Having an Herbarium (an Emily Dickinson Inspiration)

Emily Dickinson is my people. I first came across her poetry when I was about 12 or 13, reading the height of ‘80s teen romantic literature, a series called “Sweet Dreams”. Anybody else remember those books? Did you read them with New Kids on the Block muzak coming from your cassette player? Anyhow, I’ve lost my copies of those along with many other books from my youth, which really makes me sad and explains why I don’t lend books anymore.

The Sweet Dreams stories I distinctly remember as the ones that sparked my fascination in Emily Dickinson are called “The Right Combination” and “Love Lines”. I remember the titles and the story lines like I read them yesterday. I would give anything to own traditional copies of these books again… okay, maybe just a hundred pesos each, so if you have them, please consider selling them to me.

This post isn’t about Sweet Dreams, but about Emily Dickinson and how, decades after she grabbed me with lines like “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” (fodder for my reclusive, angst-ridden, popularity-loathing teen self), she’s still finding ways to remind me that she’s a kindred soul.

Consistent with my fangirl leanings, I already know a lot about Emily Dickinson. I did my high school senior year research paper on her (my teacher actually groaned at the breadth of the folder I’d turned in), as I did my Comm 2 research paper in my first year of college, with focus on Emily’s love life (the professor was amused and delighted with my enthusiasm, saying that I’d actually already created a mini-thesis and I could just develop and expound on what I had for my actual thesis – yeah, that was three years away and I couldn’t connect the topic with my actual major, which was Spanish).

So, the recent pleasurable fellow feeling I’ve had in relation to Emily stemmed from an article about her herbaria. I knew she studied botany and was an avid gardener, but I failed to home in on that information as something of significance when I was young. I’m very much interested in botany, but have never actively pursued the study, except casually in gardening and reading for the purpose of gardening and homeopathy. I figured it was time to put some system and structure into the interest.

With the feature on her herbaria, I found another way to not-so-subtly re-introduce her to my homeschooler (of course, my daughter is already familiar with some of Emily’s poems, thanks to her obsessed mother). With the poet as inspiration, we started working on our own herbarium.

We basically took a scrapbook, onion paper, and white label stickers (all of which were already in our supplies and miscellaneous drawers), and then we started clipping from our own garden. Let me tell you, our herbarium smells lovely. It’s not limited to our own garden plants, of course. When we see something pretty or interesting in our nature walks, we clip a sample and put it in a baggie to be researched and added to the herbarium later. Don’t worry; in our foraging and wildcrafting jaunts, we’re always careful not to overharvest.

What information do we usually jot down in our herbarium to accompany the cuttings?

  • Common name, location where it was found
  • Scientific name
  • Description
  • Practical function

Doing this reminds me of the 100 Species Challenge I participated in on my other blog, which was kind of like working on an online herbarium, using pictures instead of actual clippings. Virtual or actual, I find creating an herbarium fascinating and really fun. Now, I understand how this interest can leave others cold, but if you like botany and find pursuits like this incredibly satisfying, make your presence known in the comments section. Do the same if you love Emily Dickinson. 🙂

5 Wonderful Lessons Garage Sales Teach Our Kids

We recently participated in a multi-family garage sale held to raise funds for a fellow homeschooler who fell gravely ill with meningoencephalitis. While this dear little boy is thankfully now out of the woods, we still wanted to help with the expenses his hospitalization and continued treatment racked up.

My own family is no stranger to garage sales. We’ve held at least one every year and also regularly contribute to our church’s annual (now biannual) yard sale. There are obvious perks to holding garage sales. For one, you get to de-clutter your home. For another, you get to earn some money. If you involve your children, you can be sure that they benefit from the experience in many wonderful ways.

What are our young ones’ expected takeaways from doing garage sales?

  1. Material things are temporary. They get broken, lost, or outgrown. With garage sales, they learn to choose to not to be too attached to their possessions. They can be grateful for their time with something, but once it’s no longer useful to them, it’s time to let somebody else enjoy it.
  2. Value is twofold. An item’s worth goes beyond the price tag. They learn about cost depreciation and going rates in pricing, but they also learn to attribute appropriate value. Heirlooms, things of profound sentimental value, and other important items stay in the family. Everything else is dispensable.
  3. Pre-loved is a green choice. It’s best to keep your stuff away from the landfills. Your things are better off being reused or repurposed.
  4. A de-cluttered home feels lighter. Things can crowd them and weigh them down. Lessons in minimalism are best learned while young. They equip children to make smarter choices – wisdom beyond their years.
  5. Garage sales are Business 101. They involve the fundamentals of business, from organizing to pricing, to marketing, to mental math, to negotiating, to customer service, to teamwork, etc., and general life lessons about responsibility, safety, preparedness… And if your garage sale is actually for a cause, then there’s also the lesson of charity.

In a nutshell, a garage sale is a great idea, the benefits of which, are magnified when children are involved.

Do you like holding or going to garage sales? How do you feel about buying pre-loved items? Let us know in the comments.

Introducing the Joy of Friluftsliv to Our Kids

Last year, the word du jour was hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Everybody was hygge-ing it up with their warm drinks, home-baked goodies, and candles, trying to create the sense of coziness that the philosophy embodies.

I personally embrace the concept. I’m an introverted, albeit family-oriented homebody, so my personality is pretty much designed to revel in all that warm, intimate togetherness. In the-ber months here in the Philippines, it can be cool enough so hot cocoas, frequent cuddles, and a perpetually steaming, cinnamon-scented kitchen become even more enjoyable.  Take note, I said more enjoyable – that means we’re a people who are used to hot dishes and drinks as well as cozy snuggles in varying degrees of tropical heat.

This year, however, another Scandinavian word is working its way into popular consciousness. Friluftsliv, an ancient Nordic philosophy that literally translates to “free air life”, is about spending time outdoors and connecting with nature.

Unlike hygge, which is easy enough to say even for my untrained tongue, friluftsliv is quite the mouthful, and it will trip my tongue and tangle it up if I say it without proper preparation. It also takes similar effort for me to get behind it, not because I don’t agree with it since I wholeheartedly do, but because my mental conditioning tries to limit me to comfy, air-conditioned, wildlife-free interiors.

It’s all a lie, though, I’ve discovered. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. The problem is that I have a tendency to be lazy and finicky, an inclination I used to frequently indulge, which unfortunately led me to turning down opportunities to get out there and choosing to stay comfortably ensconced within the confines of my home. I’ve found though that when I did step out of my comfort zone, my effort was always rewarded. Being out there in nature never failed to enrich me.

Being a parent in this day and age, I have to be even more diligent about making that conscious effort to spend time outdoors. It was author Richard Louv who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder”, and it’s a truly alarming condition, considering so many children are happy to vegetate at home, staring at a screen for hours on end. This activity, and I use the word with irony, is something that has been associated to the exacerbation of mental and emotional disorders, so parents really have to be vigilant in qualifying and quantifying the exposure that their children get. In my opinion, and I’ve been to known to have reasonable ones, the natural world is as fine an exposure as children can get.

Spending a lot of time in nature, as what friluftsliv advocates, is important to a person’s wellbeing. Human beings were meant to live in it and not in the artificial setting we’ve come to fashion for ourselves. Something integrally within us seeks out the natural world and connects with it. That’s why when we give ourselves a healthy dose of nature, we feel revived. We get that kind of energy from a living, breathing world.

They might not have called it friluftsliv, but the experts have been pushing us to ingrain it into the lifestyle of our families. It is quite easy and cheap to do too. Contrary to popular expectation, outdoor recreation does not have to be extremely rugged. You don’t have to go rappelling, spelunking, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, etc.

You don’t have to travel a long distance either to experience nature. Where I live, a stroll around the neighborhood is sufficient. There are nearby parks that also serve quite well. Nearby university campuses have also nice offerings in the way of greenery. Graveyards have also been known to work for us. When we want to be in the thick of wildlife, we fortunately only need to go for a short drive. We live in a river valley and the mountains surrounding us have plenty to offer that bears exploring.

What do we hope to gain by observing friluftsliv? The benefits include increased physical activity, lower stress levels, and seriously quality time spent either alone or with company. And you get to achieve all of them amid the beauty of God’s creation, which is unparalleled.

Do you feel the lure of nature? What do you do to make sure that you and  your family regularly get to connect with it?

Valuable Old School Life Skills to Gift Our Kids with

You can probably tell that digital dependence is a favorite gripe of mine, so let me clarify right off the bat that I’m not against the technologies enjoyed today. They’re extremely helpful. I actually use them a lot. I just don’t want my family to feel debilitated without them. I don’t want our daily vista to mostly consist of a digital screen. I don’t want my children to think that they’ll be bored without a gadget. I don’t want them to choose phones and tablets over people and forget common courtesy while they’re at it. I don’t want us to think that we’ll flounder and sink without our digital tools and the ability to connect to the virtual world.

We’re a homeschooling family, and it’s easy to rely on digital devices and the Internet for our learning and entertainment needs, or, even, for contact with other people (We’re socialized just fine!). For this reason, I’ve convinced myself to make a better effort to turn to other options for these, such as crafts, imaginative games, practical arts, snail mail correspondence, etc. I’ve also decided to ensure that my husband and I impart traditional life skills that do not require the aid of a digital tool. What are some of these?

  1. Navigation skills. You can’t always count on your car’s GPS. There have been a few times that we lost signal going through a remote mountain or country road. When I was growing up, my dad always had at least two maps in the glove compartment, and I know that they served him really well both in his job and in his ministry. Being able to read maps is invaluable even in this day and age. If I were visiting a new place, I’d be quick to get a map from the tourism office or from a kiosk, if the town or city is a popular destination.
  2. ‘80s phone skills. It’s not just about phone manners, which are important, of course. The phone was a huge thing when I was growing up. A math-phobic, I used to say that the only numbers I was good with were phone numbers. I had all my friends’ (and then some) numbers memorized. Sadly, the only one I have down to memory these days is my own mobile number. I even have to check my contacts for our land line number. That has to change. I’d be in a pickle if I have to call somebody and can’t check my contacts for the necessary information. I should go back to jotting down phone numbers in my planner as well.
  3. Handwriting skills. This covers a few sub-skills. I love a beautiful, elegant script. Mine is a lovely pseudo-Spencerian, if I do say so myself. It’s not exactly Spencerian, but it has a Spencerian air. Okay, that sounded just as dumb in my head, but I still went ahead and wrote it. Many people might think it’s pointless to learn script, but it says a lot about a person who took the time to develop a nice cursive. It’s not a genteel time, so things of refinement are even more special. It’s an uphill task thus far with my daughter, but we’ll get there. I remember a meme on Facebook saying “Us old folks will use cursive writing as a secret code.” I certainly hope it never reaches that point. Of course, handwriting is also associated with composition skills. There’s no spell and grammar check to count on.
  4. Offline research skills. It’s so easy to just google everything, but I’m teaching my kids how to consult the dictionary and other reference books, including the phone directory (have I got some stories for them about my use of phone directories when I was young and stalker- stalkerly? Stalkerish?) and the yellow pages, as well as how to use the index and glossary. We love libraries and are fortunate to have a librarian cousin, so we can spend time learning in a nice one.
  5. Mental computation skills. They’re not only necessary for when we don’t have a calculator handy (dead phone), but they’re great for keeping our minds sharp and logical. No matter how skittish I am about math, I have to accept that it’s important and extremely useful in practical life.
  6. Face-to-face social skills. This involves learning to take turns in conversation, actually listening, and reading social cues. I’m afraid my daughter has a tendency to keep on talking as long as she has something to say. Since she never runs out, she’s usually full-speed ahead. It may not seem as obnoxious in online chats, but she has to moderate herself in real life. That’s something that she’s working on. Children are also usually sensitive to emotions, but they won’t be able to hold on to this keen sense if they start looking to emoticons for clue.
  7. Self-entertainment skills. Children, for the longest time, have complained about being bored, and parents, for just as long a time, have either threatened to give them something to do or urged them to think of something to entertain themselves with. Back during my childhood, it was either watch TV, which had all of five channels, or go out to play. Good thing I loved to read and daydream. We weren’t allowed to read in a moving car, so for long car rides, my sister and I had to come up with games to play or content ourselves with singing along to the radio. These days, children have a tendency to depend on a mobile device to keep entertained. It’s important to me to show mine that they have the ability to come up with many other choices for enjoying themselves, especially out in nature.

EXTRA: Scouting skills. Reading a compass, building a campfire, foraging, setting up a shelter, tying proper knots… These are all basic survival skills that I’d like my children to acquire. I was a girl scout for several years and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I’d love for my kids to join the scouts as well. A fellow homeschooler told me that the national scouting organization is open to homeschoolers joining, provided they have a trained and certified scoutmaster lead them. I’m looking into the options we have here.

These are skills we were fortunate to develop growing up in a less high-tech time. It would definitely benefit our kids to acquire them too.

Can you think of any more old school life skills that would diminish the inclination toward digital dependence?

Paleta – How to Beat the Heat in an Easy, Cheap, and Yummy Way

How about this heat, huh? I know the weather is a banal topic, but how can you help it? It’s just there, messing with your life and power bill.

Earlier in the summer, the heat was scorching. It was relentless and unforgiving. You felt it on your skin like a high-grade fever. These days, it’s humid. It’s wet and oppressive. The air is muggy and dense, like it could drown you. Life in the tropics, eh?

“What kind of heat are we experiencing today?”

“Oh, it’s balmy/sultry/arid/infernal… It’s the kind that renders you temporarily insane and drives you to go streaking up and down your street.”

To keep a grip on your faculties, you need a good offense. Air conditioning is an effective solution, but it’s not the cheapest or the most environmentally considerate option. Baths also work, but they get old after a while. Food, on the other hand, is usually gratifying.

Ice cream, halo-halo, frozen yogurt… These are all good choices, but you usually have to go to the store to get them. The halo-halo, for one, requires a slew of ingredients and quite an involved process to make. For an easy and cheap homemade cold treat, we’ve always turned to the paleta or popsicle.

My eldest child used to make ice pops by filling an ice cube tray with juice, covering it with cling wrap, and sticking a toothpick in the middle of each square. These days, we use actual paleta molds and fill them with more complicated concoctions.

Homemade paletas are not only easy and cheap, they are also a safer bet. If you’re particular about nutrition, you can be certain of what’s in your paleta. You don’t have to worry about chemical additives mixed in for longer shelf life and prettier colors.

When we’re choosing to make something healthy, we like freezing smoothies. Most of the time, however, it’s about the flavor. Watermelon and mint, mango and chilies, pineapple and lime… it’s really up to you (or your kids) to find a blend that works. Over here, the winning paleta flavor is peaches and cream.

I can’t share a precise recipe because I wing it a lot and eyeball the ingredients. Basically, I use canned peaches (fresh ones are rare here), all-purpose cream, sugar, and cinnamon. Lookit.

Oftentimes, we are disappointed to note that the freezer holds no yummy cold treat for us when all the while, we have ingredients to make awesome paletas. Molds are inexpensive, so it’s nothing to make that investment. Experimenting with different combinations is definitely creative fun you can have with your kids. Ultimately, you get a cold treat to help make this awful heat more bearable.

6 Easy Ways to Make Easter Eggs

For Christians, Easter is all about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Nonetheless, like many religious holidays, the celebration  has pagan elements in it, a result of cross-cultural influences.

With Easter coinciding with the beginning of spring in many countries, the Resurrection matched the concept of rebirth that ancient cultures associated with the time of the year. Easter eggs were a result of the fusion of traditions.

Traditionally, eggs were a symbol of fertility and rebirth. The early Christians adopted this element to signify something related to the Resurrection. Some liken the cracking of the egg open to the empty tomb of Jesus. Others see the egg as a symbol of resurrection, of life springing from something dormant.

Easter definitely has a tremendous message, and it’s important to prioritize that, but it’s understandable that we also can’t help but be excited over the frivolous side of the holiday. In my case, I always look forward to Easter egg decorating and hunting.

Decorating Easter eggs has been a tradition in my family, and through the years, we’ve tried several different ways to do it. Here are some of the methods I’ve found to be fun and easy to do with kids. Note: Be sure to use hard boiled eggs.

1. Markers – You don’t need to be a gifted artist to make an egg pretty with flowers, hearts, stars, or even polka dots. I like doing a mosaic pattern, though, and coming up with a design that alludes to the true essence of Easter.

2. White crayon and dye – This is an old trick. First, you draw something with a white crayon (I’m going with swirls) and then dip the egg in food color.

3. Water color – Again, it doesn’t take much artsy chops to paint an egg. Even random splotches would do, but I thought I’d work toward an ombre look this time.

4. Rubber stamp – You can stamp a variety of designs on an egg, but because I have an alphabet set, I decided to stamp my youngest child’s name on this one. I also rolled the egg on the ink pad beforehand. That ink has a shimmer that doesn’t show in the photo.

5. Stickers – I wanted to do a glittery polka dot design, but I didn’t want to use glue and glitter (or glitter glue), so I used a single hole puncher to cut out dots from the border of a sparkly sticker pad. I also used washi tape to hide the crack on this egg.

6. Dye over sticker – It’s like the opposite of stenciling. For this one, I made a cross using Scotch tape and then dipped the egg in dye.

Do you still decorate Easter eggs or do you just use those plastic eggs? What’s your favorite method of making Easter eggs? Please share in the comments.

Seven Wonderful Ways You Benefit from Having Penpals

pen pal letters

My grandmother used to subscribe to all the weekly women’s magazines, which, of course, I voraciously read. On the last page of most of these magazines were ads. Two of the staples were an ad for international correspondence courses and an ad for an international pen pal club.

Sometime when I was thirteen, I learned that my friend Michelle had signed up with the pen pal club and was already exchanging letters with a fourteen-year old boy from Germany. She let me read one of his letters, and I found the idea fascinating. There was this kid all the way on the other side of the world telling my friend about himself and his life where he was. I checked out the photo he enclosed. He was pretty cute too.

I didn’t waste any more time. I joined the club, got a list of names and addresses, and penned off a few letters right away. The first reply dismayed me a bit. I was expecting to hear from a kid like myself, but the writer was a 55-year-old woman from Sekiu, Washington.

I thought that was weird. She was the same age as my grandmother, and, apparently, I was about the same age as her granddaughter who also liked New Kids on the Block. She had been married two times, had grown children, and several grandchildren. She liked to knit and fish! How was a 13-year-old brat like me supposed to relate to that?

She sounded really sweet though and definitely fascinating. She wrote back to me even if I had written a lot of silly juvenile things. I decided to pursue that correspondence, and that was definitely a smart decision. She was funny, wise, thoughtful, and very good about answering letters. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good about that myself. By the time I was 15, I was going through some pretty severe growing pains (mental and emotional) and gradually stopped writing.

In the years I did write though, I really enjoyed exchanging letters with my pen pals. In hindsight, I could also see better how the experience benefitted me. This is why I encouraged my daughter to give it a whirl a year and a half ago when she was 9. As her mom, I can see how the exercise benefits her even more than it did me. In any case, she’s still at it and gaining more pen friends as she goes.

different US stamps

What are these benefits that I’m talking about?

  1. You experience delayed gratification. There is the thrill of anticipation in waiting for a letter to arrive, after which, there is also the excitement, of course, of getting something in the mail. The experience means so much at this time when practically everything is done electronically and the end desired is achieved almost instantaneously. Email has its purpose, but engaging in snail mail actually helps build character. Writing by hand takes longer. Mailing (especially here where we need to go to the post office to send letters) takes longer. Transit definitely takes longer. You get a better grasp of having to work patiently toward results.
  2. You learn to express yourself with care and sensitivity. The written word can so easily be misconstrued since the reader doesn’t have facial expressions and vocal inflections to work with. Without hearing the intonation, a teasing phrase meant in harmless fun could be taken as something mean and snide. You become better aware of what you’re saying and how you can be misunderstood. In relation to this, you also learn to practice cultural sensitivity. You register that there are different people in the world and that they operate according to different values and standards.
  3. You improve your penmanship and composition skills. There’s just more satisfaction and joy in creating a neat and interesting letter. You want your recipients to have an easy time reading and understanding your letters. You become adept at following the introduction-body-conclusion sequence and you hone your thought organization and development process without even registering it.
  4. You become more creative. You want your letters to have a nice appearance. You also want them to be more substantial. You want to decorate accordingly either with drawings or stickers and, from time to time, maybe even enclose a poem you wrote, a picture you drew, a little craft project you worked on, etc.
  5. You develop a healthy form of curiosity. Your interest in your pen pals will lead you to find out more about their background and, in the process, learn lots of new things. If someone said that she’s a member of the Church of England, you find out what that means. It’s easier now with the Internet, but, back then, we had to turn to the encyclopedias. You also learn to read between the lines since letters are all you have. If your pen pal wrote, “I’m making a kippah for my brother,” and you have no idea what that means, then you might want to look it up and then, from there, make some logical inferences, such as their family is Jewish, she knows how to sew, she’s nice to her brother, etc. You get lots of exercise for that probing mind.
  6. You are compelled to start collections. You invest in stationery because you acknowledge the convenience of having different writing implements, pretty paper, greeting cards, stickers, rubber stamps, etc. That practical consideration soon develops into an outright collection. Also, from getting different postcards, postage stamps, mementoes, etc. you can unintentionally start new collections as well.
  7. You make true friends. They may not be near you but your pen pals are happy to get to know you, and as you continue exchanging letters, you’ll grow to care about each other. Soon, you’ll be sharing confidences, gaining precious insight into each other’s personalities, becoming a part of each other’s lives, and providing each other encouragement and support.

different European stamps

Did/Do you have a pen pal? What has it been like for you?

Do you want to get started on a pen pal exchange? You might be interested to watch this video of my daughter sharing pen pal tales and tips.

The Battle of the Tortillas

When you hear “tortilla”, what comes to mind? Is it a thick potato omelet or a round flatbread made from cornmeal?

Growing up, I associated the word with corn chips because, well… you know, tortilla chips (which a Mexican friend told me were actually called totopos and not tortillas). And then I got introduced to burritos and soft tacos, so tortilla became that flatbread thing used to wrap around and contain ground meat, beans, rice, veggies, and cheese.

When I started majoring in Spanish, my professors introduced us to the peninsular Spanish language and culture first, so I learned about the other tortilla. What does it say about me that I found the fact that there were two entirely different kinds of tortilla infinitely interesting?

As intrigued as I was by the distinction between the Spanish tortilla and the Mexican tortilla, I was even more fascinated by the way the tortilla de patata is made. All that flipping and sliding seemed like kitchen acrobatics to me – riveting stuff.

Spanish Tortilla

At that time, I couldn’t even boil water (and I was in the Girl Scouts growing up too!). I just had nothing to do with the kitchen. My mother told me when I was two years old not to mess around in the kitchen or I was sure to burn or stab myself to death (not in those actual words, but you get the idea) and I took the warning to heart well into adulthood.

In any case, the Great Tortilla Distinction remained a fascination until, well, the present day. As a Spanish teacher, I integrated cooking the two kinds of tortilla into the lesson, the Spanish tortilla for the upper school classes and the Mexican tortilla (which is definitely easier to make) for the middle school ones. I even ordered a tortilla press, which turned out to be next to useless as we ended up preferring the good old rolling pin.

Now that I have my own family, the tortillas are also frequently in the menu. I have a bunch of picky eaters on my hands, so I have to plan carefully to ensure that mealtimes aren’t a battle of wills and that food isn’t wasted. No, I haven’t been able to train them to eat whatever’s in front of them. I didn’t even try, so let’s move on.

Fortunately, my kids love the Spanish tortilla and like chicken quesadillas. My daughter usually helps me when she’s not minding her brothers (she’s a regular Kristy Thomas – a little Baby-Sitters Club reference there, heehee).

The problem with our Spanish tortilla is that there are five of us and we definitely need more than one “pie”. My husband recently bought a bigger cast iron skillet (the man loves his skillets), so that might make a big enough pie for our family. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

I’m not going to share my tortilla de patata recipe here because, honestly, I just wing it most of the time, but this recipe is closest to what I usually do, only I add some butter, carrots, and paprika as well.

As for my chicken quesadilla. It’s one of my dumb and fast food choices, provided I had already made and frozen tortillas and there’s a jar of my husband’s famous salsa (well, famous at our church, lol) in the fridge.

I basically heat up some chicken breast nuggets, cut them into strips, melt some butter in the pan, place a tortilla in it, arrange chicken strips on top, grate cheese over them, see that the cheese has melted some, place a second tortilla on top, make sure the mess is stuck together, and then flip the whole thing over to fry the other side as well. There may also be strips of bell pepper, depending on its availability.

Which tortilla do you prefer? What do you usually make with Mexican tortillas? Share your tortilla knowledge and experience in the comments.

The Best Way to Use That App Called “RESPECT”

If you go to my personal Facebook page, you’d get the idea that I’m anti-gadget. I’m not. I use gadgets. I’m on the Internet a lot. I have to consciously wrest myself away from the Internet to make sure that I’m being mentally present with my kids. What I’m against, however, is the obnoxious, anti-social use of these mobile devices.

To those who know me, that may seem hypocritical. I can be very anti-social. Growing up, it was very characteristic of me to whip out a book wherever I might have been and read. I never did it, however, when I was in a social setting. I didn’t bring out my book and start reading while people were talking to me or trying to engage me. To do that would just be so rude.

These days, however, that seems to be the norm with smartphones. I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to grab somebody’s phone and hurl it at the wall. If I’m not as entertaining as a Facebook newsfeed or a YouTube video, then slink off to a corner and commit to your choice of engagement. I prefer that you not be in my presence at all if you’re not going to be present. Honestly, am I the only one who’s insulted by this kind of behavior?

I’m teaching my kids to not use gadgets when they’re supposed to be socializing. Right now, my daughter likes listening to music or watching movies on our old iPod. She also has a broken iPod Touch that we have yet to get around to having repaired, but with both, my rule for her is to not use either when she’s with other people. “Chat! Play!” I urge her, and I mean both in the unplugged sense.

She’s okay with this rule. She likes to talk (and, boy, does she!) and she appreciates all opportunities to play with other kids since she doesn’t get them on a daily basis, homeschooling as we do (Hold all comments about socialization – we’re happy with the organic socialization she gets. As a matter of fact, the issue I’m about to share rarely happens when we gather with other homeschoolers.).

The rub, however, is in the fact that most of the other kids she’s with are using their gadgets. The ones who aren’t using their gadgets are gathered around those who are using their gadgets. I hate seeing that. Whatever happened to playing tag, jacks, et cetera? Believe me, it may seem like “mirones” watching somebody else play chess, but it feels different.

Having banned my kid from gadget use when she’s with other people, she ends up being one of the kids to look over the gadget-using kid’s shoulder. When I come across this scene , my blood pressure rises (because, well, does anybody else think it’s pathetic?), which I try to hide, so I just calmly remind her that she has drawing materials in her bag, as well as a few toys she could play-share with other kids, not to mention whatever book she’s currently reading.

Call me a buttinski, but that little nudge gets me the result I want, and my kid is happy to remember that, yeah, she has those other options. As much as I prefer to just let kids be, there are moments when I feel compelled to interfere.

Take for example, this one time at church. I found Midge in the office, seated next to her friend, watching the other girl play on her tablet. The other kid was completely ignoring her, as absorbed as she was with the game she was playing.

It made me sad, not only because my daughter appeared a bit pitiful, looking on like that, but also because this should have been a chance for them to swap jokes, giggle together, talk each other’s ears off… I couldn’t help myself. I meddled.

“Hey, M!” I called my daughter over, while taking out a piece of paper and a pen from my bag. “Let’s see if you can guess this word. It’s something found inside this room.” And thus I started a game of Hangman with her.

After two words in and a lot of excited exclamations from M, the other girl placed her tablet down and wandered over to us. She soon started guessing along, and later, she asked for a turn to make us guess. I left them some minutes later happily playing that old chestnut of a game. I mentally dusted off my hands and thought, “My work here is done.”

I know there are those of you who see nothing wrong with kids playing with their gadgets in social settings and think it’s perfectly natural for kids to huddle around somebody playing on a gadget, but I disagree with valid reasons based on my personal convictions and values, and it is within my role as a parent to bring up my children accordingly. Believe me, there have been a few occasions where she asked that irritating question that begins with “How come my friends’ parents let them…?” but she has now memorized my reply: “Different families, different values, different priorities.”

Please don’t misunderstand. My kids get a lot of screen time – more than I’m happy with actually. What I’m opposed to is people ignoring each other in a social situation to focus on their gadget.

Feel free to express your agreement or disagreement with me.

Get Inspiration from Last Year’s Summer Bucket List

I saw a bunch of “things your kids can do in Manila” type of posts on my Facebook news feed, mainly stuff you have to pay for like lessons and camps, but, still, it got me thinking about this summer’s bucket list.

Okay, two things.

First, I know the term “bucket list” is supposed to refer to a life list and not a to-do list for a limited period of time since it stems from the expression “kick the bucket”, but I’m okay with using the term incorrectly, so moving on.

Second, I’m a chronic list maker. I make lists for everything. And I have a compulsion to make my lists as long as possible (I really have to curb this inclination when making the grocery list), so when I make bucket lists, they tend to be ridiculously long.

These two points serve as a sort of disclaimer as I’m about to share our family’s 2016 summer bucket list. It’s nothing fancy, just a colorful Word doc that I copied and pasted onto Paint, so I can share it as an image here on the blog. I obviously have mad tech skills, lol. My husband, who’s a techie, is probably cringing in embarrassment as he goes through this post.

I could have, of course, scanned the printout I had posted on the fridge all through summer of last year, but that’s kind of grungy with smeared ink, dirty fingerprints, and other stains, not to mention non-matching highlighters used to strike through accomplished items. Also, it’s now glued to the kids’ smashbook (it’s actually my smashbook, but it’s about the kids, so… yeah) and it would be a wonky scan.

Anyway, here it is.

You probably noticed the rather excessive number of items, but that’s just how I am. I like to aim high, so even if I didn’t accomplish everything, I’d still have done a lot. I also like to be thorough so my list can be as long as I can make it. I also put in a lot of “sure bets” because I like crossing things off the list. Don’t judge. It’s not that freaky. There are lots of silly list-makers out there. At least, I don’t add things to the original list for the purpose of having something to cross out, although I can understand how that can be fun and satisfying too.

Why am I sharing our old list? I thought it might provide some inspiration in case you want to make your own summer bucket list. Some of the items on this list are quite specific to our family’s preferences, but many are pretty generic to the season too. In any case, I’m making a new list for this year, and I can see that I’ll be keeping many of the items, but I’ll be weeding out a couple of things I’m not interested in at the moment. I might even come up with a free printable of a generic summer list, but that really depends on whether my husband has time to make something cute. I’m not about to give you something I made on Word and pasted on Paint. 🙂

Do you make bucket lists as well? What are your traditions and must-dos for summer? I would love to hear your ideas. They might even end up on the printable. Don’t worry; I’ll credit you.

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