Nuts Over Presents

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Restraint and self-control. Contentment. These are character traits that we try to teach our children during the Christmas season when they go nuts over all their presents.

Every year we have an average of six Christmas gatherings. This means that our children get a number of gifts from family, friends and us. And, naturally, they want to play with ALL of their new toys. But, we have a rule that we have implemented over the years when it comes to presents. They are allowed to unwrap all their gifts and see them, but they can only choose a few gifts to actually play with. Everything else gets stored away. And throughout the year, it is up to Edric and I when they will get to play with their other presents. If they want to get a new toy from the closet, they have to ask permission first.

We do this because we want our children to learn how to wait, to control their emotions, and be thankful for the things they do have. In the past, when we let them indiscriminately play with all their presents as soon as they opened them, they would easily get bored. Instead of appreciating what they already had, they wanted more things. Their toy closet was packed with stuff but they would still feel like they had nothing to play with.

Edric and I realized we were doing our children a big disservice by allowing them to have too many things, all at once. So we had to regulate their gifts and toys. When they got something new, Edric would encourage them to go through their old stuff and give away something.

We have not been able to do this every single time they get presents, but living in a condo makes storage very limited and this forces us to de-clutter on a regular basis. This is also our way of keeping our children from growing too attached to material things and possessions.

Furthermore, left alone and without guidance, our children would continually want more and more things for themselves. Contentment doesn’t come naturally.

For example, during an occasion where the hosts of the party tossed coins for the children to collect, one of my boys came back with a lot, another had a few, and another had none. Edan came to me in near tears saying, “Mom, I didn’t really get any coins, just a few.” I told him, “That’s okay, you should be thankful. You got all those coins for free. At least you were able to collect some.” My older son, Elijah, who overheard our conversation felt compassion for his brother. “Here, you can have all of mine,” he said. Edan happily took the extra coins. He now had a good number of coins. But, along came my youngest son, Titus, who said, “I don’t have any coins. Edan, can I have some?” I was curious to see how Edan would respond to his brother. “No, you can’t.” Both of them started to get upset with each other and the coins turned into a big issue.

This is where I had to intervene. “Edan, first, you were able to collect coins because someone gave them, but you felt bad because you didn’t have that many. Then, Elijah felt sorry for you so he gave you his share so you had many coins. When Titus came to ask for just a few because he had none, you didn’t want to give him any. But to begin with, all those coins were given to you, you didn’t earn any of them.” Then I added something like this, “Both of you are fighting over coins when you should be loving to one another. Because of this, mommy will take away all the coins. You don’t get to have any of them.”

I could have easily pulled out coins from my own wallet and given them to Titus. But I wanted both of them to learn a lesson — learn to be grateful, don’t be greedy. I took away the coins and put them in my bag and told them they had to apologize to one another. Later on, when I gave the coins back because they had changed their attitudes, Edan realized that he was wrong and shared his coins with Titus.

Character is something we need to keep teaching our children. When it comes to toys, things, or possessions, do we cater to their wants or do we teach them the value of delayed gratification, of making the most of what they do have, or what it means to be content when they can’t have or get what they want? Do we provide them with too many comforts and pleasures at the expense of their character development? Are they taught to deal with disappointment positively?

These are some things that Edric and I have had to address as we parent our kids. Admittedly, there are times when I feel pressured to buy my kids the newest toy because all of their other friends have it. I want them to be happy, to feel like they are not wanting for anything. But, I am thankful that Edric helps me with this. He thinks more long term and doesn’t want to stimulate the desire for material things in our children. It’s so easy to condition our children to be takers. Edric and I do want to bless our children, but we have to make decisions in favor of their character, which is of greater value.

God does the same things with his children. I learned an important truth from my dad about this: “God is more concerned about our character than our comfort.” We may sometimes wonder why he doesn’t answer all our prayers the way we want him to, but he has good plans for us.

This verse encourages me when I feel like questioning God’s methods, when I wonder why he withholds certain blessings at times. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11 NASB)

It reminds me that God does NOT withhold good things from his children. So when there are seasons when he makes us wait, stretches our faith, or says “No,” then that is the best thing for us at that moment.

Similarly, our children may not like it when we don’t let them play with all of their new toys. They may feel very disappointed, but all those toys are meant for them and will be given at the right time. But, while they are waiting, practicing contentment, restraint, self-control, and thankfulness, they will have to trust that we are doing this for their good.

This makes me remember when Edric and I were first married we didn’t have much financially speaking. Sometimes we wondered why God didn’t give us more. After all, we followed him, we sought after him, and Edric was working hard. But we chose to believe in God’s goodness and time table. And sure enough, God always met our needs and he continues to do so.

Yet as amazing as his blessings have been, we have learned through the years that by far, the greatest blessing is God himself. Nothing is more satisfying, more fulfilling or more wonderful.

Personally, I believe that materialism provides counterfeit satisfaction. It brings happiness but only for a period and then the wanting continues. Instead of resulting in contentment, it stimulates greed. While our children cannot understand this yet, we need to protect them from equating more toys or more things with happiness. While it may be hard to tell a five year old, “God is more satisfying than all your toys,” we can move them towards a deeper understanding of who God is. We can start to teach them the beautiful truth that Jesus said to a crowd of people in Luke12:15, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NASB)

The Dash

For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity. William Penn

Today was my 35th birthday. Day 12,775 of my life.

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Edric, myself and the kids spent most of it in transit, coming home from Baguio. Edric and I had two reasons to be in Manila earlier than expected (the latter reason more urgent than the first). We wanted to visit Tina, who gave birth to her second son and Jennie, who tragically lost her husband, Javy.

Tina gave birth the same day that Jennie’s husband, Javy, passed away. December 20. Spending time with both friends for entirely opposite reasons made me think about the brevity of life, how it is so much like the dash between two dates…the day we are born and the day we die.

When I found out that Javy died, I was devastated. He was just 37. Jen was now a widow, a life stage I never imagined her to be in at the age of 32. Javy was father to two sons (ages 8 and 5) and a baby girl. When I heard about his passing, I called Jennie immediately, hoping that the news was not true, that it was possibly a rumor. But who spreads a rumor about death?

As soon as I heard her crying over the phone, I knew that it was true and my heart broke. I struggled to find the words to comfort her because I was a mess myself. We both wept as I felt the weight of her grief and loss. She was in much pain. I was in shock. All I could say was, I am so sorry, over and over again.

The last time I had seen Javy he looked fit, healthy, and he was in good spirits. I never would have thought that just months later, he would be gone.

Edric was by my side when I made the call, his arms around me. But when my kids saw me burst into tears over the phone, he took them aside to talk to them. It was my two older sons who were most cognizant of what happened. Concerned about their friends, they asked, “So is (their) daddy dead?” Edric explained the circumstances to them and I escaped to the bathroom where I continued to cry. I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t help but ask, “Lord, why? I don’t understand. It does not seem fair.”

God gave me this verse. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

What was so important about this verse? Perspective. This was Job speaking, right after he lost almost everything. And yet, he blessed God. He believed in his sovereignty and goodness.

I have grown up believing this truth (and I still believe it) but when tragedy is so tangible, it is easy to doubt that God has a plan. How do I trust God with the now? Job’s story is thousands of years removed from me. Jen’s pain and loss, however, is so real and present.

She and I used to draw parallels between our life stages. We both married young, our children’s ages are within 6 months of each other. We are home makers. We embraced the role of wife and mother. There was always a lot to talk about because we shared so many common experiences.

However, that night, as I went to bed, I realized that our parallel lives met a fork in the road. And I tried to put myself in her shoes. How would I feel if Edric was gone? How would I cope? How would I raise my children alone? How would my sons deal with the loss of their father? Would I still believe that God was good? Would I cling to him in hope and not run away in anger?

The more I thought about Javy’s death, the more troubled I felt. So I prayed for Jen and her kids and slept on these questions. The next day, I woke up early to the cold mountain air of Baguio. I needed to run. I had to get outside. Edric was feeling the same way.

Somehow, running up and down the hills in Camp John Hay surrounded by pine trees, flowers and a perfectly blue sky provided the answers to my questions. Lord, I wanted to get outside, to see your creation so I could remember why I believe the things I do. To be reminded that you are still in control, still in charge, still good.

In my heart, I knew these things. But I did not want the death of Javy to be true. I wished that God had given him more time.

Then it hit me. He had MORE time. You do. I do. We all do. God has an appointed time for each person which is neither too short or too long. Our days, the Psalmist says, are all written down, in accordance with God’s time table. “…in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:16 NASB) Javy’s life was not cut short. His death was not premature. It was his appointed time to enter eternity.

I was so encouraged when Jennie told me, “Joy, he was the best husband and the best father.” As I thought about that statement it occurred to me that in the end, it is love that matters. Not the extra hours we burn to make more money. Not the applause or accolades that fame bring. Not the power we may command.

Death, while tragic, is not the most tragic thing. I believe the greater tragedy is not to be ready for the inevitability of death by failing to love.

Love is what lasts beyond the dash. “…But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) My birthday prayer is this…While l have more time, I want to love God with all my heart, I want to love my husband, Edric, and my children, Elijah, Edan, Titus, and Tiana, and I want to love people to Jesus.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:7-11, 19 NASB)

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When They Say “I Love You”

It has always been magical when our children say I love you for the first time, spontaneously, and without provocation.

About a week ago, our one year old daughter, Tiana, climbed onto our bed, maneuvered herself towards Edric, and said “love you.” It was so precious, as she hugged him at the same time. Of course, Edric dropped every single thing that he was doing and reciprocated with his utmost attention and a big hug. “I love you, too!” he said.

I watched this whole interchange from my side of the bed and could not resist inserting myself into their moment. “What about mommy?” I asked, reaching out my arms and hoping for another “Love you.” (Okay, so her I love you to me was not as spontaneous.) She flung herself in my direction and I caught her in my arms as she said, “Love you!”

At what point does a child understand what I love you means? It’s hard to tell. I have had four kids say their first “I love you” at different times. But saying it and knowing what it really means is a world of difference.

Edric and I often have to demonstrate what I love you means. So gestures of affection, quality time, saying sorry and being willing to forgive, and acts of thoughtfulness and kindness are all part of showing our children what it means to love.

The other day, when we were playing a board game called Catan with our children, I saw Edric demonstrate love for the kids.There is a rule in the game where you can “steal” resources from your opponents by placing a pawn-like figurine on their land. Edric had the opportunity to steal a resource card from me and being the very competitive person that he is, he jumped at the opportunity. It was not really a big deal because it was part of game play, but it bothered my five year old son. He said, “Daddy, why will you steal a card from mom?

Edric said, “It’s part of the game, Edan. You know daddy loves mommy. This is just a game.”

“But, stealing is not loving right? Why will you steal from mommy if you love her?” Edan responded.

I thought it was a hilarious discussion and Edric could have justified his actions, but he decided to be sensitive to Edan. As much as he needed that move, he decided NOT to take my resource card so that Edan would not “stumble.” He said, “I want you guys to know that I love your mom. I won’t take her card.”

I know my husband. He is very competitive. So, not taking my card was definitely a sacrifice! But he wanted to demonstrate to the kids what love means. And it worked! Edan smiled and his conscience was eased. During the game none of the kids wanted to take resource cards from one another either! They wanted to be loving towards each other. (And, even if we removed the “stealing” part of the game, it was still challenging and fun for everyone.)

The point of this simple story is that we can say I love you at home, but love is an action word. It is especially important that our children see love demonstrated in the marriage of their parents. If Edric and I do not act or speak in loving ways to one another, what makes us think that our children will grow up really understanding what love means?

1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”

Honestly, I find that it is harder to apply this definition of love in the context of marriage than parenting! I suppose it is because I have higher expectations of Edric than of my kids.

For example, each time I have a baby, I know that sleepless nights, diaper changing, and loss of control over my schedule are inevitable realities. I understand that my love for my babies requires sacrifice. But I rise up to the challenge without expecting any sort of reciprocation from them. I love them no matter what.

In marriage, however, it’s a little more challenging. Selfishness so easily finds its way in. And this is the ultimate relationship killer! When my relationship to Edric becomes all about my needs and wants, this mindset leads to conflict and disrespectful behavior on my part.

In fact, at the beginning of my marriage, I focused too much on what I was not getting out of the marriage. In my mind, there was no exit, but I was enduring and not enjoying my marriage. My heart grew cold and critical. At the same time, Edric’s romantic feelings toward me started to wane. He no longer saw me as the fun and sweet woman he fell in love with because I was so negative!

Where did the love go? Well, we still loved each other but we were both frustrated. We did not quite understand what love meant.

I like the definition that my parents share during their marriage and parenting seminars. “UNCONDITIONAL LOVE IS A COMMITMENT TO AN IMPERFECT PERSON, FOR THEIR HIGHEST GOOD, WHICH OFTEN REQUIRES SACRIFICE.”

Edric and I had to acknowledge that we were imperfect people married to imperfect people and without God at the center of our marriage, we would have a helplessly imperfect marriage. We both focused on what we needed to change in ourselves and not each other. We sought the Lord, prayed for one another, and grew in intimacy with him. As we did so, we desired to follow his principles and our marriage naturally became sweeter and more loving.

And as our family began to grow, it became even more apparent that the best way to love our kids was to love God first, love each other as husband and wife and then love them — in that order. Edric’s dad used to tell him, “One of the best ways to show your children that you love them is to love your spouse. ” I would like to add that the best way to love your spouse is to love God first, to seek him and obey his principles. And of course, to avoid having a self-centered perspective!

Our children may frequently say I love you to us and to one another, but our responsibility is to teach them what those words really mean. After all, I love you is much more than a magical feeling. It is UNCONDITIONAL. It is a COMMITMENT. It is directed towards an IMPERFECT PERSON. It desires their HIGHEST GOOD. It will often require SACRIFICE.

Can we prepare our children to love like that? Let us start with our spouse!

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NASB)

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Cooking Up Some Fun!

Looking for some family bonding, a creative party idea, or want to improve you or your children’s domestic prowess in the kitchen? Go to The Cookery!

Our playgroup had our christmas party at The Cookery yesterday. At first, my boys were like…”What? Cooking? That does not sound like fun.” But, they loved the class! They were taught how to make sushi, katsudon, and shrimp tempura.

All the homeschool kids got really into it, digging their hands into the rice and rolling it in the nori. They pounded and battered their pork chops, mixed the ingredients for the sauces, cut and platted the food, and they fried their tempura.

Personally, I think the greater lessons for the kids were learning to listen to chef Rheene Sy and her team give instructions; taking turns with one another; using their creativity to express themselves; practicing cautiousness when handling kitchen tools; and of course, working hard for food! It was wonderful to relax and eat a meal that my kids cooked!

One of my fellow playgroup moms said, “My friend said homeschoolers get to do all the fun stuff!” This friend of hers, who had been stressing out about exam week for her traditionally schooled children, was a little envious to know that all our kids were going to The Cookery.

What can I say? It’s true! Our children don’t have to stress out about exams or learn within the confines of a classroom. Their venues for learning are endless, hands-on, and highly interactive. I am not an enemy of the conventional school system. But I do believe that children have greater opportunities for learning when they are honeschooled and they do get to do all the fun stuff!

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THE COOKERY

Unit 2G & H Kensington Place
Condominium, 1st ave. Cor 29th St.
Bonifacio Global City,
Taguig City, Philippines

Phone:+632 8227068
Fax: +632 8227365
Email: info@thecookeryph.com
marketing@thecookeryph.com

Red Light

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One of the blessings of having children is that their innocence is contagious.

When we were driving around Global City yesterday, my second son, Edan, who was sitting in the front seat beside me said this. “So, mom, it’s okay to go when a stoplight is green or orange and sometimes, it’s okay to run the light when it is red, right?” He asked it so innocently but with such conviction.

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“Huh? Where did you get that idea? It’s not okay to run a red light ever,” I said.

“But, mom, dad said its okay if there are no other cars on the road.”

“Yes,” chimed in my eldest son, Elijah. “Dad said its okay if there are no cars. I’ve seen him do it.”

My husband,Edric,was not with us and I knew he must have had a valid reason. I didn’t want to contradict him so I just said, “Oh really, we can talk to your dad about that later,” and I didn’t pursue the conversation further.

Later on in the day when Edric and I had some time alone, we got to talk about the dialogue I had with the kids about the stoplight. When he realized how the boys had latched on to his every word and watched his example so closely, he felt convicted. He told me, “I need to talk to them about it and clarify. I don’t want their tender consciences to be seared.”

As soon as Edric had the opportunity to, he explained to our boys that it is always safer to stop during a red light. The only exemptions are when the light is broken or if a policeman tells you to go even if it is red. So green means go, orange means be cautious, and red means stop. If the light is red and no one is around, you still have to stop. He also admitted that he had made the mistake of not always stopping at red in the past, but that he would change.

The tough thing is our kids are growing up in the Philippines, where people often view traffic signs as “optional commands,” not to be followed if they can get away with it. It’s sad but true. And if we are not careful, we can do the same and rationalize by saying, “everyone else is doing it.”

I am guilty of this. There is a left turn going onto a street called Santolan from Edsa. Edsa, being a main highway, is inconvenient to stay on when you need a U-turn. So, I have made a left turn twice on that street even if it said NO LEFT TURN. I did this because I saw people ahead of me turning left. It seemed like it was okay because no cop stopped them. But during those two occasions, I felt guilty. I knew that it was wrong.

As parents, we need to raise the bar for integrity and exemplify what it means to follow rules, even when it is inconvenient. How can we expect our children to grow up to be men and women of integrity if we don’t practice integrity ourselves? Furthermore, how can we expect the Philippines to change if we can’t be the change first — starting with ourselves and with our families?

Integrity is the idea of being whole, undivided, incorruptible, soundness. (Merriam-Webster) It is truthfulness to your innermost being, blamelessness before God, without compartmentalizing or breaking apart who you are in public or private. In fact, God used this to describe Job in the Bible.

When my parents give parenting seminars, they use this simple example of integrity in the home. They say, “If someone calls your house and you don’t want to talk to them, don’t tell your children or househelp to lie for you. Don’t tell them to say ‘you are not home’ if you are home. You are teaching them to be dishonest.”

A couple months ago, God gave me the opportunity to define integrity for one of my sons. He had brought a box of colored pencils out of a bookstore called Fully Booked and the guard didn’t stop him. I didn’t realize he had done this and he assumed that when I was at the checkout, the colored pencils had been paid for. But when I looked at my receipt, the box of colored pencils was not included in my purchase. It was a hassle for me to go back inside and pay for it because we were on our way to another venue. However, I did because I knew it would have been wrong to take them, and because my son was watching.

I am sharing this not to give credit to myself but to the Holy Spirit, who convicts me to do what is right. It would have been easy to say, “Yippee! Free colored pencils!” After all, they were just 200+ pesos — a seemingly negligible amount. But I Thessalonians 5:19 – 22 says “Do not quench the Spirit.”

If I had not gone back in to pay for the pencils, I would have quenched the Holy Spirit in me and in my son. My son already knew that it was not paid for when I checked my receipt. The Greek word for “quench” is “sbennymi” which means to extinguish things on fire or to suppress or stifle a divine influence. (Blueletter Bible) It’s a great illustration of what happens when our children stumble because of our example. When we don’t live with integrity, we throw water on their fire or suppress/stifle their own moral conscience.

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Whether we like it or not, our lack of integrity will contribute to our children’s moral failure in the future. My husband and I counseled a couple years back who had marital problems because the man was cheating on his wife for the nth time. One of the reasons why it was such a struggle for him was because his own father had extra-marital affairs. He had seen this growing up.

We did not judge him for his wrong, but we pointed him to the answer. The reality is integrity is a supernatural standard. None of us (including our children) can possibly be 100% faithful in the area of integrity apart from Jesus Christ who saves us from our sinfulness and the Holy Spirit who keeps purifying us.

1 Corinthians 6:9 – 11 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

And here is the encouragement…a few verses down from 1 Thessalonians 5:19, the apostle Paul tells us, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23- 24)

These verses tell me that God is faithful. Even if we fail, he does not give up on us. He is committed to sanctifying and purifying us. He keeps us whole in spirit, soul and body.

As he is able to keep us blameless, he is able to do the same for our children. While we can try our best to parent our children in the way they should go and exemplify integrity, we cannot guarantee that our children will make all the right decisions. Integrity for them, must begin with a personal choice to follow God and obey him — a personal relationship with him. While our example of integrity will greatly impact their own morality, our assurance is God’s faithfulness and work in their lives.

In the meantime, we are called to live with integrity by being honest in our endeavors, pursuits and business dealings, telling the truth, following rules, keeping our promises and commitments, and protecting our hearts from sin and corruption.

Psalm 41:12 “Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever.”

 

 

 

Endless Whats and Whys

I can’t make it through one page of reading aloud with my three year old, Titus, without being bombarded by why and what questions. Of all my children, he has been the most inquisitive during story time. He asks why about ten times for each page that I read. So, if it normally takes 10 minutes to read one short story, the time doubles with Titus.

But, I don’t mind. I know the gears are turning inside his head. His learning style is just different. He looks at the little details on each illustration of a book and asks me to explain what is going on. Never mind that I am trying to read to him what is happening. He wants to know about the pictures and make his own conclusions based on what he sees. For the most part, I enjoy hearing his questions and responding to them because I feel that these why and what moments are my golden opportunities to interact with him.

Some ladies in my bible study group asked me if I get irritated when he badgers me with his questions. Sure, there are times when I just want to finish the story, but I love it that Titus is such a curious boy. I wouldn’t want to discourage or change that by reacting to him in a negative way. And the wonderful thing about homeschooling is the it allows me to be there to provide answers for his curiosity.

I do believe he and I are getting more out of the experience when we interact with one another. My encouragement for moms who have inquisitive children who are always asking why, what, when or how is to make the most of this stage. Let’s embrace this time as an opportunity to teach our children about life. In fact, it’s a privilege to be their first resource for information!

Reading Peter Rabbit to Titus

Entrepreneurial Skills

Our kids helped Edric’s sister, Nicky, sell her clothing line at Rockwell’s Moonlit Bazaar this past weekend. It was a good introduction to entrepreneurial skills for our two older sons who spent about an hour welcoming customers, doing the accounting, and organizing her display. We treated them to donuts after for their helpfulness!

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Kiddo-Preneur Bazaar

We dropped by Kiddo-Preneur Bazaar at Rockwell Club to support a good friend and her kids who were participants in the event. The place was packed! Congratulations to the organizers who conceptualized such a brilliant idea for children. I hope they come up with another one next year so my kids can join it.:)

We ended up buying a duckling for P100. I don’t know how it’s going to survive living in our condominium!

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The Case of the Missing Boomerang

I have three boys and a daughter. One of my sons, my dear Titus, is a fun-loving boy who is highly curious. From time to time he gets himself into predicaments that require rescuing or intervention from adults. I also find myself dumbfounded by some of the things he does. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. He is more entertaining than television without intending to be so.

Just yesterday, for example, he peed on his sister’s head while she was in the shower. (Sometimes we do communal shower time for our younger kids because it makes the process a whole lot faster.) I can’t imagine what reason Titus had for doing this and when I asked him, all he said was, “I forgot to pee in the toilet.” So why did he have to pee on my one year old daughter’s head? I don’t know. These are the mysteries of raising children.

Like all my other kids, I believe God has a special plan for his personality. And since he is only three, Edric and I have a good number of years to chisel off the rough edges and prepare him for manhood. In the meantime, I have learned to be thankful for who he is.

God uses each one of my kids to chisel me as a person, too!

He gave Edric and I just the right mix of personalities to raise. So far, we haven’t gone crazy raising four children, so I know that God is definitely calibrating everything just right. He has used my kids to expose what it is in my heart — ugly things…like impatience, irritation, selfishness, pride, and so on.

Last week when I prepared for our homeschool playgroup’s U.N. day, I literally turned into an ogre. Titus had forgotten where he put a boomerang I was planning to bring to playgroup (an actual wooden boomerang from Australia). It was going to be one of my visual aids for our presentation on Australia. I was going ballistic because we were late and nobody in the house could find it. Okay, ballistic for me doesn’t mean shouting (just to clarify), but I was VERY annoyed, VERY negative, and VERY unpleasant. I even said, “If you don’t find that boomerang you are going to get a spanking!”

What?! I never make threats like that and I didn’t even mean it when I said it. Where was this coming from? From my ugly, sinful heart — the one that God keeps working on. My son started to cry in fear because he couldn’t remember where he put it. At this point, I knew that I had definitely crossed over from good to evil but I kept huffing and puffing around the house and letting everyone know that I was upset. There was no time to console him. I wanted that boomerang found immediately!

Finally, after twenty minutes, our househelp checked under a carpet and there it was! Apparently, Titus had hidden it there earlier that morning but forgotten all about it. When he saw the boomerang again, he stopped crying and said, “There it is, mom!” His face lit up with hope, hope that I wouldn’t follow through with my mean threat to spank him. Shame, shame on me.

When I got to the car and started driving the kids to our playgroup, God convicted me to make a big apology. My reaction was completely wrong. It was hurtful and sinful.

My apology went something like this…”Kids, will you forgive me for getting angry? Will you forgive me for getting upset about the boomerang? I’m sorry for the things I did and said. I was very wrong. Mommy was so irritated because we were late and I needed that boomerang, but that doesn’t excuse my irritation. Please forgive me.”

The kids were quick to forgive me, which made me feel worse inside for treating them the way I did.

During the drive, I was half thinking of how to get to my friend’s house and half thinking about what in the world just happened. How could I have behaved so horribly towards my kids, especially my youngest son? And over a BOOMERANG?! It was humbling to see my sinful nature on display like that.

When U.N. day was over, I decided to reflect on the incident so I could avoid a repeat of it in the future. Here are some of the things God reminded me to apply:

1. Don’t over-schedule. That day was crammed with activities for my kids and myself. Looking back, I should have anticipated that the timing of everything was too tight. The kids had taekwondo and violin classes in the morning, lunch with their dad, playgroup in the afternoon, and then I had a bible study in the evening. And the traveling time between these activities was considerable.

2. Remember that relationships are more important than projects or programs. When I zone in on an activity that I have committed to, I’m relentless. It’s hard to pry me away from what I’m doing and I don’t like to be interrupted. I especially don’t like having my goals blocked. Not being able to find the boomerang was blocking my goal. My goal was to present Australia in a certain way and that included using the boomerang. So, my poor son was an obstacle to me. I saw him as someone who stood in the way because he couldn’t remember where he put the boomerang. I had forgotten that he was a zillion times more important than a wooden boomerang and our playgroup’s U.N. day.

3. Be flexible. I didn’t want the kids and I to present Australia without a boomerang. But, it wasn’t even a major part of our presentation. I could have left home thirty minutes earlier and avoided my ogre-moment if I had been flexible enough to say, it’s okay, let’s go to plan B. But, I was stubborn.

4. Finally, be thankful. This is a hard one. I didn’t feel an ounce of gratitude for my situation when I was in the middle of it. Worse, I resented my son for being a forgetful three year old and I blamed him for making all of us late. Instead, I should have been thankful and seen the situation through spiritual lenses. If I had been spiritual and spirit-filled, I would have probably said, “Lord, thank you for allowing this to happen. You must have a reason. Please help me to be positive and grateful.” That would have turned my emotions around 180 degrees!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

God says it is his WILL for us to be thankful, in everything! I believe it says “in everything” because a thankful person knows that God is in control at all times and for all the right reasons.

What about when it comes to parenting? Are we able to thank the Lord for the children he has given us (even the ones who are a challenge to discipline and train)?

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Christmas Recital

One of our dear relatives once asked, “Will I ever get to watch your kids perform like they would if they were in school?” I’d like to answer that question.

TMA Homeschool held its Christmas recital this morning. There were at least 170 homeschool kids who participated as musicians, theater art performers, ballet and folk dancers, singers, pianists, and artists. Our two older boys were part of the violin ensemble.

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This event was a good testament to the fact that homeschoolers don’t miss out on much and have a good many occasions to socialize and cooperate with others and perform for an audience. It does help when a family is enrolled in a program that offers these opportunities. But, an independent homeschooler can find ways to develop their child’s musicality, artistic abilities, athleticism and give them the venue to exhibit these gifts.

I happen to be connected to TMA Homeschool, but I also belong to a support group made up of a mix of independent and enrolled homeschoolers. Either way, if parents are intentional enough, they can make these opportunities for music, art, PE classes and performing happen.

In fact, just last week, the playgroup I meet with put together a U.N. day. Each family had to research on a country, wear it’s costume, bring food, and prepare a presentation that included both trivia, interesting facts, and shed light on the religious climate of the country. The mom who hosted this event set up a stage so the kids could practice their presentation skills. About 8 families participated and we all had a great time. We may not have made up too big of an audience, but the activity still provided our kids with the opportunity to “perform.”

Performances are a great way to develop character in children. They practice traits like boldness, dependence on the Holy Spirit, putting the needs of others before their own, and working hard towards a goal.

Our sons are not always excited about being on stage or in front of others, but we encourage them to get out of their comfort zone for character’s sake. Today’s Christmas recital was another one of those times when they had to stretch themselves. They may have only had a small part in the whole production, but we saw some valuable character traits in action and that’s what mattered.

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Letters All-around

Make letters come to life by letting your toddler spot them around the house!

My three year old and I went letter hunting from A to Z in every room of our home. We photographed our discoveries, both the subtle and the obvious.

The point was to teach my son to pay attention, stretch his imagination, encourage perseverance, and reinforce his letter recognition. And, as always, I wanted this to be something fun.

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