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A bus ride down memory lane

Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to take Turner to his preschool on the bus. The day before I had unfortunately gotten a flat tire on our brand new minivan after picking up the kids from school. It wasn’t fun having to sit at the gas station for an hour with 3 kids waiting for roadside assistance, but with the car’s DVD player and the one granola bar I managed to find in my bag, we somehow made it through.

So anyways, Larry wanted to take the car in to the dealer early in the morning so he wouldn’t have to deal with waiting in line, which meant I would be car-less for morning school drop offs. I borrowed a car from a friend to take Christopher to his carpool ride and then decided I would take Turner to school on the bus so that I could go straight to the car dealer afterwards to retrieve our car. Turner couldn’t be more excited to go on the big public bus. For the first few weeks of school he would look longingly at the yellow school buses parked in front and always ask me if he would get to go on them. Berkeley public transit may not be the same as a yellow school bus, but in the eyes of a 3 year old, it’s just as exciting.

We walked the couple of blocks from our house to the bus stop and waited for only about 5 minutes before our bus pulled up. I instructed Turner before getting on that he should say “Good morning” to the driver, and he did just that as we ascended the steps. I asked him where he wanted to sit, and he said, “in the caboose!” so we marched to the back of the bus and plunked down in two empty seats by the window. As the bus pulled away and as we watched the streets of the city flash past us, I was suddenly transported back to my childhood. I did most of my growing up in New York City and taking public transportation was a huge part of my life. I think as early as 4th grade I was already taking the public bus to school on my own and in junior high and high school, I had to take two buses everyday to school. I have fond memories of me and my friends gallivanting all over the city with our free school bus passes. It’s a little shocking to me now as a mom to think of how much freedom I had back then as a kid.

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Waiting at the bus stop

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Sitting in “the caboose”

 

As the bus curved its way through downtown Berkeley, I looked out the window with my son and noticed things I had never seen before. Turner and I took turns pointing things out to each other, people we saw walking down the streets, things we saw in shop windows. Before we knew it, we were at our stop. I pressed the stop requested button and both of us hopped out the back door and took our time walking the four blocks to his preschool. He was as happy as a clam…and I was too. I don’t think I would trade in the convenience of a car for taking public transportation every day, but it was nice not to be the one behind the wheel for one morning. And it was also nice being able to share a slice of my childhood with my son.

 

 

 

 

 

Chore Pad App Review

I’m usually not one for reviewing, much less promoting apps, but when I find one that actually does make life easier (instead of just helping me to waste more time), I’d like to let others know about it. In this case, the app I’m about to review hasn’t just made life easier, but helped me to parent more effectively. It has helped my kids learn healthy habits and be accountable. All that for a mere $2.99? Larry and I normally never buy any apps, but I think this one was a $3 well spent.

For awhile I’ve tried to get my kids, especially my older son, to regularly do their chores. We’ve tried all kinds of ways – physical chore charts with stickers, rewards, penny jars. Those things would work for a week or so, but eventually the novelty would wear off, and I have to confess I wasn’t that good at consistently adhering to whatever system I had started. So in the end the system would go out the window and I would go back to nagging them everyday and they would go back to ignoring me.

Well, a few months ago, Larry, believing that there’s an app for everything, did some research and downloaded some chore chart apps. There are so many out there, but the one he eventually decided on was Chore Pad. It’s relatively easy to use and you can customize chores for each child. There’s a simple reward system of checks and stars and you can decide what rewards they get. My kids love it. We’ve been using it for a few months and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. They have been consistently making their beds, folding their pajamas, cleaning their room, etc. with much less nagging from me. And I don’t have to worry about printing out anything or getting any stickers or pennies, all I have to do is whip out my ipad and have them check off their chores themselves. It has become part of our nightly ritual and both boys will often remind me if I forget to do their chore chart before going to bed.

I’ll walk you through it real quick –

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Each child gets his own page that he can customize. My boys decided to go with the snowflake theme for the winter.

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Then you assign chores for each child and how often they must be done. This is CC’s and…

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…this is Turner’s.

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You can also decide how many stars each chore is worth. The kids use their stars for payouts. So far the reward that has worked to motivate them are minutes for playing video games. CC also has the option of converting his stars to money, which Larry keeps track of in a different piggy bank app.

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As they accumulate checks, they also earn trophies for their virtual trophy shelf. There’s also the option to give them a bonus on each check, if they did a really exceptional job, or a minus, if they did their chore but not such a good job.

We also included a box for daily behavior which we check off at the end of the day if they behaved well. Many times if they’re misbehaving, all we have to do is threaten not give them their behavior check and they’ll change their tune right away.

Anyways, this app has worked well for us so far. It’s so easy even 3-year olds and non-tech savvy mamas like me can figure it out.

What apps have you found useful for parenting? Please share!

 

Happy birthday to me!

I know I said you probably won’t hear from me until January, but I thought today deserved a post, it being my birthday and all. Now please, no need to plaster my Facebook wall with happy birthday wishes, there’s a reason I purposely didn’t disclose my birthday on my FB profile. And this year of all years, I’d rather not be reminded that I’m not only one year older, but that I’ve officially begun a new decade in my life. Yup, believe it or not, I can no longer consider myself a hip thirtysomething (okay…maybe I was never hip), but starting today, I am officially MIDDLE AGE. That’s right, the big four-oh. I still can’t bring myself to say it, but I guess I can type it…40. Today I’m 40 years old. Yikes!

When I was in college, 40 seemed so far away. At that time, I thought for sure that by the time I turned 40, I’d be married with kids in grade school, have an Asian mom perm, and have life all figured out. How silly I was. I’m far from having life all figured out and I’m definitely not ready to take on an Asian mom perm. In many ways I do feel older and wiser, but I also feel like there’s so much more for me to learn. I guess that’s good because my husband always says the day we get old is the day we stop learning.

I turned 40 today without much fanfare. (As you know, we’re not big birthday celebrators in this house). I woke up, took the kids to school, and proceeded to go to my usual yoga class at the Y. As I was waiting for the class to start, I noticed lots of women gathering around getting ready to go into a cardio dance class. So I thought to myself, “It’s a new year. Why not break out of my routine and comfort zone and try something new?” So I walked into this dance class and stood nervously in the back trying to hide. The instructor was a energetic woman over 60 with a body of a 25 year old, and most of the other women around me were not much younger. Before I knew it, the music started, and I found myself shuffling, sashaying, popping my hips…basically making a complete fool of myself. But it was great, and I loved being in the company of these grey haired grandmas who didn’t care how their hair looked or if their outfits matched. They danced with abandon without any need to check themselves out in the mirror. Maybe middle age won’t be so bad.

So here’s to another decade and to more years of learning. And of course, to more years of Christ growing in me. Spiritually speaking, I think it’s also time to step out of my routine and comfort zone and try something new. The Lord has definitely given me some real experiences of Him in my thirties, but I sense that it’s time to forget the past and stretch forward. Time to go deeper and higher in my experience of Christ and to enjoy the Lord with abandon, not caring for my image or what others think of me. This is what will keep our spirit young no matter what age we are.

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Hibernation mode

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We took the whole Thanksgiving week off last week and just came back from visiting family and friends in SoCal. I’m still recovering. We all ended the trip with some stomach issues, with the exception of Turner. That boy has a tummy of steel; doesn’t seem like anything can suppress his appetite. We had a good time, but I’m glad to be back in my own bed and to have the kids back in school. Hopefully I’ll be back to eating soon too.

It just hit me today that IT’S DECEMBER! It’s hard to believe that in a month 2015 will be over. Crazy, isn’t it? I was recalling my post about my goals for this year and it just made me groan. At some point I will revisit that post and let you all know how I did, but this is the time of year when I lose all motivation to do anything, anything productive, that is. I wish I had the energy for that final sprint, but instead I think I’ll be dragging myself tooth and nail to the finish line.

I so wish I was a bear and could just go into hibernation for this next month. Winter has finally come to Berkeley (meaning the temperatures can go below 60!) and all I want to do is hide under the covers all day and waste my time scrolling through Facebook. Last night I went to bed at 9pm and woke up this morning at 6:30am. 9.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep = pure happiness. Maybe my stomach is telling me that I ate enough last week for me to just sleep this week. That would be so nice…

I’ve decided that for me December will be a season of rest, at least until we make that drive down to SoCal again in three more weeks. Maybe I’ll wake up from my hibernation refreshed and ready to tackle goals for another year.┬áSo you all probably won’t hear from me until January. Until then, happy December!

 

Afternoon blog therapy

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It’s one of those days. It’s absolutely beautiful outside, sunny and blue skies, temperature has finally dropped so that it actually feels like fall here. Those are my favorite kind of days. But for some reason today I have no motivation to do anything. No motivation to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather, no motivation to clean the house that sorely needs cleaning, no motivation to try to figure out what to do with that hunk of meat defrosting in the kitchen. Instead I’m sitting in front of my computer, nursing my second cup of tea for the day, randomly opening useless windows on chrome, and all the while something keeps lifting my gaze to the big window in front of me, the one with five tiny pumpkins on the sill. I look out and see the big tree, full of leaves that are still green and somehow it calms me in my current restless state. Don’t psychologists say that looking at green is good for the brain and for the soul? I thought I’d heard something like that.

Something besides looking at that tree is good for my restless soul. It always hard for me to get started, especially on a blah day such as this one, but I find that when I close the other useless windows and grudgingly open my wordpress window and just start typing, I start to feel the same way I do when I look out at that tree. I feel centered, purposeful, and as I read the words pouring out through my fingertips onto the screen, I finally begin to understand how I feel. I would not call myself a writer by any means, but I have to say tending to this little blog for the last five years has become a therapy for me. Sorry to say, I’ve been neglectful of it these past few months. But today, being one of those days, I needed to come tend it again. I needed to get some words down so that my soul could be at rest.

Now that this post is written and my tea cup is empty, I think I have the motivation to go deal with that hunk of meat in the sink. So if you’re having one of those days…take a few minutes to go back to those simple things that bring you joy. And if that doesn’t work, go stare at something green. :)

Simple Celebrations

Yesterday we had an early celebration for CC’s birthday. My not so little boy will turn 6 tomorrow. For weeks I’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to throw him a birthday party this year, not because he had asked for one, but because for some crazy reason I thought I’d be less of a mother if I didn’t. It seemed like ALL his little friends got birthday parties and I didn’t want him to feel left out. In all honesty though, we are not birthday party people in this house. Things like that tend to get me stressed because I feel like I have to get everything perfect and pinterest-worthy. Kind of like when I tried to bake the fire engine cake when he turned 3…I don’t need to remind you all how that turned out.

So Larry finally put an end to my hemming and hawing and put his foot down and said we would just celebrate CC’s birthday as a family. I complained for all of 5 minutes but was inwardly relieved. I told CC we would go out for dinner for his birthday and he can pick the restaurant. Just as I predicted, he picked Homeroom, a very hipster joint in Oakland touted to have the best Mac and Cheese this side of the bay. So yesterday afternoon, before heading out to Homeroom, we let CC open his one present from us (more on that later) and Face Timed briefly with his grandparents. The place was super crowded, even at 5:45, but we scored a table outside relatively quickly. We ordered two kinds of Mac and Cheese, a side of buttery minty peas and a Limeade for me, and watched my soon to be 6 year old son chow down more calories than he probably ordinarily gets in a week. He was happy as a clam, and I was too, knowing I didn’t have to frost any cakes or fill any goodie bags.

After dinner, the boys of course asked for dessert. Larry, thinking ahead, had printed out a coupon for a free birthday scoop from Ben & Jerry’s for CC. We asked CC in the car what he wanted for dessert and he said ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Score! Isn’t it great when what your kids ask for is actually the same as what you plan? So we made a stop at B&J and even though we were planning to get Turner his own scoop, CC very graciously said he would share his cone with his little brother. So we walked out with free ice cream and two very happy boys.

When we got home, CC had about half an hour to play with his birthday present before he had to get ready for bed. For his birthday, we got him a box of 125 Zoob building pieces. Recently he’s really been into Legos and can spend hours by himself just building things. So we wanted to get him something similar – open ended creative building toys. The Zoobs are pretty cool, basically ball and socket type pieces you can fit into different configurations. It also comes with guides with instructions of different things you can build. CC got into it right away, and for half an hour we all joined him in building things. Definitely quality family bonding time.

We got the boys ready for bed and CC thanked the Lord for his new present. I thanked the Lord for giving us such a simple yet wonderful day. My son will only turn six once. I’m glad I didn’t miss it because I was too busy planning a party he never asked for. When he looks back on his 6th birthday, I hope he’ll remember that we had mac and cheese and ice cream and that his mommy and daddy sat down and built Zoob robots and animals with him. I know that’s what I’ll remember. :)

Happy birthday CC!

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Hello out there blog readers! Are you all still there? Sorry for the long silence, I took the summer off and then the new school year kind of took me by storm. Yesterday was Turner’s first day of preschool and CC is well into his second full week of kindergarten. That means I’ve graduated from being a stay at home mom to being a chauffeur mom. My days now seem to be an endless series of drop-offs and pick-ups. But hey, now I have almost all of 3 hours to myself every morning!

I think the boys and I all welcome having some kind of structured routine back to our days. It was great having them both home with me for the summer, but I think having some time apart now is good for all of us. Now a lot of the time we spend together is in the car. This year Larry and I decided to send CC to a brand new French immersion charter school that just opened in Oakland. It’s about a 25 minute drive from home with no traffic. We prayed a lot and considered a lot, and in the end we felt good about sending him, even though it would require a lot of driving on my part. It was a hard decision, especially since I had gotten used to him taking the school bus to and from school, but I’m glad we did it. Fortunately, both boys are okay with being in the car so much, as long as there’s a good audio book playing and snacks on hand.

When we tell people that CC is going to a French immersion school, many have asked, “Why French?” Both Larry and I have taken multiple language courses in our high school/college years, but sadly neither of us have attained fluency in any of them. We would love for our kids to be bilingual and get an early start on language learning, and since we’ve been lazy about speaking anything except English at home, immersion schooling seemed like the next best option. We can in no way afford any type of private school, so when we heard about this new charter school opening, it seemed like a great opportunity. We had already tried applying for a Mandarin charter school, but the lottery was not in our favor. So French it was. After meeting the great community of staff and parents at this school, we began to feel better about the decision. So when people ask me,”Why French?” my answer is “Why not French?” If my child had the opportunity to learn Swahili at a great tuition-free school, I’d still do it. Besides, you have to admit that hearing a little Chinese boy speaking French is kind of cute. It’s only the second week and already CC is spouting French sentences here and there. He’s gotten really good at saying, “Can I go to the bathroom please?” I guess that’s a pretty good first sentence to learn.

I’ll try to be better about my blogging, maybe in between all the drop-offs and pick-ups. No promises though.

In the meantime, a bientot!

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Francophone Charter School of Oakland

French Immersion Education for All

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