Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Power of Three: Sleep, School & Snow

Brock used Google Translate on Monday to tell Shaling that she would either be starting school in 3 days or 8 days. She typed "no". He then told her that she didn't have that choice; she would be going to school -- either in 3 days or 8 days. She reached for the keyboard and pressed the "8" key. I had Brock tell her that I say she's smart and that she is going to like school in America. She shook her head no.

I was mildly surprised, because she is very smart and loves to learn. She didn't seem fearful, so we weren't sure why she wouldn't want to go. When we had the opportunity, we had our friend James (who is Chinese & speaks Mandarin) talk to her on the phone about it. We wanted him to tell her that today we were going to go meet her teachers and tour the school, but we also asked him to prod her about why she didn't want to go. After they talked, he said she is not afraid to go, she just doesn't know anything about it. I chalked it up to the typical kid opinion that it is more fun to stay home and watch tv or play with Mom & Dad than it is to go to school.

Considering the short amount of time we've known her, this might seem odd for me to say, but she hadn't seemed herself the last couple of days. She wasn't really sad, but she didn't seem happy either. It seemed to help briefly Monday night when we let her talk on the phone to Ma Meixin/Natalie in Florida. However, hindsight tells us the biggest problem was lack of sleep. She really wasn't dealing well with the 14-hour time zone change. She kept waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning and not going back to sleep. Brock used Google Translate yesterday to tell her that last night she had to stay in bed until the clock showed 6:00. She told him no, but he emphasized that she didn't have a choice, that Mom & Dad make the rules. She said ok. We limited her nap time yesterday afternoon as well.

Something worked, because she basically slept from 9:00 last night to 6:15 this morning in her own bed by herself. She woke up quite peppy. She was singing in the car on the way to breakfast. She enjoyed stomping through the snow in her boots, leaving footprints and deep holes. She was giggling all the way.

The school visit was the icing on the cake. We started out by meeting her teacher, Mrs. Collins and then Mrs. Bivens, who will help her learn English. We took her to the gym to watch a class that was roller skating. She smiled broadly. Eventually, we met up with the assistant principal, Mr. Reed and then went down to see the classroom while it was empty. We showed her the big "3" that labeled her hallway the 3rd grade hallway. She pointed at it and said "three". We then spent time in the room where she'll work on English, the art room, and the library. By that time, the kids in Mrs. Collins class had returned, so we went back to meet them. They all seem very excited about having her in class and one of the girls actually looked up some Chinese on the computer and printed a Welcome message for Shaling's desk.

As we wrapped up the tour and headed back to the main office, Shaling kept saying "three". Brock & I were happy that she remembered what hallway she was in. Back in the main office, I chatted with the nurse and the principal about a few paperwork items while Brock occupied Shaling. She kept talking about three and eventually successfully communicated to Brock that she was not referring to the hallway. She was telling us that she wants to start school in 3 days instead of 8.

She started talking about Preston, but we reminded her that he is in a different school. On a piece of paper, she sketched a picture of our house, two schools, a bus and a car. she drew a line from the bus to a school and labeled it Preston. Then she wrote "Mom" above the car and drew a line from it to the other school and labeled it Shaling. She wanted to let us know she knew he was in a different building. Then, in order to tell us why she brought his name up, she flipped the paper over and drew a stick figure with a backpack and labeled it Preston. Then she drew a picture of another stick figure with a backpack and labeled it Shaling. Like Preston, she wants a backpack so she can go to school too.

As soon as we got home, she sprinted into the house and found the backpack we had given her in China. Since we'd unpacked, it had sat empty, waiting for school. She spread it open to show me that she wanted to fill it. I pulled out the shopping bag of school supplies that my Mom had gotten for us and suggested that Brock go ahead and help her organize & label the items while I ran some errands. He told me later that she was giddy the entire time. After watching him label several items with "Shaling Reynolds", she started writing her name on items herself in order to help him.

For lunch, we met a couple of coworkers at a seafood restaurant that has a buffet. She was thrilled to find boiled shrimp. We were impressed when she told our friends "My name is Shaling." It may be simple, but it's a complete sentence and it's her first week home!

Next, we went to Wal-Mart to get her a pair of sneakers for P.E. and some ear buds for computer class. In the shoe section, Shaling indicated that she wanted me to buy Preston a pair of new shoes too, but I told her I wasn't sure what size to buy him right now. In the check-out line, she asked for some Chapstick. She could use some, so I obliged. She then asked me to buy some for Preston. She was really wanting him to get something new too. As the clerk scanned our items, she leaned across the conveyor belt and said, "My name is Shaling. I'm 9." It wasn't until the clerk replied to her that we realized what she'd said. I guess she's heard us tell enough people her name & age that she's going to just tell them herself. They may be short, but I'm impressed that 5 days into being home, she's using a couple of complete sentences. You go girl!


  1. It seems like she likes to do things for other people. She wants to make sure Preston gets stuff. She wants to help with the labels. Think of playing off of that instinct.

  2. Google trasnlator probably is not the best way to communicate with her, I just tried online Google translator after reading your blog, I typed: "you are going to start School in 3 days or 8 days" the Chinese translation came out as: "you will be in a 3-day school or 8-day school", it does not make any sense to me. I probably would think you were going to send her to a boarding school.

  3. We realize that Google Translate isn't fool-proof and use it with a grain of salt, but it has been effective enough for us with basic yes & no questions. Perhaps my husband worded it differently when he asked her, because we have no doubt she understood the question the way it was meant...especially since the school visit so readily caused her to change her answer from 8 to 3.

    In fact, tonight, my husband explained to her that today is Wednesday and that she would start school next Wednesday. She said no & indicated she wanted to start sooner. I suggested to him that I could contact the school to see if she could start Friday. He then asked her if she'd like to start in two days. She said no & typed the number one.

  4. Oh, and if I can give my son a little spotlight here, he told his dad last night, "Dad, I know you are giving Shaling extra attention, but I feel like I'm still getting attention too & I know you still love me."

  5. I remember a story of when Nixon went to China. They had just invented the first electronic translator. Nixon wanted to test it first so he entered "Out of sight, out of mind". Quickly some Chinese characters popped up. To complete the test they entered the characters to translate back to English.

    After some serious humming the gizmo lit up with "Invisible Idiot".

    Gotta watch those translators.......