Archives for November 2016

Going to S&R is a Fun Field Trip

There’s only one grocery that my boys don’t mind accompanying me to, and that’s S&R. I think it’s the spaciousness they enjoy and the tech section. 

I had to pick up some Bounty Fresh eggs from S&R and a big bag of carrots while waiting for Edric to finish an event in SM Aura. 

It’s always a field trip for my kids to go to S&R which makes it easier for me to enjoy myself, too! They stay entertained and eat along the way. It’s a little tricky with my girls because they want me to buy every cute thing they see and I have to tell them, “You don’t need that.” It becomes a character training experience for them in the area of self-control. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find amazing deals and I took advantage of some. A lot of buy 1 take 1s, and big savings off products that are perfect for the Christmas season or as gifts for loved ones. Here are some of the deals I discovered (didn’t buy them all, of course but I may have to come back for some)…

A sleek and modern expandable dish rack:

A beautiful nativity scene: 

Christmas dinnerware: 

Buy 1 take 1 dresses for the girls. They come out to 200+ each: 

Silverware sets for a full course meal (it’s not easy to find sets for a full course meal that don’t cost a lot): 

Candles that felt like they will last for years! They were so heavy! 

Elijah though this triple-ply cookware set by Denmark was a great deal:

I bought myself a Hamilton steam iron on sale since we needed a new one:

Pretty holiday lanterns by Member’s Selection:

Christmas decor is on a sale! And so is wrapping paper (I love how their rolls are longer than the kind you find in the bookstore so it’s easier to wrap big gifts): 

TVs for the dads:

Lots of good prices for beddings and bathroom towels and mats! I got some queen sheets 800 TC for effectively 1000 pesos each because they were buy 1 take 1:

I think the kids all had fun monkeying around and accompanying me…

Work time for the older boys…

Happy customers, happy children:

Giving Birth and Why the Context Matters

I saw this photo in my files. This was the night I gave birth to Catalina in St. Luke’s Medical Center in BGC. It reminds me of the pain I went through and the joy that came after.

I appreciated that my doctor let me walk around, stretch, even jog a little on the floor where I gave birth so that I could “help” Catalina descend. This was actually my longest labor but God sustained me and I was still able to give birth Lamaze.

It’s so important that you find a doctor who understands your birth preferences but who will also tell you when science must intervene. My doctor, Dr. Regina Capistrano, has always respected my desire to give birth without anesthesia, and she’s allowed me flexibility when I am in labor, but she’s managed my expectations, too. When needed, she applied her expertise as a doctor and prescribed procedures to ensure that my babies and I were healthy.

I praise God that I gave birth Lamaze to all five kids but this isn’t to my credit. I prayed hard when the pain made me feel like I was going to die! God rescued me each time! But I was also thankful that my doctor was present to go through the experience with me and see it through to the end.

Of course, Edric provided emotional and spiritual support which I badly needed. He played music for me, attended to me, and stayed right by my side. And many times, my mom would show up to be there for me and family members and friends would visit shortly after to offer congratulations.

As I reflect back on my pregnancies and births, I have come to realize all the more that birth was meant to be experienced in the context of relationships — a husband and wife, family, people whom you trust. It doesn’t make it any easier to have a baby, but it certainly magnifies the joy!

People often quote the passage that says, “Children are a gift from the Lord,” and I agree with this. At the same time, I also believe that we need to consider the gift we will give to the children born to us. They need a mother, a father, a family, and a community who will love them and raise them up to understand their worth and value…how loved they are by God…that He has a wonderful plan for their lives.

If you come from a broken home and can’t provide this, do not lose heart. God says He is father to the fatherless. You can also find mentors who will come along side your child to meet his or her different needs.

But my appeal is to the single, yet to be married person out there. Seek God’s plan and design for family, for children, which He intended for our joy and our good.

Recently I struggled in my heart with a revelation that someone I know intentionally got pregnant outside of marriage. My heart ached for the realities that she and this child will be up against.

Pregnancy and post pregnancy bring with it a hailstorm of emotions because of hormones. The struggle to parent a child feels much more uphill when you are alone, without a spouse. A boyfriend who acts the part of biological parent does not provide the same security of a father figure. And the truth is, many children born out of wedlock experience abandonment by their biological father and grow up with father wounds.

There are no short cuts to true happiness. Sin is not the route to joy. Maybe there’s the appeal of temporal pleasure and euphoria, but not real joy. Real joy comes when we pursue God’s will, even if it’s hard to wait on His timing for unfulfilled longings and desires. It comes when we obey Him and abide in His love, preferring His statues and His presence in our lives to our own wants and substitutes for Him.

As I write this, I may sound impassioned and my tone may sound like rebuke. But my intention is not to point a finger at the guilty to penalize them with shame. I believe in God’s redemptive grace to all who repent and seek Him. And I have seen God repair people’s mistakes. However, the journey often robs us of peace and the casualties along the way are many.

My real intent is to encourage all of us to renew our thinking. I appreciate how the New Living Testament of the Bible says it so overtly, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2

The Apostle Paul specified this because he knows our vulnerability. We all prefer the route of self-gratification and following our own will, especially when we are immersed in cultures where it seems so corny and irrelevant to practice righteousness. Yet, God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. Children aren’t supposed to be born to unwed women. (Sadly, it’s a growing statistic all around the world.)

Until we stop rationalizing and basing our convictions on the moral trends of the world, we will not prefer God’s will. And the fact remains that God’s will is best for us. It’s true for our children, too. So let’s not do them a disservice by allowing their conception to happen outside the bounds of God’s will, which sets them up for future heartache. They may not have a choice in the matter, but we do. Our choice to practice purity and the pursuit of God’s will is our precious gift to them. 

Homeschool Global is in Cebu!

Homeschool Global (formerly TMA Homeschool) has a hub in Cebu, thanks to homeschooling parents, Jojo and Niña Tiongco. Burdened to provide homeschool services to fellow Cebuanos and those in the Visayas region, they decided to create a space where families can gather, attend seminars and trainings, access books and materials, and have portfolio reviews for homeschooling students. They teamed up with early childhood education consultant and baker extraordinaire, Mae Villarin, as well as Mayor Gungun Gica, his wife, Shai, and Steve and Marge Si. Together, they are committed to supporting homeschoolers and creating a community for them.

My honey, Edric.

With Margie Si

Steve and Marge Si 

Jojo Tiongco

Mae Villarin 

Mayor Gungun Gica

I was amazed at how large the place was, and how homey it felt. There’s a cafe with Mae’s delicious desserts. Kids can hang out in the library area, and play with other homeschoolers.

This hub also carries educational and art materials for parents to purchase.

Parents may utilize the kitchen and reception area for their kids’ reviews, enrichment classes, and cooperative meetings. 

If you are in Cebu and considering homeschooling or you are homeschooling, you may want to visit this hub to connect with other families and receive support services to help you homeschool better!  

For more information on homeschooling in the Visayas see Cebu Daily News

Creative Play Unboxed

I always enjoy new finds that can enhance my kids’ homeschooling experience. Last week, I met Stefanie Lim at a speaking engagement I was at, and she handed me a box called Oli Boxship as a gift for my kids. Stefanie’s the co-founder of Oli’s Boxship, which is a box of craft surprises delivered to your door, for kids ages 4 to 9. 

The idea behind Oli’s Boxship is igniting creative play and educating children about science, language, math, and social studies at the same time. 

The box we received covers the five senses. It came with all the materials we needed and a story book, too!

Everything in the box is neatly packaged by activity. There is also a booklet of instructions to guide kids.

My kids haven’t done the projects yet but they are excited to! So I am planning to use the box as a reward at the end of our homeschooling week.

I also checked out Oli Boxship’s subscription options and I have attached them below: 

For more information, you may also contact:

About Beauty Regimens and True Beauty

Someone asked me what my beauty regimen is and I didn’t know what to say. When I told Edric and the kids about the question, they busted out laughing like it was hilarious to assume that I had one. They know me to be a fuss-free person and wondered, “Why would anyone want to know her beauty regimen?! What beauty regimen?!”

Well, their jesting was partly reasonable. I cut my own hair. I don’t wear make-up often. 

If I do wear make up, it’s minimal, like when I speak or have engagements that require me to look credible and put together. 

However, this doesn’t mean I am not vain. I actually struggle with vanity, mostly in the area of being body conscious. When I sink into insecurity about my mom-bod, it can lead to depressive and anti-social behavior. And when I say “mom-bod”, I mean the changes that gravity and child-bearing have inflicted upon my once-upon-a-time athletic build. 

As a soccer player in college, I had a concave abdomen. That thing was beyond flat. My rib cage stuck out above my belly because I had no belly. Today it leans towards the convex, so I have to work doubly hard to keep the fat from collecting around my mid-section (where my body very efficiently stores fat). 

Plus, I constantly have to care for my facial skin. I am prone to breakouts because my skin is sensitive and oily (two horrid combinations which I pray my kids don’t acquire from me). So far they seem to have Edric’s genetics when it comes to their skin, so praise God! 

Between exercising and facial care, I have a semblance of a “regimen” that I can share to benefit anyone out there who resonates with my personal approach and philosophy to beauty. But for me, beauty goes way beyond the physical and I will get to that part in a bit. 

Let’s take it one body part and element at a time…

Face – During one of the shoots I was in, I asked the make up artist what her best make up tip was and she said, “Women should take care of their skin.”

My good friend, Raissa, a beautiful dermatologist with impeccable skin, harps about sunblock all the time. Her constant teaching on shielding skin against the aging effects of the sun have finally sank in. My sunblock of choice is Cetaphil — the adults and kids’ version. Their sunblock doesn’t make me breakout like some other ones do. Cetaphil has 50 SPF, so I don’t have to reapply it multiple times in a day. It’s good for the most punishing hours of sunlight. 

(Every time I mention Cetaphil it may sound like I am hugely biased because our family is their brand endorser. However, we also agreed to be brand ambassadors because we believe in Cetaphil products.) All of us need to find a sunblock that works for our skin type and does the job. The point is we all need to wear sunblock. 

Cleanser – I use Cetaphil’s Oily Skin Wash. It’s gentle enough to prevent drying even when used frequently, but it cleans well. 

Toner – At present, I am pleased with Neutrogena’s Alcohol Free Toner. It works for me. And it is reasonable! 

Moisturizer – Since my skin tends to get oily, I actually don’t need moisturizer during the day, especially if I put on sunblock. If I put moisturizer and sunblock I will look like I greased my face with oil! 

Before I go to bed, I use Human Heart Nature’s Sunflower Oil and Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream. The next day, my skin feels baby soft. I also use Bee Venom from New Zealand for the skin around my eyes and lips.

Once in a while, I visit my dermatologist, Dr. Raissa Pasion, at the Spa. I really ought to go more frequently but the distance from my house is prohibitive. It’s like a field trip to go all the way to BGC from where I live. 

Hair – I have two brands that I use — Pure Beauté’s Shampoo and Conditioner courtesy of my friend, Jean Javier, who created these products as a home-based business. It’s coconut oil-based with no harmful ingredients. I also use Moringa-O2 Malunggay Herbal Shampoo with Argan Oil. 

(Photo courtesy of @simplemama)

My hair is pretty manageable because it’s fine and thin, and just lays straight. I wish I had voluminous, wavy hair that was gorgeously out of control, but I have learned to appreciate the limp hair God gave me. (This is also why I can cut my own hair. There isn’t much to cut!) 

Since my hair isn’t thick, I don’t even use a blow dryer. I don’t own one, but I probably should buy one soon (and a curling iron). 

Teeth –  Thanks to a friend of mine, Anna Escaro, who introduced me to Crest Whitening Strips, I began using them. These strips are amazing! I order them from Amazon. They effectively remove 14 years of stains!

Make-up – When I do wear make up, the most important aspects of enhancing my face are concealer around the eyes, t-zone and lips, and then mascara, lip balm/tint, and some eye brow shaping. If I don’t use mascara, I just curl my eyelashes. That’s all I really like to do with my face unless I have to be dressed up, which isn’t too often. 

Occasionally, I will wear lipstick. But I prefer tints or balms. My preferences are Lollitint by Benefit, Burts Bees or Human Heart Nature lipbalms.

Clothes – Know what color palette looks best on you. If you and I can master the art of being discerning about the colors and shades we wear, we won’t have to wear much make-up. The right colors make the skin and eyes come alive. The wrong colors make us look haggard and tired. 

Years ago I discovered that I am an autumn during a seminar called, Color Me Beautiful. The autumn spectrum of colors look best on me. Think sunset colors. I can also wear spring colors from time to time. But I have to stay away from winter and summer colors. These are too “cool” for my skin tone and eyes.  

Since I am an autumn, I can’t wear pure white and black either. If I do wear black and white, which are essential to any wardrobe, I have to add gold and other accessories to warm up my look. Some people look stunning in black or stark whites. I don’t. I have to cheat with make-up and accessories. 

Besides color, the fit of clothing obviously matters. I used to be able to wear body-hugging knit fabrics that clung to my midsection because I didn’t have fat there. Having humbly recognized that babies and age changed this, I have to creatively hide that part of me. 

My clothing style is, wear what compliments your body type. And dress in a way that celebrates your personality and form, but still honors God. Don’t get so caught up in trends which make you spend money often and outdate your wardrobe quickly when the fashion season changes. I also ask Edric what kinds of clothes he likes me to wear. He often responds, “Dresses. I like it when you wear dresses.” So dresses it is, as often as possible.

I included the part where we need to honor God with our fashion, because it’s very tempting to be enslaved by what fashion dictates. When I put clothes on, I stand in front of the mirror and ask myself, “What will I communicate to people when they see me wearing this?” If I can’t honestly say that God will be glorified then I have to go back to my closet and change. 

Wellness – A strong, healthy body, and sound mind are also part of my beauty philosophy. When I don’t exercise, I tend to feel less confident and less attractive. When I do exercise, I am more energized. I feel better about myself, too. 

Although I wish I had rock hard abs and that every muscle in my body was tight, I don’t have the time to dedicate hours of exercise in order to achieve that sort of physique. However there’s no excuse for living a sedentary lifestyle either. 

As women, we ought to push ourselves to exercise and be fit. We don’t have to be triathletes, but we can work towards being toned and maintaining a weight that is optimum for our age. 

When I turned 35, my metabolism slowed down, I got the gift of cellulite, and I had to fight hard to keep my stomach flat. Now it’s doubly challenging to replace the fat on my belly with muscle. I have to eliminate sugary foods and too many carbs. Sugar and wheat are two of the foods that cause me to gain weight faster than I can burn these. Since I discovered that my body reacts to wheat, I have tried to avoid it. Although I don’t have wheat allergies, I have symptoms of intolerance like bloating and gas (not attractive). 

My mornings almost always begin with a heavy shake mixed with Unicity’s Chlorophyll Powder.

 Afterwards, I take Skinny Mint’s tea. I also mix in Manuka Honey into my tea to sweeten it or I take a teaspoonful afterwards. I don’t believe in skipping breakfast which is very bad for a person’s metabolism. 

What I do avoid is useless snacking in between meals, and I minimize the intake of carbs from  white rice, bread and pasta, especially at night. 

Dinner for our family is early, too. By 5:30 or 6 PM we have our dinner together (7 PM is late and we are starving by then!) Edric adjusted his work schedule so he is in the office by 7 am and then he’s done by 4 or 4:30 pm so he gets home by 5:30 for dinner.

An early dinner allows me to go to bed early, which is a beauty secret, too. As much as possible, I am in bed by 9:30 (unless we have dinners out, events, or bible studies). Sleep keeps me healthy and looking like the better version of myself. When I don’t get ample sleep, my skin suffers and so does my health. As a homeschooling mom, it’s problematic when I get sick because I can’t teach my kids. So I value a good night’s sleep. 

Water is an essential part of my daily beauty regimen as well. I have to hydrate often or my skin looks sad, and I tend to feel tired. At home I have a super sized glass that I carry around to make sure I drink a lot of water. 

On the one hand, beauty is about how we care for our physical selves. After all, the Bible tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19‬) So it does matter that we treat our bodies as honorable vessels. But the most important aspect of beauty comes from within. It’s a state of contentedness, peace, and joy. It’s also about our outlook on life. 

The most beautiful women I know, my mom being one of them, radiate contentedness, peace, and joy from their relationship with Christ. They have a glow. It’s true beauty that doesn’t fade with age. 

1 Peter 2:3-5 says: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.” 1 Peter‬ ‭3:3-5‬ ‭

It’s interesting that Moses’ faced glowed when he came down from Mt. Sinai after 40 days of one-on-one time with God. Can you imagine a holy facial? That’s what happens when our beauty regimen includes intimate moments with God to be renewed and refreshed in His presence. 

Whenever I receive compliments about my looks, I try to respond with, “Praise God, that’s His grace.” I have instructed my daughter, Tiana, to do the same and she very cutely says, “By God’s grace,” when people tell her she’s pretty. It’s essential for her to understand, just as it is for me and eventually her little sister, Catalina, that we must cultivate the kind of beauty that reflects who God is. 

Even though it is so tempting to, we shouldn’t have a self-serving kind of beauty that hungers for attention and affirmation from others to build up our self-worth. With the uncountable number of gorgeous women who populate this world with their perfect faces and bodies, we will continually fall short and feel inferior when our constant aspiration is to be beautiful only on the outside. Instead, the starting point of true beauty is discovering how much God loves us. It is finding our completeness in Him and meditating on the worth He ascribes to us, as demonstrated by the death Christ suffered on our behalf. When we were ugly and wretched because of sin, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, so we can be renewed on the inside and display His glory on the outside. 

When I wrestle with feelings of insecurity about the way I look, I go back to God’s love for me. This keeps me from comparing myself to others, envying what I do not have, or striving to be more than I have been created to be. I can elect to be content and grateful for the features and the body that God gave me. He considers me precious to Him, therefore why should I diminish my value by burdening myself with chasing after elusive standards of beauty? 

The reality is my face and form will deteriorate with time. Even if I botoxed, lasered, and enhanced myself multiple times to fight aging, everything physical is destined for decay as 2 Corinthians 4:16 truthfully declares. What I can do instead is preserve my inner person, which the passage goes on to reveal, “is being renewed day by day.” This is the kind of beauty that matters to God, to the One who loves me — the continual transformation of my heart to reflect who He is and what He has done for me. I hope that if people ever call me beautiful, they would see Christ in me…His grace.

Lastly, my beauty philosophy includes seeing the world with spiritual lenses and not with physical eyes. I am prone to worry and feel stressed by difficult circumstances and difficult people. Worry and stress are like shortcuts that put us on the road to ugliness. 

However, when I process what disturbs me from a spiritual perspective, God often leads me to conclude that I can rest in Him. This usually happens when I surrender my troubles to Him in prayer. He alleviates the fear and remedies the unsettledness with His calm, assuring me that He is present and in control. But I have to do what is within my control, too, namely, to trust in Him, obey Him, and pray to Him. 

Sometimes trusting and obeying Him entails forgiving those who have wronged me. (That’s a very important beauty tip!) Sometimes it means I must think less of myself and more of others. At other times it involves forsaking a habit that is harmful to me and others even if it is pleasurable. Or maybe it’s about ministering to people around me like Edric, my kids, and those whom the Lord has called me to serve even when the inspiration isn’t there. 

Whatever it may be, I know that a joyful life is one that revolves around God’s will and priorities. There is no lasting joy when I live only for myself. 

A person who is joyful is a delight to behold. 

I once asked my son, Edan, “What makes a woman beautiful?” 

The question came after I commented on the poster of a very pretty model whom he described as “not pretty.” When I requested that he clarify why he didn’t agree with me, he answered with conviction, “A pretty person is someone who is happy…someone who smiles. She’s not smiling.” (The model was captured looking flawlessly vogue to me but sans a smile, Edan didn’t think she ought to be labeled as pretty.) 

How insightful of him to understand that beauty is a quality that emanates from inside a woman. The truth is, a beautiful woman, someone really, truly, astonishingly beautiful reflects the contentment, peace, and joy she possesses inside. And this enables her to smile at the future and bless those around her. (Proverbs 31) 

I began with the superficial aspects of my beauty regimen because there’s nothing wrong with trying to look our best at whatever season we are in as women. In fact, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit like I shared earlier. Yet, I wanted to conclude with a greater emphasis on true beauty, which is of eternal worth. Let’s not settle for worldly definitions of beauty that so often discourage, pressure, and cause us to focus on our outer selves when our physical forms are temporal. Instead, let us cultivate the inward person, the timeless quality of Christlikeness which manifests itself in a face that smiles in a way that is so contagiously beautiful, it makes the world smile, too! 

Homemade Ornaments 

Pinterest has such great ideas for DIY stuff, that sometimes I just have to try some of them! 

We just made our own salt dough ornaments. 


  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water 

Supplies: rolling pin, wax paper, barbecue stick, letter stamps, string (twine looks better)


Mix and then knead dough 

Roll out, cut and design. 

Bake on low heat for 1 hour. 

String ornaments and hang them up! 

I got my twine at Kamuning last year. And I bought my letter stamps in Quiapo. However, I have seen similar stamps in bookstores. 

I am going to try this with air dry clay which is smoother and doesn’t require baking. Amazon sells them by the pound. 

Happy crafting! 

Communication in Marriage 

For about an hour a few afternoons ago, Edric listened to my rants, stories, and insights, all of which were pretty much unrelated to one another and totally random. He gave his input when he felt it was appropriate. But for the most part he just lay there with his elbow supporting his head, facing me to give me his full attention. Then he asked, “So this is what you like, right? Me, here, just listening like this?” 

But of course! 

He smiled knowingly, his dimpled cheek still a charming sight to me after all these years. I missed his company as we blazed through a hectic October. We were together a lot but busy working or serving others in some capacity. So this time with Edric was precious to me.

Although I have many women friends, Edric fills the need in me for a best friend and confidant. It’s been such a blessing to be married to someone whom I feel like I share complete honesty with. It helps that we cultivated this sort of relational climate even before we got married. As a result good communication has saved us countless times from drifting apart. 

A young lady who is currently in a relationship with a guy whom she believes she may marry asked if it is normal that he isn’t that communicative. 

I replied, “Marriage is so much about communication, so if this guy is serious about you and vice versa, communication matters. If he doesn’t answer personal questions, if he seems evasive or disinterested in discussions beyond the superficial level, then I would pray for him to change or reconsider whether he is worth committing to.”

If a guy doesn’t know how to listen or open up and share what’s on his heart when he is in the courtship stage, that ought to be a red flag. Communication doesn’t get easier in marriage. You tend to relate to one another the way you did when you were getting to know each other. But if your starting point is honesty and openness before marriage then that carries over into marriage and by God’s grace, blossoms into something even better. 

It still takes effort for Edric and I to connect with one another. There’s the constant challenge of busyness which makes moments for stillness and listening elusive. And sometimes the hurts and disappointments trigger the instinct to avoid vulnerability. However, communication is so elemental to a healthy marriage that we prize and pursue it at all costs. 

The reality is that when a husband and wife stop being authentic, masking their thoughts and feelings to avoid hurt or rejection; when they cease trying to understand one other’s fears, burdens, dreams, and joys; when they quit listening, pridefully unwilling to change or improve when their spouse requests them to; and if they fail to seek out the time to encourage connectedness, then the marriage moves in to the “danger” zone. The danger zone looks something like this: a husband and wife who live in the same house but are emotionally detached from one another. They have separate priorities. Intimacy is absent. And they preoccupy themselves with hobbies and activities, looking outside of the marriage to fill their needs and longings. It goes without saying that this is the perfect precursor to an affair. 

How do we avoid getting to this point in our marriage? Ideally, both a husband and wife ought to be committed to good communication. However we can’t impose this on our spouse. So we have focus on what’s in our sphere of control. Healthy communication in marriage will have to begin with us. What can we do to become good communicators? 

Be attentive. An attentive wife looks at the details — expressions, gestures, and the body language of her husband to discern his emotional temperature. Does he need someone to reach out to him, to ask how he is doing, or to offer to pray for him? Of course the most obvious way to be attentive is to put the gadgets away when you are together. 

Edric doesn’t appreciate it when I am on my phone when he is in the car with me. There are times when we have work to settle as we plow through the traffic, but as much as possible, he wants me to be present and ATTENTIVE to him while we are in the car. This means putting my phone away. 

Take initiative. When Edric gets home, I automatically ask him, “What was the highlight of your day?” As much as I would like for him to ask me how I am doing, I go ahead and make the first move to let him know that I am interested in what his day was like. He likes this and eventually, reciprocates with a “how are you” question to me. At times, I also ask, “Are you okay? Is anything troubling you?” when he isn’t himself. If he isn’t able to answer immediately, he files that question for a later moment when we can talk about what’s on his mind. 

Apply positive silence when necessary. This is different than the silent treatment. For example, when Edric isn’t in the mood to divulge his feelings, I have to resist the urge to interrogate him. This means waiting patiently, silently. When he articulates an opinion or perspective that upsets me, I also need to temper my instinct to contradict or challenge him. This is soooo difficult, it almost makes me sick inside to restrain myself. But it works! The silent treatment is unlike positive silence because the former is a selfish way to punish a husband, while the latter is an unselfish way to invite a husband to express himself freely. 

Do mirroring. One of the helpful tips I learned from my mom when it comes to communication is to reflect back what the other person is saying. When Edric uncovers his feelings, the most unproductive thing I can do is make statements that reject them. This is a sure-fire way to cut off communication with him. But when I echo his feelings by agreeing with him, “Yes, I can see how that must have upset you.” Or, “I would be hurt, too.” Or, “You are right, it doesn’t seem fair.” Or, “I understand why you are struggling.” Note that this isn’t necessarily saying yes to his opinion or perspective. However, it is about validating his feelings in a manner that encourages him to be vulnerable and honest.

Inject humor. When there is tension between Edric and me, I have learned from his example of inject humor. If a topic is hard to talk about, a joke or two can cut through the heaviness and put us both at ease. And flirting as a form of humor works wonders, too! 

Ask the right kinds of questions. Some people are natural conversationalists. They know how to disarm and charm people to get a conversation started. Others only know how to talk without engaging the person they are with, or they are too quite and say nothing. 

Edric has interviewed over a thousand guests for his show, On the Money. (At present he’s taken a leave from the show.) Through the years he’s picked up valuable tips about asking questions. If guests are nervous and uneasy, he alleviates their stress by asking questions about something personal he has researched about them, something he knows they will feel comfortable talking about. Then he can go to the more technical questions. But first he convinces them by his line of questioning that he’s interested in what is important to them. 

This similar approach can be applied in marriage. When I ask Edric questions about his interests and passions, it opens the door of opportunity to ask other questions. It puts him in a “talking mood.”

Use the power of body language. There’s the listening-with your-ears kind of listening and then there’s the listening-with-your-body kind of listening. I can be hearing what Edric’s saying but multi-tasking at the same time. Or, I can lean in his direction, look intently into his eyes, and smile while he is talking. Of course he prefers the latter version, and will more likely enjoy having a conversation with me when even my body language says to him, “You are important and I am so glad to share this moment with you.” 

Be sweet. This is primarily about tone. Edric told me the other day, “When you call me in the office, I usually have you on speaker phone and a lot of times you don’t sound sweet.” Oops!!! Since then I have been more conscious about my tone with him. I have to admit that when I am in my pragmatic mode, being sweet isn’t really top of mind for me. But I want to improve because tone matters…not just the verbal tone but even the written tone. 

Today, Edric kept using the word “baby” in all his responses to my text messages. I finally said, “Wow, you’ve used ‘baby’ a lot today. I like it.” His reply was, “Yeah, baby!” This simple exchange put happy thoughts in my head about him. When he got home, I was eager to spend time with him because he had already “set the tone.” 

Avoid judgmental statements. Edric and I were trained through seminars to reject saying words like “always and never” in an accusatory manner to your spouse. For example, it won’t benefit my relationship to blurt out a statement like, “You are always too busy to talk.” But I have used statements like, “I really miss you,” or “I feel like we haven’t had quality time together,” which have produced desirable results in terms of getting Edric to actually abandon what he is doing to sit down and have a conversation with me. 

Lastly, cultivate a friendship. As I was finishing this post, I asked Edric what he thought was an essential factor in good communication. He suggested that building a friendship with one’s spouse helps a lot. He reminded me that we had a friendship before we got married that made communication come more naturally for us. 

I still have to build a friendship with Edric even if we had one as a starting point. This means continually looking out for hobbies or activities that we can participate in together. For example, Edric and I do a lot of ministry work together. Because we have this in common, it’s very natural for us to slide into conversations about spiritual realities. Although we have some interests that we pursue apart from one another (i.e. my writing, crafting), our friendship grows more when we share hobbies or activities. The point is we try not to live separate lives that will polarize us or cause us to have conflicting priorities.

Most importantly, (I woke up early this morning realizing that I needed to add this), our personal faith unifies us. Since we both believe in Jesus Christ, it’s easier to come to a consensus and to resolutions when our conversations turn into conflicts. Our views on fundamental principles, like why we should forgive or why we should remain committed to our marriage, are the same because we are one in Spirit. We refer to a common standard to govern our choices. This is what binds us together. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Every marriage starts off with the hope and expectation that good communication will be an integral part of it. However the unfortunate reality is, it takes so much work to engage one another in marriage and connect with each other that it’s simply not going to happen automatically unless our effort index is high. So let’s get to it! There are many more great conversations to enjoy in our marriages yet. Let’s find the time to have them! 

A beautiful thing happens when we start paying attention to each other. It is by participating more in your relationship that you breathe life into it. Steve Maraboli (Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience)

Amorita is a Place of BIG Love

We arrived on the island of Bohol on Thursday morning, eager to spend the weekend at Amorita Resort on Panglao Island. After a hectic October, this vacation proved to be the R&R our family needed to reconnect with one another and benefit from the quiet away from our busy lives in Manila. 
For our family of seven, stress-free vacations don’t come very often. We haven’t quite left the stage of parenting little children, so I am normally on edge and preoccupied with organizing all the kids. However, Amorita Resort cared for our family on such a personal level from the moment we arrived, that I felt the liberty to exhale and actually enjoy myself. 

Now I understand why they got 2016 Traveller’s Choice by Trip Advisor!

From the warm, and attentive personnel, to the thoughtful and organically designed sprawling outdoor and luxurious indoor spaces, Amorita Resort charmed us all over. 

We were escorted to our two-bedroom suite by Winston, who oriented us on the features of the rooms. The suite was delightfully modern without compromising inviting or cozy. 

On the dining room table sat a note from the manager welcoming our family. 

Every night we received personal notes from Noel, the manager, whom we noticed paid careful attention to each resort guest. On the first day we arrived, he chatted with every visitor during lunch. 

Even the housekeepers wrote us a note after they made up the rooms and sculpted animals with towels for the benefit of our kids, who were pleasantly surprised by the swans, elephants, and dogs they saw on our beds. 

Amorita is also very private which our family valued very much. I wasn’t worried when our kids were left swimming in the pool or when they roamed around the resort. Our suite was easily accessible from the ground floor and the amenities were situated near enough to it so that the kids felt very confident finding their own way around. 

The beach area is shared with other resorts and open to the public but it still felt rather secluded since there weren’t too many people wandering to the end of the beach where Amorita is situated. Most of the visitors to the beach at this time of the year are foreigners, too, who tend to keep to themselves so you don’t feel bothered at all. 

We left our three boys playing on the beach without us around at one point because Edric and I had to attend to the girls. But we asked the security personnel to keep an eye out for them while they lingered for thirty minutes longer and eventually made their way back to us. They were perfectly fine.

The kids spent most of their days at the beach or swimming in the pool. When they weren’t in the water, they kept themselves entertained. With the exception of Catalina, who needed a little more supervision, no one really required my help too much. I was in bed by 7PM, unwinding in front of the television, something I don’t really get to do, or taking my time in the spacious master’s bathroom (which was larger than most hotel rooms)! 

We ate the majority of our meals at Saffron Restaurant. I especially liked the drama of the high, cantilevered ceiling. 

Saffron is part of a building that also houses the tapas bar and function room which both have a spectacular view of the water. 

The resort also arranged for our tours. We rented a driver and van for our family visit to see the Tarsier, Lomboc River Ride, Chocolate Hills and the Bee Farm. 

Our only disappointment was that the dolphins were a no-show during the morning when we took a bangka out to see them, but that was a minor thing. According to the boat man it’s uncommon for the dolphins not to exhibit themselves.

At present, the older side of the resort, where the original reception area used to be is under renovation and will be ready to receive guests by January. Some of the villas are targeted to be done by December. 

In the meantime, the new wing is fully operational and available to guests, as well as the spa, gym, pool, diving facilities, lounge areas, restaurants and function room(s). 

Amorita Resort’s exceptional quality is its ability to make guests feel special and important. From courteous and accommodating staff, a very hands-on General Manager who reaches out to guests and mingles with them, to thoughtful details like bamboo speakers for your phone, touch lamps, Buri bags and slippers to take to the beach, milk & cookies for the kids at night or sweet desserts to end the evening, Amorita is a “little darling” of a place that gives BIG LOVE to its visitors. We left it with our hearts full, and we are already nostalgic! 

Math and Mommy Meltdowns

I can’t remember a time when I’ve cried in front of my children because I was so frustrated with homeschooling. But I suppose there is a first time for everything.

Two weekends ago, I attended the Philippine Homeschool Conference. The Monday after, I was full of hopeful expectation. After listening to inspiring talks and workshop speakers, I eagerly began the week thinking that all would go well. Furthermore, our family housed one of the speakers – a pastor who told endless stories about parenting and homeschooling his 10 kids. (Yes, 10.) His wonderful recollections about their farm life and the Christ-centered culture of their family fueled me with aspirations about the kind of homeschooling experience Edric and I ought to have with our kids.

However, on Monday my kids woke up de-motivated, disinterested, and difficult to teach. The older boys whined about the amount of work they had to get done. Tiana struggled with comprehension issues as we did her Singapore math.

I know the bonds thing can be difficult to understand in Singapore Math (like when you separate 10s from 1s when you are subtracting), but I thought for sure Tiana would have at least remembered what “ + “ and “ – “ mean. We had been doing addition and subtraction for a while so it surprised me when I asked her simple questions like, “So what’s 7 – 2?” and she answered with uncertainty, guessing her way to the right solution.

This went on for a few more math problems. And she kept confusing addition and subtraction and couldn’t add past 10. Then she forgot what the = sign stood for, too. My thought bubble was, You’re kidding me. This isn’t happening! Arghhh!!!

My other kids heard the stress in my voice as I interrogated Tiana several times. “Why can’t you get it? You know this already. This is not complicated.”

I wanted to scream but of course I couldn’t do that. During the conference I gave a seminar along side my mom about laying the right foundation for homeschooling and I encouraged parents not to yell at their kids…primarily because it renders us ineffective at teaching them to love God due to hypocrisy. So the frustration emerged via my tears. Burying my face in my arms and laying my head on the table, I busted out crying.

The room turned quiet. Seeing me cry while teaching was peculiar for my kids to witness. There was a moment when no one knew how to respond. Everyone paused what they were doing until I lifted my head, tears running down my cheeks and declared, “I’m a horrible teacher! I don’t know what to do! I can’t teach well. Tiana just can’t get it and I don’t understand why…” Part of me mouthed this out just to get my children’s sympathy and attention. This isn’t a tactic I recommend to homeschooling parents because it can be manipulative.

Poor Tiana looked on, no doubt embarrassed that I singled her out like this in front of her siblings, and shocked that her math book brought me to tears. My boys felt anxious and attempted to comfort me.

Elijah patted my back with one arm, and stretched out the other arm like a shield to ward off Catalina who was fast approaching me. “No, don’t disturb, mommy, Catalina.” He motioned to give me space.

Edan whispered, “I’ll help teach her, mom,” and he began to fold white paper to make flashcards for her. (What a sweetie!)

How could I react this way to such tender-hearted children? I love my kids. I love them even if they don’t “perform” academically. But I certainly didn’t make Tiana feel that way. And I’m sure the boys were burdened with guilt for complaining about their homeschool work that morning.

It didn’t make sense to continue math lessons with Tiana, especially on the topic of addition and subtraction using bonds, so I asked her to take a break. (Later on, I had to talk with her and apologized for hurting her feelings.) We all dismissed for lunch not too long after and I had time to process what triggered my meltdown.  

Maybe you can relate…

1. My expectations were high having come from the Philippine Homeschool Conference over the weekend. I wanted my kids to behave like perfect students – good attitudes, energized, and eager to listen to me and to learn. When they fell short of this expectation, I felt resentful.

2. I was relying on myself. I didn’t pause to pray or seek help from the Lord when the frustration built up. Had I translated circumstances from a spiritual perspective, I would have concluded that this was an opportunity to beseech the Lord and humble myself.

3. Tiana was being pressured to do math work that she wasn’t ready for. Even if it was required of her level, she simply hadn’t had enough concrete reinforcement for learning addition and subtraction, and she hadn’t had enough practice. Instead of insisting that she remember and “get it,” I should have said, “It’s okay, let’s do some reviewing first and then we will return to this lesson.”

Well, the next day, that’s exactly what I did. I set Tiana’s required math book aside. Eventually I intended to come back to it, but we needed to take a few steps back to give her more time to get comfortable with counting (backwards and forwards), and easy addition and subtraction.

Amazingly, she breezed through the work I gave her to do without needing much supervision from me. After a few days of remedial lessons she no longer confused her addition and subtraction symbols and she very ably solved her math problems.

Ironically, I advise parents to do the same thing when I give seminars on homeschooling. Don’t ignore the gaps in your child’s learning. Mind these gaps and backtrack if necessary. However, I wasn’t willing to take this advice myself! I wanted Tiana to be like her brothers, who easily understood arithmetic at her age. But God designed her differently. It’s me who has to adjust and accommodate her uniqueness, and to appreciate the pace at which she is learning concepts and skills.

Although we normally perceive U-turns and backtracking as inconvenient interruptions on the way to our academic goals, sometimes our kids need to go backwards in order to move forward. When our kids feel lost and insecure about tackling a lesson because they don’t have foundational skills or a solid grasp of the content to go further, then it’s our job to equip them by patiently addressing their gaps so they can progress towards where they ought to be. It’s a deterrent to their progress to force them to learn what they are not prepared to. And it drives us nuts to do so anyway!

To deal with the issue of my other kids who were complaining that Monday, I finally printed out their revised weekly schedules so they know exactly what to expect each day of the week. I’ve thought through the mix of activities and lessons they have to cover as well, so there is a good mix of rigor and fun.

How about me? What can I improve on as a homeschooling mom? I can think of 10 things! But I will focus on the one issue that is related to my Monday experience. I shouldn’t get my sense of identity or self-worth from homeschooling. Even though I’m so invested as a mom, putting in the time and making sacrifices to teach my kids, I shouldn’t let the outcome of each homeschooling day dictate my joy and peace. There will be good days and bad days. Therefore, joy and peace ought to flow from my relationship with God, resulting in my ability to channel these to my children so I can bless them and minister to them. Then I can teach them the way I ought to even when the circumstances aren’t favorable.

More importantly, my job is not to churn out trophy kids as a tribute to myself. My job is to teach them what it means to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to model this everyday. It is to train them and prepare their hearts and minds to serve God and His purposes.

In light of these aims, what is one Monday when my daughter can’t understand her Singapore Math or my kids groan over their books? Rather than shedding dramatic tears to express my frustration because my children aren’t doing what I want them to, these instances provide me with an opportunity to ask God to show up and take over. If I let Him take over me and take over my kids then He accomplishes His agenda for that day, and it becomes a good day!

Over the past week and a half, I haven’t seen exceptional homeschool days. It’s still hard work to homeschool five kids. But God has saved me from math meltdown situations because I’ve changed my perspective. There may be homeschooling obstacles too big for me, but certainly not for Him! Let’s rest in that thought, moms!