Learn. Fun. Create. Communicate.
All these can be had with the Fortune Cookie Craft Kit! We had so much fun using the included authentic Chinese character rubbing plates to make special messages to our friends. We also added some “regular” writing so our recipients knew what they were getting! The kit is very easy to use and complete the projects. My kids and their friends had fun making messages for their cousins which we then mailed off. The cookies are bigger than we expected – flat they are about 8”x10”. The kit includes enough to make 12 crafts.
Wouldn’t this be a fun birthday party craft? Or a great learning tool for studies on Chinese or world cultures? We think so! Let us know what you think.
~ by Suzee
March 22, 2012
I often think of our country as not having an underlying “culture” – no clothing that is specific to us, no specific style of food (I don’t count hamburgers and hot dogs!), no truly specific music style (unless you count country)… But then I realized, while hosting our German students, diversity is our culture. Our country is full of microcosms of culture, and those have become the integral parts to the whole. We also have large areas of multiculturalism, where we embrace many cultures as part of the everyday fabric of our lives (eating Chinese food, going salsa dancing, saying “hola” instead of hello). Through this acceptance of diversity, “Americans” are intriguing to others – just as other cultures are to us.
As we discussed with our German students their reasons for choosing to come to the U.S., I was surprised to learn that one of our girls preferred our “American accent” over the British accent. Wow – I didn’t think that was possible for others to see us as sounding better than British people when speaking English!
We also discussed so many other things – our commonalities, our differences – and our usage of language. Sabine loved especially to pick up on our figures of speech – one of her first giggles came out when I said, “my phone is dead”. Apparently in Germany they just say, “my battery is empty”. We found others, but right now my mind is blank… (Sabine & Anne, can you remind me?)
The word “American” was another we had a few discussions surrounding. Why are we – U.S. citizens – considered to be “American” or from “America” – when it is really referring to North America and South America. If you know the answer to this – please let me know. To me it seems a bit self-centered way to refer to ourselves… as if this whole continent (and the one below) are ours to claim. Your thoughts?
Speaking of our identity as a country – we are a nation that is very proud of ourselves. We love singing our national songs, saluting our military, and remembering our past (for the most part). It became extremely apparent when I took the girls to a symphony in the park – we were all handed U.S. flags to wave, given the words to the “Star Spangled Banner”, and proceeded to enjoy a concert filled with a lot of national pride, including a tribute to all the members of the military in the audience. These are all things that I completely take for granted. I am so used to this pride. I sort of assumed that all countries would feel the same and do the same sort of things. Well, I was wrong. In Germany, their national anthem has been shortened – they don’t sing the verses that refer to their military. No one hangs a German flag outside of their home. If you are in the military, it is not necessarily something to be proud of. Their history courses are very negative when discussing the events of WWII. It makes sense in a way – but I wonder for how long will the country feel that they need to live in that shame. These two amazing girls from Germany that I met certainly were some of the most accepting and loving people I’ve met…
Some of the fun things we shared with each other during the stay were “traditional” summer treats. Anne had mentioned a really fun thing she likes to do at home is to make bread-on-a-stick. It is basically bread dough, wrapped around a long pointed tree twig/branch – then roasted over an open fire. We all fascinated as we watched Anne sharpen her branch to perfection! The dough takes quite a while to cook, so we had fun laughing at the funny shapes and the dough trying to fall off the stick. I think Sabine’s kept taking the shape she called “the pregnant pig”. It was during this cooking adventure that we had a fun discussion about names in both countries – how we say them, how we choose them, funny names (in our opinions) in each country…
The treat of ours that Anne especially wanted to try was good ole’ s’mores. We chose a night to make them. That event was sort of rushed in at the end of their stay with us, but a promise is a promise! Both Anne & Sabine thoroughly enjoyed their sticky sweet treats. While we were doing this, Sabine took a charred piece of wood and made a writing tool out of it ~ and wrote all of her loves: “I love burritos”, “I love Nicole” (her sister), and “I love America”… it stayed on the hearth for weeks and made me think of her each time I saw it.
Amongst all the sharing of the interesting contrasts and quirks of our cultures ~ I’m sure they both felt as we did ~ that we are all actually very much alike.
Peace today & everyday…
January 25, 2012
I had always wanted to have an exchange student at some point during my girls’ growing up. I had extremely fond memories of our Japanese exchange student, Saeko. So, when we were given the chance to host a German exchange student – I was hesitant at first, but then really excited. The choosing process was difficult. We were given a binder full of profiles. We had decided we wanted a girl, because we have two little girls. Still, we had about 12 profiles to look through. We narrowed it down to about 4. Then 2. My girls were being stubborn about choosing between the 2 girls – they each had a favorite. All of the profiles looked interesting – and some especially seemed to like things we liked. Because of the indecision (read arguing), I took over and decided to choose on my own. I prayed about it, and in the end I picked a girl named Anne. She liked a movie that we really liked (Bridge to Terabithia), played piano, and reminded me of my family with her appearance. She listed herself as shy – which I can completely relate to as a teen. We were also in the middle of reading “Anne of Green Gables”, and I thought that was a fun tie-in.
As soon as I shared my decision with my family, one other girl from the profiles kept getting mentioned. “Why didn’t you choose Sabine?” “What about Sabine?” “What about the girl with the glasses? She was so cute and funny.” Her profile letter had made us all laugh, and we all felt a strong tug at our hearts to also get to know this other person. So, I made another big decision – to host two students. I thought I was crazy at first, but then I really felt at peace about it. I figured if they really felt uncomfortable in their new surroundings, at least they would have each other.
Preparing for the girls was exciting. We listened to German language learning CDs in the car (“guten morgen” means good morning), cleared out my daughters’ armoire for their clothes, changed the sheets on the bunk beds, grocery shopped and bought some fresh white towels for them to use. When the day came to pick them up, we couldn’t wait! At first we didn’t recognize them, but then we saw Sabine, and next to her a much taller than expected Anne (about 5’ 9”). I don’t recall too much about our initial conversation, but I do recall Sabine telling us that she loved the way Americans say her name. We had been calling her “Sa – bean”. Her name is actually pronounced “Za – bean – eh” (the “S” is not quite as hard as we say “Z”). Then we learned we had also been saying Anne’s name wrong (thought that was a simple name, but no!); her name is pronounced something like “Ahn – ehr” (keep the “ehr” in your mouth). It’s actually a sound we don’t have in English, so it was (and still is) difficult for me to say properly.
That evening when we got home, Sabine quickly fell asleep – which she had not wanted to do. Anne was subjected to all the kids on the culdesac coming to meet the “German girl” – and we went for a walk through the neighborhood. After that fun, we made a simple pasta dinner, and played a game. Also, they had brought us some wonderful gifts from Germany: toy horses, bubbles, books and a game about their cities (Düsseldorf & Aachen), and lots of delicious chocolate which of course we had to try! That evening, the girls were quiet, but I could tell that we were going to become great friends. As the month unfolded, that’s just what happened. More to come…
September 2, 2011
My little family recently took a trip to New York City. It was my first time going, so there was much to see and do during our week-long stay. After an amazing trip to the Statue of Liberty & climbing up to peek out of her crown windows… we went on to our next stop ~ Ellis Island.
I was expecting an educational visit for our girls who have been studying immigration to our country at school. I didn’t expect to be so personally moved by the stories this place tells. There was amazing photography all throughout with faces, and families ~ and a short story of their immigration experience (why, when, ages, etc.). These people came here because they felt they had to ~ that the life in the country they were coming from was not a place to create their future. It made me wonder — what would make me take such drastic steps to improve my life by leaving my family, my home, my belongings, my everything familiar? Especially since many didn’t know if they would ever see those loved ones again… In their faces I could see mine, and feel their emotions (even if just a glimpse) of what that must have been like.
My daughter that is very into “fashion” (really innocently into fancy/fun clothes) — felt drawn to look at all the clothing and shoes that people had brought with them to the United States. I have to admit as a culturally curious person, clothes with lots of intricate detail or handiwork is amazingly appealing to me as well.
Another amazing set of facts that I had no comprehension of before visiting was the island itself. This island was just a small parcel of land (3.3 acres) and it was enlarged to 28 acres (using mostly excess earth from the construction of the New York City subway system). I found it so strange and interesting the difference in the public and government perception of immigration from then to now ~ that an entire island, hospital, bunk houses, and lots of other structures were put in place to process the immigrants that we were welcoming. More than 12 million people came through this island alone. Obviously as a country we couldn’t keep this up forever; but just the thought of the efforts that went into bringing people into the U.S. are mind-boggling to me in our current environment in regards to immigration.
As a side note, being an architectural admirer (read “geek”!), I loved the detail put into the buildings! The ceilings, the windows, the carvings, the stonework… even the radiators were beautiful!
In every experience like this, it brings me back to my soul truth ~ people are just not that different from one another.
May 17, 2011
What I’ve found is if you aware, there are lessons to be learned in many nooks and crannies of life. It’s a well-known fact that culture is a huge interest for me – but I think “life” was starting to crowd out that passion. Recently, I’ve had a re-ignited passion for what we are trying to accomplish with Multicultural Kids (I’ll write about why in another blog).
My quest for culture again being fresh, I’ve been seeing opportunities to learn in the most unusual places!
During a recent book club meeting with neighbors and friends, my friend Jayati from India was delighted to answer the barrage of questions that came her way about the upcoming (at the time) Holi Festival. She says growing up in India it was her favorite day of the year – going door to door in her neighborhood inviting her friends and neighbors to play with the colorful splashes of powder with her. We asked her if everyone celebrates – to which she answered that in fact there were people who would not answer their doors to the excited knocks of children (reminds me of certain neighbors on Halloween!). She shared how she celebrates here (at a park with friends & family, potluck, old clothes, and lots of colorful powder). We discussed marriage, and caste, and other cultural differences between India and the U.S. We talked about her children’s names – about how they were fairly common names in India, however definitely stood out as unique here. She said at times they wished they had more typical names, but I believe, as they get older they will appreciate their culture being tied to their names. It thrilled me to see my neighbors who didn’t know her well be so engaged in this conversation – that cultural curiosity was more universal than I had thought. Thank you Jayati for your patience with us!
While paying bills, I discovered that my DMV certificate said I needed to smog my car. I decided to take care of it that day. I found a place on the way to my daughters’ school so I could run the errand while on the way to pick them up. A really friendly man met me outside of their business and right away I noticed his accent. As I entered the facility – the music that greeted me was a lovely mixture of Greek, Persian, and maybe some Latin sounds. I couldn’t really place it. I asked the woman who also worked there (the wife of the man who greeted me) if she knew what country it was from. She instead gave me the name of the artist – Armik – and told me she has five of his CDs. She had a beautiful smile and accent as well – I’m not certain, but I believe they were from Greece or Turkey.
Then, on a recent trip to Target, I was already contemplating this blog entry, and was delighted to be helped at the checkout by an Indian woman (bindi and all) named “Priti” (Pree-tee). I (luckily) pronounced her name correctly – to which she complimented me. I told her the story of my friend from India, Jayati, and her daughter’s names. Priti informed me that by Jayati’s name, she must be from the south of India (I’ll have to ask her). She said most names are identifiable by region – do you think that’s true in the U.S.? Not so much as a matter of culture, but possibly as matter of trend. She also verified that Jayati’s daughter’s names were fairly common in India – but agreed with me that they are beautiful.
At a swim meet on a rainy Sunday, I met a fellow parent volunteer with a very distinct accent. I have discovered that people do not mind if you are curious about their country of origin. This man was from Bosnia – but as he pointed out when he left it was still called Yugoslavia. He spoke of how he first came to Detroit, and then moved to California. I asked about his family, if they were there or here. He is raising his family here, however his parents were deceased and his brother had moved to the U.S. as well. His wife’s family was still in Bosnia. His son came up to speak with him, and he was speaking Cyrillic — what a beautiful and interesting sound!
Just yesterday, at swim practice, I met a mom named Marta – again a very distinct accent. I didn’t get a chance to quiz her yet. I look forward to getting to know her story!
Where do you find culture in unexpected ways? Share with me! I encourage you to be very curious…
March 31, 2011
I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Here’s the scoop: Last year we discovered Picture Your World, a program sponsored by Green Spaces Alliance, a non-profit organization that focuses on land conservation. Once a month, they invite a Master Naturalist, a professional photographer and kids ages 8-18 to a different natural area in or near San Antonio to learn how to take better pictures and to explore the local environment. In the spring the kids can enter their photos into a competition and the winning photos are framed and put on display in a local art gallery. This is so my cup of tea! In every way!
Okay, here is where the Proud Mama in me just has to come out, I have to share! This is my Ellie with her entry from last year which garnered an Honorable Mention. Woohoo! And, no, this has nothing to do with why we love Picture Your World. I promise!
Anyway, nothing restores MY spirit more than hearing the sounds of chirping birds, the peaceful rhythm of water as it flows over rocks, and leaves crunching under my feet. Last year when Steve was deployed was one of the most difficult years of my life, to say the least, and participating in this program was on my Top Ten List of Saving Graces. Our little family really enjoys hiking and picnicking together, but the idea of taking four kiddos, especially my toddler, on this kind of adventure seemed daunting and frankly not very fun without my husband. Participating in Picture Your World and getting to know the people involved with it gave us something back, made us feel normal, gave this Mama energy and a renewed strength in getting through every day we had to spend without him.
Well it’s a year later and my husband is gone again. Not for a year and not halfway across the world, but nonetheless, he is gone. We are a unit of 5 again, but this time things are different. We are not falling apart. This is our chance, my chance really, to redeem ourselves, well myself, even if it’s just to little old me. I know we can do this. And I know we can do this well.
So this latest Picture Your World workshop was held at Mission San Juan de Capistrano. And for my fellow Californians, I had NO idea there was another one. Did you? Not only was the Mission magnificent in its fragility and sparseness, the nature walk down to the San Antonio River was just breathtaking. Even in the dead of winter on a cloudy and cold day, even with very little green, or blue or yellow for that matter, the kids found so many wonderful ways to capture their surroundings. It’s amazing how much putting a camera in their hands allows them to truly see. I had so much fun watching and capturing them as they snapped away!
And my Gus! He made my life extra easy because he didn’t want to be carried. At all! My only worry is that next time I’ll have to find a cheap and durable point and shoot that works well for 2 year olds. After Ellie, ZZ and Raz had theirs in hand Gus bursts out with, “Where’s my cramera? Mama, I need a cramera, too. I gonna take pictures!”. Thankfully we were able to distract him with a stick aka sword aka gun which kept him busy pretty much the whole afternoon. I just love that kid.
I haven’t had a chance yet to upload the kids’ pictures, but I know among the several that are out of focus, blocked by a finger or otherwise utterly random, there will be gems. I know they will have seen and captured the day in a way different from me, different from their siblings, different from the other 20+ plus kids that participated. I know that with each set of pictures I will be able to see our day spent at the Mission in a new way. And to me, that’s more important than anything.
Thanks, Green Spaces, for allowing me the opportunity to picture their worlds. It makes me love them even more.
January 26, 2011
For Thanksgiving, I had created a decorative turkey out of a butternut squash (add some feathers, paint on eyes & presto you have a turkey!). Mr. Turkey has been sitting on my kitchen counter all through the rest of the holidays. The squash showed no signs of decay (I’m truly amazed by its staying power), so I figured I would try to cook it ~ but I have never cooked a butternut squash, so I was a little intimidated. (I’m not the most adventurous person in the kitchen.)
Being more aware of butternut squash since a turkey version was on my kitchen counter for a couple of months – I noticed them wherever I went. My sis-in-law had made soup from one, I saw them diced, pureed, roasted… and it sounded pretty delicious (I love squash anyway, and I actually got to taste the soup which was yum…).
So yesterday I just went for it. I pulled off the feathers, and cut open Mr. Turkey squash and diced away. I now plan to make a roasted veggie dish using it ~ I’ll let you know how it turns out.
But that’s not why I’m writing. Mr. Turkey squash opened my eyes a little wider yesterday. As I was cutting, I came to the section with all the seeds (sort of pumpkin-esque). This piqued my 7-year-old’s interest, so she wanted to help with the seed removal. We were just amazed at how many seeds our not-so-big squash contained. All those seeds, from one squash. I just thought more and more about the seeds’ potential ~ how many more squash plants could potentially be created out of this ONE squash. How many squash might come out of those hundreds of squash plants that lived in the potential of these seeds… and my brain kept spiraling (in a very good way) from there.
First, the literal meaning… that hundreds if not thousands (on to infinity if you keep the cycle going) of potential squash lay in this one squash. Think of the nutrition that could bring to the world. Really amazing if you just take your thoughts down the whole road of the potential of that squash. All the information needed to create butternut squash is contained within the seed ~ all they need is a little dirt, water and some (but not much) attention. It sort of started to blow my mind. Needless to say, we washed and saved the seeds ~ they are going to be planted!
On to the not-so-literal translation of my discovery: OUR potential. Each of us is born with seeds (not the reproductive kind, that is for another discussion… and I’m not promoting having as many mini-me’s as is humanly possible) ~ our unique ideas, talents, joys, quirks, beliefs… so much we each have to share! Those seeds were not given to you to let them rot, or to even keep them all for yourself. They were given to you to expand your life and the lives of others – to better our world. Each of us can provide so much to the world, through our unique seeds. We often feel we are showing off, or self-promoting when we talk about our seeds. We are not. We are given them to give back to the world. Realize they are there. Plant them. Care for them. Create a better world with them. I’m not preaching ~ I need to read these words as much as you.
~ by Suzee
January 14, 2011
Along my life and spiritual path, I’ve become very intrigued by religions. I’ve talked about understanding and feeling comfortable with others’ beliefs with my kids, but I always wanted them to experience this more first hand. Now we have accidentally been put into an environment that will do just that! How lucky!
My two girls recently started attending a charter school. The school meets 2 days a week, and we have 3 days at home studying. The school classes meet at a Jewish temple in the classrooms used for children studying Hebrew. As a result, they are decorated with Hebrew symbols, and there is a giant Menorah on the front lawn. There are tiles used to decorate the outdoor classroom walls painted by the children at the temple. They painted rainbows, birds, butterflies, hearts, Judaic symbols and other images of positivity and spirit.
Last week, we had a day off of school because it was Sukkot, a holiday in the Jewish faith. (Sukkot is a festival commemorating the wandering in the desert and the final harvest.) For this festival, the we were able to watch a crew at the temple construct a sukkah — a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. They are simple temporary wooden structures topped with branches and decorated with autumnal or Judaic themes. These sukkah structures were of great curiosity to my kids. So one day after school we decided to walk through them (they were very open and easy to access). There were tables and chairs inside, and lots of decorations made by children; cards, hanging art, leaves, paper chains, and more created a very vibrant and fun environment. It was obvious some celebration of tradition and fun had been had inside!
After we walked through, and on our drive home, I talked to my kids about what I hoped they would now start to understand. I hope that by experiencing a slice of what is so important to the people (especially the children) at the temple, they can see that in each religion there are celebrations, traditions, and meaning. That Jewish people (and all other religions as well) feel strongly about their faith, and are excited about the way they celebrate their relationship with the divine. Such an important lesson in life – to know that your way isn’t the only way, and isn’t the right way. In most areas of life, including religion, there are many paths that lead to the same place.
More about the sukkah: The Book of Vayyiqra (Leviticus) describes it as a symbolic wilderness shelter, commemorating the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness they inhabited after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. It is common for Jews to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the sukkah. In Judaism, Sukkot is considered a joyous occasion and is referred to in Hebrew as Yom Simchateinu (the day of our rejoicing) or Z’man Simchateinu (the time of our rejoicing), but the sukkah itself symbolizes the frailty and transience of life and its dependence on God. (from Wikipedia)
These are photos of sukkahs that I pulled from PhotoBucket. These are not the sukkahs at their school. I didn’t think of taking photos until I started writing this!
October 5, 2010
Ten years old! How can it be? She was my tiny little 5 lb 8 oz bundle of love and newness just the other day… But now she’s looking into my eyes, almost level. She has interests, and dreams, and an amazing appetite for the wonders of the world. Shoot, I’m going to start crying just writing this… deep breath. Breathe. Such a blessing these 10 years being a mom have been. So, I really wanted to have a special birthday celebration for our daughter Paris.
Starr Ranch – an Audubon California sanctuary just 15 minutes from our home — has been a place that has been very special to Paris over the last few years. So when we were done with summer camp there, I posed the question to Scott, one of the scientists who works there, if we could have Paris’s birthday party there – he was all for it! Birthday parties are not on their usual regime of activities at the ranch, but he was willing to make an exception for our nature-loving girl.
A perfectly simple and wonderful evening was planned and executed. Bring some lemonade, sliced watermelon, home made cupcakes, and pick up pizza on the way to the ranch… include a few neighbor kids, a few kids from school, and a few moms to round out the group.
We drew names for which girls got to ride down in the Jeep with Paris’s daddy. We all arrived and munched on the pizza and melon. One of the residents at the ranch was tending their organic garden, and he gave the girls freshly picked grape tomatoes in yellow and red… free party favors! They were amazingly delicious.
Scott gave us all the basic information about the ranch, and a more detailed talk about the nocturnal creatures that live there: owls, frogs, bats, birds, insects… awesome how facts can become so fun in a setting like this!
We then all piled in the ranch’s stake bed pick-up truck for a ride out into the nighttime wilderness. Scott called screech owls in numerous spots while we all silently listened for a response and gazed at the stars. Giggles and whispers and lots of crickets were all we heard, but it definitely didn’t matter with the glory surrounding us on this magical ride! A turn for everyone to blow the coyote calling horn was next – I found a new talent I have. Who knew?
After about an hour, with everyone tired, and wired, and the pitch-black ranch enveloping us, we headed back to where we started our truck ride. On the way, Scott found in the road a toad – and it used its best defense (peeing), and a giant tarantula, that he put in a container for the girls to all observe for a few minutes.
Big sigh of happiness and joy from this mom. A very special and memorable 10th birthday celebration indeed.
September 26, 2010
How cool would it be to have your photo(s) published and bring acceptance in diversity at the same?! Would you like the opportunity to be part of a book about the “beautiful rainbow of children”? We have a vision for a book of photos to celebrate children of all ethnicities and also mixed-ethnicities. We want the full color spectrum of the amazing children that make up the human race – from the lightest light to the darkest dark and everywhere in between.
We have been given permission by a world-renowned children’s singer to use the words to her song and also include a music CD with our book!
We are looking for photos of children from birth to early teens. We’d like faces, whole body shots, and even parts (for example hands or feet). We also will accept solitary shots as well as shots of more than one child.
We will accept both unaltered as well as creative processing. Please note that when you submit a photo with creative processing, we will need the clean version as well as we may choose a different effect. Also, if you submit a black and white photo, please also provide us with the color.
What an amazing opportunity to have your work published, get some exposure, and make a difference for acceptance of diversity! If we choose your photo(s), we are offering the following:
- If one or more of your images are chosen you will receive (1) free book.
- If your image is chosen for the front cover you will receive a $150 cash prize and a $100 gift certificate to Multicultural Kids
- If your image is chosen for the back cover you will receive a $75 cash prize and a $50 gift certificate to Multicultural Kids
- We will also have an index in the back of the book with your contact information*
* Contact information will be at the discretion of the publishers.
You may submit up to (10) images per month. The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2010 (subject to extension if necessary). Please be sure to get model releases from your subjects! We will collect them from you if your photo(s) are chosen. Please do NOT submit photos for which you are not able to attain a release (possibly an exception if the photo is of a subject in a foreign country).
Please submit your fabulous photos to:
We would like to know info about the photos if chosen – so be prepared to tell us the ages, where it was taken, unique family backgrounds, any other fun or funky fact about the photo that may be relevant for use in the book.
Suzee & Lynne
P.S. – Please feel free to forward this to all of your photographer friends.
July 27, 2010