Week 8 of Summer Vacation

August 16, 2017

Summer vacation is going by in a flash! And I haven’t even blogged once since school was out. We didn’t send little C for any summer camps this year either with the exception of a PE enrichment camp at his old elementary school. We’ve seen kids at summer camp when we are out and about and it looks more like child care by teenage babysitters. It’s kinda like going with a tour group where you sometimes stop at places you are not interested in and don’t have enough time to spend at your favorites. I’d much rather go free and easy.

But that also means that it’s on me to keep him occupied. Some people might be aghast to find out that little C is doing homework everyday. Not that the tasks are onerous. It’s more helpful for teaching him to concentrate and focus and on getting work done and also learn good study and work habits. It’s also a good time for me to focus on teaching him Chinese and reading more books with him. His conversational Chinese has improved a little. I still have trouble remembering to speak more Chinese with him….

We did have our own summer camp with a wild west theme, went to the zoo 3 times before my membership expires, visited the science museum, went on park playdates twice, rode his bike at least once a week, watched a movie at the theater, went to the library programs (Little Bits circuits, recycled robots, ukelele), went to the beach at carkeek, do a bit of Scratch programming, …

We had a few events by J’s company, joined 2 potlucks with his best friend’s family, going for another BBQ potluck this weekend, went to the seafood fest, went and saw dad play basketball, went on vacation to Lake Quinault…

The rest of the time, he is left to his own devices – making comic books, doing craft,  reading, building Lego creations…

Oh and I’ve gotten him used to doing some chores in the morning after breakfast – feeding the fish and cleaning up the breakfast things (scraping the dishes and loading them into the dishwasher)


Teaching the Soft Skills

June 10, 2017

It seems like many skills have to be taught to my little guy explicitly. Like I have to spell out exactly what he should be doing at each point. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, but I was. Perhaps I felt like no one had taught them to me before and I somehow blundered into them and thus expected that kids learn them the same way. Perhaps my expectation of a 7.5-year-old boy is too high and he would indeed learn it on his own in a couple of years. I can’t even remember how well I was able to concentrate at that age.

Once again, the pedagogy befuddles me and I had to research some new ways to teach these skills besides plain nagging and lecturing, which obviously hasn’t gotten me very far. I came across some interesting strategies on this responsive classroom site. One of them

Things for me to try:

Interactive modeling –  modeling the correct behavior and asking the kid(s) to tell you what they observe.

Positive language – closely observing and give feedback on what is working.

“I see you followed our rule on _____” and “You did _____. That helps us all be better learners.” “You tried several different ways to solve that problem. That kind of persistence really helps you learn!” “You used your quiet voice. That helped me concentrate on my work.”

Some of the things I would like to work with him on improving are:

1. Transitions

  • Review expectations: what is supposed to happen. How it should look/ feel
  • Give advance warning: Teach him to plan what to do when the warning is given. Model thinking about a good stopping place, how to organize cleanup/ wrapping up and estimate how long it would take.  Ask him for his plan and review what worked and what didn’t and what else to try next time.
  • Have a set amount of time for transition

2. Staying focused on listening to speaker

  • Teach what staying focused looks like: Eyes on speaker, hands by the side/ in lap
  • Self-awareness on when he is distracted and how to refocus

3. Staying focused on task

  • Practice what that looks like during meal times and getting ready for bed

Practicing Patience

May 31, 2017

This month, I’d like to practice more mindfulness when I respond to irritation and annoyances. It’s been hard for me to take that step back and breathe and think through my response. Many times, the annoyance makes me snap and before I know it, I’d talk with a snarky, nasty tone that I wish I didn’t have. On the one hand, it’s normal especially when an introvert has to deal with the constant barrage of words, many of which are nonsensical or irrelevant or a running account of what happened in an imaginary world that I do not care about. The incessant talking wears me down till my nerves are raw and sensitive. I hope to teach little C to be more focused and succinct in what he wants to tell us. Sometimes, I encourage him to make a drawing or write a story (he has a number of comics that are improving in narration). But I also don’t want to be disinterested in what he seems to enjoy…..

On the other hand, I don’t feel good about the way I behave, so I’ll keep trying to work on it. One thing was to make sure I get sufficient sleep because I’m definitely short tempered when I’m tired and I seem to need quite a bit of sleep to function.

We’ll continue to work through it together, through small changes on both our ends. At the end of the month, school will end so I may need it even more since we’ll be together for a longer time each day.



Why I Joined the PTA

May 17, 2017

Years ago, I never thought I would actually join the PTA. I thought it was the domain of type A, extroverted parents who have something to prove.

As I challenge my son to keep learning and take in new experiences, I decided to walk the talk and do what I never thought I’d do – volunteer for the PTA board. When little C starts his time in the new school, I will be forced to have those dreaded social interactions with people I don’t know very well. Even now, after attending the first meeting and beginning the process of becoming a board member, I have the urge to dig a nice warm cozy hole and snuggle into it, never to be seen till it’s comfortably safe to poke my head out. And then I may make some new friends for myself and maybe new playmates for him.

I guess more importantly, while I dislike the awkwardness of social interaction, I recognize that hiding from it just makes the problem worse. In fact, I’m especially anxious in novel social situations. So I want to face my fears and just get with practicing. I mean when I’m fine once I actually talk to other people but the prospect of beginning to do it scares me. Well, we’ll see how it goes. It’ll be an exciting school year for us.

Moving on to Chapter Books

May 6, 2017

Little C is starting to read more complicated chapter books that don’t come with pictures on every page. He devoured two Geronimo Stilton books the day they came back from the library. I inducted him into the series via the graphic novels before moving on to the chapter books. For a while, I was wondering how I could help to encourage him to move on from picture books and graphic novels and the dreaded Captain Underpants series.  He seems fully capable of reading and comprehending the more verbose books but showed little inclination to read them. He really enjoys audio books of the classics like Roald Dahl and the Narnia series but never picked up any of the books. I guess reading stamina isn’t something that happens all at once. Hopefully, this will open up a wider range of books for him to enjoy.

I remember when I was young and at that stage. I was reading mainly Chinese at that time since I barely have 10 English books in our house at that time. It was my brother who introduced me to the first interesting novel – 侠客行 by 金庸. It is a martial arts novel but it had ‘funny’, crude, curse words which appealed to me then.  Kinda like potty humor that my son enjoys >.<

Calvin’s School Games

May 6, 2017

Worm Regeneration Center

It was a rainy day and they found some worms on the sidewalk. They decided to “help” them by moving them to a new home amidst and old carpet that has a hole in it?? The worms kept trying to wiggle out so they made some dirt walls to protect the worms while they regenerate.

During those wet weeks, he also came back many days with a totally soaked and muddy shoes. I had to show him how to dry his shoes with stuffed newspapers.

Woodchip wars

This was a rare snowy winter week. The snow had melted and refroze, making great big lumps and sheets of frozen wood chips. That became the coveted booty for 1st graders. They split into two gangs who tried to steal the “loot” from each other.

Boy Alliance

It started with one boy, F, who threw berries at them. One of the boys, K,  suggested to have an alliance instead and fight a common “invisible” enemy. Both K and F wanted to be the commander and lil C mediated by assigning one of them the vice commander role. There are some other ranks with commander troopers and some such. Sounds like C’s job was to relay instructions/ queries from the commander to the troops and vice versa.


He was biking around with his friends after school and really enjoyed it a lot. He said it was the best part of the day. Seems it was even better than getting his new Lego star wars set.

These boyish games are full of imagination. I feel bad for moving him away from this gang of friends that he has gotten to know.



Mommy Guilt

May 2, 2017

So I finished reading the book by Sheryl Sandberg and one of the things that struck me is the mommy guilt. It’s funny how no matter what you do, a mother will never feel like she’s done ‘enough’ – did I spend enough time with my kids vs did I develop my career?

I’ve thought about my worry in giving up a corporate career to support my family at home. I’ve felt inadequate many times, mainly because of the perceived low social standing of stay at home parents. I mean after all, there’s no one to really evaluate your performance and say ‘okay, you’ve exceeded expectations’.

But when I thought about my time at work and right now, I can truly say that I am much happier and I feel more like myself and I’ve grown a lot more than the 5 years I spent working. In time, I may be ready to try it again but meanwhile, I am enjoying the meandering explorations I am allowed to do.  I am starting to really enjoy cooking, much more than I expected myself to. I really think this is a good place for us right now.  Our time is a limited resource and this is all an optimization problem where you think about where you focus that resource to maximize utility.  So I need to stop feeling guilty about the things I decided were not worth my time right now.

Path to Self Fulfillment

April 28, 2017

In the eyes of my husband, I might even be arty farty. Yes, me who can’t draw to save my life – my dogs look like pigs, horses look an overgrown dog.  What I mean is that I am easily moved by artistic sentiments, by inspirational words or maybe the correct word is really sensitive. It seems that my son inherited this sensitivity too because he too would tear up while watching movies.

I’ve been feeling down on occasion, thinking that I should be doing something more with my life. I am happy, but I wonder if I am squandering my intellect and talents. I’m reading Lean In by Sandberg Sheryl and there was a question “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”. And I wondered if I was afraid that I would find myself lacking in many ways if I tried something new.  I’ve been considering doing a Ph.D. in psychology, something I’ve been interested in since college.  I promised myself if I could think of some good thesis topics, I’ll go for it.  I’ve almost forgotten about it, but I think it’s time to get back to more reading to see if my interest in it will wane. I’ve been thinking about teaching too but feel like I won’t be satisfied with it.

In my own way, I’ll slowly explore what I enjoy/ have enjoyed.  I remember back when we graduated, I was suddenly intensely interested in personal finance and investing. I read voraciously. I even ventured to take the CFA Level 1 test. (I studied for but did not take the Level II since I was having morning sickness) Well, the problem was, the more I read, the less interested I was because it seems like active investing doesn’t really pay off for the casual investor. And so I stuck with index investing and was so done with the finance world.

Next year, I’ll actually be on the PTA board, which will be a big step out of the comfort zone for me.

At times, I feel lucky that I have the downtime to experiment, but it’s hard not to feel small when I see my peers enjoying success in their careers. Silly ole me! I guess I still can’t let go of not seeming successful to others.

Joys of Teaching

March 29, 2017

I mentioned before that I once tried to teach a friend a physics concept and walked away feeling that I was no good at teaching. That one experience etched in my mind that I wasn’t suited for teaching. It’s remarkable how a single casual encounter marked me for life. Or so I thought.

It was only when I had to start teaching our son that I really studied pedagogy. Knowing something is not the same as knowing how to teach it. It all started with reading and I’ve been really engaged in learning about how math sense develops.

I’ve been volunteering at Calvin’s current school ever since he started going. While helping out with admin work in his K class was ok, it has been a lot more rewarding this year because I’ve  genuinely helped out a kid who would otherwise be wasting his time in school.

Next year, I’ve decided to join the PTA to challenge myself into doing something new. But I hope I’ll still have time to continue with honing my teaching skills via volunteering. (I do it daily with little C but that doesn’t prepare me for dealing with all types of children. Plus I usually have less emotional leverage with someone else’s child) I’m surprised to find that I really enjoy teaching children. I wouldn’t have believed it when I was younger but this is a side of me that has been suppressed all these years from that one failed experience. As I try to live with a growth mindset, I’m starting to believe that failures are opportunities to learn and I’ve become bolder in trying again and again and that is really liberating.


Riding on the Bike

March 24, 2017

From the first Little Tikes car, to the Strider balance bike, to the Schwinn tricycle…. most of those vehicles were pretty much underutilized in our household. The car got pushed down and used as a factory and the balance bike was placed upside down and was a fun spinny wheel. Out of all those, the tricycle probably got the most use since we could push him around in it.

The subsequent ones fared a little better – the roller skates got maybe 10 uses so far, the scooter has been pretty fun for his dad and me and finally, recently, we got him a bike – with training wheels. I know the training wheels don’t help at all in learning how to ride a bike properly, but he needs that boost of confidence so he can learn to pedal and steer and to just enjoy the mobility of a bike. Before we put on the training wheels, I could see that he was terrified of being on something that wobbles, even if his parents were keeping a viselike grip on it.

He has been talking about riding the bike everywhere which he has never done before. Usually, when I asked if we should bring the tricycle/ scooter, he’ll usually prefer to just wander around on foot. It was wonderful seeing his delighted face as he zooms past us on the sidewalk, watching us jog to keep up with him. We took it out a few evenings ago and ended up pedaling (and pushing) in a sudden downpour! It was quite an adventure for us. I don’t think I’ve walked around in heavy rain before or at least for a long, long time.