Snapshot: Where is Home?

Thoughts on being a better – more effective? – parent…

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Well, does it really exist? Is there a place in the ‘Matrix’, offering parents the comfort they so-desperately seek, when it comes to the betterment of their children?

In the endless search for answers, and like any other parent [of multiple children, in my case], any free time my weekend is able to provide, is quickly filled up with interesting/intriguing/questioning op-pieces. From other parents, from seasoned educators/teachers, from child/teen psychologists.. you name it!

In a nutshell, and as many may already have imagined, there’s no magic formula.

Sorry, folks, but my brief weekend-long motherly non-scientific research led me to the already-known venue: All parents offer the same things to their children: emotional and physical safety, some level of connection, boundaries and patience. Tons of it – before they [the parents!], unfortunately, and without any warning signs – they lose it! 😦

Parents are not perfect, nor are they effective all of the time. Parents keep on going, despite their continuous mistakes or doubts.

So… what have I learned from my without being interrupted by my children ‘weekend research’?

I have learned I need to cultivate a family value system. hopefully, that’s what my husband and I have set as the foundation for our growing family. Pretty tough, though. One may lay out a great life plan, completely filled with values to abide by… and see all dismantling in front of their own eyes…

I have learned it is crucial to prioritize th care my spouse and I offer each other. While managing our children’s expectations, and what we exactly would request from them. Children should understand that we, as parents, bear our problems with hope, honest acknowledgment of hard times, and a crazy [and hopeless!] case of lack of self-mercy!

I have learned I need to keep working on creating constant [yet accommodating] routines and boundaries. Children like and need routine. As parents, we should not aim for the tightly maintained routine, which could only create unnecessary disagreements and discomfort among all parts involved.

I have learned not to take any particular behavior [i.e. my youngest child, the soon-to-be teen boy, the middle-child who firmly believes she’s Broadway-material, and would become quite sensitive if told otherwise] as a personal attack. Not even the resulting-behavior from my husband should be understood as such. Leaning a bit on the science side, it is probably a chain-reaction – misunderstood behavior generates unfortunate [physical, verbal, emotional] responses, which could translate into not-well-thought-of actions, and uncalled for [and sometimes, hurtful] comments and reactions.

And finally,I have learned the most important task and responsibility while parenting [single kids, multiple kids] is the constant attempt to CONNECT. We need to connect with our children. In any and all levels possible. Again, this probably is the most difficult advice. But a good one, indeed – and it has become my September mantra: I’ll try to better connect with my children, and consequently, with my husband. At least, for the upcoming month of September. Let’s see how it goes.

Stay tuned! 🙂

A great Washington Post Read: ‘A tale of two temperaments: Same Parents, Different Kids’

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This morning, I stumbled upon this short op-piece from the Washington Post. Easy, quick, enjoyable read – and it represents exactly what I sometimes feel regarding raising our 3 children: they all came from the very same set of parents, we’ve offered them the same opportunities, require the same level of respect and responsibility [okay, maybe a bit weighted to each one’s age, but you get my point!], and yet, the results from each one’s behavioral expressions are [and maybe, should be!] completely different.

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Who knows? Maybe that’s what makes each and every one of them special in their own way. Unique, challenging, intriguing. And obviously, lovely and wonderful – like any other Mother Goose would refer to her offspring!

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Here’s the op-piece I am referring to:
[and my deepest appreciation for the Washington Post for having it out there!]

 

On Parenting

A tale of two temperaments: Same parents, different kids
By Deborah Farmer Kris

May 20 at 7:00 AM

When my daughter got home from school yesterday, she made a cozy nest of pillows, pulled out her crayons and started to draw.

“Mommy,” she complained, “the music is too loud. I need to focus.”

To which her little brother predictably replied, “I want too loud! I like too loud! TOO LOUD PLEASE!”

My husband and I are raising two curious, caring kids — who happen to have fundamentally different temperaments.

Thankfully, temperament and character are not synonyms. No matter our personality, most of us can learn to be kind, responsible, and hard-working. But one’s basic temperament — particularly our response to stimuli — seems rooted in biology.

Think of the seven dwarfs. Doc is an extrovert, Bashful is an introvert, and Grumpy is a natural skeptic — but they all choose to work hard, respect each other and protect strangers in distress. Seven decent people with different approaches to life.

That said, it must have been a challenge to be the dwarfs’ mother.

Our daughter was only a few weeks old when I began to notice her heightened sensitivity to sound — a reaction that some research links to later introversion. Shutting cabinet doors would startle her awake, and the blender terrified her. Her first full sentence was, “What’s that sound?”

At her first toddler tumbling class, she spent 15 minutes clutching my skirt. Then she mimicked the actions of the students from the safety of the back wall. Finally — after sizing up her teacher, her peers, and the relative safety of the activity — she happily joined the group for the last five minutes.

This is how she has approached almost every novel situation since infancy: observing before engaging. I got pretty good at helping her navigate new experiences in ways that stimulated her without being overwhelming. And then came child No. 2.

On my son’s first beach trip, as I was coaxing his sister to dip her feet in the water, he threw open his arms and toddled headlong into the waves. That’s his basic approach to life: dive in — and then scream for help if necessary.

Sometimes it has felt like whiplash parenting — pulling the toddler off a playground ladder while encouraging the preschooler to take “one more step” up the climbing wall. She perches watchfully while I vacuum; he tries to climb on and go for a ride.

We have a lot of shorthand for different temperaments. I often hear kids described as shy or bossy — or all-boy or all-girl. But these labels are laden with cultural baggage, and they put a box around children who are just beginning to explore who they are.

Every temperament brings with it strengths and possibilities. In Susan Cain’s essay, “Don’t Call Introverted Children ‘Shy,’ ” she writes that some children are “born with a careful, sensitive temperament that predisposes them to look before they leap. And this can pay off handsomely as they grow, in the form of strong academics, enhanced creativity and even a unique brand of leadership and empathy. . . . [T]hese kids are not antisocial. They’re simply sensitive to their environments.”

I am trying to create an environment that will allow both my kids to thrive — one that gives them the space to be themselves and the tools to “work it out” together. Sometimes my strategies work better with one than the other.

But I wonder if, in the end, their differences can be a source of strength. Perhaps their close relationship will give them a measure of empathy toward those who respond to the ebbs of life a little differently than they do.

On a recent visit to a small creek, my son persuaded his sister to wade into the water — and she got him to stop throwing rocks long enough to watch a heron catch a fish. And I thought of Cain’s comment that the best scenario “is when those two toddlers — the one who hands you the toy with the smile and the other who checks you out so carefully — grow up to run the world together.” Or as the Seven Dwarfs illustrate: No matter our temperament, we can find a way to live together and whistle while we work.

Deborah Farmer Kris is an educator, writer, researcher and the mother of two young children.
By Deborah Farmer Kris

May 20 at 7:00 AM

Living in a ‘limbo’: Raising Third Culture Kids.

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What do I mean by ‘trouble with third-culture kids‘?

Right now I’m simply trying to collect my thoughts into one piece, because attempting to answer this question has become my life task. I joke with my three children that I was only a woman before they were brought into my life. they made me turned into something completely different, the somehow scary concept of a parent… Not easy to be a parent, and even harder the ongoing duty of raising (well) kids that are wholeheartedly part of a hybrid scenario.

The so-called hybrid culture, a moving creature, a living chimera who’s not only part of their lives, but also defines who they (the children) are, the way they behave, how they interact with the (current) society, how they understand and express their feelings…

This past week the children went to visit their new school, and participated in a short orientation activity with same-age/same grade kids. They were asked to introduce themselves, and mention where they were coming from, their previous school/country,  stating their nationality.

My oldest was born in the US, and seems to have strong ties to the country thru sports, aligning himself with the ‘American’ culture. He’d also tell you he’s Brazilian – got a Brazilian-American mom and embraces the culture here. My surprise that day at school, came from my 1st-grader: when students originally from Brazil where called to stand up, she remained sited. The same happened when US kids were called to introduced themselves. Finally, when she heard, ‘now, children from Africa’, she jumped out of her seat, displaying a big and proud smile… Yes, she was born in South Africa, while our family was leaving/working in Mozambique. She left the country before she turned 2. But her allegiances to her ‘African past’ are remarkably strong – the culture, the music, the dances – she lives thru the stories we tell her from the time our family spent there. Who knows why? and, as long as she’s happy, we’re happy, despite our utterly lack of understanding. Maybe, for now, the answers will just confuse us…

As a parent, I’ve become aware of this ‘chimera’ my children represent. Sometimes I feel I don’t know them, and it’s not their fault – I simply don’t find the correct way to address their growing needs; how to respond to their sadness and anger; how to deal with their mood swings during the transitions, the constant moves, the new places, the losses of old friends…

I recently read a guest post written by Nina Sichel, introducing on one of publications, which referred to third-culture children living in a ‘limbo‘. Throughout the text, there was the comment on the ‘layers of loss’ a TCK experiences – according to Nina Sichel, those layers run deep – friends, schools, favorite places, pets… and again, now I’m wearing my ‘concerned parent hat’, seeking ways to address these losses with my kids, already knowing they will happen over and over…

Our family has relocated to our new post assignment – today marks the end of our second week in Brasília. My children are comfortable with Portuguese, and have been able to make a feel new friends during Summer Camp here. They seem happy, they’d adjusting, and yet, they’re struggling… I can tell from their little faces they’re trying hard, they’re no quitters, but sometimes the lack of (self) understanding  turns into and default. They look up to us (the parents) for answers we do not carry… We knew it would be like this, we knew it wouldn’t be easy, no transition is, but we’re here for them, even though, my husband and I are still trying to figure things out: socially, emotionally… I have no evidence, our family dynamics feels a tad disjoint, but time and patience will hopefully be good allies throughout the process… Time, patience, acceptance, and love – our travel companions 😮

(Note: Thanks again to Nina Sichel’s article, and for her book, the inspiration for this ‘parental op-piece’).

{Weekly Writing Challenge} Parenting as a Cliffhanger…

When being called “Incredibly Good” is really not good for children?

Great Wednesday, although it began with a not-so-welcoming weather in La Paz – the rainy season has arrived, and flooded streets displaying the hectic driving behavior are definitely not the best place to be!

Back to work, as expected, and having the opportunity to read the paper before the work day starts is key! The Washington Post column on ‘Parenting’ called my attention with an article on ‘Stop heaping praise on your kids’, by Amy Joyce, really brought some thoughts up, as well as, a few questions and concerns.

Source: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/
Image Source: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/

When being called “Incredibly Good” is really not good for children?

Great Wednesday, although it began with a not-so-welcoming weather in La Paz – the rainy season has arrived, and flooded streets displaying the hectic driving behavior are definitely not the best place to be! The inspiration for this ‘quasi-op-piece’ comes from the idea of leaving the readers ‘hanging’ [thanks, Michelle W., btw!]’, while I freely start a discussion on possible strategies on parenting well-rounded children [or lack of thereof!].

Back to work, as expected, and having the opportunity to read the paper before the work day starts is key! The Washington Post column on ‘Parenting’ called my attention with an article on ‘Stop heaping praise on your kids’, by Amy Joyce, really brought some thoughts up, as well as, a few questions and concerns.

STOP PRAISING YOUR KIDS??

Not really, but let’s keep on moving on. Also, nobody should be telling us what to do regarding the way we bring our kids up, correct? 😮

We’ve all done it, stated Amy Joyce. But I’m sure not all of us knew we might be hurting our kids by doing it… At least, I did not know. How could I? Simply trying to work my best magic tricks when it comes to parenting…

Why would we, parents, knowingly harm our children?

Let’s start thinking! Continue reading

“Un café con leche, por favor…”

Like many parents, I’m silently watching my children grow. And I say ‘silently’ because I wanna witness the process in its fullest, without interfering or attempting to change its course.

My oldest child, and the only boy of the 3, just turned 8 years old. Even though my secret wishes still perceive him as ‘my baby’, he’s growing to be a clever and compassionate young person.

I remain discreet, though, and again, silent, watching from behind the scenes the growth and maturing processes unveil themselves right in front of my motherly eyes…

Café con leche (Coffee with milk)
Café con leche (Credit: Wikipedia)

Like many parents, I’m silently watching my children grow. And I say ‘silently’ because I wanna witness the process in its fullest, without interfering or attempting to change its course.

My oldest child, and the only boy of the 3, just turned 8 years old. Even though my secret wishes still perceive him as ‘my baby’, he’s growing to be a clever and compassionate young person.

I remain discreet, though, and again, silent, watching from behind the scenes the growth and maturing processes unveil themselves right in front of my motherly eyes… Not an easy task, if one asked me!

Raising children is definitely challenging, as many here may relate. But it’s worth every single second of it – even the ‘over-dramatic’ and ‘not-so-fun’ ones, when as a parent, you don’t really know which direction to take in order to avoid some imminent collapse!

Oh, boy! And those ‘crashes’ do happen! All part of the [parenting] game, as my mother would always remind me about…

But now, back to my initial ‘café con leche‘, or in good Portuguese, ‘Café com Leite‘, as my Portuguese heritage would recommend me to mention! Coffee with milk – as a born and raised Brazilian, the typical beverage served during family gatherings, office reunions, work events… or simply, what I would share with my mother, as the oldest child [and only girl], while chatting about life, love, future. I would share my doubts and my complaints. I would blame the world and in-between sips of the warm drink, praise women for moving far into the society. I would judge my peers and lay out possible solutions for any current political crisis…

In Brazil, when one invites you for a coffee [“um cafezinho”], it’s never just about enjoying the beverage together: it’s about talking, sharing emotions and feelings, exchanging experiences and secrets… it’s about being part of somebody else’s life; the warmth brought by a cup of ‘café com leite’ is a peaceful experience, well known by all Brazilians. And this experience I cherished with my own mother, up to this day, when our ‘nomad family’ has the opportunity to go to Brazil and visit with the grandparents…

This past week, taking advantage of the [Fall] school break, our family went out on a short trip to the city of Tarija, famous for its wineries and warm climate. There’ll be more about this visit, but not today. This time, my focus will remain on our family nucleus, and more specifically, on the very special bond recently established between myself and my little boy…

During the inbound flight to Tarija, my son watched me accept [from the flight attendant] a cup of coffee and milk, perfectly brewed, according to the Latino standards. And he was curious why I always asked for coffee, whenever we were out. I told him it reminded me of the moments I shared with my family, and specifically, with my mother. For the Portuguese, a good cup of coffee and milk is the best remedy for the mind and the soul…

His little eyes were curious and confused – how could a drink be responsible for building memories? How could a beverage carry such a powerful feeling, and trigger emotions lost in time?

I didn’t know the answers. Who does? I just feel it, and I cherish the memories it brings me… ♥

During our flight back to La Paz, our family was split among three rows: I had our baby girl next to me, and the two oldest ones, in the row in front of us.

As expected, it came time for snacks and beverages. The flight attendants showed up pushing along the beverage cart. My son turns to me, and I see his smiley face from in-between the seats. His face is happy, and yet, a bit guilty.

I’m confused, but waiting to see what unveils. He winks at me, and at that point, I hear his heart telling me: I want to build memories, like what you have with “vovó” [grandma]…

The next thing I hear is his flawless Spanish to the flight attendant: “Un café con leche, por favor”. My boy is growing… and he wants to be his own person… The flight attendant gives me a look, checking if it was okay to give him the small styrofoam cup with an once of tinted milk. “It’s okay, I reply”. He takes it, and from between the plane seats, asks me: “Mom, do you wanna a sip from my coffee? It’s pretty good…”

He was right… it was pretty good… Again, emotions that only a nice cup of  “café con leche” is capable of bringing up… 😮

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Weekly Writing Challenge: DNA Analysis

Clearly a writing challenge inspired by a topic titled ‘DNA analysis’ had to catch my attention. Not only I’m a born-again geek, I’m a ‘recovering scientist’, and up for grabbing any opportunity to jump right back into my past!

Source: http://nist.org
Source: http://nist.org

Clearly a writing challenge inspired by a topic titled ‘DNA analysis’ had to catch my attention. Not only I’m a born-again geek, I’m a ‘recovering scientist’, and up for grabbing any opportunity to jump right back into my past!

Funny how reading through this week’s suggestion from the Daily Post put me into a time machine, sending me back and forth in time: remembering my days as a researcher, scientist, professor; and yet, imagining how it would be when my [now little] children grow and decide on their own careers, taking up on different life paths…

Who knows what the future will have for them? What I’ve got is my past, followed by a great present bringing my off-spring up…

Talking about offspring, let me take you back to this post’s original idea, before my reminiscent past [and the uncertainties of our nomad future], take me completely off-track! My family is a melting pot: I seem to bring to the table a mix of Portuguese and Northern African backgrounds, surprisingly revealed by a recent DNA analysis. Our 3 children are a mix of Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, German ingredients, bubbling up from inside a hot deep cooking pot.

[Quick note: one of my husband’s passions, besides me, obviously, is Genealogy. He maintains a website on his parental families, and we’ve done together the DNA analysis, to learn more about our ‘ancestry’. The triggering idea for immersing into the research was actually the moment our first child was born: leave a knowledge legacy for our children].

Off-track… again? Not really! Back to my Portuguese/Northern African heritage…

From my mother I’ve inherited the quick temper and the sharp tongue – aww, those Portuguese Senoritas! I’ve also learned from her how to appreciate food and cooking, especially seafood dishes; all well-accompanied with good wine. She is the Teacher in my life, in more ways than one. My mother has taught me to understand and develop a passion for artistic expressions: music, dance and painting. Later in life, they all morphed into a healthy taste for fashion, dining out, event hosting, social outings and the passion for traveling to new places…

From my long-lost past...
From my long-lost past…

My father’s legacy is deeply imprinted in my body and mind. I became a person of Science because of him. Like my mother, he grew up orphan, lacking a present father-figure at home; nevertheless, made a life for himself as a chemical engineer, and teaching me how to love and appreciate all expressions of science and investigation and discipline. From my father I’ve inherited a ‘not-so-healthy’ taste for questioning, inquiring, and looking for answers and justifications. I’ve learned I’m capable of challenging facts of life, seeking solutions to daily problems.

I consider myself a product of hybrid environments, a product of mixed cultures, nicely blending together. I consider myself not a noun, but a verb… I’ve learned to accept and embrace new cultures and traditions as my own, since a very early age.

Life went on, and as it should be, the day I had to overlap my nucleic acid sequence with someone else’s came around. Considering that recombination is a common method of DNA repair, it was definitely the way the ‘future Mr. Right’ and I decided to pursue. Structural repair? What a great suggestion for a lucky start! Genetic recombination with breaking and rejoining of DNA strands is accelerated by many different enzymes. In our case, those enzymes were an endless curiosity, the unpaired desire to travel and visit new places and the recognition that neither one of us could survive withought the other’s genetic material… And so we merged; two genomes fusing into one happily married sequence… trust me, PCR results can prove it! 😮

The results of this apparently odd combination can be checked [through a quite simple molecular biology experiment]: the three children that fill our house with joy and love. They have dark, brown and blond hairs. They’ve got dark and light eye colors. They dance and play like Brazilians, eat like Mexican and Portuguese; cry like Spaniards and French. They’re emotional and they’re grounded. They like art, and they like science. They’re growing up knowing the world is much bigger than what’s stated by their birth certificates, or stamped on their 9 passports…

Our children understand they come from mixed backgrounds, and know in their hearts they need to honor their heritage. And one day, they’ll be telling stories about their parents and grandparents to their own offspring: tales about how recombinant DNA, Portuguese cuisine, Mariachis, and American football traditions are all related… 😮

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The little voices in my head and I, discussing an article on ‘Working Mothers’…

As I usually do, I try to [jump]start my [work] day catching up with the news. My routine begins with a brief read through the Washington Post and a couple of coffee. Since it was Monday, I was a bit delayed with my start. After going over the unsettling headlines on the very sad events in DC [a metro stop from our house, now rented] and, as a parent, could not stop thinking about the 12 year old Florida girl, victim of cyber-bullying…

Two stories that hit really close to home, and make us reconsider the world we’re raising our children into…

I decided to move on, and hopped over to the paper’s Parenting section, another favorite of mine.

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Source: http://www.ilbacodaseta.org

As I usually do, I try to [jump]start my [work] day catching up with the news. My routine begins with a brief read through the Washington Post and a couple of coffee. Since it was Monday, I was a bit delayed with my start. After going over the unsettling headlines on the very sad events in DC [a metro stop from our house, now rented] and, as a parent, could not stop thinking about the 12 year old Florida girl, victim of cyber-bullying

Two stories that hit really close to home, and make us reconsider the world we’re raising our children into…

I decided to move on, and hopped over to the paper’s Parenting section, another favorite of mine. That’s when my ‘internal conversation‘ decided to take place. An article from Mary-Jane Williams had me nodding my head in agreement, asking the author/interviewee questions and answering them before any of them [the article’s author and the interviewee] had an opportunity to do so.

Katrina Alcorn, a writer-editor and mom of three in Oakland recently had a book published about ‘struggles, juggling work and home responsibilities’ and yes, it’s about many of us, working moms out there, trying our best to survive as professional, spouses and state-of-the-art moms.

Here’s how the ‘little voices in my head‘ began reading through the article:

source: http://formerfatdudes.com
source: http://formerfatdudes.com

[voices in my head speaking up] “I bet you she [book author, previously ‘maxed-out’ mom] will tell us it’s virtually impossible to juggle, perform and excel at all tasks we [working moms] are expected to display”…

[article] “The expectation is that there’s an adult at home, but that’s not how we live anymore. We’re trying to make something work that doesn’t work…”

[voices in my head to the conscious me] “I could have told you that. Don’t you know that already? Do I have to remind you how hard some mornings can be when, while fighting a splitting headache and trying to get a couple of coffee out of the microwave, you find yourself mopping the floor because one of the kids has already spilled orange juice from his/her breakfast? And remember, it has to be done carefully, so you don’t get your work clothes dirty before you’ve got a chance to leave the house!?”

[the conscious me]  “I guess you’re right. Maybe I don’t need a book to tell me that, it’s fairly common sense. We all know how hard it is nowadays to be a working mother…” And then, I resume back to reading the article: “but… let’s keep on reading it… she [book author, previously exhausted mom] seems to be pretty grounded. Maybe she’ll bring something up that I don’t know yet… let me keep reading…”

[article] “We need to change the conversation. We need to get out of this obsession with individual choices… We need to change the conversation so it’s not about what women are doing, but what society is doing. Do you want a bunch of bulletproof women to have this, what we think of as a normal life?”

[the conscious me to the little voices in my head] “WOW, she just nailed it on the head! See how simple the problem is: we [women, mothers] are not the problem; the society is, and the way the society ‘perceive’ the participation of working mothers is the big issue – and I loved her metaphorical comparison using the ‘bulletproof’ women! I totally feel like, every morning, before we all go out [of our bedroom] and face the real world [aka, our demanding kids, our needy spouses, our challenging jobs], we need to put on some sort of invisible, but yet, effective shield, and carry on with our daily chores. And don’t even consider the possibility of failing! Failure for a working mother, whose goal is nothing less than perfect, is completely out of question!”

[little voices in my head] “You’re overreacting. Do you believe you’re the only mother that works outside the house? You actually got it pretty easy… and don’t get me started on the whole ‘you’ve got household help’ speech… Remember: it was one of the reasons you guys decided to keep going with this foreign service gig… be honest, what would life be like if you were back in DC? Would you be working?”

[the conscious me to the little voices in my head]  “But that’s the whole point! You’re right, very likely, I wouldn’t be working. How could I? And a nanny? There’ll be no way on earth we’d be able to afford one! And if I’d decided to work, even part-time, I had to find a reliable day-care for the baby girl, juggle with a flexible work schedule, and be prepared for the ‘not-so-friendly looks’ my co-workers would give me every time I had to leave early, due to some unforeseen cause! But this lady here [the book author] is so right, let me read out loud her statement:

[the article] “The women in my life are really capable, smart, hardworking and dedicated to their families. They don’t really need advice.Their employers need advice, their co-workers need advice, the policymakers need advice.”

[the conscious me to the little voices in my head] “See? Do you get the main issue? It’s all about this endless conflict women have to deal with; the conflict between working [outside the house] and raising kids. Here’s another excerpt:”

[the article] “For better or worse, women are raised to be nurturers and to say yes. But I think there’s more to it. Research shows that when employers know a woman has children or is going to have children, her performance is scrutinized more. . . . If a woman is worried that she’s being scrutinized at work because she’s a mother, she’s going to be really circumspect about setting boundaries at work because she doesn’t want to be seen as someone who is not pulling her weight… Those things came at a price. They were not free. We may put in extra time at night after the kids go to bed, early in the morning or on weekends, but that time isn’t seen the same way as the time in the office. . . . I think we need to challenge the idea that to be effective at work or be a leader you need to work long hours.”

[little voices in my head to the now, caffeine-deprived me] “Did you notice that when you began ‘psycho-analyzing the article, your completely forgot about your coffee? It’s probably ice-cold by now! We need to fix this, asap!”

[the not-so-sure about being conscious me, to the little voices in my head] “I guess you’re right. Totally forgot about it. And now, I have to go find a microwave at somebody else’s office and warm it up… it won’t be the same, but hey, the article really got me engaged, which is a good sign…. I hope more working moms out there come out with similar ‘poking discussions’… some good food for thought… And talking about food, let me get that coffee warmed up!”

[little voices, now fading] “Good chatting with you. Hope you have a nice day at work… Talk to you soon!” 😮

Source: http://bartsblackboard.com
Source: http://bartsblackboard.com

Written in response to this week’s writing inspiration, “Dialogue”

Violence-induced media and third-culture children.

The suggestion comes out as Michael Pick pokes us all with the question “Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world? “. In his own words, “When tragedies happen in the real world because of the violent deeds of a particular individual, the shock and horror that this happened very soon leads to trying to unravel the reason behind how it came to pass.

For some, the violence seen in films is taken as a catalyst or the inspiration for disturbing acts of violence in the real world. For others, blaming film violence for real life tragedies is cutting corners at best and “scapegoating” at worst — an effort to pin complex social or psychological issues on an enemy that can’t fight back…”

As a parent, a traveler, a ‘serial expat’, and mother of 3 growing TCKs, I believe there are so many factors responsible for shaping up the future of a child – and this is especially true when we’re talking about raising well-adjusted, worldly citizens, well-rounded children, as products of hybrid cultures.

PhotoFunia-742c03

I’ve been away from blogging a bit too long, and now, the opportunitiy to bring up my random thoughts on a very intriguing social issue, has arisen. The suggestion for this personal op-piece comes out as Michael Pick pokes us all this week, with the question: “Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world? “.  In his own words, “When tragedies happen in the real world because of the violent deeds of a particular individual, the shock and horror that this happened very soon leads to trying to unravel the reason behind how it came to pass.

For some, the violence seen in films is taken as a catalyst or the inspiration for disturbing acts of violence in the real world. For others, blaming film violence for real life tragedies is cutting corners at best and “scapegoating” at worst — an effort to pin complex social or psychological issues on an enemy that can’t fight back…

Violent? :o these are Super-Heroes, embedded with super-dupper powers, and any little boy's dream!  Image downloaded from the site http://abduzeedo.com
Violent? These are Super-Heroes, embedded with super-dupper powers, and any husband’s  little boy’s dream!
Image downloaded from the site http://abduzeedo.com

 

As a parent, a traveler, a ‘serial expat’, and mother of 3 growing TCKs, I believe there are so many factors responsible for shaping up a child’s future – and this is especially true when we’re talking about raising well-adjusted, worldly citizens, well-rounded children, as products of hybrid cultures.

Some of these factors are culture, socialization and the own child’s experience; its perception of the world, and the child’s feelings and frustrations. Unfortunately, due to being exposed to a myriad of social situations and contexts, a so-called ‘third culture child‘ is also more vulnerable to external influences. One of the strongest influences relates to the common day-to-day aspects of life: the innocent act ofabsorbing‘ images and concepts brought home through movies, TV shows, streamed videos, all the so-handy resources offered by the internet! And why not say, through the apparently harmless violence-based children’s video games… 😮

Oh, well… so then, what should we do, as parents? Others here already expressed their opinion that simply forbidding the child from watching potentially violent programs/movies, is not the solution, but it does have an impact on the developing mind – and the impact is unlikely positive, unfortunately…

Third culture children are in continuous need to understand the true origins of caring, the need to help others, and the strategies to display a nonaggressive behavior. The key players in order to achieve that level of self-knowledge, comes from parental socialization, the family system, schools and cultural influence. Currently, the easiest and quickest [albeit, not fully harmless!] avenues are the social media tools, television and movies. For younger kids, especially, the last two ‘avenues’ mentioned before, have both a fast and deep impact on the children’s minds, and the way they begin developing their own concepts, affirmations and perceptions about their surroundings.

Children who are growing up under this modern ‘violence-influenced’ scenario, will likely tend to develop the understanding that violence is a regular [and maybe necessary] part of life, which could be extremely dangerous for our future generations.

Again, as a parent, I’m concerned with the loss of sensitivity when it comes to publicly offering free violence viewing to our kids, as if it were part of a healthy environment.

Is reality really as cruel as it’s perceived through the movies? Is it all necessary? What good is it bringing to the upcoming generations?

Too many questions, and not on single answer – at least, not from my parental and confused mind.

We’re all just trying to get by surviving one day at a time, and hoping that our children will turn out to be well-balanced, responsible and loving adults. That’s simply my hope; as much as I’d like to, I don’t have control over my children’s future. I can offer them advice and love, but can’t hide them inside a bubble, making sure they won’t get hurt or even hurt others. This ‘motherly bubble’ doesn’t exist, thankfully… Kids need to be kids and yet, need to experience life. Life as it is. Holywoodian life is not life, it’s not real. The ‘reality’ portrait by movies is not, in fact, real. And the violence offered by movies should always be perceived as what it really is: fiction… 😮

Are we missing a teachable moment?

Are we missing a teachable moment?

I do believe we are. We’re missing a great opportunity to use these recent events as a springboard for a much more fruitful debate. Not only us, parents, but all of us, adults [okay, I understand she is adult as well, but you get my point!]

English: Miley Cyrus' signature Español: Firma...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Miley Cyrus, the 20-year-old singer who began her career as squeaky-clean star of the Hannah Montana television series, seems to have ditched that goody two-shoes image for good with her recent Video Music Awards (VMAs) performance. Did Miley’s performance cross the line, are we making too much of it, or are we missing a chance to have a more important conversation about race and sex? You be the judge”.

Are we missing a teachable moment?

I do believe we are.

We’re missing a great opportunity to use these recent events as a springboard for a much more fruitful debate.

Not only the parents out there, but all of us, adults [okay, I understand she is adult as well, but you get my point!]. Instead of judging or criticizing what happened, how about using it as a family dinning-table conversation topic?

Shocked? I would also be, if I weren’t a parent of young children, living through all the social events brought to us on a daily basis – can’t pretend we’re blind to the present-future opening their wings right in front of us… maybe even, coming to life in our very own TV room! My 5 1/2 year-old knows who ‘Miley-Montana’ is, and like many others her age, walks around the house repeating song chorus. As a parent, how should I approach her questions on ‘why can’t I watch this or that Disney channel shows?’ Should I just now say that her beloved Hanna is bad, and she should completely switch her idolatry towards ‘Lava Girl’ [and Shark Boy, for that matter]?

That said, are all the previously-innocent Disney stars turned evil? Have them all become bad examples to our children? Should I just turn the TV [and the computer!] off, once and for all? Is that a plausible solution?

Controversy?  Sure!

That’s what social media lives and breathes on! Controversy is needed to sell papers, creating countless and endless postings on Facebook… increasing the Klout scores throughout social network channels… The whole fuzz on twerking? Sad to say, but unfortunately, many young girls who had not yet heard the term, are now ‘practicing Miley’s moves…

But… what’s the ‘message to take home’?

Cover of "Hannah Montana The Movie"
Cover of Hannah Montana The Movie

It’s not only about Miley Cyrus‘ performance, or her ‘not-so-appropriate’ display of oneself, and her puzzling lack of self-awareness. She is just one of the many examples of a debating behavior. Should I/could I judge her? Not sure about that. Not my place to do so, although, I can definitely take advantage of the current situation, and embrace a productive discussion. Any takers? 😮

The original article  [inspiring this mini op-piece] presents an intriguing question: if we were missing a chance to have a larger discussion about race, sex, gender roles, and the evils of stereotyping?

The key point for the discussion, at least the way I see it, is the importance to teach children/teenagers about self-respect. There’s a crucial need for them to understand the meaning of self-awareness, and the consequences of their own acts.

We live in society, no one is an island, and we should all behave [and act] with these premises in mind. Teaching children/young adults to gain self-respect will surely assist them into improving their learning and creative skills, as well as their ability to understand/welcome love. Self-respect/self-esteem is closely related to happiness and success in life.

Strong senses of self-respect and self-esteem will help our children act responsibly, responsively and respectfully as they socially interact with others. Self-respect and self-preservation are concepts that should be the foundation of any growing individual. Happiness and the much-wanted success will follow on.

 The ongoing lesson:

With strong self-respect, our children will know that they’re important, smart, valuable and unconditionally loved. We, the adults, parents, also need to do our share. We need to show our support and our respect towards that growing being. We’re asked to show our children they’re worthy of respect. And we do that by respecting their feelings, their privacy and their properties; expressing our pride in our children at every opportunity. Our children are unique, and should be cherished as such.

Also, another lesson to take home from this whole buzz is the importance the parents have on a growing child’s life. They [the children] need to learn how to fail. Mistakes are a fact of life. When we equip a child with skills necessary to make mistakes and regroup, we’re also teaching him/her how to analyze and learn from his/her mistakes.

The result will be a resilient child who keeps trying in the face of struggles and challenges. Maybe that’d have been a great advice for they ‘younger/growing’ Miley Cyrus… learn from your mistakes, even from the very big, ‘media-tweeted’, Facebook-escalated ones… learn from your failures… failures are teaching situations, whose results are priceless learning opportunities. Probably that’s the great teaching moment/teaching opportunity gathered from these recent events: instead of criticizing [the performance] to our children/teenagers, let’s use it as a ‘live example’ during our family conversations. Let’s hear from our children what they think/perceive on the situation; what is their reaction and their un-bias judgment… and maybe, they could surprise us… maybe they may see things under a different, more rational perspective… Let’s hear from the kids, before we bash the young lady around with our not-so-nice words and pre-conceived ideas… Let’s not miss this one-of-a-kind teachable moment… ♥

Keep on living… keep on learning… 😮

Continue reading “Are we missing a teachable moment?”

“Pay no attention to the woman behind the children…”

‘Who’s that woman?’

And why is she always giving orders? Acting like she’s some sort of ‘commander’ for a civilian army of three little children [and a husband!]?

‘Who’s that woman behind the growing children? ‘

The one trying her best not to fail, trying her hardest to be up to any and all tasks, excelling on her parenting skills, in the hope that other parents would look up to her as a role model?

‘Who’s the woman who lets herself be kept backstage, silently watching life play its theatrical acts, desperately witnessing her heart beat outside her body, every time one of her children crosses the house door and heads out to the world?’

 

Behind the children

‘Who’s that woman?’

‘Which woman?’

‘That one, discreetly hiding behind her children…

Doesn’t she have a life of her own?’

‘Shhhh… Pay no attention to the woman behind the children…

She may hear you. She may get upset’.

‘She seems so afraid for her little ones… She looks so fragile… like if at any moment, she will break down into tears.. or break apart into small glass pieces… I would like to see her smiling…’

‘Why is she hiding from us? Have we done anything to her?’

‘Who’s that woman behind the growing children?

The one trying her best not to fail, trying her hardest to be up to any and all tasks, excelling on her parenting skills, in the hope that other parents would look up to her as a role model?’

 ‘Who’s the woman who lets herself be kept backstage, silently watching life play its theatrical acts, desperately witnessing her heart beat outside her body, every time one of her children crosses the house door and heads out  to the world?’

‘Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtains of life…’

‘She’s no Wizard‘.

‘She’s no Witch‘.

‘She’s not longing to find her way back home…’

‘Pay no attention to her – she looks tired and helpless…’

Behind the Curtain
Photo by Sara Biljana

Who’s the woman behind the curtain? Read more about her here…

Always in good company! 3rdCultureChildren among Multicultural Bloggers!

Image

Check the directory out at: http://www.multiculturalbloggers.com/

Multicultural Bloggers

Thoughts on Parenting: ‘Metrics’ for Children’s Summer Vacation – Academics or Fun?

It’s definitely hard to keep a balance between these two options: ‘has your child spent much time on academics this summer, or has he/she went out to play, chasing fireflies, collecting ‘knee scratches’ and minor wounds while attempting to bike with no training wheels?’ 😮

Maybe, like many parents out there, we’re ‘programmed to feel guilty‘ about not having our children work hard on their academics, taking advantage of the summer break; and instead, we’re fighting that.

School is back. Summer vacation is seeing its last days….

Children at N.Y. Zoo  (LOC)
Children at N.Y. Zoo [Wikipedia]

Although joy is the word of the hour, there’s a familiar question in the air: ‘how was your summer?‘ Or even better than that: ‘What did your kids do during their school break? I’m sure you had them catch up with their homework packages – they gotta be ready before school days are back!’

It’s definitely hard to keep a balance between these two options: ‘has your child spent much time on academics this summer, or has he/she went out to play, chasing fireflies, collecting ‘knee scratches’ and minor wounds while attempting to bike with no training wheels?’ 😮

Here are my 2 cents to the discussion. Not in 1,000 words, though – more likely, half of that! Hopefully, still bringing out some food for thought!

Maybe, like many parents out there, we’re ‘programmed to feel guilty‘ about not having our children work hard on their academics, taking advantage of the summer break; and instead, we’re fighting that.

Español: Guiliana moreno Jugando en bogota

All moms and dads out there: try to remember your own childhood summer vacations – do you recall having touched a math/reading comprehension work sheet? I’ll leave the answer to you… with a candid smile.

I personally, don’t. When I was a child, there was no structure, and there were no demands. That said, what is your dearest/sweet memory of your summer vacations? I dare you tell me/us it dealt with extra homework!

😮 Just saying…

English: Olof Palme meets journalists during h...

And I guess, we all did fine, right?

We’re all here, we’re survivors, and we remember really enjoying summer… carefree-style!

Please, don’t get me wrong! I’m all for good academics performance – the ones who frequently visit and read through this blog and its posts on education, language, and establishing a healthy multicultural environment for growing children will well understand how I value personal education.

But I also value creativity when raising a child. I value the ability parents have to offer [their kids] opportunities to find their own growing paths.

Analyzing the ‘metrics’ for our children’s summer, we [their mom and dad] believe they are doing pretty well! Academics are important. Structure and discipline are important. Fun is a cornerstone for both processes.

Photo by Michelle Weber.
Photo by Michelle Weber, from the Daily Post WordPress.

Having fun and experiencing childhood on its fullest are crucial points for a well-balanced development. Children need that. They seek that. Playtime amongst their peers helps them develop a sense of self-awareness, a good dose of self-confidence, and to understand their minds have no limits when it comes to creativity and desire. And they look up to us, parents, as the key-providers of a healthy combination of structure, discipline and fun moments.

That’s exactly what vacations are about: hopefully, our kids will do just fine in the future, with fantastic memories of what they did with their family over the school breaks – even if they forgot to finish some of the reading assignments, or left aside that math worksheet [to be completed after dinner!]…

Maybe after they’ve come back inside the house, tired of chasing frogs and playing tag with neighboring friends… and are ready to jump right back into the school schedule.

Chasing their own dreams is part of a healthy childhood development – and should be enjoyed as such! Now, off to a great school start – with all the academics that come with it! 😮

♥  ♥  ♥

 

An open letter to my nomad children.

An open letter to my nomad children

         Dear children of mine,

         I recognize you may be still too young to understand many of the things that go around in your life.

        I’m also aware that you may feel confused at times, when your mother and father come forward telling you we will have to move, once more.

       I feel and I know your pain, and your disbelief. I myself felt the same when back in Brazil – your grandparents would come to me and to your uncles, letting us know we would again, have to change schools, due to new job assignments and/or the economic situation.

       One day you will begin hearing and understanding a very powerful word – ‘Economy’. It has the ability to change scenarios, to split families up, and to alter planning. Times were different when your mother was growing up, than it is now for the three of you. Back then, your mother, the oldest of 3 children, learned to cook, clean and take care of your uncles, way before she was ready to begin middle school. 

        You, my children, will not have to face any of this.I was a nomad child without the realization of it. I learned to cope with family moves before having to deal with any ‘high school drama’, so familiar  to any teenager. There was no time, nor space for ‘teen drama’. Childhood is a very special place in time, and should be lived through. Hopefully, it will not happen to the three of you, my children.

       You will be presented with the opportunity to experience life on its fullest. You’ll have the chance to choose your paths, making your own mistakes and learning from them…

       Life’s been laid out in front of you, and despite also living a ‘nomad life’ because of your mother and father’s work style, you’ll confidently be shielded from most of the difficulties.

       Your father and I are cautious and attentive to any signs of distress – please come to us with your questions, your concerns, your troubles. We’ll try to help you, and offer advice, as much as we’re capable of. Please let us know when you’re sad, when you’ve been hurt, when your heart is unsettled…

       We’ll be there for you. We’ll offer you comfort and our arms. We’ll talk together, and if needed, we’ll cry together.

        I’m very happy for you, my children. This nomad life has taught me a great deal, and I feel capable of transferring some resilience to you. I’m not passing on any resentment, any sadness or hard feelings… I’m thankful with what life has offered me, and my gratitude will show itself on the way we’re raising the three of you. I’m grateful life has given me the opportunity to become your mother, your guide, your safe haven. I sincerely hope you’re not disappointed on me…

        You will grow to become worldly citizens, grounded and compassionate. That would definitely be the best reward to me, still working on my parenting skills, but trying my best not to fail…

                                                        With all my love,

                                                          Your mother.

my branching tree...

School is back: Creating the proper study environment?

This morning’s article on Parenting, from the Washington Post got me thinking…

And I’m thankful that Nicole Anzia [freelance writer; she can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org] took a stab at it: “Finding a space where your child can complete his or her homework without getting totally stressed out, or stressing you out, is difficult. Don’t be discouraged if the first place you choose isn’t perfect; this will be an ongoing and evolving process throughout your child’s life as a student. But having a space set up and creating a homework routine during the first week of school will help smooth the transition from summer’s hot, hazy days to fall’s hurried, homework days.”

English: Don't waste your time and do your hom...
Homework time?! Photo credit: Wikipedia.

This morning’s article on Parenting, from the Washington Post got me thinking…

And I’m thankful that Nicole Anzia [freelance writer; she can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org] took a stab at it: “Finding a space where your child can complete his or her homework without getting totally stressed out, or stressing you out, is difficult. Don’t be discouraged if the first place you choose isn’t perfect; this will be an ongoing and evolving process throughout your child’s life as a student. But having a space set up and creating a homework routine during the first week of school will help smooth the transition from summer’s hot, hazy days to fall’s hurried, homework days.”

Homework
Homework (Photo credit: TJCoffey)

According to Anzia, there are few points that MUST be addressed, and since school days for my 2 elementary kids has just begun, I hope I’m on the right track, and will, for sure, try to follow her ‘advice’: [I’ve added my personal comments after the ‘important-points’ suggested by the author]

1. Choose the right location

We’re fortunate enough to have an extra ‘lunch table’, in a separate room, with a framed world map, a large wall clock and a buffet with drawers. The whole area has been defined for ‘homework’ and school assignments: reading response; school poster preparation, coloring, cutting and pasting [I’ve got a 2nd grader and a KG5].

2. Find and organize supplies

The buffet drawers were turned into ‘storage space’ for their school supplies. Backpacks are kept on the floor, against the wall, and handy, when they’re needed. Plastic containers/organizers are a must-have to keep their pencils, coloring gear, scissors; glue sticks IN PLACE AND EASY TO FIND. 😮

Homework
Homework (Photo credit: christinepollock)

3. Create a Go-To spot

Anzia also points out that “Another advantage of a designated homework space is that you can have a set surface where you and your kids can post scheduling reminders and deadlines. You could hang a magnetic board or bulletin board, or use stick-on chalkboard or dry-erase boards that can be easily removed in seconds, without damaging the wall.”

For that, unfortunately, I had to resource to our kitchen area, where we mounted a white board on the wall, with our cell phone numbers [for the sitter, when both mom and dad are at work!]. The board displays each child’s chores, a brief schedule and any necessary reminder…. The kitchen wall is also the place for an oversized interactive calendar [months, days, seasons, weather and special dates]. Our oldest son, now 7,5 is the one in charge of changing the dates/information on the calendar, every morning.

4. Try out and reassess

This is the author’s final suggestion. Try things out, and after the initial month or so, reassess the results. Change. Improve. Get feedback from the kids. See what works and what needs to be fixed.

We’re on week 1, for this school year… let’s wait and see what’s in store for us… we’re all hopeful… maybe ‘homework time’ will be a breeze… who knows? 😮

Reflections on the expat life, inspired by Buckminster Fuller: “I am not a noun, I seem to be a verb…”

This is a third post on my ‘random thoughts’ about bringing our children out [first one discussed multilingualism and its approach as parents], especially when it comes to the diverse society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now… the second post presented a discussion on the misperceptions of being a ‘serial expat’, a nomad, a ‘rolling stone’….

The discussion on social diversity is not only part of our family’s daily life, but it also tailors the way we are raising our children, and the way we would like them to understand and perceive their surroundings.

IMG_5308

This is a third post on my ‘random thoughts‘ about bringing our children up into this ‘nomad world’ [first one discussed multilingualism and its approach as parents], especially when it comes to the diverse society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now… the second post presented a discussion on the misperceptions on being a ‘serial expat‘; a nomad, a ‘rolling stone…. I’m sure there’ll be more posts to come – thank you all for reading, and for the continuous feedback on this [and other!] topics – the suggestions, comments and shared stories from other parents/travelers/expats have made this ‘blogging experience’ much richer. And I’m very grateful for all that.

The discussion on social diversity is not only part of our family’s daily life, but it also tailors the way we are raising our children, and the way we would like them to understand and perceive their surroundings.

Buckminster Fuller
Geodesic Dome, by Buckminster Fuller  (credit: Wikipedia)

For many children, expat life is an enriching, wonderful experience, but for many others, it is an unbelievably difficult time. Much is gained — language, travel, worldview, diversity – but there are very real losses — extended family, longtime friends, a sense of belonging. Some of the losses are unrecognized and unacknowledged until later in life…

As parents of TCKs, my husband and I try to be sensitive to their particular situation. Each child is different, and reacts to the uprootedness differently. Some are more sensitive, and others relish in it.

English: Cropped and flipped photo of young Bu...
Buckminster Fuller (credit: Wikipedia)

One thing we have always tried to be, however, is their anchor. Since their external life is in constant flux, we try to keep our family life constant and stable. We try to have our own habits and traditions, which, as it turns out, are a bit of a blend between the countries we inhabit. Yes, they [our kids] may be exotic to the kids around them, and again, each handles that differently. One thrives on that, another cringes, but it is what it is. We know that they would have a different perspective than we do as their parents…

Perhaps, the best way of handling the identity issue is to adopt the dictum of the late Buckminster Fuller: “I am not a noun, I seem to be a verb…”

Related articles

{Updated} Raising Resilient Children.

This is a third post on my ‘random thoughts’ about bringing our children out [first one discussed multilingualism and its approach as parents; and the second one dealt with approaching diversity issues], especially when it comes to the heterogeneous society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now… [find all interesting links to great discussions at the bottom of this post!]

For a child, especially the young ones, parents are their strongest link to the concepts of ‘reality’ and ‘normalcy’.
That said, I recently found from Expat Child, a fantastic site for inspirations for any parent out there, even if they’re not ‘serial expats’ like our family: [and my deepest appreciation to the site authors for letting me share this!]

Mother's Day Montesori School (6)diversity & resilience

Here’s a brief update on this blogpost – a book that just came out, from the author Linda Janssen, and from which I’ve learned a lot during this journey of ‘raising expat children’:

The Emotionally Resilient Expat – Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures 

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I feel like I began this year on a very ‘introspective mode‘, rethinking life, our lifestyle, and the way we plan on leading it forward…

This is a third post on my ‘random thoughts‘ about bringing our children out [first one discussed multilingualism and its approach as parents; and the second one dealt with ‘how to approach’ diversity issues], especially when it comes to the heterogeneous society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now… [find all interesting links to great discussions at the bottom of this post!]

For a child, especially the young ones, parents are their strongest link to the concepts of ‘reality‘ and ‘normalcy‘.
DSC_6128
 
That said, I recently found from Expat Child, a fantastic site for inspirations for any parent out there, even if they’re not ‘serial expats’ like our family:
[and my deepest appreciation to the site authors for bringing out such an interesting discussion!]
 

Five Quotes On Resilience

Picture of the Galapagos Marine Iguana with a Darwin quote on survival of the species

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin

Resilient children tend to have parents who are concerned with their children’s education, who participate in that education, who direct their children everyday task, and who are aware of their children interests and goals. Another important characteristic of resilient children is having at least one significant adult in their lives. – Linda F. Winfield

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. – Mark Twain

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings. – Hodding Carter

Self-esteem is the real magic wand that can form a child’s future. A child’s self-esteem affects every area of her existence, from friends she chooses, to how well she does academically in school, to what kind of job she gets, to even the person she chooses to marry. – Stephanie Martson

 
I don’t have answers for these questions, and maybe, secretly, would hope to find a few over here… from other expat/parents out there... I’m aware that we [parents] are all seeking answers, suggestions, so, I’ll echo my voice with many more… who knows? Comments/messages are very much appreciated, and more than welcome! “How are we [parents] working on raising more [socially] resilient children?”
Thank you!
 

Between Us: An Open Letter to the Disney Channel

Life Inspired

No More Disney Channel copy

Dear Disney Channel Executives,

My daughter Journey has recently become a fan of the Disney Channel.  She just turned 7, she has officially outgrown Nick Jr. and since Nick seems to show SpongeBob all day, she has moved over to the Disney channel.  At first, she was pretty much only watching Phineas and Ferb.  Eventually, she started watching the rest of the line up including Good Luck Charlie, Austin and Ally, Shake It Up and Jessie.

View original post 597 more words

{Weekly Photo Challenge: from above} May the Fourth be with you, parents out there!

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it!” We all need The Force. Something stronger is coming from above… Above us all, there’s a stronger counter-force: the power of a child who decide that playing was a better choice than his well-needed 8 hours of sleep…

May the Force be with you. With all of you. With all of us, parents, who have to deal with an unforeseen middle-of-the-night playtime!

Star Wars figures, inherited from his dad. From his dad’s collection [see the Darth Vader carrying case?] Yes, the same one who betrayed the Jedi Order and his Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi! – for over 30 years this case has secured the dreams of the boy I ended up marrying. And now, the carrying case and its figures are happily laying on the carpet, next to the hamster’s cage, planning some sort of invasion (???). And this is all happening way past my son’s bedtime…

May the Force be with you, parents of the world! May your sleepless nights be filled with giggles and pretend-fights among little toy figures… May the 4th of May be a great and restful Saturday, for us all… 😮

DSC_8224

“the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it!”

We all need the Force. Something stronger is coming from above... Above us all, there’s a stronger counter-force: the power of a child who decided that playing was a better choice than his well-needed 8 hours of sleep…

sw4th

May the Force be with you. With all of you. With all of us, parents, who have to deal with an unforeseen middle-of-the-night playtime!

Star Wars figures, inherited from his dad. From his dad’s collection [see the Darth Vader carrying case?] Yes, the same one who betrayed the Jedi Order and his Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi! – for over 30 years this case has secured the dreams of the boy I ended up marrying. And now, the carrying case and its figures are happily laying on the carpet, next to the hamster’s cage, planning some sort of invasion (???). And this is all happening way past my son’s bedtime…

May the Force be with you, parents of the world! May your sleepless nights be filled with giggles and pretend-fights among little toy figures… May the 4th, the first day of a long-waited weekend, be a great and restful Saturday, for us all… for our own sake and mental health!

DSC_8226

Just another regular day in my life… Can you relate to it?

Kids driving me up the wall is actually, a source of inspiration…
Who’d have thought of that?

Just decided to express [using a simple comic strip] the way I usually feel – do you really believe I sometimes try to hide from my own kids???
That wouldn’t be something a Real Mom would do, right? 😮

More of my ‘random thoughts’ on parenting here… recently revisited… 😮

Kids driving me up the wall is actually, a source of inspiration
Who’d have thought of that?
Just decided to express [using a simple comic strip]  the way I usually feel – do you really believe I sometimes try to hide from my own kids???
That wouldn’t be something a Real Mom would do, right? 😮
More of my random thoughts’ on parenting here… recently revisited… 😮

 

{Weekly Writing Challenge} Why do we, parents, do what we do? A few visual reasons…

Parenting isn’t an easy task. There aren’t many solutions out there for our ‘day-to-day challenges’. And yet, we all keep on going… And why? Many bloggers/parents may relate to these statements, and who knows, even add more to the pot! With that in mind, and a bit of inspiration provided by this week’s suggested writing challenge from The Daily Post [Image vs. Text], had the perfect scenario for a ‘pictorial explanation’ of, ‘why we do what we do’ for our children!

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Parenting isn’t an easy task. There aren’t many solutions out there for our ‘day-to-day challenges’. Yet, we all keep on going… And why? Many bloggers/parents may relate to these statements, and who knows, even add more to the pot! With that in mind, and a bit of inspiration provided by this week’s suggested writing challenge from The Daily Post [Image vs. Text], had the perfect scenario for a ‘pictorial explanation’ of, ‘why we do what we do’ for our children!

Hopefully, the plan for this post will work. The images should provide at least a clue about the answers to these proposed questions… check the list below, and let’s see if you agree with the ‘suggested reasons’! ♥

* Why trying to prepare that special treat they love, knowingly we’d be tired after a full week of work, and the weekend is our only chance to recover and rescue ourselves before the upcoming work week strikes again? 😮

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* Why teaching our children the importance of group activities, the meaning of camaraderie and why being part of a team is greater than knowing how to work alone?

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* Why having your house ‘invaded’ by little ‘barbarians’, who love to scream and cry, fighting over toys and games with their peers, during a so-called ‘birthday celebration’?


* Why teaching kids to love and respect their cultural traditions, their distinct backgrounds and their personal stories? 



* Why getting up early in the morning, making sure our children have all they need for that particular school day, even if sometimes, we need to come up with a ‘last-minute’ solution for a very special request for some school activity?

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* Why going over and over their school homework, despite sometimes having a splitting headache and zero inspiration to help them with their writing assignments? 😮

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A letter of ‘appreciation’, from my resident first grader…

* Why volunteering your very scarce free time, to join them in some activity at the school?

August 2012: New life, new school, new friends. School kids receive their 'welcome' with a traditional 'Salteñada'.

 

* Why teaching our children that they need to share their life skills and abilities with others, in a selfless way?

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* Why is it necessary to show our children they’re special, unique, important in their own way, and always, unconditionally loved?

"Kids in Red", Delaware, USA.

* Why we, parents, end up doing exactly what we do, despite our list of countless complaints, which include tiredness, lack of resources and sleepless nights? We do it because we care. We care for their well-being, we care for raising emotionally resilient children, who will mature to become grounded adults, for a more compassionate and stable society. That’s why we do what we do… ♥

Hail... to The Redskins! Hail Victory!

♥ Thanks for the inspiration, and for reading! 😮

How to be a wife, a mom, a cook, a household manager, and yet, enjoy Carnaval?

Share responsibilities. Tag along with friends and other families, especially the ones facing the same challenges with their lovies…

Cook together. Host group parties. Let the kids run wild while the adults are enjoying some well-deserved quality time! Have the older kids teach the younger ones how to really get into the “Bolivian Carnaval” traditions: the water fight, with latex globes filled with water, water guns and foam!!! Let the good fun begin, keeping a close eye on your ‘little warriors’ while they’ve got each other soaked, covered in foam, running for their lives! 😮

 

Oh well, the answer is actually, quite simple: join forces with other fun friends! Couples willing to help each other during the long 5-day weekend, where kids had no school!

 

Share responsibilities. Tag along with friends and other families, especially the ones facing the same challenges with their lovies…

Cook together. Host group parties. Let the kids run wild while the adults are enjoying some well-deserved quality time! Have the older kids teach the younger ones how to really get into the “Bolivian Carnaval” traditions: the water fight, with latex globes filled with water, water guns and foam!!! Let the good fun begin, keeping a close eye on your ‘little warriors’ while they’ve got each other soaked, covered in foam, running for their lives! 😮

[snapshots from our Family Brazilian Feijoada, recipe & instructions below]

Simple, healthy fun. A fantastic time with family and close friends. Learning about the Carnaval Paceño. Dancing. Remembering the old days of high school cheerleading… Eating a lot [why not? It’s Carnaval Weekend!]

As I’d promised earlier about making Brazilian Feijoada, here are the steps! Enjoy!

Whenever I meet someone else from Brazil, I ask them what their favorite food is. After steak (picanha), it is almost always feijoada. It’s an old bean, pork and beef recipe, brought to South America, like many foods in many places, by those intrepid, globetrotting spice traders, the Portuguese, and then enhanced, like many other foods in many other places, by African slaves and their descendants.

Feijoada Completa

1 1/2 cups dried black beans (turtle is preferred, for texture)
1/8 lb. carne seca/cesina (about the size of your flat hand)
1/8 lb. pork ribs (about 2 thick ribs)
4 strips smoked bacon, finely chopped
1 paio sausage, cut into thick slices
1/2 lb. of linguiça calabresa (Portuguese-style smoked pork sausage), cut into thick slices
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 orange, peeled (remove all of the white pith!)
8 cups water

The night before, soak the pork meat in cold water. In yet another bowl, soak the beans in cold water.

The next day, cook the pork meat and then drain. Refill the pot with cold water, bring to a boil again and cook until the meats are tender and beginning to fall apart. Drain well.

In a large pot or dutch oven (preferred), place the beans and 8 cups water, bay leaves, and peeled orange. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmering. Cook for 45 minutes. Add all meats, and cook for 20-30 more minutes.

In a saute pan, fry the onion and garlic on olive oil. Add about 1 cup of beans from the pan, cook briefly and mash well with the back of a spoon. Return the whole mess to the dutch oven and adjust for salt. Let simmer for about 20-30 more minutes, until beans are tender and meats are falling apart willingly. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Serve with boiled, medium-grain white rice, orange slices, farofa and (chiffonaded) collard greens (that have been quickly fried in canola oil and drained on paper towels.

 

Embracing Diversity as an Expat: Raising Children in the Foreign Service.

This is a second post on my ‘random thoughts’ about bringing our children out, especially when it comes to the diverse society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now…

The discussion on social diversity is not only part of our family’s daily life, but it also tailors the way we are raising our children, and the way we would like them to understand and perceive their surroundings. Life as an expat has shown me that we (parents) are the only ‘constant’ on our children’s lives. Childhood friends come and go, depending on their parent’s jobs. Schools change. Countries, cultures, music, social patterns and expected behaviors last as long as one’s post assignment does. For a child, especially the young ones, parents are their strongest link to the concepts of ‘reality’ and ‘normalcy’. Over time, children will learn who they are and what to do through these experiences – absorbing a sense of their routines, traditions, languages, cultures, and national or racial identities – at their own pace, creating their very particular ‘hybrid culture’, assuming their own identity, as unique social beings. We are diverse, we speak different languages in our household, we come from distinct cultural and/or religious backgrounds… and our children could not be any different from that narrative.

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I feel like I began this year on a very ‘introspective mode‘, rethinking life, our lifestyle, and the way we plan on leading it forward…

This is a second post on my ‘random thoughts‘ about bringing our children out [first one discussed multilingualism and its approach as parents], especially when it comes to the diverse society they [children] are about to face…. any moment from now…

The discussion on social diversity is not only part of our family’s daily life, but it also tailors the way we are raising our children, and the way we would like them to understand and perceive their surroundings.

Being a foreign-born spouse, who has moved out of Brazil over a decade ago, constantly traveling because of work and family life, I had to learn early that, the need to readjust and reinvent oneself is a critical part of the adaptation process in a foreign country. I’m also a parent, and often find myself trying to answer a few questions, to my own children, as well as, to other parents facing similar challenges: “What can I do to help my children around the issue of diversity?” And, in fact, how ready is our society to embrace diversity? 

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Life as an expat has shown me that we (parents) are the only ‘constant‘ on our children’s lives. Childhood friends come and go, depending on their parent’s jobs. Schools change. Countries, cultures, music, social patterns and expected behaviors last as long as one’s post assignment does.
 
For a child, especially the young ones, parents are their strongest link to the concepts of ‘reality‘ and ‘normalcy‘.
Over time, children will learn who they are and what to do through these experiences – absorbing a sense of their routines, traditions, languages, cultures, and national or racial identities – at their own pace, creating their very particular ‘hybrid culture‘, assuming their own identity, as unique social beings.
 
We are diverse, we speak different languages in our household, we come from distinct cultural and/or religious backgrounds… and our children could not be any different from that narrative. Our children are coming up as divergent individuals, in a much richer way than we (parents) were brought up. We are all very unique, and that notion needs to be reflected not only on the job represented by our officers (and their families) overseas, but also, through our own behavior as social creatures.
 
Diversity brings innovation and creativity. It’s important for us, parents, to add to our home environment, so it is reflective of other (cultural, racial, ethnic, family style) groups. It’s critical to express pride in our own heritage. Building positive identities and the respect for differences, would mean inserting these concepts to the routine of children’s everyday lives.

I don’t have answers for these questions, and maybe, secretly, would hope to find a few over here… from other expat/parents out there... I’m aware that we [parents] are all seeking answers, suggestions, so, I’ll echo my voice with many more… who knows? Comments/messages are very much appreciated, and more than welcome!

That said, what is our role as parents? How could we help our children regarding diversity? One of the suggestions is that we need to be constantly involved in their lives. Listening to their stories, learning about their ventures and challenges adjusting to new/unknown realities. We need to devote a great deal of patience for establishing a healthy communication channel within our household, and between all the levels of our (expatriate) community; opportunities will present themselves at the school, at the work level, at social events where children may take part… . It’s necessary to talk to our children about differences, in a very understanding and respectful way. Let us be resourceful and take advantage of the diversity around us.

One of the advantages this life as expatriates offers to families is the possibility to enroll our children in international schools. It’s already been discussed that students who attend schools with a diverse population (student body, faculty, staff) are capable of developing an understanding of the perspectives of other children’s backgrounds, learning to function in a multicultural, multiethnic environment.All of us are born free of biases, (un)fortunately, we tend to learn them as we grow. Is it a totally negative aspect of our lives? Could we turn our ability to make social judgments into a positive impacting tool? Let the discussion begin! 😮

Comments and extra thoughts on being a multilingual parent…

I often talk about the challenges of parenting, especially considering the difficulties placed by language and culture, one of the many issues associated with moving to a different country, every couple of years. That said, I took a look back at the posts published in 2012, mainly on parenting & language, and found one that gave me a very positive feedback, working as a sort of a ‘discussion forum’, that I plan on exploring/expanding some time this year. [Another one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Like everyone else, I know there’ll be a great deal of ‘procrastination’ before I’ll be able to cross tasks off my 2013 to-do list!]

Oh, well, at least, I’m taking the time to revisit thoughts/facts/articles… it’s the first step for the beginning of a good research! 😮

“Are you curious?” We are! 😮

**UPDATE: Follow-up post discussing thoughts on Diversity & Raising Children as Expats

I often talk about the challenges of parenting, especially considering the difficulties placed by language and culture, one of the many issues associated with moving to a different country, every couple of years. That said, I took a look back at the posts published in 2012, mainly on parenting & language, and found one that generated a very instructive feedback; working as a sort of a ‘discussion forum‘, that I plan on exploring/expanding at length, some time this year… [Another one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Like everyone else, I know there’ll be a great deal of ‘procrastination’ before I’ll be able to cross tasks off my 2013 to-do list!]

Oh, well, at least, I’m taking the time to revisit thoughts/facts/articles… it’s the first step for the beginning of a good research! 😮

The post that got me thinking was one related to a simple question: “What type of multilingual parent are you?”, pointed out by the Mumsnet Bloggers Network for 2012; that had been initiated by a clever quote about the experience of raising bi/multilingual children:

“…raising multilingual children is an adventure you share together – one that is a lot of fun, but for which you will need quite a lot of patience. Sometimes, linguistic development will not progress in the way you hoped. That is fine, and everything will eventually work itself out. Sharing my language with my children has been about sharing my heritage more than anything else. It might be difficult at times, but it is a gift that will last a lifetime“.

Last year’s blogpost provoked a very positive reaction, expressed through the number of visitors, and especially, throughout the comments, coming from parents, consultants, educators, expats like ourselves, or simply, other parents who echo our opinions about how challenging, adventurous and/or never-ending this experience should be.

Learning should never stop, and teaching our kids through example is the best way to keep ourselves current! At least, that’s the hope! 😮

Here are some of the comments, and based on their [shared] experiences, it could be YOUR TURN to answer – what type of multilingual parent are you? Or, even better, what type of [multilingual] parent you hope to become?

But first, let me thank all the visitors/readers who shared a comment, or who sent me a message [with your opinion/suggestion] regarding this topic. It makes the blogging experience much richer, more productive, and way more enjoyable! My deepest appreciation to all of you! ♥

VisitorMy husband is a German TCK growing up in Taiwan, and thinks in English most of the time. He is fluent in German and can read fairly well – though he is more comfortable in English. We are living in a Chinese environment and have been since we’ve been married. We had high hopes of me speaking English and him speaking German, but that didn’t work out. I’d say mainly because he didn’t think in German when the oldest was born – he rarely spoke German to anyone. So, remembering to speak it at home was difficult. He did better speaking Chinese to them.  On top of this, his family all speaks English fluently, so there was no pressure on us in that regard as well.
 I do have a question, though that I’m wondering. Will you continue to educate your children in all three languages through middle school and high school or focus more on one language? I’m just really curious about this. You seem to be really doing a great job with them right now so that they master both written and spoken of the three. Great post to ponder on… 

           
Visitor  
In our house we speak English, Spanish and Dutch and the boys seem to know all three languages equally. My five year old is a dynamo with languages. He can switch, translate and think in all three. My two year old understands all three but is not as talkative as my five year old was. We lived in Mozambique with the older one until the age of three and he was able to speak 4 languages when we lived there. It is curious to see how the different children take to the languages differently. I thought for sure my two year old would be the same since we haven’t done anything really different, but I noticed he is taking longer to use his words, although you can see he understands all three. I call Dutch the secret language in my house, because only the boys (not me) speak it. So basically this is how it works: School = English, Language we speak as a family = English, Mommy = Spanglish to the boys (more spanish), Daddy = Dutch to the boys, Empleada/Nanny = always Spanish. The boys will also take Dutch lessons once or twice a week. It is definitely challenging, but so worth it. We don’t really think about it… just the way we live our life.
                        
      
Visitor Enjoyed your post! All the more so since /multilingual-multicultural life – as mentioned by Sakti above – is part and parcel of life in India! I think it is an advantage more than a challenge, an opportunity to broaden horizons!


 
Visitor I am probably not looking at it from a parents’ perspective.  My challenge is to make sure some of our less spoken languages – that includes my mother tongue, that my grandkids can not speak! – do not become extinct!
 

      
VisitorVery interesting. I am from India and we have a different challenge as India has more than 2 dozens of official languages. I studied a different language (Odia) than my mother tongue (Bengali) and now staying in a state, which speak another language (Gujarati). Everybody in India speaks English and Hindi. So my kids (both below 6 years) now have almost learnt to speak and understand all the above languages. Yes it is a challenge.


 

VisitorThanks for the mention of our upcoming session on Emotional Resiliency in Foreign Service Kids that will be held next week (*). Even though you won’t get to see it live, AFSA will upload the video to their website for worldwide viewing. 
I wish I could comment on what kind of bilingual parent I am…. but mine would be more of what I failure I was! When my daughter was 2, we left Portugal, where we had spoken Portuguese in the home when our housekeeper was around. The housekeeper only spoke to my daughter in Portuguese from infancy, so our daughter understood Portuguese as well as English. When we left Portugal, I tried to continue the Portuguese with her, only – at the age of only 2! – she wouldn’t answer me in Portuguese and finally admonished me to “stop speaking like Dolores!” I finally gave up on it.
 

           (*) Please refer to original post for the full text, and more details on the 2012 AFSA initiative.

 
Visitor I’m inspired to speak spanish at home more now. My kids’ dad all speak Spanish and I beg them to speak Spanish to the kids but they haven’t. My mom was raised bilingual, I was until they couldn’t accurately diagnose my infant-aged hearing issues because they couldn’t tell if I didn’t hear them or didn’t understand them so they told my mom to stop speaking Hungarian to me and she did. But she still wishes she’d have kept up with it. Other countries are so great with this and the US doesn’t do enough!
 

           
VisitorThis is so interesting! We also got “moderate parent”. I try to speak spanish to them most of the time but sometimes forget. I also read to them in french and english is the main language in the household. I’m taking them to a spanish speaking playgroup in hopes Evan will be motivated by seeing other little kids speak spanish! Great post!




Saying ‘Goodbye 2012’ in style. 80s Style!

80s
Image Credit: http://stuckonthe80s.com/

Celebrating the arrival of 2013, and bidding farewell to a dear 2012… All with style – 80s style! Could there be a more fun way to do it?

Screen shot 2012-12-27 at 10.45.17 AM

[A confession, thank you very much, Robert Smith, for not only making my high school/early College years bearable, but also for helping me endure my recent parenting years, as a mother of 3 little ones…

Only another tired mom would understand the calming and motivational power of an 80s song…

 

 

😮 Especially if, that same mom is ready to give up on her first-grader’s homework on a Saturday morning!

Somehow, the 80s music finds a way to ‘reach out to me’, and bring me back to reality… Not in high school anymore… the sleepless nights are not due to some term paper or exam…

now, the short nights usually come from a crying kid with fever, or, another one having a nightmare; or simply, missing my well-deserved beauty rest by having a couple of extra ‘bodies’ in our bed… every single night, since 2005! ♥

But well, that’s the path we chose, and the 80s music have always helped me thru ‘tough times’… ♥ My favorite, without question, The Cure

80s Party 06
Wonders that only a blond wig can do! 5 years later, 3 kids, 2 more countries under the belt… the forties have arrived… let’s see what type of hairstyle this mom will bring out! 😮

80s Party, 2007Let’s see what the New Year’s Celebration brings!

Now, not only I’ll go to a party with ‘my guy’, but a handful of other ‘accessories’, which will include a 7-year-old boy, who loves 70s & 80s music; an almost 5 year old girl who loves to dress up [like her mother!] and is ‘addicted’ to dance… and a 2-year-old girl, which’s still a bit young to define her style… time will tell…

leg warmers
Image Credit: http://www.spirithalloween.com

80shairThat said, getting these bad boys out of the closet [I mean, the leg warmers! mine are pink with white stripes], making sure the hair will be ‘par’ for the celebration, check the clothing colors [lots of them, and they better be bright!], accessories, make-up… and head to the party humming my favorite tunes!

NOW: on my way out to the local market, trying to find some ‘miracle hair products’ for tomorrow night’s bash! 😮

 Happy New Year to all of us! 

{(young kids) + (sleep deprivation) + (long working hours) = (when exactly did we sign for this?!!)}

There was a time I used to love Math…

Nowadays, I’m not so sure…

I’m still trying to figure out the Mathematics of “life with children”!

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved children, had a great time playing with other people’s kids, and believed she’d make a great mom, when the time came…

Well, this young girl got older, found her prince charming, and once again, they (so naïve!) thought:

“We’re gonna be parents! We’re gonna be the best ones! We love and cherish children! Our kids will be the best behaved ones, always clean, always loving and respectful”

And then, the family started growing: first we were, as some friends (already with 3 children) used to call us: “a couple with a child”. We had it easy! Once kid #1 was sound asleep, mommy and daddy could enjoy some quality time (and even some wine!) at the end of a long day of work.

myself, a realistic impression, according to one of my kids!

I guess I’m bringing these memories back because my baby is now almost 2 years old… and the sleep deprivation days are becoming fewer and fewer… [at least, that’s the hope!]

There was a time I used to love Math

Nowadays, I’m not so sure…

I’m still trying to figure out the Mathematics of life with children!

[Backstory] Once upon a time,  there was a young girl who loved children, had a great time playing with other people’s kids, and believed she’d make a great mom, when the time came…

Well, this young girl got older, found her prince charming, and once again, they (so naïve!) thought:

“We’re gonna be parents! We’re gonna be the best ones! We’ll love and cherish children! Our kids will be the best behaved ones, always clean, always loving and respectful”

And then, the family started growing: first we were, as some friends (already with 3 children) used to call us: “a couple with a child”. We had it easy! Once kid #1 was sound asleep, mommy and daddy could enjoy some quality time (and even some wine!) at the end of a long day of work. So, here was the formula:

f = [(a loving husband) + (a loving wife) + (a brand new baby) = (a happy family!)]

Life and Math seemed so easy and manageagle: we were living overseas, had support and household help. We then decided to increase our legacy. Here came kid #2, and with it, a way more challenging routine, accompained by several sleepless nights…

We had no idea that with two kids, the chances of having one of them sick, at some point in time, are extremely high!

We, the “once before-pretty smart” parents, learnt that our “Math skills” weren’t gonna cut…

Take a look at the “new & improved” formula:

f = [(still loving, but very tired parents) + (demanding toddler) + (a brand new baby)

= (a still happy, but somewhat confused family!)]

We managed life. We found our niche, learnt from other couples new strategies and ground rules to apply to our own routine, began training the kids on life skills (sleeping, eating, drinking, bathroom needs).

Regarding our Math knowledge, we sort of came back from a lousy D to a pretty solid B

We were back, baby!! We knew how to survive with kids, lead an enjoyable life, took short trips with the whole family, went grocery shopping… We had it down! And the excess of confidence and maybe some extra  excitement about our new FS assignment, responded for kid #3…

 

And then, the third one came into our lives. 

We’re a family full of life and joy. Today, we don’t sleep as many hours as we used to, let’s see, six years ago, when we were sure to be the best “parents-to-be”.

Today we may not have the face-time with our spouse, the way we wanted, but if the kids are healthy, fed, dry, and the most important of all – sleeping – we, as parents, are pretty satisfied.

Our definition of happiness may have changed a bit, and we’re taking a day at a time. A sleepless night might be followed by a great day, who knows?

At least now we’ve got an idea on what’s in-store for us. We know kids give us a hard time when it comes to sleeping, eating, getting dressed, getting ready for school, and pretty much anything else.

But at least now, we know we need to be prepared. And we’re learning. Also, we decided to give up on our Math skills – raising kids has no formula.

Life with kids is just a massive equation, with tons of variables… We’d be silly trying to map it out. And the worst and maybe the funniest of all is that, at the moment, we’re graded by a team, whose combined age doesn’t even reach 13 years! 😮

In sum, I’m thankful to all the readers and parents out there, for the support during my parenting experience, and I guess, gotta thank my own children, for the ENDLESS INSPIRATION they provide to my blogging days! ♥

Related Posts:

Children in adult-oriented places: a collection of [random] thoughts!

I found this theme really interesting, and intriguing… almost poking on us, parents of our loving well-behaved little ones:

“Everyone loves kids, right? Right! Except when they don’t. This week, we’re particularly interested in what you think about kids in adult-oriented places. I think most of us can agree that it’s not a good idea to drag little Sally to a bar at 1AM, but what about a museum? A fancy restaurant?” [Michele M. from King of States].

at the museum
Well, as a parent of 3 little kids (oldest one just turned 7), moving every two years, due to family work requirements, having to adjust not only to a new country, as well as to new cultures, new languages, there’s yet the expectation that [shockingly!] my kids should also re-invent themselves and adjust/adapt to new social demands/requirements,

I found this theme really interesting, and intriguing… almost poking on us, parents of our loving well-behaved little ones:

“Everyone loves kids, right? Right! Except when they don’t. This week, we’re particularly interested in what you think about kids in adult-oriented places. I think most of us can agree that it’s not a good idea to drag little Sally to a bar at 1AM, but what about a museum? A fancy restaurant?” [Michele M. from King of States].

at the museum

Well, as a parent of 3 little kids (oldest one just turned 7), moving every two years, due to family work requirements, having to adjust not only to a new country, as well as to new cultures, new languages, there’s yet the expectation that [shockingly!] my kids should also re-invent themselves and adjust/adapt to new social demands/requirements, showcasing the pristine behavior only found in movies about expat children attending boarding schools, spending their spear time learning an instrument and being part of book clubs!

Clearly, that doesn’t happen. It never did, and very likely, it’ll not happen in any future

This theme, discussing the pros and cons of having children in adult-oriented/adult-only social places got me thinking. And I began reading through what others had to say about it [I’m such a curious cat!].

I’m always searching for resources related to raising children in multi-cultural settings, I take part at parenting forums, I respond/comment on discussion lists, I blog about raising TCKs, and seek help for that…

I’m also the ‘household fairy’, you know, that one silent worker, that makes the breakfast show up in the morning, the lunch packs being ready before the school bus turns the corner… the ‘laundry fairy’, the intense PTA volunteer. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough time to ‘school’ my children on the ‘perfect social behavior‘ [whatever it is or means] – I’m still trying. And my children are also trying to learn, the best they can. They’ve been to restaurants, airports, family gatherings, embassy functions, social events, you name it!

So, answering the original question, should kids be allowed at adult-oriented places? PROBABLY NOT. And I’m stating that as a MOM, speaking my heart out from my life experience, as a mother, and a former teacher. NOTHING AGAINST children. Love them. Deeply. But in my very humble opinion, there are some adult-oriented places that little ones should no be taken to – and that includes some of our beloved evening pubs, bars and dining places – unless the latter is kid-friendly, otherwise, one should only take a [especially the very young ones] to a bar or pub, if looking for some unforeseen sickness, and a parental headache for the following days! 😮

making pizza, at a ‘kid-friendly’ restaurant!

But, should we, as parents, carry out our frustrations to a public setting? Would it be enjoyable to ourselves, and to others?

Kids deserve people to respect them. And, do you believe they [the children] would be receiving their deserved share of social respect, if others [adults] would feel uncomfortable with their presence? Tough call.

My parents always had to travel for work. We moved a lot. We were also three children, the only difference was that, being the oldest one (9 years older than the youngest), I was responsible for their social behavior.

A ‘quasi-responsiblity‘, if I could put it like that. And I remember getting the ‘rolled eyes’ from others, the ‘evil looks’ at restaurants. There was no nanny at that time. Two working parents. Going out to restaurants was a rare treat – we definitely had to ‘earn our way’. Today, I’m the parent. I’m the one flying with screaming  kicking bored wonderful children. 😮 The ‘looks’ towards me are still there. I can feel them. And I’m sure my children also sense them coming…

For all that, even if it’s hard, logistically challenging, last-minute need, try to find yourself a baby sitter. That’s my little 2 cents of advice, and one may do whatever it wants with it, even completely discard it. Just my humble suggestion…. Adult-oriented places are for adults only [clever conclusion, right?!].

Unfortunately, for the ones who would like to spend quality time with their children, tagging them along wherever they go, I’m sure there’ll be other alternatives… they’re called ‘kid-friendly places’. Trust me, kids don’t enjoy adult-only scenarios. I’ve been there. I’ve tried both ways, and I’d stick to the second one. It’s safer for the adult parent, the adult company, and for the children.

Good luck to all of us raising kids – what a tough job, man! 😮

[October Magic] Where are we, 3,288 days after the “I do”?

It took me a little while to find my “Mr Right”… in fact, I had almost given up trying, when suddenly, he showed up – the perfect balance for my “high-demanding” – “need-to-be-in-control” – “almost-annoying” personality… And he was the right one. I felt like he’d been “designed” to be my partner for life. Marriage, for the ones who’re experiencing, is definitely not an easy road. It’s bumpy. It’s curvy. It’s risky. No married life is picture-perfect, but ours is worth every second.

It’s been an amazing journey, filled with love, joy, easy and difficult times, challenges, victories and children – more precisely, three of them.

We’re heading to our first decade as a married couple. October has become a great month for celebrations among the Miranda Family. Today, the Miranda-Lima couple celebrates nine years of married life. Over 3,000 days, moved 7 times since we got married, having lived in 3 different continents, raising 3 children, 3 languages spoken throughout our house…

If you like multiples of 3, this is the right place! [Just kidding, but, gotta remind everyone: 3 x 3 equals…. Nine!]

It took me a little while to find my “Mr Right“… in fact, I had almost given up trying, when suddenly, he showed up – the perfect balance for my “high-demanding” – “need-to-be-in-control” – “almost-annoying” personality… I felt like he’d been “designed” to be my partner for life. Marriage, for the ones who’re experiencing, is definitely not an easy road. It’s bumpy. It’s curvy. It’s risky. No married life is picture-perfect, but ours is worth every second.

It’s been an amazing journey, filled with love, joy, easy and difficult times, challenges, victories and children – more precisely, three of them. We’ve enjoyed life together: we’ve already accumulated over a decade of Christmases and New Year’s Eves…

Every discussion or argument is a reason for reconciliation. And an opportunity to get to know the other person, a bit more, a bit deeper. One never stops learning. You learn as you go. You learn with your mistakes.

You learn by watching, observing, remaining silent, and by letting your thoughts out… [sometimes, not as nicely as you’d expect to do, but, hey, that’s real life, right?].

Nine years ago, we said:

I Do“…

It was during a beautiful Autumn day in New Mexico, surrounded by close friends and family, gifted by the harmonious mountains in the background, and obviously, greeted by the happy tune of Mariachis… 😮

Right now, we’re happily living surrounded by volcanic mountains, in ‘breathless La Paz‘, Bolivia, our newest assignment with the foreign service. We’ve lived together and apart; we’ve cried, laughed, we’ve been ‘med-evac-ed’, we’ve been in and out hospitals, we’ve learned from life. We’re growing old together, and we’re very grateful for all we’ve received from life – the good, the bad, the incredible.

Obviously, I’m the Queen of Hearts, here! 😮

Cheers to a loving couple, raising three kids, in this crazy world! 😮

Now, let’s get ready to celebrate the first decade now!

And, where are we right now? For the curious ones, life is simple, it’s normal (??), it’s common… we’re intensely living the ‘real life’: the one you jump from bed get up in the morning screaming and rush to get the kids ready for school, before leaving for work. The life where we’re the ‘lunch bag’ fairy, the ‘grocery fairy‘, the ‘laundry fairy’, the homework helper. We’re being real… and we’re very stressed out thankful! ♥

We’re right here, living the real life! The original two have become five. Life’s still good. Love never fails…

Hogar San Ramon Greening Project, La Paz – Bolivia.

La Paz, Bolivia – October 2012: volunteers went to Hogar San Ramon in La Paz to green an area that the Sisters are turning into a park for their Alzheimer’s patients.

Volunteering

+

Planting

+

Enjoying quality time with co-workers, family and new friends

=

Newly built consciousness among younger generations. Returning to the community all the good we’ve received… Teaching & Learning. Sharing. Growing as human beings…

Bonus Result → Doing good, feels good! ♥

What a great way to spend a Saturday morning! Not even the light showers were able to stop the hard workers! Proud to have been part of the greening project, helping the Senior Center (“Casa de Ancianos”) Hogar San Ramon, in La Paz Bolivia. Is there a better way to teach our children the importance of giving? Giving their time, their skills, their open mind and heart? I hope we’re doing the right thing. I feel we are. And I’m grateful our family was able to volunteer… Wishes for a peaceful (and green!) weekend! 😮

Related articles

Updated: Thoughts on ‘what type of multilingual parent are you?’…

I’ve talked before about our family’s cultural settings – husband and wife coming from different (but not exclusive) cultures/languages, raising our 3 TCKs, all now 7 years of age, and under; as well as presented thoughts on the Creative Flow of a TCK. This past April, AFSA hosted a panel discussion on emotional resilience in third-culture kids (TCKs) with a particular focus on the Foreign Service experience, during the first week of April. Experts on the issue of TCKs are expected to discuss the issue, taking questions from the audience – too bad we´re a bit far from DC, but we´re looking forward to reading about the discussion. The main question under discussion will be why some kids adapt very well to life in the Foreign Service while others struggle [check the AFSA website for more information].

“Are you curious?”  We are!

Blog Hop: I’ve talked before about our family’s cultural settings – husband and wife coming from different (but not exclusive) cultures/languages, raising our 3 TCKs, all now 7 years of age, and under; as well as presented thoughts on the Creative Flow of a TCK. This past April, AFSA hosted a panel discussion on emotional resilience in third-culture kids (TCKs) with a particular focus on the Foreign Service experience, during the first week of April. Experts on the issue of TCKs are expected to discuss the issue, taking questions from the audience – too bad we´re a bit far from DC, but we´re looking forward to reading about the discussion. The main question under discussion will be why some kids adapt very well to life in the Foreign Service while others struggle [check the AFSA website for more information].

Phonics & Math: let’s get the family together to help!

From my/our end, we are trying to do our part of the challenging task that is raising worldy third-culture children. And we´re doing it through language. It’s already known that speaking several languages fluently increases job opportunities, makes international travel easier, and enables you to communicate with a lot more people a lot more easily. There are various theories on how to best raise multilingual kids. “One parent, one language” (OPOL for short) is popular, and to some extent that is what we’re doing in our family.

One thing we’ve learned about raising TCKs: reading is a magic tool!

We’ve found out we’re “moderate” multilingual parents… At least, that’s how we tested, according to the Multilingual Living Quiz. Which is the best “group of multilingual parents”? Hard to say, they’re all different, and unique in their own way. There’s no magic formula when it comes to raising children in a multicultural setting. I’m always talking about our multilingual household, the challenges of trying to keep up with Spanish, Portuguese and English, while assisting our 1st grader on his (now!) English homework assignments, as well as with his homeschooling English/Spanish tasks! [Note: our son had started first grade in Brazil, last February, attending a Brazilian Montessori School, and had English classes three times a week. We moved to our current post, La Paz, Bolivia, in August, so, he could begin the American School year, as a first grader…] And our oldest child is just one of the examples: there two more on the line – his younger sisters (now aged 4,5 and almost 2) are a lively part of this multilingual/multicultural environment….

Looking for “help” from flashcards, when it comes to linking the sounds to the words!

Challenging, but exciting. And we’re very satisfied with the outcome: our oldest children are capable of communicating with both sets of grandparents, watching bilingual TV, having play dates both in English and Portuguese, and, offer very positive feedback to their dad when talked to/read to in Spanish. 😮 Recently, I stumbled upon a great quote, about the experience of raising bi/multilingual children: “raising multilingual children is an adventure you share together – one that is a lot of fun, but for which you will need quite a lot of patience. Sometimes, linguistic development will not progress in the way you hoped. That is fine, and everything will eventually work itself out. Sharing my language with my children has been about sharing my heritage more than anything else. It might be difficult at times, but it is a gift that will last a lifetime“. Couldn’t agree more! 😮 

Remembering bed time stories: from mom, in Portuguese… From dad, in English!

Helping our oldest children with their homework in Portuguese, having them practice English phonics with their native-speaker father, seeing the children have routine conversations with their dad in Spanish and English; and reading bed time stories in … who knows what!

We’ve been very fortunate regarding the kids school back in Brazil (they get both Portuguese and English), and we were thankful for the opportunity to use the educational allowance for homeschooling our 1st grader when it came to supplement his English language.

All in all, it’s working, and we’re pleased with the current results. Based on the explanation for each “group of multilingual parenting styles”, the Moderate Parent has found the golden middle way of bilingual parenting. Well-informed about bilingual issues yet know that ultimately they have to make your own rules and decisions that suit your family the best. Have a healthy dose of commitment towards your bilingual endeavour, a reasonable amount of self-confidence in what you are doing, and have no problem in bending the rules when necessary and when it’s in your family’s best interest. the “moderate parents” have chosen a model, are committed to it, and don’t give up easily when troubles arise. Acquainted with worries and problems but can ride through rough times by getting the right support from certain experts, their online group and other bilingual parents.

[Test originally published in Multilingual Living Magazine]

After all that, now it’s your turn to answer: “What type of multilingual parent do you think you are?” Take the quiz and find out! Here are examples of the questions:

“When you are on the playground with your child, you…”

“When your child speaks to you in the “wrong” language, you…”

“When it comes to literature on bilingualism, you…”

“Your reaction to the word “OPOL” is…”

“Your aim is for your child is…”

And there are many more questions/concerns/curiosities… Take your time to check it out!

So, how do you think you did?

Click Here to calculate your score and find out the results! We had a lot of fun (and learned a lot!) doing this little exercise! 😮 thanks for coming along!

This is why we do good things… (for our kids)

School trip to the movies, by my favorite first grader…

I’ve talked before about the challenges and joys of parenthood. I’ve dreamed of a world where moms would be able to wake up on their own, without being suddenly poked by cold little fingers letting her know they’re hungry/scared/thirsty or simply wanting to go outside and play, despite the side table clock showing it’s not even 6 am…

I’ve talked about being a traveler, an expat and an around-the-clock working mom; being a cleaner/chauffeur/house fairyall in one, and trying to perform my best. Let’s not forget the additional task: trying to be the hauling supportive foreign service spouse, cheering for my husbands accomplishments and hiding ‘little household lows’ (like a broken lamp), in order to keep the peace. Yeah, we are also peacekeepers, at any cost. I’ve talked about it all over here, shared and received advice from other readers/parents/expats, and I’m deeply grateful for such an incredible experience.

One thing I’ve never experienced was the opportunity to closely work with my kids school. Always, because I lacked time to volunteer. Had helped before, when we lived in Mozambique and Brazil, but my working schedule really forbid me from being more active. This time, in La Paz, Bolivia, I’m living a different story. I’ve got more time, not working outside the house, so, I can now indulge and offer my kids the support and presence I’ve been ‘semi-denying’ them for the past years (there has to be one advantage of being a ‘non-working mom’, right? 😮 )

This is the first time my kids are enrolled in a American School, so, I’m volunteering the school PTA, I’m a ‘classroom parent’, helping extra-curricular activities, you name it. Despite being a bit overwhelming, I’m enjoying (I’m also a workaholic, so, I get my ‘highs’ from being overworked!). This past week, I volunteered to be a chaperone for a school field trip. My oldest child is a first grader, and the school took the whole elementary branch to a morning at a local movie theater. What a fantastic experience! Super excited kids telling me stories (some purely made-up, like flying in rocket ships or turning into fairies/wizards during their spare time!)

Today, after school, when checking my son’s backpack, I realized why we, parents, try to do these little good things, being more involved, committed: there were two handmade cards, with his daily homework. One from my son, and the other one, from my ‘chaperoning team’. And those cards made me understand a bit more about the meaning of being a (school) parent – the child’s true appreciation:

This other one, from ‘my team’. Names carefully preserved, for obvious reasons. Keep in mind we went to watch a movie (Madagascar 3), riding the bus… 😮

And the second one, from my son. BTW, the “moma”, I believe, refers to me…

I was so touched, so happy, and grateful for learning that, despite all the difficulties one endures as a mom/dad, our kids do appreciate us.

They “aprishyat” all the “staf” we do for them. And above all, they love us. They do love us very “mutch”… 😮

Thanks for letting ME be part of YOUR LIFE! ♥

So… where’s home? [from a TCK’s perspective]

Adjusting to School…

School’s begun, kids are adjusting to their ‘newest’ challenges: new friends, without forgetting their ‘previous’ ones, new teachers, with different teaching techniques, strategies, and a brand new schedule… All in all, they seem to be taking it in pretty well (at least for these past 2 weeks!). Let’s see what future will bring to this foreign service family ♥

Adjustments are never easy, nor smooth, but as committed parents, we’re trying our very best to make sure our 3 kids have an enjoyable social/emotional/psychological experience at this new posting/assignment. Not all is under our control, unfortunately, but… it’s all part of life, and life’s challenging on itself – otherwise, what’d be the meaning of pursuing different lifestyles?

That said, during one of my ‘blog hopping’ ventures, found a very interesting video discussing the meaning of ‘home, from a TCK‘s perspective, totally worthy the time, and maybe, a good way to generate some discussion/questioning about the theme. Here it is:

So Where’s Home? A Film About Third Culture Kid Identity from Adrian Bautista on Vimeo.

Snapshots of Mother’s Week.

What is Motherhood? I’m still trying to figure the answer out… some days I just feel like we’re “getting by”, instead of living… other days, are simply wonderfully perfect…. and, most of the days, are plain regular, filled with lots of “mom!!! come here, please!!!” or “mom!!! she took something from my bedroom!!!” or even, a gibberish cry that could mean anything from hunger, pain, to simply: “mom, hold me in your arms…”

Anyway, here are a few shots from this past “Mother’s Day (weeklong celebration)”

Music to Help Children Learn a New Language

…10 minutes at a time

by CONTRIBUTOR on MAY 14, 2012 (from MultiLingual Living)

Music to Help Bilingual Children Learn a New Language: 10 Minutes at a Time

By Franck & Cristina
Photo credit: sanbeiji

Music plays an important role in learning a second language. Similar areas of the brain are activated when listening to or playing music and speaking or processing language. Language and music are both associated with emotions, the combination makes it a powerful way to learn a second language.

Why is music so helpful to learn a second language?

  • Songs are fun
    We know that children, especially small children, really like music. They relate to it as entertainment and find learning vocabulary through songs amusing. Songs associated with hand and arm gestures are even more powerful in engaging children.
  • Songs increase retention
    Most of us are able to remember several children’s songs we learned as kids. Music helps us retain words and expressions much more effectively. The rhythm of the music helps with memorization, as do the repetitive patterns within the song.
  • Songs place vocabulary in context
    A song is also a little story. Children learn new words and expressions in the context of a story within the song. This will more easily captivate the attention of kids learning a new language. Words make sense faster when you learn them in the context of the lyrics in the song than when you learn them by themselves.

Below are 7 tips to help children learn another language with music, 10 minutes at a time:

  • Tip #1: Sing while nursing/giving the bottle
    With both Elena and Pablo, before they turned 1, I used to give the last bottle of the day around 11pm. I made it a habit to sing every time, both to relax them, get them to sleep, and have them hear French songs.
  • Tip #2: Finish the bedtime story with a song
    For about a year, I used to sing the same songs to Pablo in French at bedtime (“Un crocodile”, “Dans la maison un grand cerf”, “Dans la foret lointaine”). He was under two years old and he knew the lyrics by heart.
  • Tip #3: Play tag with a song
    We like “Aline”, a French hit from the 60s that has very clear lyrics. We would play “tag” with it: during the refrain, the kids had to leave “base” and I would chase them in the living room. The kids would ask to play the game almost every evening (and they knew the lyrics really well!).
  • Tip #4: Role play with a song
    There is a great Spanish song Cristina used frequently with the kids: “Hola Don Pepito, hola Don Jose”. It is a short dialogue between 2 characters, with simple lyrics. The music is engaging and made both Elena and Pablo want to sing with Cristina back-and-forth. Cristina and the kids would take turns and role playing one of the 2 characters.
  • Tip #5: Dance and learn
    YouTube has great videos of songs where you can dance. Elena and Pablo learned the alphabet in French with Chantal Goya’s “L’Alphabet en chantant”. It is a fun song where you have to mimic the letters with your hands and arms. They learned the alphabet in French much faster than me trying to teach them.
  • Tip #6: Sing together in the car
    Make a routine out of a specific car ride: going to school, coming back from school, going to the park, getting groceries, etc. You can listen to your favorite songs in the target language during one of the car rides as well. This is why Elena and Pablo know the lyrics of “Les Champs Elysees” from Joe Dassin by heart.
  • Tip #7: Family karaoke
    We learn Chinese as a family. We LOVE “Tian mi mi” of Teresa Teng. We found a YouTube video with “Tian mi mi” lyrics on the bottom of the screen. Everyone in the family can sing the song now. Singing it in our Chinese neighborhood restaurant even got us free desserts.

What other ways do you use music to teach your kids a second language? Please share them with us!

[Test originally published in Multilingual Living Magazine]

Day 625 in Brazil: More resources to entertain our children [and avoid going crazy!]

Being a parent/caretaker requires lots of diplomacynegotiationpeacekeepingpolicy implementation and strategy skills. That said, managing a household, its respective juvenile population and the consequent budgetary implications, is a… HUGE, EXPERIMENTAL and UNFORESEEN task! There is a never-ending need to keep kids and parents sane (as much as possible!). Family outings require loads of planning and logistics management – even if we’re just talking about a Sunday lunch! We’re 20 months into our assignment, and  our current post wasn’t a totally new experience for us, since we’ve visited Brazil several times before we moved here. Visiting was fun and care-free. Living and adjusting as a family, a little harder than we’d expected, but still very manageable.

This week we happily discovered a new resource for parents, like us, looking for an alternative for our children [we’d already shared a list of activities/places for children on a previous post]. Here it is: the First Toy Library (“brinquedoteca“) in Recife, Pernambuco.

CASA DA LINDA, BRINQUEDOTECA:

Surprise your children. Here are some links on good stuff to do around Recife:

  • Praia de Boa Viagem (beach) – natural war water pools protected by coral reefs guarantee a delicious time a the beach. The sand and waters are continuously monitored by the state’s environmental agency, CPRH and are pollution-free.
  • Jardim Botânico de Recife (Botanical Gardens) – a natural reservation measuring 25.7 acres, a member of the Brazilian network of Botanical Gardens.
  • Parque Dois Irmãos (park) – one of the most beautiful and picturesque green areas of the city, the 38.7 ha park is a zoo, botanical and environmental education centre and an Atlantic Rainforest reservation. Ecological walking trails are guided by Biologists.
  • Parque da Jaqueira (park) – located by the Capibaribe river, the park covers 7ha and its the city’s largest one. Very green and has got beautiful gardens designed by Burle Marx.
  • Parque 13 de Maio (park) – also designed by Burle Marx, in downtown Recife. Children’s playgrounds, jogging lanes, benches, royal palm trees and sculptures.
  • Museu do Homem do Nordeste (museum) – one of the most historical and anthropological museums in Brazil. Hosts the “Family at the Museum” program.
  • Paço Children’s Project – contemporary arts program in Recife.
  • Escolinha de Arte do Recife (Junior Art School) – dedicated to awakening creativity and love for the arts in children.
  • Mirabilândia – one of the largest amusement parks in NE Brazil, the fairground has more than 20 rides divided into radical, family and children.
  • Game Station – there is an arcade in every major shopping mall, offering electronic games and fun for children and adults.

Building memories through photography: dancing with our children

building memories through photography: dancing with our children

Photo Credit: Ms Sandra Miranda, California (2011)

Day 275 in Brazil: What we’ve learnt about entertaining our children, without going crazy…

We’re 9 months into the assignment. This post wasn’t a totally new experience for us since we’ve visited the Country several times before we moved here. Visiting was fun and care-free. Living and adjusting as a family, a little harder than we’d expected, but still very manageable.

The Miranda Family arrived in Recife at the end of July 2010. We had lots to look forward to: a new baby on-the-way, the proximity to the Brazilian grandparents and the opportunity for our children to improve their Portuguese skills, the apartment by the beach and plans to take several short trips while living in Northeastern Brazil.

We’re 9 months into the assignment. This post wasn’t a totally new experience for us since we’ve visited the Country several times before we moved here. Visiting was fun and care-free. Living and adjusting as a family, a little harder than we’d expected, but still very manageable.

Our familial “nucleus” is constituted of 2 adults, 2 toddlers (3 1/2 and 5 1/2 yrs-old) and a 5-month old baby, and being a parent/caretaker requires lots of diplomacy, negotiationpeacekeeping, policy implementation and strategy skills. That said, managing a household, its respective juvenile population and the consequent budgetary implications, is a… HUGE, EXPERIMENTAL and UNFORESEEN task!

There is a never-ending need to keep kids and parents sane (as much as possible). Family outings require loads of planning and logistics management – even if we’re just talking about a Sunday lunch!

  • Here are some suggestions for entertaining the kids (without pulling our hair off), we’ve learnt along the way:
Take advantage of the warm weather and have them learn how to swim at school!
LEGOS, building blocks, puzzles - you name it! Life-savers on a rainy day
Encourage the interaction between siblings - great strategy to avoid "middle child" syndrome
Have friends over for unplanned singing sessions!
Encourage kids to participate in school's cultural events & popular celebrations
Make sure they are exposed to artistic/musical expressions. As much as possible!
Take short trips with kids and have them experience some "cultural blending"
Coordinate for play dates with other children. Include athletic and sports activities. Supervise.
Show your children how to respect, love and appreciate nature
Celebrate every milestone. Show your support. Have fun together!
Be open about trying new activities and experiences. Offer the opportunity to learn new motor skills.
Let your children know it's okay to be silly!
Make a super-extra-conscious effort to be part of the school activities.

And, most important of all: show the children your unconditional, unreserved love. At all times! At the end, our goal is raising happy, self-confident human beings, right? We’re trying to do our part


Surprise your children. Here are some links on good stuff to do around Recife:

  • Praia de Boa Viagem (beach) – natural war water pools protected by coral reefs guarantee a delicious time a the beach. The sand and waters are continuously monitored by the state’s environmental agency, CPRH and are pollution-free.
  • Jardim Botânico de Recife (Botanical Gardens) – a natural reservation measuring 25.7 acres, a member of the Brazilian network of Botanical Gardens.
  • Parque Dois Irmãos (park) – one of the most beautiful and picturesque green areas of the city, the 38.7 ha park is a zoo, botanical and environmental education centre and an
    Atlantic Rainforest reservation. Ecological walking trails are guided by Biologists.
  • Parque da Jaqueira (park) – located by the Capibaribe river, the park covers 7ha and its the city’s largest one. Very green and has got beautiful gardens designed by Burle Marx.
  • Parque 13 de Maio (park) – also designed by Burle Marx, in downtown Recife. Children’s playgrounds, jogging lanes, benches, royal palm trees and sculptures.
  • Museu do Homem do Nordeste (museum) – one of the most historical and anthropological museums in Brazil. Hosts the “Family at the Museum” program.
  • Paço Children’s Project – contemporary arts program in Recife.
  • Escolinha de Arte do Recife (Junior Art School) – dedicated to awakening creativity and love for the arts in children.
  • Mirabilândia – one of the largest amusement parks in NE Brazil, the fairground has more than 20 rides divided into radical, family and children.
  • Game Station – there is an arcade in every major shopping mall, offering electronic games and fun for children and adults.