Archives for March 2017

A Simple Family Habit That Can Make a Big Difference

Growing up, it was part of my family’s culture to ask, “How can I improve?” to one another. My parents encouraged open communication and honesty. To this day, family get-togethers include a time of accountability and sharing, where we can talk about our marriages, our parenting, our struggles and triumphs. As a result, my parents, my siblings and I, as well as our spouses and kids remain close to one another. We are each other’s confidants and friends. It may not always be easy to swallow each other’s correction and suggestions on how to improve, but we know that words are exchanged and offered in love and with the best intentions. 

I am so glad that Edric has embraced this same culture in our home. In fact, he is a good example to me of humility (something I continually need to improve on). When he messes up and makes mistakes as a husband or father, he will ask for forgiveness and repair whatever relational damage was inflicted by his wrongs. 

Lately, his schedule has been packed with meetings and activities. The busy-ness and stress have made him more susceptible to impatience. He has changed so much in this area that these moments of losing his cool have become infrequent. However, a few days ago, during a conversation with Elijah, our oldest son, Edric cut him off and didn’t let him explain himself. They were having a discussion over semantics. Elijah tried to make his point and give his rebuttal, but Edric told him to stop talking. This silenced Elijah who quietly conceded to Edric’s point in the discussion. 

Some days after I invited Elijah to an afternoon run. As we jogged over and around the hilly roads of our community, I thought to ask him, “How can I improve?” 

Elijah welcomes these invitations to speak about what’s on his heart. Since he is fourteen, he’s also very vocal. He told me I needed to be more consistent about schedules. True, true, true. Our recent travels threw off our routines which Elijah didn’t appreciate. (He likes predictability.)
After apologizing to Elijah, he opened up to me about how he felt his dad (Edric) could improve. I hadn’t asked him this, but he volunteered this information anyway. 

“Dad needs to listen to me more. I feel like I can’t always express myself, like he cuts me off.” 

I knew this statement was in reference to their recent conversation which left Elijah feeling hurt and impotent. As I quietly listened, I also thought through how I would bring up this issue to Edric later. 

When an opportunity presented itself (meaning Edric was in a relaxed mood and not stressed out about work), I pulled him aside and mentioned what Elijah expressed to me about him.

Edric immediately internalized what I shared. He wasn’t defensive. “Okay, I will talk to him.” 

As predicted, Edric found a moment during one breakfast to ask for Elijah’s forgiveness in front of our other kids. 

He looked Elijah in the eye, saying something like this, “Mom told me that you felt hurt. She said you feel like I cut you off, like the other day.” 

Elijah nodded and Edric followed up with, “Will you forgive me?” 

Elijah replied, “Of course, dad.” 

Breakfast continued pleasantly for everyone as the dialogue shifted to other matters. But I know that Edric’s willingness to change and improve impacted the heart of Elijah and our other kids in a very positive way. They have witnessed this sort of exchange before and it matters to them that the “loop is closed” on an issue affecting one or more of us. 

Furthermore, of all the people in our home, it is Edric’s example that imprints upon our kids what values are important to our family, what principles they too will live by. I am not discrediting my own participation in the formation of my kids’ sense of right and wrong. I too have a responsibility to model and teach my kids Christ-likeness. However, I do believe that the humility of a father is like a special key that unlocks the hearts of children. There’s something about a father, the head, the leader, the respected one, stepping down from his honored position to admit fault and weakness that thaws and softens a child’s cold and hardened heart. 

Of course, this doesn’t excuse us, as moms, from having to do the same thing!

Like any habit, it takes a while to get used to asking one another how we can improve. It may feel awkward at first. I remember one of the first times Edric and I asked each other how we can improve during a date night and the romantic event turned sour by the end. Defensively, I countered Edric’s statements about how I needed to change with excuses instead of just saying, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

So the question, “how can I improve?” ought to be followed by a sincere apology when it is answered. Otherwise, it won’t work. The moment will turn into a massive fail. 

Let me conclude by giving some reasons why we should ask the question, how can I improve?:

1. If our relationship with our family members is already in the danger zone, then this could be an opportunity to rescue it. Because a move like this would appear so unprecedented and unexpected, it could be the sort of jolt that awakens hope. 

2. If we are convinced that we have nothing to improve on, then we hazard nothing by daring to ask the question, right? 

3. But, hey, the chance are, our kids are well-aware of our flaws. We can’t fool them! They will definitely have something to say about how we can improve that will be honest and beneficial to our character growth. 

4. Our children long to feel treasured by us and anything that we do to threaten this need wounds them deeply. One of the best ways to communicate that we care about this need is to ask how we can be better parents, how we can act and speak in ways that tell them they are special to us. When our kids recognize that we are intentional about pursuing a loving and close relationship with them, they will be inspired to reciprocate. 

5. Transparency and openness in the home has to begin with us, as parents. We can’t expect our children to embrace open communication if they don’t see the sincerity in us first. We can’t expect them to humble themselves if we don’t do so.

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke‬ ‭22:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

All of us have made mistakes as parents, but the good news is, it’s never too late to initiate a culture that ushers in healthy communication, healing, and restoration. Our children want to forgive us, they want to have better relationships us, but many times we don’t give them the opportunity to do these things. Maybe it’s because we are prideful, oblivious, or busy. Perhaps we are wounded oersons ourselves and haven’t experienced God’s grace to forgive our own parents or other family members who have injured us emotionally. Therefore, we don’t know how to ask the question or how to say sorry. 

Here’s a word of encouragement: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is also time to break the cycle. We cannot alter events of the past but we can be catalysts for positive change in our own families, something that is within our control. And this can begin with a very simple habit, that of asking, “How can I improve?” 

Let’s try doing this once a week, working on the areas of change that are pointed out to us, and then let’s see how profoundly it affects the relationships and climates of our families. 

Homeschool Materials for 2016 to 2017

I should have posted this last year but in case anyone is interested, these are the materials I have been using for my kids this 2016-2017 school year. 

Our starting month was September so we are finishing off the third quarter at present. 

CATALINA – PRESCHOOL (1 to 1.5 hours/day)

Catalina’s daily schedule includes listening to music, learning phonics sounds and pre-math skills, being read to by me or her siblings, and lots of play time! Her schedule is very laid back  and informal. 

Here are some of the resources I use for her…

Bible and character:


Phonics: (We sing the Sing, Spell, Read, and Write songs together)


Math and Logic:


Music. She listens to nursery rhymes almost daily. This particular collection is one of her favorites:


I have a lot of Wee Sing CDs: 

We have a bunch of instruments for her to play around with and dance with as she listens to music:


Other helpful materials (books to read aloud and flash cards):



Art. Catalina is currently enrolled in an art class but she also does a lot of cutting, painting, drawing, and scribbling at home. At present, she contributes to 75% of the mess every day. 

PE. Catalina is taking up ballet, tennis, and swimming. 

TIANA – GRADE 1 (2 to 3 hours/day)

Bible. The Ology by Marty Machowski (3x a week. Read aloud to Tiana and let her write a sentence or two in her Bible notebook to summarize what she learned) This is an easy and laid back way for me to introduce Bible concepts to her. It takes me about 15 minutes to read through each section or chapter (asking questions along the way to check if Tiana is listening), and then I ask her to write in her notebook and draw a picture to remember the topic and come up with her own application. 


She also has a Study Bible that we read through together. 


Math. Primary Mathematics by Rex Publishing available through Learning Plus. We cover three to four pages three to four times a week.

Science. (2x a week) I read Discovering God’s World Science by Abeka Publishing to Tiana and she also works on the pages of her Interactive Science Notebook


Language Arts (3 to 4x a week). I use a mix of Learning Language Arts Through Literature (the Blue Book), Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW), and First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. Tiana also keeps a notebook to write her lessons in. 


Social Studies (2x a week): Listen to Audio CD Mystery of History Volume 1 and use Take It To Your Seat Geography Centers for Grades 1 and 2.

Art: Art Projects by Abeka Book Publishing and my own curriculum. She’s also taking art lessons. 


Music. Tiana is currently taking piano lessons.

PE. Tiana is doing ballet, swimming and tennis. 

TITUS, EDAN, AND ELIJAH – GRADE 3, 5, and 8 (4 to 5 hours/day)

For Bible and Character I continue to use the What We Believe Series by Apologia. This is my fourth year to invest in this series and it has personally impacted me as a parent and follower of Christ. 

My kids tease me because I often cry when I read the books in this series aloud. The foundational truths in this material are not just for my kids but for me, too. They anchor us as a family as we learn about what it means to have a Biblical worldview. 

The series contains the following (each book is equivalent to a year’s worth of Bible and character):

Who is God and Can I Really Know Him? 

Who am I and What Am I Doing Here? 

Who Is My Neighbor and Why Does He Need Me? 

What On Earth Can I Do? 

How do we cover each book? Traffic gives us plenty of time to do this. We have discussions about the content and then the kids fill in their corresponding notebooking journal. Only Titus uses the junior one since he is not yet ready to write long answers to comprehension questions. It takes about a month to go through each chapter (there are a total of eight per book), but it’s also possible to finish a chapter in half the time. I let the boys fill in their journals together so they can bounce ideas off one another and have their own conversations about what they learned. Plus, they enjoy competing to see who gets done first. 

I allot two to three days in the week to read through the material with the kids. This includes time to write in their journals. Of course this coursework is on top of their daily Bible reading. For our older sons, we encourage them to read through the Bible chronologically. 



Language Arts.
 Each of my boys is using a different material for this subject. 

I tested out Abeka on Titus. He needs more structure and drills so this one is working for him. My other boys probably won’t like it, but Titus is benefitting from the predictability and repetition. 

It’s a complete curriculum for language arts. I got the whole package for Grade 3. It’s pricey but I can reuse the readers.

Titus works on the writing and grammar daily. We skip some of the penmanship pages since I don’t think that we need to overemphasize handwriting. However it is beneficial for the research component. Titus has to answer questions that require him to refer to the back of the book which includes an encyclopedia-like pages. As for the spelling, Titus practices this once or twice a week. Thankfully, he doesn’t have too much trouble remembering spelling words for as long as he gets to review them ahead of time. However, his vocabulary needs improving since he isn’t as well-read as his older brothers. 

Therefore, I appreciate the leveled readers that come with Abeka Language Arts. They are challenging enough for him to read, as well as hold his interest. Furthermore, the readers focus on good values and character. At present, he is enjoying Pilgrim’s Progress and Swiss Family Robinson. 

As for the Read and Think Skill Sheets, these are timed comprehension tests that I administer once a week. 

Writing and Grammar:


Spelling and Poetry:


Leveled Readers:


Reading Comprehension:


Penmanship:



Edan is using Total Language Plus. It uses a literature-based approach to teaching grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.


I also got IEW’s Student Writing Intensive Course for Elijah and Edan. Elijah uses Level C and Edan just started with Level A. They alternate this writing curriculum with their other language arts materials during the week besides their daily requirement of independent reading time.


Elijah has Bob Jones’ Excursions in Literature book for reading. It’s got great stories in it! Furthermore, the questions highlight critical thinking skills. Once to twice a week with this book is ample time to complete it during the year, but each sit down will require about forty-five minutes to an hour. 


I experimented with IEW’s Fix It! Grammar curriculum for Elijah this year. It’s tough! My mistake was failing to use this from the beginning so jumping into it was challenging. However, it is a very good grammar program. Instead of teaching grammar rules, it requires students to edit wrong texts and re-write them. 


Math. I stuck to the locally published Rex Singapore Math material for Edan and Titus, which I have used with my kids over the years. The only problem is that it can sometimes have errors in it. My kids tend to spot these inconsistencies as they go about their math work, but I like how the Primary Mathematics presents the concepts and gives ample exercises for practice and assessment. Each book comes with a teacher’s guide as well. 

New Syllabus Primary Mathematics Grade 3:

New Syllabus Primary Mathematics Grade 5:


Elijah uses Khan Academy. He is going through the eighth grade level as well as Algebra

Science. I am still a fan of Apologia Science books because they are creation-based. In the past I got the corresponding notebooks for Titus and Edan but my boys prefer doing the Knowledge Box Central Lapbooks

Like their Bible and character material, I read this one aloud to Edan and Titus in the car as well, and they do the lapbooking together. We spend two days a week covering science. 

Every year, I also purchase Nature’s Worshop Plus Lab Kits for my kids. These lab-kits-in-a-box make it so much easier for me because I don’t have to look for all the supplies for each experiment in the Eploring Creation Series. 

Knowledge Box Central Lapbook:



Nature’s Workshop Plus Lab Kit:

Elijah is doing Exploring Creation with Biology for his science. He also fills in the notebooking journal. I am so glad there is an option to buy tests and answer keys! 

Nature’s Workshop Plus Slide Kit for Biology:

Extra reading for Elijah from New Leaf Publishing – The World of Biology, and The Genesis of Germs:



History/Geography
. This is my fifth year using Mystery of History by Linda Hobar. I have tried Story of the World by Bauer and History Revealed by Warring. Both of these are very well-written history programs. However, Story of the World does not have a Christ-centric focus whereas Mystery of History does. As for Warring’s books, I prefer her History Audio CDs. She is a wonderful story-teller! 

Mystery of History Volume 2 Audio CDs (For Titus):


Mystery of History Volume 4 (For Edan and Elijah):

Art. The boys are taking art classes. 

Music. Elijah and Titus have violin classes and Edan is doing piano. 

PE. They do swimming and tennis, and play basketball at home. When I can get them to, they also go running with me. 

For Filipino and local social studies, they use Rosetta Stone for Filipino and I got them a bunch of books to read on Philippine History, Geography and Government. 



I also supplement math, English and social studies with time4learning.com for Tiana, Titus, and Edan.


Here are their daily schedules:



Whew. That’s a lot of info. If you have questions or clarifications, please feel free to message me. Let me end by saying that home education is an investment of time and resources. It’s can be the costliest education in the world because it requires total commitment and sacrifice but the results are worth it! 

Summer Ideas from S&R

The heat is on! It’s time to think through our summer plans with the kids. I am sure going to the beach will be on everyone’s agenda. 

Here’s what I found at S&R today…

Miracle bathing suits for tummy control (moms know what I mean). These suits cinch the waist and give you curves like you want to have (P1,999 from P2,499): 

Board shorts for boys (P249): 

A lot of inflatables!

Goggles of all kinds (I got the 3-pack Speedo ones for the girls):


I love this one. Such a good idea to keep all the beach toys in one container which kids can also use to sift the sand: 


How about organizing a water balloon fight in your backyard? These balloons are so easy to fill!:


Beach towels are on sale! (P399.95 from P649.95):


For the long rides to your vacation destinations. (I got one for the price of two):


Here’s a good idea for summer…an ice cream maker:


Stackable colemans for outdoor get togethers and barbecues:

My usual favorites. The bulk produce and meat: 

Cetaphil at good prices: 


Pinenuts on sale for your summer salads:

Gluten-free flour on sale!:


The best part of S&R shopping today was that it became a family affair. Even Edric came even if he hates grocery shopping just to be with us:

 

Standing in Front of Others

Some of my kids get terrified about performing which is one of the reasons why I really appreciated the recently held open house activity for Homeschool Global students where they were asked to present their art works.

I had two kids in tears before they had to speak. Edric and I took them aside to give them a pep talk. A part of me was frustrated that they were self-conscious and worried about talking about their paintings (which was going to take barely two minutes to do), but I also had to be sensitive and remember that I too was once incredibly scared of speaking in public. Sometimes I still am! 

Edric and I reassured them that they could do it. We asked them to focus on being a blessing instead of themselves. We didn’t let them give in to their fears either. I caught sight of one of them praying for courage and another one trying her best to control her tears. 

All five of them had their turns describing their art pieces and they got through the ordeal just fine. Afterwards, they realized that their fears were unfounded. I was very proud of them for obeying their teacher to get up in front of everyone even though they were uncomfortable and nervous. 

Some of the other homeschool kids confidently sang or talked about their paintings. One child in particular grabbed the mic at the end and started belting out various songs. She didn’t have any issues standing in front of an audience!

My older boys felt at ease as well since Edric and I invite them to speak with us when we give seminars. So they didn’t panic when it was their turn. However this was a first for my three younger kids. Thankfully, they survived! But they definitely need more opportunities where they can practice articulating themselves or performing before audiences.

Here are some ideas for us homeschoolers:

1. Organize events with our coops where kids can perform in front of parents and siblings. Some ideas are a talent show, play, debate, and speech making. 

2. Have kids retell what they did during the day during dinner time. 

3. Get kids to serve others where they have to think less of themselves and more of others. Some examples are outreaches, community projects, or Sunday school. 

4. Let kids come up with a business idea that they have to execute and have them sell their products or idea to others. 

5. Have siblings read aloud to one another teach their younger siblings so they can practice their communication skills. 

There’s also a great material by Institute for Excellence in Writing on Public Speaking called Speech Boot Camp. It’s great for older children to use in a group setting since they can practice in front of one another, as well as encourage and critique each other, too. We did this with our playgroup two years ago on the recommendation of my friend, Andi Miller. My two older boys had a great time and learned a lot. You may want to try it on your older kids, too…


Photos of the kids’ art class. Their teacher is artist, Camille Ver:


My favorite paintings of the kids’…

Joan Miró inspired: 

Wassily Kandinsky inspired:

Family portrait: 

Free style:


Helping Kids Work Through Their Emotions

On the day I took my second son, Edan, to renew his passport, the event turned into a mom and son bonding time. Troubled by an incident with his friends the night before, Edan revealed to me that there was something he wanted to divulge, something that deeply bothered him. The tears came first before he blurted out, in between sobbing, that his friends made fun of him. 

Edan, being the emotional onion that he is, took about five minutes to actually speak about his pain. I had to wait on his silence to drag on until I finally commanded him to obey and tell me what was wrong. After all, he initiated bringing up the issue in the first place so this meant he actually planned to tell me about it.

So he did. He proceeded to explain that his friends created a storyline that highlighted him as one of the main characters. In the story, as narrated by his friends, Edan insisted that they give him one hundred hotdogs to eat as payment for opening the door of a room they wanted to enter. The hotdogs made him fat and everyone cackled at the image this fictional tale conjured. Edan said he joined in the laughter but deep inside he harbored hurt and resentment. For a good part of the evening, he remained withdrawn, which was very unusual for him as an outgoing person.

I listened to his woeful tale, trying to understand where he was coming from. As I probed further, Edan confessed to making fun of his friends, too. He admitted that creating stories with friends as characters in them was originally his idea. Some weeks ago he told these stories in a manner that embarrassed his friends. 

Once I had all the facts, I helped him process what he went through:

First, when people say things that aren’t true, we don’t have to let their statements or claims wound us. Instead, we need to remember our worth in Christ. He loves us and values us so that when others don’t, we can take comfort in the security that our relationship with Him provides. In fact, I encouraged him to laugh along, playing their game. Next time, he can add to the comedy and say, “How come you only made me eat one hundred hotdogs? Why not, one thousand?” The point is to be able to laugh at oneself without taking it personally.

If, however, people say things that are true, then we ought to humble ourselves and acknowledge the reality that change is necessary, and ask for forgiveness when we have been the offensive persons.

Since Edan is a natural leader, I also had to correct his example.

“Edan, God made you a leader. People follow you, look up to you, and want your favor. This is a big responsibility. Therefore, you need to always think through your motivations. Are your choices glorifying God?” 

I added, “When you made fun of your friends, that wasn’t kind or glorifying to God, and your friends copied your example.” 

Edan chewed on this and acknowledged that he hadn’t been a good example. He smiled sheepishly as he realized that the offense began with him.

Afterwards, I told him about how we can respond with graciousness when people hurt us. I talked about my own encounters with people who don’t like me because of my convictions and what I stand for.

Some months ago, a lady who was very irate with me, accused me of projecting an image of perfection to my readers, stabbed at my parenting efforts, and ridiculed my children. She made some bold remarks that attacked my character and motivations, and wrote these as a long comment after one of my posts, generously expressing her disdain towards me.

Since I didn’t see the comment right away, it wasn’t till weeks later that I discovered it and saw a thread of replies by other readers who defended me. (To those of you who did so, thank you. I was so touched by your desire to come to my rescue.)

Here were my options:

1. Verbally argue and defend myself (very tempting!)

2. Ignore the person (easy to do) 

3. Apply graciousness (hardest to do)

God convicted me to go with number three. However, I still had to carefully filter through my motives before crafting a response.

I told Edan that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond with grace to persons who use their tongues or written word to accuse, berate, and make fun of us. He listened intently, noting the parallel to what happened to him. 

“So what did you say, mom?”

Before summarizing the gist of my reply to this woman, I shared with Edan how I struggled with vengefulness, which he could relate with. However, I had to remember that I don’t represent myself. Therefore my intentions and actions had to mirror Christ in me.

“The reason why it’s possible to be gracious to others,” I added, “is because God extended grace to us. When He sacrificed Himself for us, to pay for our sins, it was an act of grace, something we did not deserve. Therefore, we can do the same to people who don’t deserve grace from us.” 

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Ephesians‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

“Grace,” I explained, “goes beyond withholding and controlling our emotions, like when we are mad and try to control our tempers or refrain from speaking. It’s about choosing to love and bless persons who have hurt us because we want them to know Jesus, too. That’s what it means to give a gracious response when we are offended.”

Edan took a moment to digest this thought.

“So what did the person say, mom? After you wrote back?

He was so eager to know the conclusion of our dialogue.

Unfortunately the person didn’t comment back, even after I asked for her forgiveness for entries or things written by me that declared I was a perfect parent. This was never my intention. I also suggested that we meet face to face so we could get to know each other better and then she could form an accurate conclusion about my kids and me. And then I ended by telling her that I cared about her, that I didn’t think of her as an enemy.

Since she never got back to me, I explained to Edan that there may be occasions in our lives when we extend grace and it is not reciprocated or received well. This is beyond our control. What’s within our control is that we choose to respond correctly. 

After relating this experience to Edan’s incident with his friends, we reviewed our discussion:

We will encounter people in our lives who will say hurtful things. That’s a given, an avoidable reality. However, we can choose how we will respond, which is within our control. Most importantly, we represent Jesus Christ and His interests. So while it is normal to feel bad and discouraged as a result of people’s negative words or verbal bullying, we must process the instinct to be vengeful, harbor anger, or emotionally withdraw, remembering that our security is in Christ and that our goal is to glorify Him and connect people to Him.  


Emotions are a good gauge for the deeper issues of the heart. As a parent, I’m learning to listen to my kids’ feelings and avoid dismissing these as sinful or wrong (which can be my tendency.) However, I also need to teach my kids how to think through their emotions, the causes and the implications of entertaining feelings to the point where they forego making the right decisions or internalize wrong perspectives. 

Edan is eager to hang out with his friends once again. Whew. 

He decided not to take their teasing personally and he learned how to be a better friend and example to others. By the end of our mother and son date, he was all smiles, too! 

Here are some questions that may help our older kids (and us) process feelings in a healthy way:

How does this situation or person make me feel?

Why do I feel this way?

What need may this person have that caused him or her to do or say hurtful things? 

What is the most God-honoring response towards this situation or person?

How can I use this moment as an opportunity to lead this person to Christ?

What would exemplifying God’s grace look like at this moment?

 

When My Honey Gave Me Honey

On one of the days when Edric, the kids and I took a trip to Abu Dhabi Mall we lunched at the food court. After many days of Arabic food, Kentucky Fried Chicken elicited claps of approval from our hungry children. I, on the hand, could not wait to sink my teeth into biscuits from Popeye’s. 

After taking care of the kids’ meals, Edric and I walked over to Popeye’s where he got himself a chicken bowl and I ordered the biscuits. Edric stood beside me, listening to my conversation with the waiter. I specifically requested that the biscuits come with honey and butter. However, Popeye’s didn’t provide butter or honey for their biscuits. The waiter said that they didn’t sell these condiments either.

(Okay, so I probably shouldn’t have been eating these biscuits because they were not healthy. But I have this long time love for biscuits that is connected to memories of childhood summer vacations in Florida, where my grandparents used to live.)

Edric saw how my face fell when the cashier told us that the biscuits were buttered but they couldn’t give us any honey. I sighed heavily, resigned to eating the biscuits plain. Only half of my food fantasy would be fulfilled so my excitement quickly dissipated. 

Unbeknownst to me, Edric disappeared for about ten minutes to go on a hunt for honey. I thought he escaped to visit a tech store. Yet, he came back to me triumphantly holding a container with honey in it. Apparently, he found a way to get me some honey. He walked into another restaurant and charmed one of the waitresses who accommodated his unusual request. He used the magic “kabayan” word on her since she was Filipina. (Filipinos look out for one another in the Middle East.) 

Edric came up to me smiling from ear to ear. He knew I would be impressed by this chivalrous gesture of his. With his head held high and his confidence apparent in his gait, he strutted towards me eagerly awaiting my response. 

“Wow! Babe! Where did you get that?!” 

He gave me a look that playfully boasted, “You know me!”

I thanked him profusely and commented several times about how amazing I thought he was. I know it was a small gesture. It’s not like he rescued me from a blazing fire but I found his consideration of me so incredibly sweet. He went out of his way to source the honey, inconveniencing himself when he was very ready to sit down and enjoy his own meal. 

A lot of times, in marriage, it’s the little things that matter…the thoughtful words and actions that communicate to our spouses that we love and care about them. That’s what Edric’s mindfulness demonstrated to me. 

What would it take to make our spouses smile today? Let’s take the time to notice a need, big or small, that we can meet in and for our spouses. The impact on their hearts will be well worth it!

“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭

Menu 2017

One of my to-do list for 2017 was to come up with a meal plan for our family that was a combination of healthy and delicious. Edric and I wanted to expose our kids to different cuisines and cultures, and we also wanted to be able to inculcate eating habits that are good for them. Although I couldn’t organize an entirely gluten-free, carb-free, low fat diet (I love fat like real butter!), I attempted to put together a mix of food that included lots of fruit, vegetables, protein, and good carbs. I’ve got growing kids and it wouldn’t be fair to feed them things that tasted like paper! (I personally can’t eat everything on this menu because of certain restrictions I need to follow for health reasons, but Edric and the kids don’t need to be constrained by my issues.) 

So here’s our MENU 2017. It’s actually a two-week menu that can be repeated accordingly: 1st and 3rd week, then 2nd and 4th week. The portions are for a seven-person family with household helps to consider so don’t be alarmed at the number of eggs I have to buy! Please don’t fault me if some items are missing on Grocery List Week 1&3 and Grocery LIst Week 2&4. (These are PDF files so you may have to click the links again if they bring you to a separate page.) 

Truthfully, this menu can be pricey at the grocery. However, this is the one expenditure in our home that Edric and I invest in – good, healthy, and as natural-as-possible food for the family. 

A lot of the recipes can be done by my home cook or me, but some of the meals required referencing an online source. So, I’ve included those links as well under Menu 2017.

Happy eating and home managing!!!


 

Candid Moments of My Youngest

Catalina, my three year old, is one of those kids who is candid and honest. She is also strong and fearless in many ways. She certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind which can be a problem at times. My husband, Edric, and I are teaching her to be obedient and respectful, the latter being high on the list of character traits she needs to learn. 

During our trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi she said so many amusing things I just had to write them all down so I don’t forget them! 

Here are some of her unfiltered statements…

1. “I am going to tell your husband!” (She said this to Tiana when they were having a discussion in the car.) 


2. “I don’t want to play with that boy, he is ugly.” (About a curly haired boy in the playground who was actually very cute.) 

3. “Hey! That’s my seat!” (To an elderly woman who sat beside her on a two-seater wooden swing. We had to correct this, of course, and ask Catalina to apologize.) 

4. “My prume is hurting.” (What’s a prume? She points to her thumb. Sometimes she invents words…) 

5. “Don’t worry! Don’t be scared! I am here, Tiana!” (When Tiana seemed nervous about riding on on amusement park rides that Catalina was too small to ride on. She would shout this from the sidelines.)


6. “I will take care of you, Tiana.” (When Tiana didn’t want to go into the IKEA playplace without her brothers. And Catalina put her arm around her as she said this to assure her that she would be with her.)

7. “You! Stop crying! Stop it!” (She opens the door of the hotel room to shout at a child who was crying in another room. Good thing the hallway was empty and the door of that child’s room was closed so his or her parents didn’t see her!)

8. “Why is your stomach so big?” (To a kid standing behind her in line for face painting, accompanied by a poke to the kid’s belly.) 


9. “Please, stop it. Stop talking. You are so boring.” (To an announcement being made over the PA system of the plane.) 


10. “Okay, everyone, do freestyle!” (This was her own rendition of a wacky pose. I don’t know where she got it but she raised three fingers as she posed for the camera.)

11. “Siri, what is Elijah’s password?” (When she couldn’t turn on his IPad.) 

12. “Praise God! It’s not hard!” (About her poop, while pooping on a public toilet.)

I just love, love, love this stage of her life! Her size, her mind, her expressiveness. But she definitely needs training in character still, so Edric and I are working on this even as we appreciate her personality…

NATIONAL HOMESCHOOL DAY, A DAY FOR BETTER EDUCATION: PANGILINAN

“There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent” – Mahatma Gandhi

In support for the Filipino homeschooling community, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has filed Resolution 308 expressing the Senate’s full support in the celebration of the first National Homeschool Day today, March 3, 2017.

“Ang daming panahong naaaksaya sa trapik paroo’t parito sa iskwela. Meron pa minsan nam-bu-bully. Magandang option ang homeschooling sa bata at magulang. Nagbibigay ito ng isang secure at hassle-free environment para maging free thinkers ang mga bata na nakatutok sa kaalaman at hindi lang sa matataas na grado (A lot of time is wasted in traffic going to and from schools. Bullying has also become a serious issue. Homeschooling is a good option for both parents and children. It can provide a secure and hassle-free environment where children become independent thinkers and focus on learning and not merely getting high grades),” said Pangilinan.

Noting that “this year’s theme is ‘Building Up the Philippines, One Family at a Time,’ the Liberal Party president said that homeschooling is also a good way to nation-building.

“We believe that if we are to shape our nation, we will have to shape first our communities, and if we are to shape our communities, we have to shape our families,” Pangilinan added.
The senator also stressed the need to craft a law for homeschooling in the country.

“As the movement for homeschooling in the country grows, we see a need to institutionalize this alternative mode of education: One that would set guidelines for a homeschooling program that ensures that children get to have the quality education they deserve,” Pangilinan said.

“Pag nakita nating lumalaki ang ating mga anak na balansyado, nakakamit ang kanilang pangarap, may kumpyansa sa sarili at sa kanilang puwang sa komunidad, yan ang pinakamagandang regalo ng nanay at tatay sa kanilang mga anak. Yan ang inaasam ng homeschooling. Yan ang inaasam natin (Seeing our children as they grow up well-balanced, achieving because they love what they do, and self-confident and assured that they have a place in the community, I think, is the best gift that a mother and father would want to have for their children. That is the goal of homeschooling. That is our goal),” he added.


Celebrating National Homeschool Day around the Philippines! 


 

What to do About the Entitlement Mentality

The phrase “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot as emblematic of today’s younger generation. Merriam Webster defines entitlement as:

  • the fact of having a right to something. “full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
  • the amount to which a person has a right. “annual leave benefits.”
  • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. “no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement”

I don’t see a problem with the first two definitions. Kids, for example, have the right to feel loved, secure, important, and special. God created them with these needs and He designed the family to fulfill them.

What we want to avoid, as parents, is raising kids who think they deserve privileges and preferential treatment because they have a me-centered view of reality. This is where training of their heart-attitudes has to come in.

Here are some practical ways Edric and I are trying to weed out the negative sense of entitlement in our kids:

Learn to Wait

Between Edric and me, I tend to give in more to the kids’ wants so I am thankful that Edric insists on being firm about training our kids to wait.

Last Christmas, Cetaphil, a brand that we endorse as a family, gave the kids GCs for Toys R Us. The kids were thrilled since we didn’t buy them expensive gifts for Christmas. We asked them to purchase presents for each other and gave them a fairly small budget per person to do so. When they received their GCs, the kids shrieked with joy, expecting to be able to troop to the toy store soon after. However, Edric encouraged them to postpone their urge to do so until such time as he deemed favorable.

At first, I felt badly for the kids. During Christmas we told them we would focus on serving an underprivileged community rather than make our celebration about presents. They didn’t complain when they received simple gifts. Therefore, my impulse was to reward their good attitudes.

Yet, I trusted Edric’s leading on the matter and he was wise to mandate that the kids wait once more. A few weeks ago, he finally allowed each of our kids to pick out something at the toy store. We had another photoshoot for Cetaphil where they obeyed and listened to instructions very well so Edric wanted to bless them for their positive character.


In keeping with our emphasis on learning to wait, I asked the kids not to open their purchases till the day after. Once again they complied. There was some resistance from our younger two who came up to me grasping their new toys hoping that they could persuade me to change my mind by batting their pretty eyelashes. But I didn’t cave in and insisted that tomorrow wasn’t very far away. They understood and eagerly anticipated waking up the next morning. Exercising self-control allowed them to thoroughly enjoy the moment when they opened their toys.

Whenever parents express concern about their kids being entitled, Edric and I ask them to think through what sort of environment and values they are perpetuating at home. It’s not our children’s faults when they grow up feeling like the “world owes them.” Most likely, it’s due to the way we are raising them.

One problem may be too much too soon. For example, many parents feel upset about their kids’ addiction to gadgets but they supply their children with devices to begin with. Furthermore, these gadgets are usually given when their children are too young to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these.

We made this mistake with Catalina when she was younger. Needing to appease her and keep her preoccupied, we would hand my phone to her. However, this had a detrimental affect on her personality. She began to resort to whining when she couldn’t use my phone, thinking it was her right to have it as a form of entertainment. So we had a season of “unplugging” for her.

Now, when I tell her, “Catalina, you can’t play with that or you can’t have that,” more often than not her reply is, “Okay, mommy.” Before, she would arch her head back and cry, sulk, or roll around on the couch or bed to emphasize her disappointment. By God’s grace, she has improved a lot!

Humility and Service

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God but did not insist on being treated like God, nor did he demand the privileges that belonged to Him. He did not appear in His glorious form but in the form of man whom He created. As if this wasn’t humbling enough, He regarded Himself as a servant, not just any servant, but the lowliest of all — a bond servant.

The word for bondservant in Greek is Doulos which implies slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, or to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. (Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doulos.html)

“The King of the Universe, the Lord of glory, voluntarily became a pauper for our sake. He had to borrow a place to be born, a boat to preach from, a place to sleep, a donkey to ride upon, an upper room to use for the last supper, and a tomb in which to be buried. He created the world but the world did not know Him. He was insulted, humiliated, and rejected by the people He made. (Source: Ken Boa, Reflections Newsletter, May 1988.)

Our children have inherent worth as people created in the image of God, but like Christ, they don’t have to insist or demand to be treated as special. Neither should they expect the “world to revolve around their needs and wants.”

Instead, they can copy Christ’s example. He set aside His privileges and position to serve our needs. This act of humility didn’t diminish His worth, instead it allowed Him to accomplish the purpose for which He came to earth — the sacrifice of His life on the cross to pay for our sins which met our greatest need — forgiveness. Similarly, are we teaching our children to seek the highest good of others? Are we exemplifying this ourselves?

Edric and I have five kids with five different personalities, and all of them manifested a self-centered perspective early on in their lives. By two years old it was usually full blown in its ugliness and without intervention and consistent training, all of our kids would have been out of control by now. While they continue to struggle with selfishness (who doesn’t?), they understand that as a family we are committed to serving the Lord and others. We are on this earth to be a blessing.

In order to emphasize this, we expose our children to ministry activities where they must serve and think of the needs of others. When our kids minister alongside Edric and me, they experience what it is like to go outside of their comfort zones and channel their God-given talents towards caring for others. In the process they realize that they can live purposefully, beyond the pursuit of self-gratification.


This usually happens when our kids are at the age when they can express their personal reflections and insights. At about nine or ten years of age, we give them opportunities to stand in front of audiences to share what God is teaching them.

Elijah was more natural at this but we asked Edan to participate as well about three years ago. We avoided forcing him. But when he finally got to experience speaking along side us his heart attitude changed. He now says, “I want to be a blessing!”

Edric and I have also learned from my brother and sister-in-law who are part of the sports ministry of our church. They include my nephews and niece in their outreaches whenever possible. At present, their kids also disciple other children and lead bible studies for them. Edric and I asked our kids to do this as well but they got discouraged when their first few attempts didn’t produce desired results. The kids they were teaching preferred to play! However, we have challenged our older children to get these studies started again.

Contribute

Our desire is to instill in our kids what it means to be contributors rather than takers. Whether it is serving in ministry or helping out at home, we want our kids to take initiative to meet the needs they see and learn the value of work. 

Edric recently required the boys to take care of the yard with him.  At first our kids resisted, especially Edan who prefers to be indoors. However, after our kids experienced mowing the grass, taking out the big shears to trim plants, shrubs and branches, sweeping and collecting dead leaves (and then burning them to roast marshmallows), they realized that doing chores together can be a lot of fun! Our yard is still in dismal shape and needs a lot of beautifying! 

Since we have household help we don’t want our kids to feel like someone is always there to pick up after them, straighten their rooms, and respond to their every request. They are able-bodied enough to fix their beds, clean their mess, and be responsible for their toys and belongings.



During our trip to Dubai, Edric had the boys sort through all their clothing and pack their own luggage. I usually prepare all their clothes and shoes, but Edric forbade me from doing so this time around. He reminded me that the boys are old enough to exercise independence in this area, that it was necessary for them to do so, too. At first, I hesitated to agree with him for fear that our sons would forget important articles of clothing.

However, I praise God that I listened to Edric because I haven’t had to micromanage how they pair their outfits or keep track of what goes into their suitcases. They have taken the initiative to put away their clothes and select what they will wear every day which makes it a lot easier for me since I only have to worry about the girls’ luggages. 

Stewardship

Even if our kids technically have material possessions that belong to them, we tell them they don’t own anything. God owns everything we have as a family. We are just stewards of these blessings, therefore our response needs to be one of appreciation and conscientiousness about taking care of what is the Lord’s. Since we don’t own anything, it becomes easier for our kids to share as well. No one is allowed to say, “This is mine!” 

Frugality and Thriftiness

While we don’t want our children to worry about money, we don’t want them to think it comes easily either. It starts with us, as parents, modeling simplicity. When our kids observe us demonstrate restraint it motivates them to do the same. When we don’t exercise discretion they tend to think they can spend indiscriminately, too.

My older boys hold me accountable now. Elijah will challenge me in a polite way by asking, “Mom, do you really need that? Mom, that’s kind of expensive…”

Since Elijah and Edan earn money when they do jobs for Edric, they understand that a lot of effort is entailed in saving and accumulating wealth. It probably helps that we don’t give them allowances since they are homeschooled. Instead, they get paid when they do actual work. As a result, they exercise caution when spending their money, too. They prefer to invest their funds in stocks in order to grow it for future use.

Elijah and Edan both have individual stock portfolios. Their investment philosophy is invest in companies with a healthy track record, give good value for money, and are aligned with their personal convictions. For example, they prefer not to put their earnings into companies that sell junk food. Good call, boys!

Giving children a vision for what they can accomplish if they can save and invest money also keeps their impulses at bay. For example, when Elijah was eleven years old, he bought himself an IPad to increase his productivity. His rationale was, it was a “business investment.” He paid seventy-five percent of the cost of an IPad Air after researching and bidding for the best deal. We didn’t just hand him a new device even though he was old enough to responsibly handle one. We let him save up for it and go through the trouble of finding the best deal. As a result, he has taken very good care of his IPad and he uses it to learn about coding, program, track his stocks, and communicate with. 

Gratefulness

One of the best cures for entitlement is gratitude. This past week Edric had the kids memorize, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Timothy 5:17) Since we are in the Middle East, meeting with old and new friends, visiting different sites and learning about a unique culture, our kids may not always appreciate every experience we have. Furthermore, they may forget to express their sincere thanks when people treat us or take us to places. Church friends have been so hospitable and accommodating towards us that our kids can become spoiled, too! (We feel spoiled!) So we have repeatedly reminded them to be grateful, to avoid being demanding or upset when their expectations are not met. After all, we don’t deserve the kindness being  showered upon us.

Gratitude also helps to guard our hearts from greed, one of the symptoms of entitlement. I don’t know how many of you are from Chinese families but here’s something that I appreciated about what my father did in ours. (I am half Chinese, my father being the Chinese parent and my mother being the American one.) Growing up, my father didn’t raise my siblings and me to bank on inheritance. So my siblings and I avoided planning our lives based on the expectation that our dad’s businesses, investments, and properties would be handed down to us. Instead, my dad assessed whatever needs we had through the years and blessed us when he saw it fit to do so.

He decided what was fair and still decides what is fair because he is still alive. In the process, he also gets to enjoy whatever “gifts” he gives us.

More importantly, my parents emphasized and continue to emphasize faith in the Lord as the unifying identity of our family. They still disciple us as their grown up children (as well as our spouses and children). As a result, we share the same values and perspectives on family, ministry, work, and wealth, and have a deep love and loyalty towards one another.


Nevertheless, I continue to pray that money will never come between us. I know it happens to the best of families and ours isn’t immune so it is by God’s grace alone that we desire what is best for one another and rejoice when we see each other prosper. Some of us have more than others and even though there may be times when it’s tempting to compare lifestyles and privileges, what safeguards our hearts and minds is the truth that all things come from the Lord’s hand. Whom he chooses to bless materially is in accordance with his pleasing and perfect will. 

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
At the end of the day, I believe that a negative sense of entitlement boils down to a theological issue. It may be hard for kids to grasp this when they are young, but as they grow up, we need to remind them that every person is a recipient of grace. All of us are un-deserving of God’s grace, yet He forgave us and gave us the right to become His children.

“Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus Christ), to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”John 1:12

If we understand grace then we will be gracious when we aren’t treated the way we hope to be, when we don’t get our way, or when we fail to receive what we think we deserve to have. Why? Jesus Christ has met our desperate need for forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father has satisfied our deepest longings for love and acceptance. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to break away from the pain and bondage of sin. And our best life is yet to be, in heaven. Therefore, any good thing bestowed upon us today is a bonus! So we, and our children, can learn to wait, be humble and servant-like, contribute (work hard), be good stewards, practice thriftiness and frugality, and remember to say thank you!