Friday, February 5, 2016

Multicultural Toys & Activities for Kids - The Molinillo

Today I am getting together with a few of my blogging friends, and we are sharing multicultural toys and activities for kids.  This was a perfect opportunity to introduce the molinillo to my boys that my sister-in-law got me for Christmas.  I had been saving it for a time like this!  Before receiving the molinillo I had never heard of it.  It's like a wooden whisk that is used to froth hot chocolate or other warm drinks.  The tool originated in Mexico and Central America.  You can read more about its history here.

To see what my friends Maria and Kay have chosen to introduce, hop on over to their blogs too!

Maria Magdalena -- Living Ideas --The Suling Bambu
A Crafty Arab --An Arabic Wooden Sorting Game

My lovely sister-in-law also bought us a disc of Abuelita chocolate too.  This was such a simple activity, but so fun!

First we heated the milk.

Next we added the chocolate.

I brought the pan to the table and we took turns trying to froth the milk, with the help of a few videos.

At first we held the molinillo to the bottom, and that splashed the milk everywhere.

After watching this video we realized you need to hold the molinillo towards the top of the liquid.  This allows more air to get mixed into the milk from all the open air holes on the bottom of the molinillo.

The froth actually gave the hot chocolate a creamier taste.  We tried a cup without frothing, and a cup with.

I highly recommend buying one of these to add to your multi-cultural kitchen utensil collection.  I am going to try frothing just milk for my coffee next time.

I will warn you though, it is very tiring!  Somewhat like mixing cake batter by hand.  It's not something you would do every day, but makes for a very fun multicultural activity with kids.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How I (Finally) Decided to Structure My Goals for 2016 // or Cómo llegué (por fin) a decidir guiar mis metas para 2016

Guys.  I'm doing something scary this year...I'm going to start blogging a bit in SPANISH!  I know this might open me up for some criticism because I AM NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER.  But.  It also opens me up for growth, and that's cool.  I like growing.  Sorta.  Sometimes.  Well, I don't like it when I am in the process of growing, but when I take those vistazos over my shoulder and see that I have come a little way or developed or changed or learned, THAT is what feels good.  And what better way to chart my growth than to share it with you all!  So I'm excited and scared, but this is long overdue (I've been thinking about blogging in Spanish for a while) SO. HERE. WE. GO.  I will put the Spanish version on top, and you can scroll down for the English.  It is not translated word for word, because not everything I say in English would be said the exact same way in Spanish.  Oh!  And if you're a native speaker here's my message to you: 1) thanks for stopping by I am honored, 2) if you see a mistake or something I could say differently to sound more native PLEASE tell me, I'd love to know! and 3) But remember I'm human so don't be mean about it I might cry.  ;)  Let's do this!

Mientras enero llega a una conclusión, yo lo miro hacia atrás y pienso: qué mes tan agotador pero tan divertido.  Imprimí agendas*, registros y presupuestos para las horas del día, páginas para planeartodas las comidas y cenas, listas diarias y rutinas para limpiar la casa; leí cuidadosamente los posts de mis amigos sobre sus metas del año nuevo, y además de las metas de ellas del pasado; escuché podcast innumerables de las temas de ser productiva y organizada y cómo descansar y balancear la vida y meditar y trabajar y—pienso que todo eso reflexión y observación ha producido algo.

Rumié el año 2016 todo el mes de enero.  Cada vez que me sentaba para escribir entero las metas para el año, yo en cierto modo me encontré atascada—o interrumpida.  Quería que mis metas eran SMART: un acrónimo en inglés que significa específica, medible, alcanzable, pertinente y obligado por el tiempo (o sea una fecha límite).  Acabo de oír de este acrónimo en enero de una de mis “scopeadoras” favoritas, Kim Garst.  ¿Soy desfasada?  Permítanme explicar dónde estaba yo.

El año empezó con mi nena teniendo cuatro meses, durante que mi hijo mayor era a mitad del camino de su año de kínder.  Siento que tener estas dos etapas cruzándose nos imponer un estado de limbo a los niños y yo, por turno haciéndose al año 2016 de alguna manera una puerta giratoria para nuestra vida de familia.  {I feel like my sentences in Spanish are al run-on sentences.}  Entré en la puerta giratoria en el País de los bebés; todavía exigida, en menor grado, por las horas de lactar y los horarios de los siestas.  Pequeños vistazos de ser madre de hijos (no bebés) han empezado aparecer y yo me da cuenta que éste es nuestro último año para hacer planes o escoger rutinas orgánicamente o instintivamente.  Este año también me hace a una madre ocupada (empleada).   Todos estos cambios van a ponerme girando cerrando el círculo, saliendo por la puerta giratoria en el peldaño de la puerta de 2017 con una vida muy diferente.  Así que mientras quiero gozar el hato y el garabato de esta oportunidad ser madre de una bebé, también quiero empezar trabajar en prepararse nuestra familia para un ritmo de niños mayores y estarme lista con una mentalidad más profesional. 

Este fin de semana pasado, me crucé con un podcast de ShePercolates (episodio 100) que explicó como hacer metas grandes, y después metas pequeñas para alcanzar a las grandes.  Usaron una analogía de un pastel dividido en partes, que me ayudó entender la idea de dedicarme de verdad lograr mis metas.

Entonces, dividí mis metas en estos nueve partes: profesional, el blog, mi español, el español de mis hijos, la lectura mía, la lectura de mis hijos, hábitos para desarrollar para mí y mis hijos, y retos mensuales para la familia.  Escribí una lista de metas para cada categoría, y cada fin de mes, voy a revisar esas metas para ver en qué manera voy a trabajar específicamente con cada meta en el mes que viene.

Nunca he hecho un plan así para mis metas, y ¡estoy considerable emocionada ver cómo va a acabar!  Generalmente sólo he soñado de lo que quiero conseguir y nunca vuelvo a visitar esos sueños durante el año.

¿Cómo planeáis vosotros conseguir las metas este año?


As January comes to a close, I look back at it and think: what a tiring yet fun month.  I printed planners*, time-trackers, time budgets, meal plan pages, daily checklists andcleaning routines; I pored over my friends’ posts about their goals for theyear, as well as goal ideas from the past; I listened to countless podcasts about being productive and planning and resting and balancing and meditating and working and—I think my reflection and research has finally produced something.    

I ruminated over the year 2016 for the entire month of January.  Each time I sat down to write out my goals for the year, I seemed to get stuck—or interrupted.  I wanted my goals to be SMART: specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.  I just heard of this type of goal last month from one my favorite scopers, Kim Garst.  Am I behind the times?  Let me explain where I have been. 

The year started for me with my youngest (and last) baby being four months old, while my oldest child was mid-way through Kindergarten.  I feel that those two stages intersecting thrusts the kids and I into this limbo state, in turn making 2016 somewhat of a revolving door for our family life.  I entered the revolving door in Babyland; still mandated, to a degree, by feeding times and nap schedules.  Small glimpses of being a parent to kids (not babies) have started appearing and I realize this is our last little year to organically or intuitively make plans or choose routines. This year I also became a working parent.  All of these shifts will have me spinning full circle, emerging through the revolving door onto the doorstep of 2017 in a much different life.  So while I want to eat up every morsel of this last chance I have to be the mom of a baby, I also want to begin working on getting our family ready for a more kid-pace and getting myself ready for a more professional mindset.

This past weekend I ran across a podcast from She Percolates that explained how to set big goals, and then smaller goals to achieve those big goals.  They used the analogy of a pie, which helped me wrap my head around the idea of actually diving into my goals and getting them accomplished. 
So, I divided my goals into these nine parts: professional, my blog, my Spanish, my kids’ Spanish, my reading, my kids’ reading, habits for me and my kids, and monthly family challenges.  I wrote a list of goals for each category, and at the end of each month, I will check over my goals to see in what ways I’m going to work specifically with each goal in the month to come.

I have never made a plan like this for goals, and I’m pretty excited to see how it all turns out!  Usually I have just dreamt about what I want to accomplish and I never re-visit those dreams throughout the year.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals this year?

*The planner I printed is an affiliate link!  Just FYI

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Understanding Gender in Spanish: High School Spanish Study Checklist

I remember sitting at a table in the backyard garden of a veteran who had learned French during the
war; he was the private French tutor of my middle-school friend.  My friend had invited me along to her lesson for fun and I happily obliged (even at that age I guess I had an interest in learning a foreign language).  I was like, "Heck yeah, I'll be speaking French by next week!"  Instead I walked away from that lesson in frustration.  Why?  Gender.  Here I share with you some explanations about gender and tips on how to master it in your language study.  If you are a parent wanting to teach your little kids Spanish, the cool thing is you can study this topic for yourself (because adults like to ask "Why?") and then just apply tip #3 with your kiddos.  Kids learn language so naturally and without question, so all you need to do with them is just learn new words.

Gender For the English Speaker

Gender is that first little speed bump in the Spanish-learning journey that gets me a confused gaze from my students, or friends learning Spanish.  Gender just does not make sense for us English-only speakers.  Maybe (probably? I don't know ask your linguistic friends) back in the day of Chaucer English had gender.  But not anymore.  So we have a hard time contextualizing why Spanish has it.  A friend told me recently, she noticed while learning Spanish colors on YouTube with her kids, that sometimes the color word ended in an "o" and then sometimes the ending would change to an "a."  That might be the most annoying part (and I use the term annoying most affectionately--remember? I am in love with Spanish) about gender--it affects the entire sentence.  

5 Tips to Get you Started

If you are in a high school Spanish class learning about this, if you are an adult wanting to dabble in Spanish as a hobby or learn it for your job, if you are a parent wanting to help your kids get some foreign language exposure, this applies to you: Just think about gender as a way to classify nouns, or put them in groups.  Why?  Well I don't really know. For a more sophisticated answer you can go to college and study linguistics.  Then come back here and let me know the reason, okay?  Until then, here are a few tips to wrap your head around gender in the Spanish language.

1) Learn the Feminine and Masculine Endings

Some general rules do exist when it comes to gender.  Generally feminine nouns end in -a, and masculine nouns end in -o.  Other feminine endings are -dad, -ión, -z.  Other masculine endings are -ma.  It helps to know these in case you run across a new word and want to guess the gender of it. 

2) Memorize the Tricksters

Every story involves a sly trickster, amiright?  Brer Rabbit, the Big Bad Wolf, where would we be without them?  They keep us on our toes, on the lookout.  In keeping with tradition, then,the Spanish language has its own tricksters.  You just have to memorize them--much like you would memorize the face of someone on a wanted poster--and watch out for them.  Here is a list of the most common ones:

la mano
the hand
el mapa
the map
la radio
the radio
el día
the day
la foto*
the photo
el problema
the problem
la moto*
the motorcylce
el programa
the program
*It might help to remember that these words are shortened versions of words that end in -a: la
fotografía and la motocicleta.

3) Memorize Each Noun with the Word "The"

Like I mentioned before, gender affects the entire sentence.  Which you can actually use to your advantage.  When learning new words, simply learn them along with the word "the."  You can see this in the chart above.  The feminine word for the in Spanish is "la," and the masculine word for the in Spanish is "el."  If you are not sure if a word is feminine or masculine, just go to and type in the word.  If you see nm next to the word it's masculine, so memorize it like this: "el libro."

If you see nf next to the word it's feminine, so memorize it like this: "la manzana."

4) If you start to feel frustrated, take a small break, tell yourself some T-Rex jokes, then come back to it.

This always makes me feel better.

Photo credit

5) Practice!

Anything worthwhile in life takes dedication, right?  Practice is the best way to solidify the whole masculine/feminine thing in your mind.  I have gathered a list of extra resources on this topic.  Even if the information seems repetitive, I suggest you commit to reading one each day and then doing any practice quiz or podcast that might accompany it.  Some of the following are just articles written to help you understand the subject, and they go a little further than I do here.  Whether you are an adult trying to learn Spanish on your own, a high school student looking for more help on this subject before a big exam, or a parent trying to help your child learn Spanish the following list should help you get a handle on gender in the Spanish language.

Day One: The Sexualization of Nouns -- video (parental discretion advised)
Day Two: Masculine & Feminine Nouns -- article from SpanishDict with a FREE PRACTICE QUIZ that includes 40 questions automatically graded for you.
Day Three: Words That Break the Gender 'Rule' -- an article to help you with the "tricksters"
Day Four: 8 Simple Rules for Mastering Spanish Gender -- this is an article that has a printable form, so you can take the 8 simple rules with you, or tuck them in your study notebook.  Just ignore the parts where they try to sell you FluentU and keep scrolling.
Day Five: Spanish Nouns (People, Places & Things) -- this article explains what to do when there is more than one noun.
Day Six: Gender of Nouns: Part 1-- here you will find a written explanation of gender along with a basic quiz, a mini test, an oral practice quiz, and a podcast all for FREE.  There are additional quizzes too, but you have to pay for a membership.
Day Seven: Gender of Nouns: Part 2 -- this offers the same as above, however the content goes more in depth and covers more than