Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to Raise a Prodigy: Lessons I Learned From Parenting One

I bumped into one of my mentors one night in a coffee shop. He asked about my me and my family and I happily shared some updates, including my eldest son's latest adventures on the piano. He and his sons were amazed at my story. He said that my son is a prodigy. It was the first time I considered that. He's right. We have a musical prodigy in our house.

He makes learning music, whether singing songs or playing songs on the piano, look so easy. To him, these activities are as natural as breathing.

I used to play a cd of nursery rhymes/songs to him when he was still a baby. Then, we would dance to the tune of those songs. I would also teach him the actions for those songs. When he became a toddler, he started showing remarkable developments in language and music. He started saying some words before he turned 1 year old and he started singing songs when he was over a year old. When he was already 2 years old, he could sing not just nursery songs but even other songs that he doesn't hear every ay as long as heard them a few times. We loved asking him to sing songs for us and he would sing a song we request him to sing at the drop of a hat! He was an adorable baby!

He liked playing with musical instruments. His first favorite was the guitar because that's what he saw his Dad playing. We also got him a small guitar. He would imitate his dad every time his Dad practices. During Masses, he would sit beside the other guitarists in the choir. He wants to be part of the choir too. He also wants to have his own chord book even though he was only 2 years old then! It looked so funny. But we kept on letting him do what he wanted to do and what made him happy. Eventually, he shifted to our small keyboard because he was having a hard time doing the chord on his guitar with short fingers. It was easier for him to play the piano because he only needed to press the keys.


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In the above video, Yanthy was only 3 years. He was singing a song (Only a God Like You) by Tommy Walker, one of his favorite Christian artists. He was trying out the new guitar that his Dad gave him as a gift for his 3rd birthday.

Then, when he was around 4 and half years old, we move to a new house near a Catholic church. We started going to Mass daily. I noticed that he would always look at the pianist serving during Masses.

One day, I got the surprise of my life when I heard someone play some of the Mass songs on our keyboard. It was my little boy! I was amazed because no one taught him. My husband and I do not know how to play the piano. I bought our keyboard just before I got married because I wanted to learn how to play the instrument. But I didn't get to have formal piano lessons and I found the books my husband gave me challenging. In short, I didn't learn. Then, here comes my little boy, playing on our piano one day. He learned by simply watching and listening.

Last night, he served in the Mass again in our parish. He has been serving as a pianist in this church since he turned 7 years old last year (October 2015). He played a new song titled Here We Are. He just learned this song yesterday. After a few hours, he played it as the entrance song in last night's Mass. If he is in the mood and we provide him with the needed resources (like chords, music sheets and ample time to play on the piano), he would learn at least one new song each day.

After the Mass last night, he mentioned to me and a few of our friends that there are now 62 music sheets in his tablet. I was amazed! That means that 62 is the minimum number of songs he has learned to play on the piano! And he only started formal piano lessons around 1 year ago! But that's not all, I said minimum because that number does not include the songs he learned without a music sheet, which is so much more because he first learned to play oido (by ear). He also learned some songs by using the chords only and he improvised on the accompaniment. That number also does not include the nursery songs, classical music, Christmas songs, worship songs, folk songs and many other songs he learned! He said that if we list or count all the songs that he has played since he started, it must be more than a hundred. I think he's right. Wow!

Now, let me share with you the definitions of prodigy that I found.

What is a Prodigy?


From Dictionary.com: a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability: a musical prodigy.

From the British Dictionary: a person, especially a child, of unusual or marvelous talents.

From Mirriam-Webster.com: a young person who is unusually talented in some way.

From Cambridge Dictionaries Online:

(Prodigy in American English) a child who shows a great ability at a young age: a child prodigy on the piano.

(Prodigy in British English) someone with a very great ability that usually shows itself when the person is a young child.

From Oxford Dictionaries: a person, especially a young one, endowed with exceptional qualities or abilities.

How Do You Raise a Prodigy?


1. Be observant. 

It's so easy to dismiss a child's accomplishments when a child is still growing. This is because a child's accomplishments look ordinary in the beginning. What children exhibit at an early age are skills that most adults already can do; and so, the adults around the child can easily ignore these milestones as ordinary or typical. But when one looks closely and uses the guidelines for achieving milestones, parents can sometimes notice what is extraordinary in their children's milestones or development. This is what helped me discover early on that my eldest son is gifted. I would regularly review the milestones for babies and toddlers from a book that my husband gave me. I would check what things my baby was already capable of doing. I would do this month after month. I would do advance reading also. When I did this, I realized that my eldest was hitting his milestones quite fast, not just in months but in years sometimes. At two years old, he has already mastered concepts taught to pre-schooler and kindergarteners. He was also reading at that age and had a vast vocabulary.


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This is a video of Yanthy playing the song Immaculate Mother, which is sang during the novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. He learned this oido.

2. Believe in your child and in his capabilities. One of the traits I noticed in gifted children or child prodigies is that they have self-confidence. They are risk-takers and they like challenges. They are not afraid to try new things especially in their area of interest. As parents, we can help build their confidence by believing in them,  in their potential and their capabilities. When my son was just starting to play in the Mass, I was so nervous. I kept praying that he would not mess up the Mass by playing the piano. I would ask him repeatedly before the Masses if he is sure he can play the songs right. I would listen to him practice at home. When I hear him play the songs perfectly at home, I am less nervous. If not and he decides he will still play it in the church, I would be praying fervently at the pews. So far, he has been playing well. I'm glad I supported his decision to try and believed in his potential and new-found skill. These days, I still get nervous when he plays new songs. But my confidence in his has also grown in the past year that I saw him improve a lot on his chosen instrument. I noticed that my confidence in him helps build his confidence also. He searches for my look of approval whenever he plays. He feels happy whenever I praise him and his talent.


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At my eldest son's first solo piano concert and 7th birthday celebration.

This next video is just last month. It was his first time to play this song for the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He started learning it around an hour before the Mass. Then, he played it as the recessional.

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3. Provide for your child a nurturing and supportive environment. It helped a lot that we provided for our son a number of musical instruments he can play with when he was growing. Since we noticed that he likes making music, those are the kinds of toys we gave him. We also gave him a keyboard or digital piano with 88 keys when he asked for it and we got confirmation from his first piano last summer that he quickly outgrew our small keyboard. I also watched him most of the time when he practices and I even take videos of him practicing. Whenever he has learned a new song, I would document it by taking a video of him. He feels happy that I show him my support by doing these things. I praise him every time I see him practice, try to learn a new song or when I hear him play a song well or perfectly. I let him hear me praise him in front of other people. I share his videos to our relatives and friends. I tell him the compliments that other people say about him. My husband and I provide him with books and opportunities that help him achieve his goals.
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One of my ways to destress daily is to listen to my eldest son play music on the piano.


4. Find mentors for your child. 

Since I am not as gifted in music as he is and my husband is not a piano player also, we looked for possible mentors or teachers for our eldest son. Good thing, the church pianist happily mentored him. Also, I found a Yamaha teacher who lives in our village too so we asked her to go to our house to give him formal piano lessons. then, I discovered a performing school that helps children get ABRSM certification for their lessons. We decided to enroll our son in their piano class last year and this year during the summer months. (You may read about our summer experience here in my previous post.) Right now, he's still preparing for Grade 1 certification on the piano.

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This is the pianist in our church who inspired in my son to dream of becoming a pianist in our church one day. He not only inspired that dream but he also helped make that dream become a reality. He also taught me and my husband to believe in our son and his abilities more. We owe him a lot!

5. Get out of the way. This is one of the hard lessons I am learning as I raise a prodigy. My natural tendency as a parent is to protect him. I don't want him to be too stressed. I don't want him to be embarrassed. I don't want him to be frustrated. I tend to throw a lot of caution to him. It's not that I believe in him. I do. But I just couldn't shake the fact that he's just a child. He's my little boy. But time and again, he proves that though he has the body of a little boy, he possesses great talent in music. What stresses me or terrifies adults like me, can challenge him positively. I think this comes from his innate desire to learn and do good in his field of interest and in his knowledge of his own capabilities. I remember when he first told me that he wants to have a piano concert for his 7th birthday. I could not believe my ears the first time he said it. I thought he was not serious. But he turned out to be; so, I supportive him and he did get what he wanted. (You may read about it here in another blog post.) Another example is when he tries to learn pieces that are above his level. He doesn't care if a song is for more advanced piano players. As long as he likes the tune, he would start learning it. He is unfazed even when we or his piano teachers would tell him that those pieces are played by those who have been playing the piano for years. I'm glad that over time, I have learned to get out of his way more and more. This has allowed him to soar and do the things he is most passionate to spend time on. Of course, I still give him a lot of reminders, but I give him more freedom now after realizing that he is indeed no ordinary child.

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My eldest son and I at his latest piano recital.

I'm really grateful that I made the decision to leave my full-time job years ago. Otherwise, I'm not sure if we would have noticed right away that our son is gifted. I'm thankful that I was able to find and provide the necessary interventions that helped us support his unique needs. I'm also happy that I'm still able to contribute to the family income even as I stay home most of the time because this raising a prodigy can also be costly.


* This post was first published at HandsOnParentwhileEarning.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tips on How to Prepare a Child to Be an Older Sibling

He was used to being an only child. For three years, he had my undivided attention. We had a lot of time bonding with each other through play, conversations, books, storytelling, crafts, music time, dates, etc. He certainly was the apple of my eye. 

Then, I learned that I'm pregnant again. 

I did my best to still bond with him a lot and assure him that I still love him just the same. I searched big brother books that I can read to him. I was grateful I found one. 

I talked to him about his baby brother in my womb. I let him play music and sing songs to him. 

I brought him with me in my monthly visits to my ob-gynaecologist. We let him join us in some of the ultrasound sessions. 

He seemed excited and adjusting well to his role of becoming a big brother.




Then, it was time for me to give birth to my second child. My eldest son stayed at my parents' house. He slept with my parents when I went to the hospital. It was a difficult time for him. He was not used to sleeping without me by his side. He cried a lot during the nights that I was in the hospital going through labor and recuperating from childbirth.

But he was happy when he saw me again and his baby brother when he visited us in the hospital.

Two weeks after I gave birth, he acted differently. My usually active and talkative little boy didn't have the energy to play. He didn't want to eat or drink. He was not talking. He just kept sleeping and lying in bed. I knew something was wrong. I thought that he was sick but he didn't have any fever or was not showing signs that he was in pain.

A few days later, he was so weak. My husband decided to bring him to the hospital already.

His pediatrician had him confined. He was put on IV. He still didn't talk or eat or drink. He was still quiet and looked sad. He lost a lot of weight.

The doctors could not find any reason for his loss of appetite or "sickness" other than probably his difficulty in adjusting to our new normal in the family. He now has a baby brother. He's no longer an only child. His mommy is busy caring for another child. His mommy is breastfeeding another baby. 

He was not suffering from physical pain but he was going through an emotional pain... something that he could not articulate. Something he was not prepared to process or express.

He must have been depressed at that time. 

My poor little boy... I thought he was ready for this change but he was not.

It was a painful time for me as a mother. I was even able to visit him in the hospital because I needed to stay with his baby brother. It was only my husband and my mom who stayed with him in the hospital. I stayed home to recuperate and take care of the new baby.

I did my best to give him extra attention. I tried to be extra understanding and patient with him. I tried to do the same things we used to do so he would feel that my love hasn't changed.

Eventually, he started eating again. He started talking and playing again. He was the loving and helpful big brother again to his younger sibling.

He would sing songs to him. He would read his books to him. He talks to him and shares some of his toys with him. He helps take care of him by rushing to get new diapers or getting some of the things of the baby and bringing them to me.  

I'm so thankful that my eldest child eventually recovered from that emotional turmoil. 



Almost three years later, I got pregnant again. My eldest son will become a big brother for the second time. My second child will no longer be the baby. He will now be a big brother.


I didn't want any or both of them to go through depression again or to get sick after I give birth. 

How can I assure them of my unchanging love? How can I prepare them for their upcoming sibling? 

I thought that I should tell them often that I love them just the same. But how do I remind myself or ensure that I tell them these words often when I have a lot to do and prepare for the coming of our new baby?

Since I had been writing poems almost all my life, I wrote a poem with this title: Mommy Loves You Just the Same.

I drew inspiration from my bonding times with my kids.

I read the poem often to them, daily at least.

I believe that the poem helped my older kids prepare for the coming of their baby brother. My second child did not get sick after I gave birth even though he and his eldest brother were also crying a lot while I was in the hospital during childbirth and on the nights that followed.

I'm so glad things were better this time around.

Then, a dream was planted in my heart. What if we make this poem into a children's book? Why not?

Before my youngest child turned one year old, I found an artist who was willing to collaborate with me in making this dream a reality. On May 19, 2016, Thursday, we will be launching my first children's book! A dream that was planted in my heart because of my experience as a mother. It's like I'm giving birth again. But this time to a book and not to a child. 
Click here to order a copy of Mommy Loves You Just the Same.


My excitement is shared by my two older children who were my inspirations in writing this children's book. They were the ones who first heard this story and who first benefitted from it. 

Are you a pregnant mom who is looking for resources that would help your older child prepare to be an older sibling? Or did you just give birth recently or a few months ago to a new baby and you need help in assuring your older child that your love for him/her remains the same? 

I recommend this book to you, not because I wrote it, but more because I know that it would be a good tool that you can use in your motherhood journey. One of my goals in writing this children's story is to help families adjust as their families grow. That's why I asked our illustrator to make coloring pages for the kids, too. I wanted to give the kids something that would further help them remember the lessons in the book. 


Before I end this post, let me share some tried and tested tips that could help prepare a child to be an older sibling.

1. Stop calling the child "baby". We used to call our second child "baby". But when we got confirmation from my ob-gynaecologist that I'm pregnant again, we started calling our second child by his first name. I also instructed our maids then to stop calling him a baby. Instead, we made him proud to be called a big brother or "Kuya".

2. Deliberately spend more quality time with the older child/children. This is one way to make deposits in your child's emotional bank account in preparation for the times when you will be away from him/her. During my previous pregnancies, I did my best to spend as much time as I possibly can to do arts and crafts with them and to have dates with them. Even when I was on bedrest and after giving birth, I would regularly read-aloud books to them. This poem/story was one of those that I read to them.

3. Give your child/children ideas on how they can bond with you while you are pregnant and with their baby brother while still in your womb and after you give birth. Aside from suggesting to my kids what they can do, I let them come up with their own ideas on how they can help me take care of their baby brother. You'll be amazed at how loving and helpful kids are!

4. Make their birthday before you give birth extra special. On their last birthday before becoming a big brother, I always go out of my way to make these celebrations memorable. I want these events to help make them feel important and special. You may read about my second child's birthday party here. If you don't want to throw a party, you can get some ideas here in my other blog post wherein we had a simple celebration for our eldest son.  

Hope these tips help you and your family! I also hope that you can join us in our virtual book launch on Thursday! We're giving away exciting prizes to those who will pre-order a copy of Mommy Loves You Just the Same. Click here to read more about these. 


Some of the prizes we're giving away during the launch.


How did you prepare your child/children to become older siblings? Feel free to share your own tried and tested tips by leaving a comment on this blog post so we can help more families.
   

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

3 Tips on Food Handling and Safety

Do you personally prepare and cook your own food or your family's food?

I used to prepare and cook our family's food when my husband and I were newly married and when we still had one child. I enjoyed cooking a lot. For me, cooking is both science and art.

It was during those early years in our marriage that I created my 4-Week Cycle Menu Plan. It was my way of making things easier for me.

When we had more kids, I was forced to delegate this task to our helpers. I taught our new maids my recipes and how I want them to be prepared. I also taught them about food handling, food safety and sanitation. These were the very things I used to teach our crew in the fast food restaurant where I used to work as Certified Training Manager and Store Manager.

Some maids are open to my teachings and training. Sadly, most of them are not. They are not used to having someone supervise them and teach them or correct them when they make mistakes. Maybe, that's because they used to work in households where the owners are usually at work or do not spend time observing how their maids work.

I'm used to being an involved Manager. One of our management styles in the restaurant is managing by walking around. We go around to observe, teach and correct if needed. It's an effective way to ensure that what we teach our crew are reinforced and have follow through. When we observe them work, we witness if they are doing things right or not. We would know if they remembered what we taught them during their orientation or training.

A couple of weeks ago, I observed our new maid while preparing to cook our food. At first I watched her closely, right after I gave her instructions. After that, I went upstairs to my home office to do my work. From my computer, I would observe here every now and then through our cctv monitor.


Photo source here.


I would cringe every time our maid would do some things that are big no-nos to us who are from the food industry. It was also enough to make me go back to our kitchen to remind her of what I taught her about food handling and food preparation.

Let me share 3 tips or guidelines that I always teach our new maids when I orient them. These are also the 3 things that my maids usually violate that's why I call their attention when I observe them in the kitchen.

1. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw meat, poultry or fish. Do not touch other things yet until you have washed your hands.

I see this often when I observe the maids who have worked for us in the past 8 years. They usually touch other things or surfaces (like the cabinet handles and doors, plates, kitchen counters or ref towels, etc.) with their hands after they touched or held raw meat, poultry or fish.

Why is this a no-no? There are bacteria in raw meat, poultry and fish. Those bacteria would be transferred to other surfaces or things in your kitchen that you or your maids would touch or hold if you do not wash your hands first.

2. Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching or using your kitchen rag.

A kitchen rag is usually used to wipe the kitchen counter or stove. In some households, this is also used to wipe the dining table. Imagine the amount of dirt that goes into this rag. Some people do not even wash this after every use with soap and water. Because of all the dirt that comes in contact with this rag, it becomes an easy breeding ground of bacteria or germs. These germs can get to your plates, eating utensils and other things that you use when eating if you or your maid does not wash her hands first after using your kitchen rag.

Sometimes, I would catch our maid use the kitchen rag to wipe the surface of our kitchen counter and then after that she would just wipe her hands dry on the ref towel before holding the plates that she will use to set the table. When I catch our maids doing that, I would ask them to wash their hands first and use new plates or eating utensils instead. I will ask the maid to wash the ones she touched after she used the kitchen rag. I would remind our maid that our hands may appear clean but it doesn't always mean that they are free from germs. So, it is best to always wash our hands with soap and water after holding dirty things like a kitchen rag.

3. Always tie your hair when preparing food or cooking even when you just showered or taken a bath.

There is greater possibility that some hair would fall or get in  contact with the food being prepared if a hair net is not used or the hair isn't tied.

Even when one's hair is newly shampooed, there is still bacteria in it. We studied this in college when I was still in the University of the Philippines taking up BS Hotel and Restaurant Administration. My classmates and I were surprised when we saw under the microscope the bacteria present even in newly washed hair.

This is one of the stories I tell our maids when I explain this to them. I would tell them that we would swab surfaces and even skin of people and we would study these samples in our laboratory and observe them under the microscope.

In truth, I am sometimes tempted to buy a microscope for our use at home to demonstrate this.

These tips barely scratch the surface of what I usually teach our restaurant crew, supervisors and managers about food safety, food handling and food preparation.

I believe that these are important things that need to be shared even to homemakers and our maids or cooks at home to prevent foodborne diseases. I am especially passionate about this because I have babies at home and young children whose tummies are not yet fully formed and strong. Actually, there are adults who also have sensitive tummies.

Because of these recent observations with our new maid, a desire in me was awakened to organize a seminar on the topic to homemakers and maids or cooks.

If you are interested to learn more about food handling, food safety and sanitation, send me an email at teregmps@yahoo.com to inform me if you and/or your maid/cook would like to attend this kind of seminar.

This can be a 2-4 hour seminar with question and answer portion already. If I receive a number of emails from you or if there would be at least 20 people who want to learn from me about this topic, that would be enough for me to organize this learning event.

So, go to your kitchen now and observe your maid or cook! ;) Then, send me an email at teregmps@yahoo.com if she needs some training.