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Add Some Community Service To Your Life September 15, 2014

Volunteer, Service, Community serviceWe all want a better, nicer world for ourselves and our families but what are we willing to sacrifice or do about it.  We want world peace and to end hunger or to have more services in our schools or communities.  Yet, most people around are busy wanting this all from a distance and expecting someone else to make it happen.  Of course, they may be willing to sign a petition or donate a bit of money (which will hopefully provide a tax benefit) but they just don’t have time to get involved further.  They have ‘important’ careers and busy lives and it isn’t a priority to do service.

These days it seems people only admire those with big titles or big salaries.  When I heard someone mention a relative who was starting up a non-profit organization after leaving a high-paying job, the relative was seen as an idiot for wasting his life and education.  I mean why would you give up money and prestige to help strangers or contribute to a valuable cause?  Those people then become the pariahs in society rather than the heroes.  They may only be seen as heroes again once their service or organization is picked up by the media or a rich and famous donor.  Which, again shows that we are only impressed by the fame and money rather than the intention.  An example is Khan Academy which my kids and many I know have been using to help educate our kids.  It is a free website with tutorial videos and quizzes on many subjects like math and science.  The founder of this site, Salman Khan, is highly educated and left a good job at a hedge fund to start a non-profit business making tutorial videos from his home.  He gave up the big salary to risk doing something that would potentially help people all over the world get an education.  His organization has since been recognized and backed by the Gates Foundation and has been noticed by the media and the President.  However, would his work have been any less impressive if it did not become this big and famous?  His intentions and sacrifice would still be there but people may not admire him so much which is unfortunate.

My point here is that we all hear that we should “be the change that you wish to see in the world”, but there are very few who will step away from their personal gains to do it.  Of course, most people aren’t built to do things like Gandhi or even Khan but that does not excuse us from not doing small kindnesses and volunteering in the community.  Step out of your own glory to give back to the world that you benefit from.  Help the schools, shelters, parks or wherever you can.  It will make you realize that the world is bigger than you and your personal gain.   We can  inspire our kids and future generations.  It can only help make the world a better place and make us better people.


Grateful… September 11, 2014

thankful, grateful, gratitudeBeing 9/11 today and seeing this new Facebook trend of gratitude posts, I felt I should take notice of the good things in my life.  It’s very easy to get bogged down by life’s regular issues, like health, money, work, etc.  However, we need to remember that it could always be worse and maybe our life’s journey has some hurdles that we need to learn from and grow from.  I’m glad that this viral FB trend is getting people to stop and think about the positive.

I am grateful that 13 years ago while roaming around feeling scared in a devastated Manhattan, I managed to somehow find my husband across town and make it home safely.  I’m grateful that my loved ones were also saved that day and am remembering the people I knew that didn’t make it.  I’m also thankful for each day of life since then.

I’m also grateful for the love of friends and family.  These days we get so busy with things that we don’t always get time to connect with people who matter.  Luckily, many strong friendships are able to withstand those gaps.  I am happy to have Facebook because despite its issues, it helps me keep connected with many people.  Many complain that this promotes surface friendships and is more of a brag-book.  I acknowledge that it doesn’t replace talking and meeting but there are many people I wouldn’t be connected to at all because of distance or differences in life’s activities, etc and FB makes it possible.  There are many friends I would love to talk to more but at least I can still be a friend in a small way through this forum.  I recently had issues with my son’s health and changes in his diet and many old friends rallied around through Facebook to give me support and send me resources and advice.  Some of these people I haven’t seen in years but they were still caring and I’m grateful to have them in my life.

I’m grateful, as well, that today is a nice day and I could take a walk around the Princeton campus to better my mood and health.  I’m also glad that my feet didn’t hurt in these particular shoes.  I’m grateful for a good physical therapist that makes pain bearable without taking too many drugs.  I’m grateful for the time I have with my parents too since good friends have recently lost their’s and it makes you scared.  I’m grateful for the joys and challenges of being a mom.  There are a million more things I could list but I think this was a good enough break from negativity.  Thank you God and nature and friends and family for giving me a good life.  What are you grateful for???


Engineering Childhood for Future Success August 25, 2014

Filed under: Education,Parenting — Reena @ 6:39 pm
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education, stressed kids, learning, free timeWe all want the best for our children but the philosophies on child rearing have changed quite a bit over the generations.   These days it seems there are more and more families trying to engineer their kids’ childhood to ensure future success.  I don’t know if this is even possible but many seem to be trying.  They are putting their kids in extra academic classes so that they are ahead of their classmates and also participating in several extra-curricular activities.  Parents know that a child needs to be well-rounded to get into a good college or to qualify for scholarships so they are taking extra music classes, joining multiple sports, etc. Kids of previous generations also participated in many extra activities based on their interest.  The difference was that back then many of these were through the school or if they were private, it was because the child really wanted to do it.  There wasn’t as much thought about how this will benefit them on a college application.  Kids used to go to tutors and Kumon because they were having trouble in school and when they were already A-students.  Nowadays, kids are often lacking any sort of free time to just play and imagine because they are in so many structured activities.  Even if they aren’t in a class, they must practice or do related homework.

Is this level of constant pressure, increasing their chances of success?  It may be if you believe that hard work pays off but there are also other things to consider.  Will these over-stressed kids burn out faster?  Will they have less social or soft skills in life because they spent too much time in structured activities over social ones?  Are we robbing them of a precious childhood where things were supposed to be more carefree and relaxed since adulthood is full of work and pressure anyway?  Some argue that there is global competition now and the kids have to work harder because of it.  I do agree that we can’t let our kids slack off and they do have to understand that learning and focus will pay off.  I just also believe that innovation and forward thinking is most often done in free-time and not in a classroom.  I’m sure the kids that are doing all the extra work and classes will eventually get good jobs.  However, to foster the creativity and brilliance that brings amazing new ideas into the world, I think we need to let these kids have some time to find themselves, use their imaginations, make friendships, and navigate uncharted territories.  We as parents have to realize that we can give them opportunities and love but we can’t engineer their childhoods and know a certain outcome.



Not Enough Summer Time July 30, 2014

Filed under: Parenting — Reena @ 9:54 pm
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time-flyingSummertime comes and I have all these grand plans of what I will do with the boys but there doesn’t seem to be enough time.  I want them to be free to play and explore, swim and just hang out with friends who come to the door.  We try to make sure they do a couple of workbook pages so they don’t forget everything they learned last year.  Then, of course, there are the video games which we are a bit more lenient on when school is out.  Trying to fit all this in is hard enough but then there are also camps and classes and play dates and social events.  We also do the summer reading program at the library but they seem to borrow many more books than they ever read.  I try not to fret over it since it is summer and I want them to enjoy their childhood.

I also think of summer as the time when I will get to infuse all kinds of other experiences and lessons into my kids.  I want to meditate with them to help them be calm and focused.  I want to teach them community service by volunteering somewhere or locally.  I want to do arts and crafts with them to inspire their creative side.  There are so many more things I would love to do but time keeps running out.  Their childhood is flying by and I as a mother am trying to give them lessons and experiences that will grow them into happy and successful people but maybe I’m too ambitious.

They say “time flies when you’re having fun” so we must be having fun or just really busy.  Sometimes I just wish time would slow down so I could enjoy all these experiences with the kids and not just feel like we’re running from one activity to the next.  I’m trying my best and maybe I won’t get to everything this summer or next but I will still try to give the kids a fun summer full of structured and unstructured activities to enrich their childhood!


A Soccer Mom’s Perspective on FIFA World Cup June 27, 2014

Filed under: Opinion,Parenting,Sports — Reena @ 8:30 am
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FIFA, Soccer, world cup, soccer momI generally don’t care to play or watch sports. I only watch a few games a year and that is more for the social aspect.  However, now that my son’s both play soccer, I am getting into watching this sport.  It is a constant and exciting game and I find myself fully engaged.  It doesn’t have the long pauses of baseball and American football.  Though those pauses give time for TV commercials and make those sports much more profitable in the U.S.  I guess that is why we hardly see soccer matches on TV here.  However, now there is FIFA World Cup fever going on and it shows that I’m not the only one loving this sport.  Tons of people are talking about it and all the kids who play, along with their soccer moms and dads are getting excited about soccer.  It’s nice to see pro-role models for our young soccer athletes, especially ones from our own country.   It’s also great that this is something I can bond with my boys over and we can enjoy it together as a family.

I think it’s great to watch the talented and skilled players playing for their home countries.  The fact that so many of the players are good-looking is only a plus for female viewership.  My boys picking up ideas for when they kick the ball around is another plus.  One downside was that my kids’ soccer coach canceled their practice because he was too busy watching the U.S. play Ghana!  I guess he was victim to the world cup fever going around.

I think another reason that people here are so engaged is that the matches have not been going as people would have predicted.  Many of the top teams are under-performing and the underdogs are doing surprisingly well.  This means that there could be a surprise every time you watch and people feel a sense of excitement.  I know I do.  I really hope that despite the commercial/financial issues of why we don’t see as much professional soccer in the U.S., I hope things change.  This is a sport I could watch more often and would be sad to see the fun end after the world cup!  Now if only I could figure out how they are scoring and advancing teams…



Life Can Be Shorter Than You Expect June 17, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,Parenting — Reena @ 7:21 pm
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life is short, loss of friend, friendshipsRecently, I lost a friend to cancer and it really shook me up.  I was sad that he’s gone and I won’t ever get to see him again.  But, I was also really upset that many, many months had gone by and we hadn’t spoken and then it was too late.  I knew he was undergoing treatment but he told me that he had a lot more time even if the treatment failed.  So, as many of us do, I got caught up in day-to-day issues of life and had not spoken to him.

Well, after this tragedy, it made me realize that I really shouldn’t take life and friends for granted and I should reach out a little more often.  I used to be a social butterfly when I was younger but then I think I became socially lazy in the last decade and also much busier with family.  Sometimes, it just feels like too much work to call people and make plans after a week of taking care of kids while my husband is traveling.  I’d rather just go to a movie, or roam around in a mall and relax.  However, I have realized that I do need friends and people in my life other than immediate family and that means putting in some effort.  Many of my friendships have a strong foundation because of past history but they still need some occasional nurturing if they are going to live on.

It is hard to keep up with people when many live at a distance or lead very different lives.  Though I still think it is important to at least shoot an email or make a call every now and then to see how they are doing.  People may be going through a crisis and one can’t assume that no news is good news.  Even if nothing is wrong, as a friend, you should know about the joys in your friends’ lives as well and share it with them.

I’m definitely taking this sad lesson to heart and going to try to do better from now on.  I really don’t like calling people much but I’ll do it sometimes or at least send and email.  I want to teach my kids that it is important to have friendships and to nurture those relationships too.  I guess this is my mid-year resolution so let’s see how long I can hold to it.  Life is short, don’t waste it…


The Fun of NJ ASK Testing May 8, 2014

Filed under: Education,Parenting — Reena @ 10:05 pm
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NJASK, standardized tests, school testsMany of you, like myself, may be dealing with a child who has NJ ASK testing this month.  I’ve got one taking it this week and the other next week.  I think every family has a different approach to these tests.  Some families seem to be very relaxed and feel that the children will perform as they would and the scores will not impact their education.  Others, especially many Asian families I’ve encountered, believe that these are the first of many tests that will determine their rank and success.  These include all the Tiger moms (who of course are not all Asian) that make their kids study for weeks before the ASK tests.  They put a lot of pressure on the kids to do well.

I think I’m somewhere in between in my approach.  I am guilty of buying some workbooks but am not very strict on having them completed.  I think of the workbooks as a review tool to remind my boys what topics will be covered and what type of questions to expect.  I feel this might be helpful for my third grader who has never seen the test before.  As for my older son, his teacher reminded me that if they need a workbook then he hasn’t been doing his job as a teacher.  That was great to hear since I have faith in this teacher but I can’t be sure that every teacher my kids encounter will be as good.  For that reason, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little review work at home sometimes.

On the other hand, I don’t want to put too much pressure on my kids since they will have to deal with all that when they are in high school.  At this point, they are learning the tools they need to do well, including good study habits and focus.  I still want them to be carefree and enjoy their childhoods.  I also believe that they should be relaxed during the week of the testing so they can think clearly.  I’m not saying they should play video games all week but playing outside, a little TV and reading seem like good ideas.  They should also sleep on time and eat properly so that hunger and fatigue are not keeping them from performing well.  I was impressed that our schools were handing out a snack each morning to make sure no kid was hungry during the testing.  Glad to see that the administration really cares for our kids too.  Good luck to all the kids for their ASK testing!



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