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  • 4 Nov 2022 10:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Daisy Yau


    November is here, and that means Thanksgiving. Yes, there will be lots of eating, lots of gatherings, perhaps even lots of traveling. But don’t forget to breathe. Pause. Reflect. Give thanks. Gratitude does not necessarily come naturally to us, or to our kids. It takes deliberate practice to cultivate a good habit. Here are some things you can do this month to bring some positive energy into your household.

    • Make a thankful tree. In the simplest version: draw a large bare tree, and stick it onto the wall. Print out some leaves, and cut them out. Everyday, ask everyone to write one thing that they give thanks for this past year. By the end of the month, the tree will be full of thankful leaves! There are many ways to execute the same concept. You can put a bunch of branches in a vase. Then hang thankful leaves using strings onto the branches. You can even go fancy and add acorn favors. No matter how you do it, everyone can gather together on Thanksgiving Day to review all that there is to give thanks for.
    • Make a kindness tree. It’s like a thankful tree in reverse. Rather than looking backwards on things to give thanks for, the kindness tree looks forward to inspire acts of kindness. Think about the things that you’ve always wanted to do but never found time for… such as, giving flowers to a neighbor, or making blankets to the homeless, or washing the dishes for mom, or sharing a stuffy with sister. Write kindness prompts on leaves, hang them on a tree, and do one per day.
    • Keep a 3-year journal. Buy a nice notebook. Divide each page into three sections: the top section is for this year 2022, the middle section is for next year 2023, the bottom section is for 2024. Each page corresponds to a day in November: page 1 is November 1, page 2 is November 2, etc. Everyday in the month of November, reflect upon what you’re thankful for, and write it in the journal. This year, write your thanksgivings in the top section of each page. Keep the journal for next year, and do the same thing but write your thanksgivings in the middle sections. And again the following year, but in the bottom sections. You can then see how you’ve grown or changed throughout the years.
    • Write an appreciation letter. Think of someone in your life, perhaps someone you don’t often say thank you to. Write a letter expressing how much you appreciate them. Write about specific instances where they did something you are grateful for. Write about how you felt when they were kind to you.
    • Say grace before meals. It can be but does not necessarily have to be religious. It’s always good to give thanks for your food. You can close your eyes and say thanks. You can all hold hands and say thanks. Or if you don’t know the words, you can sing a song. One simple song goes like this: “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you now for everything.”
    • Do a gratitude walk. There is so much in nature to be thankful for. And it’s good for your body to get a nice walk after so much food. As you walk along, say thanks for all that you see. Try to observe the details. How does a bird fly? How does a squirrel hop? How do leaves look? How do clouds change? Give thanks for all there is in this world!

    Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.


  • 6 Oct 2022 10:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Daisy Yau in conversation with Natalia PressmanMusic runs across all cultures through all times. Most would agree that music learning is a good thing. However, many struggle with the commitment that music learning implies – how much does a child need to practice, does my child have what it takes to pass the music exams, am I musically literate enough to help my child?

    I had the pleasure to explore what music learning means with Ms. Natalia, the founder and music director of the piano studio Pianissimo in San Mateo. To answer the above questions, one must go back to understand what music learning means.

    Q: How has music learning changed over the years?

    A: 
    If we go back in history and look at the great composers like Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, we see that they learn music as a language. First they listened. They listen a lot. Then they start imitating. They copy what their teachers play. Finally, they start creating their own music. They compose. Through this process, they gain an understanding of the sounds, the harmony, the phrasing. And they form an emotional connection with the music. Musical literacy as reading and writing came later in life. Note-by-note reading and writing of music was deferred. Most critical in music was self-expression. In fact, Bach and Mozart would have been offended by people attempting to repeat their pieces down to every detail.

    But through the past 50 years, people increasingly considered reproduction of a musical piece as the ultimate goal. With the development of technology for printing and recording, perfect reproduction of musical pieces became even more important. It was thought that such reproduction was “respectful” to the composer. Hence, all the creative aspects of interpretation, improvisation, composition, arranging–were taken out of the musical curriculum.

    Thankfully, there are new trends today to revive the emphasis on musical connection in music learning.

    Q: What is musical connection?

    A:
    I was classically trained. I graduated in Music Performance and Education from the prestigious Conservatory of Buenos Aires, Argentina and continued my career in Europe. I played around the world. But … I couldn't play a note if I hadn’t practiced or planned for it. It’s the same for many graduates from conservatories and universities. They are trained to read a score and reproduce it, or interpret it at best. But if you ask, “Can you play happy birthday?” they freeze. There is a huge disconnection..

    Musical connection is an appreciation of music as a way of expressing oneself. Indeed musical connection is ingrained through the human experience. Music starts with lullabies and plays at our funeral. There is music at our birthdays, weddings, and every ceremony that has emotional significance to us. It is such musical connections that should be the focus of music learning.

    Q: Is practice needed? How can practice be implemented with a goal towards musical connection?

    A:
    When students are constantly directed as to what is wrong or right, they don't develop self-awareness. Students need to hear themselves first. That takes a lot of mindfulness.

    When students do develop self-awareness, they will listen and realize that they are making (at least some) mistakes. Students might face frustration at first, but will learn to problem solve, persevere and value their work. That takes a lot of emotional regulation and skills.

    When students do overcome frustration, find solutions and strategies and continue to practice, they will experience the resultד that comes from sustained work. From that, they develop grit, perseverance, confidence and self esteem.

    If piano lessons are a sanctuary to obtain the tools for relating to music in a positive and constructive way, then practice should be an application of those tools for relating to music in a positive and constructive way.

    Trust the intrinsic joyful experience of music. Music releases dopamine. It calms us, and at the same time activates us. It helps to focus and concentrate at a very deep level. If music is presented as a joyful experience during lessons, kids will want to replicate it at home during practice.

    So, what are practical steps for encouraging practice? Provide your child the space for the possibility to replicate a joyful experience with music.

    This “space” includes time and place. Kids need structure. They can’t be expected to excel at time management yet. Provide the physical space that creates the possibility of focusing and connecting with music–that means, no TV blasting in the background, no parent talking loudly in a meeting, and no toddler running under the piano. Provide the time–that means, not holding a child up to the expectation of practicing after swimming, horseback riding, and studying a foreign language.

    This “space” also includes a mental space. Ask them questions that trigger self-awareness and intrinsic motivation, such as:

    • Do you like the song?
    • What do you want to work on?
    • What do you want to accomplish?
    • What challenges are you facing?
    • How are you going to overcome them?
    • Do you notice any differences between the first time and the second time that you played?

    A delicate nuance in providing practice space is whether a parent should participate. To be clear, parent participation does not require music training. A parent can play a duet with a child, but a parent can also simply improvise over some keys while the child plays, or the parent can clap, dance, and sing. Sometimes parent participation creates a great environment for a child to practice. At other times, a child may want a private practice space. Either is OK.

    Now there will be days in which providing a good practice space is not possible. That’s OK, because the goal is not to repeat a song a certain number of times. If the goal is musical connection, there are many ways to achieve it. Play an audio or video of the musical piece that the child is learning–even while riding in the car. Maybe point to the score while listening. Ask the same questions that you would ask during practice to trigger the same type of self-awareness.

    How NOT to do practice: Making practice an assignment or a chore. That would replicate school. Children are used to it. Most students will be OK with assignments; a few will resist. But either way, they will not see music as a skill for their own growth and enjoyment. Yes, they may master a piece. But it's a missed opportunity for musical connection. Don’t expect the child to practice for a certain time at every session. Help them find what their goals are for that week and think how they will get better, that way they will be engaged in the practice for as long as their focus allows them and make progress every time they practice. Let them explore as well, and play their favorite pieces for fun.

    Q: How should a child prepare for a performance?

    A:
    A performance is the sharing of music that you enjoy. We all naturally want to share something that we enjoy. There should be no pressure, no judgment. Just a celebration of accomplishments.

    Of course that does not mean the child will not be nervous. Acknowledge that performing is challenging. Prior to the performance, run through the feelings with the child. And run through ways to calm oneself in face of such feelings. Ask the child, “What’s the worst case scenario?” Even if the child runs off stage, forgetting all her music, what will happen? Nothing. The child will still be just fine.

    As we prepare for a presentation of any kind, they can also practice how they will perform. Those rehearsals should be done during the lessons and also at home. Let them practice if they’ll announce their piece, or if they’ll bow, or how they’ll adjust their seat. Help them take a deep breath and listen to the music in their mind before they start. Having tools to cope with their fears and anxiety will help them in many situations in life, on stage and beyond.

    Q: What does musical connection look like in real life?

    A:
    I once had a student who had to stop piano lessons due to the demands of her ballet practice. She was 8 years old at the time. Later on, she had trouble with bullying in high school. Her mom told me that she was still playing the piano for pleasure, and asked if she could resume lessons with me. It’s been 8 years since her last lesson! Of course, I said yes. I introduced her to improvisation, and types of music that reflect her feelings. While searching for music she connects with, she shared with me many feelings and self-reflections that she became aware of through the music. For her, music became a kind of therapy. Music can be very healing.

    As for myself, my music learning was built upon musical connection from the very beginning. I could not have learned note reading as I was born blind. I am grateful for that musical connection, and the multiple surgeries that have now enabled my vision.

    As a professional pianist and teacher, I had felt that music education was not fostering the joy of music. Many aspects of the musical experience were missing in the lessons. That’s why, after many years of research and experience, I feel compelled to share the joy of music and plant the seed for these connections to grow.

    Natalia Pressman is a pianist and music educator with a vast international career. She founded Pianissimo to share the joy of music through psychological science, innovative pedagogy, and cutting edge technology. Her vision is to help her students form a lifetime connection with music.

    Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.


  • 29 Sep 2022 6:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Rachel Kammeyer, MA, CCC-SLP First words and expanding vocabulary are such important aspects of childhood development. No matter whether your child is preverbal or chatting up a storm, it’s never too early or too late to consider the types of words we as parents use to support our children’s language acquisition. One group of words that parents can use with intention are mental state verbs.

    Few categories of words offer as much long-term bang for their buck as this group of verbs. Mental states reflect the thoughts and feelings of a speaker and, later in development, the concept of Theory of Mind, which is the ability to understand that someone *else* has their own thoughts and feelings. This is critical for social emotional learning, as it helps convey wants, desires, feelings, and responses to events and internal discomfort or pleasure. What’s also amazing is how children’s ability to communicate their own desires is consistent across cultures and languages (though many more studies of non-English speaking children is definitely required), even when adult use of verbs about thinking is relatively sparse.

    Mental states are also important for story comprehension, understanding why a character has responded to an event in a particular way. This has benefits down the road in academic contexts, as children eventually have to infer the thoughts and feelings of characters from texts. Mental states are also linked to the development of executive function, as their use reflects the understanding of intentionality, planning, and prediction of events that are remote in time and space.

    All of this may sound very technical and complicated, but actually for parents it is quite easy to start highlighting these words in our own conversations with our children and emphasizing them during activities we are already doing, like story time and meals.

    Some ways to incorporate mental states at home or out in the world are to:

    • Use gestures to point to your head, cradle your chin, or indicate you aren’t sure, when talking about thoughts you are having or your child might be having.
    • Exaggerate expressions that match the type of mental state you are emphasizing. Are you wondering about where you put your keys? Say it aloud and add a super quizzical face.
    • Embed questions you might ask within a statement that includes a mental state, such as the absolutely golden word wonder. “I wonder where your shoes are.” Or “I wonder what color this ball is.” This phrasing not only takes some of the demands of having to answer a question off the table, it can also create opportunities for our children to show us what they know during activities instead of parents becoming the “drill sergeants” who are quizzing our children.
    • Use wordless picture books to tell stories and describe the characters’ expressions, intentions, plans, and reactions. A few of my favorites are Chalk, Pancakes for Breakfast, Carl's Birthday (or any of the Good Dog, Carl books), or Frog, Where Are You?

    I have created this chart to help jump start your mental state sprinkles at home. You might find you are already saying all of these phrases and more!


    Rachel Kammeyer, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist who loves narrative, executive function, and finding simple ways to enrich the learning of individuals across the lifespan. She offers free screenings of childhood speech and language disorders and offers caregiver training and support through the Learn With Less® Framework. Learn more at www.improvisedtherapy.com

  • 2 Aug 2022 8:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I just want to extend a big welcome to all of our new members and our fellow Foster City Parents Club members who are joining us for the second half of the year! I hope you had the opportunity to meet and mingle with our FCPC crew, perhaps at the Mr. Softee event back in June, or our Fur Scales and Tales Show last weekend. And if not, we have several exciting events coming up. As a reminder, if you cannot attend the Pool Party on the 20th, please update your registration. We have 28 families on the waitlist who would love the chance to participate.

    The partnership with FCPC is a chance for our clubs to continue to operate as independent entities while combining our membership opportunities by sharing events, planning as a larger organization to support our board members, and utilizing the vast array of park and recreational opportunities our location on the Peninsula offers.

    For example, we will be participating in the Foster City Summer Days event later this month! This event is always a blast, and this year our clubs will be helping check IDs, collect drink tickets, and serve drinks at the event (who doesn’t like proximity to the bar?). We’re looking for volunteers for one-hour shifts. This is a great way to help give back to our community and promote the clubs. We do not have a volunteer requirement within our club so when we do ask for volunteers, it is usually because the board is unable to shoulder the responsibility completely. Please consider taking a moment to see if you have the time to enjoy this event AND help out.

    We are also supporting Samaritan House’s Backpack Drive, and the deadline to donate is coming up soon on the 8th of August! If you’re able to spare $30-40, you can purchase a pre-filled backpack so more than 2500 low-income children in San Mateo County will have confidence starting the school year!

    Lastly we are finalizing our Fall Mini Photography Session Fundraiser details! Stay tuned for more information about our annual opportunity to get those pictures taken by local photographers (and members) and contribute to our club!

    Have a wonderful August!

    Sincerely,
    Rachel Kammeyer
    SMPC President
    president@sanmateoparentsclub.org


  • 18 Jul 2022 7:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Daisy Yau

    The San Mateo Parents Club is starting an annual survey on the Peninsula market for household helpers – which includes nannies, babysitters, mother’s helpers, night nannies, and au pairs. This is the first such report, and the SMPC is grateful for the community’s response to the survey. The SMPC aims to publish the report every summer, the season in which the nanny market is particularly active as many families transition their children to school or other childcare settings.

    Household Helper Types

    We received 48 responses, with 35 (73%) of those being on “Nannies” and the remaining 13 (27%) being on other household helpers.

    As defined by the survey:

    • Nannies work on a regular basis
    • Babysitters work on an as-needed basis
    • Mother's helpers assist the parent while the parent is present. If the parent can rely on the helper to watch the kids without the parent's presence, then the helper is categorized as "Nanny".
    • Night nannies take care of babies or toddlers throughout the night.

    Overall Nanny Statistics

    Since nannies are most common of the household helpers, this article will discuss the nanny numbers first. Overall, the average hourly rate is $27.44. Most families have their nannies working 40 hours per week. Of the responses, only 5 indicated work hours below 30. There is not a significant difference in hourly rate between those working full time versus part time.

    Nannies get an average of 9.6 paid vacation days per year. 25 (71%) responses indicated providing sick days. Of those providing sick days, most responses indicated providing 5 sick days per year. 13 (37%) responses indicated providing W2; 20 (57%) responses indicated not providing W2. Interestingly, those providing W2 provide a higher hourly rate: the average rate for those with W2 is $30.42, while without W2 is $25.75.

    Number of Children

    There appears to be a correlation between the number of children under the care of the nanny and the nanny’s hourly rate. Based on the 35 responses on nannies, the stats are as follows:

    The hourly rate for 3 children is strangely shown to decrease. However, of the 35 responses, 18 indicated one child, 11 indicated two children, and only 6 indicated three children. Therefore statistically speaking the data on families with three children is less reliable here.

    Credentials and Responsibilities

    Of the 35 responses, here are the number of families with nannies having the following credentials and responsibilities:

    What credentials and responsibilities make the most difference in hourly rate? The stats are below: 

    • Note that the category "Formal Teacher Training" means the nanny earned some teaching credential, whereas "Teaching and Reading" indicates the nanny's duties regardless of whether she has any credentials.
    • We see that "Speaking a Foreign Language" is correlated with a lower hourly rate. Is this an indication of any conscious or subconscious racial bias? Something for each of us to reflect upon when hiring.
    • There weren't enough responses indicating "Swimming" as a duty, and almost all responses indicated "Feeding" as a duty. Hence we do not have good statistics to show whether these duties make a difference in rate.

    Various Household Helpers

    Looking at the various household helpers we surveyed about, here are the survey response counts and average rates of each type:

    Household Helper Type

    Number of Responses

    Average Hourly Rate

    Nanny

    35

    $27.44

    Babysitter

    7

    $23.50

    Night nanny

    2

    $40

    Mother's helper

    3

    $24

    Additionally, there was one response on “Au Pair.” It indicated that the weekly stipend provided is $200. Since there was only one response on au pairs, we are not able to conduct statistical analysis about this type of household helper at this time.

    Important Interview Questions

    Here is a list of interview questions compiled from the survey responses, somewhat organized by category. 

    Questions About Kids

    • What do you love most about kids?
    • What do you least enjoy when working with kids?
    • Does it stress you when a baby cries? 
    • What activities do you like to do with children same age as mine?
    • What are some developments milestones you would expect my kid to achieve at X months?

    Questions About Trouble

    • What do you do when a child gets hurt?
    • What is your discipline approach? What do you do when the child misbehaves?
    • What do you do when siblings get into fights?
    • You can also ask these questions by asking the candidate to tell about an actual incident as an example, or giving them a hypothetical incident and ask how they would respond.

    Questions About Experience

    • What experience do you have caring for similar age children?
    • What educational background and training do you have?
    • How many families have they watched for?
    • Do you have any references?
    • What driving history do you have? How confident do you feel driving a minivan? 

    Questions About Work Attitude

    • What do you think open communication between me and you looks like? How do you handle tough conversations?
    • Do you have flexibility if extra hours are needed?
    • Are you willing to do chores XYZ while children are asleep/away?

    Questions About Health

    • Are you vaccinated? What Covid precautions do you take? 
    • Do you take any drugs or smoke?

    Trial Period

    • After the interview, do a trial period. The trial period is likely more telling than the interview.

    Good Job Signs

    A lot can be gained through observation. Are the kids happy with the nanny? If the parent is at home during the day (e.g., working from home), the parent can listen throughout the day. Otherwise, the parent can see if the child is excited for the nanny to come, or doesn't want the nanny to leave. A child sleeping well at night also indicates that the nanny took good care of him during the day.

    The parent can also use extra eyes to observe. Ask the child about her day. What did they do? What did they eat? Who did they see? Also ask neighbors and friends what they see. And it is quite common to install cameras in the common areas of the house.

    Other tell-tale signs. Is the nanny punctual? At the end of the day, does the nanny tidy up and finish assigned chores? Does the nanny give an honest summary of the day?

    Do’s and Don’ts with Household Helpers

    Here’s some wisdom compiled from the community feedback:

    • Don't hire out of desperation. Do not rush to get the wrong person.
    • Don't go without a contract. A contract can spell out pay, hours, vacation, sick leave, duties, termination terms, COVID precautions (including when to return to work after testing positive).
    • Set clear expectations. Tell the nanny what you expect in terms of discipline; the nanny should set healthy boundaries with the kids. Plan the kid's schedule and write it down for the nanny. A nanny should listen to what the parent wants rather than insisting on doing things her way.
    • Don't pay below market. The nanny will leave for the better paying job and will not be happy. Give big Christmas bonuses.
    • Don't be too lenient with vacation and sick days. Keep good track of when such days are taken.
    • Don't make a judgement based on too short of an observation period that a nanny candidate is good with kids.
    • Don't forget to plan for backup care at the time of hiring a nanny. Hiring a nanny means you are relying on just one person, which inherently means if that one person is down (suddenly sick or planned time off), you need backup or you are on your own.
    • Don't share a nanny with a friend. Sharing a nanny is messy and not too infrequently ends sourly.
    • Don't go light on the training up front on what is expected and how the household flows. The first day should be solely observation for the nanny; the second day the nanny should begin to participate; the third day the nanny should run the day while the parent is present to help if something goes awry; the fourth day the nanny should work with the parent nearby but not actively engaging.
    • Don't set a habit or expectation of giving too many gifts to the nanny.
    • Don't stay silent about something the nanny does that you don’t like. The issue may be as small as not putting a hat on the child during a walk, but raise the issue when it first arises.
    • Don't be too lenient with punctuality and other expectations. Always say, "Thank You for being on time." Don't let standards slip as time goes by.
    • Don't keep on board someone who isn't working out.

    Note: For those who are interested, here is the raw data.

    Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.

  • 10 Jul 2022 7:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Welcome our new members for July!

    • Adam and Lonie M. have a four-month-old son, Elliot. They live in Pacifica.
    • Alexis L. has two daughters. Madissen is thirteen years old, and Skylar is three years old. They live in San Mateo.
    • Amit C. has a three-year-old son, Itamar. They live in San Mateo.
    • Heather L. has a twenty-month-old son, Josh. They live in San Carlos.
    • Heidi B. has a two-year-old daughter, Sophie and a fifteen-month-old son, Miles. They live in Hillsborough.
    • Katherine G. is expecting a son, congratulations! They live in San Mateo.
    • Linda H. as a two-year-old daughter, Natasha and a two-month-old son, Terence. They live in Belmont.
    • Silvia has an almost 2-year-old daughter, Boriana.


  • 6 Jul 2022 7:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy birthday to our July kiddos!

    Birth Day

    Name

    Age

    07-Jul

    Hazel P.

    1

    07-Jul

    Nikhil K.

    1

    20-Jul

    Zoe S.

    1

    07-Jul

    Mara  C.

    2

    08-Jul

    Mina H.

    2

    14-Jul

    Asher G.

    2

    14-Jul

    Oliver N.

    2

    17-Jul

    Esme B.

    2

    29-Jul

    Jai V.

    2

    15-Jul

    Itamar C.

    3

    22-Jul

    Ezra  C.

    3

    23-Jul

    Isla G.

    3

    01-Jul

    Norah  M.

    4

    14-Jul

    Maya K.

    4

    22-Jul

    Rory W.

    5

    25-Jul

    Emerson K.

    5

    27-Jul

    Neil Venkatesh G.

    5

    02-Jul

    Norah M.

    6

    02-Jul

    Raphaël W.

    6

    08-Jul

    Anise N.

    6

    30-Jul

    Alondra B.

    6

    16-Jul

    Monica W.

    7

    03-Jul

    Lilly L.

    8

    21-Jul

    Atticus P.

    8

    21-Jul

    Augustine P.

    8

    12-Jul

    Mackenzie W.

    9

    09-Jul

    Lilia V.

    12

    18-Jul

    Emiliano F.

    15

    23-Jul

    Aedan G.

    15


  • 26 Jun 2022 11:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Laura Porter


    Plastic Free Seems Impossible

    A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story about a woman who was living an essentially Zero Waste life. She fit all of her garbage for a year into a mason jar – a far cry from our weekly trips to haul the garbage cans to the curb for pickup. While it seemed impossible for our family of 4 to ever get close to that, it was clear that there was a lot of room in between where we were and where we could be.

    In looking through our garbage that week, I realized that plastic was the biggest offender of our black bin, so I set out to minimize anything that went into our black bin. At the weekly trip to the grocery store, I did an experiment… what could I buy with NO plastic?

    Well, it was disappointing. I ended up with a baguette, a dozen eggs, and some fresh produce. Maybe a jar of jam or something in there, but there wasn’t much else we could buy! That was the day it dawned on me that we don’t have a choice about avoiding plastic, and then I wanted to see if it would even be possible.

    The short answer was… not really.

    Is plastic really that bad?

    If they are so ubiquitous, are they really THAT bad? It’s easy to forget that YES, plastics really are terrible for us.

    • 99% are made from fossil fuels
    • Only about 4% of plastics can actually be recycled. (All those cool new bioplastics are 100% unrecyclable)
    • Plastics leach toxins into our food, our bodies, and our environment.
    • Plastics never biodegrade, they only photodegrade into smaller particles that continue polluting for years and years.
    • Plastics have been discovered within plant cells, in animals that make up our diet, in human blood, human lungs, and human stool. 90% of table salt samples include microplastics that are too small to see with the naked eye.
    • Our local landfill will be full within a decade. Waste hauling costs are going to rise dramatically when that happens.

    Zero Waste is an Ideal

    After visiting what felt like every grocery store in the San Mateo area, I finally got the hang of which stores had bulk products, and which ones carried what I wanted. The problem was that even with that knowledge, I had to go to three different stores to pick up the package-free items that our family wanted. THREE GROCERY STORES? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

    As with everything, it’s about balance. Yes, we need to reduce plastics to make sure we aren’t leaving a huge mess for our children, but we also need to make it to the weekend with our sanity. So we find a balance, and give ourselves grace for the slip-ups when they happen.

    We’ll never get to the Zero in Zero Waste, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Strive for Zero, and be ok with the knowledge that you’ve taken meaningful action even if it’s not perfect.

    Tips to Reduce Plastic Use

    So how does one go about finding more sustainable products?

    Here are some considerations that I go through as I try to shop for products for our family, which have helped us minimize our garbage.

    1. REUSE. This is the best way to save costs, reduce plastic, and spend less time shopping. You’ve got dozens of containers in your cupboard and refrigerator right now. Probably plenty of shopping bags, too. If they’re in good shape, find ways to reuse what you have.
      • Reusable options also exist to replace tissues, paper towels, menstrual care products, paper bags, razors, and more. Invest upfront, and you’ll save lots of time and money over the years!

    2. Buy the item without plastic. This one is easier said than done, but for many products, it simply comes down to looking for the alternative without plastic. You’ll find them – just take a little longer look. Good packaging alternatives include:
      • Glass: Inert, meaning it won’t leach toxins into the products. Also very reusable for bulk bins, decorations, food storage, etc. It’s also able to recycled infinitely without losing its great properties.
      • Aluminum: Great for shower items like shampoo or shower gel, as you don’t want to risk shattered glass under bare, wet feet! (Not suitable for acidic or other foods). Also infinitely recyclable
      • Stainless Steel: Also inert, infinitely recyclable, and likely that you’re buying steel that has already been recycled. It can be expensive, but it’ll last for years to come… and many refills.
      • Paper: Not suitable for all products, but recyclable or compostable. Look for sustainably sourced paper or post-consumer recycled whenever possible.
      • Package Free: Because sometimes you don’t even need a package at all, or you can put it in a bag or container you already own.

    3. Shop small. Smaller businesses can often get away from the mass produced plastics where larger retailers cannot or will not.
      • Shop at refill stores. These stores are becoming more and more popular in the US, and even some small businesses will offer refill sections in their stores!
      • Farmers Markets offer seasonal produce – just be prepared with your own bags.

    4. Other actions.
      • Lobby local government for more ways to access recycling compost waste containers. (I still don’t understand why downtown San Mateo has garbage but no recycling or compost bins. Same for our parks!)
      • Ask businesses to use your containers. One secret to dining – take your own carryout container. Many restaurants will be happy to use your clean container, you just have to ask. If you can’t use your container, let them know that you’d prefer a compostable or reusable option.
      • Model this behavior for your kids. This may be the biggest one. Our kids are sponges – sopping up everything they see and hear. If we demonstrate that we have options, they’ll get it and feel empowered, too!


    Laura Porter is a mom of two and the founder and owner of Byrd's Filling Station, a zero waste grocery store which opened in downtown San Mateo in early June. The store holds a wide variety of products and encourages reuse of containers (bags, jars, bottles, etc) that you already own to replenish your household and personal care needs.


  • 21 Jun 2022 10:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Happy Summer Solstice! Today summer is definitely rearing its hot head... hopefully we’re all staying cool indoors or finding a great place to chill outdoors. Here are a few of my family’s favorite shady spots and water-play places:

    Parks with Some Shade

    • Indian Springs Park
    • Laurelwood Park
    • Coyote Point Recreation Area
    • Washington Park 
    • Twin Pines
    • Burton Park
    • Laurie Meadows
    • Sunnybrae Park

    Water Features

    • Parkside Aquatic 
    • Laureola Park
    • Ryder Park
    • Burton Park

    Cooling Centers

    Got a spot that was left off this list? Please email president@sanmateoparentsclub.org to have it added! 

    Also please check your email for details about our Mr Softee FCPC & SMPC Kickoff Event this weekend! We can stay cool with a big cone. Hope to see you there!

    Sincerely,
    Rachel Kammeyer
    SMPC President
    president@sanmateoparentsclub.org


  • 10 Jun 2022 12:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Father’s Day honors fathers as well as the broader concept of fatherhood at large. Father’s Day, in the United States, is the third Sunday of June, which is June 19 this year. Last month, the San Mateo Parents Club provided a list of ideas for honoring Mom – all are equally applicable to Dad! Here are some additional ideas to add to the list.

    • Learn about Dad’s family tree. Tracing through the family tree helps children learn more about the family’s past and cultural heritage. Dig out the family photo albums and flip through page by page. Interview Dad (and Grandpa!) about their growing up. Make a family tree chart, tracing a few generations up.

    • Camp indoors. Set up a camping tent in the living room. Better yet, build a fort out of furniture and bedsheets. Make the night fancy by taping glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling. Read some bedtime stories about the great outdoors. Snuggle up in your sleeping bags or bring blankets from the bedroom.

    • Grill a burger for Dad. Dads are stereotypically at the grill. Reverse the trend on Father’s Day and grill something for him. If you need some help, check out this recipe. Or take him out to a burger joint in town: Jack’s Prime Burgers & Shakes, Jeffrey’s Hamburgers, Sal’s Burgers, Habit Burger Grill, and so many more!

    • Plan a family workout and stick with it. Search youtube for family workout videos. Or make a plan to jog or hike once a week. Once you’ve set a schedule, stick to it. Set up a competition using your fitness trackers. You’ll see the healthy difference in Dad and yourself!

    • Help Dad with a project on his To-Do list. There’s always something to do around the house. Surely Dad will appreciate some help. Washing the car, repairing something, or building something in the yard.

    • Play old video games. Does Dad miss Super Mario Brothers? Or is it Tetris, Street Fighter, or Pac-Man? Hopefully you can just dig these out from the attic, but if not, here are some tips on how to find and purchase retro video games.

    • Take a mini-vacation. June is a beautiful sunny season, and we’ve got so much in and surrounding the Bay Area! Enjoy fresh oysters at Tomales Bay, wine at Napa, wild animals at Santa Rosa, kayaking at Santa Cruz, whale spotting at Point Lobos, clam chowder at Pismo Beach. Go for a mini-vacation and store some memorable memories in your heart.
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