After our insanely busy month of July, Cameron and I have been trying to take a short break these past few weeks, but despite our best efforts we still have two little ones who need something at least every 15 seconds. These past few weeks have also been a much-needed time to catch up on things around the house that we haven’t tended to in quite some time. After 7 months of living in our apartment, we finally installed a hot water heater. We were surviving with just the hot water from the solar water heater on the roof until the rainy season came in July and left us with nothing but freezing cold showers for about a month. I finally realized we had been toughing it out too long when my children were screaming and crying every time they had to take a bath. I am guessing I won’t be earning any mom-of-the-year awards after that!
We also were able to put together a small birthday celebration for Claire turning three. We invited a few other families to join us at the Ramada pool down the street for swimming, lunch, and cupcakes. They don’t have a snack bar there, so I loaded up our three wheeler with a ton of food, drinks, and party supplies. Lucky for us, Chinese people generally don’t swim in the morning (just like they don’t shower in the morning) for fear of it being too cold. We were the only ones at the pool besides one other Chinese woman who was so enthralled with our kids that she joined right in with our party, playing with the kids, joining us for lunch and cupcakes, and singing “Happy Birthday” to Claire. Yes, I admit, I was a bit annoyed that she joined my three-year-old’s birthday party, but it was also a good opportunity for me to continue to practice flexibility and love towards strangers!
In the recent weeks, we also had some opportunities to check out a few of the preschools in the area. No, our motive for sending Claire to preschool in the fall is not because we need a few hours of peace and quiet each day (although now that I think about it that does sound kind of nice). Actually, Cameron and I both feel that during the preschool and kindergarten years there exists a narrow window of opportunity for Claire to learn how to communicate in Chinese. We have heard, according to a number of expat friends, that starting in 1st grade the Chinese school system begins to focus heavily on writing characters and also requires students to do alot of homework each night. While this may be just heresay and there are probably expat kids out there who do just fine in the Chinese school system, our personal plan is to put Claire in school for PreK and Kinder and then homeschool her after that. Our hope is that this will establish a solid Chinese language foundation, open the door to having Chinese friends in the future and allow for a deeper understanding of the Chinese culture. This is important to us because we don’t want Claire to always feel like an outsider. It breaks out hearts when we watch Claire run up to a group of kids outside playing and excitedly say something to them in English only to have them laugh at her because they don’t understand what she is saying. Our hope is that in learning Chinese at a young age she will retain her confident, outgoing spirit and not withdraw out of being unable to communicate.
And of course, our introduction to the world of Chinese preschool has been a learning curve for us. For starters, most Chinese kids begin preschool as soon as they turn 3 and attend school 5 days a week usually for 9 to 10 hours a day. When we talked to the principals at several schools about Claire only attending school for half of the day, they either reluctantly agreed or said that they only offer full-day enrollment. Thankfully, we found a school that will allow her to attend from 8:30am-11:30am Monday through Friday. Another interesting difference is that the class sizes are much bigger. They can enroll up to 35 kids per class. I feel a little better knowing that there will be 3 teachers in each room; however that is still alot of 3 year olds in one space! Furthermore, all the kids wear uniforms and are issued the same backpacks, water bottles, and other supplies. No cute first-day-of-school outfits or monogramed backpacks for us! I can tell there is alot more we will be discovering as we head down this road, but at least it will give me something fun to write about!