Sunday, May 30, 2010

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It is ridiculously difficult to get my boys to pose for a picture. Usually I have to resort to the surprise attack or just take it even if they are not looking at the camera. That is why, when they request to get their picture taken, I run for my camera.

On this day Mateo found my baseball cap and wanted his picture taken with it.

In line with my children's neverending quest to make sure they are not missing out on what the other one is doing, Diego wanted to wear my cap and have his picture taken too....
and one-uped his brother by having a second picture taken with the cap backwards.
Not to be outdone, Mateo ditched the hat and insisted on a Spider-Man band-aid for his nose and another picture.

Such silly boys.

Just so that I remember in the future: Diego fell at preschool and scraped his nose. It left a huge scab which he, of course, would not leave alone. He hates the sight of blood so we had to cover it will a band-aid. He refused to take it off and looked like that for over a week.

Zoo school

Besides attending Preschool two days a week, Diego has also gone to a three hour a week class at our local zoo. The first time he attended these classes he was three and a couple of months. His English was pretty much non-existent but I thought since he was virtually immersed in Spanish 24 hours a day that this would be a fun way for him to learn some English. Diego is my cautious child and while he loves to go to the zoo, he has always been a bit leary of animals. I also hoped that this class would help relieve some of his fear as well.

Well it turned out that he loved the class so we signed him up again this past Spring. I was absolutely amazed at how much he learned. Since between the two of us we only speak Spanish, it was fascinating to watch him translate what he had learned in English to explain it to me in Spanish. At times he was at a loss for a word so he would have to ask me how do you say, for example, "compost" in Spanish. His wonderful teacher would tell me that he stayed next to her all of the time because he had so many questions to ask her- in English! Since I hardly ever hear him speaking English I was shocked that he not only had the vocabulary to ask the questions but also felt that comfortable speaking English with her to ask the questions in the first place. I am dying to stay for a whole class next time so that I hear for myself.

It was a wonderful experience and we would like to say, "¡Gracias Miss Wendy!"

That is a picture of a gorila (not Miss Wendy.) :)

End of Year Show

I can not believe that Diego's first year of preschool is coming to an end this week. I remember dropping him off the first day in September covered in tears. (Me, not him. He was fine. I was a wreck.) He has grown up and matured so much during this school year. He went from a relatively shy child to dancing and singing in the school program. (Ok, so he mostly smiled and swayed back and forth but a year ago he would never have even stood in front of a crowd.) He has learned to write and is beginning to read. He has developed the best since of humor and has made lots of friends. He has also made me very proud by behaving at school and receiving all green lights. (Well, there was that one yellow light.)

This is a picture before his End of the Year Show. He did wonderfully and we planned to go for ice cream afterwards but he fell a sleep in the car. He did get his ice cream the next day.
Congratulations on completing your first year of school Diego. We love you!

#1 Why we are successful: Diego's first language is Spanish

A friend and fellow teacher asked me the other day how we have been so successful raising our sons to be bilingual. This friend is from the Dominican Republic and his wife is from Peru and he will readily admit that they have not succeeded in raising bilingual children. Both of their children, who are now in elementary school, understand quite a bit of Spanish but will not speak a word of it. My child, Diego, on the other hand, has as big of a vocabulary and speaks with the fluency of any other native Spanish-speaking child.

This has been no small feat and certainly didn't happen on accident. My first language was English and although my husband learned Spanish first, English took over as he went through the school system in the U.S. My husband's family does speak Spanish but since they do not live close, we have had to rely on ourselves to ensure that the boys learn Spanish.

Now that we are four years into this bilingual journey, I would like to reflect on why we have been successful for myself and hopefully to help anyone else who is going through this difficult but rewarding process. I am going to break this into several posts because I believe that there are several reasons.

#1 Why we have been successful: Diego's first language is Spanish.

There are several different ways to balance multiple languages within a home. The two most popular seem to be OPOL (One Parent, One Language) and ML@H (Minority Language at Home.) OPOL is where one parent speaks, for example, English to the child and the other parent speaks Spanish. With ML@H, as the name implies, the minority language is always spoken within the family and the majority language (English) is learned from the environment.

Our particular method is closest to ML@H but we went a step further to ensure that Diego was surrounded by the Spanish outside of the home also. From the time he was born we always looked for Spanish-speaking babysitters, watch television in Spanish, listened to music in Spanish, and even found a Spanish immersion preschool for him to attend. In a sense, until he was three, he was immersed in Spanish. This, of course, caused some problems. Several family members were not pleased that my son could not speak English. Remember that no one on my side of the family speaks Spanish. And surprisingly, several members of my husband's family voiced their disapproval saying that I would be putting him behind all of the other students when he entered school. I will actually have to write a separate post about how I dealt (and still deal) will the negative reactions from friends and family. I have plenty examples.

I have never had any doubt that Diego would learn to speak English. Living in the United States and dealing day to day with the world outside of our home make it a certainty. Diego's big breakthrough with English came a month after his third birthday when he made friends with a little boy who just moved in down the street. Within a month of playing with this little boy, he was forming complete sentences in English. Now a year later, I would say that while Diego's strongest language is most certainly Spanish, his English is catching up fast. I predict that by the time he is six that he will be more or less equally fluent in both languages.

I have been told by many that our method is too extreme. And I will admit that a few times when Diego was two, I felt terrible when we would go to a playgroup and Diego would not be able to communicate with the other children. It is much easier to write this post looking back now knowing that we are being so successful. It takes a strong stomach and a lot of determination but it has worked for us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Giveaway ends tomorrow night!

Don't forget that the giveaway for the $50 gift certificate for CSN online stores ends tomorrow at midnight. Thanks to everyone who has entered so far!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I am pretty frugal. Ok, my husband calls me cheap. I try to spend as little money on everything that I possibly can. But something has been bothering me lately. I have been reading a lot about the pesticides in our produce. Since I try to get the boys to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible, I was more than a little disturbed to learn that despite my cleaning and scrubbing, the pesticides still remained in a lot of the food that they eat on a daily basis.

I always dismissed "organic" as another ploy to make me spend more of my hard-earned money on food (a bill that I struggle to keep down.) Last weekend I visited a Whole Foods store for the second time in my life and purchased organic apples and strawberries. From my research I learned that the only fruit and vegetables that are worth buying organic are those that you eat the skin. It is a small step but I feel good about it since the boys eat apples and strawberries every day. I did roll my eyes as a walked by the $5 organic cookie. I'm not ready for that.

Growing Up

A lot of big changes are happening around our house lately. One of the most difficult for me is to see my babies growing up. Obviously, I knew that would not stay babies forever but seeing my littlest, my LAST baby become a big boy is very hard for me. Mateo has always been small. He measured in the 5-10 percentile for his height and weight up until his last two-year check-up. He is now in the 50th percentile for his height and it shows. He is still very skinny so the baby-chubbiness is all gone and he is all little boy now. I have finally broken down and started to get rid of the baby toys and furniture that will never be used again in our house. (Pause to regain composure and not cry.) I guess that it was not as difficult with Diego because I knew that all of these items would be resurfacing shortly with the next kid. Since there will be no more new babies, it is time to pass these items off to someone else. Last week Mateo used his high chair for the last time and it will be finding a new home in a couple of weeks. I took one last picture of it before I took it out of the room. (Ok, I am crying again.)

I am so blessed to be the mommy of two such special little boys. My resolve is to appreciate each day that I have with them and never take for granted the time that we have together.

Giveaway- $50 gift certificate to CSN stores

I am VERY excited to giveaway a one-time-use $50 gift certificate to use as you wish on ANY of CSN's 200+ websites. CSN Stores have over 200 online stores where you can find tv stands furniture, toys, home decor, and so much more!

I am not known for my quick decision-making. (Just ask my husband how long it takes me to order at restaurants.) But with this many choices you are sure to find something that you would love.

So.... would you like to win the $50 gift certificate?

Mandatory Entry:
1. Become a public follower of My Bilingual Boys using Google Friend Connect on the right-hand side of the blog and leave me a comment telling me that you are. If you are already a follower, (Thank you!) please leave a comment also with a suggestion of something that you would like to see on my blog (ie. tips for raising multilingual kids, foreign language product reviews, giveaways, or just more cute pictures of my kids.)

Additional Entries:
2. Blog about this giveaway (2 entries). Leave a separate comment for each entry and a link to the post.
3. Visit CSN stores website and tell me which item you would order with your winning gift certificate.
Must have a U.S. or Canada address to win.
This giveaway will end at midnight on May 28th.

¡Buena Suerte!

What my child is reading...

Here are the favorites of the past two weeks:
Madeline (the Spanish Edition.) I chose this book from the library because I remember it being one of my favorites as a kid. To be honest, I couldn't remember what it was about and reading it didn't really jog my memory either. The big shock was how much the boys enjoyed the book and requested it almost daily. Diego was fascinated with the little girl who was not afraid of anything and had a ton of questions about your appendix and hospitals. I think that our discussions from this book definitely increased his vocabulary from scars, to nuns, to crutches, to the Eiffel Tower. It also gave me an opportunity to talk a little about how Madeline lived in Paris and how they speak French in France.

La Gran Rana Bocona We actually own this book and I am not sure who likes it more, the kids or I. It is just hilarious and I must say that I have the voices of the various animals down. :) This proud big-mouthed frog goes around asking all of the other animals who they are and what they eat. Finally, he meets up with a crocodile that states that he eats big-mouthed frogs. It looks like there is an English version also called the "Wide-mouthed Frog."
Big Wide-mouthed Frog- La Gran Rana Bocona (Spanish Edition)

Messy Bessy We have started a new tradition at the library where I let Diego choose one book in English. We usually go straight to the Spanish section which is quite a bit smaller so I think that he was a little overwhelmed with all of the choices. He ended up just grabbing a book without really looking at it but it ended up being a big hit with both of the boys. Mateo called himself "Messy Atis" for a few days afterwards.

It is a very simple story about a little girl who has a filthy room and has to clean it up. The vocabulary was simple enough that the boys could understand with minimal translation on my part. Whenever we read in English I stop more often to check for understanding and ask questions. The only issue I had with the book was that Bessy threw all of her toys, games, and clothes in her closet and called it "cleaning up." The pictures even showed it overflowing out of the door. I did give us an opportunity to talk about how to properly put thing away.
Messy Bessey (A Rookie Reader)

Check out Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns to read more great book reviews.

And the winner is.................

The winner of the GameWright game "Can You See What I See?" is............

****Michelle "I follow on facebook."
Congratulations! I know that your girls will love this game!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time is running out to win a game from Gamewright

Don't forget to enter to win my giveaway of this fun game from Gamewright. A winner will be chosen Saturday morning. Go HERE to enter.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Early Summer Vacation

This last few weeks we have done very little "school" in our house. If I ever get around to downloading the pictures, I would love to share some fun activities about bugs that were a big hit with the boys.

Summers in Texas are hot, I mean HOT! You can usually go outside for a couple a hours in the morning but by 11:00 it is unbearable. Spring and Fall are just about perfect so we have been spending every free minute outside enjoying it. Here are some pictures that I took of the boys last weekend. (Yes, they are still in their pjs. Doesn't everyone play outside in their pjs.?)

Mateo just learned to climb to the top of slide by himself. His favorite activity to do up there is have Mommy put ALL of his plastic dinosaurs at the top of the slide so that they can slide down. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
The boys never tire of hunting for ladybugs. We have dozens of them right now. I am still working with Mateo on being gentle with the poor insects. It has got the point where I no longer show him when I find one. I can't have any more deaths on my conscience.

Diego is very gentle with the ladybugs and often asked if he can keep one for a pet. This is a big deal since last year he would not even touch any sort of creepy-crawly.
Mateo is smelling a flower.
Playing with the hose never gets old.
I hate to categorized my kids..... yet. :) But, if I had to I would say that Diego is definitely the intellectual but not athletic one and Mateo will either be a soccer player or a sky diver. I swear that kid would jump off of anything.

Come play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up.

We Play

Am I a helicopter mom?

Last night (while I was up at 3:00 am again with the worse case of poison ivy I have ever seen in my life) I read a couple of interesting blog post about supervising our children and how free we should let them play. The first post was by Natalie at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns. Natalie has some interesting comments about how we over supervise our children here in the US and do not give them enough freedom. The second post was by Simple Mom asking her readers "How freely do you let your kids play?" I highly recommend that you read both articles and the comments that followed for some interesting opinions on this topic.
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This brings me to my take on it. I was raised in the country with a few acres of yard and a busy highway running across the front. As far back as I remember my sister and I knew to stay far away from the highway but had free range to run and play on the rest of the property. We would stay outside together (but without our parents) most of the day and come inside when it was time to eat.

I would love for my boys to have that kind of freedom. Unfortunately, we live in a suburb outside of a large city and the situation is very different. We are fortunate to have a decent-sized fenced-in backyard and the boys are allowed to play in it alone while I am in the kitchen. That is about the extent of their freedom. I would never allow them to play in the front yard without me. Diego has learned to stay out of the street but Mateo proved, yet again, the other day that he still has not figured that out yet. And yes, I will admit it. I am terrified of someone abducting my children. It maybe that I am paranoid or have watched one-too-many Cold Case Files but the thought is often in my head.

We were at the park the other day and I noticed several mothers sitting on one end of the park talking while their two and three years old were on the other side of the park playing, definitely out of sight. They did not check on these kids for about fifteen minutes. I, on the other hand, stayed fifteen feet or so behind the boys but followed them around the park the entire time.

So am I am helicopter mom? I think so. This is probably something I should work on. I think that as they grow up I need concentrate more on teaching them how to make good choices and make decisions for themselves. I want them to grow up confident and not afraid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Win a game from Gamewright!

Have you entered to win this fun game by Gamewright? There is still time. Winner will be picked on May 16th. Go here to find out how to win.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Feliz Cinco de Mayo

I had all kinds of cute crafts and fun ideas of how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in our household but unfortunately none of them came to be. I am still teaching part-time and I was in charge of our school's Cinco de Mayo program (for the fifth year in a row.) This program included around 100 performers (both student and non-student) and an audience of around 900. Needless to say, as I am writing this in the evening on May 5th, I am exhausted and a poor choice of shoes has left me nearly unable to walk. But the program was a success and the Hispanic students who make up about 20% of our student population were proud to share their heritage.
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I would love to move my Cinco de Mayo plans to this weekend but seeing as it is Mother's Day, I am sure that it will not happen. I am not worried. We make sure that our boys are proud of their Mexican heritage all year round. Through the food they eat, the language they speak, the songs they listen to, and our friends and family they are constantly reminded of the beauty of their Mexican side. So even though I let this one slide by this year, we can proudly say, "¡Viva México!"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taking learning to the sandbox

Playing in the sandbox is one of my kids' favorite things to do. I received a set of uppercase and lowercase letters awhile back and they have just been sitting in the craft closet awaiting a creative lightbulb to go off in my head. Yesterday before going outside I asked the boys if they would like to go on a treasure hunt. After making various pirate noises that I took as a "yes," we headed to the sandbox. A very simple, but fun game of "dig up the letters" ensued. My favorite part was Diego trying to teach Mateo his letters and Mateo happily repeating whatever Diego said just so happy to be included in the game.

So much for not mixing colors...

When I bought the last batch of Play-doh, I decided to only give the boys one color so that they would not mix them all together and it would last longer. The boys played happily for awhile but Diego insisted that he needed ALL of the colors. I finally gave up and Diego made the creation below.
Me: What is the world is it?
Diego: A chameleon
Me: Why did you need all of the colors?
Diego: Because chameleons change colors.

I should have figured that one out for myself.

Rosas de Abuela

My husband's grandmother was very special to him. Unfortunately, she passed away shortly before we met so I never had the honor of meeting her. During one of our trips to his hometown, we stopped by his grandfather's house and he offered us one of his grandmother's rosebushes. I was skeptical as we dug a bunch of leafless sticks out of the sandy ground that we would ever see a rose. Well, I was wrong! Four years later we can enjoy the beautiful roses that bloom in front of our house and pay tribute to a wonderful woman.

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