小蛇散步 Book Review

Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 小蛇散步 (xiao3 she2 san4 bu4)/The Little Snake Takes a Walk

ISBN: 9789867188243, 9789862116043

Author: 伊東寬

Publisher: 小魯寶寶書

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: A little snake goes out for a walk and encounters a puddle. As he is about to leave, he ends up helping a bunch of new friends cross the puddle as well.

Sample Pages:

Ratings: 5 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: My kids LOVE this book. They first saw it in their Chinese preschool teacher’s house and when we went back for Taiwan Trip 2014, they saw it at Eslite and begged me to buy it. So, I did.

Be forewarned. ONLY THE NARRATIVE HAS ZHUYIN.

Imagine my surprise when I finally brought it home to read it to my kids only to see that the comic portion with the handwritten font DOES NOT have zhuyin.

Let’s just say that at the time, my Chinese was not good enough to read those parts without frantically looking up characters in Pleco. However, having read this book so many times, I now don’t need to anymore. (Or as much.)

I can’t remember if my kids have tried to read this book on their own, but they do enjoy this picture book a lot because it’s funny, silly, and has lots of fun sounds and illustrations.

Super cute. Highly recommend.

青蛙撲通跳 Book Review

Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 青蛙撲通跳 (qing wa pu tong tiao4)/The Frog Jumps

ISBN: 9789861612430

Author: 李紫蓉

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: Another bunch of short poems/rhymes about nature.

Sample Pages:

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: Though the illustrations are quite beautiful, neither Cookie Monster (6.5 at time of reading) nor Gamera (5.75) liked this book much, either.

Again, it’s because it is a bunch of short poems about nature and my kids are somewhat MEH about poems that are not longer, involved stories. In fact, Gamera was so bored that it took her over 4-5 days to read this book even though clearly, it’s not long and doesn’t require that many days to get through.

Come to think of it, the hardest part actually is that the characters are in a handwritten font so it’s not as easy for children to decipher what the character is. On top of that, the zhuyin is also handwritten. That is what both my kids objected to the most.

Here is a quick video of Gamera reading an excerpt of this book.

How to Taiwan with Kids

Upon hearing that I took four kids 7 years old and under (including an 8 month old) by myself for a month, most people immediately say, “You’re so brave!” This is usually immediately followed by, “How do you do it?”

Well, the short answer is, “With a lot of yelling.”

The long answer takes a lot of time (and a lot of swears) but because I’m a giver, here is how I personally get through it (and without any alcohol, too!).

1) Ask for help.

I cannot reiterate this enough.

Do not be a jerk. Do not let pride get in your way. Either ask for help or accept help when people who love you offer.

I will be honest. I was offended and pissed off at my mother when she told me she didn’t want to go to Taiwan in the summer but was only going to help me on the plane (even though I did not expect her to come – NOR DID I ASK). She just could not fathom how my children would go to the bathroom.

I tried to explain that Cookie Monster (7.5) and Gamera (5.75) could go by themselves. I really would only have to help Glow Worm (~4) and as for myself, I have gone to the bathroom plenty of times with Sasquatch (8 months) strapped to my body.

I was a little less offended that my cousin rearranged his travel schedule to the US in order to accompany us on the trip back.

Either way, I felt as if they were saying I was not a capable person. After all, don’t I take care of my four kids every day?

But you know what? FUCK MY PRIDE. My mother and cousin were helpful. And I accepted their help (despite internal grumbling).

Even though my mom ended up not sitting next to us on the plane (and only checking in once for about a minute), she was still helpful at the airport, going through customs, and when we moved into the apartment. She helped me at bedtime for the ten days she was there.

THAT IS NO SMALL MATTER.

Plus, my kids got to spend extra time with her – and she is so wonderful with them. They got to hear stories and just laughed and laughed and laughed.

And on the way back, I forgot that since we did not have a direct flight, we would have to go through customs with all our luggage then recheck them in for our domestic flight.

I could not have gotten it done without my cousin there. It was hard. SO HARD. (I was still recovering from the flu and I just could not manage all our luggage along with all my children.) I am SO GRATEFUL he was there. Even a minor thing such as him being there allowed me to go to the bathroom without worrying about my kids being alone.

As for during our stay, several times, my cousins would bring food over (both in terms of dinner and in terms of fruit and snacks). They also lent me supplies that I needed for the kids’ school so I didn’t have to buy them. Super helpful!

2) Make a packing list at least a month (or two) in advance.

That way, you have enough time to order stuff on Amazon or go to a physical store and buy. And of course, anything you forget to purchase, you can most likely buy in Taiwan. It is, after all, a developed country. The only problem is that everything is in Chinese.

THAT IS A REALLY BIG PROBLEM. (If you are mediocre like me.)

Here’s a pic of my packing list. Obviously, YMMV.

3) Know your limits.

If you are going to be single parenting it in a foreign country (or really, anywhere – and quite frankly, even if you have a partner in the picture), you really need to know your limits.

You have to be brutally honest with yourself about your capacity and ability to handle shit. BECAUSE SHIT WILL HAPPEN.

So, I know that I have a really low tolerance for sightseeing stuff – especially with so many wiggly and crappy kids. I also hate eating out with my kids. Or really, doing ANYTHING with my kids.

As a result, we saw nothing. We ate out at ONE restaurant. We avoided anything that I hated doing. If I knew something would piss me off if the kids were with me, I would either not do it or only do it when they were in school.

I also made sure I got enough sleep because I know that when I’m sleep deprived, I am even meaner. And because I have a low noise tolerance level, I was okay with the kids having a lot of screen time. Like, A LOT of screen time. Because that is the only time they are guaranteed to be silent. Because their brains are rotting.

4) Be OK with feeling stupid. ALL THE TIME.

I am not kidding.

I spent 99.9% of the time in Taiwan feeling like an idiot.

It’s sad, really. I always forget and think that I’m fluent in Chinese when I’m in the US because really, my Chinese is pretty good. When I am in the US.

When I’m in Taiwan? MY CHINESE IS SAD AND JUST ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT I AM MISSING SOMETHING IMPORTANT.

I cannot wait until my children’s Chinese is better than mine so they understand what people are saying to us. Better yet. When they can read the Chinese so that we don’t have to speak to anyone.

I don’t know how to explain to people who have not experienced this, but ultimately, it’s not that we don’t understand Chinese. It’s just that everyone speaks so quickly. Or they use obscure terms. Or super polite terms. Or super official sounding terms. Or normal terms that our parents never saw the need to teach us. Or terms our parents didn’t know to teach us. Or terms they might have taught us but we never retained.

Couple that with my functional illiteracy, I end up asking questions that are obviously labeled and answered IF ONLY I COULD READ ALL THE WORDS. OR IF ONLY I COULD COMPREHEND WHAT THESE WORDS I CAN READ MEAN TOGETHER IN A SENTENCE.

5) Have a routine.

This seems silly but routines saved me.

They ensured that I remembered to do things like pack lunches, refill water bottles, had clean clothes, sunblocked and bug sprayed my children, and washed the dishes.

I mean, would these things have gotten done WITHOUT the routine? Yes. Of course. How could they not?

But my life was much less stressful because these routines became muscle memory and I didn’t have to expend as much brain power trying to make sure everything got done.

6) Appropriate footwear is key.

I am a big fan of kids having covered toes and sneaker like shoes because Taipei is an urban city and the last thing I want is for their flip flops or crocs to get caught in an escalator or snag on uneven sidewalks and then end up at the hospital to replace a toe.

So, I made sure we had shoes that were breathable, had sneaker like tread, but could dry quickly if they got wet in the rain or water. I chose to buy (affiliate link) Stride Rite Phibians. They’re boring and sturdy and get the job done.

7) Take out is your friend.

I don’t understand how some of my friends would physically bring their children to restaurants and then eat dinner during prime people eating time. That sounds like my personal version of hell.

Maybe it’s because I have never trained my children to behave in public. Or that there are too many of them. But by the end of the day, I can’t think of anything my children want to do less than sit still and quietly while waiting for their food (that they might not eat) and then eating it. (And also hoping there are forks because only one of my kids can use chopsticks.)

No, thanks.

Instead, I found a place by my kids’ camp and bought off their menu almost every week night (before even picking them up) and then we would eat it at home while they zombied out on iPads.

8) Indoor play spaces are also your friend. (But they are expensive.)

Look, maybe my feral children are unique, but they are used to a lot more space in the States and being at parks and running around to let out their boundless energy.

It’s not that there aren’t parks (and great parks) in Taiwan. It’s just that it’s hot and there are a lot of mosquitoes. Nothing makes a park less fun than a blazing sun that is trying to melt you and incinerate your body with fire. And when you’re hiding from the sun, eating you alive with evil, tiny black mosquitoes.

Nope. No thanks.

So, indoor play spaces are great.

9) Make sure your kids understand how to navigate a city.

Since my kids are born and bred in the sprawl of an American suburb, they are not used to the density of people, the pace of the movement, and the rules of city life.

So most of my stress was making sure my kids weren’t impeding the flow of traffic by coming to a dead stop in front of an elevator, turnstile, stairwell, escalator, MRT door, middle of a crosswalk – YOU NAME IT, THEY’VE JUST STOOD THERE LIKE IDIOTS WITH MOUTHS AGAPE.

Oh, I was also worried about them plummeting to their deaths from the 3-4 story high escalators.

Also? My kids are not quiet. Or well-behaved.

Taiwanese children apparently know that they’re supposed to be quiet and well-behaved in public and on public transportation.

So, other than trying to civilize my children, I also had to make sure I didn’t lose them among the crush of people on escalators, MRT trains, buses, and THE SIDEWALK.

10) Remember, your children get culture shock, too. And jetlag. My God, the jetlag.

You know how everything is hard and foreign and overwhelming to you? It’s the same (and perhaps moreso) for your children.

Be kind. And gracious.

If you can remember. (I often did not.)

11) Get internet access for your phone.

You can buy a SIM card with a Taiwanese phone number at the airport and/or at local telecom stores. Or, you can rent a hotspot. Either way, YOU NEED INTERNET ACCESS.

In Taiwan, you buy two separate services: talking minutes and data. You need to buy both, but data is VITAL.

How else will you find what foods, attractions, activities, and addresses are by you?

12) Google Maps and Pleco are your best friends. 

This is, of course, predicated on having internet access.

Google Maps has improved so much since I started going back to Taiwan three years ago. (Has it really only been three years?)

As long as you know your destination, Google Maps will tell you how to get there. Of course, you can always take a taxi – and Google Maps will tell you how long that will take.

But, it will also tell you how to get there (and how long it will take) via public transportation (MRT, bus, train, etc.) or walking.

Plus, now if you click on the bus numbers, Google Maps will show you all the other buses you could take, how many minutes until they arrive, how many stops there will be until your destination, and how much it will cost!

Just keep in mind that there is sometimes more than one bus stop in a given location. It took awhile for me to realize that the buses are grouped by each stop (logical) versus just listing all the possible buses you can take near you. You need to click on the separate bus listings to see all the other possible buses that are available to you.

Also, you can also change the date and time when you’re searching. This is important because if you search directions in the middle of the night, you might think there are zero to no options when in reality, during the day, there will be lots of options. Or, if you search during commuting hours but then travel on a weekend or during non-commuting hours, you will think you have more options when really, you have few.

Ask me how I know.

For the MRT, Google Maps will tell you which exit you take (there are many exits per MRT station) and trust me when I say, the longer you can stay within the air-conditioned confines of an MRT station and avoid the fiery ball of gas outside the better.

As for Pleco, unless you are native fluent and also functionally literate, YOU WILL NEED A GOOD TRANSLATION APP.

Some people prefer Google Translate. I prefer Pleco.

Plus, Pleco has OCR where you can just scan characters and it will tell you (for free) how to pronounce the characters (but not their definitions). That is useful if you understand Chinese but just can’t read. Not so useful if you don’t.

13) Don’t bother with car seats. 

If you are super worried, just take public transportation or walk. For the rides to and from the airport, you can call ahead and book a taxi that will rent you up to two carseats. (In this same vein, there are companies where you can rent pack ‘n plays and other baby things.)

Just keep in mind that no taxi will wait for you to install/uninstall a car seat – and even supposing you do find a taxi that will, are you really going to be walking around Taipei carrying a car seat along with your children?

Get over it. Kids here ride ON MOTOR SCOOTERS.

Anyhow, I hope this was helpful.

If you have a lot of time on your hands or just want more of me, here’s my Facebook Live video that discusses a lot of these same things (but unedited and with perhaps some more swears).

青蛙和蟾蜍快樂年年 (Frog and Toad All Year) Book Review

Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 青蛙和蟾蜍快樂年年 (qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 kuai4 le4 nian2 nian2)/Frog and Toad All Year

In fact, here’s the 4 book box set:

青蛙和蟾蜍好朋友 (qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 hao3 peng2 you3)/Frog and Toad are Friends

青蛙和蟾蜍好伙伴 ((qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 hao4 huo3 ban4)/Frog and Toad Together

青蛙和蟾蜍快樂時光 (qing wa han4 chan2 chu2 kuai4 le4 shi2 guang)/Days with Frog and Toad

ISBN: 9780060239510, 9577622461, 95767622453, 9577622437

Author: 艾諾 洛貝爾 (Arnold Lobel)

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Early Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: Translation of the classic, Frog and Toad All Year. Includes five short stories of Frog and Toad throughout the year such as sledding, buying ice cream, raking leaves, and Christmas Eve.

Sample Pages: 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: I recall reading these books when I was a kid, but I wasn’t really excited for Cookie Monster (7.5) to read them because I kept confusing Frog and Toad with The Wind and the Willows. But then I remembered (after Cookie Monster read a few) that I had read them in an anthology my parents had bought and I didn’t dislike or love them.

Anyhow, I was reluctant to start Cookie Monster on these also because they’re like chapter books and longer and frankly, I didn’t want to sit there and listen to him read for that long. (I know. I am SO MEDIOCRE.)

However, I finally bit the bullet because just how long can Cookie Monster read short picture books?

I am SO GLAD I did.

I guess he grew up all of a sudden. He says he likes the longer books now because they are more interesting. And then, he has started reading silently by himself. (I have mixed feelings about this because while that does make it easier on me, I cannot verify that he is pronouncing everything right and lately, he has been super messing up his tones.)

Plus, he’s been eager to read the book and finishing it on his own because he said the stories were funny. He even picked it up when he was bored and read on his own.

I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe it was the eclipse. But I am VERY PLEASED.

I was also pleasantly surprised that he actually understood what was going on in the stories and he was good about asking me for help on words he couldn’t quite get the right pronunciation on or didn’t understand their meaning.

All in all, I was very happy that we finally took the plunge.

These books are a nice bridge to actual chapter books and are helping him build confidence that he can actually tackle books with more words and length.

Highly recommend.

In fact, you really should just buy the whole set of four books. I have never seen Cookie Monster voluntarily read books – especially longer books. He finds the stories so silly and funny and he usually reads two chapters at a time.

He actually asked me if there were more Frog and Toad books and unfortunately, we do not. Thankfully, I have a set of 8-9 more Arnold Lobel books! YAY!

I Didn’t Believe My Own Advice

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. 

I have a major confession to make.

Even though I have written a book about teaching your kid Chinese and have written extensively on how to get your kids bilingual and bi-literate, I secretly was afraid it wasn’t true.

That I was full of crap.

That maybe, what I was advocating was fine in theory but kinda sketchy in the application.

I mean, I had seen examples of people ahead of me on the Chinese journey and it’s what they did (and did successfully), but I had yet to really see my kids get to a level where I could semi-breathe a sigh of relief.

Yes, yes.

They’re not bad, but where was this miraculous “just make them read and they will start becoming more literate” thing going to kick in for me?

Cookie Monster is almost eight. WHEN IS THIS GOING TO HAPPEN?

In fact, right before we left for Taiwan, we were going through a rough patch of reading. We had been going through a daily reading workbook as well as the 小書包 (xiao3 shu bao)/Little Back Pack series, and Cookie Monster was getting better at reading comprehension.

However, for some reason, he started having trouble with his tones. I was getting super mad at him and yelling and he would be in tears.

And even though he went on a trip to DC with my mother to visit my brother and she said Cookie Monster did really well with reading in Chinese that trip and that both she and my brother were really impressed, I wasn’t reassured. (Although, Cookie Monster did text me a lot in Chinese and he was handwriting the texts and it was hilarious and awesome.)

Then, we went to Taiwan for a month and I did not bother making him read at all.

When we got back, we started back up with the reading again and he was again, super horrible with his tones. I couldn’t understand how he could go from having no problem with tones to having HUGE difficulty with discerning and saying the second and third tones.

Needless to say, I was not patient or kind and my poor child shriveled before my eyes.

I had to super chill out and remind myself that I was not a failure and neither was Cookie Monster.

But mostly, I was pissed off that I had wasted so many dollars on zhuyin teachers and Chinese tutoring because clearly, he was not improving – and not only that, he was regressing.

And then, this week, it happened.

IT HAPPENED.

I think it was the eclipse.

On a whim, I decided to issue myself a two week challenge to try and have Cookie Monster finally attack a chapter book after a year long break. (We had tried the Little Bear series and though he read them, he wasn’t that interested and it seemed a little hard for him.)

I made him read the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel (I will be reviewing this next week) and halfway through the second book, IT HAPPENED.

Something clicked and he refused to stop.

Cookie Monster started to pick up the book without me asking him to and would read a chapter or two. Then he moved on to reading a whole five chapter book in one sitting.

He even started reading silently to himself.

And when he was done with the series? He asked for more.

He said that he liked longer books because they were more interesting.

And then, Cookie Monster went looking on our bookshelf and took out a Mr. Men and Little Miss book. Even though these books are harder to read than to listen to on CD, I think because he had heard them so often in the car, it wasn’t so bad for him.

And read he did.

For years, I would hear of my friends complaining that their kids would just read and not do anything else and how it seemed ridiculous to complain about it, but FFS, the kids wouldn’t do homework, eat, bathe, or sleep.

I would laugh and say, “Too bad I don’t have this problem!”

But now, I do. (Or at least, I have had this problem for the last few days.)

I AM BOTH SO HAPPY AND RELIEVED AND ALSO ANNOYED THAT I NOW HAVE THIS PROBLEM.

He has now started following me around to pester – I mean, ASK – me about zhuyin pronunciations. EVEN WHEN I AM TRYING TO LOAD KIDS INTO THE CAR FOR CLASS OR PUT SASQUATCH DOWN FOR A NAP OR WHEN I AM GOING TO THE BATHROOM.

This just goes to show you that I will never be happy.

Cookie Monster has now attempted to read while I was trying to teach him the different types of matter (solid, liquid, and gas), while cleaning up (and as a result, walking into things), and while eating lunch.

He has refused to play with his siblings because he wants to read – and Gamera and Glow Worm were baffled.

And annoyed. They were really annoyed.

Gamera kept asking me why Cookie Monster wanted to read so much. (Literally word for word the same thing Cookie Monster would ask Fleur’s eldest daughter, Bebe, when she was reading Magic Treehouse and Harry Potter.)

He even told me today that he really wanted to read a lot and to get better at reading Chinese.

Seriously. I almost checked the sky to see if there were pigs flying.

So, is there a point to this post other than my shameless bragging about my firstborn FINALLY showing an interest in reading (which is one of my favorite pastimes)?

I’m so glad you asked.

Other than another totally legitimate way to plug my book and my excellent advice that though I doubted, CAME THROUGH AFTER ALL, I thought I would give some unsolicited advice about the process of literacy (Chinese or otherwise).

Incidentally, the process in general is: Front load as many characters as possible (usually via Sagebooks). Teach zhuyin. Read, read, read.

And of course, all of this is useless without comprehension so obviously, increase that. (Just buy my book already.)

Alright. On with my unsolicited advice.

1) It’s okay to doubt the process. Do it (the process) anyway.

I mean, again. I wrote a book about it. I still worried and felt like a fraud. But I put in the work (although somewhat inconsistently) and eventually, it paid off.

2) Consistency is key.

I’m pretty sure if I had just consistently persisted with helping Cookie Monster read daily, he would have made the leap to chapter books and considering reading as pleasure much earlier.

I am trying to learn from my mistakes and be MUCH more consistent with Gamera (5.75) who, though she loves to hear stories in Chinese, is really resistant to reading in Chinese. Because it’s hard. And takes effort.

I have to remind myself that I did not demand as much from Cookie Monster when he was her age and that though she is really good at reading with zhuyin (and honestly, better than Cookie Monster), she is still two years younger and has a much different tolerance level for hard work.

3) Having a library is important.

You know, Guavarama constantly blogs about building a Chinese library and often told me that I needed more books at certain levels and though I bought them, part of me was really resistant.

I mean, HOW MANY BOOKS DO WE REALLY NEED, AMIRITE?

Even the ever patient Hapa Papa was annoyed at all our Chinese books. He kept saying, “Why are we spending all our money on books no one is ever going to read?”

I wanted to smack him because he doesn’t read books in general, but also because he voiced a small, terrible fear that would whisper in the back of my mind as I threw down hundreds and thousands of dollars on boxes of books.

Anyway, I finally stopped buying so many picture books and early beginning reader books because COME ON!!!

But now, I’m worried that I do not have enough because Cookie Monster is tearing through the books. He read 4-5 Mr. Men books JUST THIS MORNING. (Thank goodness there are 96 in the set.)

This brings me to the real reason why you need a library in your home (or spread across the homes of your friends). If you are willing to put in the work and drive, your local libraries may also be useful.

You need a LOT of books available because your child may not read all of them.

This pains me to say, but though I have been methodically working my way through all the books we own with the children, they sometimes just aren’t interested (or don’t have the comprehension). So, some books just might never get read.

You also need at least two levels ahead of your kid’s current reading level. Why? Because kids jump levels or sometimes blast through levels very quickly.

And if you do not have those books at your home or readily available and you order books from Taiwan or China, for Pete’s sake, don’t be a cheapass. Pay for shipping by AIR.

What is the point of waiting two months for the books to ship by sea? HAVE YOU NEVER MET A CHILD BEFORE?

First of all, that’s two months your child could be reading.

Second, in two months, your kid might not care or regress or any number of things because children are assholes and live to thwart our will.

This way when lightning strikes, (and boy, did it strike), and your kid all of a sudden wants to read as many books as they can get their hands on, it’s fortuitous and expeditious to have the appropriate leveled books in your house.

All Cookie Monster had to do was go to our bookshelves and pick out the books he wanted to read. And he did.

Otherwise, he might have been interested and willing, but by the time I got books from a friend or the library or from a very slow boat, he might not have been interested and willing anymore.

You know how kids are. They suck.

Capricious bastards.

4) Competency and comprehension are vital.

It is belaboring the obvious, but that’s what I’m here for: to point out the obvious!

Look, it’s not fun to read if you’re not good at it.

Case in point: I can read Chinese books just fine if there is zhuyin. If there is not, it is a painful, laborious process and it doesn’t matter how awesome the story is or how great the illustrations, we are not reading the book because I associate it with pain.

The corollary is, it’s not fun to read if you don’t understand what you are reading.

Ever read the fine print in a contract (like when you sign away your life to Apple when you update your iOS or download an app) or the contraindications of a medication? Those are all words and you can read them, but are they comprehensible?

No. They are not.

No one reads these things for fun. If you do, YOU ARE A MONSTER.

If we as adults hate to read things we can’t read or understand, how much more so with children?

5) Age, maturity, development, and interest matter. 

As much as we would like to push our kids to be super readers, sometimes, it just depends on where they are developmentally and interest-wise.

It’s kind of like making your kids less picky eaters.

You just have to present a bunch of foods (or books) to your kid and make them try as many as you can and eventually, your kid either gives up and just eats crap they might not like, or they discover foods they didn’t realize they would like. But ultimately, it takes time – and sometimes, you just have to wait a phase out.

Hmmm. This metaphor may have devolved and not be as useful as I initially thought.

Whatever. You get the idea. You can’t expect your newborn to crawl, run, or be toilet trained. Same thing with literacy. Your kid just might not be there yet. The best you can do is to plug away, slowly but surely so that when the stars align, you’re ready.

See? I can be useful and non-braggarty!

I know I am nowhere near the finish line, but this week has given me hope and a very necessary boost. It helps me know that I’m on the right track and if I stay consistent, most likely the next leveling up will happen, too. (That would be reading books without zhuyin.)

Also? You’re not alone.

It’s totally normal to think that it’s taking forever and maybe it’s not worth it and OMG YOU HAVE WASTED ALL YOUR MONEY ON BOOKS AND CHINESE TUTORS.

Just keep at it and before you know it, another celestial event will happen and your child will be reading Chinese books. (Now, I just have to time it for GameraGlow Worm, and Sasquatch.)

For those of you who are ahead of us on this journey, any other advice? Let me know in the comments.

十兄弟 Book Review

Like my reviews? Want more tips and advice on how to teach your kids Chinese? Want someone to just give you an Action Plan that you can follow? Check out my book (affiliate link), So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

Title: 十兄弟 (shi2 xiong di4)/The Ten Brothers

ISBN: 9789861614717

Author: 小翔

Publisher: 信誼

Level: Beginning Reader, Zhuyin, Fiction

Summary: Ten brothers with special talents (eg: far sightedness, extra sharp hearing, steel skin, super long legs, etc.) rescue their father from being wrongfully imprisoned in the Emperor’s prison. The Emperor thinks they are bad guys so he keeps sending guards to stop the brothers. The brothers’ unique abilities get them out of these dangerous situations and eventually rescue their father.

Sample Pages:

  

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: This book is Cookie Monster’s (7.5) new favorite. He learned a lot of new terms (especially famous Chinese super powers – the Chinese equivalent of American super hero tropes such as x-ray vision, flying, or quick healing) but most importantly, loved the illustrations and story.

He enjoyed trying to guess which brother was which based on their illustration alone and often paused between pages so he could fully enjoy and examine the drawings.

The story itself is a different version of the story I read as a child, but the gist is the same. It was a little bit hard for Cookie Monster to understand some of the terms and plot points, but he still had no problem telling Gamera (5.5) about some of the story and claiming that this book was his new favorite.

Final Money Tally For Taiwan Trip 2017

Alright, friends. Here’s the annual nitty gritty of how much my trip cost for my family of 2 adults and 4 children. Now, obviously, YMMV and your costs will certainly be different, but this is just to give you an idea. 

I will have notes below my handy dandy chart so without further ado, here’s how I spent my money this summer in Taiwan.

If you have a good memory, you’ll notice that it’s at least $3,000 less than I spent last year. And honestly, if you took out the money I spent on gifts to family (new babies and weddings all require red envelopes!), discounted my face lasering (a post for another day), the total would be $10,432.54.

Oh, and for those of you who asked, this broke down to about $372/day.

However, I just realized that since we used points instead of paying actual money for flights, it’s a wash (and actually, more expensive than my current costs).

Anyhow, why was the cost so much less this year? Mainly because we used points for plane tickets, Gamara (5.75) switched to a local camp, and we stayed for a shorter time.

Whatever the reasons, it was STILL a lot of money. Hapa Papa actually winced when I told him the total.

Alright, on to the breakdown.

Books & DVDs – $458.64

This year, I had my cousin buy a set of books for me before we even arrived. Then, the only other books and DVDs I bought were from Costco and the used book store, YA Books. I purposefully did not go to Eslite, or any other bookstores.

Why?

Because my trip to YA Books solidified in my mind that I really hate buying books. I panic. I see a wall of Chinese and freak out. And since my level is about the level of simple chapter books or picture books, those are the only books I am attracted to and buy.

I DON’T NEED ANY MORE OF THESE BOOKS!

The books I need are beyond my level and quite frankly, I am not qualified nor inclined to buy these books. I am not going to magically browse and find them in a used book store. So, I stopped going.

How will I then buy books? Like I have said on many an occasion, everyone needs a Guavarama. She will tell me what to buy. I will throw money at her. It all works out.

Camp – $2,215.48

Author’s Note: Please do not ask me (or my friends) what camps my children attended. Internet security is important to me. I will ignore all requests. 

The camps this year were the following:

1) Glow Worm (~4) – 4 weeks at an International School from 8am-4pm, including meals, field trips, and arts and crafts.

This camp alone was $34,000NT/$1030.30USD and I even got the early registration discount. Otherwise, the camp would have been $37,000NT/$1,121USD.

2) Gamera and Cookie Monster (7.5) – 4 different week long camps at a local camp from 8:30am-5pm, including meals, games, and materials (like the Chinese yoyo, ripsticks, and protective gear).

Their COMBINED camp fees was $31,316NT/$949USD. As you can see, much less expensive than Glow Worm’s International school. We also got an early registration discount of 20%.

Incidentally, I had to buy 3 of everything – not because all three were in the same camps – but because I did not want to hear Glow Worm complain and cry about not having a matching Chinese yoyo or ripstick.

Cosmetic – $404.55

Folks, I GOT MY FACE LASERED. Because I succumb easily to peer pressure and FOMO. I removed sun spots and some moles. Again, I promise I will have a more in depth post about this later – but obviously, this is a purely OPTIONAL cost.

Entertainment – $453.65

I did fewer play spaces and crafts this year. Mostly because I was lazy. Also, I took advantage of discounts and sold some of my extra tickets to friends. That’s really the only reason the cost is so low. But ultimately, we didn’t go out nearly as much this year as we did last year. I think my kids were really bummed about it.

Food – $1,028.45

Fun fact: I spent $100USD on shaved ice. That’s about 10% of my food expenditures and in line with what I call a fantastic summer. After all, it was my goal to eat at least 1-2 shaved ice a day.

AND I DID. AND IT WAS GOOD.

I also found a local place that I purchased 70% of our dinners and bentos for the boys (they have food allergies so I pack all their lunches instead of eating at the schools). This place was much cheaper than eating at nicer restaurants that I bought takeout from last year.

Groceries – $152.06

This year, I took my advice from last year and went to Costco right away to buy the books and foods my kids would want right away. I shopped more at the Wellcome Mart instead of the fancy City Super (a market geared to ex-pats) and generally accepted the fact that I would NOT attempt ANY cooking whatsoever.

My kids were also more accepting of different foods than last year so I didn’t have to buy as many $10 cereal boxes. That definitely cut down the cost!!

Lodging – $3,603

Our costs for AirBnB were less than last year because we cut short our trip by about ten days. And also, I did not end up going to Kaohsiung to visit my family due to a typhoon that weekend so that was also a money saver.

Keep in mind, your costs will depend on the location and neighborhood and size of your apartment.

We had a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, kitchenette, washing machine, and approximately 800 sqft apartment. The entire place was newly remodeled and clean. Plus, there was housekeeping twice a week where they would do dishes, change sheets and towels, and take out the garbage.

The best part of this place was that I did not have to chase down the garbage truck every night and there was a garbage place in the actual building. We had to do some sorting (the BANE of my existence), but this is better than buying the specific Taipei garbage bags you need to use.

Also, we were literally above the MRT station and next to lots of convenient department stores and food places. It was super convenient and next to a lot of easy bus stops, grocery stores, and most importantly: shaved ice.

We ended up staying 33 days and 32 nights and including the $200 AirBnB fee, it ended up being $113/night for two adults and four children. That’s a pretty good rate for the area we lived.

Misc. – $403.03

Not sure exactly what this was, hence the miscellany. But it still added up.

Phone – $66.67

This probably could have been cheaper if I just rented a hotspot or did not Facebook Live away all my data so that I had to buy more. Ah well. Live and learn.

Gifts -$242.42

If you don’t have family in the area or don’t do gifts in general, you wouldn’t likely have this expense. However, if you were also buying gifts for people back at home, this may or may not be in line with what you would spend.

I have a lot of family in Taiwan and they experienced expensive life events so normally, I would not have shelled out as much in gifts. But you know, it all evens out because they also gave us gifts (both this year and in years past).

Transportation – $2,051.56

Regarding plane tickets, we bought Hapa Papa’s ticket out right. (He was a last minute addition to the trip.) And we used points for 1 adult, 1 lap child, and 3 children. We paid a bit to buy additional points and pay for taxes and fees, but overall, $1,772 to transport 6 humans across the ocean and back is a pretty good deal.

We predominantly used the MRT and buses this trip and since I only had to pay for Cookie Monster and me, the costs were low. Next year, Gamera will be six so we’ll also have to pay for her.

Ohohohoh, and I finally figured out the bus routes so I saved a lot on cabs this year. I knew I could take the bus last year but for some reason, it seemed much more intimidating and I was hugely pregnant so my brain was like FUCK ALL NEW INFORMATION WE WILL CAB IT.

Regards to taxis, $96 of the cab fares were the trips to and from the airport.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?

That means I spent only $54 on cabs for my entire trip. With an 8-9 month old and three children 7 and under.

YOU WILL BOW DOWN BEFORE ME AND MY AWESOMENESS.

And on that note, I think I will end this post because really. How can I top that? I CANNOT.

Have a great weekend, folks!