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Posts Tagged "School"

Confessions of a Non-Reading Mom

Posted on Mar 4, 2010 in Featured, Motherboard |

Confessions of a Non-Reading Mom

Before I had children, I had a notion about what a mom should be — cuddly and kind, strict and forgiving, lenient and understanding. I visualized myself teaching my children to walk and talk and count and, of course, read. I saw myself working with pride in the children’s classrooms teaching other kids to read as well as my own were sure to. My children, of course, would be voracious readers, and I, at the helm, leading them through the aisles of Hicklebee’s famed children’s book store.

As we all know by now, all of our fantasies of parenthood don’t come true. I turned out to be a mom that didn’t read much with her kids. Sigh. Blame it on the exhaustion of being the mother of twins, push it off on being too worn down, cast the responsibility on the babysitter… Somehow, after all my visions of what kind of parent I’d be, I wasn’t the one to foster reading in my children.

Reading to my children somehow became a burden. It annoyed me that they pushed the pages to get to the next one, interrupted me with question after question, went on tangents unrelated to what I was reading. I tried in vain to imitate Mr Toad’s deep throaty voice and Ms. Spider’s high-pitched tone.   It flat-out annoyed me to read with my kids. I felt horrible about it. Awful, actually. I felt like a mommy failure. I needed help.

I went to the library and spoke with a woman at the Biblioteca Latinoamericana in San Jose, a library with one of the foremost bilingual collections in California. She told me to read the newspaper outloud to the kids. She told me to read Time magazine, read People magazine, read anything to the kids. She gave me permission to not read Dr. Seuss. I stood in front of this stranger and cried. Just read, she said. Read for my own joy and the kids will absorb the magic of words and reading. The angst I had over reading children’s books that were not enjoyable to me was coming through to my kids. What they needed, she taught me, was the feeling that mommy enjoyed reading — they needed to see me value reading and how reading envelops every part of society. That woman, that precious librarian, changed my life.

The first thing I did was start reading signs and headlines in the car to the kids. I read recipes outloud and my kids loved every second of it. I read the Yahoo! front page headlines outloud. And in Spanish, I read anything I could find. Most books were children’s books, but that’s about my reading level in Spanish. I started to see my children engage me in reading and from that I gained inspiration to read further.

Step two was to find children’s books that worked for the whole family.  The problem was that I had a slew of Disney-esque books or See Jane Run boardbooks (or rather: bored-books) — each of them less inspiring than the next.  I needed to fix this ASAP. My sister-in-law had bought books from a little company called Chinaberry and I thought I might be able to find interest in some of those books. I spent hours pouring through their website  finding alternative books that I found interesting. There were stories of native American children, of world cultures. There were books of children’s poetry that I found simply incredible and sweet. I found Goodnight Moon in Spanish, which was super fun for me to read with the kids. I bought Heather Has Two Mommies but it made me feel uncomfortable, so I ditched it. I found a book about Amelia Earheart and a wonderful book about buildings called Iggy Peck Architect. In finding books that interested me, I found that my kids were more interested in reading with me. That was a huge relief.

My third step was to acquiesce my mommy responsibilities in reading with the children. My partner @La_gringa took over the role of reading to the kids before bed. It turned out beautifully — the kids and @La_Gringa love this ritual.  My stepdad took it upon himself to buy a series of books he had enjoyed reading to his kids 30 years ago  (the great Ferdinand was one) and the kids know that Granddad will read to them whenever they visit. My mom sat with the kids while they learned to read in preschool and then kindergarten. Unlike me,  her patience for sounding out syllables was unwavering. The village had stepped in to raise up my children where I lacked.

The kids are now in first grade, are biliterate in Spanish and English, reading fluently in two languages above grade level. Most of their reading is non-fiction, which I find fascinating, and all of their exams are solely in Spanish. This week they both received  Accelerated Reader awards for earning over 90 percent on their tests — they were two of only 10 first-graders in their school honored. Despite me, these children have a passion for reading.

Teaching my children to read was so much harder than I ever dreamed. We had to adapt: Dr. Seuss was out,  Thomas the Tank was replaced with a how-to-build-a-train type books, written by people a lot less famous. I wasn’t the one that taught my children to read, but I did find a way to show them a respect and love for language. Last night my children listened as I read them a recipe — Sea Bass, olive oil, teaspoon of sea salt — while they retold a story from a Magic Treehouse book. The smells of the kitchen and conversation mutually engulfed us in the beauty of words.

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No GirlScouts for Us

Posted on Nov 30, 2009 in Rants, Thing 2 |

No GirlScouts for Us

The Girl Scouts mission statement is: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.” I love the idea of the organization. I remember wanting to be a Girl Scout when I was growing up. I made it to Brownies before ditching it for soccer in sixth grade. So when my girl hit Kindergarten, I excitedly signed her up to be a Daisy Scout with high hopes of a bright green sash full of fun badges. I didn’t even mind the idea of selling Thin Mints.

Last week I got a notice about our troops (Scouts, Brownies, Daisys) having an overnight. I was ready to go. Grab the sleeping bags! Learn to pitch a tent! Make S’Mores!

Although I’m not the camping type, I was excited about the Girl Scouts adventure. I opened the email, readying for a fun mom/kid trip.  There are not words to describe my great disappointment when I opened the Northern California Girl Scouts’  email. The overnight, as it turned out, was a night at the mall. That’s right, a sleepover at Westfield Shopping Center.

Reading on, my jaw dropped further as the email touted middle-of-the-night dance parties, runway fashion shows, Girl Scout models, “lots of glam” and a Bling! photo contest. What was I missing? Where was the character building and courage they’d promised? Courage to what? Catwalk?

The sleepover was held this past weekend. We spend the day hiking on our local trails and telling stories about where we’ve traveled and where we’d like to travel. We had a block party that day too, a pumpkin pie eating contest, kids doing sidewalk chalk in the street and racing their Razors up and down the block. It was a family day to remember. So maybe my expectations of Girl Scouts needs to change. Maybe the Scouts are just posing as a character-building organization while secretly making bank off of underage cookie pushers. Maybe they just forgot the Scout in the Girl.

I didn’t pluck this fantasy ideal of Girl Scouts out of thin air. I have friends who are in Indian Princesses that just returned from an overnight filled with midnight flashlight tag and team rock climbing. Other friends participate in theYMCA’s Adventure Guides where outdoor activities focus on parent child relationships where you are encouraged to “get to know your kid while your kid is still a kid.” I had an expectation that the Girl Scouts would be a wholesome growing experience for my kid. Instead they want to teach her to shop-’til’-you-drop.

I brought up my concerns to a long-standing Girl Scout mom, who laughed and told me to  “Get modern!” She told me the girls that attend the mall overnight have a lot of fun. Now, maybe it is fun (a grownup version with wine instead of juice boxes?), but it’s not the point of Girl Scouts to me. This isn’t the message I want to give to my daughter. If you want to have a slumber party at the mall, I’m all for it. Just don’t call it character-building. Don’t tell me you are helping my child make the world a better place. In fact, don’t tell my child anything. We’re done with you.

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A Good Guy for a Good Cause

Posted on Nov 27, 2009 in Giving, Holidays, School |

As many of you know, our annual Community Tree Lighting Ceremony  is Thursday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m. As more of you know, I nearly lost my skull worried over the actual *lighting* of the tree. It’s a bad economy, we all know it. But no lit tree in our town? Really, I need a scotch just thinking of it.

But the tree will be lit and the community will have it’s tradition. This year, we won’t be using a cherry picker or crane to hang our lights —instead, Straun Edwards, arborist and owner of Trees 360 Degrees will deck the tree by doing what he does best: climbing! Our angel wears spikes in his shoes and is a whopping  6-foot-8.

Tomorrow my tree lighting angel will hang the lights. You know where I live? Then come out to see Straun 45-feet sky-high in the neighborhood tree tomorrow at our local elementary school.  That’s right, Mr. Edwards’ donation is to *litearlly* climb the giant fir tree outside the school to hang the lights for the tree during the holidays.

We fly home tomorrow to watch Straun climb the tree (kids are freaking out, they think he is SpiderMan). I’m grateful to him beyond what he knows for a cause more important that he could ever guess.

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My Big Girl Reader

Posted on Nov 6, 2009 in School, Thing 2 |



My incredible daughter picked up a book the other day and started reading it aloud. I pulled the car over to the side of the road and just sat there looking at La Gringa in amazement.

My girl really didn’t want to read a word of English (she reads in Spanish) until she was good and ready. And until she knew she could do it. And do it well.

We sat there and listened to her read a whole book. From that moment on, she’s reading and reading and reading and writing. Words are coming together for her and the doors are opening up in her otherwise Spanish language world.

She spent a day going on errands with us, at every stop reading, “That says, ‘Enter'” or “Hey mom, that over there says ‘Sale.'” We never got sick of her reading everything she could get her eyes on.

Go girl, go get your read-on.

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Dia de los Muertos

Posted on Oct 23, 2009 in Food, Holidays, School |



Great school activity today when a mom came in to teach kids about Dia de los Muertos. I had always known the holiday to be one that was a bit scary, a bit morbid and I could never figure out why the skeletons were always dancing. The mom did a great job at explaining how the food was an offering of smells and favorite thing from family members who have passed on. Fresh fruit, flowers (marigolds), tamales, chocolate and “Pan Muerto,” translated literally to “dead bread” can be made with a family member’s name on it. Very cool tradition. It reminded me of when our family was invited to a Tet New Year celebration for the Vietnamese culture. The habits are so similar. It reminded me a bit of paganism with the concepts of calling the dead with smells and flavors and offerings.

Not scary at all and so beautiful to look at. What a great, and, surprisingly peaceful and celebratory holiday.

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Open House at School

Posted on May 26, 2009 in Family and Friends |

Open House at School, originally uploaded by Thing Family.

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