New traditions, new dishes, new experiences

Last Friday we attended our school's Heritage Potluck. It sounded like an interesting event -- each family is supposed to contribute a dish that represents their heritage and traditions -- but honestly, I thought people would bail out and buy apple pies at Whole Foods, maybe bake a lasagna or toss a salad together.

I wasn't too keen on going, but the kids convinced me, so I decided to buy some puto (Filipino rice cake) from Goldilocks, our local Filipino bakery, and make some chicken fried rice (yes, I know it's not strictly Filipino food, but Filipinos eat fried rice all the time so I figured it counted). I was backing up the van, ready to leave, when Alfie pulled up on his motorcycle; I told him where we were going and said I could handle the kids if he wanted some time to himself to work out or watch tv (aren't I a nice person?).

It just goes to show you how stupid I can be and how much I underestimate the generosity of our community in general. When we got to the school, the tables in the multipurpose room were groaning under the weight of all the dishes that people had brought. What a feast! I saw matzoh ball soup, a plate of Swiss cheeses, Indian curry, smoked salmon, Spanish rice, Spanish omelette, English sausage rolls, hot Louisiana sausage, Dutch potatoes, wontons, egg rolls, enchiladas and more. I can't even begin to describe the dessert table because it's going to make me get up from this chair and raid the fridge. Most of the dishes were homemade, and were disappearing quickly -- but were just as quickly being replaced with new dishes brought by arriving families. I quickly put the puto and rice down (thanking my lucky stars that I needn't be too ashamed of our contribution!) and dialed home. I told Alfie to get his butt here pronto, because the food was amazing and he absolutely had to try everything!

The night turned into a taste adventure for the whole family. I was so proud of the way all three kids tried so many strange and unfamiliar dishes! We've had our struggles with picky eating and macaroni-and-cheese phases when they were younger, but we resisted the urge to give in to chicken nuggets and pizza and separate kiddie meals and kept feeding our kids real meat and veggies and rice. Through a combination of luck and the right personalities and parental persistence, I'm happy to say that The Pea, 3Po and Jammy are now open to trying pretty much anything. That's not to say they will like all of it -- we all have our personal food likes and dislikes, after all -- but we've established a family culture that doesn't refuse a taste of food based on how it looks. I saw the payoff last Friday, as 3Po happily shoveled some boiled salmon into his mouth and The Pea slurped up the clear broth and limp veggies in her matzo ball soup. We'll definitely be attending next year's Heritage Potluck; who knows what new and delicious foods we'll get to try next!



This post was inspired by the Silicon Valley Moms Book Club's March book selection: Top 100 Baby Purees and Top 100 Finger Foods , written by Annabel Karmel. Another of Annabel's books, First Meals, was my food bible when the kids were babies; I credit her yummy fruit and vegetable purees with opening my kids' palates and getting them on the right track towards eating healthy, real food.

Join the#gno #timetoplay Twitter Party Tuesday to Get Kids’ Party Planning Tips


Here's a photo from the Bakugan-themed birthday party I hosted for 3Po and Jammy at the end of January. We had Bakugan-themed games, crafts, food, decor and goody bags! Alfie says I can get overly anal about planning themed-birthday parties (there was that time I actually squeezed myself into a tutu for The Pea's 6th birthday), but honestly, I have just as much fun planning and preparing for the party as I do at the party itself. And the kids' enjoyment makes all the effort totally worth it.

Truthfully, I couldn't have done any of the parties I've done without all the ideas I got from various friends and online birthday party sites. Tomorrow evening I'm proud to be joining Jyl from Mom It Forward, Time To Play and a group of amazing moms at the Girls' Night Out Time To Play Twitter Party, where we'll be tweeting about one of my favorite topics, kids' parties!

Hope to see you there!


Disclosure: I am not being compensated for my participation in this event, either monetary or via free samples.

Fresh

Buko Juice

We had just docked off the coast of Boracay Island to do some snorkeling when a vendor in a tiny canoe paddled up to our outrigger boat. He was selling coconut juice straight from the shell; all he did was climb up a coconut tree, hack off some coconuts, pack them in ice, and head to the snorkeling boats. After boring a tiny hole in the top, he stuck a straw in it, handed it to The Pea, and she had her first taste of fresh buko juice. She loved it!


This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more fresh things, click here.

Not-So Wordless Wednesdsay: Creatures

I know I haven't updated in a while, but with the daylight savings time change, school volunteer work, review blogging, birthday parties and nicer weather (which translates to more outdoor time), Bonggamom Finds is getting neglected again! We did find some time to visit the Aquarium of the Bay last Sunday, and since today is Wordless Wednesday, I'm leaving you with some photos of the weird and wonderful creatures we encountered at the aquarium:


Hello, human. Welcome to the San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay. I'm just the first of the bizarre creatures you're going to see. Or, if I could just figure out how to remove this invisible barrier and sting you, I could be the last thing you ever see....



Okay, these bat rays are just bizarre. I thought their eyes were supposed to be on the tops of their heads, yet you can clearly see a humanoid face on its underside. Maybe he got a tat?


When I see jellyfish, I think, beautiful but deadly. When my kids see jellyfish, they think, oooh, can I touch? Didn't they learn anything from Finding Nemo?



I pasted the little cartoon octopus onto this photo to cover up the glare of the flash shining on the aquarium glass. Also to show everyone how the cartoon version is so not like the real version. Check out the crab in the jar; we saw a video of an octopus actually twisting the jar cover open so he could get to the crab! I wonder if the octopus would try to twist the dome off if he saw Jammy standing underneath it?





After seeing all those weird-looking, slimy creatures, it was nice to find a cute and cuddly creature for a change. Oh, yeah, and that gecko-thingy is kind of cute, too.

Three



I have a ton of photos of my three kids, but this is still one of my favorites. It was taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and that's an ocean wave surging over the glass panels in one of the aquarium exhibits. I didn't ask them to smile or pose; I simply waited until the precise moment that the wave washed over them. I love the look of pure surprise and delight on their faces as they heard the roar of the ocean and realized they were surrounded by water, yet safe. It captures everything that's perfect and magical about being a child.



This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more threes, click here.

54% Off on Family Memberships to the Bay Area Discovery Museum

Last week's Savvy Discount to the Oakland Museum was a huge success -- over 5000 people signed up! This week's deal is just as good -- a Family Membership to the Bay Area Discovery Museum for just $49. Family Memberships regularly cost $105, so that's a whopping 54% discount!

Not only do you get a great discount, you will also get to earn some money for a deserving preschool. 5% of every purchase will be donated to the Savvy Source Preschool Scholarship Fund for children in financial need. But wait... there's more! An additional 5% of every purchase will go to your specified organization.

To get the discount, just click on this link -- it will take you to the Savvy Savings and Scholarships page, where you can sign up.


http://www.savvysource.com/event/home_san-francisco-bay-area_ca/referrerCode=APB11


Now here's the catch: you have to sign up within the next 3 days, AND at least 50 people need to sign up for the discount to take effect! If less than 50 people sign up in the next 3 days, then the offer expires, and your credit card will not be charged. If more than 50 people sign up in the next 3 days, then the offer will be activated and you will receive a link to a coupon that you print out take take with you to the BADM. So sign up now and tell everyone you know!



Disclosure: I am a city editor for The Savvy Source. If you click on the link above and purchase the deal, a portion of the proceeds will go to me and the preschool of my choice. Unless clearly stated, the views and opinions expressed here are my own.

Spiral

A beautiful shell we picked up right on the beach

Nature makes beautiful spiral patterns, like the one that made this shell. We picked it up on the shores of White Beach, Boracay Island. It's amazing that there are shells as pretty and whole as these still lying around!



This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more spiral things, click here.

Men's Underwear: Questions from a Catholic Schoolgirl


What is it with men's briefs? Here's a photo of a pair of Calvin Klein boxer briefs for little boys (I bought a pack for 3Po and Jammy the other day). They're quite adorable, and when my boys wear them they look like little buff Mark Wahlbergs. But when I take away the cute kid, all I'm left with is a pair of underpants with a slit down the side. I have never understood that slit. I know what it's supposed to be for, but I just can't see any male actually using it in this day and age. I have so many questions:

If a little boy is dancing in his pants, dying to pee (and since little boys always wait until the last minute, this always applies), does he honestly have time to maneuver his Wee Willy Winkie through that slit and pee out of it? Wouldn't he just yank his trousers and underpants down in one desperate motion before his bladder bursts? And wouldn't the same apply to grownup men?

Even if a man did have enough time, wouldn't it still be really awkward? Now, I'm a former Catholic schoolgirl so I don't know much about the male anatomy (cue eye roll by Alfie), but it seems to me that if you're wearing tighty-whities, there's going to be a lot of organ-bending involved, which doesn't sound like something a man would want to do.

Why is the slit cut down to one side? Is it always cut down the same side? Why not down the center? Does it have anything to do with being right-handed (and if so, is this a possible case for discrimination against left-handed people)? Or do most men's winkies lean to one side?

How do Calvin Klein and the other underwear makers decide how big the slit ought to be? Did they take measurements? Is there such a thing as a male organ fit model? Does that slit get proportionally larger with larger sizes of underwear?

Unfortunately I can't do any field research in the matter, since, well, Catholic schoolgirls don't enter male restrooms, and they don't ask men such questions, and Alfie is a sample size of one, and he refuses to break the male code and peer over his shoulder to see how other men pee. So I have to apply the process of elimination (no pun intended) to come up with the only remaining reason why the slit is still there.

C'mon, Calvin Klein and all you men's underwear makers. Admit it. The only reason you put the slit is to make sure that male underwear doesn't look like female panties.

It Takes a Village

Everyone has advice for new parents-to-be. Breastfeed. Co-sleep. Don't co-sleep. BPA is bad. Vaccinate. All sorts of opinions are floating in the air, no doubt bewildering to these poor expecting parents who have no idea what BPA stands for or what's in store for them. I have one piece of advice that almost everyone will agree with: Join a playgroup or a co-op or a parents group. Whether you form or join a formal group or just find a bunch of friends with kids the same age as yours, it will save your sanity. It certainly saved mine!

I met my first set of parent friends when The Pea was about fifteen months old. I started taking her to the local children's library for storytime, and I noticed a woman with a little boy. I approached them because I was positive she was Filipina; it turned out she was actually Asian American, but had married a Filipino so her son was half Filipino. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Her son and The Pea quickly became fast friends, and soon we were meeting in the park for playdates. She introduced us to two other friends, both with little girls, and our playgroup was born.

I met my second set of playgroup friends when 3Po was about 14 months old and started biting a little girl at the YMCA gym childcare. Fortunately, her mother, the Divine Miss B, is an extremely understanding and laid-back woman, and she didn't hold 3Po's teeth against me! She had been thinking of forming a Spanish playgroup, where the parents would sing songs and play games in Spanish in order to expose our children to a second language. I quickly signed myself, 3Po and Jammy up during the mornings when The Pea would be in preschool. The playgroup was a huge success initially, but after a while people stopped offering to host, the snack brigade ground to a halt, and parents started dropping out. The ones who remained started skipping the "Spanish" part and concentrating on the "playgroup" part because it was a lot more fun than dealing with who was going to lead the group in "Uno Dos Tres" that day. The rest of the parents looking for bilingual education turned elsewhere, and we were left with a group of five moms who just really loved hanging out together.

The Pea, 3Po and Jammy are now in elementary school, and so are their old playgroup friends. They go to separate schools, and a couple have moved away from the area altogether. But they still remain friends, as do their parents, and we will always look fondly back on those days. My children (first, The Pea, and then 3Po and Jammy) always had other children to play with, so I could stop with the new-parent obsession about their social skill development. Our playdates were a regular routine that everyone looked forward to because both kids and parents knew they'd have fun. I had a peer group I could count on for sympathy and advice because they were going through the same things as I was, so I felt less isolated. And in between the conversations about teething and diaper rash and toilet training, I was actually talking about movies, food, shipping, husbands, politics, careers -- in other words, getting some stimulating, intelligent adult conversation.

I think I only have two regrets with respect to playgroups. I kind of wish we had continued with our formal Spanish playgroup -- our little group of friends could have played together at other times and still kept the bigger Spanish playgroup going. Maybe we just lacked organization, or a set schedule, or a list of tasks.

My second regret is that we never traded babysitting favors more. I would have been willing to babysit for any of my friends and I suspect they would have done the same, but they never asked me, and I never asked them either. I think that sometimes we're too afraid of overstepping our bounds and asking for favors -- so we end up hiring babysitters who cost lots of money and don't know our kids as well as our friends do. Maybe if there had been online communities for babysitting co-ops -- like a community that I was recently introduced to, HiveMoms -- it would have been easier for us to formalize things and trade favors with no reluctance or sense of overstepping any boundaries.

One thing that my playgroup experiences have proved is that having a village to raise your child really helps -- but administering that village is hard. So new parents, as soon as your baby starts letting you sleep a bit more at night, gather your thoughts and get thee to a playgroup! And consider leaving the running of that village to a community like HiveMoms -- think of them as your friendly village administrative office who takes care of the details so the only things you and your friends have to concentrate on are your children and each other.



Disclosure:
This is a compensated post. I'd like to thank HiveMoms.com for sponsoring this post! HiveMoms is an online community of babysitting moms who form co-ops in order to exchange babysitting and other favors. You can find and join co-ops by zip code and by school (or form your own!), and HiveMoms keeps track of member information, babysitting "points", feedback, job requests, and everything else you need to manage your co-op. Registration is free, so sign up now!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

Be Seen at BlogHer 2010!

Budget lean?
You can still be seen
at this year's BlogHer
if you become my Spons-Her!


The premiere blogging conference of the year, BlogHer 2010, is just five months away, and every blogger wants to be there! Official conference sponsorships and exhibitor booths may be out of your budget, but you can still make your presence felt at BlogHer with me to represent you. I'm seeking sponsorship to this year's BlogHer conference and I'm hoping we can help each other out.


What can I do for you?
I'll be the face of your company before, during and after the BlogHer conference. Whether you're introducing a new product, increase your brand awareness or looking to expand your network of bloggers, I can help. I hang out with some pretty amazing bloggers -- I write for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, the Savvy Source, and Yahoo! Motherboard. I'm a member of MomSelect, Team Mom, BlogHer Reviewers and BlogHer Family Connections, and I've been invited to some pretty exclusive blogging events, such as last year's Ford Ride and Drive, Disney Mom Blogger weekend, and Time To Play Winter Showcase. I plan to be out there nonstop, mingling with great bloggers, meeting new ones, seeing and being seen -- and if you sponsor me, you'll be seen right along with me. And I'll make sure that everyone who stops by my blog, follows me on Twitter and fans me on Facebook will know who you are and what you do.



What do I need?
I realize times are difficult and every marketing dollar counts, so I'm not looking for sponsorship to cover anything except the bare necessities. I've already got my BlogHer conference pass, and I figure I still have to feed myself whether I attend the conference or not -- but I do need help covering the cost of my plane ticket from San Francisco to New York ($350) and a hotel room for 3 nights ($199/night = $600).



How can you help?
Let me represent your company at BlogHer 2010! You can book my services via an exclusive sponsorship (available until April 8, or until I obtain a partial sponsor) or on a partial basis (available after April 8). Below is a description of sponsorship levels and benefits:

note: I apologize in advance that I cannot offer to pass out sponsor materials or swag bags during the conference as it is prohibited by BlogHer this year.

Bronze Sponsorship - $25 and up (available after April 8, 2010)
  • Your text link in a special "BlogHer 2010 Sponsors" section, located on the sidebar of my personal blog, Finding Bonggamom, from time of sponsorship until August 30, 2010.

  • Your text link in a special "BlogHer 2010 Sponsors" section, located on the sidebar of my review blog, Bonggamom Finds, from time of sponsorship until August 30, 2010.

  • Your text link on this "Be Seen at BlogHer 2010" post, which is accessible via special navigation tabs on the Finding Bonggamom and Bonggamom Finds blogs, from time of sponsorship until August 8, 2010.

  • Your text link in a special "Meet My BlogHer Sponsors" post, which will be posted in July 2010 on Bonggamom Finds. This post will be a sticky post which will remain at the top of the Bonggamom Finds home page until August 8, 2010.


Silver Sponsorship - $50 and up (available after April 8, 2010)
  • Your 125 x 125 logo in a special "BlogHer Sponsors" section, located on the sidebar of my personal blog, Bonggamom Finds, from time of sponsorship until August 30, 2010.

  • Your 125 x 125 logo in a special "BlogHer Sponsors" section, located on the sidebar of my personal blog, Bonggamom Finds, from time of sponsorship until August 30, 2010.

  • Your 125 x 125 logo on this "Be Seen at BlogHer 2010" post, which is accessible via special navigation tabs on the Finding Bonggamom and Bonggamom Finds blog, from time of sponsorship until August 8, 2010.

  • Your 125 x 125 logo in a special "Meet My BlogHer Sponsors" post, which will be posted in July 2010 on Bonggamom Finds. This post will be a sticky post which will remain at the top of the Bonggamom Finds home page until August 8, 2010.


Gold Sponsorship - $100 and up (available after April 8, 2010)

All the benefits of a Silver Sponsorship, plus:
  • A one-paragraph description of your company and product or service in a special "Meet My BlogHer Sponsors" Post, which will be posted in July 2010 on Bonggamom Finds. This post will be a sticky post which will remain at the top of the Bonggamom Finds home page until August 8, 2010.

  • Your text link in three posts on Finding Bonggamom, devoted to the BlogHer 2010 experience - Before, During and After - crediting you as a Gold Sponsor.

  • Weekly mention in special #BlogHer2010 #followfriday tweet from time of sponsorship until August 8, 2010.

  • Your company logo printed on a shirt that I will wear during conference hours (8:00AM - 4:00PM) of Day 1 *OR* Day 2 of BlogHer (deadline to avail of this benefit: May 30, 2010).

  • Ad space on Bonggamom Finds for a year! Your text link in the "Bongga Sponsors" section from time of sponsorship until 1 year later.


Platinum Sponsorship - $300 and up (available after April 8, 2010)

All the benefits of a Gold Sponsorship, plus:
  • Your text link and 125 x 125 logo in three posts on Finding Bonggamom, devoted to the BlogHer 2010 experience - Before, During and After - crediting you as a Platinum Sponsor.
  • A review of your product or service on Bonggamom Finds, the week before BlogHer 2010.

  • Weekly #followfriday tweet devoted exclusively to your company, from time of sponsorship until August 8, 2010.

  • Your company logo printed on a shirt that I will wear during conference hours (8:00AM - 4:00PM) of Day 1 *AND* Day 2 of BlogHer (deadline to avail of this benefit: May 30, 2010).

  • Ad space on Bonggamom Finds for a year! Your 125 x 125 logo in the "Bongga Sponsors" section from time of sponsorship until 1 year later.

  • Premium ad space on Bonggamom Finds for a year! Your 125 x 125 logo in the "Featured Sponsors" section from time of sponsorship until 1 year later.

Full Sponsorship: $950 -- available until April 8, 2010, or until I receive a partial sponsorship

If you become my exclusive BlogHer 2010 sponsor, there'll be no need to share the limelight with any other company! You'll get sole rights to association with Bonggamom Finds for BlogHer 2010 (with the exception of in-kind sponsors). You'll get all Platinum Sponsorship benefits plus:
  • Inclusion of your company logo on the business cards that I will pass out to people at BlogHer (this is not prohibited at this year's BlogHer conference).

  • Daily #BlogHer2010 tweets mentioning your company from August 1 - August 5, 2010 and August 8 - August 9, 2010.

  • Live tweeting at #BlogHer2010 mentioning your company, three times per day on August 6 and August 7, 2010.

  • Three of your company's Press Releases to be posted on Bonggamom Finds, at any time until 1 year from time of sponsorship.

  • Special product giveaway to be conducted at BlogHer, if desired.

  • Guest post on your blog, if desired.

  • I'm open to ideas, let's talk!


In-Kind Sponsorships
I know I said I wouldn't ask for help for anything except the bare necessities.... but.... hey, a girl's gotta look good, right? So if you are a clothing or shoes or handbag or accessories company, interested in showcasing your products at BlogHer 2010, let's talk about my wearing your products at the BlogHer conference and various BlogHer social events!

What's in it for you? You'll get all the benefits of a Silver Sponsorship plus a review post on Bonggamom Finds of whatever item you send for me to wear at BlogHer 2010. Naturally, I'll mention your company any time there's a discussion about what to wear to BlogHer 2010, and every time someone at the conference compliments me on your product!



Please contact me at bonggamom@yahoo.com if you are interested in any sponsorship level or if you have any other ideas you'd like to incorporate. Thank you for considering a sponsorship for Bonggamom to BlogHer 2010!


Are You Prepared for The Big One?


With two major earthquakes occurring in such a short span of time (in Haiti and Chile), you'd think that the citizens of California would be (pardon the pun) quaking in their boots in anticipation of the next Big One. But just today, the State of California released findings from their California Earthquake Preparedness Survey, and the results suggest that Californians may not be as prepared as they ought to be:


* Fewer than 20 percent of households have structurally reinforced their homes or had their homes inspected for earthquake resistance.

* Only 40 percent keep the recommended minimum of three gallons of water stored per person.

* Fewer than 20 percent of California households have purchased earthquake insurance.

* More than 80 percent of households have first aid kits, flashlights and batteries in their house but only 40 percent of Californians have made family disaster plans.


Yikes! When I read that, I immediately thought about how my family's preparations match up to those bullet points:

* When we remodeled our home five years ago, we were required to reinforce our foundations and all our walls in order to bring them up to the latest seismic safety standards, so I'm fairly sure we've secured our house about as much as we can.

* Thanks to the California Volunteers, I was given a Disaster Survival Kit which I store in a storage shed at the side of our house. It contains packs of water -- but I'm not sure whether we have 3 gallons per person. I guess I'd better check that and add a couple of cases of water to our stash.

* We're actually one of the 20% of Californians who do purchase earthquake insurance. The premium skyrocketed this year, but we gritted our teeth and bit the bullet because our home is our most significant financial investment, and if we lose it in an earthquake, we have nothing.

* Our Disaster Survival Kit contains a flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, food, water, and personal hygiene items -- but we don't really have a Disaster Survival Plan.

There it is, our Achilles Heel, a Disaster Survival Plan. Okay, Alfie and I have decided on several locations to meet at in case of a disaster, and the kids know how to get out of the house in case of a fire, but I get the feeling we should be doing more. We need to formalize our plan of action and maybe even rehearse it a couple of times.

Sound like overkill? Last month a small plane crash left our city and several neighboring cities without power for about 9 hours, and it really brought home the fact that in a natural disaster, you're on your own. Phone lines to the city utilities and services were hopelessly busy, and we couldn't log on to our computers, so we had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, we still had cellphones so we weren't totally isolated; and it wasn't really a disaster, so we could just go about our lives and wait for the power to come back. But in a real disaster, I can see how fear and panic could close your mind down and cause you to lose your ability to think.

Think about it: your world is crumbling around you, there's no one to turn to. Your kids are scared, and so are you, but you don't want to let them know. How do you get everyone to safety? That's where a predetermined plan of action, with contingencies all mapped out for different situations, will prove invaluable. You've rehearsed it before, so you already know what to do, and even if that tree that almost fell on you has turned your brain into mush, it doesn't matter because you've got it all written down in a notebook, so you just open it up and read it.

Oh, hang on, we don't have one of those.

Okay, we'd better get cracking on that disaster plan. And so should you!


Click here for more information about the California Earthquake Preparedness study and the findings.

Foreign

Tricycle

The tricycle -- a motorcycle with a covered sidecar that seats anywhere from one passenger to as many as the driver will allow (and it sometimes reaches a ridiculous amount, with people hanging on to the back, sides, and top!) -- is a common mode of public transportation in the Philippines. I saw one nearly every day when I lived there, but it was completely foreign to my kids when they first rode on one last December. But they quickly grew to love it (where else would they get a chance to travel by motorcycle, not to say anything about the lack of helmets or seatbelts!). They enjoyed riding tricycles so much, 3Po declared he wanted to drive one when he grew up.



This photo was inspired by this week's Photo Hunt theme. Feel free to leave links to your own Photo Hunt entries below. And for more foreign things, click here.

My Reading Across America Booklist

This week our elementary school celebrated Read Across America and kicked off Reading Month with a fun activity -- challenging students to read books set in all fifty US states. Our librarian has set aside a special Read Across America book cart with books that she's selected. Each book has a sticker with the name of the state that the book is set in, so students can easily choose which books they want to read. Every kid who wants to participate gets a black-and-white paper map of the US, and every time they read a book set in a state, they can color that state in. The papers are posted in the school's multipurpose hall so that everyone can keep track of completed and missing states.

Isn't that a great way to motive young children to read? Kids can never resist checklists, and having a themed reading list makes that much more fun. When I heard about the challenge, I got all excited and convinced The Pea to take it with me. I figured that having her mom complete it with her would help hold her interest in the project till the end. Also, it's a great way to expand her selection of reading material beyond Nancy Drew, the Rainbow Fairies, Roald Dahl and Percy Jackson. Besides, I figure I need a lesson in geography anyway.

This morning I created my Sea To Shining Sea reading list. Despite having several decades headstart on my daughter, my list has quite a lot of gaps in it! Here's what it looks like so far:

Alabama: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Alaska: Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
Arizona:
Arkansas:
California: Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell
Colorado:
Connecticut: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
Delaware:
Florida: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
Georgia: Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Hawaii:
Idaho:
Illinois: Meet Molly, an American Girl by Valerie Tripp
Indiana:
Iowa:
Kansas: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
Kentucky:
Louisiana:
Maine: Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White
Maryland:
Massachusetts: Anastasia Krupnik, by Lois Lowry
Michigan:
Minnesota: On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mississippi: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Missouri: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Montana:
Nebraska:
Nevada: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
New Hampshire:
New Jersey: Superfudge, by Judy Blume
New Mexico: Meet Josefina, an American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
New York: Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
North Carolina: Meet Addy, An American Girl, by Connie Porter
North Dakota: On the Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ohio: Meet Kit, an American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
Oklahoma:
Oregon:
Pennsylvania: Meet Addy, An American Girl, by Connie Porter
Rhode Island:
South Carolina: Dragons in the Waters, by Madeleine L'Engle
South Dakota: Little Town on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Tennessee:
Texas:
Utah:
Vermont:
Virginia: Meet Felicity, An American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
Washington:
West Virginia:
Wisconsin: Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Wyoming:

At this point, several notes are in order. First, this is a list in progress, since I've probably forgotten several books here and there, so I'll be updating it as I remember some books and get around to reading others. Second, I only listed one book per state for now, even though I may have read multiple books for that state. Third, I'm trying to include "good" books, i.e. books that I enjoyed when I was The Pea's age (around the 7-13 age range) that I would love for her to enjoy as well. I'm not putting down the trashy romance set in Hawaii that I read when I was 12.

Also, I admit that I may have cheated a little bit; for one thing, I counted Tom Sawyer for two states (ditto with the Addy series). And a few books, like the Sea of Monsters, aren't set in their assigned state for the entire book; Percy just gets washed up on Miami Beach after battling a cruise ship full of monsters. And Benne Seed Island, the setting of Dragons in the Waters, although supposedly set in North Carolina, isn't a real island at all. But it still counts, right?


Now our journey begins, and to help us complete it, I did a search on Read Across America reading lists. Here are a few good ones:

http://www.nea.org/grants/13235.htm
http://abcteach.com/free/b/booklist_readacrossamerica.pdf
http://www.mrsmcgowan.com/projects/flags/states_books.htm
http://www.booknutsreadingclub.com/readacrossamerica.html

It would take us years to go through all those books! So can you think of any books that The Pea and I really, really ought to read?



This post was inspired by this month's Yahoo MotherBoard topic about celebrating reading during America Reads month. To read what the moms of Yahoo are saying about kids, careers, and balancing the two, visit their Yodeling Mamas blog for a glimpse into their digital and domestic lives.

The Asian American Immigrant -- is it *your* story?

Check out this video trailer for the upcoming Silicon Valley Asian American Voices project:



The documentary follows the stories—the successes, hardships, and hopes—of three Asian American immigrants in Silicon Valley. Two seconds into the trailer, I could tell the first lady featured was Filipina. Her looks, her accent... she is so Pinoy!

Seeing my kababayan onscreen immediately made me sit up and pay attention. I haven't watched the film yet (it's going to be showing at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival, starting March 20th), but I know her name is Nenita Ibe, and she's a Filipina woman working as a room attendant in the hotel industry. She's a Filipina immigrant. Although I've never worked in the hotel industry (in the US at least; my nightclub gigs in Manila are another story altogether and a subject of future blog posts), I'm a Filipina immigrant too, so her story is a little like my story. And her story is a little like my cousins' stories and my high school buddy's story and your story. And if you're not a first generation immigrant, her story might be a little bit like your mother's story, or your father's or your grandmother's. It's a story that's been told and retold by hundreds and thousands of Asian Americans all across the United States, and it's a story worth hearing.

If you live in the Bay Area, check out the Silicon Valley Asian American Voices Facebook page for a schedule of upcoming screenings of this documentary. Hopefully watching this document will get more Asian Americans aware of the struggles that new immigrants still face.


This post originally appears on Bonggamom's personal blog, Finding Bonggamom. She also blogs for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, Savvy Source, and Bonggamom Finds.

The Winter Olympics: Who's on Top?

The 2010 Winter Olympics are over, and now that my family is no longer obsessing about whether Canada wins another gold medal or whether Apolo Ohno makes it through another race without getting shoved or disqualified, it seemed like a good act of closure to visit the Winter Olympics site to check out the medal standings. I've been quite impressed with the Canadians' amazing performance at these games (they won more gold medals at these winter Olympics than any other nation has ever won in a winter Olympics), so I have to say I was surprised to see the US at the top of the table:



Official Vancouver Olympics website


I've always thought these medal tables ought to go by the number of gold medals, not the number of medals overall. After all, you're ranking the countries by the number of winners, right? Besides, the US is always on top of the table. As a world citizen who's used to America running around thumping their chest and declaring, "We're Number One", it would be nice to see another country there for a change, and I'm all for giving props to the underdogs.

But then I suppose each country who medaled in these Olympics is going to want to present the results to make themselves appear in the best possible light. To test this theory, I went on a virtual round-the-world trip to the websites of leading newspapers in countries that medaled in these Olympic games. I managed (and believe me, it's not easy to figure out how to surf a Russian or Korean or Chinese website when you have absolutely no idea how to read their language) to get some screen shots of the medal counts (I've shown only the top five countries for brevity's sake), and the results speak for themselves:


NBC Olympics page, US

Most Americans who care about the Olympics would go to the NBC Olympics page, so I'm not surprised that they chose the method that puts the US on top (had they ordered the countries by the number of gold medals, the US would be #3). That's pretty much the case in all the American newspapers:



New York Times, US


South Korea, on the other hand, chose to order the countries by number of gold medals. They're ranked #5 in terms of gold medals, and #7 in terms of overall medals. Again, not surprising. If I were Korean, I'd want to see my country in the top 5 too.


Chosun Ilbo, South Korea


But how does the rest of the world do it? I decided to go to the BBC, since their newscasts always seem to have such an unbiased, authoritative vibe, what with their posh British accents and all (besides, I'm married to an Englishman and he'd be quite offended if I suggested that the BBC was anything less than 100% neutral). They use the Gold Standard too:

BBC, Great Britain


But hang on, I thought. Canada used to be part of The Empire, and even now, for some reason, they call Elizabeth II their queen, so it's possible the Brits might be leaning towards putting their former colony on top of the medal heap. So I looked for a country that would have no reason to care which way the medals are tallied. Germany ends up second in the total medal count and gold medal count, so I figured they're as neutral as any country. Also -- since I'm flaming the fans of nationalism here -- Germany was beaten by both the US and Great Britain in World War II, so I figure they'd hate both countries equally. If you think it's silly to be bringing that kind of ancient history into sports, just ask Alfie about how his father and grandfather felt when England beat Germany to win the World Cup in 1966).

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany


Germany's newspapers use the gold medal tally. Another "neutral" country, Norway (who stands at #4 in both gold medal tally and overall medal tally) also used the number of gold medals to report medal counts in their newspapers -- although I noticed that the Norwegians couldn't resist reminding their countrymen that they are Number One in gold medal and medal standings for the All-Time Winter Olympic medal count.


Aftenposten, Norway


For a true lack of bias, check out this Austrian newspaper. They stuck to the gold medal tally even though it meant Austria would be ranked #9 instead of #5:


Die Presse, Austria




And what of the Canadians? Surprise, surprise, they used the overall medal tally and ranked themselves third!

Toronto Star, Canada


I actually checked a couple of Canadian sites to make sure this one wasn't a fluke (as if the most popular news site in Canada would be a "fluke"), and they all ranked the countries by overall medals. Good for the Canadians. I guess when you do something completely awesome, you don't need to brag about it, you just let your achievement speak for itself. They make me feel silly about caring who's on top. Alright, US and South Korea, you can keep your medal standings. Countries have enough to fight over without adding medal count methods to it. Besides, either way is perfectly valid. At least no one's tallying fictitious platinum medals!