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Good Morning, Baby!

26 Feb

Good Morning Starshine by Serena Ryder (beautiful voice, beautiful woman!)

 

When Freestyle was a baby, I would sing this song to her in the morning, changing the word “starshine” to her name. Now I sing the same song to both Freestyle and Real Baby.

 

Good morning, Freestyle

The earth says hello

You twinkle above us

We twinkle below

Good morning, Real Baby

You lead us along

My love and me as we sing

Our early morning singing song

 

It’s so lovely to see the sharing between siblings with Freestyle, Real Baby, and also with their cousins. My sister generously passes down her oldest’s clothes to Freestyle, then we pass it back for her second daughter, and then it’s now coming back for another round with Real Baby. I love seeing an outfit that Freestyle wore as a baby on Real Baby. Ahh, sweet nostalgia!

 

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I love my sisters and I’m so looking forward to seeing Freestyle and Real Baby’s sisterly love! (For now I am repressing any fighting over clothes and the phone!)

 

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Oh, and by the way…

26 Oct

… it’s a girl!

Almost two weeks old now…

 

Any Day Now…

4 Oct

Our second baby is due next week (or who knows, maybe he or she has already arrived? I’ve been writing these posts in advance for the last couple of months!).

We’re all very excited though I am starting to feel more and more anxious about labour because I didn’t have the most positive birth experience with Freestyle. Not end-of-the-world stuff, of course, but could’ve been better.

I’m glad we got a spot at our local midwife centre this time. Last time I was put on a waiting list but this time I got a spot immediately! I am really enjoying this experience and feel more informed this time around (and of course this being the second time around, I sort of know what to expect). I would definitely recommend seeing a midwife to anyone who is pregnant!

 

The greatest thing though is how much support we have here. I know that we’re blessed to have family (and have them close by) and friends who care. I’ve been trying to plan out what will happen if I go into labour and Biker is at work (it would take him at least an hour to get back home). My parents are just great and will be taking Freestyle overnight when we’re in the hospital.

However, if I need to go to the hospital immediately and my parents can’t get here right away, I am able to call on our amazing babysitter who told me to call her “day or night” even though she has two young kids of her own. My neighbour (or I really should say “friend who lives next door!”) said she could look after Freestyle if she is home and her husband even said if Biker can’t get there right away, just to give him a call and he’d leave work (he works closer to home) to drive me to the hospital! How nice is that?!

Honestly, when I heard that, I got a bit teary! We are so, so lucky and I’m very grateful to have such good friends and family around.

Thank you. 🙂

 

If you are pregnant and don’t have a lot of family nearby or many close friends that you can count on in this situation, speak to your OB/midwife and to the people you do have around you about it. Sometimes your friends may just be ignorant/unaware (like me!) about your needs– I always feel like hitting my palm against my forehead when a friend of mine (who is a single parent) asks me to help with something that I should have realized that she’d need help with myself!

If you know someone who is pregnant / expecting a child through adoption, etc. and may not have a strong support circle around her (maybe she is a single parent or has just immigrated to the country), do whatever you can to offer her support:

  • Offer to babysit her older kid(s) during labour (or even just for a couple hours on the weekend so she can have some time to herself!)
  • Drive her to appointments if you are off, purchase bus/taxi fare if you can’t (and this is within your budget)
  • Again, if it’s within your budget, treat her to a mani/pedi or just a coffee during her pregnancy
  • Take ready made (healthy) meals to her when the baby has arrived
  • Be her emergency contact
  • Offer to be her birth partner
  • Go with her to buy baby-related gear with her (it’s more fun with someone there!) OR browse kijiji or survey your own friends/family for gently used baby items if that is more budget-friendly for her
  • Call once in awhile to be her sounding board/rant listener
  • Ask her, “What can I do?” rather than “Do you need help?”

…there are so many things we can do for our friends! We just need to keep an eye out for opportunities to do so (I really need to do remind myself to do this, actually!).

 

Any other suggestions?

 

10 Ways To Be the Parent that Teachers Love

6 Sep

No, you don’t have to bring the teacher flowers. Just wanted to post this pic of these gorgeous sunflowers that I got from a friend for babysitting her children.

 

School’s in session and it’s my 3rd year not teaching. It’s weird, but kind of nice too.

I’m very much enjoying being at home with Freestyle. Our tentative plan right now is that I’ll be at home (hopefully working part-time at home too) until the baby is old enough to be in a Montessori Toddler program. That is assuming that I can find a job in a Montessori school that will accept both of them too!

I was thinking back to my old students and their families, and thought this would be the perfect time for this:

 

10 Ways To Be the Parent that Teachers Love!

 

1. Remember that you and your child’s teacher are partners in your child’s education, as corny as that sounds!

Key word being partners. Know that the teacher is a professional and educated in child development and trust that s/he is working hard for your child’s education.

One of my favourite families that I ever worked with were a very positive and helpful bunch. You could tell that their house was full of laughter and love and their daughter was so sweet, well-adjusted, hard-working, and just altogether lovely. It was absolutely a result from the supportive and positive upbringing that she had, I’m convinced! They were always a pleasure to work with, and very responsive and supportive of me as the teacher. I knew they trusted me with their daughter’s education and were more “hands off” BUT were involved and the one time I mentioned offhand that their daughter had just begun a slightly negative behaviour (something that was very normal for her age), they took it seriously and addressed it immediately. An amazing family and an amazing kid.

 

2. No “Door Jam Interviews.”

If you have something to talk to your child’s teacher beyond “Tomorrow is Pizza Day, right?” then write a note in your child’s agenda or e-mail (whatever the accepted form of communication) to set up an interview at a mutually convenient time. Mornings are always hectic for teachers and there’s nothing more distracting annoying than a parent trying to engage you in an in-depth discussion of their child’s progress in the doorway while students are coming in and saying good morning, handing in homework, getting their day started, etc.

One time a parent wanted to go over his daughter’s report card right at 9:00am (you know, when class begins). I had to politely but firmly tell him that class had begun and that we would have to arrange an appointment. There’s nothing wrong with being proactive, but you need to consider everyone’s schedules and time it right.

It’s the beginning of the school year and of course you’re anxious to know how your child is adjusting, but the first couple of weeks really is reserved for review and establishing routine so I would wait a until October to have a chat with the teacher about progress. In my old school, we would do an informal phone check-in with parents at the end of October just to let them know how their child was doing and to answer any questions.

Your teacher should make a reasonable effort to meet with you face-to-face (if that is your preference) before or after class time. Go in with a couple of items on your “list” to discuss, but remember that the teacher will probably have a few things to share with you too. What you’re striving for is to end the meeting with a positive outlook on your child’s future and a willingness to collaborate and work together for your child.

 

3. Inform the teacher of serious illnesses/deaths/incidents/changes in the family.

It’s a difficult time for the entire family and though you may think school will be a place where your child can “escape,” it is very helpful for the teacher to understand if a drastic change in the home has occurred. It doesn’t mean that s/he will go out of the way to address it with the child, but it’s good to have this information in order to be sensitive/aware and to know to keep an extra eye out for any changes in behaviour or personality.

 

4. Take the time to read daily/weekly updates in your child’s agenda (or the communication channel that the teacher’s established), classroom letters/notes, school newsletters, field trip notes, etc.

Your child should be responsible for asking/reminding you to sign things, but of course, for younger children they will need help, especially in the beginning of the year. You can set up an “in-tray” at home and make it a habit for the child to check their agenda/communication bag and place all field trip notes, etc. into the tray the minute they are home. Please also be mindful of due dates and return things on time too!

 

5. Set your child up for success for their homework and other take home assignments (e.g. science fair projects).

The teacher will/should provide guidelines and help the child be prepared by going over the project, the objectives, the goals, due dates, etc. At home, your job will be to support your child to accomplish all the tasks on time. This may mean sitting down and planning out when and what they should do each day (in between after-school clubs, soccer practice, violin lessons, etc.). Start early! When we assigned homework on Mondays (due the following Monday), I went through each assignment with the group to make sure they knew what they needed to do and had them write down the due dates in their agendas. I strongly encouraged them to at least go through all the work that night even if they didn’t start because if they had questions they could ask them the next day. I always emphasized that asking questions on a Friday (the last school day before it was due) was unacceptable (of course I would help but didn’t want to encourage procrastination…this is from a master procrastinator!).

 

6. Do NOT do your child’s work for them.

Seriously, it sounds obvious, but it’s pretty shocking how many parents find it acceptable to actually do the work for the children. And trust me, it’s pretty obvious when this happens (a child who usually needs a lot of encouragement to write neatly suddenly has this picture-perfect science fair project).  I know it’s hard, but your job is just to support, not do for them. You want them to learn about atoms, not how to get someone else to do the work for them!

One year, I actually ended up making class time for the students to complete their science fair projects at school because there was a history of heavy parental…involvement (think university-level projects on displays that would be at home in a business meeting!). It was an Upper Elementary class and though our display boards looked less…polished than the Lower Elementary class’ (they brought their projects home), I knew that it was truly their own work and they felt proud of what they had done and learned a lot through the project preparation, which was part of the experience.

 

7. If you have a problem with something that the teacher is doing, talk to him/her ASAP. 

And I specifically mean that you should talk to the teacher first, not go directly to the principal. The teacher is responsible for the class and should be given a chance to resolve the issue with you first.

As aforementioned, ask to schedule an appointment with him/her at a mutually convenient time. To be fair, you should briefly mention why you want to meet. During the meeting, do you best to remain calm and explain exactly what is bothering you. Then, give the teacher time to consider what you’ve said and respond. Make it clear that you’re willing to work with the teacher and the teacher should be doing his/her best to work with you.

If the issue becomes a bigger problem (you don’t agree with each other and it’s a serious enough matter), then by all means, go to speak to the teacher’s supervisor/the administration. However, it is fair that you let the teacher know that you will be doing so. If you’ve both tried to communicate and work together and it still doesn’t work, then the teacher should understand why you are doing this.

 

8. If you can, help out! 

Everyone knows how stretched resources are in schools. Depending on your schedule, keep on the look out throughout the year to see how you can contribute to your child’s school experience. It could mean being a Parent Volunteer on a field trip, helping to sew concert costumes/build the set, bringing in a healthy snack, contributing to class parties, or joining the PTA.

If none of that appeals to you, ask the teacher! I’m sure he or she will have tons of little things in mind! It could be an easy one-off (I remember one parent donated a huge box of paper that his office was getting rid of– the Casa classes used it for cutting exercises and other art activities) or something ongoing (I had an ex-accountant parent help me with a couple of fundraisers that my class would run throughout the year– very helpful as I do not enjoy that type of work and also it was nice to have someone else responsible for that important task while I organized the kids).

Now, if you are truly short on time and money, then what you can do is very simple: make sure you know when the important school events (parent-teacher interviews, holiday concerts, poetry night, etc.) are and make room in your schedule. Parent-teacher interviews are obviously very important, but events such as concerts and science fairs are also important– especially to your child. I will never forget the look on one girl’s face when every single one of her classmates had a family member come to Montessori Day (where they presented a speech about Montessori and then showed their families a lesson and their classwork) except for hers. And it wasn’t that this was a one time thing…it was a common occurrence and I could see it break her. Every. Time.

 

9. Yes, your child is an angel, but take what they say about others with a grain of salt. 

This goes especially for arguments with friends– remember, you’re only hearing one side of the story! Kids may exaggerate or leave out details (both purposely and also because they honestly forget), so just keep that in mind!

Also, as one teacher that I worked with told one of her parents, “I’ll only believe half of what Timmy says about you if you only believe half of what he tells you about me!” Because they tell us a lot about what happens at home. A LOT. 🙂

 

10. If your child’s teacher has done something that you’ve really liked, especially if he or she has gone above and beyond, let him/her know! 

Just a quick note (“Thanks for meeting with Brian early yesterday morning and helping him with his math. We really appreciate your time!”) will suffice. Be specific about what was done and that you appreciate the effort. Trust me, that goes a longer way than random candles and apple-themed teacher paraphenalia at  Christmas time.

 

Any other suggestions from teachers/experienced parents?

 

“These are my confessions…”

20 Aug

 

Dun, dun, duuun!

Sometimes I look at other parenting blogs and start to feel so…inferior. Everything seems so lovely and light and educational and healthy in their homes and it seems like their children’s days are filled to the brim with educational Montessori activities.

 

 

…a tangent…

This is why I quit facebook. I realized that I was spending so much time just clicking onto friends’ profiles and feeling so jealous and left out. Everyone looked better and like they were doing more exciting things in their lives than me. After awhile, I did realize that you can’t always trust people’s profiles since 99% of us will post flattering images and try to represent ourselves in the best light (I certainly did!).

So, I decided to take myself off to prevent these negative thoughts. I also was starting to feel odd sharing EVERYTHING online and didn’t like the idea that once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.

I am so happy with my decision.

Even now, whenever I email photos of Freestyle to friends and family, I always include the line:

Please do not post Freestyle’s photos online (facebook, etc.). Thank you!

Personally, I don’t like the idea of her image being seen by people I don’t know and again, being stored online forever. I also feel that she has a right to decide whether or not she wants her image splattered on the Internet, which is why I don’t post photos here of her face and use a nickname on this blog.

…okay, back to this confessional…

So, I was looking back at some of my older posts and didn’t want to be giving off the impression that we have this super-organized, super-healthy, super-organic, super-super Montessori household filled with teachable moments all the live long day, lest it gives the wrong impression of who I really am! That’s why I decided to be open and honest and write down some of the things that I’ve done as a parent that I’m not necessarily proud of and wouldn’t want/think to post here!

 

Here are my confessions (I’m going to try to list them without annoyingly trying to justify them all!):

 

  • This is a hard one…I’ve fed my baby poison McDonald’s. As much as I’d love to have Freestyle eat only a diet of whole organic homemade food, well, I have to be realistic as well. Biker and I try to avoid it (though there is one RIGHT next to where I live…darn them!) but do eat fast food once in awhile, and a couple of times we got breakfast there. I’ve fed Freestyle some of my Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and smoothie.
  • As much as I enjoyed co-sleeping (for the better part of the last year) and breastfeeding, I am also very happy that Freestyle now sleeps in her own bed in her own room and has self-weaned after being breastfed for about 22 months (err, with some gentle encouragement from me, I have to admit!). We really wanted this to happen well in advance for when the baby arrives so that she doesn’t associate getting kicked out of our bed and off the boob with the new baby!
  • Sometimes we don’t do anything productive/educational all day. On lazy days we just hang out at home. A couple afternoons found me laying on the couch reading and Freestyle playing beside me on her own. I think it’s also because it’s summer, so we’re mostly outside for the morning and then the afternoons we just hang out post-nap, pre-dinner prep. Once in awhile I’ll take her swimming in our condo pool. However, I am resolved to make a more formal plan for when she turns 3 next year, when I will prepare a (casual) routine and prepare a homeschool program for her (first year Casa).
  • I am happy with my decision to work part-time so that I can be at home with Freestyle, but sometimes I do miss getting dressed up (and by “dressed up” I mean wearing something other than a t-shirt or what Biker calls a muu-muu!) and going to work to be around other adults. There are days that feel so, so long but in the end, I am grateful for what I have, even though I sound like a whiny brat about it sometimes!
  • I have resorted to bribery on many an occasion. Basically, if Freestyle wants something (that I do find appropriate, not just anything!) but should be doing something else first, I will use that thing she wants as the carrot. Example: “If you want to play with the play dough, you need to put your blocks away first.” And yes…an extreme example: “Let’s get into the car NOW and I’ll give you a cookie once you are strapped in!” 🙂
  • As much as we try to limit Freestyle’s time in front of the TV/computer (One of the reasons we canceled our cable. The second reason was to save money!), there have been times when I’m on a deadline and it’s not a babysitting day and I’ve just worked on the computer with Freestyle on my lap while she watches a show/movie on the side of the screen. We’re to a point when she sees me on the computer, she assumes that she’ll be watching her new favourite, Winnie the Pooh. Uh oh.
  • There are times I just let her watch something on the computer while I just surfed or wrote a blog post. This I am going to make a conscious effort to stop though since it’s unnecessary. Err, starting tomorrow! (She’s on my lap right now because I am avoiding the piles of laundry that are awaiting me and uploading photos to send to my family!). Oops.

 

 

Whew, that was cathartic! Again, I’m not proud of them, but I also know they’re not the worse things in the world. BUT I do know that I should make more of an effort with them too…

Well, there’s no such thing as a Perfect Parent and I think great parents are made, not born. So there’s hope for me yet! That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. 🙂

 

 

If you have any “confessions,” feel free to comment here so that I don’t feel badly all by myself! 🙂

 

A Doll By Any Other Colour…

1 Aug

Not even you could rescue the movie for me, Ms. Hepburn.

Photo Credit

 

[EDIT: Just saw this. Babysitter’s Club! I always wanted to start my own club. I can’t think of any other Asian-American/Canadian women in pop culture from my childhood other than the ones the author mentioned.]

 

I remember finally watching Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, all excited since everyone raves about how great it is, only to be disgusted at the incredibly insulting Asian character who was basically a walking, talking stereotype (played by a white actor). Ruined the movie for me.

When I finally got around to reading the Harry Potter series (which I like a lot!), I noticed that any (presumably) white character is written about, she doesn’t really specify how the character looks. However, if it is a character who isn’t white, she would specify this by describing the skin colour or hair type. It wasn’t very overt and of course an author is supposed to describe the characters for the reader, but I think it was just the presumption that unless otherwise indicated, the character was assumed to be white. The White Default.

And there was that whole ugly controversy over the casting of Hunger Games characters.

 

*****

I like reading sociology-pop culture websites like this one and this one.

I was on another site the other day and saw this post titled, “Remembering My Brown-Skinned Dolls.

 

This is “Baby.” 🙂

 

It made me think of Freestyle’s doll, “Baby.” When we saw how much she loved her friend’s Cabbage Patch doll, we decided to get her one of her own.

We got to the store and saw the row upon row of white girl dolls. Hmm. So I rummaged through the shelves and chose two dolls with darker skin and then showed them to Freestyle to let her choose (interestingly, the only two non-white dolls in the collection were the baby -sized ones that were both boys. There were only one of each and both were shoved to the back of the shelf.).

 

*****

 

I know, despite little advancements here and there, that the thin, conventionally pretty, able-bodied, white girl will be the standard that Freestyle will face in the media/pop culture. So I wanted to make a conscious effort to surround her with images of the beautifully different types of people that make up our world.

I believe that as a parent, I need to be conscious of the images to which my children are exposed. I feel that I need to make a more concerted effort because, as I joked to one of my midwifes during our initial interview, Biker and I are a “boring couple: hetero, married by law, and both from the same cultural background!” That, plus living in the ‘burbs doesn’t exactly give Freestyle as many opportunities to interact with people from different socio-economical groups.

There will be obvious examples in her life (predominately white casts of books and movies, token “minorities” and stereotypes, etc.) and there will be subtle, more subconscious examples (“neutral” or “skin-tone” meaning a fair complexion, “ethnic” or “minority” being used to describe her culture, stock photography labelling a photo of a white child “child smiling” and a photo of an Asian child as “Asian child smiling,” etc.).

 

*****

A big part of Montessori education is Going Out. Going Out into the community allows children to have opportunities to explore new environments, make discoveries, and meet and interact with different people (as opposed to a couple of adult teachers and a class of kids close to her age all day). They build independence and practice their Grace and Courtesy.

This is why I try to take Freestyle out to different places (and even out of the suburbs and into downtown when possible).

 

*****

In my editing, I sometimes have to create content for the children. We make sure that through the lesson wording, activity pages, and pictures we give the children a wider worldview. I make a conscious effort to use inclusive language. For example, on Mother’s Day, our crafts do not say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” because everyone’s family situation is different. Instead we will talk about different types of families and how they are all wonderful. The craft will more likely say “I love you” and we will encourage the children to give it to whoever cares for them.

If I need to include pictures of people to go with a story, I’ll try to include people of different ages, cultural backgrounds, and abilities. If we show the children a picture of “people,” we want them to see that there are many types of people: elderly, children in wheelchairs, people with Down Syndrome, people wearing glasses… People are people!

 

*****

So, when people comment or ask about why Freestyle is clutching onto a doll with dark skin (though I don’t know if they would ask if it was a white doll…), I do my spiel and say that even though this specific doll doesn’t look exactly like her (she is Chinese), I still would like to surround Freestyle with different cultures, period.

So, long story short, Freestyle ended up choosing Baby and they have been inseparable since!

 

 

How do you ensure that your children have opportunities to interact and have positive experiences with people who may be different from her?

 

Things Which I Find Weird and/or Funny…

18 Jul

“I ain’t your Grammy…call me G-Dawg!”

Photo Credit

 

1. Grandmas who want to be nicknamed “G-Dawg,” “Glam-ma,” “Miami,” or “Salsa.” Don’t like those names? Don’t worry, just check out the The New Grandparents’ Name Book!

 

2. Those family stickers on the back windows of cars. We were in the car one day behind one of these cars and I said to Biker, “Honestly, I don’t think I could be good friends with anyone with those stickers.” Besides some of the reasons listed in the link, I’m not keen on the information that it gives out to complete strangers.

 

Photo Credit

 

(“Hmm, kids in the car? More likely to have portable DVD players, iPads/game consoles, etc.” OR, God forbid, a stranger coming up to your kid and, based on the info gleaned from the stickers, saying something like,

“Hi, Mommy and Daddy asked me to pick you up. I’m your Auntie Jane! No, we have to go now. Oh, your little brother has soccer and baby is with Mommy. But let’s hurry and get in the car because Mommy asked us to feed the dog and cat. What’s your dog’s name again? Jackson? I love that name! I have a dog too…”

Maybe I’m paranoid, but that’s the first thing I thought of when I first saw these family decals.

 

3. A gift “from the baby” to the older sibling. A friend just told me about this one. To help your first child adjust to having a new sibling, you give them a present and tell them that it’s from the baby. I guess I see the reasoning behind it (creating a positive association with the new kid on the block), but I laughed because we were thinking, wow, where did the baby get the gift and how did s/he get it in there AND have time and space to wrap it up before popping out?! 🙂

 

4. Push Presents…I only heard about this recently… Umm, I never got a push gift! Oh wait, does the baby count?