Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Seven: Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

There's probably a while before I need to worry about this with Baby Nam, but as a teacher this is a good skill for me to keep in mind since it's a big part of what I'm trying to teach my 6th graders.

Principles that help children to be passionate about learning:
1.  Establish a trustworthy relationship with them
     - babies learn from imitating those they trust
     - learning can't happen unless they feel safe and secure
     - structure and routine are also important to help them in the learning process
2.  Help them set and work toward their own goals
     - encourage their desire to explore
     - help them learn to plan
3.  Involve children socially, emotionally, and intellectually
    - give them direct experiences
    - multiple experience help them remember what they've learned
    - verbal cues and visual prompts help them
    - give them meaningful and purposeful experiences
    - learning can't take place unless they are taken care of physically
4.  Elaborate and extend their learning
     - ask open-ended questions
5.  Help them practice,synthesize, and generalize
     - encourage their curiosity
     - have them explain what they're learning - this makes the learning explicit, helps them focus on the principles they are learning so they can apply them to new situations
     - expect them to strive for their best
     - BOTH direct instruction and discovery are important
6.  Help them to become accountable
     - make expectations for success clear
     - catch them doing something positive
     - praise effort rather than intelligence
7.  Create a community of learners
     - we teach best when we're learning

Monday, December 05, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Six: Taking on Challenges

This is related to how much stress children have to deal with.  Many studies have shown that children with warm, caring, and trusting relationships with those close to them are less prone to stress.  Giving children some control in managing their stress will help prevent learned helplessness.  I found it interesting that a study found that being in child care within the first two years meant children were less likely to be anxious and fearful at four years of age.  Our own ability to find support and manage our stress also seems to have a direct correlation with our children's ability to do so.

I wasn't surprised to see that Galinsky had a big section of Carol Dweck's research about fixed versus growth mindsets.  Her research as shown that it is more effective to praise students for their effort than their intelligence.

There are two parenting styles that are not helpful in helping kids to regulate their emotions - and both of them involve expressing negative emotions towards their children:
1.  Alarmist: parents who see danger everywhere
2.  Intrusive: overprotective parents that don't allow their children to explore

How to promote the skill of handling challenges:
1.  Manage your own stress (teaching and leading by example seems to come up again and again!)
2.  Have friends to turn to when stressed - this will make you less likely to instead transmit this stress to your kids
3.  Take time for yourself
4.  Don't shield them from everyday stresses, as learning to deal with it is a necessary part of life.
5.  Having a warm, caring, and trusting relationship with them will help them to feel safe and secure.
6.  Encourage your children to be adventurous and take risks
7.  Figure out how they cope best when challenged and/or upset
8.  Make sure your expectations are appropriate for a child's unique temperament and personality
9.  Give them some control in managing their stress
     - help them in coming up with their own solutions for when facing a challenge, and in coming up with an alternate plan if the first one is unsuccessful
10.  Cultivate a growth mindset by praising their effort, not their personality

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Five: Critical Thinking

This is an important skill that helps in making decisions in every day life.  This skill helps is especially important when you consider the easy access they now have to information through the internet.  It will help them determine what is valid and reliable knowledge.  The first step in developing this skill is theorizing and learning from others.

As a science teacher, I am always trying to teach the skills that Galinsky emphasizes in the chapter.  It is important to be able to think scientifically and understand cause and effect.
1.  Focus on the evidence
2.  Gather new evidence
3.  Interpret the evidence

How to promote critical thinking:
1.  Observe them to determine what theories they are coming up with to try and understand the world
2.  Encourage their curiosity and guide them in solving their own problems whenever possible through experiments, clues, and suggestions
3.  Encourage their passions and interests
4.  Give them accurate and valid information (that's age and developmentally appropriate)
5.  Help them find other experts to learn from
6.  Help them evaluate information from others (rumors vs. reality)
7.  Encourage critical viewing skills (when watching tv, especially ads)
8.  Model problem solving for them:
     - Identify the problem
     - Determine the goal
     - Come up with possible solutions and evaluate their effectiveness
     - Choose a solution and evaluate its outcome - if it doesn't work, try something else

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Four: Making Connections

This has to do with categorizing information and being able to figure out what's similar, what's different, how things relate to one another and finding new connections.  Even infants have an object sense, a space sense, and a number sense.  This is an important skill as it helps them learn and remember things.

How to promote making connections:
1.  Give them opportunities to see connections using their interests
2.  Acknowledge that making mistakes is a part of learning
3.  Promote object sense with open ended toys that let them experience how things work
4.  Give them opportunities for exploration and pretend play and be their guide
5.  Use words to describe space
6.  Play games where they find their way in space
     - hide and seek
     - giving directions when going somewhere
     - geocaching
7.  Talk about quantities and how it relates to things you encounter in daily life
8.  Give them chores that involve counting
9.  Build their sense of approximate numbers - play board games
10. Play games that help them make connections
      - sorting things by color, type, shape, size
11.  Help them see things in different ways (face/vase illusion, shapes in clouds, etc...)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Three: Communicating

Speaking in "parantese" to babies might sound silly, but it actually catches their attention better than if you spoke to them as if they were adults.  Babies pay attention to tone and facial expressions and are learning about emotional cues and how we communicate as we talk to them.  They learn to differentiate sounds and detect words as they listen.  Babies learn what we think is important for our words, looks, and gestures.

To encourage literacy skills early on, emphasize:
- expression 
- understanding
- enjoyment
- connecting visual with verbal
- the concept of the written word (reading left to write, that there's a beginning and end, a top and bottom, and space around each word)
- interacting with books that you read to them by talking about and discussing it as well as reading it to them
- talking about their ideas
- phonemic awareness (learn to recognize letters and sounds)
- a variety of forms of expression (including drawing and painting)

How to promote communication:
1.  Create an environment in the home where words, reading, and listening are important
2.  Narrate your children's experiences with talking, looks, and gestures
     - describe what's going on around them
     - give names to what you are looking at
     - play word games like pat a cake and peekaboo
3.  Use "extra" talk that goes beyond the here and now and the necessary
     - what if...
     - remember...
     - what do you think...
4.  Relate your talk to what is interesting to them
5.  Tell stories about your life and have them tell stories about theirs
6.  Read (joyfully) with your child
     Suggestions for infants and toddlers:
     - get books they can't destroy by chewing them and books that are tactile
     - point out pictures
     - get books with a catchy refrain they can remember
     - create a tradition of story time
7.  Play with word sounds
     - Guessing games with the first letter of words
     - Clap syllables while you say the sounds
     - Help them blend word sounds to make words
     - Alphabet game: children think of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet and you try to guess it
     - Have them practice reading when you're shopping
     - Play with tongue twisters (like "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.")
8.  Encourage them to write
     - take dictation when they're too young to write
     - encourage pretend writing
     - have them keep journals

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

Skill Two: Perspective Taking

This involves having empathy and being able to figure out how someone else thinks and feels based on what we know about them.  It also involves being able to inhibit our own thoughts and feelings in order to be able to see things from another perspective.  Having this skill helps children understand what their teachers want and expect and can also help them learn to read.

How to promote it:
1.  Practice it: If children feel listened to and understood, they'll be better able to listen and understand others.  Also, children who have a trusting relationship with their parents that makes them feel safe and secure are more able to understand other perspectives.
2.  Teach them how to be with other people: part of this is teaching conflict resolution
3.  Help children feel known and understood
     - for infants: imitate what they are doing (including sounds)
     - repeat back their words and describe what you see them doing
     - ask questions about what they are doing
     - let them know you've been there and know how they are feeling
4.  Talk about your feelings and their feelings.
5.  Use opportunities during the day to talk about other people's perspectives
6.  Give them time to pretend and try on other people's perspectives
7.  Make them aware of their behavior's effect on others.
8.  Teach them appraisal skills - how to figure out the intent of others
      - by thinking about people's responses to every day situations
      - by thinking about the intent of character's in books, tv shows, and movies

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills

John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, recommended reading this book by Ellen Galinsky. 
She believes there are seven essential life skills that children need.  These skills are:
 1.  Focus and self control
 2.  Perspective taking
 3.  Communicating
 4.  Making connections
 5.  Critical thinking
 6.  Taking on challenges
 7.  Self-directed, engaged learning
I'm going to give a summary of each of these seven skills, both what they are and how to promote them. Here are my notes on the first one.

Skill One: Focus and Self Control
     Executive function could be just as important as IQ - kids with good attention skills are more successful in reading and math
     This skill includes:
        a.  Focus
        b.  Cognitive flexibility: being able to shift attention from one thing to another, adjust to a change in demands or priorities, or switch perspectives
        c.  Working memory: allows you to do mental arithmetic, relate one idea to another,or prioritize what you need to do
        d.  Inhibitory Control: this allows you to pay attention despite distractions, stick with something even when its challenging, and to think before you act

     How to promote focus:
       1.  Help teach them to how bring themselves under control
       2. Games that help them focus by learning to pay attention:
           - guessing games
           - I Spy
           - puzzles
           - red light, green light
           - musical chairs
           - bell game: everyone walks around carrying a bell - the goal is that the bell doesn't make a sound
       3.  Read stories in a way that encourages them to listen
       4.  Select video games and tv shows that help children pay attention
       5.  Background television can be disruptive and distracting
       6.  Make sure they are well rested and have breaks, as this will improve their attention and self-control.
       7.  Teach by example!

    How to promote cognitive flexibility:
      1.  Play sorting games with changing rules: sort different types of objects (for example flowers and cars in three different colors) - This suggestion reminds me of the card game SET!
      2.  Encourage them to pretend and make up stories
      3.  Give them puzzles

   How to promote working memory:
      1.  Play games that have rules
      2.  Encourage children to pretend
      3.  Have them make plans, follow the plans, and discuss what they accomplished

   How to promote inhibitory control:
      Play games where the rules force them to inhibit what they would do automatically
       - peg tapping: This is a game where you must do the opposite of the other person.  For example, if you tap one, the other person taps twice, and vice versa.
        - Day-Night: When shown a picture, you say the opposite of what it shows.  For example, you see a picture of daytime, and say night, and vice versa.
        - Have cards with names of colors written in different colors - the goal is for them to say the color they see, rather than read the word itself
        - Simon says, but do the opposite: for example, sit when they say stand

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Science and Design

I was amazed and inspired when I visited my old school's brand new science wing.  They start teaching in the space in January, and I know it's thoughtful design that seems to include every possible bell and whistle will only inspire more creativity and innovation in their lessons.

One of my favorite things about all of the rooms was the fact that every single surface could be used as a whiteboard!  This means teachers and students are not chained to the front of the room, but teaching and writing can happen virtually anywhere in the space.
Rather than being limited by the size of a traditional whiteboard, the entire wall is one!  How cool is that??
Rather than using disposable chart paper, they have portable whiteboards that hook onto the wall, but can be taken down to record lab data with groups, or ideas at tables.
Even the cabinets and the backsplash can be used as space to write.  I've dreamed about this, and it's real!  I also love the green color here, fitting since this is a biology classroom.
Here's a good example of how the cabinets can be used as a writing surface - a diagram of a parallax angle in a physics classroom.
Even the inside of the cabinets can be written on!  This, by the way, is the physics prep room.  It's so big and well-organized I wish it was my closet, or even possibly my bedroom!  (And that person who you will see in many of my photos is the wonderful science department chair there, who can explain the reasoning and planning behind the entire space much more eloquently than me since he helped design it.)
The plethora of whiteboard space can also be used for science related art.  I love this drawing that one of the school's art teachers did of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  It's quite appropriate since this is the astronomy classroom!
Even the tables in the student lounge are a whiteboard!

My second favorite thing about the space after the unending sea of whiteboards, was the integration of dynamic, science-related art. 
My favorite is this rube goldberg-like kinetic art piece created by a famous Chicago artist for the wall space between the two Physics classrooms.
In between the two biology rooms, they were in the process of installing a saltwater fish tank with actual coral reef (but no living coral).  It will be maintained by the store that installed it, which means less work for the already busy teachers.

The new wing is also filled with lots of technology.  There are smartboards in every room.
In addition to the smartboard, they also have flat screens above the teaching station (which is offset, so it's easier for the teacher to walk around while teaching). The monitor is attached to the document camera below so a document or lab results can be shown above while other items can be written on the smartboard.  The monitor is also hooked up to a video camera that's permanently installed in the classroom.  This allows teachers to tape themselves teaching, which means if a student is absent, he can watch the lecture remotely.  (I think it would be a bit scary to have every lesson recorded, but it's nice to have the option!)
Here is a crazy huge bank of eight flat screens in the common space between all of the classrooms.  These monitors are also hooked up to the video cameras in the classrooms so visitors can watch what's happening without disturbing classes.  These are also hooked up to the internet.
Unfortunately, the photo above is blurry, but it shows a monitor in the hallway that will show the energy usage in the building.  They've installed solar panels and a wind turbine on the roof, so this will show how much electricity is being produced as well.
You can tell these rooms were designed with a lot of input from the teachers and what they would need.  One example are these metal bars installed in the ceiling of the physics classroom.  They are strong enough to do chin ups on, but are there for activities like pendulum labs.
I miss having a proper prep room, and the ones here are HUGE!  This is the Chemistry prep room.  There is also a separate closet (really a small room) for all the chemicals, complete with beautiful wooden shelves (non-reactive material), an acid cabinet, and one for flammable items.
The prep room would also be an enviable office (or studio apartment) since it has huge picture windows that overlook Lincoln Park.
There is even an independent study space for students who might want to do their own research.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Our nursery was on OhDeeDoh!

I didn't get a chance to post about this before, as it was right after Olivia was born and I was a bit overwhelmed and sleep deprived, but Apartment Therapy's ohdeedoh posted my submission for Olivia's nursery!  It was so exciting to see it up there - yippee!

Bright from the Start: Child Care

A lot of the book Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm repeated what I read in other books, but I found the section on choosing childcare helpful.

Choosing infant day care
What is most important?
1.  Who the caregiver is: It's important that there is a consistent individual responsible for your child.  A daycare that has the same person looking after your child at the same time every day and offers annual contracts is preferable.
2.  Child to caregiver ratio: It should be 1:3 when a child is between 6 to 15 months old according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  (This is also specified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children if the group size is 6 children or fewer.)
3.  General environment: It should be safe, bright colorful and inviting.
4.  Personal contact: Infants need hugging, holding, and rocking.  They also need to be talked to regularly.
5.  Openness: You should be able to drop by whenever you wish.

What is less important?
1.  The physical building - as long as it is safe
2.  New or fancy toys: They should be plentiful, age appropriate, and in good condition.  There should NOT be a television!
3.  Advanced degrees - as long as they have a basic understanding of brain development and affection for babies
4.  Schedules - babies have individual sleeping and eating needs
5.  A strong academic program: a play-based curriculum is preferable to formal academic instruction

Other factors to consider:
1.  Distance from work or home
2.  Licensing and accreditation: the National Association for the Education of Young Children is the highest standard in the childcare industry
3.  Cost: higher cost doesn't necessarily mean better quality of care. but paying for a consistent individual giving your child individual attention and responsive care is worth paying for

Interview the Caregiver
- Do they have enough time to love and care for all the children they are responsible for?

Observe the Caregiver
- Do they speak directly to the children?  Do they seem to genuinely enjoy them?
- A checklist of what to look for when observing a caregiver interact with a child from the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development's Early Child Care Research Network:
   a.  Caregiver responds to the child's vocalizations
   b.  Caregiver asks the child questions
   c.  Caregiver praises and says something affectionate to child
   d.  Caregiver teaches the child
   e.  Caregiver directs other positive talk to the child (describing objects or events, comforts or entertains the child, sings a song, tells a story)
    f.  Caregiver doesn't use negative or directive talk towards the child

Share your expectations
- Have toys on hand that encourage brain-based play (mirrors, colorful books, ...)
- Let them know that developing routins and bonding with your baby is important
- Encourage tummy time (and sleeping on their back)
- Let them know what information you'd like at pick up - what do you want them to tell you about your child? (attention, interests, diet, naps, ...)

Don't be jealous

Toddler Daycare (age 2 and beyond)
- Brain specific things to look for:
   a.  Caregivers who hug, let children climb in their laps, etc...
   b.  Ratio of 1:4 for 2 years old and 1:7 for 3 year olds
   c.  An expanding variety of materials: tactile, blocks, art supplies, dress-up, pretend play
   d.  Child-directed pace

Make changes thoughtfully
- Is your child happy?

What do you DO all day?

The most difficult question I face now that I'm staying home with my baby girl is, "so, what do you DO all day?"  I don't have a good answer to this question other than taking care of little O, and that doesn't sound adequate when I say it out loud.  There's also all of the house work: vacuuming, washing dishes, cleaning the litter box, doing yard work, cooking dinner, washing baby laundry, our laundry, and cloth diapers.  However, most of this are things everyone does, except for spending every moment with an infant.  I'm not sure how to make that sound important to those without kids of their own.     

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Realities of Cloth Diapering

in a prefold with a size one thirsties cover
     After about a week in disposables, Olive was big enough, and we were sane enough, to start using cloth diapers.  For the first two to three weeks, we used prefolds and covers.  This is the cheapest cloth diaper route and also the easiest to fit on newborns.  I bought snappis to fasten the prefolds, but ended up not needing them.  Instead, we just folded them to fit the covers, and used those to keep them on.  Prefolds come in several different sizes, and I collected a huge stack of infant (7-15 lbs) sized diapers.  In addition, I had several new and used waterproof covers in newborn or small sizes.  My favorite covers turned out to be the thirsties snap closure covers because they have a double gusset which is better at preventing leaks and gives a better fit.  They are also adjustable in size.  I got several size one thirsties in cute prints that fit from 6-18 lbs.  The aplix (or velcro) fastened diapers provided more flexibility in fit, but the ones I had bought used did not fasten as securely.  You also have to remember to fasten the velcro to the laundry tabs before you wash them.
thirsties with an aplix closure
      We probably went through around a dozen prefolds and 2-4 covers a day.  (The covers only needed to be changed when poop got past the prefold and onto the cover.)  I had read that I'd be doing a load every other day, but I ended up filling the diaper pail within a day.  I'm not sure, but maybe it's because my diaper pail and/or bag are on the small side.  They say that you don't need to worry about rinsing diapers with breastfed baby poop because it's water soluble, but when it's a large amount, I do it anyways.  It's easy to do with prefolds and a diaper sprayer.
      In addition to cloth diapers, we are also using washcloths instead of disposable wipes.  If she's really messy, we just stick her under the sink to rinse her off.  Otherwise, I use a dry washcloth or, if needed, one that's been moistened with a spray bottle of water.  The dirty cloth wipes just get washed along with the diapers each night. 
      After a couple of weeks of successfully using prefolds, I started getting a few that smelled strongly of ammonia after they were used.  That's when I realized that I was using enough laundry detergent for a full load even though I was really washing half a load's worth of laundry (or less) at a time.  I'd been using one tablespoon of Charlie's soap, and cut it down to half of that.  Once in a while the ammonia smell will come back on 1-2 diapers and I'll do an extra rinse cycle at the end of the next wash.  This seems to be working (fingers crossed).
     When the newborn and extra-small diaper covers stopped fitting the baby, I eased my way into using pocket diapers.  These are generally more expensive than prefolds, but an advantage to them is they usually have microfiber or some other fiber that wicks the moisture away so they don't feel as wet.  Since Olivia gets distressed when wet, I thought this might help.  They also take a little less work to put on.  You do have to prep them by stuffing them with an insert, but then you just snap or velcro them on as you would with disposable diapers.  The smallest one I had was a pair of rumparooz that I had bought because it has a smaller setting than the others and because it has an inner leg gusset, which I thought might also help with a snug fit and to prevent leaking.  Sunbaby and fuzzibunz diapers also run a bit smaller.
blueberry pocket diaper
       Eventually, Olivia also fit into the bumgenius pairs.  In addition to all of the more common fleece/microfiber pocket diapers, I tried some with alternative fabrics.  This included  kawaii diapers with a bamboo lining and blueberry diapers with bamboo inserts.  I decided to try these because bamboo is supposed to be more absorbent and possibly less irritating.  The big downside I found to bamboo are that they take a lot longer to dry.  Even after being in the dryer, I had to hang dry them for several more hours.  I also bought extra hemp inserts, which are extra absorbent like bamboo, but are much thinner and dry faster.  The one type of diaper I wasn't that impressed with were grovia's hybrid diapers.  The cotton cloth inserts have a nice gusset, but take almost 2 days to dry even after being put in the dryer.  I have yet to dry the disposable inserts with them.  I liked the pocket diapers so much, that I ordered more of them for when she grows out of the newborn/small prefolds.  I ordered more sunbaby diapers because they are the most affordable, but they take over a month to arrive from China! 
grovia hybrid diaper
     One side effect of cloth diapers are that she has grown out of her clothes a bit sooner because of their bulkiness.  This hasn't been a big deal.  It will also be interesting to see how it effects our water and electric bills since we now do an extra load of laundry every day.  There has been some small poop stains on the diapers, but sunning them (when there is sun) gets rid of them.  The one downside to keeping the diapers on longer is Olivia started developing some diaper rash.  I found some cloth friendly diaper balm, which helped to clear it up, but I do have to keep putting it on to keep it at bay.  Maybe she has especially sensitive skin, because her cheeks have started breaking out from the breast milk too.  One of the primary reasons I decided on cloth was to save money.  I was just given free disposables and am wondering if I should use them.  It would save a bit of time and I'm wondering if it would clear up her diaper rash?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One month letter to Olive

You are one month old today little Olive and it has been longer than that since I've written a post.  So much has happened in the last month and it is remarkable how drastically different my life has become now that you are out in the world.  I am just starting to find a new rhythm and routine with you.  I want to remember something from the blur of the last month and I love lists, so here is a list of memorable moments from the last 30 some days with you.

Day 1: The day started with being unsure about whether I was in labor or not.  You were in distress and a c-section was quickly performed to bring you safely into the world.

Days 2-3: Your appa (father) and I spent the next couple of days learning how to take care of you.  You also had your first visitors, your first photo session, and started what seemed like a non-stop feeding frenzy.

Day 4:  You had your first car ride as we headed home from the hospital.  You met your lola and lolo (my parents) today as well.

Day 5: We took you for your first walk down to Ravenna bridge and back.  That evening, you had your first sponge bath at home given by lola.

Day 6: You took a nap in the sun with our cat Maude to help clear away a little jaundice.  You had your first day in the moby and enjoyed being snuggled near me.  We took a break from breastfeeding after several days of pain (on my part) and I pumped milk for you and you had your first bottle of milk.

Day 7: We had our first outing in the car to visit a lactation consultant.  Like everyone else, she was impressed with your strong suck and barracuda like appetite and enthusiasm.  She gave us a lot of good advice to help us get better at breastfeeding.  Lola read you your first book about noodles and you took a nap with appa.  You also had some great tummy time.

Day 8: After a week in disposables, you grew enough to start wearing cloth diapers.  We also took lola's advice and used the sink to clean your bum rather than disposable wipes.  You had your first visit to the doctor's office today and we were happy to hear you were back to your birth weight.

Day 9: While your lolo and appa trimmed the laurel bushes in the yard, you received your first flowers (from appa's workmates).  You enjoy snoozing in the vibrating chair, but are keeping appa up at night - particularly between 11pm to 3am.  Your appa and I went out for our first date alone since you were born while lolo and lola watched you.

Day 10:  Your lolo and lola left today and I was sad to see them go.  However, our friends came to visit, cuddle you, and bbq.

Day 11:  This was our first day alone together as appa went back to work.  We had a peaceful day at home getting the house ready for more visitors.

Day 12: Your halmoni (my mother-in-law) came to meet you today.  She brought you a blanket sewn expertly by your great-grandmother in Seoul.

Day 13:  The lack of sleep and pressure from visitors got to your mama today.  It's not even halfway through the time with guests, but I am already looking forward to time alone with you again.

Day 14: You went on your second walk today, accompanied by me, your appa, and halmoni.  It was a bit longer, but not too long, since I'm still recovering.  You also had your second visit to the doctor's for your second PKU test.

Day 15: Today I took my first trip out alone to my own doctor's appointment while you stayed home with appa and halmoni.  Your appa and I went out for izekaya that night while your halmoni watched you.

Day 16: Today we said good-bye to our old 32-year old refrigerator as a brand new refrigerator courtesy of lolo and lola was delivered.  I can now safely store milk for you in a more efficient and reliable freezer.  Your halmoni spent all day cooking lots of Korean food and we now have more space in the fridge for all of it.

Day 17:  Today your halmoni went for a long walk so we could have some time alone.

Day 18: This evening our friends came over for a labor day bbq.  We dressed you up in a cute dress even though you slept through most of it.

Day 19: Today your harabaji (my father-in-law) flew in and he was very happy to meet you.

Day 20: Today your Tita Sharon flew in to meet you.  I drove to the light rail station to pick her up while your grandparents watched you.  Your lolo and lola also came back for a second visit and the entire family (including both sets of your grandparents) had a big Korean dinner courtesy of your halmoni. 

Day 21: Your halmoni and harabaji left today and you spent the day with me, your tita, and lola.

Day 22: Today we went on an adventure and took you for your first ferry ride.  We went to Bainbridge Island so your tita and lola could go to Churchouse yarns.  I breastfed you for the first time in public as we ate sushi, and again as we waited in line for the ferry back to Seattle.

Day 23: Today your tita and I took you for a long walk to University Village and back.  That evening our friends came over to bbq and hang out with you.

Day 24: Today you hung out with your appa while he watched football.  The rest of us went out for dim sum.

Day 25: Today your lolo and lola bought us a guest bedframe while they were out golfing.  While you took a nap, we all worked to put it together.

Day 26:  Today your lolo, lola, and tita left.  I was sad to see them go, especially your tita, who took care of you every night while I caught up on my sleep.

Day 27: Today was only our second day alone together.  I spent the day doing laundry and cleaning up from all of our guests.

Day 28: Today I finally got around to framing the Olivia poster that your appa made for you.  I had every intention of taking a trip out of the house with you, but I'm still trying to figure out how to do more than just laundry, breastfeeding, diaper changing, and miscellaneous house work.

Day 29: Today we finally left the house and ended up making two trips to University Village.  The first time we drove there to get a couple of storage bins so I could pack away maternity clothes and newborn clothes you had already grown out of (can you believe it?)  The second time we walked there to get some bum bum balm for a small bit of diaper rash that you had developed.  I thought cloth diapers were supposed to help prevent that??

Day 30: Today was the most social day yet, although you slept through most of it.  We had brunch with our friend Tal and Dana who now have a 2 year old.  The last time we had been to their house, I wasn't even pregnant and their son was barely crawling.  Now they've moved to a new place, he's running and talking, and you are over 4 weeks old!  Tal, as usual, made a delicious meal that included baked eggs and eggplant with tahini, and ended with grilled figs served with cardamom flavored whipped cream and balsamic vinegar.  That night we met up with our friends Heather and Joe who have a practically 5 month old baby girl.  It had been over a month since I'd seen her and she had practically doubled in size since she was first born.  Kids grow so quickly!

Day 31: On Sunday, you and I went to breakfast at Vios with Allison while your appa went out to watch the Cleveland Browns game.

Day 32: Today it's been a month since you were born.  We took our first trip to the eastside to hear Dr. Harvey Karp speak about his books Happiest Baby and Happiest Toddler on the Block.  You were one of several kids in the audience, but you were the only one Dr. Karp said hello to personally (when you interrupted his talk with a loud cry).  It was even caught on tape!

Happy one month day little Olive.  It has been wonderful getting to know you.  Thank you for being patient with appa and I as we learn how to take care of you.  We love you more every day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Felt Pouf Mobile

I decided to make a mobile to hang over the changing table.  Initially, I thought I'd make a homemade version of the ugly doll mobile I saw at compassionate comfort's blog.  However, I hit a creative wall and didn't have any creatures I wanted to make out of felt.  Instead, I turned to a Japanese craft book for felt.
In the book, they used stacks of small felt pieces to make 3-dimensional "poufs" that reminded me of the tissue paper flowers I already have hanging above the crib.  I decided to make miniature felt poufs for the mobile to mirror the large paper ones hanging over the crib.
I couldn't read the book's directions since they were in Japanese, so I figured out my own way of sewing the felt together.  I'll cover this in tomorrow's tutorial for the mobile.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saving money when shopping for baby clothes

Last month I wrote about my exploration of children's consignment stores in Seattle, but how much can it save you?  Being the first in my family to have a baby, I wasn't sure that I'd have anyone to hand clothes down to me so I felt the need to stock up on baby clothes, but the prices can be quite steep.  Since my initial frenzy of buying basics like onesies and footed pajamas, my friends with baby girls have very generously passed on beautiful clothes to me.  This is, of course, the best way to stock your baby's wardrobe if you're lucky.  Now, when I'm at the consignment store, I try to find the best deals possible.
Some examples are shown above.  The first tunic/dress is from Tea.  If you were to buy this new, it would cost approximately $29 or so.  The middle romper is from Hanna Andersen and would probably cost $20 or more new.  The last is from Oilily, the priciest of the three brands, and would run probably $40 new. That would be a total of $89 or so plus tax.  Because these were gently worn by someone else's baby and also off-season (end of summer sale) at the store, this cost me less than $15 total.  That's a savings of over $75 or 84% off retail!  Of course, if you have an aversion to used clothing, you could probably buy these 3 pieces in more generic versions new at the sale rack at Carter's, but aren't these just adorable?  I'm also hoping, I'll be able to trade them in at a good deal for more clothes down the line.
  Another alternative to consignment stores, are outlet stores.  Thanks to Seattle Moms Deal Finder, I found out that Kate Quinn Organics has an outlet store and showroom close by in Kirkland.  Even better, they had a summer special where items were buy one, get one half off.  The regular price of a pants and top would be around $44.00.  Pants by themselves would cost around $30.  For the 3 pants and 1 top above, you'd spend over $100 retail.  At the outlet, most pants and shirts were marked down to $7-12.  With the buy one, get one 1/2 off deal, I spent around $20 for the items above and they were brand new.  Some were even from the current season of clothing - not that the baby will care.  That's a savings of $80 or 80% off retail!  Also, if the baby ends up not using them, I may be able to sell them for more at consignment if they still have the tags attached.
   Again, you could spend even less if you went to a thrift store, a regular consignment shop, or found a mega sale at places like Carter's.  However, if you can't resist getting a few adorable name brand outfits for baby, it's good to know you can do it and still save some money.  After all, the baby will probably only be wearing it a handful of times.  Now, I need to figure out the best system of organization so all these cute clothes actually get worn when baby comes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Retrospective: Our first year in Seattle

In preparation for moving over to a computer with a smaller hard drive, I've been trying to streamline my iphoto library, which is somewhere around 45 gb!  I was deep in 2008 today, and inadvertantly went into 2009 as well.  Here are some highlights from our first year in Seattle.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tutorial: Re-covering dining room chairs

 Now that I can't think of what else to do to the nursery, I finally faced a project I meant to start several weeks ago - re-covering the dining room chairs.  Here's a rough tutorial if you're interested in trying this at home:

1.  Examine your chairs to see how to separate the seat from the chair.  On ours, there was a screw on either side connecting the seat to the rest of the chair.

2.  Separate the seat from the rest of the chair and measure it to determine how much fabric you'll need to buy.  (I did a rough estimate and bought 3 yards of upholstery fabric, which was more than enough to cover 6 chairs.)

3.  Choose a fabric to cover the chairs.  I decided I wanted something less itchy than the original herringbone wool and I also didn't want to spend a lot of money since I wasn't sure how good I'd be at re-covering the chairs.  I bought more of a japanese floral print that only cost $6.99/yard at IKEA that I had previously used to make a pillow cover.

4.  Use the old fabric as a pattern to make your new covers.  When I bought the fabric, I thought it would just be a matter of cutting out 6 pieces (1 per chair) and stapling them on.  Then I looked more closely at the chairs and realized the fabric had a seam and was made of 2 pieces of fabric - yikes!  Taking off the old fabric was tricky and it involved using a screwdriver and pliers to rip out at least 50 staples.  (Thanks to my husband for doing most of that work.)  I decided to take off just one cover to use as a template, rather than spend the time removing all of them.

5.  Use kraft paper to make a pattern using the old cover as your guide.  I gave myself roughly a 1/2 inch border to account for seams and the fact that I planned on putting the new covers over the old ones.  In addition to the pattern for the top, I needed to cut out a long strip of fabric for the sides of the cushion.  I decided it was easier to just measure the dimensions, rather than cutting out a pattern for that portion since it was basically a long rectangle. 

6.  Use your pattern to cut your fabric.  I was able to cut 3 chair tops across the width of the fabric and was also able to cut the long strips across the width as well.  I cut out one set and sewed it together to make sure my pattern was correct before cutting out the other 5 sets.  To speed this up, I folded the fabric over so I could cut 2 chair tops at a time.  I somehow lost count and ended up cutting an extra one.  I used pinking shears to cut the strips of fabric to prevent too much fraying, and used one strip as my template for the others.  (It's tedious measuring a 50 inch straight line!)

7.  If your cushion consists of multiple pieces of fabric, pin them together and then sew it together.  The trickiest part was sewing around the curved edges.

8.  Before you start stapling the fabric to the new cushion, make sure it is centered.  (I didn't do that with the first one, so my seam is a little lop-sided).  Alternate stapling the sides and do the corners last.  The staple gun I'd borrowed for the task wasn't powerful enough, but my husband suggested I just pound the staples flat using a hammer, which worked out.

9.  Re-attach the newly covered seats to the chair.  Before I could do this, I also needed to poke a hole in the new cover for the screws to fit through.  I just used a small pair of scissors and the screw to do this.
The newly covered chair looked almost as well-tailored a the old one, which was good enough for me!  Not bad for my first try.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: Practical Tips

Medina has a nice re-cap at the end for those who want the Cliffs Notes version:

- Leave the baby alone at first
- Take in an extra 300 calories a day
- Eat fruits and veggies
- Do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day
- Reduce the stress in your life
- Have a social structure of support (friends, family, other parents - PEPS

- Check-in with your spouse twice a day
- Schedule sex regularly
- Develop the empathy reflex with your partner
- Reconcile deliberately
- Balance the housework load
- Address your sticking points (see John and Julie Gottman)

Smart Baby: Seeds and Soil
- breast feed for one year
- talk to your baby a lot - describe everything you see
- create a creative space
- play opposite day (see Ellen Galinsky)
- make play plans (Tools of the Mind)
- don't hyper parent
- take a critical look at your own behavior - and make changes as needed
- reward hard work (vs. talent or intelligence)
- trade for digital time (with time reading a book, etc...)

Happy Baby: Seeds and Soil
- chart your child's emotional landscape (make a list)
- help your child make friends of the same age
- speculate on another's point of view (to help children also practice seeing things from someone else's perspective)
- read together
- develop an empathy reflex with your children
- practice verbalizing your feelings
- save up for 10 years of music lessons
- guide your child toward a $50,000 career

Moral Baby
- have clear, reasonable, and unambiguous rules
- deliver rules in a consistently warm and accepting environment
- reinforce good behaviors with praise
- explain the rationale behind rules
- punishments should be firm, immediate, reliable, safe, and tolerant

Brain Rules for Baby: Moral Baby

According to research, kids are consciously lying by the age of three.  By 4 years old, they will about once every 2 hours.  By the age of 6, the frequency of lies will increase to once very 90 minutes. 

The stages of moral development
1.  First, kids are just trying to avoid punishment
2.  Then, they start to consider the social consequences of actions (peer acceptance)
3.  Finally, they begin to make decisions based on moral principles - parent will need to help guide kids to this 3rd stage

How to support the development of a conscience (or moral awareness)
1.  Provide clear, consistent rules and rewards that are realistic
     - The hard part: be warm and accepting when administering rules
     - Praise kids when they follow the rules (reinforcing positive behavior)
     - Praise the absence of a bad behavior
2.  Provide swift punishment, and be firm and consistent
     - The hard part: administer it in a warm atmosphere - what does that mean?  (My husband's suggestion is to not look at it as punishing, but as enforcing boundaries)
     - Punishment by application: Let them make mistakes and learn from them
     - Punishment by removal: giving a timeout
3.  Explain the rules: When punishing, make sure you explain why immediately so they understand why they are being punished - this helps kids internalize the morality you are teaching them

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Crafts of the week

I've been spending some time every week crafting with friends and by myself.  This week, I finally got around to turning some cute alphabet fabric I found at Pacific Fabrics into a simple blanket.  I was inspired by a Purl Bee project, but made some modifications.  Instead of using fleece, I used some flannel I had left over from another project.  I also sewed the rickrack on in the same way I'd been attaching ribbons to taggie blankets since I didn't have excess fabric to work with.  I'm happy with how it turned out even though the rick rack wasn't quite centered.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The soil for a happy baby

A strong bond or attachment between baby and parent is important for them to grow up happy and leads to less emotional conflict, more empathy, and better grades.  How parents deal with their child's emotional life has the greatest effect on their future happiness.

6 Parental Behaviors for Dealing with Emotions
1.  A demanding but warm parenting style (authoritative) that involves good communication with your children
     a.  Responsive: give kids support, warmth, and acceptance; communicate affection (rather than rejection)
     b.  Demanding: control behavior by making and enforcing rules consistently; clearly explain rules and encourage independence while still complying with family values

2.  Comfort with your own emotions: setting an example for kids so they can learn to be comfortable with theirs

3.  Tracking your child's emotions (watch, listen and respond) without smothering or helicoptering

4.  Verbalizing emotions: Be able to label your feelings and teach your child to label theirs - this teaches self-soothing which helps them focus and have successful relationships
     a.  Surprisingly, studying music for at least 10 years starting before the age of 7 can help children more easily recognize emotional cues

5.  Running towards emotions - parents who do this:
     a.  Don't judge emotions
     b.  Acknowledge the reflexive nature of emotions (rather than denying/ignoring their existence)
     c.  Know that behavior is a choice, but an emotion is not - help kids to understand that they have a choice in how they express their emotions
     d.  See a crisis as a teachable moment

6.  Two tons of empathy: verbalize a child's feelings, validate them, and show you understand  - this works because empathy calms people down

Next up: a moral baby...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The seeds for a happy baby

When we say we want our kids to be happy - what does that mean?  I think it has different meanings for different parents.  I think for my parents, it meant that some day we would all be doctors making a good living, which didn't happen much to their disappointment.

Here are three different types of happiness:
1.  Emotional (I think this is the kind that's most popular with the non-Asian/tiger mom parenting crowd - i.e. most of non-immigrant America.)
2.  Moral (I think this is the kind my grandmother always wishes me, since she prays for me every Sunday in church.)
3.  Judgemental (meaning being happy about or for something)

Where does happiness come from?  George Vaillant, a psychologist, researched this topic and his answer:  "The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people."  Friendships, or close relationships with family and friends, are the best predictor of happiness.

Other behaviors that predict happiness:
1.  Altruistic acts
2.  Making lists of things for which you are grateful (I started doing this in high school - my current list is on the main page of the blog and is called my "Living Like Weasels" list after the Annie Dillard essay.)
3.  Cultivating an "attitude of gratitude"
4.  Sharing new experiences with someone close to you
5.  Readily forgiving the people that are close to you, rather than holding a grudge

Monday, August 08, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The soil for a smart baby

If only 50% of IQ is genetic, that means that what we do as parents to nurture our children DOES make a difference!  However, before anyone's brain can focus on learning, they must feel safe in their environment.  This is good to remember as a teacher too.  If kids are worried about the teacher getting angry, they can't focus on learning. 

4 Basic Parenting Actions
1.  Breastfeeding: Breast milk contains important salts and vitamins.  It can prevent ear, respiratory, and gastrointestinal infections.  Breastfed babies, on average, score higher on cognitive tests and get better grades, especially in in reading and writing.  Some ingredients that breast milk has that are needed by baby are taurine (amino acid needed for neural development) and omega-3 fatty acids.

2.  Talking to your baby: The more parents talk to their children (even early on), the better they did at reading, spelling, and writing when they start school - and the higher their IQ.  The variety of words spoken, their length, and complexity is nearly as important as the number of words spoken. Giving positive feedback is also important - in the form of interaction (eye contact, imitating, laughter, and facial expressions).  Reward a baby's language attempts with more attention. 
     Start talking to them as soon as they are born.  2,100 words per hour is recommended - which is considered a moderate rate of conversation.  "Parantese" (speaking in a high pitched tone with a sing-song voice) is easier for babies to understand because each word and the sound of each vowel is distinct.    

3.  Guided play: Make time for open-ended play that focuses on impulse control and self-regulation.  This allows for the development of creativity, language, and problem solving.  This also helps to reduce stress, and improves memory and social skills.  One example of this kind of play is mature dramatic play, and a school program called "Tools of the Mind."  (In this program, students make a play plan and they practice pretending in a creative environment.   

4.  Praising effort rather than accomplishment or IQ: High performers are willing to put in the effort to sustain their focus, control impulses, and delay gratification.  Telling kids "their smart" doesn't help them to understand what they need to do to be successful.  They will also begin to see mistakes as failures, rather than something to learn from.  Praising hard work helps kids have a growth-mindset, rather than a fixed mindset.  This will help them to see a mistake as a problem to solve, and will lead to them spending more time working on difficult tasks, rather than giving up when things get challenging.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: The seeds of a smart baby

Smart Baby: Seeds

In this section of the book, Medina goes into the history of IQ tests and the study of brains and intelligence.  One thing he covers is the fact that your IQ is not a fixed number, but can vary with your circumstances and environment.  The genetic contribution to intelligens is about 50%.  Medina sees intelligence as more than IQ.  LIke Howard Gardner, he believes there are multiple facets to it.

7 Basic ingredients of Intelligence

Friday, August 05, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Wednesday

After an early morning doctor's appointment, I went to nearby Beacon Hill to a most delicious filipino bakery, Delite.  They were already out of biko (a sweet rice cake with a caramel topping), but I was able to get some banana-q's (plantains rolled in sugar and deep fried) and suman (sticky rice cooked with coconut milk in a banana leaf).

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Tuesday

I spent the morning trying to clean and organize the living room a bit in preparation for the new couch being delivered later this week.  Above is the before shot of our coffee table's drawers.  A surprising number of pens had accumulated in both drawers - I think they're all the ones that have gone missing from the kitchen.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: Relationship (Happy Marriage, Happy Baby)

Moving on to the next chapter in the book:

"Parenthood hastens marital decline."  The biggest predictor of marital bliss is whether both partners agreed they wanted to have kids.

The emotional environment of babies affect the development of their nervous system.  Babies are extraordinarily sensitive to what takes place around them and are constantly learning.  They also seek safety.  This was scientifically proven using some remarkably harsh experiments involving rhesus monkeys being taken away from their mothers and given surrogate robotic mothers.  Scientists also discovered that Romanian orphans (in the 1990's) adopted after the age of four months, were not able to fully recover from the stress they had been exposed to.  One effect that stress or hostile environments have on babies is making them unable to regulate their own emotions.  Eventually, they will grow up to demonstrate more aggression and antisocial behavior.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Monday

When I finally got out of bed, Maude was napping in the sunny living room.

Brain Rules for Baby: Pregnancy

Last fall, I went to hear John Medina speak about his book Brain Rules.  That was before I found out I was pregnant.  Now that we're expecting baby Nam, I wanted to read his companion book, Brain Rules for Baby.  I knew my husband would appreciate his advice since he focuses on solutions that are supported with research.  He gave some clear guidelines for what we can do as parents to raise a child that is well-prepared to face the world.  I've included links to his website too.

Medina de-bunks a lot of myths that aren't supported by research like...
- Playing Mozart to your womb will improve their math scores - all it does is make them more familiar with Mozart
- Playing language DVDs to infants will help expand their vocabulary - they need to hear and interact with an actual person speaking the language!
- Telling your children their smart will help them gain confidence - this one's the kicker for me as I often see this as a teacher and know from experience that kids who "think" they are smart aren't always willing to work when they face a challenge, versus kids who learn early on that working hard is what brings success!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Sunday

I'm in week 36 of my first pregnancy.  I'm glad I've made this far and hope it continues to go as well as it has been.  It feels like a bit of a waiting game now, although I'm sure there are still plenty of things I need to do.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Saturday

I got up late and was greeted by a sunny morning.  Maude found a sunny patch to sit and ponder the big blue exercise ball that she is for some reason afraid of.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Week in the Life 2011: Friday

bowl of cereal eaten
I can still see my feet, from the right angle.
checked the mail
The car seat has been installed since last Friday, just in case.
 tempted by all the beautiful, but expensive choices at West Seattle Fabric Company
introduced to Bakugan!
played with lincoln logs
ate sugar snap peas fresh off the vine
gave a girl a pretty dress I made
ate a picnic lunch of sorts
hung out at the beach with friends and their babies
played in the sand
delayed by the Montlake bridge
rock star parking in Capitol Hill!
Strictly Seattle 2011 performance
It was sold out!
a friend takes the spotlight - and rocks it out!