A Father’s Priority

My husband, as amazing as I think he is, scored 0% for his auditory skills on a learning styles assessment. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It has everything to with how a person takes in and retains information.

Up until he took the test, I could not understand why he wouldn’t remember appointments and commitments we discussed or conversations we had. I would say, “But we talked about it. You said yes.”

“Nope. I don’t remember.”

“How can you not remember? You were looking right at me when you said yes.”

“Sorry hon, I really don’t remember.”

Grr.

After he took the learning styles assessment it all made sense. I became a smarter communicator by changing the delivery mode for any pertinent decisions or content we had to discuss. I switched to texting, messaging, and emailing for appointments, schedules and reminders.

It worked! He would give his confirmation and feedback via the same channels. It also gave me physical proof to show him in case he said, “I forgot.” He he.

This past week we celebrated Edan’s birthday. A week prior Edric and I discussed that his afternoon would be blocked off for Edan. I did consider the possibility that he might not remember but I was like, “Nah, this is our son. He won’t do that.”

Well, he did. The day that Edan turned 8, Edric booked five major meetings.
I found out while I was lying in Edric’s arms sharing a moment of sweet exchange about how much we missed one another. It turned pretty sour for me when I found out that Edric had left no room in his day to spend with Edan like he said he would. For Edan’s sake, I felt hurt and disappointed.

It turned out that Edan wanted to go to the pet store with his dad to buy a falcon. Okay…a falcon. Where would we find anything remotely close to a bird of prey?! Obviously the falcon was a fantasy of an idea. He was willing to settle for a bird that he could put on his finger and hold. Edric and I were pretty confident that Cartimar would have something that matched that description.

When I discovered that Edric had back to back meetings I thought Cartimar would have to be postponed. But Edric was convinced that he could find a way to get there and back and still make his meetings. I was pretty doubtful. Cartimar wasn’t around the corner. It was in Pasay. Nevertheless, I kept things optimistic at home for Edan’s sake.

He approached me several times to ask, “What time are we going, mom?” Buying that bird was like the dream of all dreams for him. But I had to wait on Edric to do some magic with his meetings.

Edric might have messed up initially (which he admitted to and apologized for), but one of the things I really appreciate about him is he will prioritize his family. No matter how busy he gets, when he knows me or the kids need him, he will make a way to meet that need. When he saw how excited Edan was and how Edan’s anticipation was hinged on his availability, he told me, “This is important to me, I will find a way to take him.”

By 11:30 AM Edric picked us up and we headed to Cartimar. And there was no traffic! We were in and out of Cartimar in about two and a half hours, and Edric even joined us for a late lunch.

Of course we didn’t get Edan a falcon like he originally wished for. He was willing to settle for two cockatiels. One he named Beady and the other, Geedy.

A side story…In Cartimar we ran into a friend of Edric’s family who was a pet store owner himself (for dogs) and he helped us negotiate the price of the cockatiels. He was God-sent. Normally, he wasn’t around but he happened to be there that day. So we knew that we weren’t getting duped as rookie bird buyers.

Edan developed an immediate attachment to his new pets. As for me, I was so impressed with my husband. First he displayed some pretty attractive bargaining skills. But more than that it was following through with his commitment to Edan that really blessed me. Edric found a way to slide his afternoon meetings upwards.

As a boy of few words, Edan is not the kind of child who will express gratitude with intense emotion. So when he does, it means a lot. In the car, he was sitting in the front seat with the bird cage on his lap, and he swung his head around to say, “You are the best parents.”

During lunch, when I explained to him that his dad moved his meetings just to take him to Cartimar, his eyes sparkled with pride, “Daddy is the best daddy!”

I know Edan was thrilled to get his two cockatiels. (As I am writing this he is with them at home, acting the part of loving parent.) But the joy he felt when he picked out those birds wouldn’t have been complete if Edric failed to be present. I know Edan. He might have taken the big let down like a toughie but it would have curdled inside him, and his countenance would have shown it.

Sometimes parenting can seem so complicated. I get all kinds of questions from friends and readers about how to deal with difficult children. And I know what it is like to be confronted with character issues in my own kids. But it’s really not that complicated. When my kids start acting up, character-wise, I know it is often a deficiency on the part of Edric and I (in the area of our parenting).

I am not saying this is always the case but our children tend to be responders. The way we raise and treat them; what we model, praise, hold dear; how we communicate that we love and cherish them, these make impressions that lead to desirable and undesirable behaviors and attitudes on their part.

Edan’s heart, like all my other children’s hearts, is delicate and fragile. It would have been deeply wounded if Edric had not prioritized him on his birthday. Edric didn’t need to spend 24 hours with him to make him feel significant. Two and a half hours to and from the pet store, and the prize of two cockatiels in a cage were enough to send Edan to the moon. He felt really special.

A father’s time and attention will do that. I see how hard it is for Edric to balance everything he does. It’s no easy juggling for him to be a husband, dad, TV host, motivational speaker, director of a homeschool program, head of family ministry, and discipler and mentor to other men. But somehow he is able to be around when it matters most. He knows that a father’s priority is his family, and his children know for certain that they are.

I pray that Edric will remain this way. It’s only by God’s grace that he is this kind of a dad to our kids. But he is going to be a dad for a very long while yet, and there will always be something competing with his priorities. The same goes for me as a mother. Edric and I have to continually ask ourselves, what must have precedence in our lives according to God’s word?

As I watched Edan delightfully engrossed in the responsibility of caring for his birds, and listened to him chatter away as he described their personalities…Geedy is “stubborn” and “wakes up early”, and Beady “eats all the food” and “likes to sleep”, I was reminded that it is always worth it to communicate to our children that they are the most important people in our lives.

pri·or·i·ty
\prī-ˈȯr-ə-tē, -ˈär-\
noun
: something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first
priorities
: the things that someone cares about and thinks are important
: the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

(http://i.word.com/idictionary/priority)

20140323-003815.jpg

20140323-003844.jpg

20140323-003902.jpg

20140323-003930.jpg

20140323-003954.jpg

Montemar Beach Club

Our kids can never get enough of the water, especially if we are talking sea and sand. Two weekends ago, a friend invited us to celebrate his birthday at the Montemar Beach Club. We got two deluxe rooms with an ocean view and since it was considered their “lean season,” we paid about 4,700 per room. While the rooms are simple and straightforward, it’s the place that is worth going to. (There are member and non-member rates.)

Besides the beach, which is a long and wide stretch of fine sand, there are two very nice pools (a huge one for laps and the other for lounging around). Plus there are a ton of beach-related and water-related activities to do. The water stays shallow for about 50 or so meters which is great when you have little kids.

For our children, their highlight was getting to play for hours and hours in the sand. They were pretty toasty looking when we got home!

This is a great place to spend a family vacation. Not too pricey if you go during non-peak seasons and so accessible from Manila (about 3 hours). We stayed one night and it was just right for us.

Watching the sunset, reveling in God’s creation, being with the loves of my life, enjoying the company of friends…What a sweet time away from the harried pace of city-living.

20140311-055917.jpg

20140311-055941.jpg

20140311-060012.jpg

20140311-060053.jpg

20140311-060126.jpg

20140311-060147.jpg

20140311-060240.jpg

20140311-060253.jpg

20140311-060307.jpg

20140311-060315.jpg

20140311-060329.jpg

20140311-060338.jpg

20140311-060345.jpg

20140311-060408.jpg

20140311-060425.jpg

20140311-060448.jpg

20140311-060600.jpg

20140311-060628.jpg

Men Need Men to Become Men

Boys benefit from man-building activities that encourage the development of their manhood. When I say man-building activities I mean experiences that are like “man-versus-wild” kind of stuff – camping, mountain-climbing, scouting – and sports.

When Edric was growing up, my father-in-law, Eddie (Papa to me), invested time teaching him how to fly kites, scuba dive, climb mountains, boogie board, fish, sail, repel, bike, play ball, and swim…among other things. This is how they bonded, in the context of activity. Edric has always remembered these father and son occasions with fondness. And I have appreciated the attractive masculine traits that Edric acquired because of them.

Men need a good adventure and challenge, but they also need a man who has gone before them to pass on survival skills and know-how.

Our sons had the opportunity to take on a good adventure and challenge when Papa invited Edric, Elijah and Edan to climb Mt. Batulao last Saturday. Edric and the boys were thrilled. I was jealous because I wanted to go, too. But this was an experience that Edric wanted to share with the boys – just the guys. I had the other three kids to take care of anyway.

Early Saturday morning, Elijah and Edan had their hiking shoes on and were set to go at 5 AM. They packed their energy food – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, hard boiled eggs with salt on the side, granola bars, and water. Elijah was in charge of carrying the water and Edric carried the food. They got to Batulao 2 hours later and met up with Papa.

Initially, as they began their climb, Edan complained about the prickly tall grass and fatigue. But he wasn’t being a soiled brat. This was no tiny mountain! It was two and a half hours up one way with 12 peaks!

Edric admitted that he was concerned as he watched the boys scale some of the steep inclines. They could’ve rolled off to their deaths! Sadly, some time ago there was a woman who fell off one of the peaks while trying to take a picture. She died!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t know about that story before they went on the climb. The protective mother in me might have tried to dissuade Edric from taking Edan. But he did great! He was the only 7 year old on the trail and he persevered. Even though he was bickering at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed the hike as he went along.

Edric called me at one point during their climb (amazingly, there was a Globe signal), and he gave me an update on how the kids were doing and how much fun they were all having. What I would have given to have been there! I wanted to see their expressions and be a part of this special moment in their lives. But without me around they were better off. There was no nurturing mother figure to turn to for sympathy when they got tired or tripped and skinned their knees. The boys had to stick it out, suck it in, and push themselves under the guidance of Edric and Papa.

When they got home, they were exhausted, bruised and cut up, but they were smiling like they just had the time of their lives. They also had a certain satisfaction in their tone when they spoke about their trek. Thanks to Papa and Edric, the boys learned to overcome their fears, weaknesses, and put in the hard work and effort necessary to achieve a goal they were proud of.

How valuable it is when fathers and grandfathers mentor their sons and set aside time to help them become men. Climbing a mountain together is not the only way to do this but it sure worked for my boys. They went up Mt. Batulao as two clueless boys but they came down as wiser, stronger, more confident young men!
 

20140123-000613.jpg

20140123-000757.jpg

20140123-000814.jpg

20140123-000825.jpg

20140123-000836.jpg

20140123-000853.jpg

20140123-000907.jpg

20140123-000934.jpg

20140123-000946.jpg

20140123-000959.jpg

20140123-001017.jpg

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:

20140108-143321.jpg

EDAN:

20140108-143328.jpg

TITUS:

20140108-143334.jpg

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.

Not According to What We Deserve

Last November, I was asked by a blogger friend, Jane Go of Sugargospice, to write an article for her site. I said yes. But when she told me the deadline for it was December 2, I was like oh dear, bad timing! Edric and I were helping out with a big parenting conference the weekend before the article was due.

However, I had given my word so I told Jane I would follow through. Plus, she was incredibly persistent in a sweet way! Right, Jane?! She wasn’t expecting a literary masterpiece anyway. All she needed was a fun and light entry on Christmas in our household. So I finished the write-up just in time and sent it to her.

About two weeks after I turned in my article she got in touch with me. She invited me and my family to join her and her other guest bloggers for dinner at Phoenix Court in The Bellevue Hotel, Alabang. Jane added that Mr. Ryan Chan, Corporate Director for Communications and Marketing had graciously offered to give us all an overnight stay with our families. Alabang was pretty out of town for us Manila peeps. What a treat! Edric and I were really excited!

Mr. Chan was incredibly generous. He gave our family two adjoining rooms, a suite on the 19th floor of the Tower Wing and we were received as Signature Club guests.

DSC00549

DSC00550

DSC00561

DSC00609

DSC00558

The kids thought it was so fun to have to use a card key to access floors 19 to 21. Simple joys. A special lounge is dedicated to signature club guests with complimentary drinks and hor d’oeuvres provided in the evening. We didn’t have time to avail of those but we did enjoy breakfast there the next day. I can imagine how businessmen, businesswomen and VIPs would appreciate the exclusive perks that come with being a Signature Club guest. Checking out, for example, was done on the 21st floor and it was very efficient.

DSC00608

As for the rooms we stayed in…wow! Rooms 1921 and 1922. The kids started squealing with delight when we entered! They threw themselves onto the king-sized beds and made exclamatory statements about how wonderful the rooms were.

DSC00566

Besides the sophisticated and modern decor which one might expect from a hotel suite, I appreciated all the thoughtful details. There was a personally signed note left on the table and a token gift, two plates of fresh fruits with fat strawberries (which I ate. Yummo), and a bottle of wine for Edric and I to share. The staff were very attentive, too. They were very friendly and eager to make our stay comfortable.

DSC00589

DSC00547
DSC00590

DSC00587

DSC00662

We left for dinner at Phoenix Court (which was amazing!) in a hurry and didn’t have time to tidy-up. So, what a pleasant surprise it was to come back to an impeccable room with a re-stocked supply of Acca Kappa bath and beauty products. The kids used up all the shower gel in the afternoon to make their bubble bath!

DSC00540

DSC00541

I also appreciated the numerous bottles of complimentary water they provided. As a breastfeeding mom I drink a ton of water so this little item mattered alot. For signature club guests they actually provide complimentary (non-alcoholic) drinks all day.

The great service extended to other areas. When we went down to the Pastry Corner to sample their delicious baked goods, a woman who worked close to the front desk offered to escort us. I asked her for directions but instead of mouthing out instructions she kindly said she would walk us over to it. In fact, she even waited for us while we were chatting with some old friends we ran into. I didn’t realize she was still standing there until Edric and I finished conversing with our friends and she let us know that she would be going back to the lobby.

Edric also left one of his white long sleeve shirts in our hotel room. He called the hotel a few days after we had left and they informed him that it had been set aside for him to pick up. Whew, it belongs to his show sponsor so I’m glad he didn’t lose it!

My favorite part of the room we stayed in was the bed. I’m thinking of designing one similar to it for our new house. Even Catalina liked it.
She plopped her head on to the spread and stayed there for a while without screaming to be held.

DSC00578

It was very comfortable. I don’t remember my dreams that night which means I had deeper sleep! Usually I have three or four weird dreams a night because I get awoken by Catalina so many times.

DSC00593

She looks angry here…In fact, when I tickle her, she gets angry! ha ha ha, which makes me want to tickle her more!

DSC00596

The lounge on the 21st floor offered panoramic views of the city. I liked the feel of this lounge — quiet, fewer guests, lots of natural light, scenic views, and very responsive staff. I preferred it to their Cafe D’Asie. The food was delicious at Cafe D’Asie but it took them a while to refill the buffet stations during lunch. I didn’t mind too much because I am not really a buffet kind of gal unless it is a breakfast buffet. A few tasty dishes to choose from and great service are more appealing a combination. That’s why I liked the 21st floor.

20140103-085641.jpg

20140103-085650.jpg

20140103-085702.jpg

The Continental Breakfast had a spread that was very limited but I liked the meal I ate. Their service was to be applauded. They responded to our requests immediately — eggs cooked in our preferred way. Mine had to be somewhere between soft and hard boiled. The kids wanted omelettes or scrambled eggs. And they also requested pancakes, which they got. The waiter kept asking us if we needed anything and if we were well served. I appreciated his proactive-ness.

My kids had such a great time they didn’t want to leave. Edan even cried! I couldn’t believe it! My seven year old had become attached to the Bellevue overnight! He felt so badly about leaving he even hid in a corner to sulk. It was very uncharacteristic of him so Edric talked with him afterwards to help him process his feelings and have the right attitude.

Edric told him two things — gratitude and hope. It’s okay to feel sad when something you like is taken away or you have to leave an experience behind. But you need to be grateful that you were given the opportunity to enjoy what you had in the first place. Furthermore, it is always good to hope that one day, Lord willing, you may be given the very thing that was taken away or something even better.

I want to apply Edric’s lesson to my own circumstance. I am so grateful that we were given the night’s stay at Bellevue and treated to three huge meals. (Unfortunately I gained weight. I know this because my pants are tighter. Ack.) It was also a privilege to interact with other writers whom we shared dinner with at Phoenix Court. Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, Didi Tiu of CanDishhh Tales, Franny Ang of Frannywanny, Michelle Martinez of Mrs. Martinez’s Raves & Rants, Richie Zamora of The Pickiest Eater, Rowena Wendy Lei of Animetric’s World, and Sumi Go of The Purple Doll.

DSC00650

Because I don’t attend a lot of events, I am not very in the know about the blogosphere. In fact, I’m not very useful as a food critic, entertainment junkie, world traveler, or tech expert. But I learned a lot from tips shared by seasoned bloggers who sat at the same table we did. Of course, I got to know Jane and her family better which was wonderful…

DSC00862

Jane also handed me and her other guests amazing gifts from Glamour Box, My Pink Wasabi, Angus Beef Tapa from Jam Foods and Co, and a caviar cake from Grace Y. Oh, and she also delivered a chocolate cake from Aggy’s Cakes and Sweets to my room for my belated birthday. Edric loved this!
DSC00661
I made the mistake of sharing it with our house help and he wasn’t able to have a second serving. This was disappointing for him but good for his health.

From Glamour Box…

20140103-085602.jpg

20140103-085610.jpg

It is nice as a hydrating mist but I actually like it as a light body spray because it smells so delicate…

20140103-095141.jpg

 

This gave my skin a nice glow for New Year’s Eve…

20140103-095149.jpg

Tried this right away and it went on very smoothly. I get chapped lips so often this will come in very handy…

20140103-095156.jpg

I don’t wear a lot of lipstick but I wore this one for New Year’s Eve. It was bright and red (and I’m so glad it matched my skin tone which is on the yellow-side.)

20140103-095216.jpg

I have yet to try this but I’m looking forward to using it…

20140103-095403.jpg

I wish I had known about My Pink Wasabi gift boxes before Christmas. They are so creative. It would have been great to give these chocolates as gifts.

20140103-085624.jpg

The Tapa we got from Jam Foods and Co. was eaten Monday morning. Yum!

20140103-085552.jpg

Who would have thought a single, simple article written to keep a promise and be a blessing (in a very small way) could reap all of this?! I was overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord through Jane, her sponsors and Mr. Ryan Chan. I wasn’t required to write about all of this, but this experience made me think about God’s nature and hope in who he is. When we walk with him, he delights to bless us. And he never blesses us according to what we deserve but according to who He is — above and beyond what we can ever hope or imagine! That’s the 2014 we have to look forward to if we follow him! Happy New Year!

DSC00748

 

 

What To Do About Santa

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

I should’ve published this earlier but just got around to it this evening…

In our home we don’t make Santa a part of our Christmas celebrations. Our kids don’t believe in Santa. Some people will shoot me for saying this. I know that Santa Claus is a huge part of Christmas for a majority of families. Personally, we don’t want our kids to buy into a fallacy and get really disappointed in the future when they realise that he doesn’t exist.

We aren’t anti-Santa like he is some sort of Satanic figure. (Same letters in Santa also spell Satan?!) If families want to make Santa Claus a part of their Christmas tradition, that’s their call. He’s a cute, cuddly man in a red suit who loves children.

But if you would like to know why we don’t encourage our kids to believe in him, then read on…

1. He isn’t real. I already said that right? We also don’t celebrate Easter by glorifying the Easter Bunny.

2. Since he isn’t real, it’s lying to say he is.

3. How long will you have to defend Santa if he isn’t real?

4. We treat Santa like we would any other character that is just “pretend.” The kids know that he is a part of Christmas celebrations around the world (not ours) but they think of him like they would ginger bread houses, elves, and flying reindeers. It’s all pretend. Our kids are pretty logical, too. How can one man be in a billion places at one time unless he has divine powers?

I wrote this short article as a response to a question that a reader asked me about Santa. Personally, I believe there are some things worth dying for and there are other things that are subject to debate. Whether it is wrong or right to include Santa Claus in Christmas traditions is something I will leave for the theologists out there to determine. After all, we could question other things…like what about Christmas trees? What about gift giving? We aren’t extremists.

So our conclusion…Santa Claus is a nice guy but in our home, it is our personal conviction that raising our children to believe in him and his magical powers would mean we would have to deceive our kids. More importantly, we don’t want Santa Claus to have center stage or to eclipse the central figure of Christmas in our home — Jesus Christ.

City Kids on Strawberry Fields


DSC_0307 DSC_0311-1

Our kids are city-bred. Unfortunately this means that they aren’t used to getting muddy and dirty. But on my birthday we brought them to Trinidad Valley (just 20 minutes from Baguio City) to go strawberry picking.

DSC_0286 DSC_0274 DSC_0233 DSC_0231 DSC_0227DSC_0220

 

For just P300 pesos per kilo harvested, the kids could go out into the fields and pick strawberries. They were given boots and baskets. The boots were a great help, especially when they had to walk in the muddied pathways between rows of strawberries. Initially, they were squeamish and complaining about the dirt.  However, once they started finding strawberries and sticking them into their baskets, they kept going and going!

Strawberry-picking became an educational experience for our kids. We all saw the different ways strawberries were used, too – wine, taho, pastillas, jam, etc. I thought it was hilarious when the taho vendor was like, “M’am, take a photo for Instagram!”

The kids had so much fun being little farmers, we actually had to stop them at one point from over-picking. Of course, they were ravenously hungry by the end, too, which was great. There was no need to remind them to “eat their food” when we were back in Baguio City. It was gobble, gobble, gobble.

 

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)

20131227-183356.jpg

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!

20131227-183634.jpg
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…

DSC_0330

DSC_0332

DSC_0435
Zip-lining for the little ones…

20131227-183529.jpg

20131227-183742.jpg

 

 

 

Strawberry picking in Trinidad Valley…DSC_0233

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

20131227-183835.jpg
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!
DSC_0384-1
DSC_0372-1

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.

DSC_0536

 

 

DSC_0633

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.

dsc02157

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.

DSC_0659

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!

Christmas Party Activity for Kids

Here’s a fun activity you can do with your kids this Christmas: Make “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers and decorate them with candy. I used to do this as a kid.

20131213-121226.jpg

Last night, during a gathering Edric and I had with our bible study group, the kids made their candy houses. My friend, Marilen, made the prototype above for the kids to copy. They had a blast putting their creativity to good use.

The key to making a house that stands is the royal icing. Mix 2 egg yokes with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add powdered sugar in batches to test consistency while mixing. If the icing has peanut butter stickiness it’s ready to be used as the “glue” for the graham crackers and candies.

Check out wiki how for detailed instructions. This site was super helpful!

The recipe for the icing is so easy I had the kids make it. They got a good biceps workout because the hand mixer wasn’t working. But, a kitchen whisk worked just fine. Then they put the icing into a thick freezer ziploc bag and snipped off a tiny bit off one corner.

Candies and sweets were laid out for the kids to use as their decorations and they got right to it.
20131213-120556.jpg20131213-120603.jpg20131213-120613.jpg20131213-120620.jpg20131213-120628.jpg20131213-120634.jpg
20131213-120910.jpg

20131213-121036.jpg
The graham cracker houses are easier to decorate when they sit for a little bit after connecting all the sides and the roof. Otherwise, it can get frustrating for the kids when it accidentally topples over while they are sticking on the candies.

Their creations (safe to eat just mind the sugar content)…

20131213-121131.jpg

20131213-121146.jpg

20131213-121153.jpg

20131213-121200.jpg

20131213-121206.jpg

Drawing the Outdoors

We went to the park to have a picnic and draw nature. I love homeschooling!

20131017-182042.jpg

20131017-182051.jpg

20131017-182055.jpg

20131017-182102.jpg

20131017-182110.jpg

20131017-182122.jpg

20131017-182129.jpg

20131017-182135.jpg

20131017-182139.jpg

20131017-182209.jpg

20131017-182457.jpg

No One Outgrows Love

My mom and dad have a daily habit of walking. If possible, they do so twice a day, early in the morning and after dinner. In the mornings, swimming is part of that routine, especially for my dad. He will rarely miss being in the pool to do his laps. Being the incredibly disciplined person he is, sticking to a schedule is a priority. He invites my mom to do the same and together, they have enjoyed this daily form of exercise.

No matter where they are in the world (for as long as they aren’t in transit or attending an event or seminar) they will try to exercise.

When we were growing up my parents encouraged my siblings and I to walk with them, too. Mom and dad used this time to connect with us and get to know us better. Informal, relaxed, and outdoors, these elements were conducive to conversation.

So it became a family habit to walk and talk. We would often share with them what was going on in our lives as we made our way up and down the hills of Antipolo (where we spent most of our childhood). Walking time was synonymous with family bonding time.

Oh so long ago...

Oh so long ago…

My siblings and I are all married now and we have families of our own. But whenever we are at my parents’ place for a visit, they ask us to join them for these walks.

Saturday morning was one of those occasions. Mom and dad asked Edric and I if we wanted to go for a walk. They had just gotten back from their trip to the US and hoped to reconnect with us.

I saw my dad dressed to go for a swim at the park. (His usual attire is a t-shirt, cap, and trunks with a pair of goggles in one hand.)

Since Edric and I were also eager to find out how their trip went, we rounded up the kids. “Let’s go walking!”

We got them to join in on the morning’s exercise. It was drizzling. Everyone took an umbrella (except for me because I don’t like using umbrellas unless I absolutely need to carry one) and we headed towards the park.

On the way, my parents told us about the conference they went to and about visiting with my sister and her family. However, for most of the distance, they wanted to know how we were. They wanted to listen to our stories.

My dad actually walked to the park and back without going for a swim. Although he was dressed up for it, he decided he would accompany us all the way back to the house first. He didn’t want our conversation to be cut short. At first, I thought it was due to the rain. But when we arrived at the house, I heard him tell his driver that he needed to be dropped off at the park. He was still going to go swimming.

“Why didn’t you swim when we were there earlier?” I asked him.

“I wanted to be with you guys,” was his reply.

He knew that if he had gone swimming then Edric, mom, the kids and I would have walked back to the house without him. And he didn’t want to be absent while we continued talking. More than that, he wanted to convey that we were important.

I hugged him. “Thanks dad.”

It may not seem like such a big deal but it was to me. I know how routine and goal-oriented my dad is. When he walks to the park, he goes there to swim. That’s his agenda. It is very unusual for him to allow disruptions in his schedule. So postponing his swim was a sweet gesture. He wanted to extend the opportunity to talk to Edric and I and be with our kids. It made me feel very loved.

It’s a blessing that we still get to share these walks from time to time. And I don’t think I will ever outgrow them. More than the actual exercise, it’s the fellowship that my siblings and I (and our spouses) enjoy. It still matters alot to us that mom and dad want to be tuned in to what’s going on in our lives.

As a parent myself, I know how much my own children value the time and attention Edric and I give to them. When we block off our schedules to be with them it tells them they are a priority. Even doing simple things like walking together, playing board games, sitting around the dinner table or telling stories make a powerful impact. In fact they like it alot more than receiving material presents from us because they have our undivided attention and presence. This is more precious to them.

Children long for this kind of assurance, to feel special…even grown up children. No one quite outgrows the desire to be loved and cherished by their own parents. And it doesn’t take expensive gifts to communicate this. More often than not it is the gifts of time, attention, genuine interest and concern that children want from their mom and dad.

“To Be Continued”

The kids love it when Edric invents stories. He tells them almost every night while the kids are tucked in their beds. On nights when he misses story-telling time, he runs a tab with the kids. Like tonight. He had to make up four stories.

I am laying down in the room with the kids while they listen, completely riveted. The stories he tells revolve around 7 characters with similar traits and names to our own family. But they each have a super power and work together on different missions. He interjects spiritual truth and character traits, too. It’s like a TV series only better because the kids have to use their imagination.

Edric isn’t the type to read a storybook but he enjoys story-telling. He is so great at creating these make believe plots that are ridiculous but absolutely entertaining for the kids. I don’t know how he does it but he sits there inventing on the fly and the kids look forward to it every night. He told me he likes the challenge of his multi-level audience and getting reactions out of them. He also likes getting to know them as he studies their responses to his comedy or serious parts.

This routine started a few weeks ago when Edric saw Edan’s achievement test results. Everything was great except for his listening skills. When we discussed how we can help him to improve in this area, he said he would try telling stories. Of course I was thrilled! Since I do most of the homeschooling, I appreciate any sort of participation and input Edric can give to our kids. So far, these stories have been a creative way to get Edan to practice attentiveness and comprehension. Since he is a visual learner, he relies more on pictures and text. His ears need to be “trained.”

Although the initial intent was to help Edan, the kids have all gotten hooked on these stories. They remind Edric every night that it is story time or they tell him how many stories he owes them.

I imagine that someday the kids will remember these entertaining evenings. And while Edric’s stories are very interesting, I know it is his time that really matters to them. He is a busy man and the nights are perfect for him to wind down and relax. But he goes out of his way to be with the kids.

In the past he would make sure to pray with them before bedtime and they always asked for this. But with the added component of a bedtime story, the kids are developing a new kind of affection for him. They know he wants to spend extra time with them and it makes them feel really special.

He ended his story # 4 tonight in the usual manner he does, “to be continued” and they gave their usual protest “What?! Why?! because they didn’t want to be left hanging. But they know that their dad will be back tomorrow night with another good tale to tickle their imaginations. And what they know even better is that he loves them.

I snapped pictures of the kids while they were listening…(Edan looks depressed but that’s just his serious face. It was probably a serious part of the story. Elijah looks like he is sleeping but that’s how he listens.)

20131013-223733.jpg

20131013-223738.jpg

20131013-223837.jpg

20131013-223845.jpg