progress report time!

One of my favorite parts of sponsoring children through Holt (or any other organization for that matter) is getting the progress reports about each child. I love reading about how they've been doing and what they've been up to. Currently, we're sponsoring these two lovely kids, Zu Fen (Xu, left) and Yuan Fei (Luo, right):

Zu Fen is 7 now and Yuan Fei is 13.
Anyway, yesterday we received the progress report for Yuan Fei, and I wanted to share parts of it.

"Yuan Fei studies hard. He likes thinking independently. He is good at math. Last month, his school held the math contest. He won the first prize and won the honor for his class... He often discusses the methods of study with his classmates to make a greater progress in his studies. He is also willing to help the classmates who have difficulties in study. One day, one of his classmates asked him a math problem. He explained the problem to him patiently. Half an hour later, the student understood how to resolve the problem... He also likes playing badminton and ping-pong. In the school sports meeting, he won the second prize in ping-pong match."

Math and ping-ping... It just made me smile.

On a kind of related note, reading the progress reports with their not-always-idiomatic English (I have no clue if idiomatic is the proper word in this context... but I figure there's a 23% chance that it's correct) never fails to remind me of all of my engineering courses at ORU. I'll read the progress report and hear Dr. Liu, Dr. Zhang or Dr. Ma in my head.

...and every time I read or hear or think about toes, I immediately hear Dr. Ma saying, "Foot fingers, not many have 11 or 12." Ah, so many non-engineering lessons learned from my asian professors. They still make me laugh.

Alright, that's all I wanted to mention. Jason has been meaning to blog but has not yet gotten around to it this week. Oh, he's started playing his guitar again, which is happy for me. My first distinct memory I have of Jason (the Honors forums aside) is of him and George playing guitar together in the fish bowl (which I just mis-typed as 'bowel,' which would not be accurate since neither Jason or George was/is Jonah...). It was a neat night. Guitar and Jason just go together, so I'm glad he's finding some time to fit it back in to everyday life.

Last bit: I've decided to take my transcription final Monday and Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

This is a completely unrelated picture. I just find him adorable. Oh, and I would love to own that swing.


football.mushrooms.half-asians. oh boy!

One of the best things about fall (right there underneath the cooler weather, colorful leaves, the coming of Thanksgiving and Christmas [yes, I know Christmas is a winter holiday, but my statement is still valid], and the better-to-roll-off-the-tip-of-your-tongue named months [September, October, November are such better names for months than April, May or June {though I just might think this because people name their daughters April, May, and June and it doesn't sit well with me... though the fall months would make awesome boy names, in my opinion}]) started this past Thursday: Football.

Wait, let me clarify: The NFL started this past Thursday, and that is an awesome part of fall. College football... not so much. I guess I just don't get college sports. But that's all I'll say about that.

The opening game was Saints vs. Packers. It was a pretty good game, if I do say so myself. I'm not a big fan of either team, but Brees seems to be a decent kind of fellow so I wish they could have pulled it out. But no biggie. Anyway, since we don't have television service, we weren't able to watch the game live, but to remedy this we decided to invest in NFL.com's Game Rewind. Basically, it lets you watch all of the regular season games, without commercials, in DVR fashion, anytime after the game airs. You can watch it the day after or several weeks after. Every single NFL game is available for you to watch with the only negative being that you can't watch it live. This setup works out for me and Jason splendidly. Due to some random events, we were able to get it for $30, and now we get to have football whenever we want it. Turns out, football is nice to have going on in the background whilst you do other productive (or not) things.

So, yes. Being able to watch the Colts game whenever? Win. Peyton being out for who knows how long? Major.Fail. As this topic saddens me and everybody already knows all about it,  I only wanted to mention it in order to bring up a small side topic.  Last season Jason and I did a fantasy football league for fun, with just the two of us. It was entertaining to say the least. I basically had the Colts for my team. Hooray. Anyway, for this season, Shawn apparently needed 2 more people to join his fantasy football league (this can't be said enough: who uses yahoo these days? :P ). Somehow he was left with asking me and Jason to participate. It's entertaining in that I think the others in the league are probably much more serious about winning than either of us. ANYway, I again pretty much just have the Colts for my team, and this makes me happy. I have Peyton as my quarterback, and I am going to keep him there, even though he's not playing. This will serve several purposes: 1) It's funny. 2) He's still the best quarterback ever. 3) I will be able to give everyone else in the fantasy league 2 free wins off of me. It's seriously an everybody wins strategy (well, I guess Peyton doesn't really  win... it's a pretty lame situation for him no matter how you look at it). That's all for that.

It was brought to my attention yesterday that the Festival of all Festivals is occurring in Kennett Square, PA this weekend. In the words of the festival-put-er-on-ers, it's a "Fun(gi) for all!" festival. That's right, people. In the quaint little town of Kennett Square (which also happens to be the home of the absolutely awesome Longwood Gardens), the Mushroom Festival is happening! It's a pretty well-known fact that mushrooms top my list of Awesome Foods, so a festival dedicated to these tasty  delicacies? Potentially mind blowing. Unfortunately, Jason has a lot of stuff to get done this weekend so I don't think we're going to be able to check it out. It's okay though. There's always next year!

Like Jason mentioned in his previous blog, I am this close to being done with my transcription course. I have to polish up a few things, await my last assessment results, prepare for the 48-hour final, and hopefully not just scrape through... by the skin of my teeth? Or is it by the seat of my pants? By the edge of a woods at the foot of a hill? Whatever. Just, hopefully not scrape by anything. I need to do extremely well or else I will think I did horrible. There's really no middle ground. So, while I'm excited that soon I will be finished with the course, I am also rather apprehensive. I just have to keep in mind my game plan, which is as follows: Prepare for final -> Take final -> Pass final to my satisfaction -> Find a job -> Work at job -> Increase the world's population of watered-down asians. (This would actually be better visualized with a flow chart [and boy do I love flow charts], but for simplicity's sake I won't go there.) It's a flawless plan, no? I'll have an option for helping out financially without having to loan my little guys out to strangers 8 hours a day. Win. I just have to succeed. Time will tell.

On a related note: Jason is going to be an incredible dad. It excites me.

One last thing: I wish to "learn" how to put together a scrapbook. I don't think I have the creativity or the eye to make it look special or anything, but I would like to put together a book with colorful pages  filled with nicely placed pictures. My fear is that it will turn out like a regular old photo album or a 5-year-old's art project. Regardless, I plan on attempting it sometime in the near future.

A picture not at all related to anything I just rambled on about:



I found out today that I passed the second preliminary exam, so I'm no officially 1/3 done with the requirements for the PhD. Not sure what else to say about it. I can already tell I'll be working twice as hard this year as last year. Maybe one day I'll really make it.

Sharayah and I each started a new Bible reading program on YouVersion. They've got dozens of different plans to read through the Bible in a year, such as in chronological order, arranged by topic, straight through in the normal order, or various other plans. You can just sign up for the site, pick a plan, and then each day go to their website and it has a checklist of passages to read for the day. We each picked a plan, and we're on day 10 or so. They actually have plans of varying lengths of time, but most of them are 1 year. I'll let you know next August if we made it through.

I've been reading a lot lately. This summer I made my way through the Ender's Game series, including the Shadow series and most of the short stories. I have a few more short stories left, but they're on the way to the library, and then I'll be caught up. I read the first book in college, thought it was awesome, and never gave it another thought. Then, for some reason, I started through the series this summer, and it's really all great. Many of the books have a very different feel from Ender's Game, but they're all compelling stories. I'd definitely recommend them. If you can manage it, try to read everything in the published order (rather than chronological). If you get confused, just ask me what to read next. I'm pretty excited because the next book in the series is coming out in November, and it's supposed to tie together a lot of the loose ends from all the different story arcs that didn't seem necessarily connected. Apparently I have good timing, because he had left the series alone for a while, and only came back to it this year.

Sharayah is almost done with her transcription training. Then she'll be (in her words) a "meat earner," though I think maybe she meant "bread winner." She's pretty much awesome. Apparently the rest of her plan is to start popping out babies, but she may have to wait a little longer for that.

Today, for the first time ever, I left my car's lights on all day and my battery died. It was sad. Also, difficult to solve, because my car was surrounded in its parking space so that no one would be able to get close enough to jump it. Luckily, just as I figured out how to unlock the gear shift without the car being on so that I could push the car out and back into another spot, allowing someone to get close enough to jump my car, the guy who owned the car next to mine showed up, so it was all unnecessary and I got my car going without any problems. Thus, all I lost was about 30 minutes and some pride (and who needs pride, anyway?).

the best I have


four cuts and seven days ago

The fact that today is the first day of September makes me ridiculously excited. Fall is practically here! I am so psyched for the gorgeous fall colors and absolutely perfect weather. There's just something about fall that is so invigorating. I love it! I have my fingers crossed that there will be much bike riding and picnicking. Oh my. I feel all jittery in anticipation. The year here, weather wise, has been near perfect. The seasons are so perfectly spaced out that, with the change of each season, you're not left disappointed about the current season ending. The autumny leaves are around just long enough for you to enjoy them to the fullest. Right when you think, "Hm, I'm ready for winter," it's winter and cold and snowy. I know not everyone loves the cold months, but for me they are rather glorious. There is just another kind of beauty to them. When it snows and everything becomes white for days... Or when it's all blustery and grim outside and you're forced to stay inside, cuddled under blankets with a book or puzzle... It just feels like it can't get any better than that. And then, right when you have your fill of the snowiness, color starts to return everywhere you look. Nature wakes up. Spring arrives.  And it's awesome and beautiful in a totally different way than either fall or winter. Everything just... comes alive. Car rides and walks are filled with many rather squeaky exclamations. Jason laughs at me, but he understands. The shift from spring into summer is a little less noteworthy, but still noticeable. The temperature warms up, the cool breezes disappear, the trees fill out with leaves and turn a nice dark green. Due to the heat, summer has never been my favorite season. But honestly, I didn't mind it too much up here. There were really only a handful of weeks with icky heat. I can handle that.

Anyway, all this to say, I'm ready for fall. It.makes.me.so.excited. God made a ridiculously beautiful world.

The not as happy part of September 1st is that it is Jason's first day of school. His schedule is basically 1030 to 4 every day. I know it's ridiculous, but I'm going to miss him. Having him around all the time was so nice. I know it's probably going to be a semester with a lot of studying going on, but he can do it. I'm super proud of him.

Speaking of hair*, I cut my own hairs. All of them. First time ever. With my own hands. And scissors. It was, seriously, so much fun. Now, I will answer all of the semi-pertinent questions.

Semi- Pertinent Question #1 - Why: I greatly dislike going to get my hair cut. Perhaps it is because I rarely got haircuts when I was growing up. I would get a trim every now and again, but for a good portion of my life, I just let it grow. My hair and I have always managed to stubborn our way into unpleasant situations. As a kid, I don't think I ever thought to brush it. It was annoying to brush hair since it only took about an hour to mess it up again. Plus, I honestly don't think I could tell a difference between nicely brushed hair and messed up hair. I wasn't/still am not very aware of things like that**. Add to that, I have/had an issue with obsessing over things, and my down-to-my-knees hair was just one of the stubborn points.

Anyway, I think the actual reason I dislike hair-cutting situations is because I simply have no clue what I want done with my hair and even less of an idea how to explain this to someone. So, the few times I've gone somewhere to have my hair cut, I always reach that same awkward point: I sit down in the chair, they face me towards the mirror, and they ask, "So, what do you want done?" I have no idea. I can give them a general length to work with and I can even throw that fancy word of "Layers!" in there, but that's about the extent of my cutting/styling knowledge. To make it more difficult, I also like to mention, "I wear it down and in a ponytail. I wash it and let it dry on its own. I don't use hair devices or goop***." With all of these vague and possibly restrictive instructions, I sit back and let them go at it. Once they've declared a finished product, I pay and leave.

And this is where the dissatisfaction comes in. Sure, my hair is now at a specific length, but that is basically all that is different. I realize this is partially my fault since I didn't tell them anything more specific, but it's because I have no idea about any kind of further specifics. It's silly, I know, but I just want to give a minimum length and tell them to do what they want with the rest, just remembering that I don't do any kind of styling or whatever on a daily basis and that I don't want to/know how to do any. I haven't yet found a gutsy enough hairdresser who will do just that, surprise me. Are my hair habits just too lazy to sustain any kind of different haircut? Again, I have no idea. No one will tell me. Add to this that I honestly don't think I would know a "good" haircut from a "bad" one (they all fall into the neutral zone with me so far) and you get an overall blah experience. Anyway, this is getting all drawn out and boring, so I'll go on. Suffice it to say, I just don't think that what they did was worth the time or money. The problem? How could I complain when it was supposedly something I couldn't do myself? So, I decided to try and cut my own hair, hoping that either I would A) do the same kind of "neutral" cutting without the money spending or inevitable frustration, B) give myself a "Hey cool, something different-ish!" haircut, or C) fail miserably, thus increasing my appreciation for hairdressers and removing my apathy for the blah haircuts that I've always received.

Semi-Pertinent Question #2 - Where: My back bathroom. Paper towel in sink to catch the majority of my hairs so said sink wouldn't get all clogged.

Semi-Pertinent Question #3 - When: It has been an ever-lengthening process (which I enjoy). I started off with my bangs-type hairs about two-ish weeks ago and have been slowly clipping away after every shower since, with the main event happening about a week ago when I hacked off about 4 inches in one go. So.much.fun. It is quite addicting, and I always want to do more (which I probably will, since the desire is there, until Jason tells me to quit or my common sense finally takes over). This wouldn't be a huge problem if I were just a perfectionist or something. You know, if I were a super perfectionist when it came to my hair, clipping a little here and there all the time to get it "just right" wouldn't be a terrible idea. But, you have to realize, I honestly don't think I would recognize a "bad" haircut. And I'm cutting because it's fun. This is a potentially bad combination. I just never knew cutting hairs could be so addicting and enjoyable, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to help myself from  making minor cuts every other day. Hopefully, I won't make a mistake that will necessitate 24-hour hat donning. But then, on the flipside, I probably wouldn't even recognize that I did... So, I still win!

Semi-Pertinent Question #4 - How: In a very choppy fashion. I pretended I was all official by using little hair clips to hold my hairs up in sections and whatnot, but in the end I just did whatever the heck my fingers wanted to do. I even attempted to measure how much I was cutting off and such. But, seeing as I only had the desire to do that to one side, I think it was more of a decorative measure than actually a useful technique. I just cut the hairs that I felt needed cutting and then cut them a little more. I held the hairs at different angles while I cut them creating all kinds of potentially tacky, uneven looks. It was fantastic. Every 10 minutes I would run into the living room to pester Jason who was studying for his prelim exam. I think I was his main source of frustration when it came to studying that night... Oops. Anyway, I eventually reached a point where I felt it could be called "done" for the night. It was around-ish the right length, and my front hairs were doing what I wanted them to do. The hairs on the back of my head were more difficult to cut since I couldn't see them/reach them/cut them as easily. They are still are doing some things that I don't yet approve of but, again, it's a process. I'll figure it out eventually.

So, the big question: Was it worth it? Totally. I cannot believe I hadn't tried this sooner. I hope to never, ever again pay for a haircut. Not only will I save the 10, 15 or 20 dollars (and nope, I don't at all believe that a more expensive place would give me more satisfaction), but I will also gain a priceless amount**** of entertainment. I suppose the only thing that could ruin my anti-hair-salon goal is the spontaneous growth of self-awareness and a personal sense of style. But, I'm pretty sure that won't be a problem for me. :) So.many.wins.

This whole experience kind of reminds me of this llama...

"How's my new haircut look? Seriously, what does it look like? I can't see a thing."
*i realize i wasn't speaking of hair, but i had no other segue into this awesome topic.
**i can tell whether my hair looks brushed these days. promise. i think i learned it sophomore year in college.
***just for clarification: a brush does not fall into the hair device category. hair devices use electricity. goop consists of anything besides shampoo/conditioner that you put in your hair.
**** $43.