Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 3

Taiwanese Camp 3

Sorry I have been slow with the updates. Between dealing with multiple barfy kids, tantrumming Glow Worm, and eating and napping, I have been sorely remiss.

Anyhow, better late than never, right?

Even though we are all finished with camp this summer, I hope I can still remember what happened last week. (This might not be the case but I suppose memory is a fuzzy thing and who exactly is going to contradict me?)

Author’s Note: As I have mentioned before, please do not ask me (whether in comments or private message) where my kids are attending school and camps. I am a big believer in internet safety and having been stalked before (an unpleasant and stressful experience to be sure), I am not keen on sharing where my kids go to school. If that is a problem for you, I don’t really care. If you ask, I will ignore you and if you repeatedly ask, I will block you.

Alright. Here we go! (Oh, and FYI, this is a very photo heavy post.)

Local Camp Experience #3

Photo courtesy of Camp.

Photo courtesy of Camp.

This week, Cookie Monster (6.5) returned to the camp he attended the first week and took a 創意魔術(chuang4 yi4 mo2 shu4/Magic Trick) class.

He said it was boring.

I’m a little disappointed but I think we encountered the same problem as last week’s tours. There is just a lot of talking and presenting by the teachers.

From what I gathered from their posted pictures, the teacher stands at the front of the class and teaches the trick, writes a lot on the board, and shows them the trick twice. Then they practice and try to show each other.

Let’s just say that Cookie Monster is NOT very good. But he tries! Here’s a video of one of the card tricks he learned.

So, I don’t know if he was actually bored or just is going through a phase where Taiwan is super boring because he can’t play Halo or Minecraft. Meh. I get it.

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Photo courtesy of Camp.

Despite his complaints, I think he had a reasonably good time, although the first class was his favorite. It seemed much more up his alley in terms of talking/listening/doing stuff ratio, as well as seemed more aligned with his interests.

Funny fact: when I first told Cookie Monster I signed him up for a magic class, my super logical little boy (I swear I have killed all the magic in him by telling him Santa and the Tooth Fairy, etc. are not real) sighed, looked at me sadly and said, “It’s not real, Mama. Magic isn’t real.”

Also, even though it’s his second week there and the teachers remember him, I guess the first class didn’t require as much reading and writing as this class. The teachers thought Cookie Monster didn’t understand what they were saying or couldn’t read or write Chinese/zhuyin because whenever they asked him, he just shrugged and smiled awkwardly.

What a faker.

Cookie Monster's Communication Book. He had to write out what they did that day and the important notes I am supposed to read and know for the next day.

Cookie Monster’s Communication Book. He had to write out what they did that day and the important notes I am supposed to read and know for the next day.

That kid will get away with murder with his awkward smile and shrug.

Anyhow, the teachers laughed when they realized he could so after that, they made him copy down what he learned from the board and write in his little communication book about what I needed to know for the next day.

Too bad they didn’t ask ME if I could read/write Chinese. Sigh.

Seriously, though. They didn’t. And if I had a hard time reading the teacher’s written Chinese, let me just say that it’s almost impossible for me to decipher Cookie Monster’s Chinese writing. I mean, he tried. And it IS legible. But he’s also 6.5 years old.

Nope. I figured if it was super important, the teachers would tell me in person.

Also, at the end of the week, the teachers were super sweet. They kept begging to take pictures with Cookie Monster and chatting with him. Asking him if he would remember them.

He just awkwardly smiled and shrugged.

They LOVED it.

I tried to explain that he can never remember their names. Ever. He has name/face blindness. (At least, that’s what I say to console myself. He will spend a year with a kid in class and never remember their name. But he will know all their likes, habits, and dislikes. Go figure.)

Anyhow, below is a slideshow of some pics from his camp as well as a few videos of his magic tricks. Cookie Monster has the tendency to tell how the trick works while he’s doing the trick (I think he also forgot some of the scripts), but it’s cute to see him try.

 

International School, Week 3

img_9635You would think after crying at drop off for two weeks straight, Gamera (4.75) would get tired of doing so. But, nope! She continued to cry – although there were two days where she didn’t and seemed happy to go to class.

The first day she didn’t cry was because Gamera has a friend at school now so she wants to copy her. The friend goes in without crying by herself and the teachers complimented her and gave a prize. So Gamera asked to go in by herself. I was like, OK!

The next day, she also happily went to class. Gamera says it’s because I packed her three snacks she liked instead of having her eat school snacks and her one friend in class can’t comment that she always brings pretzels.

I will take it as a win.

But of course, those days of happiness were short-lived and Gamera was back to crying and clinging to me at drop off.

She really doesn’t like one of her teachers which I find weird – and she says she likes Glow Worm’s teacher the most. I think it’s because although this teacher is kind and a good teacher, she doesn’t coddle Gamera and I guess she loves to be coddled and catered to.

Gamera's communication book. They list all the things and characters they learned as well as any notes we should know about.

Gamera’s communication book. They list all the things and characters they learned as well as any notes we should know about.

I would update on what they learn, but truthfully, I didn’t really find out what they did until the last day of school when they handed out their portfolios and art projects. All I knew was what I could decipher from their communication books.

Mostly, I just understood that they learned and repeated some songs, practiced a dance, and learned characters. They did these things for points, and Gamera earned a bunch of prizes which seemed to make her happy. (But not as happy as NOT going to school would have made her.)

Gamera showing me her locker where she puts her outdoor shoes and her back pack.

Gamera showing me her locker where she puts her outdoor shoes and her back pack.

Let’s see, some other random notes from the week: I knew something weird was going on with one of Gamera’s braids when we were heading home one night. Then, when I washed her hair that night, a huge clump came out. It was HUGE.

For some reason, the teacher always redoes her hair every day. I’m sure it’s because her braids got messy or whatever, but I asked them to stop. I don’t want her to lose any more clumps of hair and lice is a legit concern

Also, this week, there are two kids of Indian/Pakistani origin in Gamera’s class now. I think from Singapore? But maybe they are in a different grade. Is it wrong to hope so because they only speak English?

Gamera showing me the sweet potatoes she picked during her field trip.

Gamera showing me the sweet potatoes she picked during her field trip.

Additionally, just found out that Gamera is an idiot and hasn’t been eating the school lunch because she didn’t want to try new things. So she’s been STARVING LIKE AN IDIOT and crying about how the teacher doesn’t let her eat her snacks. She ate 6 rice crackers for the whole fucking day.

I told her I was also so sad she was hungry. And she needs to eat the food and take it even if she doesn’t like it because it makes me sad to hear she is hungry all day. So when I spoke to the teacher, it turns out that they try to encourage her to eat their food, but she doesn’t tell them she wants more snacks or that she doesn’t want to eat it and then ends up hungry.

The shuttle bus Gamera and Glow Worm were on. Well, different ones, but they looked the same.

The shuttle bus Gamera and Glow Worm were on. Well, different ones, but they looked the same.

A lot of the problems arise because Gamera doesn’t tell her teachers things (like when a boy was making fun of her and she told him to stop several times but he didn’t) but then blames the teachers for not knowing. I mean, I know teachers are supposed to be observant, but COME ON. That is completely unreasonable on Gamera’s part.

So, likely, her misunderstanding of what teachers are supposed to know and do and then the whole food fiasco contributes to her hating school.

The 地瓜 (di4 gua/sweet potatoes) Gamera and Glow Worm picked.

The 地瓜 (di4 gua/sweet potatoes) Gamera and Glow Worm picked.

Ah well. Girl’s gotta learn.

Anyhow, they also went on a field trip to pick 地瓜 (di4 gua/sweet potatoes) and she was so excited to show me her bag (as well as Glow Worm’s) and was very excited about the bus ride and told me all about sweet potato soup and demanded I make her some from her sweet potatoes.

Don’t know how to break it to her that the sweet potato soup is NOT happening in our kitchenette.

An excerpt from Glow Worm's communication booklet. He also has been learning songs, circling and recognizing characters, and listening to stories.

An excerpt from Glow Worm’s communication booklet. He also has been learning songs, circling and recognizing characters, learning a dance, and listening to stories.

As for Glow Worm (2.9), since last week Gamera was sick, it only seems right that Glow Worm caught it, too. I had hoped she had food poisoning – if only because then she shouldn’t be contagious.

Alas, I was so wrong.

Glow Worm barfed Saturday night all over our hotel bed. He may have barfed Sunday night in our apartment. And he ran a low-grade fever all weekend and throughout the week.

Of course, I still sent him to school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday because besides being cranky, he seemed fine to me. I wasn’t going to let a little malingering kill my $56/day of school.

Unfortunately, it seemed as if Glow Worm had totally regressed. I think he thought if he acts like a baby, he doesn’t have to go to school.

Their schedule for a week. They don't have field trips every Friday, but they had a few.

Their schedule for a week. They don’t have field trips every Friday, but they had a few.

He refused to walk. Refused to feed himself (even at school) when he used to do everything just fine by himself.

On the way to school, we would be ground to a halt because Glow Worm refused to walk and only wanted me to carry him – which was NOT happening.

When I finally convinced him to walk because he was too tired from crying, we rounded the corner for school and as soon as that happened, Glow Worm cried, “不要 (bu2 yao4/no want)!” and I had to carry him the rest of the way.

He was super clingy on the way to school before he broke down. I had thought he was finally listening to me and not running head first into an escalator. Nope.

At any rate, every day, he was coming home in changed clothes because he was super gassy and bloated and I suspected he was having acid reflux. So I tried to change up his diet, but he was miserable at school, and his poor teachers were stuck with multiple poop accidents and barf scares.

Glow Worm milking his day home with Mommy and using me as a couch. It was not comfy.

Glow Worm milking his day home with Mommy and using me as a couch. It was not comfy.

Finally, on Wednesday after lunch, they said he had a temperature and I had to go pick him up. Glow Worm was bloated and constipated all day and was off his feed. Poor little guy.

When I went to pick him up, Glow Worm was milking it. He was carried out by his teacher because he had fallen asleep.

I carried him to the taxi. Carried him upstairs to our apartment. As soon as we got in, he was too weak to take off his shoes by himself. Or wash his hands. Then, he saw the iPad. All of  a sudden, he was perfectly fine.

A Christmas miracle.

Glow Worm throwing one of his many daily tantrums. It's hard to have sympathy for a sick kid who miraculously heals for the iPad but then is an asshole the rest of the time.

Glow Worm throwing one of his many daily tantrums. It’s hard to have sympathy for a sick kid who miraculously heals for the iPad but then is an asshole the rest of the time.

Also, when I took him home after lunch, his teacher said Glow Worm wanted her to tell me he doesn’t want any more grapes. Apparently he used to love them, but not every day.

Now he opens it, sighs, and gets a sad disappointed look. Teacher said she would tell me and that he could also tell me. I laughed because Glow Worm can’t talk.

Incidentally, on our way back out to pick up Gamera and Cookie Monster, I accidentally discovered that Glow Worm could put on his own shoes.

I have been conned!

Glow Worm giving me a Pouty McPout face while we waited for Gamera at pick up.

Glow Worm giving me a Pouty McPout face while we waited for Gamera at pick up.

When I told his teacher about him knowing how to put on his shoes, she was like, duh. Every. Day.

She told him, “You have no more secrets!”

Glow Worm just pouted his Pouty McPout face.

This is all just to say that I still had to keep Glow Worm home on Thursday because he was so pissy and sick and feverish and babyish that I wanted to make sure he could attend the field trip on Friday.

Also, I suspected his low grade fever that kept appearing and disappearing was due to heat stroke since I’m personally very susceptible to heat stroke, so that night, I did 刮痧 (gua sha/Chinese scraping) with peppermint essential oil to help relieve the heat stroke.

Sure enough, the telltale red bruising and pinpricks showed up on baby boy. Next day, (his day home), no fever. I still had him stay home just in case. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a repeat of having to pick him up after lunch!

Glow Worm enjoying a 豆漿 (dou4 jiang/soy milk) delivered by the awesome Irish Twins who loves me and brought me Taiwanese breakfast at home.

Glow Worm enjoying a 豆漿 (dou4 jiang/soy milk) delivered by the awesome Irish Twins who loves me and brought me Taiwanese breakfast at home.

This is all just to say that I’m sure he learned stuff, but quite honestly, this week was exhausting and a blur and I never ever ever ever want to re-do it ever again. It was horrible and hard and awful.

So, in conclusion, this week was mostly a wash for Glow Worm (I think), and hopefully, Gamera and Cookie Monster learned stuff because that’s an awful lot of money to waste if no learning whatsoever happened.

But now you know that Taiwanese schools measure kids’ temperatures at the beginning of the day, after lunch/nap, and any time they feel it is warranted. And that their teachers are amazing and kind and really helpful with informing me of the particulars of Glow Worm’s eating preferences as well as knowing him on a level I never suspected he possessed.

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 2

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Welp, I’m a little late on last week’s update but I have a good excuse. We went to visit family in Kaohsiung this past weekend and I had no intention of lugging around my laptop (no matter how light).

If you missed last week’s update, you can find it here.

But anyhow, let’s get into last week, shall we?

Author’s Note: As I have mentioned before, please do not ask me (whether in comments or private message) where my kids are attending school and camps. I am a big believer in internet safety and having been stalked before (an unpleasant and stressful experience to be sure), I am not keen on sharing where my kids go to school. If that is a problem for you, I don’t really care. If you ask, I will ignore you and if you repeatedly ask, I will block you.

Local Camp Experience #2

A cup Cookie Monster decorated at camp. He said they were stickers and that they put something special on it. I think it's cute and practical!

A cup Cookie Monster decorated at camp. He said they were stickers and that they put something special on it. I think it’s cute and practical!

A bamboo water gun Cookie Monster made. it broke really quickly because there's a thick sponge in connected to the stick and it gets stuck and icky.

A bamboo water gun Cookie Monster made. it broke really quickly because there’s a thick sponge in connected to the stick and it gets stuck and icky.

This week, Cookie Monster (6.5) attended an outdoor day camp where they take a shuttle to a bunch of different cities and places for quick day trips. At first, I was incredibly dismayed because when I arrived, half of the 12 or so kids were busy chatting away in English. Turns out, half the class was from the US.

Blergh.

I swear I didn’t tell anyone else about the camp (as my friend who originally told me about the camp had asked me not to) but I guess word was out anyway.

Ah well. It happens.

Anyhow, I had already paid and we were already there so what was I going to do?

The leaders were very nice and again, took the time to learn about Cookie Monster’s food allergy to peanuts and learned how to use the Epipen. They made sure they understood not to give him snacks and for him to only eat the prepared food he brought.

A little sock doll Cookie Monster made.

A little sock doll Cookie Monster made.

They asked about other snacks and candy and I stressed that if they were absolutely sure there was no peanut content, he could try it. But otherwise, to just have him stick with his prepared food.

I left Cookie Monster with a strong admonishment to speak only in Chinese and he said he would. After I left, I realized that the majority of the US kids were older girls and I comforted myself with the thought that if Cookie Monster had the same “game” as Hapa Papa, we would be fine. Cookie Monster would likely never speak to them.

Turns out, I need not have worried. The teachers told me that Cookie Monster didn’t speak any English (although he did confess to me he spoke a little bit English) and that he had even made a friend. He’s the youngest in the class and was sitting by himself on the bus and an older boy sat next to him and befriended him.

A little cardboard car Cookie Monster made. It's obviously super easy, but still cute.

A little cardboard car Cookie Monster made. It’s obviously super easy, but still cute.

So thankful for that kinder, older boy.

By the end of the week, the teachers told me that Cookie Monster was a favorite and that the older students would look out for him, offer him their snacks (which he refused), and were in general, inclusive and kind to him. The pictures they took seem to show him having a great time.

(I would post their pics, but they have a watermark and I’m not inclined for folks to know where he attended camp – especially since he is going back next week.)

Cookie Monster showing off his chocolate creations with Gamera staring greedily in the background.

Cookie Monster showing off his chocolate creations with Gamera staring greedily in the background.

So, what did they do?

In my crude attempt at reading the Chinese itinerary, turns out I was totally wrong and misinterpreted things. SOB. Chinese is HARD, for realz! So, I am making use of The Google Translate and I’m sure there will be things lost in translation.

Sorry, folks. My Chinese literacy just isn’t up to par. However, in a few years, Cookie Monster can just read it to me. (Living the dream!)

They went to several different cities/counties (Tao Yuan, Yi Lan, New Taipei City, and Miao Li) to check out all sorts of different museums, farms, factories, etc.

Close up of the chocolates.

Close up of the chocolates.

They went to a Tomato/Fruit farms, an instrument museum, a vehicle museum, a ceramics factory, a tea plantation, and a chocolate factory (where they made their own chocolates out of plastic molds).

Each day, they would make at least one craft or take home some souvenir from the places they went. Cookie Monster made the aforementioned chocolates (which Gamera and Glow Worm enthusiastically consumed), sock dolls, had tattoos, and earned prizes for answering questions correctly.

Cookie Monster showed up after school one day with dragon tattoos and other stuff. Clearly I am an observant mother.

Cookie Monster showed up after school one day with dragon tattoos and other stuff. Clearly I am an observant mother.

Cookie Monster also said that they would play games on the long bus rides. His favorite was “Grenade” which is like the American game, “Hot Potato.” Whoever the “grenade” landed on would have to answer a personal question such as their favorite food or color.

When my mom saw the itinerary, she mentioned even she wanted to go. (That was basically the consensus of all the adults.) And yet, even with all this awesomeness, Cookie Monster preferred last week’s camp.

I think it’s because even though they’re seeing all sorts of stuff, the leaders must also talk a lot about what they’re seeing. And truthfully, Cookie Monster has a low tolerance for listening to information whether it’s in English or Chinese. (This definitely comes into play our third week of camp.)

Cookie Monster is spacey and likely just zoned out during all the talking. He’s totally Charlie Brown hearing adults talk.

The camp gave out prizes if you answered a question right and everyone laughed that Cookie Monster chose a fork. When asked why, he just awkwardly smiled and shrugged.

The camp gave out prizes if you answered a question right and everyone laughed that Cookie Monster chose a fork. When asked why, he just awkwardly smiled and shrugged.

Postcard of the chocolate factory. Thinking of possibly taking the kids there when Hapa Papa arrives. Maybe Cookie Monster can give us a tour.

Postcard of the chocolate factory. Thinking of possibly taking the kids there when Hapa Papa arrives. Maybe Cookie Monster can give us a tour.

International School Week 2

Gamera having The Sadz at lunch on her sick day.

Gamera having The Sadz at lunch on her sick day.

I’m beginning to think that Gamera just really doesn’t like conventional schooling. She constantly complains that the school is just too long and boring and that she wants Glow Worm’s teacher because she likes his teacher more and she doesn’t like her own teacher and why is the day so long? She wants her preschool teacher from home.

The thing is, every day, when I pick her up, she seems as if she’s had a happy and good day. So, really, I don’t know what’s going on. She even says that she misses me all day. (She said this last year, too. Sigh. I would believe her but she is extremely clever and manipulative.)

Glow Worm hugging Gamera on the MRT when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

Glow Worm hugging Gamera on the MRT when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

This week, I found out from Gamera’s teachers that they have a score board where they can earn points to redeem into gifts as they learn and remember Chinese characters as well as do other things. She leads the score board.

I told the teacher that it wasn’t fair. After all, Gamera already knows 800 characters. Having her “learn” really easy characters is not exactly a challenge.

However, the teachers say she is very helpful and earnest and encourages the other kids to get the right answers so she is fun to have in class. I also don’t know how much to believe this because Gamera used to give one of her Chinese preschool teachers shit whenever they taught her something she already knew. She would say, “I learned this already!”

Hives all over Gamera's face. This was before it got really bad.

Hives all over Gamera’s face. This was before it got really bad.

Sigh.

Well, one can only hope our children are better than they seem and that the teachers are being truthful. After all, one of my cousins mentioned that their son’s teacher (in Taipei) called their son a demon child. Now, that kid is a bit naughty, but I would never call him a demon child. I can’t believe a teacher would say that! So mean!

Also, Gamera started throwing up all over herself, the bed, and the sink on Thursday night. Like, nonstop throwing up. It was so sad. She was scared to lay down on the bed. In the morning, she also threw up some more. So, I had no choice but to keep her home from school on their field trip day.

Hives all over Gamera's arms. They got so bad and huge they turned into plaques.

Hives all over Gamera’s arms. They got so bad and huge they turned into plaques.

She didn’t seem too upset about it.

In fact, she seemed fine ALL DAY because she was iPadding it up. She rarely gets to play on it just herself because she has to share with Cookie Monster and he conveniently forgets to let her choose what to watch or play and she just ends up passively watching whatever he does.

I took her out to eat and when we got to the restaurant, my only child with ZERO allergies, burst out into hives all over her face and arms. There were so many that they turned into plaques.

Thankfully, I am always well-stocked in Benadryl melty tabs, but she refused to eat them. So much so that we made a huge scene at the restaurant with her crying, me telling her she has to eat this medicine, and we spilled water all over the table.

An older woman walked by and started telling her not to cry. (Seriously, WTF is with people being nosy and unhelpful and total assholes to me and my kids? My only non-comforting thought is that like attracts like and I must REALLY be an asshole to be attracting so many to me.)

Gamera finally got knocked out from Benadryl when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

Gamera finally got knocked out from Benadryl when we went to pick up Cookie Monster.

I told her to mind her own business and leave us alone. I am most appreciative of my utter lack of Chinese vocabulary to say things nicely. Because I am never nice. If I could figure out how to say, “Mind your own fucking business” in Chinese, I think my life would be complete.

Anyhow, Gamera finally calmed down enough to take the medicine when I told her the only other option was for me to give her a shot or she could eat her medicine. She ate the medicine. Then she told me she hated all the food and refused to eat it.

I was hungry so I ate the food instead. After awhile, she got over herself and ate a bunch and she declared it was all delicious.

Unfortunately, after we walked home, she promptly threw it all back up. Sob. I had hoped she was getting better. But I guess it reinforced the decision to stay home.

All three of the kiddos on the way home from school.

All three of the kiddos on the way home from school.

Sigh.

As for Glow Worm, he got a little bit better about school, but was still whimpering and all teary eyed and sad when we got to school. He often put on a brave little face but for the most part, drop off was still so heartbreaking.

He is so small.

Glow Worm’s teachers told me that he’s really good at character recognition and is a sweet and cute little boy in class.

However, I think their main complaint is that he refuses to poop at school. Or, at least, refuses to poop in the toilet.

An accurate portrayal of how we all feel at the end of the day.

An accurate portrayal of how we all feel at the end of the day.

The teacher will tell me that she can tell he needs to poop and as she is asking him if he needs to poop and he says, “No” that he makes eye contact and then poops in his pants.

He’s totally Revenge Pooping.

I swear he’s potty trained. He hasn’t pooped his pants since starting potty training! Sigh.

I think he doesn’t like the group bathrooms at the school. It doesn’t seem dirty, but how can a school bathroom really be “clean”?

Every time I mention to him that he needs to tell his teachers he has to pee or poop, he just looks me in the eye and says, “不要(No)!”

Ass.

He went to their school field trip and they had a lot of fun playing on the playgrounds and was totally wiped out. This school does NOT joke around when it comes to transportation.

Glow Worm's tour bus rolling up to school. Baller!

Glow Worm’s tour bus rolling up to school. Baller!

Alright, that’s really it to report on this week. Hope it was helpful and continues to give you more insight into the types of school and camps in Taiwan.

Notes and Nonsense

Welp, it’s been a few days since I last posted and honestly, I really only have a random collection of thoughts to write. My brain is mush due to the heat and also, all the blood rushes from my brain to my basketball sized stomach in order to process all the food I am eating in the early hours of the day.

I know. You feel so bad for me.

If it helps, I barely eat dinner (if at all) because I am just too full. Also, eating with my children present always ruins my day.

Anyhow, here then, are a collection of some of my thoughts and observations as I walk around randomly on the streets of Taiwan. If you are friends with me In Real Life on Facebook, some of these may sound familiar.

Hey, I never said I was an Original.

Alright, here we go:

1) There really are a shit ton of people here. I mean, holy shit. There are a LOT of people here.

2) I really don’t understand how anyone can wear anything other than loose fitting clothing or linen here. Why do people wear jeans or jeggings or anything that is dark, heavy, makeup, and anything at all related to hosiery? (Admittedly, some of the women may not have a choice in the matter.)

FFS, every day after I walk my kids to school, my chest is COVERED in sweat. Not to mention just my chest. I just happen to notice my chest because when I look down, it looks like someone took a spray bottle and sprayed my chest with water.

I never realized my chesticles made CONDENSATION.

This happens in my loose fitting cotton maternity dress and pixie cut.

How do people have long hair here? Not to mention long hair that isn’t worn UP in braids or buns or ponytails?

I am baffled.

If I lived here full time, I would just look like some fucking bald hippy because OMG THE HEAT.

3) Despite the bjillion people here, everyone is really polite. People queue up to go up and down escalators like schools of efficient fish. They’re quiet, clean, and very kind and helpful.

Especially the women.

There are signs all over the place to give up your seat to the infirm, the old, the visibly pregnant, and people with small children.

Inevitably, I am always offered seats from women and old folks who look just as tired as I feel.

The young and male population? Noticeably absent.

Before we Americans get on our high horse, I have to say that I find women in America a lot more helpful than men, too.

I don’t know if it’s because women are used to caring for others and/or men are just self-absorbed, entitled twats. (Probably both.)

And before I get the MRAs up in a tizzy, as well as my considerate male friends all mad, don’t get mad when it’s fact, ok? If it didn’t happen so regularly for me to notice on multiple occasions, both during this foray to Taiwan and my previous ones, I wouldn’t point it out.

I don’t EXPECT people to give up their seat for me. But it’s kind. And I have also given up my seat to old people or other people who look as if they could use the seat more than I do.

Chill out.

4) Some of the best parts of my day are when I run into the promotional ads (which are HUGE) for 寒戰2 (Cold War 2). Mmmm. Aaron Kwok. How did I not know about you?

Yes, please. And Thank You.

Oh, and you’re WELCOME.

5) Incidentally, I think I somehow got one of my aunties to agree and watch the movie with me. We have no idea what it’s about or if it’s any good. I just want to stare at Aaron Kwok.

6) Also, also? I don’t know how women my age can lust after young men. I mean, I get it. Equal opportunity objectification, et al. But seriously, I feel creepy looking at any men under the age of 30-35. They look like children, FFS.

Give me a man in his late 30s and 40s any day. Mmmmm.

7) The other day, I saw a group of attractive young men in their mid-twenties walking around with girls their age. I realized that I will NEVER be attractive to that group of men ever again.

I’m not sad or upset or anything.

It’s just startling.

Like, oh shit. I’m no longer a hot young thing and have zero wish to be.

8) I always forget how diverse Taiwanese people actually are in terms of looks, height, noses, eyes, sizes, everything. We are not just what is depicted in the media – some uniform “Asian” face. We do not look the same.

9) Along these lines, possibly because there are just a ton of people around, I see a lot of folks with mild “disabilities” around. Whether they are lacking limbs, have limps, or have more severe physical differences, it’s nice to see them walking about and behaving like regular normal people.

Because guess what? They are regular, normal people.

I like that my kids see them, have questions, and I tell them that people come in all sorts and that they are people, too. They look different, but have loves and hates and likes and dislikes and feelings.

I don’t know if it makes a difference in my kids’ minds, but I hope it does.

10) I LOVE air conditioning.

11) I find myself often mentally praising the Lord or thanking Jesus for the little things like a surprise breeze, or overcast skies, or anything that makes the misery of being outside more tenable.

I wonder if my comfortable life makes me less amenable to gratefulness. After all, I am rarely in a position of discomfort – so I rarely have to think about being grateful for “small” things.

12) The internet is fantastic. Especially when traveling in a foreign country.

13) I use Pleco, a Chinese dictionary, almost as often as I use Google Maps so I often accidentally pull up Pleco instead of Google Maps to look up directions. Seems legit.

14) Also, plenty of idiots in Taiwan, too. No shortage, here.

I don’t know why I find that both slightly surprising as well as disappointing.

Come on, my people. You are supposed to be better than this. (I kid, I kid.)

15) My current trip isn’t even halfway over yet (although almost) and I’m already planning on my trip for next summer. Hapa Papa doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s going to agree.

Alright. All randomly observated out. See you soon!

Chinese Progress, Update 1

We have now been in Taiwan about 11 days (give or take depending on time change and traveling into the future via plane) and surprisingly, I’ve already seen signs of improvement in the kids’ Chinese.

Here then, are several of my meandering thoughts and observations (backed by zero science or discrete measurements and is merely a collection of my inaccurate and optimistic musings).

1) Cookie Monster now speaks mostly Chinese – even to me. Yes, I realize that he’s supposed to be doing that anyway, but that hasn’t really happened in awhile. I always have to remind him. But now, I rarely have to remind him. He is so used to speaking Chinese that he doesn’t even think twice about speaking it to me.

Plus, his vocabulary and breadth is expanding. He will even explain what he was learning or doing at camp in mostly Chinese.

How I know Chinese immersion is working. Cookie Monster keeps saying, “我的媽啊!” (Wo3 de5 ma ah!/Oh my gosh!)

They also keep saying “太可怕啦!” (Tai4 ke3 pa4 la4!/That’s so scary!)

I find these random statements hilarious. The kids have incorporated these common phrases into their Chinese toolkit (even if they’re not sure exactly what it means, they know when to use it correctly).

2) Glow Worm is hard to gauge because he wasn’t really talking much in the first place but always understood everything I said in Chinese. However, he is starting to repeat more and more words in Chinese as well as use Chinese more often. Again, it is hard to say, but I think his Chinese is improving.

3) Gamera’s Chinese was always the most fluid and fluent so I don’t see much difference except in her consistency. She now speaks to me more often in Chinese and explains long complicated scenarios to me all in Chinese. I can only assume she is also increasing her vocabulary and breadth.

4) Of course, their language of play amongst themselves is still in English, but I hear more and more Chinese non sequiturs and exclamations than before.

They have been playing with my cousin’s son on the weekends, too, so that is definitely mostly all in Chinese.

5) Further evidence that nonstop Chinese TV in the background is still better than nothing. (Even when the kids are barely paying attention and are on their iPads – they still will stop iPadding if they see or hear something interesting on the TV. My kids clearly are going to have focus problems in the future. But their Chinese will be awesome!)

On the kid channels (we’re permanently stuck on either YoYo TV or Momo TV), they will play random songs or have dance numbers with major cartoon characters in them. My kids will now dance along to the ones they’ve seen before (in fact, Gamera tells me one of the dance numbers they learned at school) or sing along or all of a sudden when they’re playing.

Current fave: 捏泥巴,捏泥巴,捏捏捏捏 捏泥巴。(nie ni2 ba, nie ni2 ba. Nie nie nie nie, nie ni2 ba/Squish the mud, Squish the mud. Squish squish squish squish, Squish the mud.)

Here’s a video of Gamera and Glow Worm dancing along to the songs. If you look at the reflection in the glass, you can see what they’re trying to copy.

The other side effect that I did not expect is that apparently, the kids understand more than I give them credit for. There is a toothpaste commercial that comes on a lot that details pores/holes in our teeth and how that is bad and the toothpaste heals the tiny holes or whatever. (See, even I am not quite clear on what they are actually saying.)

Anyhow, when the commercial came on, Cookie Monster proceeded to tell me all about the tiny holes in the teeth and Gamera continued telling me how the toothpaste heals all the holes. They told me this all in Chinese.

Propaganda and commercials clearly work. Whoooo! I don’t even mind the indoctrination!

So really, I should see if I can subscribe to Chinese programming on cable or just have Chinese stories on in the background of their daily lives. The noise might kill me.

According to Nurtureshock by Po Bronson, that would only work because the kids already understand Chinese. If they didn’t, the kids would just tune the sound out because their brains process Chinese as gibberish. So if your kids aren’t already fluent, this option is unlikely to do them much good.

6) I am starting to ask Cookie Monster to read more and more signs and instructions geared to kids that include zhuyin. He is more and more willing to do so out of a desire to do things.

For example, we were at a kids’ science museum and they had computer games with Chinese and zhuyin instructions that he really wanted to play so he read.

He wasn’t happy about it, but he did it.

7) Turns out both Cookie Monster and Gamera can read and recognize more Chinese characters than my cousin’s son who is turning six in a few months. That’s not surprising because my goal is to front load their reading comprehension as much as possible before they succumb to the ease and ubiquity of English.

I obviously don’t expect this “being ahead” to last. Besides, my nephew is in English immersion school so he is learning English and is on somewhat the reverse trajectory.

Sidenote: No one has mentioned or commented or been surprised my kids can speak and/or understand Chinese. I think they think my kids are likely from America, but no one is thinking they are mixed. And before you say they’re too polite to comment, you clearly don’t know how blunt Taiwanese people are – or how overtly racist/colorist.

Anyhow, the main bonus of this is that no one is practicing their shitty English on my kids and ruining the whole point of coming back to Taiwan in the first place.

Trust me, this happens ALL the time to folks who bring their kids back from the US. The very people (aka: family) who give you shit about your kids not being fluent enough in Chinese will be speaking to your kids in super crappy broken English when it’s been made very clear that a) you brought your kids back to improve their Chinese and b) your kids UNDERSTAND and SPEAK Chinese. </rant>

Alright, I think that is it for now. I hope you found this interesting even though it has no real bearing on your own children’s progress. But perhaps it can give you an idea of what to expect or hope for should you bring your kids back to Taiwan for camp and Mandarin immersion.

Did you take (or have you taken) your kids back to Taiwan or China? Is this similar to your experience? (Obviously, a lot depends on starting fluency, but surely some things are transferable.) Let me know in the comments.

Have a great weekend!

Taiwanese Camp Update, Week 1

Taiwanese CampAs many of you know, one of the primary reasons I homeschool my children is for them to retain their Chinese language when they hit Kindergarten age. It is common knowledge that most kids, though fluent in Chinese before starting preschool or any type of full time schooling, will immediately start to lose their fluency and prefer English almost to the exclusion of Chinese.

Thus, I homeschool to prevent as much of that language loss as possible. Though not the ONLY reason I homeschool, it is one of my top reasons. Language loss is inevitable, I understand. We do, after all, live in America. But in general, I try to stem the tide as much as I can.

Anyhow, the main reason I come back to Taiwan during the summer rather than the cooler (and more palatable) months in the winter is because of the plethora of summer programming for kids. Whether I want local camps or camps geared towards overseas kids, I have a multitude of choices. If I come back at any other time, there really aren’t as many options. And I am a firm believer in options.

Author’s Note: As I have mentioned before, please do not ask me (whether in comments or private message) where my kids are attending school and camps. I am a big believer in internet safety and having been stalked before (an unpleasant and stressful experience to be sure), I am not keen on sharing where my kids go to school. If that is a problem for you, I don’t really care. If you ask, I will ignore you and if you repeatedly ask, I will block you.

Local Camp Experience #1

Cookie Monster and his fellow campers having their bug robots fight. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

So, as many of you know, Cookie Monster is enrolled in several different local camps so that he can learn Chinese while doing fun things (instead of a formal schooling environment). He can only do this because he is fluent in both Chinese comprehension as well as speaking.

Otherwise, I would likely enroll him in classes geared towards overseas kids because I find it cruel to throw him in an environment that is so utterly foreign. (But again, I recognize that is my personal opinion and if you choose to do something differently, more power to you!)

Anyhow, this week, he’s enrolled in a 玩具總動員 (wan2, zhu4 zong3 dong4 yuan2) Toy Assembly Camp through a local group. The kids meet at a local college/university (along with many other camp groups – who knew there were so many? My Google Fu is clearing lacking. Also, my Chinese reading skills suck.) and he is having a fantastic time.

Kids eating the lunch provided by the camp. If you squint and zoom really hard, you’ll find Cookie Monster in the top left quadrant. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

My only gripe was that they sent a “packing list” a little late for me to have brought the supplies from home so I had to scramble and go buy them last minute. They ask students to bring a bowl and utensils for the provided lunch, but since Cookie Monster brings all his own snacks and food due to food allergies, it is not an extra burden. But the last minute list is a small thing to be annoyed about (and it was also expected).

Also, I was very pleased that the leaders/teachers seemed fine with Cookie Monster’s epipen, my instructions, and concerns. They gamely listened and learned how to use the epipen so I was happy. I’m not concerned because Cookie Monster is very good about not eating things that I haven’t pre-approved.

Cookie Monster showing off his plane and propeller. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

Oh, and they do have a nap time/rest period after lunch which I find puzzling. I can’t believe kids 6+ are napping, but since Cookie Monster doesn’t nap, I suppose it’s good for him to learn to be quiet and just rest and be still. Lord knows that is something that he could learn to do more often.

We usually show up early and sign in at their little temporary info desk and then a teacher/leader will take a group of kids up at a time. There are about 10-12 kids in each class at this location and they sit in little lecture halls with big tables.

Close ups of the robot bug Cookie Monster made.

From my understanding (and from pictures), they combine all the little classes together for group times of eating, activities, and random songs and fun bonding things. Then, at the end of the day, the teacher/leader will take each class downstairs to the main lobby where us parents pick up and then take them home to repeat it all again.

It’s quite handy and of all my kids, Cookie Monster is having the most fun. Partly because he is older (6.5yo) and used to going to all sorts of classes by himself (I know, I homeschool. But I outsource. A lot.) And partly because his “class” is building toys.

It also helps that his friend from home is also in the class with him. From the pictures the camp is posting on Facebook, they seem to be having a great time.

Cookie Monster and fellow campers throwing sticky balls at soda bottles. (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

According to Cookie Monster, his favorite part is snack time. sigh But he also enjoys all the activities – especially when they take balls and throw it at stuff. Whether some improvised version of skeeball and they have to throw into small pots from a distance, or if it’s taking balls to knock over bottles of soda. (Actually, not sure if that’s what is actually happening. I might have to check with Cookie Monster’s friend for an accurate assessment.)

Cookie Monster showing off his boat. It even floats! (Photo courtesy of the camp.)

And even though we are not officially in a language learning class, Cookie Monster’s Chinese is already improving. From the pics, he doesn’t really do much group participation in terms of answering questions or singing songs, but just from getting along with the rest of his classmates, his goofy little self (and I assure you, as you will see from the pics, goofy is the correct term) is picking up and getting used to speaking in Chinese predominantly.

Clockwise from Top Left: sailboat with propeller; front view of a wind propelled walking contraption; side view of contraption

This is happening even despite him still watching English YouTube at the start and end of his day. So, I am pleased. (And disinclined to take away English media and force them to watch Chinese cartoons that even I find annoying.)

So, Camp 1 is a success! Unfortunately, we missed out on the last day of this camp due to Typhoon Nepartak coming into town (although as of this writing, a sum total of NOTHING has happened).

We will be back at this same group for a different camp in two weeks. Next week, we will be at some fancy outdoor camp. From my poor Chinese deciphering, they are going to a tea farm for one of the days. Sounds awesome to me.

Here are some videos of what he made this week:

International School Week 1

First day of school.

If you’re following along my Taiwan Trip 2016 adventures, you know that I’m trying really hard not to yell or nag Gamera to hurry up already in the morning because she her super power is sloth-like behavior and her villains are defeated from dying of old age.

My resolve not to yell at Gamera lasted about 45 minutes this morning. She really does push all my buttons. I was fine until she refused to wear the school issued pink/green polo because it is ugly (and she’s right!). However, ugly or not, the school asked us to put the kids in them every Tuesday and Thursday and Field Trip day.

The school issued pink/green polos Gamera hates.

The school issued pink/green polos Gamera hates.

Sucks for me because I have to do laundry a lot.

Good for me because finding them something to wear on Tuesday and Thursday is one less thing for me to think about. (Not that there is much to think about since I only brought 7 outfits for the kids and Gamera selected which clothes so she is happy with whatever I choose – except, the ugly pink/green school polo, of course.)

Anyhow, today was the first day the kids had to wear the polo since they gave it to us. She refused to wear it. I had to bribe her with chocolate.

Then, she refused to go to the bathroom because she didn’t want to see herself in the mirror. sigh

This is the shit I have to deal with from her, people. I mean, WHAT THE HELL? I told her to either close her eyes or close the door so she can’t see the mirror. She threw a mini-tantrum.

Finally, I told her I don’t care if she goes to the bathroom or not, but since she usually poops in the morning before school, she can poop and pee on the sidewalk on the way TO school, or she can poop and pee AT school. Her choice. I didn’t care. It wasn’t my body.

That did the trick.

We finally got out the door but then she was being pissy and throwing attitude and walking SOOOOOOO SLOOOOOOOOOWLY. To be fair, she is normally this slow. As I have mentioned before, her name really should be Hurry Up, Gamera!

All in all though, it was still better than before because I wasn’t nagging the kids to hurry and making them walk fast (except when crossing the street). Glow Worm even peed in the gutter of a sidewalk. (Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Boys and penises, FTW!)

Gamera and Glow Worm waiting for Cookie Monster to get out of camp.

So, even though at the end of the day when I pick up Glow Worm and Gamera, they seemed to have had a happy day from both their countenances and their teachers’ reports. Gamera usually blathers on to me about her day and Glow Worm is just so excited to see me and be in a YELLOW CAR (what he calls taxis) that it’s adorable and sweet and Glow Worm just can’t stop touching me or hugging me or snuggling me because he missed me and then says the yellow car is FUN.

However, dropping them off in the morning is another story altogether.

When we round the corner to the street his school is on, Glow Worm approaches the gate to his school like a criminal on the Green Mile. Brave, but totally not liking it.

Then, today, he started crying out, “Yellow car! Yellow car!”

It was both so sad and hilarious.

At least when we came to the main gate, he didn’t pull a frozen dog refuses to get into the car move on me like he did yesterday. Still, I had to pick him up and instead of weeping the ENTIRE way like yesterday, he just held onto me until I handed him to his teacher.

Incidentally, apparently baby boy eats a lot. I guess all this heat, walking, and school makes Glow Worm a VERY hungry boy. His teacher mentioned that the first few days, he would finish his lunch and look at his teacher with big sad eyes asking for more food. They would usually give him more fruit. But yesterday, I happened to pack enough.

God bless my favorite eater.

Anyhow, I have to pack him more food like I did yesterday. It occurred to me that both he and Cookie Monster are endlessly hungry at dinner so maybe something about school is good for their appetites. All that “learning.”

As for Gamera, she started crying as soon as we turned the corner onto the school’s street until hand off. Her teacher says she stops crying and is happy as a clam as soon as she finishes off her pretzel snacks that I pack for her in the morning. (I thought that was just an extra snack for her if she didn’t like her school snack!)

Apparently, she is MORE than fine, and is super happy and delightful after eating her pretzels on the couch. So much so that I wonder if this crying bit is an elaborate ploy to get pretzels early. I wouldn’t put it past her. She is very sneaky.

This is all just to say that though my kids seem to be enjoying school and learning stuff (Gamera tells me of the stories or songs they’re learning), it is not nearly as fun as what Cookie Monster is doing. (Which also reinforces my decision to NOT enroll him in the same International school even though that would have been much cheaper in terms of transportation as well as easier in terms of logistics.)

This school doesn’t seem to post a bjillion (actual number) pictures so I really don’t have any of the kids during their school time. But in general, though Gamera and Glow Worm are in different classes, the stories and general flow is very similar.

Like most preschools in the US, they sing songs, tell stories, learn some sight words (Chinese characters) that pertain to the stories, and they play a lot. Seems fun to me!

Again, the school packing list was sent out a little late for my personal taste, but I also didn’t open it in a timely manner. Because this is a preschool, they are supposed to pack extra clothes (which Glow Worm has already made use of since he has decided to start napping for 1.5-2 hours a day – much to my annoyance at bed time, but whatever, he’s still sleeping relatively earlier than he used to).

They also need to provide a bowl and utensils (again, not a problem for Glow Worm since I am packing all his food due to food allergies); blankets/pillows/sleeping bags for nap time – this I did NOT provide because I’m not buying bedding in Taiwan that I am only using for 4 weeks; and a communication book.

That communication book threw me for a loop because we do not have anything like that in the US. Turns out the school provides the book and they write in what the kids learned that day as well as any concerns or reminders they want to give to the individual parent or kid. You can also write in the book with any of your non-emergency concerns.

Who knew that I would ALSO have to improve my Chinese reading in order to hang with my kids? I thought this was an international school! Why is every communication in Chinese? LOLSOB. Oh, because we are in Taiwan. Sigh.

Anyhow, Glow Worm is just bursting with talking – both in English and Chinese and he is super excited about everything. And gracious, he is a super extrovert. Not sure if his Chinese is improving because (2.85) again, he only recently started talking, but I can only imagine that his Chinese comprehension is upping because that is all he hears every day at school.

As for Gamera, her Chinese was always very good and while I haven’t seen any marked improvement, I’m pleased that she is keeping up and still speaks a lot of Chinese to me (more so than before).

Ok. That was quite a blathery update with both germane and non-germane information. But hopefully, it gives you a glimpse of what school is like here in Taiwan – at least for the summer.

If you’re also here in Taiwan for the summer, I’m curious as to your experiences, too. Let me know in the comments.

Until next time!

Sleep? Who Needs Sleep?

So, I spoke too soon in my last post. I thought that since my kids usually sleep 10 hours a night, I would be in the clear having them sleep at 7pm. Waking up at 5am was perfectly cromulent in my book.

But, I forgot Gamera was still coughing a lot and she woke up herself and Cookie Monster at 3:30am. Thus, Glow Worm is my current favorite child because he slept 12 hours and is the only one of us completely switched over.

I was an idiot and after sleeping four solid hours, woke up from Gamera’s coughing and never went back to sleep because Facebook FOMO is apparently a real thing in my life and every time I was about to finally fall asleep, Gamera would have a coughing fit I would attend to with essential oils. It worked most of the time, but it’s a somewhat shorter term effect than say, codeine. So needless to say, when I picked up my phone at 11:30pm, I chose poorly.

Although, after a few nights of kids going to bed early and then waking up at 3:30 or 4:30am, they have now settled into going to bed around 8pm and then waking around 6am. Unfortunately, Glow Worm seems to be napping at school (shakesfist) so it makes him sleep later – closer to 9 or after, but I guess all in all, still earlier than when they were sleeping back in the US.

I know. Utterly fascinating treatise on my children’s sleep habits.

I, too, have been much better about sleeping longer hours and am no longer as FB FOMO-y.

So, here’s the weird thing. I thought I would have all this free time and be all refreshed and everything, but I’m not! I’m still exhausted at the end of the day. I forget how the heat just saps the strength and will to live out of me and by 8pm, I’m done.

The mornings are frantic as I get the kids ready and cajole and nag Gamera because she really is the slowest human on earth. But I realized this morning that I need to take my own advice that I gave a friend, recently, and just STFU because we’re still getting to Gamera and Glow Worm’s school about 15-20 minutes early, and I just don’t need to be so mean and yelly at my baby girl.

I always forget that she is still very small and when I yell at her, she gets more and more insecure at school and becomes less of who she is. Normally, she is very independent and secure and doesn’t care what other people think or do. But when I yell at her right before school (mostly for her to hurry up. I swear, sometimes, I think her full name is Hurry Up, Gamera!), she becomes more insecure and tends to follow the crowd more – even if she doesn’t like it.

Anyhow, this is all just to say that I need to chill out.

Y’all will have to remind me and check in on me. This is very difficult, this shutting up business.

Then, when we get home around 5:30pm, there is a mad rush to eat dinner, bathe (because OMG you HAVE to bathe everyday because it is so hot and sticky and gross and YUCK) and prep tomorrow’s lunch for Cookie Monster and Glow Worm and then go to bed.

I usually have the kids zone out to iPad even though I told myself they should watch local TV. But I figured, after a full day of perhaps understanding 80-90% Chinese, maybe it’s ok if they watch Pat and Jen’s Minecraft Channel in English for an hour.

And then, Gamera coughs all night (although the episodes are getting fewer) and I have to wake up and pee every hour. And then we start anew in the morning.

Since it’s Wednesday afternoon here already, I think I’ve started to get into a pretty good rhythm. I’m bummed my cousin left to go back to Kaohsiung because it was SUPER handy to have him bring dinner while I got the kids ready for bed. But I guess I can do this grown up thing by myself.

On top of the heat sapping the life blood out of me, the mosquitos literally are sucking the life blood out of me. I had meant to bring bug spray of the industrial DEET variety since Not Another DB MBA gave me two BOXES (still bitter about being tricked) but I forgot them. So I only had my essential oil sprays. sigh

Look, I’m all for natural shit and essential oils and everything (I’m known to say, “There’s an oil for that” at almost any occasion – my friends are saints), but ONLY if they work. And for me, the Terrashield by DoTerra is NOT working. (It’s working pretty well for my kids, but not for me.)

I have always been everyone’s favorite bug repellent because when I’m around, mosquitos will bite me. Well, perhaps my pregnant blood is now even MORE delicious because I swear, I look like I recently had the measles.

I’m covered in welts (especially my legs and knees and calves and thighs and EVERYTHING IN THE LOWER EXTREMITIES) and I have been scratching because I’m too tired and hot to find the lavender roll-on I made that works really well against itching but SO HARD TO GET BECAUSE SO TIRED.

Even after Irish Twins gave me her 40% DEET bug spray and I liberally sprayed all over myself (and choked on the fumes), I still got bit. Lots. And then, somehow, more bites showed up when I woke up. Maybe there’s a really well-fed mosquito stealth-moding in my room. BASTARD.

I pretty much need to put myself under industrial strength pesticides (you know, the kind that shouldn’t touch your skin or any part of your body you would like to not twitch or foam) and roll around in the death juice because OMG, I hate mosquitos.

At least my children haven’t really been food. (Gamera has one bite, but that’s it.)

Hapa Papa is sending the bug spray and my hat (that I also forgot) with a friend when they come this Sunday so hopefully, my bites will no longer be an issue.

Add to this that my children have really heavy backpacks (mostly Glow Worm and Cookie Monster because the fancy bento boxes I got them are heavy but keep their food warm/cold since the schools have no refrigeration or microwaves) and that I end up carrying them for the kiddos during the long walk from the MRT to the schools, and all the groceries I carry or food I have to bring home, or the water I’m lugging around, I’M EXHAUSTED.

Did I mention that I’m hugely pregnant? Or huger than I was (thanks to all my constant eating).

Anyhow, I think that’s it for now. I have a bunch more posts in my brain but I have been lazy and lounging and quite frankly, enjoying doing nothing more than occasional grocery shopping and food prep, and eating. Lots and lots of eating.

Don’t worry. I will do a food post soon. (Be warned though, I suck at taking food pics and describing food taste. But I will try and be diligent about what restaurants I ate at and what I ordered.)

See you soon!

Entry is Hard

Ok. That sounds way more provocative than this post actually is. Also? That’s what she said!

I know. I’m twelve. But you all knew that already so really, it’s your own fault for not expecting it.

Anyhow, we made it to the Taiwan and are mostly settled into our apartment. It’s very spacious and modern and has all new amenities and I’m a big fan of the clean, modern look. Too bad my kids are going to ruin it but oh well. Them’s the breaks.

While prepping for the trip (as well as during the traveling portion), I kept hearing that I was so brave or whatever, but let me just set the record straight (as well as show you how I have utterly failed in the first 24 hours of our trip so far).

I am not brave. Just determined. And committed. (Because thousands of dollars have literally been paid at this point, so what else can I do even if I don’t want to do it?) And also incredibly deficient in the memory department.

Also? I have lots of help. Some solicited, some not so much. But all of it has been helpful! (Even when I have to grit my teeth and be thankful when I’m not.)

Anyhow, I guess what I mean is that I’m not Super Mom or Super Woman (but perhaps, Super Stupid) and here are just some of the thoughts and things that have happened in the past few days.

1) Even though I made this same trek two summers ago (and an easier version of it a year and a half ago), I was still apprehensive. I mean, I was certainly LESS frightened and terrified than I was in 2014.

But still, lots of new variables this year such as traveling alone with three kids while 5-6 months pregnant. (I know, I know. I still have no idea exactly how pregnant I am. Sorry!)

Plus, we were staying in a new area and going to new schools and camps and living by ourselves instead of with friends. Lots of new things despite me having done it before (which, don’t get me wrong, helped a LOT).

2) Gamera woke up the morning of the flight with a deep, yucky sounding cough. I was hoping it was just a minor thing, but it has now progressed from a nasty cough to a nasty cough with a fever. Poor baby girl.

My mom and aunt of course freaked out and for a brief moment, I worried she had strep throat. But thanks to Dr. Google and its accompanying images, I don’t think she does. If she’s still miserable after a few days, of course, I will take her to the doctor. That should also be an adventure. Sigh.

3) Our flight was delayed a little over an hour. Obviously, no one enjoys a flight delay – but people with small children REALLY do not enjoy flight delays. That’s just more time we have to occupy our kids and pray and hope that the waiting outside of the plane doesn’t eat up all the good behavior INSIDE of the plane.

4) At least United offered family boarding for families with kids aged 2 and under. And so we were the second people on the plane. We certainly needed every minute of it since Glow Worm refused to sit without me.

But because of the way the plane seats are arranged, there are three on each side and three in the middle. I booked three seats on the side and then an aisle seat in the middle right next to them. My original plan was to sit by myself in the aisle and have the three kids sit together.

Glow Worm was not having any of that shit. I begged Cookie Monster to sit in the lone seat and he absolutely refused, crying and about to throw a tantrum. I begged Gamera and she agreed reluctantly to sit by herself, a mere foot away from me. Turns out she got the better end of the deal because she did not end up having to share an iPad or have Glow Worm use her as a pillow and kick her in the face.

Incidentally, I always forget how small and vulnerable Glow Worm is because he’s such a rough and tumble kid. But he kept telling me he was scared and held onto my arm or hand for the first hour of the flight and periodically when there was turbulence and when we landed. I almost teared up. My baby boy!

5) Kids barely ate any of the food. Picky little shits. They ate some snacks but they quickly got sick of the snacks I brought, too. I tried to tell them it was their own fault they were hungry, but what can you do? They were hungry. Thank goodness they slept for a few hours.

6) Speaking of sleep, I am pleased with the flight timing. We left at 3:15pm (although it was supposed to be 2:15pm) and arrived around 7pm in Taipei. The ride to the apartment took about an hour and then we got settled in and ate and kids goofed off for a few hours.

Oh, what was I saying? Yes. Sleep on the plane.

Glow Worm slept the most on the plane at about 5-6 hours. Gamera kept coughing herself awake but got an intermittent 4-5 hours. Cookie Monster, in keeping with what I expected, slept at most 2-3 hours.

And yet, Cookie Monster was the LAST to sleep on our first night. I don’t think he went to bed until 2:30am. Glow Worm was once again, the first to conk out at around 12:30am (he put himself to sleep looking at YouTube on my phone) and Gamera fell asleep around 1:30am. She kept waking up periodically throughout the night and around 4:30am, she was up for good. (Plus, she had a fever.)

Glow Worm woke up around 5:30am and Cookie Monster showed up around 6:45am. All in all, I got the least sleep out of everyone. I was pretty cranky.

In fact, I am trying really hard not to nap, right now. But I figure, if I fall asleep now, I will have a problem sleeping later. (At least I got to see Deadpool on the plane!)

My goal is to have the kids in bed around 7:30pm tonight since that’s about the time I will be wanting them in bed when camp/school starts. That would allow for enough time in the morning to eat and dress and spray down with bug spray and sunblock at a leisurely pace.

Anyhow, wish me luck tonight. Cookie Monster better get his shit together and fall asleep already.

7) Of course, this morning, we had no food. The only food being the snacks I had brought with me on the plane. My kids were not interested.

So eventually, around 8:30am, I lugged my three kids and myself to explore the area around our apartment and find some food as well as buy a few things to tide us over.

Total fail.

Went to the local 7/11 and bought some milk and orange juice but for some reason, didn’t buy any ACTUAL food for them to eat this morning. I think I figured we’d find a breakfast place open. Nope. Also, the ones that were open had no pictures on the menus and lots of eggs. (Glow Worm is allergic to eggs.)

I forgot that I can’t really read Chinese and that sometimes, I only end up doing well at least a week in. I was a little overwhelmed and indecisive (especially considering kids are picky and have food allergies) and managed to buy nothing of actual sustenance that we could immediately consume.

Cookie Monster kept whining that his OJ had “lines” in it. Turns out, it was pulp and both Cookie Monster and Gamera were like, FUCK PULP.

I bought two bottles of the orange juice, too. And they were heavy. I know because I had to carry them back to the apartment along with some milk and a bunch of random crap.

Of course, I still forgot to buy food. (Unless you count mini M&Ms and chocolate Pocky sticks as food.)

We did manage to hang out at a local playground for all of five minutes. My kids were like, FUCK THIS PARK. (Well, all except Glow Worm. Of course, he was sopping wet because of dew. Sigh.)

Did I mention that I forgot to slather my kids with sunscreen because I figured we would be in the shadow of large buildings? Nope.

Gamera wilted by 9:33am. She was like, “My legs hurt! I want to go back to the other Taiwan!”

Beats me what the other Taiwan is. I think she means our apartments.

But yeah, that was fun.

8) We hung out at the apartment for another few hours and then my cousin came by and we went to a local food court wherein my kids couldn’t eat because they didn’t know how to use chopsticks and I had to feed them and when I went and asked for forks, a worker told me in an extremely condescending voice that in Taiwan, they use chopsticks to eat. Thanks, you fucking asshat.

Also? I managed to spill a bowl of noodle soup all over my favorite dress. If it stains with oil or grease, I will be severely aggravated.

9) Went to the grocery store after and managed to actually buy food stuffs. But not sure if I actually bought anything useful. Sigh. I’m the worst with grocery shopping.

Still managed to forget shit.

10) Oh, did I mention that for about 30-45 minutes EARLY this morning, Glow Worm threw a huge tantrum because he wanted to eat two soy sauce packets and I wouldn’t let him? He threw his iPad on the floor. His hair was sopping wet from screaming. It was awesome.

 11) I realized that I forgot to pack the industrial strength bug spray Not Another DB MBA gave me. (Incidentally, she gave me two BOXES of bug spray because she’s both helpful and an ass. Love you!)

I just hope the essential oil blend I brought will work. Sigh. If not, then, well, essential oils can treat bug bites. Also, we will smell like dirt and trees. (That’s the smell of the blend.) And Irish Twins said her husband brought a ton of bug spray that I can take.

12) Sigh. Literally as I was writing this post, I realized that Gamera had been unusually silent and had been last seen looking for her stuffed doggy in her room and never reappeared. Sure enough, she was curled up and asleep in the bed. With no pull-up. Thank goodness she didn’t wet the bed!!

Anyhow, it was so sad. I woke her up and forced her to take a shower (which was heartbreaking). She kept shivering or saying the water was too hot. The girl hates hot water but for some reason, the temp in this apartment can’t stay at the fine line between cold and lukewarm so the water would turn freezing every minute or so.

But now, she is at least clean, in PJs, and a pullup, and watching TV. She hopefully can stay awake through dinner (we’re no longer going out and my cousin is bringing food). Just my luck, when it’s finally time for bed in 2.5 hours, she’ll be wide awake.

13) Kids are watching a TON of TV. I told them they could watch as much Chinese TV as possible. Their iPad time will be limited, but the TV can be on as long as the day is.

Also, I have a hard time understanding children’s programming in Chinese. That’s sad. I know it’s just a matter of time for my brain to switch to registering Chinese as the dominant language here, but sheesh. That’s SAD.

Alright, I suppose I have to get back to my children. (There have already been injuries and furniture re-arranging – not all voluntary.) Until the next post!