How to Get Your Kids to Play With Their Toys

As many of you know, my house is a mecca of toys. Is it educational? Is it a logic puzzle? Does it involve building blocks or wood or MAGNETS? Is it a Lego? Or crafty? If so, I probably own it.

I’m a sucker for anything with a magnet. Or logic. Or building.

But the thing is, my children NEVER played with these toys. They were obsessively on their iPads. Otherwise, they were busy using each other as meat punching bags and smacking the crap out of each other with Minecraft foam swords and axes and plastic pointy light sabres.

So, all that money I spent on real wood blocks and Magnatiles and Magformers, etc.? All wasted.

What really upset me was that they LOVED to play with these toys at other people’s houses. Just not mine.

Jerks.

But these past few weeks, since we got back from Taiwan, things have changed. And I think I know why.

Despite this being only a few weeks implemented, I have a feeling the changes will stick. (Possibly because most of these tips are things I have read before. I never said I was re-inventing the wheel, people!)

So, without further ado: How to Get Your Kids to Play With Their Toys:

1) Get rid of your toys.

Now, unless you already were some minimalist or just amazing (and therefore, I kinda hate you but want to be you all at the same time), you probably have way more toys than you need or want and they’re just pissing you off.

Way back in the end of February, my friend, Danielle Faust at OkDani and FitNoire wrote a post about how she threw away all (or almost all) her kids’ toys.

Now, when I read her post at the time, I agreed and thought, wow! That’s amazing! But I could never do that at my house because so many of my toys have already been culled.

I was wrong. So wrong.

And four months later (what can I say? I’m slow.), I threw out a bunch of my toys. In fact, I threw away or got rid of any toy that pissed me off – no matter how educational or age-appropriate or “good” the toy was. If it made me angry or cringe, it was out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still have a lot of toys. I am not getting rid of expensive toys that I love. But I did get rid of 6-8 bags of toys that I HATED.

It was a joyous and beautiful day.

2) Have a place for every toy.

I know. None of this is the stuff of genius. We read about it all the time in those organizing articles.

But it’s true.

If there’s a place for the toy, and the kids know where it belongs, then they know where to put it back when they’re done with the toy. (And the answer is NOT the floor.)

It helps if the place is a clear box so they can see what toy is in which box (especially since my kids can’t read English). I also have painter’s tape on each box with Chinese/zhuyin and English on the label so the kids and Hapa Papa know what belongs in that particular container.

About two years ago, I had an organizer come in and buy appropriate shelves and storage things so that I have plenty of space, I just need to keep them OPEN.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t so much a lack of enough organizational materials as much as a lack of space. If lack of space is a problem, confer back to point 1.

The arts and crafts center. It’s not at all neat, but it will serve.

One shelf with toys. Some have been pulled out for play.

Another shelf filled with toys.

3) Take out 2-4 activities each day.

So, I have had a pretty organized home with toys and activities for months, but STILL the kids wouldn’t play with the toys. They instead would reach for their old standbys – the swords and sabers and then proceed to beat each other to a pulp.

I was annoyed. I mean, other than the toys looking so pretty in the boxes, what’s the point of having them if the kids won’t play with them?

That’s when I remembered what our home-based preschool teacher, PW would do at the start of each class time. She also has lots of fun toys in her house, but instead of having them all put away, each class period, she would take out 3-4 activities and put them on the floor for the kids to explore.

That didn’t mean she didn’t let them play other things, but it did mean she gave them direction.

Because if you think about it, having lots of choices can be overwhelming unless you are one of those people (and by those people, I mean people such as I) who always order the same things at restaurants. Otherwise, you end up paralyzed by all the choices.

Same thing with the kids and toys.

In the face of so many toys, they go to their easy standbys and don’t even consider the other toys.

So, now, either the night before or the morning, of, I take out 2-3 activities and put them on the floor. I usually take out:

a) one type of building activity (blocks, Wedge-Its, Magnatiles)

b) one type of sorting/sensory activity (a big box of rocks, fuzzy balls, plastic dinosaurs, glass beads, etc.), and

c) one type of puzzle or other game.

And then I go against every instinct and let them keep those three activities out ALL DAY.

In fact, I far prefer this to “rotating” toys. Mostly because I don’t really have to think about “storing” toys and then remembering to “rotate” them. I hate extra work and brain power I need to exert.

4) Limit screen time.

I hate this suggestion. It’s really Captain Obvious and judgmental and self-righteous.

But it’s true.

Kids really can’t play with your toys if they’re glued to a screen.

Keep in mind, I don’t care how long your kids are on the screen. I won’t judge. My kids spent the last week in Taiwan entirely on the iPad. Like, from morning til night. For a week. Blowing through $1,000USD in Airbnb rent just like that.

I don’t judge.

However, like I mentioned before. It’s difficult for kids to play with toys if there is no opportunity for them to actually play. So, limiting some of your screen time is probably necessary.

For us, my kids are limited to 2 hours of screen time where they actually choose what they can watch. Then, I will likely add Chinese science videos or TF Boys (their current obsession) on top of that because I’m a sucker and I don’t mind.

That has made a huge difference at our house.

Now, with all their newly freed up time, and seeing all the toys I have pulled out, my kids actually play with their toys. And somehow, it’s as if a mental block was pulled from their brains. As if they remembered all the other toys our home possesses.

Not only do they play with the toys I “suggest,” they also pull out their other toys. And since I usually have most drawing and art materials out on the table, the kids use those more, too.

Before, I would force the kids to clean up right away. But now, I am a little more relaxed about it. Instead, if the floor gets dangerous and too full, that’s when I make them clean up. And then I definitely make them clean up before we go upstairs for bed.

I don’t mind the extra mess as long as the toys are used and the kids are playing with each other and not a screen.

Anyhow, I realize that nothing I suggested is mind-blowing or new. But hopefully, still helpful. And not only helpful – applicable.

Let me know what you do to get your kids to play with their toys. (Or maybe you don’t have this problem at all!) See you Friday!

Subtraction Woes


I’d like to think I’m pretty good at math. I did well on my AP exams and took Calculus for a few quarters at UCLA and in general, did a lot of math for chemistry and physics and my other science courses. I still remember a lot of useless geometric formulas for calculating the areas of triangles and circles and a ton of other crap.

So, you know. I thought, hey, teaching Cookie Monster math shouldn’t be hard. Last year was Kindergarten and we went through several books of Singapore math and ended the year somewhere in 3rd grade math around subtracting hundreds and borrowing/carrying, etc.

We took quite a few months off of subtraction and when we picked up where we left off, I was surprised to see how little Cookie Monster seemed to have retained or understood of even the THEORY of subtraction.

Also, it seemed like he didn’t understand ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, and columns and “borrowing” and what not.

I spent our first math session mostly yelling at him and then feeling bad because I know that his failure to understand the foundation of subtraction and units and anything was actually my failure. It’s not his fault he doesn’t understand something if I never actually taught it to him in a way that he integrated into his brain.

Eventually, I switched to manipulatives and I started super simple with unifix cubes and then moved onto the Base Ten Blocks that come in units, tens, and hundreds. (I don’t have the thousands, but I am thinking of buying them.) (Amazon affiliate links used.)

I had all these lofty thoughts of this magically changing how Cookie Monster understood math and subtraction and borrowing, etc.

Nope.

I mean, I don’t think it hurt him. But I don’t think it translated.

Anyhow, on the first day of our official homeschooling, I spent 30-40 minutes with him on subtraction and I nearly died of frustration. As a result, I had a long conversation with Guavarama (and also a separate conversation with my other mama friends) and the result was something I found terribly interesting (particularly since it affects my life AT THIS MOMENT).

So, I asked for permission to reproduce our text conversation in full. Perhaps it will help you if you find yourself in a similar situation.

MM: Cookie Monster does subtraction SO WEIRD that it makes me want to die. Took me over 30 minutes to figure out that he does the math in his head. He just uses the wrong terminology [when he explains to me what he is doing].

So he doesn’t think in terms of borrowing, etc. I was using manipulatives to do it and he was kinda getting it but not relating it to the way he does the problem.

And then he started pissing me off on purpose.

The problem was: 653 – 85 = ?

I asked him what he has to minus. He’s like, 2. No, 5. No, 4.

I’m like, LOOK AT THE FUCKING PROBLEM!! IT TELLS YOU!!

Then he finally decides he doesn’t want to use the manipulatives so he just stares a the problem and comes up with the wrong answer the first time (it was really close) and then the right answer the second time.

I make him explain to me how does it and somehow, he finally tells it to me in a way I understand.

He did: 653 – 5 = 648 then 648 – 80 = 568.

He got the right answer so clearly, that’s the way his brain works. But I don’t know what to do. Shouldn’t he know how to use borrowing? And carrying?

But his way is kinda faster?

I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

But he isn’t wrong.

Sorry to be blabbing. I’m just kinda at my wit’s end because I don’t want to change his brain – but there might be murder.

GR: Definitely don’t say borrowing. Use the word exchange. Because that’s what you’re doing concept-wise. You’re not borrowing anything.

MM: I think we use the word, 換 (huan4/exchange), like swapping.

GR: And hahaha on the not looking at problem. I swear they do it on purpose!

MM: (I just use the term borrowing because that’s the term I learned as a kid.)

GR: And no. He’s actually doing common core math the way he comes up with these answers. It is correct. That is how it’s taught in Montessori Math and I’m guessing Singapore Math.

MM: Singapore Math has them split up the 53 into 40 + 13.

I mean, obviously, there is more than one way to do math.

GR: What he’s doing is actually breaking the steps down when he does it, in his head. But that is exactly how you’re solving for the problem.

MM: So do I just let him stare at the problem and answer it? It seems to work ok when it’s a straight up question like 653 – 85 = ?

But doesn’t seem to work as well in word problems.

This explains why he doesn’t care if the problem is written vertically or horizontally.

GR: 53 into 40 + 13 IS borrowing. They’re telling him, “Exchange 10 in the 5 and now the 10 is added to the 3, hence 13. That’s Montessori Math.”

MM: Right, but he isn’t doing that. He’s splitting the thing that is being subtracted, which is how Hapa Papa does it, I think.

He’s splitting the 85 into 80 + 5. And subtracting the 5 first then the 80. So he’s doing two subtraction problems.

GR: But that IS what you do.

MM: Lol. Ok.

GR: 653 – 85 right? You said, he did 653 – 5 = 648 then 648 – 80.

So that’s right. He’s subtracting 5 from 3. But he’s learned to exchange so he did 13 – 5, which is how he got 648.

Then he subtracted 40 – 80, which then he has to exchange again.

You have to make the link between what he’s doing in his head and paper.

MM: ok.

GR: From the math theory I’ve read, basically there is the concept of mathematical mind and constructivist math, which is that people arrive at answers multiple ways. And that’s fine.

And paper is just something we use to help us keep track of what our brain is thinking as it works it out. Because the equations get more complicated.

MM: Ok. So how do I teach him? Or help him if he gets the wrong answer?

GR: So he’s doing it right, but to write down what he’s doing in his head onto paper, he has to take note of what he did. This also helps him when he’s doing like 10 digit – 9 digit… and he gets it wrong. He can backtrack and see where he got it wrong.

I have to tell you though, this concept they’re not happy with. They just want to arrive at the answer and that’s that.

Took me a long time to convince Thumper that she needs to write out what she’s doing. Astroboy, on the other hand, had no problem. Shrug.

MM: *weeps*

GR: So for your equation, 653 – 85, he did 3 – 5, but point out what he did was to make it 13 – 5, which meant he made the 5 into a 4 in his head. Then he should, in his first step, cross out the 5 and make that into a 4… for note taking purposes, to remind himself what he did.

MM: *thumbs up*

GR: Basically, Montessori Math has the kids do concrete, and then mapped the concrete to writing.

So now you have 648 – 80, which you again have to exchange so you should cross out the 6 and turn that into a 5. Now you have 140 – 80, which gives you 60, and you write down the 6.

And you just carry down the 5.

MM: Ok.

GR: So, I would say, if he’s giving you the right answers, don’t make him work it out. Because he sees no point.

That’s one option.

MM: Hahahahahah. Ok.

GR: But, when he starts getting them wrong – and he will as you add more digits – then point out this is WHY you write it down and note what you’re doing.

MM: Ok.

GR: Cuz that’s why we do math this way. That was an “Aha!” moment for me when I read that. We calculate on paper this way because it’s just note-taking. It isn’t the only way.

MM: I like this option because it requires me to do nothing until something happens.

GR: Cuz as an adult, I don’t calculate this way anymore. hahahahah.

MM: It’s true. BECAUSE I HAVE A CALCULATOR. Lol. Which really isn’t true, but you know what I mean.

GR: hahahah. I mean, in my head, I would do strange things like 653 – 85 is the same as 650 – 85 + 3.

MM: Yes. That is how Hapa Papa would do it. He is super fast at math. I usually ask him instead of using a calculator.

Maybe I should make Hapa Papa teach subtraction. Hahahahah.

And, because I really like to belabor a point, here’s part of my discussion with Irish Twins as I was discussing it with Guavarama.

ITWait, I actually looked a the problems you give him and that’s how I would do it. How do you do it???

MM: Hahahaha. I actually would’ve subtracted 80 first then the 5.

But that’s how I do math NOW. Not how I learned to do math, if that makes sense.

So, I’m not against the way he does math. I’m just not sure how to help him.

Guavarama suggested that I do nothing until he gets lots of things wrong which will happen when you add more and more numbers. And then explain why we take notes with the borrowing and carrying notations.

IT: Actually, weirdly enough, if you present it horizontally, I would probably take 53 off each side.

MM: hahahahahah.

IT: I like nice, flat numbers.

Who knew I would have not one, but TWO conversations all on subtraction? 

When I had this conversation again with Hapa Papa, I had him read my conversation with Guavarama vs tell him the same story. He mentioned that Cookie Monster does math the same way he does. 

And then there was a TWIST. 

Hapa Papa didn’t know what borrowing was. 

WHAT?!?

I had to explain it to him and he was like, what? I was like, this is how they used to teach math. He said he had no idea what I was talking about. 

He must have already figured out how to do math and ignored his teachers. 

Is this what happens to homeschooling parents? We talk about theory and pedagogies?

How did this become my life?

Ah well. I do enjoy nerding out, even if I am clearly unworthy to do math around Cookie Monster.

Hope these conversational glimpses were helpful (or at the very least, not boring). Have a great day!

 

 

Guest Post: A Road Map to Early Chinese Literacy During Early Childhood


Today, we have another guest post by Alex Pang! He is a valued contributor to the Raising Bilingual Kids in Chinese & English Facebook group and has made several helpful posts in the past on MandarinMama on Sagebooks and Greenfield.

This time, he wanted to address some questions he sees oft repeated on the Facebook group and thought it would be helpful to others for him to detail HIS road map and what worked for him.

Despite Alex’s modesty in stating that he doubts people will be interested, I completely disagree. As much as I feel as if I’m brilliant and a genius (I mean, come on, you know it’s true), I concede that I am not for everyone and that my way is not the only way.

And like all fields, we benefit as a community to read diverse methods and strategies and tactics. Plus, you never know what awesome ideas you will pick up from other people.

Keep in mind, both Alex and his wife are full time doctors so they definitely present a different POV than mine as a SAHM. Our philosophies might overlap a bit, but the application and the time carving is a totally different beast.

So, without further ado, I present to you Alex’s post. I hope you enjoy it and find it as helpful as I do.


Author’s Note: Much of what I say below echoes and summarizes what has already been stated by many others.

This little guide serves the busy working parent who is floundering with limited amounts of time and energy to teach Chinese, and therefore desires an efficient framework to lay a reading foundation. I have written down what I consider the minimum amount of work necessary for developing an adequate reading ability in Chinese at the early elementary (primary 1 and 2) level.

The prerequisites for this endeavor include:

1) at least one highly motivated parent who is also a fluent speaker and reader at 3rd grade level and above (if this already proves a roadblock, at least substitute with as much hired tutoring as possible); and

2) access to age-appropriate books.

I will presume your child has speaking and listening fluency at a near-native level (which basically means that your commitment to speaking Chinese started at birth).

Here is the fine print—first and foremost, prepare to persist and commit for the really long haul, as it is the parent who is the primary determinant of reading success in these early childhood years.

Second, the child must reside within as much of a Chinese language environment as possible. For example, we employ a Chinese-speaking nanny, play Chinese-subbed cartoons, and listen to Chinese pop in the car…all in the name of the cause (FYI my kids attend English-language preschool/preK/K). Expensive trips abroad to Taiwan and China will definitely help but are not critical at this juncture.

Third, I do not claim that our method is necessarily the simplest, fastest, or the best, and there are clearly many other children who have achieved early Chinese literacy without going through the same process my child did. This road map merely reflects our ongoing experience.

The following presents some of the books and tips we found most helpful in establishing the reading base over the last two years, assisting our child in making the large jump from Sagebooks 500 and Greenfield readers to “real” books (more like crossing a chasm, actually!). The ages listed are approximate ranges for the respective book levels.

So what is the secret ingredient that encourages early childhood literacy? The answer is…there is no better ingredient than daily reading.

We read for at least 20-30 minutes, EVERY day without fail, even while on vacation.

Despite being relentless about my endeavor, it was incredibly difficult to fit time in to read every day for the past two years (I once read with my kid while she was on the can!) But I knew that each day that passes by without reading in Chinese is a day lost to English.

The reading exercise cannot simply comprise of reading characters or words for the sake of reading characters and words. Similar to learning any language, reading this early in Chinese relies on continuous interaction between parent and child, whereby the fluent parent will explain and expound on words/vocabulary, phrases, and context.

Ages 4-5: This is a pre-reading stage. At this age, establish a solid five hundred character base with the entire Sagebooks 500 (including the treasure box sets), learning at least one new character a day with quick review of previously learned characters. Making character flash cards yourself or buying them from Guavarama as these will help with review.

Establish reading fluency by repeating a sentence until reading speed is adequate for the child to actually understand what she is reading. If there are lengthy pauses between characters, then the child is just reading random words/characters aloud without the ability to interpret and process what she is reading.

I suggest additional supplementation with leveled readers like Greenfield’s I Can Read (我自己會讀) and Magic Box (魔術盒), or Sesame Publishing’s Ding Ding Dong Dong readers (丁丁當當) for practicing and building confidence at this stage.

Ages 5-6: Teach zhuyin, no matter how long it takes! Use short readers to assist with this.

Why learn zhuyin? My child could read most children’s literature after tearing through 500 characters from Sagebooks, right?

Sadly, anything worth reading requires knowledge of at least another 1000 or so characters. Zhuyin, then, allows for incremental development of reading skills and enables the child to read interesting books while still learning to recognize new characters. Some very good practice for zhuyin include those ubiquitous 3-minute bedtime storybooks (三分鐘故事).

After learning zhuyin, power up to Level 0 with easy zhuyin books in the following order:

1) Little Bear set (小熊看世界);

2) Frog and Toad set (青蛙與蟾蜍);

3) Little Fox set (小狐狸系列) from the Storybook Ferris Wheel collection (故事摩天輪);

4) any other Level 0 books on Guavarama’s list, and then move on to Level 1. See the photo of my bookshelf for suggestions.

At this point, additional supplementation with ANY book that interests the child is good. The goal is to develop reading speed/fluency.

It is paramount that the book is appropriate to comprehension level. Starting Magic Treehouse at this age may not help very much other than verify that the child knows zhuyin. For other good book sets at Level 0 and Level 1, please refer to Guavarama’s post on building a Chinese library.

Ages 6-9: Now you are well along on your journey together. You will perceive the improvements in vocabulary and idiom knowledge gained simply through extensive reading.

It probably happens like this—the child uses a word or idiom you know you never taught. Then you ask your spouse, or the tutor, or the grandparents, but each denies it. Then you ask your child if she learned the word from a book. And she will simply shrug her shoulders and look at you with a blank expression. But you know it had to be the books!

At this point allow yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, but do not rest on the laurels. Continue reading daily!

Other book sets appropriate for this age range include the remainder of the Storybook Ferris Wheel collection (故事摩天輪); the Reading 123 set (閱讀123); and the Magic Treehouse set (神奇樹屋).

The photo represents ~30% of my Chinese book collection and nearly all of the books I have used so far after the pre-reading stage. Top shelf: Sagebooks 500, Greenfield I Can Read, and Greenfield Magic Box. Middle shelf: Level 0 and some Level 1 books. Bottom shelf: picture books.

The photo represents ~30% of my Chinese book collection and nearly all of the books I have used so far after the pre-reading stage. Top shelf: Sagebooks 500, Greenfield I Can Read, and Greenfield Magic Box. Middle shelf: Level 0 and some Level 1 books. Bottom shelf: picture books.


13987138_10154581531474683_804298788_o

Alex Pang asked me to include the updated version of his bookshelf which added some books and rearranged books in reading level.

Checking In on My Year of Risking Dangerously

I briefly mentioned it in Monday’s blog, but a college friend recently approached me to ask me about blogging. He wanted to know how to make money with the blog, increasing visibility and readership, how to make his blog better, and general advice (like writing) for his blog.

I had a really great time discussing the business side’s minutiae and dispensing advice.

Ok. I won’t lie.

I LOVE dispensing advice regardless of the topic. I am definitely my own favorite echo chamber.

But anyhow, after texting with him over the course of several days, it reminded me of my lofty goals at the beginning of the year and kinda lit a fire in me again.

Now, I’m not saying that my goals are now exactly the same because, HI BABY4! But I didn’t want a pregnancy and subsequent new life form to be an excuse. (Even though it’s been a very handy excuse.)

As a result, I thought I would check in on my Year of Risking Dangerously and see how I was doing.

So, here are a few things I mentioned that I wanted to accomplish this year, as well as some goals I had written for myself in my planner.

1) Become “internet famous.”

I’m not sure how to gauge this exactly. I definitely haven’t gone viral or won any awards or taken the internet by storm.

However, in my little niche of Mandarin stuff (you like that technical term?), I seem to be “famous” enough. And although it’s not the same as going viral on HuffPo, it’s acceptable to me.

Of course, if HuffPo comes calling, I’m not gonna object. So, you know. Get to working, internet.

2) Submit my work to online publishers.

I was pretty good with this the first few months of the year.

I pitched Postpartum Progress and they published an article of mine on How to Get the Most Out of Your Therapist

I was interviewed at Moms and Biz about Chinese homeschooling and loved my two minutes of fame. 

I also submitted to a few other places, and although it’s technically not an online publisher, I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother and made their San Francisco cast. (You can see the video and read the transcript here.)

So, even though I didn’t do much else after that due to my extreme fatigue, I am satisfied. I may get my act together enough to submit a few more articles, but truthfully, I probably won’t.

I am content to hold off for now (unless I start getting some second or third wind).

3) Create and publish ebooks from my Chinese (and other) series.

I have TOTALLY dropped the ball on this. Like, completely.

I deluded myself into thinking that I would do this during my Taiwan trip, but mostly, I just focused on eating my own weight in shaved ice.

However, after talking to my friend, I am newly re-inspired.

So, I will definitely try and make this happen before the end of the year. (Heck, even if it means squeaking in just under the wire or right at the new year.)

Of course, to get it out in time, I have to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and maybe not have the ebook be as completely re-written as I’d hoped.

But sometimes, good enough is still good enough.

4) Create material for and launch my own YouTube channel and series. Start a podcast.

Total fail.

I did record some videos, but I don’t think this will realistically happen this year or the next. UNLESS I stop caring about the “professional” look of the videos and just post whatever. Like, Facebook Live quality types of videos.

We’ll see.

Otherwise, I’m content to let this go for the next year or so and wait until Baby4 is a little older.

5) Take myself seriously by owning my talents/abilities/influence and acting like a professional.

Although it did not quite manifest in the ways I originally had in mind (such as starting a newsletter, revamping the website, making it more businessy by getting sponsors or ads), I did start participating more in online communities, subscribing to blogs and Facebook pages and interacting more with the writers.

Also, I’m not sure what it is exactly, but my personal attitude about my writing and abilities has shifted. For some reason, I no longer feel embarrassed (not even sure if that’s the right word) about blogging.

Instead, I’m confident in my writing and my voice.

I don’t know how it happened, but I like it.

So, I give myself a C. I did well on certain tasks, but others, I completely failed. It kind of averages out, right?

Ok. My brain is mush. Introspection apparently hurts me. But thanks for reading anyway! We’ll see if my sudden surge in energy is going to last long enough for me to get things done to my satisfaction.

Otherwise, I’m ok with letting things go.

See you Friday!

Runaway Brain


So, my third trimester insomnia has hit full on (likely aided by jetlag and shitty kids who are so jetlagged that they’ve gone insane) and even though I’m exhausted and sleep-deprived, I still don’t go to sleep because I’m stupid.

I know there are essential oils I could be using, but frankly, I kinda like the extra time it gives me to do things I want to get done but it’s somewhat impossible with three horrible (I mean, lovely) children competing for my attention.

So, I have a bunch of things on my mind (both to do and to think about) and I guess that means it’s time for another mental flotsam post wherein I just list a bunch of crap that’s running through my restless mind.

YMMV in terms of how useful or interesting these thoughts are, but my long time readers are used to these posts by now so I’m not really too concerned about it.

OKOKOKOK, here we go:

1) So You Think You Can Dance: Next Generation is making me miss their regular show. On the one hand, the kids are really good. On the other, I feel weird watching kids dance in sometimes adult ways.

However, I am appreciating the hotness of several of the allstars. (I’m looking at you, Marko! RAWR! Especially after that hip hop number and his swag/old man shuffle at the end. *drools*)

2) In a related note, I really want a moto jacket.

But let’s be real. I don’t really ever wear jackets (even in winter) because I’m rarely outside long enough to require it.

Also, I think I’m overestimating my coolness factor.

Ah well. A girl can dream.

3) I love writing things in my planner that I’ve already done and then crossing them out.

4) Finally cleared out and cleaned my kitchen table. It’s beautiful.

It won’t last, of course. Because LIFE.

But for now, I love it.

4) I accidentally left the lights on in my minivan all day and completely drained the battery. Thank goodness for AAA who can come to our house and replace it for approximately the same price that it would cost for me to go out and buy a battery and install it.

This was way easier.

5) My kids are still really jetlagged and it makes the normal awful bedtime even worse. Like a bjillion times worse.

Nothing like putting my children to bed with the dulcet sounds of my screaming invectives and threats and their loud weeping.

6) Speaking of weeping, Gamera is driving me insane.

All this girl does is cry and whine and cry.

She literally cries over EVERYTHING.

I find myself unsympathetic – which likely just makes things worse.

It doesn’t help that she is the slowest human alive and perhaps it’s a super power of hers because maybe she’s actually trapped in a time bubble and everyone else is going at normal speed and she’s at 1/20th speed and thus will age at 1/20th the rate and will end up being immortal.

Her powers are lost on me because it just makes me erupt in a rage. I’m a very task-oriented person and when I want shit done, that shit better get done instantaneously.

Instantaneous is not a term Gamera is at all familiar with. Unless it refers to how quickly she will cry.

7) My poor mother ended up taking out all three of my kids to dinner because Glow Worm absolutely refused to get out of her car with the other kids because he really really really wanted to be big and hang out with his older brother and sister.

I didn’t mind, but I’m sure my mother did.

Glow Worm had a deliriously happy time.

8) Guavarama came by and organized my Chinese library into a cohesive unit (vs the random pile/shoved bookshelves/floor upon which they were stacked). They are arranged by levels and size and prettiness and quite frankly, it’s a beauty to behold.

It has made me 10x happier.

I am now researching library labels. It’s a sickness, people.

9) I can’t believe I’m home. It’s both wonderful and sad.

When I first got home, I was kinda pissed and shocked at how incredibly dirty and disgusting my house was. After all, didn’t I leave it in pristine condition because I spent all week prior to our trip cleaning it?

How did Hapa Papa fuck up my house in just four weeks?

I was especially mad because before I left, I was frantically cleaning the house and vacuuming – which is really much more than vacuuming because you have to clean up the floor enough for you to have something to vacuum.

Anyhow, Hapa Papa told me to stop and leave all the vacuuming to him because it was exhausting me and he had nothing but time. He talked a good game and it was the ONLY thing I asked him to do when I was gone.

So, imagine my surprise (and complete fury) when a week before we were about to head home from Taiwan, I asked Hapa Papa if he vacuumed and he just had a blank look on his face because he had no clue what I was talking about.

I asked him to do ONE THING! FFS!!

Sigh.

But anyway, when I got home, I initially blamed Hapa Papa for the gross state of our house. Then, I remembered that despite my cleaning, it’s not as if our house was immaculate before I left.

I mean, it was relatively less grimy, but by no means was it tidy or neat or bereft of clutter and dirt.

It was just hard to go from a modern, clean, minimalist 800 sqft apartment where each person has max five changes of clothes and we barely own anything except the stuff I bought in Taiwan to our 2,300 sqft home that practically bursts at the seams with stuff and toys and books and the usual suburban vomit.

Of course my brain went into shock.

My house is a disaster. It just took being away from it for six weeks to have the impact be that jarring.

10) At least this time, I remembered that all the unpacking of clothes and suitcases and books and the thousands of tiny details I have to take care of don’t have to be ALL DONE AND ALL DONE NOW AND BY NOW I MEAN YESTERDAY.

I realize that my natural tendency to get overwhelmed by all the details and hugeness of a multitude of projects doesn’t actually help and likely makes things worse because then I’m incredibly cranky and the kids are already thrown and were so happy to be home that they dragged out every toy we have ever owned in order to re-acquaint themselves with our stuff.

But I told myself to chill out and break everything down into discrete steps and take one chunk at a time.

Even if the chunk is as little as: put clothes back; put away currency; move books from suitcases and boxes and stack them by the wall; clean up family room and vacuum; go to Costco and buy food; plan curriculum (again) for homeschooling, etc.

I am nowhere near done (and the list quite frankly, seems to be growing), but I don’t feel overwhelmed or panicky about it.

It helps that I write down the things that I did manage to do (and then cross out) so I feel as if I’m actually doing things.

11) I’m trying very hard not to fill up every empty space.

So, all the space I cleared in my pantry and fridge and cabinets and toy sections before I left? I tell myself that the world will not end if I try to keep those clear (or as clear as possible).

12) I really enjoy the clickety clack of typing. It’s both soothing and makes me feel as if I’m a Writer with a capital W.

I don’t care if it’s just writing some asinine comment on Facebook. The sound pleases me.

13) A friend has been asking me a lot of questions about building a blog and writing and all sorts of details and I forgot how much I know about marketing and writing and stuff and it’s been fun to be helpful.

I still have a brain, people, and it works on occasion!

WIN.

It also has me re-evaluating my blog goals for the year. Haven’t dedicated too much brain space to it yet because IMPENDING BABY will ruin everything anyway, but it’s nice to stop and re-evaluate, right?

14) How do I still have bug bites that itch?

15) And how is it that the only child of mine who doesn’t need a diaper at night is my almost 3 year old?

16) And how do I manage to go to Costco and spend hundreds of dollars only to find that I didn’t buy any actual food and only bought snacks and fruit?

I mean, I know this is what I do. But STILL. How can I fail at grocery shopping so utterly and for so long?

17) I can’t believe that I’m starting homeschooling my kids today. Although my charter officially started this past Wednesday, that’s the beauty of homeschooling. You always have perfect attendance and you can start whenever you want.

But I’m easing into it these past few days and let’s just say that I am always shocked at how quickly I forget things that I learned about my kids and educating them and my own crappy character less than 2-3 months ago.

So, when I’m annoyed at my kids for not grasping a concept quickly enough (or for not grasping it after multiple attempts), that I can’t even remember stuff that is vital to my teaching my children – and that I have to relearn it every time we come back from a break.

18) I still have to go through stacks of mail (it’s always the medical bills that get me) and do our yearly benefits and attend to all sorts of FSA crap and deal with health insurance EOBs and I REALLY HATE dealing with medical stuff but BLARGH.

Sigh.

What was I saying about not being overwhelmed and breaking things down into discrete steps?

Yeah. I should do that.

19) I really need to go to sleep at a normal and decent hour.

It would make me feel better and happier and I suspect, everyone in my family will benefit.

20) It was very satisfying to re-draw my homeschooling schedule to accurately reflect the changes that have occurred since I made the original tentative schedule in June.

It is very pretty.

Also? It was very satisfying to set all these repeating alarms to remind me when to leave to drop off/pick up my children at/from their classes.

Hey. Those alarms are vital because I have exactly ZERO brain cells left to remember the time.

Alright. I better shuffle off to bed. (Although listening to Britney Spears is making it difficult for me to leave because um, BRITNEY.)

Also, just to re-assert my coolness factor, I was listening to Eminem and Sia before that… so, um… yeah.

Have a great Monday, friends!

Final Money Tally for Taiwan Trip 2016


Ok. I am super reluctant to write this post because it reveals something about me that though I joke about with my closest friends, I don’t mention too often because I personally think it makes me look bad. After all, no one likes a braggart or someone who is seemingly thoughtless with money.

And honestly, I can be pretty thoughtless with money.

Not in the sense that I don’t think about money – but in the sense that I know our general threshold and that as long as an expenditure is below that threshold, I don’t even blink.

We are very comfortable and live a very privileged life. I know it.

You see, I have a thing that Hapa Papa likes to call Rich Girl Syndrome (RGS) in the sense that I think all things can be solved if you throw enough money at it. (Irish Twins’s husband, MBE calls it the Wallet Save.)

As a result, I don’t really think about budgets or how much something costs unless it is exorbitant or something I personally find outrageous. Also, my mother gave me a very generous sum of money for the summer so that I wouldn’t have to worry about taking taxis and books and food. She wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be stingy – and that I would make sure not to get over-tired and take things easy.

So.

Obviously, my budget will likely not be yours in the sense that I thought very little about the costs except in terms of how it cut into the amount I was willing to spend. But in general, I did not count pennies or dollars or NT. I just did what I wanted when I wanted.

I suppose it helps that I’m not exactly a luxury shopper and all I really spent my money on was food and books. But still, the money went fast and Hapa Papa is mad I didn’t save more money from the trip. (Although I did save a bunch of money two years ago from the generous sum my mother gave me then. But I suppose that doesn’t count for this year.)

So.

Now you know.

My budget likely will not be your budget.

However, at least you will know a bit more about pricing.

I realize that I am a very privileged person in terms of finances and that me blithely saying, “Just go to Taiwan for six weeks! Easy! Just say goodbye to $12-13,000!” is somewhat implausible for many of you.

Also, keep in mind that we choose not to spend money on many other things during the year that likely other people choose to spend their money on (eg: trips, sports, etc.) because I know we’re going to be spending a lot of money on a trip to Taiwan.

So. Please consider my breakdown not in terms of what you HAVE to do, but more in terms of what I spent as best as I can remember it. (Which, honestly, has huge gaping holes in it because um, RGS.)

Obviously, YMMV in terms of costs depending on how often you eat out, how often you take taxis vs buses vs MRTs, how much you shop, where you buy groceries, what extracurricular things you do, what programs you choose for your children, and where you choose to live (and if you choose to rent or live with family).

Author’s Note: Any comments insulting me or the people who spend similar amounts on this type of trip will be deleted. 

I’m sure if any of us were to examine how you spend your money, we could come up with plenty of ways you are a wasteful asshole.

So since you do not know anything about our family income, monthly expenses, or financial situation other than what I choose to share on this blog for the purposes of you having an idea of how much a trip such as this can cost, any judgmental bullshit about how I am such a horrible snob or how it sucks to be poor (which, we can all readily agree that given the choice between having more money or less money, most of us would prefer the more financially secure position), or how it must be nice to be rich can just go suck on an exhaust pipe. 

So, without further ado, here are the costs for my Taiwan Trip 2016. All costs are in USD unless otherwise noted.

Travel: $4,400

– Round trip airfare for 1 adult and 3 children: (We used airline points for Hapa Papa’s tickets) $4400

Accommodations: $3,975

– Airbnb newly renovated 1br 1 bt apartment in a trendy/popular/convenient neighborhood for 40 nights: $3800 (includes about $200 in Airbnb fees)

– Hotel in Kaohsiung 1 night including breakfast: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $175

Education: $2,609

– International School Tuition, 4 weeks: $1,121/child (Total: $2,240)

– Local Camp A, 2 weeks: $306

– Local Camp B, 2 weeks: $339

Transportation: $990

– Taxi from TPE to apt: $40/$1300NT (7 passenger car with 2 rented car seats at $9 per car seat)

– Taxi from apt to TPE: $30/$1000NT (7 passenger car, 0 car seats, private car)

– Taxis in general: $600 (estimate)

– MRT for 1 adult, 1 child, and 1 adult for 2 weeks: $150 (estimate)

– Bus: N/A

– High Speed Rail ticket for 1 adult, 2 kids reserved seating: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $150

Airport Parking: $20 (Keep in mind, we saved a bunch here because we asked friends to drop off our minivan at the long term parking lot the night before we arrived home. Otherwise, if we parked in long term parking for the entire time Hapa Papa was in Taiwan like we did in 2014, the cost for airport parking would be closer to $250-300.)

Food: $1,594

– Groceries/Toiletries/Misc: $382 (estimate)

Eating Out: $1212 (estimate)

Incidentally, I likely would have spent far less if I didn’t have to provide my boys with food for lunch. I only did so because I worry about their food allergies. Otherwise, I would not have to worry about those “extra” meals as they were included in our school tuition.

However, I suppose since I got treated out a lot by family and family friends (and at way more expensive places than I would have personally chosen), it more than evens out in my favor. So, um, nevermind.

Miscellaneous: $1,525

– Kid Playspaces and Activities: $274 (Incidentally, I was an idiot and forgot a pair of tickets I had already bought so I ended up having to buy an extra two tickets. So, I guess I have two tickets for next year. Sob.)

– Kid Crafts: $90

– Cel Phone: $60

– Books/DVDs/CDs: $720

– Family Gifts/Reimbursements: $400

– Misc: $50

TOTAL: $15,093

Good Lord. Now I really feel like an asshole.

However.

One of my other friends is ALSO in Taiwan and in the same city and they were NOT as thoughtless as I am and STILL, they spent a similar amount. Why? Because some fixed costs you just can’t get rid of like round trip tickets and lodging.

Here are some of her basic numbers:

– Travel: (roundtrip tickets for 2 adults and 2 children) $5,400

– Housing: (4 br, 2 bt, washer/dryer in a less popular neighborhood for 7 weeks) $4,900

– Local camps, 5 weeks: $800

– Adult Language camp, 7 weeks: $500

– Books/DVDs/CDs: $625

– Food/MRT/HSR/Misc: (didn’t really take taxis due to safety concerns) $1642

Total: $13,867

Keep in mind, her housing costs are so high because she had other family members crashing at her place during various points. But she really didn’t eat out at fancy places (mostly the food stands and corner restaurants) and they definitely paid attention to their bottom line.

So, if you are a typical family of four and have no means to get free plane tickets and do not have access to free housing in Taiwan, the bulk of your costs are fixed at approximately $8-9,000. That’s BEFORE you do ANYTHING else.

So, are you just screwed with the costs?

Not necessarily.

While the fixed costs likely will not move much, you can do some small things that might change the hugeness of the number to slightly less huge. (I do concede housing is a place you can fiddle with – but it really depends on what amount of discomfort you are willing to endure for 4-6 weeks.)

So, here is a way to redeem myself.

Therefore, another list: Where you can save money on your trip to Taiwan.

1) Keep all your receipts and get a tax refund.

If you bring your foreign passport to the malls or save all your receipts, you can receive a tax refund on your purchases at the mall or at the airport. But that would require you to keep ALL your receipts.

2) Eat street food and shop at local groceries.

If you didn’t eat out at the more expensive restaurants and ate mostly food court food or street food, you will save a lot of money. I ate a LOT of shaved ice. Some were cheap. Some were not.

I also ate at places that were close to $40USD/1500NT for lunch or dinner. That’s a lot of money in a place where you can get a decent and filling meal for $6USD/200NT or less.

3) Enroll in local schools and camps.

The reason camps were so expensive for Gamera and Glow Worm were because they were in an international school. I got many comments from locals that the school they attended is one of the most expensive schools in the city.

I would have preferred to send them to a local school, but they wouldn’t take Glow Worm due to his food allergies. According to family friends of friends, a month of a local 幼兒 (you4 er2/preschool 3-6yo) or 大班 (da4 ban/kindergarten 6yo+) for $300USD a month.

4) Live in less popular neighborhoods.

I chose to live in a very expensive neighborhood because I wanted to be close to the MRT, to a lot of convenient restaurants I like to frequent, have a renovated space, and I like clean streets that don’t smell. I also don’t like being too far away from my children’s schools and activities.

You do NOT have to choose this for yourself. There are plenty of decent places to live that are larger and cheaper than what I got for my money. If you do not mind living further out on less popular MRT lines, or doing more research in terms of local schools vs. the big popular names, or even choosing less popular cities, you will save a lot of money.

I don’t think your experience will suffer for it.

5) Take the bus or MRT instead of cabs.

Trust me. There were many times I would have preferred to take the MRT or bus – but as things shook out (and with the number of children and them being uncooperative or the weather being sopping wet), I took cabs more often than I technically needed to.

In general, though, I took the MRT as much as possible. I didn’t go for buses at all this time, but I loved buses my last trip to Taiwan. I think it depends on your location and your destinations and what ends up being most convenient.

That said, my average taxi ride was about $5-6/150-200NT. However, an MRT ride is $0.50/16NT regardless of distance and the bus is approximately $0.31/10NT. (Keep in mind that kids are free unless they are 6 or above a certain height. Their fares are even lower.)

I’m certain there are plenty more ways to save money. (Such as not buy so many books or CDs or DVDs – but since you would spend more to have the items shipped since shipping to the US is approximately $75-100/22kg box and takes at least 2-3 months, personally, I think it costs more money not to.) But being as I am likely the last person on Earth to be useful in this arena, I am all tapped out for suggestions.

If you have any to share, please do so in the comments! (But keep in mind: not every one has access to mileage points or relatives in Taiwan. That, in itself, is a privilege of sorts.)

Alright, I’m done for today. Have a great day!

The Ending of My Fantasy Life

One more eating day left, friends. ONE.

Irish Twins summed up her grief nicely: here she was, living in a land where her kids are eating new things, finally getting into Chinese, and she doesn’t have to cook or do anything and things are magically taken care of and obviously that is not sustainable for the long haul but OH, how nice it has been.

In fact, as of this writing, we are almost done with the day and I am taking one for the team by taking the kids to their favorite indoor playspace, Leo’s Playland.

Don’t worry. We ate a super yum lunch at Shin Yeh and I made sure I had their QQ almond jello. Then I sent the family home while I went to get Yu’s Almond Tofu shaved ice by myself. I ordered one to eat there and brought one home for later. I also might get another Mango ChaCha or a more generic shaved ice in the mall by our house to make sure I get some fenguo.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I LOVE Taiwanese shaved ice.

Given the choice, I’m willing to skip a meal for ice. Mmmmmm.

Anyhow, for nostalgia’s sake (and quite frankly, before I forget because – Oh, Shiny!), let me list all the things I will miss about Taiwan. And then, to help me ease back into the Reality of my life back home, all the things I will NOT miss. (You know, to be fair and balanced. Ah, FOX NEWS, what a crock.)

So, here thusly is my list of stuff I will miss:

1) Being able to walk everywhere. 

There is something particularly nice about easy access to public transportation and a walkable city. You feel less like a contributor to an isolated and wasteful community. Things are super convenient (like food, restaurants, food, whatever).

It’s awesome to never have to think about parking or car seats.

2) The ubiquity of 7-11. 

7-11 in Taiwan is a combo of post office, convenience store, and all sorts of awesome things. You can have packages delivered there. You can add money to your cel phone plan or MRT card. I’m sure you can even manage your stock portfolio there.

They have yummy hot and cold prepared meals. Drinks. Cold desserts. And most importantly, they are EVERYWHERE.

3) The people.

Short of some busybodies, most people are very polite and courteous – especially to folks who are elderly, pregnant, injured, or with children.

I know I complained a lot on Facebook of assholes (and trust me, there’s a post coming compiling all THEIR wonderful contributions), but overall, good people in Taiwan.

4) The food, obviously. 

Not just the convenience of it. The actual tastiness.

I will especially miss shaved ice. I love Taiwanese shaved ice. Oh. Right. I mentioned this already.

5) How I totally blend in. 

I feel like the majority. (Possibly because I am the majority.)

No worries of some asshole asking me where I’m from. No. Where I’m really from. No. Before that. No. Where my parents are from.

Fuck you. Is this a fucking credit check? No? Then STFU, you asshole.

Oh wait. Tangent.

But it’s nice to be unquestioned about why you belong somewhere. Of course, this usually lasts until someone sees Hapa Papa, but even then, unless something really cues someone that I might be a foreigner, (and for some reason, no one has really looked twice at my kids this summer – thank God for small mercies), I am treated always as if I belong.

It’s not that I am treated as if I don’t belong in the US. But there are definitely spaces where I feel unwelcome and am there only on the sufferance of its members.

6) Taxis. 

Now, we haven’t really taken any taxis the last week or so because I have stuck to places we can access via MRT. But I love taxis. Super convenient.

7) So many indoor play spaces!

Because it is so friggin’ hot here, there are so many indoor play spaces. Many are free or subsidized by the city government – but just as many are exorbitantly priced.

Truly, I really do not know how the majority of Taiwanese citizens can pay for these places. I find them expensive as an American ($30-60USD depending on time, day, etc.) but I just can’t deal with outside parks in the summer. The mosquitos and being hugely pregnant are the main deterrents.

The parks are great in winter months, though. They even have lights on at night so kids can still play despite the sun setting earlier.

Alright. Those are the things I can think of off the top of my head that I will miss.

Here then, are the things I will NOT miss:

1) Garbage. 

Now granted, Taiwan, for all its dense population and stuff is remarkably clean. However. Nothing is as gross to me as garbage. And Taiwan requires you to separate your garbage.

Whether you live in an apartment that has its own garbage center or you have to chase down the garbage truck every night, it’s a complete and utterly gross pain in the ass. You have to separate paper from plastic from food containers and possibly other items, too. I am always confused.

2) People insisting on giving you receipts. 

Perhaps it’s my RGS (Rich Girl Syndrome) showing, but I hate paper. And I really hate receipts. Especially for things that really don’t require receipts – like the shaved ice I am eating in front of the vendor.

Also, it’s confusing because I guess you can enter your receipts into some national lottery? Or donate them? And or pickup points? I don’t know. My cousins tried to explain but it might as well have been the derivatives market. My brain totally tuned them out.

3) Plastic bags and shrink-wrapped everything. 

For all its emphasis on recycling their garbage, it would probably be better off in not packing everything from every single food item or book or seriously ANYTHING in a tiny plastic bag or shrink-wrap.

In fact, every time I see it, I think of that giant Texas sized swirl of garbage and plastic in the ocean and how Taiwan is single-handedly doubling it every day.

4) The heat, obviously. 

Winter and early spring (November through April) are far more pleasant but then, no classes for my kids to enroll in. And therefore, I cannot handle it. I would take the heat over being with my children all day in Taiwan ANY DAY.

I find this ironic since I homeschool. But at home, they have classes and their stuff and I barely have to pay attention. In Taiwan, they are just obstacles to me enjoying food and happiness and book shopping.

This clearly says something about me and my shoddy parenting.

5) The people.

Now, wait a tic! Didn’t I just say that the people are so nice and polite and friendly?

Well, yes. But OMG THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE!

Granted, I understand theoretically that without the population density, the convenience factor of public transit and food and etc. would be diminished greatly.

But, OMG THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE!

Which isn’t really a problem when I go out and about during the normal work day since most people are in school or at work. But once the weekend or rush hour hits?

PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.

I think if I didn’t have to keep track of three semi-obedient (hahahahahahahahaha – I love the semi, as if that happened often enough to qualify as a semi) children in large crowds of people, I would not mind the crush as much.

But as I do have lots of small children who sometimes forget to hold hands or walk really slowly or demand to be carried, it stresses me out and I end up yelling at my kids a lot more. Well, not yell so much in public, but nag and cajole and scold.

Also, my goodness. THE TANTRUMS. Those are a lot worse in full view of every single human being who ever lived in Taiwan ever.

6) Lack of authentic non-Asian food.

Look. Taiwan has a lot of great food. And I thoroughly enjoyed eating it all. But at some point, I cannot eat six weeks of only Taiwanese or Asian food.

The raw vegan place I got conned into going to does not count. It was not delicious. (It was not disgusting, either. But whatever. That will wait for another post.)

So, as a result, I cannot wait to eat a large Chipotle steak burrito with extra guacamole, sour cream, and cheese. And maybe more sour cream. Because I MISS AMERICAN FAT like BUTTER and CREAM.

7) Doing laundry every or every other day.

Now, it’s not because we didn’t have enough clothing with us. It is more that the washing machines have a third of the capacity of mine at home – AND – I have to hang dry everything.

So, keep in mind, we had 4-5 people. (I was doing laundry every other day until Hapa Papa showed up.) One or two days worth of dirty, sweaty, dusty clothing pretty much filled the machine. Then, I had to dry the clothes – and really, I guess I could have washed more clothes, but I would run out of space to hang the clothes to dry.

This is also why clothing in Taiwan is often made of such cheap material and people buy so many clothes. You pretty much have to wash all your clothing after one wear because the weather is so abysmally hot and as a result, your clothing eventually disintegrates.

Anyhow, I will be more than eager to go back to the land of lots of clothes and washing machine capacity and DRYERS.

Praise the Everliving God for dryers.

8) Lack of privacy.

Unless you live in the super rich mountains/hills or in the country, you really live only in condos/apartments. And even in those, there is not a lot of square footage. That is not very much privacy – both within the home itself, and amongst your neighbors.

You pretty much hear everything.

I can’t wait to go back to my home where if I judiciously close the windows, my neighbors can’t hear me screaming at my kids at full blast. (Maybe just a muffled hint of me cussing them out.)

9) Lack of garbage disposals.

I think I discussed this on Facebook, but basically, very few garbage disposals exist in the Taiwan. (Apparently, this is a common thing in NYC, too.) This is due to incorrect data on old pipes being too old to deal with garbage disposals.

I’m sorry. This is disgusting. Rotting food in garbage cans is gross. Especially in a country that has HUGE cockroaches. No matter how clean you keep your apartment, ROTTING FOOD WILL ATTRACT COCKROACHES.

This thus leads to my first point of my hatred of separating garbage. Because that shit has to go SOMEWHERE.

10) False sense of luxury due to spending Monopoly money.

I mean, yes, I get the general gist of money conversion in my head due to memorizing some basic equivalencies. (eg: 30NT is ~$1USD; 100NT is ~$3USD; 300NT is ~$10USD; 1,000NT is ~$30USD; 10,000NT is ~$300USD)

But STILL. It’s not the currency of my life – so it STILL seems like it’s fake money and we’re not spending anything real. And since everything is in the hundreds already, I don’t register when something is actually expensive in the US.

11) Easy and cheap access to fruit.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Taiwan does have a lot of fruit. But it isn’t cheap. (And it just occurred to me that I forgot to eat any lychees or dragon eyes or their equivalences! FAIL!)

And in the fact that my children are picky assholes and will only eat certain types of expensive imported American fruit staples (like apples, bananas, strawberries, any berries, and grapes), it gets expensive. (I mean, let’s be real. My kids did not get ANY strawberries or berries in Taiwan because OMG!!!)

So, I am glad to be going back to California, where apparently every fruit known to man is grown and in season and fresh.

Alright. I really should sleep. I’m about 99% packed (except for our PJs and Gamera’s hair thingies), we’re set to go with our 3 large suitcases, 3 boxes of books, and 4 small carryons. I’m really worried about schlepping those boxes, but oh well. Only a problem for short spurts of time. But man, it will be a pain in the ass.

Wish us luck!

We will be coming back from the future and arrive before we left. MAGIC!