How to Lessen the Stress of Homework

How to Lessen the Stress of Homework

By
José-Andrés Alegría

Homework is already stressful, to begin with, so why make it any harder than it has to be? It tends to be the everyday stress that comes along with school. Which only gets worse when you have practice after school, or when you have a big project due soon. So how can you make it that homework is nothing more than just a passing thought? First things first, you have to reframe your mindset. Is homework fun? Not at all. But at the end of the day, it’s supposed to help you learn. You get what you put into it. It’s like practicing your jump shot or dance routine. Like them, homework is there to reinforce what you might have learned in school, and if you didn’t get it in class, then it’s good practice.

First of all, pick a place. Find a place where you can’t take a nap, or be distracted by food or people. And make this place the area where you always do your homework. Every time you sit down there, your brain should know that it is time to go to work. It’s kind of like when you go to work, and your mind knows that it’s now time to work and not nap even though there are days when I want to take a nap at work. A quiet space where you can buckle down with little to no distractions will help you in the long run when it comes to the day to day stress of homework.

Secondly, you need to prioritize what needs to get done. After you have your space and settle into it, the next step is listing out what’s due and when and what needs to get done today. Sometimes you have math homework that’s due tomorrow and some history homework that’s due three days from now. So why would I do the history homework first? Prioritizing is all about time management. You know yourself better than anyone, so you can have a rough idea of how long each assignment will take you. My college roommate would save his 4-page papers for the night before they were due. (I am not encouraging this, but he got away with it because he knew that he needed 5 hours for research, writing, and editing.) When I had a reading assignment, I would plan it out, so I did not have to read the whole thing in one day. I know I can read about 60 pages in an hour. So if I had to read 100 pages for class, I knew that I needed about 2 hours to read it all. Always give yourself time for breaks.

Third, on my list is how to study. There is this thing called the Pomodoro technique for when you are doing work. It goes like this; you decide what task you are working on then you set a timer to 25 minutes and work until it goes off. After 25 minutes, you get a 5 minutes break. After the fourth break, you get to take a 30-minute break. The mind can only hold focus for so long before it becomes wasted energy. Be smart with what time you have and don’t try to cram all the information in at once.

If you’re anything like me, then the fourth thing on this list is a must. I need some background noise when I study. I tried having the T.V. on, but that just ended up with me watching T.V. I can’t listen to music with lyrics because I will start writing down what I’m hearing. So my solution is Lo-fi. It is the best study music ever! It is a hip-hop jazz beats mixed with some electronic elements. No lyrics but the calming melodies help put my mind at ease while I do work. And if music is too distracting, look up some white noise like rain or a waterfall. Or if you’re like my one friend who cannot listen to anything when she studies, then do what she does. She puts on headphones and leaves them unplugged that way you block out noise, and people are less likely to bother you.

Lastly, make this a routine. Routines make life so much less stressful. Why should you have to worry about making time for homework when you can make it part of your routine? There is mental relief in knowing that at least one thing has been taken care of in your day. Routines make the stressful, stress-free.

Homework used to be the bane of my existence. But with a little discipline and a readiness to work, then maybe it can be less stressful. Homework is meant to help reinforce what you learned and help practice what you don’t understand. But the day-to-day grind of school can increase stress and anxiety, so plan accordingly. Make a space where you can work with little to no distractions, make a list of what needs to get done and prioritize, help yourself focus by playing some white noise, studying in increments helps keep you focused in the long run, and lastly make homework a routine and alleviate the stress that homework brings.

P.S.
Know the difference between recognition and recollection. When you study, do you remember the material or are there keywords and phrases that trigger your memory? Don’t just absorb information and data dump it onto a test, never to remember it again. Actively studying will allow you to remember without any hints or clues to guide you along.

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Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

Helping Your Kid with Homework You Don’t Understand

Helping Your Kid with Homework You Don’t Understand

By
José-Andrés Alegría

So you can’t help your kid with their homework cause even you don’t understand it anymore? Here are some cool tips, tricks, and resources that you can use to help yourself, and they understand the work.

School doesn’t have to be as hard as it once was. There is a multitude of tools and resources on the internet that make the hard and improbable way more doable. Who has the time or patience to remember how to cite in MLA and APA format? Why are there letters in math? Who has the brainpower to figure out what Shakespeare is trying to say in any of his plays? The internet is the single greatest invention, especially when it comes to doing homework.

Staying organized and focused

Forest

My biggest struggle when it comes to any form of work is focusing. I get side-tracked by twitter way more than I would like to admit. Twitter is my social media drug of choice. Or I start creating a new homework playlist on Spotify even though I already have eight of them. Forest is an app that makes me put my phone down and focus.

Google Drive

The days of lost and unsaved papers are long gone. Google Drive is Microsoft Word without the hassle of needing to carry a USB. If you aren’t using Google Drive, then you are making your life unnecessarily harder than it has to be. If your printer isn’t working, then you can give your friends access to your document so they can print it for you.

myHomework App

Always know when your homework is due and when to work on the assignment. This skill is more useful as you get into college.  Syllabuses are the best, but it is best to centralize all the assignments from your classes into one place.

Notability | Evernote

Note-taking has never been easier. I am weird in the way that I don’t like to take my notes in the same program that I write my papers. It just makes thing more cluttered. Notability (only for Apple products) also allows you to add or draw diagrams and has various formats for note-taking. Evernote is great for more writing-intensive classes and making study guides. They both bring different pros and cons to the table, so try both out and see which one works best for you.

Writing/English

Grammarly

Grammar is the least liked aspect of English. No one wants to learn what an indefinite article is so let Grammarly tell you what you did wrong. It will fix all the mistakes you make when writing. Your English teacher will love you, and so will your grades.

SparkNotes

Hated across the country by every English teacher, SparkNotes helps understand what an author is trying to say. I’m looking at you, Shakespeare. But outside of telling you what happens in each chapter of a book, SparkNotes also offers a few other tools that help break-up text that doesn’t make any sense like modern versions of Shakespeare plays and various videos explaining The Odysseyand stories alike. Yes, you still need to read whatever book your teacher tells you to, but this makes it just a bit easier to understand.

Purdue Online Writing Lab (Purdue OWL)

What does MLA or APA even mean? Purdue OWL is going to be your best friend starting in middle school and will be with you until you graduate college. No one enjoys writing research papers, but they are a necessary evil. Learning the basics on how to write in MLA and APA will make life in college slightly less miserable. Purdue OWL is the end-all-be-all of MLA and APA guides.

citationmachine.net

Purdue OWL will teach you how to cite, but there are so many different ways to cite all the various sources, so all you need to do is plug in all the information, and it will give it to you in the correct format.

Science

Sciemce.com

Look, I’m a BS-er, so I’ve always been better at English than Science. There is something about having to adhere to strict rules and facts of science that does not sit well with me. Sciemce.com is Google if Google only answered science questions.

Math

Mathway

Math is hard. Like really really hard. So let Mathway help check if you got the right answer. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean your grades should have to suffer.

Study Guides/Homework Helper

Quizlet

The ultimate study guide creator. Want flashcards? Practice tests? They have it all to help you get ready for a test. Plus, the manual grind of typing out everything to make the cards and study guides is an excellent way to start studying.

Socratic

Got questions about literally anything ranging from physics to biology to calculus to US history. You take a pic of the homework question and let Socratic works it’s magic as it finds you an answer.

YouTube

YouTube is the number 1 hit single in this playlist. Anything you will ever need help on is on Youtube. There are plenty of helpful Youtube channels that are great, but I have to give a shoutout to the one that helped me through middle school and high school, Crash Course. Crash Course breaks down all the humanities subjects into short videos. They saved my life a few times when I procrastinated on a paper or project. So Thank you, John Green (Yes, he wroteThe Fault in Our Stars) and Hank Green.

Google Scholar

Teachers seem to be cracking down on what websites and resources you can and cannot use, especially when it comes to research papers. Google Scholar gives you the most teacher-approved sources for any project you might be working on at the time.

Gooru

We all have that one subject that we struggle to understand. Gooru has lessons and practice tests that help reinforce whatever it is your teacher is trying to teach you. Give the website a deep dive. Some love it, and others find it a bit too much. I never used it, but I have a friend who lived and died by Gooru.

Whether it’s Math, History, English, or Science, the internet has a vast collection of resources to help you get through the struggle that is homework. There comes a time when parents can no longer help their kids out with their homework, but you can at least guide them to a few helpful resources to make everyone’s life easier.

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Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

We Aren’t Twelve Anymore

We Aren’t Twelve Anymore

By
José-Andrés Alegría

The point of no return. There comes a time when you look at your kid and need to realize that they are no longer 12.

Let me preface this by saying that my mom is the kind of mom everyone dreams of having. Growing up, she always said the same thing to me. “I’m not raising a kid. I’m raising an adult.” Those words have sat with me ever since. My mom always valued my opinion when it came to decisions that affected my life. When she wanted me to change schools, she told me why. But then she let me “state my case” arguing why I should be allowed to stay at my school. Ultimately, the final decision was hers to make, but she knew that it affected my life and let me participate in the decision-making process. It’s the reason I have no problem with making decisions now as an adult. But man, sometimes I look at my friends, and I see that my mom didn’t raise them. That’s not to say that their parents aren’t great, but some parents have a harder time letting go of their kids. Some have a hard time realizing that the dynamic between parent and child changes from authoritarian to more of a mentorship after we move out. When I moved out and went to college, my mom was always there for me, but in being there for me, she never babied me. If I went to her for advice, that is what she would give me. She never told me what I should do, never forced her opinions on me. My mom would say to me what she thought she would do if she were in my position. But ultimately the final decision was now my own. She made sure that by the time I moved out, I could take care of myself. The last thing she wanted to do was raise her son to be like his father.

Indecisiveness, with a fear of failure, and overall anxiety of being alone are the leading factors in snowflake syndrome. We are told our whole lives that we can be anything we want to be but then stripped of any freedom to go out and take the world by storm, so we grow up to be entitled. (I probably got an eye roll from all the Gen X-ers). When you have a generation that is too afraid to fail, they end up doing nothing but cowering behind the safety net of their parents. But those same parents don’t want to see their precious little angels fail either. Failure breeds success. You don’t know what is going to work unless you try, fail, and then try again.
As a kid, I was pretty good and picking up a new skill. Nothing was outside of my range of Do’s. And if I didn’t get it right away, I would spend countless hours mastering whatever stupid skill it was I was learning that week. I get so enthralled with little tasks until I learn how to do them. It is annoying. But in the end, I usually found success in my endeavors, which kind of annoyed my mom. Not saying she hoped that I failed, but she knew that when I failed, it was a learning experience for me. I was such a sore loser as a kid, and that terrified my mom. I think the reason she was so encouraging in all my adventures was because of my potential to lose or fail. That may sound horrible, but I was such a cocky little kid that I needed to learn how to fail gracefully. And so I did.

Failure is not so bad. It’s not the best feeling, but that’s life. We tend to fear failure, but it makes us stronger. We learn from it; some even thrive from it. It isn’t the failure that defines us but the grit to keep trying. Ray Allen, NBA guard and Heat legend, says it best: “Losing is so important as a kid… I love to see when they [his kids] lose because it makes them want to fight harder, it makes them want to try, it makes them want to practice.” Allowing your kid to fail is only allowing them to grow as a person. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be good at everything. Failure is inevitable in life, so take it the “L” and keep moving; otherwise, your failure will define you, and nobody wants that. So let your kids fail, you’ll only be doing them a favor.

Letting your kids figure out who they are through trial and error is just the next step in parenthood. Us kids start our lives incredibly dependent on our parents but there comes that decisive moment where we go from dependent to independent. The best thing you can do is to be there for us when we do fail. We can be dumb and reckless, and having the guidance of a mentor who has gone through it all is the second best gift any parent can give their kids. The first being the gift of life. I went into college wanting to be a mechanical engineer but a year in I changed my mind. Instead of dictating my life and forcing me to do what she thought I should do, my mom let me follow my passion. I got a Bachelors in English, quite the opposite of engineering, but she never gave me a hard time for choosing a humanities degree. Instead, she showed her support by sending me articles of “Thing You Need To Do To Get Hired with an English Degree” or “Why More Businesses Are Hiring Grads with Humanities Degrees.” She was a light of support in the way she knew how. Just being there goes a long way.

I look back on the things my mom taught me, and I am grateful. Some parents don’t want to see their kids fail, but my mom made sure that I failed. She was always there to help pick up the pieces afterward, but she knew that I needed to learn how to deal with not reaching my goals. She taught me how to be decisive, to work through problems, to make decisions, and to have the backbone to just live life outside of her parental safety net. Some people were never given a chance to grow as a kid and had to learn those same lessons later in life. So, thanks, mom. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you. And in the wise words of Shea Serrano, “Always shoot your shot. Someone’s gonna do the thing you wanna do — it might as well be you.”

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.

Follow him on…
Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

What to Keep in Mind the First Week of School So You Don’t Drive the Teacher Crazy

What to Keep in Mind the First Week of School So You Don’t Drive the Teacher Crazy

By
Eva Fleming

Pretty soon summer vacation will be over, and children from all over the world will put on their newly purchased clothes and sneakers and head back to school.

Here are some things you can do so you and your child don’t drive the teacher crazy.

Follow the drop-off and pick up rules.

For some reason, parents don’t like to follow the safety procedures the school has established for drop-off. They either drop off their kids outside on the curve, or they get out of the car and insist on walking their children to class every day. I shouldn’t have to tell you that all those adults without credentials shouldn’t be walking around a school. It’s just not safe! Remember to put away your cell phone when you are dropping off or picking up your child. I’ve witnessed no less than four bumper hits and near misses of little humans, this year and I wasn’t even out there every day! Rules about security, parking, and drop-off are there for a reason. Follow them and stop complaining about them.

Read the school instructions

Read the school instructions for the first day of school and all subsequent communication from the school. Don’t ignore information from school and then complain that you don’t know what’s going on.  I had a parent last year who was angry because she was never informed about the promotion ceremony for kindergarten. I told her that she was welcome to talk to the teacher but not to forget to check her child’s backpack and her phone as our school sends information via actual newsletters, email, phone messages, texts, Facebook and Twitter.  Schools are especially careful to send instructions for the first week of school, so read them.

Get the correct school supplies

Send your child to school with the supplies that are on the list and don’t put your children’s name on the supplies unless otherwise asked to. Sending children with trapper keepers and things teachers didn’t request is puzzling and a huge waste of money. Buy the brand of crayons the teacher asked for and resist buying the cheapest ones at the dollar store. These things need to last all year, and some brands are so cheap that they won’t make it to the end of the week. They are great for restaurants to pass out with the children’s menu but terrible for 180 days of use. If teachers asked you to send your child with a water bottle or an extra set of clothes to leave in the classroom in case of an emergency, do it.

Be kind, not sarcastic

Make every effort not to be sarcastic with the school staff or with your student’s teacher when you feel overwhelmed. The first day of school is stressful for the administration, and it can be easy to answer with sarcasm or anger when you find out that your student didn’t get the teacher you requested, the teacher has a rule you don’t agree with, or your child and his best friend got separated and no longer have the same teacher. Contrary to popular belief, teachers don’t have the entire summer off. They are usually working on lesson plans for the next school year or taking the required courses they need to keep up their certification – at their own expense. So, don’t greet them on the first of school with the usual “at least you had the summer off” snarky comment. Thank them for their hard work and never use sarcasm with a teacher.

Attend parent orientations

Make every effort to go to the parent orientation meeting at the beginning of the year. Your student’s education is a partnership. The school can’t accomplish much if parents are not full participants of their student’s education. During orientation you get to know their teachers, see the classroom your student will spend six hours of their day, ask questions, meet other parents, learn class procedures and expectations and get an idea of the class schedule for your student, etc. Teachers spend a great deal of time preparing for that initial meeting. Don’t blow them off. Being on the same page will only enhance your student’s education experience.

Teachers have 20 to 30 students to deal with, don’t add to their already stressful first week of school. Follow those five simple suggestions and become a teacher’s favorite; one of those parents that teachers adore.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

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Eva Fleming is an expert educator and curriculum developer. She has over 25 years of teaching experience and has taught all age groups including, preschool, elementary, middle and high school children and adults. When she’s not teaching, she’s cooking something delicious or driving her children around.

The Best Vacation – Puerto Rico

The Best Vacation – Puerto Rico

By
Lissette Cardona

As a family we decided on going beach hopping in Puerto Rico, the kids had never been, well except for my son but he was only one at the time, so according to him, it didn’t count. We didn’t have a plan other than to rent a car and see where the road leads. Let the fun begin!

We had two rules on this trip; BE ADVENTUROUS, and NO phones!

In the Moment

One of the first beaches we went to was Playa La Pocita in Piñones, a beautiful beach surrounded by breakwater where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash up against it, and the wind carries the mist coming off the rocks through the air. My husband and I were relaxing at the edge of the water, watching the kids play. All of a sudden, it started to rain, my first inclination was to grab all our things and run; but the kids weren’t phased by it, we were already wet, so we stayed, and I’m glad we did. Kids have this way of living in the moment and enjoying every second of a new experience. So, instead of just watching them, my husband and I joined them, and for that moment we were kids again except this time our babies were right there with us, and we played in the rain together. By the way, we were safe; the sun was shining bright as it played peek-a-boo through white clouds, and we saw a rainbow in the distance.

We’ve collectively decided to add a new rule. BE IN THE MOMENT!

New Experiences

Now we’re off again, this time the car ride is a little longer, we’re heading to La Parguera, on the southwestern side which is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. We’re on our way to meet my husband’s cousin; it’s their first time meeting in person. After a quick bite, we went to his boat for what we thought was going to be a nice boat ride; it turned out to be one of the most Ahhhmazing day’s we would have on this trip.

It’s a short ride through floating houses and a mesmerizing blue sea to a nature reserve called Cayo Caracoles (Snails Cay). The kid’s eyes lit up when we pulled between the mangroves, and Dee’s cousin says, “alright guys, go ahead, jump in!”  Huh? I thought and kind of said out loud, then I was reminded we’re on an adventure!  It was a beautiful thing to see the excitement and fearless wonder of the kids as they jumped into the crystal clear, shallow, and calm warm waters of this nature reserve in the middle of the sea. My husband decided to join them, and they made their way to a rope hanging from a tree between the groves, one by one they climbed slowly up the tree, grabbed the rope for dear life, swung, and jumped in. After that first jump, they raced up the tree trying to get as many swings in as possible. It was spectacular to witness!

My husband’s cousin has one more place to show us, so the kids hurried back in the boat before the sun began to set, and we made our way to Playa Rosada. A great picnic area with a pier that extends out into a natural pool of seawater. What do you think we did?… Of course, we jumped in!  The sun was beginning to dip into the horizon, and the sky glowed with bold, vibrant shades of red and orange all around us. Pure Magic!

Just Keep Jumping!

Our last leg of this trip brought us to the Northwest side of the Island; we’re going to Crash Boat beach in Aguadilla. Not sure any boats crashed there, though, the U.S. used it during WWII for the Crash Rescue Boat Squadron. Now, remember how in Finding Nemo Dory just keeps swimming well in our case these kids and my husband just keep jumping off the ridiculously high dock. Initially, they were fearful of jumping, but fear is a good thing; the release of adrenaline gives us that fight or flight response, it let us know we’re alive. The question is, will you take the chance and jump in, or will you sit in fear?

As a kid, I’d spent a few summers in Puerto Rico with my grandparents and family but had never met the island, the people, and the ocean quite like this. Everything looked and smelled familiar, but there was a more profound connection now that my family and I were exploring and immersing ourselves in it all together. I’m glad we decided to disconnect from our phones, be adventurous, live in the moment, and not let fear stop us from having the time our lives together! You may or may not be wondering, why I didn’t join in on some of the more adventurous moments on this trip; well that’s because I was pregnant and this was our Family Baby Moon.

Our Unforgettable Oaxacan Family Memories

Our Unforgettable Oaxacan Family Memories

By
Maria Buchanan

During the summer of 2016 my family and I visited the beautiful city of Oaxaca.  For some time, my husband David and I, along with our two daughters, Saraí and Isabel had been longing to for this family experience.  Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca is known for its rich history, culture, cuisine, and art. We enjoyed staying in a hotel that caters to local people from the countryside, who come to the city to sell their cacao beans to process nearby, which are  transformed into the best chocolate that Mexico offers; from dark chocolate to chocolate mixed with cinnamon. The history of chocolate around the world traces its beginnings to Mexico, and used by the indigenous Zapotecans of old.

The morning after our arrival, we awoke to the delicious smell of fresh hot chocolate being ground, ready to be sold. With our breakfast we were served fresh hot chocolate mixed with fresh cinnamon. This delicious first experience was served in bowls, instead of the accostumed cups.

After breakfast we headed out for the Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre markets.

where we discovered many different kinds of a traditional Mexican dish known as “mole”.

Even though I am Mexican I was only familiar with the two or three types of “mole” known in the region of Central Mexico where I grew up, and now discovered that this market sold about 7 different types of “mole”. What a surprise for us all. The best vanilla in Mexico comes from Oaxaca and this market offered fresh vanilla bean pods for the modest price of one dollar, with local men and women from the surrounding countryside presiding over the many small stalls in the market, also selling all kinds of exotic foods, from chapulines (roasted grasshoppers), eaten as snacks, to large tostadas called tlayudas, served with beans, cheese, and meat.

From the food market we made our way to the artisan market, and saw native garments and jewelry with traditional indigenous designs.  The eye-catching colors and designs, amidst the background of the various native Indian languages, woven into the broken Spanish spoken by the indigenous vendors, was an audio and visual delight that stimulated the senses.

The smells, colors, flavors and textures of that visit prepared us for our trip the following day, to the archaeological city of Monte Alban, with its pyramids and buildings, true vestiges of one of Mexico’s important, ancient civilizations, whose greatness speaks of the intelligence, capability and knowledge, science and architecture of its people.

After a long day of walking and enjoying this ancient city we also enjoyed returning to one of Oaxaca’s restaurants on the Plaza, and the delicious food they offer.

And after dinner it was interesting to stroll through the main plaza, and then met and talked to the local people and youths, as we sat in the plaza.

The next day we visited the Zocalo, and later in the day, ex-convent of Santo Domingo.  This building now houses a museum that displays the history and culture of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is definitely a city not to be missed when visiting Mexico, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and be prepared to walk and explore this beautiful city and region.

David, Saraí, Isabel and I were very happy to fulfill our dream of visiting this beautiful place together, as a family.

Never a Dull Moment

Never a Dull Moment

By
José-Andrés Alegría

Family is everything, especially on 31st Road. Growing up, I could take a two-minute walk down the street to find someone to help escape the clutches of boredom. My mom and two of her sisters all decided to buy houses on the same street. They also happened to all have kids around the same time. So you can’t even begin to imagine, to the dismay of the neighbors, the shenanigans and mischief my cousins and I got ourselves into growing up. But the one thing I want to make clear is that my cousins, although they are technically extended family, are more like siblings to me. We have always been close and will always be close. We scattered in every direction. A few of us in Chicago, some in California, a couple in Florida, and the rest in Tennessee, but we all make sure that we know what’s going on in our lives. And when we get together, there is never a dull moment. I mean, what trumps family?

My favorite vacations always involve family. Thanksgiving in California when we visited my oldest sister while she was pregnant with her second kid. Going to the Dominican Republic for Abuelita’s 100th birthday party. Visiting family in Chicago as a kid and being taken to all the cool spots in the city. But the greatest of all these hits was Christmas 2012. It takes a lot of planning and mental fortitude to get my mom and her five sisters (The Sisters) and their families in one place. Everyone is always busy. Life can get crazy like that, but this year everyone was on a mission. My Abuelo was sick, and we were scared that this was his last Christmas. The Sisters wanted to make this one as memorable as possible. And they did just that.

 

On some mountain in Tennessee, (Maybe it was a really big hill. What do I know? I’m from Florida.) in the middle of winter, we crammed all 27 of us into this magical cabin. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to have any fun with my cousin. I had torn my ACL, and when this vacation was over I was getting surgery. But then I remembered that my family, although they enjoy adventure and fun, is a group of bums who like to sit on a super comfy couch and do absolutely nothing. It’s awesome. Also, it was waaaaay too cold to go outside. (Again, I’m from Florida. The second it hits 65 degrees the whole state is in jackets and sweats.) Locked in a cabin with family and no end in sight? To some, this sounds like an especially evil version of hell. But we filled the time with board games, catching up, and food. There was enough food to feed a small army. There was never a dull moment. Someone was always telling a story. Stories that we all have heard a million times but were still funny nonetheless. Like the time I got hit by a car. And finding out later, that it was my oldest sister who was driving the car. Or the time my dad decided he didn’t want to take me to the hospital. So instead he took my cast off himself…with a chainsaw. (Child Services if you are reading this, please disregard the previous statement). Or any of the other crazy stories my family has in their back pocket.

Like every big group, my family has its cliques. The Sisters consists of my mom and her sisters, and they talk about family chisme. It’s usually about some cousin or aunt that I didn’t even know existed. The White Uncles gathered in a corner, fend for themselves in a sea of melanin. The Latin Uncles get together, and either brood in a corner (cause they have some past trauma from a world us 2nd generation kids would never understand) or they talk about the Bible and Church for hours. Then you have the Big Kids, which is where I fall. We are the first group of kids that popped out. There are seven of us. Then there are the Little Kids, at the time they were six strong, but some new ones have popped up over the years. The groups mingle and mesh. But since there are so many of us, there is usually always someone in the kitchen cooking. Which means there is at least one group in the kitchen. And there is, at any given time, at least five different conversations going on. And this is where my family is weird, we all, for some reason, cram into one room. Oh, there’s a group in the kitchen? Well, you can bet that everyone is going to make their way into the kitchen. There’s a table for six? We can fit 10 more people on the table. Who needs elbow room?

But what made this Christmas memorable? It was a chance for all of us to see my Abuelo’s legacy. On top of all that he did in his life, I like to think that his greatest achievement was us. The family he loved, and that loved him. This vacation wasn’t just a destination that we went to and explored. It wasn’t about sight-seeing. It was about drinking hot chocolate in a room filled with people that you love. It was about reminiscing the good times and laughing at all the embarrassing dirt we have on each other. It was a vacation, sure. But more than anything, it was a reminder that family, my family, is never dull. And without them, I don’t know where I would be today. And for that, I will always be grateful.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges
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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.

Follow him on…
Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

Parenting Tips to Preserve Summer Sanity

Parenting Tips to Preserve Summer Sanity

By
Eva Fleming

Summer is a time to take a pause from the overcrowded academic schedule and reset our priorities. The relaxed pace is welcomed by most. Even parents who work, and have to drop off their children at daycare, enjoy the ease of the warm evenings without having to worry about homework.

Summer brings its challenges, however. I recently saw a meme of a parent panhandling for summer with a sign that read, “I have a job!! It’s just summer, and my kids are at home, and they won’t stop eating!”

Here are a few ideas that may help you find a nice balance that can help you preserve sanity during the summer months:

Don’t fall into the busy trap

Your children don’t have to be entertained by you every second of the day. They are quite capable of entertaining themselves. Children can only hone their skills when they are extra bored and have nothing better to do. My boys love music. They often leave all the challenging pieces they have wanted to learn for summer when they have time to dedicate to it. They walk away from it when they are frustrated and go back to it when they feel they’ve cooled down enough. If you are filling up their time too much, you will never see them grow as they struggle through the things that matter to them.

Let kids sleep in

Most children don’t get an adequate amount of sleep during the school year, and summer provides them a chance to catch up on the most needed rest. Their growing bodies crave it. Sleep promotes growth, and it also affects weight. Children crave higher-fat or carbs food when they are tired. Tired children also tend to be more sedentary. Sleep has many benefits for children, so while on vacation don’t get things started at 7:00 am like a regular school day. Allow for a little extra sleep, and enjoy your coffee in peace.

Set up a schedule so children are fruitfully occupied but not hurried

You want to set aside a time for reading. Reading for school assignments is not the same as reading for fun. Children, as well as adults, do what they find pleasurable. The capacity of a child to immerse in a story, visualize details in the plot, and relate to the characters in the story can create long hours of pleasure; not to mention how smart they are becoming. Studies have shown that good readers unknowingly even strengthen their mathematical skills. Go figure!

Teach them how to do new chores. Every summer, you want to take the time to add a new chore to their repertoire. Show them how to do something new to help with the household every year. Remind them that as they grow older, they need to learn how to become more independent. The goal is that one day they will be capable of managing their households alone, like a boss!

Take them outside and insist they exercise. It is recommended that children and teens get a minimum of 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. Summer is the easiest time to accomplish this goal because every child loves scootering, swimming, riding bikes and playing sports indoors and outdoors. In addition to the usual physical benefits of exercise, active kids are less likely to experience bouts of depression and anxiety. Moving around improves mental health. That is a fact!

Encourage them to be creative. Creativity is more of a skill than an inborn talent. Summer is a great time to learn to draw, play music, dance, create science experiments, write, learn to recite poetry, serve the people around them, etc.

Savor your time with your children during the summer months, cuddle, read together, play, enjoy and for God’s sake, stop worrying!

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

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Eva Fleming is an expert educator and curriculum developer. She has over 25 years of teaching experience and has taught all age groups including, preschool, elementary, middle and high school children and adults. When she’s not teaching, she’s cooking something delicious or driving her children around.

Best Trip So Far

Best Trip So Far

By
Omaira Gonzalez

If you are like me, you have probably watched the movies “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” or “Mama Mia” and dreamed of one day visiting Greece. I finally made it in May 2018 in celebration of my 31st anniversary, and I fell madly in love with Greece, making it one of my best vacations yet.

It was spectacular, and I learned a few things on this trip. Here is what I discovered.

Be ready

I do not mean be ready in the sense of clothes, shoes, and that sort of stuff. Yes, of course, pack light, wear comfortable shoes and wear lots of sunscreen lotion. However, I mean more like be ready to experience every facet of Greece. I was on a boat with my husband, and I decided to stay inside as it was very windy and cold. My husband, on the other hand, decided to remain on the deck, and he witnessed Dolphins jumping alongside the boat. I could not believe I had missed it. I learned a valuable lesson that day: do not focus on the present situation, if you do, you might miss amazing opportunities that may not repeat themselves.

Be open

Greece is full of culture, amazing people, and let’s not forget the delicious food. Fresh Greek salads with bread and virgin olive oil. Yum. Practically everything you eat there is like an explosion of flavors in your mouth. I tried different dishes, and I was never disappointed. However, I also enjoyed walking down those beautiful streets of Santorini, Mykonos and Athens. As we strolled down the streets, we ran into people from almost every part of the world it seemed. At times, it was challenging trying to navigate through the language barriers. I learned that a smile, a kind gesture and a warm greeting is a language we all can understand. We met some great people along the way that made this trip extremely memorable.

Be surprised

Upon our arrival to Santorini, my husband and I had booked a room at a lovely hotel. The staff learned that we were celebrating our anniversary and, upon our arrival, greeted us with Champaign and hugs…yes, hugs (loved it). The biggest surprise was when they shared that the owner has several hotel establishments, and when he learned about our anniversary, he upgraded our stay to a 5-star suite. It was gorgeous and had amazing views. I witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. I learned that life will surprise you with some good – do not question it, do not be suspicious, but receive those blessings and recognize how much God does love you. I also learned that the sunrise is just as beautiful as the sunset.

Be Adventurous

We thought it would be a good idea at Thira, Santorini to walk down the steps with the donkeys instead of waiting for the cable car line or riding a donkey down. Not quite the adventure I was hoping for, as I was extremely nervous and scared. Many times, donkeys would surround us, I could feel my heart beating in my chest, and I desperately made my way out. Here is what happened next: we took the cable car up. That was the end of that adventure. We also rented mopeds and rode around the island, visiting the different beaches and enjoying the scenery. It was breathtaking. I learned that getting lost can be more fun, will lead you to discover more and will give you some pleasant surprises. I also learned that you might not always enjoy every adventure you embark on, but have them anyways.

I am convinced that I will revisit Greece once again, and I would love others to plan the trip as well. It is full of history, culture, adventure and many surprises. Be ready, be open, be surprised and be adventurous.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges
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Omaira Gonzalez is the COO for Family Bridges. Omaira and her husband of 30+ years love adventure, long walks and Broadway shows. With their two kids Yomari and Omar, and new granddaughter, they enjoy great meals and playing board games. But look out–losing is not an option!

You’re broke. I’m broke. We’re all broke. But let’s have fun anyway.

You’re broke. I’m broke. We’re all broke. But let’s have fun anyway.

By
José-Andrés Alegría

So you want to travel but are too broke to go through with it? Yeah, same. I’m seeing all of my friends getting married, having kids, or traveling the world. And yet, I am, somehow, at home not doing any of those things. Granted, I only want to do one of those right now. But I just finished school and just started to make money, how am I supposed to travel like everyone around me? The first step is that I have to accept the fact that I may not be able to go to Greece and have the trip I want right now at this point in my life. It doesn’t mean I can’t start thinking about it and start to plan it. It simply means I have to live within my means (which sucks), meaning that instead of a long trip far far away maybe I take a day trip or staycation.

Try a Staycation

Staycations are pretty awesome. The city you live in seems to drastically change when you stay in a hotel on the other side of town. Do all the fun stuff that you take for granted because you live there. Growing up in South Florida, I never went to the beach unless I was forced to go with family. (I really hate sand.) So I planned a trip to the Keys with my friends and experienced my state from the perspective of a tourist. Well, I had way more fun. Or maybe you can wait for a fun event to come to your city, like a concert or comedy show and plan a weekend around it. We tend to think that we know our city. So eventually, we get bored of it, however, if you go into a staycation with the same explorative sense of adventure that you would have had had you gone somewhere else. Then maybe, just maybe you’ll be surprised by all the fun you might have from home. You just have to treat it like a real vacation. So what do you enjoy?

Eat your way around town

I like to plan around food. I love food. I live by the philosophy that eating food is an activity we do at least three times a day, every day so I might as well enjoy it, right? So I will look up the best places to eat and plan around them and fill the gaps between meals with boring stuff like hiking, museums, and sight-seeing. Okay…they aren’t boring per se, but food is the best. There is nothing quite like going somewhere and eating what they are known for. Going to Miami? You’d be a dummy if you didn’t go out to eat some seafood or some Cuban food. It’s like traveling to Chicago and not trying deep dish at least once before you leave. It’s almost sacrilegious.

Travel in a group

If you don’t want to go alone, then check out tour groups or travel groups. I know, it sounds a little weird, but you might be surprised at the people you might meet. Another great way to meet new people is by staying at a hostel. They are usually cheaper and have an array of people coming and going. You might have to be a little more social than expected, but it can be a fun experience.

Enjoy a resort experience for cheap

Not looking to go out and do stuff? I get that. ResortPass is this cool website that lets you buy a day pass to a resort for pretty cheap. They have different packages that offer various amenities. You get access to all the cool perks of staying in a hotel without actually staying. So if all you want is to unwind by the pool, sipping on a Piña Colada, reading a book, then this is the best option for you. I went one time and got a day pass for $35 and chilled all day on the beach and relaxed.

 

If I’m completely honest, my ideal staycation is to lock myself in my room, take long naps, eat an asinine amount of Chinese food, and watch movies till my eyes hurt. And when my eyes start to hurt looking at the TV screen, then I will binge whatever book is closest to me.

I’ll leave the comfort of my room every once in a while to let people know that I am indeed alive. It’s like my version of a system reboot. Sometimes, you need to restart your brain. For me, that means no human interaction and getting lost in some weird, wacky book or tv show. But if that sounds like literal hell to you (I’m looking at you extroverts) then simply remember there is always something to do. You just need to be like Dora. Go explore. Grab your Boots and go. I’ve recently moved to the Chicago area, and there is so much that I already want to do.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges
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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.

Follow him on…
Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11