Tag Archives: family

Audiobooks

When I taught first grade ten years ago, I had a Listening Center in my classroom.  I had a tape deck, 6 earphones, and multiple sets of first grade books in one cozy corner.

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I knew that a struggling reader would benefit from listening to an audio book.  As the story is read aloud, a struggling reader would be able to concentrate on making the story come to life without being bogged down with decoding words.

In a way, an audio book levels the field for all readers because struggling and advanced readers alike can listen together–something that would be impossible to do if an unskilled reader were left to read a challenging book on his own.

My children have listened to numerous audio books—Harry Potter, Percy Jackson series, Magic Tree House, The Inheritance Cycle, the list goes on.  Our very first audiobook was played in the car on our way to Disneyland.

randomhouseaudiobrisingr500The story in our CD deck

Although my children have always been confident readers, I found that listening to audiobooks made them even better readers, not to mention story writers.

My six-year old uses phrases like subtle whisper, frantically searching, and slow pace in her writing. These words I know she picked up from reading because we don’t use these words in our everyday conversation.

Not only does the audiobook help struggling readers, but also widens vocabulary.  My daughter listens and engages her older brother in discussions of books that she may not necessarily read on her own.   She now appreciates books that more savvy readers read.

I was worried that when they discovered audiobooks that they will stop reading on their own.  On the contrary, they developed an even more insatiable appetite to read independently.  Sometimes, they even choose to read books that they have already listened to because they like it so much.

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The best benefit of an audiobook for me is listening with my children.  Since we listen to the story in the car, we have mini book club discussions on our way to school.

I can even use the characters in the stories to stress a point when I am in my mommy-teacher moment like, “Remember, Galbatorix who made bad choices?  Tell me again the consequences of his actions?”

In a nutshell, listening to audio books can:

  1. help improve vocabulary
  2. allow a child to read beyond their reading level
  3. help their creativity in writing
  4. improve the ability to read aloud with expression

Reading for Kids

I am now writing in the library while my kids, 8 and 6,  are going crazy over the books that they can borrow.

They love books and take very good care of them, but their appetite to read is insatiable that if I were to buy every book that they fancied, we would quickly run out of space.

Instead we go to a public library to stock up on books.  I direct them to the children’s area, and recently, to the graphic novels section for their book selection;  I do not discourage them from reading books that are thick or have no pictures.

They choose books they can read by themselves, books that they want to be read aloud to them, and even books that are way too easy for them.

IMG_3452.JPGAt 18 months

It amazes me that they honestly derive pleasure from reading books because I was never that kind of a reader.  When I was in school, most of the books I read were assigned readings.

My children love reading books now because I made a conscious effort to promote reading.  My husband and I were determined to cultivate their love for reading.

Here are the reading strategies that worked for my family, I hope you will find them helpful:

1.  Start reading early and read often.  Yes, even if it is the same book over and over again (and, even if you think the child is not understanding the story).

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2.  Spend time in libraries. Borrow books that you think would interest them.  Do not veto a book just because you think it is too thick or too hard to understand.  Look for books with topics that appeal to them.

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3.  Give books as prizes.  It shows how much you, the parent, value reading.

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4.  Model reading.  A grown up has to model reading (in our case, my husband did).

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5.  Limit screen time.  Regulate watching TV and playing with video games.  And always have an abundant supply of books—chapter books, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, mystery, science, comics, etc.

6.  Listen to audio books.

Meal Plans

Báon is a Tagalog word that means food, or items packed, specifically for a trip.

Ang báon ko ay tinapay. (I brought bread.)  Nag-báon ako ng maraming libro.  (I packed a lot of books.)

It can also mean monetary allowance for a trip.

Magkano ang báon mo?  (How much money did you bring?)

Báon is also the word used to refer to food packed for school.

Anong gusto mong báon bukas?   (What snack/lunch do you want to bring to school tomorrow?

I pack my children’s snacks and lunches for school.  With the invention of Thermos and ice packs, there is really no reason for me to spend extra on hot lunches or salads at school.

Palagi silang may báon. (They always bring packed food.)

IMG_0127    IMG_0027Adobo wings

Occasionally, I would pre-order lunch for them in school, especially on sushi days.  But regularly, nag ba-báon sila (they bring packed food).

My children know what to expect for their báon.  I post the menu of the week on my refrigerator door for easy reference.

It is not always easy for me to follow through with my weekly menus, but when I do, I feel I am organized and in control.  I have less food waste, I have more time to do other things, and I don’t overspend on food.

Planning our weekly menu is a family activity.  My son would go through the recipe books I have, and then he would choose several dishes.  Usually, I would be able to cook his choices.

IMG_0016Bacon quiche from a recipe book

I would then buy all the ingredients and cook a week’s worth of food for báon and dinner. I would store them in leak-proof tempered glass containers so they can easily go in the microwave or oven.

My daughter would then decide on which days the food would be served. She would help write the menu.

IMG_0113Menu for this week

Something could definitely be said when all you have to do is take a couple of containers from the fridge and dinner is served.  You have more time to spend with the children.

New Year’s Eve

On the last day of the year, we tidied up the house, prepared our dinner, and while waiting for the food to be cooked, played with the toys from Santa.

IMG_0021Rubber Band-Powered Airplanes

IMG_1174Remote-Controlled Helicopter

If we were in Manila, there would be a big party (I come from a big family) with abundant food and loud fireworks.

Thanks to Face Time, my children were able to see how their titas and lola greeted the New Year.  They oohed and ahhhed as they watched the fireworks right outside their lola’s house–16 hours ahead of our own New Year celebration.

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My own mom was very big on spending Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in our own home.  She wanted all of us together as a family. Our tradition was to spend Christmas and New Year’s lunch with cousins, and aunts, and grandparents, but the Eve was reserved just for us.

Aside from wearing red (lucky color), and wearing polka dots (symbol of money), putting money in pockets (to greet the year with pockets filled with money), jumping (for children to grow taller), and making noise (to ward off evil spirits), we would also turn on all the lights around the house on New Year’s Eve. On the dining table would be a huge basket of fruits to symbolize abundant blessings for the New Year.

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My mom would even open all the windows “to welcome the luck of the new year in”.  Not too far behind her would be my older sister shutting the windows because leaving the windows and doors open meant letting the firecracker fumes in the house as well.

Except for donning something with polka dots, and opening the windows and doors (it was too cold), I followed my mom’s tradition of welcoming the year.  We had a quiet dinner at home with a home-cooked meal.  At midnight, we clinked flute glasses filled with sparkling apple cider and Prosecco.

And so, we welcome 2013 full of hope and excitement for the endless possibilities that this year may bring.

Santa Claus

Years ago in my final panel interview for my very first teaching job in a Catholic school, a priest (who was part of a ten-man panel) asked me about my thoughts on Santa Claus.

He was basically asking me if I was going to include Santa in my  Christmas curriculum.  I think it was at this moment that it became clear to me that my role as a teacher should not include talking about Santa and his gifts.

In my interview, I said that Santa is a family matter.  I said that I would defer to the parents who I believe, know what is best for the family.  I really wanted to be sensitive to the families whose holiday season may not include him.

Receiving gifts from Santa was not my own family’s tradition.

Santa Claus was a character that I only saw on Christmas cards as a young child in Manila.    I was not the least curious about him because my parents never talked about him when I was growing up. Because of this, I always thought that he was a fictional character similar to the Disney princesses.

When my own children became old enough to understand the concept of receiving gifts from Santa, my husband and I had to decide if we were going to support this or not.

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We are now living in the US and not the Philippines.  I know that they are going to ask questions because Santa can be seen everywhere–TV advertisements, print ads, and retail and grocery stores.  We even see him in the mall for photo ops.

What tipped the scale for me was when my son came home from school with a wish list for Santa.

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Lillian Katz, an international leader in childhood education, said in an interview regarding the distinction between child’s culture and heritage:

We want children to appreciate their heritage. At the same time, we must acknowledge that a young child’s culture represents his or her actual day-to-day experience.

With that in mind,  my children expect Santa to visit our house in the early morning of Christmas day.  Santa drops by and leaves presents under the tree with my children’s name.  When cookies and milk are left on the dining table for him to eat, he happily takes the treat and leaves a thank you note.

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Santa even uses a different wrapping paper when wrapping his presents.  Even the manner that the presents are wrapped is very different from how presents are usually wrapped in my household.

Yup, we are loving Santa.  We anxiously await his visit and grateful for his generosity.  We compare his ability to give to God’s generosity.

And to make sure that the cultural heritage is not forgotten, we go to church on Christmas eve, we light the Advent Wreath during the Advent season, and we celebrate Noche Buena with family and good friends.

My children are making new Christmas tradition that I am hopeful will always reflect our Filipino cultural heritage.

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Thanksgiving

Teaching the concept of gratitude is challenging.

In an environment where everything is in abundance, it is easy to take things for granted.

I find it difficult to describe to my children what an austere life may look like because meals are always on time, clean and well-pressed clothes are in their closets, and the temperature at home never goes lower than 67F.

But I realize that unless my children understand that there are families who sleep in makeshift stalls and eat only once a day because of poverty, my children will not appreciate what they have.

As we celebrate the American Thanksgiving tradition of turkey and fix-ins, we also remember who and what we are thankful for.

Our list is long and at the top of that list is family, but we are thankful for our friends (both new and old), a roof over our heads, good health, and food on the table (even if it is eggplant and brown rice). The list goes on and on…

As my son aptly puts it (when he is sleepy and I am bugging him to say his prayers), “I am thankful for everything!”

Our collection of Thanksgiving art projects

I think that teaching the concept of gratitude is challenging because I get caught up with routine that I take things for granted myself.  I am sure it would be easier, if only a little bit,  if I were to model this behavior every single day.

Bistec Tagalog

I always looked forward to visiting my lolas (grandmother) on Sundays. My lola and her sisters lived in Lipa, and we would visit them almost every weekend.  They would always have treats waiting for us when we came.

My favorites were:  Sundot Saging (skewered bananas fried in brown sugar), Pilipit (steamed ground sweet sticky rice, fried and then dipped in caramelized sugar), and Pastillas (sweet pastilles made with cow’s milk and rolled in white sugar).

Although I loved the sweet treats, I enjoyed the special savory dishes more.

For Sunday breakfast, Tita Nena would cook Bistec and serve it with pandesal (bread roll) or fried rice rice and sunny side up.

My lola’s Bistec is topped with raw Vidalia onion rings.  I love onions, but I don’t like them raw.  So, I tweaked the recipe and cooked the onions.

This is one of the few dishes that my children  don’t mind eating with brown rice.

Bistec Tagalog

1 pound of thinly sliced sukiyaki beef

1-2 onions cut into rings

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 lemon

pepper to taste

olive oil

Cook garlic with olive oil until golden brown.  Set aside.  In the same pan, add olive oil and caramelize the onions  (around 4-5 minutes).  Set aside.  Still using the same pan, add a little more olive oil, and cook the beef.  Sear the beef in batches to ensure that pan is always hot.  Once all the beef slices are cooked, put the garlic and caramelized onions back in the pan.  Add soy, water, sugar, pepper, and lemon.  Let simmer for 2 minutes.  Serve with rice.

     

Co-Sleep

This is how my daughter’s bed looks like in the morning.  If you think that it looks like it hasn’t been slept on, you are absolutely right.  She only sleeps on it for a few hours at night, and then leaves it before dawn for our warm Cal-King bed.

Co-sleeping works for my family, but I am sure that it does not work for all.

Before my husband and I decided to co-sleep with our firstborn, we researched on the pros and cons.  I certainly loved the many advantages; not having to walk to the crib for feeding is at the top of the list.

I consulted my pediatrician.  He said that a high percentage of parents who accidentally roll over infants in bed without ever waking up were either obese or alcoholic. Since my husband and I are neither alcoholic nor obese, we thought of giving our plan a try.

Co-sleeping turned out to be the best for us.  My sleep was only interrupted by feedings, which wasn’t so bad because I would fall back to sleep soon after my baby burped. When my son was two, we transferred him to a toddler bed we set up in our room, so my newborn daughter could co-sleep with us.  Only when we moved to a bigger house did the children start to sleep in their own beds.

The transition to sleeping in their own room was fortunately very easy.  I tucked them in their beds,  did the nighttime ritual (reading and praying), and then shut the door. Both slept straight through the night without problems. At that time my daughter still wore pull-ups.

It was only when my daughter was completely potty trained that she started sleeping with us again.  Instead of going back to her bedroom after a trip to the loo at night,  she would head to our bed, snuggle, and stay there until morning.  In Tagalog, we call this lambing, or showing affection.  I don’t find it intrusive.  In fact, I welcome it.

I know that there will come a time when my daughter would no longer sneak in our bedroom.  She would eventually  want her independence and her own space.  When that time comes, my husband and I would have lots of happy memories of cuddling with her. Until then, I look forward to waking up to her unique snore and finding her foot on my face.  And if I am lucky enough, I hope to wake up sweaty to find her little arms wrapped around my neck.

 

Children’s Party

Jollibee and McDonald’s are the popular venues for children’s birthday parties in Manila; at least that was how it was when I still lived there.  Sometimes parties would be celebrated at home, if the hosts don’t mind dealing with the mess.

Birthday food would vary depending on the budget, but there would always be some sort of noodle dish.  Filipinos believe that noodles represent long life.  So to wish the celebrant this good fortune, a noodle dish is consumed on the special day.  It can be pancit (chow mien) or spaghetti (long pasta), or both.

As I am preparing for my  children’s birthday party, I can’t help but think of what it would be like to celebrate in Manila again.  We have only done it once–for my daughter’s first and my son’s third.  (My children are born two years apart, but share the same birth date.)

I remember that birthday party as being tiring, but fun.

I don’t know what possessed me, but we had the party from 2pm until 10 pm. The kids had their swimming party from 2-5 pm, and adults stayed on to party until 10.  Between family and friends, we had around 100 guests.  We had spaghetti, tacos (from Pancake House, yum!), cotton candy, taho (sweet tofu),  “dirty” ice cream, pritson (roasted pig with sweet dough bun), and much more.

That party was a huge production.  We even had matching luau outfits for all of us.

The train cake I made.

Party stress aside, I enjoyed it and would love to do it again…on a much smaller scale.  Thank you to my siblings, nieces, friends, and in-laws for helping out!   Nothing compares to celebrating birthdays with family and friends.

Planning a children’s party here in the U.S. is much easier, I think.  No one expects four different main courses, unless a lot of Filipinos are invited.  The secret to a successful children’s party:  keep the children busy.

We were invited to a morning birthday party in a park once, and we were served bagels, watermelon, and cupcake.  The kids went home with  little loot bags of bubbles and couldn’t be happier!  The party was over in an hour and a half.

So, the plan for this year’s birthday?

Guest list is 20 kids max. No catering necessary, but I have to order pizza and pancit in keeping with the Filipino custom. My children and I will make jello with gummy fish (swimming theme again), and vanilla cupcakes.  We’ll have frozen yogurt and fresh fruits.  The party is from 12-2.  I think I am evolving!

Barbecue

Filipinos have the reputation of preparing excessive food during parties.

They want to have more than enough so when guests come back for seconds, or even thirds, they still have plenty to offer.  For a Filipino host, it would be very embarrassing to say to a guest, “Sorry, I ran out of it”, or in Tagalog, “Ay, naubusan na.”

Hiya is feeling of embarrassment one gets when he perceives himself as socially unacceptable for whatever reason.  It is a Filipino trait with emphasis on fear of losing face. –from Dictionary of Filipino Culture and Values by Tomas D. Andres

Recently, I made a rookie mistake of ordering 60 teriyaki barbecue skewers for a party for 20 people.  I allotted 2 sticks per person, and added a “little extra” for our own future use.

I couldn’t say that I ordered too much dahil baka mapahiya at maubusan (for fear of embarrassment that I may not have enough food); I ordered too much because I simply do not know how much food a person can eat.

Guests would have eaten them all–if not, for the other dishes, and 3 different desserts.  In the end, I still had 50 sticks that I quickly wrapped in foil to send home.  Even then, I still had enough leftover to make Vietnamese spring rolls, Vietnamese pho salad, and quesadilla for a month.

For those trying to figure out what to do with leftover barbecue, here is my recipe for Vietnamese spring roll.  I usually use shrimp or Chinese sausage, but I quickly discovered that barbecue pork and chicken work just as well.  It is the easiest to make because it requires little to no cooking.

Basic stuffing to the spring roll

Rice noodles

Mint leaves

Lettuce

Cucumber

Pickled radish

Carrots

Rice Paper

Choices for protein filling are: cooked shrimps, barbecue pork or chicken, beef slices, even pan fried Chinese sausage.  The beauty of this dish is you can put whatever you want in it–including leftover meat.  Dip rice paper in warm water to soften, and be creative.

Dipping sauce

1/2 cup fish sauce (good quality, unfortunately, Rufina patis does not work well, Thai brands work better)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp lime juice

1/2 cup water

1 -2 crushed garlic gloves

Thai Chili

Mix well together.