Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tieng Viet!

This whole time, while I haven't been blogging, I've been teaching myself Mandarin Chinese. And I've been progressing steadily, in spite of the fact that it's really really hard to teach yourself a foreign language. I just hit a point where I got it, Mandarin clicked with me, and then I was just accumulating vocabulary and sorting out the more complex grammatical rules.

I still couldn't speak it. But I could imagine a time in the near future when I could speak it. I could speak small phrases at appropriate moments.

I had no reason to doubt we'd end up in China. Whyever would I think about Vietnam? Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and this one, unfortunately, makes us have to start over with a new language.

One of the very first things I did was complain about the frustration of starting over.  We bought some phrasebooks and found some online tutorials, and while looking at them, I noted how much I missed the familiarity of Mandarin Chinese. The first stage is always so hard - when nothing looks familiar and none of it sticks in your memory and you can't possibly imagine yourself speaking this language.

But then I resolved myself to plow ahead until I got to the second stage - when you begin to see the beginnings of patterns, when you can utter a phrase or two, and suddenly the language seems penetrable. A light turns on; a door creaks open.

One of the school staff members assured me that Vietnamese, or Tieng Viet, is similar to Chinese in certain ways, and transitioning won't be so bad.  Maybe it is similar. I've noticed a few suggestions of similarity already. But, I admit, it's been a month and I'm still discouraged.

There are some good things about Tieng Viet. It uses Roman letters, for instance. But it does not technically use the Roman alphabet. Much like Gaelic, it takes the letters we English-speakers are so accustomed to and it twists them around to its own devices. Sometimes unnecessarily so. Why does X sound like an s, but S sound like sh? In Chinese, it's the other way around. Also, why does G make a z sound? There's a Z already.

However, if I can get my brain to adapt to the similar-but-different Vietnamese alphabet, I can potentially learn to read signs and newspapers as my vocabulary grows. And I assume my vocabulary will grow, although I can't quite imagine such a thing yet. My current vocabulary is about four words, and they may or may not be understood correctly.

Also, pronouns are hard. I have not made much progress on pronouns. I don't understand the explanations the tutorials give. The Tieng Viet understanding of the purpose of pronouns is different from mine. I need a guide I can understand.

Monday, March 3, 2014

We're moving to Vietnam

Hello, blogosphere! Miss me? Probably not. I stopped blogging when lots of people stop blogging, and for the same reasons - our life has gotten very settled and boring, the kid keeps getting older, and there's nothing to talk about except everyday foibles and incidents. I don't want to write about every visit to the mall and cute drawing that gets taped to the wall. I'd bore mySELF to tears, nevermind you guys!

But now finally something interesting is happening that I can blog about. We've decided to move to Vietnam.

 I keep promising people that I'd keep in touch and take lots of pictures. I told them they could follow my blog as soon as my adventure starts. So then it's just a matter of deciding whether to start a new blog or revive my old one. And I've decided to revive this one, because our life story is really a long continuum, not separate stories, and because some people might already have bookmarked this blog. Or maybe some of my old followers are still around. Who knows.

We're leaving in July. The school year starts in August. There's a lot of prep to do until then. At some point I'll give this blog a makeover with a Vietnam theme, when I have some Vietnam pictures to work with. For now, though, we're on Cape Cod, so I'll blog my thoughts about Vietnam from Cape Cod with my Cape Cod theme. Chao!

Monday, September 2, 2013


So, tomorrow is kindergarten orientation, and Wednesday is the first day of kindergarten. We start at the traditional time around here, right after Labor Day, although it seems like people in other places have mostly already started. I guess we can't start any earlier, because the tourist traffic is terrible right up until the day after, and any buses trying to get over the bridges would be late. I'm excited about kindergarten... I guess... *sigh*

No, I am. I've already made a list of things I have to do in my new free time. But my list is unreasonably long. I guess I've been waiting for school to start for so many years now that I forgot how quickly 6 hours passes. Some of it is in the direction of a job, or at least stuff that brings in money, and some is just catching up to things that have been neglected around the house and yard. And some of it, of course, is just keeping my kid ready for school. I have a lunch plan and all sorts of containers to keep his lunches interesting. I bought him a nifty new umbrella with the map of the world on it. I need to create a routine where his backpack gets emptied right away and repacked in time to leave. All run-of-the-mill stuff for you other parents, but a brand new set of challenges for first-timers like me.

Thank goodness we don't have to deal with buses or drop-off. We'll be strictly walkers, rain or shine (or snow). If you see our house in relation to the school and its drop-off area, you'll know why I'll never say, "It's too rainy out there. Let's drive instead." Umbrellas for the win. Honestly, though, I do feel good about it all. My kid is intellectually ready to go to kindergarten, and I'm trying to be intellectually ready to not sweat the small stuff. To not be neurotic if he's learning his ABC's too slowly, to handle it gracefully if he resists doing his token homework, to let it go if the teacher has opinions I don't agree with. Maybe to volunteer, only of it's for something fun and laid-back. I do have some legitimate worries to worry about, and I rightfully should worry about those things, but hopefully it'll mostly be all right.

And the new umbrella is pretty awesome.

Monday, June 10, 2013

We're going to China

So... we'll be moving to China in about a year. Probably. A lot of pieces have to fall into place first. But the pieces exist, so there's no reason why we can't just move to China.

Why? Because it's there. Because we haven't found any real immersion opportunities locally. Because a friend invited us to participate in an awesome mentoring program... for Koreans. Because a woman at the agency was telling us about a Homeland Tour they offer, in which several of the families they help place spend two weeks touring the cities and seeing the orphanages, bonding and crying and healing and getting to know their birth culture... and when I described it to my husband, we just kinda looked at each other for a moment. And then we said, "Why don't we just move there?"

 So now we're looking into what it takes to just move there. It'll be fun. It'll be a good life experience. Wo men xuexi Zhongwen. Cloud won't have a chance to bond with his adopted peers, but I'm sure he'll be all right. I think it's more likely that he'd say, "We did we only go to China for two weeks when we could've gone for a year?" than "Why did we go to China for a year when we could've gone for two weeks?"

Just a guess.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The story with the baby and the cats

AwesomeCloud has generally not been one to be wrapped up in adoption issues. He has never been sad about his birth mommy, and he's very matter-of-fact about racial differences in our family and in society at large.

He has never done a thing that made me contemplate getting him a therapist for adoption trauma. I'm sure adoption trauma exists, and I've seen some possible signs that he has some, but not on a call-a-therapist level. His therapy is regular life in a stable, loving home and at the moment that seems sufficient.

But lately he has been obsessively asking for his origin story. He calls it "the story with China and the baby and the cats." It started when he pulled out his adoption picture books again... "I Love You Like Crazy Cakes" and "The White Swan Hotel." And he soon realized that his story parallels those stories, but with cats. You see, Trixie died of a brain tumor a month after we came home from China. Then a month later, we got Riley. Then Christmas came, then in January we got Ban Lu. He loves the parts where the cat in the cat carrier rides next to the baby in the car seat.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fun with Mandarin Chinese phrases

 zánmen  huí  jiā ba - let's go home.

Yeah, that one's useful. I'm going to start using it.

I've started frequently using
shì zi!"
(Geez, it's hard to format when I c&p the syllables directly from the online dictionary.)

Anyway, the above means, "I am not a chair!" Something I say frequently anyway, as someone tends to try to use me as a chair frequently.

Cloud doesn't quite understand the syntax of qustions. If I ask, "Wo shi yi zi ma?" he is immediately lost.

Ah well, all things in due time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fish, fish, more fish, and a blue lobster

Today I discovered that there is exactly enough time in the morning to drop my husband off at work, drive to the museum of natural history where we have a membership, walk around until the building opens, and see all the exhibits before having to go home for lunch and afternoon preschool.

Today we did just that. We walked all the way to the beach. I refused to actually go on the beach, because it was covered with resting sea gulls and I didn't want to disturb them.  Cloud insisted on going down himself and throwing some pebbles in the water. But instead of scaing the gulls, he only aroused their curiosity, and several started to move closer and closer to him. I guess they hoped he was throwing food.

In the basement of the museum building is a nice little aquarium with a do-not-touch tidal pool.  A museum director came out to chat with the day's first visitors, and in the course of conversation, he mentioned that his freshwater tank at home contained too many platyfish.  Suddenly he and I were making a deal for him to give some platyfish to me. 

And there was a blue lobster. Those are getting really common these days, aren't they? No aquarium had one when I was a kid. But now this aquarium had one, and the Woods Hole aquarium has one, and those are very, very small establishments.

Monday, August 27, 2012

I oughtta write by now

Well, my old friend at Unexpected Journey ended her Blogger hiatus today, and I helped prod her, so I guess I should end mine too.

It'll be a lot easier to blog when my new laptop arrives. I've been without a computer of my own for personal use for about 2 years now, and it was a pain to have to log my husband out and myself in every time, and then make him do the same when it was his turn.

Since we last checked in on AwesomeCloud, he has turned four, finished 3-year-old preschool, been gallivanting across New England with his dad and/or me, learned to speak in (often hilarious) sentences, learned to ride a trike and dunk a kiddie basketball, been to the beach a bazillion times, and greatly improved his social skills.

Now he's getting ready to head to school again. He has the same teacher as last year, which is great - although he's not the kind of kid who crumbles at the sight of something new, it's still nice to have the familiarity of the same classroom and the same teacher and teacher's aides.

He will also be returning to kung fu lessons at USA kung fu academy, although there, he will be changing teachers.  He was bummed when I told him Tai Si Hing wouldn't be there anymore.

Also, there will now be soccer lessons, just for the fall.  They're in the morning, so they don't interfere with preschool or kung fu in the afternoons.  I laughed when my husband told me about signing him up and then called me a Soccer Mom. Hey, it's cheaper than hockey, so I'm not complaining.

Hmm, what else?

Adoption Day anniversary is coming up next month.  We usually celebrate by going out to a fine Chinese restaurant and ordering as close as we can get to authentic cuisine. And maybe I'll make a train cake. I have a train-shaped cake pan.  Cloud keeps trying to play with it like it's a toy train. I admire his single-mindedness.  He can make almost any small solid object go vrrroooom.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Too late!

Every time I want to write a post on this blog, I run out of time. My excuse now? It's midnight. And I have to do a bunch of things tomorrow, so I need to get some sleep.

Some other time, I guess. I always say that. Some other time, some other time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trayvon Martin

The story of Trayvon Martin's death totally shreds me up inside. There are no words to describe it. I think I'm actually grieving, in spite of having absolutely no personal connection to the case. It's just a news story to me. But on the other hand, it's the absolute worst kind of reminder that racism is alive and well and deadly in my society. Being middle-class is no protection. Being a generally nice person is no protection. And worse, now that the victim is dead, the excuses are flying. It wasn't that he was Black... it was that...

Now I've heard people say that he shouldn't have been wearing a hoodie. Really? KMart sells hoodies. Macy's sells hoodies. I own two hoodies, and I'm wearing my brown one right now.

No, that's not it. He shouldn't have been black.

Like I said, I'm not attached to the case in any way, but I have a feeling that no matter what additional backstory comes out, it will never develop beyond that. I doubt there will be any dark secrets revealed to prove that Trayvon deserved to be murdered; deserved anything less than to be left alone.

This is not the world I want to live in - to say nothing of the world I want my son to live in.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Library storytime and techno parade

This morning I brought AwesomeCloud to one of the little libraries around here for storytime. I like their storytime. It's held in a big space, so I'm not getting constantly tripped on by toddlers. Cloud is one of the oldest kids there, but that seems to be good for him - he does not yet seem to be "too old" for anything. Even "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes" is still a challenge for him. That's not always a good thing, but it's a thing, and so it goes.

Before storytime, the kids all gather around the train table. Cloud was playing nicely with the only other preschool-aged boy there. But when the track became misaligned, he started to call out to Mama: "Hewwwp!"

"Don't slam it," I called across the room. I was kind of stuck in a rocking chair just outside the children's area, with mounds of coats and purses walling me out. "Just push it gently into the hole with your fingers."

"Hewwwp!" he screamed, banging on the train track harder.

"Ask your friend to fix it for you," I suggested. "Just say, 'Excuse me, can you fix this?'"

"NOOO!!" cried Cloud. He was really wailing and red-faced now.

"Come here," I invited. "Do you want to rock?" Whenever he hurts himself or otherwise gets overcome with emotion, if there's a rocking chair handy, I offer to rock him to comfort him. He knows what that is now and will occasionally ask to rock without me having to mention it first. Fortunately, I was already in a rocking chair, so he came right over, climbed in my lap, and let me rock him.

"Now that boy is fixing the track," I observed.

"I can't... I can't talk," Cloud wailed. I guess he was trying to explain that he was too flustered, or shy, or whatever, to take my suggestion and ask the boy for help. Cloud then begged to go home, but I assured him that storytime would start soon and then he'd have something completely different to do and he'd forget all about this. And it did, and he did.

When we got home, I cooked us some mac'n'cheese with broccoli, and afterwards I decided I wanted to drown my sorrows in ice cream. So I told Cloud we were going to the store to get some ice cream. You'd think I said Santa Claus was coming back. We had one of the most festive trips to the supermarket ever, and now I'll probably pay for it in begging because this is the kind of thing Cloud doesn't forget for a long, long time.

After ice cream, I put on my Fatboy Slim CD and we had a techno dance parade featuring maracas, a tambourine, and some jingly cat toys, because I am a bit of a masochist but also because it seemed like a good activity to do on a rainy day, and because I was anticipating my husband calling for me to come get him so he could leave me at home alone for the rest of the afternoon to rest in peace. Which I am doing. Except that I'm also trying to mend his steampunk vest, which is proving difficult because it's very thick and the needle doesn't go through the material very well. And now my back hurts from the effort of pushing it through.