What’s the Game Plan?

Do you have a game plan for your child this summer? Would you like them to learn a sport or hone their existing athletic skills? Do you want them to develop character traits that will impact their choices positively? 
This year, Mega Sports Camp 2015 will be holding its second run of the successful weeklong sports, fitness, and values event for children ages 6 to 13 years old. There’s no other camp in the Philippines quite like it! Organized by CCF’s NXTGen Children’s Ministry in cooperation with a team of incredible coaches like PBA’s Coach Siot Tanquincen, Plana Forma Trainer’s Gino Ong, and many others, this is one camp you won’t want your kids to miss out on! 

The theme of this year’s camp is GAME PLAN, echoing the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
If you prefer to wait for your children during the camp days, you can attend scheduled talks for parents (topics to be announced). Even though the camp aims to accommodate 1,500 kids, slots are limited for each sport. So the earlier you sign your kids up, the more sports options you will have to choose from. My boys are all signing up for basketball!  



View this video to get an idea of what last year’s camp was like:Mega Sports Camp Highlights

Three Times A Charm in Bataan

It was our third visit to Bataan but this one was especially fun for the family. First, we got to serve together. The older kids joined Edric on the morning talk he gave to government workers and their families. 





Then Edric and I spoke on marriage and relationships afterwards.

We were also privileged to spend time with Mayor Joet Garcia and his wife, Isabel. It was a pleasure getting to know them and witnessing the work they are doing for the city. They are public servants who truly care about bettering life for the people of Balanga. It’s always refreshing to see good governance in action by people who are God-fearing.(null)

It was our first time to stay in The Plaza Hotel, a beautiful new hotel in the city center, overlooking the square. (null)

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Early morning on Valentine’s Day we joined the Love Run to practice for our 21K run the next weekend. Running past open fields was a wonderful first for me. Incidentally, they awarded us Mr. and Ms. Love Run. I think there were more deserving others but we didn’t mind celebrating with a kiss. 





The highlight for the kids was our time in Montemar Beach Club, courtesy of our church friends, Henry and Riza Morales. Our children love sand and water! It was a relaxing way to spend our Valentine’s Weekend. 



This trip was intented to be for ministry, to serve the people in Balanga, alongside our church, Christ’s Commission Fellowship. However, we were the ones who came away blessed and spoiled by the generosity and company of Mayor Joet and Isabel, and the CCF community! (Not to mention 5 pounds heavier from all the food we feasted on!)(null)

  

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A Good Run With My Good “Pusher”

Edric got me to run in a 21K “fun” run yesterday. I know there may be readers out there who have done real marathons and triathlons who think 21K is peanuts, but it was a pretty big deal for me. 

The event was Run For Financial Fitness and Edric was dead set on us entering the 21K category. Of course, as the more calculated risk taker between the two of us, I had my apprehensions.

“But you and I are athletes,” was his argument. “We can even walk part of the way if it comes down to that.” (WE WERE ATHLETES. We may be athletic. But, that’s vastly different than being in peak condition. Plus, if you really think we are athletes, would it be acceptable to walk?!) 

 Here was my thought bubble. Edric’s body hasn’t gone through five pregnancies and the multitudinous changes that I have experienced as a mom. He has pretty much maintained the same perimeter measurements since we were first married. As for me, my ligaments, muscles, joints and organs have been stretched, moved around, and re-organized inside of me. And I’m still a breastfeeding mother! Give me a year to get back into fighting form so I can do this well. Please don’t ask me now. 

I was very cognizant of my paltry physical fitness level. In my book, short distance running in our village, a mere fraction of what 21K is, didn’t count as training for a run this long. Plus, my running philosophy is do it to stay healthy, to have meaningful prayer time. I’m not the sort of person who likes joining races to get outpaced by a hundred younger and older people bouncing past me like gazelles. 

However, my ever-optimistic husband preyed on the competitive person in me. He knew there was a hopeful bone in my body that would concede to the idea, for the challenge of it. While I vacillated between chickening out and entertaining the possibility, I finally said, “Okay, I will do it. Whichever way it turns out, we will learn something about marriage. If we make it without physically injuring ourselves then it will be a good reminder on how God blesses a wife’s desire to honor her husband’s wishes. But if it turns out badly, then it will be a lesson for you, as a husband…to think through the decisions you make, because you are responsible for me as your wife.” 

 Edric smiled and retorted, “Are you threatening me?” I didn’t mean for it to come across that way but I suppose, deep down inside, I was (in a playful way). 

 We did a test run in Balanga, Bataan the previous weekend. The mayor of Balanga City, Joet Garcia, and his wife, Isabel, were gracious enough to give us two slots in the Love Run that was scheduled on Valentine’s Day. It was just a 10K run but it gave us a good diagnostic. Of course 10 is less than half of 21, but at least we were able to work on a pace that we could use during the 21K.
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On Sunday morning, we woke up at 3:15 AM to get ready for our run. We zipped over to Bonifacio Global City where we parked our vehicle in our old condominium and made our way to the starting line. The gun went off at 4:30 AM. 

 The first 15 kilometers were fine. I was starting to feel pain in some parts of my legs, but it was bearable. At least we were running in the dark, when the weather was pleasantly cool, and cars weren’t smoking up the streets. 

Personally, the best part of it all was pacing side by side with Edric. Even though I was vehemently against the run when he first broached the idea to me, the endorphins that flooded my brain as we ran kilometer after kilometer made me grateful to have a husband that pushes me to be a better version of myself. 

 Somehow, it was even kind of romantic. We were going slow enough to dialogue and pray which meant we were probably at the bottom third of all the runners due to our turtle-like pace. But this didn’t matter. There we were, inching forward together, as a team. He looked pretty handsome in his orange Adidas shirt and gray shorts. Just a week before, we outfitted ourselves. It’s like a friend used to say, “If you can’t play, then display. If you have no form, then get a cool uniform!” If all else failed, we thought, at least we can look like runners! Edric carried our water rations on an elastic waistband and offered them to me as we started back up the Buendia flyover to Bonifacio Global City.

I was expecting that we would continue like this. 

However, during the last six kilometers, Edric began to feel a great amount of pain. He had to stop and stretch a couple of times, so we slowed down even more. Honestly, his condition surprised me. I pictured the last part to end differently, with Edric telling me, “You can do it, honey. Just a little further.” Instead, it was me who was smiling while Edric’s facial expression looked like a cross between Don’t talk to me right now because I’m suffering and I can’t believe you are so chirpy. I was pretty chirpy, trying to engage him in conversation to pass the remaining moments of our run. 

 During the last 3 kilometers, Edric had to walk for part of the way, and I found myself circling back to him so I wouldn’t have to stop my jog. During the final kilometer, I asked him if it was alright if I ran ahead. He was completely fine with this so I picked up the pace and entered the finish line alone. 

 Sigh. That was the only part that I didn’t like about our run. I had this fantasy of running through the finish line together, as a team, but I couldn’t slow down to a walking pace in order to remain beside Edric. There were a couple of times when trying to do so only heightened the pain in my joints and muscles. I was better off going with the inertia of a steady jog. So I came in before he did. To put it into perspective, I beat him

 Edric ended his run a few minutes later. On the way home, he jokingly asked me not to rub it in too much that I was ahead. We laughed because of the irony. I was the reluctant one. I wasn’t as conditioned. I had never run a 21K and he had. 

 The outcome of our run demonstrated a couple of invaluable lessons to Edric and me: 

 First, I really believe God honored me for supporting Edric’s crazy idea to do this run. It was God’s special grace that allowed me to finish (even ahead of Edric). I experienced the blessings of submission. 

Second, Edric humbly admitted that he should have been more prepared…that he should have considered how difficult a run this would be, especially as the leader in our marriage. Wow! This was exactly what I hoped he would glean from all of this. 

Third, running closely epitomizes the human life. I’ve always believed this. But it’s easy to say this until you actually experience every inch of your legs and feet hurting like heck! You want to know there is an end to look forward to — a rest to redeem all the effort. For a follower of Jesus Christ, that rest is eternity with Him, a.k.a. heaven. 

Fourth, everyone crosses life’s finish line alone. I couldn’t step over the line for Edric and he couldn’t do it for me. As much as possible we remained side by side, but as the challenge escalated, we both had to make the choice to keep going until the end. 

When the Bible says, “run in such a way that you win,” I don’t think this necessarily implies that we need to finish first. But each one of us needs to finish well, which means faithfully pressing on, no matter what. 

Fifth, and this is for all the mothers out there…God made us strong in a different way from men. I’m not knocking Edric for walking or slowing down during the last few kilometers. Had he been better prepared for this race, I would have been panting after him. However, as a woman, giving birth was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, physically speaking. Since I opted for no anesthesia for all five of my births, I felt the intense pain of every contraction. Having said that, if a woman can endure labor pains, she can run 21K even when her legs feel like they are going to fall off! By God’s grace, we’ve been design to stomach a whole lot of pain. Running 21K hurts but childbirth hurts waaaay more. 

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Edric and I made it to Sunday service by 9 AM but by the afternoon, I could barely walk. So we concluded the evening with a two-hour massage. I usually don’t like full body massages but this one was necessary!

Looking back, I’m glad we did this. It wasn’t something I would have elected to do myself, but thanks to my husband, “the good pusher”, I survived a challenge that benefited me physically, spiritually, and even emotionally!

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Montessori And Homeschooling

My friend, Betty, is organizing a Montessori training for moms of young children. I don’t usually advertise events on my site but I am particularly supportive of this one because I have experienced the benefits of the Montessori method on my own kids.

When Elijah was little, we sent him to Abba’s Orchard (a real Maria Montessori school!) twice a week and homeschooled him the other three days of the week. It was just for a semester but Edric and I really liked the hands-on learning, one-on-one attention, purposeful play, and emphasis on practical skills and discipline that perfectly complemented Elijah’s homeschooling.

I have incorporated Montessori into my own homeschooling, using its very helpful techniques to introduce concepts to my kids. It’s an approach that parents can replicate very naturally at home.

For parents with pre-schoolers, or those who need creative ideas to engage their children in the learning process, or for parents who prefer a more wholistic, developmentally-sensitive approach to educating their children, this is a workshop worth attending.

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Diane Angping is an AMI trained Montessori teacher with a Masters in Early Childhood Education. She taught as Primary head teacher for 2.5-6 year olds and 6-9 year olds for several years in the U.S. but is now focused on raising her two sons and blogging for her site whenhippostalk.com.

Even Though Others May Forget You, God Will Not

This past December, Edric and I went to Disneyland and California Adventure with our children, my sister’s family and my mom and dad. We had a “system” for making sure we got to the best rides.

Both parks have fast passes and switch passes that make it easier for people to bypass the lines so we took advantage of these. The kids got to enjoy all the classics of the good ol’ days and the newer ones like Cars.

I didn’t get to ride on too many attractions because of Catalina but that was fine. She was my priority so I stayed with her and the stroller most of the time. Besides, the only ride that I really cared about was Small World. When I was a little girl this one was one of my favorites.

When it was decided that we would all go on this ride together, I was excited! But we had to park all the strollers first. Between my sister, Candy, my brother-in-law, Jeff, Edric and me, we had three strollers to leave behind. (One of them was a double.)

After parking the strollers we all met again at the line thinking the kids were complete. There should have been eight kids. However, unbeknown to us, Corban was missing. (Corban is my 5 year old nephew, the eldest son of Jeff and Candy.)

In this photo, Corban is the younger child with glasses…

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Jeff and Candy didn’t realize he wasn’t with them because they assumed he had run off to be with our kids. This happened often during our time in Disneyland and California Adventure. The kids would congregate together so it wasn’t extraordinary to think that Corban was among his cousins.

The Small World line was about fifteen minutes long and the ride itself took fifteen minutes. It wasn’t until we exited that Candy asked, “Where’s Corban?” We surveyed the children and counted all of them. Corban was missing! When we all realized that he never got on the ride with us, Jeff and Candy darted off in a panic. They handed off their baby, Joshua, and three year old, Levi, to me. Attempting to retrace their steps they called out, “Corban! Corban!”

I saw the terror in their faces as they ran everywhere. My parents, Edric and I, and our kids were very worried, too. We prayed and prayed that he was alright, that he would be found. I started up the street with my kids and Candy’s younger kids in tow while everyone else helped with the search.

A few moments later, two ladies approached me and asked, “Are you looking for a boy? We were following him because we were concerned about him. We are so glad to know that he’s going to be okay.” That’s all they said and they walked away. These two young women were strangers. I had no idea who they were. But when they said this I was hoping they were referring to Corban.

A few minutes later I saw Corban in his parents arms, making their way towards us. Corban’s eyes were red and swollen from all the crying but the important thing was he was saved! I can’t even begin to explain the relief that came over all of us as we took in the sight of Corban. Losing Corban felt like a nightmare, one of those parent’s-worst-fears sort of situations!

Jeff and Candy found him in the arms of an elderly man, a security guard. At first, he kind of scolded them for their neglect. He was like, “How could you not know your child was missing for thirty minutes?!” He wasn’t angry, just incredulous.

Later on in the day, I got the chance to ask Corban what happened, after the drama died down. He narrated to me how he had followed his parents to the stroller parking. When they situated the stroller among the multitude of strollers, he lost track of them and got separated. Since he didn’t see them go to the Small World line, he waited at the stroller parking thinking they would reappear at some point. He stayed put but then realized that no family member was in sight or coming back to look for him. At this point he started to panic and cry. He thought perhaps he ought to walk in one direction (which was the opposite of where we were). That’s when the elderly gentleman saw him, escorted him, and held him while he was bawling.

I don’t know how the two ladies who spoke to me came into the picture because Corban didn’t talk about them. This leads me to believe that somehow, God used them to keep an eye on him from a distance. Maybe they were even angels!

What is certain is God protected Corban while we rode the Small World attraction, completely oblivious to how scared and alone he was. In an amusement park that could have had a number of predatorial and ill-intentioned people lurking around, who could have preyed on or taken away a vulnerable five year old, it was God’s merciful dealing with our carelessness that kept Corban safe. When I replay the scene in my mind and mull over how absent-minded and caught up we were in the gaiety of the ride, watching those dancing toys in total ignorance, it makes me so thankful that God is a much better parent than we all are!

While it was an innocent mistake, there was no excuse for forgetting a child that belonged to us. All of us adults felt guilty in some way for the shared neglect and presumptuousness we exhibited.

I praise God for being Corban’s rescuer. He watched over Corban by sending those kind women to tail him and the security guard to hold him until he was found. This was a lesson on vigilance for all of us parents, but it was also an experience of God’s grace and love. God’s grace and love rescued him from our mistake. While we obviously can’t live with the mindset that our mistakes are okay because God can supersede them, it was comforting to know that God looks out for the well-being of our kids. He loves them infinitely more than we ever can or will.

Of course, after this experience, we also learned to count each of our children CONTINUALLY! No other untoward incidences met us the rest of our stay and we all made it back home together and complete! Plus, Corban soon forgot the incident and moved on without post-traumatic stress.

I am so thankful it was a painful lesson with a HAPPY ending because God elected for Corban to be found. We may have forgotten about him but God did not!

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“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭49‬:‭15‬ NASB)

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Four Weeks As a REAL Housewife

I get it now. Being a home maker is backbreaking work. I mean, a homemaker in North America. By the end of the day, my idea of a reward is a hot shower or sitting on a couch to watch some mindless movie to fall asleep to. There’s hardly anything left in me to give to Edric or my kids because I am tired.

It hasn’t been stressful cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry. But it has been physically exhausting. I suppose this is why I have taken long pauses from writing as of late. Plus it isn’t very inspiring to talk about house chores. Who wants to know about how I sort dark and light clothing? It’s somewhere in between maddening and necessary. Everyday I look at the pile of laundry that the kids throw into the hamper and I am like, “You’ve got to be kidding! Do we go through that many clothes?!” Well, we do. We are 7 x 2 outfits a day. So when the kids don’t leave the house, I let them wear their pajamas morning to night. And if they don’t get sweaty, they can postpone their shower to the next day (and wear the same pjs!)

Then, there’s the kitchen. It’s a full-time preoccupation cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Now I understand why cereal is so popular. Heck, why not eat it three times a day! The kids went through an uncountable number of cereal boxes this vacation. I am ashamed to admit they survived on Lucky Charms and Cheerios.

In a few days I will have my unrealistic life back — the one that comes with household help. I finally understand why it is a luxury to be able to pay people to wash the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals, etc. America, for all its conveniences and efficiencies, is wonderful and I am glad to be part American.

However, I still prefer living in the Philippines. The kids do, too. They are looking forward to seeing their Siamese cats, toys, own beds, and getting back into the rhythm of our lives in Manila.

Manila doesn’t have the cleanest air or streets. It can get miserably hot. Life is crazy busy for us with homeschooling, business and ministry. But that’s where we are serving God and investing in the lives of others.

I will miss the cold weather, the traffic-less freeways, the quieter life where the extent of your social obligations are four or five good friends, the groceries (oh, the groceries with thirty options for butter!), the steak (I love a good steak), and the nobody-knows-you kind of anonymity that an introvert like myself can really get used to.

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But anywhere is home where I am with Edric and the kids. This past month has felt like we have been “at home.” However, I am so thankful to the Lord that at present, our mailing address is in Manila, Philippines. I am looking forward to a decent night’s sleep and breakfast that includes rice and comes with a clean up crew!

Some of the things I learned as a happily desperate housewife on vacation this past month:

1. Buy lots of cereal, milk, eggs, fruit, and cheese, and make these accessible throughout the day.

2. Invest in a ton of wet wipes and bring them everywhere!

3. Breastfeed your infant. It’s the simplest, easiest way to make sure she gets the nourishment she needs. Catalina cut back on the solids because she prefers the soupy, home cooked meals our yayas make for her. Thankfully she breastfed a lot so she was fine during this vacation.

4. Use one bag that can double as a diaper bag and purse. Forget about looking stylish. It’s the practicality you are after.

5. Let the older kids bathe, dress, feed, and clean up after themselves.

6. Have an IPad available to entertain a carseat-restrained infant. I gave in and let Catalina be distracted by hours of YouVersion’s Bible App (for kids) so she wouldn’t cry like a screaming banshee.

7. Give the kids vitamins and extra vitamin C everyday.

8. Take your vitamins and overdose on vitamin C everyday.

9. Encourage the older kids to babysit the younger ones.

10. Dress up and look nice even if you feel tired and want to wear pajamas all day. Only your children are allowed to do that!

11. Teach your 16 month old survival skills like feeding herself or going up and down the stairs so she has the freedom to go around the house without you worrying about her constantly. (Catalina learned to scoot down the carpeted stairs backwards very effectively.)

12. Enjoy the moment even if you are sick and tired of the mess, the amount of effort it takes to mind the whereabouts of five children, or preoccupied by thoughts about what you have to do next.

13. Appreciate the effort your husband makes to sweep the floor, clean out the car, and organize the children so you don’t feel irritated when he says he can’t hold the baby for longer than ten minutes.

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14. Train your 16 month old to obey. Catalina was hitting her younger cousin several times a day, every day, and throwing tantrums when she didn’t get her way. We finally started disciplining her by spanking her for disobedience and defiance. Praise God she improved significantly and made the connection — hitting is a no-no, and throwing herself on the floor while rolling around wailing is a no-no, too. Here she is hugging the cousin she used to bully…

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15. Saturate your mind with thoughts about God. I downloaded a lot of uplifting music on my Spotify account so I could meditate on the Lord, especially during long drives.

16. Find ways to recharge — nap times while you breastfeed, hot showers, short shopping trips, a fun movie, a chocolate chip cookie (or two or three. You will burn it off with keeping house and breastfeeding.)…Yes, I still managed to sneak in some me-time during this chore-ridden vacation.

17. Serve others with a joyful attitude without grumbling or thinking “you-owe-me.” Several times I was tempted to be irritated at every single person in my family for all the chores I had to do while they got to play or enjoy themselves. But God reminded me to work for Him.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

The kitchen crew…

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Family Time in Disney and Universal

This was the first time our kids went to Disneyland and Universal Studios. They had a blast. I pushed the stroller around and waited during most of the rides since Catalina was too young to ride but I lived through my kids’ fun vicariously. My greater joy was seeing their responses and reactions. Tiana was adorable when she witnessed the parade of Disney characters. She exclaimed, “I knew I would see princesses! Are they real mommy?”

The passes were my dad’s treat. He wanted to spend time with all of us. So he got tickets for my sister’s family and Edric and I, plus all our children. My dad has this great way of bonding with his grandkids. His method is to take on the grandchildren in manageable doses. One or two families at a time on a trip or vacation with him and my mom. My parents have 15 grandchildren so it’s pretty chaotic when the kids are in complete attendance. (This will happen next week!) Furthermore, the kids gravitate towards one another when they are all present which makes it more challenging to get to know them individually.

By the end of the trip, my kids were holding on to their grandma’s and Angkong’s (grandpa’s) hands. They wanted to sit beside them during meal times. And my parents got to observe and profile their personalities better.

This was a magical time for our family. I was very thankful for the small “fortune” my parents invested to pay for all our park tickets and hotel stays, but the best part for me was being with one another. It’s such a blessing that my mom and dad care to be with our children and disciple them. They want to connect with them and build memories. Edric’s parents are the same way so we have the privilege of having an extra set of parents on both sides looking out for the spiritual, emotional, physical and social well-being of our children.

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Halloween Hullabaloo

“Mom…don’t fight. You tell us not to fight, right? You and daddy shouldn’t fight.” Titus Mendoza.

We weren’t really fighting, but we were engaged in a debate over Halloween. Should the kids go around and get candy or should we ignore this festivity all together?

For the first time, Edric was open to the idea of our children participating in our village’s Halloween activities. Every house that is decorated signifies that they give out candy. We didn’t decorate because our family has never celebrated Halloween. So I assumed that Edric and I were on the same page. However, he had a recent encounter with someone who said, “So you don’t do Halloween because you are Christians, right?” It got him thinking about the real reasons why our family doesn’t get dressed up and traipse from door to door like most families do on this day.

Over breakfast, Edric invited the children to join our discussion and share their thoughts. The intention was good but the process was a little bit tense. Sure, we were having a “discussion,” but I must admit that it was fueled by irritation on my part. What had tripped the wires in my husband’s brain so that we suddenly didn’t see eye to eye?

He asked the kids, “Do you want to go around and get candy from the neighbors?” I didn’t think the question was worded accurately. So I interjected with my own version. “Kids, do you want to go begging for candy in silly outfits on a day that was born out of demonic origins?” (Kids representing 6 and below didn’t understand what I was talking about.)

“Okay, if that’s your perspective then why celebrate Christmas either?” Edric’s counter-statement was “it’s also pagan in origin.”

I didn’t have a credible defense. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I didn’t want to give that up. Plus, in my mind, celebrating Christ’s birth (even if it isn’t the exact date) seemed vastly different than joining in on a day that patronizes ghouls, ghosts, gore, and ghastly things. It wasn’t a sound argument by any measure, but I was getting increasingly annoyed so I added that into the discussion.

This began to look and sound like a fight to our kids. Titus even added, “You should be kind to your husband.” Edric got all excited when Titus said this and thought he had an ally. Then he discovered that “wife” was what Titus meant by “husband.”

“Who is the husband?” Edric asked. Titus chimed in, “Mommy!” The other kids cracked up and suggested that be kind to your wife was what he wanted to say.

I need to add that Titus had the sweetest way of correcting us. When he made the first comment about “not fighting,” there was a melody to his tone of voice and a big smile on his face. It was the same with his appeal for us to be kind to one another. Who could resist him? It certainly made Edric and I more conscious of our passionate dialoguing. So Edric said, “Mommy and I will continue this later,” assuring the children that we would resolve it in private.

While it isn’t morally wrong to collect candy on Halloween, we finally decided that it wasn’t of eternal benefit to our children or to us to perpetuate the celebration of a day that represented what is dark, evil, and ugly. Just look at the décor. Is it uplifting and edifying?

The other day I was at the toy store and they were selling decapitated heads, bloody arms and bodies, and hideous looking masks and faces. My daughter’s reaction, which was to run away, is exactly what I’m trying to emphasize. There’s something macabre about this day.

If a family wants to get dressed up in more wholesome outfits instead of witches and dead people…if they want to decorate their homes’ facades with cute pumpkins, that’s their call. Edric’s mom dressed him up like a carrot when he was little. I would have loved to see that! My friends came up with a good alternative. They planned a candy night at one of their houses so a bunch of families can still do the costumes and get their candy. We would have joined them except that we had other plans.

Fortunately, my kids don’t care too much about costumes or candy. They don’t feel like they are missing out on some glorious part of their childhood by not participating in Halloween. Since they don’t go to school, they aren’t aware of how big a deal it is either.

Here’s what they did today…

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I don’t want to go around making a doctrinal issue out of Halloween and judging families who allow their children to dress up, play make-believe, and fill their pumpkins with candy. I know a lot of people who enjoy the costume aspect of Halloween and they don’t cast spells or drink blood. Some are friends, others are family. Like my dad used to say, “There are things worth debating and there are things worth dying for.” I won’t die for the Halloween issue. I will die for the gospel.

However, I do think that we should all evaluate why we participate in certain festivities. It wasn’t until we started having kids that Edric and I began to rethink why we do what we do. What sort of values and precedents are we inculcating in our children? Just because an occasion is cultural and fun doesn’t mean our family has to give hearty approval to it. We can choose to celebrate the activities that are meaningful and profitable to us.

At the same time, we don’t want to raise little legalists. We don’t want our children to have this “holier than thou” image of themselves that turns people off to Christ. So we processed the conclusion with them. The kids were like, “Great! We didn’t want to get candy anyway!” (I also apologized for my tone of voice and irritation towards Edric.  Titus ran up to me and gave me a big hug.) Edric explained that this was a family decision and not a doctrine stated in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t dress up in costumes and collect candy from nice neighbors on Halloween.”

However, for those who won’t be popping in those vampire fangs for their costume tonight, here’s something you might like to chew on…

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭8-17‬ NLT)

Here is a well-written piece from John MacArthur’s ministry that is worth reading. I like the idea of using this popular holiday to give out gospel tracks!: Christians and Halloween

INVITING ALL IMPERFECT PARENTS

Most of us are pretty clueless when it comes to rearing children, especially at the beginning. My younger brother epitomized this when he stepped into the hospital room for a visit after I gave birth to my first child. He took in the sight of Elijah and was like, “So, where are his teeth? And what does he eat?”

Seriously, bro?!

It was like he had never seen a baby in his life! (Now he is a pro with his four.)

Whether you are a newbie parent or a parent with multiple children, there’s always a challenge that you have to deal with…at every stage. When they are little there are challenges like training a child to poop in a toilet. Freakin’ hard!

With my four older kids, I took their diapers off at 2 years old. This, according to my mother, would make them realize that urine and excrement have to go somewhere. It usually took two months until they finally understood this so we had urine and excrement on the floor almost everyday. Disinfect! Disinfect! After a while we could anticipate when it was going to happen and rush them into the bathroom. We didn’t always make it! Then I had to scoop up their turdy-turds and transport them to the toilet, making up stories about poop needing to go home.

“Look, he’s happy! He’s going home! Say bye-bye!” Flush. After an insane amount of repetition the message would click and they would get it. (In a year we will have to do the same thing with Catalina.)

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Even if Edric and I have five kids, we keep relearning what it means to be parents. The lessons never end and the challenges never cease. It’s a miracle that our kids are turning out okay so far despite our shortcomings.

 

 

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Yesterday, for example, I was teaching geography and told my son, Edan, that the South China Sea was to the east of the Philippines. Duh. Elijah had to correct my sense of direction. “Mom, the east is always to the right remember, which would make the Pacific Ocean to the right and South China Sea to the left of the Philippines.” He pointed at the Pacific Ocean on the globe as proof of his common sense and my lack of it. Okay, so geography was never a strength of mine. I know I am earth. That’s about it. Heck, I get lost in parking lots.

The point is parenting is difficult on many levels. Teaching geography is peanuts compared to dealing with our children’s heart issues. Potty training is a simple process compared to teaching obedience, respect, treating others with kindness and deference. I could go through a list of character traits that take years of repetition to pass on to our kids.

But here’s some good news…

There’s a manual! It didn’t come in pamphlet size inside the cribs of the hospitals where I birthed my kids. Oh, I would have loved to have a step-by-step guide that was very specific for each of my kids – the kind of printout you find in the box of a new toy — that gives you guidelines on how to operate it, put it together, or supplies you with a list of do’s and dont’s. Don’t eat this, for example. Or, this model is emotional and needs lots of hugging. This one won’t talk much but here’s what you can do to…

However, God has given every parent a manual in the form of His Word. It may not explain how to do Lamaze, or give tips on how to make food interesting to a child, or spell out each milestone of a child’s life and what you can do. But, it does have time-tested principles that answer the greatest questions all parents ought to consider when it comes to parenting:

Who is our child?

What is he or she supposed to become?

What is our role as parents?

How do we get them from baby to adulthood successfully?

What obstacles do we need to be aware of?

What truths do we need to teach them?

How can we equip them to make wise choices that honor God?

How do we survive each season of the parenting journey?

And so on…

Yes, but what about the specifics?! Well, you and I have several options.

  1. Look for mentors who have gone before us, who have raised their children successfully.
  2. Get together with other parents who are like-minded in the desire to raise their children successfully, who can come along side you.
  3. Pray for our children regularly.
  4. Read books and materials written by experts that are consistent with what God’s Word has to say about parenting and children.
  5. Attend retreats, seminars, and conferences that can educate us on how to improve, grow, and become the best parents we can be.

I’m happy to tell you that this October 25, 2014, there will be an event for parents that will allow you to do all five of the things I just mentioned above. Like me, I’m sure you struggle with parenting and feel clueless at times. You get discouraged and need to remember what’s most important about your role and what you are doing. You want to know that you’re not the only one who feels this way. You want to love your kids and meet their emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs but you aren’t always sure how. You want to be directed to the resources and mentors that will help you navigate the parenting seascape (which has, unfortunately become very turbulent these days!)

Then, don’t miss Counterflow 2014, a one-day conference for parents like you and me who are in the trenches of raising children and dealing with the challenges of being a mom or dad. THIS IS FOR IMPERFECT PARENTS ONLY! HEY! THAT’S YOU AND THAT’S ME, AND MAYBE EVEN YOUR FRIENDS! :) HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL THERE!

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Here’s what to expect from the plenary speakers and workshops:

PLENARY SESSIONS

1. Francis Kong: “State of the Family Today”

2. Larry Fowler: “Raising up Josephs in the 21st Century”

3. Peter Tan-chi: “The Power of Modeling”

 

WORKSHOPS (Workshops will be held back to back, so you can attend two of your top choices.)

1. Francis Kong: Bridging the Generation Gap

2. Larry Fowler: Reaching the Heart of Your Child

3. Deonna Tan-chi: Sex & Sexuality

4. Edric and Joy Mendoza: Parenting & Homeschooling: What’s the Fit?

5. Neils and Amyjay Riconalla: Blending a Blended Family

6. Wisdom and Betty Sy, Malu Ortiz, Lincoln and Tina Lim: Parenting Kids with Special Needs

7. Bobbie Barretto: Solo Parenting

8. Ruth Ruivivar: Home Church Partnership in Raising Successful Kids in Today’s World

9. Oscar and Lally Medalla: Parenting Teens 101

10. Paul and Jenny Tan-chi: Disciplining Young Children

 

Obeying Your Husband = God’s Bountiful Blessings

Edric and I usually don’t spend alot for birthday parties. With five children, that kind of expense can add up. However, we do like to celebrate their first year of life with a dedication ceremony that gives them back to the Lord. It’s the principle of “for God’s use only.” The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1) Therefore our children, our possessions, our accomplishments all belong to Him.

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For Catalina, we waited until October to hold her birthday/dedication event so we could time it with our house dedication. We invited family, our bible study group, Edric’s best friends from high school, and a few of our neighbors. I wanted to invite more people but the headcount for our guests was somewhere around 140 (with kids and yayas) which was a sizable number to have in our home.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to feed everyone if the cooking was dependent on me. So I asked Edric what kind of budget we had to work with and he mouthed out a number that wasn’t too exciting. How in the world was I going to put together this event with such a small budget?

His reasons were valid. We just finished our home so expenses have been tighter. It’s saving mode time. But X amount for food, tables and chairs, décor, games and prizes? I racked my brain trying to figure out how to do it.

Here were my options:

1. Cook some of the food and order the rest. Borrow chaffing dishes from my mom. Rent the tables and chairs. Decorate on my own.

2. Get a more reasonable caterer that wouldn’t be able to style it but had good food. Decorate on my own.

3. Hire a caterer who could supply some of the food, bring tables and chairs and centerpieces, and I provide the rest of the menu.

4. Convince Edric to give me a bigger party fund so I could get someone who could decorate and cater for me and create the theme I wanted, and be stress-free!

Naturally, I desired option 4. It would have been the simplest way for me to hold the party. But I knew that Edric really wanted me to be frugal. So I did my part to plan and find suppliers.

I wrote a random post on Facebook asking for caterer recommendations. While I received a number of helpful responses, one of the suggestions really stood out — Passion Cooks Catering. I checked out their Facebook account and I thought, Here’s a company that will surely be able to execute the theme I wanted. 

Since I had no idea what their rates were like I sent them a message and explained my requirements. In response, I received a list of their prices. When I went through their price list, I was discouraged. Their costs weren’t within the range of my budget.

So I kept looking for suppliers and narrowed down my choices to three options. Passion Cooks was still one of them but I didn’t reply to their proposal right away. I was considering another caterer who had given me a proposal the included food, chairs and tables. In fact, I was inclined to finalize with them because the price was right, but I waited for a few more days. In the meantime, I received a Facebook message from Maja Martinez-Angeles, one of the owners of Passion Cooks Catering , asking if I reviewed their newest proposal.

She sent me another menu that was for a heavy merienda which I really liked, and she also offered to set-up chairs, tables, and decorations. But it didn’t indicate the cost. Here’s where my internal wrestling with submission to Edric came in. I knew that if I really begged him, he would allow me to increase my budget. He is sweet towards me like that. He’s often said, “You are my weakness.” However, if he did give in to me it would be due to manipulation on my part. And I didn’t want to do that. His desire to keep to a budget was a good one and I knew I should honor it.

Before I sent a reply to Maja, God convicted me very strongly to OBEY Edric. I was embarrassed to tell her the price per head that I needed but God told me, You obey Edric and tell Maja what your budget is. Be humble and honest. Be willing to settle for the other caterer because you should honor Edric. Don’t try to manipulate Edric to get your way.

Okay, okay. I replied to Maja saying that at this point in time, I only had such and such amount to work with and I would consider getting her for a future event instead. In a few minutes, Maja got back to me and said, “The menu I proposed to you is X amount.”

What?! Seriously?! I couldn’t believe it. It was even lower than what I had told her! But what about chairs and tables and décor? Maja told me she would include that in the cost.

I almost fell off my chair. In fact, I got teary-eyed. It seemed too good to be true.

She asked me to meet her so we could discuss details. We convened at a café where I also met her adorable daughter, Yuna, and to my surprise, she casually mentioned, “I forgot to tell you that I go to CCF (our church), and I’m under the discipleship group of Cindy Soriano (The wife of CCF Alabang’s head pastor, Joby Soriano). Oh, and I read your blog, too.”

By this time I knew it was definitely too good to be true! This was the Lord’s doing! Maja turned out to be such a wonderful, professional, experienced, and capable stylist/caterer/businesswoman. I was very impressed with how easy this all seemed to her. She understood exactly what I was hoping for in terms of a look for the event. For example, I wanted a rustic garden theme with folded white chairs (not the typical mono bloc covered ones or tiffany chairs), and wooden tables. Maja’s company had these. I also wanted more gourmet food which her menu options had. She even handed me packed food to taste without me asking for her to do this.

The food was delicious! Even my son, Elijah, exclaimed, “This is the best salad ever!” in reference to their Mango Salsa with Catfish Salad.

Through the course of our discussions, I also found out that Maja had six years of experience in New World Hotel after she graduated from college before starting her business. I believe this is one of the reasons why she has a keen eye for detail and sophistication. Following her work there, she partnered with her mom (who is a chef), to create Passion Cooks Catering.

She worked hard to build this business. When she was starting out, a certain venue told her that her chaffing dishes were outdated and didn’t “pass” their standards. Now, they more than welcome her business! I asked her how many people she can cater for in a day and she replied, “We can handle up to 2,500 people.” This translates to multiple events or one HUGE wedding! Today, Maja handles wedding occasions and her partners, Melissa Cabrera-Bolasco and Ivy Caparas, oversee kiddie parties and other celebrations.

After I met with Maja, I was very confident that she would be able to take care of everything. The stress I had felt as I scrambled to find caterers and brainstorm dissipated. All I had to do was complete my “assignments.” Send her photos of my inspirations, find a photographer, source a sound system, email her the dimensions of our yard, and give her the list of the kids’ games, etc.

Early Saturday morning, Maja sent her army of people to our home. Two hours before the event, Elijah came bounding up the stairs to drag me down to see all the décor. “You HAVE to come downstairs, mom!” I was in the middle of printing the game rules but he kept insisting.

The backyard was transformed into a stunning rustic garden theme…better than I imagined! Edric was thoroughly impressed. He had no idea what kind of coordination had happened behind the scenes when he was in the U.S. that week. When he saw our backyard, he couldn’t believe it! ESPECIALLY BECAUSE I STUCK TO HIS BUDGET AND OBEYED HIM.

He was so pleased that I did so, he even asked, “Do you need more money? How can I help you?” The context was this…A few hours before 3 PM (when the party was to start), I presented to him the cake that I made myself. I made this cake to save money. He forced down a chuckle because the icing had peeled off the cake on one side. It was an obvious disaster. So his heart went out to me and he told me that whatever I needed he would get for me! So we made an emergency trip to buy three rainbow cakes and other materials for the games.

In the meantime, Maja dropped by for a bit to check on the place. When I saw her I told her how amazed I was! But this wasn’t the end of the story…

She had told me to get a photographer and we knew a couple of photographer friends. Unfortunately, all of them were busy this past weekend. So Edric told Elijah to take pictures of the set-up. Well, Maja texted me that her friend, Joshua, was going to snap photos of the details before the guests arrived. It turned out that Joshua recognized Elijah from a photoshoot of our family last year, and he offered to photograph our family and send a team to cover Catalina’s party!

Joshua didn’t just take our family portrait, he also took the Tan-Chi family portrait. This was something my parents and siblings wanted to get done while my sister, Candy and her husband, Jeff , were visiting from the U.S. Initially, I asked my brother, Peter, to bring his camera to the party so we could do an informal shot of the family. He was prepared to do this but God provided a professional.

Joshua De Guzman is a 22-year old photographer who is spunky and very talented! Even though he is young, he is already a very experienced photographer. Check out his Facebook page: Little J Photography. This guy is going to go places.

During a quick lunch with him and Maja before the party, we found out that he used to be a fish vendor in Tuguegaraw before following his dream of becoming a photographer. Coming to Manila to study, his “calling card” was the blackboard/whiteboard, where he would write something like this, “If you want a free photoshoot, call me and bring a camera.” He didn’t even own his own camera but he used these opportunities to get lots of practice and train himself. Today he is living his dream at such a young age.

If I were to enumerate all the ways God blessed this day, this article would get very long. (It already is.) But, the last thing I wanted to share was how God held the weather. I checked the weather forecast for Saturday, October 4, every single day for two weeks prior to it. All the forecasts said to expect thunderstorms. Ack. Every day before Saturday, there was heavy rain in the afternoon. But October 4 was the best day to do it because my sister was leaving two days after and almost all of the people we invited were available on this day. So I just prayed really hard and asked family and friends to pray, too.

The entire morning was clear and the clouds started to darken in the early afternoon but the miracle was, we only had a light shower and no downpour. Since we had tents in the backyard, we were perfectly fine.

Let’s put this all together…

I didn’t want to follow Edric’s budget at first. But because I honored him as my husband, God gave me…

…the gift of a gorgeous party we could not afford

…styled by a brilliant artist-of-a-woman

…who happened to be a member of our same church

…who happened to be a reader of my blog

…so we could celebrate the life of a daughter and a home we do not deserve

…with friends and family who came despite the horrendous traffic

…on a day that should have had torrential rain but didn’t

…that was captured by a talented photographer

…who happened to be free to take photos of the event

…who also took our family portraits

…who volunteered his services

…who sent a team to cover the rest of the party

…who gave us amazing photos to remember an amazing day!

It’s not always easy for me to obey Edric. There are days when I don’t want to, when I want my own way. However, I remember principles like Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I need to prefer God’s will; to wholeheartedly follow His principles; to love His precepts; to want Him over my own desires.

If I had placed my desire for a beautiful, stress-free party above my obedience to Edric, I would have forfeited the extraordinary happenings of that day. Desire must follow delighting in God. In the end, obeying Edric resulted in God’s bountiful blessings. Furthermore, since Edric saw that I really tried my best, I had his favor, too.

Will this always be the case? I don’t know how God intends to reward us as wives every time we honor our husbands. However, I do know that in his perfect time and perfect way, he will bless us because he calls himself a REWARDER of those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

May you and I continually experience this truth in our lives and marriages!

MANY THANKS TO MAJA OF PASSION COOKS CATERING AND JOSHUA OF LITTLE J PHOTOGRAPHY! MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU IN INCREDIBLE WAYS FOR YOUR GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT, AND THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU CONSTANTLY GIVE GLORY TO HIM WITH YOUR ARTISTRY!

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A Greater Purpose For Learning

I have often told my kids that language skills are important. Reading, writing, composition, and comprehension are all necessary and worth the hours of arduous study and practice required to hone them. They aren’t always eager about my pep talks. But they are beginning to experience why these are valuable beyond the discipline of learning academics.

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As often as possible, we ask our kids to speak with us when we teach at retreats or events. This gives them a venue to apply what they learn. Elijah speaks more frequently with Edric. Edan is getting his own version of speaker’s training as well. The point is to let our kids see how they can be a blessing when they develop a skill or ability that would otherwise seem insignificant to their childhood ambitions and preoccupations.

What kid likes to learn things like grammar and other tools for good communication? My children don’t naturally gravitate towards these disciplines. In fact they would prefer NOT to do their language arts subject. But nowadays they have good reason to.

A person who can read, write and speak well can be used by God to communicate his truth and bless people.

Most young children think of learning as their inescapable day to day reality. They can’t wait for semester and summer breaks. I know this because there was a season of my childhood when I was in a conventional school. I studied but I wasn’t inspired to do so. It was my duty, a responsibility that felt very much like a chore.

On the one hand, kids need to accept that they have to study well whether they like it or not. I had this conversation with Elijah this morning when he told me he wasn’t motivated to do his homeschool work. How wonderfully humbling that this surfaced right after I wrote an article on using creative ways to motivate a child to learn! He is an older child so I tread more carefully with him, trying to respect that he will soon be a young man. I don’t want to be an overbearing mother. But I did tell him that sometimes we decide with our head first and the feelings follow. We may not always feel like doing our responsibilities but we have to. So we make the choice to and God will bless the effort. By the end of the morning his mood changed. (Thank you, Lord.)

Going back to our children’s involvement in public speaking…

This is one way to get our kids to apply what they learn in a very practical manner. But the more valuable reason is we want them to see the bigger picture. Their education is profitable for the fulfillment of God’s plan. If they give their best now to train their minds, they can use their talents and abilities to make a difference for God’s glory.

The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NASB)

God invites even children to participate in the building if His Kingdom. At a young age, they can serve him and others. They can look beyond subject studies to seek a higher purpose for learning.

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“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬ NASB)

How to Travel Without Your Baby

20140804-175657-64617754.jpgI’m not an advocate of separating a nursing baby and mother for the sake of traveling. But I believe there are occasions when it may be necessary or even beneficial for both to be a part.

For example, your husband really wants you to go on a “honeymooney” vacation with him for 3 days, just the two of you. He wants to revisit couple hood and have you all to himself. If your baby is eating solids and over six months, I would say take the trip and leave your baby at home with your parents (I’m sure they won’t mind!). A trip with your hubby can rekindle romance and intimacy which will make you both better parents!

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The biggest challenge will be keeping up your milk production while you are away and then returning to breastfeeding when you get back. If that’s your fear, then take heart. Perhaps this post will encourage you.

Edric and I were in Brazil for 11 days and we opted NOT to bring Catalina. I vacillated between taking her and leaving her, going over the pros and cons. At first I was dead set on making sure she came with me. When my parents invited us to speak with them in Curutiba, Brazil, I was like, IF WE DO GO, WE HAVE TO BRING CATALINA.

However, two weeks before the event, Edric and I really thought through the decision and we decided not to. I was anxious and relieved at the same time. There really was no perfect scenario, but here were the factors that gave us peace of mind about her staying behind with our four other kids:

  •  At nearly 1 year, she was eating 3 sizeable meals a day.
  • Her intake of breastmilk was down to 14 to 16 ounces a day or 4 to 5 feedings. Her schedule looked something like this: 6 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 7 PM, 10 PM.
  • She could drink milk from a cup or glass or bottle.
  • I didn’t have enough milk stored in the freezer to sustain her for 11 days but my friends, Ron and Ivy, donated theirs. Ron, in particular can pump mega amounts of milk! She’s like a beautiful cow. Thankfully, she was generous enough to send me an oversupply of frozen milk.
  • Catalina’s paediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Say (the best pedia in the world), advised that she stay. Looking back, I’m glad we listened because Catalina got Roseola three days after we left which means she would have had it in Brazil.
  • Catalina was on a great sleeping schedule at night that would have been shot to heck by the jet lag effect.
  • I had a fantastic nanny to care for her in my absence and my kids would be staying with my in-laws. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) have always been the best people to leave our kids with when we are away.
  • The travel time to our destination and back was going to be uncomfortably long – Almost 30 hours with layovers.
  • Since Edric and I needed to speak and minister to people during this trip, we wanted to be able to focus on doing this.
  • Edric and I were also planning to celebrate our 13th year of marriage.

Even if these reasons made us inclined to go without Catalina it wasn’t an easy decision. It’s always difficult for me to leave any of our children and this was my first time to leave one of my breastfeeding babies. If circumstances were different, I would have preferred that we had waited until next year to take this trip to Brazil. But God made it clear through people, circumstances, and his word that this was a trip he wanted us to go on.

Nevertheless, I parted with Catalina tearfully. It felt unnatural for me to be away from my nursing child for an extended period of time. Eleven days felt like forever. So how did Catalina and I survive without one another and then reunite to continue our breastfeeding relationship?

I had to pump on a regulated schedule, preferably no more than 3 hours in between pumping. It didn’t matter where I was. I found a place to sit down with my nursing cover and pump. This was a challenge. I brought a hand pump! On the one hand it was super easy to carry along and quiet. But on the other hand, I probably didn’t get as much out of me as I could have with an electric or battery operated pump. However, my Avent pump worked just fine to keep my supply going.

On the 6th day my milk decreased a little. But this was related to emotional stress and lack of water in take. My emotional stress was connected to having to give a very personal testimony about a tragic experience in my life. As for the water, it was hard to come by in Brazil. We had to keep buying mineral water and I didn’t like spending for it. Eventually, I just drank out of the tap in our hotel room. When my mom suggested that I try it since she had been doing it without getting stomach problems, I guzzled down glasses of it! (My mom has a stomach of steel. She “trained” it by drinking tap water all around the world. I’m not as brave as she is and I’m not recommending this!)

Pumping on a schedule meant doing so even during the conference sessions and while touring. But I didn’t care and nobody did either. One time, I had to stand up with my not so pretty nursing cover because Edric and I were introduced to the audience. That was a little awkward. I had one hand under the cover holding my hand pump and the other one waving. On other occasions I pumped while riding in tour buses or taxis, while eating a meal, in the mall, etc.

Unlike some of my friends who stored every ounce of milk they pumped during their travels, I dumped mine. I’m not proud of this but it was the simplest way to keep my milk production operation going. I didn’t bring a sterilizer for my pump because it would have complicated my pumping “system.”

It was hard to throw away my milk. Everytime I poured it down a sink, I felt sad. I tried to convince Edric to drink it so that someone could benefit from it. He agreed to if it was cold. But, when the cream rose to the top after I kept milk for him in the refrigerator, it was asking too much. I agreed. It didn’t look very appetizing. I couldn’t bring myself to drink it either. So I pumped and dumped.

One of my friends, Kim, took along an ice chest with her when she traveled with her husband, and she was able to keep all her milk frozen. Amazing! She paid a lot of money for excess baggage and threw out clothes she didn’t care about so she could bring home her milk!

I favored the practicality of dumping it, but there was emotional aspect to doing this. It felt wasteful. So depending on the situation, a mother has to decide what is important to her. Go through the trouble of sterilizing a pump and storing milk while traveling or pour it out after each pumping session. It’s not a moral choice but some people have very strong convictions about breastmilk. I have friends who donate their milk to babies who are in need so it would be difficult for me to say that pumping and dumping is the best way to go.

Besides pumping regularly, I kept taking my Life Oil pills (Malunggay) which I had been using for months. Two capsules a day, plus all my other vitamins and minerals. I learned a new word from my friend, Kim, who stored her breastmilk and took it home. GALACTAGOGUE.

Take a galactagogue to increase milk supply (ex. Fenugreek, oatmeal, Malunggay, Motilium). Malunggay capsules were the most familiar to me because I usually take them when I am breastfeeding. I also knew about Motilium which I had used for my children’s stomach problems in the past. When I read up on it, I found out it was safe for nursing mothers to take but I never did try it to increase milk supply. Kim told me she had tried it and it didn’t impeded her intestinal functions. Motilium comes in suspension or tablet form. Both Life Oil and Motilium are available at Mercury Drug. Both of these can be pricey. There are other brands of Malunggay capsules sold in Mercury Drug and generic drug stores like Generics Pharmacy.

When taking a trip away from a nursing baby, I wouldn’t recommend going over a week. Eleven days was pushing it for me. I would have preferred a 5 or 7 day trip if we had not attended a conference. Since we wanted to maximize our time in Brazil, we added two side trips – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo was not worth it but Rio was. Sao Paulo is a massive city. There isn’t much to see in terms of tourist spots. It’s like a bigger version of Makati and way more expensive. As Brazil’s financial capital, it’s more of a business destination. As for Rio, this was our “honeymoon” part of the trip. We added this so we could celebrate our anniversary.

Most people don’t need to combine a conference and vacation in one trip. In fact, I would advise that a nursing mother focus on just one. The commitment of pumping and the emotional difficulty of being away will take its toll. At a certain point it was hard for me to Face Time with the kids and see Catalina. During one of our calls, she said “Mama” and pointed to my face on the screen and cried. That was tough!

As for the pumping, I got a plugged duct the day we left which was massively painful. At first I thought it might lead to mastitis but Edric and I prayed and 12 hours later, I was able to get rid of it. With a plugged duct, the best way to alleviate it is to keep nursing or pumping. I couldn’t do the former so I did the latter. Even if it hurt like heck, I forced myself to pump. Right after the duct unclogged itself, the pain dissipated. That was a happy moment. Previously, lifting my arm was painful!

I thought the biggest challenge of all would be returning to my breastfeeding relationship with Catalina. (That’s why I don’t recommend taking too many days away from a nursing baby.) I prayed about being able to nurse Catalina again, committing the final outcome to the Lord. Worse case, I was willing to stop breastfeeding. But that would have broken my heart. I gave my concern to the Lord and tried my best when I got back home.

My plan for reintroducing Catalina to the breast was to hold her first and be physically accessible. I was planning to try but I prepared myself to be rejected. If she turned me down then I was going to wait for her to remember that I was her milk source and pump in the meantime.

God was so good! When I got home, she expressed interest in latching on and she nursed right away! I was so happy. I thanked the Lord for affirming the decision to leave her. Since Thursday evening when we arrived, Catalina has returned to her nursing routine. Praise God!

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not saying that all mothers should leave their nursing babies and go away on a trip. But if you are put in a predicament where you need to or have to be away for a couple of days then here’s what you can do:

1. Pump enough milk two months before to store in the freezer so your baby can stay on breastmilk while you are away. Depending on the age of your baby, store enough ounces to cover your absence.

2. Have one person train your baby in advance to take breastmilk from a bottle or cup. I usually introduce a bottle to my babies when they are about a month old. Breastfeeding advocates often recommend later. But I’ve found that letting them try the bottle even two weeks after giving birth doesn’t cause confusion if the bottle isn’t given habitually. I don’t ever give the bottle myself. I have the nanny do it. But bottle feeding is always a last resort. I always prefer to breastfeed directly.

3.  Start taking a galactagogue if you feel you need to increase milk supply. Some women don’t need this and sometimes galactagogues don’t really affect milk production positively. But it’s worth trying a few weeks before you leave for your trip.

4. Avoid being away from your baby before the trip happens. It was hard not to do errands during the last few days prior to our Brazil trip, so I took Catalina with me as often as possible. This ensured that she was breastfeeding until the last possible moment.

5. Train your baby’s nanny to defrost and prepare breastmilk in the bottle so she is confident about giving it when you are gone. I taught Catalina’s nanny how to use the very simple Safety 1st Babypro Bottle Warmer.

6. Leave your baby with someone you trust. Grandparents are always a great option!

7. Pump every 2 to 3 hours when you are away. You can take a 6 hour break at night when you are sleeping so you get enough rest. But if you want to be super diligent about pumping, you can wake up once to pump. I used Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump, but I also recommend the one my sister uses which is very efficient, lightweight, quiet, and portable. She bought hers at Rustan’s: Medela Swing BreastpumpMedela Moms is very helpful if you want to consult them before buying a pump.

8. If you pump and dump, bring a bottle to store your pumped milk in until you find a place to pour it out. I went to the restrooms so I could wash out my pump and bottle each time. Since I wasn’t sterilising, I just used whatever soap was available.

9. If you want to store all your milk, bring milk storage bags, ice packs, a portable cooler (your breast pump may already come with one), a larger cooler than you can check-in, and a steriliser for your pump and bottles. Use the portable cooler and ice packs when you pump on the go. And the larger one to transport milk storage bags from one place to another. Keep the ice packs frozen by using the hotel refrigerator. If you check in your milk with frozen ice packs, they should be okay for 24 hours. It’s rare to be on a plane trip for longer than that, unless you are traveling to Brazil! According to my friend, Kim, airlines are pretty accommodating about checking in breastmilk. But, if you go over your allotted baggage weight limit, you will have to pay.

10. When you get back home, pump before you see your baby just in case she doesn’t latch on right away. If she doesn’t, stay on the bed with her and have skin to skin contact. She will most likely remember. If she is awkward about sucking at first, don’t worry. Be accessible and Lord willing, you will get back to your breastfeeding groove soon enough!