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.