Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

 It’s been a year filled with blessings of the Lord and growth for our family. Highlights: running out of gas on trip to Denver in Feb; marriage of my sister Sheree in April; family stay-cation in June including happy camping at Yuba lake; family reunions in Midway, Seattle, and Hobble Creek; trip to Las Vegas in the fall, St. George service trip in December; John and Lani trip to Chengdu; visits from family and friends, daily fun in our home and answers to prayer after prayer. Here’s a little update for each of us.
Katrina (3): smiles, laughter, cuteness.  A blessing to our family! She told me yesterday she loves serving because it makes her happy.  Easy to love. Loves to talk, talk, talk especially at bed time. Happy to play with friends, unhappy to run errands with mom. Also loves hugs, tickles, being read to, and using scissors to cut paper into really tiny pieces; loves anything tiny.
Joseph (6): fun, fun, fun. Quick to forgive, quick to help, eager to learn; Bikes, army men figures, legos, treasure chests, card games like Monopoly deal and Skip-bo, Great Dalmuti—amazingly keeps up with the older crowd; capable vacuumer, improving leaps and bounds in reading and piano skills, loves reading “Indian in the Cupboard” with his dad, kind friend to his mom, protective older brother; great at making deals, chasing people at recess, being a good friend at school and bringing peace to all.
Maria (8): loving heart, remarkable persistence, Chinese tenacity, loves to write, beautiful cursive and recently started the Harry potter series. She loves playing with the younger children, especially babies (good thing a new addition is coming to our family in 2013!). She tells me so is so excited and pats my growing middle. One of many goals she kept, was finishing the entire Book of Mormon before she was baptized. At times it seemed impossible to her mom, but she was self-motivated and often read for 40 minutes a day to accomplish her goal. She uses this stick-to-it-ness in piano; she’s willing to play songs repeatedly to get them right—all self-motivated. Younger siblings love it when she is home as she is so attentive and playful with them.
Annemarie (10): peacemaker, helper, reader, inquisitive, hard worker, master counter wiper: She really is a thoughtful, kind-hearted girl. She often will be the one willing to share or do without to bring peace and happiness to her siblings. She even shares ice cream and other favorite treats! She reads on average a book a day, yes that is over 300 books this year, at least. She can read, write and speak in Chinese. She pretty much amazes her parents. She also has improved a lot with persistent practice and can perform hymns, and some fun recital songs. Her hair is long and blonde similar to a favorite Disney character. She loves the scriptures.
Levi (11): valiant, kind, smart, leader, great cleaner and launderer: is learning that diligence pays off. He participated in his first piano competition performing “Tarantella” and “Scherzo in D minor” receiving “superior” marks from all judges. He also has seen rewards for effort and work, receiving all possible awards as a Webelo, earning the “super achiever award”, and already has 8 merit badges. More importantly, he is the most energetic playmate at home and makes all his siblings and especially his mom laugh and laugh. Very kind and thoughtful to Katrina. Uses his computer skills, more for family history research than computer games.
Lani: working on mastering motherhood, wondering how many times her children will need to forgive her for mistakes made; truly finds joy in her children, grateful for time to landscape, study, organize, write and love; enjoys: speaking to youth, traveling with her husband, speaking with her husband, finding super deals; thoroughly loves: playing with, cooking with, cleaning with, learning with, reading with, memorizing scriptures and poems with, talking with her children. Celebrates gospel learning and teaching. Grateful for a thoughtful, unselfish, brilliant (not to mention handsome!) husband who works magic in his family and professional life.
John: patient homework helper, full of ingenuity, time-efficiency master, proficient dish-washer,favorite professor and speaker to youth and Time Out for Women, writes, writes, researches and writes some more. 12 articles (wow!) published this year (see for his favorites), and a new book called The Big Picture with Deseret Book. A 2012 highlight for him was being a guest professor in China for one month with Lion Education.
Frequently the volume at the dinner table is way too high, or it seems no one is happy, but we are learning to follow my grandmother’s saying that “a grateful heart is a happy heart” and count our blessings rather than the perceived problems. We really miss this grandmother who passed on in March of this year, but we are grateful for her uplifting influence on us of love, forgiveness, gratitude, and kindness. We hope amidst all the chaos of a young family we are developing these Christ-like attributes as well.

Merry Christmas! Love, John and Lani Hilton Family

Monday, October 22, 2012

China Part 4, Two Great Tutors

One of the best parts of my time in China was the time I spent with my tutors. I primarily worked with two tutors, Hattie and Song. I used the site to find a tutor and I felt really fortunate that I was able to connect with each of them.

Hattie was kind enough to come to Sichuan University after I finished teaching each day. I taught from 11-3:30 and then worked with Hattie from 3:45-5:45. We would typically spend one hour going through a lesson that she had prepared and then one hour of either conversation or me practicing telling her stories. Hattie was an outstanding tutor. Sadly, we never took our picture together, but she was kind enough to send this picture of her.

I also met with Song each morning. He was very gracious and would come to my hotel room every morning about 9 AM. Our time together was mostly informal - we would have conversations, I would ask him about vocabulary words and would practice telling him stories. Originally he was only going to come from 9-10, but he kindly would stay longer each day just chatting with me. We did some fun things together, including going to Leshan and the Lotus Flower Market.I likewise neglected to take a photo of Song and I together but here is a picture of him that he sent me.

I thought it would be helpful to have two tutors because that way I could practice some of the same things with each of them without them getting bored. So I would review vocabulary with Song and tell him a story from my life (or from literature) and get feedback from him in the morning, and then review this same vocabulary and story with Hattie in the afternoon.

As I've written this post and look at these pictures of Hattie and Song I really am grateful for them. They really sacrificed a lot to help me, and I know that listening to me fumble around trying to tell stories in Chinese had to tax their patience. Having the opportunity to be with Song and Hattie on a daily basis was one of the best parts of my time in Chengdu. I was able to really get to know them and feel like I had close friends. Thank you Hattie and Song!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Las Vegas and the Anasazi Valley

This past weekend I spoke at Time Out for Women in Las Vegas. We had a great time there. Our kids had there with their amazing Uncle Jeffrey! He took them to Red Rock Canyon, swimming in the pool, Wendys, and Winchells!

It's a pretty special uncle who will take five nieces and nephews for 8 hours so his wife (my sister) can spend the day with her sister-in-law at TOFW.

On the way to Vegas we stopped by the Anasazi Valley, which is where we did some humanitarian service last year. We wanted to see Jake and Betty again and hoped that they would remember us. We were not disappointed!

They warmly welcomed us and we were able to talk about the past few months of our lives. We got to see their new baby pigs and walk around the valley a bit. We also were able to see their beautiful tile floor and bathroom that we helped work on.

Jake performed a special ceremony for Levi and gave him an Eagle Feather. This was something he had promised to do when we were there in December and I was impressed that Jake remembered, and Levi was very happy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

China Part 3, Food

I love to eat and really enjoyed many great meals in China. Here are some pictures and descriptions:

They have fun flavors of potato chips in China. These "Hot & Sour Fish Soup" flavored chips were delicious!

 Some faculty members at Sichuan University treated us to a banquet during our first week there. It was something like a 25 course meal ... incredible! Two of the dishes we had are pictured below. The white circular things were amazingly delicious. Some kind of gelatinous rice flour sugar treat that was incredible.

  I thought that the dish on the left was fried peanuts and took a healthy helping. As I ate them though I found that they had a strange crunch that was was not too pleasant. Later I found out that I was eating fried chicken knuckles.


One of my favorite foods in China is an egg-bread that was so delicious!

At the place where I would ride my bike to get egg bread I would also buy fortune cookie like treats.

 Probably my favorite treat in China was a cold lemonade or lichee drink with black pearls. I would get one at least once a week and would have gotten one daily had I found a place that was closer to my hotel.

I was very honored with Cielo invited me to her home (above) for dinner and to meet her parents. We had a fabulous meal together and I was so grateful for the warm company and friendship they provided.


 Chen was concerned that I was only eating cheap Chinese food and wanted to treat me to a fancy restaurant. He and his family took me to an amazing restaurant one morning and provided me with an incredible amount of delicious food. It was an honor to be with them.

It was also an honor when Penny gave me a tour of her campus and I was able to share a wonderful dinner with her and her boyfriend. I was always treated with such respect and kindness!


 On the last day of classes Lani and I went out to eat with Leah, Yue, and Tongxin. We loved our time together.


Lani is pictured here at one of the two restaurants where I regularly ate. One of them was a dumpling place where a woman hand made thousands of dumplings per day. This one is the other. I loved how they would bring a big bucket of rice to serve with every meal.

While I loved the food in China, I can honestly say that I loved the people even more. You can see great food in the pictures above, but also great and incredible people. Every time I look at these pictures I remember the special moments and times we shared together.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

China Trip, Part 2

There is so much that I want to say about my trip to China, and in a way that has prevented me from writing, because it all seems so overwhelming! But thanks to an email from a Psychology student (wondering why I posted a picture of the literature class, and not the psychology class (thanks Yue Qi!), I'm going to post today and hopefully make some other posts in the future.

First of all, here is a picture of my awesome psychology class:

Looking at this picture now, I still know all of their names; I love these students and I think about the lessons that they taught me. One of my favorite experiences in class is when we played the Prisoner's Dilemma. We were able to have fun playing the game, but also had a really good conversation about it applied in real life today. One student wrote a paper comparing the Prisoner's Dilemma with the intense traffic in the city of Chengdu. She drew some amazing parallels! We had many wonderful discussion in class, like the time we attempted to use "Operant Conditioning" to get Max to move around the classroom, or when we talked about the Asch Experiment and how it relates to us today.

Outside of class we had some great experiences. I had my first karaoke experience with members of the psychology class. Even though it was a fun outside-of-class outing, I did take the opportunity to ask some psychology questions pertaining to the song "Keep Bleeding Love" (does that describe a healthy relationship?) Here's an action photo:

I also got to have fun with students from my literature class. We went to a "hot pot," which is a traditional type of restuarant, and especially famous in the Sichuan Province. There were some questionable foods (pig intestine - actually not that bad, cow brain - I didn't try it, etc.) but overall the food was great and the company was incredible.

What I loved most about this trip was getting to know my students and learning from them. As I've been writing this post and going through pictures, I can honestly say that I really, really miss them.

Monday, August 6, 2012

China Trip, Part 1

The Hilton Family has recently been reunited after I (John) spent 5 weeks teaching two summer courses at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. I left at the end of June, Lani joined me at the end of July, and we traveled back together to Seattle (where Lani had bravely driven 900 miles by herself, and my mother bravely watched all of our children). We've been at a Hilton reunion here in Seattle, and start an Olsen family reunion later this week.

I plan to make several posts about the trip to China, which was incredible, but thought at this point I'd just answer a few questions about the trip:

What did you teach? I taught a Psychology course (my PhD was in Instructional Psychology and Technology) and a Western Literature course. Both were so fun!

Where is Chengdu? Chengdu is the capital city of the Sichuan province, in western China. It is ironic that most Americans have never heard of this city, which has a population of 13 million (by comparison, New York City has 8 million). I taught at Sichuan University, which is one of the highest ranked universities in China.

Why did you go? For me, the main driver was a chance to immerse myself in Mandarin Chinese. I've been dabbling in it for a few years and this provided the opportunity to go deep. I studied with tutors for 3.5 hours a day and had lots of natural opportunities to practice. Lani and I have also considered taking our family to China for a month since Annemarie and Maria speak Chinese and it seemed like a good idea to do a test run.

What was your favorite part about China? Definitely the students! I'm including a picture of my literature class (any psychology students reading this, don't worry, I love you too! It's just that Lani took the pictures of the Psychology class and they haven't been transferred to this computer yet). I have so many wonderful memories of having great discussions with incredibly smart people about topics relating to psychology and great works of literature.

More to come...