Tang Hulurs

imageWhen my son was small and we were just beginning our homeschool journey, my good friend, Tanya, loaned me her Sonlight curriculum for grade 1. Although I chose not to use it, I did read most of the books to my little boy. I have wonderful memories of sitting under the big maple tree in our backyard reading one of our favorites, “Little Pear,” by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. In this enchanting book, the main character’s favorite treat to buy is a tang hulur. My child liked this book so much that we borrowed the others in the series from the library. Our favorite part that has stuck with us all these years (he is 12 now, but still likes to be read to!) is the fascinating idea of a tang hulur. We have our own idea of what they look like, and when we see a resemblance of our conception, whether it be in a store or picture, we always exclaim, “Look! It’s a tang hulur!”

In this blog post, I share with you the day we made tang hulurs, better known as rock candy. This is a fun activity to go along with a science lesson or unit on rocks. We actually made the rock candy with our small Pathfinder group as part of the Rocks and Minerals honor. We had attended a gem and fossil show the week before, a first for all of us. A day or two later, I received an email to sign up for a free online science class to learn about rocks, including experiments to do at home. Thinking this was perfect timing, I bought the necessary supplies for the experiments and showed the video to the Pathfinders. To be honest, the video wasn’t a big hit, but everybody loves an edible experiment so that saved the day!


Here is what we did to create our version of tang hulurs. This makes a big batch, so you might want to reduce it. We added eight cups of sugar, which was a small four-pound bag, to three cups of water gradually, and then heated it on the stove. Do not let it boil. We did not use a candy thermometer, but you can. The mixture should change into a cloudy yellowish color with all the sugar dissolved, and should be hot to the touch. Let it cool enough to pour into a glass container. We used mason jars. You can add flavorings and/or colors at this point.

imageThen position a skewer in the middle, holding it in place with a clothespin laid across the top.


The skewer should be moistened and rolled in sugar to give the crystals something to adhere to.


Now you just wait for the crystals to form. That can take hours or even days; we just kept checking ours.


Break up the edges and pour out the excess liquid after it has crystallized, and set the jar in hot water to remove your creation. It’s not the healthiest treat, but fun to make to demonstrate crystals when studying rocks. Enjoy your tang hulur while reading a good book, like “Little Pear,” or even a book about rocks.


Oh, and by the way, here’s what tang hulurs really look like! Much more tasty to me!



The World is a Book

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain

It’s common to take the family to visit a nearby national park or even a road trip to historical sites. We have enjoyed these vacations. But when we headed out a while back to visit Ecuador we got some interesting looks and comments.

Why would you go there? Isn’t that expensive with the family? Are you going on a mission trip?


While I highly recommend international mission trips, it’s okay to take a vacation abroad. Our family vacation was economical, eye-opening, character building and an educational goldmine. Here’s a synopsis of our trip.

Using frequent flyer miles saved over many years, we reached our destination of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. Spanish classes filled our first week while we stayed with an Ecuadorian family arranged through the “Cristobol Colon Spanish School”. My older son learned more Spanish that week than in the last six months of our homeschool Spanish program. The week included a trip to the equator. How’s cool is that – to stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. My kids will never forget where Ecuador is on the map.

Next we headed to the Amazon jungle. An overnight bus, another mini-bus and a 2-hour trip in motorized canoes. We stayed in a jungle lodge with no electricity. Our guide took us out daily to explore the river and jungle where we encountered anacondas, pink river dolphins, and loads of birds and monkeys. Swimming with piranhas anyone? I passed on that, but my son was an eager participant. The guide told us the piranhas were not in the middle of the lagoon. Thankfully all came out with limbs intact!

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After our jungle adventure we rented a car and drove along the Andes Mountain range which runs down the center of the country. Soaking in volcanic hot springs, exploring the colonial city of Cuenca, and hiking around Inca ruins were some of our activities. Some nights we spent a mere $25 for a room and $10 for dinner for four. Another time we “splurged” and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast run by a friendly expat couple. The kids loved running around their huge garden filled with banana trees, papaya trees, coffee trees, and a vegetable garden. The price? About the same as we usually pay for a Motel 6 in the states.

Ecuadorians are very family oriented and often the tickets for our kids were either free or half-price, even on buses and tours. The people were also so friendly and helpful. Petty theft can be a problem there as in many developing countries, but we took precautions and found it no less safe than visiting a U.S. city. Everywhere we stayed the children were welcome and treated kindly.

Visiting the local markets filled with textiles, hand-made leather goods and all kinds of interesting fruits and vegetables we’d never seen made for fun shopping. Previously we were unaware that Ecuador was a large producer of chocolate. Using the always handy internet, we looked up a small local chocolate factory, called ahead and arranged to have a personal tour complete with samples.


There were so many educational experiences. We tasted raw sugarcane and saw how the locals make it into raw sugar (not bleached and white). The boys helped grate yucca root to make into flat bread. We visited cathedrals that the conquistadors built, and walked on ancient Inca roads. We also visited a local Adventist church where there was standing room only. It’s fun to worship with believers from other countries and cultures and find how much our faith ties us all together.

International traveling is not only for the rich or for foreign missionaries. Many families spend more money taking a Disney vacation than we did on our Ecuadorian adventure. Yes, it took some planning, an adventurous spirit, and one night sleeping on the floor of the airport. However, if you have the desire to experience geography, geology, culture and history up close and personal, consider taking your kids abroad before they leave the nest. It will teach them that people all around the world are not so different than they are. We are all God’s children. 

“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.”

If you’ve traveled abroad with your kids, leave a comment about your adventures below or on the Facebook page. Let’s inspire each other.

International Service — A Personal Outlook

Malawi Camp GLOW

My girls and I at Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) in Malawi

From the age of nine through my senior year in high school, I had the opportunity to go on six short-term mission trips. In my junior year of college, I studied abroad for a few months. After college I lived in Malawi for a year and a half as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am here to share with you my experiences.


A Sabbath afternoon hike to a cave in Honduras

I always had a burning desire to travel. I thought it was a glorious thing! Travel is still wonderful, but I’ve learned the value of the closeness of family and friends, and that I don’t need to go far, far away to be “valuable” or “successful.” I’ve proven my independence and have learned a great deal about myself in the process.

An article by Tarja Parssinen, entitled “We’re not meant to do this alone: American individualism is destroying our families,” had a quote to which I related: “It’s as if Americans must always be Lewis and Clark on a brave embarkation, and if we’re not, we are provincial, frightened, and uneducated. Unlike our ancestors, young people today are not concerned with America’s place in the world. Instead, we ask ourselves, ‘What is my place in the world?’”

I definitely started out being a stereotypical American individualist, but now value and respect the collectivist culture of other countries. Probably I still have individualist qualities, but I think I have achieved a balance, and that is always the preferred state with most things.


Buying greens at the local market in Malawi

If you ask, “Should I send my kid on an overseas mission trip?” I would 99 percent of the time say “Yes!” But, it may not be for the reasons you would expect. Yes, it is for an honorable cause, to help the less fortunate, but that isn’t the only reason, nor is it the most significant thing that will happen. There is no way that a person can go into this type of service without coming out changed. The opportunity to see a new way of life, have a new cultural experience, make lots of new friends, and learn to love the unpredictable…is priceless.

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There were so many incredible experiences and learning experiences:

  • Not ever being sure of how things would work out, but they always would
  • Having faith in my fellow man while hitchhiking in Africa
  • Driving, seemingly aimlessly, around the savannas of Guyana in the middle of the night
  • Sleeping on a very narrow wooden church pew on a hot night with mosquitoes buzzing around
  • Washing girls’ hair with a water hose, treating for lice, and giving them pretty new hair clips and combs
  • Being put under house arrest while under the investigation of Hugo Chavez’s government
  • Backpacking, just able to put one foot in front of the other

Things didn’t always go according to plan, but those were some of the most memorable experiences.

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Hiking Mt. Roraima on the Venezuela side

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I made it to the top!

Sometimes I look back and wonder what it was that I accomplished? Well the truth is this — maybe not much. But, that’s okay. Sometimes we have to lower our expectations. That’s not something you typically tell your children. Usually parents say, “You can be whatever you want, you can reach the stars,” which is an awesome, positive message and should be encouraged. The thing is…you can’t expect to always achieve whatever it is you set out to do. It may be that you started out with unrealistic expectations, not through any fault of your own, just that you didn’t have the whole picture. It could be cultural differences, not taking into account the other “human” factors in the equation, or that God had a different plan. I may never be able to measure my impact on others, but I know that my life was changed, in a big way, by the gracious people who befriended me.


Waiting for a ride to my village in Malawi

I look back on all the mistakes I’ve made, and one specific incident sticks out in my mind. I was a speaker for an evangelistic series in the Ukraine when I was 16. I was so nervous at one point that I skipped an entire page of slides of essential information on the topic “Who is the Beast?” I can only pray that God blessed this talk in His own way. Maybe it did have an impact on someone, but I won’t find out until heaven, and it will certainly not be to any “glory” of my own.


Teaching a health lesson in Malawi

Some trips were very adrenaline filling, especially the short term trips where we rushed in to “save the world.” At one point on a trip, we had kids lining up for our autographs! And, we obliged. Looking back on that, was that really the message we were there to send? Probably not. But, it’s easy to get caught up in the glory of being a “famous American.” And yet, the job isn’t always glorious. On one trip I remember being stuck on the clean-up crew after meals instead of being at the job site. In naivete I complained that I should be able to help with the “real work.”


Hanging out and eating sugar cane in Malawi

Additionally, there was often a layer of hidden danger that, as a naive traveler, I was unaware of. There were forces at work to stop the job we were there to do. In a way this goes to show that God was using us to do His good work.

  • Priests from other churches working to shut us down
  • Being accused of spying for the U.S. Government
  • Kids chasing us with rocks because they wanted more candy (because they were hungry, and the only way to cut that hunger was by sniffing airplane glue)

There was even more danger to workers who lived in the countries we visited. Soon after a trip to the Ukraine, we found out that the pastor we had worked with was shot and killed by one of the teenage boys we had come in contact while there. The struggles are real: drugs, spiritual war, poverty, poor hygiene, lack of water, and on and on. We take many things for granted in everyday life. Once in a while a reality check can be very grounding.

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A village girl in Venezuela

Preparing for experiences like these are impossible. Even if I knew then what I know now, I doubt it would have changed any of my decisions. That is a blessing. I value all the friends I made, all of the “unknowns,” the tough adventures.

My message to you is this: Find a purpose in whatever it is you are tasked to do, and relish the experience.

Native Americans

This is a something that is very near to my heart. I’m going to talk about Native Americans, or as some say, First Nations. We have been working on the Navajo reservation for more than seven years now, and I think some of this is important to know.

Native Americans/First Nations are some of the most misunderstood cultures in the world today. There are several reasons that I can think of. First of all, someone other than a Native American writes the history/text/story books, and most of the information about them. Another major reason is that they have been pretty much forced, by the government in years past, to leave their beliefs and traditions behind. This is starting to change, but most do not know their traditions, and even less know why they have them or what they are for. Unfortunately, the ones that knew have mostly died, and there is no one to teach the young people.

To understand a little better, you need to know that usually all Native Americans are thought of as one group, as if they are all the same. This is untrue. Each nation/tribe has its own beliefs and customs. Some have had some kind of a belief about God and others have not. Navajos have a form of animism, many gods with none being a “supreme” god. Navajos, in their native language, have no word for God, Jesus, Heaven, forgiveness, or sorry. Each nation/tribe also has its own creation story and a form of the flood story.

Many, if not all, of them had no written language. It was all oral and traditions and lessons were done as stories. For the Navajos, their language was written about the 1940s-50s, and I’ve heard as late as the ’60s. This makes it hard to explain many of our beliefs, because we explain them with logic (proof texts) and not in a biblically chronological story. I am working on this. Also making it difficult is that many adults, especially the elderly, never went to school and do not know how to read. This makes Bible study difficult. They also consider Christianity in any form “white man’s religion,” and a history of being mistreated by white men makes Christianity hard for them to accept.

Schools started on the reservations about 1940s-50s, as far as I can tell. They were mostly boarding schools starting with kindergarten. Many were taken from their homes and either put in the boarding schools or in “foster” homes. Either place, abuse was rampant. (The dates and schools may be different for other nations/tribes, but it seems to be a common thread.) Many children even into the ’80s were allowed to watch the sheep instead of going to school. Because so many adults were raised in boarding schools or herding sheep, they do not know how to raise their own children, and it is often left up to the grandmas or aunts to raise the children. Homeschooling here is unheard of. Most families try to send their kids to boarding school, starting at first grade, because schools don’t take them any younger. Alcohol, drugs, and abuse are very common. Abuse is highest among Native Americans than any other ethnic culture in the U.S.

I realize I have brought up several challenges, but the main thing to really understand is that when you see something “Native American,” know that it cannot be talking about all of Native peoples. If you go to a pow wow or anything else, it may be limited to certain tribes; not all had them. When you read something or use a unit study about the traditions they held, remember they had different traditions. We, as a nation (the United States and possibly Canada) and as a denomination, tend to ignore them, pretend they are not around. We give lip service to them and have a few programs to try to show they are not forgotten, but don’t do a lot to really help them.

The last thing to consider is that there are still nations/tribes with NO Adventist presence. This may be hard to believe, but it’s true. You can’t just go and live on a reservation unless you’re native, so it can be hard to get in. Some reservations you can live next to and drive in for community service projects like cooking/health classes, clothes drives, etc. I don’t have the answers or solutions, but if we can respect this people group as loved by God, and pray for them, we will have a beginning.

The Bible verse that I often this of is Revelation 5:9 — “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

Lessons From Ethiopia


My husband, three children, and I just returned from a two-week mission trip to the village of Shashemane in Ethiopia.

It was my hope that this would be a rich educational experience for my children. I had visions of us having great discussions about culture and geography, and experiencing “aha!” moments of gratitude. The thing is, I’m pretty sure I learned more from them than they did from me on this trip.

  • As I watch my son seamlessly fold into a group of non-English-speaking Ethiopian children for a game of soccer, I learn that the language barrier is not nearly as big as I thought.
  • As 3-year-old Fortu holds tightly to my daughter’s hand and follows her everywhere, I realize that a warm smile and loving touch are needed by children from every continent.
  • As our driver tries to make my youngest son laugh through the bus window, I notice that funny faces and laughter are the same in Ethiopia as they are in the United States.

It was I who experienced an “aha!” moment by witnessing how much we have in common, and how much love can be shared regardless of generational gaps, contrasts in skin tone, language barriers, and cultural idiosyncrasies. It is my hope that these lessons will be remembered deeply. And, even if we forget the capital of Ethiopia, if we will remember that love and friendship are possible wherever we are, it will have been the richest of educational experiences.