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

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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.

I Cut My Kids’ Screen Time and This is What Happened

Ok. I apologize for the click-baity title but honestly, I think we are all allowed one or two of these every year as a writer.

Anyway.

Look. We all know I’m a terribly mediocre parent.

Despite the fact that I homeschool my two older children, I really don’t do much with the kids and let them watch a LOT of iPad because that’s easier than actually dealing with them. It’s especially more convenient when I’m trying to put Sasquatch down for a nap and I don’t want the other three to run amok and be assholes and scream and interrupt me and come into the room and piss me off because FFS YOU KNOW THE BABY IS TRYING TO NAP —

Deep Breaths.

At any rate, you get the idea. My kids got upwards of 4-5 hours a day on the ipad, XBox, TV, phone, etc. I mean, you name it, THEY WERE ON IT.

And despite me not really noticing that my kids were more asshole-ish than usual (many of my friends have told me their kids become steadily assholier the more screen time they have), I’m sure all that screen time was not good for their brains or their eyes.

Ahhhh… Their eyes.

Here is the real reason why I cut back on their screen time.

Last year, Cookie Monster (7.5) and Gamera (5.75) both had to get glasses and they have to wear them when on iPads or reading or doing homework. I was bummed but not surprised because GENETICS, but other than making them wear their glasses, I did not change their behavior.

Why?

BECAUSE I’M MEDIOCRE AS FUCK AS WELL AS LAZY, OK?

And even though I have an optometrist friend who REFUSES to let her kids have ANY screen time due to her legitimate fears of their vision going bad – I mean, she deals with BLIND PEOPLE (literally) for her JOB – I STILL did nothing.

Because WHY WOULD I CHANGE MY BEHAVIOR at much cost to my convenience?

Well, after we came back from Taiwan (where my kids were ALWAYS on the iPad) and we ran into some of our friends again, I found out that they had DRASTICALLY cut out almost ALL screen time and were down to thirty minutes a day.

I almost barfed at the forced interactions with my children this would enable.

But the reason they cut down the screen time so much was because their nine year old son’s vision jumped from -100 to -400 in less than a year. LESS THAN A YEAR.

In case you need this in layman’s terms, THAT IS REALLY BAD.

And this scared me.

I spent the better part of my childhood mostly blind, wearing huge coke bottle glasses, hating any sports participation due to fear of getting my face smashed in by a ball, dealing with sweat and glasses (the WORST), having no peripheral vision (making sports REALLY difficult), hating swimming because I couldn’t see, and hating the outside because of the glare from the sun.

Though I had LASIK 17 years ago (OMG, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO), I still have to wear glasses because I ruined my eyes again staring at computer screens and the iPhone in the dark. I mean, it’s nowhere NEAR as horrible (I was -925) but COME ON.

At any rate, I drastically cut down my kids’ screen time down to approximately 30 minutes on the iPad and then whatever TV I happen to watch (which isn’t very often).

Here’s what happened:

1) The kids rebelled. They’re still rebelling, a little bit.

Ok. The rebellion is a bit overstated. But they aren’t particularly happy about the restricted screen time – especially Glow Worm. Mostly because that is how I placated this child – with the iPad, his third parent. (I mean, YouTube taught him all his numbers, his letters, his colors, nursery rhymes and songs, and a ton of other things parents are actually supposed to teach their children.)

But I can deal with their grumbling because the longer I keep it up, the less they grumble. (And truthfully, I do give in to their grumbling a smidge – so that’s why I say APPROXIMATELY 30 minutes. What can I say? I’M WEAK.)

2) The kids are actually playing.

I mean, I know it’s super obvious. And I should have remembered that I have done this before. (Last year around this time, actually.)

But really! The children are actually playing. With our toys. With each other. With the baby.

And they’re funny. And fun.

I mean, they would occasionally play like this anyway, but it’s now for many hours every day now instead of every now and then.

For instance, the other day, the kids spent over an hour setting up several theaters of war between army men, dinosaurs, animals, and other toys. Then, Cookie Monster was busy fighting the battles. Gamera was selling concession stand snacks to the observers (Batman and Superman were watching from the doll house roof). Glow Worm was alternately playing waiter and grunt. Sasquatch was roaming the field randomly destroying things.

They have also played shockingly realistic live action MinecraftPlants vs. Zombies, and American Ninja Warrior. Sadly, it all involves beating the shit out of each other with their Minecraft foam swords and axes. And fists.

They are coloring and drawing and cutting and pasting stuff.

They’re playing with newly made play dough. (See? I can occasionally be fun.)

They have even brought out the board games to play with each other (and fight with each other).

They have spent an entire afternoon pushing Sasquatch around in a laundry basket up and down the upstairs hallway and then lifting him up like it’s a litter and calling him the king. (It is as cute as it sounds.)

They have also pushed him around in the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (and at high speeds!) and included Sasquatch in all their shenanigans as they pretended to work in a drive-thru restaurant and judged each other’s cooking.

They are having the childhood I imagined them having.

3) They go to bed much easier.

I mean, I knew all about that blue light nonsense interfering with their sleep sensors or whatever, but I never really did much about it. I just assumed my kids were dicks at bedtime because kids are dicks at bedtimes.

NOPE.

They’re not perfect. But I’ll take this relatively painless bedtime over the hell on earth it used to be.

4) Taking care of Sasquatch is much easier because now, the kids aren’t on the iPad so they are playing with each other and with him.

He’s like their own live doll.

5) I keep forgetting (more like actively not doing) a lot of their homeschooling because they’re having such a good time playing with one another. I feel like a jerk interrupting.

6) They are speaking more Chinese to each other.

OMG THEY ARE SPEAKING MORE CHINESE TO EACH OTHER.

Totally an unexpected side benefit!!

Even though I told the kids they could only watch Chinese videos on the iPad, I know they didn’t always do so. (In fact, they rarely did so.) And I didn’t enforce the rule because I was lazy. So simply by cutting down the iPad to 30ish minutes a day drastically cut down their English exposure.

Don’t get me wrong. They still mostly play together in English. But I swear, they played with each other for at least an hour in Chinese the other day. Yes, yes. There was also English mixed in, but OMG THEY PLAYED TOGETHER IN CHINESE. AND I DID NOT HAVE TO MAKE THEM!

7) In addition, Cookie Monster has actually picked up BOOKS when he’s bored and VOLUNTARILY read Chinese books. (Don’t get too excited – he can only read Chinese. He can’t read English.)

8) But most importantly, I realized that the kids don’t really get bored. Oh, sure. They will ask for the iPad or TV or whatever, and for awhile, I felt guilty that they weren’t getting in their favorite games to get better. But then, I came to my senses.

I SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT NOT LETTING MY KIDS PLAY AS MUCH VIDEO GAMES.

So now, I’m over it. And though they keep asking for the screen, they also aren’t really suffering over not having it.

I don’t know why I am always so worried that they’re not going to have fun without an iPad in front of their faces. I know in my brain that it’s ridiculous to have this worry. But nevertheless, I do.

It’s dumb.

And I really hope that I can stick to my guns and not get lazy and forget all about how awesome they are when they’re not zombies (unless, of course, they’re pretending to be zombies).

Do you severely restrict your children’s screen time? How is that working for your family? 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.

Suck It Up, August

Ok. I know I just posted for June/July, but I’m finally back on schedule for my posting and I don’t want to get behind again just because I recently wrote about it already.

SO TOO BAD.

Anyhow, criminy, August is over.

And despite being home for almost a month now, I STILL FEEL AS IF I HAVE ACCOMPLISHED NOTHING.

Blargh. But here we go again. How did I do?

1) Take family and personal health seriously.

What does that look like? I want to:

a) Cook at least 5 meals a week.

Now that Hapa Papa started yet another new job this month, he has been bringing me home dinner every week night. It is AWESOME.

However. It does play havoc with my motivation to make dinner for the rest of the family – but I still managed. We did eat out more than I liked, but I made a few super yummy Instant Pot dishes and I am satisfied enough. I would like to get back into the habit of making the kids eat fruit every day though. I definitely want to improve on that.

b) Be active once a week.

Welp. Back to my inert self. Maybe I should just remove this section for the sake of my diminishing self-esteem.

c) Wash face and brush teeth twice daily.

You guys. I HAVE STARTED WASHING MY FACE TWICE DAILY. The teeth thing is better, but not amazing. BUT I HAVE STARTED WASHING MY FACE TWICE DAILY.

I HAVE ALSO STARTED USING THE SUNSCREEN.

THIS IS AMAZING.

Okokokok. I will stop with the ALLCAPS. BUT COME ON!!!

d) Take vitamins and supplements.

I have been at about 40%. Maybe 35%. It really makes a difference in my daily energy levels so I REALLY need to get my act together.

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

I am still doing a reasonably good job on this. Although since I have started to write more and carve out more time for this, I have gone to sleep a little later. But usually by midnight.

I am still always tired.

f) No texting while driving.

Ummm… I am better… but not good. Still way too mediocre and casual with my precious cargo. BOOOOO.

2) Take my responsibilities as a grown up seriously.

Yes! I have been much better at it this month. I have been making a concerted effort to do at least 10-15 minutes of shitty adult work (such as sorting clothes, finally re-arranging the nursery into an office, the old office into the kids’ room, and the old kids’ room into the guest room).

Look! PICS. (Don’t judge. I did not prettify these rooms. It would just make me sad later.)

3) Write.

YES, AGAIN!! I killed it in the last half of the month. I carved out time in my week to write and it made a BIG difference to my mental well-being. Unfortunately, it was to the immense sadness of Sasquatch because he was stuck with Not!Mama! aka Hapa Papa but OH WELL, BABY. GET USED TO IT.

And since it was my birthday month, my gift to myself was a fake writing retreat where my buddies, Lizz Porter of More Than Thursdays and Michelle of Life In Training, hung out and wrote all day and then ended on a yummy note of a dinner and foot massage (not at the same time).

Alrighty. I know these posts are boring for everyone else but me, but I think they are a huge reason I have been able to make headway on the things I want to do this year.

Accountability really is key.

How have you been doing? Are you still on track to accomplish your goals for the year?

 

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!

The Liminal People: Book Review

If you’re a long time reader, you may remember me doing some posts on books in the past. I have wanted to do book reviews for a really long time, but always got intimidated by people who write lengthy reviews because honestly, as wordy as I am about other things, I am NOT wordy about book reviews.

However, now that I’ve gotten several months of 5 Minute Book Reviews under my belt, I’m a little more confident that I can write NON-Chinese related book reviews in this style.

Of course, this being my blog, I’m preferential to Regency Romance novels, speculative fiction, and women and people of color authors and main characters.

So, without further ado, I bring you the first series (because let’s face it, I read series) that I’m officially reviewing for myself.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Book:The Liminal People, Sequel(s):The Liminal WarThe Entropy of Bones

Author: Ayize Jama-Everett, an African American speculative fiction writer

Publisher: Self-published; Small Beer Press

Genre/Category: Speculative Fiction, Near Future Fantasy, POC Author, POC Main Protagonist

Summary: Kinda like if the X-Men were an all black (or black dominant) cast set in London and Morocco.

The Liminal People follows the story of Taggert, a man who has the power to hurt or heal people just by touching them. He finds out that his biological daughter is missing and he goes AWOL from his super-villain employer (who has unknown powers) to find her and keep her safe.

The Liminal War deals with the fallout of Taggert’s previous decisions as his adopted daughter now goes missing. Lots of mayhem and even more people with powers come out of the woodwork.

The Entropy of Bones is not a direct sequel, but is set in the same universe. We get the origin story of one of the side characters that show up to bail out Taggert and the crew in The Liminal War. (Full disclosure: I have not yet read this book. It is in the queue.)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: WOW! These books are action packed, exciting, and such a breath of fresh air.

Not because any of the tropes or plot points are particularly new or innovative but because the main characters are black or mixed race. And BECAUSE of the characters’ non-whiteness, their backgrounds, their ethnic communities and enclaves, and as a result, their MOTIVATIONS open up even MORE story options and possibilities and THAT is new and shiny.

SO FANTASTIC.

The color of the characters even change the rhythm and flow and timbre of the language – whether it is reflected in the actual dialog or just in the way the narrative is written.

Jama-Everett writes moving stories and I blasted through his books at a blistering pace. It helps that the books are more novella length and not the door-stoppers that I had been reading up until that point.

I WANT MORE AND MORE AND MORE.

Definitely recommend – especially if you love the X-Men or graphic novels featuring mutants and their powers.