close, we were finding ourselves feeling bogged down by so many things. We were unintentionally focusing on things other than ourselves, our family, and the things that matter the most to us. So, with the opportunity at a clean slate right around the corner, we began crafting our 2010 goals. I have never been one to set “resolutions.”

How many of those live to see a day in February or beyond? Most fizzle out and die before the end of January. We want these goals to be things that will make us a stronger family, increase our contentment day-to-day, and help keep us focused on the values we really want to be teaching our son. I’m sure many of these will see ups and downs throughout the year. Very few of these will be scratched off and marked as complete. The majority are not things to accomplish, but rather mindsets and long-term goals. So, to help with accountability, here they are!

2010 Family Goals:

  • Eat minimum of one vegetarian meal per week
  • No cable/satellite for one year
  • Make 3 monetary donations to a charity¬†(We’ve made our first donation to CARE, helping educate a girl for a year. For more info, go to ¬†¬†https://my.care.org/site/Donation2?df_id=4183&4183.donation=form1)
  • Take a beach vacation with our extended family
  • Plan and/or make ahead meals – plan our weekly/monthly menu
  • Take a family vacation to a National Park, Historical Site, etc.
  • Resume weekly game/craft/reading nights
  • Stick to daily cleaning (We have one thing that we are supposed to do each day to help avoid Saturdays turning into a day of work.)
  • Freeze/preserve Farmer’s Market produce during the appropriate seasons
  • Add allowance options to the Peanut’s responsibility chart
  • Plan budget for the year, using the “envelope system” to reduce wasteful spending
  • Build vegetable garden on back hill
  • Make a conscious effort to love eachother the way we to be loved
  • Organize the garage (this is the only one that I’m not looking forward to…)
  • Plant one or two additional trees in yard
  • Take 2 or 3 day weekend trip as a couple
  • Write our wills
  • Focus on buying used rather than new
  • Sit down together at the beginning of the month to review last month’s spending

I think that we’ve been realistic about our goals, and we are feeling really positive about the things we’ve decided to emphasize this year. One more thing that we’ve decided to do is to have a “Thought of the Week.” These will be things that help us maintain our focus on the truly important things, and add a little more appreciation to our daily life. I’m posting the thoughts in the kitchen, where we spend the majority of our time, so that I can glean a little wisdom while washing dishes, making lunches, etc. I’m going to try and remember to share these thoughts with you in the coming weeks and months. That being said, here is the thought for the week…