Archives for June 2013

Dominion

The boys convinced me to play the game, Dominion, with them. It is usually a boys only with dad type of activity but they insisted that I join. It is their bonding time with Edric in place of not-so-desirable options like television and tablets.

For over two months the kids have not been playing Ipad games — educational or otherwise. (The only thing they have done on my Ipad is use it to draw). After observing the effects on their concentration, desire to learn, creativity, and interest in reading, I decided to do an experiment. If the IPad was not an option, even on the weekends, how would this impact their development. So far, I have noticed that the kids are easier to teach, less preoccupied by thoughts of a virtual reality, and they have pursued more profitable activities — reading, inventing games, stories, and engaging one another in discussion and dialogue.

Prior to this, the IPad was triggering addictive tendencies in my younger kids. Elijah could rise above it but Edan and Titus were especially “attracted” to the games they would play. While they weren’t playing, they would talk about the games or think about the games. This concerned me. So one day, I said, “That’s it. No more IPad until we finish our school year.”

The kids found other ways to redeem their time and when I asked them to do their work they were more focused. It took about two weeks to “detox” and “re-wire” their appetites. Nowadays, the IPad is not that interesting to them. They don’t even look for it. Instead, we have gone back to playing strategy games as a family.

Someone sent me a link to this article: The Heart of Screen Time. In the article, author Heather Villa wrote, “How much screen time is too much? The AAP recently reported that children spend an average of seven hours a day “plugged in” to media of some sort. However, AAP recommends that children older than two years old should get no more than two hours a day of quality screen time. Why? Children need a chance to simply unwind, play outside, read a book, and relate with others. Aside from any study, screen time that trumps meaningful connections is possibly too much screen time.”

Here are some photos of the evening when we were playing. They aren’t too clear because they were taken with my iPhone (mostly by Titus). I was the WINNER. Yippee!

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Have I Told You Lately…

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One of the most under-appreciated people in our home would probably be our househelp. They know I care about them and that I am pleased with how hard they work, but I forget that they need affirmation, too.

A few days ago we had visitors who were coming over and I assigned responsibilities to the two househelp that work for me, Rielyn and Joan. They are so efficient at what they do so I don’t get stressed out managing them. In fact they can anticipate what people need around the house. And their dynamic as a team of two is better than having more househelp which can get “political” and relationally challenging.

When I didn’t have any help some months ago, they were the dream team I really wanted to have back in my home. Originally, Rielyn and Joan both had to attend to personal crises when they left us so I didn’t count on them coming back. And the third (whose name I won’t mention) was supposed to take a short vacation but never made any real effort to return. So Edric and I prayed for God to send us the best people to replace the three girls who left us. But he did something better. He returned to me the two people I wished we had never lost. They came back to work for our family within two weeks of one another.

It was such an amazing turn of events for us, especially for me! I could finally exhale from bearing the burden of all the housework and focus my energies on homeschooling, pregnancy, house building, ministry, and just enjoying my family.

Fast forward to a few days ago and I was standing in the kitchen while they did their chores. Sometimes I hang out with them and we talk about life, spiritual matters, the kids, the comedic moments during the day and so on. I interact with them quite often. I don’t just see them as mere employees but partners in our home so Edric and I can better accomplish what we are called to do. They play such a vital role in making this possible.

Rielyn was doing the dishes and Joan was wiping them down. I was eating the banana bread they made. Yum!

They told me that there were two women who wanted to work for our family but I suggested that we consider them when we move to a house. Then I spontaneously told them how glad I was that they were working for us and that they were special to me.

“You both are my favorites. I am so happy you came back to work for us!”

One of them started to tear and then the other did, too! Rielyn expressed her gratitude and Joan mentioned that they both really like our family. When I saw their reactions, I commented, “Do I not affirm you enough?! I need to tell you more often how much I appreciate you guys and how blessed I am by you!” I really meant it, too. And I went on to explain how I had prayed for our househelp situation and God answered it by sending them back.

They added that they wouldn’t ever want to trade our family for another. That’s why they wanted to return to work for us. Of course this made my day! It was like a gathering of three friends telling each other why they all liked one another.

I also added that the difference they are attracted to in our family is the Lord. It is his presence in our lives. I wanted Jesus to get the credit because he is the center of our happy home.

Later on in the day, I spoke to Edric about my encounter with Rielyn and Joan. And we both agreed that we need to be more affirming, especially to our househelp who work so hard.

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Encouragement makes people bloom. We can wait too long in between a kind word and another before we ever acknowledge and appreciate the people around us — our spouse, children, parents, siblings, colleagues, employees, household help…It doesn’t hardly take any effort to be positive, except perhaps to push ourselves to be so if it doesn’t come naturally. But the rewards are worth it! Giving praise and recognition motivate people to do and be their best more so than criticism and over-correction do. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to build relationships and bridges to people’s hearts!

Recently, my quiet times have been in 1 Samuel. And I have enjoyed reading about the friendship between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son. Today I came across this passage, “Now David became aware that Saul had come out to seek his life while David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.'” (1 Samuel 23:15-17 NASB)

What a beautiful picture of how our encouragement should be purposeful, to spiritually strengthen one another in the Lord. Jonathan did not think of himself or his own agenda. David was his “competition” when it came to the throne. Yet Jonathan had the insight to recognize that God’s hand was upon David and that he was destined to be King. Therefore Jonathan chose to build him up and be a blessing to him, especially because he knew that David’s life was in danger.

It made me think of the many people around me that need to hear a message of hope, of kindness, of affirmation that turns their attention to the good plans that God has for them.

I hope God brings to your mind people whom you need to thank and speak a kind word to. You can start off by saying, “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you…”

Homemaking and The Bird That Fell From A Tree

Before it sounds like I am on a campaign to define an entire generation’s perception on women, this is a personal reflection. It is my own wrestling with the realities of what a woman should be, a woman who is married and has children.

While I believe that a mom’s priority should be the home, women are, more often than not, lauded for what they accomplish outside of the home. I read about women’s successes in the corporate realm, professions of choice, businesses or advocacies. I watch them on the news, and ask myself, Did I miss out on something here? Am I living on another planet or maybe a different island with my Robinson Crusoe family? Am I lesser because I did not venture upon that track and join hands with the multitudinous number of women who are deemed significant by society because they have been catalytic to change, to history? Have I put limits on what I can and should be doing because I have turned my energies towards the home?

When I dwell on modern day perceptions of what women ought to be, that we must not only take care of our homes and the people inside them but be income generators, or a force to contend with in society (especially in terms of rights), or ably climbing the corporate ladder, or maybe breaking world records, too…well, it makes me feel like being a wife and mother are insufficient aspirations, undeserving of a standing ovation.

So I have to go back to what I decided a long time ago — that I would live for the praise of a different audience. And while bombarded by portrayals of the cosmopolitan woman…her celebrated independence and dominating power, I would not make that my pursuit. Instead I would concern myself with what God, my husband and children have to say.

In Titus 2:3-5 it reads, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”

I like this checklist. It tells me to focus on loving my husband, my children, to be a good worker at home, and to do so in a way that honors God. Should God call me to anything more than this, he will confirm it. For the time being it is pleasing to him that I should wholeheartedly commit to fulfilling my roles as wife and mother. I need not burden or pressure myself to be more.

That is the cerebral part of my conviction. But there is an emotional side to it, too. God uses tender moments with my family to affirm the belief that home is where I should be. Like yesterday…

My second son, Edan came to me in the study room with a bird in his hand, wrapped in a white washcloth. “Mom, this bird fell from a tree. Can I keep him?” I saw him cradling the bird and I thought, this bird is probably going to die. What kind of bird falls out of a tree?! My second thought was, Is this bird carrying some sort of flu that will infect Edan and the other kids?!

I laid those thoughts aside and asked the kids to get a cup of water. We embarked upon a collaborative mission to save this bird. Titus eagerly went to get the water and Edan gently laid the bird on the ground. The bird toppled over on to its side like it had rigor mortis and its claws were curled in a strange sort of way. But it’s eyes were open and it was still breathing so there was a smidgen of hope that it would survive. We stood it back on to its feet and dripped water into its beak. It drank the water. Afterwards, I asked the boys to get some cooked brown rice and bread. As best as we could, we tried to feed it, giving it sips of water in between each dot of food.

Edan was very concerned. So I asked him to pray for the bird. “Pray that if it is God’s will, it will live.” After he prayed and we did our part to try and revive the bird, the boys found a box to keep him in.

Then the unexpected happened. As we lifted the bird into the box, it miraculously flew away! From looking half dead it regained its strength and found a tree to rest in.

This was a happy but sad turn of events for Edan. He really wanted to keep the bird. I reminded him that we had prayed and God healed it so we ought to be thankful. The rest of the day he kept asking me if he would see the bird again. Of course I could not answer definitively. And then this morning he asked for my phone which had a photo of him holding the bird saved on to it.

“Mom, can you print out this picture?” This was the first time he ever asked me to print out a photo for him. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to keep it so he could look at the bird.

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My heart melted. I did not realize how attached Edan had grown to that bird in the short hour of being its friend. He even made a drawing of the entire incident…the bird falling from a tree, the cat being nearby, himself coming to its rescue.

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I treasure these priceless moments with my kids — the interactions and insights into who they are. These circumstances cannot be timed or manipulated into form. I need to be around to catch them in their spontaneous appearances.

So when I stumble upon a conversation, an article, a news bit about “successful women” and start to feel that temptation to compare or measure myself against that standard, I think about the joys that I would not trade and the regrets I wouldn’t want to live with. Some of my greatest joys are being present for stories like Edan and the bird that fell from a tree.

I imagine that these stories will become the memories we laugh and cry about as a family when we revisit them someday. I don’t want to look back and regret that I had not made those memories with them. I have the privilege of making them now and that’s what I am doing! I also praise and thank God that he has so orchestrated the events of my life so I can choose to be at home.

The Battle Over Food

Food-Facts

Inspired by a question a reader posed about eating problems in kids, I decided to write this article. I had been thinking about doing so for a while because I have been asked this question more than once and now it’s time to come up with something helpful for parents to refer to.

Like I have shared in past articles where I give suggestions on parenting issues, please remember that what I write is not the Bible. These are things that have worked for our family but you always have to prayerfully consider what is best for your own kids and do research, too. Nevertheless, I hope these tips will encourage you.

First, I know what it is like to battle with a child over eating. At some stage in each of their young lives, my children have not been interested in food. There is nothing that would stress me out more than having to deal with a child who constantly refused to eat or seemed averse to the eating experience. It would try my patience and become a source of conflict between my kids and me. However, several years of experience made me realize that this “problem” was not forever.

Let me introduce to you case # 1 so you have an idea of just how bad some of these eating issues were. My eldest son, Elijah, was completely disinterested in food for the first few years of his life. He was breastfed until nearly two years old and after that wouldn’t drink any formula. At one point, we had to use a dropper to get formula into him. But that was ridiculously unsustainable so we let him drink fresh milk instead. He is turning out just fine so far — tall and intelligent for his age, dispelling the notion that formula is essential for stature and cognitive development. So if you have a child that rejects formula, don’t worry. There are other ways to get calcium and nutrients into them.

Milk was just one of his problems. He would take two hours to eat and it was always a battle of the will between him and whoever was feeding him. One day he asked, “How come I am always eating?” After the first meal in the morning, it wouldn’t be too long after he had to have the next. So he thought that his entire day revolved around having to eat!

When he did eat, his preference was fish. He refused other meat. Every time he was fed beef or chicken he would gnaw on it in a sort of torturous way. I tried spanking, withdrawal of privileges, showing him photos of starving people in Africa (I was desperate and it wasn’t effective). The only thing that finally worked was complimenting and affirming him whenever he ate well. And then his little man’s appetite kicked in at about age 7, and he can even eat more than Edric and I do! Today, he eats a variety of cuisine with pleasure. He isn’t heavy or overweight, but he can consume two Big Macs in ten minutes if we let him.

Case # 2: My third son, Titus, used to gag and vomit whenever he ingested vegetables. He didn’t like them at all. For certain stretches of time, he would vomit his food at least once a day. Of course this was totally aggravating because he left a mess. And I would feel so frustrated and concerned that he threw up all his food and we had to start all over. Eventually, however, he learned to eat vegetables. We didn’t give up. We cut it up into his food to make the bites smaller and more tolerable, and he saw us all eating vegetables and talking about how healthy they were. He actually likes vegetables now.

Up until a few months ago, Titus wanted to be fed by a yaya. I didn’t like this because I wanted him to learn to feed himself. When someone fed him, he downed his food in a few minutes. But when he would eat on his own, he would get distracted and daydream. When he turned five years old, we finally said, “Okay, no more being fed at the table.” Since he was mature enough to get this, he has complied. There will be certain occasions when he doesn’t eat quite as fast, but we are past the throw ups and spoon-feeding.

My second son, Edan, and youngest child, Tiana, have been manageable when it comes to their eating habits. Edan has always enjoyed his fruit and vegetables and Tiana will communicate that she is hungry when she is. So they have had minimal issues with food. There are instances when Tiana isn’t as excited about eating veggies, but she is growing out of that stage as well.

What did we do right and what did we do wrong? Let’s start with the wrong…

I used to make eating such an issue with Elijah. I would force him to eat his food by putting all kinds of sanctions on him if he didn’t finish what was on his plate. This led to a lot of tension between us. In fact, I probably lost my cool more than once over Elijah and food. After child number one, I realized a couple of things.

  • Kids will eat when they are hungry. If you have boys like I do, they will grow up and get hungry. It’s inevitable. Our biggest household expense is now food.
  • Don’t let your kids snack in between meals if they aren’t doing well with eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It ruins their appetite. Avoid buying snacks so they aren’t even an option.
  • Get them to exercise or at least be physically active. They will be more inclined to eat when mealtime comes around because they’ve burned calories. Don’t expect them to have much of an appetite if they are just lounging around the house watching TV, on the computer, etc.
  • Eat together as a family as often as possible. Food should be associated with fun and bonding. Family meals ought to be a highlight of the day, not a lonely, isolating experience.
  • If your child isn’t hungry, take their food away after 30 minutes. More often than not, they will be ready to eat their next meal (if you don’t give them a snack in between). You might be interested to know that “mothers who pressured their children about food were likely to end up with kids who avoided eating even more fiercely…and urging kids to eat when they’re not hungry tends to override a child’s innate sense of satiety, which can create kids who have a hard time regulating their appetite.” According to author, Claire Farrow, a senior psychology lecturer at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, “Healthy children are born able to regulate their hunger and fullness.” Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2011/09/29/kids-dont-want-to-eat-dont-sweat-it/#ixzz2XEkNBXMg
  • Avoid too many sugary drinks or juices that can fill up their tummies while they are eating. Instead of giving our kids a full glass of juice when they eat, we give them ¼ or ½ of a glass. If drinking is not a deterrent to consumption of food, we allow them have more to drink.
  • Bring your kids to the grocery so they can pick out food they like. My kids love going to the grocery and helping me fill up the cart. They like the fish section (especially when there are live fish) and the cereals.
  • Get them to help you cook from time to time so they are personally involved in preparing a meal. And then let the family compliment them for their “dishes.”
  • Affirm them everytime they eat well so they are encouraged to keep doing so. When Elijah ate his first burger, I told him how impressed I was. He remembered that. Burgers are one of his favorite things to eat. And he takes pride in the fact that he can eat more than Edric and I can when it comes to meat.
  • Avoid habits like watching TV, leaving the table or playing while eating. Have meaningful discussions and interaction as a family instead. Model good eating habits yourself, too. In our home, we don’t eat a lot of junk, we rarely have sodas, and we talk about the value of keeping a healthy lifestyle in front of our children.
  • Expose your kids to different kinds of cuisine (especially the older ones) so they can expand their food preferences. Our kids tried stingray while we were in Singapore and Elijah liked it a lot! Or take your kids out to eat once in a while (not a fastfood restaurant if you can help it.)
  • As suggested by my friend, Angela, whose son had Congenital Hypothyrodism, if you really suspect that your child has an eating disorder due to a health problem, then have your child tested to uncover what it is. You don’t lose anything by going the extra mile to find out if the disinterest in food could be more than just a phase. According Angela, “My son did not have the “look” of a hypothyroid child, and all other possible symptoms except for lack of appetite were too subtle for them to suspect that anything was amiss. So I would just caution mothers out there that if you do suspect that something really could be wrong, do not be afraid to look crazy and overbearing. Don’t just complain about their appetite, but demand that something be done! A few non-invasive tests is a small price to pay for your child’s health and peace of mind.”

    BONUS: Remind your children that whether they eat or not, you love them just the same. However, because you love them you want them to eat well. It is for their good. Then give them a big hug!

    Personally, I have found that a positive approach to getting our kids to eat has been much more effective than making it an issue. When we were “rookie parents” we learned the hard way. We erred on the side of being tyrannical when the kids didn’t finish what was on their plates. Eventually we realized that kids grow out of the stage when they are disinterested in food. As they mature they can be trained to make wise choices about what they eat and to clean their plates, too!

     

     

  • Singapore 2013

    Singapore was a great place to spend a family vacation. We were blessed to be able to stay with Edric’s aunt who was such a gracious host. She had two yayas, too! What a dream. We decided to get away as a family before baby #5 comes along. It will be a challenge to travel out of the country after I give birth, so this vacation was timely. Of course, I had to get the approval of my doctor since I was traveling between 31 and 32 weeks pregnant. Praise God, she gave me a medical certificate in case the airlines asked for it. They didn’t but it was good to have it. (Remember this if you are a traveling pregnant woman, especially after 28 weeks.) Airlines require certification from a doctor before they will let you fly. And I don’t think they allow women to be on an airplane if they are past 34 weeks. Thirty-six weeks would probably be the latest.

    We booked a budget airline — Jetstar. Their rates weren’t too bad, especially since we picked the odd hours which weren’t very popular. The kids didn’t mind. They thought of it all as an adventure from beginning to end.

    To maximize our stay, we went to educational places. With the exception of Legoland in Malaysia (which was only a 30 minute drive away), Sentosa and Snow City, everything we took the kids to had educational value…The Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Zoo, River Safari, The Science Center, Omnitheater, and Jurong Bird Park. And we had the best food! Tita Nini (Edric’s aunt) knew the yummiest places to eat. We had the Newton Food Center experience where you can get the most delicious Hainanese Chicken Rice. We also ate at Din Tai Fung and Jumbo, where we feasted on huge crabs!

    During the 7 days we were away from Manila, Edric and I had amazing bonding moments with the kids. My personal highlight was seeing their expressions and reactions when they experienced something new.

    I don’t know when we will be able to do the next family vacation abroad, but we are still tanked up on Singapore fun. I praise God for allowing us this window to enjoy one another…

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    What if You Don’t Feel Like It?

    379 (3) 378 (3) 306 (3) 479 240“What do you do when you don’t feel like homeschooling?” This was a question one of my friends brought up during breakfast while we were meeting for a Bible Study. Well, first of all, it’s a reasonable question. It’s normal NOT to be super excited about homeschooling every single day. I don’t know any homeschooling mom who is 100% on fire about homeschooling every morning. She doesn’t exist.

    There are good days and not-so-good days when you homeschool. Sometimes you are tired. Sometimes you want a break from the kids. Sometimes you feel the urge to go shopping instead of reading about Zoology.

    I’ll be honest. The past two weeks we haven’t had any regular sort of homeschooling. We were traveling for 7 days and before that I had all kinds of commitments to attend to. The kids had it pretty easy. This next week, however, we will finish up the last few subjects that haven’t gotten done – mainly Science, Social Studies, History, and Filipino. We started in September so I still have some time to turn in portfolios, but I want to get everything accomplished before I give birth.

    I will say here what I told the moms that morning. Homeschooling is your job. If you were in the corporate world, you wouldn’t say to your boss, “I don’t feel like showing up today so I won’t be coming in.” You can get away with that a few times (if your boss is cool) but you can’t make it a habit. I think of homeschooling the same way. Just show up. Be there in the morning even if you don’t feel like it and let God lead and direct the day. Unless you are on a family vacation or have an engagement that you must absolutely attend, your homeschooling schedule should be a priority. This is when the commitment part has to kick in and God’s grace will compensate for what you lack in enthusiasm.

    When I’m not in the mood to homeschool, I still go to our study room and prepare the kids’ books anyway. I believe in the principle “motion before emotion.” I have to be faithful even when I don’t feel like teaching my kids, and I ask God to supply the energy, creativity, positivity, and wisdom I need for that day. And he does!

    Of course, I know how to give myself breaks, too. I homeschool on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Tuesdays, my kids have Music, Art, and PE classes. Having one day off makes a big difference! It allows me to meet with ladies I disciple, write, pursue hobbies, or do errands. In the afternoons of most days, the kids get to play and I get to rest because we accomplish the major part of the work in the mornings. This helps, too.

    I also mix up our daily activities so it doesn’t feel so monotonous for me or the kids. Sometimes, I will do art the whole day with the kids and it is such a treat for them and good therapy for me. On some days we just read a lot of Science and History. I keep academic goals in mind but the journey to that point doesn’t have to be a straight line all the time.

    One of my friends shared about how she baked with her daughter and incorporated math. That counts as homeschooling…learning while having fun…both teacher and student!

    Not everyone is comfortable with a relaxed approach, primarily because we tend to compare what our kids are doing at home to what other kids would be doing at a conventional school. This is a mindset we have to weed out of ourselves. It’s so ingrained in us to believe that the educational system has the best methods, teachers, and learning environment for children. So if we can copy what they are doing at school and bring it into our homeschooling, our children will be the better for it. But this isn’t necessarily true!

    There are some pros to conventional schooling but I prefer the pros of homeschooling. Homeschooling gives kids a customized education. This is very difficult to do in school. Homeschooling also allows children to develop and grow without the pressures of standards and labels. They learn in a very natural setting that encourages the love for learning. Gaps are addressed and given attention. Children’s learning styles are accommodated so they absorb and retain content more effectively. And most importantly, character, values, and spiritual growth are a main focus.

    So don’t worry if your homeschooling seems a lot more relaxed than the conventional school setting. For as long as you are accomplishing your goals – character, love for the Lord, physical, emotional, and social development, and equipping your kids with the tools for learning then praise God! You are doing just fine!

    I’m sharing this because if I were to imitate the conventional school system in our home, I would burn out. I would be pulling my hair out! So I don’t pressure myself with thoughts such as, If my kids were at school, they would be doing this and that, and if they aren’t, there is something wrong with my homeschooling or my kids. Whenever I start to compare, I take the joy out of teaching and impose my stress on my kids.

    Every homeschooling parent has to develop a system that works for them and their kids and provides the optimum setting for learning. My kids happen to do just fine with a more laid-back approach to learning and we get all the work done by the end of each year. As Elijah and Edan get older, they sit at a desk more often. But with the younger kids, the floor, bed or couch are more conducive to their learning style so I don’t make a big deal about them sitting on chairs. They can ease into that as they grow up.

    During the morning discussion I had with the moms, we also talked about how homeschooling is a character education not just for our children but for us, too!

    As I teach my kids the Lord teaches me about patience, understanding, sensitivity, discipline, commitment, unconditional love and acceptance, open communication, the importance of modeling the right values and principles, being spirit-filled and the list goes on and on.

    A few hours ago, my second son, Edan, started to act up about writing his memory cards for history. I was tempted to be annoyed and reactive. Instead, I started scratching his back and hugging him. This made him perk up and he was more motivated. Minutes later however, he was distracted again and delaying his work. So I had to talk with him and ask him to work in another room. He felt sad and started to cry but I reminded him gently but firmly that he needs to learn to get his work done before playing. When he realized this, he finished everything I asked him to. I gave him a 15 minute break and then we moved on to another task. It’s 1:30 PM and he can now go down to our neighbor’s house to play and enjoy himself because he got his work done.

    Initially, my carnal self would wanted to get angry because I was experiencing a blocked goal as his educator. But, God often uses situations like this to help me grow as a mom, as a teacher. This is one of the reasons why I know that homeschooling is beneficial even for me. When I don’t feel like teaching, I think to myself, I need to do this for my sake, too.

    It’s okay to feel tired and worn-out when homeschooling. Believe me! Teaching four kids can get exhausting. But how sweet it is to receive the grace of God to keep going, keep smiling, and keep enjoying my children and the many adventures that our homeschooling lifestyle brings our way. The Bible says, “When we are weak, he is strong.” If I am not committed to show up at my “job” when I don’t feel like it, then I miss out on experiencing God’s faithfulness to get through that day. And amazingly, more often than not, these days turn into the best sort of days because they are fueled by his power!

    “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

     

     

     

    Massage War

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    Last night I was totally irritated with my wonderful husband, Edric, for being so nit-picky about his evening massage. He asked me to schedule an 8 PM massage for him (which I did). Unfortunately, by 8:15, the therapist had not arrived yet. I thought fifteen minutes was a bearable inconvenience. But the time stretched to 50 minutes and I knew that it was going to be an issue for Edric…especially since we just got back from Singapore where everybody is on time! The therapist didn’t get to our door until 9:50, at which point Edric was like, “Cancel the massage.”

    This was very uncomfortable for me to do because previously, when I had followed up with them, the company explained that the therapist had gotten stuck in traffic but she was in our area. They also apologized. So I accepted their apology without hesitation. If Edric wanted to go to bed early, I could get the massage in his place. A foot massage sounded awesome anyway.

    But in the bedroom, Edric and I had a discussion about the service of the company and he was insistent that I cancel the massage because of their bad service. I resisted because my perspective was, hey, the person is right at our door. Maybe we can extend grace and hire them anyway. I made all kinds of comments which were unnecessary like, “What would Jesus do? What about being forgiving? What about the times that our organization has poor customer service? How would we want to be treated? Yakkity-yakkity-yak. Edric didn’t want to change his mind. So begrudgingly and with intentional gestures of annoyance, I called out to our househelp to cancel the massage.

    It was a tense evening as Edric lay on his side of the bed and I worked on my computer. He told me he felt hurt that I didn’t make the massage happen and said, “Goodnight, I love you.” Hurt?! Was it my fault now?! I clung to my frustration longer than I should have and that’s how our night ended.

    This morning, when I woke up, I thought about how silly our massage war had been. Sometimes it is these small issues that become the most hideous and divisive. Even though Edric and I don’t yell at each other, we can get really aggravated with one another, mostly due to personality differences. But was it a personality difference that instigated the tension? I realised later on today that there was a greater issue lurking beneath the surface.

    Riding in the car together after a meeting, I was surprised when Edric voluntarily asked, “How can I improve?” He listened to me express to him that it is better to err on the side of grace. God is redemptive in nature, not vindictive. And he has shown us much grace so we ought to be dispensers of the same. He acknowledged that he could have been kinder about his response to the massage company.

    I also asked how I can improve. Edric articulated to me the hurt he felt. He did not think I showed much effort in trying to remedy the situation or offer a solution that prioritized his needs. When he asked for an 8PM massage, he wanted me to make sure it happened. The company sending the massage therapist too late was one thing but the real issue for him was he felt like I did not serve him or take care of him. He was right, too. Yesterday was a very long and tiring day for him. We got home from Singapore in the morning without a good night’s rest. Right after, he had several tapings for his ANC show and then he came home to a house full of guests because I hosted the playgroup. He enjoyed mingling with everyone but he was exhausted earlier than usual. The only request he asked of me was to have a massage at 8 PM because he was anticipating a very hectic Thursday. He wanted to go to bed by 9 PM. Well, instead of trying my best to serve him, I judged him as unforgiving and ungracious, and didn’t come up with a plan B option.

    “You could have said, ‘Hon, the therapist is late, would you like me to call another company but you will have to wait for a bit or maybe I can give you a massage myself?’ and that would have been just fine.” This was the response he wanted to hear from me last night. I started to cry when I realised that I had thought so ill of him. During the Singapore trip, he made it so easy for me with the kids. I hardly had to worry about anything. I felt ashamed for not appreciating him. Edric readily forgave me when I asked for his forgiveness and held my hand to gesticulate that we were okay.

    Edric’s language of love is SERVICE. I am capitalizing that word because it matters so much to him that I am happy and willing to serve him, especially at home. He feels very hurt when I act like he is a burden or an inconvenience. This massage war was a humbling reminder that I can miss out on the privilege of being a blessing to Edric when I judge him and make negative conclusions about his character. God put it in my heart to better internalize the verse, “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life,” in reference to the Proverbs 31 woman. I’ve got a long way to go when I think of this description but I praise God that he continually uses Edric in my life to refine my character!

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    A Father’s Arena

    Between Edric and I, I tend to be the more protective one with the kids. It is probably because I am a mom. Aside from wanting the boys to stay clean and sanitary, which is often impossible, I can be concerned about their physical safety…sometimes to a fault. They are boys after all. I have definitely relaxed over the years and now I notice how younger moms tend to be more obsessive than I am. But compared to Edric, I am still the more cautious one.

    I am especially concerned about them when they are in a swimming pool. First of all, I have my own issues about drowning…my worst fear. Second, I find Edric’s teaching style, as swimming coach to the kids, a little bit unnerving. I mean this in the sense that he will push them to go outside of their comfort zone so they develop water confidence.

    Sunday afternoon while I observed Edric instruct Titus, I was tempted to interrupt their session. Titus was gulping quite a bit of water and tearing as Edric taught him to swim a significant distance without assistance. As I was swimming past them doing my own laps, I reached out to grab Titus. However, Edric motioned for me to go away and to let Titus be. So I trusted him and resisted the urge to protect Titus and cater to his feelings. Sure enough, by the end of their “lesson”, Titus swam across the width of the pool without holding on to anyone.


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    Edric and I agree on the fundamentals and goals of our parenting, which is such a blessing, but we do have masculine and feminine perspectives that impact our approaches. Edric is able to encourage our sons’ masculine traits — bravery, perseverance, toughness, chivalry, and the like in a way that I can’t.

    I remember a comment a soccer coach said about some of the homeschoolers he had to train. Unfortunately, it wasn’t positive. He shared that they seemed to be overprotected. When they felt tired or fell down, they would run to their moms, dads, or yayas who were sitting on the sidelines. He didn’t like this because he was trying to toughen them up and teach them how to resist giving in to discomfort. This made me consider my own cautiousness with my kids.

    There is a place for nurturing, encouragement, and affirmation, but I have to know when it’s overkill and when it is appropriate. I have to consider what the character objective is and whether my interference will help or negate what ought to be accomplished in the hearts of my kids.

    We just came back from Singapore and once again, Edric took over the training aspect for our sons. I was in charge of Tiana and he made sure the boys were disciplined and followed instructions. Whew. I praise God, too. They were very attentive to his leading. I could stroll along as we went from one activity to another. All I had to worry about was our little Tiana.

    Edric used this vacation time to mentor our sons once again. He had them each carry a backpack and asked them to be responsible for their belongings and for one another. And he added teaching moments to instill character traits.

    For example, since he knew that Titus was struggling with confidence in the water, he wanted to demonstrated courage. When we were at the Science Center, Edric volunteered to step inside a chamber which was zapped by electricity from a Tesla Coil. Of course it was safe but to young children, it looked like he was stepping into a dangerous situation. The kids were nervous about him doing it, but at the same time, they were proud of their dad. Afterwards, he talked about what it means to be brave and related it to their own experiences.

    Edric and I share a dynamic as parents that God designed to be complimentary. There are roles we fill in that enable us to raise our kids as a team. I have to make sure I am aligned with what Edric wants the kids to do in a particular situation and avoid contradicting his approach (especially when he is not around which can be confusing for the children.)

    I didn’t know what to do when I felt stressed about Edric’s swim lesson with Titus that Sunday afternoon. I wanted to step in and assert my mom instincts. However I was reminded to trust Edric’s leadership. He loves our kids and will not willfully harm them. And when I am not sure which hat to wear as a mom, I go back to what I do know. In that situation it was about supporting my husband who was trying to accomplish, not just a skill, but a character goal.

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    That same day I watched Elijah and Edan, who used to be afraid of the water, jump around everywhere in the deep pool while playing the game sharks and minnows with Edric. They were swimming with ease. In the near future Titus will probably be doing the same thing…especially if I sit back, relax, let Titus “rise to the occasion” as Edric puts it, and step outside of Edric’s arena so he can better mentor our sons to become men.

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    In the Garbage

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    My younger brother, Paul, told a hilarious story about losing his son’s mouth expander and having to hunt through restaurant garbage to find it. I thought the experience had some wonderful spiritual insights to it that I couldn’t resist writing about.

    Caleb, my 7 year old nephew, has an expander which his dentist customized for him to give more room for his teeth to come in. For many months, Caleb has been very responsible about his retainer. It has been misplaced but it has never been lost for good, which is quite amazing considering that he has to remove it every time he eats.

    During lunch at Brasas in Podium last Sunday, Caleb asked his dad (my brother, Paul) to hold on to his expander while he ate. Paul wrapped it in a tissue and set it aside. It wasn’t until about 4 PM, when my brother’s family was long gone from Podium, that Caleb realized he wasn’t wearing his expander. We had dinner with my parents and Paul requested that the family pray he could find it. The most logical place it would have ended up in was Brasas’ trash. Oh my.

    Paul was determined to find it. He knew how important it was to Caleb that he recover the expander, especially since Caleb had entrusted it to him. So off to Podium Paul went that night. Brasas was packed. (It is a great restaurant. We all love it.) Paul asked Brasas’ management if he could go through their trash. I don’t know what they must have been thinking but they agreed, and my brother wouldn’t have taken no for an answer anyway. It would have been very unappetizing to the restaurant guests if he had sorted through the trash there, so he asked Brasas where they usually took their trash. They told him, “Basement 1.”

    Dragging three large garbage bags from the restaurant into the service elevator, Paul went to basement 1 to look for the garbage room. The security personnel in the elevator curiously eyed him because it was such a bizarre scene. But my brother was a man on a mission. He really didn’t care what anyone thought.

    He found the garbage room, laid out the garbage bags and started sorting through the trash. Logically, he thought of going through the earliest bag that was packed that day since he was one of the first customers. Feeling and squeezing through each discarded tissue he found, he prayed that God would help him.

    As he was going through trash bag # 1, he noticed a man come into the garbage room. The man noticed him, too. He kind of looked my brother up and down like, Who are you? What are you doing here? This is weird!

    Paul struck up a conversation with him to break the awkward silence. “So what do you do?” he asked casually. The guy said, “I’m the garbage man.” (translated)

    “For how long?”

    “Just a month because the other guy left.”

    Paul was still intensely rummaging through the trash, explaining to the guy that he was looking for his son’s teeth expander. The guy was like, “Is there gold on it?” He was serious! He probably thought Paul was too concerned about his hunt to be searching for anything else! I mean what kind of person spends an evening in the garbage room of a mall unless he is hired to do so?!

    The conversation shifted to spiritual matters and Paul talked to the guy about Jesus. He also added, “I believe he (Jesus) will help me find the expander.” And guess what? He did! At the bottom of the first bag, he saw the expander wrapped in the same tissue he had put it in earlier.

    I thought it was a crazy story. As we were discussing it today and laughing in between scenes, my dad said it was a great illustration for the biblical stories of “the lost coin and the lost sheep.”

    In the Bible, Jesus gave three parables to explain the love of God — the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The first two illustrate the relentless pursuit of something that was lost and the rejoicing that follows when that something is found. What is the worth of a single coin or a sheep among many? Are these things really worth the trouble and sacrifice of the search? As my brother narrated his story, I thought, “Would I have gone through all that to find an expander?!”

    Honestly, I would’ve been embarrassed to even ask for the trash bags! And I would not have been able to stomach the ordeal of touching discarded food without gloves on. Paul was persistent in a way that I would not have been. Nothing was going to stop him from accomplishing the goal of finding that expander. His persistence was a great example of how God loves us.

    The Bible uses the coin and sheep stories to convey a truth about who God is. Every lost person matters to the Lord. He looks for us. He seeks us out. He is absolutely committed to pursuing us.

    Did my brother stick the expander back into his son’s mouth after he took it out of the trash? No way. My sister in law, Jenny, did a major disinfection ceremony to clean it thoroughly. Only then was it ready to be put back inside Caleb’s mouth. Similarly, when God finds us, we must be cleansed by him, purified by his Son, Jesus, to fulfill our original design. We have to leave life in the trash — the trash of sin.

    Sometimes we like to stay buried in the “garbage.” Or we don’t even realize what kind of mucky predicament we are in. We are discarded, forgotten, left alone. But God will seek us out to save us and restore us for his greater purpose and plan. He will reach down into the mire to pull us up and out of the lesser life we are so wrapped up in to give us the abundant life he promises.

    My brother was ecstatic when he found what he was looking for. It didn’t matter to him that it was among all the spit, saliva, bacteria, left-over and decomposing food. He was thrilled to be reunited with the lost expander.

    God is the same way toward us. He is a father whose heart is turned toward us. He is for us. He treasures us. He rejoices over us when we are found!

    “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:5-7 NASB)

    Are we enjoying his presence, celebrating new life or still stuck in the garbage?

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    The Sacredness of a Promise

    “I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond, that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.” John Rockefeller

    My dad has said a number of times, “A man of honor, his word is his oath.” Aside from the fact that it is a matter of integrity — a principle my dad espouses because he wants to please God — this is one of his defining traits as a person. He has often encouraged my siblings and I to be the same way. “If you say you will do something, do it.”

    The Bible says, Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 (NLT)

    Yesterday, I was blessed to experience my dad’s dependability again. Earlier in the day, I asked him if I could take a photograph of him with a birthday greeting sign for someone in our church who had requested it. He was busy preparing a message for Sunday Worship, but he said I could. However, he was in casual house clothes and asked if I could wait until he put on a decent shirt. Since I had to accompany my mom to meet with some interior designers, my dad said we could take the photo when we saw each other again in the afternoon. In light of everything he had to do, the photograph really wasn’t major but he knew it was important to me.

    I went off to the meeting with my mom. Half way through it, I received a call from my dad. He explained to me that he could still pass by to meet me but he also needed to go to the church office to finalize his Sunday message. Basically, he was giving me the option to decide. If I really wanted him to meet me, he would, just so I could take his photo. I knew it was more of a priority for him to go the church office so I said, “Dad, go on ahead to the office. I will just talk to your assistant to take the photo.” And sure enough, within 2 hours, the photo was emailed to me. I got a text message from my dad, “Sent the picture already.” I texted him back, “You are the best, Dad. You are so reliable and thoughtful. Love you.” My dad inconvenienced himself to keep his word to me.

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    Whether he makes a big or small commitment, my dad binds himself to it and treats it as sacred. I have always admired him for this, especially since people tend to make statements they never quite follow through with (this includes me!).

    You know, like when you say, “I will be there” but end up flaking out or canceling at the last minute. Or, “I will deliver by such and such date” but expectations are not managed. It’s rare to meet people who consistently stick to an agreed time or even a time-table.

    Let’s call it what it is. A person who does not keep his or her word is a liar. When I tell my kids, I will be home by 3 PM but I am an hour late, I told a lie. When I tell my husband, I will get your request done by today but fail to do so and make excuses when he asks me about it, I am a liar trying to look like a good person.

    I want to grow in this area. I want to copy my dad’s example. His dependability has been a blessing and I want my kids to see the same faithfulness in me. But he has also modeled another trait that I have picked up on – be wise about what you commit to.

    The Bible says to be very careful when you make a vow. If you are not sure that you can keep a promise or follow through with a statement you have made, then manage expectations sooner than later. Or better yet, just keep quiet.

    I remember an incident where my dad asked me to edit a paper for him and I told him I would. After weeks, I had left the paper alone and got busy with other concerns. One day he called me about it thinking that I had already looked through it. I was embarrassed to say that I had not edited it. And he told me, “Next time, if you can’t do it then let me know rather than say you can but won’t get it done.” He wasn’t angry but he was disappointed. For a split second I thought of several excuses to rationalize my failure but instead, I apologized and used that situation as a learning experience. Speak less, do more.

    The principle of keeping one’s word makes me think about God as a father. Imagine what it would be like if God did not keep his promises? What if he lured us with all kinds of enticing statements about his goodness and didn’t live up to the impression he painted of himself? What if we staked our lives on false hopes about forgiveness, salvation, or eternity? Where would we anchor our faith if we could not know with certainty that God’s word is true?

    Thankfully, the Bible tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Sometimes, we aren’t patient enough to wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises. We interpret his ability and commitment to do so by circumstances or by our limited understanding of who he is. Yet, we can be confident that there is no guessing with God. The truth he has presented in his word will never fail. He is the most reliable promise-keeper we will ever know. “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. (1 Kings 8:56 NASB)

    May the Lord make me a Christ-like promise-maker and promise-keeper and not allow me to become a “cultural” promise-maker and promise-keeper!

    Have Belly, Will Travel

    Three years ago, when I was pregnant with Tiana at 30 weeks, I was on a Holy Land tour.  My doctor was hesitant to let me go at first, but she did give me her blessing before I left. By God’s grace, I was able to walk around everywhere without difficulty. In fact, it was great exercise! And the food was healthy — veggies, fruit, yoghurt, flat bread…Of course, the more wonderful aspect of the trip was being with Edric and my family, experiencing the Bible come to life.

    I was going through my old files when I found a digital scrapbook I made of our time in the Holy Land. Thought I would share it here as a reminder that God delights to bless his children. Edric and I never dreamed of going on a trip like this. We thought it was way beyond our budget for travel expenses. But, my parents spontaneously decided to treat all of us siblings who were based in the Philippines. Pregnant or not, I was determined to go! Praise God, I came back in one piece with the baby safe in my womb. 🙂

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    When Fathers Say Sorry

    This evening we were watching the movie, We Bought A Zoo, when Tiana nearly lunged towards the edge of the bed while jumping on Titus’ back. With almost superhuman reflex, Edric bounced out of his chair to come to her rescue. But he did so with a little too much emotion. Smacking his hand on the bed several times and raising his voice, he said, “I told you not to go near the edge of the bed!”

    The three boys had troubled looks on their faces as they tried to take in his response. Tiana had not meant to be so careless. She was playing. But Edric had panicked. And he lost his cool. Afterwards, He ordered all the kids to sit in a row beside me so they wouldn’t be anywhere near the end of the bed. They complied but I could sense that it was out of fear and slight confusion.

    I was surprised by the agitation and drama of his posture. He tried to explain to Tiana why he got upset but by then she had already started to cry. As for me, I felt annoyed that he had been so reactive. First of all, it was unnecessary. He could have just whisked her into his arms and spoken calmly to her. Second, I thought it was a bad example to the kids. He did seem angry and he has taught them not to do things like this.

    At some point I knew he would recognize this and apologize to everyone but I waited for a bit until he had calmed down himself. About ten minutes later, I nudged his leg, which was resting right beside mine. He looked at me and knew what I was attempting to say.

    “Oh you think I should say sorry?” He said this aloud so the kids would hear him. And Edan was quick to use the opening as an opportunity to remark, “I think you got too angry with Tiana.” Edan, of all our kids, is the type of person who expects people to follow rules and principles. It is unsettling for him when people don’t.

    Edric was humble enough to acknowledge his perspective. He asked for forgiveness from Tiana first and then from all of us. And that was it. No one held on to their troubling thoughts. Forgiveness was readily given. Tiana started chatting away like nothing happened and the boys continued watching the movie.

    Perhaps the night could have continued without addressing Edric’s blow up and we would have all justified it in our minds. Upsetting as it was to see him lose his cool, I know he did so because he was concerned that Tiana could’ve gotten hurt. He imagined the possibility of her bumping her head on the floor (a trauma that he hasn’t forgotten since he left Elijah on the bed as an infant and he fell off, but that’s another story.) Like most parents, Edric meant well. However, his method of conveying protective instincts and care were not appropriate. It was still wrong for him to raise his voice and smack his hand on the bed for emphasis. So the kids needed to hear him say sorry. It mattered.

    Everytime a father says sorry it matters. A father’s willingness to admit his wrong and be restored to his children is healing to the heart. It preserves the tenderness of their consciences and keeps them from growing hard.

    I was blessed to have a father who knew how to say sorry for his mistakes and it certainly kept me from developing bitterness or anger. It also kept me from rejecting his teaching.

    I pray Edric will continue to be sensitive in spirit as he leads our family. Our children, especially our sons, look up to him and deeply respect him. And that is not a unique phenomenon to our family. Children have a special admiration for their fathers. If that can be handled with the utmost care, a father will not only have their admiration, he will have their attention, giving him the blessed opportunity to influence them for good. Humility allows him to strengthen that chord of influence.

    We are a bible-believing family. Edric knows he cannot afford to be a hypocrite. He cannot tell our kids to be Christ-like if he doesn’t model it himself. This evening, he knew that the Christ-like thing to do was say sorry. And I praise God that he did.

    Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:21 NASB)

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