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Chinese New Year 2012

For the first time we had two more for Chinese New Year. My second brother brought his wife and my first brother brought his fiance!

My brother was in Taichung to attend a church event, so he and his fiance rode back down with my other brother and his wife on Tuesday, and they all got in at 1 AM. We did not open gifts that night!

My second brother and his wife.

My first brother and his fiance.

They had announced their engagement a few days before.

Chinese New Year

Chinese Lunar New Year is not a fixed date on the solar calendar and can come any time from January through March. (This year it came on January 23).

It's not a private little holiday for the immediate family but like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. All the married sons and their families travel home to make the family circle complete again.

By nightfall on Chinese New Year's Eve, all businesses have shut down, the streets are empty, and everybody is home at the big family reunion dinner, prepared to stay up all night celebrating. They do not give gifts but the young people especially get red envelopes of cash.

The next day is the first of the lunar new year. The department stores will probably be open to get everybody's Red Envelope cash, but most other types of businesses will stay closed.

The second day of the lunar new year is when all married daughters and their families return home to see their parents, further congesting the roads with travelers.

On a bad year the Chinese New Year falls on a Thursday and everybody has to go back to work on Monday, with only four days off. This was a very good year with Chinese New Year falling on a Monday and giving most people nine days off!

The Next Day

showing old family photos

Showing my little sister how to play her recorder.

Eating spaghetti.

By late afternoon we were finally ready to open presents and they told me to pass out the gifts. It was my first time to be in charge of that and I hadn't known it was so fun keeping track of who was ready for their next gift and timing them to the situation.

The Next Day

My sister-in-law's sister came down to pick up a homeless cat for a friend and dropped in to see us that morning.

My father doing what he loves best, talking Bible.


I agreed to babysit the cherub because his parents said I didn't have to teach him anything, they just wanted him to have exposure to the English spoken in our family. I had visions of reading him all my Narnia books.

The cherub had his own ideas. Being three, he does not read and he sees life as The World According to Cherub.

When he first walked in the door he screamed if you even looked at him. Eardrum-piercing shrieks that left your ear sort of silent for a second. If you were lucky he wouldn't throw himself to the floor and start trying to inflict brain damage.

About the second day, I decided not only to buy ear plugs but I also decided no more. The instant he shrieked I whisked him over to a deep armchair and waited him out, sending his mom out of sight so he wouldn't keep screaming just for her benefit. I did not care how long he screamed. Holding him in the chair was the most restful part of the class.

I was doing this because in the Chinese culture they fully expect the teacher to train the child and make the child behave, they figure that's why he goes to school, so I have to constantly fight my instinct to keep my hands off and defer to the mother, waiting for her to take care of it.

I had also seen Sister Wang do something like this with her grandson. He had been fed, burped, changed and was screaming in anger at his nap. Sister Wang just kept him on her shoulder peacefully patting his back and saying, "Pa zhe, pa zhe". Every time he pushed away screaming, she would cluck at him sympathetically, telling him what a great singing voice he would have, and putting him back on her shoulder over and over ... FOR 2 HOURS.

Halfway through it was starting to get to his dad, who got up to take his son, but Sister Wang airily waved her son-in-law away, saying if you stopped the process in the middle he would never learn. Her daughter and son-in-law went out somewhere soon after that. Meanwhile the baby eventually tired himself out and took the nap.

Sister Wang told me she had done that with all her kids so that when she needed a free hand, all she had to say was "Pa zhe" and they would curl up and sleep and she wouldn't have to worry about them for that moment.

Anyway, back to the cherub. He peed the chair but I ignored it. When he had tired himself out after 15 minutes and was silent I let him out of the chair. It only took a few times before he would calm down real fast (to get his mother back in the room!) and even suck his thumb contentedly in peace, like he appreciated the time to sort things out in his mind and try being good again. (He even stopped peeing the chair after a few days because it wasn't going to get him out of there any faster.)

I admire energetic children. I have seen people who get nervous with children in the house. That is not me. When the cherub tries to talk to me I listen to him intently, all shiny-eyed at his potential. Even when I was holding him in the chair and letting him scream it out, I was keeping up a steady stream of soft patter about the way all this would make him a stronger, more helpful grown-up in the future, and the great things he would go on to accomplish with his energy.

He also had a habit of smacking himself in the head every time he wanted to get attention or get something because then an adult would rush over offering whatever they could to get him to stop hitting himself, and I stopped that real fast too by putting him in the chair a couple times, and not letting him hit himself while in time-out. I didn't want him growing up to be a cutter.

However, a few weeks later I was dreading the class one morning because it wasn't going to be held at home or in a park but in a nearby department store for the first time.

I had tried to get away from chasing the cherub aimlessly around our house (to his credit he loves helping me "wash dishes" and put vegetables in the juicer, I believe in including little ones in everything even if it takes twice as long ... it saves time further on!) and now I would be chasing him around from aisle to aisle trying vainly to get him to repeat the names of the items on the shelves ... and the first time he threw that first testing tantrum in a new environment where was I going to let him scream it out?

At first the cherub's mom and I did follow him through the aisles. He got one of the wheeled suitcases on display to drag through the store and his mom told me they'd said it was OK for him to do that. Well, if his mom and the store people had said it was OK what could I do? I just made sure he didn't bump into stuff or people.

Up to that point the class was fairly easy because we were walking and I was doing something nice and logical like having his mom repeat in English everything she wanted to tell him or me and putting it in the tape recorder. But when I saw his mom trying to look at stuff on the fly and herded him toward her, he got irritated and screamed.

I immediately strode off with the piece of luggage and put it back in its place on the other side of the store. He never screamed again.

But see, he knows from experience I mean business. I do not keep promising him more and more stuff to get him to stop screaming. No, I take more and more stuff away, and if he screams about that I put him in a chair.

His mom took him to get a shopping cart telling me it made him go slower and he wouldn't run. The sight of him with the cart made things start clicking in my brain. Children are supposed to follow their parents through the store!

I kept my hand on the cart and made him follow his mom wherever she wanted to go, whatever she wanted to look at, except when she didn't know what she wanted to look at and followed him. But as we were watching his mom look at slippers it was suddenly clear-cut in my brain. What if he was my little kid and she was a friend I was going shopping with ... how would I make a son of mine behave? how had I made my baby sister behave when she was little? ... and then it was a lot more obvious how to react to anything he did.

There were still some moments when she had the cart and I had to keep him from running on ahead, my hand ready to grab his jacket, since she thought it was OK for him to wander freely without holding her hand.

I told her I know she wants him to get exercise but any time I was with them he was going to have to hold somebody's hand in the store. As I told my mom later, if you have to constantly worry about your kid breaking into a run and leaving you in the store, then he's too young to be walking about without his hand held. Now he seems to love holding my hand everywhere.

There were some more episodes in the food court when the cherub finished eating before his mom and got up to wander around. I put him back in his chair, with expected results, and I did not care how many people in the food court stared at us. But he was a lot nicer the next time we went out.

He wants to be good and he needs consistent boundaries to base his decisions on, and I want his mom to enjoy taking him many places in life.

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