Great Leaps Forward and also More of the Same

For this winter break we have managed to get the kids registered for several things so that they aren’t bouncing off the walls. Last week they did a couple of days of ping-pong, a play center, and some scouts. This week is about half-structured: kids do ping-pong in the morning and classes at a sports center in the afternoon, and we’re also swapping writing/computer programming with another family. Next week is a full week of camp and then the week after that will be mostly empty.

The kids are making great leaps in some areas. I started a Kumon English workbook with the twins this week and they seem to be getting it. We have done phonics and flashcards and a lot of us reading to them, but this is the first time I’m having them work through nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. I hope that they could be reading by grade 2.

With Sam I visited the European School/English section today. Sam really liked it. It feels more tightly knit/family-like than the larger American school and also a bit more cosmopolitan than the missionary school. That said, (1) it’s pricey and (2) admissions is competitive. We also have the challenge that we sometimes go back-and-forth between the US and Taiwan, and most urban Taipei schools will make us re-apply anytime we leave. As Americans, we’re also not on the priority list. It was interesting to see what they were doing. Sam has done a lot of what they were doing either on his own or at Lih-Jen. They have a “Dahl Day,” do some programming with scratch, have a “long write” assignment each week, and do arts/music. Some of the difference was also cultural. A teacher came out and greeted us, people seemed very friendly, and Sam in fact saw several friends from Scouts or church.

For fun, I recently bought a Taiwanese C pocket trumpet, a Carolbrass brand. I haven’t played trumpet regularly since high school. I’m already set to play some in church, and today Sam and I found a little brass instruments store in Shihlin. I was impressed that Sam knew the Chinese word for “mouthpiece,” probably from recorder/harmonica at Lih-Jen. He’s also interested in moving over to brass.I bought him a mouthpiece and we found a mute also.

New Year, New Semester

January always straddles the period between the end of the calendar year and teaching and then a month or two of a mix of grading, independent work, and Lunar New Year. This time, for the first time, all three kids will have four full weeks off at New Year. We’re hoping to do a mix of camp, travel, and classes for them.

They are all doing pretty well. I’ve been impressed by how everyone’s Chinese has taken a leap forward. It is still a struggle. Eva often gets 40s on tests, probably because her teacher is tougher, but she knows the local writing system and is learning characters and is a little more independtly directed on English. Sam reads a lot and seems to be doing well, but still struggles with math. For whatever reason, even basic caclulations (9+6, 7×5) are still a struggle for him. We have workbooks, apps, and flashcards, but it’s not easy. Eli, our more hard-headed, intense child, is actually doing very well. I think he likes the structure of the school and he seems to know what he needs to do and do it.

I have stayed busy on a mix of things. I preached last Sunday at the local episocpal expat church and will preach the coming Sunday at Shuanglian, the downtown Prebyterian church. I like both of these congregations and feel at home with them. In the month ahead I have some reviews to finish, grading, a manuscript proposal, and a lot of summer planning to figure out.

We still struggle with periodic culture shock. It’s funny to me how hard it is to adjust even after being here a decade. Today we did some of the exams for applicants for the fall. I was on the music students’ groups. In the State, admission for seminary is basically transcripts, a test like the GRE, and letters of recommendation. I don’t think an interview is normally required. Here, I believe that students submit transcripts, but we essentially ignore them. Instead, students are submitted on the basis of either recommendation and oral exam or a written and oral exam. In Taiwan, questions are a lot more personal. Today the interviewers asked students about things including their parents’ divorce, church conflicts, BMI, etc. The interviews also use a huge amount of time. This is partly because they cover part of what in the US would be a church process, so later on we will also get pscyhological exams and it’s not uncommon to gather information via social networks (“her brother’s pastor’s wife was my classmate’s friend and she said…”). I objectively can often see an upside to this approach–students often enter with a lot more support and are better known by classmates and teachers–but it can still feel a bit alien to me.

I’ll try to write here more in the weeks ahead. Both the twins (at public school) and Sam (at the bilingual school) are going along but I’m always fascinated by their worlds also. Emily is a lot more active in the twins’ school and seemst to enjoy the mix of volunteer, church, and other work she is doing. I’ve navigated the new accreditation faculty input system and am also looking in the how/when/where of US church visitation schedules.


The main religion/theology/bible conference held in the States is the American Academy of Religion (held together with the Society for Biblical Literature). 10,000 scholars come from all over the world to share work on religions, texts, and movements. I’ve been going on and off since early in grad studies. Initially, I found the conference to be kind of loud and disorienting. Over the years I’ve been grateful to find a mix of communities that I value. Early on these were the world Christianity, Chinese religions, and Reformed history and theology groups.

In 2011, via Sandy Kuntz, I was invited to join Society for Buddhist-Christian Study’s board and then became its newsletter editor. I like the group because they meet on Friday, so I get to start the conference a little earlier, to reconnect with people in a structured format, and often there’s a trip in the evening to a religious site (this year was my first time organizing it—we visited a Buddhist temple, Fo Guang Shan Boston). I’ve been grateful to be part of Chinese Christianities also, which is a seminar now in its third year and has helped give some direction to the field. I’ve also bounced around some—I followed the immigration seminar’s work for a while and this year was on a panel on gaming.

I often visit Princeton Seminary’s reception and sometimes Vanderbilt (because our family friend Yakhwee and I go together). In the past, PCUSA had a meeting, but it seems to have now disappeared. This year there were other fun parts. A coworker’s daughter presented this year, I saw a number of old classmates and professors, and I was able to wander the voluminous book hall, checking out new books and dreaming about future projects. The value of a conference is you get a fair amount of focused time—thirty or forty hours of interaction pushed into a few days.

I can usually only justify trips like this if I do several things. This time I went several days earlier to get on time and visited family in Williamstown, MA, where my mother grew up. I also spent one day in Boston getting the lay of the land and visiting two people at BU. I was able to visit the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Greater Boston. Now I am back in Taiwan and still jet-lagged. Today I am helping my seminary with papers for its accreditation with ATESEA. I teach tomorrow and Wednesday. I’m feeling a bit behind on paperwork and grading, but also grateful for the chance to get new perspectives.

Fall Forward

After an unplanned blogging hiatus, now seems like a good time to return. 

New Semester

The new semester has been a good one. For my Taiwanese religions class I have a group of students that I really like. Most come from Christian families, but there’s also a couple that grew up in non-Christian families, which means they know local religious traditions really well. It’s interesting to me, because they often seem to enjoy the class the most, as if they both can revisit what it was like to be a child and also have a depth about what their faith means now. Recently an older student asked me “what generation Christian are you?” and it was a reminder of how different the world is from which I come. (Short answer: I told him that my ancestors are a mix of not very good Christians, with some OK Christians, and also some great Christians, but it’s kind of a mix.)

I’m also co-teaching a course on youth ministry with a returned student Yu-Hui CHANG. It has been a really fun class. It’s not something in which I have a lot of training, but I’d done PTS’s youth ministry certificate and worked as a part-time youth director for a number of years, and I really get a kick out of both the material and student engagement. I think it’s the first time our seminary has offered this class (although they do have some background in campus ministry and run recruitment camps for young adults). Yu-Hui’s background is in education, so I also learn from her. A challenge for me has always been how to do good student discussion. “All class” discussions never worked great, but this semester we often split students into smaller groups to talk and then come back to discuss “in the round.” It’s made me happy to see books translated into Chinese by teachers or classmates, including Kenda Dean, Jason Santos, and DeVries. Andy Root has just come through Taipei (he’s actually in Taiwan now) and his most recent book has been translated. This is an area I hope I can encourage with modest effort until we produce others locally who can encourage it at our seminary.


The kids’ schooling is always a bit of a dilemma. In general, it’s been a very good semester. Sam likes his English teacher a lot. He’s also gotten along really well his current Chinese teacher (she gave him an award recently for “obedience”). Unfortunately she’s had eye troubles and is leaving mid-semester. This has happened with this class before, so I feel sorry for the teacher and wonder if there’s more to the story. Sam’s interested in moving to one of the international schools, probably Morrison Academy. I think the area he needs the most help is likely with math, and doing this might help him. We’d hoped he could stay at Lih-Jen through grade 6, but now may be a good time to move him. Still, it’s a lot of paperwork.

The twins are also doing well at their school. They are in the afternoon program, which gives them extra homework help. One of the continuous tradeoffs we’ve had has been Chinese/English. They have really incredible Chinese right now, but it’s still a struggle to keep them up with peers, and we will need to do some extra work on English reading and writing, perhaps over new year. I think the parents that do bilingualism the best are the ones where they each speak a different native language. For Chinese, it really helps to have parents that have the characters cold and can explain/teach (we can do some of this, but we’re not great).

Sam’s doing the National Write a Novel in a Month program. I think it will really be good for him. I feel like he sort of naturally corrects for curriculum gaps. He’s been really big into Percy Jackson, so he’s pretty much memorized large chunks of Roman, Greek, and Viking mythology, and for his own books he wanted to use the Egyptian pantheon.

Emily’s been able to be more involved at the twins’ school. She’s a story-telling mother 故事媽媽 gushi mama and helps in the library. An oddity of schooling here is that public schools and international schools request/demand parental involvement but at the schools like Sam’s they are almost hostile to it.

The kids continue to do scouting, some music, some swimming, and church. I think it’s already a pretty full schedule. Sometimes I wish they could do more outside activities, but this is a pretty full schedule.


This year I’m headed to the American Academy of Religion again. I’m in two groups that meet, Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies and the Chinese Christianities group. There are a lot of other conversations I enjoy when I can get to them (a seminar on immigration, the Chinese religions group, world Christianity, Reformed history and theology). I’ll get to see Yakhwee and a former student here also and am just really excited about it. I’ll also visit one of our supporting congregations in Boston and I’ve tacked on several days pre-arrival to see my aunt and uncle in Williamstown, MA and hopefully to visit the Williams College library (they have at least some materials I could use).

School Begins…

It’s good to be back in Taipei. Our biggest adjustment this year is that we have the twins in first grade at the local elementary school, Ren’ai. I wrote about the application process for a newsletter. In short, this is the neighborhood school, and we had several thoughts: (1) it might be good to front load Chinese, (2) if we could have them that close it would give them more time at home and more time to rest, (3) maybe it really is easier for us to teach them English than to help them with Chinese.

So far things are going well. They adjusted well to school and mix Chinese in with their English. They seem to love their teachers and have friends both from their old school and the neighborhood.  The paperwork to get them in was enormous. Ever since the twins were born (2x hospital medical forms) I’ve been in awe of how many forms it takes to keep them alive and registered in all of their institutions and activities.

They like the school itself. They do 課後輔導 at the school. In Taiwanese public schools, children attend five mornings but only one afternoon at first and then build up up to all day. Of course, many children actually attend a class to fill in this time, and many kids go much later (until 6pm or 9pm). We’ve signed them up for the fill-in class, which keeps them in school until 4pm, instead of noon. There’s an interesting article here on how much Taiwanese parents save in order to buttress their children’s education. Basically the entire area around our house is after-school programs. The good news is that now the twins are done at 4 with their homework basically complete. We’re going to get a tutor to help them some working on their reading and writing English, but it will just be a few hours a week.

Sam is in fourth grade at a bilingual school. He really likes Lih-Jen and seems to have a good coterie of classmates. He is into the Percy Jackson series now and has read the five books in the last couple of weeks. His English reading/writing is good and he loves science and the humanities. His Chinese, however, seems a little worse since the summer, and during third grade we began to realize he was struggling in math. We’re going to try to add some tutoring for Chinese and for math I’m going to work more with him more. We really like his English teacher this year, Gloria Wang. She has her class working through the whole math textbook (rather than skipping components), and we’re hopeful the English curriculum might stretch to include some more math. (Right now they basically have an hour a week plus several pages of homework, which isn’t enough.)

All three kids are doing scouts, some music, and swimming lessons. A perennial challenge is how much to force them to do and how much to go with the flow or follow their interests. At this age, they change their opinions a lot, so they loved the first swim lesson but complained about the second. The twins seem to be opposing music on the grounds that Sam opposes it, but then Eva really seems to like it and Eli actually isn’t bad. With scouts, they all like it but that may change.

Having the kids settled makes the rest of work and life a lot easier. I’m hopeful that this could be a really good semester and excited about this new chapter where all three are in elementary school.

Summer 2017

Summer 2017 saw us split between Decatur, GA, my family in Birmingham, AL, and Emily’s family in Cincinnati, OH. The time in Decatur was good. I liked Decatur as a place to live. We stayed in “Mission Haven,” which houses church workers from around the world who are home on leave. (I wrote a bit about it for them here.)

Decatur has several benefits over past places we’ve stayed. There’s a good sense of community. Because Columbia Seminary is next door, and the community has Presbyterian ties, we found that there were a lot of people to connect to. I saw several classmates at Columbia and Candler, we visited the local Taiwanese-American church (see newsletter here), and kids could do a lot of local activities. Sam, Eli and I went to cub scout camp. Sam did an art camp and then at Agnes Scott College did a sports camp. Because Birmingham is only a few hours away, the kids were also able to do stretches there.

I am always grateful for the chance to see how different churches do things. Besides the four Taiwanese-American churches, we visited congregations in Samford and Matthews, NC and in Princeton, NJ.

My conference of the summer was the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity. It was a nice chance to see what others in the field are doing, and I was able to catch a ride down to Princeton with my advisor. The conference this year was the 25th anniversary and marked the retirement of Martha Smalley, who has been a force for organization, sharing, and coherence in the field. I was grateful also to meet new grad students who are doing this.

We would like to go back to Decatur in the future. One of our dilemmas as a family living cross-culturally has been to find spaces that can house us. We could return to the US for a large chunk of the 2018-2019 school year, or we could wait a year and go back again next summer. This was a good a summer and it helped us to think about how we might put down roots and develop our work. One advantage of being in teaching is that it’s not a huge sacrifice if we return to the US during a semester-sized chunk of time, but on the other hand we don’t want to just churn through places. There’s also some human cost to all the travel, so it is hard to figure out how to do this in a sustainable way.

End of Semester: Teaching, Logistics

The end of the semester this year is feeling busy but not-quite-frantic. I had two main courses, one a required survey and one an elective. The elective was really fun—we did a visit to Danshui, saw Silence, and talked through Christianity in different parts of Asia. The students were especially interested in the Taiping, which surprised me.

I did several guest lectures for our lay academy. I still find public lectures on a new topic to be about the most stressful part of teaching in Taiwan. For the main lecture I talked a friend, Yin-an Chen, into translating my ppt notes into Chinese, but for the other lectures I did a mix of partial translation and my best effort. This was for a series on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, so I talked about Presbyterians around the world and modern mission for the smaller classes and then “Protestant, Reformed, Presbyterian,” for the large lecture. It’s still a work in process. Two Sundays ago I preached at Shuanglian and this Saturday I’m visiting a church about an hour south of Taipei. Emily is doing the graduation trip for the twins’ school on Saturday, so Sam will come with me.

I’m always amazed by how much logistical work there is. PCUSA requires about 5 hours of online training. I’m working on submitting materials for the Ministry of Education, since the Seminary’s accreditation requires this. We dropped off visa renewals last week and pick them up Monday. We did two sets of taxes in April-May. To return to the US I’m confirming flights and lodging. (Our return flight to Taiwan was bumped from a 7:45am flight to a 6am flight, which means our whole family will have to get up in the middle of the night then.) We also need to get drivers’ license addresses updated and get information out to congregations we visit. Then there’s grading.

I’m editing some English for our postgrad department and trying to finish up a dissertation review and some book reviews. I’m excited to go to the Yale Edinburgh Conference on World Christianity in New Haven this year, and am finalizing that paper. Next week will be the big flight back to the US. Trying to stick with “busy not frantic.” And of course we’re very much looking forward to seeing family and reconnecting to old friends.

End of Semester: Kid Round Up

We’re nearing the end of the semester here. Classes were over last week and graduation is Friday at my school. In Taiwan, grades 1-12 usually goes to June 30. We are heading back slightly earlier because tickets are cheaper, it will help me get to a conference, and Sam can catch a camp.


Sam had a pretty good third grade year. He’s continued on violin (somewhat reluctantly, but more enthusiastically since Eli and Eva started). He did the bear patch in cub scouts. We’ve been involved in two churches this year—Shuanglian and Good Shepherd. The kids call Good Shepherd “the bunny church” because it has rabbits and chickens. I’m gradually getting the sense that they’re all a little older.

Sam’s year at Lih-Jen was good. In the spring we “mainstreamed” him. In practice, he’s not doing the reading/writing homework and Chinese tests, but we’ve found some other materials to use with him and we’re happy with his progress. As I’ve shared here below, the benefit of the bilingual schools is that they sort of split the difference between “full immersion with no life line” and “almost no Chinese.” Public schools tend to have large classes and not many people used to working with non-native speakers and the international schools offer just a few hours of limited Mandarin. At the bilingual schools they do about half of their time in Chinese, including club activities and assemblies and other events. Sam does his music in Chinese and watches movies and can attend church events with me. He’s definitely more comfortable in English but, as I told him, he’s something in between a foreign language learner and a native speaker. He knows intuitively that’s it’s 兩台車 and not 二個車 and his tones are good and he knows a lot of vocab. At the same time, he doesn’t have a home environment in Chinese. He’s excited about fourth grade, although he’s said that the fifth and sixth grade teachers are intense. Emily was happy that his teacher wrote her a note saying Sam’s a good kid and she likes him. We’re grateful for her. Sam will have her for fourth grade, which is great.

Eva and Eli

We successfully were able to register the twins for the school next door. It’s still a little daunting. There will be over 300 first graders with them. At the same time, they seem like they have done really well at their school this year. Eli has a best friend, Wu Canyou, and Eva has a group she gets along with well. Their Chinese is basically native speaker at this point. I don’t know how long they’ll last at public school (1-3 years?), but our thought is that the longer they can stay immersed the better. Eli translates surprisingly well. I asked him what 天才 means and he immediately produced “genius.” It’s interesting to see how each kid is a little different. This semester we’ve also had a teacher’s college-aged daughter come one evening every week or two and do Chinese with Sam and English with Eva and Eli and they all are really coming along. Eva and Eli mix words together, which is cute. They’re a little older than Sam was for their grade and they seem a little farther along so I hope it’s a smooth transition in the fall.

They have also started music with Sam’s teacher. Eva is kind of a dynamo—she’d also been doing short piano lessons at her school. Sam has plugged through book one of Suzuki over a couple of years. It will be interesting to see how the twins do. Right now we bribe them with tablet time if they do music first.

For the summer we have Sam signed up for several camps. The twins are not doing as much because they’re often still under the cut-off age. Sam is doing a presbytery camp, a sports camp, an art camp, and (at the local county park) a horse camp. The twins are both doing a farm camp and Sam and Eli hopefully can do cub scout camp.


Today I met Roland De Vries, a theologian from the Presbyterian College in Montreal who is teaching an intensive course at my seminary. We visited 101 and Da’an park and I had fun hearing about his work. However, I also admit to being a little envious that his semester is over. Another friend in the UK also said his semester is over. But in Taiwan… oh Taiwan… we still have about five or six weeks left in our long seventeen week semester. The semester just seems to last forever.

That said, I’ve had some good experiences lately. I met the two students from my DMin class at the Methodist Seminary downtown last week. One had had heart problems and is trying to slow down church work. The other is an international student from Malaysia who plans to finish her degree in the coming semester. I attended a conference on Buddhist-Christian studies at Fu-Jen Catholic University, which was just fascinating. My MDiv thesis student has submitted his thesis and it looks pretty good. We talked about the Taiping in my MDiv elective yesterday, and tomorrow’s class is also one I enjoy. This week we’re doing part of an intensive testing system for prospective students. Here teachers write exams which are given to students, then graded, then there’s an oral exam, and at some point we’ll set a cut off to determine incoming students. Two book reviews are on the docket and there’s a chance to serve as an external examiner also. I’m hoping to be through all of these projects by the time we finish in mid-June.

We’re also narrowing in on a school for the twins. We think that they’ll get into the school next door, but we are also feeling comfortable with several other options. We went to an open house for a new school start organized by foreigners. I was excited about the possibility and hoped it might be something like a parents’ cooperative or a foreigner-run bilingual school, but instead I think it’s a boutique school aimed at affluent downtown Taiwanese parents who don’t have foreigner passports (to go to international schools here, you have to be on a foreign passport). The tuition is crazy–over a million NT/year (>$35,000). Still, it was a helpful reminder that what we have is pretty good and that we’re lucky to be in a place with excellent options. Sam is really enjoying his classes a lot and the twins have made good strides on their bopomofo and their ABCs.

We’re also working on summer plans. We’ll be in Atlanta in July and split the rest of our time between family in Cincinnati and Birmingham, and I’ll also get to do a quick visit to NJ. The end is near…

Elementary School Enrollment

We’ve been working on school plans for the fall, especially for the twins. Sam is happy at Lih-Jen and will continue into fourth grade there. This semester we took him out of CSL. He has made a fair number of friends through CSL but in the end we decided he would do better just attending the regular Chinese class. He can’t keep up with the reading and writing and we don’t have the time to have him do the homework that would be necessary to do this (probably an extra hour a night + tutoring). At the same time, he seems to follow along in class and be fine with this arrangement. He’s doing well in English and science.

The public school next door for the twins?

With the twins, we had considered trying enrollment at the local public school. We had several reasons for this: (1) they’re a little older for their grade and seem farther along than Sam was at this point (they know their ABCs, are doing some sight words and know Bopomofo), (2) there’s a good public school right next door to us, (3) it would be nice to “front load” more Chinese since we’re more confident about how they’ll do on English (with Sam we weren’t sure how reading would go heading into elementary school but then after six months of first grade he was fine), and (4) public school is cheaper.

That said, enrollment at the public school across the street seems nearly impossible. Emily went and checked in with the enrollment officer at Ren’ai and that teacher told it was an “overfilled school” 額滿學校and asked her to pick from two other schools for our zone (Guangfu or Sanxing). I was kind of distraught by this. I went and checked in with the enrollment officer again—she’s very nice—and she gave me the elementary enrollment people for the education department. On Friday I went and met with them. They talked to me somewhat reluctantly for about a half hour and here’s what I gathered from that.

Things to Know about Public School Enrollment

As background, here’s what I would say:

+ I had heard that foreigners can essentially just enroll at the closest local school, at least for the early grades. This is not true.

+ While the English guidelines suggest that schools will have an enrollment plan for foreigners (guidelines 17 and 20 here), this rule supposedly applies only to schools that are seeking out exchange opportunities.

+ The guideline here says that you can enroll your child if there are 35 or fewer per class is outdated. The number is now 29.

+ If there is competition for slots, to get into the “drawing” for the school (where an individual school will go through its priority lists and enroll students), foreigners need to go to immigration to get their full record of visas and entries/departures.

+It may also be necessary to go to the local household registry place and confirm your status for the draw and get on the school’s drawing list.

+Apparently there are different priorities for schools, which include: low income students, owned/rented housing in the district, when one moved into the current zone, number of children, possibly being a foreigner, etc. I don’t understand the priority lists yet, but will try to post a current list when I do.

+Things work differently for public kindergartens—where often a small number of applicants can draw into the school—and for junior high and high school where there’s a whole other series of tests and so on.


I’ve talked to some parents in our local park, and they helped provide additional info new parents should know:

+If you don’t draw into the preferred school, you will be able to have your kids attend any other school in the zone with openings.

+If you want kids to do homework and keep up, they almost always have to go to an afternoon school program and/or do tutoring.

+For elementary school, classes start with four half-days and one full day a week.

+Local schools (and even the bilingual schools) assume that parents will work to keep their children up to speed and the onus is on the student to stay up to speed.

+Local school offices are often not used to working with foreigners and will not necessarily know how to help you with enrollment (at Ren’ai, they were friendly but at first told us the twins couldn’t sign up for the waiting list until the start of first grade).

+Even for private schools there’s still a lot of variation on how enrollment works. Some definitely require foreigners to draw and at other you can just enroll.

We’re leaning towards just having the twins go to Lih-Jen, the bilingual school, with their siblings. This has a number of pros: easy enrollment, all-in-one 8-4 education, rather than having to shop a separate program for the half-days, a Chinese curriculum + an English curriculum, multiple teachers (so they aren’t out of luck if their one teacher is a bad match), and some extracurriculars as part of the school day. It’s still hard to do English and Chinese well and it will probably be hard to keep them at grade level in Chinese, but for us it’s a reasonable compromise. A friend in the park also said they like the diversity of the public schools, whereas the private schools are all wealthier. Eva has a friend in a public school (she also could not go to the closest school and was slotted into the one with the most openings) who seems to have done fairly well (parents don’t speak Chinese but they have a good tutor). For us the challenge is that with three I just can’t see us realistically walking the twins somewhere a half hour away and getting Sam to school and dealing with after school programs that are farther from us.