Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day 4 of Irma: the cat 1

Well, the “only” category 1 hurricane that hit us was terrifying. No one is saying Irma was “anticlimactic” now.

It started to get bad close to midnight, but it was only going to get worse. I had stayed up until that point but figured I could get a couple hours since my husband was up. I got about 2.5 hours until flashes woke me up. It was bright enough to wake me and adrenaline hit me instantly because I don’t remember ever seeing lightening during hurricanes before. I ran to the window to see what was going on. The sky flashed bright green. I had no idea what it was. As it continued to flash and got farther away, it looked like lightening underneath a very thick layer of dark clouds. I didn’t know green lightening existed and it was very eerie seeing into the hurricane as its clouds were illuminated from within. I also wondered what it meant. The frogs that I didn’t know lived in my neighborhood were loud and happy and my weather radio was silent so I figured it wasn’t a tornado. 

This was probably the worst part of the night between 2:30 and 3:30am. The rain was pounding on the windows with such force, it sounded it like the glass would shatter from the water alone. Not to mention the clinking sounds that were also hitting the glass. Maybe it was hail, or debris or dirt? It was loud and powerful and I expected the glass to come crashing in at any second.

 It was oddly quiet though. If you expect a hurricane to be like a thunderstorm, it’s not. There was no thunder, just a howling wind. Every now and then you would hear the sound of something breaking or banging. Then of course there was the blare of my weather radio that would make me jump out of my skin every time. It was constantly going off after 3am. Mostly for flash flood warnings, which luckily don’t effect us. What I was really looking for was a tordado warning. 

We were of course under a tornado watch because it was a hurricane but a tornado warning is our signal to wake everyone up and shelter in place. I was ready to grab my babies and run to our like designated area at any moment. My dads house was hit by a tornado a couple of months ago and it gave a healthy fear of them. It was just a regular thunderstorm that produced a small tornado but it was instant destruction that threw a tree from another street into his house. The tornados from Irma were bigger. I had my weather radio which has imprecise location alerts and then I had my cellphone which is much more precise with gps. We got a tornado warning around 4 am and my heart stopped. Seeing those words on the screen were my biggest fear. I was just waiting for the alert on my cellphone to grab everyone and run. Luckily, it was a few miles away so I didn’t have to panic. 

While everyone else slept, or mostly slept. I watched the trees bend and the world get pressure washed. I listened to the radio tell me about the wind speeds and tornados and the upcoming path. I watched the lights flicker expecting to lose power at any moment. Around 5am, I was spent. I had built a trust with my radio alerts that I decided to close my eyes until my babies woke up me at 7:30 am. 

It felt like a new day and everything had happened in another life, but we were still in the storm. Just a storm with daylight. Something about the daylight made everything look safer and people started to go out their front doors to survey the damage. The storm wouldn’t be completely gone until around noon but it had weakened of course. I didn’t see any damage to my house (from the inside) but part of my fence was down and there were large branches everywhere. There was a huge branch that looks like it just missed our car and a huge branch that just missed our house. We were insanely lucky. We hadn’t lost power, there was no damage to our house, and there was no flooding locking us in our house. You can’t help but be in reverent awe of the power of a storm like that and then not greatful that your family is still safe. I wanted to cry and just hug my family. 

All morning my phone went crazy with texts as everyone checked in on everyone and compared damage. We got calls from china with people wanting to go check on their relatives (our friends) because they can’t get in contact with them. My husband wanted to do it but I had to explain that he couldn’t. Bridges were still closed, we were still in a hurricane, we didn’t know which roads were flooded, and we didn’t know where there were downed power lines in standing water. I couldn’t get in touch with so many people, including my parents, but there was nothing I could do. Most of the city and state was without power and there were downed cell towers, I just had to trust that was the reason for the radio silence. 

While it’s true the worst had past and the storm no longer had its former strength, it really wasn’t over until noon. There was a lot more damage to be done between 10:30 and noon. There was debris everywhere and trees were weakened after taking a beating for 12 hours. The still powerful wind continued to blow things into our house with regular waps and bangs. The branches just kept coming down. Once it was finally over and the wind finally stopped, I finally got a chance to sleep. 

Not over yet. I woke up around 2:30 pm and my phone was blowing up again. I was so concerned with my immediately family that I had completely missed what had happened to the city. My first clue that something was wrong was a message from my office that they are staying closed tomorrow as well. I’m incredibly greatful because I’m tired and worried about my parents and have a yard to clean up, but its now bright and sunny out and it’s an incredibly expensive decision for the office to stay closed. That’s when I turned on the news on and found out the city is flooded. There’s recoded flooding the city hasn’t seen on 200 years and people are going out on boats. The rivers flooded and we have a lot of rivers. They closed schools on Wednesday too. When I fell asleep for my nap, I was at peace that we had stayed safe but when I woke up I realized that normal is still not here yet. 

The road to my sister’s house

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under hurricane, Uncategorized

Day 3 of Irma: it starts

It moved west. The eye is going to miss us, but it’s destroying the west coast of Florida. It breaks my heart to see the damage this storm is doing. I’ve reached out to all my friends in south and west Florida and those that were staying had changed their minds. My friends that evacuated to Georgia now have to brace for the storm they were trying to avoid. 

This morning I heard the word “anticlimactic” a lot. I get it. There is a lot of build up to a storm like this and it makes you feel like the end of days is coming, but you really don’t want it to be climactic. My husband and Inlaws think nothing of the rain or wind now that the hurricane moved. I actually had the opposite experience. 

This morning the wind woke me up. The hurricane isn’t supposed to be near us until tonight but the wind was already howling this morning. This is a huge storm! It’s been dark all day and the rain nonstop. You know it’s not normal rain when it comes in sideways. 

I got cabin fever this morning and went to search for batteries for my kids’ toy. I checked online for the stores that were open and drove out. It turned out both stores I tried were closed. In fact, everything was closed. There were a few other cars that seemed to be driving aimlessly or also not knowing where to go. It was very weird seeing gas stations closed. While some business were boarded up, others didn’t even bring their promotional signage in! There was already tree debris on the road and those signs will be there soon enough. The wind was already scary enough to not want to drive again.

Of course nothing happened today, we are just waiting. Some of our friends locally already lost power, but our power kept us with a steady supply of Netflix and news. I prepped our safe room with blankets and flashlights. The tornado warnings started earlier than I expected but I’m ready. My husband and Inlaws think I’m crazy, but they have never been through a destructive hurricane or tornado. I had to convince my father in law to not sleep in his bed tonight because I don’t want to risk the two trees outside his room falling in his sleep.

I wasn’t afraid of hurricanes when I was younger. In college, they literally were just parties by candlelight. Even younger, it was  time away from school. Of course I knew about the destruction. I’ve seen it so many times. I just didn’t have to be the responsible adult preparing for the hurricane until I had kids, then I became kind of crazy. I will unabashedly prepare for everything now.

I won’t get to sleep tonight. I will be listening for anything breaking or tornado warnings in my area in case we need to move away from the windows. The worst of the storm starts around midnight tonight and will last for about 12 hours. I’ll sleep tomorrow when everyone is safe. 

Leave a comment

Filed under hurricane, Uncategorized

Day 2 of Irma: calm

There are 2 types of floridians when it comes to hurricanes – the ones who have a healthy fear of hurricanes having experienced them and the ones who are complacent about hurricanes having experienced them. Everyone else doesn’t seem to make of them. 

Today I watched some neighbors board up their windows and others go to the beach to watch the storm surge. It’s always an interesting mix. To be fair, the complacent ones are probably going to be right this time according to today’s forecast, but there’s nothing wrong with being lucky. I hope they are always right! As I told my husband after hurricane Matthew, just because you survived a car accident once doesn’t mean you’ll have the same luck a second time. 

Today really was the calm before the storm. It was sunny most of the day but you couldn’t go outside because it was sporadically pouring. Bright and sunny one minute and then a total downpour with no warning. Not that there was anywhere to go. Most places closed yesterday and I didn’t know which ones where open to go to. Though pizza restaurants were probably open.

Inside all day… Can you imagine waking up and having nothing to do and no where to go? It was very weird. I didn’t even need to make breakfast since we got so much bread and fruit from the grocery store yesterday. Nothing to do. My kids did well, but they did want to go outside. Each time we ventured to go for a walk, the downpour started as soon as I opened the door. I already cleaned yesterday so I spent the day prepping walls to paint. I apparently don’t do well with nothing to do. 

What I didn’t do was watch the news. The reason people don’t take hurricanes seriously is because the news hypes them up. Yes, I know a hurricane is deadly and needs to be taken seriously, but it’s a big event for weather stations and they seem to relish in it. They will find the area with the most damage to film or tell you the most horrible possible outcome even if it is the most unlikely. Worst of all, the forecast changes every couple of hours over the course of a week. I don’t need the hurricane fatigue and I don’t need to know what it’s doing today since it won’t affect me until tomorrow. I have weather alerts and a storm radio for anything imminent. 

As for imminent danger, here’s what we are expecting. We are inland enough to not worry about the storm surges and the hurricane is weakening with the eye hitting west of us. People still go surfing during cat 1 hurricanes and some of them survive – it’s no big deal! The danger to us is honestly tornados which tend to pop up during hurricanes. I can say everything will be ok since the hurricane gusts aren’t enough to blow a car into my house but a tornado can. The other danger is how saturated everything already is and how shallow the roots are in Florida trees. A good gust could easily push down some trees. Even if my house is spared, a downed tree could take out our electricity. It all starts tomorrow for us. 

I’m going to sleep in peace tonight because tomorrow I’m going to be up listening for tornado warnings and falling trees. 

Leave a comment

Filed under hurricane, Uncategorized

Day 1 of Irma: prep

I live in North Florida and I’m a good 15 minutes from the beach so preparing for the hurricane is different from what you probably see on the news. The eye of Irma is expected to hit us Monday morning.

Hurricanes are a roller coaster of emotions as you have a week of build up and plot twists. My anxiety levels were high yesterday with all of the hurricane uncertainty and running a mile a minute trying to finish up work before the building closed for 4 days. I felt like I didn’t get a chance to breathe with work and then preparing for a possible direct hit from a possibly category 4 hurricane at home. My husband is complacent with hurricanes but humored me as I sent him checklists throughout the day. Then I did what all Floridians do to prepare for a hurricane – had drink with friends. I’m lucky though, we aren’t evacuating so I got to go home and sleep in my own bed. Maybe “lucky” is yet to be seen.

I woke up this morning and checked the storm path for updates. It had changed drastically over night and had moved west. Being in north Florida, that means there’s a lot of state below us. With a cat 5 hurricane coming towards Fl, the only way for it to stay that strong is to stay over water and ride the east coast. Basically, we want it to hit something before it hits us. Yes, I know this is awful thinking and it does come with guilt, but the hurricane needs land to weaken. When I went to bed yesterday it was predicted to be a cat 4; when I woke up this morning, the hurricane was projected to be a cat 1 or 2 when it hits us. That means really bad things for the rest of the state. 

I have today off for hurricane prep. We aren’t in an evacuation zone (the city is broken down in to flood zones and several zones were evacuated) so we basically needed to buckle down for 4 days of house arrest. I spent a good deal of the day cleaning. I don’t know if one would expect people to do laundry and vacuum before a storm could destroy the roof, but we are more expecting to lose power than have damage. No power means you can’t run the washing machine so I did it all today. My husband and father in law took care of putting anything that could be flung at the house (yard furniture etc.) and put it in the garage. It being the last day without much rain, I took the kids to the playground to wear them out and give them their last taste of freedom. Prep done. 

The weird excitement in the day came after the playground when my son wanted ice cream. I stopped at the grocery store to buy ice cream cones and noticed they had perishable goods marked down. I bought a half off loaf of bread and drove the mile home. Both my husband and mother in law were so excited about the discounts, they immediately drove to the store to buy more. Why not? We are going to need food while stuck in the house. When they came back, the same bread I bought 10 minutes before was now 75% off. That meant the store is dropping prices throughout the day. My moter in law made chicken and celery dumplings with the discounted items we had just purchased and the 6 of us had dinner for less than $2. After dinner, my husband and my father in law went back to the grocery store. This time the perishables were discounted so much, they literally just gave it to them. Seriously. They came home with free stuff. It was so hard to find bottled water but we now have a stockpile of watermelon. 

Today was pretty easy but tomorrow the rain will start. 

2 Comments

Filed under hurricane, Uncategorized

Preschool progress 

My 3 year old has been in preschool for about 6 months now and it has been more difficult than I imagined. 

I don’t know if he likes it. He tells me that he doesn’t and he cries every single morning when I drop him off, yet the staff tell me he is happy and very social and he stops crying right after I leave. He excitedly tells me about things at his school, like he will see a bunny or book and tell me his school has that. Sometimes when his dad picks him up, he will ask to stay a little longer. When I ask him why he doesn’t like it, he says it’s because he doesn’t speak English and he gets sick all of time. 

I can’t begin to describe the last 6 months of illness. Someone has been sick every single week. I know that people say kids get sick when they start school, but this kid only ever got sick once in his 3 years before starting even though he’s been to rural China and licks random objects, then he is sick every other week after starting school. I was not prepared for that and can understand why he was miserable since I shared most of his colds. The doctor said that his immune system should adjust after about 6 months so at least there’s that. 

English is tricky. People say that kids pick languages up fast. Fast is relative. When you are watching your child struggle with not being able to communicate, it is painfully slow. After a couple weeks I could tell his English comprehension increased. He would repeat words while watching Sesame Street and start inserting English words in conversation. It seemed so fast, but then never went anywhere. 

My friends told me it takes 2 months. Drop off did get a little easier at the 2 month mark but he still cried. He keeps using more and more English words but he doesn’t actually speak in English sentences. He shuts off when people try to speak to him in English. I thought maybe he’s speaking it at school and just doesn’t want to at home, but that doesn’t seem the case. 

We got his progress report at 6 months and they said he’s doing well – social, exceeds physical milestones – but they have no idea about his language ability. The school doesn’t have much experience with kids learning esl but from the experiences they have, they said it takes about a year. If that’s true, then we have a ways to go. One small hope – he loves to “read” the Very Hungry Catepiller to me in English. I’m impressed that he knows most of the words. That one book is my only gage into his English ability. My guess is that there is a ton going on inside his head that he just isn’t ready to let out yet.

I don’t think it’s ever easy seeing your baby struggle, especially when you are doing something to supposedly make him happy. It makes me wonder if I did the right thing, even if I didn’t have much of a choice. All the ponies and bunnies in the world can’t seem to entice this kids to want to go to preschool. 

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Back to the country for preschool

My husband is originally from a small farming village, despite this, he won’t admit he’s a 农民 (farmer). There is a negative connotation to it, and it’s something that he has worked to overcome. There are many things that I wanted over the years that he said no to because it’s too country (no shabby chic here ). This is why it is ironic that we chose a preschool on a ranch.

I fell in love with my son’s preschool as soon as I saw it. It’s a no tech preschool with old brick buildings on lake with horses. They guarantee kids will go home dirty and tired every day. I was sold. 

I kept waiting for my husband’s reaction though. When we looked at pediatricians, he chose the one with shiny granite and computers just because it looked fancier than the other choice. What would he think of 50 year old buildings and chickens? Well, he has really changed. 

The guy who grew up in the Chinese countryside moved to the big city for college, and an even bigger city for work, then to America only to send his son back to the country! It is kind of hard to explain to our Chinese family. While Kai’s cousin (also 3) goes to the most expensive, fanciest preschool in their part of Qingdao and comes home with English work, Kai is going to learn to grow vegetables and fish. Mostly we just send them pictures of him riding a pony. A 3 year old on a pony makes everything better. 

I don’t want to psychoanalyze my husband too much. He’s either now really confident and fully Americanized or nostalgic for his childhood. Either way, it’s kind of funny to think about. My husband brags about the rustic school even though it is definitely not the same kind of preschool our Chinese friends send their kids. 

I like the idea of our son having similar (but arguably much better) experiences as his father, and I can’t wait to see how my baby grows and gets his hands dirty!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Bilingual Baby

I always knew my son would inevitably be bilingual, what surprised me is that neither of the languages is English and the challenges that has presented. My baby boy is three now so he’s still developing his language ability but is quiet conversational and talkative at this point. Somehow or another, he has grown up in America learning to speak Mandarin and Shandonghua.

The fact that my son doesn’t speak my language was kind of alarming. Seriously, how did that happen? Didn’t I read stories to him in English? No, not really. For the most of his babyhood, he was more interested in chewing on the book or flipping through the pages than letting me finish a sentence. I used to take him to story time at the library but that wasn’t enough. Didn’t my family speak English to him? Yes, but they rarely saw him. My friends? Wait, most of our friends speak Chinese; when did that happen? We didn’t not expose him to the world around us, but without being in daycare, his world was mostly our home and we simply don’t speak much English at home.

Not a big deal though, he will learn English when he goes to preschool, right? My first realization that my son doesn’t speak English was at the playground. He was 2 and there was a bigger 2 year old blocking him from going down the slide. The older kid was yelling at him and Kai had no idea what he was saying. Both toddlers ended up frustrated. Upon continued observations, I realized that my outgoing baby boy clams up with English speaking kids. He is very outgoing and talkative with Chinese speaking kids. In fact, he seems to come alive whenever we are in China and everyone speaks his language. This brought up two points – 1. He can quickly discern which languages people speak. 2. Not speaking English might hinder his socialization. It also affects my family. My mother has seemed to use it as another excuse to ignore him, my father gets frustrated and yells at him when he doesn’t understand, and my brother just seems sad he can’t interact as well with his nephew. Most strangers just shrug and say he’s shy when he doesn’t respond.

While it is sad that he doesn’t speak my native language, I’m utterly perplexed that he speaks my husbands. How does a child growing up in America end up speaking Shandonghua? My husband and I speak Mandarin at home. I used to speak English when it was the babies and me, but with Kai speaking to me in Mandarin, I speak it back. My Inlaws don’t speak Mandarin though. For almost half of his 3 years, my Inlaws have lived with us off and on. Apparently their influence is stronger than that of the English world around us. We also regularly video chat with relatives back in China who also only speak Shandonghua. He has not spent much time in China at all, but his language ability seemed to blossom when he first went. Chinese people seem to interact with (strangers’) children more than in the US. Among the Chinese community here, hearing him break out in a dialect is kind of an oddity.

Actually, having him speak Chinese at all is an oddity. Around here, most Chinese kids my sons age speak primarily English. My son’s closest friend is also half Chinese and a couple months younger than him. His baby years were primarily speaking Chinese. Just like Kai, his first words and sentences were in Chinese. His friend actually lived in China for almost a year before he turned 2. Then one day he turned it off and started only speaking English. That seems to happen a lot. A lot of our friends complain about their children refusing to speak Chinese. If our friends are any indication, this preference for Chibese won’t last.
We will wait and see what happens when my Chinese speaking son starts preschool in a couple weeks.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized