Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

At the moment my two favorite comedians, and also the main faces of my Facebook newsfeed, are Trevor Noah and Shayne Smith. Shayne Smith tells jokes that have me rolling on the floor laughing because I can either relate, or because they’re just totally absurd. But Trevor Noah, even when he makes a joke, he makes me think. And I love that. His life experiences are so vastly different from anything I could ever imagine, and everyone will have different opinions on this, but to me, his perspective usually feels so…just all-encompassing and well-thought. I feel like he is able to give credit to and kindly acknowledge multiple view points on each issue while giving his own such that I have to be careful to not just accept everything he says as true. I took this picture below from off his daily show website (it had a little “download” button right on it, so hopefully that’s okay! *fingers crossed*

So, when I saw that he had written a book about his childhood, I HAD TO get it from the library and finished reading it in just a few days.

PC: Gavin Bond

Trevor Noah was born in Johannesburg, South Africa (the first image in this post shows the Johannesburg skyline), and “Born A Crime” is the story of how he maneuvered apartheid as a total outcast of the system – not really black, not really white, and not comfortable pretending to be like the other “colored” people that looked like him. Not only that, but in “a woman’s world” where he had no good male role models shares the things he learned from the ladies in his life, and the religion that filled their life.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, the sense of humor amid some deep and disturbing circumstances, the way he thinks about apartheid and people in general, and all the little lessons he squeezes in throughout the book. The book manages to lace abuse, tragedy, humor, love, faith and all the complicated overlap of those things together.

He describes himself as a naughty child, and has the stories to prove it, but I especially appreciated a moment in the book when he took a step back to defend children who’s parents struggle to discipline them, try as they might. He explains that family considered him destructive as a child, but he never intentionally destroyed anything. He just was trying to figure out how things worked. And often broke things in the process. Like in a very minor incident when his mom became upset at him for drawing on the walls, he felt terrible and vowed to never disappoint his mom by doing this thing again. But how would he remember not to do it?? Oh! He could write a note to himself on the wall, of course! And there he was, right back at the wall with a crayon. I found this so insightful into my own son’s little brain, and think that every reader will find themselves at some point in this book caught between realizations of your own misled thoughts/reactions to people, and simultaneously laughing at the presentation of his many schemes and predicaments.

I definitely recommend this book, especially to people who struggle with thoughts of racism, of feelings of being outcasts, who search for miracles, and to those who just love a good read.

What Do Different Cultures Say About The Tree of Life?

Tu Bishvat, also called Tu B’Shevat and The New Year of the Trees, is coming up on February 9, 2020! And I wish I had a whole tree unit done already, but for now I have this super fun freebie that I think is equally perfect for this holiday. You see, this Jewish tradition involves planting trees. So, what better time than now to learn about how they grow and what they symbolize to different people!

The tree of life story seems like a tale as old as time, reaching across countless cultures, which makes it a great tool for comparing cultures. Plus, it’s chock full of symbolism and often comes with stories of great adventure and struggle to reach it, much like the Holy Grail. And if you know me, you might know I love these two things a lot – ancient symbols, and stories that apply them. My family spent a lot of time this month enjoying all these different tales we could find and created this freebie for you!

I hate to string you out and say that you’ll have to wait for my tree unit to finish before I can pull my thoughts together on how each culture views the tree of life differently, but I can say that the thing that stays the same is that the tree of life is always viewed as a type of paradise and rest. And that’s what I tried to capture most in my coloring page.

The coloring page is full of different symbols that I thought represented some of my favorite parts of each story we read in some way or another. Some of those symbols include:

  • 7 branches. In Hebrew, 7 represents something being perfect or whole.
  • 10 fruit. Multiple accounts talk about the fruit being “most desirable” and compare the fruit to blessings. In Hebrew, 10 can just mean a lot, or even numberless. Like numberless blessings coming from the tree.
  • The tree of life in many accounts is near a body of water, but in some interpretations, the flow of water seems to come from the tree itself.
  • The tree is associated with a higher power.
  • The Baobab tree is considered the tree of life in Africa, and I read that elephants are one of its only natural predators. The way elephants can sense the water in the trees is amazing and, I thought, symbolic.
  • The flowers drawn on the trunk are structured like the Kabbalah representation of the tree of life.

I also included a very brief summary of each of the traditions that we read from. Our favorite story though, was The Legend of the First Baobab Tree. So I made it into an easy, printable coloring book for you to enjoy with your littles!

Enjoy this look into the book and then subscribe below to get your own copy!

Follow along on social media this week to learn more about these with fun story-tellings and videos!

To receive access to all of my freebies, including this one, just subscribe below! I promise I don’t have time to spam you and will use your email only to send you the most exciting and informative occasional updates, like when more freebies are added to the vault!

An Easy Chinese Feast Your Kids Can Help Cook

Tips for Kids in the Kitchen

Cooking in the kitchen is probably one of the first intense, hands-on science experiments your kids will encounter. And they don’t have to be very old at all to do it! My two year old LOVES cooking, and with practice we have established a safe routine. Well. usually a safe routine. Never underestimate what a curious toddler can be distracted by in the kitchen. The safest plan is to keep them right next to you and do everything at their speed.

Every child is different and you know your kid best, of course. For example, many parents let their children crack eggs but I’m not mentally prepared to deal with that mess. Instead, I let my son do any and all measurements. If its a teaspoon or Tablespoon, I do the pouring while he holds the utensil and then dumps it in our mixture. He’s also been practicing cutting things with dull knives (usually just butter knives). He is also our Master Mixer and does pretty well stirring food on and off the stove without emptying out the contents of whatever dish the food is in.

While making big meals that have lots of things cooking at once, it’s usually easiest to just give him a butter knife and let him chop at whatever vegetables will be used. Remember, the vegetables don’t actually have to be a certain shape as long as they can be cooked. So it’s okay to let your kid cut them up all “wrong”. (Trust me, I’m writing that reminder for me, not you.)

So here’s one fun feast we cooked recently for our family! The egg rolls were so good that I later let my two year old invite all his friends over to cook up a “Chinese New Year lunch” for them!

Chicken Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of rice (brown or jasmine)
  • 1/2 boneless/skinless chicken, cut into strips
  • 3 Tbsp butter (divided)
  • 1 bag frozen peas and carrots, OR 1.5 cups frozen peas and 1.5 cups frozen carrots
  • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 1 bunch of green onions (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 eggs
  • 3.5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat a large skillet or wok and add 1 Tbs of butter to melt.
  2. Add the chicken with salt and pepper to your liking (I recommend a generous amount) and cook through. This should take about 7 minutes.
  3. Set the chicken aside and carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
  4. Add another Tbsp of butter to the pan with the onions, frozen carrots, and peas. If you have steamable/microwavable bags of veggies, then pour them frozen into the pan and cook until they’re tender. If you have separate bags for peas and carrots, then consider saving the excess in a Tupperware for a snack or side later.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for a minute longer.
  6. Cook the eggs on the side of the pan, or use a separate pan.
  7. Put the last Tbsp of butter in the pan and mix in all of the ingredients now (rice, chicken, veggies). Add the green onions and soy sauce at this point.
  8. Let it sit while the rice “fries” and gets just a little crispy.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the sesame oil. Serve hot!

Beef and Broccoli Entree

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs stir fry or flank steak (thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp oil (divided)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli florets (the more the merrier, I say!)
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat one Tbsp of oil in a pan, adding the frozen broccoli directly to the pan. Cook until tender (5-7 minutes)
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Remove the broccoli from the pan into a covered bowl, and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.
  4. Add a Tbsp of oil to the pan.
  5. Make sure the steak strips are separated from one another (especially if pre-cut) before adding them to the pan with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes on each side or until browned through. (I did this in two quick batches.)
  6. Mix everything together in a large wok or other pan now, including oyster sauce, beef broth, sugar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
  7. Boil until the sauce begins to thicken (about 5 minutes), or add cornstarch, if needed.

Chicken and Broccoli Slaw Egg Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb boneless/skinless chicken
  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw (I found mine in the produce section at Walmart Supercenter)
  • Egg Rolls
  • Vegetable Oil

Instructions:

  1. Cook the chicken with salt and pepper to taste for about 4 minutes on each side and then shred or dice it.
  2. Heat a Tbsp of vegetable oil in a small pan and cook the broccoli slaw until it is limp. This should take about five minutes.
  3. Mix the chicken and slaw together. Place a large spoonful of mixture into each eggroll wrapper. Fold the wrapper and rub a little water or oil on the last corner so it sticks closed.
  4. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil again in your pan.
  5. Place 2 or 3 egg rolls at a time in the oil. Let them cook for up to 30 seconds on each side, turning them four times, until the entire egg roll is crispy and golden brown.
  6. Set the finished egg rolls on a plate with paper towels.
  7. Serve hot! Enjoy!

3 Easy-Setup Toddler Activities for Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is here again! And if you didn’t know, it’s on January 25, 2020. So what do you need to celebrate this Lunar New Year event? Not much, actually. Just some food, friends, family, games and hong bao! And though I can’t control the friends and family for you, I can help give some suggestions for the other areas.

In this post I’ll offer three easy and so inexpensive activity ideas that you can do, along with resources I’ve made myself for a couple of them!

NOTE: any purchases are made through PayPal and the download will arrive in your email within a day.

Chinese Food

There are so many delicious chinese foods! The most popular for celebrating Chinese New Year is dumplings, according to my VIPKID students! But of course, it depends on what region of China you find yourself. The most important thing is just to feast with family in the spirit of moving forward into a new, prosperous year.

My 2-year-old son’s favorite Chinese food at the moment is egg rolls, and so that is what we will be eating this weekend alongside some homemade orange chicken!

When it comes to fried food, I have a strict perimeter the kids have to maintain in the kitchen so that nobody gets hurt. But leading up to the frying part, egg rolls are a super fun and the easiest food for little hands to practice folding and wrapping! It’s seriously such a simple side dish! Maybe I’m late to this knowledge, but here’s a tip from our favorite way to make egg rolls – use some broccoli slaw instead of normal coleslaw! YUM!


The Chinese Zodiac

Legend tells of a time long ago when a loud fight broke out among the animals over what to call each of the years. To solve the problem, the Jade Emperor of Heaven commanded each animal to race for a position to have the years named after them. The first twelve animals to cross the finish line would be given the honor of having a year named after them.

This year, 2020, is the year of the rat, which happens to also mark the beginning of another zodiac cycle! Spoiler Alert: the rat wins in the traditional great animal race story. And though this game I’ve created is skewed to help the clever rat win, it’s not a guarantee.

In this fun game, learn about the 12 animals that won the race, what characteristics helped them win, and then lead your own race to see who wins in a rematch! Purchase it here and receive to have it emailed directly to your inbox!

The Great Animal Race Game

Playing board, 12 animal pieces, spinner, game rules, and a short version of the great race story to read! (a total of 5 pages) This is all so easy to print and put together that makes for a lot of fun! Ages 3+

$3.00


Hong Bao

Hong = red , bao = package. More than any other tradition, this is what my Chinese students show off to me after their month-long New Year vacation. The red package that comes stuffed with money from moms, dads, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles. It represents good fortune for the upcoming year, as most red things do in the Chinese culture.

An example of hong bao that is so easy to do at home!

You can purchase this fun printable I made to be emailed to you to make your own hong bao and surprise your children this weekend!

Hong Bao

Just print, cut, fold, glue, and then stuff your hong bao with notes of love and/or money! Three different styles vary from somewhat traditional to a fun one for the year of the rat.

$1.00

If you want to learn more about Chinese New Year, its legends and traditions, then check out this post from last year: C is for China Celebrates!

Celebrating MultiCultural Calendars and Why They Put Us Ahead of Our Time

This year I have made it my goal to discover as many holidays from as many cultures as possible around the world, and on each holiday to learn something about the people that celebrate it. As I go through the holidays, I will be sharing what I learn on social media and giving ideas and activities for some of the holidays that you might do at home.

It’s impossible to learn everything about a culture in a year, or even a lifetime, even if its a culture you’re immersed in. But my belief is that all the most beautiful parts of any given culture come out in plain sight on holidays. The food, clothes, music, poetry, dances, and all everything else puts on its best and brightest form when we gather to celebrate. So by learning something about the people who celebrate all the different kinds of holidays throughout the year, I hope to get a better idea of the world we live in. I hope that you’ll join me in this journey and follow along with my Multicultural Holiday calendar as I share some of the things I learn. I’ll also be sure to share about any celebrations I try to take part in, especially those that are new to me.


The 2020 Multicultural Holidays Calendar

Note: The calendar has been updated to have black text for each holiday on the calendar so its easy to read!

This fun, interactive 12-month calendar celebrates a different country each month of the year. Each page includes

– 12 pictures to color in of a culturally significant landmark in

– fast facts about 1 of 11 different countries (France gets two shout outs with the Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower)

– a place to make notes of facts you learn about holidays in each month

The 11 places are Russia, China, India, Easter Island, Mexico, France, the USA, Australia, Cambodia, Romania, Egypt, and France again.

Each month has at least 9 holidays listed. These holidays might be:

– Religious (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc)

– National (South Africa, the USA, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc)

– Famous People’s Birthdays

– Historically Significant Events

– Dates of Scientific Breakthroughs

QR codes are also provided if you wish to learn more about each of the holidays throughout the year by following my instagram or blog, where I will share more details and even some celebratory ideas for every holiday listed in this calendar this year.

2020 Multicultural Holidays Around the World Calendar

This 26-page download includes 14 printable calendar pages (a cover page and an instruction page with QR codes plus the 12 months), as well as the 12 full-page versions of the hand-drawn landmarks to color.

$7.00

January 2020 Multicultural Holidays Printable

Celebrate Holidays from around the world this month including Tai Pongal, Chinese New Year, MLK Day, Holocaust Day and more! This printable comes with the January calendar, an 8x11 coloring page of St Basil's Cathedral, and the QRcodes to follow along as I share what I learn about each holiday!

$0.75

February 2020 Multicultural Holidays Printable

Celebrate Holidays from around the world this month including Tu B'shevat, Kawhia Kai Festival, Magha Puja Day and more! This printable comes with the February calendar, an 8x11 coloring page of The Great Wall of China, and the QRcodes to follow along as I share what I learn about each holiday!

$0.75

Chicken and Broccoli Slaw Egg Rolls

So I’m at the store, doing my thing, right? I have a cart full of food and am just getting the last things for dinner – egg roll stuff. The egg roll wraps are right under the coleslaw bags at my Walmart, which makes it super easy. But today I look up and the first thing I see is not coleslaw, but broccoli slaw. And I. Love. Broccoli. I also love egg rolls. It only took me about half a second to realize I was on to something BRILLIANT. And if this is old news for you, then don’t laugh. I had no idea broccoli slaw was even a thing. So I’m just going to be super pumped about it for the next month is all. Then I’ll move on with my life. Spoiler Alert: It’s delicious.

Anyways.

Egg rolls also happen to be one of the easiest side dishes ever! Especially if your meal already has some chicken in it that you can pull from.

Cooking with Toddlers

My son is nearing 3 years old and LOVES to help in the kitchen! But frying food and toddlers are NOT a mix worth testing out. So once the hot oil comes out, he knows he has to go watch from a distance. Up until the frying part though, this is a great meal to let your kids help with!

I gave him a bowl with a little vegetable oil and marinade brush in it, the ingredients, and some different tongs for him to choose from. Voila! I can check off fine motor skills activities and science for the day with this meal!

His job was to take whichever set of tongs he wanted and get a pinch of the slaw in the wrap, and then the same with a pinch of chicken. We worked together to fold the wrap up, and then he could take the marinade brush and gently touch it to the wrap so that it didn’t come loose and unfold.


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb boneless/skinless chicken
  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw (I found mine in the produce section at Walmart Supercenter)
  • Egg Rolls
  • Vegetable Oil

Instructions:

  1. Cook the chicken with salt and pepper to taste for about 4 minutes on each side and then shred or dice it. Or, if you have 15 minutes, throw it in the oven at 425 degrees for a hands-free option!
  2. Heat a Tbsp of vegetable oil in a small pan and cook the broccoli slaw until it is limp. This should take about five minutes.
  3. Mix the chicken and slaw together. Place a large spoonful of mixture into each eggroll wrapper. Fold the wrapper and rub a little water or oil on the last corner so it sticks closed.
  4. Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil again in your pan.
  5. Place 1 egg roll at a time in the oil. Let each cook for about 10 seconds on each side, turning them four times, or until the egg roll is crispy and golden brown.
  6. Set the finished egg rolls on a plate with paper towels.
  7. Serve hot! Enjoy!

Need More For Chinese New Year?

If you are ready to go all out now that you’ve gotten some good ol’ fried food in ya, and you need some more activities to do, then head over and check out some of my other posts about Chinese New Year!

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Cantu struggles to understand his family’s relationship with the U.S. Mexico border patrol by joining the border patrol itself! As a Mexican-American studied in the international issues, with a tender heart, and the necessary Spanish skills, he hopes to be able to bring some kindness to the families being turned back at the border while helping establish justice and fair rules. He wants to know where and if there is a balance between the two. So the story starts there – leaving his schooling to pursue training on the ground as a border patrol agent. In part two, he is transferred to an intelligence position, which gives the audience a look into a second aspect of how the border patrol runs. Finally, having stepped away from the border patrol after a few years of service, Cantu learns that a wonderful friend has been detained after trying to cross the border and has to decide what he can do to help the family.

Next to the man it reads: “For (To) a world without walls”
Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

I honestly can’t imagine a better method of addressing this issue than what Cantu has accomplished. He mixes his schooling and research on the matter, his family and personal demons, as well as his professional experiences into a really beautiful illustration of what has been occurring at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Not only is he articulate but there’s something really poetic and simple in his style that just sucked me in and made it all so much more emotional to read. I especially love the way he maintains his identity and culture by unashamedly weaving in bits of Spanish conversations without translation throughout the book.

I also appreciate that I kept waiting and waiting for him to give his solution, or any solution, or for him to just call out a problem and curse it for its awfulness. But he doesn’t. The voice in my head that I’ve created for Francisco Cantu speaks with a softness, and sometimes is sad, but never accusatory, crude or judgemental. And because of this, as I read I felt like I was able to make my own decisions about what needs to change and be done. What is working well already and what has shown improvement.

And after watching this video now, I think I’m mostly right about my choices in his voice. Here’s his similarly short synopsis and invitation to read the book: