Friday, December 30, 2011

Food Guide Pyramid, You will be Ignored Today

Today we defied all rules and recommendations about using sugars and fats sparingly.

Our gingerbread house
Homemade Corndogs
Hush Puppies
Mei-Mei polished off her corndog, no hush puppies for you!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Good Enough

As much as possible I tried not to freak out over Christmas planning and execution this year. It's supposed to be joyous, right, not draining? So, there were several things that fell through the cracks or didn't go as planned and I tried to just let it go.

I did finally ordered our personalized matching repurposed wool stockings that I had my eye on since last year. Don't they look adorable?!
Well, I never got a chance to look for an additional coordinating stocking holder since Mei-Mei has been born. Nor did Bo or I fill each other's stockings. So we left ours off this year. The kids might help us fill next year cuz they were concerned that the grown ups didn't have any. My sweeties.

We're trying to encourage a love of nature in the kids, so I was able to order these awesome tree colored pencils, and these crayon holders also from Etsy so they could draw in their field journals. I was glad that I was able to find so many homemade gifts for the kids (better for the environment!). They loved them so much these were the things the chose to bring to grandma and grandpa's later. We also got them thermal underwear to brave the cold in nature this winter. 
BUT....NO FIELD JOURNALS. Despite it being my first idea as a gift to them, and the inspiration for all the other aforementioned gifts that we got them, my homemade field journals didn't get done. I got the paper and the covers from the I.D.E.A Store. Bo punched holes in the paper, but the covers were too thick. Because other stuff came up, we didn't have enough time to solve that problem so we didn't finish them yet. Hopefully later this week we'll have the field journals ready. 

Later this week, we might also put up our nativity too. The kids have just been playing with their magnetic one in the meantime. We might also put ornaments on the tree. If anything, maybe we'll just do the ones that tell important stories of our family cuz our tree is B-A-R-E!


And my kids NEVER all looked at the camera this Christmas. I probably shouldn't hold my breath that this is something we can accomplish next year either, huh?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Today was a bit busier cuz we had to (not really had to, but it was nice to) prep for church and Bo was playing in the band so he had to leave by 1pm. Luck would have it that Tey didn't nap and Mei didn't take her second nap. Really it was a miracle we were all ready and sane to get to church before 4pm and that I squeezed in a shower. MIRACLE!

Church was amazing. It was extremely worshipful and I really connected with our savior and celebrated his miraculous birth. I'm praying that my kids felt like they were worshipping too, cuz they rocked out their Christmas show! Tey is in the white collared shirt on the left and Bean is in the red checked collared shirt on the right.


Then we headed our for Chinese. My mom's side is Chinese, so no, we're not copying a Christmas Story. Chinese people each Chinese food on Christmas! This is 4 years know that our church family has joined us in continuing this tradition when my nuclear family is away from our extended biological family for the holidays (now with 3 kids, it's easier for us to meet up with my mom's side of the family over the summer).

It is tradition for us to do Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve. We're pretty practical when it comes to stuffing them. The kids got new toothbrushes, some flossers, toothpaste, a couple play animals, a small candy cane, a dreidel, a sticker sheet, and a small Heifer International bank to collect for that charity. 

What are your traditions for Christmas Eve?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve

Yay! Friday! Finally, Bo was off from work and we had plenty of fun celebrating Christmas Eve Eve. I dunno what anyone else does regularly on this day, but we've got have a couple great new traditions in the making.

To start the morning off we all got bundled up and headed outside. I can't believe we were out there for about an hour and a half! Here we are seeing if we all touch hands and hug the tree. I'm thinking by springtime we can get Mei involved and it's a done deal.

We also needed to prep a bit for our contribution to the Christmas meal on Sunday. Bo took Bean to the grocery story and returned home with an impulse buy of crab legs. I'm not complaining :) (though they did freak me out at first when I was unloading the groceries). It was Bean's idea (can you tell how excited he is to eat ferocious crab legs) and Bo went along cuz they were on sale. Everyone is happy. Yum!

For one of the desserts that we are bringing to Christmas, Bo wanted to make the flourless chocolate cake that we used to be famous for. I mean really, you can never go wrong with something made of just eggs, butter, and chocolate! Here the boys are beating 9 eggs. Yes, that is the volume of just 9 eggs!

Tey, my little chef, learning the proper way to mix the eggs and chocolate to keep it frothy and light. The kid just loves to help in the kitchen.

Take a look at this: so good, you could just take a bite...of the cake, I mean. ;)

We wrapped the day up with "A Muppet Family Christmas." Seriously, it's THE best kid's secular Christmas movie ever. It has the Muppets, plus Sesame Street, plus Fraggle Rock. And they all sing. 'Nuff said.

I realized that last year when we watched this, Bean was also pants-less. Maybe this is a new tradition too! Not so sure how well that will go over when I they are teenagers. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Doubt Creeps in

This has been a trying week. I know I have not been the best mom, wife, teacher, (insert all other roles I have). I had a new thought this week that I've never had before. Beyond a doubt, at least Bean needs to be homeschooled. But the doubt crept in about whether or not I am the best teacher for him.

Ugh. Doubt.

I'm feeling better about it now. Maybe this is usual to have confidence then lose it than gain it again. I got out of the practice of writing my positive reminders at the end of the day. I think I need to do that again. Or I might just blog them. I hope that by including that kind of stuff it does not come across as bragging. Really, I'm just trying to maintain my sanity, remind myself that homeschooling is the right choice for us, and that we are in fact making progress.

My biggest positive reminder for today is that Bean is writing AND drawing. After Bean wrote his "My Story" for his baptism, he has been more amenable to practice writing a little bit everyday. Also because he has tremendous respect for the Bible, that's where we started for regular handwriting practice. He did not at all complain or drag his feet when I first introduced the idea of having him copy verses, which he had done any other time he was asked to write something.

BTW, I'm sure you knew that in the middle ages, monks copied the Bible. But did you know that some were also warriors. We've been watching some videos about the middle ages, and that was a cool fact. Bean loves the idea of warriors, knights, fighting, etc. and some of them copied the Bible. Coolness!

Anyway, over the past two days, he has written Matthew 2:11. I can see how his handwriting has improved over the past couple weeks. More noticeable growth is in his attitude and willingness to write. Before I would describe it as "loathing." Now it is a daily practice, a non-issue.

Secondly, he drew of his own will. After reading a book on owls, he drew an elf owl and a great horned owl. The great horned owl is on an evergreen tree with prickly needles. 

When I think of where we were when we started homeschooling (absolutely no interest in writing, drawing, or anything that involved a writing implement), this is big.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Spicy Mudpie

As much as I would like my kids to play outside everyday, it just doesn't happen. Today was just too gorgeous not to push them out the door despite them being deep in collaborative play indoors. Thankfully, they continued outside and together they made the most creative mudpie with mud, grass, and cardboard that we were using to choke some grass. They played for quite a while before they asked for ingredients from the pantry.

What? Are you serious?! Real food? Then I remembered it. 

It was probably two years ago when someone on Freecycle posted that they were getting rid of jars of old spices. At the time we were going to start buying our spices in bulk, so these jars were exactly what I needed. And for FREE! Not surprisingly they have sat on a shelf in our basement since then. I guess I felt bad just tossing the spices out to use the jars but had no idea what to do with it. Never would I have imagined that it would be perfect for this:
video

The kids were thrilled to be using real ingredients. This was the final product. 

It's baking in a oven made from a shopping basket inside a cardboard box. I think it's hilarious that just after yesterday's post about them playing with String, they spent most of the morning playing with Dirt and a cardboard Box.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Strings Attached

Have you seen this funny post on Greek Dad? I have to agree that the best toys are ones that are simple, have multiple uses and stretch kids' imaginations. Of the five on the list of best toys, String (I love that Jonathan Liu capitalizes "string") is by far my kids' favorite, especially for Bean. To document this, I just went around the house and snapped these 5 photos to support my claim:

Exhibit A: String from a yo-yo  is used to tie the barn door shut.

Exhibit B: Ribbon is used to tie a bandanna to Mei Mei's walker toy and inside are two baby animals. For a stork? I dunno.

Exhibit C: Lanyard is tied to a bracelet around a dog's neck to make a leash.

Exhibit D: This is my personal fav. 
The yellow String is holding penguin's jet pack on. Why? Obviously because penguins are birds, but can't fly. Poor penguin :( The green bracelet around the jet pack keeps water from coming in when she goes underwater and the goggles keep water out of her eyes. I love Bean's creativity with this one and that he considers some of this animals and other playthings to be girls when nothing suggests that they should be.

Exhibit E: I have no idea what this is except that it needed to be controlled by computer (a computer keyboard was added later).

The best part about String is that it doesn't even need to be bought. In the above pic, the dark Strings at the top came from hoodies of mine, the green and yellow Strings came wrapped around bath towels my mom got the kids last Christmas, the green bracelet (around the white canister) came from an old key chain, the blue lanyard came from my previous job and the orange spiky bracelet (dog collar in Exhibit C) was a handout from a company cookout of my husband's a couple years ago. Each has its own history, kinda like ornaments on a Christmas tree, though DH and I joke about buying the kids a bunch of brand new String for Christmas becuase they love it so much. It's better for the environment to play with repurposed string anyway. That original post could just have easily been posted on Green Dad rather than Geek Dad.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Tey

These videos were all taken within 5 minutes span. 

So I had about 10 minutes of this:
video

Then about 3 minutes of this snuggle fest.
video

Followed by 20 minutes of this when he continued to work on a beautiful and thoughtful Christmas present for Bean.
video

Never a dull moment with a 3 year old.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bean's Baptism

Today, my 5 and a half year old son, Bean, got baptized.

Being quite honest, I have the most difficult time blogging about important events such as these. I'm just not good enough of a writer to convey what I'm thinking and feeling, and none of my attempts ever do it justice. But, for the sake of just getting it out there and sharing the great news, this post is just a taste of what happened.

He's been wanting to get baptized for just over two years now, but we've been somewhat holding him back to ascertain his genuine belief in Jesus and his ability to understand salvation at a basic level. On March 4th of this year, he prayed the prayer of salvation with our pastor. He's been invited to participate in baptism since then, but has been hesitant mostly due to a slight fear of drowning.

Since then he's been devouring the Bible and we've been really intentional about making faith part our everyday lives and conversations.  When another opportunity was coming up this Sunday, he said he was ready to take the plunge, literally.

I talked to him about the need to share his belief in Jesus and why Jesus is important. So I asked him questions, typed up the answers he told me, had him edit it into his story, and then he transcribed it to read at church. Yes, my 5 year old who HATES writing, copied this onto about 5 sheets of paper over the course of 3 days. He was not even nervous at all as he shared the following testimony.

"I want to give some information to you about Jesus. He did some good stuff for me. He forgives me when I make mistakes. Mistakes are called sins. Sins  make  you  supposed  to  not  go  to  heaven. But, God loves you too much that He sent Jesus to earth and for Him to save us from our sins. Jesus died on the cross so he could be the perfect, perfect, perfect sacrifice. Now I can be with God for ever and ever and ever because I invited Jesus in my heart and believe that he is my savior. I will still make mistakes, but I love God.  God is with me right now and I love him and he loves me. I want to get baptized because I believe in him."

Then, the baptism!



I'm such a proud mama. I am full of joy for the most important life decision that my son made and the public sharing of his faith that he did today. I know his decision to follow Christ will happen over and over again during his life and his understanding of this faith will change and develop over time. I too need to recommit myself daily to foster my own walk, so that I may better guide him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Positive Reminders

Our second week of homeshooling is complete and I'm still alive to tell about it. This week was a little more challenging perhaps because the adrenaline has worn off, perhaps because I had higher expectations, perhaps because it is colder outside. I dunno.

What really helps is focusing on the positive. Each night I document what we did during the day and I am sure include some specific positive developments. Perhaps more seasoned homeschoolers have learned to shake off the feeling that there is always more we can and should be doing, but I struggle with this BIG TIME. Documentation reminds me that we are making progress, not just academically, but socially and otherwise.

Thanks to modern technology such as the digital camera, I can also capture the little sweet eaglets when they are acting their best and remind myself that they aren't monsters all the time. We started off with a rough morning of the boys not listening and being disrespectful at times. I made it through mid-morning, promising myself a wine break after the kids went to bed. We put the academics aside and focus on household chores and that's when I caught these.

In the first, Bean is teaching Tey how to fold socks. Keep in mind that Bean drags his feet at most household responsibilities. Last week he made the comment. "Laundry again? I just folded laundry yesterday..." Plus, I don't think I've ever taught him how to fold socks and I know DH hasn't cuz he doesn't even fold his own, just tosses them in his drawer. I don't ask the kids to match and fold their socks, but just to keep them in a sock draw and they can match in the morning. Bean initiated this on his own, for some reason decided that doing it in front of a mirror would help the teaching and was also super patient with Tey in his teaching. And Tey learned! I'm very proud of my boys. I'm glad I caught it. Ok here it is:

video


Right after the laundry was put away, Bean wanted to teach Tey how to read. This didn't go nearly as smoothly, so I taught Tey how to read "is" (Bean's idea from earlier that morning) and then Bean followed up with asking Tey to find the "is" in each page of "What Color is your Underwear?" It's so fun to see Tey learn from his older brother.

video


When the times get tough, moments like these are great reminders that we're doing ok. We did eventually finish our academic stuff, but even if we didn't, the family cohesion fostered today was a good enough accomplishment.

Now for that drink that I promised myself at about 10am.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I survived!

I don't know what I was afraid of, but homeschooling is sitting fairly well with me. The first week home with just Bean went well, but I was more nervous about how to manage 3 kids. By myself. All day.  Everyday.

It seems unreal that just 2 months ago homeschooling was not even on our radar screen. I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom, let alone a homeschooling mom. On one hand, I feel I completely unprepared for this undertaking. I have spent my whole life preparing for a career and working. That's how I was raised. I wanted to work. To be quite honest, I didn't think I'd want to spend that much time with my own kids. They are tiring! On the other hand, I am completely prepared to care for and educate my own children. No one else in the world is a better fit for that job that ME!

Contrary to my "achiever" nature, I set my expectations a little lower and also attainable without stress. I don't know why over the years I have convinced myself that stress is necessary for success. Having immediate successes and some fun together as a family what just what all of us needed. The positive energy was momentum for us to exceed expectations and feel proud of ourselves.

Being home finally gave me the opportunity to slow down to stop and smell the proverbial roses that are my kids. I never realized how funny Bean is, how entertaining Tey is and how smart Mei-Mei is. And they are all so darn cute each in unique ways!

Don't get me wrong, it was not always perfect. There were frustrating times. There were times when I just needed to stop and pray. But there was not a single second that I doubted that homeschooling was for us. I know we'll continue to have adjustments to new routines, responsibilities and schedules, but it's great to see some growth already and know that our homeschooling is to credit.

Here are just some highlights:

  1. The boys have a new morning routine that includes making their beds, which they have done sometimes without reminding. They also go potty, wash hands and get dressed, which is not new. 
  2. The boys now are responsible for sorting the laundry by owner and folding and putting away their own laundry. This is a HUGE help for maintaining my sanity.
  3. Tey has also really taken to putting the silverware away from the dishwasher each morning. This helps hold us accountable for running it each night and keeping the rest of our kitchen clean.
  4. Mei-Mei has learned to sign several new words and make a couple animal sounds. The most adorable by far has to be when she beats her chest like a gorilla saying "AAAAHHHHH!"
  5. Bean still really doesn't like writing utensils in general, but he actually wrote several things this week.  He even colored on two different days and both times it was his own idea. I told you I had low expectations. I can count on one hand the number of completed works that came home from school this year. This was not something I was going to address for a while.
  6. I had no exceptions for Tey this week except to ascertain his interest. Boy is he excited for table work! He loves to write, color, do math, etc. He does seem to be a little perfectionist and doesn't ever want to give up even when he has no idea how to do something and is very frustrated. I'm gonna really keep an eye on his perfectionism I don't want him freaking out over his work.
And some pics:
Bean drew himself having a dream about going outside to play. Go figure! I love how he copied the actual outfit he was wearing. 


Bean actually held  pencil AND WROTE! For #2 I wrote the answer he dictated and then he copied it. For #3 he copied words from the book. I'm going to hold off on handwriting lessons for a while. He held a pencil, YAY!


Tey learned about shapes in math. He glued all of these on  the hideous clown I drew. I think he has an astute observation of body hair. LOL! Note the 'stache and armpit hair. No really, I don't know what those are, I didn't ask.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Final Countdown

We start homeschooling on Monday. The first week will be just Bean and I, and the week after it will be all of us. I have so many emotions surrounding this transition and I'm not good enough a wordsmith to articulate it.

I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best option for us right now. As each day passes I am more and more convinced of it. I have some regret that we should have made this decision sooner. Then there is the guilt for that, for putting my own aspirations first, for trying to fit my square kid (namely Bean) into the round peg of his preschool, even for taking a couple weeks to get the house and my mind in order before plunging in head first into homeschooling. Now that our first day is soon upon us, I am growing more nervous about it too. I am an extremely impatient person. I'm afraid I might lose my mind. Thankfully, I have the most amazing MIL in the world who offered to swoop in to take care of the kids when needed. Whew! I also worry a little bit about having outlets for hobbies, grown-up conversation, etc. I'm hoping that my volunteer stuff at church, Bible study, taking some crafting classes, etc. will help. If not, I might need to look into some new hobbies or work like teaching. As for the positives, I thank God daily for the most supportive husband I could ever dream of and an extremely supportive social network. I can't wait to see our children learn from me, but more importantly learn for themselves. I'm thrilled to able to have more time with each of my children individually and as a group. And, I'm so excited about our family drawing closer together and really just slowing down to enjoy all that life has to offer.

Ok, now I'm getting pumped! Cue the count down music! Anyone else remember this video on MTV from the mid 80's?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Baby Will Always be My Baby

Mei Mei turned 1 this week. Let's be clear. She is not a toddler. She is not even walking yet. She is now and ever will be MY BABY!  

Here's a little bit about her:
Favorite Book: Charlie Parker Plays Be Bop (she brings me the book and rocks side to side so we can sing/read it)
Favorite Song: Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee (she puts her hands together and swings them from side to side)
First Words: "More" (especially when eating), "Thank you" (when we play a giving game), "Uh-oh" (when she drops toys out of the bathtub).
Favorite Food: Anything with meat in it, anything with a lot of flavor (especially grandma's cooking).
Dislikes: Getting my nose wiped, when people take toys out of my mouth
Favorites: Splashing in the bath, hugging and laughing with my big brothers
What calms me: sucking my thumb (at night time I do that and rub the ribbons of my dolly too)
Aspirations for the next year of life: walking, switching to a toddler bed, and having my first taste of chocolate (my parents are kinda health-freaks)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christopher Columbus Would Have Put Me in Track 2

I spent my first nine years of my formal education at a Catholic grade school, in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood, where I was the only student of color in my class until 5th grade. That was when my school absorbed students from three other  parochial schools in the area while their schools of smaller enrollment closed their doors. I remember that a big stink was raised by some in our school about bringing in these other students and part of me now wonders if it was because of the diversity that they represented. 

That year, we welcomed about five new students into my class, 3 of which were tracked into "Track 2," almost doubling its size. This track, which included myself, had lower expectations for academic achievement and also set students on a trajectory for more technical education and then skilled labor. I was not being challenged academically nor was I applying myself. I remember Track 2 not being a good fit, especially once I realized what the difference was between the two groups. I wanted to be in the more challenging track and began actually applying myself academically. By 6th grade, my school allowed me to move into Track 1. My situation, however, was a rare case because generally students stayed in their track through junior high, which then followed them into high school and beyond.

Critically looking back at the situation, Track 1 and 2 were almost completely demarcated along racial and economic lines (based on my knowledge of students' residence in certain parts of certain neighborhoods, my proxy for family income). Students of color and/or those of limited means were in Track 2. I can't think of anyone from these groups who was in Track 1. Whether or not this was intentional by my school is a minor question I have, but more importantly that trend is yet another example to me of the systematic prejudice that exists about abilities of certain groups of people. And for that, it's harder to point a finger of responsibility. 

At least in the States, many prejudices that exist today can be traced back Octotber 12th, 1492.
"...they [Natives] are the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white...They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses." (Recorded in Columbus' journal on October 12th, 1492)
The day Christopher Columbus first meets the indigenous people of this land, his first thoughts are of their value as servants and his immediate plans are to take six of them back with him to give to the King. Just imagine how things in the States would have been different if the Americas were "rediscovered" by someone who did not believe in the intrinsic supremacy of wealthy, educated, White, male Catholics (and Christians).

There is a clear link between Columbus' interactions with Native Americans and how I was tracked in grammar school. Tracking doesn't exist to address students' individual learning needs for their own self-betterment through education. If it were for that reason, we'd see more fluidity among the tracks and greater diversity within the tracks. Tracking would be based on assessment and not prescription. Students would also be educated about the implications of being in certain tracks and would have more freedom to chose a track for themselves (even if it meant demonstrating their fit in that identified track).

No, to me it seems that much of the inequality that exists in education is necessary to sustain a hierarchy for the powerful to remain in power. The lower classes are therefore educated only so much as to make them intelligent servants to those in power. In this country that hierarchy began the day that Cristobal Colon set foot on this land.

So, I encourage you to "Reconsider Columbus Day."

There are many Columbus critics out there, and this in example of a fairly reputable one, but nothing can beat one's own deep investigation of primary sources. Eventually with the kids at homeschool, I plan to read through more of Columbus' journal to better understand his thoughts and feelings from his own words and to contextualize it in history. One of the major attractions of homeschooling is teaching history from a more culturally relevant perspective. This weekend we got a bunch a free books from a local library and I purposefully avoided any history or social studies books because as the saying goes "history is written by the victors." I want to make sure my kids are learning a more balanced account of history. I want to place more emphasis on the struggles and the resilience of those who were and are marginalized because in some situations (like with my tracking), I'd count myself as part of that group. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Too Quick to Judge

"Are these clean?," Tey asked as he reached for a spoon from the dishwasher at one breakfast last week. After placing it at his spot at the table, I saw him headed back to the dishwasher and grabbing for more silverware. I assumed the worse. He's getting his grubby hands all over on my clean dishes! He's gonna try to get a fork to see how that works for eating cereal! He's gonna make a mess! He should just be sitting and eating! "Tey, what are you doing?" I asked in an accusatory tone. "Putting away the clean dishes," he replied innocently. I proceeded to lay on the appreciation for taking initiative in helping to keep our house clean.

by Neilochka
Why did I not expect better from him? Why did I assume he was going to inconvenience me with a mess? Would that have been such an inconvenience anyway...like I couldn't have just asked him to help clean up the mess later? That too would have been a great teachable moment, and lately I seem to be trying to avoid those instead of taking advantage of them.

This morning I was helping Bean cut his nails in the bathroom while Tey and Mei Mei were in her room playing. Right when I finish cutting the last toe, Bean asked me read a book to him and then I heard Mei Mei starting to fuss. "Not just yet," I said, "it sounds like your sister needs some rescuing from Tey." I walked into the room ready to talk Tey about taking toys from his sister, remind him to use gentle touches, etc. I saw him holding her head with one hand, his other hand in her face as, and she was wiggling to get free while growing more and more frustrated. After closer examination, I realized he was wiping her snotty nose with a tissue. Again, I thank Tey for taking initiative and helping his little sister.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I am too quick to judge my kids' behaviors for the worst. It's so discouraging when the tables are turned and someone does that to me. It really, really, REALLY bothers me. So, I feel awful that I do that with my own kids who, more often than not, are just trying to help. I don't even know how that has become my assumption. But no more!

With this post, I'm promising to change my perspective. I believe our kids will eventually fulfill our communicated expectations, whatever positive or negative. If we are quick to accuse, to blame, to assume, then we're setting them up for failure. I'm going to assume the best of their intentions and I think it will make a huge difference in the long run for them, but mostly for my own attitude. I know I need to lighten up a bit going into this homeschooling thing, and this is a good first step.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Waving the White Collared Shirt

I remember when this article was written 8 years ago about the so-called "Opt Out Revolution." My master's thesis that I wrote the summer later saught out to shed more light on the topic from college students' perspectives. At the time even though I wasn't yet married, the question was frequently on my mind: "Would I leave the work force when I had little ones?" No. Not me. Or so I thought.

Today I resigned my dream job after being employed there for almost 2 years. It was the first job I got after I finished my PhD and has been the only job I've ever wanted. I still can't imagine doing anything else for pay except this job. Given recent circumstances, however, it is no longer the ideal fit for me that it once was.

My kids need me more than ever and I too want to be a bigger part of their lives. There just simply is no way to do this in my current position. I felt like I was giving it my all at work, which to a certain extent I really enjoyed. Personal satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment of doing a good job are huge benefits for my being employed. Thankfully DH has always been supportive of my educational and professional pursuits, as lofty has they have been and despite the sacrifices he has had to make while I go full speed ahead. But there comes a point when such benefits do not outweigh the costs of being employed, as backwards as that sounds. I have been shouldering a lot of responsibility at work, which I felt was under-appreciated (or at least differently appreciated than they way I want to be appreciated). Raises, future earning power, upward mobility and promotions (even if promised, which they aren't) that an employer can offer for a job well-done really have minimal value to me. So while I got a relatively good raise, it did not compensate (and no amount allowed in the budget ever could compensate) the cost to me and my family of my being employed. I was also expected to take on more responsibility at work. When? How? I most certainly would have to take time and energy away from my family, which I couldn't do and be the mom and wife I want to be.

In the end, I just want to know that I can make a difference. Despite lacking skill, experience, training and patience, I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to make a difference in my family's life while homeschooling. All I need is an "I love you," every once in a while and I'm set! DH sent me a message right after I resigned saying that he was proud of me and my just heart melted.

Tonight I also went to a lecture on this book "Glass Ceilings and 100 - Hours Couples" (I know, perfect timing, right?) and the authors said no mother they interviewed who opted out regretted it (yet). I, as well, doubt I'll regret spending more time with my kids, though I might more frequently need an alcoholic beverage :). When I again decide to  reengage in the work wars, I'm fairly certain that my time out will translate into lower status and earning potential in the long-run, but I'm willing to take those hits and resulting battle wounds. At this point, I surrender and just want peace.

"Do not work for food that perishes but for food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because the God the Father has set his seal on him." John 6:27

Singapore Math

For math, we are going to try Singapore's math approach. Undoubtedly, they lead the world in mathematics competence at the grade school level. But in all honesty, I could care less about who does better on standardized tests. Testing is not real life, nor practical.

DH and I heard, read, and watched good things about Singapore's philosophy and practice. Their Ministry of Education's rationale for mathematics instruction aligns very well with our approach to the subject:

"Mathematics is an excellent vehicle for the development and improvement of a person’s intellectual competence in logical reasoning, spatial visualisation, analysis and abstract thought. Students develop  numeracy, reasoning, thinking skills, and problem solving skills through the learning and application of mathematics. These are valued not only in science and technology, but also in everyday living and in the workplace."

This review breaks down the general topics for each grade level and gives some other details. Their method of instruction differs greatly from the typical American (Saxon) method taught in most classrooms, but because my kids will not know otherwise, I think this will be an easier and more logical approach. It's more like how I remember my mom teaching me math when I was little with understanding of how numbers work, remembering tricks of manipulating numbers, and not just memorization (though she drilled me on that too).

I am concerned with the format of the typical Singapore curriculum because it uses workbooks and Bean at times can loathe writing, though he can do it legibly. I have two tentative solutions. One is to do it more orally and the other is to buy a number stamp set so he can stamp the numbers and then trace them. Most importantly, I want him to have a love of learning and a basic grasp of math. I'm willing to forgo the battle of writing for a little bit, and then gradually I'll have him do it more and more. Tey is an amazing writer already at just under 3.5 years old, so I am less concerned about him with that. I'll work on this number recognition, sequencing, understanding quantity etc. and then ease him into Singapore.

So we've purchased the curriculum, which at this point I'm thinking will likely be our only one or one of few subjects that resembles a typical school-like approach to a subject (with a textbook and my teaching the material). I anticipate that more of our time we will be using math more practically: measuring while cooking, figuring out how much more money we need to buy something from the store, etc. With other subjects, I'm exploring other approaches, but that is for another post.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Adventures in Home Schooling

Over the past week and a half we've arrived at the decision to home school. If you know DH and I, you know that we never commit to anything without really thinking and praying about it for a looooong time (which is why we dated for so long that my mom was convinced we would never get married). Anyway, we've had home school on our mind for a little while but not very seriously until recently. Some events over the past weeks to months have confirmed that this is the next best step for our entire family.  We don't have all the logistics figured out so prayers are much appreciated. I anticipate a period of transition of us adjusting to this next chapter in our lives, which I hope to document here as best I can. Welcome to the ride.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

She Works Hard for the Money...eh, eh...eh, eh

Lazy summer is not in my vocabulary. Despite working at a university, my summers are not downtimes because I coordinate the TRiO Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program which has an intensive Summer Research Institute of 27 students. Going into this job, I knew that meant that my summers would be intense too.  This year, however, is especially stressful compared to last year, because last year I had a supervisor who was highly involved and did much of the coordinating. This year, I am doing her work, plus my work from last year. Whew! It's been a great learning experience,though. I've always had trouble delegating, but I've had to do that more or else I just couldn't get it all done!

Despite all the stress, I still love this program. As an alumna, I am a success story of the program, having earned my PhD (not to brag, just to point out what the purpose of the program is and my commitment as a scholar). And now, it is truly a privilege to work for McNair and see my Scholars develop over the summer. They come in shy, inexperienced, rough around the edges, and they leave confident, skilled, and polished. I know for me it changed my life in one summer and I hope to do that for my students too.

Unfortunately, McNair and other TRiO programs are financially threatened due to federal budget cuts. The worst case scenario (in my biased opinion) is the very real possibility that ALL McNair programs nation-wide will be defunded. This would be an absolute tragedy. At my institution alone, we've seen at least 34 alumni earn doctorates in the past 5 years. These are earned by people from low-income families, who's parents did not got to college, and/or who are underrepresented in higher education. That is quite a feat!

You can help me possibly save McNair and other TRiO Programs by signing this petition.

I've personally been debating about working and having a family, and if this job is the right fit for me at this time. I'm still thinking and praying about that (and would appreciate your prayers). If this program is defunded, however, I'll be out of a job. More importantly, literally hundreds of thousands of students will be affected.

I'm fighting for this job, even if I were to eventually leave it. I'm working hard for McNair and to get the word out so the feds will keep funding TRiO programs! Thus the reference to Donna Summer's great hit:


What's up with the dude in the yellow shorts and knee guards?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

B-day TP

Tey has taken pride in being really helpful around the house over the past few weeks. On his 3rd Birthday, I asked him to open a package of toilet paper and bring a couple rolls to each of the bathrooms. He got really excited and said, "It's my birthday, so I get to open the toilet paper!" as if he were unwrapping a birthday present.

Business Etiquette

Driving though a business district where construction was going on.
Me: I wonder what they are building there.
Bean: Maybe a house.
Me: Possibly, but this is a business district, so it's probably a business of some kind.
Bean: We shouldn't go in there then. It's not polite to get into people's business.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Risky Research Question

Research Question #1: Can I get wake up at 8am, drop Bean off at school and still make it to work on time?

Hypothesis: I can not wake up at 8am, drop Bean off at school and still make it to work on time.

Finding: After waking up at 8am scrambling around like a chicken with it's head cut off, and with much help from my superhearo husband, Bean and I got out the door at 8:20. I was able to get him to school soon after 8:30 and leave fairly quickly. On his way out of the van he did spill his cereal and about had a meltdown. I made sure I gave him the right amount of comforting words and hugs to let him know it was ok, and then I booked it out of there without guilt that I was abandoning him. The traffic lights were especially good to me and there were plenty of parking spaces close to my work. I made it to work ON TIME!

Conclusions: Despite being able to arrive to work on time, the amount of stress associated with running late make it not worth the extra couple minutes of sleep. It also does not allow for the unexpected of wrenches of kids, which should be expected to be thrown in sometime randomly. This time Bean recovered quickly from being upset, but I that might not have happened and then I would have had to chose between being there for my kid or being late to work.

Discussion: For me being a good mama bird means allowing for extra time for delays for just the occasion that an eaglet would need more of me for a longer time. I know that when I factor in time to account for my kids needing to take their kid time, life is a lot less stressful. Many times recently things run miraculousness smoothly, and we get to school early with a couple minutes of free choice time together! The fun we have together before I need to head to work, puts me in the right spirits to do my job knowing that my kids are also have a good time away from me. If you are a working mom, what do you do to help you feel like you are juggling work and family ok?

Decorah Eagles

Ever since a friend posted the link to this live video of the Decorah Eagles, I have been hooked.


Broadcasting Live with Ustream.TV

Something is so inspiring about watching the Decorah Eagles up close and personal, simply going about their daily business.

Bald Eagles are mated for life. DH and I have been married for 6 years. It's enough to know it takes a lot of commitment and hard work to make it last a lifetime.

Right now mom and dad eagles are taking turns incubating 3 eggs. I'm coming to realize how short my kids' childhoods are. It seems all too soon that they will be leaving our nest as adults. It also highlights the important fact that their quality of life depends on our parenting, especially when they are young enough to be our responsibility and not their own. This makes want to be a better mama bird by slowing down, appreciating the gift and privilege it is to be a mother, and making sure I do the best job I can.

Lastly, knowing that bald eagles are a threatened species, the lives of each of these eagles are even more precious. It's easy for me to see the similarities to my own children. Though their lives are not threatened, per say, each of their well-being is so important to me. Seeing this live eagle family also puts things in perspective for me in a more global sense. It makes me stop to think about how my family's lives impact the world and the environment that we live in; my precious eaglet trio in some way has an impact on these eaglets. I don't take lightly that God not only made me steward of my own children, but also of this beautiful earth and its inhabitants, including the Decorah Eagles.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another Eaglet, another blog

I've been thinking about starting a new blog for a while. After going back and forth about about public versus private, I've decided to go public and use pseudonymous for the sake of privacy. So, without further ado, I introduce to you our eldest son, Bean at 4.5 years old:
Our middle child, Tey, at 2.5 years old:
And our newest addition, Mei-Mei, at just about 5 months.