Miao Mi TV


** Compensation for this post was provided on behalf of Miao Mi TV. A free code was also provided so I could review the app. Opinions expressed here are my own. 

People always say we should have our kids watch and listen to Chinese media in order to improve their Chinese, but you know, it can be really hard to know where to start.

It’s especially hard if you don’t speak or understand Chinese.

I mean, I suppose you could just do a search on YouTube for Chinese cartoons, but if you don’t understand Chinese, how do you do any sort of quality control or parenting? What if the cartoons are really bad dubs? Or really bad translations? Or worse – that pernicious sub-type of YouTube video where jerks dub cute cartoons with inappropriate dialog?

How do you know what your kids are watching?

On the other hand, even if you do understand and speak Chinese, there is also the matter of time and money invested in purchasing Chinese DVDs (some translations on Amazon are really expensive!) or getting a DVD player that can play the appropriate region code.

And then, there is no guarantee your children will actually LIKE what you bought! (For instance, I bought so many sets of Charlie and Lola, but my kids don’t like it at all. You’d think that one out of the three older children would, but NOPE.)

Recently, I was approached by our sponsors to review the Miao Mi TV Channel on Amazon Prime and I think I have found a reasonable and easy solution to the What Should My Kid Watch In Chinese Dilemma.

Here are the important things to know about Miao Mi TV:

1) It is available in the US as an Amazon Prime Channel for $5.99/month.

2) It is also available as a free download in the App Store today and on Google Play in May. You can subscribe for $5.99/month.

3) Both versions come with a 7 day free trial.

4) The programming is geared towards 3-6 year olds and the vocabulary level is supposed to match what K-2 students in US Mandarin Immersion programs are learning.

5) The app is a safe, secure, and ad-free environment that features a child-friendly user interface.

6) Both the app and the Amazon Prime Channel have English/Mandarin language support.

7) The shows and educational videos are in Simplified Chinese. (This obviously doesn’t affect the spoken language – just the titles and characters used in the videos.)

8) There are currently 8 animated shows available in both English and Mandarin as well as educational videos that focus on teaching children some basic Chinese. Each show has at least one season available with around 50+ episodes per season. Most episodes seem to clock in at about the 12-15 minute mark.

9) Here are some of the shows available:

– Pleasant Goat & Big Bad Wolf/喜羊羊與灰太狼 (xi3 yang2 yang2 yu3 hui tai4 lang2): This is the only show I had heard of and Cookie Monster (7) and Gamera (5.5) were familiar with them.

 Star Babies/星與星願 (xing yu3 xing yuan4): A highly acclaimed animated series inspired by Chinese icons such as Bruce Lee and Monkey King. Gamera really liked this series.

– Our Friend Remy Bear/我們的朋友熊小米 (wo3 men2 de5 peng2 you3 xiong2 xiao3 mi3): An award winning animated series that teaches children important life lessons about kindness and camaraderie. Glow Worm (3.75) really enjoyed this cartoon.

Eori/優瑞歷險記 (you rui4 li4 xian3 ji4): A high-quality Korean animated series that features stories based on Asian folktales.

– Secret Y/因為所以 (yin wei4 suo3 yi3): An animated series that introduces scientific knowledge to young children through the lovable characters from the hit animated movie Axel: The Biggest Little Hero. This was Gamera’s favorite and she constantly requested this show throughout the week.

Pleasant Goat Fun Class/智趣羊學堂 (zhi qu4 yang2 xue2 tang2): An educational series featuring world-famous characters from the “Pleasant Goat” franchise that promotes cognitive skills and life skills.

Although I was only going to have my kids watch 2-3 episodes, they clamored for more and insisted on watching as many as I would let them.

Cookie Monster wasn’t that interested in some of the cartoons, but he is a little older than the recommended age range. Despite his initial complaint, he had no problem watching several episodes in a row.

Gamera liked the most shows and kept requesting to watch the Secret Y series. Who am I to complain? They’re educational and answer common questions like, why does the moon change shape? Is it being eaten? My kids got tricked into learning science.

Glow Worm liked most of the shows, too. He preferred the action cartoons because that’s about the level of his understanding.

We did not check out the educational videos because I was worried my kids would be bored and then I wouldn’t get buy in from them to watch the rest of the videos.

Here are the things I loved about the shows on Miao Mi TV:

  • Though there isn’t breadth, there is DEPTH.
  • Good for beginners and non-speakers – especially the lessons on body parts, common phrases, and family members.
  • Cartoons are in both Chinese AND English – which is helpful to non-speakers or speakers who aren’t as fluent as they’d like.
  • Shows are pre-vetted so we don’t have to
  • Many shows are indigenous to China and not translations so the language is more likely to be what Chinese people actually say.
  • Very Chinese/Asian content.
  • Titles and descriptions are in English – which is SO HANDY for illiterate people such as myself. I have a ton of ripped Chinese videos and DVDs but it’s virtually impossible to keep track of which episodes my kids have seen because the file names are MMCH_06_05 and has no info.
  • $5.99 /mo is less than 1 DVD.

Here are some of the things I wished could be improved:

  • I wish there were Chinese subtitles at the bottom of the cartoons. I know the purpose is not to teach written Chinese to children, but it would be an added bonus. Especially for the times where I’m not sure what the characters are saying – and the kids don’t know what a term means. If there are subtitles, I can at least look it up. Without subtitles, I have to randomly guess based on tones, etc. and then blindly Pleco and hope for the best.
  • The Amazon Prime interface is a little clunky – but workable. The app is much easier to navigate – especially for children.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this channel.

I fully admit to being a snob and thinking that I wasn’t going to like it and thinking it might be helpful for non-speaker families but certainly not for my kids. But guess what?

I really liked Miao Mi TV.

I liked it so much that I told a bunch of my really good friends about it while the kids were watching the videos.

I liked it so much that I paid for another month and did not cancel after the first 7 free days. (Although our sponsors offered to reimburse me for it, I did not accept.)

Miao Mi TV is perfect for people who want their preschool kids to be exposed to Chinese in a way that is fun, easy, and entertaining. It is great for speakers and non-speakers alike and I am so glad I got the chance to check it out.

I highly recommend you check out Miao Mi TV, too.

Suck It Up, April

How is April mostly over?

You know what this means, right? 1/3 of 2017 is over. That just sounds wrong.

As usual, here is my monthly check in to see how I’m doing with my yearly goals, aka: My Year of Sucking it Up.

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.
Still doing well in this category. I was getting a little bored with my cooking, but whatever. At least we are eating.

Oh, the new thing I did was pre-made two dozen hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. That way, I can quickly add protein to a dish (it has to be separately added because Glow Worm is allergic to eggs) and Gamera LOVES eggs but rarely gets them so she is in Heaven. Hapa Papa is really happy about it, too.

I am a bit disappointed in myself this month, though. I have personally eaten out more, but my kids haven’t. It has been mostly once a week, but that is more than I would like.

b) Be active once a week.

Ha! Next.

Does watching my children be active count?

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

Again, I’m still remembering to take these most days. I consider it a win.

e) Go to sleep when the kids sleep 4x a week.

Better than last month, though I have yet to sleep early 4x a week. But I do sleep when the kids sleep at least a couple times a week.

Sadly, STILL TIRED.

f) No texting while driving.

I did better this month although I slipped up again near the end of the month.

One good thing about these posts is that I catch myself texting or reverting to my naughty ways and I force myself to stop because I don’t want to tell you guys how I am endangering my life, my children’s lives, as well as the lives of other people.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Pretty sure I did a bunch of unpleasant adulting. I even got a handyman and a housecleaner.

Hey. Part of adulting is delegating.

WIN.

3) Write.

I did awesome this month!

I finished writing and editing my ebook!!! I finished the first draft of my action plan that goes with the ebook!!! I wrote a bunch of posts!

And get this. I got my first sponsored post! (You will get to read it Friday.)

And I also volunteered to write for a few friends’ sites as well as swap posts with some other sites so look out for those next month.

So excite!

Alright. That’s it for this month. How did you do for April? Let me know in the comments.

小黃點 Book Review


Title: 小黃點 (xiao3 huang2 dian3)/Mix It Up!

ISBN: 9789577625038

Author/Illustrator: Hervé Tullet

Publisher: 上誼

Level: Chinese Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: Follow the instructions and see what happens to the Little Yellow Dot! Press the dot, shake the book, and blow on the pages.

Sample Pages:





Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is hands down, my children’s favorite of the bunch. It definitely is Glow Worm’s (3.5) favorite. He never gets tired of this book and doesn’t exactly follow the directions, but he loves to hit every single dot and count all the dots of each color. It can be mindnumbingly dull when he does this. But hey. He’s 3.5.

He also enjoys pointing out all the characters he recognizes so that’s fun, too. Like the other books in the series, there is no zhuyin and some of the characters are unfamiliar to me and despite me looking them up a bjillion times, I forget them just as quickly.

Such is the consequence of having an older brain.

At least it’s pretty easy to figure out what they are saying from context and it’s ok with me to just guesstimate. Perhaps not the best for increasing literacy, but laziness wins.

 

Highly recommend.

Below is a video of me reading the book to Glow Worm.

Chinese Progress: 9 Months After Taiwan


Has it really been nine months since we got back from Taiwan? That’s a PREGNANCY, people!

Anyhow, I meant to do an update earlier and keep better track of when my children made the switch from Chinese default to English default, but that would have required me to pay far greater attention to my children than I am wont to do.

So, I want to say the kids kept up their Chinese for about five or six months before they started to backslide into English a lot. And the only reason it kept up for that long is because we homeschool in Chinese, the majority of their classes are in Chinese, and for awhile, all they did was watch Chinese YouTube.

Just to give you an idea of how quickly they can convert to English only, for our Spring Break, I had the older kids in a basketball camp as well as a cooking camp. Thus, they were surrounded by English speakers and spoke English for six hours a day for five consecutive days.

The effect was almost instantaneous.

It was all English all the time. And not only that – their English improved.

I tried to combat it with listening to Chinese stories in the car, but we really didn’t drive much so they didn’t hear much Chinese at all that week. I can only imagine how much their English would outpace their Chinese if we were not homeschooling in Chinese.

This is all just to say that the after glow of Taiwan was only sustainable for so long because we homeschool in Chinese as well as have the majority of their classes in Chinese. 

I cannot say that the Chinese effect would be as pronounced or sustainable if they went to an English speaking school surrounded by English speakers all day.

Thus, the main thing to remember is that the majority of your work is done with your kids if you just speak Chinese to them already.

Alright, without further ado, here are some of my observations that have definitely been blurred by the effects of time and life.

1) Glow Worm’s (3.5) Chinese has exploded. I mean, so has his English. (He FINALLY speaks!) But in general, his Chinese has 開竅了 (kai qiao4 le5)/for a child to begin to know things.

This is also not because of anything special about Taiwan, but more because he goes to a Chinese preschool twice a week as well as a Mandarin Mommy and Me once a week. Just the addition of two days with a Chinese tutor has upped his vocabulary a lot.

I can’t wait for how it will improve after our Taiwan Trip 2017 as well as when he adds 2-3 additional days of Chinese preschool.

2) Gamera (5), easily the child with the best Chinese, has started to resist speaking Chinese all the time. Even when I try to couch it in terms of helping Glow Worm and Sasquatch (5.5 mos) learn Chinese, she doesn’t really care.

Her default and stronger language is definitely English – and she wants to keep speaking it when playing.

However, her Chinese is still really good. I’m constantly amazed how when admonished to speak Chinese, she can switch from English to Chinese mid-sentence and finish the thought. She is truly bilingual in the sense that she doesn’t have to think about what to say in English first, then translate into Chinese. She just speaks her thoughts in Chinese.

I have noticed that the loss of three days of Chinese preschool and being home with me more has affected her Chinese ability (and not for the better). But because she still watches a lot of Chinese YouTube (especially Chinese game shows and variety shows and Chinese YouTube acts), her Chinese can often be better than mine.

3) Cookie Monster (7) definitely prefers English, but still dutifully switches to Chinese when told. He just needs more vocabulary to express his thoughts – and he would have that vocabulary if I were not so lazy about him reading consistently to me in Chinese.

Just one day of Chinese class is not enough. It’s ok in terms of preventing more attrition, but not enough in terms of gaining in Chinese. Even his teacher has mentioned to me several times that he is regressing and forgetting characters.

This is definitely my fault.

Plus, he doesn’t find the Chinese programming as interesting as Gamera does (although he is also obsessed with TF Boys like his siblings).

It definitely shows.

4) At least Cookie Monster and Gamera are good about speaking Chinese to their peers who only speak Chinese. They know that they can only speak to Guavarama and Fleur’s kids (as well as some of our other Chinese homeschool kids) in Chinese.

This, of course, only works because all the children have similar levels of Chinese fluency (albeit, better than my kids) and can express and play adequately in Chinese. If my kids’ Chinese were not up to snuff (or vice versa), the play language would default to English in a red hot second.

Thus, I am ashamed I did not capitalize more on our trip to Taiwan last year. We’ve had a good run, but we definitely will need the boost when we head to Taiwan again this summer. Unfortunately, this time we will only be back for four weeks. I’m sure the missing two weeks will equate to an even earlier Chinese language cliff.

This is especially important to note because I am not going back to Taiwan in 2018. (Yes, I plan this far ahead. No, YOU take an 18 month old with three other children to Taiwan.)

I need to remember in Summer 2018 to not go overboard with English camps/programming and to find ways they can be “immersed” in Chinese.

Anyhow, I hope this update was helpful in terms of giving you an idea of how long the Chinese boosting effects of an extended trip to Taiwan might last. Of course, YMMV.

Did you find this true for your children? Let me know in the comments.

Slowly, Slowly

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I felt as if the “shine” on my “new” life had worn off already and we were back at my baseline of meh. Well, it’s gotten a bit better.

Now, I am under no illusion that this time, the shine will stay forever, but I do feel somewhat better. Mostly because I chose to do something about it versus do nothing and stay in that uncomfortable place any longer.

Of course, we do not always have the ability to get out of a funk just by doing stuff. Sometimes, our environment and life conspire against us. But generally, I have found that doing nothing keeps me stuck – whereas doing something shortens the duration of my malaise.

So, what has happened in the intervening two weeks?

I got off my ass. Proverbially speaking, of course.

Despite a bout of the barfs hitting Cookie Monster and Gamera, because our weekends finally freed up and Hapa Papa was a peach and let me disappear for most of a weekend, I kicked ass and took some names!

I finished proofing and writing my ebook – as well as the action plan I tricked Guavarama into outlining for me. (Don’t worry. She gets credited and paid!)

I even got my first gig reviewing a product – so look out for that!

I scheduled a house cleaner to come by and give an estimate. And let me just tell you. This dour Eastern European woman came to my house and judged my squalor. Judge away, lady! Just take my money and clean my bathrooms and kitchen, please! The rest of the house can go to shit.

I finally got someone in to re-grout my shower – only to be told that it didn’t need to be re-grout at all. Only needed them get rid of and then re-seal something. YAAAAAAAY! And it only cost me $60.

Plus, I found an awesome new handyman who will get started on all my honey-dos as soon as I get him my list. (I have it. Just have to send it and perhaps buy things for it.)

But the best part is that now, I do not get irrationally angry every time I take a shower.

I even managed to read a book and two graphic novels.

So, despite the barfs (OMG the BARFS), and my having a really rotten cold, things are looking up.

I feel productive.

And really, I think that is the key to me getting out most of my funks. Sometimes, being productive can just be taking care of all my miscellaneous things. But since I was on top of that already, it no longer was a new sensation so didn’t give me that pop of YAY!

Anyhow, I know I’m slow at acting like a grown up. But eventually, I’ll get there. Hopefully, before my children turn into grown ups.

Super short post today, friends. I just wanted to give a quick update on the state of Mandarin Mama and my sadz.

How do YOU get out of your BLAHs? Let me know in the comments.

兩隻老虎歡樂歌謠 Book/CD Review

Title: 兩隻老虎歡樂歌謠 (liang3 zhi lao2 hu3 huan le4 ge yao2)/Two Little Tigers Songs

Producer: 風車圖書出版 (Windmill)

Level: Children’s songs, zhuyin

Summary: A collection of 40+ children’s songs. Some are translations of English children’s songs. Some are Chinese/Taiwanese children’s songs.

Sample Pictures:

Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: My kids love this CD set. In fact, most people I know own this set because it was featured on AsianParent.com and is easily accessible.

The best part is that they include lyrics with zhuyin for every featured song. I find this super helpful because just because you hear the song doesn’t mean you actually have the right lyrics. I have trouble identifying lyrics correctly in English – let alone Chinese.

Anyhow, this is all just to say that it’s useful to have the lyrics in Chinese with zhuyin because I am semi-illiterate and this helps. They also have fun illustrations.

Highly recommend.

Here are three videos of Gamera singing some songs from the book.

 

How the Instant Pot Changed My Life (and How I Use It)

This year, one of my resolutions was to eat healthier – but that is so vague. So I said that I would cook 5 meals a week and limit eating out to once a week. We used to be at McDonald’s twice a week.

TWICE A WEEK.

I wasn’t exactly proud of turning my children’s blood into sludge. But it was hard and stressful to think of cooking twice a day for my shitty kids (we homeschool so I don’t get the option of a school lunch).

This year THUS FAR, since I started using the Instant Pot, we have been to McDonald’s twice and Burger King once. (I have eaten out a few more times, but not at these places. And definitely without the children.)

When I look at these numbers, I am astounded.

Let us pause here and give me the praise and adulation I need and crave (but not necessarily deserve).

Thank you.

Anyhow. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

1) I decided to make this change in our lifestyle and I set an easily attainable goal of cooking just five times a week.

Even though part of my goal was to NOT eat out (or nuggets/pizza/crackers), it is hard to track “negative space.” So instead, I tracked “positive space” and recorded in my ink+volt planner when I cooked.

And after awhile, it became easier and easier to cook and I added more and more until it was silly to track the times I cooked because quite frankly, that was now my default mode.

2) I knew that since I am inherently lazy, I needed to support my decision by setting myself up to succeed instead of fail.

So, I came up with some Instant Pot hacks as well as followed a basic formula because I hate recipes and meal planning.

These hacks and soup templates are boring but honestly, I’m not trying for creative here. I only want to make sure my family has reasonably tasty and nutritious food at least twice a day.

3) Cook. Eat what I cook.

Yes, I need to specify eating what I cook because I used to be notorious for not eating the food I made and thus, I would go out to eat a lot after the kids were in bed.

And that’s it. As a result, here is how my life has changed:

1) Thinking about what we are going to eat for lunch and dinner no longer plagues me throughout the day.

I am not exaggerating when I say the thoughts of what we were going to eat for lunch and dinner were so painful that I would avoid it entirely and then my kids would end up eating quesodillas or nuggets or pizza yet again.

And now that I no longer think about it, this psychic pain is gone and I am much more cheerful. Plus, the kids now have consistent meals and meal times and are much better about eating food.

2) My children eat.

This is another minor miracle.

Now that my children are used to eating what I cook, they eagerly (although sometimes, not so eagerly) ask what’s for lunch or dinner. They also like to help prepare the food and look at the soups and noodles.

Keep in mind, we went through a really rough two to three weeks where the kids absolutely refused to eat what I cooked. But after that ramping up/initiation period, my kids actually eat the food I put in front of them. I mean, they’re not perfect, but it’s still a million bjillion times better than it used to be.

Thus, another source of conflict and pain has been mostly removed.

3) I can now train my kids to put away their bowls into the dishwasher.

Now that the eating dilemma has been solved and I am no longer emotionally exhausted from trying to get them to eat their damn food already, I am training them to bring their used bowls/cups/utensils to the sink.

The older kids also rinse them off and I am training Cookie Monster to put his stuff in the dishwasher. In fact, they are at this weird stage where they want to wash dishes and put things away in the dishwasher or put things back where they belong.

So weird. But hey. Who am I to complain and deprive them of wanting to be more independent and responsible?

4) I spend less money on eating out and groceries.

Because I am now consistently cooking, I no longer throw away 100% of the produce I buy. Thus, I waste less food and spend less money on groceries. Now, I buy only what we need and resist the urge to “stock up.”

5) Eating out is no longer as appealing.

The food tastes different, too. Now, I sometimes try to see how long I can go without eating out.

WHO AM I?

6) I am much happier. 

First, because I no longer feel guilty about mealtimes – whether it be over not serving the kids any nutrition whatsoever or not eating with the children or yelling at them to eat their food already – I don’t have to deal with that pain of not being a good mother.

Second, I no longer feel the psychic pain of planning or procrastinating or figuring out what we will eat. It’s boring, but I don’t care. I follow my formula and perhaps make three or four other dishes that we rotate throughout the week. 

Third, I have much less pain involving my children eating. They are mostly used to the things I make now and will even eat the vegetables. 

Now, all the pain revolves around my kids fidgeting or playing instead of eating during meal times. But this is still considerably less painful than it was before. 

Alright, friends. I think that is the last of my love letters to the Instant Pot. If you have an Instant Pot, are you as enamored as I am? Let me know in the comments.