Wednesday, December 01, 2010

First Day

Just got a quick message from Frank's Teacher Carl:

Hey Paul, just had an interesting chat with Frank:

Frank: T.Carl, today is December 1sth.
T.Carl:cyou mean December 1st Frank.
Frank: YEAH!!! (Followed by a Chuck Norris Kung Fu/wrestling double air fist pump)
T.Carl: Why are you so happy Franklin?
Frank: Because soon it will be Christmas!

Monday, September 06, 2010


Franklin lost his first tooth last week and Gretchen probably said "Shit" for the very first time in her life, though these two items are almost certainly not related.

Frank noticed a couple weeks ago that his bottom tooth was loose, but thanks to Grandma's suggested reading "One Morning in Maine," he knew what was going on and didn't fret a bit. He was pretty excited to be growing up. I asked him to remind me to find a picture of the tooth fairy online. Fortunately he wasn't hovering as I did so as a Google search turned up a number of frightening images.

One day, about a week and a half after the wiggling began, the tooth popped out of its place while we were all enjoying some after school time on the playground. There was a plastic envelope in the teachers' room, and the rest of the day was spent planning bedtime. Next morning, the TF had been and left $NT50.

The local custom is to toss bottom teeth on the roof of the house to encourage growth of the adult tooth. Top teeth go under the house if possible with similar purpose. I fly in the face of tradition, however, and went with money. Wasn't sure the going rate, however, and enlisted the help of Facebook friends who have had similar experience lately. 50NT was at the low end of the spectrum, it seems. Maybe we'll just work up to $US10 a tooth! That can turn into real money before you know it!

Anyhow, as promised, here are some recent photos of Frank.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Yeah Yeah Yeah, I KNOW!

Long time no pictures. Sorry Grandma. But, as Frank's in the other room doing his homework, and Gretchen is staying busy next to him with a book while mom is off shopping at the market, I thought I'd take a moment, crack open a bottle of Castlemaine XXXX and note down what Maggie told me about Franklin's dream last night.

For quite some time he's had dreams about fires. I'm not sure if they're nightmares or not, but he doesn't seem to be waking up screaming.

Ha ha. Point of Stream of Consciousness: the other day he asked me to make him a CD to listen to as he went to sleep. I made a playlist with some favorites including "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a song which he has just discovered. It was track 16.

The night I burned the CD and put it on his CD player, I was completely beat. School has just started and I'm putting in 13-14 hour days, so as soon as I pressed play and kissed him goodnight, I left him to the tunes and collapsed in bed. This must have been about ten.

About 45 minutes later, I hear screaming "DAAAAA_DEEEEEEEE!!!!!" the sound of which for the last 5 and a half years has launched me from my bed day or night wide awake and loaded for bear. I rushed into the room ready to kill whomever was setting fire to his curtains only to find him bouncing up and down on his bed saying "Thank you for putting this song on my CD! It's my favorite!"

He's also listening to They Might Be Giants and is a big fan of The Beatles' Revolver.

I've been telling him at night to "turn off your mind, relax and float downstream" as a way of getting him calm and in the mood for sleep. Revolver is a pretty sleepy album.

On the weekends, we let the kids read stories, play, and sleep together at bedtime, and this they did last night. I had to be at our school early Saturday morning to unlock and prepare for testing, so Maggie stayed behind and got the kids presentable and followed up later.

Franklin had a bit of a bad dream in which he said a stranger took him away in a car.The bad guy took him to her house. It was a lady bad guy. She took him to his house and she told him to choose a hat. He said 'No!" Then, apparently the cavalry arrived in the person of Mom, Dad, and Kleine Schwester.

Gretchen vehemently suggested that the next time this happens, Franklin should stab the bad guy in the eye with a sword! Zoiks! Franklin considered this a moment before vetoing in the idea because it would result in permanent blindness for the kidnapper.

Maggie can't help but point out that this is a middling good illustration of the two kids' personalities.

Pictures later. KTHANX.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yo Contest

A few months back, students in Franklin's middle class (third year out of four in kindergarten) were asked if they wanted to take part in a special event in the springtime. Taiwanese parents love to show off their kids' special abilities in public and a Saturday morning demonstration of Tang Era poetry recitin' is just the thing that brings the helicopter moms in for a landing.

At first, there were no dice, according to the teacher. The spots, it seemed, filled up mighty quick and Frank would have to wait until next speech season to give face to his parents.

Which was fine with me, to be honest. I never saw the point in having kindergarteners memorize TWENTY poems only to recite two on a stage under the harsh spotlight of public opinion. Even Franklin was heard to mutter, "What do these words even mean?" The only purpose I can theorize is that it prepares kids for an academic career punctuated with arbitrary memorization assignments and little in the way of useful context lasting into the Twenties.

As luck would have it, a space opened up within hours of the initial rejection and Frank found himself on his way to Glory armed with a CD of kiddie music and a book to go along with it.

So he listened and read and sang along and we figured he was going to be a hit. When it was time to go back to the US, the teacher asked if our five-year-old boy would take back a stack of poems back to memorize. On Vacation. Now, my exact words were neither recorded nor passed along, exactly, but the sentiment reached the school and Frank had an ideal amount of free time on vacation.

The whole thing went off today, though I was not there due to a scheduling conflict. If I had gone I would have tweeted the while thing. There was plenty of material there with all the show biz moms having painted butterflies on their daughter's faces and the stringent choreography of the whole thing.

One for the Folks Watching at Home

Having a restful day at home. Gretchen was sick last night with a fever of 39.6C.
Maggie was good and didn't panic and make me drive to the hospital at six in the morning. Gretchen's fever was gone by nine, but we took it easy today anyway.

Now Frank's teaching his sister how to play a math computer fame. Kindergarten kids being taught second grade math. Neither one of them know how to climb a tree yet, though.

The American Adventure is still fresh in everyone's mind. We look forward to going back next summer and maybe catching the Fourth of July, some baseball, and a BBQ sandwich the size of my head.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Section 2, GōngYì Rd,Nantun District,Taiwan

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another First!

Franklin's a good kid & lots of fun to hang out with on the weekends. He's learning how to read now and can pick out words in books that he hasn't memorized in his kindergarten class.

But a moment that made Baba proud came about after dinner at Frog 3 off of Jinchen Rd the other night. We sat in the garden and had a dinner of quesadillas, chicken enchiladas, and beef burritos. Maggie and Frank both thought the meal wasa little too spicy, so it fell to Gretchen and I to polish everything off. We tempted Frank to finish three triangles of the quesadilla with a little Sprite. Frank, it happens, LOVES Sprite. We don't usually give him soda at home & need to figure out if he's getting it at the babysitter's place, but I figured for a Saturday evening, a double shot of Sprite wasn't going to kill him.

After dinner, we walked down the street to hop on the scooter & head home. After walking for about 10 meters, Frank goes, "Daddy, watch this...." and then he produced, on cue,  the most fantastic amateur eructation that I believe I've ever heard. He looked as proud as if he'd just recited the Cyrillic alphabet.

I don't have to tell you how proud I was.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

See You In September

Frank had his first swimming class yesterday. All summer long, we've been taking the kids to the apartment pool on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to cool off. Gretchen took to the water immediately and enjoys being thrown in the air and almost instinctively understood how to use the handrail at poolside to navigate the circumference of the pool to the ladder, but Franklin has demonstrated a certain degree of reticence when it comes to aquatic recreation. The first time we tried the pool out, there was a typhoon in the area and the water was pretty cold, and the air around it was moving around quickly and with a palpable lack of warmth. It wasn't not a pleasant dip, and his father really should have known better. But, as a result of the...dunking...controlled dunking...not waterboarding...Franklin was much more at home in the wading pool, content to kick the water and toss a ball back and forth while his younger sister motorboated around the pool.

We decided a couple months ago that when summer ended, because we would have a little more time, we'd take Frank for swimming lessons. NEAC in Taichung is the source of Central Taiwan's  best swimmers, according to scuttlebut. A couple weeks ago, we took him for a look-see and we liked what we look-saw. There was a definite local flavor to the place.

The pool complex is in a 3 or 4 story building, which, from the street, does little to betray the water within. Unless you read Chinese. But if you are in the water, there's no way to see the world outside. Sunburned days at the pool? Never! You must navigate a rabbit's warren to get to the line where shoes must be removed, and your swimming ticket is given to the auntie at the desk. Then, another hallway and staircase down to the dressing room, shower, footbath, and finally pool deck. The first pool you encounter is four lanes, and is the location of all the swimming lessons. There is an observation window on the floor above, just beyond the shoe-shed line, where mothers sit and read fashion magazines while their kids swim  laps aided by kick boards fifteen feet below. The deck itself is covered with plastic mats that deny children the opportunity to slip and fall at the pool. Another example of coddling, if you ask me.

Beyond the class pool, is a 15m lap pool where kids can practice, and beyond that, a small corner of the room is set aside as a sprinkler play area about the size of my bedroom. Continuing around the complex in a clockwise fashion, you arrive at a 25 m lap pool of three lanes, presumably for adults. At the opposite end of this pool, is a stairway on the left, and a doorway to the class pool on the right.

Upstairs, there is a spa pool that is about 25 meters long with regularly spaced jets of water positioned to massage all your body parts. This water is quite a bit warmer than the water in the lap pools downstairs, and I could marinate in there all day if I had a waterproof iPod.

The first Saturday we were there to look around, there were very few people there. Yesterday was a different story. Franklin's class of beginners was four-strong, but there were four other classes in the same time slot. Some of the mothers were reading about Louis Vuitton, but the rest of the parents had scattered about the complex to the various bodies of water. The 3-lane lap pool where I hung out had as many as 17 people in it at one point, making my goal of 20 laps an exercise of futility.

Franklin, as mentioned, is no fan of the water.  He was pretty cool, confident, and courageous up to the time the teacher got out of the pool to say hi. Frank hid around the corner, and it took two instructors to wrangle him into the water. From the next room, his protestations were heard bouncing off tile, cement, and water for at least 15 minutes. And then they stopped for one, two, three minutes.Fearing his teachers had drowned him, I went to check, and saw him guiding himself around the edge of the pool  and then sailing down the length of the pool in a swim noodle, happier than a pig in shit, as the saying goes.

In all, it was a successful day for him, and for me, happy as I am that he does not appear for the time being to be aquaphobic.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Card Trick

It's Saturday noontime. I have to be at work in about half an hour to judge and elementary school speech contest. While sitting here waiting for my dumplings to boil, Frank came up with the following card trick.

He walks up with a handful of Sesame Street UNO cards sent by his Aunt Sarah and tells me to close my eyes and take a card, which I do. Like Karnac the Magnificent, he tells me the name of the card I drew, which, upon opening my eyes, I can confirm!

I don't know how he does it....