Monday, December 28, 2009

Mele Kalikimaka

This is the Hawaiian way to say Merry Christmas. This year the familiar Christmas songs seemed a little strange in a country of sunshine and palm trees. Having grown up with the idea that a white Christmas was the ideal, it's hard not to think that a warm and sunny Christmas isn't second rate. Yet, it wouldn't be a Merry Christmas if we were constantly comparing Chrismas Present to Christmas Past. Shouldn't we find new ways to celebrate the Lord's birth, new traditions, and new memories? The story of Jesus' birth wasn't a pleasant way of explaining a crisis pregnancy. It was foretold in the book of Isaiah some 800 years before Jesus was born. In fact, there were thousands of prophecies that were foretold before Jesus came that He could never have manufactured on His own. And when He came, He came to preach a completely different message to the world. He said that the solution to their problems wasn't something they could solve. They needed peace. Peace with God, peace with men, peace on earth. And He became that peace for us. And then he commanded us, like the shepherds, to proclaim this news. With this in mind, we say Mele Kalikimaka, and may His peace be with you.

Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; exalt the name of the LORD, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. Isaiah 24:14-16

For our tree this year, we opted for a Norfolk Pine, for its size and lack of mold. My sister-in-law, Rose, sent Christmas P.J.'s as she has every year since I can remember. Usually, they are neatly wrapped and placed on their beds when we return from our Christmas Eve service. But this year, a little elf put them on the beds. It was sweet to have this little taste of home.

We wanted to keep things as simple as possible this year. This year we gave musical instruments. A guitar for Lydia, ukuleles for the boys and a drum machine for Laura. After packing up a house full of must-haves that were used rarely and then stowed away, we made a decision to limit the amount of stuff we collect from here on out.
We began the day with a special breakfast, including a Christmas danish and of course, a cup of tea. This was my great grandmother's china. When we moved here, my Mom let us trade our daily dishes for this special china. We use it on Sundays and special days. My other sister-in-law, Carolyn, sent poppers and gifts to make the day special.

After breakfast, we took a hike to Makapu'u Lighthouse. And we called our families. It seems that hiking was the thing to do. It was full of people. Laura commented on how nice it was to not feel stuck in the house. She enjoyed the hike. So good to see her well. The snow back home would ruin all the improvement she's made.

This is the mountain we hiked.
That speck on the left is a lighthouse.

And this is the beach we played on. It was a Merry Christmas.

This year, we encouraged the children to consider memories they could make instead of stuff they could buy. Laura started the season off by taking us to see a musical rendition of, "It's a Wonderful Life." It was fabulous, we laughed and cried ( Jon and I, that is). Hawaiians are great performers. Yesterday, we went for a long hike up a mountain on the North Shore. So fun and so beautiful. Daddy treated us to order whatever we wanted and Jonathan treated the family to dessert at McDonalds. Then we came home and watched Lydia's gift, "Up". She's also taking us to Jamba Juice. Daniel is keeping us in suspense. To be continued...


s m

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The View From Here

These are some of the views from our yard. Tell us which one you like best...

(Northwest View)

So What's It Like? That is probably the most frequently asked question I get. Sometimes it seems like we're living in a painting. Each morning is a new masterpiece with the light and the clouds. We have a very short but breathtaking drive to school, about 12 minutes. It would be 6 if it weren't for the 6 minute light. This brings us to the other aspect of living in Hawaii. Things here just aren't the same as on the mainland. It's behind the times in many ways by about 20 years, with the exception of Internet, television and cell phones (these are very important when you are disconnected geographically). The government infrastructure, the roads, buildings, healthcare, commerce and even restaurants are just a little behind. For many, this is part of the charm of the island. Except for Waikiki, it's less glitzy, less stressful, less modern and more simple. This was definitely a draw for us. Dave saw immediately that this would be a great place to finish bringing up our children.
(The View to the West)
Does it feel like you're on vacation all the time?
That's another question I get a lot. Well, except for the incredible work load of a first-year teacher with 26 papers to grade, lessons to plan, parents to communicate with and household responsibilities, too...yeah I guess it does. Maybe. The beauty is that we are always 10 minutes from a beach and a beautiful hike is just around any corner.

What's in a day for you?
Our alarm goes off at 4 a.m. Daniel faithfully wakes up early every morning to get school work done. He works so much better in the morning. I hobble to the kitchen (my arthritis is so bad in the morning and I'm only 41!) and put on the tea kettle and sneak back to bed until it calls for me. Believe it or not, it's cold in the house in the morning; the walls are thin and we live by the mountains. After a few sips of tea for me, Dave and I go for a walk and the morning is off. After breakfast, personal devotions, hair, teeth and lunches, the 5 of us are out the door by 6:30 on a good day. My students arrive around 7:30 and they are eager to get in the door. Laura comes a little later to school. She has just started working as an assistant to a girl in my class for part of the day; kind of the same job I had for several years. She's a natural and I love having her in my classroom. The kids love her, too. She's doing a little tutoring after school as well. (So good to see her doing well and not worried about the cold at this time of year. Normally, she would start to go downhill about now.) School is over at 2:30, so I get some things done while waiting for Daniel and Lydia to come from the other campus and we usually hang around at school until 4 or so. What does Dave do all day? He's busy planning out next year, finding all the glitches in the schedule now so he can fix them. He's also supporting our director by taking some of her load so that she can work with teachers and students more. So much of his job is still undefined but it seems like more and more he's finding his nitch and doing what he does best, blessing others behind the scenes.
(The North View by the Lanai')
As soon as we get home, our neighbor Andrew is ready to play. After their backpacks are unloaded, they're off to climb banana trees, catch frogs, fight with swords and get just plain dirty. Meanwhile, I try to stay awake and make dinner. My pastor's wife has a knack for frugality (common among pastor's wives) and a knack for kindness. She offered to buy my meat for me and let me just pay her instead of shopping around. What a blessing; I can't shop the sales like I used to. God always provides. While I make dinner, Laura usually heads next door, too. She is very close with Andrew's sisters. Our families are very, very much alike. But I never see Karelin, the mom. Like me, she's always busy inside. But when we do talk, it's obvious we're kindred spirits. I'm so thankful for them; can't imagine what it would be like here without them.
We eat dinner in the Lanai (car port). It's lovely out there, with the the breeze and the view. These days it's dark by 6:30. You think you're really running late and then you realize you have another hour before bed time.

(More of the West View)
After dinner, we are usually working on our laptops. Our school issues laptops to all secondary students and teachers. It's pretty funny to see all 6 of us staring at a screen, typing away. We never watch T.V. here. In Hawaii, if you don't have cable, you don't have television. We've never paid to watch T.V. in Maryland and we didnt' want to start now. So, we don't have access to television. But we do have Netflix now (actually, Laura does and she shares)...never needed that before with the wonderful library we used to have. And we have the Internet for watching a few of our favorite shows. Most definitely we read a lot more. That's a good thing. And we go to bed earlier, too.

Usually at 8, we try to get together to read the Bible and pray and sing. There is a gecko that listens in every night on the living room window. He stays in the same spot on the window and leaves pretty much after we're done. We think he wants to convert. By 9, we're exhausted. Everyone is pretty much in bed. I stay up to do a little yoga and then I'm off to bed, too. As my head hits the pillow, I thank God for allowing us another day to be here.
(The North View from the kitchen window)
What is your class like?
I have a sweet class. I believe the little girl whom Laura is helping is very much the reason they are so kind and caring. My class has a lot of "locals" and some military families. To be "local" means that they have always lived here and they most likely always will. It means they are Asian in some way, or Hawaiian. and they probably speak Pidgin - a conglomeration of many languages that evolved when people of many nationalities were working together on farms. The families who are not local, or Hawiian, or military, are often connected with the airline industry somehow. And others are just businessmen who came here on a venture, a common destiny among islanders. An interesting observation, which I'm not sure is an established fact: white people are not locals, even if they were born here.

My students love school; they are mad if we have a day off. I'm not. But I love teaching them. They started off the year not knowing many hymns and barely being able to carry a tune. They are matching pitch now most of the time. They seem to love learning. They love Fridays because I have an hour at the end of the day when parents come in to do science demonstrations. I keep telling my students that they're not allowed to have fun in school, but they won't listen. We have a song for everything from passing papers to the right or to the left, making transitions between subjects without talking, to writing our name and number on our papers...we sing all day. And we laugh a lot,too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting My Chin Above the Bar

Sunday Hike...the view through the trees
This week I was finally able to complete my long range plans for this year. Normally, this would be completed before the first day of school, but as things played out, this was impossible. Thankfully, next year, Dave has planned more time in the school calendar to allow for this. I have spent countless hours pouring over books, lessons, resources, goals, objectives and the calendar so that I could create a master plan of what I will accomplish this year. What a difference to know where I'm going each week! I still find that I am surprised by many turns and twists in the school calendar but I'm feeling less stressed and less attached to my piles of books and my laptop. As I labored over my plans, seeking to integrate science, history, math, the Bible, geography and literature, my mind swelled with over activity. Yet, I look around at the magnificent integration of our universe, the incredible ways that events in history integrate naturally with the inventions, discoveries and thoughts that have developed and I marvel that I was once convinced that all of this was a mere cosmic accident. My students and I are reading the first few chapters "The Mystery of the Periodic Table" together. The premise of the book is that The Periodic Table is a mystery that has already been solved. What scientists can't understand is how these elements came into such perfect order of atomic weight. Can they really not understand or do they simply not want to admit that there must be a Creator, a Master-planner behind it all? I painstakingly planned out a school year; I know the amount of work it takes and I know for sure that it does not come about accidentally. This week, I felt like I just got my chin above the bar in one long and painfully slow motion. In addition to the stress of lesson planning, I have been feeling stressed about finding land to build our house. I comforted myself that I know the One who has planned out my life so that no matter what comes around the corner, He knows where I'm going and what I'll be doing.
"For I know the plans I have for you; plans for a hope and future." Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Becoming a Child Whisperer

Sometime ago there was a pretty good Robert Redford movie called The Horse Whisperer, in which a gentle, soft spoken man gently woos a wild horse to obedience through gentleness instead of the typical horse breaking methods. The end result for each method, controlling the horse, is the same, but the process for each is fundamentally different. What I am attempting to achieve in the classroom is a monumental task. The twenty six little minds and bodies in my class would rather be playing under the mango tree than answering comprehension questions. How do I get them to respond to my directions? My goal is to woo them. Children need lots of physical affection; it means more to a child than anything. Touching them on the head, their shoulders, giving hugs and squeezes and telling them they are loved is paramount to gaining their trust and their attention. I believe that as a teacher, I stand in the place of Christ. In Loco Christus. I represent Him in my teaching, even when my teaching is bad...a scary thought. Christ's love compels me to pour out my affection for them in the way that He poured out His love for me. When their cup runneth over, I am able to instruct them and they are ready to listen. But I think that often teachers are tempted to think that they have earned the right to be heard because they have written lesson plans and are now standing in front of the class. But standing in the teacher's place doesn't move 26 hearts to listen. Only love can move that mountain. And that mountain is not the only barrier, the students' lack of focus is another. I find it fascinating that the first thing we are moved to do when confronted with a daydreaming student is to call attention the erring child. " Zak, can I have your attention, please?" But Susie is sitting right next to him, doing the very thing she was asked to do...and she is left unnoticed. Why do we give our attention, a commodity highly sought after in the classroom, to the student who is not doing the right thing? Instead of correcting Zak, we could praise Susie, "Susie, I really like the way you are sitting and ready to learn, thank you." This seems like a more effective use of words. When this method is employed, the next scene is, without fail, one of my favorites. Suddenly, 24 little bodies scamper about trying to do whatever Susie was doing. Instead of wasting my words in a frustrated attempt to correct a wandering mind (for the third time today), I have used them to bless a little one who is doing the right thing. In this way, I hope that I am gently wooing them to return my love with their focus and attention. Sure, I could gain their attention through threats, punishment, belittling and a clever reward system. But this is horse-breaking. And I want more than attention; I want affection. I want them to begin to love what I love and give their attention willingly. I believe that to stand In Loco Christus, I must be the child whisperer that He was.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Redemptive Threads and Themes

Tonight, Lydia asked if we could go around the table and share what our favorite subjects are (hmmm, do we have another budding teacher?). My two favorite subjects are Bible and Literature. What I love most is showing others how to see literature as the Greeks did. They viewed life very figuratively, always looking for the hidden meanings and underlying themes. Most people would be able to see that Aslan, in the literature classic, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, is a type of Christ; a hero who sacrifices himself for others. This is actually a literary term. But there are other ways that Christ is in literature. The basic requirement for a good story is redemption; a hero, a victim, a villain, a trial and triumph. The more threads of redemption, the more captivating the story. We all root for the good guy, the man who is betrayed, the man who is right when others are wrong. How many times have you read a story and thought it was wonderful because it evoked strong emotions? What caused that stirring? Evolution would have you loving the strong, hating the weak, feeling ambivalent to mercy, but that is not what we feel when we're reading a good story. Have you ever considered that those emotions are a way that God is speaking to you through literature? We long for a good love story, a strong hero or heroine, even a clever villain. We crave justice and we long for mercy. Ever wonder why? My students just finished reading Sarah, Plain and Tall. We ended our adventure by listing all of the redemptive threads. Our study in Bible class enabled them to see the threads of redemption in this American family tale. They determined that Sarah was both the Damsel in Distress and the Redeemer at the same time. Their adventures in viewing life through Greek lenses are just beginning and what exciting adventures they will have.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Counting our losses

This weekend was Defender's Day in Maryland. This is the best and least known fireworks show of the year, complete with a narrator of the re-enacted battle and a band. Defender's Day celebrates the American victory in the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Traditionally, it is the first weekend after the first week of school. The weather is getting cooler, the afternoon sunlight hints of Autumn and one swells with pride of knowing that such a monumental battle was fought in our back yard. This weekend was Defender's Day...and we weren't there. Very soon the leaves will begin to change colors on the Gingko trees in our neighbor's yard...and we won't see them. Our niece was married last week...and we weren't there. The week we came, a friend of ours died suddenly and a week later another friend was paralyzed in a bike accident...and we weren't there. When we left Maryland, we left everything we knew and loved to become a part of something unknown. We left security and safety. We were crazy. In our lunacy we believed that we should take part in a greater plan for our lives than security. We wanted to be a blessing to a community deeply committed to putting families back together, one generation at a time. We believed that if we made these sacrifices of safety, security, friendships, conveniences and Defender's Days, that God would turn them into investments. Pouring out these losses at the foot of the cross turns them into gains for a greater purpose. In our unstable state of mind, we are asking the Lord to allow us to stay here for as long as He will allow, to make an impact here and in Asia. May He add to our losses a hundred more Defender's Days.

"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Philippians 3:8

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Welcome to our Kaneohe (Kahn - ay - OH- ay) Kottage. We love our little home. It's small, easy to keep clean, in a friendly neighborhood and close to school and church.

That dish rack was given to me by my mom. It used to be an aquarium stand. My church kitchen friends might recognize the metal utility basket like the one in the church kitchen.

This is a breeze way for the kitchen door, which we keep open most of the time.

Hi. I'm Larry the Lizard. Welcome to the Lanai.

We eat dinner out here most nights, except on Sundays when we use the special Ardolino China. That doesn't come out here. We also hang our laundry out here.

Our living room. "The Pyramid" book case that Dave made from old wooden boxes from the family hardware store.

And on the other side of that wall, is the kitchen. Much bigger than my Linthicum one.
Thanks for my butcher block Darlene and for my fruit bowl Jen!

If you turn around, you're in the dining room!

Down the hall is...

Mom and Dad's Bedroom
Friends from church gave us this dresser and mirror. It matches our book case.

And Mom and Dad's Bathroom. We have closets in our bathroom
so we can keep our clothes in there.

Quite possibly the only Fall leaves they'll see for a long time. This painting was done by my dear friend Katy, who used a photo of Dave's as the starting point.

The keikei's (kids') room.

The curtains on the bed allow for peace and quiet.

Our quiet room. A place for movies, playing, yoga and Laura to hide away.

SO, how do you like it?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Celebrating Statehood Day

Hawaii has been a full-fledged U.S. state for 50 years. I asked one of the parents in my class if that was a day of mourning, since it was forced upon the Hawaiian nation by the U.S. and she said, "No, we just celebrate everything here." Interestingly, the Hawaiian flag looks like a combination of the U.S. and British flag. Both nations have occupied Hawaii and left their mark. How sad, though, that there is nothing Hawiian about the state flag. We think it should have turtles on it and be the color of the Lydia's shirt in this picture. The three munchkins belong to our friends, the Woods.