My Mommyology

March 29, 2015
by mymommyology
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A Trip to Tanaka Farms: A My Mommyology Discovery

Last October my friend Rita wanted us to go out to Tanaka Farms for their fall Pumpkin Patch tour.  With everything going on at the time (and the distance to Tanaka Farms), we ended up at the Pumpkin races instead.  And I’d completely forgotten about Tanaka farms until I saw it as the field trip destination for Jamie’s class the other week.

Spring has rolled in and so did strawberry picking season.  Jamie our resident strawberry girl was excited for this trip to what seems to be the most popular farm all around Southern California.  I don’t know for sure, but that’s what I heard.

Another first for us all.  Love discovering these things!

Another first for us all. Love discovering these things!

It turned out Sam was on spring break that day, and since Dad had to work, I had to take her along with me too.  I was worried about what I was going to do with her while Jamie and her class were on tour.

As we discovered, Tanaka Farms actually gives you a tour of their 30-acre property and talks about the other crops and vegetables that they grow on the farm over the various seasons.  The Tanaka family has been managing the farm for almost 30 years, and they’ve taken steps to ensure the products are organic and pesticide-free, and that their farming processes are efficient and environmentally sound.  And they monitor everything very closely.  Mr. Tanaka himself was on the farm today (as he is everyday is what they say), personally overseeing everything.

One of the things we learned on our tractor ride was that they don’t use the usual sprinkler system for watering the crops.  Rather, they have built-in hoses into the soil for less water wastage.

They also let us stop at different parts of the farm to try vegetables that were literally — freshly picked and washed.  I think that was my favorite part of the tour — because Sam and Jamie got to sample onions, carrots, peas, cilantro, celery and bok choi in their freshest forms.

The Celery that was picked and cleaned that same morning!

The Celery that was picked and cleaned that same morning!

Jamie was quite skeptical and stopped at feeling and smelling most of the crop, save for the carrot.  She couldn’t wait to throw our samples overboard (as our tour guide said it was safe to do since they would just pick it up and put it back in their compost pile later).

Jamie was convinced she could eat like her bunnies.

Jamie was convinced she could eat like her bunnies.

As for Sam… what a trooper!  It’s so hard to get her to eat her veggies, and yet she took in the whole experience and gamely took bites out of everything that was handed to her.  I was so pleased and proud, it put a huge smile on my face.  In the end she said she didn’t like any of them, but we agreed that trying them all was a wonderful first step!

Hurray Ate!

Hurray for Ate!

Then came the strawberry-picking.  At Tanaka farms, they allow you to eat the strawberries while picking them!  I found that to be quite generous.  I knew Jamie enjoyed it because she got to choose the strawberries she was going to take home.  She squished a few too in her attempt to get them into her basket.  And of course, she munched on a few while she (we) worked.

Strawberry girl.

My Strawberry girl.

Sam got her own box, which worried me at first because I didn’t want a whole bunch of strawberries to go to waste (we couldn’t eat that many that fast).  That’s because Sam doesn’t eat strawberries… or so I thought.

Huwaw!  What a pleasant surprise!

Huwaw! What a pleasant surprise!

That’s what I saw when I turned to check on Sam.  Apparently all that open-mindedness and vegetable samples prompted her to try the strawberries too.  And low and behold, she liked them!  (Admittedly though, those Tanaka Farm strawberries WERE REALLY GOOD.  I had a few myself!).

Now she says we need to make sure there are enough strawberries in the house for both her and Jamie to eat.  Hurray!  Ohhh, glorious music to my ears.

If only for that, Tanaka Farms is now one of my favorite places in California. ;) (The only thing though, is they don’t have a bathroom.  It’s those free-standing portalets!  Be warned!)

I can’t say who enjoyed it more, Jamie or Sam, but Tanaka Farms was definitely a hit.  We have plans to go back for more (The Strawberry Tours run until June), and find time during the summer months to pick some Watermelons too! :)

It's a pretty good farm... ;)

It’s a pretty good farm… ;)

 

March 26, 2015
by mymommyology
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The “Illusion” of a Choice

I don’t exactly remember how or where or when I learned this; but I was told that a key parenting strategy in minimizing conflict and full-blown tantrums, was to give the kids a choice.  Granted, we parents have the daunting task of disciplining our children, the struggle to get them to listen and obey and follow what we say is very very real.  And I don’t know about you, but with me it is a constant battle.

The theory of allowing kids to choose was reinforced by Jamie’s Montessori school teachers.  It is in fact the very foundation of what Maria Montessori build her curriculum on, and it is a principle that teachers consistently apply in every aspect of this particular school.

Photo Credit:  Maria Montessori 20 Wise Quotes

Photo Credit: Maria Montessori 20 Wise Quotes

They believe that the kids are better behaved because they have the freedom to do and explore — at their own pace, in their own way.  They are treated with respect and guided through developmental milestones, but always somehow, they’re always given a choice as to how their day will play out.  And as a result, they say, the children develop a mutual respect for each other, learn the proper way of working and behaving, and eventually, develop independence.

So when conflict arises, let’s say one child wants an activity that another one already has, the teacher talks to him child and presents a choice — to wait patiently for his turn, or to do something else first.  It shows respect for their classmates and teaches patience.

In a situation where a child hurts her classmate (intentionally or unintentionally), the teacher pulls the oppressor aside and gives her a choice — she can apologize now, or sit quietly and come back when she’s ready to apologize.  It shows respect for both their feelings (because some kids aren’t ready to apologize right away), but it also teaches them that no ill deed will go unnoticed, and there are consequences to their actions.

As I reflected over the last six and a half years of parenthood, I realized that I subconsciously applied this technique towards the girls (occasionally).  I remember telling Sam that she could sit quietly in the room while I put Jamie to sleep, OR wait and play outside until I could come back out to play.   And I definitely use it on them when we’re deciding on what activities to do, and even what to wear.

Jamie's wardrobe print explosions and "mishaps" -- because she's allowed to choose what to wear and dress herself accordingly.

Jamie’s wardrobe print explosions and “mishaps” — because she’s allowed to choose what to wear and dress herself accordingly.

Though it is sometimes to my detriment (I’ve had a parent at Disneyland come up to me laughing because she said my daughter’s pants were put on the wrong way, in case I didn’t know back from front.  She probably didn’t think much of me then but I let it slide, because Jamie didn’t want me to fix it.), I let these things go.

However, I struggle with the situations where they really don’t have a choice.  Going to school, doing homework, eating the proper meals, and going to bed at a certain time, are examples.

Oftentimes”, the directress said, “it’s about giving them the illusion of the choice.” 

Kids just need to feel they’re in control of the situation.  By doing so, they go through a process of self-awareness and self-discovery.  And though they know the world is governed by rules that we need to follow, it’s still important to give them the freedom to act a certain way, and to choose how to handle it in their own means.

Going to school?  On weekdays, it’s part of the routine.  The choice comes in how I drop them off.  Do we use the drop off zone or do I walk them to their classrooms?

Homework?  Definitely a non-negotiable.  But if I beat it into them, homework becomes a chore and a struggle.  If the kids are given a choice though as to which they would like to do first (or in the case of Kumon, how many packets they want to finish in a day).  There is a little wiggle room too as to when they’d like to complete it, but the end goal is the same, they need to finish ALL of their homework.

Sharing?  The rule in our house is:  you can choose what you want to share.  Those that you don’t want to share, you need to keep and play with privately.

Apologies during conflict?  Not everyone is ready to say sorry right away.  And the choice is the same as it is in school, but the apology needs to be said eventually.

In principle, I get it.  I want to do it.  In reality — I haven’t gotten it all quite figured out just yet.  I know, because there are still meltdowns and struggles and tantrums that sprout out every now and then.  But I do try quite hard to present the illusion of the choice.  And beyond that, I try to consistently use some principles of my own:

Explain.  I always ask the girls to explain to me the “why” behind the rules.  Why do I ask you to hold my hand when crossing the street?  Why do you need to eat your carrots?  Why is it important to do your homework?  I hope that with me doing all the asking and them doing all the answering, they train themselves to think that way in the long run.

Avoid Sweeping Generalizations.  “Because I said so,” or “Because I’m your Mom” are phrases a desperately try to stay away from, despite how easy they are to say.  In one of Coach Pia’s #BetterMe seminars, she advised that kids need to distinguish the rule from the parent.  If they understand  the rule and why it is in place (hence, the “explain” bit), then the parent’s authority is respected.

Photo Credit:  Maria Montessori

Photo Credit: Maria Montessori

Tell the Truth.  Instead when the girls ask “why”, I try to give them the truth.  And it’s taken some creativity on my part too but I’ve found that it’s worked to my favor.

Collaborate.  Now that the girls are very much more opinionated and they understand more about what happens around them, I like to include them in the rule-making.  We agree on the consequences, and we agree on the choices at hand.  So on occasion, it’s just a matter of me reminding them of the choices we agreed on.

Be “Open-Minded”.  Sam came home from school one day and said she learned this term from her teacher.  Lately I’ve come to realize that it goes both ways.   As much as I ask her to be open-minded and to hear what I have to say, I also have to be open-minded and try to see and understand things from their perspective.  And the whole process is truly an eye-opener, at least in my experience.

Prep.  When it’s time to leave, I always signal several warnings, and we count down.  It helps ease the transition as to what to expect (either that or use the Time Timer!  It’s awesome).  We also talk about what our day will be like and what to expect. Sometimes I write it down for them to see.

I love it that my kids have minds of their own.  I can see how it will benefit them in the future, and I definitely (silently) encourage it.  It doesn’t make my job as a parent any easier, and it requires a lot of creativity on my part too (no wonder I’m exhausted everyday!).  And even though I collapse at the end of every day, somehow I’m reassured by the fact that slowly they are confidently beginning to thoroughly think for themselves.  I can only hope it’s a step in the right direction — for all of us!

March 10, 2015
by mymommyology
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Guest Post: Swimming Lessons

I haven’t had a guest post on the blog in quite a while, so it was a refreshing surprise when Kaitlyn of An Apple Per Day wrote and asked if she could contribute.  With Spring in the air and Summer just around the corner, I’d been thinking of another post on swimming lessons since the girls haven’t gone swimming in months!  I wonder how they’d do in the water this time around.  And just as luck would have it, Kaitlyn sent her post to me and it’s all worked out.  I’m glad you found me, Kaitlyn!

***

The author

The author

At What Age Should My Kids Start Swim Lessons?

I used to love going to the community pool when I was a kid, and hanging out with all my buddies. We’d splash, swim, and play endless hours of water tag. I want my sons to enjoy the water in the same way, so I have started to check out swim lessons. I’ve found out a lot about the right age to start those lessons.

Formal swim lessons. It is generally accepted that a child is sufficiently developed to begin swim lessons when they are at around age 4. By that age, a child will have developed sufficiently to perform swimming movements, and retain what is being taught. Some kids may be ready a little later, depending on how well they adjust to the water. By age 6, a child can really be ready to learn swim strokes and swimming safety. Here are some resources with other information:

Start before lessons. If I just take my kids and enroll them in swim lessons, there’s a possibility it will be too much stimulation at once for them. The whole atmosphere could be overwhelming – getting used to being around a lot of other kids, a teacher telling them what to do, and all that water in the pool. So I started really early with my children using something we already had to do anyway – bath time. In the tub, I smiled and laughed a lot, to show my kids that this was a fun place to be. I would trickle a little water over their foreheads, and show them all the fun of splashing. The water was associated with fun.

Mommy and Me. When a child is about 6 months old, they can be enrolled in a Mommy and Me class to orient them to the pool. It really was a great way to show my baby that the pool was a lot of fun, and my older boy had a blast being around all the other babies. The noise and splashing of the water didn’t phase him a bit, and he enjoyed every minute of our experience. When it was time for lessons, he wanted in the water as soon as he could make it.

My hesitant boy. My younger son was a lot more cautious in bath time, and I decided Mommy and Me would be too much to take in at once. Instead, I took him to the pool and sat by the side, letting him just observe for a while. Then my husband held him while I went into the water, and began laughing and splashing like we had done in the bath. Sure enough, he soon reached out for me and I took him in my arms in the water, which he had decided was alright and something he wanted to check out. Soon he was laughing and giggling as I dipped his toes in the water.

First lessons. With the orientation my sons had, my sons were both comfortable around the water. Before their first lessons, I took them to watch a swim class, so they would know what was about to happen. We talked about learning to swim, and that I wanted them to enjoy the water as much as I did when I was a kid. When they went into the pool area to meet with the instructor, I let them know I would be sitting off to the side. This was a big bonding moment, and I didn’t want to miss it. Each of my sons began to really enjoy the experience, and their lessons went smoothly.

As I watch my sons duck under the water during a game of Marco Polo, it just makes me smile to think I have given them a lifetime of fun.

***

Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.

March 4, 2015
by mymommyology
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Fit (and Healthy), Bit by Bit

My husband gifted me with a Fitbit Charge HR for my last birthday.

Yay! Happy birthday to me!

Yay! Happy birthday to me!

I’d been curious about the Fitbit for quite sometime, after seeing my fitness-conscious brother and the rest of my family “compete” for the most number of steps on a daily basis.

Initially, I thought the Fitbit was just a sophisticated pedometer.  Now that I have mine, I realize it’s so much more.  And I dare say — I love it!  It’s been over a month since I started wearing it everyday, and now I feel like I can’t do without it.

The features in a nutshell.

The features in a nutshell.

Here’s my take on it.  For one to appreciate the Fitbit (and it’s product variants, like the Charge HR), you’d have to be…. un-fit. ;) (I mean that in the most harmless way possible! )  It’s really no use to triathletes, or people like my brother who train for capoeira everyday.  But for people like me who’ve been trying to get back in shape for quite sometime, I’d say it’s a helpful tool.

For my opinion, it is this:  The Fitbit Charge HR brings a greater daily awareness to my lifestyle habits, and allows me to set concrete goals towards the change I aim to achieve.

My husband calls it my very own personal trainer, that’s attached to me 24/7 (except when it’s charging for 2 hours, which happens every 3-4 days for me).  Because I’m the type who cannot stand, not meeting a personal goal!

Come the girls’ bedtime, if I see that I’m 2,476 steps away from the daily 10,000, I start to jog up and down our little hallway.  Sam has caught marching up and down while she read RazKids in the room and she couldn’t stop laughing.

I’ve also become more conscious about exercising regularly, which has really been a challenge for me since we moved.  When I exercise, 10,000 steps is easy.  But now I know — I need to move more!  So instead of sitting down outside the Kumon center while the girls are inside, I walk or jog around the neighboring community.  When I can’t exercise, I vacuum the apartment, much to my husband’s surprise (because vacuuming was a task that I dubbed was his).  The apartment feels much cleaner, I get my steps, and everyone wins.

I’m also conscious of how much water I take in — which wasn’t much apparently during my pre-Fitbit days.  And we all know how essential 8 glasses of water is on a daily basis!

The report from my Fitbit Dashboard.

The report from my Fitbit Dashboard.

The other thing I do now is count calories.  In Manila, I honestly found this very tedious, but here — everything has some form of calorie count.  And if it’s not already on the internet, it’s easy to find.  So my Fitbit Charge HR allows me to keep track of the calories I burn, and at the very least, I try not to take in more than that.  It’s great because I’ve not given up on sweets totally, but I’ve learned to eat them more in moderation.  And when I have some calories leftover, I have the occasional glass of wine. ;)

It also keeps track of my heart rate.  I think that’s how it measures how many calories one burns.  I like seeing the difference during the day and over the course of time (given the recorded history).

Another thing:  the Fitbit Charge HR makes me less dependent on my iPhone for three things.  The first is time.  I’d always whip out or carry my iPhone in one hand because I wanted to check the time.  I was never a watch person to begin with.  But with this Fitbit on my wrist, I just tap it thrice to get the time.

The second is its caller ID function.  My husband’s biggest frustration is that I always keep my phone on silent, and I never hear it when he calls.  Because the Fitbit Charge HR syncs with my computer and my phone, it vibrates when someone calls me, and their name pops up on my wrist!  So I don’t need to take my phone off silent mode, and I don’t miss any of my husband’s calls.  Again, a win-win situation.

As you can see, I haven't been getting much sleep lately, and apparently I made up for it last night!

As you can see, I haven’t been getting much sleep lately, and apparently I made up for it last night!

The third is my sleep pattern.  I used to manually record my sleep patterns on the iPhone’s built-in Health App.  I didn’t like it much because it required I remember or estimate the time I went to bed and the time I woke up.  Sometimes though while putting the girls to sleep, I fall asleep myself — and I don’t check the time.  With my Fitbit Charge HR on my wrist, it can tell exactly when I fell asleep, when I woke up, and how many good hours of sleep I got that night.

Seeing how attached I am to my Fitbit, my husband has decided to get one for himself.  And because of that plan, we’ve decided to invest in the Aria weighing scale, another smart product extension by Fitbit.

My favorite weighing scale to date.

My favorite weighing scale to date.

The scale also syncs with the device and the internet, and can calculate one’s BMI and fat percentage.  It can track as many as 8 people’s personal stats.  You just need to input this into the dashboard when you set up.  The scale knows when it’s me, and can sense how far or near I am to my weight loss goal.

I’m also amused by the system of encouragement Fitbit has set in place.  I get alerts on my phone, and helpful tips on the newsletters, and badges when I achieve something!  I haven’t earned a badge in a while, so I am motivated to keep trying (My, I sound like a Girl Scout.  Now I understand how Sam feels about those badges!)

So can I officially call myself a penguin?!

So can I officially call myself a penguin?!

I am happy to report a little bit of progress on the weight loss goals.  I understand it’s slow given that several lifestyle changes still need to be made (and by golly gee, it’s hard!).  But it’s a start… and at least I know I’m on the right track! ;)

March 1, 2015
by mymommyology
0 comments

Raising Readers

It’s in all our flyers, memos, homework folders and parenting discussions.  Teaching a child to read is important.  Make them love reading?  All the more.

Admittedly I took this notice for granted.  Not because I didn’t agree, but because I didn’t know it any other way.  I grew up reading and loving it.  My grandfather would take me to the book fairs and buy any book I wanted.  I collected so many books in my grade school years (and I still have them by the way!)My husband said I wouldn’t read books, I’d devour them.

So when the girls came along, it was the most natural thing for me to teach them to read at an early age.  And it remains to be an intrinsic part of our daily (nightly) routine

I’m no psychologist, but to me, early reading was essential in learning and developing.  I was under the impression all parents thought that way too, until I started volunteering in both girls’ classrooms.  Then I realized why these memos were being sent out.

Not all parents give as much importance to reading in the early years.  I think they took it for granted too, except in the opposite manner.  We all acknowledge reading is essential, but not many realize that teaching babies and toddlers to love reading is beneficial in so many ways in their later years.  Some parenting philosophies say, what’s the rush?  They’ll go to school, they’ll learn to read then, and all will be well.  But a non-profit organization called Read Aloud 15 Minutes, shows that’s not the case when it comes to reading.

Maybe it’s also because of the preconceived notions that reading is boring and a chore.  It takes away from the child’s natural desire to play and explore.  Personally, I could never understand how reading wasn’t fun!

Fortunately for us, we’ve managed to make reading both fun and an integral part of our day.  And as March is March is National Reading Awareness Month, I thought I’d keep with the theme, and the mission of  the organization to get more parents to read with their kids more often.  Here’s what we do with the girls:

Let them choose the book to read.  This instantly gets them involved and interested.  Sometimes, it’s a game.  When I’m trying to teach a specific theme or topic though, I “seed” the choice in their heads earlier on in the day. 

Point and pause.  One of the things I learned from Your Baby Can Read was to point to the word as you say it.  I’ve done it so many times that the girls have picked up on it too. Jamie underlines what she reads, or circles it.

Also, pointing gives the eyes direction.  In a book filled with colorful pictures and words, it’s hard to tell what to look at first.  Jamie, my visual learner is more attracted to the pictures than the words.  So I give her time to scan the image, “read” into it, and then we work on reading the words for each page.  It’s also a great comprehension tool, as she can describe how the story plays out (in her own words).

Repeat and repeat.  Yes, you are a broken record.  But I realized that when they’re younger, the first time you read the book, they’re simply absorbing everything.  It’s a lot.  So you read it again, and this time, they start to chime in and show they understand.  The third time, they’re already picking up what the words look like as you point to it and say it out loud. 

Read above their grade level, says Jamie’s school directress at a parenting talk.  Doing so, opens up their comprehension skills, introduces new vocabulary and gently builds reading stamina.

Jamie loves books, even the ones she can't completely read all on her own -- yet.

Jamie loves books, even the ones she can’t completely read all on her own — yet.

Read what you love(d).  The girls are always fascinated when I pick up a book and say “I read this too when I was little.”  Somehow the history behind it and the memories attached to it make it more interesting than it really is.  Whatever it is, they’ll read it with me nonetheless.

Read anything.  To practice, I make Jamie read the street signs or building signs, and words she’s never heard of.  And her role is to tell me when we see it so I know where we’re going next.  We also read books in different languages.

Make the iPad a friend.  I have to say:  the iPad is not the enemy!  We like to give the girls a little iPad time all the time, on the condition too, that they use it on reading apps like RazKids and Endless Reader, for example.  RazKids is a reading program that is approved by the school community too, which is a great thing to have the current technology work towards your goal.

Sam gets RazKids time everyday.

Sam gets RazKids time everyday.

Read Aloud says, “A child is never too young to learn that books are fun, engaging, and something that your family values.”  I couldn’t agree more.

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 You may have some tips of your own, and I’d love to hear them (and use them too!).  How do you encourage your kids to read everyday?

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