My mom’s baptism

Today my mom was baptized.  God truly works in ways beyond my understanding and I am reminded yet again how small my faith is in His power and belief that He hears our pleas.  I really never thought this day would come.

And it is appropriate that she would be baptized today, Feb. 24, because it is also my father’s birthday.  I did not imagine that anything good could come of his passing, but it was really his loss and then the loss of my mom’s best friend that started nudging her toward God.  If you know my mom, I mean really know my mom, then you would appreciate how much of a miracle this really is.  I am in awe.

Furthermore, two of her brothers and the entire family of her youngest brother attended church today to witness her baptism.  This is the first time any of them have ever attended a Christian church service.  I do wonder what they were thinking during the service.

My mom’s baptism at Bilingual Community Church in Kaohsiung

Jennica pretending to get baptized in the play room at the church


Chinese New Year’s Day

We heard a smattering of fireworks on and off throughout the night last night and during the day today, but it wasn’t loud enough to keep us awake as I feared.  Instead it sounded like gunshots from a distant battle.  Today, since it was the first day of the Chinese new year, Mike and I wanted to see a lion dance, a parade, drummers…anything that might be festive.  In the morning, Mike saw Taiko drummers practicing by the department store (Hanshin) near our apartment so he figured there might be something happening at Hanshin.  We walked to Hanshin around 11:00am and there WAS a noticeable crowd starting to gather by the front, but the stage did not look like it was set up for a performance.  Instead, it was clear that a raffle was being held.  People were in line to buy raffle tickets and there was a shiny new car on display.  Maybe there would also be a performance?  So we waited…

Waiting for the raffle winner

Nope.  Right after the winner was announced the crowd dispersed.  Disappointed we headed inside the department store.  Bingo!  On the first floor we could hear the sound of drums and the crash of symbols.  When we arrived where everyone had gathered we could see lion dancers moving through the department store.  In fact, there were three lions.  Apparently, each store within the department store posts a red envelope somewhere for the lions to take on Chinese New Year’s day.  The lions bring the stores luck, and the performers collect some cash.  It was fascinating to watch as the lions were being directed from store to store and the red envelope was pointed out.  Sometimes it would take several attempts to reach the red envelope if it was particularly high up.  This requires the “head” performer to jump up onto the “rear” performer’s shoulders and balancing to get the red envelope.

A lion visiting Louis Vuitton

Reaching for the red envelope

They did this for every level of the department store and every individual store within it – eight levels total.  It turns out they had two teams of lions – another three lions were working a couple floors above us.  This department store has almost every brand name of cosmetics and high-end purse/clothing company that you can think of plus many, many more that are from Japan or mostly just known in Asian countries.  The team of performers were constantly tag-teaming in to relieve one another.  Overall, an impressive amount of work.  I wonder how much they made that day?

Lions moving to the next floor

(Chinese) New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is the primary “family reunion” day.  If you are a married female, you are expected to spend this day with your husband’s side of the family.  On the second day of the new year wives will go spend time with their side of the family.  Chinese new year celebrations actually last 15 days in total – ending with the Lantern Festival.

Today is also the day to remember your ancestor through “bai bai”.  This is the offering of fruits and foods in front of an altar dedicated to the remembrance of ancestors and then a moment of “bai bai” where incense sticks are lit and given to family members.  While holding an incense stick the family members bow in the direction of the altar and say prayers for their ancestors.  I know there are religious connections to this, but I’m not sure exactly what they are. The family members on my mom’s side are a mix of extremely religious (and I can’t get anyone to tell me the English name of their religion – some type of Buddhism?) to not religious at all, but everyone participates to honor their deceased parents/grandparents.  Afterwards the incense sticks are gathered and placed in front of the altar and when they have completely burned down to the end, the food placed in front of the altar can now be eaten by the family.

Preparing for bai bai

Later that night our family went out for dinner at a restaurant decorated with Taiwan antiques.  I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant and my mom said it really looks the way Taiwan looked when she was growing up.  It is designed so that you feel like you’re outdoors eating at banquet tables on the side of a street, the way weddings used to be celebrated if your family wasn’t wealthy.

How Taiwan used to be…

Chang Family Dinner

Jennica and my cousin’s daughter, Ashley

And of course, the most anticipated part of Chinese New Year’s for a kid is the receiving of “hong bao”, red envelopes, from parents and relatives.  The red envelopes contain money and I remember this part very well from when I was young.  My grandfather used to give me a red envelope when my mom wasn’t around and tell me, “Don’t give this to your mother!”, because he knew all red envelopes are immediately collected by parents for “safekeeping”.  I knew he wanted me to have spending cash so I could buy something I wanted, but he always gave an amount that was way too large for a small child to be carrying around.  And I feared the wrath of my mom quite a bit so it always went straight to her.

Jennica with her “hong bao”

Luckily for us, it was quite easy to put away Jennica’s money for safekeeping because at this age Jennica is only interested in the envelopes themselves.


Preparing for Chinese New Year

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year’s Eve.  I’ve only been in Taiwan for Chinese New Year a few times when I was much younger, so all I remember is the constant ruckus of fireworks, lots of family members around, and general merriment.  This is probably what Jennica will take away from her time here too!

If you are unfamiliar with Chinese New Year, a quick summary is that this is THE most important holiday for the Chinese and it is a celebration of the lunar new year.  Most people get one week off, and for some, it will be the only vacation time they get all year.  Associated with it are lots of traditions, customs, and superstitions.  I’ll give an overview of a children’s book Jennica has that explains the story behind some of the customs…

According to the story, there used to be a monster that slept for 364 days. Then on the day of the new year it would wake up hungry and come down into the villages looking for livestock, crops, and people to eat.  People discovered that the monster was afraid of the color red and loud noises and would use this to scare away the monster.  Therefore, during Chinese New Year, red is seen everywhere and firecrackers are very popular. (And scary!  I saw a procession of cars going down the road the other day and passengers were throwing small firecrackers out the window onto the sidewalk full of pedestrians.  I was on the sidewalk across the street but I could see the sparks from the firecrackers and it certainly startled me!  Everyone else was unfazed.)

Jennica in her new red dress next to a large firecracker decoration at the mall.

It is also custom to post red banners surrounding your doorway with good fortune sayings.  Usually things like, “may your dreams be realized”, “may you have lots of happiness”, etc.

Our neighbor’s red banners

Jennica’s red banners – made in art class (with mom’s help)

The day before Chinese New Year’s Eve is apparently an important day for buying food at the open-air markets.  It is tradition to prepare a home-cooked meal for a large family reunion on New Year’s Eve.  (Although our family will be celebrating in a restaurant this year.)  And it is also important for buying the fruits that will be used for bai bai (paying respects to your ancestors) on New Year’s Eve.  I’ll describe that process tomorrow after we experience it…

Buying fruits for “bai bai”

While at the market I came across an aisle that was blocked by a woman who had her basket of fruit placed on the floor next to her.  She was busy picking out more fruits so I stepped over her basket to move on.  I was immediately chastised by her in Chinese for doing so because it is apparently very bad fortune to step over bai bai fruits.  Oops – now I know.

Anyhow, we’d like to wish everyone “Xin Nian Kuai Le!” (Happy New Year!).

Thailand and the iPad miracle

We are writing about our trip to Thailand fairly late (since we went at the end of December), but just thinking about everything that happened was overwhelming so sitting down to write about it was daunting.  So here goes…I will try to be as brief as possible.

The day after Christmas we were scheduled to fly out of Taoyuan to Bangkok, spend a night in Bangkok, and then fly to Phuket where we would join our friends Danvin and Frankie.  The night before, we had Christmas dinner with our family at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant where Mike had his fair share of raw fish.  So the morning we were supposed to leave, Mike tells me that he is feeling sick…really sick.  I confirmed that he had a 102 temperature, gave him Advil, and had him sleep.  We planned on catching a train around 2pm to arrive in Taoyuan with plenty of time to make our evening flight.  When 1pm arrived he was not feeling any better.  After looking at all our options (which weren’t many since most future flights to Thailand were booked), Mike decided to just push himself and go for it.  We made a last minute scramble to get everything ready to go (put on hiatus while figuring out what to do) and made it out the door around 3:30pm – still just in time to catch our flight.

The flight, of course, was miserable for Mike.  The next day confirmed that he probably had some type of food poisoning.  We hopped on another flight that morning to get to Phuket where it was a relief to see our friends at the airport.  We rode a shuttle car for about an hour before arriving at our hotel/holiday apartment.  Our thoughts at the time – phew!  we actually made it!

Day 2 – Beach Day and Fantasea

Mike was still sick, but able to get around.  We went to a beautiful beach where it was super relaxing to just float in the warm water and see the silver fish below.  Jennica loved it and would squeal with delight every time a wave would rise up.  Afterwards Jennica played in the sand and we picnicked on chicken satay and spring rolls under the shade of an umbrella.  Mike’s stomach could only handle rice with an egg.

Jennica enjoying chicken satay

After returning to the hotel for naps, we ventured out again for a tourist show called Fantasea.  We thought Jennica would enjoy it since it featured elephants, lots of them (on stage!), as well as dancing.  But during a slow beautiful dance about halfway through the show she said it was “too scary” and she was “all done”.  This was several acts after a dance depicting fighting warriors with scary masks (which is the one where I thought she would call it quits!).  So Jennica and I went outside to play games in the carnival-like area of Fantasea where she won a sympathy stuffed animal (the rules clearly stated that you must catch 12 balls with the net to get a prize – we caught zero and the attendant let her pick one).  Afterward we had a buffet dinner which was pretty good – lots of things to try!  Overall, Fantasea was an interesting experience.  Mike felt the show was a “combination of every show you would see on a cruise ship all wrapped into a 90-minute presentation on a Las Vegas style stage.”  The rest of the theme park was really quite fun for Jennica and also very interesting to see – fake palace facades and real elephant rides, carnival games and souvenir shops.  You kinda have to see it yourself…

The front entrance to the actual show w/in the Fantasea park

Welcome to Fantasea!

Jennica and Frankie

Mike, Jennica, and Danvin trying on hats

Day 3 – An Elephant Ride and Food Poisoning

Ah…if only Frankie hadn’t made her daily order of papaya salad look so appealing!  But more on that later…

We had scheduled a tour for this day which included kayaking and an elephant ride, which Frankie and I were eager to try.  However, after reading really negative reviews regarding the tour (especially about the poor treatment of the elephants), we decided to cancel the tour and do just an elephant ride with another company which received better reviews on the treatment of the elephants.  In hindsight, I believe all elephants are probably treated pretty poorly because it was pretty heartbreaking to see such large, beautiful animals chained by their feet to a post to stay put while eating, and driven by a driver carrying a large stick with a very sharp metallic hook on the end (this was not used on our elephant but I assume the hook serves a purpose).  So…now I feel pretty guilty about contributing to the elephant tourism industry which keeps these guys in chains.  Jennica, however, was simply thrilled to ride an elephant.

Elephant ride

Afterwards we took a walk to the beach closest to our hotel and had a nice beach-side dinner while watching twilight turn to night.  It was after the dinner that I realized the papaya salad that Frankie and I had for lunch didn’t settle well.  I didn’t know that 10% of the papaya salad eaten in Thailand leads to food poisoning.  (But I probably should have guessed it!!)  Luckily, Mike and Jennica didn’t eat any of it (which would have added to Mike’s existing digestive issues) and Danvin only had a little.  So now everyone had some degree of something icky, except for Jennica!

Kids collecting something in the sand during low tide – clams? crabs?

Day 4 – A Day in the Hotel

We had a boat tour to Phi Phi Island scheduled for today, but after my eventful evening I was spent – and still a bit queasy.  Frankie and Danvin were troopers though and went on the tour anyway.  Mike and I knew with the condition we were both in it would not be a fun boat ride and day at the beach for us – especially since Jennica was full of energy and feeling great.  Where would we scrape up the energy to keep up with her?  So we stayed in our hotel and tried to rest while she ran around us entertaining herself, and then being entertained by the TV.  In the afternoon we managed to make it out to the pool.  That day I ate nothing but “safe” foods – crackers and pizza.

Jennica in our hotel pool

Day 5/6 – Our Return Home and the iPad Miracle

Our return home was a great example of what happens traveling when both parents are not at their best. After flying two back to back legs (Phuket to Bangkok and Bangkok to Taoyuan) we arrived at our hotel in Taoyuan and realized that we left Jennica’s portable potty seat on the airplane.  Argh!  We loved that thing and nothing as good as it exists in Taiwan. The next day we took the high speed train from Taoyuan to Kaohsiung and after returning home we realized that we had left Mike’s new iPad mini on the train.  AAAAAARRRRGGGGH!  We contemplated the odds of getting it back.  Kaohsiung was the last stop for the train before heading back north to Taipei so a cleaning crew usually enters before others can board.  We were the last passengers off our car – perhaps the cleaning crew found it and turned it in?

I went to the train station with my mom as a translator.  The guy behind the help desk asked a series of very specific questions – what train did you arrive on?  what seat? color of the iPad? etc.  Then my heart soared when he said, we found an iPad on that train.  He handed me the iPad – is this yours?  My heart sank.  No, it’s not.  Man, how many iPads are lost on the train each day?  He had me leave a description of our iPad and our contact information in case something came up, but he admitted the odds were not good since it wasn’t found by that cleaning crew.  I sadly gave up hope but left a message for Mike saying he should answer any call from an unfamiliar Taiwan number in case it was the train station.  A few hours later I received a series of frantic texts from Mike – they found his iPad!  Thank you, God!!  It turns out that the iPad actually made the journey all the way back up to Taipei and then down again to Kaohsiung before it was found by the evening cleaning crew.  The guy behind the help desk couldn’t find it earlier because the iPad was listed as being found on a later train.  Seriously, how many iPads DO they find each day?  We thought it was unbelievable that no one decided to pick it up during its entire “journey without its owners”.

That concludes my very long summary of Thailand!  Thank you Danvin and Frankie for bearing with us and sharing in the adventure!!  Khob-kun-ka!  (Jennica still says it from time to time.)  :)

A Typical Weekday

Some of you may be wondering, what exactly does Lani do all day during the week in Taiwan?  Excellent question.  I sometimes wonder that myself when I think, where did my day go?

My morning begins with Jennica waking up and saying, “I need something to eat!”.  Her waking time can range from 7:30am to 8:30am – a little later than she wakes in the US because she goes to sleep later here in Taiwan.  It is impossible to have an early bedtime for her here.  I then get out of bed and give her a slice of bread with cheese, a banana, and make some oatmeal.  Sometimes she asks to go down to the 7-11 downstairs to buy a strawberry yogurt drink for breakfast.

While Jennica is eating breakfast I’m also doing laundry on most days.  We have a very small washing machine so I have to do small loads more frequently.  This means I can actually wear the same 4 outfits over and over and over again which also means I WAY over-packed!  Doing small loads works out well though because we don’t have a dryer so everything is line-dried – and the rack outside can only hold so many clothes.  Since it takes a day for the clothes to dry, I’m limited to a load a day.  If I need the laundry to be dry that night (or I’m tired of wearing crunchy, stiff clothing), I walk half a mile to the laundromat to dry a load.

Depending on the day, after breakfast there is usually something scheduled.  Once or twice a week I meet with Shu-Fern to have a two-hour Chinese lesson.  On those mornings my mom will watch Jennica.  On Tuesday mornings Jennica has her music class, and now she also has art classes on Wednesday mornings.  Both of these are parent/child classes and her cousin Ashley attends with her.  If we have an unscheduled day, we use the day to go exploring Kaohsiung with my mom.  We have a tourist map from the subway station that has “must-see places in Kaohsiung” that we are trying to work our way through.  :)   We walk everywhere.  If a place is really far away, we’ll take the subway or bus.  It is a 1.3 mile walk to get to my cousin’s place from our place and that’s also the general vicinity of Jennica’s classes and all the good places to eat.  On a single day I might walk up to 5 miles just walking to and from our apartment to various places.  This would be great for exercise except that I also walk right by milk tea places and bakeries…

Jennica and I almost always have lunch out with my mom after lessons and after walking around a bit or running a few errands, we’ll head back to our apartment for her nap.  While Jennica is napping I will either A) nap, B) study Chinese, or C) watch a movie on TV.  I’ll let you guess which one of those I do most frequently.  :)

Jennica has recently been napping between 2-2.5 hours so sometimes her naps will take us right up to dinner time.  If she wakes early, we may walk to the playground or go to the department store to play some games or ride the kiddie rides.  If Mike comes home early and Jennica is awake, we’ll try to drop her off at my mom’s so we can go for a jog or go to the gym (this doesn’t happen very often).  Then, we all go out for dinner.  “All” is sometimes just me, Jennica, and Mike, but more frequently includes my mom.  About 3 times a week it also means the extended family.

Night time is when Taiwan really comes to life, so after dinner we like to walk around town a bit and let Jennica run out some of her energy.  This often involves excursions to the department store next door to us.  Finally, Jennica winds down between 9:30-10:30pm and goes to bed.  Usually, Mike and I are exhausted ourselves and follow soon after!

Jennica with her home-made drum, performing a concert in music class

Hard at work on her art project

Final results – Can you tell some parents helped their kid more than others?

At the Science and Technology Museum – some pretty fun stuff in there!

Play-doh fun with Ashley

Shopping In Taiwan

I’ve been trying to learn some Mandarin during our stay here.  Since the only lessons I’ve gone through so far center on shopping vocabulary and expressions, I feel like I should be able to get along fairly well while shopping.  Sadly, that is not the case.

When I purchase something, I arrive at the cashier armed with the phrases: “I want this one”, “how much does this cost”, and “thank you.”  Unfortunately, it’s rare that it’s that simple.  Most of the time, the cashier will look at me and ask a question while ringing me up.  I usually don’t understand a single word of what was asked.  After seeing my anxious and confused expression, he or she will simply hand me my receipt as if the question really wasn’t that important to begin with.  I’ve learned that some of those questions are, “would you like to buy a bag for your purchase,” “do you have a membership card,” “do you have a frequent customer card,” and “do you need the company numbers” (something needed for tax purposes).

Of course, buying my favorite thing here, a pearl milk tea, is especially complicated.  My first time ordering one was greeted with a barrage of questions, most of which I didn’t understand at all.  After several visits, lots of gesturing, and tutorials from Mike and Shu-Fern, at least now I can answer all of them.  “Fresh milk (instead of evaporated milk), small pearls, cold drink, medium cup, half the sugar, regular ice.”  Whew!

I don’t really go out shopping for clothes over here because if I can fit anything at all it has to be XL (the largest they offer), and even then if it has long sleeves or pant legs it is often still too short.  I know there has to be a population of Chinese women that are bigger than me – where do they buy their clothes?  The other day I walked by a clothing store with a sales rack outside.  My mom pulled a pair of pants off the rack that were a steal – $6 (US).  And they were long!  I was so excited, but when I went into the store to try them on, I was told you cannot try on their sale items.  Huh?  I was super glad my mom was there because I would not have understood that by myself (and still don’t understand the logic).  I sadly put the pants back on the rack because the pants were labeled S and really, the odds were not good that my waist would actually fit.

Oh, and I completely avoid looking at shoes. When I ask for a pair that would fit me the sales people just point at my size 9 feet and laugh.

Exercising in Kaohsiung

Since I’ve been in Taiwan I’ve only been jogging twice.  Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan so while there are nice jogging paths, large roads and lots of cars and scooters are also right next to you.  Both times I returned feeling slightly dizzy and like my lungs were full of exhaust.  Ugh.  Not to mention that it’s much harder to jog when I do it so infrequently.  Each run felt like I was running for the first time!

I normally never make good use of a gym membership, but now seemed to be the best time to get one (for the sake of my lungs).  And there is a really nice one conveniently located right across the street from our apartment so we signed up last week. :) While Mike likes to use the gym for the free weights, I like going for the exercise classes.  The problem is my inability to understand most of what is said to me in Mandarin.

My first class was a yoga class. I walked in and surveyed the room – lots of mats were already on the floor and some were clearly claimed w/ towels laying on them or people standing near them.  I saw a few “free” mats so I picked one in the back of the classroom.  I noticed people getting spray bottles and small towels from the side of the class and using those to wipe down their mats.  I copied them.  I was feeling proud of myself for picking up on the ways of the class when a lady tapped me on the shoulder, frowned, and said in Mandarin that I had her mat.  Oops.  Flustered I said “thank you” instead of “sorry” in Mandarin and quickly grabbed a new mat and started the procedure again.

When I first started yoga, it was already difficult for me to follow even in English because of all the different names for poses that I was unfamiliar with.  So having a yoga class led in Mandarin actually wasn’t too different.  I was constantly looking around at others to see what was going on, which is really hard to do in any of the downward poses!  Mike said he stopped by to watch me through the window of the class for a few minutes and said that I was always behind or doing the wrong move at the wrong time.  I said that’s pretty much what I look like in an English-speaking class as well!

Today I tried a step aerobics class.  For this one, I think knowing the language could have made a difference.  Once I would understand a move, the instructor would say something else and everyone would switch to something different.  Again, I was always behind and this time most often on the wrong foot as well.  I felt better when I noticed a few others also on the wrong foot, until I realized that they were behind me and perhaps trying to follow me.  Sorry!  Many times I would have to just stop and watch for a while before I understood the footwork at all – then the instructor would move on by the time I got it.  Hmmm…actually, it would probably be the same if it were in English.  :)

I’m excited about the classes though.  I hope they will help get me in shape!  At one point in the step aerobics class everyone grabbed a weight off the wall.  I watched what most of the other women were taking and took a similar-sized weight with both hands – it seemed reasonable.  It turned out that most of the time we used the weight with just one hand though, and all the women were actually much stronger than me.  Ouch.

In yoga and step-aerobics at least my mistakes are limited to my own mat or step.  I think it will be a while before I venture out to a Zumba class, where I could cause some real damage to others!



Shou Shan Zoo

Mike and I had mentioned to our relatives that we wanted to visit the nearby mountain/nature reserve which is supposed to have great hiking trails and lots of monkeys – also nicknamed by tourists as “Monkey Mountain”.  Yesterday they took us to the Shou Shan Zoo located within the reserve.  My mom mentioned to our relatives, “No, they wanted to hike and see the wild monkeys” and my relatives said, “Why? They’re mean!”.

So a little something was lost in that communication – but it was probably for the best since I think the hiking trails are probably too much for Jennica.

At the entrance of the Shou Shan Zoo

Overall the zoo was nicer than I expected considering some of the zoos I’ve seen in Asian countries, except for the poor alligator exhibit which looked like an old shallow swimming pool.  Oh, and the lonely single African elephant.  It also had a water play area but I was unprepared for that so no water for Jennica.  She did enjoy the coin carousel though.

Riding the black and white zebra

Seeing the black and white tigers

Then to my delight – wild monkeys!  While I was in the bathroom with Jennica, a large male was watching my family from a tree branch above them.  Mike spotted him and warned the others away just before he dropped to the ground and then scampered off.  I was sad I missed it but soon after two more monkeys appeared looking for handouts from the zoo visitors.  There are also signs all over the place warning you to not have food in your hands because they will grab it directly from you.

Looking for handouts in the zoo…

Macaque surveying the area for free food

I believe these are Formosan macaques.  Apparently they cause quite a ruckus at the nearby Sun Yat-Sen University as well – raiding student dorms if a door or window has been left open.  Can you imagine having wild monkeys on campus instead of squirrels?!  I’m really looking forward to our future mountain hike now….  :)



Little Panda in Kaohsiung

In the Bay Area I used to take Jennica to a Mandarin music class called Little Panda.  She loved it and has learned to sing quite a few Chinese children songs because of it.  I was hoping to find something similar to take Jennica to over here in Kaohsiung.

Well, Shu-Fern told me about a class that’s walking distance to our apartment so Jennica went for the first time yesterday (Mei-Yu Kids Music and Dancing).  The price for the class is quite comparable to US prices for something similar – in fact it’s more expensive than the Little Panda class Jennica was taking – so my mom mentioned that really only the very wealthy in Taiwan could afford such a luxury for their kids.  My mom managed to get a discounted price by paying for classes for Ashley as well so that she can attend with Jennica.

I was always very impressed with Jennica’s Little Panda teacher and pleased with the class, but I was quite blown away by yesterday’s class.  The class is organized around a series of books, which come w/ a music CD, and the theme of the class follows the books.  Yesterday’s book was about Santa Claus searching for his missing bell – and the song was Jingle Bells.  The teacher then proceeded to go through a series of activities all related to the book.  She played a little ditty on the piano of short notes and taught the word for “catch” and had the kids pretend to catch snowflakes.  Then played a series of running notes that sounded like the wind.  She taught the word for “long” and “short” corresponding with the music and had the kids run around and stop and get twirled by the parents with it as well.  A few of the other activities included having the parents pull the kids around on an extra-large shirt that served as a sleigh (and taught the word for “sleigh”), and hiding hand-bells under pom-poms around the room so kids could find the bells and shout “I found it!”.  Kids were also encouraged to find pictures in the book where Santa’s clothes were “red”, “white”, etc. and had the chance to play three different musical instruments to go along with Jingle Bells – sounding like the feet of reindeer or the bells.

Receiving stamps at the end of music class

It was very repetitive and focused on vocabulary-building at the same time.  I don’t know about Jennica, but I learned a lot of words that day!  So excited to find this so close to where we live!  :)