小雞過生日: 5 Minute Book Review


Title: 小雞過生日 (xiao3 ji guo4 sheng ri4)/Baby Chicks’ Birthday

ISBN: 9789862113486

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 with their mother to the bakery, the grocery store, and a toy store to buy food and presents for their birthday. When they get home, they eat yummy food and open their present. 

Sample Pages:





Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: As I have mentioned before, Gamera (5.5) LOVES the 小雞 (xiao3 ji)/Baby Chick series. She particularly loves Kudo’s cute illustrations of the chicks. 

Gamera’s favorite part in this particular book is when the chicks say, 「真討厭 (zhen tao3 yan4)/how disagreeable !」She finds it SO CUTE and always reads it in a baby chick voice. 

Again, Gamera has read this book close to 10 million times (actual number) and shows no sign of losing interest. It’s been at least 2-3 years since she first heard them at her Chinese preschool. 

The storyline is simple, the illustrations are detailed, and there are a few non-zhuyin characters that Gamera loves to read as well. But mostly, she just likes to talk in a baby chick voice. 

Highly recommend.

Here’s a video of Gamera reading an excerpt. 

Escaping My Life

Escaping My Life


I have been feeling really scattered lately.

I mean, I know I have four small children. I get that.

But I was really rocking it a few weeks ago. Almost whelmed, even.

And now?

Now, I am decidedly tipping over whelmed.

I can always tell when I’m about to lose it. I escape into TV shows. Read books. Play Two Dots obsessively on my phone.

Anything to avoid dealing with my life, making meals, work (self-imposed or not), and my children.

I am even crankier and crabbier than usual.

Gamera calls me mean. She curses me under her breath. Like, ACTUAL cursing.

She’s 5.5.

And even though I know that my 2017 Theme this year is to Suck It Up and act like a grown up, truthfully, I just want this year to suck it.

Which is weird because this year has actually been going really well.

I have been reaching out to do more writing in different capacities, pitching the occasional collaboration or sponsor, finishing my ebook, and generally doing more than I have ever done in regards to writing.

So of course, I feel all my writing juices drying up. Leaving me withered. A husk.

I feel all out of words. Or at least, all the good ones. You know, the coherent ones.

Coherent words are good.

(See? I have been reduced to caveman speak. Words good. No words bad.)

Now that I think of it, it makes TOTAL sense why all of a sudden, I want to dive under the covers and disappear until 2018 or perhaps forever.

I am afraid.

I am afraid that because I have had some marginal success that more will be expected of me. Or required of me. And that I won’t be able to duplicate that success.

(And seriously, who do I think is expecting or requiring this of me?)

That everything up until now has been a fluke.

A complete accident. And soon, real soon, someone is going to realize that I am full of shit and that all my bluster is just that: bluster.

Unsubstantiated.

And for crying out loud. I am almost 40.

I SHOULD NO LONGER BE UNSUBSTANTIATED.

When I look back on my life thus far, there are two things that stand out in my mind that encapsulate how I deal with my fear of failure. Coincidentally, they both deal with musicals.

In my last year of high school, our choir and drama program was putting on the musical, Bye, Bye, Birdie.

I really wanted to be in it.

But I was afraid.

So I told myself there was no way I would get a part because I was Chinese – and there were no Chinese parts in the musical. Instead, I convinced myself I would be fine being in the orchestra and told my choir director that I wanted to be one of the pianists.

I didn’t try out at all.

I took myself out of the running entirely.

Four years later, in my last year at UCLA, I tried out for a musical written by Weiko Lin (music by Christopher Wong).

This one, I had a good shot of getting into – not only because I was good friends with Chris. This musical was about the Tienanmen Square massacre – so there were definitely roles for Chinese people.

So, I sucked it up and auditioned and lo and behold. I got one of the four lead parts.

I was ecstatic. And terrified.

And so, I did what terrified people do. I found an out.

I called my prayer partner up and we did “listening prayer” and I somehow convinced myself that God wanted me to turn down the role and spend more time on my floor to evangelize or whatever.

So, I turned the role down.

To this day, I regret making that decision. Not because I would be some famous actress or Broadway star now, but because I let fear dictate what I could or could not do.

Also, how many other chances would I have to be a lead in a musical now? I’m not saying it’s not possible. It’s just not high on my priority list.

Anyhow, I have told these two stories to Dr. T at least several times, and each time, she suggests that I might fear failure.

And of course, each time, I say, “Noooooo. That’s not true. I’m just lazy.”

But she’s right. As usual.

My laziness is the cover story I tell myself. To hide from myself my abject terror in trying out for the things I want – and want badly.

So, of course, now that I am taking some small, tiny steps towards being a writer, I am running scared.

Self-sabotage in the form of procrastination and laziness.

I escape into realms created by other people. Consuming at a ridiculous pace so that I can perhaps satisfy the craving to create something myself without actually having to create anything.

Well, brain. I’m onto you.

You’re just gonna have to suck it up like the rest of me. We’re going full steam ahead.

糖果姐姐說故事: CD Review


Title:  糖果姐姐說故事 Set 1 (tang2 guo3 jie3 jie5 shuo gu4 shi4)/Candy Sister Telling Stories

Publisher: Christian Cosmic Light Holistic Care

Level: Children

Includes: 16 CDs, 48 stories, no book

Summary: This first (out of four) collection tells Old Testament stories from Adam and Eve through Samuel, covering 15 major Bible characters. (Eg: Cain and Abel, Noah, David, etc.)

Each segment is about 12-15 minutes long and has the following format: Candy Sister introduces a story, tells the story, and then ends with a 甜蜜的小叮嚀 (tian2 mi4 de5 xiao3 ding ning2) or Sweet Exhortation. 

The second set is from Saul to Jesus. The third and fourth volumes have translated fantasy and children’s stories. 

Sample Pages: 






Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

5 Minute Review: There can be no doubt of the high production values of this set. The narration, the voice actors, the classical music, everything about it is top notch. 

So, why the 3 star rating? (Which incidentally, isn’t a bad rating.)

Mostly because my kids were terrified and/or didn’t understand a lot of the stories. They were terrified (they were 3-5 at the time) because Old Testament stories are full of fighting and death. Even when “sanitized” for children. And these CDs do not sanitize. 

Also, I am somewhat dubious of what the producers deem to be the lesson learned from each story – as well as how they choose to tell the story (in terms of what gets included and what gets excised). But that is to be expected in any translation, biblical or otherwise. 
It is, however, a great summary of the main Bible stories. So if your kids can understand Chinese really well, and are familiar with the characters, and are familiar with the Bible, it is a good supplement. 

Let’s just say that my Chinese was not good enough and the only reason I knew what was going on is because I have a really good working knowledge of the Old Testament. 

Definitely for older kids (like 8+?) and for fluent or near fluent kids. This is not appropriate for introducing Chinese to beginners or non-speakers.

Hope that helps! I think the website might offer samples to download or listen to online. 

Rambling Thoughts


I inadvertently took a break most of last week. I was just too tired. I fell asleep several times around 7pm with Sasquatch and just hoped and prayed the other three kids didn’t kill each other. Somehow, I stumbled awake to put them to sleep.

Anyhow, here’s what I have on this fine, Wednesday morning. More ramblings!

1) What is it about Mark Ruffalo? The salt and pepper hair? The kinda mumbling? The fact that he survived a brain tumor? I don’t know, but I like it.

2) I’d been avoiding starting the last thirteen episodes of The Vampire Diaries because I knew that once I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop. And dammit it all, I was right. The other day, I stayed up until 2 am knowing full well it was a bad idea but I had to just watch one more episode.

Thankfully Glow Worm woke up in the middle of the night and ran to come find me.

3) I am so mediocre that the thought of tidying up for the judgmental house cleaner stressed me out so badly that I was tempted to call and cancel the whole thing.

But then I thought, “Fuck it. It’s my money. If I am ok with RGSing (Rich Girl Syndrome) so they move stuff, then so be it.”

IF I HAD TIME TO TIDY MY HOUSE I WOULD NOT NEED A HOUSEKEEPER.

And thus, a swarm of housecleaners descended upon my house this past Thursday afternoon, did not judge, did clean, and it was glorious.

4) Of course, not even 24 hours later, my kitchen floor was sticky again.

This is why I cannot have nice things.

5) They even cleaned my baby’s activity cube. Since I bought it used, I don’t think it was ever this clean in my possession.

6) It’s really hard for me to go from folding the kids’ clothes to folding Hapa Papa’s clothes. I inevitably find his clothing too large and bulky and I want to throw away all his undershirts and socks and underwear.

I’m a jerk.

7) I have lots of really pretty office clothes that I no longer wear and couldn’t wear even if I wanted to. The main problem is that my children prevent me from having nice things. But the other problem is that my boobs are HUGE now and have rendered all these pretty clothes into crop tops.

Crop tops as office wear on an almost 40 year old is not attractive.

8) I miss hanging out with adults. I miss banter. I miss being young, footloose, and fancy free.

9) I love all my children so much. But sometimes, I like them most when they’re asleep.

10) Then I feel guilty because time is going by so quickly. I know it is so trite and cliché. But really. How are my kids growing so fast? And yet, at times, not nearly as fast as I would like it.

11) I want to go karaoking. Badly. To bad pop music from the 90s and 2000s.

It could easily happen. Just too lazy and utterly lacking in initiative.

Alright. That’s it for today. My mind is mush and I want to go back to mushing it further with sparkling wine and salami.

Have a happy Wednesday!

同行 Book Review


Title: 同行 (tong2 xing2)/Travel Together

ISBN: 9789861612164

Author: 林文玲

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Picture Book, Fiction

Summary: A train and the sun are traveling together up and down a mountain. They are racing and seeing the sights together. They encounter a tunnel, fruit trees, and race the wind. At the end of the day, they say good night and then promise to travel together again the next day.

Sample Pages:


Rating: 5/5 stars

5 Minute Review: Cookie Monster (7) enjoyed this book a lot and even asked me if he could read it again in the future. He has never asked me that before!

The story is cute and fun. Cookie Monster didn’t quite get what was really happening, but he is a very literal child. Once I explained the conceit, he thought it was hilarious.

Below are two video excerpts of Cookie Monster reading.

How a Chinese Boy Band Improved My Kids’ Chinese


Friends, it should come as no surprise that I am an unapologetic snob.

Alright, occasionally, I am apologetic – but only because people expect it. Not because I am actually sorry.

And thus, even though I knew that part of creating a Chinese Language Ecosystem (CLE) was having my kids listen to Chinese popular music, I had less than zero desire to do so.

Why? Because I still recall the derivative Taiwanese pop from when I was a kid.

And truthfully, I don’t even know if it was derivative. I didn’t listen to enough of it to judge. But since when has the lack of evidence ever changed my opinions?

That’s right. NEVER.

Anyhow, despite my friends telling me about this Chinese boy band, TF Boys, at least a year or two ago, I did nothing about it. I mean, they sent YouTube links to their kids’ favorite songs. They made it super easy for me to follow up.

Nope.

I didn’t even bother clicking on the links. (Sorry, friends!)

But then, Taiwan camp happened. And because the kids were in local Taiwanese camps, they were exposed to Chinese popular music.

Cookie Monster and Gamera had to do separate dances to 青春修練手冊 and of course, Glow Worm watched them like a hawk.

Truthfully, I had no idea how the kids found TF Boys on YouTube after that. I didn’t even know the kids knew the songs. (Hey, I never said I was an observant parent.)

But maybe Irish Twins showed them the videos on YouTube and they asked me for them. (I blame and thank Irish Twins. I abscond all responsibility.) Or maybe I searched for TF Boys.

Or maybe, because my children are super unsupervised and Master YouTube Navigators, and some combination of Google algorithms and my children’s surfing habits and being in Taiwan triggered something, but SOMEHOW, my children found TF Boys and their music videos.

And the rest, they say, is history.

Now, I’m somewhat embarrassed (but not really, because let’s face it, I’m quite a mediocre parent) to say that my children surf YouTube relatively unsupervised. I mean, I do say something if I hear swearing or objectionable content, but that would require me paying attention.

I don’t.

And so, somehow, TF Boys’ catchy songs, easy lyrics, and pretty music videos spawned months and months of Chinese YouTube viewing.

Via YouTube’s suggestions (the bane of parents everywhere – and yet, LOOK AT HOW WELL IT WORKED OUT HERE), my children (especially Gamera), hunted down every single possible TF Boys video on the internet.

Whether it was a TF Boys music video, a live concert performance, a variety show performance, or random interviews and game shows that featured TF Boys, my children found them ALL.

In fact, for the longest time, my children were absolutely even MORE obsessed with watching (and then playing) this 獵人 (lie4 ren2)/Hunter Episode featuring the TF Boys.

Basically, the TF Boys, along with some friends, are trying to evade a team of “Hunters” and they wander through different time periods in China’s history. It’s like, they’re in some type of amusement park, running through all these people dressed in historical costumes, trying to evade hunters who will shoot them with a yogurt filled gun.

All three of my kids, but especially Glow Worm, LOVED to play 獵人/Hunter. I would find them stalking each other all over the house with makeshift guns. They would even add a narrative/narrator (like in the show) and have running dialog and commentary – all in Chinese.

Who makes up this stuff?

They were also obsessed with some game show the TF Boys were on where the boys have to go through obstacles and answer trivia about their own songs. I would link to it but that would drop me in some TF Boys black hole and I would never finish this post.

My kids were so obsessed with TF Boys that they would argue about which TF Boy they were going to pretend to be. Like, some kids pretend they’re Batman or Superman. My kids pretend they are different TF Boy band members.

But because they watched so much programming in Chinese, and all that programming is subtitled in Chinese, my children’s Chinese vocabulary expanded by leaps and bounds. So did their reading!

We would be reading Chinese books and they would come across a character and Gamera would tell me that the character is in so and so’s name or in the TF Boy lyric.

In fact, they became like religious zealots. Every possible topic could be turned into an opportunity to expound upon TF Boys and their lyrics, their hand motions, their dance moves, their likes and dislikes, their EVERYTHING.

And the best part? They would discuss all of these subjects IN CHINESE because they learned and absorbed all these subjects IN CHINESE.

It came to the point where Cookie Monster asked me if TF Boys were real people. And when he found out they were real (as opposed to actors in a movie or show), and that they lived in China, he asked me if we could go to China to find them.

Then, because of YouTube suggestions, my children found other things related to TF Boys.

Like I mentioned earlier, they found Chinese game shows, variety shows, talk shows, and other popular Chinese YouTube acts like Zony and Yony (左左右右). There is another set of Chinese twins that are popular on YouTube, but they are a boy and a girl.

And because most of the shows are aimed for adults or at least, the general Chinese public, my children’s Chinese improved even more because they were exposed to Chinese spoken by adults.

Really, I should say that it is mostly Gamera who is showing her pre-teen girlish future self when she obsesses over these Chinese YouTube celebrities. But since Cookie Monster and Glow Worm are next to her, they get Chinese exposure, too.

Incidentally, Gamera is also the only one of my children to request and beg to watch Chinese science videos. Bless her.

Anyhow, the point of this article isn’t to spread the TF Boys obsession to your children. (Although, their songs are quite catchy and they seem outwardly wholesome.) But to encourage you to find your kids’ version of TF Boys.

If you find something your kids can obsess over and have it be obsessed over in Chinese, then YouTube (if you let it) will suggest similar videos and your child will thus be sucked down into automatically absorbing Chinese.

Of course, I realize that not everyone is as terrible a parent as I am, so perhaps, you will curate it. But honestly, if you’re lazy and want them to organically find stuff, just leave them alone.

Have your kids obsessed over a band or a movie in Chinese? Did it lead to more Chinese? Let me know in the comments.

 

The Simple Joys

I don’t know if it’s the residual buzz from the bottomless mimosas I had today at lunch (whoooooooooo!), but I have been pretty happy lately.

Nothing major has happened. Perhaps I am just noticing the good things a little more lately.

Whatever the reason, there is no reason to assume that will last so it’s best I get to recording this down so I don’t forget.

And thus, my post for today will be my random blatherings of things that have made me happy of late. There are worst things to post about.

1) I have been on a tear of reading some fun and good books. I would post about them right now but I am lazy and I am thinking of starting 5 Minute Book Reviews for non-Chinese books. I can’t be stealing from my future material, right?

2) As I mentioned earlier, I partook in bottomless mimosas for lunch today. It was everything that I could have hoped it to be.

I met up with a few of my high school friends and we did a fancy lunch and drank mimosas as I shoveled as many carbs as possible down my pie hole (although, sadly, I did not shove any actual pie).

I don’t know why we don’t hang out more often. Each time we meet up, it’s a good 2-4 hour gabfest. They are just awesome women.

3) Today was likely a four hour fest because I had to sober up because of said mimosas. I wasn’t drunk. But I wouldn’t say I wasn’t NOT drunk.

That last few sentences is clearly making the case that I am still a little tipsy.

4) I just cancelled the new blinds I ordered last night for my sliding glass doors. I really didn’t want to order them except that so many of our vanes were broken and it annoyed me every time I looked at them.

Thankfully, Hapa Papa told me to look for something that would save the vanes instead of buying all new blinds. I don’t know why we didn’t look into that sooner.

That’s why I cancelled the blinds. Why would I pay $400 for blinds when Sasquatch is still too young to make trouble and thus, ensuring that we have prematurely purchased a semi-nice thing only to see it go down in flames (yes, likely literal flames) in the near future.

Well, it was nice to buy a new thing for the house and think we could get away with it. (And even nicer to cancel the order because I got the high off of buying a big thing, but then not having to pay for it!)

At least I didn’t go with my original choice of vertical honeycomb shades. I stopped myself in time to remember that we can’t have nice things.

So, a mediocre non-broken thing is still good enough for me!

5) I really enjoy the tactile feel of typing. I also enjoy the clackety clack, too.

I know I have mentioned this before.

I don’t care. It makes me happy.

6) Being productive makes me happy. Whether it’s writing in things I’ve done just so I can cross them off, or doing actual work and writing, it makes me happy.

7) I have to go to Target on Wednesday in order to buy cleaning supplies for my first housecleaning appointment on Thursday! People, my bathroom is going to be clean!! (Only one likely because they will be deep cleaning and it’s revolting so they might only have time for the one.)

Oh, but back to the cleaning supplies.

Apparently, the owner of the housecleaning business thinks my house is in such a state of squalor that she believes I do not know what actual cleaning products look like. Thus, she has a sheet with PICTURES of the cleaning supplies she wants me to purchase. And she CIRCLED THEM with a RED PEN.

I die. Of shame and amusement.

I am also grateful because let’s be honest. I really don’t know what cleaning supplies to get. Pictures are helpful because it will involve even LESS reading.

8) Sasquatch is delicious. I very much enjoy.

9) This article on BuzzFeed. I woke up Sasquatch because I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face.

10) I am plotting to change up the bedrooms (as in, swap guest rooms with kid rooms, buy bunk beds, turn the nursery into an office because let’s be real, Sasquatch is never going to sleep in there) and I am itching to get it done.

11) I installed a basketball hoop for the kids this weekend and they love it. That makes me nostalgic for a childhood I never had. But in my mind, playing basketball in the driveway and shooting baskets is equivalent to a happy childhood so I am super pleased.

OF COURSE I WIN AT PARENTING BECAUSE OF THIS.

12) I just ordered a box of gel pens. I used to like the Pentel v5 Ultra Fine Point ink pens – and I still do. But lately, I have been really loving the Pilot G2 Retractable gel pens with a 0.7mm point instead. I know. I went up 0.2mm.

Whatever.

I like them because I don’t have to worry about losing a cap (hey, with my kids around, YOU NEVER KNOW) and I enjoy the smoothness of the ink as well as the thickness of the line.

It seems sturdy. Like I’m declaring something.

I used to prefer a finer line, but now, I find it less satisfying.

I guess people can change. Don’t tell my past self. She would be horrified.

Alright. I am about to pass out so I should end the post here. May your Monday be full of the little things that bring you joy.