Taiwan Trip 2017 Post Mortem

Now that we’re back from our Taiwan Trip, it’s time for the post mortem. (Note, I did not call it a vacation because let’s face it. No trip with small children is a vacation.)

I totally thought I would have written more on this trip. I mean, last year, I seemed to be writing a lot! But then, I remembered that I had Sasquatch strapped to me and that I was out almost all day and by the time the kids were in bed, my brain was mush.

I did a lot of FB Live videos, though!

But honestly, I felt silly blogging about my trip this year because quite frankly, it was remarkably similar to last year. I mean, the kids were in pretty much the same camps and schools, the routes I took were the same. I ate, hung out with friends, and took care of kids at night.

Oh, don’t worry. I will probably do at least one more Taiwan related post unless I really get off my ass and turn some of my FB Live videos into blog posts. I will do a financial write up of the trip and maybe a Chinese update/summary/camp thingy. But otherwise, my brain has moved onto the new homeschooling school year.

Sorry, folks.

I see no need for guilt about posts I should have written to hang over me.

HOWEVER. Here are some random, disparate thoughts/mental flotsam nougats to hold you over until the more substantial posts. (Just thinking about writing those is exhausting.)

1) Being in Taiwan with three young kids and a nine month old baby strapped to me is SO MUCH BETTER THAN being in Taiwan with three young kids and pregnant.

OMG I CANNOT ADEQUATELY EXPRESS HOW MUCH BETTER IT IS.

Most of you long time readers know this, but last year was just one long, 40 week shitty mood. As soon as the baby was born though, it was great!

I totally thought that Taiwan with four kids would be worse than Taiwan with three kids. IT WAS NOT. Apparently babies are easy. Pregnancies are NOT.

2) It also helped that my kids are older this year. Plus, I already knew what I was doing – everything was familiar. The apartment was the same. The driver was the same. Our schools and camps were the same. And not only that, I built on last year’s knowledge and added NEW knowledge of bus routes, etc.

My mother was there for the first 10 days and I was so sorry she left. She didn’t sit with us on the plane, but she was super helpful in the apartment at bedtime! A lot of my friends were in Taiwan at the same time with their kids (some of them at the same camps) and my cousin’s kid was also at the same camp.

3) This year, I realized early on that though I liked food, what I really wanted to eat was shaved ice. So really, I just spent most of every day eating shaved ice. Food was consumed, but not nearly with as much fervor as Taiwanese shaved ice.

4) I am more than pretty sure that there will be a Taiwan Trip 2018 because I am a glutton for punishment and I am incredibly stupid – but it will be even better because it will be the THIRD year at the same schools and camps and hopefully, apartments.

5) I don’t really think my kids’ Chinese improved that much this time around. I think because this year, despite being in the Chinese environment, Cookie Monster (7.5) resisted speaking Chinese and thus, so did Gamera (5.5). Glow Worm (~4) was in school though, so his Chinese improved a lot. Their vocabulary still expanded so I guess that is still a good thing.

This is a lot of the reason I want to go back again next year. I worry if I skip even one year, the chance to catch Cookie Monster up or stem the inevitable English slide will not be in time.

Actually, come to think of it, Cookie Monster and Gamera’s Chinese did improve, but it was in super specific areas pertaining to their camps. I really would NEVER encounter these new words because I am never going to talk about science, water rockets, ripsticks, or even the random games they played.

So, I guess the only way to know whether their Chinese improved is if they all of a sudden start speaking incomprehensible Chinese words to me.

Incidentally, I never knew 營 (ying2/camp) was a word you could use by itself. Like, “This week, we are doing blah blah blah 營.”

Looks like Cookie Monster learned something after all!

6) Back in 2014, Cookie Monster only ate white rice the first four weeks and didn’t venture to try beef noodle soup until the last week we were there. Gamera was a tiny bit more adventurous, but still mostly ate white rice. Only Glow Worm ate everything set in front of him, but since he was 11 months old, I didn’t think it would last.

Terrible.

Last year, they expanded their food repertoire and ate a lot of fried rice, a variety of noodles, potstickers, and 小籠包 (xiao3 long2 bao/soup dumplings). Glow Worm again ate everything set in front of him – including a bunch of fruit.

This year, they were even more improved! (I firmly believe it’s because I have been so good about cooking with the Instant Pot and making them eat things they don’t necessary like.)

In fact, we managed to NOT eat at McDonald’s the entire trip except for the last weekend – and even then, it was only because I had the flu and Hapa Papa needed to take them somewhere easy for him to order.

You guys. DO YOU EVEN KNOW HOW AMAZING THAT IS?

I consider it a WIN.

Oh. AND THEY EVEN ATE ON THE PLANE.

7) Kids were much better about going to their camps this time around. Glow Worm only cried the second day when he realized that school was a permanent situation. But then we had a conversation, he no longer cried and RAN to his teachers and barely glanced at me when I dropped him off. He was such a big boy.

Oh, and THIS year, he actually participated (and with great enthusiasm) in all the session end performances. HE WAS ADORABLE.

Gamera was much happier this year because she was with Cookie Monster and not bored out of her mind learning characters she already knew. They took Chinese yo-yo, Ripstick, and games sessions. Gamera also took a sewing class and Cookie Monster took a science class.

They LOVED the courses. Surprisingly, Cookie Monster liked the science class the most! Gamera liked the sewing class the best. They both complained that they wanted to take a cooking class – so I told them I would try to sign them up for it next year.

8) If we go next year, (which we probably will), I will likely keep it at the 4.5 week mark. Both the kids and I are sick of Taiwan by then – and I think it’s better to leave wanting more vs. staying until you are sick of a place.

I might stay a few extra days at the end because the kids complained that we didn’t play enough, but truthfully, by the end of each stay, they are so sick of the heat that they never want to leave the apartment.

9) Because I had the flu, Hapa Papa took Gamera to buy breakfast and she did all the ordering and paid. I think she was a little shy about it, but she did a good job.

10) Of course, my kids loved all the DIY crafts. I resisted though and we managed not to go completely bankrupt. I suppose I should just consider it one on one paid Chinese arts and crafts instruction.

11) Oh, and people wanted to know how it was traveling around Taipei with a fat 8-9 month old baby on my person. Just like 2014, it was hot and my entire front would be dripping wet. Sasquatch would also be dripping wet from my sweat. But ultimately, it was pretty easy.

Because I am his food and tend to nurse him in the Ergo, it was such a gross mix of fluids. There was my boob sweat, my hand sweat, his head sweat, his saliva, and my milk. Mmmmm… slippery.

But mostly, since he only just started cruising and is otherwise, non-mobile, it was very easy. Just slippery with sweat. People are endlessly kind and always offering seats on MRTs and buses (which I refused because like all my babies, Sasquatch insisted on me standing).

Since I hate strollers, I really didn’t have to make much of an accommodation to Sasquatch’s presence. And once I realized I needed to be home for part of the day to allow him a nice long, uninterrupted nap, he was much happier. It was easy peasy.

Alright. I think that’s it for now. Hopefully, I will not burn out on the Taiwan Trip topic and you will not be bored too terribly to have to read more about it. And again, if I am feeling really on top of things, I will turn my FB lives into posts.

Thanks for reading! I’m so happy to be back home.

Re-entry is Hard


I know. I know.

You thought I had abandoned this blog for the ease and instant gratification of Facebook Live Videos.

As tempting as that is, I just can’t be that unedited and unscripted on a regular basis. If I produced live videos on the same schedule as I write, no one would be seeing anything live because I write deep into the dark night or on Saturday mornings. The rest of you would be busy sleeping or living your life.

Also? I think I’m funnier on screen vs in person. Apologies to all my real life friends.

Anyhow, we have been back in the Americas for twelve days. TWELVE DAYS. And other than one Costco trip (I still need to go for this week) and some unpacking (but not ALL) and finally getting over jet lag, I have done a fat load of NOTHING.

OKOKOKOK. Not entirely true. I took the kids to parks and playdates. (My kids climbed a 30-40′ tree to the very top and I tried not to die of fear and trembling on the spot.) I actually cooked. (I MISS YOU, TAIWAN!!) And did a bjillion loads of laundry and all the random crap of life.

Still have yet to make it back to kungfu though.

And I have tried to ease the kids back into homeschooling with daily reading. We officially start Monday 8/14. It is hard, people. HARD.

The summer brain drain is real. My impatience is real.

YOU GUYS, I NO LONGER HAVE OTHER PEOPLE COOKING FOR ME 24/7!!

That is the REAL kicker. That is the part of Taiwan that I always miss the most. It makes me so sad. So so so so sad.

But I am so glad we are back at our house – despite it’s cluttered mess (exacerbated by my lack of finished unpacking). I am so glad for the space we have (triple that of our apartment in Taiwan). I’m so grateful my older kids can run around and be loud and jerks but the baby will be fine upstairs asleep.

SO HAPPY TO BE IN THE LAND OF REASONABLE WEATHER AND PARKS.

But I have been slumming it.

Hapa Papa started a new job but I haven’t yet enrolled us for benefits. Because of stupidity. I WILL SOON THOUGH. (Please don’t judge me!!)

I have been binge re-reading a favorite Regency romance spy series. (I bought her new book so OF COURSE I had to re-read all the previous books in the series. OF COURSE.)

I have been catching up with all the dance shows we missed. And now, Project Runway has started up again – which is AWESOME!!

Now that I’m in the land of expensive bubble tea, I want it all the time. (It’s a mystery to me why I never want bubble tea when I’m in Taiwan – but whatever.)

I know I should write for the blog but after over a month off, (because let’s face it, I wasn’t really writing much in June), I barely can string together coherent sentences – let alone INTERESTING sentences.

OMG SO MUCH BLATHERING TODAY.

I will consider this post (and most likely, the next few weeks’ worth of posts) to be the blah you have to get out of your system before you can actually write anything worth reading.

LUCKY YOU FOR READING FIRST PRINT BLAHS.

Ohohohoh. And because I spent all this money lasering my face, (that’s a post for another day, folks – but I LASERED MY FACE), I finally started up my skincare routine again. Like after at least a year and a half of NOT DOING A DAMN THING.

And now, even after just 4-5 days of semi-consistent face care (like washing it and moisturizing and SPFing it), my face is SOFT.

My poor, moisture and care starving face.

Also also, I know that this post is just a random amalgam of thoughts loosely correlating to how mediocre of a human I am with returning to the land of the English language and all, but I AM SO GLAD TO BE SURROUNDED BY ENGLISH.

ESPECIALLY ENGLISH WORDS.

I am no longer an idiot. (Well, I suppose YMMV on that opinion.)

Anyhow. Thank you for reading the random firings of my gasping brain. It is always hard to go back to reality after any trip – but especially hard when you go from a place that took care of a lot of the worst parts of parenting (providing FOOD) to a place that you are now back to adulting.

I am terrible at adulting. But I love to write and the only way to be a writer is to write. And the only way to make it through life semi-successfully is to adult because there is no one else to do it for you.

Did I mention that I had the flu the last few days in Taiwan so it was miserable and our whole family has been rotating who is sick and that it was a really rough week or two (that included the LOOOOOONG flight home)?

Ok. I am getting sick of myself and my nonsense.

But this is my official shingle saying that I’m back! I’M BACK AND I’M NOT SORRY!!

Catch Me Live

So, we’ve been in Taiwan ten days and I have not written a word about our trip. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing stuff for my public!

Thanks both to a challenge in a blogging group I’m part of, as well as great ideas and encouragement from my friend, Brittany Minor of Clumps of MascaraI have been trying out Facebook Live Videos.

(Seriously, Brittany is really amazing with her own videos – and she suggested all sorts of great topics to discuss, checkout, and asked so many great questions that I feel kinda guilty that she so generously helped me without asking for anything in return. All she got were some FB Live videos of questionable value.)

Now that I have done a few of them, I don’t know why I was so hesitant about doing them before. I think part of it was that it never occurred to me that people would want to see videos of me wandering about Taiwan. I mean, a city is a city, right? Just how interesting is a tour of 7-11?

Well, just because I personally am not interested in this stuff, I suppose doesn’t mean that other people wouldn’t be! And I also realized that I have been taking my trips to Taiwan for granted.

Most people do not get the chance to travel to Taiwan, let alone often enough for it to become familiar and not entirely intimidating. And even if they came, perhaps their language skills are nonexistent, not good enough or if they are, they still don’t necessarily know how things work.

Plus, all this knowledge that I now take for granted (eg: going on an MRT, shopping for stuff in a store, what to bring, how to shuttle kids around) – that is interesting and helpful to people! And folks, I am what we call a helpful person.

Also, I am somewhat of a narcissist.

So, because I’m a giver, I am collecting a bunch of my FB Live videos into this post, but if you are not following my personal FB page (sorry, I only friend folks I know In Real Life), you can still follow along at my Mandarin Mama Facebook Page.

Also also, because I’m never one to let a good suggestion go, please let me know if there is stuff you want to see or ask or watch a FB Live about. If I can swing it, I’ll do it. 😀

Anyhow, without further ado, here are most of my FB Lives up until today. (Holy cow, I did a lot!)

1) Traveling in Taiwan with Kids Q&A

2) Tours of Playspaces

Leo’s Playground

Fantasy Island Playspace Tour

3) Tours Around Town

Taking the MRT

Costco

Taiwanese Bus

7-11

Taking out the garbage

Wellcome Mart Tour

My Kids’ Favorite Escalator

Watsons Tour

PierMei Hair Accessory Store

Guang Hua2 Technology Mart

4) Restaurants

Modern Toilet

Costco Food Court Part 1

Costco Food Court Part 2

Yong3 He2 Dou4 Jiang Da4 Wang2 Taiwanese Breakfast

Taiwanese Department Store Food Court

Local Taiwanese Breakfast Place

Commence Panic Mode


I am not excited. 

We are T-9 days from our Taiwan Trip 2017 and I am not excited. 

I mean, I am excited for all the yummy foods and hanging out with my mommy friends in Taiwan, but… I am not excited about packing or traveling at very fast speeds in a metal tube with my four children for 12-13 hours. 

At this point last year, I think I already started packing. I have not even bothered. Or tried. Or felt bad about it. 

I don’t know if this means I have evolved or I am super procrastinating. Maybe both. 

Does it count if I made my packing list about two months ago? And have been Amazon Priming like a BOSS?

But truthfully, I bought most of the stuff last year and I don’t really need anything else other than more bug spray/sunscreen combos. 

And diapers. Lots of diapers. 

But otherwise, my kids are going to the same camps (actually, one less camp so it’s even easier), we are staying at the same Airbnb, and my mother is coming with me for a few days and my cousin is flying back with me so really, what is there to worry about?

Then why is there a nervous ball of dread in the pit of my stomach? Why am I purposely avoiding thinking about this trip for fear of totally freaking out?

I have taken my kids to Taiwan before. By myself (and with friends and family). I have sent my kids to school there before. I have used buses and taxis and MRTs before. I have even ergoed a baby there before. 

I can do this. 

It will be fun. (Mostly.)

I will eat lots of delicious food. (Especially almond tofu shaved ice.)

I will see my friends. 

I will see my family. 

I will have a constant sweaty front because of Big Fat Baby Sasquatch permanently being worn. 

I will not be pregnant. (Thank goodness for small mercies.)

I will be fine. 

My kids will be even bigger and they remember stuff from last year so they are prepared. 

We will be fine. 

I have to keep repeating this to myself like a spell. 

I will be fine. I will be fine. 

And if I am really delusional, maybe I will be so fine I will consider bringing a toddler to Taiwan next summer. 

I guess I should see how things shake out this summer before I do anything that stupid. 

Chinese Progress: 9 Months After Taiwan


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

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

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

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

The effect was almost instantaneous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is definitely my fault.

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

It definitely shows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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