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Parenting Like a Librarian

I liked this post on Offspring about how to parent like a librarian, which means surrounding your home with a wide range of things that may spark your child’s curiosity, but letting them explore their natural curiosity at their own pace. The simplicity of this idea resonated with me because we’ve been taking a similar unschooling approach with Charlie and Olive.

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Because we have great used bookstores here, over the past three years I bought any book that I thought my kids might read one day. Every Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary. Caldecott and Newbery Medal winners. Classic series like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Books I loved from my childhood like Where the Red Fern Grows and The Secret Garden. Atlases and encyclopedias. Comic books like The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. The Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

At first many of these books sat on the shelves as Charlie just read and reread his favorite books over and over again. But as he gets older and his interests broaden, he has been working his way through many of the books I’ve collected, at his own pace. He has lots of questions, but I don’t always answer them (because I often don’t know the answer!), and I try to ask him what he thinks. I might tell the kids how much I loved a particular book when I was a kid, but I never push them to read anything specific because their intrinsic curiosity is the biggest motivator. It doesn’t matter what they’re reading to me, as long as they’re reading.

While I can’t pass up a classic, most of the books I buy are guided by their interests. Olive reads every Rainbow Magic book and Charlie reads every Horrible Histories/Science/Geography and Murderous Math book we can get our hands on right now. I also buy books on my own interests like animal rescue and mountain climbing, as well as nostalgic books like the Childcraft series. It’ll be great to share something I love with them, but I think fostering  that natural curiosity is what’s most important right now.

A Simple Trick for Getting All the Toys Cleaned Up

Since I solo parent most of the time, and because my kids are a little older (7 and 8), I’ve implemented a lot more house rules in recent months to help maintain my sanity. One rule that has been really successful is the “basket of stuff.” My bedroom is on the first floor and Charlie and Olive’s bedrooms are on the second floor, so they are always bringing their stuff downstairs. They literally cannot see the things they leave strewn about the house, whether it’s books, toys or clothes. Rather than “remind” them to pick up every little thing, I bought two baskets and keep them at the bottom of the stairs. Whenever I find something they haven’t put away, I place it in the Charlie basket or Olive basket. They’re responsible for taking the basket to their bedrooms before bedtime and putting everything away in its proper place.

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Charlie’s basket left contains a lightbox we just bought and 2 books he was reading today. Olive’s basket is chock full of books, toys, hair ties, art supplies… she is always sneaking into my bed every night so there’s always more of her stuff!

Sometimes I won’t remind them to put their baskets away and they will “forget.” Sometimes I’m too busy with wine o’ clock to care about even reminding them. But because it has become such a part of their routine now, it doesn’t take much prodding for them to clear their baskets. If they want to have any special privilege like playing video games or watching a tv show or even playing family board games, their baskets must be cleared. You can threaten to throw away everything that’s not cleared from the basket every evening, but I’m not likely to follow through so I haven’t used that tactic… although it’s certainly one I’ve threatened more than once in the past!

Do you have any simple tricks for getting your kids to clean up their stuff?

Infertility Never Leaves You

This past weekend I spent a number of hours with a close friend who is expecting her second child. I had an exchange with this friend that really struck me in the most positive and encouraging way, and I wanted to share it with you because I think that both she and I learned a lot from a very honest conversation about infertility and its lasting scars.

To set the stage for this, you should know that this friend (and really everyone in my life!), knows that my husband and I struggled with infertility for years because our daughters have their unique birth story. It’s nearly impossible with our story of biological daughters born five weeks apart, carried by me and our surrogate, to keep the infertility element out of our conversations and explanations! This friend also knows that we are not planning on having any additional children and so there was no need for her to dance around the topic of her pregnancy because I am not still struggling to conceive.

Now the whole conversation was sparked because my friend asked my husband why he was wearing a small orange heart pin on the lapel of his suit jacket. When he replied that it was a marker of infertility awareness, she sweetly asked if she could have one to wear in support of infertility. She then asked if it was appropriate for her to wear one even though she is “super fertile”.

We responded that yes, she should absolutely feel free to wear the pin because in her case, it could indicate support of couples struggling to conceive. But I have to be honest that her quick use of the words “super fertile” struck me hard in the chest. It brought me back to another time when a friend (also pregnant with her second child, also talking about conception far after we had our babies) joked that her husband could just look and her and sneeze and she would become pregnant.

I’ll be honest that it is confusing and frustrating for me that I can’t hear words like “super fertile” without feeling a touch bitter and jealous. Especially considering that my infertility journey happened almost three years ago at this point!

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Five Friday Favorites

Right now I am in the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy, so my Five Friday Favorites are dedicated to staying afloat during this pregnancy trimester.

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Andalou Face Mask Pods: I use these about once or twice a month when I feel I need an at-home “spa day.” They are good for my sensitive skin and I like the way my face feels after using them. Plus, they smell good! My favorites are the clarity and luminous ones. I also use this face mask brush to apply the mask.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery game: I don’t usually get too excited about game releases, but this one I was waiting for ever since they said it was in the works. I’ve read all the HP books and watched all the movies so I was ready for this game to make its debut. I love that the game incorporates HP knowledge with a new story line and allows me to pretend I am a student at Hogwarts with both familiar and new characters. (Go Ravenclaw!)

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Link Roundup

Haven’t done these in awhile! Glad to be getting back into it. Here are some of the most interesting links about parenting I’ve come across recently!

H E A L T H

Hand sanitizer cut back on young children’s sick days more than washing, study says via CNN

E D U C A T I O N

Homeschooling could be the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century — here are 5 reasons why via Business Insider

MIT Put All of its course material online for anyone to use completely free on their own time. via The Unschool Dad

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Read Books via Medium

What are we teaching boys when we discourage them from reading books about girls? via Washington Post

Want to fight climate change? Educate a girl via Ted

P A R E N T I N G

Parents Share The Screen Time Rules That Actually Work For Them via Huffpost

Of the four parental ‘feeding styles,’ only one is good for kids’ health, experts say via CNN

How to Help Girls With ADHD via Offspring

The world’s most iconic toy store is reopening after suddenly shutting down 3 years ago via Business Insider

How To Prevent Child Identity Theft By Freezing Your Kid’s Credit via Huffpost

Stress Relief for Kids via The Tapping Solution

Olive’s Art Themed 7th Birthday Balloon Bash

The 7th birthday is one of the biggest birthday celebrations in the Philippines, with many parents renting out banquet halls in hotels and having wedding-sized affairs. The 7th year is considered especially important because that’s when children here start first grade, when they are old enough to be held accountable for their actions, and when they leave behind early childhood. Olive was turning 7 and all her friends were having big 7th birthday bashes. While birthdays in El Nido were very simple affairs, once we moved to the island capital and had access to many more options, I decided to throw her a 7th birthday/housewarming party. She asked for an art-themed party, and I missed throwing a good party too!

The biggest difference between parties here and in the US is that hiring vendors is much, much more affordable, so even children’s parties have planners, caterers, magicians, etc. I actually had two party planners quit on me because I just wanted help executing a couple diy projects and some help the day of, but they typically oversaw every aspect of big events. I ended up hiring a balloon artist who was able to do all the DIY projects I wanted to do while I did the rest, and we really had a lovely celebration!

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Chores for Kids

Growing up I didn’t do many chores because moms pretty much do everything for you in Korean culture. Mr. Bee, on the other hand, grew up doing chores of all kinds, and I am all aboard that train when it comes to our kids! We haven’t been successful setting up a chore routine so far because in the US we were busy with just school, homework, activities, eating, bathing… managing chores was another chore! I’ve tried, and failed, a couple of times at setting up a chore routine over the years. But now that I’m living alone with the kids and need all the help I can get, chores have become a part of our daily routine. Perhaps necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps they are just old enough now (6 and 8) to really want to help. But they have been doing daily chores for awhile now, and for the most part, enjoy doing them!

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These are chores Charlie and Olive are responsible for:

1) Water mulberries twice a day. One of Charlie and Olive’s favorite New York memories was picking and eating wild mulberries off the trees in Brooklyn every summer. I recently found someone locally on Facebook that was selling mulberry cuttings from the US. We planted 25 cuttings and within one week we saw berries starting to flower! Charlie waters them every morning and Olive waters them every evening. They love watching the mulberries grow and can’t wait until they can eat them!

2) Feed guppies twice a day. I’d been wanting to get the kids fish for years because they’re such an easy pet. Recently they asked for guppies, so we bought 10 — 3 males and 7 females. Apparently males stress females out so you should never have more than 1 male to 2 females. Charlie feeds them in the morning after watering the mulberries, and Olive does the same in the evening. They don’t have as much interest in feeding our dogs and cats though!

3) Change aquarium water once a week. They see this as something fun and not a chore.

4) Clean up toys after playing. They will almost never do this unless I remind them to, but they do a good job of putting everything away now, including all the playdoh crumbs!

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