Fasting Week 2014

Fasting week for our church began Monday. I can’t do a full fast because I am breastfeeding. In the early mornings, I go on prayer walks with Catalina (who wakes me up at 5 something! Argh.) I hope I can sustain this. It has been wonderful but this morning I was tempted to go back to bed.

The kids are abstaining from IPads, computers, TV, sweets and junk food, too. Yesterday I asked the boys to write down their prayer requests. Tiana is still too little to participate but I was very blessed to read what my sons wrote down. Titus needed some help from me but Elijah and Edan came up with their own lists to pray about.

ELIJAH:

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EDAN:

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TITUS:

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MY OWN:

For Edric…

- To be discerning about priorities as God wants him to order them.
- To be an excellent TV host and public speaker who can use his talents and platform to further the gospel and attract people to Jesus.
- To be full of wisdom as he makes decisions for our family, work, ministry and business endeavors.
- To have the supernatural ability to manage all he has to with grace and temperance, being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.
- To be blessed in his efforts to provide for our emotional, relational and physical needs as a family.
- To stay pure in heart and turn his eyes away from evil.
- To love God above all else.
- To live with passion for His work and kingdom.
- To be equipped and able as a leader to mentor the men in his discipleship group.
- To have understanding and wisdom beyond his years and life experiences so he can guide the men he leads and our family.
- To be protected against adultery and wrong kinds of partnerships and connections that will lead him to sin.
- To be healthy and strong all the days of his life.
- To always process experiences and events from a spiritual perspective.
- To honor and obey God in everything he does.
- To have God’s hand and favor upon him.
- To make time to invest in the lives of our kids and disciple them personally and intentionally.
- To be attracted to me forever and to grow old with me in the Lord, serving him and enjoying sweeter and sweeter years together!

For my kids…

- To grow up to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
- To be easy to teach and to enjoy learning.
- To be healthy and strong.
- To be protected from demonic oppression and influences.
- To stay pure and guard their hearts from evil.
- To be full of wisdom and truth.
- To be discerning and make God-honoring choices.
- To be obedient and respectful.
- To have a love for God’s word and his statutes.
- To be influencers who make a difference for Christ.
- To be purposeful in their use of their time.
- To have favor with God and man.
- To have Christ-like character.
- To excel academically and be very responsive to my instruction when I am with them.
- To become independent learners equipped with the skills to gather information, process and comprehend, communicate and apply, and solve problems creatively and with understanding.
- To be handsome, beautiful and talented.

Househelp…

- To enjoy working for our family.
- To grow in the knowledge of the Lord and to love him.
- To be good stewards of the resources entrusted to them.
- To care for our children with diligence, patience, and kindness.
- To remain trustworthy in their areas of responsibility.
- To be joyful and spirit-filled, not giving in to moodiness, laziness, pride or ingratitude.
- To have God’s hand of protection upon them and their families.
- To be discerning about avoiding relationships with the wrong kinds of men who will take advantage of them.
- To receive God’s blessings for their hard work.

Personal…

- To be able to share God’s love and salvation through Christ to those he brings my way.
- To know how to present the gospel based on the heart-felt needs and longings of people.
- To be able to meet these needs with spiritual truth.
- To have daily resolve and energy to teach my kids and spend these precious years discipling their hearts and filling their minds with biblical truth.
- To be disciplined with my time so I am effective at using the hours to teach them.
- To be more organized and a better planner.
- To love God with all my heart.
- To be faithful to him until the end of my days and have my heart ready for eternity.
- To serve him and others with the gifts he has given me.
- To grow as a writer and have daily inspiration to write.
- To ably minister to the ladies that God has entrusted into my care.
- To be a Christ-filled wife and mother who is a blessing to my husband and children.
- To become physically fit and healthy this year by starting an exercise routine and making wise choices about what I eat.

If you have prayer requests, please email me. It would be a privilege for me to pray for you.

Twelve Things I Love About Christmas

Top 12 reasons why Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year:

1. Food. It feels like I gain an extra five pounds every Christmas but the pounds are well worth the pleasure of the food I get to eat. This season I am a breastfeeding mom so at least I get to burn off some of it without having to exercise. Thank you Lord for breastfeeding!

Breakfast Christmas morning at my in-laws…Tapa, Ham, Bangus (my dream breakfast)

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2. Going up to Baguio. A couple of days before Christmas we stay at Baguio Country Club with my parents and siblings. We invade the place with all our children!

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The kids always look forward to being with their cousins and the cooler weather. It wasn’t too cold this year…unfortunately. But we still enjoyed a bunch of activities — strawberry picking, horseback riding, zip-lining, roller blading, and buffet-eating at the club.

Tree Top Adventure in John Hay…

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Zip-lining for the little ones…

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3. Celebrating my birthday. My birthday is so close to Christmas, but Edric always manages to make it a special day for me.

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This year, he got each of the children to bring me flowers and he asked all of them to write me notes, including our househelp. Those were especially meaningful to read. He also secretly deposited shopping money into my account. Yay!
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4. Shopping for gifts. I really enjoy buying gifts for friends and loved ones. With the help of Amazon, Bath & Body, Christian Book and my sister’s mad packing skills, I received a balikbayan box full of presents to wrap early December.

5. Wrapping gifts. Because I like paper so much, I have so much fun using wrapping paper, paper bags, ribbons and gift tags to package each present. It’s therapeutic. I found a great deal for Christmas gift bags at Uniwide. P150 a kilo! Also, S and R had a buy one take one for their paper. I like the width of the bigger paper you can buy there. Easier to wrap big presents.

6. Letting the kids shop for one another. We have this tradition of giving the kids shopping money to buy toys for one another and their cousins. It makes them think of others before themselves and they learn how to work with a budget. The little ones have to resist the urge to pick out things for themselves. Of course I go bananas trying to manage them in the toy store. We went to the Toy Kingdom in Podium because it was smaller, less crowded, and more “contained.” I wasn’t worried about the kids walking around by themselves.

7. Throwing a party for our househelp. My siblings and I plan a party for all of our househelp. We organize games and buy them prizes and let them have a big feast. It is our yearly appreciation party, to let them know how much we care about them. These men and women are partners in our ministry and parenting. We value their loyalty and service very much.

Edric’s mom and dad also invite people to come to their home — people who have worked for them in the past or people who are related to those who work for them at present. There were about 40 people who came to receive gifts and money on the 25th. The kids learned to be a blessing. They were assigned to give money to each person that passed in front of them. Afterwards one of my kids said, “I am so glad we did this!”

8. Get-togethers. I am blessed to have married into a wonderful family. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) and his siblings are amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better in laws. They are a joy to be with and it’s very easy to love them. They are big on traditions like Christmas morning spent together, lunches with the Mendozas and dinners with the Espiritus. My parents and siblings are less particular about the 25th, so we see each other on the 26th.

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9. Celebrating with our Bible Study Group. We have an even bigger family that is made up of dear friends. We have shared in one another’s victories, defeats, struggles, afflictions, and joys. When we get together during the Christmas season it is a reminder that we are all recipients of God’s grace. These are the people who have journeyed alongside us in our Christian walk.

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10. Edric is on vacation-mode. This means he is totally chill and relaxed. He has lots of time to give to the kids and I and he is not stressed by deadlines or commitments. I lost his wallet the day we were supposed to leave for Baguio. I told him I didn’t have it but I accidentally put it into my bag! We looked for it for an hour. He didn’t get upset at all. Finally I saw it and sheepishly told him that it was with me the whole time. He just smiled. Whew.

11. Our Children’s Excitement. The countdown to Christmas begins early for our children. I see the twinkling in their eyes when they know it’s just a few days away and I share in their anticipation.

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It is such a thrill to watch them pull everything out of their stockings and then move on to their gifts and tear at the wrapping paper (even if I laboured over each gift’s presentation). They say things like, “Yay! This is awesome! This is my favourite! Thank you mom and dad!” Of course we remind them that they are to share all their toys and we have a policy…only one present is played with at a time so they learn restraint and self-control. Otherwise, they will not appreciate what they have received. This is how we curb their materialism and gift-gluttony. Edric also encourages them to go through their old toys to give some away. (We can’t do this yet because most of their toys are stored in a warehouse until we move to our new place).

12. God’s goodness to our family. I am so grateful to the Lord for his blessings. Everything that we have and everything that we are able to enjoy is from him. We were disappointed that we couldn’t be in our new house for Christmas. Our nomadic situation (spending a good number of weeks in my parents’ and then in Edric’s parent’s place) has been humbling. Even though both sides (Edric’s and mine) have enjoyed housing our army of a family, we want to be the grown ups we are and finally settle into our own home.

Soon after we gave birth we boxed up our condo in anticipation of being able to be in our place by December. But certain uncontrollable factors have extended the end date of the finishing stage. So we have been reminded to be grateful as a family. Our true source of happiness is beyond the material things. It is the presence of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. He is the center of our family, the center of our Christmas. He is home to us.

DSC_0610-1Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You All! Thank you for being a part of my life as a reader. You inspire me to keep on writing. I praise God for all of you!

Baby Shower for Baby Sisters

I am not an event planner but I really enjoy opening up my home to people. My mom was the same way so I must have learned this from her. Since our house isn’t done yet, I asked my mom if we could have a baby shower for my sister, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Jenny, in her place. They are both due in December. She suggested we have one for Astrid, too. Astrid is a long time family friend who is a pastor’s kid like me and she is due even sooner than my sisters. My mom’s idea was to invite the pastor’s wives to share with all the preggy moms words of wisdom.

So it was a team effort to put together this baby shower. My mom and I worked very well with one another. We usually do. We have similar tastes and she never gets stressed when it comes to hosting parties and events which is great because I can get frazzled when things go awry. She, on the other hand, just floats around in her happiness and finds creative solutions when something goes wrong.

I took care of the decor and food preparation and she invited the guests and asked them to share their insights on motherhood.

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I thank God that I live in the Philippines because I could hand off Catalina to her yaya when I had to decorate and cook. Here is the pink and blue theme for a baby girl and two baby boys…

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Menu:
- Mixed Green Salad with Mangoes,
Apples and caramelized walnuts.
- Deviled eggs
- Pumpkin Soup
- Pasta Carbonara
- Grilled Rosemary Ranch Chicken on skewers
- Homemade Fruit Tea
- Cupcakes

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Birth and Beyond

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My labor began at 3 PM, August 10. Edric checked me into the High Risk Pregnancy Unit (HRPU) of St. Luke’s Medical Center, Global City. We opted to do this with previous pregnancies as well because Edric gets to stay with me in a private room and it’s alot cheaper than the Birthing Room. Plus, the HRPU is right beside the delivery room which makes it convenient for someone like me who births pretty quickly. (I’m talking about the pushing part.)

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Like my previous experience with St. Luke’s, it was easy to get a room and I was very well attended to. I’ve heard negative reviews by other women about this hospital, but personally I have always been impressed with the level of service given by St. Luke’s QC and Global. I can officially say that I have had 5 births with them that have been consistently positive in terms of service. However, it really depends on who your doctor is, how involved your husband is, your emotional climate at the time of your birth, expectations, and the kind of birth you have.

Since I have Lamaze births, all I need is a private room where I can be with my wonderful husband; the security of knowing my doctor is around; the liberty to labor the way I would like to; and the mental, emotional, and spiritual readiness to face the challenge of getting through labor and childbirth.

This time around, certain factors were different. My labor started earlier than usual. (I tend to give birth on my due date.) With this baby, I was 39 weeks/3 days when I went into labor. But the timing was great. We were hoping to give birth this past weekend because Edric had a free week…no tapings for his ANC show, no major meetings. So going into labor early was a welcome surprise. My doctor was still at her clinic in St. Luke’s Global, too. It gave me piece of mind knowing she was near. With my other babies, she had to come from the home or from other engagements. Unfortunately, with this pregnancy I had GBS, so I needed to have an IV antibiotic administered through my left hand. Thank God for big veins which were easy to locate on my hands. I owe these to my caucasian mother. The nice juicy veins on my body are a needle’s dream.

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My initial Internal Exam showed that I was 4 to 5 cm. I was kind of disappointed. I wanted to be in the hospital closer to 7 cm. But, looking back, I have no regrets. Edric wanted to be safe about this pregnancy and my doctor told me it was better to be in the hospital. After all, my four previous births progressed quickly after the onset of labor, so we all thought the same thing would happen with this one.

Well, this was not the case. What we all expected to take just a few hours turned into over 12 long, exhausting hours. The problem was I was stuck at 7 to 8 cm. My baby’s head didn’t descend and engage into the pelvis like the doctor anticipated her to. This means that my contractions weren’t as regular or as strong as they should have been either.

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I tried distracting myself by reading my Bible, watching TV, and walking around everywhere. In fact, the nurses were surprised that I was pacing back and forth at 7 cm but I could still hop up and down! I did that a couple of times in the room while watching CSI: New York…anything to try and make my labor progress to the next stage.

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It must have been close to 2 AM when my doctor told me that the best recourse would be to break my bag of waters. But she encouraged me to rest first. So I tried to sleep. I slept in between contractions and it allowed me to regain some energy. Edric slept, too!

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By 6 AM when I had not dilated further, I knew that breaking my bag of waters was the next logical step. Walking, swaying from side to side, hopping, going on my fours and rocking were not working. Intervention was needed.

Here were my fears…Breaking my bag of waters would escalate the pain. And if I didn’t progress further, I would need oxytocin to make my contractions stronger which would make the labor even more difficult. If this happened, I would probably need an epidural. My doctor was honest with me and told me that these were all possibilities.

So I struggled inside. I struggled with self-doubt. I struggled with worry. “Lord, I prayed for a quick and easy delivery. How come this is turning out to be my hardest?”

My doctor wonderfully suggested that I take a warm shower before she did the procedure. This was a first for me. I never got the chance to do this with previous babies. But it was a brilliant suggestion! It made me relax. And in the shower while pausing for each contraction, I surrendered my feelings and fears to the Lord. I really asked for his grace and strength to get through the home stretch. Edric was 100% there, too. He asked people to pray and he assured me that he would be with me all the way.

Well, when my doctor did an IE again, she was more hopeful. Previously my cervix was posterior and then it shifted into the right position. The procedure of breaking my bag of water was quick and simple. Then the strong contractions started to kick in. Okay, brace yourself, this is it! I was preparing to stick it out for as long as I could but I was hoping and praying it would not drag on.

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Breathing through each contraction wave, I employed the same trick I always do…just think, you are one contraction closer. And amazingly, each contraction brought to mind a bible verse that I could cling to. What a comfort the word of God was.

Ever faithful, God allowed the most painful part to be swift. After just 45 minutes, I was checked again by one of the assisting doctors who said that I was ready to be brought to the delivery room. Wahoo! I was excited but of course the discomfort was heightening.

Think of a bowling ball in between your legs. It’s a bad picture, I know. But, think about being told to hold that bowling ball in. Well, that feels a whole lot worse. My baby was on her way out and would stop for nothing. But, the nurses had to keep my legs closed while everyone prepped for the baby’s coming. Fortunately, everyone moved fast. Edric rushed in dressed in scrubs to take my hand. My doctor was ready in about thirty seconds (she has mastered this), just in time for the next big contraction that pushed my baby out. After a second push to get her body out, it was over.

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DSC09135I held our daughter, Catalina, in my arms and my one thought was, “Lord, you ever amaze me!” She had a head full of dark hair, like my second son Edan, almond shaped eyes, a cute little nose and mouth. I couldn’t wait for her siblings to meet her! Edric got to cut the umbilical chord which is always a highlight for him.

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Afterwards, I was cleaned up, stitched (for my episiotomy), and brought into the recovery room to rest. Catalina was wheeled in by my side and we both stayed there for at least 2 hours. I got to feed her and hold her, and when the kids came, they got their photo-op with my doctor and Edric. (I also gave them gifts to make them feel special.)

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I have had six days beyond my birth to reflect on the ordeal of labor and childbirth. Here are some insights that I have been pondering…

First, there is something out-of-this-world incredible about the moment when a child is born, especially when you experience labor without anesthesia. Personally I feel that it gives me a foretaste of what it will be like when the earthly, perishable world is traded for the heaven God has promised us. Whatever agony I endured is eclipsed by that moment of perfect happiness. I look back on the long, arduous hours and the desperate desire for them to end and I think… I am glad I pushed myself to the limit. It was worth it!

Like Paul said about the sufferings of this world,For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

It was inexplicable bliss, peace, relief, and joy when I finally held my baby in my arms. How much more magnified the joy of those who are faithful to the Lord till the very end? I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8 NASB)

I reveled in the victory of pushing my baby out but the reality is I could not have made it to that point alone — Edric’s reassuring support, my doctor’s expertise and years of experience, the accommodating nurses, the prayers of family and friends, and most of all, the deliverance of the Lord — these factors had to be present.

We don’t cross life’s finish line as champions alone or experience our greatest victories without the help of others. We all need one another’s assistance, encouragement, empowerment. We especially need God’s grace!

When I reached the limits of my capacity to labor on, I cried out to the Lord. I was completely dependent upon him. And he did not fail.

Although I was so disappointed when my labor did not happen the way I wanted it to, I surrendered to the Lord’s will and chose to trust in him. Then he made his grace available. He let my baby come out at the perfect time.

God does not fail us. He may not always allow circumstances to turn out the way we imagine them to but it doesn’t change who he is and how much he loves us. Let us never lose hope in the Lord or forget that he is for us. The question is, do we really seek him? Is our life oriented towards him? If it is then be encouraged by these verses…

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:22-25 NASB)



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AT PRESENT, CATALINA IS CONFINED IN THE HOSPITAL…story to follow…

Biz Kidz

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What a week we had! The kids had their violin recital and the very next day they were participants in a homeschool bazaar called “Biz Kidz.” Organized by homeschoolers for homeschoolers, this TMA Homeschool event encouraged kids to come up with a business idea, execute, and sell it.

The boys did origami art. Whew. Talk about labor-intensive. Next time, we are going to make cupcakes and cookies! (Our cupcakes topped with origami designs sold out and they didn’t take nearly as long to make.)

Three nights in a row, the boys stayed up way past their bedtime to fold paper hundreds of times. I was their quality control checker and I also helped them embellish their designs to make them marketable. So it was late nights for me, too.

We were all pleased with the finished products. But it was the process that was rewarding for all of us. My kids and I share a love for arts and crafts. We enjoy designing and creating. The kids were willing to push themselves to the limit with their lack of sleep. In fact, the evening before the bazaar, Edan fell asleep on a chair while waiting to be assigned another origami task. He was sitting upright with his eyes closed.

20130601_124239At the end of the day, the kids came away with P4,300 pesos. It was measly in terms of earnings, especially if we subtracted my part of the “investment.” But, the kids learned some great life lessons like…

Making money takes effort. The kids had to do the work and put in the time necessary to produce something sellable. I helped them out with conceptualization but they did the harder part. During the bazaar, the kids also discovered that selling origami products was a challenge. First of all, not everyone appreciates origami. Second, because all our stuff was laboriously hand-made, it wasn’t cheap.

Marketing and selling are an integral part of getting people to buy your product. In the beginning, we waited for people to come to our table. But after a while, I asked the kids to go around themselves. We saw other children doing this and it seemed to be much more effective. Edan learned that you can’t be self-conscious or afraid to talk to people. He didn’t want to go around with a tray at first. But, he ended up being a very good salesman! And he was very excited when he started counting how much money he earned. He told me afterwards, “It’s not scary!” (Referring to going up to potential customers.)

We also came up with a marketing idea that went something like this…Whatever origami art you buy, Elijah or Edan will give you a tutorial on how to make it. This got some people interested, especially kids who wanted to learn how to do origami.

Rejection is good for the soul. If the kids don’t learn this early, they will learn it later when there is more at stake. We didn’t sell everything. Elijah felt badly about some of his unsold goods because he thought they would surely interest buyers. But it was beneficial for the children to experience being turned down. Life will not roll out a red carpet for our kids. They receive a lot of affirmation at home, but it’s not always going to be like that when they finally go into a college or start working.

A recent Time article talked about the problems of the young people today. They jump from one profession to another because they have this entitlement mentality. They come into a job with high expectations about what others should do for them and when they don’t get what they want, they complain or leave. On the one hand, it makes corporations step it up in terms of benefits but on the other hand, there is a character flaw that we, as parents, have to weed out of our kids. Reality check: YOU ARE NOT A SUPERSTAR. I love you. I believe that God has gifted you to fulfill his plans and purposes for your life. But, honey, the world doesn’t revolve around you and your preferences. Get used to it.

Pray for success. When the kids began to be discouraged about having less than favorable sales, I told them, “Don’t worry. Just relax. If God wants us to sell our products, we will. He knows you worked very hard and you did your part. So pray and ask him to help you.” After they prayed, they started selling. But like I said earlier, they had to do what was within their control – go out and sell.

Be thankful and content. In Elijah’s words, “I learned to be thankful for the money we did make.” He wanted to earn at least P8,000, but it didn’t happen. Tempted to grumble, I reminded him to be positive and appreciative that we did make some money. We sold most of the items we had on our table.

“It’s fun to make money!” According to Elijah, it was rewarding to experience the fruit of his labor. Personally, I felt the experience was priceless for the kids for the character lessons more so than the actual money aspect. But it’s true, it is exciting to get paid for hard work.

Congratulations to the winners who received well-deserved recognition for all their effort, too! My personal favorite (besides my kids, he he), was a creative business idea by homeschooler, Isaiah Fernandez. He turned laundry clips into building materials and called them Clip Morphs. Over the years of hanging out with his mom while she did the laundry, he would play beside her and design all kinds of structures. So he turned it into a business concept. My kids are playing with his Clip Morphs right now! I thought it was a brilliantly simple idea that encourages hours of creative play.

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Even if we toiled and struggled to prepare for this Biz Kidz event, I’m looking forward to the next one. Hopefully, we can come up with an even better concept. The event wasn’t nearly as big as the Kiddopreneur bazaar, which draws a very large crowd. But this was a good start for our kids. Many parents commented that they want another event like this soon and I agree!

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DVBS in Greenmeadows

I should have posted this sooner but in case you are interested in sending your kids to a fun three days of bible stories, music, dancing, games, crafts and fellowship, Greenmeadows subdivision will be hosting a DVBS starting tomorrow. Please check out the flyer. Personally, I prefer to bring my kids to this one because it is just three days and it is a smaller group. Our church just organized one for about 700 kids! This one is a mini-scale version with the same theme.

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Catching A Vision Early

One of the opportunities that the homeschooling lifestyle has opened up for our family is involving our children in ministry with us. Edric and I encourage our children to participate in areas where they can so they develop a heart to be used by God and bless others. We want them to catch a vision for how God can use them early on. So we assimilate them into our ministry. Elijah, our eldest, has already shared with us a few times during speaking engagements.

When Edan, our second son, began to express his interest in doing the same, we decided to include him in the last retreat we spoke at. We were going to talk about marital roles to prepare the singles that had invited us to speak. They wanted us to share about relationships and Edric and I knew that at the end of the day, it boils down to what you need to work on in your self, as a man or woman…being the right person before looking for the right person.

At first Edric and I were like, “Marital roles? How is Edan going to talk about anything related to that as a 7 year old boy?” And God gave us the idea of asking him to share about what it means to be a gentleman, from his perspective. There was a portion in Edric’s talk where he was going to emphasize how a man needs to nurture, care for, and love his wife. And the plan was to say, you are never too young to start cultivating the traits of a gentleman. At this juncture, Edan would give a quick sharing.

Earlier in the day, I asked Edan what he remembered and had applied about being a gentleman. He read it to Edric who said, “Okay, I can insert that into my talk.”

I asked Edan to practice reading his testimony aloud several times and I put spaces in between his points so that he knew when to look up at the audience and when to pause. I also took a home video of him speaking so he could see and hear himself. From there we discussed how he can improve by emphasizing certain words or making his voice louder. Being the very methodical thinker that he is, he internalized all of this. By the time he got up on stage, he felt ready and excited.

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Here is what Edan shared…

Hi my name is Edan. I just turned 7.

When I was five years old, my dad taught my brothers and I how to be gentlemen.

My dad taught us several things:

One of them is letting ladies go first.

For example, when you go into a room or inside an elevator, you should let ladies go ahead of you and hold the door open for them.

He also told us that we should help people, like if someone is carrying a lot of things, I can help them carry them.

I must also learn to have good manners and be polite.

For example, if my mommy and daddy are talking with someone or to someone else, I should not go in front of them when I want to ask them something. Instead, I should stand and wait for them to be done talking.

When I am meeting someone new, I should introduce myself. I should look at them in the eye, tell them my age, and shake their hand.

My dad also taught us not to make fun of others when they are doing something but can’t really do it. Or, if they have an accident, like they drop something and slip on the floor, I shouldn’t laugh at them.

We are also not allowed to make obnoxious sounds like yelling when we are in public or being too loud when we are in the car.

When I leave the table because I am done eating, I must ask to be excused and bring my plate to the kitchen.

When I visit people’s houses I should not make a mess. But if I do I should clean it up and take care of other people’s things.

He also taught my brothers and I to take care of my mom and my sister, and to protect them.

So last month when we didn’t have any yayas, I fixed all the beds and I taught my little sister how to take a bath. I also taught her how to do things for herself.

My older brother, Elijah, helped my mom clean the kitchen and the bathrooms so she wouldn’t be so tired.

It’s important to be a gentleman because Jesus is a gentleman.

He was kind to ladies and he helped others.

I want to be a gentleman because I want to make Jesus happy. Please pray that I will become a better gentleman as I grow up.

—-

This was his first time to speak before an audience of about 400 people. I watched him standing behind the little podium they had set up for him as he delivered his short talk. Of course I was praying for him! In fact, I forgot to take a video of him speaking until he had gotten several lines into his testimony. Watch the link here: A Little Gentleman

Because our children spend a lot of time with us and watch our lives closely, they know that we are burdened for ministry. And since they like to do what we do, we take advantage of passing on the same burden to them while their hearts are pliable and tender.

I think of the example of Jesus as a young man, at 12 years old, dialoguing with the teachers in the temple and amazing those who heard him. Sure, he wasn’t just a child, he was God in the flesh. But when our children come into a relationship with Jesus, he gives them the same power through his Spirit to do great things for the glory of his name.

We don’t have to buy into the idea that “they are just children.” Do we let our children play and enjoy their childhood? Of course! But Edric and I also know that everything that our children do now — the appetites, interests, and activities they devote themselves to — will shape their passion and love for God. Our prayer is that they will be wholly devoted to God. Since this is our goal, our present role is to prepare them and help them to love him now, and give them opportunities to put that love into action.

They can start simply. Edan’s testimony was not extraordinary. It was plainly written and the content was child-like. However, the experience allowed him a foretaste of the joys of serving God and others. He got to see what it is like to bless others and do something that pleases God.

Will Edan be a speaker someday? Maybe, maybe not. That’s not the point. The point is wherever God leads him or any of our children, will they desire to please Him? Will that desire be familiar and ingrained into who they are — their default posture before God and others? If that is the point, then what are we doing about it now? Are we just hoping it will happen or are we purposefully preparing them?

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You. (Psalms 71:5, 6 NASB)

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them…”(Ecclesiastes 12:1 NASB)

Discover Your Beauty

I believe all women are beautiful. God has gifted each one of us with unique personalities, abilities, and physical attributes.

Years ago, I found out my color palette was autumn and spring — earthy and warm. I have always been drawn to orange, brown, beige, and deep hues that remind me of the sun setting or leaves falling. These are the colors that best highlight my skin color and features, and make me feel energized when I am wearing them. On the other spectrum are winter and summer colors — bold and bright. I look sickly and tired when I wear these. But on other women, wow, these colors make sense.

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It’s helpful to know your color palette, especially when you go shopping for clothes and makeup. And you need to know your body type when you want to look like you haven’t been stuffed into an outfit that evokes visions of a sausage. I don’t think we realize how big a difference the right colors make and learning to accentuate the positive in our figures (modestly, of course) makes us look more youthful, alive, put together, and yes, beautiful! But what is outer beauty without inner beauty? Make up and clothing on a gorgeous woman still won’t hide the ugly inside. So both matter!

If you are free on April 20, 9am to 12pm discover how to cultivate inner beauty and enhance your outer beauty at 3rd floor, A Venue, in Makati. And if you care about your women friends or loved ones, bring them along. For P100/person you get a color palette kit. Slots are limited. Hope to see you there!

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In the Trenches – What I Like

Last weekend, I was in Cebu with Edric and the kids. No yaya. Wow. It was slightly crazy and wonderful at the same time. Part of the reason we were there was to talk about homeschooling. I was asked to give a testimony as someone who is in the trenches of it. That’s definitely me! So here is my take on homeschooling in a nutshell. I’ve broken up my testimony into two parts and taken bits and pieces from old posts to summarize What I like About Homeschooling and What I’ve Learned as A Homeschooling Mom

What I like About Homeschooling:

Free-flowing Lessons. Learning happens very naturally in the home. Teaching and training my children are not confined to a set period of the day. It doesn’t just happen in the study room of our home. I have four kids at different stages of learning so if I were to do a classroom set-up, I wouldn’t have enough time in the day to teach my kids like a conventional school would. Instead, I let my kids’ learning happen outside of textbooks and workbooks. Learning happens naturally through dialogue and discussion, hands-on experiences, modeling, games, reading and telling stories, socializing with family members or friends, and lots of creative play. I do give my kids workbook and textbook time, as well as writing exercises and tests. But, these conventional learning methods don’t dictate how, what, and when my children learn.

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A typical day for our family would be the kids waking up at 7 AM and we have breakfast as a family. By 8:30 or 9 AM we start our lessons. With each child I will cover three to four subject areas. My older son, Elijah, is a pretty independent learner so he can do most of his work on his own. We will read History and Science together because he likes the discussion and interaction time we have when we go through these subjects. In the meantime, my second son, Edan, will be doing his lessons with lots of breaks in between. And when I’m preoccupied with my youngest son, Titus, Edan act as my teacher’s assistant or entertainer. He will help teach Tiana, my fourth child, and keep her busy. I work more closely with Titus because he needs one-on-one instruction. And after about 45 minutes he is done with his “academics” and will work with manipulatives or have free play time with his sister. Everyone is doing something productive between 9 and 12 noon, but it isn’t always sitting down at a desk. In the afternoons, the kids can read, pursue their hobbies, practice their violin, and rest. I rest, too!

A Customized Education – tailor fit to my child’s needs. At home, with one-on-one instruction, it is much easier for a parent to adjust to the learning needs of her child. Titus is a kinesthetic child but like my two older boys, he learned to read early because I modified my approach with him. Phonics instruction was kept short and sweet. We didn’t do too much writing until he was really ready. And I let him have lots of time to play with dough, scissors, glue, marbles…basically anything to help him develop his fine motor skills.

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My simple philosophy for teaching my kids is this: All children are equipped to learn and they can develop a genuine love for learning, but a parent must be willing to discover and investigate how her child learns best, welcome the adjustment it requires on her part, and look to the Lord for the supernatural creativity, insight, wisdom and ability that this kind of inspired teaching requires.

At home, children have true play. They can engage in self-initiated activity without the pressure of outcomes. They are challenged to be creative, to conceptualize, and to problem solve while they play. And they have hours and hours to play! I really feel like they get to have an extended childhood that isn’t cut short by the over scheduling and time consuming homework that school-going kids have to deal with.

Learning along-side my children. I have never been excellent in math. I used to dislike it immensely until I started homeschooling my kids. When I became a “math teacher,” I had to re-learn math from the ground up. From pre-school math to upper elementary math (where I find myself now), I am both student and teacher to my kids. When Elijah was in 3rd grade, I peaked at the answer key in the back of his math book when we encountered a word problem I was stumped on (can you believe it?! 3rd grade?!) and he got really upset. He said, “Now you won’t solve the problem with me!” He enjoyed the fact that we solved the problems together. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t a math expert and this didn’t keep him from learning. He wanted me to learn along-side him. Nowadays, he uses Kahn Academy to teach himself math.

I call this approach to homeschooling the “teamwork” approach. It is experiencing the process with my kids, encouraging them and inspiring them to learn by making it fun. And often times, their definition of fun is having me beside them.

Cultivating relational intimacy between siblings / between parent and child. Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. My kids are growing up to be best friends and they often say they are. Homeschooling has a lot to do with it because they are together so often and have to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. God has really knit the hearts of my children to one another. They hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin practice, reading their bibles and praying together. And they have each other’s backs. Elijah recently told me, “I protect my brothers and I stick up for them.”  Someday, they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. Developing a loyalty to one another when they are young will have a lot to do with that.

My siblings and I were homeschooled for a time. And it proved to be such an amazing bonding experience, we remain close to this day. We enjoy getting together with our families, sharing meals and conversations, watching movies, playing games and sports, etc. My parents taught us to prioritize loving your family members before friends and this has carried on into our adulthood.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a foremost child developmental and clinical psychologist from Canada made this statement during a talk he gave on Why Home Education Works. “Homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature into a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him – his parents.” He is not even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.

He cites the following reasons:

  • At home, children have continuity of contact with their parents. Schools separate children from their parents and foster competing attachments with peers.
  • At home parents taken on the responsibility of pursuing their child relationally. This gives a child rest from the work of attachment. He doesn’t have to strive for the attention or affections of his parent. When children have to work for love or affection, they do not grow or mature.
  • At home, a child faces less separation and less wounding (ideally) so that his heart stays soft and pliable. At school a lot of wounding occurs, especially among peers. This causes a flight from vulnerability and a child develops hardness of heart.
  • At home, parents can support the maturity process. They can handle the stages a child goes through, the questions and the struggles.

I would like to add that at home, parents can continually assure their child, “nothing will separate you form my love…not your attitude, not your behavior, I love you no matter what, but because I love you, I am committed to helping you change and improve.”

Homeschooling has most certainly turned the heart of Edric towards our kids. And he has chosen to be very involved in their lives. This has been a special blessing for our family. The conviction to be a hands-on, intentional father came when Edric began to think about the goals of our parenting and homeschooling.

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Influence. Dr. Neufeld also explained that children want to be like those whom they are attached to. They will give their heart to those whom they are attached to. They want to be known and reveal their secrets to those whom they are attached to.

He brought up this very important point: When did your child fall in love with you? When did you child give you his heart? We were never meant to deal with a children whose hearts we did not have. If you do not have the heart of your child, you will not have the context in which to bring him to his fullest potential. If you do not have his heart, you will not have his mind.

Homeschooling allows Edric and I to impact the hearts and minds of our kids because they are very much attached to us. Because we spend the most time with them, we naturally have the most influence, too.

Teaching a Biblical World-view. No education is neutral. No child is neutral. Every child has an orientation towards God or away from God. Edric and I don’t want our children to be bombarded with secular messages and worldviews that will turn them away from a God-ward orientation. So we filter what they learn through the word of God. We protect our children from wrong kinds of indoctrination by peers, teachers, school curriculums and systems that promote humanism vs. theism.

David Sant said, “All education is indoctrination into a religious worldview…All education is undergirded by presuppositions about the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the purpose of man, ethics government relationships between men, and the continuing existence of the universe in an orderly and predictable manner. It is an inescapable fact that all of these basic assumptions are fundamentally religious. Therefore we must view the schoolroom as the place where children are indoctrinated into the religion of their society. The school is, in effect, a temple.”

In a climate of postmodern thinking which has removed God from the picture and promoted the ideas of moral subjectivity, pluralism and relativism, there is a need more than ever before to teach our children the truths that God has given us in his word. When Elijah was 3, he asked us, “What if there is no God…what will happen?”  It was a valid question. Who would have answered this for him if we weren’t around?

As parents, we need to be able to answer key questions that will impact our children’s belief system and determine their choices and actions: Who is God? Who Am I? What on Earth Am I here for? Edric and I aren’t willing to gamble our children’s future convictions by leaving this task up to others.

The faithfulness of God. We chose to homeschool in faith, in obedience to the Lord. We continue to do so, despite our limitations and imperfections to find that God is faithful. Every year that I teach the kids, I look back and think, how did we survive last year and manage to finish everything?! I’m always in awe of how God comes through for us. He is the one who makes my kids excited about learning. He is the one who helps them to learn. They are doing well inspite of me!

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Homeschooling Solutions Grand Launch!

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10-Year Parenting Anniversary

Parenting has hit a 10-year anniversary for Edric and I, with our eldest, Elijah, turning 10 today. We are still in the trenches of parenting without the horizon of our children’s adulthood yet in sight. But, Elijah often pushes the boundaries of the parenting frontier for us as the eldest. He brings on new challenges, new doubts, and he surprises us with his ever-maturing perspective on life.

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Elijah, like all my other children, is an incredible gift to Edric and I. We have enjoyed his personality — his passion, intensity, zest, deep love for the Lord, and his insights. He is an intellectual child, a fast learner – a sponge, really. If he had a superpower it would be his capacity to read or listen to content and comprehend it right away. And with a voracious appetite for reading, he’s like an unstoppable force at times. I can’t keep up with the stock knowledge, facts, and information he has stored in that brain of his.

I remember asking him once, “Do you really learn anything from what I teach you or do you learn more from what you read?” He told me, “Honestly, I learn more from what I read but I still like to learn from you. But what I really like about you teaching me is that we can be together.” I felt both useless and special at the same time. As a homeschooling mom, that’s sort of a good thing. Independent learning in a child is a blessing when you have several kids to teach!

More than academic input, what he really needs from Edric and me is consistent discipleship. Like any child with intelligence (I think all children are gifted with unique abilities), he could become a Megamind without a moral compass. Therefore, he most definitely still needs guidance and mentoring.

Our parenting style with him has had to change over the years. The biblical goals remain the same, but we have to implore different strategies with Elijah. He has taken “training course 101”: obedience and respect. He knows what it means to obey and respect us, and, more often than not, he does. There may be occasions when he says things that can be rephrased in a more courteous way, but it doesn’t happen often. For the most part, he has internalized both character traits. The last time he received a spanking was years ago. He gets why it is important and necessary to obey and respect those in authority. Ultimately his obedience is to the Lord. So if he has a problem with that, he is accountable to him, too.

 

Elijah's first official photoshoot

Elijah’s first official photoshoot

Elijah as a 1 year old

Elijah as a 1 year old

Elijah today...checking on his stocks portfolio

Elijah today…checking on his stocks portfolio

At this stage in his young life he needs help with identifying character weaknesses and how to combat these with spiritual means. For example, when there is a mismatch between what his brain can imagine and what his motor skills are able to do, it leads to emotional chaos. He will groan, become self-deprecating, negative, and upset beyond reason. I used to try to lecture him and mouth out bible verses to convict him to change, but these did not help. This would, of course, aggravate me, which only made matters worse for our relationship. So I learned to turn him over to the Lord. When he would act up, I would ask him to quietly excuse himself and take a moment to pray and process his feelings.

Early last year, he finally recognized his heart issue as pride and admitted this to me. During a week of prayer and fasting held January 2013 for our church, he made a list of things to pray for and one of them was, “Be controlled by the Holy Spirit.”

When he starts to be angry with himself, he will voluntarily step out of a room and be alone for a while to pray. He will return about five to ten minutes later ready to resume the task that he was in the middle of. I asked him what he does when he isolates himself and he said, “I pray that God will help me not to be irritated, to remain focused.” This has been his most effective coping method yet.

As for me, I give him spiritual space to let the Lord speak to him. From past experience, I know that telling him what to do and saying things like, “You need to stop that and change your attitude,” works 1% of the time, if at all. I can still do this with the younger kids because they are in “training course 101” but Elijah is growing up. He needs to internalize certain spiritual truths on his own.

When he goes off and brings his frustrations before the Lord, he returns ready and able. I offer him a hug, an encouraging word, a back rub, and I pray for him instead. If he comes back smiling, all credit goes to the Lord’s work in his heart. After all, these instances are beyond my control. I can enforce consequences and get angry so that he will listen out of fear, but I’m looking for a different kind of fruit in him — a compelling desire to please God more than Edric or myself.

If there is anything that 10 years of parenting have taught me it is this: There is a spiritual tug of war for the hearts of our children. The reality of Satan’s attempts to turn them towards ungodliness and use their weaknesses to his advantage is so apparent. Even if my kids are homeschooled and seem to live in an environment where they are, for the most part, protected from negative peer, media, and worldly influences, the battle is most certainly within. Satan is a master infiltrator, intent on destroying every seed of faith that is planted in the hearts of our kids, and snuffing out the love they have for Christ.

I encounter this reality often, not only with Elijah, but with my other kids. Most of the time, they will do as they are told, but there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to deal with one of the following in at least one of my children – selfish attitudes, hardness of heart, manipulation, laziness, wrong thinking, etc.

There is no such thing as a cocoon or bubble that can really shelter my kids from evil or their own carnality. And I really don’t think that parenting or homeschooling needs to be about paranoid over-protectiveness. I don’t homeschool for those reasons, though an undeniable benefit is that our kids aren’t subject to the same sort of undesirable influences that most children who go to school are. (Not all schools, okay?)

Homeschooling lets me be present and available to better understand, help and disciple my kids for the purpose of spiritual fitness because I have more time with them. How can I do this if I am not around to identify what’s wrong in the first place? What if I can only see what’s happening on a surface level because my interactions with them are minimal and reduced to a few hours each day? How will I pass on the love for the Lord if I can’t model or encourage it often enough?

I already feel that the number of years that have been given to me for a season of parenting are too short. Celebrating Elijah’s tenth birthday was a reminder once again that I don’t have forever to prepare and equip my kids for the harder battles that they must face. His real battles are not completing a composition assignment that he doesn’t want to do, or getting annoyed because he can’t finish a 20-sided origami polyhedron with a single sheet of paper better than he thought he could. (Both of these have the potential to make him emotionally ballistic.) The greater battle is between his two natures.

On the one hand, he desires to please God, to love him, and be an obedient and loving son to Edric and I. He wants to do his best in everything that he does for God’s glory. But on the other hand, he knows that he can be an emotional yo-yo, ruled by his feelings, and unresponsive to correction and teaching when his heart is overcome by pride and irritation. I praise God that he is learning to yield to the Holy Spirit as his best weapon for the war within. But it has taken a good long while for him to come to this point of awareness.

There are no quick fixes to our children’s character and even our own. There is no fast-forward button that can be pressed for immediate transformation. God allows us all to go through a refining process where we become more aware of our helplessness apart from his grace so that we can live with power through it.

When homeschooling moms fret about uncompleted daily assignments, unfinished workbooks, unmet academic goals, I want to say, “Have you considered the possibility that you are focusing on a minor battle when there is a greater war at hand?” But, how can I say this without sounding like a crazy person?

The reality is, if the enemy can get us to be impatient, annoyed and stressed out by the little things he can make us…

a. act in ways that nullify the positive influence we want to have on our children

b. doubt our decision to homeschool because we begin to focus on our inadequacies or our child’s

c. pressure our children to learn when their hearts aren’t ready so that the joy of learning is taken away

d. seek to motivate them externally when what we really want is internal motivation

e. give the evil one victory because he has successfully channeled our efforts and energy away from discipleship.

The greater battle is not giving them the intellectual capacity to cope in the world. That is certainly part of our responsibility but it isn’t the most important thing. We need to prepare them for the spiritual war – the real world – where the foundations of their faith, their convictions and values will be tested and tried. Will they stand? Will they falter? Will they recover?

As Elijah moves towards young adulthood, his struggles will also grow. It has given me hope to witness his strategy for self-correction – learning to pray and surrender himself to the Lord. But that is not the guarantee I have for my fears. What allays my fears is knowing that God is a gracious, ever-present, and faithful father. He loves Elijah and all our children more perfectly than Edric or I ever could. If we can teach Elijah to keep walking with the Lord, if we can parent him in such a way that his heart is continually turned towards the Lord, if we can encourage him to keep studying God’s word and grow in wisdom, and if we do our part to model a love for the Lord contagiously and pass this on to him, then I believe that God will surely do the more difficult part of causing Elijah to become the man he wants him to be — spiritually fit and able to be a light and testimony for Him.

May these verses encourage you as they have me…

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers that we are only dust…But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! Psalm 103:13-14, 17-18

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Just got back from an overnight stay in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, in Bataan. It’s a heritage resort conceptualized to resemble an old town. Old Filipino houses from different areas of the Philippines were transported to the resort. For homeschooling families (or any family), it’s a great place to experience a visit to the past. Of course, the rooms and amenities are modern and comfortable, but it is truly a unique experience…not your typical resort. There was a fabulous cultural show last night in the “town square,” and they have tours that allow you to visit the houses and uncover their intriguing histories. Their restaurants are a little bit pricey but worth it! Las Casas Filipinas also has a pool and clean beach.

A friend of mine, Monique Ong, told me about this place a few months ago. When I found out that this was the same spot Edric’s dad wanted to take the family to, I was thrilled! Unlike my family, whose vacation spots revolve around nearby golf clubs and sports facilities, Edric’s family really enjoys the beach. Our kids do, too. They can spend hours in the sand doing nothing but digging holes for who knows what purpose.

I am blessed with such wonderful in-laws. I married into a family that is very close knit, godly, and loving. It was a joy to spend the weekend with them.

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