The 3 Little Backs and How They Grew

Piper, Teddy and Toby

The kids have changed so much since we arrived almost 6 months ago. Toby is now a couple centimeters taller than Teddy, after having been the same or shorter than his brother for their entire lives. Toby still has anger issues and Teddy still has sensitivity issues (as in, too much sensitivity), so the crying has not diminished as I had hoped it would when they turned three, but thanks to my extreme mortification over Chinese people’s comments on their diapers, they are “potty trained”–which for us means they wear underwear everyday (unless they’re going commando because I can’t keep enough clean, dry underwear available, as I do not have a drier), and I remind them to go potty every hour, and if I don’t, they pee in their pants, and they save their poops for when they’re wearing a diaper at naptime or bedtime (which I’ll take over going in the underwear any day). But at least when we’re in public there is no diaper to be seen. There was no potty-training method to speak of for this final effort, which is strange, considering how much I agonized over it for, well, basically their whole lives until this point. But what can I say? I’m lazy, and they were probably ready for a while. They don’t want to be potty trained and ask for a diaper every day, but so far, so good in spite of all that. They have fully embraced public urination, without which I don’t think I could take them out in public at all, because there’s no way I’d take the three of them into a squatty potty, which I still have not had to use myself yet.

My boys. So proud.

I have also finally gotten around to doing some “school” with them every day, which includes 20 minutes of alone time for each of them with Mommy, something we all needed so much. I have found out that both boys recognize their names out of all the names in our family and can sing the ABCs almost perfectly and that Teddy can count to ten without missing a number and can make a pretty decent attempt at coloring specific objects in a picture. It’s amazing that they can do all these things that I just assumed they couldn’t and never tried with them. Toby’s specialty is singing songs as loudly as he can–forget the tune, it’s all about volume, people. (On a side note, Chinese people cannot sing the ABC song. They get lost at LMNOP, which they sing at the same speed as the preceding letters, and the song never gets back on track. It seems to be a national phenomenon. Maybe rectifying that should be my personal mission here.)

Two peas in a pod, both fascinated by ants. I wonder when they will start to have different interests (from each other, not things besides ants).

We’ve started Piper’s reading curriculum, and she’s so excited about the prospect of being able to read on her own. We’re nowhere close, yet, but one of the best things about having children has got to be watching them grasp new concepts right before your eyes and being continually surprised by all the things they just naturally learn to do on their own. She’s such an expressive talker, and often talks about how she is “pleased” or “cross” or “calm” or “peaceful.” She still has so many cute quirks in her language. She still says “id” instead of “if,” and she says “cooking” as in “crazy old coooook” with along “oo” sound. “Yorglet,” “binny kig,” “parrot chute,” “assigent,” “‘merican round,” “betend and bereal,” “bepunzel,” and “puter.” Of course, she also comes up with the most outlandish cause-and-effect relationships for her emotional/physical states. Toby yelled at her, so her nose hurts, or she stubbed her toe, so she’s hungry. It seems like every day she surprises me by saying something I never expected to come out of her mouth. We were watching Madagascar and Toby asked, “Why did the crocodile eat the baby duck?” and Piper said, “Because he’s a carnivore, just like Alex the lion is a carnivore.” Today, she suddenly said, “‘dobe and Toby. They end in the same sound.” And I said, “What’s a ‘dobe?” And she said, “It’s a building.” It is a comforting thought that they can learn more than what you intentionally teach them. Her favorite thing right now is doing puzzles. She has taken the plunge into real jigsaw puzzles, and after a few practice rounds with a 60 piece puzzle, she wants to 100 piece puzzles. I think it will be a while before she can do those on her own, but she sure is determined.


The kids haven’t picked up much Chinese. The boys can answer “san sui” when asked “ji sui” (how old are you?), and of course, Piper answers “si sui.” They also say “hao chi” when something tastes good, and “ni hao” (hello), “xie xie” (thank you), “dui bu qi” (sorry) and “zai jian” (goodbye). Piper knows that “piaoliang” is “lovely,” because it’s said to her all the time, and sometimes when she puts an outfit on she says, “Maybe they will say ‘piaoliang’ to me. I like it when they say that.” (Our kids will be in for such a rude awakening back in the States.) They like to play taxi and when I come to pick them up and ask where they want to go, they surprised me one day by saying “Chengji Homar” (Our building name + back gate). And that, I think, encompasses ALL of their knowledge of the Chinese language.

Because sometimes we aren’t satisfied with the attention we draw with our skin color alone.

The kids are still a huge handful here, more than they ever were in the US. Because they are each other’s only playmates and they are together all the time, they play very involved imaginative games that involve lots of dialogue (They are always telling each other what to say: “You say, ‘Where’s my friend?’ and I will say, ‘Here I am. I came off the track.'” And then acting it out precisely as instructed immediately afterward.) and lots of violence. They play so roughly with each other, in a way that overwhelms any single-child playmates they come across. They don’t generally hurt each other, definitely not intentionally, but they can be so loud and so crazy, and that’s pretty much them all the time. I’m sure most parents can think of a kid that, when mixed with their own kid, creates two crazy-wild children that no person would ever want in their house. That is my children to each other. We’ve had a few playdates, but when I try to encourage the boys to make friends with another child, they’re not that interested. I told Teddy once that a little boy wanted to be his friend and Teddy looked at me like I was crazy and said, “TOBY’s my friend!” Anyway, my children are louder, wilder, dirtier and more daring than most Chinese children of their ages, and it makes me tired. Chinese people in general are very sympathetic about my plight. They often say, “We are so tired just taking care of one child. Aren’t you tired?” Then I can employ my limited Chinese to impress them by saying, “Lei si le.” (Tired to death.)

Playing a very organized (by Piper) game of run-up-the-side-of-the-pyramid. They really are best friends.


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