Super Why! - J's New Favorite

J has a new favorite and his name is Super Why!

I found Super Why when I was looking for new reading apps for J to play with. It's really important to me that my boys grow up to be avid readers, and J's at the phase where he's too excited to sit down and read a book, so I have to find other ways to build his reading and language skills. Browsing through top rated software led me to Super Why: ABC Adventures. I wanted to download the iPad app for J, but my resourceful husband was able to find a complete set of episodes of The Reading Adventures of Super Why! which J and Little C now love to watch in the mornings.

Super Why is a series produced by PBS, designed to help preschool-aged kids build the skills they need to learn to read. Basically the series' hero is Whyatt, who turns into the superhero Super Why. Along with his friends Red (from Little Red Riding Hood), Princess Pea (from The Princess and the Pea) and Pig (from the Three Little Pigs), Super Why helps solve a problem that preschoolers can relate to, by finding the answers in stories.

Each episode is around 20 minutes long and starts with a simple problem that Super Why and the Super Readers have to solve. Super Why and his friends, the Super Readers, enter a book. As they go through the book, they play fun word games that helps J with letter identification and basic spelling. I also like that as they go through the episode, they actually read through the book using simple sentences, with the words highlighted as they read so it's easy for J to follow. The activities also build vocabulary because they take new words and define these words in language easy enough for preschoolers to understand. At the end of the book, they solve the problem that came up at the beginning. Often, these problems are integrated with simple lessons about manners and values.

J doesn't generally like new stuff, and when we introduce new shows to him, he asks us to switch it back to Mickey Mouse, Elmo or Ducktales, which are his favorites. But as soon as I played Super Why on the TV, he was engaged and watched an entire episode. Now, when he watches TV, he'll ask us for "Why!" :-)

For those of you who would like to check out Super Why, here's a link to the show's site. There's also a link for parents, where it gives lesson plans and additional activities to build on the lessons that for each episode. Here is a sample of a lesson plan based on the Three Little Pigs episode, and home activities based on the King Eddie Who Loved Spaghetti episode.

I hope your kids like it as much my little Super Reader does! :)

Learning His ABCs -- The High Tech Way

When J was a baby, Big C and I decided that we wouldn't let him watch TV until he's two years old. We were vigilant about upholding this rule, but we did relent when he was about 20 months old and finally introduced him to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Elmo. Since then, we've allowed him to watch TV in the mornings, but we still keep a close eye on what he watches. Letting him watch TV at this particular point in time, where he's learning quite a lot and absorbing information really quickly, has allowed me to gauge his ability to understand what he's seeing on the screen. So far, I've seen that he grasps the concepts of whatever show or movie he's watching: he shows proper reactions and emotions (i.e. being scared, being happy) and he identifies things that he sees (cars, balls, etc.)

J's also learned how to use the iPad. Our battered, but still working first generation iPad, which I bought as a birthday present for Big C before J was born, has now found a new owner. While we were initially hesitant to let J spend so much time playing with it, he's at that age where he's benefiting greatly from playing educational games. So we just make sure that we carefully screen the programs he plays with. I have personally selected the games that he plays. To make sure that the games are educational and age-appropriate (not just in terms of content but also in terms of skill), I go through several rounds of the game myself to see what it's like and I teach J how to play the game.

Since we let him play with the iPad, J has learned his ABCs (upper and lower case), colors, shapes and the numbers 1-10. So for us, we've already recouped our initial investment on the iPad, not even counting the time that Big C and I used it. Disclaimer though, this is not to say that technological learning devices are totally good, there are still some dangers to avoid and it's our responsibility as parents to be vigilant and instill discipline when it comes to using electronic devices. The decision of how much time your little one spends with his iPad, iPod, or computer is still entirely up to you. But to help you make the decision on what apps you can let your kids play with, here are some of apps that J plays on his iPad:

1. Bugsy Pre-K: This is the very first learning app that we taught J how to play with. This is basically the app that started it all for us. From this, J learned the letters of the alphabet, numbers up to 10, colors (primary, secondary, brown, white and gray), and shapes. The nice thing about this app is that it starts at a very basic level then progresses in terms of difficulty. For instance, for shapes, it will start with the basic shapes, then include hexagons and pentagons to increase the level of difficulty. For letters, it will start with identifying and recognizing letters, then move on to identifying beginning letters and phonetics. This app is still my favorite in terms of learning content. Plus, at the end of each round, J gets to pick a toy for Bugsy to play with, which he likes, so it motivates him to keep playing more rounds. He's been playing with this for about three months already and he still loves it.

2. Pororo Tick Talk English - Colors: This is also one of J's favorites that he keeps coming back to. It just teaches colors, but he likes Pororo so he likes this app. Basically, it will ask you to pick a can of paint to color an object with. For instance, there's an outline of a blue plane, so Pororo will ask you to choose the color blue and you can paint the plane. It also tests the child by giving him an array of objects and asking him to click the ones that are blue or red or yellow and so on. It can also help your little one learn the colors as sight words, because the word "red" will flash and the font is red. There's also a reading portion about colors that your child can listen to, which helps with reading skills.

3. Little Writer - The Tracing App for Kids: I downloaded this for J because I wanted him to start learning how to write. This is pretty nice because it teaches J how to write letters in upper and lower case, numbers, draw basic shapes and write words. It's kid-friendly because instead of ordinary tracing lines, your child will be asked to trace by pulling an animal or a truck to "eat" or get the objects. For instance, J has to pull the giraffe to collect all the apples, and the strokes follow how to write the letter. I've noticed that since playing with the app, J has started using his fingers to trace the letters he sees, like on my shirts or his books. For writing words, it will ask the child to write the letters one by one and at the end, it will show a picture of the object, say the word and show the word in your child's handwriting. My favorite feature of this app is that it allows you to add words of your own. I've added Daddy and Mommy and J and Little C's names and at the end our pictures flash, which can eventually help J recognize the words and spell it.

4. Jellytoons Toddler Skills - Bobo's Birthday Challenge: This is one of the newer apps on J's iPad. This app lets J work on shape and color matching and counting. There's also a part where J has to guide a ball around a track to reach the end, where it makes a funny bouncing sound that always makes J laugh. This game works on his motor skills. There's also a cup game, where a toy is hidden under a cup and he has to watch and guess which of the three cups the toy is hidden under. For each round he finishes, he gets to pick a gift for Bobo. There are also counting games to teach your toddler the numbers 1-10, using a fun ice cream game.

5. Jumpstart Preschool: I remember playing the Jumpstart 3rd Grade game on the PC when I was a kid, so I downloaded the Preschool version for J. Like Bugsy, this app teaches letters, numbers, shapes and colors. There's also a puzzle portion, where they have to put together a puzzle that forms a flashcard about a letter. There also memory matching games and stories for them to listen to/read along and connect the dots to form a picture. What I don't like about it is that the only reward the child gets at the end of each game is a star, which doesn't really do much. You don't get any prizes if you collect a certain number of stars, you just collect stars, so I'm afraid after a while, J will lose interest because there's no motivation.

So there you have it, mommies. Some kid-friendly and teacher-mommy-approved apps for your little one to enjoy. I leave you with a picture of my J, in DND ("do not disturb" in ICQ-speak -- again, a dated reference that betrays my age) mode with his iPad.
J in do-not-disturb mode
Happy weekend, mommies!

On Hanging Up the Horns

When Little C was born, my only breastfeeding goal was to keep providing breastmilk for as long as I possibly could. But now, at a little over 9 months, I'm afraid it's time for me to, as they say in breastfeeding circles, "hang up the horns".

Sometimes I wish I still had this with Little C
The notion of weaning first came to me last December, when a tearing wound forced me to stop using the pump and just hand express one breast, while using the pump on the other. Because I pump 10 times a day, the tear simply didn't have enough time to heal. I couldn't stop pumping because that would kill my already barely-enough supply, but I couldn't keep using the pump because the tear just kept getting worse and worse. Big C asked me, very gently, that maybe, just maybe, it's time to wean already. The thought brought me near tears and I couldn't explain why I couldn't stop yet, just that I couldn't.

A conversation with Maricel of Medela Moms shed some light on the subject. She said that my inexplicable reluctance to stop pumping milk for my son was completely normal and that most breastfeeding and pumping moms have gone through it at one time or another. She also told me that in most cases, there will come a day when you will finally feel okay with weaning, but before that day comes, you shouldn't force it. If there is still something in you that feels like you need to keep going, then do so by all means.

So I kept on.

Since December, I have persisted with hand expressing, but lately, I've noticed that my supply has been dipping. Alarmingly low, to the point that my supply was just half of what it used to be. Plus, despite my diligence with pumping and hand expressing, I suffered from clogged ducts which gave me a fever and kept me out of commission for two days. And so, I finally accepted that maybe it's time for me to wean. The thought of finally, completely weaning my son from my milk makes me feel a little weepy and sad, and regretful of how I didn't persist with direct feeding. Maybe if I did, I wouldn't have to wean Little C just yet.

At the time, I made the decision to exclusively pump based on what my entire family needed and while I am satisfied with what I have been able to do for Little C, some little part of me wishes that I could keep feeding my son with my own milk. Especially now that he's gotten so big and growing up so quickly, I yearn for the time when he was just a tiny baby and he would fall asleep in my arms because he was full from drinking my milk. In my mind's eye, I can still see the way he looked then as he unlatched from my breast, eyes closed, face still and peaceful, milk dribbling out from the corner of his mouth.

But, it is what it is, and now, 9 months later, my breastfeeding journey is coming to an end. With my milk supply dwindling by the day, I cut back my pumping sessions from 10 a day to just 6 a day. While a small part of me is relieved that I'm almost done, there's an even larger part of me that feels sad, because as Big C said, this marks the end of a very special phase in my son's young life. But as Big C also pointed out, our Little C is very lucky that he was able to go through that phase, when so many other kids don't.

So now, it's almost time for me to pack up my trusty PISA, which has served me well. I bought it when I was still pumping for J, but it really got a workout with Little C. This Medela pump was a sturdy and reliable friend and I've gotten so used to having it around. For moms who are seriously planning to breastfeed their babies, a double pump is an investment that is worth it. I highly recommend the Medela pumps, and Medela Moms offers great after-sales service. In addition to taking good care of your pump for you, they'll also provide you with much needed support and advice throughout your breastfeeding journey. For this, I thank Medela Moms, especially Mommy Maricel. To be fair, I should mention that I never had a chance to deal with Beng, the other Medela Mom, which is why I never mention her. :-)

As of this post, I am still unable to let go of providing milk for my son. While I look forward to the day when I finally hang up the horns, I'm grateful that I'm still able to get through one more day.

Have a happy, albeit rainy, weekend!

A Blogful of Memories

When I first started writing this blog, I wanted it to be a way by which I could write about special moments with my boys, record memories of what they were like as kids, so that we could have something to look back at when they're all grown up.

I realize that it's been quite some time since I've written an entry and I blame it on the hectic schedule that comes with being a work-at-home mom. Now that we're down one helper, the routine at home is a bit crazier than usual, but lately, I've been looking at my two babies. Whenever I look at them, it always hits me how quickly they grow up. J is now 27 months old and my Little C is turning 9 months old in a few days, so today, I decided to scrap my work schedule and just use the time to write about some of the things I'd like to remember about my boys a few years from now.
Happy Chinese New Year from J & Little C!

  • The other day, Little C woke up from his nap and he was alone in the playpen so he started crying. When I came into his room to get him, he was already sitting and thrashing his chubby legs. He looked so adorably petulant that I couldn't help but laugh when I went to pick him up.
  • The brotherly squabbles are starting, now that Little C has started showing interest in Ahya J's toys. Of course, the big boy doesn't want to share and would push his little brother away while saying, "No, baby!"
  • In the space of the past two weeks, Little C has hit a lot of milestones. He's learned to hold his own bottle, sit on his own and crawl really, really quickly. He's also learned to pull up on pretty much anything and stand with support. He's also got his two little bottom teeth and the top ones are due to make their appearance any day now. (I can't say this enough. The teething phase really bites, pardon the pun. We just finished with J and now we're starting with Little C. This is one phase of childhood that I wish I could fast-forward.)
  • When J wants to do something that we don't allow, he'll look at us with his big eyes and say, "Try! Try!" while nodding his head repeatedly to try and convince us. Translation: "Come on, Mommy/Daddy/Yaya, let me just try!"
  • J likes picking out his own clothes already, and he has several specific items of clothing that he wears again and again.
  • The other day, J spotted the Elmo band-aids I got and insisted that I put one on him. He told me to put it on one of his old ouchies, a tiny little scrape on his foot that dried out a week ago. I could hardly hold back my laughter when he started limping while walking as though the ouchie was brand new. He was really walking slowly and wouldn't put his full weight down on the foot with the band-aid.
  • A continuation to the band-aid story. The next morning, I was carrying him out of the room so he wouldn't wake Little C up. As I gently dropped him feet-first onto the floor, Yaya pulled off his socks so he spotted his Elmo band-aid again. Just before he dropped to the ground, he said, "No, Mommy! Ouchie!" and started crying, with real big tears. We have a real character on our hands! But sensing that my big little boy just needed a little Mommy-love, I picked him up like a baby, set him down on his Daddy's chair, and gave his "ouchie" a kiss. He even put his feet up on Daddy's ottoman so his foot wouldn't hurt anymore!
  • Lately, J has this new thing, where he suddenly runs into my room, shouting, "Mommy! Mommy!" and he just barrels towards me and gives me a hug and giggles and runs off somewhere else.
  • The other day, the two boys were watching cartoons in the living room and I sat down with them a few moments during a quick work break. When I stood up, both boys started wailing for me to stay and sit with them some more. 
The upcoming Chinese New Year reminds me that just one short year ago, I was still heavily pregnant with Little C, while J was just learning to take his first steps. I can only imagine what my boys will be like in a few more months, let alone a year! 

Enjoy the Chinese New Year weekend, mommies! Here's to a wonderful blessing-filled year of the water snake!