Saturday, July 28, 2012

Follow your Body's Signal

There is an ongoing advertisement war between different pharmaceutical companies on pain killers - Advil and Aleve both claim that they can keep a patient pain free for a whole day, and Tylenol cannot.

Pain is human body reaction to stress and diseases.

Do we really want to use pain killer to keep us pain free for a while but ignoring our body's signal to us that our body is over stressed?

Headache is mostly due to stress and sleep deprivation.

Muscle ache is mostly caused by over pull, fatigue and incorrect sitting/standing/sleeping postures.

I would say that we don't need pain killer for common headache or muscle ache.

For example, if my headache is caused by stress or overwork, I slow down, relax; if the head ache is caused by insufficient sleep, I take a nap during the day to make up or go to bed early at night. Taking measures to eliminate the root cause of the pain, the pain will go away.

If I work in the yard for long time and my muscle aches, I skip my daily muscle exercise. If I work on computer for extended hours, I feel pain and numbness at my fingers and arms. I slow down for a few days to allow the symptom go sway, then I adjust my work habit by taking one or two breaks regularly.

One time, my muscle fatigue was caused by incorrect sitting posture at my desk. I asked an ergonomic specialist to help me - adjust chair, desk and my sitting posture. This along with breaks and stretch exercise helped to eliminate my muscle fatigue problem

If body ache is caused by flu, I just drink water and sleep more.

Bottom line, find the root cause of the pain, eliminate it, the pain will go away without pain killer!

We rarely use pain killer unless fever or surgery, never use pain killer for common headache. 

Because of this, when we do use painkiller, it is very effective.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Frozen Treat

It is summer. It is HOT in North Texas.

The boys have Popsicle or ice cream daily. But these summer feel good stuffs are too sweet, not good for their teeth, and not good for their health.

Lily tried to encourage them eating more fruit - slicing watermelon into cubes, putting washed grapes in boxes ....then chilled them in refrigerator. Even though these cold fruit were ready for eating, the boys still did not eat much fruit, they prefer the hard ice! So we tried to limit their consumption of Popsicle and ice cream - for example buying Popsicle/ice cream every other week in smaller portion.

Consequently Nicholas started putting grapes in a small box, freezing them and then eating the frozen grapes. I thought that this was a waste of energy, the fruit was frozen first and then thawed for eating, but I let him continue the practice anyway.

The fact is that chilled fruit is not cold enough for our boys.

Taking cues from Nicholas' practice, Lily starts to mass freezing fruit.

One pound of grapes, washed, put into 4 small boxes, placed in freezer.

Having a frozen grape, one first feels the sensation of ice cold. As one bites into it, the frozen grape juice melted and the cool grape juice spread, the sour sweet juice tastes really good. To tell the truth, I like frozen grapes - eating the frozen grapes fresh out of freezer - no thawing..

In fact, everyone likes the frozen grapes. The one pound frozen grapes are gone in less than 24 hours!

We now frequently freeze almost every juicy fruit we buy - grapes, kiwis, peaches, mangoes, cherries..... we also freeze bananas but not watermelon*. In this way, everyone eats more fruit!

Our favorite frozen fruit is frozen grape. Frozen banana is a close second.

* I like chilled watermelon slices better. The rest of the family likes the home made watermelon smoothies.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Race to nowhere - the film - by Lily

I’ve heard quite a bit of buzz about the documentary film “Race to Nowhere”. So when I found out that there was a screening at my son’s school, I got my ticket right away.

This film explores why our kids are facing so much academic pressure and how to solve this problem. But I got totally tuned out at the beginning of the film. It starts out complaining the amount of homework is a major source of pressure; kids have so much homework that they don’t have time for anything else, sometimes even sleep. I don’t think this is an issue, at least not in our school district. On the contrary, I think the kids are not getting enough homework especially for math and science. Homework is not supposed to make you smart, its purpose is to make sure you fully understand the new concepts and methods you learn at school and be able to correctly apply them in different situations. I think lack of homework is one of the reasons a lot of kids only remember how to solve certain types of problems within two weeks of learning (the “swallow and spit”), it is one of the reasons that 50% of college freshmen need to take retention courses. I’m glad that even my kids agree with me on this. I can’t imagine that our school district is an exception in terms of homework load, and I found a blog at Washington Post that backed my suspicion with national stats.

But this film did raise several interesting points. It is true that in today’s world our kids feel pressured to excel at every front, be it academics, sports, music, or community service. There are a lot of opportunities, and it is great they want to do them all. But nobody is superman, and they need to be clear why they are doing all the activities. If it’s only for college application, then it could well be “race to nowhere”. This is easily said but actually hard for the kids to follow their hearts. Our school counselors are telling the kids since 9th grade that they need to start building their profiles for college application, they need to have a variety of activities, and they need to choose AP classes to show their academic rigor. And the college admission officers do care about all these issues. What do you expect the kids to do under this kind of environment? One suggestion is to rid of college rankings, there is no best college but only perfect match for your kid’s growth. We as parents should stop ranking the kids based on where they go for college.

Teacher quality and evaluation is another important issue. But it may take a generation to fix. Many Asian countries greatly value education and highly respect the teaching profession. In Singapore top 20% of high school graduates get a free ride through college if they choose to teach afterwards. While here, you have to spend one extra year of no pay training and pass the certification exams which are different from state to state. How can we attract the best people to teacher our next generation? To evaluate our teachers, how do we encourage teaching beyond the standard test, the joy of learning, the curiosity toward nature, the method of analytical thinking, and the integrity and conscience toward one’s ability? I’ve met teacher who complained that her pay raise would be affected because my son failed to improve his test score.  I’ve also met teacher who deducted points from my son’s science test for a spelling error. I don’t know if those teachers were evaluated properly, I surely hope so.

One other issue the film pointed out is that in today’s world one’s success tends to be determined solely by the amount of money one makes. So much media coverage focuses on the instant success stories of the few and the lives of rich people. As a result, some kids only dream about same luck will happen to them without putting in their work; they tend to focus on the money and the presumed “easiness” of earning money while forgetting their own interests and passion. In fact, we need to teach our kids that we are the 99% -- in terms of being struck by luck. All of us need to put in hard work and most of us will still end up with seemingly  "mundane" works. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Camping at Lake Ray Roberts

June 2 and 3, the first weekend after last school year, we had a great camping trip to Lake Ray Robert.

Six families, with 9 kids, 4 girls and 5 boys, ages from kindergarten to 10th grade, participated. .

Due to kids' activities, all families left home in the afternoon, and arrived at the park between 4pm and 6pm. After setting up tents, it was time for BBQ, and Lily suggested to go to lake beach so that there were more space for the six families.

BBQ by the Lake at Dusk

The beach is very close to the campsite. Lily, Justin, Caroline, Nicholas went to the beach by bikes. The rest of us drove there to bring food, charcoal etc. We setup at an open shelter near the beach. 

Quickly the fire in grill started. Before long the delicious smell of grilled marinated beef permeated air ...and the children came back from their excursions, time to eat.

So much meat and food were brought by the families, before the grill of ribs, chickens, sausage, hot dog, patties ... were completed, the kids finished eating already and ran away. The adults stayed around, chatting on various topics, and enjoying the meat, salad, grapes, apples, watermelon, company of one another and a steady light breeze from the lake. A full moon climbed over the trees and it turned dark before we knew it.

We enjoyed one more summer indulgence, ice cold watermelon brought by Michele's family, before heading back to our campsite.

Camp fire at Night

Time for camp fire! Ben and Caroline's family brought firewood and marshmallow just for this time. Justin started the fire after a few tries with help from his mom's cooking oil.

Justin, Caroline, Ben and Nicholas along with two other youngsters sat around the fire, roasting marshmallows and playing fires. The camp fire apparently has an enigmatic appeal. The kids could not have enough of it.

I was attracted to the camp fire as well - staring at it for a minute or two without doing anything or thinking anything, I was occupied by the flame.

A bright white Moon over the silhouette of tall trees, flaming fires by the tents and the background sound from nocturnal insects - what a beautiful North Texas outdoor.

Putting out the campfire, we went to sleep in a cool night of a hot summer day.

Biking and Jogging in the Morning

I woke up early next morning (~ 4am) by a persistent loud bird calling, and did not fell back to deep sleep afterwards. So I got up early at 6:30am or so. Observing a bright red cardinal on top of a tree by our tent and listening to its chirping, then I went biking toward lake shore - saw a big deer crossing a side road. This was the first time I saw big animals at lake Ray Roberts.

After a hearty shared breakfast among the families, the six older kids - Ben, Caroline, Emily, Justin, Michele and Nicholas went to biking along the main trail. Parents and younger kids went hiking along the same trail.

When the bikers caught up with hikers after one lap on the trail, they stopped for water - they were loud with wide smiles on their faces. Biking in group was really exciting and fun for these children.

The hikers were, of course, much slower, but we did enjoy the blooming the wet spring brought us. I must say the park was much more beautiful this time than what I have ever saw before.

Water fight 

Taking down tents, cleaning up the campsite, we went to the lake beach again - it was near 11am already.

I was tired due to early wake up and activities. While other adults started preparing food for lunch, I sat on a lawn chair resting and watching.

The kids biked for a while around the lake shore, and then they rested on the rocks by the lake, enjoying the view and a late morning breeze. After some water melon, they started a water fight using water guns - as there were only two water guns - they formed two teams, it seemed that it was everyone against Justin. They laughed when Nicholas or Ben sneaked on Justin and gave him a good spray; or when Justin chased an opponent down and soaked on him. 

After lunch, they switched to water balloon fight - now everyone had his/her own weapon. Under the bright, hot noon Sun, they chased one another, throwing water balloon at others, laughing when hitting a target, shouting and shrieking when attacked , running to a faucet filling additional water balloons and getting back into the fights. It must be a great sensation being spatted by a balloon full of water, or seeing reaction of a friend being hit.

Bird Nests

While on my lazy chair, I also noticed there were a lot of birds coming and going at the shelter I was under. Looking up, I saw a big bird compound with two openings under the roof ! In fact there were two bird nests at two ends of  this roof. The discovery caused some commotion in our group, and the birds were sort of startled, hiding in the nest or not flying back home for a while.

When we quiet down, the birds got back to their routine - flying in and out regularly and a couple curious ones, perching at the nest opening, watched the human.:)


This group of  kids really have good chemistry. With the companion of each other, they had so much fun out in the nature (without game boys, without computer games.....). Some parents started talking about another outing together before we left for home!