9 Clues You’re a Parent of a Pre-Teen

I am now a parent of a pre-teen. And as a parent of a pre-teen, I have discovered it’s (cue the soundtrack from Aladdin) a whole new world, baby. What do I mean? Let me break it down for you with …

9 Clues You’re a Parent of a Pre-Teen

  1. There’s a taller person in the house. You can actually look this person almost in the eye, which is quite amazing considering he/she used to fit in the crook of your arm.
  2. This taller person has a much bigger appetite. Like an eat-half-a-large-pizza-by-himself appetite (and that’s only for a snack).
  3. You feel a lot less cool because there’s a lot of eye-rolling directed your way these days. The same kind of eye-rolling you might have done in the presence of your own parents before you realized they were cooler than you thought.
  4. You feel like you’re losing control. While there is no such thing as control in parenting, there’s a lot less of it when you can’t wrangle a kid who comes up to your nose and can also talk back.
  5. Your feet seem smaller. Only because the ones that used to follow you around everywhere are now the same size as yours.
  6. You find yourself praying more (refer back to #4). Mainly for yourself because you feel like you don’t know what the heck you’re doing anymore and need the patience and endurance of a saint.
  7. You reminisce a lot about the good ‘ol days, especially when old pictures pop up on Facebook, and you miss (almost) everything about the baby and toddler stages. But not enough that you’d want to do it again because you are TIRED.
  8. You’re constantly in awe of the fact that you’re helping to shape a child in becoming an adult. This fact also causes you great dismay because you’re still working on this adulting business yourself (refer to #6).
  9. Your hugs are often rejected (sniff sniff!) … but when they aren’t, the experience is unbeatably sweet and precious and amazing.

What thoughts do you have about parenting a pre-teen? What do you wish your parents knew about you during your pre-teen years?

Speaking of teens, here’s a new boy band that was put together on the show, Boy Band, and their single, “Eyes Closed”. A few of them are only a couple of years older than my munchkin! Yikes. 😛

Thoughts on Going to Jail

The munchkins know to ask for approval before they download a game to play on the iPad. The process usually goes something like this: 1) Munchkin shows me the game; 2) I peruse the description, rating, and reviews; 3) I say yay or nay. It’s a pretty straightforward and quick process, and so far we’ve been able to keep the games age-appropriate and family-friendly. That is, until recently.

Lo and behold, I’ve discovered my mama brain doesn’t function too well during the summer. It could be that I don’t have enough me-time during the day, so I end up staying up way too late at night, and the gears in my head just don’t turn as fast when they’re tired. Or I could just be getting old. 😉 Either way, when one of the munchkins asked me to approve a game the other week, I inadvertently agreed to let them go to jail.

Yup. The game is all about trying to escape from prison.

What was I thinking?! At first, I reasoned it was a good game for problem-solving because breaking out of a locked establishment would require using your brain to come up with a plan and then to implement said plan. What I didn’t think through were the reasons why one would be in jail in the first place and how breaking out of jail would be a crime. Playing this game would in a sense make my child guilty of not just one crime, folks, but two! I had basically given a thumbs-up to illegal activity.

Sigh. Can we say, #mamafail?

All was not lost though! (There’s always gotta be a bright side to things, right?) 😉 Because life is all about trying and failing and trying again, I decided to make the best of this opportunity. We talked about what prison life is like (based off what I know from TV shows and books, not my own personal experience, mind you!), and also increased our knowledge of some key vocabulary words (e.g. warden). I also talked about my friend and former classmate who currently works as a therapist in prison. And get this, he’s not just a therapist for one jail, folks, but two! (Yes, he’s as awesome as he sounds!) And I even managed to share about how a large percentage of prisoners are from fatherless homes and the implications of that. Amazingly enough, I was able to use a game about jail to strike up some interesting and educational conversations about life. God’s grace, folks, God’s grace! 🙂

And to top it all off, I heard from my therapist friend recently that the Moodkins have become quite a hit in—you guessed it!—jail.

The therapists are using them for one-on-one counseling, as well as group therapy with the prisoners. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the cute therapy plush toys I created for kids to be helpful for adults, too. It’s been a huge blessing and affirmation for me to see them making a difference in schools, counseling centers, and now—prison. It just goes to show, you never know how God will use our small stuff for bigger purposes. 🙂

All this is to say that there’s been a lot of talk about jail in our home lately. There’s never a dull moment in parenting, is there? But thank God for His grace and providence in working everything out for good.

I hope you’ve had a good summer! We have less than one week of vacay here and then I’ll be back to my regular blogging schedule. As always, thanks for reading and sharing in my journey. 🙂

What have you been doing this summer? How have you seen God at work in your life? Tell me in the comments below! 🙂

Raising Our Kids for Other People’s Benefit

One of the munchkins came home recently and told me their teacher joked that we (hubby and I) were having a hard time with them and offered to adopt them. My first reaction was, Ha, he doesn’t know what he’s asking for!; my second thought, After all the hard work we’ve done?! No way, buddy! 😉

This joke got me thinking though about our job as parents. We have kids for ourselves, to fulfill a desire within us that imagines how nice it would be to have our own mini-me’s. However, when we raise our kids, it’s not only for our benefit. We raise our kids for other people, too.

What do I mean? All the teaching, guiding, correcting, and nurturing we do with our kids eventually benefits the people our kids come into contact with. This includes their friends and teachers and their future employers, potential spouses, even society as a whole. Whoa. That’s a sobering thought. But isn’t this the goal of parenting? To love, influence, and bless our children so they can in turn love, influence, and bless others.

Parenting is a huge responsibility and also one of the most thankless jobs out there. Even though we don’t always directly reap the rewards of our labor, there are moments when we get a virtual pat on the back for the job we’ve done. Like when a teacher tells you what an inspiration your child is to him. And he offers to adopt said child. I think that’s a good sign you’ve done something right as a parent. 😛 And now that I’ve thought through this offer some more, I’ve changed my mind. I’m warming up to the idea … especially with summer break around the corner. 😉

Speaking of the break, I’ll be returning to a summer schedule for posting to this blog (aka. whenever my kids allow me to!). I’ll leave you now with this fun video from the musical episode of The Flash (my favorite superhero!), featuring the song “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”, which is a good reminder for me as I think about all the time I’ll be spending at home with the munchkins. 😉

In what ways are your children a blessing to others?

When Failure Means Progress

For all of us in the U.S. (except for the lovely states of Hawaii and Arizona), there’s this wonderful day in March where we lose an hour of sleep every single year. And every single year, I—along with every parent in the country—dread this day. Well, actually most of us also dread the day we gain an hour each year because that means earlier wake-up times for the kiddos. (And all of us wonder if whoever started Daylight Saving Time had kids because no parent in their right mind would have thought this was a good idea! LOL) Anyhow, this year I wasn’t the only one dreading the time change; C was too.

Who else agrees?! LOL

For the first time in her life, she understood the logical consequences of DST. Specifically, that by losing an hour of sleep, she had to wake up an hour earlier … and if she couldn’t wake up at the right time, then she wouldn’t have enough time to do all the things she did in the morning before school and—BAM!—the world would end. (Where she gets this “all or nothing” way of thinking, I don’t know, cough cough!) The bottom line was: She had to wake up on time—or else! (To show how punctual she likes to be, let me tell you that she actually arrived on her due date, which supposedly only 5% of babies do.)

I tried to calm her fears by telling her that it wasn’t the first time she’d gone through DST. She’s had 7 years of experience losing an hour of sleep and everything turned out all right. And because DST starts at 2AM on Sunday, we have a day to practice getting up earlier. And most of all, everyone is tired and cranky after DST happens, so it’d be understandable if she was late to school on Monday.

Did my logical reasons convince her not to panic? Of course … not! 😛 So, like a lot of the time in life, I just had to let her face the problem and help her through it.

The morning after DST, she promptly announced, “I failed! I woke up late!” to which I replied, “It’s okay! You’re adjusting! It’ll get better. It takes a few days.”

This back-and-forth exchange happened every day this week, even today. But thankfully, the defeated tone in her voice has lessened little by little, day by day. As her mama, I hope and pray she’s learning that the world will not in fact end because things don’t go exactly the way she wants them to. That failure means progress, because you can always try again (and improve!). And that change and growth take time to produce. Most of all, I hope she takes this small lesson and applies it to the other hurdles she will face in life … especially next year when we’ll need to lose an hour of sleep again. 😉

I don’t think there’s any song out there about kids dealing with DST, but here’s one that’s literally for the children, New Kids On the Block’s “This One’s for the Children”.

How do you help yourself or your kiddos deal with change?

How a Blogger Respects Her Kid’s Wish for Privacy

One of my munchkins (who shall remain anonymous) told me recently, “I don’t want you to write about me or even say that you have a son.”

Aiya.

My response? “Okay. (Sigh) I won’t anymore from now on.”

Image courtesy of http://www.symbols-n-emoticons.com/2012/09/zipping-mouth-shut.html

So in case you wonder why I won’t be mentioning my firstborn child from now on in my blogs or anywhere on social media, you’ll know why. 🙂

I always knew the day would come when I’d have to respect my kids’ privacy online. I get it, especially since the child I’m talking about is an introvert like me. Even if he weren’t, I’d still understand why he doesn’t want his mom talking about him to the entire world. ‘Cause let’s face it, having a blog means everything you post is accessible to anyone and everyone on the planet. I respect his need to keep some things (actually, most things) about himself for himself.

This is specifically the reason why I don’t post pictures of my kids’ faces on this blog, but I do realize now that the stories I write about them—however cute and funny and sweet they may be—are as personal and identifiable as their photos are. And even though these stories often times impact me as their mom, they belong to them. These are their stories to tell.

So, what does this mean for this mama who loves to blog about her munchkins? Well, I’ll still be sharing about my experiences and lessons learned as a mom, just more in general terms. And more importantly, when I do want to write about my munchkins, I’ll ask for permission first.

How do you feel about sharing photos and stories about your kids on social media? 

Here’s a really creative rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata by Kurt Hugo Schneider and Amazon Echo that the kids may (or may not) have enjoyed watching. 😉

The Best Personality Test in the World

Have you ever taken a personality test? Whether you answered yes or no to that question, I’ve got one you must take. That’s must with a capital M! A friend of mine just posted it on her Facebook wall, and even though I usually pass these things up (I’ve taken quite a few of them, including an hour-long one when I applied to grad school), I decided to take this one. Quite honestly, it was the site’s cute cartoon that drew me in. 😉 But boy, oh boy, this test is THE personality test of all personality tests. It was quick, easy and, most of all, spot-on accurate. Like creepy goosebump-inducing scary movie soundtrack good. Not only was it accurate, it was eye-opening.

For the first time in my life, I felt like someone got me. Like really, truly understood me because they must’ve been watching me 24/7 and following me around and taking notes of everything I did, felt and thought. But the best part is that I feel like I know myself better. I finally figured out why I feel so much pressure to keep all my balls juggling in the air and why maintaining a happy equilibrium in the home is so important to me. Why I have such a heavy sense of responsibility when I take on different tasks and why I strive to be perfect. How I can be a total introvert, but also value socializing. And that I actually have something in common with people like Vin Diesel, Beyonce and Kate Middleton because they have the same personality type, too! LOL

Image courtesy of https://www.16personalities.com

I think the best part about knowing yourself is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and how those traits play out in the areas of your family, work and social lives (which this test thoroughly explains to you!). It’s like finding a manual about yourself that validates and affirms you and also gives you smart instructions on how to get along with other people. Because a lot of life is about learning to get along with other people who unfortunately were not blessed with the same wonderful personality as you. 😉

This test also works well in helping you understand those other people in your life. I took the test for hubby (who preferred not to take it himself because he tends to overanalyze those kind of questions, haha), and the results were amazingly accurate. Both of the munchkins also took it (with some help from me) and it was a neat experience going over the test and results with them. It gave me the opportunity to understand how they see themselves and to know how self-aware they are. Several times, C answered, “Totally not!” to a question and I had to agree with her assessment. It also gave me insight into how I can work with their strengths and weaknesses and better parent them as individuals. (Their results will likely change as they grow, so it’ll be fun to do the test again with them in the future.)

Bottom line, this is the one personality test you won’t regret taking! Go HERE to take it and comment below to tell me what type you are! 🙂 (Fun fact, hubby’s a Debater and I’m a Defender. Can we say opposites attract?!)

Here’s a sweet cover of “One Day” by Yonina that I shared on Facebook before. I love its hopeful message that one day all people will get along.

Lessons Learned from the Small Things

Since the end of a year usually gets me thinking and reflecting, I asked the munchkins a question on the last day of 2016 to get them thinking and reflecting: What did you learn this year?

They answered me with blank stares and full mouths (it was dinnertime), so I tried to help them out a little.

“You guys learned to swim!” (Which was nothing short of a miracle for two kiddos who had never intentionally put their heads in the water before this summer. Now they race to see who can jump into the pool first!)

“We learned how to knit.” (Thank you, YouTube videos.)

E finally swallowed and added, “I learned algebra.” (Simple algebra in 4th grade? Craziness, I tell ya.)

I turned to C and reminded her, “You learned how to do a handstand!”, to which she enthusiastically nodded.

Wow. What a year.

These were some major milestones for the kids, milestones I wish could be captured in more than a few words or sentences.  Saying, “You guys learned to swim!” doesn’t do the experience of learning how to swim justice. Five words aren’t enough to describe the endless hours it took for E and C to overcome their fears enough to trust us to hold their hands when they gave up their swim floaties. To trust that their goggles would keep the water out of their eyes (and still go underwater even when they didn’t). And to trust that the fun of jumping into the water would be worth the butterflies they felt in their stomachs as they stood on the edge of the pool. Learning how to swim was a culmination of years and years of patience, perseverance, courage and faith for all of us, especially the patience part for hubby and me. 😉 Even though it seems like the kids accomplished this achievement in 2016, you could say they started learning how to swim 10 and 7 years ago.

Isn’t that the case with a lot, if not most, of the lessons we learn in life? Learning something new takes time—minutes, hours, days and years of time.  And the little mundane things we are learning today are necessary and important lessons we need in order to accomplish something bigger in the future.

That’s what I was thinking about the other night when C and I were wrangling some yarn. You may think the word wrangle would apply better to a herd of cattle or horses, but believe me, this yarn had a mind of its own. It was perfectly coiled when I bought it, but over the course of a few weeks, it had become a crazy tangle of a mess. And before I could use it again I had to tame the wild beast.

This beast has a cute name though: Cupcake Sprinkles. 😉

So that’s what we set out to do. I found one end and began wrapping it around my hand while C picked it apart and released its knots. She kept exclaiming, “This is going to take hours!” to which I replied through gritted teeth, “No, it won’t!” Truthfully though, it did take most of the evening to unravel. But through it all, we persevered. We cheered when we could pull more than a foot of yarn at once and booed when we encountered a knot. I was impressed with C’s patience and complimented her on it, especially when we traded tasks and I got the hard job of untangling the knots. When we traded back, she told me with confidence, “Watch and learn!” as she masterfully tamed that yarn, inch by inch. It was a wonderful sight (and a relief!) when we were all done.

Lesson learned? The task of unravelling the ball of yarn may have seemed mundane and a waste of time, but it was much needed and in preparation for something bigger. Like being able to knit this cute hat for my niece.

As you can see, I did a lot of knitting over winter break. 🙂 I also made a hat for C to match her cousin’s, as well as a bag for her stuffed chick (not pictured here).

So, yup, as we start this new year, I’m reminding myself to take baby steps as I set my goals. Sure, I’d love to be able to write more books than I did last year, but what’s important is that I just show up and write. Word by word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph. Because all these small steps will add up and come together to form something beautiful  … just like that crazy ball of yarn did.

Here’s the song C and I listened to on repeat(!) while we were wrangling the yarn. It’s called, “Up, Up and Away” and it’s from one of the American Girl movies, Grace Stirs Up Success. The main character in the film also learned the importance of taking small steps (ie. cracking an egg with one hand) in her quest to become a Masterchef Junior baker.

What small steps are you learning today that will help you to accomplish bigger things in the future?

Why You Need to Treat Your Kids Differently

When munchkin #1 was small, I read a parenting book in which the author (a pediatrician with 8 kids!) said he parents each one of his children differently. As a mom of a high need baby, I was so worn out by carrying and nursing him almost 24/7, my jaw dropped when I read that line. I remember telling hubby about it and declaring that, “This guy is crazy! How can a parent have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to use a different parenting style for each kid?” I was having a hard enough time just keeping mine alive … seriously! 😉

It wasn’t until munchkin #2 showed up that I began to understand why we need to treat our kids differently. Of course I love, appreciate, and value both of my kids as equally as my imperfect self is able to, but I don’t always treat them the same. Why? Because they have completely opposite personalities and temperaments. Yup, you could say hubby and I successfully cloned ourselves, haha.

E was (and still is) the most careful, cautious, and detailed kid I know. Even as a baby, he knew without us ever mentioning it that the top of the stairs was a dangerous place to be. He would always steer clear of it, going so far as to stick to the wall opposite of the staircase as he walked by. What about C? This adventurous, fun-loving kid is the reason they invented baby gates and why we finally had to buy and install one at the top of the stairs. She’s also the one who insisted on trying salsa as a toddler and wouldn’t stop crying about it until hubby gave her a bite … then resumed her crying when she realized it was as spicy as we said it’d be! E, on the other hand, would’ve heeded our warning the first time we gave it (I think he only tried salsa recently!).

That said, E and C are very people. And different people have different strengths and weaknesses. They also have different needs.

E needs lots of downtime and touch, so after school I’ll sit with him on the couch as I work and he reads or plays on the iPad. I’ve gotten used to him resting his foot on my leg or sitting close enough so our knees touch. He does his thing and I do mine and he’ll occasionally pause to show me a cool app he downloaded or ask me to choose a robot for him to use in a game.

C needs attention, but action, too. For her we’ll snuggle together for a bit, then play a board game or cards. She’ll draw pictures and have me color them. When we sit together on the couch, it’s more face-to-face so she can tell me—in great detail—about her day. I know all about who likes who in her 2nd grade class (man, are kids maturing faster these days or what?!) and what they ate for so-and-so’s birthday celebration (the last one was Oreo cookies in 2 flavors).

And because our munchkins are so different, we encourage and discipline them in different ways, too. We are a little more lax with E since he’s so rule-based already, but are a bit more strict with C because (as hubby understands all too well), she tends to push the limits. We push E more to try new things because he likes to play it safe (hm, I wonder where he got that from?), and we support C whenever she has a new interest (her latest thing? spy gadgets!).

So I totally understand now what the good doctor was saying about treating each one of his kids differently. It’s not because we love one more or less or want to show grace more to one than the other. It’s because we’re trying to love and nurture them in the specific ways they need to be loved and nurtured so they have the best chances of becoming the man and woman God intended them to be.

I like how this parenting article I read recently put it (it’s one of the best I’ve read, seriously!): “If we are in tune with the characteristics that make our child unique, we will have a better understanding of when they may need additional support, and when and where they will thrive.”

I love how the writer used the word thrive. Sure, the first step we parents need to do is to keep our tiny humans alive. But hopefully, with God’s grace, we can move beyond that to help them do more than survive: To thrive.

Take a listen to Shawn Hook & Kurt Hugo Schneider’s cover of Hercules’ “Go the Distance”. May we help our kids to go the distance in life.

What kind of parenting style did you receive and how did it help or hinder your growth?

Taking the “Chinese” Out Of Parenting

So … don’t you hate it when someone speaks the truth in love to you? 😉 Especially when said truth is kinda true? Yup, well, I had one of these moments recently when hubby said, “You sounded kind of harsh when you were talking to E. Like a Chinese parent.”

Argh. Okay, let me back up and explain the scenario. We were at Lowe’s looking at outdoor patio-type chairs. One of our family’s favorite pastimes is sitting on our front porch together eating snacks while playing Plants vs. Zombies 2, watching the hummingbirds come eat at our feeder, and meowing at stray cats.

Here’s our newest feline friend. 🙂

To do so though requires us to drag 4 of our dining room chairs outside, which then get left in the living room when we’re done, unintentionally creating an obstacle course. That’s why I had the brilliant idea of buying either a bench or foldable chairs for us to use outside. But as any parent knows, most kiddos don’t have the same definition of “brilliant” as their parents. So, there we were at Lowe’s browsing around when 5 minutes in, E started saying he was bored and could we leave, like 5 minutes ago? To which I replied in a frustrated tone, “There are times in life when you have to do things you don’t want to do. How are you going to survive if you’re not patient?”

E’s response? He flopped down in a chair and said, “I won’t! It’s okay if I don’t!”

Dramatic, much? 😉

Okay. So, maybe hubby was right. I did kinda have a “tiger mom” moment there. In hindsight, I realized I was playing the wrong hand or choosing the wrong strategy, however you’d like to call it. Instead, I should’ve said something that appealed to E’s relational nature, such as “I know you don’t want to be here, but it makes me very happy to see you trying to be patient. We’ll be done in ten minutes” and topped it off with a side hug (’cause kissing a 10-year old in public is not allowed!). I’m sure that would have been more effective, don’t you?

Sigh. So, lesson learned. Even though I am Chinese, I’m going to try to take the “Chinese” out of my parenting. That means saying no to being prickly, growly, and mean. And saying yes to being gracious, kind, and long-suffering (emphasis on the long!). 🙂

I’ve been obsessed with the singing group Voctave and their covers of songs. This one, “You Have More Friends Than You Know”, is just beautiful … except that there was one part that confused me until today. It’s the phrase, “Those who love you the most may need more time to grow”. I think that sums up my role as a parent perfectly. I do love my munchkins oh-so much, but I still have so much more growing to do as their mama. I don’t think I’ll ever be done growing this side of heaven, but I’m thankful God is not done with me yet.

What ways do you still need to grow?

Superheroes, Snacks & Surprises

What do superheroes, snacks and surprises have in common? Well, they were all a part of the academic camp that our church put on last week for kids in our local community. Superheroes, because what 5th grader doesn’t love people in capes running and flying around to save the day, and snacks, because growing and learning kids need sustenance—and lots of it. And what better snacks to have than these superhero-themed ones? Any guesses as to what each one represents? 😉 (I’ll leave the answers at the bottom of this post!)

IMG_4776 IMG_4785 IMG_4790

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might be wondering then, where did the surprises come in? Let me tell you a neat story. 🙂

On the first day, another volunteer and I were walking around the middle school campus searching for ice when a woman called out to us. The first thing I noticed about her were the cool metal frames of her glasses, followed by the eager brown eyes peering out from behind them. She told us she had just dropped her daughter off and was surprised to find out that the camp was put on by a church. And not just any church, but the one she had spotted just the weekend before when she was across the street from the high school where we meet buying boba tea! She said she’s been telling her friends that she wants to go to church, saw our church’s signs that Sunday, and then came across us again on Monday. Her exact words were: “It’s meant to be”.

The other volunteer and I exchanged wide-eyed glances as we proceeded to answer her questions about the service times, childcare and dress code (which she was relieved to find out is “come as you are!”). When we finished chatting with her, we exchanged names, shook hands, and parted with smiles all around. 😀

I shared this story with the person in charge of the academic camp and we were just amazed that God had orchestrated everything to happen at the right time and in the right places. It’s not that it’s surprising to see God do amazing things (come on, He created the universe!), but it was super cool to see that He is working in ways we aren’t aware of yet and that He’s working all things together for His purposes. Even though we may not talk about Jesus during the camp, God is still using it to open doors for people to hear about Him. That’s pretty superhero-ific, if you ask me. 🙂

Speaking of superheroes, take a listen to Charlie Puth’s song, “One Call Away”.

Okie, if you haven’t figured out what the snacks up above are, here are the answers:

  1. Cheese on a pretzel stick = Thor’s hammer
  2. Green-colored vanilla yogurt with Oreo pieces = The Hulk
  3. Sandwiches = Bat cutout for Batman & Star cutout for Captain America

How have you seen God work in superhero-ific ways in your life?