Thursday, May 31, 2007

on toy begging

This afternoon, I took Jonas and Ada to the bank to pay the ghastly-high rent on our little stone house. As we walked down the street, we passed one of three Hello Kitty shops located on the same road and the kids begged to go in. "They even have Pokemon, Mom! That's for boys like me!" Jonas exclaimed. I held my ground and said no, not only because the bank was about to close at 3:30, but because I dread having to turn down their repeated requests for new plastic, easily-breakable and quick-to-be-bored-of toys.

So we paid the rent, stopped at Starbucks for a necessary frappucino (for me; the baby makes me do it) and chocolate mints (for the kids), and then headed to the grocery store in the basement of Takashimaya department store - not an unusual place for grocery stores in Taiwan, particularly the kind that sell foreign import items like Cheerios (US$10) and whole wheat fusilli pasta (1 pound bag for US$7). I really miss the bulk section at the local co-op in our old U.S. neighborhood, but there aren't a lot of options here! One can't go for 5 years without Cheerios, come on, especially when one is pregnant.

Anyways, to get from the entrance of the market to the ATM (where I needed to get cash because I forgot to get cash when we were at the bank because the kids were making me crazy using the lobby phones to call Australia), we had to pass by really cute strawberry flip-flops at the Reef store, which Ada begged for and I refused, and camoflage sandals at the Outdoor store, which Jonas begged for and I refused. Of course, there were also fake Taiwan Power Rangers on the shelf in the grocery store, as well, which I refused to buy. The whole begging process was wearing me down, and making me feel disappointed in my kids - why do they feel like they need new stuff all the time? We're not 'stuff' people; we don't model consumerism like that to them. I finally gave in to a mini KitKats bar by the check-out stand. They'd never had KitKats before, anyways.

We made an excellent food discovery at the store, by the way, thanks to a sample stand: Taiwanese 'hotpot'. It's actually Japanese, but the sample lady called it Taiwanese. We bought some fresh udon noodles that come with a flavor packet (no MSG, I asked!), and when we got home, I tossed some carrots, broccoli, corn wheels, clams, mysterious white fish with no English description on the sticker but that Jonas promised he loved, and the noodles into boiling water. All ready in 2 minutes! And even better - the kids ate all the vegetables and immensely enjoyed the clams. (And Jonas did love the fish, too). Brilliant! Then they got KitKats for eating so well tonight.

After dinner, they played happily. With the brown paper bags that the groceries came in. Brown paper bags. First they did potato-sack races in the bags. Then the bags were on their heads. Then they looped their arms through the handles of the bags and wore the bags as backpacks ('packpacks' as Ada says) and pretended they were astronauts. Now they are asleep with the bags lovingly placed next to their bunkbed. I promised I would cut eyeholes out for them in the morning.

And I am realizing now what all of that begging for new stuff today was: it was simply their creative minds begging for something to do. I'm a pushover for the toy begging, normally spending the work week alone with the kids while Peter is travelling. Plus, just stepping out of the house offers a new opportunity to buy cheap stuff every 3 feet as you go down the street. (You thought Americans worshipped buying stuff? Welcome to Taiwan.) My kids get plenty of new stuff all the time, we are not that chaste around here, but it does me good to see that they don't sit around staring at the walls if they don't get everything new that they want.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


I know I've been very out-of-touch, and hopefully I can get up to speed now. I have lots of photos of the kids over the last couple of months that I'll be busy uploading.

I'm finally coming out of my first trimester and feeling well again. It was rough going for awhile there, and many days I just ate saltines and tried to get by. The kids have had their various viruses, as well, including Ada's strange reaction to one virus that had her covered head-to-toe in giant, drug-resistant hives for over a week. Now that we are healthy and it is gorgeous outside - 80 degrees and sunny - I kind of have this feeling that I am coming out of hibernation.

For people who are asking to know what everyday life is like, here is a snapshot of our day today...

Today, Jonas had a screening at Taipei American School to see what grade level he fits into, since his birthday is right on the border between kindergarten and first grade. On our way in, he dropped his lollypop that he'd received from the doctor earlier this morning (he has pink-eye and a stopped-up nose - he says little people called the Booger People live in his nose and, among other things, they make him do naughty things). I felt bad about the lollypop because I knew he was nervous about the screeing, so I promised a trip to child-mecca, 7-11, afterwards.

At 7-11, he picked out an ultra-man belt for himself and some bubbles for Ada. He was so excited about the belt and couldn't wait to get home to put together his whole outfit, with the belt and also black gloves he got a few weeks ago. He talked about it all day and begged to have time to play with the new toy.

When we finally got home, what did he play with? The ultra-man belt? No. Dish towels. He and Ada fashioned them around themselves with rubber bands and danced like crazy for well over an hour. You can see it here. I'm not complaining, because I'm proud of how clever he and Ada can be with everyday objects, but why do I even bother buying toys in the first place?

After dinner (tofu and rice with broccoli), I was busy in the kitchen making gazpacho for guests tomorrow when Ada, naked, walked into the kitchen with a worried look on her face: "I pooped." I figured she wouldn't be so worried if the poop had gone into the toilet, so I followed her out to the living room and saw it on the rug. I couldn't fashion a warning fast enough for Jonas, who unknowingly walked through the poop in his socks. Smeared poop on rug and socks. Great.

Ada went into the bath, Jonas helped me Shout out the stain and I quickly pureed the last of the soup. We got a happy call from Peter in China, who said he's coming home tonight instead of tomorrow! Yay! Once the kids were clean and pyjama'd, we climbed into bed to read books. After books, I turned out the lights and asked the kids how many deep breaths they'd like to do together. "Pink," Ada replied. Jonas and I laughed, and she knew the answer was wrong. "Blue?" she tried again. "How about three?" I suggested. "Ada's two!" she said defiantly.

Now I am exhausted and they are asleep. I'm going to settle in with my hypnobirthing cd and hopefully get a good night's sleep myself.

Jonas at bat:
Home run!

Ada at bat:
Baba helps Ada at bat

When you have little fingers, you can put tiny shell pasta on each finger:
shell pasta on fingers!

Family circle on Peter's birthday:
Family circle on Peter's birthday