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Monday, December 29, 2014

"We're not Chinese kids we're English!"

Twelve years of my childhood were invested in weekly Saturday Chinese School lessons. I missed all the Saturday morning cartoons and whatever normal kids do on a Saturday morning - sleep in. At age 17 at the height of my maximum knowledge of written Chinese vocabulary, I could read the newspaper in Chinese (very slowly), read the Bible and write a lengthy note or birthday greeting to my Grandma and maybe even a short story or essay with some clever puns. Two years after that, I think I still retained most of the reading but the writing was fading fast. Gradually after 10 years, I can still sing the hymns at church, read the menu at a Chinese Restuarant and write out the order, as in copy the words by hand, write a christmas card, birthday card and thank you note in Chinese. But today, 20 years later, it shocked me that I had to think really hard about writing my own name in Chinese!! Do I want the same fate for my children?

My son doesn't quite believe that he is a Chinese person (though made in Canada eh?) and would call himself English or French. In fact, when I speak to him in Chinese he usually responds in French.  We have alot of languages in our household given that my husband and I are both fluent at the same level in Cantonese and English, but he is officially bilingual in French and English to federal standards. The kids go to a full time French School and I have to admit that while my daughter reads in both language, I'm sensing that French is the more dominant phonics when it comes to reading and writing.

We inadvertently decided it would be more important for them to be completely bilingual in French and English, that I almost let Chinese completely slip away. But miraculously, it has not. They can watch the Disney, Barbie and Batman movies in Chinese (official editions on DVD or VCD).  As well, then can ask for food and drinks and things related to cooking and transportation, or even how the moon goes around the earth, and the earth around the sun - in Chinese. However when it comes to matters of the heart or more complex scientific explanation or math, we slowly shift to English. I'm ok with that!

Today I had a proud moment though, when little Lincoln saw me writing a Christmas card in Chinese  that he started making some individual squarish spiny fishbone sketches and boasted that he was writing Chinese!!  He even asked me to teach him! I showed him how to write man or person, and he drew... you guessed it, Elsa in a dress. Well it's the same basic shape! Alot of my friends who are just like me, born and raised in Canada, who may or may not have attended Chinese school have sent their kids to Chinese school on Saturdays too! One friend's son the same age as Lincoln can recognize about 70 Chinese characters even though he only knows about 7 alphabets!! That just blows my mind, but it is indeed true that kids are capable of absorbing and retaining so much information if you teach them.

I also believe that they can also choose to learn to read and write Chinese at the university level in a three or four years' time just as easy as the other university students who might choose Chinese for a foreign language course or art credit. I've see this with my own eyes, a Westerner writing an essay or short answers on a Final Exam. I suppose it is the same way I learned Beginners and Intermediant Russian as a non-Science credit during my Engineering studies.

But most importantly I just want my kids to know that they are Chinese. A few years ago, when kids at a McDonald's play place approached Maggie and AJ to point out that they're Chinese, Maggie was furious! All night she kept telling me, "We're not Chinese kids, we're English! Someone should tell them that ok?"

In a way it's good that "race" is not an issue to them. Lincoln (he's four) just pointed out to me the other day that my hair is too black so I'm not like Elsa.... regardless, I just want them to know about being Chinese and be comfortable enough about being Chinese and Canadian at the same time.  I bought him the book published by Usborne Books "100 First Words in Chinese" Can't wait to read that with him.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Top Stories in 2014

Just a recap on the big things that happened this year, and to say "Merry Christmas 2014"

1. Indoor Snowball Fight
One of the "Reindeer Games" we played at Mary's birthday party.  12 kids lobbed giant-marshmallows through two Christmas wreathes. Highest record was 26 marshmallows, lowest number was 3. Kids got hit in the face but nobody cried. 30 giant marshmallows were consumed within 5 minutes of the game completion.

2. Blade number one
Daddy came back from work one day with a shocking new haircut, bald to the bone which shocked the kids so much that Lincoln had to ask, "You're still the same daddy right?" While the older kids pointed and laughed, Mary ran away screaming in terror and fear.

Reminds me of the time Lincoln's hair got shaved during a heated discussion between two parents about which blade to use, caught on video "Well it's too late now!"

3. Star Wars Duet
Finally recorded live in front of a captive audience (baby sister), AJ and I played the Star Wars theme as a duet on two pianos. We've played it for months since the summer, flawlessly but it was the first ever recorded. I've always dreamed of playing a duet with my kids

5. To Walk in Fields of Lavender...
A great navigational feat for me, to find my way through wine country and sandy beaches without GPS (I have onboard GPS but no map data in this whole region). We also discovered the largest annual gathering of asians outside of Toronto, at the annual Lavendar Festival in Prince Edward County. (This is a noteworthy fact to me because it is not often that I see too many asians here if any) The kids loved running free in fields of purple, while seeing infinity in a wildflower... o wait here's the real quote

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

5. All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth
Maggie finally lost her fourth tooth shortly after Halloween. The weather got too foggy for two nights it seems, for the Tooth Fairy (to remember) to come to collect it. Good thing she never lost faith in the magic of the Tooth Fairy. The third tooth was lost right before school photos, while fishing at the docks of Rice Lake (or while chewing a BLT sandwich). The first two teeth were lost months earlier around Valentines day. However, the first tooth was actually lost down the drain while brushing her teeth, but was recovered quickly by Daddy taking apart the sink!

6. Great Wolf Lodge

A most memorable and action packed 24 hours of campfire stories, wave pool, arcade games, bowling, and bunk beds. The kids got to view Niagara Falls right at the side of the falls but not being able to see it... because of nippy cold frost and ice in April.
Other "big" trips this year include - four days in NYC, another overnight shopping trip to Syracuse and my own three day business trip to Montreal kid free!

7. Two Wheelin' 
In June, both Maggie and AJ successfully learned to ride their two wheeler bikes in under 20 minutes first time trying. I understand they are much older than the other kids learning to ride, but it is still a noteworthy childhood milestone and accomplishment. They've been biking non-stop since that day. Oddly ever since the big snowfall last month (before it melted away) they've been playing outside in the snow for much longer than any other day this summer.

8. Pleased with Cheese
It took nearly 7 years but Maggie finally started eating cheese! You know in the baby books, when they talk about introducing a new food and sometimes needing to offer it 22 before they'll even try it? Try 2000 times! Probably it's a bit of peer pressure, seeing little Mary tear part those cheese strings!

9. Superman Drawings
Lincoln draws about a hundred Elsa's, Ana's, mermaids and fairies a day or quite possibly per hour! I especially like the drawings in colour with eyelashes or extra makeup on the girls. This is an amazing feat considering at the start of the school year, I actually asked his kindergarten teacher if that is a problem that my son can trace mazes, but does not draw or write anything!. She told me not to worry because they would be starting "Handwriting without tears" Then, just weeks in he started drawing Elsa with her ice-powers and splti in her blue dress, or Ana with a cape, and Olaf made with a high stack of snowballs. After nearly 2,000 Elsas, he finally drew one Superman and Green Lantern for once, which made me very happy.

10. Double Double
During the entire month of March I gave up coffee, treats, gluten, dairy, soy etc lost over 5 pounds and many inches as part of the detox bootcamp and clean eating program with my company. That was the same month I also (got) promoted to the first level of management in my home business. From May till October I doubled the size of my team, including independent consultants and preferred clients

I've cut down from three or four cups of "double-double" to one Fizz Tab energy drink per day. I've been so energized that I decided to launch a second home business to promote reading and French books for my kids, and to fuel my own personal addiction to books!

11. Magic of Christmas
The legend of the Elf on the Shelf lives on despite the skeptism and "truth" revealed by the other kids at school who probably don't have an Elf on the Shelf. Each morning at breakfast, the kids discuss if the Elf is real or not; every night they warn me not to sleep too late so that the Elf can leave on time to get to the North Pole and back.

They met Mrs Claus at Conon Nurseries and were very convinced she was the real deal. They've been writing to Santa Claus and Maggie just received her letter from H0H 0H0 yesterday!

Here's wishing you all a very happy Merry Christmas and the best for the holiday season; good times with your family and friends.