Category Archives: Parenting

Time Out for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. No need to worry about gift giving. If you can’t cook, you can just eat. Getting together with family and just being able to appreciate what we have. It seems with every Thanksgiving, I have more and more to be thankful for.

One of Malachy’s homework assignments was to write and draw what he was thankful for. After filling out two pages, he asked me to make another sheet for him. He really got into it, and that was awesome to see all that he was thankful for. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, ELECTRICITY was the first thing he wrote! With all the technology that surrounds us, I guess he sees how important it is in our daily lives. And without it… no iPad, no Kinect, no computers, no TV… Hmmmmm… Is that a good thing or bad thing? 🙂

Things Malachy is Thankful for (Part I)...
Things Malachy is Thankful For (Part II)...
Things Malachy is Thankful For (Part III)...
Things Malachy is Thankful For (Part IV)...

After writing about it, I decided to ask him about it. Just let the tape roll, and this is what he came up with. Priceless…

Time Out for After School Thoughts…

A Childhood...
GOT PLAYTIME?

I was the first to line up in front of Malachy’s school to make sure he got a spot for an after school program, the day after Labor Day (before the sun was up and in the rain).   After only one day (plus an orientation), we quit the program. It would have been FREE (thanks to Uncle Sam) every day from 3:00PM to 5:30PM. How could we give up such a coveted spot?

Just looking at Shien during the orientation pretty much made up my mind.  There was so much talk about getting “points” for good behavior or getting suspended for bad behavior.  For snack, they got some juice and graham crackers after school.  (Sugar and more sugar.)  And no, you couldn’t supplement with your own snack because all the other kids would want some.  Your child had to have a book at all times because there would be many times when he would have to wait for the next transition.  (Before the orientation started [right after the program ended], all the kindergartners and first graders were sent to another table and told to be quiet.  That didn’t happen.)  We had to sign papers and were told to go over the rules with our children when we got home, because they also had to sign the “contract” tomorrow.

Broken...

The thing was, we wouldn’t be able to pick him up early EVER. To be fair, you’re given three days out of the 180+, if you had a valid reason. I understood that it would be disruptive to pick your child up early, but to not have that luxury of picking him up when we wanted to or needed to was too much. Just today, seeing him break down much more easily than usual showed me how tired he was and how long a day it was for him. Multiply that by 180+ days, and I saw little good that could come out of that.

KID WANTED

I know that for so many parents, it’s not a choice, and that’s what greatly disturbed me today. Back in the day, my mom picked my sister and I up every day after school. We got to go home and have whatever snack my mom prepared. We did homework at HOME. We got downtime at home.  After we were done with our homework, we got to play, either inside or outside.

For too many kids and parents, it’s so so hard now. Some kids as early as age 3 are going to school from 8:30am to 5:30pm! That doesn’t even include travel time! It’s no wonder so many of our kids are burnt out and bouncing off the walls. What has happened to play time? What has happened to childhood? Our children deserve better…

As for the next child in line on the wait list that takes Malachy’s spot, I really really hope it works out for that child and the family…

Time Out for Summer Vacation!

Time Out for a Vacation!
You would think summer vacation means lots of time off to relax and do your own thing. Not for this Dad. On the contrary. For the past two summers, I decided to take on the role of Camp Dad, while Shien finishes her course work. That means Malachy waking me up when he wakes up (i.e., no sleeping in) and planning activities for the day. I could easily just sit him in front of the television and give him the iPad, and he could probably be content the whole day, while I sit in front of the computer and try to get some work done, but that just wouldn’t be good for either of us.

So instead, we get some outdoor time, shop for food (lots of soup), play games like Yahtzee (with real dice or cards), jacks, and pick-up sticks, do some science experiments, give him some time to read and write on his own, take daily naps when we can, and of course, some tech time. I love Planet Fassa’s mantra of Opening Minds, Nourishing Hearts, and Strengthening Bodies. I remind Malachy that we have to exercise our body, mind, and soul. 🙂

When he goes to bed, then it’s time to work on my writing, planning presentations and webinars, reading, and some Bejeweled Blitz… 😉

What an awesome summer so far!

Time Out for Dining Out!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Bunny for winning the $45 Outback Steakhouse Dinner with Dad certificate! Thanks to everyone for participating! Happy Fourth of July to all!


Soon after my first giveaway, I was invited to host another! This one’s for a $45 Outback Steakhouse Dinner with Dad certificate! (Thanks, Outback!) We will announce the winner on the Fourth of July, Malachy’s birthday! It will be awesome for him to give away something on his birthday! 😉

I was asked to blog about dining with Malachy, and I thought that was a great idea. I’ve actually blogged about breaking bread together in the past. Malachy and I are blessed to have the best chef right at home… Mommy! So, we basically get to eat well together all the time at home, and that means so much. Watching Jamie Oliver’s, Food Revolution recently, with the single dad with two sons was quite touching. They showed how hard it was for him to feed his boys because he didn’t know how to cook and he felt like there wasn’t enough time. They wound up ordering out all the time and he felt like they were never really eating as a family. The ate for the sake of eating. Dining together is not just about eating together, but sharing together and spending quality time together.

When Shien has evening classes, it’s just me and Malachy. Once in a blue moon, we’ll open the kitchen and make something, but most of the time, we get to order Ming’s and share a meal together. We call it a “date night” and though we miss Mommy’s cooking during those evenings, we manage to make the most of it. In the beginning, that meant ordering way too much because I always thought we should have variety. Lately, I’ve scaled back and have to keep reminding myself that just because Mommy’s not around, it doesn’t mean we get to eat super unhealthy. That would be a bad signal to send to Malachy. The important thing is that we dine together and get to do some Daddy-Son bonding.

As for dining out, it’s always special because we don’t do it often. We do go to our local cafe almost every Sunday for brunch, but unless we’re on vacation, we seldom venture out. We do enjoy the occasional family gatherings at restaurants, and I can’t wait to share a meal with Malachy when we use our certificate for Outback. I have one great memory of eating at Outback Steakhouse. It was a Bachelor’s dinner where I was treated by my buddies, after playing a round of golf together. There’s nothing like playing golf and then having a nice piece of steak! 🙂 I look forward to sharing those moments with Malachy, and maybe he’ll start blogging about his Dinner with Dad experiences soon. I might even have him write about our Outback Steakhouse dinner after we venture out. To be continued… 🙂

So, how do you get a chance to win a $45 certificate to Outback Steakhouse? Just comment and share how you would use the Outback Steakhouse Dinner With Dad $45 certificate. DEADLINE: July 4th, 12PM EST. This certificate can not be used for tax, gratuity, or alcohol. It can be used to enjoy their signature grilled rib-eye, Kookaburra Wings, fall off the bone baby back ribs or anything else you crave from their menu. Getting hungry? 😉 Good luck, everyone!

To find out about more promotions from Outback, you can follow them on Twitter or Like them on Facebook!

Disclosure: I was moderately compensated with a Certificate from Outback Steakhouse in order to offer this promotion.

Time Out for Math!

'Tis Math...

For some reason or another, Malachy has started to really get into numbers again.  Oddly enough, he’s also been loving the idea of winning.  We had tried one lesson with the abacus last summer, but because I wasn’t comfortable enough with teaching and practicing with him, we let it slide… 🙁

So, how did I feed his latest “ambition?”  I found out through Twitter that McGraw-Hill was giving away their Math apps for free from April 13-17 via iTunes, because it was the week of the National Council of Teachers Mathematics conference.  One of the apps he really liked was the Everyday Mathematics Baseball Multiplication 1-6 Facts: Multiplication game.  Of course, I had to immediately tell him that multiplying was not the same as addition, but in order to solve the problems, he could use his adding skills (using his fingers 😉 ) to figure out the problems.  So, when he saw 3×2, I told him it meant 3 groups of 2 or 2 groups of 3.  He would then use his fingers, starting with 2 fingers, adding 2, and adding 2 more, or starting with 3 fingers and adding another group of 3 fingers.  “Is it 6?” he asked.  “Yup,” I would reply.  I told him anything times two just meant doubling the number.  Of course, when it was 6×8, I spared him from using his fingers and toes and just gave him the answer… for now. 😉

It was amazing watching him trying to figure out 3×4, or 4×4, etc.  Somehow, he taught himself that when he went over 10 fingers, putting the additional fingers would give him 11, 12, etc.  Then again, it might have been my brother-in-law, his fiancee, Shien, my dad, or my in-laws.  I’m going to have to verify with them.  All I know is that it wasn’t me! 😉  The more he played and practice, the easier it became for him, although he would try to verify with me every time before submitting his answer, except for the ones he knew for sure.

Tonight, I decided to do a little experiment, just to see what he would do.  It was one of those, “I WISH I RECORDED IT!” moments, right after.  Arghhh.  I divided the paper in half, and wrote the doubles on one side and the two-times tables on the other side.  Then, I handed it over to him and asked him to complete it.  As he started it, he said things like, “Dad, both sides are the same!” and “Dad, it’s just counting by 2s!”  In no time, he completed both sides, sometimes going across, and sometimes going down.  When he got to 7+7, he thought a moment, and then realized it would be just 2 more from 6+6.  WOW!!!  I don’t think I figured this stuff out until the third grade, because that’s when I was first introduced to Multiplication!  That’s THE TRUTH!

This just proves that if we take our kids from where they’re at, and let them play and practice with things they are passionate and excited about, the sky is the limit. 😉

Time Out for Jokes…

Malachy LOVES jokes, but lately, it seems like the joke is often on me. I remember watching the TV show as a kid, starring Bill Cosby, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Now, I’m living it! 😉

I posted some of these on Facebook, but needed to share them here…

Today, on the way to school…
On many an occasion, Malachy’s been asking people when they are going to have a baby, so I tried to put an end to it once and for all…
Me: Malachy, not every couple who gets married has a baby.
MAL: Oh, you mean not all Moms have babies?
Me: (Pause) No, all Mommies have babies, but not all married couples have babies or might not want to have a baby.
MAL: Oh, I get it. Not all woman have PMS, right?
Me: (SILENCE)

Guess where he first learned about PMS? Over a year ago, from Katy Perry’s song, “HOT N COLD.” UNBELIEVABLE…

One evening, after dinner…
MAL: So, Mommy, do you think you can make an exception today? Can I have some Hexagon Doze later, after dinner?
ME: Some what??? (PAUSE) Ohhhh, I got it! You mean, Häagen-Dazs.
MAL: Oh, yeah. That’s it!!!

While washing up before dinner…
So, I was going over the importance of washing your hands after using the bathroom. I was telling him that he could get himself or others sick if he doesn’t wash his hands.
MAL: Oh, you’re right, Dad. We wouldn’t want to give the computer a virus, right?

After we received a Science Experiment Kit from Amazon… (http://amzn.to/fbUIaT)…
On the box, in small print, it reads, “Packed with Hair-Raising Experiments!”
After reading the box to himself…
MAL: What is this? Are we going to grow hair or something?

After picking him up from school…
I pack up his folder and I see a note written from him, to me and Shien…
MAL: Read it, Dad! 🙂

YUCK! 😉

Time Out for Disney!

I must admit, I went to Disney with the family feeling pretty unprepared. A week before going, I went on Facebook asking for advice from friends and family, and that made me feel even less prepared. I am so glad I asked for advice, because we received so many great recommendations on where to go, what to see, and where some of the yummy food was! 😉 Turkey leg and pineapple floats! (Thanks to Jess and Christine! 🙂 ) We hadn’t booked anything except for a rental car. We could have saved more if we had booked that even earlier. Luckily, Shien was able to get a couple of online reservations the night before we left at the Boma and Jiko in Animal Kingdom. (Thanks, Heidi! 😉 )

We were also told that we were going during a very crazy time, and that we should have booked reservations for restaurants way in advance. Another ooops. I went on Amazon to shop for some kind of guide book, because I felt like there were more things I should know before visiting each of the Disney theme parks. So, I went ahead and bought The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2011 (Unofficial Guides). It turned out to be a great purchase, as we did a mini-crash course each night before each theme park. I even purchase the WDW Line app through them, so we would know how long each ride’s waiting time was. Shien was awesome at packing, as always, and getting us ready for our big trip! She’s the best! 😉

The plane ride there was smooth. The car rental thing went okay. They always try to push more options on you, so you always pay more than what the “sticker price” says. The one thing I tried to decline was the insurance, but they made it seem like you had to pick one, so I’m going to have to do hopefully work that out. We rented a bright yellow Chevy Aveo, which turned out to be a great choice, because it was so easy to find in the huge parking lots at Disney! 😉

The timeshare was beautiful, thanks to Shien’s parents! (Thanks ChiouMa and ChiouBa! 🙂 ) It’s so nice having a place with a kitchen, as Shien made great use of it. Thanks, Mommy! 😉 It was only a ten minute ride to the parks from our residence, so we were able to come back from the parks a couple of times for dinner, and then go back! There was a Whole Foods nearby, so we were able to buy groceries. 😉 It was great that I brought the GPS, too, as it helped us to get from place to place. The only thing we had to get used to was the “stinky” water, as Malachy’s sensitive nose was able to point out. We believe there is some sulfur in the water in Florida?

The Disney parks run like well-oiled machines! It amazed us how smoothly everything and everyone operates in terms of the parking, the lines, and how nice all the Disney “cast members” were! Shien noticed how they really focused on the kids, and when they talked to us, it was the kids they were really interested in. 😉 On Day 3, we even had the chance to meet someone (Debby) from Shien’s hometown, who was interning at Animal Kingdom (AK) for over a month! We thought we might not see her, but we saw her at one of the last exhibits at AK. We liked AK so much, we decided to go there twice, instead of Magic Kingdom. For us, it was a really good choice.

Everything went pretty smoothly. Just a LONG wait for two things, but everything else was manageable. We waited over an hour for the Pooh ride, and now we can hardly remember what was on the actual ride itself! It went SO quickly! Malachy only had one meltdown, after watching the Finding Nemo Musical. It really stressed him out, as he was all worried about the shark. In the end, it was the jellyfish stinging Dory that really got to him. After some tears and some spitting up (YUCK), he felt much better, and the days 2, 3, and 4 went quite well! All the shows were great! Lion King (AK) was really impressive and so was the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor act (MK), The Flights of Wonder (AK), Turtle Talk with Crush (Epcot) and the Mickey’s PhilharMagic (MK). The Illuminations spectacle at Epcot and the fireworks at Magic Kingdom at night were both awesome. We didn’t do any rollercoasters this time around, but Malachy did get to go on all the “flying” rides. He liked being able to control those rides going up and down. 😉

As we went to the airport on our final day, finding gas turned out to be a bit of a problem, as the first station we went to had no signs for the price. The reason? When we got to the pumps, it said $5.20 per gallon for regular!!! We had to drive a few more miles to find another gas station. That was just wrong. But, the car rentals will charge you over $7 a gallon, if you decide not to return it with a full tank!

The plane trip ride was a bit more adventurous, as we were delayed twice because of strong winds in New York, and we even had to “deplane” at one point. We were all set to go, but then the pilot was told JFK was shut down for a bit because of high winds. So, we had to exit the plane, but luckily were able to board again within an hour. All in all, it wasn’t so bad at all.

The weather there was AWESOME! 80s every day. The day we came back was crazy because we had the air conditioning in the car as we drove to the airport in Orlando, but when we were back in New York, my dad had the heat on in the car when he picked us up from the airport! It was over a 40-degree difference in temperature!

Malachy had a blast, and so did we. Couldn’t have asked for a better time, although Shien and I are so tired! 😉 In the end, we were all ready to come home, although Malachy now claims he wants to move to Florida because it’s so nice there. 😉

Time Out for Doing Battle with Tiger Mom…

Crossposted on RiceDaddies

Do We all have a bit of Tiger Mom within us?

So, I recently wrote a short book review on BookDads of Amy Chua’s, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  I actually had my Mother-in-law read it, too, and initially, as she started read it, she was a bit infuriated with Amy Chua. As she continued reading it (because it’s hard to put down once you get started), the book definitely grew on her, and it made for lots of interesting conversation. 🙂

Writing a book review is one thing. Doing battle with Tiger Mom is not something I was prepared for…

Malachy had his first little recital yesterday at school.   As performance day drew near, I discovered there was a bit of Tiger Mom inside me, and I didn’t like it at all.  I found myself saying ugly things, like:

  • Come on! You can do better!
  • If you don’t play it right, then I’ll…
  • If you don’t make any mistakes, then we’ll…
  • Stop looking at me every time you make a mistake!
  • Don’t rush!  Slow down!
  • You’re playing it too slow!  Hurry up!

Ai ya!  There I was judging and mocking Tiger Mom for being so harsh to her daughters, and here I was doing and saying things that should and could have been edited.  Do we all have a bit of Tiger Mom within us? What were my reasons for pushing him to practice? Was it for him? Was it for me? Tiger Mom, Tiger Mom, what do you say?

As Malachy practiced, I sensed that he was feeling the stress and pressure coming from within me.  I knew he wanted to please me.  When he made a mistake, he just stopped to check how I would react.  Sometimes I would get upset, and other times I just let it go.  At the end of the day, he always received praise and hugs from Mom and Dad.  Most importantly, he enjoys practicing and playing, and he definitely has more showmanship than his dad.  😉

The bottom line is that if you want to do something really well, you HAVE TO practice.  Once in a while, you can rely on raw talent, but 99.99% of the time, it’s about hard work.  For things like music and some schoolwork, it’s about repetition, repetition, repetition.  With the piano, if he didn’t practice, he wouldn’t have done as well.  The crazy thing is that after all the practicing, there was still the chance he would “mess up.”  Watching ice skating on television comes to mind…  So, what’s the reward?  I guess you feel accomplished when you do it right and do it well.  You prove to yourself that you can do it if you work hard.  Plus, you get to have all those around you cheering you on.  😉

After the recital, we could tell that he was pleased with performance.  Later on, he called PoPo and GongGong (who were at the airport) and told them he didn’t make any mistakes.  They were so proud, because I had posted it on YouTube, and they had already seen it on the iPhone minutes later.  Technology is amazing!  He thanked Gong Gong for the practice sessions he had with him when grandpa was in New York.

Gong Gong had him stop and start over every time he “messed up,” and Malachy never complained.  From the other room, we would hear him play, Father, I Adore You, again and again and again.  He only got a check mark from Gong Gong when he played it without any mistakes.  Gong Gong was tough, but never mean.  When Malachy came out of the room, he felt good about his practice session.  I learned from Gong Gong that Malachy didn’t mind some hard work.  😉

Here’s to more doing battle with Tiger Mom again and again and again… 😉

Time Out for “Hurtness”

ouch...

It’s amazing when kids invent their own words. Malachy’s latest new word… “hurtness.” He’ll say, “Mommy, please make the hurtness go away,” or “Daddy, how can we make the hurtness go away?” 😉

Well, this Friday, we had to deal with some “hurtness.” It was a grueling and mentally exhausting week because we were waiting all week to see if Malachy made it into one of the city’s more “prestigious” elementary schools. It was crazy how many dreams I had about it. He had made it to the top 290 from around 1400 kids, but didn’t make it into their top 50. For me, the biggest “carrot” for this school, was that if you got in, you didn’t have to worry about having to make any decisions or worry about any city/state exams from elementary to high school! We wouldn’t have had to worry in that department until college! We wouldn’t have had to deal with any “hurtness” in terms of having to try to make it into a “good” middle school or “good” high school. That makes me cringe, because shouldn’t ALL schools be “GOOD?”

We are in a society where we can start “prepping” our kids in one way or another if we want to increase their chances of getting into a “good” school or a “gifted” class in the city. How is it that we have such a range in terms of public education (starting at age 4 or 5) in a democratic society? Everyone is entitled to a good education but not everyone gets one. We are already separating and dividing our students at age 4! Is there not enough good education to go around for every child in America? What is up with that?

The one thing I have to remember is that we as parents are our children’s first teachers, and we can continue to play a key role in their education. No matter where Malachy winds up, we have to remember to stay involved and know that there is a lot of learning and teaching that comes from us. 🙂

So, it’s more wait and see for now…