This blog entry is very scattered, and I apologize for that. In case you hadn't noticed, I treat this as our family news website. I don't write newsy emails to anybody (even close family and friends), so this is where that information comes from. Because of that, some people may find the contents of the blog to be boring and mundane. ("Why does she write about children so much?") But then again, I also assume that if you didn't enjoy it, you wouldn't be reading it!
On Saturday morning I brought some MCC visitors to see the Forbidden City. It is, of course, one of Beijing's biggest tourist attractions. This city in the middle of a city used to be the emperor's home. The emperor, his family and his concubines all lived in this city and no one was allowed in unless they were important dignitaries, officials or eunuchs (the emperor himself was the only male allowed in the city overnight. This place was virtually unseen by the Chinese people whom it governed until the emperor was overthrown in 1911. Even then very few people saw it. I'm hoping that the pictures I attach to this email will come out right-side up, but if they are sideways I sincerely apologize! Using email to blog is very inconvenient!
Ari has finally shown an interest in learning to read. We've known for a long time that he is smart enough to read, but first he had to get through this "I already know how to read" phase. Now that he has gotten over this stubborn perception (I was waiting patiently), he is learning very fast. Obviously he is slow, but he can sound out most simple words. For example, "Peg the hen gets in a green jet" (learning about e sounds). I have been using this new opportunity to have more meaningful interaction with him. I enjoy young children's antics of course, but there is something quite thrilling about watching him learning and struggling to figure things out. We've been using this interactive website to learn phonics: http://www.starfall.com/n/level-a/learn-to-read/load.htm?f
Everyday when we take him to and from school, Ari asks us to tell him a story. James is better at making up stories than I am. I have been trying hard to remember all the stories I read as a kid. Some stories have provided wonderful long sagas (like Watership Down) and others are mere one timers (fairy-tales or Bible Stories). On days when there is no story to be found in my head, I have taught him about such things as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, or how digestion and electricity work. James spent a trip home teaching him about how sedimentary rock is formed. We won't claim that he understands everything after he hears it, but he does really like it. Now, I have been inventing stories about phonics, vowels and spelling.
I know we could sound like real bummers of parents to make everything about learning, but I challenge anyone to have a child's story ready at any moment and be able to tell it with enthusiasm. Rain or shine, sick or healthy, this is an daily demand made on our creativity. Fortunately, he is at an age where discussing how positive and negative charges can jump sounds very exciting! But don't worry for all those science lessons, he does still get his fair share of Brer Rabbit and other stories.
We have recently finished a stint of reading Roald Dahl books together (thanks to Ruth!). The most recent was James and the Giant Peach. Every time the book mentioned James Henry Trottier (the main character), I changed it to James Barclay Frey. In the very beginning of the book, James' parents get trampled by rhinoceroses in London. After hearing that, Ari looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Papa's parents were killed by rhinoceroses? But that's not true, I've seen them!"
On a new topic, eating has become a very important activity for both of the boys. The two of them could finish off a kg of carrots in an afternoon. Aiyi spends the whole afternoon feeding them fruits and vegetables. Last night they both polished off large bowls of a very plain lentil and rice mash and then wanted more. Of the two of them however, Jude's body seems more effective at turning it into thick dense muscle. He is a bit shorter than Ari, but stronger and heavier. They scrap with each other now and then, and there is no doubt about who is the strongest. As such, Ari just whines while Jude dominates. James and I predicted this scenario a long time ago. Apparently if you double your child's height at age two, you will get their approximate height when they are full grown. James said his family did this and they all turned out to be very close. When we did it, we found that we can expect Ari to be around 5'7, while Jude will tower over him at 6'2.
James has also recently had some exciting developments. In the last while he has had seven short stories accepted for publication with six different journals. He has been very excited about all of these, and I am very proud of him. For years now, I have been his primary audience, but I don't think that I am biased in saying that he is very, very good. Before now, he has never tried very hard to get published. But he finally decided to give it serious effort, and I think that it has been very good for him to get some positive professional feedback.
I meanwhile have been reading like mad. In retrospect, I find it hard to believe how much my reading tastes have changed in the last while. I never used to read dry historical commentaries or books with long drawn out text but no story. But in the last year this is all that I have been reading, and all of them have been about China. For example I recently found myself flying through a dry 400 page book all about a rebellion that took place in China during the summer of 1900. I can't even imagine how boring I would have found that book two years ago.
Thats all for now (if you made it to the end of this rather mundane post!). Farewell!