Marrying into a Latin Family

Marrying into a Latin Family

By
Greg Fleming

So my nephew asked me to write a blog post for Family Bridges about marrying into a Latino family.

I’m not sure where to begin with an assignment like that. It almost seems to beg me to invoke some politically incorrect stereotypes about Latinos and Gringos. I suppose the desired effect is a lightly humorous pastry of a fluff piece sprinkled with anecdotes that might remind the reader of an episode of “Modern Family,” injected with some sort of jelly filling extolling the virtues of humble Latino family values over soulless American greed and isolationism.

Having said that, I suppose it isn’t terribly far from my experience. I have been making some attempts recently to understand why my three kids seem so much more well adjusted than I was (or am). My 23-year-old daughter has been happily married and living far away in Chicago (I’m in South Florida) for several years now, and she never really did exhibit much of the drama that popular culture has conditioned us to expect from teenage girls. My boys (currently 15, and 12), are also already old enough for me to realize that they lack in certain rebellious and/or resentful attitudes toward me and my generation that most of my peers and I exhibited at that age toward our parents and teachers.

Although I have developed an instinctual aversion to sweeping generalizations and easy answers to complex questions, I have been toying with the notion that some of the difference may involve the general paradigm of discipline I received growing up versus the way my kids are being reared. My recollection of my own upbringing is that it involved a pattern of rewards and punishments. My parents made a fairly consistent effort to communicate what was expected of me at any given age, and what I could expect in return in the form of consequences for fulfilling or failing to fulfill those expectations.

It wasn’t the kind of harsh humorless militant discipline we often see in movies where upper-class parents mercilessly push their toddlers to high levels of achievement so they can earn a place at the most prestigious preparatory schools. We were too low of a tax bracket for that. But the behavior/consequence paradigm was always present. As far as I can tell, this was the way most of my peers were being raised as well. I suppose every approach has its benefits and drawbacks, and I certainly can’t say this one was necessarily all bad. I don’t know how much of it my parents’ generation received from their own parents, and how much came from the emergence of popular parenting psychology in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Doctor Spock and his ilk (not to be confused with Mr. Spock the Star Trek character). I guess, in the end, it felt a little too much to me like a negotiation. Although it probably wasn’t intended to, from the child’s point of view it can seem like all these rules are designed to protect the parent’s interests, ensuring that the child doesn’t overly inconvenience them.

Whether as a result of this or due to some other pattern of genetic or environmental influences on my life, I emerged into adulthood without a particularly strong sense of identity or purpose and found myself without much of an idea how to live my life, much less raise my own kids. So my approach to life and to child-rearing has been to keep my head down and avoid any more involvement than is strictly necessary, with a view toward minimizing the damage to myself, my kids and to others around me. This means that I have generally deferred to my Latina wife for the most part when it comes to raising the kids.

Bear in mind; I am not recommending this as a strategy for fatherhood (or life). I wish I could say I was the kind of dad who shares his interests and activities with his kids and teaches them lots of life lessons in the process, but I never really developed many interests and hadn’t really learned many of those life lessons myself. Perhaps this is one of the unpleasant side effects of the prevalence of television and other entertainment media in our lives. Too many of us have become spectators in our own lives rather than participants.

Looking back, it seems like my wife managed to raise the kids without resorting to very much in terms of rewards or punishments. We’ve never “grounded” any of the kids, nor have they ever done any of the things that I had done in my youth which might have merited such discipline. Needless to say, corporal punishment hasn’t been necessary, beyond a smack on the wrist when they were very small to discourage them from reaching out to hot stoves and the like. Maybe we’ve just been lucky, but I think it has a lot to do with the way she loves the kids. I grew up thinking of love as a way someone feels about someone else, or perhaps a level of desire for their well being. But for my wife, it seems to be more of a transitive verb; it’s something she does to them and for them.

I’m not sure words are capable of articulating such things clearly. It never ceases to astound me how much meaning people expect to be able to encapsulate and communicate through a string of multi-syllabic utterances. But I think the way my wife loves the kids has something to do with being constantly mindful of what they are experiencing and feeling. It involves a lot of listening and frequent/constant interaction and providing them a consistently calm and comforting presence in which to express themselves. They do learn about actions and consequences in the process, not because we’re laying out a structured list for them, but because she is gently guiding them as they encounter the consequences of their actions in their daily lives.

Returning to the intended theme of this post, I suppose some of that parenting magic may be a part of her Latino culture. She would certainly give a lot of credit to her faith as well. My wife’s own close connections with her sisters and their families have provided another benefit for my kids which I lacked, which is a sense of a broader yet still closely-knit extended family. I would speculate these benefits aren’t necessarily more prevalent in Latino culture as opposed to other cultures in the world, but perhaps that they are less prevalent in American culture today. Perhaps most other cultures are just a generation or two behind the USA on the path to cultural destruction. For my part, it has been some comfort to step back from the cliff a bit and at least get to see my kids experience some values of an older culture which perhaps we have been losing sight of in ours.

Top 10 Latin Dishes of All Time

Top 10 Latin Dishes of All Time

By
José-Andrés Alegría

I am not going to lie. When I thought of this idea, I was so excited. My initial thought was, “I get to write about the greatest food of all time.” But as I sit here writing, the pressure of not messing this up is getting to me. To think that I, a mere human, could list the top 10 Latin dishes of all time was prideful at best. No matter how perfectly executed this list is, there will be some people who do not agree with me. But I need to get out ahead of this and define what I mean by dishes. If this list were top 10 foods, then unarguably number 1 would be white rice with plátano maduros (sweet plantains) being a close second. If we are honest, that list would be incredibly dull, so what do I mean by “Latin Dish?” I couldn’t think of a definitive answer until I was joking around with my little sister. A Latin dish is something that you would be willing to Postmates or Uber Eats to your house. You aren’t going to Postmates just white rice and nothing else. You might get a side of beans and some chicken; now we have arroz con habichuelas y pollo asado, a Latin dish. So without further ado. Here is the list you will either love or hate.

Top 10 Latin Dishes

1. Empanadas

Empanadas are the undisputed first seed. Every country has some version of it. Whether made with flour or maize, empanadas truly are the best. Who doesn’t like a flaky pastry that’s filled with whatever your heart desires? Beef, chicken, ham and cheese, just cheese, or whatever else you are brave enough to put in there. You can’t go wrong. When someone hands you an empanada, your gut reaction is to ask. “What’s in there?” It’s like Christmas morning when you finally get to open your presents.

2. Arroz con pollo

Arroz con pollo is a staple in any Latin household. Have a big group to feed and not that much chicken? Mix it into some rice and boom. Dinner for 10. If someone is handing you a plate of arroz con pollo, I guarantee that you are smiling from ear to ear.

3. Tacos

Who doesn’t love tacos? The only real hate for tacos is if you’re team ‘hard shell’ and someone hands you a taco in a tortilla. Outside of that, if anyone ever says that they hate tacos, you need to take a step back and reexamine your friendship with them.

4. Ropa Vieja

It pains me to say that our very own Isabel Miranda (graphic designer here at Family Bridges) didn’t know what Ropa Vieja was. But then I began to realize that she is not to blame. It is the lack of Cuban food here in Chicago that is the issue. I mean, most of the people I work with don’t even know what Cuban bread is, and that is the real travesty. For those that don’t know, Ropa Vieja is divinely seasoned and shredded beef, usually served over a bed of white rice.

5. Lomo saltado

Steak and potatoes reimagined into steak, and french fries with onions and peppers mixed in and all laid down on top of a bed of rice. The fries and the rice soak up the salty juice from the steak and explodes into the most beautiful bite. I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Peruvians have the best food.

6. Tamales

If empanadas are like Christmas presents, then tamales are like birthday presents. There is a sense of excitement, but not as much. You generally know what is in a tamale. That doesn’t take away from how amazing they are, but there is less of a wow factor. But a perfect tamale can be life-affirming.

7. Sancocho

The quintessential soup across the board. Everyone has their version of sancocho. Sancocho shows the ingenuity of Latinos. What might be considered as scraps by others is thrown into a pot with some broth, seasoned, and loved the right way. The smell is intoxicating. And when you finally pour yourself a bowl and bring the first spoonful to your lips, nothing can compare.

8. Arepas

One of the greatest forms of dough ever invented. Other cultures have pretzels or sourdough bread, but we have the beauty of arepas. And like empanadas, you can put anything into it. Want avocado toast? Try it in an arepa. Or maybe an egg with some cheese. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

9. Mofongo

The dilemma of breaking my own rules. I want to put plátano maduros on this list because they are a source of life for my Dominican-self, but it seems to break the rules I have laid out on what constitutes a dish. So this is my substitute. That is not to say that Mofongo plays second fiddle. If you ever want to gain 5 pounds in one sitting, then eat Mofongo. But isn’t that the beauty of a ball of fried plátano with meat mixed into it? (Side note: while doing “research” for this list I found something disturbing. If you search plátano, Google will ask if you meant ‘cooking banana’ and frankly, that’s just disrespectful to one of the greatest foods of all time.)

10. Arroz Chaufa

My two favorites are Asian and Latin food. You can ask me which one is better and you will get a different answer depending on the day. So the fact that Arroz Chaufa draws inspiration from both is beautiful. Fried rice made by a Latino? What could go wrong? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

Honorable mentions:

Cuban Sandwich – This sandwich is so good that there is a whole Jon Favreau movie (Chef) about making a perfect Cuban sandwich.
Mangu – What’s better than mashed potatoes? Mashed plantains and if you give it to me with los tres golpes (fried egg, fried cheese & fried salami). I might ask you to marry me.
Jibaritos – I think I have established that I love plátano and I love sandwiches, so combining the 2 of them is like a dream come true.
Huevos rancheros – This is one of the few dishes my dad can make. Huevos rancheros and his arroz con leche are top-notch. I can honestly live off of beans, eggs, tortilla, and salsa.
Alfajores – Although technically not a dish, these cookies are the best. And I have absolutely gotten them delivered to my house one or…20 times.

Some people are probably mad that their favorite dish didn’t make it on this list. Others disagree with my list entirely, but I urge you that if you have not eaten any of these dishes, go out right now and make your life a little better one bite at a time. Trust me on this one; I live to eat.

Two Worlds, One Family: Raising Children to be Culturally Aware of Who They Are

Two Worlds, One Family: Raising Children to be Culturally Aware of Who They Are

By
Juvy Radford

Before we got married, my husband and I were aware of our differences. I don’t remember us having in-depth conversations about what our cultural backgrounds would mean when raising children. You see, I’m Filipino American and what some might refer to as a “1.5 generation immigrant.” At the age of four, I left my native country, the Philippines, and joined my parents, who had immigrated to the U.S. before me. The first few years meant adapting to a different culture and learning English. My husband, on the other hand, was born and raised in Chicago and part of several generations of African Americans. (A man for all seasons, I would say, but his story would be a blog in itself.) What attracted me, besides his deep spiritual roots, was his thoughtfulness and courage. When we realized we desired a future together, he asked me what I thought needed to happen next (i.e., what was acceptable in my culture). Well, this led him to visit my family in California and ask my dad for permission to marry me one day.
A little over a year into our marriage, we were blessed to have our daughter Zoe, followed by our son Emmanuel almost six years later. Like most parents, we soon found ourselves busy (and sometimes overwhelmed) with the responsibilities and demands of work, school, and day-to-day household chores. We could not ignore the fact that because of our children’s bicultural makeup, it would be an essential part of their identity. Knowing things about both the cultures of their parents is a part of who they are. Amidst other competing priorities, how do we raise our children to be culturally aware of their roots?
We have come to realize that we do not need to wait for formal training or a how-to book on how to teach our children something about their bicultural origins. We take advantage of opportunities to raise our children to be culturally aware. Opportunities that come through ordinary happenings. We try to recognize and seize those moments. Allow me to share some ideas. Whether you come from a single culture or you are a cultural blend of many, perhaps some of these might resonate with you.

Food

When my husband discovered that Filipinos sometimes have dishes containing multiple starches, it shocked him. “What?! A dish with rice and potatoes?” he’d exclaim. “Sure, why not?” I’d reply. Growing up, I could eat spaghetti with rice at the same time. Or, for a more authentic Filipino dish, it might be pancit (a rice noodle dish) with rice on the side. (You guessed it. Rice is a staple to Filipino cuisine.) My husband, however, grew up learning to eat just one starch at a time. Nonetheless, he just grinned and tried to enjoy it anyway. Just last month we visited a Filipino mega-store/supermarket and enjoyed some dishes from my culture. And this past weekend, we celebrated the birthday of a relative on my husband’s side of the family and had some delicious soul food. Throughout the years, our children have had a taste of both worlds. This experience has opened doors for us to connect with our cultures and share with them our experiences growing up as African American and Filipino American. We make an effort to identify our various ethnic foods when we serve it to our children. As the hunger for more food wets their appetites, it also increases their curiosity to know more about their cultures.

Clothing

From my husband’s African roots come a dashiki shirt and a kufi cap. Which he has worn and which the kids have seen worn by other African Americans at our church. From this, we have had conversations about the varied African countries and even about the painful history of African Americans through slavery.
From my Filipino roots comes the barong tagalog, an embroidered shirt for men that is common attire in the Filipino culture and influenced by the Spanish colonial era. My husband does not have a barong Tagalog yet, but he has a shirt with a similar look. It also resembles the guayabera shirt that is popular in Latin American communities. This coincidence is not too surprising, given the Spanish influence in the Philippines. Not long ago, my daughter received a package from my sister containing clothing with the word pinay, which means a woman of Filipino origins. This package sparked a conversation about Tagalog (the Filipino language) and how similar it is to Spanish.
Clothing can serve as a segway to interesting conversations and a part of raising children to be culturally aware of who they are. In our situation, it may reveal a connection to other cultures and even a painful past. Regardless, teaching moments have begun with some clothing, and the conversations still have not worn thin.

Family

Family plays a huge role in raising children to be culturally aware of who they are. Our children have been blessed to enjoy the company of family from both our cultures. My mother-in-law passed away a few years ago. Luckily, our children were fortunate to spend time with her when we visited “Grandmommy” on the south side of Chicago. The children heard stories of her experiences growing up as the eldest of nine, and they learned more about their African American roots through family pictures. Our children have also enjoyed the company of their Filipino grandparents, my parents, who they call “Lolo” (Grandpa) and “Lola” (Grandma), making almost yearly visits to them in California. Not long ago, we explored the island of Maui together, which also led to talking about our cultural roots. Some have lost the old-fashioned idea that families marry families. In our case, it still holds. Families, on both sides, have been an important part of raising our children and have strengthened their bicultural identity.

There is still so much more to share, but I’ll leave you with this quote from an unknown source: “The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.” What are your thoughts about raising children to be culturally aware of who they are? I’d love to hear your comments!

Backyard Science

Backyard Science

By
José-Andrés Alegría

Learning isn’t something that only happens in school. I talked a lot about failure in one of my past blogs, but along with failure is learning. Striving to learn helps you grow as a person. When someone is usually talking about learning, their minds tend to think of school. Learning is much more than finding out what the quadratic formula is or what DNA means (Deoxyribonucleic acid. Thanks, Mr. Sankey.) That’s the only science fact I remember from my three years in middle school. But learning is so much more than school. Figuring out how to do basic house repairs (none of which I can do) is a way of learning. Instilling into your kids the thirst for knowledge is setting them up for success in life. No one will have to sit them down and teach them how to do something. They will go and figure it out themselves. And it is your job as a parent to encourage that kind of extra-curricular learning.

Here are a few ideas you can do to help encourage learning outside of the classroom.

Making Homemade Bouncy Balls

Ingredients:

1 Tb of Borax
½ Cup of Warm Water
1 Tb of Cornstarch
2 Tb of White Glue
Food Coloring
2 Plastic Cups
1 Plastic Bag

Instructions:

1.) In a cup, mix the Borax and warm water.

2.) In a different cup, mix the glue, cornstarch, and food coloring.

3.) Add the glue mixture to the water.

4.) The glue should begin to harden after 8-10 seconds. Use a plastic fork or spoon for fishing it out of the water.

5.) Start Rolling the mixture into a ball. The more you roll the ball, the harder it will get. When done, store the ball in a plastic bag, so it does not dry out.

Making bouncy balls is just a fun experiment that lets the kids get their hands dirty, but not make too big of a mess. If you lay a trash bag on the workspace, then all you have to do is gather it all up and throw out whatever is plastic and wash off whatever isn’t. And now your kid knows how to make bouncy balls. They can brag to all of their friends about their new collection.

Building a Marshmallow Spaghetti Bridge

Building a spaghetti bridge is a fun and time-consuming activity that helps teach kids to critically think while also planning ahead for any mishaps that may occur. Also, there is something unique about making something that isn’t a necklace out of pasta. Plus, it’s inexpensive with minimal mess.

Ingredients:

A Box of Pasta (Spaghetti or anything like it)
A Bag of Marshmallows (I prefer the mini marshmallows)
A Marker

Instructions:

1.) Sit down with your kids at a computer and look up some pictures of simple bridge layouts, something that shows the basic shapes of bridges. Find one that they want to build.

2.) Once you decide on a design, it’s time to start measuring how many pieces of spaghetti you are going to need and measuring them out.

3.) I always like to start with the base of the bridge and build on it. Use the spaghetti as your beams for building the bridge, and the marshmallows as the joints to hold it all together.

4.) Now run wild with it. But be careful, you don’t want to have any of the spaghetti snap mid-construction.

5.) After the construction is all done, test it. See how much weight your bridge can hold. I recommend using pennies as your weights. If the bridge breaks, then ask yourself where did it break and how can we make it better?

I love this project because it teaches so much more than “bridges.” It takes careful planning, critical thinking, and a lot of patience to build. And when it’s all said and done, you will have made something with your kid that they will be proud to show off.

Making a Story Book

Kids love to tell stories, but if we are honest with ourselves, they aren’t always great at telling them. So help them write a story. Learning to layout and organize your thoughts into a cohesive and articulate idea is a skill way too few have nowadays.

Things you need:

Paper

Stuff to color with (crayons, markers, colored pencils)
3 hole punch
A Binder or folder

Instructions:

1.) Ask your kids if they want to write fiction or nonfiction and help brainstorm all the different ideas they could write

2.) Help them outline their ideas into an order that makes sense

3.) Have them write out their story (and if you are making a picture book with them, then tell them not to draw anything yet.)

4.) Go over their story with them and help fix plot holes in their story. Be their editor. (Editor only, do not author the story.)

5.) Now that they have a fully cohesive story have them draw it out.

6.) Put it in a binder or folder so that it is all together and can be read as a book.

Teaching isn’t just the sole responsibility of a teacher. And learning doesn’t have to be some annoying thing your kids hate. It can be a fun activity that excites and stimulates the brain. The best learning happens when you don’t realize that you are being taught something until it’s all said and done.

From Procrastination to Emotion Regulation

From Procrastination to Emotion Regulation

Back-to-school season is upon us, and with it, all of the exhilaration, nerves, and busyness of a brand new school year. But if you’re a student, it isn’t long before the hype of a new school year starts to dwindle, and you begin to see the reality of a long-hard year of homework. If you’re anything like me, that means getting overwhelmed, burying your head in the sand, and praying that your work gets done without you. But if that doesn’t work, you figure you can get it done tomorrow, right? Sound familiar? If you can’t seem to kick your nasty habit of procrastination, here are some tips to help you on your journey of growth. Just kidding, the journey starts now.

Recognize the root of the problem

At its core, procrastination isn’t about being lazy, or a lack of discipline, or whatever other lies that crept into your head. We procrastinate because, for a variety of reasons, we haven’t developed the most effective ways to manage the powerful negative emotions associated with specific tasks. Thus, when faced with the anxiety and stress triggered by, say a daunting assignment, we cope by avoiding the event that triggers the anxiety (i.e., the assignment) rather than addressing the anxiety itself. In other words, procrastination is about emotion regulation. Understanding this is a pivotal first step toward initiating self-change because it helps us to zero in on the root problem and develop an appropriate action plan to address it.

Follow the trail of your negative emotions back to the thoughts and beliefs that caused them.

This discipline takes practice, and it requires that you give yourself both the physical and mental space identify what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it. So, the second that the thought of avoiding a task pops into your head practice letting in. Don’t drown out the anxiety with Netflix, social media, or any other distraction. Instead, go for a jog to clear your mind. Write in a journal. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself the space to think it through. Ask yourself, “what is it about doing this thing that’s making me want to put it off?” Are you worried that you won’t do a good job? Does the thought of spending that much time on a task or assignment seems daunting? Is the task itself something you find inherently unpleasant? Do you have unrealistically high standards for yourself and avoid doing things that you can’t do perfectly? Don’t worry about solving anything in this step. Just try to understand why you feel the way you do.

Take baby steps

Once you’ve figured out why you’ve been procrastinating, replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. Give yourself a pep talk! Remind yourself of the times that you’ve faced similarly tough challenges and have overcome them. Acknowledge your anxieties but don’t allow them to rule the day. Remember that the only way to “eat an elephant” is one bite at a time. Take baby steps toward completing the task or assignment by breaking it up into smaller subtasks. Make a checklist of subtasks to be completed and cross them off as you work to remind yourself that you’re making progress. Start with easier assignments to gain confidence as you go. Trick yourself into overcoming that initial hurdle of beginning an assignment by giving yourself a time limit that feels manageable to you. For example, tell yourself you’re going to work on a project for only 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes, you’ll likely find that the assignment wasn’t so bad after all and want to continue.

Practice self-compassion

Once you’ve followed all of these steps, and even before, give yourself some compassion. Recognize that overcoming deeply ingrained habits like procrastination takes time and you will make mistakes along the way. Treat yourself with the same grace and understanding that you would a dear friend. Challenge yourself, but remember that hiccups are inevitable. When you find yourself falling into old habits, recognize it, dust yourself off, and try again without giving in to the temptation to self-criticize.

And just like that, you’ll find yourself taking the necessary steps to overcome procrastination. Before you know it, tackling assignments right away will become second nature to you. The journey from procrastination to regulation is a tough one, but it’s far from impossible. So why wait? The time to start tackling procrastination is now. You can do it!

via GIPHY

My First Week of College

My First Week of College

By
José-Andrés Alegría

Welcome to college, please leave any sanity in the overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you. Thank you.

Having just graduated from college and thinking back on all the sleepless nights, I am having a hard time remembering what my first week of school was like, so bear with me. What I do remember vividly is even before the first day, the biggest most impactful event happens.
Your parents bring you to a place, and they never come to pick you up ever again. It’s kind of like a tweet that said: “At some point in your childhood you and your friends went outside to play one last time, but you never knew it.” It’s something that goes unnoticed at first but eventually creeps up on you. You are now in charge of everything you do. Which if I am honest, is both freeing and terrifying. The first taste of unadulterated independence. It is truly a sink or swim moment.

Day 1:

You wake up and are both excited and, maybe, a little nervous. I remember I had scouted out what classrooms I needed to go to the day before classes started, so I wasn’t wandering around campus. Nobody wants to be the person who walks into class late on the first day. Growing up, my mom would always say, “being on time is late,” so thanks to her, I have a crippling fear of being late. I will show up 20 minutes early to wherever I need to be; otherwise, my blood pressure will spike.

Day 2:

You made it through your first day. Congrats! It only gets harder. The key to making it through your first semester without drowning in work is to get organized. Plan out your homework. Organizing is always the easiest to do right when school starts, and you are still lying to yourself about being the best student in the world. (I may have skipped way more classes than I should have been allowed. Also, mom if you’re reading this, I attended every class. Me skipping class was just a joke.) During my first few days, I planned out my whole
semester. The professors give you all the work you are going to do so I just put it all into my calendar and prayed to God Almighty that Lazy Jose would stick to the schedule that Responsible Jose made. It was a long shot that never panned out. I tried.

Day 3:

It’s only been three days, so how in the world did your sleep schedule get
messed up already? Keeping regular sleeping hours was the hardest part of college. Living with friends was both the coolest thing but was also super detrimental to my sleep. We would have 3AM conversations about anything and everything. I had a guitar amp in the living room of our apartment where we would listen to some music and talk about what superpowers we wanted
and why what the others chose was wrong and stupid. (P.S. teleportation is the most useful power ever. Trust me; we spent more time on this than I’d like to admit.)

Day 4:

Has the hunger finally hit? Or have you been overeating? Either way, food is probably the second biggest struggle when I moved out. You either forget to eat because you get so caught up in forming a social life and all the events happening on campus, OR you don’t know how to eat normally. If you have a meal plan, it can help take away the stress of making time to cook, but it also is usually all-you-can-eat so…control yourself. I never had a meal plan. I’d rather just “intermittently fast” than eat dining hall food. Plus, I lived off-campus so I had a
kitchen where I could cook my meals. Lesson 1 and the most crucial lesson of cooking for one person: Whatever amount of food you think you need to prepare, cut it in half.

Day 5:

Making friends is key to surviving college. Now, I am not the best expert on this as I only really made one new friend in college. Everyone else I knew from high school. So I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to try and make new friends. (If you can’t tell, I’m an introvert.) But you don’t need 1,000 friends you only need five really good ones. People that when your car breaks down, or printer isn’t working will help you any way they can. A true friend is willing to wait until 10 PM to go to Ale House with you for $5 Appetizers. You’re going to need those friends to help keep you sane when you’re up a 2 AM studying for a test you’ve known about for weeks but were too lazy to do anything about it. (I made it a whole three days before Lazy Jose decided to show up).

Day 6:

The existential dread of mommy and daddy not being there finally hits. You’re tired. You’re broke. And most of all, you’re hungry for a home-cooked meal. So what do you do? You lie to yourself and say everything is okay. You try to distract yourself by doing your homework, but you don’t want to do it, so you put it off for tomorrow. You eat cereal out of an old butter container with a spork because it is the only thing you own resembling silverware. All while you binge the Work-Place Sitcom Trifecta of Brooklyn 99, Parks and Rec., and The Office.
You tell yourself that you’ll be in bed for an hour or 2. You earned it, right? Welp, next thing you know, you wake up at 1 AM from a nap you don’t remember taking.

Day 7:

The seventh day is legendary for being known as the day of rest. But you slacked off all day yesterday, and now you have three papers, one quiz, and five homework assignments due at midnight. Oh, you also have a test tomorrow so better get studying. Welcome to the trenches, soldier. Hopefully, you made a friend or 2 so you can suffer together. A Band of Brothers (or sisters, it’s 2019) in the trenches fighting the good fight. The first week is always the easiest. It’s easy to get lazy. It’s easy to stay up late. It’s easy to let the freedom go to your head. The first week is easy, but it’s the week that you need to buckle down and form good healthy habits that will last long into the future. Otherwise, you will make college way harder than it has to be. Lord knows I did. Keep your head up, let the
punches roll off you, and keep grinding away. Whatever work you put in will be rewarded later down. Look at me, my first job out of college, and I get paid to write.

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Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11

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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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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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”.

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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.