四季好蔬菜: Book Review


Title: 四季好蔬菜 (si4 ji4 hai3 su cai4)/Vegetables of the Four Seasons

ISBN: 9789861615233

Authors/Photographs: 文/信誼基金出版社,照片/永豐餘生技丶達志影像

Publisher: 信宜

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Science

Summary: Introduces some vegetables that grow in every season. Has lots of pictures.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 3/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Well, it is about vegetables. So I wouldn’t say it was very interesting except in an, “Oh, hey. Vegetables,” kind of way.

It certainly is informative. And I suppose Cookie Monster (7) didn’t mind learning and seeing pictures of vegetables he has eaten (and many more he has not).

These are definitely Taiwanese and Chinese vegetables so I guess it is also cultural learning. But again: vegetables. In all four seasons.

To be fair, the book does offer random facts and Cookie Monster enjoyed those. But for the most part, he struggled over the vegetable names because he wasn’t familiar with them and he was very wiggly and antsy.

I am pretty sure this one book took over a week to read because we kept getting distracted and we were both sooooo bored.

No video because I think we both would rather suck on a fork than read this again. But, um, it was useful to learn and go through.

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 8


You know, I really don’t know how I can keep doing this series without repeating the lessons I’ve learned in the past. Quite frankly, it’s because I’m slow and require multiple reminders and lessons before things sink in.

I suppose there is a greater lesson here about having more compassion and understanding for my children when they don’t get things on the first try.

Oh, STOP IT.

Like I’m going to learn that.

Anyhow, I’m not going to worry about if I’m repeating myself. Maybe if I remind myself often enough, it’ll finally sink in (for me, and maybe for you, too).

Here then, are the things I have reluctantly learned while homeschooling in January 2017:

1) Normal life IS an education.

Yes, yes.

Homeschooling sites (and especially UNschoolers) promote this “benefit” endlessly.

“All of life is school!” “Daily life is all the education your children need!”

But who listens to all that stuff without a HUGE grain of salt?

However, I remind myself that back in my day, there were Home Economics classes wherein we learned to cook, bake, sew, etc. (I did not take these classes – nor did I take Woodshop, Cars Shop, etc. classes – to my everlasting regret. Because hey – GUESS WHAT? That stuff is USEFUL. Unlike a lot of other things I learned in high school.)

Anyhow, back to my point.

Which is: teaching our children how to live and function in a family (or on their own) is an education. (And often, one quite neglected.)

Thus, even though this month, we continued to be low-key on me teaching every day, I have been scaling up their practical life skills.

Not in any formal way. But in the course of actual life. It helps that having Sasquatch makes it really hard for me to attend to a lot of my other kids’ “needs.”

It also helps that Cookie Monster is tall enough to reach the microwave on his own now and that Glow Worm is strong enough to open the refrigerator door and that I have rearranged our pantry and fridge and drawers to make all the foods, drinks, and utensils/bowls/plates/cups easily accessible to short people.

Accessibility is the cornerstone for freedom and independence (for ALL parties).

Thus, I take advantage of Cookie Monster being a generally helpful sort, (and as a result, drags Gamera and Glow Worm into his orbit), and they have started helping unloading the dishwasher, folding or putting away some of their laundry, cutting up strawberries, putting away their bowls/plates after eating, peeling carrots, cooking (by helping add spices, etc.), and entertaining Sasquatch.

Yes, yes.

Likely they would have learned this anyway even without homeschooling due to us being a large family and the type of family we are.

Just let me have this win, ok?

2) Breaking things is a learning opportunity.

In the last two weeks, Glow Worm has broken three (yes, THREE) drinking glasses.

Hapa Papa blames me because I have not switched ALL our drinking glasses to plastic ones. (He has since switched to a plastic water bottle.)

However, I refuse to switch. Mainly because I hate plastic glasses, but also because I read somewhere sometime about Montessori using glasses because then children learn to be careful because they now know their actions have consequences and you can’t just drop a glass any damn where you please, etc.

But mostly because I am lazy and hate plastic drinking cups.

Glow Worm does not seem to have learned this lesson.

Also, this is supposed to teach the parents NOT to leave glass drinking glasses on the train table and to be a bit more careful themselves (ahemHapa Papa) and be more aware of where the glasses ARE on the kitchen table.

Hapa Papa blames the latest glass breaking on me because it was my glass. However, it was when HE was on parenting duty.

And I’ll have you note, that in the past SEVEN years of parenting and him leaving his stupid glass everywhere including the train table upon which I have nagged him endlessly to STOP DOING THAT ALREADY, there has NEVER been a broken glass on my watch. (Stitches and broken bones, YES. But not broken glasses!)

He refuses to see reason. Whatever gets him through the day.

Anyhow, whether Glow Worm or Hapa Papa (or I, for that matter) have learned anything is to be determined.

3) I am super passionate about homeschooling.

I think I have almost convinced Pharm Girl to the Dark Side. Her husband seems to be ok with it, and she is seriously contemplating it but of course, has her worries and questions.

I monopolized most of a play date last weekend and just endlessly talked and talked about homeschooling and what it is and what it means and Geez Louise, Pharm Girl is patient and kind and agreeable for listening to me.

Seriously. I wouldn’t stop.

4) I need to find more ways for Cookie Monster to be social with his age group.

Cookie Monster is amazing with kids younger than him and with babies. He’s amazing with babies.

This makes sense because most of the kids his age are in school and when we hang out with other people during school hours, they are usually younger. Also, he spends the majority of his life with his younger siblings.

He’s awesome.

However, he is starting to reach the point where playdates with younger kids has him a little bored, or lonely, and I need to make a better effort at finding either other homeschool kids his age, or make new friends with older kids, or have more playdates with acquaintances with similar aged children.

He has a few classes with kids his age, and while that is helpful, it’s not the same as having unstructured social and play time with kids his age.

I have been waiting for Guavarama and Fleur to come back from Taiwan so we can have regular play dates, but horrors of horrors, they do not revolve their daily/weekly schedules around mine.

WHAT THE HELL, PEOPLE?

Selfish. Just selfish.

Also, even though Guavarama has AstroBoy who is about 6-7 months younger than Cookie Monster, there are a lot more girls and though Cookie Monster plays well with both sexes, he REALLY loves to play with boys.

I really need to get on finding more people for him to play with.

Sigh.

I hate making new friends or effort.

* ShakesfistatGuavaramaandFleur *

5) Remember: my children are tiny persons. A little compassion and kindness is OK.

I have been making a more concerted effort to be kind and compassionate to Cookie Monster and especially Gamera because she pushes ALL my buttons. And hopefully, I will prevent smashing their feelings into the ground and negate the need to rebuild them back up.

I am trying to take deep breaths, clench my fists and grind my teeth closed so I STFU already, and if I start to criticize or be mean, to stop and joke and attempt to change course before it gets too bad.

This is hit or miss.

This is gonna come up again and again on these lessons.

Alright. That’s it for this month’s edition of Reluctantly Learned Stuff. Hope you are all doing well on your homeschooling journey (or just life journey in general).

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me


Welp, it’s a slow day here (in my brain anyway), and since it’s been hard for me to be awake past 9pm, this is the best I can do for now. 

1) I prefer action movies and comedies to drama. Bonus points if the action is kungfu or has lots of one on one fighting. Extra bonus points if there is more male nudity than female. 

2) I hate kids. 

People think that I must love children because I have so many. What they don’t realize is that I only love my children – and half the time, I don’t even like them! 

Pretty much I only love the children of people I love. But a random kid? I don’t care how cute they are or precocious (actually, I truly despise “precocious” kids), if I don’t care for or know their parent, I don’t give two shits about them. 

Obviously, I don’t want them to be hurt or sick or whatever. I am not evil. But I truly don’t care about them. 

I once had a very pretty and bubbly little girl who was clearly used to adults fawning over her antics and she kept tagging along with my friend and I while we had a rare, child-free moment. 

I was having none of it. 

After five minutes of her nonsense, I asked her where her mother or nanny was. She pointed to someone. I told her to go back there and talk to them instead. We were adults having a conversation and she was not invited. 

I felt bad for about 30 seconds. And then I stopped. Why? Because who was she to me? No one. 

Also? I see my friend at most once a year, for a few hours at best. I was not going to let some entitled little girl waste my fucking time. 

3) I hate traveling and seeing touristy stuff. 

4) I love dinosaurs. But not in a way that requires me to learn about them. I just love seeing their bones in museums. 

How was anything that huge?

5) I don’t play with children. 

I have so many children so that I do not have to play with them. My kids know that I don’t play and no longer ask.

Part of me is sad. But you know what? I don’t recall my parents (or anyone else’s parents) ever playing with us as kids – except maybe when we were older and played grown up card games. 

6) I don’t have Netflix or Hulu or any other streaming service other than what comes with Amazon Prime – and I don’t even use that

The thought of one other monthly payment for something I would barely use hurts me. But it makes me sad when shows are only on those services. It comforts me that if they were on cable, I probably still wouldn’t watch. Because laziness. 

7) In the same vein, I don’t do any subscription boxes. The thought of an endless monthly stream of stuff coming in that I can never finish using all of stacking up in my house gives me hives. 

It’s a shame though because there are so many good ones out there!

8) I don’t mind washing dishes or loading the dishwasher but I absolutely LOATHE unloading the dishwasher. 

Similarly, I don’t mind folding laundry – I just hate putting it away. I am pleased I have trained the kids to put away their own clothes. WIN!

9) After my various pregnancies, there are foods that I shudder just to think about eating despite having zero problems with it before. 

Alfredo sauce. Raw spinach. Shoot. Most salads. 

Just thinking about the sounds these things make while eating them or their mouth feel gives me the heebies. 

I am literally shuddering as I write this. 

10) I don’t understand raw oysters. 

Baked ones, maybe. 

But raw? That’s like swallowing whole snot. Ew. 

Alright. Fluffy and ridiculous piece today but that’s all I have in me. I am gonna go makeout with Sasquatch now. 

品德教育閱讀每日10分鍾: Book Review

Title: 品德教育閱讀每日10分鍾 國小一年級 (ping3 de2 jiao4 yu4 yue4 due2 mei3 ri4 shi2 fen zhong guo2 xiao3 yi nian2 ji2)/Moral Character Education 10 Minute Daily Readings for 1st Grade

ISBN: Not applicable

Authors/Illustrations: 資優國語文教研會

Publisher: 光田出版社

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Textbook, Taiwanese 1st Grade

Pages: 160

Summary: 74 short moral essays/stories that include 5 reading comprehension multiple guess questions (with answer key) as well as an additional idiom section that goes along with each story.

Sample Pages: 

Table of Contents (1)

Table of Contents (2)

Chapter with easier vocabulary (story)

Chapter with easier vocabulary (follow up questions)

Chapter with harder vocabulary (story)

Chapter with easier vocabulary (follow up questions)

Rating: 3/5 stars

5 Minute Review: I really like this workbook. I use it as a textbook to increase Cookie Monster’s (7) reading ability and comprehension. However, keep in mind that I like this workbook like a person likes to take vitamins.

I know it’s good for me, but no one is begging to read this.

The reading material is usually one page and the facing page has comprehension questions as well as additional info on idioms that relate to the story.

Depending on the topic, the stories are sometimes interesting and fun, or informative but perhaps not terribly interesting. Sometimes, Cookie Monster finds the stories fun and the illustrations amusing. Other times, you can tell he is just reading without any understanding.

Either way, the stories are useful for improving zhuyin reading and increasing comprehension. They take Cookie Monster anywhere from 10-30 minutes to go through both pages. If the text is more story related, his reading is much faster and fluid. If there is a lot of formal vocabulary or harder terms (that I have to constantly look up in Pleco), it takes a LOT longer and is somewhat frustrating.

At first, it was hard for him to even understand the concept of multiple choice questions. But after a few days, he got more used to it.

We skip the part on idioms because he only has so much attention span and quite frankly, some of the chapters have me going to Pleco and stretch my comprehension so much (so demoralizing that a first grade text can stymie me) that the thought of also discussing idioms makes me want to bash my head in.

Incidentally, he must be learning something because the other day, I was eating a zhong zi and he said, “Oh! This was in my book!” And flipped the book to the chapter on 端午節 (duan wu3 jie2)/Dragon Boat Festival. Sure enough, there were sketches of zhong zi.

I found this and a bunch of workbooks in a random Chinese stationery store and according to the clerk, this was the brand that was more popular and recommended.

I believe the Kang Xuan books are comparable in content and difficulty level. (Except that they have a CD with mp3s so you cannot just read straight through- hence my buyer’s remorse with KX workbooks.)

At any rate, though we would ideally do a story a day, we are more likely at 1-3 stories a week.

Overall, I am pleased and recommend this if you want to approach zhuyin and Chinese literacy in a more regimented way than reading picture books.

This is not the type of book you buy and go through for fun. I mean, the title is Moral Character Education for crying out loud.

Anyhow, now you know. 🙂

Here is a video of Cookie Monster reading an excerpt from the book. (This is the kind of wiggling I have to deal with. Drives me insane!) Also, I would have included a video of him reading and answering the questions, but I already had to bribe him with Cheetos to let me video this much.

Visiting My Local Congressman

This past weekend, I attended an open house of my local congressman, Congressman Eric Swalwell. Swalwell had consolidated two offices into one more centrally located office and I guess they were doing a ribbon cutting for the new place.

It was not what I expected – but then quickly became what I expected. (After all, I used to be a board member of my local Chamber of Commerce.)

I got dressed up! (Ok, I mostly cleaned up a little.)

I was a bit nervous. For some reason, I thought I would get face time with the Congressman, like we would all file in and speak to him in his office. And I was nervous because I had no idea what to even say to the guy.

NOPE.

Basically, it was an Open House and the local Chamber of Commerce was there and brownie troops, and booths, and a local taco shop giving out free tacos. They were giving guided tours to his office and I went on that, too.

According to staff members, they had 1500 RSVPs and I’m not sure if everyone showed up, but they looked like a lot of people to me!

The crowd gathered around the stage.

I dressed up a bit because I wanted to be taken seriously on the off chance that I actually got to meet Congressman Swalwell.

I didn’t. But I did see him on stage and now no what he looks like (despite the fact that I voted for him).

BUT, I did learn things, and am thinking of becoming more involved in local politics because if this past election taught me anything, it is the importance of being involved.

Voting MATTERS. Annoying your local representatives matters. Squeaky wheels matter.

Congressman Eric Swalwell giving his speech.

So, how can I complain about things if I don’t call my reps (my phone phobia persists – sigh), email my Senator and Congressman, and most importantly, get to know the people in charge of my town and city and schools.

Thus, I am likely going to be more politically active (if even on the local level) this year and slowly scale up. After all, I JUST HAD A BABY.

So, what does an Open House look like?

I got in line to sign in, got a ticket for a free taco, and got in another line that I originally thought was to see Congressman Swalwell. It turned out to be the line for a guided tour of the office.

Me with Brian Vargas, staff member.

There was a little stage set up with a bunch of girls from a local Brownie troop having folks add their painted hand print to a UNITE banner. I am just paranoid enough to not add my hand print to a banner that might be seen to oppose Trump. (Not that they don’t have my info and prints from a bjillion other places.)

There were also a few info booths set up with comment cards and pamphlets. And of course, a table with free donuts, coffee, and water. I did not avail myself to any of them because I was in line and didn’t want to lose my spot.

Of course, by the time I was the front person in line, they stopped letting folks in because Swalwell was supposed to be coming soon and they didn’t want us to miss it. So, I stopped being anti-social and eavesdropped and then inserted myself into a conversation with the elderly folks behind me.

It pleased me to no end to see a really old white man in a bright yellow t-shirt proclaiming love, wearing a Black Lives Matter pin, and hearing him talk so knowledgeably about volunteering, etc. It made me happy.

The crowd was diverse – so diverse, I even saw a Trump hat. But the most important hat I saw was the Metallica one. The man knows what’s important.

Finally, the Veteran’s Colorguard presented colors, we sang the National Anthem, said the Pledge of Allegiance, and Congressman Swalwell said a quick speech (with some heckling from Trump supporters) after the ribbon cutting.

Some time during the speech, Guavarama and her family showed up and we hung out and then went on the office tour together.

District map and Congressman Swalwell’s office.

I mean, nothing special about the office tour, but it was still cool to see the offices (your typical small office environment), see the people who answer phones and represent constituents, and get a tiny idea of what Swalwell (or any Congressperson) and their staff do.

I didn’t realize they had staff to advocate for immigrants, veterans, police officers, elderly folks having problems with social security, etc. Who knew?

I am going to see if I can get my kids in to tour their offices with some of my homeschool friends. Even though my children have no idea about what this means, I suppose it’s a good time to educate them. (I recently told them about our POTUS as a bad man. Hey, they’re my kids. I am allowed to tell them the truth.)

Anyhow, after the tour, I was tired and wanted to go write and wasn’t sure if we would see the Congressman in person so we left.

As a side note, I didn’t realize folks thought he was eye candy. To me, he looks like a mashup of Dennis Quaid, Timothy Olyphant, and Michael C. Hall. He’s a good looking fellow, but not my cup of tea.

Also? I ELECTED HIM TO CONGRESS NOT TO A GIRLIE MAG.

But hey, I suppose if people comment on female Congresspersons and Senators and Presidential nominees, we can comment on the mens.

Anyhow, turns out, it wasn’t a big deal at all! I’m glad I went and might go to more in the future.

Have you ever met your local congressperson? What did you talk to them about? Tell me in the comments.

How to Turn Your Car into a Mobile Chinese Learning Center


If you are anything like me, you likely spend 87% of your time in the car shuttling your kids to and from school, activities, and errands. That adds up to a lot of time that could be used to passively (and also actively) cram Chinese into your children’s brains.

So, if you’re not currently using your “dead” time in the car, you are missing out on some great opportunities to support your children’s Chinese language learning.

Here then, are some ideas of how you can turn your car into a Mobile Chinese Learning Center.

1) Listen to Chinese audio resources.

There are so many possibilities here, it’s a veritable goldmine. Think of what you can listen to in a car and there is a Chinese version. For a great resource on where to find and what to find, check out Guavarama’s awesome post.

– children’s songs
– children’s stories (I bought several CD sets full of Chinese stories)
– audio books fiction or non-fiction (either on ximalaya, podcasts, CDs from Chinese books, etc.)

2) Watch Chinese shows/DVDs, etc.

If you have one of those fancy cars with DVD players, you can easily put in a movie or show and have kids watch in Chinese. Or you can preload tablets with Chinese shows.

I don’t have a fancy car nor do I allow screen time in the car (because quite frankly, they get enough screen time at home) so I don’t use this option. But plenty of my friends do!

3) Read.

Have stacks of Chinese books in the car available for your kids to read. This only works if they are literate enough to NOT need you next to them – or YOU have to be literate enough that when they describe the character, you can actually know what character they are talking about. (This ALSO requires your children to know how to describe the character – knowing what the strokes are called, what the radicals are called, and what the parts of the characters look like and how to describe them.)

Also, this requires your children not to get car sick while reading.

My kids are not at this level of expertise yet so I do not use this. Also, I am terrified of my kids losing a book in the great black hole of our vehicle so I am not likely to utilize this option. (Not to mention, my Chinese literacy is NOT at all up to par. My kids can describe a character – I am just not equipped to envision their accurate descriptions.)

Of course, if your children can read zhuyin, the problem of character recognition is remedied and not as big of a deal. (There might still be then occasional hiccup while they’re improving their zhuyin, but by and large, much easier than reading without it.)

4) Talk

This is a little silly and Captain Obviousy, but you could just have a conversation with your kids in Chinese. (Of course, if you can’t speak Chinese, this is a little more difficult.)

5) Word games

There are so many fun word games you can play in the car (or anywhere, really). Here are a few examples:

a) I Spy

Just like how you would play in English, players take turns choosing something they “Spy,” describing it, and everyone else guesses what they have “spied.”

b) 接龍 (jie long2/Build up a sequence – although literally, Connect the dragon)

You can play this in so many ways, but the basic idea is that you connect the last word in an entry to the first word in the next.

So, if I use numbers as an example, let’s say you start with “123.” The next person has to start a number with “3.” And so on, and so on.

Some possible variations:

Chinese Idioms/成語 – This game has an actual name called 成語接龍 (cheng2 yu3 jie long2) and is basically where the last word of an idiom is the first word of the next.

– Chinese sentences/phrases/compound words – Where again, the last word of the sentence/phrase/compound word is the first word of the next sentence/phrase/compound word

Really, if your or your kids knowledge of Chinese is vast, you could play with any topic. (eg: song titles, book titles, movies, shows, etc.)

c) How many can you name?

Choose any category (eg: fruits, vegetables, animals, occupations, colors, flowers, trees, insects, etc.) and take turns naming them. Whoever repeats an item first loses.

My kids usually start off with some variation of: 水果園有什麼? (shui3 guo3 yuan2 you3 shen2 me?/What does a fruit garden have?)

Incidentally, I learned this game from overhearing them play in the back of the van. They learned how to play from watching Taiwanese game shows on YouTube. (Who says YouTube is a barren wasteland?)

d) Guess that word.

Again, this game only works if the participants have the appropriate terminology to describe character components. (see above re: reading in the car).

In short, you describe a character until the other person guesses it based on your descriptions.

This sounds abominably hard to me but my kids have actually played this in the car. They have also gotten it right (although sometimes, just randomly guessing until they hit the right word).

Again, I don’t know where they learned this game. Likely YouTube – but maybe they were just bored one day and started playing. Or maybe their Chinese tutor taught it to them.

I don’t know. Do I look like I keep good tabs on what my kids do?

A variation of this game is when they start to write a character a stroke at a time on a magnetic drawing board (affiliate link) (or use their feet on the back of chairs or fingers in the air) and the other person tries to guess the word before they finish writing.

6) Sing songs or tell stories.

Similar to having a conversation or listening to Chinese audio, this is just your kids singing or telling stories or jokes in Chinese. Of course, this requires that they know at least one song/story/joke. And if you use this in conjunction with listening to Chinese CDs, your kids will eventually start singing the songs they know.

I am amazed at how many songs my children know and can sing or recite from what they’ve learned listening to Chinese CDs alone. (They also know a ton from their Chinese tutors.) This doesn’t even include all the stuff they consume from YouTube.

Anyhow, these ideas aren’t original or even that difficult to think of. I’m sure off the top of your head, you can think of stuff I didn’t mention. (If that is the case, please let me know in the comments! The more ideas the better!)

These are just some examples of how you can maximize your traveling time. And since your kids are stuck in the car anyway, you might as well unleash your inner Tiger Mom and get the kids working on their Chinese already.

Good luck! And let me know how your kids end up liking these games if you try them at home (or on the road, as the case may be).

小雞逛遊樂園: Book Review


Title: 小雞逛遊樂園 (xiao3 ji guang4 you2 le4 yuan2)/Baby Chicks at the Forest Park

ISBN: 9789862112793

Authors/Illustrations: Noriko Kudo (translated from Japanese) 文、圖/工藤紀子,翻譯/劉握瑜

Publisher:  小魯文化事業股份有限公司 (Xiao Lu Wen Hua/Tsai Fong Books)

Published: 2012

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Pages: 36

Summary: The five little chicks go to the amusement park and have a lot of fun going to all the attractions. Then they have a picnic. (Seriously, that’s it.)

Sample Pages:


Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Gamera (5) LOVES the 小雞 (xiao3 ji)/Baby Chick series. Kudo’s adorable illustrations and cute conversations are a big reason.

Gamera will choose one of the five books in the Baby Chick series to read over and over again. She practically has them memorized.

She first heard these stories at her Chinese preschool and despite having heard and read these stories countless times, Gamera just can’t get enough.

Although there is occasionally some harder vocabulary, it is nothing zhuyin doesn’t solve quickly and easily. The storyline is simple and easy to follow.

Mostly, Gamera just loves to look at the illustrations and thinks the baby chicks are the cutest. She also likes to read the occasional Chinese characters within the actual illustrations (these do not have zhuyin).

Incidentally, though Cookie Monster (7) has never chosen these books to read (mostly because we are going through our books very systematically with him), he finds the stories fun and adorable, too. He mostly just hovers nearby when Gamera reads them and he will flip through to see the illustrations. He also heard them at preschool when he was younger.

Highly recommend.

Here’s a video of Gamera reading an excerpt. You can tell she really likes to look at the pictures! (You can also tell I am totally missing the point of picture books.)