It’s Your Mess: Deal with It Darling

By the end of our homeschooling morning, our “classroom” usually looks like someone threw a grenade into it. I’ve tried to manage the mess by cleaning up as we go along, but there’s no better way to keep this room straight than to have the kids take responsibility for it.

Today they wanted to dye eggs as an art activity, but I told them, “If you want to do art, you have to clean up the room.” So they pulled out a broom from the hallway closet, picked up markers and colored pencils, and wiped the paint off the floor.

IMG_9414-0.JPG

IMG_9418-0.JPG

IMG_9410-0.JPG

IMG_9420.JPG
My kids can get presumptuous about our househelp cleaning up after them so I have to remind them to straighten their own rooms, organize their toys, and mop their spills. They aren’t always motivated but a helpful trick is to tell them they can’t move on to the next activity until they straighten up their clutter.

Yesterday, they wanted to watch the Muppets movie. They were all plopped in front of the television enjoying themselves when I went upstairs to check on their rooms. Titus and Tiana had pulled out blankets and re-arranged furniture. They also had stuffed animals thrown around. Elijah and Edan had played with Citiblocks and constructed “trees”.

IMG_9394.JPG

IMG_9379.JPG
I went back down, turned off the television and told them that their rooms had to be spotless if they wanted to continue watching the movie. They complied and got to work. After ten minutes, Elijah and Edan bounded back down the stairs. Titus and Tiana struggled to restore the girls’ room to what it looked like before they messed it up. I told them they were responsible for the disorder and had to fix it.

Elijah, Edan, and I finished the movie but Titus and Tiana never came down. I went looking for them, wondering what ever became of their commitment to put their mess away. And I found them lying on the couch in the study room, ASLEEP! They must have gotten tired trying to figure out what to do.

IMG_9392.JPG
Well, they resumed their clean up duties and got the job done after they woke up.

I want my kids to understand that they are responsible for their things. It’s easy to make a mess. In fact, it’s pretty fun to do so. But if my kids get into the habit of letting others inherit their mess, it’s going to have a negative effect on their character. They have to learn faithfulness in the small areas, like putting away toys or wiping up spills, so it will carry over to bigger areas in the future. If they “mess” up relationships, or make wrong decisions, they need to own up to the consequences and do what is honorable – deal with the mess and do their best to fix what they can.

What Homeschooling Is Really About

I talk a lot about homeschooling, but I want you to know that my children aren’t always cooperative, there are days when I don’t feel like teaching, and sometimes I am the less than perfect mother who gets annoyed with her kids.

Two days ago, I was teaching Titus from his Singapore Math book and he couldn’t get subtraction using number bonds. I could tell he was guessing so I elevated my pitch and my tone was agitated. As I explained to him the concept of regrouping by 10, subtracting the ones from each other, and adding what was left, he was confused. I probably did a bad job of communicating this process and I expected it to click in his head right away. Well, it didn’t. I gripped the pencil he was holding and circled and scratched on his book for emphasis as I went over each problem.

Titus began to tear. I thought, Why can’t he get it?! Is there something wrong with him?! It’s not complicated! 

Well, there was something wrong with me. I was making homeschooling about me. What I wanted…my desired outcome…my teaching…my time…my effort…my way…my disappointment…OH, MY!

When I saw him struggling to stay composed, I felt horrible. Immediately, I apologized to him and hugged him, asking for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for being irritated? Mommy was wrong.” He readily accepted my apology and we pressed on. By the end of the session he figured out how to approach his math problems with confidence.

As for me, I was reminded that I am prone to reactiveness and impatience when my heart is in the wrong place. The key is to remember why I am homeschooling, to keep sight of the goal, which is to teach my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

While teaching a subject like mathematics may be important, this is really a minute aspect of the real objective. Edric and I share a daily responsibility to nurture, encourage, and meet the needs of our children to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. (Luke 2:52) Therefore, our homeschooling isn’t about 4 hours of the day when they are seated in our study room for lessons. It’s a lifestyle that ministers to our children’s spiritual, social, mental, and physical persons.

 

SPIRITUAL

Homeschooling is discipleship. While academics have a place, the greater emphasis is teaching our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus, love God’s word, submit to authority, and develop Christ-like character.

When our second son was little, he was nicknamed the “chairman” for being a very serious and grumpy boy who would often say no. Edric and I talked about his attitude and realized we had failed to be intentional about sharing the gospel to him. A few weeks after Edric did so, our son was a transformed child. His heart became malleable and teachable. He would even tell me, “Jesus is my best friend.” More importantly, he became a kinder, more considerate boy.

Today, Edan initiates reaching out to other children, organizing activities and games for them, and he is also assistant teacher to my younger kids. While he still has character issues from time to time, I can see the fruit of God’s work in his life.

Discipleship is the key to homeschooling. It’s impossible to teach a child who doesn’t want to listen. When my children don’t have the right attitudes there’s no point in proceeding with lesson time unless I address their attitudes first. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the wills between my children and me.

There have been instances when I have asked my older children to excuse themselves from our study room so they can have a moment to prayerfully consider their heart issues. While I don’t believe in asking little kids to stand in a corner for “time outs,” I do believe in asking older children who have a relationship with Christ to take the time to think through their feelings and actions in light of God’s Word.

Are they acting and behaving in a way that pleases God? How can they change and improve if they aren’t?

I prefer to proceed when they are spiritually ready, when they have returned to me after the Holy Spirit has ministered to them. Almost always, he convicts them about the wrongfulness of their responses to the task at hand, to me, or to others. It is amazing how a moment of purposeful reflection leads them to God-honoring conclusions. (Of course I also pray that they will be attentive to what God has to say to them during that period of pause.)

 

SOCIAL

Parents’ apprehensions about homeschooling often center around the socialization question. “What about their socialization?” I’d like to quote Elijah, my eldest. Once upon a time, a friend suggested he should go to school so he could have friends. His spontaneous relply: “I have so many friends, I can’t even count them!” He wasn’t exaggerating. Like my other kids, they aren’t friend-starved.

While we don’t focus on making friends, we do focus on how to be a friend. The emphasis is on social development — training our children to look beyond their insecurities and comfort zones so they can be a blessing and channel of Christ’s love. Furthremore, in the context of family, there are numerous opportunities to practice relationship principles like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In fact, the family is often the hardest place to apply these principles! As much as we all love one another in our family, there are days when we don’t like each other. The challenge is to transcend this feeling by availing of the grace that Christ supplies.

Social development happens most naturally at home. Between a husband and wife, siblings, parent and child, each member of a family must die daily to selfishness and self-centeredness. They must choose to love, forgive, make sincere apologies, and grow in their understanding of one another. A child who can relate to others in this manner will not be in want of good company.

Furthermore, a child who has received love, appreciation, who is accepted for who he or she is, and allowed to fail and make mistakes will be inspired to learn. I remember an instance when Titus came to me in fear. His face was half-visible behind the sliding glass door that separated the room from the bathroom.

“Mom I did something.”

“What is it?” I asked. He was hesitant to confess his deed at first, but then I prodded him to do so.

“I hit the shuttlecock into our neighbor’s yard.”

That’s it?! I thought. Why couldn’t he tell me that right away?!

“It’s okay. I forgive you. It was an accident.” I said reassuringly.

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

“Do I get mad a lot?” (I had to check.)

“No.”

“Well, I want you to know something. I love you no matter what and I will always forgive you.” I repeated it again until I was sure he internalized this.

He flashed a big smile and then ran off to play again.

I may not lose my temper with my kids and yell at them, but I do get irritated from time to time. So I have to be careful and mindful of the way I relate to them. I need to ask myself this question: Am I cultivating a relational climate that gives my children the liberty to express their heartfelt longings, fears, ideas, or confess their mistakes? The relationship I have with my kids impacts my ability to instruct their hearts and their minds. If they can trust me with who they are, they can trust me to teach them who they should become.

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

IMG_8928

On Wednesdays, we get together with other homeschool families. A good number of ladies in my discipleship group are homeschooling their kids and they have women in their groups who are also homeschooling. Wednesdays is the day we have designated to hold classes so our kids can interact and work with other kids. I’m so blessed by the moms in this group who lend their expertise and creativity to teach art, music, bible, character, science, etc. We also asked an awesome physical trainer to teach our kids sports and fitness.

IMG_8350

IMG_8344

IMG_8007

IMG_8008 1

When my kids and I are at home, our lessons happen around a large table. I assign tasks to my children and act the part of a facilitator. Elijah and Edan can do a lot of work on their own. Titus and Tiana need more attention from me. Catalina is “exiled” so we can focus. She is entertained by our househelp. (Praise God for househelp!)

IMG_8599

IMG_8610

IMG_8611

IMG_8613

Ideally, it would be nice if all my kids sat around the table and stayed put, but I’m a pretty laid-back homeschooling mom. They can do some work on the floor or on the couch. They can even migrate to different rooms if this will help them accomplish their tasks. Sometimes, we even homeschool in the car if I absolutely have to do an errand in the morning!

My philosophy when it comes to teaching is simple: a child needs to master the essentials so he will become a self-directed learner. I am more particular about skills like math, reading, comprehension, logic and reasoning, rather than science, history, Filipino, social studies, etc. If my kids are confident with the essentials, they will have the building blocks to learn whatever they want to. I don’t want them to be held back by me. As much as possible, I try not to hover around them all the time. In fact, I tell them, “you can figure it out.” (Sometimes I have to say this because I don’t know how to explain it either!)

Unless they are really stumped, I encourage my kids to rise up to the challenge of a difficult task. This is one of the reasons why my boys are turning out to be good at math even if I’m terrible at it! I also encourage them to study what they are interested in, beyond what we are covering during their lessons. Since I don’t canabilize the day with instruction, they have a lot of free hours to pursue topics that are meaningful to them. Instead of burdening myself with the responsibility of teaching them EVERYTHING, I zone in on the basics and point them in the right direction by giving them access to a multitudinous number of books, and supplementing their learning with educational apps and internet sites that are pre-approved.

For example, some months ago my older sons memorized the periodic table of elements, just for fun. It wasn’t part of their science requirements to do so, but they were fascinated by it. So I let them use an app (Toca Lab) that helped them to understand all the elements and their abbreviations. When they weren’t using the app, they would play a game where they named all the elements and gave the symbols to match them. I don’t even know the periodic table of elements! I kept getting the symbol for Iron wrong when they would “quiz” me! It’s Se right?!

The point is I am very aware that I have cognitive limitations as their teacher so I don’t pressure myself to be the expert. If they want to learn about a topic that I’m not familiar with, I find out what resources I can connect my children with or to so they can become the experts.

 

PHYSICAL

The physical aspect of homeschooling has to do with developing our children’s talents, inspiring productive hobbies, giving them lots of play time to explore, build, create, and making sure they get adequate exercise and rest. Our children are enjoying a “relaxed” childhood. They don’t have to rush off to school, spend hours in traffic, or come home exhausted only to do more work.

 

CHECKLIST

We evaluate our children’s progress and growth by asking these questions:

IS MY CHILD…

  • Living a transformed life because of his/her relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • Developing a love for God’s Word?
  • Rooted in God’s Word?
  • Submitting to my authority with an attitude of respect?
  • Growing in Christ-like character?
  • Secure in my love for him/her?
  • Loving others, especially his/her siblings?
  • Thinking of others as more important than his/her self?
  • Mastering essential skills that will enable him/her to reason and defend his/her faith, and effectively communicate the gospel truth?
  • Developing his/her talents?
  • Playing and enjoying his/her childhood?
  • Pursuing productive interests and hobbies?
  • Getting enough exercise and rest?

Edric and I keep these questions in mind as we homeschool our kids so we know if we are pointing them in the right direction. When we sense that they are off-course, we re-evaluate and re-calibrate so we can correct where they are headed. We also look at our own lives and examine if we are exemplifying the values and principles we want them to internalize.

Like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. It can be challenging and tiring to keep training and teaching our children. It can be discouraging when we fail as parents. However, I am constantly amazed at the daily grace God provides to keep us going.

I remember an instance when I was stressed about homeschooling, and my older son, Elijah, commented, “You know John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had 19 children.” In other words…mom, if she could do it then so can you. You’ve got it pretty easy with just five! More importantly, Susanna Wesley was a woman of faith and spiritual excellence. If I want to raise children who will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, I have to love God with all that I am first. That’s the secret to successful homeschooling.

IMG_8282

READ ABOUT SUSANNA WESLEY HERE: http://susanpellowe.com/susanna-wesley.htm

 

 

Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.

TIANA

I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.

_JD00128

If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!

Do’s and Don’ts for Living with Househelp

One of the reasons why I’m writing this is because some readers thought I came across as unreasonable and demanding about my househelp in my entry, Strike 3! They cautioned me to be careful about the way I talk about helpers because it may perpetuate a perspective that encourages their ill-treatment. To clarify…I shared at the beginning of that article, we do love our helpers. However, this point may have been overshadowed by revelations of my feelings over certain issues that arose in our home. So I appreciate the intentions of readers who want to keep me accountable. Thank you! I value your candor with me.

Here’s something to redeem any negativity that may have settled in the hearts of those who thought I was being reactive. This is a practical post on how to navigate the trickiness of employees who live in your home: (Not everything may be a applicable, but perhaps these tips will give you ideas to choose from.) These are practices we have tried to be consistent with in our own home that have led to a healthy relationship between our helpers and us.

  • DON’T PAY THEM THE MINIMUM! PAY THEM MUCH BETTER! I was shocked to find out that P2,500 is the legal amount to pay househelp in Manila! Personally, I don’t think this is fair at all. Most househelp send money to their families in the province which means they are barely left with anything for all their work.
  • INVEST FOR THEM. Edric sets money aside for our helpers monthly, on top of their salaries. This is something we started last year, but it allows our helpers to have forced savings for future needs.
  • INCREASE EVERY YEAR. Most employees get an increase every year so why not our househelp? I was surprised to find out that several of the ladies who came to work for us did not receive an increase for their many years of serving their previous employers. Our mindset is, for as long as God continues to provide for us, we want to give them an increase. It is our privilege to bless them.
  • HAVE REGULAR EVALUATIONS. Every six months, we evaluate their performance so they can get bonuses. We weren’t able to do this last year because things were crazy for our household with house building and packing and a new baby. But in previous years, this was a common practice of ours. (We need to implement this again.) Edric helped me to create an evaluation tool that was similar to company KRAs. It made the expectations clear and professionalized what they do.
  • FEED THEM WELL. This sounds ridiculous to say, but it is common to have a separate menu for helpers. But in our home, our helpers eat the same meals we do (except for breakfast because we don’t like to eat a lot of canned goods and they do.) Personally, I feel this is actually simpler. Less gas is used to cook, and I don’t want them to think we have special food and they get something that is sub-standard. Unless we are eating something like steak, which is rare, whatever we eat, they can have, too. It also works the other way. My kids and I like fish. When Edric isn’t home during the day, that’s what we prefer to eat with our helpers. I’ve heard others say that helpers don’t like the food they eat. While our helpers do not have a palate for everything we eat they’ve actually learned to like Mexican food, burgers, salads, etc. Generally, we don’t cook a lot of pork at home so our helpers don’t eat that much of it either.
  • BE GENEROUS. We go through our closets periodically so we can give away what we don’t use very often. I just gave our helpers a bunch of bags and a ton of kid’s toys that they can hand out to their relatives. Some of these were unopened but our kids have more than enough toys for themselves. We want our helpers to know that we like to share with them the blessings we have received. When we can, we also sponsor their fun. There are occasions when they want to watch a movie together and we will give them money for a night out of bonding and fellowship. A few months ago, Edric got them into ABS-CBN’s Show Time. (Their next request is to watch ASAP!) When they travel with us, we let them try the same things we get to enjoy. Last year, my siblings and I paid for all of our helpers to go to an amusement park so they could take a break from work. They had a blast!

DSC01259

 

(We alternate who gets to go on trips with us.)

IMG_0986

Enchanted Kingdom!

  • AVOID ADVANCING MONEY. It’s common for helpers or drivers to ask for an “advance,” which is really just borrowing money and paying it off with their next paycheck. We tell our girls not to borrow from one another or from us. But if there is a valid need, we will help them. This teaches them how to budget and work with what they have. A lot of helpers buy phones and upgrade them more often than we do! So they end up needing money when real issues arise. To avoid this, we let them present to us what they will use the extra money for.
  • DON’T BE DEPENDENT ON THEM TO SERVE YOU. I know I said that I’ve been spoiled by my helpers’ service to me. At the same time, I let them know that I can take care of my kids and the home on my own. It will certainly be difficult if this became the reality. But the point is to show them that I am not asking them to do what I can’t do myself. Some days I take all the kids out with me without asking any of them to come along. My kids may come home looking dirty and soiled but hey, we survive!
  • DAYS OFF. Our girls can take a day off once a week. They prefer to accumulate their days and do 3 consecutive days off in a month. I don’t mind this for as long as they tell me ahead of time and they plan it among themselves so they aren’t all gone in a given week. Some of my friends disagree with allowing their househelp to be away overnight because they may have boyfriends. I’ve had my share of househelp who have gotten pregnant. I tell them not to date the wrong kinds of men, but they still make their own decisions. Whether they are out overnight or not, the reality is, if they are bent on being promiscuous it doesn’t really matter what time of day they are allowed to take off. Personally, I prefer that they don’t come home late at night for safety reasons. So I actually tell them to come home during the morning if they are taking a day off once a week.
  • DAY OF REST. Since they don’t always take weekly days off, we make Sundays easier for them. I don’t require them to do cooking or clean up work, except for the kitchen. And if we don’t have any commitments to attend to on Sundays, we take our helpers out to lunch with us after church. It doesn’t have to be an expensive restaurant, just somewhere out of the house so they don’t have to serve us on Sunday.
  • A SUSTAINABLE DAILY SCHEDULE. When we don’t have visitors and if we aren’t out in the evening, our entire household goes to bed early. Sometimes as early as 9 PM. Dinner is generally at 6 PM for our family, which means that our helpers can retire early. This is great for me because Edric hands off Catalina to them at 6 AM or even earlier sometimes, and they are ready to take care of her.
  • SPONSOR A YEARLY VACATION. With helpers whose families are based in far-flung provinces, we encourage them to take a good amount of time off for a yearly vacation and we pay for this time away. This allows them to reconnect with their families and have an extended period of rest so they can come back re-charged. Only once has this backfired. One of our helpers did not come back at the time she said she would. Usually, they keep their word.
  • CELEBRATE THEIR BIRTHDAYS. As consistently as possible, we make our helpers feel special on their birthdays. A few days after I gave birth to Catalina, it was one of their birthdays. Since Catalina was confined, I went shopping for my househelp because I wanted her to know that we hadn’t forget about her. Fortunately, we lived in the Fort at the time and Catalina was confined in St. Luke’s Global, so everything was close by. Plus, I had given birth Lamaze which made my recovery much faster. Our househelp was so appreciative because she knew that it was a difficult time for us as a family. Since our helpers make many sacrifices for us, I think it matters that we also make sacrifices for them.
  • THROW THEM A PARTY! Every Christmas, my siblings and I organize a party for them with games, prizes, raffles, and food. We gather all our househelp and drivers together for this fun day, which we really enjoy planning. In fact, I’ve got to head out to Divisoria soon to buy prizes for the games! We started doing this three years ago and it has meant a lot to them. It’s our way of communicating how much we appreciate them.

IMG_7256

  • TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO RESPECT YOUR HELPERS. We don’t allow our kids to shout, hit, or command our househelp. If they need something they have to ask politely. Better yet, if they can do it for themselves, we want them to. We also tell our kids they need to clean up after themselves because I don’t want them to develop the habit of making a mess that others mop up for them.
  • USE PLEASE AND THANK YOU AND APOLOGIZE WHEN WE HURT THEM. We may expect our househelp to serve us because we pay them. But I still believe in saying please and thank you, even for the small things. Modeling what it means to say sorry is also important. There was a season when Edric was irritable and he asked for their forgiveness for his bad example.
  • COMMUNICATE YOUR APPRECIATION. Helpers can be some of the most underappreciated people in our lives. We need to complement their hard work. When they cook a good meal, Edric singles them out and tells them, “This is great! We should start a restaurant!” Periodically, I will say, “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you?” We let them know they are valued, that their faithfulness allows us the flexibility to do things like ministry. My name for them is the “A Team.” When we have events in our home, I can trust that they will set-up, cook, and prepare everything according to how I have trained them. Unless I want to add a new dish or decorate in a particular manner, I don’t need to hover over them. They are a talented, intelligent, and highly capable bunch of women, and I applaud them regularly for their gifts and abilities.
  • HAVE A SYSTEM FOR ENTERTAINING VISITORS. My mother-in-law always has an efficient way of entertaining. So I learned from her. She makes a list of the menu so I copied this idea. I also add the tasks that have to get done and then I have a meeting with my girls to explain what has to happen. Each one of them assists and I keep the kids preoccupied so it’s all hands on deck and they can focus.
  • LAUGH WITH THEM. Edric and I joke around with our helpers quite often. I enjoy talking with them when we are together in the kitchen or in the car. Even though they work for me, I also share conversations with them in the context of a friendship and familiarity that comes with living in the same house. Many times we laugh about their quirks or the funny things the kids do and say. I like to keep the atmosphere laid back so they feel relaxed, too. Hearing them laugh and have fun is a good barometer of how they are doing emotionally.
  • ENCOURAGE THEM TO EXERCISE. Almost every afternoon, they play badminton with our kids outdoors (when it isn’t raining). I want them to get outside. And I’ve told them many times to use the running shoes I gave them to take walks around the village. They aren’t always motivated to do this, but they have our permission to go for a walk.
  • UTILIZE THEIR ABILITIES. Some of my helpers are so capable! It’s such a blessing. They can handle bank transactions for me, manage construction workers, and make purchases so that I can save time and energy. When we were finishing our home, I noticed that one of our girls was very good at directing the workers and keeping them on their toes. So when I had to leave the house, I would instruct her to manage the checklist of items that needed to be finished. She was great at it! Even better than me! My helpers are also better at going to the wet market than I am. So I send them and let them get what they want on top of the fruit, vegetables and fish. They have liberty to choose their snacks and toiletries. It’s not like I give them a ton of money to handle when they make a trip to the market anyway. But it’s a simple way of communicating to them that I trust them to make choices that impact our household. I do the same thing when they need uniforms, letting them select and purchase what they would like to wear for their day-to-day outfits. I used to choose them myself but they didn’t always like them. So I focused on buying the more formal looking ones.
  • LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE A PARENT WHO IS AWARE. Because of my past experience with sexual abuse, I’ve been overly cautious and protective of my children. So I tell my kids that NO ONE should ever play with their private parts. I also teach them to wash themselves and not rely on our helpers to bathe them. I communicate the same thing to the helpers, letting them know that my kids have been told to report to me any incidence of abuse or semblance of it.
  • CORRECT THEM IN LOVE. In the past, I had helpers who had conflicts with one another. It was always stressful to mediate their disputes but I had to learn to be proactive and listen to different perspectives. Usually their conflicts arose from personality clashes. Sometimes it was due to alpha female issues. I would remind them of what our family core values were and encourage them to see their issues from a spiritual perspective. At the same time, I would remind them that we care about them and want to help them grow spiritually.
  • COMMUNICATE CORE VALUES & BELIEFS. Every family has core values and beliefs it lives by, which make it able to survive and thrive. In our home it is having a personal relationship with Jesus which leads to being spirit-filled so we can honor God and love one another the way God wants us to. This is a summary of the essence. We communicate these to our helpers by modeling them and explaining their application in day-to-day scenarios.
  • LET GO OF THE BAD SEED. There are some helpers who refuse to change and get along with others. They also cause further conflict because they are contentious and gossipers. Or, they cannot be trained to espouse our core values. We have to let women like this go if they do not improve because they infect and hurt others, spoiling the dynamic of good working relationships. Of course they are also a source of unnecessary stress in our lives, and it is difficult to trust them. The better thing to do in these instances is to let them go.
  • DON’T EVER SHOUT AT THEM OR DEMEAN THEM. There are occasions when I don’t like what my helpers do or I am disappointed with their choices, but by God’s grace, I haven’t yelled at them. I pray I never do. Because Edric and I are followers of Jesus and our helpers know this, we want them to see consistency between what we say and do, who we are at home. There have been instances when we have had to apologize for our own bad examples. But for the most part, we try our best not to lose our temper with them. Our desire is that they will want to follow Jesus also.
  • EVANGELIZE AND DISCIPLE THEM. Sharing the gospel to our househelp and teaching them about biblical principles is something we also do. I believe the reason why they are such good workers is because they love God and want to please him. Edric and I are imperfect people and our kids can also test the patience of our helpers, so there has to be a greater motivation for their faithfulness. While their salaries and our treatment of them all count as motivational factors, I want it to be more than these.
  • PRAY FOR THEM AND WITH THEM. I try to be intentional about praying for our househelp. They also have families with real needs and concerns. So I pray that God will bless them and protect them, that they will love our family, our kids, their work, and be trustworthy. When they are dealing with a difficult circumstance, Edric and I also pray with them.

THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO DO…

  • GET THEM INTO CRAFTS OR A CONSTRUCTIVE HOBBY. Our helpers were into making loom bands for a bit. But I want to give them more productive outlets. My sister-in-law, Jennifer, taught her helpers to bead. They are able to make beautiful necklaces!
  • INVEST IN CLASSES OR WORKSHOPS TO ENHANCE THEIR SKILLS. My mom and dad educate the ladies who work for them. If the Lord increases our financial flexibility and when our kids are older I would like to be able to do this, too. In the meantime, I’d like them to get better training when it comes to hosting and cleaning. My other sister-in-law, Jenny, is such an amazing homemaker. I am not as detailed as she is when it comes to home management but I’d like to learn from her example and get my helpers to be trained by her.
  • GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO BE ENTERPRISING. One of our former helpers was great at adding to her income by selling load, and trading cell phones. When we lived in a condo, helpers of our neighbors were into catalog selling. Hopefully, we can come up with something that our helpers can do to supplement what they make.
  • HAVE REGULAR BIBLE STUDIES. When we were living in the Fort, it was easier to get my helpers to attend Bible Studies in Valle Verde. I’m praying to be able to find or start a bible study for them where we live that will work with our weekly schedule.

When I share these practices I don’t want it to sound like I’m glorifying what we do in our home. I’ve learned many things the hard way and I’ve been less than the ideal boss on many occasions (maybe not always outwardly but in my heart I’ve thought ill about our helpers because I have been frustrated.) The manner in which we try to live with our helpers and relate with them is largely based on biblical principles like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “Love one another.” Being a helper is a noble calling, one that entails humble servitude. We need to attach dignity to it, valuing them and seeking their highest good because God loves them and has a special purpose for their lives, too. He has put them in our homes not just to serve us but to be blessed by us.

IF YOU HAVE IDEAS TO SHARE ON HOW YOU RELATE WITH YOUR HELPERS THAT CAN SERVE AS A BENEFICIAL TIP FOR OTHERS, PLEASE SUGGEST THEM!


 

Strike 3!

Dealing with househelp issues. Sigh. Not my favorite.

Here I am trying to deal…

IMG_8516.JPG
I really appreciate the ladies who work for us. They are an amazing blessing, one of the reasons why I don’t EVER want to live in the U.S. or any other country where I have to do everything. I admit it. I’m spoiled in this way. Having household help has allowed me liberties that would be difficult to enjoy if I wasn’t in the Philippines. And we have a great bunch of gals who love our children and ourifamily. We love them, too.

However, I don’t like the “Okay-lang-yan-mentality.” When they are careless and wasteful because we can afford to replace broken things, or they assume that money comes easy for us, it bothers me. Thankfully, I don’t have expensive jewelry, watches, bags or anything that is really worth stealing. Plus, Edric and I don’t keep wads of cash at home. So I don’t worry that people who work for us will be tempted to take our stuff.

But recently, they’ve demonstrated bad stewardship and questionable behavior in terms of trustworthiness…

Strike 1. Two days ago, one of them cooked nearly 40 pieces of boneless chicken thighs for Adobo. Forty pieces of chicken to feed five young children and two adults! I was incredulous. Sure, they made it for themselves, too, but we ended up having Adobo for dinner, Adobo flakes for breakfast, and then Adobo for lunch the next day. Thankfully, Edric didn’t complain. He was a good sport about it.

I, on other hand, was a bad example to my children because I slammed the freezer door in irritation (which is really the worst thing to slam because it hardly makes a sound. So that probably makes it a good thing to slam? Okay, I shouldn’t be promoting slamming…of anything).

“I can’t believe it!” I mumbled to myself after I saw the empty space where two large packs of chicken should have been. Half of each pack would have been sufficient for a meal. Forty for one meal?! I was really annoyed.

Elijah confronted me later on in the afternoon and said, “Mom I need to talk to you about your attitude. You were angry earlier.” I had to apologize to him, the other kids, and Edric. But admittedly, I had a difficult time getting over the 40 pieces of chicken. Skinless, chicken thighs, too. Expensive stuff. Plus, we live so far away from civilization now that getting out of the house to go to the grocery is something I don’t want to do every five days.

Strike 2. I went outside to check on the herbs I bought two weeks ago, and my Rosemary plant was dead. My favorite one…the most aromatic of them all. I gave a simple instruction, please water these herbs and take care of them so I can use them for cooking. My Rosemary plant had turned into dried Rosemary, the kind that ends up in a McCormick bottle! When I brought this to their attention, I didn’t get the penitent disposition I expected. Grrr…

Strike 3. Several items went missing in our house – Elijah’s P 1,500, an Ipod shuffle, a kid’s watch, and Ikea handtowels and washcloths that matched the bath towels in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. I didn’t want to suspect my househelp. But they were the most likely suspects.

They know where everything is kept in this home. At the very least, they are responsible for putting our belongings away and keeping track of things like washcloths and hand towels since they do the laundry. It’s not complicated. We use a washing machine and dryer. For a few months they were using a clothes’ line to air dry everything. But it’s a simple process – take the laundry down to the laundry room, do the laundry, hang it out to dry or use the dryer then bring it all back upstairs. Unless the washing machine has an evil stomach I don’t know about, there’s no reason why things should disappear.

And why take hand towels and washcloths?! It matters to me that washcloths and hand towels match their counterpart bath towels. I want hand towels, washcloths and bath towels to be together, folded on the same shelf like a family. Don’t break up the towel family! You just don’t do that. You don’t kidnap members of the towel family! This probably angered me the most.

After giving the ladies a chance to return these items by asking them to look for them, they remained unfound. I plopped myself on the couch in the playroom and expressed that I was deeply upset. I’ve never yelled at my househelp and I don’t plan to, but this was one of those occasions when I wanted to fire all of them.

Once I lose confidence in someone — their ability to carry out a task or to be trusted – my default response (internally, at least) is to take over or get rid of them. Was this a case of irresponsibility or thievery? Was I too nice of a boss? I was confused. So I cried on my bed by myself. I didn’t know if I could trust our househelp but I wanted to be able to. I was wrestling with all kinds of judgmental thoughts but I also wanted to be gracious and understanding.

I prayed about how I was feeling, but I also called the one person I knew would give me perspective…Edric.

He had just come from a speaking engagement with Elijah when I started sobbing over the phone, telling him about the missing items, that I didn’t want to accuse the girls but who else would have taken them?

Edric assured me that he would help me settle this. Even though he was really tired, he came home and set up four chairs in the guest room for our househelp to sit on. And he brought in a chair for himself. Rounding them all up, he requested that they gather in the guest room where he was going to talk with them. I wasn’t allowed to enter.

Twenty or so minutes later, he called out to me, “You can come in now,” and I entered into a room of tearful faces. What did my husband do? Was my first thought. Edric encouraged me to share what I was feeling. This was like an AA meeting.

Very honestly and openly I expressed to the girls that I was disappointed and concerned. I didn’t want to be the kind of boss that was suspicious of them. Operating from a point of distrust wasn’t the kind of relationship I wanted to have with them. They were important to me and I appreciated their hard work. However, if we were to move forward and get past this, I needed to know that they were going to be better stewards and help me manage the home well. I needed to know that I could trust them to take care of our home and everything (and everyone) in it. In closing, I told them that Edric and I wanted them to love Jesus and have a personal relationship with him above all else. It is this relationship that defines us and our family culture, and we desire the same for them.

Although we shared the gospel with three of the four of our househelp before, Edric took the opportunity to do so again. One of the ladies had not heard it and we wanted to make sure that she understood what it meant to give her life to Christ. He prayed for them, our home, what happened, and the future.

I found out later on that Edric talked to them about four things when I wasn’t in the room. Here is a summary of his “Four-point Lecture”:

  1. We trust you. We will continue to trust you.
  1. Take care of my wife. I love her and I don’t want her to be stressed. When she called me crying, I decided to step in and talk with all of you, to remind you to take care of her and help her manage this home well. Don’t make it difficult for her. 
  1. If you take care of our home, we will take care of you. For as long as it is in our capacity to do so, we will help you. (They know Edric meant this because there have been occasions when their family members had problems and we gave money, or they needed to pay for something and we helped them out. We don’t advance money because we don’t want them to develop the habit of borrowing. We tell them, if the need is valid, we will help you.)
  1. You are accountable to God for the choices you make. We cannot watch you all the time, but God is watching you. If you decide to ever take anything from us or if you have malice, that’s between you and God. Just remember that you are the sum of your choices.

Edric was firm but he made sure that our household help knew that we value them.

When Edric and I were alone, I hugged him and thanked him. He didn’t have to talk to our household help. This problem fell under my scope of responsibility. But he repeated what he often tells me. “I like to rescue you.” Plus he knows that my Filipino is horrible when I’m in a state of panic or stress. It’s pretty useless. I would’ve blundered through my attempts at articulating what needed to be said.

I don’t think we will ever recover the items we lost. While this remains an unfortunate reality, I believe that God had a purpose for the incidences that preceded the conference with our household help. The meeting turned out to be an opportunity to minister to them on a spiritual level. We all left that time together healed in some way. I let go of the anger I was harboring and the girls knew that we weren’t going to hold what transpired against them. We were going to move forward and past the circumstances in a positive manner. And best of all, we brought the issue before the Lord together so he could be the one to convict their hearts and cause them to mature and grow spiritually.

As for me…well…I decided to do a massive cleaning of our house, room by room, to make sure I know where everything is. I’ve only finished three rooms so far, but going through each drawer, shelf, and cabinet has made me feel like a better home manager already! This domestic crisis inspired me to be more organized and more aware, to do what I can to be a better steward of God’s blessings. After all, I need to model stewardship to our househelp if I want them to internalize this.

The Ugliest Thing

We are living in an almost finished house. It’s not quite done which means we still have workers around from 8 to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, doing a number of jobs. Yesterday, they supposedly finished a customized chimney for our range hood.

This range hood’s original chimney was problematic because the exhaust hole was to the right of it. So the hole was exposed when it should have been covered by the stainless steel casing that came with the range hood. However, there was an oversight in the design of the hood’s location. As a result, we had an ugly exhaust tube spilling out of the chimney.

The solution was to make a new stainless steel chimney to hide this miscalculation. To begin with, this error of the exposed tubing was an eye sore in our kitchen. But yesterday’s solution took the crown for hideousness.

I watched the workers assemble what looked like an over-specked metal case on top of our range hood. At the onset I was a little hopeful. But all hope dimmed as I saw them piece together the most unsightly-looking range good chimney I have ever seen in my life. As they peeled off the protective tape that was supposed to keep the stainless steel scratch-free, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The steel was banged up and uneven. It had a door on it that was an inch thick which didn’t close completely. Formed into the shape of a rectangular box jutting out of our white wall, it looked like a metal coffin. Upon opening it, which was difficult in itself, there was room enough to hide two little children’s bodies if they were bold enough to use it for hide and seek. The comedy if it all was the workers demonstrated to me the structural integrity of the casing by pulling on it with their weight. I suppose this was meant to impress me. But I couldn’t get over how ugly the finished product was. It dawned upon me that this was their first time to ever make something like this and they had no idea what they were doing.

20140905-231033-83433985.jpg

20140905-231034-83434841.jpg

20140905-231033-83433087.jpg
My sentiments were difficult to contain. I left the kitchen out of holy fear. If I had stayed and taken in the complete unveiling of this monstrosity, I felt the rising temptation to mouth out expletives of the most unholy nature. At the same time, I felt like the workers had simply been misguided. It wasn’t completely their fault.

Calm down. Calm down. Breathe.

I ran up the stairs to our bedroom balcony to be alone. I tried calling people who were responsible for this mess up and no one was picking up their phones. Neither contractor or architectural party could be contacted. This only increased my feelings of aggravation. I wanted to yell but what would that accomplish? Our balcony’s location was perfect for carrying sound waves down to our neighbor’s houses. So I cried by myself and I prayed for calm and perspective.

There are a few things that have troubled me deeply about our house construction. For the most part, our home has turned out to be better than we imagined. But sometimes, in the little details, I notice bad design decisions. Whether it be thoughtless execution, unnecessary mistakes (like all our sliding glass doors getting scratched up when they were cleaned by the workers), or lack of experience, the results are costly on many levels. First, there is the obvious monetary cost. Second, there is the loss of trust and confidence in the capabilities of those in charge. Third, there is wasted time. Feelings of frustration are only heightened when those who are in the position to fix the problem aren’t available, or they don’t know what they are doing either.

Therefore, homebuilding has been an exercise in self-control over anger. Sometimes I want to pull my hair out as I vacillate between restraint and the desire to spew out verbal venom. It’s so difficult to remain level headed when I am looking at something that has fallen utterly short of my expectations.

However, when I step away and yank myself out of the moment, I am able to see what is really going on. What is an ugly range hood chimney in light of eternity? Nothing. Absolutely nothing worth crying over or getting angry about!

Over dinner tonight my siblings and I talked about a young man who just lost his life to cancer. So many people all over the world have greater issues than banged up stainless steel. But sometimes, building a house can feel so important and essential to happiness that I forget about what really counts.

There are people out there who need to know how much God loves them, who are searching for answers to questions that really matter. There is real ugliness in this world that needs to be healed by Jesus Christ. Am I crying over these things? Am I channeling my energies and resources towards the building of God ‘s kingdom?

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (‭Luke‬ ‭12‬:‭20-21‬ NASB)

Brazil, Brazil

Edric and I are off to Brazil! I just said a tearful goodbye to the kids and cried as I hugged Catalina. This is my first time to leave her since she was born.

20140720-153722.jpg
The trip to Brazil is so long and Edric and I will be speaking while we are there. After weighing the pros and cons we decided to let her stay behind. I will keep pumping while I am away and some dear friends donated milk for her.

We are taking this trip because my dad invited us to speak at a conference in Curitiba. We will team teach on biblical parenting.

Initially, I didn’t want to go because Catalina is still breastfeeding, we just moved in to our home, and I am trying to finish our homeschooling year. The timing isn’t ideal.

When my dad first broached the idea to me, my response was, “There’s no way, dad. Not this year. Plus, I really don’t think Edric can go.”

“We shall see…just pray about it,” My dad said this with a playful smirk on his face. I knew he was going to try and convince Edric to go. But I thought for sure Edric wouldn’t be available to because of his taping schedules and work load. In fact I was counting on him to say “sorry, dad, but we can’t go.”

Surprisingly, when my dad called Edric, he was like, “Yes! We will go!” He was so eager! Edric and I talked about it later on in the day and he was inclined to go for two reasons. First, we were invited to speak about what is closest to our hearts — a biblical blueprint for families. Second, we haven’t been to Brazil. The opportunity to travel to South America was very enticing.

My parents were thrilled when they found out. They love doing ministry together. If circumstances permitted, they would take all of my siblings and I, as well as our spouses to every parenting seminar they give (no matter where in the world) so we can minister as a family. For the most part, I feel the same way. It’s always a joy to serve the Lord alongside them.

But this year, I self-declared that I would avoid public speaking. I turned down several opportunities to speak because I knew that the preparation time, traveling back and forth, and engagements themselves would take me away from my duties as a wife, mother and homeschooler. Since I felt “tsunamied” by major life changes like a fifth baby, new house and new ministry, I determined for myself that speaking was low on my priority list.

When the Brazil trip was finalized, I wrestled with frustration. Why not next year, Lord? Why this year? Is it so wrong for me to want to take a break?

I know it sounds ungrateful of me to have asked these questions. After all, what a privilege to minister in this manner and what an opportunity to serve the Lord. And wow! In Brazil! Hello, lady, be excited! Be thankful!

Well, I grumbled…

It wasn’t until two weeks ago that God gave me another perspective to meditate on. I was reading through the gospels and I came across the biblical account of Jesus, right before he performed the miracle of the five thousand. He received news about the beheading of his cousin, John, and he intended to withdraw to a secluded place. (I empathized with this part — wanting to withdraw.) But then I got convicted by what he did next. When the multitudes followed him he felt compassion for them and attended to their needs. And then be performed an incredible miracle — feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.

The passage reads…Although he (Herod) was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. His (John’s) disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:9-14 NASB)

When I read this passage, it tore me up inside. In contrast to Jesus’ servant heart and selflessness, I was thinking only of my wants. I really wanted a year to homemake, develop consistent routines for our family and homeschooling, enjoy Catalina and her milestones, maybe even write more and paint and sew! So I cried and cried while telling the Lord, “I am not like you, Lord. I am so sorry.”

In the narrative, Jesus had just lost his cousin. He had every right to get away to mourn and spend time alone. And yet he set that desire aside for the sake of the multitude and their needs, for the sake of God’s work.

I felt so ashamed. If the God of this universe made time for people, even when it was emotionally and physically inconvenient, then who was I to reject the opportunities to do the same?

All seasons of my life belong to God. I may want to linger in one or get out of another, but I have to listen to and obey God’s leading. I have to remember that I am on active duty for his kingdom. At any time I may be called to serve in a capacity that may not be what is convenient, comfortable, or timely from my perspective. However, being available means having the disposition of willingness to go where he wants me to.

Coincidentally or not so coincidentally, we were told that about five thousand Christian leaders will gather at this conference in Curitiba, Brazil. I am sure it’s going to be an amazing time for Edric and I, not just to speak, but to be attendees and participants. Plus, it’s our anniversary next week so God gave us a special gift for our 13th honeymoon! We will make a side trip to Rio!

I once heard Andy Stanley talk about the “irresolvable tensions” of life. He said that we can’t always remove these tensions. For me my irresolvable tension is my commitment to “private” ministry — Edric, kids and home — and my commitment to “public” ministry — writing, discipleship, speaking, and counseling. To forsake the public in favor of the private is not the solution. I must learn to balance the tension in between these two poles with a positive attitude.

While my priority is still Edric and the kids, there will be occasions when God makes it clear that I am supposed to serve in a more public capacity. This Brazil trip is one such example.

Edric and I are headed to the airport. I miss the kids terribly but I am also looking forward to serving God with Edric and “honeymooning” in Brazil. And no, we will not make another baby! ;)

20140720-153821.jpg

Bangkal Thrift Store Shopping

In this furnishing stage of our house building, looking for decorative pieces has become one of our favorite bonding activities. Edric and I have shopped in the malls, in antique stores, and in furniture shops. A few days ago we went to Bangkal for some bargain hunting.

At the suggestion of Edric’s cousin, Marty, we checked it out to look for old solid wood finds. It was pretty easy to get to Bangkal area. We took Edsa, crossed over South Luzon Expressway, then made a right on Evangelista. Once we got there, we asked where the thrift stores were. Amazingly, we actually ran into someone from our church who helped give us directions.

Most of the stores in Bangkal were hot and junky, but we did find some unexpectedly cool things. Thankfully we were both dressed for the occasion, too. We went there in shirts and shorts. And before we got there, I accidentally snagged my shorts in a 7/11 store. Unfortunately, the snag was a bad one. It cut a hole into my shorts that I had to hide with my purse. Since we were in thrift stores, my shorts fit right in!

We came away from Bangkal buying two arm chairs, a desk swivel chair, and a side table. Everything was Narra! And it only cost us 14k (including the delivery charge and refurbishing). Kind of makes you wonder where they find these pieces!

I am still holding my breath because we saw the “before” but we haven’t seen the “after”. By tomorrow I should be able to post pictures.

At the very least, Edric and I had a lot of fun. We were enamored by the same things as we went from shop to shop.

When we ended the day at a watch repair shop, Edric turned to me and said, “I could be with you all day. I like to be with you all the time!” I should’ve said something sweet but honestly, by this hour my thoughts were turned towards Catalina and breastmilk supply. We had been gone since 10 am and it was almost 5pm. I wasn’t able to reciprocate with an equally romantic statement, but I did acknowledge him with a smile. I felt the same way, too. Had it not been for breastfeeding, I could have kept shopping with him.

It’s great to be married to the man you love but it’s even greater to be married to a man who shares the same interests and passions, who can be your leader, lover, and protector, and also your best friend. I really thank the Lord that Edric and I share this kind of relationship. I suppose this is what the Bible means when it says the “two shall become one.” Even our taste in decor is one and the same!

20140627-190200.jpg

20140627-190218.jpg

20140627-190248.jpg

20140627-190301.jpg

20140627-190313.jpg

20140627-190527.jpg

20140627-190542.jpg

20140627-190554.jpg

20140627-190608.jpg

20140627-190620.jpg

20140627-190629.jpg

20140627-190637.jpg

20140627-190644.jpg

20140627-190654.jpg

20140627-190705.jpg

20140627-190717.jpg

20140627-190727.jpg

20140627-190737.jpg

Enjoying Our New Home

“We can be a family here,” was something I said to Edric tonight as we watched the kids run around the island in our kitchen. (I think I gave them too much milk tea.) He pulled me close and told me that this was his exact sentiment. We had just finished singing Chris Tomlin’s version of “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The older boys attempted to harmonize and the two younger kids gave their all at the parts they knew…namely, the chorus.

After seven months of our nomadic lifestyle in and out of my parents’ place and Edric’s parents’ place while finishing our house, we are finally settled into our new place. It’s not completely done. The yard needs grass. Our stairs have to be rectified. Some minor fixes and painting works remain. We don’t have all our furniture in. Plus, I’ve got a few more boxes to unpack. But that’s okay. Even if settling in has come with its challenges, we are beginning to build routines that make it feel like home.

Today, the kids played basketball with Edric in the cul-de-sac in front of our house.

Two weeks ago when they were shooting hoops, it felt like we were at ground zero. When Edric called out to our children to join him for a game, Edan was braiding pipe cleaners. Braiding?! What the heck?! Titus was like, “I’m hiding!” when Edric was looking to pass the ball to him. Elijah was getting frustrated that he couldn’t shoot the ball. I accidentally knocked Tiana over and she wanted to quit. When Edan ran off for a water break, Edric called to him. “No water breaks!” This was exercise time. No one was allowed to leave the “court.” Tiana started to complain about being tired but Titus (her teammate) looked her square in the face while holding her shoulders and very emphatically said, “Tiana, we have to exercise!” Not too long afterwards Edric passed the ball to Titus and he said, “Shoot it, Titus!” Titus held the ball and threw it backwards to, um…no one.

IMG_3722IMG_3716IMG_3729

IMG_3711

What a comedy. At one point some neighbors down the street were watching our very low scoring basketball game. It was embarrassing. It was a game of celebrated turnovers.

I turned to Edric and jokingly said, “my, my, the years that the locusts have eaten!” in reference to the fact that our kids spent so many years living in the city and inside our condominium.

When Edric and I were living in Bonifacio Global City, I coveted big open spaces where my kids could run around. I really wanted my children to grow up climbing trees, kicking soccer balls, playing catch, or shooting hoops in the backyard. For a long time, this was all fantasy. We tried our best to walk them to High Street and back and run around the fields that remained, but it wasn’t always very easy to get them outdoors.

But this afternoon, while Edric was spending time with the kids dribbling, passing, and shooting the basketball, I thought of how wonderfully surreal it all was. I was cooking Thai food for dinner while watching the kids enjoy themselves. (They are getting much better!) Tiana was prancing around in her leotards and tutu. Little Catalina was being pushed around in her tricycle.

I can’t thank the Lord enough for giving us this home. He blessed us with a place where we can build memories as a family.

This morning I sat on our balcony and watched the sun come up while I read my Bible. It wasn’t even 6 am. We recently got blinds that should block out the light but it still finds its way in between the panels. I don’t mind. First light is a beautiful sight. Plus, I love the sounds of morning. There’s a bird that sings a tune I used to hear when I was a child. Every morning I listen for it and remember the happy days of my childhood. Now it sings for the days of my children. I’m still pinching myself. God is good!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He (God) has made all things beautiful in his time…”

 

 

 

When It Rains Inside Your House

We spent the day moving boxes into our new home and everything was going great until there was a downpour outside. And then the downpour happened inside! The water started coming through the hanging chandelier in the entrance and out of the lights in the hallway on the second floor. It was like a waterfall from the top of our second floor ceiling to the ground floor below. I couldn’t believe it!

Thankfully, the architect assigned to our site (representing the contractor) was around to address the problem. Everyone else on his team was scrambling around looking lost and overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the situation but eventually, they figured out what to do. Someone got up to the roof and found a piece of wood blocking the downspouts. (How the wood got stuck there in the first place is a mystery.) Others found containers to catch the water and throw it outside. The electrician borrowed my Iphone flashlight so he could go into the ceiling and spot the water’s point of entry.

When it rained this afternoon, the water began to pond and seep into the ceiling. Without any other outlet but the lights in the hallway, the water started to flow downwards. First it came down in trickles and then in a stream. It was almost beautiful seeing the water drop down two stories right in front of our main door. We have a lot of glass in our entry way so it was like a water feature! The only problem of course was this was happening inside. Had our four older children been with us, they would have been splashing around in the water and dancing for joy. My baby, Catalina, was with me and she was very fascinated by the spectacle.

Because it was such a crazy, unexpected disaster, I knew it wasn’t just a freak accident. This was a divine message for Edric and I. We went out onto the balcony and thanked God for reminding us that this world is not our home, and we should not love the things of this world.

20140430-221652.jpg
On a positive note, it was a blessing that this mess happened at the hour it did. First, the workers were still at the house to address the issue. Had it happened in the evening, when they had all gone home, we would have been in big trouble! Second, it was a good “test” shower before actual rainy season. We got to see how the house faired against lots of rain. Third, we hadn’t completely moved in yet so we weren’t put in physical jeopardy.

But the best reason of all was I believe God wanted us to share the gospel with the on-site architect. When I saw the water falling through the ceiling I wanted to freak out and blame someone, but God gave Edric and I the calmness to consider that there was a spiritual perspective to be had in all of this.

The architect was so apologetic and promised that his team would clear out the downspouts so it wouldn’t happen again. Of course, he also told us the ceiling and whatever else was affected would be rectified. At this juncture…when we are about to move in, the timing of this rectification is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of eternity, the damage was “worth it.” Let me explain…

Ever since this architect came on board for the finishing stage of our housebuilding, I have been burdened for him to come to Christ. He is a very nice guy who has worked hard and well to manage the final phase of our house project. Two weeks ago, he told me he saw my feature on GMA, but we didn’t get to talk about it. I asked Edric if he could be the one to process the feature with him since it would be awkward for me to discuss something so personal with a man.

He wasn’t able to do so then because we were headed home but after the indoor downpour happened, it
was the perfect opportunity to tell him about Jesus. When he came up to me to apologize once again, I assured him, “This is a reminder that we should not love this world. This world is not our home, heaven is.” When Edric and I were in private, I was like, “Hon, you should share the gospel with him. This is the best time to do so!” Edric completely agreed and some moments later took the architect aside.

On the balcony, Edric introduced him to Jesus Christ and what it means to have a personal relationship with him. Given that the incident made people in the house consider how temporal the things of this world are, it was a great segue for Edric to get into the topic of eternity. Edric also referred to the Tanikala episode of 700 Club which the architect got to watch. At the end of their dialogue, Edric asked him if he wanted to pray with him to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and he said, “Yes! Gusto ko yan (I want that).”

I was so thrilled. I couldn’t help but take a photo of the two of them.

20140430-221003.jpg
Edric and I have been praying that God will use this house for his glory and his purposes, and that’s what happened today in the most unprecedented sort of way. This is HIS house, not ours.

Even if it meant getting rain inside our house, the ceiling being partially destroyed, our lights and chandelier possibly getting wrecked, and the floor warping because it flooded on the second floor, I was happy. Those things can be repaired and redone. But a soul…what is the price of soul?

God loves all of us so much. He wants to get our attention and make our hearts receptive to the gospel. If it means making rain fall inside a house in a disastrous way so that one person will come to know him, their soul is worth it!

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

He Pulled Off A Mannequin Hand Again

Titus’ mechanical ability is escalating in power, kind of like Elsa’s freezing ability grew stronger in the movie, Frozen. Almost everyday he will dismantle something. Today it was the hand of a mannequin at a souvenir shop in Puerto Princesa. He looked up at Edric from under a table holding half the arm of a mannequin.

20140419-163021.jpg
When he does things like this and I ask him why, his usual response is, “I want to see how it works,” or “I want to see what is inside.”

As a mom I don’t want to punish his desire to learn or quell his curiosity. So my challenge is to keep him productively busy. Here are some ideas that have worked:

Sand. (Explore Sandbox sent me a kit with sand in it. It’s a very soft sand that doesn’t get stuck under my children’s nails.) Titus has asked to play with this almost daily since he got it.

20140419-163229.jpg

20140419-163300.jpg

Clay or play dough. I prefer play dough because it feels nicer and smells better, but whenever the kids leave it out it hardens. Plus it’s more expensive. Clay, on the other hand, is so reasonable and it will stay mailable for a long while even if it is uncovered.

20140419-163727.jpg(photo from madefromscratch.com)

Mining Kits or Digging for Treasure Kits (available at Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us)

20140419-164621.jpg

20140419-165018.jpg

Paper folding. Elijah, my eldest, was the first to get into origami. But his brothers are interested in it too. They learn from Elijah and invent their own folds as well. One of their favorite things to fold is paper airplanes. Titus can spend a long time making planes and throwing them off the balcony.

A bicycle. Edric needs to replace Titus’ old one which we sold at a recent garage sale. When we move to our new house he will get one. In the meantime, he has been pretty content peddling around on his cousins’ bike.

A pet. When my mom had a kitten, Titus would play with it as often as he could. As a child, I had all kinds of pets, too. Most of the day I was outdoors with my monkey and dogs. I learned how to be a responsible pet owner. When Titus is a little older he will be ready to have a pet, too.

Scratch art. I used to order these from the US. But they have something similar that is available at National Bookstore. Kids take a scratch pen and use the friction to reveal colors under the black paper.

20140419-165137.jpg

Art supplies like paint, glue, scissors, hole punchers, staplers, tape. Titus spends hours drawing and making works of art. I often have to replace the art supplies in our home but I don’t mind. If my kids are inspired to create it’s worth it! I am so glad Art Attack sells products at National Bookstore, too!

20140419-165324.jpg

Cooking and baking. My kids enjoy cooking and baking. They had a couple of sessions at the Cookery Place in Fort which they thoroughly enjoyed. But when they are interested, I let them cook and bake with me. Titus especially likes making sugar cookies because he can cut out the dough and decorate with icing.

Old boxes, sticks, rocks, coins, marbles, plastic cups, leaves, toilet paper tubes, paper, string, and even dirt! When a child’s time is not cannibalized by gadgets, computers and television, they can make anything into a toy or source of entertainment. The other day, Titus brought me a plastic cup with flowers, rocks and leaves in it. It was a beautiful arrangement that he put together himself. My kids enjoy hanging out at our construction site playing in the dirt. (But I am one of those moms who is okay with dirt.)

20140419-165504.jpg

Making tents or forts. On certain days the kids take blankets, sheets and pillows and make tents or forts in their room. Even if it makes a big mess, I am all for it. I used to do this when I was a kid.

Dress up. Girls aren’t the only ones who like dressing up and role playing. My boys like it too. They have a container with wigs, clothes, swords, and other items they can use for costumes. They have put on “plays” and performances for us several times.

Swimming. I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like to swim. Over the past two months we have been to several beaches and visited a number of pools. They can spend all day swimming if we let them.

20140419-165813.jpg

Playgrounds and open space. Kids, especially boys, need to expend their energy. When we aren’t traveling, we encourage our children to walk to the park and exercise almost daily. It helps that their cousins are nearby so they usually go together. By the time they come home they are ready to eat, too!

20140419-190749.jpg

Science experiments. I let Titus participate in our human anatomy experiments even if this isn’t a required subject for him.

20140419-165751.jpg

Exploring with a flashlight. I got the kids color coded flashlights for their Christmas stockings. We don’t always take walks at night, but when we do, they can bring their flashlights with them and look for night creatures.

“Mix-mix.” Sometimes, I hand Titus and Tiana a simple mixing bowl with a variety of items on hand, like a cup of flour, water, sugar, soy sauce, etc. I let them mix everything together, using measuring spoons and cups, and a wooden spoon as their mixer and they have a blast.

Sports. Currently, Titus is enrolled in a Muai Thai class with his older brothers. It was Edric’s idea to get the boys into a martial arts class so they can protect one another and their sisters. I especially agree with the latter.

Learn a musical instrument. Following in the footsteps of Elijah and Edan, Titus is learning violin. We have violins for every age so we just pass them down as our kids grow to save money. He used to tinker with their violins but now he can have one of his own and put it to good use.

Young children, especially the wiggly ones like Titus benefit from activities that encourage productive play and hands-on learning. Otherwise, they get their hands into everything, even things you would rather they avoid! So they need opportunities to learn, build, create, explore, and invent in order to channel their energy and intelligence in positive ways. As a general rule, with Titus, what works is providing an environment that allows freedom within boundaries.

20140419-191024.jpg

Sweet Beedie Dies

What a sad morning.

Beedie, one of Edan’s cockatiels, died at about 10 AM. We were all pretty devastated. But Edan was especially despondent. When I pulled Beedie out of the cage and showed Edan his lifeless body, he walked away, up the stairs to be alone and cry.

I cried, too.

Beedie was the sweetest bird. And my heart ached for Edan.

Edan’s a pretty dutiful boy. He had a routine with his two cockatiels. Every morning he would change the water, feed them, and spend time playing with them. Beedie was his favorite because he was very good-natured. Whenever Edan would extend his fingers to him, Beedie would willingly climb on and chirp a happy tune.

I wish I hadn’t been the last to see him alive. He wasn’t doing too well early this morning. My dad used to breed cockatiels and parakeets so I knew that Beedie had all the symptoms of a sick bird. His head was bowed down, his eyes were closed and he refused to eat or drink anything. I didn’t expect him to survive for very much longer. But it was still hard to see him keeled over, his claws curled under him, with one eye shut and the other half open. He wasn’t breathing anymore. Geedie (Edan’s other cockatiel) looked on in a lonely sort of way.

Although I’m not entirely sure of what made him sick, I have a theory.  About two weeks ago I told Edan to quick tossing his cockatiels up into the air to make them fly. They came from the pet shop with their wings clipped so they couldn’t fly very far at all. Edan thought he was “helping them” learn how to fly. But I kept telling him that birds instinctively know how to fly. My fear was he was stressing them out by forcing them to fly when they obviously couldn’t because their wings were clipped.

Well, he forgot that I had told him this. A few days ago, Edan experimented with flying lessons again and Beedie accidentally dove into the pond in the garden because he couldn’t flap his wings very well. Edan freaked out and called Elijah who ran over to rescue Beedie. When the kids reported to me what happened, I reminded Edan that he wasn’t supposed to throw the birds up into the air. I also expressed concern that Beedie might get sick.

I know birds bathe in water but this was dirty pond water. And I’m pretty sure Beedie gulped in some of it. His feces were loose and the wrong color before he died.

Birds are really sensitive. And once they get sick, it’s not very likely that they will recover.

As a mom, I really wanted to spare Edan from experiencing the loss of his bird. But I couldn’t. I even prayed that he would live. But God didn’t let that happen.

To empathize with Edan, I held him for a while as we both cried about Beedie. We looked at the picture on my phone when we got him from the pet store and that made us cry even more.

This afternoon, I tried, in a very gentle way to ask Edan if he learned anything from this unfortunate experience…especially in the area of obedience. At the time he was hanging out with his cousins and his reply was, “Yes mom, but I don’t want to talk about it in front of my cousins.”

When it was just the two of us, I asked him again and he admitted to me that he should have obeyed and taken better care of Beedie, specifically, he should have NOT thrown him into the air to fly or twirled him around. As he went out the door of the study room, he also added, “The punishment of sin is death.” I actually laughed when he said this because I didn’t expect such an insightful comment from him. We both smiled at one another.

Obedience is a principle that my children will have to keep on learning as they grow up. The first command we teach our children is to obey. When our kids are younger, we emphasize it a lot. We even spank for disobedience. But as they get older, we don’t force them to obey. By about 6 or 7, they usually get obedience, and they understand why it is important. The next stage of their instruction when it comes to obeying is developing a conviction for it.

We want them to connect obedience with blessing. And when they don’t obey it’s beneficial for them to experience the consequences of their choices, even if hurts to watch this happen as a parent. My parents taught my siblings and I, “you are free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of your choices.”

As an 8 year old, Edan experienced a life lesson I hope he will not forget. It was painful for him to loose Beedie. But it would be more painful for him in the future if he didn’t internalize obedience this early on.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

For homeschooling today, I asked Edan to write a tribute to Beedie so he can remember him…

Beedie was my Cocktail and he died today. We had him for 18 days. He was a kind bird. I loved him so much…. He was also loving, and happy. He was my pet. Everyday we would play together. I would clean his cage every day. He was a child bird, not yet an adult. In the morning he would call out for me.

But today he was very sick. When I checked on him, he was weak and he wouldn’t eat or drink. A few hours later he died. I felt sad. I will miss him very much. I had lots of fun with him. He was my favourite pet….

_____

WAAAAHHH (THAT’S ME…) 

20140407-185232.jpg >